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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 72: Poisoned Fruit

“Drick” the Comms unit buzzed and Drick pulled some focus to the internal screens that were hovering at the bottom of the retinal implant. They had time to answer as Marsh would still be in surgery for another ninety minutes and Boomer hadn’t returned from running errands.

“Rodero,” Drick brought the Comm’s channel with the connection to Rodero to the front of the stack, “what’s the situation.”

Rodero appeared. Again they were in the mixture of black and charcoal leather coat, thigh high boots and black denim pants, though the tee had a different underground synth band with an obscure literature quote. “We’re rolling.”

Drick allowed an avatar of them to appear so that Rodero had a figure to use for reference. Drick raised a hologramatic eyebrow, “Fill me in.”

“It’s a double whammy to be honest.” Rodero seemed smug, “I was lurking in the low level system calls of the security service servers, and saw that someone had started a wipe of all the words we had targeted. I was able to backtrace a lot of connections and make duplicates. Some of it got garbled, but I have a recovery programme working on it right now.”

“That’s good news. Looks like the override we were able to put in has worked. I guess they have killed all the possible codes that the Security Guard gave us?”

“Pretty much, except I was able to cut a few extra low level codes before they did that which might come in useful. Mostly just second codes on doors and lockers, but not to anywhere super sensitive.”

“Any advantage is a path towards our goals. What’s the other whammy?” Drick let the avatar stand up and move towards Rodero as the Comm’s connection opened up to have them walking along a pathway in a garden overgrown with thorny vines. Drick looked around and shrugged expressively and gave Rodero a weak smile.

“They just hired me.” Rodero had a grin that went from ear to ear but not literally.

“What?” Drick stopped the gentle stroll and stared at Rodero to see if this was a joke. It didn’t seem so.

“Yeah, I know. Balls of amazement, right? It is through one of my surface clone networks. An old one at that. It is still secure and safe which is why I never released it back into the ether. They want a cleanup doing and a deep level trace on anything that Judiciary have on the incident at the nightclub. In fact anything anyone has on the nightclub. It is good money but they need the work to be done quickly. What do you want me to do?”

Drick pursed lips and then let a smile creep over them, “I want you to do what they are paying you to do. But let’s face it, you are going to be able to give them so much more than that.”

“I am, but I don’t think I should.”

“Maybe, maybe not. Actually I have the seed of a plan in my mind. We are going to pick up a lot of heat, I mean a lot of interest when we pull the job. So maybe it might be wise to whittle their forces down a little more than originally we were able. I mean I was just going to use the gangs and the Union help, that would take out some of the resistance. But, how about making them purposefully give up valuable resources and time. Not only that it might draw them out a little, push for even more mistakes. I think it is time we started to lay some breadcrumbs down leading to Grandma’s House for the poisoned fruit.”

“What?”

“I thought you liked fairy tales and stories, Rodero, do your research. I may be mixing them all up a little.”

“Well I shall let them know that I am on the case. I still think this whole plan as a high chance of going very badly wrong.”

“That’s what you said about the club.”

“I was almost right.”

“Aside from things going as I sort of expected them.”

“You may have expected them but did everyone else expect them?” Rodero stared at Drick, “thought not. You should learn to share a little, Drick.”

“I am sharing. Just not with you. Get to work and let me know when you have established a nice trail and a line to a high enough source. Don’t make it too juicy too quickly. Be cautious but a little loquacious.”

“Wow, pulling out all the big words again. That old unit in your head needs a more modern dictionary. Something from the last millenia should bounce you forward a thousand years or so.” The garden and the vines started to collapse as Rodero pulled the construct program from the comm channel.

“Nice insult, not. Now go or I will start playing rough.”

“This is you playing smooth.” Rodero was fading from view.

“This is me being as gentle as a mother bird kicking a cuckoo out of her nest. Go.” Drick killed the connection to standby.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 71: Heard the News

The Officer entered the ident code to his secure system, then he uploaded the stored half of the key signature for the personal comm’s unit of the operative. They had become increasingly concerned at the lack of response to enquiries for a report on the attack at the spaceport and subsequent clearing of evidence. The concern was exacerbated by the loss of two vehicles and a strike team from their own internal security teams. The comms unit connected but once again it was an automated service, it dictated the same message, the main reception unit was currently unavailable or manually switched off.

It was inconceivable that it was unavailable it had to be manually switched off. There was nowhere in this system that wasn’t available or in signal range of the equipment the Officer had at their disposal. That had to mean that the comms unit was physically set to not receive. It was plausible that they were in some situation where that was a requirement. But this was the first time the Officer had experienced it from this particular organic which again heightened their unease.

The Officer checked to make sure that the payments had passed through the system to ensure that this wasn’t the reason for the lack of communication. The payments had been transferred, they could even be safely erased from internal logs. 

The Officer clicked their tongue against the roof of their mouth, an unconscious habit when they were thinking. Then suddenly they sat upright and checked local news, reviews and social channels about the asset’s club. Maybe there was a special event on that was drawing all the asset’s attention. That could be the reason though it was a flimsy one. If so, they really needed to learn to put ‘away from comms’ messages in place to deal with such matters.

The Officer fired up a few dozen holographic displays. As the data started to scroll, much of it with immersive video feed, they felt their world slip a little from underneath them and they sat down heavily into the chair. It wasn’t possible. Their mind reeled as they watched the news. The club had been attacked, there were many injured but no details of any deaths yet just the suggestion that there might be. The Officer shook their head and scanned through the news articles, trying to avoid the masses of speculation, what they needed right now was just the facts not theories.

They noted the Judicial case number that was scrolling across the screen for more information and passed it immediately to the data retrieval division. They wanted more information than what the media were providing. They even wanted more information than what Judicial channels would provide. They made a note to data retrieval to use outside sources to gain as much information as possible, in whichever way was possible. But there was to be no illegal activity from inside this building.

At some point the Officer would have to make a report about this situation. They were hoping that their contact, the asset, was not compromised, that would be inconvenient. They made sure to erase all data held locally about their relationship and activities just in case. They must make sure every element was sanitised. However, they would not be able to cleanse the deep database as that took special notice. They would have to contact a superior to make that possible.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 70: Is It Worth It?

“So are you going to tell me what the device in my head can do or do I just have to wait and find out? I would prefer it to be taken out but it looks like I don’t get that choice.”

“You do get that choice. But not yet. You need to give it a chance and you need to understand that there has to be something that allows you to fit in, even just a little. Are you aware that there are at least five languages and a dozen distinct dialects in this city alone. It is a translation system at the moment. But, it is also a high-level adaptive computer. It works in symbiosis with your brain, enhancing you where possible and utilising you where it can. I guess, basically, it increases your brains cognitive powers. It also should act as a wireless interface to other devices. So you will be able to sync with machinery and systems around you. Since it is wired directly into your mind it doesn’t need any augmented displays or systems to show you information. It can overlay images directly into the audio and visual areas of your perception.”

“Still not doing anything more than making my flesh crawl right off my skull at this moment.”

“Look, that isn’t the fault of the highly advanced interface, it is that you come from an age rife with paranoia about machines.”

“What makes you say that?”

“We lost a lot of information but not everything. I have seen old visual stories and read some of the literature. I know that your time had a fascination, and terror, of a time where machines had more capabilities and intellect.”

“Did that happen?”

“Of course it did. Artificial Intelligence as you would call it has been in existence for a very long time. Though the term artificial is no longer used. It is easier to think of organic and non-organic intellects and even that doesn’t quite make sense. The truth of that is we have a more stable relationship with machines and technology. No I am not going to discuss that further, just live with the fact that there is a net overall benefit, despite the occasional bout of cyber psychosis.”

“What?!”

Drick snorted a laugh, “joke, sorry. You’re fine. Hasn’t happened in at least a week. No rampaging killer bots since nine or ten days ago in the fifty-seventh machine war.”

“Very funny. So this web, the machine in my head. How do I work it?”

“Stop trying to. It will work itself so to speak. I told you it is symbiotic. It will take what it needs to increase its capabilities, and those are all geared towards aiding you. At the same time your brain will just be able to use the enhancements. It will feel very strange like having an extra set of eyes, or similar, to begin once we have the restrictions out. You should be able to interact with it and be guided when you have full control.”

“Still freaking me the heck out.”

“Well, you still have some time in a semi-Neanderthal state to live with your panic and nurture it, the surgeon will not be here for a few hours.”

“Lucky me. Tell me more about what happened then, while we wait.”

“Sure, look can I get you a drink?”

“I have no idea what people drink here.”

“Do you want a beer, there is some in the fridge, they are not particularly good, but they are cold and wet. There is some on tap but it is even cheaper than the bottled type.”

“I’m surprised people still use bottles.”

“It isn’t glass anymore if that’s what you mean. Grown fibre from plant based extracts that mimics glass. Has the advantage of being highly conductive so the bottles can have electronic displays and super cooling.”

“Fair,” Marsh sat up and grimaced slightly.

“You okay?”

“Knees are stiff. I have a lot of stiffness in all my joints.”

“Yeah, the effects are mostly gone but some parts of you will be sore for a few minutes more. You can stay lying down.”

“I’d rather sit up.” Marsh looked around “are we underground? There seems to be no windows.”

“You can think for them when you have capabilities, but at any time you can talk to the house computers. They know when they are being addressed. Here let me show you.” Drick looked at a wall, “clear wall, large rectangle, three metres by two metres start at the floor.”

A large section of the wall that Drick was currently looking at suddenly cleared and Marsh was looking out at the tops of clouds. “Holy shit,” he said sitting upright. “Is that the sky. Are we above the clouds. Is that the real colour of the sky here? It’s orange. And those clouds, I have never seen clouds like that.”

“You’re not on Terra, Marsh.” Drick passed him a beer and showed him how to release the top. “There is a slightly higher concentration of sulphur isotopes in the atmosphere here, and there are two suns, one red and one white. They make the skies orange as it is the dominant part of the colour spectrum, well, mostly, it is also because of the gases in the upper atmosphere and the tint on the glass which filters out some of the blue light.”

“How high up are we?”

“Probably a little shy of fifteen thousand metres, hard to be exact as we move up and down a little.”

“What, this room isn’t attached to the ground? Are we floating or on a plane or a skycraft of some type.”

“You are on a super platform. It is quite large. In fact it is more like a small city. And it isn’t attached to the world below except by the elevators. They have enough flex in them to allow for gentle curves in their shape and some drift up and down to compensate for pressure. Trust me, they are long and wide so the curvature and motion doesn’t affect those travelling up and down them.”

“There are floating cities with elevators that stretch to the ground, bendy elevators. I never want to ride in one of those. They must be immensely heavy?”

“You already have travelled in one Marsh. Several times I reckon and at least twice in the last couple of days. This platform that this floating city is on is connected to the platform where you likely were taken from one or two rotations ago. As for their weight, I am not an engineer but I think it is nanotube tech.”

“Is it wise being this close to where I was taken from?”

“Probably not. But it is mischievous.”

Marsh stared at Drick for a long moment. Drick stared into his eyes until he blushed slightly from the attention. He looked away and took a drink of his beer. “Yikes,” he grimaced, “that’s not the nicest beer, but strangely it is also like nectar.”

“Your sense of taste will likely return, or it is because you are a grunt, as in you’re military.”

“A bit of both, I reckon. So. What happened then? Talk to me about my death.”

Drick smiled at Marsh. “Well let me see if I can summarise this for you. I was attacked at the Spaceport, but I knew I would be.”

“How?”

“How what? How was I attacked or how did I know? I can’t have you interrupting me every moment with vague questions to my vague story. Do you want explanations as well as a list of events?”

“Sure I do. I also don’t care that you are vague, matches my head.”

“Goddammit, needy baby, greedy baby. Okay. I knew I… Actually, let’s go back a bit further than that, let’s go back to you.”

“You were supposed to be telling me what happened to you?”

“I know, but in order for the context, and to stop you asking why all the time, we have to start with you. So some of what I am going to say I either learned later or we are guessing at. Just bear with me while I tell the events and leave questions to the end.”

“You were busted out of a facility. We don’t know which one yet, or why they had you there. But, we know you were moved from there and some people were very angry about it.

“You were taken down in an elevator and then whisked away in a hover vehicle, at that point you had two other organics with you. At some other point, probably very soon after. but maybe after one of the organics got out of the vehicle, you were picked up by a security team who decided to fire on you. There was a chase, you came to a stop, likely a crash. This bit I am speculating on as we haven’t any evidence of that yet. But I am working on getting as much info as is now available.

“From this point in time, but stretching backwards to your release and forwards to cover everything they are doing since, the security forces of Volstron started to cover everything. They had to work fast at the crime scene, which is why it was sloppy, as unfortunately for them there were a couple of justice bots nearby. This was good for you as it meant they couldn’t just grab you and make you disappear. The justice bots K-Tagged you at the scene of the accident, as there was a dead body in the vehicle, and you had a weapon in your hands. I am unsure as to why you had the weapon. I assume it was in the vehicle and in the noise and confusion you were either given it or you picked it up. The bots seem to have strongarmed the arrest, maybe you became confused or violent, likely both. You were sprayed and bound.

“You met me. I did a little digging at the Justice Central and worked out that your case sounded odd. I also knew that somebody was covering up. It could have been small, or it could have been large. I am a cautious soul so I arranged to have a few contingencies in place, took your case. Brought in a few people and headed back to the planet. 

“It was a good thing that I had thought ahead. I was attacked at the Spaceport. I would have expected a small team to rough me up a little. However the team that came for me were very experienced . There were also a larger number of them than was warranted. It is clear that they wanted the roughing up to be a permanent lesson, but I do have a history and a reputation so that’s probably a factor in the numbers as well. I don’t think they wanted the lesson to be terminal but not easy to forget. I however returned the favour and I am less forgiving in my teaching methods. In fact, I returned it to the point that I still have a loose end sweating in a box waiting for me to get back to them.

“I knew that the people covering this up would not have expected me to walk so easily out of the Spaceport. It meant they were a little clumsy. Powerful, but not in a position to plan carefully. So I took the initiative and decided to push a little harder. If the quarry was making mistakes then it is wise practice to beat the bushes a little and see if it makes them fly in the right direction.

“Meanwhile we, Hooper and Krennar for the most part, worked out that someone was monitoring communication in Judicial Central. What was worse was that we discovered there is an active force working against us there. They are on the payroll of someone connected to all of this, whatever this is. You are a clue to it, but we don’t know what that is as yet. That’s a long game to play as the quarry there must have been hiding for a long time.

“Again I underestimated, slightly, the ferocity of their response. After a rather heavy little vehicle encounter. And my death at the hands of an old trick, that I should have seen coming as it was telegraphed from a distance…”

“You died?!”

“Yes. I got better. Are you wanting to hear this?”

“Sure, forgive me for being shocked again. Go on with the story.”

“I made a deal with one of my pursuers. I wanted to get some more information from them about what happened and I did. I also attracted some attention from an organised group on the planet during the conflict. The upshot of the information from the deal was that you were marked for death. They were having no luck in getting their legal team associated to you. My contact at Justice had started to sniff around, and they believed  I needed to have my evidence taken away from me. That evidence was you. At that point you represented the major component of evidence, whatever that means.

“That’s when Hooper cooked up a slightly crazy plan to kill you, and kill Krennar. I had no real part in that plan. They worked it out with my own personal angel.”

“Your what?”

“My angel, did they not have those in your time, a backup person who watches over you.”

“You mean like an oversight ops for an infiltration team?”

“Then they did have them. Yes. I have one. We have worked together a lot. They also owe me. Significantly. But I also owe them.”

“So they contrived to have me and Krennar killed?”

“Yes. Meanwhile I now have to break into Volstron’s rather secure facilities. I need to discover if there are any traces of what they are up to, and more importantly, I need to know exactly who in their higher echelons is involved as they are the next link in the chain upwards towards the answer to all of this.” Drick smiled without any trace of mirth, “I also need to do a job for the Union while I am there as payment for a little transgression on their turf. Now you know.”

“The Union?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you about them later.”

“Is it worth it? I mean finding out? I am dead, right? If I just disappear somewhere then it goes away.”

“That’s true. But I took your case for a reason. I am doing this for a reason.”

“What’s the reason?”

“When I find out, I’ll let you know.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 69: How Much of Me is Me?

“The Expansion Wars? That has been mentioned a lot, seems like I need to catch up on a lot of stuff. Both you and the Legal, Krennar, talked about it. Where is he? I mean, what, they? where are they?”

“They are in another room, making a full recovery. They just don’t have your stamina, you’re pretty healthy for someone who has probably been on ice for over a thousand years, give or take a few centuries. As forhe Expansion Wars were probably the most terrible time in humanity’s history, and let’s face it they have some stiff competition for that. Everyone uses them as a benchmark as they were the point where everything, I mean literally everything, changed. Nothing was the same after they were over. But I am getting severely distracted. It has been a while since I just, well, talked to someone, without it being meaningless or work related.”

“Well you can talk a little more if you like?” Marsh smiled that easy smile he had eyes staring languidly.

“I am not sure. There probably isn’t that much that I would talk about.”

“I find that hard to believe, you’re so loquacious, surely a talented conversationalist. You’re clearly out of practice.” The smiles was broader and slowly faded,  So what do you present as?”

“Pardon?” Drick was taken aback by the sudden switch to a serious question.

“I know that your icons on your wrist display say something, though they are weird as they move and you call them tattoos but that’s a different kettle of squid.”

“I present as asexual, ungendered for most people. I don’t have that much time for, or usually any interest in, sex or relationships.”

“So you’re married.”

“What, married, as in civil union? No. Why would you say that?”

“It was a joke. Based on how you present. It reminded me of both of my parents.”

“Did they not like each other?”

“Sure they did. They were just together for so long that they had moved beyond the whole messy part of a relationship into some kind of a lifelong friendship.”

“But no intimate pairing?”

“Not in my mind,” a dry laugh, “well, I guess the occasional thing, I don’t really know, they were old fashioned, as in really traditional. And, also, old so there is that. It is pretty icky to think of them doing anything in bed aside from watch holovids. I swear they were born in the wrong century is what… Shit.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I just realised, I am never going to see her again.”

“Her> Who is she? A partner?”

“My sister. I have, well I guess it is now had, a sister, a younger sister.”

“So your parents had sex at least once more after you were born then.”

“Really? Too soon Drick.” Marsh shook his head the tousled hair waving gently as they did, “I am a bit cut up about this.”

“I can see. But I don’t mix much with organics and emotions. I forget what is good to say so I just go with the flippancy.”

“I will never see her, or know what happened to her. I won’t know what happened to my parents, to friends. To anyone. They are all gone, as if they never really existed, they could be a figment of my imagination, they are the shadow of my memories.”

“There might be some trace. A lot of information has been lost over time, but some still exists. If I can get the right connection I can try and request data packets for you from the Terran system. They might have some records. But there isn’t much chance, I am sorry.”

“Hell, it hurts a little. The thought of not seeing her again, any of them hurts a lot, but the physical pain is real as well. I know it is now history but it is fresh for me. This is all new and everything I knew is gone. Even my memory.”

“How is your memory?” 

“Bits more of that at least seem to be coming back I guess.”

“It will come. We have a specialist coming to help you out. Also a neurosurgeon for the web in your skull.”

“Thanks, I was wondering if I could get it removed.”

“What? Why the hell would we do that. The surgeon is here to take the restrictions out so you can use it properly. Removing it would be difficult and potentially dangerous. Your fairly unique even for a born organic. There is no way that there is any DNA matches for you, there is going to be nothing with strong trace of your biology. Cloning your brain or worse your spinal column would be very difficult. You are going to have to contribute a lot of material to the banks so they can start the process of building a gene history to make parts from that will be compatible.”

“Why would I need that?”

“Organ failure, accidental damage, substance abuse, age. All of those take a toll on the body so you might want to think about investing in enough material in storage to act as replacement parts.”

“Wow. I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Did we hit upon another thing that makes you want to tear parts of your body off?”

“I have no idea. How much of me is me?”

“Well we only have the low level medical reports but it looks like you are all you, Marsh. Aside from the small amount of fused circuitry in your brain.”

“Is it broke?”

“Your brain?”

“No, the circuitry, you said it was fused.”

“Yes, fused as in welded, to your synapses.”

“Wonderful.”

“It is, it is very advanced and once we pull the restrictions I can teach you how to use it.”

“What can it do?”

“You think the tattoos are pretty amazing, right?”

“They are something to behold, yes.”

“Wait till you find out what the device in your head can do.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 68: Altered States

“Lie back and maybe close your eyes and I will tell you. Don’t expect this to be fancy or well told I will just fill in what I know in the manner in which it drops out of my mind.” Drick noted that Marsh had closed his eyes again. He must still be suffering from the drugs, they were pretty harsh and normally intended for deep spaceflight. If your body wasn’t used to them, and there was no way his was, then they would hit harder.

“Jesus, Drick, just tell the damned story. Let me give you the critical score. Selling yourself short isn’t going to win a sympathy vote from this audience.” There was a trace of mirth amidst the grumbling baritone. Drick was suprised at the fluid notes of Marsh’s voice. It seemed that the more that time passed the more of the person returned and that coloured everything about them, and in a not unpleasant manner.

“Right. You seem to have found some measure of attitude. I guess a few hours alone with people who generally give me crap has perked you up. Don’t pick up their sense of dismay. Build your own.” Drick snapped the lines a little but felt no real malice or anger. It was good to hear Marsh gain a little confidence.

“I was made like this. I think this is a bit more of me. Not that it makes sense. Jeez, what the hell does make sense at the moment, I still can’t properly recall the events of the last thirty six hours never mind the rest of my life.”

“Well the real you seems to have a touch of flippancy. Did Krennar explain how things work on this system, in fact throughout much of the systems in regards to people and how they present? I only ask as you seem to be showing more of who you are and it is probably going to confuse you if you don’t know how things are.” Drick noted that Marsh was staring through slitted eyes. “It is just that you probably want to have some sense of how to portray yourself and your inner state at any point, to people.”

“Nope, they didn’t explain any of what you just said, well not in that way. In fact all of that was just, well, words, that seemed to fall out of your mouth. As if you just opened it and they tumbled out.”

“My mind. I said I was just going to talk.”

“Really! Seriously that collection of words was near your mind at some point? I honestly thought this was the preamble before the main wander. This is the wander, okay, expectations set.” Marsh smiled and Drick noted that the smile was both warm and generous, when Marsh smiled they did it for people and not just for themselves. It was a good smile.

“Nice. Sarcasm and a take down. Did you want me to explain? Or would you like to take a big shit somewhere as you seem to be carry a lot.”

Marsh laughed a deep laugh and coughed a little. They took a breath. “If you could explain a little more, yes please.”

“There is no gender here. No sexes to speak of. Well there are but not in the way you might understand. There are as many variants as what you likely had, when you came from. But there is no fixed gender. People are grown. Even those that are grown outside of a tube are products of careful choice. We are sexless up until the time we choose to take a sex, or a gender. We choose how we present. It is common to put how you present, as icons, on your tube tag. But it isn’t required and many choose not too.”

“I see, well I think I do.” Marsh had closed his eyes and settled back on the couch, “and I would say that I am a man who prefers people of the opposite gender, but if there are multiple genders?”

“You can easily have a tag that shows as male preferring females. Hell you can present as little or as much information as you like. It is neither right nor wrong to do so.”

“Well for any future reference, until I change my mind which I doubt, I am male and I prefer females. Though the whole idea of gender was not so much a problem but a series of armed conflicts. That’s not that much of an exaggeration. I mean that it absolutely polarised people, They still fought over it in the time I came from. There were religious and political restrictions in some nations. It was random and mindless to many, and the last vestige of morality and sense to others.”

“Well i guess that makes some sense. The change in society, in culture, wasn’t easy for us and was not won by weight of words. The excesses of the Expansion Wars created a different perspective that altered all of our history, irrevocably,”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 67: Are You Awake

“Are you awake?” There was a dry cough and the figure suddenly jerked upwards. A strong hand held them still, “calm down, you’re safe.”

“Where, what? Where am I? What happened”

Drick gently pushed them back into a lying position as they struggled to remain sat upright, hacking up dry lungfuls of air. “You need to slow down or I am going to have to restrain you with straps. Try taking deep breaths and calm down. Your muscles will feel tight, there will still be some torpor and rigidity. Don’t try and move too much just yet, give the drugs some time to do their thing. You shouldn’t try to open your eyes. You could try blinking, your eyes will be dry and itchy but you will be unable to focus for a few minutes, the paralysis has not completely left your system.”

“What happened? I mean, did we succeed?”

“Well that’s a question that isn’t easy to answer.” Drick snorted mirthlessly.

“What?” head moving in a slow rotation from side to side. The eyes had started to stream tears. 

“Look you need to try and keep still. We gave you something to help with the removal of the paralysis and to help with any nausea but you are not fully out of the effects. You recover quickly though.”

Drick watched as they took a few minutes to stop coughing and to settle. After a few more moments their eyes cleared and seemed to stop randomly moving. The muscles were beginning to work again and they  would be able to focus, perhaps enough to sit up properly.

 They tried to look at Drick, blinking profusely. They were still good looking even more so as the puffiness had gone and the busted lip had been healed. The food they had eaten in the between time would have also helped, despite the recent events. Nose could still be a little shorter. Hair was less of a tangled mess but still look tousled.

“I have an awful sense of Deja Vu. Where am I? Please don’t say in the back of a Judicial spaceship.”

“Safe. Well, mostly safe. You are at a private residence. It isn’t connected to me or anyone they could trace as being connected to me.”

“So it worked?”

“It worked. You are officially dead, Marsh. Should keep the heat off you for a little while, at least until they work out that we hoodwinked them, which is less likely as the deaths were very convincing.”

“Yeah, they felt like it as well. How exactly did you fake my death? I would have assumed that any fake death you could attempt would be detectable.”

“Well that was easy. We didn’t fake it. We let them kill you.”

“What now?”

“They killed you. The emergency team that came to you found what they, and we, wanted. A corpse. After they pronounced you dead all we had to do was bring you back to life, but make it look as if you were still dead.”

“And how did you do that? Also I am a little sketchy as to why you had to do that.”

“Well things were starting to get very tense. To be honest I stirred up a bigger hornet’s nest than I expected way quicker than I would have liked. I was hoping to provoke a response and I did. A big response. Whomever was previously trying to obtain you, likely to get rid of you, had switched tactic. They wanted you dead, immediately, in custody.”

“So you had to stop them?”

“That would be pointless. We had to let them succeed. That way they would stop looking for you.”

“How did you know that they were going to do that?”

“We managed to get a line into their comms. Thanks to a small heart to heart, well more mind to mind, with a member of one of their strike teams.”

“Any chance you could just tell me the whole story. My head still feels like a shed.”

“Like a what?”

“A shed, like the fourth day of a three day pass.”

“Right. Well not all of it is my story as there were a number of players. But let me see if I can summarise it for you.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 parts: 66: You Will Achieve Nothing

The lights in the elevator came back on full, and the emergency lighting went out, as the power relays were restored to the building. Drick checked the internal chronometer for the encounter. It was running at just a little over three minutes since Drick had entered through the doors above. The clubs alarm systems would have informed the local judiciary station of an issue at the venue, but Drick was monitoring their response and they were still four minutes away. Far more interesting would be private security. If they were lucky Drick’s team had maybe ninety seconds before outside help arrived. That was not a lot of time to get away but it was possible.

 “You’re a dead person, you know that?” the target spat into Drick’s visor, they were visibly shaking with anger.

Drick cocked their head to one side, “it is most likely someone is going to kill me, that is certain. But you will not be the one to do it.” 

“You think killing me is going to achieve anything?” they snarled and laughed.

“No.”

“Then surrender. You are a dead person. But if you give yourself and your companions up I will make it quick for you. I may even just cripple those who are helping you.”

“That’s not going to happen. As you already indicated I am a dead person and quick or slow it has the same outcome, so why would I consider any offer you present.” Drick plugged a hard-wired jack into the elevator’s interface which was a direct link to the system command pad. This gave Drick an uninterruptible connection and allowed Rodero access using Drick’s internal uplink. 

The minute that the security had been triggered, this entire section was transferred to a special security system. It wasn’t easily accessible to the other systems in the club and almost unbreachable except via a direct route such as this.

“Then what is your big plan? Doesn’t matter if you hack lifts and doors, you are not getting out of this shaft.”

“You’ll discover. Let’s just say that since I am marked for termination that maybe I intend to take the fight and bring down as much of the opposition as possible. I am an extremely resourceful individual and I have a lot of influence to bear.”

“Then use it wisely and save yourself if you can.”

“No. I also want to know as much as possible.”

“Well you will not get anything from me.”

“I never said I needed anything from you. All that you know is already in my possession.”

“I sincerely doubt that.”

The elevator jerked into sudden life and continued its descent to the garage level. The man suddenly laughed. “You realise that’s my private garage. I have at least twenty of my best people down there. When the doors open they will riddle you with shots.”

“Fair enough,” said Drick. As the elevator slowed Drick made sure to move the target to one side so Drick could face the doorway alone, “don’t want you to get hurt.”

“You’re brave, I have to give you that. Dumb as lizard cack, but brave.”

The doors opened slowly and Drick turned the visor to stare at the man, “there were eleven guards in your private garage,” Drick said as they stepped out and nodded at Boomer, “silence and wrap that piece of shit for me will you.”

“Gladly,” said Boomer firing a jet of paralysing darts right into the target’s neck and chest.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 65: Close Combat

Drick had left the gravitational compensators on the suit turned high but not at maximum to resist some of the acceleration of the fall. The overlay that was being relayed from Rodero indicated that there were five organics in the elevator compartment. Drick was guessing that it would be four of the best security guards and the target.

The elevator was originally forty metres down but Drick was falling at greater than double the speed it was moving. When Drick was fewer than ten metres from the top of the vehicle they indicated to Boomer’s team to make their move.

There was a second in which Drick was almost at the roof and then the lights went out in the shaft and the elevator below came to an emergency stop. Drick had been expecting it and had already fired a shot at the maintenance hatchway on the elevators rooftop. The shot was set to soft with maximum force. It easily punched the slim lock open and half tore the hatchway from the ceiling of the lift.

Drick dropped neatly through the hole as the emergency lighting started to flicker into life. Drick had been correct there were four heavily armed and suited guards. The armour was a much more restrictive version of the suit that Drick was wearing. It more closely resembled harsh atmosphere combat radiation suits than battle dress. There were multiple hard points and weapons mounts on the exterior surface, and doubtless there were many enhancements with augmentation on the inside. 

The guards all carried heavy blaster, short barrel, rifles. Blaster rifles, effectively plasma ejectors, were effective weapons for short range devetstation or long range precision burning. They were messy for crowd control, and in the tight confines of the elevator they were impractical. Drick wasn’t going to let any of the guards use the rifles and they would not have the time, if Drick had their way, to draw any other weapon.

The first guard fell instantly as Drick had re-keyed the shotgun to highest impact, maximum hardness, full power. Drick stuck the gun under the base of their helmet and fired. The recoil, even with the magnetic compensation and pressure nullifying mechanism in the stock, almost tore Drick’s arm off. The guard was much less fortunate. The blast lifted them bodily from the ground and thrust their head back with enough force that it snapped their neck with their own skull. There was a tearing and ripping sound that accompanied the brutal snap and blood sprayed over the inside of their visor plate.

Drick hadn’t even bothered to watch as they were already swinging the shotgun straight into the visor of the guard immediately to the right of the first one. Another shot at maximum force which at point blank range tore through the faceplate and exploded the guards head as if it were a ripe melon.

Drick dropped into a set of splits as the two other guards, who were now behind them, moved around Drick’s quarry. The guards were dropping their rifles and drawing hand lasers and a monofilament sword each. 

The guards’ hands never got the weapons from holsters as Drick had primed forearm ejectors with mini-engineers cutters. A single thought activated the high-intensity gas ejection torches that Drick had set to armour cutting. Drick knew that the gas would be consumed in less than two seconds, but that was adequate time for the cutters to tear a hole fist sized through the groin section of the suits and into the lower stomach of the guards inside. They both screamed in a horrible manner as their intestines cooked in seconds. They fell sideways and were dead or dying before they reached the floor.

Drick was still moving as in the same fluid motion that started with dropping into this confined space. They had rolled backwards, bringing their legs together, tucking them neatly into a ball and then thrusting upwards into a handstand. The kick was aimed at the stomach and chin of the organic target. The creature responsible for the hit set upon Drick in the Spaceport. Drick suspected that they also had some influence over the events that had transpired at Judicial central.

Drick’s kick knocked them backwards. They were presenting as a large male with expensive clothes and too much jewelry on their hands and ankles. A tiny bit of research from contacts with the Union had provided the useful info about their manner and Drick would be using that to the best advantage. Drick flipped onto their feet coming upwards to face the organic who looked up winded but with a face twisted into a snarl. 

“Do you know who I am?” the target screamed in a voice thick with anger and pain.

“I bet that’s not the only dumb thing you’re going to say to me today,” Drick replied.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 64: Target Acquired

As Drick plummeted through the hole in the floor they activated the suits systems to switch from increased gravity to as low a gravity as the suit could manage. Drick readied their whole body, going from an arrow to pass through the floor, into a relaxed shape for impact. It was seconds before Drick was taking most of the force of the fall with feet that curled into a roll along the corridor Drick came up into a run ignoring the shock waves of pain that were coursing through their frame.

Drick flicked the shotgun to small shot with low impact as they rounded the corner of the corridor they had crashed into. Drick was already rolling sideways as they reached the corner and firing, it took three shots to hit the target which was a surprised looking guard who was running towards the sound of the noise. Drick’s first shot had gone wild, the second grazed their stomach, but the third hit them square in the face knocking their head backwards and them into unconsciousness.

Drick bounced a shoulder off the wall and used the support of the smooth surface to keep them steady as they continued racing down the new corridor. With half an eye to the overlay of positions and the layout of the complex on the internal monitor Drick guessed that they had a few moments to get to their quarry. Already more guards were converging on one single position. A floor down and two hundred metres away. It was a large room with its own private elevator to every floor including the floor one hundred metres down that exited to a private causeway with an unknown exit to the public freeway.

If Drick’s intended mark made it to their vehicle they would be out of reach for any sensible purposes, they would either go low or acquire too much security or likely both. Drick had to take them in this club. Right now Rodero would be blocking all outside communications from the secure network, if Boomer was doing their job right all other feeds would be out as well. Which meant they had to get out of this area to make any call for backup.

No doubt the club had contingency plans, Drick knew of two at least thanks to some insider information provided by a Union looking to keep them alive to collect on a favour. But there could be others. So speed was the key. The only solution was a heavy assault and immediate resolution.

Drick took a disc from a back pouch and flicked it to active. It was a semi-guided missile keyed to Drick’s own internal systems. The missile had a limited ani-grav stability system and utilised the same motors to propel it at sufficiently worrisome speeds at a target. It had been designed and intended for building assaults.

With a mere thought Drick sent the disc spinning away from them and around the next corner less than ten metres away. Twenty metres down that corridor was a security station and armoured door. For the time being.

Drick armed the missile and activated a power burst to propulsion turning off all other systems. The effect was to leave Drick without any control, monitoring or knowledge, from the missile. It also meant the missiles systems and course couldn’t be interfered with anymore except by direct physical intervention. It was no longer guided, it was a straight line certainty.

Drick slowed their pace and turned the suit’s systems to high gravity effect once more as they dropped to the ground with bare moments to spare. There was a colossal explosion. As if in symphony with Drick’s actions there was a rumble from above and motes of dust fell from the ceiling and walls. In the distance there were screams of surprise and terror. 

Drick recognised the effect of a rumble pack. It was a weapon intended for fear and confusion. A damaging sound, a deep rumbling bass, was the signature. A lot of intense light but it was broad spectrum and not harmful to most people. The major effect was to shake solid surfaces. It rumbled. As it did it vibrated large surfaces using low level frequency generation, that was harmless to organics but caused ripples in anything broad flat and weighing more than a few hundred kilogrammes. The building literally shook with the force of a low frequency, high energy, sound weapon. 

Drick guessed that the majority of the staff would be heading to the epicentre of that explosion, it was hardly relevant to Drick at this moment. Drick was moving at their fastest rate. With the lowered gravitational effect from the suit they were able to run up the walls to take corners from the wall opposite, landing in rolls that bounced them metres down a corridor into pouncing runs that became upright.

Drick ran through two staff members spinning them into a wall or floor with sheer momentum. On the next corridor that was long and straight Drick used three shots from the shotgun. One was fortunate, straight to the back of the head, then two to the stomach of the other guard took out any thoughts of resistance.

Another corner and Drick backflipped from a high point of the wall and as they came upright used a maximum spread of the gel shotgun that sent a wall of low impact force down the corridor. 

The four guards who were waiting outside of the elevator were firing at the same moment, but their shots were absorbed by the non-reactive substance of the gel round as it enveloped them knocking them backwards. The next impact the guards felt was from the thousands of darts that Drick unleashed from the other handgun.

The guards were all down on this level and Drick casually walked towards the armoured doors that led to the private elevator, the other floors and garage. Drick used a small powered expansion tool to open the doors as Rodero deactivated all door sensors and locked this area down. 

Drick looked down. The quarry had clearly decided to evacuate, the monitors gave that away. It was a lazy eleven seconds before the elevator ascended from the garage to the floor below and Drick’s screen showed the security enter the lift. The quarry was unmonitored, it was still a little bit of guesswork to think they were with these guards. But well informed guesses.

 Drick watched it start to move and then leapt down the elevator shaft.

Categories
Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 63: Babysitting Corpses

Hooper escorted the two mortuary stretchers as they hovered down the corridor on the pre-programmed route to the secure area that had held Marsh and Krennar. The stretchers were from a privately maintained mortuary and were fully automatic. Hooper idly wondered how much smarter than his apartment they were likely to be? Krennar was a legal, probably pulled in more in a year than Hooper could expect to earn in a lifetime so the insurance would be delightfully bespoke. 

The stretchers reached the doorway and Hooper used a keycard to override the security. Krennar and Marsh were lying on the floor where the med team had left them after declaring them deceased. Hooper watched showing no expression as the stretchers hovered over the bodies and a hatchway opened in the base of each one. They lowered over the bodies and then closed the hatch sealing the bodies inside.

Hooper waited as the stretchers, more mobile coffins now, identified and then instantly administered care. in this case it would be to hold them in a state of grace. Hooper made sure to get the confirmation codes that officially handed over the two organics to the private medical company and then escorted them out of the room.

Hooper almost walked into Perf who was outside in the corridor. “Heya Hooper.”

“Perf.”

“I came down to see if it was true. So they are actually dead?”

“That’s what it says on the med sheet.”

“Holy heck, what happened?”

“Damndest thing, the air circulator had a short and a fatal shut down. Some form of software glitch. I would have sworn it was impossible, in fact, my first thought was that someone had tried to cover up a murder. But the techs assure me it was all a massive series of related incidents. They called it a cascade failure. A small issue that spirals into a large issue, each one contributing to a larger end effect.”

“Wow. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, these rooms are supposed to be ultra safe and secure.”

“Tell me about it. Going to be a heck of a stink about this. I already had three different oversight bodies contact me, and I hate to think what the investigator assigned is going to say.”

“I hear they’re a bit of a firebrand.”

“They are a massive pain in the arse is what they are.”

“I thought you guys were a little tighter than that?”

“Not that tight, I owe them and they have been using that for a long time.”

“Sorry to hear that. Look do you want me to do the filing of the paperwork for you?”

“You don’t need to do that.”

“I’d be happy to, hell that’s ninety percent of my job so it wouldn’t be a real stress.”

“Thanks Perf, I owe you. Means I can escort the stretchers and then go off shift.” Hooper passed a data card to Perf.

“I’ll walk down to the hanger with you,” said Perf, “we can go over your picks for a fantasy team in next year’s league, fully round out something good.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Hooper, “I hate babysitting corpses.”