Thursday, January 24, 2013

Turning Point: Chapter 6


I bolted down the stairwell to the sub-basement.  Fortunately I’d only been on the second floor.  Everyone on both teams – except the Alpha’s – was at that moment rocketing to my position.  I didn’t know where the other Close Security team had been, but I was kissing my luck over the fact that they hadn’t been in the hall.  Which meant they were Bernerd’s people.  If Sashe had been in charge of both teams, all four of them would’ve been closing in on me instead of two hanging back to provide rear security.  Bernerd’s always been more of a “layers” guy than Sashe.  Of course if Bernerd had been in charge they probably would’ve used a tranq grenade in the hotel room and then shot me while I was out.

I had no illusions as to whether or not the door would be locked.  Once they’d seen my pissy little show on the vid – and there was no way that Sashe and Bernerd weren’t hooked into the hotel’s vid link – they’d ratchet up the fuckery.

I’d been right about how the first steps would go.  Sashe and her people were good, but they weren’t the best and they were used to going after Demos.  The company hadn’t terminated a Security contract in over a decade.  No one in any of the current ops teams had been around for longer than eight.

Because of that, none of them were cranked enough to deal with me.  None of them had ever had to deal with a trained target with nothing to lose.  That ended with my little show.  They now had some idea of what they were dealing with.  Hell, at that point they had a better idea of it than I did.  I was making it up as I went along.

I jumped the last few stairs and ran for the sub-basement.  I went ahead and checked the door, because you never know.  Sure enough, the magnetic seal was engaged.  I let out a snarling grunt as I pulled the bag around in front of me and opened it up.  After a few seconds of digging I pulled out the splice-card and turned back to the door.

The card’s jack protruded from the narrow gray rectangle at the corner of the narrow end.  I plugged it into the door-scanner’s maintenance port and let it do its techy magic.  We called them “cards” because they weren’t much bigger than playing cards.  Plug the card in and it scrambles the lock open.  I didn’t comprehend the tech behind it and didn’t care.  Security teams used the cards all the time.  Mine was a free-lance model out of the Diggs and it had cost a full week’s pay.  But it was worth every cred.  I was confident it would work because I’d tested it.  I’m not completely stupid.

But popping the door was where the resemblance between the official cards and my independently contracted toy ended.  The official cards erased the fact that the door had been opened from the lock’s internal memory.  Mine couldn’t do that.  My card would keep alarms from going off, but that was about it.

After two heart-constricting seconds the door popped and I pulled the card free, shouldering my way past the door as I did.  Spinning on my heel, I slammed the door shut and re-engaged the lock.  Then I pointed my new pistol at the lock assembly and shot the hell out of it, emptying the magazine.  Hopefully it would cause a short somewhere and prevent the door from being opened.  For a while at least.  I slid the card into one of the bag’s zippered pockets and secured it.  I wasn’t too worried about the card getting broken.  Its case may have been made out of plastic, but it was ballistic grade.  On top of that, every one of the bag’s many pockets was padded.  The card was as safe as I could make it.

The next step was to pull out my comp-shades and to get them on and working.  They were another free-lance widget that had been worth their cost, which had been less than the card’s.  The frames were some sort of bitchin’ alloy and hollow.  Inside were crammed all sorts of cool electronics I’d never know the names of.  Those electronics turned the shades into a mini-comp and among other things gave the benefit of light-amp and anti-glare.  I turned my shades on and took a look around the room.

The room thankfully offered no surprises.  There were a couple of work stations and a few racks of tools.  Near the work stations were the frames of cleaning and maintenance bots.  None of that interested me.  What I was looking for was on the far wall and the floor beside it.  The floor held a hatch leading down into the maintenance tunnels.  That hatch was the reason I had run for the sub-basement in the first place, I’d half-remembered that the hotel had access to the tunnels.  The wall held the other thing I needed – a medical kit.

I snatched the med-kit from the wall, sat in a chair by a work station and set the med-kit on the station’s work table.  Opening the kit assured me that it had the immediate necessities – gauze, disinfectant, antibiotic cream and a stitch gun.  Then I pulled out one of my pretty new knives and started cutting into the skin on my left forearm.

Blood welled up and spilled over as I pulled the tip of the blade through the top bit of flesh.  I started the incision six centimeters above my wrist and cut for two before giving myself another just like it.  They made a “L” in my skin, right above my chip.

Everyone on Roach has a chip in them.  They’re just under the skin on the fore-arm.  They aren’t implanted any deeper because they need to be replaced sometimes.  But that’s something you got to the docs for.  Removing the chip on your own is against corporate law.

The chip keeps track of you.  It’s stated purpose is medical.  You get sick, you go to the doc’s.  The doc scans your chip and can tell exactly what’s wrong with you.  But the chip also lets Security keep tabs on you, a little beacon telling them exactly where you are.  It’s how Sashe and Bernerd knew I was actually in my hotel room instead of getting drunk at a bar.  Oh, and if you remove the chip it let’s out an inaudible scream to the cops filling them in on your new development.

If I didn’t get rid of my chip, the hatch in the floor wouldn’t do me much good.

Gritting my teeth, I probed into my self-inflicted wound with the point of the knife until I found the chip.  Hooking it with the knife’s point, I flicked the chip out of my arm and onto the table.  Then I smashed the damn thing into as many little pieces as I could.  Then it was time to set the knife down on and get to work on my new incisions.

Disinfectant got sprayed on, around and into the wound.  Then the antibiotics got put through the same drill.  After that I grabbed the stitch gun and plugged my little “L” wound with four pulls of the trigger.  Last was the gauze, to keep crap out of my hide.  After putting everything back into the kit and stashing it in my bag, I retrieved my knife and turned to the hatch in the floor.

The tunnels were my means to getting the next thing I needed – a way of getting to a part of the dome that security didn’t have monitored all the way to hell and back.  What I’d said earlier about “every stairwell and hallway under the dome” being bugged?  That was an exaggeration.  I needed to get to the Diggs and I needed to do it unseen.  That’s where the tunnels came in.

Ironically, the entirety of my time as a Contract Specialist had been spent bitching about how small the Security Division’s budget was.  My argument was logical – with a better budget, we’d have better equipment and the job would be that much more survivable.  I’d also interpreted the Company’s stinginess as a lack of regard for our safety and hadn’t always been quiet about it.  Now the Company’s unwillingness to spend credits on anything that didn’t magically multiply them was going to work in my favor.

The maintenance tunnels were unmonitored.

You see, there are miles of tunnels beneath and between the domes and Syrch didn’t see the need to spend money on watching empty tunnels.  Especially miles and miles of empty tunnels.  And that would be my ticket to the Diggs.  As long as I could avoid the bots and crews, I could get to a place where I could hide and plot.  At least for a little while.

I ran across the room and popped the unlocked hatch open.  I took a quick inventory of my gear, making sure everything was secure before starting down the ladder and pulling the hatch shut behind me.  The moment the hatch was settled I threw the lock-bar and jumped to the tunnel floor.

A quick glance assured me that I was alone.  I raised my right index finger to the comp-shades and toggled the compass.  A notched green line appeared across the top of the left lens, scrolling as I turned my head left and then right.  When I was facing a cardinal direction, an indicator would pop up beneath the appropriate notch in the little green line, telling me which direction I was facing.  Once I had myself pointed in the right direction I started jogging.