The Insider – Part 7

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a serial by Joseph Benedict

“The data here is too complete not to have been tested in the field,” Melbourne said breathlessly. “Soon, I’m afraid you’ll come up against agents in the field who can match your capabilities. Or exceed them. You have to get this information back to the lab.” The old man flinched as the doors to the second elevator shot open.

At the same moment, doors farther down the hall slid back. Fresh guards stepped into the room, leveling riot shields and stun batons. Fang scoffed.

Unless one of you is the head of a dojo somewhere, none of you will even hit us, she thought.

But then she spied the two men near the back of the group who had stepped from the elevators and the long, sleek rifles in their hands.  She’d seen the model in Hart’s agents’ possession before.

“Tranquilizers!” Fang called.

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a serial by Joseph Benedict

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4

Part 5
Part 6

 


 

“The data here is too complete not to have been tested in the field,” Melbourne said breathlessly. “Soon, I’m afraid you’ll come up against agents in the field who can match your capabilities. Or exceed them. You have to get this information back to the lab.” The old man flinched as the doors to the second elevator shot open.

At the same moment, doors farther down the hall slid back. Fresh guards stepped into the room, leveling riot shields and stun batons. Fang scoffed.

Unless one of you is the head of a dojo somewhere, none of you will even hit us, she thought.

But then she spied the two men near the back of the group who had stepped from the elevators and the long, sleek rifles in their hands.  She’d seen the model in Hart’s agents’ possession before.

“Tranquilizers!” Fang called. She raised her weapon to fire at the strange guns, but the guards hunched down, hiding behind the protection of the shields.

Something small shattered against the wall to her left. Fang pivoted and saw another pair of shooters lining up shots behind another group of shields behind them.

“Go!” Melbourne shoved her, pointing to the hall where she had saved him. “Get out however you can. Make sure that girl gets home!”

Fang stumbled back, feeling another shot whiz past her ear.  Dave and Hawkins turned, charging for the open hallway. Melbourne turned from her and charged the men with shields, waving his arms to obscure her. Fang watched the back of his head, imagined her sights on it, thinking a quick, merciful pop would surely be better than whatever Hart would do to make Melbourne talk.

She owed the doctor that much.

But she couldn’t do it.

I’ll be back, she swore. Doctor, I’ll be back and I’ll see you free and smiling again.  Never doubt it.

A shot from one of the strange rifles tagged Melbourne in the leg and he slumped to the ground, already unconscious. Fang turned and ran after the others.

Hawkins was nearly to the corner. He and Dave fired rapidly over the tops of the riot shields, bursting chunks of marble and plaster from the wall, but the guards only braced themselves and held. The two in the back sighted through gaps in the barrier.  They took their time, shooting carefully. As Dave and Hawkins reached the corner, they moved as one; Dave leaped high, raining searing lead down upon the shooters.

The men raised their shields to ward off the bullets, proving that either their training or experience with the nearly invulnerable armor was limited.  From what Fang had seen, they would hardly have needed to shields to stand through the hail of bullets unharmed.  She thought it might well be their first time fighting in the dark suits.

At the same time, Hawkins dropped to the ground, sliding forward and unleashing the rest of his clip at the guards’ exposed ankles. Though the armor was thick, there was no way the material could absorb all of the bullets’ bone crushing force.  Half of them crouched, swearing, reaching for their legs, or slipped to the tile, howling.

But behind them, the two men with rifles remained standing. The one farthest from the hall swung his gun down wildly, firing at Hawkins’ prone form. Fang reached the hallway as she saw the small projectile strike Hawkins’ lean, dark neck.  A small speck of blood appeared, and his eyes rolled back and closed.

Dave flung his empty gun at the standing guards.


Leaving the immaculate corporate roads, Fang slowed her pace as she merged with the crowd on the boardwalk. She looked left and right, scanning the crowd for threats. Outside the next raucous bar, a bike was parked, leaning up against a wooden post. She didn’t see a lock around it. Through the bar’s window, a tall, bearded man met her eyes as she came closer.

 

 

“Fang, come on! Now!”

The gun whirled into the collarbone of the guard who had shot Hawkins. Its weight knocked the gun from the man’s hand and pushed him into the other rifle-wielding guard who was sighting another of the damned weapons at Fang. The breaking-glass sound of more projectiles sounded off the hallway walls, where the men behind her fired again. Fang glanced at Hawkins’ still body once, then plunged down the unguarded hall.

“Door!” Dave called behind her. “One to the left!”

Fang reached for the handle of the next. It was locked. She sprinted to another, and pulled it open.

The large room was vacant. Two long desks against the wall held several monitors with no one behind them. A loud hum came from a huge server cabinet to her right. Straight ahead, blinds covered a line of tall windows. She tore them away.

The thousand lights of the cityscape shone in white, blue and gold against the night. Flecks of new rain held their brightness, blurring the image of the buildings beyond. Two stories below she saw the sandy front lawn they had passed on the way in.

Dave ran into the room behind her and slammed the door.

“Would you break it?” he growled. Snapping the lock in place, he backed away from it the door.

Fang pivoted on the balls of her feet, whipped around, and lashed out with her right foot. The kicked rebounded from the glass with a deep, hollow sound. A soft rattling began at the doorknob.

“Safety glass,” she warned Dave. She stepped back until her spine was pressed against his, drew the pistol she had remaining, and fired the last of it’s rounds, aiming for the same center point in the glass. The first two ricocheted, turning its clear glass a milky white, but the last punched through. Tiny cracks spiraled out from the hole.  “Cheap safety glass,” she added, thankful. “Back up.”

Together, they backed up against the door, hearing the guards slide whatever mechanism or key they had into the lock.  Fang put it out of her mind and stared at the hole in the glass, through it, out at the night beyond until it was the only thing left in her world. Then, she let her breath out, a signal to Dave, and they surged forward.

Their twin flying kicks rocked the window. Fang felt it bow against the flat edge of her foot for a brief instant. She braced herself, locking her joints in place and willing the glass to break. The window gave way and she was falling.

Clear shards and raindrops glittered around her. She looked away from them, saw the ground rush up at her, and told herself to roll. She hit the ground hard. Tumbling and slapping against the rough sand, she rolled over and over. At last she slowed enough to let the momentum propel her to her feet and found that neither leg was broken.

Her wrists ached and bled where sand had scraped through her skin, but her desperate strides were unhindered.  Dave sprang to his feet beside her an instant later and spoke in a low tone, running.

“Get Fang as close to home as you can, then drop out. We have to get back into that guard or Hart will find her. If he’s even still in a position to reach the cameras.”

“We’ll reach them,” Fang heard herself whisper harshly. “Go!”

They darted in opposite directions, into the night. The city was loud with the echoes of roaring engines and raised voices.

Fang listened for the sound of sirens as she ran. Glancing back, she saw Hart’s building. It was dark, with a few, sporadic lights on, looking like every other tower in the plaza, except for the broken window on it’s second floor. No guards stood around the breech, staring.

They must have cameras on the outside too, Fang decided. There is no way to know where their devices might be. We’ll have to strip the entire security network and all the computer memory we can reach.

The road leading to the towers’ lot was deserted. Fang jogged along it, staying close to the side of the road, ready to fling herself prone to the side if a squad car or van full of mercenaries shined headlights across the asphalt.

No one followed her.

Leaving the immaculate corporate roads, Fang slowed her pace as she merged with the crowd on the boardwalk. She looked left and right, scanning the crowd for threats. Outside the next raucous bar, a bike was parked, leaning up against a wooden post. She didn’t see a lock around it. Through the bar’s window, a tall, bearded man met her eyes as she came closer.

Fang reached for the bike. The man scowled and hustled toward the door. Fang snatched the bike up, put one foot on a pedal, and thrust herself down the walkway. Couples and crowds parted for her as she shot toward them.

 

“I’m sorry,” she heard herself say as she fell. “You’ll understand soon.”

 

 

“Hey!” The man’s booming followed her. “Don’t break my bike!”

Fang eased her weight backward on the seat. When the wooden path of the walkway ended in stairs leading to the piers and a parking lot, she jerked the handles up and hopped. She landed cleanly, peddling fast away from the waterfront, toward the streets full of homes in the distance.

The bleeding on her forearms had stopped. She brushed sand away idly, watching the road ahead and each side street as she crossed them. The fine mist of rain continued, ruining her hair, covering her face with a wet sheen and slowly soaking her clothes.

Melbourne, she thought. Hart has as much time as he needs with you now. I don’t blame you if he finds out all that you know. Just hang on. I can fight whatever he creates. It would be a lot easier with you helping though.

The sound of a distant siren split the static hiss of the rain. Fang shot forward, calculating, wondering if Hart had connections enough, if the man would dare to get the local law enforcement involved. She pedaled hard, thinking too of the security cameras and the warm, comfort of the home she was racing toward.

She saw Nally Avenue ahead, recognizing the crooked street sign, and hopped onto the sidewalk, skidding as she cut the corner and raced to the Crosskeys’ yard.

Please let your stupid dog be in tonight, she wished silently, dumping the bike on the street and darting toward their backyard on foot. Dover started howling and barking as soon as she stepped past the back of the house. The hefty Rottweiler charged. His silver name-tag clanged against the studs on his collar as he ran.

Fang took two long strides and jumped, barely reaching the peak of the wooden fence between their houses with the tips of her fingers.  She hauled, dragging herself up onto its uneven top.

Dover snapped at the trailing ends of her shoelaces.  Fang rolled, dropping to the other side of the fence.

“I’m sorry,” she heard herself say as she fell. “You’ll understand soon. Be careful.”

She hit the ground with a jolt and the vague pressure inside her head was gone.  Fang slipped out of the sturdy crouch she—the person in her head—had tucked her body into upon reaching the ground. She stumbled back against the fence and slid down.  Dover barked on, scratching the fence.

Wet grass dampened her jeans.  She grabbed her knees, pulling them close to her chest. The sudden feeling of being able to move her hands the way she wanted, of being able to want anything other than what the presence in her mind had wanted, was too much for her.

Merely Fang Sun again, she lifted shaky hand to her forehead and cried.

Through the tears, she made out the blurry image of her parents’ home. The windows were dark. Her parents had gotten the message that she—it—had sent and hadn’t waited up.

Fang pushed to her feet and walked to the back door, remembering. With her hand on the doorknob, she recalled the guns in her hands. She saw the men dressed in dark protective clothing crumpling around her. There was a great pool of blood in the building she’d broken into, too much to wash away. She’d kicked one man so hard his neck had broken. She’d killed him.

Her hand fumbled off the knob. Turning, she crumpled in the shadow of her home and wept.

“What did I do?” she whispered hoarsely, over Dover’s deep growl. “What’s happening to me?”

 

To be continued.

 


by & filed under Arts & Music, Litra'ture & Poetry.