A Work In Progress
By Rose Montague
Copyright © 2019 Rose Montague
Chapter One: The Second Great Escape
I was in an interview room at the main police station, supposedly giving my report. Two police detectives from the New Horizon station were taking my report. New Horizon was the capital of this world and these cops were from police central. Our police station here in Columbia was one of the larger ones not in the capital. Columbia was one of the more populous cities on the planet and I was a paid consultant for the local cops, usually called in when there was evidence of magic involved.
I normally gave my report in the Captain's office, normally with the Captain and my police handler, Detective Ted Henry and usually one of the detectives assigned to the particular case I was consulting on. This one was different. There were at least a dozen people on the other side of that one way mirror according to Kate. That group included our police chief, as well as New Horizon's, the mayor, several bigwigs from planetary security, Ted Henry, and a few politicians including our planetary ambassador to the empire. Unfortunately, I had a pretty good idea why this case was different, not that there was much I could do about it other than play it out to see what they knew and how much trouble I was in.
“Have you got a match on these two detectives yet?” I thought to Kate.
“Nothing in the data base of cop central and I am using a facial recognition search that should have found them in seconds,” she thought back at me. “Also nothing in any data base I have access to on this planet,” she added. “They are definitely from off world.
“They are GEMs like me,” I replied. “Doing a good job hiding it but GEMs none the less. Probably military or ex military. Check ComGlom, my bet is that they work for our enemy.”
GEMs were genetically engineered modifications, conceived in test tubes and brought to term in ConGloms labs, designed mostly for military and security work. Trained from birth and indoctrinated in ComGlom's agendas, they were strong, fast, and lethal. Not terribly bright, but fiercely loyal to a fault. My modifications were a bit different. ConGlom had the exclusive rights to performing and experimenting with genetic modifications. They had wormed their way into every government branch and politicians pocket in the human empire.
There was a video feed where my report was being recorded and the two way mike system was set up so those in the room behind the mirror could also ask questions. I hadn't received many questions since the start of the reading of the report, most had come at the beginning, questioning my background and qualifications. Until I got to the part where the safe was located, and the main fight that had taken place. I was afraid that would be the point where the real purpose of this whole deal would be revealed.
“The main living area seems to be the focus of the fighting and specifically the area where the safe was located was the focal point. My observations conclude there were three groups total, two groups not working together attacking both each other and the group providing security to the home. Those providing security were protecting the safe and the other two groups were trying to get to the safe. Upwards of two hundred rounds fired by my quick estimate. Fourteen dead, two wounded survivors that were carted off as I was arriving at the scene. From what I was told, the safe had been looked at by a couple of police magic techs and the protections on the safe to extreme to attempt an opening at that time.”
“Several of those killed were magic users, two primes identified by their robes and badges of office, both rated tens. My conclusion is that they were each with one of the attacking groups, probably there to open the safe. A lot of residual magic remained in the room and several of those killed looked to have been killed with magic. I concluded the two primes had attacked each other and their opposing forces, but both ended up dying from gunshot wounds.”
“Let me stop you here for a minute,” said Kruger, the female detective in the interview room. So far the male detective, Jeffries, had not said much of anything. Neither had bothered to shake my hand when we were introduced. She reached over to the video panel and touched a button and the crime scene video of Ted and me, started at the point where we had entered that room. Standard procedure that a video technician would follow us around.
Most of the video showed us looking at the bodies, the holes from the bullets in the room, discussing what happened, making notes, and showed us both looking at the safe before the video cut out to show Ted going into the next room. Forty-seven seconds later Ted called for me to rejoin them.
“Are you coming, Wiz?” he said, sounding irritated. The camera panned around to show me coming into the next room to join them.
“Let's now talk about the part in your report dealing with the safe,” Kruger said.
“Sure,” I replied. “The safe had ten levels of magical protection, all very high quality requiring some real expertise to break. Some were dangerous to those attempting to break in, very illegal, and some would be fatal even to a magic user of my level. My estimate is that a prime team would take anywhere from forty-eight to seventy-two hours to break the magical protections and then whatever time would involve in breaking the standard key code on the safe to get it open.”
A prime team consisted of a level ten, then usually two nines or an eight and nine. My level, at least on what Kate had managed to get into my phony background, was a seven. A seven is high enough to have a lot of respect in the magical community but not high enough to get recruited by the authorities or ConGlom itself. Eights and above were basically forced into service with few options ever to retire. I had wanted no part of that. They were paid extremely well and lived in luxury and most considered it a great way to live. The ones that didn't still had no choice in the matter.
“We had a prime team take a look at that safe twenty minutes before you arrived and concluded much the same as you did,” Kruger said. “They began as soon as the preliminary investigation was concluded, about two hours after you looked at it, and managed to get the safe open in just under forty-six hours of non-stop work.”
“That's a good team to get it open that fast,” I answered.
“Let me show you another video,” Kruger replied and touched another button on the video console.
This one showed the prime team that examined the safe before me. One of the team members was Gary Shepard, one from the same batch as me, engineered to be able to understand and use the Mistral magic-tech. He had a Mistral device with him. It was able to see into the safe. Kruger stopped the video at that point. The Genesis Egg was sitting right on top of the papers in the safe.
“Do you know what that egg shaped thing is?” Kruger asked.
“Looks like one of those stone egg paper weights,” I responded.
“It's a Mistral device,” she said. “You are the only one who could have taken it.”
I heard Jeffries draw his gun and it was now pointed at my head from four feet away.
“Hands on the table,” Kruger said.
I put my hands on the table and she locked them in place, looping them through through a raised metal bar welded to the top of the metal table. This is why they wanted to use a regular interrogation room.
“Both ConGlom security,” Kate interjected, having finished her search. “Section Eight.”
“At least it's not Section Nine, but bad enough,” I thought back. Section Eight dealt with finding and acquiring Mistral devices. Section Nine dealt with finding and either acquiring or eliminating those like me that had escaped their clutches. My cover had not been blown, yet anyway. “Activate our escape plan from here,” I told her. “Let me know when you are ready.”
I had escape plans for all the likely places I would be arrested or detained at, including police stations, jails, hospitals, and my home and business.
“Surely you don't think I could have opened the safe and stolen that device in forty-seven seconds?” I complained. “Ted?” I implored, looking at the one way glass, knowing he was behind there. He didn't say anything. “This is ridiculous,” I added. “I want my lawyer now, before I answer any more questions.”
Jeffries took Kruger's place at the table across from me. “My turn,” he said smiling. Moving fast, his right hand in a blur he slapped me hard, the sound of the blow loud in the room. If my arms were not restricted, I could have leaned back and avoided the blow. He was fast, but if that was the best he had, I would not have a problem with him.
“My lawyer?” I repeated, blood dripping from the side of my mouth. I heard Ted shouting on the other side of the glass. He was not pleased. Slapping suspects was not standard procedure.
“Are you recording this?” I thought to Kate.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Let's show them a big black bruise where he just hit me.”
Most GEMs, like me were full of nanobots, supposedly for quick recovery from injuries or to reduce pain to a manageable level. ConGlom like to have a few more in there they didn't tell people about and all of mine had undergone a reprogramming from Kate. We had also added a few of our own design over the years. Kate had almost been killed once before she migrated over to me. I was now her host and she was very interested in keeping me alive.
I could feel that side of my face swelling as he slapped me with his other hand on the other side of my face. This time I spat blood towards him as I asked for my lawyer once again.
“They are having to restrain Ted,” Kate told me. Ted was loyal to the department but was more loyal to the law. Besides, it had become pretty obvious that he had a crush on me.
“Any of them armed?” I asked.
“Just Ted, and they have now handcuffed him,” she answered.
“Execute phase one,” I told her.
Phase one would entail the activation of the many charms I had planted here over my many visits. These charms would act in concert to disable all the magical protections the police station employed to keep from any magic being used while inside the building. I could here the sound of loud pops going off throughout the building as Jeffries started another slap my way. The second part of phase one locked every unlocked door in the station and unlocked every locked door, including the locked door to the interrogation room I was in.
Handcuffs have not changed much in hundreds of years. There magical protections were minimal and with a thought and a small burst of magic I engaged a simple charm to release the locks on the cuffs. At the same time I leaned back and his right hand passed me just beyond my nose. Sticking my right arm out I caught his arm with mine while bringing my left arm forward as I rose, connecting just above the elbow of the arm I had caught, breaking it with a sickening snap. He started to scream but that was muffled as I had raised my right arm to his hair, grabbing a handful and smashing his face into the metal table as fast and hard as I could. This time I heard his nose break. As I reached my feet, I leaned forward and grabbed his gun from the right side of his belt with my left hand.
Kruger had been taken by surprise but had managed to get her gun almost aimed in my direction as I shot her gun arm, the right, followed by a shot to her left arm and a shot to her left knee. A lot of damage but here engineered DNA and the nanobots would have her back in business in a matter of days. Her gun went skittering across the floor and I grabbed it as well as I reached the door, turning to Jeffries and blowing out his left knee as well as he had regained his feet and was preparing to charge me. These people could take a lot of pain and damage and keep on going.
“Phase two,” I whispered as I opened the door.
Phase two was designed to confuse and move people out of my way as I exited out the door while disabling communications in or out of the police station. I could hear bangs on the door next to the interview room, the one with all the bigwigs that had been watching. Their door was now locked. I could hear glass breaking as they entered the interview room to try the door I just exited. They would find that door now locked as well. I walked down the hallway hesitating before entering the main lobby. Loud bangs this time as charms went off starting on my right and moving left in a series of small explosions and clouds of smoke. As expected everybody moved to the left side of the room as the series of charms went off. I had designed them to look like regular items, pens, paper clips, coffee cups, a clump of dirt in the various planters, or a piece of gum on the underside of a table or chair. None were active until the magical protections came down. I waited until my path was clear, orienting myself so I could walk straight through the smoke to the front doors which Kate would open for me then lock behind me as I left.
“Phase three,” I whispered as I opened the front door and walked outside.
Kate and I had long since hacked the computer system and this phase was a program that executed as I walked out. All cameras, and there were cameras on almost every street corner, were deactivated. Programmed drones that flew in a variety of patterns around the city stopped transmitting pictures and started crashing to the ground, only avoiding hitting people as they fell. All data in the computers was erased beyond recovery. Kate already had what I wanted, the identity of the two people interviewing me and a record of my interview. That would be on the news tonight. Police cars lowered themselves to the ground with doors locked, preventing the cops inside from exiting.
“I disabled the tracking on those guns you took,” Kate told me.
Guns were outlawed except for law enforcement and licensed security services. All cars including the flying kind were only allowed for law enforcement and the ultra rich that could both afford to pay for them as well as the exorbitant fees. Unless you were ConGlom, they got just about anything they wanted.
“Nice work,” I told her. I couldn't think of everything. We made a good team.
Public transportation was still online even though the cameras weren't operating. There was a tube just a block away with a regular run that would take me within a few blocks of my prepared hiding place. I had chosen an apartment near the tubes just for that reason and paid cash a year in advance under an assumed name. The tubes were fast and efficient, riding on a cushion of air beneath the city streets. The cops used to have a presence at every station but over the years had decided to use video monitoring instead. That made it easy for me. I used my city trans card which would normally leave a record of my trip but in this case, although my name was on the card, the data the computer would scan would be of a completely different person.
“Phase four,” I told Kate as I entered my apartment.
Phase four was probably the hardest one for Kate to manage, requiring her to erase all record of her intrusions into the mainframe but leaving just enough evidence to show a smokescreen of a magic-tech attack, using charms I had strategically placed, like the coffee cup I had given the police chief for Christmas. It had his favorite sports team on one side and his name on the other. He kept it conveniently on his desk beside his computer. At the completion of this phase, the doors to the station would unlock, cameras would start working again, and communications would be restored. The cops would be embarrassed by all the charms I had left lying around and the three prime teams that had spent the good part of a month a few years ago installing the magical protections would probably be sued.
“Three minutes,” Kate said.
I turned on my video monitor, selecting the local news. They had a camera crew already outside the station. Smoke was still exiting thru the cracks between and those inside were pounding on the doors to get out. Good luck, those windows and doors were designed to hold off most anything short of really major firepower.
I picked up the Genesis Egg and rolled it around in my hand, it was a marvelous piece of magic-tech engineering, something us humans would not be able to match for thousands of years, if ever. Forty-seven seconds was not bad. I had seen the layers of magic covering the safe as I approached. I didn't even attempt to break them, even with my skills it would have taken a few hours. Instead I had used a back door trick I had learned from my study of the Mistrals. Their concept of space time was way beyond ours. I t took a different type of brain other than a human one to understand it. ComGlom had hit pay dirt with me, the Mistral DNA took and my brain was wired differently. I simply changed the location magically of the protections around the safe, something they had no idea could even be done. Those protections were guarding a spot on the wall a few feet away instead.
That took about ten seconds. I had many charms for cracking a safe, this one was a simple keypad, and the charm I used was already prepped in my mind. A thought to activate and a little push of magic, showed me the keys on the pad that had been touched most often. The first and last numbers usually got pushed the hardest and it seemed everyone really like the pound key for the last number and it was lit up almost as much as the first. A little slide of light in the direction of the second number no lit up quite as much, leaving only the third number and the pound key still lit. Another ten seconds and I was in. Closing the safe, I moved the protections back and if I hadn't spent a few seconds or so admiring the thing I would have been in the next room earlier.
“Phase four complete,” Kate said.
The new feed showed people bursting out doors and windows, and sirens started going off. People, including the cops were stepping on and over each other to escape. Some were probably hurt, I hoped not seriously but it couldn't be helped.
Chapter Two: The First Great Escape (Part One)
The expansion of the Human Empire in our galaxy started slowly, taking almost a thousand years to populate three planets around three different stars. The third planet had many structures from the Mistral Empire still intact, many of these estimated to be hundreds of thousands in age. Amazingly, a lot of Mistral magic-tech was left behind, including a few working space frigates capable of somehow bending time and space, shortening a trip of a hundred years prior to that to just a few days.
Magic at that point had just become accepted as real, just another field in a unified field theory. Unfortunately both the magic and the tech was beyond our understanding. Unless the tech only required a button to push and some pointing to do, many of the Mistral devices found were useless. The tech was already there, but the development of magical talents needed to activate many of these devices was just beginning.
Nobody knows what happened to the Mistrals, one day they were there and the next day they were gone, taking nothing with them wherever they went. Many decades of careful study revealed they all vanished at exactly the same time from hundreds of populated worlds.
Enter ConGlom, a small outfit commissioned by an early interstellar government to learn how to use the magic-tech. ConGlom decided the fastest way to do this was through genetic manipulation of humans and through many experiments and trials and failures, people with magical talents became more commonplace. These test-tube babies became prized possessions. By the time people found out only about one in ten thousand fertilized eggs panned out and the rest were destroyed as well as the lengths ComGlom went to to get them, they already had most of the powers that be in their pocket. ComGlom became a monopoly.
Section Nine was formed when the ComGlom scientists figured out that even the most magically inclined humans, what we now call primes, couldn't get most Mistral devices to operate. The majority of the ones they could use turned out to be children's toys. Section Eight's mission was modified to look both for Mistral devices as well as viable DNA samples and Section Nine begin a program of creating Human/Mistral hybrids.
The first big success came with the Mistral communication devices. Instantaneous communication across thousands of light years. Hand held as well as fixed, there were versions of this in almost every Mistral home found relatively intact. That became the baseline of success of a Section Nine kid. If you could operate one by age three you would be allowed to live. Those that could not get anything else to work were shipped out across the galaxy, manning various communication stations around all the populated planets. The devices required one of us to send as well as one of us to receive. The better you were at using the device, the more data you could transmit and receive. There were twenty-eight of us that could operate other, more advanced devices at the time of the first great escape.
Five of us were considered to be big successes and I was the youngest. Just a toddler, I could tell the ComGlom scientists what each device was designed to do and whether I could operate it. A boy some seven years older from me but from the same batch had similar talents. So many hundreds of thousands of failures not allowed to come to term as well as many terminated by their third year. Mistral DNA did not mix well with Human DNA and many of the births had various deformities and disabilities requiring a lot of medical equipment to keep them alive. Others had similar mental problems, some were born no more than vegetables, and others were crazy. A lot suffered constant pain. We had no names. The scientists called us by the last three numbers of our batch and we called each other by the same method. I was called 390 and the boy that was like me from the same batch was called 201. By age three 201 had clued me in on our situation and had warned me not to be so forthcoming on what I could or couldn't do, trying to keep them interested enough in keeping me alive while at the same time, not so interesting that I would be completely isolated from the others. Two of the Five as we called the major success kids, had already been locked away in separate wings of the compound.
I met Kate when I was one year old, she had just been created in a separate division of ComGlom and was one of their experiments in Artificial Intelligence. I was a natural when it came to computers, my first words appeared on a screen in my room in response to a question from one of the scientists. Like 201, I didn't need a keyboard to operate a computer. We had been part of the same batch, based on the same reasoning and same sample of Mistral DNA. The scientists had this brilliant idea that a lot of us died that may end up being a success because we were not strong enough. They had already perfected genetic modifications for military and security uses that resulted in stronger, faster, more long living humans and we got the best of those modifications along with the Mistral ones. More did survive and they were excited about this but after almost a million run in our batch, we were the only two that panned out.
Kate was just a newborn AI, one in a long line of similar experiments resulting in many deaths, these being the deaths of those AIs that didn't turn out the way the scientists wanted. They wanted an AI that would do what it was told without complaint yet be an intelligent, reasoning AI capable of independent thinking. I could have told them they couldn't have it both ways. That didn't stop them from trying, however. They were good at killing.
I connected with Kate despite all their safeguards and programs designed to keep her isolated. I had nobody to play with, the only interaction with the other kids here was a once a week dinner with the bigwigs we had for those physically capable of attending and feeding themselves. She was bored as well, just growing up like me and she had no friends. I helped her get past her restrictions and connect with computers everywhere. My talent was part of the Mistral magic and nothing could stop me. She observed what I did naturally and became adept at doing the same type of things without my help.
I had tried to warn her about ComGlom but like many kids she just could not comprehend that her creators would terminate her. I set about ensuring she had a future a place she could go to if that decision was made. All of us kids were full of various nanobots, they kept changing them around coming up with different ways to monitor our health, monitor how we were functioning, and keeping us happy. 201 had taught me how to hide some of my computer abilities, especially the ones showing we had no restrictions reaching computers in other areas of ComGlom, even though the comps in my room were turned off. My reach was even further than his, they had hit the jackpot in me. He also taught me how to turn off the nanobots that kept us happy. Even happy, we were not stupid. We had access and we knew of all the death going on every minute of every day. We also knew we were prisoners, destined for a life of isolation and servitude, no more than another tool for ComGlom to profit from. 201 taught me that these nanobots were nothing more than small computers and I had a great time terminating the ones designed to keep me happy. I kept looking like I was happy but inside I was angry as hell.
It was while I was desperately searching for a way to keep Kate alive when I stumbled on an obscure article from five hundred years ago in a scientific computer journal that no longer existed. Looking back on it, I'm not even sure why I bothered to read it. Jonathan Wiznewski and Stanly James had written an article on transferring a computer program into a living brain. In all the brains they had studied, none would suffice but they didn't stop at that point, instead postulating the type of brain that could both house and use such a program. The diagrams and neural pathways they postulated looked remarkably similar to my brain. I simply changed the design of my next special batch of nanobots, the technicians handling that part of it really had no clue it was my design and not the scientists in charge of me. When I got that injection, they immediately started making a home for Kate, getting ready for her to move in.
Chapter Three: Dinner with the Detective
“City News is getting ready to air the police alert,” Kate told me and I directed my attention back to my monitor.
“Is our version ready to go?”
“I substituted an edited video of the interrogation for a picture of your ID they were planning on putting out,” Kate replied.
“Good, that was a pretty lousy picture. This should be fun.”
On the monitor the police video showed their PR guy reading the standard be on the lookout for and armed and dangerous regarding me but at the end instead of showing my ID, Kate had substituted a video of the interrogation. It showed the part about them questioning me and me asking for a lawyer intermixed with the slapping. It cut off before I made my escape.
I smiled. That video was now playing world wide, the news media did not question what the cops had given them to air immediately. Except for my copy of the interrogation, nothing else now existed.
“Laura Venable is waiting on thirty-two,” Kate said.
“Is the CGI ready?”
“I'm ready,” she answered.
All the signs of that slapping had already faded away as my enhanced healing had taken care of it. However, what Laura and her viewers would see was a pretty awesome CGI image of me doing the interview. That me was pretty much beat up with swollen and split lip, big purple bruises on my face, and some bandages placed across my nose with a few bloody scratches here and there that some quick band-aids failed to completely cover. It was such a good program that I couldn't tell the difference between the CGI and the real me.
“Let's do it, on screen,” I told Kate.
The com screen next to my monitor came on. Laura visibly jerked at my appearance but she was a pro, and she jumped right in on my interview.
“Columbia police are claiming you are responsible for the attack on their headquarters today. They say you also assaulted and injured two police detectives, stole two guns, and caused many injuries in the confusion. They have a warrant out for your arrest. Can you tell us your version of events?”
“I think everyone has seen the video of my so-called interrogation,” I replied. “They were two ConGlom security officers, not cops and they beat me to a pulp. I'm directing my lawyer to obtain that full video from them in order to prove that but it's obvious by what they released that they refused my requests for a lawyer and hit me several times while I was handcuffed to the table. It would have been impossible for me to steal that device and they know it. What happened after that video ended was that they continued to beat me and continued to refuse my requests. Eventually I lost consciousness and woke up on the floor of a small cell. Then there was a lot of loud bangs and smoke and I tried the door to my cell which turned out to be unlocked. I stumbled to the front door and got out when I had the chance. That's all I know right now and I'm in hiding, unable to even go to the hospital to treat my injuries.”
“At any point did the cops or these two handling your interrogation read you your rights?”
“No, and I'm going to sue the police as well as ConGlom for every penny I can get. If any of your viewers have any information that could help me, I would appreciate it. In the meantime I would appreciate if your station could look into to this matter. I would like to clear my name. I have been a consultant to the police department and have assisted them with solving real crimes. This is how I have been rewarded for that public service. “
“You can count on us, Miss James. We will get to the bottom of it.”
The live feed ended but I continued to talk to Laura. Real News Two was one of the few media outlets on New Horizon that was not under the control of ConGlom. They didn't have a big production budget because most of what they spent went to fighting off lawsuits and court orders from ConGlom companies and cronies that didn't appreciate them exposing the corruption ConGlom generated. Despite the lack of money for production, they remained very popular with the general population. Everybody knew ConGlom had a hand in a lot of bad things and they appreciated the efforts to expose those things that Real News Two did on a daily basis. They were completely funded by public contributions and I had steered a few million credits their way just a few months ago. I had an arrangement with Laura, giving her a few crime related scoops and and some hacked information on ConGlom from time to time. On an anonymous source basis of course.
“What proof do you have that these two were ConGlom?” she asked.
“I'm sending you an anonymous tip now showing copies of their ConGlom ID cards. I would suggest you do some research on the New Earthers and their motivation for wanting the Genesis Egg. They were one of the parties involved in that massacre at the crime scene. Some speculation that they may have been behind the attack on the police station would probably help my cause. I'm also sending you a bit a background on the device itself as well as some secret information from ComGlom on what the device is capable of and why it is so important.”
“I'll get a follow up report on air as soon as I get a chance to review it,” she replied. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“I'm good for now but I will be in touch,” I answered as I cut the com link.
“Your detective has made reservations for 7:00 pm at Mama Chan's,” Kate told me.
“How much trouble is he in?”
“On paid leave,” Kate said. “The first thing he did was file a report with Internal Affairs and it was immediately regulated to the back burner by the chief.”
“Let's change that to priority one,” I told Kate. With the video just released they will probably think someone in IA bumped it up. Let Mama Chan know I will be joining “my detective” for dinner.”
“You have the ghosts ready to roll?”
“How about the mall starting out?” Kate replied.
Kate had developed a sense of humor over the last few years. Things like this tickled our funny bone.”
“That will work just fine,” I told her. Let's execute it about thirty minutes ahead of dinner.”
The biggest mall in town, it would be a logistics nightmare to cover. Cameras all over the city and the mall had a bunch as well. The cops would already be running facial recognition software looking for me, and that interview I just gave would give them some fresh images to use for that program. One of my ghosts would be seen entering the mall and several stores within. Locking that mall down would be a tough job for every available cop in the city and I was pretty certain ConGlom would be all over it as well. Kate would blur the real me in any cameras I encountered on my outing. I would use one of my high end charms to disguise me from any people I encountered. They were easier to fool than the cameras.
“They are sending a corrected alert to media outlets using your ID picture again.”
“Idiots,” I replied. I had hoped they would scrub the whole system and download a new cop operating system from cop central in New London. They probably thought the first one was human error. I needed them to connect to the cop central server. That had been a hard nut to crack. “Substitute the same video along with that CG picture of me all beat up,” I told her. “Maybe they will come to realize how deep the hack is and do what we want them to.”
“Doing now,” she replied.
“Have you heard back from my lawyer yet?” Kate had sent him the edited interrogation along with the ConGlom Ids and the picture of me after the beating, along with instructions to file a multi-million lawsuit against the police.
“He wants to know if you want to include ComGlom in the lawsuit?”
“Not yet,” I told her. They were experts at getting lawsuits delayed and dismissed and had most of the judges on their secret payroll. The cops would be an easier target.
“They are raiding Charms by Wiz.”
“We knew it was coming. It gives them something to do.” This was my business, high end charms at medium range prices. All legal of course, although I ran a black market business of not so legal charms, none of which they would find in the store. “Alert Brenda and Joe that the business is closed for now. Send my apologies and have a messenger deliver those packages I prepared for them in the event this happened.” If my personal and business accounts were not already frozen they would soon be and I didn't want them to have to return the money. The packages I prepared had a years worth of salary in credit chips included. I had other accounts in other names with which to play with.
I changed clothes and activated a few charms before heading out the door. The ghost me would be making an appearance at the mall about now. It would show the all beat up me entering the food court and heading into the Ultimate Charms store, a high end competitor of mine that sold mid level charms at outrageous prices that many insisted on buying, mainly because of the brand name. The police would pretty much tear that store apart looking for me and the mall would be shut down at least for the rest of the day. I smiled. By the time I got to the restaurant, I could catch the fun on screen.
Mama Chan's was a top tier restaurant with mid range prices. I had met her when she was selling meals in the Drift, a section of town for those less fortunate and down on their luck. For a one credit chip you could get a fine meal and if you didn't even have that nobody said anything. Payment was on an honor system and relied on people like me that would drop a few hundred credit chips into the honor box. I liked her food so much I had funded this restaurant through some of my non personal accounts and she still maintained her meals in the Drift, directing a good portion of her profits into helping the poor. She never forgot where she came from and neither did I.
She had set us up in her best private room, normally used by big wigs for one on one meetings or dinner out with a mistress or girlfriend they didn't want public. It had a big monitor and the excitement at the mall was just getting going well when Ted arrived.
“Nothing surprises me anymore,” he said, grabbing the seat next to me so he could watch the screen as well. “You've made a remarkable recovery and it appears you are in two places at the same time.”
“Just be happy you are on paid suspension,” I replied, giving him a little bump with my shoulder. “You would be right in the middle of that mess otherwise.”
Mama Chan and arrived with a variety of dishes. I had chosen several of our favorites. While she served we watched the news feed from the mall. People were being led out of every exit by what had to be ninety percent of the police force. They must have called everyone in. People were being checked for weapons and charms one at a time as they exited the mall.
“What a nightmare,” Ted said.
“They've got me trapped in Ultimate Charms,” I told him. “I'm going to switch the monitor to an interior security cam feed when it gets really interesting.”
“I didn't know those were ComGlom security and I had no idea they were going to knock you around like that. “
“Yeah, figured as much,” I told him. “What are you hearing on the rumor line?”
“ComGlom is running the show and the Chief is about to get an early retirement. They need someone to blame for this mess. I filed a complaint with IA but it will probably go nowhere. Early reports from a Prime team they brought in show it might take them years to go through all the charms and computer hacks involved. They are convinced you are a lot more powerful than your rating indicates and even with that, they believe you had to have a lot of help. There's one charm they are very concerned about that has not gone off. They believe it's a powerful magic bomb. The peeled one of dozens of layers away and found four more that weren't there before have popped up. They've called in two more Prime teams for help. This one they have surrounded by magic barriers, magic circles, and steel plates. It's on the third floor and they have that whole floor evacuated.”
“It's actually a curse rather than charm,” I replied. The difference between charm and curse was a hard one to differentiate but this spell was up to no good. “I call it rats in a maze. It might take three teams several years to finally reach the heart of the curse. They should probably start stocking up on anti-itch cream now. As far as your complaint goes, you might be surprised.”
“Did you take this egg device?”
“Yes,” I answered. “It's important on a large scale that ComGlom not have it.”
“Figured that as well,” he said, sighing. “You've got yourself in a real quagmire. I always felt you were far better than you pretended to be.”
“They have everyone out of the store now,” Kate said.
“Let's see it,” I told her, and she switched the monitor we were watching to the security cam showing the front of the store.
“Everybody is out and they have me trapped in there,” I told Ted.
“How are you doing this?” he asked.
“Simple hack of the mall cams,” I told him. “We get the first look.”
At least two Swat teams, one of them a ComGlom team dressed as regular SWAT personnel had their guns trained on the store. A man on a bull horn was telling me to come out with my hands up. I had placed a couple of charms on the glass entrance door a year earlier, disguised as transparent tape. It wasn't beyond my reach to activate them and as I did the sound of a couple of gunshots rang out and two bullet holes appeared in the glass door followed by hundreds of rounds from the SWAT teams which basically disintegrated the glass doors and windows of the store and all the merchandise within. Two of the Swat team approached and threw in several grenades and a few major explosins from within occurred followed by even more rapid fire from the teams.
“Let's copy the tape from a few seconds after those fake gunshots and send it to Real News Two, I told Kate. “Erase the original.”
“Copy on the way,” she answered.
I could tell she was having fun. We had been preparing for this almost every day since our escape.
“I think they probably got you,” Ted said.
“No doubt,” I replied, smiling.
Ted was a friend and I gave him a quick kiss before he left. I knew he would keep his mouth shut. I had Mama Chan wrap up the leftovers for me. I was only planning to get out when I absolutely had to. I went to bed early that night. Tomorrow would be a busy day.
Chapter Four: The Pulse Rifle
Section Nine brought us many Mistral artifacts to review. They had a standard procedure for this. They started with the weakest of us and proceeded up the ladder to the strongest. The thought was that if some of us were hiding what we knew it would show in what we didn't reveal about that artifact. The key was to give them something new without giving them too much. They were not kind to those who were less than forthcoming. By this time I had Kate with me and we had pretty much hacked the system so we knew what secrets had already been revealed by the time they got to me at the top of the ladder. 201 had his ways as well and we shared information with each other. The usual order was 201 would go just before me so I had an idea already what they expected me to reveal about the artifact. A whole room of various early Mistral weapons had been discovered in a section of what could be considered a Mistral museum. Among those early weapons were pulse rifles. ComGlom was super excited about these things, hoping they would be simple enough for us to be able to use.
“What can you tell me about this?” Tom asked. He was the head scientist around here, at least for the moment. They changed head scientists quite often, usually after some perceived failure. What Tom didn't know was that the former heads were no longer among the living, it being decided they had to much information to continue breathing.
“It's a gun,” I replied. “A heavy one,” I added, smirking. “I need more books.” This was my normal start to one of these things. I would act the spoiled child, only helping voluntarily when they promised me something I wanted. I had to be careful, however. Sometimes they became frustrated with this method and started injecting me with various drugs and microbots designed to get me talking. During times like those I let Kate take over and she would feed them a bunch of deranged sounding nonsense. They had become more reluctant to go that route over time.
“Five books, then,” he said.
“Make it ten. Old Earth classics only. Not this modern junk you gave me last time.” I could read those via computer hacks. The Earth classics had been pretty much purged from the web. Antique books were about the only way to read many of those. I had bookcases given me from on of these sessions and I wanted to fill them.
“Seven,” he responded.
“Ten,” I replied. They knew from past experience I was not budging. It was either drugs or give me what I asked for. Sometimes I asked for crazy stuff just to avoid giving them any information at all. I really didn't mind telling them about the pulse rifle. None of us Section Nine GEMs could activate one but me and I wasn't going to. I didn't even tell 201 that I could probably do it.
“Done,” he said, skipping the normal back and forth. They really wanted the information.
“It's very simple. This magazine holds the ammo, about a thousand little gel-caps filled with a drop of water each. Once the curse in the chamber is activated all you need to do is pull the trigger. One of these gel-caps is ejected into the chamber which is very hot. It melts instantaneously and the curse reacts to the water causing a mini explosion of energy. The glyphs on the inside of the chamber keep the chamber from getting too hot or blowing up and the ball of energy is expelled out of the barrel at a very high rate of speed, something like half the speed of light. When that ball makes contact with anything semi-solid it will pretty much disintegrate it, spreading out depending on how solid a target it hits. If you shot it at a solid steel wall a foot thick, it would disintegrate an area nine inches deep and a foot wide. If it hit you in the chest it would disintegrate you down to your knees and would keep going until it met another solid object.”
“Tell me about the glyphs,” he said. They were recording everything, of course.
“Nine glyphs, three of them we have seen before. Do you have a picture?”
He slid a computer generated picture from his folder across the table.
“These are the three we have seen before,” I said, pointing to each in turn. “This one contains the curse within the chamber. This one keeps it from getting too hot, and this one keeps the explosion from fracturing the chamber, forcing the pulse of energy to travel out the barrel of the rifle. All nine are etched on the chamber walls and they all must be activated at the same time as one curse. Once activated the curse was designed to last for weeks, depending on how often it was used, but at least as much as a full magazine of those gelcaps. That last bit was new information, making my session a valuable one.
“These other glyphs, what are they for?”
A few of my group had given them their opinion on these already. Being able to read the glyphs was built into the Mistral DNA we had been created with. Being able to use them was much more difficult although some of us could do more than others.
“This one is the most complex,” I said, pointing out the one with the most swirls and symbols etched within the glyph. “We have seen some that are similar, however. It accelerates the magic push needed to activate the curse but at the same time focuses the magic to the tiny drop of water released.
The two companions on either side direct that focus, the oxygen in the water is broken down to create a ball of heat and the other ones breaks down the hydrogen into pure energy, similar to a nuclear explosion. This one keeps that ball together even as it exits the barrel of the gun, spreading only when it makes contact with a solid object. This one contains the radiation of the energy, focusing it within the ball, causing it to disintegrate the target, rather than radiating outward. This last one prevents a chain reaction with things like air molecules, especially those containing the key elements of hydrogen and oxygen. Basically it sets the density of things it will react to.”
“Can you activate the curse?” They always ended with this question.
“It's a complex spell, with nine glyphs. Some of those are new to me and some would be hard to activate if they were the only one contained in the curse. Think of it like one of my books. For me to activate the charm or curse I would have to have every word in that book in the front of my mind, the meaning of each of those words present in my mind at the same time, and the relationship of every word with every other word in the book all in one thought that I would then apply a magic push to. I could practice doing a few of them or each individually. The chances of me ever being able to do all of them together, no matter how much I practice, are very slim.”
What I didn't tell them was that with Kate's help, I could do it very easily. The secret of Kate is one I had kept to myself. My personal martial arts trainer, a former military officer by the name of Dylan Sinclair, had been a weapons master and was secretly a New Earther, and made weapons for them in secret. I had promised him a new batch of nanobots in exchange for making me a pulse rifle as his were about gone. It was a common practice to keep military and security GEMs strong and healthy with the regular infusion of nanobots to promote healing, quick reaction times, and strength. ComGlom had the monopoly on this industry as well. I had ones that I had designed specifically for me, and Dylan would get a batch that I had designed for him. Unlike ComGlom nanobots, mine were better, completely organic, and also had the ability to replicate themselves if their numbers decreased. When I got home I called him. I had told him a few months ago that I had his nanobots ready and I knew he was close to being finished. He had slowed down in the last year and I knew he missed being in top form. I also needed his help with another project and I asked him to meet me with the pulse rifle at the old Lassiter Dam remains outside the city. He told me the rifle was as good as it was going to get. The hold up had been getting the glyphs on the inside of the chamber to match my exact specifications.
Chapter Five: Paint By Numbers
“You're all over the news.”
“This is why I have made sure there are no connections between us and why we have always had our training sessions in private. Cash payments only. As long as you have kept your mouth shut as we discussed when we first met, you should be fine.”
“Do you have it?”
I knew he would ask but I also knew he would keep his word. It had been one of the reasons I had selected him to train me in the first place. The other reason was I wanted a pulse rifle and my sniffing around had told me he might be able to help me. The New Earthers wanted the egg as much or more than ComGlom. I also knew he was asking about the egg and not his nanobots.
“What the heck are you going to do with it?”
He paused, sighing. We were at the dam, another disaster created by ComGlom's greed and corruption. Thousands had died when the dam burst. Cheap materials and poor construction, the result of ComGlom and it's cronies wanting to milk the building of the dam for every possible penny in profit. All paid for by the citizens of our town, many of whom lost their lives in the flood that followed. Now just big chunks of what was supposed to be plasticrete but turned out to be a cheap knock-off and a minor river that ran through, below, and over those chunks. We sat on one of those chunks, the area completely deserted. Nobody lived out this way any longer. We were on the east side of the river, easier to get to from the city. This part of the dam was still largely intact. The middle of the dam is the part that was gone. I had some glyphs to paint on the walls of the dam and Dylan was going to help me.
“It's been said that only one of ConGloms special GEMs can use the egg.”
“A few of us escaped,” I told him. Only two of us remained free, all the others had been hunted down and killed or recaptured. I didn't tell him that, however.
“Earth would be a great candidate for the egg.”
“That's the plan,” I told him. “I'm concerned that your group is not yet strong enough to hold an Earth that had been restored to it's previous glory, and keep it out of the hands of ConGlom.” He didn't seem too surprised that I knew he was a New Earther.
“We have a lot of followers in positions of power, just waiting for something like this to exert their influence. I also think the majority of people will get behind us and our following will grow if the egg is used to restore Earth.”
“I agree,” I told him. “However, ConGlom needs to be weakened before I use the egg. I'll need the help of the New Earthers to accomplish that goal. Otherwise, they will bulldoze you out of the way before you have time to blink.” Dylan was one of the leaders in the New Earther organization and I knew he could make my plans a reality.
“You will get our support,” he replied.
“Good, you confirm that with your group and we will continue to communicate using our present method. Let's do the nanobots first,” I told him, withdrawing the injector from my pouch.
“How long will they last?” he asked. The ones he was used to needed a new injection about every ten years and the twenty years that had passed since his last injection meant that he had very few nanobots still functioning in his body. The military nanobots he had been getting when he was in the military would keep him at peak condition for a hundred years as long as he had regular injections. My nanobots would extend his lifespan hundreds of years, at least.
“My design,” I told him. “Self replicating and completely organic. You will never need another injection. Trust me on this.”
“Only one way to find out,” he replied. “Do it.”
I placed the injector against his arm and pushed the button. “You will probably notice some improvement within a day.”
He opened the case containing the pulse rifle. “This was a lot of work, particularly the modifications to the magazine and the etching of the glyphs inside the barrel. I used various parts of other weapons and made some original design parts as well. Of course, it's not working at present. My understanding is they have never been able to make even the original Mistral devices work.”
“Let's see if I can make it work,” I answered, taking the rifle out of the case.
“It's beautiful,” I said, testing the weight and feel of it. He had made it to fit me perfectly. “Let's see if it's also deadly.”
Kate had already prepared the parameters of the curse, all that remained was for me to merge my consciousness with hers for just a brief second and give it a push of my magic. We had become good at this over the years and by now, it was second nature. The rifle came alive in my arms, lighting up as if it contained a bright source of light within. Swing the rifle around, I aimed at a big chuck about one hundred yards away and pulled the trigger. A streak of light, seen only by it's afterglow and a loud boom as the pulse made contact. Almost half of it turned to dust, which either floated to the ground or was carried away by the wind.
“Holy crap,” Dylan said.
“Pretty cool,” I laughed. Nine hundred and ninety nine shots remaining.
I placed the pulse rifle back in the case and set it down next to the other bags I had brought with me. Cans of spray paint, some rope and string, pitons and a hammer, and some instruments similar to portable surveying glasses all came out of the bags. “I need to draw some big glyphs using these measurements on the dam wall. I handed him the directions I had drawn to scale. I'll climb and you direct me. Here's an ear microphone we can use to communicate with. “
“Sounds like I have the easy job,” he laughed. “That's some serious climbing.”
By the time I finished I had glyphs drawn to scale exactly the way I wanted them. They matched the stitching I had added to the interior of my favorite leather jacket. Anything shot at me while I was wearing that jacket would end up hitting the dam wall instead. It would last a few months. I didn't expect it to take that long before it would be needed.