Thursday 4th May, 2051
Deep in the bowels of the British Biolabs facility, the Lazarus team have identified three points at which well-placed explosives could literally “bring the house down.” The three are equidistant around the level – one by the labs, one by the monitoring station and another right next to the level’s security station, where it supports the elevator shafts as well as the roof. However, the team’s hacking support is being counter-hacked by an external force and the team have reason to believe that force may be Mac’s enigmatic A.I. father. The route to any of the three massive support pillars is liable to be fraught with danger, still, the team are in the ducts like well-armed rats in the walls.
Able crawls down the duct towards the labs, the target chosen as likely the ‘softest’ of the bunch. “You guys ready for this?”
“Always. It’s ’bout time I show these scrubs what a real soldier looks like.” Pitbull growls as he racks his rifle.
Tillie just nods, her flechette pistol in one hand and a large, wicked looking monoknife in the other.
Pacoy maintains his grip on the precarious handholds and nods, “Yep.”
Mac drags along his rifle as he moves. “I’m not ready for this, but I’m not seeing us with a dearth of options.”
Pitbull pats Mac on the back. “Don’t worry, bruh. When all else fails, aim for body shots and don’t stop firing until you lose consciousness or there are no more bad dudes left.”
Mac grimaces. “Why did you have the say the C-word? Every time someone brings that up, I end up out cold in some facet or other.”
It’s dark in the ducting, and there are sudden sounds of creaking metal as the team crawl along, overlain by the distant hum of electrical equipment.
Able continues on his way, keeping quiet in the ducts as he heads for the nearest vent to peak out.
Pitbull prepares to follow Able before turning to Mac. “Aw dude, don’ worry! Sure they’re tough, but they ain’ Texans. We faced Texans and won. We’re good.”
In the darkness, Able only manages to hear one of the background sounds differentiate itself as he crawls closer because he himself is so quiet. It’s as if someone was pouring a thin stream of sand endlessly across a steel plate.
At the mention of fighting Texans, Pacoy is reminded that their sweet mobile combat base was most likely blown the hell up with the rest of their stuff.
Mac scrunches his face up as he follows Pitbull, sending a note out to his entire team. “Does anyone else find it particularly disheartening that our Texan is talking about Texans being beatable?”
Able holds up a hand to the others, shifting so his bulk doesn’t completely block their view of his hand.
Mac stops before he runs into Pitbull from behind.
As he switches to I-R overlay in his shades, Able sees a criss-cross grid of bright light blocking the duct, with gaps of barely an inch between the beams. The sound is the very air and dust motes vaporizing and ionizing against the laser grid.
Able squirts a low-powered message to the others. “We have laser traps in the vents. Be careful.”
Mac tries to look past Pitbull, but settles for staring at his feet. “Are they alarm lasers, or putting holes-in-things lasers? How strong are the beams?”
“Put your finger in and check it out, Mac.” Pacoy teases, “I’ll get you a new one if you lose it.”
“The puttin’ holes variety. They watched Die Hard and hate rats.” Pitbull grates as he decides to light a smoke.
Mac shakes his head. “I can’t get around Pitbull’s ass. He’s blocking my sight, and I may need new eyes afterwards. Anyone got anything we can disable it with? Something to block the emitters?”
Able grabs Pitbull’s cigarette before it lights up. “Don’t. The smoke will alert our targets.”
Pitbull’s scarred face contorts into his best rendition of pouting. “I guess you’re right.”
Able turns back to the laser system, pulling out some tools specifically designed for this type of job; after a few moments, he’s reflected the laser beams back onto their emitters using a set of IR mirrors on sticks, and the duct is clear. Able begins shuffling forwards again. “Let’s move.”
In a minute or two, Able comes to a three-way junction in the ducting. He can hear faint voices coming from the far right.
Mac lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding before pushing on Pitbull’s boots to get the lug started forward again. Once on the way, he wipes his hands on his coat before proceeding.
“Awwwww yeah.” Pitbull mock yells as he creeps forward. “Abe, I hope you don’t mind that you have like six different pieces of gum on the bottom of yer boots. The army would whip the shit outta you if they saw that.”
Mac rolls his eyes in the darkness. “Doesn’t count, Pitbull, you put those there. I saw you do it!”
Able waves Pitbull to silence and listens carefully. Voices float back from the far right: “Think we’ll be here a while?” “Dunno, the boss-lady’s sure she’s got something good going so maybe. Still, be alert – there’s some kind of shit going down upstairs from the lack of comms. We don’t want a repeat of the mansion, do we?”
“Mac, my breath smells like ass, kerosene, and alcohol on a regular basis. What makes you think I actually chew gu-” Pitbull stops his whispering on Able’s command.
Able points towards ‘Recombinant Two’, the direction of the voices, at Pitbull – now between him and the exit. He shoos the big man forwards.
Mac rolls his eyes, sending a half-formed text before he sees Able’s movement. “Pitbull, your ass smells like kero—-”
Pitbull perplexedly sends a team wide text. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you wanting to split the party?”
Able shakes his head at Pitbull, then ushers him forwards again.
Pitbull moves in the direction dictated by Able, before the voices finally come in his direction. “Oh. That makes sense. Neutralize?” Pitbull texts.
A short way beyond Able, the right hand vent dips down before leveling out again. At the end is a metal grill – and another laser grid. Beyond that, Pitbull can see a room, at one end of which is a massive window, and the black boots of two people standing by an exit door. Through the window, he can see a massive chamber in the center of which is some kind of apparatus containing a shadowy humanoid form. Two figures in bright yellow hazmat gear are working at the central chamber.
Pacoy pats a pocket, contemplating if he should send a Pinbot or IMP along with Pit.
Pitbull motions Able before texting him. “Another laser grid. I can only operate a comp. Halp?”
Able shrinks his body to a scrawny little thing so he can safely move beyond Pits’ bulk from within the confines of the air ducts. Once he’s at the laser grid, he begins messing with his tools….
Tillie texts: “There’s a third in the room, a woman, I can hear her breathe.”
Pitbull frowns. “Potential hostile?” He texts back.
Tillie’s text is short: “presume so.”
Mac’s nose wrinkles. “That’s incredibly creepy that you can identify a woman just by how she breathes. You don’t happen to have a very gothy brother, do you?”
Pitbull’s eyes narrow as an idea hits him. “I nominate Mac to go first. Mac is faster than all of us. He can seize the initiative, I follow him in, fuck them up, and you guys can follow in for a mop up. Sound like a good plan for insurrection?” Pitbull texts to everyone. “And Abe too, come to think of it. You dudes got the speed, I got the firepower.”
Mac grumbles. “You just want me to get hurt. But I’ll do it, because I like you guys. Maybe I can distract them for just long enough for you guys to carry my body out of here.”
Able begins to quietly work upon removing the vent panel. He indicates to the others to get ready.
Mac gets his rifle ready for when he gets out of the vent, feeling butterflies in his stomach. “Anyone bring a ration bar? I’m getting hungry.”
A female voice says “Bertrand, any news from upstairs?” “Non, Madame,” replies another. Tillie texts “It’s the female PST agent from the mansion!”
“Pacoy, prepare some drones, maybe? They’ll make a damn fine distraction, if not actually fucking some of them up.” Pitbull texts the team.
Pacoy nods to Pitbull and shows him one of the IMP drones, ready for action.
“Make sure it flies at head level. That makes lesser men shit themselves. Ever see a grown ass man freak out over a wasp? It’ll be that times a hundred.” Pitbull adds.
Able rolls out into the room, making an acrobatic somersault into a standing position. In a flash, he marks the team’s targets – a woman against the wall he’s come through, and two men by the door. All are dressed in the rig of an Umbra Personal Security Team – fancy suits with armored cloth, high-necked armored trenchcoats, and tac-shades. Each carries a sub-machine gun in a combat sling and a pistol in a shoulder holster. The three PST members, including the woman who Able recognizes as one who got stunned in the mansion run, stand open-mouthed in shock for an instant.
With the screws loosened, Able readies himself – engages his reflex booster – and pushes out on the panel with his back, propelled forwards by a kick behind him. With an acrobatic somersault, Able rights himself within arm’s reach of the two guards. His arms lash out at once, punching the two guards square in their unarmored faces with his shock-gloved hands.
Mac braces himself as Pitbull shoves his feet hard enough to cause him to slide out of the vent, flipping his rifle up at the woman as he rises, frowning as he feels himself channeling Pitbull and depressing the trigger on his rifle as far as it will go.
Pacoy slides out of the vent, rifle in hand.
He watches as three bullets tear into the woman, feeling part of himself shut down like a small child hiding behind a blanket – hidden, but forgotten. Almost mechanically, he swings his rifle towards one of the other guards, feeling a chill run down his spine. Is this what Pitbull feels like all the time? He lets off another chatter of rifle fire, his bones rattling as three more bullets stitch through the man in his sights, forcing him to grit his teeth, feeling bile rising in his throat, forcing him to acknowledge what he has done.
Tillie raises her flechette gun as she slides out of the vent and puts a needle right into the final guard’s face, leaving an ugly pock-mark and leaving him reeling, disoriented.
On his feet, Pacoy readies his rifle.
Pitbull rolls out of the vent behind Pacoy and, in the blink of an eye, plants three rounds in the last standing Umbra goon’s chest, killing him before he could even fall over. “Hah! Like shooting game in a hallway!”
Able takes a glance towards the glass window, curious how the scientists were responding to the destruction of their bodyguards, then looks around the room to get an idea of where they are.
The last shots leave the room ringing, and are only punctuated by the low moans of the PST team leader as she coughs blood, obviously dying. Beyond the plate glass, the two scientists stand in shock, helplessly watching. Through her faceplate, the team can see one is Professor Phillipa Barton.
Mac’s eyes eventually come back into focus as he stares at the poor bodies of those whom came before. “Guys… do you ever… have trouble with what we do?” He stares at his rifle before fiddling with it. “Pitbull, how do you take the autofire off of this thing?”
The room the team stands in holds an exit door, and an airlock door into the chamber beyond the plate glass, as well as a bank of controls.
Able heads for the exit door, pulling out his pistol as he moves. He throws the door open and takes in the scene beyond it.
“Break some stuff, Pit,” Pacoy suggests, “Then let’s move on to Door Number 2.”
Tillie crouches by the final PST member, the hand with the knife moves, and the moaning stops. As she stands, she calls out “Pacoy, have a look at that panel – see if you can find a kill switch for that…thing…in there.”
“I did, but the Rough Riders ground that out of me in Mexico. You get used to this line of work after so many people try to make you die. And just flick the selector stud on the side, Mac.” Pitbull growls as he lights another cigarette. “Ah the post-slaughter cigarette. Almost as satisfying as the post-coital cigarette.”
Pacoy hurries to the panel, looking for a way to keep the monstrosity offline.
Outside, Able sees a security camera up in one corner angle, and about forty feet of corridor leading to two other doors. A siren begins a two-tone song, and the lights begin to flash like a strobe.
Mac winces as he jams the selector stud off of the autofire mode. Never again… “You’re really disturbing, you know that, buddy?”
Pitbull puts one of his booted feet into the nearest console, a shower of sparks and glass spraying back in reply. “Coping mechanism, Mac-bro. You either kill yourself, or you learn to enjoy it from my experience.”
Able sets up a firing position to watch the halls and cover those still inside while they deal with the tanked creature.
“Now that you took a turn trying to be Pit,” Pacoy teases as he fiddles with the panel, “You can get your hands inside a teammates chest cavity, or walk around with a half-formed copy of your best friend strapped to your back.”
“If we puncture the tank, do you think it’ll send the creature into shock?” Pitbull opines as he puts another boot into another console.
Pacoy find a big red button, covered in a guard of plastic that can be flipped back. It has a marking on it – the symbol for a biocontaminant.
Mac shakes his head. “Maybe I’ve read too much pulp Sci-Fi, but shocking the monster almost always wakes it up..” He looks to the hall Able is covering. “Besides, I carried that copy too. Like to see you carry a clone of yourself around without complaining, Pacoy.”
“My clone would at least be good looking,” Pacoy answers as he opens the plastic guard, hesitating for a moment before pressing the large red button.
“Hey Able, I think you can ditch the disguise now.” He holds out Able’s coat towards his friend.
Mac rolls his eyes. “Ouch, that’s a low blow, brother.”
Able puts his trenchcoat on, then activates the chameleon sheath as he continues to cover the hallway. “Thanks, Mac.”
Inside the glassed-in chamber, a red strobing light begins. Both the scientists run to the airlock door and frantically begin to pound on the inside glass, trying to get out. Then there’s a cloud of vapor, and a bright violet light from several sources high on the roof. The two scientists are enveloped.
“Abe, I gotta question. Whenever you’re on down time, do you occasionally shift to look like David Bowie, just to lay around looking like David Bowie?” Pitbull asks, as he watches the scientists disappear in the chemical fog.
Mac’s face screws up. “David… Bowie? Why on earth would anyone do a thing like that? Are we all set here, Pacoy?”
Able flicks a glance back at Pitbull. “Who?” He begins making his way to the next door down the hallway – the location of their explody target.
Tillie moves past Mac, “Yeah, we’re all done in there. It’s clean.”
“Let’s move on to door number two,” Pacoy nods to Mac, rifle at the ready.
Mac stalks along behind Able, throwing the occasional glance at his fire selector, ensuring it’s in the right position. “Monty Hall it is. I hope it’s not a goat again…”
“Oh y’know him! Ever watch Labyrinth on the Classic Movie Channel? The guy dressed like a drag queen with a bulge in his pants that could put out an eye?” Pitbull adds, as he follows Able to the next room.
The next door is marked “Recombinant One”. It has a security lock, currently disengaged.
Able tosses open the door, ready to take on another security team or recombinant monster. “No, can’t say I have.”
Pacoy is at a loss for words, realizing that this isn’t the weirdest thing he’s heard from Pitbull’s mouth.
Mac gags, the memory of bile still on his mind. “I’m not sure I like that line of questioning, Pitbull. You’ve been hanging around Wormwood too much.”
The room inside is slightly different from the first – no glass wall, just a chamber with various consoles on a gantry and a hideous figure in a big glass tube in the center. The room is otherwise unoccupied.
Pacoy heads straight for the bank of electronics.
Able quickly clears the room, then heads for the sweet spot for the explosives.
Mac levels his rifle at the figure, a sinking feeling growing in his stomach. “I’m not sure I like that lock being open…”
Able nods to Tillie. “Make sure the door stays open.”
“On it” Tillie tells Able.
“It is worth the watch. A real classic from the 80’s. Seems like fore- oh. Well, ain’t this dude fugly?” Pitbull grates as the glass container’s inhabitant catches his eye.
As Pacoy reached the first monitor, it blanks – as does every other screen in the place. Then, a laughing electronic, pixilated face flashes onto every screen at once.
Mac giggles to himself, finding an odd compulsion… “Pitbull, that’s a mirror.”
“Oh, that’s not good…” Pacoy mutters.
Glimpsing the face, the bile rises in Mac’s throat again. Of all places… of all people… why here? Why him?
“Naw that dude is way uglier than me. A face like mine won’t scare off a drunken date. A face like that requires someone to down a keg.” Pitbull, late to the situation as usual catches the sight of the laughing pixilated face. “Oh fuck, It’s Phil Collins again. So that means fugly is gonna bust out of the container, right?”