North Of Nottingham
Saturday 22th April, 2051
The big C-700 luxury sedan, with it’s single cycle outrider mounted on a Machinami Tourer, purrs up to the gates of the old Abbey on almost-silent electric motors. Inside the blacked-out windows conceal Able and Pacoy, suitably disguised as Rossum’s head of Special Projects, David Geitner, and one of his personal security team. Mac, like wise disguised as a PST member, is astride the bike. The gates stay stubbornly locked shut, however, as a door in the old stone gatehouse opens and a guard dressed in Umbra’s security uniform emerges.
Mac balances on the bike, looking at the doorguard from behind his dark tinted glasses. He refrains from nervously tapping on the side of the car, and instead wishes the cycle had a bit more presence than a whisper-quiet motor. Able rolls down the window, sticking his arm out casually as he peers down at the guard, a dark look on his face. Pacoy sits quietly, looking calm and unphased, trying to maintain the illusion of a collected security specialist and not give away his thought of things going south.
The Umbra man catches the Rossum pins and his attitude shows a subtle shift from authoritarian to defensively servile. He pushes his SMG back and reaches for an ID scanner. “Good morning, Sir. May I enquire as to your name and business? This is a closed residential facility.” Mac watches the man’s hands like a hawk sitting behind tinted glass, hands ready to fly from the throttle at the slightest provocation.
Able holds out his hand for the man’s biometric ID scanner. “Davis Geitner. Head of Special Projects. There’s a security situation for our friends inside; I’ll be briefing you boys once we’re in a secured environment.” The guard runs his scanner over “Geitner’s” hand, recording and comparing fingerprints and unique capillary patterns in the back of the well-manicured mitt. He studies the readout for a second then steps back and salutes. “Welcome to Newstead, Director Geitner. The main house will be expecting you.” The steel gates swing slowly open, revealing a long wooded driveway of white gravel.
It’s about half a mile to the main house, a large seventeenth century mansion set in manicured gardens and bordered by an ornamental lake. As the small motorcade approaches the front of the house, there’s a scurry of activity and five more Umbra guards line up with their SMGs at present. From the main door comes a reed-thin and tall man in black suit and trenchcoat, a fedora on his head and dark sunglasses over his eyes. He looks at the line-up once and nods, then approaches the team’s limosine. He halts by the side door and waits.
“….and it’s an industrial-sized fan…” Pacoy whispers to himself.
Mac mirror’s Pacoys feelings unknowingly, mentally sketching out lines of retreat with dark charcoal to contrast with the beautiful surroundings. His weaponry weighs heavy in his jacket and mind as he rests his heels on the ground, hoping for the best.
Able steps out of the vehicle the moment it halts its motion. He looks down at the behatted man, then over at the guards. “Good. You’ve heard the warning. I hope you’ve put the principles in the safe room, too – bring me to them immediately.” The man bows, revealing body armor under the coat. “Messieur Geitner, it is a pleasure. I am Anton Mirault, PST lead for Madame Professor Barton and head of Security here. I have been informed that a Rossum Jannissary has gone rogue and may be seeking his maker, Doctor Wahlen, ne c’est pas? Is this operative truly as good as to warrant this panic, Sir? We have two full PSTs and almost a dozen guards here on site. I am sure we can deal with one rogue, non?”
Mac draws on all of the pain and negative memories he’s ever felt as he supresses a smile that tries to creep up from within, thinking, No, I don’t think you can handle him. You may be dealing with him though..
Able gives a sad laugh. “I’m not so sure. He broke into Rossum HQ at least a few weeks ago – we only discovered the results of his incursion now. I can’t say any more until we’re in a more secure environment.”
The thin man nods curtly. “Mais oui, d’accord, alright. Let us get you inside and then you can brief us on this more secure environment.” He leads the way up the steps and into the mansion proper, as two of the parade of guards return to duty and the other three look like they are heading back to a barracks area in one of the outbuildings. The inside is, of course, sumptuous – as befits the one-time residence of Lord Byron himself. Dark wood, paintings by Masters, painted ornate ceilings and gold giltwork everywhere. The team’s feet sink deep into luxurious last-century carpeting or middle-Eastern rugs older than they would like to guess.
Mac sighs internally, hands jammed deep into his pockets, wishing they had time to stop and enjoy the view. “If the rogue broke in here, I can only imagine the damage to all of these artifacts…” Pacoy subtly gestures to Mac, rubbing his thumb to his fingers in the universal sign of money, then clicks his tongue against his teeth and winks.
Mirault leads the way up a curving staircase. “We cannot, by Briteesh law, change any of the fabric of the Abbey itself. It is too old, too valuable. ‘National Heritage’ they say. We have a panic room set up in the wine cellar, but eet is sparse, so for now the principals are in the banqueting room on the first floor with the rest of my PSTs.”
Able frowns at the man’s words. “Sparse is better than dead, Mirault. The rogue may already be within these walls – and you wouldn’t know about it until he’s been long gone. Infiltrating places like this, without ever being discovered – it’s what we designed him to do.”
Mirault leads the way into yet another amazingly decorated room – this one with a huge oak table running down the center, covered in silver cutlery and a snow-white damask tablecloth. At the opposite end sit the Professor and the Doctor. At intervals around the room, warily watching doors and windoes, are five more cut from the same professional cloth as Mirault – the main difference being three wear Rossum lapel pins. “Director Geitner, you already know Doctor Wahlen. It is my great pleasure to introduce my own principal, Professor Phillipa Barton.”
Wahlen drains a crystal glass of some amber liquid and stands, a little unsteadily. “Director, is it true? Able’s slipped his conditioning and is coming after me?” His eyes dart to the heavy diamond-paned windows as if expecting them to burst at any moment Mac glances sidelong at the guards in the room, knowing trouble when he smells it. He begins the long drawn out process of seeing how many different ways he could get himself tossed to the curb and finds the number not to his liking, hoping fervently that their ruse holds up.
Able nods and holds up his hand. It begins to tremble. “Not just you, Luther. He hit a board meeting.” Wahlen gasps and sits down again hard. “How many did he…who?”
Pacoy looks at the aged, wrinkled skin of Professor Barton, and wonders why the shining star of the biotech skin weave industry has the skin of a pink tortoise, and tries to bring his mind back to more pressing matters.
Geitner lowers his hand. “Nobody – yet. But over two dozen were exposed. I think he discovered your little loyalty bomb – and decided to share it with the rest of us.” He turns to the security team, and Barton. “We’re keeping a lid on it, but symptoms are beginning to show up. I looked over the file on the test subjects – that sort of degeneration won’t look good on the directors of one of the larger purveyors of health products on the market.”
Prof Barton sips from a glass of iced water and then clears her throat. Her voice is light, musical and educated – as well as obviously artificial. “Calm down, Walter old chap. There’s no certainty he knows where you are. This facility is as secret as Rossum has obviously been keeping this attempt on its Board.” She turns to “Geitner”. Mr Geitner, what do you propose as a course of action? It’s the weekend so of course we don’t need to be at the lab today, but I have several delicate experiments I must monitor for progress on Monday. Can we not remain here and use you and your people as additional safeguards?"
Mac tips his glasses down his nose and stares at the old bag of skin. “I’ve had to cover some reports of what this rogue operative is capable of. If you think adding a handful of people is going to keep him from getting what he wants? The security on this place is like so much tissue paper to him.” Geitner shrugs. “We honestly don’t know where he is right now, but we have reports of known associates being seen in Britain. And when he planted the bio-device that hit the board, he infiltrated the computer network. Destroyed the specifications on the drug he used on us, fritzed with our local pharmacological sorting mechanism, and more. We have reason to believe this facility’s location was also compromised.”
Geitner wipes his forehead, flicking the sweat to the floor. “It’s been a hectic twenty-four hours. We only just recovered enough from the hacked network to piece together that it was Able who did this, and we still don’t have a firm timeline. The labs have been going crazy trying to put together a treatment plan of some sort – but now that we know the perpetrator, we hope we know the disease, though the local network’s data on it has been lost. We were hoping you’d have the data on hand, or at least could point us in the right direction.”
“You’ve had a hand in his design, Dr. Wahlen,” Pacoy asks without looking up from his ‘files’, “Do you think this place is secure enough?”
Wahlen glumly shakes his head. Then, Barton glances at the head of her own PST, who nods just slightly. “Very well, I shall place myself in your hopefully-capable hands, Director Geitner. Although it worries me that Rossum could not prevent their own creature exposing their own Board to one of the good Doctor’s inventive fabrications. Be that as it may, it would do no good to stay here if this person came looking for Doctor Wahlen and found only myself. I assume you have made good perparation of suitable transport and of course my own team will follow us in their own car. How soon can we be off, then?”
At that very moment, a message from Tillie arrives in the corner of the team’s visual fields. “Now?” Mac looks at his watch, then towards Geitner. “We can be off now. Should make good time, too.” An instant after Mac speaks, the window at the furthest right in the bank of old frames illuminating the banquet room shatters three times, and Mirault jerks as if violently pushed. Three bursts of blood and meat explode from Mirault’s chest as Tillie’s heavy sniper bullets penetrate his body armor, his ribcage and his internal organs. With a wail, he falls to the ground!
Mac moves towards Geitner, aiming to get between him and the window. “Get down, sir! We need to get you and the Doctors out of here as soon as possible! The Agent must be here!” Able ducks, reaching for the doctors. “We need to get you two out of here! If someone out there’s shooting, then he’s probably in here already. A sniper’s perch isn’t his style, but feeding on confusion is.”
In bursts of cyber-enhanced speed, two PST team members bowl the two scientists out of their chairs and onto the ground. One other grabs the still-screaming Mirault and tries to apply pressure to his wounds while two flank the windows looking outward, their SMG’s now out and ready, as they scream into voice comms about the attack and demand a medic. With a quick bit of concentration, Pacoy engages the his Insta-Soldier Beta and also kicks into an action-ready stance.
The head of Wahlen’s PST looks up from where he’s grabbed his own principal. “You heard the Director – move, move!” There follows a scurry of movement as three Rossum and one Umbra security hussle their principals out of the chamber and towards the big stairs. The last Umbra man stays with his badly wounded boss. Able follows the PST men. “You boys take point – you’ve practiced for this occasion already. I’ll keep a lookout for our chameleon.”
As everyone runs down the stairs, there’s a rattle of automatic fire outside, almost covering the drone of rotors. One of the uniformed guards is by the front door. “They’ve a drone pinning down the guardhouse, Sir” he rattles off at the lead Rossum man.
“Take the kitchen door” the Rossum man yells, and changes direction towards the side of the Mansion. “Yvette, you go on ahead and get the Amur running”. The last of the Umbra PST sprints forward, disappearing through a door.
Immediately, the Rossum man turns to Geitner and whispers in his ear. “If this is a hostile extraction, Sir, we now have the Prof isolated from her team. Your instructions?”
Able claps the man on the shoulder. “Excellent work. Take us to the skies.” “Yes Sir.” The man responds. He takes a moment to send a message to his team, then the two step up to the Umbra guard at the front door and one hits him in the base of the neck with an electro-zap. The guard crumples. “Roderick, Martin, change of plan – keep the Professor under control, we’re going for the AV. Doctor, come with me.” He opens the door and charges out.
Professor Barton turns on Able/Geitner. “You snake! I’ll see you dead for this!” Able places his hand on Barton’s back. “You’ll thank me. Rossum has some extremely attractive incentive programs – and this attack isn’t a feint, so I’ll be saving your life while I’m at it.” Barton begins to move forward, a look of sheer hate on her face, but one of the Rossum men at her arm grabs her and moves in front of her. That’s when she spits in his face – and his face begins to melt! Screaming, he falls to the floor as the other zaps the Professor just like he did the Umbra guard, then slings her over his shoulder as if she weighs nothing.
Mac’s jaw drops. “Did she… what…” It’s never just an ordinary day at the races, is it. Take your bets, there’s always something new… Able pats the fallen guard on the chest as he passes. “We’ll take care of you. Just keep yourself alive for the next few minutes, and we’ll all be through this.”
Outside, its only a short distance to two luxury AVs sitting on a grassy landing area. Each, one an Audi Sphinx and the other a Caddy Technogene, can carry four people. Another message arrives from Tillie: My guy says 2 outbound AV4s from Notts, ETA 6 mins. I’m outa here.
“Dr. Wahlen, come with us! You three, grab the professor and follow,” Pacoy Orders, “Be on the lookout for decoy ‘backup’, that’s the Rogues M.O.”
As they reach the AV’s, Able turns to the PST. “I’m officially assigning you to be Barton’s new personal security team. My men will provide security for Luther. Bring her to the secondary rendevous point; we’ll meet you there, but we’ll be splitting up in the sky to keep the dogs from finding us. Good luck.” “You heard the Director, Let’s Move!” Pacoy shouts, heading for the AV.
The Rossum men throw salutes. “Yes Sir. You take our caddy – it’s faster and you’ll have the codes. We have the codes for Umbra’s Sphinx anyway.” They turn towards the European flyer. Mac ushers his group towards the caddy, hoping Able does have the codes, and that they can lift off in time to escape the incoming reinforcements. Able moves to the Caddy, using the vehicle’s bulk and his jacket to hide the fact that he’s manipulating an electronic lockpick to pry her open.
A last message from Tillie: Forget the camp, meet my pals 35 miles E of Great Yarmouth, keep low. See you soon.
As the sleek luxury flyer lifts off into an overcast sky that promises rain later, the team see the other AV streak off Southward at speed. Then , a blue Amur van comes around the corner of the main house – and a Kestrel UAV flies straight into it head on, detonating both in a bright fireball. With that, Able turns the Caddy in the required direction – low and South East over England, towards the sea.
Pacoy recognizes the drone before it’s engulfed in flames and gives a short sigh before turning his attention on to looking for enemy aircraft.
Able calmly pilots the AV off into the night, keeping her low and fast. “Good work out there, men.” He turns to the rear of the vehicle. “You too, Dr. Wahlen. I think we can make use of you yet.” He turns back to the front, a genuine smile on his face for perhaps the first time in his available memory.