Dust: Chapter 01 Part 4

[Yoriki are getting the principals ready for evacuation.] Noodles said. [Professor Sakazato, our friend Sato and the boy genius Kobayoshi are just packing up the A.I. now].

I looked at Noodle’s live stream. Sakazato’s face was the definition of composure, but she was gripping the backpack containing the A.I.’s biopod like Geppetto holding Pinocchio. Yoriki had two of their ops at the front door and another two inside.

Yoriki’s SOP stated that unless the threat posed by an emergency was immediately applicable to the principal, their evacuation would be delayed until an appropriate security cordon could be set up.

Trouble was the two guards outside the front door were on the other end of a ten-metre corridor with their eyes fixed in our direction. Funky fatigues or not we were far from invisible.

I cast my eyes towards Tachi and we thumbed the fire selectors on our handguns from semi-auto to threeround-burst.

[Noodles old chap.] Tachi called over the cype. [We need a distraction in the laboratory corridor.]

The live feed flashed to Noodles’ avatar giving us a sly grin. [Your wish is my command.]

Noodles input a virus into the system that sought out the exact touch screen in the corridor next to our two security ops and switched it off in front of them.

The suddenness of the screen turning black caused both ops to turn towards it at the same time.

Tachi and I popped out of our hiding places and trained our pistols on centre-mass. The smartgun system on my pistol gave me a targeting reticle on the exact position my shot would land. Shot placement updated twenty times a second, causing the reticle to expand and contract like the beating of a green neon heart.

I tapped the trigger three times, putting nine deliberate shots within a two-inch grouping at the ops’ solar plexus. Unlike a human body, a cybernetic prosthetic houses the bipod (containing the brain) in the centre of the torso where it can be better protected. I got enough rounds hitting close together that at least one got through and pierced my target’s brain before he could cype off a message.

On Tachi’s side I saw his target drop at the same time. Before their bodies even hit the ground Tachi and I were sprinting towards the lab. We grabbed the bodies and moved them out of the way of the doors.

I dumped my magazine and cycled the action to remove the chambered round before reaching for the magazine I’d marked with the green tape.

Tachi reached for something else on his tactical vest. [Noodles. Did anyone notice our two victims flatline?]

[It was a close one.] Noodles’ said off-handedly [But I caught the signal before it reached the security desk. They still think those guys are alive.]

[Understood.] Tachi held up the smoke grenade for me to see. [Plan Charlie?]

I nodded.

Tachi pulled the pin.

I brought the stream of the lab’s interior back into view. After a few seconds Kobayoshi noticed the smoke leaking under the door. The security ops conferred for a moment, then one of them popped open his briefcase and readied his machine pistol. He approached the door.

When he opened it up he stepped straight through the smoke like he didn’t even notice. Confirming Tachi’s theory that their cyberoptics boasted thermographic vision.

<What’s going on?>The op said in Japanese to the two humanoid heat signatures in front of him.

Tachi and I moved at the same instant. Tachi grabbed the ops’ gun hand, shoved his pistol into the man’s belly and unloaded a burst at point blank range.

I steeled myself, switched the colour of my fatigues to all black and stepped into the lab.

I burst through the smoke with my pistol outstretched, pulling the trigger the moment I saw the blacks of his shades. The gel round I’d swapped ammo for hit the op square in the face, shattered his sunglasses and threw his head back like a right-cross from a heavyweight.

Satou and Kobayashi froze, their eyes thrown wide in panic. Prof Sakazato got down behind the bench.

My next shot caught Kobayoshi in the gut. The expanding high-impact gel flatted to an eight-inch blot on impact. Dispersing the force of the round over a wide area made the shot less than lethal but it would still have stung like a stone bitch.

Satou took my next round. I wanted to go easy on the guy considering the stress we’d already put him through so I did my best to hit him in the soft tissue.

The security op recovered from the hit to face faster than any human being could. He tore the gel away from his eyes and raised his machine pistol at me. Just in time to catch the next burst from Tachi’s pistol.

Tachi tapped the trigger again, this burst got through. The security op collapsed back onto the table behind him, squeezing his finger down on the trigger as he fell. The machinepistol rattled out its song, emptying its magazine all over the room.

Tachi and I went to ground as soon as we heard the first shot. No telling where those rounds would land.

A second later the shooting stopped. Tachi rolled onto his back, speed loaded a fresh magazine and hopped back to his feet. I got up at a more measured pace, looking around for where the good professor had hidden herself.

[We need some damage control in here Noodles.]

[Best I can do is hide the feed from your zone. But the security programmers are going to be onto that.]

[We’ve already lost subtlety. Take them out if you can. If anyone Elite turns up, hold them off as long as possible then disengage.]

[Yeah I remember the briefing Dust, thank you.]

Just don’t get cocky.I muttered under my breath.

Sakazato KyoukanI called out in her native tongue. “<Show yourself and you will not be harmed.>

I trained my pistol on the green silhouette crouching behind the desk in front of me. Partially because it wasn’t nursing an injury or curled up in the foetal position, but mostly because it looked like it was holding a bag. Professor Sakazato stood up before I had to fire a round in her direction for emphasis. She was clutching the bag even tighter than before.

Even with Noodles in the system Yoriki would have an army of security ops descending on us like ninjas in a B grade action movie. I broke my word to the Professor and put a gel round in her elbow.

Professor Sakazato flinched. I was mighty impressed, either she was hard as nails or she had better pain editing cyberware than I did. I reached for the bag, putting a second round into her opposite shoulder. This got an agonised groan out of the poor woman. As I got closer I saw that she had bitten down on her lip on the first shot, she’d bit so hard blood trailed down her chin.

It ate at me inside. But I wanted the contents of that bag and I had an easier way than wrestling her for it.

I grabbed at the closest of the bag’s straps.

<NO!>Professor Sakazato screamed the word so loudly, I flinched. My mind flashed back to that time my kindergarten teacher found me with the cricket ball and the broken window.

<Give me the bag or I’ll blow your shitty head off.>Sadly the Japanese word for ‘fuck’ isn’t nearly as versatile as it is in English. I made do.

<Never>.She screamed again. Tears flowed down her cheeks and the slightest glint of wet mucus glistened under her nose. I’ve done a handful of things in my life that I hate myself for. This was just one more.

I flicked my gaze Tachi’s way. [Little help.]

Tachi levelled his pistol at the back of the good professor’s head. She felt the warm metal press against her skull and froze.

That’s when I put a gel round at point-blank range into her ribs and yanked the bag out of her hands.

I turned away so I didn’t have to look at her any more. She screamed. It wasn’t a high-pitched gasp of fear or a wail of agony. That guttural roar of impotent rage came right from the bottom of her core. She would claw my eyes from their sockets if she could.

While that noise hammered at my ears as I opened the bag to confirm the contents.

It was definitely the A.I. inside. They’d slipped some thumb drives in there as well. I hoped they were what I thought they were.

There wasn’t time to check, so I zipped up the bag and got the hell out.

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