The food court was completely deserted, owing to the blaring fire alarms all around us. Security must have decided to spread the alarm to the whole mall so they could have Tachi and me all to themselves.
[Noodles if you’ve got anything else in that black bag for us we’re going to need it sometime around now-ish.]
[Damn it! I’m doing my best here.] Noodles snapped. [I just got kicked off the network again. Be careful, that uber-hacker is putting together something big for you.]
I wasn’t going to ask why a hacker was hatching plans that involved physical security.
Once Tachi and I set foot in the food court the ‘why’ suddenly wasn’t so important anymore. Right behind us the security screen dropped straight down, locking into place with a loud metallic ‘clack’.
“Oh, that ain’t good.”
I found my second wind and pushed it as far as my tired, stiff and starving body could handle, sprinting along Noodles’ yellow line.
Behind us the goons reached the security screen, slipped the barrels of their guns in between the bars and opened fire.
I got down low and zig-zagged like crazy. Fortunately the small spaces in the bars of the security screen didn’t allow for much barrel movement. Unfortunately the abandoned tables and chairs were as much an obstacle to our ease of movement as they were to their fields of fire.
As we ran I saw the security screens for the vendor stations ringing the food court slam down in sequence, like watching a bizarre Mexican wave sweep across the stores. It was moving a lot faster than even Tachi could run. We were not going to make it. Then I watched as the fire door descended, cutting off the food court from the rest of the mall.
[That’s it, we’re gone. Unless either of you has any brilliant ideas?]
Noodles’ avatar held up his palms. [Do you remember the Alamo?]
[That’s real cute Noodles. But I’d rather avoid the Butch and Sundance ending if I could.]
I reached a small open-roofed cafe and vaulted over the wall, throwing the bag containing the A.I. under the counter. As far as heroic last stands went, this had to be the stupidest.
Another blast and the sound of shattering glass caused me to look up. I was glad I’d been fasting all week otherwise I’d have pissed myself at that very moment. The glass ceiling above our heads had been smashed apart and a squad of Yoriki’s most bad-arse troops descended amongst the shards.
These guys were as different from the regular security ops as the ops were from the uniformed guards. Their prosthetic cyber bodies were armoured carapaces of carbon fibre, criss-crossed with tactical webbing, ammo pouches and sheaths. Sleek black monovisors covered their faceless heads.
They carried an accessorised tactical carbine in one hand and an insanely sharp monofilament blade in the other.
They’d look right out of a comic book if they weren’t so bloody terrifying.
I hid my face from the falling glass behind my arms, peeking my eye through a crack to watch the cyberninjas descend upon us.
One raised his monoblade for a killing blow that would slice me from crown to crotch as easy a hand glides through water. I kept my eye on him until he was almost on top of me, then I rushed him, catching him just before his feet touched the ground and rammed him into the cafe’s drinks fridge.
My instincts took over and I belted him in the faceplate with my elbow, thankful again for the impact padding in the fatigues as I stepped through, slammed my back into his chest and attempted to steal his monoblade from his grasp. I’d obviously dropped my pistol somewhere because I suddenly had both hands at my disposal. I grabbed him under the wrist with one hand, put my other hand against the back of the blade and pushed forward. I realised he must have dropped his own gun somewhere as well, when I felt his cold, metallic fingers close around my throat.
Then I saw another cyberninja coming at me from the front, like a true Japanese he was forgoing his gun to carve into me with his sword (Tachi tells me it’s a Taoist thing). I wrenched the sword arm of the cyberninja choking me into the path of the oncoming blade and parried.
While the corners of my world started to darken I push-kicked the second cyberninja back. He stumbled a step and tripped on a shard of glass. Scrambling for something to catch him, his monoblade slicing effortlessly into a coffee machine. He kept falling, his sword passing right through the shelf holding the machine and spilling boiling water all over his armoured body.
I peeled the monosword out of the my captor’s grasp. Now that his own hand was empty his training took over and he brought up his free hand to put me in a proper rear naked choke. As the blackness swept in to engulf me I reversed my grip on the monoblade and drove the point into my captor’s elbow, destroying his grip on my neck. The blade’s edge, sharpened down to a single molecule (or so it says in the brochure), cleaved through his metallic arm as easily as it would through ice cream.
I turned with the cut, peeling my body out of his grasp. My opponent responded by punching me in the face. His carbon fibre knuckles smashed into my nose, snapping the cartilage in two and knocking out an undisclosed number of front teeth. The pain editor chip in my head switched on a microsecond later than I would have preferred.
I responded by pushing his own monofilament sword into his solar plexus until my hand touched armour. He gasped into my face, his expressionless monovisor giving away no feeling, while his shaking hand reached out to me.
Then I saw his friend getting back to his feet. His own monoblade had gotten lodged into the floor and he gave up on it, taking up his carbine instead. I added my free hand to the handle of the monoblade, turned the blade edge towards this new threat and swung, slicing the blade out of the cyberninja and towards his friend.
He dodged back a step, taking him out of the path of my blade and the arc of cerebral fluid. I kept coming, turning the sword back along the angle I’d just cut and swung again. This time I managed to catch his carbine, slicing off the accessory mount and removing his smartgun link from the weapon. He jumped back another step and I closed the gap with a shoulder-barge. He put one foot back to anchor him and I may as well have thrown my shoulder into a brick wall.
I turned my blade to point at him and thrust with everything I had. He turned his torso with my movement, letting me push passed him and bury my blade into the wall of the kiosk.
A victorious cry escaped his speaker as he levelled the carbine to take me out. I abandoned my hold on the sword and jumped backwards, slamming myself into his torso. His gun hand passed right next to my ear as he squeezed down on the trigger. My paid editors kicked in again as I felt my inner ear explode from the incredible volume. My arms wrapped around his gun arm like a pair of coiling snakes and I dropped my hips under his centre of gravity.
Before he could grab me in another choke-hold I folded myself in half, flipping the cyberninja right over me and sent him crashing into the kiosk wall.
I kept hold of his arm, sliding my fingers down it until I reached his carbine. Yanking hard I managed to pull it from his grasp, over balancing myself and falling onto my arse in the process. I struggled to turn the gun around to bring it to bear against him, at the same time he pulled the heavy-calibre pistol from the magnet holster on his hip and turned it towards me.
I jack-hammered the rounds into his face, shattering his monovisor and throwing off his aim right as he squeezed off his shot at me. The bullet passed so close to my head that even at supersonic speed I could feel the feel the heat and pressure of the propellant blast burning against my cheek. I bashed at the pistol with the butt of my carbine, knocking it aside far enough before I could discard my gun and wrestle the pistol from his grasp. Even with a cyborg’s servo-enhanced grip if you turn what they’re holding against the thumb it pops out, it’s just a matter of leverage.
Once the pistol left his grasp the cyberninja crawled away from me. “<Wait! Stop!>” He held up his hands as he backed up against the far wall. A piece of his shattered visor falling out as he went.
He was blind, weaponless and extremely lucky. If I’d had something capable of piercing his armour I’d have already taken him out.