“Naw.” The figure shook his helmeted head. “You ain’t important enough.”
Before he could make another move a soft hand closed around the Interceptor’s wrist. He spun to face his assailant and found an Asian woman a full-head shorter than him holding his arm. A black Nanoweave mask circled her eyes.
She smiled. “That’s why they sent me.”
The Interceptor cursed and yanked his arm out of her grasp, lashing out with a left-hook at the same time. She pulled her head out of the hook’s arc and quickly blocked a right-cross and intercepted his following roundhouse kick with her shin.
The Interceptor cursed again as the pain of a bone-on-bone clash throbbed on his leg.
If his assailant felt the same pain, she didn’t show it. Pivoting on her other leg she thrust a side-kick into his stomach that doubled him over and knocked him back a step.
The masked woman tried to follow-up with a low-kick to his exposed head, but the Interceptor saw it coming and righted himself before she could connect. A jab came at his face and he quickly slapped it aside before closing up his guard and absorbing a body-shot with his arm.
For a moment the Interceptor saw an opening, the masked woman pulled her right arm back for a big swing. Thinking fast he shot out his own right hand in a jab to her head, while he wound up his left arm for another hook.
But her arm wasn’t pulled back for another punch. In the next moment she stepped into his guard and brought an elbow down onto the bridge of his nose. Pain exploded in his face and he jammed his eyes shut. He groped in the darkness for his face to check the damage, but his arm was pulled away from him. When he opened his eyes again he saw the world flash past him as the masked woman threw him off her hip and onto the hard floor.
The ground hit him like a sledgehammer, forcing the air from his lungs and splashing another wave of pain across his body. Before he could recover, the masked woman slipped down to the floor, wrapped herself around his right arm and wrenched the elbow out of joint.
This pain proved too much for him and the Interceptor filled the warehouse with an agonised scream.
Ignoring him, the masked woman moved from his arm to his chest and hammered out a nanohacking sequence that paralysed his entire body. Hitting the mute button on his scream.
Finally, the woman jacked her own wireless dongle into the socket on his wrist and forced her own factory reset of his nanoputer.
The figure in the black armour opened his helmet with a mental command and it unfolded itself and retracted into its place behind his neck. His caucasian features looked no older than thirty, but the weathered look in his eyes made it clear it had been decades since he’d first been augmented. His oily black hair was slicked back and his five o’clock shadow was sparse but bristly. Like his companion, he too wore a black mask around his eyes.
The armoured man gave his companion a soft, fatherly smile. “Good work Zheng Hua.”
Zheng Hua replied with a curt nod, but otherwise stayed at attention. “Thank you sir.”
Theresa groaned as the paralysis started to wear off. Slowly, with much wincing and grimacing she picked herself up off the floor. She gritted her teeth at the armoured figure, but even in this meagre light it was clear the effort cost her.
Zheng Hua moved over to Theresa and gently tapped out a macro command to accelerate her recovery.
Theresa felt a storm of hormones flood her veins and the stiffness in her muscles begin to ease.
The man in the armour joined his subordinate by Theresa’s side. He knelt down and extended a hand to her. “Pleased to meet you, little lady. My name is Rodgers.”
Still aching, Theresa accepted his hand and pulled herself up. She glared at Rodgers.
“Don’t pretend this is about helping me. You got what you wanted, the data’s been purged. We lost.”
“You mean this data?” Rodgers said. A download request window appeared in Theresa’s vision.
Theresa blanched. “We stole that from you and now you’re just going to give it to me?”
Rodgers took a step back from her. “Helping you helps the cause. A list of marines that can easily be bribed or blackmailed is indeed a valuable asset. But if we want the other factions to trust us, a little sharing might be in order. The only thing I ask is when you make use of those people y’all let me know first. We got something big coming up and I don’t want those assets to spoil.”
Theresa tilted her head towards the Interceptor. “What about him, you going to give this to the Order?”
Rodgers rested his hands on his hips. “We’ll find some other way to work with the Order. Giving them a sensitive instrument like this would be liking giving them a fine crystal vase. They’d only smash it into someone’s face.”
Theresa shrugged, hit the download command and headed towards the door. “The only way you can work with the Order is if you trick them into taking a bullet for you.”
Rodgers shook his head. “Twelve years the factions have been fighting the Federation on this rock, but you boys and girls still waste time and people getting in each other’s way.”
Theresa stopped at the doorway and looked over her shoulder at him. “Even living under the Federation would be better than going back to the way things were.”