Categories > Original > Sci-Fi2 Reviews
A soldier fights against an enemy that he knows has killed him before. How can this be? And can he defeat an enemy that has already killed him? This story was originally written for a shared...
Fox didn't know where he was going. The twisting tunnels and passageways had long ceased to be familiar and were devoid of any of the markers he had left going in. Yet, he couldn't take the time to stop and reorient himself or he'd be caught. Already, he felt that he had wasted precious time just thinking about his situation.
He calculated that there was a 99.9% probability that he was lost. He figured that there was also a 74.3% probability that he wouldn't make it out of the building alive.
The tunnels that he was in were painted a uniform green but, in the dim light of the lower levels, looked as distinct as mud mixed in a bowl. Fox wondered if he had passed the same tunnel three times now.
This was not supposed to be happening, he reflected. It was supposed to be a simple steal-and-run operation, one that shouldn't have taken him more than an hour to complete. His briefing covered all the things he should know: the floor where the files were kept, the time of the changing of the nightwatch, the security layout of the file room, the number of times he had to knock on the last door to deactivate the security system... none of them covered the surprise that greeted him when he was making his escape.
Two hours ago...
The gaze of the security cameras swept across the hall, covering the entire length that led toward the R&D Room. The captured video signals were monitored in a central security office by ever-watchful computer programs, focused on any changes to the room configurations.
At the time, cameras one to five didn't register anything, but camera six detected a momentary flicker near the door of R&D. The minute disruption was over after a few seconds. However, since the disruption did not show in the other cameras, the computer program chalked the minority report to maintenance problems, wrote up a schedule for the computer operators to check camera six in the morning, and continued on its steadfast task.
As no alarms sounded, Azure Fox was satisfied that the cameras were now blind. He put away the disruptor and adjusted the visibility of his suit. The obfuscating ability of his armor was handy to have around, but it took energy and concentration to maintain the camouflage on such a level that even the automated security monitors were fooled... energy and concentration that he'd rather use for other tasks. In these situations, the phreaker artificers had equipment that delivered better results.
After performing one more run across the hall to ensure that the cameras were completely disabled, Fox approached the entrance to the R&D Room. The door was a standard biometric scanner, but its fatal flaw was that it could be unlocked through the encoding of a set of passwords. Normally, a set of six twenty-five digit passwords would take hours to decode, even with the latest blackmarket lockpicks, but Tech had already provided Fox with the passwords, freshly hacked from the supplier company database. It took him three minutes to memorize them perfectly.
His fingers moved with rapid precision, encoding the digits. After the last digit had been entered, Fox moved back a step and knocked on the door five times. The five knocks were the last code to deactivate the security system within the room. It had cost them one prior agent to learn that tidbit.
Before entering the room, Fox checked his watch to see if he was still on schedule for the pickup.
Twenty minutes to get into the fifth floor and to disable all alarms. Not bad, he thought.
If everything went well, he'd be home free in ten more minutes.
Thirty-five minutes ago...
A rail of gunfire poured out from within the shadowy hall to his left. Fox managed to leap back and narrowly avoid the torrent of bullets.
Damn, she had found him!
Reflexively, Fox concentrated and manifested a pistol in his left hand. Still unable to see his pursuer, he aimed at the shadows and fired six shots in rapid succession. However, he already knew, as the bullets disappeared into the darkness, that none of the shots would hit their marks. He was certain his pursuer was better than that.
Fox headed back the way he came, reloading the Peia-formed shells as he ran. He fired four more shots behind him, hoping to stall his opponent further.
He ran not because he was afraid of death. He wasn't. He shouldn't be able to feel fear.
But, he felt fear from his killer.
One hour and forty minutes ago...
Ten minutes. He thought he'd be out of there in ten minutes. If it wasn't for that tripwire...
Someone had been expecting him: a professional who did not rely on the electronic system already installed. Instead, this someone had carefully laid out a net of hair-thin wires that triggered an alarm. The net had only been placed recently. If it had been part of the security system, Fox should have been briefed about it earlier. Tech had been thorough with their advance surveillance and briefing.
The triggered alarm, a constant blaring of klaxons, was enough to surprise Fox from his work. He fumbled the data disk he carried and almost lost it before securing it safely inside a special sealed pouch on his suit.
He tried to go back but, the closer he got to the exit, the louder the klaxons rang, disorienting him. Fox hesitated and, because of this, he was caught.
A whip lashed out from somewhere on his left and wrapped around his leg, knocking him off balance. Fox held up his hands to break his fall, but slammed his shoulder hard into the floor. He winced and rolled over.
Fox strained to look. A woman was standing a few feet away from him, pulling the whip taut with her left hand while wielding a blade with her right. She was attired in black body armor that glistened despite the lack of any bright source of illumination. The long blade on her right arm glowed faintly; it appeared able to extend and retract from her right arm gauntlet. Her face was framed by short brown hair and featured a pair of strong piercing green eyes.
Fox froze. The woman's eyes taunted him, reeling in dimly-remembered memories... from some other place, a different time...
A wall of fire... piercing blade... Intense pain... darkness...
Fox realized with a start that he knew this woman.
"W-who... are..." he stammered.
The woman licked the edge of her blade and flashed Fox a humorless grin. "What a wonderful prey. I sense that you'll provide a challenge. I do hope you scream."
Shaking off his anxiety, Fox quickly drew two small card-shaped daggers from his breast pocket and threw them. One dagger severed part of the whip binding him, the other flew towards the woman, who knocked it deftly aside with her blade. Fox rolled, flipped himself to a standing position, and ran to the woman's left.
His body glowed as his Peia manifested itself into a sleek black armor around his body and augmented his speed as he moved. Already, Fox had drawn two more daggers and was launching them at the woman.
The woman reacted with equal swiftness. In one smooth move, she discarded her whip, turned, and deflected the two daggers with her blade. Her left hand moved behind her and drew a lethal-looking handgun from a belt holster, which she aimed at Fox.
Fox flipped backwards away from the woman as four successive shots rang out. The bullets landed mere inches from Fox's hands as he performed a series of backward handsprings that took him to the exit. Daring to waste little time and having no more reason for stealth, Fox extended the armor in his arm to form a solid gauntlet fist and punched through the metal door. With the Peia heightening the force of his punch tenfold, the door exploded from its connection to the wall. Despite the protection on his hand, it would hurt a lot later, Fox knew. But that was a worry for later.
Before fully running away, Fox threw his last three daggers at the woman. As he ran, he dared a glance back and grinned as he saw that two of them managed to tag the woman: one on her right thigh and the other, across her left cheek. The brief glance also enabled Fox to duck just in time to avoid two more shots.
With the alarms ringing across the building, going upstairs was no longer an option. His pickup would not arrive. He was on his own.
Twenty minutes ago...
She had killed him before, Fox knew. He didn't understand how it was possible, but it was true. Her mere gaze had chilled his blood as his subconscious somehow connected her eyes with the coldness of death.
But, that couldn't be, could it? Fox wondered. If he's dead, he shouldn't be here. He wouldn't be running for his life, trying to protect a data disk, the contents of which he didn't even know or care about. He only knew that he was ordered to bring it back one way or another. And he would bring it back. The woman was just an obstacle, killer or not.
But, if he didn't hurry, he would probably be killed by her again.
Using the Peia gun had drawn from him a lot, but Fox was out of other weapons. He was already feeling out of breath and hungry as the effort to manifest the Peia abilities were decreasing his reserves. He sensed that his body had only enough particle black for one last trick, but he had never used his Peia in the way he was planning before. It had only occurred to him how to do it when--
When had he realized that he could use his Peia as a gun? He knew he must have used it before that night. But when? He couldn't remember. Was it during his training? Who trained him? He had reflexes honed from many missions, where he gained familiarity with his abilities. But when were those missions? He couldn't remember.
Fox didn't panic. He didn't know if he was capable of it. But his thoughts made him uneasy.
Unfortunately, his hesitation also made him slow down. The woman caught up with him.
Three shots rang out. He managed to avoid the first one with a forward roll, but the second and third bullets hit him squarely on his side.
The pain from the wound rushed through him as he turned to see his attacker. He saw his enemy, eyes wild, rushing towards him. She had discarded the empty gun and extended her right arm blade, its faint red glow betraying its nature.
Of course, Fox realized. It made sense. Her speed, her ferocity, her determination, her armor... she was exactly like him.
The woman uttered a single word that encompassed her intentions. "Die."
The pain in his side momentarily forgotten, Fox whirled around and concentrated. A blade formed and extended from his right arm as a new layer of armor covered the two bullet wounds on his side.
The woman slashed down but her blade met Fox's newly-formed one on guard. Fox pushed the woman's blade to the side and followed the attack with a kick aimed at her head. However, the woman saw it coming and ducked her head to the right out of the way.
The woman crouched cat-like and brought her leg around in a roundhouse sweep that took Fox off his feet. Fox flailed and tried to recover himself quickly, but he fell hard on his back. Pain from his wound lanced across his body, temporarily paralyzing him. The woman was already standing and bringing her weapon down in a downward thrust onto Fox's head. Fox rolled to the left, the woman's blade narrowly missed his ear.
The woman pressed her assault, slashing and whirling at Fox's body. Caught at a disadvantage, Fox struggled to avoid the strikes and get back on his feet. His blade managed to score a lucky hit on the woman's side, but the blow was too weak and readily absorbed by the woman's armor.
The woman however, didn't miss. Her next thrust scored a hit, piercing through the armor on his left side. Fox yelled in pain. In some area of his consciousness, he realized that his Peia echoed his shout with a psychic scream of its own.
The woman twisted her blade, bringing a fresh burst of pain to Fox's attention. The woman grinned sadistically and brought her face close to Fox. "Come on. Scream more. I love it when they scream."
Through the haze of the pain, Fox heard her words loud and clear. "I love it when they scream." She had said it to him once before, Fox realized. When she had killed him.
He wasn't going to die alone.
Concentrating his last ounce of strength, Fox closed his eyes and let loose.
A few moments later, Fox slowly opened his eyes and saw the woman staring straight at his face. The fiery defiant green of her eyes were now blank in lifeless surprise. Fox didn't have enough strength to lift his head, but he was sure that her body was now impaled in the multiple spikes that sprang from his Peia armor.
With no energy left and blood seeping out of his wounds, Fox realized he was dying... he had failed and was dying... he closed his eyes...
Memories started flooding in...
Pain from falling to his death...
The woman... her name was Jade Tiger... he knew for certain, somehow... fighting by his side...
Failing to enter the building safely... dying from multiple gunshot wounds...
Killing Jade Tiger and two others... using his Peia-formed gun for the first time...
Forgetting to knock five times on the door... dying from electrocution...
Triggering a fire as cover... dying from Jade Tiger's blade...
A few minutes ago...
"Subject number 336-XV is going into shock!" the technician shouted.
"Switch programs, quick!" his superior ordered. The technician jumped to comply.
"How is subject number 021-AB doing?" the supervisor hastily added.
"Completely still, sir. The programs switched her automatically. She's okay," another technician reported.
"Good," the supervisor remarked before turning back to the first technician. "What the bloody hell happened there? Why did he go into shock?"
"I-I don't know, sir," the technician said. "It has never happened before."
In front of the technicians, a console monitored the contents of twin cylinder vats filled with a reddish-hued transparent fluid. Two naked humanoids, one male and the other obviously female, were immersed in the liquid within each of the vats. Wires coursed around and through the two bodies. Both were wearing helmets that completely masked their faces. The male had been thrashing wildly a few seconds before, but appeared to have calmed down. The female was completely still, with only the faint rise and fall of her chest indicating that she was alive.
"Well, it looks like it's over by now," the supervisor assessed. "Let's run the regular simulation for now. We can run them through the combat simulation again tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," the technicians chorused as they started inputting the commands.
"Bloody strange..." the supervisor muttered to himself. Although, he thought, it wasn't a total loss. The female Rook, Subject 021-AB, was improving in her cunning, though her ferocity was becoming unsettling, to say the least. The male Rook, Subject 336-XV, had learned a new Peia skill. When they finally finish with him, he would be quite formidable indeed.
Unseen by the technicians, the male clenched his fist, tight enough to draw a few drops of blood that diffused indistinguishably into the liquid inside the vat.