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archive:stories:cooldark.sto

Background for Cool Darkness

Sinclair was one of the first people to develop electromagnetic 

devices and weapons. He created the first series of needlers and gaussian weaponry and has been creating state-of-the-art weaponry ever since. The Sinclair K2 is a single hand-held needler that is not-so common among well armed groups or people of the lower class. It uses longer needles than the K1, a single-hand needler that uses 3" needles, 80 per four inch mag. These needles are 5" long with a 5" mag holding 50. It's wider than a K1 and is used primarily for penetration and power against armored individuals. Most K2's are semiauto while the K1 has on-the-fly switching from semi to full auto capabilities. Cerated, armor piercing and explosive needles are available into the military, security and black markets.

Polymetals are alloys of metals that have polymer composites 

fabricated into the material at the time of final molding. This allows for improved chemical and physical properties of the material while improving its strength and the ability to keep a sharp edge. It also aids in reinforcing materials such as strengthening armor plating and bullet-proof jackets.

The story takes place somewhere around 2030 in a fast growing 

suburb of Philadelphia.

			Cool Darkness
				by Matthew Carpenter
		Chapter 1 : Mark of the Huntress	
"Awe, shit.  Man this is too much for one night" Dave sighed.

Five hours on the net after a full day's work at the office was enough for a 24 hour day. He slouched back into his recliner and turned on the built in massage, pulled the plugs from his system and blankly stared at the ceiling.

"Too bad you still got a few hours before it's over."  He loosened

his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his white shirt. A midnight snack should be good he thought to himself. He sleepily stood up between rolls of computer paper and electronic cables snaking through the small den of his apartment in Philly. 'Thank god the lights are off or I'd really have a headache.' Dave walked out of the room, still thinking over the latest ideas from work involving the net connections between North America and Europe. 'Goddamn bureaucrats think they know everything. Hell, they probably couldn't even tell if I changed their comm links from DC to LA.' The walk to the refrigerator was short. The light from inside blinded him shortly since it was the only light on in the house. 'I wonder what Cryon is up to tonight. They haven't been going out as much lately as they used to.' A thought that sounded like something was getting ready to go down, but with no background. They haven't done anything lately that would hint to it. He didn't like that.

He pulled an open jar of pickles out of the frig and a container of 

mustard, opened the bread drawer and got a loaf of old bread that was on the brink of molding. Some meat and a bag of chips followed. He sat down at the small round table next the to kitchen entrance and began making a sandwich. He took a bite. 'Damn thing is getting stale. I wonder how Nick is doing? The last time I talked with him must've been 2 weeks ago.' He swiveled around in his chair to a wall panel and entered the code for a direct telecom interconnect.

The video jumped up and Nick's tired face showed up on the 

screen.

"Nick, how you doin' man?" squawked Dave getting ready to take 

another bite out of his sandwich.

"Dave...Do you know what time it is?"
"Yeah, but I couldn't sleep.  What's up.  I haven't.."
Blink.  Blink.  A monitor light went on.  Someone's at the door, 

thought Dave. 'Who the hell would come at a time like this?'

"Hang on, someone's at the door."
"At this time of night?"  It was too late.  Dave was already up and 

heading for the door. Opening up another panel, the lights went on and Dave spoke through the intercom mic.

"Who's there?"
The monitor light blinked again.
"I said who's there!?"  'No answer.  No answer.'  Something's up.  

He began walking away from the door.

"Get out Nick.  Somethin's up!"  yelled Dave from across the room.
"What's going on over there Dave!?"
THUD..THUD.  CRACK!  Dave's door popped partly open as the 

bottom hinge cracked out of the door frame. THUD..THUD..SMASH! The top hinge nearly exploded open with force as the door toppled to one side, rendering the computer and physical locking mechanisms completely ineffective. Dave scurried backward as a large man slowly walked into the apartment, stepping on the discarded door. Dark short hair and a dark skinned face sat on top of a set of shoulders and a huge frame as he pulled something out of his dark, tattered overcoat. Dave turned to run towards his den when a silent shot was fired into his left leg.

"Aaauuuuu!" screamed Dave as he fell into the table where he had 

just begun his midnight snack. The telecom monitor flicked off as Dave moved to face his attacker. He side slouched into his chair, holding his leg. A needle stuck out of it by about an inch, leaving a small circular blood stain forming on his dress pants.

The man walked up to Dave shooting another two silent shots into 

his leg, making him scream in pain. A large hand wrapped itself around Dave's throat and began picking him up. His face reddened and his eyes began to bulge as he was suspended in mid air by his attacker's suffocating grip. His grip was hard, almost too hard as Dave reached up with both hands to grasp it.

"Who the hell are you!" Dave spit out having more difficulty 

breathing. The light from the room was in his eyes so he couldn't see his enemy's face. He didn't remember running into him before, he was sure of that. A shot was fired at the control panel on the wall, but not by his attacker who had put his gun down on the dining table. Another shot and the panel exploded in an array of sparks and flames. A final shot was fired at the lights which exploded out, darkening the apartment once more. Dave flinched from the spraying glass. He was lifted a little higher as his assailant's other fist flew into Dave's lower ribs, making a noticeable cracking sound as it shattered a few, knocking the wind out of Dave. He was then turned around and thrown into the opposite wall of his den a few feet away. His attacker turned around to pick up his gun, which gave Dave a little time to move out of the way by crawling into his den amongst the electronics and wires. Two more shots were fired directly into his leg as he was almost fully in, leaving him immobile from the pain with only the sounds of heavy footsteps echoing toward the den's entrance.

The split, mangy tails of a cheap grayish-black overcoat dangled 

at the ankles of Dave's pursuer. Combat boots and a dark cat burglar's baggy suit shown underneath the opened coat, as a Sinclair K2 was being placed back in it's shoulder harness, then covered by the thick fiber- metal mesh coat. He couldn't see a face or even a head from his encumbered position on the carpeted floor. Dave just stared at his large enemy, unable to move from the pain in his cracked ribs, and the 5 inch needles sticking out of his left leg. The only taste from his interrupted midnight snack away from the net was of blood.

"Next time, don't fuck with Nestroth, Dave" came a quiet but stern 

female voice from the doorway; the type that could be sweet if it didn't send a shiver down your spine, but would scare the hell out of you if caught in a dark alley on Halloween.

Dave tried looking past his pursuer.  He knew that voice, he knew 

it from somewhere. Nestroth gave him a hint, but there was no match. Not with that female voice. It just sounded so familiar, but then again it didn't. He just couldn't place it. He had run into Nestroth a few times trying to break a few systems, but he'd never tangled with them, at least not to his knowledge. Every time he had run into them, they either kicked him out or he got out himself. He knew Nestroth was not one to be messed with, anywhere. Anyone who did normally either was found dead or never found. That didn't help Dave's thinking as he stared at his victor with only the thought of death running around in his head. 'If only I could think of what got me into this in the first place' Dave thought to himself, hoping for a chance to get out of it one way or the other.

A hand slapped against the left shoulder of the overcoat.  Slowly 

and with enough coolness to chill ice, he moved to one side of the doorway without losing sight of his prey. Blue and red streaks of light shined in from the neon streetlights through the opposing windows, leaving less to be hidden in the not-so-well kept apartment. A few computer screens flickered and with the outside light, showed the mounds of electronics and scrap papers lying all over the small room. An athletically slender female figure covered only with a skintight body suit and a pair of stainless steel spiked heels, entered the room with the finesse and grace of a cat, and noticeably the cunning of one as well. Her slender body left little to the imagination as she snaked towards Dave. Shiny metallic nail polish glistened on her fingertips in the sporadic changing lights. Her footsteps made no noise as her spiked heels sank into the thick carpet and almost pierced through the material underneath. Her bodysuit was mostly black with the exception of a dark red artistic line running across the main body of it, creating fading curls of color along an arm and the opposite leg. Her hair matched the entire outfit; dark and slightly long, but not touching her shoulders.

"Stand up shithead" she hissed walking to within inches of his 

pale face.

"I..I...I can't.  My leg.." he whimpered.
"Just do it or I'll have Nemesis stand you up whether you like it or 

not!"

Remembering his encounter a few moments ago with 'Nemesis', 

he painfully began to bring himself up to a hunched over position, still holding his leg in pain. He looked near her fearing the consequences of eye contact. Blood trickled from his left leg and stained his business pants as he favored the other leg; the polymetal needles still sticking out of his leg.

"Last night will be the last time you go after Cryon, Dave.  Do we 

understand each other?"

"I didn't go against Cryon last night, honest I didn't" he sputtered 

back. Sweat beads were forming on his head as her hot breath touched his face, while she pushed her face within an inch of his.

"Don't bullshit me Dave.  Nestroth ran into you last night while 

going against Cryon and you fucked us up! Don't make me..".

"I haven't run into Nestroth in weeks and that was only an 

accident, really. I don't want any trouble with Nestroth. Come on, they're too big for me" he shakingly replied. "Hell, I don't even know you guys. That's how long it's been since I….".

Backing away from his face, she retracted a set of 4 inch claws 

that lay at her waistside which had gone unnoticed until now. Her eyebrows still in a devilish frown. Her breathing still calm. Her lips tight with fury, contrary to Dave's sweating, pale face. A dark red stain was forming on his white shirt where Nemesis had punched him earlier.

Raising her hand, "You may call me Slash" was her only reply as 

her claws extended to a solid 7 inches, and left his head lying next to his crumpled body as the blue light shined off the blood dripping from her otherwise spotless weapon of choice. The only sound was a distant humming from the changing neon lights, and a grinning Nemesis.

		Cool Darkness
			by Matthew Carpenter
	Chapter 2 : Welcome to the Jungle
"Enter Password" spit the computer controlled lock of a small 

warehouse on the other side of town; the dirty side of town. Trash lay all around the alleyway and the light blowing smog that seems to inhabit the entire city rolled by, bring papers and dust with it. Slash entered the neural code embedded into Nestroth's security ROM chip, implanted into her skull, and took her security card back as the graffitied, grayish metal alley door unlocked. She walking in just as smoothly as she had done entering Dave's apartment, with Nemesis behind her shutting the door with the echoing thud of a vault.

The semi-lit corridor weaved to the right a little bit.  The corridor 

was surrounded by old wooden crates piled on metal warehouse frames slightly beginning to rust from the humidity of the city air. A metal catwalk lingered just above Nemesis' head as they walked into the open meeting room of Nestroth. This was one of there meeting places. One that was used after the fact. The whole warehouse was only 50 by 50 feet, but it was perfect for their purposes: small enough to be unnoticed; large enough to be useful. There was a bar on the opposing wall from the entrance. A pool table, a few TV's, a bar and a stereo made up the majority of the hall while the computer links and weapon banks were closest to the left wall. Everything a person could want after a job, while still maintaining some security to the place. A glance around from Slash produced a few scanners locked on them, verifying who's who. A guard armed appropriately watched from the right catwalk that continued around the entire warehouse. Dressed in normal street clothes, he raised his gloved right hand as a sign of hello to Slash. She slightly nodded hello and continued looking around.

A few desks were scattered around the room with paperwork, 

blueprints and other 'necessities' on top or laid out on built in desk monitors. A medium sized man with an open white jacket, yellow shirt and nice slacks looked to be jacked in at one of the desks in a lounge chair. The only thing was there was no cable. A metal band with blinking LEDs wrapped around the back of his head connecting his two ports, but weren't connected to anything else. His eyes blinked and he raised his head from his propped up arms to notice the two. A few lights flashed on and off on his headgear and he raised his right arm to the back of it. A few seconds later, the two sides of the device connected to his ports popped off and he placed the gear down onto the table. A small stretch and a wipe of the eyes and he stood up reaching for the beer in front of him.

Slash walked towards him as she noticed out of the corner of her 

eye, Nemesis going to a sofa on the far side of the room to throw his jacket down.

"So what did you bring me?" he asked, not changing his blank 

expression.

"Merry Christmas , Nebulus" Slash retorted in a painfully sly tone 

of voice and a slight grin as she pulled Dave's head out of the black bag she was holding.

"Not bad.  What else did you bring me?" Nebulus asked raising an 

eyebrow, taking another drink without removing his eyes from her.

"The last time he said he ran into us was a few weeks ago" she said 

dropping his head into the disposal system next to the desk without a thought or a look. "He denied going after Cryon last night. He died with his story in tact so either he was one devoted liar, or he was too scared to make up a fake story. In any case, we've got copies of his records for the past two months including his work on the international nets and his individual activities around the sites."

Nemesis had put his coat down and returned to the discussion.  

Standing about half a foot over Nebulus, his body was highlighted from the lighting array suspended from the ceiling by chains. His skin was very dark brown with tints of gray that seemed even darker behind Nebulus' white jacket. His black tank top showed off his large muscles that had obviously been enhanced through drugs. His black hair was cut in a spiked military fashion and he still wore his shades, even though the lighting inside wasn't that illuminating.

"Or else he was there and tried to make us believe he wasn't.  You 

should've pulled more info out of him before you killed him. Now we don't know what's going on" retorted Nebulus. He slouched back into his padded chair and enabled the foot rest. He closed his eyes, running his hand through his military style blond hair only to let out of a frustrated sigh that was meant to be heard. He leaned back with his eyes closed as the other two members of the group who had been at the bar the whole time, came up to the table.

"Hey kids, how's it goin'?  Did you and Davey-boy have fun 

tonight or what." It was Zlik. Slash hated his humor, especially when it wasn't in taste. He walked closer to her side egging her on with his cock-eyed smirking that drove her nuts. "Come on, tell old Zlik what happened baby."

"Knock it off Zlik.  Why don't you take you and your filthy street 

'garb' somewhere where I can't smell it." darted Slash, eyeing him with one of those 'Don't push me looks'. "We got enough problems without your nonsense." Zlik was from the streets and probably will always be there as well. He grew up there, hangs there now, and will forever have a name with those who have long purple hair that hangs to one side.

"Goddamn skinny son of a .." murmured Slash.
"Cool it children" snapped Nebulus, opening his eyes and 

furrowing his brow again. "Jack, what do we have on the nets for the past few hours from Dave's area?"

"Nothing to my knowledge.  The whole sector's been quiet since 

he got off" replied Jack in a gentlemen's voice, standing next to Nemesis. Actually, he stood underneath Nemesis. He was very short and stocky, in fact he was getting on the fat side. That's the problem with netrunning all day and all night. Jack was the type of individual who got so hooked into the system that if he had his choice, he would never get out. Unless of course he had to. But that was never. That's how he got his name, Jack. Constantly jacking in and out of the nets, only to get back in as soon as possible. He gambles with everything he gets into and most of the time, if and when rarely caught, he barely makes it out without being traced or ICEd. But that's how he wanted to run his life: on the edge, at least from the perception of the net.

"Get me updated on Cryon ASAP, Jack, and make sure they're not 

screwing around with our side of the board!" demanded Nebulus.

"Sure thing boss" replied Jack, still in his business shirt, business 

appearance, and business attitude. Hey slowly walked away from the group and reached another desk a little distance away from the informal meeting. He picked up the same headgear as Nebulus had and put it on, eventually peering off into space, or cyberspace as the case may be.

"What the hell is that thing he's got on his head?" questioned 

Slash, a little perturbed that she hadn't been updated on the new tech yet.

"It's an experimental wireless connect between your ports and a 

jack in site. But like I said, it's only experimental, so it doesn't leave this room" explained Nebulus, calming down slightly. "We stole the idea and some of the design from Cryon. The rest came from industry with the holes filled in by Jack and his tech buddies at Nortech."

"He's still working there?" asked Zlik, wising up a bit.  The party 

began to disperse, each individual going there own way. "Awe screw it man" snobbed Zlik heading for the corridor leading to the alleyway. The metal door slammed shut once he was out and the room was dead quiet with the exception of the echoing metallic slam of the door. Everyone that wasn't jacked in was still looking at the corridor that Zlik just walked through.

"When the hell is he going to get a life and stop being a street 

bum!?" complained Slash.

"He's one of the best street informants I've ever known, Slash.  

Just get off his back" grumbled a low, direct voice.

She turned around, looking at Nemesis who never had a lot to say.  

"Is that so. Then why does he always dress like he's still on the streets?"

"Because he is."  With that Nemesis grabbed his coat from the sofa 

and proceeded to follow Zlik's exit, never loosing sight of Slash.

* "Don't let her get to you man, she's just bein' a bitch tonight cause we didn't get what we wanted from Dave" said Nemesis after catching up to Zlik. His shades were still on even though it was approaching two in the morning. The two of them walked for a while and finally made it to the noisy part of town. The bars and joints stretched for a few blocks and never shut down as long as it was dark outside. This was the night spot; where everyone came who was anyone, at four in the morning that is. "So what happened with the job with Dave?" asked Zlik. "We took him out well, but Nebulus wasn't impressed with the info we got from him. I think Nebulus thinks someone's out for us. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me, that's for sure." "At least it would make life interesting for once." "True." They walked side by side down the sidewalk towards there favorite spot - Black Oil. The only place on the strip that was almost pitch black dark inside and that served the hardest drinks, only. It was a nice place. The bar was always packed and the back rooms always full. It was mostly inhabited by deckers, samurai, informants or people just there for business. Frankly, the bar wasn't even built to be a bar, but that never surfaced in conversation. Zlik was almost as tall as Nemesis, but a hell of a lot skinnier. His tattered street clothes, long purple hair and terrible street accent set him apart from his companion. A little harassment from the local girls and a few psychos that were missing more than a couple of brain cells made the trip seem normal. The streets were cluttered with garbage and debris from the riots a few days ago. Most of the street lights were out or on there way to go out. Most of the cars on the streets had a few bumps or bruises, many having broken windows or shattered lights. The alleys were filled with drunken street people sitting in the wall crevices and dealers making their nightly pay. It might be the summer, but for some reason the night was a little cooler than normal. Before long, the Black Oil neon sign was a few doors down. A small crowd had formed out front of the closed doors of the place with people just hangin' out. A little pushing and shoving and the two got past the crowd of people who wanted to look cool by the bar, but didn't want to go in. Past the doors, the bar was dark as night. Smoke filled the air and seemed to hover like a cloud just above people's heads. There was just about enough room to walk around the place without hugging each other in the process. A pool table could be spotted across the room in the far right corner from the foyer landing where Nemesis and Zlik stood side by side, each looking around for someone or something. Most of the people here were dressed to kill. The styles ranged from very slick to very sleazy, but all with the intent to intimidate. The bar was centered in the middle of the place, raised a step above the floor to make it a little more formidable for stools. It was nice, though, compared to the others in town. All the walls were old fashioned wood with paintings and electronic art scattered around. At least there was no graffiti on the inside of the joint. Looking around produced a second floor of mostly wooden tables surrounding the outside walls of the place. Round hanging pool lights hung from the ceiling with most of the lights either broken or turned off. Zlik started down the half flight of stairs without noting Nemesis' intentions for the evening. But that was his style. He grew up on this side of town, was one of the first to come to the bar when it was first opened, and will probably be one of those who are killed in it as well. Nemesis watched him slowly push his way toward the far side of the bar and begin talking with a few friends that normally were found here after midnight. Nemesis, on the other hand, slowly made his way to the opposite side to watch a game of pool before going to the bar for a drink. "So what's new on the streets" questioned the guy slowly drinking a Toxic Rum next to Zlik, his long bleached hair almost touching the tip of the glass during each sip. "Depends on what side of the tracks you're from." "The down side." "Cryon is on the move again and no one knows what's going on." "I thought they weren't screwing around on the nets yet? Last I heard, they weren't going after any company takeovers or anything" he said with a concerned yet questionable tone of voice, still just looking at his shot. "Their RAD just jumped and their in the market. Nestroth's chasin' the rabbit so make sure the field is clear" noted Zlik. He hated discussing names in company, but that was life on the streets. "How's you're girl friend?" "Which one?" he asked in disgust. "Charles." "Watch your back. Deckers are out tonight and it's gonna be a while until sex is as good as it used to be." "Who's spreading the disease?" "Mogul's back." Spotting an old girl friend across the room, Zlik got up from the bar and began his way towards her, noting his friend with only a tap on the bar before leaving. Information and friends are two different things when it comes to who's chasing who. Anyway, most of the 'friends' that you make in a place like this can't be trusted further than the shot they drink from. 'Mogul is back' thought Zlik on his way across the bar. 'This is not good. The last time they were back proved to be a challenge in more ways than just survival. Mogul was one of those groups that just looked for conflicts with other groups. Nestroth normally didn't mind competition when going after a company or something like that, but when a gang gets involved with business, business gets bloody.' "Hey sexy! How's it goin'!?" yelled Zlik. "Well if it isn't Zlik. I haven't seen you here for a while. Where the hell you been hiddin' out lately?" replied Shiela. "I've been around. You sure look awful different since we went out last year. So who you datin' now babe?" Her black leather clad body and curly-long, dyed black hair contrasted to her old street image of baggy pants and oversized shirts. Her face was even more pale now. Her appearance almost was of the dead instead of who he remembered her to be. "Nobody special. He's right here." She turned around and pulled on the shoulder of a large man standing behind her talking with a small bunch of guys dressed in the same black leather attire. He turned around to face Zlik. "I told you he'd be here honey" she said looking directly into Zlik's eyes with a devil's grin only Glasya could wear. "So this is the mighty Zlik of Nestroth!" he said taking a step closer and shoving his glass into Shiela's hand. "Don't tell me you've come back for seconds with her MATE!" He might be a little drunk, but he was definitely pissing Zlik off with his attitude; one of the few things which Zlik didn't tolerate. "Where the fuck did you pick him up Shiela!? Pirates Are Us or Assholes Anonymous!!!?" attacked Zlik with his irate attitude aimed directly at Shiela. "Good-bye Zlik" was her only monotone reply as her grin turned sour and she retreated towards the bar, walking behind her man. "Oh, fine, walk off with a nice good-bye babe! Hey, don't forget your beer belly bozo here bitch!" yelled Zlik not moving from his position. His attack was still muffled by the crowd around them. No one paid any attention to quarrels like that, anymore. Giving a daring glare in her direction, his neck was violently grabbed by Shiela's lover. "She picked me up at Mogul, you shitty piece of street slime. How do you feel about that, Dick!?" Zlik's eyebrow's raised instantly at the thought of what he was in now, just in time for a double sided dagger to be thrust into his stomach by his adversary. His mouth dropped open and his eyes shut from the pain. His body almost being totally supported by the hand still clenching his neck, making his breathing more difficult. The knife twisted in his side and his brow furrowed more until all he could do is scream out in pain. The crowd around him began to notice the action, but it was too late. His back began to arch and his knees started bending slowly as the life drained out of his body, staining his shirt, and began to form a reflective puddle on the floor underneath him. "MOGULLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!" screamed Zlik, thrusting his right elbow outward. An old fashioned quick release snubnose appeared in his palm and directed itself towards the chest of his killer. Four shots were fired before his body crumpled to the bloody wooden floor, his right arm sticking straight upward with the gun still resting in his palm. He was soon followed by his killer to the floor. His leather armor lined jacket not enough against good old Teflon II coated ammunition, bringing him down nearly on top of Zlik. Their blood staining each other's body. The crowd going silent momentarily to see who was involved this night while the bartender called the cops, then resuming with the normal discussions of the evening. Another night, another death. Pretty normal for nighttime in Philly, or any major city for that matter. Shiela slowly made her way to the entrance and existed alone, mingling with a few others who didn't want to be around when the cops showed up to collect the bodies. Nemesis, too far away to do anything but watch his friend die, and hear the gunshots at the last moment, kept and eye on her and followed her out of the establishment. He'd met her a few times before, but never really got to know her. He never really liked her in the first place. Trusted would probably be a better word. Now he knew why. Mogul on the other hand meant something, something very serious. Mogul was a gang that ran a last year and tried terrorizing certain underground groups. Nestroth was one of the groups that brought them down. Unfortunately, they didn't wipe them out completely. Shiela began down the strip and soon turned into a known alleyway. Nemesis followed, cautiously surveying his position. He started into the alley, but she was already gone. Impossible. The alley is too long and he was too close to lose her that fast. He didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit. A few more meters in and he stopped, switching his cybernetic retina implants from night vision to thermal infra-red sensing. He walked a few more meters with his jacket loosely buttoned. He finally stopped completely and looked around. As he looked up he caught a glimpse of part of a person who must have been peering out of a window from above. More likely sighting him in, which he confirmed with another retina switch to ultraviolet reflective, picking up the faint outlines of a needler rifle. "Nice try, Nemesis" came a voice that echoed through the alley. It was Shiela all right. Nothing mistaking that slyish voice. He turned around, obviously out of position. Two men, however, were between him and the streets, and the alley behind him meant dealing with his airborne sniper. His right hand slowly snaked towards his jacket. "Don't even think about it asshole." The two men in front of him took out their weapons, pinning him in. "You go back to Nestroth and tell them we're back, Nemesis. And, by the way, give Nebulus this message!?" Two needler shots were fired from above into his shoulder. He immediately sank to the ground and crashed into a trash bin, holding his 'injured' shoulder. "You take that to Nebulus!" The two men in the alley put their weapons away as they made their way back to the streets. Nemesis lay there for a few minutes until he judged the situation as relatively safe to move. He removed the needles from his jacket, simulating their penetration and induced pain. He walked out holding his shoulder. He walked out without his friend. Heading back, passed the bar, gave him only one thought: Mogul is back and Cryon is on the move. What the hell is going on? Cool Darkness by Matthew Carpenter Chapter 3 : The Finer Things in Life…Just Got Worse "And here is the room where the hunter/killers will be operating from, General. Each station will house one person and the collective will send necessary information to the GN-12 over there" pointed a research engineer for Cryon who was showing General Stark the first labs that would be used in Operation Revolt: a joint military/government operation headed by members of the CIA, NSA, and USAF Electronic Security Command. Behind the glassed in walls of the studio-like lab, the tour of the labs had come to an end for one of the leading officials in the implementation of the operation, as well as the leading researchers, programmers and engineers of Cryon and Nortech. General Stark standing out by being the only one not in a normal suit with visible hardware and ports. "Very impressive, Dr. Rudenburg, very impressive." spoke General Stark looking at the GN-12 comp. "Just how fast is that computer and will it give us instantaneous time to react if a priority is at hand?" "It's a 10 teraflops machine packaged in a secured housing that will be able to handle hundreds of users without slowing down a bit. The computer has been programmed specifically to handle that type of a situation, should it arise. With the latest advances made by Nortech in the human/computer interface field, the computer will be an extension of everyone working in the nets as well as off them. The operation will begin as scheduled in two weeks. You can be assured of that!" he stated with a grin as if he had sealed a done deal. "If you come this way, we can move onto the final discussion of the networking reorder program and how we will integrate each level of defense as the time arises." The glass panels they were behind separated them from the most diabolical security system ever created by man. Each station consisting of a 'coffin' where men would be connected into the computers and nets 24 hours a day kept alive with a revolutionary new life support system. The General stood there for a last glimpse of the entire project. His decorated chest rose and fell deeply with every deep breath. 'The teraflops computers. The neural links. The net connections and security systems. So it all comes down to this.' the General thought to himself giving the place a once over, then moving on without a change of facial expression. "So this project will enable us to monitor all of the Milnet sites and government linkup locations at any given time from anywhere, right?" "Exactly. The hunter/killers will be spread out over the nets and gateways, constantly monitoring and tracking any conspicuous netters or runners as the case may be. All the info will be processed here and we will be able build case files on perpetrators, or eliminate them if the risk is too high." "Sounds good to me. We're practically fightin' a war on the nets as it is with all the netrunnin' that's been goin' on in the past few years. It's about goddamn time we got the hardware on our side to stop these punks" said the General. His brow was more furrowed than before, remembering the numerous break-ins into his department alone over the past five years. "Goddamn kids" he quietly spoke to himself, looking ahead with great anticipation for this project. 'Just wait until we fry 'em' he smirked.

A few days later, a bare-chested dark-skinned bodybuilder was 

curling more weight than normal in front of a mirror at the local gym. A 'fake' medical bandage was taped to his left shoulder, giving him an incentive to pump more iron. His biceps bulged every time the curl bar was lifted above waist level. 'I'm gonna kill Mogul, 18. Kill Mogul, 19. Kill Mogul, 20.' "Goddamn!" he said putting the bar back on its bench and flexing in front of the mirror. He looked over himself with confidence. A full four hour workout finished again. 'Lookin' hot man, lookin' hot.' A cool sweat covered most of his unclothed body. His spandex shorts noticeably wet as well. He looked over his sculptured grayish tanned muscles until his gaze made it to his shades. The dark purplish reflection in the mirror of his glasses spawned a frowning brow from Nemesis. 'More muscles, more killing power!' He picked the bar back up and curled another 10 reps, just to let the thought sink in, real deep, still counting by how many times he was going to kill Mogul. He looked back at the mirror, breathing a little heavier than before. His eyebrows now making a "V" shape in his forehead. 'That's it! It's personal now, Mogul! You're MINE!'

He swiftly grabbed his bag and headed out the front of the gym 

into the warm summer afternoon. His workout might be over, but his adrenaline was running high at the moment. Flashbacks of Zlik and him being together for the first time. Hitting the bars, scamming information, working with Nestroth. Then the memory of the bar came back to him. He saw the pain going through his friend's face. He saw him stare death square in the face and then take his revenge before letting death take him. And then, the only thought that entered his head was of Sheila. "BITCH!"

"Hey, Nemesis!"  A slap on the chest broke him from his day 

dreaming. "Hey, man, you there today!?" asked Nebulus, catching him on his way down the street.

"What do you want!?  I thought you never came out in daylight?" 

retaliated Nemesis.

"Hey, calm down.  I was just coming up to see you in the gym and 

work out for a little while."

"Then why are you in clothes that normally aren't seen outside of 

a club?"

"OK, so I wasn't going to work out.  I was going to watch you" 

Nebulus said with a grin. "Come on, let's get outta here. My car's right over here." They walked together towards the car, but Nemesis stopped a few steps away. The whole thing was still eating him away, and Sheila was still in his head.

"I don't think so; I'm really not in the mood right now, Nebulus."
"Look, I know you're upset about what happened to Zlik, we all 

are, but there's work to do."

"I don't care about work right now, damn it!  All I care about is 

taking Mogul down once and for all and NOW!" yelled Nemesis, becoming more furious by the moment.

"Look asshole, I don't give a shit about how you feel or what you 

want to do! There's work to do and I need you in one piece. Now get you fuckin' ass in my goddamn car before I slice that rinkly stomach of yours open!" Nebulus retaliated pulling out a double sided rigid blade.

The two just looked at each other for a second or two.  Finally, 

Nemesis moved towards the car, shouldering into Nebulus just to get a little frustration out on his way to grabbing the door. Nebulus moved out of the way slightly, but ran the blade against Nemesis' stomach anyways. Nemesis just opened the door, loudly threw his bag in the back and slammed the door shut, letting his built-up anger go up in smoke. 'Goddamn son of a bitch' he thought to himself as Nebulus got in the car and started driving away from the curb.

"Didn't hurt a bit I bet, did it?" asked a frustrated Nebulus.
"No."
"How many layers of that shit have you put in you now...what are 

you up to four, five, twenty one or so..?" kidded Nebulus.

Nemesis smirked.  His anger obviously starting to fade with the 

thought of his friend's humor. "Only four. Anymore would make it look unnatural. And it's not shit, it's reinforced synthetic skin."

"Unnatural.  You're only the one person in my life that I've ever 

seen with gray skin. And a bodybuilder at that. I thought you never put anything into your body that wouldn't help you grow muscles?"

"It doesn't go into me; it's just sewn on the top five or so layers of 

skin."

"Great.  A bodybuilder that has four layers of reinforced Kevlar 

Type II skin sewn into his skin so he's not only stronger than everyone else, he also has skin that's tougher than an alligator's." The trip was silenced from then on by Nemesis' straight face and Nebulus' concern for what was going on with the nets. Reality came back too quickly. Turning towards the west side of the city, Nemesis could tell that they were going to Nebulus' apartment.

'What the fuck are we going to his house for?' Nemesis asked 

himself looking around. The surrounding buildings, annoying traffic and light smog offered no answer. Soon the apartment complex was up ahead. Solar collectors sat atop the six story box shaped complex, soaking up as much sun from the hot day as possible. An underground parking garage door swung open as the car passed the entrance into the driveway, allowing them access to Nebulus' traditional parking spot: directly opposite of the door on the far end of the garage. Nemesis grabbed his bag and the two went up to the third floor apartment, getting in with the standard code key card. The gray polymetal door swung open and the two entered the foyer. Thick light colored carpet covered the floor of the spacious apartment. Nemesis walked into the living room directly in front of him and looked out the full window at the nearby city. 'Pretty sad' he thought to himself, putting his bag down on a nearby sofa. Nebulus followed and sat down, turning the TV on.

"So what the hell are we doing here anyways?" demanded 

Nemesis, still staring out the window.

"The others will be here soon enough.  Like I said, there's work to 

be done."

"Then why don't you tell me just what the fuck is going on then, 

if it's so goddamn important!?" he retaliated spinning around to face Nebulus. Nebulus sat there for a moment, still watching TV. The volume was low enough it might as well have been off. The spokesperson from ESPN was finishing a remote assignment to California on the discussion of the new steroids, the ones that had no physical or mental side effects.

"So, are you going to start taking the new steroids to help 

improve your strength? I heard they can't hurt you at all." Nebulus said still watching TV. Without receiving a reply, he turned to face Nemesis who was still waiting for an answer. "All right. Jack got word today from one of his friends in Nortech that said that Operation Revolt was scheduled to begin in two weeks."

That hit a soft spot in Nemesis' pissed off mood.  'Two weeks.  Holy 

shit. I didn't think they were going to be ready for at least a few more months.' His mood switched from anger to passive worry, convincing him that sitting down was a good idea after all. 'How the fuck did they get that far ahead without our knowledge?'

Nebulus went back to watching ESPN's coverage of body building 

which quickly grasped part of his companion's attention as well. Within fifteen minutes, the program was nearing it's end when a message from the front panel sounded "There is a visitor at the front door." Nebulus got up and turned on the video monitor which vividly showed Slash and Jack.

"Who is it?" he asked anyways monotonely.
"Open up, Nebulus." came back Slash's cool voice.
"Lookin' good Slash."  He verified their presence with another 

window on the wall panel, displaying the thermal image of two people standing in the hallway outside his apartment door, taken from a sensor array strategically placed outside his room. The door opened, and the two entered the room.

"Don't you wish." said Slash as she walked past Nebulus in her 

civilian attire: short heels, stockings that almost showed under a short summer skirt, and a tight sleeveless top. Jack followed her in, looking very concerned with the present state of affairs. Being an employee of a company that his 'computer group' was about to attack and disable, put him in a very bad, not to mention stressful position. The door slid shut behind him and locked with an advanced security lock that also included locking out telecom messages.

Jack put himself in his normal office chair that sat at the near 

side of the couch, placed there just for him. Normally it was used as a foot rest or end table, but Jack always sat in office chairs, no matter where he was. Slash made her way to the cushy chair on the far side of the room that was within arms reach of Nemesis' side of the sofa.

"I'm really sorry about Zlik, Nemesis.  I want you to know that." 

said Slash in a very sincere tone of voice.

Nemesis gave her his thank you look and quickly moved to face 

Nebulus who was sitting back down on the sofa to address the group in one of their most important meetings of the year.

"Thank you all for coming on such short notice.  I hope this 

hasn't complicated your jobs, but like I said, this is very important. Yesterday, Jack came to me with a very important message a friend at work had given to him involving Cryon's initiative, Operation Revolt. Jack, would you please brief the group on that matter?"

"I received the following message from one of my contacts who 

keeps me informed on information with this project. As you know, we were going after the project just for the capabilities to stay online 24 hours a day. But this changes things completely. The message says:

	1-     OR to take over nets.  Hunter/killer
	group to use LSS to keep punks off nets.
	MIL/GOV//MIL/GOV/unknown-deadly     -3
The reason why this changes everything are the hunter/killer 

groups and the involvement of the government and military. This is one of the first times that the government and military have gone after totally securing the nets. To begin with it will be applied to the government and military nets, but I think it will eventually spread to even the simplest network interface on the local level, purposely designed to keep unauthorized personnel out, period. They are playing for keeps this time. I think the answer to the question about why has Cryon been going after other companies and mil sites is right here as well. They've been breaking into places left and right as a testing ground for what they can do and how effective their system is. We've been watching the whole damn project run it's prototypes and beta tests all along. The people that were in the tests are the ones we will be up against when the game begins, if this project succeeds in starting on time." He ran his hand through his thinning hair. His shirt collar was long unbuttoned and his tie loose. "This puts me in one awkward position, but that's why I got with you guys in the first place. This project will essentially shut down the nets from the outside, and I can't see anyway of getting around it."

"Yea, but they can't KILL you.  I mean, all they can do is find out 

who you are and where you're getting in from. That's old news I thought." attacked Slash. She knew her way around net tech and was pretty up to date on the present state of it, but what she hated the most was not being informed on what was out there and this put a noticeable hitch in her tone.

"With the new system, there's no telling what they can do.  They 

could decide not to attack you, trace you back to your deck. From there they could get every bit of information on you without you knowing it. Set bugs. Implant viruses. Build cases about you. Contact others to see if you have any weaknesses. Destroy your personal file and plant a virus to destroy every copy of it you launch. Who knows. These guys are playing hardball and they're playing for keeps!"

The room was completely silent with the exception of a thousand 

thoughts of concern coming from each person sitting there.

"Well, I guess this means that Mogul is on the back burner" 

sighed Nemesis, folding his hands together in his lap. A few grins appeared quickly looking to relieve the stress of the room.

"We need a plan of attack to begin with" said Slash slouching 

back in her chair, allowing the bottoms of her stocking to show without concern. Nemesis was the first to notice and the only one to stare, unnoticed of course. His CRI's zoomed in on one area, trying to get a closer picture. 'Business is business, but pleasure is pleasure' he thought to himself. He never could grasp cyberspace that well and couldn't concentrate on it that much since he had never jacked in before and probably never would.

"Fine.  First:  Jack, you need to keep gathering as much info as 

possible from the nets and from work. We need to know what we're going up against and when. Second: Slash, I need you to assess Cryon's security. Work with your security company to get into the place and see what you can dig up. Third: Nemesis, I need you to resecure all of our sites, systems, apartments and personal gear. I want to be ready for anything that hits us, either from Cryon or Mogul. Also I need you to be our street info man. There probably isn't much on the streets now, but I want to get as much of a jump on this as possible. Also, keep a close eye on Mogul. Keep them out of range, but don't overextend yourself without backup, and only under extreme circumstances. Cryon takes priority until further notice. Meanwhile, I will make contact with some of the higher ups I know and will converge all info to you all. Keep all information pertaining to this thing as secret as possible. Don't use the nets at all and make sure you're not being tracked!"

The meeting soon broke up, each person going their individual 

way. There was nothing more that really needed to be said, or could be said. They needed more information and without it were dead in the water. Nebulus walked back to the large window in the living room and looked out at the city below. It was getting late in the afternoon, but work was just beginning. 'So they've finally come up with a way to shut us out, huh. So it's all come to this. And if ICE weren't enough. Now I have to combat another person on the net who is playing Mr. Security Officer, standing between me and my objective. That is, if they ever get into the nets! That's it. We'll have to kill the project before it even becomes operational!'

* Five days had passed and the group was together once again, this time to compare information. If nothing else, they were all more worried and more intense with every move they made. Here was a technology and a capability so revolutionary in the field of computer security that it could wipe out the majority of cracking that goes on within any and all nets. The four sat around one of the tables in the back room at Hot Kicks, a private club owned by Nebulus on the better side of town. It was an almost middle class joint, if there was a middle class any more. If there was it was called surviving with a little more. The joint was classy. It was where all the sophisticated people went who wanted to see live nude dancing and strippers that wouldn't make you vomit. There was both male and female entertainment as well as artwork, decks, holographics, laser shows and live or holographic music. It was a hangout for artsy types, social groupies, or horny people. The room they were in was behind all the glitter and glamour of the place. It was the business area of the joint. "Well, I guess I'll be the one to start things" spoke Jack, eagerly wanting the meeting to begin so that he could get as much of a jump on the project as possible. Being the netrunner of the group, he needed as much prep time as possible, and the most info as well. "The project is still scheduled to start on time in nine days. The beta testing that has been going on over the past four months, has included over 25 businesses, 20 military installations, and 10 government sites. Successful cracks were made in all cases and successful defense routines were completed without problems. The people who will be in the nets will be on life support for one month at a time. They will be receiving fluids, muscle stimuli and other necessities while in the nets. They will be connecting into the nets through a large comp that I suspect is a supercomputer, but have not yet confirmed. With this type of computing power, they will be able to bring a lot of software into the nets with them and will be able to be monitored from outside, while still maintaining contact with the others in the nets. ICE could never touch the killing power that this could produce" Jack finished with a seriously straight face. "Cryon's physical security is very tight. My security firm is presently supporting ten positions within the company, none of which are located near this project. Security systems and facility maps are located within the main system there, and should be breakable without much trouble, once you get past the outer systems. I can arrange to have two of our special tactics team help us with the break in. They're specifically trained for this sort of thing and we have no records of them at all." "Yea, but can they be trusted?" darted Jack, obviously feeling the pressure of breaking into a place this big, and going against an operation of this magnitude. "My people are loyal to me. As long as we keep them from the truth and don't have them go all the way in, we should be ok. In any case, they are expendable if problems arise. Are there any other questions?" challenged Slash. She wouldn't have come up with the idea if she didn't think it weren't safe, and she hated people who attacked her judgments. "All right…..Nemesis" called Nebulus, keeping the meeting in order. "All security systems and meeting places have been tested, verified and put on maximum alert sequences. If anything even comes close to messin' with our stuff, it'll be eliminated. The word on the street is nothin'. This project is the quietest one I've ever heard of. Nobody's even heard of it yet. Mogul is still around, but they don't seem to be movin' anytime in the next few days. They're mainly getting contacts and settin' up sites. All personal gear has been maintained and weapon banks are in full, working condition. They'll be ready when the time comes to jump." "Last but not least, the big guys will be comin' into town on the day the project is implemented. Hotel reservations were made months ago and security teams have been assigned from the normal companies. I scrounged some extra cash in case we needed anything to further our chances of survival. This one's gonna be the big hit for this year, that's for sure" said Nebulus moving to the front of his chair and putting his arms down on the table. "What is that supposed to mean?" asked Slash. "We are going to attack this project before it can be implemented and we're gonna go into Cryon to do it." "Are you nuts!? There's no fuckin' way we can attack from within Cryon!" bitched Jack, standing up to contest the whole plan. "If we let them into the nets, we're dead. They win, we loose. They will be more powerful than ICE ever could think of being. You should know that, Jack" Nebulus retaliated disgustingly as if talking to a high school punk that never learned to think with an open mind. 'Great. He's already starting to crack and the fun hasn't even begun' thought Slash looking disappointingly at Jack. Nebulus got up from his seat and walked over to Jack, who had walked away from the table to unbutton his shirt even more. Slash and Nemesis looked at each other with that 'Oh, great' look, knowing each other couldn't wait for the action. Nebulus put his hands in his baggy pants pockets as he stood next to Jack. "Look. I know you're in a really bad position if anything goes wrong. But you're in it with us and you know you want to go through with it. Just relax and take an anti-stress pill and calm down. I need you in one piece to pull this off from the inside or we're not going anywhere." He walked away knowing that Jack wouldn't let him down. Every now and then when they did something big, Jack was the one to get nervous. He was great on the nets and could crack more than most, but his nerves were made of shit until the actual time came to work. "So where's my woman, Nebulus?" asked Nemesis jokingly. "Julia is downstairs waitin' for ya' in the dressin' room." "Julia this time, huh." Since the meeting was essentially over, Nemesis decided to go play, leaving the group behind to drink or do whatever they wanted to. "How pathetic" mumbled Slash as her combative partner left the room. He paid no attention to her comment, as usual. Cool Darkness by Matthew Carpenter Chapter 4 : Pawn to Rook 4 "How the hell do you expect me to come up with that kind of security information by tomorrow morning? There's got to be a dozen or more hard locks on that place, not to mention getting around ICE" complained Jack, trying to make Nebulus understand the tight security at Cryon. "Jack, take a chill pill. So it'll take a few more hours than normal. Just get it done as soon as possible. We need as much info as possible so we can pull this off." "And what if we can't? Why the hell is getting this stuff off line so important anyways? It's not like we're trying to protect every netrunner in the country." Nebulus dropped a few tablets on the desk the two were sitting at. Jack watched them rolled around on a pile of computer paper until they spun around and stopped toward one edge. By the time Jack looked up at Nebulus, he had already walked away, thinking about something else. To Nebulus, nothing was impossible. It was just a matter of coming up the right plan of attack. "Shit" mumbled Jack to himself, picking up the two pills. 'Probably only iron tablets' he thought putting them in his mouth and downing them with the Coke sitting on his desk. 'Everything must be duplicated. All security systems must be located and analyzed. Personnel and schedules must be analyzed. What a fuckin' bitch!' He jacked back into Cryon gathering the last bit of information that was necessary to invade as he always called it. A few hours later, the group was together once again for last checks on the plan of attack. The meeting place was the same warehouse that Nemesis and Slash had gone to after taking out Dave. Kind of ironic since it is usually a place to go after the fact. It quaintly went along with Nebulus' ego, though. Good for dealing in the black markets; bad for dealing with friends. But then again, they all did live on the edge just for that rush of adrenaline. For Nemesis, that was his drug of choice. "So are we gonna go in and tear this place up or what" Nemesis said loudly sitting down at the large meeting table that was probably designed to be a stretch dining room table. It had been refinished and had a monitor array placed into it so that it took up most of the table face. He placed his combat boots up on the table and faced the head of the table where Nebulus sat. "Pig" joked Slash, sitting across from him. "So who are your friends, Slash?" asked Nemesis, gathering a straight face, ready for business. Slash turned to her right where one of her two 'friends' were seated. He was dressed in almost all black leather, with a black hair cut resembling Nemesis' with a gold earring to top it off with style. "This is Aberdon. And she is Donna" pointed Slash, looking at her other friend who was sitting next to Nemesis who noted her long stocking-clad legs. Her miniskirt and skimpy top left little to the imagination and much to be desired, at least as far as Nemesis was concerned, who was becoming aroused as his eyes caressed her legs very slowly. "And what do you do for a living" he smirked eyeing her over his shoulder, getting as much of a lookover as he could get away with. "Looks like I'll be coverin' your ass macho man" she replied with a nasty tone of voice, never letting her intimidating facial expression change. He laughed. He laughed sarcastically loud. "So where do we stand on info?" he said dropping his bullshit like a mercury weight. "We've got most of the blueprints for the place in question including security and surveillance systems, piping and electrical, and nets. Security schedules are being analyzed by the comps still and tap in sites are being assessed as to hard connects" came back Jack who sat at the other head of the table. He touched the table screen a few times and a general blueprint of the main floor and grounds came into view. "This is the general layout of the place, he said adding mini windows of the basement levels. The target site is on the absolute bottom floor of the building, and it's pretty heavily guarded and secured. It's going to take a lot to get to it" he said with a little worry. He was getting used to the situation and finally excited about the job, but still slightly intimidated with the size of the operation. It was the largest job he'd ever done and it was one of the few that involved both people on the nets and in the physical objective site. "Piece of cake" confidently spoke up Aberdon. "Yea? So how would you attack it!?" attacked Slash. Nebulus sunk a little deeper in his chair, awaiting this test. "Once the electronics are secure, a team will go in the rear security zone by entering this loading zone, here" he said pointed to a grid on the monitor. "From there, one of us will take over that physical security site to control the area. From there, whoever's runnin' will lead the group through checkpoints by disarming systems and allowing them to enter secured sectors. Any guards can be removed by our new security guard and diverted temporarily. Then it's just a matter of pullin' things together. Piece of cake." "Not bad…not bad" spoke Nebulus, sitting back up in his chair. "Almost like we had talked about earlier." Putting his elbows on the table, he glanced over the prints one more time. The room was silent. All eyes were on Nebulus since he had the final say on the plan. He stood up and took off his jacket, placing it on the back of the chair. "But it won't work. The security layout would never get you past the main gate. Cryon doesn't accept night deliveries. No one goes in or out after dark, period" said Jack, standing his ground against a plan as simple as that. "So the question is, how do we get to the dock without being noticed at all." "Sewer system. It's the oldest trick in the book, but I bet you it would work" said Nemesis. "Don't be stupid. A company like that isn't dumb enough to leave their pipes clear" snapped Slash, expecting more from an experienced front man. "Yea, but all the outside pipes aren't connected to the inside pipes. They're all for rain, not sewage. Look. There's not one connection from the building pipes to the outside pipes. In fact, it looks like all the inner pipes go down to the basement and out the bottom of the structure through smaller pipes into an underground piping system I would guess. There's a man hole near the docks that I bet connects to the city sewers" pondered Jack, getting more intrigued with the possibilities of actually pulling this stunt off. "Check it out. Make sure they're clean and that the pipes are large enough for men with equipment to get through. If it is, we'll go with it. I had a similar idea to the one proposed. I'll pose as a guard and help the team get through each level of security. Nemesis, get me a wish list of equipment to get the job done. Then you and Aberdon get the stuff ready. Slash, you and Donna look over every micron of this plan and make sure it works. Make detailed notes on everything we will need to know about this place. Jack, continue working on info and breaking systems. Also, get the ROMS ready to write to with the info Slash gives you. Meanwhile, I'll get some party favors. Aberdon and Donna, you are staying with us until this is over, understand!" commanded Nebulus. This was it. If there were any questions, now was the time to bring it up. Once the plan was set, it was set. There were no objections. August 21. Friday, early morning. The humid air hung stagnate outside the metal door of a warehouse in the shipping district. Launch Site 13 as it was called. All missions were started here. This one was just bigger than most. Usually, it was mainly netrunning to get information. This time it involved flesh and blood almost more than fiber optic cables. Nemesis stood outside the door waiting for the rest to arrive. He looked at his watch. '3:49. One minute to go' he thought. A lone docking light far away painted a soft, white brush stroke of light across his bare chest and the warehouse behind him. 'Forty seconds to go.' The dull hum of a van came from around the far side of the warehouse, moving slowly along the gravel drive. The headlights were turned off as the garage size door of the warehouse began to open, spilling an ambient light onto the gravel. Nemesis opened the personnel door behind him and walked through closing it behind him and locking it. The black beaten up van crept past the open garage to turn around and enter backwards. The garage door began to close as Nemesis walked up to the back of the van and opened the doors with a sharp creaking. The gang was here. "Right on time" he said. "Time to party" said Slash being the first to get out of the crowded van. Everyone in the back were sitting on A3 cases that were unloaded first by Nemesis and Aberdon. Stacking them sideways to each other, Nebulus brought the pass card up, giving the privilege to Donna who aggressively ran it through the bar reader of the first one she came to. The green light on the handle block went on and an internal lock disengaged with a soft pop. She opened it up and everyone looked in. "My, my, aren't we gonna have fun tonight" glowed Slash looking at the case full of explosives. "C4-type II, IRAPM's, concussion bombs, hand grenades, hey….where's my grenade launcher?" joked Nemesis looking at Nebulus. "Look in case two. Each one of you has a personal case that is openable with that card. Everything you need is in there. Merry Christmas kids." "How much did this cost you anyways?" asked Slash with a grin. "After I told them why we were going in, they practically gave it to me just to secure their other investments. To answer your question, no you can't keep it" he replied with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. The transformation began. Everyone began getting their clothes on and their body armor secured. All of the smiles had left by the time 4:00 AM rolled around. Weapons were checked and rechecked. Ammunition and explosives were properly attached and weapons slung. Jack had already disappeared into the basement of the place; a secret room under the floor where the master comps were located. The comps sucked power directly from the power station that was not more than a quarter mile away. That way the general power loss could be attributed to humidity or any other stupid, unexplainable phenomenon. "On line in one minute!" yelled Nebulus from his makeup case. Everyone was already ready, checking each other over. Nebulus jacked in quickly checking on Jack's status. "On line!" The four got side by side. The seriousness and concentration hung in the air almost as thick as the humidity. Beads of sweat had formed on every one's forehead. Foot steps were heard from the far side of the warehouse and Jack soon appeared out of the homemade wooden office, heading towards the group. "Are you ready?" questioned Nebulus. "Comps are set. Once you get in, you'll have less than 10 minutes to complete the job, which in this case is plenty of time. One minute to secure the desk. Two minutes to get to subbasement 4. One minute for diversions and gaining access. Three minutes for setting the bombs and getting out. That leaves you with one minute to blow the place and two to get out" said Jack. "And that's worse case scenario, right?" asked Nebulus, hinting that Jack was underestimating their abilities. "Yeah. In reality, you'll probably do it in half that time, so just keep me informed of where you are and everything will go OK. I'll be able to track you anyways, so don't worry too much." "All right. See you in a few then." "Good luck, and if everything goes wrong, I'll just blow the net if I can. That way, any system assignment will be destroyed." "Good deal. Lets get going" said Nebulus looking back at his group. Dressed in solid black from head to toe stood the attack team. Expanded honeycomb titanium armor plated Spectra 3000 body armor hugged every curve of their bodies, protecting them from most firepower out today. Explosives and equipment was strategically secured to the armor for quick, but easy use. After a quick checkover, they took their seats in the back of the van with Nebulus navigating and Donna driving. It took twenty minutes to get there. The corporation had a large complex just outside of city limits. An old apartment complex had been renovated and made into an employees park which housed thousands of people. The six story concrete apartments stood above a not so beautiful street that had it's fair share of crime, vandalism and street gangs. The van was parked in an alley just out of site of the complex. "Comms on. Mic check" said Nemesis. Everyone donned their small headset/mic. Nebulus had a lapel mike with a single ear speaker that had been placed under the fake skin of his disguise that finished the security officer uniform he wore under his wet suit. "One." "Two." "Three." "Four." "Five." the group replied in order. "Sounding good everyone. Jack, check in" came back Nebulus. The line was dead for a second. "God here. RYLAC." "How can he hear us?" asked Donna looking over at Nebulus. "He wrote a program to interface his deck with a comm system. It shows up as a two-way speaker in his environment. Sync watches on 4:56 on five, four, three, two, one, mark." Watches were synced. "Injection time people." Each person, including Nemesis, took out a small packet that contained three vials with needles. Nemesis took out the first vial which contained a clear liquid and injected himself with the adrenalizer, designed as a short term super steroid with little side effects. The first needle was placed back and the second vial was injected in the same area of the arm. This one was a sense and reflex enhancer designed by the military. It would give them better combat reflexes when they needed it. This was followed by a third injection of a pain killer. It was designed to not activate until a large amount of pain was inflicted, then it just temporarily deadened the area's nerve system. Designer drugs, designed for combat. Perfect for terrorist raids. "5:00. Time to go people" said Nebulus fastening his wet suit shut. Face masks were put on, covering everything but their eyes, and equipment and weapons were gathered. The five exited the van silently and moved over the man hole located a few feet from the van. A quick jimmy with a bar and the lid slid over with a low screech. A quick look around and Nebulus was the first in, followed by the two newbees as Nemesis viewed it. "I hope we can trust these two!" firmly whispered Nemesis to Slash, who gave him her look of approval before jumping in. Within seconds the whole team was in the sewer system. Pipes lined the old concrete and stone walls. The water level was only thigh deep so it didn't prove to be very cumbersome. "You checked this place out OK, right 3?" asked Nebulus over the comm. "Two gates were cleared. Everything is a go." Night vision glasses allowed easy travel through the system for the first fifty or so feet until voices were heard from behind. Everyone stopped. Aberdon, who was trailing, turned around, crouching to the water level. It sounded like kids. Then it was as two street punks stuck their heads down into the sewers looking for the vanished group of strangers. One reached a hand down below his head, visibly carrying a flash light. Before he tuned it on, two silent needler shots were fired and the bodies of two dead kids splashed into the water below, creating a little wake that was eventually felt by the assassin. "Too bad" said Nemesis leading the group once again through the small cavern. "Let's go." They traveled through the sewers with very little trouble. The tunnels were relatively flat and the footing was still firm due to the recent construction of Cryon some 10 years ago. Nemesis' night vision led them on until the man hole cover was reached near the loading docks of the company. "God. How does the weather look?" asked Nebulus, who had unzipped the top part of his suit after reaching the ladder which led to the surface. Jack had been in the net for some time now, checking on programs, root operations, and watching out for ICE. "Security checking will be done in one minute" came back Jack. 'One minute. Come on. Hurry up' thought Nemesis, quite eager to get this job started. The adrenalizer was beginning to take effect. Watches were being checked until the second before the security program checker was finished, exactly 5:10 AM. "Go" said Jack. Nebulus had already shed his wet suit and Nemesis had slid the man hole cover out of the way while being covered by Donna. Nebulus was the first out, quickly running up to the docking door. He was quickly followed by the rest of the group who crouched by the sides of the door, waiting for Nemesis to put the cover back on. He finished and regrouped with the team who had taken off their glasses to allow their eyes to adjust to the indoor light emanating from the door. Nebulus entered. He quickly walked down the hallway and turned left towards the security desk that monitored that side of the complex. The security guard at the desk came into view and stood up as he approached the desk. "Who are you and what are you doing in this section of the building?" the guard asked in a not so calm tone of voice. Obviously the security had been upgraded for Operation Revolt. Nebulus walked around so that he was next to the guard. "We've got a problem in section 5" he replied bringing his arm from behind his back. He thrust his hand forward into the guards throat, knocking him out with a stunner. The guard shakingly fell to the floor and was kicked under the desk. TV monitors lined the panel in front of him that had four jack in sites. "God this is one. Secure all personnel sensors and override all subsystems in this section to me" spoke Nebulus outloud into his comm mic. Jack looked down onto the gaming board on the table in front of him. An elaborate table top created like an old model train scene had been transformed into a World War II battlefield. Moving armies in Eastern Europe moved on the forest-like layout depicting the different programs going on. He immediately spotted the correct security program that monitored the security personnel's heart rate from individual sensors mounted on their watch bands. He touched his finger to a spot near the army foot soldier representing the algorithm and blinked into the battlefield in front of the corporal with his superuser privileges and general's uniform. He immediately attacked the young soldier with his bayonet- tipped M1 rifle and fought him down to the ground where he thrust the nine inch bayonet blade into the soldiers chest, terminating the program's operation. He returned to his chair in front of the table again, this time wearing a replica of Patton's uniform. "Done" was his reply to Nebulus. "Team in" ordered Nebulus who took control of the video cameras, freezing them onto walls. He jumped into cyberspace with his God given superuser access to check for personnel in the area. A map of the floor came up with personnel locations and details. He jumped out, routing the ground floor and the first three basements to the monitors in front of him. The team quickly arrived, hauling their over-and-under weapons, and party favors with them. A quick look at the monitors and Nemesis was off first seeking the entrance to the elevators. Slash took off after him, followed by the two others right behind. The corridors were lightly painted and had industrial carpet lining most of the halls. A few more turns through the halls and the group came to a halt behind a wall, separating them from the two security officers stationed at the elevator. "One. Problem at elevator" whispered Nemesis into his mic. "Security at elevator 4, sector 6g : move promptly to sector 5g and report back in to gate on arrival" announced Nebulus, speaking into the security's comm. The guards looked at each other for a moment, questioning the command from their security base. "Request secure ID verification" came back one of the guards. "ID hold out 764421 confirm" replied Nebulus, reading the code from one of the monitors. The guard motioned to his partner and the two walked off towards sector 5g, watching the offices as they went. As they moved out of site, the lights indicating that the elevator was moving down turned on. The group stayed still. "One. Someone's on the…" spoke Slash. "Team. Backtrack to stairs. Take first flight down and move towards sector 2." Donna spun around and headed back first, frantically leading the group. If they were caught now, the show would be over right then. The stairs soon appeared in a side corridor and were entered. The heavy fire-proof door was shut with a soft thud and Slash was the first to go down the concrete stairs. The walls were solid white and were dimly lit by night security lights. The door to the first subbasement was reached and opened. Slash peered around and saw no one. The walls were only four feet tall in this sector. Offices were separated by a few grids of these as far as she could tell by the dim light. Shadows snaked down the halls, carving light into odd shapes and strokes by the bookcases and supporting pillars. The team entered the floor and proceeded right along the hallway. "No guards until the elevator" spoke Nebulus into his comm. The team hugged the right wall, silently treading down the hallway, stopping every twenty feet to check to make sure no guards were walking rounds within the offices. Just because the security monitors didn't show any guards, there was no absolute guarantee. Sector 2 was finally reached. Nemesis looked at his watch. 5:11:43. Just a bit behind schedule, but nothing significant enough to worry about. "Let's take the stairs from now on" whispered Donna. "That way, they can't track us." "Forget it. The elevator's right nearby" darted Nemesis continuing on in the general direction of the elevator. 'Who the fuck does she think she is! This is my plan and my attack. She's just along for the ride!' They reached the corner of the hallway in front of the elevator. "Watch out! There's…" trailed Nebulus. "One. What's it like?" asked Nemesis, itching to get into a fight right about now. "Hold it right there! Don't move!" yelled a guard from behind the group. They slowly turned around as two more guards came from the elevator area. They all had on armored vests and carried high caliber handguns, all pointed at the group. "Sidney, call into base and notify them to send more people!" commanded the first guard, still pointing his gun at Slash. "Drop it now!" Nemesis faced the two guards that had come from the elevator and slowly started to pivot around towards Aberdon who was right behind him. Slash and Donna began to put their weapons on the ground, crouching in anticipation. "Base, this is" spoke a guard into his comm. "Now!" yelled Nemesis, laying down a spray of needlers at the two guards in front of him. Aberdon spun around in Slash's direction cutting the first guard to pieces with an array of silenced hard ammunition. Three guards now lay dead on the floor, their blood staining the carpet underneath them. "I told you we needed armor piercers" spoke Nemesis at Aberdon. "Anything less, wouldn't have killed them." "Too bad for standard armor vests. Next time, wear something better than that" scoffed Slash grinning over the dead bodies. "Team, what's up?" asked Nebulus over the comm. "Thanks for the warning, one. We just waxed three of 'em" replied Nemesis, dragging one into an office room. The other two were placed under the desks in one of the nearby offices as well in hope of temporarily concealing their presence. The elevator door was opened and the group entered, pressing the button for subbasement 4 on the panel. The doors shut and the elevator began to move down. "Guards in sector 2DD, report to sector 4DD immediately" spoke Nemesis into the security comm. He looked back at the monitors, bringing up the bottom two levels. 'More guards at the key points. More security blockades to bypass. Shit. Guards are moving in on the elevator in sector 2DD.' "One, this is God. Security ID failed. They won't listen to you now. Presently blocking communications to other sectors." "What the hell happened" asked Nebulus getting quite pissed by now that the plan was getting fucked up. "The security is tighter than I thought. Out." The elevator stopped, but it wasn't at subbasement 4. The team looked around and at the panel, trying to find out what was wrong. "Team, this is God. Break out of the top hatch and find another way back into the building. Security is on to you." "Shit!" yelled Nemesis very mad that the plan had failed. "We're still in so don't fuck up!" yelled Slash. "Everybody, get back!" yelled Aberdon, pushing the group to the opposing side of the elevator from the doors. He aimed his grenade launcher from under his gun, and fired at the floor, just under the doors. "NO!!!!" yelled Slash. Before she could do anything about it, the grenade impacted on the floor and exploded filling the cabin with fire, smoke and a shock wave that threw everyone to the floor. The far side of the floor blew out destroying the lower part of the doors as well. Slowly, Slash looked up to view the damage, her ears were ringing from the blast. Black smoke filled the cabin allowing almost no visibility. "Two. What the hell can you see?" she asked Nemesis, pulling him to sit up. He switched his eyes to infra-red and then to ultraviolet, trying to get a better picture of the cabin. "The floor's about half gone and the doors are severely damaged." The cabin swayed a little in the elevator shaft as the team began to regain itself. "One this is three. How the hell do we get out of here!" screamed Slash into her comm. The earphone just buzzed; the diaphragm completely shredded from the shock wave. "One this is three, come in." Nothing. "Shit! We're cut off! Why the fuck did you blow the elevator like that you moron!? You killed the goddamn comms!" she yelled throwing her comm to the ground. "Wait. Elevator ladder. Come on" said Nemesis venturing into the grayish-black smoke, his mask temporarily giving him a filter to breath through. His adrenaline pushing him onward, Nemesis crouched near the hole and reached out for the rung of the ladder nearest to him. "God, this is one. Secure fire alarms and all security sectors not in this area. I want my team to be shut off from everyone else. We've lost communications with them." Jack stood up from his playing board and proceeded to another one : another level of security. He sat down at the second board dressed in a Civil War General's uniform. The gold braids from his blue epaulets dangled near the surface as he closely looked over the terrain. He found where he wanted to be and placed his finger at the spot only to appear there instantly. He stood in the Union Army's camp under overcast skies looking around for the program he wanted to kill. "Young man, come here!" he yelled in a northern accent at one of the messenger boys. "Yes sir" the boy said breathing hard from carrying messages as he stood at attention in front of General Jack. His weathered uniform and tattered pants could hardly be classified as a uniform, but yet it worked well with his position. "Where can I find the lad who's carryin' the message about the fire?" "That'd be me, sir. I'm sorry I haven't gotten it out yet, but they blocked my normal way out and I can't get by." "Why don't you give the message to me and I'll make sure that it gets out, son" he said holding his gloved hand outward to the young boy. "But sir, I.." "Now, son!" he commanded, lowering his voice to a thunderous growl. "Yes sir." he replied giving Jack the message. He looked confused with the order, but was not about to disobey a general. "Now git goin' kid." The boy turned slowly around and then started to walk off looking for another problem to report. Then he collapsed about ten feet from Jack as his head exploded from the .50 caliber flint lock pistol ball that pierced the back of his head. No one paid attention as they were not programmed to monitor his operation. He landed face first into the muddy ground as Jack put the gun back in it's holster at his side and blinked out of the board, leaving the message to be erased. Nebulus had yet to be nervous, but he wasn't exactly calm anymore as he found the remote sensing information and popped it up on the screen of one of his monitors. After a little searching he changed the monitors to display the motion sensor and thermal sensor information from the different floors. 'Elevator shaft. What the fuck are they doing in a goddamn elevator shaft?' he thought to himself. "Hold it right there, mister!" yelled a guard from behind Nebulus. "Don't move, don't even breathe!" The guard and his two counterparts slowly walked around, surrounding him at the guard desk. "Do you really think we were that stupid!?" asked the guard. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my sector?" confronted Nebulus, unfamiliar with the uniforms. The guards were decked out in military-style commando garb, carrying heavy caliber rifles and explosives. "We're the other half of the security that you didn't take into consideration in your plan. Now shut up!" "Hey! There is no other side of security that I don't know about! Now put those guns down before I notify security and make this a big mess!" ordered Nebulus, standing up to face the leader of the group who stood on the other side of the security desk across from him. 'Shit. Heavy bore weapons, needlers, grenades and explosives. They really are military. Lieutenant DeGrace. Oh, shit…' he thought to himself as his eyes looked down to the ground in front of his adversaries' boots. A single hand stuck out underneath the desk. "Mistake number one, asshole. Now sit down" said Lieutenant DeGrace. He slowly gripped the arms of the chair and sat down, hoping that the commandos wouldn't take notice of what was on the monitors yet. 'Come on Jack. Call me. Call me.' "One this is God." "One is dead" was his only reply. The monitors blinked out and Nebulus' comm went dead as one of the commando's behind him grabbed him by the throat and forced him to the ground backwards, shoving a needler into his throat as his head firmly hit the floor. "Your body armor won't protect you from this, now will it" sneered the commando, living for the fight. Nebulus just laughed, and continued to laugh sarcastically until he was silenced with the butt of a gun against his head. "The hunt is on" spoke the Lieutenant into his comm. "Damn. Now what the fuck am I supposed to do?" Jack talked to himself in the net, surrounded by the playing fields and game boards of the blue lit room. "Wait. Who took him out?" He moved from board to board checking all the different systems that were running, personnel marks, timelines and on. With a single thought, twenty more boards came into play on the ceiling above his head. It was just like the feet of the tables were nailed to the ceiling. "Ah, I love tesseracts!" Jack announced with a smile as he changed perspective and jumped onto the ceiling to view the new playing fields : thermal and motion sensors of every floor in their sector. "Time for some fun!" By now the team had climbed down the elevator shaft ladder to within sight of the fourth subbasement. Nemesis lead the way down with Donna, Slash and Aberdon following closely behind. Their weapons slung and both hands holding onto the ladder, Nemesis pondered what an easy target they would be if anyone would open one of the doors and find them there. "Team this is God…God….God…" echoed one of the speakers in the shaft. Slash looked around, trying to find the source without any luck. "God, where are you!" Slash yelled, clinging onto the ladder, not allowing herself to look down. "I can't hear you, but I know where you are. Keep going and hurry up. One is dead so get out as soon as possible." "Shit!" screamed Slash. The reality of the challenge was at hand. 'Have we come this far only to be finished off. Goddamn it. I knew it was too big!' she thought to herself, as they descended closer to the elevator door. They reached subbasement 4 in no time and stopped to gather their weapons for an assault. "Guys, we're one minute behind schedule. Since Nebulus is out, I say we just take out everything in our way and get out in the same manner" Nemesis said, looking back up the ladder. 'Nice ass, Donna. We'll have to fuck when we get out of here.' "Let's do it!" snarled Slash. 'Pay back time. Now the fun begins.' As the team climbed away from the door, Nemesis pulled out a magnetic explosive and secured it to the doors, sliding down the ladder in time for the doors to be completely destroyed. Aberdon was the first into the hall. The doors were shredded onto the floor nearby and the bodies of two guards lay among the scattered debris. A quick look around and the shielded doors were closing quickly, locking the area out due to the explosion. The team reassembled in the hall. "Team, this is God. I can talk you through to the strike zone. Go forward to the first door and I'll open it!" he ordered. The team took off. Jack looked onto the master board for the sector, viewing what was going on. "Enemy on other side, door opening now!" he yelled into the microphone next to him on the table. The team crouched next to the walls as the door slid open. Four guards were waiting just like Jack had said, and were soon disposed of by a sneak attack of needlers and hard ammo as the door opened. They ran ahead down the hall, now lit by security lights. The concrete walls and hard metal doors concealed labs and computer rooms by the dozens as they continued down the straight, tiled hallway. "Six guards commin' from the right hallway!" yelled Jack. Nemesis and the team slowed down and slid next to the facing wall of the hallway. "Shutting blockade" said Jack as the solid metal shielding door fell into place, locking the guards out of range. The group continued on. Running towards the next intersection, Nemesis veered towards the left hallway. They turned into the hallway, only to be stopped by a solid door, again. Slash and Donna ran back a few steps, watching their backs. "God, we got a door" yelled Nemesis, knowing that he wouldn't be heard anyways. "Incoming!" yelled Slash as a squad of commandos came down the hallway in full force. Donna opened up and let out a spray of hard ammo, hitting a few, but having little effect. "Shit! They're armored!" she yelled as the two men got in position. Scraping fire bounced off the walls around Donna as she fell to the ground, trying to get out of the way of the action. "Now!" yelled Aberdon. He and Nemesis ducked around the corner with their weapons, laying down fire. The commandos taking cover against some of the walls that led into other hallways began putting down another layer of ammo at the two. Donna jumped out a little to thrown down a flash mine. She was nicked by two rounds in the chest and fell backward just as the mine exploded, sending up a high intensity flash explosion. Slash jumped out just as it went off and fired two mini- grenades which impacted directly above the cowering attackers. Aberdon and Nemesis took off down the hallway after the commando position and engaged themselves in the fight by firing at the commandos at point blank range. Taking a few hits each, they pressed through the group until they were out of ammunition. The smoke from the grenades had cleared and there were only a few more left. Nemesis picked up the nearest one and slammed his fist into his face, crushing every bone from the impact. The commando grabbed Nemesis' arm just as he was thrown into the wall behind him and forgotten about as Nemesis' attacked his next victim. Soon the floor was littered with bloodied camouflage, their broken armor not strong enough against specialized armor piercing rounds. Slash and Donna joined the two men in the middle of the battlefield. "Now this is what I call a fight!" yelled Nemesis allowing his adrenalizer to get the most of him. "Military commandos. Looks like we underestimated Cryon a little bit. Let's move" said Slash, leading the team back to the door. Reloads and armor checks were made. Scrape marks in her armor were only left in Donna's chest where she was hit. "5:14:39" said Nemesis. "Team, God here. Door opening in 2 seconds." "It's about goddamn time" hissed Aberdon. The door slid upward surprising the group who was ready for anything now. Another squad of commandos were lying on the ground, as if they had collapsed. "Nerve gas is great isn't it" came Jack's voice over the speakers. "That boy's crazy" blurted Slash. They relaxed their weapons enough to start running down the hallway towards the last blockade. Jack watched intently at the movement of the team from within the computers. "OK. Alarms deactivated. Explosives deactivated. Communications deactivated" he spoke to himself. He constantly went over the area again and again in a split seconds making sure that nothing would go wrong once the team was in place. The last blockade was passed without any problems. Labs with built in windows now lined the concrete substructure. The halls were relatively dark, but shadows from the security night lights lined the walls. "The lab should be up around the next corner" cautiously spoke Slash to Nemesis who was running side by side with her in the wide corridors. Weapons pointed forward, they slowed to a brisk walk to within inches of the intersection that led to the target site. 'There's got to be a squad here' repeated Nemesis in his head. 'Come on, let's go, let's go!' anxiously thought Slash, ready to get the job over with. "Intruder is using armor piercers. Stop them at all costs. It's up to you, McGletspy" Lieutenant DeGrace's voice came over the military comm to the guards posted out front of the labs for Project Revolt. 'Time to start the show' thought Nemesis to himself. He pointed to his eyes while holding a flash mine in his fingers. Everyone understood. They took their positions around each other, ready for attack as Nemesis slid the flash mine smoothly across the floor in the direction of the target. A second later, Nemesis' polarized CRI's viewed the four guards decked out in armored gear and heavy bore weapons as the flash mine went off, not too far from their position in front of the metal lab door. Heavily armored in urban camouflage, Kevlar II body armor and carrying anti-terrorist attack gear, the four commandos opened fire immediately after the flash dimmed. Their anti-radiation goggles protecting them from the burn of the mine allowed their weapons to pinpoint Nemesis' head in their sites, only to miss by his fast reflexes. "Four in armor!" yelled Nemesis over his shoulder while bringing his gun up for an assault. The barrage silenced for a millisecond. "Get back!" screamed Slash, pulling Donna with her. A minigrenade exploded on the corner wall and was followed by three more that left more shrapnel than damaged concrete. "Hold this" said Aberdon shedding his equipment pack, containing some of the explosives. "Let's do it!" he yelled, throwing two grenades into the hallway. Right after impact, he and Nemesis began the attack by charging into the intersecting hallway to face the commandos head on. Spraying needlers and hard ammo, the firing line pressed forward towards the commandos. Without time to react from the grenade, the commandos began taking damage as the onslaught continued on. Their armor being torn away from the ammunition, the guards soon fell to the ground without an escape route. A quick release from one of the commandos launched a minigrenade at the line. Moving out of its way, Aberdon and Nemesis lost position as the grenade exploded behind them. Unsatisfied, however, Nemesis took control by directly attacking one of the commandos in close combat. Weakened from the fire fight, the commando fought to gain balance as Nemesis picked him up off the ground by the throat, throwing his gun to the side for the challenge. Kicking with his bloodied leg and grabbing with his hands, the commando fought until Nemesis slammed his fist into his face. The anti-gas goggles exploded under the pressure. The commando went limp in Nemesis' hands as he pulled his fist out of the commando's face, leaving only a crushed and bleeding lifeless body to slump to the ground with a release of his grip. One other commando ran towards Nemesis, but was cut short as Aberdon gunned him down, finding weak points in the sides of his armor. Nemesis reached down towards one of his kills of the day to get another weapon in time to head kill one of the other guards preparing to fire on Aberdon. Weapons pointed at the head of the remaining one, Lieutenant McGletspy. Panting from the adrenaline rush, Nemesis lowered his barrel to walk closer to the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant's leg and chest were bleeding from needlers. He held his chest with his hand under his shirt, provocatively looking at the approaching Nemesis. "Eat me mother fucker!" yelled the Lieutenant, holding in his now exposed hand a death mine : a high explosive that personnel carry for hopeless situations. "Get out!" yelled Nemesis, running backwards and diving for the nearest intersecting hallway only a few steps away. Aberdon let out a few rounds into the Lieutenant's skull but not in time to silence the mine. A millisecond later, it erupted into a ball of fire, engulfing Aberdon. A cloud of fire flew down the corridors, running over the rest of the party that had taken cover by kissing the ground. The shockwave from the blast echoed its anger down the corridors until the fire itself had died away. Slowly Nemesis pulled himself up off of the ground. Putting out a few fires that had started on his suit, he gradually made his way back to the battlefield. Donna and Slash stood at the tip of a large blood pool. Aberdon's body was now in six pieces, his extremities lying on the ground near him. Blood stains and body parts cluttered the ceiling, walls and floor where the commandos had been. All their bodies were now soaked, burning and scattered all about the hall. Donna moved over to Nemesis and handed him her gun. "Gimme your K1 and let's get this over with" she softly spoke. Nemesis' large hand took hold of the grip and pointed it towards the facing locked door. He let loose a minigrenade which exploded, destroying the locking mechanism on the door. Donna turned back around towards the door only to be handed Nemesis' K1. The lab was lined with liquid beds and computer terminals with the large computer in the back. The whole room was barely large enough to contain the ten beds. The group got straight to work laying down the explosive packs and detonation arrays around the beds and supercomputer. "Sync check" said Nemesis as the last one was placed down. Donna took out the detonator and confirmed that they were all properly synced. "5:16:12. Time to move" said Slash, exiting the room first. Donna put on the last pack containing the party favors and left last, detonator in hand. The trek back down the halls was fairly simple. Their boots left a trail of bloodied bootprints from the last battle as they jogged down the hallways. The thought of where was Jack was on everyone's mind since they had had no contact with him for the past few minutes. A few more jogs to the left and right put them back at the stairwell. "5:16:49. Let's do it" said Slash looking at Donna. Nemesis went into the stairwell and proceeded to go up a flight and a half, checking for more guards. Slash followed, but not as far since she was Donna's backup. Donna was the last in and shut the door until only her hand with the detonator was sticking out, making sure that the structure would not interfere with the detonation. "Here we go!" she yelled up the stairs. 'Do it' she told herself as she pushed the trigger button down and pulled her arm in quickly. Donna began running upstairs as the explosions in the lab rocked the basement in a stunning blaze of fire and thunder. Sonic blasts blew out many of the windows as it ran down the hallways only to be followed by clouds of fire that engulfed everything in site. Multiple explosions could be distantly heard as the team regrouped on the third subbasement level and continued upward toward the main floor. "Watch it!" yelled Slash as they made their way to the bottom of the first floor's stairs. An infrared antipersonnel mine was seen on the wall next to one of the bottom stairs. A look skyward showed the explosive sitting, waiting for it's target to come through it's invisible trip line. Carefully stepping over the trip line, Nemesis led the way to the top door. 'This is just too easy of an escape' he thought to himself remembering many other raids whose exit was much tougher than it's entrance. He unfastened two grenades from his armor and proceeded to throw them into the hallway, shutting the stairwell door quickly behind them. "Grenade!!!" yelled a guard from inside the hallway. Nemesis' guess was right. The two exploded relatively at the same time. Nemesis quickly entered the smoky hallway and proceeded to fire at the four commandos who had taken posts on opposite sides of the stairwell door. Slash and Donna soon jumped into the hallway, taking posts on either side of Nemesis, guarding against additional intrusion. A few quick looks around only produced the four dead bodies on the ground. Nemesis reloaded. The party turned right from the stairwell door and proceeded with caution to the next intersection. They moved slowly with their weapons pointed straight ahead, searching for the way out while still knowing that they had to return to the original entrance to not only get out, but to also find out what happened to Nebulus. The first intersection was clear. "Donna. String a mine across here" ordered Nemesis who continued to move on. Donna handed the mine to Slash who plastered it to the opposing wall while Donna strung the device across the intersection. The lights began to flicker on and off. Then the siren was heard. The team stopped to look around. The electronic whirring of the fire alarm filled the entire hallway with its annoying tone. "Code 1 fire alert in subbasement 4. All personnel must evacuate these premises immediately" spoke a recorded voice from the speakers that Jack had been using previously. 'Why the hell are the alarms going off if Jack had control of the situation?' questioned Nemesis. "Jack must be out as well" said Slash. "Let's get the fuck out of here!" The team took off down the hallway. It was time to leave Cryon once and for all. The operation had taken long enough. Half of the team was either dead or taken out of the picture somehow. "Donna. Give me your gun and start preparing some party favors" yelled Slash taking Donna's gun. Donna took off her pack and sorted through the explosives and grenades, ready to hand them out when people needed to die. Passing another intersection, the team saw the back of the chair at the security desk. Nemesis waved his hand back at Donna and she put in it a high explosive, enough of a bang to destroy the room. "Hey man, catch!" yelled Nemesis. Nebulus turned around only to see the explosive heading his way. The guards hiding behind the walls still had their guns pointed at him if he screwed up. But then, what else could he do. The team stopped their advance and Nemesis shot two minigrenades into the room. Nebulus jumped from his chair and sprinted towards his team as the grenades went off and the explosive landed on the chair. The team took cover just as gun fire was heard, but was soon silenced by the deadening thunder of the explosive as it completely destroyed everything and everyone in the room. "Glad you still know what you're doin'" said Nebulus looking at the team. "We figured something was up, so I decided to make sure no one was in the room" replied Nemesis. "There may be more guards down the hallway." "Let's go." Getting up once again, the team continued down the hall and fought through the fire and debris of the security room. Finally advancing down the final hall, Nemesis emptied his gun of minigrenades and destroyed the entrance door and hopefully everything else that could attack them. Donna dropped off the party favors and they carefully exited the docking entrance. Nemesis was first away from the entrance and proceeded to move aside the manhole cover. The group got into the hole and Donna, being last as usual, pressed the detonator, igniting the explosives left in the pack. The docking area of the building erupted in fire and exploded sending debris everywhere. But, the team had already begun the trip through the sewers. The job was over. It was time to go home. Sitting in the van on the way back into the city, no one talked. The van took a corner and drove by the Cryon building, getting a good look at all the police and fire department personnel who were attacking the multiple fires in the building. The deep color of fire offset the light grayish color building in the morning light. The sun had just started to come up, but was still pretty early before daybreak. They soon turned into the city, taking their masks off. Cool Darkness by Matthew Carpenter Chapter 5 : A Thorn in Paradise "So what the hell happened in there?" questioned Nemesis looking towards the front of the van in Nebulus' direction. "I was watching you more than I was watching myself" told a disgusted Nebulus, completely shamed by his performance or lack there of. "At least you know a sign when you see one. What happened to Jack?" "What do you mean, what happened to Jack" rudely snapped Nebulus who turned around to give Nemesis the evil eye. "We lost him before we got to the strike zone. Where'd he go? I thought he was supposed to follow us all the way out." "I don't know. Maybe he bumped into ICE or something. Why don't we get back there quickly and find out" Nebulus pointed out to Donna who pushed her foot into the floor, accelerating the van as she drove on into the city. Not soon enough for Nebulus' liking, the van pulled in front of the garage door of the warehouse. Nemesis calmly hopped out of the back door of the van and proceeded to open the door. The van came to a quiet stop with the garage door crashing down behind it. The lights were still on; the office door to the underground comps was still shut. "Jack! Hey Jack! Where the hell are you shit-head!?" yelled Nemesis, feeling a little funny about the whole situation. Walking to the back of the van, he picked up his rifle and proceeded to walk towards the office door. He was followed by Nebulus and eventually Slash, who had had enough of Jack's clowning around. Screwing around on the nets is one thing, but leaving a team in the thick of a job is another. They approached the office door and found it still locked from the inside. Nebulus walked over to a nearby desk, reached into the top drawer and picked up a magnetic key. He returned to the door and inserted the flat key into the slot just under the door handle which produced a soft pop as the lock disengaged. Nebulus opened the door and the group peered in. The office was still the same : a few file cabinets, a metal desk with a wooden, rocking office chair, a single light at the desk with another one in the ceiling, and a small hand comp sitting at the right of the desk. 'Nothing is missing. Everything is cool…except' thought Nebulus. "Jack's gone." "What!?" wined Nemesis in disbelief of wherever Nebulus had derived this idea. "The chair's here. He should be sitting in it down in the room" stated Nebulus loosing his cool. "Bullshit. He and I changed that last week 'cause he wanted a padded chair so his butt wouldn't hurt so much" slapped Nemesis. "Huh!?!?" "Come on" said Nemesis entering the room and pressing the correct sequence of keys on the hand comp to enable the elevator to the comp room. Slash moved the chair out of the way as the plate under the leg area of the desk slowly began its decent into the comp room. Within 10 seconds it had hit bottom, about 12 feet below in the concrete dungeon where Jack roamed. "Jack. Hey, Jack..you down there!?" yelled Slash. No answer. "He's probably still in the nets. He'll never respond like that" spoke Nebulus. "Well there's only one way to find out" said Nemesis as he hang dropped from the desk edge into the dark pit. "Don…hunnn….you moron" Slash sighed under her breath. 'He never thinks about traps.' "Watch out for traps." Nemesis never heard her voice; his concentration on where he was and not what people were doing topside. He pivoted left in the direction of the comp room. The corridor to the room was normal sized with a low ceiling. The walls were made of cold concrete that still flaked grit when rubbed against. It was dark with a few streaks of light coming from the room, barely lighting enough for someone to see. Nemesis changed his eyes to night vision to see that was up with Jack. 'All right Jack, where the hell are you man.' He peered into the comp room. The two main comps on the far wall were humming as usual, the short ceiling making them look larger than normal. He walked further into the room. The four workstations were still running with their monitors running lines of info across them constantly. 'Jack. Where the hell are you.' He lowered his rifle. In fact he lowered it until the barrel almost scraped the ground. He stood completely erect and walked over to the wall where the control panel was. A single touch and a second panel came up. He closed his eyes as he turned the ceiling light on. His eyes were switched back to normal vision and he opened his eyelids. "Come on down, guys!" yelled Nemesis as he looked over at Jack who was still slouched in his padded chair, still jacked into the nets. "What's the deal!?" yelled back Slash. "He's here. Still in the net." The elevator platform began to move back up and in no time the rest of the team minus Donna was in the comp room. "I guess he's still in the net." "What the hell's he still doin' in there?" replied Slash quite disgusted at Jack now that he was still here and had left them in Cryon. "He must've run into something." sighed Nebulus looking at his foot as it tapped lightly on the concrete floor. 'What could he have run into? ICE? Naw, couldn't be. He's too good for that. Then again… Naw, he must be screwin' around or somethin'. But why would he leave us in Cryon to go screw around somewhere? I wonder if they got this thing up and running before we got there. Or what if they had another site, or if we attacked the wrong site! Couldn't be. We planned this thing to perfectly to hit the wrong site. Yeah, sure.' he thought to himself, especially after how badly they fucked the whole deal up. 'Well, there's only one way to find out.' Looking up he said "I'm goin' in" and started to walk towards the workstation next to Jack's. "What! You can't be serious. Let's just pull the plug and get him back" screeched Slash. "Yeah, right. And possibly loose him forever. He might be into something serious, and there's only one way to find out." replied Nebulus, putting a wireless jack next to his ports. "I thought you could track someone like that for cryin' out loud!" "We'll see about that." With that he sat in the chair and jacked in, wireless of course. "Well, let's get them prepared for a long trip. I can't see them coming back any time soon" softly spoke Slash. She and Nemesis turned to the one cabinet that had little components and things in it. The door was opened and two IV's were taken out by Slash. She walked over to the two and began to get Jack ready for insertion. Nemesis in the mean time began preparing the two nutrient bags. In no time, both Jack and Nebulus were outfitted with medical nutrient bags that fed into their system. That way they at least wouldn't dehydrate. Nebulus stood up from a kneeling position on the asphalt street of an unknown city. It was dark, actually gray in color and the clouds in the sky were moving very fast. The surrounding buildings stood like monuments compared to Nebulus' small body. A little piece of newspaper skipped by along the ground behind his feet. The long street he was looking down seemed to go on forever. The city was completely deserted. "Strange" he told himself outloud. "Oh, well, let's get going." He began walking in the direction of the first gate to get into mainstream cyberspace. A few steps and he leaned forward to the ground and shape changed into a sleek black sports car, one of the new European cars that can top 300 mph. Fat tires, no rear view mirrors; kinda like an old Countach he thought to himself as he squealed his tires and flew down the streets. "Great. Traffic jam already." In the near distance he could see lots of people trying to get into the gateway. "Always a bunch of jerks who don't know there way around the block yet." With a glance skyward, he pulled off the ground and moved a story or two above the rest of the traffic. Flying over the crown was fun. The first gateway was breached easily and he soon got back onto the road and cruised into the highways, the internet highways that connected to everywhere in the world, and then some. After only a little time, his speed began to slow. Actually he began to slow immensely, eventually coming to a complete stop. 'What the hell is going on?' he thought to himself, checking all of his systems. Then he began to shape change back into a person, except he hadn't chosen to do so. 'Somebody's taking control of my environment.' Then he began to fly backwards, completely out of control. He fought to stabilize and he tried to stop, but eventually was thrown back into the crowd of people waiting at the gateway entrance. With an additional thrust, he was tossed into the crowd, landing on the hard asphalt just like everyone else had. "What the hell is going on!" he yelled at the top of his lungs as he stood up, wiping himself off. The area around he began to change and soon he was standing on a computer generated grid. No streets. No buildings. Just grids. He continued to look around, finally running his identifier program. In a few seconds an arrow appeared pointing in the direction off to his right, toward the gateway. He started to push his way in that direction, searching for Jack. The gateway soon became clearer to him as it was a large billboard sign which read : The Cyberspace Mob now rules the nets Pay to Enter. Pay at your OWN Risk "What the hell is going on, here!" he yelled. "Oh shut up up there you asshole!" came from someone behind him. He turned around to see who the hell was yelling at him in a crisis like this. "Fuck you buddy!" he yelled back, not knowing who had yelled at him. He continued to push his way towards the front. Eventually he got within a few hundred feet of the gateway and recognized Jack only a few steps in front of him. "Jack, what the hell is going on here man!?" asked Nebulus as he reached his companion. "What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were still in Cryon." "I was. We got back already. What the hell happened to you?" 'Take a look. One second I was in, the next I was pulled out by these guys. Do you believe this shit. They've taken over all the surrounding gateways and there's no way in or out to another gateway." "What do you mean. You can't even break it?" "No one can" explained Jack in a sorrowful tone of voice. "I've found a few friends here and they can't break it. Whoever made this isn't working for the government, military or a company. This is straight from the underground. All I can figure is that it's written in a new AI language that actually learns who you are and how to keep you from getting into the gateway if you haven't paid." "You mean to tell me that someone is holding the gateway hostage?" "Yep. The funny part is that no one has any idea who could've pulled a stunt like this off. This is beyond professional. I can't even tell where it's coming from." The two stood around almost as lost as everyone else. It was getting more crowded as time went on and eventually, Nebulus had had enough. "Get a site set up so we can start attacking this thing from the inside out." "Yeah right" replied Jack completely disgusted now. "Don't you think I've tried it already in about a thousand configurations, only to get tossed back without getting any further into the system. I told you once you moron, the more you do the more it understands about you, which means that it can stop you easier every time you try something new." "So how do we get the fuck through" blazed a beyond frustrated Nebulus. "So what should we do now?" asked Nemesis, peering towards the elevator. After standing there for ten minutes, his patience had run out and a bar run was the first thing that ran into his head. "I know. How about some Black Oil?" "That dump. Naw, I'm not in the mood" casually replied Slash. "How about Hot Kicks" she said with a sly grin growing on her face as she looked into Nemesis' eyes. "You gotta be kiddin' me. We don't fit into a place like that." "That doesn't keep you from screwin' every chic with big tits, long legs, and stockings pulled up to her crotch that works there now does it?" she kidded pulling him towards the elevator. "Jealous?" he asked with a smirk. "I'm coming in my pants just thinking about you" she joked as they stood on the elevator platform. She pressed her hand against the wall where a hidden panel was and the platform began to rise. Topside, they walked out of the office to find Donna sitting in one of the office chairs in front of a desk off to the side of the warehouse. "Everything OK with Jack?" "Who knows. Nebulus went into the matrix to fetch him" replied Slash. "Hey. We're gonna go to a bar. Wanna come?" "Sure. But first, where's my money?" she said getting back down to business. "Nebulus handles that and he is preoccupied right now." Donna wasn't too pleased about this. In fact she was getting quite pissed off as she stood up to face Slash. "Chill woman. It's not like we're gonna forget you. Jeez." "Hey. A job is a job. Now it's done and I want my money!" "Look honey, you ain't gonna get paid until he gets out of the nets so why don't you just pack that bitchy attitude of yours away and chill out until he is free. This job ain't done until we're all back and we got two in the nets!" snarled Slash, frowning her brow. Nemesis looked on at the 'cat fight' as he called it between the two. 'Wait a minute.' He looked at Donna's forehead. 'Zoom in. More. There. Now look at that. Sweat. And it's not even hot here, either.' He moved his gaze down to her hands. 'Same thing, and even a little twitchy.' He panned back up to her chest which was expanding and contracting a little faster and larger than he would've expected. He switched his eyes to IR, trying to get a thermal scan of her body. To no avail, the combat suit that she still wore blocked most of the signals coming from her body and canceled his experiment. "All right. Chill out. Why don't you take a shower and get changed and I will pull Nebulus out in time for him to pay you. Then we can go to the bars. OK?" stated Nemesis. "Where the hell am I gonna…" "There's a shower in the bathroom over there" he said pointing to a door along the office wall, "and your extra clothes that you brought are still in the van, right?" "Don't EVEN think about pullin' somethin' stupid, Nemesis" she warned with a glare. Nemesis didn't move and didn't loose eye contact until she turned around to get her stuff out of the van. Slash took his arm and turned him to fact her. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" she scowled in a low voice. "Trust me." By now, Jack and Nebulus had jumped in and out of cyberspace at least a dozen times, trying to trick the gateway or get past it somehow. Each time they would bring in different attack programs and loose them just as quickly as the 'Cyberspace Mob' would find them and erase them, or make them unusable. There were now about five people in a group around Jack and Nemesis; all of whom knew each other through one facet or another. "So where do we go from here?" sighed one of the guys. "We have to find another way around it. Everything we've tried has failed. Period. And I can't see any way around it" said Jack. "So the cybermaster Jack has finally met his match. How interesting" stated Nebulus, getting more excited at the prospect of what seemed like the ultimate challenge. "I wouldn't say that so soon. It's just going to take some time to figure out how to get around it" replied Jack, letting the comment fly over his head. "So where are we?" asked one of Jack's friends. "Simple. We can't get past without paying, which is completely absurd. We know it's not being done by the government, military, a company, Mogul, Nestroth and a few other groups. But that leaves a lot of names that, although I can't figure who could've masterminded this, could be responsible for it" stated Jack. Someone else spoke up. "Well, attack and defense programs don't work. It can tell who we are and seems to know our strengths and weaknesses. Camouflaging doesn't help since it kills that first. I don't think if we sent ICE against it it would even work." "What! Are you nuts. How the hell would you SEND ICE after it. There's nowhere to keep it connected to to run it" heckled another. "Yes there is and that's exactly what we're gonna do" spoke Jack, standing up and pacing around in a very small circle. "We can attach it to the gateway itself. It's identifier must still exist or we couldn't have gotten here." "Yeah, but it'll already know how to kill ICE." "Yeah, but I know a way to make it so they can't track it or disarm it" ecstatically spoke Jack. "Everyone jump out and meet me at my comp room in 1 hour." Donna came out of the bathroom wearing a short mini with tights underneath it, highlighting her legs with black spandex. Her wet hair left trickles of water on her leather short jacket that covered a tank top. 'Switch to IR. Focus and zoom on chest area. Just as I thought.' "You definitely look sexy tonight, woman" yelled Nemesis from across the warehouse. He hopped off the desk he was sitting on and approached her. "So where's Nebulus with my money, macho man?" she said with a smirk in her smile. "This way, my lady" he said, raising his left hand, palm up, to take hers as a rightful gentleman should. She placed her right hand in his with a flirtatious smile. He slowly started to turn around and Donna began to take a step forward to accompany him. Quickly, Nemesis spun back in her direction, landing a bone- breaking fist in her stomach. Instantaneously, she fell to the ground as if life had been sucked out of her. She laid on the ground in a fetal position, holding her stomach, completely unable to breath from the attack. Nemesis looking over to Slash who was sitting at a desk, giving her the signal. She rose from her chair carrying a needle. Nemesis reached down and gripped Donna's jacket firmly by the shoulders and ripped it down her arms so that they were bare from her shoulder to her elbow. She winced in pain, still unable to breath. Nemesis reached his hand up and received the needle from Slash. "Nighty night, my little spy" cooed Nemesis with a devil's grin, as he injected her with the tranquilizer. "Nighty night, bitch" spit Slash. Cool Darkness by Matthew Carpenter Chapter 6 : A Slap in the Face "Whew. Man oh man. This one's gonna hurt" said a sweaty Jack as he faced his sidearm, Nebulus. He stood up and staggered over to the bathroom stall that was on the other side of the elevator to relieve himself. Nebulus just sat there rubbing his eyes. After a few seconds he stood and walked over to the elevator platform and momentarily waited for the chair to come down. "Where the hell you goin'?" yelled Jack from the stall. "I'm gonna check on the others and tell them what's up. We're gonna need some info from the streets and fast …." he trailed off in his own thought as the chair arrived. He sat down and got to the office floor in no time, listening to Jack rant and rave about what he had just said. Nebulus' brow was furrowed, now, and time had taken it's toll on him. He walked out of the office to notice the van was missing. "Goddamn, stupid son's of bitches!" he yelled, spinning around to look at the whole warehouse. "Those dumn fuck's! If it's the last thing I told them it's to stay put! Jesus!" he fumed slamming a fist into the desk he began to sit at. A thousand swear words ran through his mind and his head began to throb. Closing his eyes, he sat back in the hard wood chair thinking about the job, running his fingers through his hair. 'Of course, we first had to fuck the job up. Then we actually had to run into this damn mob. Who the hell would dare to be a mob on the nets. Who would have the capabilities. Hmmmmm. "The government" his eyes flashed open. "Nah. Couldn't be" he said to himself with a quirky smile that almost gleamed with getting the answer, and then laughed at it's stupidity. "But it would be the perfect front to run us down….legally. Well, kind of. Shit." He opened the top desk drawer and took out a few plastic bottles of pills. He popped a few in his mouth and downed them with a flat can of Coke that had probably been there more than a day. "What's the matter with you!" yelled Jack from the office's entrance. "How many times have I told you not to get drugged before you jack in. Especially now. What the hell do you …" "Oh shut up and take this!" said Nebulus throwing a bottle to Jack. He caught it with a rattle and looked up very disgusted almost in disbelief at what Nebulus was implying. "Relax, it's caffeine. It'll wake you up." "I'm not tired" replied Jack walking towards Nebulus. He screwed the cap off the bottle and put a pill in his mouth. He reached the table, putting the closed bottle down and picking up the can of Coke. "That's been there awhile, you know" muttered Nebulus. "I know. I opened it last week" he said with a smirk. * Slash had been driving the van through the back streets of the city for about ten minutes until she came to the designated spot Nemesis had told her to go to. The tall buildings surrounding them sent shadows out to swallow up the surrounding sidewalks, almost requiring a street lights to light up the broken and graffittied walls that surrounded them. "So where the hell do we go from here?" she asked, leaning over her shoulder to get a glimpse of Nemesis' back. He was leaning over Donna who was still out cold. Her arms were tied together with unbreakable plastic ties that were laced from her wrists up to her elbows. Her hands had turned pale from lack of blood in her hands. Her legs were tied in a similar manner, one that Nemesis found a certain liking to. "There should be a garage door around here somewhere that has the word 'Ixzer' graffettied on it in red" replied Nemesis who had turned to look out the front windshield. "Just go slow and we should be able to see it better." "I can't see a goddamn thing with Ixzer on it" whined Slash, getting quite frustrated with the whole secretive situation. 'First you don't tell me where we're going, then what we're doing. You dumb shit! I don't see why I ever listen to you.' She slowly eased her foot on the accelerator and let the van drift down the alleyway, nearly scraping the sides of it on one of the buildings. "Stop here. Turn the engine off" spoke Nemesis in a hushed voice as he popped the sliding door open and slowly began to push it out of his way. "What's the silence for man? I don't see any Ixzer." Without a reply, he jumped out of the van, landing his combat boots on the broken asphalt and turned around to scoop up the still unconscious Donna. Throwing her over his shoulder, he walked in front of the van and stood in front of the garage door. Slash got out and stood behind him still unsure of what was about to happen. 'Switch to UV.' Ixzer appeared on the door, just as he had said. He slowly moved to the wall on the left side of the door and allowed Donna to slide from his shoulder, landing soundly on the concrete with a thud. "Well I see we're in a good mood today" smirked Slash getting a kick out of Nemesis' behavior. 'He's finally back to his old self' she smiled to herself, looking down at Donna. 'Bitch.' Her smile was broken as the wall Nemesis was touching broke open and a small camera appeared in front of his face. She took a step back, getting into a combat stance. Her claws extended instantly. He never moved. "Enter password" stated a speaker originating from near the camera. "Zephia 12 Luther Mia" replied Nemesis. The camera disappeared as the wall rebuilt itself, hiding the broken area. A couple of loud noises came from within the garage and the door slowly began to open. Nemesis bent over and scooped up Donna's body and began walking into the garage. Slash followed a little hesitantly behind her companion, still with her claws out and ready. She really hated being uninformed. "Stop right there!" came a deep, husky male voice from within the darkness of the garage. The two of them had barely gotten ten feet within the building. "Who's there!" yelled Slash from behind her companion. "Nemesis. How's it goin' mon?" "Not too bad Doc. Got a little present for you." "Another hooker. Don't you know I gave them up for lent?" "No hookers this time. A tinker toy to take apart." By now, Slash was completely confused. 'What the hell is going on? How is this guy and where the hell is he?' she thought trying to look into the darkness. "Do we get to have some fun this time?" "You got it." "Bring her in." The lights flashed on, slightly blinding Slash for a second. The garage door immediately slammed down into the concrete that startled the always calm Slash. "Will someone please tell me what the fuck is going on!" yelled Slash at the top of her lungs. Nemesis turned around slowly eyeing her weirdly. "Slash, meet Doc. He's a techie friend of mine. He likes to take things apart and see how they work." He turned towards Doc and began walking in his general direction. "Doc, this is my friend Slash. She's with Nestroth" he said pointing a thumb in her direction. "Hey ya sexy" he said looking her over. She looked him over back. He stood almost as tall as Nemesis, but had black hair down to the middle of his back that flowed as he turned around to lead Nemesis to the door behind him. He walked with a limp to the left side and had a cybernetic left arm as well. 'He must've gotten into something' thought Slash to herself as she began to follow the two men towards the door, her claws finally retracting. It was unlocked with a pass card and led to a set of stairs leading downward. Doc led them down. Nemesis bumped Donna's head on the door frame. Slash just had to let out a small laugh at that. They arrived at a another door that lead into a cybernetics lab, or something that looked like one. Donna was placed on the medical table in the middle of the room. There were tools of all sorts lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Off to the left side were large tools for more heavy equipment, including what looked like a modified military gatlin gun. "I take it you like weaponry, sweetie?" smirked Doc seeing Slash look the gun over. She looked at him with an anticipated smile that said yes. "Hmm. Maybe I'll let you take her for a ride tonight." He turned towards Nemesis who was cutting Donna's bonds with one of Doc's molecularly sharp blades. "So what the hell's with this chic anyways?" asked Doc. "She worked with us on our last project, but she's got something in her chest that I think is a bug. It's the only thing that explains why we ran into shit." "How do you know?" "Look at her under IR. You'll see something really black there." "So you want to cut her open and see what we can see?" "Let's see if she will talk first." The two men took her arms and legs, cuffing them to the four corners of the table securely. Doc took out an antidote for the sleeping chemical Nemesis used on her, and injected her with it. In a few moments she came to trying to wipe her eyes with no luck from the restraints. She looked up to see Nemesis looking right into her face. Doc was busy putting on a surgeon's hat, mask and gloves. 'Interesting difference from the mechanics suit there Doc' Slash told herself as she too walked towards Donna. "Who are you working for Donna?" asked Nemesis in a very calm voice. "What the hell are you doing? Untie me at once, you moron!" she screamed back testing her restraints. "I don't think so sweetie. I think you set us up, which is why you've got a bug in your chest. So why don't you just tell us what is going on" he said politely. "I'm not working for anyone. And I don't have anything in my chest you, idiot! Now let me go!" she screamed. Doc walked around and attached two electrodes to her head and turned on a scanner that monitored certain parts of the brain for brainwaves. "What the hell is that? Who is he?" "Donna, I'm only going to ask you one more time, before I cut your chest open and find out what the hell you have in there. Now, tell me, who are you working for" he said in a very deep voice that began to frighten Donna even more. His frowned brow made her look at him with wide eyes, fearing that he was serious. She thought for a moment, and then just made her eyelids very narrow and matched his frown with hers. "Fuck off bastard" she replied in a low tone. Nemesis bent down until his face was less than a centimeter away from hers without changing his expression. "Have it your way, my dear." He moved his lips down to hers and gave her a small kiss on the lips. She didn't kiss him back. He withdrew his face from hers, standing straight up, and removed the electrodes from her head. "We won't be needing these" he said tossing them to Doc. He looked back down at Donna and saw the fear in her eyes, yet also saw her determination as well. He moved his right hand up to his left shoulder and quickly sent it flying across Donna's face, slapping her cheek so that the side of her face bounced off the table. Blood began to trickle from the corner of her mouth as she turned to glare back at Nemesis whose facial expression still had not changed. "You asshole. I'm gonna kill you, you son of a bitch!" she screamed. Starting to violently pull on her restraints, she yelled and screamed until Doc had had enough. "Time to put her to sleep, I think." "Not this time. I want her to feel this" snarled Nemesis. Donna barely caught what he said and gasped a little in anticipation. Nemesis nodded to Slash who was getting a kick out of the torture being induced by Nemesis. 'It's good to have him back' she thought to herself. She walked to Donna's right side and smiled at her. Donna only caught a glimpse of her out of her peripheral vision. Stroking her stomach, Slash began feeling Donna's lower ribs and stomach. Then raised her strong arm and let the side of her fist slam into Donna's stomach, just below her sternum. Donna sucked in her breath and pulled at her cuffs as her face turned red from her breath being knocked of out her. She finally relaxed a little and began taking short breaths. Nemesis stood above her head still and pulled her jacket away as much as possible from her chest. He then reached into her top and in one swift pull, ripped the top of it and her bra open. She struggled underneath him to no evail as his hands went further down to grab the divided material at the edge of the tear. In another pull, her top was in two and he pulled the parts to the sides to reveal her bare chest and white breasts. Her nipples were slightly hard from her treatment, something that Slash took note of. She slowly caressed both of Donna's breasts, allowing her touch to become rougher as her claws extended a few inches from her fingertips. Her slight smile of playfulness changed to a devilish grin as she moved her fingers to the underside of Donna's breasts and pushed her claws into the skin below them. Not wanting to be outdone by what was sure to be effective torture by Nemesis, Slash began to drag her claws down towards Donna's navel. "Now who are you working for Donna?" asked Slash now enjoying the fun as well. "Nobody! I swear I'm not working for anybody!" she screamed. Tears were now running from her eyes as she tossed her head from side to side. Slash only pushed in harder until blood coated much of her lower stomach. 'I've had enough of this shit' thought Nemesis as he reached over for the molecularly sharp blade he had cut her bonds with. He placed the edge of it next to the tendon in her right peck. Slash reluctantly pulled her claws out of Donna as she saw what Nemesis was about to do. "Donna, why did you set us up. Tell me or you will regret it" he spoke in a stern voice after waiting impatiently for an answer. "Go to hell!" she yelled. The pain and realization of the situation, finally breaking her. "Fine. Slash put a gag in her mouth. I don't want any of her childish screams to hurt my ears" he said. Slash complied by stuffing a dirty rag in her mouth and stepped back as Nemesis began slowly cutting the tendon in her peck. Her screams were muffled by the rag, but her tears and struggling movements only made the pain worse. The tendon finally broken and Donna let out a ear-piercing shriek as the tears rolled down her face freely. "That's enough, Nemesis" said Doc as he came over to Nemesis who was getting ready to start on the other shoulder. He placed the end of a silver device that looked like a gun to Donna's throat and pulled the trigger. She jerked and then collapsed to the table, unconscious. "Making her squirm is not going to get the info you want man." "You know how much I hate people who stab me in the back." "Let's just get what you came for and forget about it, all right?" spoke Doc in a soft tone of voice, a little shocked by the whole situation. "You're the doc. Let's see what's in her chest." He removed the blade from her shoulder and stepped back as Doc began to stop the bleeding in Donna's stomach with a laserstitch. After removing the gag in her mouth, he began working on stopping the extensive bleeding from her shoulder. To Nemesis' wishes, he finally cut into her chest with a scalpel. Doc brought over a few instruments to determine just where and what the black box in her chest really was, then began to go after the prize. "Jesus Christ! This thing is really in her. Someone really did a good job on her when they put it in." Doc continued to try and get a better look at the black thin box that was lodged under Donna's sternum, near her collar bone. "How the hell could she breath for cryin' out load?" The frown on Doc's face spelled a tough job, and probably one done by a pro. He continued to open her up enough to get at the box and finally cut the thin metal rings that were securing it to her sternum. A soft digital pulse emanated from Donna's direction, and then a hushed pop silenced all sound in the room. Her head and body jerked slightly and then went limp again. Her heart drastically slowed until coming to a complete stop within seconds of the diminished sound. "Damn" softly stated Doc, keeping his hands still. "What?" questioned Slash and Nemesis almost in unison. "Shoulda known. Oh well. Let's see what we can see." He slowly pulled the box out from under Donna's sternum, not bothering to put her back together more than letting the torn skin slide back into place. Taking the box over to the sink, he removed most of the blood from the box with a damp towel and put it under a lamp to get a better look at it. 'Edging at the sides, not too tough. No markings, no noticeable points, oh hey, there's the trigger mechanism' he thought looking at a very small silver line down the inside of the clips. Nemesis and Slash becoming bored with the subject at hand, retired to opposite sides of the room to lean on the walls, waiting for something to come out of the box that would give them a clue to Donna's true loyalties. Doc picked the box up and moved it over to the work table and placed it on a ceramic flat plate that was situated under one of his analyzers. Within a few minutes he had run IR, UV, X-ray and a few other tests just to see what was in the middle of the black box. He then took a small tool and began wedging the corner of it open until the lid popped up. Slowly, he lifted it off and revealed the small transmitter board that the X-ray scan had shown. "So what do we got?" gruffly asked Nemesis, still pessimistically leaning on the wall. "Transmitter box. It essentially controlled the bomb. However, it could have been triggered by someone else with some form of an electronic signal." "So she had a fail safe in her, huh?" he said moving closer to Donna again. He brushed her cheek with his index finger and moved his face close to hers. "You got outta this easy wench" he whispered to her. Standing up, he moved over to take the box in his hand. "So can you figure out who made it or who could detonate it?" he asked looking at Doc. "Maybe. It'll take some time." "Contact me in the usual way in one day" replied Nemesis as he handed the box back to Doc and motioned Slash to following him out the door. "What about your woman?" "Oh yeah." Nemesis grabbed a nearby trash bag and worked it over Donna's head and torso after removing her bonds. He scooped her up so that she was crunched upside down into the bag and then proceeded to head up the stairs. As Doc verified the garage door closing from his wall monitor he dialed into his telecom and waited while the security codes played their game before opening a screen. "What is it?" came Nebulus' tired voice. "We've got a few problems."

"So what the hell are you going to do with her?" 

reprimanded Slash as she drove into the next alleyway.

"Pull up next to that dumpster over there?"  The van 

stopped and Nemesis pulled Donna's body out of the van, throwing it into the dumpster without a care. He returned to the van to fetch a can of gasoline and proceeded to pour some of the can's contents onto Donna's body. He returned to the van and picked up an old oil rag. Lighting it, the van began to move away as he threw it into the dumpster and slid the van's side door shut.

/data/webs/external/dokuwiki/data/pages/archive/stories/cooldark.sto.txt · Last modified: 1999/08/01 17:26 (external edit)