Blue Roses Part 4

by Blaine L. Winston


“Deckar we’re under fire, status report now!” Hannigan screamed through the encrypted line, his hand throbbing where flesh, bone and muscle used to exist.


                The nano-tempered glass was able to withstand a direct blast from most ordinance yet these shots were from ion weaved rounds, military grade and expensive to manufacture. The glass was penetrated like a baseball through a wet paper towel and the fist-sized holes in his chamber doors were telltale.  Somebody wasn't pleased with his handling of today's event but wouldn’t an anger-filled, terse vid call have sufficed instead of perforating his lair and trying to wipe him from memory?


“Sir, the perimeter is flanked in the front and rear. Air units in a count of fifteen are about to fan out around the tower. Detection of another twenty ground units poised to enter the front. The remaining forty-eight are coming to the rear.  Snipers are using jam lines but I can see their signatures on my radial scan.” Deckar didn’t mess around.


Shit, shit, how could I not have anticipated this?  Kevin screamed in his mind, off the encrypted line. He did still want to keep one aspect of his humanity intact, private, and somewhat safe. But he jacked back on. “Grab Yuan and head to the comm room, I will meet you there.  Start the sequence once you two reach the hatch.”


“Understood sir, and if you are not able to make it?”


“Order number twenty six is in effect, Deckar. Simple. Move out.”


                Hannigan sealed off the windows with neotitaniumite blast shielding, enough to hold off the ion burst rounds that the snipers used.  He had his side arm and enough rounds to fend off at least a third of what was to be headed his way.  Running sequences and scanning the ether chatter he may be able to pinpoint, if he was lucky enough, his attackers of the one who paid for the barrage. The shielding was being pelted with rounds, noticeable stress marks forming along the almost indestructible doors. There wasn't much time. He swiftly entered commands into his terminal. All of his data was stored remotely besides the sensitive documents that could only be guarded by himself.  The upload wasn’t moving as fast as he would like, wireless node transfer never were, but he had no choice but to bear down until it finished or he died.  He triggered the twenty six command, then finished his drink. If he made it out alive, it would be awhile before he would be able to obtain finer spirits. 


                A sniper round burst though the surrendering shielding, the doors splintering into large shards of misshapen metal. A volley of sniper fire hit his desk as he dove towards the fractured doorway.  Gathering himself quickly he ran down the hallway towards the stairs, when he met his first set of ambushers.  He ran as fast as he could to get to the secure wall that contained some of his heavier arsenal, meeting some more ambushers that were dispatched faster than the last.  Still carrying sixty rounds, with another forty paces to the secure wall, Hannigan noticed that the barrage had stopped, no more troopers were advancing on him.  Treading carefully he saw his chance. He rounded the corner making barely a sound and reached the secure wall.  He slapped his palm on the disguised sensor, revealing a small arsenal that could equip a militia.


The nano transfer was nearing completion, seventy four percent.  He selected his burst rifle, some extra magazines and his favorite micro thermo grenades. He closed the secure wall and proceeded down the alternate flight of stairs. No sign of the intruders but something didn't seem quite right. Making it to the floor he peered around the corner. There were a few mercenaries with their backs to him but he could clearly see what they were looking at; the slain Deckar and a group of ten surrounding Yuan’s unconscious form.  He popped into view with his gun primed. It wasn't a fair fight, but he never played by the rules. And nothing was ever fair.


                They took notice of Kevin. He saw eight of the ten holding a steady aim on Yuan's still body while the others holding aim on him. A brief scan detected another group in flank, ready to hit him hard and fast. One of the men walked slowly towards him, aiming at his head. Kevin could hear scrambled chatter but his gear could decrypt it as fast as his Decker.  A projection beamed from the mercenary's gauntlet and Kevin knew the face before it even finished loading.  Romanus, greasy looking even with the holographic distortion, held a thin smile along his calm face.


“Hannigan, soooooo good to see you again.” The long, unnecessary enunciation of a one-syllable word annoyed Hannigan to no end. He wanted to punch the pretentiousness out of Romanus’ smug face.


“Pieter, I can’t say the same but I would like you to know that my Deckar was very expensive and once you kindly unfuck yourself, I would like a reimbursement.”


Romanus’ laughter filled the room as the soldiers gazed unwaveringly at Hannigan.


“Kevin, bitter to the bitter end you are, my friend. These little desperate jobs of yours are over. Call it an early retirement, so to say.  You’re just getting too close to ruining a partnership that will ensure the victory of Alta Mira and my seat at the top of the food chain will be waiting for me, regardless of what you may try.” Hannigan resisted the urge to espouse how eerily close Romanus sounded like a villain outlining his plans to his soon-to-be vanquished enemy.


                Hannigan purged his ridiculous thought and looked at the Deck, explosive tips to the head, torso and legs, all the major data points.  He wondered how long they had left. He had finished his node transfer moments ago, and while Romanus gave his tired speech he began running patterns that were muted to anyone but the keepers of his secure hash. So far he had sixty percent of the troopers downed with his own arms, the rest would be dealt with soon after.


Romanus droned patronizingly and seemingly bored, “Hannigan, thorn in my side, dear comrade and brother in arms I respect you and your work immensely but we both know how this works. Your time has passed. Like all good things coming to an end, your passing will be nothing more than a dark spot on my suit.  You were valuable to me but a nuisance, a curious, sanctimonious pain in my side.  Let me show you how I deal with my nuisances.”


                Five of the squad fired on Yuan, explosive tips, even though her augs were so few and the tips were a waste to use on someone with so little hardware.  The sight of her being shredded was harder to bear even after what Hannigan had seen war side.   His mind was erupting with a fury that most would never touch upon. A sea of magma waiting to explode out of the volcano he was beginning to become.


“Kevin, I don’t feel like allowing you any last words, busy men have tight agendas as you well know.  Good knowing you. Toodles.”


Kevin spit, “Rot in hell, you fuck. You’re gonna pay dearly for this.”


                The gunfire burst through him as the tips exploded, leaving gaps in his frame.  His nearly robotic nature was exposed as the world grew dark and he watched them advance in one final flash.


Romanus ordered, “Purge the building and everyone around it within five miles.  Make it clean and fast, now go.”


                Romanus signed off and the crew began their work, planting charges and eliminating the surrounding data feed terminals.  The crew worked quickly never realizing what was about to occur.  Twelve minutes later Hannigan’s home and the surrounding block were incinerated with a clean neutron blast. Nothing remained, the air hot and wild as the wind carried it away from the valley.  The crew never knew what hit them and Romanus was certain it was Kevin's last stand. There remained no trace of Kevin Hannigan or his crew and for Romanus it was enough to set forth, to put his plans into motion.


                The DataStream was a wild world or rather a collection of worlds created by many authors and one’s entire consciousness could traverse freely with little way of regulation.  This was a task that took centuries to accomplish and storing your entirety within the DS was easily accessible to the wealthy however the rest had to rely on their nanoports and high speed access which was much too slow. 


                Romanus stared at his terminal feeds with an eager grin. The time for him to strike was within his sights and he wanted the prize more than ever.  Alta Mira wasn't his only means, he had corporations under his palm for decades where shadowy dealings, assassinations, and espionage were the new aspects of modern warfare.  He did miss the smell of expended rounds, the fire and blood mingling in the air. Now he relied on the intricate weaving he's been performing and those caught in that web were about to feel their innards being drained.  He moved his attention to the vid screen displaying the news feed. Carlo Malken has gone missing, on the eve of a giant deal that would make him the wealthiest independent merchant on this hemisphere.  Malken was the pioneer in low orbit deliverer systems, VertiGrav Parcel. They worked so efficiently even the military was using them.  He waved his hand at the screen and zoomed in on a figure whom was bound to a chair, blindfolded in a dingy, dark cell.


“Carlo,” Romanus spoke calmly. “Look at the fate you've brought upon yourself.  I only asked for you to play along and you'd live the rest of your life without pain. In glorious riches and unfounded power.”


                Carlo struggled a bit. Romanus swiped his hand and Carlo's body arched back, his mouth opened wide but his screams silent; Romanus had muted him out hours ago. The sounds of suffering were no match to watching Kevin Hannigan's demise.


Romanus sneered, “My dear boy, you have no chance of leaving this cell. Soon, I will have most of your shares with my hungry little hands in all of your pies. You could have avoided all of this, you know? You could have saved your family, your loved ones, your lovers and mistresses, your employees but your greed,” he trailed off and chuckled slightly, “your greed is immeasurable.”


                He swiped his hand again and Carlo's head slumped down, his breathing labored. Pieter minimized the screen and resumed the story of Malken's disappearance. He had been receiving encrypted messages all day from his executive staff, mostly metrics of how the acquisition would generate volume within Alta Mira or how the R&D departments were ready for all projects that were to come.  With all the pieces fitting perfectly together, Pieter was ready to explore his next steps as it seemed he had nothing but a smooth road ahead.  He opened his blinds to let the sunlight in, he enjoyed the natural sun unlike most, and laughed quietly as a VertiGrav descended from the heavens.


As Romanus reveled in his own glory, Hannigan gathered himself together. He still wasn't used to being divided up into trillions of bits and caught up with the Deckar. He was carrying Yuan's CUI (Cyber Unified Intelligence) stream within his own avatar and as they travelled through their encapsulated line towards a location in the southern Urals, communication was restricted so as to avoid any trace.  Hannigan knew he’d miss that place but where they were headed and the help he knew they could gather was far too important than sentiment, yet emotion ran wild in the ether and Yuan being unconscious was a luxury.  Another hour and they would arrive. In sixty minutes they would be renewed in military grade war bodies and Kevin was about to launch a signal that would raise more hell than Romanus could ever muster. There was no other choice.


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