Biological Storage: Five
Posted By: Dagorath<email@example.com>
Date: 7 April 2006, 12:46 pm
Will sped along the highway to New Mombassa, the powerful engine of his car as soft as a big cat stalking its prey. His home was a relatively new apartment block near the city centre. On the way, John reiterated everything, from the reunion to the fight, to Will.
They drove down into the multi-storied underground car park, where Will swept through an identity-checking forcefield. John held his breath as they passed. If it didn't check out, the forcefield would increase in strength, locking the car within it.
They stopped in Will's designated parking space, next to Rolls Royces and Porsches. Killing the engine, Will peered around, his head swivelling from side to side swiftly. There were no signs of either agents or ordinary citizens. It was late at night, and the car park was silent.
He walked over to the back car doors and opened one side. "Sir," he whispered. "You still okay?"
"Except for my numerous injuries, yes," John replied with a small smile. He had in fact rolled sideways onto the seat and, whenever Will had banked left, his head had banged into the right car door.
Will pulled John out and checked once more. There was still no one. He picked the other Spartan up and slung him over his shoulder, before sprinting to the nearest lift.
The duo got increasingly nervous as the lift crawled down towards them. They could hear wind sounds in the shaft. What if there was someone in the lift? What if the agents had already caught up with them? They were sitting ducks here, with a pistol between them and only one tired man capable of wielding it.
The lift finally arrived. Will laid John down carefully on the floor and pressed the button for the lobby - this lift only serviced the car park.
Several sweaty seconds passed before the lift opened once more. Will pulled one of John's arms onto his shoulder and half-dragged him across the shiny floor towards the lifts that went up the building. They passed through a set of shiny glass doors, behind which the night guard strolled.
The guard walked over. He recognised Will, who was currently an electric engineer. "Hello, sir," he said cheerily. "Back from a round at the bar? Or several rounds at several bars?" He chuckled at his own joke.
John pretended to be asleep as Will cuffed him playfully on the head. "Drank enough drinks for the whole pub," he laughed. "He'll wake up with one hell of a hangover. Serves him right." Will strode towards the lifts. Suddenly, John's bruises seemed rather noticeable. They were black, with scatterings of blue, and mostly situated on his chest and head, contrasting wildly with his brown skin, which had returned to its natural colour after being out of the armour for ten years.
The guard was sharp, Will had to give him that. He peered at John, looking him up and down. As if he had read Will's mind, he asked, "Where dya get those purple beauties?" Suspicion crept into his voice.
"Huh?" Will smiled. "Well, let's just say that big, drunk men get into fights easily." The lift had arrived with a quiet chime. "Night!" he called. The lift door closed on the guard just as he was about to enquire about John's swollen neck.
Will's apartment encompassed the entire floor. He stepped out of the lift and ran towards the DNA scanner, which was mounted at the end of a small entrance lobby. It checked his retina and fingerprint before opening the ornate wooden double doors. Running an experienced eye over them, John could see that they were in fact mahogany-panelled steel.
Will's pad was decorated in the minimalist style. Designer sofas and plain walls contrasted with tastefully selected and placed objects d'art on pedestals and windowsills. Its stylish colour scheme contrasted wildly with the two bloody, dishevelled men who had just rushed in. At least, one rushed in, carrying the other, who was quite incapable of the act.
"Trinity!" the rushing man called, laying John down on the nearest couch.
Will's AI gave up its disguise of a Greek vase and resumed her usual shape: a French Revolution-era farm worker (the pedestal the vase was on was a holographic projector). "Yes, Will?" she asked. Hell, she even had an ancient French accent!
"Contact Fred and Linda immediately!" he yelled. "Tell them the Chief is down!" He paused. Trinity opened her mouth, but he cut her off. "I don't give about any fucking security! Just send it!"
Trinity paused, pulling at her red armband. Then she said, "OK, I've done it. You want to activate the Room?"
Will nodded quickly, and then picked John up again. He strode into his bedroom and slammed his palm on a large, green button set in the wall. It swung apart to show a chamber covered with screens showing landscapes of glassed planets. It contained two beds, medical tools and several weapons lockers. When John asked about the screens, Will just shook his head. John kept a polite silence.
Will laid John down carefully on a bed, and then reached towards him. "OK, sir," he said worriedly. "All the wounds you received mean it'll take the better part of an hour to stitch back together. But, those
.men, agents, whatever, are going to call in the very near future."
"I have a plan," John said, trying to inject a little of his old confidence and authority in his voice. "Just fix my spine. My other injuries can wait."
"Yes, sir." Will turned John gently onto his side, and then reached for a laser scalpel from a tray of tools. Doing a few quick incisions, he exposed the damaged part of the spine John tried hard not to imagine it in his mind's eye and reached for the biofoam nozzle. Working carefully, he encased the entire damaged section in a rigid mould, before injecting some flash-cloned nerve cells. The spine was too complex for human technology to clone completely: the cells had to make the neural connections on their own.
"Now what?" Will asked ten minutes later.
"Do you have your MJOLNIR armour?"
Will blinked. His eyes darted from John to a wall, then back to John. "I guess it can be done
"It can," John said decisively. "You've done well so far, Will."
Will stood uncertainly for a while, then straightened and took a deep breath. He cracked his knuckles, and then walked towards the wall he had looked at earlier. "Trinity!" he called. "I want the armour unlocked!"
"Working," Trinity's voice replied over the wall-mounted speakers. A few seconds later, the wall slid upwards, revealing Will's green MJOLNIR armour. It was shiny, as though newly cleaned. The golden visor of the helmet stared at the Spartans impassively.
Will grabbed the chest plate hurriedly. Too fast. The back plates flopped forwards onto the floor with a loud clang. He swore, but managed to catch the helmet, which had been resting on the chest and back plates. Laying the chest plate and helmet down on a low table, he bent and picked up the back plates. Then he pulled John into a sitting position and attached the latter. The contours fitted John well: both he and Will had the same, muscular build.
There was a sinister rustling sound outside. "What's that?" John asked sharply. His head swivelled towards the direction of the front door.
Will yelled to Trinity: "Video feed on lobby! Now!"
A strobing holographic projection revealed an image of a squad of black-clad soldiers. Two of them were using a high-power plasma cutter to break the doors open. Behind them were two agents. One was loading its gun. At the same time, the virtual world started fading. John now took it as a sign that whatever was rendering the virtual world knew he was about to die and wanted to save resources as soon as possible.
Will had noticed it too. "Shit," he swore. "Where the hell are the other Spartans?"
"ETA in 5," Trinity replied coolly.
"Call the police!" he yelled. Will then fitted the chest plate onto John the chest could not bend as far as the back, hence one plate instead of several. Whenever one of the contacts between the back and chest plates closed, it gave a gentle hiss and a soft beep.
He rapidly attached the arm plates. The front doors burst open. There were hoarse shouts as the soldiers ran in, firing wildly. Furniture burst into pieces. Ornaments flew and shattered. "This is private property!" Trinity yelled from her pedestal. "You have no right " The pedestal burst into flame from a volley of bullets. Trinity continued from the TV speakers.
Will had finally attached the leg armour when there came the thud of automatic fire on the door of the Room. "Shit!" he yelled again. He grabbed the helmet and jammed it onto John's head.
Contacts closed and sealed with reassuring hisses. The power core thrummed into life. The armour ran self-diagnostics, and then interfaced with John's neural chip. He could feel cold water trickling through his brain. His paralysed limbs seemed to come back online. He couldn't feel them, but the signals from his mind activated the armour encasing them and shifted them laboriously.
It was an odd experience. As though he were a general, ordering his platoon his limbs to move into positions. Even his body had become one of his soldiers: he couldn't feel his heart beating, but his heart rate was shown clearly on the HUD of his helmet. It was speeding up fast.
John willed his legs to swing from the bed. Too quickly. They swung round violently and he spun on his back before clumsily stopping himself with his gloved hands.
"Is it OK, sir?" Will asked. He was fingering a battle rifle nervously, which he had taken from a locker. He had two extra clips of ammunition on his belt.
"I'm good," John replied. He got up slowly and shuffled over to Will, lurching left and right, his internal balancing mechanisms trying hard to adapt. "Thanks."
"No problem," Will replied. He tossed a rifle over. John raised his arm too slowly. It swung in a lazy arc through his fingertips.
"Shit," John swore. He bent down shakily and picked it up in his gloved hand. He almost cried out in frustration as he tried to thread his fingers through the guard.
Wham! The doors burst open. Volleys of bullets sped towards the two Spartans. Will leapt aside and returned fire from behind a bed. Several bullets pinged off John's shield.
He raised the rifle and fired. His fingers slipped and the volley went wild, striking a screen. It exploded spectacularly. The gun reared backwards like a frightened horse.
Ba-la-boom. Will pushed the barrel of his rifle over the top of the bed and nailed one of the soldiers. The man fell, his rifle dropping from his grasp.
John raised his rifle again, cupping his left hand underneath the barrel and pointing as a soldier fired. He jumped aside clumsily and returned fire. The bullets passed within a hairs-breadth of the soldier's temple, and the man flinched.
John forward-rolled actually, he pencil-rolled in the end then crawled behind the other bed, panting. It was such a contained area. Soon, the soldiers were going to rip the beds apart. And there were the two agents as well
"Fire in the hole!" Will yelled. A fragmentation grenade arched lazily overhead, bouncing up onto the face of one of the agents. He grabbed it and threw it right back.
The grenade exploded in mid-air, shredding the beds and tearing a gapping hole in the floor with a tremendous BANG! John and Will fell onto the bed of the occupant underneath. It crumpled under their combined weight.
The Spartans felt deafened. The metal skeletons of the beds fell on top of them; the sharp legs missed them with centimetres to spare.
John got up and fired at an agent, who was lowering himself down from the hole in the ceiling. He was getting better. The bullets pierced the man's chest and he fell, slumping on his front.
Will lay on the bed, his skin blackened from the wall of blistering heat from the grenade, which John's suit had protected him from again, though his shield had dropped to half. Before John could ask him his status, there was the whistle and whine of bullets flying past again, as well as a nasty slicing sound. The surviving soldiers had gotten down and were taking the offensive again. John fired a burst at one of the soldiers.
He looked towards the slicing sound. One of the soldiers had pulled out his jagged combat knife and was stabbing Will's burnt body. He rolled away slowly, screaming in pain as his raw flesh came in contact with the bed. The knife swooped in a lazy arc through his leg.
John ran forwards and swung his rifle in a wide circle. It impacted on the soldier's head with an ominous crunch and flew out of his grasp. The hard barrel slammed into the remaining agent's chest.
A middle-aged man ran into the room from the direction of the living room, shouting incoherently. When he saw the remaining soldiers attacking John from all sides, he stopped, shocked. John ignored him, swinging his fist at the nearest soldier. Bullets smacked his midriff, bleeding his shield down to zero.
His fist collided with the wall as the soldier dodged. John used his knee to knock the man down and did an open-handed strike at another soldier. He killed the remaining men with powerful blows. The last man flew out of a wall-to-ceiling window, propelled by John's roundhouse kick.
The armoured Spartan panted as he looked around him. The soldiers were all either dead or unconscious. There were bullet-holes on the walls and fragments of plaster raining down, leaving an uneven dusting on the floor like old snow. A hole gaped in the ceiling, through which could be glimpsed damaged screens and sparking panels. One agent had disappeared he had shot it but the other was getting up. The occupant of the house was staring at the remains of his bed, open-mouthed.
John kept his eyes on the agent but turned his visored head towards the dressing-gowned man. "Sorry about that," he said. "And I apologise for this," he added, leaping at the agent.
Five seconds later, John dusted his armour off, leaving it on the floor. He picked Will gently up and walked towards the front door.
"Oi!" the man finally yelled feebly. "Whatcha gonna do
." John could feel resistance on his arm as the man tried vainly to drag him back. He brushed him off and laid Will down, before slamming both palms into the door. It complained with a loud whine. Another blow made it creak open; a last shoulder smash brought the door crashing down. John had forgotten how strong the MJOLNIR armour was.
He picked his fellow Spartan up again and ran up the emergency stairs onto Will's floor. The doors had been blasted clean open by the agents, and the beautiful living room was a mess. Shredder rounds had destroyed most of the fixtures and fittings. A heavy dining table had collided with the TV. The latter had shattered. Glass littered the floor.
Most of the medical facilities had been destroyed in the fight. John laid Will down gently on a half-destroyed sofa and walked around the house in silence.
." came a croak.
John ran over to Will. "I'll get skin cloned for you," he promised. There came the eerie sound of police sirens outside. Will relaxed.
John walked over to a cracked window and looked down onto the street below. Several police cars had pulled up and armed policemen ran onto the front steps, probably courtesy of the occupant one floor down.
"They're here," John sighed. "I guess that we can both have a little break." He sat down wearily on the floor.
A screech of tires. John ran over to the window again. Several sinister black wagons had pulled up. He could hear the familiar clank of soldiers - the black-clad ones. They streamed out of the wagons like armoured ants and pointed their rifles at the police.
John zoomed in on the scene with his helmet and strained to listen. One soldier was shouting something. A policeman yelled back, and they started arguing. The soldier punched the policeman, and the policeman shoved him back. They began trading blows. The policemen alternately laughed and looked worried. John looked away in disgust.
Then a complete silence fell. A black-suited agent stepped out of one of the wagons and stared hard at the fighting soldier. Right before John's eyes, the man burst into incandescent flames, setting fire to his opponent. Both men's howls drifted upwards.
The agent raised a hand, and the remaining soldiers opened fire. Caught by surprise, the police were shot down where they stood. Several managed to take cover behind their cars, and the opposing forces exchanged small-arms fire across the podium.
A score of soldiers stayed to keep the surviving policemen pinned down while the rest thirty soldiers and six agents hurried towards the building's main entrance.
John and Will exchanged looks. "Forget about the break," John said. He went into what remained of the Room to look for a rocket launcher.