Twenty Two

It was dark when I woke up. I was in a nice bed, soft sheets. I switched my eyes to low light and looked around. It was a fairly standard hospital room. There were a couple frames on the wall and a chair next to the bed. I could see a call button hanging near me. I tried to situp and the door opened.

I say, I tried because my left leg didn’t move.

“Oh, you don’t want to be trying to move any yet, mister.”

I looked up at the voice. An orderly had come into the room when the door opened. He was a big guy and as he moved across the room, I could see that he knew how to carry himself.

“Yeah, I can tell.” I said with a note of concern in my voice.

“Oh, don’t you worry none. The doc, she always leaves the cyberware turned off after surgery. You’ve got to get used to it. If it was enabled when you woke up, you’d likely tweak it and hurt yourself and damage the ware.”

He approached the bed and gently helped me up to a sitting position. There was immense power in his arms and he had no problem getting me arranged.

“I’m, Ogre, by the way.”

I looked at him in surprise, “Ogre?”

He grinned, “That was my street name. Don’t rightly recall what name I was born with. Ogre serves.”

I nodded in understanding and was about to ask him about his life on the streets and how he ended up here when the doc came in.

“Thank you, Ogre,” she said and he nodded and left the room.

Then she turned to me, “And how are you doing this morning?”

“I’ve been better. I feel rested but I’ve got this big ole dead chunk of metal attached to me.”

She approached the bed and said “Well, let’s see what we can do about that.”

She pulled the sheets down and I could see my new leg. It was a nasty looking amalgamation of metal and plastic. I don’t mean nasty like a sewer, more nasty like a loaded weapon pointed at you. It had a lethal look to it, a poised power, waiting to be unleashed. I found the site oddly pleasing and I found that pleasure powerfully discomforting.

Linda took a tool from her pocket and leaned over the leg. She prodded the leg in a few places with her tool and all of a sudden I could feel it. I could feel  the bed underneath it. I could feel that its weight was pushing it further into the bed than my flesh leg. Without thinking I bent my knee to draw the leg up – but it didn’t respond.

Linda, watching me, saw my look of concern and assured me, “Don’t worry, I’ve only enabled the sensors. I haven’t enabled the actuators yet. We need to take this slowly.”

What she said made sense but didn’t even begin to hint at the tedious effort over the next few days, learning how the leg responded and how to control it. The hours re-learning to walk, or run, or kick a ball. It was an enormous effort, but there was also great reward at the end of it.

###

Price came to see me a week after I’d woken up. I was jogging on a treadmill and the leg now felt like a part of me.

“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, he said.”

I nodded at him and said “5 more minutes. Doctor’s orders.”

I smiled internally when he grimaced. I was perfectly happy ignoring the Doctor’s orders and stopping whenever I felt like it. The leg was working and I was comfortable with it – I just wanted to piss Price off.

When he saw that I wasn’t going to stop, Price shrugged stepped aside and pulled out a tablet to get some work done.

When the five minutes were up, I stepped off the treadmill and mopped my self with a towel. Price glanced up at me and said “Give me a few minutes.”

I chuckled, wondering if he really wanted to play this game, “Ok, I’ll just go grab a shower.” I wasn’t the one with a busy schedule.

Price sighed and closed down his tablet. **Ha, I win**

“Please come with me. I’d like to discuss your run against Kasei.”

I followed him to a nice office and he indicated a seat for me. I took it and he settled in behind the desk.

“Kasei beat us out for a government contract to provide the next generation in battle field communications. Waters was a big part of their research in this area and losing him has really hurt them. We’ve been talking to him, getting him settled in here and debriefing him on Kasei’s efforts. Waters has told us about another project they’re working on. Something that would push us to the forefront of military communication for the next decade when we combine it with our own internal efforts.”

I nodded at him to continue, “Quantum Cryptography. A completely unbreakable, high-bandwidth communication channel. That sort of a mesh combined with Waters research would give any small fighting force such an advantage that they would be nearly unstoppable.”

“And, you need us to go in there and get it?”

“Exactly. It would be inconvenient for Lima Industries to be seen taking an active role in attacking a competitor, but if we were simply buying the data – that’s just business.”

“Ok, what can you tell me about the target facility?”

Price chuckled, “You won’t need the full info, just an update – since you’ve been there before.”

I groaned, “The same place where we extracted Waters from?”

Price nodded, “The same facility – but they’ve upgraded the security somewhat.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a tablet and handed it to me. “This contains all of the latest security and schematic information we have on the compound. In addition, there’s a copy of our latest security catalog. I’m willing to provide some equipment to facilitate the effort – within reason.”

I took the tablet and asked, “Anything else?”

“Yes, the data itself is likely to be in a hardened computer system – totally isolated from the external network. It’s likely that you’ll need to penetrate fairly deeply into the complex in order to access it and you’ll need to bring a decker along with you.”

I grimaced at that. Your average decker wasn’t interested in getting any closer to the run than their couch.

Price continued, “If you don’t have any qualified individuals in mind, I can provide some CVs.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I don’t think I want a megacorp shill along on the run.”

If he took any offense to that, he hid it well and went on, “It’s your run to plan. I’m just here to provide information and resources to facilitate its success.”

I nodded and stood, then Price spoke up, “Oh, one other thing.” I paused, “We do require success. Lima Industries has made a significant investment in you and it would be… detrimental… to our future relationship if this run were to fail.”

I gave him a hard look and said, “You don’t need to worry about failure. I’ve never failed yet and I expect if I do fail, I won’t be in a position to worry about any future relationships.”

Price nodded, “Good. I’m glad we understand each other.”

I simply turned and left.

###

Price’s plans and schematics were very complete. They were a lot better than the data I’d had to work with when I planned the first run and it made me wonder how I’d pulled the first run off. Kasei’s security went a lot deeper than I’d realized – though part of it had been added only after my run.

The walls were still tall – about 8 meters – and topped with security cameras and laser sensors. Plus, they weren’t straight up and down. The tilted out slightly so any attempt to scale was entirely out of the question.

They’d added several mobile anti-aircraft installations where Gatling guns were slaved to active radar – questionable legality but definite lethality. It seemed like any kind of arial insertion would be difficult to the point of impossibility.

Given the details on the improvement of guard protocols and the way they up-armored the entrances I didn’t think we could sleaze our way in again.

Sigh, this was a tough one. I wanted to get in quietly and hopefully get out again quietly. I didn’t want another round of rehab and recuperation and I didn’t think I could afford another cyber limb.

I decided to take a look at the security catalog.

Oh, man, now I know what a kid in Santa’s Workshop felt like. Weapons, armor, tools, vehicles – this was the kind of resource that made you think of elaborate plans just to use the equipment. I knew that we’d have to interface with the perimeter electronics and override the sensors. Problem was that they were on their own internal network and the only way to access was to physically tap into it. While flipping through the drone section I saw an entry for a new insectoid drone. It looked like a small beetle but was purpose made for electronic insertion. You could fly or crawl the drone up to a protected network and tap into it. Then, as long as you were within line of site of the drone, you could access the network through that hackpoint. I made a mental note to talk to Giles about that.

Now that I had a good handle on the sensors, it was time to figure out the wall. If we went too high over it there was a chance that the anti-aircraft installations would kick in and that would be very bad news.

The equipment section ended with some kind of inflatable beam. Special, super strong plastic – you inflated it to about 20k PSI and it was as strong as steel. It came in rolls and you simply cut a beam as long as you want, use a special epoxy to weld pieces together and attach a valve, then inflate. Once I saw that they also offered select shaped fittings I knew we were in business.

I could make an arch, get one end over the wall, inflate it, then use silent motors attached to harnesses to drive us over the arch. Near silent, near undetectable – it would be perfect.

That just left getting us across the compound and into the building – but I had an idea that Price could help with that too.

###

“You want to what?” The incredulity in Price’s voice was painful.

“I want to borrow some chameleoskin suits.”

“That technology is a very closely guarded internal secret-” he began.

“Which has never had a real-world test.” I interrupted. “This would be a perfect test of the technology in a hostile environment.”

This caused Price to sit back and consider me. “Hmm…I can see that you’ve actually thought this through. That’s actually one of the best arguments for me to agree that you could come up with.”

I grinned, “I knew you’d be intrigued. If the team that came up with the chameleoskin technology is anything like Hernan, they’ve probably been clamoring for real-world tests for weeks.”

“Months actually. I’ll have to discuss it with the board. I’m inclined to support the request – with some protective measures in place.”

I narrowed my eyes, “What protective measures?”

He waved offhandedly, “Oh, time delayed micro-explosives in the control units. We definitely do not want this tech to fall into Kasei’s hands.”

I cringed inside, but understood his concern. “What about vision?”

“Eh?” Price seemed confused.

“I can see the active suits, but how will the other members of my team?”

“Oh, we have goggles, that’s not an issue. Is there anything else you need?”

I grinned, “Yeah, I’ve got a list.” I held up a tablet and zipped him my shopping list.

Price spent a few minutes perusing it. “Interesting. That’s a use for the inflatable beams that I hadn’t considered before.” The material I had listed made my thinking obvious. “Quite clever actually. The drone will take a little bit of doing but I don’t foresee it being a very big issue.”

I nodded, “Good.”

“Now, have you found a combat decker yet?”

I’d discussed the matter with Giles who had met with Miranda. Neither of them had been able to offer any suggestions for a decker who was willing to get into the thick of things.

“Not yet.”

“Here,” Price held up his own tablet and gestured at mine. When I raised mine, he zipped some data files to me. “Here are a few that we’ve worked with in the past and been very satisfied with.”

“I don’t want-” I began.

“Not to worry. They’re all outside contractors – no one actually a Lima employee.”

“Ok, I’ll take a look and let you know. How long do you think to get the equipment together?”

“I’ll meet with the board tomorrow and discuss the suits. The rest we can have assembled in about a week.”

“And how about a location to rough out a wall – so we can practice going over?”

“I’m sure we can provide a place for that.”

I nodded and left his office without another word.

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