Fast Times at L3, Part 3

RecapAnya has infiltrated the compound containing the device. Before she can reveal it, Istvan loses connection. Now they must help her. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

“Anya!” Istvan called out. He lost her connection. His view switched to Denton’s.

“I know, leave it to me,” he said before he could say anything.

The man was already in action. Istvan had a sense of vertigo as the station’s landscape passed under him. Denton hung from the hang glider and approached the Gravchurch compound at a rapid velocity. The corporate executive held his breath as the hang glider passed over the pyramid. Although the focus of the security’s attention was on the chaos down below, it only took one person looking up to shoot Denton out of the sky.

The bionic-eyed man let go of the hang glider and fell towards the building. Istvan closed his eyes as they approached a fragile-looking window. He winced, but the impact was soft. The cyborg clung to the window with some sort of suction-type ability on his limbs. He held his right hand forward and used a cutting device in his palm to open a fitting hole in the window. How much of this guy was machine? Istvan thought.

Empty office space greeted Denton’s view as he climbed through the ad-hoc entrance. Cascades of information windows filled his vision. One showed the relative positions of security. They were all heading downwards. He stopped. Istvan waited.

An indicator beeped, showing both that the cyborg body had gone into full-assault mode. Denton’s skin hardened and flexed for kinetic impacts. The jacket’s nanoweave armored itself and sent out interference signals. A dark helmet molded around his head, enclosing his eyes in total darkness. In a second, sight came back with a much brighter palette. The helmet’s sensors augmented his already formidable vision. Istvan could not hear him breathe. If he could even breathe.

Denton took out his rifle. The long, sleek design had changed little since the guns of the Information Age. Every aspect of its engineering was a refinement upon previous concepts, with one notable exception. The embedded nanomaterials allowed it to morph to accommodate different weapon types with ease. Using an information window, Denton preset it to fire anti-personnel, anti-armor, and high explosive rounds. In contrast to the rifle, the “bullets” were far more alien. Anyone with the proper access could program this universal ammo to become any type of projectile they wanted, from stones to rockets.

The cyborg stepped outside the office and found himself on a balcony far above the building’s lobby. In the chaos of the outside battle, all the people inside had evacuated the building through the back and underground doors. He stared down at the lobby’s crisp clean marble floor. Anya was somewhere under there. Istvan almost guessed what he would do next. Denton aimed his rifle down and fired an RPG at maximum yield. It traveled towards its target in an instant. The resulting explosion and debris rocked the building. The red security indicators closest to his position paused and began moving up. Dust rose up and surrounded him. He identified the outline of a giant hole into the lower complex with his helm sensors. He jumped off the balcony towards the hole.

Istvan fought off a familiar feeling of nausea as he saw the approaching red lights of the inner complex. Denton fired another shot, tearing more paths through the lower walkways. They freefell through several stories and layers of similar industrial pipes passed them. The map window rapidly calibrated to follow the falling man’s position. One floor above Anya’s chamber, he landed with a loud thud. The floor held. It was then that Istvan noticed the glowing emitter of the antigrav belt. Denton had manually softened his landing.

As the cyborg stood up, the sound of metallic scurrying came from a nearby corner. He retreated back and took cover in an adjacent hallway. Two drones appeared, shaped like cobra hoods mounted on four insect-like legs. Openings appeared on those hoods, like mouths, and heavy machine-gun fire roared at his position. Istvan had to manually decrease the connection volume to prevent himself from going deaf. When there was a break in the firing, Denton peaked out and took potshots at the drones with his rifle. Most shots either missed or glanced off the drones’ armor. Taking time to aim would put him at too much risk.

The standoff persisted for a few seconds. His next actions were quick and clinical. In the next break between firing cycles, he switched the gun to grenade mode and shot a smoke bomb at the feet of the drones. With another deft motion, he threw a chaff grenade towards them. The combination of physical and electronic countermeasures obscured the drones’ sensors. His rifle went to armor-piercing and he annihilated their CPUs with two shots each through their hoods. They stood motionless. He strode forward.

Around the corner, a helmeted human operator frantically tugged at cords attached to an upright metal cylinder. Denton switched to anti-personnel ammo and aimed towards the person’s chest.

“Now wait…” Istvan began.

Three shots rang out. The operator jerked back as they penetrated the heart. He, or she, fell back on the floor with a sickening thud.

“No time,” Denton said. He was right. The alarms blared with ever more frequency. The security status window blinked in alarm as dozens of hostiles poured into the complex.

Before Istvan could react, the cyborg stomped the floor with unimaginable strength. The actuators in his leg screamed in protest as he directed almost half of his bioelectric energy into the blow. The metal grates crumpled. He stomped again. The entire floor collapsed and Denton and everything else above it fell down into the room below. Istvan wondered if cyborgs had some sort of fetish for falling great distances.

As they fell, his eyes adjusted to the glowing lights and steam around them. The big chamber. Anya. Denton landed with another loud crash, even with the help of the antigrav belt. The shock caused him to drop the rifle. It clattered onto the ground. Ahead of him, Istvan saw the platform that Anya had hacked before they lost connection.

A shadow moved in the side of Denton’s vision. He whipped out his shredder pistol and he looked towards the figure pointing its own pistol at him.

“It’s me!” Anya exclaimed. They holstered their weapons. Denton’s helmet retracted back down into his armor. She ran up to him and gave him a brief hug.

Istvan let out a breath he did not know he was holding. He switched to the broad comms frequency to address the both of them. “What happened?” he asked.

Anya pointed to a giant shape off in the chamber. “Look at that thing,” she said. The cyborg’s head tilted. Istvan’s eyes widened. Bathed in the red rhythmic pulses of the alarm lights rose a floating platform, powered by the gravitons they had detected before. Its slick, black surface contrasted with the ugly construction machinery around it. A long barrel emerged from an opening on its dorsal surface. At the base of the barrel, he could see a weapon mount that allowed three hundred sixty degress of movement. It was as if someone had attached a warship gun to half an egg. Its size dwarfed both Denton and Anya.

“A cannon?” Istvan whispered.

“A magnetically accelerated cannon. A railgun,” Anya answered. “Enough power to blast a continent. Or destroy a Lagrange group.

He whistled. So this was how Earthgov planned to assert its supremacy. True, it wasn’t hard to destroy colonies with a warship, but that required fuel, dockyards, and engines that could easily be detected. The railgun only required coordinates and a clear path.

“I’m going to destroy it,” she stated.

“Now wait a moment,” he replied. “We could use this. It’ll be a huge bargaining chip for L3.” And K-V, he thought to himself. “We could guarantee our freedom for the next few centuries.” Of course, they still had Gravchurch security to handle. Plans formulated in the back of his head. Perhaps if he appealed to Musashi Hub.

Anya looked into Denton’s eyes, into his eyes, and gave a hard look. “I will not let any more little girls become orphans. We either destroy it or let it go back into their hands.”

“There are other ways…” A loud bang interrupted his reply.

“The entrance. Breach in progress.” Denton murmured.

Anya stiffened. “There’s no time for debate. Either help me or not.”

“Okay, okay,” Istvan sighed. “Do what you need to.”

“I will delay them,” Denton said. She gave him a long look and then wrapped her arms around him again. “See you again,” he said as he gently moved her hands away. She nodded and ran towards the railgun.

Istvan attempted to switch to her view, but found that he could not. The phrase CONNECTION LOST flashed on his terminal. Denton watched her disappearing form. An information window indicated that he was concentrating his reserves of bioelectric energy.

Her voice came in heavy breaths over the common band. “Sorry, visual connection got burnt out by the security layer. All I could do to repair audio.”

“What are you going to do?” Istvan cried.

“No self-destruct. Got to fly it into the sun. Manually.”

“What, how?”

“This chamber’s a hangar. Below’s direct access to space. I’ll blow a hole through the doors.”

“How are you going to get back? As soon as you breach the hangar, the whole station will go on lockdown. There won’t be any rescue ships!”

“Come up with something, corp.” She switched off her comms. Istvan was alone with Denton.

He slumped back in his chair unsure of his next course of action. Another loud bang shook him. They were getting through. Denton magnified his view towards the entrance. It looked ready to buckle.

“Denton, what do I do?” Istvan asked.

“Go to her,” came the reply.

The door burst in a plume of fire and smoke. At least a dozen security drones emerged from the haze. Denton took a step forwards. They all locked onto him. Using both the strength of his legs and his antigrav belt, he jumped forward at the drones with incredible speed. The visual field brightened as his bioelectric capacitor began to overload. Istvan then realized Denton’s plan.

A long red streak of a machine-gun round passed him as he leapt towards the middle of the drone formation. His vision turned white as his body emitted a loud roar. Istvan lost connection.

His eyes adjusted to the dark office. Felina stared intently at her console. On his own computer, a news alert reported a small-scale fusion explosion detected at the Gravchurch compound. He sighed and rested his forehead against his hand.

“Sir, you’re going to want to look at this,” his assistant called out.

He looked up. A camera view appeared on his screen. It showed the exterior of the Gravchurch pyramid. Swarms of drones and people appeared to be fleeing from it. As the seconds went by, the base of the pyramid started glowing white. Anya, he thought. The glow intensified and the pyramid collapsed inward. As it imploded, Istvan heard a distant rumble. His desk rattled. On the camera, the building inverted, and its ruins flew out into the depths of space.

The station decompression event alarm echoed in his ears. The pleasant voice of Musashi Hub warned all its inhabitants to strap down in response to the breach alert. He took out two antigravity belts from inside his desk and tossed one to Felina. They set them to full gravity and waited until the station’s hole was repaired. On the screen, he saw emergency forcefields extend over the breach in seconds. They were safe.

“Status of the railgun?” he asked his assistant.

“It’s out. Present course is straight towards the sun,” she answered. “Amazing,” she added under her breath.

It surprised both of them. Sending ships toward the sun required complex calculations and trajectories that sent them anywhere but directly to it. It was all over his head, but he knew that they were dealing with some seriously advanced technology.

A red warning flashed on both his and Felina’s screens. It also appeared on all the real-time news alerts.

“Sir, there’s an object heading on an intercept course towards the railgun.” She gasped. “It’s the Sword Shadow!”

His blood froze. The ship that had destroyed Dreiden Station. The one that massacred Anya’s parents. And the one that killed his brother. Had it been hiding near them all along?

“How long?” he asked, his voice a tremor.

“Three, four hours at the most.”

He clenched his teeth and balled up his fists. “Prep my yacht,” he ordered.

Stay tuned for the finale!

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