Episode 10: Heresy (Part 2)



Thirty-five minutes later, Kate’s autocar drove over a wide metal bridge built across a manmade gorge. That gorge surrounded the uplink tower that handled all traffic in and out of Schaffhausen. Sonne breathed deep and told herself to stop freaking out.

She would stop thinking about Cowan, and Jeb, and David, and how they might be dead very soon. She would stop thinking about the parents she’d lost. She would focus on the mission — the real mission — because Kate and Lucy needed her at her best.

It was a slow trip across the bridge. Their autocar wound through alternating concrete barriers as it approached an armored gate. Built high in the Swiss Alps, the Schaffhausen uplink was probably one of the best-protected complexes in Switzerland. When it came to securing their military bases, the Swiss army didn’t fuck around.

Sonne was once again Samantha Frederick, personal assistant to CFO Katherine Lambda, and Lucy was Lucy, badass cyborg bodyguard in a very fashionable suit. The gate retracted and they rolled inside.

Kate stepped out of the autocar once they were inside, and Lucy stepped out with her. Sonne lumbered out to find them surrounded by Swiss military synthetics and six human soldiers, blond, square-jawed people in snow fatigues. Several of the soldiers frowned at Sonne’s stupidly heavy briefcase.

“Here for the tour,” Kate shouted. “Could you ping Miss Wyss?”

“Katie!” A lanky woman emerged from the squat guardhouse, wearing high heels. She had brilliant blond hair and a bright red pantsuit. “How wonderful to see you!”

“Lin!” Kate hurried over and kissed Lina Wyss on both cheeks. “Thank you for hosting me on such short notice.”

“It’s always a pleasure to host you,” Lina said, and the way she winked made Sonne want to throw up in her mouth a little. “Once you see the amount of traffic we run through here each day, I’m certain you’ll want to purchase time on our network.”

“I do love investing!” Kate motioned behind her, twice. “You know Lucy. This is Sonne, my PA.”

“A pleasure.” Lina eyed Sonne’s heavy suitcase.

“Likewise.” Sonne couldn’t help but feel guilty. Lina seemed like a nice person.

“Shall we be off?” Kate took Lina’s arm and turned her from Sonne, strolling them toward the guardhouse. “I really want to see what you’re packing down below.”

Lina laughed and clutched Kate’s hand. “When did we tour our last server room, together? Geneva?”

Sonne tuned out the blatant flirting. How could Kate be so calm when they were surrounded by so many rifles? There was no way this was going to work.

As the Swiss soldiers turned to escort their boss, Kate drew a stunner from inside her blouse. Lucy’s forearms popped open, revealing more stunners. As they simultaneously stunned every other person in the area, Sonne pulled the handle on her suitcase.

Her hair tingled as the portable security blanket kicked in. All around them, milsynths collapsed with a satisfying clatter. Every last Swiss security measure was down.

Holy shit. They’d actually done it. They’d actually pulled it off!

“I’m so sorry, dear.” Kate lowered an unconscious Lina Wyss gently to the ground. “I’ll make this up to you.”

Lucy’s glowing red eyes looked to the south, over the security fence. “The reserve guard is already mobilizing. Hurry.” She sprinted off, toward the barracks, to lock the rest of the Swiss garrison inside. Even Lucy couldn’t take on an entire garrison by herself.

“No killing!” Kate shouted after her. As if Lucy needed the reminder.

Sonne ran with Kate to the base of the uplink tower. Kate hurried around it, muttering to herself. Finally, she Ah ha’d! and patched her linkline into a small port.

Sonne searched for possible cover, just like Jeb had suggested she should, and picked one of several narrow drainage ditches running away from the uplink tower. They might need one of those ditches if any soldiers escaped the garrison. Even Lucy missed people.

Kate’s eyes twitched as she overclocked. Sonne pulled the stunner from Kate’s hand and crouched in the tower’s shadow, listening to her pounding heart. It couldn’t be this easy. It was that easy. Kate pulled her linkline from the tower and whooped, throwing her arms around Sonne. They had just DDOSed the entirety of Schaffhausen.

Jeb and David’s assault on Galileo was a go.

They were just about to sprint back to their autocar when Swiss army drones streaked out of the sky. Real bullets tore up the concrete, and Sonne tackled Kate into a drainage ditch. She pinned Kate until they passed, then set a timer on her headdesk.

“When did they start shooting at us?” Kate shouted. “How is that okay?”

“That’s what people do when you hack their uplink towers!” Sonne rolled off Kate and peeked over the edge of the ditch, at the next one. It seemed so far away. Her timer counted as the Swiss drones whined into disturbingly rapid turns. Where was Lucy?

Kate crouched beside her. “Those drones must be flying above the blanket’s range.” She breathed out. “We can make it if we run fast. Let’s do this!”

“Not yet!” Sonne pulled Kate into the ditch as the drones made another pass. She stopped the timer on her headdesk, logging twenty-two seconds. “Okay go, go go!”

She and Kate scrambled out of the ditch and sprinted toward the next ditch on the platform, the one between them and the autocar, as an AR countdown of twenty-two seconds ticked away before Sonne’s eyes. She risked another look at the gate. There were headlights on the bridge, winding through the maze of concrete barriers.

Those headlights were attached to transports ridden by soldiers, men and women who wouldn’t care about a security blanket. Swiss soldiers who were very unhappy with them. Fifteen seconds. Twenty. They were so close.

“Dive!” Sonne shouted.

Drones whined and bullets chewed concrete as Sonne flung herself headfirst into the concrete drainage ditch. She scraped her elbows and her cheek as Kate landed almost on top of her, slamming her against the ditch. The drones whined over and away.

After a moment Kate rolled off, breathing hard, and Sonne realized there was blood on her. There was way too much blood on her. Where was she hit? Why couldn’t she feel it?

“Oh shit.” Sonne gripped Kate and pulled her up. “Shit!” This was Kate’s blood.

“They shot me?” Kate sounded more offended than shocked. “Holy cow, they shot me right in the leg!” She must already be going in shock.

Sonne made herself keep thinking. “You can’t run on that leg.”

Kate pressed down hard on her bloody, slippery leg. “I’ll surrender. I’ll be fine!”

“You won’t be fine!” They both ducked as the drones made another bullet-filled pass. “I’m not leaving you!” Twenty-two seconds.

“Sonne,” Kate said.

“I can do it.” She could do it.

“No,” Kate said.

Eighteen seconds. Sonne pulled herself out of the drainage ditch and sprinted across open ground. Fourteen. Ten. She slid to her knees by the suitcase. Eight. She grabbed the case’s handle and pulled straight up. Six. Four.

“Sonne!” Kate shrieked.

Sonne heard bullets hitting concrete, saw twin wisps of concrete popping their way toward her, and remembered her mother’s face. Maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad.

Something heavy slammed into her — not a bullet — and she opened her eyes to find a Swiss milsynth shielding her from harm. Others opened fire, taking the drones down before they could escape. Their newly-hacked milsynth helped Sonne stand. Then it loped off toward the raised concrete gate, firing to miss, as Kate had scripted it to.

Sonne ran to Kate and pulled her up, tossed Kate’s arm over her shoulder, and got her limping toward the autocar. “Shit!” Sonne shouted, again. “Where’s Lucy?”

Their autocar doors opened and Sonne helped Kate inside, trying not to think about the blood all over Kate’s leg. She’d never seen someone shot before. She clambered over Kate and stared out the other door, at the guardhouse. The door slammed open.

Lucy stumbled out of the guardhouse, but Sonne couldn’t cheer. Blood covered the left side of Lucy’s face, and she was actually missing one arm. Like, someone had ripped her whole arm off. Lucy’s other arm lugged a giant silver bazooka-thing, a thing that might actually be a plasma rifle. The Swiss, who had an army, had actual plasma rifles.

“Over here!” Sonne shouted. “Hurry!”

One of Lucy’s knees was twisted, and metal bits jutted from her thigh. Her limping was far slower than it should be. Sonne had never seen anyone so absolutely beat to shit, which told Sonne a few soldiers inside that garrison had tried to get out of it.

Something rammed the heavy gate of the uplink facility. A VI bulldozer? The front gate couldn’t hold against that! Lucy was still a good ways from the autocar when the gate dropped and the bulldozer cruised forward, with trucks close behind.

“Go!” Lucy pivoted and sighted that freakishly big plasma rifle. Braces popped from the back of her calves and slammed into concrete. “Get Kate out of here!” She unleashed a shrieking glob of greenish Hell.

The VI bulldozer exploded at the gate. Another identical dozer smashed into the wreckage, and Sonne knew it wouldn’t hold long. They needed Lucy here.

The autocar door closed right on top on her, forcing her to jump into the car. As the autocar sped away from Lucy, Sonne scrambled up and tugged at the locked handle. She glared at Kate, who was huffing and bleeding beside her. “We can’t leave her!”

“I’m not leaving her!” Kate’s eyes remained lost in the Sim. “She hacked our autocar!”

How could Lucy do that? How could she be so brave? Sonne stared out the back window as a slim blonde figure stood tall, facing down a burning bulldozer and two troop transports. Lucy threw down her plasma rifle and raised the hand that was still attached.

Sonne hated this. She hated leaving Lucy behind to be captured, but the Swiss would capture her, wouldn’t they? None of them had killed anyone, which meant no one had any reason to shoot her. That was why they hadn’t killed anyone. That was why—

Loud pops filled the air. Blood flew and bone shattered as someone in the car screamed. Sonne screamed, as the entire fucking Swiss army just evaporated her best friend.

Their speeding autocar hit the security fence full speed. It went through the security fence full speed. Sonne’s stomach hopped into her throat as whirs filled the cabin.

Then they started to fly.

* * *


The sun was down and a bright circle of moon filled the dark sky. Wind blew and tree branches rustled, but it seemed Kate had been delayed. Cowan was just about to ask when Jeb grimaced and nodded, speaking to someone somewhere else. Kate and Sonne must have dropped the security blanket on the Schaffhausen uplink.

“I understand.” After a moment, Jeb added,“We’re on.” His voice had an edge to it.

“Remember,” David said, staring right at Cowan. “Stay inside the ShieldBots and keep your head down. Don’t stop for anything. Our ringers will handle the enemy.”

“Got it.” Cowan was feeling pretty good about this.

David looked to DNF. “Launch the assault.”

DNF nodded his triangular head. Then, eighty paces away, a fence exploded. Alarms sounded from the distant facility, squat buildings with windows glistening in moonlight. Cowan couldn’t make out details from here. They had a long, empty field to traverse.

There was no cover that he could see, but that’s why they had brought the ShieldBots. Cowan would trust David. He would trust his team to be the badasses they all were.

Three bunnysynths charged into the field. Defense turrets rose from the grass, and then loud pops filled the night. More guns in the buildings opened fire, but their pink bunnysynths moved and leapt unpredictably. They blocked or avoided damage.

Turrets exploded as their advance team cleared a path. One of the synths went down, but the other two kept going. As their StrikeForceGo vets carved a trail of destruction, DNF flipped out a small laser torch and cut the fence.

“Go,” David said, very quietly.

Jeb, David, Cowan, DNF, and nine pink bunnysynths took the field, forming a line of shields with the cut-up pieces of the rented autotruck. Cowan moved with Jeb and David, marching forward as the other synths boxed them in. They were, for all intents and purposes, inside a moving square of armor. David called it a phalanx.

Cowan peeked out to find only one bunnysynth remained from the three who had led the charge. As Cowan watched, it slammed its shield into the repeating rifle of an advancing M-Gesundheit milsynth. It knocked the enemy flat. The bunnysynth stole its gun and blew the other synth’s head off, shield blocking more shots.

The crack in the shields closed and more pops sounded. It sounded like rain on a metal roof, except this rain was trying to kill them. Cowan imagined bullets tearing through his leg, his chest, his head, but nothing penetrated the shields.

A bunnysynth at the back jerked and straightened. “Shit! No way that happened.”

“Walk it off, Peaches,” DNF said. “You going to let Hampline show you up?”

As Peachrind ran off, yelling madly, another milsynth at the back of the phalanx stiffened. “Sir, you want me back out there too?”

“Stay with the formation. We need the phalanx more than we need a runner.”

“Yes sir.” MatterRat and the seven VI bunnysynths closed formation and continued to march as bullets rained uselessly on the shields. A loud, low buzzing filled the air.

David raised a fist. “Sergeant, pyramid formation. Lin, you’re up.”

The synths closed in and took knees around them, locking their armored walls together to make a pyramid that protected from all sides and above. Cowan wished he could see outside, but then a chorus of pops pinged from above.

The popping kept going until loud cracks split the night, over and over and over. When they stopped, the buzzing was gone. Cowan had never heard a weapon that loud.

“Drones down. Nice shooting, Lin.” David stood and chopped with an open fist. “Phalanx formation, forward!”

The bunnysynths rose and marched, and though Cowan still heard pangs against the battered autotruck armor, those pangs were growing less distinct. Stupidly loud cracks continued to split the night. LinSpork’s giant sniper rifle was rapidly eliminating targets now, since she’d already broken her concealment by killing all the enemy drones.

Soon the pangs slowed, stopped, as did the massive cracks. It was like a bag of popcorn with all the popcorn popped. The enemy army was down.

“We’re clear, sir,” DNF said.

Cowan wanted to pump his fist as they marched off wet grass and onto concrete. They were safely on the grounds of M-Gesundheit! Shields lowered. Cowan found two bunnysynths standing around a pile of milsynths they’d shot or hacked apart.

One synth held a glowing plasma cutter. “You were wrong, dumbass.” It thrust its cutter into the air, standing on a pile of dead milsynths. “Turns out I do get a laser sword!”

* * *

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