Ghost in the Machine Ch. 09


Hendrikson was already at the entrance, probing the massive metal door leading into the shed.

"Situation," he barked. I quickly accessed the squad status. Four was badly injured, several explosive-tipped bullets had shattered his assault armor. Three was busy pulling him out of harm's way while three guards were showering his position with automatic fire from their assault rifles.

"Three here. Looks like some of them had dampeners installed. They were awfully quick for civvies."

"No kidding," Four wheezed, every breath causing a sickening bubbly sound. His suit was busy pumping painkillers and clotting agents into his bloodstream to keep his heavily enhanced body functioning until extraction was possible.

"Two, you're with me. Five, you go and relieve Three and Four. We've got a hostage to free, pronto," Hendrikson snapped. I made a mental note to send him a small token of my appreciation, should he survive this mission. He jammed a thin object between door and frame and took cover beside the door. A moment later, Two tapped his shoulder, signalling his arrival.

"Breach, go," Hendrikson snarled. The voice command caused the flexible plastics explosive to blow, taking much of the door with it. A moment later, Hendrikson and his squad mate were storming the room, the visor impassively taking in a scene straight from a demented orgy. Two dozen wealthy-looking people, most in various stages of undress, were busy licking, sucking and fucking heavily bodysculpted sex slaves, obviously too stoned or uncaring to note the two armored soldiers bearing down on them. Hendrikson chuckled as he flicked a stun gas grenade into their midst. Twelve seconds later, he and his companion stalked across unconscious fur-clad oligarchs, their heavily jewelled companions and ... playthings straight out of a pervert's fantasy. His gaze brushed a man with two penises jutting from his crotch and chest, two women drooling over him; a catgirl, her long furry tail wrapped around the bicep of a beautiful and not much less bodysculpted woman whose head rested between her thighs, an obscenely long, tentacle-like tongue buried in the glistening folds of the catgirl.

"What the fuck is this place," Two asked in mixed awe and terror.

"A playground for the perverted," Hendrikson hissed. He looked up, aligning his vision with the pulsing blip on his radar.

"Five, status," he barked.

"Five. Hostiles neutralized. Four is in bad shape though. They had SABOT rounds, he looks like swiss cheese to me," Five said, solemnly.

"I saw a doctor's wagon nearby. Worth a shot," Three asked. A moment later, a shot pierced the relative quiet.

"Oh FUCK," Five shouted, his IntelliGun coughing in rapid fire.

"STATUS," Hendrikson barked, picking up the pace. A moment later, he kicked open the door leading from the adjacient room.

"Hostile, damnit. He just blew away Three's brain."

We could see it. A large man standing amidst a handful of his fallen comrades, wrapped in a long leopardskin coat, just trained his gun onto Five's kneeling form. Without hesitation Hendrikson opened fire, riddling the man with a whole clip's worth of bullets. He stumbled but did not go down.

"What the fuck are you made of? Kryptonite," Hendrikson snarled, taking a step back and seeking cover behind the doorframe he had just came through, swapping mags. Two, from the other side, leaned into the room but before he could squeeze off even a single shot the huge pistol roared again. No headshot, but the bullet hitting his shoulder had enough kick to spin him into the wall next to him.

"Hendrikson. Is my son in there," I asked, trying to make heads or tails of the readouts in his visor. Hendrikson checked the readings. The blip was indeed in the center of the room. He leaned around the door, letting the visor take a quick snapshot before ducking back. The bullet from the large pistol took out a head-sized chunk of the wall near his right ear.

"No one in there but the shooter, sir. Advice," Hendrikson asked, not too eager to jump into the jaws of death.

"Let's take this fucker down," Two croaked. Most of his right shoulder was missing, the arm seemingly hanging on only by a thread. His armor was pouring sealing gel down the wound. He switched out his rifle for the sidearm, a bulky automatic which he could shoot one-handedly.

"Great. Cover me," Hendrikson hissed, dropping to his knees. A moment later, a countdown from five appeared in his visor, no doubt mirroring one in Two's helmet. When the counter reached zero, both men, in an eerily coordinated movement, swung into the doorframe at differing heights. The shooter was perplexed for just the fraction of a second, the fatal breath of hesitation.
Two's salvo riddled the torso of the leopard-coat man, letting him dance like a mad puppet. Hendrikson's shots devastated his face, leaving only a bloody ruin where the head once was.

"Alright, get Extraction down here, we need a medic stat," Hendrikson snarled, entering the room, scanning for other, hidden assailants. His search came up negative, so he knelt down next to the beheaded man, tapping his chest.

"What is it," I asked him.

"No wonder he shrugged off our bullets. This looks like a ton of subdermal armor plating. This guy was a walking tank. Damn asshole," Hendrikson spat. He consulted a wrist-mounted screen. I could practically hear his frown.

"My scanner says the chip is here, directly in front of me," he said.

"Not below," I asked, staring at the bloody mess around him.

"No sir, it says '36 centimeters down.' That's hardly deep enough for a cellar."

"Okay, so the stiff has to have the chip. Check if he has a recent arm transplant or something," I said, my stomach knotting. I had Parker's chip installed in his left wrist. He obviously wasn't here which left only two possibilities. Either someone had removed his arm and grafted it onto somebody else, which wasn't unheard of, or...

Hendrikson's hand entered his field of vision, a small, shiny object between his gauntleted fingers. He magnified it. In clean etching, the code "05007PS" was visible on the side.

What have you done, Parker?


3:26 am PST

I had decided not to join my wife in bed, instead using the sofa in my home office for a few hours of sleep. My cell pinged again, the sound even disrupting my dreams. Groaning inwardly, I took the call.


Kent was on the other end, his voice breathless with excitement.

"We have done it, sir. It's... it's alive!"

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