UnitedFutures Ch. 02byStarscream_UK©
Brooklyn, New York
20 minutes into the future
To Eva, the workshop reminded her of her father's workstation in the UnitedFutures San Francisco basis of operation. There were no clear surfaces and everything seemed to either hum, whir or buzz. She stood near the door with a briefcase in hand, dressed in a smart black business suit. Her ash blonde hair teased into an intricate bun as she stood patiently by the door, her dark eyes taking in everything in the utilitarian room.
As the Executive Assistant to the Head of UnitedFutures Research and Development division, Lee Reynolds, Eva's duties encompassed a wide variety of tasks, from the mundane to the extraordinary; organising meetings with the other Department heads, arranging accommodation details whenever Reynolds took a business trip out of town, or even ensuring that documents were delivered on time to their recipients.
"Well, I can assure you Mr Hawkins that UnitedFutures is very interested in your work." Reynolds said as he looked around the cramped workshop. He was a young man, mid-thirties and considered to be one of UnitedFutures young studs – an up-and-comer within the hierarchy, someone who senior management had tabbed for the fast track to the higher echelons. He ran his finger along one of the worktops. The journey downtown had taken longer than anticipated, however the potential rewards he had discovered within would more than make up for the inconvenience of a three hour drive in and out of the city. "And we are more than willing to compensate you for your efforts."
"See, that's the point," Albert Hawkins replied. "BioTech offered me fifty percent more than you guys did...and...and I've gotta admit, it's tempting."
"Really?" Reynolds said, genuine shock in his voice. "Fifty percent more?"
"Yeah..." Hawkins confirmed.
"Well, I can go a little higher..." Reynolds turned and nodded to Eva. She opened the briefcase and slid her hand inside. "Here's my counter offer." The words left his lips as Eva drew the sleek, narrow pistol out of the briefcase. Two short staccato bursts filled the air – and Albert Hawkins fell to the floor, two neat bullet holes in his chest. Eva walked across to his body and took aim, firing another shot into the back of his head.
"Contact Dawson's unit, get them to clean out anything that's of any use, then sterilise the location." Reynolds said as he picked up a small cube shaped device from the counter. "Now, let's see what we can do with a compact sized fusion reactor shall we?"
"Of course Mr Reynolds." Eva said as she returned the pistol to her briefcase and pulled out her cell phone. As she made the call to Dawson, she measured the list of her duties as Reynolds' assistant.
Secretary. Bodyguard. Recruitment Advisor. Assassin.
As the elevator descended through the levels of UnitedFutures New York headquarters, David Fenwick adjusted his tie. He found himself humming as he watched the digital display indicate that the elevator was now moving down through the basement levels of the gargantuan building.
"So Mr Fenwick, it's not often that we have an auditor visit us." Andrea Spiro said, breaking the silence between them. She had found Fenwick's silence almost unnerving as they had journeyed together in the elevator and hoped to glean some sort of information from him as to his purpose here.
"Well, it's come to the attention of the finance division that Research and Analysis has several projects that aren't clearly accounted for," Fenwick replied. "I'm here to determine if those projects are flouting company procedure and federal disclosure legislation, and if they are, recommend that they are decommissioned."
"You understand that some projects within this department of UnitedFutures are considered restricted: commercial in confidence, right?" Andrea said. "And that..."
"Whatever I see down here cannot be discussed with anyone lowered than senior board member level, yes, I'm fully aware of that." Fenwick said with a wry smile on his face. "And before you ask, the Chief Financial Officer has given me delegated authority to access any and all restricted projects; commercial or otherwise." The elevator pinged softly – the display read "Sub Basement 10" in large red digits. As the doors opened, Andrea handed Fenwick a pair of what looked like sunglasses.
"Here, you'll need these." She said. Momentarily, Fenwick understood why. Stepping out of the elevator he found himself in a cold steel room that was flooded with a strange red light. As he stood there he could feel his skin tingle. "Decontamination process – the room is flooded with microwave radiation to destroy any harmful microbes." The light in the room dissipated and was replaced by a strange blue glow. Andrea opened a door opposite the elevator entrance. "Shall we continue?"
Fenwick followed her from a few feet behind her, taking in the industrial complex he found himself encased within. He was used to the background hum of the heavy machinery within many of UnitedFutures buildings when it came to the Research and Analysis department, however this was something else. The steel walkway seemed to be taking them even further into the bowels of the building.
"You're breeding nano-cultures down here, right?" Fenwick said as he looked at the large glass storage tanks that were seething with thick, brown organic soup. "How do you get around the problem of the porous nature of glass at a molecular level?"
"Very impressive Mr Fenwick," Andrea said, looking over her shoulder at him with a sly grin on her face. "I wasn't aware of any scientific background in your personnel file."
"Oh there isn't," Fenwick said as he stopped to admire one of the large tubes. "However, I try to read all the memos that are sent around, plus I spent a summer interning at the Michaelson Institute in Arizona when I was at University." Andrea nodded, visibly impressed.
"We use a diamond polymer coating that's sprayed onto the glass to plug the holes and create an impervious seal." She explained. "Here, see for yourself." Fenwick reached out and touched the glass. The texture beneath his fingers was coarse, unlike anything he was anticipating. "The cultures inside these tanks are part of a program to create an artificial immune system stimulant, one that human physiology won't reject."
"And I'm assuming that you use an intense magnetic field to imprint the nano-machinery onto the biological template, right?"
"My, my, you're full of surprises aren't you?" Andrea said. "Well, if you like this then you'll love what's in here." She directed Fenwick to the end of the walkway and yet another heavy doorway.
Entering a much larger, circular room, Fenwick found himself staring at what he could only describe as a steel sarcophagus. Cables and tubes ran too and from the metal construction – several clear ones seemed to be carrying either waste products away from the tube or nutrients to it. As he approached the construct, Fenwick became aware of the fact that there was a clear glass panel located on the top third of the device. A brief moment later he realised that there was a face staring back at him with a defiant green eye boring into his soul.
"Mr Fenwick," Andrea said. "I'd like to introduce you to Veronica Goddard."
"Is this everything that you could retrieve from the Hawkins workshop?" Eva asked as she looked down the list of items that had been documented by Dawson's recovery team and checked them against the items in the storage room. He grunted something. "I'm sorry? What was that?"
"I said yes, it is." He grumbled. Eva put the clipboard down and stood up to the burly, balding hulk of a man, staring into his beady eyes despite the fact that he towered over her by nearly a foot in height.
"Do you have some sort of a problem with me Mr Dawson?" Eva asked, defiantly challenging him. "Because if you do I'm sure there are several ways we could resolve it." Dawson looked at her for a minute.
"Forget it," Dawson said before turning away. "I'd just break you anyway." Eva watched him and his team file out of the room in silence. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as the door closed. Confrontation is inevitable, she thought. After thirty seconds, Eva pulled her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and rang Reynolds.
"The recovery team has completed its work," She said. "Shall I hand this over to Ingram's team?"
"Yes," Reynolds replied. "And once you're done there, come up to my office. I have something that I need you to deal with personally."
"I don't mean to sound rude," Fenwick said, looking at the scarred face staring back at him. "But I understood that you were dead – the victim of some sort of accident in the laboratory in our London office."
"Reports of my demise were greatly exaggerated," The grating voice leaked out of the small speaker attached to the side of the large metallic chamber. "However, as you can clearly see, I'm not quite the woman I used to be." Fenwick could see that the left side of Veronica Goddard's face was severely scarred and her left eye socket was completely empty. Her head was devoid of any hair and what he could see of her torso seemed to mirror the scarring of her face across the left side of her body.
"We were able to get Ms Goddard into the chamber you see here shortly after her accident," Andrea said, stepping forward so that Veronica could see her. "It was fortunate that her line of work at the time was mutually compatible with her injuries."
"The nano-culture project right?" Fenwick said.
"You're a very astute man Mr Fenwick." Veronica's artificial voice complemented him. "However, I'm afraid we were forced to move to the human trial stage somewhat earlier than we originally anticipated."
"You're using the cultures on yourself, aren't you?" Fenwick said. "Which explains the black hole in the funding." He looked around at the room he found himself in, seeing everything in there with in a new light. "Have you any idea how many company regulations you've violated?" He alternated between looking at Andrea and Veronica. "That's before I even start to think about Federal statutes and what the liability the Company has incurred..."
"Mr Fenwick, please understand," Andrea said. "We did what we did to try to preserve Veronica's life – her work in this field is truly ground-breaking and will put UnitedFutures at the forefront of nano-technological innovation. If we hadn't taken this step, all of that knowledge, that competitive edge, would have been lost." Fenwick looked at Andrea, then at the figure encased in the metal tank.
"You understand that at the end of all this I have to do my job," he said.
"I..." Veronica said, pausing and then glanced across with her one remaining eye at Andrea. "No, we understand that."
"Even if I recommend decommission of this project?" Fenwick said. "And – by extension – decommission of yourself?"
"If that is your decision then so be it," Veronica said. "After all, our first loyalty is to the Company."
The West African Republic of Kuanga
Perched on the ridge above the imposing structure, she hides in the darkness. Her mind runs through the options available to her as she stares at the prison half-embedded into a mountain that bears the same name – Nu Gazi. As Eva considered her options, she recalls that this is the deep dark hole that people vanish into in this area of the republic if they "upset" the current regime.
Looking through image enhancing goggles, she can see that the building is impressively fortified so a full frontal assault is out of the question. Not my style either, she thinks. Glancing over at the narrow, winding road that led up to the prison she checks her watch. The delivery truck is right on time.
Her body encased in its skin-tight suit, Eva wasted no time in running towards the edge of the ridge, gracefully throwing herself into the air. Her landing was just as elegant, coming to rest on the top of the delivery vehicle as it turns the final corner of it's approach. Lying flat against the trailer, she is practically invisible to everyone around – which is her aim.
Nu Gazi prison houses around three hundred inmates – of which only one is a concern of Eva's. However, nearly two hundred assorted mercenaries and general scumbags, all under the banner of the Kuanga National Guard, also guard it. Even with her heightened skills and superior training, the only way she can pull this off is to apply her intellect to the issue at hand like it was a crossword puzzle.
Once inside the compound, Eva acts decisively. Certain that the perimeter guards haven't noticed her, she dismounts from the delivery truck and vanishes into the shadows cast by the building and it's constant rotation of searchlights. Eva recalls where the target will be right now – in the process of approaching the medical wing after her weekly check up. Eva can see the building at the side of the main wing of the prison – it's less than five hundred yards from her current location.
Through the goggles she notices that three guards flank the woman – Meredith Driscoll – presenting Eva with a difficult, although not insurmountable, problem. Unclipping the pistol from her belt, she breaks from the cover of the shadows as the searchlight sweeps past her and begins to swing around in a 180-degree arc.
Eva knows that she has sixty seconds before the light sweeps across the path linking the prison to the infirmary – she lifts the pistol and aims at the guard to Driscoll's left – forty eight seconds – the body hits the ground with a cavity in his skull. Thirty-eight seconds and the second guard slumps to the floor – the high powered round severing his spinal chord from behind. His spasms prompt Meredith to stop in her tracks. Twenty five seconds and the third guard is falling to the floor – a large hole has erupted in her forehead, tearing a hole in the thick tresses of blonde hair that had been so painstakingly teased into a bun that morning.
As the final few seconds tick away and the spotlight sweeps over the three dead bodies in the grounds of the prison, Eva has managed to secure Meredith Driscoll inside the only operation Helo-90 Stealth Interceptor that Nu Gazi prison has available and is sixty feet off the ground before anyone can react.
"What...what just happened?" Meredith asked, still in a state of shock at the events that had just unfolded over the last minute and a half.
"I have a job offer for you," Eva said, pulling her balaclava off her head before passing Meredith a small business card. "And I would advise you to accept it."
"What happens if I don't?" Meredith asked as she looked at the small white card emblazoned with the words UnitedFutures on it.
"Then I hope your work on manipulation of the human genome has given you the ability to fly." Eva said matter-of-factly as she piloted them away from the cacophony of sirens and searchlights now below them.