Follow up is never fun
(Written by Cobalt Greywalker; posted 26 April 2010)
<...> - Radio Communication
~...~ - Thoughts
Industrial Zone, Kandor City, Luna
Thursday June 6, 2013
"See ya Grant."
With a wave over his shoulder Grant made his way to his small apartment. Sure, it wasn't much but it was close to work.
Yawning, he pulled out his key card. He'd been up for 16 hours now, and he needed some sleep. Swiping his key through the slot, the man moved forward as the door slid to the side, then stopped.
Sat in front of him was a well dressed, beautiful woman in a long coat, sitting calmly with gloved hands on crossed legs and smiling pleasantly.
"Ah. Mr Daniel Armstrong. So nice of you to arrive."
The man froze as his heart damn near exploded. His vambrace computer, hidden under his sleeve, detected the sudden raise in pulse and ran a special program. Detecting where it was and what had been said, it triggered the taps in the fibre-optic cable and slammed the door shut in his face.
Three minutes earlier.
Having finished recording the evidence, the raven haired woman put a chair in front of the door. As she sat down, her newly minted Captain's bar gleamed on the lapels of her coat.
A.C. considered the operation S.H.I.E.L.D. was engaged in. Kasumi, Andy and Greenpeace were in different zones helping out, with Eddie and the Tachikomas helping with the blockade and Lebia on overwatch with Jarvis. That meant she didn't have backup, and anyway a Tachikoma wouldn't fit in the corridors around here.
Tracking down the various data-trails from Stellvia was taking up a fair bit of police time. Hopefully the information Eddie and Lebia had collected was proving useful.
<Overwatch to Scarlet Angel.> Lebia's voice came over the tac-net. <Target approaching.>
<Roger.> A.C. sub-vocalised, crossing her legs and arranging herself with a pleasant smile.
With a beep, the door slid open and her target stopped in surprise at her presence.
"Ah. Mr Daniel Armstrong." A.C. said calmly. "So nice of you to arrive."
Watching his eyes widen in shock, she knew that they'd got their man.
And then the door slammed shut.
A.C. blinked, then was at the door pressing the opener with no response. From the outside she heard thunks, as if the fire doors were coming down. Coming quickly to a decision she dropped to the back wall, set herself, and charged.
The door may have been tough, but it wasn't designed to take two and a half tons hitting it at a little over 30 kph. It folded around A.C.'s shoulder and pulled itself out of the fitting, then flew across the corridor to hit the wall as the combat cyborg stopped as soon as she was through.
~ Damn. ~ She thought to herself after a quick look around. The fire doors WERE down. On both sides.
"Overwatch!" A.C. barked.
<Over-ride, trying. Damn! Left!> Lebia replied. <Three then the emergency shaft.>
"Roger." A.C. pulled her ribbon-sword out. "Sorry Jarvis."
With a blurring flick, the ribbon snapped out and carved to door into several irregular chunks. Again she charged, snapping the sword out as the former door shattered around her. She continued to accelerate through the second disintegrating fire door before launching into a high speed flying kick and hitting the final door with all the force of a tank, knocking it down.
The raven-hared Cyber stalked over to the emergency door and slammed her sword hilt into the glass cover to the release handle. As she half expected it didn't work so she thumbed the length control on the ribbon-sword, reducing it to dagger size before jamming it into the seal and prying a handhold she could use to rip the door open.
A glance down showed Mr Armstrong performing the classic hold-onto-the-outside-of-the-ladder-and-slide trick. Putting her blade away in an eye blink she did the same, a part of her hoping he'd look up and get a distracting view.
Daniel Armstrong (a.k.a. Grant Richards) was running on pure adrenalin as he ran for his emergency escape route. How the hell did they track him down? How did they even know his name? His real name?
A single beep from his vambrace computer had him gripping the sides of the ladder to slow himself down, then he thrust himself off the ladder with a twist to dive through the suddenly open emergency door. Tuck, roll, sprint start. And he was away, heading for the workshop.
He didn't look behind him as he heard a crash. The woman who'd been waiting in his apartment (obviously a special agent) was still after him. Again the fire doors dropped behind him and an elevator opened to his right. He dove in, doors closing behind him, before the car dropped like a rock. Four floors...three...two...thump of something landing on the roof of the car...one...ding! He dived out of the opening doors, ran the short distance to the waiting mini-truck cab (the sort used at airports to move cargo containers), and drove full throttle. In the side mirrors he saw the woman dart out of the lift and chase after him. And rapidly gain on him.
What the hell was she?!?
~ What the hell am I? ~ A.C. wondered as the Attim part of her maintained pursuit. She was doing 400 kph in a continuous run! That was twice what she'd discovered after the accident. And she felt like she could go higher, given how easy this felt. Biomod curing didn't account for this. Reactions maybe, but not this.
Her target jinked left, just underneath a full-on BLAST DOOR dropping.
<Go straight!> Lebia urged. <Second left then third left. Intercept in 14 seconds.>
Spotting the turn her tactical system interposed a trajectory on her H.U.D. for her to follow. She went right, spiralling up the right wall, across the ceiling into the corridor, down the new right wall and back down to the floor without loosing speed.
<I have SO got that recorded.> Lebia muttered quietly.
Again, as soon as she spotted the turn a trajectory was superimposed on her vision. This time she went left, going left wall, ceiling, right wall, floor into new corridor, right wall, ceiling, left wall, floor, then full speed ahead.
A.C. ignored her, her vision zooming in on the small truck to see it stop in front of a workshop. Two seconds later her heels were screeching as she braked.
Panting from exertion, her heels slightly smoking from friction, the cyborg narrowed her emerald-coloured eyes.
"Scarlet Angel to Overwatch. Sitrep?" A.C. asked between breaths.
<Unknown.> Jarvis replied. <None of the target's identities have anything to do with this workshop.>
A.C. scowled as she switched to hyper-spectral vision and fished for her tricorder.
<None of the records show anything in the way of security or other ways out.> Lebia put in as A.C. switched back to normal vision and glanced at the tricorder screen. She narrowed her eyes at the perfectly normal readings. Except for one thing...
"I'm not seeing anyone in there. Jamming field most likely. Guy's better or more important than we thought." She switched the tricorder for one of her Whistler Custom Glock 18s, and dropped to the near side of the door. "Ready. Pop the door?"
<Overriding...now.> And the lock disengaged.
Diving in through the door, the sometimes Super sprang up off her free hand with a twist to surprise the target, sweep the room, and avoid any gunfire. It looked spectacular, and was completely wasted as no-one was there.
"Scarlet Angel to Overwatch, we're clear. Check the records again, there's obviously another way out." At the slightly staticy sound of silence, her expression got grimmer. A quick look at her tricorder again showed it to be useless. Switching back to hyper-spectral vision she took a careful look at the workshop. There had to be some trace her target had been here. Wait, was that...? A slight thermal trace on the floor. Following it lead to a locker, which she opened. A few coveralls, some tools, a box at the bottom... And a tiny crack, only just noticeable in her current vision mode, around the floor. A.C. looked and felt around the interior, before finding the fake rivet that dropped the floor.
Now, the sensible thing to do would be to go out the workshop door and call for backup. That would give this person more time to escape, and A.C. would be damned if she were to let that happen (or was that the Attim side of her? She couldn't decide). Instead, the combat cyborg etched an arrow in the floor pointing to the locker, then etched another pointing to the fake rivet and dropped into the hole.
<Lebia to Eddie.> The Visionaire contacted the White Stallion.
<I need you to focus the Stallion's sensors at these coordinates.> She told him. <A.C. just dropped out of contact entering a jamming field.>
<Roger. Scanning. Got her. She's moving downward toward the outside rim. The rock's diminishing the sensor return and it'd be disruptive to systems in that area if I were to up the power to compensate. Her tracking beacon is still on.>
<Understood. I'll try something down here to triangulate.>
The virtually none-existent glow provided by the bioluminescent moss provided more than enough light for A.C. to see clearly. Which meant that Mr. Armstrong had some other means to navigate. Admittedly there hadn't been any junctions, but... Ah, the moss acted like a guide.
Now, where was she going?
The bang of the doors being blown in snapped the gang members sitting around on the crates in the middle of the warehouse to attention. Grabbing their weapons they were unnerved by the small amount of gunfire they heard. The surprise wasn't that bad, so their mates in the loading area should have been able to put up more of a fight.
The west door smashed open, and a slim figure in a space-black bodysuit and helmet shot through aiming the shotgun in their hands at the two men in the centre.
The shotgun barked once, then twice.
The shots passed the surprised central men and hit the two men at the far side of the room who were still in the open. The rounds exploded on impact, wrapping the suspects in sticky webbing.
The shocked man to the right got smashed around the head with the stock of the figure's shotgun. This stopped the figure enough to see it was female. Continuing her spin she dropped and swept the back of the other man's legs out from under him with the extended shotgun.
Before the rest of the gang could take advantage of the pause, people in tac-suits swarmed through the door and started firing.
Seeing the fight as lost, one man tried to sneak out the north door. He was just to the door when a shotgun slug smashed into the wall by his head.
Looking up, he could see the female figure who had started this twisted slightly around to her right to straight-arm her shotgun and fire it in his direction one handed. The end of the barrel barely wobbled.
He wisely gave up.
"You know Ma'am," one of the tac-suited figures said as she came up, "it'd be easier on us if you stayed with the group."
The woman shrugged.
"These guys would have had more time to set themselves. And some of your guys needed to be shown I can handle myself." The figure took her helmet off, revealing a pixy-like green face and dark green hair. "How we doing?"
"Mostly done. We've rounded up most of the suspects now. It does look like we gave the tricky one to the Scarlet Angel though."
"Oh?" Greenpeace asked, keeping an eye out for loose threats. "That should have been a simple collar."
The tac-suited woman shrugged.
"The investigation team underestimated him. The Scarlet Angel's running him down now. Apparently he's got a hidden passage in the crater rim."
"What, and you guys don't?" Greenpeace asked in mock-disbelief.
Lebia tightened up the code she was working on some more, and tried again. The interferometry program took the signals being picked up by the various transceivers in and around Kandor, then searched the data for a specific signal. Then it became a simple matter for her to triangulate the signal's position.
Talking to it was another thing entirely.
This was the hacker's third attempt, after realising the fact she had to increase the sensitivity on the transceivers to get the necessary detail. In the back of her mind, Lebia acknowledged A.C. had better skills in that respect.
Finally, she found the signal of A.C.'s tracking beacon and was able to place it deep in the crater rim. The signal damping effects of the rock in that area had her updating the Luna Geographical Association's maps, pointing out the metal content there.
With the Scarlet Angel back on the grid, the Visionaire checked back on the rest of the operation.
Said woman bounced down the path, keeping to a maintainable pace in the light lunar gravity. She was also wondering why she hadn't run into the suspect yet, given she saw no signs of other forms of transport in the tunnel. Surely he wasn't still running? Their brief meeting had shown he was still at least mostly human. No immediate sign of a biomod, or of cybernetic enhancements. And she was still moving faster then he had shown himself to be.
Curious, she got out her tricorder again and had a look. And in the dark she lifted an eyebrow. There were faint traces of what seemed to be gravity spikes on the roof. She didn't have the gravimeter attachment to get better readings.
~ Damn. ~ She thought to herself. ~ I'll have to speed up. ~
So she did.
Armstrong felt the deceleration of the 'waved Segway as it reached the end of the tunnel. Once stopped, he stepped off the hang bar's paddles. The Segway stayed where it was on the roof, acting like gravity worked in the opposite direction to it than everything else.
He quickly twisted the wheel to open the bulkhead door on this side of the airlock, before passing through and closing it again. Unfortunately, his colleagues hadn't created this place. They'd merely 'acquired' it. Thus, it still had all the safety systems the original owner had put in. Which meant he had to seal the tunnel door before he could open the other one. And THAT one closed automatically after five seconds of no movement in the airlock, to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'.
Now in the hidden chamber he could see the crates and barrels lumped out of the way, and the windowed booth in the mezzanine area on the far side. He dashed across the open space towards its ramp rather than the ladder, knowing that the freak woman was likely still after him. He wanted heavier weapons to deal with them, and the suits stored in the booth.
He was opening the door when he heard the airlock begin to do the same. Panicking he yanked the door open then slammed it after himself. He ignored the mess of things taken from the crate and dove for the weapons on the table, grabbing an AK-47 and jamming a loaded magazine into it before he looked out through the window.
He saw the woman was just moving away from the airlock, seeing him through the window with rifle in hand and jumping towards cover. And a set of controls he lunged for.
Just out of the airlock, the raven-hared cyborg saw the suspect brandishing a bloody assault rifle in the windowed booth at the other side. Not being dumb A.C. dove for cover.
And then the right wall vanished.
The depressurisation was almost instant, blowing the mid-air cyborg out of the massive hole. Her perception speed up, and she noted that the hole was in fact a section of the rim rock that had been moved up.
This entire hidden room was a secret airlock and craft bay.
Twisting, she flung her ribbon sword into the rock where it bit. The sudden stop yanked at her shoulder, and arrested the majority of her momentum. But not all, as the 3 cm tip that had embedded itself in the rock slid out. Lunar gravity caught her as she continued out into the blazing sunlight of the lunar day.
Even as her eyes adjusted to the glare of the sun, she flung out her ribbon sword again. As soon as it hit, the spaced cyborg rigidified the blade and used the friction of the blade carving through the regolith and rock to slow herself down and get her feet on the ground faster.
With a cloud of moondust, she got her feet onto the rocky surface of the rim of Daniell Crater and skidded to bleed off her remaining momentum.
Even the brief exposure A.C. was getting of un-diffused sunlight was starting to burn, and she couldn't hold her breath for long. Inside she winced at the sort of damage getting blown into hard vacuum was doing to her otherwise unprotected senses. She needed to get back into the bay before the suspect closed the hatches.
She retracted the sword to a normal length and stabbed into the ground to give herself leverage for a skier-like sprint start. Then she pushed off as fast as she dared in lunar gravity, ready to use the mono-ribbon as a grappling hook. And as she'd suspected, the rock face the bay was hidden behind was falling again.
Time slowed even further to her heightened awareness, her internal mapping system overlaying its best guess as to topography to her HUD, and the tactical system plotted a trajectory.
A bump provided the necessary bracing for her to leap up the predicted trajectory and brace herself against the bottom of the closing rock face. She barely had one and a half metres of space, but she flung herself down to the floor. Two meters to the inside, maybe 120 cms of space. Again she pounced, diving desperately into a roll to get her legs clear.
She felt the scrape of rock against her toes, then the reverb of the face closing again.
With certain asphyxiation avoided, A.C. needed to repressurise the bay to avoid only near-certain asphyxiation. And fast.
The booth window was too tough to crack with her pistols, and the way she came in would not give enough air quickly enough and possibly let the bastard escape, that left the cargo doors. With her burning precious oxygen, she stalked quickly to the big doors to find the emergency controls. Light-headedness started to set in, but she punched in the override code.
The doors opened with a great whoosh of air.
Gasping and coughing, the bedraggled raven-hared woman breathed delicious recycled air.
"Ba-hah-stard." She wheezed, coughing up a small amount of blood.
In the lowered pressure of the bay and being by the breeze of incoming atmosphere almost masked the subtle click of metal on metal.
A.C. desperately dodged to the right as a load crack filled the thin air. She crashed to the ground.
Her left arm from halfway between shoulder and elbow fell to the floor to the other side of the crater the coilgun bolt left with a wet thump.
A great arc of blood hung in the reduced gravity like some slow motion effect before splattering the walls and floor.
Daniel Armstrong dropped the scaldingly hot coilgun he'd hastily attached into the nearest power feed. It was never meant for use in atmosphere, so it had nearly wrecked itself firing that one shot. He certainly didn't want it to explode if he tried again.
He didn't know WHAT this thing was. Given the blood it had to be some sort of biomodded thing. But since it bled, he could kill it. Now, while it was out from the shock of the ac-mag bolt. He didn't think the extreme blood loss would finish it off, it had just spent the best part of about thirty seconds in hard vacuum on the fucking Lunar DAY SIDE without a fucking SUIT for fucks sake.
He had reached the bottom of the ladder and was walking to the pool of blood when the remaining arm moved, causing him to freeze.
"No. FUCKING. WAY." He whispered as the figure sat up.
The left arm was a mess, but no longer leaking blood. The face was blank. Blanker than a shop mannequin, with blank dark eyes.
Almost without thinking he pulled his pistol and fired three rounds into the torso.
Other than rocking the figure, it did nothing. The flattened bullets dropped from the cloth of the waistcoat as she stood up.
Then its eyes snapped onto him. Her arm moved.
Daniel felt himself slammed across the bay by the flat of the ribbon blade. Smashing through a crate and rolling to a stop, he blinked pain tears out of his eyes to see a blurry image of the women-shaped thing, seemingly on autopilot, shamble over to her severed arm and pick it up.
Then it jammed the broken end back into position.
The sight of the mangled flesh reweaving itself together in a second would have been nauseating if he wasn't still stunned. If it wasn't for the blood spray over the walls, floor, and the woman's clothes, you wouldn't know anything had happened.
Then it turned around to face him again. He barely noticed the eyes clearing and gaining life and the thing started towards him.
A.C. felt herself come back from wherever she had been as her body had got up from having its arm blown off, swatted the suspect away, and then reattached said arm.
She didn't know she could do that. Regrow? Possibly (she still wasn't sure after the problem with the gas tank exploding during that pressure test), although she'd easily be able to replace it. Sure she could heal fast at times, but reattach a ripped off arm?
The click of her heels seemed shockingly loud as she walked up to the sprawled man, who started crawling backwards to get away from her leaving a dark streak of liquid. She didn't change her pace; she just kept walking with calm, near methodical strides up to the increasingly shaky man. Then she dropped her sword blade right between his legs.
He stopped moving.
"Mister Armstrong." A.C. said, her otherwise calm voice underlain with something dark and enticing. "We should have a little talk."
"There you go." A.C. ignored the gaping police officer as she handed over the very subdued and patched up Daniel Armstrong, then she started making her way over to where Greenpeace, Adonis, and Kasumi were waiting, gaping like fish out of water.
"What the hell happened to you lass?" Adonis finally got out, and the raven hared cyberneticist had to admit she was a sight.
The blood soaked and grey dust clad clothes made her look like a survivor from the apocalypse, or a zombie. The dried blood on her visible skin added to that impression, what with the dried bloody streaks coming from her eyes, ears, nose and mouth (although they were mostly the remains of blood splatter on her face).
The thing that really got their attention was the bundle of cloth around her left wrist, where the remains of her left sleeves for her blouse and coat had ended up.
"High speed chases, mysterious underground passages, deadly danger, spaced, shot by coilgun...." The emerald eyed woman shrugged. "You know, the usual. Now, I want a bath, cheesecake, and a warm bed. In that order. Now. Or I get cranky."
Temporary Office, Level 347, The Watchtower, Kandor City, Luna
Friday June 7, 2013
A.C. was feeling much more personable after a good night of rest. Which was why she was in the small temporary office S.H.I.E.L.D. had set up for her (being more or less an independent she didn't have a better, permanent one up in the 400s. Which some rule-lawyer was probably finding annoying now she was a Captain), reading the various reports from the rest of the operation.
With a sigh, she finished the last report and dropped the PADD on the desk. It looked like they got everyone they'd found, but they'd been mostly minor catches. But the further intelligence S.H.I.E.L.D. had gathered would take time to work through. And it seemed to be just bad luck Mr. Armstrong had been so well prepared. She did find it slightly amusing to read a note from Armstrong's interrogation that mentioned the nervous twitch he'd developed whenever a good looking woman smiled at him.
She turned to look at her left arm again. Almost against her will she rolled down the shoulder length black silk glove to look at the flawless skin there. Once she'd managed to get some rest, she'd examined her arm with all the equipment she had at her disposal onboard the Stallion.
And found no trace of the injury she'd suffered.
With a sigh she rolled the glove back up. She'd have to wait until she got back home to the Forge and have another look. And she'd been vague with the injury in the report she submitted. She figured surviving being spaced would be distracting enough.
A knock at the door brought her attention fully back to the surroundings.
"It's open." She called, clearing up the PADDs scattered around the desk.
A pretty brunette in an attractive business skirt suit opened the door and stepped in.
"Attim." She said politely.
"Moneypenny." A.C. greeted her with a slight smile. "Looking lovely as ever. What's up? We've submitted our reports."
"There were a few questions as to why you didn't call for backup." Moneypenny looked disapproving.
The cyberneticist leaned back in her chair and ran a black silk gloved hand through her raven locks. It was deliberate, and it also showed how well the shimmering red silk of her sleeveless Chinese micro-dress clung to her shapely form. From Moneypenny's position the cyborg looked like a pin-up.
"Does nobody actually READ the reports?" A.C. asked, exasperated. "Specifically, it was 'The Heat of the Chase.' Other considerations were the fact that the intel on the guy had proved so wrong by that point, waiting may have allowed the suspect to escape. In fact, it probably would have. AND killed most of rest of the team, given what happened when I caught up with him." She shrugged in what most people would consider a very distracting fashion. "Then there was the possible intelligence he might have access to. I DO think of these things. But it was mostly him pissing me off. All of which I put in my report. I'm perfectly able to psychoanalysis myself."
"Which scares a lot of people." Moneypenny told her.
"Not MY fault I'm intelligent enough to know I'm intelligent enough to ignore how intelligent I am and rely on instinct and retain my intelligence when I need to."
"Do you HAVE to give me headaches like that?" Moneypenny asked.
"Kasumi HAS been teaching me some of her temple massages." The emerald-eyed cyber offered.
"Why is it you're so good at this?" The assistant to M asked seriously.
"I blame the 'Wave. And knowing Andy as well as I do."
The brunette gave the beauty a look.
"I'd better go and make sure the rest of the reports are accurate." Moneypenny sighed.
A.C. stood and stepped over to the other women. With utter grace and chivalry she took one of Moneypenny's free hands in one of her own silk opera gloved ones, and bowed with courtly precision to kiss the back of her hand. That it revealed her long, very well formed and nude legs (shown in exquisite detail by the shortness of her skirt and the 5"/13cm black heels she was wearing) and gorgeous figure was merely an unanticipated benefit.
"A shame that such a beauty as you must be torn by duty like this." The Scarlet Angel murmured, before looking up.
Moneypenny tried and failed to hide her blush.
"Such talk will only get you in trouble."
The smile on A.C.'s face was sultry and mischievous.
"I'm willing to back my words up. Are you?" The beautiful cyborg purred.
Face flushed, Moneypenny pulled back.
"Unfortunately M requires my presence for the next fortnight. Otherwise I might have to take you up on that challenge."
A.C. watched as the executive secretary swished out of her temporary office before relaxing. She was never sure why the Attim/Darkeyes parts of her felt obliged to play along with the flirting, especially when she knew Moneypenny was taken.
~ Poor girl. I'll have to have Kasumi get her boyfriend to 'buy' her some of Greenpeace's new fragrances. ~
It was only three minutes before she had cleared her desk and left the tower herself. She had projects to work on.