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Chapter 1: From the Frying Pan

by Caiggas
04 October 2018 at 01:13:19

Part of For Better or Worse

Author's Note:

A Thingyverse story



Ryan Tyndall


Thump!

Above me something heavy landed on the roof.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse.

I had tripped the silent alarm 3 minutes ago, but I had thought it would take at least another 2 before a Mobile Lawyer showed up. One must have been doing a random patrol nearby. The number I had done on the entry interface should slow it down long enough for me to finish. The Russian ICE-pick I got off my contact in Detroit was doing a masterful job at cutting through the firewalls, and I could tell I was close.

A buzzing screech sounded above.

He’s cutting in?

Apparently this lawyer didn’t have the patience to negotiate with the corrupted door interface. That cut my timetable in half. He would still have to find me, but if I had to guess, the security system was probably already notifying him of my location. I was running out of time, but just a few more seconds and I would have -

Dammit!

The letters sat there, mocking me:

INTERFACE NOT FOUND. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR.

The schematics didn’t mention a fail-open switch on the storage array. They probably disconnected as soon as the lawyer cut his way in. No time left to try anything else, he would be here any second. I ran to the door, and peaked around the edge.

Clear, but not for long.

I ran to the elevator, but then thought better of it and doubled back to the stairs. My instincts proved right as I heard the grinding squeal of elevator doors being forced open. I slipped into the stairwell and ran 2 steps at a time up them.

I AM A LAWYER, LAY DOWN ON THE GROUND AND RAISE YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD. I AM AUTHORIZED DEADLY FORCE IF YOU RESIST. YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF ARTIC-

The sound of the lawyer’s PA system was cut off as the stairwells door closed below me. It would only take him a few seconds to realize that I wasn’t downstairs anymore, but by then I would be outside. I only needed a moment-

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

Three more of them? I don’t have time for this!

A job wasn’t any good, no matter the haul, if the Lawyers got you. I was running out of options. I hated to do it, because it would cause a lot more official interest in my little break-in, but Auging was my best bet. Intentionally subvocalizing to my Aug control interface, I activated a series of extremely illegal Augs.

{Release control restriction level three. Engage Acceleration system, second tier.}

My vision turned slightly blue at the edges and everything slowed as the Acceleration kicked in. I could hear heavy footsteps through the exterior wall beside me as the Lawyers moved towards the door.

{Engage ATP reserve, engage Auto-Reflexes System, set Oxygenation Augment to preset 2, engage Dermal Ground, engage Electronic and Sonic Countermeasure Suite in three seconds.}

I stepped through the hole in the door the first Lawyer destroyed, careful not to brush its still glowing edges. It had begun to pour rain, and through the slowly falling sheets of water, I saw three massive blue mobile suits. The one in the lead, a stack of gold chevrons on his pauldrons marking him as their leader, was already raising a glowing taser array.

One.

I ran at the leader, angling to the right to keep him in-between me and the left suit. I reached him and slid on my knees just to his right just as the blue arcs of electricity jumped from his array to my outstretched left hand. The charge arced across my skin, failing to penetrate as the Dermal Ground redirected the energy through my other hand and into the power array I grabbed as I passed him.

Two.

The right suit was dreadfully slow with my Acceleration system on, but I was skidding right into his swinging gauntlet. Auto-Reflexes kicked in, and my body moved of its own accord, kicking my legs straight and hurling me to the side, right in between the two suits. As I shot past them, I could hear the telltale siren of an overheating power cell from the leader’s suit.

Three

The siren cut off as my ear drums sealed against the auditory assault of my Countermeasure Suite. If there were any unprotected persons in the vicinity, they would wake up in a few hours with burst eardrums. Invisible to me, but just as real, a mirage of blinding lights would be burning out the visual sensors of any Mobile Suit looking my way.

The blue around the edges of my vision faded as time returned to normal, and I began running, trusting the Reflexes to stop me from turning an ankle. I poured every ounce of energy I had into the sprint, desperate to get away before the Lawyers recovered.

3 minutes, that’s all my ATP reserves will last at this speed. I need somewhere to hide…

Above me the clouds began to rumble as the rain fell even harder. There was a water treatment plant half a mile up the road through the trees. I had seen it on the maps while I was planning this job. Between the storm, the dark of night, and the mess I made of the Suits sensors, I just may be able to hide inside the water plant’s reservoir. My oxygenation implant wasn’t as efficient underwater, but it would work for a while.

I felt the ground shake for a moment as a massive explosion mushroomed behind me. That would slow them down even more, maybe giving me enough time to hide. I passed a bend in the road that obscured me in the trees. Still running at full sprint, I scanned the sky for more suits. I knew they would show up as soon as the report went out that an Auger had been here.

Auging was technically legal, but heavily regulated. Most legal Augs were retinal displays, medicine auto-dispensers, and other harmless things. Mine were heavily illegal, only available to people who kept the kind of company that would get you 20 in a re-education facility. Lawyers were technically mercenaries, paid for by the State. The greater the criminal, the more they got paid. Illegal Aug users were worth even more, as each functional Aug that could be carved from the offender by the state was worth a bounty. This place would be swarming as soon as the Lawyers here decided they could make more money by splitting the bounty with more of their colleagues rather than risk me getting away.

Ahead, I saw the dark silhouette of the treatment plant. Behind, I could hear several jets whining as suits took to the sky. I vaulted the security fence, but stumbled on the landing as my ATP reserves ran out. I crouched there, shaking with exhaustion as the storm, glowing green, raged around me.

Come on, almost there. Just need to make it to the reservoir…

THUMP!

I turned around with resignation, seeing the pristine blue armor of a Mobile Lawyer on the other side of the fence. This must have been the one inside the building, protected from the leader’s explosion. Two more thuds shook the ground as two more suits, blackened and pitted, landed some distance behind me.

There’s nowhere to run, they’ve got me in a triangle…

The lawyer ahead of me began to speak through his PA as he advanced towards the fence.

“YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. LAY DOWN ON THE GROUND AND RAISE YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD. YOU ARE CHARGED WITH UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY INTO A RESTRICED AREA, ATTEMPTED THEFT OF INFORMATION, ASSAULT OF THREE LAWYERS, MURDER OF A SENIOR LAWYER, DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, ILLEGAL AUGMENTATION, RESISTING ARR-“

Suddenly the green glow of the storm shone incredibly brightly and everything around me changed. I was standing in a rocky valley, still in a storm, with the lawyers nowhere to be seen. The green glow faded and I stumbled backwards. I sat there for a moment, stunned and confused, unsure at what happened.

Am I dreaming? What is this place? Where did the lawyers go?

I heard a throat clear behind me. “Well, what do we have here? I’ve been waiting for a chance at a human outsider!”

I spun around and stood, seeing three short figures standing a few meters away. The first was a fat man in bright robes. He was holding 2 chains attached to dull metal collars around the necks of the two wretched looking women behind him. They were clothed in dirty rags and had manacles of a similar material as their collars. I was about to ask what was going on, but the man raised a hand and both women began chanting strange words and waving their hands around. My vision narrowed and suddenly I was too weak to stand. As I slumped over, I saw the man standing over me, leering and laughing. As I gave in to unconsciousness, the last thing I noticed was his ears, pointed at their tips.

Elves?