Here is your 2nd Action-Packed Snippet from Shadows of Opinion!
Are you ready to find out what happened when they landed? Did you see the first snippet? If not, why? LOL Be sure to read that one before this one. 🙂
“All your boisterous bombers are accounted for inside the administration building,” Emma reported. “I’ll highlight their positions with nav markers for you upon arrival. I believe the terrorists already had access to the system since there are some anomalies I couldn’t account for during my initial probe, and it’s slowing my attempts to take over the entire system.”
Jia tilted her head to avoid a low-hanging branch. They were almost at the administration building, but the situation could come down to seconds.
She wouldn’t let those scum win, no matter what.
“If the terrorists have already hacked the system, couldn’t they have dropped the Sky Garden remotely?” Erik asked. “Why go through the trouble of coming here?”
“There is no external access to the most relevant subsystems,” Emma explained. “For once, one of your pitiful engineering fleshbags thought pretty far ahead.”
“How are we doing on the evacuation?” Jia asked. “Any hostages?”
“Most guests and staff are on their way to escaping or already have left,” Emma replied. “I took the liberty of disguising myself as a local government official to expedite matters. Surprisingly, no one tried to interrogate my account credentials. I’d prepared a complicated solution for that, but most fleshbags should be off the Sky Garden within five minutes. I’ve seen no evidence of local staff being taken as hostages.”
“That’s good, but we might not have five minutes,” Erik muttered. “What about security bots? Any luck?”
“Although I’ve penetrated the cameras and comm systems,” Emma replied, “I’ll need more time to gain appropriate access to their security system. I’m not even taking the time to conceal my efforts, so that’s making things going faster.”
“More preparation on their part?”
“No, more basic security associated with the Sky Garden.”
Erik scoffed. “Don’t worry about covering your trail. We’ll get Alina to clean that up, or let the terrorists take the blame. Just do what you need to so we can stop those bastards.”
Jia and Erik slowed their mini-flitters.
The path widened and the trees grew sparser, revealing a bright white dome in the distance—the administration building. Small black specks marked Emma-controlled drones, increasing Jia’s confidence.
The AI might have an attitude problem, but her ego wouldn’t tolerate Erik and Jia being ambushed on her watch. She might not be human, as she had oh-so-carefully explained every time it came up, but for all her capabilities, she had a modicum of hubris.
Frankly, she might die of embarrassment if she failed.
The terrorists had lost several men, and they knew Erik and Jia were right on them. They might not have the personnel or time for anything too clever.
Erik and Jia set their vehicles down next to the terrorists’ mini-flitters. They exchanged quick looks before hopping to the ground and backing away. They didn’t head toward the door.
Erik drew his gun and nodded at Jia.
“What?” She frowned, not comprehending.
He motioned with his arm. “Step aside.”
Jia drew her pistol and jogged toward him. “You see something?”
Erik aimed his gun at one of the grav emitters on a terrorist flitter and pulled the trigger. “No. I just want to make sure that no matter what happens, those assholes don’t escape. I’m vindictive like that.”
“That’s justice. Even if they don’t pull off their stunt here, they’ve already killed innocent people.” Jia took aim at a different flitter and put a round in a grav emitter. It took the pair less than thirty seconds to disable the enemy vehicles before reloading and running toward the open door of the control center.
Jia flattened against the wall at the echo of a gunshot. Erik grunted and crouched. Both held their breath, waiting for the follow-up shot. More gunshot sounds followed, growing more distant with each shot.
“What’s going on, Emma?” Jia demanded.
“The feeble security bots have been overwhelmed,” Emma complained. “I managed to deploy them but didn’t want to distract you, though I will note these particular gun goblins were more thoughtful than most. They brought EMPs and dedicated armor-piercing rounds. They obviously had a good understanding of the potential security system, and I purged some malicious code prior to activating the bots.”
“What about fleshbag security?” Erik asked. He shrugged at Jia’s frown.
“Almost all human personnel are helping with the evacuation,” Emma reported. “Unfortunately, I believe my deception was too effective. Should I summon them back? There is a single guard remaining in the facility.”
“It’s too late now,” Erik commented. He narrowed his eyes. “And they might not be ready to deal with these guys. We’ll just have to catch up with our new friends.”
“Oh, that explains some things,” Emma commented. She sent a new red highlight to their smart lenses. “That newly marked gun goblin is a security guard. He was attempting to counter some of my efforts. As I said, I noticed some unusual log activity upon my initial system entry that was delaying an aggressive security response. He is now fleeing the facility.”
“He’s not the problem anymore. The cops can chase him down when this is all over.”
The red highlights for the terrorists changed their relative angles and spread out. Jia didn’t like the implications and had opened her mouth to say something when a massive boom accompanied the ground shaking.
“They gave up on trying to use the elevator,” Emma explained before Jia could say anything. “They are attempting to enter the area that leads to a hub with tunnels that will grant them direct access to the grav field emitters and thrusters.”
“What was that explosion?” Erik asked.
“The bomb,” Emma replied calmly. “They used it to blow through the primary security door.”
Jia sighed. “And there are no additional internal doors you can seal in the tunnels?”
“No,” Emma offered. “I dropped the primary security door to keep them out of the hub. They barely attempted to hack it before resorting to more direct methods.”
“Which means they never planned to. That was the point of the bomb all along. The security guard must have been worried about being noticed if he tried to mess with the door.”
“There are additional system safeguards in place concerning the door,” Emma revealed.
Jia grimaced. “I like terrorists who are stupid and underestimate everyone, not the kind who think ahead.”
“I thought you were complaining earlier about them being losers?” Erik grinned. “What happened to that, Jia?”
“That was about flying.” Jia gestured down the hallway. “This is bombing. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go.” She broke into a run. “The door slowed them down, which gives us a chance.”
Erik sprinted until he caught up. “Emma, I’m no engineer, but this place must have redundant emitters and thrusters, right? They can’t take out one of them and take it down.”
Emma sighed. “You’re correct that there is redundancy inherent in the design. All available information indicates they can disable half of the relevant equipment before the Sky Garden begins an unscheduled rapid descent with additional unscheduled rapid disassembly at the end of its fall.”
Jia rushed around a corner, her breathing ragged. “That’s not on my list of favorite things to experience. I know you mentioned the main supports are separate from the primary system, but can you gain any access to the attitude thrusters? They must have some they use for station-keeping, right?”
“I can’t gain easy direct access, but I might be able to control them indirectly via the power system.”
“Do that. If we have to go down, you can at least steer it into the ocean. That’ll lower the casualties.”
“Cheerful thought,” Emma replied. “I’ll try my best, but those thrusters have very limited ability to move this entire structure.”
Depending on a small chance of escaping doom as a backup was better than nothing. Jia and Erik would just have to do their best to not force Emma into that position.
Erik and Jia barreled down the hallway. They slowed as an acrid stench filled their nostrils. The air remained thick with smoke. The blasted remains of a security door lay scattered inside a room at the end of the hallway. A ladder sat beneath an open hatch. The terrorists’ position markers continued to move in different directions, with two clear clusters traveling in opposite directions.
“We don’t have time to do this together,” Jia complained. She ran over to the hatch and jumped down without grabbing the ladder. With a hiss, she hit the ground a few meters down, pain spiking through her legs, and stood, ignoring the discomfort. “Unless you don’t agree?”
Erik jumped down after she had stepped out of the way. “Nah. You’re right. Divide and conquer.” He inclined his head toward a Y-shaped intersection in front of them. “I’ll take left.” He patted his cybernetic arm. “It’s my lucky direction.”
Jia rolled her eyes. “That’s debatable. Don’t get killed. It’d be sad if these losers took you out.”
Erik grinned. “If I die today, it’ll be in the crash.”
“If it looks like the platform is going to fail, I can remotely activate your flitters and attempt to catch you while I’m trying to move the Sky Garden,” Emma offered. “But be advised, the chances of success with that particular maneuver are lower than you’d like to hear. They’re similar to the odds of me pushing this facility out of danger with the attitude thrusters.”
Jia aimed her gun down the corridor and ran toward the intersection. “What I’m hearing is we need to take these guys out. The plan is the same as it has been since we started chasing them.”
“I’m feeling generous.” Erik headed toward the opposite side. “Time for some free lead.”
As Jia headed into the new hallway, she patted her pockets. She had enough spare magazines to take down her half of the terrorists, but only if she was judicious with her shots.
If their recon missions were going to turn into major shootouts, she might need to start carrying lots of extra ammo in a coat with more pockets. At least she had the advantage of Emma telling her the exact location of all her targets.
The first leg of Jia’s journey took less than a minute. She stopped near another turn. Two terrorists stood near the end of the next hallway, according to Emma’s feed, while a third man crawled up a ladder into a service access tunnel. She was running out of time.
Sweat trickling down the side of her head, Jia took a deep breath and crouched. She crept to the edge of the wall and spun around the corner, then put a round into the first man’s head before sending a shot at the second. To be sure, she dropped her hand in a flash and put a couple more rounds into each of their chests to ensure they fell. So much for judicious use of ammo.
She leapt to her feet and charged down the hallway. The guards were incidental. The real trouble was their friend. Jia grabbed the top rung of the ladder, and a bullet flew over her partially exposed hand. She dropped one rung, catching it with her hand and bracing her feet. More shots blasted from the service tunnel. She tossed her gun into her left hand and took a deep breath before stepping up and turning her hand to fire. A bullet ripped through her hand and she slipped back with a hiss, landing on her back.
Jia sucked in air, her lack of oxygen helping her ignore the pain in her hand. She pulled a medpatch out of her pocket and wrapped it around the wound. The pain numbed as the anesthetic set in, but there was no way her hand would be healed in the next few minutes.
She picked up her gun and ran down a side hallway, hand throbbing. Several loud gunshots echoed from afar.
“How are you doing, Erik?” she asked
“One set down, two more to go,” he replied.
“Same.” Jia didn’t see a reason to worry him about being shot. It was hard to take on so many enemies on such a regular basis and not take the occasional bullet.
Lead poisoning was a basic job hazard when a woman was trying to stop crazed terrorists from bringing down floating tourist traps.
Her heart thundering, Jia rushed toward the next pair. This time she didn’t bother creeping up on them. She rushed into the hallway with a defiant shout of rage and shot both men in the head without slowing.
“Emma, a stray bullet or two in a service tunnel couldn’t possibly take out the thrusters and emitters, could it?”
“Given the setup of the Sky Garden, that’s incredibly unlikely, although I can’t say it’s impossible. It might be amusing if you end up doing their work for them.”
“Hilarious.” Jia ran toward the access ladder and jumped onto the rungs, pushing herself up without any concern for staying on the ladder. The terrorist furiously tapped on his PNIU as he stood in front of an internal door. His focus left him an easy target.
She fired three rounds into his back before she slipped and fell backward. He managed a strangled yelp before slumping to the floor, a pool of blood forming around him.
With a grunt, Jia landed on her butt without much grace, but at least she hadn’t been shot this time. More loud shots rang out. Erik was doing his part, and she needed to finish hers. She shoved her blood-covered pistol into her holster and grabbed a rifle from a fallen terrorist. Her hand throbbed with her pulse. Unsurprisingly, the human body didn’t like it when a person continued a gunfight after getting shot.
Good drugs could do a lot, but they couldn’t let someone ignore a hole in their hand.
Jia barreled through the hallways, taking short, quick breaths. According to Emma’s target highlights, her last set of terrorists was waiting as a group rather than risking sending one man on ahead. Either the others had warned them, or this group was smarter. “How are we doing?”
“Damn,” Erik transmitted, “some of these guys found their balls and managed a decent delay, but I’m heading toward the last of my set.”
“Me, too,” Jia replied. She gripped the rifle with one hand, using her thumb to switch the fire select to full auto. Instead of turning the final corner, she jumped. As soon as she cleared the wall, she squeezed and held the trigger, flinging bullets into the hallway. The half-empty magazine didn’t last long, but that didn’t save the terrorists from taking several rounds before Jia crashed to the floor with a grunt. The good news was the pain in her arm distracted her from her hand.
“Brace yourself,” Erik shouted.
Woohooooo!!!! I love it when they get into firefights, don't you? Come back on Thursday to see how this ends. And then on Friday, we get the entire book! You can pre-order now to make sure it ends up in your eReader the moment it goes live!
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