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Desperate Measures Snippet #2

 

Okay, besides this being a totally fantastic snippet for Desperate Measures, it also had me busting a gut laughing at the alternative cussing Erik tries out! Now, that's my kinda expletives! You go Erik! Keep 'em coming!

 

July 7, 2230, Wales, Cardiff, Pwyll Tower

Erik hung from the edge of the balcony, his feet dangling into the dark abyss extending beneath him. Emma claimed the jump was necessary because of unexpected drone activity, but he suspected that was one of her sick jokes.

He didn’t think she would let Jia or him die, but she might have no problem letting them fall hundreds of feet to make a point about the fallibility of fleshbags.

It didn’t matter. Both he and Jia had made the jump and were now on the level of the infiltration target, the massive building in front of them, which was the center of Ceres Galactic operations in the city.

With a soft grunt of exertion, he pulled himself up and over the railing onto the balcony, ending his experiment with high-altitude thrill-seeking for the night. Heights didn’t bother him unless they were accompanied by gunfire.

Jia matched his motion with easy grace. They could wait for the damned window to open without hanging and waiting to fall to their deaths hundreds of stories below.

“How are we on the drone, Emma?” Erik asked. “Trouble?”

“I’ve redirected it without a problem. There’s also no evidence of unusual transmission. You should be fine for entrance.”

“It’d be nice to complete a mission without having to shoot someone,” Jia suggested as she looked around. “Or blowing anything up.”

“Nice, but not as fun,” Erik replied. “And I don’t think Alina brought us aboard because of our fine sneaking skills.”

Emma piped in. “Does it count as sneaking if there’s no one left alive to see you?”

He shook his head. “Too philosophical for me.”

Erik stood and dusted off the pants of his tactical suit. Between the suit and the dark-tinted helmets, no one would recognize them, but the need for secrecy also meant he couldn’t bring his TR-7. Having to at least attempt to sneak around was one big disadvantage of working for Alina and the Intelligence Directorate.

Alina had complained that Erik’s and Jia’s reliance on certain equipment was making it too easy to identify their involvement in incidents. Sometimes that could be useful, but not always. Since the death of Sophia Vand, the ID had become aggressive on multiple fronts, and the more they could keep their tools in the dark, the more successful they would be. That didn’t make it any less annoying to Erik.

When he was a cop openly investigating crimes, he’d never worried about people identifying him. His fame, along with his partner’s, had helped keep things under control in their encounters. Now they had a new job and new restraints, but the fringe benefits, including the ship, were nice. Erik couldn’t complain too much, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t complain at all.

“So much for being freelance,” Erik muttered underneath his breath. “We stand out, she says. We need to take that into consideration, she says.”

“It doesn’t hurt to be careful now and again,” Jia offered. “Especially when we are potentially outnumbered and outgunned.”

She smiled and glanced over the edge of the balcony at the lights of the city below them and those marking flitters. Erik followed her gaze, wondering if there was trouble but seeing nothing out of the ordinary for a decent-sized city.

His recent travels had recalibrated how he thought of things. He was no longer using Neo SoCal as his basis for comparison, or not always.

Cardiff might lack the density and population of Neo SoCal, but Pwyll Tower was almost as impressive as a Hexagon building, which made sense given this was a Ceres Galactic-owned property.

Erik’s initial investigations had pointed toward the company, and his subsequent efforts, along with those of the Intelligence Directorate, had reinforced the initial suspicion. He wasn’t particularly surprised to be in a Ceres building, only surprised it’d taken so long for him to end up at another one.

It also proved that like in most things in history, there was probably a small group of people pulling the strings. Fancy tech and half-alien agents didn’t change the solution. A bullet to the head or a missile to their ship was usually the last word in a conversation.

Erik’s quest wouldn’t stop corruption in the UTC, but it didn’t have to. He just wanted the Knights Errant to be able to rest in peace, and he would accomplish that by making sure the people who’d killed them rested in pieces.

“Speaking of standing out,” Jia began. “If things get heated, Emma, don’t use the turret unless absolutely necessary. An MX-60 with a collapsible turret pretty much screams, ‘Erik Blackwell and Jia Lin were here.’”

“But the turret is so much fun,” Emma complained.

“I’m with her on that.” Erik bobbed his head in agreement.

Even if it’d become more Emma’s toy and not a tool always available or practical, he’d used it often enough.

“If I can’t use my favorite gun, you don’t get to use your favorite gun,” he added.

“You should see the look of fear in the eyes of the gun goblins when I use it.” Emma’s voice was filled with glee. “There’s just something about having the ability to lay down death and destruction.”

“We’re not here for fun or laying down death and destruction,” Jia countered, making sure Erik caught her look. “We’re here to get some intel. Death and destruction are strictly optional.”

Erik nodded. “That’s like saying the cherry on an ice cream sundae is optional. Sure, you don’t have to have one, but why not go for it?”

A last-minute transmission by Alina had indicated their mission-objective data wouldn’t be around the next day, forcing them to take immediate action.

“I’m almost into the internal systems,” reported Malcolm over the comm. “Just need a couple more minutes, then you’ll be able to go anywhere you want on this level without anyone knowing you’re there. As easy on the eyes as one of my shirts.”

“The government should just rush into every damned Ceres building themselves,” Erik grumbled. “This death-by-a-thousand-cuts crap gets tiring.”

“That would probably take every CID agent from across the UTC,” Jia often threw her metaphorical researcher hat on her head at some of the most inopportune moments. “I know Alina said they’ve been able to follow up on intel and data, including the stuff we gave them, but she didn’t say every individual member of Ceres Galactic is a member of the conspiracy, just that the company is heavily involved in it. The ID and CID are going to have to be surgical about this.”

“They probably just don’t want the economy to collapse once everyone realizes one of the biggest corporations in the UTC is controlled by assholes who would blow up domes or fund terrorists just to get an advantage.”

Jia shrugged. “There is something to be said for considering the disruptive effects of our actions. It won’t do us any good to take down the conspiracy if we hurt a lot of innocent people in the process. Like I mentioned, surgical approach.”

“Screw the surgery.” Erik patted the rifle slung over his shoulder. “Sometimes a little lead anti-health supplements followed by rapid cauterization is the best therapy. We just make sure we only apply it to the people who deserve it. Shit, sometimes you just need to blow a bastard into enough pieces they can’t put him back together again. I’m going to name that the Humpty-Dumpty Strategy.”

Jia tilted her head, but Erik couldn’t see her expression underneath the helmet. “We’re winning, Erik. We’re on offense now, not defense. We don’t need to try harder than we are, because at this rate, we will take them down.”

“I’m a shark ready for my feeding frenzy.” Erik scuffed his boot against the deck. “That’s the thing. Every time we nail more of the bastards, I see that they aren’t the all-powerful gods they think they are, and that makes me want to keep going forward and finish them off right away.”

“That’s what we’re doing. We’ve got the backing of the two major government directorates, a unique AI, and a good support crew. This ends with the conspiracy dead and the UTC a better place, as long as we don’t get ahead of ourselves.”

“Almost there with the windows,” Malcolm reported. “It’ll take a bit more on the cameras. The local systems are unusual.”

“Don’t know if I care,” Erik remarked before continuing with Jia. “I’m eager to take some people on.”

Emma snickered. “And you both act as if I’m the trigger-happy one. Incidentally, there are no issues with the local exterior drone and camera redirects, but that doesn’t guarantee anything about long-range cameras and drones. I wouldn’t advise removing your helmets unless absolutely necessary unless you want to be identified.”

“Duly noted,” Erik replied. He slipped the rifle off his shoulder and flipped off the safety.

Jia shook her head with a disappointed sigh and gestured to the stun pistol holstered in his belt. “Remember, we’re supposed to go non-lethal on this unless we have no other choice. Even if we limit ourselves to this one level, we can’t be sure everyone in there works for the conspiracy.”

“Frizzle fraken gander poppin’.” Erik flipped the safety back on before slinging the rifle over his shoulder again and drawing the stun pistol. “I hope we don’t end up ambushed by something nasty and get killed because we have our stun pistols out. I’d hate to die because we were being too nice to conspiracy assholes pretending to be corp employees.

She eyed him. “’Frizzle fraken gander poppin’?’”

He shrugged. “I’m trying something out. Your parents—well, particularly your mom—always gives me this look when I curse, so I’m trying to come up with alternatives.”

“You know that sounds odd, right?”

He looked at her. “You want me to say FF?”

She put up a hand. “No. I’m fine. Just…try something else.”

He nodded.

The window remained opaque and dark, and without camera access, they couldn’t know they weren’t walking right into a hallway filled with heavily armed Tin Men.

Erik wasn’t sure he cared. He didn’t want a clean mission. If it were too easy, the conspiracy wouldn’t feel the pain. That might be better from an intelligence operation standpoint, but it didn’t satisfy his vengeful spirit as well.

“Thousands of people work in this building,” Jia commented while drawing her stun pistol. “I doubt the conspiracy would have lasted very long if they filled buildings with their operatives. The CID or ID would have picked them off fast.”

“Maybe they give a really nice benefits package for selling your soul,” Erik joked. “But I’ll try to not kill anyone unless they have it coming. I hope they’ll reconsider their career choices after that.”

“About thirty seconds,” Malcolm reported. “Get ready, boys and girls, for a little high-level breaking and entering.”

“I could have handled everything.” Emma sniffed. “The millisecond difference in my response time during multitasking isn’t that big a deal, but I will admit Mr. Constantine is reasonably competent.”

“That almost sounds like a compliment,” Malcolm retorted.

“I should correct it to ‘reasonably competent for a fleshbag.’ Obviously, not competent compared to me.”

Malcolm sighed. “And there went my compliment, floating down to the ground, where it exploded into bloody chunks on impact.”

Erik flexed his fingers over the stun pistol. He rarely used the weapon, so it felt unfamiliar and unnatural.

“According to that intel Alina gave us,” he began, “the room containing the system IO port we want to hack is going to be shielded, so it doesn’t matter who is in control of things until we find it and get the transmitter set up.” He smirked. “I hope this doesn’t end up like that shit in Cairo last month, speaking of needing bigger guns.”

“There weren’t that many gun goblins by your standards,” Emma interjected. “So much whining. You barely got shot.”

“It’s not whining to want the best equipment available for the job, and the point is to shoot the other guys, not get shot ourselves.”

“I know that, but…hmmm.” Emma stopped.

Erik snickered and lowered his pistol toward the holster. “It is Cairo, isn’t it?”

“It’s more that it’s unfortunate timing,” Emma explained. “There is no immediate danger like in that other incident, but this could prove troublesome.”

“We got some yaoguai on the other side?” Erik asked.

“I’ve got immediate camera access now,” Malcolm reported. “Nothing unusual on the other side, and the security patrols aren’t anywhere near the window.”

“The problem isn’t inside the building,” Emma explained. “There is a heavy increase in drone and external camera activity, and it’s requiring more attention on my part to ensure no one spots you.”

“Screw it.” Erik rolled his shoulders. “We don’t have time to wait around.”

“Okay,” Malcolm interjected. “As I said, it looks like it’s empty. I’m ready to open everything up whenever you are.”

“Get ready.” Erik pointed his pistol at the door. “If there’s a bunch of Tin Men on the other side, I’m going to be pissed.”

Jia patted one of her stun grenades. “Why do I have a feeling I’ll be getting a lot of use out of these?”

“Whatever works, but I’m not going to let myself get gunned down.”

With a hiss, the window slid open, the soft light spilling out. The hallway was dim but bright enough to negate the need for night vision.

There were also no yaoguai, Tin Men, or killer bots waiting on the other side, only a long, empty hallway filled with doors. Emma gave him nav arrows in his smart lenses based on the intel and building blueprints.

Jia looked back and forth before giving a satisfied nod. “Now we have to hope the intel Alina sent us is good.”

“And if it’s not?” Malcolm asked.

“Then we’ll have risked our lives for nothing.”

Erik looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was sneaking up. “Typical Wednesday night.”

_____________________________

Frizzle Fraken shizzle sticks! Of course he ended the chapter on an exciting part! ugh!!! Come back on Oct 1 for the rest of the scene!

Until then, feel free to head over to Facebook and share the latest in alternative cusswords, frizzle man!

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