True to his word, Frank had Ayva’s GPS location before I got to the bike. He also used star patterns and the buildings in the skyline to verify the data, just to be certain it wasn’t somehow being spoofed. It seemed strange that Ayva had been able to get us such clear signal. Why weren’t they jamming?
“Frank, remember how we were concerned about traps before?”
“Yes. You’re thinking the same thing I am then. Whether they were successful in erasing the Agency or not, they were probably planning to set a trap for us. We’re walking into a trap almost certainly.”
“I agree. Their main purpose was probably to make it impossible for anyone to free symbiotes from imprisonment. By destroying all the lab equipment and data, they have taken a big step forward in that direction, even if the Agency personnel escaped. The berserker protocol cure image is meaningless if every symbiote is imprisoned.”
“They can now broadcast imprisonment effects as well, at least in a limited enclosed area. If they have put a great deal of study into it, it’s possible they might even have area affect capability with imprisonment, not requiring an enclosure. I wasn’t asked to help design such a system, but the help I gave in designing the room-based system would put them on a clear path to area effect imprisonment.”
“Frank, create a dozen random email addresses with different providers and send a message to every email address we have for Doctor Meilin and her people. First message critical priority, short synopsis of potential threat being extremely careful to clearly state the possible threat of area effect imprisonment, the second message should have Ayva’s video and any other supporting documents. After sending the emails, try to reach her by phone. You’ve got complete control of the body. I don’t want to try to manage to talk to someone on the phone at top speed on a bike, so you can handle the call too, digitally. Let me know if she wants to speak directly to me for whatever reason.”
“On it.” Three minutes and about five miles later, Frank speaks again. “No luck on the phone but I got one email response. ‘Expected this. We are ready. Thanks for warning about AE imprisonment.’” He continued after a brief pause. “The email addresses I created are being shut down and I would be shocked if this phone isn’t being tracked.”
“Let’s ditch the phone on one of the vehicles in traffic here then.”
“That would put someone else at risk, if they come after the phone with a missile, wouldn’t it?”
“Crap, yea, superspy movie stupid idea. Turn it off and toss it. You’ve never activated the other two phones, right? I know I didn’t.”
“Correct, they are not connected to any provider service yet.”
“OK, let’s just concentrate on getting to the site of the attack and make sure there aren’t any of our people being kept there. Ayva’s video was nowhere near comprehensive enough to be sure that no Agency people were captured. There were a lot of soldiers in the dark out there.”
“As hard as they were trying to hit the Agency there, I doubt anyone captured would still be alive.”
“Everyone else got away, anyone captured might know where they are going to. Like you said, they tried to hit hard, any prisoners won’t be treated gently if the ones responsible for the attack want to try to follow up and think the prisoners might have answers.”
“They just tried to burn or asphyxiate about five hundred people in a giant diesel fuel saturated warehouse Frank, I doubt a little torture is going to turn their stomachs.”
“This is pretty much exactly what happened before, you realize? The Agency was apparently both a grooming center for a super soldier operation, and a method of controlling symbiotes. When the military realized they were going to lose control of it, they tried to destroy what they couldn’t control. Just like what happened with Star and Argoen as they tried to leave Earth.”
“Yea, it is a lot alike. No telling how hard or fast the military is going to hit next, if they get a chance to hit a gathered group of Agency or Recovery people. I’m very glad that I never told anyone at the Agency how big Doctor Meilin’s group was. I doubt that the military will be prepared for what Recovery can do to protect themselves if every cell is as organized as the one we met Doctor Meilin at, especially now that they are forewarned that something is probably on the way.”
“This has the potential to get really bad Bob. How hard is the military prepared to push on this?”
“Damned if I know. It all depends on how scared people are going to be of symbiotes. The Agency had huge amounts of documentation on berserkers. Like the montage video they showed me. If they want to drive the public to a panicked fear, it won’t be hard if whoever Ellis worked with had access to that information, and I very strongly suspect they did.”
“Can we pre-empt the propaganda maybe? Get our own version out there first? Maybe get a video to Mrs. Rhiner and/or put it on TheTube?”
“I’m not sure, Frank. Trying to do the TheTube thing before we go to the regular media would just warn the government, and the TheTube media would probably be shut down rapidly.”
“The first one to get a story out that seems in the least bit plausible is going to have a head start. We could also put the videos on peer-to-peer networks as well. They are about as hard to control as cockroaches. We could also link it to the BadAssOldMan stuff to show people something incredible that’s been out there a long time to link it all together.”
“Frank, I think that’s a plan. Develop a storyline, explaining things simply, the arrival of Argoen, the symbiotes for raw materials deal, the betrayal when Argoen tried to leave. Then explain that symbiotes do reproduce, but don’t explain how, which led to the formation of the Agency. Explain the berserker protocol and the prison codes. Show Ayva’s video about what the military tried to do. Do it all with the face we were using when we were the ‘BadAssOldMan’ and link it to those videos when possible. Send it into peer to peer networks and LeakyWiki first, then send it to the UN, and foreign nations with good human rights records for the last few decades. Then send it to Mrs. Rhiner and TheTube. Don’t allow comments on TheTube, they will attract censors. No comments will make it look like bullshit video, but it’ll be there before the government propaganda. Tell Mrs. Rhiner that we’ll offer her the first interview opportunity, but it will be a video conference, not live, and we’ll have to reach out to her somewhat randomly, if we survive the next day or two.”
“Working. I should have the video completed and ready for you to watch in a few minutes to see if it’s OK.”
“Most people are probably going to think the TheTube videos are some sort of viral media attempt by a low budget sci-fi film studio to get some publicity. That’s fine, as long as our story gets out there first, before the government propaganda machine starts, if this escalates to that level. Even if it gets shut down rapidly, it will still get the word out. If even a few of the other countries get the data, it’s going to cause at least some consternation – especially if the US military is trying to put their foot down on the symbiote community.”
“If you want, I could try to hack TheTube to prevent them from being able to moderate our video’s content?”
“If you can manage that, it would be great. Try to limit it to only our video though, if you stop them from moderating all videos, they will detect it very quickly, and might shut the whole site down.”
“OK. Working on all that. We’ve got about another thirty minutes before we get to the ambush site. The video should be done in about fifteen minutes and I’ll need time for you to view it, then I’ll need to make edits, then upload it. We’ll need to do recon of the area before entering, I think?”
“As much as I would like to just barge in and demand answers of whoever’s in control on the ground, I suspect anything left there will be a trap, so you’re right, we’ll drop the bike in the river upstream a mile or so, and come downstream in the river to do recon first. We’ll certainly be in cell tower range, and you can activate one of the phones with the phone cards to send the data in.”
“Better for me to just directly send by tower without a phone.”
“You can do that?”
“Sure, it’s a simple hack. Their security is pretty lax.”
“Why do we bother with phones then?”
“For your convenience. You want me to put a gizmo in your arm like Alice and most of the other Agency tech weenies have? You could use it like a cellphone, that’s no problem.”
“Umm. I see. I’ll pass on the built-into-my-arm thing, but could you just make a phone in our helmet and connect it into the system, then reprogram it after every use so nobody could track it?”
“Sure. Adds another electrical system to the armor, but that’s no long term problem. I’ve been studying up on superconducting battery theory. Room temperature superconductors are impossible for me still, but I can use what I’ve learned to make some pretty damn impressive batteries by human standards. They will also help with powering the blood cooler, which will in turn increase what we can do with the juice reserves we store.” Frank started muttering about quarks and bosons and room temperature superconductivity being possible if he could reprogram the properties of matter, with timelines for research going out hundreds of years.
“Can’t wait to see the next armor upgrade, Frank, but you’re talking way over my head, and far future. Let’s talk recon, short term.”
“Sorry, OK, video will be done soon anyway, I’ve got a lot of processing power active on it now, let myself get distracted.”
“No problem Frank.” And we talked recon.
Frank finished preparing the videos, and with just a couple edits, started sending them when we were a few minutes out. Our tendency to prefer dirt bikes to other vehicles was well known within the Agency, so the military would probably know about it as well. We decided to dump the bike five miles upstream and swim in from there.
We needed to drop the jacket when we entered the water, so Frank could properly modify the armor and our bodies to push sufficient water through the gill-modifications we required to breathe underwater. Significant expansion of the airways and filters at the nose and mouth, the diaphragm working much like before to expand and contract the gill-modified lungs, but instead of water entering and leaving from the same place, water came in from our mouth and nose, and left by vents in our back below the blood cooler. The goldfish modifications Frank had made to drastically increase my body’s ability to scavenge oxygen were permanent in me – that was a long fight that Frank didn’t want to lose. I was afraid of chemical changes in my body impacting my thought processes, but eventually agreed to the change being permanent after I lived with it for a week and wasn’t able to tell a difference, and Frank verified that it wasn’t a genetic change. It worked whether we had gills or not.
As soon as we entered the water, even before we submerged, Frank mentioned the first problem we were going to encounter. Sonar. There were sonobuoys in the water. We were nowhere near their effective range, but they would certainly pick up a man sized armored object in the water if we did get close. Frank had a fairly simple plan for dealing with them after a few seconds of thought. We were nowhere near the effective range of the emitters in the water, but the reverse wasn’t true. When we were about a mile upstream from them Frank used a few ounces of our flesh to create a bunch of simple minnow-like creatures, and two larger ones looking more like small bream. The minnows were data relays and the bream approached the sonobuoys and attached to them, then carefully connected data leads to the transmitters and allowed Frank to analyze the outgoing data and see if there was any active incoming data. Outgoing data wasn’t complex, and there wasn’t any incoming data after ten minutes, so it seemed like it was a completely automated system. Frank would easily be able to make it see everything in the water, except us. The bream used most of the rest of its remaining juice store to carefully connect itself to the battery of the device. We did the same thing with the second sonobuoy.
After the sonar systems were suborned to Frank’s control, we used them to scan for anything else in the water, and found a few trip lines which Frank might not have seen due to all the sediment in the water. They would be easy to avoid now that we knew they were there, but they were well placed to trigger if someone were trying to swim very close to the bottom of the river and hide from sonar.
All of this was happening and I was along for the ride, unable to speak. The helmet was full of water and I had no air to make noises with anyway. I did use blinks to communicate with Frank when he had questions. When we reached the area where the breakout occurred, there was nobody in sight and Frank nearly surfaced before quickly submerging to deeper water again. There was a very low power radar system active above the water that Frank barely noticed before he emerged. More biological recon. Frank made a mass of houseflies with a few more ounces of our flesh, and we got close to the shore, reaching our hand up carefully between two rocks to allow the flies to climb onto the rock and allow their wings to dry, which took a couple minutes.
Then Frank took a look around above the water, using the flies’ energy sparingly. Based on what he could see from through the water at a very shallow depth, there were two radar stations. The flies found both of them, and the two laser weapons slaved to each.
Frank spoke and I blinked a lot, and we eventually recalled the flies, modified them with venom injecting mouthparts loaded with a powerful sleeping agent, and refueled them.
We sent the flies out looking for humans, and found them. Lots of them. A large number of them were cleaning up the diesel fuel inside the building, but there were at least fifty soldiers on guard around the building and another several dozen moving between vehicles in a parking area well away from the building. Lots of the troops were sporting some pretty spectacular bruises and bandages on arms, hands, legs. The flies didn’t see anyone we recognized, but we were able to find the command vehicle.
Frank got himself and the flies ready. The flies moved in and most managed to land and inject a soldier, or get crushed in such a way that they injected the soldier they landed on when they died. About ten seconds later seventy-five soldiers were unconscious as Frank stepped out of the water, staff swinging. All four lasers began tracking us instantly when we emerged, but apparently they were on manual control, based on some human’s reaction speed. Frank was able to smash one radar sensor with the staff sling and a steel ball bearing slingstone, and start a slinging motion for the other before the other two lasers came to life. We just absorbed the lasers while Frank concentrated on getting to a good release point with the staff sling. Immediately after the release of the second slingstone, Frank was doing a spinning dive back into the water as the heat from the lasers was building very rapidly. When we hit the water, a gout of steam went up, but Frank indicated we had taken only minimal damage. The lasers had been very powerful but weren’t able to stay on us in any one place long enough to damage the armor or heat us up too critically inside the armor.
We came back up out of the water again, Frank watching for threats. The guys in suits cleaning up diesel were not carrying weapons, but did apparently have suit communications. While Frank was changing my oxygen transport system from internal gills to lungs again, we listened to them. They were apparently not soldiers, and were on a non-secure channel, but they weren’t panicking. They seemed to be an experienced hazmat team. A matter of fact announcement to get out to the building and head towards the road to form up, and advise to move away from the sound of any combat unless told to surrender, in which case they were to surrender to whoever was speaking and offer zero resistance. These guys were probably a petrol cleanup company that would service oil rigs and refineries, with experience working outside the US. They were moving away from the water, through the building, carrying nothing. No threat there. By the looks of it they had cleaned up all the liquid diesel, but the stench of it was still heavy in the air.
Frank had finished giving me lungs again so we could communicate if needed. We did a quick handstand to get all the water we could out of the blood cooler, then briefly turned it on to cool us off after the rearrangement of internal organs. Then Frank loaded a slingstone in the staff, and we moved forward. I could hear several voices speaking, doing radio checks over the radios of several soldiers with sergeant rank. NCO’s, squad leaders. Very few answered. Frank indicated that they seemed to be landside perimeter teams. We moved to the source of the voice that we heard on the radio that seemed to be coming from inside the command tent. We had intentionally left the Colonel and two captains in the tent alone, not drugged, since if there had been prisoners taken, these three would know where they were.
We walked into the tent gripping the staff with both hands, but with two ball bearings in one hand gripped against the staff, and one ball bearing gripped against the staff in the other. All three officers in the tent had pistols drawn, waiting for us, starting to shoot as soon as they recognized that we were wearing some very non-regulation black armor. Frank already knew what type of firearms they had from the fly recon, and even though it was nothing that would penetrate our armor, we didn’t need to let them kill other soldiers, or prisoners, with wild shots. So he knocked all the bullets into the ground with the staff, held in front of us, minutely and precisely adjusting the position of the staff with absurd speed so that the bullets all ricocheted into the ground. I got a front row seat at what was probably the most amazing feat of dexterity I’d ever seen Frank perform. Fifty-four rounds from three eighteen-shot clips fired in about ten seconds from a distance of eight feet, and I got to watch Frank knock all of them to the ground at one-fortieth of normal speed. Frank said they were fifteen hundred foot per second rounds moving at an apparent twenty-five miles per hour, about two per second per pistol. He was complaining about having to turn on the blood cooler. As each officer started to reload, Frank hit their pistols with thrown ball bearings, knocking them out of their hands.
I clapped. “Gentlemen, excellent demonstration of marksmanship. Every one of those bullets should have hit us, but enough of that for now. I have a few things for you to think about while Frank deals with your perimeter guards as they converge on the sound of your gunshots.”
They simply stared at me as another flight of flies left our body, out into the air beyond the tent through the gap I created by holding the flap of the tent open.
I turned back to them as Frank guided the flies towards soldiers that were carefully converging on the tent. “Do you understand what type of atrocity you almost managed last night? None of you are old enough to remember World War Two. Neither am I, for that matter, but the two field leaders of that organization you just tried to wipe out in your little gas chamber over there? They are veterans of World War Two. Both of them saw some pretty horrific things in Europe towards the end of that war, even though they very rarely ever spoke about it. Things that they are going to remember when they think about tonight.”
As the last of the approaching soldiers collapsed, unconscious, I asked the officers in the tent with me: “The charge is attempted mass murder gentlemen. How do you plead?”