Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 13, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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A little birdy tells Chase where to go and Otto explains a bit of himself to Aurula. A couple of you may have realized what was going on there, it's a little complex.

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 13
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Oriashka was a somewhat rare space borne and raised Leralin. Like all female Leralin her feathers gained, or lacked, colour according to her environment. A male’s feathers could always be counted on to be variants of brown with some of their underfeathers developing colours similar to that of a female

In the cold sterile environment of her home station her feathers had come in a stark, empty white. Her scales were a very light beige and her talons, eyes, beak and spots were black.

There were many regrets involved in her upbringing. Perhaps the most basic was never having a chance to play the games of typical Leralin youth. Since arriving in this place, long past her childhood, she had been able to fly around the outside of Karkantantar. But there were no spires, towers or ragged cliffs for her to explore. Only gentle, boring rolling mountains. And the towers of The Peaks were off limits for flying.

Strider was offering her a chance to enjoy a delayed youth.

She watched Strider as he climbed out the vent of the atmospheric filter. The huge passage blasted air into the district. Hooked into his harness like she was, Oria had to mute the receiver to avoid going mentally deaf. He also wouldn't be able to hear her if she spoke. The man had taken steps to at least partially avoid losing his hearing. He was wearing some earplugs and some pads over his ears.

Most Sapients would walk forward and drop through a trapdoor in the top of the building. Chase ran straight forward and leapt off the the edge of the building to run along the top of a connected walkway.

Riding over his shoulder in spectre mode she wondered if there was anyone in the sealed corridor to hear him running overhead.

She had snuck a few extra tidbits into this harness of his. They’d asked her to design it so she could use it as a remote support terminal. Then they told her it was for Strider. It had become more than just a support.

The walkway connected to another of the six sided buildings and he ran around the ledge of the building to face the district. Safely away from the blowing vent, Chase pulled the hearing protection off and out. He folded it up the pads that had hooked into his ears and tucked the pads and plugs into a side pocket

Chase tugged on each of his gloves, flexing his hands as he did so. Satisfied, he then kneeled to inspect his footwear. Finding nothing wrong he stood and rolled his shoulders, then swung his arms left and right, rotating his torso. Finally he lifted his legs, bending and straightening them.

“How does it feel?” Piderby asked through his own temporary connection with Chase.

“Fucking fantastic,” Chase whispered in Oriaskha’s substitute ear. His voice rose as he continued to move and shift, getting warmed up. “I'm ready to go, and I've got your bugs secure.”

The main sensor unit of the harness sat just at Chase’s left shoulder. She could see the open heights and the dense constricted construction of the lower district just as easily as her perch.

“Well then friend Chase. I'll have you start with the highlighted objective. Get into that pillar and the data access will be marked for the infiltrator node. We are depending on you.”

Chase stretched his legs and pulled on his arms, one last quick stretch. “Gotcha Pid, easy peasy.”

“For you perhaps, I'll be keeping a friendly eye on you,” Piderby assured the Human with a surprisingly friendly tone. It was rare for the odd Gerlen to be so friendly in Oriashka’s experience.

But now was a great time to say hello.

“Or more truthfully, I will,” she said with enthusiasm..

“Looking forward to seeing a new way to move?” Chase asked. Piderby had breifed Chase on her presence. She could see the side of his mouth creeping up into that smile of his.

“Very much so,” she answered him truthfully. “Show me how you fly.” She’d played around in simulations and rode along the odd recording. But Chase would be doing this with her present on his shoulder in realtime.

“With pleasure,” Chase said. He took off running. If her spectre had hands, they would have clutched onto his shoulder.

He had turned sideways to start running, building up momentum. He flung himself off the ledge and sailed through the air. The simulation on her side supplied the feel of the air passing over Chase. He hit the ledge of the next building over and continued running with barely a stumble.

He came around the corner of the building, then the next corner. The building they ran upon was mostly concrete with occasional glass windows. She only had the barest glimpses of the homes and people within. This residential block was hardly well off, housing mostly those who subsisted on commercial and hospitality work. Those working in the industrial Ones or magma chambers would be even further down. A type of job she would never have to experience.

He dropped from a ledge, catching a vertical pole. He wrapped his arms and legs around the line and rode it down several levels, coming to a stop at an empty block slot. He had to take it easy to avoid getting stuck on the brackets connecting the utility to the building. This building existed on one of the many thin pillars that served only to carry a building to the ceiling. It was not one of the larger support pillars he would use to quickly traverse heights. The small pillars supplied utilities, water, power and data just like the larger. But they lacked the gravity chute.

Chase hopped from the pole onto the empty spot and ran at an easy pace. At the other side he dropped straight down, catching the ledge to slow his descent. Using his momentum he swung inwards into the next level and landed with easy grace. He repeated the act several times until he reached a level leading to a wide connecting walkway, serving as the proper street through the area.

Like most walkways, this one was contained by high barriers to protect the foolish from falling. Or the adventurous from exploring. Especially Leralin like her. The tight spires and airways of the districts were exactly the sort of place Leralin loved to test themselves. As usual, the street was populated by mostly Veprutasian and some Kashto.

Chase ran along the upper wall of the walkway, building up speed. She could see the intersection coming up quick. The pace felt different as he bobbed slightly, his feet rising and falling with power and purpose. Running was not the same as flying. But he wasn’t exactly ‘running’. Chase arrived at the corner and leapt from one section of wall. He somersaulted forwards as he flew over the open area and her own vision rotated accordingly. He landed with practiced ease and continued in his way without pause.

She could hear his breath as he forced air out and sucked it back in just as quick. His core temperature was rising and his blood circulated faster. The machine that was Chase was warming up. Distantly she could feel her own feathers flex, fold and rise in automatic sympathy.

He found a narrow vertical channel to the lower levels with only small outcrops of utilities and nearly useless windows. Chase didn’t hesitate to drop off the side of the walkway into the gap between buildings. He bounced back and forth from ledge, to window, to AC unit, sometimes even just bouncing off bare corners. After dropping more levels than she could count he found another wide walkway running alongside the base of the pit.

The ground of the channel was the center point of a local market. He landed on the roof of a vendor who shouted out in surprise. Chase ran and leapt off the edge of the small building, sailing over the heads of several different pedestrians. It was mostly Veprutasians, but a six limbed insectoid easily noticed the Human flying overhead. It cringed in surprised worry, upsetting several of the feather Vep making their way around him.

Chase landed on the thick railing of a descending walkway. He bounced to the next railing separating the descending walkway from the ascending one. Not slowing he bounced off that railing and then he was running through a crowd.

Oriashka felt herself gulp down air with her own body as Chase flitted through the crowd. He bounced between Veprutasians too slow to react to him. Past Gerlen too low spec to even understand what was happening. Past Kraltnin oblivious if they were looking away or far too reactive if they saw him, dodging into other foot traffic.

Still his breath carried on, in and out, a regular rhythm.

It wasn’t flying, It was truly slower, but the way he moved was flowing beauty to the Leralin riding his shoulder.

He passed a transport station and another market hub in the same manner, dodging through residents moving at their own sedate pace.

This was a Human unmodified? He’d claimed practice made perfect and he ran just about every day he possibly could. Constant exercise and a good diet helped build a healthy body Chase claimed. The results were telling.

He came to a stop once, when he arrived at an alleyway, turned around and headed down the narrow pathways. He came out into a backstreet bordering empty air, the edge of a transport node. Chase took a moment to look around, taking big breaths and taking stock of what transport vehicles were currently present and loading up. Spotting one he liked, he took off to the left.

In moments Chase was coming to the end of the walkway. The path ended at a large doorway but he had no intention of using the ‘proper way’. He hopped up on the railing of the walkway overlooking empty space, using the extra height to lift himself to a ledge above the doorway. Chase threw his hands up to catch the lip and pull himself up with surprising power and ease.

After climbing over the ledge with the agility of a Leralin he jogged towards his goal. A rectangular transport docked at a bay being loaded up with product. He reached the point he was looking for and dived off his ledge onto the roof of the transport. No shouts or calls of surprise suggested he was set. Chase settled in at the front of the transport where a raised ridge provided cover for sensors and accidental protection for anyone crazy enough to ride the vehicle.

He lay on his back, breathing heavily. “So uh, this transport, has three routes,” he started, pausing every time he took a breath. “I don’t, know which, it’s gonna be.”

“I understand.” Oriashka replied perhaps a bit too quickly. She’d been mesmerized as she followed the flow of him moving, but this was a task she could do for him.

[Open package, Night Scout]

The package sent out a set of scans modeled closely after the regular security scans common through the city. The ship AI activated the normal response protocol and she sifted through the data packet as it was sent out, looking for a specific set of datapoints. She matched up the info it sent with some of her own compiled district routes and destinations.

She sent him a HUD overlay with the closest target for the info bug Chase was carrying on his waist. He tapped on one of the small control pads on the side of his shades, manipulating the map on his vision.

“Hmmm…” Chase hummed as he looked at the map. He had caught his breath and now spoke with an even tone. “Can you give me pictures of the area? I’m not familiar with the actual map.”

“Give me a flap,” she responded, pulling up images of the area. It didn’t take her long to send him a series of picture. He flipped through them in quick succession.

“The other two while we’re at it.”

“Certainly.”

“Okay, I know where this transport is going. The first location is super easy to get to, it’s right next to my jump off. The second one isn’t so bad, I’ll have to drop some distance though…”

“And the third?” she couldn’t help but ask.”

“Hmm… a bit harder to get into that pillar, unless the deconstructor has made good progress.”

“You would use a deconstructor?” Oriashka asked in surprise, feeling her crest rise.

“Sure! It’s just a robot, it don’t care,” Chase answered, his nonchalance contrasting her surprise. Oriashka wasn't sure that would be the case.

Proceeded by the quiet thunk of a ramp lifting up into place, the transport began to move.

The sudden inaction of Chase waiting for the vehicle to arrive felt odd. She’d hoped riding alongside Chase would be something to enjoy. He hadn’t let her down. But now the difference only compounded the boredom.

“Are there many like you?” Oriashka asked with undisguised curiosity.

“Like me?” he asked in return.

“Athletes, agile navigators of terrain,” she tried, uncertain of how to describe what he was doing.

“It’s called free 'free running’ or ‘parkour’, and no, parkour is a very new sport,” Chase began to explain. “Humans do lotsa different sports. Team sports and single competitive sports. We’ve got weight lifting and strength contests. And we have lots of races. Car races, boat races, foot races, swimming races. I’d probably be a fantastic marathon runner, but urban free running was more my style.”

She chittered lightly over the connection. “You enjoy it don't you? It seems you are very good at this free running.”

“Well it helps a lot that gravity is lighter here than at home,” Chase admitted. “Makes running around here easier and less punishing.”

“Mmm,” Oriashka hummed in response, momentarily distracted. She had to reroute her connection as the transport carried Chase through some poor reception areas. She almost missed him asking a question in return. “What was that?” The white bird asked.

“I was wondering if you had anything like this that you loved,” he repeated. “No offense, but you don't seem really engaged with the hacking thing.”

“I- I did not have many opportunities in my youth. Only responsibilities,” she replied with dampened emotion.

“Really?” Chase asked, his tone surprised.

“You should know by my feathers,”Oriashka replied, now with annoyance. “My pure white marks me as having grown entirely on a station. The colour is a sign of my imprisonment. I was grown a sladier.”

“Whoa hold up, your white feathers don't mean anything to me beyond you looking like a cockatiel. A soldier slave? Not just a slave? What's the difference?”

She wanted to snap at him, but his tone was honest and with his background he really wouldn't know.

“Sladiers are slaves born and raised for military or paramilitary use. The difference is in the severity and depth of the controls placed on us compared to regular slaves.”

“Oh… but you're working with me today. Did Crawk save you too?”

“Yes, yes he did.”

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Otto
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The soft but unfamiliar breathing of the person next to him brought the man back to wakefulness. He looked down and cringed slightly when he realized it was Tsury at his side.

Slowly it came back to him. In his fatigue he'd folded like paper when she'd turned her puppy eyes on him. Now she was also very much asleep, and had a solid hold on his arm. For the moment his arm was her pillow.

Otto reached up to the little alcove above his head with his left hand. He grabbed the rolled up wireless band and slowly wound it around his neck. After he plugged it in and it had shrunk to sit snug against his skin he saw a subtly pulsing message directed at him waiting in dataspace

He dropped inwards, settling himself in his personal space. A small courtyard deep in the castle rose up around him. He sat in one of a couple benches, a little stone rivulet fed by a simple fountain behind him filled the air with the sound of babbling water.

“Hey Otto,” Stacey said to him. There was no image. She'd only put sound in this package. “If you're trying to confuse Aurula, then napping with Tsury is a good way to go about it.”

“Aw shit,” Otto said to himself in his minds courtyard.

The message continued. “Anyways, I'm pretty sure you don't intend to do anything to Tsury, but you might want to avoid letting her sleep with you like that.”

That was all there was to the message. Otto let go of the dataspace, coming easily back to the real-world. A simple command brought the lights in the room up to a comfortable glow. Tsury murmured as the light brought her closer to wakefulness and turned her face downwards to hide from the light.

Otto poked her in the cheek and her face scrunched up in annoyance.

“Time to wake up,” Otto told her, setting his hand on her shoulder and shaking gently. She tried to shrug her shoulder to fend off his hand. He instead pulled his right arm out from under her head. It was then that he realized his arm had gone numb.

His hiss of discomfort brought her awake. She lifted her head to look at him as he lifted his arm up and started complaining.

“Are you okay?” Tsury asked, her face still clouded with sleep.

“Ah-ah-ah-ah-ow,” He mumbled shaking his limb. “You put my arm to sleep.”

“To sleep?”

“If you cut off the circulation too long the limb goes numb. When it comes back you get pins and needles as the nerves wake up.”

She lifted herself up and looked at his arm. “It looks fine?”

“It's a nerve response, it won't show physical marks,” he explained as the tingling died down. “Anyways, up! I'm gonna go clean myself up.”

Obviously disappointed, Tsury climbed out of bed and let him wander to the washroom.

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Aurula
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“Hello Blue Bird,” Otto greeted, stepping into the cockpit.

Aurula had been semi napping. She'd also been getting some rest during Otto’s four hour nap. As she heard his voice she slowly swiveled around to face him. “Hello Otto.”

He took the seat next to her, not that there was much to see. They could disembark into the public section of the ferry. Mike and Daniel had even done so to go for a jog. Aurula still wondered how many odd looks that had earned. Matcha had needed to have a long talk with ship security to ensure the Ytheon guards knew the Humans weren't being threatening.

They sat in silence for a couple minutes, but Aurula didn't know what to say. She'd mostly settled her feelings about a male infringing on her dignity in the bar. If she wanted Otto to know and oney Leralin rules, then she should take some time and tell him about the dangerous ones. It might be worth asking about his own cultural traps.

A hand patted the back of hers and Otto spoke. “If there's anything bothering you, I'll have a private channel open in my head.”

“Okay,” Aurula responded simply. He closed his eyes and she focused on his left hand. A patch of wound sealer still covered the spot she'd stuck him with her talon. Next she looked at his face. She could only see the left side of him, the three scars she'd put on his face was on his right cheek. He'd just shaved, taking that awkward fuzz off his face. The man's hair was growing messy however, he'd need to get it cut soon.

The Leralin settled into her chair and joined him in his castle.

He'd built for himself an office. The walls were lined with shelves full of books and shelves. One corner held an unfamiliar globe in a bracketing pedestal and the closest window had a telescope set up.

He was sitting in his office chair with a crystal lattice structure pulled apart in front of him.

“What are you looking at?” Aurula asked.

Otto’s eyes didn't break from the package. “This is the blackmarket security override the Monos had,” he explained. “It seems pretty straightforward, so I wanna get it working for me.”

“You want to hijack slaves like that Monos?” she asked. Her head tilted slightly and her crest rise, signalling her curiosity.

“Sure do, it'll be much safer than trying to surprise potential slave friends with freedom. At least it'll save me some facial trauma.” He turned his face to hers and winked.

She chittered lightly as she realized she no longer felt so bad about the marks on his face. “Have you made progress?”

“Yeah actually,” Otto replied with a nod. “The program is simple once you see how it works, but there’s an extra step involved.”

“And what is that,” Aurula asked.

“It's a sort of spoofing program with two functions,” Otto answered. “the first function requires you to experience a master or anyone with authority making an order. The program copies the transmitted key and lets you pretend to be that person.”

“It is so easy?” Aurula asked dubiously.

“For common slaves yeah,” he replied quickly. “Slaves are consumable pieces, a person is far more likely to break a slave than they are to fix or free one,” his expression turned sour. “I still wonder what it took for my benefactor to learn how to break the slave package…”

The thought wasn't a comfortable one and Aurula found herself locked in silence for a time.

Then she began to fidget. Otto waved his hand through the air, pushing the package aside. “I know you don't feel any discomfort standing here in dataspace, but it's still awkward, please take a seat.”

She sat on a chair next to his desk and he rolled the chair sideways to face her.

Otto frowned, but didn't hesitate to speak. “Stacey left me a message, I'm sure you know why.”

Aurula didn't answer, but she felt her crest drop flat.

“She's right, I shouldn't let Tsury sleep with me like that. One because that girl is walking temptation. Two because it sends you the wrong message, and I'm sorry for doing that to you.”

“Thank you, and I forgive you.” She turned her beak towards him, allowing her to look at him with both eyes. “I am curious about one thing however…”

“Yes?”

Aurula hesitated for another moment, then continued. “Why are you so forgiving of her? Why do you allow Tsury such liberties?”

Otto's mouth shut, and he looked to the side. But his body still faced towards her. He needed a moment to think Aurula realized, so she gave him several.

Finally he looked at her. “You know it was my blood and genes that she used to build herself a body?”

She breathed in lightly with surprise. Aurula had forgotten. But even that suggested much.

“You understand a bit even with that,” Otto said with a weak smile. “So yeah, Tsury is blood related to me in a peculiar way. Old enough to be my mother, naive enough to be a daughter, but she's very much a sister to me.” His face dropped and the smile faltered. “Seeing her revives fragments of memories, ones I lost when my mind was partially hijacked.”

Aurula said nothing and did nothing, Otto was rarely forthcoming about himself. She didn't want to disrupt this flight.

“Tsury gives me back slivers and fragments of a sister I once had,” his smile twisted at the odd phrasing, but it made sense to Aurula, some slaves lost a great deal depending on the modifications to their personality. “This thing with Sing and her dad helped me remember even more. Tsury was familiar to me the moment I saw her face.” Otto looked Aurula in the eyes.

“I have come to love Tsury, but only as family. First as a replacement for the person in my family I know without a doubt I loved the most. Now as her own person… though still in a purely platonic way.”

“What… what happened to your real… I mean, your original sister?”

This time his whole body turned away. His shoulders shrunk and a shadow seemed to cover his face. “I…” he took a deep breath before continuing, “I sent her to die.”

“You sent her to-?”

“I'm sorry Aurula. I don't want to get any further into it.”

Her crest dropped and she inclined her head towards Otto. “I understand, thank you for telling me so much.”

They spent the next little while in silence.

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Chase
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“And… here we are,” Chase said with a smile.

He’d come to a stop at his second target.

“I see! Very quick,” Oriashka complimented. “This shall take me a moment.”

“Okay, I’ll hang out here,” Chase replied.

Chase had arrived at the second pillar. Now he floated inside another artery, one of the massive gravity supports upon which the blocks were hung. His HUD didn’t have anything to display for the moment except for a small feather that represented the White Bird. That and the energy bar for the on board power supply. It had drained down quite a bit in the last stretch. He could only use the stealth in short bursts due to power constraints, so he hadn’t turned it on until it was time to get off the transport.

The feather was slowly spinning in place like a loading icon. It came to a stop and a marker popped up on his HUD. “That panel please,” Oriashka requested.

“Yes ma’am,” Chase idly replied, obliging by pushing off one wall lightly to take himself to the spot she’d found. He pulled a small unit off the left breast strap of his harness, a round disk attached to a small retractable cord. He held the disk up and it stuck to the panel like a magnet on a fridge.

She mucked about doing whatever it was she did and the panel lifted up and slid sideways. She didn’t even have to highlight the datajack. Just like last time, Chase pulled the cable out of the magnet pad and plugged the cable into the jack.

“Thank you Chase, now I’ll get the utility box open so we can get the bug installed,” Oriashka explained. “Just a moment.”

“Gotcha,” he replied. He placed the disk back in its spot on his harness and waited. Chase crossed his arms and folded his legs underneath him into an almost cross legged stance. He slowly drifted in place, rotating clockwise around the cable connected to the panel.

He watched the feather spin in place for a little while longer. Surely she could do better than that. It had been awhile since he’d done any graphic design. He used to love getting into odd places around home and using those views for inspiration.

The inner panel split along a line that had been invisible until that moment. It yawned open like a mouth, revealing the base components of the electronics within. Wires ran through the box with a line of capsules plugged into their own respective ports along the top. An empty port began to glow as Oria highlighted it for him. Chase pulled the capsule from the little pouch on his belt and plugged it into the port.

A moment later Oriashka reported success. “Parasite has been inserted. Time for the next location.”

“Yup,” Chase said almost to himself, tugging the cable loose from the port. It slowly reeled back into the small capsule next to the other device he’d returned to his harness. He made sure the cable was plugged back in before he moved.

The panel closed automatically a moment after Chase disconnected the cable. He didn’t spare it a look as Chase pushed himself back over to the far too spread out ladder. Looking at the odd symbols on the wall, he pulled himself upwards.

After enough of the symbols had passed him by Chase started bouncing lightly off the walls to slow himself down. Slowing down rapidly he arrived at his exit. He grabbed the ledge and pushed himself out the chute waiting for a building input. The exit was a small nest of utilities waiting for a building to be built around them.

Gravity reasserted itself as Chase exited the passage. Bracing his feet against the concrete channel just outside the passage, Chase looked up and grabbed a pipe close at hand and pulled himself up and locked his feet against the channel. Looking up and down he let go of the pipe and slid down that channel slowly until he arrived at the first block.

“Oh,” Oriashka sighed, causing Chase to smile. It hadn’t taken him long to realize she was watching very closely. At first when she’d said to show her ‘how he flew’ he hadn’t taken it very seriously. But she kept reacting quietly whenever he did something particularly dangerous. And he was pretty sure she wasn’t even aware of it most of the time.

Chase arrived on the ceiling of the next block. Glancing round it didn’t take him long to realize this one still hadn’t changed. Chase went poking underneath a utility unit mounted to the top of the block. “Whoa!” he exclaimed, jumping back.

Several oddly shaped little robots went skittering away from the big clumsy human. They blinked with contrasting and non-uniform lights. A couple of them even beeped discordant tones at him.

“Motes!?” Oriashka cried out in horror.

“Yup,” he replied poking his head back in. He reached a hand out to a nodule of randomly assorted components under the box. “Been keeping an eye on this spot for a bit.”

“This is one of their nodes!” she noted in surprise. “Do you mind waiting a minute?” She went to work without actually waiting to see if he was okay with it. “I can use this, nodes are good backdoors…” she went silent for a minute. “Wonder if there is anything interesting there… Oh, partial area surveillance, maintenance has been lazy.”

He waited.

“I’ve added this to my toolpack,” she said finally. “Not sure how often I can use it, but as long as these Motes don’t get cleaned up, it’ll give me little access points that shouldn’t be there… and I can look for other nodes with this...”

“Okay,” Chase replied, climbing out from the hidey spot. He hadn’t been in a rush. They had all day to plant the bugs. He’d decided to show her the Motes in case she was interested. Felt good to know she was. “Good to go then?” he asked.

“Yes, I am finished here.”

“Kay!” Chase laced his fingers together and stretched his arms out in front of him. He bounced a couple times on his feet and then took off running. As he did he momentarily formed his hands into devil horns, activating the stealth function of the suit again. Anyone who looked closely would probably see a ripple of movement, the light bending wasn’t perfect, but that was it.

“Ah!” his passenger sighed.

With a smile, Chase leapt off the block and spun through the air once again. This area he was familiar with. He bounced across balconies, walkways, utility lines and ledges on his way to the destination. It wasn’t long until they could see the pillar containing his last target.

He arrived at a walkway overlooking their entry way to the pillar. Not too long ago this one had been fully covered from foot to ceiling. But an entrance was opening up, he just had to see if his way in was accessible.

As promised, the deconstructor was at work. The machine resembled a giant spider in most ways. It had multiple sensors on its face and most of the working tools extended from where the mouth should be. It had a large abdomen hanging off its back where all the materials were stored. The machine had multiple legs, except some had too many joints that could reach around the whole pillar.

This one was at work, so those legs stretched around the whole building. An orange field pulsed around the machine as it worked. The abdomen hung outside the energy field with the smaller main body still inside with the head. The energy field projected from the main body and connected to large disks set at the appropriate joints on the legs. The field served to contain the clouds of dust demolition created, keeping the city air clear of contaminants.

“Oh! Be careful!” the Leralin warned.

Chase looked up as she pinged his HUD. A silvered sphere floated past him as he watched. “Ah, I’ll have to wait a moment.”

“You are not worried?”

“Uh, if I had a weapon, or if I was further away from the building, they’d chase me for sure. I’m not sure if they can see through the stealth, but I can usually get away with them being nearby normally...” Chase replied. “As long as I stay close to the buildings anyways, one caught me in the middle of a jump once and that became a rough day.”

They watched the drones together as they spun through the air around the buildings, watching for anyone trying to wander around where they shouldn’t. Chase had seen them take off after people using hoverboards or other similar things where they shouldn’t. The drones would also chase any flyers who left the designated walkways.

Personally he liked the idea of standing just on that dividing line. At the very least he could be certain that if anyone joined him out here they had bad intentions and he really should be running.

The drones finally lost interest with the area and continued their patrol elsewhere.

“Okay, you ready?”

“Yes Chase, how are you approaching this?”

“Oh well, no reason to be shy.”

"Stealth or Deviation field? The dust may outline you despite the stealth. Deviation fields don't play nice with force fields though, you will be spotted for sure. "

"I'll stick with the lightbending? It should be okay right? At least if I get spotted, they won't know who I am right away?"

The nice thing about the deconstructors was that they didn’t move much. Chase jogged across the roof of the walkway to the pillar the big machine hung from. It did shift slightly as it adjusted to take apart another section of building. Exactly what was going on was difficult to see through the energy field and the dust cloud.

After reaching the end of the walkways, Chase circumnavigated the building. Once he was above the demolition machine he dropped down off one ledge to the next. After two more ledges he was directly above the deconstructor. The building shook ever so slightly as the work continued.

Chase got comfortable on his ledge above his target. After a couple minutes the machine shifted again. “Let’s see how this goes,” Chase commented as he dropped.

“You mean you don’t-”

It did not react well to Chase on it’s back. The moment his feet touched down was the moment things went bad. The machine lifted up and a couple pods opened up from the top of the abdomen. Chase stumbled forward as the machine pitched.

“Pulse guns! Run!” Oriashka chirped at him.

He was already moving. Through the energy field into the cloud of dust he went. The shades compensated for the dust while the hood and mask protected him from the worst of the cloud. Tools and cables and arms stuck out from the face of the machine. It was digging into one of the remaining portions of the building. Each block was six sided, if Chase thought of the block as a pizza then the deconstructor would be eating the last slice.

A couple pulse rounds flew past him, only the slight fizzle of them passing letting Chase know what was happening. He jumped off the head of the deconstructor and stumbled as he landed on the uneven platform. Larger scrap materials and piles of rubble were still scattered about, a fenced conveyor slowly scooping up the mess. Chase took off sideways around the pillar after a quick glance. Several more shots followed, then one hit him in the shoulder.

“Fuck!” he swore as it burnt into him. He let the force of the impact throw him into a forward roll. That roll easily carried him back to his feet and he continued to move.

Chase circled the pillar until the half eaten slice of the pie was between him and the machine. He wasn’t about to stay put, the drones would be along quickly to check on things. Chase sighed as soon as he found the channel up to the passage. If he’d gone right instead of left he would have found it right away.

Chase ran at it at an angle. Just as he reached the channel he jumped. Wall jumping was one of the harder and slower techniques. That’s why he preferred to drop into these chutes. It was also harder in this channel that was just wide enough to slide down with his feet outstretched. That made it narrow to try and jump.

After four difficult bounces, made worse by his burning shoulder, he was done jumping and had to plant his feet.

“Are you okay? Your heart is rattling!”

“Racing,” Chase said through clenched teeth. “We call it racing. I’m okay, my shoulder just hurts a lot.”

The end of this run was hardly impressive as he slowly and awkwardly skittered up the wall to climb in through the passage.

“I hate guns,” Chase sighed as he crawled into the pillar.

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End Chapter
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