Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 33, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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It can be a surprise how some things will come and hit you just out of nowhere. For instance, last sunday night a bout of inspiration slapped me upside the head and I ended up going to work on one hour of sleep. Pretty cool. I'll share the results with you guys this coming Saturday, I think it went really well, but it did steal time I would normally spend on B&S catching up on my sleep later...

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 33
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The transport was about half again as long and twice as wide as the typical semi truck and trailer Mike was used to seeing at home. The transport had settled onto a frame extending from underneath the loading bay. The cargo hatch of the transport lowered to the ground to provide a ramp into the vehicle and the passenger entry further to the front did the same.

The loading dock was short, only about four car lengths deep. But it did run about half the length of the large building. The Loading bay itself was at one side of the building, located in the back corner.

The larger carrier remained with its last couple capsules facing towards the transport and the empty side facing the Monos. The overlapping shield of the waiting Gerlen would hopefully prevent any shots from hitting the remaining stasis pods.

There were two loading bay doors into the building, and the second door opening had followed a half breath after Prock called attention to himself. A number of Monos were exiting a door at the other end of the loading bay at the center of the building. At a glance Prock appeared to have about twenty thugs to the thirteen combatants on their own side.

Still, Tank, Mike and Daniel were carrying multiple weapons with a limb on each harness carrying weapons lifted from the fight in the hall.

“Should've just killed them,” Mike grumbled.

A cold wash of shock carried through the link from Stacey. “What do you mean!?” she hissed at him.

“That’s the boss of the guys we ran into on Oolseck that night,” understanding and a twisting feeling in his gut let Mike know Stacey was on the same page as him now. “And that one half hiding behind Prock? That’s the guy who jumped Otto in the bar.”

“Take your dues?” Otto’s voice echoed back. Otto had only just knelt down to allow Matchka to install the extra limbs on his own harness, but she’d been unable to really get started before Prock’s arrival. He’d been the last at least, Mike, Daniel and Tank were all set.

Prock hesitated for a moment, his maw open as he’d been about to speak. Otto wasn’t always one to talk, but he still knew how to make his voice carry. To compound that he sent it over dataspace as well, letting his voice echo through their heads. “Your thugs picked a fight with us at Oolseck, then tried to finish that fight in the slums. Then I find a code package with your men for fucking with people’s heads?”

“You killed my men!” Prock shouted.

“I was in their heads, they deserved it,” Otto replied, his voice cold. “I only now regret not finishing the job.”

“Kill them!” Prock ordered, pointing at Otto with his off hand.

A sudden flurry of projectiles crossed the small open area between the parties, energy splashing off opposing deviation fields. The Monos were not content to stay still however. Several of them charged the gap, firing pulse and plasma rifles as they approached.

“Gerlen, support!” Tank shouted.

The Gerlen slaves had all set up behind the stasis pod transport, which the drones were almost done offloading. The grey skinned guards signalled their understanding reflexively over the shared dataspace. They remained in place firing across the small field and letting their overlapping fields dissipate the Monos weapons.

The few who had charged forward found themselves dealing with a different problem. Mike and Daniel had a different sort of weapon, brought to them by Aurula. The rifles fired composite shells, completely ignoring the d-fields of the Monos as they charged. The handful of Monos that came out first quickly fell into heaps, only a couple of them still able to scream in pain. The first to make it through without being shot ran into Tank, and he wasn’t giving way.

The Monos that ran smack into Tank reared up, attempting to put all four arms into play. He was able to grab Tank’s arms and push them up, throwing off the aim of the less stable harness limb. Tank was pushed back, almost off his feet. With the supporting brace of his tail curled behind him, Tank let himself be picked up temporarily, trying to bring his own clawed feet into play. The Monos caught one ankle, but missed the other. Tank didn’t hesitate to disembowel the Monos, steaming entrails spilling out the front of the quadruped.

The Monos let go, attempting to hold himself together. His worries were rendered moot when Tank was able to shoot the Monos in the head point blank.

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Trunt
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Trunt: [Command, Attack, Overload Pulse]

The heavy burst of junk data struck a barrier Trunt hadn’t seen before. A type of automatic redirection. The Human had sent the attack back at the systems of the Auction house. He was borrowing the systems of the building!

His mind was slowly being taken by the virtual dataspace environment. He became aware of standing on a rock. A boulder floating alone out in space. A bad sign for him. Trunt didn’t have an effective dataspace presence so making an environment came slowly. He was outclassed.

“Ship Lord!” Trunt called out with fear. “He controls this territory, it is too much!”

A hand reached out and grabbed Trunt by the scruff of his neck. Prock yanked Trunt around, holding the Kashto airborne and face to face. “Then take it from him, no matter the damage you cause!”

Trunt's hadn't made that connection. He didn't need to preserve the systems of the Auction house. It wasn't a target they couldn't afford to make go rogue.

“Yes Ship Lord!” Trunt replied. Prock dropped him and went back to shooting at the Humans.

As for Trunt, his dataspace opponent remained passive. It seemed he was only concerned with defending the transport and his allies. The Kashto pulled a trick, using his hooks in the minds of his Monos allies to borrow them for processing power. They weren’t using it anyways.

Trunt: [Command. Installation. Overload attack node.]

One by one he set up low powered auto attacks set to fire from each of Prock’s subordinates.

The virtual space expanded. Mist crowded his boulder, but the Human stood on no mere stone. The Human stood across from Trunt and up high on a great artificial stone edifice. The mist… the clouds Trunt realized, connected the stone station to Trunt's rock.

Trunt: [Command. Attack. Multiplying pulse.]

He continued to layer attacks on the defense of the human, looking for any sort of response.

Then it arrived. Trunt 'heard’ the command through dataspace, something that only happened when opponents were paying close attention to each other. The scary part was that Trunt had only ‘just’ heard it happen. It had arrived as a split moment pulse of information. Having heard it, Trunt was able to unpack what he quickly realized as an SI shortcut command.

Human: [Command. Attack. Grounding Link.]

Several connections forced themselves upon Trunt, opening ports from Sapient resources. Just like that, he was fending off his own attacks. Trunt wasn't even sure how those connections had been opened on him. He couldn't just close them without disconnecting entirely.

It was about now that Trunt began to panic.

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Mike
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“Argh...” The Monos grunted, then transitioned to gurgling as he fell to the ground in front of Mike. He put another round in the head of the Monos before him. Again he received a minor ping from his mask package. That little ‘manipulation warning’ installed by Otto had been pinging Mike incessantly for the last while. And he’d been ignoring it of course.

He turned his rifle towards the leader shouting and shooting from the doorway. Ship Lord Prick wasn’t going to let himself go down so easily. He grabbed a Monos standing next to him, pulling the unfortunate creature into the path of the incoming bullets. The second Monos danced as bullets slammed into him and Prick stepped sideways behind the heavy concrete wall.

“Shit,” Mike swore unconsciously, looking for his next target. He found that target closer than he liked. Another Monos had picked up the discarded luggage cart while Mike was distracted and begun to charge. Support fire from Daniel and Mike’s own spare limb fired multiple rounds of plasma into the cart. Several holes were opened up in the makeshift defense and arcing power from the field and plasma carried through the cart, forcing the Monos to toss it aside with a swear.

The Monos came up fast and got up close enough to grab the barrel of Mike’s gun. The spare limb on Mike’s back had flipped upwards as the Monos arrived close. The big bastard came up short when the gun held by his harness limb snuck under Mike’s arm to place itself at the pirates face.

The Monos froze in fear and understanding. Mike didn’t hesitate to put a round of plasma through his head.

“No! Won’t wait!” Another Monos shouted, trying to lunge out from the second loading bay. They recognized this one, it was the bastard who’d started the fight then got his mind screwed up by Otto. Mike and Daniel both fired on the Monos as it attempted to charge out. Even as they had taken aim two arms reached out and viciously yanked the wayward idiot back out of sight. The action was so violent the male’s head bounced painfully off the bay doorframe as he was pulled away. That sight more than anything else thus far made Mike flinch.

The D-field of the Gerlen gave out in the next moment and one of the Gerlen dropped under concentrated fire, but that wasn’t the only thing to change.

Tank had already instinctively directed the three of them to cover the Gerlen with what had their own clearly superior d-fields. As they moved a new message was broadcast. “The last stasis pod is boarding,” Otto’s voice carried to everyone in the group. “Get aboard the transport!”

They had downed all the brave Monos and a single dumb Kashto. The rest of them didn’t want to come out of cover when they realized Mike and Daniel had a weapon that ignored d-fields. An important advantage when Monos preferred melee combat in general. Mike had expected much worse out of them, but he wasn’t going to question it now.

The Gerlen didn’t hesitate to book it onto the transport as the Monos kept taking blind shots. Mike could feel the heat of his d-field on his chest. The sweat began beading on his forehead as the block warmed up.

“Go on!” Daniel shouted, “Git on there!”

The last Gerlen passed through the door and Daniel stepped back to enter the transport.

“Now!” The lead Monos shouted, “Charge!”

“Fuck!” Mike swore in response as ten Monos burst out and charged at them.

Just as quickly as they had burst from cover the crowd of Monos stumbled to their knees or fell to the ground entirely disabled. They held their heads and groaned in pain.

“Get on!” Otto shouted, “That’ll only last a moment!”

Mike didn’t hesitate to run through the door, Tank was only moments behind.

The transport lifted from the support struts and moved off before the cargo door had even closed all the way.

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Ship Lord Prock.
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What happened?” he asked the dangling Kashto with clear threatening intent.

Trunt could barely speak, held aloft by a pair of paws around his neck. The operator scrabbled at the wall Prock had smashed him into with wheezing breath. “He- uck- he owned it-auck-all! I did my- *gasp* best, but I couldn’t -huck- best him!”

Prock snarled, partly due to Trunt’s failure and partly due to the kinetic rounds lodged in his lower left chest and arm. “What HAPPENED,” Prock asked again. He knew Trunt had lost the contest, but Prock had never seen his men just drop like that before.

“He- he hijacked the attack programs *gasp* that I had onboard every…” The Kashto trailed off and his eyes opened all the way.

“You opened a vulnerability,” Prock filled in his rage turning from cold to hot. “You gave him the way in.” The only redeeming moment in this was that Prock hadn’t been momentarily disabled. He was the only one Trunt hadn’t attempted to hijack for processing power.

The look in Trunt’s eyes and the way his tail had puffed up in fear made the answer clear. The Kashto didn’t speak. A good decision, there was not a word to be said that would improve the situation. Still, it was too late.

“You have failed me in far too spectacular a fashion, Trunt,” Prock said with cold finality. Trunt’s eyes opened wide with fear and he began to squirm, but it was far too late for that. With a surge of cold anger and hot frustration, Prock crushed the throat in his hands.

“Ghka!” Trunt grunted, his legs and arms flailing for one last moment. The small claws dug furrows in Prock’s arms and belly. A trifling pain. Finally the Kashto fell limp. Prock turned to face the open loading bay, looking off to the tube entrance the Humans had taken off through.

“Let us go,” Ship Lord Prock ordered, “We will seek another way.”

The remaining Monos, Crick included, did as commanded, heading back through the doors to the proper exit.

Casually, he lobbed the corpse of the dead Kashto over the ledge of the dock, not caring to watch the body fall into the distance.

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Otto
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Finally he dropped into the secondary pilot seat of the transport, letting his tension out with a long sigh. They were through the entrance to the transport tubes and on their way down to the industrial level. He leaned back and closed his eyes as he relaxed. Just the opening she was looking for.

He’d taken the left seat while Aurula was seated on the right. He heard a momentary rustle but failed to predict what happened next.

“Oof!” he grunted as Aurula dropped onto his lap.

“We made it!” she said with a happy chirp. Then she wiggled suggestively on his lap. Then she did it again.

“We haven’t quite made it yet, but that was a pretty good start… Also, it may not be the best time for that,” Otto complained with a light chuckle.

“Oh, I’m sure it isn’t…” She murmured leaning into into his chest. “But part of you doesn’t agree.”

He put his left arm underneath her wings and around the small of her back. “I would love to take you up on that invitation,” He replied, letting his voice drop low as he spoke into her ear. He nuzzled his nose right into her feathers and she shivered when he breathed out. “But we do have to be properly ready depending on whoever shows up.”

“Drop me in the water why don’t you,” Aurula complained lightly as she left his lap to return to her own seat. She did need to be at the physical controls in case of emergency however.

“Since you’ve recovered so much, I’ll make it up to you tonight,” Otto told her.

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

She let out a little high pitched warble of anticipation. A very close approximation of a high pitched Human ‘eeeeeeeee’.

Tank stepped into the cockpit. “Sorry to interrupt your quiet time, but the Hyowean we freed wishes to speak to you Otto.”

“Huup!” Otto breathed as he stood up. As he turned he brushed his hand across the outside of Aurula’s wing. “Keep an eye out for Hatherkey. And one for enforcement too.”

“I only have one eye,” Tank responded. Otto almost missed the very slight upturn at the corner of Tank’s mouth.

“Well, you watch for one, Aurula can then watch for the other and use her remaining eye to pilot.”

A soft chitter was the only answer she gave to the joke.

“An interesting plan,” Tank conceded, “I will remain here.”

Otto nodded and headed through the door into the back of the transport. The back was set up in two aisles. Both sides of the transport were lined with stasis pods. Another partial row hung from the ceiling of the vehicle and the center floor could convert between stock shelves or more stasis pod racks. Right now it held a small collection of items looted from the auction house.

Most, although not all of the racks had been filled with stasis pods. Stacey was glancing around as he wandered in. Her eyes were specifically focused on the empty slots.

“We could have fit more,” Stacey complained the instant she saw him.

Otto frowned. “I didn’t have time to go through every one of the stasis held slaves. I did a broad selection for captured and debt slaves. We left the crime slaves behind.”

“Then… you should have let me look.” Stacey persisted with a stubborn look. “You didn’t just have to assume they were all no good.”

“I couldn’t be sure how many pods Leroy’s group could take, for all I know I’m pushing it with this many.”

“Then you could talk with him!”

“This is already quite a collection of stasis pods,” another voice chimed in. The quiet but mildly squeaky voice of the older Hyowean drew Otto’s attention. “But what I wish to know is what you plan to do with this collection of slaves?”

Stacey stood back with her arms crossed, letting Otto know she wasn’t going to press the issue, but still wasn’t happy with him.

Otto nodded at Stacey and stepped past her. He was going to have to give Stacey a chance to speak to him without distractions later.

He made his way to Tsalay. She was crouched further back, surrounded by the handful of Gerlen. She was applying nanofix to the thigh of G7. He had only just avoided more than a scorch from a couple plasma rounds.

“We have made a connection with the underground railway,” Otto said, suppressing a grin he knew she wouldn’t understand.

“Railway?” she asked with a tilt of her head. The little button nose and round elfin face of the Ushen tugged at him. But he didn’t miss her flinch when he arrived just a bit too close for her own comfort. The Ushen were very nervous he suddenly recalled, and Hyowean minds were shaped by the bodies they chose...

“A… historical Human reference,” Otto began, crouching to make himself smaller. “We have found a person running a small organizing specializing in smuggling slaves to freedom. Leroy borrowed a term on the off chance any knowledgeable Humans stumbled across it.”

The effort of shrinking his silhouette seemed to work as Tsalay was able to take a breath and relax slightly. Perhaps he’d given her a bit too much confidence though. “So I understand that once you’ve unlocked my slave package you are handing me off to someone entirely new? Do you even know this Leroy?” The solid blue eyes were identical to Tsury’s, but somehow much less friendly.

“Nah, just met him,” Daniel jumped in, his voice cheerful. “Leroy’s good shit tho’.”

Tsalay turned to look at Daniel and gave him the trademark disapproving old person look before turning back to look on Otto. “Do you make a habit of that? Just breaking a slave package and just moving on with your own problems?”

Otto opened his mouth, then paused.

“You do it seems,” she said with annoyance. “I see you are a busy person-”

“That’s enough!” Tsury barked. Tsalay jumped with surprise. “Is that needed? We can just drop you off somewhere if you like!”

The Ushen Hyowean looked at the Human Hyowean in surprise, then wilted slightly. “You- you’re right. I am angry but…” she turned to look Otto in the eyes. “I’m not angry at you, it’s just… it’s been so long, I don’t know how to handle what I’m feeling.”

Tsury crossed her arms and nodded, “Yeah, that’s ri-” she cut off as Otto placed a hand on her head, or at least roughly where it should be past the huge hair.

“That’s enough,” Otto gently admonished. “Thank you for standing up for me Tsury, but just because she’s not sure how to handle her anger, that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.”

“What?” Tsury asked as she looked up at Otto.

He smiled at her, “It’s okay,” he turned to Stacey. “Hey.”

With an arched eyebrow, she responded. “What’s up Otto?”

“I’m gonna ask you because I know you’ll hold it to me properly,” Otto explained, “Don’t let me forget to contact Latte the moment we’re safe.”

If her arms weren’t already crossed, she would have crossed her arms here. Instead she shifted slightly, as if she wanted to further show disapproval. Instead she let it go. “Sure, and then you can tell us who Latte is.”

“Human girl,” Matchka filled in from the back. “Found on… skateboard?”

“Shit, what?” Daniel asked, his head turning around to reveal a big grin. “You gotta-”

Everyone cringed as a message arrived, accompanied by a sudden overwhelming pressure.

[Take the transport to the designated position and surrender yourselves immediately]

Otto could barely squeeze out an order. There were numerous pops as the combat harnesses worn by his companions immediately blew the overload linkages.

“[Remove your wireless bands],” was the order Otto was able to give the Gerlen. They struggled with the pressure as well, but did as he told them. The Humans had to help, but the Gerlen were quickly stripped of their dataspace connection.

[Command, Defense, Solid Barrier]

As he ran to the front of the transport, Otto attempted to fill the dataspace available to him with inert barriers to block the messages. It didn’t work. With inorganic power and speed, his barriers were torn down and the pressure increased.

[Cease dataspace action and surrender yourselves]

He stumbled into the cockpit to find Tank standing above the seat and staring out the side window at an unfamiliar vehicle. Otto fell to the floor as the pressure only continued to ramp up.

“Otto!” Aurula shrieked in the distance.

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Chase
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He hung from the side door of the armored personal hover that he’d taken to calling an APH. Currently he was holding onto a bar, and also held back by a leash attached to his harness and connected to the ceiling of the vehicle. He wasn’t worried about being attacked. No handheld weapons would go through the d-field of the vehicle.

Two Ytheon and five Veprutasian rode in the compartment with him. The Ytheon were heavily equipped with a bulky harness, plated armor, shoulder mounted weapons and carried plasma rifles with underslung secondary weapons Chase had seen used to painfully stun victims.

The five Veprutasians had tracings of wiring along their wings and their feet were all encased in enhanced boots… gloves? Chase didn’t know how to refer to the equipment properly, he wasn’t used to boots that were also gauntlets. The gauntlet boots were all equipped with large blunt digits that looked like they were able to deliver heavy stuns as well. Their harnesses were built with a subtle rail that allowed the turret on their chest to rise over their head and mount to their back while on the go.

The slave transport didn’t waver as the drone, his observer Chase had decided to call Bob, began the dataspace assault. Chase had seen this a couple times by now. Bob was connected to a proper military AI core back at their headquarters and used pure computing power to disable suspects.

“One opponent disabled, the rest seem to have disconnected,” Bob reported emotionlessly.

“Really?” Chase asked. “You usually get everyone, what happened?”

“Fused connections. When I attempted to overload their implants, their connection automatically failed.”

“Clever,” Chase commented, “How bout the last guy?” Chase asked as he looked at the transport. He could just see a couple figures moving around in the cockpit. One was too dark to make out, but the other looked like a blue bird, a Leralin.

“Currently maintaining a full capacity defense, crowding out attempted connections,” Bob paused for a moment. “A temporary measure.”

“He can do that?” Chase asked as he peered into the cockpit, squinting to get a better look.

“It is a skilled defense,” Bob acknowledged with a rare moment of praise. “But a very painful one, it is difficult to say how long it can be maintained.

“They have been warned, opening fire,” the Veprutasian pilot advised.

“Wait, no!” Chase warned. He hadn’t missed the look from the bird. She looked pissed. “Dodge!”

“What?” The pilot responded far too slowly.

Chase jumped back as the bigger slave transport swung sideways into the armored hover. First there was a smash as the transport crashed into them, then a crunching, grinding sound as the transport pushed them against the wall of the transport tube.

The two Ytheon bellowed and the birds squawked.

Chase had grabbed onto a support handle on a wall to hold still. Bob didn’t fare so well. The floating drone flew to the front of the compartment, bouncing off another support bar like the one Chase had grabbed. The only one of the other riders to get hurt was a very unfortunate Vep who happened to be strapped in where Bob landed.

The only thing that prevented Chase from running to the unfortunate Crow was the continued shaking of the transport grinding them into the tube wall.

The pilot may not have predicted the ram, but he didn’t miss his opportunity. Chase heard the mag clamps latch to the side of the vehicle. The Humans had more weight, but the Vep pilot had the more powerful machine. Chase could hear the humming of the engines ramp up as they pushed away from the tube wall. There was a slip and they rose up and ground against wall for another short period before pushing away a second time.

“Bob! What’s going on?” Chase asked. The drone seemed wedged against the wall and wasn’t moving all that much that he could see.

“Primary antennae damaged, attempting to re-route connection.”

“You sunuva bitch!” a voice carried over Chase’s connection, an unfocused message to whoever could read it. In english. “That hurts like fuck!”

“Initiating dataspace defenses,” Bob spoke out loud.

“That was a good crunch,” the pilot sent back to them. “Are the cutters working?”

Chase pushed off the wall of the shaking APH and grabbed a bar next to the open door. Chase had only been in this transport once, he’d never seen the plasma cutters working before. He didn’t get to see it this time either.

“That’s a negative!” Chase sent back, “Looks like the opened door let the torches get damaged.”

The sound of silence lead Chase to believe the bird was swearing up a storm. Finally he got back to them. “Close the door when I disconnect. Do not open the opposite side.”

“Spoilsport,” Chase replied out loud but didn’t send to the pilot.

A series of k-chunks preceded the vehicle dropping and swinging away. With distance gained, the door mechanism sparked and began to grind loudly as it slid sideways to close back up. Chase had to hold himself stead as the vehicle swung around to the other side of the target.

Chase could see a matching patch of damage on the transport they were chasing. Then the other vehicle started shifting upwards as they entered a downward turn in the transport tube.

On a hunch, Chase immediately returned to the seat he was never supposed to leave, strapping himself in for the ride. The hunch was confirmed when the vehicle crunched downwards and into the transport tube again. It only lasted a moment as the groaning and shrieking of metal moved to the front of the vehicle. As the pursuit continued Chase could feel gravity shift slightly as the carrier mostly, but not entirely, compensated for them tilting downwards.

“What’s going on Bob?” Chase shouted. While he wasn’t looking the drone had also locked itself in place, socketing itself into a dock on the ceiling of the transport. It’s long rectangular body had shrunk to look like a solid square from underneath.

The Veprutasian who’d been unfortunate enough to soften Bob’s crash seemed comatose, or possibly worse.

“Combat continues, further reply pending changes in condition.”

“Well, okay then,” Chase grumbled from his seat.

-----
Otto
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He could barely see past artifacts of light and junk data that should never had interfered with his vision. His hearing was little more than a dull roar, like the fake sounding nullification used to signify being underwater in video games. And Tank smelled like a charlie horse. He could also smell Aurula. She smelled like morning dew rolling off a leaf.

Frankly, aside from that last calming realization, he found the rest of it fucking weird. Not to mention the most incredible headache he could remember.

But that’s what happened when something went and messed up a sensory package. Tank picking him up and holding him still had felt like someone shining the sun directly in his face.

Otto was almost shaking as adrenaline coursed through his body. The mental switch was fully active as well. It occurred to him he might not be able to keep his promise to Aurula that night.

Aurula’s voice carried through the distance once again. “Hard down!” she shouted, giving everyone a moment before the vehicle dove. The smell of the charlie horse almost overpowered Otto as Tank held tight. Shutting his eyes also didn’t prevent the contact from registering as bright as a high powered flashlight held at his eyes. The crunching and shaking only continued as the other vehicle fetched up against the tube wall.

Still, he had more important things on his mind.

Otto: [Command. Defense. Loose Wire]

AI: [Command. Attack. Overload Pulse]

The blast of data lanced out and impacted the solid barrier Otto had maintained since the beginning. The trap he’d set activated and a blast of junk data rode the connection back to strike the AI. Otto could see the fragments of damage scatter from the simple avatar of the AI, a slowly rotating cube floating in mental space before him.

The Castle was in shambles, the battlements torn down, the gate turned to rubble. No clouds in the sky and no landscape below them. More than that, various portions of the damaged scenery would flicker in and out of existence with particles of light alternating between scattering away and reabsorbing back into the scenery.The AI however had no mental constructs at all. Not unusual for a creation with no imagination. The downside of that is that Stoyaf’s subtle infiltration technique didn’t work if there was no field to invade.

Still, if that AI managed to reconnect to the core then Otto would be forced to blow the fuse. If he wasn’t outright screwed when it hit.

AI: [Command. Attack. Scattered darts]

Otto: [Command. Attack. Shelled Overload Spike]

He could feel his defenses scattering under the sustained assault, but Otto’s defense would hold long enough. His own attack struck the defenses of the AI and revealed the fragmentation bomb within. It pulsed and Otto could feel the defenses of the enforcer ship crumble ever so slightly.

In his hyperactive but overcharged state, Otto jumped headfirst into the newly opened gap in the vessel space. He started obliterating chunks of data wholesale, hoping he could hit something vital. And he did.

“They’re pulling away!” Aurula’s voice echoed in the distance.

“Ah, good,” Otto replied, his voice strained and his senses fragmented. “I’m gonna nap.”

Overcome with relief, Otto let himself fall unconscious.

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End Chapter
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