by Maldoror


Chapter nine: Garrotte

"Hang in there! Don't you dare d-die on me!" Duo's voice breaks in a sob as he clings to my arm, his hand on my face. "Be ok!"

Don't lay it on too thick, baka.

/Control... control... control./

"It's ok, kid, it doesn't look too bad."

Through slitted eyelids I see Duo lift a tear-streaked face to the nurse.

"You-you sure? It's just that he's not waking up!"

"Here's the doctor."

/Control... control... control./

"What have we got, Sid?"

"Eighteen year old Hano Evans out camping with his brother. Slipped, banged his head on rocks apparently. Scalp lac, tenderness, no bone murmur... but, erm, here's his stats."

A flip of chart. " ...Is this right?"


"Is it bad?" Duo's voice quavers, as he valiantly tries to hold in more tears.

/Control... control... control./

"You are-.?"

"I'm his brother."

I can feel the doctor cast an incredulous eye over both our features.

"Half-brother." Duo hiccups. "Same mom."

"Ah, right. Where are your parents?"

"I called 'em as soon as we got here, doc, but they live in Athabasca, they won't be here for ages! Tomorrow morning at least! And Hano's dad is in Japan, and he wouldn't come anyway. You-you're not going to wait for our folks to gets here before you help him, right? He's not waking up!"

/Control... control... control./

"Don't worry, we'll take good care of your brother. The two of you were out camping, did you see what happened?"

"We were in Mackey Forest campground, not far from here. Hano thought he heard something out in the woods, he went to check it out. I just heard him yell and a crash, and I found him against some stones. Dragged him to the car and came here, we saw this place on the way to the campsite. Erm, I don't have my driver's license but I hadta to something... " Duo finishes in a guilty murmur. I don't see why he bothers adding this detail but I guess it's part of the role he's playing. It certainly works.

"What's your name, son?" The doctor's voice is warm and reassuring.

"Donnie, Donald Evans."

"Donnie, is your brother diabetic, does he have any blood disorders, or cardiovascular abnormalities?"

/Control... control... control./


"Does he, be honest here, Donnie, did your brother take anything? Drugs?"

"No way, Hano's a jock!"

" ...Steroids? Metabol-"

"No way!"

I can understand their confusion, my symptoms do not fit any clear clinical picture. I can feel the doctor double checking my stats himself.

/Control... control... control./

I ignore the stranger's hands on me, my control is absolute, every fiber of my body entirely in hand.

" ...Looks younger than eighteen. This will need butterflies... Hmm previous skull fracture here. Well, Donnie..." He tries to keep the confusion out of his voice. "Your brother's banged his head and probably has concussion. There's no apparent fracture... but he's got very low heart rate and blood pressure and there's some abnormalities in his EKG."

"Pupils *are* reactive." I hear the nurse whisper. There are some things even I can't control. I can hear the doctor scratch his head again.

Duo reappears in my vision. His hand is still light on my wrist, helping me and my body from reacting with a precise and deadly reflex as the orderly inserts an intravenous needle in my arm. My control doesn't need his presence, his touch, but it does help, strangely. He sniffles again. He's dressed for the part in outdoor clothes, his long hair hidden by a loose cap. There's a tear beading on his eyelash, he looks terribly young and vulnerable.

We play to our strengths. In this mission there never was any question who would be the innocent waif and who would be the stiff.

"We need to check his brain for bleeding ok, Donnie? Sid, order up an MRI. And er-" his voice drops "get a *full* blood workup, ok?"

/Control... success! ...control./

Duo wisely waits for the doctor to exit and then convinces Sid to let him come with me, at least to the MRI control room. Sid gets a small dose of Duo's charm before succumbing.


My head is still spinning as I scribble a note -"Taking a ten minute coffee break, use other unit"- to stick on the door. My blood is pounding in my ears now that I've stopped sending my own vital statistics plunging to the bottom of the medical charts. The cut on the back of my head -courtesy of Duo's knife- is still bleeding. But my heart-rate and blood pressure are fast returning to normal.

Duo raps the wall lightly with his fingernails as he comes back, an ingrained habit he's picked up when coming at me from behind.

"You OK, buddy? Still looking a bit pale there. The MRI tech and Sid are now curled up together and sleeping like lil' angels. I don't think they're too badly injured."

"The tech's jaw looked broken."

"Only if it was glass. His own mother couldn't have punched his lights out more gently than I did. Anyway he was breathing ok. They're out of the way and I locked their door from the inside." He twirls his ceramic-alloy lockpicks in his fingers before he slips them back into his braid.

It's sloppy but it's the best we can do. It should give us a few hours before they're missed enough for an alarm to go out.

Duo lies down on the gurney and I slip on the tech's coat and wheel him past the next check-point, to the cardio MR unit. That's as far as we can go as civilians. We have to go the rest of the distance as terrorists. At least we're already in the basement - the liquid nitrogen and huge magnets of the scanners had to be stored here, the only non-military instruments that are. Our subterfuge has gotten us past quite a few check-points already and only a few corridors away from our goal.

We take the long route around to the service elevator. And run into a guard half way there.

He's reading a magazine, sitting on a gurney in this little used section of the hospital basement. I don't know if this is a patrol or if he's on a break. He doesn't look like he's moving any time soon.

I feel Duo move beside me as we crouch behind a bin of dirty laundry. He catches my eye, grabs his braid and unwinds the wire from the end carefully. He lifts an eyebrow at me and then glances at the guard.

I scowl. The guard is not Oz or Alliance, he's part of the hospital security detail. Duo nods slightly, understanding, and hands me the wire. Then he stands and strolls over to the guard.

/Risky... Preferable course of action: Elimination./

The wire bites into my palm. No, not unless we have no other choice.

/Reduce number of parameters. Recommend elimination!/

I tense, but the guard barely glances up as Duo approaches. It takes the man a few seconds before his mind processes that the relaxed, 'Sure-I-belong-here' figure walking towards him does not, in fact, belong here. By then it's fortunately too late. A few minutes later the guard is duct-taped and in his own locked room.

There are fortunately no other interruptions before we reach vent 24D near the service elevator.

The military hospital we are breaking into has a zone 3 and 4 microbiology unit but fortunately that's in a separate building entirely and we don't have to go anywhere near it, to our intense relief. It also has a world-renown biochemistry lab and that's what we're hitting today. They're putting the finishing touches on a new sedative gas which can be used to subdue large crowds over vast areas with only a few side-effects. A good riot-control tool. But Romefeler is funding the research, and OZ will be using the gas in the colonies, adding it to the oxygen mix in the recycled air. A few hundred people will die from the side-effects of the gas. The others will not even notice the murder of their freedom to think freely and protest against the Alliance control of their colonies.

We've already wired Duo's M18 charge to the transport tanker outside, as a message to OZ that we are not going to let them get away with this. That was the easy part. But J wants us to access the lab's computer and download all information about the gas to counter it in the future. We're trying to break into the heavily guarded military research facility underneath the hospital; this is somewhat harder than blowing up a truck.

Duo and I quickly unscrew the vent. All vents in this place are too narrow even for us, to stop intruders, but they're big enough for small service robots and they're big enough for our two slim packs of explosives and weapons to be slipped down from the roof access of the vent. We've been weaponless since we lowered the packs down the vent, before a sobbing Duo took his 'brother' through the main gate's security check and metal-detectors. It's with some relief that I return my gun to the back holster of my shorts, clip four spare chargers to my belt and slip my knife in my boot. Duo goes through his explosives like a mother hen counting chicks, arms and holsters his Glock 29, straps on his spring-loaded knife-sheathe and grins at me.

"Hey there, good looking, looks like we're all dolled up and ready to hit the town. Ready to rock 'em, buddy?"


"Let's do it then."


The biochemistry complex is under ground, deeper than the basement and not directly under the hospital. Rapelling down the shaft of the service elevator allows us to break into a maintenance conduit running above the corridor which leads to one of several entrance points. Security is good but the facility is old, and there are loopholes. One of them is up ahead.

We hunch at the access panel in the side of the maintenance shaft, wires and pipes hanging around us like the veins, nerves and arteries of some gigantic organism we are invading, disease-like. I've done as much as I could with the security system from the outside, hacking in and desactivating sensor alarms in the grounds, the roof and the access tunnels, but we need to get deeper into the brain matter of the complex if we're to do any real damage. The control room on the other side of the panel is one of the nerve centers we are looking for.

I reach for Duo's hand in the darkness, my movements cut in slices by the shafts of light breaking through the slits in the panel. My fingers flicker on his wrist. Three guards, two engineers. The soldiers are Alliance, the techs might be as well, or they could be civilians working for the research complex. We will kill them only if we have to. We won't have a choice with the guards. I feel Duo's fingers flick acknowledgement on my forearm. I see him twist the wire out of his braid again as I quietly screw on my silencer.

A guard wanders over to the bank of monitors beneath the maintenance hatch.

/Reduce number of parameters. Eliminate.../

In the darkness, the wire between my lover's fingers tightens with a twang.


"How we doing, buddy?" Duo's voice is tight, as he worries at the thin line of blood that has lodged itself under his fingernails.

"Nearly done. You?"

"All the damage is hidden away. Well, as much as possible."


I don't worry about the men and women we have just injured or killed, they are already out of the equation, eliminated parameters. I think Duo has a harder time doing this, but he won't let it hamper his efficiency during the mission.

Duo is typing into the console next to mine, downloading a couple of viruses and linking their triggers to certain diagnostic subroutines. We are not common intruders, we are the micro-organisms that are smart enough to directly attack the immune system meant to defend against them.

I finish my careful disassembling of the base's defenses. Alarms are switched off, but not in any way that will be apparent to diagnostic programs or even a direct check online. Comms are now linked to the program that I have running shepherd over the alarm system. If someone triggers an alarm, the only effect it will have is to freeze open all communication devices but reroute all signals to my laptop, as well as cut camera feed. The base will be blind and deaf, that should buy us some time if- or rather, when, our activities are exposed. I fit all door codes with an override - I tap the screen and Duo nods as he memorizes the code- and then clone their entire security network environment, creating a false copy of it that will hide my actions until, as Duo puts it, 'the shit hits the ventilation shaft'.

/Objective achieved. Next step./

"Isolation protocols?" Duo mutters, his breath on my shoulder. I am entirely too controlled to react to his proximity aggressively.

"Couldn't touch them, no time."

"Great, well, at least we have an excuse to get out alive, hm?"


"Let's not get all chocked up about it though, there'll be plenty more opportunities to self-destruct in the future. I might even get you a cyanide capsule for Christmas if you behave."

"For a stealth expert," I snap, as I lock out all systems in the room and head to the door, "you sure talk a lot."

"For a terrorist you sure look good in spandex."

"Shut up, baka."

"Aye aye, sir."


We almost make it to the target lab before my communicator beeps a code, informing us that someone, somewhere, for whatever reason, has tried to activate the alarm. The lights flicker briefly as my override protocols and Duo's viruses start going into action. The base will be thrown into massive confusion at this point, all communications down, sytems offline, doors locked.and most people oblivious to the problem since the alarms haven't actually sounded. This might give us the time to complete our mission.

Without a word we break into a run. The time for stealth is over, now speed and strength are the only things that will allow us to complete the mission and get out of the base alive.

As I enter my override code in the lock for Biochem Lab6, the first shout echoes out behind us. The first bullet follows only a second later.


On to chapter ten

Back to chapter eight

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