Pandora's Trap

(Cross post with LaserSexPanther)

Sy blinked blearily against the morning sun. “Why’d I tell’m 8:30,” she moaned to herself. “Coulda told’m 10 sharp. 10 is fine. I c’n do 10. No problem with 10. But no, dumbass nigga bitch had to be all ‘8:30, 8:30, yes massa, 8:30 can do suh’. One mo’ hour woulda been perfect.” And so on and so forth. She was wearing her second-nicest outfit, a pair of jeans without any holes in it and a thin, elastic top that showed her ribs in sharp relief. She spotted Sirius lurking in a shadowy alcove ahead, a few dozen yards from where the remnants of the train, now being removed by Titantech mechs, loomed into view. She made to walk past, and sidestepped into the shade at the last moment. “Sup,” she said simply. “What's the plan?”

Sirius lowered his cheap plastic sunglasses. “Plan is to look, listen, and think.” he said. Even without seeing his eyes Sy could tell Sirius’ eyes were darting around behind the black lenses. “What buildings are around here?” he asked. “Don’t care about tiny ma and pop shops just important, medium of the road to big time stuff. Gotta figure a reason they crashed the train here. Sure it caused chaos but in the fancy part of town would have been much more impactful unless somethings here that proved a point. A distraction is good.” he started running his hands back and forth over the top of his head. “But distractions like this usually have a secondary reason. It’s like a grifters sleight of hand trick. Always many reasons something is happening even if you don’t see it.”

The blue web of Heimdall lit up in Sy’s vision as she closed her eyes. Dots marked with Grid ID’s walked through the street, augmentations glowing on their arms and heads. She scanned the surrounding, turning her hand in every direction. “Ya may be right,” she said pensively. “Look like the train was headin’ in the direction of the Plaza, I reckon it’d head all the way to Central. Woulda been much better of a place to blow it. So why…” She trailed off, a frown crinkling her face. “How much d’you know about the Hive?”
“I know it’s where you go if you are looking for sin and depravity and the weirdest drugs clicks can buy.” he said.
“‘Cause the bomb site’s directly ‘bove a Hive entrance, by the looks of it,” Sy went on. Though she could not see the whole of the shaft, in the shadow below the train tracks she could see various lines and connections leading down into the ground to the network below. “Don’ seem t’be too many ways in ‘n outta that place. Y’think that could be connected? I could pull up some data ‘n see what’s directly below.”

“Just don’t go after anything to crazy. Just see where we are above, not that I want to go down there. Just need to figure out what else we need to do.” he said, “I don’t know about you but going into the bowels of Hell isn’t my idea of a good day.” Sirius looked the alley up and down. “Stay here a minute. Take your data run some scans, I’m gonna go look at the train.” He walked off, using the glasses in his sunglasses to take pictures of the train, rails, building, and damaged done to the streets.

Sy scanned the lines below the surface. There was a gap among them, a space that did not seem to have any connections inside, but had many around it. “Look like some sort of anti-tech chamber down there,” she said, just loud enough for Sirius to hear. “Got a bunch o’those up in the Spire, y’don’ see ‘em often though.” She checked the data of some of the main lines. “Whatever’s down there, they scannin’ for some complex energy signa… tures…” She trailed off. The subterranean grid was changing. Lines appeared inside the chamber, code was being executed, driving some unknown mechanics. To her rapidly ascending horror, a figure jumped out of the darkened space, drawn in crawling lines like a glowing blue nervous system, and began to rapidly climb up through the shaft. Sy’s heart jumped into her throat, and for a moment she could only croak. Then, she got a hold of herself, discarding the panic and yelled: “SIRIUS! NEO INCOMING, RIGHT NOW!”

Sirius whipped his head around from taking a look at the train. “What?” he asked seeing her sprinting out of the alley. He could feel something was wrong and started walking fast as he closed the space between them pulling her into another alley. “Shh. Move fast.” he whispered. “Just act normal.”

Sy looked shaken, but nodded. They moved quickly through the alley, stepping over broken bottles and garbage bags. Behind them, yelling erupted, a noise of breaking, metal squealing. Someone screamed: “WHER-R-R-RE IS THE CHOSEN?!” Sy covered her ears, looked down and kept moving. She wondered whether anything she had done caused this to happen. Or had it just been a coincedence? She looked at Sirius. “I guess this must be why the train blew up here,” she said quietly. “This has to be connected.”

“I’d say so, we need to keep moving.” he mumbled. “I have somewhere else we can go, closer than doubling back to my apartment.” Sirius was looking around but not back. His steps fast no more then someone rushing to work. “My workshop.” he said. “Just keep that thing off for now.” he said giving her arm a tap. “Don’t want it tracking us there if it does we’re far more than screwed.” he added, as the reached the end of this alley and turned left just as the Neo turned to look down the alley.

“I can feel it watching me.” he mumbled. “Like its eyes are still following us.”
“I know,” Sy replied. The hair on the back her neck was standing on end. “I dunno whether it can sense Heimdall when it’s off. Neophytes’re just… Fuckin’ weird, man. Y’know, people usually jus’ look like nodes t’me, in Heimdall y’know, but I found out las’night that I can see all of Neos’ nervous systems. Like their whole fuckin’ bodies are a network, y’know? That’s how I knew one was comin’ on up jus’ now.”

Coming to a place three alleys over that was a little easily missed alcove with want looked like a basement door with about 10 locks on it. “Here.” he said, kneeling down. “Watch my back.” he told her, running his wrist over each lock, one at a time the slid free. With a little ‘Beep’ chime, throwing the door open he hurried Sy in. Following behind and re-locking the door. Throwing them into a suffocating darkness. “Just let me find the…” the lights suddenly came on with a ‘buzz’ of the tube lights warming up “Switch.” The room was suddenly bathed in a soft white. They stood in a room bigger than his apartment. Smooth white concrete walls, floor and ceiling, two shiny metal tables, one covered in tools the other was in a corner of the room with fridge under it and a microwave on top. and the same kind of bed in another. But his room had a chair, “Have a seat if you want. Just for now don’t do any scanning we’ll have to wait it out for a bit or fight.” he said as he began to dig in a big metal box.

“I ain’t fightin’ that thing,” Sy said quickly. She looked around the workshop. “Nice pad,” she said, and smiled wryly. “Wish I coulda seen it under better circumstances.” She plopped down onto the bed-sized pillow. “How are we gonna know it’s safe, tho’? Reckon OSEC mus’ be on their way now. Prob’ly bringin’ in a Neo of their own.”

“This place is pretty hidden, and pretty scan proof. If they find the Neo they are looking for they won’t look for us.” he said, absentmindedly. As if he was half paying attention. “When I say fight I don’t mean with fists.” he commented as he kept taking out little do-dads, looking at them and sitting them aside. “We’re just in a basement of a local shop.” he said. “No reason to look down this way.” he said, but didn’t sound 100% sure. “But worse comes to worse and the cops do find us, we’ll hear’em and I have a plan. Or alibi or whatever. I can’t come up with every word.”

“Alrigh’," she said. “I trust you.” She watched as he set up his gizmos and sighed. “Piece o’shit’s prob’ly wreakin’ all sorts o’havoc now. He yelled somethin’ about a Chosen…" It sat in the back of her mind. She couldn't quite recall where she heard it before. Then something came to her. “The night o’the plant explosion… Thought I'd had a dream o’some jackoff in a mask who said somethin’ similar.” She looked at Sirius. “That was no dream, was it?”

“Nah it was real. Thought you knew.” he said. “It’s on the news” Sirius commented “Push the stuff on the middle table to the side. It’s got a screen, we can see if the news is saying anything.” he said, still digging. Finally taking out a small metal tube with little half spheres on each end. “Just in case.” he said sliding it into his pocket. “Might be a bad idea considering what it is, but might have no choice.”

“Power’s still out though, you got battery power in here?" Sy frowned. “Whole thing didn’t go up.” Sirius said. “Power’s still going to the rich folks. We just so happen to be just under the borderline. Drawing power from them. Plus with the chaos they are still pumping out emergency news broadcasts.”

Sy just nodded and got to her feet. She pushed the tools on the table to the side and stepped aside as Sirius flipped a few switches. The screen lit up to show the face of Ken Ham, who was already in the middle of his report.

“...danger to the residents in the area. OSEC is responding to the call and should make it to the scene soon. The rogue Neophyte will soon be apprehended and neutralized by OSEC. I repeat, a rogue Neophyte is currently causing extensive damage in the vicinity of yesterday’s train bombing. Residents are advised to stay indoors. I… Hold on… I am receiving news that a reporter has eyes on the scene! Janet, how is it looking out there?”

The view changed to a short, rosy-cheeked woman in a lilac pantsuit. “Hiya Ken! Yep, it’s a rogue Neophyte alright, and OSEC is just arriving on the scene! They have brought a Neophyte of their own to apprehend the subject, who seems to be in control of one of the mech suits employed by Titantech to assist with removing the wreckage of the bombing yesterday! Let’s see if we can sneak a peek, shall we?”

The camera moved past her, displaying a view from behind a window. The scenery had changed drastically in just the last 10 minutes since Sy and Sirius had stood overlooking the trainwreck. The ground was littered with chunks of asphalt, the train tracks had been torn out of the concrete. Dust hung in thick plumes, partially obscuring the vision. Nobody was left on the street but three people, though lights flashed in the background. The Neo from underground was a stout kid, apparently just a teenager. He was yelling something at a male and a female OSEC agent, who stood some twenty yards opposite him. The male agent had a gun ready to fire, but the barrel was jerking wildly. Behind the kid, one of the mechs was moving in the direction of the standoff in jerky, twitchy motions. The female OSEC agent had the fingers of her left hand on her temple and the other outstretched.

The reporter went on off-screen in a maddeningly cheerful voice. “It seems OSEC is trying to negotiate with the subject! For the safety of your reporters we can’t get a closer look at this stage, but we will conduct an interview with the OSEC agents after-” The reporter fell silent. The rogue Neo had spasmed violently, made a throwing motion. The muzzle of the male agent flashed and the head of the Neo snapped back, but it had been too late. The mech was hurling through the air, a massive, solid steel projectile several tons in weight. The female agent made a leap for her companion, but it was no use. With a sickening crash, the mech crashed onto the male agent. Sy could feel the ground vibrate under her feet.

The female agent began to scream, an unearthly howling that was somehow worse than the scene that had unfolded on the screen. As she began to run towards the crashed mech, the reporter quickly stepped in front of the camera, her stoic, plastered smile barely faltering. “Well, wasn’t that an unpleasant scene! As you can see, OSEC risks their lives every day for the safety of the city! This brave agent has sacrificed his own to keep the citizens of Oracle safe and sound, and with the rogue Neophyte neutralized, it appears the danger is averted and OSEC will soon give the all-clear signal, so hang in tight, Zone 9! You’ll soon be allowed to come and go again as you please! Back to you, Ken!”

Sy switched off the TV, feeling nauseated. For a moment, she could not say a word. Her stomach clenched with everything she had just witnessed and a feeling of guilt at the thought she might have let that thing out. Even with the screen off, she thought she could hear the agent screaming several blocks away. She looked at Sirius and said, very quietly: “I guess it’ll be safe ‘nough to leave in a few minutes.”

Sirius gritted his teeth. “Ruined…” he mumbled. “I can’t put anything together from a ruined crime scene.” he spat and his hands hit the table. “Think I will stay here for now.” he said. “The place is gonna be swarming with OSEC. And two people casually walking home after something like that. We’ll get caught for sure.” he said. “You’re free to go though,” he added.

Sy looked around, distraught. "I need to be alone fo’ a bit,” she said. “I can't stay here right now, Sirius. Sorry. I’ll contact you la’er. Don’ worry ‘bout me, I know how t’get back unseen from here.” She stood awkwardly by the door looking at her shoes as Sirius unlocked it. As he pulled the door open, she looked at him. For a moment, she felt like she had to say something. Something about her feeling of guilt. Of inadequacy. Of deep, aching loneliness. But he wouldn't understand. Sirius did not deal in emotions. It was why she felt lonely even around him. And in that moment, she resented, perhaps hated him deeply for it. So she did not speak. Instead she nodded, slipped out the door and into a nearby alley, hearing the locks re-engage behind her. She wouldn't allow tears to come until she’d closed the door of her apartment behind her.

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