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by Matt Dempster
"The scene here in Downtown St. Louis is truly an amazing one. The renegade Omega, who has been terrorizing the city for almost a week now, had been engaged in a battle with several unnamed Omegas. The new group had just subdued the renegade, when several unknown individuals landed in a helicopter at the scene. So far, there is no positive identification of any of the new Omegas, but sources in the police department indicate this group who took down the renegade may be a government sponsored team. More on this story as it develops. This is Mike Talbot, Channel 9 news"
Wes slammed into the wall for the third time. He slid to the pavement and looked up to see the face of his attacker. The woman smiled, and squinted again, and Wes felt the telekinetic fist of her mind grab hold of him by his waist, and begin to lift. 'Not again..' he thought, and as his body left the ground, a burst of energy threw his opponent off her feet. :Thought you could use some help, Chief: came the voice of Counterpart over the team net. Wes groaned and told his computer to assess the damage. Report: Fractured rib, contusions, mild concussion. Initiate: Run repair protocol
Yet another blessing from his Omega. His own TK field had allowed him to take the beating that would have reduced a normal human to guava jelly on the wall, and sustain mild injuries. As Wes sat up, the computer started up his repair system; an ingenious system of nanotech robots, inside his bloodstream. Normally, nanotech was decades off, because the computer circuits for such a small critter just could not be made. Wes' Omega didn't need a circuit, or any input. The tiny robots reacted to his subconscious commands, and sped up the healing process a thousandfold. Wonderful invention, but it still hurt for days afterward.
Wes turned his attention to the battle before him. He asked the computer for a run down on the observed powers of the Omegas fighting his team, and for a comparison to any known Omegas on file. As he did that, he also assigned a targeting number to each Omega, and reached up to his shoulder to free the .50 caliber automatic weapon he had strapped there. 'Boy Scout motto' he thought grimly, 'always be prepared.'
He moved the rifle to his left arm, and opened the control ports in the outer skin. He attached the rifle, and his TK field flowed over it, making it feel as if it were an extension of his own body. The ammo belt looped back to a hard backpack, and the first round was chambered, ready to fire.
The seven foot tall man pulled his face into an ugly grimace, as his arm morphed into particularly nasty looking gun. He raised it quickly, and triggered off a burst in the direction of his opponent, who stood there grinning.
Chris shouted "Is that it? Is that all? C'mon you can do better than that!!" He leaped into the air, his power letting him reach 20 feet into the air without trying hard, and landed behind the gun-wielding man. "Boy, if you're the best they got over at Dynamax, their security needs work. I've seen better fighters at rest homes! Is Dynamax just looking through the want ads or what?"
The man yelled inarticulately, and morphed his other arm into a grenade launcher. He fired, and Chris caught it in the gut. He doubled over, and flew backwards about 60 feet, before hitting a wall, and springing back twice as fast. Chris streaked into the gun-armed man at 50 mph, and executed a backwards somersault to his feet as he recoiled off the bounce. He shook his head, and looked at the prone figure. "You'd think maybe they'd catch on. Oh but no, they have to try and try and.."
:Ricochet, Blockade needs help; target 3 on screen.: came Interface's voice through his headset receiver.
:Acknowledged. On my way:
Don was in trouble.
He had already absorbed so much juice from the boy. He had no room for more. And the man firing energy beams at him was not going to stop, and let him bleed off his siphoned power. His newly enhanced reflexes were saving him so far, but he had no offensive weapons.. no way to counterattack. Even if he could get close enough for hand to hand, the nimbus of energy surrounding his attacker made the thought of personal contact unpleasant.
To his left, he saw Counterpart sling two antimatter spheres at the telekinetic, knocking her flat. The Dynamax agent did not get up. As he turned back, he realized looking away for that second had been an error. A fatal error. The energy bolt arrowed towards him, too fast to dodge. It struck....
And dissipated. Riley and his opponent both stared. What the hell... he thought, as several more bolts came flying his way. They all vanished, as if they had never been. Don was stunned. Was he doing this? Since when could he do this sort of thing? He wasn't absorbing it; he got none of the rush that he usually got off a good power siphon. It was as if he was just... eliminating the power all together.
The energy slinging man advanced toward Don, perhaps thinking a closer range would help. Riley closed, and fired off a straight punch to his opponents midsection. 'Bring this down to a personal level..' he thought happily. His fist entered the energy field and a huge jolt ran up his arm. Don screamed and then sank to the ground unconscious.
The man stood over him, and smiled. He pointed his arm at the crumpled form of Blockade, when a huge impact knocked him into the pavement. Chris landed in front of the downed agent. He stirred for a moment, and then remained still. 'Do I have to do all of the work around here?' Chris thought. As he stood there, congratulating himself on a job well done, a blanket seemed to settle over a part of his mind. It was warm, a nice feeling. It felt natural. Chris' eyes glazed over, and he stood there slack-jawed as a young woman, one of the Dynamax Omegas, came to stand before him. She smiled and thought to Chris ++You want to help me. You can't help but want to please me. You will do anything for me.++
Chris replied in a slurred voice, "Yes. Anything."
++Good. I want you to go and take out your teammate. The one who runs very fast. My friend can't seem to get a bead on him++
"Yes. Take out Trax."
++Good boy. After that, I want you to sleep. You will forget you ever saw me. Understood?++
The Dynamax agent shouted in frustration. He fired off three more bolts of pure plasma at the speeding figure in front of him. The runner dodged them as if they were standing still.
Jay grimaced. I can do this all day, he thought. But I can't touch this guy! He's putting out way too much heat. He's pinned Armor... I have no backup. Where are the others?
Interface had told him that Ricochet would be heading his way soon, and Counterpart would be there as soon as she could. Till then, keep the Dynamax people busy. Great, Jay thought sourly. Give me a howitzer, and I still couldn't hurt this guy. He reversed quickly to avoid another plasma blast, and then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a red flash. Ric's KE field. Finally, some backup.
Jay watched as Ricochet bounced high overhead to spring off the wall of building next to him. It occurred to Jay that Ricochet wasn't moving quite right. His motion was jerky, almost as if he wasn't quite in control of his body. He arrowed down, and before Jay knew what was happening, Ricochet plowed into him at 70 mph. The impact knocked Jay off his feet, and sent him sailing through the air, to land in a heap next to a mailbox. He looked up dizzily, and saw the Dynamax agent taking aim. The plasma bolt sizzled towards him, and the last thing Jay knew was heat greater than any he'd ever known as he spiraled into the black.
Ricochet stood there for a moment, staring at his teammate's burned body. He noticed the Dynamax agent moving towards the limp body of the boy they'd fought just a little while ago. He saw Armor trapped in a dome of fire, curled in a ball, trying to escape the heat that her suit could not protect her from. He heard Interface's voice crackling in his ears, asking for a report, wanting to know what had happened. He saw and heard it all, and dismissed it. It didn't matter. He had done what SHE asked. He was fulfilled. He laid down on the street, closed his eyes, and dropped into a deep sleep.
Wes sank down in the chair in his office back at SIRECOM HQ in Washington. The mission had been a failure. Worse than that, it had been a complete disaster. Five square blocks of the city looked like a war zone. Jay had burns over thirty percent of his body. The TK that protected his from injury, and from friction effects from the wind and other elements saved his life when the plasma bolt hit, and his accelerated metabolism was healing him at an incredibly fast rate, but it would still be a least a week possibly two before Jay could move again, let alone exercise his Omega powers.
Don was in recovery. Apparently, he had suffered no permanent damage from the energy field he had touched. The docs weren't sure why. Possibly the new manifestation of his Omega, they thought. In any case, he would be up and about in a day or two. Michelle had suffered no damage at all. Her suit had protected her from the fire, but not from the heat. She was resting in her room, and was under observation. Wes' own injuries had healed completely, and he was given a clean bill of health.
Chris was another matter. He had not been injured physically. No burns, no scrapes, not even a hangnail. But mentally, he was a wreck. Terry, the group psychologist, was trying to talk to him, to find out what had happened. It was obvious to the team that he had been under some kind of mental compulsion. But Chris couldn't accept that. He was killing himself with guilt over what he had done to Jay, what he had allowed to happen.
Terry had told Wes that Chris needed some time to work it all out. He was young, and this was his first combat mission. He had been mentally violated, and had almost killed one of his best friends. Jay was conscious now, and he and Chris had been talking for long hours, each one supporting the other. Jay had forgiven Chris. Now Chris had to do the same. That would take a while.
They had lost the young Omega. Dynamax had stolen him. Wes' mind turned to the puzzle of Dynamax. The woman who had led that security team had said they were authorized by SIRECOM. How could that be? The Seekers were the only operative team of Omegas SIRECOM possessed. They didn't hire out to private contractors. And besides, the computer scan he had run on the Dynamax agents had drawn a zilch. No info at all. That also couldn't be. Dynamax and SIRECOM were supposed to register all Omegas found with the MPD, the Metahuman Personnel Database. The records in there were accessible by SIRECOM, and it's parent agencies, as well as the military. Hell, some Omegas registered themselves in there.
But not these five. He had input them in to a file in his own systems marked Threats. All of the unknown Omegas he encountered went in there. It was not a large file. Perhaps he could expand it a little, find out who those Omegas were. Perhaps he could figure out what was going on.
Wes stretched in his seat. He took a long pull on the bottle of Coke next to him, and placed his palms on two pads on his desk console. Connections were made, links created, and Wes' conscious mind entered cyberspace.
Don slammed shut the book he held in frustration. He flung it onto his bed and paced about the room. The title on the cover of the book read Metabiology: A Study of DNA Alteration. He had been trying for days to figure out what had happened during the battle in St. Louis. He had manifested a completely new aspect of his power. There were no prior cases in the MPD or any of the texts on Omega biology that he had seen where a new power spontaneously manifested. Oh sure, lots of cases of new uses of existing power, but not brand new abilities.
It had to be a new power. Before that day, Don had only been able to absorb psi energy, and redirect it to enhance reflex action. But he hadn't absorbed that guy's bolts. He had dissipated them, changed them to random bits of heat or light or something. But they were gone completely, and he hadn't sucked them in. Even more disturbing was the fact that the Dynamax guy's energy field had hurt him. If his new power was to dissipate psionic energy, why'd the field effect hurt him?
Don sat down on his bed and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. He'd been to see Jay today. The kid was doing a lot better, and he was swearing that he'd be up and about in under a week. Don had felt a huge weight lift from him when the doctors had said that Jay would be fine. Jay was like a son to Don, and Don took his relationship with Jay very seriously indeed. The worry he had felt over Jay's injury had worn him out and he was exhausted. He reviewed the facts in his mind once more. The same conclusion rose up in his mind; his Omega had manifested in a new pattern. And that wasn't possible. He lay back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. This was getting him nowhere. He needed help. His own expertise in metabiology made him on of SIRECOM's experts on Omega manifestation, and he had trained the majority of the doctors in the Agency. No, no one here could help him. Perhaps Kowalczak over at Berkeley? His work with DNA transcription and mutation could be... nah. Who could he...
Covenant. Allan Covenant over at Dynamax! He had worked with Don a few years back when Don was working on a way to broaden and perfect Jay's Omega sense. Covenant's COED device had come out of that study. Maybe Allan could help with this puzzle too.
Don walked over to his computer terminal, and went on line. He connected to Dynamax and requested contact with Allan Covenant, Omega Research Division. The computer replied that Covenant was not logged in. Don frowned. He checked to see when the last time Allan had logged in was. The screen flashed Covenant account is terminated. Employee no longer at Dynamax.
What the hell? What is going on over there?
The grid of cyberspace stretched out before him. Wes looked at the vista from his position atop the wall of the fortress he stood upon. The fortress was the icon of the SIRECOM computer net. In the distance, he could see the tower of the MPD, and far away, a mere dot on the horizon, he could see the city-like structure of Dynamax.
Wes jumped down from the wall and walked into the building nearest him. This was his own personal account, and it held all his weapons and supplies for a trip through cyberspace. After all, one had to be careful, and Wes' intimate contact with the computer made him even more vulnerable to icon damage than most cyberjocks.
He lifted a shield from the work bench. Here was his own protection program. He affixed it to his left arm. Next, he took down a gun-like object from the pegs mounted on the wall. This he attached to the underside of his right arm. Finally, the belt containing "medical supplies", "grenades", and two "knives". All right. He was ready. Time to go.
He stepped out and headed for the main gate. The guard programs at the gate looked him over and passed him through. As he left, he noted Blockade's icon sliding back on a com-line. Wonder who Don was trying to communicate with? Icon: Blockade attempted communication with user Covenant, location Dynamax.
Wes dismissed the icon and continued on. The computer brought up a graphic of the cyberscape before him, with locations and travel times to each area, based on current transfer methods. Wes stared at the readouts in his mind and groaned. Hours to the Dynamax labs! How was he supposed to.. ah. Wait a moment. The transfer ports. SIRECOM and Dynamax sent info to each other all the time, a lot of it secret. They had dedicated lines between the nets. The security at those areas would probably be minimal. He could hop a line to the Dynamax net, without having to go through the public com-lines.
Transfer port: right 123 deg, 200 meters. Wes quickly found the port. It appeared as a glowing hole in the ground. Every once in a while, another hole would appear above it, and a stream of data would pour from one hole to the other. Here we go, thought Wes, and in he jumped.
Wes shot from the hole and rolled to his feet. He immediately fell to his knees, and vomited, which is an impressive feat for a computer icon. In the real world, Wes' body spewed in sympathy. That was not fun. Wes reminded himself never to do that again. Stil shaking, Wes stood and lokked about himself. He stood inside the outer wall of the Dynamax citadel. Computer: location query: main file processing unit.
Location: left 23 deg, 2576 meters.
Threat eval: max range?
Detect: 2 process drones. 0 security.
Wes smiled. He'd picked the right route; a low traffic area with almost no security. Perfect. He moved off down the wide metallic streets of the Dynamax net, scanning for threats. As he moved he activated a stud on the shield covering his left arm. A soft blue glow expanded from the shield and covered his body. He would now be effectively cloaked from minor drones, and resident programs. Security could still find him but he had ways to deal with them too. He walked on, looking at the various program icons passing him by on the street.
Soon enough, the computer indicated the file transfer processing site of Dynamax. It appeared as a huge glass windowed building, many stories high. Wes' heart sank. He knew Dynamax had a lot of data but this was insane! He hoped he could sift through it fast enough, because as soon as he plugged in, security would be on him in seconds.
Computer: threat eval: FTP site main entry
Detect: 4 security. 4 primary defenders.
Damn. The security was no problem. But the primaries could shred his icon and spread the pieces across the internet. Ok. Main entry was out. How about side entry?
Floor plan: Outer entrances: 1 main. 1 roof. 0 side. 0 service.
Great. This gets better and better. Ok ok.. it looks like the roof was his only hope. Wes moved around to the back of the building, wishing there weren't so many windows. Next time, he was gonna program his VR to make these things much easier.....
Wes fitted a grapple and line onto his gun. He looked up, and judged the distance. The line was too short for a ground level firing. Computer: Fire control: at optimal dist, launch grapple. Account for vert speed.
Fire Control: Launch at 60 meters.
Wes took a deep breath, flexed his legs, and leaped.
The good thing about cyberspace was that you could allow as many laws of physics and biology as you wanted. Wes' icon had tremendous power here. He could leap huge distances. He could lift a virtual tank. He could travel at high speeds. 90 meters, the buildings height, was a bit too high for him to jump. But a piddly little 40 meter jump was easily executed.
As soon as he passed the 30 meter mark, the grapple was launched. It arced up, and caught on the ledge of the roof. Winches within the launcher apparatus dragged Wes' body to the top of the facility, and in short order Wes was examining the roof door.
Threat eval: med range?
Detect: 30 process drones, 5 security.
Location query/threat eval: Access terminal, main?
Location: 3 floors down/Detect: 0 security.
Good. Wes snaked a cable from his arm to the door lock. A simple security override program took care of the lock, and the door opened quietly. The security drones wouldn't be a problem. After all, he had programmed the code for most of them.....
As he reached the stairs to drop to the next floor, a security drone came around the corner. It stopped, and then charged. Shit! thought Wes. He changed the shield frequency to protect/cloak. Not as effective as a full cloak, or full shield, but enough for now. The drone had to be destroyed. He couldn't have it raising the alarm. Wes raised his weapon and fired at the drone. A stream of blue light struck the drone and it exploded into pixels, dissolving into the air.
Great. If one found me, the others won't be too far behind. I programmed them a little too well. Next time, I leave a back door to freeze them.
Wes ran down the stairs and into the main access core of the FTP facility. He plugged in, and directed the computer to remote access protected files on Dynamax/SIRECOM comm traffic, info dumps, and Omega resources. Time was short. The protcted files were found. Circumvent: access code 00e23ksd/++Q
Wes waited as the computer, assisted by his subconscious, evaded the security protocols on the files. Accessing: Download init: Dynamax/SIRECOM Excellent. Maybe he would get out of here without...
A huge hand landed on his shoulder. Wes groaned, and was flung away from the console to slam into a data storage bank. The computer continued to download remotely, but that was of little concern to Wes. Before him stood the hulking form of a primary defender. Humanoid, 12 feet tall, and ugly as sin, one of these could destroy almost any cyberjock without tripping a breaker.
Wes struggled to his feet. He turned, grabbed and lifted the storage bank he had hit, and hurled it at the defender. The thing brushed it away as casually as if it was a mosquito, and slowly advanced toward Wes. Wes set his shield to max protect, and armed his gun for random frequency switching. He raised his arm and a targeting reticle sprang into view, centered on the monster before him.
The monster's arm came swinging down. Wes rolled out of the way, and triggered two quick bursts to the creature's back. Damage Report: Target 1: 0 damage. The defender turned and loosed a bolt of energy from it's single eye. Wes dodged, but the bolt still glanced along his leg. Pain shot through his icon, and in the real world, Wes' body spasmed in pain. Damage: minimal, repair protocol init.
Download: 76% complete.
Time to complete?
ETC: 57 sec.
Wes circled the guardian, firing beams at it all the while. The delete programs weren't working. The file protection on Wes' icon wasn't working. What program WAS this? Wes' Omega scanned the defender icon, looking for a weakness. Nothing. No control interface, no back doors, no program glitches. Nothing. Damn. ETC: 24 sec.
The defender was now between Wes and the exit. Wes dodged left as several bolts streaked towards him. As he came left, he freed the grenade icon from his belt, and held it. The guardian closed to finish Wes.
ETC: 4 sec.
ETC: 1 sec.
"Later, bud." Wes said. He jumped high, clearing the guardian by 5 feet. As he landed, he tossed the grenade at the defender. It exploded, freezing the guardian icon. System disrupt: Reboot security.
"Two points." Wes grinned and made for the stairs. The alarm was sounded now, and the drones would be on his tail in seconds. Location Query: transfer port
Location: 20 meters ahead.
On the same floor. That's lucky. Wes ran towards the port. He turned the corner, destroyed the drone guarding the port, and entered the room. The port stood in the center of the room. Data was stacked in neat cubes around the port. /Intruder halt:::stop for identification/
Wes smirked. "Sorry boys, I've got what I came for. Thanks for your hospitality." He turned and jumped throught the port. As he appeared at the other end, he chucked another grenade back into the port. The explosion cut the port line, deresolving the drones in transit. Wes rose to his feet shakily, and walked unsteadily back to the safety of the SIRECOM net.
Wes came back to his body, and slumped in his chair. Jaunting through the net was always tiring, and his leg was killing him. The computer reported no physical damage, but Wes knew that. It was all a side effect of his Omega. When he jaunted, he became one with his icon. Damge to it was damage to him.
Pain and fatigue aside, it had been a successful mission. The info was in his system, guarded by programs that no one could bypass. The encryption on the files was no match for his Omega; the files were already decoded and being analyzed by internal systems. Overviews indicated a great many private communiques between Dynamax execs and SIRECOM officials. The Omega his team had been sent to contain was an escapee from Dynamax labs. The files indicated that the Omega was to be sent back to Dynamax even if his squad had captured him. The security team had full SIRECOM authorization, and the order code was...
What the hell? I don't know this code, thought Wes. That's not right...it's not Brenda's code, it doesn't match with any SIRECOM access code in my files... who authorized this?
What is going on here?
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