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by Matt Dempster
"Damn it, hold still!!"
Patrick Grogan, aka Arctic, was frustrated. He hadn't gotten a good hit on his instructor for the past thirty minutes. Meanwhile, he felt like he had one big bruise covering every portion of his body. He whirled, tracking the form of his instructor as she landed behind him. She raised her arm and pointed at Pat. Quickly he lifted his arms, and a wall of ice formed between him and his opponent. Just as quickly, a hole appeared in the wall, reducing it to rubble, and slamming Pat into the floor.
Holly Goldberg straightened up and smiled as Pat picked himself up off of the floor with a groan. "Gotta make those walls thicker, Pat. Otherwise, I'll just plow through them every time."
"Yessir, Lieutenant Backstop, sir, I'll do ouch better next time."
With that, Pat crouched and sent a pillar of ice flying at Holly. She crossed her arms in front of her, and the ice shattered on an invisible wall. "That's more like it! You almost touched me that time!"
As the two squared off once more in the vast underground training facilities of the underground SIRECOM complex, the commpanel chimed an alert signal. Holly covered the twenty foot distance in a single effortless leap, and activated the panel. As she read the incoming message, Pat came up behind her, wiping his face witha towel. He looked over her shoulder at the screen, which showed a Priority One alert status, along with his comm icon.
Holly turned to look at Pat. "Sessions over for today. Head to your quarters and grab your gear."
"What's happening, sir?"
"You're being attached to a mission team. Be ready for departure in twenty minutes. Welcome to the majors, kiddo."
The Huey chopper rose over the tops of the trees, cutting a path through the Brazilian skys. The pilot checked his navigational displays, and keyed his headset radio. "ETA at drop zone is 30 minutes, sir."
"Thanks, Captain." Wes switched over to the team net. "OK, kids. It's getting close to game time, and I want to go over the plays one more time. We're flying into some real hostile type territory, and we have little or no idea what's down there. The only real info we have comes from sat intel, and those just show a lot of jungle surrounding the hangar those flyers that wrecked Sao Paolo came out of. We'll parachute in, recon the area, and head for the hangar. Hopefully, Tom will be able to get a fix on this Metro nut." Tom nodded. "You watch yourself on that, Tommy. I don't want to have to hump your sorry carcass through the jungle if you crash out there." Tom smiled and gave a thumbs up.
Wes continued. "Once we know where we're going, Teresa and Pat will take point. They'll provide cover while we break through to the control center. Michelle, you and Chris will provide cover for me and Tom. Tom will try to gain control of this fellow, and I'll protect Tom's body," assuming my bionics don't go out that is, Wes thought with an internal grimace. "By the numbers, people. We don't want any surprises on this one. OK, Let's hear it. Tom?"
"I fix on Metro, and direct us to him or her."
Pat said, "Terry and I provide artillery support and cover."
"Chris and I watch over you and Tom and take care of the internal defenses," said Michelle.
"Excellent, folks. Captain Willis, what's our ETA?"
"17 minutes, Colonel."
"All right, then. Let's get into our 'chutes, shall we?"
As the team shrugged into their parachute packs, Wes felt a sort of a tingle in his arms. Computer: external environment analysis: abnormalities.
Analysis: high band radiation energy
Locate: left 3 deg, 13.6 km
Wes brow furrowed. Purpose?
Theory: aerial scan
Wes eyes widened. "SHIT!!!" He finished the last buckle on his chute and keyed his mike. "Captain, do we..."
Willis voice came screeching over the intercom. "INCOMING at 12:00!!!"
The team was rattled about the inside of the 'copter like peas in a can. Michelle's armor snapped up around her instantly, protecting her as she catapulted into the aft bulkhead. Wes computer quickly communed with the heli's weapons systems. Report: Incoming missiles and flyers. Update: Missile lock
Willis miraculously avoided the first two missiles. They met their end amidst a cloud of chaff. Unfortunately, chaff was exceedingly ineffectual against the lasers of the flyers. The first beam sheared through the cockpit like a scalpel. Willis shriek echoed though the earphones of the Seekers as the warm air rushed into the hole made by the beam. Wes computer reached out and accessed the autopiloting systems. His mind raced as he tried to keep the floundering chopper aloft.
The next shot hit the rotor.
The helicopter lurched as if a giant had swatted it downward. Arctic threw up a wall of ice in time to prevent the shrapnel from the explosion from ripping through the team. Wes checked the altitude. Too low. No time fot the chutes. "PAT! Rescue manuever BETA!!"
Pat's wide eyes turned and stared at Wes as if he were speaking a foreign language. Tom's eyes glazed over for a second, and he began to slump to the floor. Teresa caught him, but he regained himself almost immediately. Pat calmed and leaped out of the side door. Wes yelled, "EVERYBODY OUT!!!! MOVE!!!"
The team jumped out into the thin air one by one. Wes was the last one to exit. As he twisted around, he caught a glimpse of the falling chopper as the lasers of the flyers bored into it one more time. The resultant explosion was quite spectacular. And then he hit the first hill of ice and snow, and slid down just under the path of the shockwave.
Wes opened his eyes, and his first thought was that he was damned cold. Slowly, he realized that this was probably due to the fact that he was lying in a snowbank. He sat up and groaned. He felt like he had been run over a steamroller. Computer: damage report?
Damage: minimal. Initiate: repair protocol
There was that other program. It was broadcasting to Wes almost entirely in English now. It was also sucking up his cybernetic capabilities quickly. His bionics were operating at about 84% right now, and that number was dropping slowly but steadily. He'd been lucky to snag as much control of that chopper as he had. Slowly, he stood and surveyed the area. Michelle was already checking the others. Tom and Teresa were the worst off. Pat had managed to shield himself with a cocoon of ice, and Michelle and Chris wouldn't be hurt by a fall like that. His own TK field had saved him from serious injury. Computer: Threat eval: max range/ Location query: target site Alpha
Detect: 0 hostiles/ Locate: left 67 deg, 4.8 km
Michelle walked over to him. She looked him up and down, and said, "How ya feelin' boss?"
"I've felt better. How about the others?"
Michelle looked over at where Teresa was sitting and rubbing the back of her head. "All in one piece. Teresa has a pretty good knock on the noggin, and Tom took a couple of shots to the rib cage. But all in all, we're in good shape."
Thank God, thought Wes. "Good deal. Let's get 'em up and moving. We lost the radio with the chopper, so we got one option. We're going ahead with the mission. My scanners say we've got some breathing room. Let's make the most of it."
The pair walked over to the remainder of the team. Chris was crouched down next to Terry, and as Wes and Michelle came over, he helped her to her feet. Wes gave her a smile, and turned to Tom. "OK, Avatar. Time to earn your pay."
Tom nodded slowly, and settled into a comfortable position on the ground. His eyes closed, and in a second his breathing slowed to almost nothing. The remainder of the team took up guard positions around the clearing, and waited for the news.
Tom materialized on the Astral plane. His first thought, as it always was, was for the incredible beauty of the place. The sky was the color of sunset, and the land stretched before him, pristine and untouched. He looked down at himself. His form had it's normal colors here, down to his Seekers fatigues, but the colors were so much more vibrant here. The black of his uniform was the deepest void, almost a hole in space, and his Omega emblem blazed forth a verdant green.
He shook himself from his reverie. He was here to find Metro. About him stood the psychic representations of his teammates, and surrounding him....
There was something wrong here. The land around him was darker. Behind him, the colors were bright and vibrant. But here, the colors were shadowed, muted. He moved forward quickly. Topping the rise before him, he saw the shadows were spread across the entire valley before him. The outline of the shadow looked to him like a skyline. The shadow was darkest at it's center.
"A skyline? What sort of imprint is that?"
Tom dismissed it from his mind. He knew where they had to go. Time to return.
Wes knelt next to Tom as his eyes snapped open. "You find anything?"
Tom stretched and rose. "Yeah. It's got a HUGE mental presence. The hangar is closer than it is. It seems to be underground."
"All right. That's what we had thought. Ok troops. Let's move out."
The team moved off into the jungle.
The hangar entrance loomed before them as the Seekers burst through the surrounding underbrush. The team made for the massive doors as Counterpart whirled and cast a spread of her antimatter at their pursuers. Metal screamed and twisted in the force of the explosions, but still the servants of Metro came on. With another barrage of spheres, Terry ran to join her team. A shiny silver tendril snaked out from one of the machines and grabbed for her legs. As the coil wrapped itself about her ankle, her face furrowed in extreme concentration. The coil vanished in a burst of light, and Terry scrambled to the relative safety of her teammates.
Wes knelt at a console set in the doors. He snaked a cable to the pad, and attempted to make a connection. The familiar feel of making the connection was swamped over by a wave of nausea. In the back of his mind, he heard the chaotic mumblings of the alien AI churning in his mind. His computer had retreated to an isolated place in his mind, and he lost the sense of the lock. "DAMN! Armor! See if you can pry this open."
Armor came over to the seal of the door and placed her hands on it. Some of the metal flowed to her suit, expanding parts of it, making her resemble a knight of old more and more. Her hands founds purchase, and she began to pull.
The door was made of an alien alloy. It could withstand the cold of space, and the fires of a sun. It was on of the strongest metals it's makers could forge.
Armor was stronger.
The door gave way with a tortured screech that sounded almost alive. Michelle lifted it and pressed it over her head. The other Seekers stared at her for a moment, taking in her bulky form and the fact that she was pressing a piece of metal that probably weighed in excess of 100 tons over her head. Even Wes, who had met and trained some of the most powerful Omegas in the world, felt a chill touch of fear. And we wonder why normal humans are scared of us...
The doors flew into the jungle with a tremendous crash. The alien machines who had been chasing them became mashed circuits and gears. The team retreated inside the cavernous hangar. Interface turned to Avatar. "Where to?"
Tom pointed forward and down. "He's down there. I think."
Wes stopped. "What do you mean you think?"
Avatar looked at him. "Can't you feel it? This whole place...it feels like it's alive. It's hard to isolate this guy. EVERYthing feels like him."
Wes frowned. "All right. It's official. This bites hard." He turned and called to Pat who was walling up the open doorway. Pat finished sealing the door, and joined the team as they moved deeper into the Wrexakt base.
[Intruders have breached Hangar 7.]
<How many of them are there?>
[Count: 6/All demonstrate altered genetics; subdesignate: Omegas]
<Why did our outer defenses not stop them?>
<They must be destroyed!>
[Negative: contrary to base program/Directive: capture triggered genome specimens]
<They are blancos! They come to destroy us!>
Quantum switches and circuits flashed and tripped as the contradicting directives fought within the processors of the massive computers. The machine created by a star spanning civilization attempted to reconcile the directives, each pulling on it with equal weight. Left to itself, it would have done nothing. However, the madness of the boy who had once been Ramon drew another directive to aid in the problem.
<They are here to destroy this facility. We must protect ourself. We must protect the masters work.>
[Affirmative: Intruders with hostile intent/ Directive: eliminate intruders/ Initiate: security program Zeta]
The red streak of Ricochet's kinetic field blasted through the corridor towards the approaching robots. He smashed into them and rebounded away form the wreckage he had created. His next bounce sent his body into the next wave, crushing it. One of the sentries lashed out with a mechanical arm, and caught Chris hurting form, knocking it away as we would hit a good solid fastball. Armor leapt, and caught Chris before he could go bouncing back down the way they had come. Arctic quickly moved forward and began sending pillars of ice flying into the metallic sentries. As the last robot fell, he turned back to his team.
Interface did not look good. In fact, he looked like he had aged about twenty years. His arms shook, and his face was haggard. Teresa was ok, but the injuries she had sustained so far were beginning to slow her down, Omega metabolism or no. Armor looked the same as before, and both Pat and Chris were feeliing ok. And then there was Tom. His eyes were wide, and he acted like there was something always sneaking up behind him. He was jumpier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, as Pat's mom had been fond of saying. He looked on the verge of losing it entirely.
Wes looked his team over. "Ok, folks. This is not going well. I can't seem to lock into any of the computers here, and Tom is not doing so well. We're surrounded by an entire city of robots that have it in for us. basically, what I'm saying here, is that it's fourth down, we're down 78-3, and the ball's on our one yard line."
He took a deep breath and continued. "That doesn't change the fact that we got a job to finish. Chris, I want you on point. Pat, you're with him. Michelle, you bring up the rear. Terry, Tom, you're with me. Let's make a run for it."
The team moved quickly to yet another shaft leading downwards. They had long since stopped trying to get a car to come for them. Michelle forced the doors, Counterpart blew the doors on the next floor, and Arctic formed a slide between them. They emerged into a huge room, devoid of anything. Chris looked about. "What is this? The world's largest gymnasium? Nah...no basketball hoops...."
"Stay sharp, people," cautioned Wes. "We don't know what's.."
His words were cut off by a huge grinding sound. All the doors in the room slammed shut and sealed themselves with armor plate. Except for one, which opened to release the biggest robot they had seen yet.
It was enormous. At least twenty feet tall, it's shoulders and arms were incrediblt bulky, giving it the aspect of a huge metal ape. Weapons bristled from it, and as it moved into the room, multiple guns tracked in on the six Omegas standing before it. It had four feet, each the size of a tree trunk. It's body extended backwards like some sort of huge insect. Terry stared at the monster. Strange, she thought distractedly, it's upper body looks just like Michelle's armor right now....
Wes opened up with his miniguns. The .50 caliber shells spat at the thing at a rate of 170 shells per second. Tracer fire made it loook as though Wes were firing energy rays at the robot. The shells impacted harmlessly, and one of the guns swung towards Wes and fired. Chris knocked him aside as the laser left a smoking hole in the floor.
Meanwhile, Armor ran towards the thing, leaping upwards and landing on it's back. Waldoes snaked outwards to grab her, but she broke their grip easily, and moved to the torso of the sentinel. Her augmented strength began to tear a hole in it's armor. She punched a hand thrugh the six inch think alloy, and peered inside, as more coils and waldoes gripped her. With a shrug, she flung them off, and called Wes on the team net. "Armor to Interface."
:Go ahead, Armor.:
"Can you get mah visual feed?"
Wes issued a command to his computer. His combat visor showed him an inset picure detailing what Armor was seeing through her own visor. I'm stunned. It's still working. thought Wes wryly. "Yes, Armor, I have it."
:Should Ah try to disable the thing heah o should Ah wait foah backup?:
Wes rolled aside as a hail of gunfire screamed next to him. Fortunately Chris and Pat were providing a distraction to the blasted thing. "Negative, wait for my signal."
Behind him, Avatar had his M-16 rifle unslung but wasn't firing. If Terry's antimatter pellets couldn't penetrate the thing's hull, what chance did his piddly little machine gun have? The two of them circled about the outskirts of the battle. Tom kept thinking of Godzilla movies, and remembering how Godzilla usually beat the snot out of everything that attacked it. Maybe fieldwork wasn't so great after all, he thought grimly.
Wes keyed his radio again. "Ricochet, this is Interface. Copy?"
:Ricochet here. Go ahead.:
Amazing that the kid can have a normal conversation while doing aerobatics that would make a quail puke, thought Wes. "Ricochet, can you get Arctic on top of that thing?"
:I think so. Why?:
"I'll explain as we go. Get him up there. Counterpart, come in."
:Counterpart here. Go ahead.:
"Lay down a spread of antimatter to cover Ricochet when he snags Arctic. You and I get to provide a distraction."
:Can't wait. Over and out.:
"Tom, stay here, as close to the walls as you can, and try not to move. Be careful."
"You too, sir."
Wes smiled and moved out into the battle. Immediately gunfire sped towards him. He rolled, and ripped up a chunk of metal, heaving it at the sentinel. The metal clanged off of it's chest, but had no real effect. In the corner of his eye, he saw Ricochet bound down and scoop up Arctic. Ricochet launched himself and his passenger upwards towards the broad back of the metal guardian.
Dodging another burst of gunfire, he called to the Seekers atop the robot. "Arctic, can you get to the hole?"
:Yes, Sir,: he replied. :Armor's keeping the defenses of this thing away from me and Ricochet.:
"Chris get out of there. I want you down here to help watch out for Tom."
"Pat, wall yourself and the hole in. Protect yourself from those arms!"
Arctic turned and raised his arms forming an icy cocoon around himself. The wall sealed him off from the outside. He turned back to the hole. "Now what?"
:Pour everthing you've got into that critter. I want his hide so filled with ice, they'll be makin ice cubes from him for a couple hundred years!:
Pat placed his hands over the hole, and began to form the ice. The ambient temperature within the guardian dropped rapidly, passing the freezing point of water without a backward glance, heading for the icy depths of absolute zero. Snow began to form inside of the robot, snow made from carbon dioxide. The molecules of the air began to slow, imperceptibly at first, then more noticibly. A rain of liquid air began to fall on the inner workings of the metal sentinel. The supercooled computers that formed it's brain began to have their cooling fluids harden and solidify. The Seekers outside of Pat's cocoon began to shiver, as snow, ordinary snow this time, began to form from the ambient water vapor in the room.
The robot began to lurch drunkenly, it's limbs waving about aimlessly. Seams on it's metal hide began to crack and bend outwards, bulging with ice. One of it's arms ripped clear of it's mooring, pushed out by the expanding glacier forming within. It took one more hesitant step forward, and then stopped, frozen solid.
Armor opened the cocoon of ice Arctic had formed about himself, and helped the tired boy out. She leaped down with him in her arms, and the two walked over to the rest of the team. Wes smiled and took Pat by the shoulders. "You did real good, son. I'm proud of you."
Pat gave a tired smile. "Thanks, sir. Does that mean I can go and pass out now?"
"Sorry, Pat. Not just yet. Tom says that our boy is just below us. We're almost there. Let's do it people. It's time to wrap this thing up."
The doors to the main control center blew inwards, courtesy of an antimatter pellet. The team rushed inwards, not knowing what they would find.
The last thing they expected has a human body.
Carefully, the team walked over to the body. It was encased in some sort of plastic, and it looked as if it had gone through a meat grinder. Pat finished sealing off the entrance and joined the rest of them in staring at the body. "Damn! What happened to this guy?"
Wes looked at the bladed instruments hanging above the table where the body lay. "Those happened to him. What I want to know is how the hell he got down here! This kid can't be more than 17. He sure as hell didn't fight his way down here, and I doubt he wandered down here by accident."
Chris walked away from the body and stared about the room. "Wes?"
"This place...I'd swear it was an exact copy of where you guys fought Shiva."
Wes looked around. Chris was right. Over there was the armory. To the left were the banks of computers. The huge monitor screens stared back at him as he took in the room. Exactly the same.
"Uhh!" Wes groaned as he staggered with the force of the alien thought. Pat ran to him, being the only one with medical training on this mission. "Colonel! What's wrong?" The rest of the Seekers dropped into defensive stances, Tom's eyes going distant as he searched for a mental attacker.
Wes sank to his knees, and closed his eyes. He could feel the alien code that he had released begin to infiltrate the last of his systems. Almost as if he were a passenger in his own body, he felt his arm strike out at Arctic. He barely clipped him, but the force of the blow knocked the young man away. The rest of the Seekers stared, not quite knowing what to do. It was a good thing that his TK only ran his arms, and not the rest of his body, thought Wes. Otherwise he would be running about like a maniac. As it was, he could feel his arms reaching for his .50 cals. He yelled out. "Michelle! Pin my arms! I've lost control.."
Michelle was there. He could feel his limbs struggling against her iron grip, but there was no contest. Now, it was all in his head. He felt the alien AI use his transmitter and connect to the alien computer systems. The two communed at a speed which made Wes head hurt even more than it had before. He could see the bright lines of the alien code wrapped around his cybernetic functions. His own computer was cowering in the corner. On the one inch line now, aren't we. he thought. Time to pull the desperation plays. Wes sent his Omega forth, and grabbed hold of the alien code. He could feel the communication between the outside computer and his unwanted hitchhiker. And underneath that, he felt a human presence. At least, he thought it was human. He had no telepathy to speak of, had never been in a mental rapport, and had never felt another human in his cyberspatial jaunts. It was awfully strange. However, there was no time to worry about that now. Wes pulled himself along the lines of communication between the two alien AI systems, and in seconds, entered a Wrexakt computer for the second, and hopefully the last, time.
Michelle felt Wes' struggles beneath her cease. She looked up and saw the monitor screens flash to life, lines of code streaming across them. "He's inside the computer." she said softly. She stared at the screens for a moment, until a loud thud shook her from her reverie. She looked over to the others who had arrayed themselves in a battle line in front of the door. The loud thud came again, and chunks of ice rolled down the seal Pat had erected.
Terry turned to Michelle. "Trouble. Looks like more sentries."
Michelle nodded and removed Wes guns. She then let go of him slowly, expecting him to start flailing again. His arms remained still. She stood and joined her team in time to see the first hole appear in the ice wall.
Behind his teammates, Tom was staring at the body. This was Metro. He was sure of it. He could feel the psychic vibrations as strongly as an earthquake. Metro wasn't here in the body though. Maybe once, but now, he was all throughout this place. They had been walking through this boy's mind, and they had never known.
He turned to the computer screen. This was where Metro was. This was where the essence, the intellegence had fled to when it's body was destroyed. Sort of like what he himself did, the boy had transferred his consciousness to the base. He could see the twisted lines and blackness of the boy. He could see Wes, a tiny spark, beginning to fade.
Tom sat and closed his eyes.
Wes felt like he was trying to wrestle a dozen alligators. And he was losing badly. He grabbed for a tendril of code that he recognized, only ot have it slip away from him and be replaced with chaos. He was losing his sense of place, and he could feel his mind beginning to slip. Things here made no sense. His own computer couldn't help him here. The icons he could control were absent here, or even worse, they were perverted into twisted, gnarled things that filled him with pain to even look at. He twisted and turned, to no avail. And as he made one last futile lunge for control, he felt an overwhelming hilarity, a mad laughter that surrounded him and mocked him, even as the alien code struck him down. He screamed in pain and fear as the final blow lanced toward his chest. Just before it struck, though, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
The world spun and jumped and changed....
The Astral Plane.
Tom looked at Wes imprint. A blocky silver humanoid form. Tom was unsurprised. This place brought out the true essence of others. That was why he was confused. Metro didn't look at all right to him.
Wes said =Where am I? This isn't cyberspace!=
+No. And yes. This is the Astral Plane, where we telepaths do our thing.+
Wes imprint looked around. =How did I get here?=
Tom smiled. +I dragged you here, from cyberspace. You were almost dead.+
=Why is it so dark?=
+We're inside Metro's mind. Sort of. Ordinarily, I would go to the center, and take up residence for a while. But right now, there is no residence to take up, and it's a mite confused in there.+
=So I see. What's the white and silver stuff?=
+The silver lines are those computers. We can only see them now because you're here. Otherwise they wouldn't show. The white...I don't know. Normally, I'd say it was another person. But the other Seekers are all behind us on this plane, and Metro is the black mass.+
=Could that thing be someone else? Something we haven't seen?=
+Could be. But we can't go through that black stuff. We'll get mired down in it.+
=I have a plan. Ok. The computers can't hurt us here, right?=
+Right. This is a people place. They're just ghosts to us here.+
=And in cyberspace, that black crap doesn't exist. I can write it out of the VR.=
+I get it. We go from one to the other..+
=And we reach whatever that is.=
+Let's do it. What do we have to lose?+
The pair moved forward past the lines of power formed by the alien codes. Wes shuddered as they passed through, but Tom bore him up, and the two struggled through the barrier. They halted and made the transition to cyberspace.
Wes looked behind him and saw the line of chaos that they had just crossed. The mere sight of it made him want to retch, and so he turned to look at his companion. Tom's icon was an amorphous blob of silver. It looked sort of humanoid, but it kept running and shifting, so it was hard to say for sure. Tom's head (at least Wes thought it was his head) turned and looked around. +Amazing!+ he breathed.
"We got no time for sightseeing. Hold on here...let's see if I can reestablish some control."
It was hard. Without his computer to aid him, he had to exert his Omega to it's fullest to mold his environment. The alien computer resisted, but he had it's basics now. He could manipulate simple stuff. The wall that represented the mind of Metro vanished, and a clear plain extended before them. In the center sat a white sphere; the iconic representation of what Wes had seen on the Astral Plane.
The two walked to the sphere, and as Wes watched, Tom dissolved back to...
The Astral Plane.
Tom touched the white form before him. The black roiled and shook behind him. He felt a questioning touch. He sent a wave of reassurance to the presence. Tom probed deeper.
This was the boy. But the black was also the boy. In no time at all, Tom knew what had happened. The boy had been captured, and was being killed. His mind, acting in self-defense had jumped from his body, and somehow ended up inhabiting this computer. The computer's urgings and the boy's confusion ad pain had been too much fo his mind to bear. It had fragmented, leaving the core untouched, but creating a persona that harbored his fear of the unknown, which, to him, was symbolized by the norteamericanos. That persona listened to the computer, and did what it suggested, and so Metro was born. This persona hated the black. He wanted to rest, to go and be with his ancestors. He knew his body was dead, and he knew he couldn't go back. But he couldn't escape.
+Yes you can.+
+Follow. Help us to help you.+
Tom concentrated, and touched Wes mind. +Wes, I have the boy. Touch your icon, make contact. Use him to gain control of the computer.+
Wes touched the sphere, and it expanded. To him, it was an exceedingly simple operating system. This was the most rudimentary portion of the boy's psyche, the part that had tied to the computer. Quickly, he accessed the various controls, familiarizing himself with the system. He felt the boy's support like a warm cover, and behind that, he felt Tom watching, ready to aid him if he needed it.
He snaked a cable from his arm to a port icon in the new system. Connection. Wes grinned. Showtime.
He turned and looked at the area that he and Tom had traversed. The first thing to do was to lose all that trinary crap that was in his VR. He reached out with his mind, and tweaked it. One of the cords vanished. The other one was still there. It stopped writhing about, and slowly cast about, as if it were looking for it's lost playmate. I got your playmate right here, you bastard, Wes thought. He reached out and grabbed hold of that piece of code. It wriggled frantically. Wes smiled grimly, and accessed the delete command. As the code icon began to fade, Wes fancied he could hear a scream. He felt his own computer begin to come on line, and his control over his cybernetics began to reassert itself. Computer: status?
Status: 100%/ Alien code purged
Wes smiled. Now it was up to Tom.
The Astral Plane.
Tom felt the surge of renewed energy from Wes, and smiled. Now it was his turn. He made contact with the boy, (Ramon), and began the process of separating the two personas. He taught the boy about wards and controls. +Like this+
He turned and drew a ward construct in the air. Since his forte wasn't mentatics, he couldn't build them himself for the kid. But he could show him. Ramon sent a tentative note of agreement, and began the construct. +Use the computer. Wes will help. Yes, that's it.+
Ramon became more enthusiastic, and the red lined drew themselves even faster. They crossed and intertwined and drew tight about the black. He felt the rage in that stormy mass, and shuddered. Fortunately it had lost all it's power when Wes nailed it's computerized hide to the wall. Finally, the black had been contained in a tightly packed cage, seething but controlled. Ramon sent a questioning note to Tom.
+Yes, you did fine.+
+What now? That's up to you.+
Tom knew though. He knew from that first contact. Ramon wanted to die.
+Wes, can you access a self destruct code for where you are?+
"Hell yes! I can take this sucker out. But what about the kid?"
+That's what he wants. But he can't do it on his own.+
"Are you sure that's what he wants?"
Tom didn't answer. Wes felt a wave of affirmation sweep over him. Wes nodded. It was time for this to end.
He touched the icon for self destruct and activated it. And as the virtual world around him dissolved, he bowed his head in grief.
The Astral Plane.
Tom touched Ramon's essence once more. He felt a wave of gratitude pour from the boy, even as the pain began to hit him. The base had begun to disintegrate, and Ramon felt it as if it were his own body.
As Tom returned to his body, there were tears in his eyes.
Wes and Tom both stood and looked at each other. Tom wiped his eyes clear, and looked about the room. They had been under for about five minutes. It seemed more like five years. Underfoot, they could feel the vibrations of the explosions rocking the base. The other Seekers were staring around the room trying to figure out what exactly had just happened. Michelle was holding a robot which had gone limp and dead over her head, and the rest were beginning to relax, wondering if this was some kind of trick.
Chris was the first to regain his composure. "What happened, chief?"
"Long story, boy. I'll tell you all about it later. But right now I think it's time we took our leave. Come on, this way!"
Wes led them out of the computer room as the banks began to spark and sputter. The map in his head that he had lifted from the base computer told him that there was another hangar almost directly above them. He had enabled the lifts, and if he had read Ramon right, there was a large flyer waiting for them, one which he could fly be computer control.
The team ran out of the elevator car, and was pounding across the hangar deck when a huge gout of flame and noise burst from the elevator shaft. The explosion knocked Terry and Pat flat. Michelle picked them up without missing a stride, and the Seekers piled aboard the flyer. Wes snaked a cable to the port on the console and plugged in. His computer (boy, it was nice to be able to say that again!) interfaced with the piloting program, and the flyer began to taxi out. The hangar doors opened, and the flyer streaked out, climbing as rapidly as it could.
Pat and Michelle looked out of the back windows. Behind them, huge explosions marched across the valley like the footsteps of God. Entire sections of the land dropped and crumbled. Hillsides collapsed, and before the smoke of the base's destruction obscured the sight entirely, they could see the deep crater that the place had become. The shockwaves reached up and buffeted the plane for a moment, but soon enough, the ride settled down.
Wes keyed up the flyer's radio, and contacted the airport at Rio. "Come in, Rio de Janeiro; this is US Government team: codename Seekers. We are headed your way. Will you allow us the use of your airport?"
"Seekers Flight: we've been expecting you. Hope you enjoy your visit."
Wes leaned back from the controls. Vacation in Rio? Oh god, yes! He smiled and put his hands behind his head. Terry looked at him. "You all right?"
"Wake me when we hit the beach."
The flyer cruised on into the setting sun.
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