Ok, I found the solution to the Qiang problem. That’s the kid that got dumped on me. I suspect he or she is somehow a spy for the Riccans. Maybe there’s a listening device somewhere. I’m not looking overly hard, given the nooks and crannies involved. I go checking and Chris Hanson will show up, saying “Why don’t you have a seat over there. I’m not going to arrest you, but we’ve got a lot of cops right outside the door ready to dogpile you in front of the TV cameras as soon as you try to leave.”
I’ve considered vivisecting the child. It would be less suspicious. I woke up with it clinging onto me, perhaps to help the Claw better analyze my heartbeat. Little shit started thrashing in the night and crying until I wrapped my arms around it and made nonsensical cooing noises.
Anyway, I’m going to have to abandon it. Maybe leave it with a sign, or force it on someone else. If I’m going to do what’s necessary, I can’t have this kid following me around. It just doesn’t work.
After the last incident, I made damn sure the security details didn’t leave their post. I told them I didn’t care if someone set fire to the building, they were to stay with me.
When I awoke again, it was to banging on the door, and not the good kind with someone’s legs hitched up and their back to it. Despite some people doubting that a person can sit straight up from sleep, I am indeed capable of such. I nearly launched the kid off of me in the process, as it had decided to do a full-body hug against my helmet. Yes, I’ve taken to sleeping in my armor again. Protection against bombs, chemical weapons, almost anything that can be fired by a single human, and a kid peeing the bed.
The kid jolted awake as well and hugged onto me, but I grabbed it and maneuvered it around so it didn’t obstruct the front of my vision, at least. I approached the door, checking for sight lines between windows and the doorway area. I kept my footsteps light; it IS possible in armor like mine, with training. Try that in one a bigger, more mechanical version and you might as well be tap dancing for all the good it’ll do.
A quick peep through the spyhole revealed the presence of the red-haired agent who got stuck with me, knocking away urgently. “What’s all the racket about?” I asked as I pulled the door open suddenly.
She kept her composure for that much. She’d been such a nervous thing dealing with me that it was refreshing to find something that didn’t flap her. “Someone set fire to the whole building. There are only a couple of entrances left free on the ground level. We thought you should be informed.”
“My Gecko sense is tingling,” I said. I checked for anything I might absolutely need to bring with me and reluctantly decided I shouldn’t leave the kid behind. For starters, it was already stuck on my helmet. My armor contained almost everything. While I thought ahead a little bit when I ported on over here, I didn’t put enough thought into it to bring a lot more stuff that I should have. Like that damn medical nanite thing. It was in storage, at least, so I can still get to it. It’s just in Vancouver. And if you own something but you can’t ever get to it to use it, you effectively don’t have it.
I looked at the redhead and at the rest of the team further down the hall. “Ok, let’s get going. I’ll stick with y’all and we all just go out one entrance.”
“You aren’t going to leave by rooftop or window?” she asked.
I shook my head. “People are out to get me. If this person is well-trained or knows me, they’ll expect me to go out a different entrance and leave y’all to your doom. If they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, they might still come after us, but we can handle them easily.”
I remembered my concerns about Qiang then and held up a finger to the redhead, then said extra loudly. “That’s totally why we’re going to go out there. Yes. We certainly are.”
The agent explained to me as we took the stairs that everyone else had already evacuated, including many of the people who had been following my every move. “Even the masturbation?” I asked.
“Especially the masturbation,” she said, which indicated to me that the Americans had also been spying on that.
While we made our way down, I checked for any urgent alerts concerning myself and my plans. A U.S. Aircraft destroyer went down in the Indian Ocean, and something happened in China. There are clouds and electromagnetic interference, right in the area where China, Ricca, and Russia’s forces area all situated. Shit’s gone down.
And I lost track of my little friend from the old country. I can’t keep a satellite over the guy all day and night, but I’d been keeping track of him fairly well based on their movement, which had been a straight line up to now. They’d seen where I was and made a beeline for me. Sweeping my space-high electric eye across the route they were taking, I didn’t find them along it.
What I heard out of Vancouver didn’t sound any more encouraging. Color-coded men and women in tight suits have been seen runnin around. Just a colorful outfit wouldn’t matter. Supers wear bright colors all the time, but they tend to wear more than one. There’s a whole area of fashion to take into account involving symbolism, gimmick, and complementary colors.
I didn’t get a good look at them. I only found out in the stairwell, and I didn’t have time to look them up as much as I’d liked at that moment. We made good time and finally headed out for a rear entrance. I glimpsed the fire crackling at the front of the building, but that’s all. “We have a car waiting for you,” redhead said as we exited the door.
Then a device fell from above to land just in front of me. I kicked it away ahead of me, but it only went so far before exploding. The blast knocked me back through the door and onto one of the Secret Service who’d been behind me. He softened the blow, but last view of the redhead showed her pink misting.
I stood up in spite of the pains to breathe, and not particularly looking to triage either the agent behind me or the kid who stayed behind on him. The door had swung closed again after I went back through it, but it sounded like they were having a party out there. When I pulled it open, I found a half dozen dead agents splattered or laying all over the place, with the last one falling to the ground. There was my stalker, in armor so black, it could have been a deep hole. A flick of their wrist freed blood drops from similarly dark, thin blade held in the right hand. I think it was a blade, with the blood being there. Its coloring and width made it difficult to keep track of its exact dimensions and movement as the darkened figure stood ready.
Even though their back was to me, I figured they had the same setup with 360-degree view.
“What do you want?” I asked in my native tongue, that oh so eloquent dialect. I also wanted to ask how they got so far so quickly, and why they waited until now to use that method. So many questions.
The voice from my enemy was heavily digitized for intimidation. “Justice.”
I shrugged. “Care delight to explain? Justice for the other world, justice for this world, justice for all the people inferiors you just murdered?”
“She said you were smug patronizing and insufferable.”
I didn’t even realize I was rushing them until I was almost there and flying through the air. My opponent caught me. The blade became flexible, wrapped around me, and slammed me against the ground. It slid back and became rigid again. I rolled over onto my back, and would have continued rolling to get away, except the blade straightened out and pinned me to the ground through my side and just below my ribs. The flat was parallel to my side.
I grabbed at the blade. On most swords, that’s definitely an option. The flat makes it relatively safe, though of course this works better when it’s not being swung at the time. Well, this wasn’t that kind of blade. This thing was cutting through the material of my gauntlets the more pressure I put on it, and mere fingers couldn’t outmuscle my assailant by focusing on the extremely small flat. I tried pushing it out of my side instead. Didn’t work, but not for lack of pain.
I tried to wrap up my opponent’s arms with my legs and that just got me an electric shock. And an idea. I just need a little more power. In my struggling and convulsing, I made sure to crank up the power to my gloves.
“We are going back home origin and you will be locked sequestered away forever. You will harm kill manipulate no one anymore,” my hypocritical hunter harangued. I grabbed at the blade sticking in me with my left and readied my right to punch. They noticed the glowing and sent another electrical shock down the sword that succeeded only in charging that gauntlet faster.
“I am home with family.” One energized punch through the blade broke it and allowed me a moment to spin to my knees. My enemy had stumbled briefly, caught themself, then tried for a punch. Mine caught them in the midsection and threw them back. I pulled the blade out of myself and looked at it. Nanoedge. A sword constructed at a much smaller scale out of a much more precise blade. I held it out in case this enemy closed the gap and decided to use it.
“This man is under the protection of the Empire of Ricca!” called a voice I knew from behind my attempted murderer. I leaned over to look and saw the smiling Riccan man in the custom suit, segmented glasses still on his face.
The obsidian-dark figure before me turned to the side to be able to handle either of us as we approached, though the Riccan was the one doing all the approaching. He merely put a hand up. When my bushwhacker attempted to whack him away, he brought a hand up to catch the blow and continued walking past as the assassin became translucent. Intangible, even. They swiped more times in frustration while the Riccan stopped just in front of me.
He bowed. “Pardon the interruption, but the time is close when you must make your decision. I must depart within the hour. I am afraid the Americans no longer trust my countrymen to even stand on their soil without being a danger. They have let fear get the best of them. We could, of course, provide you with the best of medical care.”
I let my guard drop enough to press a hand to the wound, though that didn’t do much for the one coming out of my back. “I would be more than happy to accompany you to your point of exit while we finalize whether or not we have a deal. What about my friend here?”
He looked back at the dark-clad person. “He will be like that for several more minutes, unless you want me to reverse the effect.”
Looking around at all the dead Secret Service agents, who no doubt wanted to get me to an area where the Americans could make their deal even sweeter in light of the expulsion of foreign belligerent diplomats, I thought of something funny. My confused foe continued to stand there as we walked past, impotent, as I informed them. “You would not care enjoy to be here still when the authority enforcers arrive.” To the negotiator, I said, “No, I imagine the Americans will want a word with the person who killed their agents and prevented them from getting me to a safer location in time. Please, let’s be off.”
We hustled out of there in an armored SUV bearing the Claw’s flag, the Riccans pulling out a tube of thick, cloudy material. Nanite jelly, they explained. A thicker way to heal that nevertheless did the job well.
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, it has been said. Though I also like the saying that the closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the “client”. Unlike Leon the Professional, I left little Qiang behind in all the excitement. Well, that kid’s someone else’s problem now. I didn’t want to kill in front of it for what that might do to its mind. I don’t know if it even survived that explosion earlier, so maybe its mind is mush, but it didn’t need to be there for my inevitable murder spree through the Claw’s country.
“Oh, it seems your present is attached to you,” said the envoy, glancing out the tinted window. I leaned over to see what he was talking about and saw Qiang there, bloodied and holding its arm. Before I could say otherwise, the envoy opened the door, scooped it up, and sat it between us. “Let us heal you as well, child.”
Qiang immediately clung to me and didn’t let me go until it fell asleep a couple hours later, on the plane ride in the private Riccan jet. When I thought about it then and just leaving it behind, I decided not to do that either. Well, guess I’m going to mentally scar a child for life anyway.