Let the Games Begin
August 26, 2035 Abandoned Wiz-Labs Facility MegaTokyo, Japan 0900 hrs. I tried to ignore the pain in my hand as a piece of scrap metal sliced through my palm. “Damn,” I swore to myself as I instinctively brought my hand up to examine it. I sucked the wound for a moment until the pain vanished. There was a slight tingling as the cut closed up and healed. Thankfully, it was just a superficial injury and hardly needed any repair. If it were something serious like a gunshot wound, however, that would be a different story. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t come to that. Okay, now where are we? I pulled the datapad out of my jacket and examined it. It wasn’t that hard to sneak into the excavation site. All I had to do was grab a lab coat and a pair of glasses and I was able to pass myself off as one of the nerdy technogeeks that were crawling all over the place. At first, I thought getting through the sublevels would be easy, but I was mistaken. Apparently, the explosion that destroyed Wiz labs also damaged the underground levels. Of course, with the added bonus of the great Kanto earthquake from a few years ago, the facility had become a labyrinth of twisted metal and stone caverns that were once part of the complex. When we had reached the third sub-level, I ditched the excavation team and started my own little search. My actions didn’t surprise them. To them, I was just some crazy technophile looking for something and they simply assumed I would come back after finding nothing. What they didn’t know, is that I knew there was an elevator in the area I was searching. If I reached it, I would be able to climb down the shaft and reach the other levels. Okay, according to the datapad, the elevator shaft should be right about…WHOA!!!! The ground gave out from underneath me and I fell into the dark hole…and hit something five feet into my fall. Unfortunately, I dropped my flashlight and it fell all the way to the bottom of the shaft, leaving me in total darkness. Now that sucks, I thought as I just sat there. Well, at least I found the elevator shaft. I reached into my coat again and pulled out the nightvision goggles. After putting them on, I looked around to see where I was at. I was standing on what appeared to be a service platform to a freight elevator. Looking down the shaft, I could see jagged metal sticking out from the various levels, creating a death trap for anyone unlucky enough to fall down it. Hmmm, I guess the quake really rattled the place. This is going to be tricky. One slip and I become a pin cushion. So, how do I- My thoughts were cut off by gunfire and screams from up above. What the hell was that? I pulled myself out of the elevator shaft and started to make my way back towards the surface when one of the walls exploded in front of me, knocking me off me feet. Dazed, and momentarily blinded by the dirt and debris, I didn’t see the boomer step through the hole. In fact, I wasn’t aware of the boomer until it picked me up by the coat. All I heard was its deep cultured voice when it spoke. “And what have we here?” it asked. “You don't look like a tech.” My vision cleared and I found myself staring at…some guy in a gray business suit with glowing red eyes. “Uh…hi there,” I managed to stammer. “Nice suit.” The man/boomer studied me for a moment. “Ah,” he said as a smile formed on his lips. “Mr. Chase, it's good to finally meet you.” Huh…he knows me? “Yeah,” I said, “and you are?” “Let’s just say that I'm an old friend of Jason Chandler.” “Well, that’s nice, I’ll tell him that when I see him next.” “I’m afraid there won’t be a next time for you.” His other hand lanced forward to close around my throat and began to squeeze. Dammit, I thought, why do boomers always grab me by the throat? Because of my previous encounter with a boomer, I knew that I had no chance against this guy. This boomer was obviously more advanced then some 55c. But that didn’t stop me from sliding a scrambler out of my sleeve and sticking it on his arm. There was a flash as the scrambler activated and I was suddenly thrown against a wall. When my vision cleared, I saw the boomer clutching his arm for a moment before he removed the scrambler. He studied it for a second and then refocused his attention on me. “Impressive, a device that emits an electromagnetic pulse…it seems that Jason has come up with some innovative weapon designs.” I scrambled back to my feet and stood there, waiting for him to make his next move. “Actually, I designed those.” “Really?” he asked as he reexamined the scrambler. “I’m impressed. For hired muscle, you are certainly full of surprises. But I have my own surprises as well.” He raised his right arm. Gun! my mind screamed and I instinctively dove for cover just in time to see the ground literally explode in the area I had previously occupied. My reaction to the attack was instinctive as well. I pulled out the Kinatzu and emptied the clip into him. He stumbled back as the bullets hit him in the chest, then he laughed. “Is that the best you can do?” Before I could reply, I felt something hit me in the gut and was thrown back several feet before hitting a wall. I heard a sickening crack and felt fire in my chest as I realized that I had broken several ribs. I felt another sensation in my right arm and looked over to find a piece of jagged metal sticking out from where it impaled me in the shoulder. Then I felt another sensation…a warm throbbing sensation that made the pain in my chest and arm go away…unfortunately, it was also getting harder for me to think clearly. Oh shit, not now, I thought. It took all of my will power, but I was able to pull myself out of the wall and fall face first to the ground. I expected the boomer to attack me, but he just stood there and watched as I got up. “Well now, this is interesting…your body’s metabolism has just increased.” I looked up and saw him staring at me, head tilted slightly as his eyes glowed an even brighter red. I followed his gaze to my shoulder and saw the wound beginning to close. “Fascinating,” he continued. “Your body is healing at an extremely rapid rate…but according to my scan, you register as human.” Oh shit, he’s scanning you, Richard. This is the last thing we need. “Okay, I think you’ve seen enough.” I slipped a flashball out of my sleeve and tossed it in his direction. I had a feeling it wouldn’t blind him as effectively as it did the white Knight Saber from the night before, but it was all I could think of. “What-?” was all he got out before I charged forward, kicking him in the chest. I heard a crack and felt a sharp pain in my ankle as I knocked him backwards, but the pain had vanished by the time he hit the ground. I also felt my entire body beginning to warm up and my consciousness began to fade again. The nanotech was starting to take over. Can’t black out now…gotta’ get out of here. I left the boomer and ran towards the surface. Suddenly, there was an explosion of pain in my back and then blackness…
Largo stood over the unconscious human and grinned. “Nice ploy, Chase, but ultimately futile.” He picked up the unconscious form by the coat and studied him more closely. “Hmmm…William was right, it appears that my former protege has hired some unusual players.” He dropped the unconscious man to the ground and then turned to leave. “I think it will be very interesting to let this game continue.” Then he disappeared into the shadows, his laughter echoing through the darkened cavern.
I woke up to the sound of laughter and a splitting headache. My first reaction was to scan the area for any threats, but I couldn’t find anything…except for the pounding in my skull. Damn…what the hell hit me? I slowly got up off the ground, noting the dull pain in my back. That was when I remembered what happened. I was running away and then fire had erupted in my back. The boomer must have nailed me with one of those damn force cannons. I waited several minutes for the pain to subside before I headed back up to the excavation site. Now, as a mercenary, I have seen many bad things in my lifetime, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for what happened next. Oh shit! The whole site was trashed. Boomer parts were strewn all over the place along with the remains of the research team. I don’t believe it. Five combat boomers, nearly a dozen construction boomers, and several human personnel…all dead. What the hell hit this place? I pulled my cell-phone out of my coat and dialed Jason’s number. “Hello?” “Jason, it’s Richard.” I was not one to panic easily, but I was surprised by the anxiety in my voice. “We got a situation here.” “How bad is it? Did you get down to the research labs?” “Uh, no, Jason, I was kind’ve busy getting the crap beaten out of me,” I snapped. “You blew your cover?” “No, I didn’t blow my cover. But I don’t think you have to worry about the research team. They’re all dead.” I then proceeded to tell him what happened. When I had finished, there was silence on the other end of the line. “Jason, you still there?” I asked. More silence…until finally, “Yeah, I’m here. You said the guy knew who I was?” “Yeah...and he knew who I was too.” “Okay Richard, get the hell out of there.” “What?” “It’s a trap, it has to be.” “Jason,” I said as I walked to the entrance of the site that led to the surface, “what makes you sure that this is…a trap…” my voice trailed off as my enhanced hearing picked up a beeping noise. I ran towards the surface and was about thirty feet away from the opening when I heard a rumble. A second later, a fireball erupted and began to streak in my direction. “Shit!” I screamed. When I reached the opening, the shockwave from the explosion caught me, throwing me forward and slamming me into a parked utility truck. And then, for the second time that day, blackness engulfed me.
August 26, 2035 Penthouse Suite Saint Regis Hotel MegaTokyo, Japan 1200 hrs. There was a bright glaring light when I regained consciousness…a light so blinding, I thought I was dead. And then, I heard the voice of God. “Richard, can you hear me?” That’s funny, God sounds a little arrogant. My vision began to clear and I found myself staring at a man with spiky blond hair who looked very familiar. “Richard, talk to me. If you don’t, I’m going to cut your pay for lying down on the job.” Oh shit, Jason is God…ach! The horror!!!! Jason shook his head. “Can the theatrics, Richard. You are not dead and, contrary to popular belief, I am not God.” “Dammit, Jason, I hate it when you go through my head like that.” “Yeah? Well, tough.” He handed me a glass of water which I quickly gulped down. “You want to tell me what happened? I probed your mind and all I got was some guy who looks like he stepped out of GQ International and a very large explosion.” “Not much to remember, Jason.” I got up off the couch I was on and was hit by a wave of nausea so intense that I collapsed to the floor. “Ow, that was not good.” “No,” Jason said as he helped me stand up, “it wasn’t. You were in pretty bad shape when I found you. Your body got a little singed and you broke several ribs when you were thrown into that truck. Your nanos have been working overtime and need to be refueled.” “Yeah, and I was already hurt before that happened…the site?” “Incinerated,” Jason said. “Whoever set that bomb did not want Genom poking around down there. If you hadn’t gotten as far from the entrance as you did, you would have been char broiled. What about the guy you met down there, you said he knew me?” “Yeah, he mentioned something about being an old friend of yours.” Jason arched an eyebrow. “Really? I’m sure I would remember a boomer if I had one for a friend.” “Well, now that you mention it, I did note something odd. The way he acted, the way he talked, even the way he dressed…it was like talking to a more sophisticated and stuck up version of you.” Jason’s head suddenly whipped up like something had bitten him. “Whoa…wait a minute, what did you just say?” “Jason, I didn’t mean that you were-” Jason cut me off with a wave of his hand. “No, I realize that…you said sophisticated and stuck up?” “Yeah…and I could have sworn that you both had the same tailor.” My stomach suddenly growled and I looked around the room. “Hey, did you send up for some food?” Jason nodded and pointed at a small cart behind him that had a couple steak platters sitting on top of it. “Help yourself. I figured you would probably need something to eat after that ordeal.” I walked over to the cart, grabbed one of the platters, and began to eat. “Richard?” “Umph?” I replied with my mouth full. “Just out of curiosity, did I ever tell you about my internship at Genom?” “No,” I said, praying that this was not going to be another “this was an event that shaped my life” speech. With a grin, Jason started his little story. “It all started in my senior year in college…” Ach! It is one of those stories!!! Jason suddenly laughed and punched me in the shoulder. “Just kidding, Richard. Will you lighten up?” “It’s hard to do that after nearly being fried to a crisp. But what were you going to tell me?” “I was just remembering some guy I knew seven years ago when I interned at Genom. Brian Mason…the man taught me everything I know about the corporate world.” “Sounds to me like you were good friends.” “I wouldn’t say that…it was more like a teacher-student relationship…and I was the best student he ever had. He offered me a job with Genom, but I turned it down because I had other plans.” “Yeah,” I said as a poured myself another glass of water. “You were busy trying to take over your father’s company and using me as a pawn in your little game.” “Hey, I paid you.” “Yeah, with money you swiped from the Consortium and your father.” “You didn’t seem to mind.” “Then your father started to hunt me down.” “He wouldn’t have if you left town like you were supposed to, but we’re getting off track here.” I took another sip of water. “Okay, so this Mason guy taught you how to play dirty in the corporate world…what happened to him?” “He got killed a couple years ago. Ran afoul of some mercenaries and the leader slit his throat.” “Ow, I’m sorry to hear that.” Jason shrugged. “No big deal actually, because he got killed again the following year.” “Huh?” Now I was confused. “And then he got killed again after that…I guess he’s back again.” Now this was starting to freak me out. “Um, Jason?” “Yeah?” “I’m confused here. Let me get this straight…you’re telling me that this friend of yours died three times.” Jason paused for a moment before he spoke. “Um, yeah. Apparently, he was able to download his consciousness into the body of a boomer.” “But if that boomer I ran into was a friend of yours, then why did he try to kill me?” “Well, first off, Brian would never let friendship stand in the way of getting what he wants. Since we’re both apparently after the same thing, he will pull out all the stops when dealing with me. I was his best student…” A tight smile formed on Jason’s lips. “In a sick and twisted way, this is a final exam of sorts…the classic teacher versus student scenario.” “Oh great, that makes me feel better.” I still couldn’t believe what Jason was telling me. “So this psychotic boomer guy is out there and your telling me that this is a game to you two?” Jason shook his head. “It’s a game to him, Richard, but not to me. Whatever is down there must be important if he’s involved. Besides there’s something that still bothers me.” “What’s that?” I asked. “He could have killed you, but he didn’t.” “Maybe he figured the bomb would finish me off.” “No...he killed the Genom team, he could have finished you off if he wanted to. He's up to something...but what?” “I don’t know, I’m just the grunt who does what he’s told. You want me to go back down there?” “Not yet, I want to check some things out first. Until then, keep a low profile.” “Hey, no problem there,” I said. “How about your meeting with Quincy? Did it go well?” “I should be getting a call from him in about an hour.” “You think he’ll actually take you up on your offer?” Jason walked over to the small wet bar in the corner of the room and poured himself a glass of wine. “I think he will say no, but I also know that he will change his mind.” “Oh? How can you be sure of that?” Jason suddenly turned and gave me smile that sent a chill down my spine. “Because if he doesn’t, he will find out how truly vulnerable his organization is.”
August 26, 2035 Neon Cafe MegaTokyo, Japan 1400 hrs. Linna wasn’t sure what made her nervous, keeping a lunch date with a professional killer or bringing Sylia along. Well, so maybe Richard Chase wasn’t really a professional killer, but according to the file Sylia had on him, he was still a dangerous man who had no qualms against killing his enemies. She knew that Chase was a corporate mercenary, but it wasn’t until she read the file that she began to worry. She almost decided against going particularly when Sylia informed her that she would come along as backup. But there was something else about Chase that intrigued her. According to the file, Chase could have killed her when they fought. Instead, he simply sparred with her…hell, he was just playing with he until the cops showed. But it wasn’t until she bumped into him later that evening that she saw the real personality…not a cold professional, but a really nice guy… “Whoa, hold it,” she said before Sylia opened the door to the restaurant. “What’s wrong?” Linna shook her head. “I can’t do this…it’s not that I’m afraid to do this…it’s just…” Sylia cracked a thin smile. “You’re falling for him.” “I am not!” “Really, is that why you spent two hours rummaging through your entire wardrobe?” Linna looked down at the clothes she wore. “Hey, I like to make a good impression.” Sylia nodded. “Yep, definitely falling for this guy and it’s only been…” she paused as she looked at her watch, “hmmm, not even twenty four hours…a new record for you.” “You know, you were a lot more likable before you went to Germany. What happened?” “Mackie told me to work on a sense of humor when we got back here.” “Remind me to strangle him before he goes back next month.” Sylia shook her head as they entered the restaurant. “You’ll have to wait behind Priss, she found out that he sent revealing photos of her to some e-zine.” Linna was about to say something, but stopped when she saw Chase sitting at a table in a corner. He looked up from the menuboard he was reading and waved. Linna couldn’t suppress the smile forming on her lips. Like yesterday, he wore jeans and a t-shirt, but he was wearing a leather jacket this time instead of a black duster. Simple, but stylish. “Hello, Linna.” “Hi, Richard.” She paused for a moment as she tried to think of something else to say. “So…who’s your friend?” “Uh…what friend?…oh, yeah…this is um…Sylia.” Chase extended his hand to Sylia. “Really? Interesting name, um…Sylia.” “Hello, Richard. Linna has told me a lot about you.” “Really?” Chase glanced at Linna briefly. “Anything good?” Sylia shrugged as she and Linna sat down. “Hard to say…but then again, she is always vague about the guys she meets.” “I am not!” Linna protested. “Don’t mind her, Richard, she’s being overprotective.” Chase nodded and laughed. “Ah, the overprotective friend who decides to play chaperone scenario.” Sylia arched an eyebrow. “Not so much of being overprotective as I am concerned about the guys she goes out with…some of them turn out to be real losers with some dark past.” “Ouch,” Chase replied, “that was harsh.” “Not that I would imply that you are that kind of person,” Sylia added. “Oh no, of course not.” Sylia studied Chase’s actions as they ordered their food…the way he talked, the way he moved…it was no wonder Linna was falling for this guy. He was quite the charmer. She kept her tone friendly as she spoke. “Linna told me that you are into corporate security. Exactly what type of security?” Chase shrugged. “Nothing special really. I test out various types of security systems for various corporations. I offer them some suggestions and they pay me for my time…it’s a boring job, but the pay’s good.” Sylia gave him a sly smile. “And how did you get that job?” “Just the usual. I went into the military out of high school. Did a little corporate ops after that and eventually went freelance.” “Were your employers angry with you for going freelance?” “Nah, old man Matzuda gave me his blessing. In return, I left him alone and did the occasional job for him free of charge. It really sucked when he died last year…he was a good man.” Yes, Sylia thought, he was a good man. I also know that you were somehow connected to the death of the man who murdered him. “So, do you still work for Matzuda?” “Once in awhile…the old man’s daughter doesn’t have her father’s business savvy, but she does her best. She used to command one of the…um…security teams I worked with. Good military mind, but mediocre when it comes to the board room.” Very good, Mr. Chase. You answer the questions truthfully, but you always manage to withhold sensitive information. The file was right, you are loyal to those you have worked for in the past. “So who do you work for now?” “I’m doing some consulting work for Metagen.” Sylia almost choked on her drink. Metagen? Their CEO is in town to meet with Quincy. There was a big news release concerning them. “So you are in Japan on business then?” “Sort of. Actually, it’s more like a paid vacation…although I have to admit, it hasn't been as quiet and relaxing as I thought it would be.” “So what do you think of MegaTokyo?” Linna asked, trying to work her way into the conversation. “It’s actually gotten better in the last twenty-four hours. Although I’m still sore at the Knight Sabers.” Sylia heard a slight gasp from Linna. Uh…oh. “And why is that?” “I heard they trashed the Genom Entertainment Complex…and I was hoping to ride that new roller coaster that recently opened up there.” Sylia was about to say something else when she felt a sudden chill followed by a buzzing in her head. Well, look who’s here… It was a voice that she recognized instantly, it was the mystery man who called her last night…but he was…in her mind? Then she heard the voice again, but this time it was speaking out loud. “So, this is reason why you were in a hurry to leave.” She turned around and saw an attractive man with spiky blond hair standing behind her. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties and was dressed in casual, but very expensive clothes. Chase looked up. “Hey, Jason, what’s up?” “Not much, just got off the phone with our prospective partner.” “And?” “It’s a go.” “Yes!” Chase high-fived his friend, then suddenly regained his composure. “Oh yeah, Jason, this is Linna and Sylia. Ladies, this is Jason Chandler, my current employer and a good friend of mine. He’s the one who forced me to take this paid vacation.” “Oh yeah,” Chandler laughed. “Lunch with two attractive women…you look like you’re really suffering.” He turned to stare at Sylia for a moment before he spoke. "You look familiar…oh yeah, now I remember. You were at some fashion show back in ’34 in Munich. Sylia Stingray, right? High tech fashion for a high tech world.” Sylia nodded. So you want to play that game, Mr. Chandler. “Yes, and I remember you, Mr. Chandler. One of youngest CEOs in the world at the helm at one of the most powerful corporations. Rumor has it that you favor ‘smash and grab’ tactics.” “Ah, someone’s been reading Newsweek.” Sylia shrugged. “I like to be well informed.” Especially when dealing with corporate slime like you. Chandler shook his head. “Aw, come on, Sylia. I’m not total slime.” Sylia suddenly froze. How did he know what I was thinking? Again, she felt a sudden chill and a slight buzzing in her head. What the hell is going on here? “Is something wrong, Ms. Stingray? You look a little distracted.” Come on, you have to have something floating around in that cluttered brain of yours. “What did you say?” she asked. “I asked if there was something wrong.” Well, what have we here? Someone sent you a data module as well… Sylia suddenly froze when she realized what was happening. My mind is being probed…but how? C’mon, Stingray, you have to have some important information in the- GET OUT OF MIND!!! Chandler suddenly flinched as if someone had slapped him hard. He shook his head for a moment and then his nose began to bleed. “Whoa, Jason,” Chase said as he noticed his employer’s condition. “What happened?” To his credit, Chandler didn’t have to lie. “Nothing serious, Richard, just a nasty migraine.” He massaged his forehead and used a napkin to dab his nose dry. “Oh, by the way, I came here to inform you that I’ll be throwing a party tonight at the Saint Regis. It’s mostly corporate bigwigs who want to be there to celebrate ‘the deal of the century’ and kiss up to their employers.” “Ah, and I’m supposed to be a good example and show up?” “Yes, but you have to wear a-” “No!” Chase suddenly cried out. “Don’t say it.” A wicked grin worked its way across Chandler’s face. “Yes Richard, you have to wear a suit.” Chase shook his head. “Uh-uh, no way, I don’t think so. I will not wear a suit. I will do just about anything for you, but wearing a suit and going to some stuffy business function is NOT in the contract.” “Um, actually, it is. After all, I am paying you for this job. If you don’t cooperate, you won’t get your money.” “Aw, c’mon Jason, is there any way I can get out of this?” “Nope.” Chase started butting his head against the table. “This is torture.” Chandler smiled wickedly. “Yes, I know. But to let you know I’m not totally without pity, I’ll let you charge whatever you need to the company account.” He then turned to leave, but suddenly stopped and turned around. “Ms. Stingray?” “Yes?” “I would like it if you showed up. I believe we have some things to discuss.” Sylia nodded. “Indeed we do, Mr. Chandler.” Indeed we do. She watched Chandler leave and then refocused her attention on Chase who looked like he was about to cry. “A suit,” Chase moaned, “why can’t they throw parties where normal clothes are acceptable?” Linna leaned over and patted Chase on the shoulder. “Look on the bright side, at least he gave you the company account to pay for it.” Chase suddenly raised his head up off the table and beamed. “Yes, he did, didn’t he? Um, Linna, what are you doing today?” "I have the rest of the day off, why?" Chase grinned at her. "How about we do some shopping?"
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