The security camera tracks me as I step out of the elevator into a small lobby area. A hard backed steel chair gleams, providing a nominal level of welcome. But the biometric scanner adjacent the door in this otherwise windowless room makes it clear that this place does not expect visitors.
Tasha pings my implant. “The fifth floor. Home to accounting, security, and…” She spits the last, “Human Resources. Feel free to fuck some shit up while you’re there. If Euphrates lose track of some kids’ EduDebts, then you’ve done the world a great service.”
“Sure, but how do I get in?” I reply. “It’s locked up tighter than a transit post.”
“Not every problem needs the Fed’s finest hacker. Just apply a little bit of force.”
I grab the steel chair, and bludgeon the security camera with a leg. It gives a pleasant crack as it breaks into shards of glass and metal. Then I swing around and slam it into the door, which creaks and falls inwards. A gasp erupts from the open plan office in front of me.
It is laid out in the neo-distant style, with desks, computers and chairs crammed in tight amongst a bevy of ornamental handwash stations. Beneath one of those desks cowers a lady whose epaulettes mark her as a junior secretary. We lock eyes and she stands, reaching towards her desk phone, her corporate fatigues barely rumpled.
“Tasha, cut it!” I yell in shock.
The junior secretary starts, “Hello, security,” but then slams the phone down in its dock. She calls to me, “You little punk. They’ll lock you up and feed the key to a pangolin. Fuck off back to whatever slum you crawled out of, downer.”
I rush down the aisle and drop my shoulder for a tackle. I slam into her with a sharp elbow and eager violence born of slum malnutrition. She collapses in a heap. I quickly hunt around in my pack, and retrieve a pack of white pills.
“You weren’t here. You left early, around midnight, and didn’t see anything. Got it?” I demand.
“You downer scum. I’ll never betray my Corp. Do your worst.”
I force several of the pills into her mouth and follow up with a blast of water from the handwash station. She’s unconscious immediately. The long term effects of Brayden’s concoction are yet to be tested, but at least she’s out of my hair for the moment.
The office is surprisingly quiet, even for 2am on a Sunday morning. Though it stretches out in three directions before me, I cannot see another person.
I subvocalise to Tasha, “Big save there, thanks a bunch. Where to next?”
She pings back, “They don’t call me the Fed’s finest for nothing. Take a right, then follow the floor lights.”
The security section is separated from the main office by a solid hunk of concrete. It totally breaks up the feng shui. I’m not going to be able to smash this in with a chair.
I subvocalise, “Tasha, it’s go time. Get me into security and I’ll take care of the rest.”
I hear a rising whirr from behind me. I duck instinctively and turn to see. Hundreds of rounds of machine gun bullets tear through the office, cutting a trail of destruction in their wake. Paper is shredded, computers perforated and carpet ripped from the floor. I flip a table for some protection, the scream deafening.
An alert shrieks from the security section, as I turn and see the machine gun fire boring a hole in the concrete barrier by sheer force.
Tasha pings me, “Stay frosty, Jake, it’ll just be a minute.” Perhaps there are two of us who would be desperate and insane enough to break into Euphrates and steal an Antibody. I can hear shouts echoing out from security though – my cover is well and truly blown. As is most of the equipment on this floor, excepting a narrow sliver around me, and whatever is protected by that concrete bunker.
Then suddenly the cacophony stops. The machine gun still whirrs but to no avail, with its ammunition spent after cutting a hole in the security bunker and devastating the rest of the office.
I flip my table around to hide me from the security goons, who both peer through the bunker’s newly carved entrance.
Their leader yawns beneath a blue baseball cap. His gut stretches his pastel blue corporate fatigues taut. “The fuck?” he asks. Behind him, his comrade is beefier, with an intimidating stance. “Oi, Trent; check it out, will you?”
Trent steps out into the office proper, his arms bulging so large that they inhibit his walking gait. Clearly the product of designer drugs, not the cheap stuff from New Haven. He glances my direction, towards the only untouched area in sight. “Barry, seems like it missed a spot?” he calls out to his boss.
“No, you steroid addled moron, the gun. It’s still spinning. Find the override and turn it off. I’ve got a game to watch.” Barry replies.
I let out the breath I had been unconsciously holding. Trent strides past, and over to the machine gun. I watch and wait while Barry returns inside the security bunker and Trent sets off in his own search.
I’m after something more important than a gun override. I sneak through the roughly cut hole and into the security compound, one step closer to my own Antibody.