Connecting Outside the Network - Deus Ex HR

Chapter 15

He was in the dark again, unable to see, but with the vague knowledge that Namir would be hurtling towards him any moment. His arms and legs were unresponsive. Somehow Zhao's signal had finally kicked in and his augments were barely functional. A flicker of light appeared in front of him and his HUD was visible again, tracking two life signs in the room with him. One was moving away slowly whereas the other was nearly upon him. His relief at having his optical augment working again was cut short by a jolt of pain in his side as Namir barreled into him, crashing the two of them through several of the mechanized cadavers. As he was slammed into the ground, Adam could feel all his augments beginning to respond again. They were resetting to factory zero, but at least he could move again. Not wanting to let on to Namir too soon, Jensen let Namir think he had the upper hand and watched him carefully remove his Diamond Back .357 magnum revolver and aim at Jensen's head.

"Better to have died before, Jensen. Besides, men like us, we never get back the things we love."

As Jensen picked up Namir's intention to pull the trigger, he quickly unsheathed his ceramic blades and sliced cleanly through Namir's extended right prosthetic arm. Adam was showered with blinding sparks as the garish augment flew overhead. Taking advantage of Namir's momentary pain and confusion, Adam leapt up and pinned the mercenary on his back, blades ready to pierce through his chest.

"Finish it," snarled Namir.

Jensen hesitated, but his sensors started picking up the activation of Namir's Typhoon system and he quickly brought the ceramic blades through Namir's chest, piercing straight his augmented heart and spine. Suddenly the scene grew light and blurry, and he felt himself awakening in his bedroom. He was half sitting up in bed, his right hand behind him supporting him and his left bent up with the combat blade unsheathed. His HUD was picking up a flickering life sign beside him and he saw in horror that the tip of the blade was completely embedded in Freya's chest. Her eyes were wide with pain and disbelief, tears welling up and choking back blood in the back of her throat. Adam quickly retracted the blade and bent over her, shakily lifting her limp body off the sheets, terrified of doing even more to hurt her. A cold shock fell like a waterfall down his face to his gut, which was already wrenching painfully. His display was telling him she would be dead in a matter of minutes. Calling for help would be of no use. His aim had been devastatingly precise, straight through her heart. His throat closed off and he couldn't even choke out a word of remorse or comfort to her as he held her weak body in his arms, pulling her out of the growing pool of blood beneath her. Her heart was still beating, but just barely, evidenced by the waves of blood flowing rhythmically out of the exit wound in back of her thorax. Finally, as her eyes started to close and her heart beat stuttered nearly to a halt, he found his voice and cried out in anguish, "Freya!"

He could swear he shouted himself awake and sat up abruptly in bed, his arms out in front of him. For a moment Adam stared at the black shining polymers with hatred, as at some alien monstrosity, despair and rage still fresh in his chest. He clenched his fists until the metal ground into his palms and quickly looked beside him. His HUD wasn't up yet and he held his breath waiting to see her chest rise gently. No blood was filling her lungs and spilling out beneath them onto the mattress. She wasn't crying tears of agony. Her face was serene and calm. Disregarding her peaceful sleep, he swept her into his arms and buried his face in her neck, one hand holding her head against his cheek. She started awake, "Adam, what is it?"

He didn't answer her and continued to hold her tight, trembling slightly. She relaxed her body and rested her hands on his back reassuringly, wondering what had so disturbed him. Wordlessly, he released her and went to the other room, leaving her alone in the bedroom. She heard a click from the other room and the smell of cigarette smoke wafted gradually into the room. Freya hadn't seen him light up since coming back from Panchaea. Not that it did him any damage: his lungs contained microminiature rebreathers and implanted molecular filters to keep any harmful chemicals from reaching his circulation.

Jensen brought the tan wand of tobacco to his lips and deeply inhaled. No matter how completely he breathed in, he couldn't feel that smoky burn he used to know, but it still helped him focus. Without reaching for any glassware, he took a long swig from the whiskey bottle on the kitchen counter and sat on the couch, bending his head forward into his hands. His heart was finally falling back to a steady beat. He had to shake it off. At the sound of light footsteps, he lifted his head just enough to see Freya walking around the end of the futon. Cautiously she sat on the far end and waited for him to face her.

"Sorry. I haven't slept well for a while," he explained weakly, taking another drag from the cigarette and exhaling slowly, the smoke filling the air between them.

"What happened?" she asked, putting her hand on his shoulder lightly, almost afraid that he might throw it off at any moment. He let it remain there and sighed, his other hand coming around and holding hers tightly, lacing his fingers in with hers.

He hesitated, but then started, "It's usually the same thing – I'm fighting Namir. It used to be the fight that almost killed me six months ago, but lately it's been the one at Omega Ranch. Sometimes I'm winning, more often I'm losing. This one…I dreamed that I woke up after one of those nightmares thinking I had just killed Namir but by accident…you were…"

He broke off and held her eyes in a long, tortured gaze, his lips pursed tightly and his hand clenching hers even more. She was speechless and moved closer. "I'm right here, I'm fine. Have your augments ever activated in your sleep?"

"No, but there's always a first," he said darkly, pulling her into his lap so her back rested against his chest, his hands clasped around her waist. He kissed her neck and she stroked his dark augmented forearms affectionately, following the straight ridge that concealed his lethal armaments.

"There's a failsafe, you know. Your chip detects when you're in REM and stage 4 sleep and keeps your nonessential augments deactivated," she said reassuringly, snuggling deeper into his embrace.

"They could always hack me and deactivate the failsafe, or worse. There's no guarantee that anyone is safe around me at any time." After the Panchaea incident, those words rang truer than ever.

Freya was about to answer when a loud crash down the hall caught both their attention. Adam bolted upright and scanned for signals. There were several markers in Freya's apartment around the corner.

"Stay here," he instructed her. Jensen's optical lenses snapped down over his eyes as he activated his cloaking device, disintegrating into thin air. He stalked slowly to the door and quietly opened it a crack, closing it securely behind him. When he reached the corner of the hall, he saw the door to Freya's apartment had been shot open with high powered rounds and three individuals were inside rummaging around. Crashes rang out, and the sound of metal and plastic snapping. They were making short work of her computer equipment. He crossed the hall and spied two masked men tearing cords out of walls and letting fly several bullets here and there when they had amassed a sufficiently large pile of her gear. With less than a second's pause, Jensen grabbed the two men and forced their skulls together with such force they both crumpled to the floor unconscious. In the next room, the last assailant was at Freya's main computer desk, trying to hack into her main account. A cursory scan showed the man was minimally augmented. Quickly, Adam seized him and slammed him to the floor, withdrawing his revolver and jamming the muzzle into the soft flesh under the man's lower jaw.

He glanced over at Freya's bed and saw a rain of bullets had already been loosed upon it. Shoving the muzzle more firmly, he shouted, "Who sent you?"

The man struggled weakly in Jensen's hold and furrowed his eyes wordlessly. A black cloth covered the assassin's mouth and he was wearing tactical armor, not dissimilar from Adam's.

"I said," started Jensen, lifting him up and slamming him back into the ground again, breaking several ribs, "who sent you?"

The man coughed and some dark liquid began staining the center of the face wrap. Figuring he wouldn't get any answers from him, he swung the butt of the revolver into the side of the man's head and left him knocked out on the floor.

"Sarif, it's Adam," he commed out.

"…ugh…Adam, what time is it?" asked Sarif, half-awake and groping around in the dark for a light switch.

"Nevermind that. Someone sent a team to kill Freya and trash her place. I just dispatched three armed men in her apartment."

"Geez, I knew I put my top people on the same floor for good reason… is she okay?" he asked, concerned.

Adam was already walking back into his apartment to confirm that and breathed easy when he saw her pacing restlessly past the windows in his main room.

"Yeah, she's fine. I've got her at my place for now," he answered. "We'll need to get the cops over to her place to ID the perps, but I have a feeling they'll come up empty. They were there to destroy what she was working on."

"What did you have her looking up for you now, Adam?" asked Sarif. Jensen could already hear a fatherly lecture coming.

"White Helix," he answered.

"Adam, I told you to leave it alone. Those people…"

"That's not all –Page Industries. They are the parent organization for Versalife, Omega Ranch AND White Helix. This all goes back to Bob Page who you were so eager to pass Dr. Reed back to."

Sarif paused a moment and asked, "Did you find anything else out from Darrow?"

"Yeah. The ones responsible for the original kill switch plot. Taggart for one, but we already suspected that. The others are Morgan Everett at Picus, Beth Duclare at the WHO, Stanton Dowd and Bob Page. There's one other, but I won't know who until I talk to Page, and he's in Hong Kong at Versalife's HQ."

"Well shit, Adam, okay. I want you heading out to Page's office ASAP. Megan's already left to start work at his company branch in Hengsha, but I'll try to get word to her. I'm supposed to report to congress this morning, but I can charter a commercial flight. You call Malik and let her know to get ready. Are you going to leave a security detail with Pritchard?"

Adam looked over at Freya and tried to think how he could possibly best assure her safety. Hell, if she had been in her own apartment that night, she would be dead right now. He couldn't very well have her ride along in the VTOL – if they attracted too much heat, that thing could easily be blasted out of the sky and she didn't have augments like his shielding or Icarus landing system.

"Yeah, I'll call a detail and have him stand guard at Sarif Industries. She'll probably be safest someplace public, high profile, with lots of people around," he said, directing his words at Freya as much as at Sarif.

Freya nodded and ran to Adam's bedroom to collect her stuff. Right before going to bed she had stayed up a little later and monitored how decrypting the data from Versalife was progressing. Slowly. But at least it was offline and confined in her mobile unit. She packed it into her Sarif messenger bag and pulled on her cargo pants and jacket. Within a few minutes she was ready to bunker down at work for as long as Jensen needed her to. Jensen was off the phone when she came back into the main living room and he grabbed her arm, quickly rushing her up the steps and out the door. Instead of going to the elevator past Freya's apartment, they went up the stairwell to the roof where Malik was waiting for them in the VTOL.

"What's the plan?" asked Malik over the roar of the engines.

"Dropping Pritchard off at HQ, then we're going to Versalife in Hong Kong," Jensen informed her, helping hoist Freya into the aircraft and securing her seat belts. The flight was short and soon they were stepping out onto the helipad at Sarif Industries.

"Be careful Freya," Adam said, hugging her tightly. "I have an ex-SWAT buddy who will be posted outside the Tech Lab. I've instructed him not to let you out of his sight. He's outside all the normal channels and we go way back, so I think we can trust him, but of course, be careful. Because after all…"

"…everybody lies?" she finished his thought, remembering Eliza's parting words.

Adam nodded and kissed her intensely, not minding Malik's jaw dropping as she saw the two of them. She held him tightly, the adrenalin aiding her in stifling her worries. As their lips parted, Freya stole one more kiss and cast him a glance that said be careful before she turned toward the building. Adam stepped back and watched her leave, ducking and covering her hair as the wind from the VTOL engines swirled around the craft with leaves and dust. He waited to re-enter the VTOL until he saw Freya disappear inside the glass windows, past the outside security patrol.

As they took off towards Hong Kong, Malik started, "So spy boy, I didn't know you and Pritchard were an item!"

Adam chuckled quietly and glanced up at Malik who had a knowing smirk on her face, clearly delighted by her discovery. He chuckled, "Yeah, I guess the word's out now. Good thing those guys who shot up her apartment weren't in the know."

"Seriously! I gotta say, though, I saw that coming a mile away," she said matter-of-factly.

"Still had to pick your mouth off the ground back there," he teased.

"Hey, some things you can picture as many times as you want but when you finally see it, it still throws you for a loop."

"You said it, Malik."

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