Connecting Outside the Network - Deus Ex HR

Chapter 2

Pritchard was standing in her office waiting for Jensen to finally arrive, surrounded by her familiar screens, books and innumerable post-it notes. Her stomach tightened – she'd cautioned Sarif that Jensen might not be ready to come back. It was only 6 months and more than half his body had been replaced with artificial limbs and cyber augments. He'd even been technically dead on the table for a few minutes. She was still going over everything from that day in her head. That group of terrorists had crippled their security system, waltzed in, and torched the research lab and their best team of scientists – Sevchenko, Faherty, Koss, Colvin…Megan… Not to mention torn up Jensen like a paper doll. Pritchard couldn't help but feel the preferential hiring of a single ex-cop was partly responsible. Imagine if they'd had a professional security team like Belltower or Dynacore, with at least one agent on each level. She'd even submitted a lengthy formal request to Sarif. Those terrorists wouldn't have had a chance. Her hand tightened on the tablet as she waited and watched the news playing about the newly unfolding hostage crisis at the Sarif manufacturing plant. Just another black mark on their once proud corporation. As Eliza Cassan finished summarizing the latest developments, Pritchard heard Jensen pass through the door to the Tech Lab.

"About time," she started, turning around, "What happened – you get stuck in an air duct on the way over?"

"Yeah, nice to see you too, Freya." She was surprised that he was using her first name. That was certainly a change. "Something's wrong with my retinal display. Can you fix it?" He still wore his hair with the same medium length blown-back style and kept his beard neatly trimmed down along his jawline and lips.

She paused a moment and asked, "What's the problem again?"

"The display keeps flashing, and things are kind of shaking around."

She nodded, "If it's what I think it is, yeah, I can fix it. I need to temporarily disrupt the power supply to your retinal implants to force them to reboot and sync up."

Pritchard picked up a device from her desk and steadied Jensen's head, her right hand pressing against his temple. He auto-retracted his sunglasses, which serve as a screen overlay for his visual augmentations. Without it, the lateral corners of his eyes were framed by black polymer lines which came down along the top of his cheekbones for a few inches. It was subtle but his irises had numerous golden circular apertures that normally blended in subtly with the brown of his eyes, but whenever they were adjusting they became more prominent. He also had a hexagonal imprint on his left upper forehead by the hairline, a mark of those with significant augmentations. Even David Sarif had that telltale mark. Jensen was wearing a jacket and loose pants so she couldn't appreciate the arm and leg implants, but she had read over his specs. It was ridiculous, almost criminal, how many augments they'd fitted him with. It went beyond functional and into the realm of downright weaponization of a human being without consent.

She pressed the electrical disruptor against the opposite side of his face just behind the optical implant lead. "This will sting a little," she said, holding his head tighter. He looked down and she took that to mean, "Go ahead and get it over with."

A bright blue spark was released and Jensen cringed for a second. She put her hand on his shoulder to steady him and was surprised when she couldn't feel the typically prominent shoulder bone and scapula. Instead, through his leather jacket she could feel the thick electro-active polymer units of his prosthetic arm. It was surprisingly warm and the texture tissue-like. She thought she even felt a ripple as he recoiled.

"Don't worry – your sentinel health implant will kick in soon, repairing any damage that might have caused. Your retinal display should be fine now," she said encouragingly.

"Right. We done here? Because Sarif is waiting for me at the helipad," said Jensen.

"You're welcome, and yes, I know. Radicals have broken into our manufacturing plant and taken hostages. Maybe this time you'll actually save people."

"If you've got a problem with me, Pritchard, why don't you just say it and get it over with?"

Sighing, she answered "It's not that I have a problem with you, it's just…if Sarif had actually taken my suggestion and we'd gotten a security team rather than a single guard, then maybe Megan and the others would still be alive. It's not your fault you were one against a group of terrorists. And once again, Sarif is sending in just you against a group of terrorists."

"Don't bring Megan into it. You were stuck behind a computer helplessly watching their GPL signals disappear, and that sucks, but it doesn't mean you get to play the blame game. Hindsight is 20/20. Also, I know no one wants to listen to me, but those men were not run of the mill extremists – they were some kind of highly trained special ops unit."

"That may be, but it's no secret how close you and Megan were. Come on. If she hadn't suggested hiring you, and you know how close she and Sarif were, then we would have had a full tactical team on the premises and the attackers would have been toast. Besides, you'd just resigned after that SWAT massacre down in Mexicantown. Then, like now, you probably could have used some more time off to clear your head."

"Look, Pritchard," Oh, okay, we're back to last names again,"I like to think I'm a good guy who would never hit a woman, but you're really testing me. There are lives on the line right now and I don't have time to defend myself to you."

"You're right, sorry. Good lu-" she started to say, but Jensen was already racing with superhuman speed out the door and back to the helipad where Faridah Malik and David Sarif were waiting for him. Geez, the stress must be getting to me. I hadn't been planning to blow up at him like that.Pritchard looked up at the news again, currently showing the shaky view from a helicopter circling the facility.

She activated her comm and called Sarif, "Mr. Sarif, it's Pritchard."

"What is it? We're kind of dealing with a life and death crisis right now," he responded, irritated.

"I need you to give me access to Jensen's comm channel. I can pull up the schematics and help him infiltrate the building. Better two than one, right?"

"Good idea, Pritchard, get on that! I'll let Jensen know." said Sarif happily.

After a few moments of scouring the various layers of the development, she found the duct schematic and several nice access points.

"Jensen, it's me. Pritchard. Where are you?" she asked.

Jensen's voice resonated back in her head, "On a roof overlooking the plant." Somehow, even though the signals were only being sent to her auditory cortex, she almost felt a faint vibration down her neck into her chest when she heard people's comms through her neural chip. She was still getting used to it, and Jensen's rich, baritone voice seemed to reach places other peoples' didn't. Taking a deep breath, she replied, "Good. Your point of entry should be through shipping and receiving."

"Should be, Pritchard? What the hell does that mean?" he answered angrily. Pritchard let it slide since he was in a high pressure situation, and it was his first day back.

"Well, that's the employee entrance, however the Purists are likely assembled there. If you'd like safer route, I'd suggest you check out the building's roof – there's a fenced off corner that leads to a duct that'll get you past all their patrols."

"Okay, I'll check that out. Thanks."

5 minutes later she heard the notification beep of the incoming communication. "Hey, Pritchard, I'm in – that worked like a charm. What else do you have for me?"

Smiling, Pritchard answered, "Well, Sarif wants you to procure the Typhoon schematics, and that'll be in the Factoring Labs. There's an elevator just past the assembly labs that will take you to it."

"Got it."

Pritchard started patching into the assembly lab system, but was surprised when her clearance code was rejected. She tried a few of her older ones, in case the system had reverted to a previous version, but still no good.

"Jensen, I just tried to unlock the assembly lab door but my codes aren't working – someone must have changed the protocols. You'll have to open it manually."

"I thought you had 'plugged the hole' in your firewall, how did they get in?" Jensen replied, frustrated.

"I'm on it! Don't worry, the software I gave you included some of my manual hacking techniques – you should be able to get through some of the lower level security locks. When you feel up to it, I'll give you the upgrades. I need a little comm silence while I figure this out, so Pritchard out."

Crap, that hack from 6 months ago is still coming back to bite me in the ass.Pritchard wracked her brain trying to figure out how they could have gotten through. Was it a mole? Did someone at Sarif give them the codes? That familiar feeling of dread was creeping back. What if there was a more serious flaw in their security? What if others had gotten through silently without tripping alarms and had a field day with their data? What if this is how they had gotten in 6 months ago?

*Beep* "Pritchard, you still there?"

"Where else would I be?" she asked, her attention still mostly focused on identifying the hole in her firewall.

"Patch me to Sarif, now," he ordered her. For a moment she was surprised Sarif wasn't already connected and keeping in communication with Jensen himself, but he was likely dealing with the public relations nightmare occurring outside the factory. After patching them through, Pritchard stayed on the line to hear what was going on.

"Adam, it's Sarif. You got the Typhoon?"

"Yeah, but you were right about there being something more behind this. Because I've also got a dead 'Purist' in here with some pretty interesting cerebral implants."

A Purist with cerebral implants? That doesn't exactly jive with a terrorist group that staunchly rejects augmentations as their recruiting platform.

"Don't touch him, we'll need an expert to recover his neural hub. In case it's booby-trapped."

Great, I'll bet he'll want me to do that. Although I bet it has some really juicy info on it…

"Copy that. What about Sanders?" asked Jensen.

"SWAT's pressuring me to let them off the leash. Find him before they do and deal with him."

Pritchard tuned out and focused back on the news reports and the firewall issue. Once she got a diagnostics sweep running on the network and router security, she heard Eliza's voice break through on the TV again.

"This is Eliza Cassan, with a new development in the hostage crisis at Sarif's manufacturing plant – we do not know how, but our sources tell us that a Sarif operative has managed to free all the hostages, without a single casualty, though it looks like the lead perpetrator has fled the premises."

Pritchard turned and watched the video footage. There was a brief moment where they caught a glimpse of Jensen talking to Faridah by the chopper before it took off. Pritchard's diagnostics would be taking a while to run, so she commed Jensen.

"I just saw the news, great job! You know I hate to admit when I'm wrong but, you were the right man for the job today. Did Sarif manage to get the body of that augmented Purist?"

"Thanks, Pritchard, and no, SWAT's probably taking the bodies back to the morgue at the police station. I think David's going to send me out for it after we get back."

"Well, stop back here for an upgrade before you go – it might come in handy," she offered.

A second later, Sarif called, "Pritchard, I want you working on the Typhoon ASAP. Jenson should have uploaded it a second ago. Make sure it's intact and nothing's been compromised."

"I'll get to it as soon as I can, but our security has a huge gaping hole in it somewhere and I can't figure out where."

"Oh…okay, well, keep me posted on that," Sarif said.


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