After putting in the code Freya had given him, Adam found his way to the fiftieth floor. He had already taken down most of the laser and video surveillance systems for the top ten floors, so it was just a matter of avoiding any remaining security details. According to his display, the marked target was just ahead past an armored guard brandishing a heavy Gatling gun. Behind him was a set of thick glass doors and the final control room that would give him access to Eliza’s network.
Jensen cloaked himself and deftly did a takedown on the man, dragging him into one of the adjacent rooms. As he looked around for a computer terminal to unlock the doors, he saw a conveniently placed air duct which seemed to lead exactly where he wanted to go. Smirking, he lifted the grate and crawled forward, ignoring the uncomfortable, cramped position. When he reached the end, he had to practically punch through the other side it was bolted down so tightly.
“Adam,” he heard Freya’s voice, “where are you?”
He checked his HUD – their GPLs were still not transmitting. “I’m just reaching the main control center now. Is everything okay down there?”
When she didn’t respond, he paused in front of the numerous screens. Eliza’s face flickered into view on the screens, her artificial visage clearly expecting him. Not wanting to waste any more time, he withdrew the data storage device from a case on his hip and plugged it into the most prominent computer tower. Immediately, Eliza began scanning the information into her collection, sorting through it to create the perfect narrative. Freya still hadn’t answered him.
“Freya? Can you hear me?” he was starting to get nervous.
There was a long pause and then her voice came back in, a little distant, “Sorry, you must have cut out.”
“What happened down there? I still can’t pick up either of your signals,” he glanced back up at his HUD, constantly refreshing his feed. Displayed at the bottom of the screen was a progress bar along with a timer counting down as the data uploaded.
Freya ignored his question, “Have you uploaded the complete message yet? About the Illuminati and the data Dr. Kavanaugh collected from the RBS?”
“It’s processing…” he answered warily. Something wasn’t right. “Eliza just needs the portion from Dr. Kavanaugh about the RBS and the chimerified nanovirus. The rest is already prepared. Where are you? Is Shivana there?”
“Shivana went to take care of something. Don’t worry about me. I’m in a safe place. Just…come find me when you’re done.”
The HUD finally showed Freya and Shivana’s GPLs – it looked like they were still on the fourth basement level, but it was swarming with other signals. Freya was separate from them, but Shivana was racing all over the place. The progress bar was minutes away from completion and Eliza regarded Adam with a puzzled expression.
“You continue to surprise me, Adam. I could not have predicted that you would ally yourself with the Juggernaut Collective,” she said calmly, displaying Janus’ avatar in the upper right corner of the monitor.
“They found me, quite frankly. I didn’t have much choice,” he answered her, directing his attention to one of the intellicams in the corner that he had deactivated earlier. Clearly she had managed to tap into the camera feed to observe him.
“But you did have a choice – you could have taken Pritchard and returned with Malik, but you chose to stay,” she mused, the purple pixels in her hair sparkling as the strands waved gently beside her face.
“Shivana, how are you doing? What’s our exit plan?” he commed her.
“I’m taking a lot of heat right now! Exit plan is get your ass down here and help us out!” she shouted through the infolink.
“The transfer is almost done, just hang on a little longer.” Adam’s eyes remained glued to the upload bar, now at 80% completion. He couldn’t move or someone might reach it in time to cancel it. As if in response to that thought, several men emerged from the central elevator and stormed into the room. Adam rolled to the side behind a pillar and readied his tranquilizer rifle. Thanks to the latest upgrades, he could shoot around blind corners and hit the mark most of the time. A few well timed shots and the men were snoozing on the stairs.
“What about Freya?” he asked Shivana. 90% completion.
“Last I saw, she took some hits to the chest, she said nothing got through,” Shivana glanced at her HUD since Freya was within range for her to pick up her health status and the GPLs were back online. “Wait, something’s off, her vitals are all wrong…”
“What? How bad?” Adam stepped back from the control station, feeling a cold chill creep up his spine. 95% completion.
“I…” she paused to return fire and crouched for cover behind a corner, “it can’t be right, her heart rate’s almost 150, blood pressure ridiculously low…”
Adam tore away from the screen and leapt over the sedated men in the hallway, racing with superhuman speed to the elevator shaft. “Freya, come in.” He hadn’t tested his Icarus Landing System since it failed mid-fall from Page’s plane. Everything else is working, no reason it isn’t, but I don’t want to fall all the way to the lowest basement level. The elevator had risen to the 81st floor so the drop was completely clear except for the cables hanging down the shaft. Gripping one of the thick cords, he kicked off from the edge and slid down – the speed sending orange sparks in all directions where his artificial hand met the wire. He watched Shivana and Freya’s GPLs rapidly approach and when he was just about to their level, he locked his hands on the cord and came to a stop right at the entrance to basement level four. Prying the doors open, he was shocked to step out into a field of rubble. Walls were torn down, storage boxes toppled and spilling their precious cargo of gems and refined metal plating onto the dust covered floor. Desks and chairs were strewn in all directions. Somewhere on the level his sensors could see concussive waves from explosions and he heard Shivana’s angry yells, but first he had to find Freya. She still hadn’t responded. Her signal was blinking weakly to the left and finally he found the room containing her GPL.
The lights and computer screens were still dead and he stepped through the caved in wall, scanning the shadows. As he came up on her signal, just around a large set of crates, he fell to his knees beside her in the pool of blood. For a moment he was frozen – it was almost like a scene from one of his nightmares. This can’t really be happening. Her right leg was propped onto a small pile of rubble with blood slowly dripping through the wrap she had tied around it. The bulletproof vest clearly showed two rounds embedded just over her breastbone, but her undershirt was relatively unscathed. His hands immediately reached for her throat to confirm that her rapid pulse was going strong and she was still drawing breath. When he felt a reassuring pressure wave under his fingers, he breathed in relief. She’s still alive. But just barely. No time to linger.
“Freya, come on,” he shook her, trying to get a reaction. Withdrawing a hypostim injector from his utility belt, he twisted the cap off with his teeth and drove the needle into her left thigh. As he pushed the grey rapid delivery button, a little color returned to her face and her eyes opened slowly. His sensors could see it bringing her blood pressure back to a more normal range, but her heart was continuing to race a mile a minute.
“Adam,” she murmured contentedly, as if half-asleep, “did it work?”
“Don’t worry about that right now, we have to get you to a doctor,” Adam surveyed the damage with his enhanced optics. The bullet had pierced her femoral artery and it was lodged in the wall of the vessel. If he tried to remove it then and there, she’d probably bleed out in minutes even with the hypostim. The medication could speed up healing and keep you going a little longer, but it couldn’t put blood back in your body. As he scooped her up into his arms, the dried blood tugged at her clothing which slowly peeled away from the floor like Velcro. She jerked and let out a cry as he lifted her legs, the surge of pain jolting her fully awake.
“Shivana,” Adam commed as he sped towards the stairs, Freya leaning weakly against his chest, “Freya’s bleeding out, if I don’t get her to the hospital ASAP she won’t make it. Will you be able to meet us there?”
“Fuck, fine. Lemmie just waste a few more of these assholes,” she answered angrily against the cacophony of gunfire.
As Adam carried her up the stairs, he held her even more closely and tried to put a little extra pressure on the wound. Even so the steady drip of blood left a trail of dark red spots behind them. When they reached the ground level, Adam headed back to the west entrance since he knew the path was already cleared. Somehow the halls and lobby seemed emptier than before. Upon emerging into the alley beside DeBeers Precious Metals Inc, he commed Janus to let him know the situation.
“The nearest hospital is three blocks north of your position, Dmitri will rendezvous with you there. I’ll notify the surgeon on duty to expect you,” Janus informed him.
“How?” More connections? Quite a few for a faceless hacker.
“Just let me handle the details.”
Janus fell silent and Jensen followed the path laid out for him, all the while closely monitoring Freya’s health status. As he passed along the sidewalk, people stared and stepped aside to make room. Most of them didn’t know how to react to a heavily augmented man carrying an unconscious, bleeding woman in his arms. A surprising number paid him no attention and were fixed on television screens outside stores, or on their portable devices. Peripherally Jensen could see Elisa reporting on something, but he didn’t have time to pay it any mind.
Just before he walked through the sliding doors in the emergency department, he paused to administer the other hypostim boost. Freya winced as he injected it, her eyes opening slightly in response to the uncomfortable sensation.
“Sorry,” he apologized softly, tossing the spent injector aside and stepping into the lobby. To his surprise, he was met by two men in white coats – one a Chinese man with narrow glasses and short dark hair, and the other a slightly wider man with curly chin length blond hair and Swiss facial features.
“Mr. Jensen, please follow us,” the Asian man spoke first, his name tag prominently displaying, “Dr. Huangdong Liu, General Surgery.” The next moments passed in a flash it seemed. He reluctantly released her from his protective embrace onto a surgery stretcher and followed through several prep rooms. The surgeons seemed to expect him to fall back but he insisted on going with them to the operating suite. He felt sick at the sight of the Reinhart Surgical Robot hanging from the ceiling – the same model that operated on him after the attack on Sarif Industries. By now they had hooked up a bag of intraveinous fluids and a unit of type “O negative” blood on an IV pole wheeled alongside her.
“Sir, you shouldn’t be in here during the procedure,” Dr. Liu cautioned him nervously, eying his blood and dust smeared military-grade arm augments nervously.
Adam glared back at Dr. Liu and took a step closer to the end of the table where Freya’s head was resting, an oxygen mask strapped across her nose and mouth. If they think for a moment I’m leaving her alone under their scalpels…to do who knows what to her… Shrugging, Dr. Liu nodded to the blond man, a Dr. Odermatt, who stepped behind an advanced video feed and placed his hands in several controllers. Part of the machine was on autopilot, carefully cutting away the makeshift bandage and irrigating the wound with disinfectant even while it continued to ooze fresh blood. One of the mechanical arms brought a tourniquet around her thigh to stem the flow while Dr. Odermatt carefully removed the bullet fragment and sutured the walls of the artery shut. The precision was remarkable. Even Jensen was impressed. He watched Freya’s face closely for signs of discomfort and listened to the steady beep of her heart monitor in the background. Occasionally her eyes opened groggily and he squeezed her shoulder, letting her know he was still there. He tried to shove away the intrusive memories of his own operating experience, with no one to rely on but the stoic, dispassionate faces of the prosthetic surgeons standing around him. He had only been a medical curiosity to them, a unique opportunity to see how much the human body could handle. Focus. She needs you to be here right now.
Minutes, seconds, hours. Jensen couldn’t say – it seemed to change from moment to moment. Finally they were taking her to a private post-operative room, her wound repaired and wrapped in a sterile dressing. He was thankful the doctors asked few questions – they seemed distracted. Everyone did. Finally, a nurse came to hang a second unit of blood and they were left alone in the minimally furnished hospital room. She wasn’t requiring oxygen anymore but still had leads for the cardiac monitor attached and a pulse oximeter taped to her ear. He sat on a chair along her right side and leaning onto the bed over the fall prevention railing to grasp her hand between his. Shutting his eyes, he pressed his lips against her fingers which were still pale and cool from shock and blood loss.
In the far corner of the room against the ceiling, a television was waiting to be turned on – a list of channels posted on the stand beside the bed. Adam glanced out between the privacy curtains and saw all the house staff – nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, lab techs – huddled around the nearest television screen. Curious, he reached for the remote and flipped it on, going from station to station. It wasn’t long before he realized Eliza was being featured on every channel, a message from earlier being played on a continuous loop.
“…in addition to manipulating the news through me, an artificial intelligence program, these individuals in the Illuminati were behind innumerable atrocities at facilities around the world. They were responsible for experiments on thousands of unwilling innocent human beings, all for the sake of technological progress, a faster computer, or more heinously, a deadly virus…”
As her calm voice spoke on, data supplied originally by Dr. Kavanaugh flashed onto the screen – including photographs of test subjects, audio recordings, and schematics regarding the Hyron project. Adam felt Freya stir beside him and turned back to her, a slight smile spreading across her face.
“You did it, Adam,” she whispered, still a little short of breath.
“We all did,” he reminded her, to which he caught a quiet chuckle in response.
“I suppose we did.”
“You’re terrible you know,” he scolded, his face serious again. “Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt? I told you to call me without hesitation.”
She looked away from him and back to Eliza’s message on the screen, avoiding meeting his keen, observant eyes. “Would you have finished the job if I had?”
“I…” he thought back to the control center, the men coming to disable his upload and interfere with Eliza’s data compilation. “No, but that’s not the point.”
She nodded silently, tightening her lips before turning back to him. “I know. But I don’t regret it.” As she looked into those swirling green-brown apertures, she squeezed his hand. Briefly she saw a flash of hurt cross through his face but it was quickly replaced with reluctant acceptance. Jensen sighed, She made it out alive, that’s what matters.
Simultaneously, they paused attentively – they were both receiving an incoming communication. It was Janus. “I see you have both made it safely away.”
“I presume you’ve seen the news?” asked Jensen, a note of triumph in his voice.
“Yes. It is still just the beginning. With all this revealed, there will likely be an even stronger backlash against the corporations and augmented individuals, but at least the world knows the truth. The Illuminati have been exposed, though certainly they are hard at work now trying to conceal their tracks and cast doubt on the broadcast,” Janus stated solemnly. He sounded like he had something he wanted to tell them. He didn’t keep them waiting long.
“I do not think you should remain with Juggernaut,” Janus said, voice filled with disappointment.
Jensen looked uneasily at Freya, who seemed surprised as well, though not opposed to the idea. “I didn’t think we would be able to go back to our regular lives,” she said unsurely.
“You cannot, however I do not believe Juggernaut is the right place for you. Our organization is greater than a single individual, Adam – your attachment to the people close to you will always cloud your judgment. It is no different than your previous obsession with rescuing Dr. Reed.”
Adam opened his mouth as if to protest, but he knew Janus was right. Freya nervously asked, “Then where should we go?”
“I have already spoken to one of my contacts at Interpol, who has reviewed both of your qualifications and is extremely interested in making your acquaintance. Dr. Kavanaugh is eager to join them as well, since that was what we originally promised.”
“What about Shivana,” asked Jensen, suddenly remembering he had last seen her back in the basement fending off armored security teams. That it hadn’t crossed his mind in the face of Freya’s tenuous predicament sealed his acceptance of Janus’ verdict.
“She is on her way to one of my other secure facilities with Dmitri where another Juggernaut cell is stationed. My acquaintance at Interpol will be arranging for Dr. Kavanaugh and both of you to join them when Freya is stable for transport. In the meantime, you’ll find yourselves well compensated for the part you played. I may call on you again in the future, but until that time, this is farewell.”
Adam and Freya were silent for a long time after they heard the final notification of Janus signing off from the infolink. The looping message from Eliza was still broadcasting in the background, interrupted by the occasional angry beep from Freya’s intravenous fluid device. After recovering from the initial confusion and disbelief, Freya sighed and turned off the TV, comming Jensen, “It’ll be nice to start fresh somewhere.”
“Yes, it will,” he answered warmly, a rare gleam of optimism in his resonant tone.