Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Twenty

In the past couple of hours Tobias Harley had made one mistake after another. He’d broken in to the interrogation room and made a very personal matter out of his and Eric Cooper’s personal time. The man would pay for killing Amy, and Tobias preferred his hands than anyone else’s. After losing an ear and a finger the traitor had admitted that the Resistance had had contact with the hostile alien race from the news vids who had given them the bioweapon they needed to topple the government on Atlas. He didn’t understand why they had thrown in with an alien race or what the Votheen hoped to gain from the partnership but after killing Eric, Tobias had forwarded this information on to the Senate. This was his second mistake. The planet had been quarantined to halt the spread of the virus and now Tobias was a wanted man for killing the only man who could have shed light on the matter. He escaped through a sewer line with Shane Dyer who the Senate Security personnel on the planet had requested be brought in also. Tobias felt the Senate had left Atlas to fend for itself and he could be forgiven for thinking it. The duo followed the system for as long as they could but eventually they were forced to street level. Tobias hoped that their civilian fatigues would make them more inconspicuous but that’d didn’t seem to matter to the rioters. The sunset finally submitted to the horizon long after it felt like it should have. Their journey could have been sped up by any of the number of vehicles abandoned on the major road ways but Tobias was well aware that would make them a huge target. Deciding to go on foot took them the best part of three hours, having dodged mass fights and shootouts, before they reached the business district.

Daniel Field, after a little research, was the CEO of a tech company named Alenda Technologies, although he was under a false name. Tobias intended to break into their headquarters to hopefully uncover some evidence which would explain the alien partnership and maybe a vaccine for Shade. Eric hadn’t said the Votheen had handed it over yet but if it was going to be anywhere on the planet it was going to be at Alenda. He hoped if he came back with something he could clear his name. Eric was a dead-end fanatic and evidently low down in the pecking order so following his leads seemed pointless. The pair walked down the street as the large multi-story building loomed at the end of the row. Neither looked to it obviously, acutely aware that they could be being watched. A warning shot suddenly struck the concrete inches from Shane’s right leg which caused him to stumble and fall. Before he could get back up again to dust himself down two heavies appeared from behind a parked truck. “You two are in the wrong place,” the balaclava warned as he gestured his rifle that would have been useless at such close range.

“We’re just trying to find someplace safe.” Tobias quivered in his best impersonation of a scared civilian that would have warranted an arts award of some description had he chosen said career.

“Still not found the place,” the balaclava mumbled which got a dumb snigger from his equally dressed companion. Tobias and Shane did a double take and stepped into a side street just out of the guard’s line of sight. Shane pushed his thick framed glasses up his nose and peered around the corner to try and eyeball more sentries. “I think the resistance is closing up shop,” Shane said as he came back to the safety of the dank side street. “Two guards on the roof, our friends by the truck and a whole fucking army in the lobby.” Tobias let out a huge sigh, they’d come so far and didn’t have the good fortune to be able to turn back. The only option was onwards and upwards. The thought hit him in the face as he rushed to the alley’s entrance once more sizing up the possibility. He came back, a smile occupying his face. “I have a plan.” He then proceeded to explain how the second story window had been blown out, the cause of it lay in an unfortunate bloody pile in the street below. The makeshift entrance was close enough to a neighbouring building so they might be able to bridge the gap. Tobias led the way climbing the fire escape in the alley, up the side of the building that he guessed was a downtown apartment block. He was startled when a woman bolted out of one of the windows in nothing more than knickers and a borrowed jumper. She squealed when she saw him and pushed past in a hurry. He guessed she was fleeing the social collapse within but she hadn’t exactly emerged into an outside world that was any better. Shane made a joke about Tobias’s appeal to women but he was too focussed to hear what it was. He did hear her scream however seconds before a gunshot sounded in the street beyond. Tobias wondered which of the truck attendants had ended her life and whether they cared. Tobias reached the building’s sill and allowed his head to crest to the empty air above, long enough to survey for any danger. They were in luck, they were higher than the target building so above all the sentries. People didn’t tend to take the time to look up so Tobias scampered onto the roof and made his way to the next building which was five foot below, long before Shane had even gotten to the top of the fire escape. The next couple of buildings lowered in increments each more daring than the last until eventually Tobias and Shane were just one floor above the shattered window. Making sure the sentries weren’t looking Tobias crept to the edge and began to climb down, gripping for grim death on the face of the building he had been stood on. He positioned his boots and forced off so hard his knees cracked which hampered the corkscrew he had begun. He made it into the building but landed heavily on the landing of a stairway that seemed to span the height of the headquarters. He listened intently but was pretty sure that no one had heard his clumsy entrance over the blood curdling screams and gunfire. He rolled over and nursed his hands which were full of shards of glass as Shane landed more gracefully. Tobias limped to the doorway that led to the current floor and just opened the door ever so slightly to gauge the situation, it was grim. Office cubicles were tipped upside down and bodies broke up the empty spaces between blood pools, paperwork and spent shells. “Must be worse than we thought if they are killing their own,” whispered Tobias as he let it creep shut.

The duo made its way upward assuming that it was the most likely place for a CEO’s office. They kept away from the centre and avoided the temptation to look up as a flashlight whizzed by every so often. Tobias hoped it was more out of caution than alarm. “Level 5 clear, advancing to Level 6. Start the truck, we’ll be out of here in five,” spoke the light source’s owner as Shane held back. Tobias stalked the member of the purge team until he was hindered by another group on the landing of floor five. A guard stood watch as his colleague butchered staff on the floor beyond. Tobias waited for the better part of two minutes before the watchman moved onto the landing to light a cigar. As he came close Tobias pounced from the shadows but didn’t catch him with his knife how he would have liked. It sunk into the man’s shoulder and not his neck which caused the man to lash out striking Tobias on the side of the head with his elbow. Before he could recover the man with the knife sticking out of his neck forced Tobias against the far wall and landed a couple of rib punches before Tobias could send the butcher stumbling with a kick to the groin. The man steadied himself on the railing but Tobias rushed him and sent him up and over, down the centre shaft of the stairway. The gunfire drowned out the sound of the bone crunching. He eventually came to a rest on the banister of Level 2 with a broken spine, Tobias assumed it must have been considerably loud. He didn't wait to see if he’d alerted anyone, he just bounded up the last flight until he reached the final landing which was home to a heavily fortified door. One man, Tobias guessed the one he’d initially followed and the owner of the torch, stood over another who was tinkering with the wires of a removed command console. Wires of various denominations coiled haphazardly outwards, Tobias was thankful that they were here to do the donkey work. He’d never have gotten a door like that open even if he’d been given all the time and freedom he needed. “Bingo!” shouted the man with the soldering iron as the door began to part. What happened next Tobias wasn’t sure of at first but as hot air struck his face which was soon followed by a peppering of small hard debris he soon pieced it together. When he opened his eyes again he was on the landing below, squashed against the glass that thankfully hadn’t buckled. Flaming shrapnel was still raining down from the level above. He struggled to stand and climb the stairs back to where he had been moments before. Shane lay upside down dangling between the banister, the console’s sheet metal cover in his temple. Tobias began to cry, out of the close-knit team he had established himself in over the years he was now the only survivor. It had taken less than twenty-four hours for his family to be wiped out and he was going to be the one to make their sacrifice worth it. He forced his way into the office which was rapidly being eaten up by the fire that had spread from the booby trap explosion. Tobias was determined not to lose evidence. He reached the desk and although the terminal was scarred and dirty it booted up first time and Tobias was incredibly puzzled to find that the document he sought was so accessible and aptly named. HERE.doc was on the desktop, it was like Daniel Field had wanted him to find it. He didn’t have time to question it as footsteps grew louder by the second. In a moment of madness he removed the data and played dead amongst the rubble. He didn’t expect it to work.


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