Alan Midnight, Matrix Investigator

Alan Midnight, Matrix Investigator in:


The Jamison Door


Chapter 4

Alan flagged down an Autotaxi, stepping away from the curb as it pulled alongside him. Before the taxi could completely stop, however, a second vehicle pulled up behind it, slamming into the taxi's back bumper just hard enough to shove it back into traffic.

Two men jumped out of the vehicle, grabbing Alan's arms as they pulled him towards the car. Instincts took over for half a second, and Alan struggled to break free, but then he relaxed. The man on his left patted him down, took his shotgun, then made a more extensive search of his trenchcoat. He found nothing but Rachel's cyberdeck, which he left where it was, hanging from Alan's belt.

One of the men got into the car, the other holding Alan's arm. He was then forced through the open door into the limo. The man on his left told his boss, "He doesn't have the disk on him," then squeezed in to sit down next to Alan.

The limo was expensively furnished, upholstered in leather and faux wood, a large electronic control console on the passenger side. Behind that control center sat a large, fairly overweight man in a white suit. He watched Alan carefully, as his henchmen settled in to the detective's right and left. The man to Alan's left shut the door, and the fat man waved his driver back into traffic.

"Take the Skyway," the fat man said. His driver nodded, and the limo raced along the street until it reached a designated Z-Translation Zone. The limo then drifted upward, merging with the other traffic entering the Skyway as it followed the invisible corridors traced through the air by the city's traffic control system.

"Now, then, Mr. Midnight, I hope you don't mind if I keep your AI out of this conversation. . ." The fat man tapped a key on his console, and Rachel gave a short squeak as her audio interface was deactivated.

"'The Boss', I presume," Alan said. "I take it you're looking for something. . ."

"A computer disk, Mr. Midnight. Nothing that you would be find interesting. As you have probably already guessed, Morgan Excess has . . .well. . .a silent partner, yours truly. One of the disks from one of my interests got accidently released to Morgan."

Alan was silent. "There's nothing on the disk that you would be interested in, Mr. Midnight. It is the sort of thing that I would not. . .that I would prefer not to have fall into the hands of Setex Security. But nothing that I could be arrested for."

"Oh?" Alan scratched his chin. "Interesting. It just so happens that I had a little scan run on that disk. There doesn't seem to be anything on it at all. . ."

"As I said. Nothing that you would be interested in."

"But nothing that you would be interested in getting back," Alan countered. "No inventories, no financial reports, no records showing that Morgan Excess is a front for the Underground. . ."

The fat man smiled. "Maybe my men erased it better than I thought. Good help is so hard to find these days. And my men know so little about cybertech."

"Not so much that they could erase a disk, leaving no trace of its previous format. So perhaps you tell me what this data is that's so important to you."

The Boss's smile faded. "Get this straight, Midnight. You're messing in things you don't understand. Give me the disk, and maybe, just maybe you'll come out of this with your skin intact."

For just a moment, a red dot flashed on Alan's Heads Up Display. A signal from Rachel. But he needed a little more information. "No, I do understand, Boss man. I understand a lot of things. Cybertech legends, for instance. The Jamison Door? I know a lot of things."

There was a short silence. "You overheard that. Or rather, your AI did. Rachel, isn't it?" He leaned back. "That Frankie. . .can't keep his mouth shut. As I said, good help is so hard to find."

"Maybe I know a lot more than you think I do," Alan said.

"No." The fat man smiled again, pointing at Alan. "You, you're a smart one, and you got lucky. But you don't know anything. 'The Jamison Door' is just a phrase you overheard."

"What if it's not?" Out of the corner of his eye, Alan saw another car pull alongside them, going the same direction, in the Skyway lane adjacent to theirs.

"It doesn't make any difference, either way." The Boss nodded to his henchman, and he pulled out his pistol, pointing it at Alan's neck. "If you don't have the disk, and you aren't going to give it to us, then we have no further use for you."

Now Alan thought. Suddenly, the Boss's console lit up, warning lights flashing madly across its surface. The doors of the vehicle flew open, the normal safety override reduced to an audible alarm, which was redundant, as the roar of the wind racing past outside the vehicle made it obvious what was going on.

The limo tipped up onto its side, and Alan reached into the coat of the man next to him, retrieving his shotgun just in time. The henchman dropped away from him, flailing his arms in a wild attempt to stop himself, as he tumbled out of the car. Alan managed to brace himself against the doorframe, stopping his own fall, as he watched the man plunge into the clouds below. Alan was thrown back into the seat, as the vehicle righted itself.

Alan leaped out the door, his HUD automatically pointing out grappling points on the adjacent car, as he sailed through the air towards it. His arm instinctively grabbed at one of those points, his body trained to react to the suggestions of his Awareness Module by years of experience. Alan scrambled onto the top of the car, sliding around to the driver's side. The window was down.

"Matrix Security!" Alan commanded, "Land this vehicle now!"

"Like hell!" the driver started to protest. But then the Boss and his henchmen opened fire. The car dropped out of the Skyway, and Alan renewed his grip on the vehicle, as it threatened to jerk out of his hands. Within moments, the car had left its pursuers behind in the smoggy clouds over the city of Setex.

Alan slowly made his way from crate to crate, examining the identifying tag on each carefully. The numbers did not seem to go in any set order, although this was clearly the right section of the warehouse.

"Rachel. . .any chance you could tap into the video system and find that crate for me?"

"Sorry, Alan," came the voice from under his coat. "There are no cameras in here. Their security is pretty bad. At least when you do find it, I will be able to tell you exactly which box inside is the one we're looking for."

Alan looked around at the warehouse. "You wouldn't think people would use these many disks."

"You'd be suprised. Even so, most of these crates contain other equipment, cables, holoports, that sort of thing."

Alan paused at another crate. Still not the right one. He moved on down the row, gliding through the shadows. The warehouse was abandoned at this time of night, which of course was all the better for him. His awareness module was in night mode, which cast a strange sort of glow over everything, as it amplified the ambient light coming into the building through the high windows.

Thus, when a movement from near one of the windows made the light shift slightly, Alan noticed it. As he turned to look up at the windows, a shot rang out. Automatically, Alan's awareness module forced his body to jerk to one side. A bullet whizzed past his ear, and then Alan, off balance, fell to the ground.

Alan rolled as his hearing picked up the sound of a rifle being cocked. He ducked behind one of the crates, crouching low. Another shot rang out, and the bullet struck the edge of the crate. Alan pulled his shotgun out from under his trenchcoat, and held it at the ready. Then he darted out into the corridor formed by the lines of crates.

Alan kept his shotgun tucked under his body as he ran, keeping his head low, but turned toward the source of the shots. The sniper fired again, and again Alan's awareness module took over, forcing his body into a tight roll. But as the bullet came at him, it left a bright, red line of light behind it.

Alan made it behind the cover of another crate, and glanced back in the direction of the gunshots. Again, Alan's neck jecked back, almost before he heard the sound of the shot, and the bullet missed him by mere inches. The second path, though, was traced by a red line, exactly like the first.

Keeping low, Alan crept along behind the crate. When he reached the edge, he paused a moment, and then tossed his shotgun in an arc towards the next row of crates. Again, a shot rang out, and again, its path was marked by the line of red.

Alan darted across the concrete floor, as the sniper cocked his rifle. He had a moment to retrace the red lines and found that they intersected, at a point in the shadows near the roof. A targeting reticle locked in on that spot, and then a small window appeared in the corner of his vision. In the window, his view zoomed in on the rifleman, standing on a metal catwalk. He was bringing the weapon back up again.

This time Alan beat his awareness module, rolling behind the crate even as the sniper fired. Okay, now he had his position. All he had to do was get up there without getting shot.

Alan worked his way back, away from the shooter, following the line of crates. The short time it took him to duck from one crate to the next didn't give the man enough time to fire. But as Alan came around one crate, and dropped to the ground behind it, he saw another man running towards him, along the row.

Alan started to raise his shotgun, but then thought better of it. The other man was drawing his gun, however, so Alan quickly darted around the back of the crate. He spared a glance back at the sniper. His awareness module quickly flashed a trajectory analysis to his spot, revealing that he had a small area to that side of the crate in which he would be safe.

As the man neared, Alan leaped out into the open and grappled with him. He was a fairly big man, but Alan was more interested in using him as a shield. He cracked the man over the head with his shotgun, and then darted behind another crate further back. Another shot rang out, and the bullet impacted on the concrete.

Alan spared a glance while he reloaded. Sure enough, the sniper had moved. Probably guessed that Alan had a tracer module. The reticle slid sideways, the zoom window panning, as his module relocated the target. He would have to take the sniper out fast, he was the more immediate threat.

The big thug, however, came around the end of the row. He charged at Alan, holding his pistol high. Alan came up with the head of the shotgun in the man's ribs, and then fired. He caught the pistol as it fell out of the dead man's hand.

Alan turned to the sniper, his HUD already calculating the trajectory as he raised the pistol. It would be an arcing shot, high into the air, as the pistol didn't have enough power to send a bullet that far in a straight line. Alan let his Awareness Module take over, letting his instincts guide his arm, and fired.

At the exact same time, he glanced at the zoom window that had appeared in his view. He could see the man clearly, raising the rifle, his hand on the trigger. The sniper was now aiming at his chest, not his head. Damn.

The sniper fired. Alan's body jerked, but not far enough. The bullet struck him in the side, right between two of his ribs. The detective drew in his breath, grimacing, as he dropped back down behind the crate. But then there was a cry of pain, and a thump from the direction of the catwalk.

"Gotcha!" Alan hissed. Putting a hand around his side, he reclaimed his shotgun, and then slipped back into the shadows.

He continued down the row of crates, stopping at each to look around the corner, his shotgun out to cover the area. His hearing was already sharpening, as silence fell over the warehouse, and he was beginning to pick out voices.

"Get that crate open," one was saying. There was the sound of wood cracking. Alan winced, putting a hand to his side, but then he heard a quiet footstep from nearby. He stepped back into the shadows of one of the crates, and waited, as another of the mobsters stepped around the corner, and knelt next to his fallen comrade.

As Alan readied his shotgun, however, the man noticed the few drops of Alan's blood that had landed on the concrete near him. He drew his gun, stepping back to the safety of the line of crates. Alan swore to himself, then gritted his teeth at another flash of pain from his side. He was starting to feel light headed.

Alan slipped quietly around the back of the crate. Leaning against it, he popped his shotgun open, and shoved another shell into place, next to the one he hadn't yet fired. Flipping the gun back shut, he darted forward, ducking behind another crate.

His Awareness Module was picking up the sounds of the man's footsteps, and a spot of red told Alan where he was. He was moving slowly, using the crates as cover. Alan didn't think that he had enhanced senses, as well, but it would still be difficult to take him by suprise.

As Alan crouched, however, waiting for his chance, there was a shout from behind him. He turned to see another of the thugs charging from between two of the crates, a few feet away.

The man had metal plating over his fist, and Alan's module shot him an image of the power implants embedded in the man's muscles. The red image, superimposed over his vision, flashed for a few moments while a readout gave him the characteristics of the implants. Then they faded. The implant gave him a feint warning, indicating that the more dangerous looking gauntlet was being brought up as a distraction, and the real attack would come from his other arm.

Alan sidestepped the attack, bringing his shotgun up to point at the man's ribcage. He reacted impossibly fast, however, bringing his gauntleted hand up to block the shot, even as he fired. The big man's hand shoved the shotgun off to the left, and the rest of the shot went into one of the crates. Then the thug backhanded Alan with the same hand, his metal fist smashing into Alan's Awareness Module.

Alan's Heads Up Display flickered as the gangster's blow damaged the delicate circuitry. He dropped back, shaking his head, as the display came back up. The thug also crouched, readying for another attack.

A flash of red alerted Alan to the other thug, which stepped from the cover of the crates to begin firing at him. Alan leaped backwards, and the other thug came at him. Alan ducked under his swing, but before he could raise his shotgun to fire, he had already circled around him. Alan brought the gun up, using it to block another swing. The impact knocked the antique weapon out of his hand.

Alan's vision flickered again. It came back up just in time to warn him of another feint, and Alan took advantage of the opening, turning to catch the man under the shoulder, and propel him into the crates. Then he leaped back, ducking for the cover of the crates, even as the other man fired at him. The bullet caught him in the leg, and Alan fell, rolling as he hit the concrete.

The Heads Up Display went dead. Alan knocked against his module with the heel of his hand, trying to get it to come back up. The two thugs, coming from around behind the back of the crates, laughed. "Hey, lookit!" one of them said. "We don' haf ta beat him up, he's doin' it for us!"

The display stubbornly refused to come back up. Alan slapped it a few more times. He glanced over to where his shotgun had fallen, a few feet away. It might as well be a few miles away.

The thug with the implants kicked him, right in his already wounded side. Alan grunted from the pain, putting an arm around himself as he tried to reclaim his breath. Then he pulled the pistol from where he had hidden it under his trenchcoat, and shot the bigger thug right in the head.

Alan brought the pistol around to aim at the other gunman, but he kicked the weapon out of Alan's hand. "Son of a bitch!" He hissed. He leveled his gun at Alan's head.

The Heads Up Display flickered, just as the gun fired. Alan's head jerked to one side, and the shot glanced off of his module, shattering the concrete. He swept his leg under the other man's foot, and brought him down. Then he scrambled to his hands and knees, grabbed his shotgun, and darted back into the cover of the crates.

There was suddenly the sound of sirens outside, and several cars smashed through the doors into the warehouse. Gunfire started up from the far end of the building. Alan gritted his teeth, holding tightly to his side. His Awareness Module flickered one more time, and then went dead, for good this time.

Even without his enhanced hearing, Alan could make out the Boss's shout. "We've got what we came for! Forget the detective, let's get out of here!" Alan held on tightly to the shotgun, breathing heavily. His vision was starting to fade, and that was from his good eye. He shook his head to clear it, just in case the henchman didn't obey his leader.

There was the sound of vehicles, outside the warehouse, and another crash. Then the mobsters made their escape. Alan could hear some of the police vehicles turning around and chasing after them. Then his hearing failed him, and everything went black.

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