Alan Midnight, Matrix Investigator in:
The Jamison Door
"You are in no condition to leave, Mr. Midnight," the nurse told him.
Alan scowled. "Right... so I should just lay about here so the Underground can get a shot at me? I don't think so."
Alan hissed, grimacing a little as he slipped his shirt over the bandage on his side. But then he reached out and grabbed his trench coat, putting it on carefully, if quickly.
Jack walked into the hospital room. "Here's the stuff you wanted." He handed Alan a bag.
Alan walked into the bathroom, setting the bag down on the counter next to him, as he looked into the mirror. He put a hand to his face, then fished around in the sack and pulled out a screwdriver. He started to remove the metal plate that made up the right half of his face, taking out a couple of screws down along the line of his upper jaw.
"Mr. Midnight!" The nurse followed him into the bathroom. "You shouldn't even be up with that wound! You could open it up, get it infected!"
"I've had worse," the tall detective growled.
"I can keep an eye on him," Rachel added. "But at the office, not here. He's a sitting duck here."
"And he would be better off in his office?" Chief Parker put in. "I've got men posted outside the door, Midnight," the Admin told him. "Whether they're posted here or at your office makes no difference. Nobody gets past Setex Security."
Alan snorted. He lifted the panel away from his face, revealing a framework of steel underneath. Modules of plastic, metal, and glass were plugged into various locations in that framework. Alan put his hand to the circular glass lens of his right eye, and worked it loose, then pulled it out of his head. He then reached into the bag and replaced it with a duplicate.
"If Alan stays here, the Underground will know that he's hurt. He'll be too tempting a target for them. The longer he stays here, the more of a threat it is. And to your other patients, as well..."
"Miss Rachel," the nurse said, "You shouldn't even be here. These holographic emitters are for medical use only. Guests are not allowed to use them. If you hadn't broken into our system..."
"My place is at Alan's side," Rachel said. "If you want me gone, fine. Let Alan check out, and I'll leave with him..."
"I'd rather have you here, where I can keep an eye on you," the Admin said.
Alan fitted the last replacement module into place, and pressed firmly on it with his fingertips. Then, as he began to replace the protective panel, he spoke to the Security Chief.
"Parker, you saved my life, and for that I'm grateful. But the Underground wants me dead, and long as that's the case then I've got to be out there hunting them. Not locked up in this hospital, not in my office, but out there, on the street."
"You still haven't told me what this is all about, Midnight," Parker said.
"The stuff that dreams are made of..." Alan muttered.
Alan turned away from the mirror. "Nothing. It's best you don't know, Parker. Even I don't really know what's going on, and I've got half the Underground out to kill me. When I do know something, I'll let you know."
"You feelin' up to it, Alan?" Jack asked. He was leaning against the doorway, not really involved in the conversation, just watching.
Alan opened his coat, and lifted his shirt slightly to check the bandage. "I've been shot before, and chances are I'll be shot again. This isn't even enough to slow me down."
The nurse scowled at him, then put her hand to his chin, studying his face. "Have you considered having that covered with synth-skin? We could take care of that..."
Alan pulled her hand away, not forcefully, but firmly. "I don't need any synth-skin." He picked up the sack on the counter, holding it up for the nurse to see. "In my line of work I need to be able to make repairs on the run..."
"And speaking of which, I'm out of here..." Alan walked to the door, over the protests of both the nurse and Chief Parker. But then Rachel interrupted the both of them.
"Alan! I've got intruders near the emergency entrance!"
Rachel's warning was echoed by Parker's deckphone, which beeped an alert. He picked it up and spoke into it.
"Five armed men just forced their way past the guards I posted downstairs."
"They're on their way to the elevators," Rachel added. "Section 1-G."
Parker repeated Rachel's information into the phone. "Rache, can you break into the system and shut down the elevators?" Alan asked.
"I'm on it!" Rachel whirled, dissolving into a cloud of particles, which vanished.
"You'll need this..." Jack said, handing Alan his shotgun.
"You stay here, Midnight," Parker warned. "I'll handle this."
"I doubt you'll be able to talk to Rache without me," Alan told him with a smile. "And you'll find her help invaluable in tracking the hit men..."
Parker frowned. "Okay, you're with me. Napier, you stay here." He opened the door, charging out into the hall, past the two guards he had posted on the room. Alan followed.
They wound around through the corridors of the hospital, meeting two more guards at an intersection. Parker told his men to follow, and charged on past them. Finally, the group stopped at the elevators. Parker and his men drew their guns, pointing them at the doors, but Rachel's voice came from Alan's deck.
"They've left the elevators," she said, "Two floors below. I'm trying to break into the camera system and track them, but I think they're headed for the second bank of elevators in section F."
Parker muttered a curse under his breath and holstered his pistol. Then he took off running back the way he came. "I hope your AI knows what she's talking about," he said as Alan caught up with him.
Alan said nothing. A map of the hospital had appeared on his Heads Up Display, showing their location as a flashing light. When Parker hesitated at an intersection, Alan took the lead.
"What's this... A bot in the system? It's trying to keep me out of the cameras..."
"I am, Alan," Rachel said, with just a hint of annoyance in her voice. "Got it. Heh. They're backtracking. Heading back the way they came. They must have figured out that we were tracking them."
Alan and the others turned around. The Heads Up Display now showed Alan the position of the men on the floor below them, as well as their own location. Parker was looking at his handheld deck, apparently he had brought up a map of his own.
They ran back down the passageways, retracing their steps for the third time. "They're re-entering the elevators." Rachel paused a moment. "I'm shutting down the system now."
There was a sound of motors dying down ahead of them, and then they ran out into the elevator lobby. Alan headed immediately for the stairs, Parker and his men right behind them. "They're trapped one floor down," Rachel said. "I think they're trying to pry the doors open, you may be in for a firefight."
"Got it." Alan drew his shotgun as he reached the stairway landing, and threw open the door to the elevator lobby. He peeked around the corner long enough to see that the coast was clear, the gunmen had not yet managed to get the door open.
"There are four of them," Rachel said. "All armed with automatic pistols."
Parker drew up beside him. "See that table?" he asked Alan, pointing at it. Alan nodded. He gestured his other two men to take up position behind another table. Then the four of them ran out into the room. Alan and Parker flipped their table up on its side, dropping down behind its cover, while Parker's officers did the same thing.
"Setex Security!" Parker called out, as he leveled his gun at the elevator doors. "Drop your weapons!"
A spray of gunfire provided their answer. Parker and his men opened fire, driving the men away from the doors. Their gunfire stopped, and then Parker and the two policemen stopped firing, too. Parker gestured at one of his men, and he pulled a grenade from his belt. Crouching low, he darted forward, and tossed the object between the doors.
The officer dived back under cover as the gangsters started shooting again. But there was a muffled pop, and then gas began to billow out of the elevator. The thugs began to cough, and then they threw their weapons out into the lobby. "Don't shoot! We give up!"
Parker stood. "Get 'em out of there." His men quickly ran forward and rounded up the four men. As Alan stood up, Rachel materialized next to him. She hesitated a moment, opening her mouth, but then closing it again. "What?" Alan asked her.
Rachel bit her lip. She seemed to be struggling to put something into words. "I'm... I'm not sure. There's a... sort of checksum error, in the hospital's security camera process."
"Run a process table."
"I'll have to crack root to do that."
"Do it," Alan said, raising a hand to stop Parker's protest. There was a short pause, and then Rachel's huge eyes grew narrow.
"There's a discrepancy in the CPU usage... There's a hidden program running!"
Rachel nodded. "I think..." Her eyes widened, and then she disintegrated. "It's on me, Alan! I'll have to fight it!"
"Take it down, Rache." Alan drew his shotgun, his eyes flashing with anger as he charged back towards the door to the stairway. "Come on, Parker!"
"What the..." Parker followed, but he didn't look happy. "You mind lettin' me in on the joke, Midnight?"
"This was just a distraction, Parker." Alan was almost snarling. "And we fell for it. There were five men that forced past your guards, remember? But only four in the elevator. While these guys have been keeping us busy, the fifth man logged onto the computer system and uploaded an AI."
"The damn bot Rachel spotted was just to cover the AI's tracks, while it shut down the security cams. With you and the boys in blue busy chasing after these four stooges, the real team could just walk in unnoticed, sneak into my room, and grab me."
He shoved out the door and back into the corridors of the floor they had left, retracing their steps back the way they came. In minutes he had made it back to the room. Just ahead he could see a handful of Underground goons, dragging Jack along behind them. He was trying to struggle free, but they were holding him too tightly.
"Freeze, punks!" Alan yelled, leveling his shotgun at the fleeing thugs. "Let Napier go, now!"
"You won't fire and hurt your friend, Midnight," the leader of the four men countered. "And if you follow us, I'll put a bullet in his brain myself." He held up his own pistol, then ducked around the corner, following his men.
Alan ran down the hall. Parker paused a moment to check his two men. They were lying on the floor, both dead. Brandishing his pistol, Parker followed the lanky detective. They both turned the corner, just in time to see the last of the gangsters duck into the door to the stairway.
"Rachel! Rachel!" There was no answer from Alan's deck, but Parker pulled out his. "All teams, to the street entrance in section 14-E. Hostage situation, repeat, hostage situation. Officers are down, use extreme caution."
Alan hurried down the stairs, the Security Chief keeping pace with him. "Sorry about your men, Admin, but I have to say I told you so. If I hadn't been holed up in here..."
"They'd probably have plugged you at the office," Parker growled. "And you'd be a load off my back."
He frowned. "... But I'd still have lost two men." Parker was silent for a moment. "Napier's my responsibility, Midnight, don't get in my way..."
"And Napier's my friend. Don't you get in my way..."
"Listen, Midnight, I don't need your vigilante tactics endangering my officers..."
"And I don't need your heavy-handed 'security' endangering my friends!"
Parker glared at Alan, angry, but then he shook his head. "I don't have time for this..." He took the lead as they burst out of the stairwell, and into the sunlight. Unfortunately, the gangsters had a car ready, and they roared off into the distance before either Alan or Parker could get off a shot.
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