Short Story: Break Out

Panther crouched at the edge of a rise overlooking a large military compound. The place was little more than a sea of tents and heavy vehicles with a lone modular building slapped together at its center. The tents encompassed it on all sides, as if some god-like shrine and they its prostrating disciples. It made her sick to look at; so many were force-fed corporate lies and thanked them for it.

Panther’s optical augments shifted the contrast of the images flowing through her eyes to highlight the compound’s details. Patrols of two trudged along the three, nearest perimeters that formed one half of an overall fence-line. Panther’s heads-up-display highlighted the patrolling guards in opaque red, analyzing each one with minute text-windows of everything from height and weight to their ever-changing trajectory.

Across the wet-gleam of the asphalt grounds, more patrols made perpendicular paths through the tents winding to form a shifting, full-coverage net across the compound. The HUD recorded the paths with faint, red lines overlaid on the terrain. Overhead, drones filled the gaps between patrols with optical sensors and a near-silent whir of electric props. Their dual 10mm cannons sat on standby, ready to spin up and litter soft targets with hell-fire.

The drones would be the easiest part. They were stupid, guided by subroutines and out of combat mode until operators or officers designated otherwise. People were more difficult. Apart from the patrols, Panther knew, a few hundred soldiers were hidden in the tents between her and the modular building. It didn’t change the fact that she had to make it to the building. Ion was waiting, probably under duress, and no doubt weak from torture. Getting out would be hardest, but if forced to stay, Ion would be dead before sun-up.

She and Nix had been caught in a fire-fight while trying to liberate some refugee supplies held hostage by the military. They wanted anyone not touting the corporate line turned in. For refugees coming from a corp war-zone, that was just about everyone; brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. It wasn’t going to happen. The military knew that, decided to starve the refugees out. Panther and the others had more humane ideas, and sent Nix and Ion to retrieve the supplies while they created a distraction.

Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned– actually, they went completely fucking sideways. The end result was Nix dead and Ion in the hands of the military, receiving the same treatment refugee-dissenters would. Now Panther had no choice but to go in, get her sister, and hope they both got out alive. The alternative was certain torture and a public execution to make an example out of any “resistance.”

With all of the information gathered to her HUD, Panther slipped down the hill-side for the compound’s barriers. Invisible laser-fences had posts every twenty or so feet and were spaced evenly enough that getting to one would be easy. Panther reached one, pried open a few of the sensor-control panels, and began fiddling with the wires. Beside her, the invisible lasers were green on her HUD, crisscrossed and formed like chain-link, but unscalable without the right augs.

She didn’t have the augs required for jumping the fence– nor the more upscale ones that allowed one to walk-straight through without setting them off. She did have razor-sharp, carbon-fiber nails though, and an augged hand willing to use them to strip and splice wires. She shorted the connection on a power distributor, knowing no-one would notice the breach before she was long gone. The fence itself wouldn’t read the failed parts, and only a visual inspection with the right eyes or visor-settings would reveal the sabotage. She slipped past for the shadows of a tent’s rear-sheet. Sounds of a couple of soldiers fuck-grunting emitted from within.

“Great,” Panther thought. “More meat for the grinder– might as well fuck and get it over with now, take advantage of that corp health-plan before it’s gone.”

She followed inactive, red-lines on her HUD toward the front of the compound. Voices of laughter or low conversations marked the sides of each tent as she dodged and weaved to stay hidden. By the time she reached the last set of tents, her heart was racing. Neuro-transmitters were flooding her body with adrenaline, making it hard to think. A mental activation of endorphins and serotonin slowed her heart to a crawl, her mind and body now completely at-ease with the task at hand.

She glanced along the line of tents, then hurried for the door of the modular building. There’d no doubt be surveillance inside– security, drones, all manner of things to contend with. She was ready. It was now or never. Feline agility sped her body into the building. Micro-speakers implanted in her augged arm emitted inaudible, digital noise, jamming audio and visual equipment. Two guards were startled to their feet at her entrance.

A subsonic pistol in Panther’s left-hand dropped one. A razor-sharp sword in her right, cut the other guard’s throat. Her body followed through. Alarms began to scream. Guards poured in from various corridors. The click of the subsonic pistol accented metallic slicing as she moved like a ballerina, painting abstracts of blood and brain matter across the room.

She pirouetted, grande jete, a bladed boot slicing flesh as her arm made plunging motions and the pistol kept time. She came to a stop at the far-side of the entryway, blade wet and pistol empty. Bodies fell this way and that, creating water-falls of blood through the grated floor.

She didn’t need to survey to carnage to know it was total. Her left hand worked to drop a mag, and slap in a new one. A moment later she speed-walked through a door, body stiff, determined. A few men and women turned, one-by-one. The click of the pistol laid each of them out.

The room was filled with invisible barrier-fences, like the perimeter’s, to contain the various prisoners. The room was empty, save a lone, huddled figure in a corner cell. The poor creature rocked back and forth on his haunches, completely unresponsive to Panther’s approach. She ignored it; Ion didn’t need to do anything more than continue breathing, she’d do the rest.

She punched her way into the barrier’s control panel, shredding faux-skin off her metallic hand, then gripped a handful of wire. Sparks rained from the panel with a whiff of smoke. Panther ignored it, hurried to lift her sister off the floor. Ion’s eyes were glazed over, her face bruised and bloody. She stared vacantly, too drugged and traumatized to comprehend the situation. She opened her mouth to speak, revealed a missing tooth and a few, chipped others.

“Don’t. I’m getting you out.”

She timed her exfil carefully; made it back out the building’s door before anyone knew what had happened inside. Her HUD warned of impending patrols, allowed her to duck back and narrowly avoid a pair of men crossing her path. Moments later, the two were at the downed fence-line. A pair of soldiers examined the pole there, evidently aware it’d been breached.

“Can you walk?” Panther whispered.

Ion gave a noncommittal shrug, found her feet. Two clicks splattered blood across helmet-visors and asphalt. The pair hurried through, Ion limp-sprinting on pure adrenaline. Neither of the sisters was sure how she made it up the hill. At its crest, she fell stumbled, fell, slid the rest of the way down.

A black van waited beside the hill’s terminus, its doors open on familiar faces that forced Ion to tear up. She fell into the arms of Nix’s brother, as Panther hopped in. The doors shut and the van’s electric engine gave a silent start, compelled it forward over the crunch of small twigs and gravel.

In the front seat, Panther’s ex-boyfriend and second in command, Delta, glanced over; “Everything alright?”

“Five-by-Five,” she said with a hint of scorn. “No-one’s going to take my sister from me.”

“Sibling love. Almost as powerful as sibling rivalry.” He glanced over again, “Just not as, you know, bloody.”

She thought of the bodies, “Depends on the siblings.”

Delta gave a laugh and drove on through the darkness.

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