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Chapter 13

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<Come get some loving. No Credits Needed. Billed to your Comm Link….. HOT FUN….ALL NIGHT LONG……. BAD 'BOTS BONANZA….>

Isla couldn’t help but laugh as all of the screens filled with adult web-sites and online porno advertisements. She beamed at Ger as the guards dropped her at the terminal. Nice move, Ger. Jericho tore off her headset, glaring at Ger who smiled widely at the furious cyber-anarchist.

‘Gotcha,’ he croaked as he forced himself to stare Jericho down. Jumping down from her console, Jericho and the guards descended on Ger. Isla fumbled Ger’s comm-link out of her jacket and glanced at the screen.

<Transmit Location> flashed on Ger’s unit underneath the bold Jericho hotline banner.

Isla stabbed the SEND button and stuffed the communicator back into her pocket. She bounced out of her seat.  Targeting the first guard as she leapt into the air, wrapping her arms and legs around the burly guard.

‘Leave him alone,’ Isla screamed as she wrestled with the security man. Jericho dipped down and pulled Ger’s VPN drive out of his computer bringing an end to the porn bomb cavalcade that dominated all of the screens.

‘Dat be very childish, mon. What you tink you gonna accomplish with a stunt like dat?’

Ger shrugged, his eyes flashing to Isla. Concern etched across his straining face.

‘Don’t hurt her.’

Jericho shrugged, turning to Isla, pinching her ear in a quick flick of her wrist as she dragged Isla off the hapless guard.

Isla fell, under the iron grasp of Jericho onto the dusty floor. She felt the hands of the burly guards grasp her by arms and shoulders as they carried her back to her chair.

‘Tape her in. Leave her head and shoulders clear,’ spat Jericho. ‘We just need him to see her face.’

 

Isla fumed.

The guards had taped her to the rolling chair across from the computer as an intergalactic  call portal trilled brightly onscreen. On either side of her, a guard stood holding onto her tightly. From the POV window on the computer, Isla looked like she was hanging out by herself.The guards had deftly set up a green screen behind her and superimposed a view from her bedroom back home to complete the illusion. Jericho had hacked her home computer and provided the video image for an authentic touch. She glared at the woman once again immersed in her digital full face headset.

‘Just like we talked about, girl. You get your Pops on the phone, we do the rest.’

A muffled grunt from across the room snapped Isla to look. Ger was strapped to a chair away from his terminal with tape covering his mouth. His hands were bound to his armrests along with his legs cocooned in more of the sticky tape.

‘You do what I ask, and we good. I let you go. No problems. Savvy?’

Sweat trickled down Isla’s back as she swallowed the sour spit filling her mouth. Let us go? There’s no way they’re letting us go? We know way too much about all this.

Jericho’s hands flew across her dual keyboards as she prepared the heist of the comm-link signal. ‘Coulda used your help here, DD — but I got it. Shame. I coulda used a bright boy like you.’

Ger grunted from across the room. His eyes burning hot. Isla chanced a last look at Ger.

His eyes flitted to her, sharing the same exact thought that she had had. There’s no way we are getting out of here alive.

Isla folded her arms across her chest, grimacing at the guard towering over her.

‘I won’t do it. You can’t make me do this.’ Isla yelled.

Jericho, grinning under her techno face-mask pointed at Ger.

‘If you don’t do what I want, child, your boyfriend goes bye-bye.’

Both guards fired up their plasma rifles and swung them towards the tied Ger. He squirmed under their steely-eyed stares. Watching the pulse rifles thrum into life.

Pointing directly at him.

I never thought I’d die this way. I mean, I guess I never really thought about it, right?

Ger cringed at the sound of the pulse rifles turning on. The sharp whiff of ozone caused his skin to goosebump as he closed his eyes, not wanting to see what would happen next.

‘Don’t hurt him,’ Ginger cried out from across the room. ‘I’ll help you.’

Ger shook his head in disbelief. ‘Don’t do it, Isla. I’m not worth it,’ Ger spat from around his gag as he glared at the guards. Jericho’s laughter echoed through the cavernous space.

‘Don’t worry, child. Your Pops will be okay. I’m just gonna dump the transport, mess up the droids and scare the spit out of them. I just fooling with you both. Ain’t no benefit in killing anyone.’

Ger took a deep breath, turning as best he could to Jericho. ‘Then why do it at all?’ he asked. ‘What’s the point of this?’

Jericho stood, still attached to the helmet, pointing at Ger, anger trembling through her as she slapped her hands in punctuation.

‘To wake them all up, man. To teach them that no one is untouchable… that we are free citizens in this world. Not pawns for them to use or lose as they want. The people gotta know what’s going on…’

Ger doubted Jericho as she spat out her manifesto. I don’t believe you. There’s more going on here than you are saying. You’re playing us.

‘I’m gonna contact them now, Isla girl. You be nice and we all get ourselves some freedom, you dig?’

Onscreen, a Moon Transit Comm Officer could be seen. She looked tired in the half-light of her cramped station as she glanced wearily at Isla onscreen, mechanically reciting the rules and regulations for the vid call.

‘Name and ID number please. Contact party?’

Isla looked to Ger on last time deliberating.

Ger could see how conflicted she was and what she had been told by Jericho. If it was all so innocent, why would she tie us up? Why the guns? Do the right thing, Isla.

‘I’m Isla Anderson, ID Number 346-7653, calling for my father, Major Anderson.’

The operator snapped to attention quickly hearing Isla identify her father as a ranking officer.

‘Right away, Ms. Anderson. Stand by.’

Ger quietly sawed at the tape binding his hands behind his back. Rubbing the strong tape against the side of his chair, he was able to quietly tear a small section of the adhesive binding. With a little time and a lot of effort, he might be able to get his hands free. But then what? Both of the guards still lingered by Ger, watching Jericho quick-typing as they waited for Isla’s father to access the link. ‘Keep him on the line, GNGR,’ spat Jericho as her fingers blurred on her two keyboards. ‘I’m almost in.’

Sweat trickled down Isla’s face as she stared at the comm link. Ger could see her trying to decide what was the right thing to do. She didn’t owe him anything. What would I do if I was in the same spot? 

He kept rubbing the tape against the ragged edge of the chair he was taped to. Ger could already feel the feeling coming back to his numbed fingers. Even if I do get out of here, what can I do? Those guys have guns. GUNS.

<PING. Connection Established>

A disembodied voice echoed through Jericho’s workspace as Ger glanced over at the monitor closest to him. Terabytes of data began frantically uploading as Jericho completed her upload.

‘Shut it down, Isla!’ Ger screamed around the tape in his mouth. He pulled frantically at his taped wrists as he twisted in his chair.

’Keep that fool quiet,’ snapped Jericho as her hands stroked away at the keyboards. ‘We in, but we gotta keep cool.’

Ger looked up to see the butt end of a pulse rifle racing towards him. The last thing he saw was the molded plastic stock as it smashed into his face.

Axiomm makes guns too?

Isla knew what she had to do. She didn’t have a choice. I’m sorry, Ger. I really am.

‘Isla, honey, what a nice surprise…’

Onscreen, her Dad, Major David Anderson’s ruddy face appeared. He had a full beard now — due to the time he had spent in space, obvs — but it was still her Dad. The man Isla knew she could count on.

‘Are you at home? The IP is different…’

‘It’s a trap,’ Isla screamed as she tried to stand. Taped to the chair, she could only push herself up slightly — but it was enough. She fell forward onto the terminal, fear etched across her face. ‘You’re being hacked…’

<Connection terminated.>

Jericho’s scream of triumph arced from the hacker as she continued typing on her terminals. ‘Too late, baby girl. I’m in. I’m in…’

Isla sank back into her seat, straining to see Ger. Her friend was slumped in his seat, knocked unconscious by the guard standing over him.

‘You ass, ‘ Isla yelled. ‘Ger, wake up.’

Ger lolled in his seat, clearly unconscious, as Isla used her feet to push herself back on her chair. With a long tearing sound, the restrictive tape tore as she fell against the floor. A rough hand reached down to restrain her and she slapped at the guard who loomed over her.

‘Let go of me,’ Isla spat as she tore the tape from her arms and started in on the rest. ‘He’s hurt.’

‘Go on, GNGR, go check on DD. I’s alright.’ Jericho muttered from her command station as the guard stood back. Isla tore the tape from her legs and waist, stomping over to Ger.

‘Wake up, Ger. Ger…’

A soft groan sounded from dazed Ger. An ugly yellow bruise was already forming on his head as Isla stroked his face in concern.

‘Ger, Ger… are you okay?’ This is all my fault.

‘I have such a headache,’ Ger groaned. Even dazed, he turned smiling to Isla and winked at the distraught girl. ‘I’m good.’

His smile broke Isla’s heart as an errant tear slipped down her face. ‘I’m so sorry, Ger. This is all my fault. I didn’t mean to…’

’S’alright, GNGR. It wasn’t you that smacked me with the gun.’

Ger glared at the guard who stared through the shaken teens. His flat, uninterested face showed little concern for Ger’s anger.

‘What are we gonna do, Ger? She’s gonna crash the transport? My Dad’s on that thing…’

‘Nothing you can do now, girl. It’s all up to me now. I get to decide what’s what,’ smirked Jericho as she pulled her helmet from her face. Her eyes glowed hot as she rolled her stiff neck. ‘I got access now and all I have to do is decide where I wanna put them down. And how.’

Jumping from the elevated console, Jericho strutted to the guards. ‘Go get me a fresh water, yeah. Leave me a rifle. I watch ‘em. Okay?’

The guards moved out of the room as Jericho watched them leave.

Turning to the teens, she turned on the pulse rifle. A low electric hum filled the room. Jericho smile was more grimmace than grin.

‘You were right about one thing, baby girl. I can’t let you go. You know way too much about what I do here — and who I am. I’m sorry.’

Jericho lifted the rifle to her shoulder, sighting in on Isla.

I’m going to die. She’s going to kill me.

‘Wait!’ Ger screamed as he sawed at his wrists behind his back. ‘You don’t have to do this. She won’t say anything. I won’t say anything. We got just as much to lose as you.’

Jericho spun the rifle to Ger, chambering the pulse, sliding her finger onto the trigger.

‘I was gonna do you last, boyfriend. I’ll do you first, okay. Then she can watch you go.’

Isla grasped Ger as Jericho slid her finger onto the trigger.

You know, it’s true. Your life really does flash before your eyes when you think you’re gonna die. The worst part is, my life sucks. All I saw was Mom dying, me being hungry and the constant grind. Until Isla. That was the only real good part.

Above them, the roof of the warehouse pounded as a large, booming echo sounded through the tarpaper. Heavy metal footsteps could be heard crunching o the loose asphalt. Jericho’s eyes spread wide as she spun to look at the ceiling. Almost immediately, a klaxon alert sounded throughout the space. What’s going on? Ger snapped the tape binding his wrists.

He started tearing away the restraints on his legs tracking Jericho as she raced to her computer console.

‘What’s going on, Ger?’ Isla asked as Ger rid himself of the taped restraints.

‘I got  no idea,’ he stammered, looking about himself and up at the roof.

The sound of steel doors clanging open above them and on the large party floor rang out.

Jericho punched at her console frantically as she tossed the pulse rifle aside. Isla scrambled away from Ger racing towards the forgotten weapon. Ger ran to the doorway looking out over the computer stations manned by the drugged partygoers.

All of them had stopped typing and were looking about themselves, fear clear on each face.

‘I hate party crashers,’ groaned Jericho as the lights on her headset lit up.

She grabbed the large portal, spinning to Isla and Ger. Shaking in barely restrained anger, she snarled at them as she plugged in.

‘You lucky, blood. You dodged a bullet. Don’t say I never did nothin’ for you.’

Isla spun, pointing the pulse rifle at Jericho as she slid the large helmet onto her face.

‘Take off the hardware, Jericho. It’s over.’

Even inside the full face helmet, Jericho’s laughter could be heard. It’s never good when the bad guy — girl — laughs like that. It’s always trouble. 

Ger staggered over to Isla, his legs still wobbly from being taped up for so long. ‘Isla, are you really going to shoot her?’

Isla chanced a look at Ger, her finger tightening on the pulse rifle as she weighed the decision. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she tried to make up her mind.

‘Shut it off, Jericho! Shut it all down and you won’t get hurt.’

Ger glanced at the uplink computer and the monitor running coded algorithms in rapid fire. He dropped down into the chair trying to make sense of what he was seeing onscreen.

Jericho had unleashed a worm in the transport’s mainframe.

Based on what he could understand of the fast moving code, it appeared to be almost complete. I can’t make a mistake People will die if I do.

< THIS IS THE MEGACITY SECURITY CORP.  CEASE ALL ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES IMMEDIATELY. >

Downstairs, the sound of the Megacity Security Ops could be heard entering the large main room. Shrieks span up from the teens working on the computers. Isla chanced a look out over the railing to the beehive of activity below. The main floor was surrounded by security 'bots and HT’s corralling the cyber teens. Everyone had their hands in the air. The two burly bodyguards were stretched flat on the ground with the HT’s parked directly on top of them snarling in feigned attack mode.

Isla gulped. ‘Ger, it’s the cops. And they’ve got HTs. What are we gonna do?

‘I gotta shut this thing down, Isla.’

Ger stared at the code as he flexed his fingers. ‘I gotta stop the relay transit — if I do that, I can stop her from crashing the transport.’

‘Do it!’ Isla screamed, rushing to Jericho now seated in her throne. Her keyboards flexed under both hands as she blindly typed commands into her terminal.

Ger dry swallowed as his finger hovered above the key on his terminal.

On screen, the executable command waited in silent vigil.

‘I’m either right — or they’re dead. Including Isla’s Dad.’

Ger pressed the key.

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