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According to what she'd been told, the only gold down here was coating that prehistoric skull. WAHYA had been willing to let the totem be removed from here. The artifact was scheduled to be displayed at a Native American museum, so that was okay. Plus, if the explosion buried the golden skull with the mummified bodies, someone might be tempted to do a little digging to find it, disturbing once again the resting place of their ancestors.

She waited until the others had climbed up into the tunnel, then stood and shouldered her pack. She stepped gingerly through the field of bodies toward the back chamber. She had to see for herself. If there was a stockpile of gold hidden here, that changed everything. Like with the skull, such a mother lode could lure a slew of treasure hunters to come digging. Rushing to the far tunnel, she dashed down its dark throat as another worry struck her. With a new stash of gold down here, the guards would certainly return to protect it, complicating her plans to escape.

She could be trapped down here. If she were caught, how could she explain being found with a backpack full of plastic explosive? She'd spend years, if not decades, in jail. Reaching the cave, she flicked on a penlight and swept the beam around the small dark chamber. At first, she saw nothing, just old stone boxes and an empty pillar of granite. But a spark of reflected light drew her eyes down to her toes. A box had shattered on the floor. She lowered to one knee and shoved her penlight closer.

The box held what looked to be a stack of half-inch-thick metal plates. A corner had been rubbed off the top one, revealing gold beneath a layer of tarnish.

Devil in the Wires: A Field Ops Novel

She sat back, stunned. She swept her penlight over the wall of boxes. Buried underground, she had no way to radio for help. She felt overwhelmed and trapped. This decision was hers alone. Sensing the press of time and fearing the return of the guards, she couldn't think straight. Her breathing grew harder. The darkness seemed to tighten around her.

A distant shout made her flinch. She swung toward the exit. More muffled voices followed.

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Someone screamed. Her heart hammered with a growing panic. Fear overtook reason. She bent down, tore open the stone box, and grabbed the top three gold plates, each about eight inches square. They were surprisingly heavy, so she tucked them into her jacket and zipped them snugly next to her body. She needed proof for John Hawkes of why she had aborted the mission. He would not be pleased, but they might find a use for the gold, especially if there was some sort of government cover-up. She remembered Professor Kanosh's last words.

She intended to do the same, but first she had to get out of here. She rushed headlong back to the main chamber. The angry voices outside grew louder. She had no idea what had triggered such a commotion but hoped it would help her escape. She knew she had to take the chance, or she'd be trapped down here when the soldiers returned. Maggie stood only a couple of yards from the cave entrance. They hadn't gotten very far before the circus found them. Bright camera lights pointed at her, pinning them all down.

A step away, she recognized the chiseled features, white hair, and ice-blue eyes of an investigative reporter from CNN. The governor of Utah accompanied him. No wonder the National Guard hadn't stopped this news crew from coming down here. Nothing like a photo op to bolster the governor's reelection campaign. Of course, along with the news crew came the usual suspects, dancing for the national spotlight and playing for the cameras.

She spotted the heckler, dressed in buckskin, his face painted. He had an iPhone raised and recorded the events. She expected she'd be on YouTube within the hour. Moments ago, as Maggie's group stepped from the cave and was spotted, the crowd surged past the governor, who was conducting an on-air interview. Several people were knocked down. Fights broke out, and a miniriot threatened. Major Ryan rallied a cordon of Guard soldiers, instantly stemming the tide and restoring a semblance of order.

In the meantime, Hank and the other guardsmen formed a wall between her and the pack of cameras and protesters. Hank held up a hand. But then Dr. Another angry shout cut him off. Maggie winced inside. It was a sore bit of Utah history. Black Hawk had been a Ute Indian leader who died during a conflict with settlers back in the mids. Afterward, his body had been put on display at various museums, then subsequently lost. It wasn't until a Boy Scout, completing an Eagle project, found the skeleton in a storage facility at the Mormon Church's historical department.

The bones eventually were reburied. Maggie had heard enough. Standing beside the green transport crate, she raised her arm. All eyes and camera lenses focused on her. But let me assure everyone that all will be handled with the utmost respect. Maggie caught the gaze of the governor. He made a slight motion for her to obey. She suspected the golden totem had become a novelty for a majority of the crowd rather than an artifact of historical significance. So if this was a circus, she might as well be its ringmaster. Turning her back, she bent down to the crate and struggled to undo the tight latches.

Her arthritic fingers made it difficult. Plus, the mist in the valley had begun to turn into a thin drizzle. Droplets pattered against the plastic top of the crate. A hush fell over the crowd. She finally freed the latches and hauled the top open. With the rain falling, she would not expose the artifact for longer than a minute. She stared down at the gold skull nestled in its foam cocoon.

Even in the wan light down here, it shone brilliantly. She stepped back to open the view to the cameras and the crowd, but she could not take her eyes off the skull. A misty haze coalesced over its surface. She watched a drop of rain strike the golden surface-then freeze immediately into an icy teardrop. She thought they'd witnessed the event, too-then she heard a scuff of boot on rock.

She glanced up to see a thin girl in black jeans and jacket come leaping out of the cave a yard away, her ebony hair fanning out like wings of a raven. She clutched an arm around her jacket, but something slipped from beneath it and hit the stone with a clanging thud. Ignoring him, the girl turned, ready to flee toward the woods, but her foot slipped on the rain-dampened stone outside the cave.

She stumbled, one arm pinwheeling for balance, sending her backpack tumbling. It rolled and came to rest near the crate. The girl came close to crashing down after it, but she gained her footing as effortlessly as a startled deer, turned on a toe, and leaped toward the edge of the forest. Maggie remained fixed in place, crouched over the open crate to protect it. She stared down, making sure the artifact was safe. In that short time, more raindrops had fallen-and frozen-decorating the golden surface with beads of ice.

She reached and foolishly touched one, triggering a stinging snap. A painful jolt shot up her arm, but instead of being thrown back, she felt her arm pulled forward. Her palm struck the golden surface. With contact, the bones of her fingers suddenly ignited, burning through her flesh. Shock and horror clamped her throat shut. Her knees weakened. The brilliant flash blinded Hank. One moment he was shouting at Maggie, the next his vision went white.

A clap of thunder tried to crush his skull, immediately deafening him. An icy shock wave knocked him back like a cold slap from God. He hit the ground on his back, then he felt a strange tug on his body, pulling him toward the explosion. He fought against it, panicked down to the core. The sensation felt not only wrong, but fundamentally unnatural.

He struggled against that tide with every fiber of his being. The inexorable pull popped away, releasing him. His senses snapped back. His ears filled with wails and screams. Images swirled into focus. He lay on his side, facing toward where Maggie had stood. He didn't move, too stunned. There was no sign of her, no charred remains, no mangled body. Nothing but a blackened circle of steaming rock. He struggled up. Kawtch shimmied closer on his belly, cowering, tail between his leg.

If Hank had a tail, he'd have done the same. He placed a reassuring palm on the dog's side. By now, the crowd had regained its collective footing. A panicked exodus began. The news crew retreated to higher ground, shuffled back by a cordon of National Guard. Two soldiers manhandled the governor up the trail, a precaution in case there was another attack. Harry pictured the bag tossed by the girl. When it had landed by the crate, it had flapped open and its contents spilled out: cubes of yellowish-gray clay, embedded with wires. A knot of anger burned in the pit of his belly. He let it settle there as he pictured the attacker.

From the girl's burnished copper skin, brown eyes, and black hair, she was definitely Native American. A homegrown terrorist. As if matters here weren't bad enough. Numb with grief, he stumbled toward the blast zone, needing to understand. To the side, Major Ryan picked up his helmet and placed it back on his head. Including us.

Hank did. It felt like a blast furnace. The air reeked of burning brimstone, turning his stomach. As they watched, a large boulder crumbled apart within the blast zone, breaking down into smaller rocks. The face of the cliff began to do the same, disintegrating into a flow of boulders and sand.

It was as if the hard granite had become loose sandstone, friable and weak. Hank stared at the blasted rock, steaming and awash with a swirl of mist. The drizzling rain hissed and spattered as it struck. Still, he didn't see what had Major Ryan so agitated. Then again, the man had much younger eyes. Hank dropped to a knee to inspect the ground more closely.

Then he saw it, too. He'd missed it through the swirl of steam. The stone surface wasn't solid, more like ground pepper-and it was moving! The grains jittered and trembled as if they were drops of oil simmering atop a hot skillet. He watched a small pebble on the surface dissolve into coarse sand, then into a dusty powder. A drop of rain struck the ground and blasted a crater. Like a pebble hitting a still pond, ripples spread outward across the microfine surface.

Hank shook his head in disbelief. Fearful, he studied where the blast zone ended and solid ground began. As he stared, the bordering edge of stone crumbled to sand, incrementally expanding the blast zone. Hank had no answers, only a growing certainty. It's eating away the rock and radiating outward. From the center of the blast zone, a belch of water burst upward from below and coughed into a steaming column, rising several yards into the air. A scalding heat chased them farther off.

By the time they stopped, Hank's skin burned, and his eyes felt parboiled. He gasped and choked out a few words. The burning sulfur made even breathing dangerous. Though the explosion in Utah was only an hour old, Painter Crowe knew he'd be in his office all night. Details continued to flow in by the minute, but information remained sketchy due to the remote mountainous location of the blast.

All of Washington's intelligence communities were on high alert and mobilizing to bear on the situation. His team was composed of handpicked Special Forces soldiers-those whose IQs tested off the scales or who showed unique mental acumen. He recruited and retrained them in various scientific disciplines to act as field operatives for the Defense Department's research-and-development wing. Teams were sent out into the world to protect against global threats.

Normally, such a domestic attack as in Utah would not fall within his team's purview, but a few anomalous details had drawn the interest of his boss, the head of DARPA, General Gregory Metcalf.

Painter might have still argued against utilizing Sigma's resources for such a messy business, but as a result of the controversy surrounding the blast, even the president-who owed his life to Sigma in the past-had personally requested their assistance in this delicate matter. Instead, he stood with his back to his desk and studied the large flat-panel monitors mounted on the three walls of his office. They depicted various views of the blast. The best footage came from the CNN cameras that had recorded the event. The other monitors flowed with grainy video and photos captured from cell phones, the millennium's new digital eyes on the world.

For the hundredth time, he watched the looping feed from CNN. He saw an older woman-Dr. Margaret Grantham, an anthropologist-leaning over a green military transport crate. She undid the latches and lifted the lid. A commotion ensued, jittering the camera feed. The view swung wildly. He caught a glimpse of a figure behind the woman, fleeing away-then a blinding flash of light. Using a remote control, he froze the footage. He stared into the heart of the blast. If he squinted, he could make out the shadow of the woman within that glare, a dark ghost within the blaze.

He moved the image forward frame by frame and watched her shadow slowly consumed by the brightness, whittled away to nothing. With a heavy heart, he hit the fast-forward button. From there, the footage became chaotic and jostled: trees, sky, running figures. Eventually the cameraman found a vantage point from which he felt safe enough to resume shooting. The view swung back to the steaming blast zone. Chaos still reigned as people fled the site.

A handful of others remained below, cautiously examining the scene. Moments later, a steaming geyser erupted and chased even the stragglers away. A preliminary report already sat on his desk from Sigma's resident geologist. He estimated the blast had cracked into a "subsurface geothermal stream. Painter stared again at the geyser. It wasn't subsurface any longer. The geologist's assessment had included a topographic map dotted with hot springs in the vicinity.

Even in the dry technical jargon of the report, Painter could sense the enthusiasm brimming in the young geologist, the raw desire to investigate the site firsthand. While he appreciated such passion, the National Guard had the place locked down. A search was under way for the shadowy figure behind the blast.

Using the remote control again, he froze the fleeting image of the bomber, blurry and indistinct, caught for less than a second. According to interviews, it was a young woman. She had tossed a backpack full of C4, wired with detonators, then fled into the woods. The National Guard, local police forces, and agents from Salt Lake City's FBI field office were attempting to seal off the area, but the mountainous terrain, rugged and thickly wooded, posed a challenge to finding her, especially if she knew the area.

To make matters worse, eyewitnesses reported that the woman was Native American. If true, that would mean even more political tension. Painter caught his reflection in the monitor and searched for his own ancestry. He was a half-blooded Pequot Indian, on his father's side, but his blue eyes and light skin came from his Italian mother. Most never pegged him as Native American, but the features were there, if you looked hard enough: the wide, high cheekbones, the deep black hair.

But as he aged, those Indian traits shone more strongly. Lisa had commented on it only last month. They had been spending a lazy Sunday in bed, reading the paper, finding no reason to get up. She had leaned on an elbow and traced a finger down his face. You're getting to look a lot like that old photo of your father. She had reached and fingered the single lock of white hair behind his ear, tucked like a snowy feather against the field of black. I could almost tie this into a warrior's braid.


In fact, he hadn't been growing his hair out. He just hadn't had a chance to get it cut for a couple of months. He'd been spending more and more time at Sigma Command. The location had been picked for both its convenient access to the halls of power and for its proximity to the Smithsonian Institution's many research facilities. It was where Painter spent most of his days. His only windows on the world of late were his office's three giant monitors.

He turned away and crossed back to his desk, contemplating the implication of a homegrown terrorist, one with a Native American background. He seldom gave his own heritage much thought, especially after spending most of his youth in a series of foster homes. His mother, suffering from depression, had stabbed his father to death after seven years of marriage and the birth of their son. Afterward, Painter continued to have some contact with his Native American roots, fostered through the extended family of his father's tribe. But after such a hardscrabble and chaotic upbringing, he'd grown to place more emphasis on the American part of his Native American ancestry.

A knock on his open office door interrupted him. He glanced up to see Ronald Chin, Sigma's geology expert, standing in the doorway. Painter waved the geologist inside, almost expecting him to have to duck through the doorway. Chin stood just shy of six feet, missing that mark only because he kept his head shaved to the skin.

He wore a gray lab jumpsuit, zippered half down to reveal an Army Ranger T-shirt. Most of the questions centered on the identity of the bomber, along with events leading up to the blast. But Major Ryan seemed mighty agitated about the blast itself. Painter opened the report, flipped pages, and read what was marked in yellow. There were only a handful of exchanges, but the major's last statement sent a chill through his blood. Chin stood with hands behind his back on the far side of his desk. So I consulted Sigma's demolition expert. He came to the same conclusion.

For a detonation strong enough to break through bedrock and crack open a geothermal spring, the concussive blast radius should have been tenfold larger. Painter turned to the doorway again. Apparently Sigma's new resident bomb expert had come to support Chin's assessment. The man leaned against the door frame. He stood half a foot taller than Chin, and outweighed his teammate by a good forty pounds, most of it muscle. His dark hair was stubble, but he still slicked back what little was there with gel.

The man wore the same coveralls as Chin, but from the bared chest, it looked like he was wearing nothing underneath. Painter felt a sick lurch in his stomach. Joe Kowalski was ex-Navy, hired by Sigma a few years ago. Unlike others, he was more of an adoptee than a recruit. He had been serving as muscle and team support, but Painter sensed there might be more to this guy than met the eye, a vein of sharpness hidden beneath that dull exterior.

Painter had reviewed the man's dossier since he'd joined Sigma-evaluating his aptitude and skills-and eventually assigned him to a field of study for which he seemed best suited: blowing stuff up. Painter was beginning to regret that decision. Kai hid in a dense thicket of mountain willows alongside a cold stream. She knelt, cupped the clear water, and drank.

She ignored the nagging concerns of giardia or other intestinal parasites. Most of the flow here was fresh snowmelt. As thirsty as she was, she'd take her chances. After drinking enough to wet her mouth and take the edge off her thirst, she covered her face with icy-wet palms. The cold helped her focus.

Still, even with closed eyes, she could not get the image out of her head. As she had fled the burial cave, she had glanced back in time to see the flash of brilliance, hear the thunderclap. Screams and cries chased her into the deeper woods. John Hawkes had sworn the C4 was safe. He'd said she could fire a bullet into one of the explosive charges, and nothing would happen.

So what went wrong? Already scared, she came up with one frightening possibility. Had someone from WAHYA witnessed her flight out of the cave and telephoned in the detonation command? She hadn't had any time to think. For the past two hours, she'd been running headlong through the woods, as fleet-footed as any deer. She kept hidden from the air as much as possible.

She'd already spotted one helicopter as it skimmed past a ridgeline. It looked like a news chopper rather than law enforcement, but it still sent her diving for the thicket. During the remaining hours of daylight, she had to put as much distance as possible between herself and any pursuers. She knew they'd be looking for her. She pictured her face being broadcast across the nation. She was under no illusion that her identity would remain a secret for long. Sigma's satellite com always reminded him of the control room on a nuclear submarine, where the ambient light was kept low to preserve night vision.

And like a sub's control room, this was the nerve center of Sigma Command. All information flowed into and out of this interconnected web of feeds from various intelligence agencies, both domestic and foreign. The spider of this particular web stood before a bank of monitors and waved Painter over. Captain Kathryn Bryant was Sigma's chief intelligence expert and had grown to become Painter's second-in-command at Sigma. She was his eyes and ears throughout Washington and a savvy player in the internecine world of D.

And like any good spider, she maintained a meticulous web, casting strands far and wide. But her best asset was an uncanny ability to monitor each vibrating filament of her web, filter out the static, and produce results. She winced slightly, placed a palm on her belly, and continued to type one-handed on a keyboard. At eight months along, she was huge, but she refused to go out early for maternity leave. Her only concession to her condition was that she'd abandoned her usual tight dress blues for a casual loose dress and jacket, and allowed the curls of her auburn hair to drape past her shoulders, rather than pinning them up.

Baby's been doing a tap dance on my bladder since lunch. From the start of the investigation, I've been monitoring the local news programs over in Salt Lake City. It wasn't difficult to hack into their computer servers and look over their shoulders as they readied their evening news broadcasts.

She explained. So why no footage? If you start with the proposition that a photo was taken, why wasn't it turned in to the police? I followed that line of reasoning. Greed is a strong motivator. It would be easy enough to hide a phone during the chaos. Or even e-mail the footage and erase the record. Kat hit a button on the keyboard, and a video started playing, another view of the same scenario he'd watched over and over.

Only this time, the bomber was caught in full view, exiting the cave, still carrying the backpack. She was moving fast, but for a fraction of a second, she stared fully at the camera. Kat deftly captured the image and froze it. The image was grainy, but she certainly looked Native American, as the eyewitnesses had reported. I'll need a minute to clean it up.

The broadcast is slated for the top of the six o'clock hour in Salt Lake City. I happened to read a draft of the accompanying copy. It's very inflammatory. Coloring the attack as a possible resurgence of Native American militancy. In the same broadcast folder, they posted archival footage of Wounded Knee. Painter bit back a groan. Two people were killed and many others injured in the firefight that ensued. It took decades for the tension between the tribes and the government to subside. The image reappeared, a thousand times crisper.

Kat manipulated the computer mouse to fill the screen with the girl's face. The detail was amazing. Her dark eyes were wide with fear, her lips parted in a panicked breath, her ebony hair billowing out and framing distinctly Native American features. It won't take long to put a name to that pretty face. Painter barely heard the words. He stared at the screen. His vision narrowed, fixed upon that frozen image. Before he could respond, his cell phone rang.

He pulled it out. It was his personal BlackBerry, unencrypted. But it wasn't Lisa. The caller's words came rushed, breathless. I need your help. The words suddenly died. In the background, he heard the growl of a large animal, followed by a sharp, terrified scream. They aren't sure when. They aren't sure if it can be safely rekindled. And, well, I mean, they said , but I? Abbie put her arm around him, and he turned to her, trying not to break down. From his other side, Mary-Joy embraced them both. She may not have known them long, but their worry and pain was obvious.

Someone needed to remind them that they didn't face this alone. The nurses at the nurses' station gave the kids a few minutes to regain their composure before escorting Kristian in "as long as he promises not to deck any of my patients this time. Room 1, Magic-enhanced Intensive Care Unit. Just enough to gather that there was more wrong than a simple cut and Thunderbird's Song being far, far out of reach.

He was just too tired to connect the dots on his condition beyond the nurses and Dr. Tenent being 'off' somehow. It was like their auras had echoes ringing behind them. That didn't make much sense. At least someone had removed the breathing tube and let him drink some water. Unless it wasn't water. You couldn't be too sure in sneaky places like hospitals. It was getting late in the day or early in the evening, whatever day it was, when a nurse brought Kris in. Just because Kris is getting much better at putting on a brave face, that doesn't mean he should.

Kris had to move up to the bed and bend over to hear Mads repeat himself. It sucked being so tired. As soon as you dropped and the telltales on Thomas cut out, they kicked us all out and substituted ANTs for the other team to kick around. Mads laid his head back, eyes closed. It looked to Kris like he'd fallen asleep, but he started speaking again before the other could make ready to leave. Tenent came in to check on her student and repeat patient. She set a box down, off to the side, before going through the routine of updating charts. Mads hoped that the box meant he'd at least be getting his comms and interface gear back.

Medical monitors were boring, even worse than the repetitive 2-D stuff everyone else seemed to enjoy "on TV". Officially, your partner in crime was called back to Ottawa at the request of his sponsor, so that's settled. Unofficially, of course his problems are not settled. The other is that your pact may be all that's keeping you stable. There's something I want to try, to see if we can't do better than keep you locked in a warded room until he's back.

Tenent pulled on a sturdy pair of gloves before reaching into the box she'd bought. Catching sight of Mads' frown, she said "No, it's not because your clothes are in the box. Mads recognized some beads as hematite, and guessed at jet being among the others. It should prevent Essence from accumulating in your magical core.

I've added an enchantment to it to prevent it from being removed against your will. After all, a flooded basement can destroy a house. The necklace had a slick and cold feel to it that the polished stones didn't account for.

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Not seeing much reason not to, he put it on. Nothing happened. The doctor let out a held breath. Nothing again. The room looked brighter, but that had to be a placebo effect. Back inside the isolation ward, Dr. Tenent cast a healing spell on the wound that had started the whole insanity. She then went ahead and removed the surgical staples before updating his chart some more.

While that leaves you in a poor position for the mystic curriculum, you'll be able to go to classes without risking the magical equivalent of a burnout or a repeat of this afternoon. Our options were this or an all-expenses-paid, one-way trip to ARC Black. Oh, don't be giving me that look young man! Reverend Englund already had to put his foot down to stop a couple of impromptu 'operations', so we need to stick with that story. I should tell him he's right, isn't he? If he'd started off a few minutes earlier, he could have pulled off his escape.

Unfortunately, the doors facing the path to the Crystal Hall were also the closest doors for anyone coming from the resident cottages. In his own defense, he was really, really tired. What's going to happen now is that you are going to turn around, go back to the room you left, and disconnect whatever kludgewerk you've set to spoofing the medical monitors. Friday morning, February 15, , Arena 99, Whateley Academy.

Metro's first day back in Team Tactics class was a mixed bag. Everyone had heard the rumors about his punishment, but some reactions puzzled him. Pejuta gave him a couple of feet more space than her usual arm's length. At first he would have blamed that on her PTSD — just about everyone on campus had either been briefed on that or shown her Spring combat final — but when he caught her staring at his new jewelry, her expression held more sadness than fear.

Whatever the reasons, he decided he shouldn't poke at them today. Damiana, on the other hand, looked rather pleased. Maybe she felt she'd proven herself? A number of students just seemed glad to be free of the effects of his glamour. Getting into and out of his sim suit without lighting every freaking nerve in his body on fire was tricky, but Mads found that he could get away with keeping the essence-draining necklace in one hand or the other.

It hurt , but not as much as having metal fibrils extend and entwine along living nerves. Seeing Kristian flinch from empathy pain negated any comfort he could have had in that. He wanted to bang his head into a wall, but the odds were good that Kris would feel that too. Friday morning, Downtown Detroit. The team rezzed in for an on-site briefing with two members already missing: Valravn and Metro. Rorsmand wheeled around looking for Metro at least to show up. Sofia: Mapping protocols online. Searching for landmarks. This is Detroit.

Sam Everheart raised a hand to signal a halt to the panicking. Your team is getting the first run-through, to see if it meets our expectations. Gunny Bardue is briefing Metro as to his part in this. Your job is to find Metro and bring him back to this park. Any questions? Waikikamukau looked around. Sofia: Homo sapiens nobilis. The people you are describing are human. Sofia: The Corporation that holds Major Gunnison's contract does not recognize those affected by anomalous genetic expression as legally distinct from their race of birth.

Everheart smirked, "As a matter of fact, he's all of fourteen and a half, and he's even holding down a job. What about child labor laws? Mads Gunnison walked up to an admin assistant's station, confident that the woman at her desk wouldn't notice his shadow this morning. Setting up this segment of the simulation had been The actual assistant to the Chief of Marketing had a corner office well buffered from noise and unnecessary distractions. Of course , every other year the unit was treated to entirely new office furniture as the offices and cubicle farms were rearranged.

To no one's surprise, there were usually enough patentable or licensable electronics squirreled away in the old furnishings to recoup some of the costs of letting the sales drones brag about their new office equipment. Of course the workstations were replaced, because Dear God! Could these people load more malware if they had help? But the next time you stagger in that close to flatline, there's going to be an attitude adjustment party.

You just tell him that for me. Would you let some rando beat up one of YOUR privates on a routine basis? Some gillettes I've run across could hit you four times for your one punch, and easily two or three times as hard. What I wouldn't give to have Yuki or Victoria working for me again. The boy headed to a representation of what once was his desk, logging on before pasting a fake smile on his face and speaking again.

Better for fostering innovation, better for the bottom line. We've allotted server time for exploration and recon, so try not to get too bored. Sofia: There are roughly 2. Sofia: There are twenty full-practice mages and shamen known to be operating in this area, at or above Major Gunnison's rating. This cohort includes his adoptive mother. For comparison, there are roughly ten to twenty thousand practitioners of all ratings and specialties thought to be operating in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Sofia: I believe the correct phrase would be 'like searching for a needle in a haystack filled with dirty needles'. Smithy looked around for building signs. One thing that corporations are always proud of, no matter where one found themselves, is their 'We Are Here! An entire complex matched descriptions she'd heard from their team leader, once one accounted for his penchant for undersell.

You guys were going to have to leave me behind anyway. We don't have a caster with us who can fool security scanners. We're high school kids. The madman's a high school kid. Why don't we try asking if he can come out to play? I can play this gig. How are we set for cash and ID? It would be nice not to look like we're here for the costume party. Sofia: Within the terms of the scenario I can arrange for limited lines of credit. Identification will take somewhat longer, depending on who goes in.

Sofia: The facility did have notably lax entry standards. This time, Mary-Joy knew she'd caught an emotion in the AI's response. It wasn't one of pride either. I know that your American cities aren't all wall-to-wall slums, but this is ridiculous. Sofia, there are some pictures missing, aren't there? From the shot angles and enhancement artifacts, the originals had to have been taken during surveillance.

One still included a reticle pattern that hadn't been edited out. The subject's spiky dirty blonde hair was familiar. Hazel eyes smiled or winked mischievously, as if he'd caught the photographer at some game. Healthy skin colors over a face that hadn't missed too many meals or weathered too many fevers made the photo set almost painful to look at.

Elve was the one to notice that the boy's too-thin jacket didn't hang right: no sidearm. Just another way Mads had stood out like a sore thumb. Sofia: There is one record of the Major being bullied at that school. One, precisely. There's no reason for alarm: his overwatch detail helped with disposal. Sofia: He was privy to corporate proprietary information. In case of coercive extraction, there were usually one or two operatives with orders to terminate the security breach. Otherwise, their orders were to stay back and not be seen by the principal or by his associates.

Smithy quietly said, "These people play for keeps. Let's get Rorsmand and Waikikamukau ready to go in. I'll take the first exit waypoint, so I'll need passable ID and clothing. V-T, I want you on overwatch for me and Tephra. We know Metro plays with drones; it's safe to say we haven't seen the worst of what's available yet. If anyone stops us, we're in a play. One coffee run later, Bardue called in to the sim. I'm countersigning with an ID card that tells the world that I'm a prospective employee on a program to expedite opportunities for sprawl-dwelling scum.

He's formerly a second or third gen citizen of one of our competitors and old money before that. It took a week for the guy to notice I existed. Two sugars, and as many nanotags as I can palm into the cup without leaving a visible residue. Good thing I'm also officially shadowing his work. Every other Friday, it's to meet up with one of his handlers for instructions, after which he may skip the rest of the day.

The upside is that it gives me time to update his reports. We don't want him fired for cause before we know who he's selling us out to. It's a Friday, so I need to grab gear from home in time to catch a red-eye to Kansas City to meet up with my team. This weekend, if I recall it correctly, I catch a hoop-load of drek for looking like a narc because of the crewcut.

Because of his haircut? The plain earpiece, BCD glasses, slightly shabby black jacket, white oxford-cloth shirt, rep tie, black belt, trousers, socks, and shined shoes. Back up there, Marine! Even sitting, the kid's gig line was straight. The majority of men around him were clean-shaven, many wearing styled hair, but the kid was in a minority who could pass inspection or wear a gas mask without a trip to the barber. The heavy pistol in a shoulder holster took it over the top in the Marine's eyes.

No wonder no one working for Security or the Ranges was signing off on his "just a kid" act. Even after settling accounts with the Russians here, Jade's one of the few people who still gives us the time of day. The corp comes first. Oh, and if you draw on a cop, the next round's in you. That's not a threat. It's a statement of fact. I bet the boy isn't even aware that by leaning back in his chair, smiling like that, and displaying a holster strap, he IS threatening violence. Alfie's probably the only mook on this floor not jazzed, chromed, running combat wetwares, or packing heat.

Besides, even clavies gotta go home sometime. Marvin: We're only simulating the year before your promotion, Major. Ditch the nick. It's warm out now, so there's some Scouting trips, advanced bivouacs, of course the ranges and gyms are open, hm, all sorts of health and fitness courses. Come to think of it, there weren't any overweight people among these office workers. Why aren't you scheduled for any of that? Abbie would have added "how to fit in with people you're not used to" to that but went with "You'll be fine. Some day. Think of it as gathering supplies for an expedition.

Waikikamukau laughed at that. Too bad I can't wear this out of here. Tu meke! Smithy: Showtime! Let's break a leg! Rorsmand tapped Smithy on the shoulder — left-handed — "Something has gone wrong. My arm's rebooting and I can't raise Sofia. Morningstar Industries cyberspace, Neo-Detroit Simulation. Mads mentally sat down to work this one out. If he could break out to the original simulation environment, there should hopefully be enough tools available from his workstation to see if the "attack" was one of the instructors' little surprises.

If the problem were outside that environment, he'd If this were a planar rift or incursion, it could still be external to and impinging on his plane and on the scenario's plane. Except, the scenario here was a simulation based on there, and there was nothing here to base that sort of nothing on. Meanwhile, this might as well be Cleveland, because there's no there here either. Look, Ma! No metaphor! Simulator Control Room, Whateley Academy.

As soon as the lights faded back in from the brown-out, Gunny Bardue called over the instructors' comm circuit, "Sam, was that you or HIVE? And I can't raise either of the AIs that the kids officially don't have on them. What does it look like on your end? Just as we brought our two guests on-line too. A tech spoke up, "On the bright side, while the people inside the simulations may be experiencing time dilation, with the interpolation and rendering software equally bogged down everything they interact with should seem normal.

At worst, their brains will be filling in and reinforcing whatever inputs they are getting instead of interpreting the feed as a simulated time stop. Some of the repurposed equipment patched into this behemoth was intended for brainwashing and psychological torture. Rorsmand stared at his AR display. The message didn't make much sense beyond the general urgency. I've got a message from Everheart. Something did glitch on us. Sofia's sitting out the simulation to cut down on the processing load, while they pull the other teams out.

I'm wondering if having Vapaat Taivas and Tephra exit the sim would help, IF it's a processing problem. Abbie thought about that. This could also be a trick to make the exercise more difficult. If it doesn't work, I'll bring them back here. If you all are successful, you can meet me back at the gate or page the guards to let me in? Fewer locations to build out that way. Of the two, Waikikamukau was far more introverted than Rorsmand, but after they'd dressed for the scenario an observer could be excused for mistaking them as having chosen opposite parts.

Looks like lead on this part was down to her and her best Goria impersonation. We're looking to meet up with a friend of ours, and it's like, meant to be a surprise? But, like, someone forgot to copy down which office he's working in? I mean it's gotta be some mail room stuff, right? So it being Friday after all, and all I've been hearing is how the C-man's been missin' his boo, and like, it's not like the Mad-man be missing anything. Rorsmand hastened to add "Not that the work people do for Morningstar Industries isn't important! It's more a matter of him being a freshman on an internship, not someone who would be actively supervising time-critical work.

No one that neurotically buttoned-down could have an ulterior motive without his parents' signature on a permission slip issued by a teacher or guidance counselor. The guard, "Poroshenko, I. You can't live with them, and you can't ship 'em off to Siberia until they finally grow up enough to be useful! Do you have any idea which division he's attached to?

He thinks he's being soooo mysterious, hinting about the important jobs that are being done around him. Ten would have gotten him one that that annoying habit had not changed in the slightest. He looked over to Waikikamukau. Don't be throwing no shade in my direction. I don't sleep with the shortstop! He'd already said "We don't play ball! Or that any part of it was being recorded and forwarded.

The boy's ears were fire engine red before he could finish putting his foot in his mouth. His supervisor, Mrs. Abrams, is authorizing us to send you two up. Just give me a few minutes to get the passes printed out and shoot maps over to your comms. We wouldn't want you to get lost! We should be so lucky. You might be able to ask for a tour of some of our public facilities if your friend's busy at the moment. Mads, local cyberspace, Whateley Academy Combat Simulator.

Everywhere he looked: still nothing. Like booting up his school laptop without a cup of coffee. Funny how a void looks the same whether one is calling physical order out from chaos or programming complexity from an ordered array Which means I just jacked in to a matrix that hadn't finished initializing yet. I don't take enough Ritalin for this kind of stuff this early in the morning. Astral projection was right out. If the machinery was having trouble emulating basic virtual reality within a simulated reality, then having it try to emulate another level of experience in its place didn't feel like an effective use of resources.

On the other hand, this might be a good time to try out the utility programs of Questionable Legality he Definitely Did Not Load on his burner phone. This map isn't showing a direct route to where we're going.

Devil in the Wires: A Field Ops Novel - Tim Lees - Google книги

The boy grinned in spite of the situation. His traffic analysis toolkit hit paydata in time to feed system messages into his architectural rendering software. That was off-the-shelf stuff, but as long as it worked for now he could give a damn about the l0s3r aesthetics later. Now that he knew it was the Whateley wares that were going Westworld, and that because they didn't recognize him as a user and not an object that needed to be rebooted, what next?

Ask for a less broken brain to see if they could compose one in his memory registers? Find a different scratch monkey to point the mind-control lasers at? All that we're asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known terrorist to justice. Hello, Tephra! Time to avoid the cleaning crew! Mads hoped this episode of talking to himself wouldn't be featured in his next therapy session.

Metro 2: Running With A Devil (Part Four)

Totally awkward. No one inside's got any idea how bad they're lagging. Apparently, having the same memory locations that your executive functions are using overwritten with ones and zeroes isn't healthy. Many of the tricks used in stage magic and street cons rely on the simple observation that people don't know what they don't know:. That could work for him, or against him.

He thought about the text he'd sent out; if he had to act before it could be acted on, it would make for a pathetic epitaph if he got himself fragged running this con. He almost felt sorry for swapping an Ace for the Queen, until he saw the hunter-killers move in. Abrams looked up at the two visitors, "I'll be ready for you in just a moment. I have a few things to say to you so don't go anywhere. Waikikamukau leaned over to whisper to her teammate "I think things may be getting complicated, unless you've torqued this woman off in a past life or two. Something about her feels familiar, but that person has to be younger.

The telephone call dragged on, but eventually the woman set the old-fashioned receiver down. She straightened a few papers on her desk before walking over to the two teenagers. In spite of the carpeting, the footsteps sounded heavy against the floor. Waikikamukau stood up to restart introductions, "Mrs. Mary, is it? Why don't you stay here where it's more comfortable. Carl, there are a few people here I'd like you to meet.

We're both freshmen, so, no offense! We would just like to know more about how our young intern is getting along, outside of work hours. We've been worried about some things that have happened over the past few weeks. So, you are the young man that Gunnison has been with lately, correct? I mean, it's Friday, the weather's as good as it gets, and m'boy here's been jonesin' to scratch an itch, y'know what I mean? And well, me 'n' th'crew were in the neighborhood, so why not give a shout? I'll take Carl to one of our conference rooms, but if you insist, you can accompany him.

It's nice, quiet, out of the way, and as I said before, we can wait there for Gunnison to clear his inbox for the day. Kristian did NOT like the way some of that was phrased but kept to the cover story. I consider it my pleasure. In fact, why don't I have the young woman waiting for you outside the property escorted in? Good old contagion and sympathetic magic! The combat simulators may not have known this dog on the internet wasn't supposed to be casting spells, but that bloody necklace did.

He held his head in his hands until the feeling of acid burning through his arteries faded to merely horrific pain. When he connected back to his terminal in AR mode there was a message directing him to one of the nearby "closed discussion rooms" for debrief. All this static, and the team must not have made it.

He acknowledged the message, and began shutting down to leave. As conference rooms go, this one was set up with standard Corporate Nondescript decor. The reinforced soundproof walls and doors didn't give much indication of hostile negotiations past.

The self-sealed paint and polymer flooring were entirely inoffensive and could easily be scrubbed of any biohazardous materials within minutes. Smithy, Rorsmand, and Waikikamukau still sat speechless when the presentation piped directly to their AR displays ended. The man who'd been calmly narrating the various high points reminded himself to free up some more time in his schedule.

He hadn't covered everything, and these three were each more than smart enough to fill in gaps in the story. That wasn't going to make any of them feel better. Mary-Joy looked over at Kristian. If the folks he worked for would go that far just to make a public warning Abrams' or Dr. Ophelia Tenent as the students knew her said, "There were some complicating factors to the situation that we cannot show to you. According to his mother, the punitive strike in response was considered 'restrained'. I can see someone blaming arriving late to work on one's partner, but coming in injured?

That doesn't make sense. And by 'share' I mean he managed to kick all the sheets off and end up with most of the mattress. His body was so hot, I ended up doing most of the sweating. I take it that no one else who knew him before would be? Kristian wished he was anywhere else. Or, in lieu of that option, have Thomas here to say something completely inappropriate to break the mood. Metro took longer than he'd expected just to find Room The door opened on the second knock. That was a good sign, right? Inside, there were no indications of rough handling.

He had worried that Kris might have hinted at a physically close relationship, which. Kristian still looked miserable enough for a beating. How had that happened? Mads stayed halted where he stood. Maybe it was a function of how much he compartmentalized the various parts and pieces of his life, but he had never thought about how Abbie or Mary-Joy might look dressed in the fashions he was used to.

Mary-Joy had gone all-out: bone black make-up and graphic tats complemented silver glitter over black and white skin, where the engineered-leather qipao and high boots she wore allowed that to be seen. Kristian looked uncomfortably adorkable dressed up as he was. Mads went over to him, pushed his sunglasses back down, and mussed up his hair to distract him as an enchantment altered the color to a striking platinum blonde over blue-black roots.

Another spell converted the confiscated ball cap to a spiked collar. If he paid more attention to looking for concealed bruising than the spell-work, this wasn't the place to sue him over it. When he walked in, Kristian and Abbie both saw the new and old surgery scars that Mads' hair hadn't yet grown long enough to cover.

That was troubling, but neither could ignore the fact that for the first time they were looking at him in something close to full health. His expression was still more guarded than someone his age should be fronting, but the hazel eyes that looked back at them were younger? Doctor Bellows broke the silence first. Admiral Everheart volunteered some of your classroom time, as there would be heightened security within and without the scenario being run. To that end, I stepped into the role of Mrs. Abrams while Gunny kept you distracted.

Book List: 5 titles. Gods Of L. Author Info. Top Authors in Urban Fantasy.