The Wake-Up Call
Chapter 1.37: Another Hit
Three agonising days had past since Hetch blacked out in the squalid room. The twilight breaking through the narrow window slot gave no indication of time. The murky clouds of ash and sulphur, stirred by the floating salvager truck, gave a brief glimpse of a man standing across the busy street looking directly at Hetch. The man was holding a narrow box in his hand. The sounds of the sanitation system rumbled away in the background as Hetch rubbed his eyes and scratched the back of his itchy neck. The state of his surroundings mirrored the wreck of his own body. At least the drugs were out of his system and his senses could re-sync. A wide tram blocked his view of the man and he was gone. That background hue of paranoia that Splice had carried around so much now began to creep up on Hetch. There was an overwhelming desire to run but without knowing where that man was Hetch decided to remain stationary for the time being.
Hetch pulled the case on top of the mattress and then he noticed the scratches and crude attempts to pick the tech lock on the case. No doubt the hotel owner or one of the staff had tried to examine its contents. He glanced at the metal chair still wedged securely under the door handle; no one had entered the room so these marking must have been from a previous owner. Now it was time for Hetch to examine the contents for himself, but there was only one problem, the small, flat anti-personal device on the side of the case. Any attempt to hack it open and the gadget explodes sending micro fragments of metal in every direction. The case was an executive toy, something for transporting small bundles of credits from casino to taxi-pod and back. If there was someone waiting outside he had needed to travel light, jump on the next transport and head directly for the border. Carrying a case as he approached the border would be suicidal.
"Hey, you awake punk?" said the hotelkeeper banging on the door with his fist and boot.
"Yeah. Give me a few seconds here" shouted Hetch transfixed by the challenge of a tech lock.
"You had two extra days you freeloading little bitch. Pay up and get out!"
Hetch's fingers began to shake as he began to move the combinations barrels on the case. He knew he had about 3 to 5 attempts before the trigger went off and took most of his fingers with it.
"Hey man. What the hell you doing in there?" screamed the hotelkeeper.
It was clear that someone had paid him a visit to make him nervous about his guest and that could only mean the mystery man across the street with the box. It was a clever move. No doubt to get Hetch quietly out of the room.
B*E*E*P: Warning protection device enabled
The sound of this audio clip made Hetch pause in his tracks and crack his knuckles. He looked at the shiny alloy box and took a deep breath.
B*E*E*P: Danger. This storage system is armed.
The chair's legs skidded across the floor as the hotelkeeper kicked the door once again.
"Do you hear me?"
B*E*E*P: Defence sequence primed. Please enter your 16-digit override serial key now to neutralise. You have 30 seconds.
As if his current situation wasn't bad enough, fate added another dimension. Through the small dirty window a red beam, lit up by the smoky, dust filled atmosphere traced out a path to the floor.
25 seconds remaining.
Hetch desperately scanned the case for a way to enter the override code.
20 seconds remaining.
"Yo, open this fucking door now!" Screamed the hotel keeper out of breath from trying to force open the barricaded door.
15 seconds remaining.
"Shit, no keypad Splice!" muttered Hetch "You leave me a case and no instructions!"
The red laser beam broke into several small fragments as it crossed over the shelf and chair legs.
Hetch searched around in his pocket, found the recording device and almost tore the side of his coat off getting it out. He finger and thumb frantically twisted the small chrome control barrel as he scanned it for any hint of a serial key.
10 seconds remaining.
Line after line of blurred green-blue letters flashed on the recording device's display screen. Hetch paused a few hundreds of a second before resuming his search.
A bullet broke the window and struck the floor right next to Hetch's face. The sudden noise and flash of a sniper bullet caused Hetch to drop the case and fall onto his side. He felt the air shockwave as the metal dart corkscrewed into the room and sent a plume of dust off the floor.
5 seconds remaining.
Hetch knew this was it. He held down the send button and spun the control dial.
The device gave out a random collection of garbled frequencies.
It was his only chance. If he was lucky, the device would emit the cancellation code.
The chair fell away and the hotelkeeper stumbled into the room holding his bruised shoulder.
Another bullet punched a second drill hole in the window.
The chest of the hotelkeeper imploded and a fist sized hole burst violently out of his back followed by blood and bone fragments. His large, hairy arms dropped by his unwashed sides and the chewed cigar butt leapt from his mouth and hit the floor at the same time as his corpse.
Hetch pulled the dirty mattress over his head and curled up into a ball. The protection device exploded and sent out a shower of red-hot spikes in all directions. The case was spun round on the floor by the force of this blast. Its shiny surface reflected the red laser beam onto the low ceiling. Sparks ricocheted off the walls, floor and shelf as the fragments used up their energy. Hetch winced as a hand full of this sharp metal objects pierced the mattress and his skin. The heat stung as he tried to pull each bit out.
He sat there motionless in the corner still half entombed by the lumpy mattress as the red laser beam moved around the small room. His only escape was the door, but the large corpse of the hotelkeeper was blocking his path. Trying to scramble over it would be too dangerous.
The ground began to shake as a huge ore transporter moved past the building. Its large chunky wheels thundered over the uneven city street and pushed its gigantic outline into the low tunnel entrance outside.
Hetch reached out, grabbed the collar of the hotelkeeper and pulled with all his strength. The corpse moved slowly towards him. If he could just roll the body to one side he might have a chance to get to the door. He glanced at the case, its sides still smoking from the explosive. The red laser beam returned and scanned the room, hunting for its next target. Hetch struggled again with the heavy weight and was rewarded by another small movement away from the door.
A bullet struck a small cup on the shelf. The sniper was intimidating his prey.
Once again the corpse was yanked towards the corner. The effort was showing and Hetch was expelling oxygen with each attempt. His face grew red and the veins on his arms began to stand out. The energy of moving a fat, dead guy with only one real arm was huge. His artificial arm still wasn't fully functional, after all it had been through it was a miracle that it had not fried. That was now on Hetch's shopping list, a new bio replacement, something expensive and realistic from one of the illegal traders on the rim of the border.
Finally the corpse was clear of the door and Hetch watched the red laser beam looking for the right moment to run for the door.
Z*I*P - Z*I*P - Z*I*P
The sniper hit the door and pushed it almost totally closed with three skilfully aimed bullets. The trio of new holes in the door squashed Hetch's hope for a quick exit out of the room. Whoever the sniper was, he was good, very good. A professional. This wasn't the normal street punk trying his luck or a mercenary. He was toying with Hetch. A professional would be using an invisible laser sight to check distance and wind speed. No, this killer wanted Hetch to know he was there, perhaps to gain some sadistic pleasure from watching his victim dodge the red light.
It was going to be a long, painful night.
To be continued...