Dillon hefted a Heckler & Koch 9mm UMP submachine gun and motioned to Ben. “You’d best get a head start while I go to work. Just one thing before you go…”
The technician, looking highly uncomfortable indeed, paused in his headlong flight out the door. “Yes?”
“Thank you.” Dillon extended his hand. Ben looked at it in surprise for a few seconds, and then shook it. Ben’s face was one of obvious relief. Probably had second thoughts about turning loose a crazy man with a bag fulla guns in his boss’s home. And if he doesn’t, he should, Dillon thought.
“The main security room is four doors down. I dunno how you’re going to get in there, though. My keycard won’t open it.”
“I’ll use my own key.” Dillon jerked his head toward the door. “Scram. I’ll give you one minute to get off the floor.” Ben nodded and left. Dillon checked his holstered automatics once again. Several grenades were clipped to his belt as well as a flare gun and several different types of flares stowed away in his jacket pockets, along with spare ammo clips. He hefted the H&K, yanked the door open and stepped boldly into the corridor. Four cyborg guards had exited the elevator and the doors were closing. Dillon got a glimpse of Ben’s face just before the two halves of the door kissed.
Dillon cut loose with a withering stream of bullets that caught the cyborgs in their legs. Blood and lubricating fluids spurted from veins and tubes. Bone and plastic splinters flew. The cyborgs collapsed in a collective heap and dragged themselves along the floor at a frightening rate of speed toward Dillon, fat yellow sparks leaping from their shattered legs. Dillon smoothly drew his flare gun and fired on the floor in front of them.
The cyborgs yowled and cursed as the bright, pure white flare flooded the corridor with intense light. Dillon whirled, keeping his eyes tightly shut. He could hear more shouts of pain, rage and dismay all around him as other guards, alerted by the shots, burst from rooms on either side, only to be blinded by the flare.
The flare abruptly went out. Dillon made his flares himself, and they only burned for one minute. His enemies would be blinded for a long time, but he was able to go on and do what needed to be done.
Dillon ran to the door leading to the main security room, jammed a grenade in the handle and yanked the pin. With a Whoomp! the door was blown off its hinges and Dillon quickly followed, taking advantage of the smoke and noise to spray the room with quick, lethal bursts of deadly bullets.
Men screamed and tried to fire back, but they barely got their guns clear of their holsters. In all the time they’d been working here, they’d never run up against opposition such as this. Dillon turned and fired back through the door, taking the guard who had been sneaking up on him full in the chest, throwing him back clear across the hallway to smash against the far wall. The guard slid to the floor, leaving a wide, sticky red smear.
Dillon heaved a grenade out into the hall and then ducked as if went off. He was rewarded with screams of dismay and pain. He quickly popped outside and sprayed the hallway with bullets, first left and then right. He ducked back inside, ejected the empty clip, slapped in a fresh one, and again sprayed the hall.
He heard desperate, frantic orders to pull back. Good. They’d take a minute or so to regroup and figure out how best to hit him again. But that was okay… he already had an idea of how to get out of here. But first, he had to find out where Kris was.
The security setup wasn’t far removed from similar systems Dillon was familiar with, and it wasn’t long before he was cycling through the series of security cameras in various rooms and sections of the castle.
“What in bloody hell is going on?” Frayne demanded. He jammed his gun in Chew Mi’s side. “What’s happening?”
“How should I know?”
Indeed, there were alarms and sirens going off, and flashing emergency lights had popped up from the floor, indicating the quickest route the staff should take to clear out. Armed guards were shoving past quickly exiting technicians. Spying Chew Mi, they headed towards her.
Chew Mi roughly knocked Frayne’s hand off her arm and smiled dangerously. “Guess who just bought themselves a weekend being tortured by yours truly.”
“Don’t be such a nit. If what I think happened has happened, you’re going to need every gunman you can find.”
“And what do you think has happened, you smirky bastard?”
Chew Mi snatched Frayne’s gun from his hand and cracked him across the face while her men surrounded Frayne’s mercenaries. “You must think I’m stupid! I put Dillon somewhere that nobody could get out of! I don’t care how good he’s supposed to be; he couldn’t get out of the Fishbowl!”
Frayne spat out a thick gob of blood. “Ask your men what’s happened, then.”
Chew Mi snapped at the first man in line. “Report!”
“It’s the prisoner you threw into the Fishbowl. Somehow he got out, got hold of his weapons and he’s gone berserk. He’s killed everyone up on the security floor!”
“How did he get up there?”
“I have no idea. He must have destroyed everything in the main security room, because the communication systems and the backups have all gone dead.”
Chew Mi raised her fists to the ceiling and screamed in pure hatred. “Get up there and kill him! Regain control of the floor. And I don’t care how many of you die doing it!”
“Bad move,” Frayne said.
“I suppose you have a better idea?”
Frayne sighed. “Don’t you understand yet who you’re dealing with? He gets to your security room, raises a considerable amount of holy hell and while you and your men rush up there wasting time, he’s long gone. He’s only one man against an army. He can’t afford to stay in one spot for too long or you’ll overrun him with sheer numbers… and he knows it.”
“So what are you saying? He’s gone already?” Chew Mi demanded. Her eyes were still furious, but she was listening.
“Sure he’s gone. And I know exactly where he went: to rescue the girl. He’ll want to get her before he escapes.”
“And why would he do that?”
“Because he fancies himself the friggin’ hero of this show, that’s why. And he won’t leave the Quinlan girl in the hands of the dastardly villains. He’ll go right to her. But what he doesn’t know is that the Whale is there as well, and if you don’t wanna miss a good fight, I suggest we hurry up and get moving.”
But Dillon did know that Frederick Whalen was in the room. He’d seen the huge bodyguard on the security camera, and that was why he went in machine gun first when he burst through the door of Numby’s office. He rolled, bounded to his feet lightly, and spun about, searching for Whalen. Where the hell does a bastard that big hide? Dillon wondered as he became increasingly more and more aware that Whalen was not in the room.
Dillon stood up straight, frowning. He looked over at the couch and saw Kris and Lady Thelma lying on it, both out cold. The body of Dr. Numby looked somehow small and pitiful lying near a beautiful handmade Pakistani rug. Dillon didn’t like it. Whalen wouldn’t have gone anywhere without Lady Thelma, which meant he had to be somewhere near . . . but where? Dillon hadn’t exactly snuck into the room, and even the stone deaf could have heard all the noise he had made busting into the place. Maybe he went to investigate the alarms and sirens that were still going off all over the castle?
And maybe you just oughta stop playing 20 Questions with yourself, get the girl and get the hell out before he shows up along with Frayne and Chew Mi! the common-sense part of his brain yelled at him. Dillon hurried toward the couch…
And the Pakistani rug jumped up and attacked him… seizing him in a bear hug.
For one of the few times in his life, Dillon had been caught totally by surprise. The rug had somehow grown arms that had wrapped completely around him and were squeezing him with frightening strength. Dillon blindly whipped his head forward and heard something that sounded suspiciously like bone crunch. The arms relaxed slightly and Dillon brought his legs up into the rug’s chest and shoved with all the power in his considerable leg muscles. The rug went flying one way and he went flying in the opposite direction to somersault to a panther-like landing on his feet.
The Whale threw the rug aside and Dillon saw how the trick had been worked. Using his prodigious strength, the Whale had actually ripped up a section of the parquet wood flooring with his bare hands, wedged his body into the space underneath, and arranged the rug over the hole.
The Whale charged Dillon. He fired off the last few bullets left in the clip and watched in amazement as the bullets hit Whalen in the chest with no effect whatsoever.
Dillon ducked under Whalen’s swing and was nearly knocked off balance by the wind. Dillon seized Whalen’s ankle and whipped the limb up into the air. Whalen executed a complete somersault and crashed onto his back with an impact that knocked paintings off the walls and knick-knacks off the fireplace mantle.
Whalen moved quicker than any man that size had a right to move and twisted like a giant alley cat, getting to his feet as if he were yanked upright by a bungee cord. Dillon ejected the spent clip and wasted precious seconds fumbling for a fresh one while Whalen seized the advantage and charged.
Dillon twirled out of the way with the grace of a bullfighter and cracked Whalen a good sharp blow upside the head with the butt of the Heckler & Koch. Whalen shrugged it off as his elbow lashed into Dillon’s side, throwing him onto Dr. Numby’s desk. Before Dillon could react, Whalen had grabbed the desk, which had to weigh at least five hundred pounds, and flipped it. Dillon tumbled through the air like a badly tossed Frisbee to strike the wall where Dr. Numby’s collection of swords hung. The impact of Dillon’s body hitting the wall knocked the swords off their hooks and they clattered around Dillon, who rolled out of the way of the larger blades.
Whalen jumped over the desk, his eyes gleaming with delight. Glad you’re enjoying this little workout, Dillon thought as he snatched up a sword and hurled it right at Whalen’s throat. See how you enjoy having this!
Whalen caught the sword almost lazily, as if he plucked swords out of the air every day. Whalen grinned at Dillon, broke the sword in half in his bare hands, and tossed the two halves over his shoulders. Then he charged again. Dillon slid between his legs like Jackie Robinson sliding for home and when Whalen turned around, Dillon let him have it with everything he had in a punch right over the Whale’s heart.
The Whale’s entire body jerked as if he had stuck his finger in a light socket. A horrid, blubbery gasp escaped him. His eyes bulged and he tried to draw in a breath. Dillon reached under his jacket, got one of his automatics clear before Whalen slapped it out of his hand, but the big man followed it up with a straight punch that made Dillon see red as he flew the length of the room and collided into the far wall hard enough to leave a man-shaped impression. He hit the floor, all the air knocked out of him.
Whalen wasn’t doing much better, but then again, after the punch Dillon gave him, he shouldn’t have even been alive. A punch like that would’ve stopped the heart of a normal man, but as Frederick Whalen was proving, he was nowhere near normal.
The door swung open and armed men piled into the room, taking up positions where they had clean lines of fire. Dillon used the wall as a brace while he pushed himself up to his feet. Whalen was bent over, hands on his knees, drawing in deep breaths as his color returned to normal.
Frayne shook his head. “What a shame. I’d have paid good money to see that one.”
Colonel Alvin Thompson looked up from his desk as Gregory Tipp entered Thompson’s private command car located at the rear of the twelve-car B.I.T.E train. Tipp’s face was bright with excitement. He eagerly shucked off his topcoat, threw it carelessly onto a high-backed chair, and walked over to Thompson’s desk.
“You took your sweet time about getting here,” Thompson complained mildly, gesturing at a silver, eighteen-cup capacity coffee urn burbling happily in a corner. “Coffee?”
“I’d rather have a belt of something stronger, but I know you don’t allow that sort of thing before a mission.”
“Absolutely not,” Thompson confirmed. “And all my lads know better. I don’t care if they drink a barrelful of booze once the job’s done, but nobody on my team goes on a mission if they’ve had so much as a mouthful of Listerine. I’m sorry, Greg. Technically you’re my boss, but those are my rules and—”
Tipp waved away Thompson’s regretful words. “This is your court, Alvin, and I’ll play by your rules. I’m not here as your boss. I’m here as a colleague to help smooth out the rough spots. Coffee will be fine, just throw an extra couple spoonfuls of sugar in it and that’ll be enough of a jolt to keep me up. Now what’s the play?”
Thompson gestured at the mapboard he had been examining. “I just received confirmation from one of my scout teams that Dillon was taken hostage by private guards in the employ of Dr. Aristotle Numby. I understand that he’s been under surveillance for some time now, but he’s got a lot of powerful friends in influential places and we haven’t been able to get the authorization to go into his castle for Dillon.”
Tipp nodded and looked at the schematics of the castle. “I know Numby. Met him at a variety of government functions. He’s reputedly a brilliant man, but he’s also been known to bend the rules a bit in his work in genetics and biomechanics. Numby’s been one the major players lobbying for a relaxation of the laws regarding cybernetic augmentation in the United Kingdom.”
“Well, he’s got Dillon, that’s a fact. My men questioned several barflies in Numby Dell and they swear that Dillon and the Quinlan girl were taken by ‘Dr. Numby’s windup warriors’.”
Tipp looked up sharply. “That a quote from your lads or the barflies?”
“And you interpret that to mean—?”
Thompson shrugged, walked over to the urn, and began pouring coffee for Tipp into a huge black mug with B.I.T.E. in red letters emblazoned on the side, the letters forming huge fangs in a gaping snake’s mouth. “Numby’s got cyborgs up there that he uses for his personal use is the only thing I can figure.”
Tipp looked back down at the schematic. “Big place. What did you have in mind?”
“First off, do you have the authorization to give me the go ahead to take the castle?”
Tipp took the steaming mug of coffee and blew on the liquid twice before taking a cautious sip. He looked at his friend with steady eyes. “Don’t worry about it. I’m giving you the word to take the castle any way you deem necessary.”
Thompson frowned. “Dammit, Greg, don’t go putting your arse in the grinder if you don’t have to! If we bust in there and kill some people and don’t find Dillon or any evidence of illegal cybernetics—”
“Then I guess you’ll just have to bloody well make sure that you do, hmm?”
“I’m going to end all of this right here and now,” Chew Mi promised grimly. An even dozen of her men had their guns pointed squarely at Frayne and his men. Frayne was unarmed, but his men still had their guns and looked perfectly ready to use them with or without a word from Frayne.
Dillon and the Whale had been shoved into the middle of the two groups. Now that he was closer to the larger man and could see through the bullet holes in his shirt, Dillon saw how the Whale had survived being shot: the giant was wearing some kind of flexible body armor. That, along with his considerable musculature had been enough to spare him. Dillon made a note to use armor piercing shells next time he had Whalen in his gun sight. If there was going to be a next time, because from the antsy way Chew Mi’s and Frayne’s respective crews were acting they were just about to reenact the last fifteen minutes of The Wild Bunch.
“Good idea, twinkle.” Frayne confirmed and snapped his fingers. A gun was tossed to him by one of his men and he ran lightly over to where Kris lay on the couch. “First things first: I want that damned pain in the ass ring, Dillon, and I want it right now. No tricks or I give your girlfriend here a 9mm hair dye using her brains.”
“Okay, okay!” Dillon reached into a pocket and pulled out the golden ring, the opal sparkling wetly in the bright overhead lighting. “Listen, let’s just all take it easy here before—”
Whalen rabbit punched Dillon with enough force to knock him to the floor. The ring flew up into the air, turning over and over, and for a few crucial seconds, everybody’s eyes were on it.
Chew Mi was the first to snatch her eyes back on the one thing in the room that really mattered to her: Frederick Whalen, the man who had slain her beloved Dr. Numby. Chew Mi lifted her AK-47 and screamed as she squeezed the trigger. A dozen bullets took Whalen high up on the chest and blood spurted in a fine mist as Whalen’s body jiggered and jumped. The impact of the bullets kicked him backwards into two of Frayne’s men. AK-47 must have been loaded with Teflon bullets, Dillon thought as he watched Whalen’s massive body crash to the floor.
The rest of Frayne’s crew opened fired enthusiastically on Chew Mi’s men, who were just as generous in their return fire. Dillon stayed on the floor, covered his head, and hoped they’d use up all their bullets in their sudden, bloodthirsty zeal to wipe each other out before remembering he was between them.
Frayne caught half a clip in his stomach and chest and fell right next to Dillon, his eyes astonished, as if he could hardly believe that he was dying. Dillon looked over at Whalen, who was sitting with his hands in his lap like a giant child, his eyes glazed and unfocused, his shirt and jacket soaked with his own blood.
Frayne’s crew and Chew Mi’s men were all dead, having shot each other into hamburger. The room was filled with smoke and the thick smell of cordite. Chew Mi dropped her AK-47, grabbed up the golden ring and ran from the room, cackling. “Now I have Odin’s ring and it is I who will determine where it goes!”
“Swell.” Dillon got to his feet and stepped over Frayne, his intention to check on Kris.
Frayne’s hand seized Dillon’s ankle. Dillon looked down at his dying enemy, who was trying to say something, but only managed a gargling rasp as thick, dark blood bubbled past his lips.
“What the hell do you want, Frayne? Die with a little dignity, willya?”
“Too bad… it had to end up . . . like this…”
“Not from where I’m standing.” Dillon kicked his foot free and went over to Kris. He yanked her to a sitting position, unsnapped one of the pouches on his belt, and pulled out a small white capsule that he cracked in half under her nose. She came back to consciousness in seconds and was appalled to find herself sitting in a room that had been turned into a slaughterhouse.
“What… Dillon, what in …?”
Dillon pulled her roughly to her feet. “I’ll explain on the run. Right now we’ve got to catch up to Chew Mi!”
“Why else? The damn ring’s changed hands again!”