• Chapter 1: Descent

    The wind howled mercilessly, whipping and licking at the rooftops of downtown Los Angeles. He crept low; at an altitude this high, a small burst of wind could knock him straight to the unforgiving pavement below. His auburn eyes darted to the right, a gleam of silver attracting his attention. It was what he was looking for: a small latch to the rooftop’s entrance. He made his way to it, carefully balancing against the strong wind and the newly accompanied rain. Touching the top of his head, he found his goggles, and slid them over his eyes. This did little to help his vision, but at least the rain wasn’t burning his eyes. With that little bit in mind, he lowered his sleeves. The last thing he needed was an acid-rash. His hands had to be surgically still.

    As he loomed closer, he noticed the complexity of the latch. It was thick, with five cylindrical dials embedded into it, almost like the old luggage locks of the twentieth century. He frowned at this; he hadn’t expected a combination, instead relying on his lock-picking skills.

    “Dol!” A female voice whispered harshly, trying her best to be heard above the roaring wind. She approached lithely, her piercing eyes scanning the area around her alertly. “What’s taking you so long?”

    Dol grinned at her amusedly, and silently nodded his head towards the lock. She frowned. “Well… Can’t you do something about that?”

    Dol shook his head, but continued to smile, “Not without a little help, Ali. Let me see your belt.”

    Ali’s eyes grew wide behind her goggles, “This is no time to get fresh, Dol, we’re on a tight schedu-“

    Dol’s laughter cut her off, “No, no, you silly girl. I need a leather brace.”

    Ali shrugged and reached to her waist, unbuckling the belt and sliding it out of her pant’s loops in a playfully flowing way. She gave him a little smirk, “See that I get that back”

    He shook his head, grinning at her a bit, before turning back to the lock. Placing the non-buckled end of the belt through the back of the lock, he started to wrap around the metal. Tying it off, he wrapped part of the belt around his wrist and gripped it with his hands, and tugged. Normally a futile effort, the lock suddenly snapped and gave way, shattering in two directions. Ali looked unimpressed, hands extended to receive her belt.

    “And why did you need my belt to rip that lock off?” She inquired, here eyes narrowing to half-slits.

    “I needed a grip. My gloves aren’t equipped to grip onto malo-steel. You know as well as I do that all it takes is a little bit of moisture and it’s as slippery as a greased up ninja.” Dol smiled at his own joke, as he was oft to do. “But I remembered that you still wear leather, as hard as that is to find, and it contours perfectly to the components of-“

    Ali cut him off with a yawn, “Whatever. Let’s just get this over with.”

    Dol sighed, once again losing her in his conversation about metals and compositions, but maintained a grin. Despite pretending to lack interest in what he was talking about, he knew she was the top in her field in almost anything to do with knowledge on various alloy and ore. She was merely testing him, again. He flipped up the naked latch and slowly lifted the glass cover, revealing the room below. The change in temperature instantly fogged his goggles, forcing him to remove them. He didn’t like what he saw.

    “Ali, suddenly I don’t have such a good feeling about this job. The boss said he needed these documents, but those little red blinking dots on the sides of the walls are far from friendly looking. And something tells me that those aren’t laser emitters. They look explosive.”

    Ali frowned. Why would someone plant explosives around the office of the CEO of Qualcorp to protect his documents? Are they really that insecure that they maintain the “if I can’t have them, no one can” mentality?

    Dol squinted a bit, allowing his eyes to adjust to the near darkness that encompassed the room, “That’s not all, Ali. Those green lights near the office’s door are sentient emitters. The moment anyone with a conscious thought enters that room, I’m guessing we’ll either be blown to smithereens by the bombs, fried by the emitters, or…” he squinted again, and pointed, “Those.”

    Two large metallic objects were in the far back corner of the room, standing to either side of the large desk. They were directly below the window, and almost resembled washing machines. Dol recognized them immediately as pro-bots, protectors often purchased by high-ranking officials of the government as bodyguards. They were deactivated now, of course, the CEO was not in the room. But the fact that they remained in the room following his leave concerned Dol. These machines could be in a dormant state, programmed to attack the moment the sentient emitters activated. In fact, the emitters may not even fire at all, instead having been set up to communicate with the pro-bots. What need would there be for a emitter to fire beams at its target if the bots could evaporate all trace of any intruder? But this still did not explain the need for the bombs.

    Suddenly Ali clapped her hands, “Dol you idiot! Those bombs aren’t meant for us! They’re for the CEO! I think we’re butting in the middle of something a bit more sinister than I want to think about!”

    Dol shook his head, “But how? Those pro-bots would have destroyed anyone who came near the room the minute the CEO left. Someone else got here first, but the documents are still here. They’re obviously after a larger piece of the puzzle than we are. Any suggestions?”

    Ali ran her hands through her curly long hair in contemplation. It wasn’t long before her lips gave way to another smile, “First off we need to disable the bombs. But we can’t do that because getting near them will set off the pro-bots. The bombs look like sticky rocks, so they were probably thrown into the room, but from where I don’t know. This vent was locked. Still, it looks as if the rocks are motion set, activating their sensors once they stick to their target base. Removing them from the base will activate them. Going near them will activate them. But I believe if we go behind them…”

    Dol nodded, knowing the rest. “I’m on it.” Scanning the room a final time for any unforeseen surprises, he finally grasped the edge of the vent and swung. With a tight grip, he kept his legs tucked, avoiding the sight of the bomb’s eyes by keeping high, and locked his feet against the lighting fixture on the ceiling. Luckily the edge of the vent was not malo-steel, and his grip stood true. He tapped his heels together, revealing sharp books in the front of his boots. Kicking up, he caught a good chunk of the ceiling and tested its hold. Thankfully, it kept, and he continued with the other foot a bit further down. Letting go with one hand, he tapped under his wrist and a single large blade protruded from his arm. Flexing his wrist, the blade bended into a hook and he sunk this into the wall above him. Using his tongue, he activated the other wrist likewise, and repeated the motions. Now he was firmly clamped onto the ceiling, through crudely, and made his way towards the eastern wall. Ali watched from above, holding in her hands a small computer. Before opening it, put on a helmet, tapped the side of it, and a small dome encompassed the top half of her body, shielding out the acidic rain. Opening the computer, she watched as a little track of Dol skittered across the ceiling and headed towards the wall. She tapped a small device in her back molar, activating a telecommunications relay with Dol’s inner ear receiver.

    “Once you get to that wall,” She whispered, “You’ll need to cut about seven inches deep. The wall is soft, so it shouldn’t be that hard. After you get through there you’ll be into a hallway that has practically no defense. One pat-bot, that’s it. I’m sure you’ll be more than happy to take that on.” She grinned to herself mischievously, “After that, I’ll guide you to the bomb locations. Happy hunting!”

    Dol nodded to himself. He touched the transceiver in his molar to activate his own communications with Ali and continued to the wall. Reaching the end, he squeezed his right foot twice, releasing its hook. He kicked the side of his foot against the wall, and a small light shone from the font. Tapping his toe against a button inside the boot, he activated a green beam from the light, which began to cut into the wall. After a few minutes, he had a nice sized hole with which to continue to the hallway on the other side.

    He thought he heard a snicker, but shook it off.

    “Continue through to the hallway,” he whispered.

    Ali watched on as he slipped through the hole and turned around to focus on the computer. The screen showed many things: Dol’s vitals, his location on the grid, and a camera view of what he saw. He was disconnected from the ceiling now, sliding feet first through a small tunnel he’d cut through the wall and was about to drop to the hallway below it.

    Ali couldn’t help but snicker. She saw a pat-bot heading his way on the grid, but it wasn’t alone. It was unarmed, of course, most pat-bots were. They had mild concussion shockers attacked to the side of their arms, and Dol was more than apt to handle five or six at a time. He hated them, though, as more than once in a while a shock would get through and Dol simply hated being shocked. Ali, on the other hand, was greatly amused at his annoyance.

    Dol slide his feet to the side of the hallway’s wall, and jumped down, immediately surrounded by three pat-bots. His eyes narrowed, his stern jaw tightening just a bit. The pat-bots stood about six feet tall a piece, with a humanoid shape complete with head, arms, torso, waist, and legs. Its hands were formed like humans, ready to be armed with any weapon a human could wield. Most companies opted not to arm their pat-bots, though, choosing to rely on the bot’s stunning capabilities. They were like police in this aspect, with the ability to patrol halls and capture, not kill. Dol would use this to his advantage.

    “Just one, eh Ali?” He muttered. He was rewarded with an amused giggle, causing him to smile. “I’ll get you for this one.”

    “Oh come on. This is payback for that time you locked me in a room full of zappers. Those little buggers hurt!” Ali retorted, still smiling.

    “Zappers are man-made wasps, of course they hurt. They’re effective little defense mechanisms though, you have to admit, and completely harmless in the long term. Annoying though, I’ll admit. You have your revenge.” The pat-bots moved closer, flashing red lights from their chests in warning.

    “You are under violation of law 2.3-2: Trespassing on-“ it began, but Dol cut it off with a swift kick to its head, a flow of sparks and wires showering the ground. The head quickly followed. A second bot closed in behind him but Dol was already in momentum, following his first kick with a second low sweep with the alternate leg, knocking the advancing bot to the ground. He gathered himself quickly and leapt backwards, landing on top of the bot’s chest and tapped his wrist, extending a blade and slashing a large gash in the bot’s chest. Quickly grasping a fist-full of wires, he leapt off the bot, kicked the side of his boots together in mid-air, clinched his feet, and burned two nice-sized holes into the head of the third bot. By the time he hit the floor, the bots were scrap and Dol was smiling.

    “What, you can’t do better than that, Ali?” He smirked, and was promptly dropped with a large jolt in the back. Ali giggled in his ear through the receiver.

    “There’s one more.” She updated.

    Dol groaned, hating to have been caught off-guard, “Not fair. No problem, though.”

    The bot advanced on him quickly, but this didn’t worry Dol. It was the absence of a warning message on the bot’s chest and the addition of a side-arm on it’s waist that concerned him. This bot meant business.

    “Uh, Ali? I don’t think this one is a Pat.”

    "Of course it is, Dol! It’s showing up on my com as a Mark I Pat, model number 82443 manufactured in 2034… “ She trailed off.

    “When?!” Dol exclaimed, but he didn’t have time to listen to an answer. As the bot closed in on him, its eyes glowed blue, and it spoke, “Criminal intent detected. Suspect identified and transmitted to base. Awaiting order.” It reached him, its sparkling stun-attachment on its right arm glowing above his head. Dol leaned back, putting his weight on the back of his shoulders and pushed upward, kicking the bot’s arm. It stumbled back, but recovered in time to receive a kick in its chest. Ali’s voice pierced Dol’s ears.

    “Dol! Watch out! This bot was a recall! During the year 2034 almost 96% of the pat-bots made were intentionally sabotaged by Rocom to be sold as enforcers at half the cost of production. Instead of an enforcer, they got a modded pat-bot, undetectable by most computers, meaning that companies who couldn’t normally have enforcer patrols could have enforcer protection. When the public found out, there was a huge scandal and the media forced a recall. Obviously, a few of the models never made said recall, and it doesn’t surprise me that some of them patrol the halls of Qualcorp. The good news is they have no outside network connection, and so cannot receive orders. The bad news is they tend to make up their own, which means watch out for the damn gun!”

    Dol didn’t have to be told twice. His eyes on the gun strapped to the pat’s side, he cautiously stepped around the bot. With super-human speed, the bot could draw and fire the gun before Dol would know what hit him, but luckily that was the limit to the bot’s speed. Dol would have to take care of this bot and quickly, before it thought to use the gun.

    Glimpsing once at his feet, he had an idea.

    He tapped the side of his boot igniting the laser beam and dropped to the ground flat on his back. The beam cut upward, carving a neat slice through the middle of the bot.

    Simultaneously, the bot drew its weapon and fired, grazing Dol’s shoulder. He was lucky he had been dropping to the ground, or that would have been a kill shot to the heart.

    Still, he winced in pain and gazed at the ceiling as heard the bot crumble to the ground. Ali gaped, having seen Dol drop and stare at the ceiling through her first-person camera, and hearing the gunshot. Neglecting a glance at his vitals, she gasped, “Dol! Dol! Are you alright? Oh God please don’t be dead, I didn’t know it was modded! I should have checked, but,” She sniffled.

    “I’m alright, Ali. Just a flesh wound. I fell on purpose. Let’s finish the job.”

    Ali’s eyes widened a bit and she smiled to herself, “Thank God… don’t you do that to me again.” Her eyes drifted back to the computer, “Let’s get these bombs defused.”