As some of you are aware, I posted a story some time ago and then took it down, submitting it to a scifi magazine in the hopes it would be published. Sadly, because of circumstances outside of anyone's control, it never made it.
So I took the advice of my editor and friend and decided to republish the story. I got the idea for it a long time ago (the protagonist anyway), but the story came to me when I was listening to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. It's definitely one of my favorite songs. I hope you enjoy the story that arose from it. :D
Just thirty more seconds.
She'd made it this far, and riches beyond her wildest dreams were right within her grasp. The last big score, like the old vids used to call it, and it was all right there; enough crypto to disappear from the Terra system entirely and live out the rest of her days on some desert island on a no-name planet in the Nether somewhere. She stretched out her slender fingers and plugged her wrist-mounted console into the server. The holographic display sprung to life in front of her, bathing her pale skin in a faint orange glow before her other hand flew over the virtual keys.
A piercing shriek stopped her cold, forcing her to grit her teeth and cover her ears. The cool blue illumination in the server bank turned an ominous red color, and she heard the distant thundering of metallic footsteps as what would certainly be a platoon's worth of security drones closed in on her. She hurried to finish extracting the account keys before snatching the cord from the server, stuffing it back into the thin, won fabric of her cargo shorts. She stood up straight, stretching her arms over her head and turning toward the door.
Thirty security drones had swarmed the doorway, their gunmetal gray frames gleaming in the overhead light of the hallway leading to her freedom. Only easy day was yesterday, right?
"Place your hands behind your head and prepare to be searched. You have violated the property boundary of Aromak Industries and are now being detained pending arbitration," she heard the lead drone declare. Despite having disassembled plenty of these drones and discarding the black plexiglass shields that hid their optical sensors in their heads, she imagined some sort of stern-faced cop behind there. Probably got his ass beat in school, so he decided to be a guard instead of something useful. She slowly drew her hands back behind her head, but they kept going, reaching for the two pistols she had strapped across her shoulders. Four of them filed into the cramped server room, and a fifth began its steady approach toward her.
It came up close, lowering its submachine gun to the attachment point on its right thigh. Good, they're using actual weapons and not just gun arms. That made planning her escape much easier; she could have torn off the arm and hacked the fire controls to operate it, but that took a lot longer than just stealing their guns. As soon as it reached up to grab her wrist, she shuffled forward, pressing right up against its torso and drawing her guns from their holsters. Expertly-place rounds exploded the plexiglass shields that served as their faces, taking out the two flanking her first. The ones closer in front of her opened fire, but her make-shift protector soaked up the bullets like a sponge. She took aim and blinded the other two. Just in time, too, as her white knight still had enough life left in it to grab its weapon and aim it toward her.
"Can't help you now, bucko!" She dropped the pistols, making a mental note to grab them in just a second. Her left arm swung around and grabbed the robot's hand, crushing it under the pressure of her superbly-built cybernetic hand. Tearing its mangled hand out from the wrist, she turned the weapon on the doorway and sprayed bullets at the other assembled security drones. She wasn't going to hit anything, but at least it'd force them to take cover. The magazine expended, she dropped the gun and grabbed her pistols.
The neural augmentation matrix in her brain had shifted into overdrive to calculate the best route out of the building. The good news was it wouldn't take all that long at the rate she could sprint down the emergency stairwell. The bad news was the only way out to freedom was through the front doors. The security lock down made the building a veritable fortress, except for one preposterously obvious oversight: the double doors that led to the front courtyard. At least once I'm over the fence, I'm safe. No room for if in her mind; she was making it out.
She hoisted the drone's carcass into her arms, positioning it like a chest plate as she sprinted to the door that led out of the server room. It wasn't going to be worth much as a shield, but the way she'd figured it in her head, she didn't need more than a few steps with it to position herself properly. She'd take out as many of the drones ahead of her as possible, which was an eminently doable feat given her hardware; she didn't spring for armor-piercing ammo just for giggles, after all. She'd have to hopscotch her way to the right, where she could use the railing overlooking the twelve-story drop to maneuver behind them.
All she had to do at that point was keep moving until she reached the other end of the hall. The way she had it counted, only a handful of them would be left standing, and with how many bells and whistles she had in her brain, acing them was child's play. Lucky for her, she was pretty much a big kid.
Every action was executed flawlessly. Muscle and nerve moved in perfect concert with metal and circuitry, and before she knew it she was on the other side of what had been more than twenty armed drones. She took a second to look over her handiwork, smiling from ear to ear.
"Doesn't get much better than that, does it?" She tucked her empty magazines into the pouches on her canvas belt, withdrawing two more and slamming them home into her pistols. The siren was building wide, and she had no doubt that there was a veritable army of security now making their way towards her. Cables and motors wound up, her biomechanical combination of legs sending her down the hall in a flash. She practically tore the door to the emergency stairwell off its hinges and bolted down the stairs. Vaulting an entire flight of stairs in the narrow rectangular corridor was hell on her flesh-and-bone leg, but the alternative was unthinkable.
Five floors left to go and she encountered resistance. These drones didn't even bother with a warning; they opened fire immediately, pinning her back against the concrete wall. "Shit!" She jammed herself into the wall, ducking her head down to keep out of the line of fire. She needed that damn stairwell. The only other choice was absolutely unthinkable.
This is going to hurt like a son of a bitch. She barely waited for her brain to complete that thought before launching herself over the railing into the empty space between the steps. The exhilaration of free fall lasted for a fraction of a second before she threw her cybernetic arm out, slamming it against a railing to slow her descent. The unintended consequence of that act, though, was tumbling down that narrow shaft and knocking into every surface she possibly could. Bruises flared up immediately across her pale body, gashes opening up and bleeding through the thin fabric of her practically non-existent clothing. She made it to the bottom in record time, though, and left a dent in the concrete floor at the bottom with her cybernetic knee.
She looked up from the floor and caught sight of the doors. This was it. All she had to do was bolt to the front doors, break the ballistic glass windows, and vault over the fence around the courtyard. Too easy, baby.
She broke from her heroic stance and ran full speed across the lobby. The drones were in hot pursuit, with more joining in the fight from the upper floors and shooting her way from the balcony. It didn't matter. Her cybernetic fist impacted thick glass with enough force to move an armored car and punched clean through. Much as she hated to do it, she detached her arm at the elbow and activated the countermeasure explosives she'd placed within it. The resulting explosion rattled her skull and deafened her, but the window was a distant memory. Without bothering to look behind her, she ran for her life. The yellow star overhead felt like heaven, and the hot wind blowing across her reminded her that she was just a few steps away from paradise.
With one final effort, she activated the overdrive servos in her mechanical leg and launched herself clean over the fence. She turned and continued her sprint down the street, making her way out of range of Aromak security. Ducking down an adjoining alleyway next to a warehouse, she laughed. She laughed until her lungs burned and she could barely stand.