Serialized Science Fiction.

Blast from the Past
Tom Haynes

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crack the protection the Photon Wiz had left behind and she managed to retrieve the plans, they tried to extract her away from us. She was the first to die after Cooleye Junction.

Anyway, the Mark VII was the only thing keeping the Paladins off of our backs. They don't have anything to counter it and their mages, whenever they noticed it, haven't been able to get a bead on it. They would start to mount an offense and Bit Brain would sound off about it. They had tried some feints with their reserves, but they still thought they were dealing with run of the mill shadowrunners. Plus, this must not have been the main action tonight. Bit Brain had caught some Paladin traffic about another OPFOR; we must be the alpha force. However, he wasn't able to patch into the beta force's communications.

In hindsight, we were obviously a diversionary thrust -- we were never intended to get in the building. The Paladins had hit us full force at first, but had withdrawn at least three quarters of their units about two minutes into the fire fight. It was apparent they now knew we were a distraction, but the fact that we didn't cave in immediately was worrying someone. They must be asking themselves if we were the real attack force and the other group a diversion.

We weren't asking ourselves that. It was pretty clear the Mr. Johnson had underestimated our abilities. Also, while time and nuyen had been limited, we had been able to clarify and expand on the security information he had given us. While everything he had given us had been on the up-and-up, it was the things he hadn't given us that were going to give us problems. Take the hellhounds, there was no mention that they were on our exit path. We thought his information had been incomplete. Now, it was evident that what happened after we entertained the Paladins was of no consequence.

We knew the copters would be there -- we had left Tenney with the pilots. They would stay until our Tenney saw that our signals flatlined. Once she knew we were in trouble, she would force them to make an extraction in a hot LZ. We had planned for it, but we still had 10 minutes before she would try. We had suppressors on our comm links, which we had already disabled, but she still would not be actively scanning until it was too late. If she started too early, then the Paladins might detect the activity and jump up the responses. If we could have afforded another decker, they could have been monitoring for increased security. But even then, the risk of discovery could have been too much. Hell, we don't even know if Tenney is still alive. Maybe we underestimated the Mr. Johnson. Perhaps he was willing to throw away the copters as well to make the diversion as real as possible. Or maybe they would be a backup to the other action.

It didn't matter, in ten minutes; we would either be at the pickup site or dead. Either the copters were there or we were dead. Some Paladin would loose his or her head for greasing me, but that was of small comfort.

Anyway, Bit Brain was reporting that a new thrust was going to start. That was when all hell broke loose. An APC pulled up and our chances went way down. The 50s on it opened up and cut Gorgie, our pigman, in half. Her top spasmed away from her legs, which just crumpled to the ground. The Sarge had to crawl over to get the heavy weapon. Even though he didn't have the correct neural link and software, we needed the suppressive firepower of the heavy machine gun. With a neural interface, an expert could sculpt rock from 50 paces. We would be happy if the Sarge could saw the rock in two.

The Sarge got to the weapon and threw it away in disgust. A round had fragged the trigger and we hadn't been able to afford the upgrade to his smartware. What was the world coming to?

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