Double or Nothing (2 of n)
by Stewart Wilson
Engage mindload.ag13.genesis Mental processes streamed to disk to study effects of removing long-term memory blocks. Streaming. . . . . 100%
The mnemonic key contained in the image on his smartphone is supposed to block off access to the long term memory for a set time. Sean Mitchell, Agent 13 of the Genesis Project, knew for a fact that it was a lie. After eight minutes he can remember everything. Either the image didn't work, or there's something the Genesis project — and the Ministry — wasn't telling him. But that wouldn't be the first time.
The pistols weighed down his hands. Each one with a bulky clip that wrapped around the backs of his hands, creation engines for ammunition. He could fire them all day and never run out. Certainly, the five shots that killed the people sat at the bar outside didn't make the guns lighter at all. He looked over their bodies, making sure they were dead. Some part of him hoped that the image would kick in later. He didn't want more faces screaming behind his eyes.
There's a service stairway behind an access door. Sean opened it quietly, the silent-running fibres in his feet deadening the noise of death on concrete. There was nobody out to see any commotion. The guns were silenced, stealth weapons. About as much noise as a gnat farting, every one. Not much of a herald to murder. No loud thunderclap, no spent shell casing, nothing but a hiss of escaping air and the red hole of an entry wound.
The apartment door shattered under his shoulder. Wood flashed into toothpicks as enhanced muscle hit it with the force of a shotgun blast. Behind the door, ten pairs of eyes stare right at him. These were people he had lived with, eaten with, slept with. Frankfurter Ring flashed before his eyes. Killed with. The moment of remembrance hung in the air, motionless. Recognition flaring far too slow in every face. Some welcomed him back, some hated him, some questioned him. All of them saw the guns in his hands.
The moment broke.
Sean shot first. He didn't, as a rule. Especially when he was himself. He waited for the other man. But this time it was ten to one, more in the back with access to the armoury, more guns than the pistols and sub-machineguns out front. His fingers twitched once, twice. Two men, maybe eighteen years old, died as bullets ripped through them. In the corner of his vision, Sean saw just enough to dive forwards, letting the sub-machinegun tear through the empty space. More bullets, this time shredding the gunner's legs.
Always more bullets. The whole scene punctuated by the feel of his pistols, each ringing a shot in his imagination. The roar of a shotgun deafening him, tearing through the mechanism of one gun. Three more bullets. Three more holes spurted blood. One more face, this time twisted with rage. He threw the gun to the floor, grasping for something else. His hand closed on an Ingram and Sean didn't have to imagine the gunshots any more.
More people, storming out of the back rooms. Armed. Sean dived around bullets with the grace of a man in serious danger of dying, spraying ammunition into space and hoping. Spray and pray, the mark of an amateur. Dusty light reflected a shotgun cradled in a dead man's hands, and he lunged for it. Pump action. Just what he needed. More shots, this time deadly accurate.
Everything went quiet. No movement. Just the dim light of a Munich summer through closed curtains, catching the smoke in the air. Trembling, he dropped the shotgun and plucked both of his guns from the ground. There were bodies all over the place. The converted apartments could have slept ten within reason. There were twenty-five bodies.
His Treo vibrated. He felt like vomiting, but forced himself to read it. Maybe it was the trigger to forget, to put him in a coma and Genesis would get him out when they came for the bodies. But this was a foreign power, and nobody in the Ministry had that kind of jurisdiction. He wasn't going to forget yet. The mail just confirmed his worst fears.
From: Locke <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: 13 <email@example.com> Date: 16/05/06 13:07 Subject: Part 2 Part 1 down. The dirties are at another location. Get them back and you get the second part of the key. Map is attached. Attachment: Neuperlach.jpg
Hiding the guns beneath his jacket once more, Sean made his way wearily to the Königzplatz station.
* * *
On the train again. Neuperlach was a nice place, eighties rather than sixties dominating the scenery. Construction sites on the outskirts, the city constantly expanding. In another life, he could live there.
The harsh light of day showed that the damaged pistol was wrecked. Somewhere, Sean knew there was a button to push and the engine would turn on itself, cannibalising the gun until all that was left was sand. Nobody would notice it in a trash can. He bought cigarettes and set to planning his assault.
It wasn't easy. He may have cut off the head but the cult could do just as much damage detonating the bombs with him in the room, leaving him condemned to a slow death. Not a good start. Going in shooting was out of the question. He was out of his depth. No memory implants to fake his way through, just a bag full of concealed weapons and the promise of remembering nothing.
He dialled, thumb flashing over the keypad.
"Thirteen. I got your mail. Not quite sure what to make of it."
"I thought it was straightforward enough. Government orders, I can't tell them to piss off."
"I know. But... how am I supposed to do it? There's ghosts dancing in front of my eyes every time I blink. So many of them were young, you know? Kids. Didn't know what they were doing."
"That doesn't change anything, Thirteen."
"If I go in I'll get dirty. I didn't think Genesis was sacrificial."
"We're not. I thought you were smarter than that. You were the one asked for all of it."
"What do you mean?"
"You think that's just explosives you've been carrying? Start remembering what we beamed into your optic nerve and stop pissing about."
The line went dead.
Sean inspected the contents of the bag right there in the sun, as soon as the buses had gone and nobody could see. Weapons. Lethal, non-lethal, it was all the same. Weapons. Tasergloves, a wristgun, three of the one-shot credit card shotguns, flashbang grenades and a collapsible rifle. All the tools of the trade. Underneath, the faint glimmer of what Locke dismissed as "spy stuff". A magnetic grapple, remote-controlled drone, pulse unit, and a lockpick gun.
Behind the ghosts screaming in his head, a plan began to form. The block with the bombs was close to the train lines, risking a detonation was a bad idea. Instead, he could try to get in the back and trigger the pulse unit close up. Anything electrical would die, including the triggers on the dirty bombs. The problem would be getting in close enough.
* * *
More memories. In the gym in high school, the teacher berating him for being unable to climb. "You are weak and worthless, Mitchell! Get up that rope." People pointing and laughing when he was finally stuck at the top, scared of letting go. Not scared of how high he was, but petrified of the fall and what gravity would do to his body.
Sean had the same worry five stories above the ground. A nondescript man climbing up the side of an apartment building, paralysed with fear. Not the fear of being shot, but the fear of falling. He took it steady, trying to place his footsteps and haul himself up quietly. Ridges of the fibre in his feet jutted out, giving him extra grip. He wouldn't slip if only he could pull himself up.
His arms were burning by the time he could see in through the apartment window. He half-fell onto the balcony, wheezing for breath. What a state for a government agent to be in. Squinting through the window showed five figures working on suitcases. The dirty bombs, they had to be. Sean pulled the pulse unit from his jacket. Five minutes without power. More than enough. When people are trying to kill each other the difference between life and death is in that tenth of a second between thinking about pulling the trigger and actually doing so, between thought and action. Five minutes was an eternity.
The remaining pistol was wrapped around his left hand. His right had one of the shotgun cards, with another in easy reach and the weight of the wristgun pulling his forearm down. The lock was nothing, it practically shook apart. That's when people noticed. That's when Sean triggered the pulse and everything went to hell.
These weren't the deluded teenagers and fortysomethings looking for a meaning to their lives. These were dedicated bomb-makers, dedicated killers out to destroy civilization, killing thousands. That didn't stop the scream of the first one to die lingering in Sean's ears. The shotgun went off, shattering the knee of one trying busily to detonate the bomb. More bullets saw to him.
The wristgun was a noisy thing, rattling its way through a hundred-round clip. The pistol was silent, death for everyone it pointed at. More gunfire, shotguns and an old machine gun. Anything to stop the angel of death from killing their plans. Another one tried to detonate the bombs without realising that the power was off. Explosive rounds tore his skull open.
Two more brought low by bullets, rounds slammed into their corpses long after they were dead. A final check, and Sean was sure. The dance of death was over once more. Five bodies, and all the bombs. He called Locke.
* * *
Five floors under the Mornington Crescent underground station, Sean Mitchell sat in a chair. General Warren Locke, the head of the Genesis Project, looked him over carefully.
"Thirteen, you can't take this the wrong way. We need to know what makes you tick, in the field."
"So you con me into believing that I'm not going to remember any of it? Why don't you just kill me and flay my brain? That's what the Minister wants, isn't it?"
"What the Minister wants and what he gets are two very different things, Thirteen. He wanted you to forget. He wanted us to create memory keys that would turn anyone off the street into a conformist killer. I don't like that, Thirteen. But nor do I like anarchist freaks with dirty bombs trying to destroy civilisation."
"So is that it? You're playing along for now?"
"No. You're part of the Project. Government money has given you biological and mnemonic enhancements. I'm not going to throw all that away in favour of pulling just anyone off the street for a dangerous job."
"How far are you willing to go, Locke?"
"Are you sure?"
Sean got no reply.
"What now? Give me the second part of the key, wipe my memory and forget this all happened?"
"I'm sorry. There is no second part. The first part allowed us to stream the encounters from your brain without invasive procedures. I'm afraid we can't wipe close memories like that."
"The only reason I did this is because I wouldn't remember. Even on the flight back, I was sedated. And I can see all their faces. Every. Single. Fucking. One. Men, women, children. I don't care that they were trying to kill me, I didn't want any part in killing them."
"I know. But you have to come to terms with what you are. Before we took you in you were a murderer!"
"No! It was self-defence!"
Locke's voice dropped. "You killed your best friend after finding him in bed with your girlfriend. You shot her at the time, but plotted the murder of your friend, that only occured six months later. That's premeditated murder. Some of the other fifteen I can try to justify for you, but I can't do them all."
"Is that it? Is this who I am, then? Your murder machine?"
"Not mine. The Minister signs all your orders. He tells me that you have dispensation to execute your duties by any means necessary. If it were up to me you'd not even have broken double figures."
"That doesn't make me feel any better."
"I didn't say it would."
"So I just have to live with them– their faces? Their screams?"
"Yes. Because doing so is how you know you're not a murderer inside, despite everything you've done. If you didn't see their faces, didn't hear their screams, I'd shoot you myself. And I'd live with your face. I don't need psychopaths. I need people who are willing to do what it takes and live with the consequences."
Sean lit a cigarette, blinking his eyes clear. "Wait. You need? What about the Minister?"
"The Minister is a gung-ho beancounter with a hard-on for killing. He's dangerous."
"And? You're not telling me now that you've told me all this about not being a psycho only to keep working for one?"
"No. It's gone on too long, Sean. We're supposed to be the world's policemen, not.. not this."
"What are you suggesting?"
"The Minister needs to vanish. We have a few places we can keep him under observation. He'd still have his freedom. But... everyone else is out in the field. You're the only one here who's actually altered."
"Where do you want him?"