|What: A simple robbery grows far more complicated than any of the participants anticipated.
WARNING: Violence, language, potentially disturbing imagery.
The summons comes via the GPS and transmitter unit that One gave to Selina so long ago. It vibrates three times in quick succession, there's a pause, and then three more vibrations before One's voice crackles through the small speaker.
"I can tell from the heat sensors that you have your unit on you and that you're alone. I have a job for you. If you're interested, come to my place and I'll give you the particulars."
And that's it. The transmission ends as abruptly as it began.
Of course there's no room for argument or debate, not that Selina would have tried to do so anyhow. One's one of those people who does not give her the impression that such would be appreciated if she were to try. Transportation is mused over and decided upon quickly; a train is hopped and a taxi then called, the latter told to drop her off three blocks from her destination. Not the speediest of ways to get to her destination but it keeps her from being seen.
By the time she makes it the shadows are long and dark enough for her to change into her costume in an alley, the darkness also allowing for her to scale the fire escape to his window without being seen.
Finally there, she raps lightly on his window, figuring that'd be the best way to go instead of showing up at his door while dressed like some kind of feline-esque dominatrix.
"Come in." The entrances to One's apartment are unlocked and his traps are disarmed. He must mean business.
Once the interior is visible, that becomes even more obvious. His living area is packed with gear. His trench gun and doctor's bag are piled on the couch along with two cutting-edge Israeli machine pistols, a grenade launcher, and even an antiquated British cavalry saber.
The man himself is sitting at his desk amidst an impressive array of electronic gadgetry. He snaps shut a titanium case, but there's another next to it of similar design that he leaves open. He's wearing simple, sturdy pants, a white t-shirt, and an armored vest with load-bearing rigs. The extra pockets are stuffed with magazines, grenades, scalpels, and other toys, with the shoulder holster for his revolver is strapped on top of it all.
"Thank you for coming," he greets her. "This is a time-sensitive project, so we'll have to work quickly. High risk, high reward. I need you for a tech robbery. I'd do it myself, but I'd be recognized in this particular facility. If you accept, I'll guide you by radio and serve as your tactical support in case of emergency. It won't be easy, but I'm willing to pay ten thousand in advance and another thirty on delivery."
Selina listens intently while One explains the job, her express as serious as his tone. "Right," she murmurs while looking around, taking in all the gear he's packing. "You come shooting for bear, it seems," she half-jokes, her expression a bit surprised. "Alright. I can do this job if you can give me the heads-up and get me where you need me to go."
Leather creaks while she stretches, limbering up for what she is guessing lays in store for her. Tight crawl spaces, the need to bend herself in all sorts of interesting ways... yes, she definitely will need to make sure her muscles are warmed up before she tries to snake her way over and inside places only cats should logically fit into.
"You mind telling me what it is I'm looking for or are you going to give me that information on the job as well?"
"It's a data storage unit for a cybernetic brain. Something I'd like to add to my private collection. I'm also interested in any another pocket-portable bits of tech you might find in the same room, plus photographs of anything too big to take with you." As he explains, he works on his own preparations. His grey overcoat is thrown on over his vest, his shotgun and saber slung from each shoulder, and the machine pistols are snapped to retention holsters at each hip. Literally bristling with arms at this point, he tucks the grenade launcher under his arm as he picks up the closed titanium case and his doctor's bag.
"Everything you need should be in that other attache. There's an earbud, an ID card that will get you past most basic security measures, plus a second card and a thumbprint on a cellophane slip to get you into the secure research room. Be careful with the thumbprint, it's the only one I've got. And a camera, of course. Security should be pretty standard. By the time you get far enough in to see anything interesting, most personnel won't have access and shouldn't be a problem."
There's a brief pause, then he continues. "There's also a small explosive charge. Whatever you can't carry away with you, I want you to destroy. It's set for a five-minute timer, so you should have no problem getting out. The explosion will be contained within a single room, so there should be no risk of civilian casualties. Just push the red button. Any other questions?"
A cybernetic brain? Really? Well, that is one of the more original things Selina has been asked to get for someone. Should make it an entertaining job as well as easy, seeing as how One's so nicely providing her the means to get into the building and to where she needs to go.
The earbud is slipped in under her cowl and then the other items are stowed in various pouches, the finger print treated with kid gloves. The explosive is also treated carefully, it something she does not want to have accidentally go off. "Right. No civilian deaths." That's a relief.
She gives herself a quick pat down to make sure she has everything on her beyond the items just given, her lock picks, whip and other such belongings all where they need to be. "Alright. How about we get this dog and pony show on the road," she suggests lightly, anxious to get herself inside this mysterious place.
"Agreed. I have a rotorcraft waiting on the roof." One's speech has grown a bit more clipped. There's a level of icy precision to it that clashes with his normally calm and unflappable manner. His already cold features have taken on a hard edge, including a smile that's more predatory than welcoming. "I hope you don't mind insertion via parachute."
Less than an hour later...
"Listen to me very carefully," One says into his microphone, transmitting directly into Selina's earpiece as he checks her harness a final time. "When I signal the pilot, he's going to spin up the rotors, then cut them off and stall the helicopter. You'll have a three second window to safely jump. As soon as you hear the engines stop spinning completely, jump AWAY from the craft and deploy your chute. I'll be on the ground in a support van in less than five minutes. I suggest you aim for the roof. The security on their ventilation system is laughable. Are you ready?"
A chute. This is what she has to rely on? She'd rather trust her whip to swing her onto the roof, the way he's asking her to trust a piece of nylon laughable. But she won't argue. Nope. Just like when he got into contact with her earlier, she's not going to press the issue. He wants it done like this? She'll do it like this. "Right," she says once he's checked out, stopping herself from asking about that stall. Won't that cause the helo to crash? And she's being given only three seconds to get clear? What does he think she is? A miracle worker?
Properly prepped and instructed, Sel gives One a nod and an easy smile, indeed set to go. "Just try not to get me killed before I get on the roof.
The jump itself would've been exciting by itself but pair it with the face that there's a stalled aircraft to remove herself from the range of makes it entirely too much 'fun', a thrill she could do without. Thankfully everything goes off without a hitch and she makes it to the roof where the harness and chute are stowed out of sight. "Alright... am here," she makes it known, not sure if he'll hear her or not.
One is on the ground by the time she lands, running toward a comm van that's been parked a block up and across the street from the Organitech research facility they're invading. "You should see two ventilation units on the roof. The larger one leads seventy-six stories straight down to the basement, where you're headed. It has an alarm, but I can disable it remotely in just a moment."
Now he's reached the van. He climbs into the back, where so much surveillance and counter-surveillance equipment has been packed in that there's just enough room for his chair. Immediately, he pulls aside his false ear and plugs his brain directly into the equipment. A few mental commands, a few taps on his keyboard, and the rooftop security systems go offline.
"The smaller of the two units leads to the main ventilation system," he continues. "No alarm. I can pull up a schematic and drop you into a bathroom or a janitor's closet if you'd rather go in that way. And there's always the roof access door."
Seventy-six stories. Nice. That's a walk in the park for Selina who has done this more than once and has gotten very adept at. Once told that the alarm's been turned off she pops off the grating, it set down quietly before she slides into it. "Put me in whatever janitor's closest is closest to where I need to be, please." At that she begins to scale, feet braced against one side while she uses her 'claws' to further slow her descent into the basement.
Slow going is slow as she's moving in a manner that will hopefully be silent. Once there she pauses, her backside used as a break. "Am here," she whispers quietly. "Bring me in the rest of the way."
"About thirty meters down the hallway to your right, there should be an extremely secure-looking door. You shouldn't have to worry about bumping into anyone at this hour." One's eyes flick back and forth sightlessly as he remotely disengages laser tripwires and a grid of motion sensors. "When you get to it, swipe the second card, the gold one. Then lay the fingerprint on the scanner and you should be in."
"You're a doll, gorgeous. Remind me to kiss you once I got the stuff and am out of here."
The vent is slinkily slid out of and the supply room exited, Selina cautious at the same time she acts like she owns this place. Door located, she follows the protocols to the letter, the card swiped and then the fingerprint put into place to be scanned. "This is actually ridiculous easy," she points out with a breathy chuckle. "Alright, lock's disengaged and I'm going in."
The door is opened and she steps inside, pausing only to make sure it's mostly closed behind her. The latch isn't allowed to engage, mind, but it should give the impression that it's fully closed to someone just passing by.
The cybernetic brain's containment apparatus dominates the center of the circular room. It's held in a simple, sturdy glass case, as are several other interesting pieces of cybertech. A hand, fairly complex, which looks to have at least a few small and easily removable components. A trio of expensive-looking microchips and what appears to be a very tiny version of a laptop's CPU share a case. There is other equipment, but it's obviously designed to test and refine the items mentioned above. Everything seems to be operated by a central control panel, which has a red button that's been helpfully labelled 'OPEN'.
The room's only other distinguishing feature is a series of eight opaque glass panels set into the walls.
"Good," One replies. "Try to make it as quick as possible. I'd rather no one knew you were there until we're well on our way and things start exploding."
Selina nods as she looks around, a bit awed by what she sees before her. Not exactly on her normal 'let's go steal' list. "Right. Give me three minutes to get what you sent me here for and I'll be out."
The first thing she goes for is the brain, a picture of which is taken after a few of the room as a whole are. "Ugly..." she whispers to herself while putting the delicate component into a bag, it followed by pictures of other items and their containers before they too are pocketed. It is only after she's done that she comes to realize those red buttons she just pushed buttons which might be tied into security somehow. Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound. Or something.
Once all of that's secured and her camera's put away she pulls one last item out, that being the explosive device that is placed where she thinks it'll do its job the best, that being as close to the central most place in the room. The red button is depressed and then she's gone, bolting out of that area as fast as her feet can carry her. "Explosive set to go off," she announces just as the door is slammed behind her. "Get me the hell out of here."
"Something's wrong. Hold position." One's eye roll in their sockets, then open wide. It takes him a moment to focus, then he reaches out to tune a hand radio set to the building's security channel. "I'm getting a lot of chatter from the comm units. They aren't onto you yet, but they know something's up. What's going on in there? Did you trigger an alarm? What do you see?"
It's not an alarm, but there's definitely something happening. The opaque sheets of glass set into the wall are very slowly rising up, receding into the ceiling and revealing what's behind them.
A series of large glass tanks, each filled with a viscous purple fluid and... something else. One of them contains a stunted, half-formed humanoid being that has been partially dissected. The next tank holds a fully-formed humanoid, but the facial features are imperfect and the digits are misshapen, as if it's a rough draft rather than a finished copy. The third is complete, perfect in every way save for its left hand has been amputated halfway between the wrist and elbow. The fourth has a cybernetic eye that glows dully, even through the thick liquid that tints it and partially shields it from view. The fifth has has both legs amputated and replaced with complex titanium enhancements. And so on. Only the eighth and final subject is complete and unmarred in any way.
All of them have two things in common. No matter how deplorable their condition, each is alive. Chests rise and fall with breath. Fingers and eyelids twitch unconsciously. Occasionally, one of them will cock its head very slightly to the side.
They are also obviously copies of One. Not similar, but clones. The unmodified copy is completely identical to him in every way.
Alarm? Heck if Selina knows but she's a bit distracted, too much so to answer One right away. Her camera is pulled back out and several pictures are taken of the disfigured bodies, her expression and emotions held in check until it dawns on her just what she's looking at.
The realization hits her like a ton of bricks and it isn't long before Selina turns to the side, sick to her stomach and noisily so. Poor One. He gets to hear that, undoubtedly as she's not quiet about it at all. The retching lasts several seconds before she can recover, the expelled bile wiped from her lips and chin before she speaks shakily. "One, there are these... things. One of them looks like it can be your twin." Pause. "What the fuck is this?"
As for her staying put while One does his thing? Not a problem. Selina stays put, too confused and curious to move just yet.
There's a pause from One's end as well. Finally, he answers. "Stay where you are. I'm coming to you. ETA... Two minutes."
For him, the next two minutes pass quickly. He takes the most direct route possible to Selina's position. He attaches a limpet mine to the building's exterior and makes himself a door. Every time he's stymied by an obstacle, he uses another explosive. At one point, he pauses just long enough to knock on a wall, feel out the construction, and then he simply kicks his way through plaster, seasoned wood, and plumbing. Any security he encounters is expediently dispatched, usually with a few strokes from one of his scalpels. Only once is he required to draw a firearm, and on that occasion he hoses down an entire room with one of his suppressed machine pistols. So many bodies, and most of them innocent.
Selina's two minutes might feel a little longer. The purple fluid in the tanks is draining through holes in the floor of each containment unit. Most of the organisms are suspended or restrained in some way. All except for the subject in tank '06'. The moment it's empty, the thing inside opens eyes that are the same icy blue as One's. He speaks in the same voice, but it's devoid of emotion. Flat and empty, and made even hollower by the glass barrier that separates it from Selina. "I am Rasmussen Technologies Biological Research Unit Zero-Six. State your designation, employee identification number, and security access code."
It's possible that Six is more machine than man. An entire arm has been replaced with a three-fingered prosthetic that is crude, but looks extremely powerful. His spine and ribs have been reinforced with strips and plates of reinforced metal. His right eye is missing, the empty socket covered by a welded-on metal cap and surrounded by burn scars. Parts of his metallic skull are exposed, the rest are covered by a skin-toned plastic. He remains motionless for the moment, but he stares expectantly at Selina with his good eye while awaiting her response.
It's like one of those movies with the cyborg who is sent to kill someone from the past, isn't it? All that's missing is the damn thing saying corny lines like 'come with me if you want to live' and 'I'll be back', all intoned in a thick Austrian accent. The ID card is pulled from where she has had it kept, the information looked over and then given to the... Frankenstein-like being. The information is given exactly in the order it is asked for, each word and number ennunciated carefully to make sure she doesn't make a mistake. Once done she holds her breath for a bit.
"One, please hurry," Selina eventually whispers, her hushed voice tight with worry. Nothing's happening yet, something to be glad for, but she finds herself growing uncharacteristically fightened by Six, the way it's staring at her unsettling as hell.
Six doesn't blink during Selina's recitation. His eye flicks back and forth, another similarity he shares with One. When it refocuses, he studies her even more intently. "You are not Doctor Rook. Sterilization Protocol 01 has been engaged."
Then there's no more time for talk. Six smashes through his glass containment unit with one swing of his immense prosthetic arm. As heavily armored as he is, he moves quickly, closing the distance between them in the blink of an eye and lashing out with all three metal fingers extended to strike at Selina.
"I'm closing on your position. ETA is thirty seconds." There's a muffled thump, then One's transmission to his partner cuts out. Just in time, as the thumping noise was him firing a 40mm grenade from his launcher. The explosion smashes through a security squad and blows open the last door between him and the secure research area. He takes off down the hallway at a sprint, now only a few dozen yards from his destination.
Six might be swift but Selina's hoping to be faster, the thief trying to dodge out of the way. The thing has an upper hand on her based on so many factors they're hard to list at the moment. When she attempts to fake to the left and then dart to the right that hand hits, knocking her off of her feet and sending her sliding across the floor on her back, nearly unconscious.
"Ughhhh..." Peeking an eye open, she looks at Six, trying to find a way to distract the damned thing from attacking her again, her voice taking on a husky, authorative tone. "What is your designation," she asks, hoping that it'll stop advancing on her long enough to answer which, hopefully, will give One time to get his ass in there.
"I'll handle this," One cuts in. Despite his fight and flight to reach this location, he's not even breathing hard. In fact, he's humming with energy, his eyes narrowed to dangerous slits as he advances on his cybernetic counterpart. "I am your creator, Doctor Ignatius Stanislaus Rasmussen. Alpha/01 override, authorization ten-break-alpha-one-strike-strike-strike. Stand down."
There's a long pause. Then Six does something that's simultaneously very humanizing and very unpleasant to watch. He licks his lips in the same way a hungry man would when faced with a delicious meal. "That is false. You are Rasmussen Technologies Biological Research Unit Zero-One. Hello, brother. It is good to see you."
Meanwhile, the timer on the bomb continues to tick down. 2:29... 2:28... 2:27...
Sel finally comes to her senses and rises to an upright position, her feet steady under her. Her whip is yanked angrily from the snap that hold it in place, the metal device ruined as it's bent from her hurry to get it uncoiled. "Careful, One," she calls out, not realizing he used a different name to address his twin. "Put that monstrosity down and let's get out of here."
The bomb has not been forgotten but there's nothing she can do about it but she's very willing to put her life at risk to help One, someone she has grown to consider a friend. So much so that she's soon standing beside him, whip trailing behind as she takes up position at his left. "Two are better than One."
"If you only knew. This is going to get worse before it gets better," One murmurs, speaking from the corner of his mouth.
"Have you come to rejoin us?" Six asks, cutting off the conversation, still wearing an avaricious expression.
"No," One replies firmly. The pair have begun to pace, circling each other, sizing one another up. "I didn't even know you were here. I thought you all died in Switzerland."
"Most of them did," Six acknowledges, though this doesn't seem to bother him. "Are you certain that you won't join us?"
The pacing ceases. One nods a single time, briskly.
Then the two titans clash, each moving faster than most human eyes could follow. Though One is far more agile, Six is considerably stronger and his cybernetic enhancements have turned him into a juggernaut. One cracks the barrel of his grenade launcher parrying a strike from Six's prosthetic arm. He draws his cavalry saber and holds his hulking brother at bay for a time, but eventually the small sword is batted aside and skitters across the floor. In the end, One is shoved back against the glass case in the center of the room, held completely helpless.
All this happens in less than two seconds. Now Six stands with his huge arm raised high for a killing blow. "I'm sorry," he says, showing his first hint of emotion. True, genuine regret. He hasn't stopped to consider Selina since he initially batted her aside.
"I don't think so..."
Selina is watching everything that transpires as it does, every swing, every blow, every physical response to those attacks. To see One hit the floor actually causes her pain, her heart now pounding so hard she can feel it in her ears, her stomach in knots to the point of being sick almost. That is held at bay as she waits, biding time until she dares to move again.
What she does is undoubtedly foolhardy as she dashes forward, breaking out into as much of a full run as she can, her arms draping about the 'man's' body. If she's successful at that she attempts to strong arm him over to where the bomb is, willing to sacrifice herself, it seems.
One seems to have had the same idea. Bullets. Blades. Fists. Nothing has managed to put a dent in his brother's armor, or phase him in the least. There's only one more weapon in the room.
Selina provides the distraction he needs to reach over his shoulder and grab the explosive. The timer is visible just before the entire device is crammed into Six's mouth and is covered by both of One's hands. It reads 0:06.
"You're sorry?" he grunts, his voice strained from a sternum cracked by a cybernetic fist. "I'm not."
When the bomb goes off, it doesn't destroy the room. It's barely even audible. The effects are spectacularly visible, though. Six's skull bulges out weirdly in all directions from the force of the contained blast. It's very fortunate that his eyes are covered by One's hands, which are badly burned and lacerated.
She's fully expecting to be obliterated and is fairly dumbfounded by the fact that she's not, the surrealness to what happens added to by how Six bulges out like some kind of grotesque cartoon. Not exactly sure what will happen she ducks behind something nearby, expecting to be hit by debris even though the monster's skull appears to hold.
"This was not what I signed up for... by the way, got your stuff," she yells. "How about we get out of here so we can wrap this up and get patched up?" She is not as hurt as she has been in the past but Six did hit her fairly hard, enough so to cut into her leather catsuit and flesh, perhaps deep enough for her to require stitches.
Now One is breathing hard. He drops his brother's corpse and slumps forward, carefully avoiding resting his hands on his knees. He stares at his cybernetic mirror image for several very long, very quiet seconds. Then he shows a little emotion of his own.
The normally calm, stoic doctor lets out a roar and boots the body once, twice, three times. He picks up his saber and his ruined grenade launcher. The first glass containment unit is smashed with the launcher, spilling the half-formed clone of himself out onto the floor where he skewers it with his sword. The second cylinder and the rough draft of himself receive similar treatment. He finally hesitates when he reaches the fully-formed clone with the missing hand. Just short of smashing the glass holding it in place, One stalls his strike and lets out a wordless roar. The remaining clones are considered one at a time, weighed and measured, searched for some unquantifiable quality.
Huffing and puffing, he turns to face Selina. There are tears in his eyes, his brow is furrowed, and his mouth is pursed into a small, tight 'o' shape. "Okay," he says. "Now we can go."