The Vial

By Kyntak, 2007

Entry in the jackheath dot com dot au fanfiction competition. This story takes place less than a year before the events of The Lab.

Pain exploded in Agent Six's gut as the punch connected. He went slack, absorbing the impact rather than resisting it, and the force rippled out towards his extremities. His feet slid backwards across the floor, and the neon lights blinded him as he toppled over backwards.

The guard was good. Agile, sharp - Six had kicked the Hawk 9mm pistol out of his hand, but he was still holding his ground. Despite the fact that Six was obviously a teenager, and about 20 centimetres shorter than him, he wasn't holding back. He knew that Six was an agent of the Deck, and therefore wasn't to be underestimated.

Six had to hurry. The vial was in his pocket, and if they hadn't missed it yet, it would only be seconds before they did. This guard was merely the first of the hundreds who would be after him in a matter of minutes.

The guard lashed out with another punch. Six curved his body nimbly around the blow, and drove his right foot forward.

The guard howled as his knee crunched in the wrong direction. Without giving him time to recover, Six slammed his fist into the masked face. The guard stumbled back. Six punched him again. And again.

The guard slipped over, boots squeaking against the tiled floor, and landed on his back.

'Stay down,' Six said.

The guard groaned as he tried to rise to his knees. Six kicked him in the side of the head, knocking him into the wall. The guard's face hit the floor.

'Stay down,' Six hissed. 'Don't make me kill you.'

The guard didn't move. Six reached down and checked the pulse in his carotid artery - about 80 BPM. He was unconscious.

Six couldn't afford to waste any more time. He ran.

The first klaxons started when he was in the stairwell. He cursed as he sprinted up the stairs. Someone had either found the unconscious guard, or noticed the missing anthrax. Six gritted his teeth. That helicopter had better be there, he thought.

The anthrax bounced against his thigh. He hoped the vial was strong. This was the last vial of weaponized anthrax in existence, and while leaving it in ChaoSonic's possession would be bad, breaking it and spilling it into the air of this facility would be far worse. It would be all over the City in a matter of weeks.

A fire door crashed open somewhere in the stairwell. Six couldn't tell if it was above or below him. Either way, he was in trouble. Security was closing in.

A guard appeared on the landing above him. Six jumped forward, feet first, catapulting off two walls before spinning in mid-air and driving his elbow into the back of the guard's neck. The guard fell forwards, clanging his head against the railing, and Six landed beside him. He didn't stop to check if the guard was down for the count. He needed to keep moving.

The last landing was within sight. Six climbed onto the rail and jumped, flying up the last two flights and grabbing the rail nearest the fire door with one hand. He swung over onto the landing and charged, bursting through the door shoulder-first.

The daylight-suffocating fog was whirling around the roof. The Twin-900 helicopter was descending from the heavens. Six saw Agent Eight leaning out the side, an Eagle Automatic rifle slung under his arm.

Six waved his arms in the air. 'Over here,' he roared.

Eight turned to the pilot and rattled off some commands. The helicopter banked slightly, and a rope ladder unrolled down towards Six.

Hiss. Six turned in alarm as he heard a rocket launcher discharge behind him. A soldier was on one knee, sights on the helicopter. Six's eyes followed the smoke trail as the rocket blasted through the air; it looked like someone had grabbed the fog and was tearing it in half horizontally.

The rocket slammed into the side of the chopper. There was a horrible split-second of hope, while Six stared at the chopper with his heart in his mouth. The rocket might have been a dud, the warhead might not detonate, the helicopter might -

BOOM! Six was knocked down, backside first onto the concrete. Shards of the helicopter burst outwards, burning fuel fountained down on to the roof, steel splashed to pieces and smoke belched into the sky.

Six rose unsteadily to his feet. His ears were ringing and his vision was blurred. His nose burned with the stench of petrol. He fell back down immediately, his legs quivering.

Eight was dead. The pilot was dead. The helicopter was gone. He was on top of a twenty-five story building, with no way down. Six turned, and saw that soldiers were pouring out of the stairwell behind him. Guns were raised, orders were shouted. Some sounded like "stop" or "freeze". He wondered why, given that he wasn't moving. Slowly he raised his hands and put them on his head.

The soldiers approached. Six heard the jingle of handcuffs as they clinked against a belt. A soldier in front of him was holding a nylon rope. Someone else was holding a syringe case.

'Six,' his earpiece demanded. 'Can you hear me?'

'Not for much longer,' Six said.

'Hey!' one of the soldiers roared. 'What are you saying? Shut up!'

'What happened to the helicopter?'

'It's down. No survivors.' Six felt the cuffs snap shut around his wrists behind his back.

'Shut up!' the soldier said again. The one with the rope approached Six.

'It doesn't look like I'm going to make it out either,' Six said.

The soldier raised his fist. 'I said -'

Six jumped forward, barging his shoulders into the legs of the soldier who'd been about to punch him. The soldier tumbled backwards as Six scrambled to his feet. The soldier with the syringe lunged at him, but Six side-stepped at the last minute. The syringe hit someone else, who immediately thudded to the ground. Six swung his leg out into a sweeping kick the pushed three troops into one another, and then he made a grab for the soldier with the rope.

The soldier dropped the rope and tried to raise his Eagle, but Six was too quick. He snatched the Eagle out of the guard's gloved fingers, and caught one end of the rope before it hit the ground. Then he ran for the edge of the rooftop.

'Freeze!' someone behind him shouted. Six ignored the order. A few shots rang out, but none hit him or anything around him - warning shots, he thought. They want me alive.

Six reached the edge of the rooftop. Still clutching the end of the rope, he looked down into the foggy void. The streets below were completely invisible.

He jumped.

He was taking a risk, he knew. He was relying on them wanting him alive enough, and wanting the anthrax vial undamaged enough, that they would grab the other end of the rope and interrupt his fall. Six didn't know how long the rope was, but if he was close enough to the ground when they stopped him, he could just drop down and run; if he wasn't, he would have to break a window and climb in, then take the stairs down to the ground floor.

But it all relied upon the assumption that they would grab the rope. If they didn't, not only would he die, but the vial would shatter, and there was a chance that everyone in the City would die of anthrax.

As he plummeted through the air, Six too focused on his own peril to contemplate the selfishness of risking millions of lives to save his own. He'd feel guilty later - right now he was at terminal velocity and already starting to worry that they wouldn't grab the rope.

The roof was no longer visible through the fog. Nor was the ground. The windows of the building rushed up past him like he was travelling in a glass lift.

Six tied the end of the rope into his belt, so as when the slack ran out, it wouldn't be snatched from his grasp. He tapped his earpiece.

'Can you still hear me?'

'I read you, Six. What's going on?'

'Send a team to the front entrance of the building. I'll meet them there. But I'm pretty badly hurt, so you'll need a vehicle.'

It wasn't really lying so much as telling the truth in advance. He expected to be badly hurt when they arrived.

'They're on their way, Six.'

Six looked up. The rope was still slack, and he didn't think it had been this long. The soldiers either hadn't reacted quickly enough, or they had decided to let him die and take the risk that the vial would be broken.

Six took the vial out of his pocket, checked that the cap was securely tightened, and swallowed it. He grimaced in pain as the glass pressed against the insides of his throat, but he forced it down. This way his body would protect it from the fall. He might not kill everyone in the City after all.

There was one more thing he could do to save his life. People had survived falling out of aeroplanes simply because they'd lost consciousness on the way down. A completely relaxed body can take many times as much trauma as a conscious, tensed up human being.

Six hoped that he'd misjudged the length of the rope. He hoped the soldiers up above would save him after all. He hoped that the other Deck agents were already underneath him with a giant trampoline. But he couldn't rely on any of those things. He had to accept the possibility that he was about to land on solid concrete at more than a hundred metres per second.

Six put his hands around his neck. And he squeezed.