A William Gibson/Count Zero inspired fanfiction

author/Electric Monk

The man looking out the window didn't exist. No database knew him. No personnel folder listed accomplishments. A negative exposure photograph; flickers of his reality appearing only where they weren't.

Turner had been a soldier in his own right for most of his adult life, although he'd never worn a uniform. A mercenary, his employers vast corporations warring covertly for the control of entire economies. He was a specialist in the extraction of top executives and research people. The multinationals he worked for would never admit that men like Turner existed.

It was a reasonably typical mission Ono-Sendai had hired him to assist a defector out from Neotek headquarters. The defector, as far as Turner could tell, was a high-level executive with an intimate knowledge of Neotek operations. Therefore Ono-Sendai could precede to outmaneuver Neotek and up it's stock price. If they had to pay a few million to do so, while it cheap at the price.

Turner thought about his problem; Neotek HQ was a mountain. Resting on springs, designed as a continuity-of-government bunker back when people worried about those things. Blast doors, automatic defense systems, AI controlled matrix ice, combat troops, the works.

Turner glanced out the window of his rapidly moving helicopter, watching the Sprawl slowly fade into countryside. He sighed. Anything that increased response teams was good, and Neotek was way the hell in nowhere. This time privacy was going to kill them. His converted cargo helicopter and the multimission escorting jumpjet - only just obsolete - were almost there.

The mountain ahead looked innocuous. In actual fact 5 to 10 feet of reinforced ferroconcrete were underneath it's granite exterior. In addition the latest high-tech weapons were deployed in carefully concealed weapon ports. It was of course the North American Neotek headquarters. He had, excluding the three pilots, fifteen people for the ride. Naturally he had an ace. And a joker, Conroy's plant. He sighed again, why always with the plant?

The helicopter slowed, just outside of warning range of the Neotek defense system. His ace was a pair of cowboys in an expensive hotel room 20 miles back into the Sprawl. They were the best he could find on such short notice, with only four days to pull it off he had simply grabbed the best of the easy to find jockeys. If anyone was watching them or reading their file, and face it someone probably was given that they were pretty good, they would know that one was named Amanda Rafale, half French, born May 7th 2041, BAMA SIN 6528983018 was in charge. Her job was to crash Neotek headquarters, which would disable external communication and, for a short time, disable internal communication. The other cowboy, John Blake, born November 27th, 2038, BAMA SIN 6477981230 had the harder, in some senses, job of monitoring the matrix, making sure that Neotek doesn't realize that their North American headquarters is under attack. Amanda flexes her fingers and dives in, launching the corporate icebreaker at Neotek's black ice. The edges of the icebreaker touched the ice and it bored in; drill-like. The ice crunching before it. She crashed the internal net first, tossing the facility into confusion. She then took down the external and defense nets, crippling the facility. She then sent an encoded and encrypted laser pulse to an orbiting satellite. Neotek's AI was freaking out. Although a limited citizen it knew it was screwed. It's ice had cracked far too easily. The AI thought. An inside job? It ran through options. How to contact the Eurasian AI?

The signal then bounced down to the jumpjet, which acted. It's afterburners lit up, propelling the jet upwards, accelerating as it went. The jet reached 150 000 feet, over 26 miles up straight up, before it tipped over slowly then plunged downwards at well over twice the speed of sound. At 100 000 feet and a little over three times the speed of sound - at sea level, the pilot deployed the 8 autonomous assault drones slung underneath the wings. The pilot switched the autopilot on, the last thing he saw, before blacking out as the jet passed 12 G's leveling out, was the sight of the drones cutting in the rocket boosters and picking up speed.

The facility's internal net was just back on as the AI prioritized emergency systems, defense weapons coming online. The primary line of defense, 5 state-of-the-art nailguns, firing thin slivers of tungsten at a very high velocity, were warming up when they detected the incoming drones; targeting, ironically, the signals sent up by the internal net and the sensors. They started firing, randomly at first but closer and closer, lidar and radar pulsing the drones with more accuracy as the sensors fully initialized. A pair of drones died as the nailguns found the range, their brief fireballs momentarily obscuring the others. The drones cut the rocket boosters and began evasive action as they passed 30 000 feet. Another one died, fragmenting. A lucky hit. The sensors upped power hunting for the suddenly hard to see drones. At 10 000 feet the remaining five reengaged rockets. Shuddering their airframes stressed as they realigned. The nailguns went to fully automatic mode as they reacquired. 6 seconds later the drones were dead but so were the facility's active sensors and all five nailguns.

The secondary line of defense, a pair of missile launchers forced to rely on passive infrared and electro-optical guidance with surviving sensor dishes to give radar and lidar information. Those guidance systems were about to be useless; 42 miles away a pair of decommissioned artillery guns started to fire. The shells were not high explosive but rather thermal smoke, blocking infrared and visual guidance.

Turner watched as the ground began to move again, the helicopter entering the former defense zone surrounding Neotek HQ. A few minutes later the helicopter settled into the smoke, their own radar and lidar giving them accurate landing positions. The men and women of the assault team disembarked, equipped with a mixture of S&W fletchers and Steiner-Optic lasers, Telefunken ear-beads jammed in tight with adhesive throat mikes chafing slightly.

Turner sat still; watching them as he found the edge, it was that superhuman synchromesh flow that stimulants only approximated. He could only score it on the site of a major defection where he commanded and then only in the final hour before the actual move. As Turner hopped out of the helicopter he gestured to his team and they moved in with him, except for one. The one who stopped punched a couple of buttons on a small hand-held unit then moved to catch up.

The signal sent out was a short laser pulse up towards a theoretically decommissioned communications satellite, Blake missed it, watching Amanda instead of the matrix, but Neotek's Eurasian AI did not. Even as the signal reached Conroy, relaxing in Paris the Neotek AI tried to reach the other AI, unable to do so it notified the nearest team of mercenaries, a few hundred miles away in New York City. The team of mercs quickly loaded onto a rented hypersonic jet transport, reading themselves for the dangerous LALO parachute jump. As all this was going on Turner had penetrated to the level where the defector was waiting and grabbed him, he had already lost half his team but was ready to head back. Blake finally noticed the events in the matrix, a rapidly rented, through half a dozen cutouts, which he quickly traced back to Neotek. His startled gasp made Amanda glance at him, seeing his shocked expression she looked at his deck, where his fingers were rapidly punching emergency sequence. The emergency signal went winging up to a ComSat then down to the waiting helicopters which quickly relayed it to Turner whose brown eyes went wide as he listened to the recorded message - mission blown mission blown mission blown.

Turner barked out orders and half the remaining team pealed off to provide a decoy. As they ran Turner was seriously pissed off at Conroy, the fucker had blown his mission - hopefully the bastard would get a pay cut. As they ran through the hole in the wall, the evidence of 8 feet of missing ferroconcrete - the miracle of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.

They ran the hole and as Turner's mind processed the information he saw everything in slow motion. Frame one was 20 or 30 people in ghostly parachutes with black night slung underneath, men in full combat gear. Frame two was an enemy gunship, vectored from who knows where, moving like a hunting wasp, death slung beneath it's thorax in a smooth, black pod. Frame three was pulses of laser and the crack of flechettes the men already on the ground. Frame four, the defector stumbling, suddenly missing a head, blood misted everywhere. Frame five was a stream of rockets from the gunship tearing apart one of his helicopters. Then Turner's mind caught up and his remaining team ran towards the two surviving helicopters, they piled into one, the other moving off to distract the gunship. Turner's helicopter accelerated, maybe 10 or 15 feet above the ground, old telephone wires scraping the paint. Another explosion occurred behind them as the gunship scored another kill. Turner sat back; looking at the blood and grime covered members of the team. The sun was rising, casting blood red shadows across the landscape, the destruction behind them appearing.