There was a homeless man sitting in the upcoming alleyway with one of his robotic arms clutching some opaque bottle, the other arm limp with an antique handgun. He was crooning some song that Chains had never heard before. The song went, “His face.. is the face.. of the city. His breath.. is the artificial.. breeze. He is Terracatra’s.. lack of.. pity. He is Terracatra’s.. Tragedy.”
“You aren’t serious about strolling down the South bridge like its not a chemical warzone. Are you?” The short engineer asked.
“We will take A-Synch’s Maglev Trams when we arrive at Sector 4. We will take another one across the South bridge and bypass the tyrants entirely.” The dim lights of Tachyon’s speech synthesizer rose up the sides of his armored throat as he spoke. While smoke and sirens poured continuously in the distance, past grids of dark towers, so far away as if to be a part of a dream.
“Messing with The Company sounds almost worse than messing with tyrants.” Chains said.
A gunshot went off and the homeless man’s singing stopped. Chains stopped walking for a second and looked back, but Tachyon was unaffected by it.
“I’m working with them..” The gaunt man said. “We have to clear some drug dealers out of the trams between S3N8 and S4N2. Are you coming?”
“Yea-- Yeah.” Chains kept walking.
“I may need your engineering skills before we get there to make some riot equipment. My engineer is un--” There was a loud explosion behind them before Tachyon could finish his sentence.
“Are we in danger!?” Chains asked.
“Those bombings are controlled. They are not our enemy's.” The freedom fighter’s synthesizer droned. “The building we need is just up ahead.”
“Looks inconspicuous enough.” Chains said, seeing the wearing face of one cell in one Sector 4's massive storage facilities.
“They house provisions for Terracatra. For all of The Companies good little girls and boys. But provisions have been getting tighter, and these storage buildings are going abandoned, or turning into squatter housing.”
“That’s an old term.” Chains replied.
“And one that’s still applicable.”
Tachyon put his black hand up to the door scanner, green lasers and dark bulbs reading its artificial webbing till the large latches on the door unclasped.
Inside, was a dark mess and a large room, except for an island of light where a man named Ray was watching GN television.
Ray had wavy hair that poofed in the front, along with a pointed nose and narrow eyes that might’ve been more off-putting if not for his whistle-while-you-work attitude. He always had bubblegum on hand, but nobody knew where he got it from. Chains was enamored by some of the tools he had, but his workshop was absolutely unorganized. Tachyon flipped on the some more lights, the switches making loud metal thuds which got the taller mechanic’s attention.
Ray muted his screen and stood up, ”How‘s it going guys? I see you made it here in one piece? Well except for you Tac you always look like shit.”
“Have you made any progress?” The gaunt rebel asked.
Ray even smiled when he was nervous, “Tachyon.. You’re using this on criminals right?”
Tachyon could see what was on the table next to a half-eaten sandwich, “Just finish put the damn thing together.”
“Of course, why not, just put it together Ray.” Ray blew a bubble with the gum in his mouth and it popped. “Just put together the illegal riot machine that will get you locked away.”
Tachyon took a deep, stressed breath while Chains scratched the back of his head and glanced down at the scuffs on the floor.
Ray chewed his gum between sentences, putting strange pieces of metal together with chemical-proofed tubing, “Middle-aged Ray.. locked away. No more ladies for good old Ray.. No more time for Ray to play.”
The short engineer chuckled to himself, while Tachyon pulled out another strange smoke and lit it with an increasingly pissed off glare at the gum-chewing mechanic.
Ray stopped what he was doing and looked off into space, making some intentionally poor impression, “Hey. Look at that prisoner who doesn’t smoke or lift weights. Let’s rape him in the butt.”
“Yeah you’d get killed before you’d get arrested by A-Synch.” Tachyon said.
Ray laughed and turned in disbelief, the front of his hair bouncing as he dropped some tool down on the table with a clunk. “And how the hell could you be so sure of that?”
“Oh, I am sure.” Tachyon had a straight face but jokingly patted the butt of the rifle on his back.
The short mechanic laughed a nervous laugh.
Almost twenty minutes passed where Ray barely acknowledged the other two men in the room. Instead, he ran tests on his device. Tachyon hooked up his suit to two different, large batteries and sat down on some corporate crate, while Chains watched the movements of some stranger city on the muted television. At some early point of Ray’s tests there was a couple seconds where the riot machine screamed out in frequencies that caused Chains and Tachyon to bite down and cover their ears. Ray threw in some earplugs and then stopped the machine.
“Sorry about that.” Ray had some tool in his hand he was using to tighten part of the circuit that caused the incident. “Well I guess that really was a test function. Probably should’ve gotten out the safety gear.. But I guess ol’ Ray learns something new everyday.”
“Be more careful." Tachyon said strictly.
Ray didn‘t reply, but a minute later, posed a question, “How has your suit been holding up?”
“It seems fine if lasers and projectiles aren’t hitting it.”
Ray acted like he needed a tool, went behind Tachyon, pulled out his gum and carefully put it between the eyes of the mask resting at the back of the man’s head.
Chains had gotten up and went looking around the shelves and dark corners of the small warehouse with the HLED flashlight on his borrowed handgun. Much of the pieces and parts were old or insignificant in the amount of time they might take to be turned into anything useful. But the short man paused when he came to some strangely-shaped hunk of metal in the dark and shone the light on it to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.
“Did you know this was here!?” Chains yelled to Ray.
“What the hell is it? I’m still working.” Ray replied.
Tachyon looked over in curiosity, but he still had thick wires coming off of all four of his limbs and neglected the decision to move.
“A fully intact stealth core for an S-Class vehicle!” Chains said, grunting as he went to pick it up and load it onto some wheels. “If we’re going into tyrant territory we can use this!”
Chains approached the island of light and saw skepticism on Tachyon’s face.
“On what?” Cigarette smoke trailed up from the gaunt man’s hand towards the ceiling.
The short mechanic grinned, “On the one thing nobody would expect something like this to be on. The riot box itself.”
A voice rung out into Tachyon’s ear, “Fully charged. Ending diagnostic mode. Environmental threat on mask. Warning. Environmental threat on mask."
* * *
“These first trams will take us to the bridge.”
“Do you expect trouble here?” Chains asked apprehensively, as the two men walked under the tram’s tunnel-shaped railing, like dark steel bones hovering between tall narrow towers that pulsed with lightning between their spherical tops and the black of the sky.
“Just keep your gun ready.” Tachyon replied before he had a call. The tall man pressed his fingers to where his ear was hidden with his voice quiet and calm, “..yeah?”
Tachyon’s synthesized voice turned urgent and he walked as fast as he could towards one of the lifts on the dark, narrow towers-- pulling the riot box behind him. “They’re on the run. We need to go.”
“We won’t make that skybox in time.” Chains said, pointing to a tram in the distance.
“Hack the terminal.” Tachyon urgently replied.
“I can’t, I have no tools, I can’t pull the panelling off. These were made to keep civilians--”
The cyborg pulled off the metal panel with great force, which hit and dented some of the neo-plastic window of the lift. “My suit is a tool, tell me what to do!”
Chains took a step forward after flinching back, to see all the wiring. “God damned mess with an alarm on top of it.. the lighter green of the two thick green ribbons, take the bottom end and put it where the blue ribbon is. And don’t touch the end.”
Tachyon changed the wires, “Is it done?”
The gaunt cyborg set the speed with pins on the lift controls where buttons would’ve been, and the elevator screeched and took off into the sky like a rocket.
“We’re going to fucking crash into that tram!” Chains yelled. “We’ll be fucking crushed!”
Tachyon pulled some metal bar that was wrapping down the calf of his suit, it blended so well that the short mechanic didn’t realize what it actually was.. The lift was moving so fast that it shook Chain’s whole body and he was forced to hold onto the heavy riot box to stay in one place while air rushed through the open doors like a vacuum; he held to the metal around his chest as his oversized heart fiercely rattled from inside of his ribs. The tall assassin raised his plasma shotgun with one hand, up and past his armored shoulder, firing a hole through the neo-plastic of the lift above the two men’s heads.
“It doesn’t have enough range for what he’s trying to do. We’re going to die.” Chains murmured frantically to himself.
Tachyon fired as accurately as he could at the front pulley for the tram, “Phase the box! We’ll make it or die trying.”
“I..” The engineer gritted his teeth from the pain in his chest.
Tachyon blew the last of shotgun’s small clip, and knelt down on one knee. He pulled out his handgun and kept firing amidst a blur of vertical lights-- just above the mass of skybox metal both coming to kill them, and their only chance to survive.
There was no way to bust through the neo-plastic and grab at the tram. No way to melt the hard metal of the skybox pulley with a normal handgun. No time to phase the lift go through the matter of the tram, and try to unphase alive. And no way for either man to jump out and survive the fall. The top of the elevator screeched across the closed entrance, at the bottome of the speeding skybox, rather than connecting to it. And the frame of the lift brutally collapsed with a horrible symphony of screeches, pushing out the translucent walls.
But Chains found the one way to keep them alive.
Tachyon was breathing heavier than normal while Chain’s clutched at the metal around his chest, trying to get his heart to slow down. There was barely any space between them and the crushed ceiling, the riot box stopping their bones from being shattered by the tram. They lied there, hundreds of feet in the sky and collecting the pieces of their sanity, as bombs fell from A-Synch drone aircraft in the faraway distance.
After a line of distant bombs hit the ground in some perfect, surreal formation, there was a beeping in Tachyon’s ear.. He answered quieter than usual while looking at the metal ceiling less than a foot from his robotic glare. “We lost them.. No. No, find someone else. We’ve been compromised. Just fucking cancel my pay for this one. We can continue our dialogue tomorrow. I’m heading home.”
Tachyon made another couple of calls; sending out a location and little talk. Then the cold lights in place of Tachyon’s eyes met Chains’s face who was sweating profusely.
“You didn’t have to trip me.” Tachyon said.
The short man was a little annoyed, “It was just quick thinking.”
“Next time just tell me to hit the floor.”
“I hope to god there isn’t a next time.” Chains replied, his heart finally calming down.
“I suppose I’m supposed to thank you.”
“That would be appreciated.”
“..but in the past, four different people I’ve thanked for saving my life were killed within a week.” Tachyon’s vocoder droned.
“Oh. Well then, I guess I’d rather that you kept it to yourself.” Chains joked awkwardly, staring down from the two-foot crevice between the floor and the ceiling of the smashed elevator. It was a long way down.
The cyborg kept screwing with little screens on the edge of his ear, “Something is wrong. I’m not receiving a response from headquarters. So A-Synch will have to be the ones to get us down.”
“What are they going to do after that?” The mechanic asked.
Tachyon cocked his head slowly over at the riot box, “Interrogate us.”