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Claude's Story (2)

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Stephen Heckman sits in his cell.

The guards come back and beat him up some more, cracking his front tooth this time. They leave.

Then he hears commotion outside - and gunshots.

One, two, three, four. A very loud thud, as someone is body-slammed into a wall. Five. Then the door opening.

The drugs the guards have given him are starting to wear off. He is more aware of his surroundings, now, and of the pain in his body. His lip is split, and there is blood down his shirt. One of his front teeth is cracked. He remembers punches to the face. He expects he'll have a black eye, or two, in short order.

None of it feels real, yet.

He hears three people enter the cell. He still can't see them, but he recognizes Fiona Dexter's mind.

"Knew you'd come around," he manages. He can't quite pronounce words correctly, with the broken tooth.

He reminds himself that what's happening to the kidnapped children is still a lot worse.

"Shut up," Fiona barks. "How well do you know this building?"

"Well enough to get us out," he says, hoping it's true. "But they have four teeps here, ready to transport across the border. I'm not going anywhere without them."

"And you know where they are." It's not a question.

"Sort of. We need to get to a link, call Psi Corps, they'll send reinforcements..."

"No, you're taking us to them. Letting Psi Corps have them is no better than leaving them here."

"To be sold and raped? Even you don't believe that."

"Shut up and do as I say!"

"OK, but you're the ones with the guns."

"Damn straight!"

"Break me out."

"Wake D'Aguila up," says a male voice, and there are footsteps.

Heckman hears voices out in the hall.

"Wha...?"

"Here's what. You have four teeps in this building. You'll take us to them and then get us out of here."

"Impossible. You just shot three guards... no, four! Fuck you, Dexter! After everything I've done for you! The whole complex must be on high alert by now."

"That'd better not be true," growls a second male voice, deeper, "or else you'd better be able to stand down the alarm. Because if not, you're a dead man."

"Walters? I shot you in the chest! How the fuck are you still alive?"

Heckman recognizes the speaker - he's the one who brought Fiona Dexter into his cell.

"Body armor," growls Walters. "Now you're getting us out. And don't try to lie to us, man, or walk us into a trap, because you know you can't. No funny business. Be a good boy."

A pause.

"There may be a way. The teeps are on D level. From there we might be able to take the executive elevator to the helipad... we might. But what then?"

"Might. Might makes right," growls Walters. "Let's go. Can you set off a false alarm somewhere else in the building, to distract the guards?"

"Yeah."

"Do it."

The rogues break down the door to Heckman's cell, and he can see them for the first time. Walters is first... and he's built like a tank. He's got some kind of large gun slung across his back, that Heckman can't see, and he's wearing a bullet-proof vest. His eyes are bright blue. Heckman knows his background: Earthforce, a decorated hero, though something of an undisciplined hot shot. Mercenary, in the Central African Bloc. Psi Corps special ops, until he went over to the dark side and decided to to kill his own people instead.

Heckman can see in Walters' eyes that the big man doesn't want him alive. He thinks rescuing a Psi Cop is a waste of time and resources. He thinks it's better to kill Heckman so he can't turn them all in, but he's been outvoted by the Dexters.

They step into the cell next. She is slim, muscular, with dark red hair and eyes that might be brown, might be green... Heckman can't make it out. She carries a small gun in her right hand, and another at her waist. Matthew is slimly built, like his wife, with dark curls. His gun is holstered.

"Get up. We've gotta move."

Heckman can walk, but unsteadily. They half-drag him through the building to Level D. Heckman has never been here before. Still woozy from the drugs, he has lost all sense of where he is.

Suddenly, shots go off. Bullets fly past them.

"Freeze!" shout Rentech guards, coming around the corner into view. "Freeze and drop your weapons!"

Walters pulls his gun and mows them down in a steady stream of fire. The bullets literally rip the guards to pieces, leaving blood and body parts over the floor and walls.

"End of the hall," D'Augila says, pointing to a set of doors, and holding back the urge to vomit. Heckman feels the same urge.

"Matthew and I will go," Fiona says. "Stephen, watch the elevator."

"Roger."

"You could give me a gun," Heckman offers. "I could help."

"Fat chance," Walters growls in his face.

Fiona and Matthew gesture for D'Augila to follow them, and they leave Heckman standing in the blood-soaked hallway with Walters.

Nothing feels real. He signed up for an undercover IT job - then suddenly he's captured, has the shit beaten out of him, and finds himself being "rescued" by the three most hardened telepath criminals in the EA.

He knows it won't be long before more guards arrive.

"Hi?" Heckman offers, weakly.