The smell of coffee woke Braxton Gargaryan. A styrofoam cup of the expensive black steaming liquid had been placed on a small table near his mattress. He sat up, took a sip, groggily felt around for his pack of smokes. Found them, a bit crushed, in the pocket of his jeans. He lit one, exhaled, went back to nursing his coffee.
“Clone,” he said.
“Wizard?” the text to speech voice asked.
“ETA on their arrival?”
“Alright. I’ll finish my smoke and then I’ll come jack in.” Braxton said, and took another drag, coughed, and washed down any remaining coughs with coffee. “Any chance we could brew a pot of quad strength Nucaff, Clone?”
“Of course, Wizard. I will have that done.” Clone paused. “Your chance of having a heart attack is increased when consuming that many stimulants.”
“Noted. I mean, I’d ask for cocaine or cinnimeth, but I didn’t want to assume.”
“Would you prefer those?” the AI asked.
“What? No.” Braxton shook his head, “just the Nucaff, please.” He finished his cigarette and stood up.
“It will be ready.”
“Thanks,” he drained the last of his coffee and went down the hall, into Clone’s white washed, white lit room. A muddy brown pot of Nucaff was heating up on a desk. He sat next to it, drummed his fingers on the desk for a moment, and then grabbed wires, plugged them into his wrists. Put on the pair of wrap-around shades Clone had provided, and jacked in.
Silver flashes across the horizon, and Braxton Gargaryan’s avatar arrives in a barren landscape of holy light. He can see the burned out structures that were once lobbies that held thousands of avatars. A tendril of midnight skirts across his vision. He spins, but loses it. He mutters code, a long string of numbers and letters, and his avatar vanishes.
To reappear outside of a tall skyscraper surrounded by silver light in all directions. Armed guards stand outside the glass doors, carbines out and ready. He floats up, cloaking himself in code, moves behind them, and dispatches them quickly, a Vulcan neck pinch to one, the edge of a hand to another’s throat. He wraps one in code that squeezes, constricting the guard, it vanishes and the way in is clear. His avatar recloaks itself and slips in through the doors.
Braxton sighed and took a sip straight from the pot of Nucaff. Considered smoking another Black Eagle, decided against it. Jacked back in.
Braxton’s avatar passes through the cracks between the doors and stands in a lobby of polished marble and chrome. He imagines this is what the MercLaw building actually looks like, in Hong Kong, but he doesn’t know for sure. He watches as guards patrol the lobby, and it begins filling with avatars. Mostly formed as cartoons and dragons.
Another black tendril flits across his vision, just to the side, but when he looks for it, it is gone.
His avatar shoots over to a desk, begins downloading information from a terminal. Encrypts it, and forwards it to Miller. He doesn’t know if it will be helpful or not, but every little bit helps, he supposes.
He turns back to the guards, begins to move towards one. His avatar freezes for a moment, panic, heart catching in his throat. Then it buffers, and he is free again. He wraps code around the guard’s neck, lifts it to the ceiling, and lets it drop. It splatters below. He begins killing in earnest now, an invisible wraith of coding and fury. Dead guards lay at his feet, and he moves to the elevators. Floor by floor, room by room.
And then a roar shakes the building. Fire, burning hot, licks the skin of his avatar, and he spins out of control for a moment, before righting himself and recloaks himself in haste. He looks down at the lobby and swears. A great, multi-colored serpentine dragon floats in the air, waiting for him. Golden eyes, filled with malice and hate peer into him. It inhales sharply, and Braxton’s avatar flings itself backwards, out a window, into the silver light outside. There is a crash and the dragon punches a hole in the side of the building and chases after him.
“Oh shit.” Braxton said, pulling out a Black Eagle and lighting it. He absently gulps down a third of the Nucaff.
His avatar spins in midair, shoots off away from the dragon, which gives chase immediately. And the fucker is fast, faster than anything he has seen in all his years in cyberspace. But he thinks he is faster. Maybe. Only one way to find out, really. So here goes nothing. Or everything.
Flames touched his boots, a long spray of napalm coming from the dragon’s maw. Its teeth blackened, serrated sword points, drip with venom. His avatar gulps, spins to face the dragon, and spits code.
Ice forms around its face, sealing it shut. For a moment. Before it melts, and another spray of fire comes straight for his face. Braxton’s avatar vanishes, reappears behind the dragon. Spears formed of ice rain down on the dragon’s back. It screams in fury. His avatar sighs. There is no pain in the dragon’s scream. Only anger. Only hate. More ice rains down, and then lightning, and then acid. The dragon gets angrier.
“Fuck, this is a powerful program.” Braxton muttered, he put out his cigarette.
“Will you be able to defeat it?” Clone asks, it’s text-to-speech voice halting.
“Yeah.” Braxton replied. “I hope so.”
The avatar barrel rolls, heading back to the building, guards begin firing their carbines at him. He erects a shield of code, and the bullets bounce off, reversing to strike the guards. Heads explode in showers of gore, but already the dragon is behind him, he feels the heat from its body.
Streamers of ice shoot from his palms as he twists in midair, he sharpens them with a string of numbers. They slice into the dragon’s neck, blood, black as pitch, sprays, dissolving a guard it touches. The avatar reaches into a pocket, pulls out a brick of pure blue ice. Streaks back into the building. The dragon follows.
Back into the lobby. The dragon inhales. The avatar throws the brick. It vanishes into the beast’s maw.
The dragon implodes, the entire building flickers in and out of reality, solidifies, and he runs to the terminal. Uploads information.
All Access to All Points. MercLaw Building, Hong Kong.
Security Systems off.
He mutters a string of code, security feeds in real time flash across his vision. Another black tendril off to the side.
“Alright, main security is down.” He says, “you have unrestricted access to all sections. Oh,” the avatar pauses, “here are the blueprints. There are also about fifty armed personnel. About a hundred or so office staff. They probably know kung fu or something. Be careful. Be sneaky. In other words, be fucking ninjas.”
“Got it,” Lavigne whispers. “Good job, Wizard.”
“Good luck, Paladin. Warrior. Thief. I’m going to lock as many behind steel doors as possible. Thief?”
“Yeah?” Morse asks.
“Treasure is in the 50th floor penthouse. Its guarded.”
“Of course it is,” she sighs.
“Only by about,” he stops. “Here. I’m patching the security feed to your HUD.”
“Holy shit.” Morse says.
“Yeah, armed to the fucking teeth. Are you guys in the building yet?”
“That’s a negative. Paladin here had to stop and take a shit and get a burrito.” Miller breaks in.
“A burrito? Seriously, Paladin?”
Lavigne chuckles. “You should see the size of it.”
“Thats what she said.” The avatar says deadpan. “How close?”
“Close.” Morse answers.
“Good. You’re up. I’ll still be here, scouting. If you need help just ask.”
“Oh, Wizard.” Morse says.
“Can you at least minimize this camera feed? It’s… distracting.”
“Sure thing, Thief.” The camera feed is reduced on her HUD to the size of an inch by an inch square to her upper left.
“Good luck, and may the force be with you.”“What?” They ask in unison.