A Moment in Wade's Life

© Björn Törnroth 1997

Wade lit a match. The weak flare made the surrounding darkness even deeper. Sub-level 15 of the Rad-Prot building was pitch black and his normal vision revealed nothing but the burning match and his leather-gloved hand. He looked around. In the ultraviolet band he could barely distinguish the neat piles of rad-sealed cargo-boxes which filled the entire level. "Damn, it's dark!", he thought. Normally the merest hint of light was sufficient for him to orientate himself as in broad daylight. In the infrared band there was nothing to see except for the glow of his own body heat and the dancing reflexes of the weakly burning match. Wade more felt than heard the soft whirr of the auto-sensors in his eye implant shifting focus as he scanned his surroundings. Where was that blasted mekboy?

Wade lit a cigarette which was damp with his sweat and extinguished the match. He sure as hell hoped the mekboy wasn't packing the same amount of scanning gear as himself, but that wasn't likely. Otherwise that match would have given away his position instantly. They'd said the mekboy was probably only stealing stuff to be able to afford the drugs, and anyone on the drugs wasn't packing much more than his injector and perhaps a crude popgun. Wade hadn't lived to be thirty-six by counting on probabilities. He inhaled the faintly luminous smoke and touched the field scanner on his gear-vest. His heart almost stopped when it gave a positive readout. There was a field within ten yards, and it sure as hell wasn't his. It went out almost immediately. "Sure", Wade thought, "a drug-crazed mekboy with protective fields and a cloaking device. My ass!" He ground the cigarette under his sole and started to move utterly slow and in complete silence. Wade could sneak up on a sleeping cat and shave its tail without it waking up. Who are you, my friend? You ain't no ordinary mekboy, that's for sure. You know I'm on your ass and you know what I got. Rent-a-cop gear was standardised for cost effectiveness, and the advantage of packing state-of-the-art equipment was reduced by the fact that every single perp knew exactly what it was.

"Ok, Mr mysterious, let's count the knuckles in your fist", Wade thought as he rounded a cargo box, stealthier than a shadow in a moonlit graveyard. The energy bolt would have fried his innards, had it not been for the protective shield. All senses screaming with pain, Wade toppled over and hit the concrete floor with a heavy thud. Where the fuck had that come from, and what was it? No lasgun could produce that amount of energy! Every single muscle in his body protested violently as he forced them into action. He lunged for cover behind the nearest cargo-box, but disorientated by the protection-field overload he rammed into a pillar. His helmet took most of the hit, but he felt his collar-bone snap and a searing pain raced through his mind. He twisted on the floor to get his back against the concrete pillar and swung wildly with his gun as he pulled the trigger and unleashed a burst of energy bolts. A few yards directly in front of him the blinding flash of a conversion field illuminated a towering figure slowly advancing on Wade. Good god, a conversion field! His weapon was useless.

Another energy bolt came out of the darkness and burnt a neat hole through the concrete pillar a few inches above Wade's head with a crackling sound. Wade could hear the hiss of melting stone as he desperately rolled aside. He activated all his active scanners, since there was no longer any point in hiding. The entire space snapped into clear focus. The game of cat and mouse had abruptly taken the form of cat and raging lawnmower. He crawled around another corner and frantically tried to get hold of his concealed popgun. It was illegal for Rent-a-cops to carry other weapons than their lasripper and stunrod, but that had never bothered Wade, and now it was his only chance. No energy weapon could pierce a conversion field like that. Wade held his breath as his assailant rounded the corner and turned his enormous weapon to bear on him. Wade shut his eyes and emptied the entire clip of 9mm armour-piercing bullets. Another energy bolt sent his mind screaming as his protective field fused from the overload. He was completely paralysed and his heart desperately tried to get back on beat after the shock. Wade's eye implant had short-circuited and felt like a hot potato in his eye-socket. As if in a dream, he could see his assailant in the light of Wade's burning clothes. It was the most heavily armed and hi-tech equipped corporate spy Wade had ever seen. The spy stood swaying for a moment and then slowly tilted forward, lifeless. The archaic Teflon-coated slugs had sizzled through where no modern energy weapon could penetrate and pulped the brain, removing half the cranium in the process. "Thank God for good old popguns", thought Wade as he felt his consciousness slip away. He slumped on the concrete floor, molten gear softly crackling in the darkness.