Chapter V: Escapism
"If it weren't for my lawyer I'd still be in prison.
It went a lot faster with two people digging."

My legs didn’t cave.  My breath didn’t catch.  My eyes didn’t start looking for the nearest distraction.  I stayed in the same incredulous expression, my eyes glued to those of the kid orange, searching for the sign of the joke.  Then I laughed.


“Great,” I said, dropping myself back to the seat next to Bushi.  Osmosis looked at me as if I was going insane.  Bushi looked at me with a sad smile, and then to our leader, and Skit was simply yawning.  I was proud of myself in some perverse way, like my blasé response meant I somehow fit in with these misfits now.

“You don’t seem to grasp the gravity of our situation, Grave.”  His green eyes were locked onto my own, so I looked away, they were a little too serious for me right then.  Cricket was the only one not taking part in the conversation, instead she was off to one side, tearing apart the translator that had been meant for her.  I smiled at that, before looking back to the centre, still not looking at Oz.

“Have you heard my alias? Of course I get it, but I mean, our existance is doomed, so what’s the point worrying anymore?”  I looked at everyone else in the group, then finally let my eyes lock onto those of the orange-clad boy.  “So, the show must go on, right?  Did she give away our location?”

“She had her cell terminal with her,” Osmosis stated the obvious, “which most patrol Tigers don’t, in case it gives them away.  So they’ve probably known our location since last night.  They haven’t moved yet, so I can only assume that means they think we ditched the cell here, otherwise we would be dead.”


“So like I said,” I stood up, picking up my sports bag and walking to a better position – I figured we would be addressed soon, and that meant Oz was going to be trying to stand on something to be taller than everyone, which I didn’t want to sit through.  “The show must go on, when do we go.”

“We can’t leave her here.”  Oz was harsh with his words, walking himself back up the stairs.  Bullseye was the one to respond this time.

“Her presence might compromise the task at hand, Osmosis.”  A lot of words for him, I thought.  Our wise leader turned back to shake his head.

“She comes with me and Grave on our end of the mission.  I’ll keep a gun trained on her.”  The silence that flowed into the space after that was deafening, to quote a cliché.  We all remembered the Hound patrol officer who suffered Osmosis’ bullet yesterday.  It hadn’t been a kill blow, but out in the desert, it put the man in a position of almost certain death.


“Fixed it!” Cricket chirped from her spot on the floor, darting over to the terminal, and everyone’s eyes snapped her way as she moved against the silence which suddenly made everything that much more awkward.  She replicated several small somethings and then darted to each of us in turn.  By the time she got to Skit I saw what she was doing; they were new translators for each of us.  I had to wonder if there was anything electronic that the little girl couldn’t improve.  Bushi stood up, once we all had one, and offered to speak a little Japanese to test them.  When we all heard her comment with perfect translation, Cricket grinned.  “See?”


Osmosis took the final, reverse translator, and trudged up the stairs.  There was an air of defeat to him now, and it depressed me a little, I could see the others watching him, too, so I decided to make my own positivity.

“So do we all remember our part in this?” I asked, smiling.  Bushi was the first to smile back, followed by Cricket, who leapt up onto the swivel chair, almost a replica of Osmosis’ speech pose.  I sighed when her own positivity outdid mine in a way that you wouldn’t have expected from the shy hacker.

“Cricket is going to kill a computer!” she announced, ecstaticly…


When we got there, we knew it.  The building was large, a massive dark-walled thing with no windows on its outer wall.  The prison was a massive, distinct capital T shape when viewed from above, and we were at the base of it now, about to enter the building using identification that Osmosis had somehow forged for us earlier.  It was eerie, with tall windowless walls and a forboding presence.  All of us were to work together this time.  Six rebels and a hostage cop.  I was astonished at how lax the front entry security was at this time of the morning.  The guard there asked us for our I.D., glanced askance at each only once, and then waved us in towards the locker room.


Inside we began to carry out the plan that the hacker girl had devised for us all…


“It works like this,” Osmosis had explained, “Grave, you and I will head in to find the guy.  That would be suicide if we didn’t have Cricket, but she’s going to open the way for us, while she plants a virus.”  This had been the first point of argument in the discussion of the plan, but after a while, he battled off my worry about involving the girl.  “She’ll be guarded, Skit, Bushi and Bullseye are staying with her, making sure she’s unharmed while she works the office.  She’ll open all the sealed doors into the central East wing and then leave with them all to wait at the rendezvous in the sewars.  While that’s going on, we wander in with our nanos set up as uniforms, break the guy out, and then head for the East outer wall.”  Again, an argument.  The walls were solid, thick, apparently people had tried to bomb them before without success.  “But they didn’t know about the nanofilm on the wall.  We do.  I cooked up a basic E.M. grenade.  Grave, you’ll carry that.  When we reach the wall, you E.M.P. it to kill the nanites and I’ll follow up with some breeching charges.  We’ll have a fifteen second window to break through, out and into the sewars, if all goes well.”


…at first, everything seemed to be going perfectly.  I pulled out my cell, since I was told to keep in touch with Cricket throughout.  Osmosis was bringing up the rear, and between us the Tiger girl, Masane, stalked silently.  She was without her weapon, but that didn’t stop the kid orange from holding his hand near his belt, where today he had holstered six stun guns, as well as his usual pistol.  Seven weapons all told.  We were all clad in the black S.E.E.R.S. uniform, Oz labelled with the head of a wolf, me and the Tiger girl matching.


The route to the cell was mostly quiet.  We encountered two guards patrolling at one point.  We managed to keep out of their sight long enough for Cricket to confirm that she had disabled surveilance – it was odd how much she said when she was saying it in writing, and I now understood why Osmosis called her verbose – before we took action.  I darted forward, approaching from behind and clouting one of the two about the head with my sword’s hilt.  The other turned just as I heard darts whistle by my ear, and he dropped into a shuddering pile as Oz shocked him.  I hadn’t even lost any breath.  It was a clean strike.  We looked at one another, while the Tiger girl simply looked at her feet between us.  It was time to make haste.


We made our way down the dull institutional corridors of the East wing, into the central corridor, where our target was kept.  The man was sitting at the back of his cell as we arrived.  His ginger hair was starting to pale from malnutrition, and his eyes bore less shine than they should considering the fire they showed us as we entered.

“Come to move me, hmm?” he looked like he had Irish heritage, with that red hair and paled green eyes.  He also looked oddly resigned, like his doom would somehow help prove that he was right about something.

“Yes, but not where you think, mister O’Gail.”  Great leader Osmosis stepped forward, motioning for me to keep an eye on the Tiger.  “My name, my alias, is Osmosis.  We’re breaking you out.”

“Nice joke, kid.  You’re young for a recruit.”  He stood up, offering his hands for cuffing, but Oz smiled.

“I don’t joke, and I’m fifteen.”  The kid orange leaned close to the prisoner, and whispered something that made the man’s eyes light up.  He grinned.

“Well then get me the hell out of here, boy.”  He shuffled towards the door, lead by Oz, and we made our way outside just in time to catch the ever-so-distant sound of gunfire.


“Shit, Grave, check in on Cricket.”  I followed his instruction, taking the lead again as Osmosis followed O’Gail, who followed Masane.  Cricket responded instantly, flashing a text across the screen of my cell.


We’re fine,

Cut off from the entrance, but fine.

Skit and Bullseye are dealing with pursuers.

Bullseye because it’s his specialty to shoot,

Skit because he seems to enjoy swinging that thing.

Bushi is covering me, and we’re moving further in.

We’ll have to join you.


I related the message, sans Cricket's professional annotations, to Oz, who growled, peering down as he pondered the situation.

“No way could they have been ready that easily.  There weren’t enough people to block the entrance so well…”  His eyes looked up from his reverie just quickly enough to widen.  His hand grabbed our escapee guest, and dragged him to the ground.  I wasn’t so fast, and as Masane wheeled, her elbow landed squarely on my solar plexus.  Her hand had my sword out of my hand faster than I had been able to raise it, and as I fell I saw her turn on Osmosis.


He was about ten feet back, must have jumped there as quick as she had elbowed me.  I hit the floor gasping, still watching the scene unfold.

“Don’t move a fucking inch, woman.”  His hand was at his belt, ready to draw any weapon and fire.  Fast as she was, Osmosis would probably drop her before she got within reach with my weapon.

“Kill me now,” she said, translated perfectly by the earpiece.  “I sold you and yours to Tigers.  It was cowardly of me.  Kill me.”

“The thought tempts me more than it ought to, Masane-” Osmosis was about to continue talking, but the Tiger girl started at him, a sudden dash that made the kid orange react with all the speed he had.  In a flash, I saw the girl drop not five feet away from Oz.  He was standing over her, frowning, glaring even, at her twitching form, two ultra thin wires connecting her to the weapon in his hand.


“Shit,” he cursed, throwing the taser aside, “I used the wrong gun.”




The interview room felt more like an interrogation chamber.  The light was bright and invasive, and in his age, the man felt like blowing the thing out.  Maybe if he did the journalist would stop her interrupting questions and let him tell the story.  That was what she had asked him here for, in the first place.  For a biography.

“Do you mean to say,” she began, with a brow raised, that same brow that made the symbologist’s hand twitch with the desire to use his art to shatter the light above once again.  He lifted the extremity, placing it on the table to restrain himself.  Sure, he was eighty, but it hardly mattered when a simple symbol could put a hole in a brick wall.  “That the founder of Symbology was a murderer?”

“I mean to say,” he leaned forward, his blue eyes still shining under a mop of hair that might once have been brown before it turned to mercury, “that I don’t think that man knows what a bluff is.”