If You're Gonna Stop a Terrorist You Need To Do Your Research


Annah’s sheer blinds were pulled shut, creating a heavily-shadowed room, lit only by the harsh light from a computer screen and the pale green lights emitting from the case. She was aggressively typing and intently reading the information that appeared on the screen in response to her commands. On one screen she had a chat room open, and on the other, she had a forum up looking through the different topics. She was scanning for any chatter about a new group looking to change the world. As she had expected, there was nothing she could find on the standard web. She thanked her contact for their time, and then switched the cable that was plugged into her ethernet port. Any information that she was looking for wouldn’t be found on the standard net. She would have to delve deep into the darknet to find the channels the group that had hired her was using to communicate. She was instantly concerned as she logged into the darknet, because there was no chatter whatsoever- every single site she found was dead. No activity. There were only two instances where this would be reasonable: in a power outage, and during server maintenance. Server maintenance was only ever done during the dead of night, when the standard internet did its daily restart. The power was on, and it was not the time for a server reboot, so where was everyone?

She entered the queue onto the one domain that was emitting any pings, and found that it was merely a read-only forum. She opened the active topic, and a video file began to play. “Greetings my fellow citizens of the Force for Island Liberation! Today is the day that I reveal our plan, your missions, and your targets,” an enthusiastic voice rang out as it began to detail the schemes of the group. At first, Annah was excited, and listened eagerly, thinking this might be another good opportunity to attempt a change in the government. After an hour or so of listening to the monologue, she began to space out, as it lost her interest. She was getting ready to close out of the forum, writing it off as just another dream-big- talk-bigger-do-nothing revolution. “And we will send our colony into the ocean to float on their own wings!” She immediately began to inspect the details of the screen.

Five years ago, she had seen the exact same set of plans, spread out on a table before her, a smoking gun in her hand and a dead body sprawled out on the floor before her. One of her most trusted lieutenants had demanded they go through with a plan to blow half of the city off the mainland and make it into a free island. Free of corruption, free of law, but above all else, free of peace and justice. She had refused the plan, and he had responded violently. She was reminiscing about the kill when the video file said in an angry voice, “You won’t stop us so easily this time, General Krie.” The video cut out, and suddenly the darknet was back to life with all of its chatter. She sat back in her chair, shocked. No one called her by that name anymore. General Krie had died with her revolution. As she had expected, the speaker’s voice had been distorted, and there was no picture of their face. Someone was mirroring the way she had handled giving out orders when she had rallied her army.

Originally, she thought it was one of the supporters of her revolution, but she cast that thought aside when she remembered the plan. That plan had not left the table of the officers’ room. That meant that she had started her revolution alongside whoever was now planning to destroy the island. Of the few people to survive the war, she was only able to confirm the lives of three of her council members: Cal, Heron, and Artemis. She trusted Cal more than the other two, but Cal was the one who brought her the mission that put her on this trail in the first place. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but with a scheme that large she wouldn’t make any exceptions. He would also be the easiest of the three to track down. She wanted to leave immediately, but she was already tired from her contract and sleepless night. Instead, she lazily tugged on her sleeves, trying to get her dark grey hoodie off as she fell face-first onto her bed. She let her feet hang off the bed for a moment as she smashed her face into the soft pillow that was her safe haven against the realm of the awake. She managed to get a single arm out of the jacket before sleep overcame her, and she was carried off into the weightless world of dreams.

She slept well, for a time, with senseless dreams that wouldn’t be remembered for even a moment after they ended. Had she been conscious, she could have felt the healing changes that were occurring. The rings under her eyes were disappearing, her muscles were relaxing, undoing the knots of tension that she had been building up over the week, and she was even smiling. Sleep was the safest adventure anyone could take, and it was always free to anyone who dared accept it.

Her adventure was cut short by an ominous click that she would have recognized anywhere. Her eyes instantly fired open and she instinctively rolled off her bed as a loud shot from a revolver broke the silence of the night. As she rolled, she hit her chair, causing her utility belts to fall to the ground, pulling her knife with them. The metal of her knife scraped and rang as she drew the blade, springing to her feet ready to defend herself.

Before her stood a man in a mask, who was adjusting his aim back towards her head with his pistol. She lunged forward, batting the gun to the side as a second deafening shot rang out. She could hear the screams of the other residents in her building as they heard the gunfire. She drove her open palms towards his chest, forcing him to leap backward in response, using her force to gain extra distance across her room. As he landed, he leveled his gun at her once more, aiming to end the conflict in an instant. Reacting quickly, Annah triggered her ballistic knife and managed to hit the side of the gun with the blade, forcing his aim to go wide and his grip to loosen. The pistol roared once more, and flew from his hand out the window where he stood, and began its long fall to the street below.

She stretched her muscles for a moment, and calmed her spastic heart. The rush of adrenaline had saved her from the initial onslaught, but now she would need her nerves to be calm in order to survive the coming fight. With the adrenaline still flowing through her veins and her controlled breathing, time seemed to slow to a crawl. Her opponent led with a right-armed wide punch, revealing more about his fighting style than she needed to overpower him. He was aggressive, relying more on his strength than form. He was tolerant of pain, revealed by his open stance. He preferred to have even reach from all of his limbs. Above all else, he was careless- he began to attack before assessing her own stance, which allowed her to easily step her left foot forward and deflect his blow with a counter-clockwise sweep of her forward arm. She exploited the weakness he had revealed by throwing a closed fist into his right side. As the man reeled back from her blow, he brought both of his hands up to attempt smashing her over the head. She jerked her head back, and his closed hands swung harmlessly past her face. She took a quick step towards him and drove her elbow into his neck. In response, he brought his hands up to guard his face, and she kicked into his kneecap, forcing it to hyperextend. She heard an audible crack, and the man leaned forward from the force. She clapped her hands together, and spun over her left shoulder, driving her clasped hands into the pressure point in his neck. Her blow was true, and he crumpled to the floor at her feet, folded in half from his extensions.

She lived in the poor residence, and no report of the incident would ever be made because the sound of gunfire was a daily occurrence. The citizens would be more inclined to submit a report if they hadn’t heard gunfire in a while, as that would be more suspicious. She went to the collapsed man and began to search him. First, she pulled the mask off, revealing a young man with short black hair and a clean-shaven face. He had a circular scar that looked as though it had been carved into his cheek multiple times. When she searched his pockets, she found a set of keys, a notepad with her face drawn onto it with the caption “Public Enemy No. 1”. She flipped the paper over, and saw the initials FIL. She thought back to the speech, and remembered the intro, Force for Island Liberation. The extremist group that was using a scheme she had denied was now targeting her life.

She resumed her search, not finding much else, not even an identification to tell a thing about the man. Perhaps his superiors had expected him to die in the attempt. Perhaps the man didn’t have an ID to begin with. She sighed and said aloud, “Why’d you have to get stuck in my apartment?” She kicked him in slight frustration as she walked by, and began to stuff a backpack full of her necessary gear. Her favorite pistol, her ballistic knife, with the blade she had fired returned, her laptop, and her tech goggles. She then threw her jacket on again, and slung the bag over one shoulder and headed out the door, “Looks like I’m going mobile for a while.”

She turned to the left, and moved towards the elevator, but before taking a second step noticed that the elevator was already coming up. Not wanting to take the risk of a second encounter, she turned completely around and walked quickly towards the stairs. She heard the cart shudder to a halt, and with a light ring, the doors began to open as she slid through the one to the stairs. She heard muffled voices and chose to walk up the stairs instead of down, in case they decided to come looking for her. She heard the muffled voices turn to angry shouts of, “WHERE IS SHE?!” and accusations of having sent the rookie in alone. The shouts came closer, and she heard the thunder of a door being kicked in, and the sounds of metallic grinds followed by several snaps. She counted six snaps and cursed under her breath- six rifles all hunting for her. No matter how she approached the group a headlong confrontation would be suicide. She would have to lure them into spreading out somehow, if she couldn’t just sneak past them. She waited patiently on the landing between floors, trying to determine where the squad’s next move would take them. After only a moment, she heard the door to the stairwell slam open, and she counted three pairs of footsteps. She cocked her head to the side, intrigued. Three on one was a much better set of odds than six on one.

Coming up with a plan, Annah lazily dropped a single bullet casing over the side railing, causing a barely audible clicking down the stairwell. One of the men announced, “I’ll check it out,” and strode quickly down the stairs. When she heard him clear the first landing, she moved. She sprang up from her sitting position, and lept down the first set of stairs, kicking off of the railing. Her motion propelled her down the remaining stairs, right into view of the remaining two men. The closer man saw her first, and tightened his grip upon his rifle with the dark maple-colored stock. She kicked her legs out in front of her, slamming her feet into his chest, driving him back into the wall. His back bent against the railing, forcing his head into the wall. The light drained from his eyes, and as he fell unconscious to the floor, Annah bent her knees giving her a gentler landing on the concrete. The next man began to fire in a panic before even gripping his rifle, causing a spray of cement dust. The recoil from the gun made it fly upward, and a single bullet grazed the strap of her backpack as she turned to the side.

Annah heard the fateful click as the roaring gun fell silent, and she pounced from her crouching position. She placed a hand on the barrel of the empty rifle and pulled, forcing the hitman off balance right into her extending fist. She felt a satisfying force as she connected with his eye socket, causing him to reel backward toward the descending stairs. She saw the man who had fallen for her distraction returning up the stairs, running as he heard the gunfire. Annah ducked as he leveled his own rifle, and spun, kicking the legs out from under the man in front of her, sending him down the stairs at his ally. A single shot rang out from the standing man, running straight through his partner’s abdomen, causing him to cry out in pain. The shooter, dropped his rifle in horror as he realized he had killed his friend. Seeing her next opening, Annah dashed down the stairs at the remaining man in the stairwell, knowing that she didn’t have much time before the next three men arrived to kill her off. She placed one hand on the stairs behind her and pointed her toes as she extended her leg before relaxing her muscles, causing her leg to whip into his side with a satisfying thud. She then transferred her momentum into her other leg to push her slightly into the air, where she regained her vertical orientation before headbutting the man down the stairs. She heard other footsteps closing in, and grabbed onto the railing, swinging herself over to hang off the stairwell out of sight. “Where did she go?” A worried voice asked from close by. “She had to have been here just a moment ago.”

A heavier voice replied, “She’s probably hiding upstairs or running down. The boss’ll have our heads if we don’t catch her though, so we had better split up. You two go up, I’ll go down.” Two men departed the landing, and as soon as their footsteps faded out, the heavy voice said, “Come on out Annah, I’ve been wanting to test myself against someone of your skill for a while.” Knowing that she was discovered, she climbed up onto the landing, and looked the heavyset man in the eyes, a stern look crossing her face.

“So you’ve been feeling suicidal for a while?” She asked arrogantly, striking up her defensive pose. He mirrored her stance, and waited for her to move, but he had left a small gap in his guard. Annah noticed this instantly and swiftly swung a wide hook towards his side, only to find her arm swatted easily aside, and then countered with a sturdy punch into her gut. She reeled forward from the pain, and on his arm, she could see a tell-tale sign around his elbow, that she was fighting a man with a fully cybernetic body. She took a moment and stepped back composing herself, “What’s it tuned to? The legal speed only goes to seven.”

He laughed loudly, “You catch on quick. It’s tuned to twelve. You can’t react to my speed.”

She chuckled heartily, “Maybe I don’t have to react then.” She opened her stance

slightly as if she was offering him a free shot. He launched a fist forward, so quickly that she wasn’t able to move out of the way. However, with her anticipation proving true, she moved backward in synchronization with the collision. She could tell from the speed that the blow had a severe weight behind it, but due to her movement, it felt as if it had been a sparring punch. Her gambit had worked, and the cybernetic man before her was left off balance. She quickly moved on the opening, and swung a left hook into his side. He didn’t even flinch from her blow, “Let me guess” she scowled in frustration, “You had the pain sensors turned off?” He replied only with a nod and swung at her again. This one connected with her jaw, and stars filled her vision. She backed up holding the side of her head with one hand, and reaching into her backpack with the other.

She could not win this fight unarmed, so she clutched her ballistic knife and pulled it from the pouch. As she did this, her adversary was closing the distance between them, and readying another strike. She traced his eyes, and saw he was watching her arm, expecting her to swing blindly at him again. Instead, she raised the blade of her knife up, forcing his fist to meet the point of it. She heard the blade strike his knuckles, and then slide in between his middle and ring fingers. She pulled the blade downward, tearing the tendons and synthetic flesh from the bottom side of his hand rendering two of his fingers immobile. She recognized the black fluid dripping from the torn tubes as the lubricating oil that kept a cyborg operational without every joint in their body grinding.

Annah knew that the oil was highly conductive, and that if she could apply a charge to it, then maybe she could short out a few motors in the menace before her. He threw another punch and she tried to slide out of the way, but only managed to move enough so that his fist struck her arm. She heard a loud sickening crunch as the bone in her left arm snapped in two, and she screamed in pain. Adrenaline took over, and her mind began to fade as her body made the choice to fight for her. She leaped towards the man, causing him to lean back as her knife slid past his face. She then fired the blade straight into his foot before stomping upon it, pinning the foot to the floor. The man reached down to pull the knife from his foot, and she moved towards the lights on the stairs. She reached down and smashed the glass covering the light with her broken arm, not feeling the pain of the cuts due to the adrenaline coursing through her. She grabbed the light and pulled on it, breaking it free of its housing with the wires still attached.

The man roared in rage as he spun to attack her wildly with his damaged hand. His attack came, but due to her adrenaline enhanced senses, she was able to place the light along the trajectory of his fist. The light shattered, and his muscles seized as the electricity coursed through his body. He fell backward, and she returned to what she was doing before. She ripped the wires from the base of the light, exposing the uninsulated tips. The man was just starting to recover from his initial shock, when she made her next move. When he was in reach of her, she jammed both wires into his bleeding hand, sending a current straight through his body. He clutched his hand to his chest, and then fell to the ground twitching.

Before he even hit the ground, Annah had already started running down the stairs. She felt a numbness spreading through her body, and in some ways, it was welcome, as it meant she wouldn’t feel the pain in her arm. She began to stumble down the stairs, bracing herself against the railing and crashing against the walls to make the turn on each landing. After only a minute of this, she reached the street level, and looked side to side for the nearest medical station. Spotting one, she sprinted over to it, dropping her bag against the wall as she opened the door. Crawling inside, she watched the robotic attendant inspect her seconds before she passed out.

Intermittent bouts of consciousness flooded into her, and she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. She heard a strange whirring of machines moving and clicking of metal on metal. The cold, lifeless voice of a terminal said, “Select a speed. The legal limit is seven.” Annah’s eyes shot open and she looked around, finding that her head couldn’t turn much, she was strapped to a table, and her arm was missing. She strained against the cold metal pressing her to the table, but couldn’t budge an inch. The voice continued on urging her to make a choice, “The decision is not permanent, the tuning can be adjusted at any medical station. A non-response will default the tuning to seven.” Annah reflexively tried to pull against the restraints, but they were too tight, and without her left arm she didn’t even have her full strength available to her.

The mechanical voice said with a tone of finality, “Seven speed tuned. Installing arm now.” A high-pitched whine rang in her ears and she saw a machine lower with a mechanical arm dangling from it. The various servos and motors moved, testing the functionality of the arm. It moved silently and smoothly, giving no indication that it was any different from a human arm- other than the fact that it had no skin and consisted mainly of metal. She grimaced as the mechanical replacement neared her shoulder. She could tell that there were no sedatives in her system, and due to that, she would feel every agonizing moment as her nerves were sewn onto the foreign object. A shiver ran through her as the cold metal touched her skin, and she braced herself for the pain that was to come.

First, an assembly unit descended with an intimidatingly long needle, and extended it into her shoulder. She cried out in pain and clenched her teeth, trying to ignore the feeling as her nerves were stretched and pulled from her shoulder onto her new arm. Then she felt a pinch as the first nerve was melded with the arm. The pinching feeling continued around her arm, and Annah couldn’t help but whimper and cry with every stitch. After an eternity of agony, the tugging and pinching of her nerves receded, only to be replaced by a slight itching on her shoulder where the skin met metal. She recognized this motion as the stitching of her skin onto the arm, and dreaded what was to follow. She clenched her teeth, and felt an increasing pressure against her shoulder. Tears began to fill her eyes as her shoulder flexed and bent, and finally, the metal joint slid into the socket in her shoulder with a resolute pop and she could feel her entire arm once again.

Suddenly the restraints recoiled, and she was free to move again. She sat up and looked both eagerly and fearfully at her new arm. It was a dark metal color, and it moved as freely and naturally as her own arm. She stood and headed for the door, expecting to have to pay an obscene amount for the procedure that she hadn’t requested. To her surprise, she found that the payment screen showed that she didn’t owe anything. She looked closer at the screen, making sure that she was actually seeing what her eyes were telling her. After a moment, the door to the street clinic opened and the mechanical voice said, “Consider this a peace offering, Miss Krie.” She scoffed and walked out the door, a slight bit of anger welling up inside her. Of course, they had replaced her arm for no cost, she was working towards something that would help the government. She wasn’t the only one capable of tracking down the leader of this new resistance, but she was probably the only one who had even started yet. She would have preferred to get false skin attached to her whole arm, but time was not on her side, and that procedure was quite time-consuming.

She scooped up her backpack that was thankfully still leaning against the building, and began to walk down the street. It was only then that she noticed that her hoodie was missing its sleeves. She imagined that it was the robots at the clinic who tore them off, to remove her arm and measure the other for her new arm. She shrugged, figuring that only one arm would get cold now anyway, and broke out into a light jog down the sidewalk. She wanted to find Cal before the sunset, so that she wouldn’t have another moonlit meeting for him to sneak away from.

The first difference that she noticed as she walked north was the street lights ceasing to flicker as they turned on. Unlike in the slums, the lights provided enough visibility to traverse the beaten-down road with relative ease. The evening began to set in, as the road regained the appearance of its earlier glory. Instead of constant potholes and cracks, there was an immense helping of tar that had been poured to repair every bit of damage to the street. The road turned, and her destination was in plain sight. Cal always frequented the same bar when he wasn’t off delivering envelopes with contracts and job offers. She glared at the ground and mumbled to herself, “Or plotting terrorist attacks.” She kicked at a can on the ground and realized that she had already closed the distance to Cal’s favorite bar, The Brink of Infinity. It wasn’t a spectacular bar, but she understood why he chose that one. The screen over the entrance portrayed the picture of a man standing on the edge of a hole in the earth that held no bottom.

She walked through the sliding doors confidently, and was quickly greeted by the robotic barkeep she knew as Barten. His actual designation was B4R-10, but it was too tedious for most customers to say, so he simply went with what his name looked like. He ran over to her, and looked her up and down before noticing her new arm, “So! You finally decided to join our kind, huh?” He laughed heartily, while Annah simply frowned.

She paused for a moment, “The only issue is that I wasn’t the one who did the deciding. I’ll tell you all about it next time I’m here for fun instead of business. Is Cal here?”

B4R-10’s friendly tone vanished instantly, “We don’t talk about him around here. He’s banned for life.” Realizing that Annah didn’t know, he continued, “If you buy a drink I’ll tell you why.”

“Fine fine, I’ll have the usual.” She groaned, pulling up a chair at the bar. After a moment of shaking and mixing, B4R-10 turned back to her, and she said, “Still doing it the old-fashioned way, just how I like it.”

“Only for you, actually,” he said, shrugging. “You’re the only one who can tell the difference. Or the only one who cares.” He placed a cup in front of her with a dark liquid, and three large ice cubes.

She lifted the glass an inch off the bar, and swirled it slightly causing the ice cubes to gently hit the glass, causing a small high pitched noise, “So what’s the deal?”

“With Cal? We all loved him, but he started changing recently.” B4R-10 said morosely, “He used to just drink here to pass the time, but lately, I noticed that he was becoming more and more vocal during his visits, spouting dissent, and making wild threats.” He sighed and then continued, “I asked him what was going on with him, and he got violent, pulled a gun on me, and started to warn everyone that I had been lacing his drinks with something. I disarmed him, and called the police, they took him in for a psychiatric evaluation.”

“When was this?” Annah asked shocked, “I just saw Cal last night!”

“Funny story that.” The barman replied, “He told me last night when I was carrying him to the back, while we waited for the police, that he had seen you again. He also said in his drunken stupor that you still hadn’t upgraded any body parts.” He looked at her, and she could swear if he had them that he would have been raising an eyebrow.

“I’ll tell you all about it Barten. Just not right now. I’ve got work to do.” She then stood, and downed the rest of her drink, typed in a number on the keypad at the bar to pay, and turned to leave.

“See you later Ms. Krie.” He called after her, “Come back soon!” and she was out the door. If Cal had been arrested, that exonerated him from starting the darknet feed where she had discovered the destructive plans. She made a mental check mark, and said, “One down, two to go.”


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