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   Chapter 11 No.11

The U.M.I. Corp Connection By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 31644

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Showdown

"There's still one thing that bothers me, " Tiff said, picking some debris out of her fur.

"And what's that, " I asked, turning up an inter-level express tube.

"Well, cloning only reproduces the physical body, but, in order for the cloned ambassadors and such to be of any use, they have to know exactly what the original knows. They would need something else to reproduce one's memories."

"Hmm, good point. ICy!"

His image appeared at his usual spot, wearing a dark wide-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses.

"Front and center boss."

"Look into that core-dump I just gave you from Biomedics. Look for any process or equipment involved in brain memory transference or contact and run it across a screen here."

"Okeydokey"

"See what you can find in it, Tiff."

I drove along for a few minutes as the display scrolled across the 3-D screen in front of Tiffany. I went up a few levels, then turned off at the level with U.M.I. Corp on it, and started across town. Tiff quickly scanned the display images.

"Here's something, " she punched a few buttons to stop and zoom in the display, "but you'll have to look over the schematics."

She pressed a button and the display appeared on my screen. I looked it over as I drove on. There was mention of a memory transference program, housed someplace in the Biomedics building- now a pile of scrap. There was also a file with schematics for the memory reading device, so I punched it up.

"Yeah, " I put Tango on auto-pilot and examined the file, "they must do brain scans on them while they're in the brothel house. My clone must have just been programed to do the murder, since they wouldn't have had a chance to brain scan me. Let's see… The device looks simple enough, just a helmet you put on, no implants or special preparations needed. Hmm. It looks just like one of those-"

A few things began clicking into place as I realized what that diagram actually meant; a few rather nasty possibilities.

"Henry?" Tiff asked when I just started staring at the screen. "What is it?"

"That helmet of theirs looks just like one of those mind-computer interface helmets, and operates almost exactly the same as one."

"Like maybe, the one you tried out back at Tilgard Export?"

I nodded slowly, "You wouldn't be able to tell the difference when using it; the sensations would feel the same if you didn't know which you were using."

"So, " she swallowed, "they have a mental copy of you to use if they want."

"I'm afraid so; as well as, assuming the worst, one other person. ICy, do you copy what was just said?"

"Aye-aye sir, " his head said, "changing all codes now; dumping new ones to your terminal."

"Good. Go through that schematic and figure out what the percent accuracy of a duplicate would be for the few minutes of exposure when I used that one helmet back at Tilgard."

I increased Tango's speed while the seconds ticked on by.

"Got it. Eighty-six percent accurate. The errors would be in the subconscious and more recent memories. Memories made after the brain scan wouldn't be present at all."

"Okay then. Tiffany, if it ever comes up and you have a doubt about a duplicate or me, then start making references to events at Biomedics."

"Okay."

"Tiff, gimme a memory cube outa my glove compartment. ICy, copy off these files with the mind-copy project and the schematics for the helmet onto a memory cube."

Tiff handed me the cube which I then inserted into the console. A few quick seconds passed as ICy complied.

"Done, " ICy said when he was finished.

I popped out the cube and pocketed it. Then I made sure my gun was ready and fully loaded, my knife handy, and my nerve set. Tiff was doing likewise with her stuff. We were psyching ourselves up for an encounter with the Black Dagger.

I hope my Blue Cross is paid up.

We were closing in on the area where UMI was. I was rounding a turn and-

All the instruments flickered, ICy's image blanked out, power indicators went out, and Tango turned off. I managed to glide us to a safe landing.

Well, it wasn't that bumpy.

"What happened?" Tiff asked.

"Large magnetic pulse. Someone's using my own tricks."

She got her knife in hand, "It looks as if Blacky's found us."

"Yeah."

I got my gun handy and got out of Tango. Tiff got out the other side and we crept around to Tango's front, looking around cautiously. This area was dark; a dirty alley-way, the smell of grime in the air.

We could hide behind Tango, but we didn't know which direction to hide from. He could be anywhere.

"Any ideas?" Tiff asked, looking around furtively.

"You mean aside from calling in for a stunt double?"

"Now, there's a useful idea."

We then heard a snap behind us. I almost whirled completely around until I realized it could just be a ruse. Instead, I looked over quickly without turning around while Tiff stayed looking forward.

"We can't get jumpy, or we'll be shooting at any rock that rolls along in front of us, " I observed.

"We've got to try and think from his point of view, " Tiff said thoughtfully, "like, where would the best vantage point be for him."

A couple of brief seconds of thought, and we both came to the same simultaneous conclusion.

We both looked straight up!

There's a few rather nice overhangs, ledges, and windows overtop of us and across the street.

We looked back at each other, and then simultaneous leaped in opposite directions to either side of the street…

Just as some sparks and smoke exploded from right where we both used to be!

Now, let me tell you something about laser weapons. Unlike some of the cheaper movies, where you see a visible trail blazed by the beam's path, laser beams can't be seen until they hit something, or if there's dust in the air. After all, if they're supposed to be coherent, then they wouldn't be much of a laser if you could see them, now would they?

The upshot of all this is that, no we couldn't see where that laser beam came from. And, since laser's are essentially noiseless, we couldn't hear where it was shot from either, unlike old-fashioned slug-throwers. Bigger energy weapons, now they make some noise. Nowadays, lasers don't usually do enough damage to be effective, unless you're very accurate.

Like this guy probably is.

There are ways to deflect a laser beam, but you have to know what color they are first.

I looked around; Tiff had slipped into the shadows and I couldn't see her. Just as well; if I could see her, then he probably would be able to also. I kept myself flattened along the side of the wall as I crept along towards the nearest doorway. Slooowly. One careful step at a time. An eternity, or one minute real time, later, I was in the doorway.

I hesitated before testing the door. I pulled out a handkerchief, folded it up a few times, and then used that to test the doorknob with. It may seem a bit paranoid, but if I could think of electrifying the doorknob, then he definitely would.

It was locked.

Now think. How would he do things if he was rigging up what I assumed to be an ambush. He would have all escape routes either covered or blocked off.

Which meant that the only doors that would be open would be the ones that I didn't want to go through. Window probably likewise. Which left me...

...Afraid to even move. This was doing no good. I had to do something, or he'd just pick me off. If I forced the door I'd make too much noise and he'd spot me pretty quick. I crept along the wall some more. I had to get inside a building so I could get high enough to try and spot him.

Now I was next to a garbage dumpster. Hmm. I looked inside. Plenty of junk and dirt. It could provide some cover.

Yeah, and this guy's stupid! Sure, right. I don't think so. I'll just back off a few steps and look around. I spotted a loose rock and picked it up. I backed up some more, bent down low, and then hurl the rock. It landed right in the middle of the dumpster.

Which then let loose an explosion that rocked the over-sized tin can, and sent trash and dirt straight up into the air. There was plenty of dust in the air now, so I looked around.

Across the street another spark sizzled against a wall as another laser beam shot out. It looks like Tiff was on the move also. I hope she's okay.

With all the dust in the air, I still hadn't seen the beam that gave rise to that last shot. Which meant that it was either Infrared or Ultraviolet. IR may be just about invisible, but you can't pack enough power in one and still remain portable. Which means that it had to be UV.

Not that that piece of info does me any good just right now.

I crept behind the dumpster, and further along the wall. There's a large tube that goes from the side of the building into the trash can. I could maybe crawl up it...

...And give him about a dozen opportunities to shoot me down; no thanks.

I was coming to the corner of the building, where there was a street light keeping it lit. That's no good, he'd be sure to stop me. Think!

Wait a minute! If it's so dark around here, how's he expect to find us. He must be using infrared goggles. Which means-

I leaped across the lit area, did a rather clumsy tuck and roll, and shot out around the corner, a line of searing focused energy following me along as I did so. I then ran down that side of the building and flattened myself.

This guy must be playing with us! I was probably in h

he stage below. She did a tuck and tried to turn the fall into a dive, to land on her feet, then grabbed at the stage curtain to slow her fall.

She was almost successful.

The thump of her hitting the stage floor, face down rang through my ears. She hadn't moved. I was in shock. I looked up at the figure looking at me.

Something snapped inside of me. The sound of the rope cutting was my battle-hymn. I looked over at the figure, tears streaming down my face, my mind on hold and my heart numb, and then started to swing my rope. I swung, swung, and leaped.

Maybe it was the adrenalin, or the shock, but I landed perfectly on the catwalk, pulling out my dagger as I did so. I approached him, simultaneously grief-stricken and angry as the raging nuclear fires inside a star.

"Okay, Buckwheat! This time you're going to stay dead!"

I saw a quick flash of smile from under the darkness of his hood.

He leaped over the catwalk, out into the air, curled, rolled, and dived, and then landed on the stage floor on his feet in a crouch.

We were at least thirty feet up!

I grabbed a rope and slid down to the stage. I had my knife out and faced him.

Tiffany lay there awfully still.

My face held a grimace of pure hate and determination. If I couldn't kill him, I'd take him with me!

"You just killed someone that I love more than anything else around. For that, I'm going to kill you even if it means my own life!"

He didn't respond, silent as ever. Intellectually I knew that I had to calm myself or he'd use my emotions against me. Emotionally though, I just wanted to rip his heart out with a pair of rusty pliers. I didn't care!

We circled each other cautiously. He circled around so his back was to Tiff's motionless body. He wouldn't even let me say goodbye to her!

The bastard!

Suddenly, Tiff's legs swung out in an arc through Blacky's legs, sending him falling down off stage. I threw my knife at him, just as he'd turned his fall into a roll and leap into the orchestra pit. I heard a ripping sound, as my knife contacted the figure. But all that was left there where he'd been was a small piece of black cloth pinned on the stage floor by my knife. I went over to Tiffany.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, " she rubbed a furry leg, "for a dead girl. Just sprained my leg is all."

"You had me worried!"

She smiled, "Now, you don't think that a mere threat of death is going to keep me away from you, do you?"

Relief poured itself through me like a waterfall falling over a piece of desert.

"But try not to get too mushy next time, " she smiled.

"Well, we still have a problem, " I stood up and reached inside of my pocket.

"Hey you, Black Dagger, " I shouted, "We've got to talk. MUT's not telling you everything!"

I brought out the memory cube I prepared back inside of Tango, "They cannot only make clones, but they can duplicate the memories of someone too. Of course, you know that. But the device for their brain-scanning is exactly the same as a standard mind-computer interface helmet. It's all on this memory cube."

I tossed it into the orchestra pit and continued.

"When was the last time that you used one of those helmets inside of MUT to interface with their computers, huh? They don't need to pay you, not when they can just crank dozens of you out on an assembly line. They'll just send three or four to go over and kill you!"

Tiff had stood up, favoring her left foot, and stood by my side, leaning against my shoulder. We waited.

"I used to work for them, " Tiff called out, "but they stiffed me out of my pay!"

"How does it feel to only be a production model?" I shouted.

Well, he must have had a memory cube reader with him, because a dark-sounding voice called out from, seemingly, everywhere, "How do I know this isn't fabricated?"

"The cube has the verification codes straight out of Biomedics, where I got the files from, " I wet my lips as I tried my trump card, "and besides, my mother taught me to always include the truth in even the most complex of con-jobs. My mother is known as Platinum Angel."

I swallowed.

"The same one that you used to date until she married my father."

"If this is true, then you can give me her middle name, " came the deep, rumbly voice again.

"It's Rose, " I shouted back, "she always used to joke about being a platinum rosebud."

Silence.

More silence.

Then, "You are your mother's son. You say the truth."

There was another pause.

Suddenly, the dark figure leaped up from the orchestra pit, did a double somersault in mid-air, and then landed onto the stage on his feet.

With an act like that, if he ever needed another day-job, he could join a circus.

The voice now shouted from the hood, a voice so cold and determined, that it sent shivers of fear between me and Tiffany; a voice that sounded like it could make the heavens at least a little cautious.

"NO ONE copies the Black Dagger! I am a one of a kind!! This is insult of the highest kind!"

He looked at us then said, "My contract with MUT is now broken. First I shall go to remove all traces and copies of my memory patterns and abilities. Then I shall go to remove all traces of that cringing bulldog chairman of MUT!"

He ran over to the side of the stage and then turned around, "You have been good opponents; I wish you well. Tell your mother that I said hello. The Black Dagger is not without chivalry and standards. Consider this gift of life a wedding present."

Was everybody in on this wedding conspiracy?

With that said, he leapt into the back stage shadows and was gone.

We both sighed, partly with relief, partly with exhaustion.

"We still have to shut down UMI, " Tiff breathed.

"Yeah, first we have to get Tango started, then your foot bandaged up, then we go to UMI."

"But, there's no time for my foot, they'll-"

"They'll keep for the few minutes it'll take to get your foot up and working again. After that, you're staying inside Tango, flying support, " I stopped her before she could protest, "I don't need you limping all over UMI, you hear?"

She smiled and looked up at me as we walked off the stage, "Yes chief; you're the boss."

We went back out of the building down the street towards Tango.

I wish they'd stop calling me chief!

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