For King & Bloody Country

An Extract from GunBoy


Chapter Seventeen For King And Bloody Country Fixing Evan's chip was a simple procedure. Or so Dr. Haines explained to him before putting him under. "Ah yes," he’d said, "a common fault with commercial chips, especially in the sports." Evan was the proud owner of a commercial chip. Only field agents were given military grade chips, the rest of the Branch had to make do with software upgrades and a pat on the back. "We'll just swap this out and harden the interface. Two hours tops." Two hours under the knife and not just anyone's knife - Dr Hatchet Haines' knife. A small price to pay for a sharp knock to the head it was not. It had shorted out the wiring connecting his retina projectors. Evan’s current chip had repaired itself but the wiring between the systems had gone unattended. He didn't have to have a new chip, but the upgrade was free so why not? He woke up three hours later. His head felt as if it had been opened up and someone played with his brain. Through the plexi-glass window of the operation theatre he could see Dr. Haines, reading one of nine holographic panels, the important one, the one that told him whether the operation had been successful. "All good doc?" his palate was dry and the words grated his throat on the way out. Haines gave him the thumbs up from behind the window. "The new chipset is nesting favourably." He swiped a hand over the report. "Try a command." Evan blinked, his HUD appearing in a prompt fashion. Glowing red and blue lines depicted his medical report, specifically his brain and the nested chipset deep inside the fleshy tissue. He summoned messages, emails, missed call data and news feeds. Anything he could get his hands on, he'd read them all at the same time - be damned if he couldn’t. "You may want to take it easy for the next hour or so," said Haines. "This chip is faster than your previous one. It will take your brain some time to adapt to the processing speed." He wasn't wrong. Evan was pulling information to his HUD faster than he could think. Documents, images, video feeds, audio files all piled on top of each other. It was incredible. He checked his official report once more; it had been passed out to the relevant people, the Prime Minister being one of them. He hadn't opened the file, but he checked the time. It flashed on the bottom left of his HUD. The default setting, he moved it across to the bottom right and saved it. It had been almost four hours since the Lexington had landed. "They know I'm up Doc?" "Uhuh." "Any visitors?" "Only the one you asked for." Evan left the gurney in search of his clothes. "How long ago?" The reply didn't come right away. Doctor Hatchet Haines was checking his HUD. "An hour ago. They're behind you." Evan looked to the window. Haines was pointing over to the other side of the room. On a side cupboard, neatly folded was a Government-branded sweat suit: joggers, hoodie and trainers. "Thanks Doc." He dressed in a hurry, leaving the room after planting an open palm against the plexi-glass wall. "Thanks again." He replaced the empty infirmary for a silent corridor and rushed as fast as decorum would allow in the halls of the Parliament building. An hour, he told himself, was long enough. *** "I hear you came to visit," Evan said barging into the Control Room. "You should knock," Renner span his chair around. "I could have been watching porn." "You needed to watch porn after seeing me in a surgical gown?" He raised his arms wide for his approaching friend, hugging and breaking apart, laughing. "Your humour didn't survive the procedure then?" "I asked Hatchet to put it in a jar for me." "Best place for it, it never worked properly." Renner punched Evan in the arm. "Glad to have you back man." "Careful, or I'll have to tell your wife that you have a man crush on me." "She's not the wife." "She is though," Evan winked. "Not at all my friend, we like to keep it mysterious." "That's funny, I heard it was kinky." It was a practised routine of two friends blowing off the stress gained over the last couple of days. It was good to be home. "I heard you dress up as Winnie the Pooh and chase after her honey pot." "Sweetest honey in the building." "It must be if it has you crawling back to her every night." Renner hooked Evan's arm and pulled him back in giving him a big bear hug. "Good to have you back, you petulant little shit!" He released him and pointed to the only chair in the room, his control chair. "Take a pew. You want a drink or something?" "Some water, or something fizzy if you have it." Evan relaxed in the leather recliner. "Did you get it?" Renner passed him an empty glass as he crouched down beside the chair. There was a mini fridge built into its base. He passed up a can of lager. "Do you have anything soft?" The look Renner produced was a cross between dismay and devastating concern. "You were shot on your first field mission. Hit your head with enough force to smash a water melon apart and you don't want a drink?" He proceeded to check the door to the control room and lock it. "Don't listen to that little cricket on your shoulder, listen to your old friend Renner and drink." He clicked his finger and the room was pitched into a red hue. "I guarantee you'll be needing something harder soon enough." The red hue signified that the room was locked down. In one simple gesture it no longer appeared on the building's security recordings, so no eyes or ears could pry into what was happening between these four walls. Evan had been here more times than he could recall, but not once had Renner locked it down. It had to be something to do with the small glass tube. "Something up?" Renner nodded. "It's a quantum drive." "I thought it might have been, but I didn't recognise the model." "I'm not surprised." Renner stood behind him now, connecting the hardwire to the port in Evan's wrist like a UV. "Why?" "It's DGSE." He flinched as the hardwire's tip clamped around his port and injected the inner cable into his arm. "It's French?" "Oui, oui!" The DGSE or Directorate-General for External Security, was France's outside intelligence agency. What in hell was Nikki doing with it? "It was also holding something so sensitive that you, my fine friend, are about to be the second person in the building to find out what's on it. As long as you didn't show it to anyone else before me?" Evan was too stunned to answer, how in hell did they have French intelligence technology? "Shall I take your silence as a no?" "Sorry, yes… I mean no. No one else knows about it. Not even Kyle." "Well in that case, I feel quite privileged." Evan could tell he was more nervous than he was letting on. "What's on it?" "Fletcher." "Come again?" "It's a recording of his chipset." Renner held up the glass tube. "At least the last three months of it. I don't think it could fit any more on here. It's not that big. We designed one last year that can hold three times-" "Ren..." Evan glared at him, willing him to get to the point. "Yes. Three months of raw footage, recorded from a transmitted feed, sent from Dominic Fletcher's chipset." Renner slipped the drive into his chair and stepped back, "The last recording is dated two days ago." "He stopped transmitting a week ago." He knew Renner also knew this; he was mission controller and had been responsible for catching all of Fletcher's transmissions. "You told me. You were the one who told me we'd lost him a week ago." "We did. I did," he corrected himself. "However, he was still transmitting. It wasn't to us, but he was transmitting to the MOD. To MI5 and your savage friends. They were piggy backing the signal. They saw everything too." "So what?" Evan was doubled up with confusion. Dominic had transferred from MI5 to Special Branch under instruction from the Prime Minister. He knew him, or at least, thought he had known him. "Are you saying Fletcher was a double agent?" "I don't want to make assumptions on our late friend, I've only had the data for just over an hour. I'll need a couple of days at least to run it through my systems before I can make that kind of a judgement." His eyes were off to his right, no doubt searching his brain for some way of speeding up the timeframe. Then he flicked back to Evan. "At least a couple of days, okay maybe a week, did I say there was three months on here? "I checked the data streams - if the savages hacked the transmission then they're better than I am. I'd be more inclined to say he gave them the codes to piggy back." "He allowed them to watch?" "Maybe he was lonely, or maybe he went Colonel Kurtz out there. I don't know. I might never know. I don't want to promise anything. What I will say is that we may be in luck. Whether they hacked it or not, if it's in the last three months I'll be able to find it." "Because the data is raw." It was unabridged. Whatever Fletcher saw, said, heard or felt they would learn. "Yes my young Padawan, that is correct." He bit his bottom lip, forming a grimace. "And there's something else." Evan hardly believed there was more to come, but then he remembered the thing that Nikki and Window had told him. "He killed Sin Lao." Renner's shoulders slouched. Evan could see him working it out in his head. "They told you?" "I didn't believe them at the time." "They tell you about Lockhead?" "Lockheed?" "No. Lock and Head together, Lockhead." Evan shook his head. "What is it?" "It's an operational codename, one that's been about the corridors over the last couple of days. Oliver asked me to check into it for him. He's been like a ferret after a snake - you probably had it easier down London than some of the guys that happened to be in his way." Renner recognised the face of impatience in Evan. "Well strap in. I think I found it." Renner moved to a holographical interface at the rear of the chair. "Tap twice when you've had enough and try not to puke over the chair," he said as Evan's vision diluted into the fade. A dead-zone waiting to be filled with Dominic Fletcher's raw data file, "Boot me." *** His left eyelid tore open and sleep's fresh scab rolled down his cheek, into the pit. The pitch darkness was as expansive as it was cold, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey his father would say. No, not his father Evan corrected himself. Dominic's father. This was Dominic's experience. Evan was reliving his thoughts, his entire digital being and Dominic was exhausted. He stuck his tongue out of his mouth and licked his dry, cracked lips. He had no memory of recently drinking, no memory of arriving at this shared present. "Where am I?" he asked with his own mouth, not Dominic's. "Shall I just tell you how it ends?" Renner's voice sounded off. It wasn't in the same place as Dominic. It was elsewhere, bodiless. "No." He wanted to see it for himself. He needed to see how it had ended, what Nikki had intended him to watch. How Dominic had taken out Sin Lao. "It's disorientating." "That's the mix of you watching the raw feed and Dominic's anxiety levels. I'll plug you with a mild sedative - that should counter the effects." He tried to move his arms but found them locked tight at the wrists. He looked up and saw why. Iron manacles held them in place above his head and he could feel the strain in Dominic's shoulders. The pain was numbed. He must have been hanging there for some time. Whoever had him, had held him for days like this and, whatever their purpose, Dominic had grown to love these chains, this archaic feat of engineering that bound him in place. They were both his keeper and his saviour. Without them he'd fall into the pit, where they waited for him. The chattering demons. He didn't know how many there were. Dominic had never counted them. But he feared them. They were to Dominic a precise depiction of a masochist's wet dream and his own nightmare. He loved his chains for keeping him from them. Evan still felt the tug of reality, a notion not unlike the fourth beer of the night. Everyone at some time or other has tried it raw. There are plenty of people who deny it, who say things like "I've watched it on a screen." But it's all just a way of saying they didn't inhale. It's the taboo. It's the dirty little secret like the sex tapes of the thirties. Why wouldn't you want to see what it was like being someone else? It's not watching what they saw; it's experiencing every sense they experienced. Touch, excitement, smell, euphoria, taste, ecstasy, sound, despair, sight - everything. Porn starlets like Madison Fry make millions of sterling every year from allowing her fans to experience her. These experiences are not raw. They are edited, to convey the good, the positive Government approved feelings. Everyone has tried it, in some fashion or other. Evan had done so, he had more than one purchased experience saved on his server and plenty of his own memories he could and would relive. Less popular, but still available; were the bad ones. The illegal ones. The ones that deal with the other side of life, the drug taking, the rape, the murder and the snuff. All the ones good people pretended weren't out there. The problem with them is you can lose yourself, get stuck in the past, or in someone else's past. It’s easy to believe one reality over the other when you want to. When the one you're choosing to experience is, for lack of a better description, better than the one you live. That’s why they’re banned. That’s why Evan couldn't be sure whether he was the one controlling Dominic's motion now, as he swayed back and forth, or whether he was just along for the ride. It was all too real. Evan had taken the training; all Government personnel underwent the training. All political figures undergo that particular training too. Ever since Didenko, the Russian Ambassador to Korea had been kidnapped and broken. Torturers had found a new toy in breaking a person by means of destroying their reality, he remembered that. The first lesson in hardening oneself against such methods – "Do not rely on your technology, for that will be the first thing they turn against you." Professor Hendrickson of the Foundation had a flair for the dramatic, but Evan remembered his lessons well. He knew he could no more manipulate his surroundings as a brick could control the weather. However, his mind was alone in understanding the experience's simple truth. Every sense of his being denied him that truth, to all intents and purposes he was, in that moment, Dominic Fletcher. He could smell the rancid damp from the wooden beams above him and the cold draught running across his back. Most of all, he desperately wanted to scratch the itch on his left ankle. In the room above he heard the creaking of the door followed by shards of light shooting down between the floorboards. They were back; Evan didn't know who. Not yet, but Dominic did. It must be time for breakfast, Dominic mused. Or supper. Or torture. Whatever it was, they were back and in numbers. Both Evan and Dominic counted at least five sets of feet walking above him. The light split his jail into crazy malformed shapes, a nightmare of horrors that Dominic blinked furiously to defend himself against. Each one brought more focus to his dungeon. He couldn’t tell how far from the floor he hung, only that it was high enough. The smell of rotting flesh and faeces was too close for comfort, and the same went for the chattering demon dogs. He was high enough. The fear Evan felt in this matter led him to believe this had not always been the case. Voices drew his attention upward. Mandarin. Triad. They were loud enough, coarse enough for him to hear. They cared little if he were asleep. This was their way, Evan knew. They would speak above him, letting Dominic know they were preparing for him. They moved about, their shadows blocking out the beams of light from his ceiling like a cheap disco system. The group that held him captive had decided on calling him Dingo. The name was as good as any. He wouldn't be giving them any other name for them to use. They assured him if he didn't give them anything then they would take everything. He hadn't been keeping score but he was pretty sure they were winning. The footsteps steps above him were just the grunts. They weren't his footsteps. He wasn't here yet. They weren't ready to bring him up. Evan was fixed on the ceiling regardless. It was going to happen soon. In a slash of light across his arms, he could see the caked blood on his flesh. What had they done to him? What had they done to Fletcher? Then he felt the pang, a frozen fist crushing his innards. A memory so powerful Evan felt the tear run down his own cheek as well as Dominic's. Patricia and Michael - Dominic's wife and son. Patricia was a jewel, the ash blonde-haired dancer who had introduced him to ballet as well as her life. But then ballet was her life, when they’d first met. He smiled and caught the tear with his cracked lips. Michael was three. His life was just beginning. He'd already started walking, he had padded from his cot and into his arms the day he’d left for London. He had that memory and others locked away in his chipset. Inaccessible – they’d seen to that. But the memory was also in his head, where they couldn't touch it and it was more powerful than any rendered digital reconstruction. He clenched his fists and in relief, felt his fingertips reached his palms. They felt strong, stronger than the rest of him. It was time to give it another go he thought. Got to keep strong. Got to keep trim. He grasped the manacles and pulled with what he had left. His arteries protruded from his skin, gorging his muscles on oxygen and raised his body upward. He held the manacles behind his head for one, two, he thought of Patricia, three, he thought of Michael, four full seconds before his strength abandoned him. When he dropped, he dropped hard. His shoulders yanked from their sockets blasting him with pain. What remnant of composure he clung to shattered with a child-like yelp escaping his mouth. Beneath him; barks and snarls of anticipation cheered on his efforts. He breathed deeply, once, twice, focusing on Michael, counted upward to ten, breathing a little easier as he progressed. He had to escape this hell. Had to keep fit, to keep trim, it was all worth the pain. His family would see him through this and when he succeeded, he would see his family. The pain ebbed away, allowing him a slight reprieve. That was until a white flashing oblong appeared at the bottom right of his vision. Small, no more than fifty millimetres in height. Instantly, he was drawn to the flasher. Blink, blink. It moved to the right. Further away. Like a speck of dust on his eye. Blink, blink. Evan and Dominic were in sync, recognising it at the same time: the little flashing sprite, a simple cursor. The cursor flashed, skipped to its left, leaving letters in its wake. It read; 'Rebooting system'. It disappeared, replaced with a blinking ‘0%’. The ‘0’ became a ‘1’ and began climbing. In less than fifteen seconds it hit ‘100%’. Dominic's chip had completed the booting count and his HUD activated. In a glorious pale blue hue, his display flickered to life. It framed his alien horror with a bearable familiarity. He smiled. He could satisfy his curiosity by recalling the length of his torture. He’d been hanging for six days, but it felt more like a month. Evan pulled up Dominic's medical report, or felt like he had; it was instinctive and was on Dominic's mind too. The display began drawing and outlining a three dimensional representation of his body. His chipset delivered his status report and Dominic's smile faded with each sadistic bullet point. His medical system had stopped the bleeding in his right eye-socket. The optic nerve was sealed but required proper medical attention. The eye itself was no longer present. He almost recalled the moment when they had pushed the rusted spoon into the soft flesh and felt the eye pop. The good, or at least better than bad news, was his relatively intact skull. There was a fracture on the rear side and grazing around his sink hole from gouging his eye out. Both arms had multiple lacerations and bruising but the muscles and bones were fine. Dominic thought it likely his kidnappers intended on him hanging for a long period. Evan agreed; the rest of Dom's body had not fared so well. Three cracked ribs, nine separate fractures. Countless lacerations and punctures decorated his upper torso. All the damage had been treated passively, by his chipset. Dominic knew he was in bad shape but his chip had dealt with the major problems and because of that he could hope. There was still a chance he would see little Michael again; he could crouch down and open his arms for the toddler to run to him as he’d done the day he’d left. That Michael's unsteady feet would trot toward him excitedly until he could pick up him and hold him. The display moved swiftly down, past his groin to the itch at the back of his knee. The itch that had attempted to warn him of a memory. One he'd pushed away, one he was not ready to face. Dom's three dimensional image had no knees. They stopped midway down the thigh. Evan felt the bile rise from Dominic's stomach and tasted the foulness at the back of his mouth. He hadn't died of blood loss as the medical system had cauterised the wounds and no infection had set in. But Dominic Fletcher would never again walk on his own two feet. The barking taunted him then and he remembered being lowered into the pit amongst the pack of dogs that dwelled there. Another tear escaped his eye, one for his son Michael, who in that instant he did not think he would see again. Unless... He blinked his command and waited. He waited an eternity. Somewhere deep down he knew what the answer would be. But he had hope now. He had his display, his medical report proved that he could be saved. That with proper care he would live a normal life, a life he intended to live as a father and a husband. Fuck the army. All he needed was for his chip to connect. For him to call Renner and get the cavalry sent in. He watched the cursor flash and like a kettle he started to wonder if it would ever boil, or in this case tell him what his chip was attempting to do. Then it gave him the disheartening message he expected: "Unable to connect." Computer, says no. The demon dogs below him stirred again; they were all awake now. Alert. He raised his phantom feet away from their maws before remembering. He blocked their barks and yelps out. He wanted to hear what had caused them to stir. Above him, the distinctive footfalls had arrived. He had arrived. One foot fell lightly, the other was like an elephant. He had entered the room and was walking across to Dominic's position. Dominic had called him Igor. A name tag would appear around his neck whenever Dom looked at him. It gave him little comfort when he stabbed or punched him, but little was enough to allow him to carry on. He had labelled all of his kidnappers this way. He had thought it entertaining, until they tore his eyeball out and shorted out his chipset. He followed Igor's steps to a point directly above him. After a brief pause, a smouldering amber floated down through the chain hole and bounced off Dom's cheek. It was hot, but not enough to burn him or make him flinch. It was a cigarette cherry. It continued its descent to the dogs below. Instead of their barks, Dominic listened to the footfalls of another. Someone new. Not a soldier like the hard-wearing boots of the first men who walked in. Or a monster like Igor. These were softer, with a swagger that conveyed confidence and power. The plate cover above him is lifted and Dom ripped upward with the sound of a helicopter turbine. He closed his eye until his chipset compensated for the contrast in lighting. He stopped as suddenly as he always did. His manacles slapped against the loop, throwing his naked body from side to side until one of the Triads grabbed the back of his thigh and held him steady. The room was large and unfurnished, Evan observing for the first time. Sixty metres in length, wooden planks with metal joinery, most likely an old warehouse. There were six men present, five of them Dominic had seen before: they all wore his assigned dog tags. Hubert, a lanky African with dancing nanocraft tattoos counting his victims. He's already shown Dominic where he will end up. "Right here pretty boy." He had grabbed the end of his cock from beneath his jeans. "Right at the tip where you belong." George was a Chinese mercenary: he’d been the one who’d cracked Dom's first and third ribs. Bill and Ben; both were Chinese and didn't tend to move from the stack of ceramic flower pots stored at the far end of the room. They liked to watch, but rarely commented and never participated in the torture. Igor was again Chinese in origin. Dominic had called him Igor because of the way he looked and walked, but Evan needed no fake name or introduction. He had seen files on this man before. His actual name is Grekko, Sin Lao's Chief psychopath. Known to Interpol as a vicious foot soldier of the Lao family and wanted for human trafficking, drugs, executions to name but only a few of his favourites. No despicable job was beneath him, it appeared. There was also a file, sitting on a hard drive in Brussels, that suggested that Grekko was responsible for the assassination of Thomas George last year, Britain's Ambassador to Germany. His artificial black eyes would give any soldier pause, but it was his left arm that those who shared the misfortune of meeting him remembered him by. A replacement of steel, spot welds and pistons, crafted from the very tank that crushed the arm he’d been born with. It was rumour of course, but looked ugly enough to be true. Grekko shuffled across the floor like a cave dweller, his armoured limb pulling his left shoulder down. Pistons and wheels whirred as its fingers walked the arm along with each of his clumsy steps. Evan took just one second to agree with Dominic: Grekko’s four-fingered claw could pop his head like a water balloon. The Newbie, the one with the confident shoes, was dressed in a pinstripe suit and stood behind Grekko. His hair was slicked with oil and his face could have been also. He stopped Grekko part way across the floor, speaking in low tones of Mandarin. Dom strained his ears to listen as his HUD failed to translate the discussion. Newbie's face contracted, squinting his eyes into slits as he spat out his words. He wasn't happy, something about the situation aggravated him and he expressed his dissatisfaction by barking his orders. Grekko nodded, his head tilted in submissive fashion. He answered once again in a soft tone, one that Evan found oddly juxtaposed against the man's massively violent frame. This time his chip managed to pick up the mandarin and translated it. "It is safe. Watch." Dominic tensed at the words, knowing what was going to follow was going to hurt, a lot. He expected Grekko to step up, to wield his armoured fist and pound it against him like he had so many times before. He didn't. Instead the Newbie held his hand up. "No," he said in English, stepping up to the plate instead. He was too clean to get his own hands dirty, Evan thought. Too clean, but not too cocky to get into Dominic's face. A wire mesh frame flashed over Newbie's face. If either Dominic or Evan had blinked, they would have missed it. Neither of them had. No further information appeared. Nothing at all. "What was that?" Evan asked. "Did Dom just scan someone?" He felt Renner's hand on his shoulder. "Clever boy - just keep watching," resonated in his ear. "Can he hear me?" Newbie asked in perfect English, complete with Oxford accent. He had been schooled there. "There's nothing wrong with his ears," Grekko replied, so both of them moved closer. Newbie nodded, but his eyes never left Dominic's face, studying him with a surgeon’s focus. "Why are you here?" Dominic smelled the onions on his breath. "He brought me." Dominic looked at Grekko, indicating his capture and tensed his stomach ready for the blow. He expected Newbie to throw the punch himself, the little man's shoulder slipping backward with his fist clenched but Grekko’s human hand clasped Newbie's wrist at the last moment. Grekko’s other hand and Dom's old friend pain smashed into his gut. He swung like a piece of meat, clenching his teeth but refusing to scream. More hands grabbed Dominic from behind, grabbing his back first then his thigh to steady him. Newbie smiled, licking his lips, every bit the sadist enjoying the show. Dominic closed his eye, as he knew Greko's second punch was always harder. The iron ram crunched against his rib cage. His HUD flashed with fresh updates. To Evan's surprise, Dominic still held firm, his jaw shut tight and refusing them satisfaction. "He thinks he's a tough guy," Newbie speculated, "maybe Bruce Willis eh?" Dominic didn't agree, no dead actor was a patch on him. He pooled the blood in his mouth, and launched the crimson spit at his target, splashing Newbie across the face and collar, allowing a short but deserved smile of accomplishment. Grekko’s punishment came quick and hard, backhanding Dominic's face with his fierce mechanical arm. Tissue and muscle tore apart making Evan scream aloud. The right side of his jaw fell free of his skull, sinew and saliva spilling out. It took Dominic longer to calm his breathing than it did Newbie to take a handkerchief from his pocket and wipe himself down. Dominic's breathing was short and fast, blood gathering in the recess of his throat and bubbling with each exhale as he struggled to swallow. Instead of a gag reflex all he managed was a painful wince. His eye orbed at his torturer, the Hobgoblin who was relishing the horror he'd just unleashed. Newbie however, did not look as pleased. "You fucking idiot!" he yelled. "How can he tell us anything now?" He looked again at Dominic's shattered face. "Get the car ready. Tell Lao I'll be down directly." Grekko stared at the Newbie with contempt, before submitting to his will. "Understood." Newbie remained. Evan thought he'd say something, but he didn't. He didn't acknowledge anyone in the room. He just slinked away, following Grekko to the door. Hubert, who until then had been waiting on the sideline, stepped forward into view. He watched the Newbie reach the door before stepping close to Dominic. He brought his oil-stained finger to his crotch. "Soon my boy," he spoke in English and a grin followed. The disgusting half-cocked grin of a madman, Evan couldn't help but shudder. His oily hand moved from his prick to Dominic's, the fingers split and he grasped a fistful of junk. Dominic's nostrils flared, his eye focusing on Hubert's. The lanky African squeezed his fist tight and pain leapt from his crotch. His arms and stomach tensed and he shook in his manacles, unable to do anything else. Blood poured from his jaw, splashing his chest and covering Hubert's fingers as they snaked upward toward his throat, "Maybe it safe now?" he asked. "To fuck your mouth, no?" Dominic's eye flared at the words; he tried to retort, needing to counter with something witty, to dissuade the lunatic. He couldn't, his jaw just flapped around like a bird with a clipped wing. "What's that baby?" Hubert mocked. "Not quite safe?" His hand wrapped around the remains of Dominic's jaw. No. The sound of Dominic's jaw muscle tearing was very quickly replaced by his scream; blotting out Hubert's laugh. The room, like Dom's head, spun out of control. Lights were simply lines, everything else was a blur. He couldn't see Hubert toss the jaw through the hole in the floor like a discarded sweet wrapper. He didn't hear the dogs go wild beneath him. The room continued to spin, he felt sick. Bile spewed and coughed from his throat like scum escaping a pustule. Evan was not immune - he could feel his own stomach churning. If Hubert hadn't caught Dominic's thigh, he would have very likely spewed over himself. Just how much footage was left? At the doorway, a second well-dressed Chinese man entered the room. Newbie and the rest turned and bowed at his entrance. Another flash, another mesh webbing appeared over his face. Dominic was too far gone and was no longer paying attention. His neck had succumbed to the weight of his head and dropped. Evan however, saw and recognised him. He'd seen many pictures of him and knew the end was close. Whatever was going to happen, it would happen soon because Sin Lao, the Dragon King, had just arrived. It was then that Evan connected the dots. The familiar faced Newbie shared the same oily contours in his face as his father. Newbie was Kaedyn. But why had Sin Lao come to see Dominic? Why was Dominic held with such high importance? 'Requesting go order...' appeared on Dom's HUD. Had he been immersed in his thoughts and memories that he'd not noticed that his chip was transmitting? Or had it purposely hidden that fact from Dom? Right there Dominic began accessing his files, searching transmissions and confirming his feed had been sent to York all along. To someone other than Evan. The piggy back he'd placed had kicked in the moment his systems rebooted. He was now feeding to London too, to the savages, as Renner had said. Whoever was watching had left him hanging in the hands of these torturers for six days. Making him believe he was alone and without hope. Evan had been excluded from the information, prevented from mounting a rescue mission. They'd taken extraordinary measures for Dominic to believe he was alone. So his capturers, the Triad, would also believe. The Triad would believe they'd have the upper hand. If they couldn't get Dominic to talk, then they could rip out his chip. That they hadn't done it already was of some concern. It would have been more efficient to do so, but then they may not have had the facility to do it. Window possibly did. Had Window handed Dominic to the Triad? Why hadn't he attempted a rescue if not? He knew where he was being kept. Sin Lau closed on him. His eyes never dropped from Dominic, even when his son Kaedyn, spoke to him. As the mandarin flowed, Evan read the subtitles that underlined their obvious dislike for Fletcher. "He is an assassin. You should have stayed in the car." The Dragon King ignored the warning, even when Fletcher's remaining iris flickered white; Lao approached him. 'Primary target confirmed' flashed Dom's HUD. Evan's belly twisted, knowing Dominic had been betrayed. 'Proceed.' Dom read his HUD’s second message. Proceed with what? How could he proceed? There was nothing left of him?! Dom's chip executed the order in one second. The Save Our Souls message was transmitted on all signals as per protocol. Dominic swallowed drying blood. His one eye was large, terrified. Fixed solely on Lao. His chip reconfirmed Sin Lau as the target, sending 'Go Command' to Dominic's internal explosive device. In three seconds, counted down by his flashing iris – Dom's head would explode, becoming a fireball that would engulf the building. He wanted more time, more time to curse the fuckers who put him here. Who had placed a bomb in his head and allowed this to happen to him. But he didn't have time. So he closed his eye, thought of Michael. Thought of Patricia and wished he had his jaw to spit his regiment's words, "For King, and bloody country." Evan jumped from the chair. His feet slid on the floor and his legs slackened. He crumpled in a heap, sweat pouring off him. He gasped for breath. "What the fuck Ren! You could have fucking warned me." "No way, if I had to sit through that then you did too." Renner was crouched waiting, holding a glass of whiskey. Evan took it, drinking greedily from the glass. "Suicide bomb?" "Well, I wouldn't go as far as suicide. But the result is much the same." "That's Lockhead?" "It appears so." Renner took the glass from him and placed it back on the side table. Fletcher was an unwitting assassin - he hadn’t known. "They put hoods on us." It made sense now. "On Kyle and me, it didn't make sense to us at the time but they wanted to make sure we weren't walking bombs too." Nikki and Window had been right to do so, it all made sense. The Prime Minister was not the one in control, his own government, and his own Military was working against him. Or worse, the Prime Minister was in on it. This could have been an entire façade, but he dismissed it as soon as he’d thought of it. By killing Sin Lao then it made it more difficult to bring Window in and they’d had tabs on Fletcher the entire time. More importantly, Bo had nailed it when he had said that Fletcher could have killed Window at any time. And he had brought them here, he had brought Bo and Daniel to the viper's nest. "Where are they?” LD


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