The Bazaar: Chapter 24

Showdown

Once more Fulton found himself staring up at solid concrete block, tracing hairline cracks with his eyes.

All this for a practical joke.

That’s all there was to Reese’s app. He was sure of it. Just another way for Reese to lash out at the world. That and show off a nifty extraction routine, one that apparently pulled imagery from certain parts of your brain and made a collage out of it. A novelty act, a parlor trick – what Fulton had suspected from the start. It was more than a little funny, what with Emily and company scurrying around searching desperately for the blueprints to some secret weapon. As if you could trust miscreants like that Jefe character to point you in the direction of a secret weapon with anything even vaguely resembling reliability. If Fulton weren’t locked up in a dismal third world prison he might have laughed out loud.

He dialed up the wi-fi on his lens, hoping he could at least catch the plaintext news.

Connecting…

Still couldn’t quite catch the signal. He decided to let the radio run in the background.

Then came a sudden explosion of activity.

First, a high-pitch whine. Then a few loud beeps, like an old PC’s BIOS posting for the first time. A sustained rumbling. Then unintelligible shouting from the lone prison guard posted to the corridor, followed by a loud explosion.

Fulton picked his head up off his bunk.

Smoke drifted down the corridor. Stale prison air scented with cordite. He was getting used to the smell of gunfire, pungent as any of Robyn’s perfumes. He wondered stupidly (nonsensically actually) whether Emily ever wore perfume.

A stupid thing to wonder in the face of extreme violence.

By now the guard had long since stopped shouting, presumably not by choice. From the corridor came more sustained rumbling, not unlike the sound the military police APCs had made on the pavement. It was, Fulton realized, the sound of a light tracked vehicle on concrete.

A bot.

These narcos run bots? But really it made perfect sense. The US and all the other nation states had their drones. Why shouldn’t the cartels jump on the bandwagon? Fulton flattened himself against the bunk. His heart kicked into overdrive. Already this night he’d been through more anxious episodes than he cared to remember.

No way to outsmart or outfight a bot. Not in these circumstances. They were built to withstand small-caliber weapons fire. Military-grade and after-market custom models could usually hold up against light anti-tank rounds. Comprehensive sensor packages meant there would be nowhere to hide, either.

The rumbling in the corridor stopped.

Fulton was vaguely aware of a massive form standing outside his cell. He didn’t dare look up. The bot was almost certainly sweeping the cell with a built-in laser sight. Most bot AIs operated off a branching decision tree. If it didn’t spot him with the cameras it would switch to night vision and sweep again. If night vision failed it would switch to infrared – somewhere along this bot’s particular hierarchy Fulton would be located and terminated with extreme prejudice.

His stomach began clawing its way up his esophagus.

Fulton had a naturally anxious disposition. The idea of death had never sat particularly well with him. He’d been all right earlier in the night because he hadn’t quite grasped the level of danger he faced. Things happened fast. Emily had been in control, shooting anything that so much as looked at her the wrong way, pulling him along in her wake. Now, face-to-faceplate with the robo-reaper, the full weight of an eternity of non-existence hit him square in the gut, propelling his stomach even further up his throat.

This was a showdown.

Kill or be killed.

Only he didn’t have anything to kill with, and even if he did happen to find a man-portable high-explosive anti-tank weapon lying around his cell he wouldn’t know the first thing about using it. In fact, about all Fulton had going for him was an intermittent wi-fi signal.

So that would have to do.

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