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Working People

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson


Johnson arrived at the International Biotech building long before the agents. An ambulance was coming out, and Johnson gunned the car to get in before the gates closed.

A dark figure standing by the door aimed a gun at him and fired. Johnson ducked just as the windscreen shattered. Johnson looked up again. He saw the car half a second before he hit it. He bounced off its side and continued toward the front door.

The figure fired another burst at him, shattering the side windows, a second before he collided with the wall right by the front door.

Johnson threw himself out of the car and scurried into the building. The car was being sprayed with projectiles at an amazing rate.

“Good day, agent Johnson,” said someone behind him.

Johnson looked around. It was Felix.

“What brings you here?” he asked.

Johnson stood up and dusted himself. There was something odd about the way Felix talked, he thought, but he ignored that for the time being and stated his business. “I’m here to arrest you and figure out what you are doing here.”

“Arrest me?” asked Felix, with a slight lisp. “What for?”

“You are illegally producing human beings,” said Johnson. “Or someone here likes to skin people for fun.”

“Ahh...” Felix maneuvered himself between Johnson and the door. “We make body parts here. You will find lots of those if you look,” he said, the lisp was obvious.

“Come again?” said Johnson, fondling his gun.

“That is what we do, we make parts for people. It takes us a week or two to make a little part, maybe a month to make a big part. Well, big enough to fit into a human.”

Felix approached Johnson, and Johnson backed away as he did. He was cornered.

Agents Moorhuhn and Pyun appeared at the gates with backup: a truck full of SWAT. They made a big noise as they arrested the guard and entered through the gates. Felix looked around to see them, and as he did, Johnson pulled his gun.

Felix turned around and asked, “Friends of yours?”

“Excuse me?” asked Johnson, and grinned.

Felix slapped his hand, flinging the gun across the room. Then he punched him in the jaw. Johnson could hear it crack.

“You can hear me just fine,” said Felix, and smiled.

Whatever drugs had been given to Johnson almost wore off at the sight. The guy had neat rows of sharp and pointy metal teeth, fine for biting prey but bad for pronouncing words.

“Excuse my lisp,” said Felix, “but I lost all my teeth in a car accident.” He thought for a moment and continued. “And a bit of my tongue, later, in a tooth-related... incident.”

* * *

Agents Moorhun and Pyun called for unconditional surrender of all staff. The SWAT team hurried through the gate and spread out. Another van carrying another dozen SWAT was aproaching.

The two figures that had been firing at Johnson’s car turned to them and took aim.

“This is the police!” someone yelled.

The figures opened fire. Railguns roared. A SWAT member fell in a red cloud. The other SWAT members started firing at the figures.

The figures took some beating, but the SWAT fared worse: one was all but decapitated by a stream of near-liquid iron, another lost an arm, a third was hit in the chest.

Another van stopped by the gate, and more SWAT rushed out.

Pyun aimed his rifle at one of the figures and shot it in the head. The head armour came off, revealing a bare skull. The eyes had been plugged into something in the headpiece, and they came out. The revenenant screamed horribly. Pyun shot it again and the skull came apart, splattering the brains on the wall behind.

The other figure began firing at Pyun, causing him to flee.

More troops issued from around the corner; a third SWAT van appeared.

* * *

Felix called someone on his phone. “Good day, this is Felix of Pan-American Accounting...”

Johnson’s ears perked. “Yeah... I need you to talk to the SWAT for me... What do you mean you have no control over them? Okay, then talk to someone who does before more people get killed. Yes, you heard me, some moron is sending them all to their doom. Talk to someone about calling them back before they all get killed and I’m blamed for it all. Yeah, a nice day to you, too.”

Johnson looked at Felix, who looked back at him. “Apparently SWAT operates outside of the police,” he said to Johnson, looking mystified. “How does that work?”

Johnson would have said something, but he was pretty sure his jaw was broken, and figured it would be best if he just shut up.

* * *

The cars used by the SWAT as cover were on fire. The half-liquid iron did not mix well with the seats. The third van was unloading, and the SWAT were running toward the other corner.

About five units were advancing from the first corner, firing bursts at the SWAT members, the vans and the two cars. The SMG rounds chipped off bits of their armour as they advanced, but otherwise had very little effect. Three of them stopped, and let the other two advance in a flanking motion around the two cars. Suddenly, one of them took a hit from a rifle.

Pyun watched his monitor to see if his shot had made a difference. It did not appear so. “We need to shoot them in the head,” he said.

“I’ll pass it along,” said the SWAT chief.

* * *

The SWAT division jumped around the corner after making sure nobody was lurking around it, and ran alongside the wall. They had not been running long when streams of little, half-molten iron balls began streaming at them from the bushes just outside the fence, cutting into them, slicing off a limb or two, spilling guts and busting heads.

* * *

“We are getting out of here,” said Felix, and dragged Johnson outside with him.

Johnson would have protested, but Felix had a vise-like grip, and also seemed to be rather heavy in relation to size. He just swung Johnson along, and walked toward his car.

Felix’s car was parked close to the car Johnson had hit on his way in, and was the longest, lowest and widest car Johnson had ever seen. Felix threw him at the door and ordered him to get in. Johnson did as he was told. He did not much like being outside in the firefight.

* * *

“Why are they not retreating?” asked Dr. Oberheim, with obvious frustration.

“I don’t know,” said his assistant, looking out the window. “Maybe the troops just aren’t threatening enough.”

Another person entered the room. “Dr. Oberheim, sensors say two vans are approaching from the other side!”

“Damn,” said Dr. Oberheim.

* * *

Agent Pyun managed to hit one of the oncoming figures in the leg, causing it to topple over. It was right about then he was made aware of the car leaving the lot. He growled.

“We need to follow that car,” he said, and went to his car. It was not much shot up; the troops seemed more interested in firing at the vans. The team was hiding behind those after all.

“You and you, come with me,” he said, and pointed at some men. “Moorhuhn?”

Moorhuhn nodded, and grabbed the rifle from Pyun. They got into the car.

* * *

“I’m gonna rush them from the side with these,” said Dr. Oberheim, and selected the troops hiding in the bushes. They were under attack from a group of SWAT, throwing flash grenades and smoke bombs at them.

* * *

Felix rounded the corner at speed, tires squealing. He noticed the pile of bodies by the wall and raised an eyebrow. Johnson saw them too. He hung on for dear life as Felix accelerated before reaching the other end of the building. He barely slowed down as he came around the corner and ran through the gate.

* * *

Pyun sped off. The men he had selected fired at everything that could conceivably be an enemy while they went after the big black car. The bushes by the side got special attention, and they each emptied a magazine into them.

When they were off, the bushes came alive with gunfire. The troops rushed out, and blasted the SWAT team that had been annoying them, and then rushed around to take on the rest.

It was all over in a minute.

* * *

“That’s it,” said Dr. Oberheim. “Let’s see: one dead, one immobile, three at under seventy percent.”

“That’s just because you just had them stand there and take it,” said the assistant.

“I know. I was giving them a chance to give up or retreat. I’ll have them wait on the other side now. Go with some people to check on the survivors.”

* * *

The road on the other side was a simple paved two-lane, barely wide enough for two cars to meet. There was a thick line of trees to the left and a field to the right. Felix sped up when he saw the two vans approach. He grinned at Johnson, who sat, rubbing his cheek. It was beginning to swell.

Agent Pyun was flooring it behind him, gaining slowly but surely. The car felt about ready to glide off the road. The vans got off the road as he thundered past, spraying stones into the field.

“We have someone following us,” said Felix calmly when he spotted them in the rearview mirror. “Friends of yours?”

Johnson muttered something.

“Well, they seem to be in a hurry,” said Felix. “Let’s play with them a bit.”

Felix slowed down a bit to let them catch up.

Pyun grinned. The SWAT guy occupying the front seat readied the immobilizer.

“Fry them,” said Pyun.

Felix shook a bit. “Could you feel that?” he asked, blinking. Johnson did not like his look, he seemed to be about to have an epileptic attack. But it subsided.

“Whoah... they turned it off,” he said, and took a deep breath. “And they killed the speedometer too, how nice.” He looked at Johnson.

“I have titanium mesh for bones,” he explained, “I can feel it every time they point that immobilizer of theirs at me.” He looked at Johnson. “Car crash,” he explained.

That did not sound comforting, coming from a guy driving on a narrow, gravelly road at high speed. Felix smiled.

“Why is he not stopping?” yelled Pyun.

“Maybe his car doesn’t have electronics,” said Moorhuhn from the back.

“Nonsense, all cars have computers. He wouldn’t stay on the road without them,” said Pyun.

“If his car had computerized controls, he’d have stopped by now,” said the SWAT guy.

Pyun shook his head. “Shoot him then!”

Felix accelerated. Then he suddenly slowed down again, and turned. There was a winding road leading into the trees. It was unpaved and grown with grass in places. He headed up it at great speed. Pyun followed.

It was very difficult for any of them to get any sort of aim in those conditions, but it did not stop them from trying. Many trees were injured in the process.

In a little while the highway appeared to their side. “Hold tight,” said Felix, “there’s a nasty bump in the road close by.”

It was actually a small hill, but at the rate they were going, it felt a lot like a bump. The car grabbed some air, travelled over the railing separating the highway from the woods and just missed a car by half a foot. Then it skid into another car, forcing it over the concrete barrier. It flipped over, and collided with an oncoming car, somersaulted spectacularly and came down on the third car. The fourth car came into contact with it, was forced off the road and rolled into some trees.

“I think we may have injured someone,” said Felix. Then he floored it and zig-zagged between the many cars.

Pyun had not expected this. He flew over the railing, and hit a car travelling alongside him. His car rolled over a few times. The traffic came to a halt.

* * *

Felix dropped Johnson off at a hospital and went away. Johnson ambled into the hospital and was treated for his broken jaw.

When he came back to work a couple of days later, Tubbs was there, buried in paperwork. Which basically meant he stared a lot at his computer screen while wondering what to do next, then typing furiously for a while.

“Nobody even noticed when I did not show up for work,” Tubbs told Johnson in the coffee break. “They say we do important work,” he continued, “so why did nobody call when I just left for a couple of days?”

Johnson just shook his head. His jaw was swollen, and when he found out that his bank account had also swollen, magnificently and mysteriously, he did not want to talk.

* * *

“There were sixty of them, and they just came running as if they were sure they would not meet any opposition,” said Dr. Oberheim.

“I tried to scare them off, but it only made them more tenacious. Then they came from the other side as well, and I just had to get rid of them.”

Nero nodded. “Thirty-six dead, twenty-six wounded. Four are not our fault, and Felix seems to have killed a couple more on the road nearby. Anyway, I have offered to grow new limbs and organs for the casualties. I’m waiting to hear how they react to the offer. The rest...”

Dr. Oberheim shrugged.

“I’ll deal with it,” said Nero. “How about the research?”

“Yeah, we can begin growing muscle straight on the frame starting next year if all goes to plan. The nervous system you supplied seems to work as promised, so no more growing whole bodies in vats.”

“Good. Just make sure to have it ready before Felix goes and does something that makes him need it,” said Nero.

Dr. Oberheim grinned. “And we need to rethink the headpiece design. It can come off if hit at a certain angle.”

“I know. I have people on it. Begin detoxing the workers — not the happy-liquid, the other stuff. I’m having a team over next month to start retooling the factory.”

“The units?”


Copyright © 2013 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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