If this is your first encounter with Delilah, you should introduce yourself from the beginning.
A year. A little longer than Oliver. But not long enough to explain the syndicates’ war with Sampson. “You’ve been a player for a lot longer than that.”
“No human deserves to live at another’s feet.” The chair whined as it turned Sampson to follow her movements, the room’s sound system speaking for him. Delilah wondered what his real voice had been like. Whether it had been this melodious. Whether he’d been a dancer, or a fighter, or just a walker, trying to get by, before his body was taken from him. “They hammered me into this chair because they preyed on my pride, Delilah. I was bearding the lion in its den long before Reed’s current interest. They’re just the latest to take it personally. After I caused them to lose a chunk of stock value—”
“You were behind what happened here in Seattle?” Delilah doubted her own words; the timeline just didn’t match up.
“No. Someone much better than me did that.” That smile was back in his voice. “She was amazing, Delilah.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Sampson. “She’s dead now too. Our war is one of nets and links. She … knew better than anyone.”
“A gun’ll fuck you up pretty good,” said Delilah.
“It won’t win the war,” said Sampson. “All these servers around us will win that war. I’ve completed the code to breach Reed’s defenses and expose what they’ve done. More servers would make it happen faster. I can fix it.”
“The sickness,” he agreed. “Now we’re here, you need to decide.”
“Decide what?” she said, still walking, because if she stopped she’d have to do something else. Her hand itched to point her gun at something.
“Whether you want to help us,” said Sampson.
“Oh,” said Delilah, “no.”
“No,” she said. “I need to decide if you’re telling the truth first. I need to decide if you’re using all of this,” and she gestured at the servers, “to steal away my brother’s hope, after you broke his body.”
“Fair enough,” said Sampson. “And then what?”
“If you’re lying, I’ll take your precious codes to Reed myself.”
“If I’m telling the truth?” He paused, and she could imagine a slight smile playing over his lips. “I need cheese, Delilah.”
She stopped walking, then vaulted to the top of the servers. Time to go. “Then their towers will burn,” she said.
* * *
She wanted the trip back to the city to be long and slow, the whisper quiet of the car to soothe her. Delilah wanted someone to refill the whiskey decanter so she could think and drink, or just drink. She wanted the screen to stay dark during that drive, Sampson leaving her to her thoughts.
What she wanted was a nice easy job for cash, and this wasn’t a nice easy job. There might be cash, but this job had strings. Oliver was a string. Sampson’s chair and his story were too plausible, too believable to be true, and yet too monstrous to be a lie. Delilah set a foot on the stairway leading up, old stone under the modern tech of her laminar boots, and felt it shake. A rumble sounded from above, her audio picking it up, overlay noting the band had stopped. Air to surface weapon. Low yield, precision strike. No secondary weapon burn. Likely not Metatech design. This told her two things were likely: a) Reed had tracked her here, and b) Oliver would die because of it. Delilah wanted to run up there and wreak vengeance on whoever was firing military-grade weapons into a civilian party. Gunning for civvies was low; gunning for cripples was worse. But gunning for her brother couldn’t be allowed.
Stop. Think. Could Sampson be telling the truth?
She felt the tremor in her arm again. The lattice didn’t tremble; its tech was will made iron. If it was glitching that would be a problem, but she didn’t think it was glitching. She was glitching. Delilah lifted her foot from the stone step, spun around, and went back into the maze. She vaulted to the top of the server racks, loping across the gaps. Delilah made the center, landing in a crouch next to Sampson. She bent down, putting her hands on the wheelchair’s arm rests, and stared into his eyes. “Listen, Sampson. I don’t know if you’re on the level. But if you fucking die, I’ll never know, so you’re coming out. You get me?”
“I get you,” said the room’s voice, still calm despite the attack outside.
She stood up. “Is there another way out of here?”
“No. But if you get us outside, we can airlift to safety.”
“Outside is where all the guns are,” she said, then shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. How do we get out of this maze? We’re walled in.”
Sampson’s chair whined, the cable hard link disconnecting as it moved towards a wall of servers. There was a hiss of hydraulics, and the servers retracted. Some sank into the stone below, others pulled aside, stones nestling into the gaps to provide a smooth passage. The chair wheeled Sampson’s body forward. Delilah ran ahead, servers parting fast and smooth. She turned at the door. “You going to make it up okay?”
When he spoke, the voice was the same, but the sound came from his chair. “I’ve been okay for longer than the hour you’ve been at my house. Just … Delilah?”
“They’re hurting people,” he said. “When you get back to the party? You’re not going to like what you see. They’re hurting people they’ve already hurt. Remember that.” His eyes roamed in their sockets, but his body made no other move.
“They always hurt people,” she said, slipping around the door and taking the steps three at a time. She opened a link comm to Oliver. “Get clear!”
“What’s going on?” His link voice was plagued with none of his disability. “There’s a Reed vehicle here. Mercs, Delilah. I’m not drunk enough for this.”
She laughed down the link. “I’ll explain later. Get going.”
“Copy that.” He closed the link off
She breathed easier now he was on the way out. Her sidearm was in her hand. Delilah didn’t remember drawing the weapon, but unlike before when she’d pointed it at Sampson, it felt right. The hard link in her hand made the weapon feel one with her. Complete. She used her onboard systems to roam ahead, wireframes of the mansion’s entrance lobby updating with new information. One person on the stairs above the doorway. Exit to the mansion clear. Good enough. She made the top of the stairs, but rather than running out, she paused, looked up, her overlay showing her where the person above was. The overlay updated: ceramic armor inlaid with monometal, each strand a fine chain of perfect molecules. Armor like that would flex when it needed to, stiffen when it must, all while being light to wear. It was older tech than her laminar was, but still good enough to repel a round from her sidearm. The merc carried an assault rifle, a Metatech model you could get off the rack at Nordstrom. It had a coilgun assembly, capable of accelerating slugs to over seven times the speed of sound. It’d punch through her laminar armor, spraying her insides all over whatever was behind her.
Best way to get through a fight like this? Not be in the fight at all. She pointed her sidearm towards the roof, letting the overlay decide the best angle of attack. There was a seam between the leg plates where they met the underside cup of the armor. Not a big seam, but if she timed it right, like when the merc moved, the seam would be big enough for a .50 caliber round. Almost like they wanted to oblige, the merc lifted a leg to move up the stairs, and Delilah fired. The merc’s body jerked on her overlay, then tumbled down the steps.
Delilah stepped out into the foyer, checking he body. Reed logo on their armor. Blood leaked out of the armor seal where the leg met the cup. One hand was still clutched around the coilgun. She looked at the coilgun, then at her sidearm, and sighed. The size of the fight in the dog was important, but in this fight she also needed a bigger weapon. She fielded the Metatech weapon, something comfortable about holding her old employer’s equipment. Her systems checked the weapon, disabled the safeties that prevented unauthorized use, and let her know she had a full magazine. Good enough. Time to go.
She was interrupted by a noise from outside the open door. Delilah’s overlay said three people, moving fast. She crouched, presenting a lower profile target, and hefted the merc’s armored body in front of her. Delilah held the coilgun in one hand. She rested an arm on each of the corpse’s shoulders, open palm with the EM emitter on one side, gun on the other. Time to make an exit. Sampson would be up here soon enough, and the last thing she wanted was for him to be caught in a random spray of gunfire. The cool calm of overtime descended on her like gentle snow.
Delilah triggered her EM emitter, cascading the oncoming mercs with pulses. It was very unlikely to take them out unless they were bottom-shelf mercs, but it would confuse their optics, give them some backscatter and make targeting a real challenge. Delilah lined the first merc up with her coilgun, took a breath in, held it, then squeezed the trigger for less than half a second. The wonderful Metatech bionics in her body — arm, spine, and legs — all held her still. The coilgun’s recoil was punishing, but she knew this waltz. The makers of this weapon and her bionics were the same. Her rifle stayed rock steady as hypersonic rounds fired: ten bullets in a row, placed in a perfect pattern on the merc. Center-mass, puncturing ceramic armor, soft tissue, and bone. Delilah’s overlay reported a good effect on target, and she shifted her weapon to the next merc.