Been a while, hasn't it? Anyways, here's something that I HOPE to finish someday. ^_^ Let me know what you think, thanks!
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Playing the Middle
An Infinite Earths Original
By Roehl Sybing (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The pressure-sensitive plating on the floor was no match for anti-grav apparatus, but the xeon sensors in the wall would've picked up her equipment if it weren't for the feedback mirrors quietly installed to keep the alarms from going off. After that, everything else was easy.
Andrea scouted the inner vault for other booby traps that could be waiting for her. There were no valuables yet to lift from the area, but it was always good to plan ahead, better still to test out what she was up against before game time. Especially if she could grab a peek of where they will keep the ultimate prize.
Thirty-six hours from now, the object of Andrea's desire will be resting on a podium in the center of the room, concealed underneath a triple-thick layer of transparent titanium and guarded by two electromagnetic seals accessible only by DNA clearance.
Andrea loved a challenge. Too bad she didn't find any in the room.
A sound pierced through the walls of the inner vault. Andrea turned her head, as the sound of the closing of the outer door resonated all the way into her ears. She tapped on her wrist monitor to get the view from the hidden camera situated for her in the adjacent room. Andrea recognized the first two men, the hotel manager, followed the head of security. She paid them no mind as they made their way for the inner vault, but it was the three behind them whose uniforms made her panic on her way out. Commission agents!
"So, as you can see, officer," the manager said as the inner vault door swung open, "The door is doubly reinforced to protect from break-in. The security computer is also programmed to weld the door shut in case of an electrical failure."
"Uh-huh," Jake replied, uninterested.
"The valuables will be stored along the far end of the room, with the exception of Mr. Carey's belongings. The center podium is guarded by an array of guard lasers, so his possessions will be stored in a case underneath it, and on the top we'll put--"
"How about the ceiling ventilation?"
The manager paused, and turned around. "Excuse me?"
"That vent up there, it's the only other way in?" Jake inquired.
"Well, yes, sir, but there are motion sensors all throughout the HVAC system, plus a video camera on the vent, so--"
Jake clasped his hands together. "Excellent," he said, "Officer, post a guard in front of the vault. If they are not on the guest list AND on the vault clearance, they do not get in, understood?"
"But sir!" the manager cried, "That's all?"
"It's enough," he said, putting his hands on his hips, "I'm here to stop an assassin, not protect from jewel thieves."
The manager felt helpless to Jake's response as the Reality Jumper started to walk away.
"Boss," the security head said at that moment, "Over here, on the floor!"
Jake and his fellow officers huddled with the hotel management over an object on the floor, lying in front of one of the wall sensors.
"Sir," the ensign said, lifting the object from the floor with a pair of gloves, "It looks like a component to a feedback mirror. Someone's been in here."
The manager stood up, "You see?"
"Ensign," Jake insisted, "Are you sure it couldn't have broken off from something else in the room?"
"I don't know, sir," he replied, "Take a look."
The Reality Jumper donned some gloves of his own and handled the component, a small flat transceiver wrapped in a layer of paint that matched the color of the wall. On it, catching Jake's eye, was a marking of sorts. A bar code. An identification mark. A calling card.
"Alright, alright," Jake replied, "The lab could use some casework. Ensign, have Hacker One work this room over. Thermal fingerprints, trace readings, the works. Put our hosts at ease, I have work to do."
"Thank you, officer," a relieved manager replied to the exiting Jumper, "Sorry to be such an inconvenience, but--"
Jake turned around, showing a sudden and unexpected look of resolve with a smile attached, saying, "No problem, just doing our jobs."
Mobile command, situated across the street from the hotel, was alive and flooded with activity, all centered on the chase of one man, a chase that had been fruitless to that point, forcing the issue and a very likely face-off with the assassin whose target was the star of tomorrow night's banquet.
"Alistair Carey, ladies and gentlemen," Kim said, working the presentation for several dozen agents, "League Senatorial candidate-at-large, hugely successful businessman, perhaps owns enough money to buy out entire planets. His politics have drawn a few critics lately, and one of them happens to be a stone-cold psycho killer who wants him dead.
"His staff has been receiving threatening letters and vid transmissions that all point to one man that has a bullseye on Carey. He's tried three times at three different campaign events over the past two weeks. Either he's a terrible shot or he's trying to terrify Carey into submission, 'cause our suspect's been getting closer and closer with each attempt.
"Believe it or not, his party wants to throw a fundraiser banquet tomorrow night, and so we believe that the assassin will make his move then and there. If we don't catch him in the next thirty-six hours, chances are we'll have at least one dead body on the deck. So, I've given all of you the information you need to secure the area against any potential threat. We are making our stand here, people, and let's hope that'll be enough to deter our killer from showing up. If not, we're gonna get the psycho and stop him in his tracks."
In the middle of the all-hands briefing, Jake walked into the room and caught Kim's attention. He folded his arms together and leaned against the wall as Kim adjusted her speech.
"And, uh, we're gonna drive this maniac into the ground!" she said eagerly, "Send a message to all evildoers that the Federal Reality Commission is on the job! They will, er, tremble in fear for the rest of their lives once we're through with one of them!"
"Ahem!" came from an amused Jake, turning the heads of all of his subordinates.
Kim stood at the front, her cheeks flushed, "Alright, then, get to it! Dismissed!"
The agents slowly filed out of the room upon the briefing's end, with their commanding officer fighting the flow of traffic to get the read from Kim.
"What is it, you want my job?" Jake said, laughing.
Kim shook her head, "Naw, if I did, I would've iced you on the way in, we all move up in rank a lot faster."
"Yeah, I'll bet," he replied, "Listen, you don't expect any problems getting this guy, do you?"
"I don't think so. We're on the task, and we've got agents crawling all over this place. If he's here, he's not getting off a shot."
"Good. Good. Lieutenant, I'm putting you on point for the remainder of this mission."
Kim suspiciously pondered the request for a moment. "Sir?" she said.
"I can count on you, can I?"
"Well, yes, sir, but this is your bust. I figured--"
"That's alright. You can look good on this one. It's all yours."
"Yes, sir," Kim replied. She paused briefly, taking a look at her notes, then spoke up, "Jake, is this a hand-me-down?"
"Huh?" Jake said, "Oh, no! I, uh, I have some things to take care of. I hope you don't mind."
"No, sir, thank you, sir," Kim said appreciatively.
"Don't screw this up."
The green laser light swept over the bar code twice. Once to get a read, once again to make sure. When it was confirmed, Hacker One looked up.
"There's no question," he said, "The Amethyst Syndicate is in town."
"Are you certain?"
"Take a look at this, Jake. See the central pattern? Recognize it?"
Jake shook his head, "No."
"Well, neither did I, until I checked out the archives to try and decrypt it, you know what I found?"
"What is it?"
Hacker One grinned, "Postnet. Old U.S. Postal Service coding. Mixed in with code 39. It's a composite. It means nothing. It's made up for us techies to recognize it's obscurity. The Syndicate LOVES to show off."
Jake inspected the transceiver with his hands, looking at it and trying to find a reason. "They're tech-runners, raiding from desolate alternates and stealing priceless technology. And this alternate earth is not in their field of vision. What are they doing bothering with petty theft?"
Hacker shrugged, "Maybe it's personal. They must be here to finish the hit on Carey."
"I don't think so. The Syndicate is treacherous, but they're not killers, they're just really great thieves. What's in that vault?"
"Nothing of great consequence to them," Hacker said, looking it up in the computer, "Personal valuables, little else. Even Carey. I don't get it."
"Neither do I. But there's a good reason, and I'll bet a week's salary it has to do with the banquet."
Hacker watched Jake ponder it over very carefully. He raised a thought, "You seem awfully sure."
"Just going over some old cases in my head," Jake replied, "It'd be a bonus to close one before tomorrow night."
"Yeah, well, our first priority is to stop Carey's assassin. Just like you said, we're not here to stop a theft."
"We can do both. I just made Kim the mission primary, this Syndicate thing is all mine."
"Jake," Hacker One said, holding him by the arm, "What's going on?"
"Settling an old score, Hacker," Jake replied.
"Just don't get in over your head, alright?"
"I always come back up, don't I?"
Hacker nodded his head slightly, agreeing with him reluctantly. He let Jake go, getting back to his work on the tracing the transceiver's origin.
Jake slid the keycard into the lock to his room. Until then, he had yet to see the inside of his lodgings, but from the look of the hotel it seemed like a nice place to rest. Any amount of sleep in between shifts was most welcome.
And indeed, as Jake gave one look around the hotel room, the surroundings were very comforting. With the shades covering the windows in midday, the room was dark enough for him to rest his eyes for about two or three hours. So warm, so inviting.
Then it hit him. It struck him hard. A quick chop between his shoulder blades.
"Hey!" he cried as he fell to the ground.
Face flat, a startled Jake heard the sound of shoes hitting the carpet in the doorway. The door slammed shut and the figure standing over Jake gave a very satisfying laugh.
"Now you're mine," the shadow said as it knelt down to pick him up.
With the last of his strength remaining, Jake shot upwards off the floor and grabbed his assailant by the hands. Returning the favor of surprise, he lifted the shadow over his head, carrying it to the bed in the middle of the room and making sure the suspect would land on the mattress with a pair of handcuffs strapped to her wrists.
"You're making this too easy, Andrea," Jake said, smiling, "You should know by now. After Omicron 4-8-2, I always bring restraints."
"Hey, Jake!" Andrea replied eagerly, "Did you miss me?"
He caught his breath, stepping away in case of any retaliation. "It has been a while, hasn't it?" he asked.
She nodded her head. "Four months, two weeks and five days," she replied, digging her legs underneath the covers, "So, c'mon, I haven't done this in a while, and I'm on a timetable!"
Jake looked at Andrea, still as stunning as ever, even in desperation. Her long flowing hair, her half-innocent smile and completely-wicked eyes haven't changed since last time. Still, he resisted, "Lisa might found out."
"Never stopped you before. And besides," Andrea said playfully, lifting both of her hands and resting the handcuffs on her breasts, "Lisa doesn't have cups like these."
"No, thanks. Not this time."
"Oh, come now! Jake Tyler has a conscience all of a sudden, or did he just lose whatever he had between his legs?"
He refused to take the bait, despite the temptation given off by Andrea. He laughed, "I need to sleep."
"Well, hop right in! I promise I'll keep the handcuffs on."
Jake's head shook. "Time to go to lockup, Andrea," he said, taking her by the arm.
"Hey!" the thief protested, "That's not in the rules! First we...you know. Then you send me to lockup. Or, did you have in mind--"
"Andrea, Andrea," Jake insisted, "You are now a suspect in an interdimensional investigation, I have to take you in."
"You don't believe that, do you?"
Jake replied, struggling to drag Andrea to the doorway, "I'm serious, Andrea. Now, if you can just cooper--"
He jiggled the doorknob. It wouldn't budge. He strugged with it a bit more, but the door would not open. It was completely shut, and he and Andrea were trapped.
"I almost forgot to tell you!" the thief said, "I put an electromagnetic seal on the lock. Gives us time to talk and...do other stuff!"
Jake threw her back onto the bed, saying, "You mean we're stuck here?"
"Only for two hours! After that, I'll be long gone from here. Oh, and don't bother with the vid. There's an EMP field surrounding this room, so there's no communications in and out of this room until I get out of here."
Andrea was good. This must be a record time for her being able to frustrate Jake. He ran his hands through the top of his head, exhaling some unwanted tension from his system.
He might as well inquire, "Are you here to get Carey?"
"No, and I don't know who is."
"And what's in the vault?"
Andrea clicked her tongue, "Are you sure you don't wanna blow two hours with me?"
"Alright, alright! How about a late lunch? Over there," she said, pointing to the table underneath the window. Sure enough, as Jake looked, there was a cover on a set of dishes provided by room service. Andrea had it all prepared.
"Lunch then. You tell me what you're trying to lift."
Andrea grinned, lifting her restraints up, as if to request that her hands have a bit of freedom.
"Oh, I'm going to regret this," Jake said, shaking his head and fumbling around for the keys.
"You haven't yet," she replied to his smirk.
TO BE CONTINUED.