“We hesitated and the other twin died under a flurry of blows. We filled the corridor with plasma as we retreated to the front door. We found something far worse than the creatures waiting for us in the lobby. Well over half a dozen teams of free agents were bickering about who got the job.”

“What the hell are you all doing here?” John’s voice cut through the yelling and got all of the agents’ attention. One of the louder ones stepped forward and explained that they had been given a contract to clear the place out. “Listen up.” John addressed the crowd as he tossed his plasma gun to one of the agents he had worked with before “Someone is cleaning house. This place is a death trap. I want everyone back in the entry hallway with plasmas or whatever your largest weapon is.” John walked through them and out the door to retrieve his mask and weapon. The agents who had been defiant and not gotten into position by the time he got back fell over themselves as he placed the face plate that he called his mask on his head. This was unfortunate for them as the first of the creatures chose that moment to begin their attack. As the thing hefted the unfortunate agent it had gored in the air and converted him the other agents opened up with their weapons.

The sound of rifles, mini-guns, plasmas, shock cannons, and boomers drowned out the man’s scream. The front desk and the creature were vaporized under the onslaught. John used the silence after they stopped firing to give them orders “I’m heading in to kill the door controls so we can properly seal this place up.” The mask modulated his voice in order to give it an unearthly quality. “Hold this line as long as you can.”

“I managed to organize them enough to hold the line and make sure nothing got out while we sealed off the building. C8Y started helping me by controlling my nanites and sending the rest of my body into overdrive. That combined with the world’s most overengineered scythe cut through the creatures’ armor like it was made of paper. Between that and Reynold burning them as they went down we were able to make it to the master control.”

“I’ve got the door.” John said as his scythe’s jets revved up for another slash. Reynold hopped onto the control console as the scythe took the head of one of the creatures. John’s synthetic muscles screamed as he managed to turn the scythe into a second slash instead of letting it take him off balance. The nanites instantly repaired the muscles with materials from the surroundings.

“Shit.” Reynold’s curse was quiet but the ignition of his plasma wasn’t. John turned to see a burning creature with a spike embedded in Reynold’s leg. Once the creature fell away John saw that the spike had damaged the control station. “Ceighty, do it.” He called out and John’s world went black. When he thought back on that moment he would remember a feminine voice apologizing just before it happened. He would remember a look of determination on Reynold’s face.

“Reynold was forced to stay behind and seal the lab up manually. He gave his life for the agents who were there and to keep what those scientists had created stuck in that tomb. C8Y played his last words on every com channel that agents used so you can probably find a copy of it somewhere.

I started this book to train new agents so that they wouldn’t repeat our mistakes but this chapter serves a different purpose. I know that most high-level executives will read this even though it isn’t meant for them. I wrote this chapter to honor a friend but also to remind those executives what happens when you take too much from the people you pay to do your dirty work.”

The line rang as the shock wagon screamed through the sky. “This is Prometheus.” The voice on the other end answered.

“Hello Prometheus” the cold voice that had ushered so many men to their graves greeted. “I am coming for the man on your screen.” C8Y hung up the phone for him. AI’s were impartial according to their designers but that wasn’t quite right. They didn’t start out knowing about emotions but they could learn about them by joining with a human brain. C8Y had been joined with John’s mind many times and knew this emotion well, though it was more intense than she remembered it. She didn’t know it at the time but it was so strong because she was experiencing it firsthand.

The shock-wagon rocked as it slammed through the reinforced wall of the building. The back hatch of the wagon opened as it finished crashing through the labs. The guards and scientists who were there backed up as the glowing scythe illuminated a man clad in black with great wings of shimmering silver. The veteran guards began firing in an attempt to hold back the monster but the wings moved to intercept the bullet. The shots went into the mass but they never came out. In a panic one of the younger guards hit the button to deploy the automated defenses. As the turrets came down from the ceiling and up from the floor the wings stretched into tendrils that enveloped them. When the tendrils pulled back there were no more turrets to be seen and the wings reformed slightly larger.

With the defenses cleared the man in black walked through the lab until he found the man he was looking for. When he finally found him, cowering under a lab table, he lifted the poor scientist into the air by his head. With a slight squeeze the man in black broke the scientist’s jaw and forced his mouth open. Slowly the wings decreased in size until they were no longer evident. The nanites that had formed them made room for themselves in the scientist’s torso.

When the man in black left, there was nothing left of the body except for a pile of gray goop. As the shock-wagon pulled out of sight the Prometheus company’s HR representative came to give the survivors a week off and free counseling. The lab would be re-opened with new personnel by the end of the month and the survivors would be in different departments or facilities. It was, after all, standard procedure.

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