Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

They waited at the mouth of the service corridor, the mezzanine railing just a few meters away. Above them somewhere, the heavy thumping of the security spider marked its progress in its pursuit of them. Across an open space broken at intervals by tree trunks and greenery, the armored glass of the laboratory stretched floor to ceiling, and out of sight in either direction.

“That going to present a problem?” A rhetorical question. Mett knew Gaez wouldn’t have signed on for this if it wasn’t going to present a challenge.

“Working on it” the disinterested reply. Gaez was more interested in their stalker.

They broke cover and sprinted left, hugging the wall. Cameras hung limp and blind at frequent intervals from the ceiling, one of the many indicators that Gaez had taken ownership of the facility’s less deadly security systems.

A whine from above, rising in pitch, was abruptly punctuated by a volley of sabot rounds fired across the garden atrium into the laboratory windows. Large pieces of their armored surface buckled under the impact.

“Work faster, those aren’t anti-personnel rounds,” Mett chirped, picking up the pace of his sprint. The spider, realizing it had been firing at reflections, began recalculating and relocating to obtain firing options on their actual position.

“No, they’re not. As far as the security system is concerned, we’re an intruding spider.” Across the atrium a heavy section of weakened wall crumbled, their pursuer having none-too delicately ripped a gaping wound through the only thing left keeping them out of the lab. “See, told you I was working on that.”

Mett’s communication alarms flashed red at the edges of his vision as Gaez had started speaking over an open channel. He grabbed Gaez by the shoulder, tapping his mouth and making a slashing motion across his throat with one hand.

“I know, I opened the channel. We’re encrypted, so it can’t understand what we’re saying, but it’s listening intently. All good.” Gaez grinned.

They continued to the end of the mezzanine and ducked back into another service corridor leading away from the open area as the spider on the floor above clambered out on a walkway, cannon noisily searching the space where they’d been.

“Keep talking, it’s time to turn off that ugly bug.”

Mett kept the pace, but couldn’t keep the doubt from his voice. “Those things aren’t hackable. I’d have heard about–”

Gaez cut him off.

“No, not directly hackable, but I know a few useful service codes.”

Another volley hammered down the hallway as they turned left again – the spider was picking up speed, anticipating their movements as they doubled back on the route they’d taken a few moments ago.

“Service codes? You hacked TacComm’s network?”

Gaez shook his head, obviously concentrating as he ran code through the broadcast system in his head. “Not TacComm, but they outsource service for some of the local deployments.”

“So you hacked one of those?”

“No, but the local service providers can’t all manage the spider’s heating and cooling systems, so they outsource that to some other companies. I hacked one of those.”

As they reached the first hallway heading back towards the atrium, Mett grabbed Gaez by the shoulders and stopped him just short of the opening, seconds before the spider unleashed another volley of shells into the space it had predicted they should have occupied in that instant.

Mett turned his partner around, locking eyes. “And what the hell good is that?”

Gaez grinned again.

“While we’ve been talking, the spider’s been listening, and I’ve been spiking the comms with temperature-sensor code-shrapnel.” He pushed Mett back slowly the way they’d come. Down the hallway the spider’s cannon was spinning down, no longer firing. “The polarity of the firing systems temperature sensors in the ammo storage compartments has been inverted, and the spider is compensating for the fact that it thinks it’s starting to freeze. The more it turns up the heat, the colder the thermo sensors will report, until–”

His words were drowned out by the sudden ignition of every remaining round inside the spider’s armored chassis, coupled with the rupturing of its fuel cells.

When the noise subsided, Gaez patted his partner on both shoulders, and turned to pick through the wrecked hallway towards the opened lab.

“Consider it worked on. ”

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