Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Kaz got close enough to town for broadband wireless access before hunkering down in a culvert under the roadway.

His suit’s AI ran the standard duck and cover protocols, scouring for low-security funding resources, supplies available for autonomous delivery, and shelter that could be counted on to be quiet for the couple of days he needed to regrow his broken bits and replenish his fuel reserves.

Within a few minutes an independent credit bureau had been breached, six adjacent rooms on two floors of a motel secured, and half a dozen delivery orders placed, each for substantial quantities of food. Late on a Friday, there shouldn’t be anyone looking too closely for a couple of days. He hoped that’s all he’d need.

Kaz traced a path through a field, then a vacant lot to the back entrance of the Motel 69, up the stairs to the second floor and then let himself into 227.

He waited until the delivery vehicles had come and gone on the street outside, drones depositing disposable keycode thermoboxes outside each of his rented rooms, then he did a quick lap and collected all the food.

He sat in the middle of the three second-floor rooms, the AI starting and stopping showers, adjusting lights and the TVs in all the rooms around and below him, and ate everything he could until he’d ingested an alarming quantity of fuel. He’d been on full burn for nearly a week, he’d already long over-stripped his reserves.

Refueling complete he unpacked the Heckler & Koch mini-gun from his bag and pulled the mono-filament supply line from its socket, dropping it into the shower drain. It crawled the pipes, branching, and branching again, seeking out the hydro mains in the motel itself, as well as several businesses across the road.

He trailed the line across the floor, stretched out on the bed and perched the H&K on his chest, where it deployed its multi-legged mounting system, and did an exploratory revolution to confirm full three hundred and sixty-degree freedom before parking itself aimed at the midpoint of the front wall.

Kaz’s AI dimmed the lights in all the units and locked him into full rigor. It wouldn’t do to have him twitching into the line of fire if the H&K had to engage while he was sleeping.

Cold fire started inside his boots and raced with benevolent fury up his body to his shoulders, down his arms to his fingertips before crashing over his consciousness like a tsunami.

Were anyone there to see, they would have witnessed his hybrid meat and metal suit crack open at the seams, and a small army of carbon fibre insects begin the delicate task of molecular rendering and refabricating required to undo a week’s worth of organic and mechanical damage.

Full burn took its toll.

Kaz’s perceptors were woken up first, ears and nostrils filled with the sounds and smell of H&K discharge, the squat turret mowing through the front wall of the motel room with intent, then periodically rotating to squeeze off a barrage through the bathroom wall, and into the unit next door, before focusing on the front again, adjusting down at an angle to presumably address a target identified in the parking lot below.

The lights were out. They would have killed the power in the unit. Never phoenix without a backup power source.

Motor control was released, and he grasped the mini-gun while sliding off the side of the bed in a single smooth motion, its mounting rig readjusted to wrap around his forearm for stability.

The AI had already pulled together the available recon data, and identified a half dozen black and whites in the parking lot, and a small contingent of tactical officers cowering at the back stairs. They had an armored breach vehicle, useless with a second story engagement, but evidence of the overzealous nature of the local PD.

He squatted to retrieve his kit bag from the floor, making sure to allow the weapon freedom to continue firing energy rounds in bursts in case anyone was feeling brave.

Heads-up read Thursday. Shit. He’d been in worse shape than he’d thought.

Hunger was already on the periphery as he surveyed the remains of his feast splattered around the carnage of the room with disappointment.

He kicked out the back door to the fire escape and stepped out behind a continuous stream of weapon discharge, the already panicked officers scattering like ants.

The H&K recoiled it’s backup feed. Battery only from here.

He had miles to go before he’d sleep.

Full burn.