Markus activated the heads up display on the inside of the suit. Information bloomed before his eyes like flowers of light and mathematics.
He was jumping from 62 miles above the ocean surrounding Arcadia. Going through the ocean was impossible as it was studded with banks of intelligent coral and patrolled by serpents grown in laboratories to eighty feet long and programmed to attack anything without an authorisation signal. They spat sharpened carbon spines at the velocity of sniper rounds at anything they looked at. The authorities were looking for him, so walking up and asking for her back wasn’t an option. It was a suicide mission for anyone with half an ounce of common sense. He had about a quarter left, the rest had gone up in smoke when he met her.
He wore a Sanchez Model 7, clad in ceramic-diamond plate and patterned with veins of liquid information leading to a powerpoint on the back, which ran a permanent loop of zero point energy suspended in liquid time and sealed into the suit. He could have bought an island for the price he paid, but he needed this to invade one.
He walked to the airlock and the ship’s computer took over.
Time to jump, he thought. He closed his eyes as the airlock sealed behind him and he looked out onto the ocean beneath, visible through banks of clouds which sparkled as they transmitted information across the globe. He activated the probability field on the suit and stepped forwards into thin air.
He watched the air shimmer around him as probabilities warped, allowing him to produce effects in defiance of physics and without drawing attention to his descent. Markus would slide down like a blob of oil across the surface of a pan and experience it as a short, spectacular ride in an invisible elevator.
Markus followed the navigation system down, pulling information into his heads up display, making adjustments to correct his descent as he prepared to land at a particular point.
A 62 mile descent onto the deck of a yacht without breaking it in half was something to aim for, he thought as he watched it rush up to meet him.
Meunier removed the air hypodermic from her left forearm and sat back on the couch, enjoying the slow echo of pleasure which ran through her veins. Arcadia ran under strict rules regarding substance abuse, so this would be the last time she could get high for a few weeks. The bounty was too good on this not to demonstrate a little discipline, she thought.
Especially on the insistence of the asset being brought back alive, which was tiresome. Meunier had debated decapitating her and cloning another body, taking it off the reward, but when she had discussed this with her broker, Uma, it had been met with a hard stare and a snort of derision.
Arcadia might have been full of mad scientists, but they were serious about money.
The bitch had killed two of her guys when they ambushed her in Jakarta She broke Oscar’s neck after paralysing him with a fingertip strike to the armpit and shot Joel in the throat before Meunier had abandoned subtlety and shot her with the frequency cannon, forcing her onto her knees with agony as she clutched her seizing stomach. Meunier had not needed to kick her in the head, but it felt good to do it anyway.
Gregory was keeping her sedated for the trip back and the idea of going by yacht had been part of the job itself. Arcadian airspace was impenetrable, and Uma said the return needed to be done out of the way. Meunier didn’t care so long as she got paid, plus the yacht had been waiting for them when they landed at Port Calabasas. It was gorgeous and more importantly, it sent sonar signals to the malevolent life under the ocean, giving them permission to pass without being torn to pieces.
Thinking about it had soured the high a little and Meunier wanted to go stub a cigarette out on the bitch’s forearm but she changed her mind as she walked onto the upper deck.
Arcadia had a controlled climate, and Meunier looked on an afternoon of perfect summer.
When the shadow fell across her, she frowned and looked up.
A figure was descending from the sky with its arms outstretched. Thick clouds of vapour drifted from its fingertips towards the ocean as Meunier drew the pistol from the holster under her right arm. She sent a command to her team, told them to get to the upper deck and prepare to repel an assault.
She wished she had never taken this job as she aimed and fired.
He watched the storm of bullets come. The beams diffused into harmless prisms of light against the field and the bullets hung suspended, some of them caught in the act of exploding, like dandelions of fire and shrapnel. He wiped them aside as he continued to descend. Markus trusted they would focus on him rather than what he launched on the way down.
The chemicals landed with a hiss against the surface of the ocean. It was a plasticizing compound, increasing the viscosity of the water and sealing everything in place.
He watched the gunmen on the yacht look around in shock, before they resumed firing up at him. Markus was struck by how the surface of the ocean looked like glass, frozen in sculptured waves. There were shadows of the serpents underneath, already poised to investigate the events above them.
The probability field started to falter so Marcus put his hands in front of him and fired three micro rocket arrays. Each of them was the size of a marble, exploding six feet above them and coating them in neurotoxins. Markus watched them fall to the ground but Meunier held her ground, moving backwards into the yacht as she fed another clip into the gun.
Markus landed on the deck, filtering the kinetic energy through the field to diffuse it and loaded up the targeting system. The ceramic plates on his forearms extended into blades as he ran after her.
Alarms screamed in his vision as he ducked beneath a burst of fire and punched his right arm forwards, firing the blade as a reflex. He whistled beneath his breath as Meunier turned to her left and let it fly past her. It punched into the bulkhead to her left.
He stayed low as she fired at him. The probability field had recharged and he projected it ahead of him. The flechettes froze in mid-air.
Meunier frowned as she emptied the clip at him. He walked through the storm of needles as he pushed himself forwards, swinging his left arm up and across in a perfect display of tameshigiri, whipping the tip of the blade up and across.
It sliced through her right hip and up through her abdomen. She had no time to scream, and her last expression was one of rage. She fell backwards with a thump against the deck as Markus walked through the corridors of the yacht.
His heads up display guided him to the master bedroom. The doors were locked and he scanned the room to see there was two occupants, and one of them was in bed. She was sculptured in green and yellow, all her vitals burning with health beneath his enhanced gaze. He clenched his fists and blew the doors open with a concentrated kinetic pulse of energy.
The man aimed a gauss rifle at him. Markus shook his head and pointed at her on the bed.
‘I need her awake. Now.’ he said.
The man, wearing a black armoured t-shirt and combat trousers, kept the rifle on him.
‘Fuck you, you’re in the middle of Arcadian waters, and we’re here on diplomatic business. You’re a dead man.’ he said.
Markus chuckled and pointed to the porthole.
‘Have you looked outside?’ he said.
The man glanced to his left. Markus extended the probability field and stepped forwards as he activated the two-second teleportation device, slamming forwards and snatching the rifle from his hands and turning it on him.
‘You’re stuck on a sea of glass. Wake her the fuck up. Now.’ he said.
Later, Greg told himself he had no other choice. Meunier had paid well, but he had reservations about Arcadia. He handed over the vials, told the guy what order to administer them in and ran to the upper deck.
Markus wondered if he had figured out they would stuck here. At least until Arcadia sent out drones to investigate what had happened.
He loaded the air hypodermic and injected the first vial into her forearm. She flushed with blood and gasped as her eyes fluttered.
‘Just breathe, baby girl, I’ve got you.’ he said.
He injected her again. Her mouth opened as she sighed and smacked her lips.
The last vial opened her eyes and she sat up. Meadow.
‘Fucking cunt.’ she said.
He stepped back as she swung at him. He made the face plate transparent and put his hands up.
She scowled at him and then leapt off the bed, wrapping her arms around him.
‘You stupid bastard. I told you not to come.’ she said.
His eyes blurred as he wished he could feel her, skin on skin. There would be time for that, he told himself, as he pushed her back.
‘You knew I would.’ he said.
He ached to say more but he wanted them to be alive to say it to her.
‘Follow me. We’ve only got a minute or two before the drones come.’ he said.
Meadow picked up the gauss rifle and checked its load, grinned at him in a way which made him fill up with a dark, primal heat. He pushed it back down as he went up the stairs.
‘We’re coming up. Don’t do anything stupid.’ he said.
Gregory whimpered and told him he was fine.
Meadow wanted to shoot him but Markus said it wasn’t worth the trouble. She detoured to the communications deck and sent the authorisation codes to Markus’ armour.
‘So, this is where you tell me how you’re getting us off this planet, yeah?.’ she said.
He nodded as he pointed at Gregory.
‘Fuck off downstairs. Tell them what you want.’ he said.
Gregory sprinted down the stairs without looking at either of them. Meadow would have made the shot but she was more concerned with getting away than getting even.
Markus depressed a stud on his right hip and a kidney shaped compartment opened. He pulled a white tentacle and wrapped it around his fist before he pinched the end of it as it ballooned into a translucent hood. He offered it to her.
Meadow chuckled and shook her head.
‘You get to wear the power suit and I have to put whatever that is, erm, where?’ she said.
It connected to an organic network, grown into the suit. The hood would provide her with oxygen and nutrients, and the probability field would support them both as they went up to the ship.
‘So you’ll have jumped, what 130 miles for me today?’ she said.
He shrugged his shoulders.
‘I took you seriously when you said you were high maintenance.’
She slung the rifle over her back, slipped the hood on and wrapped her arms around him.
They looked at one another, separated by membrane and armour, bodies humming with a vibration which had altered them both. She felt physics twist around them as they took to the air.
She mouthed that she loved him as they took to the air.
Markus saw the drones launch from the spires of Arcadia as he pumped the probability field to its limit. Meadow clung to him as the air chilled around them. The ship opened the airlock, warming up its systems as it prepared for ascent and evasion.
His heads up display read the distance. The drones were focusing their attention on the plasticized ocean, relaying everything back to Arcadia.
‘They’re ignoring us.’ he said.
She gasped with surprise at being able to hear him. His voice was a warm whisper in her ear. It sounded like home.
‘I sent the codes to your armour. Of course, it means -‘
The yacht exploded beneath them as they slipped into the airlock. It closed behind them as they stepped into the ship. The helmet retracted from his face like autumn leaves blown by the wind as she clawed the hood from her face.
Their lips met as they held onto one another.
Later, there would be war and death but as they kissed away the anguish of separation, none of it mattered.