He jolted awake, escaping whatever danger the fading dream held. Blinking slowly in the darkness he wondered why the lights hadn’t come on automatically with the increase of his biorhythms. He tried to speak and realized something was in his mouth. Sluggishly his brain caught up to the current situation. This darkness was forced, something was over his head, and he had a gag in his mouth.

As frantically as his muddled brain would allow he ran through the last thing he remembered. He was in his bunk, there was a knock at the door and then nothing. Someone had jumped him inside the company barracks, this wasn’t good.

“Ah,” a familiar voice called from behind him. “You’re awake.”

The rough fabric hood was pulled gently off his head and the smiling face of Sergeant Sawyer.

“You’re probably wondering what’s going on right now, eh?” The Sergeant kneeled down next to him and tugged on the pair of handcuffs secured to the floor.

He looked at them in astonishment, whatever had happened last night had really left him groggy.

“Four shipments in six weeks have been hit,” Sawyer drew removed an electronic key from his belt and set it down by the restraint. “All those shipments have three personnel in common.”

His fingers numbly grasped at the thin block and finally took purchase after the third attempt. The fog around his mind was starting to recede, his hands were able to unlock the cuffs on the second try.

“Of those three personnel,” Sawyer directed his attention to a raised hand. “Are a rookie who is rising with a rocket, me, and you. How does that look, Cooper?”

At the sound of his name the world grew sharper. He was suddenly aware they were in the back of a prisoner transport and more distressing, Sawyer had his sidearm drawn.

“The rookie just happens to be making Senior Officer this month,” the Sergeant clucked his tongue. “A position it took you three years to get to and while he has an excellent record you have a few insubordination charges against you.” He smiled again, raising the sidearm to center on Cooper’s chest. “Now who would think to even look at me?”

“It’s kind of odd that I didn’t struggle after escaping my cuffs, eh Sarge?” Cooper had to force the words out through a dry mouth.

“True,” he sighed. “But after the last time they won’t really question me shooting first.”

“There was a last time?”

He nodded sadly, “it seems that there are so many young men who fall to temptation when passed over for promotions.” The smile returned, “But don’t worry, I’ve got quite the reputation for ferreting out corruption.”

Cooper held his hands up, palms down, trying to stall for time.

“Just like you were trained,” Sawyer laughed. “Are you going to try to reason with me next? Maybe try to deal?” He chuckled as he took a step forward. “I’m a sucker for the classics, any last words?”

Dipping to the side Cooper kicked out with his foot, sending the cuffs toward the gunman. The latch brought them up short, connecting with Sawyer’s left knee but the result was more favorable than getting shot. Cooper lunged forward, both of his hands closing on the extended gun and pointing down and crashing his shoulder into Sawyer’s chest.

Sawyer wrestled for the gun, trying to return full control. Removing it from his grasp was going to impossible so Cooper settled for simply disarming. With a quick motion he ejected the magazine and removed the slide on the top of the pistol. Before Sawyer knew what had happened Cooper had let go of the now useless weapon and was now armed with a nice little weapon.

He gripped the disconnected slide, turned and jammed the length of poly-carbonate into the nerve bundle on Sawyer’s shoulder. Once upon a time the Sergeant was a man of action, but now he was a desk jockey, filing reports and only getting down to the gym to meet the company standards. The spasm of pain made him jump back with a yell. Cooper pressed the attack using the slide as an impromptu kubotan forcing Sawyer against the far wall with a barrage of strikes to the forearms, neck, and chest.

A jarring right hand strike sent the Sergeant sliding to the floor with a dazed look in his eyes. Cooper moved quickly, wrenching the gun from the now limp hand and assembling it with practiced ease. All he had to do was lock Sawyer up and drag him back to HQ. There was no way he was taking the fall for this.

“Sarge?” A voice called from outside. “What’s going on back there?”

“Oh damn,” he whispered suddenly realizing that he was standing above an unconscious superior officer holding a weapon.

The few options he had were tossed aside as the hatch on the back of the truck was unlocked and began to swing open. If he was lucky there would be only one officer, if he was really lucky it would be someone he could convince to listen to his side of the story. Cooper looked at Sawyer as he started to come back to consciousness.

“Yeah,” he stepped back toward the wobbly sergeant and crowned him with the butt of the pistol.

“Easy there, Sarge,” the voice called as the hatch locked into place. “We just need to make it look like a small struggle not a straight out-”

Cooper turned to see De Santos silhouetted in the opening. De Santos was dressed in company issue matte-black cargo pants, boots, and olive-drab T-shirt for wear in the off hours. He was also sporting a brand new cybernetic right arm from the shoulder down. In a smooth motion Cooper brought the pistol up and fired two rounds at the junction of man and machine. The traitorous cyborg jerked backward as the shots hit their mark and toppled out of the back of the truck.

Rushing over to the opening Cooper dove through the hatch, hoping to catch anyone else off guard. He tucked into a roll, trying to make a controlled tumble and settle into a position he could easily take aim from. Instead his back crashed into a solid wall and he slumped heavily to the ground onto the crumpled form of a body. There was a muffled groan as he thanked what little luck he had for him to land on top of De Santos instead of the inanimate layer of trash nearby.


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