Body Shop, страница 1часть #2 серии Annihilation Series
BODY SHOP - Book Two in the Annihilation series
Body Shop - Book Two in the Annihilation series
Copyright © 2018
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations, and incidents are entirely fictitious, invented by the author for the purpose of the story. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, business establishments, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Annihilation Series Structure
Book One: The Darwin Project
Book Two: Body Shop
Book Three: Natural Born
Book Four: I, President
Cover Design by Stuart Bache
This book was copy edited by Sasha Paulsen.
Any errors were introduced by the writer.
Sometimes British terminology or spelling somehow finds its way into the story; that’s because I’m Australian.
I want to thank my wife Cathy for her continuing patience, for providing her utmost support, and finally for re-reading many drafts.
This book is for Cathy.
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Billie stirred and immediately stilled her movements. She had a skull-splitting ache across her forehead, and her eyes were sore. Her legs twitched. She felt bruised and battered, and her limbs weighed her down. Something was crawling over her face, and she resisted the temptation to try to wipe it away.
Memories came rushing back.
Bastards! Billie thought. They had killed—murdered—her stepfather. She silently promised his killers they would pay with their lives.
Billie kept her eyes closed; she didn’t want her captors to realize she was awake. There was a bright light somewhere overhead, and its glare was pushing its way through her eyelids. Her bed was without a mattress or pillow; she could feel the pattern of the wires on the backs of her legs. She was fully clothed; at least her captors had allowed her to maintain some dignity. Something was wrapped around her neck, and the pressure was choking her.
Someone pulled open a heavy door—steel, she thought, judging by the thud as it hit the wall. She kept her eyes closed. The completely unexpected jab of a finger in her eye caused her to open both eyes wide. The overhead lights—there were two of them—were exceptionally bright.
“Ah, good. You’ve been unconscious for a day and a half. You had a bad reaction to the injection.”
Billie closed her eyes tight, cursing silently at her lack of preparedness.
The finger jabbed her again.
“I’ll poke your eye out, if necessary,” the voice threatened. “Makes no difference to me.”
Billie reluctantly opened her eyes. She blinked. Tears ran down the sides of her face. A man stood beside the bed. His face was scarred as though it had been badly burned. His hair was silhouetted against the lights and seemed to protrude in tufts. He was carrying a small medical tray, and Billie could see it held hypodermic syringes and a number of vials. She said nothing. She moved her head in an attempt to see more of his face. A chain rattled. The lights were too bright.
“My name’s Mitch. Your chain is shackled to the wall,” the man explained. “It’s long enough to let you reach the bucket or lay on the bed. You can’t reach the door. If you misbehave, I’ll shorten the chain. If you continue to misbehave, I’ll shorten it further, and you’ll have to stand against the wall. Understand? Now sit up. I’m going to inject you with some vitamins. Nothing harmful. We need you to be alert.”
Billie tried to reply. Her throat was dry, and she couldn’t form the words. She lifted her upper body off the bed, in an attempt to sit upright. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and collapsed back onto the wire base. She had no energy, no strength. The chain rattled again.
Her jailer tugged a small table over to the side of the bed and placed the medical tray on the side closest. He tore open a small antiseptic pack, extracted the contents, and wiped her upper arm. She flinched in anticipation.
Mitch, if that was his real name, inserted the hypodermic needle into one of the vials and carefully loaded the syringe. He injected the contents into her arm.
He said, “That’s vitamin B.” He reached for a second hypodermic and loaded that syringe from another vial. He again injected the contents into her arm. He continued, “That was a general vitamin shot. It’ll take a couple of hours for these to work. I’ll come back for you. There’s water on the table. Food, too. I’ll bring more meals, as long as you behave. Don’t think of escaping, don’t try screaming, don’t think you can call for help, and don’t give me any lip. This room was originally a freezer; the walls and ceiling are steel, and there’s about a foot of insulation. We added ventilation for our visitors, so you won’t suffocate. Remember, if you misbehave, I’ll shorten your chain. If you try to remove your collar, I’ll regard that as misbehaving.”
Billie watched as the man replaced the table against the wall and left. He was larger than she had first judged. His arms were hefty. He wore a brown shirt, trousers, and high, laced military-style boots. They were also brown. Her captor slammed the door shut, and she imagined she could hear the jingle of keys as he locked it.
She examined her room. There were no windows. There were tiny vents in the white painted walls, located about ten feet from the floor. The ceiling, as far as she could determine against the glare of the lights, was also painted white. There were suspended steel rails at head height, and the occasional hanging meat hook was a memento of the room’s original function. The flooring was concrete. A second wooden table was set against the adjacent wall, and she could see a water bottle and a dish that probably contained food. A bucket was located in the corner near to where the end of the chain was fixed to a large eyebolt protruding from the wall. She stood and half-stumbling, attempted to reach the flimsy table.
They had not provided a cup or a glass. The bottle was made of light plastic
Billie returned to the iron bed and sat on the edge of the wired frame. She knew she would have to use the bucket; she was deferring that for as long as possible. She wondered if her captors had cameras monitoring the room and decided nature’s demands would override any personal embarrassment when the time came. She buried her head in her hands, fighting the residual effects of the drug they’d used to knock her unconscious as she tried to assemble her thoughts.
Why had they killed her stepfather?
Where was Toby?
Was he trying to find her? Could he rescue her?
Billie assumed two hours had passed when Mitch returned, this time with a companion. He slammed open the door.
Mitch said, “Stay where you are. I’m going to unhook your chain, and then we’ll go for a little walk. Misbehave, and Alf will kick your head in, understand?”
Alf was presumably the hulking man standing in the doorway. Billie blinked; her eyes felt as though they’d been ground down with coarse sandpaper. Alf was also wearing a brown uniform although it badly fitted his overweight body, and a portion of his shirt had been forced out of his pants by a bulging roll of hair-covered stomach.
Her jailer repeated his question. “I said, understand?”
Billie nodded. Her throat was still dry; she thought it was an after effect of the drug dose.
“Good. Stand up.”
She ignored his instruction.
He unlocked the end of the chain and unhooked it from the wall fitting. He coiled it until he held at least two-thirds in his hand. He gave a tug, jerking her head sideways.
“Stand. Now walk. Remember, Alf will be behind you.”
He half-dragged Billie from her cell. She almost fell and struggled to retain her balance. Mitch did not give her any leeway. He led off along a scuffed vinyl-floored corridor, with Alf following. Billie realized neither of the two men cared if she choked from the pressure of the leather strap around her throat.
Billie silently added both men to the list she was creating, of people she would deal with, perhaps more harshly than they would expect. She tried to speak, to protest, but her throat did not cooperate. She debated whether she should simply collapse on the floor and decided her jailer would regard that as misbehavior. She forced herself to remain upright.
They stopped at an lift located about fifty yards from her cell. The door was battered and the paintwork worn. Wherever they were, the building had seen better days. Mitch pressed the button. It was the only button available, and Billie assumed the direction of their travel would be up. Finally the door slid open, hesitantly, as if it was doubtful there would be waiting passengers.
Mitch pulled on the chain, and Billie followed him into the waiting car. Alf followed. Mitch pressed a button, one of five. It was for the top floor. The door staggered to a closed position, and the car jerked into motion. It repeated the jerking motion as it slid to a stop at the designated floor. They waited for the door to open. There was a repeated hesitancy in its opening process.
Alf said, “I should kick that door. Might speed it up.” Apparently he had a penchant for kicking inanimate objects as well as people.
Mitch didn’t reply. He stepped out of the car, tugging the chain. This time, Billie was ready and coped with the sudden tug far more effectively. She was feeling better; the injected vitamins must be taking effect. She held the chain near to her shoulder, to stop it pulling on the leather choke collar. Her jailer headed along another corridor; this one was in better condition with a carpeted floor and freshly painted walls. The lighting was subdued. He stopped at an unmarked door and tapped on it; this door was wooden, not steel. Someone spoke; the actual words were muffled, and Mitch pushed the door open.
The room contained a large desk set near a row of windows. A man was seated at the desk. He did not speak. He watched as Mitch dragged Billie into the room and sat her down in a solid metal chair facing the windows. A clock on the side wall indicated it was eleven-thirty. Billie assumed it was morning.
Mitch somehow wrapped the chain around her and the chair and fastened the end at her back, leaving very little slack for any movement except for one arm. At least she wasn’t choking. She swallowed. Her throat was starting to respond.
When Mitch stood back, the stranger spoke. “Miss Nile. You’ll be our guest until certain matters are resolved. Your friend, Toby McIntosh, is making a nuisance of himself. I want him here, understand?”
The daylight from the windows behind the desk prevented Billie from seeing any facial details of the stranger. She would remember his smarmy voice, though.
She swallowed again and tried to speak. “I—I’m not sure—”
“You’ll call him and instruct him to meet Mitch and Alf. I’ll give you an address. That should be simple enough for you to do?”
“He won’t take any notice of my instructions.” She struggled to speak the words.
“He will. You’ll be dead, otherwise.”
It was midnight when Toby made his final check with Darwin and Bronwyn; however, neither had any news of Billie. He called his friend Rick, but there was no answer. He crashed into bed and tried to sleep. After thirty minutes, he got up and walked around some of the rooms of the apartment. He returned to his bed and tried to sleep. He couldn’t relax; his mind was in overdrive. Billie had been missing for a day, and they still had no news of her whereabouts. He got out of bed again. He walked into the living room and turned on the television. He picked up his cell phone and called Rick again. Still no answer. He watched the news for about ninety seconds and, totally restless, turned it off.
He contacted Darwin with a final thought.
“Yes, Toby?” Darwin responded.
“You have details on the bank accounts for—what’s his name—the brownshirt leader in Washington—Flocke—George Flocke?”
“And for the local guy, Pitera?”
“Yes, I have all the details of their accounts.”
“I’m suspending my embargo on destroying their financial base. Open accounts in Switzerland or Lichtenstein. As long as you can move the money on to new accounts at a later date, that’s all we need. Transfer out everything you can, from both the Washington and Los Angeles offices. Send it all around the international banking systems so no one can trace the final destination. Drain every account. Take out every cent. Leave a trail that leads to each of the other offices. Apart from that, make sure it’s impossible to trace the transfers to their eventual destinations.”
“I like it. I can backdate the transfers so they appear to be at least a week or more old to confuse them further.”
“Good. Implement this tonight. Confirm with me in the morning that you’ve completed the transfers. I want this to create a major impact within the brownshirt organization. Monitor all their Washington and Los Angeles communications. You can also tap into their banks for related emails. Let me know their reactions.”
“Sure. I’m uploading the wire instructions while we’re talking. We’ll have a separate war chest with more than twenty million dollars in it.”
“Remember, we have to give it back.”
“Yes, Toby.” Darwin sounded disappointed.
Toby was exhausted. His mind was buzzing, and he tried to still his thoughts. He climbed back into bed and, at last, managed to sleep, although fitfully.
He did not like his dreams.
Toby woke at daylight and without thinking, reached for Billie. When realization struck, he pounded the headboard and cursed when he bruised his knuckles.
“Darwin,” he asked. “
There was a long pause. Darwin said, “There’s no news. I’m unable to trace Billie. I completed all the bank transfers you requested.”
Toby called Drexel and was forwarded to his voice mail. He had a similar response when he called Rick. Everyone was busy. Toby shook his head, frustrated at the lack of information. He ignored the fact that it was five o’clock in the morning.
Later, when he was finishing his breakfast, Bronwyn whispered in his ear. “I arranged a special shipment for you consisting of five of our new military bots; they’re prototypes. They’ll assist you with Colonel Pitera and his men.”
It seemed Bronwyn was predicting his course of action. Toby didn’t think she was wrong. A second thought struck him—he didn’t realize she could produce security bots at Pepper Mountain. He said, “I didn’t know we had a bot manufacturing unit?”
“Your uncle authorized the extension of facilities so we could produce more than prototypes. If you recall, we were constructing a new level when you visited and that’s where we set up a manufacturing operation. It’s for prototypes and bots that are unsuitable for third party manufacture. Our security bots and the new front-line military bots are examples. I arranged for a squad of security bots to be manufactured yesterday. We shipped them to the warehouse earlier this morning, and they’ll be delivered to the Bel Air house in about an hour. They are fully operational and programmed to follow your instructions. They won’t ask questions about your intentions.”
Toby utilized a Flyte car service and arrived at the house as a two-man team was unloading the warehouse shipment. The security guard at the gate cleared him for entry onto the property and, Toby realized, probably reported his presence to Drexel. He’d face that issue later.
The bots were in crates, and the delivery team used a forklift truck to unload and move them into the garage. When the men left, Toby busied himself unpacking the contents. The bots were man-sized and given the difficulties experienced by the delivery team, each bot probably weighed close to three hundred pounds. The initialization instructions provided by Bronwyn were simple: switch them on. The power units were fully charged and the boot-up process took less than five minutes for each bot. Toby was surprised to see a range of weapons in each crate. Bronwyn was using predictive analysis, he assumed, and apparently expected an armed reaction from the colonel and his brownshirts when Toby acted.