Three seconds after the doors of the medical bay closed a pistol slammed into the side of Lanning’s head. He dropped like a ragdoll. Ryard stood rooted to his shadow. Fear, paralytic. He gazed to the left and beheld a large man, around six foot two, broad-shouldered, muscular, sunburnt and garbed in antiquated black military fatigues. His craggy face was covered in numerous scars, the most prominent of which ran from right crown to ramus. The stranger smiled, revealing metal, and gestured with his aged pistol to the limp man at his feet.
“Sorry bout that. No time for chit-chat,” He swiveled his head to stare at Ryard, “What’s your name?”
“You in the mood for chit-chat, Ryard?”
“Good.” He grinned. “Then you don’t have to join your friend.”
The gunman turned momentarily to survey the woman-like thing in the healing pod, coated in re-gel. Her arm near fully regrown.
The gunman tilted his head at the pod like a hawk watching a rabbit and then returned his attention to Ryard.
“We’ve got 20 minutes.”
“What happens in 20 minutes?”
“Now you just said you wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat.”
“Dandy. Open the calyx.”
“You can’t move her.”
“I can. You will.”
The steel in the man’s voice prompted Ryard to silence. His smile was gone.
“Open the calyx.”
Ryard moved to the med pod console and drained the re-gel, opened the tank and removed the oxygen mask from the sleeping woman’s face. He surveyed her judiciously bandaged body; not a single laceration sustained during the crash lingered.
“Three of us are going for a ride.”
As the gunman spoke, Ryard noticed Lanning stirring upon the ground. Nearly to his feet. His hand moving to his bloodied crown, coming away slick and red. He grimaced, rose and dove at the gunman. The two men went tumbling heavily to the floor, the old pistol clattering to the far right corner as the woman’s eyes fluttered open. Her dichromatic gaze alighted on the intruder and widened.
“We must go.”
Ryard hastily draped her intact right arm over his shoulder and supported her to the door as the sound of blows and grunts emanated from the corner of the room. The moment Ryard passed the threshold he hit the emergency lockdown and turned. The medical drone lay inert in the corridor, a bullet in its back. Its power core, irreparably damaged.
“Who’s after you?” He replied, leaning her against the wall and moving to the robot.
“Many people. All of them dangerous. Few more so than that man. What are you doing?”
“Rebooting it.” He flipped up the back panel console and removed a standardized power core from his utility belt, clicked it into place, switched it on and began initiating the reactivation protocol as a thumping emanated from behind the doors of the automated clinic.
“Hurry.” The woman urged, uncharacteristically nervous, “He wouldn’t have come alone.”
“Going fast as able.”
The machine whirred back to life. Its formerly pleasant vocal emulator crackling in distorted whirls from the damaged sustained to its speakers.
“ERROR IN STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY.”
“You were shot. Memory working?”
“NO MEMORY ERROR DETECTED, COURIER 17-890-32.”
“There has been a security breach. Accompany us to the exit.”
“AUTHORIZED PERSONAL. IRREGULAR COMMAND. SEC-CODE AUTHENTICATION REQUIRED.”
Ryard flashed his courier badge and let the operator scan it.
“Security code 5-33-8.”
“AUTHENTICATED. AWAITING INSTRUCTION, COURIER 17-890-32.”
“Accompany us to the exit. All unauthorized personnel other than patient 17-890-32-1-O are to be treated as exigencies to be neutralized.”
The operator began moving its considerable bulk down the narrow corridor, before which lay a intersection, diverging left and right. Before the trio reached the divide, there came the sound of rampant, heavy footfalls. Two men, garbed in black military fatigues ran in from the connecting leftern passage, weapons raised, faces covered in ceramic tactical masks.
“No one move!”
“UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL DETECTED. COMMENCING EXIGENCY NEUTRALIZATION.”
“Stop right there!” One of the men shouted severely, leveling his weapon at the operator.
Ryard pulled the woman behind the machine’s back, “Show em the exit big guy.”