Up The Tower
faded from Victor’s skull.
    High ground, huh?
    The highest ground around was the Tower, of course. It would take him a good half-hour to get to the top if everything went as well as possible.
    A half an hour was too long by a lot. He was going to have to ride this quake out no matter what.
    Time to get Oscar, then.
    Overhead, a police transport flew by, copbots hanging down on mechanical tethers. Spotlights shining through the smog. Did they know about the quake, readying themselves to help?
    Robots were probably driving the transport. Did a robot know anything?
    Did a clone?
    Useless thoughts.
    Carefully, Victor tossed a stick and then a rock across the threshold of the small fortified shack. No response. If he had the time, he would have perhaps picked up someone off the street and bribed or coerced him to move through, catching all the trap flak. But he didn’t have the time.
    With a bit of unintended flourish from his makeshift tarp-cloak, he rolled through the opening. Nothing. Okay. He let the tarp fall. No more need now that he was inside.
    He turned a corner and something stuck hard into his side. Thrums of movement reverberated in his body.
    Some kind of spike. Victor groaned, sliding himself off of it. It went in about the length of a thumb joint, which was more than enough to send feelings of queasiness to his belly. It popped out slowly, little trails of blood following and leaving red drool down his side. His rib cage on that side was all metal, lucky for him, otherwise the spike might have broken something.
    In front of the stairs was another tripwire—connected to a bomb or another set of spikes, maybe. He cut the wire with his force gun: thup thup. Downstairs he found Oscar, already with his hands up. He looked a lot like Victor, just with messier hair and a massive collection of acne around his cheeks, trailing down his neck.
    Oscar had set himself up a nice little base. Computer equipment lined the walls, built into the foundation of the earth. Hard to detect with sensors—but not impossible. There was enough computer tech there to do almost anything—including spy on Tri-American for a very long time.
    “You don't have to do this,” said Oscar. Sweat beaded down his forehead.
    Victor shook his head. “Come on. Really?”
    In Victor's world, Oscar was known for his slippery loyalties. This meant a lot of rationalization, and a lot of rationalization meant a lot of bargaining with the world. And Victor was the entire world, approaching on Oscar, expecting its due after far too much debt had built up.
    “You shouldn't even be able to do this. I mean, I knew someone might came after me, but someone from the Alphabet? You can't even hurt me.”
    Victor had two guns. His other was strapped to his ankle. They were both of the same design. The guns fired small pockets of very dense air coated with clouds of carbon. People called it a force gun. It made a very tiny sound, thup thup, when Victor shot Oscar in the knee. To follow, Victor tossed Oscar's head against a nearby cabinet. His teeth fell out in droplets.
    “Oh god.” Understanding lit up in Oscar’s eyes. “You're Victor. I thought maybe Charlie o-or Kilo at most, but...hey man, I'm an investment! You can't just kill me...”
    Victor shook his head. “Of course I can. Where's the data?”
    For a few moments, Oscar looked as if he was going to play dumb. Victor raised his pistol up, ready to hit him.
    “God, okay. There. Right there, in the drawer.”
    Victor found the collection of black slabs and attached a small disc to the top of one. A green hologram floated up. Approval. Task completed.
    “You chose the wrong team, Oscar.”
    “Man, don’t you get it?” Blood seeped down his clothes, filling up his shoes and then puddling outward. “I wasn’t playing for anybody. Just playing the two teams against each other, that’s all. What else do we got? What else does anybody have except trying to pull just a little bit of wool over their

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