Amanda slouched on the couch in front of the TV one week after arriving back at her parents’ house. The whole family sat around in the expansive living room, even Father. Mother had dragged him out of his office, and Amanda out of her room, so they could experience the glories of family time. Amanda was underwhelmed.
Mother nudged Father’s hand every couple of minutes when he reached for his cell phone. He would mutter “sorry,” and return his attention to the TV as canned laughter from the bad sitcom played. Mother would just purse her lips and shake her head.
“So, how have you liked the food?” asked Mother.
“Good,” replied Amanda, eyes fixed firmly in front of her.
“Nothing been giving you any stomach trouble?” Mother went on, watching Amanda from the opposite end of the couch.
“Nope.” Thank god.
“Oh, that’s good.”
Amanda didn’t respond. She just let the TV fill the silence once again.
Her father’s phone started ringing with its distinctive ringtone, the whistling theme song from one of those old Western movies he loved.
“Dear,” began Mother with a dangerous tone.
“I’m sorry, Dear. This is important.” He got rose from the couch and walked into the kitchen behind them as he pulled out his phone.
Amanda sank deeper into the charcoal grey couch. Her stomach gave her trouble if she tried to sit upright for extended periods of time. Standing is a pain, getting up is a pain, eating anything more solid that oatmeal is a pain. Fuck this.
Father’s voice echoed from the kitchen. “Tell him he’d better get his ass out of Caracas. The military didn’t have their thumbs up their asses, and we don’t want to endanger our other contracts.”
The capital of Venezuela? Overlord invaded there. What is Lock Corp doing in Caracas? Amanda kept herself from glancing at her mother. Don’t need to look like I’m listening in.
“Whatever our current contract says, it’s not enough. We’ll lose half our men to desertion if you want them to go up against their own country,” said Father, not bothering to hide his frustration.
Mother coughed and turned up the volume of the TV. Damn it. Amanda forced herself to relax.
“Yeah, we fucked up. Don’t need to tell me. Do what you need to do.” A pause. “Talk to you tomorrow.” Father rejoined them soon after.
“Sorry about that, Dear,” he said as he returned to Mother’s side. “Just a small problem at work.”
The end credits rolled on screen. “Well, I’m going to bed,” said Amanda. She braced her arms, preparing to get up.
“Would you like some help?” asked Mother, poised on the edge of her seat.
“I got it,” said Amanda. She gritted her teeth and pushed herself up off the couch with her arms. “See?”
“The doctors said to be careful, honey.”
“I’m being careful.”
Mother just pursed her lips. “It’s alright, dear. Goodnight, Amanda,” said Father with a parting wave.
Amanda nodded and left. She struggled up the stairs to her room. When did stairs get so hard? She caught her breath at the top before walking the rest of her way to her room. The lock clicked as she closed the door to her room behind her. Oh thank God. My stuff is still here, right? If they got suspicious and had one of their men go through here while I was having family fun time, this is going to be unpleasant. But they would have confronted me the moment they found anything. Whatever, doesn’t hurt to check.
At first glance, her room looked normal. If her parents had checked the room, there would have been no evidence of what she’d been up to every night for the past week immediately visible. She’d swept up the bits of plastic, wire, and tape and thrown them in the bottom of three different partially trash cans throughout the house. The three boxes of materials were safely hidden away, two beneath her bed, and another simply sitting in plain sight on her bookshelf.
She kneeled down grabbed that last box. Her stomach knotted as she lifted. She gritted her teeth and set it on her desk.
Everything still where it is? No tampering? Hell yes. She’d made progress in the last week. Not a great deal of progress, but it was progress nonetheless. She’d managed to patch two different broken circuit boards back together. What they would do would depend on how she tinkered with the wiring. She plopped down on her chair.
The railgun prototype, while promising from a purely technological standpoint, wouldn’t be practical for her situation. She’d stripped a bunch of wires of their plastic coating, trimmed them, and twisted them into two six inch long bundles. She’d attached five layers of tape for insulation on the old motherboard, then secured the wire bundles on top of them. This is not going to work. The motherboard is the sturdiest thing I have for now, and it’s way too unwieldy.
–The magnetic forces that would propel the projectile would also act on the rails. In addition, the projectile would travel along those rails at high speeds.–
What I have now won’t work. The rails aren’t secured properly. And the friction from the shot would destroy the bundles. My time is better spent on other stuff. This is a last resort kind of gadget. I haven’t even gotten a power source or trigger mechanism yet.
She pushed her prototype aside and pulled out the rest of her materials. Finding them hadn’t been too hard. People left batteries around everywhere, they just happened to be in appliances. She’d stripped half of the wiring out of her bathroom lighting. God, that was stupid dangerous. I hate working with live wires like that. But the best discovery she’d made by far was the half used roll of silver duct tape.
The problem was what she needed to do with those materials. She’d patched together the beginnings of an EMP device that could take out almost any electrical system in the general area of the house. Other than that, she had no direction, no end goal other than escape. I’m spinning my wheels. I’ve spent all my time getting materials, rather than figuring out what to do with those materials. I’ve got no plan or gadget worth talking about.
She slouched further into her chair and rubbed her temples. One problem at a time. How do I get out? What types of transportation are available to me? Easy, walking or driving. Walking is an absolute last ditch scenario. So driving it is.
New problem: how do I get a car? I could steal the keys. Easy. Keep it simple, stupid.
New problem: what if the unexpected happens? Just driving out is too easy. I need to analyze the situation. Find the keys, and find any security features around them and the cars. She prepared a mental checklist. The cars are in the garage. What kind of security do they have? Are there cameras inside? Guards? Fail safes? Lockdowns? I need to find ways around those.
New problem: What about the gatehouse on the edge of the property? How would I get past that? Walking over there would tip Mother and Father off. The guards probably have orders to keep me here. The house staff had been decidedly neutral towards Amanda. They went about their business quickly and quietly, and Amanda’s father controlled their paychecks. She had no doubts as to where their loyalties lay. I need a way to force that gate open.
New problem: What if I get stopped and they start asking questions? I’m a terrible liar. I need a way to defend myself. Maybe I should give that railgun more thought. But what am I going to do with that? Shoot someone? She glanced at her bathroom where her pills waited. Her abs burned as she tried to sit up straighter in her chair.
A sigh escaped her lips. Maybe I can make a taser. Something that’s not meant for shooting people. She checked over her things. I’ve got enough power. It’ll have to be a direct contact thing, rather than a gun. The only other thing missing right now that I can see is a way to switch it on and off. That shouldn’t be too bad.
New problem: what about people? The taser should be a last resort. How do I deal with all the security here? How do I make sure that no one sees me when I escape? Last time I just bluffed my way out to a friend waiting outside. No one on staff questioned me. I don’t have that luxury this time. Father will be suspicious and so will the staff. I need to keep their eyes on something else.
That’s the oldest trick in the book, though. No self-respecting security team would have all their attention on what could be a decoy. Just incapacitate them all? How? This is something I need to figure out. I’ll look for opportunities tomorrow when I check out the garage.
Amanda suppressed a yawn. Her clock only read 10:00 PM. No, I’ve been sleeping too much lately. No. She couldn’t suppress a second yawn. Her eyelids felt heavy, and her bed looked awfully comfy. It’s not as though I can get much done right now. Not that I got much done now.
She packed up her things and put the box back on its shelf. Several pills later, she flicked off the lights and flopped onto her bed.
Maybe I’m over thinking this. Maybe I could just ask to leave. But if I do that they’ll ask where I’d go. And then what am I supposed to say? I’m going to join those guys they think kidnapped me? And I’d be more surprised if they haven’t found that house I was renting in Westward. They’ll just flat out tell me no. They won’t even let me near a phone or computer.
She curled up further under her blanket.
What are the others doing? Are they even alright? No one mentioned anyone but me needing medical attention. I wonder if Rob still has my car. Did he ever get that grenade thing he was working on to work? He was still tinkering with that even as we were packing up to leave.
She gradually drifted off to sleep.
Breakfast the next day was accompanied by forced conversation with her parents to keep them off her back. After a half hour of Amanda’s one word answers, her father disappeared into his office while her mother left for some social event of hers.
With the coast all clear, Amanda walked over to the garage. She’d never actually seen her parents drive themselves, they had people for that. As such, Amanda had always gotten odd looks from the staff whenever she wandered off to the basement when she was younger. That’ll teach me for trying to get to know them.
She didn’t exactly try to hide, now, but she didn’t advertise her presence. She walked with as much purpose as she could muster; standing up straight kind of hurt. Garage opens up to the back of the house. The chauffeurs drive the cars up to the front whenever we need to get somewhere. She came upon a large and heavy white door. Should be this one.
She pushed open the door with her shoulder, not wanting to put strain on her stomach. An overhead light flicked on as it registered her movement. Five cars filled the expansive garage. There was room for a sixth, the one that Mother had taken into town. Amanda headed further into the garage, letting the door shut behind her.
Keys hung from hooks on the wall, just to the left of the door and above a tool chest and a crowbar. Oh, well, that’s easy enough. What do we have? She passed over the two large, black SUV’s. Why do government and mercenary spooks always go for those kind of cars? She also passed over the sleek sports car that probably cost more than most peoples’ homes. Too obvious. And Father would scorch the earth if I stole that.
The two remaining cars were still expensive, but not ‘the GDP of a small island nation’ expensive. Damn it, why don’t they have a Tesla? I would steal the shit out of a Tesla with no regrets. Either one would work, she wasn’t picky about normal cars.
No way in hell it’s this easy. She looked around the garage. If there were cameras, they were well hidden. The rough, whitewash walls were uniform, no dark discolorations to indicate a normal size camera hole. That wasn’t to say there wasn’t a tiny camera watching her right at that moment, but given the fact that they left the keys out, security didn’t seem concerned about potential threats from inside the house. Mother and Father don’t want to be watched in their own home, I guess I can’t argue with that.
She noted a large grey metal box on the ground in the corner of the garage, by the exit. What is this? She walked over and leaned down to inspect it. Her fingers ran over a small stamp on the side. It’s a motor of some kind. For what? The box resisted all of her attempts to open it. She couldn’t even find any screws. Well, it’s electric, if that voltage on the side is any indication. I can knock it out.
One last sweep of the garage yielded nothing new. She exited the garage and nearly collided with a passing guard the instant she stepped back into the house.
“Whoa!” Confusion clouded his face for a moment before he recognized her. “Oh. Excuse me, ma’am.” He nodded to her as he rushed by. Something about him caught Amanda’s eye.
Earpieces! I can mess with those. How did I not think of them before? How many times have I burned out batteries and USB ports? She felt a smile form on her face as the guard turned a corner and vanished from sight. I think I found my distraction.
Amanda rushed into her room. After locking it and pulling out her materials, she sat down and rubbed her hands together.
Energy shock tuned to the guards’ earpieces. That will make them overheat and probably catch fire. Since that’s something burning inside their heads, that will mess them up very quickly. That will also mess with their communication. They’ll assume they’re under attack, because why wouldn’t they? That’s a very deliberate action, not a freak malfunction. This place is meant to be a fortress, not a prison. They’re focused on external threats, not internal tampering.
I can use the EMP right after to nuke any lockdown mechanisms they have. The confusion will give me a chance to slip into the garage, steal a car, and get out. I’ll keep the EMP range to just the house. I need the gate motor working to get out. I’ll only have a problem once I reach the gatehouse. Smaller energy shock? Taser? Why not both?
I think I can do this. She grabbed a thin wire, pinched it with her pliers, and began wrapping it around the tip. This transistor is going to be slapdash as hell, but it only needs to work once.
It took her until the evening of the next day, but by then she was ready. She’d swiped an unused power strip from a storage closet and still had every outlet in her room plugged in. The three devices she’d made were the most cobbled together and rickety things she’d ever created, but they worked as much as she could tell when she test them in secrecy.
The taser was a little handheld thing meant for jabbing, not a gun. But she’d tweaked two standard batteries, wired them to an amplifier she’d made out of more wire and scavenged components, and finally to electrodes at the end. The whole setup was firmly taped to a wooden ruler.
Not the sturdiest thing, but it’s not exactly meant to be a knife, either. It’s meant more for poking. It’s only got enough charge for two or three hits, too. This is a last resort. She hooked it to her belt.
The two other devices were sprawling messes of coiled multicolored wires and tape, centered around the few circuit boards she had available, on the white carpet.
The energy generator she’d tested on a few small batteries she’d dug out of her clock. They’d burst into flame nearly instantly, but she’d been ready with a soaking towel before the smoke could get anywhere near the smoke detectors. The test a success, she’d extended the range and power of the device. All she had to do now was plug it in.
The EMP was smaller and more manageable than the other gadget. She’d made enough of them to be able to cobble one together in her sleep. She’d also hardened nearly anything she made against them for years, so her taser, barring any fuck ups, would work as planned.
That’s that. Amanda took one last look at the note she’d written for her parents on her desk. Mother and Father are having private time right now. They’ll be nice and flustered. She picked up the final cable for the energy pulse and plugged it in.
Silence reigned in her room for a moment. The batteries of her taser started to warm. Then she heard a yell, followed by another. There it is.
She hit the EMP’s trigger, the on/off switch she’d torn out of her bathroom, a few seconds later. A hum filled the air, then promptly died. The lights stayed on, as well as the energy pulse. Oh no. The batteries of her taser warmed even more. She yanked the energy pulse’s plug.
Do or die. Gotta move. She grabbed her backpack and rushed out, closing the door to her room behind her. The rest of the house was chaos. Frantic shouts and screams filled the air. A couple guards, out of their traditional dark suits, rushed past her and towards her parents’ room. Amanda ran down the stairs and towards the basement.
Not all of them had earpieces in. Damn it.
“Lock it down, lock it down!” someone bellowed elsewhere in the house. Shit. Fuck. Son of bitch.
She reached the basement as an alarm sounded, a red blinking light that filled the house, along with a sharp high pitched tone. A small fire licked at the walls, abovea broken earpiece. Other than a small smear of blood on the wall, there was no sign of its former owner. Shit. Nothing I can do about that now. She ran to the garage.
An arm stopped her. She let out small scream. The arm spun her around, and she found herself face to face with a guard.
“Ma’am, what are you doing?” he asked, blood trickling down from his ear.
Uh. “I think… something upstairs,” she said in desperation, pointing behind her.
“Get somewhere safe,” said the guard, rushing off to where she’d pointed.
Amanda blinked. That worked! She reached the garage without any more encounters. Once inside, she grabbed the keys and hopped into a car. She hit the button of the garage door opener as she started the engine. The garage door lifted to reveal another set of dark metal doors. Shit, lockdown. I don’t have time for this.
She jumped back out of the car and stared at the doors for a moment. What… that weird box in the corner by the door! Maybe that. She ran over to it.
It hummed beneath her hands. It’s way too small to be a motor for those doors. A maintenance thing? Whatever. Her probing hands couldn’t find any way in, just like last time. It’s got to be connected to something. Her eyes lit up. It’s probably connected to something in the wall. And this is just drywall right here. The armor is on the outside.
Amanda grabbed a crowbar and swung it at the wall above the box. Her stomach screamed in protest. Two more swings and she had opened up a hole large enough for her to see into.
She caught her breath for a moment while the pain subsided, then looked in. OK, OK, focus. How does this work?
Her power buzzed, blitzing her with information. No, I need to… oh! Reverse the signal. She grabbed a couple wires between the box and wall and yanked them free.
Please work. She shoved one back in the place of another, then took two and tapped the exposed ends together. Come on, come on. The motor hummed, and the thick emergency doors began to rise. Fuck yeah.
She scrambled to the car. The heavy metal doors had rose to about half the car’s height, far too slowly for her taste. She beat her hands against the car wheel. Behind her, the door to the garage opened. Nope. She slammed her foot on the accelerator and barreled out of the garage.
She headed towards the back entrance. As her headlights fell on the guardhouse, a guard came out, gun drawn. Amanda pulled to a stop and readied her taser.
The woman approached the door as Amanda rolled down her window. She lowered her gun once she saw who was driving.
“What the hell?” the guard asked. “What’s going on?” She leaned over, one hand on the roof of the car, the other on door.
Amanda waved her free hand in front of her. “Well, there was, uh,” she stalled. A green light appeared on her taser, out of sight of the guard. She jabbed it at the woman’s hand. The woman went down, spasming.
That’s one guard. Amanda got out of the car, taser hid behind her back. She leaned over the fallen guard.
“What the fuck?” yelled the second guard as he rushed out of the guardhouse.
“She just collapsed.”
“Out of the way,” said the guard, brushing Amanda aside and leaning over the woman. Perfect. Amanda jabbed her taser into his neck. He, too, went down. Now I just need to get that gate open. I got those garage doors open, these won’t be that bad.
Amanda pulled into the alleyway. She needed to ditch the car before the police came looking for it. They probably were already. I hope Rob got that message, otherwise I’m walking. I can’t believe there were only enough coins in the car for one call.
Something large passed by overhead as she got out of the car.
“Amanda!” cried out Olivia as she landed in front of her with arms outstretched.
“Gentle, gentle.” Olivia crouched down and wrapped her arms around Amanda’s shoulders in a firm hug, rather than her traditional bone shattering one. She seems taller. Amanda returned her hug. Her hand scraped against something hard on Olivia’s back.
Before she could ask what that was, Olivia said, “I missed you so much. Where were you? Are you OK?” Olivia released her and tilted her head to the side.
“I’m fine. It’s a long story.”
A large truck pulled up behind Amanda. She spun around. Rob grinned as he poked his head out of the window. “That’s a really nice car,” he said.