Authors: Michael G. Munz
Red Muse Press
Seattle, WA 2016
COPYRIGHT 2016 MICHAEL G. MUNZ
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Cover Design by Amalia Chitulescu
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.
Library of Congress Control Number:
The New Aeneid Cycle
To mention everyone who played some part in
A Dragon at the Gate
's lengthy gestation process would take far too long. That said, I must recognize the following: my beta-readers Brian, Cain, Gareth, Joe, Sher, and Tom; my Twitter followers near and wide, who are always there to provide excellent moral support (or at least terrible jokes); the whole gang at the Super Awesome Geek Show, especially the always-enthusiastic Christina and John; David Taylor once again, who let me steal his name this time; all of my fellow former-Booktropians, thank you for your knowledge, camaraderie, support, and cider-bacon.
As always, thank you to the fans who've been waiting so patiently to find out how it all ends.
Lastly, this being the third book, I must mention my great, great, great(?) uncle Michael Flynn who, as I understand, had the claim to fame of being onboard the U.S.S. Maine when it exploded in 1898. He had a great name, which I obviously could not resist borrowing.
“THOSE ARE SIRENS.”
“Aye,” Caitlin said. “Ambulance, I’d wager. Horizon is right across from a hospital, ducks.”
Felix shook his head. “Wrong kind of sirens. And my memory’s not so bad that I don’t know where Horizon is. I also remember that it’s on the fifth through tenth floors of the Aria Building and that I once dropped my cheeseburger riding the elevator.”
Michael searched the taxi’s passenger side mirror for the source of the sirens. “Why were you eating a cheeseburger in an elevator?”
“Why wasn’t there bacon on it? That’s a better question.”
Michael grinned despite their problems. His memory troubles aside, Felix was, at least, still Felix. Only a few days had passed since the experience on the Moon that linked Felix’s memory implant to Gideon’s memory. Though the procedure appeared to have saved Gideon, after a period of unconsciousness Felix had woken completely unable to remember the previous two hours, and with holes in his recollection of the time before that.
The sirens, whatever their source, were growing nearer.
“How often do you get that implant checked?” Michael asked.
“Every few months,” Felix said, “unless there’s a problem like this.”
“He had his last one perhaps a week and a half ago,” Caitlin added.
“No I didn’t, I—” Felix stopped. “Oh.”
In the back seat, beside Felix, Caitlin sighed. “Bollocks, I wish we’d been able to find Ondrea.”
Michael nodded. They’d hoped to find Gideon’s sister on Sunrise Station upon their return to Earth orbit, but Ondrea had vanished. “She probably bugged out with the rest of the Marquand group.”
“Horizon’s better anyway,” said Felix. “They did the work originally. Ondrea just used the data.”
“To bring Gideon back from the dead,” Caitlin added.
“You don’t have to keep checking what I remember, Caitlin.”
“Aye, Felix, I do.”
Michael nodded. “And if she didn’t, I would.”
It wasn’t like Michael could do anything else. He wasn’t a scientist. The sum of Gideon’s memories made Gideon the man he was. If Felix’s implant failed and somehow took Felix’s own memories with it, what would happen to the friend that Michael knew?
“We’re nearly there,” Felix said. “They’ll fix this, don’t worry.”
No one spoke. Michael wondered if Caitlin sensed the same lack of conviction in her boyfriend’s voice that he did.
Moments later, the taxi pulled up to the curb in front of the Aria Building. Thirty stories of blue steel and glass towered above a dais of concrete, landscaped with shrubs and sapling maples whose wilt spoke of better days. Sure enough, Northgate’s Corporate Mercy Hospital sat across the street in the Aria’s shadow.
They were out of the taxi in moments. “Go,” Michael told Caitlin and Felix as he stopped to pay the driver. “I’ll catch up.”
The two nodded and then trotted up the sidewalk that stretched along the landscaped section, toward the stairs that led up to the building’s entrance. It was the same direction from which the sirens were approaching.
They did sound different from ambulance sirens.
Michael finished paying the driver, turned to follow his friends, and then realized the reason for the difference. A silver convertible tore around the street corner ahead. Tires screeched and metal slammed into metal as two other cars swerved out of its way, only to collide with each other instead. Gunfire exploded from an assault rifle braced on the convertible’s driver’s side door. Bullets shattered windows and pedestrians alike. In the convertible’s wake followed the flashing blue and violet lights of two red and black CPMC response cruisers.
With CPMC involved, the convertible’s driver had likely gone full-bore CP: an explosion of irrational, psychopathic violence, borne of cybernetic overload that would not stop until he burned himself out or CPMC put him down.
Cybernetic Psychoses Monitoring and Control: that was their job. Michael had witnessed a CPMC response team’s ruthless efficiency once before. They would stop the driver, yes, but would it be fast enough? Michael yelled a warning to Caitlin and Felix and dashed toward them into danger.
Caitlin dragged Felix into the cover of the landscaped section just off the sidewalk. The two hunkered down with a few others against the concrete wall between them and the steps of the Aria Building. Michael’s shoes pounded the pavement as he closed the distance. A handful of the corporate freelancers guarding the building—contracted Aegis Security, by their uniforms—had already dashed out of its front doors to take up positions atop the stairs.
The convertible plunged down the street, only moments away. The driver fired another burst from the rifle into an oncoming car and then swerved left to avoid another. Tires squealed and people scattered as the convertible launched up the Aria Building’s front steps. It got halfway to the doors before screeching to a metal-mangling stop against the steel railing that ran up the center. An airbag burst into the driver’s face, and augmented arms ripped it to shreds a moment later. The driver’s eyes blazed. Curses erupted from his lungs.
Michael reached his friends and hunkered down beside them.
“I remember what those sirens are for now!” Felix shouted.
“Just stay down!”
Michael risked a look over the edge of the wall. The CPMC cruisers rushed to a stop on the curb below the stairs. Two officers in black and red armor scrambled out and dropped into defensive positions behind each cruiser. The convertible driver screamed again and fired toward them in a spasm of bullets that either punched into the cruisers or went wide. Screams of passersby rained through it all.