Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time out of Place - Chapter 12

Chapter 12

"Father Jordan! It's good to see you again. And may I introduce an old friend of Alfred's who is helping on spotting and tracking the Terminator? He is Peter Smith," Father Casull said in the study at the back of the Mission Father Jordan ran.

"It's good to meet you, Father Jordan," said Mr. Smith extending his hand.

The older Priest had stood up when they entered and shook his hand.

"Any friend of Alfred's is welcome here, Peter. And Father Casull it is good to see you," the two men exchanged handshakes and single handed hugs. Father Casull took out the manila envelope for Father Jordan, and his own.

"That is the updated data as of an hour ago, Father Jordan. We heard that more was coming in, but decided not to wait. I am more than willing to act as courier today," Father Casull said smiling, "plus I believe that Mr. Smith has some valuable contacts to help us in case we are needed as a final, desperate measure."

They had all seated themselves in chairs in the main part of the study.

Father Jordan looked at Peter Smith.

"Yes, you do have that look about you. Even on the UK side there is just something about people in certain lines of business that just always show up, although differently."

"Well, I did retire a few years ago from that line of work, Father Jordan," Mr. Smith started, "but, I believe I have a few contacts who would believe me in certain quarters on something like this. I'm not given to fantastical claims or outlandish fantasies."

"No doubt, Mr. Smith. So what do you need, here?"

Peter Smith sat back and put his arms on the arms of the chair and bridged his fingers together in front of his face.

"Well, I will probably do a walking early examination of the area here this morning. Father Jordan, I could use some help in knowing the rough outlines of bad spots, gangs and whatever else goes with them. Some basic map with notes should do. I will pick up some local clothes before I come back, change, put a small kit together and then seek to blend in and disappear into the woodwork. Then I will find a good, central location to situate myself, and wait for a call for the basic area this Terminator will be in. I think, by size, that will be on the south island, but I could be wrong, so will have to do a walk around the north, too."

"Not by car?" asked Father Casull.

Mr. Smith smiled, "We just came from about a mile away at the Wayne Tower, and you saw the way the streets and traffic are here, Father Casull. No, if the Terminator drives into the area, once it stops, it will be all on foot from there. And as Gotham is just a bit too small for bicycles to be of use, that would only attract attention. I saw how many people were walking from all classes, and that indicates that cars and bicycles are neither a good choice for the city. If you need to go from the Sound side to the Land side, you either catch a cab or walk."

"I had never thought of it like that," said Father Jordan, "but its true. There are a couple of bicycle courier services, but there is so little in-town cross-town need that they fight over accounts. The alley ways are too littered to be safe by bikes, and that litter prevents car traffic, too. Its been that way for years... at least since the mid-1950's," said Father Jordan.

"This is so different from Los Angeles! Very crowded if you are driving and yet it seems more open when walking. And the alleys, while dark, do offer the light of the next block... I can see why crime is such a problem here," Father Casull said, "the biker gangs would be eaten alive in this environment. Too conspicuous by day, and one bad alley at night..."

Father Jordan nodded.

"One tried to set up in the late 60's, but most of their members were found dead in alleys and their motorcycles disappeared into the chop shops. I forget which one, but it swore off of Gotham City."

Mr. Smith nodded.

"Just so. I will be carrying minimal supplies with me, but will have the cell phone, although I did put it in that non-ringing mode. I have the rest of my street essentials with me and travel light. I may need a place to bed down for the night, Father Jordan, in case its arrival is delayed, and I think a cot or mat with wool blanket in the Mission should be satisfactory, along with the other indigents. I left my paper work with Alfred and suggest that one of the sets here is locked up and the other kept as a working file in a locked drawer. Beyond that I have a tourist map and should be able to do the morning on my own. Any major cautions for Gotham City?"

Father Jordan chuckled.

"Stay out? But really, stay out of the Warrens and Shambles area by the Interstates. Those neighborhoods were partially bulldozered and then bridged over, and the older street arrangement is gone there. The city hasn't gotten around to fixing those up, and they are not safe places at all, even for the gang members. The north side, or Land side, first block or two are pretty rough and havens for the rougher criminal elements. The south side, or Sound side, docks and wharfs are in a pretty bad state, but only see criminal activity when there is incoming goods, though some of that is by motorboat across the Sound and not major shipping. Corporate docks are well lit and maintained, and are a general no-go for criminals, but no safe house for the general population. Beyond that, most of the street thugs don't bother with the really down and out as there is no profit in it, and the youth gangs have been terrorized the last few years by the Batman."

"Ah, the urban legend?" asked Peter Smith.

"Oh, heavens, if an urban legend can lift a limousine forty feet up to a non-working crane and take down nearly a hundred hoodlums and Mafia operators in a single night, then we really do need more of those," said Father Casull.

Peter Smith frowned and blinked.

"Come again?" he asked.

Father Jordan reached back and handed Mr. Smith a copy of the Gotham Enquirer.

The headline was 'Mafia Boss Round-Up by Batman' with a sub-headline, 'Don Amelio Prays for Sanctuary of Jail'.

Mr. Smith scanned the stories, started smiling, chuckling and shook his head from side to side.

"I stand corrected, and appears I really should be in the Confessional. Perhaps when I get back I can get some sufficient time to tire one of you out for an hour or so. I did not expect a Being of the Night to be present here."

Father Jordan sat back on the pillow.

"If you get stuck facing down the Terminator, you will need it," he said.

A sour look went over Mr. Smith's face as he folded the paper.

"My thoughts exactly. I have put that off for far too long..."

* * *

Loren walked into the secure area conference room, seeing Alfred Ken, Martin, Sarah, Anne and Lucius there.

"Ok, who doesn't have something to do?" she asked.

They had been discussing the equipment needed for Sarah's apartment, when she had walked in.

"Kyle, Don and Richard are each maximally busy and the throughput is lousy. I still haven't even gotten the first batch of test rounds done yet. I need someone for placing, packing and running the loader, so that is at least two more someones. I would like to know, before noon, if this stuff actually works and if it does we will then have about four hours of very busy time going on, possibly more. Plus I have the prototype rounds from WDS, so Sarah needs range time on that mule-kicker she tried out yesterday as its the only thing that is more or less a handgun that cycles 50 BMG."

The others were looking between them.

"I will be tending to Mr. Wayne when he gets up, in an hour or two. I'm not one for the long range work jobs, although I can be here until he calls for me and direct calls around."

"I will be going with Martin to set up equipment at Sarah's apartment. Mostly unobtrusive audio and video feeds," said Lucius, "and I will need to get a technician or two to help from WT."

Loren looked at Ken, Martin, Anne and Sarah.

"Good! And anyone going for that trap will need to familiarize themselves with weapons, equipment and getting some basic coordination done between them. Kyle can help on that once we get the loads tried-out, and in production. Once we get a reliable load, then its going to be everyone in the pressing, fitting and placing loaded rounds into magazines or boxes. After that I'm sure Kyle can get some basic coordination between team members in firefights set up, and we will have a lovely late afternoon of simulating Sarah's apartment."

They all looked at each other, quizzically.

"If you want to stay alive, this needs to be done now. Since I'm the one who has to get the basics done, I need your warm bodies, able hands, and soon your nimble bodies and occupied hands so we can all get through this. I hope, to hell, we get more time. But if we don't then we get a real, nasty surprise when everyone is here talking when they should be loading."

"She does have a point," Martin said getting up, "and I can help Kyle once we get a set load and things running on the small batch system."

Sarah stood up and started walking to Loren.

"You really have something that can hurt it?" she asked.

"I think so. I trust Tony and Charlie on this. Lucius, we need a waver for an M1A1 from WDS. I have a semi-auto version, but want the full for cycling try-outs."

Anne and Ken got up from their chairs, as it was coming home to them that the lives on the line went beyond that of Sarah Connor. Straight to them and everyone they cared about.

"Keep us updated down there, would ya, Alfred? I'll send up someone when you leave, so we have the phone and recording part covered. I figure people will be coming up here for any major updates, but our next meeting will be for deployment, probably around 5ish this afternoon."

"That sounds about right, Loren. Thanks for doing this as I was too busy with the details to think it through," said Lucius.

"Figured as much. I need good test loads and the guys are fumblefingers with foam and DU needles. Ok, its time for the dull work..." she said walking out of the conference room.

"Just were did we pick her up?" asked Lucius.

"I think Mr. Wayne found her on an island in the Pacific going after the last Japanese still fighting World War II. Either there or Lexington, Kentucky."

* * *

Loren walked in, saying, "Help has arrived!"

Richard, Don and Kyle turned to look, Kyle by the sink and measurement arrangement, Richard at the seat at the large table, Don at a seat by a side table and they all smiled.

"Welcome to Purgatory," said Richard.

"That it is," said Loren, "dullest place in the after-life. She turned to look at the four that followed her.

"What we have is a work slowdown due to too much to do and too few hands. Now we will fix that. Anne, you look good with relatively fine work, and so do you, Ken. I want the two of you to help Richard in the fitting area. Its pretty simple, but exacting. All that needs to be done is a DU needle placed in four pieces of foam, a temporary band put around it, that then encased in a thin piece of light weight construction paper, the band then taken off and put on over that and the final piece fitted into the plastic cup and put in a tray. Since we don't have paper cut to fit, that is why we have the paper cutter. The dimensions are listed, they just need to be marked and followed. The three of you should be able to sort that out," she nodded over to Richard who was smiling, but already looked exhausted.

"Martin, that leaves you to help Kyle and Don with the inner and outer measurements of the casings, through cleaning and drying and final measurements. We have some new, heavier casings coming in, but we can get at least twenty to twenty five percent of the current ones within those tolerances. Normally this is a spare time hobby for all the cartridge types we have here, and we buy spent casings by the bulk lot. Martin I'll trust you to get the final washed pieces up to spec."

Martin nodded, "Purgatory it is. Using dessicated air for the clean out?"

"Yes, we have a little nozzle there attached to a tank of the stuff. Nice and dry for final fit check. The three bins are those that are within what we want, those that are normal and those below normal spec. Keith's spare time project is light target loads, and those will do for that. Any defects go in the waste brass bin."

There was a rack with a growing number of casings on it that Don took for final checking and sorting. The three bins for 'keepers' only had a few casings in each, and barely five in the target bin for the project.

Loren turned to Sarah.

"Now you have that mule kicker to get used too. I'm going to get you gloves and have gel packs ready in case of bruises and strain. Since you are firing rifle ammo out of a short barrel, you will get powder igniting outside of the barrel, which you have experienced on the six round test with that yesterday. I want you to put about fifty rounds of standard ball ammo through before we try the armor piercing. I do have a few bolt action fifties, basically sniper rifles or anti-material rifles, and I will be cracking those open for myself, Don."

Loren stopped for a moment.

"Say, Kyle, you any good with with a fifty?"

Kyle turned to look at her.

"For field work, yes, but not for sniping. We didn't have many of those around, really, though the few left were very, very good."

"How about a full auto forty-five? I figure we can let you have the one from WDS, good for close-in and precision work."

"Yeah, thats a better fit, I think."

"Right. So, Sarah, while you are putting rounds down range, I'll be hauling out the rifles. I'll get some rounds down range, then close the lanes to set up some armor plate we have sitting around as an, ahhh... 'aggression management system'. Just quarter inch, but we have a lot of that, and I'll make some with sheet styrofoam between to see how what happens on the other side. By then there should be enough for a custom fill of ten rounds so I can try low-side of six and then high side of it. I'll just use a standard Colt for those. Hopefully, around one or two we will have the M1A1 and I'll do some tests with that and finally settle on something for both that and standard forty-fives. I expect you'll be pretty tired after the first few rounds, Sarah. Rest and get used to it, as that will be your protector: big, noisy, flashy, and you will probably want long sleeves with it so your skin isn't burned by powder. You can always come back and wash, cut, fit, measure..."

Everyone was finding chairs, learning in low tones about the work, and sorting out who would start where and do what. Loren took Sarah down to the storage area and outfitted her with hearing protection, and eye protection.

"You'll need inserts, not ear muffs, so better get used to it," she said handing over a handful of boxes, "some people use tape, others just really crush them in. We will probably have a nice, electronic rig for you for communicating at the apartment, that will fit the protection in and around the ear piece. I have a few of those here, but for now standard protection will do."

They had gotten to the storage locker, and Loren saw that Keith had cleaned the gun, and she took it out, and fished out the three magazines for it. Most racks usually had more pistols or revolvers behind the first, but solo ones had their equipment on hangers. The gun and magazines went into a small pack that was at the back of the hanging rod. Then it was to the rear and red lockers where Loren re-opened one of them and took out an ammo can marked '50 BMG'.

"There you go! Knock out some paper for awhile, then we will switch to armor then the armor piercing."

Sarah was looking a bit dazed.

"It really is coming, isn't it?" she said softly.

Loren smiled and talked very softly.

"Yes, it is, Sarah. You won't be alone, but you do have to do your part."

Sarah breathed in heavily.

"I will. How could I let all of you down after what you have done for me?"

* * *

Bruce Wayne had, actually, gotten up before noon, and ensured that his chef had contacted the people on the project for a custom meal to be sent to them, wherever they may be. Chef Gerard had been more than happy to have Mr. Wayne use his services and to provide necessary meals to others that needed them. Those could, often, be a challenge, but that was what being the Chef for Bruce Wayne and the Executive Chef for the Wayne Corporation restaurants and cafeterias was all about. From simple deli set-ups to parties for 1,000, be it a daily need or one-time event, Chef Gerard had applied for the job for the diversity of talent and requirements that would be handed to him. Doing that well, keeping within budget and having happy diners was what the job was all about.

Bruce Wayne had a protein rich breakfast, necessary after his nightly exertions and even he was a bit shocked and amused by the way the stories were being told. More than one reporter was putting on a tone of the supernatural about the exploits and even one historian was interviewed about some monster from the depths that could have put a bite down in the parking lot of the KK establishment. The secondary raids sparked off by those of last night had been ongoing throughout the morning and looked to be continuing into the afternoon. By having so many members of the Families and other Organizations that were so high up implicated in everything from simple narcotics smuggling to conspiracy to commit fraud, extortion, and a host of other crimes, the work put put before the police, DA and, he was sure, Federal officials would be immense.

Lucius arrived just as he was finishing breakfast to go over the reports from other police departments on the Terminator, and from Sgt. Rock and Vivian. Scanning over the reports he read the parts from Terra Haute and Indianapolis with interest. He looked across the table at Lucius and Alfred arrived after consulting with the Chef.

"Chef Gerard will be busy for the next hour or so, I would imagine," said Alfred.

"Good, these people will be busy and I don't want them to forget lunch. Alfred, Lucius, these reports from Indiana are recent. Have you had a chance to read them, yet?"

The two men looked at Bruce.

"Yes I have, Master Bruce," said Alfred.

"So have I," said Lucius, "and something isn't making sense with them."

Bruce nodded.

"We will have to ask Kyle, but this activity does not appear to be something I would expect from a purpose driven machine. It went from LA all the way to Indiana before doing this. Why now? What use does it have for a newspaper and tourist brochures? And why a tape recorder? Or the visit to the library? Is that just information gathering? And quickly targeting Wayne Corporation... that I can understand... but the Guide to Science? The new vehicle I can see, given Vivian's addition to the report, but... there is just too much that doesn't fit together."

"Bruce," said Lucius, "I think that you may be reading too much into its activities. It is finding inconsistencies with its mission and the set-up around it and is trying to figure it out. While it doesn't have a number of professional people to consult, it does have good sources that are freely available at any library. For it, the understanding is simple and straightforward, I should think, but the meaning behind that understanding very complex. We are used to the complexity, but how simple it can be often escapes us."

"Lucius is, by and large, right on that, Master Bruce. But I do have some feeling that it is grasping the complexities, also."

"How do you mean?" asked Bruce.

"As it goes across country it has changed its outlook more than once, for all that most of its time is on the Interstate. First it changes from a direct killing machine, seen in Los Angeles all the way to Las Vegas, and into its infiltration mode. That it had done at Grand Junction, CO, and if it had not left the car where it could be identified easily, we still would not have a good idea where it is. Now, in Indianapolis, it gains fresh information and changes its infiltration mode in a way where the vehicle it is leaving behind will not be readily traced. An old truck in a scrap yard is not something that will, most likely, become an easy re-sale vehicle, and even if it does, that is days or longer away. Any conventional police force, already two steps behind it, will now have been permanently misled until it acts in an obvious fashion. As we have seen from the FBI reports, there are many trucks on the road that fit the description given, especially at night, and the one they want hasn't been found. Unless the FBI makes a connection between the last LA killing and the direction of the Terminator, there will be no way they can stop it. And even with FBI protection for Sarah, the Terminator would just step into the line of fire to kill her as nothing the FBI would use could stop it."

Lucius nodded.

"The FBI still hasn't made that connection," Lucius started, "They are under the assumption that this is someone using normal human oriented escape ideas to keep out of their grasp. No one there really believes it will drive across country to get at the Sarah Connor at the last address it hit. Most killers with psychological disturbances aren't that good at hiding while on the run, preferring a set methodology to stay out of view. The Terminator has killed directly, openly, twice, three times at night, and only starts with two Sarah Connors. Next a Matt and Ginger, then a Mike and a Lowell. That isn't a pattern one can easily grasp and even very mentally disturbed people will not just kill their way to things as there is too high a chance of getting caught. It killed six times in two days in a non-pattern killing. The FBI analysts must be going nuts on this, and the changes of cars especially to one so innocuous that they can't find it."

Sitting back, Bruce Wayne considered that for a moment.

"And we wouldn't have picked it up if it weren't for our knowledge and a mountain lion attack. Vivian did help narrow things down, and we might have picked it up... possibly... but checking every vehicle that passes would have been difficult, even at night with low amounts of traffic. If it had delayed so much as two hours for any reason, that chance would be near zero. Alfred, Lucius, I am coming to see how you are thinking on this. I hadn't thought it would be adaptable on that sort of basis."

"It clearly is, Master Bruce, and has demonstrated that once you think about it."

"Do either of you think it knows Sarah works here, directly? That it may by-pass her apartment and come directly here?"

"I would think that is a bit too public, Bruce," said Lucius, "having too much chance of actually being observed and reacted to. Stopped is another question, of course, but if its job is to kill Sarah Connor, then a building this size has far too many escape routes. We do the emergency drills twice a year and security would attempt to contain it and allow people from the upper floors to escape. In that sort of chaos, it couldn't be assured of doing its job."

"It is an infiltration unit," Alfred said, "it would choose here, just as it did in Los Angeles and go to her living quarters where people do tend to feel safe. Attack then, and the mission has a near certainty of success."

Bruce came to a decision.

"Lucius, I know you will be going to oversee installation of the audio and video equipment in Sarah's apartment. I'm coming along to see what that looks like, not just her apartment but the surrounding environment. I don't think I've done much work in the mid-south central."

Lucius nodded.

"It is mostly apartment and office space. She lives at the Lyon Apartment building, 12th street between Sweyn and Grant. Mostly working man's district, with some lower middle-class families which makes it hard for youth gang penetration. Mostly loan sharking, some numbers running and betting are the main forms of crime there. The Families and Organizations know that its good for low-level but steady income and send their own enforcers to break up gangs when they pop up."

"That used to be how much of Gotham was, back in the 1920's and '30's," Alfred said, "and it was only the liquor that got organized crime a deep foothold in Gotham City. Your father would talk about that and what his father experienced here. The rise of organized crime on a large scale changed Gotham from a rough but livable city to one that was violent and marginal at best."

"It did at that," Bruce said, "Alfred I want you on coordinating duty, and make sure the people at the Range get a real meal this afternoon. Also ask Kyle about the updates... everyone, really... I will be out with Lucius and have someone get me floorplans of the apartment as its laid out... not designed. I take it that Mr. Smith is on the job?"

"That he is, Master Bruce. That he is."

* * *

Peter Smith was sitting on a bench on the wharf drying off. It had been a good morning, and that now was turning into afternoon, although the cloud cover starting to roll in pointed to it not being a warm nor sunny mid-day or evening. Not that it mattered, much, save for discomfort. His training, now nearly two decades in the past (and what a wonder that was!) and his career had led him to many places, to meet many people and to see what could be done about situations. That life had become dissatisfying for many reasons, the prime being that the two 'sides' slowly morphed into strange mirrors of each other, until telling left from right was nearly a pointless exercise, and so he had resigned. He had been waylaid on his journey from undercover to underemployed, and a year or so finally did convince the community that this was not yet another 'cover mission': he had left that life behind.

Now his life in the Caribbean centered on what dock he would pull into, if Her Majesty's Exchequer had gotten his monthly payment right, and if there were any of the normal sort of jobs to do to augment that. Gone was the place in London, the lovely car he had built and all the intrigue and questionable romance of the life of covert agent. Almost all of the missions were not so much 'covert' as 'get in there and do something and survive', thus the need for deep language skills wasn't as high as it would have been on the more covert side. Rarely did he ply the old trade, but when a friend needed a spot of help, well, that is what friends are for, isn't it?

The reminder of the Saigon mission by Martin Carstairs was a bit of a shock, but it was one of those 'retrieve the defector, watch red-on-red-on-red confrontation, put defector on one flight with another agent and divert attention by going on another flight. That was his second mission to the area, the first involving some diamond smuggling ring, a local warlord and the latter being insane and not caring about the former. He had met Alfred Pennyworth on that trip as he was looking into problems with Wayne Industries, at that time, trying to get other materials out of the area and the local warlord interfering. While no professional, Alfred had stayed alive and even saved him, so he chalked it up to beginner's luck and formed a friendship that would last long via notes and messages, and another go-around of a confluence of events in Africa a year after the Saigon mission.

Getting called in for something like Alfred had called him about was unusual as he had never needed Peter's professional skills, beyond those on the job, that is. But a stipend from Bruce Wayne would put him in a much easier stance on boat repairs and even cause a bit less grubbing around for work, although that was a pleasure on its own. After the meetings, and those were a staple no matter what the mission, he found the good luck of being centrally situated in Gotham at Father Jordan's mission. He had far worse placements by professional staff in Her Majesty's Service, and the couple of hours he had to first just walk around and procure some clothing, and then get a nice map of the major areas where Mafia and other Organizations of the criminal sort operated had been all to the good. Upon leaving he went to the one place that would establish his disguise, as such.

Most people didn't need face paint, make-up, latex or any of the other things often seen in theatrical and television productions to go unnoticed. Really, just don't stick out and you get that immediately. Of course it helps if you change into local costume, which in this case was older clothing that had seen better days and purchased from a Salvation Army store or other local concern, which was old boots, ancient socks, woolen trousers that were some shade of brown and made before the second world war if not the first, an old turtleneck sweater of some dark color, and one of those large Army surplus jackets that became the coat of choice for the down-and-out. Put on an old, black knit cap, and you had the perfect disguise. But it needed to be worn in, so a trip to the local gym that had boxing featured, and an hour of hard workout sparring with the local champ had done him a world of good with light bruises, tousled hair and a feeling of having had a good workout. He put the gym trunks in the pocket of the jacket, disdained the showers and dressed himself taking the padlock off of the locker.

Yes, the aroma of sweaty individual was hard to miss, but trying to disappear required more than just that. So he found himself at the wharf, finding a nice low dock, taking off his boots and socks, leaving various other necessities in his boots, also and took a quick dunk. In no time at all he had the aroma of an 'old salt' who had decided to jump ship in Gotham some time ago. He looked like one and, more importantly, he smelled like one. Now, with his clothes nearly just damp, was a good time to wander more around Gotham, starting at the Lyon Apartment building where Sarah Connor had an apartment and then working out routes that a robot on the run would use to get to it. He would, probably, get them wrong, but if he had the general idea right, then he would have an idea of where low class, no questions asked boarding could be had for an overnight.

He wandered inbound from Front Street and ducked under the overpass on-ramp, and through a warehouse that had been partially demolished and left that way, through to Broadway. That he followed down a number of short blocks to 15th Street and took that past Sweyn Avenue and then to Grant Avenue. Here he had to backtrack to pick up 12th Street and took that to the triple intersection of Arsenal and Russell. A block down Arsenal to Crown Street and he found the Lyon Apartment building mid-block before 12th hit Back Street. Walking on the westerly side of 12th he noticed a number of workmen and a Wayne Security van parked in front of the building. Going across from the alley which was accorded the name of Byng Way, he leaned against a lightpost and observed workmen on the fire escape. Looking up he saw that across the alley, on the Chandler Building roof, were a few figures that he saw were Lucius Fox, an older gentleman, most likely from the Chandler Building, a Wayne Security technician setting up some equipment and none other than Bruce Wayne, himself.

Bruce was looking around while Lucius and the other man talked and the technician set up equipment. Mr. Smith saw him lean over to look up and down the alley way, then two floors up to the roof of the Lyon Building, and then further around staring much farther up to the north. Looking off into the distance, Mr. Smith could barely make out the form of a what looked to be a water tower atop one of the larger buildings in that direction. Mr. Wayne turned to the west and Mr. Smith took out a cigarette and started tamping it down on the pack it came from. Satisfied he took out a pack of matches and lit up the cigarette and ensured that he was seen puffing on it as he flicked the spent match onto the curb. He shook his head and slowly walked further north and started to imagine what it was like at night.

Letting his skills and instincts work, Mr. Smith slowly perambulated around and did his job.

That job was to think like someone trying to get to Sarah Connor's apartment to kill her... or escape from being killed. Man or machine, the layout of the streets and buildings would limit choices... and that would help Mr. Smith immensely once he finally knew what section of town it was going to come from. There are limited choices of direction on an island, particularly if it is the main island of Gotham City. He was sure that the Terminator would surprise him on route and direction. Just so long as it didn't find him...

As he walked for an hour or so, slowly heading back to the Lyon Building he realized that something had been troubling him. A Terminator, looking like a human, could infiltrate easily by these approaches. But, how would one damaged, perhaps no longer looking so human, how would it escape? Stopping across from the Lyon Building once again, with the Wayne Security vehicle still out front, Mr. Smith walked into the Byng Way alley and thought about that a moment. Even a mere three blocks was a relatively long walk, even using the alley ways. Even at night, with so few lamp posts, there would be more than a slight chance of being observed.

How would a machine do it?

He looked left, right, up and then, down. Spotting a piece of urban landscape he walked over to it.

"Ah, yes, well this is a surprise, but not an unexpected one. Apparently I get to add a bit more to my disguise..."

He knelt down and inserted a pocket tool which was actually a wine bottle opener with swivel handle, into a hole and heard the handle click into place. Grasping the guard over the opener he lifted the manhole cover out of its seating and retrieved his wine bottle opener. His hand slid into one of the copious pockets of his jacket and he had a small flashlight (that really should be called a 'torch' but the Yanks had their own way of naming things) and gazed down into the darkness.

"I so had hoped to avoid this part of my disguise. But it is a recognizable part of the Gotham costume I've chosen..."

Quickly he stepped down to the rungs of the inset ladder and pulled the cover back and over himself.

Getting down into the storm sewers of Gotham City...

"Ah, no. By that smell they are a bit more than storm sewers."

Carefully stepping onto the ancient concrete main drains that were the newest part of the tunnel, the rest being hand fitted bricks in a arch pattern, Mr. Smith soon came to realize that this mission had other unpleasant aspects to it. Yet the job must be done.

Luckily his boots were well suited to this environment.

* * *

Everyone was glad for the break at one o'clock at the conference room. Loren had good rounds, the new shell casings had arrived to be cleaned and the number of needles loaded to their holders was growing. Already a number had been tested for cycling, armor piercing and then for the more bulky full automatic weapon that Tony Grimes had brought down. Soon she could start small batching the rounds as she had gotten a good weight of powder, primer and cycling for shell casings.

While the 50 BMG rounds did go through armor plating in a very satisfactory way, they also tended to go through the catch set of armor behind it and the styrofoam in-between. These were intended as anti-material and light vehicle armor piercing rounds and they did that very suitably.

Kyle had pointed out a problem, however.

"You have to get something critical with a shot, say its power unit or mid-vertebra to take out power and comms internally. Still it should mess up the larger skeleton of a Terminator pretty well. Probably go right through it if its a single member and possibly through more than one. If you hit something vital, you take it out, if you miss, you just do structural damage."

He examined the neat edges of that round compared to the spalled and bent plate from standard rounds. Both would go through, but the effects on the lead of the normal round meant that it didn't get a good secondary penetration while the specialized round did. The entire team hauled up examples of those to go over at lunch as well as the new target damage of the DU rounds that Loren had just fired before leaving.

Their effect was far different.

When Loren fired she was sure that she had missed the target, so she checked her gun, a simple Colt 1911, and knew that it had all cycled through, but checked to make sure. The barrel was clean and the bits of fluff that were once foam that were on the ground pointed to that, also. She put on a protective mask and put the blowers on full for the Range, just in case. When she got to the armor she looked and saw one neat, tiny hole with just a bit of surface cavity formed. It had not gone through the second plate, behind the first and the styrofoam. There was a smell, however, that indicated something else had happened. When she took the first plate and removed it, she saw that the strofoam had been melted, burned and otherwise damaged in an area about an inch in diameter, with some indications of erosion of it beyond that.

She took that up for group examination.

Kyle examined the damage.

"Molten and high intensity heat vapor damage. You can see where there has been some metal that has adhered to the surface of the rear plate.

Martin Carstairs had gotten the first set of plates, and looked at them.

"We could have used this against the NVA, you know? Light armored vehicles, cars, stuff like that. Even light turret armor probably wouldn't stop this and would bang around inside the tank, too. Against electronics? Yeah, Kyle's right."

He passed those on to Sarah who was still pretty amazed at the damage.

"Well, if its coming for me, what should I do?"

Loren spoke up as she had her sandwich and soup that she had picked up from a side table. Each of them had a tray neatly labeled with what they had asked for, and it was appreciated, along with the variety of refills on liquids.

Don Carstairs was leafing through the updates.

"Say, its changed cars and started information gathering. Plus picked up a tape recorder... I wonder why it would do that?"

Ken was reading the reports, too.

"Data storage? You know we have modulators/de-modulators for equipment to use sound to send digital data over the phone lines. It might be doing that... though I would have no idea why it would do that. Isn't a Terminator supposed to have large amounts of data storage capacity?" he asked.

Kyle nodded.

"They do. At least the full combat coordinator ones do. Most of the infiltration units are limited as to capability by Skynet, so they don't go beyond mission parameters. If this one has thought of a way to store information it can retrieve outside of itself, then it is adapting to the limits placed by Skynet."

Anne Dickerson looked at him.

"It can do that?" she asked.

He nodded.

"If it can link the need up to the mission, it can do that. The internal data blocking programs couldn't stop that, and even the mission directive programs and oversight programs put in by Skynet couldn't stop that, so long as the Terminator came to that conclusion via internal needs processing."

Sarah had picked up the second plate set after Martin had looked at it.

"Say, that re-deposited material looks to have caused the foam to adhere to the back plate," she bent down looking at the foam more closely, "And there are lots of little fractures going through the foam, too, and it even looks like some small holes with deposits of metal."

Richard Bennington nodded.

"Thats the DU vapor plus any molten steel flying away from the impact site. My guess, by looking at the original numbers, is that some of that may have traveled as far as 15mm from the original impact zone, although the DU super-heated vapors took much of that out, so what we have left are those with flat trajectories. You should see some pitting on the back plate, probably under where the foam re-deposited on top of it as carbon."

Sarah took the tip of a plastic fork and gently dislodged a piece of black coating the back plate.

"Yes, its small but there," she said.

"Don, you're probably the closest to a specialist on electronics, what would this do to what we have?" Richard asked.

"Well, if you had coated but unsheathed copper or fiber optic cable, it would remove the coating on the copper and melt the fiber optic cable. Even a slight deformity would ruin the cable for transmission, while removing insulation coating on bare copper and depositing conducting metal would cause short circuits. Kyle, are the wires and cables sheathed in thick plastic, or essentially bare in a Terminator?"

Kyle was sipping coffee as he ate the omelet he had asked for, along with toast and juice.

"For the larger H-K aerial units they are sheathed, but for the ground units, only the early models had sheathed cabling. Once it moved into human form, the amount of protective sheath was limiting power transfers, especially to the servo motors. It has a highly distributed and redundant feed system for that along the armored spine which has a positive seal arrangement between vertebrae, so that limits some flexing mobility but increases survivability. The fiber optic is usually sheathed, but even that isn't thick due to the high data loads between different processing areas and collected sensor feedback."

Don nodded.

"There you go. Put some of these rounds into its spine or any other area where it has dense power and data traffic and it will be effective. Redundant systems will help it cope with the power problems, but it will have to seek out and test all those internal pathways to do that. Do enough damage and it will, probably, find a way to route power, but it might take awhile. And a few of these into the skull..."

Kyle looked at the plate as it was handed to Ken Chapman.

"Lethal." Kyle said.

"It probably has somewhat better armor protection of those areas, right?"

Kyle nodded.

"The skull is major, but so is the pelvic area, and portions of the spine also have processing units, mostly for sensor interpretation. It also has some battery storage in areas like the major rib connections, some long bones in the extremities and shoulder blades. Those could keep it going for an hour or so at low activity, a few minutes at high activity."

Loren looked at him.

"If you had a choice between a good rifle or something like that handgun for the fifties, or a subgun for the needles, which would you prefer?" she asked him.

"The subgun. Go for head, neck, back, and any place there are structural members with low amounts of covering. You could get very lucky with the fifty and take it out at one shot, but the subgun degrades its full capability to function and with a few shots in the upper spine or neck, or head, its gone. A miss of a shot with a fifty is reload and re-target, while a subgun you just march the fire over it to get something vital. A few miss rounds don't matter, there, while rate of fire does. Leave the sniping for the experts."

"Or damned good sharpshooting," said Martin who looked at Loren.

"Do you think we have time for the Quarry and punching out some 50 cal there? Ten out and back and maybe an hour sighting in?"

Loren thought and nodded.

"I'll call Keith and have him come early to run the loader and explain it to him as a prototype process and not to mess around with it as we need stable rounds. He will probably swipe a few, but thats expected. Just so long as we have a couple of thousand reliables, that is all I care about for now. Pass me a phone, would you, Richard?"

Richard passed the phone over to her and she started punching buttons for an outside line.

Alfred had pushed the door open to the conference room and wheeled in a small cart with what were obviously extras to the meal.

"Excuse me for being absent for so long, but Chef Gerard needed to talk with me and he had been finishing off the last of the ice cream and fruit compote, as well as having some éclairs, napoleons, and the ever present iced and filled donuts for the after part of lunch. He is well aware of how most working lunches go, and thought something to help finish it off would be appreciated."

Anne Dickerson looked at the tray and whispered, "I'm on a diet..."

Martin looked at her.

"After yesterday and the amount of work you have been doing in the press and fit area, I don't think you have much to worry about, Anne."

Alfred lifted up a large container from the bottom of the rolling cart, that looked like a large and ornate urn.

"Turkish coffee with the compliments of Chef Gerard."

"Now that's what I'm talkin about," said Don, reaching over for one of the small cups that went with the tray.

"Master Bruce is with Lucius and they are setting up the equipment in Sarah's apartment and we have gotten leeway to do so with the Chandler Building next door. Master Bruce expects you will want a detailed layout of the apartment, so will have a technician send that along, with all the placement points, plus sketch of the exterior environs."

Richard had taken one of the cups of ice cream and then the Turkish coffee.

"I am being spoiled," he said.

"You have worked hard so far to be spoiled, Mr. Bennington," said Alfred.

Sarah had taken a mouthful of the ice cream and compote and closed her eyes.

"That's delicious, and not overly sweet."

"Just as nature made it, Miss Connor. Now Mr. Reese, Master Bruce had asked a question on his review of the materials you have, now, which is: would a Terminator be able to adapt so well to throw off all police tracking of it in so short a period of time?"

Kyle, who had been eating the compote mixture, along with the coffee, looked up at Alfred.

"Alfred, we don't have much in the way of policing on an organized basis like you have. I don't think I've ever heard of an infiltration unit doing something like this, but mainly because we don't have anything like it."

"Ah, yes. With your experience, then, would it know to adapt to this as part of its infiltration routine?" Alfred asked.

Kyle sipped coffee and sat back, his tired eyes showing concentration as he thought.

"That is a very sophisticated ability to adapt, Alfred. I don't remember... no... nothing that sophisticated from Terminators that I can recall."

Anne looked at him.

"Could it be that adaptable?" she asked, having given into temptation and knowing she was burning off calories today.

Kyle closed his eyes and thought hard.

"If it weren't a limited one... like a combat coordinator or echelon commander. They aren't infiltration units, but differ only in mission directives and not having the flesh exterior. But single use Terminators are limited... actually all standard combat ones are... they are all the same, base model, just some are restricted and only those needing more mental capacity have that enabled."

Ken arched an eyebrow.

"And using the tape recorder for external storage to get around internal limitations?"

Kyle opened its eyes.

"It is finding a way around its programming! I don't... shit...."

Anne had finished off her ice cream dessert.

"It has found away around its limitations, hasn't it Kyle?"

"Yes," he said softly, "I didn't think that was possible."

"Could it find a way to circumvent the internal limitations and restore itself to full function?" asked Richard Bennington.

Kyle stared towards Richard but not at him, like he was looking off into the distance.

"I don't know. No other Terminator has ever... not ever... tried to go around Skynet limitations."

The room was quiet save for a slight bubble that went through the coffee urn.

"It would if it got in the way of the mission, wouldn't it?" asked Sarah.

"A fully functional Terminator..." Kyle was shaking, "Yes it would, Sarah. And those are the most capable units Skynet has."

Loren had hung up the phone and caught the last part of the conversation.

"There are some ifs and buts in that," Ken said, "but I think we can safely say that this Terminator has found those limits to be against its mission. It is taking time to do something about them. Now it has changed its activity type to one that is more sophisticated and capable, at least on the infiltration side. The stop and car change demonstrate that."

"Yes," said Alfred, "we had talked about that at Master Bruce's breakfast. Lucius had pointed out that the truck would not be easily found nor traced by authorities at a wrecking yard. I'm afraid this machine is more capable than we thought it would be."

The table was quiet.

"We do have one advantage, Alfred," Loren said.

"What is that, Ms. Seifert?"

"Surprise. We have more capability than normal civilians. Quite a bit more. Still the odds are in its favor as it only has to kill and it is a machine that doesn't care about itself."

"Then we just have to make sure we do the job right the first time," Don said, "as a second time it will have adapted to us."

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