Monday, September 5, 2011

Time out of Place - Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Frank had the cellular phone out and punched in a number, listening to it ring.

"Bruce, we have positive ID of the Terminator, Ford Truck, 4:07am Central Time, outside KC near the route 40 intersection. We are now in pursuit."

"The job isn't done, Bruce, call you with information when we have it. Let Richard and Mike know they aren't needed at KC anymore. Good-bye."

Vivian looked at him and nodded forward.

"That pick-up?" she asked, nodding towards the only vehicle on the road in the right hand lane.

"Yes. It's body is at equilibrium its thermal output isn't close to that of a human's. It only has a single, small, source of heat in its chest, upper right. The rest appears as the same temperature as the rest of the inside of the truck."

She peered ahead.

"No, shit?" she asked softly.

"Yes. Now your job is to make sure we don't attract its attention."

She nodded.

"I'll alternate fill-ups: it takes one for the truck, then we take the next one after that and wait for it to pass. I so do not want to play highway footsie with the thing. Doubt we will lose it, doing that."

Frank nodded and picked up the thermos.

"Coffee?" he asked.

"Yeah, got to keep the captive lerts awake and fed," she said.

She took the cup top he handed her and sipped the coffee.

"Its gonna be a long drive, Frank. If you want to snooze, I'll wake you when its pulling off for gas."

"Yeah, thanks. I need a few more hours," he leaned the seat back a bit and the air rushed around them through the T-top. If he was cold he gave no sign, and was asleep within a minute or two.

She didn't mind. She had sacked out in ATC East and on the flight. She was plenty wide-awake. Awake enough to do her job. No matter how much she loved the car, she realized she loved the job more.

* * *

The sub-program for driving the vehicle noted the car that had entered behind it on the thruway. Its lights dropped back until they were bare twinkles behind it. The program had noted many cars and was now purging that information from its memory. Too many to be stored.

The Terminator drove on in the night, only using higher programming and functions for the gasoline stops every two hundred miles or so.

It would be nearing dawn when it needed to do that again.

The truck drove on into the night.

As did the observed car it had now forgotten about.

* * *

Sarah Connor was up early, as she had been for her months working at Wayne Tech so that she could be one of the first into the office everyday. She woke up a bit before 5am after a restless few hours of sleeping. Nightmares had crept into her sleep, ones of a large, dark, foreboding figure coming to kill her. It gave her no solace that this was her actual life at this point. Still, her routine took hold and she realized that she had been given multiple passes for areas not normally used by staff employees. She saw that the clothes from her apartment had been brought for her by the cleaning and administrative staff that did need to clean up the room as part of their schedule. And attend to guests. That did limit entry to her room and the Vault and she realized that the Vault, itself, was under lock-down until 6am.

Cleaned and dressed in some of her more outdoorsy clothing, jeans, dark red shirt that was a thin material, cotton socks and rugged sneakers, she decided to watch cable TV for the half-hour or so before the Vault opened. She could use an emergency code to open it at any hour, and there were security intercoms in each of the rooms in case she needed other assistance, but she felt safe enough and wasn't that hungry and would normally eat a bagged breakfast at the employee cafeteria, anyway. She switched the tv on as she put the holster on over her shirt and checked to ensure that the safety on the pistol was on. She did get some water and ice from the small refrigerator, and sat down to watch in one of the comfortable chairs in the room.

It was the 24 hour news channel, that had been new to the scene just a few years ago and was now taken for granted. A male announcer was speaking...

" Lebanon today. Our analyst for the region is ready for a backgrounder, Scott?"

"Thank you, Mark," said an older man with wire frame glasses on, who wore a dark suit. Sarah hadn't paid much attention to the situation, really. The bombing of the US Embassy there last year, and the President sending a small combat force to hunt down those who provided the bombers with equipment had been a thorny problem. The French force that had been deployed had their barracks attacked, at great loss of life, and the US Marines worked hard to try and find those who organized the bombing in the southern part of Lebanon. Last month's attack on the US Embassy, again, had started a spiraling situation of lawlessness and the French were ready to leave. The President sought and got Congressional approval to move in heavier forces to stabilize Lebanon and go after the radical Islamic groups supporting the terrorists.

"As you know the US Marine Corps has had a roving group that has fanned out on a regular basis throughout south and central Lebanon since the start of operations keeping to no fixed base, and encountered resistance in some areas, especially after the bombing of the French peace keepers. The second bombing of the US Embassy had Secretary of State Schultz get agreement from our NATO allies to counter this lawless situation, which has been threatening to spread into the Palestinian areas, and even into Jordan and Egypt. While those claiming responsibility are of a minority Islamic sect, their backers appear to be in Iran and Syria, and the White House has been bringing pressure on them not only from US allies, but has sought the help of the Soviet Union, as well...."

That had been a bit of a surprise to Sarah, but made sense as the Soviets had agreed that such terrorists were international outlaws to be hunted down. The Soviet Union of the 1970's seemed to be coming apart in the 1980's with so many leadership changes that no one could really keep track of who was in charge for what. And even while continuing to be hostile to the US, the Soviets did agree that some semblance of peace with only a few actors in the Middle East was something they desired.

As the commentator droned on she switched channels to the end of a local news report.

"... the 125th Artillery Group will be shipping out of Gotham in two weeks. Sgt. Gary Anderson spoke to one of our reporters as his unit was going through the preliminary stages of mobilization..."

She switched the channels and started to 'channel surf' and found that, to no surprise, there was nothing worth watching to be found. Still it had killed time and the indicator for Vault status went from red to green, as seen on small wall plates in each room. Standing up she put on a light jacket and walked out of her room, hearing the door silently 'click' into place as she left and walked down the corridor. She took the stairs up one level and slid her card through a reader and walked out of the Vault, waving at the security guard who smiled and waved back to her. Unconsciously she went to the main elevators and hit the button for her normal level, and decided to see if there was any other work she needed to do. When she got to her desk, she was a bit surprised to see that it had a small sign on it, 'On Leave, Calls to Front Office'.

On leave while at work. She suspected that was not an easy category to track on the work schedules, but she understood that her work was being covered and that anyone who needed information would probably get a sketch from the Office Secretary. Her stomach did growl and she decided that since she had been given a pass to the fifth floor restaurant, that she might as well use it. She checked her ident cards on her metal beaded necklace, and remembered she also had the pass for the Executive Private Elevator. She left the office and went to that elevator and was soon on the fifth floor, and headed to the restaurant. When she arrived she saw it was sparsely populated, with only a few other people there, and she went to the ordering area and put in an order for a light breakfast of fresh fruit, bagel and cream cheese, coffee, orange juice and a single egg vegetable omelet. She was given a chit for that, and directed to the coffee, tea and juices area, to take what she wanted from that, and that her meal would be delivered to her.

Going to the juices area she saw Kyle Reese who looked very worn out was sitting at a table, and she suspected he had gotten almost no sleep at all. If her world had been turned upside-down, she couldn't think of how he felt right now. So she headed over to the table he was at with her juice and coffee.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked.

He looked up, nodding, smiling wanly.

"Please do, Sarah."

She put the chit into a small holder on the table and set her coffee and juice down. She sipped her coffee and suspected that the remains of Kyle's breakfast was one that had been there since the staff first arrived to serve breakfast, nearly an hour before. He was down to coffee at this point.

"Kyle, could you tell me more about John Connor?" she asked.

He looked at her, nodded, smiled.

"John was a good guy, only in his late teens when Judgment Day happened and one of the few to keep his head. You had been hanging out with a number of people who had familiarized him with weapons and explosives over the years, and you had died of cancer just before Judgment Day, and he was left scouting out in the desert for an old military command post left from the 1950's. He had found that and it was being powered from old mains on the grid and had its own generators. He had gotten there just as things went to pot, and the old systems there were not infested by the Skynet program that had spread itself globally by then. If it weren't for him there wouldn't be a resistance movement to free captive humans from the slave labor camps. The remains of the old military establishment was soon working through that old base, and protecting humans wherever possible. That organization he led helped to roll back the machines, roll back Skynet's equipment and link up multiple groups not only in North America but globally. It was a near thing for nearly a decade, but the zones of successful resistance spread, even as Skynet brought on more advanced machines, more advanced capability and equipment. The old Soviet areas were devastated, along with the Chinese, but they were never automated enough for it to grab hold as it did in Western Europe, Japan, Australia... still over two thirds if not three quarters of humanity had been killed after Judgment Day and in the decade after it by the nuclear winter that followed."

She was horrified at what the machines did, and yet her son...

A member of the restaurant staff brought her the meal she had ordered, and asked if there would be anything else. Kyle asked for some more toast, plain and Sarah didn't need anything.

"When did you meet John?"

"He took over when my old commander was killed three years ago. That push had been a vital one on the Skynet forces in the LA Basin as that had been the most highly automated area available to it and the mountains around it had become its central fortress and production area. That was a long, hard push, taking years to slowly cut off all of Skynet's support systems. He brought me in and brevetted me up in the command structure, and I was on the central command group for the wider set of denial attacks. He talked a lot about you, how you had helped to train him, and let him know that the highly automated areas of research and work was dovetailing with military cybernetics work and that this was a very dangerous thing to have happen. You had told him that machines would see humanity as a threat... yet wouldn't understand that the way the world was arranged required humans to make it work. You both kept up with how the new cybernetics systems from Cyber Dyne were advancing beyond what anyone expected. They were supposed to be human combat support artificial intelligence, and yet...."

"Skynet used them against humanity," Sarah said.

"He admired how you understood that, Sarah. He said that was a key... a vital key to finally shifting the tables against Skynet. There really wasn't much of humanity left, but what there was had fallen back to older production techniques. The Russians said that they had re-opened old factories and mines from World War II, left abandoned in-place in mountains. Skynet could do a lot with high tech, and developed many powerful systems and machines, but it lacked basic industry and supplies. It had tried to corral humanity, what was left of it, to produce those for it and automate those factories. It was successful in some areas, but made key mistakes. Any time that Skynet had to attack and destroy a factory, any factory, any smelter, any mine, any oil rig... it was a loss for Skynet. What remained of humanity had dug in, sometimes in actual, ancient areas, not used for thousands of years. Skynet found its no-go areas increasing and those it was able to hold shrinking. John Connor told me that you saw that this could be done, must be done, that no matter how dark, how many died, that humanity would, finally, bring down the machines. I was his friend, Sarah, I think his closest friend.... he sent me back here when we had taken the Skynet research area, and it was using one of its few time casters to send a Terminator back to kill you, he had moments to decide if someone should be in the co-transmit sphere that we had just taken. He told me to be in it in case they did not shut the system down in time... I was to save you from it, Sarah. Save everyone... he told me... everyone. I loved him like a brother Sarah. How could I not love you for raising him like you did?"

She reached across the table and took his hand.

"You couldn't help it, Kyle. John trusted you and brought you into his life. Your own must have been hard, never knowing a day without war, without fighting, always on the run or always on the fight. I see some places that come close to that today and... I can't imagine having to survive like that, Kyle. John let you see that someone before Skynet had thought about it and prepared for it. She gave up a comfortable life to prepare her son for a hard life to come. How could you not love and admire a mother like that? A woman like that? Humanity might not have survived without that small sacrifice she made before it all went wrong."

Kyle covered her hand with his.

"I will always love you, Sarah Connor."

She smiled and said softly.

"You will always love that Sarah Connor, Kyle. This one will not go down that easily and leave her son with such a problem."

Kyle furrowed his brow and looked deeply at her.

"Skynet didn't know what it was doing, Kyle. This last fight must be won. And I will fight it. With you. With those here that are standing by me. And then all of us will make damned sure that we never, ever, face that future. We may make something worse, but that will be our mistake to make. Not one dictated by a machine."

"You are so like him, Sarah..." he whispered softly.

She slid her hand back.

"And he never turned from a fight, did he?"

Kyle shook his head 'no'.

"Not once, Sarah. Not if it had to be fought."

"Neither will I, Kyle. Neither will I."

* * *

Loren Seifert walked in after having checked to make sure she had cleared her schedule out and that a few of the early phone calls had gone out and been returned. It was known that she had slept at the range before, of course, and she kept clothes there for those late nights when she did so. It was nice to get one of the VIP rooms, and restaurant privileges! She had never thought that she would be offered a chance at such things. While a VIP room was far more comfortable, she still felt more secure at the range. When she walked in she saw Kyle and Sarah were already up, so after placing her order she went over to them with a mug of coffee in tow.

"If I'm not intruding, I think we can get an early start on the day," she said smiling.

"Please join us," said Sarah.

"Good morning," said Kyle, who looked a bit the worse for wear, but who wouldn't after a Vivian screamer?

"G'morning Kyle, Sarah. Had to check up on a couple of calls that had to go out and the Front Office had taken care of them. I have an early morning meeting coming up in about a half-hour, with our Defense ballistics group. I want to check up on them for what Sgt. Rock suggested as the armor-piercing and destructive ordnance is out of my league and I don't think I've ever had to apply it to hand weapons."

Kyle nodded.

"We still used some of the older equipment, especially anything above 20mm. But specialty fabrication had only been started up a year or so before I left and we depended on the plasma rifles and other energy weapons as Skynet was producing far too many of them for its own good. Really, if it didn't want humanity to get its hands on such stuff, it should have stuck to normal ammo and guns. But that takes a low tech industry to serve it... so I can see why it went the way it did."

Loren's breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs showed up, and she hungrily ate that down, while sipping the coffee between bites.

"So what's the meeting about, Loren?" Sarah asked.

Loren paused in her eating.

"Well you know I suggested DU and Sgt. Rock said the 45 would probably be best for it?"

Kyle nodded.

"What is DU?" asked Sarah.

Loren swallowed and sipped some coffee.

"Depleted Uranium. Not radioactive, no more than lead is, at any rate, but denser and more rigid, and has different properties. The folks in the military use it for anti-tank rounds from the Abram's tank and its the weirdest thing. Standard 105mm casing, but the actual round is just a metal dart with little pop-out fins that fit inside a lightweight formfitting foam. Fires it, the foam comes off once it clears the barrel and the dart inside has all the momentum. That is called a sabot, S A B O T but pronounced 'say-bo'. Doesn't act like a normal round and mushroom out when it hits, instead it ablates and burns where there is metal on metal contact and will even liquefy and catch on fire. Even go beyond that if the conditions are right. Believe me, molten burning uranium is nasty stuff."

Sarah had never heard of such a thing before.

"That is... horrific, really."

"Works good on the H-K air units. 30mm is the best for them, kills the circuitry on the inside, burns into and often through their skeletal structures. Very effective, and usually takes out the entire machine with a few rounds like that in it. At 105 it is a sure kill, I'd think."

Loren had folded the last bit of toast around the scrambled egg and chewed that down, chased by coffee which had cooled a bit.

"It probably would, Kyle. Sarah, it is a horrific weapon, but nothing that takes a tank out is what you would call nice to the people inside. If liquid burning uranium is bad, just imagine a copper plasma. Some of the shaped charges have that effect and they are far worse in some respects. I've never had to work on the ballistics of it or how they work, so that's why I contacted the Defense group. Charlie Hayes and Tony Grimes are the two hot-shots there, and I hear they are working with a couple of companies on armor piercing 50 cal rounds. Plus if anyone knows if we got any DU in-house, its either them or specialty metals.... say, there's the Carstairs boys!"

She waved at Don and Martin Carstairs who had obviously spent the night in the Tower. They placed their orders and came back with coffee and juices and sat down, with 'hellos' all around.

"What are you two up to this morning?" Loren asked.

"Went to Wayne Tech Front Office and Lucius had left us new packets with the overnight information. Full write-up on Grand Junction, a few other bits and pieces from Las Vegas and LA, plus a positive ident by Sgt. Rock who is on the road with Vivian trailing the Terminator," Martin said.

"They saw it?" Sarah asked.

Don Carstairs had pulled out his packet and handed over the sheets.

"They did right outside of Kansas City. It was emitting only a minor heat signature from its upper right chest, all the rest had chilled down to near ambient inside the truck."

Sarah picked up the sheet which held some more information.

"Ford F-150... Vivian thinks its 1976 or 77... think its been repainted once but awhile ago... they see a shotgun, probable 12 gauge and M1 Garand in the rack of the truck..." Sarah handed over the sheets to Kyle who scanned them.

"Its real," Sarah said.

Martin nodded as breakfast came out for the two men, cereal for Don and eggs with bacon for Martin.

"Yes it is. Heat signature changes when its active, then cools towards ambient between times. Caught that at a fill-up when they passed and then when it re-passed them. That isn't human."

Loren shook her head, checked her watch.

"About 10 minutes to the ballistics meeting. Martin, have you thought about the part of when it gets here and what we should do?"

Martin Carstairs nodded.

"I have, Loren. Pretty obvious we will need in-town spotting of it. Need someone good at that and getting around town. I think Vivian is great, but she will be wiped by driving and need down time. So will Sgt. Rock, but he may be in better condition as he will get some rest in while Vivian drives."

"Is that possible?" asked Kyle.

Don smiled.

"If it were anyone else, no. Still, even Vivian is limited as to the hell she can raise on open road."

"True," Kyle said nodding.

Martin continued.

"Next up is to trap it and lay on everything we can get our hands on to it. I've been thinking about that, and if it is that good at infiltration, then there aren't many places to try and get it. The first and primary will be Sarah's apartment. Her information was at Ginger's, and a photograph, too, if I remember the police report. No matter how good the spotter is, you have to figure we will lose it, probably in The Warrens if nowhere else. That means picking it up again at her apartment after luring it there. For that we need bait and a lot of good shots plus stuff we know will harm it."

"Yeah, seems reasonable. After that?" Kyle asked.

"If it is that good, we will need to hunt it down when it escapes the trap."

It was quiet around the table.

Don looked at Kyle.

"It will, won't it? Confronted with an unwinnable situation, it will retreat to assess damages and try again?"

Kyle sat back, shaking.


These people were good, he thought.

"That means a group to protect Sarah and lure it to the next spot, while the other group tries to herd it that way."

"Where will that be?" Sarah asked.

"Here," said Martin Carstairs, "we can and will finish it here if we can't get a second group to hunt it down and dispose of it. If it gets us here, then, I think, the federal government will need to be called in and given everything we know."

It was very quiet around the table.

"And no matter what, Sarah will go to the Journeyman with Vivian and they will be in space."

"We will finish it," said Sarah, "I won't run."

Kyle looked at her.

"You will have to if we are all dead."

"No, Kyle."

"You will, Sarah," said Loren.

"But why?" Sarah asked with her brows furrowed.

"You are the only sure bait it will go after. I don't want the world to find out what any secondary programs it has from Skynet, Sarah. Any secondary objectives it might have, because if it can take us down it will be able to execute them. You must escape it, here, so that everyone else gets a chance to kill it, next," Loren said.

Sarah closed her eyes, fought back tears and nodded.

"I hate this." she said.

"So do we all, Sarah. Now I'm to ballistics. Any armor piercing junkies here?" Loren asked.

She stood up as did Don Carstairs and Kyle.

"I have to go, Sarah," Kyle said, "this is important."

She nodded and opened her eyes.

"Whatever it takes, Kyle."

Sarah watched them head towards the restaurant entrance and saw Fr. Casull coming in. He smiled, said obvious hellos and hugged Kyle. They left, and Fr. Casull walked to place his order, got himself a glass of juice and moved over to the table with Sarah and Martin Carstairs. Sarah stood up.

"Please join us, Father Casull," she said.

"Thank you, Sarah. Martin its good to see you again."

"And me, you, Father Casull."

"I've thought about what we heard yesterday and I was talking with Father Jordan, and I will be visiting him this morning. Alfred will have a car ready for me when I'm ready to go over. We, ah, talked a bit about this and we would like to be the information back-up in case... ahhh..."

"Anything goes wrong?" asked Martin.

"Yes, Martin. I don't like to think in those terms, and do hope God will provide you with a way to stop this device without being killed by it. But if it is successful it will... ahhh... have done much damage to Wayne Corporation and left the organization in turmoil. If something horrifically goes wrong, no one else may be in a position to have the knowledge about the Terminator and Skynet."

"Martin, I think that is a good idea, really. The reality of what this machine can do, is starting to sink in, a bit, and if it is as adaptable as Kyle says it is, then it might just leave us all dead."

One of the wait staff brought Father Casull some toast, fruit and a single poached egg.

"I don't like thinking that way, either, Sarah. Father Jordan, though, he was at Chosin and says that we really do need a back-up. If it can figure out just how many people... an entire corporation, really... is against it, then it will start to scale up its attacks to deal with them. Being a good person is not enough, alone, to survive in that sort of situation. And if it goes horrifically and catastrophically wrong... then the question may not be if we are needed, but how badly."

Sarah Connor was realizing this might be the hardest morning of her life as she had looked at a road atlas and started thinking about when it might get here. That would be tonight or early tomorrow morning at the earliest. Time was running out.

Ken Chapman and Anne Dickerson walked in talking as they both leafed through the contents of the manila envelopes. Martin waved to them as they came in and they headed over to the table after picking up coffee and juices. Wait staff came over to clear the remains of previous meals and wipe down the table.

"Good morning, everyone," said Ken, "Richard is skipping breakfast and went straight to the ballistics meeting. I met Anne at Wayne Tech's front office, and Alfred had left word he had gone to the airport to pick up his second friend coming in for observing. Should be here in..." Ken glanced at the clock "... about 7:30am if everything goes well at customs."

Anne Dickerson sat down, smiled.

"And my good morning to all of you, also," she said, "I'll tell you I was up a bit more with Don, Ken and Kyle, and we finally had to quit at 2am. Say, did any of you catch the local news, this morning?"

"I haven't, Anne," said Sarah.

"Me neither," said Martin, "trying to get us a conference room with a few tables for all of today. Have one that will be available at 8am."

"Good morning, Anne," said Father Casull, "and I was slow starting this morning and didn't have time for television. Differences in time zones make this pretty early for me."

Anne nodded, sipping coffee.

"Two of the news stations are doing large coverage of the dual mafia take down last night. I think we have the first real indications that this 'Batman' might be a real person, or at least have real effects in the world. These were rather more dramatic than punching out thugs."

"Really?" asked Sarah, "What happened?"

"Yes, I'd be interested, too," said Martin, "the crime bosses are one of the reasons I quit the force and seeing someone, anyone, go after them is a real interest to me. I hope those bastards get what they deserve."

"Apparently they are, Martin. The first one was quite spectacular on the wharf. It was a drop of cocaine from Colombia that involved one of the private tug companies the city hires for towing ships and making sure they get to dockside. It involved... ahh... Don Amelio? I'm not that great with names, really."

"Don Amelio Rinaldi?" asked Martin.

"That's the one!" Anne said, smiling.

"I'll be damned. His Family has been running a protection racket, loan sharking, extortion, and some prostitution for years. Back to the '20s. They had started to muscle in on narcotics when cocaine edged out marijuana and even heroin in a few areas. I think he wanted to move his Family 'upscale' he called it. Still a canny operator. How was he pulled down?"

Anne smiled.

"Pulled up, is more like it. Police aren't saying much, but his limousine was still attached to the hook on a crane over the docks, which was about forty feet up."

Father Casull blinked.

"His car had been pulled up? By the crane?"

"Oh, no. That's the best part! The crane had been down for maintenance for a few days, locked in place so it couldn't move. Police aren't saying anything but the car was somehow lifted from the dock to the crane and attached up there!"

Ken Chapman looked at her.

"How the hell...? Most limos weigh nearly a ton if not more... but lifted to the crane?"

"Uh-huh, rear of the car attached to it on the underside, the front pointing face down. The police have been trying to get someone to get the crane working as... ahhh... the driver is still in the car."

Sarah looked shocked.


Anne smiled, deeply.

"That is the best part! He is alive, screaming about how he will tell anything, wants to be in prison, just ahh... 'keep the Bat from ever getting to me again'," she did her best to mimic the man's voice that had been captured by the news crew.

Martin started to chuckle.

"One of Don Amelio's thugs? Like that?"

"Yes... let me think... Manny?"

"Manny Dominici-Rinaldi, half-cousin, trusted driver and bagman. Yeah, that fits."

"Can't he get out of the car?" asked Father Casull.

"Oh, no, Father. Apparently his hands and forehead are... ahhh..." she had problems not laughing,"... stuck fast to the steering wheel and he says its too painful to try and take them off!!"

Ken Chapman was trying hard not to laugh, as were the rest of them.

"Stuck?? With what? Crazy glue?"

"YES!!!" said Anne, she couldn't help it and had to laugh, although nothing like when she first heard the news report.

The absurdity of the situation, the apparently supernatural act capped off with something so mundane was really beyond easy comprehension.

"Apparently the Batman was able to cause most of the tug boat to explode, and took down everyone with the goods right there at the wharf. Police reported two men, one of the crew members of the tug and another man... Alfonse I think it was... were both extricated from the dock with... their cheeks glued to the wood cross members of the dock. The news reporter had been able to get to them, while the police were waiting for a medical crew to come and... ahhh... figure out the best way to... extract them."

The others still laughed, at the idea of thugs glued face first to docks.

"What a choice!" said Martin, "I can see it! 'Alfonse we can do it fast, we can do it slow or you can wear some of the dock for the next week....' and I know that is about how it would be put to them by the paramedics, too!!"

"The tug Captain and another crewmate were found... ahhh... with a cross-hand shake they couldn't get out of.... 'bonds skin INSTANTLY'" she said trying to get how the commercial sounded with its warning, but failed for laughing.

Sarah was laughing, too, for all of the problems she was in, she would have to be killed by something other than pure embarrassment.

"Another guy... Danny?"

Martin was nodding, still trying to get it down to chuckles.

"Danny Rinaldi, youngest brother of the Don..."

"He had been Bataranged running away from the dock, the fire and explosion and then taken down along with Don Amelio from behind. I'm pretty sure that Batman had been aiming to get his cheek to the pavement, but... ahhh... well Danny was kissing the ground."

Father Casull, who had nearly gotten his laughter under control had burst out in new laughter.

"Supp... supplicating and... thanking God.... to be on the ground!"

Ken, too, roared in laughter.

"And he... is part... of a... protection racket?"

"But the best, the best, was the camera crew getting there just as the Commissioner was getting to Don Amelio. He was..." she shook her head again remembering the scene at the light post, "... on his knees with his hands pressed together on the other side of a light post... asking the Commissioner to... save him from Batman!"

Martin was nearly doubled over in laughter.

"This...bwahahaha... really blows their street cred!" he laughed more, "Can't... even protect... themselves..."

"The police hauled in nearly one hundred fifty pounds of cocaine and got the payoff money for the Captain and his crew. Police raided the piloting company, from what the news reports said. Still that was only the first appearance of Batman last night."

"Only the FIRST?" asked Martin trying to control his laughter.

"What else did he do?" Sarah said, still trying to get the scene that Anne had described out of her head. It really was just too funny...

"Actually this is the bigger story, although it happened later in the night. Police are marking it as the largest, single bust in GCPD history against the Mafia. It happened at the Kaspian Klub..."

"The KK? They were busted at the KK? That is one of the tightest Family run clubs and has security like you wouldn't believe," Martin said finally getting some semblance of control back.

"Not any more. The lights went out on it about 12:30 this morning and... all hell broke loose... the Batman had hit it when some of the major family operators were there... its sketchy but something about territory agreements..."

"Anne, that is serious business to them. There must have been a lot of protection there."

"At least 75 gunmen, police are saying... most of them stuck to heavy tables, linoleum flooring, each other...."

"Batman isn't out to take down the families... he is going to make them die of shame and embarrassment!" Ken Chapman said.

"Almost makes you want to feel sorry for them," said Father Casull, "save they deserve it."

"This was more the standard fist-fight and punch 'em out, but each time someone went down, even just a bit dazed, they stayed down. Police think that it took Batman about ten minutes in total darkness to put down all the Mafia types, but then... well... he drove the point home."

"How? I mean taking them down should have been enough..." Sarah asked.

"He did something... one cameraman got there as the last of the flames were dying out... but all the Mafia vehicles looked like... giant teeth had sunk into them and partially melted engine blocks, in a few cases going right through to start a small fire in the asphalt. They caught another guard or two down from that and a... ah... car thief who was looking to steal one of their cars during the chaos."

"No, shit?" asked Ken, "Burned right through the hoods AND engines of the cars?"

"Uh-huh, really spectacular day shot from overhead, and it does look like a large, misshapen jaw had bitten down into them. No close-ups, but you could see shining metal once they got the overhead lamps going again on one of the early morning shots."

"But what the hell... how could he do that?" Ken was looking at her, then Martin.

"I have no idea, Ken, but its... whoever this Batman is, he is bringing some real pain to the Mafia in Gotham. Not just taking it down but humiliating it."

"More than that, he did all of that in darkness, right? Only the emergency EXIT lights working?"

Anne nodded.

"He had sealed a couple of ways out, so that anyone trying to get out through the front of the main meeting room... ahhh..."

"They got jammed up and had to come to him. That is pure and true balls, Anne," Martin said, "confidence in what he could do and what he had planned to do."

"That's called, 'putting down a marker' I believe, at least by some of the gang members I know in LA," said Father Casull, "just said who he is, how good he is and that he is prepared to prove it time and again."

"Its the same here, Father. But this... its not just standard turf..."

"He is claiming the night," said Sarah, "all of it."

Martin nodded.

"The wharf is lower south side, the KK upper north side, across the islands, the river, almost a perfect placement for both. Not just a marker. It is war."

Lucius Fox had walked into the restaurant area, smiled and headed over to the table.

"Good morning to you all. I know that Loren has gotten a few to the ballistics meeting with the Defense group, and the rest of us, have jobs to do. Alfred has brought in the only other contact he had who could make it. Someone else for observation. They are up at the conference room Martin asked for, and I've commandeered that for the next couple of days and I'm clearing out other meetings on that floor so that there won't be much activity going on. Still a lot, as we are a business, but only Wayne Tech personnel."

Ken and Anne had been eating and talking throughout, and both did appear to be on the last few remains of their meals.

"I think so, Lucius," Sarah said, "I think it will be a busy day."

* * *

"But, Loren, 45 ACP? You aren't expecting to get any armor penetration with that, are you?" asked the fair haired young man in a business suit, Charlie Hayes. They were sitting in the meeting room on level of Wayne Defense Systems, which could barely seat ten, comfortably, and the small table had been pretty much taken up by those there.

"The slug has got no real penetration power," said Tony Grimes, an older, darker haired and heavy set individual with dark rimmed glasses, but a light suit over a Hawaiian shirt.

They looked at Loren, Kyle, Don Carstairs and Richard Bennington.

"Look, you two," said Richard, "I know you have been working with Winchester and Olin for a couple of years on specialty manufacturing for the Army. Light armor penetrating 50 caliber round. We are looking for something that has some penetration past an external layer, like ballistics gel, say a half inch, and then can deliver say... how much do you think, Loren?"

"Another quarter to half inch through something like steel. Right, Kyle? I mean it will have other properties but close to stainless steel?"

"A stainless steel metallic glass, yes. Good penetration would be be ten to fifteen millimeters delivery. Outer protective layer ranging from ten millimeters to two hundred thirty millimeters, but good aim should keep out of the denser outer layer areas."

"Properties like ballistics gel?"

Loren and Kyle looked at each other, Kyle shrugged.

"Close enough to work with, you two. We want the forty-five because we have processing for it readily available, in-house skills and a number of people used to the general cartridge if not firing systems for it. Also we have to assume that this metallic glass will deform under standard lead slug impact at normal speeds for the forty-five."

Tony leaned forward.

"Richard, you want a high velocity, armor penetrator out of a standard forty-five round? Are you nuts?"

Richard looked at Don, who looked at Loren, who turned from them and looked at the two men.

"Not that nuts, Tony. We are talking about twenty to thirty feet, fifty max. Lead and even steel jacketed lead deforms too much for material penetration. This has to be able to penetrate, not deform and deliver beyond that with something that will harm electronics and fiber optic cable. I was thinking a sabot round."

"She's a witch, I tell ya," said Charlie.

Tony looked at Charlie.

"A damned sorceress,"

Loren was smiling.

"Spit it out, guys."

"That's close to what we have been working on with Winchester and Olin, an APFSDS fifty cal round. Still its meant for light armored vehicles, and you would need a 50 BMG platform for it."

"Of which I have, exactly, one in my range as a handgun that's a freight train to fire and I am unwilling to try and get barrels to cut down to make more lightweight firing platforms. And I don't want to sort through my odd-lot, spare-part auction buys to put actions together and then fit them to a frame, which I don't have to take the stress of this caliber. I have today as my only day on this, so it has to be relatively fast, reliable, offer minimal but real penetration, not just trying to push metal out of the way. That won't work. If you have prototype rounds of the BMG, I'll take them and return what we don't use."

Charlie looked concerned.

"Loren, this is a no shit emergency?"

"It is, Charlie," she said.

"For all of us," said Richard, "a life depends on it and perhaps much more."

"Charlie, lets run the numbers, OK?"

Charlie nodded to Tony.


"First off," Tony said, "is there is no science of armor piercing projectiles. Metals act very differently at high velocity impacts than you would expect them too. Those World War II steel headed AP rounds really were an improvement, but over pure lead anything was an improvement if it could offer some rigidity to the lead. Part of what the Army learned with development of the Silver Bullet was that density differences matter."

Charlie nodded.

"Density differences along with speed matters more than mass for penetration. Projectile length and diameter as a ratio are key, and they are unlike normal rounds. They have a rule-of-thumb of 5:1, length to diameter. Shape away from a rod to a more needle-like structure and you get better flight characteristics at 5:1. So that is where we will start."

Loren nodded.

"You really are talking about a needle. That will only get you... ahh... rounding to two millimeters in diameter, but you can cut on length at ten, although some leeway on that. Damn, that can't do anything..." Loren started.

"Loren, you asked and we are thinking... so, ten millimeter with moderate leeway for tapering and two millimeter in diameter. A good slug from a forty-five does what?" Charlie asked.

"230 grains and 250 meters per second," Loren said closing her eyes, "actually some variation on speed and slug size with powder... ahhh... now I see where you two are going."

Charlie grinned.

"So we are replacing that mass from lead with DU say... ahhhh..."

Charlie and Tony each had scratch pads out, put down numbers and started circling their answers, then handed the pad to the other man. Don Carstairs had gotten up to look over their shoulders as they went through the figures with them. He looked at each man's scratch pad and they were, apparently, starting with different ideas.

"I think I put down the wrong conversion for grains to grams..." Tony said.

"No, 65 is close enough for ballparking..." Don said.

"Ok, velocity next, ballparking?" Tony asked.

"Sure!" said Charlie.

Richard, Kyle and Loren watched the two men work this through on the scratch pads, then they swapped them, again, with Don taking them up after each of them had done a cross-check.

"Its looking good," Don said, "within what we can do with 'by guess and by golly'."

"Right, clean sheet, recheck." Charlie said.

Both men flipped to a clean sheet, re-did the calculations and exchanged pads.

"Hey, that's doable!" said Charlie.

"Damned right, for what she needs. Not a serious penetrator, but if you can keep the exterior protection down... shit... that isn't bad."

Don took up the new sheets, checked them against the previous ones, and nodded.

"They agree within limits of error," he said, "between 10 and 17mm of penetration."

"It can be done?" Loren asked.

"I think so," Tony started, "but we will have to contact WMM."

"What? WMM? Why?" Richard asked.

"Needle molds. I think they have the right size for this... and we will have to get our precision cast group from the industrial side for a vacuum pour..."

"Now Loren, you are going to need something pretty tiny to hold these things together and that discards almost instantly as it leaves the barrel."

She smiled.

"Shotshell bases for 45 ACP. Got millions of them we use for pest control rounds. What do you recommend for the discarding part?"

"A semi-rigid foam or other down to the cup ought to do. We have been looking at pre-divided acrylics and plastics as part of our joint project. Basically it has to hold together in the barrel and come apart when it exits. It is trickier than it sounds."

"Depends on how fast it will be leaving the barrel. At low velocity I would need to look at one set of materials, the higher the speed, there are different ways materials react," Loren said.

"How fast will it leave the barrel?" asked Richard.

"Well, if you got fifteen grams, rounding up, of lead at two-fifty, then two and quarter will look at the fifteen hundred range," Tony said, "have to take a bit off the top end for the sabot components."

"Fifteen... one point five klicks per second?" Kyle asked.

"Nearly Mach 5?" Richard asked.

"That is if you get good momentum transfer, yes. Really I expect you will have problems getting a low density material to hold together, plus you have the mass of shotshell cup and wadding, and so that will reduce that final speed to, say, Mach 2 or so," Tony said.

"Semi-rigid compressible foam is what you'll want, as it is pushed forward it will be compressed and when it exits the barrel it should just fly apart. Good place to start, anyways," said Charlie.

"How about back-pressure for cartridge cycling?" Loren asked.

"Fastest burning stuff you can lay your hands on that will not rupture the strongest cases you can get. Really, you are almost at a true small amount of explosive, not burning powder, but that would probably kill the barrel and rupture the cartridge. Maybe a dusting of rifle powder in there since its slower burning? Keep the pressure up enough to cause the casing to cycle? I don't know, really, not my specialty. I'd stick with pistol powder and go for a longer barrel." Tony said.

"Hell on rifling, that explosive route, too, and you really do just want to push it out the end and have it cycle. Nothing fancy." said Charlie.

"Smooth bore," Tony and Charlie said together.

Loren sat back.

"I'll check the records and modern loads for handgun shotshells and start there. We've done a number of them for pest control, but not much variation on them. Its more of an art than a science. Frank Rock may be many things, but he is no idiot. I will be damned."

"He knows his trade, Loren," Kyle said.

"And I think I know just where you will want to find the sabot casement," Tony said.

"Really?" asked Richard, "Where?"


"Let us talk with WMM and see if we can wheedle their molds from them. Then specialty metals. That should take an hour or so. If it is crash emergency, first pour in an hour and half, allow some cooling time and... two hours?"

"It can be done?"

"We can get you the stuff, Loren. No promises on it working. This is all seat of your pants stuff."

"Good enough," said Richard.

"Say, Kyle, how good are you at re-loading?" Loren asked.

Kyle looked befuddled.

"Actually, I haven't done that... circumstances."

She nodded.

"Then you are washing, sizing, press and fit department, I'll do specialty loading. We will do up some small batches of five and see what we get as results. Probably an hour or so of tinkering should get us to a decent sabot that is reliable, more or less. How many needles can you get us?" she asked looking at Tony and Charlie.

"Well, how many do you want? Their normal batch run is 10,000... about 22 kilos of DU... hmmmm... uses up our supply, pretty much..."

"Good, 10,000 is good enough," she said.

"Loren, want me to drop by packaging and see what they have?"

"Would you, Don? About 10mm long and 11.5mm wide cylinder. In quarters if you can get that, which will save us lots of time. Otherwise we will be hunting around for something to give us clean cuts with."

"Semi-rigid, but compressible foam cylinders. I can hunt that down."

"Let me know when you got the needles, you two," Loren said.

Tony nodded.

"It is the damnedest thing we have ever been asked for. Sounds like fun. Let me know how it works out, wouldya Loren?"

"My pleasure, Tony. Charlie, thanks loads. You two are the best."

Loren got up and the others followed, with Charlie and Tony picking up their scratch pads.

It was another day at Wayne Corporation.

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