Happy Birthday, you're dead

(or a funny thing happened to Geoff on his way to a surprise birthday party.)

Part 14.


1515 - Backer Brothers makeshift control room

Gina watched her monitors worriedly as Duck linked into the matrix and began her run on Gryphex corp's security. She watched the images as they flashed by on the screen-- alternating between watching the screens and monitoring Duck's vital signs.

Gina's heart leapt as the image of Davy and Joey flashed on the screen. She gasped, even as Duck greyed out the image-- Gina had seen was enough to make her sick.

Geoff caught the disgusted look in Gina's eyes and let his breath out slowly.

As Duck analyzed the security around the room, she fed Davy's questions through the speaker on her deck. She knew that it was important enough for Davy to risk everything, but she didn't have time to relay the message, this was the only chance she had to got the information they needed to rescue Davy and Joey.

Gina's jaw dropped as she heard Davy's questions. She could tell Duck had edited them, but the message was clear.

"Jenny, hook up a comm-link to Kenny," she ordered as she checked the monitors. Duck's pulse rate was increasing to a dangerous rate.

"Got him," Jenny announced as she switched to the loudspeaker.

"Gina, this better be important," Kenny warned.

"Just listen," Gina stated as Davy's words played over Duck's speaker again.

"How?" Kenny asked in disbelief.

"Duck's in the building right now," Gina told him. "You take care of Derrick, and yourself, ya' hear?"

"I hear ya," Kenny responded as Davy's words were repeated again. "I hear ya."

Gina turned back to Duck's as Kenny shut off the line. Duck's heart-beat was getting erratic. As she reached for the switch, Geoff stopped her.

"She's killing herself," Gina objected.

"Dumping her out now, would do more damage," Geoff stated slowly. Gina started to object, but then she saw the look in Geoff's eyes. He knew what he was asking her to do and it was tearing him up, but he also knew it was also Davy and Joey's only hope and Duck would never forgive him if he did.

They watched in silence as Duck concentrated on what she was doing. The recording of Davy had stopped, and with it Duck's pulse had steadied.

Gina saw the status light wink off on the Deck and caught Duck as she sagged forward. "Easy, we've got you," she called as she massaged Duck's arms.

"Message, did you get the message?" Duck gasped.

"We got it," Gina assured her. "Kenny's been warned."

Duck nodded as she forced herself to breathe normally. "We have to move now," she added. "Geoff, they're going to kill them at this rate."

"Just pass what you have on to Rico," he answered.

"No," Duck growled as she turned towards him. "Rico doesn't need this."

"Duck, you almost went into arrest while you were in there," Gina interjected. "You've got the information we need, now let us handle this."

"We don't have time," Duck stated angrily. "They're going to kill them. We have to go and we have to go now."

Geoff looked at Duck as she sat there trying to get them to understand. He could hear it in her voice. Geoff nodded to Gina.

"We stick to the plan," Duck stated evenly. "Rico will handle the secondary systems. "There are 6 of them in the room, they've got Davy and Joey tied up, facing each other in the middle of the room," she continued. Geoff could hear the hesitation in her voice and knew what she wasn't telling him. They were suffering.

"You you going to be all right for this?" he asked softly.

Duck nodded.

"We'll get them," he promised her.

Duck took a deep breath and was all business again. "Rico, you ready for this?"

"Just tell me what you need me to do."

"Okay, your deck's going to be networked through mine. You'll have access to any of the processes I have access to. I'll do all the security work, then hand them off to you. That will leave me free to handle any IC and any trouble we haven't counted on," she stated as she connected the two decks together.

Rico shook his head, "I thought that was impossible..."

"Improbable, but very possible. Our machines are linked, virtually the same, that's the key. Any process you can't handle, you toss back onto my machine," she added. "No heroics here. We're a team trying to get a job done."

Rico nodded again.

"Rico?" Duck asked.

"Yes?" he answered.

"Are you with me?"


"Duck," Geoff told her. "The team's in place."

"Okay," she stated. "Rico, this is going to be a little bit strange at first. Just roll with it okay?"


"Tell them we're jacking in now," she told Geoff as she activated her deck.

Geoff watched as first Duck, then Rico shifted into full immersion.

1520 - Gryphex

Davy glowered at the man as he came nearer. At least when the man concentrated on him, he left Joey alone. It broke his heart to see what they were doing to him, but when he'd almost given up, Joey looked at him with those eyes, Geoff's eyes. He understood-- it made it a little easier, but not enough. Joey was just a kid he shouldn't have to go through this sort of thing.

He looked up at Davy now, his eyes sad, yet encouraging. Davy nodded, then looked back at the man defiantly. 'Help's coming,' he told himself. 'Just hold on.' He felt his hopes fall as the man took out a pair of jumper cables and wheeled a battery into the middle of the room.

Davy fought to control his breath as the man clipped one of the terminals to his chair. Then he smiled at Davy as he draped a rope over the pipes directly over his head. "You'll like this one," he stated as he went about his work. Davy watched as the man stretched the rope to Joey's head, then released it. The man adjusted the rope and tried again. When the rope hit Davy in the center of the chest the man stopped and smiled.

Davy gasped as he then tied a metal weight to the rope and attached the other terminal cable to it. "What do you think Davy-boy," the man asked with a smile. "5 lbs do it for you?" As the man finished his rigging, Davy bowed his head.

"Don't do this to the kid," Davy pleaded as he realized the mans plan. "Don't..."

"Then tell me where your brother is," the man stated as he walked back over to Davy.

Davy closed his eyes and lowered his head. "Let the kid go and I'll tell you."

"What, so he can go warn brother Jeffy? I don't think so. Tell me what I want to know, or..." he growled, "...well, you know what's coming."

"Davy, no!" Joey groaned. "They're going to kill us anyway."

"There are all sorts of ways of dying, aren't there Davy-boy? Care to explain this setup to the kid?"

Davy raised his head to meet the man's eyes and growled, "You want to play your little games, you leave him out of this."

"Davy, Davy... you haven't been paying attention have you? Its my job to get you to tell me where Geoff is, now you two haven't been very helpful in that now have you?"

With that he stepped to the side and let go of the rope he'd been holding onto. Davy had enough time to gasp as the weight hit him in the chest-- then the surge from the battery hit. The world exploded around him.

"No!" Joey cried out as he watched Davy twitch uncontrollably.

"I'm beginning to enjoy this game," the man stated as he pulled the weight away from Davy. Joey watched worriedly as Davy raised his head and looked at him.

"Leave him out of this," Davy groaned. "Leave him alone."

"Well that won't get me anywhere now will it?" he asked as he stood next to Joey with a length of rope he'd tied to the weighted rope.

"Open your mouth," he commanded as he slapped Joey on top of the head.

Joey looked at him in shock, then shook his head. The man responded by once again letting go of the rope. Joey watched in horror as the weight slammed into Davy's chest and he was once again hit with the electrical current from the battery.

"No!" he cried as the man pulled the rope back and let it go again. The man grabbed Joey's hair and pulled it back, forcing him to look up into his eyes.

"I'm not going to tell you again little-man," he growled as he grabbed the rope again. "Now, open your mouth."

Joey looked at Davy, who was still recovering from the last surge of electricity. He trembled as he did as he was told. He nearly choked as the man shoved the end of the rope into his mouth and then backed away.

"You see if you loose hold of that rope old Davy-boy here will fry-- unless I pull the weight away. I'll let you think about that for a while. If you tell me what I want to know, well, I won't make promises you know I won't keep, but I promise you-- the end will be clean."

Joey closed his eyes as the man laughed to himself. "Now, what happens to Davy's all up to you," he stated. "How long can you hold on?

Davy forced himself to look up at Joey and shake his head. "Not you," he managed to gasp. "Its not you..."

Joey tried to take heart from Davy's words, show the same courage he had, but he knew that it was only a matter of time. He bowed his head and clamped his jaw down on the rope. He would fight as long as he could.

1520 - Backer Brothers - Makeshift Control Room

Gina bit her lip as Duck's heart monitor blipped, off beat, then settled into a normal pattern. Gina watched as connections wizzed by on Duck's screen until she was in front of the Gryphx system.

"In position," Geoff stated into the microphone. "Ready."

"Ready and set," Boomer answered.

"We have access," Geoff announced.

1545 - Gryphex

Bear surveyed the area as Boomer gave him the go ahead. On his signal, he turned the knob on the side door and slipped inside.

Once he was sure the area was clear, he signaled the others to join him. He let out a breath and forced himself to think of this as a standard rescue mission. He blocked out the fact that these were his friends, that one of them was only 17 years old. It didn't help.

He waited for Wayne's signal at the next door. Somewhere Duck and Rico were acting as their advance scouts. 'Should be Tracker and Duck,' he thought to himself. Then he saw the motion detector. As he watched it blinked at him. 'Duck,' he told himself, and nodded to the camera.

'Clear,' Wayne signaled as Bear stood to the side. This time Tommy opened the door and moved ahead.

They worked their way through the building leapfrogging ahead of each other.

1555 - Backer Brothers - Makeshift Control Room

Geoff watched Duck's screen as she led the team through the building's security. When they reached the door, he saw her message flash on the screen "Wait here."

"Wait there," Geoff warned the others, but as he turned back Duck's screen was blank.

Duck greyed her screen before proceeding. She knew that Geoff would be watching, co-ordinating the team's actions with her own, but he didn't need to see what was coming.

As she slipped back into the room's monitoring camera she felt her stomach roll. There was only one man in the room with them now, but that meant that the others could be nearby. As she sent the warning to her monitor, she felt the crush of the Black IC that was waiting for her.

"TRAP!" she sent the message to the screen as she started to analyze the situation. The only hope of getting the others out of there alive was for her to play this right.

"Go," Geoff yelled into the microphone as Duck's screen flashed Get them 'NOW!' He watched worriedly as Duck's pulse rate raced dangerously fast.

Duck turned from the monitor's sensors back into the computer system. She could see them as the began throwing 'Killer Apps' at her. They had known she'd be there. They probably knew she was there the first time and were just waiting to spring their trap on her.

"Very good," she thought to herself. "One to keep me busy while the other one tries to track my link back to Geoff. Sorry boy's I know better than to let you do that."

With that she prepped her system for the battle to come. 'They can't trace us,' she told herself, but then she saw the real problem. Some one else was controlling the building's security drones. She was left with a choice. Fight for the drones and protect the others, or fight the IC and save herself.

'Some choice,' she thought to herself as she fired off her own defensive programs and sent a message to her screen.

Geoff held his breath as Duck's screen came back up. He could see the matrix from her view, and he saw the two images that indicated the other two deckers.

He closed his eyes and offered a small prayer to whoever watched over deckers like Duck. At least she wasn't alone, Rico was there with her, he could see him trying to help her as they turned to meet the threat. Then Duck's message scrolled across the screen.

"Dump Rico," the screen flashed. Geoff took a deep breath as he turned to Gina.

"Duck says to Dump Rico," he stated.

"Is she crazy?" Gina asked.

"Crazy's not the word for it," Geoff answered as the next part of the message crossed the screen. "When he's ready, tell him to go after the Security Drones. There's a Rigger in the building."

"Don't let him use a land line. Use Satellite link-up." Geoff watched as Duck's fingers flew along the glove that she was using instead of a keyboard. He could tell from her expression that she was trying to do too many things at once.

"I'll take care of these Dreckers," the screen stated. "Rico's got to keep the Drones from taking out the others System B, Sub node 7 Security Code - 109959Sx*!."

"Do it!" Geoff stated as Gina's hand hovered over the kill switch on Tracker's Deck. "She needs him to take over the building's Drones."

Gina nodded as she hit the switch and waited for Rico's head to stop spinning.

"Why?," he gasped as he saw Gina's hand on the switch. "Duck's in there against two other deckers."

"She needs you to go back in and take over the subsystem that's running the security drones. They've got a rigger running the system."

"Shit," Rico stated as he reached for his own deck. As he hooked in he looked over at Duck. "How she doing?"

"I don't know," Geoff answered. "She seems to be holding back for some reason. She said to use the satallite link up, Drone systems are on System B, Sub node 7 Security Code - 109959Sx*!."

"I'm gone," Rico stated as he activated his own deck.

Duck smlied to herself as Rico's image disappeared from the matrix. Now she didn't have to worry about the drones and protecting the others. That left her free to deal with the two that had been waiting for her.

Geoff felt a sense of vertigo as he watched Duck's screen. The image before him was spinning, and shifting, then he realized, Duck was exerting her will over the area. Suddenly the images shifted. No longer was he viewing the office's network. Instead the images around her were that of a rock garden. The attacking serpents became a part of the pattern of the sand, and then vanished, absorbed by the sand.

He chuckled as the images that represented the other deckers shifted as well. They changed from a dragon and a werewolf into a slug and a puppy. He could tell from their reaction, they didn't appreciate Duck messing with their images. "Girl's just askin' for it," he sighed, but he knew Duck was in her element now.

As they tried to launch another barrage of attacks, the puppy found itself chained to one of the rocks. Then Duck faced off with the Dragon/Slug. Dragon/ Slug raised itself up as it tried to land on the duck. Instead it found itself splashing into the sand of the garden. As it writhed in the sand, Geoff noticed the images getting smaller and smaller. Then Duck turned her attention to the Puppy. As she moved forward, the dog shuddered, forcing itself back into the form of a Werewolf.

He took a deep breath as the Werewolf tried to lunged at Duck, but the chain held. As he struggled against it, the chain gave way.

"Watch this." appeared on the screen

As the Werewolf lunged at Duck Geoff saw it pull up short and back off.

"Invisible fences," Duck commented on the screen. "Slug will be back soon. Don't worry about me, watch the others. Co-ordinate through Rico. I'm tracking these two. Time we end this my way."

Geoff nodded, then showed the screen to Gina who shook her head. "She's crazy," Gina complained.

"No," Geoff stated as he thought about what she had told him. "She's keeping the Decker's busy enough that they can't take control of the other systems. That will leave Rico free to take out the drones and guide the others out."

"She could get herself killed," Gina objected.

"She know the odds," Geoff assured her. "If ever there was someone who knows the odds, its Duck."

"What are the odds facing off against two deckers, a full system on the defense? Where are the odds in that?"

"Not just her odds," Geoff answered softly. "She knows how her actions will effect the others' odds. She's not telling us everything, but I know Duck. She's doing this so the others can get out safely."

"What about her?" Gina asked worriedly.

"She'll take the bad odds and play it through, if it means giving them a better chance of survival, but don't ever count the Duck out. She's a lot tougher than she looks."

Geoff thought about what he had said, thought back to the first time he met Duck. She'd gone through hell to give them a decent chance of survival-- him, Davy, Derrick and Bear. She'd played the odds then, and survived, barely.

As he turned back to her screen, he realized, it had gone blank again. Only the heart monitor gave him an indication of how things were going. It was beatin slightly faster, but it was steady and strong.

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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