Chapter 22:

No Holding Back

Code: Zero Defect

Luckily, the interior of the refinery doesn't seem to be well-guarded. Most of their forces are stationed outside, and I'm assuming that whoever is on security duty is also focused as such. I counted a total of seven cameras that I passed while moving through the empty corridors, and the alarm hadn't been sounded yet.

Could be a trap, but I doubt it. There's a bounty on my head for fifteen million credits, and I know damn well that any coatsman would be itching to get their hands on a reward like that.

I kept peeking through the window of every door I passed, but they all led to empty control rooms and labs. The vehicle depot was filled with coatsmen, yet no defects were in sight. Just where are they keeping them?

Suddenly, a cry of pain struck my ears like an ice pick. I immediately ran through the hallway and peeked my head through a set of double doors. It was the boiler room, and a bunch of makeshift operating tables were spread out in the empty spaces. Against the back wall was a line of people still chained to their electrical cuffs.

Strapped upon one of the many operation tables was a screaming man, blood oozing from his now augmented arm and leaking onto the floor below. Standing next to him was a pair of men in lab coats. A bloodied saw sat on a cart to the side.

They... cut his arm off... and for what...? Augmentation? Perfection? Does this look like perfection?! What a fucking joke.

"Hold still, will you?" one of the doctors said. "It will make it less painful."

"To hell with you and your damned augments!" the man shouted back.

"Hm... I'm surprised he's still conscious," the other doctor chuckled. "Maybe we should cut off his other arm."

"Haha, might as well," the first one laughed.

That was all it took to break me. I reached underneath my jacket for a knife and pushed the doors open. After throwing the knife at one of the doctors, I sprinted at the other. The only thing he could do was briefly scream before I slashed him down with my dagger. To my surprise, the spectators didn't even so much as squirm. They simply watched as their wardens fell lifelessly to the ground.

I knelt next to the grunting man, who was desperately trying to stay conscious.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

He slowly tilted his head to look at me. In them, I saw nothing but pain and regret.

"What a shitty world, huh?" he chuckled, though it was followed by dreadful coughs. "Here I am, a man... who couldn't do anything when his family was right there... watching him. And of all people, it's a kid... who came to save us. I'm fucking worthless, huh...?"

"Not at all," I assured. "It takes guts to defect against the High Order. You did all you could."

He lifted his arm to his face as he began crying. I tilted my head down to look at the augmented forearm fully integrated with his body. Even those mechanical fingers can tremble with emotion.

I then turned around to face the others.

"Is everyone else okay?" I asked.

They agreed in unison. I didn't think this part through. The list that Leona gave me was relatively short, so I assumed I would be moving a small number of people. Turns out, there's a crap ton of them and probably more somewhere else in the building. How am I supposed to get them all out?

I pondered for a moment. Every single outcome in my head ends with some, if not all, of them dying... except for one.

I breathed a heavy sigh and waited. I'm gonna need to see a doctor after this one.

"Everyone, stay here," I said. "Bar the doors and stay as quiet as you can. I'll come back for you when I'm done."

"W-what are you going to do?" asked a little girl who approached me.

I rested my hand on her head with a smile.

"Something very, very dumb, but it's the only way if I wanna get you all out of here," I replied.

She suddenly threw her arms around my waist, as she was nowhere near tall enough to reach my back. They were gonna force an innocent girl like her to augment? If that's true, which I don't see why it wouldn't be, then I have no remorse for them. I'll kill them all. That's all I'm good for anyway.

"Hey, kid..." the man on the table called out. "Who are you, anyway? Why are you going so far for some strangers?"

I didn't even need to think about that. I flung my curved dagger around and held it up to my face. Seems like that was all it took for everyone to know.

"Strider," I answered. "And don't worry about the details. All you need to know is that I'm like you... a defect."

With that, I stepped out of the room and shut the doors. The people inside were already getting to work, tending to the wounded man and moving things around to block the doors.

I ran through the corridors, taking every corner until I found myself on the catwalk of the vehicle depot. There, squads of coatsmen were loitering around, drinking and playing with their guns. Look at them laughing while that man back there was screaming for his life.

It's pissing me off.

Without the slightest bit of noise, I snuck towards the railing and scanned the area. Twenty trucks, all lined up in perfect uniform. Among them were several smaller vehicles. All of them are armored. It'll take a bit more than a grenade to blow them up, which is why I'm gonna have to thank Freddy after this is all over.

I pulled out the small item that he gave me earlier. It's a cylinder with energy lines running through it. A small, sealed button rested at the top. This thing is a high-density pulse grenade. Once it is set off, it's guaranteed to blow a hole within its given radius.

I uncapped the seal, pressed the button, and tossed it at the nearest truck.

Within a couple of seconds, the ground imploded, and the truck exploded, setting off a chain reaction all the way down the line. Alarms began blaring as the coatsmen gathered around the site.

From my pocket, I pulled out a small pistol. I don't normally use guns since I prefer more... traditional methods. However, in this case, I have to take out as many as I can.

I focused my aim on the group and began unloading the clip. One down. Three down. Eight down. And that's when they finally pinpointed my location. I ran back into the hallway behind me, dropping the empty mag and loading another one. Already, a squadron was barreling down the opposite end.

Here we go again.

From my belt, I pulled out a smoke bomb and flooded the hallway with a thick cloud. As I took cover inside a small divot in the walls, gunshots echoed as a storm of bullets whisked past the smoke.

"Shit, it's a neural disruption smoke," I heard them grunt.

"Get in there!" another one shouted.

A couple of seconds later, one of them stepped through the fog. I quickly lunged at him, grabbing him by the collar and pushing him up against the wall. Despite his desperate struggle, I took my dagger and shoved it into his neck.

Another one appeared to which I pulled the dagger and slashed his eyes. Using my pistol, I shot him once in the leg, which forced him to his knees. He lifted his head, and I planted a bullet straight through his forehead.

With no time to react, yet another stormed out and shoved me back with his rifle while the last one came out and pulled up his rifle.

I pulled myself away when they began firing their rifles.


I threw myself through a closed door, sliding on the ground in pain. I quickly planted my hand on the back of my right shoulder. Blood.

"In here!" one of the coatsman shouted.

Despite the pain, I pushed myself up and hid behind a table as they stormed in.

"Come on out, buddy," they said. "Ain't nowhere left to run."

If I wasn't trying to hide, I would've let out a chuckle. Running was never my thing anyway, and now that we're in a dark, secluded area, we're in my domain: the shadows.

From my pocket, I pulled out a tiny trinket. Nothing special, just one of the many random things I keep and never bothered to clean out.

I subtly chucked it towards the other side of the room, which was followed by a slight bang as it hit a metal sheet.

When they turned their attention to it, I rose from my spot and hurled my dagger. It spun rapidly in the air before landing dead in the center of one while I lifted my pistol and shot the other.

Taking heavy breaths, I walked over and pulled my dagger right out, releasing a spew of blood.

"Rest in peace," I muttered, but I didn't really mean it.

Further down the hallway, a number of uniformed footsteps echoed. In hindsight, I should've thought this through a little bit better.

I'm injured in my right shoulder, I'm tired, and if I keep going, there's a good chance I won't make it out of this.

That matters very little now. I've already made my presence known. The only thing left is to fight.