Hurricane Fever

Tobias S. Buckell

Tor Books

1

 

As the sun dipped low over Miami’s canals and waterways, it glittered off the skyscrapers and the pools of ocean between them. Puddleboats meandered from lobby to lobby to pick up passengers. Traffic along the bridges and secondary roads arching over the Miami waters bunched up with anticipatory evening rush hour traffic.

Four security guards surrounded Zee in the lobby of the Beauchamp Industries offices, including one of the sketchy guards who always wore thick black turtleneck sweaters with long sleeves to hide his neo-Nazi tattoos. They’d been waiting for him as he walked out of the elevator, into the black-marble-walled lobby with back-lit mirrors and large bamboo plants.

They patted him down quickly, then turned him back toward a table near the elevators.

“You can’t leave,” the guard with the long sleeves muttered in his thick, Eastern European-accented English. “We need to look inside your briefcase.”

Zee wore a dark blue suit and purple-rimmed designer glasses, a look that vaguely suggested middle management. That is, if someone didn’t notice the extra-athletic build and dancer-like posture hidden underneath the clothes.

He sighed. It had been such a close thing. Three months infiltrating the building. And many more prior to that figuring out that this was the location in which a secret secondary biotech lab had been concealed. Something Beauchamp Industries didn’t want anyone to know about.

“Your briefcase, please,” the guard repeated.

“What’s wrong?” Zee asked.

“Just open the briefcase.”

Zee looked at him. Thickly built, a bullish neck and squashed face; there were signs the man’s nose had been broken multiple times. A bruiser. Twice Zee’s size and able to throw his weight well.

“Okay,” Zee said. He set the black briefcase on the table, pushing aside a potted fern, and flicked the two latches. The briefcase opened up. Nestled gently in between papers, a screen, and some oatmeal cookies, was a stainless steel injector. “I think this is what you’re looking for.”

The four guards took a step back. They might not be sure of what exactly was going on upstairs, but they had some idea that it was a bio-technology lab. And as general security contractors, they had a feeling there shouldn’t have been a floor up near the top with a dedicated lab in the company’s general offices.

“You will need to come with us,” the guard with the uncomfortably hot long sleeves said solemnly.

“I understand,” Zee said, and picked up the injector.

All four men stared at him as he jammed the point into his forearm and triggered the device. It hissed, spitting whatever it had contained down past Zee’s skin.

“Catch!” Zee said, and tossed the injector at them. They flinched back from it, which gave Zee the second he needed to close with the big guy. He flipped him into the table and pulled the gun out from his belt in one smooth sequence.

With gun in hand, Zee spun and ran for the doors with a head start. The dangerous one, still shaking his head, pushed away the help of the other guards. He patted his belt and swore. “Call Dmitri!” he shouted, and ran after Zee.

Outside on the docks around the skyscraper, Zee circled around for a second until he found a fast-looking powerboat. It took a second to smash the console open and jump-start it. He cast the ropes off and powered away, but not before the large guard jumped from the dock into the back of the boat.

“You must stop,” he told Zee.

Zee jammed the throttle up, surging the boat away from the dock at full speed, its wake splattering up against the sides of nearby downtown buildings as they ripped through the Miami canals. There’d been a time when these had been side streets that the Army Corps of Engineers fought to keep dry with dikes and walls, but ten years ago they’d finally accepted defeat. The ground under Miami was porous; they couldn’t stop the ocean from bubbling up even if they built dikes around the entire city. This wasn’t Denmark, this was Miami, all former swamp. So the lower floors of buildings had been waterproofed, barricaded, and the streets lined to divert and control the waterways. If he was quick about it, Zee could get this powerboat right back to his safe house and call in help, and never step foot on a dry road.

But he was going to have to hurry, because he was going to need all the help he could call in from his safe house very, very soon once that injection took hold.

A more immediate problem was the very determined guard behind him.

Zee spun the wheel and unbalanced the man. He elbowed the guard in the gut, but it seemed to have little effect. The guard’s pupils were wide as he bear-hugged Zee and then head-butted him. The powerboat careened off a wall and smacked off another boat. People shouted at them as they zagged past.

The world faded for a second, and then Zee sputtered back to consciousness with a face full of blood.

“You’re coming back to meet Dmitri, and then Dmitri will take you all the way up,” the man said, his voice slurred. “Stop fighting. You’re dead man already. We know you are with Caribbean Intelligence. And that injection will kill you.”

The bear hug was breaking his ribs, Zee realized. The man had ingested a fighter’s cocktail at some point: a dose of some slow release Adrenalin, as well as some other mixture of drugs to enable a spurt of speed and immunity to pain. None of the kicks or jabs Zee threw affected him at all.

The guard let go of Zee to grab the wheel. The powerboat, out of control, had turned for one of the docks.

Zee hit him in the head with the gun. As the guard shrugged that off, Zee flipped him out of the boat. Behind him, another powerboat appeared in the canal. Zee glanced behind and saw three shaved heads.

Friends of the guard he’d just thrown overboard.

There was a large park five miles away. Acres of natural preserve. A safer place to continue this battle where people wouldn’t get hurt in the crossfire. More open water to lose his pursuers in. Zee gunned the powerboat to full speed.

With a virus injected into his skin, the longer he waited to get help the more danger he’d be in. But first he was going to have to take care of his determined pursuers.

Well, all he had to do was get back to his safe house and make a call. After that … Bullets stitched the back of the powerboat, making him wince.

Just focus on getting to the safe house, he told himself. From there he could call for backup.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Tobias S. Buckell