Dateline: 3 days after last session. Time: 10.30pm local time.
The team are sitting in the unmarked van delivered by Gabriel three days ago. They’ve been waiting for the signal from Snow that she had Dneiter under her spell and it was safe to approach his condo block. The original plan was for her to get him to allow them entry somehow, but they got a phonecall from Candyman on a public booth at the Milehigh Club downtown telling them Dneitner is insisting on taking them to a party out in Pleasant Hill and they’ll all be a no-show and now realize the plan will need some fast changing-up.
It’s a nice night for an infiltration. The crescent moon is obscured by high clouds and a light mist has rolled in from the bay. There’s a chance of heavier fog later, the kind that’s filled with pollution, but for now there’s almost no breeze worth mentioning and even the ever-present lights of the megacity seem slightly subdued. From the multi-storey car park of the mall complex where they are parked, about a mile from the condo tower with a nice view over it’s grounds, the team can see that lights still blaze on several floors of the tower, including all of the first five. There’s some subdued lighting out in the landscaped grounds and from whereb they sit they can see ten feet high, black polycarbon poles rising above the shrubbery every ten feet or so around the perimeter of those grounds.
Able smiles slightly as he shows an atypical nervous energy, looking around the van like a jackrabbit about to pop, “We’ll need to change the plan. A full-on break-in, rather than a social engineering coup.” Garrion agrees, but says that a covert infiltration would still be better, given that the on-site security company boast of having a rapid response team answer any major alarm within five minutes. Pitbull quickly outlines a possible route and some precautions to take against passive defenses on his implant, then sends the outline to everyone’s interfaces. However, just as the three are about to set out there’s a squeal of tyres from the parking levels below and moments later a big, familiar B&B limousine pulls up – Candyman has arrived unexpectedly.
As the slim ex-corporate gets out of his limo, Garrion calls softly, “We thought you were busy partying it up. You decide you didn’t want to miss all the fun?” Candyman winks back, “Snow’s with the target, no reason for me to stay around, it’s in good…hands.”
With his arrival, the team decide to re-evaluate once again and go with a modified version of the original plan. There’s a restaurant on the Tower’s fifth floor – they’ll pretend to be Candyman’s security team as he attends a dinner meeting there and hope to find a way to break in to the residential section – and thence to Dneiter’s apartment – once they’re inside by also enquiring about office space to rent. Their planning is cut short when they hear, from somewhere above on the upper floor of the parking tower, laughter, breaking glass and several loud voices. Then a car alarm breaks in: “This vehicle is equipped with lethal countermeasures. You have five seconds to step away from this vehicle. The police have been informed of an attempted illegal entry.”
There’s the sounds of panic and running feet, then a gang of a dozen kids in Prole casual spill down the ramp from above, laughing and sharing bottles of some amber liquid. They stop and stare at the team, start to back up and then remember what they’re running from – they hesitate, like rabbits in headlights. The team briefly contemplate a warm-up exercise on the young gangers, then decide discretion is the better part of valor when they hear distant city police sirens on their way. “That’s a sign its time to roll out,” says Garrion and he and Pitbull pile into the van while Able gets into the chauffeur-driven limousine with Candyman and the two vehicles head for Talking Rock Tower. As soon as they peel out, the limo in the lead, the drunken party-gang on the ramp surge forward. A couple of half-empty bottles smash on the pavement behind the van and catcalls follow down towards street level and the short drive to the main Tower driveway. The corp on the gate sees the van and limo approach and opens the steel barrier even as he flags the limo down.
“Good evening. May I ask the purpose of your visit?”
“Evening, I’m here for dinner,“ replies Candyman. “I’ve heard the rave reviews and seek to test them. If I have time – I’ll check your offices ,“gestures to the top of the tower, “ but I’ve an early morning so I’ll have to see after dinner.”
The corpcop unrolls a datapad flexible screen and touches the menu there. “Certainly, Sir. Under what name is the restaurant reservation?” Candyman smiles warmly at him, turning on the full force of his considerable charisma and corporate-trained talent at leadership. “I was hoping to meet my friend Deitner for dinner but he phoned in that he had other plans,“ he winks suggestively at that and continues, “the cur let me know last minute so I hope you can work something for me.”
The cop smiles back, seeing exactly the kind of high-flight executive and his personal security detail he would expect to be meeting such a Glitterati resident at the restaurant. After a brief tapping on his tablet screen and a quick interchange that established that “Mr. Smith” doesn’t want his real name used, a bribe exchanges hands and the team are directed to the underground parking garage for trusted guests – most notably, bypassing the t-portal check on the main reception thereby. The parking garage is like every other – featureless, bleak plascrete and institutional paint. But the elevator is paneled in Italian marble and has a thick, dark red carpet on the floor. As Garrion and Able play their roles of security team, quickly searching the parking lot for potential threats – and potential egress and ingress points – scanning for cameras and such, Pitbull voices his own thoughts as he enters the elevator, “It’s too posh….It’s kinda… sickening.”
Able gestures towards a panel way up in the corner of the elevator where a tiny glass lens denotes a camera, then to two panels at ground level which appear to slide to one side for some reason. He marks the locations on his HUD minimap, sending a copy to the others, then steps into the elevator, blocking the door from closing until the entire party is inside. “Mr. Smith… whenever you are ready. The area is secure,” and the elevator slides quickly and silently up to the fifth floor.
The elevator doors open on a restaurant done in European hi-chic fashion – thin white backlit marble, creamy leather and tasteful repros of old masters on the bare walls. A hanging holo in the air above head level bids guests welcome to the Tower Tantalus Restaurant and says they’ll be seated in a moment. "Mister Smith and party? If you would follow me please“, intones the Maitre-d’ formally as he greets them. He leads them to a booth table on the lower part of a split-level floor plan, near a holo-sigh showing the way to the restaurant bathrooms. The view out over the Clayton hills and down towards the bay is very fine, even so, with the many lights of Downtown Core glimmering through what appears to be a noxious brown fog rolling across the lowlands near the bay. Candyman orders Beef Wellington with a bottle of Chateau de Latiffe ‘23 for himself, and steak with fries and water to drink from the servant’s menu for his “security team”. The restaurant is barely half full at this time and it’s not long before their food arrives. The Beef Wellington is served on a bed of real greens and accompanied by both roasted potatoes and parsnips with a blackberry coulis. The steak is good but probably vat-grown from clone tissue rather than reared anywhere near the countryside.
As they all finish, a portly man in a blue pinstripe suit approaches and bows obsequiously. “Good evening, Sir. I’m Gerard Main, the duty Tower manager. I was informed you wished to enquire about our office leasing?” Candyman dabs his lips on a real linen napkin and looks up, “Yes, I think I’d like to take a look around. Be best if I kept personal ventures separate from my office at work and I’ve heard good things from some friends.” The manager does a double-take at his hint of work being done outside some corporate remit then smiles. “Of course, Sir. we can be very discreet here at the Tower. If you and your team would like to look around, I’ll be available as soon as you‘re ready.”
Able interjects at this point, stepping up to the manager, “We will need to perform a full evaluation of the building’s security measures if our client is going to be leasing an office here.” The manager turns to him, his position slightly altered, an equal talking to an equal, “Our facility here is secured by Whirlwind. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. I don’t think anyone can question their expertise.” Pitbull interjects with a crack about not trusting the security system just on someone else’s word but Able has a more pointed objection – Whirlwind recently had an important asset abducted from an Enclave they secured in Citadel City that resulted in a leveraged employment offer. “We can not afford the same sloppy mistakes to endanger our client."
The manager stiffens for a moment, slightly shocked, then continues in a professional manner, Very well, I’ve paged the duty security officer. She’ll meet us on the seventh floor, which is the only one with vacancies at present." He summons the maitre-d’ who processes Candyman’s bill – almost a month’s earnings for the average Prole for just this one meal – and then the manager leads the team to another elevator at the core of the Tower, identical to the first, which takes them up to the 7th floor.
As the door opens, a petite redhead woman in a light grey security uniform is waiting. She gives a tight nod and the manager introduces her as Captain Pritchard, the duty security officer. Candyman does his best to impress her with his charismatic mien but what she hears is Pitbull’s snorted “Captain?” She bristles: . “Yeah. So?” Too late, Able and Garrion try to politely explain that their client wishes them to examine and evaluate the building’s security systems – Pritchard is already focused on Pitbull as he answers her with a shrug, “I didn’t think this place were a captain’s job. Sergeant, maybe, but not so high as captain." She responds coldly, “This isn’t the military. the most dangerous time might be at night, so the ranking officer sometimes has to pull that duty instead of leaving it to subordinates while he sleeps in a cushy bunk. Do you have any idea of the collected net worth of our tenants?” Able takes her literally and does a quick calculation on his implant, “At a minimum, $220 million. We understand and appreciate the need for security, Captain,” and Pitbull murmurs a quick apology, but she’s already on a roll, talking right over Garrion as he asks about cameras.
Pritchard turns to Able and nods sharply. “Close on the low side, well done. OK.” She raises one gloved hand and begins to tick off points with her other index finger. "Fully integrated AI-monitored biometric door alarms, panic alarms via tenant’s interfaces, a flexible fire suppression system build in and cameras with mikes in every public space. Non-lethal, AI-controlled countermeasures in every stairwell and elevator. A team of eight on duty at any time, with clamshell and battle rifles in the armory if these “she makes a PDW appear and disappear” aren’t adequate. Oh, and of course Whirlwind’s promise of one of our rapid Response teams on site within five minutes. Well?"
She and Pitbull exchange cold glares while Able answers, “That’s all well and good – pretty standard for a high-security area and a Whirlwind team – but that’s not quite enough detail. Not after the incident in Citadel earlier in the week. While this location is perfect, that incident left him a little shy of Whirlwind.” The temperature drops even lower as the captain responds, "The only truly safe client-target is at the bottom of a mine, surrounded by two divisions of Armatech’s finest and already dead. I’m sure you know that. You’ll not find better for the price. Also, the Peterson abduction was done by a deep-cover operative of some skill, denoting the resources of a Sovereign corporation. If your boss has that kind of enemy looking seriously for him, he’d be better of leasing that coal mine.”
The two go back and forth for a few seconds more, as Able tries to explain that his client wishes him to inspect the security systems personally, although he’s fine doing that with authorized personnel at his shoulder and Pritchard remains adamant that no outside is getting near her control room and computer core, “Not even if my CEO himself asked me.” At this point, the unsubtle Pitbull sticks his foot in it again, trying to use big words like he knows what‘s what: “Impressive. Then is there anything else that can provide us with more assurance that has more weight than the breath of your words?”
Pritchard stops and turns to the tower manager to ask sweetly, “Why don’t you show Mr. Smith the office suite, Gerry? There’s no need for you two to be bored by our tech-talking.” As soon as they are out of earshot, Pritchard rounds on the other three and hisses “Now, if one of you can explain why I should let three obvious runners doing make-work for some over-wealthy spiv who’s probably screwing his company on some back-door dealings look up-close at my turf, I’ll consider it. Otherwise, forget it and go tell the spiv he can’t afford us.” She points at Able. “You I can’t figure yet, but the big guy here,” she hooks a thumb at Pitbull, “is so obviously ex-someone’s military it hurts. Probably a DD too.”
Able shakes his head, “We aren’t runners.” Briefly, a tattoo appears on the side of Able’s face – Rossum‘s logo, with a barcode leading up his face. Pritchard’s eyes go round, then she whispers “OK, thanks. But still on the lam from company oversight, is my guess.”
Garrion interjects, “You had better be careful of your accusations. You may find yourself demoded even more than you already are. I know about the incident at Leng. I want to make sure no events like that take place with Mr. Smith here.” Pitbull meanwhile is trying to stuff his whole leg in his vocal orifice: "Ex-military, yes. DD, no. I am a member of his body guard, and I want to make sure that he is not dealing with some polished turds with guns who have “Security” stamped on their cotton tees."
The return is swift and angry, “Blow it out your ass, my friend. Maybe I should tell Gerry we don’t want Rossum pulling a black op from our Tower. Maybe I should go digging on you guys. Maybe…”
The elevator behind the three runners pings and the doors open. Pritchard looks behind them, steps smartly to the left two paces to remove herself from any direct line of fire, smiles, and makes that PDW appear again. click-clack “I think it’s time you spooks collected your face and left, don’t you?” Behind them, the teams three members hear the rack of bolts from two other PDW’s.
To Be Continued….