Dateline: September 24, 2050, 00:55
The group sits within the Silverfish, an early 2030s era military ‘stealth’ submersible that Combat Cabs likely bought either as military surplus or on the black market. The fish is small, cramped, and claustrophobic, and anyone who sat inside one for any length of time would agree that the repetition is justified. The sub arrived an hour after Dweezil made the call, piloted by Brock, a no-nonsense damned-near android of a sub pilot. A few bits and pieces of contraband lay on the seats – it’s obvious that this sub was recently used for cargo transportation duties, rather than mere personnel transport.
Eleanor Sanders lies in the middle of the sub, completely blocking the aisle; she’s dressed in a loose black jumpsuit and connected to a life support system, but remains unconcious and flat as a board. Brock’s voice sounds from the intercom. “We’re pulling up on the port now. ETA, five minutes. We’ll hit soundly at 0100.”
Pacoy curiously eyes the medical equipment without disturbing them or the patient while Pitbull sits statue solid in his seat, clearly uncomfortable with being in a submarine. Mei, now reverted to her caucasian disguise of April, speaks while glancing at Elanor. “Seems we’ve gone through quite a bit of trouble for this woman. I wonder what her father would be willing to pay to have her back…and keep knowledge of her involvement out of the news.”
Mac starts from what seems to have been a deep sleep and begins working out a crick in his neck. “Wouldn’t be the first time blackmail’s turned a profit. Gotta say, looking forward to getting out of this sardine can.” Wormwood swaps out the clips on his pistols as he sits quietly, seeming in a world of his own but in actuality reviewing the feed from a nanobug of particular importance to his next Art project.
Mei continues, “We should setup a failsafe, something to hold over his head so that he can’t just kill us to silence the message.” Wormwood perks up at Mei’s words: “That’s good thinking…ummm….April. Any ideas on how to do that, though?”
Pitbull grates in discomfort. “You and I both, Mac.” Pitbull’s hands cling to his Reaper as though it were the manliest security blanket ever crafted. Wormie grins suddenly, wickedly. “Hey Pits, do you hear a dripping noise?” He winks to Mei.
“Shouldn’t be too hard, we’ve got implants that monitor our health. We connect to a server – go offline too long, or send a signal, and it distributes it. Need to hit more than one place, just in case he’s got some of them in his pocket already, of course.” Mei replies to Wormies inquiry.
Pitbull’s grip flexes on his Reaper as he gives Wormwood a very dirty look. Mac chimes in, leaning his head against the hull of the submarine, “You got servers safe enough to pull a trick like that? Old mob boss I knew tried the same thing with a bunch of guys who kept secrets – what he didn’t count on is those secretholders being bought out.” “I don’t Mac, but both Candy and I know people who might.” Mei answers.
Candyman simply stares at Eleanor with cold eyes, her face washed out in the red light of the sub, her shallow breathing imperceptible. Thinking to himself, “Far too much hassle for a damned corpse woman.”
Mei chides Wormwood, “Awe Wormy, don’t tease the big guy. Everybody’s got something their afraid of…and I’d rather not see what he does when he gets too provoked..”
Pacoy reminds Pitbull, “Man, Pit, this is a heck of a lot safer than AV travel, and we’re often being shot at in the air…” Wormie snorts a laugh, then gets serious. “Cheer up, Mr C. We’ve got a chance to sell bio-samples to Rossum and get some cash for the girl here. Better than getting nothing, right?”
“You can parachute from an AV, with some luck. But escaping from a sub usually just means getting pressure crushed. I’d prefer to go down in flames than to drown slowly.” Pitbull rumbles, hands going tight around the barrel of his Reaper. Wormwood looks at Pitbull and throws out a choice bit of comforting advice. “Naw, at this depth you wouldn’t be crushed – just drown.”
“Still, never liked subs. Been in one once before this. Never wanted to again after the first.” Pitbull says half to himself. Mac begins to laugh wearily. “Trade a quick excruciating death for a slow one. Well, there are worse ways to go off to the big sleep.” Pacoy gets a mental image of Texan Army of the coast of Mexico in a sub, eating refried beans, and shudders.
A slight groan reverberates through the hull of the boat. Wormie moves over to sit next to Mei and Candy. “Y’know, we sorta hold the whip hand if Eleanor’s dad wants her back. We can pretty much demand he comes to the Green for her, or meet at one of the Bey’s places or somesuch.”
Mac looks around nervously. “Please tell me we just hit something and aren’t slowly being crushed like an overripe peach rotting in the noonday sun…” Wormwood calls up front to Brock, “Hey, is everything OK up there?”
Candy lifts his head at the mention of his name, “Money is not everything. It is the least tool of power, of control. But yes, it may not be a total wash. It depends on the reputation of Desiderium after all of this. The head of an organization being so easily fooled – it could do a great deal of harm. I put my life in hands I believed I knew, when I place the lives of my Children in harms way every day, their trust could well falter. I simply worry.”
Pitbull stands up in a swift motion. “Fuck-fuck-fuck-” He growls under his breath as he looks through some window ports. Wormwood pats Candyman’s shoulder, “You worry too much, dude.”
Brock speaks back over the intercom. “Everything’s fine. The sub’s just adjusting to the pressure change.” Mei looks over to Candyman and smiles. “Men fool and are fooled every day Candyman. What matters is who comes out on top. After what we’ve learned, we shall today.”
A moment later, he comes on again. “Oh, uh, ignore any sudden jolts. And let me know if you see any suspicious leaks.” Candy gives Worm a weak smile, “That’s my job Worm, to worry for us all.” Mei ponders for a moment on what would be a non-suspicious leak. Pacoy gets a sour look on his face at the mention of ‘money isn’t everything’, but changes his focus to the condition of the sub and starts thinking of fun submersible toys that move in a 3D environment without Aerial Stability issues.
Wormwood shakes his head. “Maybe. But if you’re worrying too much you’ll get blindsided by the next one. Let it go, dude.” “Fuck’s sake!” Pitbull hisses as he tried to maneuver up to the cockpit to see what’s going on in the pilot’s seat.
Mac casts his eyes about, suddenly becoming suspicious of every bead of sweat. “Candy, I don’t think that putting yourself at risk is going to make anyone lose trust. Hell, makes most trust you more. Just sit your egg on that for a while.”
Pitbull has a difficult time moving about the miniature sub – for one, he has to bend down pretty far just to ‘stand’, and for another Eleanor’s taking up most of the space. He could just stand on her face, but that might leave a bit of a bruise. Pitbull, deciding against moving the Intensive Care Eleanor, stomps back in the direction of his seat, mumbling something incoherent about the pilot.
The ‘engine room’, as it were, isn’t really much – just the rear of the ship with a small access hatch to the engine pods. The front of the ship, the ‘bridge’ or cockpit, is a tad more roomy, but only because those in it are expected to be moving around a bit to hit buttons – this design came out prior to the neural interface’s ubiquity in military vehicles.
Candy shakes his head, “It’s not about bravery, thats Francheska’s job, the Aequitas. My job is to think and to make Desiderium appear strong, to lead with a cunning mind. It would be very troublesome if the countless other Toe’s in the world thought me easily fooled.” Wormwood laughs, “No it wouldn’t! They’d be wrong and they’d be under-estimating you for the future. Where’s the downside to that?” Mac nods. “He speaks truth. That’s a power all unto itself.”
The sub suddenly lurches, and a loud ‘screeeech’ sounds throughout the little boat. No sudden leaks occur, but it sure didn’t sound good. Pitbull turns on his heel and walks back in the direction of the pilot. “The fuck was that?!” He roars. Paling at the sound, Mac holds very still. “Please tell me that was just another pressure change. Please?”
Wormwood presses one ear to the sub’s hull and steps the gain on his cyberaudio to maximum. What’s going on out there? Candy looks around the room, “A man can strike down a ravenous dog, but he can not handle a pack. Desiderium would be pulled apart. My crew are young, they are not that stern of spirit. I would not want to reforge them by the flames of war. Either way, it’s not going to matter if we all die in this sub.”
Pacoy distracts himself from the situation by running the math of the water pressure and hull strength. A few moments later, there’s a ‘thunk’ from up front, and the pilot turns around. Dweezil barks a short laugh. “Da land-bound tink we ’bout to die, mon!” Just seconds after that, the sub lurches again – but this time upwards. Wormwood relaxes somewhat, “We’re in some kind of winch, going up.” Candy sits back down, “Good good.” After breathing out a sigh of relief. “That’s good, for sure. Much better than on a winch going down.”
Pitbull lets out a breath with a sound like a furious race horse, and turns once again back in the direction of his seat. Dweezil raises his hands to the hatch above his head. “We and I arrived at sanctuary at last, mons.” Wormwood snarks, “Woman and fraidy-Pits first!” “Says the one in lipstick.” Pitbull quips back, as he prepares to dissembark.
The movement stops after a while, and all is quiet; Dweezil swiftly pops open the hatch and pulls himself up and out, reaching down to help with transporting the woman off. Wormwood gets up and helps Dweezil by pushing from below.
After taking a deep breath of non-recirculated air, Mac starts laughing and preparing to help people out as best he can given his condition.
“So, how much do I owe you guys, Dweezil?” Wormwood asks.
Getting up, the familiar grimy sky overhead, Candy climbs up. “Good to be back in civilization, thanks Dweezil.” Candy palms a handful of cred chips from a hidden pocket, “Honestly I think our lives we worth more than that – we appreciate your generosity.” Wormwood leans in to Candyman, “Right, Candy – wanna get Hugh to wheel around the Candyvan so we can get back to base?” Candy nods to Worm,“I’ll get right on that,” then turns and starts gesturing as he silently communicates over comms.
Pitbull stomps out of the submarine and takes a massive breath of air, arms outstretched. Mac quietly waits for everyone else to get out of the sub, helping when possible before trying to exfiltrate through creative use of his new cane. Pacoy subtly offers an elbow for Mac to hold in support. Mac graciously accepts Pacoy’s assistance, thanking him in a quiet and humble voice before leaning on his cane, enjoying the breeze.
Dweezil hands the cred chips to a man in something approximating a business suit, but a bit less formal; looking closer, it’s likely to be armored and he appears to be strapped. “Six grand and five, all paid up, mon.”
Mei palms a $1000 credit chip to the dreadlocked man, “Dweezil, your services were appreciated.” The suited gentleman turns to the group. “Thank you for using Combat Cabs; we’re always here to help.” He looks down at Mac. “Will you be needing medical help? We have a standing contract with Trauma Team, if you require it.”
Pacoy watches the transfer of cred-chips and ponders the logistics/overhead of a robocab service as he escorts Mac to the street. Dweezil accepts the chip from Mei. “Always be enjoyin’ the times, girl. Voodoo no do good things to my spine, ‘do. No seein’ any pleasure goin’ back to Babylon.”
Wormwood speaks to the suit, “It’s OK, dude. We’ve got it from here I think.” Mac nods to the suit. “It’s just a bit of bruising… my appreciation for your concern, sir.” Pitbull rolls his neck and straightens up. “So which one first? Rossum or the girl?” Candy runs a thumb down his nose, “Rossum. The father might think she’s dead or sell us out. Rossum is also likely to payout better and remember that we sought them out first, the father is unlikely to hire us in the future.” Pacoy agrees, “Sounds like a plan, the original job was to keep away from daddy anyways…”
With the destination settled, the group begins their calls and gets their ride. It being after midnight, it takes a bit of time to get in contact with Able – he is currently doing some surveillance work, but is able to meet in a few hours and promises to get the ball rolling upstairs after passing on the information to management.
:::Fade Scene – An alleyway, the next day :::
Now, it is 0550, just before sunrise. The team can still smell smoke wafting through the breeze from Cargotown – they’re only a few miles inland from the raging riot locked inside the quarantine zone. It’s a small clinic, fully owned by Rossum but not labeled in their name. The team has parked their van in the alley behind the building, out of easy sight. Wormwood slips out of the van and into the shadows, loosening his pistols – can’t be too careful in such situation.
Pacoy gets out of the van over, double checks his gear, and gets ready to go. Mac steps out of the van, leaning on his cane in his left hand, toying with his pocket watch in his right. His hand strays towards the shotgun bag in the van, but he opts instead to leave it behind, concentrating on walking. Able steps out from the shadows – at least, you think it’s him. The face isn’t quite the same as you’d come to expect – he’s a bit darker skinned, the nose is all wrong, and he’s wearing a weird metallic hat. But the eyes are the same, and he acknowledges you – and his tattoo lights up his face for a brief moment.
“Good to see you again. Shall we go inside before discussing?” Mei asks, cautious not to tip off any surveillance devices that Rossum’s enemies may have set up outside the secretive lab. Wormwood sees Able and steps forward, guessing Able would know he was there anyway. Candyman gives him a nod,“Let’s get in out of this filth, I can smell the ashes of the dead from here.”
Mac cocks his head to the side, not quite sure what to make of Able’s hat. Pitbull steps out of the van, shoulders his Reaper, and offers Able his hand as he steps up to him. Starting as though he’s completely forgotten himself, Mac hobbles forward after Pitbull, offering his hand towards Able as well. “Sorry, rude of me. The name is Trenton, Trenton Machesky.” Able shakes Pitbull’s hand, followed by Trenton. “Able. We can talk inside; bring the package in.”
Able opens the back door to the clinic, revealing a hallway leading off to several examining rooms and, at the back, what looks to be the entrance to a cybersurgery suite. Candy makes a gesture, two young men roll the woman out of the car on a stretcher. “Lead on.” Pitbull treads heavily over to the van and assists the men rolling out Eleanor.
Wormwood looks around. “Nice place, Able. I bet it’s soundproofed too, yeah? Hey, does it take walk-ins? I’ve been thinking of having some more work done.” Pacoy looks over the clinics impressive tech as he follows the group. Mac hobbles along behind Pacoy, wishing he had the time and money to visit a place like this and make sure nothing was broken. Able nods. “ColeMed does indeed take walk-ins. Just not today; we gave the staff the day off and shuffled patients to other Rossum centers across the city.”“Ah… the toys I could be playing with… if only…” Pacoy mutters to himself under his breath. Wormwood: Wormwood makes a mental note, nodding happily. Able waves his hand towards one of the doors in the back. “Examination room is over here. The tech will be along shortly.” Able reaches up and rubs the metal sheath over his skull for a moment while he makes sure everyone gets inside and the patient is maneuvered into the correct position.
Pitbull stalks arounds the room, looking over shiny tools and sophisticated technologies with curiosity playing across his eyes. The exam room is pretty standard for a medium-shelf operation – a biobed in the center capable of performing a full-body scan, but not to MRI resolution, with a number of electronic displays on the walls – and a number of knickknacks for bored patients to toy with while waiting to see a doctor. The biobed isn’t a full autodoc, but it does have small arms capable of taking blood and tissue samples. Candy eases alongside Able, the glare of surgical lamps stunning as they beam off Able’s cap, “Its good to see you’re no worse for wear, we’ve also got a solid on what Umbra and the PLF have been working on. If Rossum is interested in such things we can also finance that information.”
Able turns to a door on the other side of the room as it opens, revealing a young man with a shock of blond hair. He’s wearing a white coat like a doctor’s, but when you look closer it appears to be similar to Able’s coat – chemcloth armorwear, not a normal outfit at all. Able nods to the man. “Baker. This is the Edgerunner team, and that’s our patient.” Candy starts to reach out a hand, but remembering the importance of sterility, simply nods, “Mr. Baker, a pleasure. I’m Candyman.”
Wormwood nods at the new guy and leans nonchalantly against by team’s exit doorway, watching everything. Mei sizes the man up, but doesn’t speak a word, staying to the edge of the room, seemingly distracted by the same knickknacks for distracting the patients waiting to be seen. Mac looks up from fiddling with one of the knickknacks, nodding to Baker, then casts an amused glance as he realizes what Mei is doing. Pitbull regards the man with suspicious eyes, but continues to look over the room.
Pacoy nods briefly to the newcomer before continuing his look at the medical tech. Baker barely pays any attention to Candy or anyone else. “A pleasure, I’m sure.” He reaches out to the biobed and it comes to life, Eleanor seated in it firmly. “Tell us about this ‘supersoldier.’ What is she, who made her, and what are her capabilities?”
Pitbull whips out a lighter and lights himself a cigarette from his pack in his coat, but is otherwise wordless as he watches Candy and Baker do their thing. “Pits! No!” Wormwood growls. Pitbull scowls as he stubs it out on the heel of his boot and stashes the butt back in its pack. Baker frowns at Pitbull’s actions. “We would rather not have to decon the facility. Thank you for your cooperation.” “Sorry. Forgot my manners for a moment there.” Pitbull grates as he continues to look around.
Without looking up from her knickknack, Mei responds to the mans question. “Umbra’s behind it. You heard the stories about their new Olympic super-soldiers right? She’s a prototype.”
Candy eases to the side of the man’s vision, out of his work space, “She is the core sample to a supersoldier bioengineering retrovirus, on the genetic level, that enhances speed, strength, and response. Umbra corp was putting it together for the next Olympics, the plague across the harbor is a hack-job of it – resulting in degradation of the patient to a state of rage even as tumorous growths tear them apart. I have a medical file on our findings so far, written up at William T. Hartnell General Hospital. It seems in the later stages the virus stabilizes, but I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions.” Wormwood speaks up, “She’s not contagious now, if you were worried.”
Baker nods as the biobed humms. “Higher will definitely be interested in that, if your claim is true.” He begins to focus on the biobed and, after a few minutes, the displays on one wall of the room activate and a number of pictures flash up upon it – various scan data from Eleanor’s body. Baker frowns. “She has an implant in her spine. Appears to be a shock/control implant for pacification and labor reallocation. Six generations old; we have perfected the technology since then. Modifications have been made – there is a minor explosive charge in her neocortex. Likely set to detonate if any tampering is done to the implant.”
Mei frowns. “So what you’re saying is, you wake her up, try to do anything to her, she blows?” Mac shivers. “That’s hardly a fate anyone deserves.” Pitbull stares at the screens, silently admitting to himself that what is on the screen might as well be Greek to him. Baker ‘hmms’ as he studies the data and a probe moves up and jabs Eleanor in the thigh, extracting a quick blood sample. “Enhanced musculature – significant improvements in strength and endurance over current-gen products. High degree of resistance to myolysis. Enhanced nerve fiber pathways, likely to help resist spinal or other nerve damage. Dramatically increased adrenal gland.”
Baker turns to Mei. “She ‘blows’ if we tamper with the implant, but the implant likely controls her actions. If we awaken her, the AI guiding the implant takes control of her enhanced body.” Wormwood says “That sounds a lot like something our pal Garrion said before Umbra offed him. Claimed they’d installed trapdoors in their implants to control people with.” Mac’s eyes narrow. “Remind me never to get an Umbra implant, then. I prefer to be my own man.”
Baker frowns. “Bloodwork indicates high rate of cellular mutation leading to likely breakdown of kidney or liver functions due to output of hormones and modified adrenaline, and traces of a foreign compound. Nearly all gone from her bloodstream. What drugs has she been taking?” Wormwood subvocalizes to Candy, “This guy’s getting to much of a freebie grope without settling the price, don’t you think?”
Candy nods,“The girl is half of the working formula. We have control of the stabilizing agent, but we would like to have an agreement worked out tentative of that transaction first.” Baker nods. “Excellent.” He turns to Candyman. “The company could see some value in this. Make your offer.” Candy says without pause, “$90,000 would be agreeable, but we would settle for 75k if the girl can be returned alive at the end of your experiments. Either is acceptable however.”
Baker nods, face going blank for a few moments. It then suddenly starts up again and he nods. “$75,000, then. We see no reason we need to use the patient up to exhaustion. Any particular reason you would like her returned?” Wormwood chimes in, “Her daddy, a moneybags, wants her back. You do the math.” Baker nods. “We could deliver the girl to him, if you would prefer to not take possession again.” Candy eases his stance, “No, that’s not necessary. We have our own methods of delivery and would be pleased to see his face when they are brought back together, family is a precious thing.”
Wormwood starts as if he’ll speak up, then subsides again. Pitbull walks away from the screens and walks over to the exit. He leans against the side of it, and continues to watch Candy and Baker. Baker shrugs. “Alright; we would forward any reward from the father your way. It’s no matter to us where she’s shipped to after we’re done.” Candy shrugs, “Well, it’s doubtful we would get repeat business from him. If it’s truly no issue for you all – we would welcome staying in the shadows.” Baker nods. “It’s a deal, then. The deposit will be in the usual accounts by the end of business today.”
Able nods. “Excellent. I believe we’re done here.” Wormwood sighs in relief. Mei sets her knickknack down, and heads towards the door. “Great doing business with you.” Pacoy sighs, takes a last look at the gear, and heads to join the rest of the group. Candy gives a curt wave to the tech and stops at the door, “Able, hope to work with you again in the future.”
Able nods. “Perhaps, if higher deems it so.” Mac sets his toy down and hobbles out after Mei. Accepting that, Candy heads out the door. Pitbull yanks out the stubbed cigarette as he lets himself out behind them. As the team heads out the door, they hear the sounds of medical devices spinning up behind them – including the piercing whirr of a drill, softly muffled as it begins to strike flesh. They walk away, payday in hand, and leave the girl to her fate.