Dateline: December 28th 2050, 0515 Local Time
The Ottoman Hotel never sleeps; it is an ever-busy hive, a temple to restless hedonism – there is no rest for the wicked at the Ottoman and so in the darkness before dawn the team find themselves in the office of the hotel’s security chief, Jonathan Haroun.
Haroun stands behind a gray metal desk the size of a small aircraft carrier, his calloused hands placed on the clear smart-glass surface as he leans over the desk to yell at them. “What the hell did you think you were doing? Never mind! You weren’t thinking! If it weren’t for Jacob’s fast talking, one or both of the keynote artistes contracted for the Auction’s entertainments would have walked by now! As it is, the boss has had to promise Lady Yan a bonus. On the bright side, Kali!‘s team have got her under sedation and say she’s likely to remember none of what happened. As to the little spat with Big Bill Farthing….” The security chief pauses at last for a shaky breath. “Let me make it very fucking clear to you – our V.I.P. guests are called that for a fucking reason, and are entitled to bring their own security into the hotel. You have to allow those bodyguards to honor any reasonable threat, and give them time to stand down before you try to shoot them. Am I fucking crystal on that? Do Not Shoot Them Unless There Is No Alternative. I want to hear a ‘hell yeah’ on that. Well?”
Able nods. “Yes sir. But may I make a suggestion?” There’s a squeak of abused metal as the security chief’s right fingers dig into the edge of the desk, but he straightens and takes a calming deep breath. “Yes, Able?”
Mac looks down his nose at Haroun, his trigger finger flexing instinctively as though scratching an invisible itch. This boob’s awful uptight. Mac shrugs and looks over towards Able. Pacoy stands calmly, listening the lecture and thanking himself that he restrained his first instinct to shoot into the melee with his actual pistol – that probably wouldn’t have gone over very well.
Able stands straight, looking the security chief in the face; his little ‘intimidation’ attempt hadn’t exactly impacted his brain, since it had its fear center surgically burned away. “It’s typically standard practice to evacuate civilians from an area where combat is taking place, especially if they aren’t within the line of fire. Further, all information we were given, including the arrangement of the room and the civilians taking cover and the newsies coverage, suggested that Lady Yan was the perpetrator and currently attacking that room. If we had been provided with adequate information, or the hotel’s regular security team had followed typical guidelines, then this would not have occurred.”
Candy places his arms behind his back with clasped hands, “Marid has facial recognition, all the V.I.P’s are in the data banks. All we need to do is allow him to validate individuals as V.I.P’s, staff, or unknowns or customers. No need for there to be a repeat of this incident, Marid, can you do that for us? Set up a subroutine to follow us around and through Augmented Reality give us status’s of everyone we see in your domain?”
Haroun sighs, and finally sits in his big desk chair. “You’re both right, of course. I got an ass-reaming from Mr. Battersea over this and as you all know shit has to roll downhill some, but you are still right. Marid, implement Candyman’s suggestion with all the roving teams. Also, whenever they respond to an alert I want a burst of whatever surveillance you have of the previous three minutes sent to them, ok?”
Marid’s voice issues from the desk: “yes, Sir. Run-time reallocated.” Able nods, satisfied with the result. “Understood. We’ll take our lumps, but it’s always best to use negative situations as a learning experience.” Candy looks to Able then the rest of the team, “I don’t think any V.I.P’s are going to be in on this gig – blowing up a locale good for their faces to shine and to book a profitable night? We can only expect so much from Marid – he needs pushes in the right direction, A.I.’s are particular like that. Yes, he told us about the fight but its not in his programming to spell it all out for us. Lets try to keep that in mind and make his job a little easier, it will sure as hell make our job easier.”
Mac starts laughing under his breath, lips barely moving as he mutters into the sub-comms, “Able, were you born with stones like that, or did you have them installed after?” Able radios back to Mac. “They’re a core feature of Rossum’s upgrade process for my series; we are neurologically incapable of experiencing a fear response above a certain threshold mandated by that required to ensure appropriate caution.” Mac winces. A bunny created, rather than born – hardly a joyous thing. “My condolences, as it were… if someone were breaking up my brain, I’d be well up over that..”
Haroun taps his desktop. “Right – I’m most interested in you people working on whatever our explosively-challenged visitor was up to. Take some time out from patrols and get some food and rest while you ponder. Marid will have all the footage we have sent to your room comp by the time you get there. I want you all back on duty in the main auditorium at 10.30am, half an hour before the first auction session begins. Anything else?”
Candy dips his head, “Thank you Mr. Haroun. Have a good evening and I hope we can avoid putting you into any more difficult situations, you have my thanks.” He turns to leave the room and comms to Marid, “Marid, I need to set up a meeting with Mrs. Blaize. I’ve got till 10:30 to get that issue under thumb or it could grow into something outside my control – if you could guide me to her current location it would be appreciated.” Marid’s voice again issues from the desk: “Ms Blaize is currently in the media center on Level 9, Mr. Candyman.”
Able glances to the side, towards the location of the theater. “Have there been any explanations for Ms. Weisz’s actions? Even a diva-type personality typically does not resort to lethal violence when they are interrupted, though it is not completely out of the question.” Haroun laughs, “Kali!‘s famous for this kind of super-diva shit, Able. She’s never taken a pot-shot at another performer before, but there have been catfights. She’s talented as hell, but a total nut.” Able nods. “Understood. I hope her management team disarms her prior to any actual bloodshed occurring.” Haroun laughs again, “Oh don’t worry – her minders and tour doctor will make sure she has nothing more dangerous around than her toothbrush for the rest of her contract”
Pacoy sighs in relief, ready for rest and a good meal, even if he can’t really ‘relax’ here. Meanwhile, Candy receives a message in his H.U.D. from Pitbull reading: “We’ve got a problem. I’ll explain when I get there.”
Pacoy calls out to Candyman as he tries again to leave the room. “So, Speaking of Mrs. Blaize, Candy – I’ve been thinking: We’ve got reporters sniffing around us often enough that I don’t want our Lazarus business being associated with the clean running of Aquino Automations. I’m not a super-spy/guy with a jillion names & faces type like Able or Mei, and I’d probably forget to answer if you called me a name that wasn’t a variation of Pacoy, so from now on I’m going to introduce myself as Pacoy Tago,” Pacoy explains “It’s nothing iron-clad or snoop proof, but it’s not advertising my name to media hounds, either.” His teammate waves away his concern, “I hope I can handle Mrs. Blaize, its inefficient if she needs to spend so much time snooping us out – I figure it may be best to just enter into an arrangement with her. We all have our secrets, Desiderium one among many, and all that’s not even as interesting as the up and rising new Edgerunner team. I’ll see what I can work out – then we need to deal with in-house issues it seems. Thanks for the heads up though Pacoy, I certainly do not want to endanger your business.”
Mac stands too. “Right then, eggs, lets get back to the basket and flop or feast – Need to see if there’s anything we can suss out about this dirty bomb situation.” Mac departs and heads towards their residence, intent on trying to eat the hotel out of house and home. Maybe a stack of wheats to start with, then work my way through the meals of the day, sure as a clock.
Haroun clears his throat, “Oh yeah – Blaize.” He looks a little embarrassed. “Candy, the boss had to feed her something so he explained about Kali!‘s meltdown, a great little media personality exclusive for Blaize, and threw in that the famous Lazarus Group were indeed working on contract as part of the hotel’s additional security – indeed, had been instrumental in preventing Kali hurting anyone. It’s better than her sniffing around for what she can find, he said.”
Candy stops at the door, “Thanks for the heads up Haroun. Let me see if I can work out something long term with her for our group too. Pitbull, myself, Mei…we all have skeletons I want kept underground. I’ll keep Lazarus and Bey interests separate.” Haroun nods once, “Go on then, git – go eat and think some.” Candy finally excuses himself from the room and heads towards level 9, comms open to any other issues that may arise during this “break” from work. Once out in the hall, he mutters, “I don’t have time for that. Healthspy, activate calorie reduction protocol for the next twelve hours.”
Mac, leading the rest our and just behind him, overhears and frowns at Candy. “Gotta eat, C. Most important part of every day. I’ll order some extra for you, hey?” “Thanks Mac, but not till I get back and we can see about this Pitbull issue.”
Fade Scene: Dateline: December 28th 2050, 0815 Local Time.
The rest of the team have been getting some rest and recuperation while going over the footage Marid sent along of the person who exploded outside the hotel and the others who were suspected of being his co-conspirators in whatever he was planning. In each case the pattern is the same – non-descript persons, four male and two female, each of whom entered from the street wearing clothes suitable for the winter in Night City and then went wandering around the public areas. None played any of the casino games or took in a show, none ate or drank – they just observed for a while, used a public restroom, and left.
Candy arrived back from his meeting with Veracity Blaize about an hour ago, looking self-satisfied. he’s been watching one set of clips over and over – each suspect entering and leaving the restrooms. Suddenly, he snaps his fingers. Able looks up from his position on the couch, wearing the General’s face. His mouth opens in a wide smile, pearlescent teeth shining through a raptor’s grin. “You found something.”
Just then, Pitbull trudges through the door, looking like hell: an ugly lump on his forehead, his clothes ripped in places and covered in chunks of wood and glass. He steps gingerly over to a chair, and lights a cigarette as he sits down, looking like he’s got a lot to say and none of the willpower to spit it out. Able’s grin turns to Pitbull, growing even wider at the sight of him. “And you look like shit beat with a paddle. Fun morning?”
Mac looks up from a mouthful of what appears to be pasta, swallowing hastily. There are a series of plates stacked up nearby. “Ain’t no Hash house, that’s for sure. Oh hell, Pitbull, you don’t look like you’re hitting on all eight, friend. And Candy looks like he just talked a head doctor into visiting a psych ward.”
Pitbull waves his hand. “Never mind me this second. Let’s hear what Candy’s got.” He grates, puffing off a cigarette, and picking through bits of the breakfast spread. He winces as he moves oddly to get the butter for the biscuit he yanked from the far end of the cart. Mac grabs a spoon to help Pitbull out with the butter, avoiding the cutlery on the table altogether, sliding a stack of pancakes on a plate over at his comrade.
Candyman clears his throat and leans back, speaking to the ceiling even as his hands start throwing together a plate of food from the spread on the cart. “So each of these people enters the bathroom, they look sick like their stomachs cramped in knots like, but what’s really interesting is the after. They leave the same way.” Candy stops the feed pointing out their apparent discomfort, “See that, then there’s the fear in their eyes as they head out of here looking for some cure to their pain and fear. Then bam, some electricity, and they blow. Either they have some issue or problem with this plot, or these people are unwilling sacrificial lambs. If we have any more of these people, Marid can find those acting in stomach pain and then a covert team or individual can sweep by and chem sniff them and take them into holding. I for one would just as well have this fiasco under our boot and done with. Marid, do we have any individuals showing apparent stomach pain in your domain?”
Marid’s voice comes over comms this time: “I do not know, sir. I will add that profile to my search parameters if you can define for me what a human experiencing stomach pain looks like.”
Pacoy: “Wow, these guys aren’t just filled with a stomach full of fert bombs, there is no way they’d be acting like that, it’s more like they’re filled to the brim with ANFO and precursors…” Pacoy points out though a plate of garlic fried rice and sausage. Mac looks at Pacoy, then the full stack of eight plates next to him. “You mean this is some sort of soup job, Pacoy?” Pitbull wordlessly takes the stack of pancakes and starts going to town on them like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. I guess getting the ever living crap kicked out of you burns the calories He thinks to himself as he scarfs a sizable amount of pancake in short order. “What’s worse, judging by the way they high-tail it out of here, they may not be completely aware of the whole deal!” Pacoy nods to Mac.
Mac speaks to the air, “Marid, can’t you just compare to the people who were previously identified?” Marid responds, “Yes, Mr Mac, that I can do. Searching now.” Then Candy has another thought. “Able, your fairly skilled with anatomy physiology stuff, can you fill Marid in on some of the tell tale signs?” he says between dainty bites of cheese grit. Able looks up at Marid’s surveillance into the room and grins. “I can do better than that. Marid, watch what I do.” “Recording, Mr Able.” Pacoy eyes Able suspiciously and scoots a little further away. “I have some med-tech skill that might help without wierding everyone out.”
Mac looks over at Able. This kid’s not about to download the flu or something, is he? It better not be contagious. He throws a worried look at the stack of plates next to him. “How could you not be aware of stuffing yourself full of ANFO?” Like a pig on Christmas morning, unaware that he’s just prepped himself for dinner.. is that indigestion or a pit in my stomach?
Able’s face suddenly contorts into a grimace of pain as sweat breaks out on his skin, triggered by a command to his biological operating system implant. He holds his stomach with his arms and shuffles forwards, moaning softly in pain. As he passes Pitbull, a loud sound suddenly erupts from a location approximating the rear of his pants; another little trick from the BIOS. Pitbull stares at the spectacle, a little too emotionally drained to give more of a reaction than a furrowing of the eyebrows. After a few minutes of this, Able gets up and winks at Pitbull. "That was a rather severe case of IE-tract issues. Less severe cases may appear like this. " Able goes into a slightly less overdone version – primarily the painful grimace, the arms to the stomach, the slightly-odd walk. When he’s done, he turns back to Pacoy and bows theatrically. When he sits back down, he seems coated in sweat – but it smells of nothing at all and he looks perfectly comfortable, and if you were to look closer the outpour is over and done with.
Mac also stares at Able, backing up suddenly, pushing his plate away from him and holding his own stomach. I’ve heard of catching a virus, but this is a bit much. Pacoy sighs and shakes his head, “…Well… The wonders of technology…” .
Candy sets his plate down slowly and swallows, “There is a way, Dynamika, they were working on making a cheap ANFO for their mining interests a few years ago. From what I recall the process involved a gene-tailored Shigella bacteria to convert human waste into ammonium nitrate and ethylene-based polyhydrocarbons. It’s possible they figured it out. Also, if you please, don’t tell anyone that I came up with that – outside they Bey.”
Marid’s voice comes over the comms: “search beginning….search complete. There are no persons exhibiting those symptoms currently in any public area of the hotel. I will continue to monitor.”
Candyman speaks to the ever-present A.I., “Marid, run a test on your septics for ammonium nitrate and ethylene-based polyhydrocarbons. Let us know immediately if they are outside normal levels.” Marid replies, “I will send technicians at once, Mr Candyman. I am unable to remotely test the septic storage, an oversight on my designers’ parts I assume.”
Mac starts laughing, imagining the design meeting during which the hotel was conceived, seeing an image of the massive bathrooms being installed, or a remote septic monitoring system being installed, but only one being available due to costs.
“If you’re right, Candy, that stuff could turn the septic tanks into one huge bomb!” Pacoy says, shocked at the picture forming in his mind.
Able grows serious, leaning forwards and facing the group. “We have a major problem on our hands. This isn’t some glitterati-infused shit-storm plot thought up by sky-high visionaries.”
Mac sobers up immediately. “That’s… oh…” He swears venomously. “It’s busy turning all the human waste into a giant bomb… and if we purge the tanks into the main sewers, the problem gets worse until all of Night City is sitting pretty until some joker lights a match on the john.” He throws a look at the bathroom. “They don’t need to bring more ANFO in… the patrons are building the bomb for them…” Worse than stepping in a pile of dog shit, we’ve all just put on our trunks and gone swimming.
Able nods at Mac. “We’re looking at a 15,000 pound bomb at the bottom of the Ottoman and enough to completely destroy the entirety of Night City if it gets into the general sewage treatment system. This has shifted from a silly little game to a weapon of mass destruction situation.”
Candyman: “Marid, please send an exert of our conversation to the Bey, starting with Dynamika, they were working on making a cheap ANFO and ending with ethylene-based polyhydrocarbons.” Marid replies immediately, as usual. “Yes, Mr. Candyman. I will also begin heightened door security sweeps for any devices that may be initiators.” Candy starts to get his gear together, "Pitbull, let us in on your problem, because I think we’ll need to be moving sooner rather than later.
Mac muses aloud, “Moving out of Night City, if we can’t sort this out… Maybe we can get the tank sealed off and transported out to the Wastelands?” He starts laughing, feeling a bit immature. Able shrugs. “Though the actual explosive yield depends both on the amount of reactant, the conversion ratio, the explosive power of the actual composition formed, and the amount of time it can work.”
“Heck, Able, even a 10% Efficiency is 1.5 tons of explosive!” Pacoy points out. “Not enough to blow the city, but more than enough to ruin our day!” Able nods. “Agreed. If the cork pops, we’re going to have a shitty day no matter what.” Mac nods. “Speaking of ruined days…” Mac nods towards Pitbull, “What wrecked your engine, hoss? You look like you had a tumble with a ginzu set, and not in a fun way.” Candyman: “K, guys, we know about the shit bomb. We have other things on our plate and other reasons were here, so lets focus so we can get back to work. You have the floor Pitbull.” Candy sits his weapons in his lap and gives the ex-soldier his eyes.
Pitbull finishes chewing the final bite of the plate of pancakes, then turns to look at his comrades in arms. Wincing at the knot in his head as he re-lights his cigarette, he waits for everyone to finish speaking before beginning, bowing his head as he begins. “I have not told any of you of my past. Like why an ex-soldier of Texas is in Night City. I have to admit, this story is neither pretty, nor does it yet have a happy ending.”
“I don’t suppose anyone has any connections to a top-notch bio lab that deals with nano-antibodies on an epic scale?” Pacoy asks half-heartedly. Mac shrugs. “Pissed off my last one during a low stakes Pai-Gow game because he tried to chisel me of my winnings.” Able shrugs. “I’m a product of a top-notch biolab. However, even with a sample of the bacteria, which we lack, it’d likely take more time than we have to concoct an anti-bacterial from scratch. I can get a hold of them and see if they can get started, but it may be better if we were to investigate possible antibodies now. The ‘victims’ may have been headed towards a cure for their condition – and they were all headed to the nearest subway.”
Pitbull continues over his team-mates, " I did not come to Night City for any reason other than hiding. My sergeant was a vicious, evil man, to say the least. Cyber-psychotic, rape-fetishist, a bully, any of those names only say very little of the monster that he is. When I had fled, I thought I had killed him. Cut his throat open real good. Just yesterday, I had been alerted to the news that not only have I failed to kill him, but he is madder than a bag of cats on PCP. He found me, did this and-" Pitbull reaches into his coat pocket and drops a handful of broken plastic and metal on his now empty plate, that one can vaguely think was a pistol. -“and that two. To sum it up, we got two week, a month at best, before he comes back and tries to kill me again, and anyone who so happens to be with me.” Pitbull finishes with a long drag off his cigarette.
Pacoy: gives a low whistle. “So, while I’ve been working a job that’s becoming my own personal hell, You’ve been out making play dates with a psychotic unkillable super-soldier? That sounds about right for our luck!” he quips before getting serious “We all have your back – Candy has a fortress, if we have time to prepare, I have a chunk of change squirreled away I can invest into an army of Death-Bots that Hugh can help run. Maybe none of us are a match for this guy, but ALL of us are.”
Mac sets his coffee down, watching it settle to a still blackness before dumping a bit of cream in to watch it bloom like a bit of hope as Pacoy speaks. “And I can dig up enough dirt to give us time to prepare when he does come. He won’t catch us unaware, friend.” Able gives a feral grin to Pitbull. “Oh, we’ll give your play-date a dance he’ll never forget. Maybe save a little of the explosives just for him…” Pitbull smiles the smile of a man who’s had the crap kicked out of him. “That’s what I like to hear.” Candyman leans towards him. “Not only that, but we’ve got the perfect bait to lure this guy into the kill box of all Desiderium. I would not fret over much, is this one man, or can he bring some personnel to the field with him? We’ll have to go over my inventory and cross check what I have with know ware. It may end up that anti-armor rounds work better than anti-personnel with the tale you weave around this one. Certainly gunning down this military grade soldier will only improve the perception of the quality of Desiderium’s wares. I’ve got your back Pitbull – it’s just one man.” Candy gives him a fatherly smile, “It’ll be fine.” “I kinda killed the back up he would have brought. You should only be dealing with one man. But he’s milspec’d to hell and back. Don’t spare anything with him.” Pitbull grates through a fog of cigarette smoke.
Pacoy decides to get back to more pressing business. “Okay, so we need to get a bead on where these guys are running to, and probably a sample of the virus as well. Are we splitting up? Farming out one of our jobs to ‘the help’, calling in back up?” Pacoy ticks ideas off on his fingers. Able turns from Pitbull now, his face shifting back to Able-average. His vocal tone is once more rather flat, with little if any emotional inflection. “I’ll contact headquarters and alert them to the situation. With several Rossum VIPs here for the auction, and the possible threat to the city itself, they should be willing to assist.” Able’s head turns as his neural implant begins to put in a call. Mac digs in his coat pocket and pulls out a paper map of the subway system he uses to get around from point to point, spreading it out on a table, trying to sort out likely destinations for the sickbringers to head to. Able’s comm connects to the duty officer. “We have a potential WMD situation in the Ottoman involving a bacterial organism that is converting waste products into explosives. I am officially requesting biomedical support; we need some way to neutralize the bacteria, such as anti-bacterials, and the equipment and personnel to examine the bacteria in question.”
Marid’s voice breaks into your conversation from the main room flatscreen, “Priority override”, as it fogs and clears to show the Emir. “Gentlemen, my apologies that circumstances have removed all time for the pleasantries proper culture dictates. Marid tells me we’re all sitting on a big bomb, that as much as 40% of our sewage system is compromised by these terrorists. What can we do?” The Emir looks unhappier than you have ever seen him, “If we evacuate, cancel the Auction…these people win and my clout in this city will be ruined. I will be grateful indeed if you can rescue me.”
Pitbull asks, “Can we siphon the tanks? With sewer trucks? Then hunt down the assholes who did this?” stubbing out the butt of his cigarette. Mac shakes his head. “If a trace of the bacteria remains in there, it’ll multiply. Short term solution, but not a cure. We need to neutralize it, or it’s going to be a more odious problem eventually.”
The Emir smiles slightly, “A good sentiment indeed, Pitbull my friend. I wish the Ebn el Metanaka who did this to my hotel to suffer before he dies, and will reward anyone who delivers that wish.” Pitbull answers the comm, “I honestly would love to go with ‘yippeekaiaee muthafocka’ as a fitting end for him.”
Pacoy silently comms to the group, out of hearing of the Emir, “Hey, Pits, if we get out of this okay, you can literally tell your old boss to ‘Eat Shit and Die’, how’s that for a bright side?”
Able looks up at the flatscreen. “Emir. I have alerted my superiors to the situation and have relayed a request for support; they have agreed to analyze samples of the bacterium that created this situation and to arrange for waste-disposal and decontamination using your normal provider. However, a pre-existing antibacterial may exist; we will attempt to find it, which would simplify the cleanup.”
Candy bows to the display, “Emir, sir, unless we have someone with access to our own bioagent to counteract the effects, it seems best we do a controlled purge of the septic system and smuggle the explosive out of town. It’s all in house so no one needs to know on that account. Another alternative is that we set up containment around the septic system, monitor pressure, and seal the pipes to prevent feedback – shape the blast downward into the bedrock. Finally, if we have any industrial drills, we could just dump this shit below the water table and be done with it – chunk it to the mantel.”
The Emir still looks worried, although slightly less so. “I have trust in you, my friends. I shall contact Able’s employers and co-ordinate with them. Deal with this threat to me and mine for me and I will embrace you as brothers.” The screen clears.
Mac replies to Candy’s suggestions, “I think regardless, we need to get a sample, as gross as that sounds, so we can test any potential counteragent before dumping it down the tubes.” “I can send a bot to get a sample, shouldn’t be that nasty,” Pacoy offers.
Marid’s voice cuts across the room again, “I have instructed hotel staff – the in-house doctor and sanitation personnel – to take samples and convey them immediately to Rossum’s labs and to Feng. Would you wish a sample brought up?” Mac looks around and shrugs. “Not much I could do with it. It’d be about as much use to me as a chastity vow at a Russian wedding.” Candyman: “I say we set up an external system to burn all this explosive shit up a little at a time. The safest thing is to just keep the tank empty so it can’t blow.” Concern lines Candy’s face, “Anything else would leave the window too open for them to do something in the mean time.” Mac still looks doubtful, “Can we put a system like that in place in time, Candy?”
Pitbull drops the cigarette that he was about to light. “Fuck. I know how they plan to set it off.”
Able’s gaze settles on Pitbull. “What have you figured out?”
Pitbull bellows, “We need to watch whoever goes in there, or we need to check everyone for grenades, ‘cause that’s exactly what their going to flush to set it all off!” as he realizes the very real danger of that having already happened. “Something like a miniaturized depth charge. If it goes rolling down the poop-chute and knocks itself just right, it’ll go off in all that shit. Or if that charge was set on a timer…” Pitbull ventures off in thought.
Able shakes his head. “They don’t need an actual grenade – most are too large and too rigid, anyways. I’d expect something flexible – a gel-pack explosive, or maybe magnesium in a gel capsule that’ll dissolve in water.” Mac looks to Able, “Can we scan for any of those things, or is it just a crapshoot as to when one of those delivery systems can get put in place? Any chance we can disable some of the restrooms?”
“What about filling the tank with fire-retardant foam and bleach?” Pacoy drums his fingers as he tries to think of a better idea.
“Whatever he uses doesn’t need to be a conventional bomb; it might not show up on normal scans or be in the chemsniffer database of banned materials.” Able frowns, looking to Pacoy. “Do ANFO bombs require oxygen to detonate?” “Kinda – they make their own” Pacoy answers
Throwing up his hands, Mac begins pacing. “What is it with these greasers taking issue with the glad rags anyway? Is it all for kicks?”
Candyman is deep in thought, “I don’t think it would take long to put an incinerator in place honestly, maybe an hour? We could also use a magnetic system to keep out any metallic ignition systems, strainers to catch anything over a certain size, and perhaps some kind of sand filtration systems like they use with water purification plant – keep the fires up top side. I think that would take a lot longer and has some gaps though. We burn each dump as it comes and we keep the bombs too small to hurt anything.”
Able shakes his head again. “You’re talking about major changes to the hotel’s plumbing system. That’ll both disrupt the auction and take a significant amount of time. Let’s see if we can focus on finding an agent to neutralize the bacteria and discover the perpetrator and allow the other security agents and Feng’s group to work on emptying the tank and keeping it empty.” Mac nods, “That’d do it, Able. If we can keep the volume in the tank down, this is going to be a more manageable problem.”
Marid’s floating torso appears on the main room screen. “Gentlemen, I have accessed the City libraries and searched assiduously. I have updated my screening of guests to include those exhibiting the classical signs of a suicide bomber on a mission, at Mr Haroun’s instruction.” Able looks up at Marid and nods. “Do be careful of looking just for suicide bombers; there’s no reason to suspect that the initiator will not be able to leave the premises after setting his charge.”
Pacoy asks hopefully, “Madrid, can you call a 10 minute close on all bathrooms on the lowest half of the building and have staff discretely dump all available bleach down those toilets? Then try the upper half?" Mac pipes up. “Why not use the staff facilities and all of the vacant rooms? It’ll be less of a disruption to the public eye.”
Marid has a little good news for the team, “I am informed that Feng will be here to empty the septic tank no later than 2pm. Hotel maintenance staff are now working with Rossum engineers to put in place a systematic bleach cleansing of the feed pipes from the hotels many public and private restrooms. They are assuming every pipe is contaminated. The estimate on completion is three days. At that point, they will attempt to re-empty the main tank and cleanse it. Do you have any further suggestions?” Marid pulls up a schematic, “I have modeled a worst-case scenario. The main tank is not centrally placed and the hotel’s main pillars are designed to be proof against a collision by a passenger jet. However…” On the schematic, the entire North wall slumps and begins to fall from the building, fracturing into many shards as it goes, “Damage to the building and surrounding area could still be substantial.”
Candyman is frustrated, “All of this is taking to long, we need to just burn this shit. Build a blast room and burn this shit as fast as we can.” “Fire retardant foam in the tanks might help” Pacoy suggests. Mac is circumspect, “I can’t think of anything, aside from monitoring the crowd for suspicious behaviors to ensure that no more gets introduced to the system, I think we can start looking for the cause of this shitstorm.” “Okay,” Pacoy nods “So how do you want to go about that? Do we leave our post or farm the search out?”
Mac starts tapping his shoes on the floor. “If it were me? I’d want to make sure I was here on the premises to set the bomb off myself. Not that I’d do such a thing, but I’m not a complete sap..”
Able nods to Marid. “Try and keep Feng’s people in-cover and out-of-sight; the bombers may act sooner if they realize the explosive is leaving the building.” Marid replies, “Noted, Mr. Able.” Once the septic tank is drained, we can mitigate that worst case scenario entirely. the worst case then becomes major system fracturing on the upper floors, showering patrons in waste, and that can be removed as a risk within 24 hours on most floors."
Mac starts tapping his chin. “We still have no idea who did this.” Or why they would want to, aside from making a statement, but that’s easier done with a nasty word to the right reporter. “Did anyone try tracking who the faces on the surveillance were yet? Marid, any IDs?” “Searching, Mr Mac Sir.” Able mentally kicks himself and begins running the images through his own facial-recognition database too.
Mac makes a face, “No need to be formal, chum. Just Mac will do.”
“The man who blew up is Ken Land, a minor recycling scientist for Feng Industrial.”
Candyman swears, “Well he’s with Feng, that certainly throws a wrench in the works.” Mac agrees, “With Feng… hopefully the others weren’t with Feng, otherwise we just tipped our hand.”
“And here is another hit, perhaps of more interest: one of the two women is Bianca Klieber, a quite brilliant scientist in the field of biogenetics. She worked for Enyogeni in Cascade City until two years ago, then disappeared. It was assumed one of their rivals had headhunted her and were keeping her somewhere under wraps at some secret research arcology.” Bianca Klieber
“We need to cancel the contract with Feng. Who else can provide their services?” Able looks to Candy, the businessman in the room. Candyman nods, “I’ll see what I can do, getting the equipment is not hard, and I’ve got the manpower. If worst comes to worst I’ll get my own crew together. Not much else we can trust right now – no time for background checks and all that shit.”
Able turns back to Marid for a moment. “I have a hit on one of the faces. Raymond Skyberg. Hacker living in Pacheco; I have an address.” Raymond Skyberg
Candy gets on his closed comms to Desiderium, “This is Candy, we’ve hit a snag at the Ottoman and I’m going to need about 20 of the more savvy kids over here.” Changing over to the a broader channel, “Fixers, this is Pater, with Desiderium. I’m going to need a small fleet of waste sanitation trucks and some other equipment sent over to the Ottoman Hotel right this second – I’ll be wiring a list in a moment. Our asses ride on this, so lets show what we can do.” Candy starts comming to Marid and the hotel maintenance crews to put together a shopping list. The cartel’s lieutenants soon acknowledge their Pater’s instructions, as does Marid.
Able nods to Candy. “You may want to consider biohazard equipment.”
Candy thinks of something out of his old chemical megacorps past and turns to the others, “Let’s drop some immersion heaters in this shit too, help the ethylene evolve off as gas, keep the mixture less volatile. If we played our hand, we’re going to need some mitigators till my boys get here.” Pitbull smiles through a cloud of smoke he vented from his nose. “Ahh Candy. Prepared for everything, huh?” Pitbull starts to laugh, but stops as a sharp pain in his ribs flare up. Able quirks an eyebrow at Pitbull. “Should we get you to medical care?” Candy just flashes Pitbull a wink before getting back to the flurry of comms traffic. “I think it would be nice to get checked on, but you can count on me not to sit this one out just because I’ve got an owwie or two.” Pitbull grates before he drags off his cigarette again.
The room screen chimes and Marid shows up again: “It is now 10.15am. Your presence was earlier required in the main auditorium for the first auction session. However, this instruction has been rescinded and your presence made voluntary dependent on local conditions.”
Candyman shakes his head, “I’ll be down here taking care of this shit. Sorry to deprive all the glitters of my presence, but their asses are more important than their ego’s right now.”
Mac speaks up, “Not much I can do to help out up here, as it seems that Mister Spondulix seems to have everything under control. I can always take the shift in the auction if you guys would like – I’m not tired.” Not that I could get any sleep in a place like this. It was a long night. Unless you were wanting me to dig into that cat’s pad and see what I can score up for you all. Dirt digging is what I do, after all."
Able nods to Mac. “That sounds useful. I’d recommend getting down there, tracking him, getting some more background in preparation for an interrogation later – maybe in a few hours. We shouldn’t wait around, but the beginning of the auction is a perfect time for another incident to strike. We need to be vigilant here as well as out there.”
Pacoy has a suggestion “Split up? Two case the suspect, Candy coordinating the Big Game, and two minding the auction? Or we can leave the auction to the House and a few bots for a time.”
Able glances at Pitbull; not just his normal manner, but his injuries, the bruises. He wasn’t exactly in condition to show up for a black-tie event. “I’ll attend the Auction; Rossum needs a representative on-site and the rest of the executives have evacuated due to the threat.”
Pitbull stands up, making a strong attempt to poker face his way through the pain. “If we’re splitting, I’ll go with whoever’s going after the suspect. I may be beaten, but I’ve been beaten much worse in my days.”
Rummaging around under one of the couches, Mac produces an attaché case and thumbs it open on one of the tables, beginning a thorough, almost ritualistic inspection of it’s contents, making sure his evidence collection kit is in top shape. He double checks the lockpicks in his pocket before closing everything up and checking his camera. “I’ll have all the dirt you’ll need to bury Skyberg six feet under before the gavel comes down, don’t you worry.”
Pacoy looks at Pits injuries and sighs, remembering how Mac fared when they first met. “You two be careful, I’ll be here manning the auction with Able.”
To be continued.