Dateline: December 28th 2050, 1300 Local Time
The team have met up back in their Ottoman Hotel suite. there. they’ve received a briefing from Mac and Pitbull about their little scouting jaunt to the Pacheco Prospects and seen [[News 24/7 Breaking | the mid-day News 24/7 segment]] featuring a carefully disguised Candyman. They have exactly five hours until the evening Auction session begins – and Able has been told his Rossum masters want him to bid on Lot 63, a crate of forty examples of an experimental gauss weapon. Bidding on the new technology in the crate is expected to be keen and David Elkins has authorized a bid of up to $800,000, four times what the crate is worth in retail terms.
Mac paces back and forth, threatening to wear out the room’s carpet. “Five hours? What do we want to do with five hours – worry about sanitizing the septic system, deal with the hacker, or something else?” Able stands near the entrance to the room, his ‘normal’ face currently out and active. His voice is simple and professional. “Our best chance of sanitizing the septic system in such a short time is an antibacterial, and our best chance of getting one is the scientist who made it – and you just found her for us, Mac.” Pitbull pops his neck and rubs at his side as he drags from his cigarette, trying to remember how many he has smoked today.
A sly grin slips across Mac’s face like a glass across a well polished bar. “Just doing what I was trained to do, same as anyone else.” He frowns. “She’s got a pack of Dobermans between us and a negotiation, though. Not to mention a pair of gams six miles long.” “I’ll take the Gams, you take the Dogs…” Pacoy offers with a smile “Teamwork.”
“Hell, I’ll take the dogs. Easy shots, easy kills.” Pitbull growls through his hand as he scratches his lip. Mac laughs, “You have a strange definition of easy – cybernetically enhanced attack dogs in a narrow hallway?” Mac looks at Pitbull. Bo’s as crazy as the day is long, but I don’t doubt he could do it. Laughing a bit, he looks at Pacoy. “That’s teamwork all right, I guess. Never did go in for chem-addicts.”
Able opens the door. “Let’s move out, then; maybe we can avoid the dogs entirely, find another way in.” Pitbull growls as he exhales yet more tobacco smoke, “If I had my Reaper on hand, I could. Not so sure about just my Fox and knife. But my squad has dealt with cybernetic Pitbull’s in Mexico. I don’t think these should be differ’nt, right?”
Water still drips from Candyman’s damp hair from a recent and much needed shower, “Their street presence was fairly high – all the movement back and forth. Do you think they have anyone keeping an eye on her or hereto unknown security options in place. She’s high profile, broken out of a rehab facility if I recall, I doubt the dogs are more than a deterrent for the likes of that trash you all encountered. An obvious and visceral watchdog, but for actual threats like the Bey’s reaction a.k.a. us, I would like to be prepared for surprises.”
Mac taps his hat against the back of a chair. “That black box could be something vicious inside. There might be more security I couldn’t suss out because of the dogs.” Another frown. Not the most complete job I’ve ever pulled, but at least it hadn’t gone down Texas way. Candyman, rubbing a towel through tousled hair, muses, “Not a problem, it’s been there awhile, and with the dogs – I’d guess likely robotic. We should bring along some localized EMP assets and anti-armor munitions just incase – I’ll have one of my kids downstairs head over to Cabrini-Grean with a shopping list. If we’re lucky its just a drone and we can fog up the signal, but I think planning for a combat droid is safer.” Mac guesses, “Could be a safe for the bio-toxins? How did we want to get in, anyway? Straight shot through the hallways?”
Pitbull looks up at Candy. “Think we can pick up my Reaper from the van? It’d be nice if I had real firepower on me for this.” Pitbull grates with an arched eyebrow. “We could swing back to HQ and pick up some heavier bots, I have a scrambler-bot that might be good for throwing kinks in their systems” Pacoy suggests.
Nodding and walking over to Able, Mac whistles a short tune. “We go shopping and then go after the pretty lady then, yeah?” Just like that, the crew had a plan. Mac had never worked with professionals like this before, and it was a refreshing change of pace from his usual bad luck. Able nods. “Heavy weapons could be useful if this goes south, but I’d prefer to avoid anything too illegal.” Meanwhile, Pitbull clenches his eyes shut. “Duh-shit. It’s in the van. Don’t worry Candy.” Wilson must’ve hit me harder than I thought
Satisfied, Candy sets the towel down on the arm of the sofa, “Not a problem Pacoy, I’ll have them meet us a couple blocks from the operation – lets us have a vehicle in proximity if shit hits the fan, as it does, and a transport for anything salvageable like a fried military-grade droid.” Candy winks at Pacoy, “Be a centerpiece in your business till some young glitter snaps it up for his sitting room as a conversation piece.” Pacoy smiles, “From what Mac says, I might find all kinds of interesting toys tonight. Might take the edge of these limitations I’ve been working under.”Mac urges some caution. “Too much damage is going to do us more harm than good. To people or otherwise. Can’t talk if they’re full of holes – goes for man and machine both.”
Able looks at some of the photos that Mac had been showing off. “We could go in two ways – one group front and center, through the dogs. The other group goes in through the window – use the auto-grapnel to zipline in from the vantage point.” Pacoy imagines himself on a zipline and hesitates “I think I’ll lead some bots into the dogs…”
Mac also balks at the thought. “I’m not too keen on heights, if I’m honest. Unless you’ve got a safety harness, I’m likely safer dealing with the dogs. Plus the mooks out front know my face.” Not as well as they know Pitbull, but he might be our best infiltrator, along with Able.
With a flourish, Candy slides a mono-edged blade from a scabbard over his shoulder, “I can help with the dogs. I doubt I’ll be able to talk this young lady down or onto our side – she’s too much of an enigma at the moment. I’m pretty sure I can get the dogs to stand down though. Pits, you can get the girl out unharmed with all this lead flying?” Able nods. “First thing we do, hit her with knockout gas. Maybe the hacker, too.” “No promises, but I’ll do my damnedest.” Pitbull grates with a smile. “Must admit that not too many of my jobs involved target lives. Just their deaths.”
Mac thinks, then flashes immaculately white teeth at Pitbull. “Just think of what you’d do to make ‘em dead and just don’t do that.” “Nah. Just shoot to kill. With the Vortexo! though, right?” Pitbull growls through a thunderous chuckle.
Fade Scene: Outside the Cherry Tree Hab-block, next door to Peach Tree, 1400hrs Local Time.
Francheska has just pulled up in one of the cartel’s vans, with some presents for the team. She turns to the team and hands over two nylon tote bags, each of which bulge slightly. “The red one has the shaped charge grenades, the blue one has the EMPs. Oh, and here’s that autograpnel.” Able grabs the grapnel, checking that it’s ready to use while Pitbull shoulders his Reaper with a smile. Back in daddy’s arms. He thinks to himself, still smiling as he preps the Vortexo!. Pacoy walks over to the van and gets the drones he’d asked for, giving them a quick once-over to make sure they weren’t mishandled en-route.
Mac adjusts the seating of his electrolaser before pulling his camera out and checking in on his new friends at the base of the Peach Tree. “So Candy, Pacoy and myself are going in the front door… what about you, Able? Pitbull?” Mac twiddles with the rangefinder, bringing the roughshod fortifications into focus.
Francheska bows her head to her Pater, “With your permission, the less presence out on the street the better so I’ll be going as soon as you unload. I’ll be waiting on the edge of the Prospects until I get your call.” Candy smiles, “Many thanks my Aequitas, I’m sure these will bloom beautifully. I’ll be on comms, keep your eyes open, we don’t know exactly how big their operation is.”
Pitbull finishes prepping the Vortexo! before moving onto the grapnel as he replies. “I think I’ll go through the window. Anyone feel like followin’?” Able hands the grapnel to Pitbull. “I’m going in the window.” Over by Peach Tree’s main entryway, a group of four boostergangers, including the leader Mac and Pitbull met earlier, are gawking at all the hardware. Mac notices them. “So it looks like we have some fans, gentlemen.” He tucks his camera away carefully and sets his camera bag in the van. Pitbull winks over at the boosters as he racks his Urban Fox, and yanks out his knife.
As Francheska slams the back doors of her van, gets in and drives off North, Mac skips a few feet to the side when Pitbull draws his knife. “Watch what you’re doing with that, killer!” Pitbull looks at Mac as though he was merely commenting on his attire. “Gear check.” He replies simply, giving his knife an up-down glance before sheathing it back in its scabbard.
The boosters notice Pitbull and Mac looking their way. Three disappear at speed around the block’s corner but the leader walks towards you all, something small held between finger and thumb. Able shifts slightly, drawing his pistol and pointing it slightly towards the man, though still underneath his coat. “Friend of yours?” The big booster grimaces at Mac, showing stained teeth in what might be a smile. “Yo, Cho! See this? A grand.” He holds a datacrystal. “One of the cho’s saw the other guys unloading sommer boxes. Got a deal of a squee at ’em.”
Mac blinks a few times, running the phrase over a few times in his head before passing the credits over to the man. “Good doing business with you. You might want to go on vacation for a bit, yeah? Extra for you if you don’t squee us, yeah?” “Surely, Cho.” The ganger grins again. “not be squeein’ ya, gettit?” He pockets his credits and walks away, waiting until he’s almost to the corner before giving a thumbs-up to his gang-mates. They all fade fast from sight.
Able watches the departing ganger impassively; he has absolutely no idea what the man was talking about. He’s always had trouble with deciphering the underclasses method of speaking, at least when he isn’t currently occupying one of their minds. Mac jacks the datacrystal into his pocketwatch and distributes the data after clearing it’s integrity. “Takes all types to run surveillance sometimes. A beggar’s dozen can get you all sorts of intelligence.”
The footage from the boosterganger’s optic feed is in a weird color range, as if the blue is faulty, but it’s clear enough: two men and one woman unloading boxes from a dented hovervan bearing a carpet fitter’s logo – the one now parked in the Peach Trees car lot – walk past the viewpoint, nodding to the viewer. One is a slim and ratty looking older man. The other two look very alike each other, in their late 20s, perhaps part-Asian. Both have the bulges of weapons highlighted in the viewpoint by a lambent purple warning glow.
Able indicates the bulges, the new faces. “Looks like they got some backup. And they’re still here, judging by the van.” Mac: “So we have to be a bit tighter in our entry than before. Don’t want you two starved for backup, do we?” Able nods. “Agreed.” He turns about in place for a moment, getting his bearings. “Where was your vantage point from earlier? We need a good location to set the line from.” Mac describes the directions to Able. “Might want to go a few floors up unless you want to tightrope across. I’d pay to see that, though.” Able shrugs. “Tightrope wouldn’t be too challenging, but a bit slow for our needs. Agreed with a few floors up. We’ll need to blast out their window as we come in, too – Reapers should be sufficient for that.” Mac winces, “Might want to double check on that before going in – hate for you to turn in to a bug on a windscreen.”
Able nods curtly, turns and begins heading up to the designated launch-point, opening the door to the next building over and taking stairs two at a time. Pitbull follows Able closely, rolling over the course of action in his head as he goes.
Meanwhile, Mac starts across the street towards the target building, hands stuck in his pockets. He walks hunched over like it was raining outside. His eyes are focused on the van and the entrance. “Let us know when you’re in position, you two.” He murmurs over the comm-net. Pacoy follows right on his heels. “Mac, you’ve been here before,” he says before sweeping out his arm dramatically, “Lead the way.”
Mac laughs, tipping his hat at Pacoy. “Never been inside. But there’s a first time for everything, right?” Mac attempts to navigate his way up to the 11th floor, bypassing the super’s office if possible. Once in the building, Pacoy rechecks his bots, waiting for a signal from Able and Pit to activate them. As Mac and Pacoy sneak past the closed door to the building super’s office, they hear a loud snoring coming from inside. From somewhere, the sound of a domestic argument drifts down the stairwell and a stench of urine assaults their nostrils.
Mac lets out a quiet sigh. Is it always like this in the lower castes? Surely some of them have some respect for themselves. He subvocalizes, “Almost up on 11 on our side, boys. Let us know when you’re good. Able, if you need it, Pitbull is an excellent set of lockpicks.” Candyman whispers to those nearest him, a sound almost drowned out by the muted hiss of a drawn blade, “They might be monitoring comm traffic just as early warning against a team like ours moving it – so lets try to go keep radio silence till we’re in the building.”
“H.U.D. messaging good, Candy?” Pitbull sends to Candyman. Able grunts an affirmative to Pitbull, then notes that they’ve arrived on the appropriate floor. He sends a quick comm-burst to the others – a simple beep-beep, able to be lost in the background if you weren’t listening for it – as he and Pitbull start moving to their designated launch point. Candy fires off a short message back to Pitts H.U.D. “Should be fine, lets just keep it to a minimum if we can, hackers are a threat I’m not overly familiar with.” Pitbull takes a moment to get set up as he yanks the Vortexo! from the holster that an Urban Fox use to reside in. “Me neither. Not too many down in Mexico, and most of the ones that were there were my targets anyway.” Pitbull shoots off at Candy.
Sneaking down the hall, Pacoy turns to Mac “Okay, so the dogs are fair game, but you’re armed with non-lethals for the rest, right? We want the girl and the hacker alive, but I’m better with a pistol than with theses K-O toys…” Mac smiles and brandishes his electrolaser. “Still got your Vortexo!? If not, shoot to wound, I guess.”
Pacoy, Mac and Candy swiftly climb almost to the 12th floor landing, where just like on the other floors a corridor opens up on each side towards apartments – the apartment they need is 2nd left. Finally answering Mac’s earlier quip, Pacoy says, with a wink, “I’ll just stick to dogs and goons then,”
Pacoy has barely finished speaking when he hears a low, feral growl from the landing above. He draws and readies his pistol, and tries to minimize his exposure. Watching Pacoy’s behavior, Mac pulls his electrolaser, hoping it’ll be enough to deal with the dogs.
In a rush, growling and barking, three cyberhounds pour down the few remaining steps towards Pacoy, Candy and Mac! Up ahead, from the apartment, the three hear shouting and frantic movement.
Candy moves to point, blade held defensively in front, “Fucking dogs must have smelled us.” The moment the first dog slips into his field of view, Mac’s electrolaser snaps up and he lets loose three tightly grouped shots past Candy, which all find their mark. The first dog yelps as the bolts hit it, then folds around itself and tumbles down the stairs past the three, unconscious or offline.
Mac grumbles through the comm-net. “Made contact – sounds like we kicked the hornet’s nest! Set for operation Robin-Hood?” Able comms back immediately. “Roger, Little John. T-minus three seconds.” He looks out at the window they need to get through, then gives it a good, stiff kick to let it loose.
“So much for surprise” Pacoy mutters as he takes aim at the closest dog. He sends a burst into the next cybermutt, which crumples as it is hit by all three rounds, the third hound goes down yelping with a massive gash in it’s chest as Candyman slashes at it with his monoblade Although it still struggles to rise and attack, it is out of the fight – as quickly as that, the three are past their first opposition, but the target apartment’s door crashes open and a gun muzzle pokes around the corner of the doorway.
From across the street, Pitbull’s autograpnel slams into the Peach trees block just above the target window, a perfect shot – but the window itself explodes out and falls, to be replaced by a rifle barrel. A hail of automatic fire lashes out across the gap at Able and Pitbull, framed in the window, fired from what sounds to both like an MX-16 carbine. Able tosses himself to the side to get in the cover of the walls, bullets zipping by him but none hitting. Pitbull tries to backpedal but is hit twice in the chest, the rounds not penetrating but hitting with bruising impact. Since he’s the only one in a position to see it, Pitbull’s the only one who sees the red telltale on the big black box in the target living room wink out, and the box begin to open on powered hinges. “Fuck!” Pitbull grunts as the slugs punch him on the chest. “Guys, the box is opening!” Pitbull sends out to everyone.
Trusting his comrades to deal with the wounded dog, Mac steps precisely 5 inches to the side, snaps his weapon up and looses another tight group of three bolts to strike down the side of the carbine sticking out the door, sending arcs of electricity dancing around wildly. Mac and his companions hear some cursing in what sounds like a Chinese dialect as the rifle spits and sputters with sparks, it’s smartgun electronics fried and unable to fire the gun.
Able turns slightly, keeping his body flush with the wall and pointing only his pistol out the window, aiming it via the smartgun electronics – all as his blood pumps and his nerves dance as if on fire, his neural booster on full blast. He takes a moment to aim, then fires – a single, solitary dart-like bullet loaded with a soporific, flying out into the night. The slim woman who had been shooting at Able and Pitbull coughs once, then crumples.
Candyman shouts “I’ve got this!”. Holding the infinitely fine blade before him like it could cut the distance between the cursing man in the doorway and himself, he sprints up the hallway – eating the ground between them in long stylish strides. However, as he runs at the Asian man in the doorway, he sees his opponent swiftly pull a Predator pistol from a shoulder holster and grin evilly as he fires. Candy has a moment of fear as his enemy shoots, but the bullets all fly wide.
Mac watches Candy sprint, and mumbles into his comms, still staring down his sights, “How’s it going Robin-Hood? Will Scarlett’s looking to get in to Sherwood forest and we were wondering how the reception was.” Pacoy activates his bots and moves in to take care of the wounded dog. The cyberhound whines through it’s pain at Pacoy and tries to lick his hand as he administers the coup-de-grace.
Pitbull and Able are in an ideal position to watch as the box finishes unfolding – and something gleaming chrome begins to unfold itself from inside. At the same time, a bedroom door opens and an older man packing a pistol appears. He has obviously artificial skin from the neck down and a pair of smartgoggles clamped over his eyes. Pitbull swiftly grabs and slides on down the grapnel line, simultaneously firing his Vortexo! In the direction of the new arrival in a splendid example of his training. The old man coughs, just like his companion did, then crumples just as she did too.
Able comms back to Mac. “Reception looks mostly light; multiple Sleeping Beauties and a chrome toaster waking up. Unclear on danger.” Meanwhile Pitbull, zipping down a line a dozen floors up in the air, has a great view and is the first to see clearly as the thing in the box finishes unfolding.
Mac darts up the stairs in short order, trenchcoat billowing behind him as he goes. He skids to a stop, his wingtips functioning like socks on carpet, as he brings his electrolaser to bear on the man bearing down on Candy, snapping off three rounds. The Asian man spasms in mid action, trying to get an aimed shot off at Candyman, and jerks backwards into unconsciousness. Mac hears the whirr and whine of servos from the apartment and comms to Pacoy, “Looks like your toy turned itself on, so we get to see what Santa got you this year!” Across the way, Able pulls up his hood, his camo activating as he hooks onto the zipline. As he falls down, one hand holds the line while another hangs on to his Assassin stealth pistol, ready to roll.
Stepping past the stunned gunman, Candy waves back to Mac, even as he flattens himself to the wall and looks into the apartment,“…What the hell is that.” “What? What’s going on in there?” Mac looks at Candy, trying to read his reaction. A second of study and Mac’s face falls. “Oh, no. It’s bad? Bad like being trapped outside at noon in the desert sun? Eating tainted sushi from a meal cart bad?” Candy just mutters back…“Ya, about that bad. But I think we over prepared just enough.” The first of the kestrel-bots races past them into the room, sending images of the warbot to Pacoy as it strafes the massive machine, bullets spanging off the heavy armor. “…pokemo…” Pacoy whispers as he processes the sight. The second kestrel-bot swings in on an opposing arc, firing another strafe of ineffective rounds.
Pitbull fixes on the metal-monstrosity in the room, swaps over to his Reaper and opens fire. His armor-piercing and explosive military-grade Reaper rounds punch through the creatures armor, but it does not fall – only roars in inchoate rage. The monster reaches for Pitbull with two clawed arms as a pair of muzzles pop up from a second pair of shoulders. As the monstrous cyborg fires, Pitbull throws himself sideways across the room, smashing into and overturning a couch – somehow not a single claw or bullet touches him.
Pacoy commands his last drone to turn on it’s jammer, but that only unleashes and earsplitting screech that sounds something like "Frreeeeeee!’ from the thing. “What’s going on in there? Pacoy? What did you just do?!” Mac’s voice starts sounding increasingly panicked. He sidles up to look through the doorway, his eyes adjusting to the Warborg’s size as he snaps up his electrolaser, firing off three impeccably timed shots at it, the air ionizing at the muzzle of the gun with audible snaps like a percussionist at a cafe. The arcs jump around the metal of it’s skeleton like out of control metal springs before finding their way to ground, leaving only slight scorch marks as their only memory. The blasts don’t even slow the thing down, however, as it roars and changes target towards the apartment door where Mac is. “Oh. Well, this was a swell plan. Guys, I have a preferred tailor listed in my office when you pick out my funeral suit, if there’s enough of me left to wear one.”
Able comes swinging in on the zipline, Pitbull still in the window, firing at some unseen creature, bobbing and weaving. Able sees a single metallic claw reach out past Pitbull, all in a blur. Pitbull seems unhurt, but Able’s hurtling towards in much, much too fast. Able lifts and twists his body, feeling a sharp pain in his side as something solid slams into it, but he immediately ignores it, the pain dampened to nothing more than an awareness of an injury. As Able comes rocketing into the window, he swings his feet and his body lifts, clearing Pitbull and the sofa entirely and hurtling into the room. As he passes by, Able notices the target – an E23 Warborg, injured but angry. Able flips over the ’borg and to the far side of the room, firing his pistol as he sails overhead.
The dart plunges into the Warborg’s hide, going straight to its vulnerable fleshy bits. Able, now on two feet, fires off two follow-up shots, each dart tipped with deadly neurotoxin – an Assassin’s tool, almost sure of killing a target even if that death will be minutes in the future. As the darts hit home, the cyberpsycho monstrosity finally stops, wavering, then whines into silence as it collapses inwards on it’s spider-like legs – dead. In the shocking silence of the aftermath, the team can hear a woman’s voice quietly sobbing from behind the second bedroom door.
Mac wipes the sweat off of his forehead with his free hand, his gun still leveled at the door. At the sound of the woman’s sobs, his heart begins to beat and he aches to make his way rapidly to the bedroom door. “Miss? Miss? Are you okay? Everything is all right, lady. Can I come in and make sure you’re alright?”
Behind the door, a gun barks once and then there is a howl of female shock. Pitbull stands up from the sofa wreckage and stomps over to the door, Reaper trained on the anticipated enemy. Gun likewise ready, Pacoy runs towards the door, approaching it by to the side, and readies himself for entry. “Ma’am?!?”
Candyman’s reaction is more visceral. “Bloody hell,” he breathes and then he Candy runs up to the door between his two teammates and cuts it clean of its hinges with the monoblade before kicking the limp hanging shards of wood into the darkened room. Pitbull smiles at the display, as he was about to apply his boot to it. “Nice.” Beyond, a shocking scene is revealed. The hacker, Skyberg, lies against one wall of a small bedroom occupied by two foam mattresses and some plasterboard furniture. He is dead, most of his head gone and a pistol in his hand. On one mattress lies the unkempt man, an empty bottle of whiskey beside him, snoring loudly. The biochemist, Klieber, huddles against the far wall sobbing quietly now, splattered by Skyberg’s brains and blood.
Mac attempts to move into the room, intent on comforting Klieber, shooting Pacoy a sympathetic look while Pitbull simply stares at the scene, shaking his head in contempt at the corpse.
Behind them, Able kneels down, looking at the twitching half-corpse/half-machine in the middle of the room. Something tweaks the back of his mind as he hears the woman cry out, some urge he doesn’t understand and doesn’t like. He sits there, looking over the ruin of a man forced into servitude and modified for his owner’s ends. Able continues to stare at it, seeing his own future in that now-rotting husk.
To Be Continued.