Dateline: December 28th 2050, 1700 Local Time
The Lazarus Group – Candyman, Pacoy, Able, Mac and Pitbull – have been contracted to help protect Friedlander Bey’s Ottoman Hotel during his “Grey Auction” – a three day sale of stolen goods and massive party which draws the rich and famous from all over the world. They’ve already foiled an attempt to blow the hotel up using a gene-tailored bacteria that turned the contents of the entire buildings waste system into explosives, and captured the people responsible – members of the enigmatic 23Enigma group of techno-nihilist terrorists.
Now the team has had to postpone interrogating their prisoners at Candyman’s headquarters in order to rush back to the hotel in their luxury AV flyer. Bey has called to say he wants them there for the second auction session – and in any case Able’s masters at the Rossum Corporation want him to be their proxy in bidding for a consignment of prototype weapons which will come under the hammer in this session.
As the team lands at the Ottoman Hotel’s capacious mid-tower AV hangar, they find the hotel’s gruff security chief, Jonathan Haroun, ready and waiting for them.
“Took you long enough! The Emir wants to see you before the auction session, in his penthouse. I suggest you run.” The man seems to have watched too many pre-collapse cop movies and thinks he’s the precinct Captain.
Candy steps out of the AV and smoothes his suit, “On my way, Marid still down?” Haroun growls, “Yeah, he’s still down. Fucking AI gave away the jackpot on the slots three times in ten minutes!” Pitbull scoffs as he stomps past Haroun. “Ok, Agent Johnson…” He mutters as he puffs off of his umpteenth cigarette of the day.
Candy stops a moment, “I’m sure it was not his fault, Marid only does what he’s told. Try not to be so hard on him Haroun, it only hurts you, blood pressure and what not” and continues around the corner without waiting for a response. The AV’s camera tracks the conversation just outside, short identifiers and threat-assessment summaries appearing beside each person as the camera moves to them each in turn. The AV’s engines slowly shut down, the landing lights turning off – and the pilot canopy pops open. A small datajack eases out of the socket at the base of Able’s neck as his eyes open, blinking as he re-inserts himself into the real world. Pitbull stops an inch from the entrance, before sighing and stomping back to the V-TOL and deposits the Reaper in the back seat. “Sorry. Forgot the Emir and people and panicking and shit…” He half grumbles to the group.
Mac follows Candy, wobbling a bit as he does, glad to see solid ground again. “I still maintain that if we had been meant to fly, we’d have wings and not have made them ourselves. I’d prefer if we could leave it to the birds next time.” He glares at the bus behind them. “Three times, eh? Pacoy’ll be pissed.” Exiting the Av, Pacoy does a quick pat-down of all of his gear, then heads off to the penthouse, wondering if he’ll get a chance to look at the inner-workings of Madrid. “Nah, Mac, Slots are for grannies and drunks… and one time with Candy…. There’s real gamble there, but I bet it sure was a pretty sight to watch ‘em spill!” Pacoy answers. Smiling wistfully, Mac’s shoulders rise and fall. “Still, those one-arm bandits giving cash away like sweets on Samhain?” He lets a whistle escape from between his lips as he makes his way to the penthouse. “Yeah, Pennies from Heaven…” Pacoy ponders the image.
Candy catches himself before he stumbles mid-step at Pacoy’s dig, “Not really a gambling man – more so than the job requires with shifting markets and unpredictable competitors…shifting socio-political environments. An AI as protected as Marid, what do you think happened, last hurrah of the 23Enigma hacker?”
Back in the waking world, Able steps out from the AV and begins heading towards the Bey’s office, not stopping to continue the conversation as he moves past the talking group. “We should get moving; if Marid’s down, then the security measures are only half-up. This would be a great prelude to an attack.”
The team quickly pile into the express elevator to the roof and are soon past the Emir’s entry security and back into his penthouse suite atop the 60 floor hotel. This time, there is a fourth person in the suite along with Friedlander Bey and his usual lieutenants – a youngish man with sandy hair. Desmond Battersea, the enforcer, rises with a thing whine of exoskeleton as the team enter and motions the young man over to join him. “This is White Lion, he’s been contracted by the Emir to help with our latest hiccup. He’s like a virgin, guys, so I’m giving him to your team so you can protect his lily-white ass for us too.”
Pacoy offers his hand “Pacoy Tago, resident gearhead and techspert. I also fill the role of ‘Kinda Medic’, ‘Asian Guy’, and resident ‘Reasonably Normal, Not So Creepy Guy’.” Saxby looks up from his laptop, cables sprawled across a desk. He wipes his forehead and shakes his head at the screen, then makes his way over to the group. Extending a hand, he offers, “Saxby Diggs, good to meet you.”
“Well, boy, what do you do? You don’ look like the fightin’ type.” Pitbull grates, clearly waiting to be impressed. Mac takes a look up and down at the young man. Greener than the pastures of the Cascades after a rainstorm, and we’re saddled with him to look after on top of the hotel? He steps forward. “Pleasure, Mister Diggs. Trenton Machesky, but you can call me Mac. I’m the resident private dick.” He casts a sidelong look at Pacoy before launching into a fit of laughter. Saxby shakes hands all around, grinning at Pitbull’s remark. “I’m not much of a fighter, that’s true. But I might surprise you,” he playfully shadow boxes at Pitbull. “Well, Saxby, I’m Pitbull, combat specialist. Y’know, the nice way of sayin’ I deliver swift kicks in the ass.” Pitbull grates, his exhaustion clearly making him more than a little cranky.
Able takes in the ‘White Lion’. “A computer security consultant? How much experience do you have with disabled AIs?” Saxby shrugs at Able. “Enough, I suppose. Though this one,” he gestures back to the desk, “is pretty fucked.” Able nods to Saxby. “It would have to be ‘pretty fucked’.” The ‘air quotes’ are audible in his voice. “Able. Infiltration and information retrieval.”
Candy looks to the Bey, then to Battersea with the hint of irritation in his eyes, “Very well,” moving over to the young man, Candy extends a hand, “I’m the Candyman, friends call me Candy. Pleasure to meet you. I hope you can get Marid back into good working order, he’s a good sort for an AI.”
Saxby nods at Pitbull then addresses Able, “So this,” he moves back over to the laptop, " this is really weird. The hack is pretty basic, some scripts affecting the RNG of the slots," he pauses to make sure they’re following, “but here’s where it gets interesting. Whoever’s running these scripts didn’t actually open the door.” He flips the laptop around toward them, displaying a command line spewing code. “Somebody opened the door for them, then just left it.”
As Pitbull stares at the lines on the screen, at least trying to make it look like Saxby’s words and the screen’s contents weren’t going over his head, Candy peers at the screen then leans back, “So your thinking this was an inside job then.” Able glances down at the code, frowning. “Probably not. That backdoor is encrypted against interference – same encryption cipher that was used by the e23 group. Unless they were the ones with the inside access, of course.”
Saxby shrugs. “Could be, but there are easier doors to open if you’re on the network. Like this.” He taps a few buttons and the lights in the room blink on and off. “Easy, but that’s because I’m in with normal access. Somebody opened this from the outside,” he chews his lip a moment, looking at the screen. “Somebody good.” Candy turns away slightly, “Somebody dead.”
“So we’re dealing with the leavings of that brat who vented his brains? What was the door opened for?” Mac shakes his head. Pitbull shrugs. “Same reason this whole thing’s goin’ on, I think. He wants to ruin the Emir’s rep, y’know? What better way than to blow his Internet Security open after fuckin’ with his AI?” Pitbull pauses after taking the final drag off of his cigarette, stubbing it out on the heel of his boot and depositing the butt in the ashtray." Or he’s leaving the back open for more of his buddies to fuck it all up worse. Those are my best guesses." Mac’s eyebrows just about hit the ceiling. Well look at this. Not what I expected from our errant soldier, but not an unpleasant surprise. “That’s a good call, Pitbull. Wouldn’t have made it myself, but yeah – must be what they’re after.” Pitbull looks at Mac, as he adjusts his trenchcoat. “Hey, war is war, guns, net or social.”
Saxby focuses on the screen. “Closing the door shouldn’t be too difficult. They’re good, but so am I.” He taps a few keys. “These scripts shouldn’t be a problem either.” He looks over at the group. “Whoever did this, though, they’re good enough to get in again.” He looks at each of them, articulating, “And again, and again, and again. I suspect that’s why you’re here. To find them.”
Candy eases himself over to the Bey taking himself out of the conversation with the young hacker, “Sir, I understand the second auction is starting soon. Is the next priority to walk the kid around and have him fix this or would I be allowed to go back to my home to question this Enigma23. The leader was quite willing to spill it all when he thought he had an open ear. The rest of the team served to make the acting more realistic, but I fear they would kill them before valuable information could be siphoned. Other cells of this organization perhaps, future plans against your person.”
Saxby concentrates, talking to himself as he types frantically. “Just need to close this here, and then let’s get rid of you here. Woops! Shit, OK, let me try this.” Able watches Saxby for a moment, curious how he’ll handle the encryption cipher without the algorithm it’s based upon. Saxby wipes his brow again and looks over at the others. “OK, it’s done.” A smile flits onto Mac’s lips as he claps Pitbull on the shoulder. “Never let your expertise on the subject be doubted.” He looks over at Saxby. “You having trouble, kid? Thought you were the bees knees at this.”
The Bey walks over and puts his arm around Candyman’s shoulder, then steers him over to the window and makes him sit on the sofa there. Quietly, looking into Candy’s eyes, he asks “What happened back there with the cell leader? Able seemed to think he’d fancy talked some doubts into you, my brother. For the sake of our friendship, what was said?”
Saxby exhales deeply. “Nah, no trouble. Just didn’t carry the decimal, script missed the directory,” he spews out a little more jargon, which may or may not mean anything to anyone besides himself. Pacoy silently watches Saxby work, taking notes on the difference in skill and technique.
Pitbull smiles in Mac’s direction. “‘Bees knees’? Wha’bout the ‘cats pajamas’!” Pitbull says bursting into guffaws before the end of his statement. Mac’s eyes flit over to Pitbull. “That’s absurd – when have you known a cat to wear clothing? Honestly.” His eyes roll as he regards Saxby again, with a bit more scrutiny.
Candy relaxes his shoulders and forces himself to look into the Bey’s face, “Well, he knew who I was, that was shocking. Not the Candyman, or Pater or any of that, but who I really am. I think that is what Able saw, my shock, but they were not interested in getting valuable information out of them – only killing them. The leader, Gregori, he is far too hardened for torture, too smart. His weakness is his pride in himself, his self assurance. I was playing to that, partly to get the information to protect our enterprise, but also to learn how he has dug up my past. Speaking frankly, Able is a friend, but he is also a dispassionate monster that no longer understands human emotion or the soul. He could not understand the methods in use – only seeing the veneer on the surface of the lie.”
Able’s eyebrows shoot up. “Impressive. You didn’t even ask for the encryption cipher, which would have made closing the hole that much easier.” Able eyes the man, his eyes lingering on the top of his head, slowly tracing the gentle curve of his skull – you can almost see him licking his lips as if in hunger. Saxby nods. “Closing it isn’t the problem. Shutting the door is a lot easier than opening. Figuring out who opened it, that’s the real issue.” He begins typing again, his keys clacking on the old-school keypad. “Sorry for the noise, it helps under, er,” he glances at the Bey, then back to the screen, “under pressure.”
Mac: “Ah, that’s what the cipher was used for? That might have been useful.” Mac mutters a quick series of numbers in his head. This was getting complex, and faster than usual. So many groups vying for the downfall of this little option – it was turning into the Nightingale Sting all over again, and the last thing I wanted was for it to turn out the same way.
The Bey sighs and looks sad. “I’m not at all surprised he knew you, or at least could use his own unfettered implant to do a netsearch on your face. You have to know your old corporation hasn’t forgotten you, has a reward out for information on your whereabouts. He undoubtedly tapped that.” Bey leans in close, “I did my own search on this Professor Gregori, with my considerable resources behind it. You have to know he is a genius and a facile liar who will twist the truth into a braid with untruth to make it plausible and use it to subvert for his own ends. Beware him, my brother.”
Pitbull grimaces at the sound of the clacking keys. “That sound is annoying as all hell. How could people stand it back in the days?” “OK,” Saxby stands up. “The trace is running. This could take a while.” Saxby turns to one of the lieutenants. “So this thing,” he gestures to the laptop, “has root access. That means anybody who touches it has the whole place by the balls. If anybody but me tries to touch it, y’know,” he motions awkwardly with his hands, “shoot them, or something.” Desmond, towering to his full six-eight, cracks his knuckles. “Gotcha, Mr. Hacker.” He grins, showing platinum-filled teeth and one seemingly made from amethyst.
Mac grins over the hacker’s head at Pitbull, “How can people stand it now? Everything’s too quiet, too malleable. Things were better back then.” He flips his notepad out, revealing a copious amount of written words. “Simpler, and more elegant. No hacking, no cyber capers. If you had beef with a man, you took it up with him in person, not try to ruin his business through cowardice.” “Hell, I do that now Mac. I just dislike some of the shit from back in the day. Y’know? Hipsters, laptops, mimes, white guys with afros, YOLO, and all sorts of other stupid things that shouldn’t’ve happened.” Pitbull says as he finally succumbs to the urge to grab yet another cigarette. Laughter spreads from Mac’s gut out through his throat. “Should have stopped time well before the hipsters got involved. I think they’re the root of all of that evil you speak so poorly of.” Mac sighs wistfully, thinking of home, back under the secure protection of the Gemstone Commission. At least there you knew where you stood with your enemies.
Candy looks across the room to the laughter before facing the Bey once more, “I certainly think it best I do not speak to him alone, someone to ground my mind in reason, Able would likely be best if he can be policed. It would even lend to the illusion. Gregori, evil whispers from Satan, nothing to fear when I work under your hand Brother.” The Bey pats Candy’s hand, “I have placed my entire trust and all that I am in your hands, brother. See through the auction session for me please – no later than another three hours, then you can return to your interrogations.”
Saxby nods at Desmond, satisfied that the brute fully understands the severity of the situation. He claps him on the shoulder. “Good man.” He turns and closes in on the other edgerunners, awkwardly inserting himself into their group. “So, what are we doing for the next,” he glances at the clock in the corner of his eye, “five hours?” “Saxby, Welcome to the Den of Mortal Desires – You can Look, but not Touch.” Pacoy says with a sarcastic flourish.
Pitbull turns to Saxby now. “Smoke?” He grates through an unlit cigarette between his teeth. Eh. What the hell. I’ll be nice to the kid. Today." : “Sure,” he takes the cigarette from Pit’s lips and pops it between his lips. He pantomimes a lighter with his hand. “Fire?”
Jacob the Juice gets up from his own laptop, and clears his throat. “Emir, we should make our way to the auction room now.” The Bey nods and stands. He offers his hand to Candy. “My brother, do me the honor of being seen to enter alongside you and your companions.” Candy stands and shakes the Bey’s hand before dipping his head in respect, “It will be done, when the auction is safely concluded, I will draw forth Gregori’s lies and refine the grains of truth from them.” Candy steps back and turns to leave.
Pitbull rolls his eyes and light Saxby’s cigarette with a lighter he produced from his trenchcoat, before lighting his own. Saxby grins. “Thanks.” He inhales deeply, imagining himself looking pretty damn awesome right about now. “Good shit huh? My fav-” Pitbull notices the Emir extending his hand to Candy and marches over to them in curiosity.
“Oh yeah, great shit,” Saxby says to no one. He looks around and notices the congregation, then makes his way over. Shaking his head, Mac stifles a laugh and follows after Pitbull and Saxby. Able bows slightly to the Bey, his eyes off the enigmatic hacker, invisible on the net but perfectly friendly in real life. “You have a lot I’ve been asked to bid upon; we would all hate to miss the auction’s start.”
Desmond gathers everyone up like a scary-strong gangster Mother Goose and leads them all out of the penthouse, through the vault-like door and to the elevator. Once it has wished them down to the seventh floor, they are surrounded by a half dozen Imazighen warriors led by their old acquaintance Tomas and whisked into the main ballroom which is seeing duty as an auction room. The place is crowded with Glitterati – sensie stars, music personalities, corporate bigwigs and even the city’s Chairman in the audience. All heads turn their way as the Bey and his entourage enter – as does the camera carried by Veracity Blaize’s news partner. The Bey splits off from the team, who are shown seats near the back. He ascends to the rostrum, gives a short speech of welcome, and then Agustin Hathaway takes his place and the auction begins.
Saxby, noticing the camera, tries his best to be lost in the frame behind Pitbull. He shoves the cigarette into a nearby planter, coughs quietly, and glances around nonchalantly. Much like Saxby, Pacoy does his best to avoid direct camera time. Casting his gaze over the room, Mac tries to catch the cameraman’s eye, throwing him a casual wink and a smile, cocking his finger at the man, emulating Bugsy Malone as he does, wishing for a cigar. Just try and draw on one of mine again, pal.
Veracity Blaize slips in beside Candyman and gives him a smile and a peck on the cheek as the first lot is announced – an armored and tricked out luxury pickup which once belonged to the Texan Dictator, with a reserve price of $1.2 million, is displayed on the screens from its secure parking spot in the garage deep below. The first bidder is the sensie star Mr Choppa. Candy turns and returns the kiss on the other cheek, “Mrs. Blaize, anything interesting happen while Lazarus Group was out of the building?” Candy asks with a boyish grin. "Veracity smiles and leans against Candyman as she watches the bidding, “Nothing, it was boring without you around.” Craning down, Candyman whispers in Veracity’s ear, “You really did miss a lot. I’m glad you were here and safe though, it got a bit dangerous.” Candy lets out a hot breath, “I’ll tell you about it later.”
Pitbull feels out of place again. Bored and tired, he fights the urge to fall asleep, even as the Texan pickup was placed for bid. Pacoy just shakes his head at the idea of a “luxury pickup” and sighs. Mac chuckles, “Texan Dictator? No sense of style there.” He begins systematically scanning the room before tapping Pitbull on the shoulder. “You want to close your eyes for a minute, bo? I’ll cover for you. Feeling a bit restless, personally. Haven’t been able to sleep since we pulled this gig.”
Saxby sits next to Pitbull, trying to mimic him in looking bored. Still, he can’t help but stare around at the famous faces. Seeing Candy, he momentarily feels bad for all the times he referred to the woman as “Her-ass-ity Blaize” on the forums. He chuckles to himself, then stops, hoping nobody noticed.
Able leans back in his chair; part of him is urging him to catch some sleep as the long, long day continues on, but he manages to shake it off long enough to engage with his BIOS implant, instructing it to begin manufacturing light stimulants to keep him awake and aware.
Pitbull barely gets barely an “Ok” out before tipping into sleep, snoring lightly. Being up for almost two days straight, spending a good portion of that getting the crap kicked out of him and kicking the crap out of others, the weight of consciousness was finally too great for the Texas killing machine. “Ah, fer fuck’s sake,” Saxby breathes. He slinks, embarrassed, in his seat then yanks out his phone and scrolls mindlessly through his contact list, pretending to be doing something really interesting.
Hathaway pauses onstage and grins, then announces, “the bid stands at 1.74 million with MC S-Sure. I don’t think the young man at the back is making a bid but could someone wake him so I can hear the other bidders?” There’s general laughter and the camera’s glare swings around on Pitbull.
Mac reaches over and attempts to jostle Pitbull awake after the first snore, muttering under his breath. “I see where you got your nickname, buddy. Try and stay with me or just put it on a leash, yeah?” Saxby sinks even lower. Pitbull jolts awake. “Fuckin’ hell, Mac. Make up yer mind. Sleep, don’ sleep…” Pitbull’s grumbles and kvetches trail off.
Able watches the crowd, completely disinterested in the ostentatious masculinity extender on the stage. His eyes track everything as he watches for anything out of the ordinary.
Laughing quietly, Mac nudges Pitbull again. “You can sleep if you keep your damned dog on a leash. Don’t want them cryin’ for Old Yeller if you keep at it, catch me? You can have my hat to cover your eyes if you reign it in a bit.” Pitbull looks at Mac incredulously. “I snore?” Saxby laughs. “Do I snore?” He mimics quietly. “Yeah, dude,” he pats Pit on the shoulder, “you snore.”
Hathaway smiles even wider and continues, “With you, Mr. Choppa? No? Going…going…sold to MC S-Sure. The next item is lot 109, a consignment of 20 firearms, believed to be prototype gauss weapons from the house of Harlow. let’s open the bidding at 200,000. Yes, General Kumar. Do I hear 220 thousand? Ambassador Septer…250 thousand?”
Candy looks to Able – then gestures a bid of 275k.
Pitbull rolls his neck around. “Well shit, learn somethin’ new everyday, don’ we?” Mac pulls an innocent face as he sends the audioloop of Pitbull snoring at him. “Wouldn’t ever tell it to a lady, but yeah, you sound like that damn truck that was being sold off.” “I think the folks in Cascadia learned that today,” Saxby chuckles. Pitbull laughs. “Sheee-iiiit. I sound like a bear dual-weildin’ chainsaws.” Pitbull grumbles as he rubs his eyes under his armored shades.
Pacoy lets out a sharp breath at both the sight and the price of the Harlow weapons.
Hathaway acknowledges Candy’s bid, “Desiderium, yes. 300 thousand from the General, 325 thousand from Ms Aldridge in front.”
Saxby nods knowingly at Pac. “Yeah, my friend Chen and I have a set of those in FE5k. They scale with your MMR rating, really own on the new levels.”
Candy gestures again, giving a smile to Mrs. Blaize, “Can never be too safe in this profession.”
Mac looks over at Pacoy, then at Saxby. “FE5k? MMR? Those are weapons, son, not hacking terms. Besides, they’re not worth near as much as a vintage Thompson. Reliable as your old ma’am, and near enough as to cause twice the obedience.”
Able watches the auction, his eyes keeping track of everything. As the auctioneer calls out, Able raises his hand once – but his eyes keep track of the two people in black leather he spotted.
Saxby looks shocked, and he looks quizzically from Pacoy to Pitbull and back. “Oh come on, I’m the only one who plays FE5k?” He shakes his head and slumps again in his seat. “Scrubs.” Pacoy smiles politely and nods to Saxby, realizing despite their shared programming interests, the two of them are completely different flavors of geek.
Hathaway is in his stride. “350, Rossum. 375, Tuphana. 400, British Embassy. 425, Umbra.”
Pitbull moves from rubbing his eyes to stretching the corners of his face to keep himself awake. “But they’re experimental weapons. Maybe someone with good brains can-” Pitbull freezes in the middle of his statement, eyes widened in realization.
Candyman leans across Pacoy, “Able, what’s going on, who are you bidding for?” Able doesn’t answer verbally; he lets his flash light up, covering his face with Rossum scrawl.
Pitbull’s look of realization drops as he thinks his idea over. “Naw. I really doubt Stick’s that good with weapon modification. Especially if the tech is this far away from bullets…”
Two figures in heavy black leather-look armor detach themselves from where they’ve been leaning against the back wall. One makes a beeline for general Kumar of Tuphana and whispers a word that makes him go pale. The other begins to make his way towards Able.
Candy switches to comms, “Good luck Able. Getting too rich for my blood – I was just showing off anyways.” Able nods to Candy, his eyes staying on the man in leather, one hand resting on his stealth pistol, the other raising in the air to make a bid. Hathaway watches the movement in glances as he keeps the bidding going, “General, no? British embassy…600 thousand!”
Seeing the incoming leather-clad man, Pacoy subtly readies his Vortexo! Pitbull too reaches into his coat for his Vortexo! as he keeps his eyes on the gentlemen in black.
“Umbra, 625. British embassy 650. Rossum?”
Saxby looks at Pitbull and Pacoy curiously, then follows their gaze over to Able. Mac whispers to Pitbull, “Stick? You got your own saltpeterman, Pits?” He takes a look at the rest of the group to try and read the situation, shifting his gaze to land heavily on the incoming personage. Takes a big set of brass to try and start something in this sort of setting. Shame for him that metal conducts electricity so well. Might have to give him a dose of Chicago lightning if he doesn’t wise up. Candy leans over to Mrs. Blaize, “I’m going to get a drink, would you like anything?”
Able raises a hand even as the Brit continues towards him, obviously intent on intimidating him. Not exactly something likely to work, but always good to allow him to try.
Saxby leans over to Pit and whispers, “what’s going on?” Pitbull, not taking his eyes off of the walkers, answers in a low, growl. “I don’ know, but I don’ like them clowns in black walkin’ up to us.” Mac spares a second to look at Saxby. “You ever throw down with a roscoe, redhot? Hell, do you even have a rod? If this goes sideways, you get behind me and Pits as best as you can.”
As the man comes closer, Able shifts slightly; his visage remains unchanged, but his expression slowly morphs into a feral grin, showing significantly more emotion than his norm. The man in black armor stops several steps away, looks directly at Able and mouths very clearly the words “Ad Astra”. From the podium comes, “The bid is 675. Going once…twice…”
Able waves his hand slightly, still in the air waiting for the auctioneer to call it. He glowers down at the Brit, nodding to him once. “Edgar.” Able’s grin spreads, and a deep, British-accented voice sings from his mouth. “Scotland, Edgar.” The burly British agent flushes slightly and looks angry, but backs up a step away from Able.
“750 from the British Consul general”.
“800 from the Rossum representative. Umbra? No.”
Saxby remarks under his breath, “the stars?” He looks back to Mac, “I, er, a rod? I don’t, I mean, I do,” he quickly looks back to the man in leather. Mac looks puzzled, “What’s the stars got to do with anything, kid?” Mac counts the number of eyes on the man approaching them from the front, then swivels his head to check all of the other angles of approach. Saxby blanches, his neural computer reporting the results of his search for Ad Astra. “Oh shit.”
Pacoy misunderstands the comment, “Relax, Saxby – if things get rough in here, we’ll be shooting gas and electrolasers. Don’t want any bystanders killed. Can’t make any promises on what the other guys will be shooting with, though…” He points to the leather-clan goon with his chin. Mac adds, “You can always wave your piece around and try and distract them, but that might make you a target. Don’t try and be a hero, that’s the first thing they teach you when you’re trying to become a cop.”
In a middle row the British Consul-General gets up and glares around at Able and his own man, then smiles for the audience and says “One million.”
Able’s HUD flashes once. “$1.1m approved” Able raises a hand to the auctioneer, victory only showing on his face very briefly. Hathaway takes the almost-interruption in his stride, “You do realize the auction rules are that after one million, bids rise by a tenth of a million, sir?” Able nods. “Rossum bids $1.1 million.”
Hathaway turns to the British senior diplomat, who has gone white, “Your bid sir? No? Going…going…sold to Rossum for one pint one million dollars.” A wave of muttering sweeps across the room, but Hathaway keeps smoothly on, "Our next lot is the painting “Moscow Asylum” by Madison Davids – a masterpiece long thought lost. Who’ll start me at 200 thousand? Provident Insurance. looking for 250 thousand now…"
Candy sits back down, “Congratulations Able.” Pitbull nods. Great, can we sleep now?
The auction continues around the team as Jacob the Juice materializes at their sides and quietly murmurs, “Maybe it’d be best if you guy headed for the security offices now, while Rossum makes good its credit transfer.”
[1/23/2013 9:49:49 PM] Mac whistles low, “Heck of a price. Wish I had pockets that deep.” Saxby, thoroughly floored, sits back in his seat. He glances constantly around at each of the Edgerunners, mindful of their demeanor. Able sits down, nodding to Candy. “Edgar always had a bit of an anger problem. I imagine he won’t be too pleased I upstaged him; watch for retaliation.” He then turns to Mac as he stands yet again, allowing Jacob to escort him. “It’s a little under one half of my street value. Rossum can afford it.”
Saxby stands quickly and scrambles in behind the others. Mindful of the cameras, he does his best to hide behind Pitbull’s hulking frame. Candyman muses to himself, “Well, selling to both sides would likely have net more, twenty guns after all. Million and a half not worth Corps as enemies in the end.” He picks up his empty glass and offers Mrs. Blaize his other hand. “Life is toil, I’ll look forward to our next meeting Mrs. Blaize.”
Pitbull looks to Able, the same incredulous look at the discovery of his own snores covering his face again. “Under half?!” He mouths, dramatically. Mac looks stunned for a moment. “You have a street value?” Mac starts tsking as he stands. “The more I learn about that business, the less I like it. I’ve got half a mind to stick it to your bosses, no offense. Just think you’ve got the right to be a free man, same as the rest of us.” He moves to follow the rest out of the room.
As they all leave the auction room, the British Consul general is also leaving, flanked by his intelligence chiefs. He pauses and comes towards Able, hand outstretched. “Well played, Agent Able, well played indeed. No hard feelings, eh? We all win some then lose some.” Able reaches out, accepting the man’s hand in his own. “You may wish to do more research before you attempt to intimidate one of our agents. Fear has no hold over us.”
Pitbull watches the Consul carefully, but not as carefully as he has his peripherals on the chiefs. Big shot probably wouldn’t do anything, but the two goons might. Saxby hangs back quietly, glaring at the Brit and his two lackeys. He knows a powermonger when he sees one.
The Consul-General chuckles. “Fear? Perish the thought. I only hoped you’d recognize the name and that’d confuse you long enough for me to get the winning bid in. Another time, then? Eddie, Amanda, let’s go find a drink each.” He breezes past.
Veracity murmurs to Candy, “Do you have any clue what that was about? What name?” Candy whispers back to Mrs. Blaize, “Something from Able’s past, can’t say I know myself, but something a normal man would fear to be recounted. Astra I think”
Pitbull turns his head behind him to Saxby, smirking. “You’re quite the warrior, ain’cha?” He growls, sarcasm dripping from his words. Suddenly aware of himself, Saxby visibly relaxes. “Sorry, just deep in thought I guess.” Pacoy raises his eyebrows as the implications of what just happened finally hit him. “Woh…” he whispers under his breath.
Veracity studies Able intently for a moment, then looks puzzled and turns away. “Candy, I shouldn’t abandon Bill while he’s on camera duty. Catch me up later?” She manages to look both sexily inviting and casual at the same time. Candy smiles “Later then,” before stepping up to the Consul, “Pater of Desiderium, and member of Lazarus Group. Sometimes worthwhile to make an alliance, I have no great love lost on Rossum, would have been willing to throw in with you for favored access to the guns. Maybe in the future we can make an arrangement more favorable to the both of us..” The Consul general halts and turns, “Ah yes, I’ve seen some reports. I’d be delighted in seeking some way to make back all your group has cost me recently, Mr Candyman. I’ll be in touch.” He spins away again and heads for the main bar on this floor. Candy calls after loud enough to be heard, “Vengeance only weakens you Consul – it’s something none of us can afford.”
Seeing Candy move toward the Brit, sensing opportunity, Saxby darts in front of Veracity. “Hi Ms. Blaize, big fan. Listen, you know that report you did last month on the hackers in Cascadia was big time bullshit. Who pays you to lie like that?”
Pitbull looks stunned as he watches Saxby go. I guess my first guess was wrong. Looks like there’s spine in ’im yet. Mac tenses, waiting to see Veracity’s reaction to Saxby’s impulsiveness. He comms over to Pitbull. “See that? After hiding from the news cam, he goes and pulls a stunt like this? Doesn’t she have cameras in her eyeballs or some nonsense, on top of being a reporter?” Pitbull shakes his head as he comms Mac back. “The kid’s now got some balls, just hope he doesn’t get himself shot on our clock.”
Veracity goes white, then red. “I’ve never lied that I knew about, let alone been paid to do it! If you’ve got an alternative version, let’s hear it – with sources.” The redhead puts her hands on her hips and quivers with aggression. Saxby smirks, “What’s your ping? I’ve got some friends you can talk to. Friends who aren’t bought and paid for by the corps.” Veracity calms a little and reels off a NetIP address. “This better be good, White Kitty, all you’ll be going to the vet for calling me a liar! Candy, I’ll speak to you later!” She storms off, back towards the auction.
Saxby records it, still grinning. “I assure you, it’ll be worth it.” Instantly, the IP is transmitted to dozens of black hat forums, along with the corresponding message – “Herassity Blaize offers her number to the Lion’s purr. Unleash the trolls, let her know the truth about what we do.” Saxby backs off, and bows his head slightly. “Sorry to keep you.”
Pitbull stomps over to Saxby and puts his hand on his shoulder, sending him a H.U.D. text as he does so: “I hate the Corps too. I wasted years fighting the rich man’s war just to get shit in return, but this isn’t the time call yourself a freedom fighter.”
Mac watches Saxby with amusement, “Hell of a news story. Reporter shoots uppity kid dead at auction. More at eleven.” He sighs and looks the way of the security room, wondering how much of a scene it’d be to drag Saxby out through the exit. There’s some Lion in him, but the thing the Lions never counted on was men coming with rifles and hunting them for sport. Able watches Saxby, his eyebrow tricking upward. He’s just a little on the odd side, that Saxby.
Candy waves to Mrs. Blaize and rounds on Saxby, “What was that all about? We have a deal with her to keep Lazarus Group in the good graces of the media, and therefore, public. The Bey vouched for you – but don’t think you can undermine this organization.” Saxby puts his hands up. “Sorry, you got it, playing it cool.” He puts his hands in his pockets. “Just couldn’t let an opportunity like that get passed. They way they talk about us, like we’re the friggin terrorists.” Candy eases back, “People are usually willing to change their tone if you have something to offer. If you have something you want to say to Mrs. Blaize in the future, run it by me, I can assure you it will be taken in a much better light.” Saxby nods, shrinking back. “Won’t happen again.” He stares daggers into Veracity’s back as she leaves.
Nodding his head towards the exit, Mac looks at Saxby and Candy. “Should we be off, gentlemen?” Candy turns back to the group then heads towards the security hub, “I’ll see exactly what this punk said to Veracity later, hell if I’m going to be blind-sided.” Pitbull looks at Saxby and barks out some laughter as he pats him hard on the shoulder. “There’s a killer in ya yet, boy!”
Saxby looks at Pitbull and offers a smile. “Yeah, we’ll see. Some people just get off too easy.” “Well, if ya can’t tell, I’ve got similar thoughts on that. But I just don’t bother voicing them. Deeds, not words, y’know?” Pitbull tells Saxby with a feral grin. Saxby nods at Pitbull with admiration. Thinking it over, he follows along after them. “Good advice,” he mutters to himself.
Turning to indicate the waiting Juice, Able nods. “We still have a large credit transfer to perform, followed by securing our shipment.” “OK. let’s do this then”, says Jacob and heads towards an elevator. Just then, each of you “sees” a familiar genie in your HUD display and hears “I’m baaaa—aaack! better than ever and with twice the pizzazz, your friendly neighborhood Marid! Freshly rebooted and ready to rock.”
Saxby chuckles at the sight. He nudges Pitbull and grins, “He only paid me to fix him, not make him any less of a poof.” Able frowns slightly at Marid’s antics; he has no idea why anyone would want an AI to be so… loud as once again, Pacoy tries to visualize the programmers that wrote up Madrid.
Wincing, Mac attempts to dial down the enthusiasm. “Pizzazz? I know people think that I’m dated, but NOBODY uses that word anymore…” Candy shrugs, “I find the poof-ness his best quality. Breaks up the monotony of the every day.” Pitbull marches behind the team, eyes still peeled, waiting for that aforementioned RPG wielding maniac that he gets the feeling can pop out of every corner. Even with that good laugh, I still dislike this place. Too many corners… Saxby, keeping his eye on Pitbull, mimics his demeanor and looks around suspiciously like he knows what’s going on. Seeing nothing, he maintains it, doing his best to look cool and in control.
Marid continues: “I’ve some good news, chucklebuddies. The Emir, may God bless him and smile upon him, says you all can have the rest of the night off. You’ve done well and he is pleased. be back tomorrow at midday. Bingledy-bingledy-bing, that’s all folks!”
Candy looks up at Marid’s loud farewell, “You have a good night too Marid, glad to have you back with us.” “’Bout Time!” Pacoy sighs. Pitbull visibly relaxes, but keeps his eyes peeled. Maybe I can actually sleep… Able shakes his head. “Let’s go, Jacob. We still have an interrogation to get to tonight.” As he steps forward, Able turns to Pitbull. “The boy has no clue what he’s doing. Make sure he doesn’t break something.” Able’s words are in the clear; he makes no attempt at hiding them from Saxby or any passers-by caring to listen. “Y’mean I gotta babysit?” Pitbull growls in reply, not the least bit happy with this info.
Candy says not a word as he heads toward the AV hanger, but spares a thought over the comms, “I’m heading back home, if anyone wants to crash there I’ll be at the AV. Able, your presence would be appreciated.” Pacoy thinks about the comfy suite, but decides he has bigger priorities., “Hang on, Candy, I’ll come with you.” Mac looks over at Pacoy. “Not going to hit the tables or the bar?” Pacoy shoots Mac a dirty look and continues to follow Candy to the AV.
Able comms back to Candy, already following Jacob into the elevator. “I’ll join you at the AV after we’ve finalized the auction transaction; it shouldn’t take long.” Mac takes pity on Pits, “Nah, Pitbull. You’re about as tired as a cougar chasing down a Texas hotrod – you look like you need to hit a bed harder than Mohammad Ali. I can keep an eye on our young gee here, maybe hit up the giggle juice a bit to keep my eyes open.”
“Thanks Mac. Candy, I’m comin’. I’ll sleep in the car, and help you guys with Gregori. If fuck-face starts makin’ a real shit outta himself I wanna be the one to drop ’im.” Pitbull growls, visibly happy with the idea of sleep.
Saxby returns to his laptop to check on his trace. Still buzzing along, he sighs and looks around. Spotting the group disbanding, he saunters over and puts an arm around Pacoy and Mac. “Well, I guess since we’ve got nothing better to do, I’ll let you guys chill with me.” He follows them into the AV. “So, where are we going?”
Candy whispers to himself when he reaches to AV, “Only a few moments more before I can get some truth – Mr. Cypress, N.E.M. Corp…its been so long.”
To be continued.