Brixton, London Metroplex
Tuesday 11th April, 2051
The Lazarus team have spent useful hours with Pacoy’s cousins. Along with doctored ID badges that now proclaim them to be legal citizens of the British Republic with clearances for all of the South East and Midlands regions, they’ve managed to get the loan of a beaten up old Citroen van, which smells vaguely of curry, and a couple of pistols.
Now, back on the streets, they’re hurrying to meet their rendezvous with a boat. As they turn a corner towards the main highway North however, they come across a most unusual – to them – scene.
Mac’s eyes dilate as he scans the scene. “Starting to like this town a little less.” He unconciously adjusts the revolver so it sits a little better in his pocket. “What do we wanna do, head around?” Pitbull stares with a palpable sense of anticipation, as he keeps his fingers tensed to reach for his PDW. “This doesn’t look like the neighborhood to play Ugly American,” Pacoy cautions, “_IF_ we’re stopped, we on all honest folk here.” Mac smiles. “Hey, I’ve got an honest face. I’ve always been honest! It’s my thing!” “I’m ugly, but I ain’ dishonestly ugly. We’ll be good.” Pitbull growls as he lights another cigarette.
Two of the border patrol police (Trashers, in urban slang) wave at the team’s van to stop. Overhead, a hover-drone swivels to watch the van. Able rolls his window down, popping his head out of the van. “Bright skies, constables! How’s the checkpoint manning tonight?” The shorter of the two Trashers slips off his rebreather, showing an unshaven face and crooked teeth as he smiles. “Evenin’ cit’zens! Just a routine sweep for undocumented dissidents. Can you show me your badges please?” he sounds like the phrases have been rehearsed.
Able sends a quick note to the others in the car, alerting them of the situation even as he raises his badge to the officer. “Transit Police. Convict labor; execute dissidents who lack ID.” Pitbull sweeps the gearshift into park before digging around gracelessly through his back pockets for his ID. Mac’s fights his eyebrow’s upward twitch as he fishes out his badge to offer. He sends a silent message through the team’s net. “Are there such things as ‘documented dissidents’?” Pacoy nods and readies his badge for inspection.
Trasher produces a scanner from a pouch on his belt and aims it at Able’s ID badge, then at the others in turn.
Pitbull growls to himself as he finally yanks it out, and passes it to the Trasher wordlessly as he sends a message to the rest of the team via H.U.D.. “I’m a mute. My accent is thicker than armadillo hide.” A smile creeps across Mac’s face. Silently, but not without humor, he sends back. “Ya know, I’m starting to like this place again…”
The Trasher scans each badge, then nods sharply. “Thanks, cit’zens. Where you going to and what’s the purpose of the trip?” He returns their badges, as his friend loses interest and turns around to watch the dissidents lined up against a building wall, each with a sign stapled to their clothes on which is written “enemy of the state”.
Pitbull H.U.D. messages Able. “Abe, you need to answer him. Once again, my accent will blow us out of the water. Tell him I have an injury to my tounge or something.” As Able begins answering, a message pops up in the team net. “To meet with enemies of the state. What about these?” “We’re heading for a nice time out on the water. A friend of ours has a fishing boat, and we’re planning on catching something nice to eat.” Mac idly glances over at the poor men spread against the wall, scanning each detail of their faces, committing them to memory.
The Trasher makes a face. “Ugh, eels. Never could stand the bloody things meself. Or are you going further out?” the question seems strangely stressed.
Mac’s eyes furrow as he sends back to the team. “I don’t know if we can do much to help them. Maybe they actively have done bad things, for worse reasons. It’s impossible to tell with what we can see.”
Able laughs. “Oh, no. We’ll be staying relatively close to shore – but those eels! He may not look it, but Barney here,” Able slaps Pitbull on the side, “is a maestro with a knife and some spices. Dumb as an ox, and nearly incapable of intelligible speech, but he can bake up some biscuits made out of just the different parts of the Eel that’d make you swear they were straight from the finest ingredients the chefs in London proper can find.”
Pitbull H.U.D. texts Able as he nods at the Trasher. "Abe, Imma kill you for the “dumb as an ox” part. lol"
The Trasher visibly relaxes, then spits to the side. “Fancy grub, eh? Well, just you be sure you don’t go further than the Canvey Island marker otherwise you’ll end up like these ere poor buggers. On you go, and safe fishin’.” He turns away, “Ok, ’Arry, do it.” A fusilade of shots rings out from three Trasher’s PDWs and the helpless undocumented men all slump bonelessly to the ground, their bodies riddled and bleeding.
Able shrugs as he turns back around, rolling up his window. “Well, looks like they won’t be helping us. Probably wouldn’t have been able to direct us to the Tighty Whities we’re looking for, anyways.” Pitbull stares grimly at the firing squad’s end result, a memory of his own actions in a firing squad on Mexican Insurgents out in Tiajuana superimposing over the present.
Mac winces as the images burn into his memories. “I hate feeling helpless. But this… this is not our fight. We can’t… do everything.” Pitbull hisses to himself as he shifts the gears back into drive, and the van begins rolling forward again. He says nothing as he aggressively inhales his cigarette. Pacoy watches the scene recede in the rear-view mirror as he wonders what’s going on past Canvey Island. He’ll have to ask the contact on the boat. Mac rolls his eyes, wishing his window actually rolled down all the way, the smells of stale ash blending with dried, spilled curry, spoiling what remained of his appetite.
Without warning, there is a searing flash of white light from behind the team’s van, followed a moment later by a massive reverberating boom and a wash of heat. In the van’s rear view-cam, Pitbull can see that the Trasher’s armored car has blown up and is now in flames. The Trashers stand, shocked into inaction, for an instant. Then the first shots ring out from somewhere above in the buildings surrounding the scene. Able turns in his seat, attempting to locate the source of the fire.
Pitbull gradually escalates the van’s speed, going from fifty to seventy over the course of half a minute. “Not our fight, dudes. We got shit to do, right?” Pitbull grates darkly.
Able’s augmented eyesight, in infra-red, can see a trail of glowing white-hot droplets leading from a deserted shop-front to the ruined APC. The bright lights of tracer rounds come from the windows above the shop front, which now has a smashed window.
Mac’s head ducks instinctively, as he fights momentary fears of near-permanent blindness. “I concur… we don’t want to get dragged into a dissident war, not when we have a boat to catch. Able’s on a timer that I started ticking, and we can’t turn back now.” With a quick bit of concentration, Pacoy engages the his Insta-Soldier Beta and tries to assess the situation, his field of vison swimming with augmented reality advice.
“What’dya see, Abe?” Pitbull growls, the sour tone still in his voice as he negotiates a bend in the road. AR picks up information on the blast and relays it to Pacoy: the glowing droplets are almost certainly molten copper, the tell-tale unique signature of a home-built explosively-forger-projectile armor-piercing bomb. “Home-made Armor Buster, guys! Head Up!” He warns the group. “Shit! I saw that back in Juarez, actually. These insurgents sure fight like insurgents.” Pitbull grates as he drags off of his cigarette again. Mac blinks as his head snakes towards Pacoy, a look of playful irritation crossing his face. “Do I look like a terrorist to you? How am I going to ID a home-made explosive?”
Able warns, “We’ll either have to get out of here
fast or be prepared to get caught up, either by the rebels or the response. I wouldn’t put mortar fire out of the question here.” “By the info I’m getting from my Insta, I’d say these guys are pros,” Pacoy continues “The charge is just so, everything done right.”
Pitbull guns the engine again, bringing the van from seventy to ninety. “We’ve reached this bucket’s top gear dudes!” Pitbull growls as he attempts to keep it straight on the road. Mac groans. “I really could do without things falling out of the sky towards us, for once. Why cant we deal with things that tunnel up from below? …scratch that. Ignore EVERYTHING I just said. I don’t want that at all.” Pacoy sighs, realizing Mac’s karma might just summon some kind of British robo-mole to destroy them all.
As Pitbull guns the van at its best speed down the ghetto street, the massive volume of small-arms fire behind them is already slackening. Before he can even reach a decent corner, it has already tailed off to what sounds like a series of careful double shots, then falls silent. The deepening gloom of a cloudy London sky is lit behind them by the burning police APC as they flee. Pitbull starts taking the van down from the speed it was doing gradually. From ninety, to seventy, to fifty.
“Double taps. Might be execution shots.” He turns to the others. “Hope those rebels destroyed the ID reader; if our IDs were the last ones scanned, we might get on the evening news. Or worse.” Mac groans. “Well, it won’t have been the first time we’ve been on TV, right? We’re not going to be here long enough for that to even become an issue, right?” “Hopefully not. We just need to keep moving forward. We really don’t have all the time in the world, right?” Pitbull growls, as he jets cigarette smoke through his nostrils.
Soon, the van is well on its way to the Docklands area, arching over the sluggish and muddy floodlands of the Thames on a new, utilitarian concrete, bridge. Behind the team, the sky seems alight with flashing lights as drones and police AV’s hover over Brixton, shining searchlights down into every corner. There’s a tense moment when the team approach the checkpoint at the other end of the bridge, but their badges pass the automatic check and for a small toll the van is allowed through.
Mac shuts his eyes and sighs for a few minutes, running scenarios in his head. No, that’s the problem, Pits… we have all the time in the world. It’s just that Able… He opens his eyes again. “At least it’s somewhat nice looking in this part of things… Hope they haven’t keened on the boat, though.” “Mac, I really wish you’d stop trying to jinx us,” Pacoy teases. “Doubt that they have. These guys are pro’s, right?” Pitbull growls.
That question is soon answered. By 5pm, as the world begins to darken to twilight under what promises to be heavy rain soon, the team pull into a deserted dock area, surrounded by acres of derelict warehouses. Ahead, a single red light bobs up and down at the end of the warf. Mac’s spirits begin to pick up. “Say, you think we’ll actually catch some eels en-route? I’m getting hungry again.” Pitbull pulls up to the warf and sighs as he shuts the engine off. “Well, that’s convenient. We arrived right as this hunk of bolts was starting to overheat.”
Able steps out of the van, zooming in on the light with his optics, switching fully to infrared to see what he can see. The light comes from a small boat, a run-down ferry capable of taking perhaps two vehicles. It seems deserted, but as the team’s van approaches a flashlight pins them in its narrow glare. Able can see a single figure standing in the bow of the ferry, lowering the front gate with a hand crank while pointing the flashlight beam at the van. The figure is male, average height, and wearing a grey hoodie.
Mac rolls his eyes as he gets out and smooths out the new wrinkles in his jacket. “Maybe it wouldn’t overheat if you took some driving lessons? You should be more gentle on the car. Treat her like any other gentleman would treat a woman. This our ride, you wager?”
Able pulls back on the zoom, switching to true-color mode. “One figure on the ferry. Can’t make out any identifiable features at this distance, and that flashlight he’s shining isn’t going to help things until he gets closer.” Pacoy take s note of the ferryman, then responds to Mac, “I think that’s how Pit does handle his women: Ride them as fast as they can hadle for 2 minutes, then slowly lose speed until the engine dies.” A strangled giggle comes out of Mac’s mouth as he walks towards the ferry. “I suppose there’s one lady we can call and ask, but I’m nowhere near that brave.” “We didn’t crash, did we? If the van was taken better care of, we could have done that shit all day.” Pitbull drags off of his cigarette and throws it into the water as he steps out of the van. “Probably a coolant leak. That’s a bitch to deal with.” Pitbull H.U.D. texts Mac and Pacoy. “Feel free to ask Annebelle. The only complaint I’ve actually picked up on is the fact that I shouldn’t fire off my Fox in the air on her climax.”
The hoodie waves his flashlight up and down slightly, then shuts it off and steps forward, a shotgun nonchalantly propped on his shoulder. He walks towards the van, and the team can see more details: tac-shades and the glint of a gold tooth. “Wotcher, you the package? You took yer sweet fucking time getting ‘ere. I’m yer boatman, call me Marquis Deeds.” Able holds out his hand as he approaches. “That’s us.”
Mac studies every aspect of Monsieur Deeds’ face, down to the shotgun. “Nice birdhose. Cobble that together yourself, or is it an heirloom?” After Able is done, he offers his hand, in the middle of restraining his laughter, sending back at Pitbull and Pacoy. “That at least explains the noise complaint…” Deeds shakes Ables hand, fast and firm. “I figured you must be, guv. No other bugger ever comes down here no more.” he laughs, almost a donkey bray. “No worries, I’ll get you over the river safe. This old tubs still got a few crossings in her. C’mon, get yer wheels aboard and we’ll be off. Someone stirred up the Trashers and razors somethin’ chronic tonight and I want to be across before the river rozzers decide they should curfew traffic.” Deeds shakes everyone’s hand in turn then answers Mac. ’Heirloom, mate – at least, it was when I found it." he laughs again.
Mac looks back and forth at his companions, before sending a silent message: “None of you are ever able to mock the way I speak again.” “There is plenty of Mock to go around,” Pac shoots back.
Pitbull laughs. “Deeds, I think I’m gonna like you. Let’s get this sailboat a-rowin’.” Pitbull growls as he pats Marquis Deeds on the back and strides onto the boat, before turning back around to get the van onboard. Able steps onto the ferry, turning to make sure Pitbull can guide the van onto the boat safely. “Yes. We saw that; Trashers were executing some people lacking IDs when they were assaulted. Looked like a well-planned attack, but we got out without getting involved.”
Mac slides into their wheels and brings the van onboard, following Able’s instructions, taking care to set the parking brake when he shuts the engine off. Deeds cranks the front plate of the bow back into place, then heads into the small covered wheelhouse and a deisel engine belches smoke, coughs, then begins to gurgle. The ferry backs away from the warf, then turns to head South back across the river – heading somewhere close to where you’ve already been today.
Mac leans against the Van. “That’s another one to check off the list. We’ve done planes, busses, cars, and now boats.” “We should look into a minisub or hyrdofoil job,” Pacoy nods. Able sits upon the boat’s gunwale, balanced to stay in the boat rather than in the ocean. “Sounds like we’re just missing trains for the Terrestrial vehicles. And maybe an airship.”
Pitbull starts streaming the Lonely Island’s “I’m On a Boat”, through the team comm, his face split into a shit-eating grin as he does so. Mac nods. “A train job wouldn’t go amiss, if you ask me. Always been a sucker for rail transport.” “And no, Pacoy. I fucking hate submarines. They are… confining…” Pitbull growls, his face going from a grin to hard as diamond in a second. Hell, I nearly forgot we were in a sub when we first hooked up with Mac!" Pac realizes, “So blimps, trains and hydrofoils it is!”
This close, the river smells foetid – a mixture of rot, effluent, petrochemical pollution and sulphur. Odd bubbles rise at random from the brown water, and Deeds steers a winding course across the ever-changing underwater mudflats. The trip takes a scant half hour, however, and soon he’s steering between the sunken ruins of old brick building and brownstones of the same kind as you saw in Brixton. “Soon be home, muckers.” Deeds chirps happily. “The Palace awaits!”
Mac looks around, before turning to Deeds. “This Palace, she got grub? I’m starving. I’ll take anything at this point.” Pitbull covers his nose. “Now it smells like Tiajana, too. God, this mission is all sorts of nostal- nostalgi- nostaly- fuckit- full of memories.”
Deeds laughs again, and points. “Grub ahoy, matey.” he steers between tow brownstones into a sunken street where the upper floors of the buildings show signs of habitation – smoke rises from crumbling chimneys, lights burn behind part-boarded windows. Ahead, a massive building with a central dome rises on a low island from the murky marsh. “There ya go, used to be the Imperial War Museum or somesuch. Look!” On the stone steps of the big building stand the rusted barrels of two 16 inch naval guns, pointing across the river for all eternity. Within minutes, a handful of tough-looking men and women in hand-me-down clothes and unmatched body armor have tied up the small ferry at a wooden pier. “You’re van will be safe on board, mates. C’mon, doesn’t do any good to keep Tony waitin’”
Able says, calmly, “That is a stupidly large set of guns.” Mac nods. “It’s amazing how little weaponry has progressed. Still the same old ways of killing each other. At least fashion peaked quite some time ago.” Mac shoves one hand into his pocket and slinks along up towards the building, his attache case bumping against his other leg. Pitbull stomps off of the boat and surveys the area, wearing the look of a soldier as he gets a closer look at the giant cannons jutting from the building.
As Able steps ashore and gazes up at those big cannons, an idle thought worries its way out his brain. “Anyone here ever think of weaponizing those things? You could probably hit anything in the city with them – though with modern counterbattery software, they’d know your location right quick. Still, they’d do a good bit of damage before someone took them down…”
Deeds grins. “Surely, ‘cept they’ve had the breech blocks removed since 1945 or somesuch and are a third filled with concrete. But if you think they’re fun wait’ll you see what’s inside!” he strides ahead. “Guests to see Tony, they’re expected” he calls up to some unseen watcher in the windows of the massive marble facade. He hurries you up to the great double doors, and inside.
“They’re cannons, Abe, there started out weaponized. Wouldn’t have taken all that much to put one of those can-bombs we saw earlier into one before they were filled.” Pacoy says. Able sighs, his hand unconsciously moving up to his forehead. “They’re museum pieces now, Pacoy. Whatever they started out as, they’re not weapons now.”
Two armed toughs man the doors, but beyond them is a scene from a strange fantasy – possibly Pitbulls. Hanging from the vaulted ceiling and standing on display plinths around the massive room are instruments of war from the last century or more of history. Planes, tanks, artillery – all are there. Amongst them sit crates, small areas screened off with boards to make private rooms, dirt washing hanging from the wires that hold up a harrier jump jet. All the chaos of the ghetto in a setting of opulent warlike splendor.
Mac’s eyes open wide as he looks around. “I’ve always liked museums, but this…” Pitbull stops at a helicopter, and barks out a laugh. “Haha! The only thing stronger than love! The Apache Helicopter! It has machine guns and missiles!” Pitbull roars in glee. Mac muses “Pits, you think that tank still works?” “Nah. It’s probably been decommissioned. I bet the breech-blocks have been removed, but if there’s still an engine in there, it can still roll. You should see the D. Rumsfield Museum of War back in Texas. They got some nasty looking drones and tanks in there.” Pitbull grates back to Mac. Mac nods. “Maybe someday we’ll take a visit. I’d prefer if we could see a musuem of pre-modern art, but I’ll take whatever history I can get.”
The team notice that many of the people here are armed, with at least a pistol or a shotgun. A very few have assault weapons slung at their shoulders – including the two at the top of stairs leading up from the massive atrium to a gallery which has been closed off with boarding. Deeds leads you up the stairs then nods to the two men, one of whom pulls back a hanging curtain. Inside, there’s a long room of white marble, decorated with a rich red carpet and old-looking but fine wooden furniture. A score or more tough-looking individuals are lounging around or gathered around a billiards table at the far end, at which a poker game appears to be being played. One man detaches himself from the group there and walks towards you with out-stretched arms. He has shocking red hair, a pure white face tattooed with an ace of spades, and as he grins you can see sharktooth implants. "Hey hey, you must be Candy’s pals! he booms in an exuberant voice. “Welcome to London. I’m Tony.”
Pacoy eyes the poker table over Tony’s shoulder before smiling and offering his hand. Mac looks around, a smile spreading as wide as Tony’s arms. “Finally, someone with class! Candy may have been a bit of a busted flush, but you and your mob look century. Glad to see you’re the type helpin’ us shoot the works on this one.” Pitbull is unperturbed by Tony’s teeth, rather he is wrongfooted by his demeanor. “Ummm… Hello.” Pitbull growls, still reeling a bit. Able activates his skinchanger implants as his mouth slips open into a smile for the gangster, a display of rapidly-sharpening teeth to greet the shark’s own.
Tony hugs each of you in turn, simultaneously patting each of you down a little. “Nice gnashers, Yank!” he says to Able, then “You must all be fammed. Let’s get some grub into yer, then we’ll deal and maybe play a friendly game of cards, what do you say?”