Dateline: follows on immediately from last session. Time: 11.50pm local time.
Three members of the team – Able, Garrion and Pitbull – are in a stand-of with Captain Pritchard and two of her Whirlwind security guards, who all have their guns drawn and cocked. Things look like they’re about to go from bad to worse. Pritchard raises her voice and calls out to the manager of the condo tower, who is off with Candyman in another room. “Gerry, you left your implant off again, techno-ditz! Bring Mr. Anonymous back through now – he and his team were just leaving!” As the three make their hands obvious and unthreatening, the tower manager wanders out of a luxury office space and stops, agape. “Uh, Captain Pritchard, what’s going on?” Before she can answer, Able breaks in, speaking to Candyman, “Boss, I think the gig’s up. Time to raise the red flag?”
Candyman doesn’t even break stride. “…and that’s how I got back from Bangkok. I heard your inviting us to leave Capt. Pritchard – if you’ll allow me a moment ,” he walks slowly down the hall towards her, showing no a concern for the incipient lethality in the air, “I can explain the situation.” Pritchard replies without turning her head or changing her aim-point, “I’d love to hear an explanation for why a Rossum black ops crew is in my house.”
At the same time, every member of the team can hear through their communicators a cackling and somehow bird-like voice, the Gomi Emporium’s netrunner Yaffle has been alerted by Able. “You pressed the panic button, Able?” Able tilts his head slightly, acknowledging Yaffle. He communicates to him sub-vocally through his implant. “Code Indigo Blue. Looks like we’ll need that spoof-and-confirmation.” “On it. Stall some.”
Meanwhile, Pritchard is listening to Candyman’s ‘explanation’. He gives her a knowing smile, “Ah, yes, well I suppose your evaluation is largely complete anyways. The fine Rossum employee before you is a infiltration expert hired on contract of Whirlwind Security to test this facility and your reaction to the most likely scenarios. They wish to make sure you’re still a salvageable and even valuable asset to the team, that is also why Pitbull is part of this team. In regards to the personal evaluation, which from the lack of bloodshed, it seems you’ve passed.” Candy gives her a moment to digest before continuing, “You must understand, with the news putting forth the spin of Whirlwind Security as murders of women and children…cool heads are needed.”
Gerry the manager sputters incoherently, and the two cops shift uneasily at the look of shock on their redheaded boss’s face as Pritchard takes this all in. Able nods, tilting his head to the others. “The boss has the right of it. We’ve been contracted out to Whirlwind to perform a penetration test and evaluate your performance. They don’t want you cooling your heels any longer than they have to, now that the media scrutiny has died down a bit.” Able continues as Yaffle messages confirmation that he’s successfully penetrated the root level of Talking Rock Tower’s A.I.-run computer system, “I’m on comms with Whirlwind HQ now; they’ve authorized you to verify Mr. Smith’s identity as management, but no details are to be delivered on the rest of our visit, and we’re to continue the penetration test as-is.”
Pritchard, still in partial shock, holds up a wavering finger, “Don’t move a muscle while I call HQ.” Candy simply leans against the wall and lazily reads over the data on Pritchard once again – his irritation at the delay evident. There’s a momentary silence, then Pritchard says to the air, “OK, if you’re sure Control. But I wish to register my misgivings with such a process officially. It’s unwarranted and…yes, control.” She swings back around, still angry but now it’s in check and a subtly different anger. “OK, so what now Mr. Inspector?” She motions to her two cops, “Return to your stations, boys. false alarm.” Gerry the block manager leaves with them. Candy straightens back out and shrugs "You’re personal evaluation is complete – all that remains is for the Rossum ace to do his job. He gives her a friendly smirk. “As you said – boring tech-talk.”
Garrion chats with Pritchard for a moment while they wait, trying to smooth things over and cover for the fact that Able is in sub-vocalized communication with the netrunner; “Look, I’m sorry about the harsh statement before. I feel for your situation and dirty corps like Ling and Umbra make our jobs harder.” Pritchard replies, “No problem, you were doing your job. It just got me in a raw place, is all.” She pats her holstered firearm and chuckles, “But if I ever see that scuzz from Leng again, he’ll know karma and maybe see if there’s some virgins in his afterlife too.”
Candy presses the elevator button for the bar and holds the door, “Captain, if we could finish out the probe overseeing in the control room after a quick drink that would be preferred, unless you can have someone send something up.” Pritchard swings around, a flash of her fiery temper showing again, “I don’t drink on duty, ever, Inspector, and I’m surprised you’re flouting regs by suggesting it…” She laughs, “Oh, another test! Duh, my brain’s rotting in this do-nothing TDY. Come on, we’ll head down to Control. What do your team still have to do?” Able cuts in to reply, “Physical security test, Ma’am. We’re to perform a break-in and review the performance of your team. That’s all you’re allowed to know, lest it skew the results. Assume you have a credible threat of a break-in attempt, but no definitive evidence at this point in time.” Pritchard’s professional interest is piqued by this. “Really? Best of luck with that. Every door has a triple-scan lock and any mistake will trip the alarms. OK, am I allowed to tell the crew there’s a credible threat been reported?” At Able’s nod, she continues, “This way, Inspector. I’ll let my men know the threat is low so no lethal weapons,” and with that the elevator whisks her and Candyman downwards.
Able immediately turns to the others. “Time to put our game-faces on.” He then signals Yaffle, “Can you get us a schematic for the building and security systems?” “Can do”, comes the reply. “Uploading it now – although I’m surprised you went in without getting one first. Very gung-ho.”
A schematic of the floors of the Tower unfolds into your personal computers – showing sleep gas in the elevators and nauseator generators on every stairwell. There are lo-lite cameras and sound bugs on every landing and in the elevators, biometric locks on every landing and to unlock every elevator floor above the fifth. Garrion, recognizing the layout as a fairly standard corporate security installation, notices that the stairway cameras are pinhole models looking down each stairwell at the access door to the floor below – so the area to the far right of each landing is always out of view. Able opens the door to the stairwell, waving everyone in. “Let’s give them something to chase.”
Garrion and Pitbull follow, no weapons out yet but keeping hands ready to grab. “So Able,” asks Garrion conversationally, “What do you have planned if we set the alarms off getting into Deitner’s place? Make a run for it, play it off as part of the ruse, disable the guards?” Able replies: "Part of the ruse. Setting off the alarm and getting caught might actually work better for us in the end. Let’s just be sure we finish the job first.” He contacts the netrunner, Yaffle, again and the two have a quick discussion about security measures. Yaffle could disable any cameras but that would set off alarms in the security control center when they see suddenly blank screens. “I can loop them, but that’s a bit harder. Not impossible, mind you, not for me.” A few minutes later he reports that he has managed to loop all the sound and video feeds in the team’s path, as well as looped the elevator sensors and primed the lock to accept any old scans as cleared for the 65th floor. “M’kay? You can thank me profusely later. The doors to the 65th are locked out of my system. Looks like your target paid a premium to control his own access codes. You’ll have to gain entry to the suite the hard way.”
(Meanwhile in Control, Candy has been making small talk with Pritchard but nodding off every few minutes. “Captain, I just checked in with the team, I’m going to get on to bed. I’ll leave the rest in your capable hands – they’ll have a report to me in the morning and I’ll be sure to review it in full then. With your leave.” Pritchard shows Candyman to the elevator and codes it for the basement parking lot. “I’m disappointed, inspector. I thought you might stick around. But rank hath its privileges and they’re too often abused. Goodnight.” With a sour expression, she hits the button and sends him on his way.)
The rest of the team arrive on the 65th floor as Candyman heads for his limo. The door swishes open on a short access corridor and a non-standard electronic lock on a solid-looking door. Able signals the Gomi netrunner again, “Yaffle, is this landing being monitored?" Nope, I’ve got that on a loop right now,” comes the reply. “Inside, I can’t see a thing, though. I do not, repeat do not know whether the target may have installed his own extras for shits and giggles.” “Assume he has,” muses Able, “let’s take a look at that lock.”
Able and Garrion crouch by the lock, which has a tiny logo on the side identifying it as an Enyogeni biometric lock and a small hole on the front where you have to stick a finger. Garrion instantly recognizes it as a lock used on high-security entryways. It samples the user’s DNA from skin and compares it to an internal database but it has a fundamental flaw: it’s got an accessible power cell which can be popped by the right tool and some deft rewiring of the tamper alarm – disabling the lock in default open position. : “Ah, I know this thing. I installed several of these for our higher executives at Umbra,” he whispers. “Very tricky, but not impossible to bypass. You just have to know which wires to mess with. They are confusing on purpose you know.” He digs in his bag and grabs the tool he is looking for." Here it is, let’s break this sucker open." He lies on his back, his head under the lock’s protruding sensor, and reaches up to an access plate, fiddling for a few moments. Then a B-cell pops out and falls into his hand as the door lock pops quietly. “See there Pitbull. No need to be so tense,” Garrion says with a smirk, “now let’s get what we came here for." “I am always tense,” Pitbull replies, “it’s when you’re not so tense that they come after you worst.”
Able pulls up a hood in his trenchcoat – unarmored, but covered in the same smart fabric as the rest of his outfit. It covers his head, and a moment later – poof – seems to disappear as the thermo-optic camouflage fabric activates, blurring his outline and fading him in to his surroundings. He isn’t quite invisible, but he’s definitely hard to focus upon. “Wait here, let me make sure the coast is clear,” he says quietly as he steps into the target’s residence and begins searching it for security systems.
“I’ve got to get me one of those,” Garrion murmurs to Pitbull, who nods as Candyman comes over the comms, “Team, I’m heading out now. The Captain is in the Control Room being her hard assed self, she should be no problem. Good luck.”.
Able finds himself in a curved corridor that runs around the outside of the immobile core of each floor. Ahead of him, there’s a stylish kitchen and breakfast bar, to each side the corridor curves to other doors. halfway around the curve to the left a small black dome, about a foot across, protrudes downwards from the ceiling. It’s a remote weapons and camera pod. Able: radios back to his team, sub-vocalizing silently, “Watch out. Target has heavy security in here. Relaying the feed back to you.” He marks the pod on his minimap and continues his sweep of the apartment, looking for any sign of other security measures. “Copy that,” Garrion radios back, “Standing by for your go ahead.” Moving along the curve in the opposite direction from the weapons pod, Able passes what appears to be a mini holo-theatre before coming to a large opening giving onto the main room of the condo. There’s a large dining area, a seating area and a bar in a nook, all in expensive furnishings. Past that, on the roof, he can see another identical pod. He marks that on his computer’s map too, then creeps up to it, trying to see if he can disable or subvert it. It’s an Armatech mount, of a fairly common make: lo-lite camera and a pair of 8mm light machine pistols in a revolving turret, it sweeps on a predictable pattern if you know it’s there. Able avoids the pod’s probing vision and continues his circuit around the floor. Beyond, around the curve, is a large fitness room and then what appears to be a study before the door to the master bedroom, ands then around to the first pod again.
As Able creeps forwards, he hears a definite but faint tinkle and thud from the study, followed by a hissed curse. He freezes, then signals his team, “Caution; target appears to be on-site." Yaffle immediately interjects, “Target is not on site according to my data.” Able takes the news in his stride. “Someone else is within the apartment. Checking on it now. Be prepared to enter; I’m marking the weapon pods sweeps now. Do not be caught in the open by them.” As Garrion and Pitbull watch the pod’s sweep pattern and prepare to move, Able creeps moves forwards cautiously, heading towards the study in an attempt to identify the sound source – but again the Gomi netrunner interrupts. “Yaffle. There’s an incursion alarm on the perimeter fence. I’m holding it for now but is it one of yours?” Garrion replies for the team, “Negative, we have no personnel on the fence.”
From the study, Able hears the definite sound of a weapon being cocked, followed by a slithering clatter like something been ripped from it’s connections and he picks up his approach speed, willing to risk being heard to get there fast enough to make sure his suspicions are correct. There’s a simple cardlock, of some sophistication, on the study door. It seems undisturbed and still locked fast. Hurrying as best he can, Able gets out his e-picks and unlocks the door – then, as the lock disengages, a hail of automatic fire rattles against the door from the other side, thankfully failing to penetrate the hard steel core! He quickly backs up from the door as it pops open, fading into the shadows as he hears a male voice, “Shit, now, now, now!” An answering clatter of automatic gunfire, some of it the heavier caliber of battle rifles, sounds faintly from outside and downwards along with the explosion of glass in the lower floors of the tower in response.
As Pitbull and Garrion draw their weapons and rush to his side at their best speed given the risk from those weapons pods, Able hits his implant to broadcast mode. “Captain Pritchard, there has been a complication. Your building is under attack. Repeat, your building is under attack. This is not a part of the penetration test. Targets on floor 65. Moving in to neutralize.” She replies, “Pritchard here. We’ve got multiple hostiles on the grounds shooting randomly at the lower floors. I think it’s a diversion but I have to meet the biggest threat. Out.” Able hears a clatter of boots on furniture from inside the study, as if someone were clambering over something and goes into double-time, hitting his neural boost as he moves into the room, weapon drawn – and still cloaked in shadows. As he spills into the study in a tactical roll, he can see nothing – but can hear the scrape of metal on wood over by the window, where an antique oak table stands. he can also see, by the dim light of some computer LED telltales on a large marble desk, that there’s a three foot wide circular hole in the window plate. He comes into a crouch out of his roll and swiftly moves towards the sound, calling out, “This is building security. Come out with your hands up!”
A blaze of gunfire from the window area answers Able’s call, the spray of bullets mostly passing over him as he dives for cover, but one round hits him in the torso penetrating his armor and wounding him. Meanwhile, outside in the corridor, Garrion blasts the weapons pod in his way with his heavy 10mm pistol, hitting it twice and causing it to emit a shower of sparks and smoke as it dies. He and Pitbull rush to Able’s aid. “Able, do you read me? What is your status?” As he reaches Able and crouches by him, he sees that Able’s wound is only a shallow one, not life-threatening. He also hears a click of metal on glass and the window vibrates across the whole of it’s remaining surface. Garrion can just make out a thin line snaking down from outside and above to the window, one that’s just gone taut. He turns and fires rapidly at the area around the hole in the window. he hits something twice, causing it to shimmer into view momentarily but causing no real damage. The figure in the window staggers slightly, then recovers and blurs out of vision again.
Candy comes over the comms, “Team, you’ve been silent for some time – what’s your status?” “Under fire, Candy. Not the best of times,” Pitbull grates as he stalks on towards the gun fire. “Copy, is mission salvageable? Should I prepare a distraction so we can evac the team?” Pitbull replies, “Honestly, Candy, I don’t know. If these goons are after our target, then that will screw everything up. If not, then I don’t see any reason why it would break the mission.” “Copy, then it is another team swooping in on us and not security? I’ll get my people to cover a perimeter and try to keep them from slipping away ground side. Keep me posted,” and with that Candyman is silent again as Pitbull rushes up the corridor to the study door, rifle raised.
Garrion yells out to Pitbull, “He’s at the window!” as they hear the whir of an electric winch. Pitbull, spotting his target through his military cyberoptics, let’s loose with three carefully aimed headshots from his military-grade carbine and drops the intruder, dead in his tracks. As quickly as the firefight in the small room began, it is over. The gunfire below is slackening too and now seems to be mainly return fire from the security team firing out into the grounds from ruined lower-storey windows. Pitbull steps back from his firing stance, “Remember, we have a mission. We may still be able to get it done.”
Able moves quickly once the threat is down, still in speed-mode as he swiftly detaches the man from his gear and begins looking through the study for the local comp. Candy comes back on Comms, “I’ve gotten out on the side opposite the firefight and I’ve got my eyes on the ground – just some low lifers out here making a diversion. We don’t see any credible threat here, security is handling them. What’s your status, over.” Pitbull sends back, “We have neutralized a threat. We are scoping the area for more. The objective is still possible,” as Pritchard comes in on another channel. “Pritchard here. We’re winning, they’re pulling back. The RRT is on it’s way and we’ll sally to join them in 2 minutes. Anything up there?” “Threat neutralized,” Able replies, “They were burglaring a room on Floor 65; military-level gear. Watch for someone on the roof or at the base of the tower – they climbed in through a window. You really ought to install security sensors in the windows to prevent someone cutting through them.” “I’m kinda busy. Check the roof for me – I’ll remove the lock-outs on elevator A for you. Thanks and good work.”
Meanwhile, Garrion is searching the corpse, stripping off it’s armor as he goes. As he checks the body he grabs the PD-9 and mags and sets then to the side. In an inner pocket at the small of the intruder’s back he finds a memory module for a desktop computer – the very one that seems to be missing from Deitner’s study desk. he also finds a cheap pay-to-go phoneset and a pre-paid credit card for $3,000. There’s also a ceramic/monowire glasscutter, with a suction cup and boom sitting on the window table. “Bingo!” he breathes, holding up the computer. “I think this may be what you are looking for over there, Able. Check its contents while I finish checking this guy.”
Able contacts Yaffle as the situation deteriorates, “Yaffle, can you hack into the RRT’s comm grid and pull the same trick as you did with Pritchard?” The netrunner’s response is immediate, if a reluctant admission, “The RRT is in the main Whirlwind Tower net. No blessed way without a week of prep, I’m afraid. I’m good but not a miracle worker.” Able nods to himself, “I thought not. Then we’ve got to make haste and disappear.” Able slowly comes back from fast-time, his hands beginning to shake from the exertion of electric nerves firing and allowing him to move and think at twice the speed of meat.
Garrion tucks away all the equipment other than the armored stealth-suit and holds it up, “Any of you got room to stash this thing?” Able grabs the attaché case that hid Pitbull’s rifle and pulls everything else out, stuffing them in his pockets, “Put it in here.” Able grabs the memory card out of Deitner’s desk computer and slams it into the port at the back of his neck, hidden under a flap of skin. He waits a moment then pulls it out of the socket again, “No time to DL or decrypt this. Let’s get moving; time to evac. Candyman, set us up a ride.” In response to a question about his wound, he replies, “I’ll be fine; bleeding is the only issue, and for now it makes a good excuse to Pritchard for us leaving. Leave it as-is until we get in the car.” he then switches to radio again, “Pritchard, I was shot during the scuffle. We are pulling out in order to receive medical aid at a Rossum facility. Good work on keeping the riff-raff out.”
Outside, there’s a whoosh of high-powered jet engines overhead and a long fat wasp of a gunship, blazing with searchlights, slides over the tower before heading out to hover above the darkened grounds. Doors on both sides open and six metal goliaths, seven foot tall and toting huge automatic weapons, drop on static lines of thick synthetic spidersilk into the undergrowth then fan out. Candyman sends a radio message, “Ground side has cleared up – threat identified as Black Toenail gang from The Shambles. They could cause us trouble in the future – either way we’ll keep an eye on them. Also – suit team incoming now. Out.”
Able begins heading back to the elevators, placing two nanobugs on the way out – one in the study, facing the computer, and one facing the elevators. As he enters the elevator, Able disables his camo system and puts the hood back down as he holds one hand over his wound. Yaffle radios in some welcome and timely news, “I have extraction on the way, ETA 2 minutes. Get to the roof.” There’s a rumble that shakes the whole building, like a minor earthquake, and smoke belches from the entry to the underground parking area. Garrion grimaces, “So much for the car.” Able hits the elevator button for the roof, hoping that the damned bombing isn’t going to mess up the extraction. Pitbull chuckles as Able radios to Yaffle, “That wasn’t on the plans.”
The elevator reaches the roof quickly, and less than a minute later a night-black helicopter rattles over head and touches down on the pad. Gabriel sits in the open side door, motioning for you all to hurry. A slim brunette is flying the copter and a middle-aged man with one cyberoptic and a cashmere long coat is behind Gabriel with what appears to be a battle rifle. As the team run to the chopper, they see, tucked away in the corner directly above Deitner’s apartment, a jet-black one-man microlite and a portable winch mechanism anchored to the roof by splat pitons. With no time to investigate, they pile in as the pilot flares a fast take-off and accelerates away into the night before taking a looping path out towards the Docklands. Able turns to Garrion, “You can take care of my wound now if you please, Garrion.” He leans back and sighs as his comrade applies a treatment of ‘Blood-Stop’ spray .
“Yaffle to Candyman. Rendezvous back at your place, please. The rest of your team are on their way there now.”
“Copy, sending location and codes now…”
There’s a moment’s silence before the laconic, smug reply, “S’ok, I already have them.”
The team fly or drive into the night, having escaped the Talking Rock Tower with some information, their lives, and some loot.