So we’re driving down the freeway in our crappy pickup, Igor’s driving, the Doc’s riding shotgun while reading some journal and I’m in the back, can’t remember what I was doing.
We’re minding our own biz, when all of a sudden there’s a screech of tyres in some direction and our windscreen spiders out as something crashes into it from nowhere. Igor controls the truck with some nifty manoeuvring, avoids a sedan that’s swerving in front of us, looks like it’s blown something out but it’s hard to tell with a smashed up windscreen and traffic going crazy around us.
We get steady, and Igor punches the broken glass out. We take a look around and see a bunch of kids on superbikes some way behind us, shooting up the place and causing mayhem. Damn go-gangers. They’re not just causing trouble, they’re definitely shooting at someone as they race in and out of traffic. I try and work out which gangs are shooting at who, but can only see signs for the Howling Raiders – makes sense, we’re not too far from their turf – I dunno who they’re shooting at though.
More gunfire from another direction and cars swerve. I finally get a good look at the situation, took me a while to notice, the Raiders are fighting among themselves, in broad daylight, in and around rush hour traffic. Weird, that’s not like them.
I notice one biker with a passenger clutching an object – he seems to be the focus of the scramble. As I look on, another ganger swings and an makes a grab for the thing – a large metallic object, maybe a packing case for something.
I want it.
Fuckers spoil my afternoon, break my windscreen, spill my noodles? I’m getting paid.
Igor swerves again and positions the truck a little closer to the nearest go-ganger – the Doc shouts to him to take out the pursuing bikes but leave the carriers alone. I use the reduced distance to lock onto a bike’s signature, stomp through it’s firewall and run roughshod over it’s onboard controls. I slam the front brake on and the thing goes flying, end over end. The Doc gets a couple of decent shots off and the bikers start to notice us.
Bullets coming our way, Igor swings in again and the Doc makes a bid for the case – he gets a decent hold just as I cut through the passengers’ PAN and fry his cabeza. The body slumps and drops sideways off the bike, but takes the case with it. The Doc manages to pull himself free before he’s taken out of the window.
Shit, I hadn’t expected that.
Traffic re-asserts itself and we swing out into a clear spot, the case bouncing away into the distance, only to be swept up by yet another kid on a super-bike. We have no choice but to pull away as Igor is forced to dodge one lorry then another. I’m too far out to hit anymore brakes but the Doc is still giving a good account of himself. I jack into the smart-freeway traffic control system and start moving lane markers around, I’m trying to put some pressure on the kid with the bike but it’s hard with the chaos going on – people just aren’t looking at the signs.
We swing around, Igor hits the brakes and drops back hard, the kid with the bike pulls out ahead and Igor floors the thing. A nearby lorry pulls across two lanes without indicating, I managed that at least, and forces the lone biker into our path. We smash into the back of him and screech to a halt on the hard shoulder, smoking rubber and sparks fly as we slow to a stop.
The biker and his package are trapped beneath our now-wrecked truck. Igor grabs the bumper with one hand and flips the truck in one movement. The biker is a mess but the object, a silver carry case I see now, is unmarked.
We grab the case, jump the barrier and get the fuck out of there, our truck abandoned by unspoken agreement. This shit better pay good.
So, we make it back to the chop shop without any trouble. Cover the carry-case with some tarp and avoided cameras, just to be sure, so it takes a few hours. As we go, the Doc and I give the case the once over.
It’s a nice case – completely sealed and radio silent – no trackers to show us up. The lock’s a one-time use digital keypad, hardwired to blow the case’s contents on entry of the wrong code. Lucky the buttons are too small for Igor’s fingers. I couldn’t crack the thing at my best, and I’m far from that now. The encryption’s quantum level stuff, we’d need processing time on a UV server at least to get through that. Signs of sensors all over the surface – make me very uneasy with the idea of trying to cut through it, even if i had the tools for it. Which I don’t.
We get back, we sit. and we drink bad coffee. We try and figure how to get paid for this thing…
I hit up Juan for the word on the street, turns out the Howling Raiders’ home base had been hit up just a couple of hours ago. That timing had us halfway through the sprawl, on foot already, so we’re really not that far ahead. Word was, the Armenians were behind it, but no-one was saying more than that.
The Doc shouts from the other room – the news has a shootout on the freeway, a little earlier than our. not far from where we’d been though. Some unidentified, nondescript-looking armoured car had been raided by mercenaries, there was drone footage of a firefight between heavily armed, professional looking guys and the police. Seems the cops had responded in record time to the attack. The news showed a couple of the mercs making off with something that could’ve been our box. Ah shit.
We try and identify the van that was hit, but the footage is screwy. Luckily the Doc hit record as soon as the story came up, so I try knocking up some machine vision analytics to try and piece together any info we could about the van. I leave it running and we tried to come up with a plan.
Good old Mr Li always comes through – yeah, he saw the news, recognised a Russian Operative called Valentine, an enforcer for the Armenians. He asks his usual mix questions, but we manage to get out without giving too much away. Anyone with sense trusts Mr Li, just not with any secrets.
The image analysis software runs it’s course – manages to pull out enough info to pinpoint the van as one belonging to QT couriers. Seems they’re a high cost, extra secure delivery service in NA. Surprisingly, their order history isn’t publicly available. I’m going to have to do some work on this.
I head to my desk – my hack-cave the Doc calls it. Dick. QT run a secure server on the NA cloud, but they’re on Yog – so they can’t be that up to date. I’m in quickly, doesn’t look like they have any protection, so I start snooping. I spot the tracking log and follow it’s trace back to the customer details, but I must have tripped something because the minute I reach in to grab the data I’ve got a white hat breathing down my neck and I’m not getting any closer to the info. I should just jack out but Fuck That I’m Esteban Santiago and I don’t give a shit – I’m getting paid.
I slip around and approach from another direction – the manifest tables from the van in question. I’m running a pretty decent firewall so I’m hoping I’ll be okay. I spot the file and hit download just as I my TAP reports nonsense and my brain starts to HURT…
The Doc found me the next morning, wiped out, nosebleed long since dried crusty. Must’ve been some HB shit, or something, the way my cortex ached. I try and force down some caff but my stomach’s like a walnut after all the octagons I’ve dropped. I get something from the Doc’s own supplies, should help me think.
The files I got from QT show our package originates from one Sunrise Financial Systems, a banking sub somewhere in the core. It was headed to the airport and from there to Denver, or so it looks. We figure, we call them, step three dinero.
The Doc’s our talker – he makes the call. Gets through to an Elliot Jones who wants the item. We get him to agree to forty Kay for safe delivery, at warehouse 87 in the east docks.
Fucking finally, pay dirt. I’m going to get my TAP rewired first thing.
Warehouse 87 is near enough derelict. There are some containers still here but it’s barely on the grid and you can see the signs. We scope the joint and try and work out an escape plan for when the drek inevitably hits the fan – you got to have an edge.
When the Johnson arrives, he’s a Smith, and while he’s got backup, he doesn’t look anything like he knows what he’s doing. The Doc and I hang back while Igor heads forwards to swap, but when we get Smith’s case it’s empty and we’re glad we have a plan B.
Igor throws Smith off the stairs and prepares to dismember his goons, while the Doc and I drop back towards the exit. We fail to notice the mercs slipping in with their auto guns in time though – Valentine’s found us and he wants his.
I go down in the first volley. The Doc ran over and patched me up but everything after that is a hazy mess, and not the nice kind.
I remember Igor finishing Smith’s goons, and I’m pretty sure he took out an Armenian, but I don’t remember the Doc making a deal with Valentine to give him the case to let us go. Sounds like the kind of professional I could get on with, this Russian. He gave us 30% of his fee just to stop shooting and give up the case, “Business is Business”. It’s not quite the 40K promised but I’m getting the feeling like that was never going to happen anyway. I’m just happy to get out of it with a bit of a profit.
The Doc patched me up and I managed to scrape together to get a new TAP and neural touchup while I was at it. Joshua B certainly knows his biz.
We might have made more if we’d found out valentine’s buyer and gone straight there, but I don’t think I want to be the one responsible for trashing his Rep in NA – I get the impression he’d take that personal.