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Entry 26: 12.08.70>
I knew Chuckles was going to be trouble… How much trouble? How about persuading Ash to bail out mid-run, trouble. Yes, that much trouble. I’m fragging fuming, not least because I had to put my ass on the line to pull Chumpzilla’s fat out of the fire afterwards too.
The day started well. I had a call from Nunzio who had negotiated a deal for us with the Seven Stars Triad. They respected our effectiveness at bypassing their security to take their boys in and collect the Lone Star bounty and understood that it was just a job, nothing personal. However, they needed to save face and that meant reparations had to be made. The Triad Head Honcho said that for 30k, all sins could be forgiven and we’d be free to return home. As an added sweetener, Kung Lok threw in a warning and a sop to our ego. The sop? That our skill and success rate had not gone unnoticed and the Triad might be interested in employing us at a future date. The warning?
That restaurant owner Fu Hong had disagreed with the Triad’s upper echelons about letting us off so lightly and been thrown out on his ear after swearing a blood oath against us. Glyph and Ash agreed to chuck in 10k a pop with me to settle up so that we could go home and Nunzio agreed to facilitate the deal.
Before we could even think of packing up and leaving Atlanta, Ash took a call from a local fixer called Smith – the fruit of his efforts at contact development and relationship building. Smith offered to put us in touch with a Corp Johnson who was looking to employ a team. I liked the idea of having a fixer on side here in Atlanta and a bit of a rep – if we could cultivate both San Fran and Atlanta it meant we could switch between patches and would always be able to use the other as a bolt hole. Glyph agreed it was worth trying to make a spot more money before we left and we let Ash make the connections.
We met Smith and then the Johnson at a hotel downtown. The introductions from Smith were costing us ten percent and though both Ash and I considered this money well spent, Glyph had her reservations. Johnson represented Future Concepts, an R&D company who had signed a deal to head hunt a research scientist by the name of Dr Lawrence Callahan from Mitsuhama.
Callahan had never shown up for work and Future Concepts wanted their employee delivering to them. Wrangles about cash, golden handshakes and contingency payments aside, it all seemed fairly straightforward and we happily took the gig on.
Straight to the horse’s mouth, I decided to check whether Callahan was contactable through his former employer or not and after playing the hold game with a series of switchboard monkeys I was surprised to be put straight through to our quarry. Callahan claimed to have changed his mind and rebuffed me fairly quickly and left us with any number of conspiracy theories running through our heads. Had he feigned interest in Future Concepts to carry out some sort of industrial espionage? Were Mitsuhama holding him against his will? Did they have some sort of leverage over him?
Ultimately, the whys and wherefores were unimportant, our job was simply to deliver Callahan to Future Concepts, but at least we now knew where to find the good Doctor and what we would be up against in order to extract him successfully.
A recce of Callahan’s old apartment turned up little other than the telephone number of Flick Stevens, a co-worker who claimed to know nothing of Callahan’s whereabouts or contract with Future Concepts so we blazed to Mitsuhama where we had our first unpleasant surprise.
Mitsuhama is one of the Big Ten – the world’s largest corporations and that grants them extraterritoriality, the right to claim their buildings and compounds as sovereign land, exempt from the laws of the country and subject to laws set by the corporation itself. You can expect those laws to be stacked in the corporation’s favour and get short shrift and no assistance if you should happen to cross them. Knowing this, we gave the Mitsuhama compound a wide berth and set up surveillance in the hills overlooking it from the north. The compound covers roughly a square mile of territory, ringed by a double fence and houses five separate buildings. A quick hackette from Daisy was able to identify the building where Callahan worked and the accommodation block housing his apartment but even so, we faced a tough infiltration if we were going to get into the compound.
Glyph snuck down to within 500 metres of the exterior fence and was spotted, attracting the unwanted attention of a dog team. I expected to be picked up instantly over corporate air space but with little other option I sent the Fly Spy down into the compound and began to worm my way through to Callahan’s apartment.
It was then we got our next surprise. An announcement from Ash that he had to go meet someone and would be leaving us for an hour. He tried to use the fact that we were settling down to do some surveillance as an excuse to bail, claiming it didn’t need all three of us to watch the compound. He was right of course, but leaving us still sucked and I damn well told him so.
What if an opportunity to snatch the good Doctor presented itself? How could he help us if he was having a beer and a chinwag miles away? It all harked back to the bad old days, when Ono was captured by the Notable Anarchists.
It was asking for trouble but Ash was resolute. As it turned out, he was gone for much longer than an hour and would have cause to regret his decision before the end of the night.
Glyph and I debated entry methods until nightfall and then in the darkness, we spotted approaching headlights. A two-man security team had come to sweep the area and I instantly realised the control feed for the Fly Spy could have been detected and traced. Killing the signal we slipped away, then took the opportunity to circle around, break into the Mitsuhama security van and stow away in the back. They carried us right into the heart of the compound without so much as a harsh word. Talk about providence!
From their own garage, we hot-wired the van and used it to move unnoticed around the compound. Across at Callahan’s accommodation block, we aped a maintenance team and slipped unseen up the fire escape. As we climbed, all hell broke loose. Dogs were barking, security klaxon’s began blaring and shots were fired. Below us, we saw Ash sprinting across the compound like a fun-runner at the New York marathon. Knobhead. We had no idea how he’d gotten in but he clearly hadn’t been as savvy as us about it. We had a hurried conversation but there was no alternative, Ash was providing the perfect distraction and we had to capitalise on it. Helping him would jeopardise the entire run and all of our lives. He had made his bed, we had to let him lie in it. It was hard. Damn hard. Whatever those bastards were doing to Ash, it was making the poor fragger scream like a bitch. I think I had a little coming of age on that fire escape. I had no alternative but to harden my heart to those screams and the only thing that gave me any comfort was the thought that if he’d stuck with us, it would all have been fine.
These were the consequences of his own decisions, made at his own volition and he’d have to deal with them… Damn I sound like Ki-rinn but that’s all there was to it.
In Callahan’s room we found his lover Flick Stevens. I was shocked that the little bitch had lied to me with such aplomb and put a Stick-Shock in her to keep her compliant. When Callahan arrived and saw our hostage, he had little alternative but to cooperate. Ash had stirred up a hornet’s nest at the rear of the accommodation and that meant sucking it up and walking bold as brass, right out of the front door.
We got back to the van without any hassle and made our way down to the gates. As we approached, there was clearly a lockdown in effect – again, a legacy of Ash’s stupidity – and we had to think fast. Glyph surrendered one of her weapon projects but the grenades wouldn’t fire for me. Typical! I stamped on the gas, roaring towards the outer gate and Glyph took matters in her own hands, shooting the windshield out and then pinging a grenade off of the fencing. We roared toward the explosion just preying the gates would be weakened enough for a ramming and we got a lucky break smashing our way out on to the open road.
As Glyph strip searched Callahan and Stevens for RFID security and stealth tags, I played logistical Kerplunk with the security van, my car and Ash’
pick up. With the FN-Har in the back of the Dodge, I downed a tree so that it fell across the road behind us. We then ditched the van and all possible tags, switching into the pick-up before returning to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, Glyph and I split again. She took Callahan to see Johnson and collect our pay while I took Stevens to negotiate a hostage exchange for Ash and managed to evade pursuit.
My heart was in my throat for the next couple of hours. I’ve never played spy before and I didn’t really know what I was doing. First I made contact with the head of R&D at Mitsuhama – Stevens’ and Callahan’s boss. I told him I had Stevens and gave him 15 minutes to ascertain if Ash was alive. Then I moved on, changing location and phone so they couldn’t track or trace me. On the second call, I offered a prisoner swap and gave them time to prep Ash for transport. It was then I broke the news to Daisy and with her help selected a suitable location for the exchange. On the third call, I gave my instructions, timing it so that Mitsuhama had time to get to the meet but little time for any dirty tricks. They’re a Corp for frag’s sake. I was expecting them to double cross me. I knew it would go wrong somewhere on down the line but I had to secure Ash’ freedom and just did what I could to protect myself. Tense? Check my pants…
At the appointed time, Stevens’ boss pulled up at the appointed place and we made the exchange. Ash got halfway to the car before Mitsuhama hit me with the double-cross. Ash was strapped with a TNT waistcoat and unless I sold my employer down the river it was goodnight good buddy. I made a quick call to Glyph on my other PAN to get her to explain to Johnson that Ash had been captured and there was a risk his PAN had been hacked for sensitive info. It was a feasible story that I figured would cover our asses and explain to Johnson how he had been compromised without actually souring our relationship or deal. And then a weird thing happened. I trusted the Corp. I mean, I had nothing to lose, Ash was dead if I didn’t co-operate and I suspected they’d betray me and kill him even if I did co-operate so all I could do was train the FN-Har on their car, whisper a silent promise that if he died, they’d all die too, and trust them. I gave them half of Johnson’s phone number and made them take the explosives off of Ash. With him walking toward the car, I gave them the rest of the number. I steeled myself for the gunfire, the sniper shot, the explosion. Nothing. They got back in their vehicle and drove away. The Corp dealt with me on equal footing. We negotiated and for the first time in my short career, I got what I wanted and the Corp got what they wanted. Colour me surprised… and relieved!
There was still every chance Ash was tagged so we hooked back up with his pick up and gear and he scanned himself for RFID transmitters before we blazed back over to Glyph’s location to help fight off the imminent arrival of Mitsuhama’s Snatch Back Squad. We were too late. Glyph was covering the doorway with smoking guns and two corpses, still warm, were slumped behind her near the unconscious Dr Callahan. Forewarned by Glyph, Johnson arrived in short order to collect the Doc and paid his dues. Job done. We blazed.
We still have issues. Mitsuhama may not let sleeping dogs lie and Ash needs to decide on his priorities. It’s either Chuckles or us and the job, especially when we’re mid-job, but for now we can breathe a sigh of relief and head home. Apologies have been made and the air between us cleared.
We’ll see if it sours in future.