Part seven: "Hunted"

18 Jan 93 23:24:41 GMT

Article: 1154 of alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Newsgroups: alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Subject: Silk and Steel 7 Date: 18 Jan 93 23:24:41 GMT Lines: 480   Silk and Steel, Part seven: "Hunted" Copyright January 1993 by Jay B. Brandt, all rights reserved   -------------------------------------------------------------- The parking garage was illuminated by fire. The gas tank of the car that Shadowcat shot at had ruptured and exploded, almost certainly killing the ronin that had been sheltering behind it. She was almost in shock at the devastation caused by the little two-shot, pocket shotgun that Argus had given her. Damned thing almost -did- break her wrists when she fired it. And he treated it like it was just a standard derringer. What the -hell- had he loaded it with? He had never bothered to tell her.   Between the explosives the ronin had attacked them with, and the explosion of that car, the electrical systems on this floor had been completely disrupted. The lights on this level had cut out, except for the battery-powered emergency systems, half of which were apparently non-functional. In the firelight she could make out the fallen form of another ronin lying where she had shot him with her trank pistol. He wouldn't wake up for at least another two hours. But the third one was still out there somewhere, probably between herself and the van where Argus still was. She couldn't tell if Argus was alive or dead. But he had told her once that if they were in a fight and she was separated from him, to get the hell out and save herself. Shadowcat choked back a sob, grabbed her duffel and the autopistol she had taken from the tranked ronin, and ran like hell for the exit. -------------------------------------------------------------- The ronin leader with the autorifle turned when he heard gunfire behind him. Hadn't those two idiots checked the girl for weapons? Or had she taken one from them? One of his men was down, and the other was returning fire from behind a car. The girl had grabbed something and rolled between two cars on the other side of the garage. He fired a burst at her position to keep her head down, and started running towards her, ducking behind cars for cover and zig-zagging unpredictably from one side of the traffic lane to the other. Suddenly there was the roar of a shotgun, and his man disappeared in a fireball as the car exploded. She must have had the shotgun hidden in her bag. The lights went out, and a few weak emergency lights activated. Honor and duty was one thing, but charging an opponent who had an unknown arsenal, in the dark, was another. Especially when there was a smarter way to handle it.   He ran back to the far side of the van he had ambushed, and turned off the Radio Frequency scrambler they had used in their ambush. Then he got out a pocket comm unit, opened a private channel, and called his 'associates' on the street. "Yellow leader to blue team, cover the West elevator and stairwell. Red team, cover the East exits and main gate. Male target neutralized. Female target is loose, and is armed with at least a shotgun and a pistol. She is now running for the West elevator. She's in and appears to be heading down. Capture if possible, but do -not- allow escape. Yellow team has two down. I will head down the West traffic lane on foot, to ensure she does not get off at an intermediate level. Over."   He ran down the ramp, pausing only to retrieve the satchel they had taken from the van. It might contain valuable information. And he had the vidchips and data disk from the target's Deck, so even if they had to kill the girl, they would have -something- to give to the oyabun. If the members of his team lived, he could get them later. If they died, it was their own stupidity that had killed them. There was no room on his team for a -stupid- ronin. He ran.   The elevator was an old model, and quite slow. It had indicators on each floor that showed what floor the car was currently located at. It was still going down, at about the same speed as the ronin leader. He was pleased. He could be in on the capture of this woman who had humiliated his team. -------------------------------------------------------------- Shadowcat dove into the shadow of a car near the elevator bay. It was the elevator they had taken earlier, and the indicator claimed it was still just one floor above her. Thank the maker, the power for the elevator still worked. She reached up and hit the call button. It seemed like an eternity, but the door finally opened. She peeked out. The elevator car and traffic lane were both empty. She dove into the elevator car just as the door closed.   So far, so good. Shadowcat reached for the controls for the elevator. and paused. What if they have others on the ground? Argus had said 'when you are on the run, never to do the obvious'. Going straight to the street -would- be the obvious choice.   Shadowcat dug into her duffel and got out the two halves of the monk's staff. She re-assembled it and used it to poke open the maintenance hatch on the roof of the elevator car. Then she shoved the autopistol into the duffel, slung the bag on her back, and used the staff as a climbing ladder to get up onto the roof. Retracting the ladder rungs back into the staff, she reached down with it and tapped the button for the ground floor. Then she closed the roof hatch and jumped onto the maintenance ladder in the shaft. As the car dropped below her, she climbed the dimly lit shaft, hoping to find a way to get to the roof. -------------------------------------------------------------- The sound of a second explosion jarred Argus to semi-consciousness. His ears were ringing, and the world seemed dominated by white noise. His vision was mostly dead gray static, interspersed with chaotic firelight. His head ached intensely. His chest felt like somebody had sucker-punched him with a sledgehammer. So this is it. 'Rigger hell', he thought. Always wondered . . . what dying would be like . . . if I was rigged when it hit. Gotta jack out. Can't concentrate. Can't hardly move.   Suddenly the white noise stopped, like someone turned off a switch. His vision cleared, and in one pane he could see a Japanese man with a rifle. Tried to get external audio, no go. Tried to zoom in the camera. Can't do it. What the hell happened? Must have been an ambush. Normal visuals showed him the interior of the van, shot to hell and with the side door open. Fire lit the scene. What was burning? He turned his head. Windows shattered. Explosive attack? Maybe. Where is Shadowcat? Taken? Who? Could be anybody. Yakuza, Sony-VidTech, Aki, even Virtually There. Aw, shit.   Don't dare do much till that bastard outside moves. He ran a hand over the sore spot on his chest. No blood. Holes in my jacket though. He felt a rectangular lump under the bullet holes. No wonder I'm OK. Bullets must have hit the armor-plated back of my combat hardened mini-deck. Between that and the kevlar lining in the jacket, it would have taken a hell of a lot to hurt me there.   The guy outside moved, and Argus grabbed for his own gun. But the other man ran away, heading down the lane to the street. Argus waited until he was out of sight, then jacked out and moved. The pain in his head stabbed between his eyes, almost causing him to black out again. Argus fished a red derm out of a pocket on his left sleeve, and stuck it on his neck. The powerful analgesic started to deaden the pain in his head and chest to tolerable levels.   It was dark in the garage, lit by a burning car. Argus chuckled. "Well, at least it looks like she gave 'em a hell of a fight." He cautiously advanced on the man lying in the traffic lane. The man was Japanese, and appeared to be dead. There was a nasty slash in the back of his neck, where a flying shard of metal, apparently from the burning car, had skewered his spine. By the burning car was the roasted remains of another ronin. No telling -what- that one used to be. He looked around quickly, but saw no other bodies.   He went back and examined the man in the road. He was dead all right. Argus opened the man's shirt. He had several tattoos, but most of the man's skin was clear. The man also had three finger joints missing on his left hand. Yakuza then, but of low rank. Could be Aki's side, or could be the ones Aki tried to snuff. At least it wasn't -too- likely to have been a corp hit.   "Well, they had no reason to guess my jacket was armored. They -may- think they killed me. Let's let 'em keep thinking that way." He dragged the dead ronin back to the van, and shoved him into the driver's seat. Then he took the other ronin's pistol and shot three rounds into the dead man's heart. He ran back to the burning car, and placed the gun where he had found it, after wiping it for prints.   Argus went back to the van and checked out the two cyber-rats. They had been exposed in their wire basket 'nests' under the deck of the van. Both appeared to be inoperative, damaged by the concussion of the explosive attack. He stuffed them into his jacket for salvageable parts, and so as not to leave anything behind that might be traced back to him. Then he checked out the box the rifleman had been squatting next to. "Damn. A military RF screamer mine. No wonder I blacked out. That bastard can knock out all rigger signals and radio communications for at least a 1000 foot radius. At this range, it would have fried most of the active standard electronics in the van. Well, it can't hurt me now that I'm jacked out. And maybe I can use it to screw up -their- communications." He turned it back on, and went back to the van.   There was a small amount of fuel leaking from the van's tank. He took out a match, and lit the fuel puddle, then ran up the ramp towards the roof. A few minutes later, the van went up in flames. "Well, -that- should confuse them for a while. And the van burning there may block them, if they try to come up from below. I just hope they don't have the roof covered." He continued to run up the ramp. -------------------------------------------------------------- Shadowcat got to the top of the elevator shaft. There was an access hatch there, but it was locked with a padlock. Hanging onto the ladder rungs with one hand, she stuffed the staff back into her duffel and got out the ronin's autopistol. She fired it at the lock. It took four shots, but she finally destroyed enough of the lock and its hasp to force the hatch open. She blinked at the bright sunlight, such a contrast to the dimly lit shaft. Her ears were ringing from the noise of the gun in that small space. It was a good thing she hadn't used the two-shot. She most likely would have dropped it, and certainly would be deaf from the noise if she had. Besides, she might need the firepower later, and she only had the one round left for that devastating little gun. She climbed out onto the roof, and looked for a way to escape.   The ronin's pistol only had one round left in it. She shot the elevator motor control box with it, hoping to slow pursuit. It made a lovely shower of sparks, and the lights in the shaft went out. She wiped the gun off with her skirt, and left the gun near the top of the shaft. It was useless without more ammunition. Besides, she didn't want to be carrying a weapon that could readily be traced to the carnage below.   She tried to use her head-phone to see if she could reach Argus, but something seemed to be wrong with it. She couldn't even get a dial-tone. Looking around, she saw that the buildings North and South of her were one story shorter, and were fairly close to this one. But the alley separating them was too wide for her to jump safely. The East side was the street where the main entrance was, and the West side was a side street. Then she found what she was looking for. Someone had erected a communications mast on the roof of this parking garage. It was too tall to steady it just with guy-wires to the roof of this building. So a few had been run from the tower to the adjacent rooftop to the North. She started climbing the tower. -------------------------------------------------------------- In an office on the top floor of a nearby tower, a Street Samurai watched with binoculars. He spoke quietly into a telephone, using terse Japanese phrases. -------------------------------------------------------------- When she got to the guy-wire, she secured all her loose gear in her duffel, and split the strap into a pair of shoulder straps. Once it was securely on her back, she took off the silk-covered manrikigusari that she had been wearing as a belt. She wrapped the steel chain over the plastic-coated steel guy-wire, and wrapped both hands securely with the ends of the chain. Then she launched herself out into space, sliding down the wire to the adjacent roof below. As she approached the rooftop, she twisted the chain, slowing her descent somewhat. It was still a pretty hard landing. The silk covering the chain was badly torn up.   She gathered herself up and looked herself over. The skirt was ruined, covered with grease stains from rolling on the garage floor, climbing the elevator shaft, and wiping her prints off that gun. Anyway, they'd probably be looking for a blonde in a knee-length blue skirt with a matching blue jacket. She took off the ruined skirt and stuffed it into a nearby vent shaft. She took off the long blonde wig and stuffed it into her duffel. Her blue jacket was in pretty good shape, so she stuffed it into the duffel too. Well, now she had short black hair and a yellow miniskirt with a matching vest, and a white blouse. She took a light green cover from a pocket on her black duffel bag, and slipped the bag into it. "There, a complete change of appearance. That should throw them off a bit."   This appeared to be an office building. She ran to the far side of the roof, and started climbing down the fire-escape on the North side. When she got to one of the landings, she noticed a window had been left open for air. She peeked inside. No one was there, so she entered the building. It was a small conference room at the end of a hallway. She quietly walked down the hall, and took an elevator down to the lobby. -------------------------------------------------------------- The street samurai in the office made a second report by telephone, and left for the street. -------------------------------------------------------------- There were three ronin clustered by the elevator exit, and one standing in front of the ground-floor stairwell door. They waited as the elevator car slowly reached the ground. Each had an autopistol hidden under his coat, grasped through the slit above the coat pocket. They rushed inside as the door opened, finding an empty elevator car. The ronin leader was furious. He whipped out his pocket comm unit to coordinate the search, but was greeted with static. "Shimatta! The little bitch must have gone back and turned on the jammer again! You! Get over to red team and get them up there to disable that jammer. It's between levels C and D." The man ran down the sidewalk. A muffled sound of four gunshots came from above. "Up there! You two of you head for the roof. We must find that girl. NOW!" The ronin followed his orders, and got into the elevator. They got about halfway to the next floor when the elevator blacked out and ground to a halt. The leader heard the fifth gunshot above, and watched helplessly as the indicator for the elevator blacked out. He screamed in frustration, and ran down the block. It was time to scrub this whole mess and get out with what they could. He was not in a position to see Shadowcat's high-wire slide to the other building. -------------------------------------------------------------- Argus reached the top floor of the garage. On the East side, by the elevators, there was a service door that looked like it might lead to the roof, but it was locked. Naturally. Next to that door was a janitorial closet. The lock on it was cheap, and easily forced. There was a light blue set of coveralls hanging on a peg inside. He put them on. They were loose, but fit well enough for his purposes. At least they covered his black jacket. He took off his hat, and stuffed it into his jacket with the two mechanical rats. With his jacket on under the coveralls, and that stuff crammed into the front of it, it looked like he had gained about 50 pounds. Then he took a greasy blue painters cap with the garage logo on it, and stuffed his hair up under the hat, so it looked like his hair was short. He checked the pockets of the coveralls, hoping for keys or an ID badge. No such luck.   He checked out the janitor's closet again. This time he noticed a hatch in the ceiling. He climbed up the shelves at the back of the closet and opened the hatch. It led into a ventilation crawlspace. He climbed back down and secured the door of the janitor's closet. Then he climbed up into the crawlspace and closed the hatch after himself. Time to assess resources.   He took out the mini-deck and checked it out. He could feel three shallow dents in the back cover, but it seemed to be OK. Argus ran the deck through a diagnostic sequence. Everything checked out OK on it. He jacked in to the deck. It's fiber-optic and biochip circuitry should be immune to the RF screamer mine downstairs. It was. Good. So long as he didn't try to open a rigger channel, he should be OK. For that matter, he could jack in using this deck as a filter, and if they tried that tactic again, he'd simply lose contact with the remote. At least he wouldn't get hit by that damned feedback himself. He activated the holographic display on the mini-deck, and brought up a graphics program. He made a bright white sphere, and let it hover there at max holotank brightness. One hell of an expensive flashlight, but it gave him light to work by.   Next he checked his weapons and ammo. He had his big Aries Predator automatic pistol, with a full clip of eight rounds of ammo, and two spare clips in an interior pocket of his jacket. This gun, like several he owned, had been modified to interface with an induction pad in either of his palms, to link it's sights with his visual systems. When he held it in his right hand, the sights powered up OK. A pane with a crosshair centered in it opened in his vision, relaying what the gun's electronic sights could see. He cycled it through infrared, low-light, and visible light modes. All OK. Then he switched it to overlay mode. The pane was replaced by a red circle with a crosshair, superimposed on his normal vision like a heads-up display on a combat aircraft. Wherever he pointed the gun, the crosshair lined up in his vision. He repeated the checks with his left hand. All OK. He re-holstered that gun in a shoulder rig, high on his left side, under the jacket.   The other handgun he had was in a shoulder rig on his right side. It was a twin to the pocket shotgun he had given Shadowcat. Two barrels, each holding a 14 gauge shotgun shell. A selector on the top allowed it to fire the top, the bottom, or both barrels at once. In single shot mode, it would switch to the unfired barrel after being fired. He broke open the action and checked the ammo. Two smooth, white shells fell into his hand. These were armor cutters, like the ones he had loaded into Shadowcat's gun. The plastic carrier inside the shell would fly accurately for a fair distance, and on impact would burst, peppering the target with steel shot in liquid Teflon. He only had these two armor cutter shells with him. He pocketed these and replaced them with ridged red shells. These were standard shotgun rounds. Fired from this gun, they made it an 'alley sweeper'. Short range, but a wide angle of fire. Capable of disabling several attackers at once in close quarters. In addition to what was in the gun, he had two more of these in pocket. He also had two ridged white shells, containing white parachute flares, and two smooth red 'red meteor' naval distress flares in a separate packet. The sights on this gun worked the same way as the Aries Predator, and all modes checked out OK. He put that gun into his right hand jacket pocket.   Next he checked out his wrist cuffs. At first glance, the left one appeared to be a fancy watch, and the right a wrist comp unit. Both could serve those functions adequately. But each also concealed a pair of small, 1-shot trank guns. Each had a one-shot barrel and an optical interface above and below his wrist. The sights could do visible light or overlay modes only, and included a lockout to prevent being triggered when his own hand was in the way. Fire control was linked via the same induction pads in his wrists that linked the sights. He reloaded the upper chamber on the right hand cuff, having used that one against the drunk sailor in the bar this morning. He had a packet of five more trank darts in his pocket. The trank cuffs were mostly just for covert ops or anti-mugger use, like he used them in the bar. Their range was severely limited, no more than 5 meters or so.   He also had two coherent fiber-optic cables in his pocket, which could be threaded onto the lower optic port on either cuff. These were each half a meter long, and could be used to look under doors, through holes, or around corners for surveillance purposes.   That left the two cyber-rats. Anything useful here? If nothing else, each had a power pack that was almost fully charged. They could be used in his mini-deck as well. He tried running a diagnostic sequence on each rat, jacking directly from his mini-deck to the diagnostic port on the belly of the remote.   The first one was a surveillance unit, like the ones he had used to observe and record Shadowcat's combat demo. The cameras in it's eyes still worked in all three modes, visible, IR and Low-light. He could salvage four more trank darts from it's magazine. The power pack was OK. But the vidchip recorder and everything else was shot to hell, busted by concussion or fried by the RF mine. He stuffed it back into his jacket.   The other one was an advance penetrator unit. He salvaged four more darts. The power tap was OK, so that gave him a way to recharge the power packs. This remote though, instead of having a vidchip unit, had a tripled power pack in the belly bay, and a cutting laser in it's tail. The diagnostic said the laser would work. Great! The cutting laser could quietly cut through the lock on the roof door, or could cut an unauthorized access hatch in the side of a large vent pipe.   That was his ticket out. If he could get into the ventilation system undetected, he might be able to get to the roof, or possibly even escape underground. He checked the nearby ductwork and selected the largest one. He climbed carefully to the far side of the duct. Still directly jacked-in to the remote, he manually guided the laser, cutting a meter-square hole in the side. He shoved the cut out piece of metal into the duct, and looked inside. To his left, he could see sunlight. To the right, there was a dim glow. He collected his gear, tucked everything back inside his jacket, and crawled toward the sunlight. -------------------------------------------------------------- The ronin leader stalked over to a pay-phone on the corner. Without inserting any coins, he dialed 999. A cheerful woman's voice came on at the other end. "Hostility Hotline! Welcome to your anonymous report line for violent crimes. Please press 'one' to report a murder, 'two' for a rape, 'three' for theft or burglary, 'four' for gang violence, 'five' for bombing or other terrorist attack, 'nine' to repeat the list of crisis types, or press 'zero' to talk to an operator or report other violent criminal activity. Please make your selection now. For a general emergency or immediate assistance, please hang up and dial 911. For a medical emergency, hang up and dial 998. For fires or public safety, dial 997. For non-violent criminal activity, hang up and dial 996. These are all free calls."   He pressed 'five', and got the same female voice. "You have selected 'bombing or other terrorist attack'. Please press 'one' for an attack in progress, 'two' for a recent incident, 'three' to provide advance information, 'four' to claim responsibility for a recent attack, 'five' to return to the main menu, 'nine' to repeat the list of crisis types, or press 'zero' to talk to an operator. Please make your selection now."   He pressed 'one' and got a live operator. "Seattle bomb squad and anti-terrorist unit. Your call is being recorded, as is the location you are calling from. You may choose to remain anonymous. What would you like to report?"   The ronin growled into the phone. "There's been a terrorist attack at a parking garage one block North of here. A blonde woman, five and a half feet tall, wearing a blue dress, blew up a van being driven by an unarmed businessman. She's shot him, killed several others, and set fire to at least one other vehicle while making her escape. I almost didn't make it out alive myself. I think she may still be in there. She has a shotgun and several explosive devices, and may have other weapons as well. Very dangerous. We need help right away!"   "Very good sir." The woman said. "We will dispatch a squad right away. If you come up with any other information, please call again."   He hung up, and went to retrieve his teams. Let the cops take her. The oyabun would have to settle for the information he had retrieved from the dead rigger's deck. He pulled out his comm unit. The line was finally clear again. Red team had shut off the jammer. "Yellow leader to all teams. All teams retreat. Withdraw to observation perimeter. Remove special equipment as you leave."   "Red team, Hai! Have equipment, leaving now."   "Blue three, Hai!"   "Blue team one and two. We are still trapped in elevator shaft. Endeavoring climb to roof."   "Yellow leader to blue one and two. Understood. Police have been called. Abandon weapons and exit as civilian businessmen."   "Blue one and two. Hai!" -------------------------------------------------------------- Argus got to the source of the sunlight. It was a -very- heavy steel grating, welded in place across the shaft to the roof. Judging from how high up it was, it appeared to be located where the shaft penetrated the roof. He would not be able to get around that, without spending a -long- time cutting out that grating. Probably more time than he had. He also heard voices from above.   "Blue one and two to yellow leader. We are on the roof. Roof hatch had been forced, possibly by target, possibly earlier. No sign of target. No way for her to have left the roof. She must still be inside. We will try to force the roof door, and will walk down." Argus heard two gunshots, and then retreating voices.   He crawled back to the other light source. The large ventilation duct had a small grating on the left side, and then took an abrupt turn, straight down. He felt a loose bolt in front of him, and dropped it down the shaft. It was a -long- way down to the bottom. He used one of his fiber-optic cables to peek out through the grating. This was a vertical shaft for the vent ducts, connecting all the floors of the garage. A few dim light bulbs illuminated it. There was also an access ladder on the wall to one side of the duct. He cut an opening in the side of the duct with the laser, and climbed out onto the ladder.   There were access doors into this shaft at each floor, all neatly labeled. And all locked. When he reached the ground floor, the shaft kept going down. This complex didn't have below-ground parking. He shrugged and kept descending. At the bottom of the shaft, power and phone cables, steam pipes and sewer lines from the floors above gathered and went out through one wall. There was a reinforced door there, labeled with a 'city services' logo and a large sign declaring 'authorized personnel only'. There was also an alarm sensor on this side of the door, but it was designed to keep people out, not to keep them in. He short-circuited the sensor with a bit of wire, and cut the deadbolt off the door's lock with the laser. Then he strolled out of the complex, walking down the city service tunnel under the street. -------------------------------------------------------------- Shadowcat stepped out into the lobby of the office building. A crowd was gathering, looking at two SWAT teams and a bomb-squad vehicle that had just pulled up to the parking garage next door. The SWAT teams were deploying to cover the garage.   Suddenly, Shadowcat felt a hand holding a cloth over her mouth, as someone grabbed her from behind. A voice spoke quietly in Japanese. <Quietly miss. Do not struggle. You are coming with me. My employer is -most- interested in speaking with you now.> She tried to catch her breath to scream, and inhaled a powerful anesthetic saturating the cloth. Then she collapsed and was carried to a waiting car. -------------------------------------------------------------- Text, all characters (especially Obaasan, Aki, Argus and Shadowcat), and the 'Virtually There' chain of simstim/VR clubs, all Copyright January 1993 by Jay B. Brandt, all rights reserved. Please use them only with my permission.   Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are requested. Please send them to me via e-mail at <> --------------------------------------------------------------   Well folks, there's part 7. Part 8 should be out in another two to three weeks. What do you think? Any new comments?   Shadowcat

[On to Chapter 8] [Back to Chapter 6] [Back to the index] [Back to Jay's Page]