Part Eleven: "Recognition"

27 Jul 93 17:39:30 GMT

Article: 1598 of alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Newsgroups: alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Subject: Silk and Steel 11 Date: 27 Jul 93 17:39:30 GMT Lines: 706   Silk and Steel, Part Eleven: "Recognition" Copyright July 1993 by Jay B. Brandt, all rights reserved   -------------------------------------------------------------- Lance, Skrag and Spinner limped toward the Seattle waterfront. The Street Screamers had converted a graffiti-covered warehouse there to a clubhouse a few months ago. The warehouse manager at the corp that owned the place knew the gang was there, but she let them be in return for a few of the more reliable members doing occasional 'no questions asked' courier work and other 'special' jobs for the corp. The three hapless bikers had some extra gear stored at the clubhouse, and Spinner hoped they could get a dry change of clothes and get out again before the rest of the gang returned.   It was only a little after Noon, so Spinner felt it was a safe bet that the   rest of the bikers should still be out. Ratchet, the gang's leader, had planned to hijack a shipment of top-notch entertainment electronics and simstims today. According to their informant, some rich corp exec was fitting out a new mansion, and had made a huge order of the stuff, a couple of truckloads. That order, along with another truck carrying his existing gear   and a huge collection of simstims and vidchips, was due to be transported to the new mansion this morning. Their squealer knew the convoy's route and the date of the shipment, but not what time it was scheduled to move. They might well be gone all day.   Spinner stopped his chummers just outside the warehouse compound. "Now look," he said to Lance and Skrag, "we're gonna be in a world of shit with Ratchet and the others fer missing this morning's run. We gotta have a cover for why we spaced it, an why we ain't got our gear no more."   Lance grunted in pain. The slash near his groin was bleeding again. He'd need a medic soon, no matter what they did. "So what's the plan, Spinner? It better be chill, or we're out on our ass with nothin'. I gotta see Doc, y'dig? Spill chummer. Whaddya say?"   Spinner thought a minute, then said "Hokay. I wanna go in, grab our clothes an git back out without bein seen. Then we kin replace our gear an come back to get patched up, with a good cover. Hmmmm. Anybody asks, we got inna brawl an lost some gear, an spent the night inna drunk tank. Couldn't make the run, cause we was locked up, right? Yeah, that oughta do it. Notta word 'bout the ronin chick or the payoff we got, right? Too many questions that way, an we   hafta give mosta the creds to the gang for missin the run. I don't wanna do that, cause we need 'em to replace our gear." He looked at Lance and Skrag. "We solid? We all stick with the same spill, or Ratchet'll have our balls onna plate."   Lance nodded. "I can make it. I'm witcha chummer. I don' wanna cross that Yak bastard that paid us off anyway, an' yer plan keeps us safe from him an from Ratchet. How 'bout you Skrag?"   Skrag grumbled. "Like I gotta choice? Sure, sure. We got drunk, busted some heads, an' got busted fer it. I ain't got better. Lets git it over with, dammit. I'm cold an' I'm wet an' I want another drink."   Spinner tapped the entry code on the gate's keypad, and they entered the compound. But as they approached the clubhouse, they could hear activity within. They entered quietly and peeked into the main warehouse bay.   The rest of the go-gang had arrived here ahead of them. Three trucks were parked in the large room, and were rapidly being unloaded and the contents cataloged and stored. Spinner tried to back out, but one of the sentries spotted them. She called out in a loud, brassy voice. "Well, look what the rats drug in. Hey Spinner! Where the frack ya been? An where'd ya get the new threads? Sallies seconds? Hey, I get it. A new uniform for yer squad, to strike terror into the straights. The slimy toads ride again!" She laughed and went back to her duties.   Another biker chimed in. "Hey chummers, look at the drowned rats! Where'ya bin, hey? Ratchet's pissed atcha. You three are the only one's missed out on the action this morning. We coulda used ya. Lost two guys to the corp security team before we snuffed the bastards out. Frankie an Squeezer bought it big- time. Why weren't ya there. hey?"   Soon the three were surrounded by taunting, angry bikers. They mocked Spinner, Skrag and Lance mercilessly. The three tried to explain, but were repeatedly shouted down. Then the noise died as Ratchet waded in. The big biker was carrying a heavy trucker's socket ratchet, almost 14 inches long and twice as thick as his thumb. He slapped the head of the tool in his palm, and confronted the three soggy gang members. "So ka? Ya been in the tank, eh? The cops take yer clothes, too? When'd they take to givin out sweats, huh? Skrag, where's yer rifle, eh? Where the hell's yer bikes an the rest of yer gear? I don't buy it. What the hell really happened? What sort of botched up, half- baked scheme was worth fucking up this morning's run? Gimme some answers, or I'll sendya ta join Frankie an Squeezer, an ya can explain ta them what was so damned well worth it."   Eventually it all came out, and Ratchet gave his 'judgment'. "For failing to meet with the rest of the gang in time to be in on the morning's raid, yer not gonna get yer cut of the profits when this stuff is fenced. 2000 nuYen of yer payoff money'll be split to go to Frankie an Squeezer's girlfriends, with their share of today's take. An' Julie 'n' Tonya get half of yer cut for the next gang run, too. Give the rest of yer nuYen to Scrounger, an he'll get some wheels for ya. Now get outa my sight an have Doc patch ya up."   Doc said Lance needed to stay in his bed for the next week, to heal up from the groin wound. Spinner and Skrag were more or less ambulatory, although both were limping pretty bad. Both would still be expected to pull their weight on the next run, though.   They checked with Scrounger, the gang's supply boss, for new gear. Skrag and Spinner had to settle for one old road bike with a sidecar. For weapons, they got a shotgun, a couple autopistols, ammo for the guns, and a few blades. They still had the clothing they had left in the clubhouse, but new leathers or body armor would have to wait until they had a successful run. Lance would be without a cycle until then as well, but he wouldn't be riding with the pack for a week or more, anyway.   Skrag and Spinner went over to a makeshift bar on one side of the warehouse to get out of the way. Skrag seemed determined to drink himself stupid. That was a short trip for Skrag, as far as Spinner was concerned. He was -not- in a good mood, but ordered a beer for himself anyway. They didn't have much to do now -but- drink. Both were still limping too bad to move boxes and crates. Spinner looked around them at the organized chaos, as the loot was sorted and cataloged. Most of it would be resold, but a few choice items would be kept for the gang's use.   One of the tech-heads in the gang, Jimmy 'the Wire' Wilson, was hooking up a couple 60 inch vidscreens that they had kept from the loot. He connected one screen to a pirated cable service, and hooked the other one to a brand-new vidchip/simstim player. "Dis oughta be great mon. It be a first class piece o work, dat kin play vids an stims both. We kin all watch de action on de vidscreen, an when I get de wires in place, we be able to jack in to de stim tracks too. Beats the hell outa dat vidchip-only deck we had before."   A loud hoot came from a young ganger, named Slick, as a crate that turned out to be filled with porn-stims was opened. "Willya lookit these babes! Man, I ain't seen none o' these stims before! Must be a buncha hot new stuff."   Cannon, an older ganger, took a look. "Naw. These slitties are all old enough now to be yer mama. This is all old shit. I remember most of these from ten years ago or more, while you were still too young to -care- about girls." He gave the youngster a cuff on the side of the head. "Get movin' Slick. The sooner we get this stuff ready to fence, the sooner ya can kick back and watch some of these stims. This shit's too old to sell, so we may as well keep em for our own use, right Ratchet?" The gang leader nodded absently, and Cannon picked up the crate and put it over next to the bar.   One of the screens crackled to life, as Jimmy tuned in the FlashNews to test the cable connection. Then he grabbed a simstim at random out of the box and started fine-tuning the other system. He played around with the fast-forward, scan, speed and resolution controls for a bit. As a result, they missed the opening title shots. Not that it mattered much with porn-stims.   The simstim appeared to be one of the old ones. It featured a bunch of girls dressed up like a cheerleader squad, taking on the entire football team, as well as each other. Pretty tame stuff, really. You coulda found its like in any rental shop in the malls. Still, it wasn't half bad. Skrag and Spinner watched it, with Spinner also absently checking out the FlashNews when the action on the simstim got boring.   Skrag was pretty much plowed by now. He was watching one blonde-haired girl with particular interest. She seemed to be the central character in the show. He spoke with some difficulty. "Y'know, I tink I sheen that slittie somewheres before."   Rhonda, one of the dozen or so girls in their gang, was passing by, carrying a stack of boxes. She laughed and said "Maybe its yer momma, Skrag."   Skrag just ignored the put down. He spoke slowly and deliberately, without taking is eyes from the screen. "Naw. Ma's got black hair, like mine. I seen all her simstims, an she never did do one as a blonde. 'Sides, she never did nuttin wit a Jap guy, like that chick's doin." he pointed to the screen. "Hey Rhonda, how you slitties manage to breathe when you do that?"   Rhonda shook her head and chided him "Why doncha jus' wire up, jack inta her track on the 'stim, an find out fer yerself, Skrag? Might dooya good ta feel what it's like from the chick's sida the action."   Skrag just gave a disgusted snort and kept watching the vidscreen.   On the other screen, They were running a story about a terrorist attack in a garage downtown. Both bikers generally ignored it, until the screen lit up with a composite vidpic of the suspected terrorist. Below her face was a flashing printed warning that identified her only as a wanted terrorist, who was considered armed and dangerous. There was also a number to call with information, and an offer of a 10,000 nuYen reward for her capture. Spinner   looked back and forth between the two screens in confusion. He grabbed a remote control and froze the picture on the FlashNews screen. "Hey Cannon! I thought you said the stuff in that crate was all old porn stims."   The older ganger looked up. "Sure 'nuff. Whatsa matter wit em? You find some G-Rated cartoon or somepin?"   Spinner pointed at the screen displaying the FlashNews. "Check it out. Ain't that blonde chick in the porno flick the same one they are lookin for on the FlashNews? If these stims are so old, then how can the same chick be on today's newscast, looking younger than in the old stim?"   Cannon stared at the screen. "I dunno man. I can't see much of her face. That other girl's leg is in the way. There, now I can see her. Hey Jimmy, freeze the simstim. Yeah. Now back it up a bit. That's good. Hmmm. Sure looks like the same slittie." He stared at it a minute, and then grabbed the box the simstim had been in. "Box says this is called 'Cherri's Cheerleaders'. Same chick's on the front of the box. Lemme see. Sez here her name's Cherri Howe, and that the Simstim was made back in '58. Shit. That's twelve years ago. Sure looks like the same chick though." He pawed thru the crate of stims. "Hell, there's three more here wit that same chick."   Skrag finally took his eyes from the now motionless porno vid and took a look at the other screen. "Whatca talkin, huh? Whyd'ya freeze da vid?" After his eyes focused on the other screen, they suddenly grew wide. He sputtered and just about drowned on his beer, choking and spraying beer all over the bar. Beer was even coming out his nose. He wiped his nose on his sleeve, and coughed some more as he cleared the beer from his sinuses, saying something completely incoherent. Once he stopped choking, he shouted. "Dats where I saw dat bitch. It's her dammit! Dats da ronin from the alley last night. Diff'rent hair, but it's da same bitch!"   Ratchet, attracted by the commotion and shouting, came over and sized up the situation. "Intrestin'. Seems we gotta porno queen gone terrorist, an there's a fat reward for her. Spinner, whatcha say? Ya think that's the same chick dat busted ya up las' nite? Where'd you jokers say you ran inta her?"   Spinner stammered a moment. "R-ratchet? Uh, well, uh, I, I think it might be her. I mean, I ain't sure, ya know? But, but what about that damned Yak? If it's the same chick, he told us loud 'n clear ta leave her be."   Ratchet smiled and said "He told the three of -you- to leave her be. An that's whatcha gonna do. But he ain't told me an the gang nuttin. I jus saw it onna news, like half the sprawl. Nuttin stoppin us from baggin that reward money. Why, we's just 'concerned citizens', doin our duty to rid our fair city of a deadly menace, right?" He laughed, and it echoed back from the roof of a warehouse suddenly gone silent. "Now, yer gonna tell me 'zactly where ya foun that chick las nite, an ev'ry thing ya know 'bout her." -------------------------------------------------------------- Argus followed the young Haitian boy into Skinny Willie's workshop. He noted that although the kid only looked to be about 13 years old, he already had a Rigger's Cyberlink implanted in the back of his head. From what he had seen in the alley, the kid already had a fairly good feel for Rigger work. He looked promising. When they stopped, he asked "You got a handle, kid?"   The kid looked Argus up and down. "Willie say he call you Schitz, and that you be sub-zero cool wit him. But he say you got other names too. I gotta few of my own, an I don' give em all easy. My chummers here an on de street call me Micro. Dat's 'cause I like to make an run de real small remotes. Dat barrel   drone in de alley be a battleship compare to my faves. But it be next on-line for test, so tonight I be stuck dancin wit a be-damned whale. I seen de rat-remotes Willie be fix for you, mon. Dey be mo my style, so I guess we be chummers. Call me Micro."   "Hokay chummer, Micro it is. Willie an his crew call me Schitz. He told you that, but did he tell you why?"   "I dunno mon. Cause you be usin lots o' names on de street? Can't be cause you be crazy-mad, else Willie not be callin you so chill."   "Well, the names are part of it. But mostly it's because I'm the only Rigger Willie or Paul ever met that could run multiple remotes at once, -and- do Decker work too. Most chummers are either a Rigger or a Decker, not both. And most Riggers can only handle one remote at a time. Or maybe three or so, if they are slaved to each other and working as a group. Willie's seen me do six at once, on separate tasks, and still be able to walk and talk like normal. That was when he tagged me 'Schitz', and he's called me nothing else since."   The kid looked impressed. "Sub-zero mon. You gonna have to show me dat trick some day." Micro gestured to a chair next to the workbench. "Willie be right witcha mon. Jus' chill here wile he get full awake. You say 50 creds to scan de bike an keep de hot-paw types of'n it, right? Up front mon." He held out his hand, and Argus gave him a credstick. The kid pocketed it swiftly. "I gotta get back on de job now, 'kay?" He sat down at a console near the door and jacked in to his remote in the alley. Like most Riggers, his eyes glazed over and his body went near-catatonic as he shifted all his senses to the machine in the alley that was now his sensory body.   Argus waited quietly for Willie. A short while later, the emaciated Rigger rolled into the room in his powered chair. He was clearly quite tired. "Schitz? It is late, mien friend. Where is your associate? Your pretty lady friend? I thought you went to get her. You did not bring her back to meet me?"   Argus grumbled and fished one of Shadowcat's minicam hair clips out of his pocket. "They foxed me, Willie. Sent me on a wild goose chase. They must have tumbled onto the transmitters in her hair clips, and somehow managed to separate them from her, sending them elsewhere as a decoy while they took her away. I found these wrapped in a blanket in a warehouse on the West shore of Lake Washington. I gotta try some other way to find her now. I can't reach her head-phone. It's like something's blocking it. That's why I came back here. I need a safe spot to jack in, see if I can find some other way to locate her or at least find out who has her. I think it may be the Yaks, but I don't know which faction. I gotta find her!"   Skinny Willie shook his head. "Schitz, Schitz. This is more than just biz now, isn't it? You like this girl, ya? Maybe more than just like her? Well, use your head. You go slamming in on the Yakuza, going in after her like some avenging angel, and you will be an angel yourself. 'Use your head, or soon be dead.' That was the motto in the Corp Wars, and it's still good advice. Use the Matrix port by the workbench. This one's on the house. But promise me you will be careful, hokay?"   "Sure Willie, I'll be careful. You're a good chummer. Could you do me one more favor? I'm gonna be going -deep- into the Matrix on this run. Could you have one of your kids stand by, in case something goes wrong? All they gotta do is watch the monitor on my Deck for alert messages, and jack me out if it looks like I'm in major trouble."   Willie nodded. "Certainly mien friend. I'll send Maria Chen to help you. You met her last time you were here. She came on duty at midnight, and has just been running diagnostics on some of the remotes my assistants have attempted to make recently. I'm sure she will be relieved to get out of that task." He turned the chair and rolled out of the room. "I for one am going back to bed. I don't have stamina like yours any more, Schitz. Good luck and good night."   Argus took his combat deck out of his jacket pocket and set it on the workbench. He ran another diagnostic on it while he waited for Willie's sixteen year old Asian/Hispanic assistant. She arrived a few minutes later, as his final test completed flawlessly. "Ho, Rat Man! Willie says you need a watchdog for a run. What's the scam Schitz? Gonna hit some fat corp with your Rat-remotes? Hope this run's easier on them than the last one. It took Micro and Willie half the night to repair the last pair you dragged in here."   "No remote work tonight, Maria. At least none planned. This is a Matrix run. Information, pure and simple, is the target. That's all you gotta know. See this deck? You watch the display here, on the top edge. If any messages display there, do -exactly- what they say. If you hear a high-pitched alert sound, call the best doc Willie has on tap. That's a flatline alert. If you hear it, it means I'll need serious medical attention ASAP. It sounds like this." He pressed a sequence of keys, and the little deck started screaming for one second, an oscillating sound at about 90 decibels. "That was the test mode. If it happens for real, it will be about ten times louder, and won't quit until after I have successfully jacked out."   Argus dug into his pack and extracted one of his rat-remotes. He set it on the workbench, and hardwired it to the combat deck with a flexible, 2-meter length of fiber-optic cable. "I'm gonna leave this remote attached to my deck. I may need to affect things here, and I don't want to have to rely on radio links. The folks I'm going against have used an RF mine on me once, and I won't risk running afoul of one again."   He attached a second cable to the Matrix port, and used a third to jack in to his own Cyberlink. Finally, he opened the storage bay on the combat deck and extracted five unusually thick biosoft modules, which he slotted into the I/O ports on the deck. Three were neon blue, with a very official looking corp seal on them. Maria had never seen that corp ID before. The other two were dead black, and marked only with some small white lettering in two different languages, neither of which were familiar to her. He didn't explain the special modules to Maria, and she had sense enough not to ask. She had heard of Deckers using stolen corp wetware or fancy icebreakers, and thought that the less she knew about those strange looking chips, the safer she would be. She noticed that the storage bay held half a dozen more modules, ranging from more exotic stuff to one that looked like a commercial vidchip. She held her curiosity in check and waited for the strange client's instructions.   Finally, Argus appeared to be ready. "OK Maria. Make yourself comfortable where you can watch that display. If for any reason you have to leave, get someone else watching it first. I don't know how long this will take, but it -could- be a pretty long time. You ready?"   "Hoy chummer. You're the one that's gotta do the work and take the risks. I'm ready when you are. I don't suppose you could take me along riding shotgun, eh?"   Argus stared at her. "Not a chance, kid. This is no pleasure trip, and the whole reason you're here is to provide a watchdog who is -not- tied to the Matrix. I don't even want you watching on a screen, you got that? Besides, this 'deck won't take commands from anyone but me while I'm jacked in, so don't even try to fiddle with it. The only control you can operate is the emergency jack-out stud. That's the bright red one to the right of the display." He paused a moment and took a deep breath, settling his body comfortably into the chair and folding his arms in his lap. "Hokay kid, here I go!"   His body tensed a moment, but otherwise he looked just the same at first glance. Most Deckers she had met sorta slumped when they went deep into the Matrix. Maria waved her hand in front of his wide-open eyes, and he didn't even blink. "Schitz? You OK?" The display on his Cyberdeck flickered to life. The triple row text display read "I am OK. Matrix insertion complete. Testing remote."   Maria looked over at the cyber-rat. It moved and looked back at her. Then it stood on its hind legs, balancing with it's tail, and spoke with Schitz's voice. "Hokay Maria, I can see you just fine. If you think you need to tell me something, tap the rat on the head and talk to it when it looks at you. Got that?"   Maria nodded in confusion. "Yeah. Hey, I guess you really -can- deck and rig at the same time. Truly weird. Like, I thought you were pulling my leg, y'know? My chummers on the street thought that was impossible. Leastwise I never heard of anybody doing that before."   The rat got back down on all fours and went back to looking at Argus. "There aren't many of us. Now you just stay there and do your job. I gotta pay attention to this run." -------------------------------------------------------------- Detective Susan Isbell was at South General hospital, and she was furious. "How in the HELL can you stand there and tell me you don't know how you lost her? The room is seventeen stories up, and the windows don't open. There were two of you on her room at all times, and you had other officers posted at all the stairways and elevators. How the hell did they get past you? What do the hospital security cameras have to tell us?"   The sergeant who had been in charge of the detail assigned to guard the unconscious receptionist from Virtually There rubbed the back of his neckand tried to come up with a better answer. He felt like he was watching his fifteen year career with the Seattle Security Force flushing down the sewer   before his eyes. "Well detective, I don't know what else I can say. Nobody was expecting anything other than a routine procedure here. As far as I can tell, no one went in or out of that ward but registered hospital staff and our own officers. I was on patrol in the main lobby on that floor, checking with each of the stations. Everything looked routine. I -swear- every man or woman was at their assigned posts. The hospital security cameras back that up, right up until Thompson failed to report in by radio from the girl's room. I could see him plain as day from the security monitor on the nurses station, but he refused to answer, and so did his partner, Maddox, inside the room."   "When I went there myself, I found both of them tranked and out cold, and the girl was gone. The hospital staff helped me to revive them, and said they had apparently -already- been out when I was yelling at them to respond. We reviewed the security tapes a dozen times. It looked like someone had patched in a half-hour loop of a previous normal period into the security cams on that floor. It cut back to normal when I sounded the alarm. Hell, they had even tricked up the girl's bio-monitor feeds to the nurses station so nothing tripped there when they unhooked her. It was a first-class snatch, professionals with a Decker running Matrix cover. The hospital's Deckers are trying to determine when their security was breached, but for all we know it may have been one of them that did it, bold as brass from their duty station. At this point we got no leads at all. She may as well have sprouted wings and flown out the damned window."   Susan digested that with a grumble. "Well, I don't know what more we can do now. Make -sure- your team has checked out everything on this floor, and schedule each member of your squad to see me personally for a report. I want to see Thompson and Maddox first. Damn, This is going to be a long night. Dismissed."   She rubbed her eyes and took another swig of double-caff coffee. The machine in the staff lounge made the stuff, and it was -almost- reasonable. At least it kept her awake. Her comm unit bleeped, and she answered it. "Isbell."   "Detective Isbell, this is Marston in forensics. I thought you might want to know. We found that technician that was missing from Virtually There. 'Fraid somebody else found him first though. His throat was slit, and he was floating face down in the Sound. A crewman on the Bremerton ferry spotted his body and reported it. They found him this morning, but he didn't have a wallet or any other ID on him. He got listed as another John Doe mugging victim. We just got an ID match when we worked him over in the lab this evening. Sorry Detective."   "Damn." said Susan. "Anything on the canisters from the Mall?"   "Nope. Nothing new at least. The cans contained a binary nerve gas. Fairly common military stuff, hits fatal levels in about twenty minutes, causes a massive heart attack in its victims, then dissipates to safe, non-traceable   levels after half an hour or so. Either half of the stuff is fairly inert. It only becomes dangerous when the two gasses combine. Wouldn't have been too hard to slip past the security scanners at Virtually There. We never would have identified the stuff if the killer had managed to come back and collect those cans. The cans themselves were clean. No prints at all. Apparently he emptied a couple cans of legit cleaning solvent, and refilled them with the nerve gas components."   "OK. Let me know if anything new surfaces, and start running the prints from the terrorist attack through the international databases and any corp records we can access. Isbell out." -------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------- Text, all characters (especially Obaasan, Aki, Argus and Shadowcat), and the Virtually There chain of simstim/VR clubs, all Copyright July 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 <> (NOTE: This is a NEW address!) --------------------------------------------------------------   Well folks, there's part 11. Part 12 should be out in another two to four weeks. I'll also be releasing a re-write of chapters 1-10, probably about the same time. What do you think? Any new comments?   Jason Magnus

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