Robert Banks strolled into the apartment, flanked by suit-wearing bodyguards. The room’s three occupants leapt into motion, diving behind furniture or into the apartment’s other rooms.
“Rob Banks,” said a man in a turtleneck after it became obvious that there was no immediate threat. “Yeah, we know who you are. What do you want?”
“I want to know how you managed to fuck up such a simple job,” Banks said as he inspected the room with a critical eye.
The apartment’s occupants glanced at one another. One of them, a small albino woman with red tattoos spiralling around her body, stood up from behind a couch and glared at him.
“What do you mean?” said the man.
“Where do you think your resources came from? The bribes, the contacts, the intel?” Banks strolled through the apartment to peer into the other rooms, his guards close behind.
“I’d wondered if he had a patron,” said a darker-skinned woman.
“We didn’t fuck up,” said the man.
“You thought this, getting arrested, was the end of Lim’s plan? He’s a precog. It’s never that simple. Why do you think he kept you in reserve?”
“What, you want us to break him out?” asked the man.
“Well, yes, but not just yet. We still have a few secret weapons. You are one we can’t afford to reveal quite yet.”
The albino woman scoffed and sat down on the couch, facing away from Banks.
“So what do you want, then?” said the man said, anger brimming just below his voice.
“You have something I need.”
“Then fucking tell us what it is.”
“The nullifier. That was what Lim agreed to get me.”
The man hissed a breath out through his teeth and stormed out of the room into one of the apartment’s other rooms.
“What can you give us?” asked the dark-skinned woman.
“Immunity. Lim blackmailed or manipulated you into helping him. You had no idea what he and the woman known as ‘Chastity’ were planning. Charity may have given your names in the trial, but I can provide hard evidence to clear you of all charges.”
“How do we know you won’t just turn us in?” asked the woman.
“Why would I, when I could use you?” said Banks. “Listen, it would be impossible to find a fence for a piece of DestrucTech. The feds would converge in a heartbeat. But if you give it to me? I can get mass production. I assume you share my ideals, so this idea should be… enticing.”
“Holy shit. How is that possible?” said the woman. “It shuts down tinkers who try to figure it out.”
“Dr. Mind couldn’t crack it,” added the man.
“I know a guy,” Banks said.
“Okay, fine,” said the man. “Don’t tell us. If you backstab us though, I will-”
“Goes without saying,” Banks interrupted.
Minutes later, Banks left the apartment and made a call.
“I’ve got it,” Banks said into the phone. The voice on the end spoke, making his head buzz, even over the digital connection. “Of course, sir. I can deliver it immediately. You were right. They bought it, hook, line, and sinker.” The voice spoke again. “No, they’re still unaware of your involvement. They could be a useful asset, but they know who I am now. If they’re traced back to me…” The voice cut him off. “I hope that won’t be necessary.”
Ransom kicked a piece of rubble. It didn’t budge.
“Fuck!” he shouted, foot stinging.
Gunfire and sirens could still be heard echoing off the frame of intact buildings that ringed the disaster area, and a helicopter hovered overhead, sweeping a searchlight over the rubble. He glanced towards the ongoing firefight between the splintered fragments of the Anchor Boys.
“Ey boss,” came a voice from nearby. “Think I found something, yeh?”
Ransom wheeled towards the person speaking, an Anchor Boys hook called Nemo, who was sifting through a mountain of bricks. “What? What did you find?”
“Bigass lockbox,” Nemo’s voice was punctuated with a *clank*. “Buried a bit.”
“You found the vault?” Ransom.
“‘s what I said, neh?”
Nemo pushed an avalanche of bricks off the top of an enormous brushed metal vault that laid sideways under the rubble.
“Beautiful,” Ransom said. “Dig it out.” Nemo didn’t move.
“How we gon’ move it once ‘s undug?” He said instead. “Box look like it weigh a couple tons, yeh?”
“That doesn’t-” Ransom stepped back and took another look at the vault. “Fuck, you’re right.”
Ransom looked around the rubble while he tried to think of a solution. A bright flash of light blinded him as the searchlight shining from the helicopter swept across his face.
“Shit!” he swore, blinking the afterimage out of his eyes. He flipped the helicopter off as the searchlight continued to scan the rubble, ignoring him. “Like they’re even trying to find anyone,” he muttered.
“We gon’ need a crane,” said Nemo. “Or at least a couple more hooks.”
“Yeah, well, all the hooks are busy shooting at each other, and the cranes aren’t exactly working anymore.” That was true- this building had been destroyed when the wreckage of a shipping crane that had torn through it.
“Yeh, but I bet we could get some hooks if ya offered a cut of whatever’s in the box.”
An idea struck Ransom. “Or…” he started as he mulled the idea over. “I give you a cut, since you found it for me, and we take the gang back. I’m a meta. It can’t be too hard. Once we got a few more people, we could shift this, easy, without having to cut anyone else in.”
“I like this plan,” Nemo said.
“Thought you might. The docks might have gotten destroyed, but they’re not going to get rebuilt if we’re all fighting over the wreckage. We gather up some hooks, hole up in one of our warehouses and let the city rebuild. When they’re clearing out the rubble, you and I can volunteer, commandeer some lifting equipment and get that vault. Then you and I kick back and buy some bait.” Ransom raised an eyebrow suggestively.
“I like this plan,” repeated Nemo with a grin.
Mayor Adrian Banks up to the podium that had been placed on the sidewalk in front of one of the city’s many unused subway entrances.
“Thank you,” he said into the microphone. “It’s been a tough couple of days for the city. I actually wanted to cancel this little event so I could keep working on the federal relief paperwork for this most recent disaster, but then I realized this represents something important. The fundamental tenets of my time in office are tenacity, courage, and will to survive. That’s what I ran on in the wake of the Rose of Thorns disaster, and that’s what got me re-elected. That’s what the people of this city believe in.” He paused to take a breath.
“So when I saw this on my schedule, I had to ignore my first impulse to cancel it, because this event shows that we can rebuild. We can recover, and no matter what, we will survive. And so, despite the disaster that casts its shadow over us all, I am proud to announce that the wounds our city sustained in the last event are healed. Ladies and gentlemen, the world’s first Hypertube transportation network is now officially open!”
Mayor Banks raised the enormous pair of scissors hanging from a peg on the side of the podium and used them to cut the red ribbon across the repurposed subway station entrance that was behind him. The crowd gave a standing ovation -not that there was sitting room. Banks took a moment to look over the gathered people. Mostly the media and investors- not many others were willing to come out in the cold to watch the opening when they could watch it on television or online.
Once the applause died down, he continued.
“And now it is my pleasure to introduce the next speaker. The head of the team that created this marvel of modern technology, Mr. Johannes Ives.”
There was another round of applause as the tinker approached the stand. He stepped up onto the small wooden platform behind the podium, and shuffled some papers, then adjusted his glasses.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said with a small smile. “Public speaking isn’t really my specialty, but here goes.” He cleared his throat and held up one finger. “First, I’d like to start by saying that what you’re going to see down there is not what you expect. There seems to be a misapprehension about the Hypertube Transportation System that I’d like to correct. It is not a train system. There are no trains down there.” He leaned into the podium and raised his voice for the last sentence. “No trains.”
“She’s not dead,” Lumen said.
“Of course she’s not dead, Lu,” Mafic said, and rested an arm on the meeting room table. “But the last time she left a note this cryptic and vanished, she was gone for a month. We need to be prepared to handle things without her for a while.”
“And with the Anchor Boys destabilised, we could make a move on some of their territory,” Felsic finished, and Mafic nodded agreement.
The red-carpeted room was silent for a moment before Seep spoke up. “We don’t need her permission to make a move like that. We have this system for a reason.”
“Yeah, but who knows, she could be making a move of her own,” Mafic said.
“And it is that time of the month,” Opiate said, then glared at Seep when he chuckled. “I’m not talking about menstrual cycles, you adolescent. It’s almost a full moon, which means the boss is at her most stable. Whatever she’s up to, she’s got her head in the game.”
“Did you read the note?” Seep said, then recited the text message they’d all received. “‘Tripped over my shadow after he spent too long in the sun. Forgave and forgot, lying low to avoid the sabbath-’ this reads like she’s well into her crazy phase. She’s not even jewish.”
“Oh fuck.” Opiate said. “That’s what she meant. Temple Sun is in the city.”
“Oh fuck is right,” Lumen agreed, eyes going wide.
“Wait, Temple Sun, the mercenary group?” Felsic asked.
“No, Temple Sun the stained-glass window maker,” said Lumen. “Yes, the PMC.”
“And… why is this bad?” asked Seep. “Do you two have something you need to tell us? I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m really curious why I should care.”
“Looks like the girls are keeping a little secret,” Mafic said to Seep, and the three men turned to the women for an explanation.
Lumen and Opiate shared a glance, and then Opiate started to speak, but was cut off by a sudden cacophony of buzzes and ringtones as everyone present received a call. Myriad’s voice was easily audible to everyone in the room over seven sets of cell phone speakers when she spoke.
“I hope you’re not planning on making a move against the Anchor Boys. I’ve got someone I’m… auditioning,” she said. “And no, that is not a euphemism.”
“So, what you’re saying is you’ll handle it?” said Mafic, giving Seep a pointed look.
“That is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is I’m going to let someone else handle it, and then make you lot clean up the mess when he fucks it up. This guy may look like a big shot, but he’s all talk. I’ve seen inside his head.” Myriad paused. “He won’t last two days.”