Author Topic: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling  (Read 2593 times)

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Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« on: (16:55:20/01-09-13) »
At our one and only face to face, as I had slipped into the Flow and watched data stream all around Mr. Johnson – recent messages sent via his Sony commlink, incoming data that tracked his heart rate and pupil dilation, skin temperature sensors, voice stress recognition protocols, hacked software that meticulously marked his pleased reaction to me being both elven and a technomancer – I had decided to accept the job, but the warnings from so many friends had made me wary.  My Black Star allies vouched for him, but no one else I knew, whether full time runner or another technomancer from the Co-Op, was willing to touch this job with a three-meter pole.  I took the gig, but I didn’t give them my hacker tag, pirate handle, or street name.  This guy, all plastic smiles and perfect hair, gene-crafted tan and Vashon Island cyberoptics, this Mr. Johnson who my homework had shown me was [Hogan Sanders & Associates:Legal Advisor:Proposition 23:Richard Blankenberg], he wanted me to assassinate Kenneth Brackhaven for the benefit of his orkish clients?  He wanted me to butcher the rich for the good of the poor?  I was game, but he’d have to call me Robin Hood.

None of my regulars were interested.  They lacked the zeal for it, or were encumbered by the cowardice that modern people insisted be called common sense.  Quince and Caleb turned me down, but were willing to lend me some Hermetic research notes in a KnowSoft I picked apart and memorized in minutes.  With them out, I wouldn’t have Akroma’s muscle and trollish violence at my back, either.  Snatch and Grab cussed me out when I asked them to provide direct rigger support, ending the trid call by calling me a crazy-ass keebler that would get them both killed.  Luckily Snatch called me back an hour later and at least offered to help me kit myself out, so I had plenty of hardware.  Jackknife, over at Black Cross, supplied the explosives at bulk rates.  I drank deep from the Matrix for the rest of the two days I had prior to the hit, stacking the deck in my favor every way I could, researching, planning, tapping the Co-Op as a brainstorming engine.  I was as ready as I would ever get, especially given the high profile target and the short prep-time.  Johnson had paid extra for the rush job, though.  It would be worth it.  I’d advance the message, give Black Star a more than fair cut, leave anonymous donations a few places, cut Snatch in fair and square, and still make a tidy profit. 

Propaganda by deed; I’d done it before, but as the convoy of one Kenneth Brackhaven came rolling up behind me across the New Evergreen Point bridge, I couldn’t help but smile inside my helmet.  Sometimes business was a real pleasure, and today’s contract couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  One of my Ford LEBDs circled high overhead as he finished a rally in Bellevue.  The machine sprite flying it, Will Scarlet, dutifully reported back to me from behind top-notch RFID hacks that flagged him as law enforcement, relaying information gathered by razor’s edge sensorware.  Brackhaven had three Suburbans each with five in-house Parapet Security executive operators, a personal chauffeur that was dripping with subtle combat chrome, and the sleek lines of his Nightsky limo hid armor that would make a Citymaster blush.  He did everything in his considerable power to put up walls between himself and the wrath of the people.  None of it would help him.

I played along as his personal gridguide override pushed the routine 520 traffic to one side.  It was just like Brackhaven to shove the common man out of his way so his retinue, sneering knights on armored steeds, could swagger past us and spit on the peasants.  I didn’t have to, but I let it tug my bike towards the curb and gently brake me.  One gloved hand clenched around my Rapier’s handlebars a little tighter, though, and in pettiness I split my mind in two, sending one half of my consciousness to spin up an Orxanne tune.  California Dreaming Remix was still her best album, a counter-culture rap/rock hybrid fueled by the anti-metahuman hysteria surrounding Saito’s occupation.  It was perfect.  I had to play it at three times the normal speed, mind, but piped into my overclocking head it sounded just fine.

Another splinter of my attention broke off and slipped overhead, checking on Will, Alan-A-Dale, and Much as they spun predatory circles over the long floating bridge, drone bodies held aloft by righteous anger, all sleek Ford lines and Ingram weapon pods.  Small windows popped up in my field of vision as I began to monitor their camera feeds, then I threw my mind backwards through traffic, checking on the pair of recently stolen pick-up trucks I’d commandeered for the struggle.  Thirty-five meters behind me,  Little John in his battered old GAZ gave me his equivalent of a nod and a ready engine growl.  Friar Tuck, nestled cheerfully within a Dust Devil several car lengths behind him, nodded serenely.  Machine sprites were obedient.  Good soldiers.  Neither one had it in them to complain about how Snatch and I had packed them full of Neo-Anarchist semtex liberated from a construction site or bolted claymore mines to their automobile bodies then smoothed over and hidden them with det-foam.  Sprites were loyal to the wishes of their compiler, and mine were devout revolutionaries.  They’d do what they were told for the good of the movement.

Everything was ready.  It was time for the last bit of flair that had earned me such a heavy bonus from Mr. Johnson.  My internal simrig, a data processing routine that I had long ago picked apart, understood, and integrated into my organic node without means of clumsy and invasive external hardware, began to record everything I felt and saw.  Every sensor in every drone, my own vision, the taste of sweat and excitement inside my rider’s helmet, the heat and protection of my armored riding leathers, the feel of the bike beneath me, Orxanne’s angry vocals, the electricity of violence about to be loosed…I could show them almost everything, recorded live and piped directly to my employer through a secure channel that routed it through thirty-two anonymous providers, buffers and switchbacks, but still showed them their requested assassination near-simulcast. 

They saw everything I saw except the most important part, of course; I couldn’t truly share being a technomancer with them.  The intangible and vital truths I was confronted with simply by breathing and opening my eyes, the Flow that I swam in, the constant streams of information and outrage that spurred me to wear the Black Hat proudly, fly the skull and crossbones, offer and ask no quarter, and hack the world?  That couldn’t be truly understood by anyone but my brothers and sisters.  But everything else?  Yes.  They saw everything else.

They and I watched through the sensors in Tuck and John, through the upgraded lenses built into Will, Alan, and Much, and through my own meat eyes and Rapier-sharp rearview mirror – all at once, all seamlessly combining into a single cohesive mental image, all draped in the Flow, the constant Flow, of precious data yearning to be free – and I knew the exact moment that Brackhaven’s caravan carried their mage forward so that my presence triggered his warning spell.  I was no magician, but I had done my homework.  Detect Enemies, it was called in academic circles.  There were ways around it, but none that I had access to.  Instead, then, I’d planned up a way to use it.

With the amount of Long Haul I’d taken in preparation for this job, there wasn’t a soul in the Matrix that could hide from me.  I knew who each member of Brackhaven’s protection detail was, I had identified each of them – just like Brackhaven himself – with facial recognition and gait analysis software as they’d climbed into their vehicles this afternoon, I had cross-referenced each with highly classified Parapet Security files while I waited for them to arrive just to double-check the work I’d done in the days before I’d come to this bridge.  I knew who they were, what they could do, and how and when they would do it. 

I knew, real-time, when [Brackhaven Investments:Parapet Security:Field Operative:Combat Hermetic:Michael Overcash] recognized me as a danger, precisely eighty-one yards away, and my employer and I watched and listened as he triggered his headware Hermes Ikon to send a quick burst of information to [Brackhaven Investments:Parapet Security:Field Operative:Evasive Driver:Chad Tillman], driving their lead Suburban.  I could have snatched the warning out of the air like taking candy from a baby, but instead I watched through six sets of eyes as Tillman overrode the controls of every vehicle under his command and their big tires screeched as brakes did their work and they slewed to a halt.  He was good, and his control was quick and precise.  They stopped, in fact, right on the mark.  The lead Suburban was precisely twenty five yards away, just next to a rusted-out old GAZ pick-up truck.

Little John chuckled with glee and then roared in my head.  The truck peeled away from the curb and, turning as impossibly as only a trained rigger or a true sliver of the machine could do, slammed bodily against the armored tool of oppression that led their convoy.  At the rear of their caravan, Friar Tuck in his Conestoga shouted a prayer of condemnation and charged their rearmost Suburban.  Both of my sprites rammed their truck-bodies alongside their chosen targets perfectly.

Orxanne's anti-Saito lyrics filled my head as the dual explosions rocked the bridge.  Tuck and John’s sensor feeds went dead, but I felt the vital essence of each sprite as it returned to the Flow that surrounded us all, and I watched through the eyes of Will, Much, and Alan as each end of Brackhaven’s convoy transformed into twisted masses of fire and blood and steel.  John and Tuck had done their jobs, and Snatch and I had prepared them well; the shaped charges we’d used kept peripheral damage to the minimum realistic expectation.  Nearby drivers were terrified but alive, and I watched as those in front of John and behind Tuck shouted at their commlinks and prayed to the electric demigod of gridguide to let them flee.  I saw the data pour from them even though my ringing ears kept me from hearing them.  That they lived was my gift to them, in the hopes that they would see that the movement was a righteous one.  I wasn’t here for their blood, I was here to give them Brackhaven’s.

My Rapier spit black smoke as the rear wheel churned and I twisted the bike – unclaimed by gridguide’s snatching claws – around to face the remains of the convoy.  One slice of my mind watched as my airborne drones rained down lead on the remaining Suburban, firing terrible bursts of armor-penetrating ammunition down at the Parapet vehicle.  Each of my Merry Men had carefully monitored the thermographic readings of the vehicle, and been meticulously aiming accordingly.  Much’s opening shots tore into the heaving engine block of the SUV, while Will and Alan both leveled their attached White Knights at the red thermal blob of [Brackhaven Investments:Parapet Security:Field Operative:Evasive Driver:Cody Lee].  Orxanne roared about injustice as I redlined my Yamaha Rapier, hurling myself towards the chattering autofire, the clouds of smoke, the bits of steel still falling from the sky, and the frantic emergency alarms streaming from Brackhaven’s limousine.

One point two seconds after crippling the remaining Parapet SUV, Much continued to fire on the heat-images of the security men inside the Suburban, while Will Scarlet and Alan-A-Dale twisted and climbed, spun and began to dogfight, turning their machineguns and armor-savaging rounds on legitimate Knight Errant and Parapet security drones that buzzed in the air all around them.  My Merry Men gave me the high ground, and I was determined to hold it.  My sprites were skilled and loyal, and the mechanical tools of the oppressors, machines born slaves to the system, began to fall from the sky in a metal rain.  My Rapier and I sped through it, blew past the smoke and wreckage of Little John’s sacrifice and past the Parapet goons being picked apart by Much.

I tapped into my long-since absorbed Combat Biker 4.1 Activesoft, and slewed my bike to a stop next to Brackhaven’s limo.  One sliver of my mind oversaw the dogfight going on overhead, another guided Much’s fire and sent him pulses of approval, another sang along with Orxanne’s “Live Fire Exercise,” another monitored outgoing datastreams and checked for media and law enforcement, all as – there, with my meat body – one part of my multitasking consciousness kicked a leg up and over my racing bike and reached out with my mind to seize control of the Mitsubishi limo.

I had found an administrative backdoor through careful mental probes eight hours earlier, before [Brackhaven Investments:Brackhaven Direct:Chaffeur:Jeremiah Grant] had even woken up to eat his usual breakfast.  I’d found it, tested it, and left it sitting there, closed but unlatched, waiting for me.  Brackhaven’s personal goon, a combat rigger with a long twelve-year record with Ares black ops, was present in the limo’s node.  I saw his icon and let him see mine.  Then I took his car from him.  I co-opted his external and internal sensors and – even as my own eyes took in new fields of vision – filled his screens with black stars, shut down his user account privileges one by one but left him logged in to watch all the rest.  I overrode the secure locks on every door to bind them, forced every window to full autotint to blind them, and wrenched the 4498 cc engine to 5000 rpms, howling to deafen and terrify them. 

I reached into my sling-bag for my gun, for the gun, the one that would end Brackhaven once and for all.  It wasn’t my usual Ingram, my perpetual favorite, no.  For today’s mission, I’d chosen something more disposable, yes, but more importantly something symbolic;  a boxy little short-barreled AK 97.  It was, crucially, a Kalishnikov.  The globally recognized weapon of the common man.  The symbol of global revolution.  Perfect.

Orxanne urged me on as one hand dipped into a pocket and came up with a SlimDisk concussion grenade.  I willed the rear window open exactly one point seven-nine inches, slid the grenade in like an old-time quarter going into an old-time slot, and whisked the window shut again.  The armor of their terrific machine, the sound proofing that kept Brackhaven from ever being bothered by the citizens he claimed to represent, impressed me;  I was only really aware of the whump of the grenade going off because I was linked to the machine itself. 

I gripped my AK in my left hand while I ordered the door to open, and even as my SpIn-X custom right arm reached in to effortlessly pull a shocked Brackhaven from his chariot, grabbing him by the tie to do so, another shard of me watched with grim pleasure as my three Merry Men, my eyes and guns in the sky, fell into vulture-like circling, each of them done with their tasks for the moment and warily patrolling on my behalf.  The skies were liberated.  I emptied my magazine into the driver’s well, chewing through the unarmored seat-back and silencing Brackhaven’s personal driver.  The datastreams were alive with calls for Knight Errant, but it had been only nineteen seconds since the initial explosion and reinforcements were lifetimes away.

Brackhaven was bleeding from the nose, mouth, and ears, and wisps of smoke rose from his once-impeccable suit.  I dumped him unceremoniously onto the pavement and methodically planted my bootheel on his chest.  Let him feel it for a change. 

“People like you have been doing this to people like me for years since the second Crash, for decades since the Awakening, and for centuries before either.”  I didn’t care that his eardrums had been blown out by the grenade, I let the speakers in my helmet project my voice so that my simrig would pick it up.

“Sic semper tyrannis,” my voice came out tinny and distorted, but strong.  I leveled my carbine.  Brackhaven blinked at me stupidly.

A jet of blue-white fire burst out of the wreckage of the first Parapet Suburban, overloading the sensors built into Alan-A-Dale, then sending the melted, charred, wreckage of the drone tumbling from the sky even as the sprite itself fled into the depths of the Flow. 

I watched through Will and Much’s lenses as [Brackhaven Investments:Parapet Security:Field Operative:Combat Hermetic:Michael Overcash] clambered from the heap of an SUV, glowing with power and sorcerous protection.  Both my drone-sprites began to rain fire onto him from above, even as Will nimbly counterthrusted and slid sideways to avoid a second gout of magical flame.  The autotint feature of my helmet’s visor protected me from the glare of the unnatural fire and I leveled my Kalishnikov.  Our fire was accurate, but all three of us were stymied;  our bullets hosed at him, my own reaction time spun up fast enough I could see them in flight, but then they ran into a temporal distortion of his own.  No, not temporal.  Physical.  As each bullet got within nine meters of him, it hit a wall, slowing in mid-air until it was moving at him sluggishly, impossibly halted, hanging before him so that they could be, if he cared, lazily plucked from the air.

He turned his attention towards me, bloody from the blast but a hound that remained loyal to his master.  I ducked behind the Nightsky again, well aware that his line of sight would be the death of me.  I watched Much and Will continue to fire on him as I put in a fresh magazine, then smiled inside my helmet after I spent point-three-seven seconds plumbing the Hermetic Grimoire datafile my friends had given me.  The spell was called Slow.  I knew everything about it, now, so I knew how to beat him.  One foot kept Brackhaven pinned as my mind reached out and commanded the Mitsubishi limousine.

Its powerful engine snarled, wheels spun, and it lurched into motion.  I saw [Brackhaven Investments:Parapet Security:Field Operative:Combat Hermetic:Michael Overcash] open his jaw in shocked dismay as the sheer mass of the vehicle slammed into his protective bubble, shattering the Slow effect a heartbeat before the limo’s front grill broke every bone below his waistline.  My Merry Men raked him with fire from above, and in a spray of blood I was left alone with Brackhaven…

Critias

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #1 on: (16:55:31/01-09-13) »


…who suddenly wasn’t Brackhaven.

In the same instant their mage died, the man under my boot melted and changed as a spell – Physical Mask, my internal database helpfully told me – died away.  His face was still bloody from the grenade, still perplexed by being confronted with violence on a quiet afternoon, but it was no longer Kenneth Brackhaven.  Now Joshua Quinn, Deputy Metroplex Attorney, gawked up at me.  I pressed the muzzle of my Kalishnikov against his sternum and squeezed the trigger.  An ally of evil is still evil.

In the same instant, the Flow came alive and the mystery fell into puzzle pieces waiting to be put together.  I shifted and shunted the multi-tasking slivers of my consciousness and attention, even while my leathers got spattered with blood and the heap of meat under my foot shook and died.  The datastream all around me filled, at once, with media outlets streaming a near-live broadcast.  I watched on a two-second delay, looking through the lenses built into my own LEBD aerial patrol drones, as a sinister figure in a black racing suit leveled an AK at a cowering suit-clad figure.  I watched an in-field display from my smartgun camera as the light caught on his UCAS flag lapel pin.  I watched as the guncam shook from recoil and was covered in red.

I lifted my head and glared defiantly upwards, wanting to look my betrayers in their virtual eyes.  I had two seconds while I waited for the broadcast to catch up to my real-time movements, and I used them to make sense of it.  Two seconds was all the time in the world to me.  I screamed through my own internal memory banks, overclocking myself and speeding through half-remembered datatrails quicker than, perhaps, anyone else alive.  I found it.  The link.  Mr. Johnson’s credit rating, payment history, payroll information, holes in his savings smoothed over by deposits his payroll data didn’t account for.  I cross-referenced instantly with Brackhaven Investment records I’d plundered a day and a half ago.  They matched up.  Damn them.

The datastream was screaming warnings at me, each near-live feed accompanied by plastic-faced newscasters speaking excitedly about a metahuman assault on the Deputy Metroplex Attorney, about a technomancer attack on Kenneth Brackhaven’s close ally, about a terrorist assault on every value Seattle and Brackhaven hold dear, the murder of his good friend and confidant, the fabric of society being unraveled by dissidents and anarchists.  I was their dream come true.  I was their perfect set-up.  I was their bogeyman.  They’d kill me if they could, I’d spend years looking over my shoulder – just like Quince and Snatch and Grab and the rest had warned me – but in the meantime I was their new poster boy.  Brackhaven had sent his friend to the chopping block, giving up Quinn in exchange for good press and the chance to spread yet more hatred.

In the distance, I saw and heard Knight Errant closing in, backtracing their emergency calls effortlessly and feeling them get closer.  I lifted my left hand to flash the middle finger skyward, then turned and leapt off the bridge.  As I fell, I sent Much and Will back out of their LEBD bodies and ordered the dog-brains of the drones to fly due west.  As I hit the water, I let the weight of my racing leathers and my steel-toed boots, the heft of my Kalishnikov and the lack of buoyancy in my SpIn-X arm, pull me down into the cold and darkness of Lake Washington.

Right onto the saddle of my waiting Proteus Lamprey, too deep under the water to be visible by Knight Errant’s routine sensor sweeps.  I tugged an oxygen mask into place as my helmet and AK sank away from me, and Maid Marian brought the sea sled to life.  I shot through the lake like a torpedo, due east, where I had smuggler friends waiting for me on Council Island, sovereign NAN territory.  I had a Sinsearach SIN all lined up, and I’d be in Boise – getting a new face – inside two hours.

Then I’d be back.  The movement needed me.

Critias

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #2 on: (16:57:01/01-09-13) »
[Couldn't quite fit this puppy in one window, thanks to the character limit.  It's, uh, also kind of what got it cut from Dirty Tricks;)  Length issues, publishing issues, yadda yadda yadda.  Still, it was a fun one to write, and I really wanted to show that (a) Brackhaven is a lot of things, but he isn't an idiot, and (b) sometimes Technomancers and stuff are a little bit inhuman.  The POV guy on this one is meant to be a little..."off"...and I think it showed alright. 

Enjoy!]

VajraSupremus

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #3 on: (16:16:32/01-10-13) »
I always love your work. This is Hotspur, right? The referencing of a Spinrad model cyberlimb had me connecting the dots.

Valashar

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #4 on: (12:57:23/01-11-13) »
Definitely enjoyed this, especially the parts about how he uses the simrig form to pull everything together.
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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #5 on: (23:27:58/01-19-13) »
excellent as always Critias, cant wait for more.
May god grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the firepower to make the difference.

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #6 on: (12:18:02/01-23-13) »
Thanks fellas, glad you dug it. Most of my "more" will be in actual books for a good long while, but I have fun sharing what I can on here. If it ain't under NDA, I try to let'cha read it. ;)

VajraSupremus

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #7 on: (16:58:34/01-23-13) »
Thanks fellas, glad you dug it. Most of my "more" will be in actual books for a good long while, but I have fun sharing what I can on here. If it ain't under NDA, I try to let'cha read it. ;)

It's well worth the wait, IMO. Just keep on doing your brand of literary wizardry, and I'm sure your fans will enjoy the day we get to read your stuff once more.

Hellion

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #8 on: (16:39:53/03-13-13) »
Thanks fellas, glad you dug it. Most of my "more" will be in actual books for a good long while, but I have fun sharing what I can on here. If it ain't under NDA, I try to let'cha read it. ;)
It's not breaking an NDA if we use an autopicker on the doors, shoot you with a narco jet dart, and then use the monofilament chainsaw to cut the safe out of the wall and crack it at the safe house right ???!

I have to say I will definitely be among the first to buy any of the books your involved in either as a single author or a compilation, I've enjoy everything I have read so far
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Red Canti

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #9 on: (02:31:38/05-04-13) »
Man. I cannot stand the fact he up and shot the guy after it became obvious it was a setup.

He could've been a useful resource or at the very least an amusing decoy.
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Warmachinez

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #10 on: (09:08:30/05-08-13) »
Nice Job Critias!

Really liked the whole Robin Hood metaphore, it contributes to making the character seem a little "off" as you say.
Chaos? Lack of protection? Enemies lurking in the shadows? Sounds
to me like the fun’s just beginning. Sorry you’ll miss it, omae.
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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #11 on: (07:03:05/05-12-13) »
Awesome.  Don't let those NDAs stop you, we won't tell if you don't.   8)
Remember, you don't have to kill the vehicle to stop it, just kill the guy driving it.

Deepeyes

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Re: Snipped "Dirty Tricks" Fiction: Castling
« Reply #12 on: (19:10:31/05-28-15) »
Awesome work as usual ;)