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First Run

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Crimsondude

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« on: <02-12-22/2346:16> »
Somehow, I never shared this story I wrote like 15 years ago except on Shadowland.





The cabin was cramped, and virtually pitch black. The crew had been running at complete EMCON, and so the only active gauges and sensors were those in the pilot's simsense feed as he lay in the bow of the panzer jacked into the flying beast as they redballed across the Sioux Nation. Even the dim red lights that usually went active in this situation were off. Tonight the crew of Raptor Red was hunting for their own idea of big game; a commercial truck train of eight semi-autonomous tractor-trailers headed across the continent from Nebraska to Seattle. The train was completely autonomous, a high-rated pilot program with dedicated expert systems to get the goods stored inside of the trailers to Seattle as quickly and efficiently as possible. Its only ties to the shipping company at this point were through GPS tracking. Only in the gravest emergencies would the system's dog brain send an alert back to headquarters for a company rigger to jump into the driver's seat through satellite uplink. The image of the train rolling down the highways was a particularly fearsome one, especially at night precisely because most people couldn't see them. They raced across the continent at speeds in excess of 160 kph utilizing advanced sensor suites that made headlights unnecessary for the driverless vehicles, and which only served to warn drivers in the event that a metahuman driver was in its way. Given the sheer size and speed of the vehicles, the systems excelled at nighttime because that was when they could let loose on the highways with minimal interference from other vehicles.

They had tracked the train since it left Omaha. It was a corp vehicle, and couldn't even be inspected as it passed through the borders thanks to the Business Recognition Accords. Instead it made its way down what used to be Interstate 90 without incident as it passed into the Sioux Nation and past Rapid City. The train was about to hit the halfway point between Devil's Tower and Little Big Horn, and Raptor Red was preparing to make their move. The conditions were optimal. No moon out, partial cloud cover, no traffic or Sioux government presence for nearly a hundred kilometers in any direction, and they were about to hit a straightaway in the highway, a relic of the national defense purpose which led to the creation of the U.S. national highway system. The train's sensors would be on the lookout, though. The designers knew as well as the hunters how much easier this stretches of highway made it for hijackers. It was precisely for this reason that Raptor Red was under complete EMCON. The t-bird flew just a few meters above the scrub brush and desert floor, pacing the train from just over one hundred meters to its rear right. Back inside the cabin, Tony's hands shook a bit. He grabbed them and they stopped. In the darkness, he could feel a hand on his left forearm even through the Kevlar and nomex-clad BDUs he wore. He knew it was his mother. She sat next to him, calm and focused on the mission at hand. She was the magical support for the Raptor Red's crew; it's heart and soul. A half-breed growing up in the PCC when she met his father, she put her abilities to use with him as a smuggler and t-bird jammer until they formed their own crew. He felt a calm come over him as she touched his arm, and then he felt another hand smack his knee, hard.

"You're gonna do fine. Just follow me, bro." It was the voice of one of the other crewmembers, Damon. Damon was one of the actual hijackers who would be leading their excursion. He was a fearsome-looking ork from Las Vegas who had done it a million times before. Tony was glad that he would be there when he got his cherry popped as a hijacker and full-fledged crewmember. Tony closed his eyes for a second, and suddenly felt the big t-bird jerk forward as the pilot accelerated and rose above the grassland to a good altitude above and behind the train. The young man's eyes shot open, and the rush of adrenaline kicked in. Damon uttered, "Final check," and the cabin became alive with muted activity as the four hijackers checked their gear one last time. The crew was pretty confident. They had done this before, and it was one of the reasons why they made this Tony's initiation. If everything went according to plan, they'd make it to the RV point, unload the merch, and by the time the company realized what had happened they would be long gone.

The acceleration of the t-bird leveled off. He knew how the missions went. Right now the electronic warfare specicialist/ decker was distorting and manipulating the signals to and from the train while the pilot was jamming the sensors that might catch their otherwise stealth craft. He'd never actually seen it in action, and to Tony it was a thing of beauty as the two men pinged each other inside the craft's internal network. Then he and the others got their own signal. They all jacked out of the craft and switched on their comms, cyberware, and their own sensor gear. His facemask lit up, and he was given a cyberoptic vision of the cabin and crew created from the passive infrared and active low-light vision systems. At the same time, he could no longer hear the roar of the Raptor's engines, although he could still feel the vibrations under his ass. There was a sudden coldness in the cabin as the aft door's hydraulics lowered the ramp, and the cabin would have grown even louder at that point were it not for his cyber and gear. The ramp stopped with a thirty degree inclines, and through his helmet's augmented vision Tony could see the asphalt beneath them as a blur, and then felt a bump as the t-bird accelerated. He steadied himself, and released his harness. The gear was sufficiently snug that it didn't flap in the breeze as he watched the asphalt turn into the tops of the tractor-trailers that comprised the train. The t-bird continued to accelerate until they overcame the lead truck with its matte black aerodynamic "cabin" which was behind them. This was probably the trickiest part of any hijacking when it came to the trains. It sped along at just over 160 kph, and the Raptor had to remain steady while the four men leapt onto the thing from above. Luckily, that's where Mom fit in. She had summoned a strong sky spirit to protect them in this regard and assist them in moving quickly from the Raptor to the truck. He couldn't hear her command it, but suddenly the swirl of air in the cabin calmed, and he felt much safer with what they were about to attempt.

Damon was the first one to leap. Possessing intrinsic magical abilities as an adept, the ork made a mighty leap onto the truck from the edge of the ramp, assisted by the spirit and his own natural gifts. Tony watched him as he landed, and then took a knee to brace himself as he used his pair of climbing claws to get a handhold onto the otherwise featureless roof. There was a nylon rope attached to the ork, which was also attached to Tony and the other two men, and it whipped in the wind. Tony was next, and Damon stretched out his hand towards the ramp while the young man approached the ramp. Unlike Damon he was not an adept, but he had possessed certain augmentations that made him stronger and faster, and capable of making this leap. He steadied himself, took a breath, and then jumped out of the t-bird.


Landing on the roof of the lead truck, Tony's instincts were to reach out for Damon's hand, which he grabbed with his left arm. With his right arm, Tony placed a gloved palm firmly on the front of the cabin and pushed himself towards the ork, and behind him. He held onto the ork and looked back at the t-bird above them. He looked back at the ramp, and the next man was about to jump. His name was Cruz, and he was a heavily cybered elf. Cruz looked sleek and almost feral in Tony's display, and he took a running leap off the ramp, pushing off with his right left as the hydraulic jacks in his legs compressed. The elf's timing was nothing short of amazing, and the jacks combined with his other augmentations and natural abilities launched the elf over both of them. He landed with a thud that Tony could feel in his knees. The three men crouched on top of the lead truck, confident on the skills of the two riggers inside to convince the truck that it didn't just gain a couple hundred kilos on its roof.

Tony could see the Raptor decelerate and climb as the last man fell out of the back of the t-bird. Back to the ground, his body was straight and arms extended as his feet left the ramp and Raptor climbed as near to vertical as a LAV could without stalling. Always a showoff, Viktor's arms came into his chest, and he tucked himself into a ball, spinning through the air over the vehicle before landing in a crouch behind Cruz with another noticeable thud. Raptor Red arced to the right across the sky and would make a pass again to pick them up in a few minutes.

With the four men on the lead rig, it was time to get to work. Viktor and Cruz effectively ran forward to the cabin of the rig. They had to bypass the security countermeasures and effectively disable the train's autopilot so that they could install their own system to re-route the train to an RV point where another group of smugglers would distribute as much of the merch from inside the trucks as possible before anyone noticed it was missing. They also needed to gain control of some of the navigation hardware to convince the GPS that it was still redballing along the 90 at top speed. The two men crouched along, and then got on their stomachs and slid forward, with Tony and Damon providing the counterweight to the two men who would have to access the cabin while in front of eight fast-moving tractor trailers each fully loaded. Viktor reached the front of the vehicle first, and found a foothold. Cruz then followed, his cyberarms finding a tight handhold on a bit of space he made himself. The tricky part was to come next, because Viktor was about to fall/slide under the truck to access the primary security system. Given the circumstances, the shipping corps who operated these vehicles didn't make it easy for hijackers. The four men worked silently, and Viktor, being the crazy one, was upside down in front of the train. Using the rope line for leverage, along with Cruz's assistance, he straightened his body out and pushed away, arms extended. Were it not for his cyberware, such a feet would be virtually impossible as he rested horizontal, mere centimeters above the asphalt. He grabbed onto a hold underneath the vehicle and pulled himself forward. The rope line disappeared under the front bumper.

On top of the truck, Tony strained against the weight and stress being put on the line. The rope stopped moving, and some slack appeared in the rope. All he knew was that underneath them, the Ukrainian was performing what might as well be brain surgery while attached to a truck's undercarriage, while it was moving. Once he was in position, Viktor knew where to attach his own harness to the vehicle so the three men didn't have to hold him. The crew worked in silence, and after a minute and a half, they heard a single beep in their comm units. Cruz then went to work.

In the front of the truck, he attached himself to the grill and pulled out a multitool, and began to access a hatch above the grill. They would need to install a tap into the drive controls that fed into the engine, and the only place to access it was right in front of the vehicle. Doing so would also allow them to disable the primary countermeasure, which would otherwise prevent them from taking control of the train. A small panel above the grill came off, and slipped into a pouch Cruz had opened which was installed into his clothing. He put the multitool away and found a wire connection inside the panel by feel, his fingertip toolkit stripping the wire and exposing a small wire bundle. One of the tools in the toolkit clamped around the wire, and cybernetically an electronic diagnostic device implanted into his cyberarm convinced the system to accept him as a valid user. He then ordered the machine to shut down, to which it willingly complied. A short beep over the comm, and it was Damon and Tony's turn as he unclamped from the wire bundle. He retrieved the panel and affixed it back in place. With that complete, he unhooked himself from the rope, which was attached to the two men. The elf then climbed up the rope, taking care not to affect the line, which was still attached to the crazy bastard under the truck.

Back on top, Tony helped Cruz up as Damon used the truck's top-mounted spoiler for leverage and as a windbreak to remove a small drill from his belt with a screwdriver bit. He unscrewed the two front screws from a panel on top of the truck. The panel wouldn't give them control of the truck. That was what Viktor was taking care of underneath them. However, this did give them access to the satellite and radio receivers which they needed to access for Viktor's work to be completely useful. They would be driving the trucks remotely from Raptor, which meant that they needed access to the equipment to install their own remote control receiver in the top of the truck. Once Cruz was on top of the truck, he took over the rope duties while Tony pulled out his own drill and removed the other two screws. They removed the square half-meter panel, and Tony slid it into his harness behind his back along with his drill while Damon did the same. He watched as Damon pulled out an electronic tester, a small palmtop computer, and a set of tools, and began to rewire the insides of the truck. He removed a small black box, and handed it to Tony, who put it into one of his pockets while removing an identical box from another pocket and handing it to Damon. The ork took the box and reinstalled it into the space that had just been vacated, and began reattaching wires, checking to make sure the connections worked. He removed the palmtop, which was actually a spoofing device from the connection, and put the tools away. The ork sent a message to Viktor over the comm: Takedown.

Underneath the truck Viktor had been accessing the various pieces of hardware that controlled the truck train. He had actually found enough space to crawl inside the truck from underneath using an access panel, Once Damon gave him the go Viktor did what would probably be the damned-foolest idea imaginable in this situation. He severed the autopilot hardware from the engine controls. In a system like this, if anything happens to the autopilot the system immediately sends a distress call out to the network. However, the network wasn't going to go back to the shipping company. Instead, it was being broadcast to a rigger in a nearby t-bird who had been waiting. The switchover was relatively instantaneous, and the pilot of Raptor Red was controlling the truck train remotely as the t-bird redballed across the Sioux wastelands. Meanwhile, inside the truck, Viktor waited.



The RV point was out in the middle of nowhere outside of Little Big Horn. They got off on an abandoned off ramp and drove down the road several kilometers. Meanwhile, a drone with the transponder and GPS chips from the truck was traveling along I-90. With the trucks stopped, and Raptor Red landed, they produced a massive radar-absorbing tarp.

It wasn't ruthenium, but it was dark enough and remote enough that it would be concealed for a sufficient length of time. The four men on the truck got off, or out from inside, and began to work on breaking the maglocks which protected the sweet, sweet merch inside the trailers. The EW rigger remained inside the LAV jamming any transponders that would be in the trailers set to go off before they were supposed to do so until the hijackers could kill them, too. The rest of the crew of Raptor Red got out of the t-bird and helped to ready the trailers. There would be smugglers meeting them in a short time to take the trailers away to various third-parties, and the sooner this was done the better. As Tony worked on a maglock for one of the trailers, his mother passed by and congratulated him on a fine job, as did the three men who had been on the trucks with him. Finally, the pilot walked up to him, and shook his hand. "Congratulations, son. You're one of us now."

It didn't take long for the smugglers to arrive from the opposite direction in a convoy of manned tractor-trailer rigs. They would unhook the trailers, hand them off to the smugglers, and be on their way. As is happened, Tony finished brute forcing the lock on his trailer as they arrived. He opened the trailer, and a sudden blast of cold air hit him in the face and upper body. It was a refrigerator truck containing large pallets of goods in the cardboard boxes. He scanned the labels on one of the containers. It was 100% USDA Prime Beef. They were stealing meat. He turned on the bug scanner and ran it across the inside of the trailer, looking for any transponders or loose radio emissions. As he crawled through the boxes, he realized that it wasn't just beef. It was real beef from cows, and it was probably worth more money than most people would ever see in their lives, sitting in this trailer headed to Seattle, and possibly Asia. Tony let out a low whistle, and he noticed the scanner did the same. The transponder was in the back of the trailer in a corner. It was a tiny thing, no bigger than a wristphone. He dug it out from some frost and pried it from the wall. Crawling back out of the trailer, he came face to face with the biggest, blackest, meanest-looking troll he'd ever seen in his life.

"Need a hand?" the troll said in a deep baritone. He extended a hand to Tony, and effectively lifted him out of the trailer with one hand.

"Thanks," Tony replied.

"No prob. Hey... Congrats on losing your cherry." The troll added.

"Thanks." Tony turned back towards his ride before he heard the troll call out to him again.

"You forgot your stuff." Tony turned around and the troll tossed a box to him from inside the trailer. He caught the box, and walked back to the trailer. The troll grabbed three more boxes and piled them on top of the first box. "Take care, man."

"Thanks." Tony then walked back to Raptor, transponder in his pocket and beef in his arms.


Outside Raptor Red, Tony saw his father concluding a wire transfer with some of the smugglers, and walked past them to the aft cargo ramp. He wasn't the only one bearing gifts from the hijacking, and more were coming from the rest of the guys. It would still be cramped, now because of the food, but at least they all didn't have to crowd in the back to jump out of a perfectly good LAV. He stowed his stash and took a seat near the "cockpit" and the rest of the crew began sliding in as well. The second rigger was still jacked into the t-bird providing overwatch for the meet while the trucks began to drive off to parts unknown. Within a few minutes, the turbine engines of the LAV were activated, and they pushed off for their next stop, Lady Jane's inside the UCAS.

Crimsondude

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« Reply #1 on: <02-18-22/2313:04> »
At least the spambot liked it.

Sugarpink

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« Reply #2 on: <04-18-22/1715:32> »
Unusual for a run to go this well.  ;D

I think this was, for the most part, nicely written. :)