From Point A to B – Part 1
Hale tapped the newly fitted fingers on her cybernetic right hand and waited for the Johnson to show up. Her decker friend Minder had setup the meet ,writing off her usual cut of the profits since the last job had resulted in Hale losing a hand.
The Starbucks on Broadway was nestled between a steakhouse and a sandwich shop. She was dressed in her best trying to fit in with the crowd but from the way the other patrons and baristas stole glances at her she might as well had SINless tattooed across her forehead. It could have been the fact that her Sunday best was a pair of tailored cargo pants she had picked up at a military surplus shop with a patched red leather jacket that was a size too large or that she was sipping complimentary water in the cup of shame instead of the bottled stuff. Either way her back was against the wall, literally, and her chair was angled to keep the two entrances in sight. There was no such thing as a safe area for a runner.
She fought back a sigh as a woman dressed in pure black with large dark sunglasses and a fake white wig paused in the doorway. Minder had said it was a milk run, something nice and easy to make amends but had failed to mention the client was a moron. The woman finally found her as she ‘covertly’ scanned the crowd and did her best sneaky walk over to the small table. If she used an accent Hale was going to send Minder a three hour block of The Hamster Dance.
“Are you a friend of Minder?” The woman restlessly stood by the open chair but had yet to sit.
“Sit, Miss Johnson,” Hale pushed the chair out with her boot.
“My name is-”
Hale held up a hand, “not my business.”
A look of confusion slowly was replaced with realization and the client smiled.
“Please, sit,” she repeated.
Miss Johnson sat and looked surreptitiously over her left shoulder then her right before speaking not realizing everyone was already looking at them, “I’m new to this.”
“Don’t worry,” Hale winked. “I’m not. What’s the job?”
“In two days I need you to pick up a package from this address,” she pulled a napkin from her pocket and slid it across the table. “Then deliver it to me at the address Minder will provide you.”
Hale took the napkin without looking at it and put it in the inside pocket of her jacket. She took a moment to take a drink from her free water to give her an excuse for silence. If she bought into the entire act, the bumbling woman tip-toeing into the shadows, this really was a milk run. The soft sound of her hand whirring made her realize that even if there was something deeper to this run she couldn’t pass it up, good cybernetics didn’t come cheap.
“Twenty thousand,” Miss Johnson nodded firmly.
After a moment of silence she held out a cred-stick, “five now, fifteen on delivery.”
“I’ll see you in two days,” Hale took the proffered payment and slid on her own pair of sunglasses before standing up and walking out of the coffee shop.
Her steady strides hid the nerves that were creeping up on her as she walked to the nearby parking lot. She had to sell her car to make the needed payment on her hand but one of her associates had lent her an old motorcycle. It was converted from an internal combustion engine to an early electronic motor but it didn’t go over forty miles an hour and desperately needed new tires along with a full overhaul. The only good thing about it was that it was so bad that no one even thought to steal it. On top of that it came with an old fashion set of saddlebag that looked kind of cool but couldn’t keep out a soft breeze let alone a half awake thief.
She unlatched the saddlebag to find her helmet and safety gear waiting for her. In this neighborhood no one would even look at them, even someone interested in easy loot wouldn’t bother with so many other targets around. If someone had taken a look at the elbow and knee pads they would have found them to be mundane safety gear without any frills or enhancements. They were cheap, effective, and easily replaceable, the same as the red helmet. The only extras it had were a custom fit chin strap and a yellow tinted visor. Being so cheap no one wanted it was something of a practiced anti-theft device she had worked out over the years.
Hale had a staging area on the corner of Second Street and Avenue C in Snohomish in what used to be a strip of stores about eight miles away. After the Awakening it had become something of a squatter’s paradise. The stores had been cleared out in the riots and now the space had been repurposed as a honeycomb of office space ranging from dentistry and Indian food to currier services such as the one Hale worked at.
She latched the chinstrap and closed the faceplate. While her look and supplies was carefully constructed to avoid loss through disinterest there were three things that were worth more than the bike and outfit combined. The first was the old-fashioned snub-nosed thirty-eight revolver in the shoulder holster under her jacket, the second was the custom made set of three thin blades strapped to her left thigh accessible from the faux-pocket, and the third was the personal computer complete with camera and LAN access in her sunglasses. In this world of walking WiFi networks and matrix cowboys breaking mega-corporation security precautions sometimes the best way to secure your information was to just to go old school.
Once she got back to the office she would send the picture she snapped of Miss Johnson to a couple of her contacts to run a check then, and only then would she call Minder. For a simple job like this the entire payment should have maybe been two-thousand if the route was hazardous. Twenty-thousand was just enough to get stupid and forget that to get paid meant surviving first.
The drive back to the office was uneventful and the route along the river was mostly pleasant but the more she thought about it the more this job did not sit right. She pulled the bike into one of the converted freight container that served as private parking for the office building. Security was handled by a small independent contractor that had started out at a roving gang before they got the idea to go legit. The private police agencies didn’t care much for this area due to the patches of untouched sections of forest and were content to claim the lowered crime rate as their doing.
With her bike locked securely into place along with the other lightweight vehicles she made her way down the exterior staircase then to the rear access of the building. The interior walls were a sort of high density plastic that was incredibly popular in modular construction these days. An open space could easily be split into compartments to just about any dimensions. It was widely used due to the fact that it was sound proof and if a bomb went off in one compartment it would be confined to the adjacent space. On the job her name was Haley Swain or Red to her friends, as a runner she was simply Hale.
Their five-by-ten compartment office was nestled between a nail salon and the back wall giving them a bit more privacy in exchange for the wafting stench of chemicals. W.M. H. Curriers was about as legit as a business could get, one of the founding members even had a SIN and before The Awakening had been a bike messenger. It was crazy to think that even in a world with drone driven cars and magicians a good old fashion currier could still get work. A lot of their work was above board, simple package delivery from point A to point B but Hale and Manny, the other employee, took side jobs for extra creds. Woods, Manny, and Hale were the only three employees of W.M.H. Curriers but with help from an automated answering service with an alternating voice it sounded like they were bigger than that.
Three desks which were basically chairs with an attached lap sized plates on a swivel were positioned along the right and back wall leaving as much open space as possible. In reality it left about two and a half feet to shift through and meant that having an orc or troll on staff was impossible.
Manny was sitting at his desk with the platform in the locked position and his right leg draped across it. His foot was tapping to a song only he could hear but he still managed to nod hello as she walked in. He hooked a thumb behind him and then mimed riding a bike meaning Woods was out on a delivery. Hale winked in acknowledgment and shimmied into her desk at the back and put her sunglasses and the cred-stick on the platform. She had welded an extra support to make it more like a real desk and to handle the company computer. She plugged in the cred-stick fist, running a program to make sure it wasn’t traced or hiding malicious code, and then attached her sunglasses to load the pictures. Woods didn’t really appreciate her or Manny using company time for runs but what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
The system dinged at her as she tried to open the file for the surveillance photos and Hale squinted at the screen. She read the message and accepted the offer to reformat the folder which had mysteriously been corrupted. Miss Johnson wasn’t as stupid as she looked but the cred-stick was clean.
“Manny,” she slipped the cred-stick back into her pocket and looked at her coworker.
“Manny,” she said it out louder this time but he still didn’t answer.
With a sigh she stood up, took two steps over to his desk, and hit to release switch on the swivel platform. His leg fell to the ground as the table smoothly clicked back into place. He was jarred forward, just barely managing to catch himself before his head hit the floor.
“What is your malfunction?” He yelled a bit too loud, his music was still on.
Hale tapped her ear and with a huff he pulled out his earphones.
“Shut up,” she smiled. “Want to make five hundred creds?”
The near-rage on his face changed to a very happy smile, “I do like creds. What’s the job?”
“I need some support on a run in a couple days,” she put her cybernetic hand in her jacket pocket. “Just to be safe, you know.”
Manny nodded knowingly, “getting all teched up is only enjoyable when it’s by choice.” He tapped behind his right ear. “Another grand I’m going subdermal.”
“I prefer to be able to put down my phone.”
“Phone?” He scoffed. “Music, you uncultured swine. What’s the plan?”
“In two days I’ve got a pick-up, you trail me and keep an eye out for trouble,” she wrote down the address from memory. “Once I get the package I’m getting the destination, it doesn’t smell right.” She paused then added. “I’m getting three grand for it.”
Manny whistled, “now, that is a lot for an A to B.”
“I snapped a couple of shots of the client but the files got corrupted and my gear isn’t even wireless.”
“Damn,” he coughed. “I’ll keep an eye out.”