Sean ducked into a public restroom just outside of a men’s apparel store. He locked the stall behind him and hung his backpack on a rung on the back of the door. He took a second to peek under the stalls to either side - the place was empty.
He set his operator case on the floor behind the toilet and proceeded to remove his shirt. Blood dripped from his upper arm where he had been hit by a lance and his shirt was now completely ruined, he dropped it to the floor to soak up some of the blood that dripped from his elbow. He turned to open his backpack and removed the first aid kit that he carried everywhere he went.
In a few moments he had the wound layered in bandages and wrapped with gauze. He fished out a few pills from a small unlabeled bottle and choked them down with a quick swallow of water from a small bottle in his pack.
The bleeding addressed, he grabbed a light workout jacket from his bag and hung it over the stall door. He reloaded his firearm and then stashed it in has pack before resecuring it. He quickly dropped to the floor and slid out of the stall, leaving the door locked from the inside.
After a quick sink bath he dried off with disposable towels and grabbed his jacket from the stall door.
Sean looked around and found a sign used to indicate that the bathroom was being cleaned and set it at the entrance of the doorway as he exited.
The shop attendants were all milling around the doorways of the various shops on this level. Some were leaning over the central railings and looking up toward the upper levels where there was a flurry of people running back and forth in the mayhem above.
Sean strolled into the men’s clothing store without a glance from the shop keeper. He grabbed a handful of items, what would pass for street wear (or was it workout wear - hard to tell) in this part of the city and took them to a fitting room. The door was locked but he let himself in without much effort.
After stripping tags and stacking them in a pile, he changed out of his jacket, sweat soaked slacks and his dress shoes and put on the new threads. Sean looked in the mirror, his pupils were tightly constricted and his breathing was still heavy. He stopped for a moment to calm his nerves. Doubt began to creep into his mind.
He replaced his dimension frames and noted the same series of messages, “Homestead: Report”.
Sean froze momentarily, uncertain of what to do. He felt sick. He dismissed the messages and enabled sleep mode to avoid further notifications.
He rolled up his pants, shoes and jacket and tucked them under his arm as he exited the changing stall.
He found a pair of street shoes to complete his ensemble. Sean made his way to the counter and hailed a merchant to process his sale. He stuffed the old clothes in a bag and exited the store to retrieve his belongings in the bathroom.
Sean mopped up the blood and produced a ruck sack from his pack to store the old garments, he needed to dispose of these securely since the were loaded with his (and some other unfortunate guy’s) DNA. For now they were stuffed into his pack.
Sean called up a map of the tower he was in, First Imperial. He needed a plan. Sean made his way to a transport tunnel in a lower level and stopped in a stairwell to think.
What was going on. Sean made a mental list of the situation.
- His team had sent him on a level 5 operation full dark with nill support.
- Just as he had started the op, the whole thing literally exploded in his face.
- He felt like the way the operation unfolded, his cover had been blown.
- As he exited the op theatre he had been ambushed by two of his colleagues.
- He was forced to kill of them in self-defense, one of whom he had considered a close friend, Richie.
- He was being spammed with requests to check in with his handlers.
- The whole thing made no sense.
Sean needed an advocate or a fixer. Luckily, he had made many contacts in the underworld over the years. Being an agent usually meant surfing the edge between right and wrong. If he was brutally honest with himself, which he was in no mood to do at the present time, it was tuff to call anything he did on the clock ‘right’.
“Calling Kayne,” his assistant chimed.
In a few moments, a heavily accented voice came online, “Its way too early to be calling Kayne. Who dis be?”
“K, its Sean. I need a favor.”
“Sean who? How do you have my codes?”
“K! Listen, this is not a joke. Its Sean, I’m headed your way, I need to talk in person.”
The line went dead.
Sean hailed a transport and punched in the last address he knew for his friend. “Unable to complete route. Please try again.”
“Right, the transports did not service the Shaft.” He thought a second and punched in another destination, just on the outskirts of the district. The transport accepted the route and after paying, he was on his way.
Sean removed his holster from his bag and fitted it under his shirt while he rode along. He also removed a folding blade and strapped it to his thigh under his pants. He armed a small stun grenade and put it in one of his jacket pockets. Next he worked to override the operational blackout limit which he was closing in on. If he emerged from blackout now, his handlers would be on top of him in no time.
He was hours overdue to check in. Sean didn’t know exactly how long he had before he would be preempted and forced back into the grid. He needed to act fast to ensure he had time to gain the initiative.
He inquired from his AI assistant, about ways to temporarily shield himself from the company grid. The answer was uninspiring, 7 cm of lead, 200 meters of concrete, solar radiation beyond 200 rad, or a disto field - which was totally illegal. Good thing he new people.
As the transport arrived at Zeta, Sean exited the vehicle, shouldered his pack and retrieved his operator case from the floor. He scanned the block for a place to grab a quick meal and decided on a diner, Crispy Wingz.
He placed an order at the counter and sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee as he waited for his food to arrive. After his food arrived he ate quickly and noticed that the news feed above the counter was playing scenes of the destruction of the hotel he had just vacated.
The news team had the narrative was all wrong though. There had been no insurrectionists, the scenes of fighting he saw were simply fabricated. There had been no hostages, no barricades, no shootouts and no negotiations. All of it was fake, Sean had no idea where the video feeds had come from, he saw a standoff in the atrium where he had exited via the skybridge. None of that had even happened, he was in awe of how real it looked on the news feed.
“More coffee?” a waitress asked.
“I’m good thanks,” he said, “crazy stuff, huh?” He gestured to the news feed.
“I have a sister who works in that hotel, she said it was a terrorist attack.” The waitress crossed her arms.
“Wow, she ok?”
“She was off work today luckily, but she said her friends at work are still in lockdown as the police are searching the entire place, room by room.”
“That’s no good. Hope they turn out the bad guys. Say, you from this quarter?”
“Not exactly, why?” she responded.
“I’m looking to meet up with a friend near by, I need a lift to the Dean’s quarter.”
“Oh, well,” she shifted from foot to foot and looked around. “I would try the mailman, he comes by most days just before lunch.” She pointed across the street to what looked like an abandoned depot.
Sean glanced at his watch, the morning was growing to an end. He reached into his pocket and slid a marker across the table. “Thanks.”
She smiled, pocketed the mark, and cleared the table as he left.
Sean made a wide approach to the depot and staked out a place to sit, out of the sunlight where he could see both directions down the street. He hoped it was a mail day, he could use a break in his luck.
Chapter 04 →