Dust Chapter 12 Part 1

Chapter 12: The Pressure Test

[Radio check: All call signs report in.]

[Yo check-check, one, two. Rembrandt calling in.]

[Tachi present.]

[Super Moe-Moe Ball ready and super psyched!]

[Helllloooo Austin! Back from South by Southwest for another sold-out show. Patriot Rap ready to rock the house!]

[Meow!]

[Duke here.]

I decided five out of six wasn’t too bad.

Me, Tachi, Kitty, Rembrandt, Duke and Patriot Rap were crammed in the back of the second-hand van we bought for this gig, bringing the total number of disposable vehicles purchased for the Atom job to five.

Kitty and PR sat in the front seats, already plugged into their decks. The bucket seats would be the most comfortable and their part of the job didn’t require their physical bodies so they got to sit there.

Atom sat on the space between them. Occasionally I saw one of them reach out and pat its casing for good luck. Like rubbing the belly of the hacker Buddha.

PR was keeping an eye on the dispatch for Night Watch Enforcement. Turns out I was wrong, it wasn’t the Texas Rangers who kept the peace here. A tense coalition of private security firms and detective agencies enforced the law. It horrified me. In Melbourne, we’d managed to delay the authorities by forcing the Victorian state police to liaise with the Chase’s mall security. In Austin alone there were six different jurisdictions split between the major security contractors in the state. I’d bet good money the bureaucratic hoops the rentacops have to jump through the get anything done here is the reason for all the lethal force violations.

The John Meadows Memorial Hospital complex had contracted Night Watch Enforcement, which had been founded by disbanded Texas Rangers. Their celebrated ‘Enforcer’ units operated as four-man SWAT teams. I did not want to have to tangle with those guys. You could tell the Enforcers from the rank-and-file by their brown, rigid armoured vests. Headgear ranged from brown open helmets with mirror shades, riot helmets with cage mesh and mirror shades or drill sergeant hats, Tom Selleck moustaches and mirror shades.

We’d used Atom to get into Lone-Star’s dispatch in a frighteningly similar way we’d penetrated the clinic’s security. PR lurked quietly in their system, monitoring software radios and alarm signals.

The way our three hackers enthusiastically coached Atom in the ways of digital banditry you’d think they didn’t realise they were putting themselves out of a job.

Super Moe-Moe Ball in particular was Atom’s break and enter coach. She’d instructed Atom in the finer points of editing CCTV footage and reprogramming security peripherals. She was also online in case Atom came up against anything it hadn’t been instructed to deal with.

Kitty was our matrix fireman on call in case we needed her. She was already secreted inside the clinic’s system, hiding under her invisibility app. If the job went pear-shaped, Night Watch’s first action would be to send in their data security specialists to get eyes and ears on the ground. Kitty’s job was to keep them blind and deaf.

Tachi and I were in the back with Rembrandt and Duke, two of PR’s fabled ‘Deadmen’.

They scared me, not because of what they were, if anything I admired that, but because of the greater implications their existence meant for the rest of this country.

Both of them wore plastic-coated prosthetic cyberbodies. The kind you pop a biopod into just before you send them out on ops. Even when the body was factory standard (which these weren’t), it would look more like a retail mannequin than a human being.

Rembrandt was the one with a pair of motorised Nikon lenses jerry-rigged to replace his eyes.

You could actually watch them shift focus and zoom as he looked around. He sat with an M240 General Purpose Machine Gun across his body and had a speed-load bag on his hip out of which he could pull 50-round ammo belts like they were tissue paper, the next one popping into place as he pulled the top one out.

Duke sat across from him. The colouring of his prosthetic body had originally been Caucasian, before someone repainted him. Now he was black as a burnt match. Except for his arms, he’d taken off the plastic from just below the shoulder down and had diamondettes installed over his knuckles. Duke packed a pair of M8A2 carbines with the stocks removed, which he totted like they were pistols. His clothes were hidden under a web of magazine pouches on crossed belts. Duke could start shooting right now and would still have ammo at the end of the week.

They’d earned the street name ‘Deadmen’ because they’d suffered mortal wounds in PR’s service and managed to get their brains into biopods in time to save them. The cyber prosthetic bodies they wore were built out of the parts leftover from the security contractors they’d been fighting with.

Rembrandt and Duke were the cavalry. Their job was to kick in the doors and Rock ‘n Roll should Tachi and I need our arses pulled out of the fire.

I daresay we looked as weird to them as they did to us. Turns out Tachi’s red and black bag had contained the electro camouflage fatigues. We swapped out the webbing and accessories so they could conceal our new gear. With our hoods on we looked like a pair of ninja, especially Tachi. Expecting another confrontation with his sister Tachi had purchased a pair of double-edged mono-blades. We blew quite a bit of our leftover advance on them, you couldn’t exactly get them form a sporting goods site.

The Full-tang titanium blades had been sharpened down to a monofilament edge and were as light as paper. When Tachi flourished them, he moved so quickly they almost disappeared. Against Kiru no Yubi, we’d need them.
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