July 4, 2010

Billie's Journal

Seattle, day three (cont'd)

The boys have obviously been drinking. It was their regular poker night after all. They tell us they are going to try and get into the party anyway. I point out that it's an elf-only party and in any case they don't have invites. Doesn't stop them trying though. I stop answering their calls and Zero gets all french on the padre when he asks us for the names we used to get in.

Not surprising, they don't get in. But fortunately they don't into trouble either. Sandie drops Zero and myself off close to the appartment and we walk home. I am glad I didn't wear heels. The boys arrive home later, still drunk and loud. I tell them to keep it quiet. Finlay seems to realise he is making an ass of himself and shuts up, but the padre just tries to give me a hug. I fend him off and retreat to bed, locking the door.

Seattle, day four

Zero and I are up before the boys. We need to do this run tonight and need the men along. Zero ropes me into balancing a plastic pitcher of water on their bedroom door. It works a treat but the resulting water fight leaves half the appartment and all of us dripping wet.

Zero is still pissed at the guys and giving them the silent. I need to get out of there. I change into my cowboy gear and tell Zero I am gonna do a drive by of the firehouse to see if there are any other ways in. Zero says she will check for satellite photos and brief the men when they 'come to their senses'.

As I head out the door, our new neighbour is also just leaving her appartment. She is wearing a smart business suit.

I tip my hat and mumble a howdy. She says hello and we get into the elevator together. On the way down, she tells me that the guys woke her up last night. I roll my eyes behind my shades. I offer an apology, explaining that they only play once a month and saying I'll have a word with them so it won't happen again. She politely thanks me, saying she doesn't want to have to report us to building security. I sure as hell don't want her doing that either.

Puyallup Barrens

By day, the Puyallup barrens looks even worse. Rubbish and burnt out cars litter the streets. The locals here are poorest of the poor, squatting in condemned buildings and scavenging for power and food. Just being on the Harley makes me stand out as most of them are on foot or at most driving a beat up scooter.

I swing past the firehouse, driving slow but not stopping. It's closed up pretty tight. Only ways in or out are the main door at the front and what looks a fire exit at the back. All the windows are boarded over. As I drive away I catch a reflection in my mirror from the roof. Some sort of skylight up there? Maybe Zero has had better luck with the satellite images.

Back at the appartment, things have eased. Zero is talking to the guys again and they seem to be suitably abashed. I tell them about the neighbour and they promise to go and apologise. Zero has also managed to get some satellite images and good ones too. We can clearly see the building and that there is what looks like a roof access as well as the large skylight over the garden area of the club.

I take a powernap then around ten at night, we suit up. I take my new toy, a Colt Cobra SMG. I am still not totally confident with firing it, but it is fitted with a sound suppressor so if things do get out of hand, we can still keep it quiet as long as possible. We load the gear into sports bags and carry them down to the car.

Seattle, day five

We arrive at the firehouse just after midnight. We park the car in a nearby alley and the padre casts invisibility on us all. He complains that maintaining all four spells is giving him a headache, although I suspect it is just his hangover kicking in. Then, we hustle the the rest of the way on foot.

Finlay unpacks the grapple gun and quickly climbs up the wall onto the roof. Once he has secured the rope, he helps the rest of us up one by one. He then starts working on the skylight with a glass cutter while I check the door to the roof access. It's an old manual lock and although it takes a few minutes, I manage to open before Finlay has made any significant progres with the skylight.

We slip invisibly down the stairs. Father O'Reilly says he will stay on the roof as the strain of maintaining the spells is beginning to take it's toll on him. I lead with Finlay following close behind, one hand on my shoulder. I have to resist an urge to shake it off but it's the only way he knows where I am. Zero brings up the rear, holding onto Finlay's other arm.

We enter the top floor above the garden. A concrete corridor runs around the walls with two metal walkways spanning the garden. I spot the blinking lights of cameras in each corner. To our left is a wall and a doorway. We slip silenty over. A long coridor leads off, three doors on either side and one at the end. That one is the suite where we have to drop of the data package and the letter that Sandie gave to Zero last night.

I swipe our maglock passkey in the first door on the left. Nothing happens. I ask if I should try again and Zero says no. Seems I could alert security if we use it too much. I don't ask how much is too much. Finlay says we should go down, pointing out that the stairs seem to go down to a basement. If anything funny is going on here, it will likely be down there. We go down.

A blank door opens onto a long dogleg corrider. Directly across the hall is a mirrored glass wall that screams security office. Leaving it slightly ajar so Finlay can cover me, I slip through and edge down the corridor to the door. This time the passkey works. I breath out a silent sigh then slip in. A single guard is paying more attention to the urban brawl on his PDA than the monitors. I sneak up behind him and club him with the butt of the Cobra, knocking him out. I take his stun baton and the ammo clips from his belt and gun.

I give the all clear and Finlay and Zero join me. There are two other doors in this room, one heavily armoured. We try the other one. A guard is sitting on a sofa watching the same game as his colleague, while another dozes in a cot in the corner. The first one looks over to the door and calls out something about not being allowed to leave the monitoring station unattended. Then he cries out as the invisible Finlay knocks him out. This wakes the sleeping guard, but a couple of not so gentle taps from the stun baton put him back out.

The other room is a treasure chest for gun lovers with several LMGs in addition to the rack of HK-97 assault rifles, Ares SMGs and a dozen or so heavy pistols. There are also some armor jackets, including a couple sized for trolls. Zero finds one that almost fits and puts it on. If we have time, we will take some of this stuff with us when we leave.

We move out and further down the corridor. There are large double doors to the right and several normal doors further on. We decide to leave the double doors for now. The doors on the right have no locks and lead into a large conference room that can be split into two with folding walls. The maglock passkey fails to open the first door on the left, but works on the second which turns out be an office. There is a computer here so Zero gets to work. The last room on the right also turns out to be an office so we guess the first one is too.

The padre interrupts us with a message that a couple of vans are coming our way. He only just noticed them now because they are driving without lights. Not good news. He tells us he is going to drop our invisibility spells in case he needs to do something.

Zero is now jacked in but is taking a long time. Occassional bursts of French over our comms indicate that things are not going well. She tells us that this node is a red seven, which is apparently pretty serious. What the hell are they doing here in the barrens with a system like that.

While waiting I decide to try the double doors. A corridor leads down to what looks like an office space. Just then Zero curses. She has been running an analysis routine and has just spotted that there are about six active deckers in the system with her. I report that I may have found them and suggest she gets out until I have dealt with them. She tells me to jack them out as that will disorient them. Finlay and Zero join me and we unjack and whack them all into unconsciousness. This leaves Zero a free run at the mainframe. Which is good, because the padre comes over the comms saying, "Jaysus wept I tink I just killed them all.'

I ask what the hell he means and he says he cast a powerball on the lot of them because a whole bunch of guys wearing masks had got out of the vans and had started unloading rather suspicious looking sports bags. He says he is going to check them out and get the van.

We wait in silence while Zero works on the mainframe. Even with direct access, she still seems to be struggling as I can still here her cursing over our comms. Then she gives a short cry of pain and a second later her eyes flicker open. I don't understand French so it takes a minute before she calms down and tell us what happened. She had found the files but they were encrypted. As she was trying to hack them she got jumped by some serious IC that shredded her icon. She rubs her temples as she explains, trying to soothe her feedback headache.

I wake up one of the deckers with some smelling salts in my medkit. Mages react badly to stim, so kits usually have something like this just in case. I jam the Colt's suppressor into her face and demand the passcodes, telling her I will shoot her if she doesn't cooperate. She goes pale and mumbles, 'Cuddly Bunny'.

My eyes go wide at that but Zero tries it and it works. She now has legit access to the system. She bats her eyes at me and asks, "And does she have ze decryption key for ze protected files?"

The woman pales even more when I ask that claiming that only some guy called Ehran has the codes for those files. The name rings a bell. Some elf chief I think. Zero curses about having to do it the hard way, while I put the decker back to sleep.

We let the padre know we have the codes as we head back up the stairs. He tells us he is on his way to the van and will be there asap. I am still leading and as I turn the corner onto the top floor I almost run straight into a troll coming down.

I open up almost without thinking and the burst takes him in the chest. He's a big fella but is not wearing any armor. The APDS rounds rip right through him but must have hit something vital as he tumbles down the stairs almost landing on top of me. There is another troll behind him, this one bringing up a shotgun.

"Drop it," I shriek but he ignores my demand. Enhanced reflexes kick in and the Cobra swings up, the smartlink tracking towards him. I squeeze of a burst but the recoil kicks the gun left and the rounds impact harmlessly in the concrete bannister.

There is a boom and I am lifted off my feet. My long coat and plastic bones absorb much of the impact but it still hurts like hell. The force slams me into the wall behind me and I see stars as my head hits the concrete.

Finlay and Zero open up on the troll, giving me a second to roll out of his line of fire. I gasp for breath and taste blood in my mouth as I get back to my feet.

"Cover me," commands Finlay as he bounds up the stairs, his magic spear extending to it's full length as he goes. He thrusts once, twice at the troll who tries to block with his shotgun, but the spear strikes true both times and the troll falls back.

I am thinking we might make when Finlay stumbles, swinging his spear widely around him and starts yelling gibberish. "Padre, I think they got a mage. Get here now" I cry as I feel a breeze of air past my cheek. There is a shimmer in the air around Zero and she cries out as something invisible lifts her off her feet and tumbles her upside down.

Another loud report and Finlay tumbles to the ground unmoving in a tangle of limbs.

The spirit pauses for a second, letting Zero drop unconscious from its grasp. Finlay is too heavy for me to lift but maybe I can still get her out. I grap at her arm while unloading a burst into the spirit. It has no affect but seems to get the spirit's attention. Before I can react, it is on me. I try to fight but it is squeezing the air out of my injured lungs. I scream.

As it all goes dark, my last thought is that this Ehran guy is supposed to be a powerful mage.

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