Easing her hand into the bag under the bed, Constance used the padding of it to mask the noise of the weapons charge up. She could see the tell tale blue light of the chamber, but it was slight enough that the shadows wouldn’t spot it. She waited until the halo was lingering at the balcony door, then drew and fired.
Blue lightning arced across the room, sparking and popping off the electronics. Overhead, the mounted ceiling lights shattered in a shower of shards. The bolt was still crackling about the man, now haloed by the hideous discharge of the weapon, dancing like a puppet on strings. Constance saw the guide line still hooked to the man’s harness, vaulting the bed and throwing herself at him before he had a chance to react.
The two of them plunged over the edge of the balcony and out into the dark night.
Constance let the line hiss out with a dangerous speed, carried by the weight of them both. About them, towers like fingers swung wildly, shiny with rain. The impact came moments later, as they crashed against the tenement, several stories down. They might as well have hit concrete, Constance reflected, hoping that the window would have shattered. She pulled at the unconscious man’s sidearm, ironically hoping they were packing live fire.
Three shots spider-webbed the window with cracks. It took three more before it shattered inwards. Inside, two half naked couples were screaming, grabbing for blankets, sheets, anything. Constance landed, her shoes crunching in the remains of the window, her attacker hanging limp at the end of the guide rope as if he’d been hung. She ran at the door, half expecting more of the black clad men.
“Shouldn’t have gone there!” Constance shouted, a cool panic opening links to half a dozen of the Agency. Somewhere in there was Manly, his line popping to the forefront of her mind as she ran for the stairs. “I shouldn’t have been so stupid. Course it was a trap!”
“Calm yourself, Lady.”
“Twentieth floor. Stairwell straight ahead. Opens into the back of the building. Checking security to see if we have any more of your midnight callers down in the back alley.”
Constance ran on instinct, letting the words guide her. She thought she could hear the tapping noise of a keyboard, totally antiquated, but still entirely favored by her angel Sampson. The tenement corridor to the stairwell was at least thankfully quiet. She bolted down.
“Catch you sleeping, Sampson?” she asked, trying to keep the pant out of her voice. The soft, smooth tones on the other end sounded light, the hint of a chuckle catching the edges of it.
“For your information, Constance, I do more than watch your every move night after night, jacking – hmmm, hold up. No. Seems like it was entirely a roof operation. They have to have ground coverage. Unless they were cocky enough to think they’d deal to you in the room.”
“Keep me posted.”
“Course. Staying on the line.”
“Any idea who these men are?” asked Constance, thinking of Manly. Thankfully, the mental cues took, despite the fact all interested parties were probably still connected. A few of the lines out had dropped. She made a guess, “Biodyne?”
“Possible,” replied Manly. The lines went quiet as Constance finished the rest of the flights, half expecting her exit to be broken. She realized her hand was still locked about her attackers sidearm.
The rain hit her as Constance burst out into the back alley. She looked up at the towering tenements around her, smelling the stink of the sector hit her hard. Above, she wondered if she would see more of the men in black, ramping downwards, but all she heard was the throbbing hum of one of the advertising zeppelins.
“You’re on fringe South Sector,” Sampson cut in. “So I don’t need to tell you how little I can do ears and eyes right now. All our Steel Jennys are deeper in. Drop and blend, I guess.”
“Drop and blend,” echoed Constance. She tossed the discharge weapon. It was too bulky to carry unnoticed. Instead, the snug sidearm got the home, tucked down the back of her short business jacket.
Advertising exec, armed to kill. The sudden flight gave her a hard edge. Kicking ass on the streets as well as the board rooms. She just might carry it off, Constance figured.
Fringe South Sector was the good side of town, so to speak, but a packed metropolis of those not well off, and those inclined to mingle. Heavy hip hop thumped out of overhead speakers, like she was walking into a club, rather than a packed street. Her wetware confirmed that there were almost as many offline, unwired than there was those connected, a melange of race and ability.
Constance realized she wouldn’t have to worry about the Blacks and Whites, but she would have to worry about the Reds and Blues. What wasn’t caught by one was overlooked by the other.
“Don’t mean to be a shit,” Sampson remarked. “But before those guys broke up your little revelry party upstairs, I was tracking a vehicle from the hardwire point Carter made the call in on.”
Constance frowned, realizing she was talking out loud as she did, “Carter isn’t so stupid as to call in to me, knowing that handlers would be listening in, and admit to me he was a double agent.”
“Agents have done stupider things.”
“Eyes and ears, people,” Manly warned. Constance grunted and tried to sub vocalize.
“But you actually got a Jenny on him?” Constance asked. She walked, purposeful, but still trying to spot anything she might remember as familiar. When was the last time she had come out here? Was it that night Carter had actually cooked for her? Real food too.
“Yeah, first thing I did was get Jennys swarming the spot. Half the Agency’s tech support did.”
“Where’s the car now?”
“Traveling south. Might as well be off road. Given what’s out there. And we’re talking truck, nothing light weight. Wheeled. Non air.”
Constance bit at her lower lip, running through the options. Given how the apartment had been a trap, whose to say this wasn’t. But then if it wasn’t and Carter truly was making his way south to points unknown, she could be about to lose him to his new employers. His other employers, she reminded herself. He’d been in this long enough. This hadn’t happened overnight.
“Fuck you, Toa,” she muttered, frowning.
“Nothing. Drop me a line of waypoints. I’ll be following on air.” Constance considered her options for grabbing a ride, then added. “Try and keep the ways fresh.”
* * *
South Sector was an area Constance would rather avoid. It was a yawning black void, lacking power and the honest wired citizens of the rest of Skycity. As far as city council and corps thought, no one lived out here. Whose who did had learned their lessons for rebellion years before when the Atomics went online.
What the hell would Carter be doing out here?
Constance kept the Skycar high enough to avoid any stray possible fire, but was confident on boards would catch anything long before there was any real danger. Less up here than on foot. She was still a single white female. The place was better suited to Carter, who was connected. Constance considered that as she followed the shiny blue lines to her partner.
Her almost husband. The double agent.
“Trucks stopped. Location about 10 clicks south of your location.”
“You’re still not spotted?”
“Seems like they ain’t expecting any trouble,” Sampson replied. There was some strange, mindless tune in the back of her mind. Her angel was playing some of that horrible retro tunes he liked.
“That doesn’t hit you as strange?” Constance asked, mostly of Manly. She expected he was still maintaining a line. “After they hit his apartment to kill off any tails? That they would miss a Jenny in the air, following them?”
“Maybe they just ain’t equipped for this sort of extraction,” guessed Sampson. Constance watched as the blue lines started to curve downwards. She purposely pulled off their target.
“How populated is this area?”
“Last check? Not very. We’re south South Sector. Even Atomics don’t have much interest this much south.”
“This is crazy,” Constance said. She thought of Manly and watched the voice line pop open in front of her. “You’re monitoring? This is a double agent situation. Can’t we call heavy protocols? We’re going to lose him one way or another, whether this is a trap, or something else.”
“The Agency doesn’t work like that, Lady,” Manly reminded. Constance always wondered what Manly was doing when she just popped in on him like this. “Eyes and ears. The Priniciple is monitoring the situation and is still confident the case is open and closed.” After a moment of silent air, he added, in his warm, fatherly tones. “He has confidence in the legendary Template.”
Constance muttered something she knew wouldn’t carry vocal or sub vocal. Below her, the night was a hideous blackness. The neon blue lines were off to the east. She dropped the car down, settling down in the light brush.
It was time to end this.