“Turns out Stiles has his fingers in a few pies,” Dogson remarked, as Craig deftly moved noodles to mouth with his chopsticks. “Quite a lot. More than just the usual corporate interests too.”
Although Dogson was standing right in front of him in full hyper reality, Craig ignored him. No one else could see him of course, his own personal little delusion. He didn’t usually let Dogson take the liberty, but he was occupied with other things at the moment. The noodles weren’t half bad either. Who would have thought, after all this time using their local hardline.
“He’s a Sigma man, through and through,” continued Dogson. The foot traffic melted through him, disrupting the hyper reality in a ripple like water. Craig paid only slight mind to the guys form, tall, lanky. The sort of haircut that the Agency should never have allowed. Just another sign of how things were going downhill. Angels were always afforded a little more freedom, desk workers and all.
“Lifetime contract,” Craig subvocalized. Dogson nodded.
“Interesting though, he’s recently had some contact through special projects with Richmond Industries though. We’re talking some fairly deep penetration stuff.” Dogson’s image flipped through some items that weren’t in front of him in Craig’s view of him. “It’s this other stuff that’s interesting though. I mean, if he’s a clean company man.”
“Which he’s not.”
“He looks like he’s got some links with the Hellions,” the kid continued. “A club right there in Neon City too called the Blue Note.”
Craig didn’t ask the question that was lingering on his lips. He ran through the contextual links born off Dogson’s feed and felt the cool trickle of information. A few moments later and he realized who the Hellion’s were, their full work up and history, at least the publicly aware information for now.
“Why would a Sigma man have any form of contact with a low level South Sector start up?” Craig mused, almost out loud. Dogson regarded him cautiously. “They might be playing themselves as the local bad boys turned business, but Sigma could stand on them and buy them into oblivion a million times over and barely break a sweat.”
“The Hellions have got some pretty serious local reputation among the populace,” Dogson remarked. Behind him, there was a swimming blur of movement. Something that didn’t take fully over the link.
“The South Sector populace don’t really count. Half of them aren’t consumers in the strictest sense of the word, the rest of them can’t even vote.”
“I figure there’s more to them,” replied Dogson. “I mean, the Hellions. I know they are just an entertainment act, but raps still pretty popular down there. They’re playing clean cut now, but it’s South Sector.”
South Sector was never clean, Craig thought. He finished up the last of his noodles and dumped the box into the nearest recycler. The Noodle Box patrons were starting to run thin now, but there were a few Reds keeping a strangely close eye on him, with an itchy trigger finger look about them.
Craig consciously dumped his knowledge of the Hellions, writing off the link to Stiles. It was like he never knew about them, other than some passing hunches at what had just been sitting in his memory. He pushed away from the wall, grabbing up his attache. Dogson’s image washed like a water down a clear shower door.
“Keep digging if it will keep you out of my business for a while,” he remarked. He noted with pleasure that William’s message had finally come through, blinking just above his left eye. He digested the information and tossed it. “And shut the link for a while. I could use the interference right now. I have to think some things over.”
Dogson’s image remained behind him, and then swept away suddenly. He still felt that presence in the forefront of his mind. It wasn’t barely a few seconds more before he heard Dogson’s voice again. He stiffled a sigh.
“That guy over behind you. Probably about seven or eight meters, present position, south. John Burke. He reports in Black and White systems with two current outstanding warrants.”
“Don’t give a fuck, Dogson. I told you to clear the link for a while. Can you follow a clear order?”
“Hey! Mr Businessman!”
Craig had just turned down one of the side alleys, to get him back to the Bullet station, but he sensed the presence behind him. He took another few confident steps forward, before turning around to face the three. Burke had a muscular countenance about him, the rugged look of a street brawler. Craig bled the information down his links, realizing one of the mans priors was for just that, illegal street fighting. An ugly man with a ruddy complexion.
“Thought you might take a tour down to South Sector?” asked Burke, with a sneer. “See how things work down this end of the food chain?”
“Should I alert the local surveillance? Black and Whites could be detailed on your position in a matter of minutes.”
“John Burke,” Craig remarked, casually, ignoring Dogson’s voice. That gave the man pause, because Craig could tell from the lack of presence that the man was offline. “With two outstanding warrants, you should scarcely want to add to that with another case of attempted robbery and assault.”
Burke scowled at him. From the way his neck bulged, Craig sensed there was more to him than just regulars at the gym. He sniffed the scent of drugs about him, ‘roids and more. His wetware ran the whole gambit, overlaying him with probables and possibles. His heat signature haloed him as plainly as the information starting to supplement his form.
“Who the fuck are you with, man?”
“I’m not with anyone who would be interested in your priors,” replied Craig, feeling his grip tighten on the handle of his attache case. He saw Burke’s goons give it another glance. “I’d recommend that you turn around and go back the way you came. A good day to you three.”
Burke’s two goons, scrawny Islanders, sneered and began to advance. Burke at least had the sense to pause, Craig noticed. He merely took a few stout steps forwards, blocking the first blow handily, whipping his grip tight about the man’s wrist. A quick swell of presence filled his mind and lashed out at the other man’s dominant wetware, sending him spinning into vertigo, emptying his guts in a choaked and noisy vomit.
Craig twisted with his grip, bending the other man down, applying weight. The sound of the man’s arm breaking joined the sounds of wretching in the dirty side street. Craig stepped passed the two men, leaving them behind, and standing straight in front of Burke.
“Your move, Mr Burke. But assure yourself, I have no compunction about killing.”
Burke’s demeanor had changed completely. Behind Craig, his two friend were rolling on the ground, groaning, out of action for the few moments Craig knew he would need to finish what they had started. Burke glanced down, made a grab for the attache. Craig blocked, twisted, turned, putting himself past the huge man in a sparing few steps of movement. Burke was a large man, far too slow for someone of Craig’s skill.
Craig stepped back behind him, grabbed. Twisted. With a resounding crack, Burke fell to the ground, neck broken.
“Fuck. I’m alerting local law enforcement,” Dogson remarked, his voice edged with the cold hint of panic. No doubt the kid was lining straight into his vision again, Craig suspected, coolly.
Craig left the alley the way he came, routing another way towards the station. He felt the utter silence in the front of his mind. After checking, he realized that Dogson had quit the link. He straightened his suit coat, and tightened his grip on the case.
They were goons, that much was true. Craig told himself with a confidence that they had no idea what was in the case. They’d expected what any businessman might carry there, not the reality. He still felt the need to get it back to the Bunker as soon as his operations would allow it. That would be for the best.
* * *
“We can remember it for you wholesale,” admitted the polite tones of the advert. Craig watched it idly, over his glass of whiskey. “Sigma. Knowing the past, realizing the future.”
Craig wondered if retirement would be anything like the moments between actions. He sat back in his easy chair, overlooking the Rangitoto Reserve. A commanding view of the harbor and surrounding area, right in the heart of Skycity. The room that he had rented for the week was simple in it’s elegance, but it’s service was fully stocked.
The images danced before him, fading into the top of the hour news reports. They catered to Craig’s preferences, but they were files embedding without his own effort. A set of templates that Dogson figured that he might prefer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Craig just wanted to be left alone at this advanced stage. At least since the mugging, Dogson had been strangely silent.
He felt the cold trickle down the back of his neck, his wetware warming with the realization of new information. The presence in the front of his mind came soon after. Craig stepped in before Dogson could get a chance to speak.
“Thank you for the updated information on Williams, but before you start in on whatever it is you want to talk to me about, know that I have my meeting in a matter of hours. Again, I’d like to run silent on this one, if that was at all agreeable with you.”
“That’s against Agency protocols,” Dogson remarked, with a strange firmness in his voice. Craig sorted through what he had just realized thanks to the updates. “And you know it. This is it. This is the break. You’ve taken him the whole way through to supplying you with a device that could essentially be used as a dirty weapon. Right from the heart of Richmond Industries. This sort of litigation could tie them up for months.”
Craig couldn’t argue with that. He watched the news idly. “There has to be some other reason you decided to bug me right now.”
“Hmmm, nothing major –”
“That guy Burke you killed had close ties to one of our other agents,” Dogson reported, curtly. “If you’d given me a second or two more …”
“You know that there is no time for a delay like that in the field.”
“He was close ally of Tyler Burrell.”
The name meant nothing to Craig. He stood up and set his glass aside. “Put it through my handler if you think that it’s a major enough breach. She’ll see that the proofs stand up. I hope for your sake you’re not implying I made a mistake, Dogson.”
“No. But it will put a dent in the agents ability to operate in South Sector.”
“If there’s nothing else. Frankly, I’d like to get a decent nights sleep.”
Craig didn’t wait for the reply. He swamped his wetware and slashed all the extraneous links in and out. Dogson was gone and finally he was alone with himself again. A good nights sleep, and he would have all he needed to finish with Williams. Maybe this would be his last case before retirement. He could still hand all his other leads straight back to Faye on the way out.