“Let’s get to business, then.” He said, and I nodded.
“I trust my directors have given you the information you need. I’m just here to collect.”
“Yes,” He said, but trailed off. “but there were a few more things I wanted to ask. I need a bit more information.”
I narrowed my eyes. “And why would you need that? My directors said you’d have the preliminary report ready. “
He gave a soft, fake laugh. “Why would I need information? Sweetheart, I think you’ve forgotten what exactly my job is.”
I tensed at the nickname but said nothing. He continued.
“I do have the report here. Nothing I suspect you and yours don’t already know, though. Nothing shocking. Just proof that I know what I’m doing. I wouldn’t expect any half wit to go into business without having a sample of the product first.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a USB. Tiny, black, and unmarked. He put it on the table in front of me and I snatched it up, pocketing it in one motion.
“So,” He continued. “There’s the matter of the upfront fee..”
I waited a moment for confirmation to make the exchange.
“Hand it over, K.” Vincent said. I pulled over the E-Chit and gave it over. He grabbed it and swiped it over his wrist, making sure it cleared out, and seemed pleased.
“And if you’re satisfied with my work so far,” he nodded towards my jacket, where I’d stashed the USB. “Then your directors will set up a more steady payment, I trust, and then we’ll get to the real meat of it.”
“Yes,” I said. “If we’re satisfied.”
“You will be.” He said. “I didn’t get where I was my selling bad info.”
I reached for my drink and took another sip; it would look strange to leave it unfinished. Still ,I was in a hurry to leave, and the way he looked at me while I swallowed didn’t make me feel at ease.
“I’ve gotta ask…” He started.
“Do you?” I set the glass down. He ignored me.
“Why the Brotherhood?I thought the Alliance didn’t,” He pulled up his fingers into air quotes ”‘’negotiate with terrorists’.”
“We’ve told him what he needs to know, Waymire. End the conversation and leave.” Patricia said.
“For someone supposed to be ‘discreet’,’” I used my own air quotes “you sure are awfully inquisitive.”
“Touche.” He took a sip of his drink. “Then again, I’d be no good without my naturally curious disposition.”
I took another sip of the swill. “If you don’t already know exactly why we’re contacting you, you might not be that good anyway.”
“Ouch.” he exaggerated. “Sweetheart, I’m wounded.”
I turned my head from him and rolled my eyes on the movement.
“Luckily for you…” he said, and I heard him shift slightly closer to me on his seat. I reacted without thinking, shifting in the opposite direction to maintain distance. I flicked my eyes back, and that’s when I noticed why he’d moved. He’d reached into his jacket again, and removed a pen and paper. He was writing something down, but the paper was folded and tilted so that I couldn’t see what it was.
“...I don’t keep a grudge.”
He clicked the pen to retract it and tucked it back, putting two fingers from his other hand on the folded paper and pushing it forward across to me. I raised an eyebrow and he nodded, continuing to speak as I reached for it.
I opened it and cast my eyes down.
The handwriting was messy, and that didn’t fit either. All synths had perfect handwriting. So either his motor skills had been compromised somehow, the circuitry damaged, or….
Or, this was a very different type of synthetic.
I flicked my eyes down and read, still trying to process what he was saying as I did.
There was a phone number that I didn't bother to mentally sound out, and a message.
Call me here. No wires.
I snapped it closed like the contents would burn me, and swallowed. He gave me a knowing look and I suddenly became all too aware of the uncomfortable the mic and speaker were lodged around my ear. The look on his face was only there for a moment, before he looked forward again like nothing had happened.
“But, regardless…” He said.” You should be on your way. I can’t keep my next appointment waiting.”
“Next appointment?” I pushed. Vincent told me again to go, but he had already started speaking.
“Well, sugar, not that you’re not swell, but I didn’t come all the way out here just for you. I’m a busy man, and this is just one of the many hats I wear. I like to handle all my business in one night, when I can.”
“Uh-huh.” I nodded, and turned to walk away.
Alan again, in my ear. “Good job. Just find the back door and walkout to the extraction point.”
I was halfway turned when the Informant spoke again.
“Oh, and Kalahan,” I snapped back. “ I’m sorry about Anneka.”
My reaction was to look stunned, until I realised that yeah, of course he knew.
“That’s none of your business.” I bit back, teeth locked and hands rigid at my sides.
“Move along, K. Don’t make a scene. “ Vincent said.
The Informant raised both his eyebrows, leaned back and focused on looking forward behind the bar. I huffed and turned around, ready to leave. I left the room and found the fire escape, which led down a different flight of stairs then I’d come up on, and out of a tight doorway that flooded light onto the wet concrete outside.
I pulled my hoodie up higher and tighter when I felt the drizzle come down a little harder, and buried my hands in my pockets. I kept my head down, and faded into the slow but steady pedestrian traffic, trying to not attract attention, The extraction point was just a few blocks away, but I wasn’t keen to take any chances before I got there.
I rounded a corner, and found myself on the same street as the entrance I’d used to get into Redemption.
As I walked past, I let my eyes linger around the entrance. I was right, they had shut it down after the altercation and the guards were currently in the process of making sure everyone complied with their decision. There were a few stragglers still clinging along, trying to get the guards’ attention and ask what was going on, but most of them had cleared out or were busy turning to leave.
I caught the faces of a few of them as they walked away. Most were vaguely disappointed, and a little confused, rather than angry.
Two men, walking side by side in the general direction of the rest of the crowd. Except, unlike the rest of the would be revelers, the men would walk a few meters then stop. Turn around. Look at the club. Keeping walking. Do it again.
I figured that after being turned away, most of the people would just find another one of the many, many bars or clubs in the area to spend their night at instead. But these men..they didn’t seem to be going anywhere at all.
What’s more, they didn’t have the same expression or feeling about them as the rest. They didn’t seem angry, either. Rather...nervous? One of them, in particular, found it quite difficult to focus his gaze. The other, slightly taller, was saying something that I couldn’t quite make out over the sounds of the street.
I was about to leave it be. There were a lot of reasons that someone could be acting paranoid, almost all of them readily available around here. Hell, I’d probably acted a whole lot weirder on some of the stuff I’d taken in the past.
I put my hoodie up and turned my head, but then a glint from their direction caught my eye. I flicked too it, and honed in on the source. On the shorter man’s right arm, from his wrist to halfway up his forearm, was the newest Alliance issue mobile InfoDex. I knew it was Alliance, because I had exactly the same version, and they were not available to the general public for the next three months.
It was an easy thing to miss. The new version looked a lot like the old one on the surface level, but the off-gold trim around the screen’s edge gave it away. I took another look, to confirm. Yes. That’s definitely it.
So how did that guy get one?
I would’ve heard about it if a shipment of our tech had been hijacked, so it’s not blackmarket. A fake? Not likely, InfoDex tech is very difficult to replicate, and even from here I could see that there were too many details that would be almost impossible to get right.
So was this guy...real Alliance?
That didn’t make sense, either. Recently, the public opinion of us had taken a drop. ‘Drop’, is putting it lightly. Most people don’t care for us, at the best, and at the least...well. There’s a reason there are electric fences around the head quarter’s premises. And the poorer the area, the worse the general opinion of Alliance got. I had ditched all my gear, anything that could identify me as Alliance, and I was still nervous to be here.
So, what were they doing?
“Is there anyone else with me?” I asked into the microphone, trying to keep my voice low. They’d told me everything about the mission, surely they would’ve mentioned if two other officers were being sent along for...backup?
“No?” Patricia answered. “It’s a one man mission, Waymire. We told you that. Why, do you require assistance?”
“No, no, it’s not that. I-”
Vincent cut me off. “Just get to the extraction point, Kalahan. We can deal with it later.”
I nodded at the command, an old habit from alliance training days, and hoped the gesture didn’t attract too much attention. The two men were still lingering near the end of the street, slowing moving the opposite direction I was.
Now, I swear that I had every intention of leaving it be. I’d only just been cleared for field work, and I didn’t intend to mess up my first mission and get that right revoked. Nothing had wrong so far, and I had fully intended to keep it that way, walk to the extraction point, and call it a day. But, then, I overheard what the two men were talking about, and the decision was made for me.
They were talking about me.
Waymire. I couldn't hear much beside that, but the years of getting my last name yelled at me in early training had made me hyper sensitive to it, lest I miss a command and suffer the consequences.
“What are they-” I found myself wondering aloud.
“What’s the hold up?” Vincent said. “What’s going on? We don’t have visual.”
“Just wait,” I said, trying to lean in closer to the conversation and still avoid getting detected.
“Kalahan, what’s going on?” Vincent asked again. I could hear the level of agitation rising.
“Just wait, I have to-”
“Waymire, you have to get out.” Patricia hissed in my ear. “If I were you, I wouldn’t be disobeying orders on my first mis-”
I took out my earpiece. Threw it on the ground. Crushed it with my heal.
“Fuck you, Patricia.” I mumbled under my breath. And I started following the men.