|I wrote this little story as a birthday present for a friend back in 1991, based on characters from my cyberfantasy campaign for GURPS. While somewhat similar to the Shadowrun game, there is more of a feel of the pulp stories of the 20's and 30's. The situation below was actually run as an adventure, but the results were not exactly the same.||
The Case of the Cyberpsi Assassin
by Brandon Cope
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"So, will you kill her?"
Morgan Adams turned away from his hotel room window, away from the smog and acid rain and neon of outside.
"Are you certain you want me to do this?"
"Yes. And as I said, money is no problem," answered a slightly nervous voice.
Adams walked over to the bar, and poured a drink for himself. The job was a fairly normal one. Wife cheats on husband. Husband wants wife dead. Well, almost a normal one. The husband was Theodore Clements, a small, balding little man in his mid-forties, with 'accountant' written all over him, even though he was a CEO. He was a meek and annoying little man, and Morgan didn't blame his wife for getting under the sheets with another man. Except in this case, if Clements could be believed, the other man was a woman. Not that Morgan cared; his job was that of eliminating problems, not passing moral judgement. A hit was a hit.
"Very well, I will accept the job," said Adams, pausing," The cost is $250,000. Do not try to contact me again after you leave here. I will contact you."
"Aren't you going tell me when you'll do it?"
"No. It's best if you don't. You'd act a little different, which the police would possibly discover when they talk to you or your associates. And as I said earlier, I will make it look like a common burglar or whatever is appropriate."
Clements got up to leave. Just as he got to the door, he turned back to Adams.
"If she's with her lover, I want her killed as well."
"It'll cost another $50,000."
Clements turned and left.
Adams sat down in a chair, lifted the glass with his metallic hand and
slowly drank his synthetic vodka.
Mark Black leaned back in his chair, trying to look busy. Things had been slow since his last job, which had involved hunting down a cyborged soldier that had broken his contract with a megacorp. The resolution was fairly messy, but the payoff was good. However, Black didn't just like sitting around. He had long realized he wasn't going to die of old age, but it didn't mean he had a death wish; he just lived for action. Black thought about playing some poker with his computerized secretary, Trixie, but decided against it; she was a lot better than he was. Just as Black was deciding to go on home, and let Trixie record any calls or office visits, there was a knock at the door.
Black carefully made sure the loaded Colt pistol he kept under his desk was still there.
The wood and glass door slowly opened, and a young, attractive woman in a somewhat expensive and altogether too tight dress entered Black's dimly lit office. She nervously looked around, then saw Black sitting behind the desk.
"I... I'm sorry. You must be busy... maybe I should come back later..."
Black sat up, and tapped the remote that opened the window blinds.
"No, there's no problem. Please, sit down."
As she stepped forward to the chair in front of his desk, the blinds opened up to fully illuminate the room, and she was able to see that the man talking to her was an albino. She paused slightly, then sat down. Black was also able to make her out in more detail, and he liked what he saw.
"Sorry about the darkness," said Black," Even though it usually isn't bright enough outside to bother my eyes, I try to tone down the light whenever I can."
The woman nodded.
"I suppose you came here for a reason. How can the Black and White Agency help you?"
She looked down and was silent for several seconds.
"My husband has hired someone to kill me," she said in a small voice, without looking up.
"Tell me everything you know."
It took several minutes, with light sobbing and dead silence interspersed in the story. The woman's husband (her name was Veronica Clements) believed she was having an affair with another woman, Nadia Lopez, Veronica's spiritual advisor. Her husband had walked in on the two of them in meditation, which Veronica conceded could look compromising to an outsider, and exploded in rage. The two of them left her husband as he tore up the house, and Veronica decided to stay at a hotel under an assumed name. Nadia, having a psychic vision of a great tragedy impending, went to the offices of the megacorporation that Veronica's husband was the CEO of, in an attempt to talk some sense to him. However, before she reached the office, she was overwhelmed by a sense of murderous rage emanating from it (Nadia apparently had the ability to read emotions and some skill with mind reading). She stopped, and actively tried to read his mind. She discovered that he was talking to a hit-man, a cyberpsi in fact, on his vidphone, and was setting up a time to meet with him.
Fearing for her safety, she fled the building and came back to warn Veronica. That was earlier this morning. After Nadia left, Veronica decided she needed help, and went looking for it. She admitted that the Black and White Agency was the first one she found that looked decent, and decided to try it. Still shaken by telling her story, she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.
"I shouldn't have come to you with this."
"I've dealt with worse things before," said Black, being truthful. After dealing with a vampiric cycle gang, getting involved in industrial espionage, and fighting a dragon with a hundred year-old tank, amongst other things, having to stop a psychic cyborg was no big problem. Assuming he could get a little bit of help.
"I know this will be expensive; I'm willing to pay twice your standard rate."
"Very well, I'll take the case. I've got your number if I need to contact you. I suggest you stay put, and don't talk to ANYONE but me."
"Okay, it would probably be best if you headed straight back to your hotel room. I've got some checking to do. I'll try to be in contact with you by this evening."
She stood up and left the office.
As the door clicked shut, Black angled the computer monitor on his desk towards him. The screen brightened to the animated image of a young and beautiful read-headed woman.
"Got all that, Trixie?" asked Black, getting up.
"Sure did," she replied.
"For now, do two things for me. First, run a check on all known cyberpsis in the city, especially those on the police board. There shouldn't be too many. After that, run a check on that Nadia Lopez person."
"And what are you going to be doing while I'm working like a slave for you?"
"To check to see if I can get a little help for this case, and to scout something out in person."
Black took his heavy trenchcoat off the table it was lying on, and put it on. He picked up his wide-brimmed hat from the desk, and went to the door.
"I'll be back in touch in a few hours."
Trixie merely grunted as he exited the office, then set about her information
Black exited the old brick building his office was in, and went to the parking garage across the street. A few moments later he emerged, riding a replica 1957 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, now wearing thick, black sunglasses. Not that it mattered. The ever-present smog and rain over the city let very little sun through. It was almost a land of perpetual twilight, since at night the lights of the city bounced back down off of the sickly clouds.
Black wound his way through the streets, dodging punker gangs and the homeless. He definitely steered clear of an Elvish Paladin patrol which was in the process of destroying a gang of street wizards with heavy automatic weapons. The homeless dodged the fire to strip cyberware and weapons off of fallen gang members. Black just shook his head and continued on.
A few minutes later he pulled up outside his apartment building and maneuvered the cycle into an armored shed in the alley. He got off the cycle and exited the shed, closing and padlocking the door behind him.
Black jogged up the stairs and made his way to his apartment. Across the hall lived his partner, Simon White, who had been out of town for several weeks. Black noticed that White's mail and papers, which had been piling up outside his door, were gone. Black stepped over to his partner's door and knocked.
It was followed on the other side of the door by a rustling sound, then momentary silence.
"Who is it?" asked a groggy voice.
"It's me, your partner."
There was another moment of silence, and then the door opened. White was standing on the other side in his underwear, his hair a mess and a very rudimentary beard on his face.
"You look like hell, partner."
"I feel like it," replied White, still not fully awake.
"When did you get in?"
"About four hours ago. I haven't slept in 35 hours...," he looked at his watch," ...and forty-six minutes."
"Okay, get back to sleep, but be at the office by six this evening. We have a case that's paying double normal rate."
White looked confused.
"We don't have a normal rate."
"I know," grinned Black.
"Ahh," replied White, sagely.
"Well, you get back to sleep. I have some footwork to do."
White closed the door, and Black heard it lock. Then he heard a loud thump, followed shortly by some light snoring.
Black turned around and got his bike, and drove to the building where
It didn't take Black very long to get to the office building, the home of Harrison Electronics, a major provider of microcircuits to cyberware manufacturers. Black parked his bike in the modern garage across the street, and placed his handgun in a locked metal saddlebag he had on his cycle; he disliked going without a weapon, but he knew that the metal detectors in the office building would pick them up.
Black jaunted across the street, and over to the front door of the building. There were no outside guards or obvious security cameras, and he entered the structure. Inside, there was a large desk, with several security personnel behind it. Unlike the rent-a-cops of the corporations of old, these were well armed and well trained, usually better than the city police. In front of the desk were several people, apparently talking to the guards. On either side of the desk was a jail-like door, on the other side of which was a hallway lined with elevators. Black knew enough about security systems that the only way to get through those doors would be to get a guard to open them or have a magnetic passcard. He stepped over to the desk, and waited his turn.
Finally, the crowd (there was no semblance of a line) thinned out enough to let Black up to the desk. He had carefully noticed that when each person was allowed in, the guard opening up the door made sure that no one else came through. A couple of people bypassed the crowd, and used some type of passcard to open the doors. Most likely employees, thought Black.
"Umm, excuse me, but I need to see Mr.Clements," he said.
"Do you have an appointment?" asked the guard, barely bothering to look up.
"No, I don't. Couldn't I get in to see him anyway? I just need to talk to him for a second."
"Sorry, no appointment, no entrance."
"Well, when could I make an appointment for?"
"I'm not his secretary; you'll have to call. Next."
Black stepped back, and slowly made his way out. He went to a public vidphone next to the parking garage, and after getting the number from information, called Clements' office.
A woman's face came to the screen.
"Mr. Clements' office. May I help you?"
"Yes... an associate of mine, Nadia Lopez, was supposed to have come in this morning to meet with Mr. Clements. I know she was feeling ill, so I was wondering if she had made it by. If not, I need to make an appointment to see him."
The secretary disappeared of the screen for a second, then reappeared," It seems that I have no record of a Nadia Lopez making an appointment to see Mr. Clements this morning, or at any other time. Would you like to make one?"
"No. I'll wait until I can talk with my associate."
The vidphone then clicked off.
Black quickly dialed another number, and a familiar red-head appeared in the screen.
"Anything yet, Trixie?"
"Well, I've got a list of cyberpsis. Most of them are pretty mundane, but a few have been know to do some shady work, even worse than us. I also checked out that spiritual advisor. Outside of an address and vidphone number, there is nothing about a Nadia Lopez on record."
Things are definitely starting to take shape, he thought.
"If you were a person, I'd kiss you."
"If I were a person, you couldn't afford my salary."
"Go ahead and print out hardcopies of the shady cyberpsis. White is back in town, and he should be over in a few hours. If I'm not there, fill him in."
Black closed the connection, and looked around for a place he could
think for awhile.
Shortly after three, Black left the small Italian restaurant he had caught a late lunch at. He hadn't done much eating, though, as his thoughts were on the twist the case had taken.
It was fairly obvious that unless Lopez either worked at the Harrison building, or knew someone who worked there, she wouldn't have gotten in. It was possible that Veronica Clements had set her up with a passcard, but the fact that there were no real records of a Nadia Lopez made things interesting. Lopez obviously wasn't on the level. He needed to find out why.
Black drove back to his own little office. He entered, and saw that apparently White had no intentions of being early. Over at the laser printer were two copies of info on possible cyberpsi suspects. Black pitched his coat and hat onto the wooden chair in front of the desk, picked up a copy of the files, and sat down on a very well-worn couch against the wall opposite of the door.
There were fifty-three cyberpsis on the list, all of which were known to be moderately to psychotically violent. A few of them even had hefty rewards out on them. Black sighed, and began looking through the list. Most of them were lightweight street punks, but a few were fairly serious operators. About a dozen or so were mass murderers that even the Paladins hadn't caught up with yet. However, a small number, about a half dozen, had operated as assassins in the past. It was possible that Clements had hired a first-timer, but with the money and connections the old man must have, he would probably go top-of-the-line. Black wrote down the names on a notepad he kept by the couch. He tore off the page and set it in face down on the scanner next to the printer.
"I've got some names for you to check out. Any info on them and details on their crimes. I'm going to fetch White."
"You never let me get any rest," came a voice from the computer,"I'll get you back for this..."
Black got his stuff and left, thinking 'Why didnít we trash the computer
after the auto-secretary got infected by a wandering spirit..?'.
A little after four, Black reached his apartment. He retrieved his gun and went inside.
Once again he banged on White's door. There was another stirring, and the door opened. Standing in the doorway was White, a Luger in one hand and a pointed wooden stake in the other.
"Calm down partner, it's me."
With the kind of people you ran into in the city, Black could understand the gun. The stake, however, was different. It had been over two months since they had dealt with the vampire cycle gang, and White went as far as keeping holy water in his apartment and wearing a bandoleer of sharpened stakes everywhere he went. White definitely had his problems.
He seemed a bit more awake now," What do you want?"
"The case beckons. We have some nice twists, and you may want to come. Trixie is running a check on our most likely opponents. We need to be back at the office in an hour. I'm going to make a call, and I'll be back over in about thirty minutes."
Without a word or sound, White turned and closed the door behind him.
Black let himself back into his apartment, and sat down on the bed next to his vidphone. It took a few minutes as Black had trouble remembering the number, but finally he got into contact with Veronica Clements.
"Mrs. Clements, let me ask you something; does Nadia have a passcard to get her though the doors at the Harrison building?"
"No, not that I know of. I don't even have one. Why?"
"Nothing...nothing. Have you talked to Nadia lately?"
"Yes, just an hour or so ago."
"Did you tell her about hiring me?"
"No. Is there something wrong?"
"Everything is fine. Look, just be sure you don't tell anyone, and I mean anyone, that you've hired someone to protect you. I don't want it to possibly leak to your husband that he might be having a problem up ahead."
"Is there any kind of social event being thrown in that hotel you're staying in? I mean, you picked a pretty ritzy place."
"Yes, I think there is a party later this evening..."
"Okay, I want you to get dressed for it. I'll be there in about two hours. I know I said I wanted you to stay put, but I have my reasons. Anyway, I don't think whoever it is your husband hired will try anything at a public gathering. Okay?"
"Okay," she replied, still confused.
Black went ahead and turned off his vidphone. He pitched his coat and hat into a nearby chair, and took of his clothes. He rolled over the bed into his bathroom and started the shower. While it was warming up he shaved and brushed his teeth. As soon as the bathroom mirror began to fog up, he decided that the shower was ready.
A few minutes later, he stepped out of the shower, feeling only a little cleaner (water in the city was not sparkling pure). He got a clean set of clothes out of his closet and got dressed, putting on a Kevlarvest under his shirt. He reached under his bed and pulled out a large black case. After putting it up on the bed, he opened it up, and inside were two Ingram MAC-11 submachine guns and a replica M1928 Thompson submachine gun. He pulled out an Ingram and three clips for it. He loaded it, put the safety on, then hooked it into an inner loop in his trenchcoat. He put the shoulder holster holding the Colt on, then put on a light jacket over it. He got his coat and hat, and went across the hall.
"C'mon, let's go."
The door opened, and White stepped out in his full Kevlar body armor, his Luger at his side, a Bergmann submachinegun slung over his shoulder, and the bandoleer of stakes across his chest. When he saw the much cleaner Black, he paused.
"I thought you said we had a case beckoning us? Where are you going?"
"We do. I just have the job of keeping the client happy while you check
On the ride to the office, Black filled in White on the case, though White had a hard time making things out as he hung onto the back of Black's cycle.
"You need to buy a car!" yelled White.
"You need to learn how to drive your bike!" replied Black.
Finally, by the time they reached the office, White was at least dimly aware of what the case was about.
After White got off the motorcycle, Black said," Go on inside, and Trixie will fill you in further. I want you to shadow a Nadia Lopez. Her address is inside. If something major breaks, I'll be at the Bell Grande hotel."
Before White could make any comments, Black was off like the wind. White turned and trudged up the steps to the office. After he got inside, he laid his submachine gun to the side and pulled a chair up to the monitor.
"Okay, Trix, what's the deal?"
About five minutes later, Trixie had completely filled White in on what was happening, minus the legwork that Black had done but not informed her of.
White stared at the monitor," And no vampires?"
"Zilch. Nada," replied Trixie," You know, you need to get over this paranoia of vampires."
"I'm not paranoid," said White defensively, straightening up in the chair.
"You haven't seen a vampire in two months, but you're still carrying around wooden stakes."
"Hey, they're useful against live things."
Trixie made a noise that sounded like a 'hrumph'.
"Anyway, you have that girl to check on. Her address is 4127 Parker St, number 43. And a computerized picture of her is sitting in the printer"
White picked up his Bergmann and the picture, and went to find the nearest bus stop.
Meanwhile, Black was having a great deal of difficulty getting to the hotel. It's not as if there was a great deal of traffic -- only one in ten of the people living in the city had a vehicle. It looked like there was a battle going on up ahead between a cyber gang and some city police. Was it not for the fact that Black wanted to keep himself presentable, and he knew that the Paladins would show up soon, he would have pulled out his Ingram and joined-in on the general principal. As it was, he made his way through some side streets, and fifteen minutes late, pulled up outside the Bell Grande hotel.
Black parked the cycle in an area to the side that was marked for bikes; he wasn't worried about security, since places like this had guys that would put a very large-caliber bullet into anyone trying to steal a vehicle. Black just hoped the guards didn't mistake him for such a person. It wasn't as if he was street scum. It's just that there was a big difference between the have-and-have-not's in his world. The golden rule was definitely alive and well in the city: he who has the gold makes the rules. Though with the big income and little expenses the Agency was experiencing, things were looking up.
Black walked into the hotel, and was surprised that none of the security guards bothered him. He crossed the lobby and walked over to the front desk, where a small man with 'Walter Mitty' written all over him was checking some papers.
"Err, excuse me, but where is the party?"
The man looked up,"I say, you're rather dressed for the occasion. First floor up, grand ballroom is to the left. Oh, what a smashing outfit."
Black made his way to the stairs, pondering what the hell the desk clerk was talking about. He made his way upstairs, and knowing he was late and that Veronica didn't seem very bright and had probably come down without him, he turned left to the ballroom. As he opened the door, he stopped and stared. The room was filled with medieval warriors, elvish maidens, Ork gang members, cyberpunks, a few undead, and more. Except they weren't the real thing.
He had just walked into a costume party.
After missing his stop, White had a very difficult time finding the apartment. It didn't help when one street thug tried to mug him. As soon as the thug saw White unslinging the Bergmann and looking at the rather pathetic knife in his own hand, he ran. Still, it was just another thing to go wrong. A few minutes later, he found the apartment, and the right section. He took cover behind some trash cans, having to beat off some homeless person who said he was standing on his bed.
After nearly thirty minutes, the door to apartment number 43 opened, and a young woman exited. She quickly walked down the sidewalk to a bus stop at the street corner. White slowly got up and stepped to wards the corner. He had gone no farther than a few feet when he felt something rather heavy at his lower left leg. Looking down, he saw the homeless man holding onto his leg, still babbling about his bed. White pulled one of the stakes from his bandoleer and tried to beat the man off with the blunt end.
About this time, the bus pulled up to the stop. White, not wanting to hurt the man, but not willing to lose a tail, reached into his pocket and dropped a $20 bill to the ground. The man moved with the speed of light to the small green sheet of paper, and White began sprinting towards the bus. The woman had already gotten on, and the bus began rolling forward. White started waving his arms and yelling, but to no avail; before he could reach the bus, it had picked up enough speed and was on it's way.
Frantically, White looked around and saw a cab parked to the side of the strret. The driver was leaning back, taking a long, slow hit from a joint. White ran over to the car and jumped in the back.
"$200 to follow that bus!"
The driver, awakened from his vision, bolted forward and hit his forehead into the steering wheel.
"Ow, man, that hurt," he said slowly.
"C'mon, it's getting away."
"Hey, man, life is too short to rush through it. You have to take it slow, and savor it. Want a hit, man?"
White was almost about to cry, then an inspiration hit him.
"Do you know how many joints you could get for $200?"
The driver held one hand in front of him, and semi-randomly began moving his fingers.
"It's a lot, okay. Trust me," said White firmly, about ready to get into the front seat and try to drive the car himself.
The driver smiled.
"Okay, man, you have yourself a deal," said the driver with a chuckle.
The driver popped the car into gear, and it lurched forward.
Black was still at the door, wondering what he had gotten himself into, when a trio of partygoers, dressed as leather-and-chain biker gang members passed by.
"Awesome, dudes. A real gangster dude. Where's your Tommy-gun, dude?"
"At home with a few friends."
"Radical, dude. Those clothes are really happening, du..."
Before he could finish the word, the cold steel of Black's Colt M1911 was pressed against the young man's forehead.
"Don't call me dude again," Black said flatly.
The two companions backed up, and pulled their friend with them. They quickly melted into the crowd, and Black slowly put his gun away.
"There you are," said a female voice to his side," I didn't think you'd make it."
Black turned slightly. Standing next to him was a woman dressed as a member of French nobility, before the days of the granddaddy of razors came out.
"I can't believe you didn't dress for this," she said.
"Well, it seems as if several people think I have."
"Really? What do they think you came as?"
"An albino gangster, apparently," he said humorlessly.
"How funny!," she giggled," Come on, let's mingle."
She grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him into the crowd.
White was clutching the seat covering, mainly because there wasn't a seatbelt to put on. The driver had managed to hit just about everything between the curbs, or so it had seemed, including going up on the sidewalk once. Mercifully for White, the ride was not long. After only two minutes, the bus stopped, and the woman got off. White slid $200 dollars through the slot in the bullet-resistant glass between driver and passenger, and staggered out of the cab.
"Remember, man, slow down, and breath in life. Otherwise your karma is screwed."
With that, the cab took off into the night and disappeared. Fortunately for White, the woman did not do the same. The merry chase had led into a better part of town than what it had started in, and the woman was going up to one of the houses. She knocked on the door, and a man in a leisure suit in his late thirties opened it. There was a brief conversation, and she went inside.
White pondered the situation, then decided on a plan of action. He took off his gear and placed it behind a hedge, making sure no one was watching. He then made a few minor motions with his hands and mumbled a couple of arcane words. Without warning, his body became a thick translucent blue fluid, and his height dropped several feet as his liquid form spread out beneath him. He slowly began to move forward, and flowed under the house. He listened hard for where the pair was, and moved under them. He pushed his form up to touch the floor, and by vibrations, was just able to catch what they were saying.
"Is the plan in motion, then?" asked the woman.
"Yes. After Adams found out where she was staying, he said it would be easy. Veronica will be out of the way tonight."
"And then you'll get what you want?"
More was said, but it was lost to White as he rapidly flowed out to his gear. When he reached the shrub, he ended the spell, and reverted to his human form. He grabbed his weapons and gear and raced to the nearest public vidphone. Once he reached it, he punched up the office.
"Oh, hi there Simon. Have you had any luck..."
"Look, I don't have any time for chatting. I just found out that the cyberpsi knows where our client is at. Try to call her, or page her, or something. I'm headed there right now. And check the list of cyberpsis for a guy named Adams."
Trixie managed look of concern, no mean trick for a computer generated
image,"Hurry up then!"
Black couldn't believe it; even though he liked -- no, loved -- parties he was actually bored with this one. Everyone seemed so fake, as if not only were they wearing a different exterior, but a different interior as well. About the only people Black got along with were the caterers.
Finally, Black managed to corral Veronica near the ice sculpture of a dragon.
"Look, this may have not been a good idea. I thought that this would be better than keeping you in some hotel room, where I would have one eye on the window and another on the door."
"Don't be silly, this has been fine."
"Do you think anyone has recognized you?"
"That mummy over there -- no, the one that's coming unwrapped -- is one of the engineers for Harrison Electronics. We met at an office party last year, but I don't think he remembers me very well."
"Well, I think it's about time I take you back to your room."
Veronica pouted a little, but finally gave in. As the two got near the door, a youngish man wearing a bandoleer of stakes and with a submachine gun slung over his shoulder staggered into the room, breathing heavily.
White slowly caught his breath.
"I found out that the killer is going to strike tonight. He knows where she's staying at," panted White, pointing towards Veronica.
Black thought for a moment.
"Veronica, give me the key or passcard to your room; I'm going to get your stuff. White, stay here with her. I don't think she'll be in trouble if she stays with a crowd."
Veronica, shocked about the news regarding her advisor, shakily got the passcard out of the small purse she had. Black took it, and sprinted for the elevator. Once in, he put his hand on his Ingram in the concealed pocket, and switched the safety off. Several people got on and off the elevator, but none of them caused any problems. The elevator finally reached the twelfth floor, and Black got off, headed to the room number on the key, 1233.
Black reached the door, and opened it carefully, pulling his Ingram out of his pocket. He stepped into the darkened room, and turned to his right to turn on the lights, even though he had nearly inhuman night-vision. As he did so, his left shoulder was hit by a tremendous impact, and the passcard fell from his hand
and into the doorway as he was staggered to one knee. There was a slight pain from the shoulder, and Black knew that whatever had hit him had penetrated both the armored overcoat he wore and the vest underneath. Black spun to his left and let loose a long burst from the Ingram, not really expecting to hit anything, but hoping to force his attacker to take cover.
As the bullets sprayed around the room, Black saw a large man dive from near the door into the hallway. The man rolled over and grabbed the passcard with a metallic hand and bolted for the elevator. Black aimed at the man and pulled the trigger, which responded with a deafening click. Cursing, Black pitched down the Ingram and pulled out his Colt, flipping the safety off.
Before he could take aim and fire, the man was already in the elevator and on his way down. Black let out a longer curse, and getting to his feet and picking up the empty Ingram with his wounded left arm, ran for the next elevator. Precious seconds ticked by on its way up, and when it arrived, it was full of drunken partygoers. Black aimed his pistol into the crowd.
"Everybody out! Now!"
The crowd moved in unison and without hesitation, and got out of the elevator. Black quickly got in, and hit the first floor button. He put the Colt back in its holster and reloaded the Ingram, putting the empty clip in another pocket. He covered the Ingram in the coat, and stepped out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened. He saw no signs of the man in the lobby, and ran to the nearest baggageboy.
"Hey, kid, did a real big guy run though here in the last few seconds? I think he had cyberhands or cyber arms."
"Umm, yes sir. He went out the front door."
"Thanks kid," said Black as he took off into a run.
As soon as he made it outside, he saw a large black sports car tear out of the covered parking lot across the street and head off to the west part of town. Black stopped, caught his breath, and ran back in, up to the second floor. It wasn't hard to find White and Veronica, since the party seemed to be breaking up.
"We got a message from security that there was some type of gunfire upstairs, and a lot of the people panicked and left," said Veronica, sipping on her punch.
"Err, well,... ,"started Black.
"Couldn't resist, huh?" asked White.
"I didn't have much choice. As soon as I went into Mrs. Clements' room, somebody, who I assume was the hitman, attacked me. The best I could do was fire while I was going down. I'm pretty sure I didn't hit him. I think we better get out of here fast. I had to force some people out of an elevator at gunpoint, and they might have recognize me, even as drunk as they were."
"Oh my God," said Veronica, nearly dropping her glass," You're hurt."
Black looked over his left shoulder, and saw a small amount of blood
seeping through his coat," Nothing to worry about. Now let's get out of
The three moved out front together, where there were able to get a taxi for White and Veronica. Black instructed them to head for the office, and he went and got his cycle.
A few minutes later, the trio was huddled around the desk in the Black and White Agency office, with White tending to Black's wound.
"Looks like a knife, or something similar."
"Yeah, unless the guy was incredibly strong, I figured it had to be something that would slip between the weaves in the Kevlar."
"It fits," said Trixie, flickering onto the screen.
"How so?" asked Black.
"Adams, Morgan. Suspected of assassinating at least twenty-three persons in the last four years. Possibly linked to a dozen more homicides. Prefers to get up close to his targets, but will use guns if needed. Known cybernetic implants include two arms, two eyes, and skeletal strengthening. It is unknown what options he has in the eyes, but he is believed to possess some form of night vision. His psychic ability is in the ESP field, namely psycometry and precognition."
"I don't know what we'd do without you, Trix," said White, finishing the bandaging on Black.
"Probably go out of business, I imagine."
Black smiled for a moment, then frowned.
"What exactly is psycometry?"
"It's the ability to read the psychic impressions left on an item by a previous owner or someone who has handled it," answered Veronica.
Black, White, and Trixie turned to look at her.
"Well, that's what Nadia told me..."
Black and White turned back to the monitor.
"Essentially, she's correct. While the amount of time you possess the item has an influence on how strong the reading are, what is more important is the emotional state of the possessor of the item."
Black leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
"So that's why he took the passcard."
"?" said the others.
Black reopened his eyes.
"When he hit me in the arm, I dropped the passcard to Mrs. Clements' room. As he was fleeing the room, he grabbed it and took it with him. At the time, I couldn't figure out why. I was so loaded with tension when I was going up to the room that the passcard is probably oozing with my psychic residue."
"Well, it doesn't exactly work like that ...," started Trixie.
Black looked over at White.
"What did you find out?"
"It seems that Miss Lopez, or some woman that looks like her and lives in her apartment, is in on this."
Black shot a quick glance over to Veronica, and saw the look of shock on her face he expected to find.
"Anyway, there was this man she met at his house, and they were discussing the hit -- Trixie, see if you can find out who lives at 2309 ... West Potter. I might be a house or two off."
"Will do," said Trixie.
Black paused a second to take it all in.
"Okay, it might be a good idea for you to go back there and check things out. See if you can plant any bugs."
"And what are you going to do, oh Great and Mighty Leader?"
"I'm going to see about setting a trap for our Mr. Adams."
White took the small green pouch that was the Agency's Bag-O-Tricks (tm) and took a bus to the neighborhood he had tracked Lopez to. Using his stealth ability to the max, he snuck around the house to the back. He set down his gear, and looked for a vent grating. It took only a few seconds to find one. He repeated the spell he had cast in his prior visit, and flowed into the ventilation system. He didn't want to get too far into the house, and exited in the room nearest the back door, which happened to be the kitchen. Once in, he cancelled the spell. He stepped up to the back door and carefully deactivated the alarm system. He slowly opened the door, and retrieved his gear.
He carefully went around the house with his Bag-O-Tricks (tm), placing hidden bugs in every room but the bedroom; the man and Lopez were naked on the bed together, asleep.
White took a small camera out of the Bag-O-Tricks (tm), snapped a few shots of Lopez, put the camera back in the pouch, and continued about the house.
Finally sure that everything was taken care of, he placed his gear back
outside, came back in and turned on the alarm, and cast the spell that
turned him back to a liquid form. He flowed back over to the vent, and
went outside, gathered his gear, and camped out on a bus bench across the
street, which was near a public vidphone. He reached into the Bag-O-Tricks
(tm), pulled out a wireless headset, and put them on, and waited.
Black was carefully looking over the printout on Adams while Veronica slept on the couch. The list of victims was impressive. Adams had killed business executives, decorated policemen, and research engineers, not cheating wives. None of the hits Adams had made indicated he would take the job he was apparently involved in. A whistle to Black's left jarred him out of his thought.
"The house Simon gave me the address to is owned by Roger J. Hansen," said Trixie, with the look of a weasel that had found an unguarded hen house.
"I know that look on your face; what else did you dig up?"
Trixie grinned widely," He's the junior executive officer at Harrison Electronics, number two in the company behind you-know-who."
Black smiled slightly himself.
"If we could figure out why he wants Clements' wife killed, I think we will have solved the mystery. Unfortunately, we still have to stop Adams. If he uses psycometry on that passcard, can he find out what I'm thinking now?"
"No," responded Trixie," He can read things only present the last time you handled the card."
Black paused for a second, then leaned towards the monitor.
"Okay, I'm going to go home, get rearmed, and head back over here."
"Anything you want me to do in the meantime?"
"Naw, take a rest; you deserve one."
Black got his cycle, and headed to his apartment. He was very careful about entering his apartment, and pulled out the black case. He put his Ingram back in, and pulled out the Thompson and a hundred-round drum for it. He also picked up a few extra magazines for his Colt.
Black got back on his bike and speed to the office.
Things were fairly quite until a large black sports car pulled into the driveway of the house White was watching. A large man got out and banged on the door to the house. White heard a stirring inside, and footsteps. The front door opened, and the man from earlier opened the door, and let the large one in.
"You know you weren't supposed to come here."
"Things have gotten very complicated; Miss Lopez failed to inform me of the fact that Mrs. Clements had hired an agency to protect her."
"She hired the Black and White Agency, a pair of small-time but none-the-less effective detectives slash mercenaries. One of them, Black I believe, stumbled into the trap I had set for her. Unfortunately, his reflexes were pretty good, and he was hosing around a great deal of automatic weapon fire, and I was not able to eliminate him at that time. However, I know where his apartment and office is at, and it should be easy to deal with them both. Of course, it raises the cost a bit, but I'll do them in a way to not link them to Mrs. Clements death."
"What's going on?" asked a female voice.
"It seems, my dear, that you have let us down; Veronica has hired some two-bit mercenaries to protect her, and it nearly got Mr. Adams killed. It was your job to make sure we knew everything she did until the time came."
A metallic click could be distinctly heard.
"She didn't tell me; she wouldn't see me, but she wouldn't tell me why. I'm sorry," said the woman, in a panicked voice.
"So am I."
Two sharp cracks rang out, followed by a thud.
"Mr. Adams, proceed to deal with the situation as you see fit. I'll clean up the garbage here. Do you still have the evidence to frame Clements?"
"Yes. I'm fortunate I had decided to place it after I carried out my assignment."
"Good. Contact me after you have finished the job."
There were some more footsteps, the door opened, and the large man exited the house. He got in his car, revved up the engine, and shot off into the night.
White moved over to the vidphone and called the office.
"How are things going Simon?"
"Not well, not well at all. Adams might be coming over to the office, and I think the guy who owns the house just killed Lopez. Is Black there?"
"No," replied Trixie, with a nervous tone in her voice,"He went back to his apartment to get rearmed. He should be on his way back by now."
"Okay, I don't think I can beat Adams back to the office; his sports car seems a lot faster than any bus or subway I could take. I'm going to go ahead and take care of the guy here. If Black isn't at the office in about five minutes, get our client out of there."
"Okay. I'll go ahead and access the security systems at both of your apartments; if Adams goes there first, I'll know it. Should I alert the city cops or the Paladins?"
"Better neither; the city cops shoot at anything that moves, and the Paladins would probably haul us in for not reporting the murder conspiracy to them earlier."
"Good luck, then," she said.
"No, its you and Black that need the good luck."
White disconnected from the vidphone and put his headphones into his Bag-O-Tricks (tm), checked to make sure his Bergmann was loaded, and headed around to the back of the house.
Just as he rounded the corner, he saw the man, not ten feet away, carrying a limp five-foot long or so object wrapped in a blanket. The man turned, and stopped, his jaw dropping slightly as White leveled the Bergmann at him.
"Just twitch, you bastard, and you'll be very dead."
There was silence and stillness for several long seconds. Suddenly, the man dropped the bundled form, and falling backwards, reached into his jacket pocket. White pulled the trigger, standing his ground. Several rounds kicked up about the man, and some hit. Then, White heard one of those two dreaded sounds one can hear in a fire-fight, that of his gun jamming.
As it did so, he dropped the Bergmann and began drawing his Luger. The other man had pulled out a short-barreled but large frame revolver, and let off several wild shots. Most missed, but two hit White, lifting him off the ground and knocking him on his back. The pistol fell from White's hand, but fortunately he was unhurt; the full body armor had completely stopped the rounds from penetrating. As he sat up, still trying to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him, he saw the man getting into his car. White looked around, but could not locate his Luger. Realizing he had no other chance, he pulled one of the stakes from his bandoleer and charged the car.
The man had just gotten the engine started, when White reached it. With a thrust using all of the strength he could muster, White broke the stake through the window and into the man's side. The man froze, letting out an agonizing scream. White pushed the stake in further, and the man shuddered, then fell into the passenger's seat. White carefully prodded the body, and was sure the man was dead.
He went over to bundle, and was not surprised to find Nadia Lopez's body wrapped in the sheets, two bullet holes near her heart. He covered her back up, and went over to where his weapons lay. In a few seconds he had the Bergmann unjammed, and found his Luger. Making sure he had everything of his (he went back and pulled the stake out of the man's body), he went back around to the front of the house, looking for a cab. One came into view, and White began running at it, waving his arms. The cab screeched to a halt, almost hitting White. He leaned against the hood momentarily, and the cabbie got out.
"Hey man, you need to be more careful ... hey man, it's you."
White slowly looked up at the taxi driver, then let his head drop, slowly
beginning to cry.
Black arrived at the office a few minutes after White had called, and Trixie filled him in on what had happened. Black told her to continue monitoring the apartments. He loaded the bulky drum on the Thompson, and cocked it. Lying it down on the table, he moved over to a long, thin object wrapped in a blanket.
Unwrapping the cloth, it revealed a large bolt-action rifle. He reached into a nearby drawer, and took out a box of huge shells. Carefully, he loaded the rifle.
Veronica, who had been asleep when Black had entered the office, was now waking, and saw the rifle.
"What is that?" she asked, awed by the size of it.
"In the business, we call it a boomer-buster; any large-bore rifle used to kill heavily cyborged creatures."
Veronica nodded," So you're getting ready to track down the hit man?"
Black paused his loading," Not exactly; he's coming to us."
Veronica's face went pale and her eyes grew large.
"He's coming here?" she asked hoarsely.
Black nodded, loading the last of the bullets into the three round magazine.
"Where is your partner?"
"He's the one that alerted me that Adams was on his way. He doesn't know how to drive a vehicle though, and public transit really bites in this town. He decided to deal with Mr. Hansen, since he was on the scene. Also, it appears that either Hansen or Adams killed Lopez."
As Black set the gun against the wall, he heard a thud behind him. Turning around, he saw Veronica passed out on the floor.
"You were right, man, that money bought a lot of joints," said the cabbie, holding up a fair-sized satchel up for White to see.
"Eyes on the road!" yelled White, as the car swerved close to a parked Paladin armored car.
The cabbie missed the car, and continued onward down the street, driving twice as fast as was safe, peering out into the night.
"Where man? I don't see any eyes out there..."
"No, I meant keep your eyes on the road."
"Oh, that makes more sense, man," replied the cabbie as he cut in front of and around a large semi, then he started to giggle," I mean, if you were seeing eyes on the road, I was going to ask you for some of what you were using."
White swallowed hard, trying to keep down yesterday's dinner," Do you have to go so fast?"
"Hey, man, you paid me top dollar to get you back to your office as fast I could. Anyway, driving like this is really groovy. It gets even better when I turn off the headlights."
Black got a bottle of water out of the mini-refrigerator near the desk, opened the bottle, and poured a small amount on Veronica.
She bolted upright as the cold water hit her, and let out a yelp. Black put the bottle back into the fridge, and sat down an a rubbage-free section of the desk.
"Look, I can't have you fainting left and right, especially when Adams shows up. I want you to stay under this desk until I tell you to come out."
"Why aren't we leaving?"
"There isn't much point in running, since he'll probably find you again," Black said, turning to the computer," Trixie, call the Paladins, and tell them there is a disturbance in the building."
"But nothing is happening."
Black looked at his watch," By the time they get here there will be."
Adams pulled his sportscar up to the curb in front of the building that the Black and White Agency was stationed at. He pulled a large magazine-feed shotgun out from the backseat and locked the car.
As he approached the steps, he saw that no lights were on inside the structure. He paused for a second, and switched his cyber-eyes to thermograph with just a thought. He slowly opened the wooden front door, and stepped in.
He went down the hallway, and slowly began his ascent on the stairs, removing the autoshotgun's safety. As he reached the second floor, he pulled out a smoke grenade and pitched it out into the hallway towards the front of the building. From his check, he knew that both Black and White had unnatural night vision, but that it was still blocked by smoke; his own thermal vision was not affected, however.
As soon as the smoke began filling the hallway, from the far end, near the front, came the sound of a heavy submachinegun, and the wood near end of the hallway where Adams was at began splintering.
Adams stayed in the staircase, and waited. The submachinegun stopped. Adams leaped out into the smoke-filled hallway, and began firing with his autoshotgun, which was filled with a mixed load of buckshot and slug. His target stood out clearly in the heat-sensitive blak-and-white thermograph Adams was using. A couple of the shot rounds hit the target and stagered it, and then a slug ripped into it's shoulder, spinning the target around and knocking it to the floor. Adams paused, and the target did not move.
Adams carefully made his way down the hall, keeping his gun aimed at the fallen target. There was no perceptable movement from it by the time Adams reached the door of the Agency. He slung his autoshotgun, and pulled out a large knife. Slowly, he opened the door. He stepped inside, and quickly looked over the room. He saw no one yet. He closed the door and switched to Light Intensification Mode. There appeared to be no one in the room, and Adams began to think that perhaps the the two mercenaries had moved her to some safe spot.
The second one, thought Adams, I haven't seen him yet. He wondered if it had been a good idea to sling his gun. Still, had the partner been present, he would have almost surely attacked by now. Adams began to search the room, and as he began to examine the desk, he noticed that someone was under it. He squatted down, and looked into the person's eyes with his own, blue-glowing mechanical ones.
"Good evening Mrs. Clements. I hope you had nothing planned for the
rest of your life."
The taxi screeched to a halt in front of the old wooden building and White stumbled out. He had barely given the driver his money when a front window on the second floor exploded outwards, accompanied by the sounds of gunfire.
By the time he reached the stairs, the gunfire had stopped. White carefully exited the stairwell on the second floor, his gun leveled. Smoke filled the hallway, and he heard nothing. He lowered himself to the floor and began crawling towards the office door. As he neared it he shaw a shape laying near the destroyed window. As he approached it, he heard sounds from inside the office.
"He's inside with Veronica," whispered the figure near the window unexpectedly.
White paused, then quickly set down his guns and removed his armor. Suddenly, his back arched up and white fur began growing from his face and hands while his clothes began ripping apart. In less than five seconds, the change was complete, and where White had been there was now a large, white wolf. It turned towards the door and leaped forward.
Adams had pulled the shaking woman out from under the desk and to the center of the room. A faint grin passes across his face. He pressed her against him, face to face. He pulled her head back with one hand and drew a long knife with the other. Just as the bladereached her throat, the door splintered open and a huge wolf burst in. Before Adams could react the wolf dove under him and locked its jaws around his right ankle.
The would-be assassin instinctively released the woman, who fainted to the floor, and swung downwards with the knife. The wolf let go and just managed to dodge the swing. It backed away from the cyborg and growled. Adams switched the knife to his off hand and pulled out his automatic pistol with blinding speed. Just as he leveled the gun at the wolf, there was a thunderous sound and Adams was thrown several feet backwards into the wall opposite of the destroyed door. Adams clutched his side, an intense pain shooting through him.
Standing in the doorway was Black, chambering a round in a very large-bore rifle. Adams quickly brought his pistol up and fire several unaimed shots towards his attacker. None of the bullets hit Black but he was forced to dodge back into the hallway. Adams dropped his pistol and reached for his automatic shotgun, but never made it.
The front office windows exploded inwards and a pair of elves, clad in white combat armor and armed with assault rifles, swung into the room. Before Adams could unsling the shotgun, the pair opened fire at him. As his staggered back into a wall, a third Paladin, armed with a small-bore auto shotgun firing rifled slugs, opened up from the doorway. All emptied their clips, though Adams was dead well before the magazines ran dry.
Black carefully picked himself up from the hallway floor and walked into the room. One of the Paladins was attendind to Veronica while the other two were making sure that the cyborg was indeed dead. White slowly poked his head from behind the couch, where he had taken refuge when the firing had started. One of the Paladins swung towards him, raising his gun, casusing White to duck back behind the couch.
"He's with us!", yelled Black.
The Paladin lowered the weapon,
"Anyone else coming out of the woodwork?" he asked.
"Not that I know of."
A Paladin tending to Veronica mumbled something in elvish into the radio head-set he wore, then turned to Black.
"An ambulance will arrive shortly, as well as a disposal unit for the 'borg."
A nervous voice could be heard from behind the couch.
"Could somebody get me some clothes?"