- When you're a spy, the first thing you learn is that there's a reason for everything. People don't just up and wander off without going somewhere specific, even if it's just to see the scenery. Cars don't break down by the side of the road without something being wrong with them... Or with their driver.
- Most importantly at the moment, billion-dollar starships don't just go haring off to pirate-infested third-world periphery hellholes like Antallos for no good reason. It kind of reminded me of Somalia: everyone was out for something, and everyone was sure that someone nearby was out for [i]them[/i]. Which all goes to explain what I was doing out on what passed for tarmac, shuffling boxes of Chinese knock-off Ikea from a dropship's hold into a nearby truck.
- I was not the only one at it, of course. A DGSE man I'd had the misfortune to work with once before was driving a forklift, loading pallets of German microwave meals onto another truck. A ninja with a bowl-cut and a lingering Russian accent stood around supervising, making notes on a clipboard. Nobody expects a nerdy-looking guy with a clipboard to be much of anything, so it makes a useful disguise for one of the best hand-to-hand brawlers I've ever known.
- The rest of our team was busy with similar work around the city, quietly observing and gathering information. They might be he weedy kid bagging purchases at a grocery store, the elderly janitor at an office, or the big but slightly slow fellow with the street cart, selling falafel. Okay, so there aren't many grocery stores in Port Krin. It's the principle of the thing. You go where people congregate, where they let their guard down, where they don't look twice at you and don't give you a second thought.
- You keep your mouth shut and your ears open. And within a few days, you'll know not just who the movers and shakers are, but who the middlemen are. Who serves as the grease that lets the movers and shakers do their moving and shaking. Because those are the people who can make the useful little things happen. Like getting your buddy the "mercenary" (actually a Spetsnaz veteran) a job with their security department, or hooking up someone a little higher with the gorgeous Korean fen-ninja who spent half her mass allowance on fancy dresses and the other half on concealed blades and explosives. And [i]that[/i] gets you [i]access[/i]. Access to the information you're really there for. Like forces status, response times, and maintenance schedules. Names and contacts of dissident elements. Everything you need to know to hit them when they're least ready for it.
- Because when the governments of the most heavily industrialized solar system in a hundred lightyears decide that they want someone's head on a platter, it's best delivered with barbecue sauce and an apple in its mouth.
- * * * * *
- Let's take a look in on some of our delivery agents, shall we?
- I've worked with Fen before. Some of them can be amazingly good, especially when they might well have special abilities thanks to the wonders of the Goo. Most of the sheer amateurs got weeded out in the early days of the Boskone War. In fact, I could tell you about… but I'd rather not. I lost a couple of good friends that day. Let's stay focused on Antallos.
- Gretchen Weiss was sixteen when the Boskone War ended. Her parents chose that time to emigrate, joining her uncle's farm on Ganymede. Both of them were Shadowrun fans, and when her father ended up head of IT for the 'Solaris VII' asteroid station, she leapt at her chance. She had training courtesy of some rather, ah, /interesting/ mercenaries; she had experience tracking down cells of Boskone remnants; and she had an edge, in the form of wave-cyber reflex assists that I've envied on several occasions.
- It was all three of these that combined to put her in a Port Krin back alley today, on her way to a dive that went by the rather portentous name of Hanrahan's Bar, with a Colt 1911 appearing in her hand as if out of nowhere.
- "You shouldn't do that, Kaede-sama," she chided the petite ninja who /had/ appeared out of nowhere, as she slid the gun back under the tail of her shirt. "I might have shot you."
- The last ripples of Kaede's mimetic cloak faded as she stepped to the edge of the shadows. "You are better with your hardware than that, Gretchen-san," she said with a brief bow. "I was in no danger."
- "I guess that's why you're the team lead, and I'm the face," Gretchen said. "So, is he there?"
- Kaede nodded. "He is in the bar you named. Alone, so far as we can tell, as directed. I will be nearby, and Misha and Darya will cover the rear exit in case of treachery."
- "Just as planned," Gretchen said, a slight smile warming the blonde's expression. "Let's be about it." By the time she was out of the alley, there was no sign of the ninja.
- * * *
- The contact in question - one John Farnham - was sitting at the bar, a pint-glass of beer in hand that he was carefully pretending to sip. The locals swore by it; to John it was some of the nastiest swill he'd ever seen poured out of a boot. He had no intention of actually drinking any, he just needed something to appear to be enjoying whenever a patrol came by. He'd never used this particular bar as a meeting place before, but the message that had appeared in his dead-drop claimed it was a 'good omen'. He had no idea what significance Hanrahan's Bar might have to the foreigner, but John had come, and he would wait for the appointed time to see if it was another trap, or if this was genuinely a new group looking to bring change to Port Krin.
- He was somewhat surprised by the woman who claimed the seat two places down from him, about ten minutes after the patrol had last swept through the bar. She was about 170cm tall, maybe 60 kilos, 65 soaking wet, with wavy dark-blonde hair framing a decidedly attractive face, a vibrantly loud bird-printed shirt worn over skin-tight black jeans, and a t-shirt with a Japanese logo that he puzzled out after a moment as advertising a corporation called 'Blue Sun'. Presumably, her employer, although you never know in Port Krin. He'd never seen her before or heard of the company, but she sat down as if she'd been here every day of her life and bellowed, "Hey, Flannagan! Get me a Mountain Tiger, wouldja?"
- "I tol' you I don't know what that is, lass," the bartender rumbled. "You want a PPC, maybe?" The girl nodded, and Flannagan started to mix her drink.
- It took John a moment to realize that the woman had done what he'd been watching for, had caused the bartender of the infamous Hanrahan's to admit to not having something. That was the sign, which meant she was his contact, and he needed to give the counter-sign. "Pity you couldn't get what you wanted," he said, casually. "Just be sure not to get the local beer, it's an insult to the gods of beer for its sheer putrid existence."
- "Good, bad, or indifferent," she said, turning to face him, "Free beer is by definition good beer." She took her drink and slipped a small handful of coin across the bar. "I'm Gretchen. Let's get a table and talk about it?" she asked, sliding off the barstool. John nodded, and got to his feet.
Michael Weston Goes to Antallos, v0.03
a guest May 13th, 2013 12 Never
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