â€œHey C, hope I'm not disturbing you?â€ the form asked.
â€œX-S.â€ the elf replied over the matrix. â€œNothing I can't get back to. Go on.â€
â€œOh, sorry. Well, I've got something you may find interesting. Something Angel might be interested in looking into too.â€
â€œHold on,â€ Carnun interrupted. â€œNot here. I'll meet you at our usual place, give me half an hour.â€
â€œSure,â€ 2XS nodded.
Carnun closed the call and Black got back to the matter in hand.
â€œRemember, this is what my employer has managed to organise in jut the two hours since you kidnapped Juan. Imagine what havoc they can reap when they have been given time. Fuck with them and you will wish they had asked me to kill you now.â€
Black pulled back from the human slightly, but did not relinquish his grip. â€œAlways preferred Inverness Caledonian Thistle myself.â€ With that Drake smacked the man across the head with an iron bar knocking him out cold.
The pair collected Juan and placed him in Black's Prairie-Cat.
Leaving the bright, glitzy Seattle RTG behind him, Carnun navigated his way across the sparsely populated virtual landscape of Tir Tangire. The elven nation's matrix was full of green trees and valleys. Not what a city dweller would expect to find in the ultra-tech virtual world but it was what most people would consider very elven. This particular elf wasn't that bothered about the 'greenness' of the landscape. Although, that said, he did appreciate the programming that had gone into making the landscape look as realistic as possible.
The usual meeting place was as always in Oakland, a secure host on a PLTG. The host's keeper rented out space for all sorts of private meetings.
2XS was there waiting for him.
â€œHi man,â€ the decker said in greeting as Carnun materialised inside the room.
â€œWhat have you got?â€ Carnun asked after some small talk.
With a wave of his hand 2XS pulled up a data folder. â€œThese are the names and addresses of some of those Troll Killer mother-fuckers. First one's a big hitter in the gang and thinks he's something special. Likes to show off and take his 'brothers' to expensive restaurants and clubs. You know, the sort where you don't bring a gun unless you want it shoved up your own ass!â€
Carnun grinned. â€œYou're good, XS, you know that!â€ With a mental click he copied the files across.
â€œYou don't know the half of it bud!â€ 2XS replied boastfully.
Carnun cast a questioning look at his colleague.
â€œOh, man! All right, lets start from the beginning. I asked some friends of mine to give me a hand looking for those names. One dude, I assume its a dude anyway, Skylab Sorcerer has got this acquaintance Web Wanderer. Now, Web and his partner in crime Iso-Hunter were talking about the latest hot topic in your neck of the woods, namely the Arcology shut-down. Hell, you need to come on to the forums with me and hear the stuff people are saying.â€
â€œThere's some saying all the people in there have been massacred, others think this is the prelude to the emergence of a new drake on the scene and taking over Renraku's pride and joy is it's way of saying 'hi I'm hard so don't mess with me'!â€
â€œIs there a punch line coming any time soon?â€ Carnun asked sarcastically. 2XS could go off on a tangent at the drop of a hat.
â€œAll right, okay!Web has been holding a vigil on the Arcology, I got the impression there's someone in there he knows. Anyway, complete black-out, like a void in the matrix.â€
â€œX! I know this. Drake and I checked it out within minutes of it coming on the news. Nothing in and nothing out. What's changed?â€ Carnun asked, reigning in his friends building excitement.
â€œThe nothing in and nothing out part!â€ 2XS exclaimed.
â€œThe Arcology is back on-line?â€ Carnun was now interested.
â€œNo man. Not as simple as that. The matrix is dead as usual. No, something went in and something came out.â€ 2XS held his hands up to Carnun indicating that he wasn't finished yet.
â€œIso-Hunter started getting these rumours on her forum about this Johnson who's been loosely affiliated with Renraku, scooping up runners at an ungodly hour. This got Web and her into poking around. Looked like some heavy decker activity around the Arcology, and some of them were in a bit of a flap cos some half-assed AI know-bot type thing had been probing the arc.â€
After a brief pause where it looked as though 2XS was doing some other task he returned to his explanation. â€œSorry dude Marina Marsten's new trideo has just been released. Man, she's hot! Right, where was I. Ah, yes. Everything goes quiet for a few of hours and Iso is off trying to track down the source of the know-bot. Web and Skylab are discussing the usual theories when they suddenly get a transmission from inside the arc. It's from someone on the inside and from the conversation its from some guy who has just managed to penetrate the building. He also transmitted images of a dead family still in their home. The transmission was sent on an open phone line, no encryption. Whoever sent it wanted it to be seen. Things is, this dead guy is someone that Web knew. They went to college together. He's some wiz decker, a system analyst, went down the corporate wage slave route. This got Web and Skylab fired up. The two traced the cell to a Mr Jericho. A bit more digging revealed him to be a PI. Not the sort of guy you'd expect a big corp to send in on a high profile mission like this, but his transmission was back to a corp intermediary.â€
â€œSo this is where it gets fuckin interesting. Iso-Hunter has found the source of the probe, an apartment on the eastern edge of Tacoma.
While she's having a poke around, avoiding the Corp deckers, who should turn up, but Web and Skylab. They've followed the trail from this PI back to his home. What the fuck is a nobody PI from Tacoma doing with a know-bot in his apartment? Iso managed to intercept some of the traffic between the Corp deckers and their home base. They didn't reveal much the guys didn't already know about but one of the things that had got wagers buzzing was the phrase 'Echo Tower'. Web and co were at a loss. All number of searches got nothing. But I'd heard it before. Took me a while but I'm sure I heard you or Drake talking about an Echo Tower before. So then it clicks, Jericho, Echo Tower, you. The guys had found out this Jericho's real name; Joshua Calladan. A fully registered private investigator there in Seattle but originally from Chicago.â€
Carnun was impressed this was a lot of information and 2XS's friends seemed to be accomplished deckers.
â€œYou've got an agent or something,â€ 2XS went on, â€œ that does a search of the matrix for a list of various name and phrases. When I checked Jericho, Calladan and Echo Tower are all on that list. You know this fuckin dude, dude!â€
Carnun smiled. â€œYou're a clever bastard, my friend, you know that? Yes, I know him, or at least of him. He was one of the ones that went into the Aztec pyramid in The Zone. Not surprised they've got him going into the arc. This means something's going to happen soon.â€
The elf thought over the situation for a moment. â€œOkay, I think there could be a good opportunity to get our hands on some pay data, and maybe even some physical merchandise too. Get a team of deckers ready to go in when the power comes back up. While the system is rebooting there's gong to be all sorts of exploitable gaps in their defences. It'll take an army of deckers to get that place locked down properly, and most of the people who knew the system are inside and could even be dead by the looks of it.â€
2XS nodded, liking the idea of rushing in and plucking out some choice gems before the vault door slammed shut on them. â€œWhat are you going to do?â€
â€œGo and take a look, see what's going on. Send me a LTG address where your team is hanging when you're ready. Wait! You said Angel might be interested, why?â€
â€œWe don't know if people are alive or dead but if they aren't 'R-I-P'ing it in their abodes then chances are they ain't going to be in a good way. Thought it might be up Angel's street to help them out.â€
â€œI'll be in touch,â€ Carnun said satisfied.
Black logged off.
He looked across at Drake. â€œThere's something going down at the Arcology. I'm going to take a look, you wanna come?â€
Drake shrugged, â€œNah, I need some sleep. Give me a shout if anything kicks off though!â€