If you haven’t seen Delilah yet, start at the beginning.
“What you’re trying to work out,” said Delilah, “is whether whatever file you have on me is accurate. It’ll say some shit about how I’m deep insurgency load out from Metatech. It might talk about how I can shoot laser beams from my eyes. No? Well that was on the spec sheet for the last job some fools wanted me for. Seriously, who has that tech? The power drain alone makes it unfeasible. You want to know the extent of my training. Can I walk into a situation out gunned, a simple sidearm at my hip, and walk out with the cash bonus.”
“We haven’t agreed on a cash bonus,” said Scott.
“Scott?” said Delilah. “If you draw down on me, and there is not cash on the table as an incentive, I will murder everyone here. I think we need to be clear on the ground rules before we start.”
Lily and Scott didn’t talk to each other, but the slight change in their postures suggested that they were speaking over link comm. Time for a little showmanship. Delilah activated her link tech, ran a decrypt on their comms, and listened in.
“It sounds like she’s legit,” said Scott over the link.
“Could be she’s with Sampson. I don’t like it.” Lily didn’t move a muscle, but her link comms dripped with disdain.
“If she’s with Sampson, we’re blown, and really, what’s his play here? He’d just send her in to kill us all.”
Lily’s lips twitched a little at that. “You know, you’re right.”
“He is right,” agreed Delilah, in the real. They both stared at her. “Look, your Reed tech is carnival funhouse stuff compared to what I’m working with here. The mods?” She tapped the side of her head. “They make what I do useful. Your file probably says Metatech want a piece of me back. They don’t. They don’t care. I served out my time. I just like souvenirs.” She inserted herself into their link comms. “It also makes me expensive, but think of it as good value for money.”
Scott laughed. “I think I like her.”
“Don’t get too attached,” said Lily. She reached — slowly, like any professional in a high-tension situation would — under the table. She retrieved a briefcase, black faux leather over hard metal. Delilah’s optics told her inside was a series of stacked papers, the right dimensions to be bank notes. “This is your prize. Leave them alive, and … repairable, and you’re on the team.”
“You best get on then,” said Delilah. She nodded at Red. “Wouldn’t want you getting hit by a stray round.” She watched them walk towards the rear of the bar, wondering who was picking up the repair bill for Tarmac Bourbon. In a little less than five minutes there wouldn’t be enough left in here to outfit a hotdog cart.
Time to play.
The door closed behind Scott and Lily — the latter giving her a farewell glance, something hopeful in it. Then they were gone. Delilah had time to breathe in and out just once before the action started. As predicted, Martini Olive moved first, the woman sliding off her stool in a smooth movement, kicking the seat off it and towards Delilah’s head. Delilah felt the cool of overtime settle around her, more comfortable and familiar than the air conditioning. The lattice twitched and bunched under her skin as its prediction routines moved her body back about ten centimeters, the seat moving past her face in a slow-motion whirl. Martini Olive had continued her movement, reaching under the bar next to her and fielding an ugly weapon. Looked to be a shotgun, an automatic, house-to-house style with a pistol grip and shorter barrel. If she brought that to bear on Delilah, her laminar armor would take a few rounds, but not many.
Let’s not let it get to that. Delilah kicked off her subversion routines. Her optics mapped Martini Olive’s body, head to toe, and found that the woman’s eyes were of an older style. They’d been manufactured, according to Delilah’s database, in a boutique lab in Hokkaido. That lab did excellent work as a rule, but this particular range had a small flaw that allowed compromise through directed EM pulse. Delilah’s lattice had already pointed her left palm at Martini Olive, because that’s where Delilah’s EM pulse emitter was housed. She triggered a quick series of blasts, invisible to the eye, but the effects gratifying. Delilah’s lattice kept her body’s backward momentum going. She tumbled over her chair to land crouched on the floor behind it. Martini Olive swung her weapon to bear on Delilah’s last known position, firing the auto shotgun and hitting nothing but air. The good news was the roar of that weapon, slowed to a waterfall’s crescendo through the treacle of overtime, would mask Delilah’s movements. She pulled her sidearm free. Delilah had it custom-made a long time ago. The weapon fired .50 calibre rounds. On automatic, it had a hell of a kick, but Metatech’s motion stabilizing bionics made that more of an inconvenience. Delilah had loaded her sidearm with armor-piercing rounds for the interview. Explosive bullets would have made gaining the bonus difficult, and she needed the damn money.
She stood and raised the sidearm in one smooth motion, lattice pointing the weapon at Martini Olive … and was knocked off her feet by Ranger Rusty, who’d made a quick entrance. Not how I thought this would go down. Her opponents were linked, Martini Olive halting her fusillade as Ranger Rusty brought himself the line of fire. Delilah felt the man’s arms tightening around her, her subframe creaking as it flexed with the strength of his bionics. He wasn’t a total conversion, but something damn close to it, and he could crush the life from her if given enough time. Her lattice was fighting for escape, a purchase, the tiniest toehold, but it came up empty. She felt like a goat in an anaconda’s grip.
While Ranger Rusty had strength, what he didn’t have was her array of options. Strength only took you so far. Lattice still fighting for air, Delilah initiated her link subversion routes again. She tapped into their comm network. The thing about covert ops was that it was often a mind game; unhorsing your opponent without going head to head was the thing to do. She sent over their net: Let’s make it a party. Their chatter ceased, showing that a) they were pros and b) confirming that their link comms were no longer an advantage they could rely on.
Small victory, but it brought her back to a more even footing. Speaking of… Delilah knew what Ranger Rusty was made of since she’d taken his measure outside. His mechanical subframe had been manufactured on spec by a large Chinese conglomerate, and while American-made was no longer a seal of quality, getting your tech manufactured by the lowest bidder was the anti-quality sticker. She hacked through his bionics in lest time than it took to blink, then took control of his limbs. His arms spasmed open, tumbling her free. Delilah couldn’t pilot him like a marionette, but she made sure he couldn’t pilot himself either, sending him on a Frankenstein’s-monster stumble away. Ranger Rusty was out of the fight, the confusion blooming on his face through overtime’s slow embrace.
Captain Jack wanted some action about here, an automatic assault rifle having nosed its way above the bar top as backup for Ranger Rusty. The barman pulled the trigger. The first bullet went to where she’d been standing, because she was moving, really moving now. The second bullet followed the first, punching nothing but air as she sprinted. He would have targeting algorithms, so this game would be up before the fifth shot left his weapon. She turned her rush into a spin, launching herself sideways, her sidearm coming to bear on the Captain Jack. She thought about her bonus — no fatalities — then pulled the trigger. A .50 calibre AP round impacted with the assault rifle, shredding parts of the barrel and breach in a bright flash of metal. Landing on the ground, Delilah’s overlay gave her a wireframe of Captain Jack’s legs through the bar, and she fired twice more, one shot for each knee. Metal they might be, but he wasn’t milspec. Gravity went to work, dragging him downwards in the treacle-slow motion of overtime.
She kipped to her feet, spinning towards the rear door, just in time for Red to come through. Still on the link, she sent: Let’s play who’s-an-asshole. You’re it. Her overlay had wireframed the corridor Red was running down, marked his ghost as he charged, and given her prime target locations. She planted a bullet in each knee, and for luck, each shoulder joint, the man crashing to the floor in a pile of twitching bionics. Delilah turned back towards the bar, taking in Martini Olive, her hands raised in surrender. Smoke curled up from behind the bar where Captain Jack lay. Ranger Rusty walked into a wall, bounced off it, and … walked forward to do it all again.
Delilah let the overtime fall away, tasting bitter chocolate and cumin. Damn techs never get the bugs out of it. I hate cumin. “Does anyone,” she said in the real, “want some more?” She ejected the magazine from her sidearm, feeding a new one in.
“Jesus,” said Martini Olive. “I’m fucking blind. What did you do to me?”
“More? Fuck that,” said Captain Jack, from behind the bar. His voice was calm enough; she’d hit nothing but metal. No real pain there. “Were those fifties?”
“Help,” said Red. Ranger Rusty said nothing at all, because his jaw had locked up.
“No one wants more?” said Delilah. “I’m happy to keep going if you think the interview needs to continue.”
“You’re good,” said Martini Olive. “Fuck. You’re good.”
“It’s the tech,” said Delilah. Metatech gave top-shelf; military ops was their wheelhouse. Reed? Synthetic entertainment didn’t have a good R&D department for weapons. This ‘interview’ had been like taking an assault rifle to play cops and robbers with a bunch of fifth-graders. But she smiled anyway. The tech helped, but yeah: she was good. Good enough to pass the test and get hired. Good enough to snare the briefcase full of cash from the table, pull her coat on against the rain, and step outside into a still-deserted street. Good enough to bring that fucker Sampson down, and his empire with him.
Good enough to get the real work started.