From the current WIP – presented without comment. You may remember Sadie’s recovery time from Reed’s psychotropic drug in Upgrade was … pretty quick. She leads that kind of lifestyle.
Even in the life of a busy corporate bee, you needed coffee. Sadie found a once-was mom-and-pop cafe across from Human Energetic’s plaza. The syndicate bought out the owners, turning it into a company drone stall. She was surprised it was open, what with the rioting and looting, but this close to Human Energetics, there was little of either. Some half-hearted tire fires. A burned out car. Nothing much else going on.
Inside the coffee shop was no different. No one here except the young man behind the counter, the hologram HumanE logo shifting on his apron. All the surfaces were spotless, gleaming whites and steels. A well-stocked cabinet held food, and an impressive-looking coffee machine steamed behind the counter.
Sadie held the rifle case in her left hand, computer deck in her right. Slim asked her are we friends and she’d said I guess, so he’d thrown in a new set of armor. Sadie left the black plates of Metatech armor on the floor of Slim Tor’s, crossed sabers somehow accusatory as she tossed them aside. She donned the armor he’d thrown in for free. It was from some war or other that no one gave a shit about anymore, kevlar over ceramic laminate plates. Light, but more important, no chips or augs. Not a power source anywhere.
She navigated around the empty tables and chairs, making for the counter. The young man eyed her case, deck, and armor all at once. He tried for a smile. “Help you?”
Sadie nodded. “I think so. I’ll take a coffee. Make it a good one.”
“Is there any other size?” She leaned against the counter. “Say.”
“Do not fucking call me ma’am.” Sadie sighed, dropping the deck on the counter and running a gloved hand through her hair. “Sorry. It’s going to be a long night.”
“Don’t you mean it’s been a long night?”
“No.” Sadie eyed the cabinet food. “People eat this stuff?”
“Sometimes.” The coffee shop droid shrugged. “Not really.”
“Good times.” She waited for her coffee, and when he slid what could only be called a bowl across to her, Sadie thought it large enough to do laps in. “Perfect. Why don’t you take a break?”
His eyes roamed the room, coming to rest on her case. “I can’t leave the counter.”
She smiled, all wolf. “There won’t be a counter in ten minutes.”
His adam’s apple bobbed. “Got you.” He tossed the apron to the counter, disappearing out the back. Sadie stared at the cam behind the counter, the damn thing looking right back at her. She saw another in the opposite corner. Sadie ignored them. She bussed her coffee to a table, tossing the case and deck beside it, before closing and locking the main door.
Seated at the table, she opened the deck. It hummed, screen clearing, its tiny link connecting with her team. The rapid-fire chatter of overtime comm wasn’t a thing she could listen to. It sounded a lot like mosquitoes in the real, but the deck parsed it all as text, the screen tagging and bagging the chatter as it passed.
She fished a small vial of Irish cream from her belt pouch, pouring all of it into the coffee. Then she opened the case, hauling out the massive sniper rifle she’d got from Slim Tor. She’d asked for a tank buster and he’d offered her a big fifty. The bullets looked as long as her fingers, and weighed like gold. DPUs, he’d said. Depleted uranium. Apparently that’s what you wanted when shooting tanks.
A spare magazine joined the coffee and deck on the table, and finally, a small vial of Patch. It was a sickly yellow, a one-use hypo, good for jacking you right to the sky.
The street shook, a gentle vibration setting the surface of her coffee rippling. Sadie took it as a good sign and sipped. Mike breached HumanE from below. He had the longest, hardest job.
Sadie assembled the rifle, sliding the scope onto its rail last. The magazine slotted underneath with a happy click. Outside, a gunship roared from the tower, strafing the street. The deck showed Harry’s comms. Across the street, Ruby Page emerged from the subway, talking shit like all company people did. Sadie didn’t roll that way. You want someone dealt with, you do the job. You could save the gloating for later.
The night sky above turned bright as cannons atop HumanE hammered the night sky. That’ll be Delilah and Zach. She hoped the kid would be okay. A piece of an Osprey’s wing crunched to the street near the base of Human Energetics, smoldering and smoking on the broken concrete. That’s not good. Getting Mike out will be tricky. Too late to worry about that now.
Sadie eyed the comm as Mike signaled he had the package. She leaned toward the deck, pressing the small TALK button. “Harry, now.”
Text scrolled. BUSY. She looked at the street, Harry’s massive chassis stomping around, Ruby Page riding atop like he was a rodeo bull. Harry big metal fists tried to grab the woman, but damn she was fast. Sadie thought, finally, she’d seen someone faster than Quiet John. She grabbed the yellow hypo, pressing it against the skin between her armored sleeve and glove. It hissed, and the world turned wild.
Sadie felt her heart thud. Not the urgency of a hard run, but the determination of a war drum, beating hard enough to shake the table. She reached for the rifle, fingers stretching, her hands needing something to hold. Sadie clenched her teeth, unable to stop their chattering. She heard a keen coming from her lips, wanted to silence it, then thought fuckitnolet’sjustdothis, all speed and hard angles.
The thing with taking on company agents was to not look like a thing they were familiar with. That was the basis of Sadie’s plan. A human normal stood no chance drawing down on one of the most augmented enforcers ever to walk God’s Eden if they saw you. She didn’t have metal under her skin. No atomic batteries or Apsel reactors. No link nestled in the back of her skull. Just skin, flesh, bone, and a heart that wanted the world to be something other than it was.
The battle outside set her cup to rattling, the ripples slower in the Patch, moving like waves on the ocean. She could hear them lap the rim of the cup. The rifle against her shoulder felt like it breathed with her, the metal solid and real. She looked down the scope, sighting outside. The scope was old, just glass. The rifle itself had no stabilizing tech inside. It was held by a sometime rocker chick, aiming at a woman astride her friend Harry.
Don’t miss. You’ve got one shot.
Missing would mean she’d draw Ruby’s attention, but the drug wanted that. She fought the feeling, even as something feral pulled Sadie’s lips from her teeth. She breathed out, then squeezed the trigger.
The rifle bucked like a stallion. The window between Sadie and Ruby shattered, the glass tinkling like wind chimes. She felt her hair dragged forward by the force of the shot, billowing around her face. The coffee cup tumbled from the table, falling slower than it should, as if time’s watch needed winding. Is this what overtime is like? Sadie knew it couldn’t be. Still too slow, a human in the real, nothing but old military drugs in her veins.
Ruby Page rocked back, flying from atop Harry. Sadie saw a glowing, yellow-white hole in her shoulder as the woman fell. Harry took the moment, grabbing Ruby and throwing her through a wall. He fired his railgun after her, the big weapon roaring rage.
“Harry!” Sadie screamed. “NOW!”
Harry swiveled the chassis. A micro-missile pod emerged from a hatch on his shoulder. A salvo of tiny rockets flew toward level forty-four of Human Energetics. They were in a rectangular spread, impacting the concrete bulwark of the building. Stone exploded, falling to the street.
Sadie looked up. Through a break in the clouds she thought she saw a figure atop HumanE, but she couldn’t tell. The lights on the tower were crazy, flickering, the drug in her veins making it difficult to focus. She wanted to fight, not wait. The figure above might have been Delilah, cloaking broken. Too far away to be sure, but Sadie thought Dee didn’t have an Osprey.
Exposed in the hole in HumanE stood Mike Takahashi. He held something to his chest while firing his sidearm into the building. Mike jumped from the building, falling. Forty-four floors, straight down.
He made five of those floors before Delilah hit, grappling him. A chute deployed, billowing behind them. They crunched to the street.
Harry clanked forward, railgun pointed above. He fired, Sadie covering her ears at the weapon’s roar. The night flashed, over and over, as he shelled the room an evil man used to imprison their friend.
The bottom of HumanE vomited guards. Harry strafed the area with an auto cannon, the barrels glowing red as concrete cracked and splintered. Sadie ran from the coffee shop, deck and rifle left behind. Her body felt so light, so fast. Everything was so easy.
An automated hauler careened around the corner. The truck’s cab was big enough for three friends, the big flat deck inviting and empty. Delilah and Mike made it to the vehicle at the same time Sadie did, the three of them clambering inside. Harry climbed on the deck, swiveling the chassis to provide cover for their escape.
Zach was still inside, but that was a part of the plan. They had what they came for. Time to go.