August 4. 2062. 22:15.
The rain came down heavy and thick in Bucharest. It was a wet night everywhere and I didn’t much care for being out in it. Rafaelle didn’t seem to mind though. Or at least she never let on that she did. She was always cool headed. All business. And this was business.
Mica’s information led us to the Gara. A quiet, shit-hole bar that has become a favourite hangout for low-life’s and the prada-filth. Raf walked in first, out of the rain. I saw her sniffing the air of the place, getting it’s scent. And then she looked around at the tables and booths for our man. I was happy to be out of the cold, but wasn’t about to drop my guard. My mind switched on my reflex trigger and I could feel that good old tingling as my scientifically enhanced reflexes hummed to life.
I stood at the door with my hands at my sides, ready for trouble. Wearing my grey secure long coat and synth-leathers. I wasn’t big on wearing the heavier armor. Always relying on my reflexes to get myself out of trouble. Raf had on her skin-tight black synths and boots. Her long dark hair almost blending into the black leather as if she were one solid mass of deep shadows.
All of the eyes in the place were on her sexy wiggling ass, men and women. The place was quiet except for her boot steps across the wood floor, and the rain pouring down outside. I watched as she made her way to the occupied booth farthest from the door and sat down.
*"Where is he, Gregor?" she asked.
* spoken in Romanian... all dialogue will be in Romanian, but typed in English, as the author does not actually speak Romanian.
The man across from her was head to toe ugly. Unshaven, unshowered, his clothes were covered in dirt and food. Fear was in his eyes as he stared into Raf’s unflinching gaze. She could tell he was stalling. Taking every effort he could to come up with a lie. And the best he could muster was "Who?"
Raf snarled at him. She was in no mood for games tonight. "WHERE?" she snapped at him, and he startled and shook. His eyes grew wider, full of fear. Darting from left to right, looking for an exit, some help, anything. She caught him glance down, only briefly, but it was enough to tip her off. Grabbing him by his filthy lapels, she reached inside his coat to pull out his comm phone. It was greasy and smelled, much like it’s owner. But it worked, and Raf suspected it would help lead us to Markus.
There was the recognizable clicking of a twelve-gauge shotgun being cocked, coming from behind the bar. "Come now, lass. There will be no more of that in here..." the bartender started to raise the gun at my partner, most likely as merely a deterrent to any one who might cause trouble, but I couldn’t have that. With impossible quickness and grace, I covered the distance between the door and the bartender before he could raise the weapon three inches. One foot on a stool, the next on the bar. And then, I was beside him. It took no effort at all to remove the shotgun from his chubby fingers. Then there was at least two seconds of breath before he even realized that he wasn’t holding it anymore. Raf merely smiled and returned her attention back to Gregor.
"What’s so special about your comm, Gregor? Why would you want to hide it?" she merely inquired. Not caring anymore about the worm sitting across from her. She knew that it’s secrets could be broken by a good decryption program. As far as she was concerned, Mica’s were the best.
"Give it back!" Gregor pleaded to no avail. "It’s mine."
"Get another one." she snarled. And then I caught only a small shifting of her fingers in front of his eyes and then he simply passed out there at the table. Watching her work her mojo always gave me the willies. Looks like it was a simple sleep spell, worked on a simple mind. Heh. Raf took the comm and slid it into a pouch on her belt. Got up and left him lying in a heap. I unloaded the shells for pig-knuckles, the bartender and handed him back his piece.
As we walked out the door, back into the pouring rain, Rafaelle spoke some words into her sub-dermal mike which I picked up over our connection. "Mica. I’ve got a job for you. I’m sending you a signal from Gregor’s comm. Can you break it down and see if you can track where the last call originated?"
There was the unmistakable giggle from the other end. Mica loved a challenge. "Gimme, Raf. It’ll give me a chance to break in my new brushes." Mica’s persona inside the grid was that of the eccentric artist. Using her paints and brushes to open doors, change encryption codes and over-write files. This was one little cheap comm, so I’d give her three minutes to tell us the location, the best route to get there, and how much the place is going for in escrow.
Sure enough, two minutes forty-seven seconds later there was the familiar tones that said she had found it. "It’s a warehouse in the airport district." Seconds later, we had the directions programmed into our Westwind’s computer thanks to Mica’s talented brush strokes. We made our way through the rained out back streets, as we made our way to Markus. Mica assured us that his comm was still there.
Markus was an ex-mafioso soldier working out of the Romanian sector. But, after his arrest, the idiot posted his bail and then went into hiding. Now it’s mine and Raf’s job to bring the mook back in.
"I don’t like this" Raf uttered. An elf of few words, Raf was. After two years of being her partner, I learned to trust her instincts though. I guess it’s that wolf ghost that talks in her ear, or something like that. Never fully understood it. But I guess I don’t have to understand. Just recognize that it’s usually right. So we stopped the car about a half mile from the target. We’d walk the rest of the way.
"Sorry guys." Mica’s voice whispered over the comms. "With this rain, I won’t be much help. Satellite cams can’t pierce the cloud cover, and the closest street cams I came up with is two blocks away. I’ll monitor your transmissions though, and try to keep an eye out for you."
I liked Mica, she’s young and full of spirit, and she gets the job done. "Sure thing, Mickey." I responded knowing how much she hates being called that. And still she giggles into the comms.
"Hush. Both of you." Raf had her game face on. Ready for trouble and ready for action. Together, we exited the Westwind into the wet night. As we approached the warehouse, we could see a sleek sporty Mercedes parked out behind the place. One light was on inside, only visible if you happened to be skulking around in the middle of the night in places you shouldn’t be. Like us. No one was in the car, and I don’t think Markus was expecting any visitors. The back door was locked. Raf kept an eye out and those cute pointed ears perked up listening for trouble as I took out my lock-picking tools and got to work.
"Time me." I chuckled. I knew she wouldn’t laugh though. Tonight was a job and this was business. When we’re off the clock, then she can laugh and tell some of the nastiest jokes, but not in the middle of work. Besides, she knew my retinal chronometer was keeping track of exactly how long this took. 34 seconds later there was the wonderful click of the tumblers on this old lock. Not my best time, but the rain was getting to me, and this lock was a lot older than the Maglocks I usually have to play with.
Before we slipped inside Raf touched my shoulder and said "Hold on. I’m going in first to take a look around." She then sat down next to the door and closed her eyes. I watched her body relax and knew she was doing her astral dance. While her body stayed out here with me, her spirit, or what ever it is, slipped its bonds and went roaming through the walls inside the warehouse to have a magical look around. A few seconds later she opened her eyes again and looked up at me, her face rain streaked and beautiful. "He’s in there and he’s alone." Let’s go.
I slipped in first and Raf followed. Quiet as kittens we made our way to the office where Markus was, apparently sleeping from the impression I got from Raf. When we were both ready, I flipped on my reflex trigger and felt the smooth hum. Taking out my Ruger Warhawk, I nodded to Raf and she nodded back, holding her own Manhunter in her hands. A silent finger count of 3, 2 and 1 and I kicked the door in, startling Markus from his slumber. I stifled a laugh as he sat up so quickly that he fell over the back of his chair.
In only a fraction of a second, I leapt over the desk and stood on his fingers as they reached for a gun he had hidden. Markus yelped and cowered behind his overturned chair. Thunder could be heard rolling outside. Another step and I placed my foot across his neck, putting just enough pressure to keep him still. "You’ve been a bad boy Markus." I talk down to him. "You were supposed to appear back in court last Monday, omae. Since you didn’t show, you’ve made us come out here in the rain and the cold. Just to bring you in. And I don’t much care for this weather. Do you Raf?"
Raf didn’t respond, she merely reached into one of her many pouches and pulled out a set of restraints. "Turn over." was all she had to say. All business. Markus didn’t bother struggling. He simply rolled over onto his stomach and put his hands behind his back. Raf knelt hard on his back pinning his arm there. With very little compassion, she threw on the restraints and dragged him up to standing. "OK. Let’s get you processed, slime ball." And together we escorted him out.
Raf felt it first. Heard her wolf spirit howling in the back of her mind, as we walked through the door into the rain. Company.
"Damn, always trust her instincts." I told myself as we stood face to face with six mean looking mob soldiers, all standing in the rain waiting for us to come out. Standing in front of a limousine, waiting for something to happen. One soldier opened the door for Don Leonid Rostanovich. Big time boss. Bigger than I would’ve expected for such a low priority shlub like Markus. Behind him, another lackey appeared. This one had a look about him that I just didn’t care for. Bald and tattooed, wearing a long coat that hid his full physique. But the scars on his face told me he was an experienced combatant. He would be trouble. I kept my eye on him.
"Markus. Markus. Why do you make me come out here to this filthy hovel to find you? You should have known you would not be able to get away from my reach." Rostanovich did not sound too pleased. "And now, you have entangled these poor souls into your web of deceit and treachery." I really didn’t like where this was going. Neither did Rafaelle.
"Leave us alone, Rostanovich." Raf shot out to him, cool as ice. "He’s going back to jail where he belongs."
"Be quiet cow! Speak when you are spoke to." the body guard replied. I caught the glint of cold steel showing itself from behind his long coat. Ronin. He must be.
Markus tried the only hand he had to play with. I could tell he was sweating, even under this heavy down pour. "Leon, if you let me go, I’ll tell you where Pietro has flown to. He is the one you are really after. I am merely a courier. Not even worth your trouble." All of this talk was beyond me. I kept looking at the Ronin, waiting for someone to make a move. To make some mistake. Thinking my wired reflexes would help us avoid it, hopefully get the two of us out of trouble. Again.
Rostanovich only laughed. "Markus, Markus. You have been in hiding too long. Pietro.... is already dead. And soon you will be too. We cannot have you bargaining to the authorities even with the small details you contain. Good bye Markus." At this last statement, lightning struck somewhere close by, lighting up the wet night sky. The Ronin sprang into action and I could see his sword flash and gleam in the night. Markus was his target, and he was our package. So, with my own enhanced reflexes, I pulled my SK katana-goshin from it’s sheath and blocked his attack. The ringing of steel upon steel was all the signal Rostanovich’s men needed to begin their attack.
Six Uzi’s emerged in the cold wet night, targeting Markus and Rafaelle. The guns burst like thunder in the night. A shower of bullets poured upon them like lead rain. If not for Rafaelle’s quick talented thinking, they would be dead. Her bullet barrier held and the two targets lived still. With a wave of her hand, she cast a second spell of sleep upon them ,taking three soldiers down instantly.
I kicked Markus to the side, into some boxes that would hopefully provide more cover, while I danced with the scarred Ronin some more. His own adept swiftness and agility were more than a match for my hardwired reflexes. His sword strokes quick and calculated, drawing blood from my shoulder and leg. I parried and struck at empty space. To a mundane observer, we would be as a blurring whirlwind of motion. To each other, we were enemies to the death. And he was faster than I.
Although I tried not be distracted from this battle of cobra and mongoose, I could hear another volley of machine gun fire explode beside me. Raf’s unmistakable Manhunter responded with her own lead fury. In the heat of the battle, I could see the lifeless body of Markus slumped against the warehouse door. The boxes did not provide enough cover for him. I heard the limousine’s door close as Rostanovich made his own retreat.
"Gillooly!" Raf called out to me. The anger in her voice was palpable. She hated to lose a pay cheque, and being shot at only made matters worse I guess. "Gill! Finish off that cock-sucker and let’s go!" Thunder rolled once more over the neighbourhood. I parried another close attack that put a large gaping hole in my favourite coat. I retaliated with a swiping blow that cut a red line across baldy’s chest. Behind me, I heard two more shots from her Manhunter that found their targets in the two remaining soldiers who were dumb enough to stay for the fight.
My sword sang and swept in a short arcing motion that I was hoping would be the killing blow. But, the Ronin was more experienced than I was. He was a better fighter and he was faster with his magical abilities. I felt a cold breeze brush past my throat, which suddenly turned hot. The Ronin stepped back from his master stroke and I watched as he wiped my blood from his crimson blade. His image faded darker and darker, as my life poured from the wound he created.
Raf’s voice was muted in my ears. I heard her screaming "no" as the dark, rainy night closed in upon me for the last time. I slumped first to my knees, dropping my sword, then I collapsed onto my side as the last remaining drops of my life trickled out through the hole in my neck. And I lay dead upon the pavement.
Rafaelle stared at the Ronin for a moment. Too furious to cry or to speak, she merely twitched her fingers and closed her eyes for a moment. The Ronin took this as his chance to strike as he raised his sword. And was suddenly pushed through the air like a rag doll as he crashed against the wall of the warehouse. As he stood up again, he found his feet were held fast in the concrete beneath him. The cement transformed, grew into a hulking beast that towered over the bald warrior. Unable to move, unable to dodge, he found himself the target of a concrete fist that struck out and hit him solidly across the face, taking a large chunk of his skull with it. His death was immediate.
Rafaelle released the urban spirit from her service. And it sunk itself back into the Astral world from which it came. She came to me and lifted me from the ground. Carrying my weight back to the Westwind, without faltering. She placed me into the passenger’s seat, walked around the car and sat in the driver’s seat herself. It was a minute later when she realized that Mica was yelling in her ear through her comm unit.
"Gill’s dead." was all she could manage to say for any amount of time. And then finally, "I quit." This would be her last job for the County Bail Bonds corp. She sat there for ten solid minutes, crying softly from her beautiful elven eyes. Then she programmed the Westwind autonavigation system to return her to the heart of the city. And she rode off, into the rain. Into the night.