Briefcase

Crouched amid the scribbled graffiti on the exterior of Block C, Laure cycled her eyes up into a deep zoom and tracked them across the opposite tower; her light amps making the colours blaze each time she encountered an uncurtained window.

Nothing about Block D that seemed untoward, which made her feel nervous. Oubliette was over there somewhere, possibly with a death squad hot on her heels.

That the girl lived with her parents was concerning. It suggested she was just a kid, caught up in something much bigger than she could have ever imagined; which in itself presented its own problems: What should Laure do with her and, if it came to it, her parents?

Amongst the professionals in Laure’s line of business, murder was a fact of life. From corpcops, shock troops and mercs, bounty hunters and assassins, she’d killed them all. Hell, on one occasion, she’d even offed one of those much vaunted Alphas and it’s Neophyte. Death happened. At worst it was an inconvenience.

But, kids and civilians?

You had to draw the line somewhere.

That poor bastard back in the playground wouldn’t have even had a spike. His death was as unnecessary as the execution of the bitch that killed him was warranted.

Baljit, she’d called Laure, mistakenly assuming her sleeve was still inhabited by the girlfriend of... Who? Cortez? Had he been ‘reassigned’? He’d disappeared after all.

Laure shook herself. There was a lot going on here that she didn’t like, but these questions would have to wait. Right now, if she were to have any chance of saving the rest of her crew, she needed to secure that briefcase.

By her own estimate, she had maybe three minutes before someone alerted Oubliette that Laure was on the way, if she didn’t know already.

Fuck it. She came to an abrupt decision.

Ash? Establish a VPN. Somewhere public like the spinward Carnival. Pull the floor plans for Block D from Goat Central, along with all the public spimes in and around it. Scan for any recent suspicious activity, along with the current whereabouts of anyone from apartment 743; Prioritise females with briefcases.

[Got it] Ash replied [Here are the floorplans. I’m collating the spime data now. It should be with you in a moment]

Triangulate our position against the floorplans

[Done. Overlaying now.]

Rising, Laure took a short run up and leapt away from the surface of the tower; her momentum, in the microgravity, easily carrying her the thirty metres across to Block D, where she twisted acrobatically to land at a run on the opposite wall.

With Ash layering the floorplan data over her vision, Laure had little problem finding apartment 743, as she hurtled up the wall. Located about a hundred metres away, it was up near the axis, in the poorer areas where the coriolis effect was worst.

Cooking smells and the sounds of music filled the air around Laure as she neared the apartment. Someone here apparently hated their neighbours enough to want to play saxophone jazz. This simple act of spite made Laure smile as she drew her gun.

Where’s that spime data?

[Just finishing the collation now. I’ve got two possibles. One’s a resident of 743. Female, fifteen years old.]

That’s her. Gimmie the deets.

Slowing as she approached the apartment, Oubliette’s socials pinged up in the corner of Laure’s vision. The girl’s real name was apparently Sajida Dagher; an exotic, skinny looking kid with long, dark hair and a slightly upturned nose, spoiled by an unattractive septum piercing.

Is she in?

[Yep. Estimated time of arrival was an hour and a half back. No sign of any activity since then.]

That would be about thirty minutes before we were resleeved Laure tightened her grip on her gun Okay. Thanks

There was an open window directly in front of her. She hesitated. Suspicious. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

Either Oubliette was worse than an amateur, or this was a trap.

Creeping forward, Laure cycled her eye magnification up to carefully check the window for anything suspicions.

There was nothing.

The odds were that this was quite simply just an open window, but years of living life on the edge made Laure’s instincts prickle. Normally, this sort of thing didn’t just happen. She shook herself. Oubliette was just a kid, so it was highly unlikely that she’d have set an autosentry or anything worse. Besides, this was no time for hesitancy.

Launching herself forward, Laure grabbed the window frame and hauled herself through, into the apartment beyond.

And there she was.

Oubliette floated up in one corner of the crowded, messy room, with her eyes closed and a faint smile playing on her lips. Momentarily unaware of her intruder, she snickered, apparently entertained by the stim she was playing.

Twisting to anchor herself to one of the walls, Laure took a deep breath and pointed her gun at the girl. “Sajida?”

Oubliette twitched as she ended the stim and as her eyes flickered open, let out a yelp of shock, her hands flying to her mouth.

“I’m here for the briefcase”

“What the fuck!?” the girl gabbled “Get the fuck out. What briefcase?”

“Do not fucking piss me off” Laure snapped and fired a warning shot into the wall next Oubliette, eliciting a shriek of fear from the girl “I’ve already killed one person over this. You do not want to be the second!

“And do not think about calling anyone! - If I even get a hint of the filth, you’re fucking dead!”

“Okay” Oubliette squeaked, her head ducking as she raised her hands in supplication “Okay. Don’t. Don’t please.I don’t wanna die”

“Damn straight. Now where is it?”

“It’s... I stashed it in the cupboard next to you”

Laure rolled her eyes. Of course it was. She sighed “You know, you really fucking suck at this?”

Oubliette grimaced, but stayed quiet. Smart kid.

Flicking the safety back on, Laure tucked her gun back into her cargo pants and crouched to open the storage hatch next to her. Sure enough, she was greeted by the sight of a chunky metal briefcase. Lifting it out, she was surprised by its inertia.

“It’s heavy, yeah?” Oubliette nodded. She seemed to have relaxed a little and was watching Laure warily, but with interest “What’s in it? - I couldn’t get it opened”

“Fucked if I know.” Laure hefted the briefcase and brought it up to examine it. The clasps looked like maglocks “Where did you get this?”

“I boosted it from a locker, down 38”

“The station?”

“Yeah, I... I’ve got a racket running down there - I boost some shit and sell it. Girl’s gotta have her clicks, yeah?

“I hacked the spimes and everything. There ain’t no evidence of me ever being down there”

“Nice”Laure nodded. Even public spimes took some cracking. The kid had done well.

Frowning, she focussed in on the locking mechanism. It looked like the briefcase needed power to open it. She twisted it this way and that. Weirdly, it didn’t seem to be part of the Grid.

Oubliette was quiet for a moment “Are you going to kill me?” she asked in a small voice.

“Fucking hell” Laure shook her head in disbelief “A word from the wise, mon copine: When someone puts their gun away, don’t get them thinking about using it again by asking fucking stupid questions. No, I’m not going to kill you. If I was, you’d be dead already”

“Now, let’s see...” Laure rattled the briefcase in vain “Have you checked the Goat’s internal sensors - See what they say? Backscatter should give us at least a clue about what’s in this thing”

“Yeah, but it’s like it’s not even there”

“Shielded? What? Like a hole in the Grid?”

“No. That’s the weird thing - It don’t even register. ”

Curiouser and curiouser. Laure dropped her VPN and emerged back onto the Grid in the room “Show me”

“Sure” Oubliette pinged her a share from her private stack. Some data from the spimes she’d hacked. The briefcase showed up on the cameras alright, but nowhere else. As far as all the other station sensors went, it quite simply wasn’t there.

“Someone’s running interference on this thing”

“Yeah? But who?”

“I don’t think either of us want to find out”

Oubliette grimaced “I didn’t mean nothing by taking it”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ve done much worse” Laure scowled at the locks “Let’s get this fucker open, and see what all the fuss is about...”


In the end, after ten minutes of gentle persuasion, Laure resorted to smashing the maglocks off with a hammer and masonry chisel, that Oubliette had laying around the place.

“Are you ready for this?” Laure asked before she pried the briefcase open.

“What if it’s a bomb?”

“You can buy most shit here, but you’d struggle to get that aboard the Goat. Spacer rules - Nothing to endanger the hab, yeah?”

Saying this, Laure opened the briefcase “Fuck”

Oubliette peered over her shoulder at the fat metal tube, laid diagonally across the interior of briefcase and the keypad and readout, set in the encasement beneath it “What the hell is that?”

“It’s a fucking nuke”

<tbc/>

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