Century23: …But It Pours (Part 1)

“Sorry you got mixed up in all this, Limey” Paul Quine piped up, with a tangible insincerity in his voice, fidgeting with his ill-fitting fake designer suit, “You and the Sniper. Didn’t mean to get anyone killed. You guys could have just let me go and we’d be done with it”
“You think this’ll just end here, Quine?” From his chair the Englishman glared daggers up at the smug, fake-tanned visage of the datashark, trying to free his hands from the rope binding him to the chair again, “I won’t be the last to come after you, you can count on that, you turncoat little shit. Don’t think you can ever rest easy, Weißmann’s gonna want your head on his desk one way or another”
“Yeah, well, if you’re the best of the best looks like I’ve got a fighting chance, don’t you think?” Quine grinned an overconfident grin, pacing impatiently between his Texan bodyguard and the Englishman, “Killed with one of your own guns, pretty powerful message if you ask me.”

“This is all very fascinating to watch, gentlemen, but I’ve got a contract to fulfil,” The Texan raised one of the Englishmans pistols and flipped the safety off, “Say goodbye to our friend mister Quine”
“See ya next lifetime, Limey!” The datashark gave a sarcasting wave at the hitman tied to the chair, chuckling at his apparent good fortune. As the Texan walked across the room towards him, the Englishman closed his eyes, ready to accept his fate. He heard the pistol’s hammer click back…

…A single shot rang out.

Some 5 or 6 hours earlier

“…Looks like it’s raining again…” The Sniper’s distinct Boston Sector drawl echoed across the cheap hotel room as he looked out across the rain slicked balcony his rifle was balanced upon. “…but I guess you’re used to that, huh?” There was an audible sigh from the man in the suit sitting across from the window.
“Was that some kind of British joke?” He glared over the top of the silver Inihara handterm he’d been reading a prepared profile of their target from for the last hour, his voice was dripping in sarcasm, somehow made all the more scathing by the faded remnants of London accent that had been stuck in Atlantia way too long. An awkward silence filled the room before either of the two men spoke again.
“No… ‘Least I don’t think it was,” ventured the Sniper in a weary tone, “just trying to make conversation.” The tedium of the past few hours had begun to grate upon both men, what was originally seen as a quick hit had spiralled into a stake out that had lasted the better part of the day. In the world of professional hitmen, personal skills were generally considered a niche ability so neither occupant of the room had been that friendly towards one another beyond what was absolutely necessary for the job.

The room returned to the awkward silence of the status-quo for another few minutes before the Englishman spoke again.
“So, any sign of Quine yet?” he said, not bothering to look up from the handterm this time and maintaining the irritated tone. The Sniper looked out into the street again. It was relatively empty, even in a mega-city of half a billion, few ventured out on a rainy night. A grainy faux-neon holosign proudly proclaiming the name of the building opposite was projected into the sky from a worn out emitter, a hold over from the Pre-Nixon Chic that had gripped Atlantia’s richer sectors a few decades ago when the building was constructed. It even had a simulated flicker coded into it, no doubt some desk jockey had been rather proud of that once. Down at street level, beneath the gaudy orange glow, sat the green and yellow bulk of an Omnihaul hire-truck that had been sitting outside the main entrance for some time now as a pair of men in matching overalls loaded complicated looking equipment covered in transparent polymer rain covers into it.
“Naw, just the hired help. Seems like Quine’s finally putting those datashark brains of his to good use…”
“…for once,” came a reply dripping in cynicism. The Englishman brought the handterm back up to his face. “I’m honestly surprised that the little idiot stuck around this long after screwing over the boss.” The sniper let out a deep, sarcastic laugh, and looked back out the window, leaning on the carbon fibre casing of his high-powered rifle. The awkward silence returned, punctuated by the rain drumming on the window.

After a few more minutes, the sniper spoke up again, his previous confident tone beginning to sound uncertain.
“Though… clear up one thing for me.”
“Go on,”
“We’re both seasoned professionals, right?” a murmur of agreement answered, “And we’re both top of our game, so why two of us for this job? I’ve read the intel, this asshole, this Paul Quine’s some weasel datashark the boss picked up from a hack-group with nothing to do, that’s not even close to small muscle. I could take him with one hand tied-”
“The ‘shark, sure,” interrupted the Englishman, who waved the handterm in the air “But if you’d done more than just skim the intel you’d have noticed a few things.” He got up from the chair and walked to the window, making sure to stay in the shadow of the curtains. “See the doorman down there?”
“Yeah,” the sniper picked up his rifle and glanced through the scope. The main entry had a booth of to one side where a large man in a fancy blue uniform sat looking more bored than the two hitmen, “Some blue-collar schmuck in a uniform, so what?”
“That’s what the want you to think. He’s on hire from Overlander General Security, so we’re talking Corp-spec gear, Military-spec training and Merc-spec ethics.” He paused a second before adding, “No offence.”
“None taken. A bit overkill for an apartment block, even a protected one. What else is in there?”
“Nothing too strange, but Corps and the ACPD use it for ‘important people.’ San-Lan has the whole tenth floor hired out for some research team they don’t want Yoshima to pick up or something, and the police have an apartment free for witness protection.”
“So heavy shit,” The Sniper returned to resting on the rifle.
“To say the least. You take the shot, you’ll draw down enough heat to make your life difficult for the immediate future. Which is why I’m here, I’m your insurance policy”
“Yeah, about that. You got here before me, so whats your plan?”
“Seasoned professionals, you said,” the English sarcasm returned, “as soon as you take the shot, and we know the guy is good and exed, I make sure you get out of here in one piece, down to the slabster I’ve got stashed in the multi-storey out back. Then we skip sector and lie low for a while ’till the heavy mob lose interest. Job Sorted.” The sniper nodded in quiet agreement as he settled back down for the long haul. Below the balcony in the street the workmen continued loading up equipment, unaware of what was about to be brought down upon them.

In the end the two hitmen didn’t have to wait much longer. Less than ten minutes had passed before it became obvious the truck had been completely filled and their quarry would soon make an appearance.
“Looks like they’re done with the Omnihaul, Go-time.” The Sniper announced, taking up a crouching stance halfway out the door on the balcony. Immediately he drew the rifle up to his shoulder so he could access the scope easily. A metallic slam from down below indicated the truck had been locked shut, ready for its owner. The sniper adjusted his sights, muttering to himself “got a range, just need our man to come out.”
“Wait until he’s far enough from the building,” the Englishman had taken up a position against the wall by the window, able to just about see out but difficult to see him from outside, “don’t want our Overlander friend able to react too fast.”
“Workmen are out the way, where are you…” The Sniper didn’t acknowledge the instruction, he was deep in concentration on the task at hand.

The street was now clear of any people, with just the rain soaked truck and bored gaze of the security guard at the building’s entrance. Seconds stretched out as the Sniper started to run on adrenaline, focused on the buildings doorway. As if on cue the door opened and a short man with an obviously fake tan and ill fitting blue suit walked out, a look of overconfident smugness on his face. Paul Quine was ready to make good his escape, seemingly oblivious to what the men in the hotel room opposite had planned for him.
“Eyeball, now just a few steps more…” The Sniper watched through the scope as Quine walked around the back of the truck, checking on the locks. The Sniper’s finger moved from the guard and rested on the trigger. A half-hearted tap proved the locks secure enough for the datashark and he began to walk towards the cab, taking him behind the vehicle and out of sight of the door guard. “In range, taking the shot, say goodnight you little fuck…” the Sniper applied pressure to the trigger…

…A single shot rang out.

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The Century23 setting, names, characters and associated imagery is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. (CC)2015 Dom Barlow, Some Rights Reserved.

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