Gonzalo slowed his breathing down to ensure those on the other side of the door couldn’t hear him and settled against the sides of the closet. He calmly watched the glow of the guards searching for him through his infrared goggles, also glancing at the feed through the hacked security cameras. He could see seven guards outside, armed only with handguns. So long as he wasn’t too close, his vest might allow him to survive getting shot.
The situation was this: currently, they couldn’t see him, but he could see them. As they searched, that situation wouldn’t last, so he had to act fast. Gonzalo carefully put down his assault rifle and drew his sidearm. It was more manoeuvrable and fit better in the closet. Hopefully, he would be able to shoot the closest three of them before anyone reacted. Then he’d either have to hope that the rest missed or rely on his suit. Gonzalo took a few moments to act out the sequence of readjustments he’d need to make without pulling the trigger – a practice round. He’d give himself half a second for each target – less and he’d be likely to miss; more and he’d be likely to get shot before he finished.
After all of his preparation, the actual event happened quickly. He replayed his series of actions again, this time pulling the trigger each time. The thundering cacophony of gunfire roared for a few moments and then he took stock of the situation. Gonzalo had been shot once just above his left hip, but according to his HUD, it was non-life-threatening. One of his targets was still standing and getting his gun in line, but several others were groaning and trying to get to their feet. It seemed his opponents were wearing vests as well.
To make sure he could run without wincing too badly, Gonzalo murmured the command for his digital assistant to give him some adrenaline. Setting his last flash grenade, he closed his eyes, kicked open the closet door and ran for the room’s entrance. Outside the room was a hallway, so he spun to the right and opened his eyes to check the map on his HUD. When he did, however, there was a displayed command: ABORT MISSION.
Gonzalo shook his head and spoke softly while continuing to run down the hallway, “I can still finish.”
Robin’s voice flowed into his earpiece. “I know. Still aborted.”
Gonzalo sighed. It’s not like he could say no to a voice that smooth. “I’m on my way.” He planted his foot to reverse direction and fired a few bullets into the man who had come running out of the room. “I’ll be coming through this window.” He glanced at the window on the map. “Get the van underneath me.”
Gonzalo jumped over the body and glanced to see that a couple more of the opposition had recovered enough to start coming for him. He held his head down and kept running as hard as he could as their guns stared roaring. After a quick skid to the right, he crashed through the large window and slammed down onto the roof of the van waiting below.
A pained groan escaped Gonzalo’s throat and he pulled out a few of the larger pieces of glass, before swinging himself into the van. Robin hit the gas hard before he’d even gotten into his seat, his eyes rapidly scanning the surroundings for hostiles as he drove. Once they were out of the compound, the adrenhaline wore off and the shakes and tears started flowing. After taking a moment to get himself under control, he leaned over and started nuzzling Robin’s neck.
“Gonz, no”, Robin laughed him off. “I’ve got to drive. We’re still on the job. Besides, the blood and glass look: not the most romantic.”
Gonzalo started giggling at that and after a moment Robin joined him. A shot of pain surged up from Gonzalo‘s hip and he winced. “I’ve been shot, Rob.”
Robin grunted as he shifted into a lower gear, trying to blend in with the normal flow of traffic. “Gonz, I know, but your readings say it was just a graze. We’ll slap a patch on it, but you have to go back out. This one’s big.”
Gonzalo frowned and tried to regain his composure. “Rob, what’s going on?”
“Zero-one’s missing. Has been for nearly two years.”
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Gonzalo swore, along with a quick sign of the cross. “Why they telling us now?”
“The Seekers, or whoever stole it, were smart enough not to use it, so we couldn’t track them,” Robin switched lanes a few times in an attempt to throw any tails. “That changed. HQ just detected an activation for the first time since the theft. You’ve been assigned to check it out. I know you just want a post-mission bath, but you can do this. We’ll be catching a plane and changing you into a police uniform on the way.
Gonzalo surveyed the docks where the incident supposedly occurred. The main unloading dock was down below, at water level, with large shipping crates currently piled on it. Up above was a small bluff overlooking the pier, from which a series of electromagnetic cranes were mounted. The whole area had a fence around it and an “Authorized Personnel Only” sign, but the gate in the fence was wide open.
He made a quick scan for any unforeseen surprises before approaching the first dockworker he saw, a kid in his early twenties with frizzy hair. Gonzalo stepped up to him and flipped open his badge. “Officer Lopez.” He tried to seem nonchalant and slightly bored. “We received reports of a commotion here. I was wondering if you could tell me what went down.”
The boy just stared at him for a moment, eyes slightly wide. After a moment, he managed to get out “What, what’s with your face?”
Gonzalo hesitated. They had tried to clean up the glass and blood, but he still had quite a few bad cuts. Well, if inconspicuous was out, he might as well go for a bit of fear. “You don’t want to know, kid”, he growled. “Now, what can you tell me?”
The boy shifted nervously from side to side while scratching at a scar on his forehead. “Look, I don’t know anything about a commotion, sir. Maybe I should get my boss.”
Gonzalo grunted. “Sure. Do that.” He leaned against the fence as the boy ran off to get his boss. Looking around, it actually didn’t look like there had been a commotion. The longshoremen were too calm and business-as-usual for that. His first guess had been that zero-one was used defensively, which would likely indicate some sort of commotion or attack. He might need another theory as to why the thieves would use it now, after so long.
A large Asian man – Gonzalo would guess Korean – approached him with a scowl. “I’m Paul Nam, foreman here.” His tone turned stern. “Why are you bothering my workers?”
Gonzalo nodded to the man and showed him his badge. “Officer Lopez. I’m here investigating a report of a disturbance.”
The foreman responded brusquely. “No disturbances here. Everything’s shipshape.”
Gonzalo smiled to him. “Foreman, do you mind if I talk to a few people and maybe get a look at your security footage?”
“You got a warrant?”
He sighed and considered his options. It was possible this man was in on something and he didn’t want to push too hard, but that seemed unlikely. “No, I don’t have a warrant, but all I’m asking is to take a look around, talk to a few of your longshoremen and maybe look at the security footage. If you’d rather, I can come back with a warrant, we’ll shut down your docks for a day or two and do a proper police search.” He made a grimace. “Nobody wants that.”
Paul glared for a moment, then grunted. “Fine. But don’t you dare touch a damn thing. There’s delicate and dangerous equipment all over.”
Gonzalo gave him a curt nod and started doing the rounds. A quick walk around the dock and an interview with a few dockworkers turned up only that one crane operator, a Ryan O’Neill, had left work early citing illness. He had Robin checking out the man online and it might be worth a visit, but his first stop was the dock’s security office. Maybe the footage in there would tell him something, though he doubted it. Whoever used zero-one probably knew enough to clean it out.
He started stepping into the security office, then paused when he noticed the body on the floor. Gonzalo pulled out his gun and gave the order to turn on combat mode to his glasses.
According to his readings the body of the security guard was still body temperature, which either meant he was still alive or only recently otherwise. Additionally, there was one other heat signature of a person crouched behind the security desk. Keeping one eye on the downed man in case he was conscious and lying in wait, Gonzalo pointed his gun at the other figure and stepped into the room. “Police. I can see you behind the desk and I’ll know if you go for a gun. Put any weapons on the ground and step out with your hands up.”
A girl with green hair and a white face stepped out holding up her own badge. Tears streaked down her face. “Ave Goodall,” she said in a shaky voice. “I’m private security for Alliance. I’m sorry.” She sobbed a little. “A man came in here with a gun. I hid, but he hit Piotr in the head, grabbed something and ran. Please don’t tell my boss I just hid.” This time she seemed to choke up a little.
“It’s alright,” Gonzalo said, in an attempt to be reassuring. “He’s gone now. Just sit down and rest.” A quick scan confirmed that she was unarmed, so he relaxed a little. Gonzalo turned back to the desk to check and sure enough, today’s security footage was gone.
When Gonzalo looked back up from the tapes, Ave was gone. A quick thermal scan confirmed she wasn’t in the room. “Mother of god!” he swore, “Robin, can you check if Alliance runs security here?”
Robin’s response came a moment later into his ear. “No, they use Guardian.”
Gonzalo cursed again, then followed it up with a “Forgive me father, for I’m an idiot.” Readying his gun and trying to ignore the pain from his graze, he ran out of the office after her.