Pet's eyes narrowed a bit as she stared at the oriental face on her screen. She'd planned to do some target practice today. And now it looked like there was a good chance she miss out on that. On the other hand, it paid, quite literally most of the time, to stay on the man's good side.
"Cannoli eh?" she replied as she continued to squeeze water out of her hair with a towel. "How many do you want and how fast do I need to get them to you?" She assumed he'd understand what she was answering, the same way she understood what he was asking. And neither had anything to do with Italian pastries.
"You bring me cannoli, today or tomorrow, ne?" he said, which she understood to mean two things: although there was no immediate rush, the day after tomorrow would be too late; and, she really should bring him some cannoli from Minelli's, the old man did like them.
"You really like your cannoli, don't you? I seem to remember that they put out a fresh batch after lunch every day. I'll pick some up then and head on over."
Shar-Chi nodded and disconnected.
"I may have to give up my target practice but I should still be able to check in with Kelly before I go over," she thought to herself. "It's always good to be aware of what's going on around and about."
Pet pulled her Harley up next to the security at "Shar-Chi Importers," there was a pause long enough to suggest human intervention, then the gate slid open. She parked next to the entrance and locked out the bike ignition before heading in. Shar-Chi was already seated at the table where he always did biz, with a steaming teapot in front of him and a cup in front of both his chair and the one opposite. The antenna from the wireless module slotted in his datajack bobbed gently as nodded to Pet. "Sit down, sit down. You brought the cannoli? Good."
Pet strolled in and set down the fragrant box with the still warm cannolis inside. She sat down and waited . Shar Chi served himself from the box. She shook her head and declined a cannoli for herself, smiling a bit as the old man immediately put another on his own plate before moving the box a little out of her reach.
She said nothing, sipping appreciatively at what was really an excellent herbal tea. She hadn't quite put her finger on all the ingredients yet, but she was sure she would eventually. It was one of the little games they played. She knew they wouldn't really get down to business until the old man had eaten most of the first cannoli and until... ah, there it was...
Shar-Chi sipped his tea, then a distracted look crossed his face for a moment. Bright red LEDS winked on over the door, the window, and on the rack of equipment behind the counter near the entrance to the back of the shop. "Secure now," he said as he focused again on Pet. "Are you free for some biz in the next few days?"
She rather wished she did have some other business right now, but the truth was she didn't. It was likely the old man knew that too. But one never gave away one's position in a negotiation, so she kept any hint of eagerness out of her voice. "Never free, old man," she replied, "you know that, but available, yes. What do you need?" She took another sip of the tea, wondered if there was some ginger in it, and if there was how she had missed it? Then she turned her gold eyes on the man in front of her and gave him her full attention .
"You know the Ruff Knights, ne?" he asked.
Pet took another swallow of tea as she considered what she did know and what she wanted to admit knowing. "I know of them. They're a fairly new... social club. More well equipped than one would expect given that. And I've heard... well, some folks seem to think there may be more to them than can be seen with even my eyes." With a smile she continued, " You have more eyes than most. What have yours seen?"
"It is not these old eyes that are interested." Shar-Chi sipped his tea. "A certain Mr. Johnson has some questions, though. He expects the answers may be ... complicated. Would you like to meet him?"
Pet narrowed her eyes. "I am willing to meet any trusted associate of yours, old man, if that is the only way a mutually beneficial arrangement can be worked out. I don't suppose he would be interested in simply having you act as his intermediary without the need of a face to face meeting? I prefer keep my 'pretty' face ... pretty and private is the easiest way to do that." Pet finished off by serving the old man the last canolli.
Shar-Chi cackled gently, "Trusted associate. Heh. This Johnson looks no worse than most. I can tell you this. He wants three. Someone to do B and E, someone to go with the first one, and someone on the outside to keep an eye on things. For that last person, I think of you, ne? Keeping an eye from a safe distance. Do you have all the ammo you need for that SM-3 of yours?"
Pet smiled back. She really did like the old man. Although, of course, she trusted him only as long as he was getting paid. "Well enough. I take it he wants to meet with all of us? See what his cred is buying? When and where? And as to the other. There's never too much ammo, old man. I'll make sure to stock up."
"Good. Good. You let me know if you need anything, ne?"
Pet nodded, "Now this tea... I think the last ingredient I haven't been able to guess is ginger."
"No, ginger, no," he smiled. "So, you're in? Good. Tomorrow, eight o'clock, in the corner of the parking lot at Dutchmen stadium closest to Toby O'Brien's bar. Spike will be there and maybe Cool Hand Lucy. Maybe someone else. I'll call you. The Johnson will have three cars, one with one headlight out. He's in that one."
Nodding, Pet stood. "Got it. Tomorrow, eight, lot near Toby O'Briens. Car with light out. No ginger eh?" She took another sip of the tea, shook her head, then focused on the clock in her eye. "I need to stop by the market. I missed my afternoon instruction, but making her a good dinner may go a long way to making amends with my sensei." And with that she headed out of the room.
At five minutes to eight, three cars appeared and drove into the parking lot. Two took up positions which protected the third. A moment later, one headlight on the middle car went dark. Almost immediately, the door to Toby O'Brien's opened, and two figures emerged. Pet zoomed in. One was the dwarf tech, Spike. The other she didn't know, a woman with a chromed right hand visible at the end of the long sleeve of what was almost certainly an armoured duster. That fit the basic description of Cool Hand Lucy. The two started toward the car, the woman turning her head to the left and right as they went.
Moving deliberately, but not abruptly, Pet got off the bike, and locked it down. Having made sure she was seen, she began to walk toward the cars. She also kept scanning the area for possible problems.
Lucy, if it was she, saw her and twitched her head toward Pet, clearly faster than humanly possible. Spike saw the motion, followed her gaze and said something in a low voice. Lucy relaxed and the two waited for Pet to join them. As the approached, Spike spoke, "Good to see you, Pet. I heard you might be running with us. I don't think you know Cool Hand Lucy?"
The street sammy stepped forward extending the cyberhand to Pet. "I've heard good things," she said in a low and surprisingly musical voice, for all that it was abrupt and staccato.
Pet nodded to Spike. Looking Lucy over discretely, she shook the offered hand. "Good to meet you. You two feeling comfortable with this so far?"
Spike nodded, "So far. But so far ain't far. Let's go."
The trio approached the cars, and then angled in toward the one in the middle. As the did so, the front doors opened and two men in dark business suits glided out to take up defensive postures. They didn't look hostile, just professional. One set a box on the roof of the car, flicked a couple of switches and then, as a row of LEDs lit up, he and the other man backed off to give the runners a chance to approach the car. Spike whispered, "Looks like a baffler, sound and probably EMF." He nodded approvingly. When they reached the car, the window slid open and a bland corporate face appeared. "Good evening. I am Mister Yamota." The anglo face didn't match the name, but that meant nothing. "I understand you have been given only a faint idea of the mission, little more than that it involves gathering some information about the Ruff Knights. I anticipate a single evening's work, for which I will pay you each three-kay, half in advance, half upon completion. What I want, quite simply is whatever you can find in the clubhouse of the local chapter. There should be an office, perhaps a computer. I'll accept the hardware or just the data, whichever is easiest for you to extract. I also require a feed of whatever you find in there for my records and analysis, for which I will provide the commo gear - which you will return, naturally." He paused, "That is essentially all. Any questions or are you in?"
Pet twitched her head just a bit to indicate a question. "This clubhouse... and the RKs... what intel do you have on them? I prefer not going in blind. Usually makes it harder to get out. And how soon would you need this done? Cred sounds OK to me, but a rush might entail a little extra."
"Getting intel is your job," said 'Yamota.' "That's the whole point. We've got a floorplan for you, unless they've modded it, of course. As for timing. Today is Tuesday, you're back here, 9:30 pm on Saturday with what I want. Or you can request an earlier pickup with the commo gear I loan you."
Pet had been hoping for a little more. But then she thought "Why would he tell me anything even if he knows it?" She glanced over at the others to see if they had anything to say.
"What's the comm gear?" asked Spike.
"This." Yamota handed a case to Spike who set it on the ground and popped it open. He examined the contents.
"Commo gear OK Spike?" asked Pet.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Lucy?"
"Sounds alright," said the sammy.
"Good. Here's the upfront money," Yamota handed three credsticks to Lucy, who handed one to Pet and one to Spike. "Here's the data on the clubhouse." He handed a chip out. "See you Sunday." The window rolled up, and as the runners started to back out, the goons reclaimed their baffler and got back in the car. By the time the trio was crossing the street back to Toby's, the cars were moving away up the road.
"Nice guy," Pet opined dryly.
"Spike, any place safe we can talk?"
She glanced sideways at Lucy. "Figured he'd be the one to know. But if you've got a place..." Pet shrugged.
"Toby's is good," shrugged Spike. "Well, I can make it good."
The three returned to the bar ordered their drinks and went to a dark booth in the back. Spike reached into a capacious pocket and pulled out slim black deck. He plugged it into his datajack, closed his eyes for a moment, opened them and nodded. "Should be good enough for here and for a while."
Pet waited until the waitress had brought a round, been paid and left. She took a sip of an extremely bad fake of a "Native American Tribes" whiskey, grimaced and looked at her fellow runners. "Obviously some recon is in order. Which I'm guessing would be Lucy or me or both if we decide to watch them 24X7 for a day or two. I have to admit to wondering why someone thought a sniper might be useful for this run. Having a map of the inside is all well and good, but I think we need some good solid information on the outside of this building as well. Plus as much info as we can see or find" nodding at Spike, "about the gang itself before we go inside." She took another sip of the noxious liquor and waited to see what her fellow runners had to contribute.
Spike and Lucy nodded. Spike pulled a display out of another pocket and slotted the chip Yamota had given him. "Let's see what we've got, hmm?"
The three crowded round the display as Spike rapidly walked them through it. It was, as advertised, the floorplan of a four-story brownstone row-house. It was on a corner, so there was an adjoining house on one side. Behind was a small garden, and if the recent satellite photos included were accurate, it was going to weed. Behind that another small garden, then another set of rowhouses. Notes suggested that the building to the right of the clubhouse was unoccupied, but probably used as a squat by some of the Ruff Knights. The buildings behind were occupied, but little information was available about the inhabitants, it was suggested that they were just ghetto dwellers.
"The general plan is in and out.. with the information and without getting killed. Likely through the back. I think we need to watch the place starting tomorrow morning early through say... Thursday afternoon. Then we can get together, make more specific plans, catch a little sleep, and do the run on Thursday night.
"Sounds good," said Lucy.
I'm open, of course, but I suggest we use that building on the corner for our observation point. We'll have to be a hundred meters or so back, which might be a good thing for a watch post, and we'll get a pretty good view of the front and back without too many dead spots. We can watch in eight hour shifts. Spike would you mind being part of the watch or is there something else you think you could be doing before the run?"
"I'll take a shift," he said.
"And I know this is a long shot, Spike, but from the floorplan, any idea where in the house their "data center" is most likely to be?"
"I'd say," he zoomed and centered the image, "here or here. If they're landlining, this is the place to go. If they've got satphone, this has the best line. Otherwise ... we'll just have to see what we find."
Pet nodded, memorizing the spots. "OK. That will likely be helpful when we go in. If no one else has any other ideas we need to discuss right now, I'll take the first shift tomorrow. I'll be there on the roof at sunrise. Who'll be taking the afternoon shift?"
Spike raised his hand, "Lucy, I think you're better equipped for a night watch, right?"
Lucy smiled, "Yeah, the night works alright for me."
"Shall we distribute the comm gear now? We can use it to keep in contact while we watch," Spike said.
"Great. Was just about to ask about that." Pet paused again as a new thought struck her. "You think we'll need to take photos?" she asked Spike. "And, if we do, got a camera I could borrow?" she continued with a little smile. "It's the *next * upgrade to the eyes."
"These babies have a record feature," he said handing her a headseat, "Yamota wants a full record of what's inside, but we can use it as well. You're not jacked, are you? So you'll have to use the external controls." He showed her where the buttons were and which one was which. "Should be good up to four or five clicks, I think. So we may not be able to stay in constant contact, but we'll certainly be able to check in as we approach for the shift change. Here Luc, you can just run yours off the jack. I know I will." He slipped off the seat. "See you tomorrow at 1400, Pet."
Pet slipped the comm gear into a pocket, nodded at Luc and Spike, said "Yeah, see ya," then headed for the door.
She stopped just long enough to slip a few extra nuyen to the girl serving the drinks then left the bar. She scanned the parking lot as she headed for her bike. It was too late to head for the dojo, so she headed home instead to her no doubt hungry kitties. She cranked up the bike and headed it that way.
"I'll work out and catch a few hours sleep before setting up on the rooftop." she thought. "It'll probably be better to go up while it's still dark." Running through her inventory of weapons in her mind, she decided to bring her knives, the crossbow and bolts and the Predator if it turned out she had to make noise to protect herself. As she was pulling up to her home, she hoped this would turn out to be a simple, straight forward run... for once.