Even if the outside noise could be in today’s terms considered loud, it was a relatively quiet night. The neon commercials lurking on every corner, desperately trying to get the attention of any potential customers. Cars were lifelessly driving their tired owners who after a 12-hour shift, were looking forward to rest. An occasional whistle or shouting could be heard from the ground level as local beggars tried to divert the attention to themselves. All action was surrounded by dark skyscrapers which created weird mosaics by combining windows with lights on and off. With a bit of imagination, you could sometimes see an image on the cheerless tall concrete structures.
However, this downtown hustle didn’t accompany the more urban parts of the town. Those were mostly dark, only some streets were lit by streetlamps. The streets didn’t feature multilevel highways, instead ground level roads with dents and trash all over them. No cars, no pedestrians dared to enter the streets at this time. It was time for the night vendors who if you payed the right price could sell you anything from the latest homemade robotic arm to a military grade spy robot used during a war that ended 2 years ago. Not all tradesmen were only selling technology, some specialized on more personal pleasures. Simply put, if you wanted it, this market found a way to sell it to with ten other items you never realized you needed. Loud electro music was dominant combined with people screaming and fighting over who gets the best price and who gets the next new thing. But none of that mattered for a group of people on the 2nd floor of a corner building right above a stand where a man was presenting a combat drone to an enthusiastic crowd.
The windows facing both the street and the market were covered by various materials. Saying that the room was not very well lit would be an exaggeration as the only light that was available was from the half circle consisting of 3 monitors with a 4K resolution and an old grey plastic lamp. Under the lamp was an old dentist chair with a red leather covering it. The metal structure underneath was decorated by hanging wires and creative graffiti and the only thing that added life to the entire chair was a man quietly laying taking deep breaths. The only sound except form the muffled noises of the market was a sound of a mechanical keyboard clicking in a fast motion. It was operated by a female who looked more robot-like than human with pink hair and almost pale white skin. Her blue ripped jeans and a leader jacket with spikes would make any heavy-metal fan only envious. Besides these two people a large man with a thick black beard and a cigarette in his mouth stood in the door frame looking around. In his red robotic hand, he held a classical assault rifle. It looked like he was the most nervous one of the group.
“Are we done for Christ’s sake?” said the man in deep bass voice.
“Gimme a break big boy. How about you stop asking that question and let me do my work?” replied the girl. “We are about to write history and you constantly ask- “
“Just shut up and do the work. I don’t want any problems.” said the man.
“Could we focus?” said the man in the chair. A nervous tone could be observed.
“I just don’t want any problems.” repeated the man.
The typing continued and so did the noise from the market. The man on the chair continued to practice deep breathing. The man with the rifle lit another cigarette. The girl typed some more. It all seemed very normal and in a weird way calm.
Right across the street, even before the market stood a white van. The fact that the van stood there was not really weird but if someone had looked inside the van, he would surely be surprised. Instead of a dead rat and dirt on the floor, you could find only heavily armed men with thick layers of Kevlar with big white numbers on them. Next to them were long and slim black laser rifles together with what looked like a handle to a shield.
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack. Do you copy?” could be heard from the driver’s seat.
“Alphadog, this is – “
“Wolfpack this is Alphadog, I copy. What’s your status?” could be from a black radio box.
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack, the conversion has not yet started. Estimated time is 10.”
“Wolfpack, this is Alphadog, affirmative. End of transmission.”
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack, end of transmission.” said a girl as she laid back into the black leader driver seat. She looked to her right to a man who looked back at her.
“Time for a break?” she asked. The man nodded. They both left the car and closed the door behind them.
A flushing of a toilet and the closing of a creaking old door could be hear. The bulky shadow walked towards his rifle picked it up again and resumed his position from 5 minutes ago. He kicked an empty can away and watched it slowly disappear under a broken filing cabinet. The mechanical keyboard could be still heard. Suddenly the typing stopped, the girl in the chair moved backwards and crawled under the table getting some cables.
“We are good to go.” she said.
“Finally.” answered the man at the door with a sarcastic tone.
“How about you gimme a hand here instead of complaining so much?” said the girl sharply.
The man moved slowly towards the table.
“If he wouldn’t pay us so much, I would have already left 2 hours ago.” said the man as he, with a sight, leaned towards the girl.
“That’s something we can both agree on.” said the girl sharply as she handed the cable to the man. “Put it into the marked place on his forearm. Don’t mess this one up.”
The man took the cables and went over to the dentist’s chair where the second man, who seemed more nervous than ever, laid back. He almost looked like he was meditating.
“This might hurt a little. Relax, Dave.” said the man as he slowly looked at the marked place on his hand and connected the cables with the opening. A loud click could be heard and a beeping sound appeared on the computer, followed by a green checkmark.
A click of an opening Zippo, followed by the soothing sound of fire followed as the male agent lit his cigarette. The female stretched her hand forward and as soon as she received the Zippo, she lit her cigarette as well.
“What’s taking those pricks so long? It’ supposed to be a smooth run.” said the female.
“Stop worrying, it’s gonna be fine.” said the man.
“Oh really? Look Jack, I don’t know about you but we are standing in the middle of a black market with a van with 12 fully armed men. We don’t even know the names of these people and we are about to raid their –“
“1 armed, two civs. Names are not important, makes the killing easier, if things go south.” replied Jack while he took a drag from his cigarette.
“You are one heartless fuck, you know that?” said the female.
“If you are about to lecture me on some moral codex, you can return home Cortez. I can handle a situation like this. If you can’t, I don’t feel like attending your funeral later this week.” replied the man sharply and looked at Cortez. “I will do anything to complete the –“
A beeping sound could be heard from the van. Both of them looked back at the vehicle. Cortez ran toward the door and pulled out the walkie-talkie.
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack. Do you copy?” said Cortez.
“Wolfpack this is Alphadog, I copy. What’s your status?” replied a voice from the walkie-talkie.
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack, the conversion has started. Do we proceed with Plan A?”
“Wolfpack, this is Alphadog, you have a green light. End of transmission.”
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack, end of transmission.” replied Cortez, putting the walkie-talkie on its place and taking a small hand gun and loading it.
“You heard the man. Get a move on! Chop, chop, chop!” shouted Jack as he loaded his shotgun. The white door on the van opened and 12 men armed to their teeth jumped out of it into the darkness of the night. In a very organized and almost synchronized motion they activated their shields and made sure their rifles were armed and ready. After that they stood still, like statues in a museum.
“I repeat, 1 armed, 2 civs. We go in according to Plan A. No horsing around.” said the man and after the entire group nodded he turned around to Cortez “Ready?”
“I was born to.” said Cortez putting her gun into a holster.
The group in an organized fashion walked towards the shinning bright lights of the market.
The mad typing continued as the man with the rifle still was at the door just looking at the entire process. Dave was still at the dentist’s chair. He tried to keep himself calm. He tried to think of his family. He visualized the moment he will be able to cross the borders. He visualized what his daughter could look like after all those years. Did she still have black hair? Would she remember him? He could only hope.
“Alright, hold tight now. This is the hard part.” said the girl.
“I believe in you Catalina.” said Dave.
“Faith is important.” said Catalina with a laugh as she continued to type even faster. The man looked at her with a skeptical look and let out a slight laugh. Catalina pretended she didn’t notice. She suddenly stopped typing and with a victorious look, observed the rest of the room.
“Now folks, when I click enter, Dave will be the first to go offline, since the law. That’s almost 2 years now. Therefore –“ began Catalina.
“Cut the crap and do your job.” said the man with the rifle visibly annoyed by the prep talk.
“Look meathead, how about-“ Catalina stood up and marched towards him. “how about you just-“
“Wait.” Said the man with the rifle as he left his position and moved towards the window.
“Just, just, I don’t know, just-“ continued Catalina ignoring what has been said.
“Shut up I said.” said the man as he tried to peek outside the window. “The market went quiet. It’s not the time for the market to go quiet.” He moved towards the second window and with his gun pointed to the ceiling, he listened. He suddenly loaded his rifle.
“This could only mean one thing. You, make it as fast your possible and start packing. I sense trouble.” said the man as he walked towards the door.
“The FCCD.” said Catalina. She quickly moved towards he table, operating everything at twice the speed.
“The FCCD?” asked Dave. “Like the actual –“
“Yes, the actual.” answered the man still standing by the door. Quick typing was heard done by Catalina and Dave began to become more and more nervous in his seat. Suddenly a beeping sound was heard again and a small chip came out of the opening on Dave’s hand.
“Yes, it worked! We are good to go! You are now officially offline.” Said Catalina as she took the chip out and threw it away. She started to unplug different cables and pack them into a camo duffel bag right next to her.
“Wait really? I am offline?” asked Dave with a wide smile. He stood up from the chair and started to walk around the room.
“Yes, but let’s get going. Darrel over there is scared of the FCCD.” answered nervously Catalina.
“I just don’t want trouble.” said Darrel as he pointed his gun on the door.
As Cortez went with her team through the market, suddenly the noise disappeared. People dispersed and began running in every direction possible, vendors hid under their tables and some even packed some stuff and ran away also. The lights were still up but even the music stopped playing. It was all very chaotic and disorganized.
Those who stayed at the market look at the armed men with intense fear. Some women were even shaking as they covered their children with their own bodies. It was as if something very demonic has suddenly entered the market. The atmosphere went from cheerful to dark and calm in almost a second after the arrival of the FCCD. Cortez looked around in every direction, also scared but much better at hiding it that the civilians. Jack moved forward with his team and with his hand pointed towards a door.
“There, 2nd floor, to the left.” Said as he let the entire team in front of him.
One of the men kicked down the front door and others entered the building. A clicking sound as everybody turned on their flashlights could be heard and suddenly 14 different light circles were pointing in all directions. The team ran up in an orderly fashion, meanwhile Cortez was looking backwards at what was happening. If you would follow her light circle, you could see it was shaking due to fear she experienced. The entire team stopped at the 2nd floor and everybody aimed their lights at an old wooden door with all sorts of dents and graffiti all over it. Jack moved forward as the first six soldiers moved down with one of their knees to make way for the back to be able to shoot too. A whoosh! could be heard as the front line opened their shields. Suddenly the room was lit also with a blue light that was caused by the six electric shields. The flow of electricity could be heard as Cortez moved towards Jack.
“Are we sure this is the apartment?” asked Cortez looking at the door like she was searching for a specific dent.
“Yes. Or maybe you want to ring the doorbell and ask them?” said Jack very sharply almost with an angry tone. “On three. One, two-“
“Who is in front of my door?” suddenly shouted a voice from inside.
Jack and Cortez looked at each other, each confused.
“I won’t ask again, who is standing there?” shouted the voice from inside. Jack held his right hand high and the men all aimed at the door.
Meanwhile Catalina packed everything up into one duffel bag but her victorious look went away as she frowned more and more. Dave all nervous started to walk around the apartment and every 5 seconds turned only to go into a different direction.
“I have a gun and I’m gonna use it.” said Darrel as he pointed a gun at the door. He took cover on the left side from the door behind a sofa.
“It’s the FCCD, we want to talk.” said the voice from behind the door. “I need you to put your gun down and follow our orders, otherwise action will be taken against you.”
Darrel looked at Catalina and Dave. Both of them were looking at the door with a nervous face and Catalina showed Darrel a no sign with her hand. She picked up her duffel bag and nervously looked around the apartment. Dave started to do the exact same thing. Catalina suddenly left the room with the computers and the dentist’s chair and ran towards a window, tearing down everything that made up a barrier between her and the glass. Dave followed her and started to do the same thing for the second window. Newspapers and metals formed a nice pile of trash under the windows. Darrel looked back at the door.
“I will get the keys and open you up.” said Darrel as he started to move from his place to a spot behind an old sofa. He was still aiming at the door.
“Make it quick.” shouted Jack and looked at Cortez. “We will wait 10 seconds and if nothing happens, we go in the hard way.” he whispered still holding his hand in the air. Cortez took cover next to the door and closed her eyes. She started breathing heavily. Jack was counting with his fingers. With every finger down, Cortez got more nervous. The 10 seconds seemed like forever for her.
As Darrel ceased to speak, he slowly got up from behind the sofa and started to move towards the rest of the group. He walked carefully not to step on any trash or really anything that would produce a suspicious noise. Meanwhile Catalina was done with the window but she had a harder time opening it.
“Help me please!” said Catalina and turned towards Dave who moved away from his window and observed the second window and as Catalina was struggling with it. He started to push and hit the lower part of the window in hopes of unlocking it somehow. Suddenly a loud sound could be heard and for a split second the entire group was focused at the door. A blue light beam flew right through it and through Darrel who stood there shocked at what just happened. And this was followed by another light beam. And another. Most of them hit Darrel and some went through apartment walls destroying anything in their way. New holes were added to the door each second and Darrel just stood there all the time as the beams went through his body. His black coat became soaked with blood as he dropped his rifle to the floor and fell on his knees. His last words were a cough of blood that ended up on the dentist’s chair and then his entire body fell down like a lifeless doll. A puddle of blood was forming under him. Dave screamed while Catalina just watched with horror. The door was kicked down and you could recognize two shadows slowly entering the room. Bright flashlight madly raced through the walls.
“FCCD! Put your hands in the air and get down on your knees or we will shoot!” shouted a voice from the mist.
“Yeah right!” whispered Catalina as she pulled out a semi-automatic pistol out of her leader jacket and started to shoot towards the mist. One of the flashlights fell on the ground, together with the person who started screaming. You could see the second person turn around and then start shooting towards the direction from which Catalina took he first shot. One of the bullets hit the window glass as it shattered and the pieces fell on the ground. Catalina jumped out landing on a metal platform. Underneath was a large ladder going down. Dave started to climb also but suddenly with a large hiss he dropped to the ground.
“My leg, goddamit my leg!” he shouted. “Catalina quickly he-“ he said just as a bullet penetrated his throat. Catalina could only see the blood spraying from Dave’s neck similar to a fountain. Dave started coughing madly and with each cough he sank more and more to the ground.
“We have an officer down. I repeat officer down! Get me a medic.” Shouted Cortez as she revealed herself from the smog. Two armed men ran towards Jack who similar to Darrel laid lifelessly on the ground. He didn’t speak nor did he move. Cortez with a tear in her eye ran towards the window and looked down. She could see Catalina running down the ladder. “She is escaping. Everybody to the market let’s go, let’s go!” she shouted as she looked at Jack. “And two of you, get him into the van and call for medics. Move!”. Cortez ran out of the door with her gun in both hands aimed at her ground. The rest of the team made their way down but the athletic figure of Cortez made her run out very fast.
Meanwhile Catalina was heading down through the market in a very fast pace. She was bumping into people like crazy. She opened up her chip on the hand and called a number. The phone rang for a while until somebody picked it up.
“Yes?” said the voice.
“Boss, we are being chased but I have the hardware. We need to meet now!” shouted Catalina as she was still trying to catch her breath.
“Yes, we do. Under the bridge, next to Jimmy’s Autoparts. 10 minutes. If you are late, I will leave.” said the voice.
“I’ll be there.” said Catalina as she took a hard right.
The screen turned off as the call ended. Catalina went down and disappeared in the night.
Cortez was waving her gun madly in the market. The 12 men team, split up each searching in a different part of the market, while 2 men carried James into the van. In the distance sirens of the ambulance could be heard. Cortez finally holstered her gun. She took out a cigarette and with shaking hands lit it. She looked at the van as tears began rolling down her cheeks. She started crying as she walked towards the white van. The flashlights of the men could still be seen searching every tent, table and box at the market. But Cortez knew that little snake was already gone. She wouldn’t hide at the market. Cortez reached out to her walkie talkie.
“Alphadog, this is Wolfpack. Do you copy?” she said still sobbing.
Catalina ran as fast as she could. She knew she could get to the location in 2 minutes but the adrenaline in her blood wouldn’t let her slow down. What she has seen today would be enough for anybody. She wanted to get the entire deal all over with. Money was on her mind and that’s the only thing keeping her happy.
She arrived at the location with the boss already sitting in an old chair. She has never seen him before but the man was quite tall with brown hair. He wore a suit as far as she could tell and had beautiful golden rim glasses. He looked older, could be around 50.
“Well, hello Catalina. Do you have what I need?” asked the boss as he stood up.
“Yes, here it is. All the data, the cables and a USB key with the access codes and passwords.” said Catalina sliding the duffel bag towards him. “And now the money.”
“Hmmm, now here is where we will reach a misunderstanding Catalina.” said the boss. “You see-“
“I see my 5 bullets in your skull, if you don’t pay me right now!” said Catalina as she pulled out her gun and aimed at the boss.
“You should stop acting immature.” Said the boss calmly. “You won’t get far aiming guns at random people who you don’t know.”
“I am aimed a gun at a person who is trying to screw me over and I don’t give a single damn who you are.” Answered Catalina sharply.
“Funny people say that until they know my name.” said the man as he tightened his tie and whistled. Suddenly a 2-metre bulky figure ran at Catalina and with a single hand movement took her gun and aimed it at her head. Catalina shocked and even more angry looked towards the man.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Herbert Berkley, head of the security division at MilCorp. But anyways thank you for your effort Catalina. You helped to change lives of many people.” said the man as he started to leave.
“Wait.” said Catalina “why all this? Why hire me? Why you need that techno-“
“MilCorp has as you know is in charge of distribution and supply of military-grade chips to the government. You have one of them in your hand. And as you also know, the government uses them to track people. That’s why the law about forbidding people to go offline. You are connected to the net, the government has a stable flow of your location data, transaction data and so on.” said Herbert as he walked towards Catalina. “It all works fine for the smiling politicians in their stupid suits but let’s hypothetically say me and few of my colleagues want to go offline, for a while, for personal reasons. Let’s say I don’t like the government looking over my shoulder every day. I figured out that the politicians that are so about transparency are offline most of the day. Do you think they speak to their families while being recorded? I know I do. Do you believe all their transactions are recorded? I know mine are.” the man paused for a while. “So that’s why we need the duffle bag. To secure a future for me and some of my friends, where we can enjoy a bit of privacy.” said the man as he tapped Catalina’s head.
“But why hire me?” said Catalina.
“You see, I hire my IT team to crack the code and we get found out.” began Herbert again. “The government sues us, we loose profits. Or we hire a 3rd party to do the work for us and then we just come to collect. I have a few you could say scouts and all of them recommended you. Or most of them. So, I decided if anyone would be the first on to break the law, to break free from the net, to break free from the government, it would be you.”
“Did you call the cops on us?” asked Catalina.
“You have to many questions my dear and I don’t have all day. Time is money and, right now, I can’t afford to lose more.” said Herbert as he smiled and again whistled. A loud shot could be heard and Catalina’s body fell to the ground. “Take the bag and put it into the car. I can handle this.” The bodyguard picked up the duffle bag and headed away with it. Herbert looked around and crossed his hands as he waited. Suddenly a white van appeared. It stopped with the headlights aimed at the dead body of Catalina, behind which Herbert was standing. The door opened and Cortez, jumped out. She was still sobbing.
“Why is she here?” Said Cortez whipping a tear away from her cheeks and looking at the corpse in the corner.
“You came alone? Where is Jack?” said Herbert.
“He is dead Herbert. Why is she here ask?” shouted Cortez.
“Money is in the corner. Take it and stop asking question agent Cortez. I have my own business to mind.” Answered Herbert.
“Answer my question. Why-“ began Cortez.
“She is dead who cares.” Said Herbert looking annoyed.
“I asked you a question! I want an answer!” Said Cortez screaming hysterically.
Herbert looked at Catalina’s body. “She was a backup.” he began. “I don’t trust any of you. Each of you have motives to double cross me. But I knew if I made it a bit more competitive, you would both feel the struggle, blood pumping, adrenaline rushing and one of you would bring me the product I needed. Not because of money but because of pride. Now isn’t that right agent Cortez?” Herbert looked at Cortez.
“Fuck you. Jack died for some sick plan of yours? ”said Cortez as she moved towards Herbert trembling both in fear and anger.
“Progress requires sacrifice. Isn’t that the motto of the FCCD?” said Herbert with a calm smile.
“Go to hell.” said Cortez with a voice crack.
“Look, agent.” said Herbert after a long pause. “Your partner is dead. And as much as I feel sorry, how about you take the money and go drink your sorrows away? You might even find a man that could make you happy for a-“ said Herbert before Cortez showed him a middle-finger and left for the duffel bags. She started to put them into the van.
“One more thing agent. You want to know why I killed her?” said Herbert.
“Not really but you are going to tell me anyways” said Cortez as closed the backdoor of her van.
“Well the reason is simple. She knew too much. But that would be silenced by the money.” said Herbert “But loosing somebody you care about? Even the toughest people would break at that point. That veteran and the ex-felon, you know spending that much time with somebody creates a bond.” Herbert moved a bit closer to the van pointing at Cortez “And what about you agent Cortez? You lost Jack. And as much as I want to, I don’t think I can let you just leave after that.” Herbert turned around and whistled.
Cortez looked at Herbert’s figure with fear in her eyes. “No, wai-“ and a bullet went right through her head.
“Take the money and let’s leave this dump.” said Herbert as he walked towards a black sedan. The bodyguard took the duffle bags, loaded them into the black sedan and with screeching tires, the car left the compound.
Even if the silence was interrupted by two loud shots of a gun, the night went back into being just a quiet observer of what was happening. The advertisements still shinned, windows slowly ceased to emit light and cars slowly disappeared from the roads. The only light shining at the two corpses was the almost white light of the moon. The bodies were still, the sound of the van’s motor was still going, while the radio from inside played a rock song. It was all sort of calm. Nothing dared to move or interrupt. Each of the two women laid in their own little puddle of blood, that soaked into the muddy ground. Only if Jake or Darrel could see this. They would for sure light a cigarette.
Author Notes: Please leave a review, any feedback is highly welcome ;)