On the Brink
Adventures on Earth (ADMP Data Theft)
Adventures on Earth
18 July 2110
Konrad continued his research, stopping occasionally to take a drink of Scotch. Not the hotel’s pathetic cheap whiskey, but a bit of high-end spirits brought along with him to take the edge off. And to provide liquid courage for the task that lay ahead.
Konrad was so deep into his work that his glass had gone dry. He’d just put it to his lips and found it empty when he saw a reflection in the glass and felt a tap on his back followed by the cold barrel of a gun pressed to the base of his skull. The gunman spoke, an accent that marked him as eastern German/western Polish, probably from the area of Gorzow. Konrad felt confident they were dealing with an EEC team.
The gunman kept it civil. He had the upper hand and could resolve the situation at any point in time. He said that Konrad and his friends were presenting a problem, going after something the gunman wanted. Konrad said he was fine with giving up the hunt for Rory Watson and the ADMP data; he had no skin in the game. That flummoxed the gunman. After a moment of thinking, the gunman counter-proposed that Konrad and his companions continue their research in the Watson/ADMP theft and work with the gunman’s people. The deal: do so, keep half what they were being offered (and the gunman wouldn’t kill Konrad). After cleverly drawing some information out of the gunman, Konrad accepted the offer.
The gunman fed Konrad some more information, some of which Konrad didn’t know. With all the information combined, Konrad had a different impression of what was going on. The gunman excused himself and Konrad called for James.
Based off what they knew, Konrad saw the case as one of layers of deception and trickery. The six thieves had been Rory Watson and his buddies Lauren Matovich and Girish Patel plus three unknowns. Those “unknowns” were Nancy Lu, Eric Schmidt, and Will Charlotte. Will Charlotte—the idealist probably behind the planning of the heist—was already dead. The data stolen from the data center belonged to Sierra Lake Enterprises, one of ADMP’s corporations.
Konrad asked James to check the morgue. Konrad’s research into Will Charlotte revealed the guy had been a delusional “visionary” who wanted to see metacorporations brought to justice. He was known to go from place to place, stirring up trouble and barely averting arrest.
James talked to Jack and they agreed Jack should stay behind to watch over Konrad. The rest of the group headed to the morgue. Os spotted a car following them. His NVGs were enough to confirm a driver in a rented car. A call to Konrad confirmed the rental was from the Biloxi area and almost certainly was one of their EEC “friends.” James pulled off at a Piggly Wiggly (a supermarket corporation owned by ADMP) to shake the tail. Eventually, the group made their way to the morgue. Os called Konrad (who was getting frustrated by all the interruptions) to ask him to activate the rental car’s tracking system. Between the tracking device and Os’s sharp eyes, the group almost always knew when they were being tracked.
At the morgue, James and Os took turns playing with the night guardsman, pulling something of a good cop/bad cop routine. Together, they convinced the rent-a-cop to let them see the corpse of Will Charlotte. While Penny distracted the guard, Os conducted a very quick inspection of Will’s corpse. The cause of death had been determined as drowning. Os confirmed that, but he also confirmed Will had probably been tossed into the river while unconscious from a well-placed blow to the base of the skull, something the half-assed coroner work had missed. There were no signs of struggle, so Will had been surprised by the attack. Will had been identified by an IAFIS check for the fingerprints. Will had been arrested on serious charges a few times.
With Will’s murder confirmed, the group decided their next step was to track down Nancy Lu and Eric Schmidt. Lu, being Asian, promised to stand out more. James and Os asked around a few dives and came up with a good idea where she’d been staying. They drove out to the motel to check if she might still be around.
At the motel, they discovered Lu had not only left without paying her bill, she’d left her room in a mess. Apparently, she and her boyfriend had a big fight. The hotel manager saw the boyfriend staggering around with a bloody towel pressed to his head. There had been gunshots and the police found bullet holes in the walls. The group bribed the hotel manager to buy the items left in the room. The group also thought to ask indirectly about Will Charlotte. Another bribe bought them the key to his room (he hadn’t been seen in a couple days).
The group checked out the belongings (bloody clothes, toiletries, and a data film) before heading up to the room that might have been Will’s. The room contained some clothes that were similar to what Will wore and were similar in size. A thorough search of the room also turned up a physical notepad and a standalone computer pad. The group snagged those and headed out.
As they exited the hotel room, the group noticed two cars coming to a stop in the parking lot not far from their own car. The people exiting the cars weren’t just stylishly dressed and packing hardware, they were Asian, like Lu. That wasn’t a terribly common sight in Jackson. As they took in the Asians, one of the Asians noticed them. The Asian gal hissed something to the others and a gunfight began.
Who drew first and why, it didn’t really matter at the end of the day. The Asians fell thanks to some outrageous gun fu on James’s part and a bit of car tossing on Jack’s part. Os and Penny took one of the Asians down, but Team J accounted for four. The group looted the corpses and drove away.
When they got back to the hotel, the group found Konrad gone without so much as a thank you note. They contacted him but he didn’t immediately respond. The group analyzed what they had taken from the motel. James and Penny working together hacked the local storage on the Asians’ headsets (everyone knew they were LoDu operators). That was enough to confirm they had just arrived in Jackson from the Gulfport-Biloxi airport. They were looking for Nancy Lu and had records on her partner, Eric Schmidt and the others involved in the data center operation.
The group was confident Nancy Lu was LoDu as well. Eric Schmidt trying to kill her made it pretty obvious he wasn’t LoDu. That and the fact LoDu tended to hire mostly Asians. The group began to suspect Schmidt might be EEC, pretending to be freelance to stay close to Lu. After some extensive hacking, James and Penny repaired a message they’d found on on the LoDu operators’ headsets. The message was still damaged, but there was enough to trace it to Nancy Lu and determine it was sent from the Detroit area. In the message, Lu was delirious from a serious wound.
Armed with knowledge that Lu was likely still in Detroit (the message wasn’t even two days old, and Lu was in no condition to move), the group decided to travel to Detroit. They finally established limited communications with Konrad and updated him. Konrad helped them with some research and planning then went silent.
After communicating with Konrad, the others decided to check on the final two thieves, Lauren Matovich and Girish Patel. They checked the home addresses and discovered both were still living with parents. A quick check of each address (slum apartments) and the application of force/terror to the parents was enough to uncover that Matovich was hiding out in Mobile, Patel was hiding with his sister’s family in Biloxi.
The group debated traveling to Biloxi and Mobile but quickly realized they were losing focus. Their target was in Detroit. They logged flight plans and took the Aegis shuttle to the outskirts of Detroit and rented a crawler.
Detroit was every bit the hellhole they’d all heard it was: burned out buildings, shattered streets and bridges, limited utilities. They quickly picked a seedy bar and James and Os headed in to dig up information while Jack and Penny watched the crawler and kept an eye out for anything suspicious. Almost immediately, they spotted two hooligans taking an interest in the crawler. They stayed cool but kept an eye on them.
James and Os bought drinks and asked around for any tips on an Asian gal who might be lying up somewhere, trying to recover from an injury. The pitch was she was a fugitive and James and Os were bounty hunters. As they seemed to be making a little progress, Os spotted someone—a big, tough guy—who might be a little more interested in their efforts than he should have been. James decided he would try to intimidate the guy.
As James approached the nosy guy, Os spotted a gal he thought might be the nosy guy’s backup. He kept an eye on her. Meanwhile, James’s attempt at intimidating the nosy guy ran into a little trouble when the nosy guy would have none of it. They headed through the back door to resolve the matter. Once they were out the door, the gal headed for the back door, swiftly changing course to put a gun to Os’s head. She pushed Os to the back door as the folks in the bar watched, disinterested.
In the alley, the nosy guy pulled his jacket off and took his holster off. He rolled his shoulders and head in preparation for kicking James’s butt, only to turn around and see James holding two pistols on him. The nosy guy called James appropriate names (pulling guns in a fist fight), but James didn’t care. At least he didn’t care until he heard the muffled burst of a powerful rifle and felt a round punch his armor. The nosy guy reacted with relief, charging James. He was surprised when James shook the wound off and put a round into him, dropping him.
Inside the bar, as he approached the back door, Os pretended to stumble. The gal with the gun at the back of his head fell for it and before she knew it, Os had his pistol drawn on her and had fired. Only her armor saved her. She staggered backwards, running for the front door as Os shouted threats at her, confusing and frightening her.
In front of the bar, Jack and Penny heard the gunshots. Penny noticed the two hooligans reacting. Before she or Jack could act, the hooligans pulled pistols on them, pointing at them, ready to fire. The hooligans had gotten the drop on them . . . .