June 15, 2217
The right shoulder servo was acting up again. He knew what The Doctor would say, "stress-related cybernetic sensory projection" or ,doctor-drek for "it's all in your head, T-Bone." His left cyberarm flipped around his back and dragged the mess of dreadlocks, cables and antenna cable off his irritated right shoulder and over his left.
Still, T-Bone was sure he could still feel it, like two gears grinding on bone. His hearing amplification already forced him to listen to every whir and whirl of the machines that provided his upper body, however, the grinding he felt was just below the chrome's sensitivity, too quiet.Just like this fragging meet. Too quiet. What in the hell was he doing out here alone.
In spite of the nervous energy that he felt, T-Bone's six foot seven frame was anchored in place, silent and immobile. He waited within the protection offered by a ruined overpass, careful to stay out of the acidic rainfall.
The drones were silent as well. Instinctively, the Drone Master in him ran down the list, his DC deck humming. Flipping between Sensors, ECCM and Weapon control systems in a practiced rhythm, T-Bone calmed his mind. His consciousness melted into the familiar neural interface and the cold embrace of digisense...
The drones had been running ECCM solutions for plenty of time given the urban environment. There was no doubt for him as he ran MIJI diagnostics -- this network was secure. The thermal dampers reported fully operation status and every one of the little robotic death-machines was near invisible. He liked the firing solutions. The gangers he had shot on the walk in seemed to have convinced the general population he was a not-to-be-fragged-with thermal signature. Besides, he thought with a bitter laugh, there wouldn't be much of anything good left to eat anyway.
June 16, 2217
The kid might not get it, but he could not blame her. T-Bone knew exactly why Psyche's 'rabbit' sat on the grenade -- he'd just proven the logic of the choice behind the pillar. T-Bone knew the kid he'd just killed would probably have, in retrospect, chosen the grenade as well. Terrible business and T-Bone hated being the one to have to deliver that message.Frag it. This business is just too fragged up. Why did he have to tell me his real name? Drek!
Why now? Of all the times, why would Knight Horizon pick now to settle an old score? It was not even a question about KH's involvement to T-Bone. To him, the tactics were a clear match -- cranial bombs, self-destructing OCC and brain-slaves instead of Cyber Knights. He knew of at least two Connectors infamous for scorched earth tactics. It infuriated him that a corporation as large and as public as KH had a CEO willing and ready to promote these madmen to positions of authority.Frag ... she put the other one in the trunk of the Americar. Drek, who are these people?
So some KH drek-head has a big black ops budget and a score to settle. Big deal, T-Bone thought. What he was concerned about was the timing. Drek, every good Knight had a history with a few security corporations but what did not scan was the coincidence of June fragging 15th to pick a fight. Or worse, handing out that address. That, T-Bone knew, was a message and a none-to-subtle one at that.
It was time to get back to business and T-Bone knew what was needed -- the team. Besides, that was the last 50K from the slush fund. No choice now, not for any of them.
June 16, 2217
T-Bone's mind was a single reflexive flick, a single thought from turning a quarter city block of the Waste into killing field. A klick and a half away the truck's Outlaw and Hellfire missile systems ticked back firing solution changes as minuscule atmospheric conditions changed in the air above. The smart agent on the truck's in-built DC Deck had taken semi-autonomous fire control for the drone network and T-Bone was certain even if they got a round into his DCR that not one of them would walk out from under the overpass.Icon ...
How long have they known this? How much does this Five guy really know? How long has she known about this? Does Wraith know Psyche knows a guy who probably knows who killed Icon? Maybe was even there when he died?
So what exactly do you know about that, Friend?
June 16, 2217
The other Knights had left and T-Bone was again standing alone beneath the concrete ruins of a forgotten highway.
The connection in his head clicked a few times as the encryption negotiation occurred and then connected.
Hello? How may I direct your call?
John Hills, please.
Hills here. Who's calling?
T-Bone, chummer. We gotta talk.Sure, anytime. Where?
No, I mean we gotta talk, and now.
All of them. Fly her back if you have to. Put her on a plane.What about their vacations?
Look, Hills, you manage the HR and PR. As far as I am concerned, we're on the clock. Make it happen.Tonight?
One more thing too.
Yah, chummer. What is it?
I've got a cyber-eye recording of an out of Zone runner. Need to know who, where and when. All the details.Can Wraith take care of it?
Nah, omea, you gotta do this one yourself. Nothing personal, just business, ok? His ware is pretty unique, chummer, shouldn't be too hard.Null sweat. You think he's an enemy?
Not sure yet, omea but my gut tells me he's not ... that he ain't lying ... but that doesn't mean we can trust him, yah?Yah.
June 16, 2217
T-Bone's sub-vocal cybernetics enabled him to place, participate in and complete the telephone call without pausing at his work.
The cyber-arm's servo hardly strained under the effort of working the shovel, which T-Bone tossed unceremoniously aside once the pit was a full 6 feet deep.Least I can do is make sure the ghouls don't make a mockery of the kid's death.
Brushing the dirt from his face, he lowered the young man's body into the darkness. He gently placed the remaining belongings in the grave, took up the shovel and began to fill the breach.I'm still human. Machines don't feel remorse, don't feel regret. Machines don't grieve ... machines don't feel anger ... do they? I'm still human, aren't I?