Royce walked out of the meeting room, leaving the hunter and the lady behind. He was in a good mood, but he didn’t want to smile: although the task was now properly begun, he had some of his own work to start doing.
Much like the hunter, Royce had many questions revolving around the interest that the CBI had in this case. He worked for them as a researcher and a scientist. He worked for the CBI to create efficient solutions to problems like hunger and squalor in dense urban areas. Toronto, in particular, was in need of that kind of help. His biggest contribution was helping to create an easy to grow, hydroponic tomato that was resistant to new mutagens and bacteria.
Royce had a much more interesting project that he worked on in his spare time, however. From an early age, Royce was incredibly interested by artificial intelligence, and the capacity for robotics and machines to speedily solve problems plaguing the country. Everything from the weather to human made systems threatened to completely destabilize the country.
Artificial intelligences provided many interesting solutions, he thought. Robots and machines could quickly and efficiently solve problems that would stump humans for weeks. On an every day scale, these types of computers could redevelop areas that provided the maximum benefit to a population, creating valuable space. Space that could be used for housing or even public education, something difficult to come by since the war.
On a monumental scale, Royce theorized that artificial intelligences could help with dealing with newer threats: radiation poisoning, new and lethal bacteria, and other yet unknown challenges. It just seemed more perfect that this half destroyed society, he thought. Perfection in machinery.
So why on earth was he suddenly the liaison between the CBI and a group that, as the hunter correctly sussed out, was far too small to really help the CBI that much? Wasn’t he somewhat above this?
Walking out the door and towards the magnerail, Royce began contemplating what to do. He nodded to himself as he resolved to do some research into what exactly the CBI knew of old Toronto; there had to be a reason to go in there, and Royce needed to know what that was before he made his next move.
Rick sat contemplating if he had made the right choice. He heard the door click behind him as the man, Royce, left the room. Rick had taken the job, and there was no need to stick around. He looked across the broken table and caught the woman’s eye.
“Alright lady. I’ve got some equipment with me, but it’s obvious this job’s going to take a couple of days. I suggest that we meet up here in about three hours with the equipment we need to bring.” He got up, and shouldered his bag. “I’d recommend some high calorie rations with vitamins, nothing heavy that’ll spoil. And maybe a coat.”
The woman just smiled at him and watched him leave. He didn’t know why, but Rick felt really stupid. Of all the people in this town, he thought, you had to go and tell the person who’s survived her whole life in old Toronto what to fucking bring. Way to cement yourself as the idiot.
Whatever, he resolved, that’s not important. I have some shopping to do.
Once the hunter had left the room, she lost her smile. What a condescending bastard! She grew up down there. She knew what she would need to survive down there for years, not just a couple of days. Her fists clenched as she let the frustration flow out of her.
Still, he had a point. The mesh suit she was wearing was, although incredibly comfortable and practical, hardly her style and lacked some important things. Namely pockets. Granted, her style up until she was picked up and retooled by the CBI was more of a one-man’s-garbage affair: whatever happened to be lying around unwanted and worked. Now, with the CBI effectively picking up her tab, she resolved to get herself some real equipment.
She made her way to the information desk with the androgynous android. “Where can I find someplace to buy equipment? I’m going to old Toronto and need to be prepared.” Fuck her voice, so much.
The android looked at her with it’s obviously lifeless eyes, and grinned an uncanny smile. “Hello visitor. I can print you a list of stores selling equipment within a radius of twenty kilometers. Would that suffice?”
“I don’t know. Are there stores that sell clothing, rations, and weaponry within that area?”
The android stopped dead for a second as it computed the request. “All queries can be found in nearby stores. I have updated and printed the list.” The android spun around with an unearthly grace and tore a sheet of paper from one of the readouts. It then, elegantly and with far too much precision, handed the sheet to her.
“Here you are, visitor!” It smiled again. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
She hated that smile. So much. “No.” As she walked away, the android resumed the other things it was doing, doubtless while dealing with her. Creepy-ass doll thing.
Breath deep, remember to keep your head, she told herself. No sense getting all messed up because of an AI. She closed her eyes, took a moment to collect herself, and got moving again. It had been a stressful and emotional morning so far; between reliving her incident multiple times and dealing with what she could only assume was a post-trauma anxiety she had never felt, it was time to think on something else.
First thing’s first, equipment to wear. The mesh was a wonderful protective layer and offered a lot of flexibility: something necessary when living in the undercity. The biggest problems lay with footwear. Currently, her “boots” were effectively skin tight mesh socks with a complex polymer for the sole. That would have to become something more durable, since the terrain down there would tear up all but the most durable materials, and liquids would permeate the mesh with no trouble. Soggy feet would cause problems.
Second, there was the issue with armor. What she had was a fine way to deal with many problems and would protect her skin: still, it would be nice to have something a bit tougher to deal with… she shivered. It would be nice to have something to deal with teeth, and to cover her prosthetic.
Third a rucksack for food and other equipment was a must. That wouldn’t be too difficult, she thought. Something durable, light, and easy to access.
Fourth, weapons. Having no idea what was on the market, she resolved to check out possible wares before making up her mind. Still, she had a couple of ideas: whatever it was would have to be easily concealed, lightweight, and work in small and claustrophobic spaces.
Lastly, she decided, I will get a coat. It would be an awesome jacket, with a collar and sleeves. Smiling, she programmed the locations on the list the android gave her into her wrist computer. Within moments, she had an efficient route planned out. She would even have enough time for… maybe a nice lunch? If not nice, she resolved, then an expensive one would do. She set out for her route.
Rick waited in the lobby of the Guild. He had managed to get everything he needed: a rucksack, rations, extra ammunition, and basic tools. He now had an efficient backpack, covered in hard material to keep it in one piece. While he was waiting, he cleared and cleaned his tools.
He felt the pre-job jitters, like he usually did. What was particularly different this time, however, was that he normally dealt with these feeling while on his way to the job. Dealing with them, just waiting to begin his job, was far worse. The anticipation was killing him.
He leaned back and held his work to the light. It was a nice to have something to care about, and everything was now ready. Time to make sure everything was in working order. It was off to the shooting range.
The first thing to test was his rifle. At about three feet long, the rifle was meant for long distance engagements. It was important to do regular maintenance, since the machinery in the weapon was finicky if not taken care of.
The rifle was made using hyper-heated rail technology, which fired superheated magnetic particles. The effect was devastating, especially to biological targets; skin would melt and bone would explode due to the incredible energy transfer: both the energy from the heat and the kinetic energy of the projectile. Tanks and armored vehicles would shrug off shots from this type of weapon with no issue.
He squared off with the target on the opposite side of the range, and raised his rifle. Using the sights on the gun, he aimed carefully for the center mass of the target. Gently, he squeezed the handle on the firearm.
In less than a second, the gun registered a trigger response, sent the signal to the ammunition feed, which then removed a molecule thick slice of alloy from the metal stick slotted into the gun. The slice of metal was then launched using an advanced cavitation chamber inside the gun, which incidentally also superheated the now speeding projectile to an incredible temperature. As it traveled along the barrel, the railgun technology continued to speed up the projectile and keep it moving along a predictable trajectory. The projectile sped towards the target; being small enough to suffer very little from friction, it lost almost none of its momentum before hitting the target. At this point, the kinetic energy and the heat that hadn’t dissipated over the course of it’s journey were transferred to the target almost instantly.
Rick felt a very slight recoil, and the target in front of him suddenly had a burned, inch wide hole, roughly in the center. Smiling, he took another couple of shots to make sure the weapon was working as intended. It was.
He put down the rifle, and pulled out a pistol weapon, based off the same technology. This type of weaponry, slug weaponry, was incredibly useful; it was light enough to be carried, and still had a lot of potency. Most importantly, ammo could last an incredibly long period of time thanks to the molecule thinness of the slugs they fired. The only real limitation was overheating, which could cause the weapon to jam if not vented properly every minute or so of continuous fire.
He raised the pistol and fired. Unlike the rifle which shot once per activation, the pistol was automatic and could fire at incredible speed. The lack of recoil on these weapons allowed for a great deal of accuracy for weapons like these, which was a definite plus. On the other hand, automatic slug weaponry overheated very quickly, which was a potentially lethal problem. In addition, due to the size of the pistol, the range of the weapon was significantly reduced because of the shorter rail system. Accuracy was also a problem for the same reason.
Despite this, the repeater was very handy for close range combat. Rick was pleased that everything was in working order. He stuck the repeated on the right side of his belt. He felt like a cowboy in an old western every time he did that. Rick smiled. It was a good feeling.
He heard a crack to his left, and looked over. He stared in surprise: the woman was right there, and he hadn’t noticed.
She walked into the Guild, pleased with her purchases. She got a nice pair of durable, hard soled boots that went up to the knee. These were especially nice because they, like the mesh suit she was wearing, sealed themselves to prevent leaks and offer reasonable flexibility while offering support for her ankles. When walking on rough ground, she reasoned, it was good to have all the support possible. A sprained ankle could cause a great deal of trouble.
For armor, she didn’t get too much: she needed to move. She also needed to remain hidden. She bought plating for her outer thighs, her forearms, and a shoulder plate for her left shoulder. She reckoned the right shoulder, being made of a lightweight titanium material, would be fine on its own. All the plating was black, and blended perfectly with her mesh suit, which she hoped could handle the rest of the issues down there. She also got herself a plated belt with several pouches and a couple of clip-docks for weapons
The rucksack and the other basic equipment she needed was no problem. The sack itself was a loose material with a drawstring enclosure on top, netting on the back, two straps for carrying it on your back, and several slide zip pockets on the sides for other equipment. Everything fit in the bag nicely, with room to spare.
Deciding on a weapon was more difficult: she was used to the makeshift crap in the undercity, not this high tech weaponry. She cared little for the science behind it; so long as it worked as a weapon, it was fine. Remembering the old-fashioned pistol she had before she was attacked, she decided to find something with equal stopping power that wouldn’t be large or cumbersome.
After she had given her CBI approved weapons license to the store owner, she had free reign of all the weapons there. Pistols, rifles, melee weapons that ranged from low tech blades to high tech, super-conductive weapons that used disposable, superheated blades… there was an immense selection. Then, she saw exactly what she was looking for. She took it to the front desk, purchased it using CBI’s money, and walked out an armed woman.
She also got herself an awesome leather jacket that not only looked good, but covered her prosthetic arm and hid her armor plating. She also decided to buy some gloves to cover her hands.
Rick moved over to the woman’s shooting booth to see what she was working with. Rick was pleasantly surprised to see that she had excellent taste; in her hands was what amounted to a very portable, lightweight hand cannon.
It too was slug based, but was an innovation in the field. For centuries since the invention of the blunderbuss, firearms usually have had very specific ammunition for each weapon. The same was true of standard slug weapons. They could only use sticks of very particular metal as ammunition. The hand cannon the woman was using, however, was different. Using a slightly different method for disconnecting and firing molecules, one could put practically any metal that fit into a compartment on the side of the weapon. Although the slugs would be quite a bit thicker than those of standard slug firearms, thereby making running out of ammo a more consistent issue and shortening the effective range of the weapon, the adaptability and the power of a larger slug more than compensated for these weaknesses.
The woman squeezed the handle, and in less than a second the target at the end of the range exploded. Laughing, the woman fired of a couple more shots and all but obliterated the target completely. She then punched a couple of buttons in the console ahead of her, and the target was replaced with a brand new one.
“Nice gun,” he remarked: the remark was lost beneath the crack of gunfire. Rick noticed the target had quite literally been blown off.
“Yeah, seems to do the trick.” she replied, standing straight and holstering her gun. She had a huge smile on her face, which Rick thought was strangely contagious. Turning to the door, shouldering her new pack, he heard her strangely smooth voice call back.
“We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Let’s go.”
End of part 04