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A Tale from the CyberCity

by Kevin Buchanan

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Billy's Tale

Some things seem like they were meant to be, others are not so obvious. When events conspire to put you in the right place at the right time it all seems so natural. However, when it's not going your way, it's a little bit unfair. To William Bearclaw it was all going against him, and most definitely seemed a bit unfair.

Bearclaw was a bounty hunter, quiet and guarded about his business; he was one of those rare people who was better than he claimed to be. Case in point. He'd just tracked a wanted cyber-pirate, Russell Shaddick, to the English city of Birmingham, from New York in America. Billy put down his tracking skills to his being the descendant of a native American scout, another example of him downplaying his own abilities. No matter the reason though, he had Shaddick in his sights, and was looking for the perfect time to bring him in. Shaddick had been hiding out with one of the city's street gangs, and had so far not travelled anywhere without a large personal escort, and this had been going on for about a week now. If Billy didn't bring him in soon, the expenses on this mission were going to go well above his profit margin, and the longer he stayed in town, the more attention he was going to attract from the local authorities. From a car down the road of the gang's headquarters Billy watched and waited, ready for any opportunity he could act upon.

Presently Shaddick appeared on the street, accompanied by two burly male Gangers and a lithe female dressed in such as way as Billy immediately pegged her as a techie or mechanic. The foursome climbed into a dark blue car parked outside and pulled away from the kerb, followed at a discreet distance by Bearclaw, in his rented car. The drive through the city was a long one, taking them from the gang dominated part of the city into the more regularly policed areas. Eventually the car pulled into a high rise car-park, which backed onto the city's central Police Station. With the cars parked up a good distance from each other, Billy followed from a distance, using one of what he called his "Investments". Cyberware had become an accepted sight, if not particularly common, but the enhancements worn by this seasoned bounty hunter would only ever show up on a detailed medical examination. Approaching the ganger's car, Billy kicked in his olfactory booster, almost immediately picking up the scent of his prey, and following the trail left by Shaddick, as it approached the rear entrance of the police station. Outside waited the two burly gangers; beyond them lay a locked door, a security card terminal by its side.

Bearclaw strode silently and casually by the two men, noting the small arms concealed not quite discreetly enough on their persons, and approached the door. The terminal was a standard one, and could easily be defeated by a good computer jockey, but that was a luxury he couldn't afford. Fortunately he had a viable alternative. Although Billy hadn't wanted to use such a direct approach in a foreign country, his occupation provided for this instance. As a licensed Bounty hunter, he was effectively a deputised lawman in his own country, but the passcards had become standardised, to assist in international co-operation. Billy fished for his card, knowing his entrance would be flagged and alert the local authorities to his presence, but he had no alternative. Billy swiped the card through the terminal and the door beeped open. Billy nipped inside and pulled the door closed behind him. An officer sat at a security station in the hallway, glaring at a terminal. At Billy's approach the officer looked up, regarded the athletic Native American and enquired, "Bounty Hunter eh? How can we help you?"

Billy noted the man's hand hanging by his firearm; the man was suspicious with good reason. A bounty Hunter wouldn't normally be sneaking in the back door of a police station. Billy weighed up his options quickly and decided to come clean. "I'm on the trail of a computer criminal, working with one of the local gangs. I've traced him here, I'd appreciate it if you could let me take him in."

"You got a warrant?"
"Yeah, and I'll submit to an optical scan as well. But your security has been breached," Billy slowly produced a warrant from his pocket and placed in on the table, simultaneously placing his eye over a retina scanner at the security station. The cop checked the warrant whilst the scanner did its work. Billy continued "And with this man's reputation, there's no telling what he could be doing here."

"OK, you check out Mr. . . .Bearclaw" The guard shot a look at Billy. "Wait here a second." The guard radioed through to a superior and relayed Billy's request to him. Within a minute two other officers joined Billy, one a blonde haired female, the other a slim black man. "I'm Constable Wessex, This is Constable Gage" spoke the female. "We'll escort you whilst you're in the building. If there are any complications, we'll assist you, however if we find a crime in progress, we'll take the arrest. OK?" Billy nodded. Gage spoke, wasting no words as they headed into the station proper "You packing Bearclaw?", again Billy nodded and made a show of slowly removing his weapon from its discreet holster under his longcoat. In comparison to the two cop's service sidearms the pistol was huge. "What the hell is that?" Gage asked, dumbstruck "Custom special, Semi-Automatic, clip in the grip, special drop down clip at the top which holds two flamer rounds."

"That thing legal?"
"Only just."
"Try to avoid using it in here, huh?"
"Don't worry, it's only a last resort weapon. Where are we headed?"
"Security camera saw them on four."
"What's on four?"
"Control and the computer centre."
Billy winced, "We'd better hurry then."
As their pace increased, Billy turned to the two officers and asked "How the hell did those two get in here anyway?"

Wessex answered "Computer log shows them as two contractors, we've had them coming and going all the time recently, problems with the systems."

"I think you're going to have a few more."

When they arrived the door to the computer centre was closed. Wessex immediately tried the handle but it was locked electronically. Gage tried to card-swipe the lock but a red LED flickered on as the device emitted a rude buzzing sound. "Shit, this is bad," voiced Wessex as she pulled her headset mike down. "Control this is Wessex, we've got a problem. Main entrance to computer centre is locked and jammed, can you override?"

"Wessex, this is control, trying now," there was a pause, during which Gage tried the door again, with the same response. "No luck Wessex, sorry, I'll despatch a tech now."

"We need that door now!" Wessex yelled down the radio. Billy pulled his gun and looked inquisitively at Wessex. She regarded him for a second then spoke again into the radio "Potential threat in building, please authorise forced entry and firearm discharge."

"Authorised". Wessex nodded at Billy as Gage backed away from the door. Billy walked to the door and activated another one of his cybernetic tricks, a tactile boost. He ran his fingers down the edge of the door until he felt the tingle of an electronic locking mechanism, then he backed away, levelled his pistol and loosed a three round burst into the door. The door's hardened plastics shrapnelled as it swung open, revealing Shaddick and his accomplice spinning to face him from the two terminals they were sat at. As the female techie reached for a weapon Wessex cried out a warning. The warning ignored, the woman pulled her gun as the two cops fired in unison, one shot hitting her in the arm, the second in the shoulder, as her pistol flew from her hand she slumped to the floor, grasping her shoulder with her good hand. Wessex pulled her cuffs and went over to the woman whilst Gage waited at the door. Billy, pistol levelled, approached Shaddick. "You've led me a merry chase Shaddick, but it's over." Billy's voice became suddenly formal "I have here a warrant for your arrest. You can come quietly, and have this taken into account, or resist, and face possible lethal force. What will it be?"

Shaddick smiled at Billy and held both hands in front of him. Billy pulled a pair of cuffs and slapped them over Shaddick's wrists as a police medic rushed in to tend to the injured woman. Billy grabbed Shaddick by the handcuffs and turned to face Gage and Wessex as he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. One after another the computer monitors shut down. Gage noticed too and began to radio for help just before the lights went out.

With Shaddick in tow, Billy watched what happened next from the police control room. Running on emergency power, its facilities were limited, but there was enough to see. The city's gangs had erupted in a mass revolt, bikers, street punks and organised gang members had moved in what was obviously a concerted effort, and attacked police stations across the city. Shaddick freely admitted to his part in events. He'd inserted a mutating virus into the police computer systems, reducing their communications and monitoring abilities drastically. Gage and Wessex appeared at his elbow, both kitted out in riot gear. "We've got work to do, I'd get out of the city if I was you. They've left a few routes open to traffic leaving the city so you should be OK. The bad news is, you have to leave Shaddick in our care. Our hard-line communication is still open so we'll notify the appropriate people that you brought him in, but he's committed a crime here now, for now he's in our care." Wessex obviously wasn't happy telling Billy this, and he could tell. He nodded sullenly and left the room with them, Gage dragging Shaddick along behind him. As Shaddick was dragged away he shouted to Billy "It was a nice try Bearclaw, I'm honoured that I had the best on my tail but it's over, but for the inconvenience you've caused me here you'll pay. When all this is over, I'll make sure you pay."

Normally a threat like this wouldn't bother Billy, but the way it was delivered, so calmly and with such assurance, Billy couldn't help but wonder.

Billy left the city, heading west, gravitating towards the Cardiff-Swansea Metroplex. Once in town he registered with the local police as a Bounty Hunter, looking for work and decided to take a couple of day's rest. Two days after he left Birmingham the news announced that the police, Government and military had pulled out of the city, declaring it an outlaw zone, that the gangs were now in charge. Shaddick, the man responsible for the shut down of the city's computer net, had not been brought to justice. Billy realised that there was no way that he could go back in to get Shaddick, but hated to go home without recouping his losses. He saw a chance to get some of his money back when he saw an advert on the local net. He'd heard about the place that was advertising. CyberNation X was a night-club which had made the international news several times since it opened. Apparently they were after some short term security, for an extremely good rate of pay. With no better options at hand, and a chance to work at one of the world's most notorious night-clubs, Bearclaw decided he might as well give it a shot.

That was six months ago. It all seemed wrong and a bit unfair. Billy stayed in the Metroplex longer than he thought. On his first night the club had exchanged ownership, and the new owner was so impressed with Billy, he was kept on at the club with a significant wage rise. When the opportunity arose Billy was promoted, and took charge of the club's security. The club's still a dangerous place, but Billy is a fast learner, and has taken a proprietary interest in the place, and is almost a part of the club's fixtures. Luck is all about perspective, he realises now. Events don't always conspire against you, sometimes they do put you in the right place at the right time. Every night he goes out there at the club he faces death, but he's survived so far, and has recouped his losses. He knows that Shaddick is still out there, and realises that if Shaddick comes after him he'll stand a better chance of surviving with the resources he has in this position. Shaddick can try if he wants, and Billy will be ready for him. In the meantime he'll strap on his holster, slip his communicator over his head and step out to face the problems of a fresh night at CyberNation X.