I called Vexx as soon as I sat back behind my wheel.
“Good job!” The techie’s whistle bounced off my car’s space in an attempt to drive me nuts. I grimaced and reduced the volume of the speaker phone before falling into traffic.
“Does that mean I’m off the hook for tonight?” No use going on another date if you had found your Mister Right.
“The secondary system runs on a custom program and the team who devised it knows their thing. I can’t press ‘execute’ like I do for the standard sorry-excuse-for-a-firewall the mainframe has. I’d rather not promise I can do it.”
“So the answer’s no.”
“Affirmative. And some chocolate-coated coffee beans and wasabi peas might help my process.”
I promised to bring him back his crunchy treats when I got home and hung up. I stopped for a bite in a small restaurant and ran a few errands to occupy my afternoon. When the sun set, I drove to my date.
Edouardo lived in the “above average” neighborhood. The streets weren’t as heavily patrolled as the high class district but didn’t possess the camouflage capabilities of the slums either. I parked a few streets away and retrieved the hints of color I wore, namely a colorful blouse. Without the blouse, my neutral tank top and assorted pants merged with my car’s interior.
I put on my ID scrambler. The fancy ring blocked my identity by default but I also turned on the broadcast of my fake identity. As a last step, I glued on an alternative face known as Alice in the slums. Because most eye implants came with a camera, a few guards’ recording associated my Asian identity with Nightshade. I couldn’t afford to show up in that face any more than I could afford to be found spying on Edouardo under my true identity. Hence this additional personality that I also used for all the charity work.
The neighborhood watch passed by my car seconds after I completed my transformation and lay onto the passenger seat. There was only one of those patrols going around the block. The guards in it were probably equipped with infra-red pupils but my car’s doors were doubled with special isolation that hid my body heat from the finest models. Unless fortune decided otherwise, my watch should be incident-free.
I started my car and moved it around the block to the spot I chose earlier. Because of the way the neighborhood watch made its round, I would lose one to two minutes every half hour to duck out of sight. Besides that, my observation of Edouardo’s house shouldn’t be broken. I adjusted my thermal sight over my left eye. With a finger I tapped “M-U-S” in Morse code behind my ear and once my chip wired up, I thought “Mozart”.
My set-up was officially complete.
Surveillance always made me think of tigers in the jungle. I was convinced they felt exactly like I did when they crouched behind high grass to stalk their prey.
Choose a spot that offers camouflage but an impeccable view of our target: check.
Slow down your breathing and sharpen your focus: check.
In the relative silent of the night, my ears seemed to pick up on a lot of weird noises that rippled across my skin. Smells seemed heightened too. I was in tiger focus.
Make yourself as small as possible and stay there, immobile, until your time comes: check.
Tigers and I were brothers in the muscle cramp department. Surveillance crippled me, or fairly close to it, and sometimes, I didn’t even get juicy details.
Tonight, however, promised to be full of information. Edouardo’s house was all windows and bare walls on which security measures stood out. The man had an exhibitionist fiber in him for sure; no prude would tolerate that many see-through surfaces on the street façade of the house. Not that I was complaining.
I attempted to shift my position to reactivate the blood flow in my right leg. It barely moved the pain from right to left. Why did I even try?
From what I could make out, the secondary security system was a marvel of lethalness. Every room of the house was separated from the next by an overly thick doorframe, arc or whatever the proper name for the hole in the wall was. It meant the wall hid some kind of hermetic door that could slide in place and completely close off the room. By most standards, that was enough to stop an intruder.
However, the little equally-spaced irregularities along the edges of the ceiling in each room indicated another precaution. In case the bad guy was heavily armed or bore muscle enhancers that allowed punching through walls, the system would release gas to fill the volume of space. Said gas wouldn’t be a simple somniferous; a sticker on the front door warned visitors that the proprietor of that house protected himself with deadly measures.
That fitted with what I thought I saw in Subcut-W’s offices. However, since all business had an automatic right to lethal response, they didn’t have to warn visitors with a conveniently placed sticker. Everyone thought the law extreme when it was passed but industries argued that with all the body modifications on the market, extreme measures were the only way to protect their interests. People didn’t push the question further which sickened me; it didn’t reduce the crime rate, just upped the body count. And I was pretty sure a few people used the security systems to their advantage to take care of undesirables.
I bowed thirty seconds before the neighborhood watch drove past my car. I resumed my surveillance after the patrol disappeared around the curb.
I had to stay here until Edouardo turned the system on for the night. I hoped to get a sense of the detection mechanisms that triggered the bloodshed. Movement? Heat? Sound? Pressure plates? The whole shebang? Between Vexx and I, we could figure out a way to thwart almost anything as long as we prepped accordingly.
Unfortunately, when Edouardo went to bed, the turned on system didn’t reveal what made it squeal. It didn’t surprise me much. Oftentimes, security contractor loved to leave the threat somewhat visible to discourage break-ins but they hid the triggers well so that if there was indeed a break-in, the criminal would get caught. I had absolutely no intentions to fall in that category.
I called it a night once Edouardo closed his bedroom light. I drove home dreaming about the laps I would make in the pool to bring my muscles back to life. Then, I started thinking about what it would feel like to finally unfold, sprint after my prey in the smothering jungle and bite his jugular.
Heaven. It would feel like heaven.
Killing Time OST – 4b – Scouting
I called Vexx as soon as I sat back behind my wheel.