Catburglar 1

They call guns “the great equalizers” because any idiot can pick one up, pull the trigger and make you dead. In this world of equal opportunities, however, we all know that some are created more equal than others. Those that aren’t, get augmented. The Royal Enfield Spitfire is not the biggest gun on the market. It is, however, one of the best guns available for those of us who don’t drink motor oil in the morning.

It shoots a little slow straight from the factory, but with a little judicious alteration can be adjusted up to a “double-tap”. This is often unnecessary, though, considering that massive 12mm bore. Even with standard ammunition, it leaves a devastating wound cavity that will drop most slags where they stand. Add improved ammunition such as armor-piercing, and even the augmented must take notice.

That large caliber however, also means the weapon is a bit more difficult to conceal for average-sized folks – you can’t stuff this monster in your pants. Get a shoulder rig for it though, and it will tuck nicely under a windbreaker or a trenchcoat.

This is of prime importance to me right now, since the cops don’t take kindly to gun-toting whack jobs who walk around with a cannon in their fist. Neither do I for that matter – unless the gun-toting whack job happens to be me. And right now, I’m a lot happier knowing that cannon is under my trench. This particular area of town is not exactly friendly.

I’m in what used to be called the Pearl district, which even before that was just known as ‘northwest industrial’. About 30 years ago, all the warehouses got bought up by corporate up-and-comers and converted into lofts and condos. Entropy being what it is, the place is looking decidedly worse now.

I’m here to recover a briefcase for my current employer, who was mugged on the street two days ago. Working off my employer’s description of the thug that got him led me here into the Pearl – territory claimed by a band of chromers that wear grey metal facemasks and call themselves the Legion of Doom. Yeah, I know. Real original, aren’t they? Apparently their leader reads a lot of comic books. Luckily for me, my employer is only interested in the case itself, not it’s original contents since anything of any value has undoubtedly already been fenced for Smash money.

The building I’m watching is particularly bad. Over 100 years old, it’s listing a bit to starboard and random chunks of brick have fallen off in the past couple days. Why anyone would hole up here is beyond me. Considering it’s current occupants, I doubt they gave it more than a moment’s thought. There’s been no movement in about an hour now, so I slip across the street and into the shadows.

The building’s dilapidated condition changes my plan – I prefer rooftops. Nobody ever looks up in the city. I don’t trust this roof not to collapse under my weight though, so I go in from street level. Someone thoughtfully knocked out a window in the back alley for me, so in I go, flipping my gogs into LowLite mode.

The room is mostly empty, just some trash and empty cans of Smash strewn about. I avoid these as I creep to the door and take a cautious look through into a hallway. More trash, and what looks to be the door to the stairs. All the movement I saw earlier was from the upper floors, so up I go. Normally, I could sneak up on a cat, but the treads on the staircase creak under my weight. Stealth is slowing me down, but beats announcing my presence. And judging by the smell, I definitely don’t want to be stepping in anything.

The third floor is mostly open, with only a couple of small rooms off to the North side – old offices, apparently. The gang that has been using this building for crash space keeps mainly to this floor, but the leader uses the offices for his own space. LowLite isn’t working well in this near darkness, so I flip into Infrared to get a better view.

And stop in my tracks. Two warm bodies in the far corner. I stand there in the shadows for a moment until I’m sure they’re asleep. As silently as I can, I switch the gogs into UV mode and get out my flashlight for a quick scan of the area. The floor is mostly clear between me and the offices, so I continue on my way.

Getting the office door open silently is almost impossible, but not quite. Never leave home without a small can of spray lubricant folks. Inside is a little cleaner than outside, but not by much. Judging from the trash, their favorite food is hot dogs from the local quickie-mart. It takes me a few minutes to find what I’m looking for, but I finally see the edge of the briefcase poking out from under a pile of random junk under the window. It’s locks have been jimmied and the original contents are gone, but the case itself is otherwise intact. I grab it and turn to go back the way I came.

Only the doorway isn’t there any more. Well, it’s still there, now it just happens to be full of a very large ganger. A very large, quiet ganger. Bastard got the drop on me, and he’s smiling, holding a baseball bat that looks more like a toothpick on him.

This can’t be good.

I smile back at him, displaying the empty briefcase. “Just taking out the trash, chombatta,” I say. He just smiles some more and takes a step into the room. I do what any sensible person would do – I turn and run. Only unlike that sensible person, I run toward the window. – and jump through it.

Lucky for me, it breaks. I grab a repeller on my way out and fire it’s titanium-alloy grapnel over the wall of the building next door. I’m halfway down to the street when it finally grabs hold of something and the winch starts to pull me up again. Pain shoots up from my ankle as I slam into the wall, but it isn’t enough to keep me from scrambling toward the roof. I can hear shouting from the room I just left as the ganger rouses his compadres. A moment later, the brick next to me explodes with the first bullet. The briefcase is supposed to be bullet-proof, so I hang it behind my head and keep half-running up the side of the building like they used to do on that old Batman show.

By the time I get to the top, there’s a couple new dents in the briefcase and bruises on my left leg from the two shots that hit my armor. Some days I really think I should have been an accountant. But then again, an accountant probably wouldn’t have an A3 ‘Aerocop’ aerodyne waiting for him two rooftops away. I duck a little lower under the incoming gunfire from the next roof and keep running.

The impromptu catwalk I left behind is still there, so I run across it as fast as I dare to the next building, then kick it off the ledge on the other side, letting it clatter to the street below. I duck behind an air vent to catch my breath for a moment, listening for pursuit. There doesn’t seem to be any, thankfully. I stand, take a deep breath, run for the edge of the roof and throw myself across the alley to the next building.

I’m halfway across when I remember my ankle.

I do my best to adjust my landing, but it’s no good and my leg goes out from under me when I hit the next rooftop, sending me sprawling into an AC unit like a rag doll tossed by a child. Oh, that was frelling brilliant, I say to myself as I drag myself back to standing so I can hobble back to the AV. I open the door to find Jake looking at me through the windshield. I swear he’s laughing at me. Goddamn cat.