The day had gone much like any other in the office, the boredom was excrutiating. Elham had made it clear that Yasmin had to make up for missed time over the winter. She had blown him off so many times that she was almost able to forget that she had a… ‘day job.’
Still, at least her co-workers were amiable enough and, as an added bonus, they did not share many of the quirks of the co-workers in her ‘other’ job. She shared an office with Tony, an up and coming executive type who was charged with handling new acquisitions. Yasmin managed accounts to improve those acquisitions. Jameela was their shared ‘secretary’ and Sami basically served the function of an errand boy.
They never asked where she was when she slipped out of the office and often covered for her if Marwan came around, or Elham. The former took it in stride, accepting the excuses they offered, but every absence infuriated Elham. If her poor work ethic were accepted by Marwan, it was because Elham was the one who had to smooth it over with him. Only Elham knew the first part of Yasmin‘s secret, that her education and placement were due to a connection with one of Global Sandstorm’s top executives and that executive had tied Elham’s success or ruin with hers.
Easy enough if she were a pliable worker who put the company first, but instead she devoted most of her time to whatever else she did. He suspected a lot of partying and vice. He had no idea of the second half of her secret, one currently unknown to anybody in Global Sandstorm.
Tony grinned and leaned back from his workstation. “Done! I’ve finished it!”
Yasmin looked up at him. “Oh, which one?”
She paused and then nodded. "Ah, the old scrapyard on Cicero?’
“Just the one. And now that I’m done with it,” he leaned forward and tapped out a few keystrokes on the keypad in front of him, with a flourish, “out of my hands and into yours.”
“Gee, thanks,” she smiled at him and accepted the folder, opening it up and looking into the particulars. “Well, doesn’t look like too much will need to be done. Good thing about scrap yards, most of the ‘assets’ are junk to begin with.”
“Well, don’t take that as a reason to sit on it or pass it up half done,” Tony warned.
“Of course not. In fact,” she looked at her watch, a BlancPain Ultraplate, and then back to Tony, “I think I might spend the rest of the afternoon having a look.”
“Right now? But it’s in the Zone, you’ll need to set up a security team!”
She grinned. “No, it’s fine, I have an arrangement with a private firm.”
She got up and walked out, stopping with Jameela. “I’m out for the rest of the day, please hold my calls?”
The woman sat at her desk, looking vacantly at her viewscreen.
The young secretary snapped out of it. “Oh, Yasmin, I… I am sorry. What was it?”
“My calls, hold my calls?”
“Oh, yes, certainly.” She set to her workstation and Yasmin left, sparing a glance back at Jameela and wondering about her odd behavior. The secretary was attentive and energetic… just now she seemed excessively subdued. The elevator door closed and she refocused on the task at hand. She quickly called up Alice to see about a ride into the Zone.
“I don’t get it, why are you running the Shadows, then?” Alice prompted.
“What do you mean?” The two were leaving the site after an uneventful sightseeing tour. It was empty and without squatters. Alice had provided oversight while Yasmin had taken a look around.
“I mean, you can just dip into Global Sandstorm’s pocket and pay me a couple thousand to take you on a joyride in the Zone… why are you not just focused on that?”
“Well, if I didn’t run the shadows, I would not know you and then I wouldn’t be able to pay you for your services, hrm?” She smiled, turning her attention back to the wreckage of the streets.
Alice rolled her eyes. She knew Yasmin was evading the question. She’d always been so careful to keep her life in the O’Hare subsprawl separate from her work in the Zone. To the shadow community, she was ‘Jazz’ and that was the extent of it. This was the first glimpse Alice had ever gotten into who Yasmin was outside of their work for various Mr. Johnsons. She wasn’t sure whether to be glad that the ‘Persian Princess’ was opening up to her or to be concerned about crossing boundaries. ‘Friendship’ was a term you didn’t bandy about lightly.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” she grumped.
“I know,” Yasmin smirked. Then she frowned. “Actually, can we make another stop?”
It was well after sunset when they arrived in the O’Hare subsprawl and to a gated community. Yasmin had just presented her credentials and the guard let her right in. Yasmin said she didn’t live here, but she was just granted immediate entry to the place? Another secret.
The suburbs housed various corporate wageslaves. The community was co-run by various corporations who had smaller individual footprints in Chicago than the bigger corps, but collectively had enough people to warrant a set up for their workers. Yasmin had her stop across the street from one house in particular. She then crawled over the console from the front to the rear seat and began changing.
“What are we doing here?” Alice demanded.
“One of my co-workers lives there,” Yasmin responded, throwing on her chameleon suit. “Something’s wrong. I’m going to see if I can figure out what it is.”
“One of your ‘co-workers’? Not a shadowrunner?”
“My ‘other’ job.”
“Fine. What do you want me to do?”
Yasmin slipped out and hustled across the street. She moved quietly around the back of the houses and stayed along the fenceline, quickly hopping over when she needed to, keeping her profile low. She finally reached Jameela’s house and she crept up to the back wall and moved to the patio glass, trying to look in and hear what she could. She tuned her audio filter to cancel out the sounds of the world around, focusing on what was going on inside.
Inside, she could hear Jameela, her husband, and their youngest. Yasmin frowned. Jameela had an older son, he was eight or nine. He was her pride. He should have been home as well. Jameela had not mentioned any travel for him or anything to suggest he would be away. It was a school night so it was unlikely he was with a friend. Further, she could tell from the tones of voices inside that Jameela and her husband were agitated.
She opened a line on her commlink, calling another friend.
“Yeah?!” came an exhuberant voice on the other end.
“Otis?” Yasmin whispered subvocally.
“Oooh,” Otis responded, his own voice pitching down. “Are we on an op?”
“Not really, but I need to be quiet. Can you do me a favor?”
“Sure, if it’s simple enough?”
“Shouldn’t be tough. Trace my call to find my location, then I need you to look for any incoming or outgoing calls within my immediate area and listen in on them?”
She could almost see Otis frown. “Well, who are we listening in on?”
“Just a secretary.”
“Uh, yeah, sure. You want to tune in?”
“If you can.”
If there was a ‘decker’ she could trust, it was Otis. After all, he knew he could trust her. At least, he had to believe he could ever since she had determined he was a technomancer. She didn’t have any prejudices, but plenty of folks still saw technomancers as a threat… or an experiment. So she kept his secret. But it was more than just professionalism, as was the case with Alice, she was beginning to see him as a friend.
She didn’t have long to wait before a call came in on Jameela’s commlink. The caller spoke in Arabic.
“How are you this evening?”
“Everything is happening as you asked,” Jameela responded, similarly in Arabic, but without sharing the caller’s calm. Her voice wavered on the edge of panic.
“Good, good. So long as everything is in order, let me give the call over to Rashid, hrm?”
Yasmin frowned. Rashid was Jameela’s son.
“Rashid, are you alright, have they hurt you?”
“No, mommy, can I come home soon?”
“Yes, soon, we will—”
“Alright, that’s enough,” the calm voice returned. “Two days, have what we need in two days and Rashid will be fine. Otherwise…”
“We’ll have it, everything, I promise! Please don’t hurt my baby!”
But the line was already dead. Jameela fell into her husband’s arms, weeping. Yasmin backed away from the house.
“Otis, tell me you got a trace?”
The trace led them to Bedford Park, southwest of Midway Airport. Alice parked several blocks away and launched a roto-drone, sending it buzzing into the sky. Not the quietest drone, she had done what she could to mask its various signatures. Armed with a sniper rifle, she relied on distance and an expensive chameleon coating to keep it from being an easy target for counter sniping.
With the drone on overwatch and an MCT Fly-Spy for close surveillance, aided by the stealth technology of her chameleon suit, Yasmin crept through the ruined urban landscape to the warehouses that she suspected held Rashid and his captors. Otis provided matrix support and had already marked several devices, which appeared as red AROs in her vision. Her favored weapon, a Yamaha Raiden Assault rifle, was slung over her back and a personalized combat knife was sheathed along her thigh.
The operation would be simple enough, there were only five individuals involved, by their count. Three were inside and two were standing as sentries. She stopped at a corner and deployed the Fly-Spy. It crawled up and then around, its eyes sending a feed back to all three of them. The two sentries stood in front of a door, facing outward. If Yasmin turned the corner, it would be impossible for them not to see her. Invisibility would be useful, but she had not had time to recruit any of the mages she knew. Besides, she didn’t truly trust any of them. Well, maybe the new guy, he seemed earnest enough…
Focusing on the matter at hand, she quickly formulated a plan.
“”/characters/alice" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alice, you see these guys?"
“I do. Locked and ready to air out brain matter on your mark.”
“Take the one on the left side. When his partner turns to look, I’ll have my opportunity.”
“Got it. On three… one… two…”
The muffled report of silenced gunfire came milliseconds after the sentry on the left side of the door jerked. The sound of the bullet impacting his head was louder. As the sentry on the other side turned to face his companion, Yasmin slipped out from behind the corner, drawing her knife. The man had barely registered what had happened to his companion when she grabbed his hair and yanked his head back, drawing the knife cleanly across his throat and angling him away so the blood sprayed completely away from her.
Lowering his body to the ground, she commanded the Fly-Spy to enter the building through the slightly open door and followed slowly behind it as they confirmed that the rooms were empty. Three AROs marked commlinks grouped together, she suspected the last three kidnappers were watching trids or playing at cards. They had been running silent, but the hour it took to arrive might as well have been an eternity for Otis. It was possible that he had missed one, hence the Fly-Spy to make sure there wasn’t another guard in the hallways, but very unlikely.
Moving slowly down the hall, she could hear the men talking in rapid Arabic. She understood some of it, but her own Arabic was imperfect. Farsi was her first language and when speaking English, her accent was thick. Arabic she had learned between and while she was considered fluent, the speed and lingo of these men made it hard to understand. The gist of their banter was inconsequential, she gathered tidbits of the latest Urban Brawl match, good natured jibes about one or another’s mother, and talk centered on the card game they were playing.
The Fly-Spy landed on the door and climbed up. There was a transom that had been smashed and the Fly-Spy stopped there, peering inside. The three men sat at a table in the center of the room with a deck of cards. The room was large, perhaps fifteen meters, squared. The far end was sealed with a closed rolling door and the ceiling went up three meters higher than the ceiling in the hallway. The Fly-Spy crawled in further, not flying but moving slowly and steadily to another vantage point.
There were some palettes in the room, loaded with boxes or junk. The difference in height between the hallway ceiling and the room’s ceiling was windowed, but it had all been covered over with plastic, ensuring privacy from prying eyes, outside.
Rashid was tied to a chair just a few feet from the men, opposite the table from Yasmin. She was pleased to note that he was blind-folded. Better he not see what was about to happen.
Yasmin unslung her rifle and held it at the low ready. She had a flash-bang, but while it was a non-lethal option, she did not want to injure Rashid. She examined the door and saw that it was rotting around the frame.
“I’m going in.”
“Alright, but be careful,” Alice replied. “We don’t have any eyes but yours in there.”
She took a single, measured breath and then kicked the door. The men were suitably startled and tried to rise, going for their weapons. Yasmin had the Raiden at the ready, her smartlink making every necessary calculation. She pulled the trigger once, twice, and a third time, in rapid succession, the barrel of the weapon moving slightly between each short burst.
The first man clutched at his thigh and tumbled to the ground. The second man flinched inward as bullets drove through his sternum, one carving a path into his heart. The third man spun around and backwards as a round hit him in the left shoulder.
She took three steps into the room and placed the barrel to the head of the man who had been shot first and put an end to his writhing. The second man was already dead but she took no chances and put three more into his chest. When she turned her attention to the last man, she saw that he had scrambled to Rashid and stood crouched low behind the chair, creating as much cover out of the boy as he could. He held a gun to the boy’s head. Blood oozed from his shoulder.
“I’ll kill him!” he screamed. “I’ll do it!”
Yasmin was sure that she could make the shot, but she didn’t want to bet with Rashid’s life that she could bring the rifle to bear before he pulled the trigger.
“Wait, don’t,” she said, loosening up and slowly standing straight, presenting a neutral posture. She let go of the foregrip of her rifle and lowered it, letting it hang loosely in her right hand. As she did so, her eyes scanned the room, her Fly-Spy maneuvering to a second vantage point.
“Who are you? Who sent you?”
“”/characters/alice" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alice." Yasmin looked directly at the man as she spoke.
Alice‘s voice was a relief. "Triangulated, low-risk… but it’s a risk."
“WHO IS Alice?!”
The plastic window coverings behind her snapped as the bullet traveled through them and onward to paint a red dot on the man’s forehead, a spray of gore billowing out behind him. A muffled report accented the silence that followed.
The next day, Yasmin walked into the office. Sami sat at Jameela’s desk, his expression confused and defeated. She smiled at him as she walked past and into the office. Tony looked up.
“Hey, glad you could make it in.”
“Sure,” she replied. “Glad to be here.”
“So, do you know where Jameela is? She hasn’t come in and she hasn’t called?”
“Oh, I gave her the rest of the week off. She’s been working hard lately.”
Tony’s brow furrowed. “Oh, I… see. Well, I guess we’ll make do, Sami will do what he can while she’s gone.”
“Sure,” Yamin said. “He’ll do what he can. We all do what we can.”
Tony’s bemused expression elicited a chuckle as she opened the documents for United Scrap, just another day’s work.