The Babylon Night
There was just one last thing left to do.
Connor, Karim, Fox and Wood pulled security in the hallway. Tan, Ngo and Yamamoto rushed into the server room. Tan retraced his steps through the aisles and made his way back to the terminal server.
Many servers were melted and destroyed, but the laptop lying on the floor was still intact. He glanced at screen.
“Yes!” he shouted, pumping his fist.
“Something good happened?” Yamamoto asked.
“We’re in!” Tan said. “We’re inside their systems! Their data, their records, everything they have, I’ve imaged it on my computer! We own them!”
“Well done,” Yamamoto said.
Ngo grinned. “You’re the best, Z. With this, we can take down the Void Collective once and for all.”
“Not yet,” he said. “Much of the information is secure. It needs to be decrypted before we can use it.”
“Decryption can wait,” Yamamoto said. “We are getting the hell out of here.”
Tan packed up his things. No cops or guards came to interrupt. Together, the team rushed up on the roof.
The gravcar was waiting. Battered and blasted, yet still going strong, it had parked itself in the middle of the parking lot. At least the autopilot still worked.
All around Tan, lights flashed and sirens wailed. Babylon PD cruisers had formed a cordon around the arcology, hovering at street level and the first sky garden. More were vectoring in, wending through the distant skyscrapers, approaching the other sky garden and the roof.
But none approached. And there was no sign of the Black Marias of the STS.
Mortal law ended at the boundaries of land held by the New Gods.
They piled into the gravcar and took off into the night.
No one followed.
A half hour later, the car settled down at the city’s edge. There were no skyscrapers here, only townhouses and low-rise apartments and wide walking paths. And, three blocks away, was a transport hub. From here, anyone could catch a bus or train to anywhere in Babylon. Anywhere in the country.
“Thanks for helping out,” Tan said.
“No worries,” Wood said.
“Ms. Ngo, can you make your way from here?” Yamamoto asked.
“Yes. I’ve got relatives in Riveria,” she replied.
“Do you have anyone else who lives elsewhere? Someplace where the New Gods aren’t?”
“The New Gods are everywhere,” she said sadly.
“The VC doesn’t have much of a presence in Riveria,” Connor said. “And after what we did there, the New Gods would think twice before they do anything. Just keep your head down.”
“For how long?”
“As long as it takes.”
“I can’t do that. I’m Public Security, just like you guys. I can’t just sit down and do nothing. I can’t let the New Gods off the hook.”
“What can you do? Report to the PSB?”
Her eyes blazed with conviction.
“Sister, that’s the last thing you should do,” Fox said.
“The PSB are in bed with the New Gods,” Connor said.
“No way. No fucking way. Where’s your proof?”
“Riveria. The Court of Shadows, the Pantheon and the Liberated, they were all at each other’s throats. The Directors used us—the STS—to knock down the Court of Shadows a peg. All sides broke the law, but we were told to back off from the Pantheon and the Liberated.”
“The PSB doesn’t want to enforce the law,” Yamamoto said. “They just want to keep the balance of power.”
“What the fuck? That’s… that’s not true. You can’t prove it!”
“Director Pearce told us, in no uncertain terms, the true mission of the STS,” Tan said. “And, I recorded him.”
“Shit… You’re not… you’re not exaggerating.”
“I wish I were.”
“What do we do next?”
“For the PSB to do what they do and get away with it, they must have strong ties to the New Gods,” Yamamoto said. “Brokers, middlemen, informants, couriers, a whole network of agents to facilitate deals and transactions. If we expose these links, the PSB and the New Gods will be too busy to go after us.”
Tan patted his backpack. “I’ll start with the data I extracted from the VC. If they have any records, any dirt, anything at all to do with the PSB, I’ll find them.”
“Excellent. We’ve got to disperse and dump the evidence. Can you take care of things from here?”
“Good luck. I’ll get in touch with you soon.”
Tan and Ngo stepped out the car. Tan shouldered his pack, wrapping his jacket around himself, concealing his plate carrier and pistol as best as he could. With a quiet hum, the bullet-riddled gravcar lifted into the air and rocketed off into the shadows.
The transport hub was a beacon of light in the darkness. This time of night, the trains were all shut down, but the buses ran on a 24/7 schedule. Silently, the two approached the entrance.
Tan kept his head on a swivel and his hand on his pistol. Every shadow hid a possible hit man, every corner concealed a watcher. Or so it seemed. After what he had seen in the Golden Mile, after seeing the Elect of the VC teleport from darkness, he couldn’t be too careful.
Ngo stayed close to him, her hand brushing against his.
The main hall of the hub was mostly deserted. Small groups of people huddled together on cold benches; other individuals occupied entire rows by themselves. Scattered in the corners, groups of haggard men and women lay curled up under blankets and inside sleeping bags. A lone transit security cop walked the floor, casting a wary eye on the sleepers. Ticket machines stood watch by the walls. Massive display windows showed lines and departure times.
The last bus to Riveria was departing in ten minutes. They hustled to the nearest machine. Ngo bought her ticket, and looked at Tan.
“Do you want to come with me?”
“I have things to do in Babylon.”
“It’s going to get lonely without you.”
“If you need me again, you know how to reach me.”
“Won’t you be too busy playing hero?”
“Not for you.”
A short queue snaked out from the bus bay. Women and men and the odd child, bundled up in warm clothing. As Tan and Ngo approached, the bus pulled into the bay. The double doors opened, and the passengers shuffled aboard.
“Well then,” Ngo said. “This is it, I guess.”
Tan nodded. “Yeah. Do me a favor?”
“Once you get to Riveria, check into a hospital. A private one, not one run by the New Gods. It’ll be expensive, but it’s better than being tracked. Get that wound looked at and remove the implants the VC installed in you. Last thing you need is to be turned into a zombie again.”
She laughed. “I will.”
Silence, again. The line of passengers slowly vanished into the bus. They continued staring at each other.
Finally, she spoke.
“I… You sure you don’t want to come with me?”
“I’d love to, but…” he shrugged.
“Duty. Always duty.”
She chuckled. Sighed. Smiled.
“That just makes you who you are.”
He shrugged and said nothing. She smiled.
“Well… thanks. For everything.”
She tiptoed and pecked him on the lips.
He blinked. She smiled again.
“You’re welcome,” he said.
And walked away.
He stood where he was, watching her go. As she boarded, she turned to look back. He waved. She waved also, and disappeared aboard the bus.
The doors closed. The bus drove off.
Stretched his neck and arms.
And walked out into the Babylon night.
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