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Chapter 11

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This is so not good. I am frakked.

Isla sat on an old folding chair in the middle of the damp storage room where she’d been dumped her by the guard with the gun. It didn’t matter what she said about being a friend of Jericho’s and how this had all been a big misunderstanding, she was locked inside the room and told to wait.

This is bad. This is really bad. What are they doing with all that tech? Just what is Jericho up to?

The door to the room banged open making Isla flinch. She couldn’t believe her eyes as Ger was tossed inside by a large security guard as he popped up and tried to run back through the door, It slammed in his face as Ger pounded on the door, yelling.

‘Hey, LEMME OUT! You can’t keep me in here. This is bull!’

Isla laughed. This is crazy.

‘Hey Ger!

He spun, his jaw hanging open as he saw that Isla was in the same room and in the same trouble as he was. She couldn’t help but be impressed as he covered well or tried to — shaking out his tension and strutting over to her as if being locked up was all part of the plan. Boys.

‘Hey GNGR! Wassup? We end up in the coolest places together.’

Isla seethed.

Ger was the most immature and frustrating boy she had ever met — but he may be able to help figure out what Jericho is doing with all the military tech gear.

‘Whatever, DD! What happened to your girlfriend?’ OUCH. Did I just go there?

Ger stopped in his tracks, kicking a loose pebble as he pursed his lips in annoyance.

‘Not my girlfriend. I barely know her. We just lived in the same juvie foster home together. She wanted me to introduce her to Jericho.’

Isla scoffed. ‘How are you going to introduce her to Jericho. You don’t know him? Do you?’

Ger shook his head, moving around the room looking for a way out. Ignoring her. Of course, you don’t know Jericho. No windows, tall ceilings, no sewer grates and a solid metal wall. Go ahead and look. I already did.

‘No, I don’t know him. You know that. She got…confused. She maybe thought I knew him. That’s not on me. It’s on her. What are you doing in here anyway?

‘Why are you in here? Isla asked.

Ger flushed red. Turning away from Isla as he examined the steel door, running his fingers over the hinges and locking mechanism.

‘There was a slight misunderstanding…’

Isla laughed, folding her arms she glared at Ger. ‘I bet. Look, there’s something weird about this place, you know?’

Ger smirked. ‘Yep. It’s weird all right. Who would put on a megaparty like this for all the kids and coders for freez. There’s no money to be made here and it must have taken a ton of credits to maxx-out like this. Did you notice the ‘puters. All high end, specked out with lots of hamsters under the hood.

Isla nodded. ‘Not to mention all the free food, drinks and entertainment. That’s a lot of grok for a guy that’s basically just doing data dumps and public humiliation. I can’t figure out what his angle is? And what’s with all the military tech I found?

‘Well, what’s he really like? Ger asked. He flopped down against the door — resigned to his captivity for the moment. Isla kicked at the pavement if frustration, circling back to the lone chair. ‘Well,…’ I’m done. I gotta tell Ger that I don’t know anything about him — and the scary guy with the gun and the satellites backstage. ‘Ger, I’m scared.’

Ger smiled. ‘Relax, no matter what you did. I’m sure it’s gonna be okay. I’m the one whose probably gonna get tossed in the cubes.’

‘Why?’ Great frowned.

Ger shrugged. ‘You were right. I’m a scammer. It’s all I know. I tried to take off a couple bags of comm-links at the front when no one was looking. When everyone went looking for you - BRITSHINSTR - I snuck into the lock up and tried to boost a couple bags. I got caught.

Ger winced. Isla clucked her tongue at Ger who hung his head in shame.

‘I gotta help my Mom, Isla. If I don’t, they’re gonna put her back on Jolt… I don’t know what to do.

Ger shoulders shook as he started to cry. Oh man, this is bad. Jolt, really?

‘They got space satellites in the back, Ger. A guy with a gun saw me and they locked me up in here. Do not cry. Do not cry. You got this.

Ger looked up at Isla as she started to cry, pushing himself off the floor, he crossed to her and wrapped an arm around Isla. I am so screwed. And I’m frakkin’ crying. Great look.

Oh man, what do I do?

Ger didn’t know what was worse. Going back to the cubes or Isla crying. He stroked her shoulder as she sobbed. Definitely this. This is worse than jail. Am I doing this right? She’s still crying.

The door to the room clanged open. Standing before them was a tough looking Rastafarian-styled woman with elaborate headbraids flanked by two bodyguards with guns.

Ger blinked in shocked. Guns. OMG. Isla wasn’t kidding.

‘OK. You two. Out,’ the woman demanded as the two guards moved into the room. Both carried army issue plasma rifles that Ger recognized from the games he played. Sweet tech.

Isla wobbled to her feet, wiping off the racoon tracks of makeup that had streaked her cheeks.  Ger stepped in front of Isla, his eyes never leaving the guns. But they’re real.

‘Let’s be cool about this, okay. I’m sorry I tried to rip off some units, but she doesn’t have anything to do with this.

The woman’s lips drew back in a snarl.

‘I won’t be telling you again.’

The guards moved closer to Ger and Isla, waving to the exit out with their weapons. Without even realizing he did it, Ger grabbed Isla’s hand as they move together out the door. His heart beating triple time, he glanced at Isla. She was watching the woman closely, trying not to look scared. Ger gulped. I’m scared enough for both of us.

 

Outside the room, the muffled events of the party could be heard through the long, dark corridor they moved through. Their footsteps echoed as they marched deeper inside. Overhead, industrial lightbulbs trembled in time to the heavy D ’N’ B music still throbbing through the walls. This is not good. This is so not good.

The woman lead the way deeper into the once abandoned building drawing them into the basement. Isla looked pale in the half-light as Ger chanced a look at her.

‘Where are you taking us? Isla asked.

The woman sucked through her teeth as she glared at Isla. ‘You’ll know soon enough. Just keep going.’

Ger squeezed Isla’s hand, willing her to be brave. ‘You can’t just kidnap us at gunpoint. Look — I’m guilty, okay. You got a problem? You take it up with me. She didn’t do anything.’

Isla squeezed Ger’s hand in sympathy, a thin smile etched on her worried face. Ahead, another metal door banged open as the party drew near. Ger peered into the gloom ahead, unable to make out exactly what was inside or waiting for them. Icy sweat rolled down his back as he tried to control his fear. Isla, too, looked worried as she slowed her pace, only to receive a push from the guard directly behind her.

‘Leave her alone,’ Ger snapped.

The guard behind him poked Ger in the back with his rifle, grimacing at him as he urged them ahead. ‘Shut it,’ barked the muscle as he nudged Ger to keep going. The woman stopped just outside the door and bowed deeply, waving them both inside the dark chamber.

Turning to the guards, she said, ‘Okay. I got it from here.

Ger and Isla stepped inside the mysterious metal room as the woman pulled the door closed behind them. Its heavy metal lock clanked loud.

I can’t see anything. Nothing. I’m going to die here.

‘You said you wanted to meet Jericho?

Overhead, bright LED lights winked on and Isla found herself standing in a large lead-lined room holding hands with Ger.

‘I’m Jericho.’ What?

The woman who had delivered them from the cell crossed across the room and sprawled onto the couch that sat alone on an old rug that had been reclaimed from an office somewhere in the building. Jericho smiled at Isla first.

‘So we finally meet? What’s this, then? Jericho indicated, tilting her head towards Ger. ‘A boyfriend? You never told me you had a real boyfriend.’

Isla shook her head in disbelief. Jericho’s a woman. This woman?   She snatched her hand away from Ger who was shaking his head too in confusion. Confession time.

‘I thought you were a guy…’

Jericho sneered. ‘Sexist much? Course you think I was a dude.’

Isla blushed, not knowing what the right answer was.

‘Did I ever say I was a fella?’

Jericho asked, leaning forward, smiling at them both. ’No, I did not. You just assumed I was a guy. Just like everyone else. It’s easier that way, you dig?’

Ger stepped up, bristling at the treatment they’d received so far.

‘What’s your disconnect, huh? Whataya doing having guys with guns grab us? This is totally uncool?’

‘Just like trying to steal all my guests comm-links?’

Ger shrugged. ‘Whatever, you pointed a gun at me. At Isla. That’s a total pants move.’

Jericho sucked her teeth. ‘Forget you. You just a skimmer looking to make some fast credit. I know all about you, Ger Frieling. The minute we scanned your unit at the check-in, everything was mine.’

Isla trembled as she watched Ger stop dead. Jericho has all his deets. And totally mine.

Sit, sit. The guys are gonna come back with some food and we gotta lot to talk about. I ain’t gonna bite.’

Jericho patted the couch beside her and looked at Isla. ‘Not unless you want me too.’

Isla gulped. Worry etched across her brow. She glanced at Ger who shrugged and moved to the edge of the couch. What are we going to do Ger?

‘C’mon, baby girl. I and I is alright. You don’t have to worry about Jericho. I said I wanted to meet you P2P and here we are. Savvy?’

Isla slipped down onto the lumpy sofa as Jericho jumped to her feet, pacing in front of them. Her shoulder brushed up next to Ger and she conciously stopped herself from taking his hand again.

‘Alright, here’s the 411. You…,’ Jericho pointed at Isla, ‘…were kind enough to set me up with the intel of PS 327 - thank you for that.’ Jericho smiled as she continued to pace back and forth in front of them. Both Ger and Isla tracked the woman as she strode back and forth.

‘That was a test. A test to see if I could get inside…’

Isla shuddered.

Jericho laughed at her reaction. ‘Nah, nothing physical, girl. I wanted to see if I could get an information thing going with you.’

Ger tilted his head. A million questions floated in his eyes that Isla could see.

‘Relax, DD. I’ll get to you.’ Wow, she’s a frakkin’ mind reader.

As if really reading her mind, Jericho nodded. ‘Yes, I can. You’s are easy. Where was I?’ The woman slapped her hands together, smiling brightly. ‘And once I had you hooked, I wanted to set up a meet to tell you what else I want to do.’

‘What do you mean?’ Isla asked, doubt and concern evident in her response. She clenched and unclenched her hands in nervous anticipation. Jericho winked at her. ‘I want to bring down the moon transport tonight coming back with your Father.’

Jericho is a woman. Isla lied to me. Not that I care. But the dude is this woman and this woman is nuts.

Ger sat on the couch and tracked the cyber-anarchist who paced in front of them. The one who outed the public school now wants to bring down a moon transport? That’s crazy-time.

“I don’t understand?’ squeaked Isla who was looking more and more scared. ‘How did you know my Dad was coming home? And on the shuttle tonight?’

Jericho laughed, her voice echoing through the dense metal room. ‘Had a tracer on you from the get-go, Isla. Once we made contact, I buried a bug inside your unit and I’ve been piggybacking ever since. On your personal link, your home computer, just about every smart object you’ve interacted with — I’ve been along for the ride.

Ger nodded in appreciation. Wow, that’s some next level hacking. I’m good but I’m not that good.

‘You mind if I ask a question?’ Ger said.

‘Yeah, yeah, I knew you would want to, Ger. I patched a double Helios-Matrix in with a repeater code flop that basically piggybacked on her fingerprint. I had her IP plus all of her digital deets, so the rest was easy.’

Ger whistled. Definitely next level. ’How’d you learn to do all that? That’s not basic stuff.’ Ger asked. Jericho shrugged, striding over to the couch, dropping down between Ger and Isla.

They both shifted away from Jericho as she kicked out her feet and leaned back relishing her power.

‘No time for my life story, boy. We got work to do.’

‘Work?’ Ger asked. How does she know I need work?

Isla crossed her legs, shifting herself on the couch as she glared at Jericho.

‘What do you mean, bring down the moon shuttle? You mean, like crash it? That could hurt people.’

Jericho’s laughter boomed again across the metal room. Reaching up, she dropped her arms around Ger and Isla and tucked them in close.

‘Is simple, children. I want you,’ Jericho nodded to Isla, ‘to access your link to your Dad as he boards the transport. Only approved family communications contacts are allowed on a military ‘droid craft. And you’re on the approved list and I can’t clickjack in.

Jericho spun to Ger, ‘and I want you to run chaff that I’ve got up through the comm pipeline once established and burp them. I could use a 'bot or do it myself — but I find the personal touch allows for adapting to problems and IRL maintenance. You got skills, Ger. Skills that I will pay greatly for. How does five thousand credits sound for a few minutes of foo work? Guaranteed. All you have to do is agree and it’ll be dropped into any account you want. More than enough to help keep your Mom’s off Jolt.’

Ger jaw dropped open. She knows about that too?

A knock on the metal door rang out as Jericho leapt off the couch and opened the door to let a guard enter with a tray full of food.  Stacking the food and drink on the floor, the guard pulled back to the door waiting for Jericho.

‘You two have a bite to eat and think about what I’ve said. Okay?’

Ger stood. Glaring at Jericho. ‘And what happens if we say, No?’

Jericho wagged a long finger at Ger as she headed out the door. ‘You don’t want to be saying no to me now, DD4EVZ. You don’t do what I say, I put your Mom back on dope and I find another way to drop that big bird in the sky. And send both your deets to the cop 'bots for all the hassle I’m gonna make happen. You be doing life for murder maybe and maybe even get the big boost for messing with military transports. That’s a cube forever offense. You dig?’

Ger nodded. Yeah, he got it. They were frakked.

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