“Straight to voicemail… that isn’t good.” Bach was concerned about the Johnson. For him to not accept a call invariably meant trouble, especially considering everything that was going on. Bach wanted to tell him about the Cascade Mountain Range; he believed that would be the focal point for an earthquake in Seattle. There were other points throughout the world, perhaps, but for now Bach was concerned about his city. Hoping everything was fine, Bach couldn’t take any chances and hired a cab to go to the Johnson’s church.
“Do you know where he went?” Bach asked with increasing irritation. He didn’t want the pastor to try and convert him; religion was a thing of the past for Bach. The pastor looked understandably irked, and mumbled something about how he was checking up on previous leads. Bach loaded up a list of the known associates for ORS and decided to hack into the security cameras for each location. “Fine, I’m going to go pray for guidance then.” Bach irreverently walked to a pew and sat down, launching himself into the Matrix.
Finding Matrix trails was a specialty of Bach’s, and each time he smiled whenever he was successful. The Johnson’s trail lead several places, but one was a pet store. Bach tapped into the security feed and watched as the Johnson walked into the store, chatting someone up. In a flurry of commotion, two men came out and dragged the Johnson into the back room. Bach nodded and jumped out of the Matrix. He looked up at the statue of Jesus and shook his head. “You’ve failed too many people,” he said, much to the anger of the pastor. With that, he left.
“Meet me at this pet store,” Bach said to Toro and Mort. “Why?” Toro asked, but the call had already been cut. Annoyed, Mort and Toro both arrived at the store before Bach did. The doors were locked, the lights off, and Toro kept knocking on the window, saying “Mr. Johnson? You there?” Toro had seen the Johnson’s astral signal, but was confused as to where he was now. Finally, Mort called Bach.
“Look, I’m sorry, this god damn INDIAN cab driver is taking forever. You aren’t getting tipped, Jackass!” Mort hung up the phone, amazed Bach hadn’t been killed by someone yet. Finally, Bach arrived and walked up to the door, hacking it open and walked in.
Everything was dark, the building was noisy from all the animals, and Bach kept his pistol drawn. He walked over to the back of the building as Mort watched through Bach’s livestream feed. Bach opened the back door, not expecting to see anything significant. Inside, the room was largely empty except for a knocked chair, a pool of blood, and a dog staring at Bach. Curious, Bach trained his gun on the dog, which started to growl and slowly walk towards him. Bach hacked the garage door open, and the dog started to leap at him.
Toro walked into the blood-covered room to see Bach double-tapping a dog. Memories of Bach executing their captive came back and Toro wondered if Bach had some weird murder fetish. “What the hell Bach?” Just then a cat launched itself at Toro and tore his skin up, its claws unnaturally strong and its skin obviously coated in some dermal sheath. Mort suspected something was wrong, so he looked for drone signals; the animals had slight drone commands coming from a truck in the back. Mort smiled as he let loose his LEBD drone, frag grenades rattling in anticipation.
Toro tried to catch the cat in a cage when he saw three small grenades roll to his feet. In a flash, Toro kicked the grenades back towards where they came from, but the bounced under a small table and incinerated it and smashed up Toro’s cage. He wasn’t happy, so he took out his swords and stabbed at a figure in the corner that seemed to have launched the grenades. Whatever it was, it squealed, but seemed all right. Toro launched into a rage, slashing the thing to ribbons, making sure it wouldn’t be launching explosives any more. Bach trained his pistol on the cat as explosions from outside rocked the area.
The van which held a few riggers was blown open by Mort’s LEBD, the drone cackling maniacally as it shot grenade after grenade. Finally, one landed right inside the van and exploded in a flash of blood-splattered destruction. Bach, meanwhile, executed the cat while Toro had it pinned down, then looked to the smoking van.
“Hey guys, we need to leave. Now.” Mort drove off quickly as police sirens sounded in the distance. Bach felt a rising anger.
“God damnit, Mort, your sociopathic tendencies have finally screwed us all!” Bach hated not getting information from his enemies, and it was to get anything from a smoking corpse. Over the comlink, Bach heard a loud scoff. Even Toro laughed at Bach.
Toro followed an astral signature to a dumpster as Bach hacked a car to escape. “Damnit Toro, get in the car! We’re leaving!” Toro was holding the dead dog, cat, and the pieces of the rabbit he had shredded in the corner, but he dropped them all as he reached into the dumpster. In a minute, he pulled out the Johnson’s beaten corpse and ran back to the car with that and the exploded dog, throwing them both into the trunk of the car.
Back at the garage, Mort looked into the dog and the files gathered from the dead riggers computers, while Bach linked into the Johnson’s cyber-eyes. Bach played the files and watched through the Johnson’s eyes as he was interrogated, beaten, and killed. It was a shaking experience, but Bach just silently watched and downloaded the information.
“Find anything?” Toro asked.
Bach stood up and reviewed the locations the Johnson had been too. Something has to be there, he thought to himself. He called for a cab and was about to ask Toro if he wanted to go investigating when Toro spoke up.
“So, what do we do with the body?”
“The Johnson’s body.” Toro sounded amazed that Bach even had to ask and he quickly looked around to ensure that dead bodies weren’t secretly lying everywhere on the ground. He couldn’t be too sure with Bach these days.
“Nothing, he’s dead.” Bach sounded fairly callous, but something told Toro to leave it alone. At first, Toro thought about explaining how ascending to the astral plane and joining the many creatures in the great beyond was important, especially for humans that managed to surpass their Earthly trappings (for Toro thought much of this Johnson) but getting into an argument with Bach was low on his list, and Toro suspected Bach felt more than he let on anyway.
“Okay, see ya!” Toro grabbed the body and walked outside, hoping to catch a cab on his walk to the Johnson’s old stomping ground. Bach, meanwhile looked into the previous visits the Johnson made. Everything was empty, all the ORS buildings cleaned out.
Bach received a call from Toro, which he reluctantly picked up. “Bach, we’re headed to the crime mall. This awesome crazy priest guy says that there’s a demonstration or something, so come on.”
“All right, well, I need you to pick me up. I’m at an abandoned building on first and second.” Silence followed Bach’s request. “First… and second? I… what?”
Bach, Mort, and Toro were all on the way to the crime mall with their new ‘Johnson;’ a strange looking man in a full priest get up, an eye patch, and a grey beard hiding a chiseled old jaw. He briefed them quickly about the demonstration, but really they had no information. Bach felt agitated.
They arrived and walked around the mall looking for clues, but no one looked suspicious or out of place. Bach, however, looked at the public hacking cafe with a curious look and walked over, logging into the general network. Nothing seemed suspicious. The priest sat on a bench, looking around with his giant Ruger pistol resting peacefully on his lap. Toro walked around pensively and Mort scanned the area. Nothing.
Bach was about to suggest leaving when newORleans_Saint logged into the chat room and hit everyone with a virus. Bach quickly jacked out and found himself chanting, a peculiar sensation that he shook away after a minute. Immediately, he looked to his side and saw a man jacked into the Matrix, his eyes closed and he muttered one of the ORS chants.
“The demonstration is to make civilians chant and cause an earthquake!” Bach said, taking out his pistol and putting it to the head of the hacker, his adrenaline pumping from almost losing his mind and being controlled by ORS again. With a quick pull, he splashed the man’s head all over the nearby computer and turned to another, kicking him through the window as he scattered his brains across the mall.
“Attention Crime Mall Shoppers; the Mall has been attacked. Execute all citizens that are chanting before they cause an unbelievably powerful earthquake.” Bach announced over the loudspeaker with much more technobable, but that was the basic gist that no one really cared about. Toro looked over at the priest, who pistol whipped a talking civilian unconscious and then loaded up rubber bullets in his gun. Toro nodded in approval. Then he looked at Bach, saw he was covered blood, and three heavily armed guards were approaching him. Great.
Quickly, Toro ran at Bach as he said to the guards “trust me, anyone chanting is really the enemy,” his eyes glowing more than usually. Toro tackled Bach to safety as one of the guards screamed and pumped AK bullets into an unarmored chanting civilian, screaming “All chanters must die!” Toro looked at Bach and said “We’re leaving! NOW!”
Outside, Mort watched the barometer twitch and spasm impossibly, the outside temperature dropping thirty degrees in a matter of minutes as dark clouds formed overhead. “Guys,” he said over the com, “we need to leave.” Unfortunately, all anyone heard was “REGERE INFIRMA, MUNDATA PER IGNEM, FINEM MUNDI,” as Mort chanted without his knowledge.
The winds outside picked up, and large hail smashed into the roof of the mall, hurting anyone outside and cracking old cars with real glass windows. Toro led Bach out of the mall via an employee entrance, dodging bullets and security measures and chastising Bach about his rash and destructive actions. Bach was curiously silent, inwardly upset with his overreaction to the psychotropic ICE.
As they all got in the van, the priest still looking at Mort with his gun raised and his hand over Mort’s mouth (Mort had managed to control the chanting after a few threatening minutes with the priest), they drove off like the devil was behind them. A massive tornado funnel appeared overhead and touched down on the mall, ripping the roof off and tossing cars about indiscriminately.
All Bach could think is how proud he was of his creation. And how much it needed to stop.