Planning and Execution

Three days later, Cylee was sitting with her back against a tree, just after dusk. She ran down the salient points of the plan in her head, simple as they were. Six trucks in the convoy, driving two across, three back. The truck that was most likely to have the package would be in the middle rank, on the side closer to the edge of the road, not near the center. Five identical boxes inside the truck, one would have the tracker placed by their corrupted security guard. Get the package, roll out into the darkness, try not to get shot.

Easy.

Cylee sat and watched the grass sway. Even without her Third Eye she could see little disturbances made by little lives out there in the grass. That one four meters downhill was a rabbit, those two to her left were mice playing. Her uncle taught her to hunt like this, after her dad went back home. Not that they “lived off the land” or whatever. Mostly they lived off of Permanent Fund Dividends, her mom’s job, and money and healthcare from their Native Corporation on the North Slope of Alaska, back when it had been Alaska. The Native corporations had fallen on harder times as oil was outlawed, but they had invested well and still had a fair amount, much like the state of Alaska, back when it had been Alaska.

Her uncle just liked to hunt, and wasn’t sure how to interact with a little girl, so her took her hunting. Showed her how to see what was going on around her instead of moving through the world like she owned it. “Be a part of the scenery and everyone else can be an actor for you to watch,” her uncle had told her, and she nodded in solemn if somewhat confused agreement. “Move around and everyone else is just watching you, you’ll never see them.” He finished, his voice quiet, emotionless; he was focused on the other actors in the forest. Slowly he pointed, showing her where to look but not saying anything. Over time Cylee—no, back then she had been “Karen” or even “Ka-Li”, an abbreviation of her first and middle names—Over time Karen learned to see the grass that moved out of sync with the wind, to hear the rustles of other actors moving.

And then, less than a year later, Pacifica picked her, and taught her to use those instincts to hunt other people, and to use technology instead of instinct.

If she wanted to, she could engage her Third Eye, track the rodents by their body heat, transmit their locations to her pistol, and swiftly and surely end each of their little lives. She didn’t, she wouldn’t. But now it was so easy, and felt like cheating, somehow.

Her clock beeped. Two minutes to be in position. She checked the feed from Julian’s “distraction” car; there were headlights coming. She checked the GPS and found the trucks bearing down on her position at roughly 120 kph. She stood and headed down to her position, just north of the distraction. Hopefully the distraction would stop all six trucks and she could get to her target while it was immobile. But it was possible the target would keep rolling, and she was in place.

Cylee pulled her magnetic grapple free and ensured it was fastened properly, and that she could reach the disconnect mechanism. The second to last thing she would want was for the grapple to come off her waist when she needed it. The last thing she wanted was for the grapple to stay attached when she needed it to drop.

“T minus twenty, Intercept,” Cassandra said over the comms channel. “Intercept is a terrible nickname,” Cylee thought, not for the first time.

“Target sighted. Rolling.” Julian responded.

Agent: He’s too late; he’s not going to hit the lead truck.

“Intercept, speed up, you’re not going to make contact.” Cylee said and started running to make up for the difference. In her HUD she saw multiple scenarios, Julian’s heavily armored SUV against the trucks at different speeds.

“I got this, Zero.” Julian responded. “Impact in three, two…oh.” Cylee watched Julian collide with the second truck, pushing it sideways but not stopping the target truck. The two following trucks swerved and utterly failed to stop, colliding with Julian and his victim.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, go get our target!” Julian called out over comms.

The three trucks that had escaped sped on. “Amateurs,” Cylee muttered under her breath. A real hauler gang never split the convoy. Not even a Texicali smuggler gang would abandon half their people like that.

One of the two lead trucks fell back behind the target truck. “Total amateurs,” Cylee said, unshipping her long rifle off her back and finding a good vantage. Julian had said they wouldn’t need long range weapons. But then Julian hadn’t ever been in a real fight.

Cylee saw the trucks come round the bend, their GPS signals overlaid on the actual vehicles in her vision. She aimed for the grill of the target truck…

Her shot connected and ignited, a bright white magnesium that was probably doing expensive things to the radiator of that truck, but wasn’t enough to stop it. The flare might blind a regular driver, but if the truck was equipped with even mediocre equipment the machines could still see.

She aimed at the front passenger-side tire next and missed, throwing up sparks in front of the truck. The next shot connected and the truck had to slow down a little, but these haulers were built with dual-wheel axles fore and aft, so it could still keep rolling.

Agent: It’s down to 50 kph, still too fast. Cylee: I’m aware.

The lead truck passed Cylee as she took aim at the center of the third wheel on the target. This time she shot for just off the center, hopefully right about where the brakes were. Her shot hit and the truck started wobbling, slowing. Good. Now all she had to do was run up to where it stops, and climb in the back door— The follow truck slammed into the decelerating target truck, burying its cab into the trailer.

“They’ve got their own people in there! What is going on?” Cylee almost screamed into the comms.

“Looks like an accident, I don’t think they would have done that on purpose,” Cassandra said. Meanwhile the trailer of the target truck ripped free of both trucks and rolled over, off the road.

“You still need to find a way in,” Cassandra said. Cylee rolled her eyes.

“Do I have any cover? Anyone who can help? Intercept? Big Red?” Cylee had insisted on Isaac and Howard collectively having the moniker Big Red, mostly to annoy them.

“ETA two minutes, Zero,” said Isaac.

Cylee growled. Two minutes would give the haulers time to form up around the stricken trailer. She had to get in before that. The lead truck had pulled over and was heading back, and the drivers from the target truck were already on the ground, flashlights searching the grass for their attacker. Cassandra said they were more or less on her side, but Cylee wasn’t sure they would know she was on their side. She dodged around their search beams and headed closer to the trailer, coming up around the back of the rear truck. “Hey, Zero? Bad news. One of the trucks from this pack got loose, they’re headed your way, and I think they’re going to catch up with you before Big Red does.”

“Acknolwedged.” Cylee subvocalized. She was too close to the haulers to actually speak out loud now.

Cylee: Agent, how many people are inside the target trailer?

Agent: Probability is that there are two people in there. Data is inconclusive. They are unlikely to be a significant threat.

Cylee: Well, obviously, but I don’t want to hurt them either.

Cylee moved out to the tall grass on the far side of the road and observed for a few moments. She could see “Big Red’s” GPS dot coming from the north and the new batch of haulers coming from the south. It looked to be a dead heat. If either the undamaged front truck, or the newcomer truck were to get to the package they’d recapture it and haul out of there… there’s an idea.

Already the haulers were digging in the target trailer, and Cylee was relieved to see that the two riding in the trailer were sitting in blankets on the side of the road instead of laying under them.

“Big Red, can you circle around my position and engage the incoming truck?”

“Affirmative, Zero. But we thought we’d set up a roadblock?”

“Why bother? This truck is already going where we want to be, at least within a few miles. Just keep everyone distracted until I say otherwise.”

“Zero, this is not the plan we agreed to,” Cassandra said, her voice more stern than usual.

“Agreed, HQ, but it’s the one that will work.”

Cylee found a tree near the foremost truck and got up into the branches to wait. She saw Big Red bounding over the landscape in an offload vehicle, all big tires and lights. She saw the rear truck catch up to the accident and position itself sideways across the road.

Big Red lit up every light on their vehicle and did a very good job of attracting attention. The haulers weren’t stupid; they didn’t leave the package unattended, but they were distracted enough. Cylee climbed up the side of the front truck and lay down flat under the aerodynamic facade on the top of the cab.

“I’m in position. Let them chase you off, Big Red. Can anyone get ahead of this vehicle before we reach Seattle?”

“We will have an extraction team for you outside of Tacoma, Zero.” Cassandra said.

“Sounds good.”

Howard drove his contraption dangerously close to the stricken target trailer, then disappeared into he night when the haulers opened fire on them.

“We are out of range and safe. Good luck, Zero.” Isaac reported.

As expected, the haulers moved the package—and all four decoys, unfortunately—to the foremost truck. Then the rear truck and the new target started north again.

Agent: There are now four people inside this trailer. Breaching and escaping seems unlikely.

Cylee nodded.

Cylee: Can you…connect to the truck’s electronics?

Agent: Perhaps. We can’t hijack the truck, if that is your plan.

Cylee: can you make the accelerator stick for a while?

Agent: We believe we can do that.

“Intercept, can you get TAC strips at the rendezvous point?”

“We can do that, Zero.”

And then…the trip got boring for a while. Which was insane. Here Cylee was, sitting on top of a truck going fully 120, filled with people who would shoot her on sight, but with nothing to do for a while. She checked her pistol, cleaned her rifle a bit, ate a few bites of the protein bar she brought along…

Ugh, finally. Tacoma, 20 miles. “Okay, I’m starting the operation. Have to TAC strips ready and someone prepared to pick me up.”

This part required some skillful maneuvering. Cylee tied herself to the top of the truck, then slid down the side and planted a small explosive on the lock for the side door. Back to the roof, and slide quietly along the roof to the back door. Her sensors picked up the rough positions of the four people inside, probably near the back… good.

She planted another explosive on that lock, then triggered the side door one. The door flapped open but was secured quickly. She slid along the roof… someone was probably standing at that side door. She then blew the larger explosive on the back door, which flapped open wildly. One person fell out. Amateur. Still, down to three. While the other two were near the back and the guard on the side was distracted Cylee yanked the side door back open, grabbed the top of the doorframe, and kicked the guard full in the chest as she let herself in. She then jumped over his prone body, grabbed one guy and slammed him into the other guy. They both went down for a moment trying to figure out how to stand back up and Cylee triggered the beacon that would show her Augments which box to take. In her HUD one box lit up bright orange.

Someone had alerted the driver and the truck was slowing down. She didn’t have a lot of time before she got two new friends to play with.

Agent: It’s a decoy. The real one is in this box.

Another box lit up green. Cylee grabbed the green box, kicked one guard back down on top of the other and was thrown bodily from the truck by the side-door guy.

She held the box tight as she rolled. Her suit was good but not quite good enough. She tumbled end over end into the ditch on the side of the road.

Cylee: lock their accelerator!

Agent: You could have told us earlier. But we anticipated your plans. Locking…

The truck started going faster, and a few hundred meters she heard it hit the TAC strips, all twenty wheels going flat.

“Almost at your location, Zero. You okay?”

“Fine, Big Red, just fine. Just get here.”

She saw their SUV pull up, yanked the back door open, threw the package in and jumped in behind it She pulled the door closed and noticed Cassandra sitting in the back seat, holding the package.

“Impressive, Cylee.”

“Thank you, Ms. Happy.”

“I suppose there’s no point in telling you my last name is Vance?”

“Awww, when did you change it?”