Night On The Street: USSD

"Leon? It's Sanderson." He turned in place, a phone to one ear. "Yeah. I have UN business that needs taking care of in town in the next few days. There's a takedown involved. It's your turf, I'm not going to keep you out, but I need to know who's worth trusting and I've been out of the loop two years." USSD working uniform was of a style vaguely Germanic, sharply tailored, but the black material was interwoven with strands that caught the light at various angles and give the impression of a shifting field of stars as the wearer moved. "Can you come over to our place for awhile today or tonight? Seven thirty. Got it."

He looked up at his Master Sergeant. "You got that?" She nodded, and he smiled. "Good. I gotta talk to the colonel. Handle things down there."

"Snazzy uniform, man." Leon said. "What's this about?"

Sanderson smiled grimly. "The best and worst news you've had all week." He gestured to the elevator. "Right this way." They went, Leon noted, not to the top floor but not far from it, through a hall hung with paintings of various battle scenes.

"Colonel Andropov, may I present Inspector Leon McNichol." Sanderson said formally. The man behind the desk was already standing and wore the same uniform Sanderson did. "He's the best point of contact for Advanced Police business when you don't want the runaround."

"Sir." Leon wasn't a very formal person, but he could play at it well enough.

The colonel was, as his name suggested, a native Russian judging from the accent. "Inspector. We intend to arrest someone currently resident in this city for crimes we have jurisdiction in. But there may be fallout."

Leon glanced at Sanderson. "Who?"

"Special Assistant to the Chairman Saul Trump. Of Genom," the colonel replied.

Leon looked faintly queasy. "You're talking real big."

"Perhaps. Acting Captain?" The colonel nodded to Sanderson, who continued for him.

"About four months ago, a group of combat boomers hijacked a shipment of Chinese mainframe-class computers. They turned up here, where they've been used to try and brute-force our computer security. Unfortunately, the vulnerabilities they've been used to try to exploit aren't real and derailed the attempt into a make-believe version of our computer system." Sanderson smiled grimly. "We tracked it to a Genom-owned warehouse. Saul Trump is the only human member of Genom who visits the site. Most of the boomer staff is assigned to him for his discretionary use and has been for years. He's quite close to being able to issue a firing command to a weapons least in the land of make-believe."

Leon closed his eyes a moment. Why, he wondered, weren't his hands shaking? They were discussing Genom having the ability to end the world. "So you're going to bust him."

"Once he gives the command." Sanderson agreed. "I know we could have talked to Todo about this, but..."

Leon nodded. "Not the new guy, he's in somebody's pocket. Most of the team leaders will be okay with it. Ryoko will back your play like she always did. But you need to worry about Genom. They'll fight hard to keep a Special Assistant out of jail and bury it."

The two USSD officers shared a look, and Sanderson gave a slight nod, then got one in return. "We don't expect Trump to survive very long, in all honesty. He stole Chinese hardware to do it and he used Russian satellite control station for the attempt. Both will kill him for the embarrassment, assuming Genom doesn't. We'll ship him off to Luna Two as fast as we can and he ought to be reasonably safe there. But Quincy wouldn't be smart to let us even manage to arrest him."

Leon got it at once. "You think Quincy is in on it."

Sanderson sighed and almost slumped forward. "Leon, don't tell anyone that. Seriously. It could get you killed. But yes, it's true. This isn't the first and we doubt it will be the last time Genom has tried to gain partial or total control of the orbital weapons network."

As Leon walked from the elevator towards the front door a few minutes later, he noticed his hands were shaking now. All the stuff he'd been doing since he signed on with the ADP was kiddy garbage compared to what he'd just seen. It was important still, especially to the people involved in it, but even they would recognize that this was more serious than they were.

Strangely, despite his shaking hands, he didn't regret knowing the world was a larger and much more scary place than he'd suspected.

Sanderson sighed and resisted the urge to roll his neck. You couldn't, not inside a K-suit. It usually didn't matter, but sometimes it could be awkward. The K-12Z model he used now was better in the creature comforts regard than any previous suit, but that really meant that unlike the K-11 nobody got sick from the way the suit walked, and unlike the ADP's K-12S you could take a sip of water when you got thirsty.

Which was actually a great improvement, one that he would have been pretty happy about in his days standing an Alert Five watch with the ADP. He grabbed the straw with his lips and sucked down some water, then hit his chin switch to turn the radio on. "Status?" It was eight-thirty, dark out, but he'd been in the suit for over two hours.

"He's still moving around town at random. No way to tell where." The voice would have launched a thousand ships; so probably would the owner, Master Sergeant Nara Rajanderpal, his senior non-commissioned officer. She was a looker if ever such a term applied to anyone, a striking woman of Indian descent. By design, however, and not in the plastic surgery sense. NR, as she preferred to be called, was a rogue 33-S Sexaroid who had made the leap planetside a year before the D.D. Battlemover incident. USSD had recovered her before anyone else. What Nara had known about what happened on Genaros was worth a new life, a normal life, in spite of being a Boomer. Her natural talent in an armored trooper, and she was perhaps the best K-suit jockey Sanderson had ever known, had been worth a job.

Funny that, and someday Sanderson wished to meet the person who'd made those decisions, shake their hand. It was an inspired and yet perfectly rational choice. NR was about as human as anyone he'd ever known, all too human hatreds and flaws. She had a foul temper, a fouler mouth, and a near-pathological desire to destroy Genom. Being able to play the asshole and being able to scream like the wrath of a deity were assets to someone pursing a sergeant's career track. And Sanderson did suspect that Nara's being an asshole was an act, a direct response to her looks influencing people in the opposite direction.

Sanderson hit the chin switch again and changed frequencies, to a phone patch. "Leon? Sanderson."

"Good timing." Leon's voice always made him feel better when he was wearing a K-suit, straight back to the ADP days. Leon had always had your back then, even if you were the one supposedly doing the rescuing. "Power use just spiked at the place you asked about."

"Thanks man. Drinks are on me next time we get together. Talk to you later." Again the switch frequencies and hit the chin switch for voice-activated transmission. "We're live. Stand to." The plane had been in the air for hours, tracing gentle circles out to sea. It banked hard this time, and acceleration pressed down on his chest.

"Our target is Saul Trump. Yes, that Saul Trump. We want him alive. Put the Boomers in the ground. Any humans we give them one warning and we shoot if they don't comply straight away." They didn't expect any humans, there had never been any on the site aside from Saul before, but Sanderson was paid to plan for the bad possibilities.

Nara's voice in his ear. "He just walked in, he's giving commands to four satellites. Oceanic targets. Probably freighters. Firing time in two hours. It's all recorded and backing up five different ways as we speak."

Sanderson nodded to himself and spoke to his team. "Saul Trump just tried to access and use a weapons satellite. We bring him in alive, remember that. Forty seconds to drop people."

Thirty seconds to target. Lasers to preheat.

Twenty seconds to target. ECM and ECCM gear from off to standby.

Ten seconds to target. Master arm to ON. A round loaded into the chamber in his main weapon. The shutters over the laser lenses cycled open and shut in a test. The rockets in the shoulders reported green, ready to fire.

Freefall. The kick to the pants as the thrusters worked to arrest his descent, the ECM and ECCM flashing green as they cycled active. Megatokyo Air Traffic Control would throw a fit about this; he'd probably blotted them out for a kilometer or two. Civilian equipment didn't handle sophisticated jamming gear well.

Two police-model Boomers at the door turned to track him. A laser from one of the other suits sliced into one, deep into the torso and probably severing both the spine and doing terminal damage to the power system. He fired a single round from his hand weapon at the other and tore its head off in spray of metallic shrapnel. The round went off between the Boomer's head and the building wall after having passed through the target, adding more shrapnel to the air, the fuze on the armor-piercing round designed for more resistance than it had gotten. Good thing this was a dead-end street and nobody came back here.

The landing was rough, they always were, you never wanted to slow down enough in the fall for a smooth landing lest you become an easy target.

It took them very little time to overwhelm the police and service boomers, who were totally unequipped and unprepared for an assault team of K-suits. Then the two -55C bodyguards with Saul went down, sliced open by lasers. The man himself actually had gun, which got a raised eyebrow; first, that someone in his position was willing to sully their hands with a weapon, and second that he had enough guts to pull a gun on a K-suit.

Still, it wasn't like the pistol was going to be able to handle Saul's problems now. Switch to external speaker, volume up, and...

"Drop the weapon and get down on the ground!"

Saul Trump clapped his hands to his ears in pain, dropping his gun in the process. Before the ringing went away he found himself lifted from his feet none too gently by the mobile mountain of metal that had confronted him. "Saul Trump," the voice went on in a less harsh and metallic tone, at a volume he could actually understand, "under Article Seven of the United Nations Space Defense Treaty you are charged with four counts attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, four counts of tampering with a weapons satellite, and unlawful access of United Nations Strategic Space Defense secrets. And I hear the N-Police will be pretty interested in where you got those mainframes."

There were another three of the metal mountains clustered around him in addition to the one that had him in its hand. "You'll be coming with us."

"Hey, what's that?" It was eight hours after the event, but news traveled slowly when everyone was asleep.

Linna looked over from her pre-work coffee as a coworker turned up the volume on the TV they had in the break room. The talking head was showing the ADP at a crime scene, some warehouse, but in the background were K-12 suits of some variety she'd never seen before, not S, but related, with more human arms and hands, K-11 flight gear scaled up a bit, no ammo drums on the shoulders, some kind of tube assembly instead...maybe rockets or something. The part of her that was Saber Green cataloged the differences for future reference.

"In a shocking turn of events, United Nations Strategic Space Defense troops staged a raid on a Genom warehouse, arresting Special Assistant to the Chairman Saul Trump. They have said only that he is charged with 'serious crimes against the people of Earth' and have refused to elaborate on where he's being held."

"Oh shit." Linna muttered. Somebody was playing with fire.