Specs and Razor Inc. [Explicit] - Chapter 1 of the Cyberpunk Anthology

Updated: 5 days ago

[Reader Discretion Advised: Contains explicit language, references to sexual assault, and violence]


Angeldown was not a city for tourists. Not even a city for business. It was a spider web–silky strands stretched across a beachside waterfront by the rich. The web was now full of struggling flies trapped on sticky fibers, awaiting an unjust and untimely death by one spider or another.


Maybe a psycho neighbor catching you in the apartment hallway, a drugged-out street thug putting a knife in your back for initiation, a stray bullet from warring gangs, black-market bioriggers costing you your savings and a limb, or a corrupt Enforcement Co. badge framing a passerby for a crime they didn’t commit–all ways to be given a quick ticket to meet the Maker.


There was no meaning to the word security in Angeldown. The city lived on edge, watching, waiting, preparing for the moment a fist needed to be thrown or a gun fired in self-defense.


The outer world stayed clear of Angeldown, something Specs Boussard and Razor Jayde desperately wanted to change. So, in their first effort to impact the city, they rented a small office in the Halo Ward, a dilapidated area of tall office buildings along the coastline. Most of the buildings were occupied unofficially by the homeless and junkies, so when the property manager got a call that someone was willing to pay for their space, they nearly cried with Specs on the phone.

Within the day, Specs and Razor were climbing the stairs to their 10th floor office facing the horizon. On the way, they walked over a few people slumped against door frames with jacks hanging from arm veins and neck veins. A few doors slammed as they walked by, most likely homeless squatters trying to barricade themselves into their space in case the landlord was here. Nothing they didn’t expect.


When they finally reached the 10th floor, the number of human interactions dwindled to zero. At the end of the hall was their new office. The door to their new base of operations was barely attached to the hinges. In the center of the door was a frosted glass pane with thin cracks running from the middle out to the corners. As they stepped inside, thankfully the office was empty of any unwanted inhabitants. However, it stank. Bad. Not like a dead body smell, but the smell of abandonment. Two torn couches caked in dust, one desk with a broken leg missing one of three drawers, and a single overhead light fixture hung from the ceiling.


The place was perfect. Like the essence of Angeldown captured in a room. There weren't a lot of credits between Specs and Razor to rush out for new furniture or scent masking spray, and that made the space all the better. Like working in a metaphor for their mission: make change, little by little.


With what little credits they had left in their accounts, they put out a smattering of business ads on the net offering their services. Using an image manipulation program, Specs took pictures of he and Razor in strong poses and merged them together and added their tagline at the bottom: “Specs and Razor Inc. Freelancers for a better Angeldown.”


Wasn’t the perfect ad campaign, but it would do to hopefully snag a client or two. But, for a good three weeks, Specs and Razor sat in their musty office practicing hacking and combat techniques as they waited for their first call.


Then, Specs got a buzz.


Normally, to trace a call and grab crumbs of data from a contact took Specs seconds. The tracking was easy. What took some practice with Razor as his test dummy was keeping the conversation flowing so the caller remained unsuspecting. It took a few months of practice, but now he was an artist of espionage and banter.


This time, though, he couldn’t find anything. Not just no data, but no threads to pull on either. Whoever he was talking to, they were a better hacker by decades. In an automated text to voice tone, the caller relayed a simple message:


Last night my Eleva8or T9 was stolen from a secure parking lot located under my apartment complex by a Banshee gang member. Please find the car. Will forward credits upon return of the vehicle. Wait for second contact.


After that, the call went dead.


That was it. What apartment complex? Return it where? And how much was the job for? Specs relayed the details to Razor and they both agreed this was either a prank call or a job they didn’t want to get tangled with as their first gig. Apartment complex meant most likely a rich client, and an Eleva8or T9 was a nice ride. If Banshees were involved, they probably broke into the car and took it for a joyride around the area. Specs wagered it was sitting in a ditch somewhere, smashed beyond recognition. That was how the Banshees rolled.

After only a day, the apparent second contact came in. This time, as if the caller had heard all their apprehensions, they relayed a few more details:


If the vehicle is found, return to the rightful owner. Use any means necessary during the process of the job. 100,000 credits will be transferred upon completion. Will initiate third contact once job is completed.


Again, the call went dead. For a hundred thousand credits, they’d give it a shot. The following morning, Specs and Razor woke up in their office and headed out for some food before they would tackle their first ever gig as Specs and Razor Inc.


Just a few blocks from their office, Specs rifled through his coat pockets for a lingering credit or two for their pre-job street meat lunch at a local food cart. “I’m just saying,” he rambled at the cart owner, “my parents didn’t raise me to function in this version of Angeldown. They raised me for the one they knew, but that one blew up or got stabbed or thrown into the harbor with a cinder block around its ankles.” Specs traded the owner the credits he scrounged up for two overstuffed pita breads crammed full of lamb, onions, and something called B-Sauce.


“Doesn’t justify you two wanting to run across Angeldown chopping drug lords in half or frying the core processing mod of some pimp,” the owner said, tossing the credits in a jar tucked under a shelf on her side of the stand. She wiped her hands on her apron and crossed her arms. “We’ve got Enforcement Co. to handle all that. You boys should be studying for a career or getting a job or Hell, trying to find a way out of this place.”


“Force is something we only use when it’s necessary. Plus, we don’t want to leave and we already have a job,” Razor said.


“Yeah,” Specs followed with a mouthful of food. “Not a single person in Angeldown thinks Enforcement Co. does jack. You know the joke–only thing that would get you thrown in prison overnight is committing genocide. Anything short of that and they’ll just give you a finger wag and let you go.”


Becket folded her arms and sighed. “Oh, I know all about those Enforcement Co. good-for-nothings. Let me tell you the story about the time my register got stolen and what the unit I went to did.”


“You call your jar of smashed together credits a register?” Specs asked before licking the delicious B-sauce from his fingers. It was sweet and tangy, with just enough spice to make his nose run. He would be back often. Very often.


The owner sneered. “I went down to the Seaside Blvd branch on the corner,” she said, pointing to a now vacant building front in the direction of the Specs and Razor Inc office. Through the smashed windows, disconnected wires clearly dangled from the ceiling. Between that and the walls coated in gang graffiti, the space did not invite a feeling of safety. “Not there anymore. I heard their whole squad got a promotion.”


“Because they found your register?” Razor asked.


“More like they ran my info in the system and caught I hadn’t renewed my food sales license. I was five hours behind.”


“‘Cuz your jar got stolen,” Specs said, his mouth again full of food.


Becket nodded and pointed a finger. “Exactly. I was going to update the license after I closed that day–deal with the late fee or whatever. But, instead of helping me catch the crook, they wrote me a citation.”


“They were promoted to another branch for that?” Razor asked.


Becket sighed. “Not that, but lots of stuff like that. The Seaside Blvd squad had a reputation for turning reported crimes into opportunities to exploit the victim for minor citations.”


“Makes sense if you’re trained to be an opportunist jerkwad. Why go after the dangerous criminal when you can prosecute the petty misdemeanor of the harmless victim?” Specs said before wiping his hands on his pants.


The owner sighed and nodded. “Now that I think about it, you two raise all hell in this damn city. Fuck Enforcement Co.”


“Language,” Razor said, glaring.


“You were just telling me you’re fine using whatever force is necessary but a curse word rubs you the wrong way?” She laughed. “That makes no sense to me.”


“Sometimes pain is the only language evil understands,” Razor said.


“More importantly,” Specs started, dropping the pair of goggles perched on his forehead down to his eyes, “Angeldown needs a big change. That means dealing with people’s insides too. We don’t just want the bad guys dealt with, we want everyone to be at their best, not scraping by.”


“Holistic community improvement,” Razor said.


“So if I swear again, will you kill me?” The owner asked with a smirk.


“No, no, no,” Specs said, motioning to Razor to follow him. “At least, not until swearing moves to the top of the list for worst crime in the city. See you around Becket!”


Becket crossed her arms and huffed, watching Specs and Razor as they walked down the street. “What a fascinating pair of jackasses.” Then she cocked her head and furrowed her brow. “Hey!” She yelled, “I never told you my name!”


Off in the distance, Specs turned around and tapped the goggles on his forehead before turning back towards whatever awaited him and his partner on the job. A few seconds later, Becket laughed to herself as the duo disappeared around a corner street. Stay safe, boys, she thought, Angeldown is even more dangerous than you think.


“She seemed nice,” Razor said.


Specs smiled, “Very. But, from what I dug up, she’s got a bit of a history. Might be good if we keep our eyes on her. I’d be pissed if anything happened and she couldn’t keep blessing the city with her amazing street pitas.”

 

“Alright R-dog, what’s our first plan of action?” Specs let out a belch and wiped at the corners of his mouth. He noticed Razor still hadn’t taken a bite of his pita. “You gonna eat that? Otherwise it might get…nasty.”


Razor sniffed the pita before re-wrapping it in its foil covering. He shrugged, “It might come in handy later.”


Specs crossed his arms, “So you’re just going to hang onto a street meat sandwich as we skulk around for a missing ride?”


Razor nodded.


“Hey, live your life man,” Specs said with a laugh before turning back up the street. “I think we should check out the area around the parking structure. Maybe see if we can make our way inside.”


“Probably high security–will be tough to get in.”


“Any ideas?”


“Break in?”


Specs put a contemplative hand to his chin, “Could work, but this could be a good branding decision. If we turn Angeldown around, we could get slapped back for any cases we handle with equally shady tactics.”


Razor nodded, “So by the book?”


Specs tossed his hands in the air, “I guess so. At least as much as possible. Let’s catch a ride to the complex.”


“I thought you weren’t able to pick up an address from the call?”


Specs smirked, “True. But, how many gated apartment complexes are there in AD?”


Razor thought for a moment. “Three at the most.”


“How many do you think are near a well-known hotbed of Banshee activity?”


“Just one I can think of,” Razor said.


Specs tapped a taxi request into his datapad, “So, we chat up the Enforcement Co. goons at the complex, see if the dimwits let any details slip and we’ll be on to step two. Whatever that ends up being.”


Within the minute, a dilapidated taxi with worn neon blue paint screeched to a sudden halt in front of them on the curb. The driver rolled down the window. An older man with a white beard and bald head covered in time-worn black tattoos motioned at them through a half-rolled down window.


“Where you headed, chips?” The man shouted, his voice thick and raspy–most likely from decades of smoking and other substances.


“Mid Center, the swanky apartment complex,” Specs answered, moving his goggles to his forehead.


The driver laughed, “You chips looking to rent or something? Don’t hear this wrong, but you both strike me as the low tier slum type.”


“Har har cabbie,” Specs said with a sideways look, “And your ride looks like the trash wagon of a Badger wannabe.”


Tar-stained teeth peeked through the grin that spread across the driver’s face. “Well, aren’t you chips a riot. Mid Center it is. Hop in.”


Specs and Razor boarded the flier and jetted off down the street. As the taxi left their side of town, Specs stared out the window and watched the transition from worn-down buildings, to middle class businesses, to high class mansions for the ultra rich–at least by Angeldown standards. When he was a kid traveling through these parts of town to visit what the upper class called “the Slum side,” his parents talked about the history of the city and why there was such a divide between those at the top and those at the bottom.


As real estate brokers, they did their best to serve their clients where they were at. They never hesitated to over-charge the ultra rich and they wouldn’t dream of charging the ultra poor a credit for their services. They told Specs that back in the mid centuries of Angeldown, a separation mindset began to fester in the upper classes. In any way they could, the top tier earners ran those struggling out of their vicinity.


Often, this was done by purchasing swaths of buildings owned by lower class citizens and either destroying them outright, hiking up the rent so it was unpayable for the current tenants, or transforming the space into a business center. For those above the poverty line, this strategy was welcomed with open arms. For people below the line and for people with a heart, like Specs’ parents, this tactic made them not just sick inside, but angry. Furious even.


So, they got into the bizz and tried to overturn the system. Decades and hundreds of thousands of credits invested into changing what they believed was a terrible way of treating others, especially those in need. But, now they were old, out of energy, and no longer willing to wait for a return on their investment. They lived a few sectors away from Angeldown now, enjoying some well deserved rest. Specs didn’t blame them for giving up. They had tried. Really, really tried. He just hoped that now he and Razor could keep their momentum going, even if through a different means of impact.


“How’d you know I wouldn’t blast your muzzle after a Badger comment like that?” The driver asked, eyeing Specs in his center rearview mirror.


Visions of the past dissipated and Specs returned to the present. He continued to stare out the window at the grimy buildings now far in the distance that made up the jagged-tooth skyline of South Central Angeldown. “Easy, only Badgers use the word chips. That and the head tattoos. Classic Badger pattern. From the coverage, it looks like you put quite a few ‘chips’ six feet under. Took the chance you had a sense of humor.”


The driver smirked and reached for his dashboard. Razor slowly pressed his thumb against the scabbard and wrist guard of his Rvrb 45 katana. With the faint grind of steel against steel, the blade slid up.


The driver laughed. “Just grabbing a joint, chip,” he said, pulling a small carton from between a thick-gauged revolver, vehicle registration, and, what Specs knew Badgers called a pack of “child catchers.” He popped up a neon green cigarette from the carton and placed it between his lips before reaching the box back to Specs. “Want one?”


“Not my thing,” Specs said without looking at the box.


The driver moved them in Razor’s direction. “How ‘bout you, jumpy?”


“Intoxicants are for the weak minded,” Razor said, pressing his katana closed.


The driver snorted and flicked the tip of his index finger back, revealing a bright blue flame. Within seconds, the ride stank of mass produced marijuana with a faint artificial mint smell. “So what awaits you in Central?”


Razor looked at Specs who was still lost in thought. “Business,” he said.


“I’d call myself a businessman. What kind of business?”


Specs flipped his goggles down and waited a few seconds before turning forward towards the empty front seat. “Well Marco, someone’s car went missing and we are being contracted to find it.”


Marco’s eyes betrayed his fake machismo grin. “Some nice glasses you got there, chip. Running the database on just a glance–that’s some high grade shit.”


“You wouldn’t know anything about a missing Eleva8or T9?” Specs asked, observing the defense protocols underneath Marco’s synthetic skin wir to life. “Relax, jumpy,” Specs said as he climbed into the front seat of the vehicle. His feet awkwardly scuffed the ceiling as he barreled around, trying to avoid kicking Marco’s cigarette out of his mouth.


Marco leaned to the driver's side door as Specs' black boots nearly clipped his cheek, despite the young man's effort. “Expensive ride. Not my type, though,” Marco said, pulling the cigarette from his mouth and letting out a thick blanket of smoke in Specs’ direction.


Specs waved his hands around his face before letting out an exaggerated cough. “How easy is it to get a second hand high from that garbage?”


Marco laughed, “I’ll be lucky if it gets me high.” He pointed a chrome finger at Specs, while shaking his head. “Listen chip, I don’t know if you’ve got nothing to lose or if you’ve got more than a few screws loose, but you need to ease off on the antics.”


Razor leaned forward towards the front seat, “It’s how he works.”


“Yeah,” Specs followed, “Maybe I just know exactly what I’m doing.”


Marco took another drag of his joint and held the smoke in his mouth for a brief moment before exhaling heavily. “Work how you want, but let an old gang banger assure you that not everyone will appreciate how you do things.”


Specs folded his arms, “What’s your suggestion, then?”


“You’ve got awareness, chip, that’s for damn sure. But you’re cocky. Three years ago, I would have put a bullet through your skull for even attempting to climb in the front seat.”


“Not anymore though, since Cherry was born,” Specs said coolly.


Marco scratched his eyebrow with the hand still holding the joint, “Damn it, chip, that’s what I’m talking about.”


Specs smiled, “Relax. I’m just saying that maybe I climbed up here because I knew you wouldn’t do anything.”


Marco shook his head, “Whatever, chip. We’re almost at the complex.”


“So you’re done talking?” Specs asked.


Nothing from Marco except a smirk followed by a long draw and another puff of smoke. As Marco had said, they were right around the corner from a giant sixty-five floor apartment complex. This was a place where the god-like company owners lived.


A large silver gate separated the complex from the public street. At the gate entrance was an Enforcement Co. security shack. Through the tinted window, it looked like it was manned by a single Guard. The roadway past the shack sloped downward into an underground parking lot that looked to extend about a hundred yards from the front entrance to the building. With smooth breaking, Marco slowed the car down and parked it on the other side of the street from the front entrance.


Marco tapped on a keypad that appeared on his cybernetic forearm. “Ride will cost you a hundred credits. What’s your ID code?”


Specs motioned to Razor who pulled some credits from the front pocket of his jacket.


Razor held out the credits to Marco. “Here’s two hundred.”


Marco looked between both of his passengers and stared blankly at Razor. “Who the hell are you chips?”


Specs grabbed the credits from Razor and stuffed them in the empty cup holder by the taxi’s shifting stick. “Just two guys wanting to make Angeldown the best city there is.” Specs and Razor climbed out of the car and started away. A few paces from the flier, they heard the rolling down of the flier’s window.


“I don’t owe favors,” Marco called out, the window fully down this time.


Specs walked back to the car and leaned on the open window. “You’re right, you don’t. But Angeldown does. Going straight in this place isn’t for the faint of heart. Consider the extra an investment from us in your future. And Cherry’s.”


Marco stared at Specs, eyes frozen on his authentic posture. This wasn’t a ploy, this was real talk. He tapped his temple, dropping thick black sun shades from his eyebrows. “Appreciate it,” he said flatly as the window rolled up. With that, the taxi floated up and peeled off down the road.


Specs walked back to join Razor. Razor tucked his hands in his jacket pocket and began walking toward the apartment gate.


“What did he say?” Razor asked.


“Nothing,” Specs said as they arrived at the tall entrance. “So, how do you think we get in?”


Razor looked left to right. “Looks monitored by a lot of remote systems. They’ve probably got eyes on us right now. One guard in the shack–that’s a little surprising. Usually they have a sizable crew up front to deter anyone walking the street from even dreaming of breaking in.”


Specs scratched his short scruffy beard. “They’ve got an intercom system. I think I have an idea, but you’ll need to take point on communication. How do you feel about that?”


Razor frowned, “I hate it.”


“Come on man, it’s good for you. If we’re going to be a two man operation for a while, that means we need to get comfortable doing each other’s jobs.”


“So you’ll learn how to swing a sword?” Razor asked.


“Oh no, no. I’ll learn to fire a gun though.”


Razor smirked and shook his head. “Fine. What should I say?”


Specs shrugged, “Be honest. Say we’re here to investigate and ask if we can come in.”

Razor skeptically side-eyed Specs. “That sounds like a really stupid idea.”


“Honesty is always the best policy,” Specs assured him.

They arrived at the intercom mounted to the gate. A large camera lens peared out at them. Underneath was a blank screen without any light. Specs inspected the sides of the box, hoping there was a maintenance jack he could exploit. Luckily, there was–a port poorly hidden on the right side.


Specs moved to the right of the box and leaned against the gate. “Alright R-dog, I’ve got a port here, so clean access for me. It’ll take me a second though.”


Razor tried to shake the anxiety off through his arms. After a few deep breaths, he clenched his fists slowly in front of him and then relaxed. “Do I look presentable?”


“Like you belong here,” Specs said, prodding at the port cover.


Razor shook his head and stood in front of the camera. “Marco had a point, you know.”


Specs pulled a cord from his goggles and plugged it into the now exposed jack. For a few seconds, he stared off into the sky, watching as lines of code and images flew across the lenses. “Sorry, what about Marco?” He asked absentmindedly.


“Maybe you should be more careful,” Razor offered. “We’re a city with an edge–an edge that doesn’t hold back.”


“Yeah, I got his drift and I’m getting yours too. I don’t think either of you are wrong, but how are things going to change if everyone’s afraid of their neighbor, you know?”


Razor shrugged, “True. Let’s just be a little more careful. At least until we have some street cred.” He tapped the screen and folded his arms across his front.


“No promises,” Specs said.


“Yeah?” A staticky voice interjected.


“Hi, uh, hello. Um, my, my name is Razor.”


Specs shot Razor a thumbs up as he continued to look off into space.


“And?” The voice said, irritation clear through the static.


“And, I, um, I’m working on an investigation for a client. Can I come in?”


Specs waved furiously. “We!” He whispered loudly.


“Oh, sorry. We. Can we come in?”


“Who is we?” The voice asked.


“Me and my co-worker.”


“So you and you’re co-worker are here to investigate–what?”


Razor coughed into his hand and looked at Specs. Specs shrugged.


“Um…a missing vehicle. An Eleva8or T9. We were hired anonymously.”


“Uh-huh. That’s convenient. Listen, you and your co-worker need to leave now or I will dispatch our security bots to make you leave. Understood?”


Razor wiped his forehead, “Uh…”


Specs pumped his fist. “I’m in!” He whispered. “Hanley Conners, female, been working since…oof, she’s been on a shift since late last night.”


“Uh, Ms. Conners, we realize it’s, um, you’ve been working for a while, and uh…”


Specs spun his hands, signaling for Razor to keep going. Then, he remembered Razor’s uneaten street meat pita. “She might be hungry! The pita!” He whispered again.


“And uh, we have food. Do you want it?”


Silence on the other end. Specs tapped the side of his goggles followed by a few swiping motions. “I found the camera feed inside her station. Looks like she’s…thinking. I think.”


“What do you have?” Hanley asked through the comm.


“A meat pita from a food cart on our side of town, Becket’s.”


“Never heard of it. Is it good?”


Specs nodded furiously.


“Uh, very. It’s uh, very very good.”


More silence, then a loud sigh through the intercom. “Give me a sec.”

Specs lifted his goggles onto his head. “Nicely done, sir! You’re a natural.”

“I still hate this,” Razor said, trailing off.


They noticed the door to the security shack open and a thin woman dressed in a stylized Enforcement Co. get-up exited. From a distance, she looked to be a few heads shorter than both Specs and Razor, but as she approached, they were both taken aback by her height and athletic build. Most Enforcement Co. employees were less than intimidating–comical even. The only part of their appearance that made them worth respecting was the authority linked with their uniform. Hanley, however, did not look like the kind of officer to mess with. She approached the gate bars and reached a hand through.


“Pita,” she said.


Specs stepped away from the gate wall and approached her open hand with his own. “Hanley! Great to meet you, I’m…”


In a flash, Hanley stepped to the side slightly before firmly grabbing Specs’ forearm and yanking him hard through the bars. He let out a shout of pain as his face collided with the bars and Hanley twisted his arm around, forcing him to contort so as not to break his own arm. Razor drew his katana equally as fast and maneuvered the blade through the bars to rest flat against Hanley’s throat. For a moment, everyone stood motionless.


Effortlessly, Hanley offered her free hand to Razor. “The pita.”


With the blade held steady, Razor slowly reached into the large bulging pocket of his jacket and pulled out the foil wrapped meal. It still felt warm. He placed it in her hand and watched as Hanley closed her eyes and took in a deep whiff of the savory smelling meal. She threw Specs back and stepped to the side away from Razor’s sword. Like someone rescued from a lost island, Hanley ripped open the foil and began devouring Razor’s wisely saved lunch.


“Oh,” Hanley said groaning, “Oh this is so fucking good.”


“Hey, language please,” Specs said, massaging his forearm.


Hanley glared at him between chews. In the blink of an eye, the pita was gone. B-sauce all over her hands, Hanley stood chewing her last bite. With her hands held away from her uniform, Hanley motioned with her head. “You come straight to the shack, clear?”


Both Specs and Razor nodded. Hanley walked back to the shack and in a matter of seconds, the gate opened.


Specs slapped Razor on the back, “Well, that went really, really well.”


Razor smirked and pushed Specs as they walked up to the shack.


The pair walked in on Hanley wiping her hands clean with a wet rag. Inside the shack was sparse. One whole wall was taken up with large camera monitors, all watching the exterior of the complex. A small desk was tucked in the corner, covered in scrap paper with scribbled drawings. The lighting was dim and the black tinted windows made the bank of black and white monitors an ugly primary light source. Hanley crumpled the rag into a ball and tossed it into a corner behind the desk and took what was presumably her seat, putting her sleek black boots on the desk. She motioned at Specs and Razor to join her, but there were no chairs, so they stood.


“So, you two clowns say you’re here on a job?” Hanley asked.


Specs looked around the room and frowned, “Do you like working this gig?”


Hanley shrugged, “Good pay for easy work. The hours are terrible but like I said, the credits make up for it.”


“Interesting,” Specs said, crossing his arms, “I thought Enforcement Co. was notorious for underpaying.”


Hanley nodded, “At your average branch, yes. But I get a bonus working for the complex. Rich people like their safety.”


Specs nodded and cleared a small spot for himself on the corner of her desk. Razor crossed his arms and leaned against a near wall.


“Very true, which is why we were contacted. Apparently, someone doesn’t feel too safe.”


Hanley dropped her feet off the desk and rested on her arms, staring at Specs. “That sounds like a critique of my work.”


Specs smirked. “Not at all. You do a fine job, I’m sure,” he said, massaging his shoulder. “We actually wanted to see if you’ve noticed anything suspicious in the last week–specifically any Banshee activity.”


Hanley sat back and crossed her arms, “I’ve definitely put a few of those punk kids in the hospital, but not recently.”


“And this is the only way into the complex?” Specs asked, genuinely puzzled.


Hanley nodded. “I’ve got eyes on the whole exterior, so if I saw as much as a cat scurry the fence line I would know it. There has been absolutely nothing going on in the last week. Believe me.”

“Mind if I check out the old streams?” Razor asked.


Hanley motioned to the bank of screens. “I trust you know how to manage a basic system like that?”


Razor nodded and walked up to the screens and began rifling through different camera footage. From what he understood, Banshees were pretty straightforward pests–not a lot of sneaking around. If they showed up anywhere, everyone in the area knew. As he scrubbed through the days of footage, Hanley had been right. There was nothing. Not even a shadow.


“We’re after a lead on an Elev8tor T9. Went missing a few days ago,” Specs said, dropping his goggles.


Hanley tilted her head, “A T9? You’re sure?”


Specs nodded, tapping and swiping at the side of his headset. “Like we said at the start, our contact was anonymous, so we don’t have a lot of details. At this point, we think the owner gave us what they could. The call we received was masked though, so we couldn’t trace it.”


“Not even the address to this place?” Hanley asked in surprise.


Specs nodded, “Honestly, we’re here from a little deduction and a lucky first guess.”


Hanley smiled, “So what are you guys, exactly?”


Specs paused his data research for a moment and returned the smile, “Impressed or something?”


“I’m not that easy to impress,” Hanley said, clasping her hands together.


Specs shrugged, “Regardless, we’re a budding freelance agency.”


“Freelance what?” She asked.


“Oh, you know, stuff,” Specs said, continuing to sift through the barrage of intel he was conjuring .


“Well, you freelancers may be interested to know that there is only one T9 registered to this entire complex.”


Specs waved his hand at her dismissively, “Not a surprise. Easily stolen car in an area close by a Banshee hub? I’m surprised there's one.”


“Hey Specs, you’ll want to see this,” Razor called over his shoulder.


Specs lifted his goggles and looked at Hanley who shrugged and pointed at the screen. He stood next to Razor and looked across the many screens, all set to a separate day from the last week. In every single shot, including today, the presumed stolen T9 was there. “That is interesting,” he mumbled to himself.


“That flier has been in and out of here all week,” Hanley said.


Specs stroked his chin and shook his head, “Weird. Anything strange stand out as you looked through all this?”


Razor shrugged. “Nothing. Any idea on what we do next?”


Specs let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know, R-dog. Maybe retrace our steps so far?” He turned back to Hanley and held out his hand. “Could I have a few pieces of paper?”


Hanley grabbed a stack of paper and handed it over with a black marker. Specs took the stack and sat on the ground in a huff against the wall.


“Alright. First we get the anonymous call saying the T9 is stolen. We head over here, meet our new friend Hanley, and discover the T9 is in fact not stolen. Now we’re stuck.”


Hanley laughed. “So we’re friends now?”


Specs ignored her retort and clutched the sides of his head. Nothing was going wrong, but nothing was going right. Maybe they had taken this job too quickly? Really, what idiot would accept a job without any leads? This royally sucked.


Razor glanced over at Specs and sighed. He knelt down in front of him. “Are you spiraling?”


“No, I’m not spiraling.”


“You’re spiraling.”


Specs grimaced, “Okay, I’m spiraling.”


Razor sat next to him against the wall and rested his arms on his knees. “It’s cool, just take a second.”


Specs sat still clutching his head and breathing heavily. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Razor remained still, his eyes closed.


Hanley stared over her desk at the two strangers that had walked through the front gate all of fifteen minutes ago. Within such a short time, she felt her full self. It was the first time she could think of being in Angeldown that her guard dropped. That scared her a little bit, but also offered her some comfort. How long had it been since she had verbally sparred with someone and it didn’t end in a street fight? These characters definitely were strange. Very strange. And she hated that inevitably they would be leaving. Finally the one with the goggles let out an exasperated groan and then spoke.


“I mean, who lies about a missing car that is so easily found?”


Razor tilted his head and wagged a finger. “You might be onto something. It’s one thing if we would have had a hard time figuring out the car was still here. But that was effortless. Think they were underestimating us?”


“Nah,” Specs said, rubbing his temples. “I could see that angle, but then why bring the Banshees into this? It fits the narrative and not much else.”


“Also, the caller never said they owned the car, did they?” Razor asked.


“You’re right!” Specs shouted, quickly standing to his feet and pacing. “I assumed the caller was the owner, but then why remain anonymous? I can easily run the plates to see who it belongs to.”


“Could be the caller was protecting themselves,” Hanley chimed in.


Specs and Razor both looked at her stunned.


“I mean, or something,” she quickly followed.


“No, no, that’s good. Let’s run with that,” Specs started. “We get a call from someone about a car of interest. Caller isn’t the owner and works overtime on the call to hide their tracks. For me to not get a single shred of intel, that means they are either a super genius or have access to even higher tech gear than I do.”


“Bit of a humble brag, huh?” Hanley said.


Specs brushed his shoulders and crossed his arms, “I’m not saying I’m THE best, but I am definitely on the top five list of Angeldown hackers. Just saying.”


“So what if the caller wanted us to actually find the car? Maybe there’s something sketchy going on?” Razor asked.


Specs walked back over to the wall of screens and pulled the license plate from the video. Goggles back on, he poured over ownership records, dealership records, and images associated with the vehicle in question. Finally something was going right–only one owner: Garret Paxton. “Hanley, ever interact with a Garret Paxton?”


For the first time, Hanley seemed nervous. “Paxton? Yeah, I’ve dealt with him.”


Specs cocked his head, “Dealt?”


Hanley began rearranging the papers on her desk and stacking them together. “Yep.”

“Can uh…you tell us anything about him?” Specs asked.


Hanley shook her head, “Just…don’t mess with him.”


Specs and Razor looked at each other. They needed to meet this Tyler Paxton and check out his car, but doing so without knowing anything about him would be the riskiest move so far. Specs approached Hanley with his hands folded.


“Please Hanley, what do you know?”


Hanley crossed her arms and looked away. “I’m not saying anything.”


“Specs.”


“What?”


“That’s my name. Specs. And that is Razor.”


Razor gave a short wave of his hand.


“Why does that matter?” Hanley asked.


“You didn’t let me finish introducing myself before you nearly took my arm off. Seems we’re civil now, maybe even friends.”


Hanley rolled her eyes. What a line. “Alright Specs, I’m sorry, but I’m not getting involved with this.”


Specs sighed and tucked his hands in his pockets. “I understand.”