Duck sighed. It had been a very long day. It had taken far too long to pick up Gypsy’s trail. Backtracking through the city to try and track their progress had proven futile. It had taken several guesses and too many false trails to even get close to the man. It didn’t help that he was avoiding the city’s computer systems. Sometimes the man was too cagy for his own good.
There was a period of five minutes where Duck had actually gotten him on tape, but the trail had dried up all too quickly. At least there had been no more black IC, and no more people intent on hunting Duck down. Not that they’d find anything. This time Duck was ready, and wasn’t trying to learn about them.
This time, Duck was playing for keeps and the IC systems online were more than capable of making short work of the opposition, especially if they were using the arsenal of military libraries. For a very long time, it was the only positive thing going. Finally there was a tracer signal: Gypsy and Persephone were in trouble.
When Duck finally found them, it was almost too late to do anything. Duck took a deep breath and dove into the defense systems of the border guard unit praying for enough time to make a difference.
On the bright side it seemed that the opposition hadn’t found them yet, but Duck knew that was about to change. Everything inside the decker wanted to scream at them to pull back, but Gypsy was running on radio silence now, and Duck knew that contacting him would only give away his position.
Instead, Duck concentrated on cracking the guidance systems and information relays used by the French border patrols. Knowing Gypsy, that was where the decker’s skills would be the most useful.
‘Be careful old man,’ the decker thought as the node came into sight. ‘You’re going to need it.’
The entire mission had been nothing but trouble and now security was closing in on them. Gypsy wasn't sure how he knew, he just knew.
Three hours of running, another four of hiding had done nothing to allay the sinking feeling that was building up inside him. They’d been set up, that was bad enough. They’d also been used to track down their decker, and that made it personal. The whole mission had been an exercise in betrayal.
Their enemies knew them too well; knew that he would call in The Duck; knew that The Duck would comply. He chided himself softly: he should have known.
"We're going to have to move," Persephone told him. "And soon."
"Tak," Gypsy answered without thinking.
Persephone bit her lip. 'Tak.' Gypsy's answer had been in Polish, that meant he was thinking, and that usually meant he was getting ready to do something even crazier than what they'd done so far.
Sometimes she wondered if he was crazy like a fox, or just plain crazy. It really didn’t matter though, it was his unpredictability that had protected them this far; she hoped there was enough of it to see them through.
In the end, the question of sanity didn't really matter: it was an insane world they were playing in and if she wanted to survive, her only option was to follow his lead. The man had been in and out of more trouble then anyone she'd ever met. If there was a way out of this, Gypsy would find it. When he smiled at her, she knew she was just as crazy as he was for following him.
"I know I'm going to regret this," she told him. "What are you planning?"
"Nothing fancy I'm afraid," he answered with a sigh. "I'm afraid these tired old bones aren't up for much more of this..."
Persephone looked at him.
"Tell it to someone who'd believe you," she said. "Now, what's the plan."
We set up a decoy car... to follow us," he answered evenly.
"The decoy will be following us..." she repeated as something began to tell her she really didn't want to know.
"We're going to crash the blockade," Gypsy added.
"And exactly what are you hoping to get out of this?"
"I am hoping that they will shoot the Decoy car, figuring that we are the decoy car and it is us."
"And if they don't?" she asked worriedly.
"Pray to God they're lousy shots."
"Thank you for that stroke of confidence," Persephone countered.
"Hopefully The Duck will be on our side," he assured her.
"Provided he's all right, provided he can find you and figure out what you're up to," she answered in a droll tone. "I think I'll opt for praying for sniper school rejects."
Gypsy gave her a sidelong glance and smiled. Sometimes the woman sounded too much like him for her own good.
“We need a car,” Persephone stated evenly.
“Tak,” he agreed. “A car and a lot of luck.”
Gypsy was getting irritated. Each time he thought his luck couldn’t get any worse, it did. They found a series of cars parked far enough away from police patrols that they could take a closer look, but none of them were rigged. Worse, the last car on the lot was equipped with an overly sensitive alarm system. Passing three feet in front of the car had triggered the alarm.
Worse still, the owner of the car seemed to be just waiting for trouble. As he scanned the area to see if anybody had heard the racket, a shotgun blast nearly parted his hair. Even worse, the alarm and the gunfire drew the immediate attention of the police.
“Blac!” Gypsy swore.
Persephone had given up on stealth, it wasn’t working. She grabbed a brick and smashed the window of the offending car, ducking as the owner let loose with the other barrel. As he reloaded she was already opening the doors and hot-wiring the car.
“Get in!” she yelled at Gypsy as the engine flared to life.
“So much for a quiet exit,” Gypsy muttered as he slipped into the car next to her. As he closed the door he was pushed against the seat as Persephone pushed the car to its limits.
“We’re going to need to lose them,” she stated as Gypsy eyed her nervously. “Hold on!”
Duck swore as the automated filters picked up and relayed the police reports. Gypsy and Persephone were in serious trouble. They were headed for the border in a stolen car and the police were in pursuit.
Duck activated routine after routine in the hopes of bogging down the police dispatch system. As the routines demanded more and more resources from their computer, the transmissions slowed down. It wouldn’t do anything for those already involved in the chase, but it made adding more officers to the chase difficult.
Things were not good, and they seemed to be getting worse. They were too far away for Duck to take control of either of the vehicles they had been using. Suddenly Duck realized that stealth was no longer a concern.
Activating the communications system Duck started sending directions to Persephone. It was going to take some serious timing, but it at least gave them a chance.
Persephone almost jumped when the familiar mechanical voice sounded over the radio. “Head straight, three streets down turn left, follow it across the bridge,” the voice told her.
She gave a worried glance to Gypsy who nodded. It was the only choice they really had. Praying it was really Duck, she gunned the engine and headed for the bridge.
Duck slipped into the city’s traffic system. The key was keeping Gypsy and Persephone from getting caught and hurting as few people as possible in the process. That meant making traffic tie ups preferable without serious accidents.
With the flick of a finger, Duck added ghost reports to the actual police calls. Soon the police weren’t sure what was happening where.
As the car with Gypsy and Persephone neared the bridge, Duck took control of the system, sending it the warning signal. As far as the computer was concerned, a large ship was coming into harbor.
Gypsy tensed when he realized exactly what Duck had in store for them. “Ja pierdole!” he swore.
Persephone stared at him a minute as the car picked up speed. Something told her she really didn’t want to know. As she cleared the corner she understood and started swearing. The lights on the drawbridge were flashing: something was coming through.
Reflexively she took her foot off the gas, only to have Gypsy slide his foot over and step on it. “Do it,” he told her as she floored the accelerator.
As the car picked up speed, the center pieces of the bridge started to separate. It felt like something out of an action movie, but there was no director, no stunt men, no special effects. This was real, and any mistake would be the last.
As the car went airborne, Persephone screamed.
Duck took a deep breath and held it as the car sailed between the bridge expansions. The computer fed the projected results of the leap a second before the car landed safely on the other side; only then did Duck start breathing again.
Checking the computer systems Duck verified that the police still had no clue as to what was happening. The overload still held and would until somebody gave up and shut the whole thing down and brought it back up, but even that would take at least 15 minutes.
“Systems are confused, get moving,” Duck urged into the comm system.
Gypsy gasped for air as the impact bounced him into the roof of the car. “I think we are safe for now,” he stated as Duck’s message was routed through the comm-link.
“I think I’m going to hug him, then kill him,” Persephone swore as she jockeyed the car around the crossing gate.
“We will need a new vehicle,” Gypsy stated evenly as he once again took control of the situation. “Perhaps it would be best to bring my car back into play.”
“Do it soon,” she urged. “We’re running out of darkness.”
Gypsy nodded. He was all too aware of the time constraints. “Pull over here,” he told her, pointing towards an unlit side street.
As the car slowed he scanned the area cautiously. “There are occupants, but they seem to be busy at the moment,” he warned Persephone.
“How far is your car?” she asked as she shut the lights off.
“I can have it here in ten minutes,” he told her. “But our best bet is going to be to ditch this car here, and move out on foot.”
She nodded as she pulled her gun from the shoulder holster and eased it into her pocket. “Let’s go then.”
It took them fifteen minutes to reach the area where the modified rental waited for them. As they approached the car, another car’s headlights came up, flooding the area with light. Shielding his eyes, Gypsy swore.
“Get in,” he growled at Persephone. He drew his gun and fired at the approaching vehicle.
The passenger started to return fire as he heard the driver’s door slam shut on the rental. ‘Yala is in position,’ he told himself. ‘It is time to leave.’
He fired three more shots then he heard Persephone yell for him to get in. He needed no second call. Diving through the open door, Gypsy held on for dear life as she fed the machine all the gas it could take.
He held on tightly as the car’s acceleration closed the door behind him. He was trying to strap in by the time she sent the car careening around the corner.
As he settled in, she hit the accelerator. Now their only hope was a run for the border.
“The worst will be over with soon,” he told Persephone, as the first shot from the pursuing car impacted with their car. “I do not think I will be getting the deposit back on this one,” he grumbled.
In spite of herself Persephone laughed. “As long as you’re keeping things in perspective,” she answered.
She cursed as she swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The car fishtailed, offering their pursuers too broad a target to miss. She mouthed a quick prayer as she pulled the car back under control and rounded the corner.
The turn would bring them into full view of the border guard and the waiting arsenal. She looked at Gypsy as they caught their first glance of the waiting army. Army was the right word. It was as if the nation’s entire guard had been there for their annual pictures.
Gypsy gasped as the guard’s weapons registered a lock on their car. His expression said it all. This was not how things were supposed to happen. He gave ‘Yala’ a worried look as she prepared her counter measures. They were too close, at their current range, they wouldn’t be effective.
“Get ready to bail,” she ordered.
“Won’t do us any good,” Gypsy answered shaking his head. “They’ve got too much fire power.”
She nodded as she hit the accelerator, Gypsy was right, there were seriously outgunned, but there was nothing else they could do. Persephone concentrated on the blockade mentally calculating the weakest point and aimed the car for it. She could almost see the guards as their fingers tightened on their triggers.
“Counter measures primed for targeting device,” she stated automatically. As she activated them, the guards let lose a barrage of gunfire. The counter measures were ignored as the bullets hit their target and the pre-dawn sky was lit up by the explosion.
Persephone almost screamed in frustration as the weapons found their mark. Screamed until she realized the explosion was behind them. The pursuing car burst into flames as the explosive rounds did their work.
“Push it kids, they’re resetting the system now, and I don’t think I can take control soon enough,” the familiar mechanical voice sounded over their comm system. Duck had come through.
That was all the incentive she needed. Persephone floored the gas and hunkered low behind the steering wheel. The big guns were out, but there was still the small handguns to contend with.
“The more advance the technology, the more there is to go wrong,” Duck quipped. “Gotta go,” the voice added abruptly. “They’re looking for me again!”
Persephone gave Gypsy a devil-may-care grin and hit the barricade at full speed.
Considering the firepower they were up against, they did rather well. Most of the guards were too busy getting out of their way to fire at the speeding car, but a few did. One lucky shot creased Gypsy’s shoulder, and another his scalp. Persephone on the other hand managed to wrench her ankle and hit her head when the car impacted with a parked car. Still they’d managed to get through and cross into neutral territory. It wasn’t the most subtle of escapes, but at least they’d made it. They were safe from official action, but there was still covert operations to worry about.
Gypsy let out a relieved sigh. They were banged up, but they were still alive. “I think, I will handle the travel arrangements from now on,” he sighed as he looked over at ‘Yala.
Persephone merely nodded her head and smiled. If there was a leak in security, the last thing she wanted was an Agency arranged trip. She knew that Gypsy’s arrangements would be interesting to say the least, but no matter how far afield it would take them, at least they would make it home in on piece.
“And the Duck?” she asked.
“He will most likely try and find out what is going on,” Gypsy stated. “He is a wily one, our Duck.”
Duck was not amused. Now that Gypsy and Persephone where out of France another campaign had begun: finding the people responsible for compromising their security. It was time to set up a few traps and see who bit.
Reports from SillyWizard indicated that Gypsy and Persephone where not the first agents sent after the box, and they were not the first agents to be crossed. The fact that somebody was tracking the deckers through the system only made things that much more interesting. ‘Almost like they’re trying to test us,’ the decker thought.
There were too many unknowns in this situation. Trying to find the source of the trouble was made even more difficult by the fact that nobody knew what was in the box. Nobody alive at any rate. Duck sent one cryptic message to Black Cat, the team’s resident mage. Maybe she could find the missing link there. Duck doubted it, but it always paid to keep your options open.
Reviewing the images collected, Duck realized that there was nothing to sort them by, nothing to bring them all together. It was time to assail the Agency itself.
Somebody in the system had to know something, and Duck was in no mood for waiting around. ‘Like a sitting duck,’ the decker added mentally.
“We lost them, sir,” the technician stated.
“I don’t know quite yet, but it looks like we’ve found the decker we’re looking for.”
“Very good,” the General answered. “Tag him and we’ll have the others bag him.”
“It’s not that easy sir,” the technician answered. “We’ve identified the decker as Voodoo’s decker, Duck, but...”
The General glared at the man as his sentence trailed off. “Talk to me Rogers.”
“His file’s been heavily encrypted,” the technician began. “Plus it was tagged and trapped.”
“Tagged and trapped?”
“We don’t maintain those files,” the technician explained. “Those files are maintained by the Service branch. Seems the Duck has designer’s rights.”
“You got in didn’t you?”
“Yes sir, it took some time, but when I ran his SIN through the computers...” his voice trailed off. It had taken him almost 9 hours to slip through and access the file, gather the required information, but when he’d run the final tracing routines on the man, nothing had fit together.
“According to what I got, The Duck doesn’t exist. George Oliver Ficshe, the name on file ... No such person exists.”
The General thought for a moment then growled. “Find this Duck, he’s the one we want.”
“Come again sir?”
“Think about it, George Oliver Ficshe. G.O. Ficshe... Go fish...,” He explained. “We’ve got a comedian on our hands. But, from what you’ve shown me, this one is imaginative enough that they may be just what we’re looking for. Continue studying him, let me know when you find him.
The technician nodded, wondering once again why he had volunteered for this mission.