The Equilibrium Files #6
"Sit down gentlemen, please.”
The four agents sat and waited for Mr Angellini’s next words. He was their boss at the Equilibrium Foundation and he had called them into his office as soon as they arrived.
"I’ll keep this brief. The incursions we have been experiencing seem to have calmed down of late. As a result you have not had a lot to do and that doesn’t sit well with our corporate benefactors. They have therefore asked that you take on more mundane tasks to justify their continued support.” He leaned forward and spoke into the intercom. "Miss Culpepper, will you show our visitors in, please?”
The door opened and in walked two people. The first, a female, was dressed smartly and carried a briefcase; every inch the business woman. Her male companion was wearing jeans, T-shirt and baseball shoes and he had an agitated air about him. Mr Angellini stood to greet them.
"May I introduce Karen Luditsky and Rick Ericson owners and founders of Digitech.”
"Yeah, you’re in the games business aren’t you?” said ‘Potty’.
"Maybe you can explain why you have come to us,” said Angellini.
"Sure,” Ericson leaned forward. "We believe that one of our workforce is about to jump ship and take with him some ground breaking research. It would put us ahead of our rivals considerably so we can’t afford to lose it.”
"How do you know?” asked Dreyfus.
"Rumours, coffee break banter, nothing concrete just speculation,” this from Ms Luditsky.
"We have three suspects. Here are their names. They all work in our research department and they are all very good at their jobs.”
‘Wheels’ took the list and the four agents scanned the names; Leon Ellis, Susan Thorn and Alex Bernstein.
"We’ll start our investigation and get back to you when we have something concrete to report,” Angellini said to Luditsky and Ericson. The two clients stood and left. Dreyfus stared idly out of the window, watching the street below. He saw Ericson and Luditsky leave the building. The latter got into her car and drove away. Ericson crossed the road and entered a café opposite. He met another man, a client probably. Dreyfus turned to the others, thinking no more of it.
"We’re gonna have to get Dennis in on this” he said, "It’ll take some heavy duty cyber surveillance to find out who the perp is.” He was referring to Dennis ‘Cyberchief’ Wade, Equilibrium’s decker and expert on all things matrix.
"Can you write a program which we can install on Ellis’ and the others’ computers so we can monitor their activity?”
"Easy,” said Dennis.
"Can you follow them in the matrix and suss out who they’re seeing or communicating with?”
"Sure thing, it could take a while but it can be done.”
"Get on with it and we’ll go and see what we can find out just by watching.”
Which turned out to be not a lot. They watched the three suspects but they didn’t deviate from their usual routines of turning up for work on time, going home, sleeping and getting up for work next day. Their free time was spent doing all the usual things everyone does such as relaxing, shopping or meeting up with friends. Pretty boring. Soon the agents got a call from Dennis letting them know he had the program ready.
"I’ll talk you through it if you’re having difficulty installing it, but it’s a straight forward process.”
They took the first name on the list, Leon Ellis, and set off to his home in their van. They arrived at Ellis’ apartment building mid-morning when they were sure he would be out. ‘Wheels’ and Father Jack waited in the vehicle while Dreyfus and ’Potty’, dressed as utility engineers, entered the building. They broke easily into Ellis’ apartment and followed Dennis’ instructions to install the surveillance program. There was a disconcerting moment as Dreyfus nearly made a mistake but he quickly recovered and the job was done. A quick search of the apartment revealed nothing and the two left, unseen. They repeated the operation at Bernstein’s and Thorn’s, returning to HQ to await events.
On getting back to HQ they consulted with Dennis as to his progress on matrix surveillance of the three suspects. He informed them that it was in hand and he hoped to have something to tell them within a couple of days. In the meantime, they decided to keep a ‘real life’ eye on Ellis and the others. There were no results from either the matrix or ‘real life’ for a few days but eventually a picture began to emerge. Dennis identified that Ellis had been seeing a representative of Matrix Technologies in a virtual club called ‘The Node’, a well known meeting point for cyber geeks. "I managed to trace the signal back to a Henry Turpin. Apparently he is a head hunter for Matrix Tech. I get the feeling someone will make a move soon.”
With this news from Dennis the four agents concentrated their surveillance efforts on Ellis. Before long it became apparent that he was preparing for something. One day, instead of going to work, he got into his car and headed for a different area the city. The boys got into ‘Wheels’’ sports car and they set off to follow. They had assistance from Dennis and an aerial drone which allowed them to hang back and follow from a distance. Without being seen they followed Ellis on a roundabout journey to wherever he was going and it was looking like a pretty easy ride. Ellis seemed to be heading for a lower-end residential area. Then a concerned Dennis spoke over the comm link "Something’s happening. You’d better hurry; another car just came from a side alley and rammed into Ellis. Looks like they’re gonna grab him.”
"Fasten your seat belts boys,” said ‘Wheels’ pressing his foot hard down on the accelerator "it’s getting interesting!”
Dennis continued feeding them information as his drone followed the car which Ellis’ kidnappers were using. Then, in a disappointed voice, he informed them that the car "has gone into an underground car park, damn.”
"Can you identify the building?” said Dreyfus.
"Yeah; but you’d better be careful. I see a guard on the roof and another on the roof of the building opposite. Not all the apartments are occupied. I’ll try and get you an idea of where they might have taken him.”
Within a few minutes the four agents were on their way. They left the car a couple of blocks away and headed for the building on foot so as to evade the guards on the roofs. They entered the car park beneath the apartment block and identified the car. Then, using the lift, they went to the fourth floor which was the most likely place to look according to Dennis’ researches. They carefully looked out of the lift and saw an armed man standing outside one of the apartments.
"Usual drill?” said Dreyfus, casting an invisibility spell. The others watched and then saw the guard collapse, as if from a heart attack or some other condition. A disembodied voice urged them forward. Dreyfus then quietly opened the apartment door and sure enough, there was Ellis tied to a chair, being interrogated by a heavy. Another man stood watching, a bored look on his face. The group burst in and quickly dealt with the opposition, ‘Wheels’ blowing away the first man and ‘Potty’ dealing with the other.
Ellis was in a bad way, but some magical healing from ‘Potty’ meant he was able to walk, at least. On the way out they heard footsteps coming from a stairwell. "The guard from the roof,” said Father Jack. "I’ll get him,” said the still invisible Dreyfus. Unseen, he crept towards the stairwell and drew his hand gun. As the guard opened the door Dreyfus recognised him as Ericson’s contact in the café opposite the office. "More to this than meets the eye” he thought to himself. Using his invisible state to his advantage Dreyfus managed to knock the guard to the ground by getting behind him. The others then leapt on him and subdued him. "Don’t kill him, yet!” shouted Dreyfus.” I saw this guy talking to Ericson after he left the office. There’s something going on.”
Father Jack stepped forward, "I have just the thing” he said smiling. The bad guy looked worried as Father Jack flexed his hands but relaxed a little as the mage prepared to cast a spell. "You ask a question and I’ll be able to tell if he’s lying.”
The interrogation revealed that the gang had been hired by Ericson to get the location of the information that Ellis was going to hand over to his new bosses. The information was held on a memory chip and hidden in Ellis’ home. They headed over there and retrieved the information and then took Ellis back to Equilibrium where he was confronted by Karen Luditsky. After a lengthy negotiation they came to a mutually acceptable agreement. Ellis would get a pay rise and promotion while Digitech would recover their property. Luditsky still looked concerned.
"Look, I know you guys have fulfilled your contract about the information but I’m at a loss about Rick’s shenanigans. I’d like to hire you to look into that.”
"OK,” said Angellini, "get on it guys. I’ll get Dennis to look into Ericson’s affairs. He might dig something up.”
They headed off to Ericson’s pad. As they were driving along Dennis contacted them; "Looks like your man has been getting himself into trouble. He seems to be haemorrhaging money.”
They arrived at their destination just in time to see Ericson making a hasty exit almost hitting them as he drove away. ‘Wheels’ did a pretty nifty turn and, to the sound of squealing wheels, they were in pursuit.
The chase took them out of the city into the surrounding desert. "We.ve got company” said ‘Wheels’. An expensive car with what looked like four occupants was following and gaining on them. ‘Wheels’ put the foot down and the pursuers fell back, only to start gaining again, eventually catching them up. More impressive driving from ‘Wheels’ had the other car rolling down an embankment. In his rear view mirror ‘Wheels’ saw four men in cheap suits and wearing shades struggling out of the car, shaken and angry.
"Think he’s been messing with the wrong people!” said ‘Wheels’.
It was not long before they caught up with Ericson and took him back to face the music.
Note: This story is based on a Shadowrun adventure played so long ago the details are hazy. Any correlation between the story and the adventure is purely coincidental!