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Kaige

Mind over Muscle (IC)

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GM

Any megacorporation is shrouded in conspiracy theories. In Bedlam, many of them happened to be true.

 

The Howle-Brandt Consortium was the figurative new kid on the block in the “City of Now”, though they’d been established long enough that their towering jet fuel refinery was one of the top employers in town – and one of the least safe. It was an open secret that their legal team were experts at getting rid of maimed workers without providing any benefits, but rumors went further than that: shadowy military contracts, unethical human experimentation, robots poised to replace the labor force.

 

Bedlam’s hacker community, or “freedom of information” community in their own words, had been trying to confirm it all for years. But whoever did HBC’s cyber security was smart and well-funded. Their clearance system was stricter than the federal government’s, and any sensitive information was squirreled away in databanks requiring direct physical access. They didn’t bother to hide their Bedlam employment practices, which would get them crucified in a town where people had anywhere else to work, so what did they think was worth hiding?

 

The rumor that had popped up lately was that it might be possible to find out. Some user was making the rounds of the surface-level conspiracy and hacker boards, claiming to have inside knowledge of illegal drugging of HBC’s workers. He said he didn’t have proof, but he knew how to get it, if anyone who could beat a secure system was willing to come with him.

 

Cynicism ran fever-high in Bedlam. It was a survival mechanism in a city of broken promises and abandoned dreams. So most of the discussion on each of those posts was trying to figure out the user’s angle. Was he working for HBC’s security team, trying to catch potential hackers? Was he going to ask for money, then disappear before he had to deliver? He’d been inventive with the details, they had to admit, coming up with all that about addictive muscle stimulants to keep the workers coming back. But they had all seen better scams before, and they hadn’t fallen for those, either.

 

But the user, In$id3r, didn’t give up. He kept a private instant messaging channel open to anyone who believed him and wanted to help.

Edited by Kaige

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Sofía Orellana, or L0vel@ce, if you preferred her online pseudonym, tried to keep her meatspace identity well aware from her technological activities. It was, after all, how she'd safely amassed a tidy nest egg without anyone the wiser. Still, she wasn't above making an exception for the right reason, or the right price, and this appealed to both of those drives. Hell, bragging rights alone for cracking HBC might be worth the risk. No guts, no glory after all. 

 

Plopping into her frayed office chair, Sofía booted up her laptop as she reached up to pull back her cotton candy pink and seafoam green curls into an absent minded pony tail. Puffing out a breath, she blew an errant curl from her eyes as her fingers flew over the keyboard. 

 

Hey, In$id3r...

 

The white curve of her smile was lit only by the reflective light of her computer screens. 

 

I'll be your huckleberry. ^_-  When and where?

 

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"Yeah man I mean this dude is far out like crazy far out ya know what I'm saying so for sure he like talking 'bout major drugs like for real major crazy drugs human experimentation military grade super upgrade like maxed out muscle for special forces and yeah I guess like assassins and super agents ya know so this dude like all over the internet man making hardcore noise and all the goss on him right now ya see on everyones lips on everyones keyboards nobody knows if he just some spaced on whacko got brainfried on the net or he got the real skillz and so..."

 

Dave "the Duke" Devon spoke without punctuation. He rambled like a man high on caffeine. Which, appropriately enough he was. He was a moderately talented hacker, and slept far to little. A small man with dreadlocks, dark skin, and a belly formed from too many donuts, he also had epilepsy and couldn't drive. 

 

Noemi von Neuman had picked him up a few times. Drove him around. The Duke seemed to trust her, something she encouraged. Now and again, amidst his rambling, he came up with something interesting. 

 

Inferior Western Information Technology Systems Inevitably Corrupted By Capitalism Greed!

 

Came SLAVE's inevitable propaganda readout over her cybernetic eyes. Her head computer spouted the same message, sometimes several times, triggered by the Duke's rambling. She had pretty much learned to ignore the machine in her head. Most of the time. 

 

"Yeah yeah, Sure Duke. Sounds..ah...swell...." she said, trying to get a word in. Perhaps the Duke even registered her. 

 

"So like Im gonna see what the buzz is see whats hap'nin on the cybernet gotta go in dark ya know no trace gotta keep it superclean ya know everyone after this dude calls himself the In$id3r says he wants some help uncovering the major conspiracy righth here in Bedlam gotta be some heavy heat man some heavy heat yeah drop me here call ya later..."

 

The EZ Cab, battered and poorly maintained, was cheap. Her boss didn't go much for safety or clean. EZ Cabs did what it said on the tin. Got paying customers from A to B as cheaply as possible. And people sure got what they paid for. 

 

"Sure thing Duke, take it easy, stay off the coffee, yeah?"

 

She had dropped the Duke of at "Cray-Z Circuits" an alleged electronics repair shop, but mostly a hand out joint for Hackers. 

 

Switching of her radio, already belting out the next customer, she sat back, and, as she had done before, got SLAVE to activate...

 

Find out what the hell is going on with this guy? she mentally told SLAVE, feeling the computer connect with one of the many computers inside the building. 

 

Inferior Western Systems Are No Match For Superior Soviet Technology....

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Aaron almost felt guilty to be working against the company his mother had spent her life building. Almost. He wondered if she knew about Xanacet-12.

 

Sitting in the dark recesses of the Endler Library, he stared down at the thick muscles veining his arms, lost in thought. The fact of the matter was that, when it came to finding Jason's killer, he didn't have the faintest idea where to start. The police had pretty thoroughly destroyed any evidence relating to what had happened to him, right down to his body, and although Aaron was now more than capable of just shaking criminals over the edge of buildings until someone talked, he was smart enough to know that he would never find the truth in a thousand years by interrogating street scum one at a time. While he considered that problem, he'd found other ways to keep busy.

 

Taking enough Xanacet-12 to probably stop his heart or crush his bones with impossible muscle mass in a few months had been his own choice, one he'd made when his old life had been crushed to pieces anyway. When he'd discovered that he wasn't the only person using it, just the only person who was using it voluntarily, it had become the first of his family's company's abuses to be truly personal. He had no intention of letting the drugging of innocent people continue, not when he alone had all the information he needed to stop it. But if he just smashed his way in, crushed the vats or something, it wouldn't stop. And if he spoke out, he risked the tools he needed to avenge Jason.

 

So he'd called himself In$id3r, spread his truth, and waited. And now, in the darkness of the library, a response pinged across the screen. For the first time, it wasn't mockery.

 

All right. We'll go tonight, 7:00.

Meet me at the bench on the Babylon riverfront that's just north of the Heart of Dixie riverboat.

Bring dark clothes.

 

He was moving quickly now, incautiously - it was the excitement of finding someone willing to accept after weeks of scorn. He had no idea that another pair of eyes was also watching.

 

Inferior Western Security Bypassed, SLAVE reported, intercepting the conversation. There Are No Secrets From The Party!

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Excellent! No secrets from, er, the party!

 

Even if she objected that the party, so to speak, had been almost completely defunct for decades, she knew that the mindless computer in her head could not accept that. And might shut off her eyes in protest. 

 

She picked up the radio of the Taxi. "Charley, you there?"

 

"Sure Blondie" squarked Charley Chalks, the radio operator of EZ Cabs. Charley had a big mouth, but they were friends. 

 

"Boss is mad, but whats new. I'd slip some whiskey in his coffee, but probs only make him madder..." she explained. "Wants you for a job with..."

 

"Yeah yeah, about that. Tell him I gotta take off this evening. Night off. Family stuff. Or something" she explained, vaguely. Easy Steve, the owner and boss of EZ Cabs, was known for being very far from easy indeed. He had a furious temper on him, smoked, drank, and had pulsating veins on his neck that everyone thought would explode when he went into an livid rage but, and one must be shamefully honest, to everyone's disappointment, never did. She could handle him, as she was a good worker, but on the other hand, he was a total ass. 

 

"Oh yeah, that's gonna go down like a lead balloon, Blondie. Ill make sure I shoot myself before I tell him, huh? Saves him the bother. Come to it, shoot yaself, too!" she said. Charley got it as bad as anyone from Easy Steve, but she had a mouth that fought back. 

 

She dropped off the car without entering the building. No point facing Steve now. She needed to be focused. 

 

Instead, she walked back to her crummy one bedroom flat. It wasn't exactly homely, despite the plants and her best efforts on a crummy salary. But it had a bed and a kitchen and a boxy TV. 

 

And it had her guns and costume. 

 

Hair down. Glasses off. Jacket on (complete with her insignia on the back). Guns to belt, fully loaded. A few spare clips. 

 

Then, by back streets and shadows, seen by a few thugs, drunks, and passers by, all who had heard of the Red Rat and quickly turned around. 

 

By evening light through darkened paths, she made her way to the Babylon Riverfront. To get a good view of the bench. In the half light, her eyes served her well - directing and navigating her to the riverfront, and when she was there, zooming in on the Bench...

Edited by Supercape

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We really got to teach you about dead drops, kiddo. K. I'll be there.

 

Sofía killed her connection as soon as she'd given her assent, trusting that her many layers of personal security were more than sufficient for any back-tracking as she swung up from her chair to head for a shower and a change of clothes. In short order, she'd shed her clothes for an unremarkable black thermal and similarly dark BDU's. She paused to take out her piercings as on the off chance things turned ugly, she really didn't want someone hooking a finger through an errant silver hoop. 

 

It was her hair that she had to spend the most time on, braiding it and tucking it up under a dark cap. Sofi was well aware her one vanity would be the sort of thing that would stick out. Once her curls had been hidden under layers, she pulled on a hoodie. 

 

Her phone and bag of tricks were tucked into the many pockets of her clothes. In sensible shoes, she left her apartment; locking up after to head for the bus. No way she was driving her car to this sketchy get up.

 

When she got there, early, she leaned her hip against the back of the bench to absently surf on her phone, absently cracking her bubble gum as she waited for this contact. At least it made for an interesting evening. 

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From the distance, cybernetic eyes peeled and zoomed in, the Red Rat lurked in the shadows, leaning against a tree, arms folded. 

 

Stake outs were never much fun. 

 

She was listening to WKYO "Whacko Radio" Rock in her head, picking up the radiowaves and drumming her fingers to the beat. She had managed to persuade SLAVE to receive "Decadent Capitalistic Propoganga-Culture" in the aide of research into said Propoganda-Culture and how it might be exploited to further support the global liberation of the proleterait. In reality, she just liked it. 

 

She suspected In$id3r was a newcomer to the scene. She only knew the hacker culture vaguely, but he didn't seem to fit in. The other bite, from L0vel@ce, was another matter. Seemed to be on the ball, as far as she could tell. 

 

No way of knowing, but the lady with the bubble gum. Kind of nonchalant. Could be...

 

The Red Rat was no hacker, herself, having a head computer that did it for her, but she had been doing spycraft for a long time. And these clandestine meetings where her bread and butter...

Edited by Supercape

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Aaron blushed as his contact reprimanded his lack of caution. He was flying by the seat of his pants here, well out of his experience, let alone his comfort zone. Jason's death should have been a stark reminder that sticking your neck out could get you killed if you didn't take all the right precautions, but so far he hadn't been doing too well at heeding that warning. Then again, he wasn't planning to live forever. Taking massive doses of untested muscle stimulants was not likely to be good for his life expectancy. As long as he found a little justice before he died, enough to make up for his own arrogance and make Jason proud, he could die fulfilled.

 

But he wasn't at that point yet, so he would have to be careful how he handled this one from here on out. He couldn't be sure if this contact of his was actually in for the plan and not to troll him or, worse yet, turn him over to HBC. No matter what, he certainly had no intent of letting whoever it was know that he was stealing this proof from his own family's company. Fortunately, his costume didn't look all that different from street clothes, if perhaps a little gothic: a hooded trench coat, with a scarf to cover his face. Down by the river, where it was cooler even on August evenings, it wouldn't draw undue attention. He hoped.

 

Anyone who looked would probably just peg him as a drug dealer, after all, and the police wouldn't much care unless they wanted a fix themselves.

 

As he got to the scene, Aaron realized that he hadn't left any kind of code phrase or identifier beyond the bench. This was one part of Bedlam where people might actually be walking and sitting; evening joggers were relatively safe here, shielded from the smog and desperation of southern Babylon by a wall of fancy hotels and high-rise office buildings. This was the part of the riverfront where local businessmen could walk undisturbed with visiting clients, pointing across the river at the failed old city and spinning lies about how they would make it new again. But Aaron was used to those people, and he could usually tell who wasn't one.

 

A phone-surfing, gum-chewing young woman in dark but practical clothes was not one, but she might be a hacker. Gathering his courage, Aaron sat down beside her. The bench squeaked lightly under his muscular bulk.

 

"You actually showed, then" he said, his tone hopefully nonchalant as he stared out across the river rather than at her. "That's a good start. Fair warning: this is dangerous. Are you sure you want to keep going?"

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The Red Rats eyes zoomed in on the newcomer. Surely, this must be the meet? One could never tell for sure, but it was the right place, the right time, and the right kind of tension. She had seen enough spycraft to spot the signs. 

 

Not for the first time, nor the last, she wished her ears could zoom in to. At this distance, she couldn't hear. 

 

The man dressed like some kind of low life, but the Rat was far from convinced. He didn't seem to match, somehow. He looked, well, not particularly out of the ordinary. Hirsute, could probably look good if he scrubbed up.

 

As her reflex demanded, she studied him, sizing him up. Looked strong, real strong. Could be a problem in a fight, if he was trained. No way of knowing that, however. Still, she wouldn't treat him like some two dollar thug lurking in the alleys. Best never to underestimate anyone. 

 

No question, she would need to get closer. She took off her red rat jacket, reversed it, and put it on, now grey and featureless, zipped it up tight. Guns hidden underneath it. She mussed up her hair and brought it down over her face. It was hardly the most effective disguise, but she was no longer instantly recognisable. 

 

Walking not too fast, and not too slow, she made her way towards them. Until she was a little closer, or a least close enough to overhear...

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Sofía's attention might have been on her phone but with the sort of casual area awareness of a kid who'd grown up in the bad parts of Bedlam (and there were few good parts). Sliding her finger across her phone absently, the interface changed as a man settled in next to her. It certainly didn't look like any standard mobile operating system to close examination as the device was in no way off the rack; but at a quick glance it could have been any smart phone in a case. For a moment, Sofía considered razzing the man but she didn't know him well enough. The hand holding her phone fell casually to her hip as she offered a small but cocky smile, "Didn't figure you were looking for help cuz it was a walk in the park," she agreed, her other fingertips absently flicking the brim of her hat up. Her accent was faint but clear in the rise and fall of her words and she didn't make effort to repress it. 

 

Her attention was focused on the man in the trench-coat and she didn't notice Red Rat ghosting up, but as Sofía was not a trusting person by and large, the screen she'd swiped to held the command to set off the flash-bang software in her phone - just in case things went south. "Whatchu need?"

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Aaron found his mouth very, very dry as the woman asked her question. This was the point of no return. This was where he betrayed his family's company.

 

But he owed it to Jason. He owed it to the city his brother had died trying to save all on his lonesome, and he owed it to all of the people who had gotten hurt so that he could afford private school and private jets and private dinners. "Behind us," he began, his voice low and far more calm than he felt, "is the Howle-Brandt Building. On the sixtieth floor, between a breakroom and a security station, is a server room full of the kind of data that could sink them, or at least the local division. I can get you in there. You can break the encryptions." He paused. The next part of his ask was tricky, touchy. He didn't think that she would like it much.

 

"But I need you to promise to give the data to me," he finally said. "If it gets released to the public, and the news bothers to pick it up, HBC will be finished in Bedlam. And for all that harm they've done, they employ a third of the low income workers in the city. But I have an in with the company. If I threaten to go public with the proof we find, they'll have to stop the illegal drugging or risk losing all their business in the city, maybe even folding up entirely. And if they stop, life gets better for the workers, nobody loses their jobs, and HBC gets a black eye and a stern warning. Everyone but them wins."

 

It was an earnest plea, though he worried it might sound shady. He didn't look forward to the conversation he was going to have to have in putting his leverage to use if he got it; he was going to have to bring it to mom. Some part of him hoped she didn't know, and the proof would help him convince her to purge HBC's Bedlam division of all of the corruption and inhumanity it was dealing in. But it was Howle Chemical that would have developed something like this, the company she'd built from the ground up. In his heart, he was sure she knew, and it tore him up inside. Every image he'd ever had of her must have been wrong.

 

He was so deep in that plea, that thought, that he didn't have a chance of hearing Red Rat sneaking up to eavesdrop...

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At the mention of workers, SLAVE gave its commendation

 

Long live the workers! Long live the revolution! 

 

Whilst unusual, this was not the first time the Rat agreed with SLAVE. Liberty was her thing, but she did have a touch of socialism in her. The rich screwing with the poor didn't sit well with her at all. Back in the fifties, protesting against communism at the University, it was not socialism they were fighting, it was totalitarianism. 

 

"You can count me in then, friends" she said from behind, tossing back her hear and taking of her jacket, to reveal the red tone and the rat sigil. Her high tech guns swung into view at her hips. 

 

"Sorry for sneaking up on you. Its a spy thing. Or in your case, Mr Insider, a slightly clumsy spy thing" she said with a friendly smile. "Was just listening in to check I had the right people" she explained. 

 

"You must be L0vel@ce" she asked Sofia. "I heard a bit about you. Top of your game in the cyber world, I guess"

 

But still inferior to Soviet Expertise!

 

Ignoring SLAVE for the umpteenth time, she pressed on. "Guys, I'd love to help you, and I think I can..." she asked hopefully. 

 

Her one niggling doubt was the mans reticence about exposing HBC. Sure, she was not exactly sworn to uphold law. Hell, she was wanted by UNISON. But on the other hand, these guys sounded dirty. Her heart was with the poor saps working for HBC, but the guys running the drugs, they needed to be taken down....

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Sofía's hand twitched on her phone, a small tell but she arrested it when no move was made for the weapons. She gave Red Rat a considering look, tipping her head to the side before she acknowledged her handle with a  small nod. "Lovelace is as good a name as any," she agreed with a slight movement over her shoulders. After a moment, she flicked her fingers over her phone and returned it to the pocket of her hoodie. "Nice to meetcha. Do you go by Red Rat or just 'Rat' or...?" There was something good-naturedly jocular with her question, as if they weren't having conversation about highly illegal activities. Though, Sofía did have to correct one thing. "There's a few better - not many - and almost no one that'll walk that grey line."

 

Because frankly, there were some superhuman technopathy type folks out in the world but they tended to fall strongly white or black in their activities. She turned her attention back fully to Jason and his request. His request went largely against Sofía's personal ethos but she was willing to withhold posting any information and give him a chance to do what he could. "Right, sure, you get the information," she agreed, fully intending to keep her own back up copies of the data; just in case. Sofia lied well; she had a lot of practice at doing it with her family so she smiled disarmingly and met the man's eyes, "I am a thief, though, so I expect to get paid. Favors owed might be an acceptable alternative revenue stream."

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"The Rat will be fine" answered the Rat. "Or Red, if you feel like it. I've been called worse" she smiled. 

 

Thief, is she? I wonder quite how solidly she means that. Plenty of hackers are thieves, after a fashion. But not thugs. 

 

The Rad did not really approve of getting paid for this kind of work, but didn't really disapprove either. Herself, she made a living working for EZ cabs, but that was about it. She could certainly supplement her income with acts of thievery, but she was disinclined to. It felt slightly wrong, it felt too much like her old life, and, when push comes to shove, when UNISON or AEGIS finally caught her (and it was a question of if, not when), she would like her criminal sheet as clean as possible. 

 

She put her Jacket back on, inside out. Now introductions made, no need to draw attention. 

 

"Just a note of caution, my friends. Insider, your name is on the internet. Had to be, I know, but I might not be the only one who tracked us here. A public space is good, less likely to get shot or jumped. On the other hand, easy to spy on you. Plenty of people around also means very hard to spot a snoop" she explained. 

 

She couldn't pick up any airwave chatter....which was half reassuring. 

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Well, Aaron reflected as he suppressed the urge to hold his head in his hands, he'd managed to bungle this pretty thoroughly already. He was not much of a spy.

 

"Three of us, then," he said dryly, wondering just how many other people he might have alerted with his clumsy maneuvering. "And we'll move quickly, so that we don't add anyone who wants us to fail." Lovelace and Red Rat... maybe he needed a codename. Or maybe he should get out of this business after this job, if he survived, because he was clearly bad at it. "I can pay you well for your services and your silence," he promised, and it was true. Of course, anyone hiring corporate spies in Bedlam would say the same, and then probably dispose of them after the mission to make sure that the data was secure.

 

But Aaron was honest, if not exactly an expert on this stuff. "I'll lay our options on the table," he went on, speaking quickly and quietly. "You'll know better which way we should take. First, there's a service elevator in the underground parking garage that goes as high as the fiftieth floor. We would have to switch elevators there or take the stairs, both of which are on the opposite side of the building, so that might be tricky. The main elevators in the lobby go all the way up to the sixtieth floor, but getting there would be tough; there's a security desk at the entrance, and we're not dressed for it."

 

"Or," he said, opening a duffel bag full of harnesses and suction cups, "we can climb the outside. Dangerous, but it'll be dark out soon. We'd be hard to spot."

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"Climbing is it?" asked Red, thoughtfully, studying the gear. Looked solid to her. 

 

Her skill set was wide, as would be expected of an international spy. But it didn't include climbing. 

 

More precisely, the Red Rat was not skilled at climbing. 

 

The Ape Rat, was another matter. Matted hairy muscular arms, knuckles dragging to the floor, feet that where as dexterous as her hands. The Ape Rat was a skilled climber and, she judged, would find the climb easy enough, especially with suction pads. The problem was, the Ape Rat was a moron. She was not even sure if her brain regressed to that state she would actually wear the suction pads. 

 

"Look, I can...umm...I can climb up the building pretty easily. I think. But...its complicated. It will be me, and, well it won't" she said, vaguely. "I think its best we keep that as a back up plan should things go wrong. I can do it, but you will be delaing with a different type of me if I do it. A type of me that isn't so sharp. In fact, a type of me that's as sharp as a rubber ball" she explained. 

 

She didn't really want to go into details. 

 

"I'd take the service elavator, myself. Scout the building, see if we can take some maintenance costumes. A touch of disguise. Maybe swipe some cards or some keys. No need for a fight unless it gets ugly. That said, better to get prepared for a fight if we need too..." she said, giving her opinion. 

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Sofía gave Red Rat a somewhat intrigued look at the odd explanation. Still, focus on the task at hand first and catalog information later. "Service elevator," Sofía agreed, rocking on her heels as she cracked her gum once more before tossing it in the nearby trash can. "Service elevator's got less security on it to mess with - though there's still probably some - and there's probably an access hatch in a pinch. Don't need to swipe a key card or anything. If its electronic, I can pop it; no problem."

 

Reaching up she straightened her hat on her head, "I'd rather not scuttle up the outside of the building on suction cups if we can avoid it."

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Aaron nodded. Climbing the building was doable for someone of his prodigious strength, but even then it was the most physically dangerous way. He wasn't sorry to see it ruled out.

 

He had no idea what the Red Rat was talking about, but it didn't really register; his mind was awhirl with anxiety and half-formed plans. "Alright," he said, "service elevator it is. Let's get down there before anyone else notices our strange little conference." He led the way, carefully picking a path he already knew would keep them off of the building's security cameras. The police might not be very vigilant about checking things like that, but Iron Talon security was thorough - and even more vicious. It was doubly important that Lovelace not be spotted; suspicion would fall on her immediately if she were seen around the building, and for entirely racist reasons.

 

The line of office buildings between the river and the corporate dormitories of outer Babylon were oddly pristine; for several blocks, the gutters were unobstructed and the streets were clear of litter. Then, abruptly, the zone ended, giving way to squalid rows of miserable little half-apartments. Their path keep them within the clean zone, but it wasn't hard to look to the right and see the Bedlam divide in microcosm.

 

The parking garage was closed up for the night. Aaron edged along the wall near the entrance; security cameras covered the main route down. There would be a night watchman standing at the booth, but they didn't have to go that far; there was a pedestrian access stairway just short of his line of sight. This much Aaron had practiced, just in case they used this plan. He even had the key. He tried to conceal it in his palm, worried about what the other two might think, but realized pretty quickly that there was no way he could unlock it without their noticing, so he just went ahead and opened it. If they had questions, he would answer as best he safely could.

 

"Three floors down," he whispered. "We'll need someone to crack open the control panel." Voice echoed up the stairwell, and Aaron cursed quietly. "And some way to distract the guard patrol."

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"I got the panel but none of my 'distraction' is going to be subtle like. Might just wanna book it." Sofía replied to Aaron as she hustled through the door he opened, blessedly free of questions about the key as she focused on the task at hand. The laughing demeanor fell away as they crossed into 'officially working' and her sneakers were silent as she ghosted along the stairs. Leaning over a little she glanced down to try and gauge the distance to the guards from where they were. "Actually." She thought for a moment before pulling her phone out of her pocket. "I can trigger a false alarm in a different part of the building, pull some folks away but I dunno the layout here." She looked at Aaron expectantly. "Got a place we could focus attention that is not likely to be somewhere we gotta go?"

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Aaron considered the problem. Ideally he didn't want any alarms triggered at all, but ideally there wouldn't have been any guards to get out of the way, either. He wracked his brain for a place an alarm might feasibly sound as an accident. The building itself was relatively new, and (unlike most of Bedlam) kept in top shape, so it was tricky. But sometimes disgruntled workers from the corporate dorms threw things at the windows, rattling but not breaking them, and it wasn't unreasonable that a really good shake could set off the glass break alarm. Hopefully that was what the guards would assume had happened, at least until they were far away and he could leverage his evidence.

 

"Let's try a second floor window alarm," he whispered back. "South side of the building. It'll be easiest to disguise."

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