So it turned out everyone was pretty pissed off with me for pulling the drones after the Hughes hit and getting out of there. Jimmy thought I should have stuck around more, Pierre wanted me dead, Ghost was probably laughing his smug elven laugh at us somewhere, T-Bear had disappeared and Mr. Johnson- well he wasn’t too pleased either. It seemed the only one left who hadn’t declared their intention to hurt me in some way was Lanche but that wasn’t much comfort. Still we had to find him sooner than later as he had Mr. Hughes’ body still stuffed in the man’s car and was being pursued by Doc Wagons.
I sent Lanche a message letting him know he was being followed and that he should ditch the body and car. He didn’t reply- he was probably in the Badlands where there was no matrix signal, either that or he was dead, or wanted me dead. Regardless I wouldn’t be hearing from him any time soon so I returned to scanning the drone camera feeds. I was switching between watching the live feeds I had active; one showed Pierre hurtling away from Cal’s on his bike while the other watched Jimmy sat immobile at the bar inside. The third drone was next to me in the car plugged in and recharging. I flicked through the files it had stored on it and watched the recording of ‘the incident’ showing Pierre blowing our cover (and Hughes’ ballsack) all over the highway. Then the recording stopped. It resumed with a shot of Jimmy, Ghost and myself sat in Cal’s, the time on the recording placed the video as being twenty minutes in the past but the memories of the conversation were still swirling in my head. I played back a snippet with audio:
“We are a team” Jimmy said “And we are paid to control situations like this. Not run away at the first sign of trouble – a stone went through the greenhouse window and you bolted, like a child. Difference here, Gary is that our friends are out there with no eyes-on, no tech support, and a lot of very angry greenhouse owners coming after them”
I was such an idiot! Why did I cut the drones!? The only way these guys were going to trust me was if I upped my game and stopped acting like such a newbie. It was difficult- father had sent me to the best schools in Seattle, I had the common accent trained out of me by elocution classes and had spent my life attending corporate events and parties with the elite of society. I stood out like a sore thumb amid the slums and grimy streets I found myself these past weeks. I never thought it would feel like this- all those hours spent watching the old Runners on the ‘net, practicing on the firing range or in the dojo never prepared me for the fear: the fear of failure, the fear of being caught, the fear of death.
Mr Johnson was counting on me, without my skills this team would be going nowhere, but without this team I couldn’t achieve my dream. We needed each other and we had to work together. As I sat there in my car, parked down the street from Cal’s I started to think. How could I improve? How could I do better? I wasn’t going to fit in with these people, that was for sure- our cultures were worlds apart and I wasn’t about to lower myself to those standards of living. The rain was hammering against the windshield but the sickly neon sign of Cal’s was still visible through the haze, bright reflections dancing in puddles on the dark street. No one was out at this hour, except me and my drones. My drones. That was it- my way in. The only thing keeping me alive and in this group was my ability to command these drones. I had to make them better to make myself better and solidify my position in the group. I had a few ideas but nothing solid, I’d need to start designing as soon as the Dunning-Kruger job was over.
As I thought about this, my gaze drifted to the pict-feed in the corner of my vision. Jimmy sat alone at Cal’s, nursing a beer. Jimmy had told me to get out of the bar and get away while Pierre was there or my life was in danger, but now the Frenchman had left and by the look of the other vid feed he had entered some sort of seedy bordello. The drug addict was unlikely to leave before morning so I was probably safe for now. Even so as I stepped out of my car I made sure my new pistols were loose in their holsters. Just in case.
Jimmy turned on his seat slightly, as he saw me enter. Cal and Jimmy exchanged glances, “Mr. Steele, come and take a seat” he said as I got nearer. He had never called me that before. I walked over cautiously and pulled up a dirty stool next to the man.
“So…Pierre’s gone then” I asked.
Jimmy nodded, “For now, gone to sleep off a nasty downer, I shouldn’t wonder. Celeste will keep him out of our way, until morning at least,” he paused, “Can I get you a drink?”
Wow. I never thought he’d actually buy me one, usually happy to take advantage of my open tabs but to repay the notion… he still had the ¥8,000 I had lent him for the casino job, maybe he hadn’t lost it all as I thought and was instead buying me a drink with my own money. How thoughtful.
Jimmy sighed, “I think we got off on the wrong foot…” he held out a hand, “James”
“Gary” I replied as I watched ¥9,000 transfer into my account from his, more than I had given in the first place. 1K was pocket money but the gesture was worth millions.
“Interest” Jimmy said with a smile. There was a look in his eyes, a sort of smile which spoke of apologies and hope.
“So…drink?” Jimmy repeated. I nodded and Cal brought us over our usual poison. Jimmy had clearly been thinking the same as me, teamwork and trust were keys to our success. It was nice to finally be able to have a proper conversation with him, with anyone for that matter. The last few weeks had been made up of manly grunts, one liners and threats. All very uncouth and uncivilised and not at all to my liking.
The way team mates should; as equals. No point scoring, no derision.