And I'm about to post R, S, T and U all at once here. But then for the rest of the month we should be back on schedule. So there's that. And I'll post a breakdown of how RavenCon went and what I thought of things after we've done all that. Or maybe on Sunday.
If you'd like to go back and start at the beginning, you can find A here.
The fact someone had been watching closely enough that the instant they all tried to go visit the scene—or as close to the scene as they could get—they convinced the safety systems the tunnel needed to be purged meant whatever the overall plan was, it obviously wasn’t done yet.
They’d gone back to their digs the night before and Libby seemed…fine. Her only bit of worry had been whether the agents that’d gone through the door before them had been swept out to sea. He’d stayed with her until they got word that everyone who’d gone in the tunnel with them was accounted for and fine. Brody hadn’t been surprised by that. EMR wouldn’t be much use at either management or response if they didn’t know how to evacuate an unstable situation.
Brody’d shown up at her room with breakfast, just to check in, and then convinced her to stay in her room while he went and…ran some errands.
Todd’s Electronics was shoved half under the mag-lev track in one of the…less developed parts of the city. It advertised all sorts of old, useless ‘novelty’ tech in shoe polish on the windows and the reinforced glass door. The large display window was completely taken up by an old monster cathode ray tube television that played a constant loop of classic cartoons. A couple of neighborhood kids sat on the curb and watched, passing a bag of candy around. They looked like the kind of kids that always tried to slip through the cracks, and they braced like they were going to take off when he walked up.
Brody knew when the school hours were, and when school was in session. “Relax, I’m not doing anything official.”
They settled in and went back to their show, and Brody opened the door to Todd’s. An old Asian woman sat on a stool behind the front counter, and she looked about as friendly and welcoming as a thunderstorm. “We don’t want trouble.” She looked him over. “Nobody here to join up.”
Brody smiled, stepping up to the counter. “I’m not recruiting. Is Seiji here today?”
“No. No Seiji here.”
Brody was trying to come up with a way to say he knew different. He didn’t want to push hard, because he had the distinct impression this was going to turn out to be Todd’s mom and telling her who he was wasn’t necessarily going to make anything better. The door behind the long counter opened, and someone pushed through carrying a box.
She started muttering darkly in Japanese and slipped off to stool, grabbing her slipper.
Todd turned, box in his arms, clearly not sure what her issue was, when he spotted Brody. “Captain!” He slid the box on the counter and beamed.
“It’s just Brody now,” he corrected, offering a hand to shake. “I retired last week. How ya been, Seiji?”
She was still muttering at them, and advancing on Seiji with her slipper.
“Mom, stop.” Todd sighed. “This is Captain Halliday, Brody.”
“No more military! You promised!”
“Mom, Brody did his twenty years just like I did.” He frowned at Brody. “Didn’t you?”
“I did.” Brody shoved his hands in his pockets. “I might need a favor, but it’s not the official kind.”
Seiji opened the pass through for the counter and waved him through. “Come on, I’ve got a space back here. Are you in trouble already?”
“Not me.” He followed Seiji back into the dark interior of the store, through a storeroom and into the sort of high tech office any self-respecting person would never expect to find in a seedy second-hand shop. “I hope I’m not getting you in trouble.”
Todd puffed out a breath. “Mom wasn’t a fan of the military before I joined.” He shrugged. “But if you stay long enough you’ll get invited to dinner and force-adopted, just like everybody else.”
Brody chuckled. “Well, I’ve got somewhere to be this afternoon, but tell her thanks for me.”
Todd fired up his screens. “What do you need?”
“I need to know who’s sticking their fingers in the PacIC system that shouldn’t be.”
“Who…” Todd reached back and shut the door behind them. “That sounds like the kind of thing that should be official.”
“If I wasn’t retired it would be. EMR doesn’t feel like they’re whiffing it on purpose, but I suppose I could be wrong about that.”
“So I need to stay off the radar.”
He nodded. “If you run afoul of PD you could probably ask for Detective Hussein and tell her I set you on it and it might keep you out of trouble. Otherwise…”
“Alright. I’ll see what I can find. But you said you weren’t in trouble and this sounds personal.”
Brody reached past and typed in Libby’s information, and it popped right up, along with a whole bunch of shit that normally didn’t pop up. He wasn’t surprised her file was much more detailed on the interior system, and he suddenly wondered if it always would have pulled up here.
“You’ve been out a week and you’re already—”
“She was in the dock explosion. She’s not involved, but they definitely tried to make her look like she was. And last night someone—my gut says whoever tried to make her look like a terrorist—tried to drown us, and half a dozen PDO, and five guys from EMR in the maintenance tubing before we could get a look at what was left.”
Seiji blinked at him. “So whoever it is has to have known not only how to do that, but that you were going to be in the tubes.”
“Or that someone was going to be in the tubes. There was a lot of radio chatter, between PD and EMR while we were doing it so I’m not sure how hard it is to figure out we’re there.”
“Alright.” Seiji nodded. “I owe you, I’ll see what I can find.”
Brody slapped him on the back. “You’re the best. Do I need to give you my contact?”
“Nah.” Seiji smiled. “But if it gets bad I may make you come to dinner just to convince my gran I’ve got friends.”
Brody zipped his jacket, shaking his head. “Dude, I’ll be here for a while, even if it doesn’t get bad I’ll come meet your gran.”
Seiji watched him, eyes narrowed. “Okay, so which part was the job?”
Brody frowned, cocking his head. “What?”
“The guys…we could never figure out which Brody was the job and which Brody was Brody,” Seiji explained. “You were always equal parts awesome and hard-ass and we sort of figured one of them had to be a front.”
Brody glanced at Libby’s picture on the screen, and thought about it for a second. “They’re both me, but they weren’t paying me to be anybody’s friend and the hard-ass generally got better results.” He snorted. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had to keep some of myself.”
Seiji flushed. The fact was all Seiji’s military records had said was S. Todd and when people had pushed that, to know what his first name was, he’d pretty consistently lied. He’d had them all, even in the unit, convinced his name was Steve for nearly five years. And if someone else had been his commanding officer that might not have worked, but Brody understood. If his first name was Steve then the ‘Asian tech genius’ crap didn’t start until people actually met Seiji.
“Yeah. Don’t mention that to my family, they wouldn’t understand.”
Brody nodded. “Ten-four. Let me know when you find anything.” He started to leave, and then stopped. “When I walk out should I pour on the charm with your mom or just scuttle by?”
Seiji laughed. “Try the charm, just be ready to run when it doesn’t work.”
Brody tracked his way back through the shop. Seiji’s mom was with a customer, and she glared at him but she didn’t break off so he slipped out onto the street. The kids were still watching the movie, and they braced to run when the door opened. When it was him they sat back down and ignored him.
He took the transport system back to their corner of the city, people bustling around him. The clouds couldn’t decide if they wanted to rain, or disperse. It was gray and windy one minute, and then next there’d be a bright shaft of sunlight.
Brody was on the last block before their building, about to the corner, when the sun cut through the clouds and something on the corner flashed. Brody walked past a man on the corner, in a non-descript brown jacket and jeans, just watching. He was staring at their building, and it took Brody a second to realize what had caught his eye.
When the sun flashed, the light scattered off his face. To the naked eye it didn’t look like more than a sparkle, like he was wearing old fashioned glitter. Brody took a step back onto the curb. The man looked at him, color-correcting contacts in his eyes, and smiled.
A loud bang echoed around them, and the hotel emergency alarms shrieked. The man saluted at Brody, and turned on his heel before he fled up the street. They both knew Brody wasn’t going to chase him.