Part 1 starts here; Part 2 starts here. If this gets too long, I might need a second Table of Contents.
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"Turn right here, now," Samuels said. His voice was cocky; just the kind of cocky you wanted to knock a few teeth out of, but he was connected to the radio so I followed his orders. He fiddled with the dashboard aimlessly. The silence was actually kind of welcoming until the siren kicked on.
The steering wheel locked up, and the safety glass shimmered as lights came to life inside the cab. The central display kicked on in a moment, showing us the chief's office, where he seemed to be seething with anger. "What the fuck are you two doing? Get back on your route," He was shouting; his voice seemed ready to crack, and his brow was sweating.
"It's a security detour," I said. "It is running on autopilot. When the hell did you install this in my car?"
"Well take it off autopilot Sumter."
"That's against all kinds of protocol," Samuels said. "We're being redirected to a Dr. Lau Kyen's clinic. He's a member in good standing, chief. Dues all paid up."
"We're issuing an override. Get back on your route, ignore the call," The chief said, flipping off the comm. I assumed he was making the same call to every other unit in range of the detour.
"Hands at 10-and-2 there Roscoe," Samuels said; I barely noticed the car had started to drift once it was under manual control again. "Not good business sense to ignore a call, if you get my drift."
"Screw the business angle; security overrides don't get issued for no good reason," I said.
"There's a reason the city has a tiered fee system," Samuels said. "I think we should check it out, just for liability purposes."
"And because it is our fucking job," I said. The car was moving under my control again.
"Our job is to do what the chief says, whenever it conflicts with the protecting and the serving," Samuels said. "But, I actually agree on this. Looks bad if people pay for protection and don't get a cursory 'how do you do.'"
"They'll just issue an override if they see us going off route," I said. "So, we'll have to hoof it."
Samuels shook his head and held up his left hand. He very gently bent back the first knuckle of his index finer to reveal a small port grafted where his finger should have been. The inside was still raw and red; he winked at me as he inserted it into one of the car's sundry ports.
"This one's not standard issue, so, mum's the word," He said.
"What are you doing?"
"Telling the computer to report where we should be instead of where we're going to be," Samuels said. "As long as the chief relies on his computers and doesn't send someone to physically check our location, we should have all the time we need to pay a little visit."
"Screwing with the system isn't even legal," I said. "Hell, that hardware's probably not even approved."
"You can't let little things like that get in the way of perfecting the human form," Samuels said as he removed his finger from the machine. "Just think of it like being a part of our evolving future."
"Yeah, we'll see," I said. I was about to turn off our route when the pedal pressed itself down and the siren kicked on.
"I've got it where it going where it needs to go," Samuels told me. "Just get suited up and check your kit."
I whistled for Lincoln to climb into the front, which I'm sure wasn't what Samuels wanted. I pulled out Lincoln's vest and wrapped it around his torso and folded the modified helmet around his head. He always barked in protest, though I think he did it just so I'd give him a treat to keep him quiet. He chewed contently as I strapped on the extra clips I had him carry for me.
Once Lincoln was situated he hopped into the back, and I pulled my own vest from under Samuels' chair. It was bulky, heavy and a bit smelly, like a reliable pair of gym socks. The second thing I pulled from under Samuels' chair was a personal sidearm. Samuels raised an eyebrow.
"Mum's the word," I said.
"Just in case the good doctor needs a little muscle and you don't want to have to fill out the paperwork?"
"Think of it as part of our evolving system where-in I do the job that we need to do, not that the political dicks like the chief want us to do."
"A good consideration; I just have my weapons on override. I could shoot stray cats all day without an alert going off," He said. "My system also doesn't involve leaving an unlicensed gun lying around. Anyway, know anything about the clinic? This doctor doesn't exist in any of the records I'm scanning."
"New clinic, maybe a few months old," I said. "Not a big staff, maybe one or two glorified secretaries. Specializes in addiction therapy and implants."
"Not a lot of overlap in those two specialties," Samuels said.
"The overlap is people who go in for both want to pay a lot to keep it quiet that they're going in," I said. "But, yeah. It should've raised a hell of a red flag when he got licensed."
"Especially since the doctor doesn't fucking exist," Samuels said. "No papers anywhere. The only place his name shows up is directly related to clinic. It's like he sprung fully formed into the office where he signed the lease."
"He's a ghost? Well, how's that for the fucking future," I said. "If the chief let me walk the beat more, we might've learned something from good old-school footwork."
"Ok, what about Leann Crane?" Samuels said. "She disappeared about the same time the clinic came live. That name mean anything to you? She's got a clean record, if a bit sparse."
"She shouldn't have a clean record," I said. "I picked her up two or three times during a sweep of some of the smaller gangs in the district. Strictly small time though; no way she'd get enough dough to own her own building. Don't think she even has a real doctorate."
"She doesn't," Samuels said. "But, she's got someone who knows how to make her a fake one."
We rode in silence. The next few blocks were empty and desolate. The gangs usually made a show of force when we drove through their neighborhoods, never aggressive, but they'd make sure we knew that they weren't scared. Right now, it was like everyone was in hiding.
Then, a burst of gunfire echoed. It was responded to in kind, and then the car accelerated. Samuels eyes shifted from his laid back, cockiness to a look of a calculating fox. The car hurled through the streets towards a nondescript, multistory building.
"That's a clinic? It looks like an office building," I said.
"Something's on the roof," Samuels said.
"Something's at the doorway," I said, grabbing and jerking the wheel to spin the car. Samuels was knocked against the door by the force of the spin; I don't think he was ready for me to exert manual control. What I had seen at the front of the clinic were two men with rifles -- a modern, sleek assault, scoped and linked -- leaning against a blasted open door way. A security official was crumpled against the door, riddled with bullets.
The two gangers at the door had shouldered their rifles and drawn a bead on us as I went into the spin. I heard the sudden explosion of full-automatic fire. The initial fear was replaced with a sort of calm: These were just street punks who got their hands on some good hardware; they didn't have the discipline to hold their fire.
The bullets though brought me back to reality as they smacked into the passenger side door and window. Samuels window shattered as I forced my door open and rolled out. I saw Lincoln pressed down into the space in front of the back seat and heard Samuels swear.
I glanced up and watched as his right arm shot up, knocking the glass away and catching the two bullets into his dermal plated arm. He flopped down and dragged himself out my door. He plopped to the ground and flexed his arm. There were scorch marks, and he ripped one of the bullets out with his free hand.
"That hurt," Samuels said looking at the blood. "This thing was supposed to be rated for higher calibers than that, ah shit, that hurts."
"It barely broke the skin, get your head in the game," I said as another burst of automatic fire lit up the side of our car. I heard one of the clips eject and another get slammed in. "Besides, just get the pain suppressors fired up."
"I never got them installed," Samuels said.
"Well, I know a doctor who might have them available," I said. "Let's see if we can get you a walk-in."
"And he thinks I'm the one watching too many cop flicks," Samuels said as he drew his weapon.