5 - TRY / CATCH
16th Street, San Fernando sector, New Angeles
A few minutes earlier
"NOBODY FUCKING MOVE!" shouted the half-Chinese leader, who was holding a home-printed machine pistol with his myoelectric arm. On his left temple there was some metal contraption screwed to his skull. Another thug began looking for hostages, but the establishment was empty.
"Look, man", said the clerk, who had a smaller implant attached to the back of his neck. "Here's the money, take all you want."
The thug shot the ceiling. "SHUT UP!!" he shouted, The other was peering outside.
"Listen, you piece of shit, we know you found that stash the other day. We want it all, and you're gonna tell us where it is. Understand?"
"I-I don't know what you're talking about, man! You got it all wrong! I didn't steal no fuckin' stash, I swear!"
The assailant pressed the gun muzzle against the clerk's neck. "I HAVE A DAMN RECORDING OF YOU WITH THE LIZARDS!" He looked at the TV on the corner and the video began playing. The clerk saw himself discussing with a female with green scaled skin. His gaze turned to the gang leader when he heard him shouting again.
"Now tell me the truth, you son of a bitch!"
"Alright... alright, man, I'll talk, I'll talk! It was all her idea! I just gave 'em a ride, I swear!"
"The girl, Vibora! She's the one who found it!"
"Some Chinese guy, she called him Fang!"
The man punched the store owner. "DO NOT LIE TO ME! Do you think I'm stupid? Everybody knows we do not deal with cholos!"
"Don't know man!!!" said the store owner, who whose hands began trembling. "I swear I heard that! They kept saying something about a Dragon!"
He looked at his partner, who raised his eyebrows. "Dragon, what about it? Tell me everything! Show me!"
"Alright, man, alright!"
The screen on the TV switched to some unknown street. The video was blurry and so was the audio. Some words in Chinese, and a female voice with Mexican accent.
After a few seconds of silence, the leader began cursing in Chinese and discussing with his partners. He turned to store owner. "You got lucky. But you still owe us. I’ll call you."
"'Kay, man, just don't kill me!"
The lookout was covering his left ear with his hand. He shouted something to the leader and they all left.
With an imperative thought, Pearson commanded the car to start and turn the siren on. The car sped up, taking the highway and signaling the neighboring cars to move aside. Android-driven and automated cars were the first ones to move while the ones with human drivers were (as usual) the last ones to obey.
"Road clear", said Pearson's partner, "in 5... 4... 3... 2... wait!" he shouted. "Is that Harris?"
"There! His car broke!"
A noticeably overweight police officer was waving both hands at them. They were still speeding down when he reached them. "You won't believe what happened, man!"
"No time, Harris!" shouted Pearson. "Get in!"
Harris ran to the car and jumped to the backseat. "A'ight man, hit it!"
The car sped up, sending status messages to its occupants.
>> ETA: 35 seconds.
"Okay, get ready, guys." Said Paredes.
"I'm checking the cams", said Harris. "Shit, they took a car!"
"Patch me, Harris!" shouted Pearson. "Follow them with the drones!"
"There ya go!"
"Pull back! At least 20 meters!"
"That much, Pearson?"
"That way they can't shut them down, at least not without aiming plugins."
"Okay", added Paredes. "I think we're gonna intercept them on the 25th."
"Fuck! Drone down, drone down!"
One of the occupants of the car was aiming at the drones with some kind of electronic weapon.
"Shit. How many we got left?"
"Keep one moving erratically, move the other to the adjacent street."
"'Kay, man. Shit, they're all down!"
"Fucking bastards... we're gonna have to use the street cams."
>> ETA: 18 seconds.
The police siren got quiet but the wireless signal was still active, telling the nearby cars to move aside.
Harris began rubbing his palms together. "We're right behind them, man, and they've no idea!"
Paredes grabbed the foam gun from under the seat.
"Okay, Pearson. At your signal."
>> ETA: 7 seconds.
The car took the fork right. Pearson swallowed. "Get ready," he shouted, fastening his helmet. "This could get heavy..."
Meanwhile the Cyberpol patrol was taking the highway to intercept them.
"That idiot", muttered the lieutenant, "how many times I've told him not to go after augmented criminals!"
"You're worried about him?" asked Rodriguez while adjusting her bulletproof vest.
"Of course I'm worried, I'm responsible for him."
"So who is he?"
"A reckless idiot who keeps dreaming about becoming a hero. He's not ready to face criminals like that; one shot in the head and he's done."
"Wait, he's not using an avatar?"
"He can't. Trust me, he's tried, but nothing works. New comms, accel plugins, he even spent a full year's savings on a new neural router. Nothing worked."
"But maybe it's for the best."
"What about an armored skull?"
"Can't afford it."
"So why don't you help him? Lend him some money or something."
The lieutenant shook her head. "He would take it as approval. Give him a little leeway and tomorrow he'll apply for the Hunter exam, go to China or gods know what. Once Pearson's mind is set on something, he'll even risk his life to fulfill his goals."
"But isn't that like... a virtue?"
"Courage is a virtue; recklessness is not. What he needs is to have his ass kicked and realize he just wasn't made for this."
"And his martial arts? How good is he?"
"He knows the moves and has good reflexes, but any augmented idiot could send him straight to the morgue."
"I see... so he needs to be taught a big lesson then?"
"Exactly. Let's just hope that lesson doesn't end up killing him."
>> ETA: 3 seconds.
>> ETA: 2 seconds.
"There they are!" shouted Harris.
Paredes looked above. "And Channel 6 is at it again. We’re on the news, guys."
"Fuck. Well, it’s show time." Pearson picked the microphone and cleared his throat before speaking in his best cop voice. "This is the police! Drop your weapons and surrender!" He switched off the mic. "I'm gonna nail them."
Paredes winced, and pressed his hand against his temple. "Shit."
"Paredes, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I'm fine."
"Don't lie to me, Paredes. You need to get yourself checked."
"I'm fine, dammit!"
"HERE IT GOES!" Pearson derailed the gang's car. Paredes lowered the window and shot the foam at the car's front tire, then at the back. In just two seconds the orange foam began solidifying and burning against the concrete.
The officers opened the car doors and aimed at the car when they saw two columns of smoke getting dispersed.
"Pearson, smoke grenade! They're running away!"
"Shit." He sent an ECP message to Harris.
> Harris, take the one on the left!
Pearson fired his net gun and one of the criminals fell. "Got one!"
The other criminals began their escape through the disorganized city slums, jumping over wire fences. Harris fired his net gun, but the thug jumped forward and rolled, avoiding the net. Then he reached for his back. Harris didn't think it twice, he took out his other gun and used his AR implants to shoot at the guy's arm. A quick pull of the trigger and the guy fell, screaming in pain.
Harris' gun emitted a red laser and aimed at the guy's forehead.
The criminal dropped his weapon. "Fucking shithead, you shot me!"
"I warned you, bitch!" Harris shouted, cuffing the criminal's good hand against the fence. "You're under arrest for armed robbery. Stay here, an ambulance will pick you up."
> ATN central, Tango down at my location, send an ambulance.
Central> 10-4, officer Harris. Ambulance on the way.
Meanwhile, Paredes was pursuing the leader.
"This is the police! Surrender, or I'll shoot!"
The robber turned around the corner.
Paredes pursued him but just before he could turn around he fell to the floor and began throwing up. Pearson hesitated."Shit! Paredes! Are you okay?"
>> Don't worry about me, get him!
"Are you sure?"
Pearson crouched before turning around. The robber was on the other side of the street, running towards an alley. The robber stumbled and fell.
"This is my chance."
Pearson ran towards him but the robber quickly got up and jumped over a fence. Not climbing, but actually jumping over it like some kind of super-athlete.
Motherfucker, he's got bionic legs!
Pearson pointed at him with his gun. "FREEZE!"
The robber shot at Pearson. Instinctively, Pearson dodged and shot back, forgetting that he was carrying the net gun. The bullet exploded when it touched the wire fence, deploying its net around it.
Pearson took his bullet gun and pointed at the fleeing criminal.
"Don't flinch," he told himself, "don't flinch!"
He flinched and missed. The criminal jumped again, and then against the wall before taking the next corner.
Pearson jumped over the fence, but tripped and got entangled by his own net. "FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!" It took him a few seconds to get rid of the net before running towards the robber again.
> Central, requesting eagle's eye view.
> Suspect is armed and fleeing. Leg enhancements confirmed, requesting reinforcements.
Central> Reinforcements on the way.
Pearson saw the bird's eye video, taken from one of the police blimps flying hundreds of meters above.
"There he is."
Pearson kept running towards the robber, requesting eagle's eye views every five seconds. The robber was going through another alley, and this one was roofed. No bird's eye advantage.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit."
Pearson approached the alley and covered just in case the robber wanted to shoot him in a corner. A quick glimpse and to his surprise, he saw the robber getting tackled by none other than Harris.
"Got you, motherfucker!!! I got him, Pearson!"
A quick hit with the stun gun and the robber was out of combat. Finally, it was over.
> ATN Central, situation under control, All suspects down. Request reinforcements, suspect is augmented on one arm and both legs.
CYBERPOL> Officer Pearson, a unit is on your way. We'll take care of the augmented criminal now.
> Copy, Cyberpol.
CYBERPOL> And please refrain from pursuing augmented criminals the next time. You guys are NOT equipped to handle them.
> Noted, Cyberpol. Officer Harris will stay here, I'm taking my partner to the hospital.
Central> Officer Pearson, do you require an ambulance?
> No, he just threw up. I'll take him to the hospital personally.
Central> Copy that.
CYBERPOL> Cyberpol out.
* CYBERPOL has left the chat.
* Central has left the chat.
"Oh, look, man", said Harris, "they're already here."
The Cyberpol car parked. Pearson noticed a tall armored woman with short white hair opening the vertical door.
"Oh, fuck me."
When she stepped down, the car bounced. Pearson stepped back. "Oh um, hi, Lieutenant."
Lieutenant Inoue walked towards him and punched him in the eye before grabbing him by the neck. "Give me a reason not to knock you unconscious, Pearson. You fucking KNEW he was augmented, so why the hell did you go after him!"
"He wasn't armored!"
The lieutenant punched him again, this time on the lips.
The lieutenant pushed Pearson against the wall. "Listen up, Rambo. If you think you’re some kind of super-cop with a cybernetic body and a billionaire technician at your disposal, you’re very mistaken. You’re merely human. And you know what that means?"
"Yes, yes, I know..."
"No, you don’t, you idiot! You can recover from pierced, even destroyed organs 99% of the time, but a single punch from an augmented arm can break your fucking neck!" She grabbed a nearby brick from the ground and squeezed, crushing it to bits right in front of him. "Once your brain drowns it's over, you understand? Over!!! An augmented arm is much more dangerous than bullets in close range! Won't you ever learn? You're NOT equipped to deal with people like that! And who knows if he had been equipped with targeting plugins? Do you want a god damn hole in your skull?"
Pearson remembered the drones getting shot down, but then saw Inoue’s partner coming out of the car and saw an opportunity to escape the argument.
"Oh, so I'm not equipped to deal with them, but a teenager like she is, huh?"
The lieutenant slapped her forehead with her palm and sighed. "Rodriguez, I told you not to get out of the car!"
"But the bad guy's asleep, isn't he?"
"Well, cat's out of the bag. Pearson, this is agent Rodriguez, a recent graduate. One of the best close range fighters in the force."
"Hai hai!" replied Rodriguez, saluting.
"Hai hai?" Pearson stared at the girl and blinked once. "An otaku... in the Cyberpol. Seriously?"
"Hey!" shouted Rodriguez. "Just because I have hobbies which some people consider childish doesn't mean I'm not mentally equipped to be in the force, mister!"
A little plush turtle came out of her bag and started squeaking angrily at Pearson before moving its fists in a boxing stance. "Squeak, squeak!"
Pearson couldn't help laughing at the plush toy. "Oh, look at that... your friend's got help! Military version, I suppose!"
Before he could notice the girl quickly grabbed his arm, punched him in the stomach, on the chin, the groin, the stomach again, and threw him to the floor before twisting his wrist. Just before he fainted she released him.
"Don't you make fun of Doki again, mister!"
The lieutenant pointed at Pearson. "Rodriguez! What did I tell you about getting violent?"
"B-But you gave him a black eye!"
"I can moderate my strength! Now get in the car!"
The girl began to pout and ran towards the car, carrying her little plush tortoise with her.
"What the fuck...." grunted Pearson. "Is she an enhanced child experiment or something?"
The lieutenant replied. "She’s all human, Pearson. You’re lucky she’s not augmented yet."
"She's got... control issues. But as you can see," she said with a smile as she crouched towards Pearson, "she's a much better fighter than you are."
"Ow... I think she broke my jaw..."
"Let me check... No. You're fine. You'll need some ice, tho."
"Who the fuck trained her?" asked Pearson, standing up with the lieutenant's help, "Chuck Norris?"
The lieutenant sighed. "Muramasa."
Pearson quickly turned to her. "You're shitting me. Muramasa? Her????"
"Long story. Now let me see that thug."
"Here it is, lieutenant!" shouted Harris. "Just let me check for hidden whoaaa.... Pearson, this guy's got blue legs!"
The lieutenant walked towards Harris. "Let me see".
"Look, underneath his socks."
The lieutenant ripped the criminal's pants open as easily as one would open candy wrap. "I see..."
The criminal had his body stitched to overbuffed android legs.
Pearson knelt down. "Let me check." He pinched the guy's legs with his fingertips. "This skin is too soft..."
"Eroid's, Pearson.", added the lieutenant. "Eroid body parts are biocompatible with the human body."
"They must have found out a way to overgrow them", said Pearson. "That means they stole an eroid and got the means to alter them. And that means they got a back alley doctor working on it. One with access to a good biolab."
"Pearson, we'll handle this. You take your partner for a check up."
"Good idea," he replied standing up. "I'm telling the captain."
"And no more pursuits of augmented criminals, is that clear, officer?"
Pearson sighed. "Alright... lieutenant."
"And this is the latest report on the police pursuit. Right now we’re seeing a confirmed augmented criminal getting carried by an armored Cyberpol officer. Officer, what can you tell us about — "
The camera turned to Pearson. "There he is, coming out of the dark alleys of these dangerous slums! The officer who knocked down the criminal! Officer, Delicia Yong from Channel Six International. The criminal presented a tough fight, didn’t he?"
"I... uh..." Pearson turned sideways to hide his black eye. "Look, what’s important is that the streets are safer and honest quick-mart workers have one less violent robber to worry about. I just did what I had to do." He wiped the blood on his lips with his fist.
Meanwhile, in the precinct...
"Hey skip!" called one of the officers in the precinct. "Pearson's on TV!"
The bearded captain spit his coffee and began coughing before turning on his monitor.
"Officer, are you augmented?"
"No, why do you —"
"So you fought the criminal alone?"
"No, of course not! In fact, my partner there did most of the job."
Harris tightened his suit and began smiling like an idiot in love.
"Yes, officer Harris at your service!"
"Tell us, was the criminal augmented?"
"Oh, you woudna believe what we saw. The guy had these synthetic legs implanted in his body, and they were buffed like this." He made a hand gesture indicating the width of the legs. "He coulda killed us with a single kick!"
"So how exactly did you defeat him?" asked the reporter.
"Well, I was running towards the action," said Harris, "we’d already captured the other three, but this guy ran like hell! He jumped across fences like the friggin’ flea man! I could barely catch up with him! My partner here did most of the job. I just caught the guy off guard while my partner was distracting him and feinting at him with his kung-fu moves! Man! You shoulda seen it! The fight was intense!"
Pearson replied. "Look, it wasn’t that bad, I had my weapon with me..."
"But you’re not augmented," replied the reporter. "Officer, you could have died if he aimed for your neck! Oh, wait, you’re using an avatar, is that it?"
"Uh... no... " Shit, shouldn't have said that.
"You’re NOT using an avatar??? And went by yourself to catch this dangerous criminal???"
"Look, um... I had some technical issues, it happens — but I was as careful as I could be. Of course I knew the risks. Had I seen myself in real danger, I would have pulled back and called for reinforcements. But my partner here knocked the criminal down before he could pose any danger. Most of the credit goes to him."
"Thank you very much, officer..."
"Pearson. Richard Pearson, at your service. Now, if you excuse me," he said, putting on his sunglasses to cover his black eye, "duty calls."
"There you go, fellas," the reporter told the cam as it was being seen on TV. "We need more elements like this. While most policemen would be resting or eating donuts at this time of the morning, this brave policeman was on duty and risked his life to pursue an augmented criminal. Glad to see someone still cares about our crime rates. For Channel Six International, this is Delicia Yong."
The reporter left in the news van as Pearson and Harris went to the car to take Paredes to the hospital.
"Clear your cache."
"B-but Pearson, that's illegal!"
"The part about the lieutenant, not the capture! Sheesh. I just don't want to be embarrassed by -"
Lt. Inoue> And Pearson, don't you dare wipe that part from your cache. It must be stated on record that it was I and not the thief who hurt you.
"Never mind, Harris." Pearson pressed an icepack against his eye. "Just... don’t exaggerate things in the media again."
"Man, whadya want me to do? Tell them your ex gave you a black eye? Wounna look good on TV!"