The room was small, barely the size of Korehammer’s old bedroom in The Plex. There was almost no light, with what little there was coming from light strips in the ceiling. The wall opposite the door they had just walked through was just one huge couch that was made from some artificial fiber that appeared to almost glow in the low light. Other than that, the only other contents of the room was a synthstation, presumably for drinks, and a holoscreen that was playing some vintage porn film.
For a club that was supposed to be considered upscale, Korehammer thought the private rooms were a bit shabby.
That said, Korehammer realized that might be exactly how the ultra-wealthy who frequent Cheetahs like it. An environment that made the dirty and kinky activities they took part in all the more salacious and thrilling. It was a mindset Korehammer didn’t quite understand, for which he was eternally thankful.
The moment he and Vanya were in the room, she pushed him down onto the couch, a playful look in her eyes. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“From that?” he said as he pointed toward the synthstation. “Nyet. I will wait until we have finished our … private date and then return to my Tsarskaya.”
“If that’s what you want.” she said as she walked over to the synthstation and asked for a Moonblast. The drink appeared and she took a sip, grimacing as she did. “These things always add too much Delta.”
Vanya put the drink down and then turned her full attention to him. She slowly walked over, swinging her hips and running her finger over her lips. Before Korehammer knew what was happening, she was straddling him, her hands on his face.
“So. Mr. Chernova. Do you like what you see?”
Korehammer let a small smile cross his features. “Da. What is there not to like?”
She bent over and spoke so softly into his ear he could barely hear her. “Because I can be whatever you want me to be. I can be anything that will make you happy. And I was told to do everything I can to make you happy.”
She sat up and looked in Korehammer’s eyes. “Would you like me to maybe be someone more exotic? More … unusual?”
Vanya reached behind her head to the base of her skull and Korehammer heard a soft beep. Abruptly Vanya’s entire body began to shimmer and seconds later, her features had become Middle Eastern. Her hair was suddenly long and jet-black, her skin was several shades darker and she had a Bindi on her forehead.
“Or maybe you would like to something a bit darker? Maybe you have a bit of the jungle fever?”
Korehammer heard another beep and Vanya was now a Black woman. Her skin was a caramel color and hair was braided with green highlights.”
Korehammer’s mouth was hanging slightly open. “That’s a Chameleon Mask you’re using. How did you get your hands on technology like that? It’s ridiculously rare and I always thought it was strictly for use by corporate armies and the like.” He was in such shock that he let his Chernova persona slip a bit and his speech patterns took on a much more Korehammer-like tone.
Vanya’s body shimmered once again and she returned to her original form. She bent over and purred into his ear. “Let’s not talk about that right now. Don’t you think we have better things we could be doing?”
Korehammer quickly recovered. “You are right.”
Korehammer reached behind her head and found the small Chameleon Mask control panel. With a thought he released an electrical charge through the fingers of his artificial hand, enough to short out the Mask and send Vanya into a fit of spasms. As she crumpled to the floor, her features changed one after another, cycling through all the appearances stored in the device. Finally she passed out, the electrical surge too much for her body to take.
Korehammer looked down and for the first time saw the real Vanya. She was a woman in her early 50s with dirty blonde hair, a cybernetic leg and at best average looks. The Chameleon Mask was smoking from the base of her skull as her body jolted every so often.
He bent over and looked at the control panel. It was ruined, but might be able to be salvaged. At the very least Korehammer thought he might be able to reverse engineer the technology, add it to his bag of tricks.
The problem was that a Chameleon Mask was wired directly into the user’s nervous system. Once it was grafted on, it couldn’t be removed without killing them.
Korehammer dragged Vanya to the NIIC reader beside the door, waved her wrist over it and heard the door unlock. He then yanked the Mask from the base of Vanya’s skull. A few sparks flew as she spasmed one last time and then was still.
“Sorry. Can’t have any witnesses and I will get a lot more use out of this than a JoyGirl like you ever will.”
Korehammer turned toward the door and opened it just enough to see the hallway beyond. A young man was heading into a room with one of the male dancers but other than that it was empty. He walked out, closed the door and then walked over to the room next door. Looking up he saw that the light strip was now green. Finally I catch a break. he thought to himself.
He cautiously opened the door and looked inside. The room was identical to the one he just left, even down to the color of the couch. He walked over and reached his hand between first set of cushions, finding nothing. The smell of old cigarettes and strong perfume assaulted his nose as he went to the next set. He reached his hand in and within moments found something.
Korehammer pulled out a box no bigger than a pack of Coffin Nails. At the push of the small button along the side it popped open, revealing the contents.
The box had two datachips inside. One was marked with what looked like an account number and Korehammer assumed this would give him access to his payment for taking on this assignment. The other had no markings whatsoever. From all appearances it just looked like an ordinary datachip that you could find anywhere.
“There better be something incredibly valuable stored on this Corrine.” he muttered under his breath as he stood up and placed the box in his pocket.
As he did, a scream pierced the silence, coming from downstairs. Then he heard another and the sounds of shouting. When he exited the room and went to the spiral staircase, he saw that a group of men had entered the club, each armed with a FN-RAL Heavy Assault Rifle. However, that wasn’t what made Korehammer curse under his breath.
First, he immediately realized that the men carrying the heavy arms reminded him an awful lot of the two mercs who had blown the hell out of the New Galaxy Diner. Bald, large, armed to the teeth and oozing with chrome.
While that was bad enough, it was the pair of pale, skinny would-be Goths dressed all in black that concerned him more. If he wasn’t mistaken, they were the same two who had been looking for Zechiel at the Senshō. That could only mean they had found his cyber fight loving friend and gotten everything they wanted out of him.
All of which meant that Korehammer was in trouble.
By now other patrons who had been enjoying the company of the JoyBoys and Girls of Cheetahs were beginning to emerge from their rooms as well. Everyone looked confused and not entirely sure what was happening. Which Korehammer thought he might be able to use to his advantage.
He raised his NIIC to his mouth and called his driver, telling her to be waiting for him outside the club as soon as she could.
“Is there a problem sir?” she asked before he ended the conversation.
“Yes. We may have to get back to the Shina-Yasuyan is a hurry.”
“I’ll take care of it sir. And here I was afraid it was going to be a boring evening.”
Korehammer wasn’t sure what to make of that last statement as he hung up and pulled his X-22 handgun from the holster. Just like his Sternmeyer, the gun was useless unless he mentally unlocked it. As he did, he checked to make sure it had a full clip and then walked to the edge of the staircase.
“It’s a raid! Everyone run for it!” he screamed as loud as he could and then started to fire wildly at the ceiling.
Korehammer was well aware that high roller clubs such as Cheetahs didn’t get raided, especially in Atlantic City where the local police is run by whichever casino megacorp owned the zone. However, he was counting on the fact that wasn’t common knowledge to the type of people who came here.
Sure enough, as soon as the customers heard the gunfire, it was a mad dash to the exit. They trampled over one another, screaming and trying to get out of the perceived line of fire. Dancers ran half naked while the bartenders grabbed the money off the bar and tried run toward the double doors. Meanwhile, the mercs and the pair in black tried their best to stop people and maintain control, but the chaos was all-consuming.
Korehammer managed to get to the spiral staircase first and quickly made his way down, waving his X-22 in the face of anyone who got in his way. By the time he was on the first floor, he had a clear line of sight to the exit and figured he was home free.
That changed when he looked across the bar and saw the woman from the sports book look in his direction. “That’s him! That’s the one Zechiel said came looking for him! Stop him!”
One of the mercs opened fire, the rounds from his Heavy Assault Rifle shattering the mirrors that lined the walls behind him. Korehammer jumped over the bar as glass and mirror shards fell around him. He quickly stood up and fired several rounds, hitting the merc in the shoulder and arm and doing no damage whatsoever.
What the fuck are these guys made of for Christ’s sake? He thought to himself as he ducked behind the bar again.
More rounds came flying towards him, taking large chunks of the bar with them. Korehammer had to think of something soon or there wouldn’t be much of a bar left to provide any cover. He peered over the edge and saw the woman in mirrorshades moving toward the back of the club with mercs in tow while the man and the merc who had first opened fire slowly moved toward the front. They obviously planned to flank him and cut off any attempt to escape.
Korehammer knew this was no time for anything fancy, so he figured since the mercs couldn’t be hurt it was time to see if that also applied to their bosses.
He jumped up and started running toward the entrance, somehow avoiding the shots from the mercs as they fired indiscriminately in his direction. While running, he took aim at the man in black and opened fire, getting five rounds off before the first hit the mark.
The man’s head burst in a haze of red and exploding flesh. Korehammer got lucky and the mass of blood and bone ended up flying into the face of the merc who had been following right on his boss’s heels. It momentarily blinded him, sending the soldier to the floor trying to wipe the gore from his face.
Korehammer didn’t waste the opportunity. He was out the door and into the still night air as fast as he could. He ran through the crowd that had gathered made up of club goers, dancers in various states of undress and people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking for his ride.
He spotted her just across the street, waving her arm with the rear door to the limo open. Korehammer dashed for the car just as the mercs and the remaining goth wannabe came streaming out the doorway, opening fire through the crowd attempting to get to him.
Bodies flew everywhere as rounds from the FN-RALs tore through flesh and chrome. The night air was soon filled with screams and the road became slick with blood as they continued to fire, trying to hit Korehammer.
Korehammer jumped into the back seat of the car and slammed the door shut as he screamed at the girl behind the wheel “DRIVE!”
The driver had an oddly calm look on her face as she said “You got it sir.” and slammed her foot on the accelerator. The car moved like it was shot out of a gun, throwing Korehammer into the back of the seat as he heard the tires squeal under them.
He was able to look out the back window and he saw the woman giving orders, her and the mercs running toward a large hovervan and climbing inside. Soon they were in pursuit of Korehammer and his driver as the raced toward Ohio Avenue and the tunnel that would take them back to the Shina-Yasuyan.
In no time they were entering the connector tunnel with the hovervan still in close pursuit. Korehammer thought they might be okay until the rear window of the limousine was shattered by gunfire. Covered in glass Korehammer fired back though he knew his shots would be ineffective from this distance.
The limo careened out of the tunnel as it headed toward the Shina-Yasuyan, tires screaming as the driver rounded a corner and headed for the valet entrance where she had picked him up. When they got there, the van was right behind them and Korehammer jumped out with his gun at the ready, hoping his driver had some kind of weapon on her.
Turns out he didn’t need to worry. When the hovervan came to a stop and the mercs got out followed by their mirrorshade wearing superior, guns at the ready, all Korehammer could hear was the clicking and hum of weapons being primed to fire.
He looked around and saw at least 25 members of the Shina-Yasuyan Casino Complex Police Force spread out in a semicircle around the valet entrance to the building. Large barricades had been erected and all the glass windows and doors had been covered with polysteel plates. There was even an Arasaka Riot-10 APC with its large main pulse canon aimed squarely at the hovervan.
While all of that should have been enough to make Korehammer question his sanity, it was the sight of Neomi Wynn in a flack jacket and fatigues and holding a Beretta M99-H that put the whole situation over the top.
When she spoke to the mercs, Wynn sounded nothing like the casino host who had welcomed him here just a few hours ago.
“Gentlemen. This man is a guest of the Shina-Yasuyan Hotel and Casino Complex. We don’t take very kindly to one of our guests being chased through the streets by thugs such as you, especially when you are coming from another city zone. Think very carefully before you make your next decision. We are more than willing to let you be on your way, or this can get very ugly, very quickly for you.”
In what was becoming a theme when it came to Wynn, Korehammer was impressed.
The woman pointed to Korehammer. “That bastard has something that belongs to us! We’re not leaving until we get it back.”
“Then we’re all in for a long night.” Wynn gestured to the Riot-10 and Korehmmer could hear the pulse cannon come to life with a soft thrumming sound.
The woman looked around, taking stock of the situation and realizing it was a no-win situation for her and her men. She waved her arm, motioning for the mercs to get back in the hovervan. Before she got in, she looked directly at Korehammer. “This isn’t over asshole. We know what you look like and it’s only a matter of time until we find you again. Then you’re going to learn what pain is really all about.”
“I am sure.” he replied.
Moments later the hovervan pulled away for the valet, racing back toward the tunnel and out of that particular zone of Atlantic City.
Wynn approached Korehammer, a genuine look of concern of her face. “Are you all right Mr. Chernova?”
“Da. I am fine Miss Wynn. Just a bit shaken up.” He quickly put his X-22 back in its holster as the members of the police force began to relax and take down the barricades.
“When young Parker here called and said we should be ready for trouble I became concerned. I’m glad to see you’re okay.”
“Do you go to this amount of trouble for all your guests?”
“I told you Mr. Chernova. We want to make a good first impression. No guest of the Shina-Yasuyan will ever come to any harm on my watch.”
“You don’t want to know what that was all about?”
Wynn shook her head. “The privacy of our guests is of paramount importance to us. What you do while here is none of our business. We like to think any good relationship should be based on trust Mr. Chernova.”
Korehammer walked over to the car, where the driver was looking over the damage done by the mercs. “Miss Wynn says your name is Parker?”
She turned and looked at him with a smile. “Yes sir.”
“Spasibo. I never would have made it back here alive without your help. I owe you.”
“Think nothing of it sir. I’m actually kind of glad it happened.”
Korehammer looked at her questioningly. “Why is that?”
“I was getting bored. Plus it’s been a week since I was in a high-speed chase and I was afraid I was getting rusty.”