Jahangir smiled, ruefully. 'Tell me about it. I’ve got some reading to do. See you at dinner!"
Jahangir smiled, ruefully. 'Tell me about it. I’ve got some reading to do. See you at dinner!"
CHAPTER 4: FIRST BLOOD
September 14, 119 AE. One week later.
Jahangir marched into the room, triumphantly. The crew was gathered in front of the television, watching the news, and looked up. The anchor kept talking. 'Anâhita gatherings are growing frequent, with minor rallies being staged every few days now. Lady Jasmine Apatecatli has assumed the spokesmanship, and reassures augmented people that Anâhita is not out to get them, but rather those who profit from what she calls 'body corru-" Touching the remote, Jahangir switched it off.
'Rahim’s done it. We’ve got the structural plans, and a way into the vault. Gather around, people!" He swept the rug and assorted pens and bits of paper off the table, plugging a digital storage device into a slot on the side and bringing up the plans. “We’ve got the main lobby in the center, with offices for bank workers branching off to the north and west. East has the main elevator to the sub-basement, which holds the vault. We will do the following: Bahram and Roxana will be respectively drive and overwatch, as agreed. I will leave Rahim and Bahraz in the lobby to keep an eye on the customers, and assist Roxana if things go hot. Marcellus, I will accompany you to the vault for demolition and carrying the gold. Any questions?”
Marcellus remained still. He had made his preparations sometime before, and was now well equipped for the dangers ahead. He had spent the past week learning as much as possible about Kavehans and their new way of life, absorbing no small amount of information.
'None? Alright, let’s go."
Swiftly, the team gathered their items and weapons. Besides face-covering masks, they wore traditional Kavehan robes - heavy conceiling garments they could hide their weapons under. Bahram and Bahraz both equipped themselves with heavy SMGs - the heaviest weapon available, besides the sniper rifle Roxana used. Rahim, Jahangir and Marcellus had flechette pistols - Rahim and Marcellus wielding swords besides the sidearm. Smiling innocently at the Valkoran, Jahangir opened a drawer and took a very heavy pistol out. It was shiny dark grey, several lights playing along its barrel. 'Prototype miniaturized directed energy weapon. This’ll knock a man out for two hours regardless of what armour he’s wielding. I lifted it off a police officer we ambushed just before coming to find you."
Besides the weapons, the team brought their demolition charges, several heavy sacks, and numerous cans of spray paint. It was evening outside. After bundling it all, and themselves, into the back of the truck under the dim light of the setting sun, Jahangir slapped on the thin wall separating them from the driver’s cabin, and the vehicle started moving. During the drive to the bank, they were all quiet and tense - this would be the first major operation they would undertake. All too soon, the vehicle slowed to a halt, and the men hid their weapons under the robes and got out of the vehicle. Jahangir looked up at the large Valkoran. 'Ready?"
Marcellus nodded. He breathed smoothly and coolly, a professional at work once again. His sword was in it’s sheath, strapped to his leg to avoid the scabbard bouncing about, and he had his demolitions gear with him. He also carried the pistol given him by Jahangir.
“No firearms until I set off the charges,” he warned, “It would attract guards. Use your hands, or a knife.” He looked at Jahangir. “If we run into a guard, talk me close enough to get into arms reach.”
Jahangir nodded and put the mask on his face. From the moment it was on, he focused himself inwards. A remarkable transformation occured - the amicable, excitable idealist was gone, replaced by a hardened warrior and combat officer. He spoke one word, consonants hard on his tongue, intonation clipped with the aura of command. 'Rox." She nodded. 'On it", broke off the group to head to the nearby sniper’s roost she’d scouted out, to provide oversight. 'Everyone else, with me." They headed inside the facility as one.
They passed through corridors made of steel-reinforced plaster walls. The floor was soft carpet. Glass doors opened at their approach, and the remaining four members came into the lobby. Some customers were still milling about. They’d intentionally picked an hour near closing time, so there’d be as few people as possible. Slipping his hand in his pocket to the flechette pistol, he nodded to Bahraz. 'Do it." The silent man lifted his gun to the overhead fluorescent lamps, letting loose a salvo that shattered two and startled the entire room. At the same time, Rahim lit up with magical strength and amplified his voice to a resonant, deafening boom. “ON THE FLOOR, NOW!”, and letting loose a few shots of his own with his pistol. People screamed and obeyed, cowering. Three guards, distinguished by their uniforms and light armour, were on the floor with everyone else. They did not bear firearms, and with their batons wouldn’t make it ten meters before being shot dead.
For a moment, all was still, and then Jahangir nodded to Marcellus. “You’re up. I’ll follow you.”
As he moved towards them, seeking to leave the lobby, people screamed, and sheltered back. The centurion was wearing a hood instead of a mask, a dark thing that hid his face. The gigantic half-giant was a horrifying sight in the money-grubbing bank. The workers and businessmen and women moved back, his towering visage a foreboding aspect.
Marcellus shoved his way through the crowd, his eyes roving about for a moment. He spotted a security guard. Leaning down, he grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck and heaved him to his feet, dragging him along the eastern hallway, Jahangir in his wake, gun raised.
They found the elevator. It was locked, and required a security pass. Marcellus ripped the pass from the guard’s vest, and smashed his head into the wall. He slumped to the ground, unconscious. The Valkorian swiped the pass.
He looked at Jahangir, and stepped in.
Jahangir smirked at the Valkorian’s antics. 'Easy and effective. I like it". The elevator smoothly moved down, before coming to a halt. Tensing, Jahangir whispered to the Valkorian. 'Be ready", and took cover against one of the walls next to the elevator door. A ding sounded once more, and the door slid open to reveal a small room. On the ceiling, a red alarm light lit the room in its crimson glare. Racks were set against the walls, filled with map upon map of documents. On the far side, the vault door sat embedded in the wall’s concrete face. But next to it were two guards in heavier body armour, wearing helmets with clear faceplates and having pistols at the ready.
When the door opened, the guards opened with a full volley of suppressive fire. Jahangir ducked on the one side of the entrance, Marcellus on the other. When the barrage abated, and the guards, cursingly, attempted to reload, Jahangir rounded the corner, lined up his pistol with his remaining eye, and smoothly drilled both guards’ heads with shots to the eye socket.
Marcellus blinked at that. Two eye shots, just like that, from eight meters away? Sweet Neptune. Meanwhile, Jahangir stepped into the room and examined the racks with files. “You’d have thought they would have digitalized this by now.” He pointed to the door. “Anyways. Marcellus. Would you be so kind as to unlo-” He paused mid-sentence, bringing his finger to his earbud, and cursed violently in Kavehan. Marcellus looked at him. 'Problems?" Jahangir nodded. “Armed group closing in topside. I’ll deal with it. You focus on that door. If there’s a need to bail, we’ll come get you.”
As the evening set in and the streets cleared, the last few ‘‘customers’’ were seen enter the bank, and all went calm. It was the closing hour, and the armed group who had been eyeing the bank from somewhat down the road made their move and stepped forth on and in to the street lights. There were a total of 5 of them, a Valkorian, two Dwarves, an Elf, and a man wearing and concealed in a cybersuit.
Their faces covered with some foreign masks, guns in hand under their cloak, they walked up to the bank door and shoved it open as they piled inside in a swift motion. Stepping inside, they raised their weapons in preparation to seize control, only to be greeted by yet another group of armed and masked thugs pointing their own weaponry their way…
At that point, the elevator pinged. Both groups turned to stare at the incongruous sound, as the door slid open slowly and Jahangir stepped outside, brushing an imaginary bit of lint off his robe. “Good evening! I wouldn’t suppose you’re here to rob this bank, now, would you?” he said, nodding at the guns in the new party’s hands. He smirked. “Robbing banks is against the law. This bank is already being emptied under the auspices of the Free Kaveh Republican Army.” He jerked his head back in the entrance’s direction. 'Go find your own."
Their weapons still aimed at the thugs, one of the dwarves spoke.
’‘Step a’side or i’ll blow yer’ cybernetic balls off, tin can.’’
The man in the cybersuit intervened before shots started flying.
’‘Starting a gun fight now would be foolish. We would alert the entire neighbourhood. You have a choice, give us our share, or neither of us gain anything from tonight.’’
Jahangir’s eye flared furiously at the dwarf’s address. “Be mindful of whom you accuse of body corruption, Nitemem.” Then he turned towards the man. “Not so fast. We have introduced ourselves, it would be nothing but rude for you to not do the same. Who are you?”
‘‘Bank robbers.’’ he replied as he ran his eyes about the room, taking in how many of them were present, and where & how the civilians were being held. ‘‘Unlike you just did, we aren’t fools to admit who we are to so many witnesses.’’
Jahangir lifted his chin. 'These witnesses are welcome to know the KRA is fighting for their freedom and future. Soon enough, our name will have the powerful tremble! But if it’s the witnesses that bother you, we can take our discussion elsewhere and work out some sort of agreement."
‘‘You oppose the Shah?’’ he asked in confusion, then remembering he did say they were fighting for Kaveh, but currently, it was anything else but a republic. ‘‘Interesting… because, so do we. Let’s talk elsewhere.’’
While the conversation in the lobby continued Marcellus had not been idle. Pulling out his tools and several bricks of the explosive, he laid them carefully on the floor. Then, he strapped magnet to each of them, working with caution despite Jahangir’s words. Placing the bricks with a gentle click, on the metal door, he positioned the four explosives around the door, one around each of the hinges.
His lip curled. Amateurs. They would have been better off making the doors open inwards instead of outwards, and kept the hinges safe.
As it was, after adhering the explosives to the vault door, he attached part of his spoil of wire to each of them, winding it in one long neat loop around the door. Unspooling the remaining metal twine, he backed off down the hallway to the elevator entrance. There he attached the wire to the detonator box, said a quick prayer, and flipped the switch.
A series of sharp books echoed throughout the massive building, rising up to the two parties exchanging words in the lobby. The hinges exploded, and the door crumpled.
Marcellus waved his hand about, clearing the smoke away, drew his handgun, and entered the vault, peering about. He had no knowledge of the interior, for that had not been included in the blueprints furnished by his compatriots.
Jahangir walked to a side room with the other man, who clearly was a foreigner by his apparel. Right when he closed the door to block out the lobby, the floor shook and a deep rumble sounded. “Huh. Guess the explosives worked.” Then he looked at the other man. “Yes, we oppose the Shah. If you do also, then it is clear you work for a foreign government, judging by your clothing and comrades. Who sent you?”
‘‘The rest of the group are mainly mercenaries i hired for the heist. They do not know anything beyond their job, and their payout. I however, am here on behalf of Arch Magister Qeerel na-Verdanna of Kleriel, and i have been sent here to collect on what Kaveh owes us for its treachery, whether it wants to pay or not.’’ the man began explaining through his helmet in which he had an integrated voice changer, so it sounded deeper and electric as he paced around the room. Up close, it became more apparent by his stride that under the full body cybersuit and hooded cloak might not be a human form.
‘‘Enough about us.’’ they continued. ‘‘Time is wasting, precious time. We came here for Kaveh’s money and we will not leave without any. Do not think of stalling me any longer, we can talk more when we get out and we have what we came for.’’
Jahangir nodded, mind racing at the implications of the other man’s revelation. 'You’re here to steal Kaveh’s money in renumeration for the attack during the war? Interesting. Our main purpose here is to weaken the Shah’s power base by undermining his financial control over the economy - so it matters less where the money goes, only that he loses it. It should be possible to work out an arrangement, as well as potential future… connections that may prove fruitful for both parties. For now, let us go down to the vault. Judging by the fact that the explosion was some time ago, and no frustrated demolitionist has emerged to demand more bombs, I’ll wager that we have gained access."
The man nodded. ‘‘Agreed. My men are ready to assist wherever needed. Lets go.’’ he said, and took the lead heading out of the room. Beckoning his men to follow, he headed towards the elevator. Following their original plan, the Valkorian and elf remained in the lobby while the two dwarves headed to the elevator.