The Dawn Patrol

0610hrs.

They perched on the hoverbike and waited.  Joh wiped his hands clean of blood, and tried to ignore the emtechs as they loaded both bodies into the rescue transport.  A few people came to their windows to gawk.  A few even had jacks buried in their temples, backing up the experience in the hope of selling it to Sensovision.
"Pluggers." DeSoto snorted, getting to his feet and scowling at the nearest example until he went away. "Can't believe there's a market for micro shit like that."
Joh inspected under his nails, then went back to wiping his palms.  They still felt dirty.
"Think what we could make, if we could record what we do."
Joh laughed. "Eight hours on a hoverbike, twiddling our thumbs.  That'll set their jaded pulses racing."
DeSoto ignored him. "Verdict?"
"Those two cold ones?  I don't know.  Tell me."
"It's not like any Osiron job I've ever seen.  If they were fucking and putting a business in jeopardy, they would have been blazed separately, to minimise any possible connection.  Whack both at the same time and place, you forge a link.  If they were ripping, same again. The whole modus stinks.  Osiron pay for the best.  The best don't use traceable 'Pol tech or brass, they don't come in the front door, they don't forget to crack the vault-"
"I get the idea."
"Maybe they hired someone else to do it.  Psyke, or one of the smaller gangs.  Amateur night at Mieville Apartments."
The sidecar console bleeped politely. "See what that is." Joh watched the MegaPol officer emerge from the apartment block and talk with the emtechs.
DeSoto turned and slid into the sidecar, worming his bulk into the narrow space.  Thumbing buttons, he unlocked the console and reviewed the display.
"Well?"
DeSoto switched the audio on.
"-twenty-three offences; thirteen counts of operating as a hardtech without a license, four counts of attempted evasion of arrest, two counts of actively resisting arrest, one count of passively resisting arrest, one count of avoiding implantation of fertility suppressant, one count of attempted illegal procreation, one count of interfering in the moral education of a minor.  Suspected ongoing association with criminal elements-"
DeSoto cut the audio. "Last offence was in seventy-nine.  MegaPol haven't seen much of him since then.  Jane is a different story." He leaned back, rubbing his chin. "She opened a minor import-export trade in seventy-three, and was co-opted into Osiron in seventy-four.  The 'Pol picked her up in seventy-eight and they turned her.  She was a conduit for surplus from MarSec, with some small nuggets of Elerium into the bargain.  Brass, concentrates, tech, even raw materials she picked up easily and legally, and sold them on."
"Any details?  Maybe she ripped someone on an Elerium deal." Joh leaned closer, looming over DeSoto to look at the display.
"Doubt it.  It's not like stim, you can't cut it with sugar and pretend it's pure." DeSoto shifted uncomfortably. "Holms and Jane had nothing in common.  Osiron hired Holms through a cardboard man-"
"A what?" John frowned.
"A cardboard man.  A cut-out.  A safety measure, meaning there's no direct, provable link between Osiron and Holms." DeSoto glanced up at him. "Who did you fuck to get this job?"
"Fuck off, DeSoto.  I didn't plod around the slums grappling fucking kids."
"No?  What did you do?" DeSoto pretended to be absorbed in the displayed information.
"MarSec.  Five years in the colonies."
"A stormtrooper." DeSoto's lip curled.
"No.  I had a quiet term.  I didn't put down any riots, I didn't massacre any miners." Joh felt his cheeks beginning to heat up, and turned away from the argument, starting the bike up. "Give me the rest when we're in the air."
He used the jet on purpose, leaving a long black scorch mark seared across the lawn like a third-degree burn.

0620hrs.

Hod stopped, for a moment, and leaned on the walkway rail.  Looking over, into the levels below, made him feel sick and he looked at the floor under his feet instead.  He knew he was drawing attention to himself, knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't help it.
He was cold, his robe was scratchy, and he didn't know what he would do first; throw up, or wet himself.  The weapon twitched, swinging down by his leg.  He felt the fin sprout and tickle his thigh.  It took his mind off feeling ill.
-what if it doesn't work what do i do-
Hod stood up straight, glancing up at the clock that hung in the centre of the mall, rotating slowly.  He gritted his teeth as he counted how long was still to go.  He looked around, slowly.
The second level of the mall was mostly concerned with clothing, chameleonic shirts and skirts that mirrored the hues of the people browsing.  It was too early for a big crowd, but there were quite a few people at a NutriVend stall waiting for companions.  An ad for Gravball flashed up, startlingly loud, surrounding the clock display with spinning figures, more robot than man.  Hod watched them, then remembered what he was here to do and looked away.  He steeled himself, and looked down into the level below.
He spotted Yesof instantly, chatting with a group of young girls.  Smiling, talking pleasantly, he somehow did not seem too out of place among the bright constellation of women.  Hod gritted his teeth.  He couldn't see Malkuth, but he was down there, somewhere.  Their job was to provide security, isolating the mall from outside interference.
Hod looked across the central shaft of the mall, and found Netzach glaring at him.  He knew that look intimately.
Stand up.  Look happy.  Smile.  Don't be nervous.  Do as you're told.
Hod turned away and walked around the concourse, circling the central shaft.  He knew that each level was open-plan, with few interior walls.  A rough square, with a people tube in each corner of the central shaft, two ascending, two descending.  There were four more tubes, one on each exterior corner of the mall, accessible through hatches which only opened in emergencies.
Chokma and Kether, up on the top floor, would take care of those along with the rooftop access.
Netzach was pacing him, so they were always on the opposite side of the central shaft, and although that gulf was smaller than their personal rift, Hod would still have liked to be closer.  Just for reassurance.  Netzach was a bully and an idiot, but he was big, and not easily intimidated.
A man bumped into Hod, shouldering him out of the way.
Hod staggered, too miserable to say anything.
"Bugger" The man called back without looking, and Hod felt his cheeks flush with hot blood.
His hand tightened around the weapon's slippery grip, and it seemed to tense in sympathy, stiffening against his leg.  But Netzach was watching, and when he made eye contact, he shook his head, once.
Not yet.
Hod looked at the floor and kept walking.

0625hrs.

"I'm getting a fucking headache with all this recycled shit." Joh wiped a hand across his sweaty forehead. "Let's go arrest some Osiron members."
DeSoto shook his head. "And what?  Beat them with rubber hoses until they confess?  Not our job.  We are meant to be covert.  Low profile."
"Which is why we were sent to a routine crime.  And why our vehicles are painted bright fucking red, too, I suppose.  Oh, and never forgetting the truly genius decision of building our base under a Christ-damned warehouse.  Real covert.  We couldn't be any more low profile if we were invisible."
"I'm getting the feeling you disagree with some of the operational decisions." DeSoto's eyebrows raised.
"Not at all.  Five-by if you ask me.  We're so secret we don't even get our own building.  That's pretty damn secret." Joh switched the hoverbike to autopilot and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Why didn't they go the whole nine and build it in a fucking volcano?"
"The nearest volcano must be a thousand kilometres from here." DeSoto reminded him.
"Well, it'd be pretty fucking secret then, wouldn't it?"
"I can't talk to you when you're like this." DeSoto turned back to this console.
They flew on, the autopilot taking them in a wide loop around the centre of MegaPrimus.  DeSoto pecked at the console with his fingers, opening, enlarging, shrinking and closing windows on text, video, and audio files in a constant flow of information.  Just watching him irritated Joh.  He wasn't an investigator.  He didn't have the patience for this kind of work.  DeSoto was different, a curious, investigative animal, quick to worm through intricacies.  DeSoto had the advantages of prior experience and training.
"There was no connection between Holms and Jane." DeSoto broke the quiet between them, ignoring any residual awkwardness.
"Apart from the fact they were killed at the same time, at the same place, by the same people."
"Apart from those, yes.  Prelim forensics identified two hitters or at least, two guns, from the casings.  They're digging the bullets out now.  No prints on the casings.  All of the brass was MegaPol issue, seventy-three to seventy-five, fine vintages all."
"Any brass get stolen in or after those years?"
"Officer Vincenz has already checked, and apparently not."
"Well, I'm out of ideas."
"You mean you actually had one?"
"Fuck off." Joh resumed control, giving up on the conversation.
He put them back on the regular patrol route, a tight loop around the X-Com base.  It was still early, but the air was busy, the last rush of automated traffic before the people started to wake up and go to work.  Joh was hungry, and already tired with frustration.  He took them up, watching for threats,  occupying himself.  DeSoto carried on tapping away, entranced with his console.
"Charlie Alpha, X-ray Bravo."
"X-ray Bravo, Charlie Alpha.  News?"
"Seconded to investigation.  RV Officer Vincenz, MegaPol Station Twenty."
"Understood." Joh said glumly, and felt his hopes of a nice simple shift evaporate.
"Christ, that little blockage isn't going to be giving us orders, is he?" DeSoto asked, not looking up from the screen.
Joh made a small course correction and took them down, a steep descent that coasted the hoverbike directly under one of the main traffic streams, apparently contravening Regulation 334, which required him to request permission from TraffCon for such a maneouvre.  Joh felt a small but undeniable burst of delight as he thumped the screen.  At last, he got to hit something.