The Credulity Nexus
small netNode lay on one of the benches,
abandoned by whoever had used it last. Rik reached for the little
silver box, but she got to it first. She tried to interface her
cogplus with it, with only limited success. A display told them
that access was denied. She handed it to Rik, but he had no luck
with it, either.
    “ You think the guys who are after your
friend came in this van?” Freymann asked. “Why?”
    Rik looked at
her for the first time since they left the parking garage. “Because
the crooks always use a black van when they're planning to snatch
somebody. Just like the Feds always use a white one.”
    “ What? Are you nuts?”
    Leaning back
in his seat and tossing the netNode aside, Rik flashed a grin at
her. “It was a hunch, that's all. It's the only vehicle nearby that
looks right for the job. Look, it's like this. Either the guys
after Brie are on their own, in which case you're right, the Feds
will get them. Or they're with the upload, in which case, you're
wrong. The Feds don't stand a chance.
    “ But that black-skinned killing machine
will want to get Brie away from the cops so that she can
interrogate her. Which means she's probably going to bring Brie
back here and drive her somewhere. Either that, or the upload came
on her own, probably didn't use a vehicle at all, and will head off
across the roofs or something with Brie on her shoulders. In which
case, we're left sitting in some stranger's van, looking like
assholes.”
    “ Great! So in this brilliant plan of yours,
the very best scenario is that the upload comes bursting through
that door any second, possibly with a couple of friends, blows us
away, and drives off to interrogate Brie?” She didn't know quite
why she was giving him such a hard time. She'd come to the same
conclusions herself, more or less. Maybe it was because what she
said was true. Either they were wasting their time, or they were
trapped in that van like fish in a barrel.
    Rik bent down
and began groping under the seats. “Yep. And that's why we're going
to need...” With a grunt, he heaved two mean-looking machine guns
out and threw one to Freymann. “...these!”
    She felt her mouth fall open, even as her
hands and eyes automatically checked the magazine and chambered a
round. Son
of a bitch! “How the
hell did you know... No. Don't tell me. It was a hunch,
right?”
    He gave her
that wide, impish grin of his. She could get used to seeing that
smile, she thought. And, before she knew it, she found herself
grinning right back.

Chapter 14
     
    Rivers and her
unhappy companions didn't waste time trying to make Brie talk. They
just bundled her up, tied her wrists, gagged her and headed for the
door. By the time the two men dragged her into the corridor, Brie
had already given up struggling. Rivers knew the guys were right:
the hospital cameras would have identified her and alerted the
police the fist time she stepped into a corridor. They needed to
get out fast and deal with the woman later.
    So turning to
find three large men staring at them was an unpleasant surprise. At
first, Rivers thought they might be more of Celestina's goons, but
the three newcomers looked as shocked as she was by the encounter.
Everybody drew their guns. Rivers drew both of hers. They all
looked at the upload to see what she would do.
    To everybody's
surprise, she turned her back on the interlopers and spoke to her
companions.
    “ Keep the woman alive,” she told them. “If
she dies, I will kill both of you.” Brie goggled at Rivers in
horror and began to struggle again.
    Rivers watched
the woman squirming for a moment, then turned to the newcomers
again. Behind her, her companions stared edging backwards along the
corridor.
    “ Who are you guys?” she asked, stepping
towards them. “Cordell's people, I would guess. Now, do you want to
turn around and run, or would you like to see how fast I
am?”
    “ That's far enough, lady. Just hand over
the woman. We don't want no shooting

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