I told Canto eight am sharp, so of course he was ready with the kernel at ten. Surveillance hadn't shown up anything other than what I had already seen, so I managed to pull in a good six hours of sleep the night before and I was ready and rested. Of course, robbing the Church of the Thin Man during broad daylight was too risky, so I was going to have to wait until nightfall.
Canto told me how to use the kernel. Just inject it into the chemical computer and he set up the relay station where the information will be rerouted. He gave me a tracker that tracks how much of the information has been rerouted - I think he just likes making things.
That left me with time to kill. I didn't have anything else to do and I didn't just want to sit around doing nothing - doing nothing before a job was bad, it made you nervous. The more free time you had, the more chances you had to make yourself completely paranoid. What if this, what if that, what if things go wrong.
Nine times out of ten, things go wrong because you expect them to go wrong. People sabotage themselves, my mother used to tell me. She was talking about my father, but I didn't know it at the time.
So I went to an abandonded library I had discovered a few years back. It had fallen into disuse some years ago, but nearly all the books were still on the shelves and I sometimes liked to walk through the stacks and pick a book at random to read. Old and musty tomes that had never been opened in fifty years. That occupied my time until the sun dipped below the horizon and night descended.
My scouting of the Church had shown there was an access duct that led into the control room containing the chemical computer containing their archive. Normally, these sorts of ducts would have been miniscule, allowing only the smallest of bots to crawl through, but this was an old building. Air was pumped in via large ducts attached to the ceiling which could clearly be used as an entry point. The only reason they weren't secured was probably because Father Caulis didn't believe anyone wanted to steal his information. Even I was starting to wonder why the stories in the archive were so important to my employer.
Seven pm and I observed no one within the church. I slid onto the rooftop and then into the panel leading to the air duct. It was times like these I was lucky I was so skinny. A more, well, voluptuous thief might have been trapped in the duct.
Once I got inside the computer room, I opened the vent and repelled down. The chemical computer was waiting for me, sitting in the middle of the room like a throne. I removed Canto's kernel and injected it into the bag of gooware. Then I waited. Canto's tracker told me .2% of the information had been rerouted.
It was then that I heard a voice. "Hello? Is anyone there?" It was Father Caulis. I flattened myself against the wall and stepped slowly to the door to the next room, the meeting room. Father Caulis was standing there looking around. "Hello? I know I heard something." Had I made any sounds? Any at all?
Then, another voice. "Hello, Father." Cold and monotone. Three men emerged from the dark shadows of the room and surrounded Father Caulis. They wore dark overcoats and bowler hats and carried umbrellas. "How nice to see you," the first one said. I shivered involuntarily.
I knew them. Everyone knew them. They were the Golconda. If you wanted someone dead and you had enough money, you went to them. Sometimes they would do it. Sometimes they would take your money and kill you. You never really knew about the Golconda - hiring them was like playing Russian roulette.
"What- why are you here?" Father Caulis asked. I wanted to know the same. If they were after the same information I was, I was screwed.
"He is returning, Father," the first of the Golconda said.
"Wh-who?" Father Caulis whispered.
"He is returning," the first of the Golconda said again, "and we can't allow that, now can we? Operations must commence."
"Op-operations?" Caulis tried to back away, but he was surrounded. "What operations?"
"Can't go around telling people about operations," the first of the Golconda said. "I mean, two can keep a secret if one of them is dead, right?" He smiled. "But then I guess you'll know all secrets soon." He lifted his umbrella and I saw the glint of a blade as he swept it and Caulis fell down, his blood spilling onto the floor.
I covered my mouth and tried to take deep breaths. I hadn't seen someone killed in a long time, but that feeling of helplessness never really left you.
I needed to get out of here. My harness was still hooked up to the duct, so I pulled myself up and managed to get inside before the Golconda came into the computer room.
They didn't say a word, just lifted their umbrellas and slashed the bags of chemicals, spilling everything onto the floor, like strangely colored blood. Two of the Golconda were carrying cans and as they poured them on the floor, I realized it was gasoline. The spread it around, making sure to soak all the puddles of gooware. The first one took out a lighter and opened it.
And then the tracker I was still holding beeped. I looked at it and it said "Information Reroute 100% Complete." Goddamn Canto and his goddamn gadgets. All the Golconda looked up and saw me through the vent.
I crawled as fast as I could. I had the advantage that I knew where all the vents went and was able to get back to the roof quickly. But they got there soon after me and I could see on their faces, I could see that they wanted me dead, they needed me dead. I was a loose end and one thing the Golconda do not have, it is loose ends.
There was only one thing to do and I did it: I ran. I knew they would catch up to me eventually, but I ran and ran and ran. Past steel girders, past the skypol stations that were empty for the night, right into the heart of the sprawl itself.
I ran and didn't look back.