Ten minutes later, Eddie said: "Work, you bloody fuckin' bastard."
I'd been perched on a stool next to him. I straightened. "Eddie?"
He continued typing but sweat beaded his forehead.
"Where'd you say you got this again?" he said.
"A client," I said.
"Sure about that?"
"Why?" said Mouse.
He stopped typing, studied the monitor again, then nodded. "Thought as much." He swiveled the chair to face us. "The disk is encrypted, yes. I figured something pretty basic. CBC, LRW, maybe XTS. But no. The usual wasn't working. I tried a few more I picked up from Val and Kid. No go. So I had a look at the encryption itself."
"And?" I said.
"You're sure your client was a suit."
"He looked like a suit," I said, suddenly unsure. "You think he wasn't?"
"This disk is locked with a form of ESSIV encryption. High grade stuff. Four different encryption algorithms, possibly cascading. Plus five types of hash algorithms. And all of it variable. Which means the user who locked this chose the encryption."
"No idea what all that means," I said, "but my guess would be it's non-standard?"
"Bang on," Eddie said. "The only place I've seen this is on some military R&D networks."
"Aw, shit," said Mouse.
Then something crashed through the skylight, bounced once, and rolled to a stop a few meters from us.
I saw it.
"Flash bang!" I said and hit the floor.
And the world exploded in thunder and a flash of white.
When my vision cleared, I heard fabric rustling. I rolled onto my back, saw two figures rappel down from the skylight. Black fatigues and loaded tac-vests, submachineguns slung over their shoulders.
Then an explosion blew in part of the roll-up door, raining bits of corrugated metal into the shop. A pair of shapes strode through the billowing smoke.
I said to Mouse: "Do it."
Then sub-vocal and the world went to slo-mo.
The two skylight shooters were three meters above us when I drew the Twins and opened fire. The slugs caught them high in the torsos. One of them lost a grip of the rope and fell to the shop floor. The other shooter slid the rest of the way down the rope and crumpled when he hit the floor.
Bullets gouged the floor near me sending bits of concrete flying by my feet. I sprinted toward the worktable in the center of the shop and knocked it over, spilling parts and tools, jammed the Twins over the table lip, and let off several rounds.
Mouse shoved Eddie toward the table and the two of them slid to a stop next to me just as gunfire rattled on the other side. A line of blisters exploded near my head.
I reloaded the Twins, nodded to Mouse, and popped up from behind the table.
Door Shooter Number Two spun toward me, his submachinegun drawing a bead.
Moving at my speed.
Bastard was wired, too.
The Twins barked first.
Number Two staggered back.
Then returned fire.
I dropped back behind the worktable and it blistered again.
"Dermal," Mouse said.
"And wired," I said.
Then the first two shooters got up.
"Bloody fuck!" said Eddie.
They started to level their guns at us.
I popped them both in the head. They fell back, twitched once, and lay still.
Mouse fast-crawled toward the nearest shooter and yanked something off his tac vest. She held it up to me.
She pulled the pin, lobbed it over the worktable. I shut my eyes and plugged my ears.
The grenade went off.
I put my face next to Eddie's. "We need out."
He pointed toward the far corner of the shop. "Back door."
"I'll cover," I said to Mouse.
Mouse nodded, then grabbed the dead shooter's submachinegun and slid it across the floor to me, then went to the other shooter and grabbed his sub-gun. "Spray 'em," she said.
I nodded, holstered the Twins, checked ammo on the sub-gun. "On three."
Mouse said, "One. Two."
"Three," I said.
Mouse and Eddie bolted for the back door.
I popped back up from behind the table and sprayed rounds toward the Door Shooters. They dove for cover behind a stack of crates.
When I emptied the magazine, I pivoted, and started after Mouse and Eddie.
And Eddie stopped at the back door, spun around, and ran back toward his workstation.
"Eddie!" Mouse cried.
Dead run at Eddie, gunfire exploding around me. Slid the last few meters and took out Eddie's feet, and caught him as he hit the floor.
Bullets punched through the three screens on his workstation, throwing sparks and flames.
Eddie rolled off me, still keeping low, and reached up onto the workstation.
"Eddie, what the hell--!"
"Disk!" he said. He kept groping, trying to keep his head from getting blown off.
I rolled to a crouch, drew the Twins, then rose up and returned fire in a thundering stacatto.
Nailed one of the Door Shooters in the shoulder, knocking him back.
Plugged the other in the head.
"Got it!" Eddie said.
"Go!" I said and heard him sprint toward the back door.
I followed, side-stepping, the Twins still raised and at the ready, an eye on the last Shooter.
Saw him pull something from his tac vest.
I turned and bolted for the back door.
A moment later, the world vanished in a defeaning roar. The concussion threw me through the opening and the heat wave licked at my boots.
I landed in a heap, my head spinning.
Then hands pulled me to my feet.
I opened my eyes.
Mouse and Eddie.
"You okay, partner?" said Mouse.
I nodded, my head still ringing from the explosion.
"Good," Mouse said. "Let's bounce."
(to be continued...)