“My personal take on a heist story. Just something I whipped up on a whim then went back and edited a few times. Though not connected to larger universe, I still liked it nonetheless. Note: The Jester in the story is not me, nor was he based on me. I just like it as a code name.” -Justin, April 2014.
A lone van raced through the quiet Atlanta streets, breaking the silence of the wee hours of the morning. Its shadow flashed upon the concrete jungle around it with every yellow street light it passed. While buildings after buildings appeared through the tinted windows to the occupants inside, no one besides Driver was really paying attention to the view outside. A raven-haired youth slid down one of the benches that lined the sides of the van’s rear section, with a smile on his face that, as he put it, was worth a lot more than a million dollars. He playfully wrapped an arm around the girl he now sat next to, who pushed him away with a scowl. Boss watched the two from the opposite bench, and from the slight twitch on corner of Breaker’s mouth, he knew that she wasn’t really annoyed at Jester sitting next to her. Then again, so did Jester, who feigned offence with his face and retreated back to his side of the bench, turning his attention to the redhead across from him. Breaker frowned; this time it was serious. Her eyes narrowed as she studied Jester as he spoke intently with Cypher. Boss laughed quietly to himself as Breaker pulled a pin out of her dirty blond hair, allowing it to cascade down past her shoulders. She had always been beautiful, Boss thought with a smile, even when neither of them could reach the top shelf in the kitchen, even on their tip toes. Breaker’s gaze caught his and it was his turn to receive her death stare, though at his warm smile her blue eyes softened a little. Boss shook his head and turned his gaze to the front of the van.
Jester was engaging in an animated fashion with Cypher, who as usual had her laptop out. The redhead seemed bored, listening to his torrent of jokes without even looking up, but Boss knew she was holding on to every word. True, he didn’t know Cypher for as long as he had known Breaker and Jester, but reading body language and picking up on nonverbal signs from people were very useful skills, even back in his office days, and Boss had honed these through years of dealing with unsavory types in the criminal underworld. The quick peek of Cypher’s eyes at Jester she gave him every so often, slow enough to get a good look at him but quick enough for the joker to not notice, successful but visible attempts to suppress a smile whenever Jester delivered a punchline. The only difference between the two women was that Cypher wasn’t going to give Jester the satisfaction of knowing he had her. It was only when Jester concluded his jokes and actually started listening to Cypher that the casualness of the two struck Boss as strangely amusing. Perhaps it was the two Glock 37 pistols that hung from Jester’s holsters by his armpits, or the three inch combat knives that were wrapped snugly around Cypher’s leg, barely noticeable on top of her black, tight-fitting pants. Perhaps it was the fact that they had just broken into one of the most high tech security facilities in the world and stolen its crown jewel. Or perhaps it was the fact that Boss didn’t actually know whether Jester genuinely like Cypher or was just talking to her to annoy Breaker, his undivided attention on the redhead whenever she spoke to him. The two acted as if they were two college students who just happened to run into each other at a café somewhere, catching up on each other’s lives; only in this case, it was the past few hours.
“Was the virtual security as tough as the physical ones back there?”
Cypher shrugged. “Nothing I haven’t seen before. You would think if they were cautious enough to arm dozens of guards with automatic weapons and bulletproof vase they would’ve at least upgraded their firewall or something.”
“Maybe they wanted to you to hack in, and then track the intruder?”
“Well, if that’s the case, they did a pretty poor job on that too. Everyone knows if you want to track even a decent hacker you’ll need either a live operator monitoring the system at all times or an extremely advanced program, which would give itself away given how much resources it would take just to keep it running 24/7,” Cypher scoffed, rolling her eyes as if explaining the why the sky is blue to a child.
“Yeah, Cyph. I’m sure everyone knows that,” Jester replied sarcastically, looking over at Boss, who shrugged. “Besides, couldn’t you have missed it by chance?” he teased.
Cypher gave him an extremely cold stare, “The only way I could’ve missed it was if I was blind, and given the looks coming from a certain someone’s girlfriend, I’m not the blind one in this van.”
“Excuse me?” Breaker looked over at the two, her eyes flashing homicide. Boss choked as a laugh forced its way out of his mouth, and Breaker swung around so fast on him she almost elbowed him in the face. “Would you like to be the first one to get pistol whipped tonight?”
Boss held up his hands innocently as Jester said, “Well, he would be the third, if you count the two poor bastards Ghost caught in the security room.”
Breaker swung back to Jester, this time actually elbowing Boss on the side of the head. If she noticed, she didn’t react to it. “No one asked you, asshole. And where the hell were you when I specifically told you to ‘watch my back’ while I was breaking into the vault?”
Instead of responding to her, Jester turned to look at Boss, who was massaging his head where Breaker had hit him. “Don’t you find it odd that she would ask me a question right after telling me that no one was asking me a question?”
“Argh!” Breaker yelled as she lunged herself into Jester, punching every inch of him she could get her hands on. Boss quickly maneuvered around Cypher hoping to avoid getting hit again. The hacker rolled her eyes at the couple, and then went back to her laptop, hitting each key with more force than usual as she worked. Boss smiled as he moved around her, wondering when the girl would be honest with herself with her feelings for Jester.
When Boss sat down again closer to the front of the van, he looked at the two people sitting in the driver and passenger seats. A middle-aged man casually turned the wheel, bringing the van into another turn, whistling the same tune he always did after a successful job. The things that Driver could do with a vehicle always amazed Boss, especially with all the weapons and car-stealing tools that Driver carries on him. Driver gave Boss a smile in the rearview mirror when he felt his gaze, the grey beard on his face matching the grey streaks in his hair.
“The kids fighting again?”
Boss laughed. “When don’t they?”
“Am I going to have to turn this thing around?” Driver chuckled.
“Only if you want to spend the rest of your life in prison.”
A cleanly shaven head looked wearily over to them from the passenger seat. “Trust me man, Guantanamo’s not fun. I’ve been there.”
Driver grinned as he sped through another green light, “sure you have Ghost, but I highly doubt that a bunch of mercs will have the authority to access one of the heaviest security prisons in the United States’ military, just a hunch.”
“You’re right, they’ll probably just shoot you instead,” Ghost shrugged, readjusting his position in the seat to make himself more comfortable. “Just let me out first if you do have a sudden pang of conscience and want to turn yourself in. I have no intentions of taking a bullet to my brain. You can say I’ve come to somewhat enjoy the advantages of being alive.”
“Not a chance Ghost. I sold that, along with my soul, to the devil years ago. In hindsight though, I still think I came out with the better end of that bargain.”
“Oh?” Boss questioned, deciding to humor his old associate, “and why’s that?”
“Have you seen how many commas are in my bank account?” All three men burst into laughter. When they finally subsided, Driver continued, “And there’ll be that much more once we cash in on this one.” He turned completely around to look at Boss, “you’ve got it safe right?”
Boss pulled out a silver rectangle the size of a cell phone from his front pocket, “you have to ask?”
Driver resumed his natural position, “can’t be too careful man. You know how it is, anyways, what are your plans after this anyways? Sit on that crappy little park bench outside of your crappy little one room flat and feed the pigeons until you die?”
Boss smirked, “I think I’ll stop by your ex-wife’s house first.”
“Which one?” Driver laughed. When they finished, Boss continued.
“I think I’ll buy a nice villa somewhere near a beach. Go fishing every once in a while.”
Driver flicked his hand to flip on the turn signal. “You’re still going to keep dumping your money away for those poor people in the hospitals?”
“That’s the plan.” Boss yawned and stretched, breaking away from the conversation for a moment and giving a quick look to the back. It seemed that Jester had successfully wrapped Breaker up in a tight bear hug. Although the blond had struggled to break free, her body was still too exhausted from the recent heist, and she settled for cuddling on top of her boyfriend. Cypher poured her attention into her computer now; something she only does when she found something interesting. Boss made a mental note to ask her in the future when Driver’s voice brought him back.
“So what’s the plan now anyways?
“Ha!” Ghost laughed, shaking his head. “Man, you don’t pay attention to shit during briefings, do you?”
Driver shrugged, “In my defense, I was pretty hung over that day.”
“Bad hand job?” Ghost asked. Boss raised his eyebrows at him. “A bad hand job will give you worse PDST than a tour in Afghanistan. That’s coming from a guy who shot innocent people.”
“Since when did shooting innocent people ever kept you up at night Ghost?”
“Anyways,” Boss turned back to Driver, “we head to the airport, and from there half of us take the private jet to cash the prize in. The other half will catch the next freight train out of Atlanta. We’ll meet up in Miami in three months to split the bills, party a few nights then I’m off to Spain.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Ghost shifted again, readjusting to a more comfortable position in his seat. “Wake me up when we get there will ya?”
“Sure, or we can just leave you in the van and the let the cops do it,” Driver joked.
“Oh, ha ha asshole.”
Boss grinned, and then shifted slightly closer to Driver. “You alright man? You rarely drink before a job.”
Driver shrugged again, “fine… Well not really, but there really isn’t anything I can do about it now.” He paused, the passing street lights illuminated his expressionless face every second or so before plunging it back into the darkness. “I got some new information about my brother.”
“The one that needed a heart transplant?”
Boss felt a hole in his stomach “And?”
“Apparently there was some drug that might have kept him alive until we could get a donor, but like I said it’s nothing I could do about now. Not after he’s been gone for so long,” Driver said and slowed the vehicle a bit for a tight turn.
Boss kept quiet. Memories of another life rushed back. He could still see the tear streaked faces of the families as he broke the bad news, that there was nothing he or anyone from his company could do for them. Insurance policies and insufficient funds were words that meant nothing to people who just lost a father, a mother, a son or a daughter. He hated that job, having to sit back in his office and tell people to essentially get over it because they were poor. Maybe that was why he took every opportunity in his criminal career to rob his old employers. After Driver remained silent for a bit, Boss shifted back closer to his original seat in the van, and was thankful that Breaker and Jester’s conversation wasn’t too intimate at the moment.
“Still can’t believe they switch the entire vault in 12 hours. Especially with an XV 5 model,” Breaker sighed, resting tiredly on top of Jester.
“Right? Lucky Ghost did a last minute recon run.” Jester cradled Breaker and looked over at the man in the passenger seat up front
“You were really smooth back there, talking our way past those guards,” Breaker complemented sheepishly, wanting to make up for their fight earlier
“Yea well, a silver tongue is very useful in a tight situation… among others,” Jester winked at her, giving her a light kiss on the head.
Breaker smirked, “Well I suppose at least one part of your body should make up for the other’s… disappointing qualities.”
“I don’t remember you saying that last weekend.”
“You need better memory.”
“Why don’t you help me make some?” Jester leaned down and kissed her. Cypher put on her headphones just as the two wrapped themselves around each other in the back of the van, her eyes hard and cold now against her laptop monitor. Boss grimaced and slid over by her. There wasn’t any use in telling them to get a room. Jester would just flick him off while Breaker act embarrassed for about two minutes, then they would go at it again.
Outside, Atlanta sped by as the van traveled through her streets. The cloudless night had allowed a clear view of the full moon where the buildings weren’t in the way, the orbiting sphere’s silver light casting giant shadows that covered entire blocks at a time. Yet as the van sped by, there was precious little noise elsewhere. The city seemed abandoned, and not so much as a stray cat wandered its labyrinth. Boss tapped the top of Cypher’s computer, and she looked directly at him, determined not to notice the two people making out in the back. Annoyed, she removed one of her headphones.
“Want to talk?”
“What’s there to talk about?”
Boss gave an exasperated smile, “Jesus girl, don’t they teach you how to socialize at MIT?” Cypher slowly removed her other headphone, and closed the laptop’s monitor, her narrow eyes fixed upon Boss.
“They teach us to get As and to conform to a societal system that’s perfectly happy with one percent of people in the world owns 42% of the world’s resources. They teach us to hand in all of our homework and to look pretty. Oh and they teach us to swallow every time we reward our boyfriends for successfully pledging to their frat houses and to get over it when they dump us for some cheap skank. So if you call that socializing, then yes, they taught us how to socialize.” She gave him a sharp look, “Are we done ‘socializing’?”
Boss opened his mouth to say something, but decided wisely against it. Breaker had these tantrums during her adolescences, and if Cypher was anything like her, she would come to him when she felt ready to talk. “Sure Cyph maybe another time.”
“Good, because something’s a bit off.”
Cypher opened the laptop again, and the screen blinked to life. “We’re good for now; I’ve got the traffic lights all the way to the freeway. We should be in the clear…” Her voice trailed off. Boss saw Cypher rubbed her eyes, looking intently at the screen again to double check something. Before she could investigate further, Boss’s question jolted her attention off the screen again.
Cypher bit her lip, “it’s too quiet, even for 3am. I know it’s not the same as New York here, but we haven’t even passed a single car. I haven’t seen any homeless people around either on the cameras.”
Boss scowled, “Agreed, something feels off. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open.” He turned to the front and raised his voice so Driver could hear him. “Driver, we should ditch this ride as soon as possible.” Driver nodded in agreement.
“You got it boss, just trying to find a parking lot that’s not empty. You would think these city kids would be a little more careful with their rides huh?” He laughed as Boss casted his hazel eyes around, looking for movement amongst the moving shadows outside. In the back Jester surfaced, still holding a highly content Breaker.
“Would you guys calm down? What, did you two sync up this month for your-“
The van twisted sharply and a second later time slowed to a crawl. The headlights of the truck shot its rays through the window the second before it rammed the side of their vehicle. The van tipped sideways and Jester and Breaker floated through the air as if they were underwater. The side of the van followed them inwards as it caved in, and Boss dove behind Cypher, cushioning her fall. Shattered glass ricochets over the dashboard as the van flipped into the concrete wall of a nearby skyscraper. Jester and Breaker crashed to the other side of the van; Breaker landing on top of Cypher and Jester against the steel frame. Almost immediately the smell of gas filled the air. A series of loud claps could be heard, and holes began erupting on the side of the caved in van, pouring moonlight into its interior. Boss held Jester down as he saw the bullets ripped through the van inches above their heads. He waited for the reloaded, and when the flying projectiles stopped ripping through the van, he grabbed his weapon and looked around.
Ghost was the first to recover. Grabbing his SCAR assault rifle, he scrambled out from the wreckage of the passenger seat and kicked opened the back doors. Even through blood dripped down his forehead and limping, he push his weapon out of the back and began firing blindly into the general direction of their assailants, emptying a clip before reloading and then taking more careful aim. Jester clambered over to assist Breaker and Cypher, who both seemed dazed but otherwise fine. Boss climbed to the front of the van and fired his MP7 submachine gun out of the driver’s window. Looking over and discovering the limp body of Driver and Boss pulled a combat knife from a sheath on his thigh and begun cutting Driver out of his seatbelt. Out back, the firing stopped as Ghost’s voice rang through the air, “Their first squad’s down, we’ve got two minutes to get the fuck out of here.”
Just as Boss freed Driver from the front, Jester hurried over and grabbed one of Driver’s shoulders, pulling the getaway driver from the seat and falling prone on his back with the unconscious body. Cypher was checking her laptop and providing the locations of their assailants through the hacked cameras; it was military grade, the crash had barely scratched it. Near her Breaker was pulling out her MP5 submachine gun and loading a clip into it.
“We got lucky, that’s a parking garage we crashed into. We should grab a car and go.”
Boss nodded, “Let’s move before more of them shows up.” Seeing blood flow from Ghost’s shoulder, he moved to assist him. But Ghost shook him off.
“I ain’t no army punk, Boss. It’s going to take more than one bullet to kill me. Let’s just get out of here.” Boss nodded, and followed him as Ghost limped out of the wrecked van. Cypher fell in behind him, her Beretta Pistol out. Jester carried Driver forward and with Breaker covering the back, the group staggered into the parking deck. They took a moment to check the immediate area, and when the coast was clear, Boss signaled for them dropped behind one of the low ramps leading up to the upper levels to regroup.
Breaker spoke up at once, “And here I thought we got away clean.”
“We should have, they must have had patrols searching all the streets minutes after we got out.” Boss replied.
“Paramilitary gear, tactical training, these aren’t the regular dick-suckers from private firms Boss,” Ghost reported, Jester nodding in agreement.
“They were wearing dragon skins. Only the U.S. military have access to that advanced body armor.”
Boss nodded, “Well we can’t worry about that now, let’s just grab a car and go.” He looked up just as four men rounded the corner of the ramp, their weapons out.
Jester dropped Driver to the floor, and moved before anyone could react. He dodged past Ghost and shoved Breaker aside. He dropped just as a volley of bullets hit him. Breaker screamed and everyone else dove out of the way. Boss and Ghost fired back at them as Breaker huddled over Jester, dragging him out of the way with tears in her eyes. To Boss’s surprise, Cypher dropped her computer, and ran towards to their attackers, firing her weapon with her eyes wide. Three of the men were torn apart by the gunfire, and the last fellow soldier got hit trying to fall back. Before she could say anything however, Boss rushed forward and a single shot rang out in the parking complex. Ghost goes over and gently moves the tear streaked Breaker off Jester, who was clutching his stomach. Blood guzzled from the hole on his abdomen, as he smiled grimly at Ghost and Breaker.
“I’m fine girl, calm yourself.” His face betrayed him though, and he screamed in pain as he tried to get up. “Fuck! Ghost gimme a hand.” Reaching up, he winced in pain as Ghost pulled him to his feet, though it required both him and Breaker to keep Jester from collapsing. They moved into the parking garage, dripping blood between them. Cypher watched Jester timidly from the side, when Boss placed a hand on her shoulder and she startled.
“Cyph, can you help me with Driver?” She nodded, strangely quiet and moved to help Boss. Boss grabbed Driver and the two of them carried him forward. The laptop lied forgotten on the ground.
The place was pretty deserted, with only a few cars few and far in between. However, with Cypher’s camera’s help, they found a relatively new Mustang and a Chevy Camaro one floor above. Boss looked at Cypher, who made the motion to reach for her laptop, only to remember she had abandoned it. She pulled out her phone quickly, pressed a few buttons, and a muffled bang was heard in the distance.
Tapping the touchscreen again, she turned back to Boss and said in a small voice. “They move fast, but they haven’t surrounded the building yet. This place is bigger than I had thought.”
Boss looked over with Jester and Driver’s wounds. “We need to split up. He’s going to bleed out if we don’t get him fixed up soon.”
Jester looked over Breaker, who was trying to stop or at least slowed the bleeding, and scowled, “Get out of here man, we need to stick together.” He coughed violently, gasping for air as he spat out a mouthful of blood. When he recovered, he continued, “we split and they’re going to hunt us down one by one.” But Boss shook his head.
“Take the Mustang with Cypher and Breaker. Breaker can get you guys out of the city while Cypher covers your tracks.”
Cypher raised her eyebrow, “And what about you three?”
“We’ll hightail it the other way towards the private air strip, and stick to the original plan. That way at least it’ll be less people chasing each group if we make a run for it.”
Cypher bit her lip, but didn’t say anything else. Breaker moved to unlock the car, but her hand shook so much she couldn’t accurately pick the lock. Finally, frustrated with the attempt, she simply bashed through the windows, setting off the alarm that echoed through the structure; Boss was sure that if Jester wasn’t hemorrhaging to death, he would be teasing her to no end. They placed Jester in the back of the Mustang while Driver went into the back of the Camaro. Getting into the driver’s seat, Boss looked over to the other car as Ghost hopped in next to him. Breaker gave them a nod, while Cypher, still looking worried, waved and they sped off towards the south exit. Boss took a deep breath, gunned the engine and the car made its way to the north exit.
Evidently, their pursuers had chosen to enter the building from the north, as the car immediately came under fire. The soldiers began popping up everywhere, and soon bullets rattled off the sides and front of the car. Ghost had lowered his window and began firing out of it. The Camaro smashed through the drop gate at the North exit and slid between the newly arrived SUVs, who soon took chase. One of them sped up and rear ended the car, nearly causing Boss to spin out. Ghost replied with a well-placed shot to its front tire, and it soon found itself flipping through the air into a local pastry shop. Boss looked in the rear view mirror, and pushed the gas panel down into the floor: their pursuer’s crowded the streets behind them. Ghost tapped his arm as he slipped back into the car and reloaded, and Boss noticed that a police helicopter had taken up the chase as well. He made a few sharp turns and headed for a tunnel.
Machine guns blared behind them as their rear window shot out, and the Camaro’s backside was rattled with bullets. When Boss entered the tunnel however, he saw that the police were moving in from the other side of the tunnel. He made a sharp turn to the right and smashed through one of the gates blocking a maintenance tunnel. Behind him he could hear the police and the SUVs crashing into one another, blocking the entrance. He smiled as they sped off towards the outskirts of the city.
As they pulled into a near emptied air stripe, Boss sighed deeply. Exhausted he looked over at Ghost, who seemed dazed but content. Ghost looked at him and smile, which Boss returned the gesture warily. As Ghost opened his mouth to say something, a bullet ripped through the back of his seat and out of his head. Two more pierced through his torso from the back. Boss turned around just to see the smoking barrel of Driver’s gun pointed at him and Driver’s smiling face met Boss’s shocked hazel eyes. Driver looked at him.
“You really are as stupid as you look, aren’t you Henry?” Driver laughed, the Berretta in Boss’s face took any humor out of the situation for him. Boss remained silent, hate radiating from his eyes. If it affected Driver, he didn’t show it.
“Why?” Boss growled, not taking his eyes away from his longtime friend, though what he saw made him sick to his stomach.
“What? You think I wasn’t going to find out about it? Why the fuck did you think I was drinking the night before this job??” Driver looked at him, utter contempt in his eyes.
Boss widened his eyes, “What the fuck is wrong with you? I have no idea what you’re talking about?”
With one hand holding the silver gun, Driver reached into his pocket with the other. “I got this letter in the mail the other day. Here, let me read it to you.” The hand gripped the gun tighter. “To whom it may concern. We regret to inform you that your brother did not meet the financial qualifications it took to participate within our experiential pharmaceutical program. We wish you the best of luck with everything and our love goes out to your family. Signed, Henry Baxton.” Driver threw the note into Boss’s face, and spat at him. Boss found his limbs paralyzed with shock. Driver laughed at Boss’s expression, “You know what the best part is? I didn’t even ask for them to pay me anything for selling you out. All I needed was the pleasure of killing you myself.”
They stared at each other for a moment, the tension between them thick enough to cut through. Then Boss spoke, barely above a whisper, “I’m sorry Will, I never wanted that to happen. That’s why I left all that behind.”
Driver paused. “It’s a little too late for apologies, don’t you think?” Driver said. “Goodbye Henry.” Boss watched as Driver pulled the trigger.