“Come along,” it’s right over there, Pickle pointed thataway while jogging.
Cherry panted behind her. “I… don’t… can’t… this uphill is killing me…”
“Ain’t you a runner, lassie?” Killie asked with her thick accent.
“I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner!” Cherry complained, breathing hard.
Killie had a glint of sweat over her but otherwise kept pace with Pickle.
“And why did we have to jog all the way up to Pireas?” Cherry kept on complaining. “It’s so… far away…” she panted.
“Here it is!” Pickle said, smiling wide, checking the GPS map on her veil. They turned a corner and Pickle suddenly stopped. So did Killie, but Cherry crashed on the big woman’s back. Killie barely felt it. “No!” Pickle cried out.
“What is it?” Killie asked.
“It’s shut! The pickle shop, it’s shut down. Gamoto!” Pickle spat out, cursing in Greek.
Cherry sat on the sidewalk, catching her breath. “You had us… jog halfway across town, to fucking Pireas… so you could get a bloody pickle jar?” Her voice became more screeching the more she spoke.
“Not just a pickle jar. The finest Egyptian dill,” Pickle said, pressing her lower lip. “Now where will I get more? Maria can’t have just shut down without telling me…”
Cherry opened her mouth, then shut it with a click of her jaw. She fell on her back right on the dirty sidewalk, her chest heaving up and down from exertion. “We’re running all over Athens to tickle her pickle, that’s just great,” she said to the sky.
Killie wiped her sweat with a towel. “Aye, it’s shut. What now? Let’s run back.”
“Are you kidding me? I need like five hours of rest right now,” Cherry said from her horizontal position.
Pickle was disappointed. “There has to be something left. Wait, when a shop goes under, they usually sell off the inventory, right?” She loaded up her veil and started to search for business listings, wholesale offers in the area.
Cherry kept on nagging about something but Pickle paid no attention to her, reading through the listings and the replies. She found a promising one. “There. That Turkish importer was interested in a large clearanse sale, but Maria rejected him, this has to be it.”
“So what?” Cherry nagged, sitting upright, her arms on her knees. “We’re gonna what, go track down the importer?” Cherry stopped talking for a long moment, then shut her eyes. “What’s what we’re gonna do, aren’t we?” she asked, resigned.
“Yes!” Pickle said, and turned to Killie.
“See? Everybody’s excited!” Pickle said, and started to jog again.
“Nobody’s excited but you,” Cherry whined, pushing herself upright with a grunt.
They jogged to the Turkish importer’s location. It was in Kastella, a seedy part of town, a bit east from Pireas harbour, but Pickle wasn’t worried with Killie around.
“Hey, baby, why are you running away from me?” a sketchy looking guy leered after them, whistling at Cherry.
She scoffed and gave him the finger.
“You bitch,” the man said and ran after her, extending his arm. “I’m a fan, you can’t be treating me like this.”
There was a crunch as Killie grabbed it, squeezed it, and then pushed it back, making him fall on his ass. “We appreciate your support,” Killie said, with a tone of voice that made it obvious he shouldn’t test her by standing up. “Don’t forget to subscribe to the Pies’ streams,” she deadpanned their sign-off.
Leaving the sleazy man muttering curses and rubbing his hand, the trio jogged to where the GPS location sent them. They got to a run-down part of Athens with a few warehouses, their proximity to the harbour being the only thing that made them valuable. Otherwise, everything was ready to fall apart.
“Where could the offices be?” Pickle said out loud, looking around. “Ibrahimoglu Gida Pazarlama Sanayi,” she read the listing on the veil.
“It’s nowhere to be found,” Cherry said, hands up. “Let’s just go.”
“No, it’s here somewhere,” Pickle ignored her, walking inside.
“She’s gonna step foot inside the scary warehouse, isn’t she,” Cherry said to Killie behind Pickle’s back.
Pickle stepped foot inside the dark warehouse. There was a padlock that had been broken by someone a long time ago.
Killie came in after Pickle. She found a rusty length of rebar and held it like a bat.
“Let’s just go!” Cherry said, hopping in place. She looked around and then entered after the two women.
Pickle used her phone’s app for a flashlight. She looked around the place, it was practically deserted, smelling mouldy.
“Do you seriously wanna eat something that is being stored in here?” Cherry asked.
“Okay, that’s a fair point,” Pickle said, tilting her head. “But now I’m curious.”
“About what? The missing pickle jars?” Cherry squealed.
“Yes! Now, shush, I don’t think everyone’s heard you,” Pickle said to her. They got to a locked door. Pickle tried to pry it open, but it was stuck. Dust streaked from the top as she shook it.
“Let me,” Killie said and put the rebar as a lever to the side. She simply pushed the right way and her augmented strength made the door break, sending out slivers everywhere.
“Great! Now we’re breaking and entering,” Cherry nagged.
Pickle peeked inside, shining her LED flashlight. “We haven’t entered yet,” she said, inspecting the room. “Nah, don’t think there’s anything here.” She went to the next room.
“Pickle, seriously now, let’s just-” Cherry started to complain again, when suddenly Killie shut her mouth.
Shh, the big woman mouthed, finger on her lips.
Pickle tried to listen ahead. There were voices in a foreign language. She squinted, trying to make some words out. They sounded similar to Greek, some words here and there. After a while, Pickle realised they were Turkish.
“Seriously,” Cherry whispered, “let’s leave.”
Pickle shook her head and stepped inside the main warehouse. She crouched behind a stack of crates and peeked around the corner. The crates were full of pickle jars, the exquisite kind, the ones she was after. She could see three men standing around a woman, tied down on a chair. There wasn’t enough light but she could swear it was Maria, her trusty pickle-shop owner.
“What was that?” one of the Turks said and looked their way.
Dammit! Pickle sat down and stayed very quiet, but she was certain she wasn’t the one they heard. Killie wisely didn’t step inside the warehouse, she was dependable but not that sneaky, and Cherry couldn’t keep her mouth shut. So it was probably her that made some noise. There it was again. No, she was too quick to condemn the poor girl. The noise was from the broken door earlier, something had collapsed and made a racket. Pickle ran through her options right now. She didn’t have eye-contact with the corridor they came through, so she couldn’t gesture at her teammates. She could really use Teamspeak right about now. She needed to tell Hector to budget for the upgrades sometime soon. But this was not the time.
Think, Pickle. What do you have available.
She perked up.
What she did have, was the better three-fifths of a jugger team.
She broke the silence and shouted out orders. “Killie, drop the one on the left, make a hole for Cherry. Cherry, dash and untie Maria, she’s thirty metres straight ahead.”
And as for her, she was already charging straight at the Turk on the right.
“Huh?” the man said when he heard her shouting. He was holding a pistol.
Pickle hoped her teammates were ready and had heard of her commands. She needed to rely on them, she’d be completely exposed if they didn’t have her back. She grabbed a wooden lid from a crate and held it with both hands. She rammed the man with her entire weight, cracking the lid on his chest, splinters flying all over the place. But, he recovered even after a sudden blow like that. Of course the charge would have worked perfectly if she had snuck up on him, but she decided to sacrifice the element of surprise for the sake of strategy. Also, she was entirely exposed to the second gunman. She only hoped Killie had her back.
Pickle slapped the man’s gun away with the remains of the wooden lid. He cried out in pain, her strength wasn’t something to scoff at. There was definitely something that cracked a bit in there.
The man cried out in pain and kicked her away.
Pickle wasn’t ready for it and took the hit to the belly.
The man cried out in pain, again.
Pickle smirked. “You didn’t expect my exoskeleton, did you?” She didn’t wait for his reply, she simply bitch-slapped the man as he recovered, dropping him unconscious.
There was noise behind her. She turned, fully expecting to see a gun pointed at her face. Instead, Killie was choking the other gunman, pushing him down on the floor. The poor man was turning red from the lack of oxygen, and had no chance in Tartarus of escaping Killie’s grip.
Satisfied by her teammate having her back, she turned and started to dash towards the middle of the warehouse, moving before her eyes could even register what was happening.
Indeed, Cherry had heard her and was already next to Maria. She was trying to get her loose, and the third gunman was shocked at the sudden attack, but he’d surely recover very soon.
As she ran, Pickle realised she wouldn’t make it in time. She was no Cherry in running speed. And the Turk raised his pistol at unarmoured friend.
“Dammit!” she hissed, running, her mind going a million kilometres per second. Think, Pickle, think.
She turned to the side and fell full-force on a crate, bending at her waist. As her torso came down, she slammed the top of the crate, smashing it. She pulled out a pickle jar from the crate and threw it at the gunman.
He saw it coming, pistol pointed at Cherry, and made a comical face as he tried to get away.
The pickle jar smashed right in his face.
“Ah!” the man cried out, the vinegar burning his eyes. He dropped the pistol and clawed at his eyes, trying it wipe it off.
Cherry was even faster than Pickle. She tackled the blinded man, and Killie simply jogged close and finished the job, punching him three times to be sure he was down.
Pickle kicked the pistol away into a dark corner of the warehouse.
Maria’s face was that of pure shock. “Pickle? Is that you?” she cried out.
“Yes, don’t worry.” Pickle finished up untying the poor woman. “What happened here?”
“How did you… They were trying to buy my store,” Maria said, rubbing her bruised hands.
“Let me guess,” Pickle said, helping her up and checking her for other injuries. “You refused.”
“Yes. How foolish of me,” Maria said softly, looking at the men on the floor.
“Hey,” Pickle said, turning her face towards her. “Look at me. You have the best pickle shop in town. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
The poor woman opened her mouth in stunned silence, then hugged Pickle, squeezing her tight. She cried in her arms.
“It’s okay, let it all out. This was a scary experience. We’re gonna call the cops and you’re gonna give a statement, okay?”
Maria jerked back. “No! You don’t know these people…”
“Hey. Listen to me. You’re gonna do as I say, alright? Trust me.”
Maria nodded furiously up and down.
“Excellent,” Pickle said and turned to Killie.
She nodded and made the call to 100.
Pickle turned to the broken jar on the floor. “Shame.” She walked to the smashed crate and picked up another jar of excellent Egyptian dill. She smiled wide at Maria. “Hey, while we wait, can I tickle my pickle with your exquisite merchandise?”
Maria turned to her, still in shock. “What? Of course, have as much as you like.”
Cherry covered her face and shook her head. “No, you shouldn’t have told her that. Why, oh why did you give her permission to dive in?”
Pickle didn’t pay attention to her silly friend. She popped open the jar with a silly grin on her face and munched on the delicious pickles.
Read the Cyberpink books here.