I got to Police Headquarters early, but the tack room was already full of the guys who were going to be on the raid. If there was a leak on either the Vice or Tax squad, the word was probably already out, but the surveillance on our objective reported no unusual activity. So either there were no leaks, or this particular objective was being offered up as a sacrificial lamb. At least that was the way I read it.
Then again, there might be nothing there and we were going to wind up looking like idiots. But the biosniffers had shown an awful lot of alkaloids in the corridors surrounding the site we were going after, and it was hard to see how those could get there if not by hanky panky.
Calvin introduced me to the mission commander, another guy who looked pure asian but had the improbable name of Kazuo Jenkins. Jenkins had a ramrod back, and a smooth face that seemed always about to break into a grin. I felt myself warming to him immediately and figured that to be his major talent. His men would like him and respect him and do whatever he asked so he wouldn't be disappointed. I wondered how long it would be before he entered politics.
"So you're Honlin," Jenkins said to me as he shook my hand. "I've read your book."
It took me a moment to realize that the was talking about the manual on crowd control, "The Riot Bible," as it's sometimes called.
"I didn't write it," I told him. "I was part of a six man team that made a few revisions. Not that many revisions, in fact, and those mostly had to do with tricks you can do with air supply. Not much use here on Venus, I expect."
Jenkins shrugged. "I expect you're being modest," he said. "Either way, though, I've heard good things about you. Calvin's opinion counts for a lot, and you have other friends, too."
Too bad I'm not one of them I thought.
Calvin was be in the leadoff spot for the briefing, because it was his intelligence that found the place, but the entire operation was under Jenkins, who was out of D&V, Drugs and Vice, with the Tax Squad supplying additional manpower. Calvin and I were in as observers and as backup. There would be about twelve guys on the primary raid, and another ten on backup, counting Calvin and me. It was a large, but not overwhelming force; I prefer massive superiority, myself, but that's difficult to achieve inside of bloons, even tethered ones. If nothing else, the additional weight will cause the tether alarms to trigger, alerting the occupants of the target bloon before the strike is made. But more important is the simple fact the law enforcement on Venus is a pretty slender deal. Drugs and Vice had fewer than a hundred men overall, and Calvin was one third of the entire homicide operation. Only the Tax men had good numbers, but most of them were clerks and accountants. Sky City was a very big small town when it came to that, and I was not eager to see it develop either big city crime or big city cops.
I prefer massive superiority, myself
"Okay, now here's the objective," Calvin Lee told everybody, as he put a big graphic up on a projector screen. It was a schematic of the entire cluster that we were going to, a central shaft with a series of circular levels made up of six large bloons each, bunched together in threes, with the top and bottom of each trio being for extra lift. There looked to be about twenty such bunches. The structure was topped with a biome park, and at its bottom was a set of bloons with their longest dimensions in the vertical.
Calvin gestured with a pointer, "We think the lab is somewhere in a three bloon factory setup that's housed in a manufacturing cluster on shaft 127, about fifteen kilometers northeast of the Hook. The cluster is a daisy petal job, centered on a waste shaft. Our target is the lowest cluster on the shaft, in fact, just above the waste collection bloons that terminate the shaft. The waste terminator is a standard upender setup, and there's a methane tap off it that supplies some of the operations in that cluster, including this one.
"What's in the other half of the cluster?" somebody asked.
Calvin said, "The three bloons next door are a small chemical mill. There's a catalytic oxidation plant that turns methane into methanol, and that feeds a synthesis refinery. It mostly produces monomers for plastics."
Calvin turned away from the screen. "There are two separate leaseholders to the three bloon common area, a small testing lab and a pressure storage vessel concern. The latter both makes and fills pressurized storage tanks. The filling operation is for industrial gases, methane, ammonia, carbonic, the usual. The two leaseholders are ostensibly independent companies, but are apparently cooperative, running the space under a joint operating agreement. The directors of both corporations reside at conveniently large distances out on the Circle. The addresses for management are the bloons themselves, with no formal listing of personnel, just 'manager operating out of Cluster 21-F, Shaft 127.'
"We haven't tried contacting any of the corporate officers, except to verify that they do exist. If this is a drug lab, they will be false fronts and probably clueless, but they'll be picked up immediately after the raid.
"The superstructure has docking facilities at the top, midsection, and under the waste holders. The bottom docks are seldom used; they date from when waste sludge was carted by bloon, rather than by pneumotube to the factory farms out on the rim. We'll have only one bloon docking down below; the rest will be top and midside, and we'll take the stairs and elevators down. We'll be going singly and in pairs, to try to maintain surprise."
That was it for Calvin, and Jenkins took over. He touched a control, and we got a vid zoom to the bottom cluster. "Here's the City Plan schematic of our target," he told us. "Obviously it might not be current if they've modified the space."
The three bloons did indeed look like half of a daisy as viewed from the top. The two outer bloons connected to the innermost at two places, and all three bloons connected to the waste shaft and central access shafts on the interior side and to a circular walkway that ran around the rim. The rim corridors connected to the next clusters up via stairway; three big circular ones that ran up the entire cluster in a triple helix. There were spoke-to-hub access corridors above and below all three bloons.
It looked like a lot of bolt holes to me. Apparently it did to somebody else, and they asked about the access corridors, above and below the bloons.
"We'll need coverage to all six, obviously," Jenkins said. "That will be for backup personnel." He grinned. "So they won't get lonely. The main access holes are tight-sealed from the inside with composkin, hard to get into, so we're not using them for primary entrances. But if any are opened during the raid, we want personnel on them immediately.
It looked like a lot of bolt holes to me.
"We need close communication, then, so keep your ear comms on at all times, but don't talk except for priority."
He went to a table and picked up a dart pistol. "This is the standard issue gas-powered dart weapon, fully loaded with anesthetic darts that deliver two milligrams of somnomix, injected on impact by the pressure pellet in the dart. It usually takes a man down in about ten seconds and it rarely results in death from any fewer than four separate hits. The butt end here," he demonstrated by lifting the pistol, "Has a separate gas powered injector for direct hand to hand usage. That's meant as a backup to the darts, or as a follow-up to electrical immobilization."
He laid the pistol down and picked up a shock stick. "One standard issue electric prod. One good jolt can paralyze a man for several seconds, then you use the gas injector.
"All personnel will be body armored, of course. Standard fiber/plate interweave. It will turn a knife and even stop an illegal explosive or electrically driven projectile, at least anything short of a high velocity rifle bullet, not that you'll ever see one of those. You'll also be wearing full helmets, but those are a weak spot, since the air holes can be penetrated by stiletto or thin knife. The same is true for the flex seams in the body armor. So watch your heads and your cracks."
A couple of the men snickered and I realized that this was supposed to be a joke. A little male-bonding cop humor, I supposed. Oh, well, I thought. Whatever works.
The trip out was uneventful. Apart from the prep-school athletics aura of the briefing, the preliminaries to the raid didn't feel like anything I was used to. I'd been on riot prevention and crowd control crews on Luna, and the feeling before any large action was always tense, a genuine sense of "God, I hope I don't have to kill anyone, today." On the other hand, small scale raids were purely routine, with more a sense of boredom than anything else. We always sealed off the section, then clogged the corridors with men, and let the occupants out a few at a time. Trivial.
This felt more like a continuation of the briefing, somewhere between rah, rah comradery and waiting for the big exam.
"Calvin," I asked. "How often do you do a police raid here in the City?"
"You mean me personally, homicide, or the anything from the force?"
"The whole force."
"Well, Taxation does maybe one every couple of months," he answered. "But those are usually just knock and enter inventory audits."
"How about things like drug labs, kidnapping rings, that sort of thing?"
"Not very often," he admitted. "And those are usually much smaller than this. A crank lab is maybe two guys, usually, and most of them have been in Darkunder, so we just lasso them and haul them to a docking bay. Kidnapping is pretty much the same thing, except that it's more often in City, so you have to surround the area. Usually a much smaller area, though, like I said."
"So this is an unusually large operation?" I asked. "With twenty-two guys?"
"Oh, yes," he said smugly. "This is the largest raid I've ever heard of. We probably would have used only half this many men, but I managed to convince D&V that it would be a good training exercise."
And even with that, I had no inkling.