There had been a time when the wheelhouses of corporate autonomous vehicles had been located in urban centers, making them easier to reach by the few humans needed for maintenance and the occasional upgrades. However, as symbols of what happens when those with capital decide they no longer need those without it, locating the hubs in urban centers had also put them within reach of protestors, vandals, and even the occasional terrorist.
Instead they had been relocated to remote areas and made into politically independent municipalities, complete with their own security force and administration. Protesters, thieves, or universal income radicals still occasionally showed up, but whoever was running the wheelhouse could deal with them as they saw fit. Shielded politically, administrators usually blamed the corpses that resulted from these confrontations on security AIs that were overly-enthusiastic in protecting their wheeled brethren.
Staring at the outside wall of one such wheelhouse south of Madrid, Durham could see the burn marks and graffiti that had been the remains of the last such confrontation. Peeking out from underneath multi-spectral netting that had allowed him and Hatcher to get this close to the compound without detection, Durham watched as the other man approached it. Gone was the leather jacket and casual outfit that had allowed Hatcher’s cybernetic frame to walk the streets of Madrid without notice. Those had been left behind with most of their other equipment, bundled and hidden in some crag not far from the A3 motorway.
Durham wished he was sitting with it, or better yet, sitting in some nice hotel in Madrid, but out here the only place to grab a signal was the wheelhouse so he had crawled along with Hatcher. While shorter and more human than the Butcher, Durham was still physically capable. Deep in the dry and sharp wilds of southern Spain, he could still hack it.
What the technician had to admire about the other man was his nerve. While Durham knew he shouldn’t peek out from the netting, that it might allow some shadow of the electromagnetic spectrum or wisp of body heat to escape, he couldn’t resist. Even with the camouflage suit, the profusion of sensors from the wheelhouse required Hatcher to cross the last hundred meters a fingertip at a time. The waiting was killing Durham. Only a few dozen yards from Hatcher, he could barely spot the other man despite knowing where he was.
Durham slipped back under netting, somehow darker than the moonless Spanish sky, and closed his eyes. He normally preferred to work the old-fashioned way, off a screen or projection of some kind, but here those small blooms of energy might be enough to push them over the line into detection. So he gazed at the back of his eyelids, waiting for the signal from his neuraljack that would tell him Hatcher had linked him into the closed circuit network of the wheelhouse.
Cocooned in the unnatural darkness of the netting Durham had no idea how long he waited.