Getting out of the cargo drone Durham thought for a moment that it had somehow dropped them off in the Sahara. Long tendrils of sand were blown across the road from dunes that stretched out towards the horizon. Tall dust clouds nearly obscured the coastal city waiting in the distance. The last time Durham had looked through one of the trailer’s windows the landscape had still been rolling green hills. Now, a few hundred miles closer to the coast, it was a dust bowl.
Hatcher didn’t reflect on his surroundings, only ripped the lining out of his leather jacket and wrapped it around his head like a keffiyeh. With that modest protection he set out walking towards Lisbon.
On the long ride in the cargo bay from Madrid, Durham had learned that while Hatcher’s augmented mass might take up more space, his need for attention was small. His original reticence to converse wasn’t because he didn’t trust Durham. It’s just the way he was.
Durham had to give Hatcher credit, though, he had picked the right destination. Maybe because its long-standing attitude towards refugees or the sands that encroached on the old capital as they rolled up from the Mediterranean. Either way, Lisbon didn’t have the usual barriers to entry that most city-states did. No walls, checkpoints, gates, or even cameras as far as Durham could tell. The only vehicles in Lisbon appeared to be automated street sweepers that ran continuously, blowing enough sand off the main thoroughfares to allow for pedestrian traffic. Any personal transportation was parked outside the city’s old downtown, lining its white walls and orange terracotta roofs like a mechanized nomad pack.
Dressed in face masks and rebreathers, wrapped in clothing shredded by the continuous blowing of grit and sand, the people of Lisbon moved in and out of the city like so many bedouins from the city’s moorish days. Durham stopped Hatcher at a kiosk built out of a half-buried cable car, nearly absorbed by the shifting sands pushed up against its yellow sides. There he bought a filter mask and goggles. His face wrapped in these he felt like he blended right in.
Speaking in some kind of local streetspeak that Durham’s chipset didn’t recognize, Hatcher asked the vendor, a tattooed Afrikaner with arms like chopsticks, a series of questions. Nodding vigorously, as appeared to be the local custom, Hatcher must have gotten what he wanted. He turned and began walking down an adjacent boulevard, leaving the Afrikaner expectant of further business or a tip.
They spent most of the day walking around a giant sand pile pitted with the frames of ancient glass houses and signs calling it, “Estufa Fria”. Eventually, they came to a building with a neon sign bright enough that it could still be seen through the blowing dust. It displayed the name of the establishment as “Axis Sushi”.
The neon lights continued inside. Coupled with the bubbles generated by the aerators in the many large aquariums, it gave the impression the fish were being boiled alive. Hatcher order something from the automated waitress and threw his bag down on a table. Durham noted it had a public terminal embedded in it that was actually functioning.
“What’s this?” Durham gestured to the terminal, knowing that Hatcher must have something in mind. As with the rest of the plan, though, the mercenary hadn’t shared that with him. He didn’t want to seem to anxious, though a part of him was excited about getting back online and doing what he did best.
“Access it. Then find us a tanker that’s going from Sevastopol or somewhere like it to Havana.”
“Yeah, when what?”
“Then we highjack it.”