Spirit, how long has it been? Six years? It hasn't changed at all.
The Nobles' Quarter dome was exactly the same: the same white stone shops, the same blue “sky” made of paint and clever lighting tricks, the same clean clear air scented only by the flowers lining each avenue. She could see the edges of the illusion now – the carefully-concealed security cameras at every corner, the spots of the ceiling where the paint was beginning to fade. But it was still so easy to ignore them, to slip into a state where you felt you were wandering beneath the open sky.
The stolen carryall pulled up in front of the bank. The architects had built it to look like a fortress from the Long Night, with crenellations atop the stone walls and thick steel doors to seal shut in an emergency. They'd have done better to actually make it a fortress. She heard a click from her earpiece – the signal that the dome's security cameras had been disabled – and she jumped out of the carryall. Half a dozen others piled out of the back, all wearing airmasks that covered their faces, all carrying spray cans and automatic rifles. Two stood guard at the entrance while Mara and the other four ran in. Mara started to count under her breath – one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand –
The lobby was almost deserted, just a handful of customers. A manager looked up from his desk - “can I help you” - Mara screaming “Everybody on the floor NOW!”, the rifle at her shoulder – cracks of gunfire as Ger and Pel fired into the ceiling, two others spreading out to spray the security cameras, where's the guards, guards, one getting on the floor, the other –
She pulled the trigger twice, blam blam, and the guard dropped, head covered in blood, a pistol sliding out of her hands. Ger grabbed the gun, Fir taking the weapon from the other. She checked; the cameras in the lobby were covered. She turned to the manager, her rifle aimed straight between his eyes. “Vault, now!” He didn't argue. Fifteen one thousand, sixteen one-thousand...
They left Pel and Fir in the lobby to tie up the customers and bank workers, genuine police cuff-ties, accept no substitutes. Mara and the others headed down the corridor in the back, spraying as they went, her rifle in his back to keep him from dawdling. The vault lay at the very end, for those special customers who had reason to deal in actual solid gold rather then numbers in computers. One lock to get into the anteroom, the manager almost fumbling his keys in fright, then the biometric scanners on the vault door. Sixty-nine one thousand, seventy one thousand, and the vault door beeped and hissed and popped open, sliding to the side to reveal 14 kilos of gold bars and 59 kilos of silver, looking dreadfully small to be worth a man's life. Into the backpacks they went, and then out to the lobby. Ger laughed – “Pleasure to do business with you,” he said to the manager, and Mara glared at him through the goggles of her mask.
Then they were out, back to the carryall, six seconds shy of two minutes after they'd entered. They moved slow, heading for the closed-up tunnel they'd used to get into the Nobles' Quarter, a construction access shaft from when they'd first built it, still covered in graffiti from four centuries past, and completely missing from the official maps. The alarm sirens started to blare just as they closed and relocked the gate to the tunnel.
“Well done, lads,” Mara said as they sped down the tunnel back to the maintenance level under Hive Four. A few friendly nods from the others, looking shell-shocked now that the adrenaline of the heist was leaving them.
Fourteen and fifty-nine, just as their informant had said. When they reached the Hive they'd hide it at one of the safehouses in the bowels, wait for a few weeks for the heat to die down, then smuggle half of it out to Ermon in the Wastes, then from there to their contact in Bloc intelligence to buy guns and explosives and blank memory sticks.
And the other half... The other half had a different purpose.
I promise you, MuniPrin, we'll get you out.