Chapter 2: Something to Fear.

"You what sir?"

"I told them who I was"

"You can't' be serious"

"Hey knock it off, we've been hitting dead ends for months, it's about time we got some fresh eyes on the syndicate"

I moved my fingers across the faceplate, the smooth display buzzing with static

"Besides, punching clues out of goons on the street can only get you so far. It's time we tried a different approach" I said.

Ai's can't sigh, but if they could Minerva would definitely be frowning right now.

"All im saying sir, is that maybe we should at least try leaking some of your findings to the police, maybe it could help."

"You know as well as i do that there isn't a single cop in this town who isn't on the mob's payroll" I replied.

"What about interpol? There has to be someone who can help us" said Minerva.

I finished strapping the armour onto it's stand.

"I don't need help from the police minerva!" I was getting frustrated. "there's too much red tape involved with them, by the time they get their asses to work, too many innocent people will have been hurt.".

It was a long night I needed some rest.

"Minerva set me down at the penthouse, I need a drink".

The Cloud swooped silently over the penthouse building, which was glinting brightly in the early morning sun, the Carraro enterprises logo still blazing brightly across the front. I climbed down onto the roof of my penthouse building and watched the Dark Cloud ascend into the heavens.

A miracle of engineering, ion engines that were efficient enough to keep an aircraft the size of a football field in the air using nothing more than xenon gas and some solar power. It put a smile on my face, thinking about that machine, I mean come on, It's a flying base of operations, what more could a man want? Ill tell you what, some damn answers.

I stepped into my living room and turned on the lights. I flopped down onto the couch and looked out the window at the city of Naples. Bathing in the warm rays of the sun. It was beautiful, from the glistening waters of the coast to the tiny streets that squirmed between the tightly packed buildings. Seeing it in all it's glory, one might even forget for a moment that every single person in this city is at risk.

In recent times, the terrorist group known as Talon have started to resurface. There have been sightings of Talon operatives in nearly every country in Europe, but not a single peep out of them in Italy. Normally one would think that this means they aren't here. But i'm not convinced.

Lately all the crime families have started acting extra paranoid, showing off their power, exerting their authority. Like what happened last night, with the old guy and the journalist. The families are squeezing as much money out of the city as they can. Something is brewing behind Naples' beautiful exterior, something I just cannot seem to figure out.

I poured myself a glass of wine and turned on my computer. The thug I beat up the other night gave me a name, a name I hadn't heard before.

'Ombra'

Which means 'shade' in Italian.

"Hey Minerva run this through the crime database, 'ombra'. See if you find anything".

"Searching database for matches to Ombra… no matching results".

"Cazzo" I cursed under my breath, another dead end.

I finished my glass of wine.

"Sir maybe you should be taking a break from this, you need to be Leonardo Carraro right now, not The Gat" she said.

"Shut up Minerva, you're getting on my nerves… my nerves.. minervs… Minerva..". I let out a small laugh, I'm a bit of a lightweight.

"At least you're easing up a bit, sir".

Minerva was originally an experimental artificial intelligence developed by overwatch to manage their information banks. When they disbanded, Carraro Enterprises was quick to take advantage and acquire as much of the old overwatch tech as possible. One such piece of technology was the Minerva AI, which I modified for my own purposes. A few years ago Minerva gained enough information to achieve sentience. She was much more than just an AI.

"You're like my best friend Minerva" I said with a stupid smile on my face.

"Wow , that's really sad" she said. "You really need to get out more ,sir".

"Don't push it" I got up to go to bed, even though it was 6 in the morning.

"Minerva don't let me sleep for too long."

"Sir, you've been awake nearly 48 hours, I think you've earned the right to oversleep just this once"

I woke up at nearly 3 o'clock the next morning,

"what the fuck Minerva?" I groaned as I got out of bed

"Good morning sir, are you well rested?" she asked

"I'm pretty sure I've missed several important meetings today" I threw on some clothes and started freshening up.

"Don't worry about it, I rescheduled all your meetings for next week. You need a break sir, maybe even a vacation.

"did you also reschedule all the crime in Naples to happen next week?" I asked, pissed.

Minerva had brewed some coffee for me already, I poured myself a mug and took a sip.

"Sir I need to tell you something" she said

"What?"

"remember that movie you watched a couple of weeks ago?"

"Hmm… oh you mean 'Some Like It Bot?' Yeah I remember"

"Well, do you remember how you said you found one of the actresses attractive?"

"Uh huh" I was worried about where this was going.

"Yes.. well… I made a few calls, and you will be having dinner with her this evening"

I nearly choked on my coffee

"WHAT? I Swear you are so lucky you don't have a face because if you did I would have punched it"

"I'm only doing what's best for you sir, trust me when I say this, you need the company"

"Fine, I'll go but just to get you off my back" Hey, who knows maybe this might work.

It was a beautiful evening, at a beautiful restaurant, and I was sitting across the table from a beautiful actor. Anyone else would be enjoying themselves, but of course, me being me, I was lost in thought about the syndicate.

"Are you alright?" she asked me.

Her name was Thespion 3.0, but she preferred to be called 'Thes'. She was a famous omnic actress from America, one of the newer generation ones at that. I thought she was great, don't get me wrong, but considering how much I had been through in the last few days, dating was the last thing on my mind.

"No… no i'm fine, just stressed out I guess" I said

"About what?" she asked.

I thought for a second, sure maybe I just had to talk about it.

"About all the crime in this city" I told her. "Naples is my home town, and it really upsets me to see it fall into the wrong hands."

She tilted her head, then leaned in, and in a playful whisper she said

"Well… have you heard the rumors?"

"What rumors?"

"Rumors about 'The Gat'. They say that he's a vigilante who beats the crap out of criminals at night."

I smiled and leaned in as well, I whispered

"Some people say he's actually a dangerous criminal, who should not be trusted"

"I'd rather have him protecting me than the anti omnic police force you have here" she said

"Can't disagree with that I'm afraid, the cops here are hopeless"

We had a hearty laugh over that and I had a few more drinks.

It's always a little awkward when dating omnics, they don't exactly eat or drink the same as humans, so it's basically just her watching me have dinner.

But regardless we had a nice evening.

I was driving Thes down to her hotel (well, technically my hotel, since I own it) when once again I could think of nothing other than the syndicate.

She looked at me

"Is something bothering you? You've been pretty distant all evening"

I thought for a second, ah, fuck it

"does the word 'ombra' mean anything to you?" I asked. Hey it's worth a shot, I was desperate.

"Okay… no I can't say that it does, but it does sound a lot like the spanish word sombra which means shade."

Suddenly a thought hit me, how could I have missed it.

I was such an idiot. Such. An. Idiot. I knew what I had to do now.

"Well that was a nice date, thank you so much bye now" I helped her out of the car, kissed her on the hand, jumped back in and drove off as fast as I could, Leaving Thes very confused outside her hotel.

I was driving along a deserted countryside road at top speed

"Minerva you there?"

"Ah, hello sir, how was the date? You better have enjoyed it because it was not easy getting an A-list actress to fly down to Naples just to spend an evening with you."

"Minerva remind me to turn down your attitude slider just a tiny bit"

"I'm sorry sir, I'm just really hoping the two of you hit it off, you desperately need more people in your life."

"we can talk more about my pathetic loneliness later Minerva, pick me up in the Cloud, I think i've got a breakthrough on the syndicate case."

"right away sir"

Suddenly the Dark Cloud seemingly materialized in front of me and lowered its ramp, I drove straight in, got out of the car, and hurried down to the central control panel.

"Okay minerva remember how I asked you to search the database for any instances of the name ombra?"

"Yeah, I couldn't find anything, sir" she said

"I had assumed ombra was a local agent, a low level operator for the syndicate. But say they weren't, say they were actually working on a far larger scale…"

I pulled up a few holographic interfaces, there was a thunderstorm brewing, I diverted course.

"Minerva,I need you to try searching again, but this time look for any references to individuals with the name 'ombra' in all crime databases, and in all languages, not just in Italy."

"Woah, how big do you think the syndicate is?"she asked

"Were not after the syndicate, they're just a front for something much bigger and far more dangerous"

I looked up through the transparent ceiling, we had already risen above the stormy clouds.

"I think our 'ombra' is primarily working with Talon. And whatever Talon is doing with the mafia, it can't be good"

"Searching databases, this may take a while" said Minerva.

"Yeah, take your time, but just be thorough, we need everything we can find on this person"

I sent a message to my new investigator friend, since they had worked in the states, they may have some information regarding ombra or sombra or whatever.

"Huh, is that your new journalist friend? What could they possibly know that I couldn't find out?" said Minerva.

"Ooh, looks like someone's jealous. Just stay focused, this is serious" I said

"Come on, I work better when i'm talking. How was the date with Thes, sir?"

I sighed "she was nice, I guess. But my mind's not in the right place for that sort of stuff right now"

"Sir, im just worried that your mind might never be in the right place"

"let's stick to fighting crime, relationship advice isn't what I made you for"

"I just want what's best for you sir"

"And I just want what's best for the people"

"A suited up vigilante knocking around thugs in alleyways is really what's best for the people?" asked Minerva

I stepped up to the cockpit window and looked down to the earth, from up here all I could see through the brief breaks in the cloud cover was the green Italian countryside, and a few specks of light where a some buildings were scattered.

"In a world without Gods, people need something to reassure them that there is still justice. I wear that suit not because I want to, but because someone has to. They need something to believe in"

I turned away from the window

"And they need something to fear"

"Would you like me to search the web for: 'They need something to fear'?" said Minerva

"Knock it off Siri" I rolled my eyes "I was trying to make a point"

"Sir, I hate it when you get moody"

"Then give me some good news Minerva"

"You're in luck,the scan is finished" she said. I sat back down at the control panel.

"You're going to like this sir, turns out Ombra is in fact just an Italian alias for an agent called Sombra. She's a talon operative from mexico that also happens to be a very skilled hacker."

A picture came up on the screen, it was a low quality security camera image which showed a group of talon agents breaking into a building. And behind the main group, was a small woman with purple looking hair and a strange outfit.

"Minerva zoom in, then enhance" I said

"Were not in a csi show, I can't do that" said Minerva.

"Fuck, were so close, what else did you find out?"

"She's been doing a lot to cover up her tracks. but you need to be a lot better to outsmart me" said a very arrogant AI.

"Let's just say I hacked into a few important criminal organizations, and tracked all the operations she's been involved in. And managed to find a way of pinpointing a few areas of interest.

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" I asked.

"We can find them, sir"

"Well" I said.

"So much for that break..."

"It's time to give those cazzi something to fear"