The Hanged Men

“Say it again,” said Rich.

“It’s impossible,” said Butch.

“Oooh! One more time,” said Rich.

“This ain’t a game, Rich. I ain’t as smart as half the people I know but I know that military contractors ain’t nothing to fuck with. It can’t be done,” said Butch.

“Of course it can’t be done. It’s never been done. It’s undoable. That’s why when we actually do steal it, the thought that it’s been stolen won’t even cross their minds for days. Weeks!” said Rich.

Two men sat in a deserted bar on a beach in Mexico. The heat was sweltering, the women scorching, and the Aguardiente burning hot.

“Now I know why they call it fire water. Holy shit,” said Butch, emptying another shot glass of the stuff.

“Best thing Colombians ever made,” said Rich. Butch arched an eyebrow. “Okay second best thing.”

They were virtual unknowns, the two of them, but their aliases were legend in criminal underworlds the world over. They were called the Hanged Men. Legend had it they escaped from a super max prison, death row inmates both. Dead men walking. But they were innocent, sentenced to death for crimes they didn’t commit, framed by people so powerful they might as well own the world. So they got out. Now they’re guns for hire, treading paths never tread and taking jobs no one else will take so that one day they can finally clear their names.

“Okay, run this by me one more time. Who hired us for this?” asked Butch.

“Five hours ago, a certain Mr. Wu contacted me. He’s interested in a little industrial sabotage, offered me a substantial amount of money to acquire an experimental weapon control system from Chicago Dynamics. It’s pretty simple, Butch,” said Rich.

“Anything sounds simple when you put it like that,” said Butch.

“Of course. Anyway, thanks to the insomnia, I managed to track down a few things this morning.” Rich unfurled the holographic smart paper that he took everywhere because he loved showing it off. “This here is everything we could ever want to know about their Cedar Park facility.”

“Cedar Park?” asked Butch.

“Oh you’ve heard of it,” said Rich.

“Heard of it? Cedar Park, the techno wonderland? The place where miracles happen? It’s a freaking fortress, man! It’s Disneyland for mercenaries. It’s Six Flags for Supervillains. The place has more guns than an army base. Look,” Butch said, enlarging the holographic image. “That’s the front gate. Made from shit I don’t even know the name of. A tank couldn’t get through there. There’s a web of cameras; thermal, bioluminal, electro-flux, you name it. All of them are equipped with facial and biometric recognition programs to root out impostors, spies and saboteurs. As in guys like us. If you were to somehow get past that, you’d have to contend with the half dozen gun drones flying overhead which are programmed with kill orders for anything that doesn’t pass the smell test once inside. Not to mention the auto-turret defenses disguised as trees on either side of the road. And there’s a lot of road. A mile just to get to the main entrance; guarded by drones that can shoot the wings off of flies from a county away! And let’s not forget the electric fences, the micro cameras, the cybro-pit traps and all the other goodies hiding in the woods for anyone who thinks they can just walk around back.”

“You really know a lot about this place,” said Rich.

“Took my daughter there for a tour once. She loves tech stuff,” said Butch.

“Gotcha,” said Rich.

“But then the fun really starts. The public gets separated from the employees at this gate here. I’m assuming whatever we’re going to steal would be housed in the R&D building another mile inside the park complex. That shit is run tighter than an aircraft carrier. And let’s not forget the big surprise, that invisible No Line surrounding the building that if crossed by anyone who looks even a little out of place, will activate a satellite in geosynchronous orbit above the park that will launch an object about the size of a small van that will crash into the facility, eliminating it and everything else within a hundred meter radius.”

“They share all that on the tour do they?” Rich asked.

“Nah, I heard that one on the grape vine. Old buddy of mine used to work for DOD and she heard all kinds of crazy shit about that place,” said Butch.

“Those are some odds. It almost sounds like we can’t get in there after all,” said Rich.

“Of course not. I’m surprised you even brought it up now that… you have a plan, don’t you?” asked Butch.

“I do,” said Rich.

“And you let me ramble on like that for how long? You bastard.” Rich downed another shot of fire water. “So how are we even getting within a mile of this place?” asked Butch.

“It’s simple. We are going to get invited,” said Rich.


Henry Woolridge waited nervously at the entrance of the R&D facility. Next to him, a row of official looking men in suits and lab coats also waited. Supposedly a high ranking official was supposed to be visiting and Corporate wanted everything to go smoothly. A black limo pulled up, two minutes late.

“Welcome! We are happy to host such a distinguished figure here,” said Henry as General Sinovich stepped out looking mean and scarred, his bodyguard meaner and even more scarred.

“Sorry am delayed. You have good security here. A little too good,” said the general. A moment’s pause where Henry nervously sweated, then Sinovich laughed which startled him. “I like it! It reminds me of home. Come, let’s not keep me waiting any longer.”

Butch had been worried about this part of the plan. How was a big enchilada like a general supposed to show up out of the blue without anyone getting suspicious? A quick fake e-mail from Corporate to Henry telling him to take care of this VIP and apologizing for the short notice and thanking him for understanding was all it took. Impersonating Corporate was as easy as inconveniencing as many middle managers as possible.

Henry led them inside and through a gallery of sorts showing off all their best sellers. Drones and autonomous gun platforms were prominent but there were also advanced rifle scopes and mobile full body ballistic armor. The general made it plain that he was in the market for something much more cutting edge.

“We have just what you’re looking for, General. If you’ll come this way please,” said Henry.

“Actually, if you could please show me nearest toilet?” the general asked.

“Uh, yes of course.”

Once inside the restroom, Rich and Butch got to work quickly.

“We got maybe two minutes tops,” said Rich as he unscrewed the vent.

“Let’s hope the general didn’t have any fiber today,” said Butch, setting up the controls. Rich placed the RC car in the vent.

“Camera’s on. Hit it.”

Butch navigated the vent system until he found the duct he was looking for. He positioned the car right above a local security grid node.

“Is everything all right in there?” Henry asked.

“Is good! Had big breakfast today!” Rich yelled as he frantically put the last screw back in place.

Several minutes later, Rich and Butch found themselves in a room surrounded by the most advanced weapons ever developed. Laser weapons, smart missiles, rail guns, the works! In the center of the room was the prize. A small white rectangle about the size of a briefcase.

“What is this?” the general asked.

“Ah, a good eye! That is our latest goodie. Just out of prototype stage. It has multiple settings which allow it to fulfill various combat roles. Not quite ready for mass production. But soon! We’re taking advanced orders now if you’re interested,” said Henry. Sinovich walked up to the weapon. On its side in black lettering it read “TechMan 01”

“I would like demo,” said Sinovich.

“It uh… it’s still in beta,” said Henry. Sinovich frowned disapprovingly.

“Next time then.”

The general’s bodyguard checked his watch. It was time. He pressed a button on his watch which activated the EMP in the RC car. The room went dark. Security was off.

“What the?” Henry asked. Ten seconds later, the lights flickered back on. “Is everyone okay?” Henry asked. Everyone nodded. “Weird. I’m sure security is looking into it.”

General Sinovich ended up ordering two squadrons of heli-drones and an army’s worth of rail guns. He shook everyone’s hand and accepted business cards and graciously retired for the day, leaving the facility with his bodyguard in tow.

“Are you serious? Are you freaking serious?” Butch asked as Rich took the general’s hat off.

“I guess those acting classes really paid off,” Rich said with the general’s heavy accent. They laughed all the way to the airport.

A week later, an intern went to inspect TechMan 01 only to find a Styrofoam copy. Meanwhile, Rich and Butch celebrated in Brazil with drinks, women and a metric fuck-ton of money. The Hanged Men had done it again.

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