Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“What now?”
I look at Rico.
“Mate, the shit just hit the fan, but it’s not immediate. Give me a moment to think, please.”
Tricia slaps the back of Rico’s head.
“He means back the fuck up.”
Time to do like my brother taught me: mentally sum it up like you’re describing it to a person who can solve it. So –
We’re at the top of Hammerton Grange, a tower block where the lower levels are toxic due to an incident ten years ago. We came to steal an ‘unclaimable’ salvage warrant because the penthouse here was thought to be impossible to get at. We solved that with a three-hundred-metre zip line from Spotman Point. The lead wire came over by hang glider, then Helka brought Don and myself in one at a time. Between us we ran that line round the penthouse itself and set up a crude pulley system to slowly drag the cable across from the big truck anchoring the other end.
The truck that belongs to Mally’s dad. She went back first with the easily carried loot. My guess is her Dad decided to seize the payday. He gets rich ‘by accident’, we get marooned. We could call for help, but as we’re trespassing and looting on contaminated ground, getting locked away forever would be the nicest outcome.
Was Mally in on it?
“Helka. Check your glider.”
She does. I get the answer to both questions from her angry scream.
“Are we fucked?”
I turn and grin at Tricia.
“Not yet. Just need to work harder.”
Don, Tricia, Rico, Helka and I spend a long time dragging the cable closer. Lucky for us, the Hammerton Grove Exclusion Zone stretches to the foot of Spotman Point. A few people ringing up about a huge metal rope slamming through their roofs would have been a finisher.
It’s the following evening by the time we’re stood on the highest balcony, looking at the greasy cable that drops away at a steep angle into the shadows below.
“How dangerous is this?”
I shrug.
“SafeBreathe9, what everyone calls SB9, was only toxic because they deployed concentrate at ground level or directly into ventilation shafts, like they did here. It’s why they dilute and dump SB9 from drones now. Anyhow, apart from sheltered places like the lower parts of this block, where residue soaked into the walls, the concentration of SB9 down below should be tolerable for a short while.” I look at them and smile. “Even so, I’m not hanging about or taking my mask off until we’re clear.”
Helka laughs.
“Only you British could come up with something as stupid as immunisation by gassing the population.”
I’m not going to argue.
“Okay, people. Grab what you can, wrap your hands well, and slide down the cable carefully.”

The truck burned for a long time, even with a pair of fire engines hosing it down. Mally’s dad had gone in to activate the fire suppression on board, but died trying. At least his widow and Mally’s little sister have an ‘unexpected windfall’ to get them by.

Rico got really bad cable burns. Can’t even make a fist. Tricia lost her mask, landed in a cellar, and SB9 residue nearly killed her. Both of them will pull through, but it’s taken a lot of our proceeds to get them there. Mally left for the coast while we were dragging cable. Helka and Don have taken their drinking problems with them while they hunt for her.

I finally understand what my grandad said: ‘no good ever comes from stealing a dead man’s money’.