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Criminal Enterprise

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:48 am    Post subject: Criminal Enterprise Reply with quote

Forget everything you knew about the War Worlds, we are starting over. Smile

The wind blew cold through the thin jacket I was wearing, damn government issue never was warm enough. I kicked a snow pile, and swore as the other foot sank into slush. The street howled with the wet freezing wind, and I was thankful I only had a few yards to go from my nice warm car to the building front from my parking spot. Would have been nicer to have some heated indoor parking, but the local government was on an austerity kick again. Oh well. I pulled the jacket closer, tugged my hat down tight, hunched over into the wind, and headed for the door.

The doorman, a heavyweight over-sized model in a generic brown trench coat and hat, stuck one beefy paw out to stop me.

"Pardon me," came the familiar metallic growl, "Your identification is required."

I dug into one pocket, swearing under my breath, but nobody yet has defeated a doorman with bare hands. Cyborgs just don't fight fair, among other things. I pulled the card out, swiped it across the reader built into his palm, and the arm withdrew.

"Special Agent Wilkinson, welcome to New Denver Federal Police Headquarters," the thing grumbled, red eyes unblinking.

Yeah, some welcome. I had lost feeling in my toes, plus a favorite portion of my anatomy was also beginning to freeze. I nodded, and stepped through the seemingly thin glass door, even though I knew better. Transparent armor, same as the army used in their combat mekas and the Marines' powered armor, the stuff would stop a runaway reight train.

The door slipped shut behind me with a sigh, and I sighed along with it. Warm. Oh yeah, warmth again. I let the jacket slide off in a dripping pool of snow and slush as a full human in a functionary's uniform rushed forward, "Let me take that, sir, welcome to New Denver, do you need any assistance?"

I didn't hear a word of it. New Denver Federal Police. Well, they had great digs. I've seen hotel lobbies with fewer paintings, gold accents, subtle mood lighting, soft synthileather couches, and a genuine tinkling fountain dead square in the middle, water spray reaching easily two stories high in the spacious atrium. A nagging voice at the back of my skull wanted to know if the taxpayers were happy thew way their money had been spent. I mentally shrugged; wasteful politicians found little favor with voters, not for over one hundred years, so chances were they were breaking rocks in Leavenworth Prison while the police enjoyed this palace. Life is rarely fair, but the irony of it tickled my sense of the ridiculous, and I turned to the bellhop - I couldn't help but think of him like that.

"A hot coffee, and a building map, pronto, and there will be a tip in it for you."

"Yes SIR!" the little man saluted, and ran off. I grinned, feeling better already. But then my internal worry wart went off. Why was I here, thousands of miles from home, following a message delivered to my boss that someone had stolen an entire solar system? It's not exactly something you can drop in a get away truck. I shook my head. Time to find out.

Last edited by armoredman on Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woo! The great writer returns!

An intriguing introduction, along with an impressively audacious crime. How the hell do you steal a solar system? O.o Good work, can't wait for more.

Frizz [2:34pm]
*puts on his ban-hat*
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the bellhop ran off, I surveyed the place, looking at it like a cop instead of a tourist. There, up in each corner, flechette guns, cameras, firing points for small arms, walkways carefully channeled on the floor into kill sacks, shield projectors in front of the certainly armor solid doors leading to the interior, I nodded with a grin, if I had to work somewhere other than The Republic, this wasn't a bad choice, well, as long as I got to stay indoors, that is. I shivered, my old bones had gotten used to warm weather, and they like to stay warm.

"Wilkinson!" The atrium shook to the hoarse bellow from one doorway. A full grin wrapped around my face as a familiar figure waddled out, cigar stub in the corner of the square unshaved face, rumpled brown suit coat stained with lunch, and a matching wide grin.

"Chief Nash, good to see you again," I said as my outstretched hand vanished in one meaty paw, " It's been a few years."

"A few? Crap, kid, it's been ten years, or all that sun down in Cancun get your memory too?"

I waved it off, "Sun and sand, even some surf when I can get the time, so eat that jealousy with hot sauce. Besides, who ordered the freezing rain and snow out there?"

Nash grunted, and worked the cigar to the other side of his mouth, "It IS winter time in North America, or did you forget? What's with that tissue paper wrapper you've got there?"

I looked at my coat and shrugged, "Got used to two seasons, hot and hotter, and this was the heaviest jacket I could find."

He smiled, a look that had caused many hardened criminals to cower and cringe, "I'll get you with a heated overcoat, got two in the locker room nobody has claimed in a couple of weeks. C'mon, let's get to my office."

"Special Agent Wilkinson, sir, your coffee!" and the little guy came bouncing back with joy of joys, a steaming cup. I grabbed it with one hand, a tossed a NewDollar coin to him with the other, "Thanks, amigo, and I found a walking map."

"Yes sir, have a good day!"

We walked off towards the inner sanctum doors and I remarked, "Where did you find him?"

Without missing a beat, Nash growled, "Floozies R Us."

"That's bad."

"You should meet his partner."

We stepped up three steps on the veined marble flooring, and I remarked, "Heckuva setup you have here, Chief, what bank did you guys rob?"

"Nah, nothing like that. You know Little Beijing, up north about seventy five miles, where all the billionaire Chinese like to hang out?"

I allowed that I had heard of the place.

"One of them had a house fire, biggest flippin' mansion I ever saw, on fire from stem to stern, we get there right before the fire jockeys, and here comes this little Chinee lady runnin' around screaming her cat was inside. So, naturally, one of my young and dumb decides to be the hero type, and runs inside a burning building to grab her damn cat. Got it too. She flipped over this, and built us this, this harem house. At least we got to have a hand in the design, or it'd be completely useless, not just halfway useless. Wasted space everywhere, could use some more interview rooms and evidence lockers, offices, but no, we got ourselves an atrium with a fountain!"

I had to laugh, and he mock glared at me. I recovered, and asked, "As the super trooper, what about him?"

He softened suddenly, "Medical retirement. Beam came down as he was running out, broke his back. He slid on firefighting foam onto the grass, saved his life. Best damn rook I'd seen in years, ripped outa uniform by a cat."

"Sorry, Bud," I said, meaning it. I'd seen too many young hero kids killed trying to be noble, and it never got easier.

He gestured me through the door, into a plain white and functional corridor, and I immediately felt better. Nothing like the off white halls of officialdom to bring a government drone back to life.

"Nah, it's okay, the lady set him up for life. He has ten cats now, too. Can't figure out people want them mobile shedder shredders underfoot, gimme a dog any day of the week."

"Chief, you are a dog."

He shot me a wounded look, "From a friend I gotta take this? To the core, sir, to the core!"

A short trip up an elevator with some more friendly banter, until he ushered me past a stunningly gorgeous blonde secretary into a palatial office complete with mahogany furniture and dark real leather upholstery. I gaped - my own chief didn't have this kind of opulence. Well, okay, he spent most of his time running his office on the beach, more fun that way, but I was impressed.

"Bud Nash, you did make the big time didn't you! Or is this your shrinks' office?"

"Always the wise guy, aincha? Grab a chair, and there's stogies in that humidor if you want one."

I shook my head, "I had a pipe in the car on the way in, all good. So, tell me about this mysterious message I get on my system about you need to see me all the way up here in the frozen north about something that is flat impossible, something so super secret we can't discuss it on link like normal people?"

He sat heavily in a chair that easily cost half my annual salary, and casually chucked a file disk my way. I slipped it in the reader arm on my chair, and scanned it.

"This guy. Ivan Feyordovich. Nicknamed the Frizz for that scraggly beard hanging off his chin. He's the reason for the security. Remember the Russian Mafia from a few decades ago, before Moscow and Neuva York got blown to smithereens?"

"Vaguely. I thought that died out. So what's the connection?"

The picture showed a man about my age, with a thin brown beard and coiffed hair, very expensive suit, manicured and looking like the king of all he surveyed. Yep, I'd seen the types before, and he fit my mental profile instantly. Bad juju.

"The Arr Emm disappears for decades, then this guy shows up in high social circles outa nowhere, claiming rich relatives, and starts making a splash. Near as we can tell, his rich relatives are the stolen fortunes of about twenty or so dead Arr Emm types. Nobody seems to be gunnin' for him, so maybe he did inherit, or more likely he has a better goon squad."

"What does that have to do with stolen star system? Not like anyone can steal a thing like that, so what gives?"

Nash leaned back, and puffed out blue clouds of smoke, "He makes a lot of friends, the kind we used to worry about getting into mercenary groups and fringe outfits, the kind that want to fight like the old days, blowing each other to hell. Earth is too tame for them I guess, so this Ivan character, he rounds them up and buys himself a nice new Solar Wind long haul starship."

I gaped and goggled, "He BOUGHT one? From who, there's only like ten or so around!"

"Nine now, and the seller was Africa United. They gave up trying to export their surplus citizens, so they sold cheap. Nobody else knew the thing was for sale, so he snapped it up, and BOOM! They are gone, off towards the Shak frontier."

"Guess he likes being eaten, too? Sounds like an adventure vid guy, not a mastermind thief. So where does this big steal come into play?"

"Wilkie, Wilkie, patience."

I really hated that nickname.

"Okay, I get reports back from the deep black, as we do have some friends out there, and I get this tale that our Ivan friend has himself an entire star system now, and he's killing people for money."

I sat up, interested, "Murder for hire, something like that?"

"Nah," Nash waved that aside, "He has some kind of game world setup, people come play and fight like they're in the Army or something, and they get to kill people doing it. Problem is, nobody can figure out what jurisdiction this guy is in, so then the local governments get together, and discover this guy got his happy hunting ground pulled off alla their star charts completely. He stole the damn thing right from under their noses, nobody has a registered valid claim on his turf! Wild, ain't it?"

I sat back, rubbing my chin thoughtfully, "Wild isn't the half of it. Okay, this guy absconds from Earth with the possibly stolen fortunes of a lot of dead gangsters, gets into a star system halfway between here and Shak country, and now he's running war games possibly killing people on his planets with no government jurisdiction? Okay, crimes against humanity, if he didn't already declare himself a new government. Then it's a State Department thing. Why call me?"

Nash levered his bulk out of the chair, and walked to the big armored window, now streaming with runnels of rain from the growing storm outside, "He didn't declare a new country, he calls it a business. The League of Worlds dropped it in our lap, since he apparently doesn't belong to any of them, and we are the Mother World. They said, 'go find out what this guy is doing', end quote. As for you, you've been out there before, investigated a lot of Earth related off world crime, best choice I could come up with. You're boss already okayed it, and you also have a helluva combat record from your military days."

"You really are reaching this time, aren't you? I haven't worn a uniform in a long, long time." I remarked wryly, even as my guts started churning.

He faced me, and extended a hand, "I need you. It's a three wormhole jump from here to this place. I got you cover, money, documents, everything you need to be rich and bored enough to try this fantasy killer world on your own. I need you to see if this is something the President needs to send the Navy in for or not. Can you do it?"

I groaned, I hate wormhole travel. The things I put up with for law and order.

" All right, all right, stop the sap! if Chief Long said okay, okay. One sob story a week is my limit! Do I get backup?"

He smiled an evil little smile, and nodded, "Something I cooked up myself."

I hate it when he does that.

Last edited by armoredman on Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

x34ds wrote:
Woo! The great writer returns!

An intriguing introduction, along with an impressively audacious crime. How the hell do you steal a solar system? O.o Good work, can't wait for more.

When did armoredman become the great writer? Anyway, good story so far. Very solid opening and nicely placed hooks to draw the reader in. Very nice...
Now Watching: KR: Wizard, Kuuga and Faiz. SS: Kyoryuger, Dairanger and Jetman. Other: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LordRex wrote:
x34ds wrote:
Woo! The great writer returns!

An intriguing introduction, along with an impressively audacious crime. How the hell do you steal a solar system? O.o Good work, can't wait for more.

When did armoredman become the great writer? Anyway, good story so far. Very solid opening and nicely placed hooks to draw the reader in. Very nice...

since forever.
he's da best you got here
Jekyll [6:45am 28]
My first slave was a gatlinger named Wendy
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nash led me through some more of my favorite off white corridors to a bank of gleaming stanless steel elevators. He punched up a ride while I linked to my boss in Cancun for the official okay for the trip.

"Southwest Republic Pee Dee, Chief Garcia!" The little display built into my right eye lit up with a picture of a suntanned shirtless young Hispanic man sitting in a beach chair with a lap tray "desk" across his loud shorts, huge sunglasses, and wearing what was hopefully the only Hawaiian print shoulder holster ever made.

"Chief, it's Wilkinson. Hey, I thought you liked me, boss."

Garcia focused on his own link implant registering my surroundings, "Wilkie, you look a bit cold up there, and who's the manbeef?"

I smiled, "That's Chief Nash. I understand you talked to him about me going on a, 'trip' shall we say?"

"Yeppers, you are five by five and on cruise control, Wilkie, have a slamming time!"

Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what my boss is saying. I followed the advice of a good cop from years ago, 'Smile and nod, son, just smile and nod.'

"Thanks, Chief, I'll get you a t-shirt or something."

"Rockin', Wilkie, linking off, time to wave ride!"

The connection went dead as the elevator arrived. Nash looked over at my and grunted, "Your chief is a little weird."

"He's young."

"That's what I said."

We stepped into the gleamingly clean elevator, and Nash punched up a very deep number, "Basement time, something special, just for you."

"Nash, I hate it when you say that."

He grinned his best evil grin, "I know."

We came to a smooth stop deep under ground, and the elevator doors slid open with a slight sigh, "I wish our elevator worked this well."

"You have one? I thought you had a one story plaza down there in what's left of Old Mexico City."

"Yes, but a two story basement for records and the finance department. One shaft, elevator dates from the nineteen eighties, I swear."

"Ooh, that's bad. C'mon, this way."

Nash waddled ahead of me down another off white corridor, while I followed. We walked for what felt like a short mile until we came to an unmarked security door at the end. Nash slid one callused paw across the wall monitor, and remarked, "This is the spot. You're gonna like this."

The door popped open with the distinctive sound of pressure equalizing, and I realized it was a hermetically sealed room. A bitter sweet smell wafted out, and we stepped into a white room divided by a caged wall cieling to floor, side to side. On this side of the metal bars was deep pile carpet, a few heavily padded chairs and a sofa, along with a table and end table, covered with some out of date sports mag disks. On the other side was a miniature jungle scene, complete with painted trees and creepers, grass and rocks on the floor and live trees and vines in long planters. In the foliage I noticed what appeared to be a tiny monkey on one small tree limb, light brown and white fur, wearing a charming little denim coverall setup, complete with bulging pockets. I realized the big eyes in the little head seemed to be unwaveringly focused on mine, and I felt a slight itch of being off balance.

I dropped into one comfortable chair, commenting, "Chief, this is where we wait for your backup? Nice room, I'd swear that monkey looks almost real."

The monkey reached into one coverall pocket, pulled out a tiny pack of cigarettes and an equally tiny lighter, puffed a little cancer stick to a glow as his left foot came up and rotated, folding back some of the toes to give me what could only be described as the "bird". A little voice piped up with a harsh accent behind the smoke as I sat in shock, "Chief, this is the idiot you want me to watch over? He's got filafel for brains."

Nash grinned again in that evil way of his, "Wilkie, meet Frank."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I gaped like a fresh landed fish, "It talks....Bud, you have a talking monkey..."

"No kiddin. Like I said, Wilkie, this is Frank, the last known survivor of Project Golem."

The monkey sat back on his tree limb with a clearly disgusted look on his furry little face, and said, "He's too young, won't know a thing."

I shook the cobwebs free, and looked straight at Frank, "Project Golem, the last ditch attempt of the mad dictator Pister to keep control of Nueva York during the Second American Civil War. Many animals and even a few carnivorous plants were infused with mind enhancing wetware, driving them to attack humans on sight, often forcing the animals completely insane. Last sighting of a Golem infected animal was approximately seventy years ago. Bud, this monkey can't be over seventy years old!"

Frank shot me another rude gesture, "Yeah, I can be, and I am, youngster. The so-called 'upgrades' also extended our lives."

"How long?"

"Well, at least seventy years, smart guy, any other dumb questions?"

I turned to Nash, who was enjoying himself immensely, "What are you thinking, sending me out on this wild goose chase with a geriatric talking moneky?"

Nash smiled even bigger, and jerked his head at the cage, "Frank, show him."

The monkey slowly and unwillingly extended his right paw, and lifted it up to display the palm. On it lay a ragged scar cut into an 'x' pattern. I breathed in deep, realizing who I was seeing.

"You're X One."

"Yeah," Frank said, still disgusted but with a sound of deep sadness, "Pister's mysterious top assassin. Yeah, that's me, I killed lots of humans, some special, some wholesale, all for that brainburnt scumbag. Him dying when they flamed his palace was the best thing I ever got to see. Last I saw of Pister was him running around with his hair on fire, screaming like a stuck pig, then I had to run. Lived in what was left of Central Park for years. Nobody suspected a harmless little monkey of being an assassin, anyway. I got fricken tired of peanuts, though, yuck."

I had to smile, but deep inside was a strange feeling, being near the being that singlehandedly killed General White and his whole staff at the Battle of Saint Louis. All that was ever found near his victims was what some thought to be the hand of a doll he carried around, covered in blood and held against the wall to show the X sign. I realized that this was the hand that had been dripping in his victims blood, pressed against the walls.

Frank looked over at Nash, "Chief, you sure you wanna to do this?"

Nash worked his cigar stub to the other side of his wouth, "Frank, how long did you say you gotta work for me to make up for what you did?"

A soft sigh, "Forever, Chief, forever."

"I need you on this one. Wilkinson is going someplace that kills. Three of my best agents disappeared in there, never heard from again."

I jerked - I didn't remember him dropping that little bomb on me earlier.

Frank looked as serious as a small furry face can, "I am supposed to do what, pretend to be his pet, then jump out and kil everyone? How do I get my gear in there?"

"Gear...?" I was lost.

"Frank, we have it all worked out, no problem. You do this, bring him back, and I'll cut you loose for a vacation in Brazil."

"Great, go see the world, get eaten by a flippin' python, no thanks. Yeah, I'll do it, this kid doesn't look like he knows which end of the tube the round comes out of."

Nash grinned again, "Frank, you lose that bet. Wilkie here worked South Africa Reborn Kommando, and Second Rhodesian Republic Selous Scouts. He's got some experiance."

It was the monkey's turn to look slightly impressed, and his eyes narrowed, "SpecFor eh? All right, like I said, I'll do it."

I raised a hand, "Nash, what are you doing?"

"Protecting a friend. like I said, three of my best guys went to this place and I never heard a peep back. This is why I borrowed you from the Republic, why I ain't using my people, why I didn't use the link, and why you're going into dark territory with the most lethal monkey ever born. They might stop you from taking a weapon with you, but your pet moneky? Heh, tell 'em he's your seeing eye monkey, wear dark glasses!"

I scowled, "Okay, but when we get there, does Frank know anything about the weapons and armor this guy supposedly has?"

The monkey flipped out a figure eight looking mask from one pocket, "Interface device. I can drive any tank or meka built. Yeah, I know what a meka is, I saw the first ones tested a long time ago. Now, when do we leave?"

I looked at Nash, who grinned and tossed a few travel discs on the table in front of me, "Now, Frank, now."

Well it wasn't quite that quick...
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome work a-man

and he is the best writer here by far just read some of his other stuff and you will understand
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:16 am    Post subject: Criminal Enterprise Reply with quote

I am looking forward to more for this story... You've got my attention.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If anyone had told me twenty four hours ago that I would be heading to board a wormhole transport for the edge of known space wearing a few hundred thousand NewDollars worth of clothes and jewelery, sporting a hair cut, dye job, and artificial tan, all while carrying a lethal talking monkey, I would have suggested to that individual that he needed a brain scan, as in attempt to locate same. Well, greater fool me, here I was, looking like a rich space-set type with carefully casual clothes costing more than my beach house, more electronics buried in the weave than I had in my home entertainment system, and an itch I absolutely could not scratch. A hologram kept popping up in front of my eyes advertising the wares of each kiosk we passed down the walkway, prompted by the circuity in the gaudy yet disgustingly fashionable cloth of gold jumpsuit I was quickly learning to detest.

"Can't you turn that damn thing off? I don't need any deoderant implants!" a small harsh voice whispered.

I whispered back, "I wish I could, but someone forgot the frakking manual, wonder who THAT was, eh? And you wanna bet about that deoderant?"

I shifted my shoulders, uncomfortable in the trendy splash I was making, "I look like a frakking clown in this get up!"

Well, at least I was to me, but to the world I was ,for all to see, rich, swanky, unhappy and pouty, sporting carefully coiffed golden hair with bronze highlights in criss crossing patterns, and a shimmering silver platform shoe design that I suspected had been lifted from failed designers a few centuries before. The flaring collar of my jumpsuit held speakers and projection systems, which not only kept bombarding me with the "gift ideas", but also projected a cloud over my features, a system the rich and famous had been using for years, with very predictable results. As I moved through the spaceport I was followed by newsspies and reporterjackals, all trying to pierce my secret identity, who was this sensation moving across Denver Space Port with a fancy monkey, he must BE somebody, the PEOPLE demand to KNOW!

Fortunately, privacy laws kept them from jamming themselves in my face, that and three of the biggest rented goons/bodyguards I could find. Who know that 'Goons R Us' was a real business?

A furious hiss in my ear broke my reviere, "YOU LOOK STUPID? YOU?!?! Have you looked down here lately???"

Frank lay in the crook of my left arm, his fur combed and curried to a shine usually seen on patent leather shoes of bygone years. A collar of gold chased platinum encircled his furry little neck. A poofy pink and pearl fluffy diaper covered his fuzzy rear. A bright ruby leash slipped around one of my wrists connected to the collar, and a long silver tag with pink diamonds picking out the name, "Cuddles".

I conceded, "OK, you have a point there."

"Next time You're wearing the leash!"

I couldn't help it; I said lightly, "Don't threaten me with a good time."

"Human, I am very tempted to rip out your neck and crap down your throat."

Some people, I mean, animals, have absolutely no sense of humor.

A minor functionary of the space port came out in front of my small entourage, "Mr Black?"

A hiss and murmur behind me told me the newsies were updating thier readers on my supposed identity, and would feed back no less than fifteen thousand possabilities for my supposed persona.

"Yes," I said nonchalantly, causing another stir as the papperazzi tried to voicematch my disguised tones. Rotsa ruck, I thought to myself.

"This way, sir," the blue uniformed flunky said, bowing and scraping, pointing towards a private access hatch to the waiting shuttle.

"Excellent, proceed," I said in my haughtiest tones, waving Goon Two and Three forward, "These men will take care of my baggage. You DO have room for it all, yes?"

The flunky bowed even lower, and I could swear I saw a brown spot on the tip of his nose, "Yes, sir, everything is in order, " he simpered.

I sighed theatrically, and waved at Goon Number One, who unsmilingly handed the flunky a hundred NewDollar coin, "Onward, my good person, I won't wait!"

As we swept into the private tunnel, Frank hissed up at me, "Don't get to enjoyin' this crap!"

Hey, when in Rome...
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cabin was exactly what I expected, sickenly overdone with gold tone and mother of pearl, cavorting nymphs and cupids dancing in carved motifs. A closer look showed they were in fact real wood carvings, the cost of which was staggering in a wormhole ship, where every gram was weighed for usefulness. I sighed, and listened to my rented goons drop off my baggage. They had already been paid, so they merely tipped thier cheap hats to the ship board security that took over as they thudded out.

The functionary simpered forth again, "Mr Black, we have a lovely venue of activities tonight, many lovely young women, or men if you prefer, who would just die to meet you."

"No. Leave me now. And bring me two glasses of precisely one half grape juice and one half pineapple juice. Bring them in exactly two hours, room temperature only."

He backed out so low I could swear there was a slime trail on the deep pile carpeting. The drink order was another red herring, as it had undoubtedly been broadcast to the newsies as soon as he slid out of view. I hate pineapple juice.

Frank looked up, suddenly yawned a wide jaw cracking yawn, and said sleepily, "Sorry kid, I gotta nap, wake me if you need someone killed."

The little mokey curled up on the overstuffed chair he had perched on, and began a soft soprano snore. My ex-wife would have gone teary eyed with how 'cute' it was. Yet another reason she was my ex wife.

I began settling stuff in place, including the accidental brushing of one luggage tag, which activated the most sophisticated bug blocker made currently. Any and all optical, audio, radio, link or sidestep frequency devices would be blinded for one hour, after which my gizmo would have to recharge. Time to check my map for directions.

I slid off the disgusting jumpsuit, and streched with a groan, then finally scratched that annoying itch with a happy grunt. Then I got down to business.

I pulled a small data disk out, and a portable reader. Nothing I was reading here would ever enter the ships' systems, my momma didn't raise a fool. Actually, she never rasied me at all, but who cared this late in the game. I slid it in, and a very familiar face lit up, still with a half smoked cigar.

"Okay, kid, I'll bet that Frank is sleeping, isn't he? Yeah, his enhancements cause him to sleep a lot, because he can burn a lot of energy when awake. Don't wake him up, he's likely to take your head off, and that ain't a joke."

The grouchy face turned away from the viewer, and I saw the window behind him, still streaked with rain. Did it ever dry off in that town?

"Frank isn't a machine you turn on and off, but he does have a buried code phrase. First the speaker has to be attuned to him, which you already did."

I thought to myself indignantly, and how and when did THAT happen?

"Don't ask when or how, that's not important right now. What is important is Frank is attuned to you as his handler, and I'm gonna give you the code phrase, but if you don't follow that phrase with a specific instruction, he will just start killing everyone in sight except you, until you tell him to stop. Useful sure, but bloodbaths aren't fun. You and I waded through enough blood and gore in our lives, let's not make any more if we don't have to, eh?"

He had me there, I thought with a rueful smile.

The crusty face turned to me in the viewer, and the cigar did its magic dance to the other side of his mouth, "The code phrase is Battlechimp Potempkin. Not battleSHIP, but battleCHIMP. Can you remember that one?"

Too goofy to forget.

A wave of one meaty paw dismissed the previous five minutes, "All right, you are Mr Jordan Blackstone, the rich and bored son of the famous finacier Blackstone, who does exist, and has a son we use like this once in a while. See, his boy is breaking rocks on Luna for murder, and the old man gets a kick out of us using his least favorite son's identity. Win/win as I see it. So, 'Mr Blackstone' you are so bored you are headed out to this place, where this Frizz character hangs out, because something you never got to do was kill people and get away with it."

His eyes gleamed dangerously, "Just like the real Jordan Blackstone didn't get away with it either."

He visibly pulled himself back to the present, and said gruffly, "You have all kinds of goodies in the luggage disguised as very normal items, stuff my best techs wil pass any shakedown, electronic or human. Just remember not to brush your teeth with that toothpaste; it's explosive, and the dental floss is the det cord."

He flopped down in his incredibly luxurious and comfortable chair while the robo camera tracked him, "Franks main kit is in that diaper. Yeah, all he needs is in his Cuddles underwear, so don't let anyone offer to 'change him'. Frank would probably just kill 'em anyway."

He pointed in front of him, and growled, "There's an imprinting machine in the green bag, with all we have on Earths best mekas and tanks, powered armor and weapons systems. You have about two days before your first wormhole jump, so I suggest you start implanting all this info. By the time you get, well, wherever the hell this place is, you will be an elite ranked driver and gunner for anything we can think of, and Wilke, there's some lulus in there. Have fun."

I groaned aloud. I hated imprintings even more than wormholes, no wonder he didn't tell me this first. I was having serious second thoughts, and some unpleasant ones about caving in my former friends obviously thick skull, when a chime sounded in my cabin.

"Passengers please seat youselves for takeoff thrusters"

I felt myself depress into the seat cushion about a millimeter. That was the gentlest takeoff I had ever experianced. Maybe this richbitchin lifestyle had something going for it. As I considered my dwindling options, Nash continued on in his gravely style.

"Wilkie, we'll have a cutter parked outside his system on station, 'watching for pirates', but he'll be waiting for your call. Frank has the transmitter, and don't ask where. If everything goes soth, ring the bell, and we'll come getcha, and probably bring the steel rain on this clown."

The face abruptly softened, "Take care of yourself. You're probably the last friend I got, and I know you're pelntly mad at me right now for doing this to ya, but you are the only one I can trust to do this. Take care."

The reader switched off, and I looked at the black screen, thinking. This wasn't a run into the veldt after terrorist, or a cavort in the jungle looking for radicals, not even a blood trail through the city trying to find a common murder. This was the single weirdest thing I had ever been asked to do, and, well, okay, why not. Average criminals can get boring. This had the potential to be very interesting.

I sighd again, and lifted the imprinter out of the soft leather green bag, and settled it on my head, checking the counter against how much time my jammer was still good for, to allow for time to slip that horrible jumpsuit back on and assume my stupid identiy.

My ship sped off into the deep black, taking me ever closer to a place that kills.
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