As Told by Dakota Sue
I sat on the front of the van and kicked my feet idly for a few minutes while Finn and Nat conversed, then, bored, I flicked on my communicator. “Q? Durance? What’s going on?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a hundred grand on you, by any chance?” Q asked.
“That gets us info from Lodoss. Unless you want to beat it out of him, that is.”
“Are you kidding? That’s probably more than the budget for our entire department.”
“Well do you have any other suggestions?”
“Um, maybe,” I hedged. “There’s no way we’re paying him, that’s for sure.”
“I say we stage a raid,” Finn interrupted. I hadn’t even realized that he was listening. “Durance and Q can ‘rescue’ the guy, he might be more talkative then.”
“Is there a pharmacy around here?” Nat asked. “I could whip up a truth serum.”
Amazingly, that sounded like a fairly good idea. I looked at her around the side of the van. “Sodium Pentathol?”
“Yeah, but it means distracting a pharmacist for at least five minutes so I can get behind the counter.”
I looked at Finn. “Think you’re up to knocking over a Rite Aid?”
“Um, why don’t we get this guy in custody first? Otherwise we’ve got serum and no chance to use it.”
“I think I can handle that part,” I insisted. “Take Nat and get me some serum. Q!” Finn shook his head and climbed into the driver’s seat. I got out of the way and they took off.
“I want you to fly out and see if you can get an eye on Simmons. Durance, you take up a good position to watch Lodoss’ shop in case I need help.”
“I’ll try to find him,” Q replied.
I jogged down the street to the shop and waltzed in the front door, looking around. The shop was uninhabited, so I wandered around for a while, looking at the various cybernetic enhancements available. It occurred to me that most of them were incredibly tacky; what a way to mark yourself out as belonging to the underclass. It’s amazing what people will do to themselves.
After ten minutes or so several people came out from the back, maneuvering some hefty merchandise carefully through the narrow aisles. Another man followed the workers, grousing at them irritably for being slow.
“What’s the situation, people?” Finn asked in my ear.
I lowered my voice. “I’m going to bring Lodoss out the back. Bring the van around and be ready to pick us up.” Then I ducked over a row and walked up to Chris Lodoss.
“Hey, are you in charge here?”
“That’s me, whatcha want?”
I looked pointedly over at the workers. “I need to talk to you for a minute. Privately.”
He growled under his breath. “All right, but I swear if I hear anything that sounds like code I’m going to strangle you.”
“Long story.” He ushered me into his small office in the back. I cursed to myself. There was no outside door or window, just a blank brick wall. Oh well, make do with what you’ve got. Chris turned to look at me and before he could even shout in alarm I grabbed him by the throat and put my foot through the brick wall. He gagged, my thumb seriously impeding his breathing, as a few more determined kicks made a big enough hole for us to squeeze through.
Finn had helpfully done just as I asked, parking the van outside the back of the store, although from it’s position I guessed that he’d been expecting me to come out of the door. I dragged Chris across the lot and tossed him through the door Nat opened helpfully, jumping in and closing the door behind me. Finn drove out into the street and around the corner.
“Well, go on, stick him already,” I told Nat. “We’ve wasted enough time.”
Nat eyed Lodoss, then pulled a syringe out of her pocket, tapped it a few times, and injected about a third of its contents into his arm. Chris struggled at first but gradually his eyes glazed and his jaw dropped open, dangling loosely.
“Test question,” Nat announced. “Do you think I’m sexy?”
“Sure, in a librarian kinda way . . .”
I bit my thumb and tried not to laugh.
Finn glanced out the side of the van and pulled to a stop to let Durance in while I began questioning Chris.
“Tell us what you know about Eiji Yogo.”
“He’s not as sexy. I coordinate his jobs here on the East Coast.”
“Tell us about his most recent job.”
“Take out the . . . Patriot.”
“Who hired him?”
“This guy . . . Mr. Cancer or something.”
Cancer? I thought. Okay, I could go along with this. “Describe him.”
“White hair, wears a suit . . .”
Great. That could be any old guy in the city. “All right, where’s Eiji Yogo now?”
“He needed . . . maintenance on his armor, so he’s at the safehouse . . . in the Fens.”
“Give me an address.”
“It’s on . . .. Buckner . . . big house . . . green trim . . . 317? Yeah, I think that’s it.” It sounded like he was close to unconsciousness.
Durance stuck his head up over the seat. “How does Yogo plan to take out the Patriot? What are his abilities?”
“Body armor . . .stealth camo . . . particle beam weapon.”
“Thermoptic camo?” Durance pressed.
“Invisible to normal vision . . .”
I nodded and turned away, since it didn’t look like we were going to get much more use out of him. I nudged my communicator. “Q, where are you?”
“Doing my job, what do you expect?”
“We’ve got an address for Yogo, we’re heading there now. 317 Buckner, in the Fens.”
“Wow, that’s some fast cash!”
“Yeah, money, drugs, one of those two.”
“Um, what did you sell out of your truck again?”
“Ha ha, very funny. Durance, are you done with our friend there?” the cyborg nodded. “Right. Nat, think you can give him enough to knock him out?”
“If I give him any more it might kill him.”
“Oh,” I said. “Good enough. Finn, could you stop the van for a moment?” He obligingly pulled over; I picked up Lodoss and pitched him out onto the sidewalk. “Off we go then.”
When we arrived at the address Durance began fidgeting anxiously with his gear. “I’m going to have a hard time seeing this guy.”
“Maybe I can help,” Nat offered. I nodded.
“Finn, you want to join me for some recon while she works?”
He shrugged. “You’re the boss,” he said slipping out of the van. I followed.
“You’re sneakier than me, I think, so you get to check the front.” I turned and went around to the back of the building as Finn headed the other direction. I didn’t find much, just a nondescript two story brick flat. My comm. buzzed quietly.
“I can hear machinery on the second floor,” Finn informed me.
“Got it. Nat, Durance, what’s your status?”
“I’m checking over his scope,” Nat told me.
“We need to get moving here.”
“All right,” Durance said. “If we can catch him out of his armor, we won’t need it anyway.”
“There’s a fire escape on the side of the building, I’m going up,” Finn said flatly.
“Okay, I want Durance and Nat to go in the front door. I’m going to climb up the wall and go through a window.”
“Roger that,” Durance replied. I crept up the side of the building, feeling somewhat foolish with daylight shining directly on me, and reached one of the second-story windows. After a moment’s thought I ripped it wholesale out of its frame and sprang though the window, looking around me with my heart in my mouth.
Technical equipment was scattered everywhere, interspersed here and there with computer displays flashing characters I couldn’t read. In the center of the room there was a heap of disconnected cables. I sniffed, my unusually good olfactory sense informing me that Mr. Yogo was still in the room. He was so close I could almost taste him.
I dodged to the side and swung, blindly, at what I guessed or imagined was sneaking up on me and almost lost my grip on the axe when it rebounded viciously off of nothing. “Gah!” I yelled as sparks flew and someone cursed furiously, his camouflage disintegrating around the dent I’d put in his armor. Yogo staggered, slightly dazed from the blow.
Finn exploded into the room and plowed into the armored man, knocking him over. “Move and I snap you in half!” Finn gritted. There was a blast of light and Finn went flying into a wall, Yogo struggling to regain his feet. I tried to get a grip on my weapon as Yogo leapt after Finn, punching him savagely. I winced at the force of the blow and the distinct crackle of breaking ribs.
Finn made an inhuman sound deep in his throat and tore at the armored man’s helmet with his bare hands; Yogo twisted to get away but Finn hung on, taking incredible damage and hardly seeming to notice it.
Durance and Nat stormed up the stairs and Durance raised his rifle, taking aim at Yogo. There was a flat crack and Yogo twitched, once, and went down, flinging Finn aside, where he lay in a crumpled heap. Nat ran over to check on him. “Are you all right?”
I opened my mouth, closed it, and then asked, dumbly, “Does anyone read Japanese?” I winced. Even to me, that sounded incredibly callous. Irritated with myself, I bent to begin peeling Yogo out of his armor. Durance’s bullet had gone through his visor, into his left eyesocket, and out the back of his head. He was quite dead.
Behind me, Finn thrust Nat away and got laboriously to his feet, still growling. “I’m fine.” He limped over to me and pulled his shotgun, aiming it at Yogo’s face. I grabbed the muzzle in my hand and shoved it away.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t blow my hand off,” I said, staring into Finn’s face.
“Then let go.”
“He’s dead, look at him.”
“Then it won’t matter if I make sure it’s a closed casket!” He yelled.
“Infinity, it’s over. Stand down.”
For a second we were both frozen, glaring at each other, neither willing to budge. Then he blinked, and threw the shotgun aside with a curse. “It’s Sergeant Ramsey to you, never forget that!” Whirling, he limped furiously from the room.
I gasped and realized I’d been holding my breath. Almost without any direction from me, my eyes slid over to Nat. “I won’t ask you to go after him, but it might help.”
She shook her head and followed him silently. I looked over at Durance, who was examining Yogo’s armor. “Technically we should probably do something with this corpse, but I’m not in the mood. Let’s go.”
We left the building and started walking down the street; I caught Durance’s arm. “Slow down.”
He glanced at me and nodded, then pulled out his comm.. “Q, how goes?”
I leaned against the wall while they chatted for a few minutes, then the cyborg turned to look at me. “What now?”
“We give Nat a minute or two longer to talk with Finn . . . as long as we can spare, really, then we hook up with Q.”
“I wonder if Cancer is that weird Smoking Man from the old X-Files show?”
“Say what?” I asked, giving him a dubious look.
“Uh, nevermind, it was a silly thought.”
“It’s more than I’ve got. We’ll have to ask Archer, he might know someone that knows someone.”
“I could ask Hal.”
“A friend of mine, keeps his ear to the ground, you know?”
“Oh. Can you call him or something?”
“It’d be better if I talked to him in person.”
I grimaced. Another delay. “How far away are we talking about here?”
“His place is here in the Fens. If you drop me off it should only take a few minutes.”
“All right,” I said and we headed back to the van. The side door was open, with Nat and Finn sitting there, Nat wrapping a bandage around one of Finn’s hands and talking to him in a low voice. I went around to the driver’s sided, only to find that the window was shattered all over the front seat. I glanced over at Finn, thought about saying something, and then decided not to and began cleaning up the glass. Durance climbed in the other side. Shortly afterward he climbed out again to go see his friend and I turned off the engine, looking in the mirror at Nat and Finn.
“Is he going to be okay?” I asked. Nat half-shrugged. I climbed in the back and looked at him, staring blankly into the distance. “Sergeant, huh?” I asked.
“I don’t remember stuttering,” he said weakly.
“Thank you for not blowing my hand off.”
He ducked his head, cradling it in his hands. “The shotgun jammed.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re a liar,” I commented, then climbed back into the front seat. We sat in silence until Durance rejoined us.
“Cancer is part of the ‘Zodiac Cartel’, a mythical super-syndicate. Sort of like the Illuminati.”
“Do me a favor and find out where Q is while I drive,” I told him. He flipped on his comm.
“Q, where are you?” Straightforward, anyway.
“In an abandoned building,” I heard. “Simmons no longer exists.”
“That’s what we report. I’ll meet you back at the office.” I just shook my head and drove. Q wandered out to meet us after Finn was taken away for medical attention, Nat following him nervously.
“So what happened?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Simmons got the drop on me, we talked, and he’s going into hiding. That’s about it.”
I grimaced. “There has to be more than that.”
Q shrugged. “There is, but it’s my business. Think you can deal with that?”
“Yeah, I can deal. We should go report . . .” I started, but Q shook his head.
“Powers is chewing out Archer, and from the sound of it he’ll be at it for a while. My advice? Go home. We can deal with all of this tomorrow.”
I glanced at Durance; the cyborg nodded. “All right.”
When I got home and flung myself down on the couch with a sigh Todd came straggling out of the other room and climbed into my lap, cuddling against my stomach. “Bad day, kiddo?”
I smiled and stroked his back gently. “You and me both. Don’t suck your thumb,” I added. He pulled it out of his mouth and tucked it under his neck. We sat there for a while, just enjoying each other’s company. I realized eventually that he was sucking his thumb again.
“I’m trying to hold back the tide, aren’t I?” I asked him. He frowned around the thumb, and removed it from his mouth once more. Well, at least he didn’t do it when I was there to stop him.
That was something.
Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.
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