“Total of seventeen blocks of vehicles gridlocked won’t allow you to bring in your ride, unless it has flight capability. Latest reports show an increase in predatorial macrobot paramecium. They go after any healthy human. Doesn’t explain the drop in zombie population but mainly they stick to the sewers. Theory has it that the ones remained topside decomposed quicker with the higher doses of UV. Additional gang hazards and snipers-”
“And a partridge in a pear tree.” He tilted the porkpie hat back and looked to the detective. “I heard about the Q-Zone Watson-”
“Detective Goodstone to you.”
“Watson. Buddy.” Tom Silver grinned. “I just need the briefing form signed, and I can run this job.”
The detective sighed, pulled out a set of goggles from the inside of the jacket and put them on. The triplicate lenses flipped down and he gave Tom the once over. “The snipers are armed with contraband ammunition. Rumor has it that the gangs trade drugs with ex kgb pirates for ammunition made from faulty nukes. They forge them by hand.”
“Got it. Radioactive contraband ammunition. I can handle this.” Tom slid the katana out of the sheath, checking the reflection off the afternoon sunlight. “You need to wash those windows.”
“Silver. The rescue squads aren’t going to go in there. Once you are past the proximity, you are on your own. Not one bullet, not one threat will be for your defense.” Goodstone sipped at the cooling cup of coffee and then handed another form to the young swordsman. “Here, you need to sign this.”
Tom arched an eyebrow, “My death certificate?”
Goodstone grinned this time, “Pre-requisite and under King City bylaw by Chief Coroner. He got tired of signing them by the dozens once some people heard about something that needed to be stopped in the Q-zone. If you get back-”
“When. Not if.”
“If you get back Silver, I’ll have it on my desk.”
Tom plucked a pen off the desk, and signed the certificate with a flourish.
Goodstone finalized the form. “I’d read you the final disclaimer, but you’d come up with something glib and witty.”
Tom smiled as he folded the form and shoved it into his front jacket pocket. “Indulge me.”
“No. It’s suicide.”
Tom smiled again, “A warrior who does not embrace death as his travelling companion does not enter the field of battle wisely. Death fears my cool.”
Watson stopped and squinted to Silver increduously. “Death fears my cool?”
“Or something glib and witty like that.”
The office door closed behind the swordsman, Goodstone bowed his head and shook it. “He got the last word in again.”
Tom Silver studied the photo, then his client. “I don’t get it. It’s an empty room. Do you want that newspaper that is on the floor?”
“Mr. Silver, I assure you, when you get there, you will know what I have lost. I spent a long time with her, and the only thing that I can feel these days is the emotional replay of those moments.” The man spoke, running a hand over wrinkled cheek and forehead. “I can’t go on like a junkie…”
“Sir, I understand your plight, but if you want retrieval of a specific item I need to know what it is. Exact planning will allow me to make the most efficient route and save you-”
“Money’s no option.”
Tom held back his grin, “And my own security, as you are asking me to go into one of the most dangerous places in King City. We can’t even get our own national guard to go in. What is it that I am going to retrieve?”
“It will reveal itself to you when you are ready. Keep the photo, and watch it. Some things will change. Study it.”
“I’ll draw up a proposal budget for this and have it sent to you tomorrow morning. As well as standard contract and disclaimers. Then we can discuss further. I don’t think you are in good frame of mind to make these decisions with me here.” Tom stood up and dropped the photo back onto the mahogany desk.
The mans shoulders slumped, “I heard you were different, that you could get jobs done. Non standard jobs.”
“You’ve given me a black budget, a photo of an empty room, and hints of what you want done. I get more specific the more non standard the job becomes. All of course under a mutual nondisclosure agreement that if either party breaks, it plays in my favor.” Tom took out another piece of paper from the attache and floated it to the man. “Legally not smart for you, but if you want the job done.”
“I just need it back. I left it behind. It was a gift, from an overseas friend. Very unique and tailored to my tastes. It could hide, so it wouldn’t be found.”
Tom studied the man as he signed the form, nearly translucent hands shaking.
“The perfect drug. Adaptable for any situation, and it has pattern integration which allows for ‘normal’ behavior to come through while you are on it.”
“Are you afraid the drug companies will get there first?”
“I’m afraid it will find someone else. And I’m the only one that can turn it off. The dreams have been-” He drifted off as he studied his tweed sleeve for a little too long then blinked, surprised of Silvers appearance.
“I don’t think there is a way to put this lightly. There will be a substantial fee up front.” Tom spoke as he studied the man who waved away the comment.
“Yes, yes. Go to the foyer, I’ll have my manservant bring you some play money, clear up some of those debts, get some new equipment. The money is not the option. Send your papers over. Just get the job done.”
“Thank you for choosing Quicksilver Consulting, Mr. Park.”
“And for the sake of your sanity, if it tries to use you. Run.”
****** Now ******
“Silver, you are telling me that you are going in there. With no guns. Just your sword.” Captain Rook spoke, he briefly looked away from the scope on the rifle. “The gravity storms are quiet today, so you should be okay there.”
Tom tied up his combat boots, stood up, removed the scope off the rifle and looked down. The hills of rubble seemed to shift every moment. He scratched his cheek and rolled his head relaxing his neck.
“Where are you headed?”
Tom handed him the satellite map with the red circle. “Middle of that.”
“That dead zone?”
“Doesn’t that concern you?”
“Nope. Should it?”
“Silver. Think about it.”
“I’m trying not to. Everyone going into the zone has plans. They have extra tech. They end up not coming back. They call in airstrikes, they get their friends and companies in serious problems. It’s a deathwish to plan it out too much. I’ve seen the bootleg videos. They do not flow, they do not improvise. I probably won’t even use my sword.” Tom spoke in a rapid tone, then replaced the scope on the rifle.
“What if I told you I already heard that same thing from three other people that still haven’t returned out of there?” Rook checked the scope, then fired off several silent shots. “If I fire any further than that spot, then we get backlash.”
“Q-zone fights back. Last siege lasted one month, set the defense budget of the city back one year. And that’s also compared to the recovery from the alien invasion.” Rook propped the rifle up, and then put a hand to his ear. “Rook reporting in, last chance station. Silver is still going in.”
Tom rolled his shoulders, then grinned.
“You are going to die in there Silver.”
“With this hat and my good looks?”
Rook opened his mouth, then blinked at the sudden burst of speed where Silver once stood. He wasn’t at speedster level, but extremely quick. Rook put the glove up to his ear again, “He’s in. Alert the chief coroner, he can open up the champagne. Process the paperwork. What’s Vegas say?”
Rook heard the odds then grinned, “Son of a bitch might actually do it.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” Vegas sat back in her chair, stuck the cigarillo into the side of her mouth, and contemplated the odds. “Seriously Silver, you’ve come to me to place several wagers and you’ve always come out even, played the game, knew when the game was playing you. Nothing serious, just a bunch of angry bags of meat spending ways to entertain ourselves before the big dirt nap. But this…?”
Silver tossed the file onto her desk, “This is everything I’ve got on that spot that I’m going to. I spent two large getting it. I’m the only one in King City who has dug this information up.”
She tapped a laquered fingernail on the folder, pursed her lips and tried to read his expression. “Wait, you haven’t read this, have you?”
“That’s why I won’t play poker with you Vegas. You read tells like you are reading peoples minds.” Tom dropped a bankers bag onto her desk. “But I will place a bet.”
She opened the bag, and stared at the documents. “Seriously? An entire black budget?”
“If I don’t complete the job, I can’t spend it anyways.”
Vegas nodded and leaned back in her chair, propping boots on the desk, “Got a point, but seriously Silver, this is a really dumb way to die.”
“I’m too pretty to die.” He grinned.
Vegas laughed heartily, “Try another line, I’m not buying that one.”
“Its another job.”
“Now that is really dumb. Don’t do this Silver.”
“Start running it past the bookees. I’d like to retire after this, get out of King City, buy a boat. Nice dream.” Tom smirked and then nodded to the bag. “Serious. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Vegas looked up from the bag, mouth open about to say something, then started scribbling on a scrap piece of paper. She started working the numbers, then came up with some new formulas, flipping a few beads on the flipped on her abacus. Flipping a coin a couple of times, then she studied the end of the cigarillo. She read over the folder, then turned on her console. The chimes of acknowledgement from the worldwide bookees greeted her, “Listen up cool cats, the hottest ticket in town is coming down. And here is the catch, it’s a plausible Q-Zone recovery. If anything, we can get this months bills paid by the interest on the pre-bets. Stay tuned.”
The last of the cover fire stopped as he leapt over the wreck of the car. His arm lashed out, the sword cut. He continued to run ignoring the howling of pain that came from the threat behind him.
The earth ahead of him rose and fell like waves, undulating. Tom found the pattern of the ground swells and ran up the rising earth. From the corner of his eye, he saw the extra ripple and started to leap from hilltop to hilltop. Something was screaming and hollering nearby. Three crowbars fired at him in mid-air, he arched and grimaced as they ripped through his military jacket, glancing off the armor underneath.
“RESHMEASHRESHMEASH” The chanting came from everywhere, Silver started hopping from one cartop to the next, the remaining walls of the buildings began to emerge from the dust clouds. Large boulders floated in mid air. Then Silver saw what was making the noise.
Take several hundred punk gangers from the 80’s, then force them to eat contraband radioactive junk food with mutagenic preservatives. Add in some gene splicing with the local feral wildlife that managed to survive all the other dangers in the Q-zone. Reduce intelligence from the vibration of constant bass beats run by slave drummers. And then add a truckload of beat up swollen ugly.
Swords extended, Tom felt the battle senses come over him. Masses of overgrown muscles and spined bone thrashed at him, the roar of battle was deaf to his ears. The air shifted ahead of him, the near rusting shells of cars being lifted and swung at him. Closing his eyes he leapt and felt the battle emerge around him. In his mind the paper began to fold into perfect origami.
He landed on one foot, and spun, carving a swath around him. Spinning further he drew a line around him into the dirt. Opening his eyes, he saw the mass start to advance. He held back for a moment, then felt the speed come over him.
It wasn’t too often, and he had been tested for powers. There was nothing extraordinary about his skills, slightly higher than normal speed and reactions, but nothing that anyone couldn’t achieve if they had worked out every day and worked at it. But this time, the speed came over him. There wasn’t an inch of muscle or flesh that got past his blades, chunks became slices which became small bits falling all around his body. After five minutes he saw the break and leapt. The gangs descended upon the piles of fresh meat, ignoring Tom.
The roaring of the mutant hoard was equal to the gunfire, the gangs had found Tom a worthy target. The swords danced in front of him in a swirling blur, he could smell the impossible alloy of plutonium and rusted steel. The buildings appeared to be more whole and intact, providing better cover.
Then he heard the growling. And the mutant hoard yelling, in fear.
(To Be Continued)
Tales of King City : The Run by Pearce Kilgour is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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But you should really ask him first… send someone to rub his neck, feed him a gin and tonic, that would be the best… in fact he thinks the world would be a better place if everyone got neckrubs.