Tjakiri, Clair Dock
Marrakech Morgan, consigliere to Degginal DeVerre stood quietly with her hands folded behind her back and gazed out the large panoramic viewport at the young protostar, Tjakiri. She admired the roiling, boiling mass of plasmatic hydrogen, caught up in the beauty and the ferocity of it all. She was transfixed on a large and violent flare erupting from the corona when Apollonia entered the room from an annex carrying a silver tray set for tea. She poured a small cup of Tanmark and shuffled up alongside Marra, offering it to her mistress.
“Ma cherie? Some nice tea, oui?”
Marra glanced at it, then to her waif before accepting it. Slowly she brought the china to her lips when the sound of the door buzzed.
“Enter,” she said curtly. She knew who it was; Nicholas Locke. Head of Black Omega security. She had called for him specifically because she knew he was capable of the job she had for him. Though she also knew a handful of other people who could pull it off as well. But like most things, Marra had ulterior motives. Mr. Locke was busy rooting out a minor security breach. Information was being leaked and Deggie wanted it sealed. She wanted to see how far she could push Locke. She wanted to know his breaking point.
A finely dressed, tall and well built man entered the room with a quick step. His steely grey eyes missed little and his demeanor was one of calculating intellect.
“You summoned?” he asked in his deep rich voice. The inflection and accent were telling signs that he was born of the Empire, But under it was a tone of annoyance. It was clear that this summoned meeting was not convenient for him.
“Indeed,” Marra replied. She turned to face the tall man before taking her seat at the large desk, nodding to him. Nicholas Locke understood the simple gesture and took the seat opposite, laying his hands on the desk. He watched for a moment as Apollonia came by with the tray and poured a cup for him. He took it graciously, as a proper Imperial should, and, as a proper Imperial, he did not drink it in the presence of a superior.
“What do you know about Mr. Aune?” asked Marra in a cold voice.
His cool grey eyes fell upon her. Why is she asking me this? He spoke in a pedantic, measured tone. “Sven Alvadar Aune. Ex-Imperial. Worked in their corps of engineers, mostly fixing ships. I don’t know the details of his defection.”
Marra procured a holo-slate from a drawer and slid it across the desk. Locke's quick reflexes caught it while Apollonia walked around the desk to stand next to her mistress.
“And what do you know of his family?” she continued.
Locke glanced at Apollonia, then turned his attention to the slate. His fingers slid over the display and called up the records. “His records indicate that his mother and father perished in a decompression accident when he was young, leaving him and his twin sister orphaned.”
Marra sneered. “Did you know that his sister married?”
Locke’s face faltered for a moment, betraying the annoyance he was feeling. “No, I did not.”
Marra caught it and inwardly smiled. Good, I'm testing him…
“I am concerned about Mr. Aune…” she continued. “Although the bumbling oaf showed loyalty to Black Omega, when he so, idiotically walked into that fiasco with the FIS…”
“And what does this have to do with his sister’s marriage?” Locke had lost his patience.
Marra narrowed her eyes tapping her well manicured fingers on the desk. “Don’t interrupt me. His sister is married to a man, Hideki Ichikawa, who owed
a considerable amount of money to a competing loan
officer. I have graciously transferred
that loan, and I expect them to pay us back in full….”
Locke raised a brow.
“I have sent Mr. Aune to ensure that the loan is paid back. You are to ensure that he finishes
the job. If he takes heart with his family, I expect you to bring his back, on a platter. Understood?”
Locke nodded as they both stood up.
“Your orders are on the slate. Be sure you assign men capable of doing your job here during your absence. Oh, and one small detail. Stay out of sight,” she said, slipping an arm around her waif’s waist as she dismissed the assassin.
* * * * * * * *
Amphisatsu, Wantanabe Terminal
The office was dingy. In the corner sat an overfilling cat box that reeked of the acrid stench of cat urine. Hideki sat in the folding chair across from an obese, greasy man. His soiled shirt sat high on his exposed and bulbous gut.
“Mr. Ickynechiwa.” John deliberately mispronounced the name in a reedy, asthmatic voice.
Hideki looked up at the hideous man across from him. He did not fully understand what had happened. The lengthy explanation offered by the obese man did not make sense. The simple rationalization was that the previous loan officer, the one he made the deal with, was now dead. Replaced with this sad sack of humanity.
“Where’s my money?” John asked.
“I...I told your predecessor that I am working on it.”
The fat man's face broke into smile. Half the teeth were missing. “I will have my money. Unlike your previous officer, I will not defer the loan any longer.”
Hideki recoiled from the stench of the fat man’s breath. “I...I don’t have it with me…”
“I see. Well, expect an agent at your home tonight.” A grungy cat jumped up onto the table and started ostentatiously cleaning itself.
Hideki looked at the cat in disdain as he stood.
“Eight o’clock, sharp, Mr. Konichiwa.”
Hideki slowly walked out of the dingy shop, along the mostly deserted road to a well lit mag-lev terminal. The train approached and he stepped on board. He was somber on the ride home.
I still have almost one million credits to repay…
he thought, hopelessly. He didn’t even realize when he was home. Slowly pushing the door open to his flat he walked in to see Freyja sitting on a couch.
“I came by your office today,” she said simply. “Except you weren't there.”
Hideki sat next to her. She recoiled.
“Who is she?” she asked as she folded her arms.
The Japanese man sighed. perfect, now this…
* * * * * * * *
John had picked up and tossed the mangy cat off the table for the umpteenth time since Hideki departed.The incredibly fat man grabbed the slate that had been left lying there. Looking at the time, he noted that it was past six thirty in the evening. He angrily spoke into it. “Where the fuck is he? You said you were sending muscle to extract the money!”
The door opened, and Stryker entered the smelly shop. He face furrowed at the smell, and turned into disgust when he saw John waddling towards him.
“What the fuck took you so long?” the fat man growled.
“I had to procure a ship first…” Stryker started.
“You know what, I don’t fuckin’ care. You work for me now. Next time you're late, I’m shovin’ ya out an airlock.”
John picked up a container holding various office supplies and violently threw it at Stryker, Who deflected it with his cybernetic forearm. Pencils, pens and various paperclips flew in all directions.
“Now,” John started, turning his back to Stryker, “I’m expecting you to collect on a debt. Either you bring back the money, or a head. Understood?”
“You will be heading to the home of Hideki, Ichi….I can’t pronounce that fucking shit…”
Stryker whispered “Ichikawa….”
“What?” The fat man turned again.
“Nothing….” Though Stryker kept his face impassive, inside he felt like a knife had stabbed him.
he thought, flexing the claw. The interface where the metal fused with flesh was still tender. Somehow she knew. She knew of their connection. She’s testing my loyalty...
The realization that he was caught between a rock and a hard place, with only one conceivable outcome for whatever choice he made. Death.
“Then get to it, you sack of shit.” John’s foul mood hadn’t improved, and Stryker deflected an incoming holo-pad.
Special Thanks to Marra Morgan, Nicholas Locke, and Jemine Caeser for their insight, suggestions and edits.