Throwing a Dog a Bone

Posted: January 26, 2016 in cyberpunk, Fiction, Science Fiction
Tags: , , ,

This story was generated in response to an image prompt for a writing group I belong to on Facebook. Image link is here.

The story does feature one my favorite recurring characters, the veteran with a cybernetic arm, Tom. And where there’s Tom, there has to be Sunny.

“I’ve got a got a job for you,” Sunny said through the phone in Tom’s head.

He blinked up at the cracked peeling paint of his ceiling. Early morning light streamed through his blinds, casting striated beams across the badly patched plaster. He rolled off his couch, bare feet crunching a half-empty bag of chips.

“Yeah?” he answered with a voice still thick with sleep and last night’s drinking. “What makes you think I need a job?”

“Dude, I’ve seen your apartment.”

“Really? When?” Tom scratched the back of his head and pulled on his jeans.

“Uhm, I might have hacked a delivery drone and followed you around a bit. Anyway, not the point. You live in a dump and should move out. I’m guessing your day job doesn’t pay that well, so I managed to find you something that will.”

“It’s a night job. And it pays well enough.” He pulled a t-shirt over his spare, scarred chest, his titanium arm a stark contrast against the black material.

“You wash dishes, bro. What kind of life is that?”

Tom wrinkled his nose. “One where people aren’t shooting at me. It’s fine.”

“It’s a crap, boring job. Come on, please. Just meet with the guy would you?” Sunny’s voice got quiet. “Besides I might have already told him you’d meet with him.”

Tom sighed as he slipped his feet into his boots. He did up the laces. Standing up, he slipped his jacket on. He smiled when his hand closed on a not empty packet of cigarettes. “Yeah, fine. Where am I meeting him?”

“He kind of insisted that you go to him.”

“Of course he fucking did.” Tom slipped a cigarette between his lips, lit it off the index finger of his artificial hand and inhaled the first sweet smoke of the day. “Do I at least have time to get a fucking cup of coffee?”

“Uhhm, yeah, maybe. But only if you stop at the corner guy on your way and not that place you like with the really cute barista.”

Tom growled, a deep sound at the back of his throat. “Sunny.”

“Yeah, Tom?”

“What have I told you about following me?”

“Pretty sure you said don’t. But, did you really expect me to start listening? I mean, whatever gave you the impression that I was going to change?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tom headed out of his apartment. “Send over the address.”

Tom heard Sunny typing something on her end, and a digital map superimposed itself over his vision. “Thanks. You could have just told me, you know.”

Sunny giggled. “But this is more fun, bro. Be careful out there, okay?”

“Yeah sis. Talk to you later.”

#

The stairs up to Sunny’s contact reeked of stale piss and vomit. Faded gang signs from five years ago competed with roaches for attention. Halfway up, Tom stepped over a body. He wasn’t sure if the person were still alive, dead, or someplace in between.

“Not my problem.”

He found the door, different from the others on the floor. This one was steel reinforced, though what good that was when the wall was cheap particle board Tom hesitated to guess. A small camera pointed down from over the frame. He pressed one of his real fingers against the buzzer and waited.

He heard a door lock disengage and the door swung open, silent and swift, closing behind him as soon as he entered.

“Hello?”

No one answered.

Tom moved further into the apartment. He heard the steady whirr of a fan, fingers clicking on a keyboard. Turning a corner, he spied his contact sitting, barefoot, on a table and using a second one as a stool. An antique, clunky virtual reality headset obscured the man’s face, and something was sticking up out of the back of the man’s shirt. As he got closer, he realized it was a fencing epee, wires running from it to the hacker’s pocket.

“Uhm, hi.” Tom moved closer.

“Stay right there.” The hacker lifted a hand in Tom’s general direction. Looking around, Tom saw three video cameras around the room. The hacker typed a few more lines before removing his headset.

“You’re the muscle daylight20 recommended?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Tom realized he didn’t know how this guy knew Sunny. Probably through backchannel IRC’s or whatever was hip and cool among the tech elite these days. “She said you might have some work for a guy like me.”

The hacker shook his head. “Look, I don’t know how you know her, but daylight20 never, and I mean never, vouches for anybody. Total loner, know what I’m saying? I haven’t heard of her ever going for outside help, so for her to recommend you, well you two must be tight.”

Tom fought to keep the smile off of his face. “Yeah, you could say that. She didn’t say what the job was though.” He paused, taking in the apartment. It was in worse shape than his own.

The hacker climbed down from the stool, carefully setting aside his keyboard and disengaging from the wires. “I need a bodyguard.”

Tom raised an eyebrow, waiting for the hacker to elaborate. “Okay, see, bodyguard implies that you need protection. In my experience, most people have a sense of what they need protecting from. Telling me makes it easier for me to protect you. Hell, it might even make or break me taking this job.”

“Oh, right. Well, the thing is-”

The frame around the door exploded. Tom dived for the hacker, knocking him to the ground. Dust and plaster flew everywhere.

“Consider me one the clock,” Tom hissed, rolling away from the hacker. He cursed the fact that he hadn’t brought a gun, but from the sound of it there were plenty in play already. “What’s your name?”

“MorbidState.”

Tom rolled his eyes. “Your real name, dipshit.”

“Fred.”

“Okay, Fred, stay there.” Tom whispered as the guns fell silent. “You’ve got a weapon?”

Fred tapped his back where the fencing foil was still slipped.

“Of course it is,” Tom groaned. The security door groaned as it crashed inward, and four people dressed in tactical gear and carrying stubby submachineguns swept in.

“There he is,” the one on the lead, a severe looking woman with a voice like crushed glass said.

“Remember, we want him alive, people,” said the one in the rear. A silver eye gleamed in the dark, and he sounded the type used to giving orders.

“What about him?” the third asked, pointing his gun at Tom.

Tom stood and smiled.  “Hi there. I just got here, so whatever your issue is with him, I can assure you it doesn’t involve me.”

The one in the rear came closer, keeping his gun trained on Tom. “Orders said no witnesses, remember? I’d say that’s pretty clear. So-”

A sharp crack, the smell of ozone, and a woman’s scream interrupted him. Ignoring him in favor of Tom gave Fred the chance to bring his epee into play. By itself it wasn’t an intimidating weapon, but connected to the power source in his pocket converted it into a powerful stun weapon. The woman fell to the ground, twitching like a landed fish.

“What the-” The gunman closes to Tom turned to see what was going on, giving Tom the opening he needed. He grabbed the submachine gun with his chrome arm and wrenched on it hard, pulling the gunman straight into Tom’s meat fist. Tom wrenched the man around as his companions trained their guns on him. He felt the rounds impact against his shield, heard the man cry out and go limp as his ears thundered with the sound of gunfire. Tom pushed himself back toward the window, propelled himself through the glass and cheap material. For a glorious moment he fell through the air, trying to twist the recently deceased under him. He still hit the ground hard, but not as bad as it could have been. Tom scrambled to his feet, limping slightly. He hoped he’d only bruised his leg. He couldn’t rightly afford a broken limb at the moment.

Ducking into an alley, he tapped the side of his head, triggering a call to Sunny. Across the street he spotted a panel van, the driver sitting with the window open, a cigarette dangling between his fingers.

“Hey bro, how’s the job going?”

“Lousy. We didn’t even get to agree to terms and some assholes are kidnapping him on me.”

“Shit. Maybe time to cut your losses?”

“Fuck that. They shot at me. I even politely told them that they could have Fred and I wouldn’t get involved. Then they start in with the ‘no witnesses’ bullshit. I swear I don’t know what it is with henchpeople these days.”

“Sorry- wait. Who’s Fred?”

“Your hacker friend.”

“His name is Fred? Holy shit. I know him as MorbidState.”

“Yeah, yeah. Look, now’s not the time. Oh look, they are coming out now.”

The three survivors came out of the building, weapons up and eyes alert. They paused at the body of their deceased companion, but pushed toward the van. They pushed Fred along in the middle, a bag pulled over his head and Tom saw his hands were tied in front of him. Poor Fred was still barefoot.

Tom brought his weapon up and cursed softly under his breath. “I don’t have a clean shot.”

“What’s the license plate?”

“No good, Sunny. They pulled the plates off.”

“Fuckers aren’t making it easy, are they?”

“Not even a little.” Tom scratched his chin as he watched the van pull off. “Any idea who wants Fred, sorry, MorbidState? Why was he looking to hire someone like me?”

“He was pretty vague on it. Something about how he stole something from a corporate black site. He figured they would try and get it back before he could move it, but he was pretty confident he’d covered his tracks. He wanted some muscle, but I think it was so when he tried to move the intel the other side wouldn’t just try and take it from him.”

“Yeah, well, see how well that went for him.” Tom fished out his cigarettes. The pack was crushed, the cigarettes not even worth salvaging. He tossed the pack aside with a grunt. “Any idea what corp he stole from?”

“No, but I could look into it.”

“Yeah, probably a good idea. Could give us an idea as to where he was taken.” Tom stood up, started walking. “You might want to see if anyone was hiring freelancers recently. The ones that left didn’t seem to concerned for the friend they left behind.”

Tom reached the body and conducted a quick search. Other than a few spare clips for the gun, a couple of flashbangs and a tactical knife, he came up empty. “Call me when you have something, okay?”

“Yeah, working on it now.”

#

“I found him,” Sunny said. She slid into the booth across from Tom. Tom paused spooning greasy eggs into his mouth long enough to give her a long hard look.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, after chasing the food down with a mouthful of diner coffee.

“We needed to talk.”

“Huh? We talk all the time.”

“Not like this, this needed to be face to face.”

“Alright.” Tom pushed his plate to the side. “So talk.”

“This is bad Tom. Real bad.” Sunny clutched her hands together in front of her. Her hair, dyed a neon pink this week, hung down in front of her face. “I…” She took a deep breath. “I think you should walk away from this.”

“So what did you find out?”

“You’re not going to walk away, are you?”

“Probably not. I told you, I take it personal when folk try to kill me.”

Sunny sighed. “Yeah, I should have figured. Okay. So a company called Farsight Limited recently had their R&D division hacked. Yes, MorbidState was responsible. He was able to get some technical specs for a couple of their scheduled releases. He posted a few details, tried to get a bidding war going. Farsight could have entered the auction as well, but they decided an example needed to bet. MorbidState wanted to hire someone to protect hi in case something like this happened. Obviously Farsight moved faster than he thought they would. “

“So you want to tell me why you recommended me to this guy anyway? And don’t feed me that line about wanting to throw a job my way. You wouldn’t be putting me in this situation unless you’ve got an angle.”

“Fine. MorbidState is, uhm, kind of my boyfriend.”

“Wait, what? What happened to what’s her name? Linda?”

Sunny rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that didn’t work out. She dumped me about a month ago. She wanted me to go legit.”

“Ah. So this guy?”

Sunny nodded. “Yeah, we just started seeing each other. Said he was going to score big. I have to admit, it turned me on a bit.”

“I really don’t need to hear this.”

Sunny shrugged. “Just the way it is, bro. Anyway, he said he could use some meat- err, someone a bit more physical than himself. He was willing to pay, and I figured you’d probably have to meet him sooner or later anyway.”

Tom frowned. “You could have told me. So if you like this guy so much, why do you want me to walk?”

“I can find another boyfriend, stupid. I only have the one brother.”

“Okay. So I’m guessing you know where to find them, then?”

Sunny nodded. “I managed to track some communications between a warehouse and one of Farsight’s branch offices. The warehouse is one of those rent by the week places, so pretty much a perfect blind for the mercenaries to hold MorbidState.”

Tom nodded. “You got a map of the place?”

Sunny smiled. She pulled a small handheld computer out, tapped out a few lines on it. Tom blinked, bringing up a display in his field of vision. “Got it.” He stood up, dug in his pocket for a few bills to leave on the table.

“Don’t worry about, bro. I’ve got you covered.”

Tom raised an eyebrow at Sunny, and she smiled in return.

“Thanks,” she said.

Tom bent down, kissed her on the forehead and left.

#

Tom crouched in the alleyway across from the warehouse. A single person stood outside the entrance. Tom recognized him as the driver of the van. Tom crept closer, the tactical knife held loose in his flesh and blood hand. He froze as the driver looked over in his direction, pressing his body against the wall. He held his breath until the gunmen shuffled his feet and looked away. Tom moved closer, shuffling one foot then the other. He flipped the knife, taking it by the blade, sent it flying with a flick of his wrist as the guard turned back to look in Tom’s direction. The blade took him in the eye. He reached a hand up toward the hilt, then toppled to one side. Tom moved quick and silent, pulled the knife free. He stood still, ears straining, trying to tell if he’d alerted those inside.

Silence greeted him.

Tom swept his hands over the guard’s body, but other than his weapon, he came up empty. He tried the handle of the door, but it refused to move. An old fashioned electronic keypad was nestled into the lock. Tom wrinkled his nose, grabbed the deceased guard by the ankles, and dragged him back into the alley.

“I should have brought explosives.

“Okay, Sunny. I’ve got a locked entrance door. There’s a loading dock, but it’s closed and probably locked. No outside cameras that I can see. There are windows, but they’re a good ten to twelve feet higher than I can reach and no good way to get up to them. Any ideas?”

“Have you tried knocking?”

“Please tell me you’re not serious.”

Sunny laughed. “No, not really. What kind of lock is on the entrance door?”

“Old fashioned electronic.”

“So why not bypass it?”

Tom sighed. “You’re the technical one in the family, remember?”

“You’re right, I am. Let me walk you through it.”

Following Sunny’s directions, Tom worked the casing off the lock. He started to cut through one of the wires when the door opened. The woman from the apartment stared at Tom. Tom stared back.

“Hey!” she shouted, reaching for the gun slung around her shoulder. Tom slammed the door closed on her, catching her full in the face. She shouted again and tried to pull the door closed. Tom grunted as he wedge his leg in between the door and the frame. She tried to slam the door again on it, but he got his metal arm in the way, braced it opened. The woman stumbled back.

“We’ve got trouble,” she called out, scrambling for cover. Tom brought his stolen gun up; fired a short burst. The rounds caught her in the leg and hip, sent her sprawling to the ground. She tried to bring her own gun up, but Tom slipped behind a stack of crates. Tom kept moving as bullets punched through the cover. He heard boots on the concrete floor, saw lights flashing as the gunmen sought him in the darkness. He let go of the gun, letting it swing from his shoulder as he climbed up a stack of crates. He pressed himself flat on the top as they converged on his position.

“Where did he go?” asked the gunman Tom thought of as the leader. “He was just here.”

Tom fished out a flashbang and let it drop. He covered his head with arms, and the explosion was still deafening. He dropped down among the gunmen. He struck out with arm, knife, and legs. They tried to defend, but blinded and deafened, they were all but helpless. The leader managed to get his knife out, punched it into Tom’s back while it was turned. His armored jacket prevented it from doing more than leaving a bruise. Tom launched a back kick, smashing the gunman back into the crate. He came back in, artificial eye gleaming. Tom caught the blade in his metal hand, snapped the blade off as he drove his own knife under the gunman’s chin. Tom let him fall to the ground, brushed himself off.

He turned to see the woman pointing her gun at him. She leaned hard against a stack of crates, blood pooling at her feet.

“You can walk away.” Tom kept his hands loose at his sides. Even in the dim light of the warehouse, Tom could see the fear and doubt in the woman’s eyes. “This isn’t worth dying over.”

The woman sighed, let her gun drop. “Yeah, you got a point there.” She backed away, keeping her eyes on Tom the entire time.

Tom moved further into the warehouse. He found MorbidState in an office, a bag over his head and his hands in plastic restraints.

“You!” MorbidState shouted when Tom pulled the bag off.

“Calm down. This is a rescue. Let’s get you out of here before Farsight’s regular soldiers come to pick you up.”

“How did you find me?”

“You can thank my sister. But don’t think just because she’s taken a liking to you, you don’t have to pay me.”

“Your sister?” MorbidState rubbed his wrists after Tom cut them off.

“Yeah, daylight20.”

“Wait, she’s your sister?”

“Isn’t that what I said? Try to keep up here.”

“Uh, so how much do I owe you?” MorbidState asked as they exited the warehouse. In the distance Tom heard the motor of an approaching chopper.

Tom smiled. “Twenty-five percent.”

“What? That’s highway robbery.”

“I can always leave you here to discuss it with Farsight…”

“No, you’re right, twenty-five is perfectly fair.”

“Good.” Tom headed away from the warehouse toward where he’d left his bike. “Now about you dating my sister…”

MorbidState swallowed hard and wondered if he hadn’t been better off in the warehouse after all.

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Comments
  1. Cameron says:

    I like Tom. I really like his weird code of ethics.

  2. Love your descriptions! Keep up the writing =)

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