Mike sighed as the autopilot brought him into the next system. As long as he stayed clear of *Attention, you have been declared an enemy of . . . *
“Dammit!” He disabled the autopilot and brought the ship under manual control. Several Amarr guard ships were beginning to target him and he was fairly sure it was not for a customs inspection. A practiced glance at the nav overview brought the next gate up and he targeted and initiated the jump. Watching the guard ships dwindle in the distance he chuckled then blinked and swore softly. “What the hell was that?” He brought up the black box log and reran the last minute . . . .There! . . .
It took six more jumps back and forth between the two gates with the guard trying to get a faster fix on the ship they so wanted in pieces. Finally he managed to stop, using a bookmark, right next to the anomaly and scoop them into the hold, a quick scan around showed that there was nothing else to see so he warped once more to the gate and moved on back into Khanid territory. When he reached dock he went into the hold to see his find first hand.
Two bodies . . . entwined in a way that made you think more of a bedroom and less of the cold space far from any planet. He looked Amarr but her tribal tattoos could only mean she was full blooded Minnie. “Curiouser and curiouser.” Mike whispered to himself. There were few clothes and no ID but he scanned the faces and hands and went into the station to see if he could solve this little mystery.
Five jumps away she woke in the station once again. She gasped for air, which she had been screaming for in triumph when she had last died.
“Got him, and he was so nice to show a young thing like myself where ‘clones are made’.” Her laugh held no humor that is found this side of a morgue.
“And his clone?”
“Sadly I believe there may be some problems with it. Some sort of bacteria got into the vats . . . again. It is a wonder they don’t keep their facilities cleaner.”
The other voice tsked and reached in to help her off of the table. A robe was handed to her and she tied it absently as she looked about the room, finally focusing on the man beside her. “Next?”
“So soon? I thought you might want a break . . . ”
“Next?” Her voice was flatter and completely empty of any emotion.
He sighed and handed her a file. “This one likes strippers . . . and he likes to ‘slum it’ looking for a little dark meat.”
Mikes inquiry went through the usual channels and raised many flags in various systems. Counter inquiries were started, mainly focusing on who Mike Azariah was and why he was asking questions. Not knowing the wasps nest he had kicked he continued . . . curiosity taking him deeper. A credit check showed the victim had last spent coin only two systems over. Mike double checked the map and nodded . . . “Good, not in Amarr, just close.” He paused for a moment and then loaded the destination into his comm and set off back to the ship. “A small side trip won’t hurt.”
She had a bit of work done, body mods were expected among strippers. It took a few days for the process to complete and then she checked the local clubs calender.
“Gonna get a job this time?”
“No.” She said, not looking up. “His file says he is not prone to professionals. I am going to go to amateur night.”
The man snorted but didn’t ask any other questions.
“Three days . . . your end better be ready.” She continued.
He managed to bite back his first thought which was ‘I might say the same to you’ This restraint was the main reason why he was still alive, unlike her last 4 handlers. Instead he just nodded and went back to the database to see what other information he could find. “Uh oh.”
“I do not like Uh oh, what is the problem.?”
“Someone a few systems over is making inquiries about the last target.”
“Private inquiries . . . and he was correlating your biosignature with the victims.”
“I don’t know how he connected you two but the request is already raising some attention. It may be time to terminate the . . . ” He saw the look on her face and trailed off, not finishing the sentence.
“He has nothing so far but his questions could be troublesome. Put a watch on this . . .Azariah. Talk to our contacts. I want to know who he is, what he is, and why he is digging in our business. Evaluate him as a target. Please tell me he is . . . ”
“Pure blood Gallente.” He tapped the comm and frowned. “Banned in Amarr space. Has a reputation for running specific missions against slaving operations. Brought in quite a few folks out of camps in the past year. Currently working in Khanid territory, not far from here. Damn, if you decide he is a target he keeps two clones in very separate regions. Seems to use it to commute from here to his corps industrial center. I’ll have more in a few hours.”
“Everything you can find.”
Mike found his way to the main concourse of the station and looked out over the bustling market. Minmatar stations always had a distinctive feel to them. Ad hoc growth combined with distinctive tribal colors and customs made it feel more eclectic than the stodgy Amarr or the corporate Caldari. Of course nothing could compare to a stroll down a Gallente boulevard, stopping for a cafe au lait . . . . “wow” Mikes eyes were drawn to her almost involuntarily. And he was not the only one. Hips swayed making the tribal sarong swish side to side always promising to show more leg but never quite delivering. The sarong deserved a medal for managing to keep the woman contained and decent given her obvious assets. The concourse almost went silent as every male and more than a few females watched this lioness stalk her own private jungle. It was almost and afterthought that Mike looked at her face and blanched, he swept up his comm and triggered the camera just as she was almost out of sight. Going back to his ship he compared the image to the body in stasis in his hold. The body was a bit different . . . but the face was the same. It was her.
‘It is what Azariah calls his ship. It is in dock right now, here.”
“Here as in this station here?”
“I want a full briefing on this man in one hour. I want all the options considered for what we can do about him.”
Mike scrolled thorugh the old news files of the station trying to see if he could find a clue as to the other victim and his connection with Her. Even in his mind he capitalized references to Her. While Dierdre was larger than life through force of her interpersonal skills Mike got the impression that this lady would be one to command a crowd, not a single listener. He scrolled backwards through the days till a side article caught his eye, the image was of the male victim from a time when he was more healthy.
“Local Med Bank Infection.- the local clone vats report a virulaent bacteria somehow infected several clones, rendering them irretrievable. One life has been permanently lost as the vat held the clone of a man who died before the infection was discovered.”
“Man, sucks to be him.” Mike read on . . .
“The victim was reported to have been a high ranking Amarr stockholder of the Manpower corporation. Manpower has often been accused of being the corporate front for a slavery ring that spans several regions but the accusations have never been substantiated . . . “
“Huh. I’d swear I have popped a few of their transports, sometime in the past.” Mike toggled off the reader and sat back. “So what in hells name was he doing with her in the middle of nowhere? A business deal gone very bad? No, that wouldn’t explain what they were (and weren’t) wearing. They look like they were spaced, not podded. But why would they be . . . ahem. . . so involved?” He tapped his comm on his knee and looked up at the ceiling of the Snark cockpit. “Nope, no answers written here . . . time to go see if there are any more on the concourse.”
“So to summarize. Our target is in the station, amateur night is tonight, and he has a business meeting for the day after tomorrow back in Amarr space. So we take the shot tonight or let this target pass.”
“Azariah is also in station and your evaluation is he cannot be bought on our budget. His spread of clones makes a targeted strike impossible. He is running for the CSM but nobody has ever heard of him. He hasn’t the specialty that most poddies have and seems to just do a bit of everything up to and including investigating us. Have I got that right?”
“Well dammit I do NOT plan on letting the target pass but what the hell am I going to do about Azariah?”
“The best bet is to take the target as planned, it is a big station. I mean what are the odds he will wind up in the bar where you are ‘working’ tonight?”
Her cold eyes looked off into the distance. “I won’t let the target pass. This evening I want you on close support. We will chance your ‘odds’ but I want you there, just in case.”
“But but I am not a field . . . .”
“You will be there or they will find fewer pieces of you than they did the last handler who interfered with my orders.”
He shuddered thinking of the image he had seen of the three very small bags.
Walking the concourse had proved fruitless and all Mike could think of now was a cool drink and then some quality time relaxing and taking in some local sights that did not involve all this hoofing about. Hoots and howls came out of a doorway up ahead and the sign indicated it was ‘happy hour’. “Hope their clock is slow.” Mike grinned and swung into the bar. He siganlled the waiter for a PGB and looked around the bar. “Ah, happy for more than one reason.” The pole in the center of the room could either be for a fire suppression crew to enter the room or . . .
“Yes men it is that time again! Sit back and enjoy the next five acts of Amateur Night! Put your hands together for a little hangerbay worker who knows how to make your loading crane go up . . .Chelsie!” Music filled the room as the first girl stepped out onto the stage and started to bump and grind to the music.
“Chains! What are the odds, indeed. Look at him, perfectly placed to cover both exits and have a clear view of the target.” She glared out from the backstage at Mike sitting sipping his drink. “He doesn’t fool me . . . but what are we going to do? Killing him here would ruin everything.”
“There is one option that wasn’t mentioned.” Her handler said, feeling cold just standing next to her.
“I said all options were to be presented then. What did YOU leave out?”
“I thought you said he couldn’t be bought off with our budget.”
“He makes more in a mission than our monthly budget. But I didn’t mean buy him off, I meant ask him to join us, or at least turn a blind eye.”
“Honesty? Your final option is to tell the truth?”
“It is all I have . . . it is all we have.”
“And the truth shall . . . ” She straightened her shoulders in a most wonderful way and stepped out of the shadows to go talk to the pilot. Sadly, Cherie on stage lost most of the attention of the room as the fully clothed woman crossed it exuding 10x more sex appeal than the near naked neophyte.
Mikes eyes widened for several reasons. Her presence, the coincidence of her being in this bar, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” he said just loud enough for her to hear.
“I was thinking the same thing. May I sit?”
Mike smiled and gestured to the empty seat. “It would be rude of me to say no to such a lovely lady. I believe my next move is to offer to buy you a drink?”
“No, I will be dancing in a few minutes, I like to keep my balance. What I am here to speak with you about is what happens after that dance.” She leaned closer. “Before you arrived here the plan was I would get friendly with the gentleman sitting behind me, go away with him and he would suffer a very permanent accident.”
Mike sipped his drink. “And something untoward would happen to his clone . . . coincidences are such a pain to plan.”
“Very much so. Now I am faced with your being here and I am asking . . . can you . . . no, will you . . . stay out of it?”
Mike looked over her shoulder and then back into her eyes. He compared her beauty to the personal presence of Dierdre. Dierdre won, hands down. “I assume he is connected with active slavery?”
If anything, more ice formed in his drink from just being within range of her eyes. “That chainer specializes in mind control drugs.”
“I’ve seen that sort of thing before. They went after some people in a station near my base. But things are easier for me. I don’t have to pretend there are coincidences.”
Her eyes widened. “You will not interfere?”
His went hard for a moment. “One thing . . . how did your bodies wind up like that way out in open space with no ship about. That has been driving me crazy.”
“I tell them I like an element of danger and take them into the airlock of a shuttle. Once we are there . . . and he is ‘occupied’ I hit the emergency decompression.” She sighed. “I come back, he doesn’t.”
Mike leaned back and laughed. “Leave me a name and if you dance well I will contract you a fresh made shuttle for free.”
“For free dom”
Contract between Mike Azariah and Free Dom
10 Minmatar shuttles. Delivery to local hanger
Cost:0 + services rendered
“Honesty. Never thought that would work.”
No lessons, this was meant as an entry into the Eve fan Fiction
A great idea that has got a fair bit of support already.