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Last Stop: San Paro


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#1
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" Last stop, San Paro."

 

The intercom voice of the bus driver was enough to wake everyone. I peeled my face off the window I'd been sleeping against and using the armrests, hoisted my self above the headrests. Twelve rows in front and eight rows behind, not a head was to be seen. I was alone on the bus.

 

I got up and walked down the aisle towards the driver, taking the center seat behind him.

 

"Where is everyone?" I wearily said. It had been a long trek across the nation, and I was disheveled. The driver flicked a glancing look at me before returning his eyes to the road. We were crossing some sort of bridge.

 

"What you talking about? I should be asking you, why are you still here?"

 

He shot me another quick look with a frown of inquisition.

 

"No body goes to San Paro anymore," he chimed as his arms began to turn the wooden wheel through the off ramp.  "No body 'cept those that are dead or about to be dead."

 

Wonderful - thirteen hours on the last leg of a four day trek. Three layovers, bus station food and only one shower . I could feel the growth on my face without rubbing it. The driver brought the bus to a halt, the air brakes had barely finished their hiss before he was going down the steps. I heard the cargo bay open and saw my duffle bag tossed forward, onto the sidewalk directly outside the door.

 

"Y'er here, now get out."

 

I looked around, this was no bus station, this was the bottom of the off ramp. There was no one around.

 

"Bus don't go into San Paro anymore, not since the Citizens Security Act. Too many lives at stake, too many lives lost. Buses stopped making pick ups a couple of years ago, I can't remember the last time I dropped someone off.  Only criminals or enforcers bus into San Paro now. None of them leave on the bus, they all go out in the back of a hearse. You better get moving before someone comes along and steals your luggage."

 

I looked at him still dozy from being woken.

 

"You get moving, son, or I'll take off with you still on the bus."

 

I rose and walked the three steps to the kerb. On the bottom step, the air brakes released and the door grazed my back as it slammed shut behind me. I steeped off just as the bus began to move off. It make a sharp right turn and headed up the on ramp, to head back across the bridge. I listened as the driver quickly made his way up through the gears, heading out of town.

 

I had no idea where I was. I picked up my bag, and began walking towards the tallest buildings.


Edited by Pioneer, 20 May 2017 - 05:54 PM.


#2
TheHidden-Tember

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Accurate depiction of the ghost town that is APB today :P

I hope this story is going to include gameplay-related humor!


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#3
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Main Street.

 

I knew it from news footage, I knew it from the police reports. It was like I was a witness returning to the scene of a disaster, but the disaster wasn't yet cleaned up.The grass in the park at Empire and Main looked darker than the amount of blood that had been spilled. The Havalynd Central Golden Mall was now faded yellow in parts, and City Hall was still trying to cement the left over bullet holes in the walls.

 

I'd never been here, but knew exactly where I was.

 

San Paro Police General Services was chaotic. People moving about, the noise was amplified under the high ceiling. And the smell reminded me a well used alley - it stank, had been sanitized, but there wasn't enough bleach in the world to make it fresh again. Old and decrepit.

 

It was hard to tell who was who. Well dressed suites sat cuffed to chairs, while thugs in leather were processing fingerprints. There was no clear means to distinguish the Criminals from the Enforcers. People sat on long wooded benches, I couldn't tell if they were here to identify bodies or waiting for a church service to start. It left me confused - who were righteous and who were not?

 

There was a line of people to a counter, I joined it. People in front of me were talking about a variety of topics. The line inched forward until I arrived at a raised wooden desk. An older guy with salt and pepper hair sat behind thick bullet proof glass, scratched on this side. We talked through an intercom.

 

"What do you want?"

 

I smirked at his customer service. He was worn out and probably close to retirement. He neither wanted to be there, but he had no where else to go. I dropped my documents into the tray and slide them under the glass to him. As he reached into the tray I opened up my badge. He looked at my badge and then down into the tray.

 

"Federal? What are you doing here?"

 

I couldn't tell him, so I lied.

 

"Secondment. To assist the city."

 

He leaned back in his chair and laughed deep from his belly.

 

"Well la de da," he chuckled. "The Federal Government sends one of their own to assist the little city of San Paro. We should have our situation wrapped up in no time now."  He slid the document tray back at me and continue to giggle.

 

"Where's the Watch Captain," I asked. "I'm supposed to report to him."

 

His laughing stopped and became vocally brutal.

 

"There's no Watch Captain, there's no Order, this is San Paro. The Mayor 's City Security Act invited every moron within a seven country radius to show up and become licensed for deadly force. There's no one left, it's just civilians now, taking anarchy into their own hands. Both side of the fence. You're too late son. The Police are gone and we're what's left."

 

I knew what I was walking into before I ever got on the bus.

 

His voice mellowed a bit. "Report here tomorrow morning. Take up with Wilson LeBoyce. He's a Praetorian, gets all the rookies. He'll set your straight. You got a place to stay?"

 

I shook my head.

 

"Go down Union, and turn right at Merchant. Apartments at the end of the street. Most of the out of towners shack up there, initially. Keep your door locked at night, and a gun under your pillow. You do have a gun, don't you."

 

I smiled at him and shook my bag.

 

"Welcome to San Paro son, I hope it's not your last stop."

 

 



#4
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(Double Post deleted)


Edited by Pioneer, 23 May 2017 - 06:43 PM.


#5
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You doubleposted, but I really like what I'm reading so far.

 

It was hard to tell who was who. Well dressed suites sat cuffed to chairs, while thugs in leather were processing fingerprints.

 

For some reason my brain saw the word "cat" instead of "sat" and I thought you were gonna describe the edgy cat-ear dressing style that we have here :P


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#6
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First Shift

 

On the first night, I lay awake for an hour listening to the sounds of the city before falling asleep.  I headed out in the morning as City trucks loaded to the gunnels with replacement signage, fire hydrants and pillar boxes, started their rounds.  Within a couple of hours, they will have erased all evidence of overnight carnage. And they would be back later - for the city, restoration was three shifts a day.

 

General Services was quieter when I returned and LeBoyce stood out among the crowd. For a former Marine, he looked more like a renegade Harlem Globetrotter. His Afro probably had its own carry concealed permit

 

"Semper Fi", he called, and I produced my badge.

 

"New blood,"  LeBoyce smiled and looked me over. "Here's how this goes - I give you a job, you complete it, you get paid."

 

I nodded silently.  He looked around and then produced a business card from his back pocket.

 

"Go here," his voice lowered to a dull serious tone. "Place got hit last night. Bad.  Investigate and work out who did this. Check wall tagging, shell casings, hell - if the coroner hasn't arrived yet, check out the bodies before the Meat Wagon arrives."

 

I took the card and look at the address, I had no idea where it was.

 

"You do good by me, and I'll introduce you to some of my more esteemed colleagues."

 

I look around the room, I couldn't see a motor pool or equipment office.

 

"How do I get there?"

 

LeBoyce let out a gut wrenching laugh that stopped people nearby in their tracks.

 

"Boy, this is San Paro. Anything you need, you just take it.  Cars, guns," he lowered his voice and looked side to side. "Even women. You take what you want."

 

I was going to like this place. I turned and walked out, crossing over to Havalynd Central Memorial Park, where I sat on one of the freshly installed park benches. For an hour I listened to the residents talking on their cell phones as they passed by me.

 

"Yeah, I think it's time to leave town."

 

"Yeah, it's me."

 

"Gunshots? Was that gunshots?"

 

The blonde in the tight jeans was more in tune to the sound of warfare than I was. Sure enough, in the distance, I could hear a rapid fire exchange. It was time to earn my keep.

 

On Border Street I seized a silver Balkan Ravan from some guy that stopped at the traffic light. I'd find a auto shop later in the day to do some customization, but for now, it was the first shift.



#7
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Leboyce doesn't give a sh*t about the standard issue Machinna Calabria anymore :P


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#8
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Looking For Clues

 

The scene was clean - sanitized, by the time I arrived. The coroner had already left and some woman was squatted down, peeling off the masking tape which had marked the outline of the bodies.

 

"You must be LeBoyce's newest rookie," she didn't even look at me as she pulled the tape off the floor and crumbled it in her hands. "Four bodies, standard ammo."

 

She stood up and put her hands on her hips and asked "What happened here?"

 

She was tall, taller than I. Pink shirt that hugged her chest; the beige pants did nothing for her, but they stopped short of ankles which has the thinnest strap to some pink high heels. Pony tail, thin glasses, just a little make up - she was attractive enough to make me think of her wearing black stockings - and nothing else. I gulped, but she saw me.

 

"Settle down noob," her face scowling at me.  "Just tell me what happened."

 

I stepped back and walked the area - the other three body outlines were still down, so were the numeral markers where the shell casings had fallen. The walls were peppered with marks on all sides, and te sun was just starting to to move out of the direct path of the skylight.

 

"They were ambushed. There was a fire fight. The bullet holes in the wall point down, meaning their opposition shot from up there," I pointed to a second floor balcony. "And there," a second balcony on the opposite side. "They couldn't see them, the sun was in their eyes."

 

She looked around, then up at at the balcony.

 

"Nice work rookie. Lesson number one - always get the high ground."

 

She turned to face me and smile. She moved forward, cautiously side stepping where the comrades had fallen.

 

"Mirri Kent, I'm with the Prentiss Tigers."  She looked me up and down as a woman who knows what she wants does. "Let's get you out of those clothes."

 

My heart quickened, I blinked twice and my mouth got dry. She moved close enough that I could smell her sweet perfume, before her lily white hand rose, and dropped a business card into my shirt pocket.

 

"Not tonight, tiger. Get down to the Marina and see our tailor. Try to look as smart as you might be."

 

She walked off, running her hand across me throat as she walked away. I listened to the sounds of heels chipping their way out. She was long gone before I stopped smiling and opened my eyes again. Somewhere in the distance, I thought I heard a Robert Palmer song playing.



#9
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Stupid campers are at it again putting the objective way too fcking high.


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#10
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On The Waterfront

 

I had never been to the Marina before, but felt like I already knew the place. The Galleria had been the backdrop for many movies, the Convention Center was always on television when it hosted events, Rendezvous where that singer had died, and Trespass, which had been captured in so many songs. It was comfortable arriving in Central Square. It was like a history lesson, having read and heard so much about it, here I was now, in the middle of it. I wandered for an hour or so, soaking in the area, standing in the spots where the cameras had been, remembering the scenes on the big screen, and playing the lyrics of songs over and over in my head as I tried to imagine what it was like.

 

What is was like before.

 

Now it was different. The movie makers stopped arriving, conventions moved to other cities, no one sung here anymore, and songs were written about other clubs. It was like the city had died, reconciled to history, and no one talked about it any more.

 

I found the clothing district  tucked away in a corner of the Marina. I could see how at one time it was designer names, now, it was just local brands trying to eek out an existence, one flight up  off the street. I walked in and heard a bell above the door ring - who uses a bell any more? The place was dark, I couldn't see very well.

 

"Hold it."

 

Some old guy popped up from behind the counter looking down the barrel of a shotgun. He had to be over 70. His finger was inside the trigger guard. I raised my hands slowly.

 

"Merri Kent sent me."

 

I was holding the business card Kent had given me and rolled it between two fingers to face my opponent. His face moved away from the shotgun to look at it. I slowly lowered my hand and offered the card, placing it on the counter. He looked down at the card, then put the shotgun away.

 

"Welcome to Primal Boutique," the customer service smile returning to the old man. "Can't be too careful with people new in town."

 

The old guy ran his tape measure over me, measuring me up for Prentiiss street clothes. He talked about San Paro and it's history like he had always lived here. I never asked him any questions, he was forthcoming. It was like he was expecting me and had his speech ready. In under an hour, I left his store, not wearing one item of clothing I had walked into with. As I walked down the stairs, some hot piece in a dress too short and heels too high looked me over. Twice.

 

 



#11
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Now it was different. The movie makers stopped arriving, conventions moved to other cities, no one sung here anymore, and songs were written about other clubs. It was like the city had died, reconciled to history, and no one talked about it any more.

25j8brt.jpg this is so true! ç__ç



#12
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Third Shot

 

Driving back, I had made a wrong turn and was on Silver Street, one street over from where I should be.  Unfamiliarity with the map could be a death sentence. The Newton Church looked like it hadn't saved a soul in years, while the back alley that fed the Needles Broadway had so many tire screech marks it looked like Turn 1 at Indianapolis. I penciled it's location into my memory, no doubt there was a Chop Shop it serviced. I signaled left turn for Cross Street and moved to the center line, thinking I could get onto the freeway. Oncoming traffic was streaming past me. The Celestial Club, kitty corner to me, was set back from the road - this was a wide open intersection.

 

I never heard the first shot. Nor the second. I'd find them later. The third shot penetrated through the drivers door and embedded in my thigh. As soon as it lodged, my foot mashed the accelerated and the car took off, making the turn between oncoming traffic. I looked down at my leg. My new pants were less than an hour old and already ruined. In the rear vision mirror, a car screeched through the corner following me. Some hood was hanging out of the passenger window

 

Blood staining my pants, I turned onto Sipja, realizing there was no freeway entry. I also realized I didn't know where I was, when I barrelled through the chain link fence beside the cab company and headed for the alley. The rear window shattered as the gun fire continued. I was under powered in my Ravan and not going to outrun the opposition in a straight line. I swerved onto Vie Cerventes and again on Incheon, In the rear vision mirror I saw them stream through the intersection, in the wrong direction. When I knew they had not doubled back, my own speed came down and I headed back to General Services.

 

LeBoyce saw me as I entered, left the people he was talking with and ushered me into a back room, Kent was there. She was standing with both hands behind her and leaning against a credenza. Her shirt was pulled so tight across her chest she was almost bursting out, I forgot for a moment why I was there and straightened my back. She smiled slyly.

 

A guy in white jacket entered and led me to an examination table. He was working on my thigh when Kent  walked up and looked down upon me. She wasn't interested at the injuries, only the events.

 

"Three,  maybe four guys in a taxi shot at me," I reported.

 

"Was it three, or four?"

 

"I'm not sure, I couldn't tell." It felt like I had let her down.

 

"You have to do better, know thy enemy," she softly scolded me. I may not have let her down as much as I thought.

 

"He's good," the white jacket guy reported - I assume he was a doctor. "Flesh wound grazing, no penetration, four stitches. Give him some Scotch and he'll be good in two days. With a limp."

 

The doctor exited the room leaving Kent and I. I propped myself up on my elbows as she stepped away from the examination table, keeping her back to me.

 

"You've been in town a short time, come with crime scene skills, and already been earmarked for a drive by."  She sat down in a chair on the opposite side of the room and crossed her legs, the edges of her pants riding up to show her white ankles. Her right leg bounced gently on her left knee.

 

"Someone here knows you."

 

She was right, but I didn't tell her.

 

"You're going to need a bigger gun."


Edited by Pioneer, 24 June 2017 - 08:32 PM.


#13
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my best fap so far


AXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXAXXAXAXAXAXA


#14
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Tie Off


 

The Ravan went in for repairs around the corner from General Services. LeBoyce said he would arrange for an "upgrade", something with a little more horsepower under the hood. Kent arrived in her pink convertible a couple of minutes after me.

 

"Get in."

 

I didn't argue. I sat in the passenger seat as we drove down to the Waterfront District oblivious to what she was saying - I was watching her blonde hair stream back in the air. She'd adjust her glasses, smile, and just keep on looking seductive.

 

"Are you listening to me," she scowled.

 

The seduction was over as we pulled off Sandford Keep into an underground garage.

 

"Where are we," I asked.

 

She didn't open the door, just jumped right out.

 

"Stu Phoenix's Armory. We gotta get you something a little larger than than cap gun you're carrying."

 

Phoenix was upstairs in a dark room, with spotlights on the wall highlighting all varieties of weapons. Shotguns. Machine Guns, I walked by them and stopped at the rifles. Kent was talking to Phoenix before he came over.

 

"You like?  What's your preference?"

 

"Sniper," I blurted out without thought. Kent's eyebrows perked in interest, and I swore at myself under my breath - I had to be more careful.

 

Phoenix pulled a long barrel and scope in camouflage colors off the wall and handed it to me.  I balanced it on one finger perfectly and I could feel Kent's eyes analyzing me.

 

"Where did you learn to shoot?" Kent asked.

 

I handed the weapon back to Phoenix.

 

"Some place else," I replied as I ambled past her towards the ammo. Kent talked to Phoenix in hushed tones, and in the reflection of the pistol cabinet, I watched him put together a rifle kit and pack it into a case. Kent picked it up, walked over and handed it to me.

 

"Here," she commanded with. "You're going to need this."

 

We drove back to the Financial District in silence - the ambience between us was gone. She kept her eyes on the road, didn't adjust her hair, and I only shot sideways glances at her. We pulled up at the repair shop and she didn't get out.

 

"You free for dinner?"

 

It sounded more like a instruction than a request. I nodded.

 

"Seven o'clock, Celestial Night Club. You know where it is?"

 

I couldn't tell if Kent was upset or not so I nodded again.

 

"Wear a tie" she dictated, gunned the engine and peeled out laying thick black lines across the driveway. She drove like a scorned woman.

 

Inside the repair shop, I couldn't see my Ravan.  The old guy who ran the place was using an rag to wipe grease off his hands as he waved me over. He lead me past a number of partial wrecks out to the rear yard.

 

"Compliments of Mister Le Boyce, keys are in the ignition."  He tuned and walked back inside, leaving me with a new ride. I put the rifle case on the back seat of the Charge Cisco and turned over the engine - it roared. I headed out almost as fast as Kent, but downtown. I didn't own a single tie.

 



#15
TheHidden-Tember

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If you don't own a tie yet, just go to Breakwater Marina, duh.


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#16
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Scorned

 

Right over left, under, around the tree, behind the tree, down the bunny hole.

 

I closed my eyes and thought back to when I last wore a tie. It must have been...

 

I opened my eyes and forced myself to forget.

 

The evening was cool, not enough for a jacket, but I took one anyway. For the tie's sake. Opposite the Celestial Nightclub, I found an alley, reversed in and turned the Cisco engine off.  I let the pedestrian traffic going back and forth, hunting for an obvious sign. It took a while before I looked at the eyebrow signage. Pink neon, windblown hair, weight on one hip. It almost looked like Kent had modeled for the sign, naked. No one saw my sly grin as I thought of her that way.

 

6.50pm - she arrived. I almost missed her. Black knee high boots, backless dress, tight chest. Men stopped to gawk at her, and right away, I knew. A woman like Kent, could have her pick of men. I got out of the car and slammed the door shut. The elevator arrived and I went up alone. The music grew louder and engulfed me when the door opened.  The place was dark,  they always were. A hostess greeted me.

 

"Good evening, your seven o'clock reservation is waiting for you."

 

She lead me away from the music into an intimate restaurant. Most of the tables were empty, only one other couple swooning over each other clinking wine glasses. In the back corner, in a dark booth, I could just make out Kent sitting beside someone. I wouldn't have recognized her had I not seen her strut down the sidewalk.

 

"Right on time," she cooed, sipping gold colored liquid out of a tulip champagne glass. I sat down triangulating the third corner between her and the mystery guest. The guest lifted his index finger off the table and pointed at me.

 

"Him?" he quizzed Kent. His third and ring finger were weighed down by the large diamonds. Kent nodded, and continued to sip her drink. The mystery man leaned forward, rested his elbows on the tablecloth and pointed at me.

 

"I don't know you from any of the other scum in this town, but here's the job. One shot, no witnesses."

 

Kent slid a brown envelope across the table to me. The mystery guest sat back and put his arms on the back of the booth, his right arm almost touching Kent. I wanted to kill him.

 

"Miss Kent here says you might be able to assist us."

 

I wanted to slit his throat. His tone suggested that he pimped out Merri as one of his girls. I hated her John, and I didn't even know his name.

 

"I come at a high price," I snarled, snatching the envelope to my side of the table.

 

He turned and faced Kent. "Feisty too. I think he likes you."

 

She didn't flinch, and sipped her drink, looking at me through the bottom of the glass.

 

"You can name your own price," he offered. "After the job is done."

 

I stood up, and took the envelope off the table.

 

"I'll consider your request," and turned my back on them. At the elevator, I punched the call button, shattering it. The doors opened immediately and I stepped in. As the elevator closed, I watched them; they hadn't moved.

 

Downstairs, I cross the street between traffic, and got in the Cisco. The engine roared as I laid rubber and tore onto the freeway. I kept the pedal down, breaking down chain link gates, until circling down to Merchant Park. I parked the Cisco in the plaza, and left it there. In my room, I tore the tie off, threw the envelope on the floor and turned my cell phone off.

 

I hated her.

 



#17
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Don't Care


 

My temper calmed overnight, subdued by my old friend, Johnnie Walker. In the morning, I emptied the envelope onto the bedspread.  A timetable, a hand drawn map with a red X, and an 8 by 11 grainy black and white photograph. The photograph had obviously been enlarged from a smaller image; only the center person was identifiable. I didn't recognize them, nor did I care. The map was obviously the target zone, and the timetable looked like it had been Xeroxed from a planner. Time, location, who would be there - I didn't recognize any of the names. I still didn't care.

 

Outside, the morning was chilly - morning fog lay like a blanket over the top of the city, hiding everything above the third floor. The Cisco was covered in dew, it had made the parking ticket under the wiper unreadable. I tore the ticket out, crumbled into a ball off and threw it at a nearby wall. The Cisco sounded a little rough as it started. I gave it plenty of gas on the run down to the Waterfront. Red lights, no turn signals, swerving at pedestrians still trying to make it home from the night before.

 

I still didn't care, and I certainly didn't care about Kent, or who the hell she went home with last night.

 

The Wharves were quiet for the half hour I drove around the backstreet, alleys, and Camino Del Mar. Not a lot of movement, plenty of open space - it would be hard to find cover. It would have to be a long range. Glancing in the rear vision mirror, I could see the rifle case on the back dash, and quietly wondered who selected it; was it Phoenix or Kent? The Fortuna Maria was berthed, imported cars being moved out of the hull. There wasn't even a Security Guard to stop me driving up on to the deck. The Cisco would not be obvious, so I parked near some vending machines. The deck was quiet, no one around, only the thrum of the car engines below deck could be heard. Taking the case, I walked up a flight of stairs and found a high perch.  I moved some boxes that were address to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas; to give me cover.

 

The rifle case opened with a deafening click. I froze, listening for approaching steps. No one came. The rifle came together quickly and quietly. Looking down the scope, I estimated it was about 100 yards. A flag in the distance on Dock Street was motionless,  this would be a difficult shot. I dry run the event a dozen times before putting the rifle down. And waited.

 

My watch said 8:50am when three  SUV's with darkened windows drove down Chandler Street and parked outside Armory Wharf. Ten minutes early. As the driver of the first vehicle exited, I picked up the rifle and pressed into the cold skin of the ship. A number of black suits exited the other vehicles and formed an arch around the vehicles, looking out. The target alighted and before the door closed, I had pulled the trigger. I only needed the one shot.  I took less than a minute to put the weapon away, walk to the Cisco and drive down the ramp. Three blocks west I drove in the underground garage of Stu Phoenix's lair.  Upstairs, Phoenix was standing behind a counter.  The rifle case went onto the glass top.

 

"The scope is out by an inch at 100 yards."

 

I drove the Cisco responsibly out and heading back to the Financial District, lights and sirens swarmed onto Chandler Street. I didn't care.

 



#18
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The First Shut Down

 

I returned home to find a gift basket by the door - a box of chocolates,  a champagne bottle and a business card with an address that was not familiar to me. As I opened the door, the side of my shoe swept the basket inside. The apartment was dark despite the outside day. I knew the layout of the place enough to not need lights. Making my way around to the bathroom, I flipped the cold water tap and washed off my face. It had been...some time, since I had done that. The last time I stopped someone like that, I had...

 

A knock at my door halted the battle that was building internally. Three raps on the wooden door so shortly after I had returned home - they had clearly waited for me. I cursed at myself for not ensuring my counter surveillance was acted upon. Whoever it was knew who I was, and what I had done. And worst, where they could find me. My hand piece was still on me but I had not, reequipped, since leaving Phoenix's office. I pulled a towel off the hand rack and walked to the door. Unbolting, I opened the frame just enough to see my visitor was not carrying any visible weapons.

 

"The gift basket is mine, may I come in?"

 

Her southern accent accentuated the loose blouse and black ski pants. She oozed sex appeal, and I figured she was either a professional, or a groupie. I put my head outside of the door and looked left and right - there was no one around. I kept drying my hands under the towel.

 

"There's no one here, I came alone," she moved her hand to her hips like she was impatient at my caution.

 

I looked at her again, still undecided, hoping she might come forward.

 

"San Paro is on lock down.  The entire city is shut down, no one can move. You can't get into the Waterfront District, you can't get into the Financial District. It's like someone turned the city off."

 

I looked down the hall at the street which seemed less occupied. The ambient noise was softer, I thought I could almost hear the sounds of the river from a block away. But what I didn't hear was gunfire, grenades, the last gasp of life. The city was, peaceful. For the moment.

 

"And I can't go home," her voice was much softer.

 

"Who are you," I asked, keeping my hands moving under the towel in anticipation of reaching for my gun.

 

"A fan," she smiled at me. "There's a reason why the city is in lockdown. They're looking for you. You did it, you broke the city and you don't even know it.  I just wanted to offer you my, personal thanks."

 

She walked forward and held her hand against my chest lightly as she pushed her way through the door. Her bottom wiggled and moved gingerly as she crossed the small room, sat down on the sofa and crossed her legs.

 

"A personal appearance is so much more, rewarding, than some cheap gift basket," she quipped, taking out her earrings and placing them on the coffee table. I closed the door, and bolted it shut, locking the city away.



#19
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(This post has been delayed due to a Cloudfare 502 Gateway error which was blocking access to the forums for four weeks. I had to get the web server to whitelist the IP address .)

 


What's Next

 

I woke in a partial daze, not sure if the sunlight streaming in the window was the dawn, or had I slept through to sunset. I sat up and looked around - she was gone. The room still smelled of her perfume. And us.

 

The clock was running, I had to move. If she could find me, anyone could.

 

Showering quickly, I started collecting what little personal effects I had and began wiping down surfaces I may have touched. Door handles, walls for support, taps, edge of the bed - everything. I knew I wouldn't get all of them - there would always be some residue left to link me to this room. I began to think back to the training - where to start, what to look for, and reverse engineered those locations to clean. My bag was packed in less than twenty minutes but the cleaning took me three hours. Satisfied, I took one look at the room, closed the door, and broke the key off in the lock.

 

The city was moving about. From inside the alcove, I waited and peeked around for about ten minutes. No one I could see was waiting for me.  That I could see.  I stepped out and began walking towards the Cisco. As I got closer, I slowed my pace until I stopped.  It didn't matter where I left the Cisco, that would be a trail. The Cisco would have to be left behind. I stepped out into the street and raised my badge.

 

"CSA, vehicle commandeered," I announced dragging them out of the vehicle.

 

"I'm going to get back?" was the last words I heard as I drove off leaving them standing in the street. The Patriot was only equipped with an AM radio - what sort of a truck only has a an AM radio in this day and age.  I scrolled through the static and country music until i found a news broadcast.

 

"The war between Enforcers and the Criminal gangs is at a stalemate after the death yesterday of one of their highest ranking members.  The shooting in the Waterfront District has seen both sides combing the area for evidence of the shooter whom is reported to have used a high powered weapon."

 

The broadcast went on and on without me recognizing the name of the deceased.  I was focused on something else. If both side of the law were looking for evidence, then neither side knew. I cursed under my breath as I ran a red light.

 

I was back to being on the outside. I was a third party Rogue.

 

The whole situation smelled of "set-up" and as angry as I was at Kent, it was she who had introduced me at the Club. My employer would know, and he owed me money. With the news broadcast, I decided it had to be a lot of money.

 

In the eastside, I found a gas station with a phonebox and parked the truck in Sipja Street. Walking back towards the celestial Club, I double back on myself in a construction site just to make sure. The sun was still up, the Club wouldn't be open for hours. Under the Freeway construction, I secreted myself into a corner and sheltered like the homeless, face down, back to the wall. Last's night "extra curricula" activity was welcome, but had worn me out. Unexpectedly. By the time my nap was over, the street lights were on and the dark had moved in. I changed my shirt, hid the luggage, and headed to the club. Unarmed.

 

If I was right, they would take my guns away. I couldn't afford to loose assets.

 

The elevator took me up and the same girl greeted me. She smiled, and wordlessly escorted me to the same table where I had first met the mystery guest. I didn't wait to be invited, and sat down.

 

"Money," I asked.

 

The girl who escorted me placed a bulging UPS express envelope on the table from sight unseen.

 

"What can Brown do for you," the mystery guest smiled with a hint of sarcasm. I wanted to reach across the table and tear his jugular out.

 

"Hold on cowboy," his tone changed to serious as he sensed my mood and leaned forward. "I'm not the opposition here. I ask you to do a job, and I rewarded you. You can take the money and walk away..."

 

He sat back, and a sinister smile came to his face.

 

"Or, you can stay on and play again tomorrow."

 

The mystery guest was a acting like a game show host. He fit the image. Slick hair, chunky diamonds, - if he worn a fur coat I'd call him a pimp, but in his purple business suit - who the hell owns a purple suit - he was still my employer.

 

I opened the envelope and peeked in. Hundred dollar notes in bundles.

 

I looked up and asked "What's next?"


Edited by Pioneer, 19 August 2017 - 07:14 PM.


#20
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Across The Street

 

"There. Leaving with the UPS envelope."

 

"Who is he?"

 

"Dunno."

 

"Where's he from?"

 

"Dunno."

 

"Not much to go on."

 

"What'd you expect? This is San Paro."

 

"What do we know?"

 

"He's good, but He doesn't know it."

 

"How good?"

 

"Sniper. Marines maybe. Definitely trained."

 

"Makes it difficult to get close to him."

 

"He might have a thing for Mirri Kent."

 

"He shows good taste."

 

"Good taste, bad judgement."

 

"I'm on him."

 

 



#21
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Hideously Wrong

 

Money, money money. It was always about money. It had always been about money.  Even back when...

 

I shut my eyes and stopped. Paused. I waited. I thought about my surroundings. Where I was. What had to be done.

 

Who was around.

 

Merchant Park would eventually be a hot spot. Everything I had in this town was now in one bag and the envelope. I still need to fortify myself though.

 

At Jagma Square the apartment Manager took my cash no questions ask. Upstairs. Top floor. It was larger than beofre but it was still lacking something. Something to make it a home.

 

Guns.

 

The Club was called Rendezvous, and he was hanging over the balcony looking down on his empire. His name was La Rocha, and on his back he carried some large weapon. I guess he was connected to be carrying that in public. But he had what I wanted.

 

"Don't I know you," La Rocha asked as I began to shed some money.

 

"No, no one does."

 

I took my 'package' and quietly left. I could feel his eyes on me as I descended and entered The Plaza and crossed into a Marina Marquee.  Loud music was playing, I turned the crap off.

 

"Nice, I was listening to that."

 

I spun around. I hadn't seen her when I walked in. She was strung out on the wire fence. I knew she was bad news.

 

"Sorry, I'll be going."

 

""Stick around. You like to party?"

 

I ignored her and walked on, back towards the Financial District. A different route than I had taken earlier. But I felt like I was being watched.

 

Back at Jagma Square, I kept the lights off and watched the street for an hour. I didn't see anything that peeked my interest, and that's what seemed unusual. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was hideously wrong.

 

And that started to make me nervous.

 



#22
ExiledQueenOfLove

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nice (but you should add a nice cover for this "E-book" , just for visualize the actor.


unbann everybody ! nobody is perfect !

kelly custom shopping official site ,stuff and render.


#23
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A Storm Approaches

 

The morning came quietly. The birds didn't seem to chirp as loudly, the sound of the traffic going by seemed softer, it didn't dull the sound of distant thunder.

 

A storm was approaching.

 

I was laying in bed wide awake when I heard the sound. Inconspicuous to anyone, unless you were listening for something like it. The sound of a folded page being passed under the front door. I sprang up and quietly headed to the window to watch for someone leave. After a few minutes, I summarized they either left by the another means, or were still unseen. My opposition was no novice.

 

The single page that had come under my door had a grainy picture and a timestamp. I looked at what little information was available before putting it together. This was a job.

 

I hadn't been good enough to lose whoever was watching me, and now they knew where I was. I resisted the urged to get up and move again. If the job smelled bad, then I would move.

 

The image was unfamiliar to me - I was new in town. My employer surely must have known I would need some time to establish the location. Pacing the room, looking at the page, I heard the sound of rolling thunder moving closer. Out the window I could just make out the inbound rain coming over the waterfront. Cars on the street were moving with the occasional swipe of the wiper blades, signalling they were just in front of the downpour. I gathered my equipment and continued to watch. The cars began arriving with more evidence of the rain, the smell of rain before it actually arrives, and the then soft rustle as it moved across the grass, the asphalt, and then the roof. I waited until the streets were wet enough to no longer see tire tracks before heading downstairs. Ducking for doorway to doorway, what appeared to be sheltering, was in fact counter surveillance.

 

My opposition had my number, for the moment.

 

Lighting filled the street, followed by a booming crack of thunder. Drivers swerved in their lanes, people shuddered, and I just kept moving toward my next target.



#24
ChellyBean

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How have I not seen this? 

 

This is awesome! :D 


Check out my Youtube Channel!
I upload every week or so... Unless I don't!
GiO2wzK.png


#25
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Firebombed

 

The rain kept my movement hidden, and the streets clear of just enough people. No one wanted to be out in the rain - not them, not me, not even the target. I kept the paper inside my jacket - dry. No need to let the water stain it. There were some features - some, landmarks; that seem to stick out. I just had to place them in the correct order to work out the job. My employer was a pro - there would never be anything that could link them to the job. I was a kite, one bad job, and they would cut me off in the breeze, just like when...

 

I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and tried not to think of it - again. It was another time, this, was San Paro.

 

The place was called Hallet's Trading Depot - it was in the Border Estate of Jagalchi.

 

"Which dumb patootie named this streets?" I mumbled to myself.

 

"Original inhabitants," a voice from an alley spoke, stopping me dead in my tracks. "They put the town together, then the city fore fathers honored their names on the street."

 

The figure stepped through the darkness into near darkness - silhouetted.

 

"It's kinda wet out there. I've got a place you can...get out of those clothes."

 

The figure stepped out where I could see them.

 

"You like to party?"

 

It was the girl - from the Marina. Short skirt, long jacket, top blouse button undone. A cigarette end brightened as she puffed.  I knew she was bad news. This was no coincidence. I turned to walk on.

 

"Stick around, you might not want to go down the street yet."

 

I stopped - she knew something, that I didn't.

 

I looked at her, she beckoned me into the alley, as she stomped out her cigarette. Black stiletto's - who wears black stilettos in the rain? Someone who's not walking in the rain. I stepped into the safety of the alley towards her, and she stepped further back - keeping her distance.

 

"Who are you?" I demanded, still not able to get a fix on her.

 

"Watch the street."

 

I backed into the red brick of the alley, looked up at the fire escape of the building I was pressed against. In the distance I could hear sirens - the sirens of rookie Enforcers in the new vehicle. No self respecting Enforcer drove with their siren on They grew louder, and within seconds, a swarm of vehicle converged on the street.

 

"They're looking for you." the female voice behind me narrated. "They don't know why, but they know to return fire."

 

I watched the Enforcers fan out, surround the building, and then after some minutes, return to their cars. They stood around like they were trying to decide on which Donut Shop to visit, before they more respectfully departed in their cars.

 

I heard a match scratch on flint and the subtle sound of of ignition. She had lit up again.

 

"Who told them that you would be here?," my shadow asked.

 

"Who said they were here for me?" I responded without turning towards her, watching the last car drive off around the far corner.

 

"Let's find out."

 

Footsteps drew closer and she walked past me. In her left hand she had a Molotov cocktail which was already alight. What I thought was a cigarette, was something more powerful. She took two more steps and threw the bottle into the air like an javelin. It arched across the street and smashed through the storefront window in an explosive blaze. Glass shattered everywhere, and the place was alight. It would be a total loss. She turned to face me, and I could see her face for the first time. A little makeup, blue eye liner, satin lipstick.

 

"I have a car," she said striding past me. I watched the storefront go up, and opened the page that I had received. The store was my target. She had known it. I walked behind her and stared down at her..,accentuated against her jacket.

 

She cast me a glance over her shoulder. "Stop staring."

 

I did, and followed her to the car, where I got in without question. It was dry.

 



#26
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The Skank On The Waterfront

 

She drove like a bat out of hell. Headlights off. Through red lights. Bumping off other cars like she was in a video game.

 

"I didn't get your name," I stammered as my buttock puckered the passenger seat tighter.  She double clutched with her long legs to take a corner. There was something dangerous about her.

 

"Don't you think it's strange that I just happen to be the location you were sent to, which just happened to have Enforcers show up. Sort of like, they were expecting you."

 

She revved up and picked another gear. Her fingernails had black metallic polish with a symbol I couldn't make out.

 

"You like to party? I have a friend."

 

"Take me," I demanded, returning my eyes to the road. She was a pro.

 

Through the Financial District, down to the Waterfront. Drifting from Millennium Boulevard to New Haven Road, she parked the car sideways beside a convenience store with two wall mounted pay phones.

 

"We're here," she said as she climbed out of the car quickly.

 

"Where's here?" I asked, still trying to get my bearings.

 

"Jindo Computers," as she she took the three steps at once. She shot me look over her shoulder. "Home of the Bloodroses."

 

Inside, some skank, about 30 was dressed as a school girl. Red ponytails. Navel piercing. Black Doc's, dressed like a casting reject  from a Stephen King horror film.

 

"Wow, you look pretty good. Even for you."

 

Yep, she was a skank.

 

"He's with me," my driver inserted. "You should give him a job. He's very good."

 

She gave me that look, the look a woman has when she decides on her next conquest.

 

"I got work for you, if you're good enough."

 

"Oh he's good", my driver chimed in. "Everyone is looking for him."

 

My driver shot her a look of evil.

 

"I'm Britney Bloodrose, favorite child of the Criminals of the same name. This is my town."

 

 


Edited by Pioneer, 16 September 2017 - 09:09 PM.


#27
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Active Shooter

 

I got the feeling that there was more to Brittney and my Driver than I knew. I was reluctant to take any job, given that my current "employer" had paid me such a handsome fee. I told her I'd do freelance work.

 

I don't care who pays the bills, I was looking for more. Since I had arrived I hadn't quite got a connection with anyone yet, but my Driver, seemed to be in the know.

 

"Who did I see about intelligence?" I asked her. She cast me me a sideways glance, a rye smile and walked off three steps looking over her shoulder at me. The "come hither" look dragged my feet across the room into her corner.

 

"What sort of intelligence," she asked, her hands behind her back, leaning against the wall, ankles crossed. It was a look she had probably given a lot of other men, and as appealing as she was, I was still in San Paro for another reason.  I opted to bluff.

 

"I'm new to town, who's my best contact?"

 

She smiled, lifted herself off the wall and drew closer to me. She smelt of pink roses, probably a Christian Dior out-of-my-pricerange perfume. She leaned closer, her hot breath on my ear as she whispered "I'm everything you need."

 

As I thought about the illicit implications, she stepped past and away from me. When I regained my compose, she was gone. I walked out of Jindo Computers and scanned the streets - she was no where to be seen. New Haven Road was so desolate, that when the first shot rang out, I immediately heard it go by. Someone was shooting at me.

 

I stepped back into the corner of the doorway and scanned what I could see of the street. No one else had heard it, everyone was walking around, eyes down on the cell phones, oblivious to the small hole in the wall. I looked at from across the entryway and focused on the entry point. My shooter was off to the left. I crouched and quickly peeked out.

 

Thunk.

 

A second shot into the wall, just an inch from my face. My Opponent knew where my head would be. They had two shots, each closer. They wouldn't miss on the third. There was no other shelter for me. If my Opponent moved, I wouldn't have cover. I turned back into the building and raced by Brittney, heading out the western door and around the corner. Cadleux Street was oblivious to the active shooter. Before reaching the Tsumani Casino, I turned into an alley and began to double back. At the Fortuna Mall, I found a perch where I could look back, behind where my Opponent would be. I waited. No more shots. No suspicious movement. Nothing. I swore under my breath, before turning and heading away.

 

This was the second occurrence, and I had no idea who was taken shots at me.

 

I was going to need a bigger gun.

 


Edited by Pioneer, 16 September 2017 - 09:10 PM.


#28
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The Hunt Turns

 

I was more akin to the role of Hunter. I was uneasy being the Hunted. Chasing down the Fox was my strength. Slowly, methodically, investigating, closing in. Now it seemed, I was being chased,  into a box. A box with sides I could almost touch, just enough room to move, not enough to topple over. A hot flush broke out on my face despite being in the shadow of the San Paro Port Authority building.

 

Port Authority? I had no business being here, this was way too close. I ducked into a doorway, cautiously, and looked back towards the scene of my handiwork. It was still cordoned off, goons still hanging around, and on the rooftop, I could just make out the protrusion of one rifle. I was not the type to return, to hand around and watch my handiwork. I had learned about those traits...

 

I stopped myself form remembering and forced myself tor recall why I was here. I walked away, continuing down Chandler Street until it terminated at a gas station. As I stood there, I spied someone who might be able to help. He was set back from the road, behind a chain link fence, but he was standing out just enough for me to know. I crossed the street on the green "walk" sign and approached.

 

"I'm looking for some help," I announced, not waiting on an introduction.

 

"What sort of help," the goon asked.

 

I explained what I wanted and without hesitation he opened a door. Apparently, he was in the "helping" business. Twenty minutes later as I walked out, I noticed a a sign that said "Thank you for shopping with at Aramas Marketplace".

 

Aramas had the weapon I was looking for, plus a nice little secondary weapon that I could use for close combat in the alleys. This wasn't the big city, this was San Paro. An adversary could be lurking around any corner, and right now, I didn't have a side.

 

But now, the Fox was armed. The Hunt, was able to turn.


Edited by Pioneer, 07 October 2017 - 08:22 PM.


#29
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Across The Street

 

"What's our man up to?"

 

"He just equipped himself with some heavy artillery."

 

"Why?"

 

"He's nervous."

 

"Nervous, or cautious?"

 

"Does it matter?"

 

"Nervous has no control, cautious is in control."

 

"Then I'm not sure. He's going to war, but I'm not sure against who?"

 

"Then we wait."

 



#30
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A Job

 

For some days, I lay low - but active. No crimes, no acts of violence, no saving the world. A lot of walking. I began to get a feel for the neighborhoods I would be hunting.

 

In the Financial District, the Eastside, I walked from behind Kamatsu Imports through the alleys, past the Cross City cabs and down to Hallets Trading Depot. The area reeked of seclusive opportunity. The shopfront windows, the walkways, and most importantly, Joker Ammo. Whoever thought of putting ammunition into a vending machine had a gold mine in San Paro. On the Waterfront, I was drawn to the Tsunami Casino and the Spit, it just seemed to eek of enough sex appeal to be dangerous. Like the Financial District, it too was covered in Joker Ammo machines.  I could see these area becoming my territory, the area I would home in on my search.

 

San Paro was in the news across the nation. It was the one location that had bumped Chicago off the most homicide list, but people didn't care. They had become immune to the nightly body count out of San Paro, that it only took a tropical storm to go wall to to wall on the cable television channels and bump San Paro off for a few days. And once the storm was over, the coverage would return to San Paro. Both side of the political fence all wanted to do something about it, but no one did.

 

I wondered how much money they were making out of San Paro to let it decay. At some point, no one would be making money on San Paro, and the city would become a ghost town, where no one ventured.

 

My cell phone rang, from a blocked number.

 

"Yes," I answered on the third ring.

 

"You ready to go to work?"

 

I couldn't pick the voice, but said yes.

 

"Here's the job. There's car on Lading Road. We'd like the contents of the vehicle delivered. Get the car, and we'll tell you where to take it."

 

They hung up, but I knew they were watching. If they were going to wait till I got the car, then they had to be watching me. I stepped into the street and "commandeered" a car.

 

"I'm so sick of this city," was the drivers last comments, I think. I didn't care.

 

I sped down to Landing Street, dumping the car a block beyond the scene. Stairs lead me to top of Bayland Shipping, where I could see the car from a nest without being spotted. For twenty minutes I waited, and watched. I almost missed it, but saw the sunlight glint just once. Once was all I needed. An opponent was waiting for me, hidden inside a green shipping container on the western side. I took aim and waited again. The nozzle came out, and then just enough shadow to tell me my opponent was taking a peek. I fired, and the opponent fell to the ground. Lifeless. No one in the area moved, no one blinked, so I put my weapon away and casually walked down. As I passed by the car I pulled out a Jimmy bar and went to work. Within five seconds, the car was unlocked. Withing eight seconds I was inside and had the alarm turned off. At ten seconds, I was gone when my phone rang. I answered it on a speakerphone. The caller gave me an address. I drove there, and parked the vehicle.

 

Waking away, a brown paper bag was sitting on the edge of a table. Off the table, into my pocket, and out of the area within two minutes. Three streets away I opened the bag and blue ink went everywhere.

 

The ink splatter on the tongs I had used to open the bag. I threw the bag and tongs into the harbor, disgusted I had made an error.

 



#31
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A Call

 

I was three more blocks away when the phone rang. A blocked number again.  I answered the ring but said nothing until the caller spoke.

 

"What happened?"

 

"You put ink dye in the pay off," I screamed.

 

"Pay off hasn't been made yet."

 

"You put a sniper on the pier."

 

"There was no one else in the area, and two more of my operatives have been silenced."

 

I stopped walking. Though I didn't know my caller, I began to think over events again.

 

"You've been compromised," my caller said.

 

That was my first thought.

 

"Who knows you here?"
 

In the limited time I had been in San Paro, no one knew I was. They may have seen me, but they certainly couldn't name me. There had been no time to create any relationships where I was known on a name basis.

 

"You're no good to us now," and the line went dead.

 

I'd been cut out and the only possible lead I had was some guy back in at the Celestial Night Club. I could not make hide nor hair of the situation, but sensed I was being played. Someone was interacting with me without me knowing. Someone had marked me and quite possibly, were coming after me.

 

Not the way I wanted to spend my time in San Paro. As I walked I began to put some images together. I was going to have find some people. And it was going to start back at the Celestial Nightclub.  I stepped into a public phone and dialed the nightclub. A recorded voice said the venue would open at 9pm. I hung up and walked out passing by a television store. All the screens in the window were on the same channel playing a commercial for the Celestial Nightclub. As the commercial played, it focused on the black boots of some girl walking before pulling back to show a girl in cocktail dress. It was my driver.


Edited by Pioneer, 21 October 2017 - 07:23 PM.


#32
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In The Dark

 

Sleep was hard to come by. The sun was still up, the street was alive, the sounds of the city were vibrating. As I lay there waiting, thinking, I was unable to put the pieces together. The Celestial Nightclub was the most obvious place to return to, to see my employer.  I couldn't got back to Kent yet - no matter how tight my pants got just thinking about her. There was something amiss,  and gumption was going to find it.

 

I sat up and reached for my wallet on the dresser.  It fell to the floor, opening, and the contents fell out.  As I scooped up the Benjamin's and put them back in. I stopped.  A business card. I had kept the business card from the gift basket and the other "gift". I flipped it over to the front. A name and an address. No website, no phone number, nothing. The girl had found me, maybe I should look her up.

 

Sunset lit the city, the glass buildings reflecting the gold windows into the streets. At times the reflection was blinding, as drivers and pedestrians alike both raised their hand to shield their eyes as they past through. As I made my way down the streets, on foot, I saw the sunbeam before reaching them, and tried to move around. I was still more comfortable in the shadows. And there were always plenty of alleys to shield me.

 

Joneson Street was across the Waterfront District. I didn't know a lot of the area, other than the Police department kept a blimp in the area to watch for offenses - part of the aerial reconnaissance team that the last election had given them tax dollars for. A fat lot of good it did, even I as an outsider could see it was just a white elephant to enhance the Enforcer image.  Still,  I had heard that it was equipped with state of the art facial recognition.  I heard it could read the label on the back of a shirt from 300 feet in the air.

 

The street wound through an arch from the petroleum factory.  I watched as cars speed by and pedestrians seem to emerge from one area,  and suspected that a good chop shop was nearby. It was seedy enough not to be dangerous but enough to be cautious. I walked along checking out the street address until I reach 202.  The building number jumped from 202 to 280.  The card I had was 232. I walked back and forth; looking for a match until I realized that it wasn't go to show itself - I was going to have to hunt it down.  Across the street the Tokado building provided a high perch - and concealment.  I was able to secret myself behind a pillar and began to spectate. The movement in the street was sporadic,  vehicles coming and going with no real variation. Pedestrians moving back and forth - a little excessive for the waterfront district at dusk in my opinion, but, with no public transport in San Paro, people had to get around. The sun went down before I noticed a glimmer of light from behind the seafood importer. It didn't increase, it didn't move, and importantly, it did show the shadows. There was something behind the building.

 

I crossed the street and found a gate beside the seafood place.  It opened with one kick - does nobody in this town secure anything? I wandered down the slender walkway towards the light - some music floated up but it was covered by the voiced of a foreign language. I began to think I might have made a mistake.

 

"Freeze."

 

Nope, this was the right place as my unseen host thrust a gun into the small of my back. I raised my hands slowly before being struck from behind. I went down, blacking out as I fell to the ground in the dark.



#33
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Another Crazy Woman

 

The room was dark, I couldn't see the walls. My hands were tied behind my back, I couldn't tell if I had a dislocated shoulder or not. I opened my eyes, as best I could. The right eye was hurt, I'd been hit while unconscious. My patootie was planted leaving me in a seated position, but this was no chair. I couldn't make out what I was on until I slid my feet. Sooty, And despite the dark I could make out the cloud that rose when my feet moved. My first thought was sawdust - but this texture didn't rub. I thought harder.

 

Coal.

 

The room was a coal bunker, which explained why it felt chilly. The walls were blackened - I couldn't make them out, but as my eyes adjusted, i could see the thin lines of the mortar of brickwork. No - it was chilly because I was underground - that's why the room was bricked, to keep out the river. It took me a minute to fathom I was still near the petroleum factory, but closer towards the waterfront.

 

The steel door opened and light streamed in. Three bodies overstepped the hatch into the coal room. A fourth sauntered in last.

 

"Who are you, and what do you want."

 

The voice was unfamiliar - a woman's, educated. Had just enough accent for me to think she was from the south. I couldn't place it.

 

Thunk.

 

I went straight to the floor, struck from the side. My teeth rattled as I hit the floor and felt the coal against my face. It was not the first time that barbarians had tied me down and beat the crap out of me. It was once, part of the job.  Hands unseen lifted me by both arms and dropped me back into the seated position. The wall mounted chains shook as I was dropped back onto the fold up bench.

 

"Who sent you to this town to kill?"

 

It seemed a strangely worded question, so I just denied it outright. Thunk. Back to the floor again, this time landing of my forehead and sliding. I could feel my face covered in soot. I stayed down before some Doc Martens struck me in the sternum. I didn't hear anything break, and began to pray I'd get out without needing any organs transplants.

 

"We don't tolerate strangers on our turf."

 

I was still barely conscious when I heard the first rapid gun fire. Semi automatic weapons. At close range. The room filled with panic - feet shuffled, yelling, people were firing in all directions. I stayed down. The yelling subsided, the gunfire slowed, and then stopped. I caterpillar my way into a corner before I heard running footsteps. Heavy footsteps. With boots. The floor residue rose and people poured in and moved quickly. I was lifted again, this time, I heard the splice of a knife swoosh through my ties, releasing my hands. My shoulder wasn't dislocated, but it hurt badly. I used one hand to pop me up and sat with my back against the wall as I watched figured leave the room. I was alone momentarily before other figures stepped in, making a beeline for me. Someone opened my eye. Another began checking my for injuries.

 

"Jesus, they beat the snot out of him."

 

"Severe lacerations, get some bandages on this."

 

"We're going to need a gurney," someone shouted above the others.  There was panic in their actions, before my eyes slowly closed. I remember briefly opening them inside a vehicle, flat on my back, before closing them again. The next time I opened them, the room was bright. Overhead lights, sanitized sheets and white everywhere. A guy leaned over me - his faced seemed familiar but I couldn't put a name to him.

 

"He's good."

 

The doctor, who stitched me up shortly after I got here. This was way too many visits to a hospital. I close my eyes and opened them to see Merri Kent standing over me. I felt the blood rush to...parts of me. She smiled at me - then slapped me across the face.

 

"You're an idiot," Kent swore at me.

 

Great. Just what I needed, another crazy woman in my life.

 

 

 



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Discharge

 

I don't know how long I was out. The Fitbit I was wearing said I slept for 21 of the past 24 hours - that seemed about right. I remember getting up to the bathroom and washing my hands.

 

Coal.

 

I looked down at my fingers and there was still some residue under the tips. It didn't seem right - coal at a petroleum plant? Maybe I was wrong about where I was. I went to roll over and immediately stopped. Although my body wanted to go left, my chest was not moving, encased in bandages. Falling asleep, again, I thought it was because I may have had a cracked rib.I heard voice while I was out again.

 

"He's banged up."

 

"he'll make it."

 

"When do you think he'll be up?"

 

"I'd be surprised if he even stays.

 

I woke sometime later, alone. The light was dim. It looked familiar, but is wasn't a hospital room. Sitting up I felt my chest flex as i asked it to support where it wasn't quite ready. Swinging my legs off the bed, I felt a draft - back there. Sliding on to the cold floor, I started to pull the hospital gown off, leaving me naked but for the bandages.

 

"Going somewhere?"

 

I knew the voice but turned anywhere, the bed at just the right height for me to retain my manhood.

 

"You look good, for someone who's vulnerable.

 

My driver walked across the room and although I couldn't see them, the sound of her high heels on the floor made me hard. I reached into the cupboard and retrieved my clothes.

 

"I have a car," she said, staring out the window preserving my dignity as I dressed before her.

 

"You always seem to do," I said, raising the zip on my jeans. She turned and looked me up and down before smiling.

 

"Who's have thought that body lived under those clothes."

 

 l looked for my personal effects and couldn't find them.

 

"How do I get out of here?"

 

She smiled. "You already know that."

 

She walked over to the window and opened it, a balcony ran around the outside of the building to an older wire fire escape. The exterior paint was peeling, so this was no modern amenity. As we went down the staircase, gingerly, I estimated the building was sixty years old. Probably converted to it's current usage. Her car was parked nearby. I stood by the passenger door waiting for her to release the door lock.

 

"Not this time. I have a car. You have two minutes."

 

She boarded her vehicle, started and quickly left, leaving me standing. I looked around. There weren't many options. I headed further back into the property looking for a means to leave. The hospital valet was working and I watched him take someone's car, leaving me and an ambulance in the emergency room entry. I heard the speaker inside the hospital go off.

 

"Code yellow, level 2. Code yellow, level2."

 

I didn't have to know that it meant a missing patient - me, I could see it by the way that the lobby staff moved and secured the doors. I looked around, the ambulance was it. I tried the drivers door, it was locked, but after moving to the rear, the patient entry wasn't. I climbed in and closed the door quietly behind me,moving forward to the drivers position.Push button ignition start. I drove off the site before anyone every bothered to check the parking lot. Several blocks away, I dumped the ambulance inside the Alexandria Park and display and proceeded on foot. Taking the long way, I arrived home an hour later and put myself back to bed, just as the rain started to splotch my window again.


My chest felt like it would explode, but for the bandages.




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