Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Location: nineteen clicks and closing ...
|Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:00 am Post subject: nineteen. [part one.]
|[this is the reworked and definitive version of taes' past and how she came to be with omerta. parts two and three forthcoming.]
The conference room floor was completely covered by a thin layer of blood. Two men in well tailored suits stood in the midst of a crowd of corpses, an alarm still droning distantly on the PA. The long marble table that dominated the room had a slick red smear running from one end to the other. Every few seconds a drop of blood fell from the edge of the table and hit the floor.
“Twelve civilians confirmed dead, including the intruder,” said the shorter of the two. “Two IW security at the door were also killed.” He had blue latex gloves pulled over his hands, and he kept pulling up on his dress pants to keep from bloodying his hem. Despite being with Ishukone Watch for nearly ten years, he still could barely stand the sight of blood, and there was a lot of it at this particular investigation.
“Thirteen civilians,” the other corrected, squatting. He pointed under the conference table with an ungloved and red-stained finger. A body lay in the fetal position, throat slit, suit and far-from-white shirt soaked through with blood. He was younger, recently reassigned stationside, and still taken with the notion that being offplanet meant you could shine like a star. In a few years time he’d realize that out in the black there’s nothing quite so common as a star.
He ran a hand through his blonde hair and stood abruptly. “How high up were these guys?”
Shorty winced at the red streaks Blondie had left in his hair, then shrugged. “Official wire hasn’t come through yet, but a quick check on GalNet flagged Ishukone.”
“Yeah. The woman at the head of table is Kasyi Rivskaar, head of R&D.” Shorty glanced around at the other bodies. This was by far the worst incident he’d seen in his career, and to be honest, he’d seen his fair share. “Nothing of import on anyone else. She was the target.”
Blondie walked over to the CEO’s body quickly, blood splashing onto his shoes. A single stab wound cut through her starched dress shirt and slipped up underneath her ribcage. Blondie shook his head in amazement. “Perfect killing blow,” he said, more to himself than his partner. The assassin had delivered a clean hit to her mark’s heart and she’d bled to death in a matter of minutes at most. “You see this? Avoided the rib cage completely.”
Shorty nodded without really looking. His eyes had followed the streaks of blood on the table to the body at the far end of the room, the only one not in a business suit. The woman was lying on her side dressed in plain white leather that was streaked and speckled with blood. A thin knife blade seemed to grow out of the sleeve on her left hand. Her eyes were still open, and she was smiling.
“Neurotoxin,” said Shorty. “No sign of pain or trauma.”
“Think she was planning on killing herself?”
Shorty stayed silent, still looking at the body.
“I said, do you think—”
“Her eyes are completely white,” Shorty said quietly.
Blondie turned to stare at his partner. “What?”
He took a few careful steps towards the body, pants hiked, then squatted slowly. He was of the opinion that the insignificant details always were important farther down the line. “Pupil, iris, everything – its all white.” He shined a small penlight into her eyes. “She’s not wearing contacts either.”
“We’re in a room full of bodies. I’d say that merits as something more important we should be worrying about.”
“Still. Creeps the hell out of me,” Shorty said. He stood slowly and glanced back at the double doors to the conference room. They could come back to the killer. “Alright then. First things first. How’d she get in?”
Blondie considered for a moment. “She must’ve had the access codes.”
“You know as well as I do that those change every fifteen—”
“True, but there’s no other way she could get in.”
Shorty bit his lip. “She could’ve hacked it.”
Blondie gave him an incredulous look. “Hacked it? Ishukone’s got one of the best security systems in ‘verse, a forced entry on their technology is damn near impossible to pull. And even if she had tried to bypass it, she'd of tripped the failsafe and there’d of been two IW squads down here in under two minutes.” He looked at Shorty confidently. “Someone leaked her the codes.”
“Okay.” There was a reason he’d been promoted offplanet so quickly, so chances are he was right anyway. Shorty glanced around the room for a seat that wasn’t bloodstained so he could take a seat. There wasn’t one. “Somehow she gets the damn codes, and she gets inside. Then what?”
“Well, she took the two guards down quickly, that’s for sure.” Blondie narrowed his eyes, following the smeared blood trail down the marble table top. “Shortest distance between two points is a straight line. She got on the table and slashed her way down the row until she got to Ms. Rivskaar here. She places her killing blow, and then …” He let his eyes rest on the body at the back of the room. “… and then she kills herself.” He paused. “Why would she do that?”
Shorty shrugged and squatted next to the assassin’s body again. If they figured her out, they’d have an edge on the rest of the mess. “It was a neurotoxin, like I said. Means she came in here prepared to die, one way or another. Could be on account of the alarm getting tripped. She knows she can’t get out once the protocols are tripped. Two squads on the scene in no time, docking terminal locked down, the whole damn station on alert.” He looked around the room, trying not to think about the blood. “Then again, could be she came here planning to kill herself all along. Religious nut or some such.” He stopped, noticing the delicate black and white designs that were tattooed on the assassin’s neck. He brushed away a matted clump of white hair away with a latex gloved hand. His eyes widened. A small neural interface implant protruded from the base of her skull, surrounded by the decorative markings. “Gods be damned …” he breathed. “She’s an egger.”
That got Blondie’s attention. “She can’t be.” He ran over to the body, every footstep splashing blood all over his suit. “By the black … she’s a capsuleer.”
Shorty stepped away from the body, almost in reverence. “Why would she …” With the knowledge she was pod pilot, the sentence was a lot harder to finish. He shook his head in wonder. “She was practically immortal.”
“Aye. And her life is damn near beyond price.” Blondie stood and started pacing. “Who the hell sends an egger to take out some higher up in Ishukone?” He slammed his fist into the table, punctuating the sudden silence. The station’s alarms continued to drone on in the background. Blondie slowly turned to look at his partner. “Wait. The alarms. Why are they going off?”
Shorty looked at him blankly. “She broke in and took out an entire conference room of people less than ten minutes ago, of course the alarms are—”
Blondie cut him off. “But that’s just it. She didn’t break in, she had the access codes. Either that or she’s the best damn hacker in the State.” Blondie ran both of his hands through his hair in frustration. “If she got in quietly, she could leave quietly. Nothing would trigger it. And if she did hack it, she’d know the system well enough to avoid the damn alarm trigger.” Blondie stopped pacing and threw his arms in the air. “None of this adds up.”
Shorty indicated the two guards near the entrance. “Gunfire would set off the system.”
Blondie eyed him levelly. “Their clips are completely full. I checked when we came in."
Shorty stayed silent.
“I mean, to hell with the alarm. To hell with the fact that she’s an egger. Just look at this.” Blondie indicated the rest of the room. “Why the hell would you kill yourself when you’re this good?”
Taes Valkiir sat alone at a table in the Skyhook, shuffling a worn deck of cards as her blue eyes watched the room. She wore a tight black shirt and her white leather flight jacket, form fitting and cut-off at her midriff. The patch on her left shoulder identified her as a freecaptain in the ranks of Jericho Fraction. Her leather pants and white knee-high combat boots matched the jacket. A brace of throwing knives were strapped to her left thigh, and two long daggers were sheathed on the outside of each boot. A pack of cigarettes and a lighter lay on the table in front of her, next to an untouched shot of Caldari whiskey.
She cut the deck absentmindedly, noted the queen of spades on the bottom, and then started tracking the card as she shuffled. Her eyes shifted from the lift entrance on her left to the tattooed hunk of muscle sitting at the bar on her right. He was guffawing loudly, meaty fist gripping a foam-capped tankard (his sixth, she noted) and eyes focused far too specifically on the barkeep’s fine figure. She’d labeled him as trouble the moment he’d stepped out of the lift, solely on the fact that he was unarmed. A man that walks into a place like the Skyhook without some kind of weaponry is either a damned kind of fool or a stupid kind of dangerous. Taes glanced back around the room, still shuffling. The Matari in the back booth was packing a short barreled shotgun, slung low on his right leg. He had a slight limp, a scar over his left eye, and would shoot from the hip. The tall Gallente setting up his shot at the billiards table had a snubnose revolver in a docker’s clutch underneath his too expensive jacket. His shorter companion, who was losing his third straight game of the night, had a small thin knife sheathed on the outside of his left boot. Even Sarii, the raven-haired barkeep, had a low caliber pistol tucked into her skirt on the small of her back. Taes had marked every patron within moments of her entering, and none of them worried her. But the thick-necked Civire did, especially when he laughed too loud.
Taes stopped shuffling and cut the deck again. She let her eyes linger on the lift entrance, then glanced down to check the bottom card in her right hand. Queen of spades.
She looked over at the lift entrance again. It was nearly time.
The message had come three days earlier over GalNet. The sender was only identifiable as an anonymous proxy address that could be traced to any number of public terminals in the State. The message itself was simple.
Be where the void can hang itself, three days from now at nineteen hundred. A bird will find you.
—The King of Spades.
The reference to the Skyhook was obvious enough to those that knew of it; which, say true, wasn’t many. The rest made as little sense as could be expected. She’d been sitting in the joint for the past two hours, watching everyone that came and went. Arriving early let her get at least passing familiar with the location and the feel of the place. If something was amiss, she wanted any advantage she could manage.
Still, she wasn’t sure why she’d even shown up. The message had intrigued her, true enough, but ... Sister. It always came back to Sister. That’s the part that had gotten her attention. She couldn't explain why, but the word stuck to her in a way few other things did. Say true, the word stuck to her in a way that only one other thing had. The number nineteen. None of it made sense.
The Skyhook was halfway across the ‘verse, and she’d been given no reason to trust whoever wanted to see her. As a freecaptain in Jericho Fraction she was already on the wrong side of the line in most sections of secure space. And although this particular patch of Caldari lowsec was a pirate haven and practically lawless, just being this close to the State border put her on edge. That said, she had no desire to hide her affiliation. Here, it might even offer some protection.
The lift activated. A Gallente in khaki cargos and a plain black shirt walked into the bar slowly. Taes smiled as she watched his eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the room. That was the advantage of places like this. Everyone always got a good look at the new arrival well before he’d had a chance to see much more than a dark blur. He blinked once, scanned the room quickly, then walked over to the counter and ordered a drink. Taes started shuffling again. Knowing his kind, it’d probably be spiced wine.
“Hey, you.” The Civire at the bar, who was by now very drunk in addition to being tattooed and ugly, gave the new arrival a slurred greeting. “Ain’t you one o’ them Gallente pricks?”
The Gallente smiled civilly, nodding his thanks to Sarii as poured him his drink. To Taes’ surprise, it was the same Caldari whiskey she was drinking. “Aye, I’m Gallente by blood. And I don’t think its any business of yours whether I’m sly or not.” He smiled politely and took another look around the bar.
The ugly drunk guffawed loudly. “All Gallentes is sly. An’ you’re Gallente, so you’s is slyer ’n’ a fox.”
The Gallente knocked back his shot of whiskey, eyes on the room. He obviously didn’t want a fight. “Whatever you say, mate.”
“Whate’er I say, huh?” He gave his prey a hard shove, and the man stumbled back and caught himself on an empty stool. The Civire smiled, revealing a yellowed set of teeth. “S’right. You scumbags is too busy yankin’ on each other t’ disagree. Always yessir with you lot.” He raised a meaty fist threateningly. “Ain’t that right? You gonna say yessir, slyboy?”
“Watch yourself, stranger.” Taes smiled coldly, left hand brushing the hilts of her throwing knives under the table. The bar settled into the wrong kind of quiet.
The drunk looked up stupidly. “What?”
“I said,” she repeated slowly, “to watch yourself. Stranger.”
He lowered his fist and smiled his crooked yellow smile. “You like the taste of that scum?” he slurred, moving towards her. “You like ‘em small, don’t ya missy? Small an’ with a quick trigger, eh? Well that’s them, missy.”
Taes noticed he was still steady on his feet. Just drunk enough to get in a fight, but not drunk enough to lose one. She lowered her left hand and touched the hilt of one of her daggers.
The drunk placed one large hand on the table and leaned towards her. His breath reeked of alcohol and gods knew what else. “Shouldn’t be all friendly with them slyboys, pretty,” he leered. He raised his first and swung. “Gonna teach you a—”
That was as far as he got. Taes caught his wrist with her right hand and broke it with a quick twist. She slammed his arm to the table and pinned it there with a dagger through his shattered wrist. The drunk grunted stupidly, then screamed. Taes picked up her shot glass, knocked back the whiskey, then grabbed her cigarettes and lighter. She looked over at the Gallente, who was staring at her with a mixture of gratitude and fear. She tilted her head towards one of the booths and walked over. The Matari with the shotgun gave her a slight nod as she passed, and the bar slowly returned to the right kind of noisy.
She took a seat and started tapping the pack of smokes against her palm. The Gallente slipped in across from her, eyes cautious. He waited in silence as she pulled out a cigarette, light it, and blew a breath of smoke at the ceiling.
“You my little birdie?” she said, pointing at his shirt with her cigarette. The right sleeve had a small white logo sewn onto it, an abstract of a hawk with the word OMERTA underneath it. She’d noticed it when the Civire had shoved him.
His face betrayed nothing. “You have blue eyes.”
“You have blue eyes,” he repeated with a smile, revealing a set of sparkling white teeth. “You’re not supposed to.”
Taes inhaled deeply and blew the smoke directly into the Gallente’s face. “Says who?”
He coughed twice and waved away the fumes. “The king of spades.”
She flicked her ashes into the ashtray, and looked him in the eye. “And is that you?”
The man chuckled. “No. I’m just the jack. No need for the king yet.”
Taes picked up the deck of cards and cut it once. “You sure?” she asked, pulling the top card of the deck. It was the queen of spades.
Her meaning was clear. He looked at the card, then at her, then at the drunk who was slumped over on the table He’d blacked out because of the pain. “Not so sure,” he said, and he meant it. “But your eyes are still blue.”
Taes placed the card on the table face up and set her cigarette down in the ashtray. Holding her left eye wide open with two fingers, she carefully removed a cloudy blue contact lens. She blinked twice, then looked at the Gallente.
He nodded, then placed a small holodisc on the table. “He wanted to give you this. Sister.”
She picked it up and placed it inside her flight jacket, trying to ignore the way he emphasized “sister.” It got under her skin.
“We’ll be in contact.” He stood up. “Thanks, by the way.” He walked to the exit, giving the unconscious Civire a wide berth as he passed.
“Wouldn’t of helped you if I hadn’t figured you were my little birdie,” she called after him, voice light and matter-of-fact.
The Gallente slowed his step for a moment, then stepped onto the platform without turning around.
Taes waited until the lift left for the upper levels, then stood up herself. She pocketed her smokes and her lighter and left the deck of cards in the booth, queen of spades still face up. Walking over to the drunk, she pulled her dagger out of the table and his wrist. He jerked awake with a moan. Taes wiped the blade on his shirt, then knelt to sheath it.
Standing, she flicked some coin to the barkeep. “Say sorry for that.”
A nod, and then she was gone.
to be continued.
Last edited by Taes Valkiir on Thu Nov 29, 2007 11:54 pm; edited 5 times in total
Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Location: nineteen clicks and closing ...
|Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 5:59 pm Post subject:
|thanks for your comments and critiques. a few responses ...
i'll probably be removing some of the firefly language in the next edit. i'll be getting rid of gorram definitely, but probably not 'verse. the latter strikes me as something that fits the EVE galaxy a bit more easily, and i think it'll fly. besides, taes can't be the only one in the galaxy that speaks the way she does, right?
the bar scene was pretty intentional on all counts. first, its the skyhook, which as we speak is also a new RP channel that myself and kyoko are getting off the ground. we're creating it as an established house of ill repute, a known rendezvous among the shady side of EVE, and a place with no rules. think the cantina from star wars, or one of the bars in the lower levels of coruscant. its the kind of place where everyone's armed, if only to make sure no one has a jump on anyone else. doesn't mean everyone's killing everyone all the time, just means there's a unique level of tension here.
as for the Gallente, he happens to be none other than nooey, and the barfight was something me and him had discussed. nooey said that he would avoid a fight out of pod as a rule, which would in turn allow me to establish taes as a fighter in a not-over-the-top way. i figured that her simply disabling the drunk would be realistic enough. nooey, true, could handle himself if it came down to it, but my impression is that he'd wait until he absolutely had to. taes, not knowing this but realizing he's her contact, interrupts before he does so. as for sarii, the barkeep, she knows as well as the patrons the rep that the skyhook has. so long as things stay personal, its not her place to interfere. some of this will be reflected, perhaps, in the next edit, and the rest will come to light in part two, i think.
as for "sorry about the mess," i didn't even realize that was han's line until you mentioned it. i knew it was from somewhere, but it didn't fully click. its been too long since i've watched the trilogy. i'll change that too.
as for the whole "taes is kicking way too much ass", just wait until her and zaitsev get in a room together. right now she's on top of things because she needs to be. falls from high places mean more.
thanks again. i'll fix this up tonight, probably, and get working on part two.
[see you in the sky.]