“So what is it this time? Someone steal something,” Blitt asked his boss as he stepped into the frugally furnished office.
“No, far simpler. We just need you to take back a shipment of candies that got misplaced and then forget you ever heard of it.”
“I forget all our conversations, Dan.” Blitt smiled. His old friend was immune to the sarcasm.
“As long as you remember that we can always make you forget if it becomes necessary,” Dan smiled back at him, unaffected. “That’s why I got you, Blitt. I mean, a candy shipment, for god’s sake? Don’t you think I’d rather bother the junior division about this if it was anything other than urgent to national interests?“ He waved his hands about, as if wafting away the mere thought out of the air. “It’s important enough, so take it seriously, please. Who knows, lives may even be on the line. Hell, even I don’t know, I don’t know anything other than that shipment better be back at the Double-Dulce Candy Corp. warehouse by day’s end. Now get out of here and retrieve it.”
It was always with such sudden outbursts that Blitt was dismissed by his contractual employer, Danathan Dowells. He went over the security-enveloped LED-paper that was given to him as he left. It included details of his mission – the location of the warehouse, contact names and comm codes, and a list of every retailer the Double-Dulce Corp. shipped to within the region. “Great,” Blitt mumbled to himself as he tossed the envelope into the passenger seat. The document showed that someone had inadvertently sent out a shipment to the local warehouse that they shouldn’t have. And now the company is demanding it back. Probably corporate trade secrets or some nonsense, he reasoned. These days, the corporations have about as much power as old gov orgs did, so an order from them could conceivably be tantamount to national security. But still, thought Blitt, Candy is candy. And a job is a job.
He drove his mag-lev sled across town to the shipping warehouse. It was still early, and Blitt didn’t want to overlook the possibility that the shipment hadn’t even gone out yet before he started going down the list of grocery stores and convenience marts one-by-one looking for the damned thing. As he approached the aging building, his trained instinct kicked in, telling him that this job wouldn’t be as simple as it seemed. He wished that he knew more precisely he was looking for. He wished he’d brought along his pistol.
Right inside the entrance, a security guard was sprawled out on the floor.He was probably dead, but Blitt didn’t even consider stopping to check the guard’s status. He instantly noticed that the guard’s clothing bore the distinctive burn marks normally left behind by a plasma weapon. He retrieved the downed guard’s weapon from the floor and carefully proceeded through the entrance, side-stepping the body like a pile of dung. Inside, a young woman lay slumped across her metal secretary’s desk, no doubt wounded in the same fashion as the guard. Blitt didn’t even check.
Normally, he wouldn’t even wait around to see the finale in an incident such as this. He should have high-tailed it back to the Mag-lev and full throttled it just about anywhere else. Today, however, he owed the Dowell’s Corporation a mission, and there was no anywhere else he could go to that would be far enough away to sufficiently distance himself from the inevitably subsequent shit-storm that would sure enough arise and follow him there if he didn’t make good on his debt. So he slowly continued further into the warehouse entry foyer, cautiously peeking through the chicken-wired windows that lined the hallway as he went. At the end of the hall was a metal door, a single small window at its center barely revealed the greater warehouse area beyond. Blitt checked the handle. It was unlocked.
The warehouse area was about as decorated as anyone would ever imagine a warehouse to be decorated: scantily. Aside from a few posters bearing barely dressed pin-up girls taped to the wall just above the corner drinking fountain, there was only row after row of four-foot tall plastic shipping containers stacked floor to ceiling. The place was mighty quiet. Early morning hours should have meant forklifts roving about lifting and forking, and overall-wearing warehousemen hubbubbing about, making jokes and small talk as they worked. This morning, however, Blitt was quite sure that the shift had been cut short due to the unfortunate and unexpected arrival of a deadly assault team. Most important to Blitt was whether or not the assault team was still there. And then, of course, why the hell was there a need to send armed men to retrieve a giant god-damned box of candy and why he of all people had to get involved.
He knew the answer to the last one, at least. He was involved because he was the best at resolving these kind of situations, and he reassuringly maintained that thought as he began carefully stepping down the long corridor of shipping crates stretched out ahead of him. He was too aware of the near-silence in the place, broken only by the sound of his own footsteps against the concrete floor, and he gripped the pistol in both hands, as if expecting trouble to burst forth at any moment. He was rather sure, however, that any trouble was most likely either already gone or already dead. As he reached the end of the row of crates, he noticed the source of the only other sound in the building, the low persistent rumble of an abandoned forklift, still running. He approached carefully, leaned inside it and turned the ignition key to “off.” The silence was momentarily unnerving, but within it, he was able to hear another noise, shuffling to his immediate right.
Blitt raised the pistol ready, aimed at the stack of crates in that direction and called out, “either come out or shoot. I’m pretty sure I’ve a better chance of hitting you even though you’re hiding.” There was a moment’s hesitation before a husky, yet fear-stricken voice called out in response.
“All right, just don’t shoot. You can take whatever you want. I got kids, man.” A burly worker unfolded himself from in-between two crates, hands upright.
“Relax; I’m not going to hurt you. What happened here,” Blitt asked. He didn’t lower his gun.
“We’re just getting started working when we hear someone blastin’ a pistol up front. Manager runs out here to the floor and shouts for us to get the hell out, so everybody just ran for it. No heroes. Everybody got out except for me, I guess. Da fuck are you?”
Blitt ignored the man’s question and kept the pistol readied, aimed just a bit to the right of him. “Did you see who it was that came in?”
“Yeah, it was two fancy-dressed guys with some big merc carrying a plas rifle. Fuckers meant business. They hopped on a forklift, grabbed a crate and drove it right into some trailer-sled that pulled up outside that dock.” He pointed towards the large rolling steel door leading to the loading dock. “All that for one damn crate?” he shook his head.
Blitt lowered his weapon. “I’m sure there’ll be police here soon enough, just stick around. But for now I’ll go secure the place, even though I’m pretty sure they’re gone by now.” In his head, Blitt was second-guessing everything he had said except for the last part. They were gone alright, but the fact that police hadn’t already come meant that there was a good chance that when they finally did arrive they’d just be doing clean-up for some inside operation. And in that case Blitt should get himself going too. He did not want to get involved with either the police or a highly-connected organized crime syndicate. But, he still had to get hold of that shipment, which unfortunately meant he needed to stay a bit longer. He stepped up to the open warehouse door and peered out across a nearly empty lot, dotted here and there with parked trailer-sleds. Blitt turned to the worker behind him. “How do you track your packages?”
“There’s a holosite…” the man began.
“No, not how you do it. How’s it work? RFID, Satellink, quantum wave?”
Blitt was relieved as the puzzled man’s face lit up in recognition of the term ‘quantum wave.’ “Yeah, we got some mobile receivers in the manager’s office.”
Blitt was gone. He nodded to the man and shouted thanks as he ran off in the direction he had just came, hoping that he could still manage to be long gone before the police arrived.
After retrieving two quantum wave trackers from the warehouse front office, Blitt contacted Dan’s office. He just wanted to let him know he was alive, given his being sent off on a dangerous mission with absolutely no warning. He spoke loudly at Danathan’s image on his sled’s com screen.
“Yes, they took the whole shipping crate, Dan. They also shot up an entire office full of innocent people. By the way, I’m fine. Now what the fuck is this you have me after?”
Danathan grimaced the way he always did when things weren’t going exactly as he had planned them and said “just get it back. You’re a big boy. You know there can always be danger involved when I assign you a mission.”
“I’m not arguing that. Just, for crying out loud, CANDY? Look, if there are really nuclear weapons inside that crate, you can tell me, all right old friend?”
“Not quite. Get it here and I’ll tell you as much as I can. Promise.” He then terminated the connection.