Blitt’s Journey, part 9

Blitt rolled himself out of the hotel unit and slid his DynaCred card through the payment slot. The sun was a rapidly unrolling place mat on fire, spilling out over Starloft’s skyline and illuminating it against the Eastern horizon. Another benefit of small towns, thought Blitt, you can see the sky. He looked at his watch, yet another reminder that he didn’t have time to waste sky gazing. He had less than two days now to get every task that had weighed upon his mind last night completed.

Briggan was smart enough to know that Blitt wanted to come after both the candy shipment as well as Priscilla, so he definitely wouldn’t let them both be in the same location at the same time. Blitt needed to verify the candy shipment’s location first. He didn’t need to take it just yet, but having the details about its location firmly in mind was crucial to being able to execute both plans.

The first part of Blitt’s plan was to scout the location and determine how safe it would be to infiltrate. Knowing Briggan, it was bound to be as secure as possible, perhaps even impenetrable. As he headed in the direction of the tracking signal, Blitt called up the coordinates onto his contact lenses. A holographic representation of the location floated in front of him, almost lifelike. Hovering just inside the upper right corner of his vision however, were words, written in red:

“ERROR: Representation Data out of date. Most recent imaging data is from June 17th, 2035. Details may not accurately represent location’s current state.”

“Not surprising,” Blitt said to himself.

There was no doubt that Briggan had requested a holographic imaging data stop on the warehouse’s location. The image on file was nearly three years out of date. The warehouse was listed as Melbrook Importers. Fitting, Blitt reasoned, for an organized crime operation. “Importers” could mean just about anything, and probably did, so Blitt had to be very careful as he approached the location in a government-sanctioned sled.

He wondered if Dan had put any government-sanction toys on his sled. He pulled up the computer console again and requested a full system feature scan. There was a pause, three dots blinking on the screen as the scan completed, and then a full read-out of the vehicle’s internal systems.

“Power-train, No,” Blitt read aloud. “Stability and Suspension systems, no.” He kept going, reading line after line out loud and finding nothing of any offensive relevance.

“Dan’s got to have some firepower packed away somewhere on-board.” It wasn’t like the spy-master to go anywhere unprepared. Also, Blitt wanted to believe that there was a reason Dan had loaned him the vehicle.

He checked the glove compartment. It was refrigerated, he noted, and besides the government-issued documentation and licensing papers stacked neatly on the warm side, two cigars in humidity-controlled slots and a bottle of champagne chilling on the cold side, there was a military issue plasma pistol snugly holstered in the compartment door.

Blitt didn’t need it, though. He had his own pistol. He placed the heavy weapon back into the holster slot and noticed something that had been previously hidden underneath the weapon: the hair thin outline of a button, almost imperceptible to anyone less cautions than a highly trained field agent like Blitt.

Blitt pressed it with his thumb, immediately feeling stupid for activating what could easily have been a trap, panic button or any other such danger. But he was quickly relieved to hear some sort of mechanical activation occur within the glove box. The compartment door detached from its hinges, rose slightly and flipped over to reveal a terminal panel, its L.E.D. screen scrolling “- – WELCOME!! – -” across it as the sled’s computer began to speak.

“Defense mode activation request acknowledged. Please place your right thumb on the scanner and state your activation code.”

Blitt touched the scanner pad with the same thumb he used to activate the “Defense Mode,” but he didn’t have an activation code. He didn’t want to trigger a fail-safe shut-down procedure, so he remained silent, expecting the computer to just cancel Defense Mode and go back to normal after he removed his thumb from the scanner, but it began to speak again.

“Facial recognition, retinal, and thumb print patterns match one authorized field agent, Alpha-IP zero nine three, codename ‘Blitt.’ Please state activation code in order to continue in Defense Mode.

“Of course,” Blitt said.

“Code not reconi…” the computer responded. Blitt ignored it, continuing to think in his head this time. Of course Dan would make sure that I had everything I needed.

Should have seen it earlier, he realized.

Blitt activated Defense Mode with his standard passcode and was given a brief rundown of all the defense features of Danathan’s mag-sled as he approached his destination.

They were all completely adequate to infiltrating the warehouse of Melbrook Importers.

Blitt automatically figured that finding Priscilla Reid was going to be a much more eventful task than scouting Briggan’s fake warehouse. It was a much more dangerous task, both for the reasons that it was obviously a trap that Briggan had set for him, and that Priscilla still wanted to kill him regardless.

Still, he needed to get to Priscilla before he made an attempt to get the candy shipment. If he managed to get it before talking to Priscilla he’d lose her for good, possibly even putting her life in danger. Regardless of how Priscilla might feel about him, letting her be killed wasn’t an option for Blitt.

He had to figure out a way to find her within 24 hours and somehow convince her to come with him. He needed to speak with her, but he was certain that she was under constant surveillance by Briggan, which meant that trying to do so could jeopardize his efforts to steal back the shipment. Both tasks conflicted with each other, so his only hope of doing them both was to get a message to her that only she would understand and then hope that he could act quicker than Priscilla could ruin his plans, or in the best case, actually side with him and help to execute them.

Blitt had to think of ways to get through to her. He knew Priscilla well, perhaps better than anyone else, but nothing he thought of out of all his memories of her of resulted in giving him an idea that could currently be useful to him. So he put the past aside and thought about her as she currently was. Or at least how she seemed when he saw her at the sled-shop. She was the same old Priscilla, dressed sharply, made up, and stunning. She was the type that never left home for any reason without looking her best. Blitt figured she probably didn’t even get kidnapped without first checking herself out in a mirror.

And she was still a horrible shot, Blitt reflected.

She was just a woman caught up in things that she shouldn’t have to deal with, he reasoned. Her father’s world of crazy had finally blurred into her own and put her in danger’s way, so she learned to adapt in order to survive. In a way, she was very much like Blitt.

Adapting, apparently, hadn’t meant giving up the finer things in life, which meant that Priscilla was still being taken care of in the way she preferred, probably pampered and spoiled by most measures and most definitely by kidnapping standards, which made sense to Blitt, given the circumstances regarding that kidnapping. Briggan would want to one-up her father, make himself seem better than him in every way possible. It only made sense that he would give her a good measure of freedom in order to keep her strong-willed spirit in check, all the while actually holding it captive. That, coupled with Briggan’s own vanity and constant need to always appear in charge, gave Blitt the beginnings of a plan.

He needed to check all the fashionable places in town in order to find Priscilla, so he began searching The Holonet on the sleds computer, looking for exclusive upscale pampering locations that would appeal to a woman like her.

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Blitt’s Journey, part 8

The Mourningbird Cafe was the only place Priscilla felt comfortable anymore. She had been given full run of the place just 3 months after her kidnapping. Briggan had turned her defiant spirit into a tool for his organization by providing her with proof of her father’s involvement in her capture. He then further built upon the odd relationship by gradually instilling confidence in her, eventually handing over a bit of power within the organization to her, to further fuel the rebellious spirit she already possessed. Briggan put that spirit to good use, running a small part of his elaborate money laundering operation through the restaurant, and making small dents in Reid’s heavily concealed criminal activities.

Priscilla eventually proved to be as loyal to Briggan as any of his men. As soon as she learned the sordid details of how her father had actually arranged for her to be taken as a part of some scam he was involved in, she was compliant with Briggan’s offer to flip the script on him and aid her in revenge. Somehow revenge translated into taking over the small upscale restaurant, which was nice for her, but it left her with no imaginable explanation of how it could result in returning her father’s cruelty.

She began to silently question her loyalty two years after being softly conscripted into the gang. Her need for revenge was wearing off, and she began to long for parts of the life she had left behind, even though she knew that she could no longer return to them. The previous few months had been particularly difficult for her, as hopeless depression finally began to settle upon her.

Then Blitt showed up again. Priscilla discovered that he had been working with Danathan Dowells, and wanted to kick herself for not guessing it sooner. All of a sudden, she began to feel her criminal excitement returning to her. The fact that Blitt was still alive, and openly working alongside Danathan meant that he had probably bargained for his life somehow, she imagined, leaving her behind at the behest of her father, when he actually could have saved her. Priscilla’s plan for revenge came to include Blitt as well.

As she sat in the cafe, dimly lit by only the flickering flames of tea lights worn down to nubs, she thought about the events at the warehouse earlier that day. She had known that she would encounter Blitt again, but she hadn’t actually prepared herself for it. It wasn’t supposed to have gone the way that it did.

But she had shot at him. And she wished that she hadn’t missed. But now, alone and afraid for the first time since she’d settled into her new role, she also wanted him to be there with him. Knowing that he was still alive was not quite the same as actually having him there, and shooting at him was a feeling unlike anything she had ever felt before. She had really wanted to kill him, and she realized at that moment, hours later, that she didn’t understand where that feeling had come from, and that for some reason pulling the trigger of her old slugger and firing at Blitt seemed to take it away.

Suddenly, the restaurant felt like a strange place to be, absent the vitriol that drove her to tend to it every day for an ambiguous purpose. The candle lights cast strange shapes upon the walls as they eerily died one by one, releasing thin trails of smoke upwards towards the swirling fans fixed to the ceiling. In the mist-strewn darkness, Priscilla resumed hope that Blitt had come to rescue her. And if he hadn’t, then she was going to shoot at him again and do her best not to miss this time.

 

 

Adrenaline wash-out can be a bitch.

Blitt needed to rest, only for a few hours, to metabolize the adrenaline that his phys-packs had pumped into him earlier during the warehouse shootout. In such a way-side town, full of the rich and privileged, it was easy to book a hotel unit anonymously. He did so, checked thoroughly for any signs of intrusion or followers, and laid down to sleep.

When he interfaced the quantum scanner with the mag-sled’s computer, Blitt had also interfaced to it with his internal personal computer, so that he could always quickly track exactly where the package was with a moment’s thought. From there, he was able it to link to an alarm that would mentally notify him should the parcel’s location ever change, or be broken down into the individual items contained within it. Blitt was able to sleep without fear of losing track of it.

As he drifted off he became aware of the effects of the day’s events upon his body and mind. Perhaps, he thought, these new-found feelings were the result of the adrenaline, overworking his brain’s emotional response after suppressing it for the duration of the fight. Blitt had felt adrenal release before, but never while also experiencing so many other strange events. There where undoubtedly still traces of the chemical still pulsing through his system, so put his mind to work, thinking through his problems as he calmed himself to fully purge it.

Blitt focused his thoughts first on the Priscilla, shoveling all else away into an empty space he reserved in his mind for special things that were too important to push completely aside, but too ponderous to focus on for the moment. The moment, he estimated, was two days. He needed to be well on his way off the mainland, across water and into Mercaster by the next couple of days. Being able to locate Priscilla, convince her to actually come with him before she killed him, and get the both of them away from a group of professional killers, all while taking back a crucially important box of candy that they were determined hold on to, was a pretty tall task, but not impossible. Not for Blitt. He had done more impossible tasks before, and he refused to doubt himself now just because things had gotten a bit weird.

He needed to focus on one thing at a time, however, and the first thing was Priscilla. Fuck the candy for now, he thought, tired of thinking about how stupid it sounded. He would worry about that after he’d gotten his mind around what could have possibly gotten into Priscilla.

Danathan wouldn’t mind his putting the candy mission aside long enough to sort out the kidnapping. After all, the package was accounted for and was being tracked. Not to mention the involvement of Amsteel Reid, practically Dan’s arch-enemy. Blitt was sure that his scheme figured into the stolen candy shipment somehow, even if Dan wasn’t yet able or willing to reveal to him what it all meant. He had that sort of trust in him, as both an employer and now as a…  friend? Blitt wasn’t sure, but their recent interaction had led him to believe that perhaps in some distant way Danathan could be that to him.

As far as Priscilla went, however, Blitt didn’t need to even think about it. She hated him. As Dan had pointed out, she had tried to kill him, an act that was very much promised the last time he had spoken to her, but had not believed to be sincere.

You never know what a woman like her could be thinking about, he thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep in an unfamiliar bed.

Blitt’s Journey, Part 7

–     Two years prior     –

Priscilla Reid had spent her first week captive to Briggan in a converted wareunit. It was a tiny space with a bed, a small bookshelf, and a bio-drain. A food dispenser was bolted onto the wall next to the hatchdoor. For a converted storage unit, it was very fancy, the sort of cheap living space that was popular even among low-profile lifestyle enthusiasts who could actually afford a proper full-sized apartment. The fancier you could make your unit, the cooler you were to the lo-pro community. The holographic butler in Priscilla’s unit was a deliberately ostentatious touch that she figured had made some lo-pro’er smile like a devil whenever he got to show it off.

As fond of automation technology as she was, the amusement provided by the hologram quickly wore off. Priscilla had been locked inside the unit, completely sealed off with no interior hatch release. The environmentally controlled micro-mansion was the perfect prison for the daughter of a wealthy clothing magnate. The butler came around every 9 hours to remind her that she needed to eat, and suggested a variety of dehydrated capsule meals which were dispensed by a contraption set inside the wall of the unit. She finally tried one on her second day of capture. Just as she figured, it was a bland mash-up of vegetable extract. She swallowed it only to rid herself of the empty feeling in her stomach, which it sufficiently did. Nothing, however, could remove the hopeless feeling of loneliness and helplessness that set in once she realized that she would not have contact with other human beings for an extended period of time.

She had heard the horror stories of sensory-deprived kidnappings, most of them much worse than the one in which she found herself. They were convenient ways for criminal organizations to separate themselves from their crime while still collecting a ransom and ensuring that their victim did not die. In most stories, the victim was held in hallucinogenic sleep while their relatives were extorted for the ransom money. Priscilla thought her elaborate prison to be some sort of joke about her wealth. Well, her father’s wealth, anyhow.

“Do you desire entertainment” the butler asked her after she consumed the capsule meal.

She looked back at the hologram with surprise, and regarded its features, which were pretty shabby by comparison to technical capabilities at the time. “Who programmed this,” she murmured to herself, as she leaned back against the metal wall.

By day three Priscilla had given in and taken advantage of the butler’s offer of entertainment. Holographic card games and Chess, and even a replica flower garden for her to admire. Between the games and exploration of holographic environments, she momentarily forgot that she was being held captive. But brushing up against the cold metal walls of the ware-unit, and hearing the hollow ting! reverberate throughout the tiny room was enough to bring her back to reality.

On day 4 the holographic unit ran out of power and needed to be recharged. Only external power was provided to small units like the one she was kept in, and for that someone had to pay extra, so she reasoned that whoever had done this to her was unwilling to incur the additional charges.

Her dinners were no longer announced, and she forgot to eat. She wanted to play cards. She wanted to have companionship. Panic began to settle heavily upon her, and for the first time since she first awoke inside the unit, the metal walls seemed to crowd in upon her, and she wondered why she was there and how long she would remain. Someone obviously had something in mind for her, since they were keeping her alive. She figured that the hologram unit being given to her and then taken away was no more than a cruel joke.

She finally remembered to eat, after her stomach’s growling, accompanied by the empty pangs of hunger, broke the long silence. She put down her book, now her only source of entertainment, and began to operate the food dispenser.

“So, you’re finally eating,” a voice suddenly rang out. It scared Priscilla, and she flinched violently before suddenly realizing that she had probably been watched the entire time. Perhaps, the hologram butler was just a trick to lower her defenses, to make her behave.

“Let me out of here” She screamed.

It was a man’s voice, coming in thin and metallic through the tinny speakers set inside the ware unit’s walls. “Not yet. Our client hasn’t provided us with your ransom fee yet. He was instructed that your well being would depend on how willing he was to deposit credits into an account to pay for your care.”

“Do you mean my father,” She asked. “Are you talking about my father?”

“Who else is wealthy enough to matter and would be willing to cooperate with criminals” the voice said with an air of haughtiness.

“He’s plotting your death,” Priscilla spat back. “I can survive, and he knows that. Your precious ransom is being paid to the best mercenaries money can buy so they will come here and kill all of you.”

“We are the best mercenaries that money can buy, sweetheart,” came the reply. “And your father isn’t so keen on hiring the second best, either. Believe me, I checked.” After a pause to reinforce the helplessness of the situation, he continued: “If Daddy won’t pay, then I’m afraid that the relative comfort you’ve enjoyed so far will have to be dispensed with. We aren’t in the baby-sitting business, after all. This is a kidnapping.”

There was a discernible click as he finished speaking, and Priscilla wanted to remain strong and not cry, not show any fear, but she couldn’t. She knew how her father was, and the suggestion that he wasn’t paying for her care was quite likely the horrible truth. His refusal to pay her ransom reinforced what she had known her entire life, that her father simply didn’t care about her. Were it not true, her captives – whoever they were – wouldn’t have bothered using it to manipulate her. She felt, for the first time, completely hopeless and she lay lifelessly on the bed and wept for hours.

During the next three days, she kept trying to get the man to speak with her again. The dull silence was twice as unbearable as the loneliness. Just as she felt to be at her breaking point, she heard a loud mechanical movement at the ware unit’s hatch-door. She shrank back upon the bed, folding into a corner as the door began to open, revealing an old man, dressed in a black suit and tie wearing white gloves and a gray bowler hat. He stood with two men at either side of him, one with a pistol and another brandishing a pair of plas-cuffs and a handkerchief.

“Time’s up,” said the old man. “You are free.” His voice wasn’t nearly as threatening as it had been coming through the ware unit’s tiny sound system.

Priscilla was shocked, she didn’t understand, believing the men to be hallucinations, either imagined or holographic. When the pistol-wielding man entered the unit and tightly grabbed her by the wrist, however, she knew that it was real. What she wasn’t certain of, though, was whether or not what the man said was real. “Why are you letting me go,” she inquired.

The man chuckled coldly. “What a question for a freed prisoner to ask. Your father never paid to get you back. It’s as if he doesn’t care about you.” He entered the room also. His dress shoes made clicky footsteps that reverberated off the metal walls. “But what concerns me more than your father’s parental neglect is the fact that he tried to manipulate me. Which is why I’ve decided to let you go. If you want to that is,” the man added, as if it were a completely normal thing to follow-up with.

“Of course I want to go,” she began to say.

“Or,” the old man interrupted, “you could come with me, and see the place your father suggested you be held captive. I chose this place, and I think you’ll find it to be far more accommodating than what he had in mind.”

He folded his hands in front of his chest and nodded to the man who still held her by the wrist. The large man lifted her, somehow guided her feet to move even though they were not willing, and got her to the doorway. The other man, holding the cuffs took a single step in front of them to block off the exit as the old man spoke to her again from behind.

“You can wear the cuffs and be driven back home tied down in a lift sled, or you can ride with me, unfettered, in my limousine and discuss plans for getting revenge. Your choice.”

He brushed past her and both of his men, and walked out of the unit. Priscilla watched him disappear around the corner as she slowly dropped her hands down by her sides and reluctantly began to follow him, suddenly filled with rage against her father.