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.

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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.

Blitt’s Journey, Part 6

Tracking an object using quantum wave entanglement is really simple. Especially if you have a tracking receiver that is attuned to the signal being emitted by whatever you’re tracking. In this case, the signal was a very special package of candies being transported by a most wanted crime lord and his newly kidnapped girlfriend.

Blitt tracked the signal, a blip of white pixels conspicuously isolated from the other group of pixels left behind at the warehouse. Thanks to the tracking receiver, he knew exactly where, Priscilla, Briggan and the package were at.

Danathan’s mag-sled was much faster than Blitt’s, and he was glad to have taken it. It glided along at supersonic speed on the lonely stretch of frictionless government-only highway. Blitt looked over at Priscilla’s slipper and the mask Danathan had given him, resting on the leather passenger seat and thought about the encounter with Danathan. It was the first time Dan had ever been to Blitt’s home, the first time they had even been together outside of a mission or official business. It was definitely the first time Dan had ever showed anything even approaching compassion, something Blitt had figured the old desk agent incapable of.

He put aside thoughts about his boss and flipped the steering wheel up and out the way, tucked inside the dashboard receptacle. Behind it was a video touch-panel displaying information about the trip in progress. Blitt had already coupled the quantum wave tracker with the guidance system onboard Danathan’s sled, revealing the destination to be a coastal region just outside the city, home to many wealthy and famous people.

“How the hell could he have been hiding there?” Blitt asked himself aloud. “The one percent must be pretty tight.” He closed the navigation window and pulled up a different program, a terminal screen that dumped out lines of green text in neat waves.

He mentally interfaced the onboard computer with the mask in the seat beside him and it began to glow with a soft blue aura, indicating it had been successfully turned on and connected. Blitt looked over the lime green lines of code that sprawled down the screen, quickly discerning what each one meant, and marking those that he decided were the least bit ambiguous. By the end of the data dump, he had some 300 lines set aside for close analysis.

It wasn’t that Blitt did not trust Danathan. His line of work would be impossible without the trust shared between them. But Blitt was first of all overly cautious, and secondly, curious as to whether Danathan had intentionally hidden some functionality within the otherwise mundane device. Although highly useful, Tek-masks weren’t exactly cutting edge technology, so Blitt was uncertain whether or not he was overlooking yet another of his employer’s paranoid failsafe that he might want to know about.

There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary within the mask’s code, so Blitt closed the output terminal screen. Then he called up the mask’s visual interface and browsed through a selection of possible disguises and chose one at random. The mask suddenly sprang to life, transforming the dull, dark grey material into a highly-realistic representation of human skin, awash with pinkish ruddy color and vein patterns.

“Neat,” said Blitt in response. He scrolled through the menu interface a bit more, and selected another option:  “Randomize Identity.”

This time the transformation was less dramatic. The nose, cheekbones and jaw structure melted slightly and formed into a different face, completely unrecognizable from the previous one.

“That’s really cool,” he said before turning the toy off, forcing it to form once more into the rubbery grey mask. “Too bad no one would ever buy a complete stranger showing up out of nowhere the same day you make a big score,” he realized.

Blitt also realized as he spoke to himself that Danathan had probably thought the very same thing, and that whatever reason he decided to give the mask to him was unaffected by those thoughts. Awesome tools are no substitute for an awesome mind, he had always said, and Danathan’s gift of the mask was, to Blitt, almost like a subtle restatement of the adage.

The sled reached the destination that Blitt had programmed into its autopilot, a cliff overlooking the ocean-side town, about a mile from the package’s location shown on the tracker. The view of the blue sea next to rows of opulent mansions was enthralling. Blitt reluctantly turned his attention away from it and grabbed up the mask from the passenger seat. As he folded it neatly and placed it into his jacket pocket, he took one last look at the ballerina slipper, resting in the seat next to him as a reminder of the job he had to do.

Blitt’s Journey, part 2

Tracking an object using quantum wave entanglement is either really simple or universally impossible. It’s really simple if you have a tracking receiver that is attuned to the signal being emitted by whatever you’re tracking. It’s extremely – no it’s impossibly hard to track anything without the use of such a device, or by using one that isn’t attuned to that exact tracking signal. In this case, Blitt was lucky in that there was only one package en route from that ill-fated warehouse this early in the morning and that there was no chance of another package leaving the same depot any time soon. The fact that every item within the shipping crate was tagged and Blitt had no way of knowing which signal was the one he was after was irreverent so long as the crate stayed on the truck. He only had to watch the glob of packages moving about on his tracker’s screen in order to determine the exact location of them all.

It was moving up the District Main Expressway. Blitt decided to simply watch it and see where the lift-sled exited. Perhaps the absolute BEST feature of quantum tracking tags was the ability to track from anywhere within the known universe.

Blitt decided that if he was going to steal back a shipment of – *sigh* – candy from a gun-toting gang who wanted whatever it for who-knew-what purpose, then he’d better be prepared. He drove his mag sled to his apartment to pick up some of the gear that he neglected to bring with him on what was supposed to be a simple candy fetch mission. First, his highly-modified plasma pistol, which he didn’t carry often due to its illegal status.  It was a gray area, but if he ever got into trouble with the law he’d prefer to not have that little issue hanging over him on top of whatever he’d gotten himself into in the first place. Not to mention the fact that the modified blaster wasn’t nearly as reliable as the much smaller and less powerful factory stock one he normally, stowed safely away in the glove-box of the mag-sled.

Second, was what looked like a large, silver-metallic sheet of micro-thin cellophane. This device, currently folded up into a neat square, unfolded into a large 10 x 10 sheet which when activated would cling snugly to the body and display a projected image that could be used as a disguise visual, tracking beacon, or whatever the wearer had programmed. Of course, Blitt had personally modified his body sheet to react to tiny electro-static fibers woven into his clothing so that it clinged to them seamlessly. He mentally activated the sheet and it sprang upward from his hands, unfolding into a large silver blanket as it stuck to him like a thin layer of soap.

His desired effect was anonymity, and the body sheet would provide that and more. Although capable of rendering him in any of one of a thousand outfits, Blitt didn’t care which one he used and randomly picked casual street attire as he hopped back into his mag-lev and sped in the direction of the tracker.

They had exited with the package on Crest Street. Blitt  trailed behind by more than eight miles, but since he was in a light and fast single-passenger sled the distance quickly closed. By the time he’d reached the exit, the big trailor-sled had come to a halt. Blitt zoomed in on the location. It was a garage. One of the shady places the local teenagers took their sleds to have stolen parts mounted and firmware serial numbers re-written.

Blitt didn’t want to drive up to the place and draw a lot of attention to himself, so he left the sled levitating down the street a way, near a row of office buildings. He footed the rest, thrusting the custom pistol into his shoulder holster and the smaller unmodified one into his waistband at the small of his back. He then mentally activated a body sheet program that camouflaged him against his surroundings. It wouldn’t fool anyone who was directly observing him, but it was the ideal thing for approaching a guarded location without being noticed. Still, Blitt kept low and clung to the nearby buildings for cover. The body sheet wouldn’t protect him from plasma fire as long he ran this particular program and he didn’t want to push his luck. It definitely wouldn’t protect him from bullets, if they were nasty enough to have some of the heavy fire mixed into their arsenal.

The garage was a row of three spaces on either side of the building. The metal doors on all the spaces visible to Blitt were closed, and he would bet that the ones on the other side were too. Outside there were a couple older model sports sleds, half taken apart, the now-abandoned dream visions of some maniac mechanic. Although the place was scattered with various sled parts it still managed to remain somewhat tidy by most chop shop garage standards. There were no signs of guards, or any other people. From his position, Blitt couldn’t even see the trailor-sled that was supposedly parked here. He reasoned, however, that it must be parked on the other side of the building and cursed himself for choosing this approach without checking the place out first. Note-to-self, Blitt thought, let’s see if Danathan will spring for an auto body sheet for any future mobile recon missions he may want to trick me into.

As he rounded the corner of the shop, being sure to stay low and close to the building so as to remain in the dark shadows, he wished he was under the protective shell of a mag-sled chassis. As he came round, however, the thought faded, and the lift-sled came into view. There were men unloading their spoil from it. One of them was guiding the forklift down the narrow, makeshift ramp that was leaned up against the trailor-sled bed while another, dressed in a smart gray suit, directed him cleanly off the lift-sled with hand signals. A third was unmistakably the thug toting the plas-rifle, which he still shouldered in a menacing manner, casually looking about, as if just waiting for something to jump out of the shadows so he could shoot it. Blitt wasn’t about to jump out and get shot. Not just yet.

He didn’t have a plan. Other than somehow obtaining the shipment, which would be considerably harder now that it had been unloaded from the trailor-sled, Blitt had not given much thought to how his re-commandeering of the cargo should take place. He was, however, certain that he had not been noticed since he hadn’t had to dodge a laser blast, which was as much as he could ask for at the moment.

He gripped his pistol and watched the forklift wiggle its way down the ramp. He thought about just popping off a few shots just to see if he could take out the rifleman. Then he might be able to hold the other two off from drawing their weapons while ordering the forklift driver to load the package back on the lift-sled. Given the situation, and the fact that his body suit camo just might grant him a few crucial seconds of cover, Blitt thought it was a decent plan. The gang was clearly willing to kill in order to get whatever was inside it, but they’d have to be crazy to strap off point-blank against a guy carrying a mod blaster and wearing ‘flect armor. Unless they had bullets. Blitt was rather sure they didn’t, but what he couldn’t be remotely sure of was whether or not there was only three of them, or if there were more armed persons inside the building.

As the thought occurred to him, something caught his attention that made him raise his weapon again. It was a sound, the sound of one of the garage doors opening up, meaning that there was a fourth person inside, possibly more.  Shit, he thought as he pressed his back to the wall of the building. He peeked around the corner again. There was a woman, not the normal sort that ran with criminal scum, but some leggy goddess who carried every bit the untouchable air that her male associates did. She was dressed smartly in a short grey skirt and flowing green blouse that snapped about like a flag in the crisp morning wind. An older man had come out of the garage with her. He looked to be at least 50, wore glasses, a dark blue designer suit and a funny brown hat.

The man looked clearly pleased to see the shipment and clasped his hands together as he inspected it upon the forklift. He then escorted the driver into the opened garage with a sweep of his gloved hand and the entire group followed it inside. The garage door closed.

I should have brought more firepower, thought Blitt.

Blitt’s Journey, part 1

“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.