Crop Circles

Science Fiction Ramblings


Leave a comment

My Hover Craft is Full of Eels: Part Four

Happy Thanksgiving!  In this segment, my characters devise and begin to execute their break-in plan.  I think I’ve been watching too much Arkham Origins. No capes, but a few too many grapnels.  Anyone know a synonym for grapnel?

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Blondie proved to be a big disappointment. She gave him a call and continued her fan-girl act by asking a ton of inane questions about the sport. It turned out that Blondie loved to talk about driving, but had no interest in the eXime fabrication process.   Persephone asked him if he knew anyone who worked at the plant. He laughed and said that he was friends with a guy who took out their trash. “You mean their janitor?” Persephone jumped on that statement a little too quickly and had to backpedal to keep her cover up. “I mean it sounds like a good job, steady. Not sexy like racing though.” She eventually fabricated a story that she had a girl friend in the shanty town who was looking for a guy with a steady job.   “Maybe the four of us could go out for drinks. I mean if this friend of yours isn’t a jerk.” She got a date and a time set up.

Poor Blondie, Persephone always felt a little sorry for the dumb ones. He and his friend waited for a full hour in bar but the promised date night never materialized. Of course Persephone was there just staying out of sight at a back table.  Blondie’s buddy was tall, square, had big shoulders and a bushy beard. In short, he looked like he came from a long line of algae farmers, all the way to the plaid flannel shirt he was wearing. Hardly a suitable match for Persephone’s friend, even a fictitious one. She got a few good pics of the janitor and used them to get a name and a home address for the guy.

She spent the next day putting a little research into Mr. Adam’s schedule and planning how she could use him to break in. Janitors were a fantastic resource for people like her. No one paid much attention to them and they usually had key card to all sorts of places that a normal worker drone wouldn’t. After all, even the boss needed to have his trash taken out. All she would probably need to do was break into his apartment and liberate a uniform and his access card

Than there was the job itself to consider.   She needed to know everything she could find out about the eXime complex. The yellow pages had them listed at 6580 Hollocene Rd, right at the fringe of the old city platform. Their compound was protected by a glassine-link fence with scanner access through a gate flanked by two surveillance towers. Not a typical ornament for a relatively minor engineering company, but then not entirely out of place considering the tech-grabbing mentality of the colony citizenry. That was pretty much all she could determine from the outside. She called in a favor from one of her computer-minded contacts and the girl was able to dig up some construction schematics that gave her the general layout of the interior. That didn’t help her much with security though. Guard towers on the outside implied something nastier on the inside. She hoped her janitor had high level access.

He did have a convenient schedule, being on the night shift at least. He worked four tens and then had three days off. He had a day off coming up tomorrow. She phoned Arch with the plan. “His pattern is to go out for dinner at eight. I’m going to break into his apartment to get the access card. That means I’m going into the eXime complex tonight. No reason to give the guy time to discover that his card is gone. He probably won’t notice that it’s missing until he needs to go back to work. Hell. I might even put it back.”

“I’m coming with you,” Arch said.

Persephone hadn’t expected that.

“You might run into some piece of tech and not realize it’s important.”

She bristled. “I photograph everything, whether I recognize it’s important or not. You and your father can browse through the footage at you leisure. And anyway, I only planned on needing one access card.”

“I look more like the janitor. You’d be swimming in that guy’s uniform.”

Other than black hair, the resemblance was minimal. Arch looked nothing like an algae farmer. Too bad for the algae. “I might be able to get away without a disguise. Though they do have a live security feed.  Someone walking in iwearing a hoodie might raise some eyebrows..

“Wear whatever you want. Personally, I vote for that latex number you were wearing when we set up this job. Regardless, I’m still coming. I can be the get away driver.”

“You’re not paying me to come back with one of their craft, so why would I need an H-car driver?. I’m just taking photographs of their construction process and any files I’m able to find. I’ll be fine. Done this a million times.”

Arch’s face lit up the mention of stealing an H-craft, but he shrugged. “You know what I mean. I’ll wait outside with my tread car. Still think I should go in with you.”

“Is there any reason that every man I meet turns out to be an idiot?”

Arch glowered at her.   “What happened to the customer always being right? I mean we are paying you a lot for this”. His look might have been ferocious, but frowning just made a cute little crease in his forehead. Persephone had to resist the temptation to say “Awww.”

“You’re just an adrenaline junky. I’m a professional.”

The conversation went back and forth like that for another minute before Persephone threw her hands in the air and said, “Fine.   You can drive the fucking car. Driving is your life, blah-blah-blah.”

“And you will video stream everything you see to me in the car. If I tell you to grab something, you grab it. If I tell you to get out, you get out.

“If I knew you were going to micromanage, I would have asked for more money,” Perephone mumbled.

Three hours later, Persephone lowered herself to the window ledge outside Mr. Adam’s apartment while Arch waited in the alley with his tread car. H-craft weren’t practical in confined spaces and most people couldn’t afford one. The average colonist relied on either a mini-tread or a balloon cycle, so called for their ridged balloon like tires that allowed them to navigate through sludge. Arch, being the wealthy play boy son, had a luxury tread car. In the colony luxury meant a four cylinder ethanol engine and upolstery on the seats. It could probably out-pace the average Jasperite renta-cop. Maybe. Although the organization had recently enhanced their entry requirements, including a clause requiring staff to run at least a thirteen minute mile.

It was perfect night, low cloud cover, torrential rain. Persephone had on her latex outfit complete with gloves and a close fitting hood. It was a practical decision that had nothing to do with Arch’s opinion. The thing shed water like an oil slick and didn’t inhibit her movements. She had her gear belt with her as well. Grapnels, rope, a towel, glue, flash light, mini cams, tracking chips, and one of those fancy EMP devices that Arch had used on her. She’d mounted a low-light video cam into her goggles and as requested was running a video feed back to Arch. She didn’t expect much chatter from him while she was breaking into the janitor’s apartment.

Despite the rain, the guy had left home right on schedule and was now on route to restaurant he went to every time he had a day off.   The place was called the Algae Bloom and it served up a selection of locally sourced products marketed by exBioform. Thing like scenedesmus broth, and filet of silt worm. Apparently the guy must buy into the company hype. Or he’d simply developed a taste for the stuff by eating it every day in the company cafeteria.

She cut a small circle of glass from the window, then reached in and popped the latch. She detached her grapnel line, squirmed through the narrow opening, and dropped quietly to the floor. She dried herself with the towel and mopped the rain off the tiles. The window had let her into the kitchen, room one of a three room apartment so it didn’t take her long to toss the place. The guy’s access card was still clipped onto his uniform which had been stuffed into his laundry hamper. It had been a bit of a pain to find. She’d assumed the guy had unclipped it before shedding his uniform and had searched the desk and counter space before zeroing in on the hamper. The ID card looked like it might have gone through the wash a couple of times. She chided herself for not noticing that during her surveillance of the guy. Could have saved herself a few seconds of searching. She grabbed the card, uniform, and company hat and strode back to the kitchen. On her way out, she wiped down the sill and used a tube of clear adhesive to cement the piece of glass back into the window.

She fired another grapnel and dropped into the alley next to Arch’s car. The guy had the door open already. She slipped in and Arch put the car in gear even before she gave him a thumbs up.

She shrugged into the rumpled eXime jump suit. Arch was right. It was big on her. She rolled and pinned the sleeves and the pant legs, but it still felt like a sack.   She hoped she wouldn’t need to do much climbing.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Something to Read

I’m interrupting my NaNo postings in order to promote a charity writing project that I was involved in.  Stella Wilkinson is an author of young adult and paranormal romance novels and the editor of a series of short story anthologies (“Something to Take on the Trip”, “Something to Read on the Ride”, and “Something for the Journey”).  Proceeds from the sale of these anthologies go to support Wallace and Grommit’s Grand Appeal (http://www.grandappeal.org.uk/)  a fund drive benefiting Bristol Children’s Hospital.  All 100 stories will be released in an omnibus addition this Thanksgiving.  The stories cross all genres and each is short enough to be consumed (along with your morning coffee) during a commute.  We hope they replace that jelly donut that you know you shouldn’t be eating.  And to tempt the sci fi fans, there are stories from David Gerrold (author of “The Trouble with Tribbles”) and Kevin J. Anderson (co-author of the Dune prequels).  It’s an odd feeling to have a story in a collection like this.  Almost like rubbing shoulders with a Sleestak….

Note:  I apologize for the 100% eel-free nature of this post.


Leave a comment

My Hover Craft is Full of Eels: Part Three

For most of the year, I feel like I’m writing in a vacuum.  Kind of like my head is sealed inside of a mason jar.  During National Novel Writing Month, the lid gets unscrewed and I discover all sorts of helpful links through the NaNo website (http://nanowrimo.org/).  Of course these resources are available year round, but for some reason, I don’t look.  This year the site has pep talks from authors that I adore (like Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher) and links to more writing resources.  For instance, I learned that Sanderson (squee!) has a podcast (squee!) called Writing Excuses where authors discuss writing techniques.  This podcast spawned a book called “Shadows Beneath” where four authors describe the writing and editing process for four short stories .  First drafts are provided and all changes are illustrated.  I’m in love.  This is what I wanted to try for on this blog.  Didn’t realize there was a pro version out there.  That’s the side effect of writing with your head in a mason jar…..

And oh yeah.  Here are some actual hover craft.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************
She was surprised to find that racing was exciting, of course it didn’t hurt to have Arch with her on her first trip to the track. H-craft racing was conducted on the sand flats outside of city limits.   Courses were dredged out by shovel trucks and the machines were supposed to keep confined to the trenches. Although some of the better drivers would risk revving their crafts up and over the banks in an effort to cut off a loop of the course. It was this kind of maneuver that had led to Arch’s accident.

“The eXime were on my tail. I needed to cut some time so I took the risk. Crafts tip though if a baffle catches a sand bar. I went ass over ears and my H-craft came down on me. Broke a few bones. Knocked myself out.” He said it like he’d enjoyed every bit of it, broken bones included. Persephone was starting to like the guy. He was uninhibited, whooping and yelling like the rest of the yokels and then stopping to describe the physics behind the chassis designs in terms worthy of a college professor. He was totally in his element, completely unlike the over the top way he’d presented himself at their first meeting.

Persephone found herself getting drawn into the race. It was a good day for it. The air full of mist instead of outright rain. There was even a bit of a yellowish smudge in the cloud cover marking where the sun was. The H-craft screamed around the course, throwing up gouts of sand tinged with the yellow, green and purple algae strains that proliferated in this zone. She found herself rooting for Albion. Arch assured they had the best drivers, but the eXime craft won 3 out of the five planned races. Their eXime racers had sleek, black glassine chasis and the usual blue ethanol flame engines. But they had no baffles. They also ran quieter than the other craft. No fan noise, just the soft swoosh from their rear facing engine plumes.

“Huh. Couldn’t they just have a more efficient fan assembly?”

Arch whispered back, leaning in again so that his husky voice tickled her ear. “Possible. Why don’t you head down to the pits and see if you can get a closer look?”

Persesphone swallowed. She was beginning to get an idea why the guy got to screw anything that moved. Smart, good looking, self-absorbed and a voice that made the most mundane statement sound like an invitation. She reminded herself not to get hung up on a client.“Gawking might be kind of obvious don’t you think?”

“You are a spy aren’t you?” Arch said archly.

That did it. Nobody questioned her credentials. When the race was over she jumped up and pushed her way down the bleachers. Drivers were signing autographs. She had her program ready and put on her best imitation of a racing fan-girl face as she edged up to the eXime pit. Three of the five eXime drivers were out basking in the attention. She aimed for the youngest, a bonde dude with the eXime logo tattooed on his forearm.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!” she squealed. “I’m your number one fan.”

The guy gave her a tolerant smile and reached for her program.

She didn’t pass it over. “Umm…I was wondering if maybe. You know. You could sign this.” She waved at her neckline.

The driver looked surprised, but shrugged and beckoned her to lean over. The pits were situated below the bleachers and she had to angle her torso over the top of a four foot dividing fence.

She made a show of trying to get close enough. Giggling and pouting and pretending like she just couldn’t get enough of herself over the fence. She started climbing and leaned over more, than circling her arms dramatically she orchestrated a clumsy looking belly flop into the muddy pit.

“Oh my god! I’m so clumsy. I’m so sorry.” She brushed at the guys pants where her fall had spayed some mud. It didn’t make much of a difference since the guy’s racing uniform was already uniformly coated in grey and green slime.

“Yeesh, Lady.” The driver backed up a step to avoid her groping. “Umm. You still want that signature?” He looked embarrassed but also kind of intrigued. She’d picked a good mark. A guy who would have a tough time resisting a crazy female fan who looked good on her knees.

“Can I touch it?” Persephone said with what she hoped was the right amount of reverence,

“Say what?” Then the guy noticed that Persephone wasn’t looking at his crotch.   She was staring at the nearest H-craft. “Oh. Uh. That.” The guy looked completely flustered now. “That one’s not mine.”

Persephone jumped up and walked towards the craft.

“You really shouldn’t be….I mean lady…watch out for the exhaust ports they may still be hot,” he finished lamely.

The craft wasn’t running and therefore it wasn’t suspended. That was unfortunate since she was hoping for a glimpse at the underside. It was a nice, glossy black composite, covered in the usual sponsor’s logos including the four pointed star of the New Regime. Interesting, but nothing Arch hadn’t already told her. She skimmed her fingers over the logos on her way to the front. The thing’s prow was odd, bulbous, not at all streamlined. From above the craft would look a bit like an ant crawling in reverse. The driver’s compartment was the tiny bubble-like head and the prow the thing’s abdomen. The engine must be in the front. Her fingers could feel a seam indicating where there was a hood you could pop for maintenance.

That was as much as she was able to get before the driver grabbed her and pulled her back.

“I’m gonna sign that program and you’re gonna leave now, honey.”

Persephone ignored him, her attention fixed on the craft. Right before she’d been grabbed, she’d heard a distinct sloshing sound coming from under the hood and her fingers had picked up a vibration. Something had moved under there.

Then the Jasperite security force arrived to hustle her out of the pit. The driver smiled ruefully at her and handed her the signed program. “Take it easy,” he told the rent-a-cops. “She’s my biggest fan.” He smiled at Persephone, wrote in her program and pressed it back into her hands. The cops dumped her outside the stadium. Thirty seconds later, her com rang.

“That was an interesting performance.” It was Arch. He sounded pissed

“Relax. I may have gotten something useful.”

“What?” He still sounded put out.

“A name and a phone number to start with.” Persephone grinned at her program.

He was still pissed when he picked her up. “I told you their driver’s are nobodies. That guy won’t know shit.”

“Contacts are everything in this business. Blondie may not know shit, but he may know somebody who knows somebody who knows shit.”

Arch just shook his head. “We’re the only company with a cross over between the driving and engineering teams. Most of these guys can’t tell a fuel relay from an exhaust line.”

That got Persephone thinking about the eXime craft again. “Water,” she said.

“What?”

“I was standing next to that H-craft and it sloshed. Could be a cooling pump, or maybe…Didn’t Old Sol split water for hydrogen.” They used it for fusion to propel their ships. “eXime probably just found a way to do that without a massive input of electricity.” Being metal poor meant that generating and storing electricity was a major problem for the colony.

Arch frowned but it was a thoughtful look. She was pleased to see that tossing out a new theory had distracted him from their argument over the driver. “There’s a gap there, though. Free hydrogen was a fuel source. The original colony ships generated energy using fusion. Why would they still need the ethanol jets then? And what’s keeping the things in the air? Additional jets on the bottom?”

“Just because they run quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have a fan.”

“They don’t have baffles. It can’t just be an air cushion.”

“I’ll just add that to the list of questions to ask Blondie.”


Leave a comment

My Hover Craft is Full of Eels: Part Two

So far, the story is 16277 words long.  This means I’m behind in the NaNoWriMo word count.  Working nine days straight will do that. Regardless, I’m pretty psyched by this story. It’s my first foray into science fiction world building.  When I wrote the scene at the ruined space port, I had no idea what the rest of the world was like.  I had a vivid image in my mind of rusting gantries and warehouses, but I didn’t realize that the space port was part of a city.  I also didn’t realize that the city was surrounded by mud, a whole world of liquid mud and endless rain.  This, however, means that there’s a glaring problem with Part One.  A world this cloudy wouldn’t have much moonlight  A shame really since I liked the idea of a moon named ‘Cujo’.  No worries though.  ‘Cujo’ will reappear at some point.  Maybe when they manage to get off world…..

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************The The foursome arrived at the door; the goon on point striding through and swinging the muzzle of the slug thrower in a slow arc to cover the room.

“Persephone,” it was a man in the floppy hat, then, ‘We noted the camera system on the roof. We assume the inside is similarly monitored. We appreciate your caution, but the nature of our negotiations do require some privacy. Just a very little. I do apologize for damaging your equipment.”

There was a click, a sizzle and then the five cameras that Persephone had placed around the periphery of the room exploded. Persephone stopped grinning. She was pissed, but not angry enough to jump out of cover yet.

“That’s better. Now are you ready to hear our proposal?”

“I guess. That guy with the gun can step out.”

“But if you happen to be armed, yourself?”

“Guns are bad for business. Didn’t you guys ready my holo-ad? Discrete services. No shootings, stabbings, lacerations or contusions.”

“Yes. Yes. A charming sentiment and a brilliant ad campaign, but how much faith should we put in advertisements?”

“Turn your weapon sniffers on me. I assume you have them.” Persephone stepped out from behind a stack of empty barrels. She was wearing black latex so tight that it wouldn’t take a chemical sniffer to rule out the fact that she was unarmed. There simply wasn’t anywhere to hide anything. She liked to present herself in a professional way. It kept the opposition distracted.

The goons goggled, but the guy in the coat just sighed.

“Earnesto, please scan the lady and then leave.”

The guy slung the gun and took out a chemical sensor wand. He screened Persephone from a distance, nodded to his boss and stepped outside. Persephone resisted the temptation to set off the laser mine under him. It would ruin her ad campaign.

“So what’s this job you have?”

“Are you familiar with H-craft racing, Ms. Persephone?”

Persephone knew what it was, but didn’t really have much interest. It was a popular sport on the colony world. Engineering firms competed with each other to design and race the fastest hover craft. The government sanctioned the sport and even footed some of the prize money. It was the only legal gambling outlet on the colony. Though there were rumors that more money could be made by rigged matches or under the table speculation. Persephone found it boring. Just the mention of it and her interest in the job waned a bit. She was hoping for some kind of juicy political deal. Instead she’d come all the way out here and wasted five perfectly good cameras just to listen to some mob goon pitch her a rigged gambling scheme.

“Stupid sport,” she said.  “Keeps the local red necks busy.”

“Actually, Its sponsors include some of the wealthiest and best engineering and scientific minds on the colony. More new tech comes out of H-craft racing than any other industry.”

“That just tells you what a sorry state the colony is in. The Stellar Ark took the last of the space capable ships and left us planet-bound. We don’t have the Old Sol engineering records and can’t remake any of the craft that got us here. Instead, Dete Fleet, Albion and the other manufacturers waste their effort on H-craft. Toys for rich playboys if you ask me.”

“Is it red necks or rich playboys? Can’t be both.”

“Playboys drive them while the red necks watch.“

The man doffed his hat revealing a face that Persephone found vaguely familiar. Black hair, brown eyes, a square chin and a thick-lipped mouth twisted into a rueful grimace.   “I drive for Albion. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Do you still want to know the job?”

Persephone clapped her hand over her mouth. This wasn’t just some playboy pilot, this was THE playboy pilot. Archimedes Albion, the second son of Paul and Eva Albion and something of a black sheep in the family. His older brother and sister had gone into the engineering end of the business while Archimedes had a penchant for drinking, driving and screwing anything that moved. Or at least that’s what the tabloids said. His personal life aside, the man knew how to navigate an H-craft. Won the New Regime pennant three cycles in a row. That was why Persephone had recognized him. The man’s face was plastered across nearly every t-shirt in the colony. And that was even considering the fact that the man had been sitting the bench for the past half annum. Had a spectacular wipeout in the Cujo 10 K and had been out of the spotlight since.

“You’re looking well Mr. Albion,” Persephone said. “All things considered.”

“Mr. Albion is my father. You can call me Arch. Or double ‘A’ if you like.”

“Like the battery?”

“A sexy woman who knows her history books, “ Arch’s smile was a lot warmer now, a little on the smoldering side. “I have been told that I have a lot of energy.”

“Good for you.   Now what’s the job, and while you’re at it you can tell me what’s up with the trench coat and hat.   You don’t strike me as the noir type.”

“I am a celebrity,” the man shrugged.

“And?”

“People recognize me. The press follows me.”

“And you’re hiring me to do something illegal?”

“We prefer the term ‘unethical’, but the government might quibble with that label. Is this likely to tax your delicate sensibilities?”

Persephone snorted. “Just tell me what it is and how much you’re willing to pay. Then double it. I’ll need the cash to salve my conscience”

“Albion would like to hire you for some industrial piracy. We want you to infiltrate the eXime engineering firm and find the blueprints for their latest H-craft design.”

“Who’s eXime?” The name had never made the news.

“We’re not entirely sure. It seems to be a wing of the eXBioform engineering firm, but there are rumors that they have government backers. They fronted their first craft in the last Regency Cup. Didn’t win it, but came damn near close. After that, they’ve won every single match, all without any driving talent at all. It’s their tech.” Doube A lowered his voice and leaned in to whisper, “Genuine antigravity. Have no idea how they did it.”

“Seriously?. Not even Old Sol had that.” Persephone shook her head “No. Not possible. And why would anyone waste that type of tech on H-craft?”

“You might understand if you drove one.” Arch gave her an appraising look. “You should try it. Or at least come to a race with me. Consider it research.”

“Hey. I didn’t say I was going to take the job. What’s the pay?”

“A million credits” The sum sounded particularly appealing when delivered in Arch’s husky voice. Hell, it would have been appealing in any voice. She could retire on that sum.

“So much?”

“If it’s genuine anti-grav, Albion has to have it. It goes way beyond racing. Think about the potential. We can return to orbit, recover space travel, get off the colony. The government won’t like it. They’re happy running their own little police state here, being the biggest fish in a small barrel. Why do you think they let that cult off world with the remaining shuttles? It sure wasn’t religious sentiment.”

Persephone nodded. “I’ll need to do a little preliminary analysis first. See who these eXime people are. Just to evaluate the risk. For all I know one million might not be enough.” She tried to keep the excitement out of her voice. It would be impossible to negotiate if Arch knew that she was hooked. This really was her kind of caper: an unknown adversary, government suppression, world changing technology.

“Okay, beautiful, but we’re going to need an answer in a day. And the next race is coming up in three. You’ll need to be there to see eXime in action. Consider it a date.”

“Hey. I didn’tsay I would take the job.” But privately, Persephone was pretty sure that she would.

She started her research with the usual online sources. Arch had been correct. eXime was a subholding of eXBioform, a biotechnology company that focused on two research area: identifying colony world life forms that could be converted to human use or attempting to adapt Old Sol crops to colony world conditions. Here that meant adapting them to grow in low light, wet conditions. The things that the colony had in abundance were cloud cover, water, and multicolored algae. It was the water of course that had attracted settlers to the planet. Liquid water was a precious commodity in the initial expansion phase of the Old Sol empire. Mostly for the hydrogen content. The world was otherwise resource poor, hardly any metal. Hence the riots in 2530 when the launch facility was cannibalized for raw materials to help support the colony infrastructure.   The best H-crafts were ceramic and much of the engineering that went into them was focused on making them stronger and lighter. The colony world had plenty of silica-based sludge that was readily converted into light, strong, glass-like composites. In fact, most of the landmass of the planet was really just a shifting slurry of water and silica rich sand. The original colony city had been sunk onto a cement foundation that resisted drifting, but the shanty town that grew up around the city was raised out of the muck on glass stilts. Unlike the advanced composite tech of the H-craft chassis their engines were quite primitive. Fans and baffles created an air cushion that raised the craft out of the muck and ethanol powered rear thrusters drove them forward.


Leave a comment

My Hover Craft is Full of Eels: Part One

November is National Novel Writing Month.  I wasn’t planning to write a novel this year.  I had too many disparate ideas running around in my head so I figured I’d just use NaNoWrioMo as a way to produce 50,000 words of short stories.  I starting writing my first story.  I thought it would be done in a day.  No.  I was upset.  I wanted to know how it ends, but I told myself that 1600 words wasn’t all that much for a story.  Maybe it would be done by 3,000.  No?  Okay.  5500?  Still no.  Seriously, this story is sooooo stupid that it’s not worth turning into a novel.  Unfortunately, I am.  I don’t have much time to sit around and analyze my influences.  Obviously, the title owes itself to Monty Python, but beyond that it’s all Speed Racer meets James Bond meets Fire Fly.  I’ll put up installments once a week.  NaNo rewards barfing on the page so these are going to be very sparsely edited.  You will find plenty of my usual typos “they’re vs. their” and “its vs. it’s” come to mind.  Please don’t think I’m a moron.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

The meeting was scheduled for three cycles after sundown in the ruins of the first settlement launch site. Persephone started by climbing over the remains of the security fence. The thing was festooned with wires that made it easy to shimmy up. Once upon a time, the lines were probably attached to some kind of generator, maybe electrical, maybe repulsive that served to keep the lower classes out of the facility.

The lines made for easy access, but in truth not many people bothered to use them. During the Metal Riots of 3560, the mobs had broken in and scavenged whatever they could by way of tech or saleable salvage. Persephone could have just walked through the enormous hole left by the tanker the mob had driven through the gates. But that would have been way too obvious. Being cautious had kept her alive and in business for the past three annum and tonight was nothing different. She took an indirect approach in case her potential employer had surveillance on the gate and she arrived early to case out the place and establish a line of retreat in case things went poorly. She had enemies in the colony and this wouldn’t be the first time they tried to set a trap for her. They usually tried coming at her through friends or ex-lovers, but this time the offer had made no such pretenses. The com. message had arrived from an unlisted address and requested that she meet to discuss a business opportunity. She was told to meet the ‘representative’ at the ruins of the Old Sol launching platform and had been advised that the job would be ‘very profitable’ and ‘easily accomplished’ by a woman of her considerable skill set.

She would have ignored the offer if she’d had another job, but the colony had entered a particularly boring phase. The New Regime party had been in control since the riots and they’d stamped out any viable second, third or fourth party candidates. The Old Sol party was gone with their industrial base. The Jasperites were still around and had about twenty percent of the local police in their pocket, but their interests didn’t extend much beyond collecting protection money. The Tribe of the Stellar Ark had declared a holy pilgrimage and used their remaining funds to leave the colony in search of the ‘wonder world’. The New Regime had been pleased to help them off the planet and had won kudos for their piety.

What this meant was that there were few factions able to pay Persephone for what she did best:  surveillance, espionage, blackmail. Her last job had been ‘personal surveillance’. The usual crap. A suspicious wife, a dead beat husband, very little pay and even less gratitude. No one likes to cough up money when confronted with grounds for divorce, even if that was what they’d paid her to go find.

That was why this latest job was so tantalizing. The com. message had been smoothly handled. Persephone couldn’t track it even by tapping her usual network contacts who could unscramble these sort of things. And it had been gratifying to her ego. Would be employees usually never approached her with phrases like ‘a woman of considerable skill’, or stated that they needed her ‘razor wit’. The whole thing suggested money and breeding, a political contact, someone high up in the chain of command, perhaps? She had to check it out. At least see who this ‘representative’ was and see what kind of money they were offering.

So she arrived at the Old Sol launch facility two cycles before the rendezvous time, climbed over the gate instead of taking the more obvious approach and skulked through a forest of rusting old-style rocket gantries on route to one of twenty identical decaying warehouses. Warehouse B5 was the agreed upon rendezvous point. It had a roof at least. She circled the building looking for any sign of surveillance, cameras, snipers that sort of stuff, but the building was set well back from the other warehouses or launch structures. Her scalp tingled as she crossed the open ground to the warehouse. She could almost feel the sickly blue moonlight painting a target on her back. That was one disadvantage of arriving early. Cujo, the colony’s second moon, was still up there. If anyone was in place at the warehouse, they would have nearly a full decicycle to register her presence and gun her down. She sprinted for the gaping black hole where the warehouse’s door had been. It and the windows were completely blasted out. This site had been used by Old Sol for rocket fuel and some of the stuff had gone up during the riots. It was amazing the shell of the building was still standing.

The gaping windows let in puddles of moonlight, but Persephone kept to the shadows along the wall until she was convinced the place was empty. The missing door and the gaping windows meant it would be difficult to gas the place at least. She scaled an interior ladder that gave access to a rickety metal walkway and eventually a hatch to the warehouse roof. She had plenty of time to assemble her own camera system both for surveillance of the exterior and for recording the meeting inside. She also placed a small laser charge just above the door. It bothered her that the door was the only floor level access, but the charge might just deter anyone chasing her out of the place. Then she settled down to wait.

Ten minutes before their agreed meeting time, the motion sensors on the roof notified her that someone was on their way. Cujo had set by now and the yard was considerably darker, but her cameras had low light capability. There were three figures crossing the yard.   Two circled the warehouse in a way that reminded Persephone of her own surveillance run. The third covered the door. He or she had a weapon, some kind of long cylinder, probably a ceramic slug thrower. That one waited for the other two to return and then beckoned. A taller figure moved out of the shadows. It had a dark coat and a floppy hat that reminded Persephone of an old Sol holo-vid detective series. Someone took themselves a bit too seriously. She grinned.