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.