Monday, 14 December 2015 03:22

Chain of Custody

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An Erinyes Story


by Bek D Corbin

Someone may be a nano-tech augmented super-soldier, a quantum shift faster, stronger and tougher than the average human, and trained in the deadly arts of warfare, but for some strange reason, you can’t splice or train the need to loiter in the hallways and gossip out of people. They were gathered around the pay coffee trolley instead of a water cooler, but other than that, it could have been a scene out of any office in the developed world for the past 200 years. Well, if you ignored the State-of-the-Art weaponry that each of them carried so casually, anyway. There was a Myrmidon ‘Heavy’, two ‘light’ Mims, a woman from Theseus (the Major Crimes division), a Hercules (the Kidnapping & Hostage Rescue division), a woman from Hekate (the Domestic & International Anti-Terrorism division), and a man from Medusa (the Anti-Gang division; they would have used ‘Hydra’, but there were copyright issues). It wasn’t quite a representative selection from the divisions of THEMIS (“THEMIS: Justice Will Be Served™”), but given the snarky competition between the divisions, still rather remarkable.

The elevator opened up and a tall lanky man ambled out. He was thin, he wore his dark hair short, but had a noteworthy pair of sideburns, which gave his long narrow face with the prominent chin a certain wolfish air. There are certain looks that seem to be fated to keep coming back, despite being pegged as belonging to a certain era: the Neo-Victorian look, the Edwardian look, the 1930-40s ‘Noir’ look, the 1960s Mod look, the 1970s ‘Disco’ look, the ‘Punk’ look, the ‘Goth’ look, and so on. His look was the ‘early 60s lounge lizard’ look, a sleek semi-formal look that was helped along vastly by the dark red sports coat that he wore, which those ‘in the know’ would spot as the trademark ‘Jason’ jacket. JASON was THEMIS’ Stolen Property Recovery division. Unlike the Erinyes ‘Fury’ catsuit, or the Myrmidon’s power armor, the Jason Jacket ® wasn’t designed for protection; rather, it was designed with hundreds of small inconspicuous pockets and brackets that lined the larger pockets, and the cuffs, lapels, collar and every conceivable section of the garment that the Jasons’ considerable ingenuity could come up with. Those pockets and brackets held dozens if not hundreds of compressed memory plastic gadgets, some of which were complete, some of which needed to be assembled. And best of all, it was light, inconspicuous and easy to wear, and would pass through all but the most paranoid of security scans. While not quite on a level with the fabled Batman’s utility belt, the Jason Jacket was a close second place. He also wore what appeared to be a pair of shooter’s glasses. But instead of just protecting his eyes from glare and other distractions, the frames were lined with a remarkable array of sensors, and his gaze was constantly being filled with tactical operations information and updates. Newbies tended to be a little distracted by that, but he absorbed all that information almost reflexively. He ambled along with the fluid, rambling, seemingly clumsy gait that was the signature of the Sun Wukong™ upgrade, which amplified his senses and reflexes to levels that rivaled the Erinyes’ Dragonblood™ process.

He sauntered over to the group around the coffee trolley, favored them with a wide cocky grin, and asked for his usual, an esoteric blend of Eritrean, Sumatran and Hawaiian strains. “Hey Lobo,” Lyndra, the female Mim light, greeted him, “What’s shaking?”

“Nothing’s shaking,” Jack ‘Lobo’ LeBeau leered at the Mim-ette. While not the delicate flower that the Theseus or Hekate chicks were (after all, Myrmidons are built for power, even the lights), Lyndra did have a certain ‘warrior princess’ appeal. “I keep it under tight wraps, so it doesn’t dangle down by my knee, and trip me up while I’m running!” He finished with a big leering grin that would have gotten his face punched in, if not for the company enforced truce in the hallways.

“I can see where that would be a smart move,” Royce, the Mim heavy, murmured as one of the latest ‘new girls’ from the Erinyes division slinked by. She had to be new; she was a ‘Peeler’. ‘Peelers’ being newly graduated Erinyes who flaunted their hotsome new physiques by strolling around the office complex in the near-latex Fury™ battlesuit. After a few weeks out of the tank, these new girls got the idea that this was neither necessary nor very politic, and toned down their wardrobes a mite. But in the mean time, they put on a very nice show. Royce and the Hercules op both watched her walk down the hall with evident appreciation.

“Coming out of the closet, Royce?” Lyndra sneered with a side glower at the Peeler’s disappearing back. “You DO know that a little over a year ago, *ahem!* ‘she’ was a GUY, right?”

“That was then, this is now,” Royce purred with an appreciative smirk that followed in the same direction as were Lyndra was glowering.

“Jah,” Kirrik, the Hercules grunt, agreed as the Peeler rounded a corner. “Who cares how she started out? It’s how she came out that’s important.”

“Remind me to upgrade the Rescue Guarantee clause in my contract, so if I’m nabbed, I won’t get ‘rescued’ by YOU,” Khan, the Medusa op, muttered with a disgusted scowl. Tevanian, the Theseus woman, gave Royce and Kirrik sour looks of disappointed disapproval. But then, while Theseus regarded itself as the true elite of THEMIS, not Jason, they generally agreed with the ‘Argonauts’ about the Erinyes. Lorenz, the other male Mim light, just stood there, looking very uncomfortable.

Lobo, on the other hand, got right up in Royce’s face. “LOOK, Fag-Boy,” he growled in an exaggerated Cajun accent (that prompted some who knew the region to wonder if LeBeau had ever even been in Louisiana), “I don’t care what you-all get up to in back alley an’ sech, but don’chew come draggin’ that fag-crap in here where’s I work, y’hear?”

Royce’s bemused look fell like a brick, and his face went stony. There was a general sense of Royce gathering his considerable mass to do something, but he just gave LeBeau a mildly disgusted look. “LeBeau, the only problem with ripping you apart with my bare hands is it would make a mess. I have better things to do with my time than listen to a bunch of punk-ass yap.” With that, he killed his coffee and crushed the ceramic cup to dust. Then he turned and ambled off with an unconcerned air.

“Oh, yew got some li’l boy waitin’ fer y’all in some dusty dark corner, maybe?” Lobo catcalled after Royce, and finished with a nasty chuckle.

Lorenz watched the Mim heavy stroll down the hall and said, “Lobo, that was not the brightest idea. The only reason that he didn’t pull your arms and legs off like a fly are the company rules against fighting.”

“Oh, he ain’t gonna do nuthin’,” LeBeau said confidently. “The Bottom Line is ever’thing here at THEMIS. And JASON is the top-earner of all the divisions, no doubt. And *I* am, no doubt a’tall, the top-earner at Jason.”

“Lobo, you did NOT just win that face-down,” Lorenz said earnestly. “You just earned yourself a major ass-whupping down the line.”

“Yes I did!” LeBeau insisted. “Royce? He’s a pussy! Pussies may talk a good fight, but they never really DO anything, too scared of pissing off the brass. Boys n’ Girls, as my dear ol’ Pappy once tol’ me, ‘in this life, only the Bastards get over. Yer either a bastard, or yer some bastard’s bitch. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and it’s best to be the one doin’ the chewin’.’ Yep, he tol’ me, never play the other guy’s game. Always make them play your game, by your rules, and change the rules whenever it pleases you! Anyone says otherwise is just some bitch bein’ a pussy.

“Yeah, I’m a stone-cold bastard,” LeBeau bragged,” and I’m PROUD of that! Stone-cold bastards get things DONE! Patton was a stone-cold bastard, and that’s how he won the Battle of the Bulge, damn near all by hisself! He went in, kicked ass, took names, and GOT the Third Army to Bastogne to relieve McAuliffe! Y’don’t do stuff like that by being all nice-nice and worryin’ about hurtin’ people’s feelin’s! You go for the throat! You just GO FOR IT! You got that go for the throat instinct, and you can do anything. Hell, I work alone, ‘cause most of the ‘partners’ I’ve had just slowed me down! So why split the bounty? Hell, I don’t even carry a gun! Why? ‘Cause the Lone Wolf don’t NEED one!” LeBeau puffed up his chest so much that Lorenz was worried that he’d set off the gadgets in his jacket.

As LeBeau got into his rant, a pretty, waifish young girl of maybe 15 or so, walked by in a THEMIS office assistant’s outfit, and stopped to listen in.

“Hey, y’all remember when I recovered that drum of chemical warfare agent those Tonton Macoute assholes ripped off from that depot in Cuba? I didn’t do that by bein’ SENSITIVE!”

“Ah yes,” Tevanian sighed sardonically, “LAST YEAR’S great triumph. Like anyone remembers that after Blake’s big splash with the Smithsonian vaults. And what have you done lately?” she finished with a sip of her coffee.

“Oh, I am still on my feed, Cher,” LeBeau leered. “Right at the moment, I am on the trail of a stolen Zyvex™ Dhole214® penetrating bit!”

“A drill? They’ve got you going after a stolen DRILL?”

“Not a Drill,” Lobo snorted, “It’s a penetrating bit! It doesn’t bore through stone, it uses a nanite studded surface to erode the surface of whatever it’s being used on literally one molecule at a time! But since we’re talking a molecule once every one/ten millionth of a second, and this is happening once every square nano-meter of the surface of the bit, we are talking about something that cuts through granite like soft butter!”

Tevanian’s eyes snapped open wide. “What does it do to, say, tempered steel? Or metal/ceramic compounds?”

“Them? Like hard cheese. Sweetheart, that bit could cut a hole through the National Debt!”

“But a nanotech ‘cutting surface’?” Tevanian asked, “That would mean that that thing would be almost perfectly silent and vibration-less. The vast majority of counter-sapping measures now in use wouldn’t have a prayer of detecting it.”

“Not ‘almost’,” LeBeau corrected her. “Absolutely. And the refuse from the bore is just this side of elementally pure, molecularly fine dust.”

“Is that thing legal?” Escobar asked, slightly aghast. But then the Anti-Terror division tended to attract worriers.

“Legal,” Lebeau affirmed, “But controlled like you wouldn’t believe. Private contractors can’t own them, only bonded leasing agents, and then it’s only for contracts with specified and verified objectives. And they’ve restricted the damn thing to the point where owning it is a major financial obligation. The bit I’m going after is worth a cool Five MIL.” [Author’s Note: Due to massive Deflation during the Global Depression, and the revaluing of the Dollar during the Amalgamation into the North American Federation, the Federal Dollar or ‘Nubuck’ has a value roughly equal to the American Dollar in 1965] “With the usual 5% recovery fee, and my 10% of what THEMIS gets, I’m looking at 25 grand, easy. And the money’s already in escrow, so there’ll be no ‘whoops, we can’t afford to pay you right now’ crap.”

“So you’ve got the gelt to pay me back the $20 you borrowed last week?”

“I don’t have the money YET,” LeBeau snarled. “I know that a crooked construction contractor stole it, but it could be one of five different crews that got it. My problem is the bass-ackwards way the City and District dole out information these days! What happened to being able to go online and look things up?”

“Well, control of information is the name of the game these days,” Khan, the Medusa fink said with a sigh. “There was just one hacker too many playing merry games that cost too many people with real clout money. And the only way to make sure that modern hackers can’t get into your system these days, is to isolate it.”

“Ah… yeah…” Lobo grunted with a ‘hello? I know that?’ undertone. “Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stand in line for hours, just to find out which line I have to stand in line for hours, to get something that I should be able to get with a 5-second search! And I swear some of those counter clerks have it in for me! Lucky for me, I got ways of hurryin’ ‘em up.”

“Excuse me?” came a small high voice, and they all turned to see Kallie, an intern at the Erinyes division. “But-”

“Aw KEE-RIST!” LeBeau snarled, “Another One! Yer that punk-ass sissy boy that the Erin-freaks been coddling, ain’cha? What are you doin’, polluting my hallways? We may have to put up with the Erinyes, but YOU, you fucking FAG? You, I don’t wanna see around here anymore, y’hear? You’re a DISGRACE! You’re a disgrace to THEMIS, you’re a disgrace to the Federation, yer a disgrace to the entire human fucking RACE! You don’t even TRY to be a MAN you simpering little FREAK! Now GET OUT OF MY FACE!”

Kallie gave a squeak like she’d been kicked, and skittered off with tears in her face.

“What was THAT?” Lorenz asked with a touch of disgust.

“THAT is the difference between you and me, Turtle-boy,” Lobo said with a nasty snicker.

“What? I’m not stupid enough to pick on a kid? Let alone a kid who’s the semi-official ‘kid sister’ to an entire office of nanite-augmented, elite combat trained KILLER TRANSSEXUALS?”

“You don’t have the brains to see a golden opportunity when it walks up to you, or the balls to grab it,” LeBeau sneered at Lorenz.

“Lobo, when the Erinyes hear what you did to that kid, yer gonna be lucky if only a squad of TEN of them come to beat you into mush!”

“The more, the merrier,” LeBeau said with another cocky snicker. “They can TRY, but ol’ Lobo LeBeau is too fast for ‘em! And with THEMIS’ rules about inter-departmental violence an’ all that, iff’n even ONE of ‘em lays a finger on me, then that freak is my Bitch! And with that, I can demand that little sissy-boy intern gets the boot. If they want it still around, then it’s my bitch, it has to do whatever I wants! The more of ‘em that tries, the more of ‘em are under my thumb! And if that Davenport bitch tries anything? Well, like I said: the Bottom Line is king here at THEMIS, and Jason is the top-earning division, and I am the top earner at Jason. Money talks, and bullshit walks. Y’see? THAT is the difference between me ‘n you, Mim-boy: you see an opportunity like that walk up, and you pat it on the head. ME? I grab it by the throat and make it do what I want!”

“Still, you didn’t have to do that to Kallie,” Kirrik objected. “She’s a nice kid.”

Please,” LeBeau groaned, “You was thinkin’ the exact same thing. I just said it out loud.”

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Kallie teetered into the Erinyes office, clutching the folder of hard files to her chest, her lower lip trembling, fighting back tears. Marisa walked up to her and asked, “Dulcita? What’s the matter?”

Fighting back sobs, Kallie let the story come tumbling out of her lips. When Kallie finished, she looked around, and there was a crowd of at least 12 Erinyes gathered around her, and all that they needed for a picture perfect lynch mob was some torches and a rope. Chai turned for the door with an icy glint in her eye. Fully aware of the levels of havoc that Chai could unleash all by herself, let alone with a squad backing her up, Kallie snapped out of her funk. “NO!” she yelled, stopping the frenzy cold in its tracks. “No, he is MINE! If you guys maul him, all that it’ll mean is that you don’t mess with the Erinyes. So what? Everybody with half a brain already knows that! If I’m gonna prove that I have what it takes to stay with the Erinyes, I’ll have to take down that skuzzdump myself, and I have to do it MY WAY!”

“Okay, Sweetie,” Julia said backing down, which caused the other girls to also relax a little. “But how are you gonna do it? After all, you’re only an intern, and as LeBeau will tell you five seconds after you’ve met him, he’s the top earner at Jason, so he has a lot of pull.”

Kallie gave a wide, evil grin that was disturbingly out of place on her sweet face. “Not a worry. The ‘Lone Wolf’ handed me everything that I need, on a silver platter!”

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Vangie leaned over to Cleo in the next cubicle and whispered, “Kallie’s been at that workstation for three hours, cackling like an entire henhouse. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

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The Next Day

Jack LeBeau was kicking back at his workstation, rather bewildered by the cheery bonhomie that his fellows Jasons were showing him. By and large, Jason division wasn’t real big on esprit de corps; if anything, they took pride in their culture of cutthroat competition. Hell, half the shit that Jack pulled was to convince his fellow ‘Argonauts’ that trying to mess with him was a bad idea. But now they were all ‘Go get ‘er, Lobo!’ and shit like that. He really wished that he had a way of asking what the hell they were talking about without losing face. Then he got a call on the in-house (and tap-free, eavesdrop-proof) land line. [Hey, Lobo! Wendy Hookes down at Erinyes here.]

“Yeah?” LeBeau answered coldly. Then he warmed up a bit when it connected that Wendy Hookes was a dispatcher down there, not one of the freaks themselves. She was a bit of all right; not in the nitro-charged way that the Erinyes were, but then, she was the McCoy, not some souped-up perv. And, more to the point, she was one of the best of the office bookies; the word was that she made three times more from her bookmaking operation than she did in salary. And all of it off the books, so it couldn’t be taxed. LeBeau respected that. “So? You got some hot action for me, Darlin’?”

[You could say that. Kallie Wyecross has taken an option on your Zyvex drill case]

“What? Who?” then the penny dropped for LeBeau. “Oh, that little freak. So what? Why are you bothering me with this, Books?”

[Well, she took out that option last night. About three hours ago, she called in and put down a hefty bet on herself to bring in the drill instead of you]

LeBeau started to make a sharp remark about a kid throwing away his soda pop money on a stupid bet, when the attitude of the other Jasons suddenly clicked with him. He stood up and looked around the office, and he noticed several of his co-workers eagerly standing around the desk of the Jason’s office bookie. Indeed, Hitsuzen, the book, was doing a land office business. Hitsuzen caught Lebeau looking at him, and gave him a cheery thumbs-up. “How LARGE a bet did that little freak put down on itself?”

[Five thousand Nubucks]

Oooggg… “Has… this bet started to make the rounds?”

[Well, the Erinyes are betting heavily on Kallie, of course, but the Jasons are backing you, Lobo. So you want to get in on the action?]

“How’s the betting running?” LeBeau asked cagily.

[Well, the Mims are betting 7:4 in favor of Kallie. From there, alphabetically by division, it’s going:/p>

Ajax is betting 8:5 in favor of you
Argos is betting 7:3:14, favoring the kid over you, with heavy odds on non-completion by either party within 72 hours
Cadmus is betting 7:4 in favor of you, with 3 for non-completion
Cerberus is betting 8:5 in favor of the kid, with 2 for non-completion
Chiron is betting even odds on you and the kid, and 4 for non-completion
Delphi is betting 14:3 in favor of Kallie; be afraid, Lobo, be very afraid
Deucalion is betting 7:6:9 in favor of non-completion
Hekate is betting 7:5 in favor of you, 1 for non-completion
Hercules is betting 6:5 in favor of Kallie, 2 for non-completion
Hermes is betting even across the boards, but then, they would
Medusa is betting 5:4 in favor of you, 2 for non-completion
Perseus is betting 8:7 in favor of you, with 6 for non-completion, but then International Intelligence always plays it safe
Talus is betting 4:3 in favor of you, and is dodging the non-completion angle
and Theseus is betting 9:5 in favor of you; 3 for non-completion]

“Are the Furies helping their little buddy on this?”

[No, an executive secretary gave me a call and specifically stated that that this was HER- Kallie, that is- against YOU, not Erinyes vs. Jason. If either side helps one of you, the bet defaults to the other, and none of that ‘help the opposite side so the bet defaults to your guy’ crap, neither]

“What? You mean that Corporate’s in on this?”

[So? Executives like a good bet, same as everyone else!]

“But it’s strictly against INFAX policy.”

[And when did that ever stop anybody when they wanted a little action?]

“Just wanted to be perfectly clear on that.” Lobo thought carefully for a moment. “Where is the kid, right now?”

[She should still be in school. She IS just a kid, y’know]

“Whatever. So, what odds will you give me?”

[Same as I gave to Kallie- 8:5, just under Two-to-One odds]

“I’ll take that for Ten Grand, with a Double-or-Nothing rider for Completion within 24 hours of NOW.”

[You are ON, Sucker!] Wendy jeered. [Oh, and just remember, Lobo: since they’ve put their two bits in the hat, the Brass won’t bat an eye if I send a couple of Mims to make you pony up if you lose]

“Yeah, yeah, I’m trembling in my boots. Just YOU remember to pay ME when I win.” With that, LeBeau cut the connection. Sucker. He had his ducks all in a row. He’d eliminated two of the five potential suspects. All that he needed were TWO bits of information, which he could get from any of five sources. Then he’d know not only who, but where. And given the kinds of mooks he was dealing with, once he knew that, figuring out exactly where they had it stashed was just a matter of going in and looking. And from there? He already had his Writ of Replevin; he could do damn near anything he had to, to get the drill back, shy of actual bloodshed. He got up, shrugged into his Jason jacket, and loudly cleared his throat. He announced to the office, “I just put down a Ten Grand bet on myself, and I put a double-or-nuthin’ rider on it for completion within 24 hours from now. I suggest that you do the same. And, if you’ll excuse me…” He ambled out of the Jason warren, followed by rare words of support.

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‘Why is it that places like this are usually empty, but the second that I need anything, the traffic suddenly goes up by a thousand percent?’ LeBeau wondered sourly but silently to himself as he stood in line. The line, as such lines tend to do, wormed its way forward until LeBeau was at the window. “Hello, KeShira,” he grumbled at the clerk.

“LeBeau,” the hefty African Ethnic (‘African American’ died with the Amalgamation) clerk said with the barest courtesy possible. If it needs saying, there was a long and acrimonious history between the two. As KeShira lead LeBeau through the long, involved process, involving ritual demands of details that she probably already knew by heart, LeBeau prodded her along by whistling ‘the Hearse Song’ in a low, grating, off-tune note that he knew got on her nerves. Then as she was slogging through the input, an odd look of recognition. She danced her fingers across the input pad with atypical agility, and an ‘oh, of course’ look unclenched the scowl on her face. “I thought that sounded familiar.” Then she beamed a smile of snide satisfaction at LeBeau. “Sorry, Lobo, but that file has had a block put on it.”

“What? Why? For how long?”

“She didn’t say why, but the block is for 72 hours.”

“She?” LeBeau asked sharply.

“Yeah, I remember ‘cause she wasn’t the normal sort we get in here at all. Girl, maybe 15 or 16, little slip of a thing, cute as a button too. She said that she was taking the day off from school to handle a project. She was very polite, and had everything set up proper the first time, and she was actually grateful for my assistance.” The warm recollection slid off KeShira’s face to be replaced by her usual blank snarl. “You could learn something from her, LeBeau. NEXT!”

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Well, the mark of a professional is that he doesn’t let trifling obstacles slow him down, or limit himself to one gambit. LeBeau immediately hied himself to the next venue on his list. Even if the kid was ahead of him, she… IT would be wasting time in lines like he was, and she didn’t know how to speed things up the way he did. It would probably chew up most of the day, but come the night, he’d be able to take care of business a lot better’n some frilly little sissy!

As he walked up to the window, LeBeau took in a deep breath and put on his hardest face. Leon, the clerk at this window, was a drab, pale, timid little nonentity who LeBeau could always rely on to fold in the face of a good snarl. “Hey, Leon, how’s your love life?” LeBeau sneered as he shoved his paperwork at the man.

“Ah well, what can you do?” Leon returned with abjectly uncharacteristic blithe good humor. Humming a happy tune, the clerk looked over the particulars, hands poised over the input pad, but he paused. “Sorry, Mr. LeBeau, but a block has been put on that file.”


“Well, an absolutely adorable young lady came in, requested just that file, and ordered a block on it for 72 hours. I wonder why. Still, she was very nice about it. Lovely thing, too: slender as a fawn, as tender as the dawn, silky golden blonde hair, and the most wonderful big blue eyes…” he finished with a sigh.

“What was her name?”

“I’m sorry, but that’s confidential, along with the rest of the block.”

“Her name wouldn’t have been…” what the fuck was that little pansy calling itself? Oh, right, “Kallie?” Leon didn’t say anything, but the goopy look on his face told LeBeau that he’d hit paydirt. “You DO know that i-er, she’s only 15, don’t you?”

“Pity,” Leon sighed.

LeBeau wasn’t sure if it was from frustration or disgust, and if disgust, whether it was from the fagginess or the perv factor, but he snapped. He grabbed Leon’s lapels and pulled him halfway through the window. “LOOK, YOU LITTLE”-

Almost immediately, there was security guard with a firm grip on his wrist. As LeBeau refocused, he became aware of another guard on the other side of him. And a little too late, he remembered that the District had very dim views of people manhandling their employees.

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At his next stop, LeBeau made a conscious effort to keep his temper in check. He had barely skated on an ‘attacking a District official’ rap. “Okay, so a cute little blonde came in about an hour ago, and put a block on the file I need. So, how much will it cost me to get that file unblocked?”

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With a $200 reprimand ticket for trying to bribe a District official burning red hot shame into one his pockets, Lobo waded through the waiting line of yet another local government office. When he got to the window he asked, “Has a girl, a cute little blonde about yeah high, maybe 15 or 16 years old, been in here in the last hour or so? Fuck.”

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“Let me guess…”

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LeBeau leaned back in the seat of the THEMIS-issue Westinghouse-Ford sled. Two bits of information, with five sources that should have been able to provide at least one of them, if not both. But he had nothing. He had the nagging suspicion that the Furies were helping the little birth defect. But he knew that at least half of the Washington office had bets riding on him, and they’d be only too glad to rat out the gender-benders for the default. The Erinyes were minding their manners. But how had that little rookie managed to turn it around on him?

Turn it around…

The voice of his father- or at least the voice that his father used when he was sober- rang in his ears: ‘SON, a real MAN doesn’t let the things that get in his way slow him down! If lions come charging at him, he whips the pussies and rides them!’

Okay, so the little freak had the lead on him, and had burned the bridges behind her. So what? All that meant was that ‘Kallie’ punk knew where the drill was. That was even better than knowing who’d stolen the drill: all that LeBeau had to do was track the rookie, and scoop up the drill when it turned out that recovering stolen property was a lot harder’n it looked. Hell, he might be saving her life; these people were hellaciously mean, and she didn’t have a squad of Erinyes to come and save her bacon. At least that’s how he’d sell it back at headquarters.

The beauty of it was that ‘Kallie’ wasn’t even a rookie, and she would make all the rookie mistakes. He took out his Portable Communications Node, and did a dance through THEMIS’s contacts menu, and there she was, listed as an Erinyes intern. He sidestepped through a few back doors that according to the regs didn’t exist, and he dragged her location profile to the personnel tracking node, and there she was! The tracking AI said that she was in a cab in Georgetown. LeBeau powered up the W-F’s suspension field and headed out. Well, it wasn’t strolling up to the perp and making off with the bunny while the punk was wandering around in the dark, like he’d figured; but hey, winning is willing!

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LeBeau caught up with the cab as it moved from Georgetown all the way to the Old Navy Yard in the Sixth Ward. The Navy Yard was notorious for its ups and downs. In its time it had been indeed a shipyard for the US Navy, a red-light district, an avant-garde theater district, an artsty Bohemian district, and then inexorably, an upper-crusty trendoid haven. The rising water had cut its trendy high-rent period short, and it was going through a period where it housed a lot of construction and salvage outfits that took full advantage of their semi-submerged state. As he discreetly followed the cab, LeBeau used an RFID scanner and got a blip that suggested that the cab was carrying category 7 gear. He was narrowing down the possibilities when he spotted the lift pallet that was stashed on the rack on the back of the cab. He focused the options for the scanner, and it pinged back that the signal was indeed for a manual light cargo lifting pallet, basically a suspension-field version of an old-fashioned hand truck. LeBeau grinned wolfishly to himself. Okay, the kid had some chops, but it had just played right into ol’ Lobo’s hands.

The kid had to have rich parents: nobody else would have a cab wait for the better part of an hour while they went in to take care of business. Those cabbies keep the meter running, whether they were moving or not. The kid had gone into a confused cluster of buildings, and LeBeau was beginning if he wouldn’t have to go in and save it after all, for reals. Then the cabbie got out, took the lift pallet from the rack, set it up and walked it across the street to an alley. Craning his neck from the spot where he was inconspicuously parked, LeBeau couldn’t see a damn thing, so he used a nasty little ‘it’s technically illegal to do this’ Jason trick to use the locals’ security cameras. He switched over just in time to see the kid shift a crate off one lift pallet onto the pallet that the cabbie had brought. The cabbie walked the crate over to his cab as the kid took the other pallet back.

As the cabbie took the crate across the street, LeBeau got a good eyeball on it. It practically had ‘shielded crate’ in hologram stickers all over it. But when the cabbie got it to the hack, the crate wouldn’t fit in either the trunk or the back seat. When the kid got back, she used a tool to open up the crate. LeBeau got a good look, and from the shape of the case, either the kid had just bought the world’s heaviest French Horn or they had the Zyvex drill bit. Even out of the crate, the bit wouldn’t fit in the trunk, so they powered up the pallet to its highest to slide it into the back seat. LeBeau couldn’t get a complete read from the bit’s RFID, but he got enough for a solid confirm before the cab door shut, stopping the signal.

LeBeau was framing in his mind how he’d snatch the bit out from under the little freak’s nose once they were both inside THEMIS D.C. headquarters. People would scream bloody murder, but then that’s how you know you won. But the cab didn’t head towards HQ. Instead, the cab just went halfway around that block, and parked across the street from Seibntiz Reclamation and Salvage. Seibntiz was one of the front runners on LeBeau’s list of suspects. And they were on the same block… what was that little freak playing at? Sh- IT already had the penetrating bit… so why go back?

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LeBeau decided that the punk had made one of the classic newbie blunders: trying to be too fracking clever. In stark contrast, HE was going to do the smart thing and get while the getting was good. He waited until the freak was well in, gave it a good five minutes, and went to work. He circled the block, found a place on the street on the far side with a nice convenient alley, parked and activated the THEMIS parking protections. Then he changed the color on his jacket from red to green, tucked his glasses in a shirt pocket, pulled on a flat cap, and ambled around the block. He rounded the corner, moseyed until he was about 8 meters from the cab and dropped a small flat EMP grenade on the ground. While LeBeau He casually kicked the grenade under the idling cab. He nonchalantly walked past the cab, and just as he was passing the rack with the lift pallet on it. He activated the EMP grenade. He used the reactive buck of the idling suspension system as it wildly tilted the cab to one side to pull the lift pallet from the rack. As the cab counter-balanced, he hit the rear door, causing it to open. As that side tipped back up, he flipped the lift pallet into its carry position and switched on the lift field. He positioned the base of the pallet right where the cab door would open onto, and the penetration drill in its bright yellow case with black safety stripes tumbled out of the cab right onto the pallet. LeBeau calmly shut the cab door and walked the pallet away as the cabbie furiously tried to get his ride stable again.

LeBeau was feeling that delicious feeling of getting over on someone who thought they were smarter than you, when he heard something that completely harshed that lovely mellow: “HEY! You! CREEP!”

LeBeau turned to look and despite himself gave a gleep of horror as six large, burly, very unsympathetic men (and one lanky woman who scared him more than any three of the men) boiled out of the Seibntiz office and charged across the street right at HIM. LeBeau stifled a scream of panic and tried to run down the alley to his car.

Problem: lift pallets may lift up to 800 kilos, and effectively reduce your load by a quarter, but then you’re still lugging around 200 kilos and the 10 kilos that the pallet weighs. The drill weighed 200 kilos, so 50 effective kilos plus 10 for the pallet, which meant 60 kilos, which was more than he was personally willing to haul while running for his life. Fortunately, Jason trains its men to handle more stressful problems than that blindfolded. One hand firmly clutching the pallet handle, he undid the special knot on his tie (the Jason knot is based on the notion that only an idiot goes into a high risk situation with a silk rope around his neck), and used the memory-plastic knit de facto rope to snag an overhead fire escape. Using a move that was far too complex for me to properly describe (even if you’d believe it), LeBeau used his Jason Glasses to work a combination of leverage, torsion and counterbalance to get himself and the pallet with bit still aboard up three bounding leaps to the very top of the building without that much effort.

LeBeau let out a deep gusty breath and bragged to himself, “I am SO good…”

“That’s a matter of opinion, Doink.”

LeBeau snapped his head around to see the lanky bitch who ran with the Siebnitz goons standing in front of the stairwell door, blocking that exit, with a ‘oh man, the pounding yer gonna get’ smirk on her face. “What?” LeBeau yelped, “How’d you get up here so fast?”

“What, you think you’re the only one with moves, Slick?”

LeBeau didn’t bother to answer or try for the door. Instead, he rammed the pallet across the roof to the far side, fixed his tie, and jumped over the side. He used the tie as a rappelling cord to get back down to the street. Unfortunately, that tie had just been used well over its intended weight limit three times recently, and it couldn’t handle the stress. First it stretched well beyond recovery, then went totally slack, and then it snapped altogether. Still, that gave LeBeau enough warning to maneuver the pallet under his feet, and hit the ‘max-pulse’ button. He dropped a good 2 meters, but the pallet’s lift field absorbed most of that. LeBeau still took a spill onto the asphalt, but it wasn’t anything that he hadn’t taken before.

LeBeau got to his feet, made sure that the pallet was still good, and pulled out his PCN to call his car’s autopilot, as to tell it to come and pick him up. That simple plan was skuppered when he heard a high, feminine voice yell out, “HEY! He’s over HERE!”

LeBeau got a brief glimpse of a slight blonde just before she ducked out of the alley. “Bitch!” he snarled and headed in the opposite direction. But of course, that was exactly where three of the thugs pulled in just as he was about to get out of the alley. On pure reflex, LeBeau snagged a Scatterball© mini-grenade from his jacket and tossed it ahead of him. The thugs reacted on pure reflex, but they weren’t expecting a shower of colorful hollow balls. As the Seibntiz goons slipped on the balls, LeBeau used the pallets lift field to clear a way for him.

Realizing that, even with his Augmented Reality Tac/Ops glasses, the Seibntiz goons knew the neighborhood a lot better than he did, LeBeau decided to put as much distance as he could, while he could, and let the sled catch up with him when it could. He hauled across the street and into the alley on the opposite side. And the second that he made it into the alley, he received the most disturbing proof that the Seibntizes knew their turf better than he did: a sled slammed sideways against the mouth of the alley, sealing that end. Then, barely four seconds later, another sled did the same. LeBeau had a bare moment of doubt, before his father’s memory yelled into his ear to take those lions and put saddles on them!

All-too aware that he only had so many of them, LeBeau dropped a hockey puck shaped EMP grenade and kicked it under the sled that was blocking the exit he was heading toward. Just before he got to the sled, he activated the EMP grenade, sending the sled rocking, as it had the cab before. The EMP also knocked the drill bit off the pallet, but that was part of LeBeau’s plan. As the sled rocked up, LeBeau twisted the palled upside down, so that the suspension surface was facing up. When the sled rocked down, he hit ‘max-pulse’ again, and flipped the sled over on its back like a turtle. Hefting the 200 kilo drill bit up into his arms, he reversed the lift pallet again and dropped another EMP grenade. The EMP sent him zooming forward, and the pallet’s suspension field heterodyned with the sled’s, turning it into a jury-rigged mass driver. The ‘mass driver’ sent LeBeau, drill bit and lift pallet and all, flying on an arc across the street and over a chain-link fence.

It took every bit of LeBeau’s considerable reflexes and body control to keep the pallet right, and land on the lift field. Even so, the lift field couldn’t take the stress of the landing, and it gave out pretty much on contact, sending LeBeau and the drill tumbling. Even someone with the Sun Wukong upgrade has to take five after taking a hard landing like that. Fortunately, the drill bit was so expensive that the company gave it a impact reflex shell that could stand up to a sniper round at 100 meters, and even if the case couldn’t protect it, the bit itself was a hunk of solid state equipment at the gross level. Even dropping it 10 feet wouldn’t hurt the damn thing; the protective case was just plain old Insurance Company paranoia in action again.

But LeBeau wasn’t thinking about that when he was snapped out of his daze by his thyroidal implant, and became aware of the foot that was close to his face. A very large boot with a serious traction sole that was coming swiftly at his face. LeBeau ducked the boot at the last possible second, and clamped onto the calf of the attached leg with his teeth. The thug screamed with equal parts pain and surprise as LeBeau bit him, and thrashed around in a panic. LeBeau used that to throw the goon into one of this comrades, and as they all thrashed around, he latched onto the third one, who was carrying the drill bit. He whirled the goon around and danced him to the gate of the chain link fence and threaded one of his arms through the post of one of the gate doors. LeBeau made him fight for the drill, and then, just when the poor mook thought he’d won, LeBeau slammed the other door of the gate closed while he was on the outside, forcing the mook’s other arm through it, and the drill out of his grasp. LeBeau finished by binding the mook’s wrists together with a plastic fix-it tie, turning him into part of the ‘lock’ that kept the gate shut. LeBeau grinned widely at the caged thugs, snickered loudly, twiddled the fingers of one hand and sauntered off with the prize.

Of course, once he was around the corner, he stopped and breathed very hard for a moment or so when it registered that he didn’t have a lift pallet anymore, and he was lugging around a 200+ kilo load.

As he struggled with his burden and fiddled with his PCN as best he could, LeBeau chuckled, “I’ve said it before, but I am SO Good…”

And just as LeBeau rounded the corner, he walked straight into the skank who’d cornered him up on the roof. “And as I said before,” the bitch grinned, “that’s a matter of opinion.”

LeBeau let out an ear-splitting shriek of surprise, and as the bulldagger reeled from that, LeBeau shoved the heavy case into her arms. While the skank reacted to that, LeBeau snatched the flat cloth cap from his own head and pulled it down over her eyes. Having gotten the bitch off-balance, LeBeau kept her that way, and shoved and pulled her over a series of piles of salvaged building materials, adding this bit and that to the goonette’s load, until finally he pretty much buried the goon under a pile of oddments. Once the girl was down and gasping for air, LeBeau called his sled again, and did her the favor of removing the heavy drill bit. When the sled arrived, LeBeau shoved it onto one of the front seats, strapped it in and made to get into the driver’s seat. But as a last, he looked at the goonette and said, “For a third and final time: I am SO good! Do I hear any objections? Good!”

As the sled drove off on autopilot, LeBeau sank back in the W-F and mused that between the 25 grand he’d get for returning the bit and the amount he’d win from winning the bet, he’d just made over 100 grand, in an age when 100 grand was a LOT of money. And he owed it all to his father’s sage words of advice. Once again, he wondered if he should find out which prison his father had been sent to, after he’d turned the old rip in for the reward, just to send him a card or something.

Taking a much-needed rest during the drive, LeBeau bestirred himself enough to order a pallet to be waiting for him at the loading dock at HQ. Not another glorified hand truck, but a real pallet that he could control with his PCN. He had just enough energy to help the security guards load it onto the pallet, and then with a glad gusty breath, he went off to collect his reward.

The pain killer that he’d popped was starting to kick in just as he got to the JASON office. He was greeted with calls of ‘Hey, LOBO!’ and ‘Is THAT…?’ and ‘Way to GO, Lobo!’

LeBeau copped a pose leaning with one hand on the drill bit for posterity, soaking up the (in his modest opinion) all-too deserved praise, that came all-too rarely from his, well, he didn’t have any real peers, but at least colleagues. “Well, I’ll give the little bitch this- she had a good ploy.” He spelled out Kallie’s gambit with blocking the files. “AND, it actually managed to find this drill bit. BUT, after all that, it went and made a classic rookie cock-up- or whatever it is they do over at Erinyes: it tried to be too frickin’ clever and cover its trail. HAH! I’ll bet that right now, it’s over at Erinyes, cryin’ it’s li’l eyes out… HAH!”

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At pretty much the same time that LeBeau was going into the Argonaut’s den, Kallie was indeed walking into the Erinyes bullpen. But she wasn’t crying. As a matter of fact, she was humming gladly to herself as she presented some notarized papers to Wendy Hookes. Wendy accepted the papers with raised eyebrows and a keen expression. “May I?” Kallie took the microphone for the office loud speaker. She gave it a bleat to get everyone’s attention. “Excuse me? I have an open contract to offer. That nasty Jack LeBeau up at JASON has stolen something very valuable from me. I have a warrant for his arrest, and I’m offering the reward of one nice shiny new NICKEL to the person who brings in the dastardly Lobo and returns what he stole.” She held up a gleaming 3-Bush nickel.

As one, almost the entire office stood up with sharp expression of predatory anticipation.

But the Diana, the Office Supervisor, stuck her head out her door and yelled, “NO GUNS!”

“Aaawww… Maaaannn…” Kait whined, putting the Sæder-Krupp™ Close Assault Package weapon down.

With that, the rest of them were out of the office like air out of a balloon.

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“Well! Enough of this!” LeBeau cut off the congratulations, “As fun as it’s been, it’s time for me to take this down to the Evidence Locker and make it official. After I pick up my winnings, the drinks are on me!” He left with the sounds of more cheers backing him, and LeBeau felt far better about the office he worked in than he had in a long time. Not one of them had tried to trip him up or steal the bounty out from under him.

LeBeau’s good feeling came crashing down around his head when suddenly a crowd of remarkably gorgeous women came streaming up out of the stairwell and blocked the hallway. “THERE HE IS!” one of them yelled, “You’re UNDER ARREST, Lobo!”

LeBeau goggled at the absurdity of it, but then they charged at him, screaming an ear-splitting, nerve-rattling ululating shriek. The Erinyes War Shriek is a Ki technique designed to cut past the rational mind’s defenses and kick in a primordial fear response. The Erinyes War Shriek could reduce the average man to incontinence, and that was out in the open. In the close, echoing confines of the hallway, with all of them coming straight at HIM, LeBeau was not shamed by voiding his toilet training. On the other hand, pure reflexive panic flight kicked in, and he split under full steam, leaving the drill bit behind.

Under the circumstances, LeBeau had two advantages: first, his Sun Wukong upgrade may not have made him as strong as the Dragonblood process would have, but it made him just as fast. Second, unlike the vast majority of people, LeBeau was used to operating while he was at a major disadvantage and terrified out of his gourd. If anything, he did his best thinking while he was scared snotless.

His first clear thought was to get out of immediate danger and put an executive between him and the Erinyes, a refined version of his old ‘put a teacher between me and the kid I was pestering’ game. Now if only he knew which execs had bet for him, instead of against. Still, it was time to get to Executive Country, while the ports were still open. He dropped his last scatterball grenade, and a fullerene powder bomb right after that, a killer combination that created a slippery patch of tactical chaos which actually slowed down the Fury hoard for a few seconds.

Well, some of them. Kait Marksbury and Mike Holtmann went zipping past LeBeau as he made his way to the stairwell; both of them went face-first into a wall. Kait bounced, but Mike smashed the plaster and cracked the concrete under the plaster. But there was a burly Myrmidon lounging at the door to the stairwell, blocking LeBeau’s way. “Going somewhere, Lobo?” he asked sarcastically. Lobo only responded by throwing down a memory plastic packet that sent a sheet of tissue thin plastic up into the air. The Mim looked at it quizzically until four Erinyes jumped him, fooled for a critical second by the hologram picture of LeBeau that confused them.

Taking advantage of the split second distraction, LeBeau doubled back, and fully aware that he was too tired from all his previous running around, acquired a vehicle: namely, the concession coffee trolley. He hit it running, got it up to speed and climbed aboard. Cleo Watson almost caught up with him, but he extended a pole from his sleeve that not only kept at bay, but imparted some of her remarkable speed to the trolley. She swatted the pole out of LeBeau’s hand, only to get a face full of sneezing powder for her pains.

Kimberly Arden, a Theseus investigator, stepped between LeBeau and the oncoming Erinyes with gun drawn. “Lobo, get behind m-EEEE!” Arden’s big, dramatic, possibly career-making move was snatched away from her when LeBeau slid between her legs, picked her up from behind and threw her at the Erinyes’ legs. The Erinyes leapt over her, but there was nothing they could do to evade the coffee trolley that LeBeau spun around and put between them and the floor.

LeBeau got to a stairwell and realized that there might already be Erinyes on the stairs hoping to block him from getting to Executive country. But his Tac/ Ops wear informed him that there was a sheer face that ran all the flights up to safety. So he used a Jason technique (don’t ask) and scaled that sheer blank face of the stairwell.

Like I said, don’t ask.

Then when he got to the floor where the Executive Suites started, someone had gotten out the cinderblocks and mortar and put up a man-shaped wall in front of that door. Goggling at the mountain of flesh, LeBeau recognized Royce, the Mim Heavy who he’d razzed only yesterday. Royce gave LeBeau a nasty grin and said, “I got a hundred bucks riding on the kid.”

Knowing a bad situation when he smacked his nose on it, LeBeau went over the stair railing, leaving a mono-fiber ‘bungee cord’ behind him. The ‘bungee cord’ stopped his fall but snapped with the stress (as it was designed to do), and LeBeau touched down on the floor he’d started with, with most of the woman chasing him still running up the stairs. Then he heard a sharp piercing whistle, and he turned to see a sleek, dark-haired Anglo chick with large glasses holding something high ready to throw. On pure reflex, LeBeau started to vault over the railing again. But Vangie beat him to it, and the pen she threw hit him right under the left shoulder blade. The pen hit one of LeBeau’s holdouts, causing it to activate and expand. It hit the holdout packed in right next to it, causing it to activate and expand. And so on and so on, in a chain reaction that caused his jacket to bulk out, pinning his arms outspread and fixed. His arm caught the railing and held him there for the second or two that it took Vangie to get there and haul him up.

Vangie put him in a classic ‘restraining a superior adversary’ hold, by gripping him by the collar and belt, and holding him upside down as she carried him. Wanda and Tirza trotted up, and Tirza asked, “How’d you pull that off?”

“I noticed a telltale bulge in the back of his jacket,” Vangie answered as she toted the furiously struggling LeBeau down the hallway.


“And, in the Jason Jacket instruction manual packet, they specifically tell you not to overload the jacket’s racks that way, because if you DO, there’s a chance that one of the dinguses will activate and…” Vangie shook LeBeau’s jacket by way of illustration.

“Why did you read the Jason jacket manual, Snakeyes?”

“Well, I was thinking about getting one for myself.”

“And why didn’t you?”

Vangie held up LeBeau. “Well, just LOOK at it! And they simply refuse to make a model that doesn’t look sleazy!”

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Vangie lugged LeBeau past all the commotion in the hallways to the Erinyes bullpen, where Kallie was waiting with the penetrating bit on the pallet. “Thank you!” Kallie sang as she handed Vangie the nickel.

Vangie took the nickel with a smirk, breathed heavily on it and buffed it on her blouse.

“Gonna put it next to your pinching-practice penny?” Ayumi snarked.

By this time, LeBeau had gathered his wits and struggled to his feet. “OH YOU FREAKS HAVE GONE AND SCREWED THE POOCH WITHOUT A RUBBER!” he roared. “You are ALL my bitches from now on! This…! This…! Your entire DEPARTMENT is screwed!” he yelled into Diana’s smirking face.

“I’ll say they are!” LeBeau’s office superior, a Jason named Thrace, roared as he trudged into the office backed up by Jasons and Theseuses and a few heavily armed Mims. “Forget the Bet, Davenport, this is a Crash-and-Burn move!”

Then Jake Dodgson from the Mims’ office came stomping in, also backed by more (and more heavily armed) Myrmidons. “Not so fast, Thrace. Let’s all just calm down and find out what’s going on.” Then he looked into Diana’s face and lost it. “What the FUCK did you all think you were doing?” He had two hundred riding on Kallie.

Kallie stopped the fussing with a piercing whistle. When she had everyone’s attention, she said calmly, “The girls were pursuing a valid contract for me. I have a warrant here for the arrest of Jack LeBeau on charges of Grand Larceny, as I have proof that he broke into a cab about an hour ago, and stole THIS penetrating drill, worth 3.5 million nubucks, which I am responsible for.” She held up a very official looking piece of paper.

“Skuh-REW you, Sissyboy!” LeBeau snarled into Kallie’s face. “I have a Writ of Replevin for that drill, which means that I have a legal right to take it, which means that it ain’t Grand Larceny, which means that your contract ain’t valid, which means that you are ffffuuuucccckkked, bitch!” He shoved the writ into Kallie’s face.

Kallie took the writ and opened it up. “Writs of Replevin are very specific,” she said clinically. “There’s no such thing as a ‘John Doe’ Writ of Replevin. You can’t get a writ and repo just any car on the street, you have to repossess the exact precise vehicle that the writ was issued for.”

“What IS this?” LeBeau demanded, not so much of Kallie, as of the universe. “A book report?”

“This writ was issued for the Zyvex™ Dhole214® penetrating bit with the serial number ‘P134$3T4KEM3’. Mr. Thrace, what’s the serial number on that penetrating bit on the pallet?”

Unsure as to what was going on, Thrace bent one knee and read off, “’P134$3455#013’. What? Lobo, that’s not the serial number on the Writ! You grabbed the wrong piece of heavy equipment! You didn’t check the serial number? Even ROOKIES don’t make that blunder!”

“It’s not even the same MODEL, dorkwad!” Kallie sneered. “It’s a Dhole202, a five-year-old model.”

“Where did it come from?” Thrace demanded.

“I rented it,” Kallie said simply.

“They rented… a penetrating bit… capable of cutting through almost ANYTHING… to a fifteen year old?”

“No, they rented it to a representative of THEMIS, a bonded and reliable Police Service Provider, for use in a sensitive felony investigation.” Kallie presented her ID. “Though it helped that they’d heard about the Erinyes, and they didn’t ask too many questions.”

Thrace, LeBeau and their supporters fell awkwardly silent. LeBeau’s writ did not apply to the drill bit he’d grabbed, so he was legally guilty of stealing a piece of equipment worth $3.5 million belonging to a construction equipment rental company. “Buuuttt…” Thrace hedged, “If they rented it to THEMIS, then it’s not stolen, just an interdepartmental misunderstanding.”

“NO,” Kallie corrected him primly. “The name on the rental agreement is MINE. Or, at least my recognized working pseudonym. He stole it from ME. So it’s theft. More to the point, it’s Grand Larceny.”

The tense atmosphere among LeBeau’s supporters got thicker. Kallie had legal grounds to press Felony charges against LeBeau. LeBeau realized that he hadn’t even tried to cover himself, he was so sure of his writ. Even if he wasn’t sentenced to jail time, a felony conviction would make him unemployable by JASON division. And his process debt was only 80% paid off. And worse, at least as far as JASON division was concerned, a felony conviction by its senior repossession agent would seriously compromise the credibility of the entire division in the District.

Kallie had LeBeau and the entire JASON division by the nards.

Executing a classic Upper Management turnabout and change of attitude, Thrace said soothingly, “STILL, this is simply an interdepartmental misunderstanding… The damage to JASON’s earnings would impact negatively on THEMIS’ entire performance in the District!” Kallie and the Erinyes (Diana included) gave Thrace a uniform bland ‘why are you wasting our TIME?’ glower.

Reaching around for something to pour oil on angry waters (with sharks in them), Thrace offered, “Well… as a gesture of goodwill from JASON division… what say I wrangle some sort of official recognition for your effort, hmm?”

“How about you accept the costs of my expenses for this investigation?” Kallie offered.

“Excellent!” Thrace beamed. Then Wendy immediately handed him a slate. Taken slightly aback, Thrace looked at the slate uncertainly. Then Jake reached over and gave the back of Thrace’s head a flick of a finger that would have been a haymaker for a normal person. Thrace signed the paper, which Wendy then sent to the office notary.

Then Thraces’ PCN beeped, and he received the expenses that he’d taken responsibility for. Thrace reflexively went into Expense Account Vetting mode. “What did you DO? Buy lunch for the National Guard? And you rented a cab for an entire DAY?”

“Well, I can’t drive, and I didn’t want to hang out in that neighborhood any longer than I absolutely had to!” Kallie insisted.

“And what’s this? Two and a half thousand for repairs?”

“That’s for the repairs to the damage to the cab’s suspension system that Low-But over there caused with that EMP grenade when he jacked the drill.”

Thrace shrugged and accepted that as a reasonable expense. Then he almost choked. “THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS? For WHAT?”

“Do you know how much it costs to rent one of those things?” Kallie asked. “I had to rent it for an entire work week! That’s why I had to rent one of the old units; I couldn’t afford the new one, the model that those guys stole! Thank God, you guys wrote off on that; I was ridiculously over my THEMIS card’s limit.”

“Wait a minute…” LeBeau cut in, “Why did you rent that stupid drill in the first place?”

“How else was I gonna get those big hoods out that office, so I could get the real drill?”

“You Bitch! You set me up! you knew… Wait a minute,” a sick realization hit LeBeau, “You got the real drill?”

With a glad chirp, Kallie produced a receipt from the THEMIS Evidence Locker, stating that she had deposited a Zyvex™ Dhole214® penetrating bit, serial number ‘P134$3T4KEM3’, with them, and that she was claiming the 40K (approx.) finder’s fee for the item.

“Forty thousand?” LeBeau squawked. “Why do you get FORTY, when I would only have gotten 25?”

“You’re under contract; I’m not,” Kallie said simply

He was beaten. He bet ten grand that he could beat a 15-year-old sissy-boy and LOST. But LeBeau’s ego demanded something, anything… “But you don’t win the bet!” He snapped. “You lost the bet the second that those hell-bitches came after me!”

“LeBeau…” Kallie drawled in a ‘spelling it out for the nitwit’ tones, “Look at the time on this receipt; I checked the bit into Evidence before I came up here and put that bounty out on you.”

“No, wait a minute, just HOLD IT! HOW could you have beaten me? How did you know where the drill was in the Seibntiz office?”

“Oh, I spotted it last night, when I visited them,” Kallie explained. “It wasn’t hard: they had a shielded crate right out in the open.”

“Last night? But how did you find them that fast? I hadda plow through HOURS of old-school bureaucratic hurry-up-and-wait!”

Kallie gave LeBeau a sour glower. “Lobo, you DO realize that we work for THEMIS? A subsidiary of INFAX, a Data Management company? Information is what we DO? I just went to Delphi, and they were able to create an inductive data portrait of the information you needed. You can’t use it in court, but since neither of us were trying for a conviction, just getting the drill back, so what? It only took Delphi a half-hour! And it only took me another three hours to set everything else up.”

“WHAT?” LeBeau yelped. “You can DO that? Why didn’t anybody TELL me that?”

“Mmmaaayyybeee becuz yer an ASSHOLE?” Kallie ventured. “Hey, I was gonna tell you about that, but then you got bitchy at me!”

LeBeau started to ask why Delphi would do that for her, when it clicked together for him: Delphi. Domestic intelligence. The department that got 14:3 odds for their bets on Kallie. He started to quibble that Delphi’s assistance had voided the bet, but Wendy hooks cut him off. “That was last night. BEFORE the bet.” But then, she would argue that- the majority of the Washington office had bet heavily on LeBeau to steamroll over Kallie.

Thrace cleared his throat and said, “Well, fun’s fun, and a bet IS a bet. But, Miss, we really do need you sign a statement dropping charges against LeBeau.”

“I’ll think about it,” Kallie said. Thrace insisted, but Kallie pointed out that she had a year to decide whether she’d press charges or not. Thrace insisted more strongly, but he was shut down by a low pack growl from the assembled Erinyes. “Oh, and Mr. Thrace? My being paid $40 thousand would be problematic- it might void my Dependant status for my parent’s income tax, and stuff like that. Could my reward be made to me in the form of stock?”

“Stock? Well, I assume that we could float a bond…”

“Not a bond,” Kallie corrected him. “A bond is pretty much a corporate IOU. STOCK. As in ‘Voting Stock’.”

“Voting stock? You want voting stock in THEMIS?”

“No. I want voting stock in INFAX. Why accept stock in only a part of a company?”

Thrace started to quibble, but Diana overrode him. “MAKE it happen, Thrace.” She added, “Oh, and remember: I get the company villa in Martinique this April.”

Then Kallie asked Wendy, “I’ll let you get around to paying off the rest, but could you cut say 3 thousand to my THEMIS credit card?” Then she turned to the rest of the office. “Okay, everyone, it’s 4:30 and I have to leave at 6, but in the mean time, let’s go to Sullivan’s! Food and Drinks are on ME!”

“But you have these files to process!” Hilary, one of the senior office assistants complained.

“Not to worry!” Kallie took the stack of hard files and shoved them in LeBeau’s hands. “Here! Take care of these! And make sure that the final tallies balance. We’re very particular about that down here in Erinyes.”

As the crowd left, some of them cheering on Kallie, and others casting venomous glares at him, a crushing realization occurred to LeBeau: not only had he lost a 25,000 nubuck bounty; not only had he lost to a mincing sissyboy; not only did he owe 10 grand to the bookies; not only was his Beer and Hookers money for the YEAR gone down the tubes; not only would he have to move from his comfortable suite, up to the coffins; not only had he lost a ton of money and more face for JASON; not only had AJAX, a division that competed heavily with JASON for property recovery contracts, bet heavily on him, and they’d beat JASON over the head with it for years; not only was his standing within the company totally SHOT; but for the next year, he was that little sissy’s bitch.

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As Kallie, most of the Erinyes, and some of the Myrmidons went off to affect the celebration party, Mike Holtman hung back and asked Diana, “And how long will it be before Thrace figures out that you helped Kallie?”

“It won’t matter,” Diana shrugged. “The basic plan was all Kallie’s. All I did was point out a few of simple points where her plan could have gone off the rails. And that was before the Bet was made.”

“Why did you suggest that she take her reward in stock?” Mike asked.

“I didn’t,” Diana admitted, a slightly haunted look creeping onto her exquisite face. “That was ALL Kallie. I guess that she learned something from that financier mother of hers.”

“Y’know, the second she turns 18, Jake or some other supervisor’s going to try to try and poach her away from you, using every trick known to Process Debt greed.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Diana said with a worried look. “By the time that kid kills her process debt, she’s gonna be a major stockholder.”


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2 months ago
"I likes the Company so much," Kallie stated, "That I bought it"
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