Thursday, July 7, 2011

Issue 1 - Meet Jack

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One of the big pluses to not having to sleep is running one-man surveillance. Not needing nap breaks makes your average stake-out much easier.

One of the big drawbacks is boredom. When your nights are as long as mine, you spend a lot of your time waiting. Waiting for sunrise, waiting for stores to open, waiting for the rest of the world to wake up. Or in this case, waiting for the sellers to arrive.

They come in a dark burgundy 1931 Imperial Roadster. One of the few cars built for looks and class--its chassis is a wedge that narrows at the front and widens at the back; sleek humps cradle the tops of the back and front wheels, with a velvet soft-top and a suede-lined interior.

I suppress the urge to whistle. It's always nice to see a criminal with good taste.

The buyers got here fifteen minutes ago, crowded together in a SUV--some hunk of forgettable plastic dreck. There's four of them, all in suits, with a metal briefcase manacled to one of their wrists. They're at the center of the abandoned warehouse, waiting impatiently as the roadster circles around and comes to a stop.

I gnaw on my last piece of jerky, shift my position in the warehouse's rafters, and adjust the scope on my sniper rifle. The crosshairs settle down on the head of the man with the briefcase.

The roadster's doors open. The passenger steps out first--a short, plump, balding man in a good suit. Vincent Marlowe; professional armsdealer. Primarily handles illegal tech--the stuff supervillains use. Chances are he's kept a few toys for himself.

The driver comes next. The car's suspension groans with complaint as he steps out; the way the vehicle bobs tells me that it's been modified with the man's girth in mind. He's six feet and change of solid bedrock--wrapped up in a three-piece suit and trillby hat. Rather than a healthy shade of flesh, his skin is the color of marble.

His name is Blockhead. His job description can be summarized as 'block bullets, punch faces'.

"Good evening, Mr. Marlowe," the buyer with the briefcase says. "I assume we're ready to make the trade?"

"Yes, yes," Mr. Marlowe says. "I have the piece with me. Block, if you would?"

Blockhead swings around to the car's trunk and pops it open. He pulls out a large box, then moves toward the four men and their SUV.

They get nervous. With good reason. Blockhead doesn't just look like solid granite; he feels like it, too. Anything with less kick than a rocket launcher has a nasty habit of bouncing off his skin.

I wait until Blockhead is between them and Marlowe. Then, just as the buyer steps forward, I swing the crosshairs down to the briefcase and fire.

There's a sharp rapport as the slug cleanly separates the handle from the luggage. The handcuffs don't help much when they're connected to the wrong part. The briefcase hits the ground while the buyer's bodyguards all pull iron.

I turn my mike on and speak softly, my voice carried through the speakers I've mounted inside the warehouse.

"Greetings and salutations. Could I interest you gentlemen in discussing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?"

Everyone scatters. The buyer goes for the briefcase; I fire the second shot, putting a fist-sized dent into its base. He gets the idea, then goes for his SUV. His men follow.

Blockhead throws the box back to Marlowe, who catches it. Marlowe gets into the car--Blockhead follows, making sure to keep himself between his employer and any danger.

The SUV's wheels snarl across concrete and gravel as it swings around and makes its escape. Blockhead sinks into the roadster's driver seat and starts the car with a roar--six cylinders kick over and let loose an angry, anxious growl.

It is an outrage to do harm to such a splendid vehicle, but sometimes the job requires that you do outrageous things. I snap the armor-piercing slug into the chamber, level the barrel of my gun on the hood, and fire. The bullet buries itself in the engine block, turning the car into an incredibly expensive piece of furniture.

The SUV busts its way out of the warehouse's front doors just as Blockhead realizes I've ruined his lovely car. He gets out, tears the roof off with a loud snap, and picks up Marlowe along with the box.

I place the sniper rifle aside and drop down. A strategically positioned dumpster full of padding breaks my fall. I hop out and run in low, strapping the modified sonic drill onto my hand. By the time Blockhead has caught sight of me, I'm driving my fist straight into his face--and turning the drill on.

Sonic drills use ultrasonic frequencies to accomplish what conventional drills do with torque. They are incredibly precise, low-powered, and capable of penetrating a quarter inch of granite without breaking a sweat. They're perfect for delicate medical work--they can drill a hole through bone without disturbing the tissue around it. They're also good for knocking out a five hundred pound bodyguard made out of rock.

When the tip of the cone hits Blockhead's temple, it produces a metallic squeal along with several sparks. An instant later and he is on the floor, with Marlowe and the briefcase tumbling after.

Marlowe struggles to get up. He pulls something out of his coat--it unfolds with a snap into a full-blown assault weapon. Looks like what you'd get if a shotgun had noisy, violent sex with an automatic rifle and weaned the result of their forbidden union on a diet of steroids.

Just as he's bringing it to bear on me, I drop the sonic drill and lift my other hand. The small device in my fist makes a click.

"Do you know what a deadman switch is?" I ask him.

The barrel of his automatic shotgun wavers.

"I'll take that as a yes," I say.

"Who are you?" he asks. "What the hell is this?"

"What's it look like?" I tell him. "It's my job application."

"Your job application just made me several very dangerous enemies," he responds.

When selling yourself, it's good to know your buyer. If you're applying for a job with a bank, they want to know you can be trusted. If you're applying for a job with a car dealership, they want to know you can close a deal.

And if you're applying for a job with an armsdealer, he'll want to know you can blow up an SUV full of potential enemies.

I slowly pull the cellphone out of my coat with my free hand and hit autodial. Shortly afterward, there is a brief flash of illumination outside--followed by a boom, then followed by the smell of burning gasoline.

I smile. "What enemies?"

Marlowe snorts, but I can tell he wants to smile. "And what about their bosses?"

"What, you think I managed to sneak a bomb under their car without doing surveillance on them?" I reply. "They're independents. As I'm sure you're aware."

"Mm. So. Exactly what did you have in mind, Mister...?"

"For starters," I tell him, "we should probably ditch your car, pick up your blocky friend, and get the hell out of here. Police wouldn't come for gunfire, but they might come for that explosion. As for who I am," I add, "I'm Jack Burroughs."


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