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   Chapter 4 No.4

The U.M.I. Corp Connection By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 13107

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02

A Hard Day's Night

I walked wearily into my office, hearing Miss Calico say something about messages on my desk. I slumped into my chair and put the wrapped dagger on my desk. I'd dropped the sample of liquid off at my friend's for analysis and Tiff said she had some street contacts she wanted to ask a few things of. I was tired, been shot at, almost blown up, and the evening was still young!

Well, maybe looking at the messages might take my mind off this. I clicked on the replay button on my desk. The holo-screen lit up.

The first one was from by former chief, now my superior up-town. His fat badger face filled the view to bursting.

"Flaatphut! You've really done it this time! Breaking and entering, no warrant, stealing, and with no case and now, most of all no badge! I'm getting heat about you. As of now, you're suspended indefinitely! Any more out of you and you'll be the center of a departmental investigation!"


Did he have to talk in bold-face all the time, and use so many exclamation points?

Sigh. All this over a little sample of water? How do I get into these things?

Well, let's see message number two.

Mother's face appeared in the view, this time attired a bit more sedately (read as: she'd lost the gang jacket).

"Oh, Henry. I'm awfully sorry, but I'm afraid that I've gotten you into a bit of trouble. I hope I didn't put you in over your head, but there's not much I can do to help you right now. I'm staying out of sight for a while over at Aunty's. I'll call later if anything comes up. I know my little boy can handle it. Oh, and I bought a little present for you, I hope you like it. Ta!"

On my desk was a small wrapped package tied with a pink bow. I smiled. Maybe this evening would have its little good points after all. I picked up the package, about palm-sized, and looked at it. Mother must be softening in her old age; she would never have used a pink ribbon before.

I grabbed the ribbon, about to pull it.

Or a pink anything before for that matter!

There go the hairs on the back of my neck again!

I carefully got up and went over to my little window. With my other hand I gently felt around the package.

Well, that could be a pressure activated switch where my hand was holding it. And this could actually be a present from mother.

And the moon could be blue right now.

Mom, if this is your present then forgive me.

I used my free hand to slide up the window and then I peered out. No one around. I got ready.




I threw it out the window and then dived for my desk.


I got up. I guess that I'll have to apologize to mom. I wonder what she'd-


The window rattled and my teeth shook their fillings loose-and I don't even have any fillings! Miss Calico came bursting in just as the dust was still settling.

"Chief! What- "

"Just a little difficulty Miss Calico. Go back to what you were doing."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, now just go back to your work."

She reluctantly went back to the ante-room with a very concerned look on her face.

"This guy is good. Well, I may be suspended but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up on this thing. It just got personal!"

There was one last message waiting.

Before viewing this message, I called up ICy.

He was wearing a Rambo-type headband and had on camouflage face-paint.

"Yeah boss. It sounded like we were at war, so I got ready for it."

"We are ICy. Stand by with this last message and analyze the last one from my mother."

"Right oh!"

I clicked on the button.

Only blackness appeared in the screen, with a deep resonant breathing. An obviously computer generated voice spat out its monotonal syllables.

"Drop your investigation or next time you will actually be dead."

All this just for a scare?

"Never visit U.M.I. Corp again or you risk the health of your mother and Tiffany."

The voice stopped and a sharp whine started to sound, growing sharper by the second.

"Boss! Dangerous decibel levels will be achieved in fifteen seconds!"

"Pipe it off somewhere!" I yelled, grabbing my ears. "Anywhere!"

ICy did so.

I rolled on the ground, holding my ears, until the sound ceased.

I learned later that it was at that time that my chief's intercom box exploded.

The sound stopped.

I slumped down into my chair.

"Boss, what's going on?"

"I'm afraid I have an idea about that ICy."

I fingered the wrapped dagger and thought.

The Black Dagger; as impossible as it was, it had to be him. Aside from the fact that Tango has a bomb-sniffer and would have rung alarms all over the parking-lot if a bomb had gotten anywhere near her, all this bomb stuff and everything was just too good. All the security this building had was like child's play to the Black Dagger! It had to be him!

But, five years ago, he'd died. The price on his head had gotten into the millions. He was the most infamous assassin on the planet, perhaps in history for all I know. The European Consortium finally cracked down and started one of the biggest man-hunts in history; he'd just killed their President or, rather, that was the popular opinion; no one could ever really get any proof on anything that he did. Anyway, they finally caught up with him in one of the bloodiest man-hunts on record. He killed about fifty men before they'd cornered him, and even then his face had been scarred up so bad that it was beyond recognition, so no one was ever sure what he'd looked like. The French hosted the execution and reinstated the guillotined just for his benefit! The body and head were then cremated and the ashes scattered at sea. No one could be deader.

Then how could he still be around?

I know, he must be a ghost! Yeah, that's it! And this is just a bad dream and-

-and Mary Poppins is going to come in any second now. Yeah, right!

Then, there's the matter of the Five Doctors. Husteff was either an athlete or beside himself.

Or maybe-


"Boss, the last part of that message wasn't from your mother. It was added in over the comm-net at about the same time as the real thing came in. I can't find-"

"Never mind. Find out what expertise U.M.I. Corp has in the way of making clones."

He paused briefly as I sat back. Maybe I could make some sense out of at least some of this.

"Got it boss. They do very little on clones. What they do have is mostly small stuff; plants, small animals, and all of it unstable. It really isn't their specialty."

"Hmm. Well, som

eone has to be giving them a good clone making process. And, maybe that same someone made a clone of the Black Dagger. In which case, the real one would still be alive and-"

"-and you're up a crick with no boat, boss. Sounds bad. You want I should book you a trip to the Orient or somewhere?"

"No thanks, ICy."

He'd probably just find me there anyway.

I carefully unwrapped the dagger. The red gleam was still there. Now what made it gleam I wonder.


I've got to be very stupid!

I wrapped up the dagger again, pulled an old donut box out of my desk, and put it in there. I then buzzed for Miss Calico. She came in, looking carefully around.

"It's okay, no more bombs. Have the lab boys deactivate the transmitter in this thing, " I handed it to her, "and then give them these instructions to fulfill when they do."

I scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to her.

"Okay chief. And, oh... even though you're suspended, we're all behind you."

Bad news travels fast around here.

"Thanks Miss Calico, " even though, with the Black Dagger onto me, the last thing I needed was someone else at my back.

She left and I thought it was about time to punch up my friend for that "water" analysis.

His name was Tip O'Keel, a wily old Persian cat. We went way back, practically forever, and he owed me a few favors besides. He was a bit bookish and a little plump with prematurely white hair, but he was a good friend and confidant. Gentle nature, never harmed a soul. Which reminds me, I owe him a dinner; the last time I'd gotten drunk and a bit- well, anyway, he saved my dignity. At any rate, I punched up his number.

One ring.

Two rings.

Three rings.

A recording answered, his furry face in view.

"I'm sorry, I'm not here but I'm busy in the lab. If it's Flaatphut calling, that liquid analyzed as water but the test animals seem to have gotten addicted to it. I'm running some more tests on it now but I… don't think that I'll be available for at least a couple of days yet."

After the word "I" there was a brief flicker in the recording.

"ICy! Analyze!"

"It's been recently altered boss."

I grabbed my coat. It was one-thirty in the morning but if I was right...

The com buzzed. I punched it to see Tiff's face.

"Henry, I've found a few things out."

"Wait a minute. ICy. "

"It's really her boss."

"Okay. Sorry Tiff. I think Tip's been gotten to; meet me at his lab where we dropped the stuff off. Oh, and Tiff?"

"Yes?" she looked concerned.

"The Black Dagger that burned was a clone, as well as the good doctor."

"Uh oh!" She looked serious, "I'll be over there fast."

The screen blanked out.

I left the office, hopped into Tango- limping as she was- and headed over to Tip's place.

It was going to be a long night.

I'd gotten there in record time, breaking at least three traffic laws in the process, and, yep, you guessed it, sirens were ablaze all over the level where his lab was. Fire was still burning inside. I badged my way past the local metros (they don't ask if you're suspended or not), and picked my way inside, Tiffany beside me.

"Yup. Firebomb, that's what it was, " the fire-chief was saying, "hurled through that window about fifteen minutes ago. Burned the guy up something fierce."

"But I called him twenty minutes ago, " I muttered half to myself, "and got that phony message. May I see the body?"

"Well, sure, if you've got a strong stomach. It's over here."

He showed me to a cloth-covered body and lifted up the cloth. It was barely recognizable as Tip. I reached down and moved the neck. Broken. But there was a little something jammed up in his neck. I pulled it out.

It was a little one inch black dagger.

"Officer, tell your lab boys to go over the body thoroughly for cause of death."

"But we know why he died. Burned to death."

"I think that you'll find that he was dead before the firebomb."

"What? But.."

I threw the small dagger on the ground and walked on into the rubble a bit more. We both kicked around in the rubble for a bit. The flames were finally beginning to die down when Tiff came up to me.

"We both know that a firebomb isn't the Black Dagger's style, " she said in a low voice.

"I know. Which means that there's now someone else in on this thing."

"I didn't find that liquid sample anywhere, Henry."

"It doesn't matter now. I know what it is. When I called Tip, the unaltered part of the recording said that the stuff analyzed just like water but that the lab animals went crazy over it."

She wearily put her head on my shoulder and sighed, "Oh no."

"Yep; the only substance I know of that reads like that is the biggest drug fad to hit the planet since poppy-seed."


"And U.M.I. Corp's making it."

"And having someone else pushing it for them."

"Which means that the firebomb probably came from a rival gang of drug pushers; they tend to get rather jealous about such things."

"But, where do the clones come in, and who's hired the Black Dagger?" Tiff observed, "UMI's big, but the Black Dagger's price comes rather high."

"Aside from the fact that UMI wouldn't have the contacts for either pushing the drugs or finding out how to hire the Black Dagger in the first place."

"Either way, " I continued, "we're smack in the middle of a gang drug war and being hunted by history's most deadly assassin."


I so love it when mother comes into town!

"Oh, I almost forgot, " Tiff spoke up, "I got a line on a warehouse owned by UMI. Seems that there's been a lot of odd people showing up for some rather small packages lately. It's about twenty levels down from here."

"Okay.. we'll check it out, " I was tired.

She looked at me questioningly.

"Me and Tip go back fifteen years. He was always a bit of a bookworm but… he played a mean game of three-D chess."

"You don't look the chess-type, " she smiled.

"Well… I want to say goodbye to an old friend right now."

"Okay. But remember, there's a new friend waiting." Her paw squeezed my hand as I went over to the body.

I just looked at him for a few minutes. His body was burned and barely recognizable. The smell of charred fur came through my nostrils. I'm sorry that I got you into this mess Tip, it's all my fault. I'll miss you and those chess games.

I covered the body and kicked at some charred rubble. Tiff came up behind me and clenched my hand in her paw.

This job just isn't any fun anymore.

Would dawn never come?

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