MoboReader > Modern > The U.M.I. Corp Connection

   Chapter 5 No.5

The U.M.I. Corp Connection By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 27056

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Warehouse Rumble

We came quietly in behind the building next door to UMI's warehouse; it was quiet as death over there. This was a rather seedy section of town, prone to gangs, disappearances, and nefarious street-life. The lighting on this level was just slightly more than an eternal dusk, and the air had its own peculiar oily smell to it. Gangs, drugs, and pay-per-use sex were commonplace here. All in all, a rather rough downsider neighborhood.

It felt just like old times!

I parked Tango on the roof of a neighboring building and we both got out. I then took my full-spectral binocs out of the glove-compartment, and we went over to the roof's edge, keeping low, as I scanned the building with the binocs.

"Don't see much just yet, " I said.

"Over there, " Tiff pointed, "here comes a slightly suspicious traveler."

A guy done up in a too-big overcoat was coming up to the building's only visible entrance. He looked like a reject from amateur-night. I focused on him.

"It looks like he's talking to someone just inside. I wish I'd remembered to bring my earphones."

Tiff smiled and brought a pair out of a pocket and put them on, aiming the snooper-scope in the guy's direction.

"I'm going to assume that you have a recorder hooked up to that rig as well."

"Need you ask?" she smiled.

She began listening and repeating what she heard out loud to me.

"They're saying something about payment for 'the goods'. He's being asked to pay ten-thousand credits for one vial of the 'water'. Which makes it the most expensive water or drug on the street."

"From what I've heard about this 'water', you could cut it about a thousand to one and it'd still retain its potency."

"That's what I call hard-water. I'm going to scoot down for a closer listen."

Before I could say 'but', she'd slid smoothly down the roof and was climbing down the side of our building like a- well, like a cat-burglar.

Okay, so kill me; I had to say it. Anyway, I focused on that doorway.

He appeared to be talking a bit more, perhaps haggling over price, and then exchanged packages. Must be the drugs. I've got to follow this guy to get some much needed proof.

But first, I've got to stop these pesky little stars from circling in front of my face. Ow!!

I rolled over around onto my back, rubbing my head, and came face to face with a scar wearing a wolf's face, the face being attached to a six foot body and wearing, along with other decorative but fatal attire, a biker's jacket. Behind him were four others; two cats, a female human, and a ferret, their hoverbikes parked all around Tango.

"What hagggve we hegggre. A spy me thingggks."

I wish he wouldn't spit so much when he growls.

"Look, I'm not really a spy." I thought briefly of telling them that I was scouting out movie locations.

"No?" one of the cats meowed.

"No, " I smiled encouragingly, "I wasn't spying on your building at all. I was... just hired to act as lookout for it."

"So, your part of securrrrity for it?"

"Yes, " this was looking good, "so, we're all on the same side."

He grinned toothily.

I smiled back.

The other gang members began to laugh, the girl giggling a bit (not bad looking...).

I started to laugh along with them.

They laughed.

I laughed. It was going to be all right!

"We have here, " slobber-face laughed, "someone from that new gang that's been cutting into ourrr terrrritory."

Wha-oh, wrong gang!

"No, wait, you see I was just..."

I tried to dash for Tango.

He caught me by the neck. I found myself dangling an inch off of the ground.

One of the cats put in, "We take him back? Quessstion? Play?"

I didn't like that last part.

"Can I keep him; I think he's cute, " the female human spoke up.

"We take him first, decide laterrr. Boss want talk with one from other ganggg." Wolf-face put me on his bike, pulled out some cuffs (they were metro-cuffs; I was afraid to know how he'd gotten them), and put them on me. "Scuzz, " pointing to one of the cats, "take his car. Fazz, take Scuzz's bike along with yours."

As the second cat hooked up the other's bike in tandem with his own and the first one approached Tango, I grimaced. Poor Tango, ...

Scuzz got in and proceeded to hot-wire Tango, smiled when he got a spark, and then pushed the start button.

And proceeded to howl piercingly as ten-thousand volts began to pour through him; his fur smoked and his flesh burned.

...now I'm going to have to recharge her anti-theft device.

The ferret pried him out with a loose wooden board lying around. The cat slumped to the ground, still smoking.

"Aaagghh, " wolf-breath grabbed me by the throat, claws coming out, "what you do?"

Tango then started up and lifted ceiling-ward for fifty feet. I knew that ICy had now taken control of her and wouldn't bring her down until it was safe.

Bad breath streamed in my face.

"Well, " I began, swallowing hard, "that's the last time I buy that model car. It isn't safe to ride in!"

He growled loudly and strapped me down onto his bike.

"We go now. Boarrrd bikes!" he shouted, as the remaining members did so. They left what was left of their former companion where he lay, his bike in tow. The bikes hovered up into formation.

"Move out!"

He waved his paw and we all sped away.

Music was blaring to some punk-metal tune coming out of the run-down dance studio-bar-hangout as we approached it. The bikes landed in front, with spit-face pushing me off his bike as they then led me inside the building. We went past some dregs shooting and snorting all manner of stuff, all variety of races in wild forms of garb, and chains and earrings hanging from almost everywhere except their ears. Various colors of smoke wafted around the air as we bustled through the crowd. Inside we went through the dancing and people, past the bar, and through a door into a back room. I was still tied up.

They shoved me on the ground.

"Wessssshh found other gangggg look-out on rrroof. Brrrought him to question. Scuzz dead; we saved bike."

I looked up. I was in a small office room, bearing all the trappings of a gang with drug money; knives and leather mixed with expensive computer and electronic equipment as well as a good sampling of small arms. Behind the desk was a large kodiak bear type, with scars, wearing a rumpled business suit, and a belt with a knife in it the size of a small sword. I didn't know they'd bio-engineered bears, this being the first one I'd seen, but here he is.

The bear motioned the ferret and remaining cat out of the room, the human female sitting down cross-legged on his desk, using a small dagger to groom her fingernails. Bear-face motioned to me and wolf-face pushed me forward. It's a bit hard to remain standing when your hands and feet are bound up.

Boss-man snorted as slobber-face whispered the details into his ear. After a few seconds, the wolf got waved off and the boss stared at me.

"Your gang's been cutting into our territory, " he growled, "and you're going to help me stop it. Where's your gang's headquarters?"

"Look, " I was getting a bit annoyed, "I'm not only not a member of any gang, but I was spying on them; I want them out of business too. I thought your boys were from them."

"That story ain't going to help you much. Now, spill it!"

"I think he's cute, " the female said, "I want to keep what's left of him afterwards."

"Look, they surprised me because I was looking at the warehouse, not patrolling around it."

"He could hagggve been looking at customer, " the wolf put in defensively.

The boss looked me over carefully, "his hands aren't rough enough for a street person. Check his ID."

I found myself hanging upside-down while the wolf was fishing it out of me. He dropped me to the ground and handed my ID to boss-man. The boss looked it over and then glared at me. I tried to straighten myself up into a slightly more dignified position.

"You're InterSpec, " he smiled, "which, if true, makes you utterly harmless."

He and the wolf roared with laughter.

I suppose I should be used to that reaction by now.

The girl looked up, "Can I keep him, Thorg?"

I'd heard that name somewhere before.

The bear turned, "After I decide if he's truly harmless."

"Are you Thorg Henderson?" I ventured.

I got a big toothy smile as a response.

Thorg Henderson, read as: big local crime boss, heavily into drugs, prostitution, and most of the other five deadly sins.

"I'm not here to bust you, " I ignored their laughter, "I'm trying to trace down Euphorium."

Thorg looked at me a bit more seriously, "I've lost five guys trying to trace that down. How do you expect to do it?"

"I say waste him, " the wolf growled out.

I almost had my ropes undone behind my back. I had to play for time.

"Look, you don't like them, and I know who's behind it."

This got their attention.

"And I stand a better chance than you of taking them out."

The wolf came up to me with a snarl, "You pipsqueak; how can you do it. I still want kill him."

He pulled my head back by my hair and breathed into my face.

Yuck!

I spat in his face, gaining a large growl in response, and then lashed out with the rope -having just finally untied it- climbed onto his back, pulling rope around his neck at the same time. He got up, growled, and proceeded to scratch his back on the wall with me as the back-scratcher. This wasn't quite working out!

I braced my feet up against the wall, pressing outward. Still holding onto the rope, I took a small dagger out of my pants and jammed its hilt into the flimsy wall behind brainiac here. It hung a bit loosely but would have to do. Then I vaulted out and over his head, landing in a distinctly non-dignified position on the floor. Brainy had still been trying to press me up against the wall, but since I wasn't there he slammed himself up against the wall... and right into my dagger. He let loose with a yowl as he tried frantically to dislodge my toothpick from his hide. I looked around. Thorg was getting up and readying his "dagger". The human female came over to me.

"Oh, come on Thorgy, I want him. Besides, " she tilted her knife towards my throat, "I know how to handle men."

The way that pretty little thing smiled, I could tell that she was into whips, chains, and other toys.

Of course, if I was going to be beaten by someone, it might as well-

The door flew open as a dart came whizzing by and hit the wolf in the throat. He slumped to the ground with a plop as Tiffany came in.

"Can't I leave you anywhere?"

"Yeah, well, you know, I like to travel, get out on the town, and I bumped into these party people."

Thorg looked both angered and amused as he said, "If I say so, neither one of you makes it out alive. Who's the fur?"

I stood up; Tiff was noting the massage job the girl was trying to give me.

"We... work together. And if I say so, you don't leave this room either."

Silence.

Then, Thorg began to chuckle.

The girl looked "friendlier".

"Tell you what. You appear competent enough. We both want this other gang out of business. You help us do it and we let you live."

"And I keep him?" the girl smiled, snapping off my lower shirt button with her knife.

"Minor point, " Tiff put in, "he's taken missy. He's mine!"

"You lost him. Finder's keeper's, " she hissed back.

Tiff's claws came out.

The girl's knife came out.

"Well, " Thorg smiled, "it looks as if we have a real cat-fight on our hands."

They circled each other. I backed over to the desk.

The girl lunged at Tiff who dodged, giving a swipe of her claws in return. The girl whirled around slashing, but Tiff wasn't there. Tiff scratched at her back as the girl tumbled over and onto her feet. Tiff lunged.

"So, " Thorg calmly sat down, "is she often this protective?"

Slash! Crash!

"A bit. We just met when I brought down the Looking Glass scandal."

Crunch! Break! Slash!

"You did that? I watched the stuff that was dumped on the air-waves. How'd you get it to broadcast on the microwave oven?"

"State secret, " I smiled. "Is the girl often that flirtatious?"

Slash! Scream!

"Well, that's why I keep her around. Tell you what…"

Swing! Claw! Scratch!

"…I like people who can keep cool under fire like you. I'm willing to work together on this thing…"

Swing! The girl looked around for Tiff and couldn't find her until she'd jumped down on her from the ceiling. Ummph.

"…but, if you bust me, I'll come down on you hard! I just want my business back the way it was before."

Grab! Swing! Crack!

I ducked a thrown lamp as I said, "I can guarantee that; I got promoted after that Looking Glass incident."

"Oh? Congratulations."

Slash! Claw!

"Thank-you. So, do we have a deal?"

Jump! Crash! Swing!

"Yes! I'm really just a businessman at heart, you know."

Whirl! Claw! Parry! Thrust!

"Glad to hear it! Tiffany?"

Crash! Claw!

"Yes, hon?"

The girl was charging for her back as Tiff turned.

"We've struck a deal; you can stop playing and come over here."

The girl leaped at Tiffany.

"Okay."

Tiff abruptly back-pawed at her face as she came over to me; the girl landed with a hard thump and a sigh and didn't move. Tiff casually came up besides me.

I smiled, "She loves to play."

Thorg laughed.

Well, we'd made plans for the disposition of that warehouse; they are going to help us raid it (I'

d talked them out of blowing it up, after-all, we needed someone to prosecute). When we went outside I saw Tango there; apparently after the bikers had taken me, ICy had let down Tango for Tiff, who had been observing from the side of our building. When they saw Tango, the cat whimpered and ran back inside and wolf-face -bandages over his various wounds- just began growling at it.

We were now in an alley across from the warehouse. Thorg had a couple dozen of his "boys" spaced around the place, with me, Tiff, and Thorg ready to charge the back door, with the gal that Tiff fought still recovering back at their headquarters. While receiving help from gang members isn't exactly legal, since I was suspended anyhow, what difference did it make?

Okay, so it could make things worse! But, I had to do it for Tip. That, and I was sick and tired of being shot at. Now, I wanted to shoot back for a change!

Thorg looked up from his watch-com he was talking into and nodded towards the building, "Everyone's in position now. I'm told that there's plenty of buying activity going on in there."

He took out that "toothpick" of his while I readied my laser pistol. Tiff had her dart gun loaded up.

"Well, " I looked up, "now's as good a time as any."

He smiled and spoke into his com.

A couple seconds passed and then we heard three explosions, one at the front door, one on the roof, and one on the side. This was followed by sounds of shooting going on in there. Sounded like a full blown war!

"We'll let my boys clean up for a bit before going in. They brought in enough armaments to crush a small army. We'll get them."

"I hope so, " but something on the back of my neck was prickling.

Tiff looked concerned.

ZAP! Sizzle!

I could smell the ionized air from here! That sounded like a heavy duty energy blaster turret, the kind you find on ships, large tanks, and orbital weapons platforms!

"What the heck was that?!" Thorg spoke into his com.

Tiff looked up at me, "Drug pushers don't carry that kind of artillery."

"Yeah, we're into something big here."

"I'll take the sewers and the power cables, " she readied her gun.

"I'll try with ICy."

Tiff disappeared off into the night.

Thorg was shouting into his com link when he looked up, "I'm backing them off; they got heavy stuff in there. What have you gotten me into?!"

He looked angry enough to eat titanium as he pointed his toad-sticker at my throat.

"This isn't the time for that. We've got to deal with this first. Now, what do your boys tell you?"

"They're getting cut down by heavy blasters and a 70 caliber gun."

Ouch! That's heavy!

A large hole suddenly exploded out of the side of the warehouse, with a spew of body parts flying out with it. More men came running out of the hole. Following them came half a dozen men, all dressed in green uniforms, carrying submachine guns, and walking out in formation, spraying their guns back and forth in front of them. They had to be professionals.

Something about them struck me as odd, but I didn't have time to ponder it. I leaped over towards Tango, pulling Thorg with me. We got inside and I gunned it up to fifty feet as I contacted ICy.

More sounds of the heavy blasters sounded from inside, as parts of men came flying out.

"ICy!"

"Yeah boss, " his voice sounded over the speakers.

"This warehouse I'm over, anyway of getting to their power or computers?"

"Their power is self-contained, independent from any outside lines."

Thorg looked very angry, "You mean you can't pull their plug?"

"Slow down!" His knife was getting too close, "ICy, what about their computers?"

"They have a computer for their environment control and security. It's hooked up to the local cybernet, but it's an IPM-Univoc 1324 AI; the best they make."

"What that machine just said then, is that we can't get into their cyber-space, " Thorg looked threateningly, "because that model's supposed to be almost foolproof!"

"Actually, he said it's their best, not foolproof. ICy, hook me in!" I smiled, "besides, who do you think told them what their few flaws were anyway?"

Blasts sounded below as I popped out Tango's Cyber-link. ICy gave me their system display. I worked away at getting in.

"You better make it quick, my boys are in a turkey-shoot down there!"

More explosions.

I frantically typed away. First I ran my best password-finding program. No good. Then I began pulling a few other tricks.

More people were being gunned down by the troops below.

Hmm. They've had the security on this thing beefed up a bit. I know… their computer has to call outside for such things as correct time, weather reports, and the stock market reports and such; maybe if I just pretended that I was a weather report...

Boom! ZZZlit! Sizzle! Fry!

"Hurry up or you're hamburger!"

"I'm in! Now to run a bit-inverter program."

"A what?"

I typed as I explained it to him.

"Basically, it'll go through their entire system and invert all of their memory and program bits; 1s become 0s and visa versa."

"You mean it'll put their guns and stuff in reverse?"

"Not quite. More like... sideways."

I loaded the program into their cyber-space as a couple of shots began glancing off of Tango. The troops had noticed me and were giving Tango even more unneeded dents.

Since the ceiling on this level only had about ten more feet to go, I landed Tango on top of their roof; since all the fighting was down below, this ought to be a little safe.

The landing wasn't especially smooth; apparently one of Tango's landing wheels had been shot off.

Suddenly one of the uniformed troops disappeared. Nothing left. All you could notice from it was the report of the 70 caliber just before it happened. It looked as if my program was beginning to take effect. I looked into their cyber-space on my screen to see what was happening.

From the looks of it, their air-conditioners were trying to attack Thorg's men with cold blasts of air, while the security sensors were trying to cool the place by rapidly turning on and off. One of their blasters was trying to send coded signals to the other, by way of rapidly firing off a few dozen shots per second (I don't think they were designed for that sort of prolonged firing rate), while the other was trying to make love to their refrigeration system, which in turn had decided to see if could do any better as a heater instead. Their 70 caliber was now merrily shooting at anything with the color green while their loudspeakers were playing an old tune of "It's Not Easy Being Green".

Thorg was looking over my shoulder and down below, smiling, "I think I like the looks of this. Say, if your government salary isn't enough, I could sure use a good-"

"Sorry, " I smiled, "only forty more years and I'll have a pension."

Suddenly, four guys came streaming out of the roof stairway door; a human, a cat, a ferret, and a wolf.

"It's my boys, or what's left of them."

They came running up to us, looking haggard and a bit bloodied, wolf-face in the lead, "Boss, it's all chaos in there. Everythingggg's shooting at everything else!"

"How many dead?"

"I thingggk we have maybe ten left, including wounded."

"Ten! Out of FORTY?!"

He brought out his "knife" again. Everyone backed up; I got out of Tango.

"I want their leader! Now!"

"Bbbbbbuuuttt BBBBBos. It's too dangerous in there!" the cat whimpered.

One growl from Thorg stopped any objections.

"You, Flatfoot, " I decided not to correct him on the pronunciation, "What about turning things off!"

Just then the explosions and extraneous noise stopped, "I think Tiffany just did that."

Thank-you!

"Good! Now, everyone down the stairs!, and shoot anyone you don't know!"

We went down the stairs. There was water all over (apparently the fire-sprinklers had tried to attack passers-by with water), and further on down it got excessively hot. Entering the main warehouse section, we saw blood and body parts everywhere (Yuck, I think I just stepped in some intestine!). Boxes and their liquid contents were broken open, spilling their contents all over. Two LARGE blaster turrets hung loosely, with the 70 caliber limply guarding the main entrance. There were bits of green cloth and attached body parts all over, as well as the remnants of a number of now former customers. A whimpering was heard from a secluded corner. Tiff joined me from the shadows.

Thorg looked it all over and then at me and Tiff, "You two sure do know how to make a mess."

Tiff shrugged, "We're just like fire and gasoline is all."

I looked at one of the broken bottles; it was the same ones as from UMI. The cat was sampling an unbroken bottle.

"I wouldn't do that..."

Too late. He downed the WHOLE bottle, looked normal enough for about two seconds, and then dropped to the floor writhering and twitching, both screaming and crying out in pleasure. Thorg looked at me.

"That proves it's Euphorium, " I observed, "he probably took enough to get this whole city block high."

The cat's eyes began to melt, while he clawed at the floor as his face turned green. Thorg motioned for wolf-face to check out the whimpering, while the cat's twitching and convulsions set him bouncing up to a foot or two off the ground. Talk about an O.D.!

I looked around at all the boxes of "liquid".

"There's enough stuff here to give North America a very good week."

"And some pretty fair artillery, " Tiff motioned, "that's war-surplus stuff."

I went over to the body of one of the guys in green. Something still nagged at me. I pulled off his hood.

Nothing spectacular yet. I went over to another and did the same.

They were identical!

"Tiffany, these pros are all clones!"

"Someone's cloning good troops?"

The whimpering got nearer as the source of it was thrown before Thorg's feet by the wolf.

It was a fat-faced five-foot raccoon wearing an overcoat. Thorg had his Toothpick ready.

"Who's behind all this!" he shouted, "I want names NOW!!"

The raccoon shivered there on the ground, still whimpering.

"Look, " I went over to the raccoon, "I've figured it out but I just need confirmation. So, if you'll just tell me before Thorg's hand gets tired from hefting that heavy knife he so likes using."

I can play good-cop bad-cop too. Well, except that one of us isn't a cop, and I'm only a suspended one.

The cat's twitching had finally stopped… along with his life.

"I, I, I ... cccan't. I mean..."

Thorg gave a swipe with his knife. The raccoon's left thumb flew off.

"TALK!!!"

The raccoon screamed loudly.

"Bbbbbuuuttt, if I -"

Hack! Off went the other thumb!

"You still got a few fingers left! Now talk!!"

"Iiiit's UMI Corp. That's all I know."

"And the troops and weapons?" I asked.

"I just know that UMI gets them from the- OW!! - Tilgard Export Company."

"And who owns UMI?" Thorg asked threateningly.

"I, ... I, ... I - URK!"

He slumped forward with something small sticking out of the back of his neck. The ferret grabbed it and pulled it out.

"Don't, " I cried, "it's probably -"

He shuddered, dropped it, grabbed at his heart, and then fell down. Dead.

"- poisoned, " I finished.

We all looked down to see what it was. Tiff and I didn't need to; we had a horrible feeling what it was.

It was small, black, and shaped like a dagger.

I finally saw fear, mixed with rage, in Thorg's bear face.

"Wha- what have you gotten me in with!"

He motioned to his men, "we're out of here! Now!"

"Boss, " one of his men came up dragging a body, "we found one of their lab boys."

The muskrat body looked rather familiar.

"His name's Dr. Husteff. He's with U.M.I. and he's a clone."

"I've had enough, " Thorg looked up, "let the word on the street that anyone pushing Euphorium will end up worse than this warehouse!"

He motioned and we went back up the stairs. As we climbed them, Tiff showed me a piece of cloth.

"I found it on one of the bodies."

I looked it over. It was a decorative headband. By its markings it was native to Africa.

"Well, that blows that theory. It's not who I thought it was. But that doesn't explain the clones and weaponry."

"Or maybe it does, " Tiff pointed out.

I thought for a minute and then nodded agreement.

Back in Tango I called in the drug bust and my suspicions about UMI's connection. And what do you know? I'm no longer suspended! Of course, I hadn't told them about Thorg's help. I mean, I'd promised Thorg and I always keep my word… especially to a guy like him.

Dawn was finally breaking as me and Tiff lifted up off in Tango. Thorg's men had withdrawn; I'd told him that I'd be in touch with him later but he said not to rush, that me and Tiffany attracted too much danger even for him! Well, we flew off and down the street, Tango flying at an odd angle and her engine making strange noises.

That's when the warehouse exploded, sending Euphorium all over the sector. The whole neighborhood was going to get high! I wonder how long I was going to enjoy no longer being suspended?

Who cares?! I was beat! We flew Tango, beaten up as she was, off to my apartment and then headed straight for the bed. Last I remember, me and Tiff both collapsed on the bed. Now, I know what you're thinking, and I would have liked to, but I was too bone-tired. I just collapsed onto the bed.

I was asleep before I hit the blankets.

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