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   Chapter 7 No.7

The U.M.I. Corp Connection By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 25485

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Hunting The Hunter

Ah, but the ride back was quite pleasant! The air-shocks gave us the smoothest ride I'd ever had in Tango. Tiffany had her head on my shoulder as I decided to test out the new rebuilt engine. I passed up three local metros that were already in hot pursuit of somebody else! We were all going to Shotgun's place to take on supplies.

Shotgun's place was a down-sider apartment shanty with a rather run-down look to it. Inside it was slightly less pleasant, but we entered anyway.

"Interesting place you got here, " I remarked.

Ammo and parts of various types of guns were strewn all over the place.

Shotgun shrugged, "A hobby of mine. Pull up a piece of floor anywhere."

Loretta came in, nuzzling Clyde. Tiff had told me that they had a thing going with each other. Jim came in, dour looking as ever, then Tar-Red lumbered in, followed by Gear-Shift. I cleared away some of the artillery and sat down.

"So, " Gear-Shift began, "what kind of hardware do you have for us?"

Shotgun went over to the fridge (apparently he didn't have a food-synth) and pulled out both a beer and a rifle. He took a pull on the beer and tossed the gun to Gear-Shift.

"Do you always keep your guns in the fridge?" I asked.

"Keeps the parts in good shape, so long as I keep it dry."

Gear-Shift cocked the rifle and looked it over.

"I got enough artillery here for all of you three times over. Just take your pick."

We all went over our choice of weapons, each taking their pick of rifles, lasers, or such. Clyde and Loretta were feeling each other almost as much as the guns. I already had a gun in mind that was back at headquarters.

Tar-Red gave his choice a check and asked, "So, what's the bit?"

"Well, first, it could be a bit rough, " I began.

"Shotgun here was a green-beret…, " Gear-Shift stated.

At least that explained all of the guns.

"…and Loretta grew up on the down-sider streets."

"Okay, so much for qualifications."

I went over for a beer myself and passed out some for the others. I thought we'd need it.

"First, we meet at the InterSpec building where I have to get something."

"Loose something there?" Loretta asked.

"Yeah, " Clyde continued for her, "his virginity. He wants to find it again."

"Naw, " Loretta went on, "Tiffany would just take it away from him again."

"I already locked it away for him in a nice place, " Tiff countered, "and threw away the key."

A few chuckles later, I got them back on track.

"After I get what I need, then I'll tell you where we'll be going next. A lot of this we're going to have to play by ear."

"So what else is new?" Tiff asked.

"I don't operate very well under strict plans anyway, " Shotgun responded, cocking his gun, "I like it better when there's a lot of freedom to operate in."

"The unexpected's good for the metabolism anyway, " Loretta commented, suddenly grabbing Clyde's crotch, followed by his eyes bugging out like grapefruits.

"Well, I'm glad that you feel that way, " I said, "because, until I know more about what all this is about, it's going to be a bit haphazard. Well, anyway, the sooner that we get started, the better. I suggest that we leave immediately."

"Okay by me, " Tar rumbled, "I was getting a bit bored anyway."

Gear-Shift took up his gun, as Jim scowled silently, crushing his beer-can. Loretta was pocketing several pointy objects as Clyde swept her up with an arm and a smile.

Those two really ought to get an outside life.

Tiff smiled at me as I was going to the door.

Okay, so I'm not much better either.

We cleaned up our beer bottles and then left.

About twenty minutes later we pulled into my spot at the InterSpec garage. I told the others to wait in the garage and convinced Tiff that it was safe for her to come along inside with me. After all, I didn't have anything illegal on her that could be proven, so she'd be safe from arrest. Besides, I knew the boss really well.

Oh yeah, I'm the boss.

Well anyway, we went up the turbo lift and slammed up to the eightieth floor to my office. She had on a jumpsuit that fit in ALL the right places.

Hmm, boy!

We got off the lift and went into the office area. Tiff put on her most pleasant smile and seductive walk. Showing off, or some such, I guess.

We walked into the general office area, with all the desks for the third-class agents and secretaries. Activity was a-buzz, with reports being entered at a dozen terminals, someone carrying a large tray of coffee and donuts (I think it's a tradition that all cops have to eat large quantities of donuts; it's written down somewhere), and someone else carrying a large load of paper-filled boxes.

There was a double crash as the donuts were dropped and the boxes found the floor. A brief moment of silence followed, during which all male eyes in the office were focused in our direction.

Well, not at me exactly.

We walked down the middle of the room towards my office, Tiff doing a fair imitation of the type of walk usually reserved for nightclubs and such, her hips mildly swishing back and forth as she walked, not one piece of fur out of place. One furry guy accidentally erased his computer screen as she walked by him, while someone else forgot he was still pouring coffee into someone else's mug (not that the other guy even noticed the hot coffee trickling down onto his lap). I got to my door, turned, opened it for Tiff, and then went in behind her.

Before the door was barely half way closed a cheer went up from the office, with many hoots and whistles and screams of congratulations. I went past Calico's desk.

"Miss Calico, please have the lab boys send up that dagger now."

"Yes chief, " she looked up, "I'll..."

She saw Tiff, who smiled pleasantly, and stopped short.

"I'll, do it right away, " Tiff went into my office and then Miss Calico continued, "Boss, you got a real winner there."

"Thanks, " I went in.

I thought I heard her mutter something about making it harder for her now.

Once the door was closed in my office, Tiff started laughing.

"I've always wanted to do something like that; just to see what I could do."

"Well, " I said, "I think you got their attention, as well as their unswerving devotion for life. Not to mention the eternal jealousy of anything female in this building."

She smiled and pulled me close to her, "Who cares!"

It was about three minutes before I realized that one of the lab boys was uncomfortably clearing his throat at the door.

I quickly gathered myself and put on my Yes-I'm-The-Chief face.

"I got the-"

"Yes, just put it down on my desk."

He did so and left quickly.

Tiff giggled slightly.

I unwrapped it.

"I had the lab find the bug I knew would be in this thing and turn it into a homing device."

"So we can just follow it to- Him, " she was all business now.

The dagger had a small tracking meter attached to it now.

"It should have a range of about a mile, ten if I use Tango to boost the signal. We're going to find out where that guy lives and sneak in there with a small army."

"Isn't that phrase an oxymoron?"

I shrugged, "You know what I mean. Anyway, this and that import house are the only main leads left us right know."

"And, if we're lucky, that'll lead us to that same import house."

"Big 'if' considering my run of luck lately, but I'll take what I can get."

"Let's get going then."

We left the office, its patronage making way for her like a queen… not that I could argue with them there.

We got back down to Tango and met with the others. I explained

tracking device still hooked up to it.

"Jim must have gotten if off of me."

Tar swallowed hard, "I don't like this. I like an enemy that I can see."

Clyde groaned and looked weakly up at me, "It's not Jim... didn't act quite like him."

"We know. Just lie still."

"I want to see Loretta."

I grimaced, "She got caught in one of the traps, spiked through the chest. Sorry."

He just stared off into space for about a minute, swallowed, and then got this stern look on his face, "Help me up."

"Stay still. You've got to get to a hospital."

"I'm going to kill the sons of-"

He gasped again. I put him down again as Gear-Shift came over.

"I just called down to Shotgun. He's waiting for us."

"Good, " I got out my com-link, "Tango, over here."

Seconds later Tango landed softly on the roof, just as Tiffany came up out of nowhere. Tar-Red helped me put Clyde into the back seat. Tiffany spoke to me.

"I saw Loretta. She was a good friend of mine. We worked the local bars together on some petty larceny. I checked her out. The spike got her right through the heart. I also found this."

Tiff looked perfectly controlled, but I was beginning to be able to read her. She wanted someone's heart to squeeze between her fingers!

She showed me a half burned piece of paper. It was part of a computer print-out, showing times under a column labeled shipments. The top of the page said Til- something Export- something.

"It's that Tilgard Export Company, " I grimaced.

"We'll have to go there. But first it's the hospital for Clyde."

I used Tango to get everyone down to their cars, where Shotgun was waiting for us, and then we all flew off to the hospital at break-neck speed.

Our hearts and hopes were somewhere around our knees.

Within ten or fifteen minutes Clyde was in the emergency ward, machines pinging all around him. I'd also sent out a local metro to have Loretta's body recovered. We were waiting in the ward. Gear-Shift, Tar-Red (with a new bandage on his laser wound where Shotgun accidentally shot him in the shoulder), and Shotgun were drinking coffee, while me and Tiff had just finished coming to a decision.

"You three don't have to come any farther with us. Me and Tiff are too far into this to quit, and it's gotten a bit personal for us anyway."

Tar-Red looked up, a stern expression on his face. "This Black Dagger has me scared like I've never been scared before. He's cut down three of us with his games, and he's still only playing with us! But, I'm not going out with my tail between my legs." He swished his tail back and forth as he said this. "He got my friends and I want revenge and his head hanging from my belt!"

Shotgun cocked his gun and said, "I was a green-beret. I'm not quitting now."

Gear-Shift just nodded.

"Okay then. We have one more lead."

"Tilgard Export Company, " Tiff finished for me, "we have to turn them inside out."

Just then some metros came in, followed by my up-town chief, his large badger bulk swishing back and forth, followed by Miss Calico. Tiffany slipped out.

"Oh chief! Why'd you do it?" Miss Calico wept, "Why?"

The badger came up to me, "You are hereby suspended pending an investigation and trial."

"What? What are you talking about?"

He motioned the metros towards me, "Everyone in your own office saw you bringing him in, and Miss Calico here saw you flat-out do it and then run. You can't get out of this one Flaatphut."

"What? What's the charge?"

"Huh! Still playing the game. Okay. The charge is the murder of one Mr. Jim Madool. There are at least a couple of dozen witnesses. Officers, cuff him."

The real Jim Madool no doubt. But me?

"Look it wasn't me. I have witnesses of where I've been for the past day!"

"What, your fellow street thugs here? They're questionable at best!"

"Look, I don't know how or when they did it, but that was probably a clone of me. You've got to-"

"Your stories are getting more desperate, Flaatphut. Now make this easy."

The metros came towards me.

I heard the sound of a large rifle being cocked, followed by Shotgun's voice, "Let him go. You've got him all wrong, and we're witness to that. Heck, three of us are either dead or dying as proof of it. You got your proof, we're going to get ours to prove him right. So, just put all of your weapons down on the ground over there and back off."

He motioned with his gun and then turned towards Miss Calico, "Take my word for it Miss, your boss didn't do it. Trust him. Come on Henry."

We backed out of the emergency entrance to the hospital and into the parking lot. Tango stood hovering just outside, Tiffany at the controls. ICy must have let her in. She had the door open as we ran towards Tango and all piled in. I closed the door behind us as Tiff gunned Tango up and out of there. We were now running from the good guys.

"Where to now?" Tiff asked.

"I think it's about time that we visited my mother, " I said. "We're going over to Aunty's place."

We flew off into the eternal murky twilight of the Metroplex.

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