Monday, December 26, 2016

Bringing a Knife to a Raygun Fight

Mezanine or Constance downed the glass of champagne in a single shot tossing her blonde hair in an impressive display. Her blue eyes were bright as she regarded Basement across the table.

"So," she said leaning forward a bit. "I told you mine. Now you tell me yours."

"My ...?"

"Name, handle, moniker, tag -ya stoop. Your mom didn't name you 'Basement', did she?," Madison explained. One hand was twirling a lock of her hair.

"Oh. Bullethead," he said cautiously nibbling a little caviar. He made a face, added a little ketchup to it and seemed satisfied with the results.

"It suits you. Dance with me, Bullethead," Madison said smiling.

"Oh gee ... the dancing ... I ain't so good. I ... big feet ... you know what they say about guys with big feet ... I mean two left feet! I ..."

"Oh. That's so sweet. You're shy around women, big fella? I thought so. You want some advice, champ?" Madison asked rubbing her foot up his shin and enjoying seeing him swallow a whole cracker, fish eggs, ketchup and all.

"That'd be (ahuh) swell!"

"You want to live to see another sunrise; you better dance with me," she said still smiling and delivering a slight kick to his thigh.

"Would you do me the honor?" he said yanking her from her seat and practically carrying her on his arm to the dance floor.
***

"Soon now ... Soon Cuthbert and the fools who laughed at me will see their folly ... " Professor Elevator said, not noticing his wig slipping. Lobby adjusted it.

"Maybe you should monologue after we drop your little gas bomb and get out of ..." Lobby trailed off. Professor Elevator looked over where the minion was staring and saw an open topped ATV full of troops pulling into the street ahead of his gang. The ATV turned down the street and towards the Ergali restaurant, still gayly lit up. Jazzao music could be heard playing.

"What. The. Last. Hell? They're ... going to attack ... my target?" the gang leader sputtered.

"Well neat! I had my doubts about this job sir to be perfectly honest. Why don't we head back to the rendezvous, clean up and go out for some pizzao and beer?!"

Mort being absent, Professor Elevator delivered a slap to Lobby himself. "That is our target! I'm no slacker! Arm up boys and girls! Follow me double time! No one gets over on the Elevator Gang!" Professor Elevator began running down the street and the gang followed including the chastened Lobby. Thought of pizzao and beer were reluctantly put on hold. Forward the Revolution!

***

"Basement? Basement honey? Basement!" Madison hissed and then lifted her head from Basement or Bullethead's shoulder to bite him on the ear. 

"Nnnngh! What's the matter? I thought I was dancing pretty good," he said snapping out of his euphoria.

"The waiter over there ... that's Twoomey," Madison hissed.

"Two Gun Twoomey? The flatfoot?" Basement's eyes narrowed a little then returned to its usual genial expression and kept his mind on doing the box step.

"I don't mean Twoomey the optometrist! Look at the other servers ... are they ... ?"

"Packing? looks like it," Basement might have had trouble with calculus, spelling, and telling time but seeing if a guy was strapped was like breathing to him.

"These are all flatfoots."

"Wow, I knew the economy was troubled imagine all them coppers need to moonlight to make ends meet," Bullethead said sadly. Mezzanine bit him on the ear again

"It's a trap for the Boss and the guys ... we gotta do something!"

"Ngha! Okay.! OkayYou're the brains on this job. Me, my ma always said I wasn't the sharpest tool on the tree. How do we play this?"

"First get off my damn toe you gorilla!"

***

Ranna Morrigen, Dame Ranna Morrigen now, watched the blonde and the dimbulb twirling on the dance floor and wondered why they didn't just get a room? She was sure she knew them from somewhere. It'd come to her. "What did you mean about Professor Elevator, Sir Bert?"

"I meant he is not going to be a problem after tonight Dame Ranna. We got a tip he's planning something. This joint is packed with incognito cops and every undercover private dick we could hire. He's going to be caught and brought to justice. Don't worry, we will make every effort to take him alive. We don't need to make him a martyr."

"Oh he'd love that for sure."

"I see no reason to oblige him by killing him or his passel of footpads, vagabonds and fools."

***

"Ah hell ... all this paperwork. Sissy, you're young. It's Satyrday night. Whyncha knock off and go see a movie or something? Ghouls of the Underworld is playing right down the block." the Mayor said rubbing his eyes.

Sissy Bobeck, journalist, executive assistant, and public relations manager, dumped another sheaf of papers on the desk. "Awww that's nice yer honor. Not a chance. We're finishing up on this budget tonight. C'mon, we can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel."

"No doubt an oncoming train," Louie moaned chewing on a cigar.

"Anyway ... I'd be out and about if you didn't sock my Galen with working overtime tonight."

"I dunno what ya see in Twoomey ... a monkey with a tin badge." Louie grumped blowing a smoke ring.

"Awww don't be that way yer honor. Are you jealous?"

"Let's stick a pin in this fight, we got company. Looks like a lifter full of Xibalboa's crew coming in to land on the terrace. Wonder what's up?"
***

Prigo waited a moment for Xibalboa's stomach to stop turning then continued helping the tall offworlder along by the arm.

"You feeling better?" Prigo asked.

"Starting to. Thank you for escorting me Mr. Prigo. I know my people are a little fussy and me more than most ..."

"You're a bunch of germaphobes. I would call you nancies but I seen the way your boys handle their dukes in a scrap."

"Ah yes. Anyway ... I try to be understanding on this world but that ... glass with the lipstick on it ... nnnngh!" the Inerzan grabbed his stomach.

"Okay ... that's one I'll give ya. The wife done me like that once. Wanted me to take a drink out of it ... Zhao give her peace," Prigo said.

"I had no idea. I'm sorry. How long?" Xibalboa asked.

"Three no four years. I wish she'd seen me ... like this.I'm a success and partnered with a rich offworder ... one a' your merchant princes. I got two restaurants. Our place has the cream of society eating there now ... but Sadie was just around for the hard times." Prigo stopped a moment and produced his wallet, opening it to a photograph.

Xibalboa nodded. "I have no one. I hope I find a lovely woman like your lady. Say, I think we're lost. let me check my wrist paddlet."

The wrist paddlet projected a small holographic display then bleeped for attention. Xibalboa fiddled with several telltales and peered at a line of red text.

"What's the matter? You need a recharge?"

"No. My security system is flagging something as inappropriate. Prigo ... go home,; don't got back to the restaurant. I will make my way alone. I feel much better," Xibalboa said. He straightened up and appeared to make a sudden recovery.

"... No thanks. What's the problem?"

"I need some privacy. Some folks want to see me on a deal I am reneging on."

"I see. Nix. I'm sticking," Prigo pulled a revolver from his pocket and Xibalboa's eyes widened a little above his face mask as the little man readied his pistol.

"I did not take you for a man of action Mr. Prigo."

"I'm pissing myself right now. But I stick by my friends. Zaoni stick by their pals. Ain't it like that at Inerze?"

"I don't know. I don't really have any friends ... except here Mr. Prigo." 

"Call me Steen. Now what's the deal here?"

"Someone has placed a tracer on my paddlet. They were tracking me. My security system has alerted me but they shut down my comm functions ... okay let me rephrase: some goons slipped my gadget bad code and it turned snitch on me. I got the straight dope from it just now but they're close and the gadget is on the blink so I can't drop a dime to my own gang at my ship!"

"Okay ... any problem if we cheezit? There's a police station three blocks over that way ..." Prigo pointed as two men in offworder armor stepped around the corner guns drawn. They wasted no time but began firing at the two restauranteurs.

"Down the alleyway 'Bo! Watch it!" Prigo lost his grip on the trader as a bullet struck Xibalboa and he doubled over. Prigo fired two shots and managed to drag the merchant prince into an alleyway.

"Yo, local? We only need Xibalboa. Push him out and you can leave," one of the gunmen offered. The reply was a bullet that spanged off his armored shoulder and hurt like hell. The offworlder cursed.

"I'll push my foot up yer asses you bums!" Prigo yelled. He had no idea he was firing some of the first shots by Zaonia of their next war.

***

Ah those personal computers were hot stuff back in the seventies. The idea of a computer that could be strapped to your forearm (only weighing a kilogram or two) that could relay information to you was heady stuff.

Now we have cel-phones that fit in your back pocket. It's okay though. Even Star Trek's communicators look unbelievably clunky (and they can't even send pictures!). A pc strapped to your wrist makes a lot of sense, especially if it has voice recognition. Sometimes you need both hands free and have questions. With it you can link into a planetary internet and for nominal charges have a planetary database at your fingertips, or tongue if you're still doing the voice activated thing.

It can also be a virtual fingerprint if you're engaged in any kind of clandestine activity (see what I did there?) I know you referees are saying, "Lawbreakers? Not my players!" But think about it. Players may begin to think of their little porta-comps as mobile phones. That is to say they they don't want to live without them.

One of the things you learned living in New York City in the Sixties and Seventies was the gentle art of civil disobedience. Trust me, you learned it just watching the news and reading the papers every day or in my case having several people you knew involved in protests.

This art was unsuccessfully performed recently once again. The Occupy Wall Street movements (both of them) taught everyone a painful truth. If you're going to commit a crime leave your electronics at home. Many people were caught based on the location of their phones at the time of mass arrests, established by the cel tower the phone was using. It's reasonable to assume tracking this sort of tracking will continue to improve and that police will get better at it. What is a party to do when they need to keep a low profile?

The easiest solution is to leave your wrist comp at home when you plan skullduggery. This is not always possible. You might need a wrist comp with some info on it (train schedule, local sales, police patrols restaurant reviews). In that case you could arrange a secure connection to your ship (if you have one). Then you'd at least have the default library. Too bad if you need local information.

Another solution is to swipe a local's wrist comp. This might be arranged with the local's knowledge. You pay him. They report the theft after a prearranged time and then you toss the computer in the trash somewhere (not anywhere near your ship or lodgings). Local turns in an insurance claim and gets a new wrist comp.

Of course finding the cookies that let your wrist comp be traced or building and programming clean wrist comps to log onto planetary data systems then toss. Likewise putting tracking programs or other malware on an enemy's comp.

One last warning about wrist comps: have a friend clear your browser history if you fail your survival roll.