There were some good times in Boyd's biography too. Fast-forwarding to one of those picked him up out the funk which marred his (now) uneasy rest and wound up dropping the Enforcer back down into a much deeper, more comfortable slumber:
Chavessergio Hotel, Kamenska.
"I would have never done this," Lalia Champlin admitted, "unless...unless it was real."
It was not just pillow talk to Boyd. He felt the same way. It was not just sex. He could see himself with Lalia. And it was not just a mission - even though his entire being there happened to be predicated upon a lie.
Lalia was the local girl with big aspirations who perhaps saw the flashy businessman in Boyd as a means out of monotony but had not necessarily intended as such. Why would he have even wasted his time with her. The wads of cash that were being thrown around for tips eclipsed her monthly salary. Those suits were so lavish that she could hardly pronounce their names, having never even heard of the exclusive clothing lines before. And that car. Wow. This guy was definitely a player - or so this waitress feared.
"Please remember that you said that," Boyd urged peculiarly. If this was real, it was about to be tested, and his deception was going to come around in short order to bite him.
Boyd and Lalia each lay in bed after an extended romp of almost two hours which had seen his left knee hyperextended and her looking like she had just come out the hotel's exercise facilities. The thoroughness of this particular thrashing was due in part to the fast-approaching conclusion to the Galaxy Bloc Banker's Conference. A now or never proposition, neither of them wanted the convention to slip by without at least testing the relationship waters.
These were, after all, consenting adults, so their conversation began to center around the seriousness of what was at stake. Lalia asked, "Even to cap off this week," while referring to this momentary cooldown between physical rounds, "it still doesn't seem like enough. When the conference ends and you check out this afternoon, what becomes of us?"
That was a great question which left them both to ponder more its implications than its merits. With the covers drenched in clingy dampness and each other savoring the frozen moment in time of this lingering clutch, a telling silence underscored the yearn for prolonging this companionship. It was something that intercourse could not satiate. The hunger was far from carnal but perhaps simply a lesser known variety of fear. To be completed by another presented quite the quagmire indeed. One had his Humanity confirmed whereas the other saw the possibility of achieving so much more. One wanted grounding, and the other wanted to soar. Opposites had yet again attracted, but the aim of this connection was the same.
Not a lot of time existed to mince words because Boyd needed to get ready for the final day of this convention and was willing to courteously allow Lalia to shower up before him, so he suggested, "Come with me. I mean this was - this was satisfying, but I'd also like something more."
"If I didn't know better," Lalia smiled, "I'd say that sounded almost like a...partial proposal. But you're not on your knees."
"I have one big skeleton inside my closet," Boyd said matter-of-factly. But yeah, he...killed people for a living. Relationships were always - well, tough. Lalia was probably thinking that this was because of all his big shot conquests. Heck, she might have now been worrying that one of those might come back to interfere with what was going on currently. Yes, there were conquests alright....
Dismissive of whatever Boyd was getting at, Lalia advised, "Don't screw this up. I'm a strong woman, and I hope that I can handle whatever it is, but I appreciate you at least giving me the heads-up. What I'm trying to say is that it's worth my putting up with it and my eventually coming to accept it."
With a hopeful sigh, Boyd played off Lalia's earlier statement, "Now if I didn't know better, I'd say that sounded almost like an...acceptance of my proposal."
"Now, I've got some skeletons hanging around my closet too!" Lalia laughed.
"What skeletons do you have?" Boyd let the skepticism bleed through there. "Is this one of those things where when we start living together, you just switch up to being some other person or something? Ex-lover gonna come around - I gotta knock the dude out? What secrets do you hold?"
Playfully, Lalia insisted, "You first."
From Boyd's seat within the Class V Fighter, he started cackling with his arms crossed and his eyes still closed at the irony. But who was the Enforcer to deny a lady's request? It was very often difficult for him to tell anybody about his occupation because he literally did have to kill them afterward. This time around though, it wound up being much better to show rather than to tell:
The target's name was Hale Vanslander. An investment banker who was deftly efficient at linking money to influence. In the know. Connected. Powerful. And he was Boyd's main roadblock to getting a firm grip on the Indra Pallavan Trade Routes - as flimsy of a handle as that was.
Introduced to the banker through Mexico's network and upon his reputation, it honestly took Boyd months of work to even get close, and the Enforcer still remained at an arm's length. The cover was extremely deep, but it was time for the cover to be blown. Socioeconomic espionage was not working, so black ops needed to be instituted.
Only one game could be played as far as the Space Force was concerned: The game which included the rules that they set. These Galaxy Bloc players were out of their league. Sure, these people were big fish in this small pond but remained too decentralized and untrusting.
Even loners needed somebody to watch their back. Boyd knew this more than anybody else in even humoring the proposition of bringing Lalia into this lifestyle, but he had to face it: The Enforcer could not trust the Space Force and certainly could not trust the people who he was sent to eliminate. If for nothing else, things were just downright forlorn. Even assassins deserved the right to come home to somebody and talk about their work, and maybe she would understand.
Hale did not have this luxury, and his empire would suffer because of it because (without him) that legacy would be completely up for grabs. And the highest bidders bade deceit and treachery in their bartering, so a miniature financial war would ensue where the players were going to battle it out fiscally, politically, and even militarily for the purposes of snatching up the loose pieces to this miserly official's plunder.
These fractures could also cause fissures in the unincorporated planets' leadership when those who stepped up to fill the void that this significant loss created would become stretched thin upon even trying. With the frantic dash for market share came desperation from desultory acts of uncharacteristic deportment which Boyd could exploit. Trust was a fickle safety net that usually wound up doubling as a snare.
But Boyd was getting ahead of himself and tuned back into the innocuous dribble that Hale was espousing. He would have thought that one might have wanted to choose their last words a little more carefully. The final panelists had finished their presentations for the day which meant that the conference had come to a conclusion, so the unarmed Enforcer walked alongside the investment banker down the hallway on path to the bathroom. They were being trailed by a couple suits who were obviously security and went as far as to follow them all the way into the restroom! Coldly, he wondered if their boss was going to request their help in shaking it too.... Only the weak required bodyguards because paying for protection still happened to be the oldest known form of extortion.
"Regulation this, regulation that," Hale ranted. "These fu--ing guys, all they want is a piece of the action - try to nickel-and-dime themselves to a point of consequence where right now they're just a momentary inconvenience.
So this jerk tells me, 'You need to have somebody else do these eBooks because you're too close to it - might miss something.' And I was like, I don't need to do shi-! I just need for people to purchase my portfolio and love it. You know what I mean?"
"Come on, man," Boyd pleaded as he on the right and Hale on the left faced up against their respective urinals, "enough with this bullshi-. I've been working on your behalf for months. Me personally! You drag me off to this convention - my gosh, I thought that I was going to pass out from the stale air and uncomfortable chairs. The catered food was a nice touch. The conversation was affable. But money talks, so I'm about ready to tell you to kick rocks."
Disappointed, Hale looked over to his right side and said, "Boyd, Boyd, Boyd! You're startin' to sound like everybody else - hmm, which is actually better than you telling me everything that I wanted to hear for these past few months. Honestly, I was starting to worry about you. Every piece of your biography panned out: Education, family name, finances. Had you not fallen so far out of character just now, I'd have had you killed right where you stood - peeing. It's uh...shi--y way to die, in the bathroom of some random hotel."
It could never be said that the target was not also always planning at the same time as Boyd. For that to have been unexpected would have equated underestimation. If for nothing else, the continued uncomfortable gazes from those suits were fairly obvious. He, on the other hand, continued to stare forward at the wall. Cool, calm - the Enforcer happened to have made the right move at a critical juncture with regards to his shift in attitude toward Hale.
"Patience, Boyd. You need to lighten up," Hale suggested. "Tell me, did you ever get with that waitress you've been flirting with all week?"
The question was interjected in order to gauge response. If Boyd flipped out, Hale would know that Lalia was a piece which could be used against him. Frankly, his only response was to play it cool, play the relationship down, and continue to play the banker off, "Yeah, I wound up hittin' that." Being the first to finish, the Enforcer decided to make a move...by dropping his pants. The boxers and everything were still concealing and in place, but sometimes that happened when people wore cumbersome dress clothes and needed to stand upright for the purposes of handling their business. He needed not apologize, and composure was maintained by straightening those boxers in place, flattening the ironed dress shirt out, and bending down to retrieve the pants which rested bunched up - revealing his socks at and around his ankles.
Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but Boyd truly envied Corinna and Jocelin. There was no place for him to be able to hide a LUNC on his person. He could have never gotten this close to Hale while packing weaponry. The Enforcer was frisked daily, and although the powerful gun would always be undetectable by security sensors, it was still susceptible to the grubby paws of security guards. Sneaking that weapon into the hotel was a cinch. Carrying the piece around with him when in the presence of the banker was not.
But having the LUNC arrive ahead of both Boyd and Hale was a very good solution. The hiding place that he had chosen beneath the underside of a urinal was just simply cunning. Who would be looking under there, except for him? Taped up in the direction which would allow the Enforcer to already have his retrieval grip pointed toward the suits, he was able to immediately loose a spread of laser pulses which cut them down unsuspectingly at the knees. They flailed forward on crippled legs and were too preoccupied with pain and shock to reach for their own concealed weapons.
Two more laser pulses took the suits out of this specific conversation as well as this particular plain of existence when Boyd returned to an unforgiving form of seeking headshots for the necessary confirmation of a target's termination. Completely stunned by the rapidity of these events, Hale flinched by turning toward the Enforcer with his hands up (but unfortunately unoccupied by their previous task), so this resulted in an unsanitary stream of urination dousing the tops of the would-be assassin's designer shoes and the floor before fizzling out like a hose whose water was turned off.
"You as- hole!" Boyd decried angrily before punching a defenseless Hale in the face with his left fist and then grabbing ahold of the reeling banker's shirt collar.
"I'm willing to reconsider!" Hale said desperately through teary eyes while fighting off a bout of wooziness.
Boyd muscled the banker's face into his urinal, placed the LUNC to the back of his main target's head, and pressed the trigger pad once - stating, "I'm not." After backing away from the infrared sensor which caused the toilet to flush when a body was no longer within its line of sight, he actually found himself having to concur with Hale's assessment about dying in some random hotel bathroom being a less than stellar way to go.
Again unfazed by cameras because Boyd was a ghost by virtue of the Space Force's targeting feed (whose circuity happened to be baked into the fabric of most security feeds' programming DNA) that erased his biometric data from detection, the Enforcer took his time to adjust his appearance. He walked around Hale's body and stepped over the others en route to the sink. With hands washed of both filth and this latest objective, it behooved him to get moving because there were more than two suits who had accompanied the banker to this conference.
After using a wet paper towel to swab off his shoes, Boyd reached inside the adjacent cabinet under the sink and retrieved his second LUNC. When he exited the bathroom, the Enforcer felt the doubly nonchalant leer of two additional bodyguards who tried to play coy as they waited by the opposite side of the hall directly across from the bathroom but were, in actuality, no more the wiser about what had recently transpired - thanks to the soundproofing of a closed door.
Unhurried in presentation but feeling the urgency as far as the need to depart was concerned, Boyd sauntered briskly toward the nearest elevator. They would be headed after him in short order, so it was time to check out.
The lobby of Chavessergio Hotel featured the odd placement of a walk-in cafe. The rampant smells of gourmet food hit its patrons like a beautiful blast of home-cooked air as they either entered the building or came down via the stairs or elevator. The rooms' catering originated from this five-star restaurant establishment, so the chance to have that type of meal delivered directly to a guest's room did nothing short of contribute to a grand increase in profitability.
"What would you recommend?" A father inquired in order to get the lunch festivities started for his family - a seated party of four.
"The stir-fry is delectable and fresh," Lalia recommended from memory despite having the ability to read the menu off the tablet computer that she held and used for placing orders. It also featured extensive information on items that people did not normally memorize, but often came up, like calorie information. "I actually had that for lunch before I started my shift. The brown rice is fluffy. The chicken melts in your mouth. The vegetables are crispy. And the sauce is tangy but doesn't overpower. It comes with a side of either our soup of the day, or perfectly-seasoned corn on a saucer, or a small salad that has an in-house special light honey dressing which is just to die for. The portion sizes on the main entrée are nice too, so you might just be bringing a doggy bag back on up to the room."
"That actually sounds like a great idea," the mother chimed in, "because the kids are going to probably get hungry this evening."
Lalia added, "Plus it's a fun way to get them to," with her hand held on the side of her mouth to net the intended effect of playfully shielding the children from these next words, "eat their veggies."
The father liked that idea, "Sold!"
"So one for the table then?" Lalia checked for confirmation. She could have also done individual allotments depending upon whether or not one of the parents wanted something different.
The mother decided, "That'd be fine. Let's do salad for me, corn for the kids, and what did you want, dear?"
"What was the soup?" The father missed the actual name in what was otherwise a stellar pitch from Lalia.
She recovered from the mental lapse, "I'm sorry about not mentioning that. It's tomato with basil. Thick. Even though the bowl it comes in is tiny, some have found that to be filling by itself - chef's specialty."
"Hmm," the mother sighed, "I might switch up to that myself."
"Did you want a little bit of time to think it over?" Lalia offered.
"Excuse me," Boyd barged into their conversation and tried to take Lalia aside.
Awkwardly, she smiled over at the family, "I'm sorry."
Reasonable, the father okayed, "No no, go ahead. That'll give us the time to finalize our order, and I'm not quite ready to give up on these appetizers yet."
Concurring, the mother complimented, "This is great. They should really think about franchising it. Best kept secret, I'd say."
"Thank you," Lalia replied before turning all her attention to Boyd.
Since the situation happened to be as serious as his demeanor, he was moments away from causing a scene had she not been receptive to his advance, "We have to go now. Please. I'm not only in love with you, but I need you by my side. I can't explain this here - not in front of all these people, but I promise you, I'll tell you everything if you'll just agree to be my official."
"Oh wow," the mother said after overhearing that. Even her heart was fluttering if not to match Lalia's threat of teary eyes.
"Lady," the father interjected, "don't worry about us...."
She could sense the urgency from a pointed eyesight which was using these precious moments of ignoring a peripheral vision of paranoia for an answer to a question that was not even being popped. Honestly, it did not matter what her man was involved in. Yes, her 'man'.
After placing the tablet on the table, Lalia held out her left hand for Boyd to take hold of with his own left hand and lead her out the hotel to his waiting Lotus. Witnesses were everywhere, so it was not like a shootout could have started in that lobby even if the new team of suits were able to locate the Enforcer. Regardless, he had his lady friend and himself on the next shuttle off Kamenska. The ensuing destination was to become their next home - together.
Six hundred and fifty meters long. Three hundred and eighty-six meters long at its widest point. And each compartment stood fifty meters high. In order of frontmost direction, the spacestation consisted of ten compartments which were called sections: Cockpit, Conference, Ranking Officials' Living, Security, Docking Bay, Non-Ranking Officials' Living, Soldiers' Living, Science/Medical, Engineering, and the Giant Thruster. At the same time - one of the Space Force's most formidable vessels but also hidden in its existence through internal secrecy as well as unofficial stealth technology, the Enforcers had one of the well-known planet killers all to themselves.
Waking up to the alert tones of arrival which emanated from out his Class V Fighter's speakers, Boyd was able to snatch back manual control by grasping the twin yokes and piloting his ship through the massive fifty meter high docking bay doors as they slid apart to allow him entry. He put the fighter down perfectly on its designated landing pad along the middle area of three levels worth of parking and opened its canopy in order to disembark. While standing up in the cockpit for the purposes of achieving that end, the Enforcer noticed Lalia standing by the entrance doors to this middle level. It was nice to be home and even nicer to be back in her presence but....
She fully understood the second part about the narrative that Boyd had been contemplating during the first paragraph of the last chapter - the part about who he needed to be. Here was how that soliloquy was supposed to play out: Somewhere between who a person happened to be and who they needed to be existed the individual that a person was. This third part would be addressed in the next chapter for those who did not know about the Enforcer on a personal level, but Lalia already knew his heart, so the first thing that she said to him after his extended absence of these past few months when he made his way somberly over to her was, "You wanna go back, don't you?"