Criticality (14): Judge, Jury, and Enforcer
The Second Earth Special Police Force Base
“You know that this is one of the stereotypes about cops which I do not mind?” Julian explained as he entered the conference room and took a gander at the spread of doughnuts that Slubbich had amassed.
“I don’t think that any of the four of us fit the typical mold,” Pete admitted while trailing Julian into the conference room and immediately finding his seat at the head of its table.
Slubbich and Vim were already situated as they sat to Pete’s left, respectively. Julian raided one of the boxes of doughnuts for a jelly-filled kind before taking his seat on the rugged cop’s right side. He apologized, “I’m sorry that we’re a little bit late.”
“It gave Vim and I a chance to further review your report on the Staines Warehouse District investigation,” Slubbich went right into things. He and punctuality were a bit of an item, but efficiency was a part of his inner circle as well.
“We’ve got about four ongoing investigations,” Pete paused a moment to preface that statement, “as well as my personal fifth: The incident at Cipher Coliseum, the Ennead office manager – I’m going to call it an assassination, the Staines Warehouse District investigation, the Shokan Dojo massacre, and Retsepar. All of these are seemingly random events, but Julian and I are coming to realize that everything is part of a larger narrative.”
“How so?” Vim inquired.
Making sure to wipe his mouth with a napkin before he spoke, Julian stated, “On Second Earth, there really is only a short list of players. The events are inevitably linked because even fewer are tasked with the ability to pull any strings. While we’re saddled with trying to sort through the crazy happenings as of late, it’s not like any of our suspects are going out of their way to hide, deflect attention from them, or deny any wrongdoing.”
With a nod, Slubbich concurred, “You’re absolutely right. Every single one of these events has been boldly undertaken among the open scrutiny of broad daylight.”
“It’s like whoever is involved in all of this mayhem is daring us to take them down so that they can take us out,” Julian said as he stood up and made his way over to the water cooler of the conference room. Oddly, nothing said filling to him like sugary foods and water. The combination traditionally consisted of milk and sugary foods, but he realized that he not only enjoyed water with doughnuts but ice cream, cake, and candy as well. Perhaps, psychologically, the purity of his liquid of choice in someway made up for the sinful decadence of the sweets.
“Let’s work up a list of these players,” Slubbich suggested while tapping his middle finger on the table top for emphasis. “Starting with the incident at Cipher Coliseum, Police Force Officer Lenorox was adamant about what she believed was the Shokan’s involvement in the destruction.”
Pete spoke up, “Add to that – the Djibouti Clan. I read the report on Sylvia’s statement, and she was saying something about a blood feud between those two.”
Having returned to the table, Julian admitted, “I’m willing to believe just about anything right now.”
Vim had since taken out his slate computer and begun to type away on its face. “Noted. Hey, not to skip all the way ahead to the Shokan Dojo massacre, but if the Shokan are powerful enough to destroy Cipher Coliseum without a trace – I mean, I know what goes around comes around, but how this same thing could happen to them is not adding up.”
“There’s usually somebody who happens to be bigger and badder,” Pete mentioned before clarifying, “but in this case, the group that did this isn’t necessarily bigger. Badder? Definitely, and I would go as far as to say that they are going to be our biggest roadblock.”
This new piece of information sounded intriguing to Slubbich, so he asked outright, “What are you saying? What do you know?”
“It was part of the reason as to why we were tardy,” Julian let out. “It’s the Enforcers.”
Being a mercenary was a cold business – once an honorable business, but Acid Pop’s affiliation with the one team who ruined it for everybody else had caused many sleepless nights. What happened when a killer for hire was no longer adjudicated by the laws which fell underneath the fabled virtual guild of mercenaries, Death Corps? Restless nights for one but the undeniable penchant to sleep with two weapons was the other – wrapped within the cold sweat which drenched his sheets with an ease that would make the lost control of bowels proud. And there was a good chance of this occurring as well.
“H-how d-did you get in here?” Acid Pop said as he fumbled around for one of his weapons in the darkness – hidden beneath the damp sheets.
Acid Pop looked like a scared child who was hiding from the boogeyman beneath the safety of his covers. But this was no man before him, and where there might have been compassion in a similar situation which involved children – only a cutting laughter permeated the hot and awkward atmosphere like a cold deliverance. Finally, he had located his weapon and fired an unintended D-Beam pulse through the covers which sent a transparent ripple throughout the room.
“That one only works on Dorans,” Cindra announced.
It was the wrong weapon! The terror in Acid Pop’s eyes said it all, so the dumbfounded expression of his wide open and presently occupied mouth needed not to utter any words in support.
Ironically, Acid Pop’s hand laser would not have worked at all with the protective properties of Cindra’s combat gear, so rather than giving her frozen adversary the chance to test that theory out, she put him down within his death bed. One LUNC pulse to the face and another to the heart were sufficient, but a quick check of the minicomputer which adorned the left arm of her combat suit had the biometric scan that confirmed the date and time of the pronouncement.
Yes, the fall colors were beautiful, but the leaves in Crazeintox’ gutters left little to be desired. It was something that he could not leave alone because the waterfall which ensued from the clogged drainage that would then surround his roof was not only unsightly but annoying.
Without a spotter, Crazeintox made his way up the sturdy ladder carefully. The house had a second level which he was finding to actually be quite a ways up – the more rungs that he traversed, but there was no fear of heights within him. The mercenary’s claim to fame was a Vertigo Ray which he had created because he knew that an opponent’s equilibrium was an exploitable weakness.
Work gloves covered Crazeintox’ hands in order to keep them from becoming needlessly soiled. Warmth was also being factored in because the day was cloudy and dreary with a damp, gentle rain which made the rungs slick while doing nothing for his sniffles. Talk about a win-win situation, sarcastically. After he reached the aforementioned gutter, a sturdy grip secured his balance, so that the climb would be a controlled one.
It was a slow climb, but Crazeintox was not in a hurry and actually savored the yard work. When all was said and done and cleaned up, there was an unbelievable sense of accomplishment which came from such mindless, droning work. Being at peace with nature allowed him to be at one with his thoughts, so of this solitude, he relished the moment.
Crazeintox poked his head above the gutters to look all of the way up and down the row, and what he saw caused a sheer bout of astonishment. The clog was packed tightly with leaves. It was unreal! He placed his gloved hand in the mushy mixture of standing water, broken branches, sediment, leaves, plus seeds – and began dropping them over the side of his position.
Being the reconnaissance specialist as well as the stuntman of the Enforcers, E-Man had done his homework on Crazeintox and wanted to take this mercenary on specifically. Two people who laughed at heights were about to go at it, but one was unfortunately caught with his pants down – or rather, up a ladder.
But Crazeintox was not out as he caught sight of E-Man leaping down from a fighter on top of his roof. There, the Enforcer skidded down the shingles with a LUNC extended. Tearing his arm away from the gutter, he placed both hands on the ladder before twisting it, like stilts, away from the upper level of the house and leaning the heavy metal in the direction of his adjacent garage to the right.
The ladder came crashing down onto the roof of the garage which caused some serious damage to its now dented and mangled gutters. Crazeintox made sure that, in the moment of impact, he had a decent foothold on the slipper rungs before attempting a backward roll to try and put separation between himself and his pursuer.
E-Man met Crazeintox halfway by leaping from the roof of the upper level onto the roof of the garage – LUNC still poised and without so much as even a wobble in his movements. He charged the mercenary who was now badly out of position – not from the backward roll but because of a new evasive roll off of the side of the ladder.
There had not been any time for Crazeintox to question his pursuer let alone question the situation in his flight. There was also no question that any jarring on the ladder by E-Man would cause this tight window of potential escape to shut. And shut it did as the mercenary’s flailing left arm got caught in the open spaces of the ladder as the Enforcer slid and kicked at the top of the ladder which was already pressed awkwardly against the roof of the garage.
With the condensation on the ladder, its already rickety positioning against the roof, and an additional bit of calculative stimulus from E-Man, the hyperextension of Crazeintox’ arm became the least of his concerns. The scene slowed as that roll to his left side and what he thought would drop him safely to his feet now had his left arm caught in between the rungs and the rail of the ladder as he dangled against the weight of his own frame. Savagely, the mercenary’s only thoughts were on righting his position with his free-swinging right hand, but those turned out to be his last thoughts.
E-Man only needed one stalled instance of panic to get Crazeintox twisting and flailing about in such a manner that the mercenary would no longer be able to defend himself in the event of what was about to come. The Enforcer fired a spread of LUNC pulses toward the top end of the ladder which was pressed against the edge of the roof – sheering the heavy metal off and causing the structure to collapse to the ground.
The snap which registered was not of twigs or branches but a neck that was caught between an uneasy crumple of an upper body pretzel and the sturdy ladder. With the kill confirmed by E-Man’s minicomputer, he tapped a few keys on its adequately sized keyboard and summoned his fighter for extraction.
“Enforcers?” Slubbich questioned as this was his first time hearing about that outfit.
Nodding, Pete confirmed, “Uh huh. They’re precise too, from what I’ve heard and also what I’ve seen.”
This conversation needed to be slowed down because Slubbich was besotted with a series of questions. The first one was nearest and dearest to his heart as it centered around protocol and what the Enforcers’ name applied to, “Wait, what are they ‘enforcing’? I’m not too sure that I should even ask you where you heard this information, but like Police Force Officer Kazar just said, after seeing what we’ve all been introduced to recently, I’m inclined to be more open-minded as far as matters are concerned. Also, what have you seen? This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the Ennead office manager assassination would it?”
“It would indeed,” Pete said before succumbing to his urge to invade the box of doughnuts. Julian’s thing was to use water to wash down the taste of the sugary food, but his thing was to use the sugary food to wash down the taste of that last cigarette which he had while interrogating Stalkord earlier. The rugged cop’s health had not yet become a primary concern, but he did have to admit that in his new capacity as the Second Earth Special Police Force’s leader, he was doing less of the harmful things to his body. With an entire base of police force officers who were under his command in the absence of Commissioner Gyro, he needed to take steps to hold things together: Mentally, physically, and psychologically. It was one thing when taking detrimental actions only affected himself or spread out at its most and widest point to merely his partner, but now, selfishness had become a luxury which he could no longer afford.
Julian fielded Slubbich’s questions in order, “They were sanctioned by the Space Force for the purposes of enforcing the Space Force Doctrine through a strict interpretation and a much broader jurisdictional reach than we’re accustomed to. As for where we got that information, we’d rather not say in order to protect the source.”
A simple nod represented Slubbich’s understanding of the sensitivity and acceptance of the request for secrecy.
“I have to admit,” Julian continued, “that Pete and I have played loose with the law in the past, but the Enforcers – using this same law to do whatever it takes to keep the Space Force in power troubles me.”
“Now, I’ve read the Space Force Doctrine…,” Slubbich started.
“That figures,” Vim smiled.
Slubbich finished, “…and it speaks more about defensive preemption as a means to opening up the channels of communication for the purposes of achieving peace. Are we talking black ops here? If so, that’s an extremely aggressive interpretation of the Space Force Doctrine.”
Pete put the unfinished half of his doughnut down as this piece of the meeting intrigued him. He asked, “Can you please elaborate a little further?”
“Well there are two schools of thought on what Leader One: Sebastian Cipher originally intended when he wrote the one page Space Force Doctrine,” Slubbich explained. “The first school of thought takes those words to mean that the Space Force is not an end all be all entity but subject to and bound to be held accountable by that piece of paper. The other school of thought maintains that those words can only be carried out fully if the Space Force is at the top of the food chain in order to oversee their enforcement.
One states that the Space Force is fallible, capable of committing atrocities, and not created mutually exclusive of the Space Force Doctrine’s laws. The other swears by their perceived fact that Leader One: Sebastian Cipher’s original intent for the Space Force Doctrine was to create a set of starter principles during the formation of the Space Force which enshrine the entity itself as law.
Just to get this out in the open and on the table right now, I subscribe to that first school of thought. No person, place, or thing is above the eBook. To be honest, from my studies of the Space Force Doctrine, I found its first interpretation to be the source of the Space Force’s original allure. These Enforcers and whoever sanctioned them is effectively double-dipping on the law.”
“The Space Force has one hand extended perpetually in friendship while the other hand conceals a hidden LUNC behind its back,” Pete reasoned.
Vim spoke up here, “It’s almost like that Lady Justice statue with the sword and scales. Slubbich’s first school of thought says that the Space Force can be weighed on those scales whereas the Enforcers and whoever sanctioned them must believe that the Space Force is the actual statue.”
Acknowledging the astuteness, Julian proudly replied, “Listen to the kid go on the legal lesson.”
“I can’t let Slubbich have all of the fun,” Vim laughed.
With a playful shake of his head, Slubbich threw the conversation back over to Pete, “You said that you’ve run up against them before during the Ennead office manager assassination. Please, you elaborate this time.”
With a shrug, all that Pete could offer was, “I can’t explain the office manager’s motivations at this point, but I’m starting to understand the Enforcers. It sure seems like they were carrying out the orders which speak to their purpose, so we need to put that aside as a given. In order to pin these guys down, we need to figure out who is capable of pulling off the missions that they’re able to accomplish. Honestly, the list has gotta be short on who can actually do this stuff.”
Being forced to sign for packages was one of the biggest annoyances that Frak Frag had to deal with, but he would surely take having to be home for a delivery in order to net the solitude of the suburbs. After signing for the package, he looked the delivery person in the eyes out of a professional habit.
It was not so much about sizing the person up as it was seeing what the person was about. This was not a competition and Frak Frag was not currently active. For if he were active, he would have seen his death coming. It might not have been a competition, but who was to say that the competition ever stopped? It never did, and when he disregarded the eyes which saw into a mirror soul of his own – a foreshadowy image or vision of himself, it was assumed that something like this could not possibly happen.
Well – not possibly happen in this exact manner, but Frak Frag had lived by the bomb, so when his front door closed, it was only fitting that he died by the bomb. He had lived off of his munitions expertise for so long and managed to ring up a sizable amount of collateral damage while doing so, but at the hands of Python (the Enforcers’ guerrilla style fighter) who held the detonator while walking back to the delivery truck – it would all end.
Frak Frag did not have a chance to respond, run, or retaliate because the blast was immediately triggered and it belonged to a controlled radius bomb which he had never used since the devices were generally smaller and less powerful. The fact that they were accurate and powerful enough happened to be reason enough as to why Python chose this particular explosive for the mission.
As the front door blew out with a hollow burp which sounded like dropping a stick of dynamite in the sewer, Python stopped for a moment to check Frak Frag’s biometric scans on the slate computer that had been used to garner the mercenary’s delivery confirmation signature. Satisfied with the results, he continued on to the delivery truck and drove off toward his next stop.
Skeptically, Vim warned, “We’ll never find these people. If they have the blessing and the backing of the Space Force, they’re probably ingrained into all of the logistics channels as well as every fiber of society.”
Even martial arts masters such as Hya Ku needed to venture out to the convenience store every once in a while for the purposes of stocking up on long overdue lists of groceries. His cart was full, and he knew that one cartful would be enough to get him through the next six months easily. Buying in bulk and maximizing coupons had a way of filling up the freezer and stretching his funds.
Most of this happened to be routine additions though. Hya Ku rarely ever ran out of food and supplies, but he used his budget each month – regardless. There was no use in saving for a rainy day if the conditions could become so bad that it would be impossible to reach the convenience store. Maybe an old proverb which centered around that logic was in there somewhere, or he could create one of his own.
Hya Ku did not want to be a mercenary forever. It was more of a means to an end, and he had always contemplated the idea of starting up a martial arts sect – a discipline of his making and a vision from his eye. After paying dues within the corporate life, he was beginning to lean closer and closer toward the yearn of an interpersonal fulfillment of himself.
The last stop on Hya Ku’s list was the frozen food aisle. For those nights when he did not feel like being his own personal chef, a quick minute and thirty seconds came in handy with the microwave. Chicken tenders were his favorite, and vegetables or salad went perfect with them. He contemplated getting some of the many varieties of frozen french fries but found strength enough to resist the temptation. Eating healthily had served him well in the past – every time before, except for today.
“Where is the honor in a double-team?” Hya Ku said as he stood upright, placed the package of chicken that was in his hand back into the freezer, and allowed the freezer door to swing closed. It was audible for those who needed to hear the conversation, but this was a sequence which was happening on another plain of existence.
“Where was the honor in killing kids?” Acro asked as he stood to Hya Ku’s left side, leaning nonchalantly across the handle of the mercenary’s shopping cart.
The cryptic response had thrown Hya Ku for a loop, “What?”
“You keep forgetting that it was a different universe, Acro,” Acra Lin advised while she stood directly behind Hya Ku to his right blind side.
Acro corrected, “An old friend of mine once told me that nothing ever changes; it’s just latent.”
Acra Lin came up to stand beside Acro before they would continue off down the frozen food aisle together. The Enforcer mentioned of his words that she thought it was, “Solid advice.”
The shopping cart had been so full that it did not tip over in supporting the weight of Hya Ku’s slumped body. Neither Acro nor Acra Lin needed to check their biometric scanners in order to ensure that the deed was done. Experience had seemingly taught them about the effectiveness of their chosen methods as well.
“Or maybe another question is,” Slubbich offered, “what do we do with the Enforcers once we find them? For as twisted as their interpretation happens to be, they do have the law on their side – as do we.”
“I guess that it’s all about who has the biggest eBook – aye Slubbich?” Pete wondered.
With a shrug – as even Slubbich was unsure about the ramifications of what Pete was suggesting, he simply remarked, “Perhaps.”
“If you ask me,” Julian pointed out, “I think we’re all forgetting about the ‘How in the universe can we stop these people?’ question. The Enforcers are no joke, and crossing them is not something that I’m particularly looking forward to. I’m sitting here trying to figure out how we could actually walk away from something like this.”
A choral acknowledgment between Slubbich, Pete, and Vim (respectively) expressed the consensus of: “Good point. Da-n good point. Is this one of those times when we’re supposed to turn a blind eye?”
Then there were the Enforcers who chose not to beat around the bush – like Recoil. After kicking in Mister Miser’s front door, charging up the stairs, interrupting the mercenary’s family dinner, and putting the targets on their knees – duct-taped at LUNCpoint, he was able to discuss the charges, “Mister Miser, you are a member of Roy’s Rebels – a Death Corps team who happens to be found in breach of the Space Force Doctrine from carrying out a series of illegal contracts on ranking Space Force officials and their families.
One of the surviving members of a failed attempt has decided to exercise a provision within the Space Force Doctrine which affords additional protections to ranking Space Force officials and their family members. I am here to enforce that provision. There’s nothing for you to say, and you should have apologized to your own family well before this.”
A single LUNC pulse to the back of the head put Mister Miser down. He fell forward with his arm unconsciously flying outward in order to brace the collapse of a new deathly slumber. Unfortunately, the mercenary had died with his eyes open and was able to bare witness to his own family’s fate – one that he had decided for so many others with his powerful Regression Ray. Having those targets be reduced to nothingness by a weapon which was so carnal, it was only fitting that Recoil return the favor in some small form or fashion.
“Don’t worry,” Recoil addressed the remainder of Mister Miser’s family, “I’m a professional,” before squeezing his LUNC’s trigger pad three additional times in order to lay out the wife and children. The biometric scans from the Enforcer’s minicomputer confirmed four kills.
The smartest moves of the paranoid often became second-guessed upon further review. Sisrm Surve was smart enough to get into a public place as soon as he noticed that something happened to be wrong. Really – the only problem with this move was that being out in the open might have just made things that much easier on whoever was gunning for his fellow mercenaries.
Somehow, Roy’s Rebels had been compromised. Nobody was responding. Well, only Sooty Ampree responded back. Sisrm’s thoughts began to go wild with the implications of all of this. Could Sooty have turned? Had the New Alliance partnership soured? And what was the deal with not being able to communicate with any of his Earth Rebels? From a communications standpoint, he was cut off (by the Space Force’s well-publicized efforts) from contacting his fellow rebels in the Terran System as well as this team’s leader – and not just in namesake, Roy Akern.
Second Earth was a sizable planet, and after carrying out one of their illegal contracts, Sisrm as well as everybody else spread out in order to disappear while setting up to carry out the others. The cloak of Death Corps no longer masked their efforts, and if any piece of either the Earth Rebels’ or the Second Earth Rebels’ plan failed, they would each incur the ire of the Space Force in short order. He would not know when, where, or how, but it would be swift and exacting. This was all supposed to be taken care of! There had been assurances!
Sisrm stared at the untasted drink which sat in front of him on the bar top. He should have known that there were no such things as assurances, and speaking of which: This drink could have been tainted somehow. It was no way to live.
“Everything alright, buddy?” Dirk Combo asked. He was big stuff around here – the proprietor of the bar. A lot of shadeball groups and organizations hung out at Humpsman Bar, and this man was well-liked and well-respected by all of them.
It was not so much that Dirk got involved in all of the organized crime which often went on, was being planned, or happened to be discussed within the walls of Humpsman Bar. It was that he provided a venue for it all to continue with no questions asked and only a fair tip being requested. Giving the undesirables a place to engage in business was his business. The extent of their business dealings did not matter. Criminals indulged in hot wings and other popular bar food staples as well. They also drank – a lot sometimes, so if he did not provide a friendly atmosphere with which to accommodate them, somebody else surely would. And a site for the popular Club Soda, from Earth, had already been specced out in the general vicinity, so competition was coming – if not certainly on the horizon.
“Yeah,” Sisrm lied. “Hey, can I get the bottle that they’re drinking out of? The actual bottle, please?” If he had the bottle which he was pointing to, it was safer to say that the drink would not have been laced with anything. At least the gathering to his left was not keeling over, and if there was a time when an alcoholic beverage happened to be calling to him – it was now. It was right this very instant, and he began to wonder if it was even a good idea to be drinking himself out of his faculties – especially where they were needed the most to either figure this out or figure a way out of this. This shi- was all crazy, his heart was racing, but he could barely breathe. Everything was happening so fast but slow at the same time. He was stuck in some sort of limbo and mere footsteps from he–.
Obliging, Dirk slid the bottle over to Sisrm while mentioning, “Hey man, it’s on the house.” He had played witness to this type of disconcerting scene many times in the past and knew that if things had gotten to this point, then the patron who happened to be sitting before him (going through them) was already dead. His offering to forgo the tab was meant to be seen as a gesture which was in clear deference to a last meal of sorts.
One hand – Sisrm’s left hand went straight to the bottle while the other – his right hand continued to clutch the hand laser which was underneath his jacket. He took the bottle straight to the face. At the conclusion of the upturned bottle caressing his lips, one swig had left only a quarter of its precious liquid to remain. Things were not any better, and worse, the mercenary did not feel any better. If anything, he felt worse for knowing that things were not about to get any better.
In all honesty, this misery would welcome some company, but the benevolent hand which brushed against Sisrm’s shoulder (for not being able to gather a soft grip or even a pat because of his flinch) very nearly startled him into pulling out his hand laser and seriously starting a scene by drawing all kinds of wrong attention to his direction. Maybe that drink was working to calm down his jumpiness since he did manage to catch himself before lashing out, so he slid the weapon back beneath his jacket.
“I’ve been looking all over this place for you,” it also helped that Sooty announced his presence upon approach. “Why didn’t you pick up your smartphone?”
Shaking his head in the negative, Sisrm said eerily, “They can trace that.”
Confused, Sooty asked, “Who?”
“Were you followed?” Sisrm turned around on the bar stool to plead.
“Dude, what the fu– is going on with you?” Sooty was a little taken aback by Sisrm’s odd behavior. He could smell the alcohol on his fellow mercenary’s heavy breath. “Are you drunk?”
As Sisrm turned back around to the bar he replied, “No, I wish.”
This was taken as a cue for Sooty to join the uneasy Sisrm, so he pulled up the bar stool that was on his friend’s right side. “You said it was urgent. What’s up?”
“Did you bring the High Intensity Beam?” Sisrm demanded more than questioned.
“Yes!” Sooty answered in a short manner as if he was being accused of something. “Sisrm, come on, level with me. What is happening to you?”
Sisrm just realized that his back was turned to the majority of the bar. Whoever was doing this could be watching him currently! Nervously, he scratched the back of his head before exhaling a fleeting breath of nervousness and peering over each of his shoulders. Unconsciously, he raised and lowered his bent legs – starting at the ankles as a continuous twitch which happened to psychologically be revving up his lower body for the quick escape. Anxious was not the word that even he could use to maybe describe himself because the powerful piston-like movement which centered around his knees and hips was causing his entire body to shake, visibly now. “Acid Pop, Crazeintox, Frak Frag, Hya Ku, Mister Miser – not even his wife is picking up. Man, I knew that we shouldn’t have done that Space Force contract shi-. We’re fu–ed!”
Sooty now looked around nervously to see if anybody had heard that last part before urging, “Dude, calm down. When did you lose touch with the others?”
“It was different than losing touch with Roy and Earth,” Sisrm rambled. “We were all so close here. Something…it just doesn’t feel right.”
“Did you drive over to anybody’s place?” Sooty should not have even asked this question. Sisrm was in no condition to be able to put sensible sentences together – let alone behave rationally. “I’m sure that everything is alright. Only we knew about those contracts – plus our employer. Why would the New Alliance want to tell anybody about their business? Look, we’ll call a meeting tomorrow just to make sure that everybody is safe – okay? I should get you back home.”
Sisrm lay peacefully across the bar top with his arms crossed underneath his head. The clinking of his hand laser as it dinged against the wall of the bar, the bar stool, and eventually the floor caused Sooty some concern. This collapse looked like somebody had drunk himself under the table.
When Sooty went to pat Sisrm on the upper back in as calm of a manner as he could to illustrate an honest amount of compassion, he realized that inebriation was not the case. He withdrew a soaked hand from his friend’s collar to reveal blood which was emanating from the nape of the neck!
This was not a situation of Sisrm resting peacefully on the bar top. He had tried to get his arms up in order to assess the instantaneous damage of a sniper’s bullet which had wedged itself within the back of his head – but failed as death succeeded in taking hold and laying him complaisantly down.
When Sooty joined Sisrm with a side-slumping posture of his own – the involuntary response of his body to the reception of the sniper’s second bullet, it appeared as if they both had a little bit too much to drink. Quietly they went into the clutches of their fate, and nobody else throughout Humpsman Bar really even noticed or paid it any additional mind. For everybody else, life went on.
“Two shots,” MC referred to the biometric scanner which was being displayed on the console within his fighter that happened to be hovering next to Chipshot’s ship in the sky, “two kills.”
“I only needed one,” Chipshot assured as he retracted his sniper rifle and sat down in the cockpit of his fighter. On the console was a targeting feed which his weapon was obviously paired with as it instanced the exact positions of Sisrm and Sooty plus lethal aiming points throughout their bodies – through walls. He even had to admit that this technology was scary. Neither he nor MC were even in Atro City! So for the triangulation of the software to be able to account for the sheer distance that the hovering fighters were away from Humpsman Bar, the possibly changing positioning of the former targets, subtle variances in his circulatory and respiratory functions which would cause exponential inaccuracy, and any number of other atmospheric shifts that could come about from sniping at miles worth of distance; it was extremely powerful, and its very use meant that the Enforcers were definitely performing at another level.
MC watched Chipshot’s canopy close and then began to take off when chiding, “Yeah, you only would have needed one if my target, Sooty, had been left to me. Ah well – not like even we could have known that he and Sisrm would link up in the end.”
Chipshot began to break down his sniper rifle as he commanded, “Take me to Enforcer I.” The faithful fighter could be flown as a drone on autopilot, even when an occupant was sitting inside – which came in handy during circumstances such as this when his hands were full. It complied with the order and skied after MC’s ship. Carrying on the conversation, he said, “It’s a good thing that Sisrm and Sooty did hook up though because (unrelated) I’ve been meaning to send the Palatine Triad a message, and what better way to do that than to do it at the expense of our assigned targets – killing the last of Roy’s Rebels underneath the Triad’s noses and within the Triad’s favorite establishment? It’ll probably garner some Police Force attention which will keep them occupied for a while.”
“True – but we don’t want to garner too much Police Force attention,” MC advised.
“I’m not too concerned about them,” Chipshot stated honestly, “because if they get in the way, I’d be more than happy to send them a message like the ones that I delivered to our good friends at Ennead Tech Corp previously and the Palatine Triad just now. Resuming manual control.”
Quick to take charge during a scene of unsureness from his unit, Pete suggested that, “From here on out, everything regarding the Enforcers needs to stay within this room. The moment that they catch on to us being anything other than the Space Force’s lapdogs, we’d all be in some serious trouble with not a lot of immediate backup which we could even bring to the fray.”
With a smile, Julian stated, “I probably shouldn’t admit this, but you know that I’m down for whatever, Pete.”
“A big part of me wants no piece of this,” Vim answered truthfully when the scrutiny of the table turned to him, “since I’ve already been through a situation with our enemies lashing out to personally affect my family. But an even larger part wonders about what could happen to my family if I do nothing.”
“They say,” Julian comforted, “that if you see a good fight, you should always jump in it. But you wouldn’t be alone, Vim. Know this.”
Almost decided, Vim nodded his agreement with what Julian was trying to say.
“Unfortunately,” Pete spoke from his own dreaded past experience, “family being brought into the situation is unavoidable. It’s hard for…for me to say it, but the fault would not belong to you. And you wouldn’t deserve the blame. I can’t live in fear of what might happen, so I go on despite what happened. Nobody here would question your decision if you were to walk out of that door right now.”
Vim shrugged, “Nobody but me – that is. I’m in.”
All eyes were now on Slubbich.
“Somebody needs to keep this unit out of any further trouble,” Slubbich opined. “Let’s play your game of big eBook take little eBook, Police Force Officer or should I say – Acting Commissioner Rogue.”
With a grin, Pete simply approved, “Alright.”
Motioning toward the doughnuts, Julian announced, “We’ve got Slubbich on the team and we’re under new management – this is your first day, Pete. Let’s celebrate some good fortunes moving forward as we buck heads with the Enforcers.” He raised his cup of water.
Pete held up his half-eaten doughnut.
Slubbich toasted with his coffee.
Vim held out his bottled water.
A chorus of, “Here, here,” concluded the meeting, and a sugar rush was to be the next order of business.