IOC - The Fennec

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Welsh Halfwit
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IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

This story is set in the same universe ads the Loper storylines but on a different world. Celica, home to the major scale race called 'Celicans'. They're Foxes and part of an interstellar alliance called the United Security Council. The Federal investigation agency of that Council - seperate to the Celicans own - is the IOC.

This story was a lot more fun to write than the last one in THE LOPER folder. Too many major characters. This one has three. Harden Golta, a Celican IOC agent, a new Character - the Fennec of the title - and Balbury. You'll meet HIM late on. Anyhow. Here we go.


ESCAPE

The fence ahead of her sparked its power as she ran toward it, stopping her in her tracks. Behind her the sirens flicked on, drawing a whoop of sound from the ancient speakers and she listened to it continue for a few seconds whilst she stripped off her shorts and tore the tight black fabric into loops that she tied around her hands and feet. She tensed, readying her muscles for incoming pain, and ran towards the fence, jumping onto it near the top. Even as she felt the shock, her brain registered her thanks for the cutbacks. The prison service had cut its’ facilities back to the bone so prison garb needed to last longer. So they were insulated now. Thicker. It gave her a few seconds and she was going to use them. Her muscles glowed in the half light of the hunters’ moon as she pushed them to the limit on the upwards push. She felt the heat burning as she went, stitching black into her pads, possibly forever, before she got to the top of the fence and she twisted over with the grace of a ballerina, letting go as her arc passed the halfway point. She sailed over the fence and landed backwards, falling away from the fence onto her tail. She winced, cursed her foolishness and picked herself off the floor as she heard the trackers incoming.


She wished she’d eaten these last few days. Well, more than a scant few Rats and Zorinscritters but they’d been preparing for her final ‘accident’ in the yard so she’d known it was time to get out. She wasn’t going to get any help inside with what she’d heard, what she knew and who she’d met. She’d been told why she was being picked up but she wasn’t sure it had been made public. She sure hadn’t seen any sign of a Licenced Protector whilst she’d been held. Nor had she actually been charged with anything. Had she?


Her muscles pulled to the strain as she headed into the undergrowth, crashing through the knee high long grass as pinprick lights shone behind her, identifying her escape point. She reasoned they’d used a heatcam system and they’d still be using it now. The shuttles would be overhead soon. She needed to find cover. She needed to drop her body temperature. Was there any water nearby? She listened to the silence that didn’t exist. There was always something to hear under the really audible noise and she listened for it. The skittering of a creature in the grass that made her stomach roll, the sounds of birds on the wing. The wind wafting in from the south and the faintest sound of trickling water in the distance. Could she get there before the chasers were on her? She took half a breath against the hot night air and sprang towards the sound, running too fast over uneven ground that she’d never run on before.


It reminded her of the hunting grounds where her people practiced their killing skills and she kind of wished she’d paid more attention during the instruction periods and tests there. She was a solid C grade student, putting herself in the bottom fifteen percent. Not in the state or in the country but on the planet. And now, here she was, the hunted hunter. Her a hunter? That fact registered as laughworthy but her stripped bare lungs couldn’t find the energy to respond as she strained for breath. To others, all her people were considered hunters, even those who were just accountants and Independent Computer Security specialists like her. She did all her primary hunting from behind a glowing screen. She ate store meat – at least until she was incarcerated – and drank wine (on occasion) with others from other worlds that her own people had once tried to genocide by gastronomy. She was as far from being a hunter as it was possible to be without actually being prey. Her bleeding feet spoke to that. Cuts and scratches from innumerate rocks under her feet that threatened to trip her and end her flight but he had to keep going; to go on and… She dropped to the ground behind a bush as a figure moved by to her left. She hunkered down as much as she could and held her breath. A light splayed her way from fifty paces away and she did what she could to push herself further into the ground, letting dirt and stones into her fingers as she pushed them forward. She put her mouth to the ground and tasted the dry ground as the wind carried the scents of her pursuers towards her. Then she licked it slightly. There were people she knew who could probably identify where on the planet she was by the taste but she wasn’t one of them. She just wanted something in her stomach and, if it had to be dirt, so be it.


The light swung low over her back and kept on going. She stayed there for a moment or so, awaiting the gun to her head or the teeth at her throat at any moment, her life torn away in an instant. Her feet began to feel again and it wasn’t a happy thing. There was glass in one of her pads, cutting through the protection she’d put on it and deep into the fatty tissue. She could feel it now, just like she could hear the water of her dreams nearby. But she couldn’t run with the glass so she gritted her teeth against the pain and pulled the shard from her pad. After initial resistance it squished out, letting a squirt of blood escape behind it. She took a piece of fabric from her shirt and tied it tight around her foot. A small rodent, seemingly blind and inquisitive beyond sense, sniffed at the blood on the glass and, despite her earlier protestations, her strike was fast and efficient, slamming the side of her hand down on the back of the little things’ neck to break it. She lifted it eagerly into her mouth and crunched twice before swallowing with the merest hint of guilt. It still tasted good, despite everything, and she wanted more. But there weren’t any more. Not here. She had to go anyhow. That hunter had been a perimeter hunter but she could hear the main group coming now, behind her.


She picked herself up and ran, crying to herself with the pain on her feet as she ran through the scrub towards the water that loomed louder and louder, the grass cutting like thistles around her ankles and feet as she raced…


…over a small cliff. She cried out involuntarily as her standing feet found nothing underfoot and she thought how stupid that was. It’d bring them closer to her. They’d find her now. It was that fact she thought was ridiculous as she plunged to her inevitable death in the river below. At least it’d be cold, she thought.

She passed right under the search parties and drifted down until she snagged in the reeds to the side of the river and it was there she discovered that she wasn’t dead. It came as rather a welcome surprise to her, as she retched up fetid river water, that the current had permitted her muzzle to remain above water for the few minutes she’d been snorkelling. At least it was warm, she thought as she rose, sodden, from the river. She pulled green things from her shoulders and slopped them onto the bank. She felt a wetness that wasn’t from the river as she looked at her foot and the mangled mess of the pad. Deities only knew what shots she needed or what poisons were already in her system. Her ears were full so she did her best to slosh them out. Something caught her eye in the distance. A light, like a beacon on the ground, called to her and she pulled her half-naked form towards it. Them, she realised. It was a string of… A road! It was a road! Most of them were out on their own but one group seemed to be together and… A café? Full of trucks and cars? No, she noticed, there was only the one car there. She wasn’t far enough away but she couldn’t… she choked back a sob… she couldn’t go any further. She almost broke down as the lights switched off and the car pulled away but she had a separate idea that had her flagging hopes moving in the breeze. She approached the door, holding a stone, and tried to break the glass. Safety glass. It webbed but didn’t break and she finally broke down, crying loudly into the night as she slumped to the floor. She wailed out her frustrations against the world in a fully inarticulate fashion and sniffed into the dazzling light as a car caught her in its’ lights.


“Forgot my comms,” the owner said after a moment. “Came back. Lucky for you, eh?”

“Don’t… don’t come near me,” she said, barely able to lift the rock.

“Or you’ll collapse on me?” The Celican stepped forward, leaned down and, despite her attempts to hurt him with the stone, picked her up in his arms and carried her inside after unlocking the door. He put her in a chair. “I’ll call the local cops,” he said.

“No,” she protested, trying to think of anything that might stop the person from calling the cops. She looked hopefully at him as his mind whirred over her reluctance to deal with police. She swallowed. She had a way out. Possibly. “Call…” She coughed. “Call IOC. Please.”

He looked at her for a moment, then brought a commpad over so she could see the IOC listing he dialled.


COFFEE


The door held firm against the knocking in the middle of the night until Garron appeared from his office and crossed the half-lit café floor to put the key in the lock and turn it. A yellow and blue light strobed light flashed behind the newcomer as he strode into the building, his long tail lightly dusting the dusty floor. “Haven’t you normally gone home by now, Garrett,” he asked of the owner whilst not bothering to look at him.

“Yes, well,” Garrett replied, the snarl on his face giving light to the lie in his vocal tone, “I have things to finish up in the office. Suppliers want the payments to go through. You know what that’s like, Korta”

“No I don’t,” Korta said, sitting on a stool by the counter and turning it around, letting his badge on his chest glint slightly in the florescent light. “It looks like some damage to your door there,” he added, nodding to the damaged glass.

“Boots sometimes go where they will,” Garrett said, brushing the dust from the floor. “steel toed ones even more. Before youask, I did have to sort out a small fight. A couple of flesh wounds.”

Korta smirked. “So that explains the tang of blood in the air. Aren’t you going to offer me a coffee?”

Garrett sighed and stepped silently around to the other side of the counter. He reached under the counter and pulled a couple of instant heat coffee cans from under the counter. “I’m not wasting money turning the boiler back on.” He cracked the base to activate the heating crystals and passed the can over to the officer.

“Hm. Thanks anyhow. It’s a late night.”

“Something happened?”

“There’s some sort of flap on at the prison,” the officer admitted. “They’re not telling much but we can guess they’ve lost someone.”

Garrett sipped his coffee – foul stuff – and tried to look impressed or surprised. “I thought that place was supposed to be escape proof?” He took a seat near to the officer but refrained from sitting directly opposite. He had a rather fractious relationship with the law due to the clientele. He was regarded as a through point for illicit chemicals and contraband by the police but, as he put it, if he told on his customers he’d be bankrupt in a week.

“That might be why no-one’s telling us anything, Garrett,” Korta said, slugging back his coffee in one go. “A broken door and you here late.” He looked askew at Garrett. “Not like there’s anything suspicious about that, is there, Garrett?”

“Told you,” Garrett sniffed as Korta ran a handpaw over the tip of the brush handle, “it was only a minor disturbance.”

Korta turned and jabbed a hand towards the owner of the establishment. “One you should have told us about, Garrett. We’re supposed to uphold the law.” He opened the door and half stepped outside before looking down at the planking again. “Fight spilled outside, did it? You’ve cleaned up here.”

“Nothing puts customers off more than blood on the outside, you know that.” Garrett was getting frustrated now and he realised he had to rein it in. “A gashed hand bleeds plenty, my friend.”

Korta huffed. “One thing you’re not,” he announced heavily, his eyes boring hunters’ holes into Garrett, “is a friend. You’re also not above the law.” His eyes flicked to the darkened room behind his host. “You know, I’ve never seen your office? He gave a short laugh that sounded a little like a Vulture’s cry. “Never been in, despite all the times I’ve been here. Mind if I look in there now?”

Garrett looked back into the room and grimaced slightly. If he declined, Korta would know something was happening but, if he got lucky… “I suppose not,” he agreed with a small sigh and he moved into the back room where his small desk sat on the opposite side of the room, under the window. The floor was taken up by a long furred rug that lay splayed with the Pomoncerria head, with its’ toothtusks resting on the floor, pointing towards the desk. “It’s a memento of my first big kill,” Garrett said proudly. “I took the beast down one week shy of my twenty-first…” He looked toward the ceiling and let out a sigh. “Those were the days,” he said, “I could hunt one of these things for days on end and still rip its throat out.” He chuckled. “Can’t do that anymore. It’d nail me no trouble if I didn’t have a gun.”

Korta stepped over to the main desk and moved the mouse to reactivate the screen. Apparently the response was what he wanted to see as a spreadsheet appeared on the screen, detailing the café’s incomings and outgoings in detail. It almost hurt Korta’s eyes as he went from the half-light of the café into the bright white of the laptop screen. “Got much more to do,” he asked casually.

“Maybe an hour or so more,” Garrett told the officer. “Might spend the night in the chair.”

“No hammock?” Korta asked, looking up.

“Don’t do it often enough.”

Korta was about to speak again but his comm cut in indistinctly. He stepped out of the room but Garrett could still make out that the deputy was being scolded for not being where he was supposed to be. His protestations held no weight and he was compelled to move out. Garrett watched him go, strobing lights headed into the distance. Then he waited, returning to his spreadsheets for ten minutes or so before he walked to the restrooms and knocked on the Vixen door. “He’s gone,” he said to the girl behind the door, “want some blood soup?”

“Yes, please,” the voice said, still sounding weak. He headed to where the cans were stored, poured one into a bowl and put it in the heater. It was cheaper than replicated soup and not as rich. He doubted she could take rich right now and he didn’t think her vomiting would help anything.


Night died into the early morning as a beaten up old roadhugger 4x4 in pastille blue pulled up outside and a muscled Celican in trousers and a green shirt stepped out and up to the door. He entered amongst the earliest breakfast runners and stepped up to the counter. “I hear good things about the breakfasts here,” he told the counter controller.

“Try the pie.”

“I was supposed to meet someone here,” the newcomer said, letting the server catch a glimpse of his IOC badge as he paid for the breakfast. “Is there anyone waiting for Halda Golta?” And he flashed a smile that made the female truckers in the room melt slightly. Hell, even Garrett wanted him for a second.

“I’ll check the messages,” he said, before going to get the girl.
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Welsh Halfwit
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

GOLTA

She watched him. She shivered despite the radiator in the small room and watched him on the TV as she sipped her hot milk. Was she ever going to feel warm again? There was no shower here and Garrett hadn’t wanted her contaminating the sink with the green gloop she’d picked up in the river but she’d managed to get enough off her face with the tiniest of sinks in this room and Garrett had supplied a child’s outfit from the days back when he’d tried making this place into a money maker. She hated the Canary yellow top with the slogan ‘I’ve eaten at Garrett’s – I bet you haven’t’ sweeping at a thirty degree upwards angle from the right armpit to the left shoulder. She wanted to change that as soon as she possibly could – for something that didn’t tell where she’d been for one thing – but it was dry and, with the shorts that she could just about move in, it covered enough.


A short, sharp, pain reminded her that they didn’t cover her feet and she looked down at the limb that had just bitten through the painkillers. She was going to have to get that treated, she supposed, beyond the antiseptic treatment she’d screamed through a few hours ago. Healing medicine shouldn’t hurt so much, dang it! Garrett had said he’d once had light footwear bought for the place but he’d sent the one and only box back unopened. Everyone who’d come here had their own shoes. The room she was in was from more modern times. A safety room where people could hide from those chasing them for a while. Garrett normally charged for the use, he said, but he said he’d let her have use for free. He gave her a slight smile as he admitted it was because she seemed to have stuck a thorn in the governmental paw. And now she sat forward, watching the screen.


He had the look of a movie action star, she decided. A sculpted look with tight eyes that looked straight up into the camera now. He’d spotted it. She hadn’t spotted it, even when Garrett had told her where it was but he was looking right into it and winking. She hugged her tail to her chest as she tried to work out why she wasn’t feeling threatened. His muscle lines were showing through the shirt he had on and his claws looked impressive and…


She yelped slightly as the door opened at the end and Garrett allowed himself into the small enclave. “Sorry,” she said, putting down the cup she’d been about to throw.

“Yeah,” Garrett said, “wanna meet this guy?”

She thought for a moment before nodding slightly. Her left ear drooped as a wad of forgotten green river grass pulled at it and she tugged at it. The tiny barbs of the grass gripped to her dull yellow fur and it took a second for her to get it off. She had a recurring thought that Velcro was invented from Celican River grass and that flicked through her mind again as she dropped it in the bin. “Is… is it safe out here,” she asked, looking curiously at the two Celicans working the kitchen.

“You’ll have to come out of there sometime,” Garrett said, trying to put a note of firmness in his voice.

“And I fear there is not enough room in there for the three of us,” said a honey-smoked voice from behind Garrett.

“Sir,” Garrett snapped, blocking her view of the newcomer. “You’re supposed to wait in the café!”

“I thought it better if I met the lady back here,” Agent Golta said gently as she appeared behind Garrett’s leg. He smiled and held out a hand to her. “We could always talk three ways if you like?”

“I can’t,” Garrett said, pulling out a small metal table and folding chairs. “I have customers. Harm her, I harm you.”

“Wasn’t going to,” Golta said, taking one of the chairs for himself. He watched the Fennekin put her coffee on the top and seat herself. “The information you told us how to get was checked into by one of our tech types,” Golta said. “Lieutenant Commander Goganna was arrested this morning and the compatriots are being rounded up, so thanks for that.”

“’S no problem,” she shrugged, putting u her hands around her mug.

He leaned just a tiny bit closer. “So you’re Rena Dezè,” he said quietly.

She looked around for an escape as he uttered the name she was known by on the boards. She couldn’t outrun him but perhaps. She jumped slightly as she realised one of his hands was atop hers but making no attempt to stop her. It was being… reassuring? Comforting? Something that wasn’t impelling her to fly anyhow. “Don’t worry, the tech had to tell me. He spotted a few clues, yeah? And an old friend told us to use obscure Human languages for the translation. The ‘Slender monk’?”

She let out a small chuckle. She’d heard of him. Virtually every hacker had heard of him and the current ones had learned from his tricks. The fact that Rena Dezé was a translation of ‘Desert fox’ had suited her. It described her but without giving anything away.

“I’m Halda Golta,” the walking hunk said gently. “Can I ask your real name?”


She was about to tell him. She was. Then Garrett came back in. “You two need to shift out,” he warned, making Golta look out, over the counter, to where several people were moving towards the door. “This is a truck café populated by dubious types,” Garrett said, showing them towards the door, “One just radioed a lot of cars are coming in.”


Golta led her to a battered blue lowrider and opened the passenger door for her. “Not exactly standard,” he admitted as she got in and put her strap on, pulling the shoulder catch as low as she could so it didn’t cut across her throat. “But they’re less likely to be expecting IOC in this sort of car.”

“I d…don’t doubt that,” she replied as he got in, sinking the car slightly lower to the ground. “It’s a rust trap.”

“Hey,” Golta protested, “I borrowed this from a friend.” And, as trucks made way, Golta chose one going their way and slung in behind it.


DRIVE

For a moment she let him concentrate on driving as he pulled in behind a fuel truck heading… was it West? She couldn’t be sure but she seemed to remember Garrett had said the city of Hagbr was the closest major place when he’d pointed out where they were on a map. So that had to be where they were headed, right? Or, at least, where they could transfer to a vehicle that wasn’t smaller than the truck in front’s wheels. Of course it meant she could actually see it, looking up over the dashboard as she was currently being forced to do. She glanced over at her ‘protector’, the Golta guy, and hoped she’d not just got into a car with a professional liar or, worse, a local cop. She heard vehicles passing.

“within the automobile,” Golta growled as he glanced at the passing vehicles. “Special 14’s”

She looked up at him. “S…Special 14’s?” She tried looking around but the seat was in the way so she looked forward again. “I… I heard about them,” she continued. “Are…aren’t they a bit old?”

“Fast enough to eat up the head start we have as soon as they check the surveillance outside the bar.” He looked down at her, back up to the road and down to her again. “Do you want a booster seat?”

She closed her eyes and looked up to the underside of the cartop. “I want to go home,” she moaned, “I want to be safe, I want to not know the things I know… I want to not be chased by people with guns, not to have been locked up for so long, not to have every bone and muscle aching and, oh boy, do I want a booster seat!” She risked a smile. “Or a Frenkin auto services car.”

“It’d need to be a convertible,” Golta reminded her. “With no front seat.”

“You mainlines are too muffins and cookies big,” she told him. “And Garrett wouldn’t have CCTV of his parking lot, surely?”

“Locals probably have a motion capture camera hidden in one of the streetlamps,” Golta told her. “It won’t take them long to see us.” He indicated that he wanted to pass the lorry and a black furred arm waved him past. The Car pushed up to sixty miles an hour and out into the oncoming lane.

The machine purred past the back wheels and she looked up and out of her window. “We could fit under there,” she said abstractly.

He looked over and she could see him making mental calculations before he turned his muzzle back to the road. “Possibly,” he admitted, “but even with my past I wouldn’t like to try it.”

“What past?”

He smiled at her and her fears melted again. “I used to do undercover work,” he confided. “I was a stunt performer for almost a decade.”

She felt like she believed him. It seemed correct. It seemed… him. She gave passing wonder to what heroes he might have stunted for and made invincible. He had to be the sort of performer who could beat ten agents at once in a fair fight. Or at least two in an unfair fight. “I thought you’d be in films,” she said quietly as they passed under the faded, flapping, print for ‘Kova Chemical Waste Services’. “I knew there was a chemical dump near Hagbr,” she added. She slapped a small fist into her left palm and winced, wringing out the hands.’

“You alright,” Golta asked, frowning at her and wrinkling that handsome face.. “Rhetorical. Of course you’re not. Why did you do that?”

She spread her hands in exasperation. “If I’d have known I could have asked the driver questions! Got more information!”

He half smiled. Her fear was hidden now, barely there under her desire to investigate and know. Curiosity, it seemed, was more than a danger to Felines. “One deadly threat at a time please,” he said before looking in the mirror. “Uh, oh.”

“What,” she asked, trying again to turn around.

“There’s a special 14 coming up fast,” he said, turning back to the front view as the road tucked itself in tight to the side of a cliff with a steep incline on the other side. The Picardy gorge, according to the sign that they paid no heed to as they motored past the cab.

From where she was, she could see the driver indicating and she rolled the window down to hear. She said ‘right’ but doubted he heard her in the wind as her voice was swallowed up by it and she gulped dizzily, groggily pulling her head back in and rolling the window up. “he says he’ll hold them up as much as he can.”

Golta smirked. “And you wanted him arrested!”

She shifted uncomfortably as the car passed eighty miles an hour and pulled back in front of the truck as it shifted to try and take up both lanes. “One enemy at a time, I suppose,” she conceded as they headed towards the Forest of Picardy, a swathe of Red Berraquat trees that cut the horizon in two. With the exception of the road, everything here was trust land, only hand hunting allowed. No weapons. No Comms and a bare minimum of Ranger stations equipped with emergency fuel for those who had run out and could afford the price.


And then, as they tried to catch a second big rig, the forest was upon them and everything went blood red under the foliage.


RELIEF


The car jolted and she found herself awake, sniffing the air and looking, panicked, for the guards who must be coming to take her out to the yard. Yards didn’t have cars, her brain told her as her foot recalled there was something deeply hurt about it. “Who?” She said. “Wh…where? Wh…when?”

“Where and who,” said a calm voice next to her as the car kept rattling and shaking. She watched his hand shift the gearstick as he lamented not bringing a cross country vehicle. “We had to get off that road,” he told her, “so we’re using the forest trails on the map I took from a Ranger hut.”

Her memory was beginning to put things back in their correct place now and, to be quite honest, she was kind of wishing it wasn’t. From the moment armed officers arrested her to now was only a succession of unpleasantness and depravity, starvation and poor food in random order, questions and quandaries. They wanted information from her but she didn’t actually know on what and they couldn’t tell her because it would prove whatever she had on whoever she had it. As it was she had some nasty thoughts but, on hearing his voice, she only had one. “We stopped? And you didn’t wake me?”

Golta huffed slightly as he juddered over another squad of pot holes. “You were out of it,” he explained, pushing the car to the left, “and I just wanted the maps.”

“Maps? Plural?”

“Look on the back seat.”

She twisted and gasped as she saw – or, rather, didn’t see – the back seat buried under a mound of maps. “You took the lot?”

“Station was unmanned,” Golta said. “Those maps have all the trails through them marked out and we needed to change route.” The car slammed through a mud puddle, sending plumes of water into the thickets of grass on either side of the track. “It’ll slow them tracking us.”

“S…” she jumped without trying, feeling her bottom leaving the seat and spreading her hands and feet out wildly before she fell into the seat again. “Ow,” she complained, rubbing her tail. “Speaking of… slowing down.”

“We’ve only been on the track for twenty minutes,” he warned. “I’m trained in cross…” He pulled the car right sharply to avoid a tree. “Maybe slower is a bit better, yes.” She watched him slow to thirty miles per hour.

She tapped the hand that was on the gear stick. “I was thinking more of stopping for a minute? This bumping and c…crashing has, um, has loosened a lot of water.”

“Huh,” Golta asked, glancing to her with a mixture of puzzlement and confusion. He looked strange under the dark red leaf shield provided by the trees. Then his face cleared. “Oh! Well I can only stop for a moment.”

As he heard her close by, Golta did his best to look over the car. Lots of bumps and dinks in the metalwork and the right front tyre looked like it wouldn’t last the day. Golta gave up on the check over and scanned the woods as best he v. He kept his primary weapon low, out of sight but ready for use in his hand. They had a lead, yes, and cover from aerial searches but the people chasing them had so many other advantages available to them that the odds were more or less equal. For instance they had pheromone scanners which could pick up a targeted persons’ scent from miles away as the wind blew and, right now, she was pumping the stuff into the ground. This forest was also a hunting ground. It meant some of the most vicious non sentient life on the planet roamed here without much restriction. And so did the hunters looking to prove themselves.


She hunkered down when finished and noted she couldn’t hear him. Was he still there? Why had she moved two trees in before finding ‘the perfect spot’? And what was that anyhow, when in a forest? A fair amount of moss? Ground that didn’t already have someone’s mark on it? She cursed her stupidity and the hunting teacher she’d had all those years ago. Should she try calling his name? What if that put him in danger? She stepped past a green thistle and tried to ignore the disaster message her ears were sending her as she snapped a twig underfoot. Stupid, stupid. She kept low and looked around. She could see the front and rear parts of the car but nothing in the middle of it. There was a tree in the way. She crept forward and thought she could hear something behind her. Something rustling through the grass behind her. She gave a little whimper and crouched down to see what was probably going to kill her. Why hadn’t she asked the agent for a weapon? Why..?


She skittered backwards as a Rashabeast shrieked at her, it’s pig-like muzzle sniffing her all over from five feet away. She felt the hot, rancorous, breath across her head and into her ears as she recalled this was a B+ level kill at the lowest end. Mostly it was because of the whip tail and crushing teeth and she jerked left to dodge the incoming tail. It sheared into the tree, showering her with bark, as she scrambled away, avoiding the snapping teeth. She recalled the one lesson she’d had on these monsters and what they’d told her about how to last against these things. She kept eye contact with it and just dodged another slash with the tail before she ran towards it and jumped on its’ back. She put her arms around its’ neck and kept herself low as it tried to find her with its’ tail. The side of it was able to bash against hers but she held on, thinking to put her teeth into the back of its’ neck. It squealed as she tasted its’ life under her teeth. She kept biting even as it tried to crush her with a roll. She felt her foot open up again.


With a thud, Golta re-entered the scene in a physical sense, pushing an armed Celican onto a tree branch, impaling the hunter through the chest. He took in the scene before him, swore and acted, putting one hand behind the neck of the creature to pull it up off her and then he brought the other fist straight into its’ throat, crushing the bone with used force. The creature joined the hunter in trying to desperately suck air in until .Golta ended its’ pain with his teeth. He tossed it aside and helped her up.

“Ow,” she said, holding her hip as she hopped. “My foot’s bleeding again.”

Golta indicated his target. “Hunter,” he said simply, “and not of the local animals. I’ll see what he’s got. You should eat. We only have a few minutes.”

She wanted to disagree with him. Really, she did. But she’d helped in the hunt – sort of – so she had a right to the meat. It wasn’t as though the beast needed it now, was it?


The hunter spat blood at him. Golta hadn’t really expected much else from him. He’d been a better fighter than a local Ranger would have been and it had taken too many minutes to kill him. He’d been able to draw him in by working around and letting him close on the car and her scent. He’d been there for them. Golta took the long range weapon from the dying creature and slung it over his shoulder before retrieving a pistol and a pocket knife. He considered the combat dagger for the girl but, really, it’d be a sword to her. He took it anyway. Never leave a weapon behind. He found the medical pouch and took a small tube of anti-septic, a tube of glue and some gauze over to treat her. She growled at him without looking up from the biggest meal she’d had in weeks so he coughed until she looked up, her muzzle now coloured red. “Let’s see that foot,” he said.


Five minutes passed and, after taking a sip of water from the dead hunter’s canteen, she washed some of the red off her face and hobbled into the car.

“They’ll have a way of tracking him,” Golta said, indicating the now shrouded figure that stood, head bowed, by the tree. “I wish we had time to find his car.” He started off again, looking for the village of Yavva, some twenty miles distant.
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

YAVVA


Dirt and debris cracked and crunched under the failing, balded, tyres as the blue lowrider struggled to put miles on the clock towards the village. The air was still filled with the subdued lights of the Hunters’ forest around them but, every now and again, she could see the unfiltered light of the sun and she sneezed.

“Charming,” Golta said, trying to wipe spittle off his receiving arm. “Can you look at that map and see where we are?”

“Sorry,” she said apologetically before reaching for the map. She opened it up, looked at it for a moment, turned it around, looked at it again and folded it back up. “We’re somewhere in a forest,” she said helpfully.

“Yeah,” Golta said, owning a grin that faded as his teeth ground together when they hit a pothole. “Just hope the car holds the line until we reach…”


Out of nowhere the forest cleared somewhat, showing a group of houses and buildings built around the single road through the community. “I think we’ve arrived.”

“Where,” she asked, still only able to see up into the trees from where she sat.

“Unless we’re really off course,” Golta said as they drew closer, “this is Yavva.”

“Where,” she repeated.

He looked towards the leafy ceiling. “I hope they have a shop with a booster seat,” he said, slowing down as the engine rattled and something made a sound in the rear of the car. “And a garage,” he added, putting the handbrake on and opening the driver side door.


The smell of civilisation was a memory for her but it had an echo in this place. As he opened the door for her she could sense the community here. Mothers, children and fathers scented together under the oil, the bagels and the tea leaves from the café, the noise of the grunting Celican coming down to the car with the oily rag slapping against his thin gloves cut across the sounds of the children chasing and playing in the schoolyard and Golta moving to intercept swept the dust of the dry floor around the stone well that stood a few feet from them. She reasoned that was why this village was here as the electric pump station drank up the life giving waters and supplied it to all who needed it.

“We need it looked at,” Golta told the old, thick set, hunting engineer as they closed on each other. “Fast repair or replace.”

The Engineer looked at the state of the car. “Speed Replication’ll cost you more,” he tutted as he knelt slowly and looked underneath. “Don’t even know if’n I can get all the stuff – Computer landlines are a bit old – but I can try.”

“Thanks,” Golta said, looking intently into the older Celican’s eyes. “Even more for complete discretion, I take it.”

The old Celican rubbed oil on his chin. “Gotta look after my overheads,” he admitted. “Three hundred for a total denial of existence?

“Payable on our exit alive.”

The engineer nodded and snapped his glove off to shake Goltas’ hand.

“Also… Can you fit a booster seat?”

Forgetting what she’d said earlier, she threw a small stone at him.


Nothing ever happened here in Yavva, they said. Well, nothing beyond the odd hunter going missing and needing rescuing so the store was tiny and yet open and empty as they stepped in. “Can help you,” said a slightly dumpy old Vixen as they came into her kingdom.

“Do you have any outfits that might fit me,” the Fennec asked before Golta could say anything.

“Spend my money, why don’t you,” he muttered as the shop owner put a hand to her muzzle and thought.

“Well…” She stopped. “That’s not a question I get asked very often.”

“I found her in the woods,” Golta said. “She’d had a bad time out there. Is there a Doctor in the village?” The shopkeeper pulled a medical bag onto her counter. “You’re the Doctor?”

“No,” the jovial female said, “fully qualified nurse. Back room. She pressed a button and Golta tensed as a younger Celican entered from a side door. “Look after the shop, Yarra.” She gestured them towards the back room.

“Go through, Rena,” Golta said as she looked nervously at him, “I’ll be there in a moment.” After the door closed, Golta turned towards the newcomer and the badge on his waist strap. “You’re the deputy?”

“Ain’t many around here wanting the post,” he said.

"You're not fully grown yet..." Golta sighed and showed his badge. “I need you to do something for me.”

The Deputy had snapped to attention on seeing the badge stating Golta represented the interplanetary council. “Whoa” he breathed. “W…what?”

“There may be people coming here searching for us two,” he confessed. “They may claim to be from the government but they’re lying. Either way?” He looked faintly sad. “I’ll defend her. So keep us safe?”

The deputy nodded mutely, then spoke. “You’ll leave quick?”

“After the foot is dealt with, clothes and provisions are bought and the car’s sorted.”

The deputy immediately put a clothes pack of blue shirt and shorts on the counter. Golta noted the Green tree motif with a small red slash across the base and guessed it was a school uniform. “Looks about right,” Golta said, collecting a basket and putting the outfit in it “Oh, I need to make a call.”


Via the landlines, Golta placed a distance call and, after a twenty second wait, advised the local chief officer of the situation in brief, confirming she seemed to have important information but stressing that he couldn’t go into it over the phone system. After he hung up, the Deputy took the phone back and put it out of sight. Golta moved around the shelves, picking up food and drink items at a price that outstripped the cities but he made sure he could keep an eye on the deputy at all times.


He was in the refrigerated meat section when he heard the door open and someone approach the counter.

“Can I help you,” the Deputy said, watching the unusually suited Celican. “Uh, Officer,”

Leaving the basket in one hand, Golta drew his pistol and hoped the door to the back room didn’t open as the Officer asked if any strangers had passed through the village in the last hour or so. Golta held his breath.

IN STORE

Golta controlled his breathing as the Deputy seemed to take an age to work his way through what the agent had asked him. Silently he implored the youngster to speak or at least react.

“N..no, sir,” the Deputy stammered, slipping slightly into slang. “Seen none new ‘round here. Um… Is that a real badge?”

“It’s not chocolate, boy.” The agent looked around but Golta had pulled back, out of sight. Golta heard him pull something and turn again to the deputy. “Any other places anyone coming through the forest from the west might have gone?”

The Deputy thought on it. “If the people you’re after took the northern path they could get to the reserve station at Adagon.” Golta heard the sound of a map being spread. “T…take the track from here and it’s about four…forty minutes. To here.” Golta heard claw-tip striking paper.”

“Right.” Golta heard the agent fold the map up and head for the door without paying. Then he heard the footsteps stop. “Aren’t you going to ask me,” he said without a tone of curiosity. “About the people I’m after?”

The Deputy froze in his tracks and Golta wondered if now was the time. Did the agent have back up in the car? Was he about to make this greenhorn youngster an accomplice in the murder of a Government agent? Was he about to destroy the lives of this entire community?

“Figure you’d tell me if I needed to know, sir,” the Deputy said hopefully.

The world paused for a few seconds that lasted an hour before the Agent snorted a laugh and headed out. Golta took a breath as the Deputy half slumped on the counter. “That was close,” the boy said. “What am I involved in?”

Helping me and keeping the peace,” Golta said, standing up, picking a packet of peanut butter mega cookies from the shelf and putting it in his basket. Having finished selecting provisions he crossed back to the counter. “Your aunt’s been in there a long time,” he said, indicating the door.

“The deputy frowned. “She has, hasn’t she?” He headed to the door as Golta looked out of the window. He looked out onto the street as the Deputy opened the door. Had he been tricked? Had someone come around the back as the other Agent kept them locked down? Was she lost to him?

“Do you really think I don’t know danger when it steps into the shop,” asked a strong voice from behind Golta. The agent relaxed, his muscles loosened and a small smile crept onto his lips as he turned to see the girl sucking a lime lollipop with the town nurse behind her. “I put her in a cupboard whilst the other one sniffed around outside,” she explained. “Got on with some paperwork. Townies are idiots.”

“I’m a townie,” the girl protested.

“You’re my type of townie,” the nurse replied. “School uniform, Yarra?” She sighed. “I suppose it’s the best we can do unless Varra’s mother comes in… What DID you do, girl?”

She spread her arms, swinging the saliva that still glistened on her treat towards Golta.. “I dunno,” she protested. “So many lies and secrets I’ve uncovered and one of them’s biting my tail off now. If I knew which one…” She slapped her arms down onto her legs and looked downcast.

“We’ll find out which,” Golta said simply, allowing her the comfort of his hand on her small shoulder. “Now go and get ready for school.”

She choked a laugh.

“I ate at Garrett’s once,” the Nurse said, referring to the girl’s shirt as the Fennec headed into the back room to change. “Nice guy,” she admitted. “He can’t make a meal to save his life and he was far too forward but he seemed a good judge of character.”

“Does no-one around here like the government?” Golta asked.

“No,” the Nurse said, “most don’t give a muffins and cookies one way or the other. What we have noted is government only tends to come here when it wants something or when it wants to end something. Sowe don’t encourage them and, when they come, we don’t welcome them.”

“Fair enough.” Golta looked around as the girl reappeared in a tight fitting outfit that showed she wasn’t a ten year old cub. “You look better.”

“This is so humiliating,” she protested, fixing the cap around her powerful ears..

“You look fine,” Golta repeated.

“That’s fifty-seven credits in total,” the Nurse said; having totted up his basket. “Including the shoes” Golta started. When had she taken his basket and run it through? He paid without asking and let him off the one credit for the bag.


They left and headed toward the garage. “What IS your name anyhow?” he asked as they headed towards the garage.

“Sana,” she said. “Sana…” Her surname was lost as Golta cut across her.

“We’ll go around the back,” he said, nodding towards the car he could just see beyond the building. He put his hand behind his back and pulled a small clip blaster out. “You know how to use one of these?”

“Red button takes of the safety then point and pull the trigger?” She took the gun. “There is, logically, only one place you could have hidden this. If the shot doesn’t kill them, I’ll make them swallow it and the bacteria will.”

Golta chuckled in that Honey way of his. “Eventualities only,” he warned as he approached the rear door. He could smell the blood. So could she. She looked around. Even the children were milling close to the school fence, unsure of what to do now. She looked at Golta. From the look on his face more blood was going to come.


BARNSTORMER

She was nervous as they approached the barn, even whilst holding the gun. That fact surprised her more than anything else. She’d always assumed that guns could give courage, as seen in a thousand vidshows and films where the desperate little mouse – or Celican – found a gun and found courage to stand against the cruelty but she was just as scared now as she had been two moments ago and that scared her even more as she came to the barn behind Golta.

He gestured for her to stay back a little as he came to a slightly ajar door. “Come in to my parlour said the spider to the fly,” he said quietly before pushing the door inwards. He waited for incoming fire but, when none occurred, slipped into the dark interior. Somewhere close he could hear voices talking to each other, one asking if he’d had to kill the old boy and the other protesting his case in that the other Celican had come across him as he’d been fixing the car and… The first had silenced him and Golta froze. He wondered if the agent was sniffing the air and he wished he had the girls’ ears. She, he guessed, would know. It’d be much easier for her to hide as well. It sounded like they were close to the metal shelves full of tools that he was heading down…

The lights clacked on noisily and Golta fired as he saw the agent from the shop bring his gun to bear. The shot sizzled noisily through the air, slashing into the target’s shoulder and throwing his shot out. The incoming shot instead spun towards the ceiling and through it even as Golta dove for the nearest column. The first agents’ gun left his hand as the second agent fired, punching a hole along the width of his arm and spitting his blood free from his frame. A third bolt of light flew from the door towards the armed agent and missed him entirely. With the first agent’s gun still in the air, Golta concentrated on the second, ignoring the hurt as his new target reacted, open-mouthed, to the fact HE had a new attacker. He instinctively turned and fired at where a Fennec had just been and exposed his flank to Golta. Golta’s shot scorched across the agents’ back, drawing a screech of pain from the target. His fingers tensed into talons and the gun fell from his grip to the floor. Golta charged from his hiding spot as the first agent got to his feet, drawing a blade with his good hand to replace the wounded and wasted arm. Golta jumped the corner of the car and barely avoided the slashing blade. He knew then that the Celican was mainly right handed. The fun had been in that hand but, with a two hander, the blade would have been just as lethal in the left hand but the attack was wilder. Slightly more out of control. He came in again, trying to catch the knife arm as his claws punched upwards to the gut. He felt the pain as he caught the knife rather too close to the blade for comfort and struggled to put his free hand behind the agent’s head. Once he got a grip, he twisted around and threw the agent, face first, onto the car bonnet. The bonnet bonged loudly as the muzzle impacted the metal, fracturing and breaking the front teeth. Golta drew him back and threw him forward again, further damaging the muzzle before gripping him tightly, taking him to the left a few meters, and putting him, head first, through the passenger side window. The glass breached and fell apart, leaving a jagged line below the impact that Golta now forced the agent’s neck onto, ignoring the struggles and the attempted knifing, until the struggles ceased. He took a breath, then remembered the other one. He turned quickly to see a schoolgirl threatening a fully grown agent with a gun. Golta took some rope and pulled the agent up. “Relax,” he said, “it’s over.”


“You have no idea,” the agent snarled. “We’ll hardy be the last.”

Golta tied him to a column as the door opened and Yarra entered. “Sheriff’s office,” he called, his gun drawn.

“It’s all over now, Yarra,” Golta said sadly, wincing as he flexed his hand. The blade had gone through the palm but nothing seemed permanently damaged. “This guy,” he added, tapping the muzzle of the hog-tied agent, “just killed the mechanic.”

“Old Karra? muffins and cookies…”

“Karra, Yarra, Varra, and the village of Yavva,” Sana muttered to herself. “I wonder what it is about his village, the water?” She spoke up. “How do we get out of this now?”


“You’ll make a statement later,” Yarra said uncertainly as the nurse stitched Golta’s wounds in she shop as locals looked on.. He’d decided against any local anaesthetic because of the need to get on the road as soon as possible.

Golta nodded and seethed as she put the needle in again.

“Big baby,” the nurse chastised. “Sana didn’t make a sound when I stitched her foot.”

Sana looked up from the small shop computer when she heard her name. “Oh, I was just after a lollipop,” she said.

“You’re not…ow… connecting to any old friends on there, are you?”

“News sites,” she replied.

“Good. Any old friends might have dobbed you in and they might do it again.”

She shut the computer off.

“No, wait,” the nurse said, before realising she was too late. “I hadn’t saved what I’d written for my novel today. The adventures of a pioneering Vixen nurse fighting, against the odds, in the woods of Celica.”

Golta chuckled. “Based on anyone?”

“Not her,” Yarra said. “So long as the real story comes out. Uh, the real story here, I, uh, mean.” He was nursing the small drink he’d been poured from an off-the-shelf bottle of Rye.

"For now,” Golta said as the Nurse finished the stitching, “the old guy killed the one and, after he was killed, you arrested this guy.” He looked at the bound agent on the floor, “Unless he wants to admit to being taken out by a schoolgirl?” The gagged agent glared defiance. “Yeah, thought not.” After checking the hand, Golta headed outside with Sana and walked quickly back to the garage. “Time to go,” he said, opening the old car and pulling the installed booster seat free. After finding the agent’s car, Golta opened it and fitted the seat.

“Wait.” The Fennec got on her back and pulled herself under the car. “I checked the schematics,” she said, “online. These… uff! Don’t belong! Uff! Um… can you pull me out?”

Golta hauled her out carefully and looked at the three boxes she had on her. “That,” he said, pointing to one, “is the satnav. “ He looked at her discomfort. “The other two? “ He gave her a grin. “A Locator and the comms suite. You got ‘em both.”

“Yay!” happily she got into the car and climbed up on the booster seat as Golta got in.

“Did you find the train times,” he asked after shutting the door.

“There’s one in about an hour,” she replied after strapping in. Golta powered up the car. Then he headed away from the shocked village and headed for the station on the map.
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

Oops. I forgot to finish this? I'll have to find the rest...
Commander Hawle. U.S.C. Loper.
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I would like to think that your talking to me had something to do with you wanting to revive a 4-year old story.

If that is true, your welcome. X)
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

After several years.... It continues! (Because a character who appears in this story appears in Postain and you wouldn't know why they think he's trouble otherwise!)

TRAINING

The car pulled up next to a small sign that pointed towards the station and idled as Golta got out of the driver’s side, opened the back door and reclaimed his shopping. Sana helped herself down from her side before unlocking the booster seat and pulling it out. “I’m not leaving it behind,” she claimed, “you’ll get it back on expenses.”
Golta nodded. She’d been chattier in the last forty minutes than she had been in the rest of the trip. She thought it was to do with being able to see more from the window but he knew better. It was a reaction to the adrenaline from what had happened in the village, the excitement and danger coursing through her veins. He didn’t mind, though. And he had to catch her up. He turned the engine off, destroyed the auto start feature by pulling it free and cutting out the wires before throwing the box into the woods. He started after the girl.

The station stood in a ‘safe zone’ and was a single line cutting through the cover and crossing the dirt track road and it was here Golta caught up with Sana at the electronic booking board. The signal wire ran down into the ground and along the lines in both directions to tell the train to stop at the request stop. It also connected to the net so you paid .here and now for what was about to arrive in… fifteen minutes. Hmm. Golta pulled up the timetable and gawped. “It doesn’t get to Coltra City until four tomorrow morning!”
“Yay,” Sana said, with some enthusiasm. “Can we have a cabin?”
“You REALLY enjoy spending my money, don’t you?”
She considered. “It’d be safer in a cabin.”
Golta sighed as he supposed she was right and he tapped on the symbol for a second class cabin. Cramped, he thought. Bunk Beds. “Good job I’m not planning much sleep,” he said.
“I am,” Sana said.
“Of course,” Golta said, putting his credit chit up to the scanner so the machine could wipe six hundred and thirty seven credits from his account.
Sana looked at the amount and attempted to whistle. It came out more as a flow of spittle “That’s a lot,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to fly?”
“We’re flying from Coltra,” Golta explained. “That one’s on the Council.”

The train came in and he helped her aboard from ground level before climbing up himself. He entered a cabin filled with the musk of Celicans as they sat in their seats, watching where they’d been or where they were going as others walked the passage between the seats with ready edibles with hot and cold drinks. A train full of hunters. Wonderful. The girl, of course, was slipping around the incoming walkers with ease. By comparison he was a bulldozer, forcing them to shift aside or be bumped. He apologised as he jostled someone with a tray ful of food, one item of which fell into a Vixens’ lap. The cage opened and the creature ran away before she could react. Golta kept going. He had to. His cabin was down this way.

When he got to the door, Sana was there, dancing slightly. “Adrenaline’s about to run out,” she explained.
He held his chit to the door and it recognised the same card that had paid earlier. He could have gone and found the conductor or, if he’d bought it at a manned station, he’d have a keycard. As it was now, though, it would tell the conductor they had arrived and he’d be along with a keycard in a few moments. Golta pushed the door open and Sana dashed in under his arm. She looked around the wood panelled room, with its beds and desk with a travel kettle and cups and sachets on it. And there was a Vid and a carpet and… a small door! She opened it and, to her delight, found a tiny rest room. She dashed in and slammed the door near enough in Golta’s face. He waited patiently for a few seconds before he heard an ‘ah’ from inside. He flicked the bathroom light on and heard a ‘thank you’ from inside the room.
“Payback for the barn,” Golta said, sitting on the bottom bunk and bumping his head. “Ow.”
“I want the top bunk,” she said over the sound of running water. “Not having you crashing through the bunk on me.”
Golta pulled out a pad from the desk and found that the pen in with it actually worked. He waited until she came out of the bathroom and sat her on the desk to ask questions. He jotted down her full name and then started on the harder questions. “So,” he asked, “who exactly might you have upset?”
“Well,” Sana confessed, “I’m a bit of a hacker, y’know?” She scratched her neck. “List goes from the local Galnet server – who have an illegal charge on their upload channels – to the Celica City council because I supplied certain financial records to the Celica Hunter news that…”
“Brought six councillors in on fraud charges,” Golta confirmed, remembering the case well. IOC had kept out of it as it was an internal matter but, as he lived in the city, it had interested him to see so many dragged before the courts on evidence so compelling their lawyers couldn’t buy their way out. “I remember.”
“And there’s a few council officials too,” she added slyly.
“Never claimed we were perfect,” Golta sniffed, wondering if she’d tell him more on that later. “What was the most recent thing you were working on?”
“Um…” She thought. “The last I added was missing credits from hospitals in the Capital,” she said, kicking her feet in the air.
“And what..?” Golta paused as someone knocked on the door. He told her to be quiet and slipped to the door, opening it slightly whilst keeping his weapon out of sight..
A brown fur Celican looked at him through sharp eyes that sat under a peaked cap reading ‘guard’. “I have your pass here,” he said, holding up two passes. He held them out and Golta accepted them. “The Dinner Car opens in four hours,” he added before Golta thanked him and closed the door.
Now he was feeling hungry. Until the guard reminded him he hadn’t had to acknowledge the fact he’d had nothing to eat today. Not even a lollipop. “Fancy a Pean..?” he stopped mid-word as he turned around. She wasn’t on the desk. She was on the top bunk, her back to him and clearly asleep. Gently, he pulled the sheet over her, up to her shoulders. Then he took a cookie for himself.

DINNERTIME

There was something to be said, Golta decided, for having some time to rest. There were three hours before the next station and it was only after then that he needed to be on alert again so he could lean back and relax. The door was locked and his alarm was set so there was nothing to stop him lying on the lower bunk, having a coffee, going to the bathroom… All things he hadn’t been able to do for the last twenty or so hours.

He’d been the senior officer on watch in Celica’s second city – Polda - when the call had come through all those hours ago and he’d been the one to speak to the girl and offer her assistance if what she’d told him came through. He’d copied down the address and, after connecting to it with the help of a technician he’d called just in case, the need for action became paramount. Her information had been financial records that they could claim had been delivered anonymously so they could be used in court. It had been the missing piece of information in a trafficking conspiracy that took the attention off the master-at-arms of a Council base and placed the attention firmly on the base commander. Once they had that the connection was easy. It had taken half an hour to find. Right then Golta had called the Sector commander who had told him not to delegate and go get the hacker known as “Rena Dezè” himself. He’d taken the subsonic jet because they were attempting to snatch a high value property from under the muzzles of Celican Intelligence and it was felt they’d track any shuttles from the IOC or Council compounds so he’d landed some six hours drive from the café and called a family friend to loan him the car and he’d driven hard since then. There and partway back. Eight or nine hours solid driving and fighting and he was tired. He sidled down onto his side and allowed himself to think of sports and the hunt restaurant he was supposed to have met Flavia at last night. His foot kicked in near sleep and jolted him awake as it hit the wood and metal wall. He swore and resettled himself.

An hour passed in silence, then he became aware of sounds. Raised, familiar, tones that sounded angry and… His eyes snapped open as he heard a small explosion. He had his gun ready to…
Sana sat with her feet dangling over the side of the bunk, watching the vid as it played an action blockbuster from decades back. After she felt his head smack on the bed, she pushed her feet wide and looked between her legs at him. “Were you in this one,” she asked lightly.
“Seven ways to Ravalox,” Golta said, allowing one eye to open whilst he rubbed his head. “I think just about every stunt performer on Celica was in that one. The only thing Landa Varak didn’t want a double for was the love making scenes.”
“I thought I read that Vennakar Rhoads hated him though?”
“She did,” Golta replied, shaking the last bits of grogginess from his head. “She insisted on a body double for those scenes. Don’t meet your heroes, Sana.”
“What if you meet them before they’re your hero?”
“Then don’t let it go to your head.” Golta pulled himself upright carefully.
“Hey,” Sana complained, “down in front! Where you going? Oh.”

After a few more minutes of action on the small screen, Golta returned from the smallest room and hit pause on the vidscreen. “Let’s go to the dining car,” he said, implying it was less a request and more a command.
“I was watching that! Can’t we go later?”
He offered her a hand down but she declined in favour of the forwards slide to the floor. “Afraid not,” he said. “We’re safe to move about before we get to Altnabreack station but possibly not after.”
She nodded, getting the implication. “If they work out what we’re up to and want things kept quiet, they’ll board there?

The dining car consisted of another faux-wood panelled carriage with a thick carpet, worn thin by use, with burgundy coloured tables along the left side of the carriage and a serving area on the right. A small collection of tables sat behind a barrier and, despite Golta’s imploration, Sana headed straight for that section. “Live’s all well and good, ‘Uncle’ Golta,” she said, scooting into a chair, “but there’s not much better than a Chalterra Steak in Blue Cheese sauce with a side of Roast Potatoes.”
Golta put his head on one hand as he sat down. “You know those things have tumours,” he asked idly, “I never get why the Humans and the Rabbits rave about them.”
“Tubers,” Sana said after a moment. “They have tubers. And they’re harmless. They just get cut out and discarded. You should try it.”
“If I want to eat something that’s been underground,” Golta grumbled, opening the menu, “I’ll dig for Moles.” He studied the menu and selected the Straight Sandclimber as she selected the medium-raw steak with button fungi, mini potatoes and a blue cheese and Bacon sauce. She chose Sacra Juice for a drink, as did he – more for the non-alcoholic effect than the taste which always reminded him of Weevils. The Celican server looked decidedly unimpressed about handling cooked food and Golta wasn’t quite sure he blamed him. “She has a human friend,” he explained, “he’s been going on at her to try it so why not?” he shrugged. “Can’t hurt the once, can it?” The waiter said nothing and, as the rest of the carriage was beginning to fill up, went to deal with other orders. “Don’t think you’ll win him over to shop meat,” Golta advised. “Now,” he added, finishing off his large rodent before starting on it, “you were saying something about missing credits from hospitals earlier?”
“Hmm?” She forked some hot, pink, dead meat into her mouth and chewed it ten times before swallowing. “Yeah. And not small peanuts if you track it backwards. Almost a Million and a half over the last six years.” She looked up. “It’s easy enough to do,” she explained. “Bill for fifty thousand pills of a sort and receive forty-five thousand. Pay for twenty beds and get eighteen. Thing is, no-one’s cashing in from any of the companies that I’ve found. But...,” she took a swig of her drink. “they’ve all got some iron clad ‘silent partner’ who seems to be getting a nice cut of the cream.” She forked more meat into her mouth without decorum, almost getting fungi up her nostril in her haste. “All those accounts lead to the Business and Enterprise division and their servers?” She shrugged. “I was getting through the firewalls but…”
“You got interrupted.” He thought over what she had just said. “If it was Business and Enterprise it meant Government and the Civil service, people he hated dealing with, especially in the tax months. Still, though… “Is that including the Council medical financing depot?”
She shrugged. “Probably. I’ll know for sure when I get my files. I left them in a safe place.”
“We’re not adding another city to our travelogue.”
She spread her arms wide. “Online!”
“you can do that from my place,” Golta said, now keeping his voice low. “It’ll pass the time whilst you fill in the deputy forms.”
She coughed and her eyes asked the question.
“Easier to protect you if you’re one of us,” Golta said, finishing his Rodent.

The train pulled into the next station and, from one of the doors, Golta watched one person get on. He saw the Celican look his way and nod his Vulpine head in a hunters’ salute.

MEETING

Golta made his way back along his half of the train and knocked three times on the door to his cabin. The girl opened it from the other side and he slipped into the compartment before she shut it behind him and looked up at him hopefully. “No-one got on board, right?”
He rubbed his chin. “One person did,” he said heavily.
“One’s not so bad, is it,” she asked, trying to keep the hope in her tone. It was pretty much failing in the look from his eyes though. The smile faltered. “Is it a tough one?”
“Could be,” Golta admitted, making himself a coffee from the tiny set up on the table. “It looked a lot like Kalla Freen. He’s an interstellar games bronze medallist.”
“Professional hunting?” Sana watched Golta nod and swallowed slightly. “So what do we do now?”
Golta sat down. “Nothing for the next five minutes,” he advised. The fact that their compartment was near the front end of the train was why he’d gone some way along to look out. If the hunter had got on between him and her he’d have left the train and gone along the platform before getting back on. As it was, Freen had got on further up. Nearer the rear end. From there he could concentrate on going in one direction towards the front. He’d likely have an electronic master key of his own so he could enter any cabin. He might well claim to be a conductor as well. Golta slapped down the instant coffee in one go as he thought on what to do.
“So what do we do now?” Sana repeated her question, drawing an uncommitted ‘hmm’ from him so she said it a third time.
“For a start,” Golta said, standing up, “I need to find out if he really is hunting us. He reached up to the top of the window and opened it slightly.

Golta stepped into the first class section and made his way towards the very rear of the train. Only a few cabins were occupied here and he chanced to get a look at one as he passed by the open door. One bed was set against the wall with a bed setee in front of it, near to the full size dressing table and mega vid screen. He couldn’t see the bathroom from here but he understood it worked as a wet room with a full air drier and anti-static function that dried the fur smoother than the sonic shower in their compartment that just vibrated the dirt out and always threatened to send him cross-eyed. He nodded to the youth sat on the bed as he ordered a drink from the replication machine with one hand and held a struggling Rodent around the throat with the other. The youngster gave him a slight snarl, reminding the Agent of a baby Liona baring its’ gums and trying to scare off others. He took his gaze away from the bed that could fit him and stepped forward, only to stop as he was intercepted by another Celican coming the other way.
“One of us needs to step aside,” Kalla Freen said, putting a hand on the side he wished to cross. Even if they both stood sideways, the two were of such a build that they couldn’t pass each other.
“Maybe if one of us stepped into a doorway?” Golta suggested.
“That could cause more trouble than we have now,” Freen said conversationally. Golta wondered if he was considering the witnesses in the open cabin he’d just passed.
“Then it looks like a bit of an impasse, wouldn’t you say?”
Freen frowned and pointed a finger. “You’re Halda Golta, aren’t you?” he straightened up. “I used to want to be a stunt performer. You know,” he added pointedly, “test my body to the maximum and all that?”
“Oh,” Golta scoffed, recognising the opening moves of a professional when he heard them. He knew that, know it or not, Freen wouldn’t mention Golta being an Agent, “I’d imagine you’ve done quite well physically? Third best sport hunter in the universe isn’t exactly bad. He nodded to the left side of the train. “Have you been training?”
“Oh, only for fun. And you? Travelling from a film?”
“To, actually,” Golta sparred. “It’s on Canis so I need to head to the local spaceport.”
“Of course,” Freen said, with a grin. “Travelling alone?”
“You know it.” Golta replied with a fake grin of his own. “Budget doesn’t stretch to family.”
“Tell me about it.” Freen looked behind Golta. “Ah,” he said, “it does seem we are causing a blockage.” With that he took a few steps back and into a passing alcove.
Golta moved past, followed by the guard. After Freen was out of sight, Golta stopped the guard. “I need to change cabins,” he said, sure now that Freen was there on a sentient hunt. He pulled his badge up. “I’m protecting someone on this train,” he told the brown fur. There may be danger so I need to change apartments quickly.”
“It’s irregular…,” the guard began.
“It’s life or death,” Golta snarled, letting him see the teeth on either side of his muzzle as they shone with saliva. “There may be no danger but it’s also possible a sentient killer’s on board.” He’d thought about not using the word ‘sentient’ in that last line but, as they were passing through a massive hunting preserve and considering that nearly all Celicans ate live food all the time, the word ‘killer’ seemed inadequate. “Get me a room up here,” he growled. “On the books or off it.”
“I…I’ll need to up… upgrade you,” the guard stammered slightly, a little intimidated by the bigger Celican. “A15. Is that OK?” He held the cards up.
Golta took them. “Acceptable,” he grunted, noting that was a door number he’d not come to yet. He started back towards his smaller berth.

Freen stopped outside a cabin in the lesser class berths and growled lightly. This one, he thought. The lingering traces of Golta’s scent was stronger here than in the rest of the train. The agent had, apparently, kept coming back to this door. Time, he thought, to earn his pay and complete the mission. He readied no weapons. He needed none. He just used his master key to unlock the door and stepped into the tiny room.

NARROW MARGIN

The Bronze medallist stepped into the small room and sniffed the air. It was cold, fresh, scent traces ruined by the mere expedience of opening the window when the train was going at seventy MPH. Freen grinned slightly. He appreciated a challenge and it wasn’t often he found someone who did the simple things. He stepped in and put his hand out to the bathroom door. “You’re not the guard,” said a youthful voice behind him.
He turned to see a teenaged hunter – or possibly scientist – looking up at his with bored eyes. “I’m his assistant,” Freen said simply.
“Mum wanted me to tell the guard the vid’s not working in our compartment.”
Freen shuddered slightly. It would be so easy, he thought, to make this kid leave him alone and there were ways he could even leave the kid breathing. But then he’d need to deal with the entire family and that could cause problems. “The other guy’s the technical fella,” he said, trying to convey his anger in his eye rather than his tone. Eye anger was often more effective with younglings than the raised voice, he’d found. “I’ll let him know,” he added. “Now you should go back to your cabin and wait. It’s not safe, wandering the train alone.” He half glanced back at the boy, who caught sight of the intent and started.
“Uh, yeah, I’ll tell her.” The boy backpedalled slightly and Freen closed the door. There was only one place she could be hiding in a room this small, he decided. He reached out for the bathroom door and opened it.

Heading back through the train, Golta reached the busy restaurant car and leaned over the counter. “Up,” he told Sana and she pushed her head out from underneath. “He’s gone past.”
She scampered up and vaulted the counter. “Thanks Yarrick,” she said to the bar tender. “You can keep the Raspberry Starblitz recipe.”
“Thanks,” the tender said without much enthusiasm, “that’ll tip me into profit.”
“Come on,” Golta encouraged, hustling her out of the room before Freen could return. The PA announced that they’d be clearing the forest in twenty minutes so all wi-fi systems would be reactivated then. “I can call for assistance then,” he assured her, knowing full well they’d need it.
She dove onto the bed settee as soon as she saw it, taking Golta by surprise before he finished checking the room. Before he had started even. “I love bed settee’s,” she cried. “Two pieces of furniture in one!”
“I know,” he said quietly, hiding a smirk from her.

Freen huffed and pushed past the guard on his way to the middle cars, where everyone was together. Golta had hidden her somewhere there, he had to have. There was no scent for him to track so he’d hidden her and the best place to hide a small person was in a crowd. He stopped at the first couple and put on a new face,. “Have you seen a Fennecin in the last few minutes,” he asked. “I’ve lost her and her new mother’s getting anxious.” The first couple shook their heads and he moved onto the next table. “Excuse me…”

Golta paced the room as he waited for the all clear to come from the address system. He was anxious to place his call now but not, however, to tell her why. They needed back-up badly now. Their hunters were going to have more operatives at the next station but IOC had a branch office there too, due to a Council military ground training station. He’d visited there once and found it terminally boring. They’d enjoy the activity. Probably.
She looked up as she pulled the sheets off the bed. “Is there something you’re not telling me, Agent Golta?”
“Nothing that important,” he bluffed, “I’m just wanting to make that call is all.”
Sana nodded. “Right,” she said, not believing a word of it.
He stepped to the replicator and ordered peanuts in shells. Then he took the bowl of nuts and strewed it across the passageway outside. He ordered another bowl and did the same in the other direction. Then the PA sounded and Golta started to make his call.

Freen rolled his eyes as he saw the mess on the floor. The fourth couple had seen the girl heading, with a male, towards the A class cabins. He conceded it was a smart move, moving her into an area he’d already searched but he turned down their offer to tell the guard there was a possible Cubnapping on the train. Instead he’d said it sounded like his mate’s first husband. It was almost going to be a shame to kill this guy, he told himself. Stuntmen really did have his admiration. They made dying look good. He stopped by the first door and knocked, to be seen by an older Celican when she opened the door. “Nothing to worry about, ma’am,” he said. “just checking you’re alone in there?”
“With my family, yes.” She shut the door.
“Not totally rude,” he grumbled, moving to A15. He knocked without answer so he reached for his over-ride. The door opened and he couldn’t believe his luck. She was there, underneath the settee bed and trying to pull her tail out of sight.
He stepped in and shut the door behind him. His survival instincts started to kick in as Golta jumped for him from the bathroom, throwing the bedsheets over his head before the fight began.
Commander Hawle. U.S.C. Loper.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Once again another wonderful chapter! I am really enjoying this!
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Welsh Halfwit
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

TO THE DEATH

The duelling pair cannoned against the wall as Freen twisted towards Golta. His already swinging claws caught and ripped into the sheets as the six foot tall Agent brought his weight into sharp contact. He pushed back as Golta tried to grasp him and all the agent was able to do was grab Freens’ left arm. His right claws pulled at the sheet, ripping small furrows into the fabric as Golta stabbed his finger claws into Freens’ lower abdomen.
Freen could feel the short penetration and twisted out of the way, coming around to Goltas’ side and pushing him towards the wall. He felt another impact as Golta put his elbow straight into the end of his muzzle, cracking two of his expensively polished teeth. He cursed himself for presumption. He and Golta both knew the honour of the hunt, he knew that. He appreciated it. What he had forgotten was that Golta was acting as a bodyguard. He wasn’t acting as a hunter in this situation but a defender and that meant Golta had a right he didn’t have. Golta had the right to cheat. He took in the sight of the muscled Celican again as he pulled the sheet from his face. He didn’t see much of it, though, just the incoming handpaw with its’ claws out-stretched. He accepted the blow, moving his head in unison with it to minimize the damage but it still cut a disturbing pattern across his face, splitting skin and ravaging his upper lip before it swung free and he counter attacked with a solid punch towards Goltas’ gut.

Golta attempted to shift out of the way and felt the claws slide slightly through his side, cutting fur and swishing flesh before Golta swung a powerful arm backwards across Freen’s face again. He felt the fur rip in his hand as he connected with the broken teeth. He loomed large over the enemy as Freen stumbled sideways slightly, his right claws still trapped in the sheet. Golta stepped onto that same sheet as he came forward, shoving Freen backwards, over the bed settee. He heard Sana squeak and hurried to take Freens’ attention again as he saw the claws had ripped free with a score of four to one.

Freen felt pain as he fell backwards and knew one of his claws had twisted off in the sheet. As damage it wasn’t much, he thought but, as a distraction it was painful. He was ready as Golta came in and, standing, he was able to prepare and lifted the Agent over his shoulders to crash into the window. A crack threatened the integrity of the glass as it shot from the impact to the top corner and the lower middle but the glass held as Golta slipped down to the floor on his head.

Someone knocked intently on the door as Freen pulled Golta up and put two punches into his gut. Golta swept the killers arms away, put one hand behind Freens’ head and twisted. If Freen hadn’t rolled, it would have killed him or caused serious damage. As it was, it just threw him away from the agent and down to the floor. Golta put the boot in and heard the gasp of pain as a rib broke. A second strike was taken in the hand and Golta was forced to overbalance and was brought crashing down to the floor, just catching the side of his head on the bedframe. His vision rainbowed into a kaleidoscope of colours and his hearing could hear nothing but the rapid knocking on the door for a few seconds but that incoming black shape had to be… Golta put his arm up and shifted the incoming impact from his neck to his face. His own arm went sideway, into Freens’ side as the incoming fist crunched into his nose. It helped to clear his vision a little and he put a handpaw to Freens’ muzzle and cracked his head against the floor twice before attempting to get atop him. Freen brought his claws down the outside of Goltas’ red and black furred arms and then pushed him overhead with his feet. Golta impacted on the bed and rolled off the other side, smacking his head on the other bed. He couldn’t see anything much, now, impacts and cuts blurring and blocking his vision.

Freen knew he had a few seconds now as he stood shakily and made his way around to the other side of the bed. He gripped the girls’ tail and hauled the scared little Fennekin from under the bed so he could…

She shot him.

He looked at the hole in his shoulder in confusion as pain knocked on his brain before he noticed the slimline blaster she was holding in both hands. She was breathing heavily now and he wasn’t sure the pale yellow fur wasn’t sort of… flowing around her slightly as he reached forward and she squeaked and shot him again, Low calibre weapon, he thought. Not even enough punch power to knock him down. His knees wobbled. It was really humiliating, Ah, he thought as Golta forced himself up, looked at him and drew back a fist, this was far more hon…

Golta put the punch in so hard and straight that it snapped the killer’s head back and the follow through almost toppled Golta himself. Freen toppled backwards, an oddly content look on his face, as the door opened. He put a hand out to stop Sana shooting again as the nervous conductor appeared in the doorway, holding his regulation firearm and looking in at the room with blood everywhere, a broken bed and more stains on the floor than he’d like. Golta swayed as Sana got up. “Bill…” he said, swallowing hard as he felt his wounds, new and old, open. “Bill the IOC for room service.” He stumbled and Sana tried to steady him. Not an easy thing when she barely came up to his waist but she tried until the Conductor came in and helped her. She watched him cautiously, one hand still on her blaster.
“She’s got a gun,” said a teenaged voice from the hallway. “She shot that guy! Cool!”
Sana didn’t look. She felt sick.
“Violence in first class,” an older Celican said. “It’s disgraceful! I shall complain!”
“Hey, is that that third best hunter guy on the floor?”
“I doubt it if he couldn’t kill one Fennec and one bodyguard,” said a third gawper.
“G…” said Golta. “Get…”
“He’s trying to say something,” the gawkers said.
Golta took in a ragged breath. “GET BACK TO YOUR CABINS BEFORE I ARREST THE LOT OF YOU!” He half sat up. “I need to make a c..call.”

The train closed in on the next station in the town of Havrin and, as it prepared to stop at near midnight, several thick set Celicans stepped forward, ready to move onto the train as a drunk female Feline and a Canine male practically waltzed onto the platform. “Oh,” the feline said, slapping the canine on the chest. “I really doubt these guys can {Hik} help us. I doubt they’d {Hik} answer anyway.”
“Of course they would, honey,” the larger Canine said before letting her rest against a pillar. “Excuse me,” he said, attracting one of the Celicans’ attention. “could you settle a bet?”
“No,” the Celican gruffed.
“You see, my friend…”
“I said I’m not interested!”
“Oh, you will be,” the Canine persisted.
The Celican looked at the Canine with pure hatred. “What?”
“My friend reckons that, if you fought the fifteenth Light armour division then you’d all die. I don’t reckon you’d be stupid enough to try it. Which is true?”
As he spoke, a division of boots stormed their way onto the platform in light armour, with the council standard assault weapons slung ready from their shoulders. An array of species stood around the Celicans as the train stopped.

On seeing what was going on, most of the occupants chose to stay on the train for a bit but Golta and Sana stumbled off. “Agent Symonds?” Golta said to the suddenly sober Feline. “Are… you aware you may have just caused an interstellar incident?
“Ah, we’re all just here for the train,” she replied. “Shame we missed it, eh?”

HOSPITAL

Sana stood in a gloomy white corridor and attempted to see in through the window panel in the top half. She put her clawtips to the frame and attempted to put her entire weight on them, letting her feet off the floor. She couldn’t quite manage it, though, and dropped to the ground.

They’d brought her and Golta here as soon as they’d finished with the train station. The big Celican had been drifting in and out of consciousness since the fight and Sana had hoped that these agents – Symonds the cat and Gallier the Canine – were on the level as they’d passed a hospital before getting here and she’d killed someone and they’d taken her gun and everything. No-one had debriefed her yet but she knew it had to be coming. She’d relaxed a little – just slightly – when they’d driven past a plate that identified the location as United Security Council base Havrin and she technically left Celican territory. Here the only soldiers were those in the U.S.C. armies and the only police was supposed to be the IOC and the Military Police. She’d stayed with him as they took him into the hospital and, only when Gallier had taken her aside, into the interrogation room in the west wing of the complex, had she left him in the hands of the Doctors.

She’d covered everything with Gallier as she has with Golta and the floppy eared Russelian had tutted at times and noted things and asked her to locate the prison on a map whilst he looked up her details to see if anything official had been posted whilst Symonds brought in the occasional cup of machine supplied powdered Fish soup that was, apparently, as good for her Omega 3 levels as it was bad for her sense of taste. She didn’t know what fish it was supposed to be but, if it had a sentient cousin species, that species needed to sue. She’d asked about Golta a few times but had always had the request pushed aside with a ‘still in surgery’ response. “I would like to see him,” she added.
“In good time, Sana,” the Canid said gently. “Tell me more about this fraud that you think has got you into this trouble?”
“I can’t,” she complained. “I’ve told you all that I have on it. The rest is behind government firewalls.”
The floppy-eared agent put his chin on his steepled hands. “And you, one of the best hackers around – and that’s according to a couple of our best tech agents – were unable to get into the servers at the Business and Enterprise Division?”
“Hey, I was getting there,” Sana protested before realising that wasn’t necessarily a good thing to admit to. Her left ear flipped down and sideways. “Uh, only for, like, exposing corruption, you know?”
The Canid gave an obliging smile. “Of course.” He sat back for a moment. “Tell me though, why should the IOC go to the trouble of hiding you?” He shifted forward again. “What can you do for US?”
“Err…” His approach had dumb footed her slightly and it took a moment for her brain to slot back into place. “Well, I do have information stored on council cases too,” she admitted. “Nothing on IOC though,” she added quickly. “I’d, um, be obliged to hand those over when I become an agent, wouldn’t I?”
Gallier stopped for a few seconds. “When you what,” he asked slowly.
Sana felt a chill. “Um… Golta said it was easier to, um, protect me if I was an um, Agent,” she said, finishing quietly.
Gallier sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Yes,” he agreed, “that’s the truth. I’ll go get the forms.”

She’d filled in the forms to become a provisional agent and had been allowed back out into the complex. She’d headed back to the hospital wing, stopping only to check that she was locked out of the computer systems. To her regret, she was. It was only allowing her access to basic sites, including the local news feed. Apparently the price of fruit had risen again, leading to export problems and the hunt revenues were down. There was no mention of a murder on a train or a shoot-out in a forest village. The local did question what so many troops were doing on Havrin station in the early hours of the morning but it had nothing else. She kept thinking about the missing story of the murder on the train. His face as she’d… He looked so offended. She couldn’t get that out of her head.

The door opened and the Doctor came out. She stayed where she was and merely twisted her ear to hear what the Doctor said to the other agents. It was just mild concussion and some internal bleeding to go with all the cuts and he’d be back on his feet in a day or so and…
“Sana?” The voice came through the door to the room where Golta was supposed to be flat out. She slipped off the seat, walked across the corridor and reached up to turn the handle.

The room smelled of clean Lemon and the hint of suctioned blood that had been polluting the room up to a short while ago. She looked for the one light still on in the room and saw Golta underneath it. He was attached to an IV drip to his arm and had a couple of lines running from the end of his nostrils and bandages around his impeccable white chest as he sat up. He didn’t seem as though he was quite looking at her. “Figured you’d hear that,” he said, almost smiling.
“Oh, the stars,” she breathed, her eyes wide as she put a hand to your mouth. “Look at you.”
“Did… did you do the IOC forms?”
Her ears twisted in confusion. “Y…yes but what..?”
“Then it’s L…look at you, s…sir.” This time he did chuckle. Then he winced. “I…I shouldn’t laugh.”
“And I’m responsible.”
“Nah,” Golta replied. “It was Freen. And you dealt with him.”
“I shot him,” she agreed hollowly.
“You did indeed,” Golta agreed. “And we can be thankful you did.”
“I’ve never shot anyone before,” she said again, hiccupping slightly.
“You had to. It was him or you.”
“I… I m..murdered a sentient and…”
“Come here,” Golta instructed and she approached in her new, IOC issued, clothes. When she got close enough he picked her up and just held her to him as she cried it out. “Let the fear out,” he said as he rubbed her back. “Move on.” His eyes hardened to flint above her and his tone deepened before he spoke again. “Strike back. And I know how.”

ON BASE

Black shorts, a half top and a jacket strewn over a chair, that was what she woke up to and her brain tried to work out why that was. And why her prison bed seemed kind of marshmallowy. It took her a few seconds to recognise this as reality and she pushed down on the foam mattress and lifted her head clear of the wonderful pillow. She blinked blearily and yawned as she tried to work out what was going on. Her mouth smacked a couple of times as she yawned once again and stretched, her legs straightening under the thick duvet and her tail joining them as her arms straightened up and the fog of sleep lifted slightly. Oh yeah, she thought, I joined a fascist organisation. “Quite a change,” she said to herself as she sat on the edge of her bed, “And I suppose they’re not th’ worst.” She stretched her top half, coming up to her full three feet, nine inches, and stood up. Naked, she padded to the food replication machine and ordered herself breakfast and Coffee. She called the hospital and checked on Golta before eating and considering her room. It had one window, looking out on a concrete building in the distance with other living buildings between her and the control. It did have some nice scenery prints of no real financial value up on the walls, she found. She had a metal desk with something of an old computer on it and she reasoned she was inside one of the original base buildings that had been refitted for her. The computer was old, probably too old to access the net properly. She smiled wryly. She’d have done the same in their shoes, she supposed. At least the vid worked, she supposed, and she turned it on to see it could only get the base channels and Havrin local broadcasting so she spent a few minutes watching a pink hued creature in a red dress extol the virtues of jumping in muddy puddles before she showered, got dressed and found the temporary identification card they’d given her with her name and picture on it. Gallier had told her that, when it came to the real I.D., she was NOT to make a funny face but it was only for a day or so and she was confined to the base anyhow.

She stepped out into the dry heat of a Celica Summer day and looked around. Light gravel and dust crunched under her shoes and she was surrounded by a line of prefabricated buildings where the singletons lived, she fancied. Over to her left was a parade ground where a division was currently ‘bashing the square’ or whatever they called it. As it was something going on, she went over and watched it for a moment. It was all cadets, she noted. Cadets making mistakes and dropping their rifles and being shouted at by Sergeants. She knew they were trying to teach unity and uniformity. It would be hard, she supposed as a Corporal shouted at a fallen cadet, to trust anyone with your life if they couldn’t even walk right. Uniformity was useful in an army, she supposed. Having everyone know how to do things the same way so they could rely on each other in a pinch but it didn’t do much for her. She’d rather see the intelligence corps and the computers they used. She huffed and shrugged her small shoulders as she thought how she could improve the bases security – whilst leaving her own computer backdoor open, of course. She lifted herself off the building she was leaning on and walked towards the main building.

She whistled the theme from the TV series “Soldier Boys” as she went, circumventing the base shop until she had some cash and ignoring the glances she was getting from the troops. “Soldier Boys” had often been criticised by the military for portraying a less than favourable view of the military and the mistakes and brutalities by units that weren’t the one taking the lead in the fictional drama. It was still showing, however, as it was popular with several groups and females from twenty-nine to forty. She changed the tune to something less controversial as she approached a large building with two guards outside. Choosing her size, she approached the Mican guard to the left. “So what’s in here,” she asked, hopefully.
“Armoury, ma’am,” the whitefur said, looking her straight in the eye.
“Tanks and stuff,” Sana guessed.
“Not with us, Ma’am.” The Feline guard gave his compatriot a warning glance. “What? It’s the truth. It’s all small arms and stuff like that, Agent…”
“She’s an anti-military hacker,” the Feline snarled.
Sana broke off from the Mican, put her handpaws behind her back and strutted over to the other guard. When she got there she stretched up onto her toe-pads and looked up into the Felines’ eyes. “I’m not anti-military,” she said, trying and failing to use menace in her tone, “I’m anti-corruption and, right now? I’m not someone you want to annoy. I’ve done things in the last few days and weeks that you wouldn’t believe I could do. And neither did I. Wiping a credit rating?” She shrugged. “Easily done.”
“Is that a threat, ma’am?” the Feline asked, a little uncertainly.
Sana grinned. “Naah,” she said, “I wouldn’t do that to you! It’d be illegal!” She skipped back to the Mican. “Would it be safe to say that whatever’s inside the armoury is totally perfectly wonderful person’ in a shooty-killy way?”
He clicked his heels together. “It would be acceptable to say that, yes, ma’am.”
“Wonderful,”

“Are you harassing these poor Ensigns, Probie,” said a voice from behind her.
She jumped in surprise and wondered how he’d done that. He was twice her size, four times her weight and twice her age so how could he beat her ears like that? “Just keeping them on their toes, boss,” she said as she spun around to face Golta and slapped her foot down to stop her circle as she saluted. Then she remembered she didn’t have to and put the arm back down again.
“Never salute me again,” Golta said with a wince. “We’re not military and that was as bad as the ones’ Gallena Yatt gave throughout ‘The Siege of Garruna Water’.” He shook his head. “Grief, that was a bad film.” He indicated the main building. “Come.”
She walked with him towards the main building. “Sana,” he said, “I’m going to – unofficially – help you get those files.”
She blinked up at him. “How?”
“There’s a new security program going online in a week or so. There’s a launch party for it in two days. A lot of interested security agencies have received invitations including IOC. Fancy being my plus one?”
She peered at him. “And enter the lion’s den,” she said simply.
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

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Please continue writing and building this story up! It is very wonderful!
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

JETWISE

She looked out of the window as they travelled and wondered if life was always to be like this. On the move, hunting without desiring the kill and being ready to face your enemy at any particular point in time. It was that last bit that was new to her, she supposed, as she’d been on many safe, anonymous, hunts through the computer screen and brought her own kind of justice, either leaking the details to the web where the official and unofficial law could pick up on it or, as in at least three cases, reversing the flow of credits into accounts so everyone got their money back. The idea of actually investigating and facing down someone who might try to kill her was just a little petrifying to her. Still, she told herself as that little light blipped at the end of the wing, it went with the badge and the gun.

Oh, gods, she thought. The gun. That thin thing in the belt holster under the jacket. The evil life preserver that had changed her for the worst whilst saving her life. She wondered if it was normal to have so many conflicting emotions about an inanimate object.. Such a… plastic piece of hate. She wondered how Golta felt about them, considering he’d not used his on the train but had gone for the hnourable combat idea from the outset. She’d asked him that night, on the hospital bed and he’d told her straight. “If it’s fighting someone who has a hundred and fifty pounds on you,” he’d said, “you do what you have to do to win, Sana. No-one’s going to mistake it for an honourable fight anyhow.”
“Honourable fights are stupid,” she’d said. He hadn’t disagreed then and she didn’t think he really disagreed now. He simply said nothing. His honour wouldn’t let him.

She looked back at the table in front of her and studied the digital readout of the Business tower. The vid-table provided her with a digital map of the insides of the tower with guard positions, grand meeting rooms, control offices and access terminals finely laid out on it. She tapped a position on the map and it zoomed in, adding detail and texture to the picture. “Is this the CFO’s office,” she asked.
Golta looked up from the book he was reading and checked the listing on his side. “Level 25, room B15… No,” he told her, “that’s personnel resources. The CFO’s on level 26, room A12.” He twirled the model around, zoomed out slightly and refocussed on a brown, non-descript, room near the sky vault and he sucked in a breath. “I hope you don’t need to break into that,” he said before looking under the table. “How’s your foot, by the way?”
She winced as she thought about it and tried pulling it up so he could see it. She failed and put the shoe-clad foot back to the floor. They’d treated it that first night after her questioning, when she’d been removed from Goltas’ side. They’d given her a local anaesthetic and then gone probing around inside the pad for any fragments of glass whilst she stared at the ceiling lights, feeling every move they’d made. After the fifth tiny tinkle, they’d given her an injection against infection and boosted the antiseptic and stitching work Garrett and the Nurse had carried out before gluing the pad edges to increase the healing speed. She’d not just felt every move but she’d heard it in her imagination and embellished the memory too. She’d almost been surprised there were no three foot long needles of armoured glass in the dish when they’d showed it to her. Just five little pieces the nurse hadn’t managed to get out. And all covered in her blood too. Painkillers had kicked in for the next day but she was having to add to them now with tablets. They’d only given her twelve; they didn’t want her addicted. “Getting better, boss,” she claimed, “I can stand on it for hours now. Few more weeks I can probably dance!”
Golta chuckled slightly. “Of course,” he said, “you’re a Fennec.”
She laughed loudly. “That doesn’t mean I’m a good dancer! Just because I’m light, fast, can do a few back flips and know how to dance to semi-pro level doesn’t mean I’m a dancer!” She kept up the aggrieved face for a few more seconds before crumpling it with laughter.
“You’re a nut,” Golta said, granting her a generous smile as the aircraft levelled out and moved with imperceptible speed, towards Celica City, the noisy, dirty, bustling central power of the empire, headed by President Pavvakan and his regime, a regime that was in imminent danger of falling due to scandal and conspiracy. Golta knew the details of some. A Council Captain had found a plot to kidnap the Cub of the polar Celicans by the mainlanders Minister of Medicine to gain an advantage in Flu vaccine negotiations – the polar blood was the only known cure for the deadly virus – and an IOC team had recently defeated a major scale fraud linked to the u banks on the outer worlds. It wasn’t looking good for Pavvakan and it was sunny side up for the challenger, a slight, young, Vixen called Vennakar Maxis. She…
“Who are you planning to vote for in the election anyhow,” Sana asked.
Golta put his book down. “I’m not,” he told her. “I’m a federal agent for the Council. Like all the beureaucrats, and U.S.C. military and their families I vote in Council matters, not the locals. We’re imposed on a people without any say from them.” Golta stretched slightly. “It’s only fair we don’t get a say in how they run their lives.”
<<Please strap yourselves in,>> a voice said from the pilot’s cabin. <<I’m about to take evasive action. We have a tail.>> He sighed. <<It’s coming up fast ,>> he added before putting the shuttles’ nose down towards the ground.

AIR POWER


“Is it possible,” Sana asked as she began to rise, involuntarily, from her seat, “that they’re just an interested spectator?” With something of an effort she managed to pull the belt across her rising lap and clipped it together before pulling herself back down as Golta strapped himself down and gripped the arm rests. His book hit him in the face as it was thrown upwards and fell behind him before the jet fought to get itself level and gravity normalised.
Golta pulled forward on his restraint and fell back as things equalized. “I really hope so,” he said, shaking his head. “I really hope so. Like my head needs this.” He unclipped the belt and headed towards the cockpit of the small jet.

The Lappinean pilot looked around as Golta entered the cabin and hunched by his side for a moment before taking the vacant co-pilot’s seat and strapping himself in. “Can you fly a jet, sir?”
“Yeah,” Golta replied. “I’ve flown many straight into buildings, mountains, dams… Tell me about that Jet.”
“I don’t know who it is out there, sir,” the pilot said, his left ear flopping over the brow of his helmet, “but I know a target lock when I hear someone trying to get one and he was.”
Golta looked at the grey and black ear as it hung down. “Are we, err, close to any Celican fighter bases?”
“Base Yarna is nearby. Why, sir?”
Golta grinned. “It’s going to be hard for them to shoot us down secretly if the Air force is around, isn’t it? Holler to them and let us…” He cut off as the jet pulled hard to port, tipping itself at near ninety degrees so the wingtips were almost vertical to the ground as the jet attempted to lock on again and energy fire brought shards of green daylight to the proceedings. Golta could see the jet on the instruments but not so much in the dawning sky itself and he made an executive decision. “I’ll call Yarna,” he said as the pilot levelled off near a patched carpet of lights that had to be a town. “What’s our call-sign?”

As Golta told Yarna what was happening, Sana made use of the computer in the main cabin to see what was going on. She smiled slightly before concentrating on her work with a bitter expression on her face. She didn’t like the idea but it seemed to be all she could do.
“They’ve got a fighter in the air,” Golta said as the shuttle twisted left and upwards, “they’ll intercept us in five minutes. “
“That’s good,” the pilot said, “if we’re still alive and THEY don’t shoot us down!” His ears flopped back and upright under gravitys effect.
“How do you go into space with those?” Golta asked eventually.
“In a big spaceship, sir,” the pilot replied, “and sometimes in a bigger helmet.” The padded, blue, suit the Lappinean was wearing now wasn’t the sort of thing you went into space in, Golta had to mentally admit as the lights below pulled away and his stomach sank into his tail. “Why didn’t I take the shuttle with weapons,” the pilot asked himself rhetorically. “No,” he added, “it’s just a flight to Celica city, I don’t need the energy cannons and chaff launchers, I’ll take the wood panelled interior and the drinks cabinet.” He looked to the port as the enemy plane dove past them and hit the trees below them whilst trying to pull up. A small, yellow, light blossomed into a ball of orange and yellow flame on the ground. “What the..?”
Golta got back onto the tower at Yarna. “Yarna tower, this is IOC1471P, over.” He waited on reply and thought on what to say next. “Understood. Situation has resolved. The enemy has crashed, over. Reason unknown. “ He gave their location and ended the call. He looked at the pilot as the pilot looked at him.
The door opened and Sana poked her head through. “Did it work,” she asked.
Golta suddenly put two and two together. “What did you do?”
Sana giggled. “I turned it off.” She shrugged. “It struck me that it was probably a drone and I know how to hack those.” She coughed and stood primly in the doorway. “I mean I used to know how to hack those and I most certainly wouldn’t do that now that…”
Golta laughed. “Never mind, Sana! I’ll authorise it retrospectively. Any clue as to who was controlling it?”
She shrugged, shifting her shirt slightly. “Could have been anyone,” she admitted, “from anywhere. Even from one of those defence ships in orbit. Are we going to land soon?”
“Hour out from Celica City,” the pilot reported as the fighter from Yarna came into view, gave them the once over and headed back home. “And I really need the toilet.”

Five minutes after, Golta re-joined Sana in the main cabin and looked over the table. “There’s two things I want to know,” he said, after examining everything on the table and the holographic map of the target building with lights indicating Sana’s preferred plan of attack (through the conference room and up the stairs, through several doors and along). “One. How the heck are you going to get past the locked doors?”
“Air vents,” she said simply, taking a sip of her drink. “What’s question two?”
Golta pointed to the bottle of Champagne that had appeared in the middle of the building. “Where did you get that from?”
Sana grinned. “Pilot gave it me on his way past,” she said. “On his way looward. I think it’s from the electronically locked cabinet but I can’t tell.” She looked innocent and flipped a bottle of beer out from beside her. She passed it across to him and squeaked when he took the bottle of Champagne instead.
Golta took a drink straight from the bottle. Nice and cold. “What,” he asked her. “Why do you get champagne and I only get beer?” He took another gulp and refilled her flute glass as she glared at him.

ARRIVAL

The stars had a gap here, a band of them missing between the ground and the sky as the jet came in to land at the Celica City spaceport. Around them a pair of other shuttles were landing, one from another city was coming in much like theirs, down the partnering runway as the second, from one of the ships in orbit, used anti gravity drives to bring itsself down gently by the main building.

Golta held his head and wished he hadn’t slugged the Champagne. Not when he was still on medication for the concussion. In his defence it had seemed a good idea at the time but now he had a low headache and Sana was stirring some headache powders she’d found in a medical kit into a bottle of water from the fridge. “Am I driving,” she asked, holding up her booster seat.
“Like hell,” he replied. “Agent Purnell’s going to meet us,” he added as sound scorched through their ears to warn them the shuttle had touched down. The sucking feel of gravity came in a second or so later as Golta took his drink messily down his throat and across his muzzle as the pilot engaged the brakes on full, bringing the nose down until the third wheel connected.
Out of the window lights kaleidoscoped by, leaving jagged, unnaturally planned lines across Sana’s vision and she blinked to clear it. “Celica City,” she said breezily.
“Are you ready for civilisation again, Sana?” Golta had asked the question as the jet slowed and turned so she could see more of the city’s glittering lights through the window.
“It’s two in the morning, boss,” she said, “this many lights at this time isn’t civilized, just commercial.” She unsnapped her restraint and slipped down to the floor, landing gently and heading for the door as soon as the pilot came to a stop. “Don’t suppose I can hit the duty free?”
“We’re not going to be here that long.” Golta advised, pointing from behind her out of the window where a pair of lights were headed towards the shuttle. “That’ll be Agent Purnell.” He waited as the vehicle stopped and Purnell called in on the comm. Golta turned the comm to speaker so the voice came out of the device on his watchstrap rather than the technology in his left ear.
<<Ready to get back to work, boss,>> the voice said, <<Alpha Charlie Niner.>>
“Confirmed,” Golta replied, shutting off the link. “It’s a code we use,” he said. “Proves it’s really us.”

The door came down as the Russellian Canine stepped out of the silver-blue car and waited on his occupants. As the door looped lower and changed into steps, Golta came down first, keeping his eyes and ears ready for trouble. Behind him, Sana hopped down the stairs, happily and almost overtook him before they got to the bottom.

It was a lot colder here than it had been for her the last few days and Sana could taste the hydration in the air. The Capital had been on the receiving end of several good storms recently, it seemed. Nothing like the storm she was planning, Sana thought as she stepped over to the car behind Golta. Purnell declined to take her seat from her and showed her that there was already one fitted in the back seat. She sniffed and climbed aboard as Golta got in the passenger seat.

The car was in silence until they passed through the security gate at the side of the spaceport and joined the expressway towards the city. “Is there any talk on the system about Sana?”
“Not so much from the government as you might expect,” Purnell explained, allowing the autodrive to do most of his work for him to allow him to focus on Golta. “I imagine it’s hard for them to admit someone’s escaped when they never acknowledged having them captured in the first place. The Galnet’s kind of buzzing though. They keep saying Rena Dezè has escaped from illegal incarceration – although that’s not been confirmed.”
“Confirm it later, Sana,” Golta said, looking back at her.
“Hey,” she complained, “I am not an info hub for IOC! A lot of these guys don’t like yo… us. I can’t ask them to…”
“You won’t have to,” Golta interrupted. “They won’t have to know. Think on it,” he added, “how much more effective – law wise – would they be if IOC was involved?” He sighed. “And, if they start investigating corruption in the IOC or the Council? We can act on that too.”
She had to admit there was something in that but she doubted she could sell it to the others. Hackers were solo hunters and reluctant to pack. Still, she told herself as the vehicle turned into the IOC compound and she looked up at the lit, five storey, building that she’d often written about but never visited. It still looked cold. Grim, almost. It certainly seemed oppressive now as the gates closed behind her.
Commander Hawle. U.S.C. Loper.
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I am really digging this story! Hope you continue to write!
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

And, in these parts, someone wanders in...

DRESSING

Sana smoothed down her dress and wondered how blue sparkly fabrics cost so much. This fabric, that clung to her in certain locations down her side to make her look even thinner but slightly shapelier, cost more than people generally made in several months of honest work. It was the kind of trapping that would give her away in her past life. Then again, she thought, in her old life she wouldn’t have the chance to wear such a thing anyway. There wasn’t any point in wearing a five thousand credit creation by Koloa Eriditta when you were having a video date with a Canine from Coruna, where both of you were manipulating your screen image to prevent the other getting through the firewalls and discovering what you looked like whilst enjoying a restaurant prepared and delivered meal. The winner broke the losers’ firewalls and discovered what the loser looked like. The Loser paid the winners dinner bill. She’d had so many free meals out of that. She brushed down the dress again, trying to get rid of a wrinkle that wasn’t actually there and set about combing back her head fur whilst her ears listened to Golta.
Two closed doors down, Agent Golta tried his best to fit into the suit he had to wear for tonight’s do. Somehow the Human custom of wearing something over practically every scrap of flesh and fur had become something of a formal thing on Celica. Golta assumed it was because it kept formal occasions to a minimum and then they were as short as possible. He’d already run a long comb down his legs to smooth them down and bits of orange fur were still sticking out through the trousers and it had taken Agent Carstairs, the bases resident human, to do up the tail hole. He didn’t much mind her looking at his backside as he reasoned it was covered as far as she was concerned. He hoped, although she had stroked his tail a bit high up – she’d claimed she had to avoid getting fur stuck in the button hole. He’d yelped at that and put on the shirt thing. At least it was looser than the trousers. Lighter too. One of the latest fabrics developed by the fashion scientists on Felis, He needed Carstairs to affix the thing called a tie. “What is this thing for,” he demanded of her, flapping the snake like thing.
“It’s to cover up the join and buttons on the shirt, Halda,” she said, smiling up to him as she affixed the blood red tie around his neck. “You know how often I’ve wanted to get my hands around your neck?”
“For good reasons or bad, Jennifer,” Golta asked, cocking an eye ridge.
“Usually both at once,” she said. “You take the most infuriating risks for all the right reasons and insist on having every wound dermally repaired despite being the least vain Celican I’m ever likely to meet.”
“Hey,” Golta said, rumpling the shirt as he spread his arms, “if I ever go under as a stunt performer again I need to look as immaculate as the stars, don’t I?”
“Is that the only reason,” Carstairs asked coyly.
“What other reason could there be for me wanting to look perfect,” Golta asked, flexing one arm. The shirt pulled but didn’t rip and he let the human put the jacket on him. He checked the internal pocket and the hidden pocket even further inside that with the feather light one shot blaster in it. Undetectable to most, if not all, high end scanners and made from plastics with a millimetre wide aperture for the shot and a twin stud firing mechanism. It wasn’t his back up weapon of choice – that was going along in Sanas’ bag. At least that blaster could be recharged and had more than one shot.
It was also protected by a scan reflective pocket in the wall of the bag and Sana made sure that was working properly as she put the small thing over her shoulder. Once through the scanners she’d slip it into the invisible pocket of her dress – if she could find it again – and take things from there.
She met him in the large, Orange, office they called the bullpen for some reason. Three teams of agents used it as a base of operations and she’d been introduced to several of them and introduced herself to several members she’d not been introduced to. As a kind of olive branch she’d shown their Cyber tech how to seal a minor hole in internal security and a declined offer of Lunch. She wasn’t going to go down that path just yet. Fraternising with them would be one thing. Liking them was possible but nothing pas that yet. And now she faced Golta, wearing blue shiny shoes and a dress like… wow. He looked so uncomfortable to her.
Her feelings on his comfort were accurate. He chafed under the collar, pulling at it to let his neck breathe. He had his mouth open slightly to let the heat out but he swallowed now as he looked down at her. “You look a lot more comfortable than I feel,” he said, feeling the pressure of the shirt button against his throat as he spoke. Did Humans ever get used to that, he wondered.
“I probably am,” Sana affirmed, looking him over. “You look like…” her brow furrowed and her ears flipped down. “I don’t know what you look like. Oh, wait!” She recalled some films she’d once watched with a Human who liked to dress in a cowl and battle armour. “You look like a Pennyworth!” She tutted. “I shall call you Alfred.”
“You…” Golta cut himself off to glare at a laughing Agent Carstairs until she apologised and stopped. “You will not,” he finished, looking back at her. “That’s a terrible role for a stuntfox.” He strode in front of a bank of monitors and looked up at them. “Hit it, Carstairs.”
The human jumped and pressed a stud on a small device she was holding. The screens changed to show a young Celican with white patches under his eyes. “This is Emret Solda, the guy behind the new scanners. 24 with a 160 IQ. New hotshot type.”
“I’m smarter,” Sana huffed.
“It’s not a competition,” Golta warned her. “These new scanners are supposed to be fifteen percent more accurate than anything in service today. They might catch the hidden weapons, we just don’t know.” He shrugged. “Like virtually everyone else, we’re going to be testing them. He has three bodyguards and we’re likely to run into several others there too.” The picture changed to a black furred Raitchian with a cunning glint in his red eyes. “Mylat. Head of the Raitchian trade delegation. Also a deputy commander in the intelligence service and as cunning as they come. That idea you had about the vents, Sana? He probably had it too. The Felines will send…” he waited until the picture changed to a thin, tortoiseshell feline. “Agatha Solin. She’s suspected of being Feline Military but her business dealings are what’s got her here. She lives on Lassa, one of the rigcher colonies and it’s rumoured that she owns the government there.”
“Last,” he said as the picture changed to a dapper old Rabbit with a walking cane. “Ignore his age. This is Balbury. He’s potentially the most dangerous Rabbit around. He’s polite and courteous and probably responsible for hundreds of deaths. Don’t trust him and don’t be alone with him. He tried to sell two of our operatives to Raitchian intelligence once. After providing our operatives with information first.” He pointed again. “Trust me, Balbury is dangerous.” He looked at his comm. “Time to go.”

RECEPTION

They weren’t facing each other in the limousine as it pushed through the evening traffic towards the Enterprise tower. They didn’t need to be. In the brightness of the rear section they were protected from the outside world by darkened armoured glass and a steel frame under the luxury, padded, interior. Between their seats was a chilled drinks dispenser that neither of them had bothered to touch quite yet. She knew Golta would before getting out. He’d told her he would and he’d advised her to do the same so she didn’t get dry mouth as soon as someone talked to her.

She twiddled the wristcom they’d given her and stopped herself. It was a diamond encrusted, flexi-metal strap with a solid slice of emerald as the ‘watchface’ above the communications link system that she could activate by saying a stored name or speaking a number. She’d used them before, of course, but she’d never had one like this. ‘It goes with the outfit’ she’d been told but she reckoned Golta had got her it so she’d be more terrified of losing the watch than anything else tonight, including the mission. Well, she was going to blame it anyhow as she asked herself a question about Golta.
“I sense you have a question,” Golta said without opening his eyes. “Your ears are beaming it in my direction and radiating my brain.” He opened one eye. “Come on, out with it.”
“Well,” she mused, “y know those scenes when you’re fighting in airplanes and get kicked out...?”
“Ah.” He closed his eye again and smiled. “Little trick there. Have you ever noticed how many of those ‘combatants’ are wearing jackets? Flying jackets or light wear jackets?”
“Yeah,” Sana said before thinking about it. “Oh, hidden parachutes?”
He pointed at her and flipped a thumbs up. “And an experienced parachutist in place to intercept if needs be. And a real hope the director never says ‘we need to do it again’. I was practically unable to stand after filming the fight in “Death to the Baron”. He would probably have called for it to be done again if I’d not broken both ankles on the third take.” She looked down at his feet before sparing her own a glance and hoping they weren’t going to hurt

The car pulled up outside a glass and steel building with a white carpet laid out from kerbside to the door. City Police were keeping the crowds well back as so many intelligence bosses were in attendance today. Some of them were carrying image scramblers just for the walk up the pavement and in.

Golta got out first and, keeping his head down slightly, he stepped around the car and opened the door for Sana. She hopped out into the light evening rain and found no rain falling on her. Someone had an umbrella up and there was a fabric roof on the world. The night battered at the fabric as Golta held it upright and walked her towards the building. He handed the umbrella off to an attendant as they got to the door and stepped into a white palace.

Ahead of them, in the reception area, were a bare few uniformed Celicans and a dotting of other races, both Male and Female, who were chatting to each other before the main evenings’ events began in the main room. Sana looked up, craning backwards as far as her neck would allow, but she still couldn’t see the top floor. It really was very tall, wasn’t it? She pulled her head back down as someone talked to Golta. He used her name and she realised he was talking to the maître d' with his clipboard. The Celican, complete with his little employee badge, hunted down Goltas’ name and tapped it to enter the ‘plus one’ details. “If you wish to proceed to the main hall, some of the others have arrived,” the Celican said and Golta headed up the stairs to the main hall, Sana jogging slightly to keep up, passing through a weapons check system almost without realising it..

The main hall opened before them through two huge doors into a room with a slight yellowness to the light. She looked over the polished wood panels and concrete uppers with a world of famous names in frames on the walls. Exotic artworks from some of the greatest names in the history of Celican art interspaced overblown portraits of some of the great engineers and entrepreneurs, some of whom, Sana knew, would be troubled at being seen as part of the exclusive club. It always struck her that so many of the genius inventors came from the lower hunting classes. It was as though their brains were bigger because they couldn’t hunt for toffee. Like her. Could she be a genius? She smirked as someone came across the room, tapping his way with his walking cane as he did. The smirk faded as Balbury stopped next to Golta. “Warm champagne and no deference to vegetables for we Vegans,” he complained with a voice that spoke to age, not strength. “It does not make for a pleasant night, Agent Golta,”
“I’m told the Palm Hotel serves some decent vegetables,” Golta replied, glancing at the intelligence agent. “And their restaurant is open all night.”
“I recall.”
“You’ve been there before,” Sana asked, feeling she should say something.
Balbury looked down to her. “I’ve had to shoot through on occasion,” he said gently. His breath, she noted, was cold, almost devoid of the warmth of life. “And you, of course,” he added, taking her unencumbered hand and gently kissing the back of it, “are Sana Keener, now of IOC and formerly Rena Dezè, the ‘Desert Fox’ to use a Earth Caribbean language. How nice to meet you.” He moved off to introduce himself elsewhere and Sana wiped the back of her hand on Golta’s trousers. It had been like being kissed by a corpse..
“Do you see that,” Golta asked, nodding to a Celican who was obviously trying not to look like he was trying to avoid them. “That’s Minister Jalla.”
“The Secretary of Energy?”
“That’s the one.” Golta picked a glass of champagne off a platter as it went past. “Now, he was coming over until he saw you. You know, Sana, I think we might have a hint now as to who wants you dead?” He drank the drink. Balbury had been right. It was warm.

IN THE TOWER

She mingled with the dozen or so people already present at the engagement and marvelled at the fact that no-one had tripped over her yet. To those who asked she was here because she’d won a charity draw in the IOC base to be Halda Golta’s ‘plus one’. This line had sort of backfired on the last person she’d spoken to and she’d had to add that she couldn’t introduce a rather fetching Vixen to her boss as, y’know, he was her boss? For a moment she wondered how this Vixen had got in here but, then again, she was in as a plus one so this one probably was too. She moved away and found Golta telling one of his old studio days stories to the Minister of Education and the Secretary of Transport. She found herself under his elbow as he came to the punchline; something about a truck, a Zillasquit and four nubile Vixens covered in goop that made them all laugh politely before moving away. “Dining out on that story,” she asked.
“Wouldn’t get Corn Flakes for that story,” Golta replied, eating a canape Beetle before it could jump off his sideplate and other people entered behind them. “You spea,k to anyone interesting yet?”
“Only people who want to date you,” Sana replied, wondering if anyone was ever going to bring one of those serving trays down to her level. “Of course,” she added, “it means everyone’s jealous of me.” She waited for two heartbeats. “Even Marius Dromneck, the Architect.”
Golta almost choked on his Beetle. “That’s… That’s flattering,” he managed.
“How long do we have to do this for,” Sana asked, looking to the back doors and the stairs beyond.
“Not much longer,” Golta assured her, “people are coming in now. The room’s filling up now so we’ll be able to move more…”
<<Excuse me,>> a voice said over the speakers, attracting the attention of the audience to the speaker, a slight Celican who had just moved to the table at one end of the room. Sana recognised the creator of the new scanners and computer systems, Emret Solda. <<I just wanted to thank you for coming here today,>> he continued, <<It, er, does my heart good to see all you masters of industry and Police here.>> He gave a short laugh. Almost as much as it cheers my wallet.>> Polite laughter. <<I just thought I’d tell you that the main event, uh, starts in about thirty minutes. Until then, please enjoy the canapes and drink.>>
“Would if I could get them,” Sana grumbled, crossing her arms as the young genius made his way off the podium and into the melee. She looked between the legs of the others and followed his path as he headed for the back door. She strained her hearing and heard him tap in three digits to open the door. She smirked to herself. Three digits? Could it possibly be he was that arrogant?
“Something’s wrong,” Golta said, pulling Sanas’ attention back to him as he towered above her and looked around the room.
“What?”
“There’s no-one from the opposition here,” Golta said, sniffing the air. “I think that’s rather strange, given we’re about a month from the main elections.” He tutted. “Half an hour, eh?” He sucked in a breath through his teeth. “I don’t think I like the sound of that. Let’s go find things out.”
Following his lead, Sana pushed and twisted her way through the growing mass of guests and found her way out to the side, where they made their way around to the back. Golta looked at the door and its’ electronic keypad lock. “Blast,” he said, “a code!”
“Try 160,” Sana suggested.
Golta tapped it in and the door opened. “How..?” She slipped inside and he had to follow her before the door closed. “How did you do that,” he hissed in the relative quiet.
“Three digit code?” Sana tutted. “Arrogance is a common conceit of genius. 160 is his IQ.”
“Sana?”
“Yes?”
“It’s a government department. Full of important people. Solda did not assign himself that code.”
“Oh,” she said, crestfallen. Her ears flopped slightly. “Are you sure?”
He moved off towards the stairs. “Come on,” he told her.

“Here’s where we split,” Golta said t turning as they got to the stairwell. “There’s not exactly much chance they don’t know we got through that door so we should make separate ways so I can…” he looked around and she wasn’t there. “Where..?”
She poked her head between the bars on the stairwell and said ‘here’ before pulling herself free. She started up the stairs again as Golta shook his head and concluded saying that he’d draw the guards off.

She had to stretch but she could just about reach the top numbers on the pad and that meant she could connect the comm they’d given her to the device. Carstairs had told her what the watchcom could do and, now she wasn’t showing off, she was quite intent on using the code breaker facility. After a few seconds, three digits showed on the emerald screen and she tapped them in to open the door. She could hear people hurrying down the stairs and slipped out, closing the door and hiding by the side until the pounding feet went away down the stairs. That had to be security, she thought, suddenly sensing one of them was still there. From where she was, pressed tight against the door, she could look up and see his breath webbing the glass as he looked out on the empty passageway. Her mouth was open but she dared not breathe for the moment until…
He went, her ears tracking him down the stairs and she took off, heading for the Northwest of the building and the vents there. She forced herself to stay calm as panic would increase the scent she let out and draw attention to her. She slipped into the little Vixens’ room as she heard more voices and she listened for them. Great, she thought as they talked of the little intruder, they knew she was here and she hid in one of the cubicles as they made to search the room.
The guard stepped in and Sana looked around from where she stood on the lid. The cubicle was about four foot wide and the door took up about half that and he was approaching and… He kicked open the first cubicle and found nothing. The second of three also found nothing so he moved to the final cubicle and kicked it open. He looked in. At nothing. With a show of frustration he kicked the nearby bin and stalked out as the third cubicle door juddered shut again, allowing Sana to release her fingertip grip on the top of the door and drop to the floor. She swiffed to the door again and listened as the first guard said they only had about twenty minutes to find their little intruder.

When they were gone, she moved off towards the vents, pulling her little gun from her bag. She turned a corner and skidded to a stop as she came face to face with two armed guards walking past the stairwell. They stopped as she did. “Ah,” she said nervously. “I was just looking for, uh, the little Vixens’ room? She didn’t think they believed her.
They raised their weapons as she tried to recall how to work hers..

BALBURY

Behind the two killers, as they advanced on Sana, the stairwell door opened slightly. Sana heard two air shots and thought she’d been shot for several seconds until she looked up, opening her eyes. Both the Celicans were standing on wobbling legs, having lost control of their arms and dropped their guns. Their tongues were hanging out of their mouths and their eyes had rolled back to the top of their heads and blood spat from their mouths where they’d bitten down involuntarily. As she looked at her gun, wondering if she’d done this somehow, the two fell forward, onto their knees. Then they just flopped forward but Sana didn’t think they felt it. The burning holes in the back of their necks led her to think they were dead.

She heard him before she saw him as he tapped his way out of the stairwell. “Were these two bothering you, my dear,” Balbury asked, coming fully into view. He put the silver tip of his cane down next to one of the corpses.
Sana kept the gun trained wobbly on him. “Did…Did you kill them?”
Balbury looked down at them. “Acid darts to the brainstem?” He sucked in a breath. “I certainly hope I killed them. Can you imagine living with that? “ He turned around. “You can put the weapon away now, Sana, I have no interest in killing you. But I suggest we move.” He tapped his way back into the stairwell and she followed uncertainly, stopping to pick up one of the fallen weapons. “Take them both,” Balbury instructed, so she did. She looked down the stairs and u to make sure they weren’t being chased or heading for a trap as the Rabbit put quite a turn of speed on up the stairs. Even with his eighty years she was having to go at almost double speed until he stopped six floors further up and tapped a three digit code into the reader. The door opened and they shifted out after listening for movement. They made their way across to an interior office. “Ask it,” he said after closing the door. “I can see you’re bursting to.”
“Golta says you’re not to be trusted,” Sana said.
Balbury chuckled and Sana noted his ears never seemed to flop at any time. “He’s absolutely correct, child,” Balbury said, leaning on his cane. “I’d sell you down the road in a heartbeat if it assisted me. Or kill you,” he added coldly, “but I’d warn you first.”
“Thanks.”
“No problem. To pre-empt the question,” he continued, “I saved you because your situation puzzles me, girl.”
“How… so?” Sana puffed, looking for a seat.
“IOC seek out, rescue and recruit a well-known hacker from under the very noses of the Celican government and bring her in on this case. That fascinates me somewhat. You’re an anomaly in the mix. Why are you here?” He turned on the imploring, saucer, eyes and they appeared to take up the whole room.
“Several dozen kickbacks and other financial leads come to an account hidden by this building’s firewall. I couldn’t penetrate it from outside.”
Balbury put on a smile. “So you came inside. That’s quite intelligent.”
“172 IQ,” Sana muttered.
“So you’re smarter than our host, hmm?” Balbury rubbed his grey chin. “Oh, I really hope that’s not connected to why I sensed danger down in the great hall.” He shifted. “We need to get to the control room.”
“I’m going to the financial Officer’s office,” Sana insisted.
“Your IQ is higher than the lead genius they have here and he is supposed to have created better sensors and scanners. Is it likely that someone could improve computer systems that are keeping you out when they’re dumber than you?”
He was playing on her ego, she knew that. But he still had something with that. She’d seen guys like this before and she’d read his stuff. She’d even hacked his home computer a few months ago whilst pursuing her financial investigations. There hadn’t been anything memorable there and there were no signs back then that he was near a breakthrough or even that important. Emret Solda was average to a high degree. She half shrugged. “I suppose,” she confessed.
“You’re young,” Balbury tutted, “you might learn.” He pointed a bony finger at her. “NEVER accept a party invite without finding out everything you can about the location, the hosts and the guests. Oh, I assume several debts will be repaid tonight, yes. Oh, I shall make sure of it. But you,” he intoned, “you came into this without asking yourself the simple question. You probably don’t even know there is a question.”
“What question?”
“Think about it. If this boy is unlikely to have a breakthrough in scanning technology..?”
Sana thought for a moment, twisting her ears. “If there’s no breakthrough,” she repeated, “what is he revealing in less than half an hour?”
Balbury tapped a finger on the table. It sounded like the crack of doom to Sana, such a sharp noise at close range. “That, my dear, is the question.” He headed for the door. “And that is why we need to get to the control center!”
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

In case you'd not guessed, Balbury's not a nice guy!

FOR CONTROL

In the relative darkness of the parking structure Golta pushed himself up against a support and panted slightly. Since leaving Sana's side he had been leading the guards around on a wild goose chase and had disabled two of them as easily as he had most of the lights in this area. He'd left enough that they wouldn't use portable lights but he had enough dark spots to use to hide. He knew they weren't going to abandon the show but he also knew they would be pushing more guards into the search. He could lose them easily but he needed their attention and...

He flattened himself against the support as he heard something move behind him. Someone was coming through the underground parking towards him. Two someones in fact. He took a taste of the air. Celicans both. Neither was Sana then. He could do as he liked with this pair. He pulled his fingers into a curved shape and steeled his eyes as the two split up. Such a rookie mistake, he thought. Making his job easier like that. As the hunter drew closer, Golta slid slightly around the other side of the support. When he passed by, Golta stepped back around, pulled the target's head back with one hand and ripped his throat out with this claws. He gurgled and fired a shot on impulse that tore across Goltas' left leg, scorching the fur and flesh and knocking Golta off balance. That involuntary move may have saved his life as a bolt of energy flashed through space above Goltas head and smashed a speaker on the far wall. He fired back with his single shot pistol and scrabbled for the fallen operatives' gun. He swatted the weakening hand down and stole the pistol from it, throwing himself sideways behind a parked vehicle for cover. He grimaced and held his leg with a hand as he impacted a nerve cluster in his knee. He hauled himself up behind the metal roadster and fired on his attacker. He saw him duck down and took the opportunity to lob his useless one shot pistol towards the opponent.

It cracked slightly on the floor as it landed and skittered under the car, making the young Celican bolt from his hiding place and move quickly for a new one. Golta waited. He knew what would happen. When the ‘grenade’ failed to go off, the enemy was confused. The enemy would be expecting him to have run for a new position. So he’d be free to… Golta shot him as he stepped out of cover. The shot sizzled through the hunter’s side and lower abdomen, exiting the body on the other side. Golta made his way over to the fallen and looked into the young hunters’ eyes. He looked scared, Golta thought. Too young and too scared. He knocked the gun out of the attackers’ hand and applied a sealant powder to the wounds. The young Celican howled in pain and slipped out of consciousness. Golta stood up. “Because I didn’t have to,” he said in answer to the silent question as he picked up the other gun and headed back into the hot building.

Two ways up, he assumed. The lifts and the stairs. Golta tried to hear. He knew he had to keep moving. He pressed for the lift and pulled an extinguisher from the wall. Limping back, he placed the extinguisher in the door so it couldn’t close and headed up to the next floor. With guards coming down the stairs now and his leg stinking of blood, he didn’t have long to act. Straining his muscles, he put his clawtips into the gap between the lift doors and pulled them open until he could slip through.

As he stood in the dark of the shaft, kept aloft by the very edge of the frame of the shaft, Golta heard the guards stop outside over the whooshing of air from up at the top of the shaft. He knew there had to be a ladder here so he tried to feel it out in the dark. There, he thought as his fingers found something jutting out from the wall behind him. It had rungs and he gripped them in the dark, swinging his arm around first, then his feet. He yelped, an echoing sound, as his leg arrived under him. He had to deal with that. He held onto the rungs with a hand and pulled out the powder with his free hand. With no way to apply it practically, he poured it into the darkness. Some of the powder hit the wound and acted as an antiseptic, burning his blood to seal the wound. He fought down a whine and began climbing. He figured each narrow strip of light was the door to another level and he resolved to climb as many of those as he could.

Coming down a level in the stairwell on the opposite side of the building, Sana commented on the lack of guards.
“Why,” Balbury sneered, “you think they’re making it too easy, do you? I doubt we’re the only people wandering around these floors, my dear. Between ourselves, the noble thug Golta…” He laughed as Sana glared at him. “I did say he’s a NOBLE thug, child. Between us, him and whatever else is going on I think they’re stretched thin, yes?”
She nodded and led the way out onto the floor. She cursed her memory. Perfect as it was, she’d recalled the control centre was on this floor and that was why she was leading. It was one of the things that was annoying her but she wasn’t sure as to the other thing. It was on the tip of her brain but she couldn’t quite get to it. If Golta were here she might know but she was putting part of her mind to being aware of Balbury behind her. She wasn’t safe. And now she was about to attack a control room full of guards. They’re reached the door and Balbury shot an acid dart into the lock even as the security cameras looked at them. The lock burned through and the door opened automatically to reveal… one Celican in a guards uniform. He stepped closer and Balbury moved in. He swiped his walking stick hard into the guards’ ankles, stepped aside as the stick twisted and dropped the guard to the floor. Then he stepped onto the hunters back and drove his powerful left foot down just below the guards’ neck. The guard Murred audibly and lay still.
“Did you have to kill him,” Sana asked.
“I didn’t,” Balbury huffed. “I could easily have done but I thought you might like him alive.” He looked down at the fallen foe. “he might even walk again one day.”
“You..?”
“I protect me and mine, Agent,” the old Rabbit stated. “That doesn’t include you unless I say it does. That one will hunt no Rabbits now. And, did you forget, he may be up to his ears in evil here!” he gestured to the computers. “Find out what is happening, dear child.” So saying he let her get on with her work whilst he closed the door.

Five minutes passed and she couldn’t find anything. “I…I can’t think,” she said.
“I’m not surprised,” Balbury replied, panting. “It’s either my age or it’s boiling in here.”
Sana clicked her fingers. “It IS hot, isn’t it? Why’ it hot, Mr Balbury?” She grinned at him.
“The Air conditioning isn’t on,” he replied, looking to the readings on the computer. He reached over and tapped a black line on the monitor. “But that says it is on. Where’s it piping from?”
Sana followed the trail back to a room and pulled it up. “It’s a store room.” She frowned. “What’s stored there?” She turned to the cameras and searched for the room on them. When she found it, she pulled it up on screen and looked at the room. A grey scale room full of barrels linked to the conditioning system. “Zee…” She pulled up the name on the side of the first barrel. And tried to say it. “Zeena…”
Balbury straightened up and looked straight ahead. “Zeenaphradem,” he said. “I know it. It’s a nerve gas.”

NERVE

Nerve gas.

Two words that got her hands flying off the keyboard as though the gas was coming through it. Her eyes widened as she thrust the chair away from the computer and splayed her feet to get maximum distance in the room. “Nerve gas,” she shouted to the rest of the room. Um, we… we… we need to warn them!”
Balbury stepped calmly away from the console and wandered slowly over to the door. It steadfastly failed to open. He turned to face her and rested on his walking stick. “Why?” he asked. “Why should I put myself for them?
Sana flapped her arms. “But they…they’ll die!”
“And there’s a good few in there that I would rather enjoy seeing precede me into the afterlife, I can tell you that. Ah, Agatha,” he said, having seen the feline on the monitor. “Do you know what could happen if she was to die here?”
Sana made to get around Balbury but he held out his stick to stop her. “I really don’t care,” she said hotly.
“You should,” Balbury asserted. “She finances the local government. If that stops, trouble will rise and the Feline Government will need to send troops and police to restore order and make a massive financial contribution to the colony to restore the colonists confidence. Now,” he continued, “we have a dispute with the felines on one of the other worlds. It will have to go to arbitration. All of which costs money. Money that they will have to spend keeping Agatha’s government going.” He grinned. “If she dies, we get the colony.”
“But you can’t..”
“I can and I might,” Balbury snapped. “But you’re not thinking. If you were to run down there and shout there was nerve gas you’d be ignored or, worse, carted away and never seen again.” Balbury pulled a chair up and sat, still blocking the door. He poked a finger towards the screen. “They will still die.”
“But…”
Balbury rolled his eyes. “THINK, GIRL!” He lowered his vocal level as Sana flinched visibly.. “Apologies for shouting, my dear, but you really are not thinking. We have…” He checked his watch. “twelve minutes until the trap is sprung and probably less until someone checks on him.” He tapped the paralysed guard with his foot. “Here is where you are best suited to work. I noted that no members of the main opposition are here. Were they invited?”
“I don’t…” she paused. “I can find out.” She circled back to the computer and started working as fast as she could.

Elsewhere on the same floor, the lift doors opened fractionally and a filthy, grime and rust covered, hand forced its’ way onto the level and pulled at the door as the lift started coming up the shaft. As the door widened, more of Golta appeared in the gap and he fell through, panting as he pulled himself clear of the shaft. He swallowed heavily, set the pistol he was currently using to overload and tossed it back into the shaft. He heard it clatter against the wall and bounce on the lift roof with a dong. Then a flash of light and heat blazed up the shaft as a small city of noise erupted, ending in a bang as the lift hit bottom. Golta forced himself up, holding onto the wall, and retrieved the last pistol he had from his pocket. Absurdly he told himself that he was never getting the money back on this suit. The pocket was ripped, the sleeves were ripped, there was a tear across the trousers and lords only knew what was staining it all right now. He headed across the hall.

“There’s draft copies,” Sana said, indicating the screen, where a proforma letter glowed on the screen, “stored on the government server, but I don’t know if they were sent.”
“It’s unlikely,” Balbury told her, coming closer so he could look over her shoulder. “Haven’t you guessed it yet?”
“Guessed what?”
“If you look at the government ones here,” the Rabbit said, “you notice that there’s not many here who the president can’t afford to miss. The president who’s about to be voted out. Unless?”
Sana sniffed. “Unless something happens to prevent the election?”
Balbury smiled. “Now I think you’re getting it. What do you think President Pavvakan is going to happen if about fifty diplomats and fifteen members of government are assassinated in one go, along with a hundred or so top industrialists?” He waited for her response and nodded when she said it slowly.
“He’ll declare a state of emergency,” Sana said uncertainly.
“And the first thing that gets cancelled in any such state is the election,” Balbury commented. “And, very quickly, they’ll find evidence linking the opposition leaderene Maxis to the attack and, probably, to what you were investigating. I cannot let him get away with it, of course.”
“Any particular reason?”
Balbury shrugged. “The idea that all this is to rig an election annoys me. It lacks grace, finesse and back handers. It’s not how we do business.” He glowered. “It’s time Pavvakan learned that. Shut the air conditioning off in the main hall. If it’s on a timer, delete it.” The door started shaking and banging behind him. “And do it fast. That door won’t last three minutes.”
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

Post by Welsh Halfwit »

ON THE OUT

The door continued to thud as a trio of guards attempted to open it. Whilst two were trying to push it open with their shoulders, a smarter one was patching into the systems to try and open it that way. He told off the others and they changed their plans to pulling at the door. They were panting in the heat and steam curled from their nostrils as they pulled. The door opened a crack and they heard voices from the other side. “Do hurry up, Agent Keener,” one voice said, “the enemy is almost through the door.” The silver tip of a cane appeared in the gap as the other replied that she was having trouble trying to reroute the flow. There was a small release of smoke, a minor ‘pfft’ of noise and the last thing one of the guards saw was the needle tip of a dart before it struck him between the eyes.

He fell backwards silently as the acid burned through his muzzle and head, dropping him dead to the floor as the door closed on the silver tip. “Blast,” the intruder said as he pulled the thing free and the door shushed closed again, “the tips’ bent.”
“I’ll have it in a moment,” the technical minded guard said, tapping in code, “then we can rush him.”
“You first,” the other agent said, smelling the burning corpse behind him.

“What do you mean something’s wrong,” Solda snapped, the youngster putting his handpaws on the balcony as he stared at the guards opposite. “What’s wrong exactly?”
The guard shook before confessing to three of the guests roaming about and… he swallowed. “Several guards have been killed. Um… We have identified the… the intruders. “One is apparently called, um, Balbury.”
“Wonderful,” the young predator replied. “Well, he can’t run very fast so find him and shoot him. Who else?”
“We, ah… We know where he is, sir.” The Celican held tight to the balcony directly opposite Solda on the stairs and was thankful for the gap. “He’s uh, trapped in the control room.”
Solda’s eyes widened. “The control room? Wonderful! That’s the worst place he could be trapped!” He sighed. “Still,” he confessed, “it could be worse. It’s not like he’s a tech expert.”
“He’s in there with another person, sir.” The guard felt a trembling in his stomach and gripped the rail harder. “The, uh, listing says it’s an IOC agent called, uh, Sana Keener?”
Now Solda looked panicked. He looked directly up at the guard. “My father told me she was dead,” he breathed. “He promised!” he smacked the rail. “She’s been thumping the best firewalls the best people in here could come up with for weeks! I ask Dad to deal with her so she doesn’t derail the plan and, on the very night it’s supposed to happen she gets’ inside?” he voice was more of a high powered screech now. “GET INTO THAT ROOM AND KILL THEM! No,” he added, taking one hand off the rail and looking down again. “Change of plans. I’ll tell the others. You just lie there and die.” He pulled his gun and, before the guard could move, shot him down. The guard stumbled backward, then forward and pitched over the balcony. Solda watched him go before turning back to the stairwell and heading upstairs. He relayed instructions via his communications device and kept going upstairs. “Change of plans,” he spoke into his comm again. “meet me on the roof.”

Several floors below, Golta watched the body fall past, smashing the unfeeling muzzle on the rail as it went. He looked up at the ascending foe and tried to work out if he had to go after him or save Sana. She was with Balbury and he wasn’t sure if that negated the danger or merely added to it. The idea of the criminal getting away sickened him and he was sure he could catch him, even with all his wounds. He made his choice and headed for control.

“I’ve rerouted the aircon,” Sana reported. “it’s going to vent on level 25 now.” She looked around at Balbury with concern as sounds continued outside the door. “Is it heavier than air?”
“I haven’t much of an idea,” Balbury lied. “I am not the science expert. However it will hardly matter to us, dear girl. With all the corpses around, these gentlefoxes are likely to kill us as soon as they get in.” He looked at her. “May I have your weapon,” he asked. “I can make it easy for you and then go down fighting.”
Sana swallowed and smiled waterily. “I prefer to hope,” she said. “Especially as Golta is still out there.”
“He could be dead,” Balbury told her, kneeling close. “He may well have fallen in the opening minutes, my dear.”
Sana backed away. “Shall… shall I look for him on the… the monitors?”
Balbury breathed out. “If you wish, child.”
She turned her back on him and began scrolling through the camera outputs as Balbury creaked up from the ground and stood behind her. He moved his hands into position. She wouldn’t know a thing. He could give her that at least.
“There he is,” she said, pointing to a screen. Before she turned, Balburys’ hands were by his side as he noticed the limping agent was on their floor and closing in.
He nodded to the screens again, where Solda was heading up the stairs. “Is that exit electronically locked,” he asked.
Sana spun back around and tapped some keys. “I just changed the combination,” she advised. “To MY IQ.”
Balbury appreciated the irony as the gas began to release above them. He reckoned they had about five minutes before it seeped through to their level.

The hubbub on the convention hall floor was cut through by static as the PA system sprang into life and Sana’s voice was heard clearly across the room. <<This, uh,>> she said uncertainly, <<this is Agent Keener of the IOC. There… there’s been, uh, a bit of a problem tonight. It, um, means the presentation isn’t going to happen tonight? So, um, if you could all leave the building? You’ll be contacted with, uh, a new date soon?>> The crowd murmured and looked at each other uncertainly until another voice came over the link. <<For goodness sake,>> Balbury said, <<Give me that! This is Balbury! Get out NOW!>> The crowd headed quickly for the doors. <<That’s how to do it, my dear,>> he added.

Golta puffed and looked out at his target. Three of them with their weapons drawn as another took the final steps towards opening the door. Golta chose his target and fired at the one fixing the door. His shot went straight through the arm tapping instructions into the datapad and the Celican screeched with pain as the other two changed their position to fire on the newcomer. They stepped past the door and Balbury opened the door, shooting the technician in the head before he could move to cover. “Surrender and you live,” Golta called. They looked uncertain so Balbury shot them on the principle that they might not surrender and the three of them really didn’t have time.

|between the two of them, they just about got Golta to the lift but it didn’t come. “I blew… blew it up,” Golta said.
“Stairs,” Sana said, pulling the group to the nearest stairwell. As they headed down, Golta trying to help, Balbury looked up. It really looked like the gas was coming down, the way the air was blurring…

GETTING OUT

They made their way down the stairs as fast as they could, sometimes helping Golta and him sometimes assisting Balbury as they feared the descending gases above them. They kept up a decent pace as they went until Balbury faltered on the third floor and collapsed. His eyes widened as he clutched his chest and fell to his knees. Golta staggered upright behind him and picked him up. Sana moved to assist but he’d started back down again. “I can make it,” he said.
“You.. can hardly stay upright,” Sana protested, panting through her own exertions.
“I’m not drying in the stairwell of a tower, Sana,” Golta said, defiantly continuing down ahead of her. His knee almost gave way but he straightened up.
“I’ll go open the door,” Sana said, taking the initiative and sweeping past him at speed.
Golta swallowed. He had never expected someone so old and frail as the flopped body in his arms to weigh quite so much. He shifted the weight in his arms and continued downwards, one step at a time.

Sana pushed open the door she’d come through less than an hour ago. It seemed strange, seeing the room this empty, napkins and glasses strewn all over the floor to tell that it had been quite a busy room just recently. Someone had cut their foot on a glass and the scent of blood was in the air. Her stomach growled involuntarily at the memory of not being fed as her footpad throbbed in sympathy with the glass’ victim. She made her way to the side of the stage and skipped down, almost not stopping at the bottom and toppling. She righted herself and pulled herself over to the main door. There were people out there. She heard their weapons click through the door and stopped.

Golta pulled himself into the room and took a few few seconds to close the door before he staggered over to her. “Why..? Why aren’t you..?”
“Guns outside the door ,” she replied. “A good few of them. But they’ll be going in a moment.”
“Wh…” He stopped as they heard boots leaving outside. “How di..?”
Sana shushed him as her comm bleeped and she lifted the jewelled object near to her muzzle. “They all gone,” she asked. “Thanks Kraken.” She cut the line. “It’s safe to go,” she said, leading Golta and Balbury out into the night where lights and ambulances were waiting. On the screens behind them the lobby was being shown in full grey scale as people serenaded them with noise and applause. Golta looked up where a shuttle was leaving the building. “Guess he got away,” he said as long eared medics took Balbury off him and over to one of the ambulances. Then more medics caught him as he fell forward.

“Wounds to the body, the legs, an arm and broken bones in your chest,” Sana said, sitting on yet another hospital bed and flipping through the medical notes on her tablet. “At least they left the face alone, eh?”
“I lost two teeth,” Golta said woosily, trying not to laugh. “How’d you do it?”
Sana looked at him in confusion for a moment before the light dawned. “Oh,” she said sharply, “you mean the thing at the tower? Well I left a big hole in their firewall whilst I was on their computers so I contacted Kraken, a hacker I know, to hack their cameras and transmit the pictures from the loby to the screens outside.” She preened and stole a grape. It’s impossible to kill someone in secret when everyone’s looking, after all. Now,” she said, shifting around in her lime green outfit, “about this working for IOC bit.?”
Golta grinned. “Not going to be too hard, is it?” he reached out a hand and tapped her on the nose. “Especially as I sent the forms to central control on Dharvenal on your first day at the base. They store things in hard copy.”
“No! I go for corruption in high places! I don’t want to join them! How can I expose people taking back handers when I’m putting cash in my pocket?”
Golta looked at her and blinked. “You’re not being serious, are you,” he asked with concern. “Do I look like someone who lives the corrupt life?”
Sana looked at him curiously. Then she pretended to be offended. “You think I was serious? I can ferret them out easier from inside…”
“Civilian ones get referred anonymously,” Golta affirmed, “to the local cops with the evidence they need.” He took a breath. “If it’s Council, we do what we can.” He coughed. “If it’s in IOC? Pass… pass it to me and, if I say go, you go. If I say stop?” he gave her a slight smile. “There’ll always be a reason.”
“Solda got away,” Sana said, looking down at the white and blue sheets.
“He won’t get far,” Golta told her. “They swung and missed because of us. They won’t get another swing. And they’ll pay shortly. Did, um, did Balbury make it?”
“Oh, he vanished,” Sana said chippily, running a claw along one of the blue lines on the sheet and taking a course up the mountain formed by Golta’s left leg. “The ambulance never got here. After you handed him to two Rabbit paramedics.” Her grin was broad now.
Golta had to laugh and held his side in pain. “He’s a sneaky, evil, old Bunny. I wonder when he’ll call in your debt?”
Sana flinched. “MY debt? I saved him a couple of times. Well, once. And he did keep me alive.”
Golta nodded. “He’ll remember. Now,” he coughed. “I’m back in the office in two days.” He looked at her. “I want a full security review on our systems done by then and your recommendations for improvements on my desk when I get in, clear?”
“I’ll probably just do the improvements,” Sana said.
“That’s fine,” Golta agreed. “So long as the recommendations are on my desk as well, detailing the changes you made so I can file them.”
Sana slipped off the bed and stalked to the door. As she opened it, Golta was sure he heard her say “I hate big business rules” under her breath. But he couldn’t be sure.


---------------------------
And, thus, the Fennec ended. One of these peope will appear in 'Postain'. For more who will appear, check out this thread
Commander Hawle. U.S.C. Loper.
Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie
David Campbell - 7 – 8 – 9 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 6
Corp Davidstow 6 - 6 - 7 - 3 - 6 - 6 - 5 (reactions 7 Combat 9)

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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: IOC - The Fennec

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You did phenomenal work here! I envy people that can write like this!
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