Chapter 14: Arcol
Shoot out at the OK Hotel
I called Rillia on my new phone. After four rings she finally answered. She looked happy to see me. In the tiny viewscreen all I could see was her face. There was no make-up on it currently giving it a more natural look. She also looked like she didn't get much sleep. We made small talk for a while. After the party she said that she made some business deals with the man I paired her with that lasted a long time. I bet it did, I thought but held my tongue.

She was concerned about the bridge attack and asked me what I knew of it. I explained it as a random act of violence by Axis against UAA members and told her what happened from my point of view. My tale of bravery (very little of which I made up) impressed her and she invited me over for a late lunch. I asked where she lived mentioning the city limits boundaries the military required. Fortunately she was still in her hotel in Lorial and said she'd send her limo over in an hour. After I hung up I selected the right chips for the day, a ritual I have kept since I first got the cyberware.

Today was a mixture of what I brought to the party and what I would bring on a date (not that there was much difference between the two). As I prepared myself I had the computer read the news. The headline was the attack on the bridge. No surprise there. They did praise the swift action of the UAA soldiers present in the elimination of the attackers. I was not mentioned by name. In business there were numerous international deals whose total value reached well into the billions. Again my involvement went unnoticed. But most economic experts predicted that this will help the cause of peace and stimulate markets in all nations.

There was a story about the airshow and who would be there. Didn't seem like a bad place to spend some time. Tammis should have a blast. On the way down to the pick up area, I ran into Larani. She asked what I was headed. I told her about Rillia and how I helped her get a good business deal last night. She warned me that she had a reputation in Karga for being ruthless and a real bitch at times. "Tell me something I don't know. I know she has reasons for buying me lunch. I've been dealing with suits like her for years and I think I can handle them. They're all alike no matter what planet they're on."

She still stuck to her warning and waited with me for the limo. All the while she looked as if she was going to forbid me to go. At one point she almost did. But being an unpopular corp was no reason to order me to stay away from her, I guess. As I got in the car she breathed her warning one more time. "I will, Mother. Don't worry, I'll be fine." I responded as the door closed.

The car drove off leaving her scowling at me. The driver took me through the upper class area. It was what I expected, big fancy houses with multiple car garages, pools, VTOL pads, that sort of thing. They were fun too look at and I selected one that I liked and joked to the driver about how I was going to live there one day. The driver said nothing.

About fifteen minutes later we came to the hotel. I got out and went inside. Rillia was waiting for me. She was wearing a low cut dress specifically designed to show off her better features. She also had on a good deal of make up. Probably to hide any age lines and any other 'minor' blemishes. "Conners, how good it is for you to come. I assume your ride was not unpleasant." she greeted.

"I enjoyed it very much, thank you. Shall we go inside?" I took her arm and a waiter took us to our seats. All she could talk about was how much I had helped her business and what her plans were now that she had the money to fund them. She was careful to mention just how much money her plans would generate. It was down right boring, but I feigned interest so I could find out what her real game plan was.

Just as we were given our entrees she started talking about this trouble maker environmentalist. Apparently he was creating false evidence about how her strip mine would affect the local woodlands. "And you want me to 'talk' to him right?"

"My dear Conners, whatever gave you that idea?"

"I did this for a living Ms.Taylor. You're showing all the signs that you want my help and that you want me to do something about him."

"Well you are correct. He is greatly exaggerating the affect of my operation for personal reasons. In fact he plans to present his 'findings' to Her Highness tomorrow. You appear to be extremely well versed in persuasion techniques and since you are not connected to me in any way I though that you could do me this little favor."

"What do you want specifically, and what is in it for me?"

"Just make sure he doesn't give the Queen those reports. Do whatever's necessary. As for your return, I can offer twice as much as I gave you last night plus something more ... enjoyable." She clearly indicated what the extra incentive was by shaking her breasts slightly.

I whistled to reflect my interest. She was offering a sweet deal. Too sweet. That much money for silencing one person. I suspected that not only were this guy's findings true, but Taylor had much more to hide. I accepted her offer and asked where he was staying? She said her driver would give me anything I needed. She also wanted to know when I would be doing this because she wanted an alibi. I told her I would start as soon as the meal was done. We ate and continued to make small talk.

I got a fair idea about what she was covering up. The same story happened on Earth too many times. Business looking for short-term profit by creating long-term problems. I expected that not only would the mine practically destroy the forest but it would also create a large number of side affects. She also made vague references to how she bribed the inspectors and did a variety of other illegal activities to further this project. Now I'm no mountain man. All my life was spent in one city or another. In fact I haven't seen a real tree in it's natural setting until I first went to Algol. It was something I always regretted, but due to rampant pollution on Earth, it seemed like my desire to walk through honest-to-goodness woods would never come to pass. This failed dream always made me want to do what I can to help the environment, as long as it wasn't too inconvenient or dangerous.

Now I know what I said about keeping your word, but one of the unwritten rules state that it only applies when dealing with honest people and that it never applied with corps. The UAA was honest. Rillia was not. I didn't know just what I was going to do, but my visit with this guy should help. Lunch was finished and I got up to leave. Rillia offered to share a cup of soykaff in her hotel room, but I declined invoking the proverb of business before pleasure. I drew her further into the illusion that my real goal was to get into bed with her, that the money wasn't important. This little boost to her already gigantic ego sent her over the top as she walked away swaying her hips seductively.

In truth the money wasn't all that important and I did want to bed her. But what was really important was stopping her plans and exposing her for what she really is. After I get my money and have sex with her of course. Screw them for real before screwing them figuratively was what some distant relative said to me, minutes before she was killed in the ambush. I told the driver to take me back to the base and wait for me. On the way back I learned more about this 'problem'.

His name was Reath Koris and was a real thorn to industry. He's talked with the Queen so many time about the environment that they're practically on a first name basis. I liked this guy already. I ran into Larani on the way to my bunk. "Is Taylor the bitch everyone thinks she is?" she asked.

"Worse. But don't worry, I got something special in mind."

I didn't give her any details about lunch or what I meant just now I don't think she wanted to know. Once safely inside my room, I got that pack of science chips and made a quick change of clothes. I made sure to bring a pistol with me to convince the driver how far I was willing to go for Taylor. That with a few other items and I was off to another hotel. I told the driver that this might take some time and asked for the number of the limo's phone. The driver said that he had to take Rillia around anyway.

There was no security of any sort in the lobby and on the way up to Reath's room. He opened the door and I walked in uninvited. My thermograph sensor reported earlier that he was the only one in the room. Reath protested about my behavior but quit when I told him who sent me. "So those high and mighty business leaders finally had the nerve to take care of me. How much were you offered?" he asked.

I told him. He was impressed. "No offense, but it was a bit too much to keep one person quiet. What is she hiding?"

Reath offered to show me. The science chips I inserted while in the limo paid off because there was no way I could understand what he was talking about without them. It was all I expected and more. Rillia's mine would have hazardous long term effects which would eventually lead to the ecological ruin of the area for miles around. Reath then asked about my interest in all of this. I told him about all the disasters Earth had suffered in the past thirty years. I told him about my regrets about not seeing natural splendor somewhere else than a holoseum. He gave me his sympathy then asked when I was planning to do my job. "I'm not. What you're going to do is lie low for today and tell me how I can show how your data can be interpreted differently. Then I'll tell Taylor I shut you up and get some incriminating evidence against her. Tomorrow you give your presentation and I'll turn over what I find to the police."

Reath was enthusiastic about my idea but wondered how I was going to get this information. I told him to just leave that to me. The data was easy to rearrange so that it would appear one way, but it was easy to prove that it actually points in the opposite direction. I stored it on my portable computer and left. By then it was early evening. When the limo swung by, Rillia was sitting inside with a bundle of packages. From the looks of the packages, it looks like she spent more in that one shopping trip than what she was planning to pay me.

When the door was closed she asked me how it went. He won't be doing any talking for a while. "It took some hefty persuasion but I got it done. By the way, you're going to have to add an extra hundred thou to the fee."

"Bribery? I tried that but had no luck. How did you manage that?"

"It's all in how you ask. I'd like to tell you but then you'd have no reason to anymore business with me."

Her computer emerged from her purse and the appropriate money was transferred to my account, including the 'bribe' I gave to Reath. She moved closer and said, "Oh I think we're going to see quite a lot of each other."

Good think I thought to insert an acting chip else I would been thoroughly repulsed by the thought of meeting with her on a regular basis. I just kept thinking about the money and street justice as went through the appropriate motions with her. Actually, she wasn't a bad kisser but her breasts had an augmented feel to them. It was evening by the time we returned to the hotel. The driver was sent home for the night and we had dinner sent up to us. During small talk and small romantic gestures I found where she kept her personal data computer. Later we spent time nude in the hot tub. I made sure to give her a good show removing my clothes to lessen her guard about me. Not that it wasn't down already.

Inside I was sickened that she considered me a tool for her pleasure. No one treats me like I was easily replaceable and gets away with it, at least not for long anyway. We did it in many positions. My aim was to wear her down so she's fall asleep. Finally she said, "Ummm, Nate I want more, but I'm so tired. If I fall asleep, think of all the time that would waste."

"Then let me give you something that will fix everything." I replied with love.

When she wasn't looking, I slipped the inducer over her head. Turning it on, sent her into complete sleep. Barring the timer and removing the inducer, nothing would wake her up. Moderate sex was like coffee to me. It didn't wear me down or make me feel relaxed at all. Instead it made me restless, to just hurry up and go. Her computer had the expected safeguards, but it wasn't proof against direct neural interface. Using a computer link would scramble the data as it was being transferred. But when a human mind was a whistle stop between the two, the protection was neutralized and a successful copy resulted.

As I suspected the mine was the least of Reath's worries. It was all here, the bribes, cover-ups, and crimes (including murder) done by or controlled by her was all here. I used the hotel phone to call Reath, but the phone was dead. Just then there was a thump at the door, as if someone was trying to break it down. I almost tore the inducer off her in my rush to get ready for what was about to go down. She was confused, at first, but the second thump cleared things for her.

I got dressed in hurry thanking myself for choosing to wear the intimidating leather armor instead of civilian clothes. I had just put on the reflective shades when the door gave way. There was the driver along with three other goons. Rillia demanded to know what was going on. "Someone set of the silent alarm in your computer." he said.

When the drek hit the fan, I was all too often caught with inadequate means of easy escape. My former employer glared at me, "It was all an act wasn't it. Just to get at my files. I don't know how you got past security or even if you were able to unscramble them. Well you got them. Keeping them will prove impossible. Let's make a deal. You give my your computer and return the money and I'll let you live."

Tough choice. Either I give up all I worked and schemed so hard for or do I risk death. I wouldn't be were I was today if I didn't take risks. A quick IR scan told me that I was the only one here with a firearm. The only escape routes were through four thugs or the window on the 16th floor. Drawing my gun I said, "My father told me that when you play with someone, always bring enough toys in case someone else comes."

"Using that will only go to prove my boys were acting in my defense, Fox." Rillia warned.

She was right. It would be easy to dream up a story to the cops. Probably along the lines of how the driver's suspicions about me paid off and that he came in here just in time. It might have worked if I wasn't recording everything since the door caved in and I wasn't about to let her know about that. "We'll see about that, Bitch." and I fired at the sliding glass door to the balcony making a rather large hole.

With an overly dramatic jump, I bounced on the bed, inches from Rillia's feet, and ran outside. I heard her demand for my head as I cleared all the furniture. I caught the fence with my grapple hand and leaped over it. Only a few feet of line was allowed out so I could swing down to the next floor. If this were a movie, a stunt man would be most welcome now as I crashed through that room's glass door. Fortunately there was no one currently using the room.

I got my hand back and ran out into the hall. Hoping do delay my pursuers a bit, I pushed the elevator call button and went down the stairs. It wasn't long before I heard people going up and down the stairs. Things were not going as planned. But then no plan ever survives its execution intact. Time to improvise. I got off at the next floor and ran in search of another staircase. Just then the phone option on my computer began ringing. I answered it saying, "I'm sorry but I am not here right now because I am out trying to save my butt. Please leave your name and number after the burp and I'll get back to you just as soon as I figure a way out of this complication."

But before I could bleach Karin's voice came over the receiver, "What are you up to this time? You are suppose to check in at regular intervals and you haven't done that yet! Larani last saw you eight hours ago and there has been nothing since! Now get back here before you're declared AWOL!"

"Believe me, there's nothing I'd like better than to be with you right now Sweetie, but I'm rather busy. By the way how much is bail on this world?"

I learned some new swear words from Karin after calling her Sweetie but I convinced her to check into the police radio traffic in my area. By now I had reached the third floor. More footsteps appeared on the floors above me and the familiar sounds of a fight were faintly heard. This floor overlooked the fancy lobby and restaurant. Someone just entering the hotel yelled something and pointed in my direction. The woman wasn't in any uniform so I assumed her group to be with Rillia, especially after they pulled out guns and turned the door next to me into swiss cheese. "Karin, the cops?"

"The was a report of a single gunshot five minutes ago. Yours I assume."

"Well tell them that a member of Fireflight is up to his eyebrows in trouble."

Another burst of gunfire cut short my stimulating conversation. Too many people for me to return the favor and they didn't seem the to be the type to care about how many people got in the way between them and me. Outgunned, outnumbered, I love it! The first thing to do was to get out of here. Then I try to contact the cops already here. They're big boys, they can take care of four unarmed dopes. Those who fired at me ran to one of the elevators.

Assuming the other staircases were occupied I had to make my own way down. It was too far for my grapple arm so I jumped to one of the hanging chandlers. The chain groaned under my weight. When I reached the apex of my swing, the chain link snapped. I leaped to the next chandler as the first one fell down into the dining area. Good thing everyone left when the gunfire erupted or someone could get hurt.

The rotation of the hanging crystal protected me from bullets from a lone attacker on third. My current perch was stronger than the first, but I knew it wouldn't last long. I scanned the ground for somewhere soft to land with no luck. Then I saw the curtains hanging on the wall. Didn't know how sturdy they were but I didn't care this thing would fall in seconds taking me with it!

A final leap got me to the curtains and I started to slide down. The ripped somewhere above me. Fortunately they gave away when I was only five feet above the floor and there was a table there to break my fall. A bullet pinged off my metal arm. With no innocent people around I cheerfully returned fire nailing the offender in the head.

The computer survived without a scratch. The door was only a few meters away. I made a break for it. Someone shouted, "There he is! Open fire!"

I covered my head as the familiar sound of firearms announced their presence. I lost count of how many times I was hit but my armor protected me from most of it. At least two bullets got me when my jacket flew up as I ran. The pain sent me down but I was able to slide behind some cover. The vision in my left eye was blurred but technology kept my world clear.

I clearly saw my opponents and let loose a pistol grenade. I was getting desperate, these things are hard to find! The good thing about grenades is that close counts. I missed them entirely and hit the fancy staircase below them. Two of them got caught in the explosion and the stairs collapsed under the rest. My natural vision was fading and I felt week. I heard a new group of people burst in the hotel. Someone noticed me and rushed to my side. I struggled to remain awake and showed the blurry form my Fireflight ID badge.

The firefight continued around me. The computer had somehow survived the attack and a push of a button, I displayed Rillia's crimes for my rescuers to see. If they were cops, they'd know what to do, if they were Taylor's goons, I was dead anyway. I heard a death scream and the combat ended. The person helped me up and showed his/her supervisor the pad. A deep male voice said as my hearing fluxuated, "Good work.... ooking for with this...we'll be able to put her...until her bones turn to dust. Where's that medic? Can you talk?"

I was led to a waiting ambulance and set down on my stomach. I could feel that the vehicle was moving and hands checking out my wounds. Through my good eye, I saw a TV hooked up to a computer. I raised my tireless cyber arm and gestured to the screen as I opened up the access port to the interface plugs. I couldn't hear what was being said but they got the message and hooked me up.

I replayed my daring escape from Taylor's bedroom. Not that more evidence was needed, it couldn't hurt. My hearing was restored just long enough to hear someone comment on Rillia's body and ask my why I didn't get a close up of her chest. I told whoever said that he wasn't missing much. Pain was a constant friend on the trip. I could feel where the bullets were and a probe trying to remove them. The word anesthetic came up shortly before the phrase "we're out."

Great, just my luck. Not only did I get shot, I got an incompetent doctor working on me. Through some trial and error, the paramedic got the lead out (no pun intended, really) and began cleaning the wound. The ambulance stopped and I was wheeled out. Medical babbling echoed in the halls as I went from one room to another. A nurse learned the hard way that needles can't penetrate metal. But the real arm was found and a sedative was pumped through my veins. Exhausted from combat and blood loss, I surrender to blissful oblivion.