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Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 4: Special Delivery Service
Part 5: New Pony Express (Final Revision)
Part 5: New Pony Express (Final Revision)
2 september 2014.
shira’s apartment. On her bedroom television Shira watches a notoriously obsessive otaku in Tokyo named Hiromatsu Fukuda announce on NHK TV his intention to marry Aya Shibata. No, not the alter ego of the infamous Rebel Styles. The anime character. Not even the one in those fighting and dance videogames. The moé-moé goth-loli youko.
“Oh, no he won’t.”
He does. The Japan International News carries the news. Shira laughs helplessly. When she regains control of herself, she proclaims, “Otaku no baka.”
On one wall of her bedroom is a bookcase where she keeps her manga. On the top shelf are all the Aya Shibata yuri hentai doujinshi she has collected, in which Aya molests various videogame characters. On top of the bookcase is the small plushie of NHK’s mascot Domo that the “baka otaku” she calls “Hiro-nyan” gave her in Japan. The running joke is that “NHK” really stands for “Japanese Hikikomori Association.” Hiro-nyan is hikki. She stares at the plushie and chuckles. “Boy, you have no idea what you just got yourself into.”
She gets up and walks to her desk. On a sticky-note pad, she scribbles a “henohenomoheji” hiragana face. Above it she writes: Kouhai no tenshi [angel of chaos] — Shibata Aya; below, “Fukuda Hiro-nyan.” She peels the stickie off the pad and sticks it over the plushie’s face. She leaves her bedroom grinning wickedly.
kitsap kouriers. Shira records the scene on her twin gogglecams as she walks into the courier company office on Callow Avenue, hoverboard slung over her shoulder like a sword or an electric guitar. She wears her usual summer delivery outfit: a baby tee with the company logo on it, matching thigh-length striped athletic tights, fingerless gloves, and thick hoverboard boots, all in the company colors of navy blue, yellow, and white. Her goggles are perched over her eyes, her right arm holster securely holds her phone, and her Kitsap Kouriers ID badge hangs from a “What Would Dooby Dooby Do?” neckband, all jacked into the personal area network that uses her body as its commlink and power source.
When she got the offer, AEGIS told her this delivery carries a high risk along with its high pay. She chose the risk. She might as well, she figures; she may end up being her family’s breadwinner if the teachers vote to go on strike. She strides to the desk when the deeply tanned blonde behind it, Keikilani Thompson, says, “Hi, Shira!”
“Hey, Kei!” sings Shira. She dances around the desk, takes Kei’s head in her hands, and kisses her deeply. Kei blushes furiously.
Sophie Lavoisier, the courier company’s sexy French owner, says, “Hello, Shira. You came at exactly the right time.” Shira turns around; Kei sighs. Shira and Sophie embrace and kiss like old lovers turned best friends. A man clears his throat behind Sophie. Shira peers over her shoulder to see a young-looking man sporting fashionably shredded long blond hair and the anonymous beauty of the surgically Resculpted.
“So who’s the faceless pretty boy?”
The young man laughs. “I’ve been told that a strong nose makes your face more interesting,” he says. “So how did you know I was Resculpted?”
“Your face is too new. Not enough character in it yet. It’s obvious to anybody who spends any time on the gossip sites.”
Sophie puts her arms around both of them. “Shira, this is Adam Treece. He is new here.”
“Since there’s another Adam here [glances toward Adam Toren eating WcDonalds with Warren Smith at the corner table], I won’t mind if you call me Treece. You, of course, are Shira Thomas. Your bad reputation precedes you.” He holds out his hand and winks.
Shira winks back. “Pleased to hear that, and pleased to meet you.” She shakes his hand. “Anyway...” Shira goes back to the desk and asks, “Got anything good for
Kei grins. “Oh, it’s a big one. We’ve got a package from an anonymous sender offering six figures, seven if you’re good. In Imperial dollars, not worthless euros.”
Shira’s eyes go wide. “Wow! Sounds tempting. But I take any liability, I won’t bite.”
Sophie replies, “You will be pleased to know that the client has agreed to take on all liability for this delivery. We shall not be held liable.”
“In triplicate. If you like, we can make extra copies.”
“Please. Gotta make sure we all got our pretty asses covered. So what’s he sending?”
“Ostrich? Echidna? Komodo dragon? Bird of paradise?”
“Yes, Shira,” says Sophie, “this is a very special delivery indeed.”
Kei takes out one hundred thousand dollars and hands them to Shira. She counts the money and whistles. “This is serious.”
“As is your recipient. He will pay double that upon successful delivery.”
“Well! So who is he?”
“Dr. Lars Thorwald,” Kei answers, ”rising star in the eugenics business and billionaire trader in genetic material. Used to be a hotshot at Biotron and now he runs it. He’s convinced he’s got a big score coming, and one of us is gonna bring it to him.”
“Got a release form for him too?”
“It’s in your standard packet. He refuses to sign it, you can refuse to deliver the package and take the payment.”
“Good. This a dangerous job?”
“Are you kidding?” snarls Treece. ”These days the mad slashers are hunting pretty young women just to steal their eggs and resell ’em on the black market. You’ll have gangsters swarming all over you the second you reach the city limits.”
“I’m hearing some pretty bad things about Thorwald himself,” adds Kei. “I hear he’s been killing off his competition so he can have the field all to himself.”
“Thorwald. As in Dru’s new fave Slasher, Ollie.”
“Lars and Oliver are father and son.”
“Whoa! Sounds like bad news! That means it’s double or nothing, then. This job ain’t just big, it’s hot. So how come Warren or Adam ain’t taking this one?”
Everybody stares at the veteran couriers, Adam Toren and Warren Smith. Adam says, “Uh, you’re reckless, Shira. We’re feckless.” Warren nods timidly.
Kei smiles and pats Shira on the back. “I guess that settles it! You’re the right one for this job. Will you take it?”
A wicked grin grows on Shira’s face. “Do you even have to ask?” She puts her goggles down over her eyes—
—to see AEGIS’ owl avatar staring back at her with concern. “You’d better be extra careful, Shira,” it warns. “Word from the underground says that Frank Becket has an interest in your cargo.”
“Just extra incentive,” she audiomessages back through her MentaLink™. “No way can I resist the temptation to watch him eat his investment.”
The gogglecams adjust themselves.
night delivery. Shira flies her hoverboard only a few feet above Rich Passage. She feels the wind’s rough caress and the exhilaration of speed. Forty knots is faster than the speed the foot ferries take through the narrow passage. The catamarans slow down to save fuel once they leave the passage and can afford to kick up a wake; in her impatience to get to the beating heart of the city she loves, Shira speeds up while picking up altitude. Over Puget Sound and Elliott Bay, she watches the freighters and cruise ships below. She wonders whether any tourists see her and are taking pictures; but then she remembers that there are more exotic things on this side of the Pacific than couriers on hoverboards.
The Seattle skyline beckons her like a magical forest of lights. When she reaches shore, she banks sharply upward and heads into the skyscrapers. But a predatory flock of hoverboarding sky pirates descend from the roofs as soon as they spot her. Their multicolor patchwork crimewear and grotesque killer-clown warpaint mark them as a klown war tribe. Flyen Monkeez. Figures. “Hmph!”
Two pirates make a pincer move on her. She drops beneath them so they collide and spin out and splatter on nearby skyscrapers. She banks hard left, the klown pack following close. She carves a complex path through the towers to confuse the gangsters, then speeds suddenly westward toward Bellevue. Desperate not to lose their target, the klownz reassemble in hot pursuit.
She arcs over Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Madrona toward Lake Washington. She looks back at the pursuing pirates and flashes a cockeyed smirk that provokes them like a picador’s prick. When she reaches the lake, she descends until she skims barely inches above the water. She slows down slightly to let them approach. When they reach close enough to touch, she dips into the water and slams them with a big blinding rooster tail. Two klownz make a hard landing on the lake. The remaining pursuer, the toughest beast in the pack, pushes his board’s engines to their limits. She speeds up, zigzags, hits the water with her board’s rear end to send jets at him. He grits his teeth with heavy strain as if his board’s lifters were muscles of his body. When he approaches point blank, he whips his gun out of the crotch of his baggies and points it gangster style at her. She takes her loaded Go-Yo out of its left-side pouch and flicks it back and upward to shatter his nose and jaw. Head snaps back, board flips upward, klown and board crash hard onto the lake surface and sink into watery oblivion. Shira banks gently upward, checks the readings on her HUD, and flies into downtown Bellevue.
The owner of the Bravern’s penthouse normally does not live in any of his residences; he spends all his time on jets, in swanky hotels, and at business and eugenics conferences, so he subleases them for a profit. But this particular cargo is so important to him that he insists on taking it in person. Shira remembers the stories she has heard of Corporates who have risen to power by killing off their competitors and building their empires on their graves until they become so powerful they can extort an Empire-wide monopoly from the federal government. The man who comes out the door trailed by an iPad-headed iRobot AVA droid reminds her of this, and of a character she once saw in a play. Dr. Lars Thorwald, Incorporated, is a tall man with graying brown hair, a hard unsmiling face, and obvious high intelligence, sporting a very expensively tailored midnight-blue woollen suit and on his right hand the lightning-bolt signet of his House. He projects the aura of a high oligarch, beyond good and evil utterly without conscience, mercy, or pity. He looks like an older version of his son Oliver, making it obvious to Shira where Oliver got his complete lack of respect for human life. She circles the penthouse, descends, and lands in front of him. She shuts off the lifters, takes the cargo out of its compartment, takes the packet out of her backpack and extracts the stylus-equipped tablet from it, and strides up to Dr. Thorwald.
He peers at her critically. “You’re not exactly what I expected.”
“So what did you expect? Older, whiter, male, I bet.”
“That’s about right.”
“Doesn’t matter, though. I’m all business.” She holds out the tablet to him.
“I would certainly hope so.” The AVA remote-links to Shira’s badge and replies on its iPad screen that her criminal background check, Transporters Guild membership, and Kitsap Kouriers contract all check out. Then he takes her tablet and reads the full text onscreen, using his finger to scroll down. His frown betrays his discomfort with some of the conditions. But he signs his name with the stylus and gives the tablet back to her. She gives him the package, and he gives her a pouch filled with $100 bills. She counts the crisp bills: $200,000, like Sophie said. She puts the pouch into the cargo compartment; she’s about to lock it when he says, “Not so fast.”
She looks back over her shoulder. “Hmm?”
“How come your agency sent you and not someone with more experience?”
“Most of them aren’t up to this kind of job. I do whatever it takes to get the cargo through. After all, I’m all business.”
“As it should be. You certainly managed to defeat your competitors.”
“You were watching?”
“By satellite.” He snaps his fingers, and the AVA’s screen shows her some surprisingly sharp video of her battle with the Flyen Monkeez, taken from above by satellite. “The newest generation of Landsats are amazing, don’t you think?”
“I’d say so.”
“There’s one more thing I want you to remember before you leave for your next job.”
“Business—” he turns away from her and begins walking toward his door “—is war.”
She flashes him a cockeyed smile. “Don’t I know it.” When he reaches the door, she puts the money in her hoverboard’s compartment and switches the lifters on. Slowly she rises, above the penthouse and away from the building, slowly turning toward Seattle. Through the window, Thorwald watches her fly away.
When she reaches the Seattle side of Lake Washington, she turns back to take a look at the Bellevue skyline. As magnificent as it is, it is nowhere near as awe-inspiring as Seattle’s. Suddenly, she sees a burst of light come from the top of the Bravern. The flash gives way to a fireball. She knows at once that the penthouse has exploded and Dr. Lars Thorwald is dead.
She struggles to extract her phone from its armband pouch. Once the phone is free, the first call she makes is to her lawyer cousin. “Hi, Angie? I’ve got a problem...”
underground city. By the time Desiree gets to the Zerg Rush, the Band with No Name are getting bumrushed midset by ’roided-up klownz and boostpunks out to rob the club. The No Names hammer the invaders with guitars. The fans who don’t flee climb onto the stage to mob the gangsters who ruined their show.
One mobpunk throws a stray guitar at her. She catches it by the neck and swings it around like a sword, clocking a booster upside the jaw and slamming a klown on the crown. She plows through a gauntlet of gangsters to reach the stage. She gets to the stage just as the mobpunk invasion falls apart.
“So what’s the story here?” she asks her dad.
Ric holds a broken Les Paul clone by the neck. “Some people just never learn,” he sighs.
Willa tosses the ruins of a broken keytar behind her. “Some men just keep using the wrong head.”
Ric’s phone rings. “Hello? Yeah? Oh shit!”
“What’s wrong?” asks Desiree.
“It’s Shira. She’s in trouble yet again.”
“Diana,” sighs Desiree. “Right?”
Ric slams the broken guitar on the stage floor, busting it completely in two. “That bitch!”
copco bremerton. As soon as Shira gets back to Bremerton, Agent Shockley is waiting for her with a squad car to take her away to the police station. As she drives there, she causes a three-way automobile accident and nearly runs over five pedestrians and a bicyclist who shakes his fist at her and shouts, “This ain’t Boston, you Masshole!”
In the interrogation room, Shockley triumphantly proclaims, “You little bitch, we’ve finally got evidence we can put you down for. You murdered Dr. Lars Thorwald! We can prove it!”
Stu Kowalczyk smugly adds, “In fact, we already have.” Shira dislikes him already.
At that moment, Angela busts into the room (“Sorry I’m late”) and sits down beside Shira, slamming a thick folder on the table in the same motion. Her smile says Owned you again, bitch. Shockley grimaces; Stu puts his head in his hands, slowly shakes it, and groans.
“Thank you, cousin,” says Shira. Angela opens the file. “Your Highness seems to be forgetting that because one cannot survive without money in this country, I’m in business to make money. It shouldn’t matter who pays as long as I get paid. The client refused to identify himself, so [takes the top sheet out of the folder and places it before the agents] I had him sign a release form that releases me from all liability related to my delivery. Furthermore, standard Transporters Guild policy [takes another sheet] is to have the recipient sign a release form so that they take on all liability on their side. Copies in triplicate are held by me, my lawyer, the Guild, my courier agency, and the King, Pierce, and Kitsap County records departments. You can’t succeed in business these days without first making sure to cover your arse.” Shira puts the forms back into the folder, shuts it, and pulls it close to her. “Nice try, Princess.”
Shockley rises to her feet and slams her hands down on the table. “You two seem to think you’re above the Law. Have you forgotten the motto of the Imperial Police Brotherhood? “We are the Law.’”
Angela rises to her feet and stares Shockley in the eyes. “Well, the motto of the International Bar Association is, ”˜The Law is putty in our hands.’ Lay down the Law all you want, Princess. We’ll be holding you to the letter. And if the Law gets in the way of justice, then so much the worse for the Law.” She takes the folder under one arm and takes Shira by the hand. “Come on, dear cousin, we need to go.” As she leads Shira out of the interrogation room, trades one last hostile glare with Shockley. Shira grins at the frustrated detective, then follows her cousin out. And they are gone.
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Copyright © 2011, 2012 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
[Revision 2.1, 6/23/11: Text corrections, mainly for improved clarity. Also corrected the date.]
[Revision 3, 10/1/11: One continuity correction.]
[Revision 3.1, 10/30/11: Changed currency from euros to dollars to fit new Third Revision continuity.]
[Revision 4 Final, 7/27/12: original scene revised and expanded. New opening scene added; closing scene taken from 4.6 (4.5 in Revisions 2 and 3).]]