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©02 The Media Desk
My apartment is no longer mine.
Sure. I am allowed to live there. But only because I pay the rent from my day job salary.
Keia has basically taken over the living room in the last two weeks, under the auspices of Bishop42, for whom she does research, and 2ndGrace who stops by once or twice a week to discuss her findings and exchange several large boxes of books and documents for other boxes full of magazines and newspapers. Which I carry up and down the stairs.
I also have the notion 2ndGrace comes by to make sure there is no hanky panky between me and Keia. To be honest the thought had occurred, but anytime I ask her more than if she has made a fresh pot of coffee she reminds me she is not my slave. Sometimes she smiles when she says it.
She has installed a large Oriental screen in one corner of the room, with a small lightweight cot behind it, this is where Keia sleeps. She has emptied the large closet off the living room where my bicycle spends the winter and has turned it into her dressing room. She has redecorated the two main rooms as well. It now looks like the consulate reception room for some Far Eastern Tea Company. The only room that has escaped her touch is my bedroom, except for the fact that my autographed framed poster of the Hockey All-Stars and my bicycle are now in there.
There is now a second computer in the place too, on loan from the Bishop to Keia.
I knew mine wasn't the newest, latest and greatest, but hers, this thing was some sort of experimental model I had only seen rumors of in the trade papers. I was also locked out of it by key switch, password, and voice prompt.
theHunter: you don't trust me with her machine... harumph
Bishop42: In a word. No. There are dealings within the corporation you are better off not knowing about.
theHunter: but you trust her with them
Bishop42: She has shown herself to be reliable and levelheaded. I have come to have a great deal of respect for her instincts and judgement.
theHunter: then what am I? chopped liver
Bishop42: You are one of my best field ops.
Bishop42: Speaking of which, are you prepared for the foray into those new sectors?
He was referring to an envelope I had gotten at work yesterday. I had planned on leaving tomorrow night for the overnight trip.
theHunter: Route plotted and laid in, sir.
Bishop42: Most excellent. Good hunting.
theHunter: Thank you, sir.
Bishop42: Keia should stand beside you more often. Your typing skills improve considerably.
theHunter: rasssisn frssis no acount
Bishop42: Keia. I have forwarded you something you asked for. Good day, folks.
And he was gone. She said something and went to her computer next to the window.
I looked around my living room. To watch TV I would have to move the last six months of three news magazines to sit on the couch. She had them sorted according to some sort of system I didn't pretend to understand. The dining table was stacked neatly with more papers and notes written in her tiny handwriting. I gave up and got a drink then walked to my room. Friday morning I'd leave for work and not be back until maybe Sunday evening. I just hoped that when I got back I would still have an apartment.
I watched a late movie on my small TV and fell asleep listening to Keia typing furiously on her keyboard in the next room.
The day at work was slow. Half the staff spent the day in meetings and I had nothing to do past noon. I gave up playing a flight emergency simulator and took the rest of the afternoon off to drive down to the city the Bishop's assignment was in.
This wasn't a brand new town to me. I had been here several years before for reasons I could not remember now. But I did remember a restaurant. I found a small motel off the highway and got a room for the night. Then I went downtown to find the restaurant. After a good dinner I went to the pre-arranged meeting spot where I was supposed to contact a local operative called JoeW.
I made sure my signal was set and visible from a good distance. A white hard hat sitting on top of my car. I waited and reflected on the assignment, a new brand of construction billing fraud. I was here to siphon information out of their computer system without them knowing it.
But the 2100 meeting time came and went, no JoeW.
Standard Bishop42 procedure dictated that I give the guy about twenty minutes, for things like traffic, a flat, maybe he even got lost. I re-read the newspaper and waited.
About fifteen minutes past the hour a van circled through the area. There was at least two people in it. They looked at me as they went by with eyes that spoke volumes.
Forgetting about the hat, I started my car and started a quick tight U-turn back the way the van had come.
Several shots rang out as I got moving. The van whipped around with screeching tires. In my rearview mirror the passenger leaned out the window and aimed a shotgun my way. I fishtailed around a corner wildly and accelerated with everything my car had.
The chase went on for a few minutes around the huge industrial park. Through parking lots, past rail yards, under the water tower, and back.
"Never a cop around when you want one." I complained every time they took a shot at me.
Finally I got on the outbound road and roared toward the interstate. But now there was a second set of headlights behind the van. I hoped it wasn't something faster than the van.
It wasn't. I buried my speedometer needle and thanked whatever gods of high performance engines had prompted me to order the optional package when I bought this car.
I had to take a chance and stop by the motel. I needed to clean up a little. My kidneys had become overexcited during the chase and you don't stop for a 10-100 when two cars full of thugs are shooting at you. But before that I drove the long way around back through town and then to the motel parking lot. I backed the car into the space next to my room.
I was only in the room for a few minutes. But I was extra careful on the way out, my hand full of dad's .38. I decided to drive back home tonight. Something had gone terribly wrong with the mission. JoeW was probably dead, or a traitor. My cover was certainly blown.
I went to the office and dropped the key into the night slot. I almost made it out without the night clerk seeing me. But she did. And her expression let me know somebody had asked about me. I smiled and waved, and stepped out the door. I got the impression of her reaching for the phone as the door closed.
Then I ran like the very dogs of hell were after me.
At the car, I yanked the phony license plate off the backend and dropped it in the storm drain. Then I roared out of the parking lot like a bootlegger.
I kept imagining I was being followed all the way home.
Every time a set of lights got close, I'd drive up an exit, or slow down and pretend I was reading a map. They were all false alarms. I made it all the way to my apartment parking lot without another shot being fired my way in anger.
I looked around the late night grounds. At just after four A.M. the place was a ghost town. My building door was secure. I keyed the pad and it buzzed open.
Then I got worried again. I pulled the .454 out of my bag and walked up the stairs slowly.
The only sounds in the building were of muffled TV's and the occasional yappy dog. Outside my apartment I listened. The television was on. But I heard nothing else.
I tried the door gently, my back flat against the wall, the bag sitting on my right foot ready to kick into the room as a distraction. It was locked. I carefully reached for my key, then I the heard the lock click. I froze.
The door opened half an inch. I couldn't see anything though the crack but I aimed the huge revolver that way anyway.
"Huntie?" I heard Keia's voice call softly.
"Yeah." I said equally softly.
The door opened the rest of the way and she was standing there dressed like always in her jeans and T-shirt. "Come in. Everybody dying of worry." She said, then she saw the gun and her face collapsed. "No, don't do that!" The panic cutting her voice to pieces.
"No. This isn't for you. Things went badly." I said hurrying in before the noise drew unwanted attention.
She nodded, and as soon as I put the gun away she hugged me tightly and almost cried. "The Bishop say trip was trouble. The man you go see got killed dead."
I nodded. "I've got a couple of bullet holes in my car to prove it."
"You get him right now." Keia pointed to my computer.
"Can I at least get something to drink, I've driven all night scared to death."
She stood and looked at me oddly. "I scared too. You not master, but you friend. I glad you not killed dead."
"Thanks." I said and sat down at my terminal. The log on was almost a relief.
I went to the game. It was deserted. My messages indicated some aliens had hit a few of my space mines. Nothing major.
Incoming Page from Bishop42> About the damned time.
>Bishop42 has invited you into CHAT.
I snickered in spite of myself.
"Go... talk to him. He worried about you." Keia said from behind me. I did. He got right to the point.
Bishop42: I had no way of knowing until it was too late. I am sorry. Are you hurt?
theHunter: No, but I have a few tokens of their esteem around my tail-lights.
Bishop42: There are some things you need to do, you know them. The card is hot now, you should loose your ship registration, the details need to be looked after.
theHunter: Already did. What happened to that other corp member?
Bishop42: His character was dissolved by enemy alien forces.
I felt a chill work through me from head to toe, twice. I couldn't type for a minute.
Bishop42: You are relieved of assignments for a while. You need to regroup and I need to evaluate damage to those sectors.
theHunter: i understand
Bishop42: I will send game credits to you to have your ship fixed. Use the recommended secure service port in another sector.
This time I logged off first.
"You go make hot shower and get rest." Keia ordered me.
I nodded and got up slowly. I knew there were risks to this secret agent type of alternative lifestyle I had fallen into. I had been shot at more than I could count easily, had a bullet leave a nasty scar in my shoulder, been run off the road. But this time, the agent I was to meet had been killed.
It could have been me.
The hot water ran off my face for a long time. Then I took my drink and went into my bedroom. It was starting to get light outside, but sleep was first on my list.
I think I slept for a short time, but I felt soft hands rubbing my chest and shoulders.
"Ssshhh. I master for awhile." Keia said softly as I opened my eyes.
Even theHunter doesn't argue with the Master.
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