Yesterday we were introduced to Mack Darvey, a suicidal cop who is given a suicide mission in the world of interplanetary narcotics control. Unfortunately for Darvey, suicide isn't as easy as it seems. Not only does he have a complicated world of alien politics to sort out, but his boss wants to kill him, and the giant insect forensics expert wants to sleep with him. Things aren't looking good for Darvey, and not even in the ways he wants.
Today is the second and final day of the livewriting experiment. Come read and participate, and help make The New Real even odder than it is!
Some things are going to be different today. If you've been using the console, the biggest change is that the Stream isn't going to eat your browser. Some people had RAM issues after having that list grow steadily for over 12 hours. Oops.
The next big change will be that the suggestions left here at io9 will get a lot more weight against those done by Twitter or straight into the Console. I've made it count each io9 suggestion 4 times, which should increase the odds that you get picked. It's not that you were invisible yesterday, but those submitting through the console were sometimes getting 3 or 4 rounds of voting in to your 1, so you were getting lost in the shuffle. That should change today.
Finally, a we'll be looking for more Messer Uppers today. These are people given the keys to the outline kingdom, and tasked with scrambling the plot and questions to make it harder for me. We're on the look out for fresh blood, so be active, and let's see what damage we can't do.
Chapter 12 Answers
A drug name.: Vain by porlob
Name for a dangerous drug.: kiss of death #2D1D by Rok
Humanoid-alien body part.: Poison neck frills by Memepunks
Interesting hiding place: air vent by piratepwnsninja
Chapter 12: Stowaway
The room shifted before Jyi could get her footing, and she slammed into the back wall, cracking her head on a rusted crossbeam. The Tobor ship swayed again, and then turned sharply, taking off into the atmosphere, and she slid backwards, down towards the hatch, barely catching hold of a cargo net.
A minute later, the ship breached the atmosphere, artificial gravity took over, and she fell back to her feet. She was bleeding from her scalp, but it was a trickle. She wiped it off her forehead and moved on.
She pulled the tracer from her pouch, and gasped at the feeling of rough metal, dented flat. She tried turning it on, but the contacts wouldn't meet, and the slightest motion made it rattle noisily. She dropped it in the nearest container, let it drop down to the bottom.
"Time for plan B," she said, looking around.
The cargo bay was half-empty after the transfer, but still filled with trunks and containers of all different shapes and sizes. She peeked into one of the closer ones, found a giant cache of Vain - a nasty drug that stunted visual stimuli until everyone around you look sexy - the little yellow pills accented with the zig-zag markings of the Westshore drug cartel. She reached in, took a few, and shoved them in her pouch.
The next canister over was labelled "Kiss of Death" in Toborese, but it was empty, just a few empty bags at the bottom. She checked around for other similar stashes, but came up empty.
A data pad rested was lying on a table, wedged into a brace, and Jyi pulled it out, played with the controls along the side until it turned on. As it booted up, she used her sleeve to wipe some slime off the screen, gagging at the smell.
The pad gave her access to the travel logs and cargo manifests for the ship - she could tell by the layout on the screen - but the words were in a language she didn't read. She paged down the list until she discovered she could tap each entry and see its coordinates on a space map, so she backed up and looked at the more recent activities.
She couldn't see any evidence the Tobor were shipping Hash Prime to Centaurian space, but she kept searching anyway, just in case. The maps clicked by, one after another, and she wiped more blood from her forehead, tried to focus.
Then she stopped at a map she recognized, mouth agape, and put the pad back where she'd found it.
Jyi checked for her gun, but the holster was empty, so she slid down the hallway, checking through doors as she went. In one room, a pair of Tobor were playing a game of chance with a gnarled knife. They were both laughing, but neither looked happy.
She waited until they were both looking away, and then dashed across the entrance, stumbling into place against the wall. The world was spinning, and she pushed her hand against her forehead, came back with even more blood.
"Do you smell that?" asked one of the Tobor, and the knife rattled against the table.
"No," said the other. "What?"
Jyi tried to focus, but it was hard. She stayed pressed against the wall, eyes willing to stay open, breaths all but stopped.
"Hold on," said the first, and she heard the scraping of nails and boots as it plodded towards the door. She checked down the hall, saw a door not far away. She grit her teeth and made a dash for it, slipping inside seconds before the Tobor came out, checking up and down the corridor.
From inside her new rom, Jyi could see the creature sniffing the air, nostrils flaring, eyes narrow with suspicion. And there, on the wall where she'd been standing, was a smudge of blood from her hand as she caught her balance. The Tobor was only inches away from it.
Jyi tried to focus her mind, to see past herself and tap into the Tobor's state of mind, but her head hurt so much she couldn't pull it off. She just watched it there, sniffing the air, looking for something it couldn't describe yet.
"Hey," said the other one from inside the room. "If you don't come back, you forfeit."
The Tobor snarled, turned.
"I need a minute," it said.
"I'm on shift in five," said the other. "Hurry it up."
The Tobor took another glance around the hall, then went back inside, pushing the door open a touch further. Jyi waited in the darkness, then slipped back into the hallway, down away from the Tobor, and finally found a room filled with what looked like communications equipment stolen from a Federation vessel. All the buttons on the console had tape put over them with Tobor writing on it. She closed the door behind her, locked it with the manual bolt, and raced to the machines.
Jyi turned on a screen and started dialling through frequencies, looking for something familiar. Sounds came through the speakers at the desk… alien music, casual conversations, military broadcasts… nothing fit. She paged to a different subnet channel and then jumped as a loud thump hit the door behind her.
She scrolled faster, trying to find something that might work. She looked around the room, trying to find a place to hide, but there was nothing for her. Nothing even remotely…
The door crunched inward with a mighty blow, and then again, and again, and finally slipped off its tracks and fell to the floor, rattling loudly. Two Tobor with guns ready burst through, checking left and right, left and right.
In the corner, on the ground beside the console, Jyi lay curled up in a ball, listening for the sound of the of the nails on the metal floor beside her. They tap-tap-tapped in place so close she could smell them, but she held her breath, held her thoughts close, tried to stay calm.
A moment later, the Tobor's face was at her side, peering through the vent, sharp teeth gleaming as it smiled at her.
"Well hello there," it snarled.
Chapter 13 Answers
A nasty liquid.: A nasty liquid. Liquid Penetroleum by comm9
A number between 10 and 150.: by Squi
A silly drug name.: fluffbalz by muppetjedi
Name of Alien Currency: Picolents by TJ229ER
Chapter 13: Street Dealers
Darvey's headache preceded consciousness by a full minute, but unlike his usual hangover headache this one extended all over his body. He blinked at the sun and the smoke above him, and the sight of a smiling Kaps looking down on him.
Then the smile faded.
"Dammit," he grumbled. "I thought I was gonna win."
"Sorry to disappoint," Darvey said, getting to his feet. His back cracked loudly, and he stumbled forward. "That was a bitch. I feel like a truck hit me. Twice."
"That's the kinetic shielding," Aphid said, coming up behind and brushing off his shoulders a little too tenderly. "You can imagine why taking a needle with the shield is not ideal. It redistributes the energy straight through you."
"You guys suck at science fiction technology," Darvey said, stretching himself out. "What happened to the ships? Where's Jyi?"
Kaps looked around the wreckage of the hangar, shook his head.
"We're pretty sure she's not here."
"And the tracer? Nothing on that?"
"Nothing," said Aphid. "She might have been caught, or maybe they found the tracer. But right now, we have no idea where she is."
"We're going to get back to the ship and start a search grid to see where-"
"Hold on," said Darvey. "We've got bigger issues."
Kaps crossed his arms and made a snorting noise that seemed to come out of the sides of his neck.
"The Tobor delivered Hash Prime to another ship. They're going to distribute it offworld. To Centaurians."
Aphid slapped his shoulder.
"What was the other ship's registry ID?" she asked Darvey. "It would have said on the side, underneath the name."
"I have no idea. It was covered in scribblings."
"That would be the name and the ID," she sighed.
"I'm new here!" he said. "Cut me some slack!"
Kaps laughed, walked away, kicking some debris as he went. Aphid moved closer, pulling out her pad and scrolling it up and down.
"Okay, you don't know what it said. What species were they?"
"Jyi never said."
"What did they look like?" Aphid asked.
"I don't know. Alienish?"
Aphid stared at him a moment.
"You are not turning me on right now."
"Sorry," said Darvey, shaking his head and trying to focus. The headache was getting bigger by the minute, and he desperately wanted to rub his eyes, but the mask was in the way. "They were little, and talked a lot, and they smoked these big green pipes and-"
"Tweeps," sighed Aphid, and Kaps turned around.
"What's that?" he called. "Did you say Tweeps?"
"Yeah," said Aphid, then looked to Darvey. "I don't like to speak ill of entire species, but Tweeps are probably the most consistently-awful creates in the universe. I've never met one that I didn't want to decapitate."
Darvey smiled nervously.
"It's not much to go on," said Aphid, "but I think I can narrow down the field. I'll see which Tweep ships headed into this area in the last few days."
"Sounds good," said Darvey. "Let us know when you find something."
"What do you mean? Where are you going to be?"
Darvey motioned to Kaps.
"Thicky and I are going to see if anyone knows anything about the Tobor pushers."
"We are?" snarked Kaps.
"We are," nodded Darvey. "If we can find the Tobor, we might be able to find the Tweeps too."
"And I'm going to go with you because…?" laughed Kaps.
"You need to bust some heads," said Darvey.
"Okay, I'm sold."
It took the better part of what felt like an afternoon to find a street pusher who seemed to know that a race called the Tobor even existed. He was long and lean, with three large eyes that each looked bloodshot in a different way, and he kept rubbing his hands together like he was washing off something sticky.
"Nah," he said twitching. "Nah, haven't seen nonna Tobor."
Kaps loomed over the pusher, rough skin creaking at joints.
"Why don't I believe you?" he asked.
The pusher looked up, blinked two of his eyes, and smiled.
"Aw c'mon, man," it pleaded. "It ain't easy doin' what I do. Cut me some slack, yeah?"
Kaps looked to Darvey.
"Can I hurt him now?"
The pusher shrunk a little.
"Not yet," said Darvey. "I think he wants to tell us something."
They looked down at the pusher, who raised himself up and laughed quietly to himself.
"I know some Tobor," he said. "I mean, I don't KNOW them, but I've seen ‘em around. They were… uh… they were at the bar down at the OceanSide Club, drinkin' up a storm."
"Did you talk to them?"
"Tobor? Jeesh man, no. Tobor eat dudes like me. I'm not going nowhere near onna them."
"So where did they go after that?" asked Darvey.
"I dunno, man. I went to the little boys' room and did my biz, and by the time I got out, they were gone!"
Darvey looked to Kaps, pulled him aside.
"How far is the OceanSide Club?"
"The ocean's on the other side of the planet."
"So it'd take a while to get there. Do you think he's got the assets to cover that distance casually?"
"Not a chance," nodded Kaps.
"You feel like he's lying too?" Darvey asked, motioning over.
"Yes. Can I break him?"
"No," said Darvey. "We've got to try this a different way.
When they turned back, pusher was scratching at the back of his hands with terrible urgency. He looked up at them, his face flinching, and laughed.
"You feel that too?" he asked. "Or no. You ain't been here long enough yet."
"Long enough for what?" asked Darvey.
"The itchin'. It's Penetroleum, man. In the water. Every time you bathe, it goes'n makes yer skin all slippery, but if y'take too long between bathings, then WHAMMO, dude! WHAMMO! Skin burns right off."
Kaps leaned over to Darvey.
"Penetroleum is how you clean a ship's windows," he whispered. "It's like acid. It's not in the water supply."
"It IS, dude! It is!"
"Listen," said Darvey. "If you hear about anyone who knows about any Tobor… any Tobor at all… you give us a shout, okay? We've got a hundred and fifty Picolents as a bounty."
The pusher adjusted his stance a bit.
"W-w-what's a Picolent?"
Darvey scratched the back of his helmet, shrugged.
"What currency do you use around here?" he asked.
"Dinaris," said the pusher, twitching his middle eye.
"Oh, then about, what… six or seven billion of those."
The pusher's face went blank.
"Dude," he said. "What did the Tobor DO to you?"
Darvey leaned in, spoke softly.
"They stiffed me on a shipment of Fluffballz. I want it back."
"How big a shipment?" gasped the pusher.
"You know Fluffballz, right?"
The pusher nodded eagerly.
"Fifteen thousand of them," said Darvey. "I had two ships ready to transport it, too."
"Merde," gasped the pusher. "Dude, that's just WRONG."
"So can you help me?"
The pusher looked left and right, then leaned in even closer. All three of his eyes were on Darvey.
"One-fifty Picolents, yeah?"
"Sit tight," he said, backing away. "I'll be right back."
He ran down the street as fast as his miniscule legs could carry him, slipping around a corner and into the crowd. Kaps stood next to Darvey, scratched his armpit.
"You sure he'll be back?" he asked.
"He thinks he's going to be rich," said Darvey.
"Yeah, about that… what the hell are Picolents?"
"Fictional currency," he said. "I figure if the rest of you can make shit up, so can I."
Kaps laughed loudly.
"You're a bastard, you know that?"
"I do," smiled Darvey.
They stood there a moment, watching the lizard birds circling in the sky, the ships taking off into the sky, and it almost felt normal to Darvey. Almost.
"You know," said Kaps. "The dealers in this district aren't really known for givin' out freebies. I mean, made-up money or not, you're gonna have to pay."
"I'll bluff my way through, don't worry," said Darvey.
"I don't think so," said Kaps. "They'll kill you if they find out you're lyin'. Maybe YOU don't mind that, but I do."
Darvey nodded, checked down the street for the pusher.
"Can we requisition some funds?" he asked.
"We can try," he said. He pulled out a data pad, hit some buttons, and handed it over to Darvey. A moment later, Lucas appeared onscreen.
"Hey Lucas," he said. "We need some money."
"You may not attend a strip club," said Lucas.
"It's not… what?"
"Kaps is with you."
"No, it's not that. It's for information."
Lucas nodded slowly.
"How much will you require?"
"I think I said about seven billion Dinaris."
Lucas didn't move for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was an calm as ever, but there was something in the slight position of his eyes that said he was not amused.
"I will file the request, but it may take some time."
"Time?" echoed Darvey. "I don't HAVE time! Look, just say it's urgent, and we'll take whatever you can-"
He stowed the pad quickly at the sight of the pusher rushing back, sweat streaming out the gills at the side of his neck.
"You gotta come with me," he wheezed. "The boss wants t'talk t'yall."
"Good," said Darvey.
"Nuh-uh," said the pusher. "Not good. Serious business."
Chapter 14 Answers
An invitation to do something.: An invitation to do somethinggo ice skating with a head of state by tenaciousN
A strange childhood memory.: confusing timezones by am_harte
Drug name.: Drug name. by sys
Funky hair color.: Funky hair color. Fluorescent Beige by najelacobb
Alien device name: Transfibulator by addisoncort
The vent popped open and the Tobor reached in, pulling Jyi out and throwing her against a wall. She lay there, eyes rolled back, unmoving, a small trickle of blood on her forehead. The Tobor both aimed their guns at her, prodded her with their feet.
Her hand tipped over, and a few pill wrappers fell onto the floor. Vain. The Tobor snatched them up, turned them over.
"Tweaker," said the first one. "Must have got in at the spaceport."
"She's got a transfibulator," said the other, pulling a small octagon-shaped device out of her pocket. "Must be a serious tweaker to need this kind of hardware."
Jyi opened her eyes, rolled onto her back, and smiled at them.
"Hello boys," she slurred. "Wouldja like to come ice skating with me and President Janten?"
They exchanged glances.
"Kill her," said the first, and aimed.
"Wait!" said the second. "Is she Centaurian?"
They crouched down, pushed her hair from her face, turned her head left and right. She closed her eyes again, drifted off.
"Looks like it," said the first. "We still have a few more batches to test, don't we?"
"I think so. Let's get her set up, just in case. Saves us some trouble, later."
They grabbed by the feet and dragged her out the door and down the hall, her head hitting every bump along the way, but she never made a sound, just lay there in a happy daze, arms over her head, smiling blankly.
They brought her into a room at the back of the cargo bay and set her down in a seat next to a young woman who seemed unconscious as well. Jyi was strapped into her seat, straightened up and slapped across the face.
"Stay put," said the first Tobor. "Damn tweakers."
They left the room, laughing.
Jyi's eyes opened quickly, and she looked over to the woman next to her.
"Hey," she whispered, checking the door for enemies. "Hey, are you awake?"
The woman's head rolled over towards Jyi, her fluorescent beige hair falling into her face, only one of her eyes was looking in the right direction.
"Hallo," she drooled. "How are you?"
"Are you alone here?" asked Jyi, trying to get her arm free, but realizing this ship's straps were better built than the last one's. She shifted herself, strained against the metal, but got nowhere.
The woman rolled her head back around, smiling at the air, laughing for a few seconds, and then stopping. The blinked, seemed to be looking at something specific, but then turned away, shuddering.
"Timezones," said the woman. "I don't understand timezones at all."
"It's okay," said Jyi. "You're going to be okay."
"My papa told me to learn all the timezones. It's good for your brain, he said. He said, he said, he said…"
"He's right," nodded Jyi, "it's good for you. Tell me about them. Talk to me."
She pulled her leg out from its restraint, but it got her nowhere. She pushed on the ground, trying to force herself free, but only felt her ribs crying out from the ordeal.
"Delta time is central time, and Antigen time is plus five. Sanzi time is plus eight, and the mansion is in Sanzi province."
Jyi looked up.
"Sanzi?" she asked. "What mansion?"
"The new mansion. My papa is the best governor of them all."
"Eshilia?" Jyi asked. "Are you Eshilia?"
"Eshie, Eshie, all fall down," laughed the woman, then turned her head away.
Jyi pushed with her leg again, this time stronger, and cried out as her ribs begged for mercy. The girl started crying too, swayed her head side to side, desperate to escape.
"I had six friends," she wept. "Six friends, but they're all gone now. They've been melting, one by one."
She turned and faced Jyi.
"Is it fun when you melt?"
Jyi set her jaw, looked away.
"I don't know," she said.
"It looks like fun," sang Eshilia. "I hope it's fun to melt…"
Chapter 15 Questions
#2D1D #c15q1 Something you buy.
#2D1D #c15q2 A financial goal.
#2D1D #c15q3 A type of gland.
#2D1D #c15q4 Name for strip club.
#2D1D #c15q5 Card game.
#2D1D #c15q6 Drug name.
#2D1D #c15q7 Weird Girl Name
Chapter 15 Answers
Something you buy.: freedom by Rok
A financial goal.: Saving up to buy a houseboat by porlob
A type of gland.: sweat gland by Rok
Name for strip club.: Name for strip club. by sys
Card game.: Card game. by 1889ca
Drug name.: Popswiz. by addisoncort
Weird Girl Name: Azariah by addisoncort
Alien Body Part: Squarependix by SolidSpider
Strange Clothing Article: wipple by am_harte
Chapter 15: Kingpin
The Champale Room was underground, down a long, worn ramp that was stained with more kinds of liquid than Darvey would have thought possible. There were a pair of video walls along the front of the building that showed an assortment of creatures gyrating to tinny music, distorting at every bassy beat. It was only when Darvey saw a human-like species appear that he realized it was a strip club.
The pusher led them through the crowds of aliens to a back room, down a flight of concave stairs, to a palatial room littered with ornate tables, all orbiting around a central chair, upon which sat a pile of slime.
"This is them?" boomed the slime, its voice far too big for such a small bit of goo.
"That's ‘em," nodded the pusher. "Ask ‘em. Really, ask ‘em."
The slime's "front" turned towards Darvey and Kaps, bubbled slightly.
"You are after some Tobor, I understand."
"That's right," said Darvey. "Mr…"
"Ogro," said the slime. "You will call me Ogro."
"Ogro, then. We're after some Tobor who stole my merch. We heard you might be able to facilitate a meeting."
The slime bubbled again.
"I can do many things. I know many people. Do you know many people?"
"I know a few," said Darvey. "Are you looking?"
"I am looking for freedom," said Ogro.
"Freedom from what, exactly?" asked Darvey with a smile no one could see. "I deal in all kinds."
"Freedom from sycophants," said Ogro. "Always sucking at my ass, offering oils and jellybelts. Never bringing me value. I do not need more assistants, I need partners!"
"I understand completely," said Darvey. "I hate it when people suck at my ass."
The slime oozed down his chair, onto the floor, towards Darvey. He tried not to move, in case he stepped on it and offended someone. It weaved between his feet, stopped behind him.
"When I started in this business, men were men," Ogro said. "Now they just play men, hiding behind a real man's back when times are rough."
"Amen," said Darvey.
"I have not seen you before," noted Ogro.
"I've been offworld," said Darvey. "On… uh… Zanzibar."
"Zanzibar 5?" asked Ogro, oozing back around to the ground. "That is an excellent place! Did you try Slock fishing?"
"I did," said Darvey, playing along. "Massive suckers, too."
"Slock are miniscule," said Ogro cautiously.
Darvey didn't flinch.
"Not since the Penetroleum poisoning," he said, and the pusher put a hand to his mouth in shock and vindication. "Things aren't the same anymore."
"No," said Ogro. "No, they're not. Old alliances fall away, and your friends desert you. Like your problem with the Tobor."
"Exactly," said Darvey.
"The Tobor were my oldest ally, you know," said Ogro. "Before their last wars with Centauri, they were a good partner. Now I cannot raise them on the phone for anything. I do not know them anymore, it seems."
"I know the feeling," said Darvey.
Ogro slid back into his seat, bubbled again. He seemed to have grown a bit in the last few minutes, and was changing colour ever so slightly, to a kind of purple hue.
"You will tell me why you want the Tobor ship," Ogro said. "Or I will not help you. And I will kill you all."
The pusher shrunk back, whimpering. Darvey didn't miss a beat.
"I bought a big shipment of Fluffballz from them," he said. "Paid in advance because their reputation was good. Never trust Weebles. They're lying bastards."
Ogro bubbled appreciatively, so Darvey continued.
"Honestly," he said, "I'm not in this for the FuzzBallz at all. I just know a guy who knows a guy who wants some, and he's willing to pay twice the going rate, so… you know… economics."
"Yes," said Ogro. "I do know. What will you do with your money, when you have it?"
"How is that your business?" asked Darvey.
"It is my business to know all business."
"That's poetic of you. Fine. I'm going to buy a houseboat."
"A houseboat," echoed Ogro.
"Yeah, like on water. I promised my wife we'd get one, way back, and I figure this is as good a time as ever."
"I do not understand the appeal of a houseboat," said Ogro.
"It's really for my wife," said Darvey.
"Ahhh, I understand. For the wife. So she may thank you."
"No, not that. She's dead."
Ogro said nothing, and bubbled only once.
"You are alien," he said.
"I sure hope so," said Darvey.
"Why would you buy this merchandise twice? You have already paid the Tobor, so why pay me too? It is not good financial sense."
"Neither is a houseboat."
"Then you are insane, and I will not do business with you."
"I AM insane, but you want to do business with me."
Ogro laughed. Or bubbled loudly. It had the same effect.
"I do not see why," he said.
"Because the reason I want my merch back, and the reason I want that houseboat, is because it's the principle of the thing. I don't care what it costs, I'm getting that boat for my wife. And I'm going to make the Tobor deliver my goods, because that's what I PAID them to do."
Ogro, again, said nothing. Then he bubbled.
"You are alien, biped, but I enjoy your spirit. I will do business with you, but on these terms: I will help you find the ship, free of charge, but when you steal it back, you will provide me with half your FluffBallz."
"That's a lot of balls," Darvey noted.
"I will make room."
"All right," said Darvey. "But now I don't get YOUR angle. Why help me? That's a big gamble for very little pay-off, FluffBallz or no."
Ogro bubbled violently now.
"I owned the freighter those Tobor use now. Five years ago, I lose it in a game of Fetch, and for five years I have been plotting to get it back. The fools won't sell. I cannot bear to see it crashed into Centaurian fighters in some foolish kamikaze attack. They have their own ships for that. Not mine. I am done with negotiations. Steal it back."
Darvey shook his head, and beside him, Kaps gasped..
"Sorry," he said. "No deal. Stealing back my merch is one thing, but stealing a whole ship That's a theft on a big scale. I don't think I can take that kind of risk, on top of everything else. Not for half my shipment."
Ogro grew a little larger, and Darvey could see some air bubbles inside him now, puffing him up.
"I understand," said the kingpin. "I will add in treats for you, to make it palatable. I will provide a free dose of Popswiz for you and your friend, and an hour with my best large squarependix wipple-wearing girl."
Darvey blinked. He leaned over to Kaps.
"Translator error, I think."
"I didn't get it either," he said.
"What's a wip- oh."
Out from the back of the club came a giant creature like an octopus with a giraffe head on top, wearing long golden braids that went from its underbelly and attached to rings in its lower eyelids. It sashayed towards Darvey and Kaps, wrapping them in gentle tentacles.
"This is Azariah," said Ogro. "She can provide many kids of pleasure for you both."
Darvey stared at Azariah, then leaned over to Kaps.
"I don't know what to do with this," he said.
"Don't look at me," said Kaps. "Big sweat glands turn me right off."
"Is that what those are?"
"They're dripping SOMETHING…"
"I think I'm going to be sick," said Darvey
"Bet you wish you'd died earlier, don't ya?"
"You have no idea."
Ogro bubbled excitedly, lifting himself up over Azariah, watching them.
"Please!" he said happily. "Please, you may remove your suit and enjoy!"
Darvey shrugged, shook his head.
"You know what? That's okay. We're on a timetable, so if we could just finalize…"
"Very well," said Ogro, lowering himself back down. "A deal it is. You may come back for Azariah at any time. We will lock her in a cage until your return."
"That's really not nec-"
"We will feed her," said Ogro.
"Find my ship," said Ogro. "I will be waiting."
Darvey turned to leave, but noticed a small canister bouncing down the stairs towards him. He tapped Kaps on the arm, and they both saw it land on the ground, roll for a second, and stop.
"Dammit," said Kaps, and the canister exploded.
Chapter 16 Questions
#2D1D #c16q1 A fun activity for shore leave.
#2D1D #c16q2 A number between 3 and 12.
#2D1D #c16q3 A reason to hang out.
#2D1D #c16q4 A number between 5 and 20.
#2D1D #c16q5 Name for a planet outside our solar system.
#2D1D #c16q6 Name of a space ship
#2D1D #c16q7 A way to get rid of something
#2D1D #c16q8 A horrible way to kill someone
#2D1D #c16q9 Name of two planets
Chapter 16 Answers
A fun activity for shore leave.: Playing in cybernetically-enhanced gravity by NXS
A number between 3 and 12.: 4 by NXS
A reason to hang out.: @1889ca A reason to hang out. // 4-20 by LynThorneAlder
A number between 5 and 20.: 13 by NXS
Name for a planet outside our solar system.: Xena by NXS
Name of a space ship: Coriander by janoda
A way to get rid of something: vacuum it out in space by janoda
A horrible way to kill someone: space him by retro_neo
Name of two planets: M by janoda
Chapter 16: Justice
The light was blinding, but Darvey's shield caught most of the blast, knocking him off his feet. Smoke filled the room as the canister rolled around, and the creatures around Ogro ran for cover, squealing and crying and stumbling over each other.
A squad of heavily-armoured agents rushed into the room, guns ready, and shoved Darvey back to the ground, binding his arms behind his back. They left him and Kaps up and dragged them up the stairs and into a small vehicle which immediately took off and up, bumping with turbulence as it weaved through the skies.
"You okay?" Darvey asked Kaps.
"Yeah," he said. "You're not dead?"
"Keep at it."
They slid into a building and were dragged out, down a hall, and thrown into a cell with a sizeable opening on the outer wall, giving a clear view of the city below. Darvey touched the space gently, felt the buzz of a force shield keeping him inside.
"Can't jump, sorry," said Kaps.
"I don't want to jump to death," said Darvey.
"Seems like a fun way to go."
"You try it then."
Darvey shook his head, tried to see straight. The planet was massive and dusty, and from this height, he could see just how big it really was. The spaceport he was in was enormous, but only a fraction of the size of the other cities he could see in the distance. Smoke hung in the air like a splotch of paint on a canvas, waiting to be applied.
"So," said Kaps, sitting in the corner and brushing the sand off himself. "Why AREN'T you dead yet? Getting cold feet?"
"No," said Darvey, not looking around. "I'm getting there. I just need to take care of a few things first."
"Like what? Azariah?"
Kaps chortled to himself.
"Like the Tobor. They're going to kill a lot of innocent Centaurians with that drug. It's not accidentally dangerous at all. They're not trying to make it BETTER, they're trying to make it WORSE."
"That's pretty common with them. They've got a long history together that-"
The door slid open, and two Orillians strode in. The closer one paused, looked from Kaps to Darvey, and then sat himself on a stool. It was Gazoo.
"I understand you have been to see Ogro," said Gazoo. "And that you have a supply of Fluffballz you are trying to acquire."
"Maybe," said Darvey.
Gazoo frowned at him.
"What species are you?" he asked.
Darvey pointed at Kaps.
"Same as him."
"I doubt that very much. Why are you wearing a suit?"
"What do you know about Fluffballz?" snapped Gazoo. "Stalling will only make it worse for you."
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Darvey. "I was just there to have some fun. Playing in cybernetically-enhanced gravity and stuff. Booferball and stuff."
"You are making words up to confuse me."
"We had Ogro's entire facility under surveillance," said Gazoo. "We KNOW what you were discussing. You cannot deny it."
"What? Stealing ships? That was totally a joke. It would be crazy to steal a ship. Do you think I'm crazy?" He looked over to Kaps. "Don't answer that."
Gazoo stood up, walked into the far corner, and straightened his jacket.
"There is a band of Orillian traitors working the drug trade in this area. I wonder, are you one of them? What species are you?" he asked.
"I told you, I'm the same as him."
"I do not believe you."
"It's true," said Kaps. "He's my cousin. We call him Tiny. And not for the reason you think."
"You do not speak the same language," said Gazoo.
"He was raised by wild animals," said Kaps. "Ugly ones, too. That's why he's so dumb, and-"
Gazoo took a gun from his belt and pointed it at Darvey's face.
"Take off your mask," he growled.
"Or what?" asked Darvey.
"I will blow it off you."
"That's not a big threat for him, y'know," chimed in Kaps.
"Do it!" shouted Gazoo. "Now!"
Darvey looked down the barrel of the gun and imagined the needle blowing out his brains. He wondered what it would feel like. He hadn't put much thought into the details of his death, but it seemed appropriate that he should suffer some before he died. He just wasn't sure this was the way he wanted to do it.
He thought of the Centaurians on the Tobor ship, their skin boiling off, and he imagined that on a large scale. Like Penetroleum in the water, and he-
"Fine," he said, and took off the mask. Gazoo backed up quickly, fumbled with a panel on the wall, hitting buttons quickly. Darvey felt the back of his neck and the side of his face burning, and he grit his teeth, the sizzling so close to his ear.
Gazoo hit a final button and the window tinted quickly, and the burning stopped. Darvey panted, kept his eyes on the Orillian.
"You!" gasped Gazoo. "You're… the Centaurian!"
"But why didn't you… if you could have…"
Gazoo pointed the gun at Kaps, powered it up. He snarled at Darvey.
"Who ARE you?" he shouted.
Darvey looked at Kaps, at the gun, and shook his head.
"I'm Mack Darvey," he said. "Detective Mack Darvey. From Earth."
The gun dropped. Gazoo looked at Darvey, the burnt flesh on his neck, and over to Kaps.
"Oh my goodness," he breathed. "CSA?"
Kaps shook his head unhappily.
"Yeah," said Darvey. "So you can appreciate why we're trying to keep a low profile."
Gazoo rushed around behind Darvey, undoing his cuffs, then stumbling over to do the same for Kaps.
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I've never met a human before, so I… I'm really, very sorry. Have we interfered with a… well… of course you can't… but I…"
Darvey stood up, stretched out his arms, and looked to Kaps. He was still not impressed.
"If there's anything we can do to help you," said Gazoo eagerly, "please do not hesitate to ask."
"The only thing we need is some room to work," said Darvey. "Think you can manage that?"
Gazoo nodded, opened the cell door and led them out. Darvey slid his mask back on, wincing at the contact with his neck. It burned more against the cold fabric.
"Again, we're so sorry for any trouble we've caused you," said Gazoo as they were shown into a conference room with sleek tables, just like aboard their ship. "If the CSA would coordinate their actions with our branch offices, we could avoid all such misunderstandings and-"
"You know what?" said Darvey. "Forget about it. We just need to find that missing ship."
"Which ship would that be?" asked Gazoo.
"There was a Tobor freighter, and a smaller Tweep vessel. Either one is good."
Gazoo stroked his chin, nodding.
"I do not know where the Tweeps may be, but the Tobor often meet at the space station off Xena, in this system. Recreationally. Ever since the 4-20 incident."
"4-20?" Darvey said with a smile.
"Horniscopes," nodded Gazoo. "Terrible tragedy."
Darvey just nodded.
"We can provide you with transport back to your ship if you like. And we'll add it to our registry, so we never board you in error again-"
"Don't even think about it," said Kaps. "You know better."
Gazoo nodded, smiled nervously.
"Quite right," he said. "I apologize."
They were installed in a ship called the Coriander, a confiscated Tobor shuttle, and sent on their way with several more rounds of apologies. Kaps accepted them with increasing agitation, but Darvey tuned it all out, thinking ahead. Even if they found the Tobor, it might be too late to catch the Tweeps before they reached the Centaurians…
"What I don't understand," said Darvey, "is how the Tobor came up with this plan in the first place. Poisoning? It doesn't seem like their style."
"Yeah," agreed Kaps. "They're not the subtle type."
"They seem more likely to rip your throat out. Or vacuum you out the airlock."
"Or spacing you."
Kaps thought for a moment.
"I don't know how to explain it. It hurts."
Kaps arched back, cricked his neck again, and leaned against the desk at the edge of the cockpit.
"The Tobor aren't the smartest," he said. "That's for sure. But you won't need to be very smart to poison a lot of people."
"I don't know," said Darvey. "Something like this will take a lot of work to deploy widely. And given how fast it works, I don't see how they'd kill all that many Centaurians before it was clear what went wrong."
"They don't need to kill all of ‘em," said Kaps. "They just need to kill a bunch, and get a foothold on the planet."
Darvey cocked his head.
"A foothold how? Why?"
"It's like this: the Tobor and Centaurians share a District, but the Tobor only have two planets to themselves."
"How many do the Centaurians have?"
"Yikes. So if it's representation by population-"
"It's not, though," said Kaps. "God, my civics class coming back to bite me in the ass. No, it's like this: it's representation by population for each given planet. So if you make up a big enough percentage of the population on one of the Centaurian planets, you own two representatives. Two representatives equals more cash, and that means they might be able to pull their economy out of the shitter."
"So it's political maneuvering?"
"Exactly," smiled Kaps.
"Then that sounds even LESS like the Tobor."
Darvey stared out the front viewport, looking at the stars, the planet below them, and thought of each one of the stars having this kind of trouble circling it, like wasps at a picnic. Each one of those stars, each with its own political-
"What if it's not the Tobor doing this?" he asked. "What if-"
"Oh crap," said Kaps, rushing to the back of the cabin. He pulled a bit of covering off a back panel, and below it was a small device, covered in wires, with a display that appeared to be counting down.
"That's a bomb, isn't it?" asked Darvey.
Chapter 17 Answers
How to solve a technical problem.: How to solve a technical problem - RTFM! by tenaciousN
Happy or sad?: sappy! by am_harte
An escape plan: swap with lawyer wearing wig by retro_neo
Random space object: trailing garbage by Rok
Chapter 17: Things That Go Boom
"These things follow you around!" Kaps snapped, throwing the cover off the bomb and backing up. "Kill yourself BY yourself, will you?"
Darvey shook his head.
"I'll make a note."
The digits didn't make sense to him, but the concept was clear enough. And from the pattern he was seeing, they didn't have much time left.
"What can we do?" he asked. "Um… can you defuse bombs?"
"How would I be able to do that?"
"You're in charge of weapons!"
"I'm in charge of USING weapons, not stopping them!"
Darvey ran his hands across his face trying, to think.
"We can blow it out the airlock," he said.
"What airlock?" asked Kaps. "This is it. That door leads straight outside."
Kaps smacked Darvey across the back of the head.
"Pay attention," Kaps said.
The timer continued to race as Darvey started checking out the wires running to and fro on the bomb's exterior. None of them made any sense, and none of them even seemed to be connected to the timer itself. It was suspended a few centimetres off the surface of the device by some invisible force, which made it clear this technology was far, far out of his mental reach.
"Okay," he said. "What are our options?"
"You mean besides dying? I don't know! Do you have any words of wisdom in your culture? ‘Cause I'm coming up short!"
"Read the fucking manual," he said.
"That's all I can think of. You do better! How do you escape certain doom?"
"Swap places with the lawyer wearing a wig," said Kaps, then looked immediately embarrassed. "It's a TV drama. My mom watches it. Shut up, pasty boy."
Darvey stood up, backed away again.
"How much time do we have left?" he asked.
"I don't know. I don't read Tobor."
"This is a TOBOR bomb?"
"Yeah, see this is much more their style."
"All right here's the plan. I'm going to pick it up and smash it into the wall, and you're going to take cover. If it blows up, hopefully it just blows up me."
"And sucks me into space."
"You know what? if you put a little more effort in, maybe you wouldn't be stick with that kind of outcome!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"What kind of weapons expert can't disable a bomb!"
"What kind of cop gets knocked unconscious every five minutes?"
"I'm having a bad day!"
"And you're taking me down with ya!"
Darvey motioned to the bomb with a jabbing finger.
"This isn't my fault!"
They both paused, looked over at the bomb. The counter had stopped. There was no explosion. Darvey walked over, tapped the timer, and it fell to the ground, blank.
He stood up, looked at Kaps.
"A Tobor bomb, you say."
"There's no way they're behind this drug plot."
"No way," Kaps agreed.
"So we've got to figure out who IS…"
They docked with the Thomas Derra, meeting Aphid and Lucas in the entranceway. Lucas was calm and composed, but Aphid ran to Kaps, wrapping four of her arms around him, holding him tight.
"I was so worried!" she sputtered. "A bomb! A BOMB!"
"Tobor bomb," correct Kaps. "So really just an over-made clock."
"Still," said Aphid, running her hand along his cheek. "You survived."
Darvey looked away, saw Lucas staring at him.
"The Orillians know about us," Lucas said. "Our cover is compromised."
"Sorry about that," Darvey muttered. "They were going to kill Kaps."
Lucas cocked his head, made no change in his face.
"That was an acceptable trade."
Aphid stepped away from Kaps, made a sniffling noise, as if she were crying. Darvey hoped it was just the translator filling in effects.
"I found the Tweep ship," she said. "The only one in the area this week. It didn't report touching down at Terminal 2, but it passed by a few relays this afternoon on its way out of the system."
"Where's it going?" asked Darvey. "Can we get to Centauri on time?"
"That's not it," said Aphid, shaking her head. "It's not going to a Centaurian planet at all. It's heading to the Terran system."
Kaps grunted with shock.
"Wait, you mean-"
"Earth!" said Darvey. "How fast can this thing go?"
Kaps grabbed Aphid's data pad, and tapped three buttons.
"Let's find out."
The Thomas Derra shot away from the planetside, throwing off the Tobor shuttle as it disappeared from view. Two seconds later, a piece of space garbage touch the shuttle bounced off, and was incinerated when the shuttle exploded.
Chapter 18 Answers
Number between 1 and 5.: 3 by Jan Thomas
Kind of pest.: Slug by The_Squirrel_
Alien body part.: tentacle knee cap by Rok
Song on the radio: Michael Jackson's Beat It by Rok
A Strange Way to Calm Down: tearing strips of paper into tiny bits by alphabete
Chapter 18: Questions
Eshilia's haze was lifting, but she still rambled on about strange subjects at the slightest provocation. Jyi was working her towards lucidity, but it was maddeningly slow progress.
"How many of Tobor have you seen so far?"
"Which are the Tobor again?"
"Have you heard about Hash Prime?"
"Prime numbers are big and small…"
Not matter what she asked, Eshilia never made any progress. Then, finally, after two hours of effort, her eyes almost worked in unison, and she finally saw Jyi for the first time.
"Where am I?"
"A Tobor ship," said Jyi. "Do you remember how you got here?"
"I… I was at a party with my friends for my… my twenty-first birthday, and… there was this flash, and… Ryen… my boyfriend… he's… he's dead, isn't he?"
"I don't know," said Jyi, as Eshilia's eyes filled with tears. "I'll find out for you. You have to stay calm, all right? Stay calm."
Eshilia started to sob, wrestling against the straps that held her down. Her breathing got faster, sharper, and she gasped for air, weeping, straining her legs, trying to get free.
"Help me!" she yelled. "Somebody help me!"
Jyi shushed her urgently, tried to talk over the cries.
"Eshie… Eshie, I need you to stay calm. Shh. Stay calm. It's going to be all right."
"It's… it's not going to be all right! Ryen is dead!"
"He's not dead, Eshie. You don't know that."
"I do! He's dead!"
"Eshie, I need you to listen to me!" Jyi said, force coming back to her voice, the softer edge all but gone.
"Eshie, think calm thoughts. You know what I do when I'm upset?" Eshilia slowed her crying, blinked back tears, her bright blue eyes shining in the dim light. Jyi continued, softer again: "It's silly, but ever since I was a little girl, I tear strips of paper into little bits. Squares, you know? Little rough-edged squares."
Eshilia's crying had all but stopped. She sniffled, swallowed.
"Squares…" she whispered.
"On really bad days, my bed would be covered with tiny paper squares. All different colours. Like a scattered rainbow. And I'd take those squares, and I'd glue them together, and I'd make these giant mosaics… pictures of flowers, or sunny days, or my mom and dad… and it was like I was turning all the hate and the hurt and sadness of the world into something beautiful."
Eshilia smiled weakly.
"They sound wonderful," she said.
"They were," nodded Jyi.
The Tobor returned, striding with cocky confidence, and bared their teeth at the sight of the two women taking. The closest Tobor grunted, put Jyi's leg back in position.
"Not a tweaker after all, are you?" he snorted.
"No," Jyi said, eyes narrow. "Just an angry Centaurian."
The Tobor laughed, pointed to a small box at the back end of the room, flashing blue light in its centre.
"Don't bother trying the amplification," he said. "The disruptor creates static to keep us safe. Learned the hard way, dealing with so many of your kind."
Jyi strained against the straps.
"Not that your freakish Centaurian mind tricks would stop our plan," he laughed, waving his paws and rolling his eyes, then laughing. "After this last test, we'll be ready to wipe out you slugs on a massive scale."
"Good luck with that," she sneered.
"You are overconfident for someone about to die."
"I was going to say the same to you."
He laughed, then kicked her in the knee. She roared in pain, but bit back a cry, narrowing her eyes and putting on a smile.
"How'd you like it when your race got their asses handed to them over and over again in the Three Year War?" she said. "Did it hurt your pride, or do you have any left after the decades of abuse you've taken from every damn species in the galaxy?"
His claws came out, and he began to growl.
"Shut your mouth, slug."
"Or what? You'll make me suffer? You Tobor are about as effective at war as a kneecap on a tentacle."
He snarled, reached back to strike, but made a fist, lowered his hand, and calmed himself.
"I lost half my family in that War," he said, his voice deep and mournful. "And they will not have died in vain. When we are done with you and your kind, the score will be settled. And it WILL be settled."
He stormed out of the room, his guards following. Jyi tried to bend her leg to test her knee, but the pain was too much. She looked over at Eshilia, who was starting to panic again.
"I can't feel anything," she said, a tremor in her voice.
"It's the disruptor," said Jyi. "Stay calm, Eshie."
"I can't FEEL anything!"
"Stay calm, Eshie. It'll be all right. Everything's under control. I've got everything under control…"
The disruptor flashed its blue light back at her, doubting every word.
Chapter 19 Answers
Something you shouldn't shoot.: crates full of contact explosive by porlob
Number between 10 and 30.: 24 by mjgoilli
Escape Plan: just stroll out, nonchalantly by porlob
A joke: What do you call three indians in a tree? by mjgoilli
Chapter 19: Legalities
Darvey was trying to get gel off his hands as he entered the cockpit. The gel definitely made the back of his neck feel better, but it just wouldn't come off his hands. He almost didn't notice the tension in the room.
"Okay, okay," said Kaps, waving his hands. Aphid was sitting across from him, her body rigid, antennae back, almost hostile. "That wasn't the best delivery. Try this one. Hey Darvey! Listen! What do you call a Tobor in a tree?"
Darvey winced at the pain as he touched the burn again.
"I don't know. What?"
"Come on, guess."
Nobody spoke for a moment.
"No," said Kaps. "It's one less Tobor on the ground.
Darvey nodded, unimpressed.
"Great. Ha. Magic."
"Okay," said Kaps. "What's two Tobor in a tree?"
"Two fewer Tobor on the ground?"
"No!" laughed Kaps. "It's one more Tobor in the tree!"
Darvey sat at the desk, massaging his neck.
"So what are three Tobor in a tree?"
"Two more Tobor in the tree?"
"No!" cackled Kaps. "It's an ambush!"
No one spoke for quite some time.
"So," Darvey said. "Any idea how to get this stuff off my hands? It's really disgusting."
Aphid got to her feet, slid over next to Darvey, and took her hand in hers. She looked at the gel.
"That does look terrible," she said. "I can lick it off if you like."
She met his eyes. He did not know what to say.
Kaps got up suddenly, pushed in his chair awkwardly, and backed away from the table.
"I'm… uh… going to get the weapons ready," he said.
"Jyi said you're not allowed to use those guns anymore!" Aphid called to him, and he ducked back in.
"She was joking," he said.
"She really wasn't Kaps."
"What good is a weapons expert that can't fire weapons?" he exclaimed.
"Exactly my point!" laughed Aphid.
He slammed his fist into the wall.
"I'm a good shot," he said.
"I know a crate of contact explosives that wouldn't agree."
He stormed out of the room, and a large protozoa-like created scurried past him, laying low and pausing every few steps. Aphid returned to stroking the gel off Darvey's hand, putting her arm into her hand and sucking it clean in slow, delicate motions.
Darvey began to back away when Lucas came into the room, almost stepping on the protozoa.
"Darvey," he said. "We have received a ruling on your techniques."
"Great," said Darvey, standing up and taking his hand away from a whimpering Aphid.
"No," said Lucas. "The ruling is not favourable. You are hereby ordered to abide by all CSA regulations. At all times."
Darvey rolled his eyes.
"The regulations don't matter when there are lives at stake. I'm not apologizing."
"This is not a question of apologies," said Lucas. "It is about legalities. You cannot write the laws as you go."
"That's not what I'm doing!"
"The key to law enforcement," Lucas said, stepping closer, "is replicable results that deter crime. If you cannot build your case carefully - the proper way - the Orillians will dispute our jurisdiction over this issue, and very likely sabotage our efforts."
"What, it's a pissing match? They'd really sacrifice innocent lives over JURSIDICTION?"
"They only reluctantly accept CSA involvement in their District. We cannot give them a reason to force us out. If we are transferred out, you will never see your home again."
Darvey took a step back, knotting his brow, staring into the space between himself and Lucas. There was something there that he couldn't put his finger on. Something obvious, but just not… clear…
The protozoa peeked its head out from under the desk, but Darvey missed it, looking at Lucas with new energy.
"The Orillians are in charge of the District Earth is in?" he asked.
"Yes," said Lucas. Earth has one council member, and the other twenty-four are are Orillian. Do not think you can depend on the District Authority to protect you if you step-"
"It's a power grab!" Darvey said, shaking his head. "The Tobor aren't behind this, the Orillians are! They aren't trying to kill Centaurians, they're using the Tobor's feud as an excuse to test Hash Prime!" He turned to Aphid. "Humans and Centaurians are almost identical, physically, right?"
"They want control of the District, so they're going to make a drug that will wipe out the human race!"
Concluded in The New Real, Day 2, con't