Tuesday

Mr. Popular

Co-authored by Ciarente and Silver Night

*****************

"All right," Amieta said grimly. "You know what to do. Let's hope this time we'll see the last of him."

Colonel Sarakai Voutelen nodded, and spoke into her com. “That’s a go on Operation safeguard. Repeat, safeguard is go.”

**********

1

Detective Rudaert Carlan surveyed the body. Male, average height, fair hair. Might have been Intaki looking, when he was alive. The detective sipped his coffee and released an annoyed sigh, "This is just what I need with a turf war going on. What have we got, Brere?"

The forensics tech looked up from where she was squatting next to the corpse. "Well, we're almost done here. Minor injuries, signs of a struggle. Then this," she indicated a jagged wound starting near the waist and stopping only slightly below the diaphragm. "Which would have been fatal, though it missed the major blood vessels. Very deep, a good sized combat knife, I think. Whoever did it was strong too. Strong enough they could probably bench press you."

Rudaert snorted, his impressive girth was a running joke in the force, "You said 'would have' been fatal? That didn't kill him?"

"That's the weird part. " Brere wrinkled her nose, "Seems like someone must have gotten impatient." She pressed down on the dead man's chest. "See that froth? He drowned. It gets better too, Rude."

She carefully turned the body until the back of the neck was visible. "How about that?"

The detective grunted, "Shit. A podder? Does Fortune hate me? Do we have an ID?"

"Yeah, it just came through, positive match. Jorion Roth. He was FIO."

"FIO?" Rudaert considered for a moment, then smiled, "Good, it's their problem. I'll give them a call and let them know about the steaming pile they are about to get handed. I love inter-agency cooperation."

**********

Sarakai stopped respectfully just inside the hatch to Amieta's private quarters, "Drop-off was successful. The authorities found the body a short time ago."

Amieta looked up from where she was adjusting one of her prosthetics, the fingers of that hand twitching rhythmically among a scattering of tools, "Good. That information should hit the cloning bank any minute now.” She frowned down at the twitching fingers, tightened a screw. “Just make sure that he isn't killed after they wake him up - Spirits know he isn't exactly Mr Popular. We may not get another chance, if he gets wise to it."

**********

2

Jorion Roth walked through the sparsely populated corridors, headed to the transportation terminal. Running a hand over his bald, new clone scalp, he brought up the time and date.
A month out of date. A month in which I died twice. And anyone who could tell me what happened ... He shivered slightly at the recollection of the holonews feed, the flattened buildings where the FIO office had been, the desperate efforts to contain the lethal virus ...

Roth kept a wary eye on his surroundings. He hadn't just died twice in the last month, after all. Someone killed him twice. Still, he wasn't excessively worried when he came to the police checkpoint. Four officers in full unpowered armor, mirrored face plates covering their expressions. The sergeant in charge, no helmet, looked bored, "Identification please."

He dug his ID out and handed it over, "Things with the State have gotten worse? I was just cloned, and..."

The officer smiled and handed back the ID as he interrupted Jorion, "I know."

'Police' grabbed him on either side, and he felt a cold pinch on his neck.


**********

Amieta leaned on the railing, looking down at the hanger, cigarette dangling from one matte metal hand. Sarakai cleared her throat politely, although she had no doubt her CO had heard her footsteps on the catwalk as she approached. "Everything is going smoothly, sir."

Amieta nodded and drew on the cigarette. "Time to give our pet Angel a call then."

**********

3

Two marine privates dropped Jorion none too gently, unconscious, in a heap at Commander Amieta Invelen's feet. She looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and disgust, then shrugged, "Alright, get him down to Sanik for surgery."

She turned to her other guest as the marines dragged Jorion away again, "They will remove the podder implants and install a TCMC. I think you are familiar with those Ms Rask?"

Ollada Rask nodded, "So, he is the package I will deliver?"

"Yes. He will be very... docile, after the surgery. In fact, I imagine he will do anything you ask him to. Those are the specifications. I trust your contact in Curse can deliver what we require?"

Rask snorted, "Eagerly. Normally they would have to pay, and here you - we are paying them. He will have adequate medical care, and his 'correspondence' will be allowed out. He will not ask for help?"

Invelen smiled, nearly the same smile she had worn when she had explained to Rask not so long ago that Rask, and Rask's organization were hers now, "The part of him - and the doctors assure me that it will still be there, able to see and hear and feel everything - that you would think of as him will not be able to affect the outside world at all. The personality that will be in control is rudimentary," Invelen laughed, "but it's not as if the work he will be doing is complicated. The messages will be simple too. 'I'm making progress.' That sort of thing. Let people know he's alive a couple times a year."

Rask gathered her courage, "There's the matter of my pay? There are expenses, travel documents, transportation..."

"Ballsy, I like that Ms Rask." Invelen eyed her, "Your compensation will be that you will be a step closer to being my friend. Isn't that nice?"

Rask chose not to make an issue of it.

**********

"It's confirmed she left the system with the package?" Amieta lifted a report from the pile on her desk, studied it, and put it back.

Sarakai nodded. "You sure she'll be able to deliver?"

"She doesn't have much choice, Sara.” Amieta found the file she was looking for and flipped it open. “She'll do what needs to be done."

**********

4

Rask looked at the man seated behind the desk with something like distaste. Oil from his slicked back hair stained the collar of his too-loud shirt. A gold tooth glittered under eyes that always grinned, the way a slaver hound always grinned - devoid of anything human. Acts like he is just another pimp because that hides something worse, something the rest of us would run the hell away from. Makes my skin crawl. Perfect. That Sansha bitch won't have a thing to complain about.

His name was Kuhol Airail. He was studying Jorion Roth, or what had been Jorion Roth. The Intaki was standing in a corner, his eyes empty too, though not in the same way as Airail's, "You want me to buy him? What makes you think I can afford another in the stable right now, Rask? There is the initial costs, then drugs to keep him under control and usable. Medical costs. My clientele's... particular tastes make each addition a substantial investment."

"Your tastes, excuse me, your clients' tastes, are why I picked you, Airail. I'll be picking up the tab, including medical costs. Think of him as a gift with a few strings attached."

"Gift?" Arail raised an eyebrow, "What strings though? You can't try and..."

"I'm not trying to muscle in Arail. I've got my own thing going back in the Heath, you know that." Rask lit a cigarette, as much to mask the man’s cologne as because she wanted it. "Just simple rules. I don't care what you do with him, but he needs to stay alive, understand? You'll be paid to get him top notch medical care, and he better get it. We'll be keeping an eye. No drugs, that's another one. He's to stay sober. You won't need them anyway, he does whatever anyone tells him to do, pretty much." She grinned. "He'll be Mr Popular. And he'll want to send communications sometimes, let him. Ain't no-one going to come and save him."

"You're sure about the drugs? Some of my clients have very unusual habits, and..."

Rask cut him off, "No drugs, I told you it wouldn't be a problem, and it won't be. You try to screw with me on this though Arail, and you end up like him, understand? He dies, it will go poorly. I have some... new friends. Friends who do things like this," she jerked a thumb toward Jorion, "to people who piss them off. Myself, I wouldn't want to be one of those people." She drew on her cigarette. “And I’d advise you not to be, either.”

**********

5

"Are you sure?" Ciarente asked, turning her glass between her hands. "That he ... that it's over?'


"I'm sure, Cia," Amieta said. She sipped her own drink, felt the welcome burn of the rum for the few seconds before her Spirits-cursed Zainou liver got to work scrubbing the alcohol out of her bloodstream.

"Is he ..." Ciarente hesitated. "He's still my father, Ami. I ... "

Amieta leaned forward and put her hand over Ciarente's. "He'll lead a long and healthy life, Cia. You don't need to worry about him." She smiled. "Not ever again."

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