Thursday, June 13, 2013

Closed Doors(Part 1)

      “Honor sinks where commerce long prevails,” - Oliver Goldsmith

      Money, as it is said, is the root of all evils in our world today. It can be hard to put in perspective for you how true that really is. Then again, it's not even our 'world' anymore. First it changed to our 'system', and then to our set of systems, and now it might as well be our galaxy. But no matter how far out mankind can manage to expand, that one little thing will never change. A dollar sign is enough to drive some people to do amazing things. The dollar sign is of course an artifact left over from long ago. A universal currency was needed in the new age, and thus came the galactic credit.

      Nations, you may ask? Nations became things of the past. Eventually mankind simply became too far spread out for one governing body to handle. Ruling bodies simply vary on what system you're in. It could be some ancient royal family, harkening back to times when monarchy meant something. Or perhaps the local settlement is just made up of a bunch of people wanting to get by. Though the case with most was simple. Corporations.

      Imagine a second space race. A space race that turns from a race into a rush, and you'll have the rise of the galaxy we can see today. Once the technology was perfected, it was a simple matter of using it. Combine that with the fact that clever companies found uses for the rocks they managed to dig up on their little expeditions and you have the largest rush for one place in history. Eventually any legal restrictions just became too hard to enforce. Though it wasn't all bad. A number of careers opened up, ranging from mining, to colonizing, to researching, to shipping. Or smuggling, as it were, for some.

      A common thing in these days was corporate espionage and sabotage, as one used to some fiction will be familiar with. In turn, one such profession that rose from this was that revolved around the prevention, or recovery from such. Work could range from being horribly simple, to being horribly complex, and one never knew how far down a hole they would be forced to travel.

       Another car zoomed by the window, number thirty by his count. Lifting the cup up to his lips he grimaced slightly. He hated the coffee here. Another glance around the cafe confirmed his suspicions, he was still the only patron.

       There were worse places to be left waiting. At least it was clean here. The metal tables shone under the bright light from above. The windows offered a nice few of the skylanes, allowing one to easily see the traffic zooming from here to there. If you looked hard enough you could even see the ships coming in and out of the spaceport. Not that any of that mattered to him.

       What did matter to him was that his contact was late. Again. One look at his watch made him cringe. He had deadlines to be meeting, and he needed to be meeting them now. He shouldn't have to worry so much because Frank Coban could sleep in a few hours. Not that Frank ever gave a damn about how much Alan Everett was worrying.

      It wouldn't have been worth worrying about if it were someone else. Had he been looking for some small fry's lost piggy bank, or had he been trying to recover a few bank notes here and there, it wouldn't matter. But no. He was being paid to track down a very large sum of money for one of the most powerful men in the district, and the police certainly wouldn't notice it if Alan Everett simply ceased to exist. Frank Coban might, considering he would lose his main source of income, but that of course wasn't his concern at the moment.

      With a sigh he set his empty mug off to the side. He couldn't keep drinking it, not only because it tasted terrible, but because it was going to get him wired and drive him up the wall. The waitress poked her head out of the back room, giving him a look. Smiling politely he shook his head, implying that he didn't need serving.

      The bell over the door ringing caught his attention instantly. Pointing to the chair across from him, he directed his new guest into position, his glare seeming to be ignored based on Frank's wide smile. Alan hated him more and more every day, he swore.

      “Look who finally decided to show up,” Alan muttered darkly, his tone matching his gaze. He didn't even need to look for the fat hand holding out the folder he was expecting.

      As Alan tore it from Frank's grasp, the latter man laughed. Frank Coban was a decent sized man, short in stature, but making up for it in girth. He wasn't as large as some of the people Alan had had to work for, but he got closer every few months it seemed. His light hair was long, tied back, his face clean shaven, and his smile broad and shiny. “Better late than never, right?” he said, smirk showing in his voice.

      Alan silently flipped through the papers, frowning, “Yeah, maybe when it isn't your ass on the line.” Finally coming across the page he wanted, he frowned, “Umbecko?”

      “Umbecko,” Frank said flatly.

      Alan looked up, letting out a short laugh, though it wasn't a humorous one. “Are you trying to tell me that Randy Umbecko stole twenty five large from Lee.”

      Lee, that being his only name as he only had one, owned at least three quarters of the district. Randy Umbecko was lucky he owned a shirt, and some days of the week he couldn't even say that he owned that much. He was certain desperate enough to do such a thing.

      Frank shrugged, “You know he would do it if he could. You pay me to dig, Al. That's what I dug up. What more do you want from me, his god damn head on a silver platter?” The large man reached across the table, patting a fat finger against one column of numbers, “I got three instances of incoming numbers to his account.” The finger moved to a similar column on another sheet, “Those numbers match the numbers leaving Lee's account right there.”

      Alan nodded slowly, noting both items, “So how'd he do it?”

      Frank grinned, showing off his white smile, “That's the kicker, ain't it buddy? He didn't.” Reaching into his pocket he dug out another picture, sliding it over, “Random Lee Thug Number Seventy, though? He did.” Alan picked up the photo, looking it over. The man in it was hardly intimidating. He had the air of someone who wanted people to fear him, but was trying far too hard. “Swiped an account number or something, I can't tell you that one.”

      Alan nodded, rising quickly tucking all of the papers back into the folder, and folding back the collar on his overcoat, “Told you it was from the inside.”

      Frank waved a hand at him, “Yeah yeah yeah. Aren't you gonna buy me breakfast as a reward?”

      Alan gave him the finger as he headed towards the door, pulling his fedora off of the hook near it, “There's a pot of coffee you're welcome to.”

      The larger man grunted, watching his cohort leave, “You're gonna have to tell me why you wear that thing again at some point, Al. You look like you're trying too hard for the 'hard boiled detective' look sometimes.”

      Alan took his turn to grin, doing a one eighty, pushing the door to the cafe open with his back, “Look the part, Frank. You always need to look the part.” With a small tip of the hat, he was gone.

      The street wasn't crowded when Alan stepped outside, and that didn't bother him in the slightest. It was fairly clean, as was most of the district. If anyone actually knew the place's owner, that wouldn't surprise them in the slightest. Lee was a clean freak.

      His pace changed from a slow walk to a near sprint when he heard his watch beep. Why he had ever let Lee talk him into a timed contract was beyond him. Maybe he was just getting that desperate for pay.

      When he entered into the section of the district that he was looking for, he had to slow to avoid slamming straight into someone. As he drew closer to his destination his eyes settled on a certain building. It stood higher than the rest, but not by much. It was painted a bright white, the front of it almost entirely made of glass. Making his way through the revolving door he sped past the receptionist without even a tip of the hat. As he went by he managed to catch a sarcastic “Mister Lee will see you now Mister Everett.”

      His foot tapped rapidly as the elevator slowly rose higher and higher, soaring through the building, but of course not fast enough. When it finally opened it might as well have been the last exit off of a sinking cruise liner based on how fast its occupant left. Making his way across the long room, Alan slammed the file down on the large, dark wooden desk before him.

      The man behind the desk wore a bright white suit that matched the paint on his building. Grabbing the file earnestly, he began to flip through the pages within it, occasionally shooting a glance upwards at Alan over his glasses. After a few minutes had passed, he set it aside, “Very good, Alan.”

      Alan frowned, letting out another short laugh, “'Very good'?” When Lee gave him a look, he put his hands up defensively, “Fine, fine, very good it is.”

      The man in the suit swiveled in his chair, turning to a screen. After sliding through a few menus, he turned back, “You're paid. You're welcome to leave, Mister Everett.” The man standing opened his mouth to say something, but Lee held up a hand to stop him, “We're done here. You've been paid, the matter will be handled. I'm sure we'll work again soon.”

      With a grumble, Alan turned, tucking his hands into his pockets, and headed back across the large open office. Once he was safely in the elevator he grumbled to himself “Not if I get off of this rock you jackass.”

      Once he was back out on the street, Alan settled in on a nearby bench with a sigh. Bringing his hands out of his pockets, resting his head back against them, he surveyed his surroundings. The square in front of the tall white building wasn't overly impressive. A fountain lay in the middle, and along the outside of it there were a few smaller shops selling their odds and ends. Since it was still early in the morning the square was practically empty. People were working.

      Rising Alan silently slunk back to the cafe, hands shoved deep into his pockets. The door let out a familiar ring as he entered, noticing that Frank had yet to leave. He could easily hear why. Frank was sitting where he had left him, shoving food into his mouth in the loudest way possible.

      Taking the seat across from him, Alan smirked slightly, lacing his voice with sarcasm, “Frank, did you pay for your own food? Should I go call a doctor? Are you feeling alright?”

       Mouth still full, Frank laughed, shaking his head, “Oh har har. Look at Mister Funny Guy over here. You came back.”

      “I did.”

     “So I'm gonna guess all is well, Funny Guy?” Frank said, shoving another helping of bacon into his mouth, “Or should we start planning our big escape.”

      “I've been planning that for weeks, Frank,” Alan said bluntly, “Sooner I can leave the better.” Frank's raised eyebrow implied a question, which Alan took a stab at guessing, “I can't afford it.”

      That got another loud laugh out of him, “Amen to that brother. You seen how high they're shoving shuttle prices these days?”

      Alan frowned, taking his hat off and setting it to the side, “Can't say I have. I haven't had the time to look as of late.

      “Upwards of a grand. Probably looking closer to a one and a half.”

      A groan escaped from Alan as he flagged down the waitress to place an order, “That so.” He blinked a few times, looking Frank over, “And just why exactly are you looking?”

      Frank smirked, shrugging, “I want off of this rock just as much as you, buddy. Nothing more to it.” He pointed his fork at Alan accusingly, “Just what are you doing out here to begin with?”

      “I told you already,” Alan said flatly.

      “No, you gave me some BS answer about being on 'business'. Should I start thanking you in advance for being so specific?”

       His food arriving, Alan began to eat, only offering Frank Coban a small shrug, “It's my business.”

       The larger man rolled his eyes, “Fine fine, be all secretive. It'll get you all the ladies I'm sure. Maybe imply to 'em that you're a secret agent or something. What about our business?”

      Alan swallowed, shrugging, “Probably be getting about seven fifty a piece."

      Frank frowned, shaking his head, “Are you kidding me? I oughta just walk right into that smug face's office and deck him. Think?"

      “It's your life, not mine.”

      “Seriously, Al. He gave you what, twelve hours? That's small change pay,” Frank said, fork pointing again, “How's a guy supposed to get by on that, especially when they hike up prices on everything everyday?”

      “Why do you think I want to go home so badly?” Alan asked.

       “Oh, I just figured you missed your nice cozy office,” Frank said, smirking again, “Figured by now you'd have enough.”

       “Unforeseen financial issues,” Alan muttered. Noticing Frank's eyebrow again, he shrugged, “I had to pay for some stuff. Business, Frank. What about you? Why are you leaving?”

      “Seeing the signs, my friend,” Frank said, his voice doing its best to grow dark and ominous, “They start raising prices on stuff like that, means they want to keep people on-world. I don't like the feel of that. So, my relationship with the good old rock named Cerdala is coming to an end. Maybe I'll head your way.”

      “Oh wouldn't that be nice,” Alan muttered, finishing off his breakfast.

      Frank leaned back, resting his head against his hands, “So what's the plan now? Stow aboard a ship? Pickpocket a bit?”

      “Get another job.”
      “Get another job works.”

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