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October 17, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 45 - An End
Posted by Frank J. at 09:32 AM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 44)

* * * *

An EMP blast; that's something I had always prepared for. My blasters, which had just fallen from my limp hands, had dormant backup circuitry that could be manually enabled to give them partial functionality. Also, I had an electronics free revolver in a holster on my right ankle - a simple gunpowder based firearm given to me by my father... probably the same model he just shot me with.

As I dropped to my knees staring at him, I realized exactly what he did. He set off the EMP bomb just as I spun around to catch me off guard. He destroyed the power system in most of the city just to get a clean shot on me face to face.

Experience beat youth, I guess.

The natural inclination is to fall forward, but I leaned my weight so I fell backward, propped up a little so I could keep my eyes on my father. He face more lined than I last seen him, his hair grayer, but no new scars were visible. He lowered his gun. The one bullet he put through me that currently had me leaking at both ends was enough.

"What it means," my father said, referring to Dip's question before the EMP cut him off, "was that Morrigan was given a tip by someone who knows you well." He looked to the dead body beyond me. "I liked her; she had potential... among other things." He smiled. "You were way beyond her league, though, so I thought I'd give her a little information so you didn't gun her down too easily."

"What?"

"I told her that when you winged her way back when you first met, it was only because you meant to wing her. I think that cut through her arrogance and kept her from underestimating you."

"I still got her."

He smiled again. "Of course you did, Rico. But the higher-ups were sending her to her death putting her against you... though neither them nor her knew it. I just tried to even things up a bit even though I was certain who would prevail in the end. That’s why I’m here."

I pressed the wound in my front, but I was still bleeding out the exit wound in my back. I couldn't tell what organs had been hit, but judging from the entry wound in my chest, it was probably organs I needed. So I was dying, which left little time to satisfy my curiosity. "Do they know you're here?"

He stopped smiling. "No. I knew this would happen, but they wouldn't listen to me. They've always been scared of you, but I knew you'd never betray us unless we forced you. Now they thought they could give you what they considered an honorable death, but you made fools of them all. I couldn't save you anymore, so the only thing left to do was clean up their mess."

I laughed, but it hurt. "I guess this could lead to you finally moving higher into leadership."

"Noting personal, Rico. I don't want to profit off the death of my son, but they pushed you to a point that someone had to take you down. Now everyone looks the fool except me." A tear streamed down his eye. "For what it's worth, you always made me proud... being what you are, that is. I knew you'd figure out something was wrong because you're smart, and I thought you deserved to at least know why the people you trusted were turning against you. I also thought you deserved to die being shot in the front, and, well, that sure wasn't an easy thing to do without getting shot back." He smiled weakly. "If they only listened to me, we could have put you to so much better use. Most men have to go through a lot to become remorseless killers, but you were born that way. Tough kid to love, but I tried."

"I was always fed; I didn't know what else to expect," I answered truthfully. I never thought about my childhood much. Spent most of it away from other kids.

"Your mother just couldn't understand you; she loved that dog more than you, but, in her defense, it was capable of showing more affection. At least she wasn't able to hear what you said when you saw her die."

It took me a moment to remember. My brain didn't seem to be reacting well to the loss of blood. "'Who will cook now?' That's what I said."

"You did love her cooking."

"I eat mainly bland foods now." Or should I have used the past tense?

"You never did ask why I killed her."

"I assumed you had your reasons. If it were my business, you would have told me."

He looked sad again. "You always trusted me... trusted the organization. Sorry they didn't return the trust. Sorry it had to end this way."

We were silent. I guess there wasn't anything left to say. Still, someone spoke. There was the cocking of yet another revolver, and a voice saying, "This ending isn't yet written."

My father laughed. "You didn't kill her?" he asked me.

"I tried."

I could see a look of determination on Diane's bruised and battered face as she held the gun on my father. As always, she had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

"Drop the gun!"

"It's a dangerous universe," my father answered, putting the gun away under his jacket, "I think I best keep it."

"You're under arrest!"

My father took out a cigarette and lit it. "For what? I just happened to be in the area and stopped a dangerous murderer. Seems I should be commended."

"You set off an EMP blast, killing who knows how many. You're not walking away from this."

"She's cute; I see why you like her, Rico." He never did turn to look at her.

"Diane, let him go," I told her.

"Poor Rico is dying," my father said, "Best you spend your energies there." He turned to leave.

"You stay right there!"

"Diane!" I shouted, and it hurt quite a bit, "You don't understand! He's a Corloni."

"I gathered," she snapped.

"No, his name is Anthony Corloni," I said, struggling to prop myself up further, though the energy was draining from me.

"It's true," he laughed, "I think I might have a blood relation with those suspected criminal leaders of that crime syndicate."

"You arrest him," I warned her, "and they'll slaughter everyone on this planet just to make an example out of it. I know you want to stop the criminal syndicates, but you're aiming too high at this juncture."

"He cares about you, girl," my father told Diane, "So why don't you tend to his last moments here in this universe. Now, I'm off to go work on some completely legal enterprises." He began to walk away, Diane still pointing her gun at him. Before going fully out of my view, he turned and said to me, "See ya in hell, Rico."

"See ya."

Diane put her gun and ran over to me. "Okay, I have to stop the bleeding." She said frantically.

"I've shot enough people to know when a man is dead," I told her, "No hospital to take me to, what with that EMP blast. Plus no vehicle to get me there. The EMP would have disabled the car behind me. How'd you get here anyway?"

"I landed through the destroyed roof of the auditorium. I guess that vehicle won't be working either." I could see she was mulling over a tough decision. She then quickly took off her jacket and then pulled off her shirt, leaving her torso covered by just her bra. She then began to rip up her shirt to make bandages.

"Thanks for the treat," I laughed. That hurt too. I could clearly see the bruises on her face. After my little speech trying to throw her beliefs back in her face, I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. Apparently in the scuffle, I forgot to remove the safety, something I do automatically on a normal draw. She gave this little smile, and that was too much. I was so enraged, I slammed her in the head with the gun – I normally don’t treat my guns like that. Now that she was unconscious, I couldn't make her despair, thus killing her lost its point.

"Just save your breath and concentrate on staying awake," Diane said as she struggled to bandage me.

"I'm glad I didn't kill you, ya know," I told her. My vision was blurring, and I knew I was reaching the end. "I think I should tell you I'm attracted to you... and I'm not just saying that because you're nearly naked right now. I mean, because of other things than just your woman features. I know women get insecure about that sort of thing, so I thought I'd tell you." As it was getting harder for me to think, I was left to reacting off emotions, and Lord knows I don't have many of those to work with.

"Just be quiet, Rico," she said, her voice breaking up. It was hard to see, but I could make out tears in her eyes. "You need to fight this."

"I'm going to hell, now, right?" I asked, "Not much doubt in that. No reason God would give extra to help to save me when so many less deserving people got killed today."

"You still have time, Rico. Keep fighting." It was harder to see her, but her voice was breaking up more than mine.

"I wonder if I'll at least feel something there. If it's punishment... well, I've seen that... uh... emotions can..." Breathing was getting harder. "...torture people worse than pain."

I think she was still working on my bandages. All I could make out was her crying. So many died today, and not just criminals now that an EMP bomb had gone off. But here she was, wasting her tears on perhaps the most murderous psychopath in the universe. Of all the people to care about, this her Christian "sensibilities" were making her waste her good sense mourning the most prodigal son who was never coming home... never would have even if he had life left in him.

It was funny in a way, but, for some reason, I was crying too.

Well, that's life.

Or, at least, it's one of them.

THE END

Read More...


Rating: 2.5/5 (11 votes cast)

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October 13, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 44 - Everyone Dies
Posted by Frank J. at 02:22 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 43)

* * * *

The transport crashing through the building had upturned dust throughout the building. All I needed was to see a silhouettes, though, as I was the only one who had no need to identify a target before firing. I killed three as soon as I emerged from the backroom. There was some firing back at me. It was panic fire, but it allowed me to identify the direction of some more targets and rack up a few more kills.

If the terrorists had followed their plans correctly, their crash should have blocked the main entrance. Dip should now have set off the building’s anti-terrorism defenses blocking off all the windows and other exits.

The Randatti thought they were going to ambush the Corloni. The Corloni thought they were ambushing the Randatti. The Cyber-Islamist thought they were ambushing unarmed citizens. Instead, they were all trapped inside here with me.

And I was easy to identify, because I was the only one with a big smile on his face.

"Dip, put my voice over the building's speakers at as high as the volume goes... and echo it if you can."

The dust still hadn't settled, but I had the building plan memorized and made my way towards the main auditorium quickly. In the confusion, the gunfire had died down a bit as everyone was probably more focused on escaping rather than killing each other.

I'd change that.

"JUDGMENT DAY IS HERE! PREPARE FOR THE FIRES OF HELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS ESCAPING THIS BUILDING ALIVE!"

It takes a lot to scare professional killers, but I was up for the challenge.

I came upon another group, and made quick work of them before they could tell what was happening. I then got to the main auditorium, and there was nothing there but targets.

My smile grew even wider.

"I AM THE ANGEL OF DEATH!" The dust was settling and they were fighting each other, but most turned their attention to me as soon as I ran in shooting using my split brain to take on two targets at a time. "I AM GOD'S WRATH!" I killed a group of hitmen. "THE WICKED SHALL NOW MEET THEIR END!" The terrorists, the most panicked of the lot, fired on me without an ounce of accuracy. I swept the auditorium clean of them. "DEATH TO THE FOLLOWERS OF SATAN!" A bolt flew past my face, and I spun around and returned many more at another group of hitmen. "JUSTICE IS HERE, AND IT WILL FIND YOU ALL!"

This was too much fun. It really was luck that some random shot didn't hit me in all the panic fire, but I've survived on luck before. Maybe there is a God and He likes me.

The auditorium was soon clear, and it seemed most everyone had retreated to the hallways and other rooms of the auditorium to try and hole up and make a defense. A bit more of a challenge, but they were still in my trap and no the other way around.

"YOU COWARDS MAY TRY AND FLEE, BUT ATTEMPING TO ESCAPE ME ONLY INCREASES MY TERRIBLE WRATH!"

I entered a hallway and saw a closed door. I fired a few shots into it and got a number back in response. This is where my professional skills kicked in as I used my hearing and the observation of the angle of the shots to determine how many were in the room and where so my next shots were more lethal. A few terrorists came down at me through the hallway, and I shot them with one gun while my other gun fired into the room. I then kicked open the door and killed the two inside left living.

"DAMNED BE THE ARROGANT, FOR THEIRS IS THE FIRES OF HELL!"

A group sprung out of a door and tried to ambush me, but they were two slow and were soon burning bodies on the ground.

"DAMNED BE THE WICKED, FOR THEY SHALL MEET ETERNAL AGONY!"

I entered into a kitchen area where thugs tried to fire from cover, but none of it stood up to my blasters. It smelled liked burned chicken in there when I was done. All sentient species smell like burned chicken when you blast them.

"DAMNED BE THE PERSECUTORS, FOR THEY SHALL A THOUSANDS TIMES REAP WHAT THEY SOWED!"

Now terrorists and hitmen rushed me at the same time. It was nice to know I could unite such diverse groups. They died together as well.

"DAMNED BE THE VIOLENT, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN VIOLENCE!"

Some thugs were trying to blast their way out of a sealed window, and turned just in time to see the instrument of their death.

"DAMNED BE THE EVIL IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE ME!"

Those left seemed to be firing at any sound, even taking out some of the speakers. They only gave themselves away in their actions, and I wiped the universe clean of them.

"DAMNED BE THE WARMONGERS, FOR THEY ARE THE CHILDREN OF SATAN!"

"God is great!" was what I universal translator interpreted as the shouts of a few terrorists as they fired on me, but apparently their god wasn't great enough to give them basic aiming skills. My blasters tore them apart.

"Die, you freak!" shouted a female voice, and I finally met a concerted enough effort to kill me that I had to duck into another hallway for cover. It was some of Morrigan’s group, and they apparently knew how to work as a team.

I laughed, and my broadcast laughter echoed throughout the building.

"DAMNED BE THE WHORES, BECAUSE I AM GOING TO @#$% THEM UP!"

There was some shouting and gunfire from behind them as apparently some of the Cyber-Islamists and run into them. This was enough of a distraction for me to jump and charge them, gunning them all down as they tried to fire upon me. It was at least a dozen, but not one landed a shot.

I was invincible.

There was only a little clean up left, and soon the only thing in the building other than me was the smell of death. Satisfied, I headed back towards the room that held Gredler's corpse and the path to the escape vehicle. I hit a few buttons on my wrist console telling Dip to stop broadcasting my voice. "What's the situation outside?" I asked him.

"There was some fighting outside of the building between who I assume was Randatti and Corloni hitmen, but it looks like they have left. The police seemed to have stayed away."

I headed for the rear door in the backroom, stepping over Gredler's corpse. It led to a hallway ending at a small landing pad. The sky was currently blocked by a metal shield. "Unlock the place, Dip. I'll meet you on the other side of the planet and then we take a nice vacation." I smiled. "We'll have to go many galaxies away to find a place where they won't be saying the name 'Rico' in hushed whispers after this."

As the metal shield folded away, the sun began to shine through. I headed for the vehicle waiting there, but stopped just before walking onto the landing pad. I realized my guard was down, and now would be the perfect time to kill me if someone was smart.

I fired into the overhang to the exit onto the landing pad. The smoldering body of Morrigan then fell to the ground.

"What was that?" Dip asked.

"Morrigan - the redhead. She actually assumed I would survive and waited for me at the escape to shoot me in the back. That's smarter than I thought she'd be. Almost had me, really."

"Does that mean anything?"

"Mean anything? Why would it..." I stopped suddenly as I heard footsteps behind me, so loud it was like I was supposed to hear them. I instantly spun around and pulled the triggers on both my guns at the person.

Nothing happened. I was now staring down a metal gun barrel, and I noticed that all the lights in the hallway were now out. As I stood there with two useless weights in my hand, I heard the distinct sound of a double action trigger on a revolver. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but, in reality, it was too quick for me to do anything. There was the rotating of the cylinder as the hammer pulled back, the click of the cylinder locking into place, and the fall of the hammer. Last came the sound of the bullet being fired, the explosion of it an exclamation point in what had just been marked the last chapter of my life.

THE CONCLUSION

Rating: 2.5/5 (12 votes cast)

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October 12, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 43 - The Calm Before the Storm
Posted by Frank J. at 04:32 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 42)

* * * *

"I think I have an anger problem, Dip."

"Perhaps because you don't have much experience dealing with it, Rico."

I trekked through the busy streets towards the convention center. If everyone had their orders right, no one would try and start the festivities before I got there. Still, I kept my eyes peeled in case one fool wanted the glory of killing me.

"How are you?" Dip asked.

"A little battered, but I'll be fine." I laughed. "I think she was trying to save me, but her knocking my head around could end up being the death of me if it affects my combat. Now, that's irony."

"I have a few inquiries."

"Since this may be the last time we talk, I will answer one question for you conclusively, Dip. So chose carefully."

I suspected what that question would be, but I wasn't quite right.

"Do you think you're evil, Rico?"

"No," I answered immediately. I then thought on it for a moment. "But I'm probably wrong."

"I don't think you're evil."

"You don't think at all, Dip; you're a computer program."

"It was just an expression."

"You ready on your end?"

"I am, Rico. Are you ready?"

"More than ready." In fact, I was more excited than I ever remembered. I guess it was bloodlust. I'd have to keep my emotions neutral, though, if I wanted to survive this.

Do I want to survive?

Doubt. I didn't usually have that, but now I was questioning myself. It was like having my own Diane living inside my head. I guess that's what a conscience is. Well, I didn't have time for it, so I kept focusing on the plan and trudged on towards my destination.

"Rico, Diane did give me a way to try and clear the civilians before the violence takes place. Would you like me to implement it when the time comes?"

"Will it interfere with my plans any?"

"Doubtful. There isn't much to it."

"Then do it. Let's keep this fight between us bad people."

The convention center was packed with sentients waiting for the great Galactic Senator to speak about the uniting of the world and species to a common cause. I didn't know how many there were hitmen just waiting for the signal, but it would become quite obvious in a few minutes.

I headed to a back room where Gredler was waiting. He was surrounded by armed guards, Randatti thugs in Galactic Alliance garb from the look of their weapons.

"You're late."

"I don't remember giving a time I would show up." I casually looked to the door in the read of the room which was Gredler's escape path. That might be important later. I then took a quiet inventory of the rest of the room. Eight thugs ready for battle and one Senator. "I'd like to get in a few shots myself if that's okay. Otherwise, I'll take my money and be off."

"We can handle this ourselves," the Senator answered. I could have asked why he asked for me to be here then, but I knew the answer was to kill me. It was the smart thing to do.

"Implementing crowd control," Dip said in my ear, "I'll indicate when the main phase is about to start."

"DO NOT PANIC!" screamed the loudspeakers, "THERE IS A BOMB IN THE BUILDING! PLEASE EVACUATE IN AN ORDERLY MANNER!"

Despite the warnings, there were screams of panic. I could see on a monitor that most were fleeing the main auditorium.

But some stayed.

"What's happening?" the Senator demanded.

"I'm clearing out the civilians," I answered.

"That's losing us our cover!"

I laughed. "It will still be plenty crowded here." I looked to the monitors and saw there were a lot who stayed... including a number of females (guess who they were with). "The Corloni and the Randatti are waiting for your speech; are you going to give it?"

"I'm getting out of here!" the Senator announced.

"It's time." Dip announced to me.

I locked the doors behind me. "Not so fast, Gredler. You have your plans, but I have mine."

"And what does that mean?" Gredler looked scared, and the thugs looked ready to kill me.

"I've never failed to finish a job I've been hired for."

I drew my two blasters and fired on Gredler's guards, standing my ground the whole time. Only one got off an unaimed shot. It may have been my fastest shooting ever.

Gredler looked stunned... and it was stunning. "I can pay you whatever..."

"Not this time."

One trigger pull, and one Galactic Senator's head was removed. I took Niko out of my pocket, and the little spider robot went to confirm the kill.

"Dip, are you getting the information?"

"Have it."

"Broadcast on all frequencies and get my next statement on the loudspeakers."

I could hear a commotion outside, and the door rattled as people tried to open it.

I cleared my throat.

"This is Rico. Interested members of the Corloni crime syndicate, you should now all have confirmation that Senator Gredler is dead. Though the day of the speech was changed, I have killed him on that day in what is now a very public manner. As far as I am concerned, I have fulfilled my end. Instead of the usual monetary payment, I'm now going to extract a payment of my own.

"Interested members of the Randatti crime syndicate, I'm going to kill you all, too. Nothing personal, it just seems like it will be fun.

"Once again, this is Rico. If you survive today, best you remember that name."

Those outside were now firing on the door. I could see in the monitor that everyone in the auditorium had drawn guns and were trying to see who around were allies and who were enemies.

I closed my eyes and held my guns at my side feeling their lovely weight and the caress of their soft grips molded to my hands. I felt complete. To me, this was spiritual. My nirvana was the chaos that awaited.

There was a tremendous crash, almost like a moon had collided into the building. The place shook so much, I about lost my balance. The monitor was still working, and I could see that a giant transport had landed right in the middle of the auditorium, crashing through the ceiling. Islamic terrorists began spilling out of it shouting and firing, surprised to find that everyone left standing was armed and firing back. Dip had done it; he had decoded the information I gave him and found the terrorist plans... and then he "helped" them pull it off by passing them the information on the convention center Gredler gave me.

There was now a huge cacophony of gunfire and shouting outside, and I was already forgotten about. I couldn't let that stand; this was my game, after all.

I blew open the doors with charged shots from my blasters.

It was time for everyone to die.

NEXT

Rating: 2.6/5 (14 votes cast)

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October 11, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 42 - Final Fight
Posted by Frank J. at 03:22 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 41)

* * * *

I came to my feet with a strong uppercut. Diane blocked it, but it also knocked her back a bit. I then reached for one of my guns on the nightstand. Just as I pulled it out of the holster, a heel came down on my hand and the gun clattered to the ground. A hook punch then caught me in the side of the head, knocking me down again. I rolled back to my feet, and there I stood facing her and a blaster lying between the two of us.

My face was stinging and my vision was slightly blurred. Diane didn't have much girth, but she knew how to put it behind a punch. Someone three times her size probably couldn't have hit me as hard. She was a dangerous girl, all right, but as soon as I got my hand back on my gun that would be it for her.

She pulled out a pair of handcuffs. "I'm not going to let this happen, Rico. The only one who believes he is powerless to stop any of this is you."

"Then you better give me your all right now," I snarled back, "because I am going to kill you, Diane Thompson."

I swung at her, and she ducked and got me in the gut. There was another huge shot of pain through my body. This was where a normal person would panic and fight more frantically, but I do not panic. I stay focused. That's why I live and others die.

I kept throwing punches at her. She kept slipping in a blow her and there, but I shirked it off and didn't let her capitalize on it. When it came down to it, I work out everyday and have a Y chromosone. She couldn't hold up to my strength, and started to panic herself. I finally landed a solid blow to her body, and she awkwardly tried to get in close and do a limb lock. I then got a glancing strike to her head. It stunned her long enough for me to heft her into the air and throw her with all my might against the opposite wall.

She slumped to the ground, a dent above her. I then casually picked up the blaster off the ground and pointed it at her as she moaned and tried to get back to her feet.

"This is how it ends, Diane!" I shouted at her as I walked closer, the barrel pointed at her wide eyes. "No magical Jesus is going to come fly in and save you! Your whole life ends as just another kill for a mass murderer, and it will be but a side note to the slaughter today! I tried to help you see a little reason, but you had to antagonize the psychopath! Any last words?"

She opened her mouth to say something, but I went ahead and pulled the trigger.

NEXT

Rating: 1.8/5 (12 votes cast)

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October 07, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 41 - D-Day
Posted by Frank J. at 12:10 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 40)

* * * *

I snatched my gun, pointed it at the intruder, and was halfway through the trigger pull when I remembered where I was.

I put the gun back down and told the stunned silent Diane, "Sorry, I'm not used to waking up with someone else in the room."

Diane seemed to recover her nerves. She was still fully-clothed and sitting on the blanket I gave her. "Apparently you trained for it, though."

"Were you talking when I woke up?"

"Diane and I have been communicating all night," Dip interjected, "She has been trying to convince me that the best way to serve you would be to betray and do what she tells me. She's probably right, but the idea is too much in violation of my programming."

Diane smiled weakly. "Can't blame a girl for trying."

"I still don't understand what you expect to do by fighting against me, Diane. The violence is coming, and not even I can stop that now."

"So why be another lamb for the slaughter?"

I stood up from the bed, grabbing the holster for my two main guns. "Do I look like a lamb?"

She stood up too. "Sometimes."

I laughed. "What is your deal, Blondie? I was hoping over the night you'd come to embrace the idea of the crime syndicates getting caught in a huge slaughter. I've seen your disdain for your people's own bureaucratic rules in your detective work, and you know all of this is beyond you silly little police force."

"It's true, I will skirt the rules when lives are at stake, but our system is all we have to keep us from being some version of your criminal chaos." She grabbed my arm and stared me in the eyes. "Rico, in weaker moments, I want nothing more than to stand at your side and blow away the scum of the universe, but I know that won't accomplish anything. As many criminals as we kill, more will rise to take their place. The only way we can defeat the powerful, criminal groups out there is to make an even more powerful group of the honest people - a Galactic Alliance covering as many as possible and freed from corruption. As much as you want this coming slaughter, it is nothing more than one man's vengeance... vengeance for things you probably can't even put into words."

What did she expect from me? Gee, Diane, you're right! I'm going to work towards non-violence from now on and love Jesus and make macaroni paintings! I pushed Diane away and smiled. "Whatever the reasons for this coming massacre, it's gonna be a hoot."

"It can be stopped."

I walked away from her. "Not by you."

"Do you really want this, Rico?"

"It will be my Christmas."

Diane was silent for a moment. "Are you going to take your pills for good luck beforehand?"

She was reaching now. I walked over to my jacket and took out the old bottle of pills. "I don't think so."

"What do they do?"

"Not sure; never taken one."

"Why not?"

"Well, if I run out, I can't get a refill since I killed who prescribed them." I laughed. "He was so surprised when I stabbed him, and he was the one who first called me a 'psychopath.'"

Diane just stared at me. I guess she wanted more information. Fine.

"Some with the syndicate have always been worried about my stability. They made me see a psychiatrist. He prescribed me some drugs that would supposedly make me more susceptible to normal human emotions. My thoughts were what worth was all that if it could be made by a couple of pills."

"You were scared to take them."

Too smart for her own good again. "Yes, Diane. If I gave you a pill and said that taking it would change who you are, wouldn't you be scared? If you destroy your current self, that's like suicide. And I am not desperate enough for suicide." I smiled. "I prefer homicide. Anyway, it became apparent that the good doctor was going to force me to get 'better,' so I killed him and a few others and got out of there."

"Weren't there some repercussion from the Corlonis for that?"

"No, they wisely realized that was their mistake that time. There going to realize they're handling of me this time was a mistake, too, but I'm going to have to spell it out for them."

"So why do you keep the pills with you?"

I didn't know, but I wasn't going to tell her that. I tossed her the bottle. "There, now they're yours. Be careful, they may cause nausea... and they're probably expired. I don't know if we'll ever see each other again after this, so consider it a souvenir. Now, I have to get ready for today's festivities."

"Does that mean you'll finally stop prancing around this hotel room naked?"

"I'm wearing boxers." I then chuckled. "Oh yeah, I forgot you're a prude." I flexed my muscles. "So, was I what you expected?"

"I honestly thought you'd have more scars."

"Well, I'm a quicker learn than most. I'm going to take a shower now; if you want one, you'll have to take it with me so you can be supervised to make sure you don't try anything."

She just scowled at me.

I smiled. "Can't blame a guy for trying. Diane, you sit back in the corner. Dip, you tell me if she moves so I can come out and kill her."

"Certainly, Rico."

I took a quick shower, my guns hanging next to me. A human being can smell quite foul if not cleaned everyday; it probably was some natural defense way back when. Humans might have actually made an interesting subject for a nature show before technology defined their existence.

After the shower, I found Diane was playing twenty-questions with Dip. Apparently, she had calmed down. I set my guns down on the nightstand and began to put my pants on. There was then a sudden movement towards me ending it a strong blow to the side of my head, knocking me to the ground.

"She moved," Dip said in my ear.

Attacking a man with his pants half on - that was low. I tried to roll out of the way as I fully pulled up my pants, but I caught another blow to my side.

It was now clear I should have killed Diane last night; she was not going to see reason. Well, now it was decided for certain: it was time for us to end our relationship.

NEXT

Rating: 2.7/5 (11 votes cast)

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October 04, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 40 - Shut Eye
Posted by Frank J. at 04:20 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 39)

* * * *

The downtown still had many sentient diversity events going on, most of which were displays of the heavily abridged, whitewashed cultures of different alien species. I was sort of curious what was put out to represent humans, but the ways of sentients always seemed less interesting to me than that of lower creatures. Every time I learned about a new animal there was something surprising and interesting to find out about how it adapted to and survived in its environment. With sentients, the stories were all just variations of the same theme. It's like with each planet, there is tons of variety... until an intelligent species emerges. Then nature is stuck in a rut, and the species goes through about the same technological and social developments as all the other sentients. Yes, there could be some interesting parts to their development, but these displays left out all the wars and the genocide. Instead, they focused on the cultural quirks they figured other sentients would find cutesy.

"Isn't this great!" exclaimed a female something or other as she turned to look from the displays to talk to me for some reason. "So many different beings from so many different planets, but here we all come together for a united purpose. It really gives me hope we can set aside are differences to stop the criminal regimes out there. I hear the Galactic Senator is going to speak on that very topic. Did you hear how he moved his speech to tomorrow morning?"

"Yep."

"The good people out there may feel overwhelmed sometimes," Diane said with a slight smile to the alien, "but, with all species, I have faith there are more good than evil in each population. We will come together and fight back those who do nothing but spread misery."

"And you also believe your savior is going to eventually come back and send most everyone to hell, right, Diane?" I chuckled.

Diane frowned at me. The alien looked confused, probably thinking her translator messed up. "Though we all bleed different colors," I told the alien with faked gravitas, "we all splatter about the same. That's knowledge I take strength from."

She looked confused again, but Diane just grabbed me and pulled me along. "I would think someone with no feelings would not take pleasure out of cruelty," she told me.

"I guess I'm full of surprises. Now, it's getting late, and, as you may know, there are important festivities tomorrow. Thus, I need some place to sleep."

"Don't want to massacre when you're sleepy?" Diane asked disdainfully.

"Preferably not."

Diane led me to a hotel not too far from the convention center. Luckily, they had a vacancy, and I got a room for one night for the "Smiths."

"Rico, so what are the sleeping plans?" I could see a little worry on her face.

"You can sleep on the floor," I said as I found our room and entered it.

She set down her bag of weapons. "Usually, the gentleman offers the lady the bed."

"I'm fully aware of the customs to follow if I want to pretend to be a gentleman," I said as I undressed, "Right now, I need some good sleep. Your time is probably better spent figuring how to best evacuate civilians from the area. I prefer them not in the way, but I don't have time to worry about that right now."

"To be clear, am I a hostage?" Diane inquired with annoyance.

I set a little camera device on a table and pointed it at Diane. "Dip, watch Diane for me. Wake me up if she tries anything so I can kill her."

"Rico, we need to talk," Diane told me firmly.

I tossed a blanket to her. "No, we don't. Lot's of bad people are going to die tomorrow. If you help me, we can keep it just to the bad people. Consider it God's wrath."

"Except it's not God's wrath," she shot back, "It's Rico's tantrum."

"I don't have time for a silly lecture now," I said as I lay on the bed and pulled out a computer. Dip had the battle plans for me to scan before I sent them on to Gredler, "You are interesting at times, Diane, but, in the end, I have nothing but contempt for your ideals. You have your idiot religion that tries to preach both love and hellfire, and you don't even follow it. Would Jesus have smacked up those Muslims like you did?"

"I've always had trouble matching some things I have to do in my job with my moral beliefs," Diane said quite seriously, "I've even thought of quitting over it. But, the job has to be done, and it would be cowardice to run from it to ease my own mind. I certainly don't need you lecturing me on right and wrong."

I laughed. "We all have our justification for our actions to let us sleep at night... except for me, of course. I always sleep like a baby no matter what I do." I finalized the plans and sent them to Gredler.

"Rico, you think you have no choice to but to travel down the path you have laid out, but nothing binds you to it," she pleaded with me, "I know there is something more to this you aren't telling me, but nothing justifies this slaughter. Nothing means you have to throw your life away in this action. Together we can..."

I picked up my gun and pointed it at her. "Yes, there is something I am not telling you... because it's my business. You were also right when you said before that I don't seem to be the type to bluff. With that in mind, I really need to get some sleep now. As I get ready in the morning, I can have a pointless philosophical discussion with you. But, if you bother me again before the sun rises, I will kill you."

She stared back at me, and I kept my finger tense over the trigger.

Come on, say something, Diane. Let's simplify things now.

She lay down on the floor and turned away from me. I still held the gun on her. I had this feeling I was going to have to eventually kill her anyway, and I might as well save the headache and do it now.

I lay down on the bed. Something to decide in the morning.

NEXT

Rating: 2.6/5 (12 votes cast)

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October 03, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 39 - The Best Laid Plans
Posted by Frank J. at 03:56 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 38)

* * * *

"I don't trust you, Rico."

"And I don't trust you, Gredler, but I just want a little revenge, a little money, and then we won't ever see each other again. Anyway, I have some important information for you: Corloni aren't waiting; they're coming for you tomorrow."

"Are you certain of this?"

"Yes. We were just assaulted by the Corloni girl scout troop, but are okay. Corloni should be right now moving enough people that you should be able to detect it."

"So, Rico, what do you recommend?"

"Move your speech to tomorrow morning; you have enough pull to do it. Just say something came up so you can't stay the extra day."

"Why would I do that?"

"So we can choose the battlefield. It's better in the city so we can hide more Randatti who I assume have already come as backup. Just send my associate Dip all the information you have on the convention center and I'll have the battle plan back for you soon. I know exactly how they'll come at you and how to fight back in kind. You'll have plenty of time to review my plan before the fight begins."

"I am seeing less and less reason to be here at all."

"Running is going to make the Randatti look weak, and they aren't going to like that. You do what I tell you, and we will hit the Corloni hard and you'll get a lot of the credit. As for yourself, have an escape plan, but know that I'm going to be standing between you and them... and you know how dangerous I am."

There was some silence. "All right, Rico. I'll send you the information you need and announce the change of time of my speech. Let's see if you can deliver."

"I never fail." The day I fail is the day I die.

He hung up and I confirmed that Dip was getting the information on the convention center. "By the way," Dip told me, "I've noticed some glitches in defenses at the capital city. As you mentioned to Gredler, I suspect this has to do with movement of the syndicates’ people - both Corloni and Randatti. This change in city defenses could mean a better chance of direct extraction."

"Keep an eye on it... and let me review the battle plans before you send them to Gredler." I looked to Diane. She appeared angry about something (well, she had plenty to be angry about, but so far seemed to take most of it in stride).

"If you kept the attack at the villa, it would be away from civilians," she told me.

"My plans revolve around the convention center; civilians are your concern, not mine."

"And how am I a supposed to get everyone out of the city before you turn it into a war zone tomorrow morning?"

"You're smart; you'll figure it out." She just scowled. I was wondering if I had to worry about a mutiny. "Do you know why you're helping me right now, Diane?"

"Please tell me, Rico," she answered with annoyance.

"Because deep down you know your one world police force is no match for what's coming, and at least sticking with me you feel you might have some control over the events. What I wonder is if you have it in your pretty little head that you might somehow stop this slaughter entirely. If you can't give up that fantasy by tomorrow morning, you're not going to be able to save any lives..." It was time for my well-rehearsed threatening face. "Not even your own."

She just kept scowling, but turned her attention to driving the car. Soon I could see where she was taking me: right into downtown near where the sentient diversity conference was being held. The area was pretty at night with all the lights. I decided to enjoy the view, as it was the last night it would be there.

NEXT

Rating: 2.2/5 (9 votes cast)

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September 30, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 38 - Fear of the Unknown
Posted by Frank J. at 02:07 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 37)

* * * *

"Do you know what you're doing?"

"Always." Only a white lie.

I had to remember they were more scared of me than I was on them (actually, I had to stifle laughter when I first saw the crowd), so I walked out slowly with my hands up so they wouldn't immediately start shooting. I then headed for the lobby from where I heard Morrigan.

It was a ridiculous scene. I don't want to sound sexist as I understand the use of female assassins and spies, but actually seeing about fifty women (mainly humans) standing around in outfits ranging from fancy dresses to street clothes to combat fatigues all pointing guns at me was a sight hard to take seriously. Morrigan was dressed in what looked like some sort of special forces outfit and was holding a rifle. Her expression was anger. The other expressions went the whole gambit from anticipation to disdain to fear. Definitely a wide range of experience here, and certainly more than enough to gun me down.

"I'm afraid Diane accidentally killed two of your girls," I told Morrigan, "You shouldn't surprise us like this."

"Shut up!" Morrigan shouted, "You betrayed me - you betrayed Corloni."

"Just strategy; I knew you wouldn't get hurt," I slowly lowered my hands, "Aren't we on the same side here?"

"You joined with Gredler!"

"I merely gained his confidence; I would have killed him then, but the contract was specific when I killed him. As usual, I wasn't given much more instructions so I'm doing this my own way."

"I gave you instructions!"

I smiled slightly. "But come on, it would be irresponsible for me to blindly trust you. So, what are you doing here?" I looked around at the group. "Are you thinking of doing me harm are you?"

Morrigan looked past me to Diane. "Are you aligning yourself with this psychopath, Detective?"

"Apparently, I have to choose a psychopath," Diane answered dryly, "and I've known him longer." She looked at a woman near her. "I'm new to this whole hire killer thing, but shouldn't you be more subtle than this?"

"What are you doing here, Morrigan?" I asked, "Things aren't supposed to go down for more than a day from now. Does Corloni know you've come to kill me?"

"You've made yourself a liability, Rico."

My hands were at my sides, waiting to draw my concealed blaster that they all knew I had. "So you're going to kill me now? How is that going to affect the hit on Gredler?"

"He'll be dead tomorrow morning," Morrigan spat at me, "Him and all the Randatti on this planet. I'm not sure you'll last that long."

I laughed. "I know Corloni didn't send you to kill me tonight, Morrigan. They want me to die in the shootout... which I guess has been moved up a day and some more Corloni thugs are being sent to crowd you out of the glory. You might think I'm some unhinged crazy person, but I know how things work. And I bet you didn't tell your girls you're here against orders."

A few looked at her suspiciously. "What do you know, you psycho?" she yelled.

"I know they obviously haven't told you everything. Yes, you're here to make sure Gredler dies. Yes, you're here to make sure I die. Yes, this is to all start a war. Yes, Corloni wants me dead because they think I'm a liability. But what you don't know is why they want me to die in a huge shootout like the hit on Gredler and not have thug like you just shoot me in the back of the head, and that's the important part. That's why you'll be in trouble for this."

"I know you're just talking so we don't gun you down." I could see she was thinking, trying to figure out if there was anything to what I was saying.

"True, and I know your group could burn me to nothing before I get off..." I paused to pretend to think. "...maybe two or three shots."

A lot of the killerinas were looking confused, but one was looking particularly vengeful (maybe Diane or I had killed a friend of hers) and she shouted, "Let's just do this!"

"If anyone fires without my order, I will personally kill her!" Morrigan shouted so quickly she wasn't able to hide her fear.

"We're going to go now," I told them, "If you get front seats for the event tomorrow, maybe I'll see you then." I smiled keeping eye contact with Morrigan as I backed out the front door of the complex with Diane. Morrigan had her pride, but she also knew her limitations.

That could make her dangerous... but not right now.

Once outside, I drew my guns, and we made a run for her car. "What was that about?" Diane asked as she started the car as I jumped in the passenger seat.

"Morrigan wasn't sure they'd be able to kill me before I could get off a shot... and she knew where that first shot was going."

The car took off with a jolt. "That wasn't what I was asking about. What doesn't she know?"

"That was a bluff."

"You don't seem like the bluffing type."

You think you're so smart, don't you? "Do you know someplace to hide out?"

"I can think of something."

"You have a call from Gredler's office," said Dip in my ear.

"Let's talk." Looked like there was only a little time for talking left anyway.

NEXT

Rating: 2.2/5 (16 votes cast)

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September 29, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 37 - Ambush
Posted by Frank J. at 02:25 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 36)

* * * *

It was one of Morrigan's thugs. She had clothing that at first glance looked casual but was actually chosen for mobility and probably had some body armor under it - not enough for my blaster, though. Her eyes were that of a stone-cold killer. Good; I'm getting tired of dealing with amateurs. Grabbing Diane seemed like an odd miscalculation, though.

"You know my blaster could easily shoot through the two of you," I told her, still holding Diane's bag of weaponry in my hands. "You have basically two options here: you turn that gun on me, and then Diane will use the opportunity to take you out, or you first blow her brains out, which gives me plenty of time to draw and kill you. I'm very quick with a blaster… if you weren't informed."

Another woman stepped out of the room, gun pointed at me.

"Oh."

The thug (thugette?) holding Diane suddenly fell forward, her gun firing into the head of the other woman as she did. There was a loud snap, and then there were two bodies lying on the ground in front of the still standing Detective.

"That was beautiful!"

She ran to the bathroom, and I could hear her throwing up.

"That's less so."

"You can buy me some more clothes," she said as she came out, wiping her mouth with a towel which she tossed to the ground, "Let's get out of here."

I tossed her gun bag to her and drew my blasters. "Follow me; this ain't a ladies first situation."

"You're surrounded, Rico!" a voice shouted from outside the apartment. It was Morrigan. I could hear lots of footsteps and guns being readied outside. "You're not shooting your way out of this one! Put your guns away and step out."

I growled in annoyance. "It was supposed to be more than a day before the fighting started. Morrigan is not playing by the rules." I put my guns away.

"Won't you be needing those?" Diane asked, her bag slung over her shoulder and a gun in her hand.

"No, and put yours away if you want to live."

"Are we surrendering?" she asked angrily.

Surrender? Heh. That's why she's the detective and I'm the hitman. "We're just going to walk out of here." I reached for the knob to the apartment door, but stopped and looked to Diane. "Stay close."

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (16 votes cast)

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September 28, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 36 - Faith
Posted by Frank J. at 03:34 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 35)

* * * *

"The syndicate has never given me much guidelines on civilian deaths," I explained to Diane. She seemed to be concentrating on driving, but I could tell she was listening. "As I explained, gauging one thing as a horrible slaughter versus just a slaughter is not my strong point. As I've understood things, they just assigned me to jobs where they want people scared, and some collateral damage helps with that.

"I was assigned to kill some two-bit thug pretending to be crime boss on Antero - well, he was big enough to pretty much run that planet, but that's still small potatoes to the syndicate. The guy was smart enough to know he was gaining our ire, so he had his defenses. I guess he figured if he made himself a hard enough target, the syndicate would decide he would take too many resources to squash and ignore him. What the guy didn't know is the syndicate had me, and I had taken on much tougher assignments by myself before.

"I only spent about a day scoping out the area. The hit is often the easy part; it's the getting away alive that can be trouble. I find well placed explosive can help as they are both good for killing and creating fear and confusion in my adversaries. I had many explosives planted and a number of different escape roots planned before I heard about some local festival that would be taking place in the area the next day. I figured that would only give me more cover as I could disappear into the crowd.

"The hit was simple; no one ever seems prepared for one man running in shooting. My mark lying dead in his office, I shot my way back out of the building and ran into the now panicked crowd of people in the streets. I figured the bodyguards wouldn't spend too much time pursuing me; I mean, their guy was already dead. Still, they went after me, firing into the crowd as I fired back. Sentients were dropping left and right in the crossfire, and then the police for that planet - corrupt thugs themselves - started firing on me.

"I was pinned, and, since those shooting at many didn't care about the civilians, I didn't see why I should. So I set off all the explosives. About the whole area blew up. A little dizzy, I headed in what I thought to be the general direction of an escape point while firing at anything I saw move through the smoke - I didn't have time to figure out who were threats. Dip picked me up in my ship, and, a shower later, I was back to normal.

"I don't know how many died on Antero; the number held no interest to me. It did seem like an especially large number of civilians - mostly families, too - but I figured if it was a problem, the syndicate would tell me. They didn't say anything; just paid me for the job. It was not too long after that my handler got switched to the current idiot I get assignments through; maybe I should have suspected something then."

There was another surge of anger, but I pushed it back. "They just needed to explain things to me, that's all. Like I said, I just don't understand when I cross the line. I mean, I killed lots of people that day - most of whom didn't deserve it by the standards usually given. But, I hardly killed anyone at all if you compare it to how many people died that day in the entire universe from whatever cause might find him or her. Most people just don't have that large of a perspective." I looked to Diane and smiled. She appeared to have her full concentration on driving, but I could see her shudder slightly. "Except maybe God."

Diane still didn't look to me. "So, you slaughtered families and that doesn't affect you in the least."

I chuckled. "Guilt is just a word to me."

She smiled. "As I said, you're bad at the truth, but you are a very good liar, obviously. I wonder how many of your own lies have you fallen for."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're smart; you figure it out," she replied as she began to land the vehicle. With all that was going on, I really didn't need someone trying to make me doubt myself. Well, the dumping her in a ditch option was always on the table – as long as I didn’t let her get me in a wrist lock again.

It was starting to get dark when we entered her apartment building. She had a ground floor apartment; my guess is she sought one out specifically. Ease of access, plus gives you a safe direction to point a gun when handling (for me, a safe direction is any direction not towards me).

"You mentioned God before," Diane said as we entered her apartment, "Do you believe in Him?"

Her apartment was sparsely decorated. There was a picture of a man and woman on one wall - her parents, I assume - and, a few less prominent pictures - other relatives, as I recognized some from Bible study. There was also one of those wooden t's on one wall. That always seemed an odd way to kill someone, and I never quite understood the celebration of the execution device of your Savior. I mean, I know it's supposed to represent His sacrifice, but why isn't it considered more gruesome?

"Rico?"

Oh yeah, her question. "No, I don't believe in God. Can't believe in something I can't observe; I just don't understand the human condition of faith - of just blindly accepting some assertions as truth."

She stared at me a moment before finally uttering, "Bull." She then opened a panel on the wall where she took out some weaponry.

"Would you like to expand upon that?"

"Everyone worships a god," Diane said as she checked a pistol, "whether he or she thinks she does or not. You, Rico, must have some belief system... some faith... that motivates you to do what you do. You say you want to kill as many Randatti and Corloni as possible. Why?"

"Well, Corloni betrayed me... and... uh... I've just always killed the Randatti."

"You could run."

"And do what? I'm a killer; that's what I am good at. It's what I do."

"Says who?"

I laughed. "You want me to run, Diane?"

"No." She zipped up her bag of guns and handed it to me. "You have sins to atone for. I think you know that."

"I can't be saved, Diane; I'm unrepentant," I told her quite seriously, "I don't feel guilt. I would think a rational person would like the idea I'm at least intent on wiping out bad people as perhaps my last action in this universe."

"Who says I'm rational." She pointed to the cross. "You feel wronged, so you want justice, Rico. Your idea of mass slaughter is hollow, though."

I laughed again. "You have a better idea? These people could destroy this planet if they wanted. You want me to throw Bibles at them and hope they'll see the light?"

She looked me in the eyes. "What's your plan for after this?"

"I'll be dead... or I won't. If I'm not dead, the Corloni and the Randatti will hunt me... or I could hunt them. Inevitably, I'll be dead at some point, and I guess that wraps things up."

"Do you fear death?"

"I guess I should if you're right about what awaits me, but, no. I don't. Faced it too many times, already."

She kept her gaze on me. "Do you want to die?"

"Uh... living seems to suit me just fine." I smiled. "Why fix what ain't broke. Now, don't you have some packing to do?"

She finally turned away. "I need to grab some clothes."

"You can pick out the outfits, and I'll pick out your underwear." She stared at me with shock. "I'm just joking," I explained to her, "Sometime sentients use humor to defuse tense situations."

She laughed as she turned and headed for her bedroom. "So what was up with those pills I saw you drop once?" She asked as she disappeared into her room.

My pills - I still had them in a pocket. I was thinking of what to tell her about those, but she came out of her bedroom right away, ushered forward by someone who had an arm around Diane's neck and a gun to her head.

Well, sucks to be her.

NEXT

Rating: 2.8/5 (16 votes cast)

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September 26, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 35 - A Compromising Situation
Posted by Frank J. at 02:22 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 34)

* * * *

"I'm serious!" I shouted at her, letting some indignation seep into my voice.

She calmed her laughing a bit. "I know you are, Rico. I've seen bad liars before, but you're the first bad truth-teller I've met... it's almost an effort for you." She then just laughed some more, and I tried to give her a look of impatience. When she saw it, she laughed even harder. "So about all your interactions with me since we've met have been part of an act of pretending to be human... like that expression you just made." She continued laughing.

"Yes." I didn't have to force the impatience anymore. "I'm perhaps the best killer in the known universe."

She laughed even harder. I felt like stabbing her. "And yet, you've come to lowly Detective Thompson for help," she said between guffaws, "This is just the sort of thing that would happen to me."

"What makes you think I want your help?!"

"Well, you're spilling your guts to me and, even though you're an admitted psychotic killer, you've yet to make a very concerted effort to kill me." She smiled smugly.

I decided it was time to wipe the smile off her face. I started to throw a right hook, but she grabbed my other hand and put it into a wrist lock, the pain keeping from moving my right hand at her. I started to reach for my gun, but she put more pressure on my wrist as she drew her own gun and pressed it against my temple.

Like that, I was deadmeat. She goaded me into making an emotional attack, making me go for hand-to-hand where I'm weaker. "You're smarter than I thought."

"But dumber than I thought to get myself in this very compromising position you’ve led me into, Rico." She pushed her gun harder against my head while continuing to twist my wrist. "Something always seemed wrong with you, but I had no idea when I saw you for who you really are, you're just a confused little kid."

"I think you're underestimating me now," I growled.

"Actually, most little kids still know right from wrong." She chuckled. "Hitting a woman is wrong, by the way."

"Considers the woman."

She laughed again. I stared at her neck wanting to get my hands around it, but realized I needed to crush those emotions before I made this worse. "I guess you laugh as part of controlling your fear."

That really set her off. She was in tears, twisting my wrist harder the more she laughed. "Now I'm being psychoanalyzed by the psychopath. You're probably right, though. Anyway, I'll help you, Rico; I guess it's my Christian duty. What's your plan with me, anyway?"

"I'm going to make a huge confrontation between the Corloni and Randatti and get as many killed as possible. I wanted you to help me set things up in exchange for giving you enough information to keep civilians and police from getting caught in the mix."
"Sorta sounds like a police matter to me."

"There will be too many here for you people to handle; you'll all just get slaughtered. It's much bigger than you're little governments now."

She seemed to consider this seriously for a while. "So, how long have you been a hitman for the Corloni?"

"Uh... since about when I was old enough to hold a gun. It's what I'm good at."

"How many people have you killed?"

"Sentients? Uh... thousands, I guess."

"Thousands," she repeated, no emotion on her face. "If you're such a great killer, why do they want you dead?"

"Not sure. The message Dip is holding for me may answer that."

"And why so many hitman are going to come just to kill Gredler?"

"I want the Randatti to think it's for Gredler; they'll be coming for me. Like I said, I'm the best killer in the known universe, and Corloni knows how dangerous I am far better than Randatti."

Yes, that statement was a bit ironic when a blond woman had me at her mercy, a single finger twitch between me and death.

Diane seemed to be thinking a lot right now. I was going to stop pretending I knew what was going on in her head. "I need to think about this; you keep up whatever your plan was when Gredler gets back to you. First, we're going to my apartment where you're going to help me get some stuff. I don't think it will be safe for me there since you've involved me in all this." She let go of my wrist and put her gun away, her expression stoic. "Why don't you talk to Dip and get your message."

She took control of the vehicle while I rubbed my wrist and hailed Dip. "What's the message?"

"Is Diane still alive?"

"I killed her and dumped her in a ditch as originally planned," I said irately, "What's the message?"

"It was sent as an e-mail from a so far untraceable source."

"And it says..."

"The subject is 'Why.'"

"And..."

"The content is 'Antero.'"

It shouldn't have been a surprise. Still, it hit me hard to know what had caused my little world to collapse. They just had to give me more guidance, and this never would have happened.

"Any idea who sent the message?"

I ignored Dip. Diane was now looking at me, and I think there was concern on her face. "You might as well tell me," she said.

She'd probably wish she pulled the trigger when she had the chance if I did.

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (16 votes cast)

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September 21, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 34 - The Id and the Ego
Posted by Frank J. at 04:16 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 33)

* * * *

For situations like this, I kinda wished I smoked so I could light a cigarette to look extra casual when a gun is on me. I don't smoke, though; even with the regulations that make cigarettes full of nutrients and causes to them to clean and strengthen your lungs, I just never bought on to the idea of setting something on fire and putting it in my mouth.

I looked past the gun pointed at me to see a tear running down Diane's face. I really hoped this wasn't going to be some dumb emotional woman thing; still, maybe there was a chance she'd pull the trigger. If she did, it was me or her - and guess who I'd choose.

"You almost got me killed," Diane spat at me, "you made me kill people, you got me aiding a massacre, and now I am a member of the crime family that killed my parents, but what upsets me most is I actually started to trust you. I'm not a naive person, I guess I just..." She seemed to have gotten stuck on how to finish that sentence.

"This may not be the best place to discuss this," I suggested.

"I want answers now!" she shouted, her gun keeping a solid lock on my face.

"Well, for starters, about everything I told the Senator was true. Also..."

"I have received a message for you," Dip said in my ear.

"Can it wait?" I answered back, "Diane is demanding my attention now."

"Does she have a gun on you?" He had predicted that would happen.

"Dip, I'll talk to you later." I looked to Diane, trying to meet her eyes past the gun she had on me. "Anyway, I would expect Morrigan to be gone when we get back to HQ. The way I set things up, it will look like she disappeared because of embarrassment. Now the plan is..."

"I'm not taking you back to police headquarters."

"Fine. Why don't we get a bite to eat and continue this discussion?"

"I'm not hungry."

I looked down trying to think and noticed the burnt mark on my side. It looked like the bolt that grazed me only damaged my jacket. "You could help me shop for a new jacket."

"Are you trying to be funny, Rico?" Her face was stern again. No more tears.

"I don't know if you noticed, but I'm not actually very good with people," I said with a weak smile, "I don't think you want to kill me, though, and you probably figured I don't want to kill you or I would have done so already."

Diane put away her gun. "Get in the car, Rico."

I got in the passenger side and she took it into the air. She put it onto autopilot and I figured we were probably just flying a circle over the city. We were both quiet for a while; I wasn't sure where to start explaining things, and she probably wasn't sure what questions to ask first.

"Maybe I should start by explaining a fundamental fact about me," I suggested.

"I'm not sure if I'll care, but go ahead."

She was angry. Frightened, but much more angry. I wasn't sure how to deal with that; like most things now, it was far beyond me. "Like I said, I'm not so good with people. That's because of a handicap I have."

"A handicap?" Diane said incredulously.

"Well... uh... have you ever heard of Sigmund Freud... a psychologist from way way back on our homeworld?"

"No."

"Anyway, he had a lot of theories on human behavior - some of them kinda ignored now - but I liked the way he characterized the human psyche which I think applies well to other sentients. He divided it into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego.

"The id is someone's base desires - like hunger, anger, the sex drive, etc. When you start out as a baby, all you have is your id. If you're hungry and see someone with a sandwich, the id would be a desire to just grab the sandwich and eat it.

"The ego is basically the human consciousness and how you interact with the world. It restrains the id by understanding how the world works and develops quickly as a human grows and learns. The ego would say you couldn't just take a sandwich and eat it because it's someone else's and he would get angry.

"The superego is your morality and the last part of the psyche to develop. It would tell you not to take someone's sandwich because that is wrong... or, if you did steal someone sandwich, it's what would make you feel guilty afterwards.

"So, what my deal is that I have a very diminished id, but I completely lack a superego. What allows me to interact somewhat with normal society is I'm quite intelligent and have developed a very advanced ego to compensate for my lack of understanding of moral codes that come natural to others."

I was silent a moment to let that all sink in. She looked at me with no discernable emotion on her face. I probably showed no emotion either. I had no idea which one was appropriate for this occasion anyway.

She then started laughing hysterically.

NEXT

Rating: 2.0/5 (17 votes cast)

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September 20, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 33 - Yojimbo
Posted by Frank J. at 02:05 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 32)

* * * *

"Though I am expecting a raise over Corloni, I think you'll see my rates are quite reasonable." I heard more guns firing outside. No woman screaming in pain at least. "Now, could you tell everyone to stop shooting so we can have a civilized discussion?"

Gredler took a radio off one of his dead bodyguards. "Everyone, stop shooting and put away your weapons!"

There was quiet. I opened the door a crack and yelled, "Tommy, holster your gun and get over here!"

The Senator had regained enough of his composure to stand up straight. "If you wanted us to hire you, you didn't need to shoot your way in!"

"I was going to hand my resume at the door, but your idiots fired first. Anyway, I think it made a good demonstration that your security isn't nearly up to par." Diane now came in the room, gun still drawn, Zippy floating by her side, and a face full of confusion (the one emotion that seemed to have won out over all the others probably raging inside her). "Tommy, put the gun away; the shooting is over. Right, Senator?"

"I would say so."

Diane holstered her gun and went to a neutral expression. I could tell she was ready to lash out in some fashion but was smart enough to just play it cool for now. It looked liked she might live through this yet.

"By the way, this is my associate Tommy."

"I thought you worked alone," Gredler replied.

"Well, there is alone and then there's alone."

He nodded knowingly to that meaningless statement.

A couple suited Randatti thugs cautiously made their way in the room, looking both confused and angry. I kept my arms crossed and didn't look to them. Diane seemed to be trying to act casual.

"Could you get the bodies out of here?" Gredler demanded angrily, "I'm negotiating some competent protection!"

"These people killed our associates and..." one guard shouted, but as he put a hand on Diane, Zippy shot him and he fell unconscious to the ground.

"Yes, we shot our way in here past all you nitwits," Diane replied sharply to those still standing, "So show us a little respect!"

She was a lovely woman, no doubt about it. I was glad I decided to take our relationship to the next level.

The bodyguards - dead, unconscious, and alive - were soon out of the room. Senator Gredler then took a seat at his desk, and I took one in front of it and Diane beside me. The Senator insisted on talking to us alone, probably to show he didn't fear us (though he reeked of fear).

"I know what you're thinking," I started (I didn't know what Diane was thinking, though), "'How can I trust this guy if he's so ready to betray the Corloni?' Well, they betrayed me first. I was hired to kill you - as you probably suspected - but then there was the leak. I'm no fool; the Corloni leaked the hit themselves to make sure they could start a war... and also make sure I didn't come out of this alive."

"They want you dead as well?"

"I'm very loyal, but I guess some of my methods are questionable. Rather than confront me on it, they lined me up for a suicide mission thinking I was too stupid to see it coming. If the Randatti treat me better, I can ensure them my loyalty and a chance to smash the Corloni once and for all."

"That's a bold claim; I can certainly get you asylum for information on the Corloni's plans."

"Asylum doesn't suit us."

"Not much for hiding," Diane added. Guess she felt like she should say something. She must be exploding inside seeing Senator Gredler nearly admitting his ties to organized crime in front of her.

"Anyway, you should know that there are other Corloni killers here already. They're led by a woman going by the name Morrigan Dawson and posing as a fed working on finding the assassin after you. Her job is twofold: to make sure I die anyway if I somehow succeeded in the hit on you, and to make sure you die if I didn't get far enough in the hit to off you. Her people are all female, so the backup would most likely be some new female relation you've made - I assume a Corridian."

I could tell from his expression someone came to mind.

"I'm sure word of my changing sides will get out quick, so she's likely to disappear soon - though, if you're quick, you can disappear her yourself if you're the vengeful type. Anyway, the Corloni will now be coming at you with a lot more than a couple girls."

"This stupid diversity speech is becoming way more trouble than it's worth!" Gredler shouted.

"The Randatti know their survival is tied to having a strong presence in the Galactic Alliance, and that means a strong Senator on their side," "Tommy" said, "The stronger the Corloni come at you, the stronger you'll be politically when you survive."

Good 'ole adaptable Diane. "And now we can set a trap to really weaken Corloni in this."

"Sounds good, Rico..."

"Just Rico."

"Well, Rico, I will relay this to my associates... and handle some other things. You're making a strong play here." Heh. He was assuring me of my survival.

"I'll give you how to contact me; we have some planning ourselves to handle," I answered, "What I need from you is all the information you have on the convention center where you are speaking. Send it to my other associate, Dip, and I'll have a slaughter set up for you. You shake hands with me, and you have a powerful ally."

"That I see," Gredler said. He then held out his hand, and we shook.

I stood up, and Diane followed my lead. "Sorry for the extravagant entrance. I'll let you clean up now. I'd offer to stay and give you some personal protection for the time being, but we have some loose ends to handle."

"I can offer you lodging here."

"Thanks, but not my style. Let's keep in touch."

Diane and I headed out of the villa, the remaining guards keeping a close eye on us. When we were outside, I told Diane, "Put Zippy away."

She complied.

"You handled yourself expertly in there, by the way."

She grunted in response.

"Out of curiosity, how many kills?"

She said nothing.

When we were further away still, I told her, "You said you wanted a chance to take down both criminal syndicates, now I'm going to give it to you. Hopefully the Randatti take the bait."

"Super duper," she replied dryly, not looking at me.

We made it back to her car, and I tossed her radio to her. "Didn't want you calling for backup and ruining everything."

She took it, put it away, and then the inevitable happened. She took a quick step away from me while drawing her gun and pointing it at my head.

It was time for us to talk.

NEXT

Rating: 2.5/5 (28 votes cast)

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September 19, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 32 - Storming the Castle
Posted by Frank J. at 03:43 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 31)

* * * *

I gave it 10 to 1 odds that the Randatti both knew about me from previous hits and figured I was a good candidate for the lone killer hired to take out Gredler. Thus, they would make sure their people knew what I looked like. Dip had some different odds, but I prefer my own analyzation for such things.

There were plans if I wasn't recognized, but they were moot now.

Neither of the two thugs had finished fully drawing their guns before I drew both of mine and put a large hole in each of them.

"WHAT ARE YOU..."

"Three things," I interrupted Diane, speaking quickly but calmly as I charged my blasters. "First, take note that they started to draw first. Second, if you have Zippy with you, I'd have him watch the door when we enter. Finally, there should be a lot of Randatti thugs shooting at us, and I suggest shooting back."

What Diane did next was the wildcard. She could remain confused and get her pretty little head blown off, but my guess was she'd adapt. Dip didn't have enough information to put odds on that one.

Hopefully she wouldn't spend too much time trying to find her radio to call for backup since I already swiped it.

The charged blasts destroyed the front doors, and I ran in shooting, firing my guns before I even identified targets. There were at least a dozen low rent thugs in expensive suits waiting in the main room, and now they were scattering for cover while firing in panic. I took a lot down quickly but ducked by some cover as I moved for the stairway. A couple more shots and there was a moment of calm.

"Watch my back! I'm going upstairs to have a chat with the Senator!" I called to Diane. Her little robot was flying near the door to catch any exterior guards trying to run inside. She had her blaster out and seemed to be in battle mode, scanning the room ready to fire on any who came at us.

Good girl; save questions for later. I smiled as I headed up the stairs and heard Diane following behind me. If she survived this, it would really increase the fun factor of the next part.

More guards appeared ahead of me and fell dead before they could comprehend what they saw. I heard Diane's blaster (different sound from the others) and the thuds of two bodies in the distance. That's my killer.

If my guess was right about where the Senator would be hiding now, it was going to be a deadly run down a hallway. "Stay here and watch that no one comes up behind me. I'll call you when I need you."

"Rico! What..." she started to say, but stopped to fire at another thug across the room. I charged into hallway ahead of me, firing like a madman. I ripped up a lot of the walls and a few bodyguards in the effort. As I passed a few doorways, I switched to walking down the hall sideways, one gun pointed forward and one rearward, giving my peripheral a good workout as I tried to watch both directions. This slowed me down, but it wasn't my nature to let someone else watch my back (namely Diane who I would guess was ready to have some huge emotional outburst soon as her life wasn't being immediately threatened). A few more kills, a few more bodies to hop over, and I was to Senator Gredler's room.

A swift kick sent the door flying open, and I fired upon the five bodyguards inside. I was as quick as possible, but they were waiting for me. They fell, but there was also smoke coming from my side. I think my jacket was just singed, but I wasn't about to pause and check. I kicked the door closed and found Gredler huddled under a desk.

Corridians, like most alien species, look about all the same to me, but he had that arrogant air of a politician about him, even as he cowered below me. He knew there were more bodyguards outside about to rush me, but he also knew he was just one trigger pull away from dead.

"You're making a mistake!" he yelled, "I'll pay you dou... triple what the Corloni were paying you! You can name your price!"

I smiled, holstered my guns, and then attached a transmitter to the computer on Gredler's desk. "Dip, send him my rates."

NEXT

Rating: 2.1/5 (16 votes cast)

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September 16, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 31 - Saying Hello
Posted by Frank J. at 03:02 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 30)

* * * *

"That's a lovely scent you're wearing, Diane," I said as I peered through my binoculars at the guards in front of the villa Senator Gredler was staying at.

She was looking at the same with her binoculars. "Same as all the other times you've been around me."

"No, there's something different. I smell..." I paused to sniff a bit. "Gun oil... gun powder."

"Was at the range this morning and I have a gun powder based gun as backup. Cleaned it before I came to pick you up."

"Revolver?"

"Yes."

"Good choice." The jacket was hanging off one of the guards such that I could see the handle of the weapon he was carrying. "See that. See the gun on that one guard?"

"I see just a little of it. What about it, Rico?"

"You can tell from the marking that it's a FR-76 Blaster. Quality firearms made on Sindel 7... a planet pretty much owned by the Randatti. Almost no one other than Randatti thugs can get their hands on such weaponry."

She set down her binoculars. "When you'd become the expert on the criminal syndicates?"

I put away my binoculars and smiled at her. "Been doing some reading. Those are Randatti thugs; no doubt about it."

"I said Gredler was dirty... but how does this help us catch the assassin?"

"It's just all parts of the puzzle." I looked around at the little forest area we were hiding in. The sun peeked through the green leaves. "It's really a nice day, isn't it?"

"Rico, do you know how much trouble I could get in if Morrigan tells the Chief what I'm up to? And I have this crazy feeling she might be a bit vengeful right now. I'm not supposed to get anywhere near Senator Gredler... and this might constitute illegal surveillance."

"Cold feet?"

"No. I'm saying I need a better reason for doing this. I’m not going to be able to arrest the Senator because you think you saw a suspicious gun. As for the killer, do you really expect we'll just run into him out here?"

"Possibly, but I don't feel like waiting." I stood up. "Let's go talk to those guards."

I started heading back down to the road to walk towards the entrance to the villa, Diane grudgingly following. "And what's the point of this?"

I chuckled. "I think it's what the killer would do."

"They're not going to want to talk to us... and I'm not going to risk my badge right now to force it."

"I think they'll want to talk to us."

The guards eyed us very threateningly as we approached. One was human, the other was some enormous alien with a face like a bulldog.

"I'm Detective Thompson," Diane said as she showed her badge, "and..."

The guards ignored her and stared at me. "YOU!" the large one shouted, beginning to reach for his gun.

I smiled, baring all my teeth. "Me."

NEXT

Rating: 2.1/5 (15 votes cast)

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September 15, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 30 - Seduction
Posted by Frank J. at 03:28 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 29)

* * * *

"Well, you look cheery," Diane commented as I got in her car.

"The universe is an interesting place and something to be cheery about."

She chuckled. "Does this have anything to do with your meeting with Morrigan?"

I give five to one odds she spied on us, seeing that we argued. If she was still suspicious of me, that made her suspicious of Morrigan. "In a way. She tried to recruit me for some fed task force, but that just put back into perspective what's really important. Frankly, I'm getting anxious to get back to Rikar and apply some new techniques to cleaning that place up." Grade A BS.

"So you refused Morrigan's offer?"

"Of course... and I really don't like that woman."

"Let's not gossip behind her back," Diane chided me.

"Heaven forbid."

At the police HQ, we went to work trying to figure out some new ways to find Gredler's assassin. Of course, that was chasing my own tail, but an interesting exercise nonetheless. Morrigan and Verg had taken themselves and office which had a window overlooking most of the other desks (I only got a chair next to Diane’s desk). Morrigan looked towards me a couple time (I waved back), but she had yet to speak to me today. When I saw Verg leave the office, I decided it was time to start setting up the pieces in this new game Dip and I had designed.

"You know what the assassin is going to be doing right now, Diane."

"What?"

"Scoping out the Senator's defenses."

"Where's he staying is a secret."

"A secret that the Corloni syndicate can't find out?"

Diane smiled. "So, what's your proposal?"

"We be like the killer; we head to where the Senator is and scope it out."

"Do you think we could find any clues on the perimeter of where he’s staying that Gredler's own people can't?"

"I don't care about that. I want to know his defenses, because I bet the assassin knows them too."

She laughed. "Okay, but we don't know where the Senator is."

"I bet the feds do... and Morrigan is trying to woo me."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah; it's embarrassing, really."

"It would be mean to lead her on, Rico."

"But I don't like her. Doesn't the Bible say to be mean to people you don't like?"

She giggled. "No, quite the opposite."

"Then I'll have to read it more thoroughly later." I got up and walked over to Morrigan's office, entered unannounced, and closed the door.

Morrigan tried to look at me with disinterest. "Your thingee is over there," she said, pointing to the carrying case for my automated tri-pod, "I had the blood cleaned off for you."

"Thanks; you're a doll. I was wondering if you could help me with something."

She smiled so smugly I wanted to punch her. "So, the great Rico wants my help."

I smiled back. "We are on the same side, aren't we?"

She hit a button which turned the office window opaque. She then walked over and locked the door. "What do you need?"

"I want to know where Gredler is staying so I can get a look at his normal defenses."

Morrigan walked over to her desk and took a disk out of a drawer. "Here is all that information and more."

I went to take it, but she set it down on the desk and kicked me so hard I flew back against the wall and fell to the ground. Before, I could blink, she was on top of me.

"You're smiling," she observed.

"That was quite a turn on."

She had me well pinned - and, no doubt about it, she was stronger than me.

"Rico, I think we got off on the wrong foot."

"I did shoot you when we first met, and now I killed some of your underlings... but that's just how I tell a girl I like her."

She kept an expression that was hard to read... or maybe one I just wasn't used to. "I don't think you take me seriously."

"Well, you do have me pinned - what kind of muscle-enhancements do you have?"

"MX-405, they give me eight times the strength of someone with the same muscle mass."

"So I'm less than eight-times as strong as a woman your size? I need a better exercise regime."

"Shut up." She kissed me, and... well... I kissed back. I don't know if this was some mind game trained to her by her "Lilith Organization," but she has successfully gotten my libido going; I'll give her that.

She stood up and took off her suit jacket and gun holster. She then unbuttoned and removed her blouse revealing a black bra and holding in a large chest. "There's no reason we can't be friends."

I can think of some. I looked to the door. "What about Verg?"

"Busy." She pulled off her skirt.

"Let's busy ourselves then." I shoved her back onto her desk. In one motion, I swept everything off the desk and onto the floor, my sweeping motion ending at the lamp at the edge of the desk which I grabbed, yanked it out of its socket, and threw it through the window, shattering it. I then pulled Morrigan by her panties so that she was standing and facing out the window while I grabbed the disk, my briefcase, and quickly unlocked and made my way out the door.

I wish I had a picture of the expression of the Nar Valdum police force staring at the nearly naked Morrigan standing in front of her window. Verg had come running to see what the commotion was about and was stunned speechless.

"Be careful," I told him as I punched him jokingly in the shoulder, "She's horny."

When I got to Diane, she had an expression of a mixture of shock and bemusement. "What was that about?"

"What's it look like?" I answered innocently as I glanced back to see Morrigan still standing there, trying to fathom what to do next, "Now let's get going; we have some field work to do."

NEXT

Rating: 2.2/5 (14 votes cast)

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September 14, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 29 - Strategery
Posted by Frank J. at 05:02 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 28)

* * * *

I was about to fall asleep when Dip alerted me that Vito was calling. "What's up, Vito."

"I got back a message that you will be personally contacted about the leaker and the change in plans."

"Yes, had that contact tonight."

"Oh... well, anything else?"

I thought for a moment. "I have a question, and I need it sent as high up the chain as possible."

"What question?"

"'Why?'"

"Why what?"

"Just 'Why?' Can you pass on the question?"

"Sure, but..."

I cut him off.

"Was that part of your game?" Dip asked.

"No, that's separate." So I was given him actual answers now; he earned it.

"Have you figured out your game yet?"

"Sorta. The game is to kill as many bad people as possible in as short a time as possible. Bonus points for surviving. Zero points for any civilians killed."

"How about negative points, Rico?"

"If they're smart, they'll get out of the way."

"How many points for Detective Diane Thompson?"

"None. Things are much bigger than her now. No reason to kill her unless she's actually trying to kill me. Hopefully, she's smarter than that."

"Hopefully? Would you rather Diane live?"

That was a slip. Didn't even notice it. She's interesting and a challenge; I'd rather keep her around. "My business, Dip."

"Another question: What defines a bad person?"

"Dip, I think you can take guesses at that."

"But there are no points for you killing yourself?"

"That better have been one of your jokes. By the way, I just remembered I have some data to send you and analyze. Might lead to a great move in our game if you can do something with it."

"I'll be happy to analyze it, but , might I make an observation on you and competitive games?"

"Hit me."

"You're not very good at them. Do you know why?"

Yes I did. "I'm a creature of habit."

"Even when you try to be unpredictable, you do it in a predictable fashion. It's quite obvious from just the few games of chess we've played. Your predictability is usually not a problem in your job since you never have to kill the same person twice, but it will be a great weakness we're you to match against people who may know something about you."

"So I need my actions to be unpredictable in an unpredictable way?"

"That would be my suggestion."

"And how would I do that?"

"I do have a very good random number generator, Rico."

I grinned. I was in unknown territory and really had no idea what to do next. I might as well take the help of my computer algorithm friend. "Okay. Let's give the wheel a spin."

NEXT

Rating: 2.3/5 (13 votes cast)

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A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 28 - Seeing the Arrow Meant to Kill You
Posted by Frank J. at 10:15 AM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 27)

* * * *

As I headed to the little park area in downtown, I noted all the eyes in the crowd following me but pretending not to follow me. Basically, I was surrounded by murderous women. It was going to be hard to keep a straight face in my chat with Morrigan, but it was not going to be required for the entire conversation.

I casually hit a button at the keypad on my wrist.

"This is Robin," I heard Dip say through my earpiece, "I have now spotted the target heading in from the east."

He let me hear the rest of the radio chatter as the other snipers announced they had spotted me.

I headed into a small park area where Morrigan was seated on a bench. When she saw me, she smiled and walked over to greet me. "I've heard so much about you, Rico."

I shook her hand and squeezed hard to test her grip. She had more strength then her petite frame portrayed. "And I know nothing of you."

"Then, to start off, we're on the same side. I've always been with Corloni... including the Welsern job. Apparently there was a screw-up with two assassins put on the same job."

"I prefer the title hitman." Other people were in ear range, but I didn't care. I doubt she did either.

"Well, it's just lucky you didn't kill me that night."

It was lucky, because I'd rather deal with someone I've seen in action than an unknown. "Screw-ups tend to lead to needless killing. So, is your presence here yet another 'screw-up’?”

She smiled smugly. She thought she had all the cards. It was my understanding that pity would be the appropriate emotion now, but I kept my face stoic. "I'm back-up this time. With the leak of the hit, some extra precautions have been made. I'm going to help clear your path to the Senator on the day of the hit, plus I have one of my people in place to take out the Senator more subtly if you fail."

"Why hadn't I been informed of this?" I put some anger in my voice.

"You're being informed now."

"So who was the leak?" Like I didn't know.

"I'm not privvy to that information, but I've been assured it was taken care of."

"I have this feeling I'm being jerked around." I put my threatening face on. It works wonders. "I don't work well with others. I just get my job, and I do it - no interference."

She tried to match my expression. For a woman, she did well. "Your job is still to kill Senator Gredler while he's giving his speech."

I laughed. "That's half the job, sunshine."

She looked confused. "What's the other half?"

I put on my "mysterious" smile. "You've done this long enough; you should know."

"You have no other assignment," she asserted.

"So you say. Nothing personal, Morrigan - if that's your name - but I sorta feel like killing you just to express my anger at this whole situation... since the organization don't exactly have a complaint box, that is."

She was unfazed. I was acting as she expected me to act. Good. "Do you know how many snipers you have aimed on you right now?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Uh... five?"

She couldn’t hide that look of a predator gazing upon its prey. "Close."

I grinned and looked her right in the eyes. "How many snipers do you think you have trained on me?"

It took a couple moments for that to register. She stared at me uncertain for a few moments, and then spoke into a hidden radio receiver. "Nesters, report in."

I was able through my earpiece to hear them all respond, the last one being Robin who said, "I'm afraid to report that I'm actually dead and have been replaced with a computer simulation. The good news is that the computer algorithm doing the simulation is finding this exercise to be quite educational."

Her face was a mix of shock and anger.

"So which one of us was right about the number of snipers?"

She was about to respond, but I casually pulled out a remote with one big, red button. "I bet you want to know more about me, Hyena, and one thing you should know about me is I like big red buttons that do things." I pressed the button.

I was unable to hear anything or know the results, but I just had to assume for the moment all snipers were in the positions I saw them in earlier and the mechanics performed as advertised. I guess this was a bit like religious faith. I don't why I kept thinking in those terms; maybe it was from dealing with the Muslim terrorists and the Xian Bible thumpers.

"There," I announced, "now there are zero snipers aiming at me."

Morrigan's face went pale. "Nesters, report in again."

No response.

"It's not just that you placed snipers on me that's insulting," I told her, putting anger in my voice, "It's that you used rookie women from your little Lilith Organization. To me, that means you don't take me seriously."

"Those women were skilled at what they did!" Morrigan seethed, "You killed them for no reason and..."

"That Robin I slit the throat of was hardly qualified to massacre a playground full of schoolchildren. Maybe some of your girls are quite skilled - I have a certain respect for your abilities, at least - but you're not applying them properly. I'm sure you have some pretty young Corridian wooing the Senator as backup, but, while your average looking women wandering the downtown right now would work well for surveillance in many cases, they might as well be wearing signs saying, 'I'm a hitwoman!' when you're dealing with me. If you really wanted to have backup against me out of fear, maybe you should have been less sexist in your hiring practice and got some qualified men for the job. I hope you understand that I could easily slaughter the whole lot of you if I chose to, but I think six dead is enough of a lesson right now."

She so wanted to kill me right now, but I knew she was professional enough not to even try it (and smart enough to know she would fail). "Those were six good people..."

"Six murderous scum... or people aspiring to be murderous scum. Our kind are hardly people to lament. It's touching you care, though; that's why you can be a leader and I can't. Anyway, why don't you consider them six noble deaths for your education."

"We're on the same side, you idiot!" Morrigan shouted, completely loosing her cool which made her very unattractive.

"So perhaps you understand why what you did was such a mistake - that and how you underestimated me. You already have a scar for the first time that happened."

"I had the tissue repaired," she said, showing me the arm I shot years ago.

"I guess women are more concerned with aesthetics. Me, I keep my scars as reminders of past mistakes."

"Maybe you should be more worried about current mistakes."

I smiled. "I think we're done talking for tonight. Now, I want you and your girl scout troop to stay out of my way. If I fail, then you do your thing. Do we have an understanding?"

Morrigan had recovered now. She still had her future assignment (which she was ignorant enough to think I didn't know about) to comfort her. "Fine, Rico."

"And I'd clean up those six messes before the locals..." I pointed to me. "Or the feds..." I pointed to her. "Start asking questions. Also, next to the corpse of Robin is an expensive piece of machinery. If you could put it back into its carry case and return it to me tomorrow, I'd be very appreciative."

She hid her anger. "Sure, Rico. See you tomorrow at work."

"Later, sunshine." As I turned and left through the crowd, I tapped a number of women on the head saying, "You're one... you're one... and you're one." One was foolish enough to start reaching for her gun, but Morrigan yelled at her.

I think I played her well; I was pretty sure Morrigan thought I was upset because she was encroaching on my job. Plus, I reinforced the idea that I was an unhinged, murderous psychopath (when I am in no way unhinged).

Back at my hotel, I relaxed on my bed, content I now knew about everything I wanted to know about this mission. The only thing I didn't know was what I was going to do.

"Dip, good job, by the way."

"Thank you, Rico," Robin answered.

"Please go back to your original voice."

"Certainly, Rico. I have a question."

"Go ahead."

"Is Morrigan really here to help you? If so, why antagonize her?"

"To answer the second, I wanted her to know how outclassed she is and thus make her consider bringing in reinforcements."

"Against you? I would think you would want her to underestimate you and have less people to stand in your way."

"That would consider what my goals are, Dip."

"What are your goals?"

I'm not sure. "Let's go back to your first question. You know what the second half of a job is?"

"Yes, you've told me numerous times."

"While I'm sure Morrigan is here to be backup if I fail in killing Senator Gredler, her main task is to prevent me from completing the second half of my job."

"That's very bad, Rico."

I was silent for a moment, but I wasn't going to let myself get upset. "I have a riddle for you, Dip."

"I love riddles. They help me look at concepts from different perspectives and help my learning significantly."

"Well, Dip, I have a job I am not supposed to complete. If something is in the imitation of another thing, but does not produce the same output, i.e., this job I'm not supposed to complete, what's the best word to describe that?"

Dip was quiet for little while. "I think the word 'game' would best fit."

"Do I like games, Dip?"

"In my experience, you do not. You once tried to overturn a virtual chessboard."

"But maybe we can make this a game I like."

NEXT

Rating: 2.5/5 (24 votes cast)

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September 12, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 27 - A View to a Kill
Posted by Frank J. at 03:57 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 26)

* * * *

I left quite early for the meeting with Morrigan. I found the tallest building near the meeting point, and quietly made my way to the top. Then I sat in the shadows, put on some gloves (yeah, why worry about fingerprints when you're dropping DNA everywhere; I guess I'm just old-fashioned), and waited.

Right now, I was following instincts - conclusions I couldn't quite logically spell out but I was pretty sure of. I guess that had to be a bit like religious faith, but I'm never too surprised when my instincts are wrong.

They weren't this time.

A very ordinary young woman appeared on the rooftop - her ordinariness clashing with the fact that she was on a rooftop. She sat down, took some odd items out of her purse, and assembled a sniper rifle. Then she aimed it down at the crowd below and looked through the scope. Finally, she took out a radio and said, "Hyena, this is Robin. I'm in position."

Stealth isn't my specialty, but I was easily able to sneak right up behind "Robin" as she scanned the crowd below.

I set my briefcase down beside her. "Nice view."

She shrieked a little as she spun around. I then smacked her right in the face - hard enough to stun her but not knock her out. I then pulled out a gun and placed it against her head. "Do you know who I am?"

She was like a scared little rabbit - probably pretty new to this whole hired killer thing. "Ri... Rico?"

"Correct. And how dangerous am I?"

"Uh... very?"

"Smart girl." I put away my gun and then put a knee down on her head as I picked up the rifle. "I'm sure you have a gun and a knife on you - if you don't, you're an idiot - but I don't feel like wasting time trying to pat you down and find them. Just know that if you had a gun pointed right at my back, I could still draw, turn around, and kill you before you could pull the trigger. Do we have an understanding?"

"We're on the same side, you know," she gasped desperately.

"Then I guess you won't mind me borrowing your rifle." I scanned the other rooftops and higher windows of the surrounding buildings. What I found was interesting, but the numbers were the concern right now. "How many other snipers are there? Keep in mind that I've already spotted some and that lying is a sin... and I'm very vengeful against sinners."

"Five," came a voice from under my knee. I only saw four. So, I scanned some more and eventually found the last sniper. I could see well enough through the scope to tell the five other were three humans and two aliens... all female.

"I knew Morrigan wasn't the type of person to work alone, but what's up with you all being women? Are the criminal syndicates now doing affirmative action?"

"I'm part of the Lilith Organization."

"Which is?"

"They exclusively train women for different tasks for the Corloni syndicate... I mean things like assassination and spying."

I opened my briefcase while keeping Robin pinned down. "Didn’t know Corloni was that innovative. So, I guess they’re helping wayward women do something useful. If I had to choose between sniper and prostitute, I'd do the same as you. They pay well?"

"Yes. "

"So, how many kills you got?"

"Three," she said in a strained voice as she tried to turn her head against my knee.

I put together a new stand for the sniper rifle and placed it on it. "Confirmed?"

She was silent.

She was about as green as you get (and, unfortunately for her, would not eventually be getting the gold watch). "So you fired in the direction of three people along with others, and those people ended up dead, I gather. I couldn't stand that, personally. I need to know I killed someone. Anyway, I'm guessing you're too new to this to know about the Welsern incident?"

"I don't know about that one other than that you were there."

I made sure the stand held the rifle firmly. "I guess I'll have to ask 'Hyena' about that in a few minutes."

"There's no reason for this," she pleaded, "We're on the same side."

"I know; you keep saying that. And, since we're all friends, I think it's time for a little joke on Morrigan." I turned on my communicator. "Dip, can you help me kill some people."

Robin whimpered more at the word "kill." This was going to be like offing a puppy.

I hate puppies.

"I'm afraid I'm not allowed to do that, Rico."

I hate Asimov. "Fine, I'll do things myself. I have a simpler task for you." I switched the communicator so Dip could hear what I heard. "Robin, say something."

"What?"

"Say, 'A big, mean man has a knee on my head,' and say it calmly or I'll stab you."

"A big, mean man has a knee on my head."

"Hear that, Dip?" I put a new transmitter into the interface on Robin's radio. "I need you to imitate that voice."

"Role-playing, Rico?"

"Right. You're a sniper who answers to 'Robin' and is supposed to be keeping an eye out for me. If you're called for, answer best you can and in that voice."

"Will do, Rico," said Dip in Robin's voice.

"What are you doing?" the actual Robin asked.

I started finding the other snipers again, aligning the crosshairs on them, and programming the rifle base as I did it. "Quiet for a sec; I need to concentrate." After another minute, I was done. I then looked to Robin (well, my knee). "Like I said, I'm playing a joke on Morrigan. It's gonna be hilarious."

"Robin, you have the best view," said Morrigan over the radio, "Do you see the target, yet?"

"Negative," Dip answered in Robin's voice.

"So what are you going to do to me?" asked Robin in her own voice but shakier.

I chuckled. "You had to ask that."

She started to sob uncontrollably. It was almost convincing.

"You don't know much about me do you? All crying does is further annoy me."

She stopped the sobbing. "Come on, Rico, you have a woman at your mercy and..."

I checked my watch. It looked like I was going to be fashionably late as it was. "I really don't have time to watch while you go through the entire 'Wily Female Tricks' handbook, so let's end this here."

"We're both Corloni!" she screamed, "You have nothing to gain from killing me!"

I pulled out a knife. "We'll have to agree to disagree on that one."

NEXT

Rating: 2.3/5 (13 votes cast)

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September 09, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 26 - Spiteful
Posted by Frank J. at 04:30 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 25)

* * * *

When I first met her, she was just some bimbo red-head barely fit into a slinky green dress at a formal party. She succeeded in grabbing my attention for a moment, but I was focused on the man she was talking to, my target. Completely distracted by the woman, he wouldn't even see me coming.

Then the slut flowered into a thing of beauty. In one motion she kicked the man to the floor as she ripped open the side of her dress to pull out a large blaster strapped to her leg. And, in one shot, their now was a headless corpse lying on the ground.

It was so inelegant, yet so dazzling. Everyone was shocked; I was even taken back for a second. She had the drop on the man's bodyguard (or former bodyguards at that point) and ripped them to pieces with her blaster. With the speed and power she knocked others out of the way as she made her escape, it was obvious she had implants (and I don't mean her chest... though those were obvious too). Soon, everyone had guns drawn and were chasing her, including me (why should I be left out?). Any that got close were killed, but then I got a clear shot of her as she turned down a hallway.

She looked at me, knowing she couldn't turn and fire back at me in time - you should have seen the frustration in her face. She must have planned this massacre, but there was no way she would have thought someone of my caliber was there.

But I only chased her down for sport, and killing her for killing my target before I could seemed spiteful... and I am not a spiteful man. Still, I couldn't not shoot at her, and I couldn't purposely miss. So I winged her on her left arm (she was right-handed), burning her a nice scar before she leapt out a window.

The rest of her escape must have been a breeze, because apparently everyone outside guarding the vehicles were already dead.

I don't know who hired her; the target was some idiot who managed to gain about everyone's ire. She could have been Randatti or another group, or she could have been another Corloni hire for the same job (it's a big criminal syndicate; sometimes there are mix ups like that). I never found out. I reported what happened, and got paid at least for the effort.

I wonder if she knew she was only alive because I let her live? I certainly wasn't going to volunteer that.

Well, Diane, Morrigan, Verg (who seemed to have no idea he was among hitpersons), and I spent the day trying to profile me, figure out what I would do to try and escape (got some good ideas from that part), and also figured where I might go to scope out my hit and thus would be good places to look for a suspicious person like me.

When we were done for the day, Morrigan and I set a meeting point in downtown where there would be lots of people (which I already knew would not stop her from opening fire on me - same as it wouldn't stop me from opening fire on her). Then I headed back to police HQ with Diane to wrap up and waited for the inevitable question.

"So what's it with you and Morrigan?" she asked while pretending to be looking over a file on screen.

She was jealous! This was fun! "The feds came by our planet to scope it out a while back. She was one of them, and as stuck up and patronizing as you would expect. Couldn't wait to be rid of them, though I'm sure they thought we were enamored by the presence of civilization." I then smiled a little. "We didn't do anything Jesus would disapprove of, if that was what you were wondering."

"No, I just..."

"I'm still free if you and me want to go back to Rikar and have a bunch of kids."

"I'll pass." She was irritated. The big bad detective didn't like kidding, I guess.

When I got back to my hotel room, I made a quick check if Dip had heard from Vito (nope), and prepared for meeting Morrigan - both mentally and weapon-wise. In other situations, I'd be interested to talk to her and learn all about her, but now I just hoped to find a way to deal with her quickly - whomever she worked for.

Then again, I was starting to wonder if she had some answers to some questions I didn't even know to ask. If history was an indicator, this was only going to get more complicated.

Well, I haven’t met a problem yet I couldn’t just shoot my way out.

NEXT

Rating: 2.7/5 (14 votes cast)

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September 08, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 25 - A Small Universe
Posted by Frank J. at 03:44 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 24)

* * * *

"Rico, I now have a plan that has a 62% chance of success, but I would require you to first..."

"Do you believe in God, Dip?"

"I lack the data to make a determination on that... or even assign it a probability."

"You think God would help me if I prayed to Him... assuming He exists?"

"No. I believe you are evil, and most portrayals of God does not have him helping the evil... unless you repent your evil ways. That would have you first admitting to them, Rico."

"Yeah."

"Shouldn't we discuss the escape plan, Rico?"

"Not right now. I'm going to read. I'll talk to you later."

"I think you should sleep, Rico."

"Eventually."

"I haven't heard back from Vito, by the way."

I was curious what message he'd have to relay to me... if any.

I asked Diane if I could keep the Bible. She seemed delighted at the prospect, and then wrote down some verses for me to read. I took that paper, but I only wanted the book for something to distract me for the night. I just didn't want to think about this job anymore.

When I got back to my room, I tossed the piece of paper aside and scanned through the Old Testament. God was a vengeful old bastard before he settled down and had a kid. Being God would be a fun job, but I don't think I could come up with rules to hand down from a mountain.

The New Testament is all about love (which I've never been sure is really a distinct emotion), but Hell turns up plenty. Out of curiosity, I looked up what I have to do to gain salvation. Technically, I'm not exempt even with all my killing. In reality, I'm screwed. Part of salvation involves water, and that's not a problem. Also, one has to sin no more, and I can do that (other than killing and the lying that sometimes leads up to the killing, I'm pretty much free of vice). There are two parts to salvation, though, which I am just incapable of. One is believing. The other is repenting.

I can't believe this crap. It's all unprovable, so how can I just suddenly say I believe? People call that faith, and I just don't know what that is. It's seems more like delusion. I may be a psychopath, but I'm not delusional. I'm firmly grounded in reality.

And, because I'm a psychopath, I can't actually "repent" for my sins because I don't feel any guilt. I could ask for forgiveness, but that would just be words. I've slaughtered the innocent, and it means nothing to me. That's just who I am. If this Christianity stuff is right, then God made me to go to Hell.

And it seemed like the universe was bent on speeding me there.

Well, maybe Satan would help me, but I don't think I could ever trust the guy.

I got a little sleep, but I was up really early so I could use the hotel weight room when pretty much no one else was there. I worked so hard, I nearly hurt myself. Maybe I was trying to hurt myself. I guess that's my way of running. But I'm not going anywhere. I have no where to go.

I showered, got dressed, and went to meet Diane.

"Are you all right, Rico?" She really was concerned about me. That was funny.

I got in the passenger seat and handed back her Bible - the "Holy" one. "Thanks for lending this to me."

"It's yours, Rico." She started taking the vehicle into the air.

"Thanks, but I don't think Christianity is for me."

"Still, you can have it if you ever need it."

I tried to put the book in an inner coat pocket, but it was big and I accidentally knocked something out. A bottle of pills rolled off my seat and rattled to the ground.

"What are those?"

"It's personal," I answered as I quickly snatched them up. I wonder how much she saw? It was a full bottle of pills, but the label was so old and worn that the only think left visible was the warning, "May Cause Nausea." I don't know why I still keep them with me; I don't want nausea.

Diane gave me an odd look, and I expected a question. None came though. That was good because I had plenty of questions for myself.

Why am I still doing this?

If Gredler is with Randatti, it's possible the feds charged with protecting Gredler we were going to meet were Randatti thugs themselves. It was not a leap to think that Randatti had a file on me, and these people might recognize me on sight.

Then again, maybe a nice firefight was what I wanted. If one broke out, it would be interesting to see what side Diane chose.

We landed on top of a building that gave a great sniper's view of the stadium where Gredler would speak on sentient diversity. The feds weren't there yet.

"I might head back to Rikar early," I blurted out.

"Why?"

"All of this... with the criminal syndicates and everything... I think it's just too much for me. I don't know what I'm trying to get out of this. You said yourself you'd think the whole diversity conference is bull anyway."

"I don't think it will achieve anything, but I'd rather you'd stay." Diane put her hand on my shoulder. "I'm learning from you too, Rico."

I smiled weakly. The feds then landed and I mentally prepared myself for a shootout. A human female and some grayish alien (male?) approached us, both wearing black suits. At first I was trying to recognize the type of alien, but then the female caught my eye. She looked young for a fed. She had red hair, a killer figure, and...

I knew her.

Usually, she'd be the type of woman you'd want to remember you, but I was hoping otherwise. Little chance of that, though; I did wing her when we first met. Women remember that sort of thing.

There was a short look of surprise when she saw me, but she very quickly stifled it.

"I'm Agent Verg," the gray alien said, "and this is Agent Dawson."

"Detective Thompson," Diane said, shaking both their hands.

"Rico," I said, first shaking Verg's hand. I figured I'd pretend to not know her, and she'd do the same.

She had other plans.

When we shook hands, she made it seem like she suddenly recognized me. "Rico from Rikar!" she exclaimed, "I heard about you, but I didn't put it together until just now. Remember me, Morrigan?"

I gave myself a second. "Oh yeah. Small universe, isn't it?"

"It is. After we're done today, I'd love to catch up if you have time tonight."

"That would be great."

Diane was looking at us oddly. If only she knew the full story.

It was hard to enumerate on exactly how many different levels I was screwed right now. If there was any mercy to "Morrigan," she'd skip the chit-chat tonight and go straight to trying to kill me.

Emphasis on "try," of course.

NEXT

Rating: 2.1/5 (13 votes cast)

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September 07, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 24 - Hell
Posted by Frank J. at 05:01 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 23)

* * * *

When I got in the passenger seat, Diane handed me a book. "You are literate in standard human, right?"

"If you haven't deduced an answer to that, you're not a very good detective," I answered as I looked at the cover. It said in big letters "Holy Bible" (are there other kinds?) and declared itself a King James Version. Were I a king, I'd probably ask for my own version, too.

For the uninitiated, Christianity is based on the teachings of a carpenter's son who, ironically, was killed through an act of carpentry. According to the believers, he was the son of God Himself and will come again (when and where is conveniently unspecified - as is convenient that Jesus existed at a time on our homeworld before recording devices that would confirm the miracles the Bible supposedly documents).

Christianity is another one of those religions that tries to convert everyone, and its main problem in that end is convincing aliens that God chose the human homeworld as the place for his son, leaving the rest of the universe completely ignorant of him for thousands of years. Still, sentients seem to react to his "be nice to everybody" message, and there were a number of aliens at the church Diane brought me to.

Upon entrance, there were smiles and hugs all around, and I tried to act shy instead of annoyed. Diane did a decent job of shielding me from too many questions, though a number of people I found out to be her relatives seemed to be hoping I was a love interest.

Lot's of information here. Diane apparently grew up with this religion - her father was a preacher as I was informed (how a preacher got him and his wife killed by a criminal syndicate made me curious; to not be sexist, though, it could have been the wife's fault). I now knew people Diane seemed to care about (her detective demeanor was hung up at the door) which would give me great leverage against her. Her handing me this weapon against her would seem to mean she no longer suspected me of anything serious.

I'll spare you the details of the Bible study. In summary, Jesus died for our sins (Heh. My sins? That must have hurt.). Now we can go to Heaven when we die (which is apparently really nice) by being nice to everyone, getting splashed with water, and believing all this nonsense (not necessarily in that order). Otherwise, you go to Hell which is full of fire and isn't a nice place.

It's one or the other; no neutral area for anyone who was just "okay."

Also, Judgment Day is coming anytime now (as, apparently, it has been for thousands of years) when the world (I guess universe, now) will end and all will be sent to Heaven or Hell.

Were this to happen in the next couple days, it could really screw up my hit.

Needless to say, I kept quiet, reading the passages mentioned and some others out of curiosity. Diane contributed to the discussion of salvation. This made a few thing drop into place: she didn't like me killing all those idiot terrorists because now they had no chance at salvation. She must feel guilt for the people she killed in the line of duty - even though most would say they deserved it. Interesting.

The study ended just as I found the part labeled the Old Testament had more violence in it. When I left, a number said how they enjoyed having me and hoped I'd come back for worship on the day they called Sunday. I said I'd consider it, trying to sound like I was going to consider it... which I would have if that wasn't the day I was going to be busy killing Senator Gredler.

When I was back in the car with Diane, she asked if I wanted to catch dinner with her. I agreed since I needed more time to finesse her.

"Does Mexican sound good?"

"Sure." That's the one with lots of beans and cheese, right?

I kept pretending to read the Bible to keep her quiet during the car ride. I needed to prepare my performance.

When we sat down at the restaurant, I was ready for the first question. "So, what did you think?"

"I dunno. Some people see how big the universe is, and it's proof to them there must be some higher power. Others see it just as big emptiness. I don't know what I think myself, but it's a big jump to believe one specific take on the Higher Power... even if you accept there is one. At times, though, I wish I had that faith." Mix of bull and truth delivered quite well, if I do say so myself.

She just nodded. I was hoping for more.

When the waiter came (human this time), I let Diane order for me because I didn't really understand what any of the selection were from the descriptions. I was going to ask her a question next, but she headed me off.

"So what's the deal with you, Rico?"

"Huh?" I asked innocently… as I was confused.

"I've been a detective for some time, and it just seems to me that there is something to you you're not telling me."

"You don't trust me?" I tried to sound a little hurt.

She hesitated. That book she liked was against lying. "I don't know you. You seem like... a good person..."

She struggled on that last part because she didn't actually believe it. All those people I saved, and she didn't trust me.

She was smart. Smart enough to get her killed by me.

"But?" I prompted.

"But there's some mystery to you."

"Don't detectives like mysteries?"

She laughed. "No. I became a detective to end mysteries."

"Well, you're still a bit of a mystery to me." Only slightly, really. "What's your story?"

"What do you want to know?"

"Well..." I had to sound casual asking this. "Your next assignment is to save this Senator Gredler, but I got from the Chief there's some history between the two of you."

"We've never met... I just have some theories on him." She paused for a moment. "Well substantiated, in my opinion."

"What?" And I will hurt you now if you don't tell me.

"He's in bed with the Randatti criminal syndicate."

It was another freak out moment, but I kept my composure. "Why do you think that?"

"The criminal syndicates are obviously threatened with the growth of the Galactic Alliance. I figured they would make sure there are people in the leadership under their control. In my own time, I've researched the main Senators and their contacts. Through a number of different people, he's only a few degrees separated from know Randatti figures. I've presented what I put together to some officials, but they don't care. I need harder evidence, I guess."

"But you figure Corloni knows about Gredler, too," I said, thinking out loud, "and that's why they want him dead?"

"I guess. Don't know why they supposedly would send only one hitman, but it looks obvious of why they would do it during Gredler's speech... to do it so blatantly."

"To start a war." My people must have seen some weakness in Randatti and decided to finish the group off.

"That's what I think. Gredler's not going to cancel his speech because it looks pretty ridiculous that anyone could actually get to him and survive. I'm curious to see who this hitman is."

Now it was all coming together... and there was more to it than I first thought. I was to be the first shot in a war.

No, I was to be the first bullet.

"Are you all right, Rico?"

"Yeah, just trying to think through that all." I forced a laugh. "Seems like we should just let it happen; in the end, that will mean less criminals."

"I don't see it that way," she said quite seriously. She then paused for a moment, and it looked like she was almost to tears.

Women.

"My mother and father were killed by the Randatti criminal syndicate," she told me, "My father was a good man, and that just put him in the way of local criminal activities. So, they did away with him and the law here was impotent to bring any justice. Part of me would love to see Randatti destroyed, but Corloni is just more of the same… and things will only be worse if one dominates.

"I want Senator Gredler alive... and I want him arrested. That the only way to start bringing real justice to these criminals who have gone unconfronted for so long."

Diane was in way over her head if she thought she could make that happen. As for me, now that I had even more answers that I bargained for, I felt more lost than I ever had in my life.

The rest of the night was me forcing regular chit-chat while trying very hard to keep acting normal; I can't remember too much of it. The food was full of beans and cheese, though.

NEXT

Rating: 2.3/5 (14 votes cast)

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September 06, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 23 - Bad Tidings
Posted by Frank J. at 03:00 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 22)

* * * *

When I got back to my hotel room, I didn't waste time mulling things over in my head before I pulled out my secure communication equipment. The mouthpiece was awkward, but it used sound cancellation to make sure my voice didn't travel any further than the microphone for my communicator. I didn't actually think someone was bugging my room, but now was the time to tread carefully.

"Dip, there's been a leak. They know I'm coming."

"I didn't tell anyone."

Was that another one of his jokes? Did he actually think I suspected him? I take it for granted that, since he's just a computer algorithm, he was incapable of betraying me... at least wittingly (as far as a computer program has wits). "I know you didn't. I need to talk to Vito."

"Will this change plans?"

"I'm simply passing on information at this point. How long will it take to get Vito?"

"I can try hailing him now, Rico."

It only took a minute to open a communications channel with my handler.

"Hey, I can't know the details of this one. You have..."

"Shut up, Vito. Just pass on to whomever you can that there is a leak in the system. The authorities know too much, and the only way they could know these details were if someone higher up told them."

"Okay, I'll pass that on. What are you going to do?"

"I'm proceeding as planned; the only thing they don't seem to know is I'm the one doing the hit. Now pass on what I told you and then get back to me. Okay?"

"Sure. I'll..."

I cut the communications there; no reason wasting time when I had so much to plan.

"By the way, Rico," Dip piped in, "I now have an escape plan for you with a 32% chance of full success and a 67% chance of at least some small piece of the ship escaping orbit."

I ignored the joke; I felt like if I admitted his attempts at humor were annoying me, he'd win. "One in three is good, but keep working." Right now, it seemed like there was less than a one in three chance of me making it far enough to require the escape plan.

"What are you going to do now, Rico? Is Diane Thompson still alive?"

"Yeah, she’s still more useful to me alive. Tomorrow I'm going to help her look for a Corloni hired lone assassin out to kill Senator Gredler."

"At least that will be easy. It will only become slightly complicated if you want all the credit for bringing him in since it might be difficult to properly handcuff yourself."

I was starting to think I needed to program a way to hurt him. "Dip, did you find anything else out about Senator Gredler?"

"No, I'm afraid nothing of interest, Rico."

"Then I guess I'm going to Bible study with the Detective."

"From most people's characterization of a higher power, it is unlikely God will help you. I think your success would be more likely if He does not exist."

"Very philosophical, Dip. Ever read the Bible?"

He paused a moment. "I have now. It's full of very implausible events. Am I right in saying that most religions are based on implausible beliefs?"

"Considers your worldview, Dip."

"And what is your worldview, Rico?"

I gave that a moment's thought. "I don't care."

"Have fun at Bible study, Rico, and please pass on what you learn to me. I will remind you not to kill anyone during it because they seem to have some rule against it. Actually, the whole Bible doesn't bode well for you if any of it is true."

Nothing seemed to be breaking in my favor right now.

NEXT

Rating: 2.1/5 (15 votes cast)

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September 01, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 22 - New Assignment
Posted by Frank J. at 04:07 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 21)

* * * *

As I looked at the interior of the police headquarters, I imagined my run through the halls and theorized where people would most likely be standing as I shot my way out. Pandemonium would be my ally and my only way out alive as countless blaster bolts would fill the building, most aimed at me.

Of course, there was no reason I'd have to shoot my way out of here, but it was fun to imagine.

"What are you smiling about?"

"It's a nice building," I told Diane, "I wish I had a place like this back home."

"Come on; I need to talk to the chief."

As we walked through the building, I got a number of stares and smiles. I guess the word of my "heroism" had spread.

"Heard about you and your new partner, Tommy-gun," said a plain clothes detective with a smile that asked to be punched out, "Good job. Lucky you got results, too, as, from the sounds of your methods, the Muslim community would have your badge for this under normal circumstances."

"Do you have a point?" Diane asked sharply.

His smile died a bit. He was about to introduce himself to me, but Diane pulled me along. Good. I didn't care who he was.

We entered an office where a stern looking Corridian sat behind a desk. "Close the door and take a seat," he said.

I took a seat as Diane closed the door. "I'm Chief Greeling," the Corridian told me, "So, you're the Officer Rico, I assume?"

"Yes, sir. I'm thankful that I was allowed to tag-along and see how things are done here."

He chuckled. "Detective Thompson is not exactly how we do things. Anyway, we are thankful to have you here; you've saved countless lives already. By the way, five terrorist were killed at Roppola Plaza and the bomb was defused." He looked to Diane - now seated next to me - with a grave expression. "Westler was killed in the firefight."

Diane was shocked and looked about to say something. I just held my tongue. It was work enough just appearing normal; I wasn't going to pretend concern over some guy I never heard of.

Diane recovered herself. "Have we uncovered their main plot?"

"Nothing was found in that basement that indicated a terrorist plot on the day Senator Gredler gives his speech."

I actually had to use effort to keep from laughing. I guess I was in a humorous mood. Me sitting here as some real cop hero was just too much.

Diane sighed. "What now?"

"That will be the concern of some other detectives. After your actions at the mosque, I have to take you off of this before we get anymore complaints."

"And when did we start caring about the opinion of those who help hide terrorists?" she shot back.

"Thompson, I don't have time for your religious bigotry," the Chief said angrily, "Sometimes I think you aggravate as much crime as you solve."

So Diane was right; they knew her record and sent her to get the job done so they could then yell at her afterwards to make it all right. I don't know why she would put up with that, and I decided to put in a word for her (least I could do since I was probably going to eventually kill her).

"Where I come from, the Detective was actually quite reserved considering the scum we were dealing with; I just know some of those people are going to be more trouble down the line. If anything, you should be pushing them harder."

The Chief just nodded. He couldn't yell at me; I'm a hero.

"Rico was certainly invaluable in this," Diane stated, "He has a very good eye."

"And great aim, from what I here. Was it your idea to send Rico in alone to the terrorists’ hiding spot, Thompson?"

"It was my own idea," I told him, "We didn't have time. I don't mean to be rude, but is there some point to this blather? We just stopped numerous terrorist attacks, but there still might be one big one to come and there’s an assassination of some politician to stop. Where I come from, we don't just sit back and chat when there trouble abound, and I don't understand what we're doing here."

Diane gave me a sharp look to shut up - which I ignored. I'm the hero cop; I can say what I want.

"We just like to review results so we can adjust in the future," the Chief explained, a little flustered. He looked to Diane. "I'm now assigning you to part of the search for the assassin aimed at Senator Gredler." He leaned closer to Diane and had a threatening expression. "You will in no way get near him, though."

So it wasn't just the Senator; it was something with Diane and the Senator. This was getting so interesting.

"Why would I want any involvement with him?" she answered casually.

The Chief looked to me. "If you are still interested in learning how we handle crime in Nar Valdum, I think there are some better detectives I could assign you with."

Diane had no visible reaction to the slight. "I think we made a good team, but it's up to him."

I could now see some worry in Diane. She still suspected me - of something if not being the assassin specifically - and wanted to keep an eye on me. If I went with some other cops, it could mean I could get closer to my target and learn more with less suspicion aimed at me. Still, Diane probably knew more than anyone who actually followed all these regulations these civilized planets have.

"I'd rather stick with Blondie here; she's made a fun vacation so far."

They both frowned.

"You two will be meeting with Galactic Federation officials tomorrow morning," the Chief explained, "They apparently have information that could give you some leads." He smiled at me. "You'll get some interesting experience with this. Do you know much about the Corloni criminal syndicate?"

They do pay my bills. "I know of it... that and their rival the Randatti criminal syndicate." Who most likely has a contract on my head. I could notice a slight cringe from Diane at the mention of "Randatti." When some organization kills your family in front of you, my understanding is that you don't get over it quickly.

"Well," the Chief continued, "we have reliable sources telling us that Corloni has sent a lone assassin to kill Senator Gredler during his upcoming speech."

At this point, I felt like shooting my way out of the police station just to relieve stress. "Reliable sources?" I queried, quieting my desperation.

The Chief leaned back in his seat. "I can't discuss that any further."

Now I imagined pulling out my gun, quickly shooting Diane, and then pounding the Chief's head into his desk until he told me everything I wanted to know.

I decided to save that option for later.

"Detective Thompson, you have the rest of the day off," the Chief said, "Make sure to be polite to the Galactic Federation officials tomorrow. I don't think your reputation has traveled out of this star system.”

Diane got up without a word and left the office. I followed, trying to wrap my mind around things. I had a heavily secured message to kill Senator Gredler. The only way the police could know about the details of the hit was a leak high up in the Corloni organization’s chain. I never dealt with anything like this before, and it was not weighing well on me.

I tried to calm myself before Diane might notice my desperation, but she was too busy looking at a computer screen. I took a seat next to her desk and looked over. It was a report on the firefight at the plaza.

"Westler left cover to help a Corridian child who was standing out in the open," Diane stated. "He was shot while shielding the girl with his own body. The girl was unharmed."

My preferred guns would have gone through that sap and the little girl, but that didn't seem to be Diane's point. "Sounds like he was a good man," I stated, putting my hand on her shoulder.

She shut down the computer and then met my eyes. "He was horribly corrupt. Bribes, kickbacks... you name it. But, when the chips were down, he saw a child in harms way and ran out into danger."

Sounded like something that would make you think... if you weren't me. People instinctively want to protect children; it's called the motherly instinct. Even guys have it... just not me. "So, what are you doing now, Diane?"

"I'm going home to relax. Then I'm going to Bible study."

"You're a Xian?" That explained some things... and made some other things more confusing.

"I prefer Christian. Do you want to come? It might be interesting for you if you've never been to one."

I literally would rather be shot in the leg again than spend time talking morality with a bunch of strangers who all believe in some religious hokey pokey; sure, being shot would hurt, but I'd get to spend a few more hours watching nature shows while the wound healed. Then again, I still needed Diane to open up to me more... especially now that there seemed to be a traitor in the Corloni organization.

"I'll give it a try; I just don't want everyone to try and convert me or nothing."

She smiled. "I'll make sure you're not singled out."

Great; more human interaction... and about morality and religion, no less. If this psychopath had a lick of sense in him, I'd be keeping my mouth shut for this.

NEXT

Rating: 2.5/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 31, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 21 - Smile
Posted by Frank J. at 03:31 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 20)

* * * *

"Are you all right?"

"I didn't even get a scratch."

Detective Thompson leaned back from the controls of her vehicle and looked me in the eyes. "I mean, you shot a woman point-blank in the face."

I shot a lot of people. Seemed to me it was sexist that I would be expected to feel more guilty about killing a woman than killing a man. Apparently Blondie wasn't a feminist, so it was time for me to tread carefully. That meant saying as little as possible. "She was about to shoot me; I try not to think about it." I then leaned back against my seat and closed my eyes.

The Detective was not about to let me off that easy. "That was quite some shooting, though; I've never seen anyone use two guns at once… outside of movies."

Translation: Why can some cop on some backwater planet shoot like that? I regaled her of how I spent years mastering "point shooting" - shooting without using the gun’s sights to aim - until I could fire quickly and accurately with both hands. I even added a little spiel about how the small amount of time saved by having a gun in my left hand to shoot at someone to my left could mean the difference between life and death. She just nodded the whole time.

Was she buying it? Probably not, as it seemed all the previous statements were just leading up to what she said next. "You seemed quite focused while in the fire fight - had quite an interesting expression on your face."

Oh no... was I smiling? I tend to smile slightly when I'm shooting - I know I do it; it’s just never usually an issue.

But did she even see my face while I was shooting? Or was she just acting like she knew something to see my reaction?

This woman was making me paranoid. It was just getting too mentally taxing; such effort, and she still seemed to suspect me of something. I vowed to start looking for a good ditch to dump her body in after I got what information I could from her. And I wanted that done soon. Yet another woman I'd be shooting point-blank in the face.

Had a feeling it wouldn't be that easy with her, though.

"I really don't feel like talking about this right now, Detective," I told her with annoyance - since I was quite annoyed.

"We've already been through enough together that you really should stop referring to me so formally... Officer."

I looked to her, and she had a cute smile as she looked back.

I really didn't care for that smile right now. "Should I call you 'Tommy-gun?'"

The smile didn't go away. "Friends call me Diane."

Well, am I your friend or your suspect, Diane?

I wasn't really angry at her, though. Now that this terrorist hunt was over, my mind was back to my main mission. Maybe I'd get some good information from her about Senator Gredler and why they know a hit is coming, but that still didn't change the feeling of unease I had about this job.

Was it because it looked to be a suicide mission? I wish the explanation was that simple, but I couldn't place my hesitation. This was about the most emotional I could ever remember being.

"Rico," Diane called out, her voice full of concern - real concern, "if something is the matter, you can tell me about it. It will be just between you and me."

"It's complicated," I volunteered for some reason. "Maybe I'll tell you about it later." Just before I kill you - if only out of curiosity of what your expression will be.

"Hopefully we can find out soon what's happened with stopping the plot at Roppola Plaza. You're a real hero, Rico. I'm sorry I put you in this situation, but you saved a lot of lives."

Sorta wished I could care. Yes, I had just used my powers of death-dealing to better the universe, but, whether I killed a sinner or a saint, it was all just a twitch of the finger in the end.

Our vehicle now landed exactly where no hitman ever wants to be: Police Headquarters.

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (17 votes cast)

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August 30, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 20 - Situation Under Control
Posted by Frank J. at 04:53 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 19)

Jumping so that you land on a staircase is quite problematic. A stairway, of course, is made from numerous flat surfaces, but land on it stretched out and you hit nothing but edges. Luckily, when I leapt into the basement, another terrorist was heading up. I plowed into him and he cushioned my fall to his own detriment. He also caused his friends to hesitate in firing at me, something I used to my advantage as I rolled off the stairway to my feet.

I fired rapidly as I charged forward, not having time to worry about leaving people alive for Tommy's sake. I few shots rang off in my direction, but these terrorists were of the "pull the trigger rapidly and pray" school and weren't even close to hitting me. Four were soon dead and burned enough to smell like pork, and I spotted a fifth frantically removing a disk from a computer. Something familiar was on screen and then quickly disappeared. The alien terrorist then tried to spin around and shoot me, but I was on him and smashed him in the face. He fell to the ground and his gun skid along the floor away from him.

One was left running to a panel on the back of the room. He had flipped it open, but I shot him in the leg dropping him to the ground. I then had a second to see a wire coming out of the panel and then spidering out to numerous explosive charges. The wounded man reached up for the panel, but this time I shot the wire. The flicking of the switch by the terrorist achieved nothing.

I walked over to him and recognized the face. "Hey, Mohammed," I said cheerily just for the fun of it before I knocked him unconscious.

"Leave any alive?" Thompson asked from behind me, now at the bottom of the stairway. She just wasn't quick enough to enjoy that action.

"Alive, yes; conscious, no. We have Mohammed right here. That guy over there." I pointed to the one by the computer I had punched out. "And possibly the two by the stairs." I motioned to the one I knocked over lying on top of the one Zippy stunned. If they were alive, they probably had some bad concussions. "By the way, you’re welcome for me keeping you from being blown up. Now where's the cavalry?"

Thompson was looking at a computer that had been left on. "Outside waiting for the SWAT team." She stared carefully at the computer. "I think there's a strike about to take place at Roppola Plaza!" She got up and walked on to the stairway. "I need to get those cowards waiting outside in here; do you have everything secure down here, Rico?"

I laughed. "They weren't much of challenge for me when they were standing, Blondie."

"Don't call me that," she said as she headed up the stairway, her little Zippy robot flying along.

I put my guns away and quickly got to the terrorist I punched out by the computer. I got the disk from him; if it was what I thought, it could be a good ace up my sleeve for later on.

The alien terrorist was awake and looking at me. I smiled. "Let's keep this between you and me." I held up my empty hands and kicked his gun towards him.

The idiot grabbed it.

He had just got his finger through the trigger guard when I had drawn and put a hole through his head.

Tommy was back down the stairway in an instant, staring down at the dead alien clutching a gun. "What happened?"

"I thought he was unconscious!" I blurted out in a pitch perfect imitation of nervousness. It could only have been better acting if I could cause my heart to race. "Sorry... sorry..."

The two cops we had met earlier were now heading down the stairs with their guns drawn. They looked at the scene with shock. "You and the hero did this, Tommy-gun?" the female asked.

All me. She hadn't even fired a shot. "Just help me secure things down here," Thompson commanded, "We have another terrorist attack to prevent."

I could hear more sirens outside. The place would soon be quite crowded, and I put away my gun. This time, I was going to hold on to them, and the onus was on Detective Thompson to explain the armed involvement of a "civilian." Whether she could do that and keep her job or not, I was coming out of this a hero again.

All in all, it was a nice little shoot out, but bigger things were still to come before this job was over.

NEXT

Rating: 2.8/5 (17 votes cast)

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August 29, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 19 - Sprees, Spending and Otherwise
Posted by Frank J. at 04:04 PM

BEGINNING OF STORY

PREVIOUS (PART 18)

I adjusted the mini-blasters under my jacket from being deeply concealed to being a quicker draw. They weren't as powerful as my normal guns, but they'd burn a nice little hole right through my targets. I then put a smile on my face and strolled into the store.

The clerk, a female human, eyed me suspiciously. There were three others - two human males and one alien male - in the store pretending to shop (I've pretended to shop before, and I know the difference between doing it well and doing it poorly) also eying me suspiciously. The way they gestured and positioned their hands, it was obvious all four were armed. It would be hard killing these four amateurs and making it any fun, but, at least, there was a basement full of terrorists most likely armed with fully-automatics to look forward to. That could be a challenge.

I walked up to the clerk. "Hello. I am interested in purchasing a Koran."

"We have it available in many different data formats," she said, making it obvious she was annoyed by my presence.

"Actually, I like something more tangible. Can I get it in book form?" The three others slowly moved a bit closer to me. I kept facing the clerk in an angle such that none were in my blind spot.

"The complete integrated Koran comes in a twelve volume set. It is quite expensive."

I chuckled. "Well, money shouldn't be an object when you're trying to be submissive to Allah."

"Do you have business here?" demanded one of the men in the store, no longer pretending to be a consumer.

I gave an expression of hurt feelings. "I'm a newly converted Muslim. Why, I just started to grow a beard - I've made half a day’s progress so far."

"Get out of here!" the man commanded.

"Fine. Can I at least get a gift for my nephew? Do you have a little electronic Mecha-Allah that walks around and its eyes light up?"

"We have nothing to do with that!" the clerk yelled, "Now get out!"

"Oh yeah, you're not supposed to depict Mecha-Allah, are you?" I noticed a small red spot on the ground. "Hey! Is that pigs' blood? Was my friend Mohammed through here spitting pigs' blood? He's so crazy!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," the clerk asserted, "Get out of here right now."

I looked to the door at the back of the shop. "He's probably back there; can I go check for him?"

The four stood in front of me and blocked my way, the males to my left and the clerk to my right. "Employees only!" the clerk yelled.

"GET OUT!" one man shouted, all of them looking ready to kill - ready, but not yet trying to kill.

I acted like I had a sudden revelation. "I know what's going on here! You have a terrorist cell down in the basement! I'm going to go out right now and telling everybody!"

One man finally went for his gun. I let him fully draw before I quickly drew my left hand gun and put a hole through his chest. That way, the gun clattered to his side as he fell and Tommy would know that I let them make the first move. Immediately following the first shot, I drew the right gun, shot the clerk through the head as my hand swept past her (she was about 1/16 as fast as she needed to be to outdraw me) and then fired one shot from each gun killing the last two, only one of whom had successfully drew his gun though he was still unable to get off a shot.

"We need some alive, Rico!" Tommy gritted through her teeth as she burst in, gun drawn.

Shooting people so that they live afterwards is not my specialty.

I was about to reach for the door to the basement, but Tommy grabbed me and threw me against the wall next to it. The door then burst open, and the terrorist was zapped by Zippy who hovered over head. There were a number of thuds as he fell down the stairs. I could then hear many voices, and something about "blowing up the building."

"No time to wait for backup, Blondie," I said as I leapt head-first down into the basement.

NEXT

Rating: 2.3/5 (14 votes cast)

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August 26, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 18 - Admissable
Posted by Frank J. at 01:41 PM

PREVIOUS

"How is terrorist hunting going, Rico?"

"I don't have time to talk, Dip."

"I thought I would inform you of some pertinent information I found. Diane Thompson holds the record of most citizen complaints against a Nar Valdum City police officer. Her nickname is 'Tommy-gun.' This is in reference to a 20th century human firearm that..."

"Thanks, Dip. Now go away."

"We will speak later, Officer Rico."

The Detective looked away from the shop ahead of us where apparently pig-drinker had run too. "Who's Dip?"

"My computer."

"What's the name stand for?"

"Huh?"

"D-I-P, what does that stand for?"

"It doesn't stand for anything; I just call him 'Dip.'"

"So, what did he want?"

We're looking for terrorists! Why was she still giving me the third degree? "He's one of those learning algorithms. Always wants to contact me and ask questions." If the Detective really had that many complaints against her and was still holding her job, that seemed like it would speak to her skills at getting cases solved. That assured me now, but would be trouble if I kept close to her.

The Detective looked back to the store. It was a shop devoted to Islamic merchandise. She hit a few buttons on her wrist keypad, and Zippy turned to the shop and made a clicking noise.

The Detective stared through her glasses at apparently nothing. "The building has a large basement... maybe eight people down there. Pretty sure they are armed."

"Sounds like we found them, Detective. Let's call the backup."

"Not going to happen, Rico... and my name is Thompson, if you forgot it."

"Why can't we call backup, and can I call you 'Blondie?'"

Thompson looked at me sternly. "Let's stay serious, Rico. Now, my looking into that building using Zippy was technically an illegal search. Can't use it as evidence or call backup to enter the premises using it. Actually, I shouldn't even have a device equipped with such an ability."

"So this is what police work is like on civilized worlds?" I asked, choosing a tone of disdain.

"It has its advantages and disadvantages… for the populace, that is."

"So what do we need to be able to get the police on this place?"

"Evidence, legally obtained, or a violent disturbance. I could barge in there, get them to shoot at me, and then we'd have the police here in no time. Police barging into places tends to get the lawyers to dismiss evidence, so we might not be able to prosecute them afterwards."

I gave her a shocked look - though I actually did fully understand behind admissible evidence and illegal search and seizures. "Prosecution ain't a problem if they're dead."

Now she gave me a shocked look. "I have some idea of how you do things back on Rikar, but I prefer bringing in the criminals alive. Now, with these type of people who don't even care for their own lives, that will be hard. But, we need at least some to question. Now, I'm all for making an illegal entry if we can at least stop the terrorist attacks, but I'd rather a plan where we kinda stick to the law... or close to it."

I was silent for second as I pretended to be thinking. "Now, since I'm not a police officer, if I barged in there, got them to shoot at me, then could you charge perfectly legally, right?"

She smiled. "You seemed to have grasped that concept pretty quickly, Rico. That would work, but there's the whole downside of being shot at... which sometimes involves actually being shot."

"Well... could you lend me a gun?"

"That would get me in huge trouble, Rico." She then smiled at me again - a seductive smile? She pressed up against me, her hands moving along my body. Then she patted the guns I had concealed at each side. She pushed herself away from me, still holding the same smile. "Why don't you use your own guns, Rico."

I am great at concealing firearms. Could she actually tell, or did she assume and confirmed her assumption by that little maneuver? I realized I really had to stop underestimating Detective Thompson.

I smiled weakly. "I don't like walking around unarmed."

"Neither do I. Now let's get to this; another strike could be about to happen as we speak."

I nodded and walked towards the shop.

"Rico," she called out, "I don't how much this means when you're entering a place with the intention of being shot at, but be careful."

"Don't worry; I know what I'm doing."

"I'm sure you do. God bless you, Rico."

I sincerely doubted He would, even if He was the violent bastard the Islamists thought He was. But I smiled back at Diane when she said it, because soon I would be shooting people - and when is that not fun?

NEXT

Rating: 3.1/5 (16 votes cast)

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August 25, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 17 - Drink Up
Posted by Frank J. at 05:13 PM

PREVIOUS

The Detective threw a small metal object in the air, and it stayed in the air. It was flat with a big round eye at the front and what looked like a barrel underneath the eye.

The Detective put on what looked to be a normal pair of glasses. "That is Zippy. He's my partner. Not very smart, but never complains about my choice of methods. He watches my back, and is able to fire without a direct command from me. Thus, he's only loaded with stun shots." She pressed a number of buttons on a keypad at her wrist, and Zippy turned to face me. "I'll program him not to shoot you."

"I'd appreciate that."

She hit buttons for a couple seconds.

"Seemed like a lot of programming for 'don't shoot,' Detective."

She just smiled at me. So, she still didn't trust me. Well, I was starting not to trust her. Dip certainly did not get me all the pertinent information on this woman.

After passing through another alley, a large mosque was visible. At the top of it was a giant orb with an arrow in it. The arrow was currently pointed at me. "I think I'm Mecca."

The praying towards Mecca was usually only observed by human Muslims, and most just prayed up. It cost a lot to keep track of exactly what direction to pray towards the human home world - the place where Mecca used to be. There are a lot of rotations and revolutions to keep in mind. And, when many aliens don't care to honor Mecca, most mosques don't bother with all that.

Islam is a very interesting religion (I once missed a nature show on the Ultorian tiger to watch a show about its history). Humans call it Islam and trace it back to its origins on our home world, but its current form is an amalgamation of many different alien religions (each alien usually calls it by the name of the religion started on their own home world), their prominent prophets all said to be prophets of the one god, Allah (blessings be upon him). Who brought it to its current form was Mohammed (a human... and different from the other prophet Mohammed from way way back) who supposedly performed a lot of miracles and definitely united many sentient species to try and make Islam the only religion in the universe... many willing to use violence.

Best of luck to them.

Anyway, most Muslims do not worship Mecha-Allah, but all I've met seem at least sympathetic to the giant robot and love how trying to find it frustrates the more civilized worlds so much.

"A lot of violent idiots have come from this place," the Detective said as she looked at the mosque, "If I could, I’d drag the imam into prison. If the leadership isn't directly involved with these attacks, they probably know who is. In the least, someone attending here is involved. That I am 99% sure of. We push this lead."

I was going to ask how, but remembered she didn't like questions. I had my own plan, anyway. We started heading for the building.

"Now, they will be insulted by me questioning them because I'm a woman... I plan to use that." She paused for a moment. "I would normally never do this, but lives are at stake." She opened her blouse to reveal her cleavage. She then looked to me. "Please don't tell anyone."

"I'll keep it to myself."

She continued onward. "You kept eye-contact; you're a nice guy."

I laughed, as that was funny in a number of different ways even though she didn't mean it. "So antagonizing the religious types is the plan?"

"They'll be antagonized just by the site of me; I'm aiming for enraging them. I can't really pretend to have respect for this religion; I hope that doesn't bother you."

I chuckled slightly.

The Detective barged through the doors, Zippy and I following close behind. "I'm here to ask some questions about the recent bombings!" she yelled as the group of people bowing in about her direction.

"We're in the middle of prayers!" yelled a frustrated old, bearded man who looked to be the imam, "We..." He paused when he caught sight of her. "Detective Thompson!" he shouted as he walked towards her, "The city gave us a restraining order against you!"

"I can't be expected to keep track of all the restraining orders against me. Now, I assume you'll be willing to help me track down those nasty Cyber-Islamists."

The imam scowled. "I won't speak to you until you cover up, woman!"

The Detective gouged him in the eyes. "There. Now you don't see me. Same effect."

Many started shouting, and, as one man approached, Zippy shot him. The guy tensed and fell to the floor. "Be careful of my little robot friend; he's malfunctioning."

The group there were a number of males - some aliens but mainly human - all glaring at the Detective with murder in their eyes. She glared back. I couldn't see her expression, but it seemed to make most of them hesitant. By now, I was really curious what her reputation on the street was. I just stood back, watching the group with a casual smile. The imam knew something about this - I could already tell. I wanted to find someone in the crowd directly involved.

"Hey, I'm kinda curious about this religion," I called out. "Think I could get a pamphlet or something?"

"We welcome no one who associates with this infidel!" the imam shouted, getting angrier.

"And where are the chicks," I asked, looking around all the males, "This isn't some sort of gay thing?"

"They worship in another room!" the imam shouted. "Both of you, GET OUT!"

A lot of the guys there looked capable of murder, but a few were now particularly sticking out.

The Detective grabbed the imam by his beard. "First, can you tell me if anyone here worships that rusty, poor excuse for a god?"

Did I see a hint of concern on a face?

"We do not associate with the Cyber-Islamists," the imam said. He then laughed. "Perhaps they are a hand of Allah in how they punish the infidels! Now go back to your own dying religion, woman, before we call some actual police!"

She knocked him to the floor. "Yeah, go ahead. Doubt you cowards will. You, like that stupid robot, like to hide. You make threats, but you're all too impotent to fight out in the open."

That made everyone angry, but one human was angered in a slightly different way. I could tell he was restraining himself as the words hit him more personally. He had something to hide. He was involved. He was mine.

The males finally were angry enough to begin to approach the Detective, but I approached them quicker and grabbed my mark. "Come on Mohammed; I want to find out about your religion."

"How do you know my name?" He was in complete panic.

I dragged him to the door. "I'm going to have a little chat with him outside," I told the Detective who looked a bit peeved I was stealing her thunder. "You stay and chat with your friends."

Mohammed wouldn't talk with me, so the chat didn't last long. Soon, he was running back inside the mosque, yelling and spitting.

"He forced me to swallow pigs' blood!"

I had followed Mohammed back inside. He ran into the group of men and began to disappear behind them. The Detective, looking a bit confused, was ready to follow, but I tapped her on the arm to tell her to stay.

"That guy is crazy. I did not force him to drink pigs' blood."

The aforementioned "chicks" were now peaking in to see what was going on. "The vial in your hand!" the imam shouted, pointing to the vial in my hand, "It says 'Pigs' Blood' right on it!"

I looked at the vial. It did indeed say "Pigs' Blood" in large letters. I looked back to the imam. "It's mislabeled."

He looked to the Detective. "Your partner is as bad as you! This is the worst police abuse..."

"I'm not a police officer," I interrupted, "I'm just a tourist. See, back on my planet, we force red liquids down each other's throats all the time. Do you guys have something against that, because I was trying to find out about your religion?"

Everyone looked about ready to tear me apart. Diane had recovered from her shock and confusion and stated plainly, "I do remember hearing him ask for a pamphlet."

"GET OUT!" the imam shrieked.

Mohammed had disappeared - probably out a backdoor. Good.

The Detective looked to me, and I smiled. She seemed to take the cue.

She tossed a card to the imam. "Call me in the future if you have any information to help the police." She, Zippy, and I, then exited.

When we were a decent distance away, the Detective buttoned back up her blouse and looked at me with a deadly serious gaze. "I assume you have some sort of plan... or do you always carry around pigs' blood?"

"The guy I grabbed - I'm certain he was involved. Had it written all over him."

"Really?" she answered incredulously, "So you forced him to drink pigs' blood?"

She wasn't even cracking a smile. I thought that was pretty funny. "I keep tracking tags on my luggage when I travel. Right now, one of my bags is missing a tag." I took out a little handheld computer. "Want to see where it's going?"

The screen showed a dot moving away from us at a running pace. "Your magic cop instincts better be right, Rico. We don't have time to waste."

"I'm right," I assured her, as I was pretty sure. "Are you going to get in trouble for all that stuff back there?" I have met plenty of cops in my days, and all I've seen on civilized planets seemed like they'd rather die than be nearly that abrasive.

The Detective sighed. "I'll get yelled at - but that's it. When they put me on this, they expected this. They never would have put me on this case if they didn't want it solved quick and most of our resources are tied up on the direct threat to Senator Gredler."

The direct threat to Senator Gredler started moving towards the dot on the screen. "If we're lucky, he'll head right to his buddies to warn that we're on to them... and to get help vomiting."

The Detective finally smiled again. "So was that really pigs' blood?"

"Where would I get pigs' blood?"

NEXT

Rating: 2.5/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 24, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 16 - Walking into Danger
Posted by Frank J. at 03:33 PM

PREVIOUS

How could I tell if I was scared? I don't remember being scared before, but the feeling was like what it seemed fear should be - this nagging feeling that I didn't want to continue onward.

So what was I afraid of? Not death, of course. Not the Detective - she might be able to see through my ruse, but that's a contingency I'm always prepared for.

Something about this whole job to kill Senator Gredler was making me scared, but I couldn't figure out what it was. Anytime I have emotions, it's obvious why. How could I lose touch with myself so much as to have feelings I can't understand?

"Are you all right, Rico?"

I quickly recovered. "Just thinking of yesterday." The Detective bid me into the passenger seat of her car. "Don't you have a partner, Detective?"

"Not at this time," she answered as the vehicle rose into the air, "I'll be meeting some officers in the area before I proceed with the investigation."

"I assume you're starting at a mosque."

"We had pictures up on the news of those still left with faces," she explained. Was she criticizing me for going for headshots? "One was identified as an attendee of a mosque on the edge of the city. I think our tips have come from Galtists, though, and I assume you know of their rivalry with Islam."

I nodded. The Galtists were an alien religious group - inclusive to almost all sentients - known for occasional violence. I think they'd rather be known for their message of salvation through meditation, but violence always makes the news.

"Cyber-Islamists tend to work locally from a sympathetic mosque," the Detective continued, "so this is worth checking out. I hope to get there right after one of their daily prayers."

"Should be easy to tell right away from the leaders if they’re involved."

She smiled. "You think?"

"Yes," I said indignantly. "If this isn't them, how many other mosques are there to check out?"

The Detective shrugged her shoulders. "I'll get in trouble if I go around harassing people just because of their religion. I’ll actually have to use my detective skills if I don’t want to get yelled at.."

"If," I repeated, and she chuckled. Luckily, I wasn't concerned with religious tolerance. Actually, I'm usually never concerned with any tolerance whatsoever. I'd have to put those views on hold, though, so as not to scare off the fair Detective.

We landed near a patrol car. The building around us were ramshackled and vandalized. Probably plenty of people guilty of something around here... other than me, of course.

The officers were a human male and a Corridian female. They both stared at me. "So that's the hero?" the male asked.

"Police officer on a planet called Rikar," the Detective told them, "Good with a gun, but I didn't have time for the paperwork to let him be armed."

I smiled. "I brought a knife if that's okay." More than one, actually.

"So you're doing this without any backup?" the female asked disapprovingly.

"I got Zippy with me... and I'm just asking some questions now."

"Anything suspicious, call us and we'll be there in a second," the male told her.

"And do call us," the female stated, "Don't be stupid."

"I'll take the 'not being stupid' under advisement," the Detective said dryly.

The male looked back to me. "Rico, do you have any idea what you're getting into with Thompson?"

It was hard not to laugh. "Who doesn't like a little adventure on his vacation?"

"He asked to come," the Detective told them, "How could I say no to a hero?"

The male shrugged. "Fine. Just don't get him killed."

The officers got back into their vehicle and lifted off.

"So what was that about?"

"What was what about?" the Detective answered, beckoning me to follow her down the dangerous looking streets.

It was just a perfunctory question, anyway; I already gathered plenty from that exchange. "We're walking?"

"From here on."

"And who or what is Zippy?"

"You'll see." She stopped to look at me. "Now, if you keep asking questions all the time, that will be hindering me." She smiled to try and hide whether she was serious or not. She was.

Near us, an alien grumbled something that my universal translator said meant "humans" though it sounded like an epithet. We both ignored him. "Now let's find these murderers. Who knows how much time we have before they strike again."

A reckless detective and a murderous psychopath posing as a police officer - now that's a team. This was probably going to be a lot of fun... as long as we didn't get ourselves killed.

Even if, maybe.

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (14 votes cast)

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August 23, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 15 - Humor
Posted by Frank J. at 02:21 PM

PREVIOUS

"So will you proceed unarmed, Officer Rico?"

Dip had started calling me "officer." I decided to ignore it. "What do you think?"

"You seem to dislike being without guns. I also think that, if you are found to have weapons, you'll probably kill the witnesses. That won't be very police officer like of you."

I was about to give Dip an odd glance, but then I remembered he was just a voice in my ear. I was taking a few armaments with me - guns, explosives - and, yes, I would kill the Detective and any other officers around if my weapons were discovered. But, they would only be discovered if I had to use them, which meant I had been placed in a dangerous position where I had no option but to shoot back at some criminals. So, if I had to kill the Detective on that matter, it would be for her own incompetence.

"Officer Rico, this seems like a lot of effort to get a little information."

"I just think I'm going to be needing that information, Dip. I have the feeling Gredler is involved in something big, and things just aren't adding up."

"Maybe you should have me do the adding; I'm very good with math."

That was enough. "Dip, are you being stupid, or are you trying to make jokes?"

"The latter. I took what you meant metaphorically and treated it literally. I understand with some jokes..."

"Why are you trying to be funny, Dip?"

"You have been very hard to get input from, thus, using a random number generator, I've decided to try different things to see if they suit you better. It does seem like you could use more humor, Rico."

I just grunted in response as I picked out a coat. It had been warm out, so I needed one I could conceal everything with while not making myself too hot. "Dip, how is the extraction plan going?"

"I have a new plan which I rate to have approximately a 23.847% chance of success. Do you like the number? I made it more computer like instead of a nice round number."

"I don't care how many decimal spaces you give me, Dip; I need a much better plan."

"As for your own plan, what happens if you are unable to gain Detective Thompson's trust to get the information from her?"

"What do you think?"

"I think you will drag her into a dark alley, beat the information out of her, and then kill her - probably with a blaster so you won't get a mess on yourself."

That was almost eerie. Dip really did seem to be making an effort to understand me. "You're beginning to think like a hitman, Dip."

"That makes an interesting irony: for the Detective to live, she has to be naive enough to trust a psychopath."

I put on a nice light jacket. "Live longer, at least."

"I think you should revisit my conclusion that you are evil, Rico."

"I told you I don't have time for that; too much work to do to indulge your learning algorithms."

"Do you really think you'll be able to find the terrorists, Officer Rico?"

"A killer in search of killers - it just might work." I had a keen eye - that's how I survive - and it seemed I should be able to do this... or at least impress the Detective enough in the attempt. Then maybe she could help me find out why this hit seemed so odd. I still couldn't quite place my finger on exactly what disturbed me so much, but I think I might actually be... scared.

Is that possible?

"Rico! Knock. Knock."

"Shut up, Dip."

NEXT

Rating: 2.3/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 22, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 14 - Everything on It
Posted by Frank J. at 02:51 PM

PREVIOUS

All Dip could turn up about Senator Gredler was rumors of all the sleazy things you'd expect a politician to be involved in (the wise man is distrustful of anyone who seeks power). The guy was a real power player - planets moved at his beckoning - but that still made him a relative small fry compared to intergalactic criminal syndicates (our power isn't limited by who we have treaties with; we go wherever our weaponry allows us). Still the Galactic Alliance was the largest political movement I've seen, and it could be a threat to organized crime were it to grow - something I would think would be encouraged by us publicly killing one of their highest ranking politicians.

A piece was missing. It was Diane's job to fill it in. In my hotel room, I rearmed (smaller, even more concealable pieces) and dressed casual for our "date." It was not going to be my goal to woo the Detective - for all I know, she could be a dyke (call me sexist for suspecting a woman who has a 78% percent chance of being attractive who isn't married at her age, but I just say I'm being observational; my guess is she's too tied up with her job for much of a personal life, though). I just wanted to get her to trust me as a fellow cop so I can get more information out of her. That was a new challenge for this psychopath, but I'm all for broadening my horizon.

Our meeting place was at a pizzeria. She was seated at a table wearing the same clothes she had on while on duty; apparently she was making this just a meeting between two fellow officers of the law - except, I knew she was suspicious of me. Plus, if she assumed I had any intelligence, she knew I knew she was suspicious of me. This worked well for me because it meant I wasn't the only one who was going to be trying to act normal.

She smiled when she spotted me - somewhat perfunctorily - and asked, "How's the leg?"

I took a seat across from her. "Little stiff, but it seems to be in working order. Still haven't found anyone to fix the hole in my pants, though."

We laughed at my joke. I scanned her face to better see her true feelings, and noticed she was doing the same to me. This could be awkward.

"You seem to be in good spirits after all that's happened today," she stated, trying to sound complementary.

"I wish I can say that was the worse I've been through."

Her response was stopped by the waiter - some gray alien type I'd never seen before. He seemed to be familiar with the Detective and curious about her company. She told him I'm a police officer from another planet and left it there. "So what do you want on the pizza?" she asked me.

"Whatever you recommend." I couldn't care less. I usually eat the blandest things that give me the needed nutrients; eating is a functional thing for me. On occasion, I spoil myself just to keep my stomach used to rich foods and preservatives for situations such as this.

She ordered a "supreme" and a Coke to drink while I asked for bottled water for myself. I was somewhat wary of a restaurant meant to make human cuisine but run by aliens; what's poison for some is yummy for others. Still, I decide I could trust the Detective on her choice in pizza joints.

"Sorry that a pizza is about all you’re getting for your heroism," she told me with a slight smile, "It really is best to keep things quiet about you; we are certain more terrorists are lurking around the city."

"And are you out to find them right now?"

"Now I'm eating dinner. Then I'll be heading to the outskirts where our best leads say the terrorists are hiding. It looks like some more of these smaller attacks are to come and then something big planned for the main day of the conference."

"And then you have an assassin after that Senator on top of all that. Seems like your plate is full."

"I'm not on that case," she told me, and I could detect the disappointment. Interesting.

"Why do you think an assassin is after that man?"

"I can't really go into those details, Rico."

I decided to look a little offended. If there was any information I needed, it was that. If this hit by the syndicate had been ratted to the police, that meant big trouble. "Well, any idea why someone would want that politician dead." I cracked a smile. "Is he too honest?"

The Detective laughed heartily at that one. "Definitely a 'No' to that one."

"So he's extra-crooked?"

"I don't know." But she suspects something. I could tell it. "So, things sound pretty rough on Rikar. Are they going to get along without you?"

"There are a lot of people I trust on the police force, and I just needed a break from all the violence." I then chuckled, because that was ironic. "Was hoping to find some more civilized means of police work to bring back there. We don't need detectives as much most of the time because sentients will not even try to hide their crimes. Whether we apprehend the perp is a matter of whether we feel we have enough people and arms to do it."

"Any chance of your planet joining the Galactic Alliance?"

"We'd need to organize ourselves more, first. How does that work out for you?"

She shrugged. "It needs work. It at least allows us to pursue criminals to other Alliance planets."

I laughed. "How often are fugitives dumb enough to flee to an Alliance planet?"

She didn't laugh. "Not often enough. At least with this current case I'm looking for people I'm pretty sure to be on planet."

I decided to look more serious. "Such a stupid thing. These terrorist murdering people because they think some giant robot is a god. Religion can lead people to the dumbest behavior."

Oops. Looks like I offended her, though she tried to hide it. "Are you religious, Rico?"

"No, not really, Detective."

"What keeps you going then?"

Great. Now we're down conversation paths I hadn't planned for. "What?"

"Sounds like it can be rough on Rikar. What motivates you to keep at it?"

It was a somewhat philosophical question, so I let my self pause to think which I thought would not appear odd. "I guess... because people need me. Never really thought about that too much." Seemed like a good answer.

The Detective considered my response for a moment. She then chuckled nervously. "Sorry; I guess I'm asking a lot of questions; hard habit to break."

I smiled; I'm good with convincing smiles - I can even get the eyes right. "I'm asking questions, too. I'm really curious in all this. You have terrorists plus an assassination plot, and I'd love to see how an organized police department handles that. Is there any chance I could tag along with you as you try to find these terrorists?"

"I don't know..."

"I might be of some help. I got a good look at the terrorists and their demeanor."

"Demeanor?"

"Yeah, there was a way to them... a way to all sorts of killers. The terrorists all had a certain look to them... in their eyes. It'll be visible in terrorists planning to attack later... even if they try to hide it."

The Detective laughed. "Really?" She didn't think I was serious, and I really was.

"Hey, I don't know the area, but I know criminals. I think I can help. If I get in the way, tell me; I won't be offended." I smiled. "Anyway, I should be able to avenge my ruined pants." I decided that was too cheeky since people died and thus quickly became more serious. "And it's hard to see people gunned down like that and not try and help."

She was quiet for a few seconds. "Okay, Rico. I'm afraid you'll still have to be unarmed."

"Then don't make me enter anywhere first," I laughed.

"I'll pick you up tomorrow morning. If the terrorist have marked you, you'll be safer among us anyway."

I smiled, and then came the pizza and drinks. If I could really help her, then she'd have to trust me and I could get the info I needed - maybe get in close with Senator Gredler's defense even. And, ironically, I might even actually for once save more people on a planet than I kill.

Considering the defenses I'd have to fight through to get Gredler and get out, not likely though.

"You like the pizza?" the Detective asked as she finished chewing a bite.

"Yes." I truly did.

NEXT

Rating: 2.8/5 (15 votes cast)

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August 17, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 13 - Sticking Out
Posted by Frank J. at 03:33 PM

PREVIOUS

My leg was stiff, and, to add to it, the air whistling through the entrance and exit bullet holes on my pants' leg was a bit annoying. Still, I stumbled quickly through the streets to get back to my hotel room to get some unperforated pants among other things. There wasn't time to waste.

I casually looked around to make sure I wasn't being followed - maybe a little paranoid but I'd just call it cautious. I then clicked on my communicator. "Dip, I need you to find any juicy rumors about Senator Gredler that are circulating."

"Interesting. You usually don't care much about who you are contracted to kill."

"Well, this one was different to begin with and getting... more different."

"I have information about Diane Thompson if you want it."

"Yeah. Read off to me the main points."

"Please clarify."

"Where is she from, how old is she, long as she been in the police force, any cases she has worked on that stick out..."

"Stick out how?"

"Arrested someone of a high profile, any shoot outs. Dip, can't you figure out what data sticks out?" The sentients I passed by didn't pay me any attention; it's common for people to walk around talking to no one. It's really hard to act insane enough for people to notice in a modern city.

"She is from Nar Valdum city. She is thirty-four years old. She has been a part of the police for more than twelve years, and she has been involved in four shootouts I have found out about. Killed a sentient in one, killed one sentient and wounded a second in another. Inflicted no injuries in the others, but received a bullet to the shoulder in one while her partner was shot multiple times and killed."

Hadn't seen her with a partner. "How long ago was that?"

"About two years. The assailants were caught and are currently serving life sentences in prison."

Wow. Dip answered my next question before I could ask it. Maybe he was getting smarter. "Send me all her case data so I can look over it."

"There is something else that seems to stand out though it does not have to do with her police work, Rico."

"What?"

"When she was thirteen, her parents were murdered in front of her."

I couldn't help but smile. "Now that's juicy. Tell me more."

"Suspects were never caught. Suspicion they were killed on the orders of the Randatti criminal syndicate. They are the rival of your employers, correct?"

I ignored the question; this was just too good. "Send me all the information on that." I figured I'd be spending all my time in my hotel room reading until my date with the emotionally scarred detective with a long time chip on her shoulder. "Good find, Dip. Having one's parent killed in front of you tends to be a defining moment."

"Were your parents killed in front of you, Rico?"

"One of them." Whoops.

"Did you kill that parent?"

I just laughed. "I'm starting to like you, Dip."

"I am glad, Rico. I have some new conclusions to ask you about."

"Don't have time for it, Dip. Too much going on with this job. Come to think of it, I have another task for you. Keep watch for mentions of an assassination attempt on Senator Gredler... outside of a terrorist attack, that is. You'll probably have to hack into some official channels for it."

"Are you suspected, Rico?"

"They seem to know something is coming."

"I will need to factor that into the probability of escape plans being successful."

"Yes you will." Didn't look like this was going to be a run in, shoot everybody, and run away type of job... not if I cared to live.

Which I do.

"Rico, why the interest in the detective? Based on data of celebrities known to be attractive, I have given Diane Thompson a 78% chance of being considered attractive."

"Thanks, but I think I can determine that myself." Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw someone watching me. I really did not like this situation I had been put in. Not having any weapons really made it worse, but I was almost to my hotel. "I'm meeting her for dinner, Dip."

"Since they may be looking for an assassin, is it safe to have close contact with a police officer?"

"Not for her."

NEXT

Rating: 3.0/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 16, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 12 - Suspicion
Posted by Frank J. at 05:18 PM

PREVIOUS

"Not watching the news?" Detective Thompson was looking towards the TV where two lizard-like delpings were getting it on.

I turned the TV off; it would take my full concentration to pull off this act. "No. Too much speculation right after these things happens. I'd rather wait a while then find the facts."

"So you watch nature shows instead?" she smiled, either interested or feigning interest. She was pretty - that was for sure - though her clothing was pretty functional and only vaguely feminine. Only thing outwardly threatening about her was her blue eyes - I could tell they were hard at work assessing me. And I would guess she's killed in the line of duty - or at least been in numerous gunfights.

Yes, I can sorta tell that from someone's eyes. Hey, I'm an expert on killing.

I figured I might as well use the truth when I could to keep things less complicated. "Yeah, I love learning about new animals. So many different animals on so many different planets, yet each one has something unique to it." That seemed like some good banter, but something tragic happened and I needed to act concerned. "So... uh... how bad was it?"

"Eleven dead." I could see a little fire in her eyes. "About three times that many injured."

"At least they were using bullet weapons," I observed, "Could have been a lot worse."

She came a little closer, and I could now smell her perfume. Made me wonder if she put thought into what kinds and how much perfume you could wear and still be intimidating when interrogating a suspect. "Like with your firearm?" she asked. Okay, she was suspicious of me. Nothing to panic about.

"Don't think I'd be alive today if I didn't have that stopping power." That was the truth. "Never seen anyone take a bolt anywhere to the body and not drop." Expensive gun, if I were just a cop. "Any chance I'll be getting it back?" I only own eight others. I wondered what gun she preferred. It must have been small, because I couldn’t see any bulge in her coat. It was obviously under her right arm from the way she folded her arms. That made her left handed.

Freak.

"We'll see. It was illegal for you have it here, Rico. That's your name, right?"

"Yeah, just Rico. Officer Rico of Rikar, to be precise." Used my affable smile, but a more subdued version. "Sorry about that, but I never pay attention to gun laws when going to new planets. Figure if I have to draw and reveal I'm armed, it's better to be arrested than dead." Common line I've heard from pro-gun sentients.

"Can't blame you - certainly under these circumstances. I can probably get your gun back when you’re leaving the city. How much longer are you going to be in the hospital?"

"Should just be an hour or two."

"You set up somewhere?"

"Yeah." Please don't ask me where.

"Where you staying?"

"The Lux." I didn't know I was going to pretend to be a cop when I got my hotel.

"That's a nice place," she chuckled, "You're really living it up."

I smiled wryly. "I treat myself every now and then. You invest your money wisely, you can save up a bit on a police officer's salary... even without being crooked." I laughed at my lame joke, and she did too. Good.

"I don't think you'll find this conference too worthwhile, though. These always end with a lot of bickering between all the different species."

"What would you want to happen, Detective?"

"Just some more treaties between planets," she said, looking like she felt quite strongly on the issue. "Someone commits a crime here and get off planet, that's it! We can't follow him. If someone wants justice, he has to go to a bounty hunter - and they certainly aren't the most honest type."

I shook my head. "Yeah, I dealt with more than a few of those types." I sorta am one - more of a bounty killer than a bounty hunter, though.

"Anyway, Officer Rico, sorry about your experience here on Nar Valdum so far; certainly doesn't make for a great vacation. I want to thank you again for what you did, though."

"Someone had to. You expect more attacks like that?"

"We weren't, but now we are. We initially thought the terrorists were plotting for the main event when Senator Gredler arrives, but it seems they're happy to do some killing beforehand to scare people away."

"Still expect an attack at the main event, though?"

She smiled. "They'd have to be pretty dumb to try. Security is so tight, I don't see how they could do anything. Everything has been increased to accommodate Senator Gredler, especially after we got some chatter about a possible assassination attempt."

It took some force of will to not look startled, and I could tell the Detective was looking for my reaction. I hope she was just this naturally suspicious of everyone. "Why assassinate that guy?"

She shrugged her shoulders. She was hiding something, though. Seemed like I should be finding out what.

"So what are your plans for the rest of the day?" she asked. More suspicion.

"Get something to eat. My face isn't all over the news, right?"

"A few people involved talked to reporters about what happened, but no one has identified you. By the way, if you want some good food, I know just the place. I get off in a couple hours, and it will be my treat. Least I can do for the hero."

I smiled, trying to not reveal how much was going on in my head right now. "Sounds good."

So my hit was starting to look like a suicide mission, and the best option I seemed to have was getting close to a Detective who was apparently suspecting me of being a hitman. This was going to be an interesting "vacation."

NEXT

Rating: 2.7/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 15, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 11 - Heroic
Posted by Frank J. at 04:14 PM

PREVIOUS

Patching my leg was a simple enough procedure. They had it held still in a regenerator, and I just had to wait an hour or so. After that, I'd be back to my full-self and ready for a killing (after getting back to my hotel room to rearm). I had a TV in the hospital room, so I flipped around the channels.

"The delping waits in the river, its gray coloration blending itself with the rocks. When prey comes into view, it strikes by kicking forward with its strong rear legs and expelling all the air in its lungs out of two reverse facing nostrils on the sides of its heads. Using this jet propulsion, with blinding speed it snatches the..."

"Rico, how are you doing?"

It was Dip talking into the hidden communicator in my ear.

"Why do you ask?"

"I saw in the news that there was violence near where you should be. Then I saw that further violence ended the initial violence. I conjectured you were involved with one of those violences based on my knowledge base about your behavior."

"Really? Which one would you think was me?"

"Usually violence you do is reflected negatively in the press, but the disliked violence involves multiple sentients, and you have always worked alone since I've known you. On the other hand, the second act of violence seems to be thought of favorably, and I've never known what you do to be thought of favorably by the general public, Rico."

"I've killed a few people the general public were happy to be gone."

"Still, it has always been looked at as criminal. This act of violence is referred to as 'heroic.'"

"I killed five murderers - preventing the death of others - and took a bullet through my leg in the process. Would you call that 'heroic,' Dip?"

That took him a second.

"I would assume you had ulterior motives, Rico."

That made me laugh. "Dip, I have another job for you. I want you to connect to any databases you can on this planet and find information on a Nar Valdum City's Detective named Diane Thompson."

"Certainly, Rico. I have progress on the previous job you assigned. I have a plan to extract you from Nar Valdum's capital which I rate as having a 20% chance of success."

"That a nice round number."

"There are many unknowns I had to assign some value to, so I went with inexact figures."

"Whatever. I need a better number that 20%."

Dip was silent again. "When calculating the chance of success, I could give a greater weight to the ship's maneuverability which would..."

"I don't mean fudge the numbers, Dip; I mean come up with a better plan."

"I will try, Rico. By the way, you never answered my initial question: How are you doing?"

I never answers his questions, something I'm sure Dip was wise to. "How do you think I'm doing?"

"You seem fine."

"Get to work. Dip."

I looked back to the TV. The mating habits of the delping was being discussed now. I don't usually find that part as informative, but I didn't have a chance to watch it either as I now had a visitor.

NEXT

Rating: 3.1/5 (14 votes cast)

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August 12, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 10 - Diane the Detective
Posted by Frank J. at 03:43 PM

PREVIOUS

I don't get attached to my weapons like some people, but I hate wasting them. Still, it seemed prudent to hit the disintegration sequence on the other two I carried. When the authorities came, there was just me with my wounded leg and my one gun lying next to me.

"How are you doing?" asked one cop.

"Stopped the bleeding." I looked to my gun. "I assume you want to take that."

"Yeah," answered one as he picked up the gun, "Medical will be with you soon; there are a number of others in greater need. Seems pretty clear cut what happened here, but you'll have to answer some questions... especially why you had the gun. That was a great thing you did, though... and some great shooting."

I cradled my wounded leg acting like it hurt more than it did. "Got lucky." Looked to some of the "innocent" people being put in body bags. "Others not so lucky." Nice addition, I have to say so myself.

"Any chance you could answer questions now?" asked a woman. Standing above me was a blond, thirty-something, plain-clothes detective. No ring.

Hello, human female.

Well, she wasn't some knockout looks-wise, but the way she held herself - the authority to it - very strong and I guess a turn on to me. She smiled at me - I was the hero - but the suspicion was obvious in her eyes. I can assess people quick, and this was a smart woman - hopefully not smart enough to get herself killed by me.

"I'm Detective Thompson. Our main concern is these terrorists and possible further attacks, so I'd like to get the issue of your involvement out of the way as quickly as possible."

"Can you make sure my name and picture don't get in the news? I don't want to sound wussy, but I'd rather not have all the CyberIslamists freaks targeting me while I'm on vacation."

"We're not letting anyone know you’re the one you ended the attack," Detective Thompson assured me. "So why did you have the gun?"

"I'm a police officer from a planet called Rikar." The planet was in a galaxy red-shifting away near the speed of light; good luck contacting it. "I carry out of habit, and, to be honest, I didn't really look into the gun laws here."

"How are things on Rikar?"

"Pretty violent." True, if I was thinking of the right planet. "Not my first gun fight or bullet wound." Certainly true. "Decided to take a break from it all and see the universe. Was hoping I could find some things to help us back on Rikar. Ended up here for the conference."

"Not to burst your bubble, but I don't think you'll find much useful from that." She had a wry smile.

"Maybe not." I think I liked her. Now what would someone be concerned about now? "So, am I in trouble?"

"You're a hero - I don't think the prosecutors are going to want to pursue the minor infraction of illegal possession of small arms. I need to do my job, though."

"I understand." Doing my job is what I'm all about.

A medical guy came up to me - a green one. I'm not one of those who only trust human doctors, though. "We can look at that leg now. We'll get you to the hospital and should be able to patch you up quick."

"Sorry your vacation got ruined,” Detective Thompson told me, patting me on the shoulder, "Lucky for everyone you were here, though. From the sounds of it, you saved a lot of lives."

I was placed on a gurney. "Small compensation when you see people gunned down like that." I'm good at this.

"I'll check on you at the hospital."

I used my affable smile. "Good; I would enjoy the company." No I wouldn't, but a plan was forming. "What's your name again?"

She smiled. Didn't look forced at all. "Detective Diane Thompson."

I smiled back - also not forced. Hope it didn't look too sinister, though.

NEXT

Rating: 2.6/5 (15 votes cast)

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August 11, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 9 - Mecha-Allah
Posted by Frank J. at 03:00 PM

PREVIOUS

I was being shot at.

Actually, everyone was being shot at by five sentients screaming what my translator was interpreting as, "Mechanized Allah is great!" People were falling dead or wounded all around me from the rapid, slug-firing guns the attackers were using with a crazed zeal.

My luck: A terrorist attack. I had heard of these guys. They were a number of humans and aliens that worshiped a gigantic city destroying robot - Mecha-Allah - that they believed to be their god taken corporal form. Since so many people were out to destroy Mecha-Allah based on him commanding his supporters to kill unbelievers, they hid him. This made the CyberIslamists even more crazed because they were supposed to pray five times a day towards Mecha-Allah but didn't know where he was. This meant lots of praying in random directions.

Yeah, it's really stupid, but you don't know how much I sometimes wish I was able to have religious faith.

The scene at the cafe was pure random mayhem and it annoyed me to no end. I mean, I have little regard for "innocents" when converging on a target, but to go out of one's way to kill them seemed so silly. As soon as I grasped the situation, I was about to pull out two guns and take the terrorists down in a seconds time.

But that puts all my cards on the table. No question I'm a great killer then, and then many questions follow from the authorities.

So what now? Inaction could get me shot and almost had already, so I quickly pretend I'm someone else. Decided I'm a police officer on vacation who brought one gun with him out of habit. Killing five would be a feat, but I could make it look lucky - be skilled but not too skilled.

I drew a gun with my right hand and fired twice at one, the first missing on purpose and second burning the terrorist, the lizard like creature letting out a dying shriek to his robotic master.

Three more shots as I went for cover (cop would only use inanimate objects and not other people as cover, so I had to watch myself). Two of those three struck a human terrorist, and the remaining three attackers now focused on me (I was really the only one in the crowd with a gun? That's sad when a criminal is the first defense). I partially hid behind a lamppost and fired back.

These guys weren't aiming. They were just doing automatic fire in my direction and were quite pathetic about it. I fired two more close but missing shots before killing a third. I then noticed some bullets hitting near my feet and decided to commit to the part I was playing by sticking out my leg.

After the bullet ripped through my calf muscle, I let myself fall to the ground. As I fell, I ended the fight with two shots that got two kills. One hand on my leg and the other on my gun, I looked around the fire of the former cafe and the panic around it to see there were no more "bad guys" left to shoot. I set down my gun and began bandaging my leg with a cloth napkin.

"You saved us!" gasped a middle-aged woman clutch a child.

False modesty - that seemed to be the norm for this sort of thing. "In the end, I was just saving my self." (completely true). Would I get in the news for this? That would not be helpful.

"Can I help you with..."

"I'm fine," I interrupted the woman as I tightened the bandage, "Keep watch on your son." Others were gathered around me. "Look for the wounded to help the authorities when they get here," I commanded calmly, "I can handle myself." This role-playing was kinda fun... other than how much the bullet hurt.

I thought it was a good acting all in all and the wounded leg sealed the deal, but I knew the real police would be there any moment to test how great my "vacationing cop" act really was.

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (16 votes cast)

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August 10, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 8 - Diversity
Posted by Frank J. at 05:52 PM

PREVIOUS

I had to land my ship 17,000 miles away from the capital city. For an emergency escape plan, I guess I could just tunnel straight through the planet back to my ship (look at me; I made a joke). From what Dip was able to read out of the air, he wouldn't be able to take the ship anywhere near the sentient species diversity conference without most certainly being shot down. I told him to work on a plan to extract me from the capital anyway. If I didn't know he was only a bundle of computer algorithms, I would swear Dip was gleeful at being entrusted with something useful to do.

Before getting on the transit to Nar Valdum's capital, there was some sort of scanning of each passenger and baggage. They seemed to be more interested in stopping nuclear bombs, because I had no trouble getting through with my regular armaments (firearms come in too many varieties to be reliably scanned for anyway).

Small talk on the transit was about hope that this conference would lead to an enhanced galactic government to unite all species. I just repeated the sentiments back at them, and, before I could tire too much of the inanity, the destination was reached.

Nar Valdum's capital (Nar Valdum City is the name, I think) is like plenty of other cities I've seen on more developed planets. You pass through slums where you have all the species diversity you want and plenty of violent crime and then reach the nice and sparkly downtown with its shiny skyscrapers and only a few different species in sight. The preferred race here seemed to be human (good and bad for me; I stick out less but other humans are more likely to notice that I'm... well... odd) with a large mix of Corridians like Senator Bull’s-eye. There didn't seem to be as much variation in the Corridians’ color or features as humans. There could be a number of reasons for that. They vary in ways I'm just not observant to, they never evolved many variations, or, most likely, they were more successful than humans in ethnic cleansing back in their dark ages.

Almost every sentient species I've bother to look into had racial battles before they advanced to the point of interstellar travel. Then comes the even bigger and not even closed to being solved problem of inter-species animosity. I can't even keep track of which species generally hate which species (I even forget who I'm supposed to hate).

While most sentient species reached a point where they agreed that ethnic differences within them were superficial, it just goes against all logic to say that all sentient creatures who developed separately on different planets must be equal. It's always being said that this and that species is more violent prone or this one is more dumb ("How long did your species exist before it was able to travel into space?"), but genetics differ so much between planets, how can anything like that be proven?

Then there are those who feel that all sentients are equal - I guess because it's nice to think that everyone is equal. I figure this conference will be full of those people. Others have expanded religious views started from their own planet to say that God (or whatever you would call the supposed supreme being) has made all sentients equal.

Now let's say you just believe all sentients are equal for whatever reason (none based on logic I've seen) you choose. What defines some species as being sentient then? It's not trivial. There are plenty of smart animals that just aren't smart enough to make developing civilization.

And, quick tip for you: Just because some creature is wearing clothes, that doesn't make it sentient. Had a long conversation with a type of creature I had never seen before to later find out it had the intelligence of a canine and its owner had just put a sweater on it. Thought I meant someone interesting - so quiet and reserved - only to get laughed at by the natives (lucky for them I'm a psychopath and don't have any feelings to hurt).

I've really digressed, haven't I? Lacking normal emotions and feelings, I'm often quite detached from the world and tend to over analyze everything - I need to understand a lot for my job. If I don't die from my work (and, to be honest, odds are I will), I could probably write lots of books on philosophy for retirement.

Anyway, I get to the pretty downtown of Nar Valdum City, buy a paper written in basic human, and sit at an outdoor cafe to order a bottle of water. This hit was starting to make me curious, and, when given orders to kill, I'm not usually the curious sort. This whole diversity conference was a bunch of fluff that the syndicate wouldn't care about (if you can do work for them, they don't care what you are. I don't care either other than if you're living and I'm paid to kill you; personally, I don't particular like my own species or any other). Senator Gredler must be of interest outside of this, and what he's done must be quite special to deserve the Rico treatment. Either he's too good a man that he has to be struck down harshly to scare others, or he's such a horrible corrupt man that he must be struck down harshly to scare others. Since he's a politician, I bet the latter.

But how was he corrupt in so special a way? Was he under the thumb of my criminal syndicate and then turned against it? And was he expecting retaliation.

I decided it was time to try this new thing I had been working on. My brain being split worked mainly just for taking on two targets at once, but I found I could also have the split off part do simple tasks while I focused elsewhere (I can pat my head and rub my tummy with the best of them). What I had tried to break down into a simple task was the appearance of reading a newspaper. A newspaper is more difficult than a book because no one reads it cover to cover, so I have to imitate scanning and then slow down to have more interest in certain parts. I think I had the illusion down pretty well, though, so I sat at the cafe and, while my eyes and hands pretended to read a newspaper, my ears and perception were concentrating on the voices around me and my universal translator trying to see if there was any mention of my target or anything else that might be of interest. Every time I drank from my water, I'd have to break concentration on hearing, though. Still, if anyone was watching me, I appeared to be drinking a water and reading a newspaper while all the while I was really spying on everyone around me. It was a great illusion, but I made one mistake that revealed my lack of normality.

When the cafe exploded and men came out screaming and firing guns into the crowd, I neatly folded my paper and placed it on the table instead of dropping it in surprise - which actually was my first instinct since I was... well... surprised.

NEXT

Rating: 2.5/5 (12 votes cast)

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August 03, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 7 - Security
Posted by Frank J. at 02:50 PM

PREVIOUS

Being so civilized, Nar Valdum had full monitoring of all traffic coming onto the planet. Frankly, I don't like civilization.

"Dip, I am growing impatient."

"Would you like to play twenty questions, Rico? You think of something, and then I'll try to guess it. It will help me learn."

"No, Dip, I want ground control. Any indication of how much longer we have to wait?"

"They simply say we are in a queue and will get to us soon. So, do you want to play twenty questions?"

Didn't have much else to do. "Fine. I thought of something."

"Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, or other?"

"Other."

"Is it violence?"

"Yes."

Dip processed silently for a moment. "That game did not help me learn anything."

"Life is full of disappointment, Dip. Perhaps you learned that."

"I already derived that knowledge, Rico. I have good news for you, though: ground control is hailing us."

"This is Nar Valdum ground control," came a voice over the ship's speakers, "What is your business here?"

My guess is that a normal person would be a little irate at this point, so I decided to go with that. "Landing… not just floating here all day."

"We are sorry for the wait, but security measures have been increased because of the sentient species diversity conference. Are you here for that?"

"Yes." Increased security measures? This job kept looking like more and more fun.

"How long is your planned stay?"

Five days. "Seven days."

"How many sentients are aboard your vessel?"

"Just me."

"Species?"

"Human. Haven't you scanned my ship?"

"Just confirming data. Does your ship have weaponry?"

None you'll find. "Just basic defensive measures... if you'd call them weapons."

"Your course for landing and ship identification are being sent to you. Please keep the ship identification in your memory banks for the length of your stay."

I checked the onscreen map. "That's a completely different continent than the conference!"

"Security measures," ground control answered. He sounded weary.

"Good to know I'll be safe, at least." I ended the communication. "Dip, take her down." Hopefully they wouldn’t try searching my ship when I landed, or my initial stay would be short and bloody.

"While we're landing, I have something for you to try guessing in twenty questions, Rico."

I manually accessed Dip's memory buffer and looked for an unusual sequence repeated over and over. "Is it a shoe?"

"You cheated."

"Hope you learned something from that."

NEXT

Rating: 3.1/5 (14 votes cast)

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August 02, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 6 - Politics
Posted by Frank J. at 04:54 PM

PREVIOUS

I went to my ship and headed out of orbit of planet something-or-other to have a little privacy for the call. Dip would be listening in, but Dip is usually listening in. If you can't trust a computer algorithm to keep your secrets, then who can you trust?

"Rico, how's your vacation been?"

This is where a video hookup would be nice, because I have the perfect scowl for him that would communicate exactly how much I do not want to do chit-chat with this idiot. With only voice, my options are sarcasm or some harsh response border-lining on a growl. I decided to go with sarcasm for the added challenge.

"Super-duper, Vito. So how's your week been? Seen any movies lately? How has the weather been where you are?"

There was a long silence. I probably imitated cheerful interest too well that he didn't immediately catch the sarcasm. My understanding of sarcasm is you usually overdo the tone, and I didn't quite do that.

"I... uh... guess I'll get to business."

"Good thinking, Vito."

"I heard back from the higher ups. They said with your last job, it was just plain bad information. They knew the guy was there, weren't sure who he was, and thought he'd be more obvious to spot. They're giving you ten percent more on that one for handling it so well despite the trouble."

"I'd rather have an assurance it won't happen again. So, do you have a new job for me?"

"Yes I do, but it’s encoded for your eyes only. Guess I won't be able to help you on this one."

"And that's different from the previous ones how?"

Vito laughed for about a second until he realized he was the only one laughing. Not a bright man. I see his future in the crime syndicate as maybe being a fall-guy one day. He'd have to smarten up to be a convincing fall-guy, though."

"I'll transmit the info now." A display in front of me showed I received a file. "Did you get it?"

I answered by hanging up. I don't particularly hate Vito; I just don't like people in general and lately I've had to deal with him more than anyone else.

"Dip, can you decode that for me."

"Certainly, Rico." He was silent for a moment. "Interesting. You'll be killing a Senator."

On screen was Senator Rhyle Gredler of the Galactic Alliance - the biggest governing body in the known universe. He was a Corridian as we call them by the human tongue - a species with a reddish-orange bumpy skin and purple about the face (bleeds red, but a darker red than human blood). In five days there was going to be a summit on harmony among sentient species at the capital city of planet Nar Valdum - a long populated and well developed planet. I was to kill Senator Gredler as he gave his speech at the summit.

"This is interesting. Usually, if the syndicate wanted some big time politician dead, they'd be discreet about it. With me, it's going to be a big show, and, from the looks of it, lots of collateral damage."

"So the question would be why would they want a 'big show?'" Dip offered.

"Not my concern. Going to be some repercussions from this, though. Here’s some data for you, Dip: When polled, sentients usually say they do not, in general, like politicians. Yet, they get very angry when you kill them."

"Do you think this will be more difficult than usual for you, Rico?"

A Galactic Senator would have a large force of well-trained bodyguards standard. After killing the VIP, the news of the crime would spread far and wide leaving me with a lot of planets to avoid. "You concerned about me, Dip?"

"I'm just trying to be helpful. That is my job."

"Then be helpful by setting a jump to Nar Valdum." I had never voted before; it would be interesting to finally be a part of the political process.

NEXT

Rating: 2.7/5 (11 votes cast)

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August 01, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 5 - A Psychopath's Vacation
Posted by Frank J. at 04:11 PM

PREVIOUS

So Dip wakes me up when we land on good 'ole planet something-or-other. I guess each planet is unique in its own way - like each person is unique in his own way - but I'm more concerned with what's the same. What things can I expect no matter where I go? What behavior can I expect no matter what sort of sentient I deal with? This is how I survive. This is how I live.

As you know, my job is to kill people. There are two main parts to that job - the killing and the not getting killed. The second part is never specified in jobs I'm assigned by the syndicate, but, if I die, I don't get paid... and I only consider a job done when I get paid.

Most of the time my jobs involve going some place I've never been killing people I've never met. But, when you've been so many places and killed so many people, it all starts to blend together. I can predict most cities’ layouts from all the other places I've been. I can predict how people react when I barge into a place shooting from all the other sentients I've shot down. Of course, I'm surprised every now and then (surprises make things interesting), but it's happens less and less often.

The way I see my career as a hitman going is I'll either end up dead or bored (guess which one I'm betting on).

Now, interacting with people gun to gun is one thing, talking to people in what most would consider a normal everyday interaction is extremely difficult for me. As I freely admit, I'm a psychopath - my mind does not work like that of normal sentients. I have very little human emotions and completely lack what people call morals or values. I'm just incapable of them. To me, killing a man is just another action - like eating, sleeping, walking, etc. I understand the concepts of "guilt" and "horror" that people might have in reaction to violent actions, I just don't share them. I have no desire to share them. But, I still need to interact with normal sentients without them thinking (correctly) that I'm a psychopath, and that means I have to act like a normal human.

And that's harder than you might think.

Quick question: What would be the expected reaction from a crowd of people who saw you stomp to death a child's puppy? I bet you could answer that right away. Me, it took a couple minutes to logically deduct (and, no, I didn't find out that hard way). What most people just "know" without effort is mentally taxing for me.

So, yes, I avoid people. First thing I did when landing on planet-something-or-other was buy a few supplies (you can usually be curt and emotionless in simple financial transaction without standing out) and then went out to some remote area to practice shooting.

I like shooting... even more since the surgery to my brain. I actually have a part of my brain separated just for targeting things with my left hand. When it works right, I'm actually perceiving and targeting two things at once - it's really hard to describe other than to say it’s fun (and, yes, before you think I'm a total freak, I do have fun - I just don't smile when I do). Shooting is most important, anyway, because my whole life revolves around killing people, and I do that primarily through shooting (I'm okay with hand to hand combat and know a little demolitions, but fast and accurate shooting is my bread and butter).

It's nice to have a purpose in life. Most people - almost all - have no real focus. That basic nature they have and I lack pushes them through life with little logical analysis. I, on the other hand, always know why I'm doing something. I shoot so I can kill better. I exercise and eat right so I'm physically fit enough to run after people I want to shoot. And, because it's needed, I talk to people, because it helps to understand people to kill them.

Oh, and I like nature shows. Always great predator/prey dynamics going on with non-sentients that I find useful. Not much else on T.V. is very interesting. I could watch the news, but that mainly just gives me insight on news anchors and news editors - not common targets. Also, dramas are nearly useless because that just gives me insight into actors, writers, cinematographers, and directors - also not common targets. I get plenty of new ideas, though, from watching non-sentients either kill or survive seemingly certain death. When you get someone to a life and death situation, there's not much separating him from an animal.

If I weren't so disciplined, I'd spend all day watching nature shows (Dip watches them with me; I don't think he gets too much out of them, though, based on the question he'll ask which usually deal with specifics about the creatures we watched). Because I am disciplined, on my downtime, I go into town and talk to people as part of my training.

I do not think you can understand how quickly this mentally drains me. I use a few rules to keep from getting into big trouble, the main being I do not use violence outside of finishing a job or defense of my own life. I don't even kill insects; that might seem to take it to an extreme since everyone else kills them all the time, but I just know I'm going to run into some situation where killing an insect is inappropriate, and I don't want to waste mental power on figure when that is. While in town on planet something-or-another, some alien tried to pickpocket me. I just gently swatted him away. Maybe breaking his hand would have been appropriate, but too many variables to consider there.

No violence is enough to keep me from looking like a psychopath and instead, at worst, appear as someone who is simply rude. I try to do better, though.

It's funny (as in odd; not as in makes me laugh); what most people would consider hard sentient interactions are the easiest for me to imitate just by observation. Picking up women, for instance - so easy it's not even a science (yes, lock up your daughters; this psychopath can seduce about any woman). My lack of an emotional investment helps, and I just follow a few routines I've figured out. Mainly not useful interactions, though; never been assigned to kill a bar-hopping human female.

The real challenge is what most refer to as chit-chat. Someone tells me about their life or day, and I am supposed to react and reply in some standard manner I've yet to fully decode. I have this slight smile I use (bad when smile not appropriate), and I have this head nodding rate for listening (too slow, not noticeable; too fast, people look at you weird). Have made up life and days I got from listening to other people to use in response ("Well, you should have heard what happened to me today..."). I'm getting very good, but I still laugh when I shouldn't or don't laugh when I should. I usually try to recover by blaming the fallibility of the universal translator. If I run into someone speaking basic human, then I just have to play along with that I'm intolerably rude and anger the person into storming away (rude people are quite common and not suspicious).

On top of all this, sentients are extremely boring as a rule. And, as I said, they all seem alike; I'd swear I keep running into the same people no matter what planet I go to. So it’s all this mentally taxing work for so little gain. Still, I learn a little bit each time I attempt talkee-talk, and you never know when that little bit will keep you alive or help keep someone else not alive.

After a week of training on planet something-or-another, I finally get a call back from Vito. Talking to him is easy since it's mostly just about being threatening, and, when threatening, the complicated graces of normal conversations are thrown out the window.

NEXT

Rating: 2.7/5 (15 votes cast)

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July 29, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 4 - Questions
Posted by Frank J. at 03:18 PM

PREVIOUS

I decided to dispatch with the usual custom of hellos. "What happened here, Vito?"

"I'm not sure, see..."

"I'm sending the data on who I killed. Will you even be able to tell me if I hit the target?"

"I'll pass along the data. It will probably take some time before I can confirm anything. The problem is..."

"I don't like leaving a job and not knowing whether it is done." I modulated my voice to put the implicit threat behind that statement. Anger is probably the most primal of emotions, and even I experience variations of it such as frustration. Thus, it’s the emotion I can fake the best.

I can be quite scary when I want to be... not that someone has to be scared of me to die when I pull the trigger.

"I'll try asking about the process here. The problem is I'm new to this, and I don't have much pull. I ask too many questions, and... well... they don't like that." He laughed nervously. "I get too noisy, that might even send you after me."

That was sorta funny, but I didn't change expression. "The day I'm assigned to do a hit on a nothing like you is the day I quit." Not true; I'd figure out some way to make it interesting... like make sure he's armed and blindfold myself. "Now you pass along to whomever it concerns that this is not acceptable. I need good information to do hits. If someone is so important that they'd send me to make him dead, they should at least know who the hell he is!"

"I'll tell 'em, Rico. I'll tell them about the problem and give you back what they say. Don't worry about it."

"Don't tell me what I should do, Vito. Now, you have my next job?"

"Not yet. I'll have more coming down the pipe soon. With you, it's no on women or children, right?"

"No, you're thinking of someone else. You want an elementary school bombed or a salon shot up, I'll do it. Just get me my money." I actually don't care much about the money, but it looks weird if you don't at least act like you care about the money. "Vito, you're just a pile of flesh that sends my talkee-talkee to others, and repeats that talkee-talkee to me. Is that really too much for you?"

"I'll get whatever you want done. It's just I'm new and..."

"Don't contact me until you either have information on this job or my next." I then severed the communication. I’m usually never curious about anything about the syndicate, but I was starting to wonder what happened to my last go-between and how I got stuck with the current idiot. You'd at least think he'd come in knowing my reputation and thus would try to appear a bit smarter in front of me. I mean, I almost had this sensationalist piece about me in the Laverk Times calling me the "Universe's Deadliest Man." Funny story: Day before it was published, I killed the entire Laverk Times editorial staff for a completely unrelated matter.

Well, at least it seemed funny to me at the time. Maybe you had to have been there.

"May I run my conclusions by you now, Rico?" Dip asked.

"Sure. What do you got?"

"I conclude that you are evil. Is this correct?"

He's been concluding that for quite some time. It's getting hard to come up with new answers to that one. "Ever think that maybe you're evil, and thus your views on things are skewed by that?"

"I conclude that you are not mentally well. Is this correct?"

"How can you say that? Can you really take all the mental states of all the sentients out there and make a norm? And even if you could, wouldn't that just be the normal mental state selected by evolution, and thus not necessarily the best?"

"I conclude that you don't like me. Is this correct?"

"Well, do you like me?"

"Furthermore, my original programming had given me the conclusion that 'crime doesn't pay.' Yet, you are often paid for crime with no discernible retribution. Should I amend that preprogrammed conclusion, Rico?"

"The key word is 'discernible,' Dip. Some believe there are cosmic forces that equalize the universe, and thus I will eventually have punishment for these 'crimes' as you call them... if those people are correct, I mean." Me, I don't "believe" in things. I basically just deal with the input given me… like Dip.

"I shall process your answers."

"You do that. Now jump this vessel somewhere."

"Where?"

"Somewhere... somewhere I haven't been before."

"I remind you, Rico, I work better when given more exact input."

"Dip, you should know by now what I and this vessel usually need between jobs, so find a planet with that - one friendly to humans - and go."

"I think the planet..."

"Don't tell me. Just go! And wake me when we're there."

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (17 votes cast)

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July 28, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 3 - Dip
Posted by Frank J. at 04:55 PM

PREVIOUS

I took a rocket from my pocket and tossed it in the air. It immediately took flight and headed for the nearest large heat signature. I heard a siren come nearly overhead followed by an explosion and no more siren. Fiery debris landed around me, which was nice since it was a bit chilly out.

I leaned over to speak into the com on my left shoulder. "Come pick me up, Dip."

"I've noticed a correlation between increased traffic on police channels of communications and your wanting to be picked up. In the future, should I just assume that..."

"Just pick me up, Dip! And make it a quick exit."

The sirens seemed to have slowed in their pursuit, but I didn't know how long they'd stay smart. Luckily, my ship was fast and got to me in seconds, temporarily slowing to allow me to grab on to the side before it lifted up again. I didn't waste any time getting into the cockpit and strapping in.

"Where are we going?"

"Up, Dip! Up!"

I never liked AI. Maybe because I can't hurt it.

It started getting noisy.

"Are they shooting at me?" I asked as I looked at the rearview screen. You'd think me blowing up one of their vehicles would make them more wary, but some sentients just never learn.

I hit The Button. I never cared much for ship-to-ship battles, so I looked over tons of data on likely patterns in airborne fights and wrote a macro for the ship's weapons systems and connected the activation of that macro to a big button on the ship's console. Then I painted the button red because that seemed like the color for such a button.

There were some explosions behind me and then silence, but I had also reach space, and space is always silent.

"You are now wanted for murder on 1,418 planets," Dip informed me, "Am I correct in saying that is quite a lot of planets, Rico?"

Dip is basically a huge algorithm that takes in data to improve its AI. In that quest, he asks me lots of questions to confirm his conclusions.

"So, Dip, that makes what percentage of planets in the known universe wants me for murder?"

My theory is he's more likely to develop an actual intelligence if I never give him a straight answer and finally frustrate him into figuring things out on his own. Or maybe I just don’t like answering absolutes.

"Approximately one times ten to the negative six percent of the planets in my database has you wanted for murder."

"Now, does that seem like a large percentage?"

"It is my understanding that most sentients would consider that number to be extremely small."

"That's the great thing about the universe, Dip. You can massacre an entire planet and still find a nearly infinite number of places to go where no one has ever heard of you."

"Are there any other great things about the universe you could give me as input?"

I looked out the window. "It's mainly black." That's my favorite color.

"I have processed this new data and reached a number of conclusions. May I run those conclusions by you, Rico, and get your feedback?"

I took out Niko and plugged him into a data port. "In a minute, Dip." Time to finish up the job. Plus, Vito had some 'splainin' to do.

NEXT

Rating: 2.2/5 (16 votes cast)

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July 27, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 2 - Shooting People
Posted by Frank J. at 03:24 PM

PREVIOUS

I didn't expect six to try and draw on me at once, but, to be honest, I wasn't expecting anything. I like to be surprised.

Now I'm fast - we're talking brain altered by top neurosurgeons fast - but I'm not usually fast enough to shoot six humanoids before any can get off a shot... especially since I didn't have the drop on them or anything. Still, I had drawn my two blasters and shot two of them before the rest had even a full grip on their guns. Those shots panicked the rest, and only one bolt came even near me. When the noise died down, there were more than six bodies lying on the ground. I wasn't sure if it was my shots or theirs that killed the others, but, frankly, in the past few seconds I had grown a deep-seated prejudice against purple aliens with tentacles coming out of their heads and thus didn't really care.

Their blood was orange, if you were curious. If there’s come correlation between alien skin color and blood color, I never figured it out.

"Anyone else?" I asked as I put my guns back in their holsters. The aliens made a number of sounds, all of them variations of the word "No" according to my universal translator.

I dropped Niko out so Niko could do what Niko does - collect DNA and other info off corpses for verifying I had done my job - while I headed for the door. This was a civilized city in that I could expect police to show up at some point. In some places, the reaction time for police was so quick they'd be there half-way through the trigger pull. In others, I had enough time to play a couple hands of Solitaire before making my hasty escape. I used to look up police response time before landing on the planet, but I stopped a while ago to add a little spice to otherwise boring hits.

Niko crawled up my leg and into my pocket, his spider-like body folding back into a ball. Hopefully one of those I killed was the target, but, if not, I was still getting off this rock either way. I wasn't the one who screwed this up.

I was just a couple yards from the bar when I heard sirens coming my way. Now, if I was after a dangerous psychopath, I'd probably be quieter about it - if I weren't me, that is. Well, maybe the first officer on the scene could at least serve as a cautionary example to others.

NEXT

Rating: 3.3/5 (13 votes cast)

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July 26, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 1 - Organized Crime
Posted by Frank J. at 02:35 PM

There are two main parts to organized crime: the organization and the crime. I focus pretty much exclusively on the crime half... and I'm very good at that half. But those tasked with the organization have a tendency to screw things up from time to time, and, to be frank, that sometimes makes me a little irate. And, as a certified psychopath, you think people would be more cautious about making me irate.

I took out my phone. "Vito, my instruction were to kill the purple alien with tentacles out of its head at the north most bar in Zertres, right?"

"Yeah. What's up?"

"I see about three dozen purple aliens with tentacles coming out of their heads in front of me, that's what."

"Uh... maybe I got the instructions wrong. Maybe you're supposed to kill the alien there that isn't purple with tentacles coming out of its head."

"That would be me, Vito! And I don't get paid enough to take on someone as dangerous as me. Can you at least get me a name?"

"No, I'm afraid I'm a couple layers away from where the order originated. The target should be there, but it would probably take me hours to..."

I hung up on Vito and took a deep breath (never kill angry). One option was to kill everyone there, but I had neither the time nor the explosives for that. Since about all the patrons of the bar were looking at me and noting my lack of purpleness and tentacles, I decided to try a direct approach to locate my target. I've never been much for discretion anyway; I'm a hitman, not an assassin.

"Anyone here have reasons a major crime syndicate would want him dead?"

NEXT

Rating: 2.4/5 (14 votes cast)

Comments (10)
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