Thursday, July 11, 2013

Metal In The Moonlight - Episode 21.



Episode 21

“I need a small favor,” Dr. Foxfire whispered softly. Setting across from her in a dimly lit corner booth of The Rat Hole a gruff man nodded his understanding. Of course the wily she-fox had called him for a favor; she never reached out to him unless there was something she needed. He had known her for many a year, he had even helped scrounge the necessary elements together to make her escape to a quiet sector of space so long ago. You might say surviving in any situation was his specialty. It was one of the little ironies he enjoyed as many a customer came in need of his services to ask in hushed tones amid back alleys for ‘the coyote.’

If only they truly knew just how true that moniker really was. Perhaps if they had even a hint of how aptly he had been named. But he was getting distracted again from the matter at hand. The dear doctor had caught wind of something that had ruffled her fur or sparked her curiosity and either was a dangerous thing to toy with in his estimation. “So what has managed to get your tail in a twist this time?” He asked impatiently and took another draw from his almost empty glass.

“Daniel, you know I never call on you arbitrarily,” Dr. Foxfire began to explain. “But certain events have transpired that demand I look into them. Things that could threaten to reveal my past and jeopardize a lot of innocent lives. Including your own, I am afraid.” She noticed her cautious companion was quick to raise an eyebrow at the proposed danger to him. It was a safe bet to effectively lure him into helping her Dr. Foxfire had always been able to rely on. Daniel may be a shameless scavenger with a notorious reputation for doing just about anything for the right money, but the one thing he held higher than anything else was his own well-being.

“Well, since you put it that way,” Daniel declared with a weak cough to clear his throat as he playfully regarded his glass. “I think I am going to need another drink and you are definitely picking up the tab this time.” The attempted humor failed to mask the somber seriousness behind his eyes as his full attention turned itself directly towards Dr. Foxfire. “What’s up, doc,” he finally asked when his second full glass arrived to rest before him. But instead of drinking it, Dr. Foxfire made a mental note of how her old acquaintance merely held it in his hand and rolled it around.

Something about her implied query was worrying him that much she was sure of. Yet if it was the concern of someone involved or just his usual desire for self-preservation she couldn’t say. But either way she needed to know the kinds of information that he might have access to. If someone had smuggled something onto Gallu then Daniel Latran would be the one person sure to know.

“Come on, Dan,” Dr. Foxfire implored with her best ‘I-am-not-amused’ stare. “We both know if someone wants anything to leave or arrive without questions that they talk to you. And there is no way in the entire outer rim that a ship could land here without its passengers or contents undergoing a standard security check. Remember the kinds of things they check for? Dangerous pathogens, illegal goods, wanted criminals and the whole lot; nothing gets off until everything checks out. So I want you to just go right ahead and tell me who would want to transport a feral shifter to Gallu just to release him on its people. Let’s part the veil here and now; people are dying and if I don’t find some answers the trail just might lead back to us with a whole mad mob behind it. And you don’t need me to remind you how quickly such a gathering can jump to conclusion about those of us with furrier dispositions.”

Suddenly Daniel’s throat was impossibly dry. He knew he never should have taken that job in the first place, it had never felt right to begin with even if the payoff had been a stack of hard coin high enough to make him forget such hesitations. As much as he hated to admit it the foxy doctor had a good point. If a shifter had gone savage and been released on a backwater world like Gallu it would only be a matter of time before word got out. And then anyone even remotely hairier than generally accepted would bare the brunt of the blame. Not to mention the corresponding vengeance of anyone with even a measure of suffered loss.

“Alright, alright,” Daniel said simply with both hands held out before him as if he gestured for the whole world to pause for him. He nervously licked at his lips and closed his eyes to try and recall as much of the details as he could manage. Typically he tried to avoid as much of the specifics as he might to preserve his own ability to claim ignorance later. But on occasion he came across a job that even he couldn’t completely remain untouched by. And when you were getting paid in the manner that he was it was far too foolish not to keep an eye on the turning gears lest you find yourself crushed by their movements. He really hadn’t managed to stay alive and kicking this long in his line of work without learning from his experiences.

“A coded com channel is how I was approached, you know the routine. At first it was just a nameless middleman wanting a meet to offer me a job. Seemed simple enough, but simple often leads to skinned hides so I entered into everything extra wary. The whole matter was altogether hush-hush all the way down to them paying me in hard coin to avoid the issue of traced funds. There was no names, no records just a word to ear arrangement. They wanted me to help ensure a package was safely delivered to Gallu and no questions would be asked along the way to complicate matters. That was it.

Which, I have to admit puzzled me. Usually if someone wants my services it is for the entire deal – including getting whatever it is onto the world and reporting the jobs completion. But this one they just wanted me to make sure it arrived to Gallu orbit, not onto the world itself. So I naturally expected competition, especially with the pay I was receiving. I mean think about it, if they were just paying me so well to do the easy part they must have someone else on site to finish the job that would have to be getting as much or more. And I despise competition.”

Daniel definitely did enjoy painting himself in a brighter light, Dr. Foxfire decided. But she needed the condensed version of the tale right now. “Skip to the important bits Dan, before I accidentally forget that you have on occasion done some decent things in your life,” she advised. It didn’t take an overly clever coyote to see that the doctor was seriously stressed by the situation. So Dan quickly agreed that perhaps it was a good idea to bypass the sweeping strokes and get to the point.

“Long story short, I did my own deductive digging and came up with only one thing. The group that hired me was none other than the Magistrate Council itself,” Dan answered and then made his drink vanish in a single swallow. “And now I think it is best if I turn tail to get myself clear of this whole system for a bit. Care to join me doc?”

“No,” Dr. Foxfire said absently as she tried to make sense of this new piece of information. “No, I think I still have some work to finish here first.” There was someone else out there in the night doing his job as promised and she had agreed to do her best in return. She owed it to Gabriel to stick around to help him. Because if anyone could stop this thing without becoming a monster themselves she had faith that it was that miraculous man.