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Zenith Omega
Contrapasso III
Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:34am
174.18.7.32 (XFF: 70.192.119.56)

Contrapasso


Shifting Loyalties


Lord James Comb lifted his briefcase to his lap as the limousine slowly halted on the tarmac. the cabin dampeners perfectly overrode the sensation of the vehicle stopping. Unlike many of his contemporaries Comb preferred the archaic wheeled variety of Limo, a trend he had noticed several younger music stars and even a couple corporate execs taking up. When he had first heard the young CEO had smiled. It was as his father had once told him: Separate oneself from the pack and many will follow after you.

Glancing out the window the lord grimaced to see fat raindrops splattering against the heavily tinted plasma-resistant plasteel. The driver and passenger side doors opened in near perfect unison and two heavily built men stepped out into the rain their hands hovering just inside their unbuttoned coats as they scanned the airport from behind sunglasses that were linked to motion sensors set up long before Comb’s arrival. Undoubtedly the rain was playing hell on them but he trusted in the skills of his security team. They were the best and Lord Comb paid more than enough to keep them loyal. Loyd Tarico, the driver, was the son of Alfred Comb’s head of security; his loyalty to the Comb family was as solid as the Spring Mountains just barely visible past the end of the private airport.

After a long minute Tarico moved to Comb’s door and opened it, holding an opened umbrella over the door, cocked perfectly to keep the rain from splattering against his employer’s multi-thousand credit suit.

The second Comb’s head cleared the roof a plasma round ricocheted from the roof of the limo only inches from his face. Tarico shoved James back into the car and pulled his pistol even as the other security officer, Havers, did the same. Both frantically searched for the source of the shot.

Another followed the first in short order and splattered Havers’ head turning his brain to a fine pink mist. James saw Tarico’s jaw muscles jump. He and Havers had been childhood friends.

“That shot was off.” Tarico muttered, crouched next to James, using the limo as cover. “Angle’s wrong. It was meant to be a chest shot.”

Lord Combs smiled. “Then my extra precaution has paid off.”

“What?”

“You’ll see in a moment.”

***

Geffalt grimaced and chambered another round. The first miss had rankled him enough to send a spike of outrage through the sedatives. A sudden whisper of movement sent a chill racing down his spine and Geffalt surged up driving his neck onto the plasma blade cocked just above him. His last thoughts were curses for his unknown killer and his own stupidity for having been outmaneuvered.

Zenith Omega pulled her plasma blade from the back of the sniper’s neck and surveyed her handiwork with a grim satisfaction. The strike was clean and precise without even a spot of blood showing from the wound.

A perfect kill.

Slipping the scope from the assassin’s rifle she zoomed in on the limo. Lord Comb’s face leapt into view. He was looking directly at her and smiling. For some reason his expression sent a thrill of rage through her though she couldn’t imagine why. He was her employer. She was programmed to protect him. His taking satisfaction in her work should have been a good thing.

Lowering the scope Zenith pondered the problem for a moment then shoved it aside as unimportant even as she dropped the dead man’s scope and leapt from the window to land on the runway asphalt nearly a story below her.

Moments later she was at Lord Comb’s side. Tarico’s face was white with rage. An interesting contrast to Comb’s placid smile.

That is your extra precaution?” The security officer snarled, jabbing a finger in Zenith’s face.

“Get your finger out of my face before I remove it.” Zenith replied, her tone perfectly even.

“You can’t trust her.”

Humor filtered into Zenith’s voice. “I did a better job of protecting Lord Comb than you or your dead friend.” Only Comb’s upraised hand kept Tarico from surging forward and even as he restrained himself every muscle in his body quivered as though the bodyguard were fighting himself.

“Loyd. You know Dr. Vere is an impeccable reploidologist. If he says I can trust her with my life then I can.”

“Sir I think-” James cut his head of security off with a sharp swipe of his hand.

“If I want your opinion on something I will ask for it specifically.” He turned to Zenith. “Get aboard and clean up.”

Zenith nodded and, with a final sneer for Loyd, climbed the stairs up into the small private jet.

***
Aiden’s lips curled in a grim smile as his door reverberated with the sounds of armored fists pounding against his door.

“C’mon Aiden. Lord Comb wants a word with you.” Aiden recognized the voice. Hasp. one of the mercenaries Comb kept on retainer. If the yellow-armored reploid was there then his partner Brutus was as well. The two had worked as a team of Free Zone mercenaries for nearly a decade and in that time had earned a reputation for cold efficiency. That they had survived years in the Free Zone separately before joining together told that both were incredibly capable veterans in a business that did not suffer fools.

The sniper settled his visor over his eyes and gathered up the Morrigan rifle configured for rapid fire.

Hasp sighed. “He ain’t comin’ out.”

Brutus shrugged. “Suppose he heard what Comb’s got planned for ‘im?”

“Could be.” The yellow armored reploid scratched his matted black hair. “Aiden always was the smarter of the two. Saw him pull a job in Monico. As professional as you please. Cold as ice too.”

“Well. Orders’re orders.” Brutus drew his mega buster and primed it. “Cold as ice or no the bastard’s comin’ with us and I don’t recall Doc Vere bein’ too particular as to how many pieces he was in.”

Hasp’s signature energy saws slid out of their sheathes on his gauntlets and the mercenary revved them experimentally. “On three?”

Brutus nodded. “On three.” Hasp pressed himself against the wall next to the door as Brutus shuffled back to give himself some room. The mega buster in his hand whined as it charged.

“One. Two. THREE!” Brutus fired and Aiden’s door exploded inward in a shower of splinters and plasma vapor. Hasp whirled around the corner, tucked into a dive and came up; his chainsaws roaring. After a second he looked over his shoulder at Brutus. The bigger reploid strode carefully into the devastated living room, his buster primed and ready.

“Where the hell is he?”

***

Fett’s Bar was the single largest drinking establishment in what had once been California. A haven for mercenaries, thieves, cutthroats, and worse. It was also one of the best places to attain information which was why Aiden was currently sitting in a back booth trying to breathe shallowly. The air around him was filled with a variety of smokes, the most pungent being a purple haze that came from Narc, a drug made specifically for Reploids. It was illegal in Hunter and Maverick held territory alike. Needless to say the Narc market was thriving in the Free Zone.

A nervous human slumped down into the seat across from Aiden and scratched at the stubble coating his chin and neck. “What’re you lookin’ for man?”

“Get up.”

“C‘mon man. I heard you‘re lookin’ for some info. I might know about what yer wantin’ t‘find out about.”

“I doubt it.”

“If I don’t I can probably find someone who does but it’ll cost ya.” Aiden examined the human and frowned.

“I’d be surprised if you could find your asshole with both hands and a flashlight.” The black-armored reploid leaned forward and settled his elbows on the table to stare at the wretch from over his interlaced fingers. “Remove yourself from my presence or I will hang you with your own intestines.”

“F-fuck…” The would-be informant stumbled backwards and fell over his own chair. Scrabbling back to his feet the human shoved past several lounging patrons and vanished from sight.

“Now that wasn’t very polite.” Aiden leaned back and looked up at the reason he was there. Fett was an old man with a growing belly but no amount of gut could hide the hard core of the man nor the cold, deadly, gleam in his dark eyes. “What’re you doing here Aiden?”

“I need information.”

“About?”

“Several things.” Aiden ticked his requests off on his fingers as he spoke. “First I need t’know about Hasp and Brutus. Second, I need to know where James Comb stashed the Ravens. Third I need the name of a good hacker.”

“Tall order.” Fett said after a brief moment. “I do know a good hacker. One of the best and his price reflects that.”

“I’m good for it.” Fett nodded.

“Sure ya are kid.” The proprietor‘s hand slid under the lip of the table. “As to the second I can ask a few questions. Comb’s as fond of usin’ mercs as any of these corporate fucks, shouldn’t be hard to dig up some dirt…As to the first bit, y’can ask them yourself.” He jerked his chin over Aiden’s shoulder just as a massive hand thumped down on his shoulder pauldron.

“Howdy.” Hasp said, ambling around the table to enter Aiden’s sight. “Y’know there’s an open bounty out on you now. ‘Parently Comb didn’t take kindly to your resisting his summons.”

“And you two plan to collect.” The sniper’s cold blue eyes flicked from Hasp to Fett. The old man shrugged his shoulders gently. Hasp’s grin widened. “Ain’t got nothing to do with you Fett. Just business.”

“Yeah.” The retired mercenary clambered to his feet, an expensive pistol flashing in his hand. “Keep it clean.” He inclined his head towards Aiden. “No hard feelings kid.”

“I’ll be wanting that information when I’m done here.” The reploid assassin said, keeping his voice and expression professionally bland. Hasp laughed.

“I like this one Brutus. Damn shame we gotta turn him over to Comb. Could’a turned our duo into a trio deal like Dem, Surge, and Retro had goin’ back in the day.”

“I work better alone.” Aiden said coldly. Hasp snorted then chuckled.

“Guess that’d be a problem too.” Brutus’s hand began exerting pressure on Aiden’s shoulder. The sniper winced when the metal of his armor began to crumple as Brutus’s fingers dug grooves in the Titanium-X.

Grimacing Aiden glared at Hasp. “Know what the first rule of bounty hunting is?” He gasped.

“Whassat?”

“Always be prepared.” Aiden squeezed the detonator in his palm and the shaped charge over his head went off sending a gout of flame across Brutus’s head and shoulders sending the brown-armored reploid staggering backwards screaming as he beat at his face trying to extinguish the Argent Fire and only succeeding in setting his hands ablaze.

Hasp lurched forward, his gauntlet-mounted chainsaw whirring as he stabbed for Aiden‘s face. His instincts, honed over a lifetime’s worth of years in the Free Zone, absolved his gut reaction to hesitate over Brutus’s grizzly fate. Aiden kicked himself backwards, saving his life by bare inches as the energy-saw buzzed just in front of his eyes.

Landing in an ungainly sprawl Aiden deftly rolled away from Hasp as the bounty hunter sawed through the table in a single savage swipe and came up with his fist wrapped around the butt of his pistol. A sharp crack echoed through the bar and Hasp stiffened, his eyes going wide as blood began spilling down his torso.

“Y-you son of a-!” Hasp’s desperate last rush halted abruptly as the black-armored sniper emptied his pistol into him. His last image was of Aiden staring grimly down at him. Turning Aiden examined Brutus who was still weakly scrabbling at his melting face. A mercenary lifted his mega buster and pointed it at the bounty hunter then glanced at Aiden. He shook his head.

“Let ‘im burn.”

***

Yashira Satori bent her head slightly, exposing her neck to the servant behind her. The woman silently poured water down her back as Yashira held her hair out of the way, letting the water sluice over her shoulders and across her chest. In front of her a hovering holo-image showed a still picture of James Comb.

Lowering the vase the servant quirked an eyebrow then spoke. “Will there be anything else mistress?”

“No Hoshi. You may go.” Yashira replied softly never taking her eyes from the image of her future husband. Hoshi bowed and padded quietly from the bath leaving the young woman alone with her thoughts.

Releasing her hair Yashira traced a slim finger down the side of James’s face. “So cold.” She whispered shivering despite the warmth of the bath.

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