The Wake Up Call (part 1.11)
This story, about a small time criminal called Hetch and the seedy world of biotech terrorists, brutal businessmen and plagues of pollutants in which he finds himself saturated by, continues where it left off in Hugi 19. Before I go any further I wish to send my great thanks to Seven for his detailed, constructive and polite feedback, without him this story would have ended many issues ago.
His life flashed before his eyes
Hetch is either the luckiest man alive, or the most unfortunate man on Earth depending on his current situation and state of mind. For his first illegal courier job things have often gone from bad to worse, and then some. Around each corner lurked another surprise, another foe to defeat, another step towards a major league criminal (death) sentence. The cocktail of designer drugs, gut rotting alcohol and a slew of beatings from unknown individuals have taken their toll on his body and mind. The deep burn on his side from battery acid has become his watch, a trusted friend like Old Father Time constantly kicking his ribs to make sure he hasn't rolled over and died yet. The pain swings to and fro sending a spasm towards his defocused consciousness with a regular rhythm like a nerve pendulum.
His reason was long gone, logic crushed under the military boots like that shuttle terminal platform below the lost property department, and trust was now a distant memory like that of his sleazy, dead boss, Mewco. There were no mirrors to hold next to Hetch's face to see if he was still breathing. This he would be extremely happy about, the sight of seeing the rat-like Mewco's reflection in place of his own could have finally placed the 'in-' to his current fragile '-sanity'. His female guest, the stewardess from the shuttle, was now part of his landscape. Whereever he went, there she was and often with a couple of her accomplices ready to sweep the floor with his body, or wanting to take parts of it as souvenirs. From the few scraps of information and the trap she led him into he had constructed an image of her which seemed as complex and as untrustworthy as Mewco, his dead ex-boss, whose surgical disguise Hetch wears like a second skin. In fact the mask of this new identity is Mewco's expensive skin, a gruesome face glove to complete the transformation from Hetch into Mewco. Together with his dead ex-boss's clothes he appeared to the world, and more importantly to the stewardess, as Mewco. Who knows what her next step would be, another ambush or an open hand, ready to snatch his fragile sense of trust yet again. Her good looks played on his mind like the bait on a fisherman's hook, ready to reel him into her net. There was a kindness and cruelty all mixed together.
The case, that jinxed metal artefact, cast a curse on all that touched its tough, heavy handle. Everyone wanted to steal it for themselves or their shadowy employers. There were lots of events which didn't get together, like why did someone steal his case and his arm only to hand them in at the lost property department? Why was Mewco's body found in that vacant Eldora Tower apartment? And where did his body go after that fire? It seemed to Hetch that Mewco's slimy character and masterly skills in the art of blackmail, intimidation, double-dealing, illegal transactions could have contributed to his death. Sure, there were crime lords to swipe-freaks who all wanted to take over Mewco's turf but never did Hetch think for a moment that any would succeed (especially on Hetch's first courier job).
The only clear instruction stamped on that rag bag memory of his was to deliver that damn case, dump it, collect the money and run. He didn't care where, but when was a different matter. It had to be now, or sooner. Every turn brought his own demise even closer. Every citizen was a potential witness who could recognise him for some dark crime long ago in Mewco's past. Taking on someone else's identity was a mine field of problems. You didn't know what had taken place in the past or who you had double-crossed for more profit. One bonus was the fact he could more easily control his female companion. Another was that he now owned all of Mewco's resources, all his safe-houses, his gambling dens, his stolen military hardware and countless people. Those foolish enough to become ensnared in one of Mewco's 'too good to be true' offers, like the stewardess and himself had done.
The last crime Hetch was involved in was a shooting during a vast street riot. The well built, skin head assassin who provoked such fear in Hetch soon spread to his female taxi pod passenger. She stood facing the crime scene, her back to the squabbling crowds of rioters and the remains of the earlier bomb explosion. The career orientated news presenter, Matt Hemlock, directed his vid-cam operator to take close-ups of the taxi-pod, Hetch's lifeless body and then himself.
Chapter 1.11: Dead and Buried
The violent scenes around the taxi pod snapped into a brief moment of calm. The sight of Mewco's transition from mythical low-life to passenger to corpse before the raging eyes of the mobs and media ghouls was an atom bomb. Those who knew of him dropped their fists and their desire to loot or murder those around. It was if a family member had just been assassinated in front of them. Mewco was a cancer, a tunnelling parasite whose mind was always one booby-trapped step in front of his unwilling employees, but he was also a constant in these turbulent times. Gangs, clans, punks, pimps and cults all came and went, absorbed or erased by other bigger fish in this stale, stagnant pond of a city. It seemed that Mewco would be around for ever, always in the background pulling the strings like an evil puppeteer. Now, now he was gone in the manner of a public execution played out for mobs and media alike.
The smoke grenades evaporated their last contents as the troop lines quickly moved in to take control, to divide and conquer the dazed crowds of on-lookers. The white, choking mist clouds of tear gas unrolled over the body like a second rate horror vid. The taxi pod was abandoned like a creepy yellow castle on top of a concrete hill top. The news crew rushed into the epicentre and Matt Hemlock began his long monologue about the tragedy of a single, lost life amongst the blood thirsty crowds of rioting individuals. The troop commander ordered two medics over to help move the body. This was more of a publicity stunt designed to show the caring, sharing side of a commercially owned anti-terrorist army rather than on the grounds of compassion, humanity or charity. These corporations were eager to control and censor any media footage which was harmful to their profits, and partly because the commander despised that jerk-off Matt Hemlock.
Pah! Why is it always us to get the crappy jobs of moving stiffs?
said one medic to his equally armour suited partner.
Dunno, we're just fucking lucky this way I guess.
the other replied with a matter of fact sense of humour.
One rolled Hetch's body over with his boot and watched as its lifeless arm slapped against the broken glass covered roadway. They each held a leg and dragged his body onto the stretcher causing one of Hetch's arm to knock against the metal case.
Hey, I wonder what's in this.
It might be valuable. Let's keep it and split the profit.
Shut up asshole, want Matt 'the hero' Hemlock to hear you?
Meanwhile the Stewardess looked nervously around, she couldn't see that skin head who Hetch pointed out on the taxi-pod's vid screen. What if she was next on his hit list? Perhaps one of Mewco's crime clients had placed a bounty on his head, and maybe he had now vanished into the surroundings like an assassin in the night. No, she couldn't take the risk and after all there was the case, just sitting there waiting to be grabbed and with no Mewco to control her she now had both hands free. The media or the police might recognise her at any moment. Her only chance was the case. She decided to chance it and pushed herself towards the body and the case.
Come on, stick the case on the corpse and let's go.
The two medics carried the stretcher towards a vastly armoured troop carrier. The case slid off and crashed to the ground like a whale performing a killer belly-flop from the highest diving board in the world.
Oh fuck! Man, why can't a body be more flat? What say we jump up and down on his ribs to squash them down a bit?
The second medic kicked the case along the ground with his boot to save him the effort of having to pick it up. The stewardess approached them and offered to help. The gift of their clumsiness was the chance she had hoped for.
Can I offer some assistance to you two, fine figures of manhood?
she said in a playful, flirty way.
Well, well, things are starting to look good.
Sure honey, do you know the corpse.. er.. dead.. er causality?
They both scanned her figure and the innocent smile which masked her fears of being recognised. Her job gave an opportunity to practice being charming to the shuttle's passengers no matter what chaotic events were unfolding around her. She needed to be, and was, convincing. They lapped up her performance and almost fell over themselves as they loaded the dead weight cargo into the make-shift ambulance.
Tell me Miss, are you related to the, er.. patient in any way?
She froze, gripped the case even tighter and searched for the words. The heavy doors slammed shut and the troop carrier began to leave the wrecked city scene.
Leave her alone, she is probably in shock.
We were travelling in the taxi-pod together.
The second medic seemed a little troubled by this and his mood changed towards her.
Excuse me Miss, but you, to be honest, don't seem the type to be travelling with him.
It's a long story.
Hey, its a long ride back to the temporary H.Q.
Her heart sank. She was half way home, she had the case but not the means to escape from her two passengers and the now covered body of Hetch, who was still disguised as Mewco.
Listen jerko, leave her alone. It's not every day a civilian gets caught up in a riot.
Isn't there anything you can do for him?
She looked at the white sheet made from easy-to-clean material hoping that their attention would be diverted from her long enough so she could think up a plausible story.
Don't waste your breath on him honey. Now tell me, what's your phone number?
Yeah, the only place he's going is down the chute.
You're so fucking crude man. Sorry miss, he hasn't been taught any manners.
It's okay. In my job I encounter all types of people.
The incinerator chute he means. It's how we dispose of bodies. You know what the budgets are like these days, not even enough to replace stolen hardware or buy a cup of hot coffee. It's probably the same in your line of work huh?
Something like that.
I'm sure we have met before Miss.
Don't mind him, that's the best chat up line he knows.
She smiled and her mind raced. What if he knew about the shooting incident in the alleyway? No, it wasn't possible. The troops would be too busy with the riots to watch the police vid channels. Her heart told her to run, to bail out at the first chance and to not stop running until she was safely aboard the shuttle.
Which shuttle flight do you normally take? Perhaps you have been one of my passengers in the past?
The second medic sighed an unconvinced breath of doubt. He was clearly not as taken in by her as his fellow medic seemed to be.
I doubt it, we always travel 4th class. Compliments of GSF on board one of their sparse troop shuttles. What's with all these question Jake? Training to be an interrogator?
The troop carrier jolted to a sudden halt. The case slid across the armour plated floor panels and thumped into the leg of the first medic.
Say, what's in this case?
Yeah, and what happened to that long story you were about to tell us?
You were gonna tell us during our journey.
ER, well he was a passenger on my shuttle flight.
You mean security let the likes of him on board? Man, they are getting slack.
He needed someone to show him around the city and make sure his case got to its destination safely.
But you're such a pretty little thing. Don't they have real protection guards or secure transport for that type of thing?
I can take care of myself.
Honey, I find that hard to believe.
Outside some voices could be heard. Although the actual words couldn't be made out through the thick armoured passenger box walls, there were definitely some form of argument going on followed by a loud metallic kick to the troop carrier.
Don't say that asshole driver has hit another civilian transporter.
Stay here Miss, we had better check it out in case we're run into another small crowd of rioters.
The two medics readied their side arms and exited through the back doors of the troop carrier. A few moments of silence, then a series of shots rang out. The deafening sound of an exterior lock vibrated inside the metal carrier like a shotgun in an oven. She frantically ran to the back doors, jammed Mewco's stretcher underneath the rotated door lock and hoped that this would keep her safe inside.
The troop carrier engine roared once again. The interior shook from acceleration and it seemed like the driver had become possessed. She slid around on the hard mesh seats as the cabin rocked and rolled its way through back streets and what seemed like down stone steps. There was a collision and Mewco's body rolled off the stretcher onto the floor, which was covered by dirty boot prints and half spent cigars, cigarettes and stimulant injectors. "God, this is almost as bad as that filthy taxi-pod" she thought. She looked down at the twisted body and white sheet before her. There was a slight feeling of sympathy for 'it'. But this soon gave way to scorn, after all, her experiences during the those times in Mewco's sleazy entertainment pits couldn't be quickly forgotten. "You have finally got what you deserve, lying on the floor with the rest of the trash."
The Roller-coaster journey continued for some time and she wondered how many new bruises she would have at the end. Troop carriers were never designed for comfort and spending what seemed like hours trapped inside one with a corpse was a far cry from her usual shuttle travels. The engine stalled and the carrier snapped to an abrupt halt the silence. An eerie lack of sound greeted her ears. She looked around for a weapon of some description, but only found a few medical supplies. The stretcher jumped as someone outside attempted to open the heavy round door lock. She stared intensely as again and again the lock smashed against the metal stretcher handles. What or whoever was outside was strong and determined to get in. She gripped a used scalpel knife in her fist and prepared to defend herself from whoever came through the door first.
Finally the door opened and the bright, polluted sun light pierced into the troop carrier's interior like a giant refrigerator except this time the light didn't come on inside when you opened the door. There before her were two individuals. A short, muscular skin head and a tall, long haired figure looking nervously around with a paranoid, drug filled expression on his unshaven face. The stewardess backed herself into the corner as far as she could.
If either of you come near me, I swear to God I will stab you.
Her words fell from her trembling lips with neither the volume or conviction to make them believable to herself or the two dangerous looking individuals standing by the door.
The skin head dragged the body towards him and without any apparent effort on his part tossed it over his shoulder and started to walk towards a much smaller vehicle. Pausing for a moment to watch the heavy cargo being loaded into his recently stolen transport the long haired character resumed his attention on the stewardess. The skin head climbed up into the high troop carrier. She flicked the scalpel in an arc and hoped that this would convince him that she was serious.
Some people want to talk to you.
said the long haired technician.
Lady, put down the knife before someone gets hurt.
Right, and it be will one of you two.
She replied. She wasn't going to give it up without a fight. Looking at the tattooed skin head it would be over in the blink of an eye. He continued to step forwards keeping both his arms in front of him, ready to tackle her down to the ground.
We haven't got time for this shit Trimble, just grab her and let's go.
She swung the scalpel again, this time it connected with the skin head's hand cutting into it almost down to the bone.
Oh Fuck! Just shoot the bitch before I lose a finger.
He backed off to nurse the deep cut on his hand. Blood trailed along the rusty metal floor panels as he squeezed the wound together in an attempt to stop the blood. The other one reached into his dark coat, pulled out a small pistol and aimed it at her heart.
Still wanna play this little game?
The nervous twitch on his face and obvious signs of drugs abuse instantly convinced her that she had lost, proceeding any further was akin to signing her own death sentence. She was on her own. Her only hope was that she would be around to witness the end of this 'little game' and beyond. The scalpel dropped from her hand and she walked down the steps like a convicted inmate on their way to the gallows.
Oh yeah, don't forget to bring the case. We wouldn't want anything happening to our precious little cargo, would we?
Her surrendered will did as he ordered. She lifted the case and offered it to the long haired individual who just sneered at his victory.
And I didn't mean YOU when I said 'precious little cargo'.
Splice, what do you want me to do with the troop carrier?
The usual. Lose it, then lose yourself. I can handle little Miss flight attendant myself, besides the McKaff brothers are expecting us. Come on, move that cute little ass of yours.
he said pushing the pistol into her back.
And don't get any smart ideas.
To be continued...