Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Six Moon and Wren

Six Moon and Wren
by Keith Giles

*NOTE: This was the intro to a spin-off book I considered writing after the first "Digerati" book was complete. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

In Saint Petersburg, Florida they take abandoned vehicles to the Azure Lake Scrap Yard where, after the obligatory thirty days, any unclaimed sleds and skimmers are stripped, crushed and stacked into tight little cubes before they get sent to the recycling center up near the Atlanta-Plex.

The Daytona Saloon is a sleaze pit by every definition, but it’s where Stilson usually preferred to meet with new business associates. If they weren’t the kind to show up and drink a beer there, then he figured they weren’t the sort of client he’d want anyway.

Stillson had been waiting for over an hour now and the meager crowd was beginning to thin down due to the gradual decline in the quality of the entertainment. The best girls usually went on before midnight. After that it was strictly the ones who were too old to draw a full house, or too plain to make anyone pay for a second drink.

Near the old video juke a rat caught the business end of a mousetrap. A tiny piece of Velveeta popped out of the rodents mouth along with a small squirt of blood. Stillson was ready to leave when Fisheye, the old wheeze that owned the bar, leaned over to speak to him. It looked like someone had knocked out his right eye in a fight and had forgotten to stick it back in correctly.

He had to shout over the music, “You’re Stilletto, right?”

Stillson leaned forward, ”What you got?”

Fisheye ogled him with that bad right eye for a second and then he slipped a fold of paper across the bar and under his glass.

When he moved down the bar, Stillson opened the folded scrap and read the hand scrawled note; “Change of venue. Try again. The Bridge. West side. 3am”.

He downed the last of his drink and crumpled the note in his fist.

For a moment he considered just going home, but then he changed his mind.

Fisheye came over to take his payment for the whiskey, scanning his right hand with the greasy chrome wand attached to the belt at his waist.

“Thanks for comin’ in”, Fisheye said.

Stillson slid off the barstool and walked out into the cold drizzle of the Florida night. There was a staggered wash of neon forming a haze effect on the street outside. He turned his collar up on the black leather jacket he always wore and made his way to the monorail station down the block.

Bred in a vat and gene-spliced for use in the last world war, Stillson had never seen combat. Instead, his batch of soldiers had been officially classified as “defective” and listed on the manifest as destroyed before reaching maturity. In reality, it had been an inside deal between the lab’s leading research scientist and a representative of an unnamed criminal element who had access to unlimited funds and a need for untraceable goods.

For the first five years of his life he’d grown up on these streets. Running with the other wild boys in packs like dogs. Most of the children in his series died hard on these streets, in ways he had spent most of his life trying to forget. Then Dariija had found him and taken him in, along with six other boys. Later on, he learned that it was Dariija himself who had purchased them from the lab and allowed them to fend for themselves for the first five years. After the strongest ones survived, he simply brought the remaining children into his care. He had raised them, not as sons as much as students. Broken their wild spirits and tamed them with methodical degrees of discipline and regimented doses of Urchin. They were free to leave at any time, but they also knew that anything they endured under Dariija was nothing compared to the streets. Here, at least, they had food and shelter and all they had to do was learn how to kill, which came pretty naturally for most all of them. But especially to Stillson. He had been the star pupil of Dariija’s school. When he had mastered the martial arts and the blade weapons he was ten years old. Dariija had made no sign of preference for Stillson, but the others knew he was better than all of them, and they knew that Dariija knew it too. He stopped working for Dariija when he was fifteen. That was the day he had killed Dariija in open combat.

For the last six years he had been working solo. Sometimes running weapons, sometimes acting as a courier for sensitive equipment or material, other times working as a body guard or even as a bounty hunter on occasion. But, he stayed away from the wet work whenever possible. Not that he had any scruples about killing, but he’d done that most of his life and he knew there were better ways to make a living.

Stillson rode the monorail to Six Moon avenue and got off. The rain had stopped now, but there was still a chill in the air. The internal chip behind his right ear projected the time in the upper right-hand corner of his vision. Twelve minutes to three. Just enough time to walk to the Bridge and meet this elusive client.

He had no real idea who the client was or what the job involved. He had only received the email this morning on his datacom from Ramsey, one of the six he had grown up with on the streets, asking him to meet with the client at the bar tonight. Ramsey was still on assignment in Durango and hadn’t planned on being out of town this long, so Stillson was eager to help him out. He needed the funds.

He was about one hundred yards from the bridge when the skimmer’s headlights flashed ahead of him. It was a Charger, one of the newer ones with the silent runner and extra juice to propel it at speeds well over the legal limits. It was headed for him like a bullet.

Stillson tugged at the rubber Pachmeyer pistol grip on the Hammerhead strapped under his jacket and spun around, pulling the short, ugly weapon out in a single fluid motion. The Charger was a blur now, the headlights blazing down on him like a flare. Stillson kept spinning, kicking up with his left leg to get airborne as the skimmer sailed beneath him. The Hammerhead went off in his fist like a thunderbolt. He heard the satisfying explosion of glass as the double-barreled weapon threw him backward into the sky. The skimmer swerved madly, seemed about to right itself and then clipped the corner of a light pole and spun wildly end over end. As Stillson’s feet touched the ground the skimmer was coming to a stop. He could see now that it was a candy apple red color and that the roof was sheared off in the wreck. A Japanese man, about twenty years old was hanging half out of car where the windshield used to be.

Internally, he heard the soft buzz of his datalink ringing.

He touched a stud below the skin of his right ear.


“You’re in danger…” a woman’s voice said.

“Who are you? Where did you learn my number?”

“From Ramsey. There’s not much time. You’re in danger, someone is being sent to the bridge to kill you”.

He looked at the time pulsing in his peripheral vision. It was 3pm.

“Kinda late. They already tried.”

“Are you ok?”

“I’m talking, ain’t I? So, what the hell is going on?”

“I can’t talk over this link, we need to meet in person. Meet me tomorrow at ….”

“No. I pick the location this time. Tomorrow at the Pink Palace on Six Moon and Wren. Noon. You wear a red jacket, I’ll find you.”

“But, I don’t have a red jacket.”

“Then you better get shopping,” he said and cut the connection. He slid the Hammerhead back into the sling under his jacket and snapped it closed.

It had started to rain again.

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