Micro Manage Part IV

Most parts of New Cluster were more awake after dark and the lower regions south of the hub were no exception. Dregs wondered, too afraid of the vulnerability sleep brings to stop moving. Criminals of every sort prowled. Working women were passed by gangs of Bangers and thugs less organized.
A hundred scents mixed in their nostrils, the majority foul. New Cluster had long since let its streetlights go to rot and darkness reigned supreme. In this city, the people thought they had the choice of embracing the darkness or running scared. Talon had made a third choice.
He was the gray.

Talon

Talon

Moving through the masses like a ghost, he thought back to his plan. Sure it was not the most original of ideas, since Talon had learned more from movies than his limited education, but he was still hoping it would work. He remembered what Micro had said to Talon, when he had shaved off most of Micro’s hair. Talon had just left him a mohawk, like his own, for fun.
While Talon had glued the hair to his head, Micro had asked him, “so what do you think dressing up like me is going to do? Do you think you are going to fight your way through all of them?”
“Heh, I’m much more of a scamperer. Besides, what do you have to lose?”
“Plenty, if that program doesn’t reach the X.”

Micro

Micro

A group of hunting Rips snapped him back to the present. Without thinking, Talon ducked behind a group of homeless kids. After giving them all his change so they would not narc him out, he continued on his way. As he drew closer to the meeting spot, the Rip patrols grew thicker. They were always in groups of five. Perhaps that is as high as they could count, he thought with an internal smirk.
What did the X think about all this, he wondered, as he hopped over a low fence? The other gang must see all of these Rips around. He was half surprised that they were not attacking each other or keeping an eye out for Micro. “Maybe they don’t want your little toys as much as you thought,” he whispered to himself, while checking on the disc lying in his pocket for the seventh time.
He was trying to stay casual and keep loose, but a tightness ruled him. His hands clenched and unclenched. He was constantly wiping them clean of the sweat that was gathering there. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his stray thoughts and remain focused. One mistake, one piece of bad luck, and he could easily go down tonight. The Rips had no love for him and after the attack he made on them last night Ax might have removed his protection completely. If they got their hands on him, it would be all over… save for the pain.

Rippers

Rippers

A slow stream, more sludge than water, reflected the night before him. If he could cross it and make it down the alley, he would be nearly in front of The Joint and would only need to travel about thirty feet of the more major street, before he reached the relative safety of the bar. Something held him back. If he was looking for a sneak, this is where Talon would place his men.
Picking up a rock, he tossed it upstream. It made a sick plop. The noise brought two men out of hiding. They were here. He removed his bat from where it had been hiding under Micro’s jacket. Part of the plan was for Talon to show himself as Micro, so the real Micro would be able to sneak into the bar. He only hoped that he could do it without getting himself killed.
His free hand fumbled with the Personal that Micro had loaned him. Talon had a feeling his new friend was not going to be getting it back. He tossed it into a pile of leaves that had collected near the low bridge. With a remote, he started it. Their words sung out loudly dispelling the creeping silence.
“Hey Talon, are we almost there yet”

“Shut up. Do you want to get us caught? Keep up the blubbering and the Rips will find you for sure.”
“I got news for you little piggies, it’s too late.” Strang’s words burned into the air and, moving like jagged shadows, the Rips emerged form their dingy hiding places. Talon recognized a few of them. It was the same pack that had tangled with them the night before. “This big bad is going to blow your life down!”
Even as they rushed the recorder, Talon was moving towards the slimy stream. He was still twenty feet shy, when her heard the sound of metal breaking plastic. “Its some kind of- Wait, there he is!”
Talon did not even bother to look. Instead, he broke into a full sprint and attempted jumping the stream. He landed eight inches short and was rewarded with toxic green sludge filling his boots and staining his one pair of pants. After almost losing his footing, he continued mad dash for The Joint. He spied a few members of X pacing the street and he hoped that meant the place was safe.
The bouncers, both big fellows, named Booth and Primus, eyed him and were frowning as he ran past The Joint and straight up to a brace of X. These Bangers if anything were more bizarre than the Rips. Where the Rips were fierce and brutal, the X were just plain eerie. They dyed their faces and arms the color of crushed blueberries. There heads were kept shaved and without adornment other than the black X they had affixed between their eyes. For some it was a tattoo, while others favored branding or scaring.
“Hi guys.” He looked over his shoulder in time to see the Rips behind him hesitate, but then signal some of their fellows. If another five joined in the chase that meant two things. A, these X would not have much chance no matter how tough they were. B, he had a better excuse to continue with the original plan.
Before they had a chance to see through his disguise, Talon yelled, “There are too many of them!” He had found it all too easy to become nearly as hysterical as the role called for and bolted, not only the X, but also from the bouncers between him and the Rips.
Almost at once shouts, yells, and screams of pain followed in his wake. Before he had rounded the next corner, the sounds of other X taking up the fight had reached his ears. Strang was calling Micro’s name, but he just kept going. Where homebound Micro would have had little chance, a lifetime of hiding served Talon well. Strang and Tern had managed to pull away and gave him a good chase.

Glooms
Each time they got close, Talon would dash into a crowd. During one of these ditches, he pulled the tangled mass of Micro’s hair off his head. It hurt like hell, but after he lost the jacket, he looked like a whole knew man. Eventually, he was able to grab a bus on the Y line and get out of there unnoticed.
Sitting down on the grimy seats, he let out a long sigh. Micro might not be able to go shopping for a long while, but as long as the Rips never discovered his location he would be all right.

Learn more about the Chaos of New Cluster here!

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Micro Mange Part III

According to Micro, no one knew where he lived. This led Talon to surmise that the Rips must have been watching the drop off spot where Micro was to met the X. The plan had been for a few members of the X to be in a certain bar, known as The Joint, each night at 2am. This was to continue until Micro finally showed up. Talon had stayed at the house and after their long night and his new friend’s slow speed; the sun was nearly down before any real planning could be done. This had not mattered much; Talon’s plan was simple.

Micro III

“Why can’t I just go there and do the drop off?” Talon asked.

“How could I be sure I got my money? I put a lot of time into this.”

“How were you going to get the money? Somehow I can’t see you strolling down the street with an armful of Universals.”

“Oh no, I never touch money. They were going to enter it into an account.”

“Why can’t I watch them do that?”

Talon At Night

Talon

“I…I’m not sure I can trust anyone that much.”

Talon stared at the man. “I suppose you have no real reason to trust me, other than the motivation on my side to keep you alive, so I might be able to get more work like this from you. But I would have hoped that I’ve proven something by saving you and not taking off during the night with a few valuables under each arm.”

Micro was silent for a moment. “Talon, I respect you for what you have done and I’m sure you could take on four of me and live, but well… you are not some hired thug or something.”

“What are you saying?”

Micro IIIII

“Talon look at yourself? You are just a young PR and almost as skinny as I am. I like having your help, but you’re not much of a bodyguard.”

“We’ll see about that. If you have to come along, then that will be part of the plan. Being a bodyguard is more than fighting. Some bruiser might just try to fight his way through and get you killed. I don’t intend to fight our way through anyone. In fact, I may not need to be near you at all to keep you safe. So just wait until we are done before you judge how good a bodyguard I am.”

“Sounds fair. Now what sort of plan did you have?”

 

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Micro IIII

In Charge of My Demise

Mopping the lingering sweat off his brow, Dak entered the Deputy Chief’s office. Fesse’s wide face scowled. It might have bothered Dak if that was not the only look that he had ever seen there. It surprised him to see Fosters in the room with his supervisor, even though Dak knew that the real Fosters had died years ago.

 

Detectives

The man who examined him with Fosters’ gray eyes was named Bly and he was a Skinjumper; a man whose consciousness had been put into the cloned form of Fosters. The Jumpers were more powerful that most realized and Dak should know, he was dating one of them.

Dak, like Fosters, had become a man on the inside—an agent for the Skinjumpers, only he himself had never Jumped. It was his sweet Erin who had drawn him in.

“Have a seat Dak.” He did, and then lit up a smoke. The silence stretched.

Dak

“That was some job you did taking out those Grafters Dak. The idea that someone could clone an assassin and send him after the public again and again,” Fesse rubbed his forehead. “Let’s just say it made waves.”

“They don’t care that it targeted mostly just me?” he lied.

“This isn’t the only story Dak. These nutjob clones are big news. Nothing has been the same since those damned Grafters learned how to place a person’s consciousness into any type of clone they wanted. The world is full of the beautiful people and freaks. How can you even be sure you’re talking to?” For once he refused to meet his eye. “And you know how the damn Mayor feels about these Bodyjumpers. He has been putting a lot of pressure on our department.”

Dak’s mouth went dry. Jumping was a serious offence that gained one enough jail time to forget who you were. If Fesse were to ever find out he was dating a Jumper…

“What does this have to do with me?” He exhaled sending jags of smoke coiling through the triangles of sunlight.

Fosters/Bly spoke up. The young punk did the grouchy jaded cop thing almost too well. “Don’t be an idiot, Dak. You’re part of this. The press loves you.”

“For about another twenty minutes.”

Fesse took over. “That’s why we have to strike now and keep these guys off our backs. I want to start up a Jumper Task Force. And I want you to be its Captain.”

Dak almost swallowed the smoke.

Fosters/Bly was quick to add, “Listen it was a natural choice. When I heard about this, I knew you were the only man for the job. You’re young enough and have enough charisma to keep the press at-”

Shadowed Dak

”But if you’re trying to head off the Mayor, I think we should try to remember that I’m not his favorite guy.”

Fosters shell spoke Bly’s words. “Don’t argue. I’m sure as hell not going to do it. Who else do you think is qualified? Matthews is just a kid and what, would you rather see Peterman doing it.”

Dak wasn’t a fool. He had to take the post if only to keep someone else from taking it.

Still how could he be in charge of hunting down his own woman?

Learn more about Skinjumpers and New Cluster Here!

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The Climax of A Clone of a Different Color

It did not take long to pack. Fear lent them speed. Dak’s Public Enforcer salary was enough to allow him the luxury of a vehicle. Sure there would be numerous checkpoints before he could be free of the Hub, where the Mayor’s influence remained strongest, but he could only hope that if they moved fast enough this Enforcer clearance would see them both through before anyone realized they were gone.

Once they opened the door, they found themselves staring down the barrels of three Flashguns. It was Matthews, Waterman, and Fosters and it didn’t take much to force them back into the apartment.

Fosters shut the door behind them then motioned them with the business end of his pistol to have a seat on the sofa. He sat down opposite of them. Matthews scanned the rest of the small apartment, while Waterman mopped his brow with the back of his arm. Neither Waterman nor Fosters took their aim away from the couple.

Waterman sneered at Dak. “Matthews told me about who you really are and what you’re doing, and before they put you away, I just wanted you to know how sick I think it is.”

“Thanks for the update. I would have never been able to sleep other wise. Your opinion has always mattered so much to me.”

“Why you piece of-” Waterman hollered, as he rushed forward.

But Fosters drew him off. “Put a gag on it, Waterman. You know the Mayor wants these two. We’ll let him decide what to do with them.”

Dak looked over at Matthews. His silent pleading proved a wasted effort and Matthews avoided any uncertainly by looking away. Dak was running out of options.

“Come on guys, after all we have been through, you’re going to flush our friendships on a technicality?”


“We do not consider sleeping with a terrorist a technicality, Dak,” Waterman snarled. “Your perverted mind is just too clouded to see how screwed up you are.”

“All right enough of this chit chat,” Fosters said, his voice growing louder. “Matthews, Waterman, check them for weapons. I didn’t want any surprises.”

As it turned out everyone was surprised, but Fosters, when the older man shot Matthews and Waterman in the back with a powerful stun setting. They crumpled to the floor limp and unconscious.

“Wait, what?” Dak said, hopping to his feet. His confusion multiplied when Erin began to quickly gather the fallen officer’s weapons.

“Calm down and sit down,” Fosters said, waving his flashgun at him. He did so. Even if he could make a break for it, he would have stayed. He had to hear this one out. He just hoped it didn’t end with his death.

He looked down were Erin used each officer’s own cuffs to bind their hands behind their backs. She refused to meet his eyes. His heart pumped twenty extra beats a minute. “Erin?” he questioned. She still refused to look up at him and moved father away from him. She made a small sniffing sound and then wiped a hand across her face.

“Don’t blame poor Erin or should I say Evan. She didn’t know she was going to fall in love.”

Fosters seemed pleased with himself, but Dak had never been more confused. Although he had a feeling it would soon be becoming very clear to him. He looked from Erin, who still used her hair to hide her face, over to Fosters.

“It’s because of her that you aren’t flapping like a fish on the floor. It’s because of your little cutie that you’ll be given options. You see,” he began using the gun like a baton to emphasize his points. “We Jumpers are far more powerful than you could possibly imagine. The Mayor is a fool. He has no clue how far our fingers reach. He might not know, but you’re starting to.”

“You aren’t really Fosters are you?”

The older man pointed his finger at his nose in a very undignified manner. “Bingo, my laddie.  Although I have been him for about seven months now. Before me it was my buddy Jaze. You see we usually get paid for a one-year stit and get paid well, I might add. By the way, a good way to keep from getting Jumped, don’t be predictable. I can play his grumpy cynical cop thing all day.”

He imitated some classic Foster mannerisms and it became unsettling to watch.

“I get it, please stop.” A moment of silence stretched and Dak looked over at Erin. She still refused to meet his gaze.

“Why so quiet Evan?”

“Don’t call her that.”

“Oh touchie, how do you know she doesn’t want to be called that? She’s getting paid too, you know.” Dak felt flushed. He stared at the floor. “Your little secret was out long ago. We keep close tabs on those that touch us.”

The presence in the Fosters shell leaned forward. “We are the new immortals, the Gods. We will never age, at least not for more than a few years at a time. I can relive twenty-three for a hundred years. I’m just doing this Foster gig so I can make some money first. Five more months and I’ll be twenty-three when you’re sixty.”

“Don’t say that, Mace,” Erin said suddenly. Her voice sounded choked.

“Hah, what, you want him to join us.” She finally met his eyes.

“Let’s just talk about tonight.”

“Wise, wise. Yes, let’s just talk about tonight. Thanks to Erin you were a useful tool an unwitting man on the inside if you will. With little nudges from the various Fosters over the years you could be steered away form areas of…conflict.”

“I’m not an idiot! I can understand what you have done.” He looked at Erin while he spoke. “What happens now?” he said raising his voice. Beneath him Matthews stirred.

“Maybe that isn’t for you to decide.” At first he wondered who else could be involved, but then Dak saw that he stared at Erin. “Well, Erin?”

“Oh, Dak I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t feel too bad, Dak. The girl you knew as Erin’s contract was up half a year ago. She signed on for another year. Usually we worry about such things, but in the end we all Jump for pleasure, so for each their own. We have no simpler motto.”

“Does Erin have to go?” he asked the ghost of Fosters.

“That’s the real question isn’t it?”

“Would you still want me to stay?”

Dak was still. How long has it been since he took a breath? “Is she allowed to?”

“Alright, this is starting to make me sick. Just tell him what you told me before.”

There was a pause. It grew longer. “I think I’ve fallen in love with you. Dak. I’d like to stay if you’d have me.’

“Will they cut you loose?”

“Oh-hey sparky. No, no, you will both be working for Jump 101 or your lives with get messed up real quick.” He stood up and put the pistol away. “I’ll send someone over with the contract tomorrow.”

“What about these guys?”

“They know a little too much I’m afraid. Besides this bastard Waterman works for the Mayor. We have known that for a while. I’m taking him with me. He might be Jumped, but” he made a face, “he’s so nasty and ugly we may just have to dump him into a den of Mut-hounds.”

“I think I could talk Matthews around it. He’s a good kid.”

The Jumper stood and considered the situation. “I like him a bit too. He isn’t too bad for a pee I suppose. It’s a deal, but if he sinks so do you. I’m still taking Waterman.”

Soon the thing in Fosters’ shell left with Waterman slung over his shoulder. He wanted to deal with Matthews, but Erin was starting to cry.

He moved over to her. “You must hate me for lying to you.”

“How could I hate the woman who loves me? Everyone needs a job I guess. I hope it pays well for I expect dinner to be one you for about a year.”

She tried to smile.

He took her into his arms. “I can live with you know as long as you are a hundred percent honest from this day forth.”

“I can do that. I’ll start with I love you.”

“I love my Erin, no matter who the hell you really are.”

Discover Dak and Erin’s most insane adventure here!

A Clone of a Different Color (Part I)

The four men watched the video where it played out on the monitor. The Vid was not large and they were forced to hunch in against each other in order to see what happened on its narrow screen. Dak sat in the back. This was not due to his fellow officers having any superiority over him. No, he had already formed an option and leaned back to light a smoke, despite the fact that their post had a strict non-smoking ordinance.

 Matthews looked back at him. “What is your take on this?” He was the youngest of the four of them. Dak secretly hoped he would go ahead and get jaded soon. It was certainly taking him long enough.

Dak allowed himself to follow the flow of the improbable scene as it had been recorded. Four astonishingly beautiful women were taking out the new candidate for major, Felix Homes. Their micro Uzis matched their tight little Posh outfits. These young killers that so brutally mowed down Homes and his guards looked more ready for a runway shoot, than assassinating the fool that had been willing to stand up to New Cluster’s incumbent

Mayor Edgar had been the mayor of New Cluster for a long time.

When Dak didn’t answer, Matthews put forth a theory of his own. “Somehow Edgar, or whoever, found some female hitmen, er hitpeople, and they used their looks to get them close enough to get the job done.”

“I’d be careful with your mouth, Matthews,” Fosters grumbled. Fosters’ natural ability to fail to get along with anyone had kept him from being kicked upstairs.

“Yeah,” Waterman said around a tooth pick he chewed on. “If there’s even a hint that we might end up on the wrong side of it with the Mayor, I say we drop this case like a five hundred pound girlfriend.” Waterman didn’t have the best rep in the office. He was old school, overweight, and as dirty as a dishwasher’s shoes.

“They are using clones,” Dak said, disrupting the direction of the conversation.

“What?” Waterman demanded.

“Those girls are Joy-clones. I recognize some of the models.” Matthew’s jaw dropped. It was illegal to clone in New Cluster. Even knowing about the clone trade put an unneeded suspicion upon his shoulders. Seeing the looks on their faces, Dak quickly added, “I was involved in a big bust three years back. One must often learn the habits of their prey.” He took out a pen and pointed the end towards a thin blonde with long fiery yellow hair. “That is the Erin model, that there, the tall brunette, she is the Vanessa. I’ve never seen the other two, but any good Grafter can make these Skinjobs.”

The others still eyed him, but Matthews was able to ask, “What would this mean?’

“My guess is that it would mean that those four girls,” he pointed at the screen again, “Could be anyone.”

“What happens to their bodies?” Waterman asked.

“They are long gone and are usually recycled into the new clone the Skinjumper gets.” They still looked puzzled. “The only hard part would be to bring the Grafter’s tech into the hotel. Sure hotels have a lot of rooms, but each machine is the size of a coffin. It will probably be our only lead.”

“I still don’t under…” Waterman began.

“It most likely went something like this. Whoever the boss is, hires out four of his best guys and a Grafter. The Grafter gets four rigs. Then it’s probably like Matthews said. They use some standard Joy Models. These badass hitmen now look like hot Luster Zone chippies. They get in, wack this Dim-Jim, escape to the Grafter. He gets their minds back into a clone of their old self and they’re walking out of the place looking thirty years and one penis away from anyone who had anything to do with it.”

“But what about their minds?” Waterman asked. “How does that all work?”

“Do I look like a scientist to you? All I know is that it was working three years ago, I bet they are a whole lot better by now.”

 Continue the Adventure with Dak and Erin Here!

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