Friday, December 21, 2007

"Debt" Part 3 of 4

Hank's office looked like it had gotten in a scrap with a small bulldozer; and had lost badly - several times. His only two chairs smashed to pieces, taken apart in a frenzy of overzealous discovery.

The air smelled of robot oil. The expensive kind you bought for large robots with impressive strength and limited morality subroutines. A robot that might have been able to leave a dent in a magtronic arcanium shelf.

Sneezly Simpernel leaned against the desk. His robot goon sat on the ground, great big robot head sized holes in the ceiling were clues as to why. Sneezly looked at Hank and Greg with large watery eyes. In another life, those eyes might have looked at you evenly while the owner of said eyes muttered irregular income declarations and forensic accounting. But this wasn't another life.

Hank took a slow breath. He had many ways to play this, but only one wouldn't get him killed immediately. He met Sneezly's gaze square, "Look here Mr. Simpernel, I've done nothing wrong, you can't just come up here and rough up my joint."

"On the contrary, Mr. Pirelli, you've done a grave injustice!" Sneezly looked him over, then slowly smoothed out his suit. It shimmered as only things that are sold by old finicky European men shimmered.

Greg took a step forward slightly in front of Hank. "My employer is in the wrong here, no need to vociferate so, Mr. Simpernel." Hank could hear the low thrum of Greg's main power unit spinning up.

Sneezly sneered. "I don’t need to do anything. Especially when your employer has been snooping around places he shouldn't, looking for things that don’t belong to him."

Hank spoke up, "I do what my client asks of me, Mr. Simpernel." He squeezed his left arm to his side, re-assuring himself that he still had his gun there. A sizeable piece of machinery that was dangerous only because since was so old, no one was quite sure what would happen if he fired it.

"Alright, you want to play it that way. That's fine. We've looked for it here, and, " he motioned to the robot, who crouch walked over to Hank, turned him upside-down and shook him. Change, his previously comforting gun, and a few embarrassing play cards dropped to the ground. "Now we are done. If we ever find out that you had it, we'll be back for a visit." Sneezly gave the half-smile of someone who didn't often smile, but had practiced a reasonable facsimile for the right occasion.

************

Hank and Greg both sat on the ground, both looking at the same non-descript spot on the floor.

"So he doesn't have it then."

"And we certainly don't have it." offered Greg helpfully.

Hank wondered briefly how much it would cost to upgrade his logic chip. "So... someone else has it? Crap.”. He added a little too quickly, “Not because I'm scared of Mr. Simpernel." He glanced at Greg, who of course, didn't care either way if Hank was a blubbering coward, "Ok, I am, but that's not what’s really worrying me. What’s worrying me is need to solve this case for the money. I owe money."

"You mean you Owe Money."

"Well, yes. Yes, I suppose it's that serious." It was eerie how robots could capitalize speech, but you didn't get a few quadrillion transistors without having some advantage in voice synthesis, he supposed.

"And let's not forget the client. You seem to be deeply concerned with the outcome of our work when there is a client is of proper age who exhibits appropriate phenotypic fertility characteristics."

The transmit buzzed. Hank ignored Greg's comment.

"Hi." said Hank. Somewhere in the ceiling a few directional speakers and mics found him and initiated the call.

"You've found my trinket?" the voice steamed with something that made Hanks voice go furry.

"Uh."

"You've reached a roadblock?"

"Some nasty people are after it."

"Oh, did I forget to mention that?" she purred. Why did women always feel the need to purr when they were about to put Hank into more than likely fatal situations. Never mind that it worked every time.

"Yeah. A little." Hank hoped the complete shut down of his verbal capacities was interpreted as raw sexuality and manly reticence.

"Well, that's why I hired you. You were the man for the job, they said."

"They are always saying that."

"You _are_ the man for the job, aren't you?

Hank started wondering if he was.

"So, what would you suggest now, then, Miss... uh... I never did get your name."

"Jane, if you please."

"Right."

"I suggest you start hitting your underworld contacts, and get back on the trail. I paid you, and expect my money's worth."

"We aren't a cliche, Jane, we don't have 'underworld contacts', but I'll see what we can do." He signaled to the transmit to hang-up.

He turned to the robot.

"So Greg, which of our underworld contacts would know what's going on?"

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