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"Debt" Part 1 of 4

This is going to be a post of a short story I just finished for my critique group. It's a humourous sci-fi detective noir piece involving robots. Also, it gives me a few weeks where I don't have to think about what to post. Wheee!

I hope you enjoy it.

She walked in, more serious than a third heart attack with more curves than the back-streets of San Fran. She had a slink; a way of moving across the room that made every Tom, Dick and Harry eye her like their lives depended on it.

Hank knew she was no good, rotten, down to the core; but he also knew he hadn't had a paying client in three months and a Debt whose financer had gone from Breaking Knee-caps Mad to Dispose of Through A Woodchipper Wrathful; besides with legs like hers, discretion went out the window like last week's newspaper.

This was the problem of course. Every very major problem he'd had to shoot, beg, and drive very fast away from involved exactly this sort of dame.

Greg beeped awake. His dull green body clanged to attention. Hank could always see the shiny brass stamp on Greg's back when he sat up, "Maverick Light Industries, Inc.", it read, which was not entirely accurate.

In a voice that was what an American engineer thought a British person sounded like in the 18th century, Greg said, "Greetings! Pirelli's Private Detective Agency, no assignment too tawdry, no client too shady."

Hank cringed. He hoped she wasn't the sort of rotten to the core client who took airs.

She leveled a gaze at Hank -- looking past Greg like he was furniture -- and right then Hank knew he was the only man in the room, in the building, hell, in the city. It was him and this broad who could melt a city block with her gaze. Something in the back of his mind recognized the gaze, and deep in the basement of his brain, alarm bells were ringing. He shut them off.

Her voice came out lyrical, low, like she was used to talking to woozy men with suddenly sweaty hands and stammered speech. "I have a job that needs a man of your," she looked him over quickly, he tried not to black out, "discretion."

Hank bit on his lower lip hard, "I'm your man... We're your men, I mean."

She continued talking, he barely had enough time to get out of the way. Not that he'd want to...

"Dead bodies don’t scare you, do they Mr. Pirelli?"

"As long I didn't know them, or like ‘em."

"You don't know this person."

"We're not talking about hypothetical dead bodies then."


"It's not anything too illegal is it? We charge extra for that."

"The death is being investigated by the real cops, but there was something that the deceased had of mine. A trinket." She cast her eyes down, fiddled with her purse, then fluttered her eyelashes up at him, "But it's of enormous value to me, sentimental."

Ah, thought Hank, some ill-gotten gain that's worth a few million more than the client says, and has more problems than trying to collar a rabid bobcat in zero G. It could be nothing, but it never was.

The small pile of payment-due e-cards floated menacingly on his Desktop. They were friendly; how a firing squad captain might be before he gave you a poorly lit cigarette and asked you about last words. Rent, utilities, bills bills bills, and Greg was due for a power-core overhaul two years ago. And then there was the Debt. Hank was, in short, not a man who could be picky about his assignments, even ones that were so obviously meant to put him six feet under.

"We'll take it."

"I'll send a message to your Desktop."

With a last flickering glance at the room, she slinked out. Hank watched her leave.

"Hank. Are you certain that was a prudent move?"

"What's the worst that can happen?"

"You could be riddled with laser holes, specifically through your main fluid pump, and I'd be sent unceremoniously to a scrap yard."

"It's called a heart. And don't be ridiculous, they'd sell you back into service."

Greg sniffed, a buzzy noise that sounded like a malfunctioning voice amplifier. "Slavery, is what we call it Hank."

It was just a gut feeling, the danger, but it had happened so often before Hank knew it to be more of a certainty. Could he risk it? Necessity was the mother of Invention. It was also the slightly abusive foster mother of Putting Yourself In Harms Way and Acting Against Your Better Judgement.

Hank pushed the e-cards around his Desktop, they flickered and scattered noiselessly. They would not be ignored for much longer. And then there was the Debt that did not come with an e-card. It came with a craft-bomb that detonates just as you start your ship, or with a finger of a loved one in a small box. If Necessity was the Mother of so many things, Debt was the alcoholic step-dad with the taste for cheap scotch and way with Louisville sluggers.


Unknown said…
I liked how you created the atmo of a Sam Spade era mystery and then totally zagged to the 21st Century...Well done :D Can't wait for part two =P
Gottlieb said…
Pulp fiction, potentially? Well, we need to read on.
Niteowl said…
luo : Everything I write is pulp fiction, but hopefully it's enjoyable pulp :)

andrea : yeah, that's what I was going for, hopefully that atmosphere continues throughout the piece even though I've never actually read a crime noir novel.
Anonymous said…
k, I'm hooked.
Niteowl said…
anon : there is no greater compliment to a hack like myself.
Andrew said…
When's the next chapter coming out?
Chris said…
Love, the Incredibly Famous Christopher "Frohman" Livingston
Niteowl said…
OMGOMG it's frohman! I R POPULAR!

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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