VELVET GLOVE, IRON FIST - Act I - Fabian Cortez


            God, were they stupid.

            If there hadn't been so many of them, Fabian Cortez would have laughed. Yes, they had him surrounded, but in an alleyway, that meant that had only a few covering his avenues of escape. By the way these ghouls carried themselves, the servant of Mordred could see that they announced their attack paths, promising to cross and trip over each other in their trying to get to him. Worst of all, they were all carrying metal clubs.

            No one brings clubs to a gun fight.

            Cortez pivoted, shot the man blocking his path, and then charged down the alleyway. When the Black Hand's goons tried to chase them, they ran into each other, pushing themselves down the narrow pass like a herd of bumper cars. Still, they were moving fast.

            With calm precision, Fabian stopped, turned, and proceeded to waste the last of his clip between the eyes of the ghouls charging him. Two, three... five went down before the mob hestiated. Cortez allowed himself a smile. Now, he thought, it's my turn.

            Tossing the empty gun toward the crowd, the old ghoul charged them. They braced for the attack, but Fabian wasn't that stupid; shifting himself, he jumped onto the garbage bin, jumped off the wall, and angled himself to fall right behind them.

            Taking a lead pipe from one of their hands, Cortez proceeded to shred a line of death through the confused mass of stupid assailants. Before they could react, Fabian burned blood and proceeded to evicerate everyone in his path. A few managed to hit him, but he barely noticed, using his hands and feet as vorpal weapons. One eyes got knocked out, another found his legs ripped from his body; a bloody hole appeared from wherever he stood. Finally, there was nothing standing but himself, the wounded, and the dead.

            It wouldn't take long before some of these ghouls reasserted themselves. The old ghoul rushed over to the side and ripped off the plasma main that powered this entire block. The liquid coolant sprayed over everything, and with a little help from a mystical accelerant, Cortez walked away quickly, luring the flames from the outlet into a raging inferno. The screams of the dammed henchmen rang like sweet music to Fabian's ears. It was just like the papal legate told him one night back in 1453; "Kill them all; God will know his own."

            The vampire stood unmoved, watching Fabian walk towards him, with the plasma-fed flames reaching higher and higher. As the ghoul got closer, he thought it must have taken extraordinary willpower for that leech to just stand there like there. Either he hid his emotions well... or he was a lot tougher than he looks.

            "Impressive." the vampire said, "You may actually be worthy of the masters."

            Cortez smiled. "If you're trying to save your own hide, forget it."

            "Why serve Mordred and his lackeys when you can be a power in a kingdom?"

            "Your kingdom? What could a man such as I gain from Enoch?"

            "With such training in our skills? Practically anything. You could even be embraced, be second only to the masters themselves."

            While they talked, Fabian inched closer to the vampire. "But before I'd give up this mortal coil, the blood would have to be rich enough."

            "Join us, kine, and I'll make sure to take you to Arikel myself."

            "I don't like waiting," as he was almost next to the leech, "I'll just take yours."

            Then the lead pipe in his hand stabbed directly into the vampire's heart, with the shock growing on his face, as he finally realized that he was at Cortez's mercy.

            Cutting a line across his wrist with one of the many pieces of strewn glass, Fabian drank immensely, sucking in the vampire vitae with a thirst that was unquenchable. He was only fifth generation, but it seemed to warm his own heart to taste the blood again; already he could hear the voices in his head preparing for another resident.          

            When the leech was drained dry, he grabbed hold of the empty vessel, and dragged him along as the fire engines hovered in to put out the blaze.


            After dumping the body in his room (luckily there was no one in the service elevator at 4 in the morning), then torching the place, he began eliminating the obvious trail he had made here on Avalon. Most of the clues to his existance had already been eliminated; the fixer, the Black Hand, but there was one more thing he needed to take care of.

            He skinmasked himself into a new identity. This time he became the identity that he had revealed himself to Malevont. After changing over his identification, he made his way to the corporate headquarters of O'Reilly, Inc.

            Fabian had made an appointment with M. Malevont posing as a expert with foreign company negotiations. Waiting in the corp's office, he pulled out his cybermodem and flipped through the public records of one M. Charles Babbage. The news agent program on his set was very good. Yeah, hard worker, twice commendated in the O'Reilly newsletter, occasional and scattered reports of his philanthropic work. However, there was a problem. All information on Babbage stopped thirteen years ago. Even during the war, there was usually MORE information about a person, but his track just stopped.

            At that time, the automatic secretary program chimed saying, "M. Malevont will see you now." The door swung open to the office beyond. As Cortez got up and entered the office, he finally saw the corp in the flesh. Apparently, the man had been using a cosmetic program on his phone calls, because there was certain slight differences with Fabian picked out immediatly.

            Malevont went from confident to stunned when he saw the face from the phone lines appear before him. He sat down in his chair and dribbled over his words, "Wha.... what do y... you want?"

            "Relax, M. Malevont, I'm here to help you." The corp looked like a Jew over the hot coals, Cortez remembered, at the height of the Spanish Inquistion. Afraid for his life, quibbling in the throes of fear. Ah, yes, humanity doesn't change much over the years. "I've finally got what you've wanted."

            His expression relaxed and a spark of interest flashed behind his eyes. "What?"

            "The key to destroy Babbage... but I want to make sure it's the right lock." Taking a seat opposite him, Fabian spelled it out. "I need all the dirt you've got on him, basically, so that we can crush him completely."

            "That's not that easy."


            "Because the guy's squeaky clean. I've been trying for a while... Lord knows, I've tried... to bust this guy for a while. It's as if he doesn't have a life."

            "Everyone has a secret, M. Malevont," Cortez smiled, making this schmuck think he might have something on him, too. "What's his?"

            "If there's one, I haven't found. His life is numbers, accounting, always after the better deal. I swear, the guy lives in his office!"

            "So you have nothing."

            "Little things, but nothing I could get this guy on."

            "Give them to me. I'll see what I can do." Malevont did what he said, downloaded the data, and handed over the chip to Cortez. "Thank you, M. Malevont, I'll be in touch."

            Before he could leave, the suit stopped him, asking, "Wait! Why are you doing this for me?"

            "Professional courtesy." Fabian smiled, and then walked out the door.

            Malevont was too nervous for his tastes, Cortez admitted, but he was the doorway into this megacorp. Getting in the elevator, he pushed the antique button for the lobby, and the doors closed behind him.

            On the way down, he went through the things he had to do in his mind. Needed someone to watch Malevont and make sure he didn't get killed too soon. Babbage might get nervous and take him out before he was ready to move. Couldn't let that happen. Needed to hire a data pirate to get whatever wasn't in the public records about Babbage. Also had to...

            Cortez paused as he noticed something was wrong. The elevator was going up, not down. He pushed the button again; no response. Fabian moved to the back of the capsule and prepared to meet whatever was in front of him. Sun Tzu had once told him that you never force an enemy into a place where they cannot escape. Otherwise, they fight to the death. Well, whoever was forcing his hand would certainly die before he ever went down.

            Finally the door chimed open, somewhere near the top of the building. Prepared to strike, the elevator opened on the glaring stare of Charles Babbage, holding a plasma revolver in his hand, pointed directly at Fabian's head. "Now, whoever you are, I believe we need to talk."




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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.