VELVET GLOVE, IRON FIST - Act III - Diedre Macoure


            Deirdre didn't bother knocking. With one swift kick of her leg, the door to the Reverend Father's office burst open. The graying monk sitting at the desk didn't seem that surprised. "Emme Macoure, please... take a seat."

            She strode into the book-lined office, huffing with angered steam, her long vinyl boots clicking with measured vengance as the vampire came closer. Finally, planting one boot on the offered chair, she glared into the monk's calm, patient eyes. "Why is it EVERY TIME I do a job for you, someone's out to chop off my head?!"

            "Nature of the deed, emme. Now you _were_ able to deliver the goods?"

            "Oh, yes," Deirdre angled her head to the right, giving him the evil eye, "but that was only after dealing with bar-room flunkies, some floating cats, and a InSec platoon aiming for my HEAD!"

            "Internal Security?" The Reverend Father's eyebrows raised.

            "Damn straight! I barely made it out of there alive!"

            The monk said nothing, rising out of his seat, and pacing the room. His right fingers thumbed along the bindings of books while his left hand stayed clenched around his chin like talons. There was... worry?... on his face as he continued to wonder around, muttering something under his breath.

            "Hey!" Macoure shouted, "I hope you've got the ducats for this, or you can kiss..."

            The Reverend Father's left hand jumped out from his chin and stabbed at the air towards Deirdre. In the next moment, Macoure was swept on her feet, sliding along the floor, and only stopping when her head hit the bookcase. It was  a moment before she could bring her head up. When she did, the old monk was glaring at her. In measured tones, holding whatever anger back, he said, "I've endulged your adolescent tone for far too long. Please use some logic, Emme Macoure. We wouldn't be paying you twice the normal rate if we had you delivering candy canes."

            The vampire managed to pick herself up, trying desperately to contain the blood rage burning inside her; the monk was obviously more powerful than she thought. Apparently her false anger wasn't going to get results any more. "There is _still_ the matter of money..."

            "Of course." he shot back like a curse, went to his desk's console, and typed in a couple keystrokes. With a twist of his wrist, the little computer turned around so she could see it. "Is _this_ satisfactory?"

            Deirdre walked over to the desk and checked out the specs. The money was more than generous, even a couple thousand above the agreed price. She _still_ wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of the upper hand. "Good, but what about the upgrade?"

            "Send us the bill," he said with a smug distaste, and sat back down in his chair.

            Macoure was defused; she finally sat herself down in the chair and crossed her legs slowly. "So... my next assignment?"

            The monk nodded and turned the computer console around. After reviewing the screen for a few moments, he looked back at her. "Very well, Emme Macoure. I have a pick-up for you. A rather _special_ pickup. We'll need you to go to Dalian 5 and..."

            "Wait," Deirdre interrupted, "Dalian system?"

            "It's not in the Federation, it's in the Eastern Bloc."

            Her jaw almost hit the floor. Macoure had been in the Eastern Bloc once or twice, and each time, she swore she would never go back. It was about as alien as it could get and still be inhabited by humans. The Asian countries that wouldn't submit to Federation rule on Earth had finally given up their lands for a guarantee of non-interference from the Fed on some worlds on the rim of their territory. The government agreed, they left, and within a week, the planet-killing asteroid wiped out Earth. Since then, those Asians who had chosen to leave had gotten stranger... weirder... probably as a result of being cut off from humanity.

            Deirdre didn't like the place, and if she could avoid it, she wouldn't go back. "I don't know how I feel about that."

            "What's the problem?"

            "The Eastern Bloc... well, you're always two steps away from being dead. Some of those cyber-samurai or zaibatzu suits would rather kill you than look at you."

            "That's why we're sending the best. That's why we're sending you."

            Thud. "I need time to get my upgrade." Deirdre was desperate; stalling for time, hoping his holiness would change his mind.

            "Very well. I will send you the details when you're ready."


            Macoure got back to her ship berth and just collapsed. She was still static with fear over the idea of entering the Eastern Bloc. In the pilot's chair, she searched through her coat to find the telephone card that weird guy in New Paris had given her. After sticking it through the slot, she waited for it to process through to the galactic net. Nothing. Then she remembered, paused, and gave the console a quick swift kick to the side. The computer hummed to life and started dialing.

            Sooner than later, a shrouded picture appeared on the screen. The face was obscured by plays with shadows, but it was obviously a man. "Yes? Who is this?"

            "This is Deidre Macoure. I'm sure that M. Monk mentioned me."

            "M. Monk?" A pause. "Oh... Jason?"

            "Yes, he approached me about a deal. He needed some shipments to be taken in from the outer worlds?"

            "Oh, right. One moment." You could see that the shrouded man was checking files. Still, the light from his console barely illuminated his hands; everything else was unrecognizable. "Right. Destination?"

            She thought it would be best to not mention the Eastern Bloc. However, Deirdre STILL didn't have her destination given yet. So she thought of a likely drop-off point. "Charbydis."

            "Okay, through Charbydis you can..." A pause. Even though his eyes were obscured, she could tell he was staring right at her. "Wait. Is this line secure?"

            "Secure?" She had no idea what he was talking about.

            "Shit. I'm ending transmission. Buy a damn scrambler, I don't want InSec on our ass! Discom." Then the screen went blank.

            Great, she thought, I'm got another job and I don't know their rules yet. This'll make me look like a prime idiot. Macoure was mad at herself. She just didn't know enough about the net except that she used it for a glorified phone line. Oh well. Deirdre picked up a datapad from the piles strewn around her ship. Hmmm, what do I need for an upgrade. She smiled. It was almost like Christmas.




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