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Monday, August 25, 2014

An Eternal Nemesis - Operation Backstab

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Eleven was his name, and he was an elf. No, not a mythical creature of legends, but a person who likes to con and trick people.

"Mister, what is your name??" The little girl asked. Eleven looked down at her. She was as high as his knees.

"They call me... Eleven," he answered.

"Why do they call you Eleven?" She asked.

He turned his face away, toward the ceiling, in a rather dramatic fashion. "Eleven means courage. It is a very old word. It was the name of a great hero, once, many generations ago." He peeked back at the girl, seeing if it had the wanted effect. It did not, and she was already walking away, in fascination of the next dull thing.

A rendezvous at the spaceport.
[Spaceport, from Harry Harrison's book Mechanismo.]

"Why bother?" Jamison asked him.

"So, what do you have for me this time, Dougler?" Eleven asked back, business-like.

"Nobody calls me Douglar..." Jamison started to complain, but knew that it will not get through. "We are going to take a couple of items that mean a lot to my boss."

"Expensive items?"

"Expensive," Jamison lowered his voice, "and dangerous."

"Dangerous items?" Eleven smiled to himself. "How dangerous?"

"Have you ever had an entire planet going after you?" Jamison asked.

Eleven cocked his head, and stared at nothing for a long moment. "I have never had a planet know that I was there."

"Good. We are going to need invisibility, for this one. No one must figure out who we are, or who we are working for," Jamison warned, but received no emotional feedback.

The galactic crew occupying the prime transport vessel - the Cut Mink of the Coalition, sat down, planning their negotiations. The transaction was to take place on the host planet, Zigma Froy, a recently inhabited moon of Jupiter, where the Institute of Suspect Objects ran a museum and catalog, for the public to enjoy. It was entirely inhabited by alien artifacts.

"Have you arranged for the head of the Institute to meet us somewhere outside of the facility?" Captain Silvarre requested of his second in command, First Lieutenant Kirk.

"Aye captain!" Kirk saluted firmly. Silvarre glanced at him from the corner of his eye, sitting on his captain's chair, and continued nibbling on his simulated-wood pipe. A few long moments later, Kirk removed his hand from his forehead, and Silvarre decided not to mention the error in saluting a pirate. Kirk might have his quirks, but he still was the best of them.

The plan was, as Captain Silvarre put it, "to distract the dogs with the cats, while the rats steal the cheese." While the transaction was to take place, officially, hand Jamison and his chosen trustee will retrieve the two most expensive artifacts. The Cut Mink is out of suspicion, as they were innocently doing official business at the time with the Institute, and yet Silvarre gains a much desired card to play with, in this ancient game of trade.

Pirates have life-goals, too.
[By Diego Gisbert Llorens, depicting Rogue Trader.]

Eleven stared at the customs official, a private agent of the ISO company, who's soul purpose was to figure out if any person was attempting to smuggle artifacts in or out of the planet. Eleven was a straightforward kind of guy. He did not smile or flatter. He simply stated his lies, and expected you to accept them, as they are, and without question.

"Anything to declare?" The customs officer asked.

"No," Eleven answered, waiting for that specific response used in queues; a nod that means, 'Move along.'

"Anything to declare?" The customs officer asked Jamison.

"No," Jamison answered, trying to mimic his companion's sternness. The officer looked him up and down, saw that Eleven was a couple of steps ahead, waiting, and said, "Okay. Next!"

At the back entrance to the Institute of Suspect Objects' grand museum, the two waited, staring at the locked door. This was where those most rare and strictly guarded items stood on display; specifically, those items that they had come to steal.

"Tsk," Jamison noisily badgered. "What now? Let's just enter from the main entrance."

"Cats do not go from the door, Jamison. Only dogs do so," Eleven retorted, without turning his eyes from the door. The door opened. Out of it, came a guard followed by a janitor robot. "Excuse me!" Eleven shouted at the guard, and hurried forward.

"The main entry is that wa..."

"We just accidentally got out through this door, but it locked on us. Can you let us back in, sir?" Eleven's posture and mannerism hinted at a confused customer, the sort of customer that found a hair in their sandwich, and instead of shouting and complaining, simply returned the item back quietly, and quietly mentioned the problem.

"Oh," the guard looked at Jamison. What he saw, however, was a well-dressed gentleman, and not a thief. "Of course, come in, and make sure you do not get lost again."

"Yes, we will stay with the guide this time," Eleven smiled, grabbed Jamison's hand, and entered hurriedly.

They both had prepared for this well in advanced, memorizing a map of the compound, and where their targets lay. "Easy enough," Jamison whispered.

"Easy for you to say, newbie," Eleven grunted back, quietly.

"What is so difficult about this?"

"This part," Eleven paced up through the artifact filled corridor, and approached another guard, standing at the next door. As the guard moved to open his mouth, Eleven struck him in the face with an unidentified black object, and quickly began removing his own outfit.

"Oh," Jamison noted.

"Take his outfit off. While I am getting the artifacts, you can put together the cart," Eleven removed a few long black sticks from his jacket, and gave them to Jamison. Jamison stared at the parts, figured they were a stick-each-stick-into-the-other-stick kind of puzzle, and began working.

Within a minute, Eleven was back out with the two items, each under each arm. One looked like a big musical wind instrument, and the other had the shape of a sharp weapon. In reality, however, they both knew that the tube looking item was an explosive weapon, and the other just a harmless alien toy.

"Do not press the red button," Jamison said in humor.

"The Imploder requires a sequence of air thrusts to activate, which humans are unable to perform, without specialty tools," Eleven explained. Somehow, Jamison was certain that Eleven kept on him just the kind of 'specialty tool' that was required for its' activation, and shuddered.

The alien Imploder was notorious for creating bloody scenes, wherein people lost their skin and eyeballs, but remained alive just long enough to notice that new and surprising prickly sensation.

Finally, Jamison had the cart prepared, and after carefully locking the items down magnetically, they started moving back to where they had come from. Each put a hand to push the cart forward. Considering how small the artifacts were, it had a heavy pull to it.

"I know you don't like to get your hands dirty, but this really was nothing special," Jamison gestured. "These clowns can't even get their attack-bots to work."

"This is still the hard part," Eleven answered, turning back to face the silent creeping machines that had almost reached them, and clicked a red button on a joystick-looking gizmo. Two of the bots dropped from the ceiling, but a third kept on crawling towards them. "Your turn," Eleven said.

Jamison, who had been expecting at least some sort of a melee with machines, took out an arrow, aimed it at the single machine, now only a few feet away, threw it, and turned back - still pushing the cart.

"What was that?" Eleven asked, able to hear the bot jingling, as its' parts were detaching from its' main body.

"Uranium Action Darts," Jamison said, and grinned widely. "Unidentified, rare, and most of all, efficient against bots. It emits a radioactive wave that destabilizes a..."

"I am going to borrow a couple, eh."

"Sure, buddy. You know I got your back," Jamison said, still grinning. It was a joy to work with the best tools, after all.

As they entered their escape vessel, a compact and efficient evasion pod, the air pressure started to increase.

"Airzers?" Jamison asked, covering his ears with his hands, in pain.

"Airzers," Eleven answered, clicked his earlobes to activate his anti-pressure buttons, and started the pod away. It was a shaky ride, but this pod was custom designed to outmaneuver this planet's specific Airzer technology.

Airzer. Definition: Gravitational laser beams that condense the atmosphere in a given radius, causing great harm to unprotected living tissue, while interrupting the ability of any vessel to detach from the surface, as it attempts lift-off.

By the time any meaningful pursuit had begun, their pod had changed colors, changed visible shape, changed licensing transmissions, and was gaining miles away from the planet's exosphere. The Institute's control center, now at turmoil, had its' deputy at a loss.

"We lost their signature, Commander," the guard said, still looking at the data screen.

"Inform the boss. It has to be those space-damned pirates!"

Suzuryu Jupitas, the head and owner of the ISO, grimaced. Captain Silvarre, surrounded by a posse of dangerous looking space-pirates, now enjoyed years of practicing his poker face.

"The Amalgamator and the Syphon?" Jupitas confirmed, over audio, not using any visible device.

"Is something the matter?" Silvarre inquired politely. Jupitas did not respond, nor look at him.

"I see," Jupitas ended the invisible conversation. "Two men," he began saying, "not locals," by which he meant not inhabitants of Zigma Froy, "had just left the exosphere with some very valuable artifacts, Captain Silvarre."

"You would not mean the artifacts that we have been discussing, Mr. Jupitas?" The captain asked back, the innocence of a child on display.

"Some of them, apparently. Two that we have counted."

"Well," Silvarre hesitated, "I am sorry to be so blunt, but you do realize that this is going to change the price we were negotiating," he declared.

"Yes, I am aware of that, Captain."

I would cast him. Definitely.
[Sam Shepard showing reticence & self-possession.]

Eleven is his name, and reticence is his profession. He is not a pirate, and not because he disrespects their work, or public image in society. He prefers the quiet and efficiency of working alone. The safety of not having to count on others.

"You know, Dougler..." Eleven began.

Jamison opened one sleepy eye, and looked to his right, where Eleven was sat.

"You are very cunning, but not quite deliberate. Do you know why the customs official would rather bother you, than me?"

"Because you're a scary motherfu..."

"Because he knew that if he had badgered me, I would have noted his name and appearance, and some day, when all is forgotten, he would see me again. Maybe on his way back from work. Going back home, I suppose. And then, Dougler, he would regret his past choice of badgering me."

"You would keep a grudge for so long?" Jamison asked, sleepily.

"No, I would not. I would just keep even," Eleven mended, and returned to reading privately, from his own internal display.

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