Sean Blackie McLeod, a tall, lean, slightly bent human in his early 60s, has just settled down for a quiet evening at home when the door announcer tells him that he has a visitor.
Great, what now? he mutters, as he gets his cane and goes to the door.
Opening the door, he scowls ferociously at the human standing there.
Arent you going to invite me in? the visitor asks.
Not if I can avoid it, Blackie replies, his blue eyes glittering with hatred. What do you want now?
We have a little project for you, itll be in your storeroom when you get in tomorrow morning.
If you arent going to pay me to do it, its not going to get done. Youve forced me to do too many of these special projects, and Im almost bankrupt. I wont be able to help you if you force me out of business, you know. And if this is one of your typical projects, I will be bankrupt. So pay up, in advance, or no deal!
You know whats going to happen now, dont you? the visitor quietly threatens.
I know I cant stop you. But you Humans First idiots will do it anyway if I close shop. And unless you pay me, Ill be forced to do exactly that. So you can threaten to murder my sister all you want, it wont change anything. Unless Im paid, and paid in full, in advance, go ahead. Just remember that if you actually do kill her, your hold over me will be gone. Do you really want that?
The human scowls. The point has been made, and it is a decidedly unpleasant one to choke down. Blackie, and his weapons shop, are vital to accomplishing their goals on Chakona, so the leaders of his cell are going to have to pay, and they arent going to like it.
I'll pass the word. I dont know how itll be accepted.
Theyll just have to swallow it, Blackie replies grimly. They dont have any choice.
The messenger scowls again when the door is firmly closed in his face. Turning away, the mutters could be plainly heard, though not understood, as he leaves the building.
The next morning, Blackie smiles grimly at the chit thats lying on the crate in his storeroom, before taking it to his bank.
Several hours later, as hes working on a stunner for one of his regular clients, he receives a call.
Are you working on our project? the caller asks.
No, and I wont be until I get the rest of the payment, he answers. What you left is less than half of what Im due, and the work wont start until I have the full payment.
You cant do that. You got your payment!
I got a down payment, and you bastards arent exactly known for keeping your word. Full payment, in advance, or it doesnt get done.
The connection is abruptly cut at the other end, which Blackie finds amusing, in a dark way. They dont have any choice, and both sides know it.
A few minutes later, he receives another call.
Blackie, he answers, then his jaw drops when he sees whos calling.
Whats the matter? he asks, urgently.
Im in Amistad General, his half-sister replies. Can you come down and see me, please? Im in room 443.
Itll take me about 15 minutes. See you then, he replies, shutting down the connection and closing up his shop.
Dorothy, whats the problem? he asks as he limps into her room. He sets his ever-present cane aside as he sits down beside her bed.
Youre limping more than usual, arent you? she asks, already knowing the answer.
Yeah. My knees are giving me hell right now. Not sure why, though.
Ill bet youre walking too much, again, she gently scolds.
And youre changing the subject, he replies with a gentle smile. Now, why are you in here? I didnt know you were ill.
I didnt either, until I went to Dr. Adams this morning, she replies. Ive been feeling a bit weak lately, and short-winded. He ran some tests, then drove me down here himself and checked me in.
Oi, that doesnt sound good. What did he tell you?
Blackie, it isnt good. I have cancer, and its a really aggressive type, he called it a small cell carcinoma. I could die right now, in fact. He doubts that I have more than about three months even with the most aggressive treatment program they have. Without that treatment, a week, maybe two at most. Its metastasized through my lungs and some other organs, and its in my lymph system.
Theyre certain? he asks, shaken.
Yes. Theyve done several sets of scans, and its really gone beyond what can be treated. Ive told them that the only treatment I want is whats needed to keep me comfortable. Im not in pain, so dont worry about that.
No, Dorothy, you have to let them treat you! he exclaims. Or I can call Dr. Oceanwalker.
Silly baby brother. You know me, and you know that death doesnt scare me. Even with the most aggressive treatment program they can come up with, I wont last more than a couple of months. And I wont do that. It will totally destroy any quality of life I might have left, and wont give me anywhere near enough quantity of life to make it worthwhile. Dr. Oceanwalkers process would save my life, of course, but I wouldnt be me any longer. I dont want that, either. And you know that, we talked about it when you discovered hir. Besides, this will free you from those Humans First goons.
You know about that? he asks, shocked.
Ive known since about six months after it started, she replies, and that was 16 years ago. Youre my baby brother, and my only living relative. Ive kept a close eye on you ever since Mom and Dad died in that accident. I figured it out pretty quickly, and the P.I. I contracted confirmed it.
Damn, Sis, he answers, tears coming to his eyes.
Hush, now. And no tears from my tough Marine, you hear me? Ill be dead within the week, she chuckles grimly. I know you have plans for those goons, and they wont be expecting the weapons youll be using. Get them for me, Blackie. Make them pay for what theyve done to you. Then get the hell out of Amistad and off Chakona. I know you can do that, and I dont want those bastards killing you in turn. Go eliminate that cell and any connection to you, then disappear. Can you do that for me?
A slow fire starts building in his eyes, showing the temper his Irish ancestry is famous for, before he answers. Oh, yes. I can do that, Sis. Believe me, I can and will do that. Disappearing will be harder. These knees will make it a lot harder for me to disappear. I just cant move that fast any more. Its the only regret I have from being in the Marines. But they gave me a pretty generous retirement when I got busted up, and theyve covered every expense I've ever had because of my knees.
I know, Blackie, I know. Now, get out of here and start your planning. Theres no sense in delaying because of me. So take it to them, make them regret their choices. And dont come back here; dont give them any chance to find you. Ill be fine here, and I dont want you placing yourself in the line of fire because of me. After all, what can they do? Kill me? Im already dead, even if my body hasnt figured it out yet. Go, and give them hell for me.
She musses his black hair, with its handsome silver streaks at his temples, then tells him, Good-bye, little brother. I love you. Now get the hell out of here while you can. Go! She points imperiously at the door.
I love you, too, Sis. Good-bye, Dorothy, he says softly, collecting his cane and limping back out the door as she quietly watches.
Back in his apartment, he gathers up clothing and some other supplies, which quickly fills the small duffel bag hes using.
He goes back to his bank and closes out his accounts before heading to his shop, where he opens the vault and starts pulling out a number of weapons that few on Chakona would be able to identify. He has both rifles and pistols, of various types and sizes, and he gathers up the small boxes that were stored with each weapon, along with some accessories. He also picks up a phaser rifle that appears to be exceptionally heavy duty, and places it in the case with the other weapons, before locking the case and placing it on a light travel trolley. He attaches a small anti-gravity generator on the case, and activates it before he leaves the shop, locking up and turning on the alarm.
Outside the shop, he stops at a PTV kiosk and orders a PTV, which arrives in less than a minute. After loading his gear, he gives it a destination near the spaceport.
Once he's underway, he activates the communicator and starts making calls.
Hello, George, long time no see, he says as the first call is connected to a fur in a Star Fleet Marine uniform. I know you're aware that Ive been doing work for Humans First for the last 16 years, because they threatened to kill my sister. Well, my sister is dying and she told me to take it to them, and Im going to. Ill calling you to let you know that theres a large crate in the storeroom at my shop, and you can probably get a good bit of evidence out of it. Do it as a raid, so those goons wont realize Im turning on them, will you?
After a couple minutes of discussion, the conversation ends.
Thanks, George. Putting a wanted out on me wont be a problem. Its only going to take me a couple days to get them all, and then Im going to do my damnedest to disappear. Good-bye.
Turning his attention back to the PTV, he makes arrangements to convert his current hourly rental to a one-week contract, then turns the PTV around and heads back into Amistad.
He then makes another call.
Hello, he says when he is answered, may I please talk to Dr. Oceanwalker?
Hello, doctor, Id like to apply to your clinical trial. I can be at your office in about half an hour, if thats convenient.
Good, I look forward to meeting with you.
Late that night, Blackie is sitting cross-legged on the roof of a warehouse in the spaceport district, calmly screwing an ungainly looking cylinder onto the end of the barrel of the rifle in his lap. That completed, he retrieves a bulky pair of ancient-appearing binoculars and peers over the parapet of the building.
Got ya, he mutters, setting the binoculars down and picking up the rifle. Settling into position, he turns on the light-gathering scope and focuses in on the human walking out of the warehouse opposite his position.
The human, the courier that had visited him the night before, is walking quietly toward his PTV when a small round hole appears between his eyebrows, and he drops suddenly to the sidewalk, very much like a marionette that has had its strings cut.
The woman that was accompanying him drops to his side, apparently screaming, though Blackie cant hear her, given the three hundred meters that separates them. A matching hole appears between her eyebrows mere seconds later, and Blackie nods.
Lets see how you like it when the shoe is on the other foot, he says, packing up the rifle and its accessories before he vacates his position.
Blackie grumbles, then rolls over and answers his personal communicator. I hope you dont plan on living out the day, he grouses.
Damn, that was some nice shooting last night, Marine.
Blackie. Thats taking it to them, all right. And theyre trying to figure what the hell happened to blow the backs of those twos heads off. If I didnt know about your hobby, Id be scratching my head, too.
Im just getting started. Theyll never know Im there, because everything Im using is passive, and Im not using any scanners. And compared to whats coming, those were short range, only 300 meters, so dont get too complimentary yet.
Thats pretty damned good for what youre using, is the reply.
Ill be stretching that to a kilometer and a half before Im done. Dont tell anyone else that, though. Ive got six more to go.
Got your disappearance arranged?
Think so, barring disaster. Thanks for asking. And Im not going to tell you any more.
Didnt think you would. Good hunting.
The line goes dead, leaving Blackie staring at his communicator. How the hell did he get this number?
Leaving the sales kiosk a couple hours later, Blackie shakes his head. He has disposed of his previous communicator, using a disrupter he borrowed, and replaced it with an inexpensive pre-paid, and untraceable, model.
Two days later, in the late evening, Blackie settles down once more, after applying a camouflaging makeup to conceal his pale skin. A call to the hospital a few hours earlier, from a random vidcomm booth, had confirmed his sisters death.
The rifle hes using this time is massive, and he is carefully assembling it as he takes the pieces out of the specially modified backpack he carries it in.
Settling down in his position on an exposed rooftop, he turns on the large and powerful light-gathering scope mounted on the rifle, and starts working on ranging the wide entrance to the opera house sitting some 1400 meters away. This is his last target, the money man and lawyer for the Humans First cell he is eliminating.
His target has some expensive protection, including a personal shield and a coterie of bodyguards. Which will do him no good at all tonight, as the personal shield has been quite thoroughly tampered with.
Blackie grins as he recalls servicing that same generator a couple months before. It has the same modifications he has been making ever since he was blackmailed into working for them. It will work normally against energy weapons, but will offer no protection at all against any projectile moving more than 100 meters per second. Slower impacts will be blocked as they should be, so it is extremely unlikely that his tampering has been detected.
Even if it has, the first shot will take the shield down. Still, a second shot shouldnt be needed, he muses.
A few minutes later, as the opera lets out for intermission, he determines that a second shot is, indeed, unnecessary.
That ones for you, Sis.
An hour later, he smiles as he finishes dematerializing the last of his weapons, and storing their patterns on a data chip that he carefully removes and secretes in his clothing before he deletes all record of them from the replicator.
The next morning he appears, as scheduled, at the Oceanwalker clinic.
Shortly afterward, he is talking to the doctor and discussing his change.
Mr. McLeod, Im still not completely happy with your psych profile, even though you did manage to pass it.
Shir Oceanwalker, I explained my reasons, rather thoroughly. I have completed my mission, what you so charmingly called my revenge. In some respects, I suppose, it could be considered such. But even so, you didnt report me because they were Humans First fanatics, and Chakona and the Federation are much better off without them; true?
Yes, youre right about that. I just think you should have let Starfleet Security take care of it.
My method was much faster, completely certain, and cost the Federation nothing. The investigation after the fact will be handled by the Amistad police. Now, since weve talked this out, let us continue with more immediate concerns.
Very well, Mr. McLeod. You have chosen to become a jaguar morph with a black-on-black coat, correct?
Yes, Shir, he replies. I wish to keep my current height and approximate weight, and have a physical age of about 22, in perfect health and physical condition.
Thats right. And, while we dont require it, we have verified your payment, and all of your other test results have come back positive. With your current health being what it is, I am happy to offer you this chance at a new life.
And Im very happy to take it, Shir Oceanwalker. Im really looking forward to being pain free for the first time in a very long time.
Were setting up for you now, weve just completed another transformation for a very seriously ill young woman. She came out in perfect health and with her condition completely cured. Im thankful I was able to help her, she wouldnt have survived more than a few months, otherwise.
Thats wonderful. And Im very happy to pay you so that you can continue your work. Holding up his hand, he adds, Call it a donation, if you like that better.
With that, they move into the transporter room, where several furs are checking over the large and complex transporter that will perform the transformation.
Blackie places a small duffel on a side table, then takes his place on the platform a few minutes later and waits patiently for the process to begin. Suddenly, the hum from the transformer stops, and the technicians start scurrying around trying to figure out what happened.
Moments later, one of them approaches Oceanwalker and speaks briefly. Shi shakes hir head and motions Blackie to come down off the platform.
Im sorry, Blackie, shi says, but our heavy power mains have failed. We still have lights and such, obviously, but the power for the transporter is gone. The techs tell me that the way it failed makes them suspect sabotage.
Damn. That is not good news, it sounds like my security has been compromised, Blackie says. How long will it take to repair?
The techs arent sure. Theyll have to find the actual damage before theyll be able to give me an estimate.
What is is what is, Blackie says in a resigned voice. My PTV is still downstairs, Ill get out of here until you call and tell me to come back. You have my comm code, right?
Yes, I do. Ill call you as soon as I know.
Thank you, Blackie responds, retrieving his duffel, Ill get out of here now.
Shir Oceanwalker sends a couple of orderlies with him as he leaves, and as he limps through the lobby, he notices a Stellar foxtaur embracing a four-breasted vixentaur, with a human woman standing close to them and looking like she's close to tears.
Shaking his head, he continues to his PTV, where he bids farewell to the orderlies before he pulls away from the clinic.
Scowling as he drives away, Blackie is ruminating on where he can go while he waits.
Putting the PTV on automated control, he heads once more for the spaceport area, where he believes he can hide out for a few days.
As he reaches the pass through the mountains, he hears something.
Is that a transpo... he starts to ask himself, as everything suddenly goes black.
there will be more …
Professor Chakat Oceanwalker is copyright E. Kathris Kern
Copyright © 2013 Chuck Percy
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove and used with his permission.
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