Here it is folks, the ending to this little fanfic I started working on uhhh... holy crap, more than a year ago. If you haven't listened to Arioch's "Terror Tuesday" treatment of the story, I highly suggest you do. He did an excellent job with each character. So without further ado, I give you Loyalty, Part III...
Chris Westfall was not having a good day. In fact, the last few years hadn't been all that great for him. He'd worked for five years as a cop in New Detroit back on Earth. He wasn't a great cop, but he was okay at the job and stayed out of trouble for the most part, right up until that incident with the Whitok hooker. It totally wasn't his fault, but he knew that the girl's owners would hold him responsible anyway. He had to get as far away from Earth as he could, or else wind up as dead as that prostitute. So he ran, jumped on the first cargo barge he could sneak on to and made his way out to Quyth-controlled Ionath, or as he called it, “the Asshole of the Galaxy.” He'd managed to get a crappy job doing low-level scut-work for some minor Quyth crime boss named Mopuk. It was just glorified errand-boy stuff mostly, pick up a package here, drop off a package there, don't ask questions. Then Mopuk went and got himself wasted, and Chris found himself doing club security at The Big Eye for Greedok the Splithead, another crime boss further up the chain. Lousy hours and even lousier pay, sure, but he was still breathing, which was more than could be said for Mopuk and several of his enforcers. But with John Tweedey and Virak the Mean staring down at him wanting answers – answers he wasn't sure he had – Chris started to wonder if all that might change very soon.
Tweedy and Virak had “escorted” him to one of the small storage rooms at The Big Eye the moment he showed up for his shift. They managed to bounce his face off of a couple of walls along the way, and now they were both throwing questions at him about Quentin Barnes' death like they thought he had something to do with it. Yes, this was not a good day AT ALL.
“Look, guys, I'm telling you I have no freaking idea what you're talking about”, Chris insisted for the sixth time. “What in the hell makes you think I had anything to do with it?”
“Virak, he's not gonna talk” Tweedey said, rushing forward to get right in Chris' face . He shoved Chris back into the wall hard enough to cause his head to bounce off of it. The security guard's vision briefly filled with stars and static. His senses returned just in time to hear Tweedey say “I think we should just start pulling fingers off him right now until he decides to tell the truth! You hear me boy? My best friend is dead and I wanna know what you know about it!” Chris felt his rectum tighten at the threat, and seeing the words “Pain is my business, and business is good” scroll across Tweedey's forehead didn't help. “Pulling” fingers off, not cutting them? Jesus, who does that? However, it was held as a universal truth among the staff at The Big Eye that John Tweedey was crazier than bug shit on burnt toast.
Virak, who had more experience shaking beings down for information, pulled Tweedey back and took his place deep inside Chris' personal space, wrapping his strong fingers firmly around the man's throat, but not squeezing down yet. Tweedey was useful as an intimidation factor, but Virak sensed that he was dangerously close to going prematurely ultra-violent on this security guard, and that could significantly delay getting any useful information out of him. Greedok did not like unnecessary delays.
“You were stationed at the only door without a working camera on the day of the party, human.” Virak seemed to almost spit this last word at him. Chris could see his reflection in the single baseball-sized eye of the imposing Quyth Warrior, and in that instant realized just how full-on terrified he looked. “The police determined that the iZune robot was the murder weapon, and the front door delivery records don't show it coming through there before the party, nor does any of the camera footage from the other doors. So either you planted that 'bot among Quentin's gifts yourself, or you know who did.” Virak's eye went from swirling red and black to solid black as he made the accusation.
Chris swallowed hard and tried to say something, but his throat betrayed him, locking up and causing his words to stall somewhere just short of his tonsils. His eyes flicked to Tweedey, who was hunching just behind Virak, clenching & unclenching his cinder-block-sized fists while “kill kill kill” replaced the previous text, scrolling across his entire face now. The “psycho” vibe was coming off of him as strong as radiation off of a punch-drive core. Chris swallowed hard again, looked back to Virak, and forced the words up and out.
“Wait wait wait, holy shit I didn't plant nothing. Just wait a second!” Chris took a few quick breaths, trying to get his panic under control. He had to think... there was something trying to claw it's way through his fog of sphincter-tightening fear... THINK damnit!
“Okay just wait guys, there was something. It was... I swear, I didn't think nothing of it at the time, I swear, I...”
“Just spit it out” Tweedey growled, “before I start making you spit out teeth instead!” Virak looked back at his teammate with a pained expression that said “really, that's the best you could come up with?” Tweedey shrugged and went back to glaring at Chris.
“There... there was this guy, a Worker, ya know? He... he, gave me a 50-credit chit, man, to let him in my door to deliver a gift. So he wouldn't have to wait in the delivery line out front, that's what he said. I recognized him, think he used to work for Mopuk... “Teabag” or something like that was his name. I figured he was just a fan dropping off another present. That's all I know man, I swear, he's the only being I let through all day who wasn't either a caterer or a stripper.”
Virak nodded once, let go of Chris' throat, and backed out of the man's personal space. “Are you absolutely sure that's who it was, human?”
“Pretty sure, yeah. I mean, all you guys... uhh, I mean those guys, the Workers... they all kinda look the same to me, but yeah, I remember seeing him a few times back when this place was the Bootleg Arms. Look, I swear to you guys, that's all I know.” Chris was sweating and rubbing his throat where Virak had grabbed him, and he realized that he very much needed to pee.
“I believe you, human. Consider yourself lucky for that” the Quyth Warrior said. He stood to his full height and flexed his powerful pedipalps for effect. “Your incompetence has contributed to Quentin Barnes' death though, and Greedok may not wish to let that go, so I can't guarantee that we won't be seeing you again sometime soon.”
With that, Virak turned and ushered John Tweedey out of the storage closet. Chris Westfall felt his crotch get warm and wet, and he realized that he was going to have to run for his life once again.
Greedok the Splithead drummed the fingers of his right pedipalp on his desk. He stared into the middle-distance, contemplating what to do next. The security guard's confession simply added to the growing evidence that pointed to Tikad the Groveling as being the architect of Barnes' murder. First they'd traced the purchase of the robot through its individual unit number, which any competent professional would have scrubbed both from the body and the software. Then there was the single hair the police forensics unit found in the modified arm. The DNA profile pointed to Tikad's family line, though with the highly generalized Quyth Worker genetics, it was next to impossible to narrow it down to an individual.
While it was possible that Tikad was merely a patsy in all of this, Greedok felt that it was unlikely. If the real mastermind had been another GFL team owner, or even one of his many underworld enemies, Greedok would have found out about it through his vast network of informants by now. Most beings would think it inconceivable that a simple Quyth Worker could design and perpetrate such a clandestine murder plot, but Greedok knew all too well that there is usually at least one exception for every rule.
The Quyth Leader felt a conclusion slowly forming in his mind. If his target had been anyone of note - another mob boss, a team owner, even some other public figure - he would have made his retribution more overt. But no one would care if the message boards and news holos reported the mutilated body of a lowly Quyth Worker being found In the Ionath sewers. No, for this job, he decided that discretion was in order. No need to make a spectacle of someone who would not be noticed in the first place, plus such actions always left the chance of the deed being traced back to his organization. Quick and quiet was what Greedok needed for this job, and he knew of only one hitter who could absolutely guarantee those qualities in his work.
He stopped drumming his fingers and picked up his phone, opening the secured line. He dialed a very special number, and when the receiving party answered he said “I have a special job for you” After a pause, he replied “No, the other kind of job. Just get to my office as quickly as you can, I will give you all the details you need here.”
The assassin waited in the dark of Tikad's domicile on the outskirts of Ionath city, many kilometers outside of the rad-free dome. He'd been there for several hours, quietly waiting for the occupant's return. He thought about why he was there, about the events that had led to this situation. This was the most personal job he'd ever done for Greedok the Splithead, and he found himself lost in the memories of recent cycles. After all, he'd watched Quentin Barnes from the very beginning of the young quarterback's Tier 2 career. His had been the finger on the trigger of the pulse cannon that had ultimately convinced Steadmar Osbourne, owner of the Tier 3 MICOVI Raiders, to sell Barnes' contract to Greedok in the first place. He had watched Quentin's hubris falter after his initial failures with the Krakens. He had been witness to the the boy letting go of the racism of his Purist Nation upbringing, replacing it with respect and trust in his teammates, regardless of their species. He had great admiration for Quentin Barnes, and he felt a deep sense of honor that he had been tasked with avenging the young quarterback's murder. It was the first time the assassin had ever experienced such emotions in relation to a sanctioned job. He imagined that this was what Quyth Warriors must feel when they go into battle. The emotions swirled around in his one small eye, evident in shades of orange and red and purple, almost intoxicating in their intensity.
As soon as he heard his target enter the small apartment, the emotions and memories were pushed to the background, the eye shifted to a steady shade of dull gray, and the Professional Killer was all that remained.
Tikad stumbled into the tiny kitchen of his small apartment, still fairly stoned from his evening at the Gin bar down the street. He'd been getting completely smashed every day for the last week, secretly celebrating his successful revenge against Quentin Barnes. Tonight he'd even managed to score a few raw Juniper berries, which had left him an incoherent mess in a corner of the bar for a while. As he flicked the light on, he thought that maybe raw berries were too intense for him and he'd just stick to processed Gin from now on. It took Tikad a full five seconds to realize that there was someone sitting at his small kitchen table. It took a few seconds more for him to recognize exactly who the intruder was, and that he was pointing a small pistol.
“What the hell are YOU doing here?” Tikad slurred in the native Quyth language?
If this had been some cheesy action holo, the assassin might have responded with a witty quip or some snappy one-liner. This wasn't a movie though. This was real-life, and as such, the assassin simply fired the pistol at his target without saying a word. The weapon looked like a standard Trapis Arms PT-17 blaster pistol, but it had been gutted and modified with a stolen Creterakian Entropic Accelerator module. The bolt from the pistol looked like a smoky black bar wrapped in fine blue lightning, traveling at 365 meters-per-second. It struck Tikad the Groveling just to the right of center-mass in his chest, and he started to disintegrate before he even realized what had happened.
The actual workings and effects of an Entropic Accelerator are not really understood by most sentients, but basically it works like this; a mass of specific negative energy is contained within a plasma shell, which is shot out of the weapon by highly efficient magnetic accelerators. That plasma “bolt” remains on a constant linear trajectory until it makes contact with organic matter. Upon such contact, the plasma shell breaks down, which enables a direct quantum reaction between the contained negative energy and the positive energy of the sub-atomic mass of the organic matter. There are some fairly complicated mathematics and quantum laws involved at this point, but basically what happens is that the sub-atomic particles that make up the atoms, which in turn make up the molecules of the organic matter, lose their energy and simply cease to exist. This effect cascades to surrounding organic matter until the entire organism literally disintegrates.
Tikad the Groveling started to feel these effects approximately 1.3 seconds after the Entropic bolt hit his body. He tried to scream, but by then it was too late. Within 15 seconds, Tikad was no more.
The assassin put the small pistol back in his pocket and pulled out another device that looked like a palm-sized message board. He typed a few words, hit the send button, then tossed the device into the small kitchen's plasma-fired waste incinerator. He placed the chair he'd been sitting in back in its proper place and looked around one last time to make sure that he hadn't missed anything before quietly leaving the apartment. He had to get back to rad-dome and attend to his more regular duties for his shamakath.
Greedok the Splithead quickly read the new message on his holoscreen. “It is done” was all it said, but those three words caused Greedok's pedipalps to twitch for a moment in the Quyth equivalent of laughter. It also caused his softball-sized eye to briefly swirl with orange and black, the colors of happiness and anger. Quyth emotions are sometimes complicated like that.
Greedok knew of few other Quyth who earned their surnames as completely as Messal. “The Efficient” indeed, especially after Greedok had discovered the little Worker's talent for skills beyond those required of a team manager. If things had gone just a bit different for Messal, he could have been a Warrior. He probably should have been, and his relegation to the Worker class was just an unfortunate error, but such is life in the Concordia. A bit of good training though, coupled with Messal's natural knack for remaining unseen, and the little unassuming Worker had become the deadliest and most discrete hitter Greedok had ever had in his stable.
With the unfortunate business of Quentin's murder attended to, Greedok deleted the message from his screen and turned his attention to other matters.