Die Slowly


— or “Just Another TroCon's Holiday”

This is what we did on our vacation. We'd finally been granted some time off, and had taken off in the Lovely Angel to the backwater planet of Calafia, chi Fornax III, looking for some sun and surf on the famous beaches of its Northern continent. What no-one told us until we got there was that it was currently winter in that part of the world, which rather put a dampener on our plans.

But it wasn't all bad — Calafia is far enough out in the boonies that our reputation had not preceded us, so we could sample a little of the high life. And the studs — though Yuri was soon singing the old time complaint “Why are all the cute ones gay?”

It was that dead time between the early sunset, and the start of the evening proper, and we were on board the Lovely Angel having a good therapeutic bitching session, when the scanner picked up a call on one of the local emergency bands. Some guy was talking about hostages and missiles, and some jobsworth in the local planetary police was telling him to clear that frequency.

Not only are we in the 3WA all too aware of the reluctance of the local plods to get off their amply padded behinds, but that sounded exactly like our sort of party. And no-one had remembered to send us an invite! So there was no decision to make — of course we'd crash it. We'd help out, and show this sleepy old world how to deal with this sort of trouble.

Yuri just grabbed her GM pack and headed off. I was a few seconds behind,since I stopped by my cabin to pick up some toys. Airhead might think that she can deal with any problem by using a small arm or her cuteness, but I'm happier when I'm able to try overwhelming firepower as well. And it is one of the perks of a TroCon's job to have the chance to use — and abuse — some way cool cutting edge tech — so why waste the opportunity, I say.

The address the guy on the radio had cited turned out to be a couple of miles inland, a 100–150 meter office tower. Close enough that it took well under a minute to get there, but long enough to reconfigure our outfits into the regular uniforms. And close enough that the dialogue of the deaf between our guy and the cops was still going on, letting us spot the source of the transmissions as the very top of the tower.

“Hello, sir,” I heard Yuri's voice over our tactical channel. “I'm 3WA Trouble Consultant Yuri. What seems to be the problem.”

I was close enough now to see that she was addressing a half-dressed, buff looking guy who was carrying a communicator, and an automatic weapon. He was also looking dumbstruck — but then it's not every day that a literal lovely angel drops from the skies in answer to your prayers, is it.

Studly guy was taking a deep breath ready to tell his story, when company arrived. Four of them, armed and dangerous. Three scattered along walkways surrounding the central raised platform that tipped the tower, the fourth, a frothing long-haired type came for a direct assault.

Stud dived off the platform, rolled, recovered, and started to run around the lower level, spraying suppressive fire. Yuri did her usual little dance, and followed, pacing him at about shoulder height. Meanwhile long-hair crossed the platform at an angle, looking to get ahead and above our guy. So I sighed, and unshipped the Faber LA-37 I'd packed to try out.

The Faber is the latest cool toy I picked up from stores. All the advantages of a directed energy weapon, plus all the advantages of a grenade launcher, in one assault rifle sized package. I selected burst fire, and let him have it. As I loosed the burst, my GM pack automatic evasion cut in as some stray fire came my way, making me miss long-hair, and blow a large hole in the cladding below the platform.

After-action forensic reports conclusively prove that what happened next was not our fault. How were we to know that some idiot had mined the whole roof? A mighty series of detonations swept around the whole top of the tower, lifting the central platform, and then letting it settle into the fire. The wash of heat would have done horrible things to my hair, if I wasn't using the standard flameproofing mousse. As it was, the heat was probably not doing my skin much good.

“Kei! Help!” The shout on the tactical band brought me back to the moment. I looked around, and spotted her on my HUD, descending rapidly towards the ground below. “He's too heavy!”

Ooops! Both of them must have been blown off the tower by the force of the blast — and the guy we were rescuing probably massed about as much as the pair of us put together, what with all that muscle. No wonder Yuri's GM pack wasn't coping with the load. I spun round and power dived to catch up with them.

Together, in what could have shaped up into a cosy threesome, we had just about enough lift to check the fall, though we did end up in a heap on the flat roof of a one storey ancillary building at the foot of the main tower.

Getting to my feet, I looked back up from where we had fallen. The building was burning like a candle, but didn't look like it would fail catastrophically any time soon. In our line of business you soon learn to gauge these things. The fire might just get the planetary cops moving, though.

“My wife's up there!” Our guy shouted as he saw what had happened.

“Why are the cute ones always married!” Yuri shot at me over the tactical.

“Just to make it a change.” I quipped.

“Well, sir,” I continued aloud, “we can't fly you back up there, so we'll have to use the front door.”

“I'll do that!” Yuri snapped, and hopped off the flat roof, to walk across the darkened plaza towards the main entrance of the tower.

There was some chatter on the radio. From our guy's communicator, a voice, suave, urbane, and with an off-world accent.

“Are you still there, my friend?”

He was about to take the communicator and answer, when I caught his hand.

“Keep them guessing,” I hissed.

“I'll assume that you are still out there,” the voice continued. “Not that it makes any difference.”

“That's the leader,” he confirmed my guess.

“And he doesn't know about us.”

By this time Yuri was getting close to the building. This prompted more chatter.

Voice: “Sir, there's a girl in a bikini approaching the main doors.”

Voice: “That's a 3WA TroCon.”

Leader: “Waste her. No half measures.”

Voice: “All ready, sir.”

It's at times like these that I do have to admire Yuri's grace under pressure. She was out there in the open with no real way to defend herself, while I was scanning the building for threats.

There. About six floors up, IR traces, an open window, and a large caliber weapon being brought to bear. Now there are times, I will admit, that Yuri and I don't get on, but even then, if anyone's going to kill her, I'm first in line.

The after action report conclusively showed that the destruction of the sixth floor of the tower was an inevitable result of the large stockpile of heavy ordnance the the perps had put together. Maybe not as spectacular a blast as the roof-top, but I was still impressed by the result.

The echoes of the blast were still rolling when a burst of gunfire tore out of the lobby. Yuri just grabbed altitude, while I bailed off the roof, ignoring the guy we'd rescued shouting about his wife. I put a burst from the Faber into what remained of the lobby doors, slung it, and drew Mjolnir. Sure, it's only a standard GM wand, but useful at close quarters. Pumped up high, it would shield me from hostile fire and debris on the approach run.

There was one figure in the lobby, dressed as a security guard, but firing a pistol at me like ammo never ran out. I headed his way, didn't bother stopping until the far wall impeded our further progress. I was just starting to pick myself up from a tangle with this now sleeping beauty when I heard footsteps behind me.

I switched to gun-cam mode on my XTC pistol. Two perps with automatic weapons, one casually discarding some candy wrapper, still chewing on the sweet. The other one laughed coarsely. Neither looked alert to fire.

This is intentional. When he has a crucial babe sprawled out before him, the average human perp will still think with his dick. Like a dick, I'd say. So I gave them what they wanted. The XTC gun dropped them both, with no harm done, except for the embarrassing stains in their next loads of laundry.

While they were still twitching, I taped them up, along with the first guy, and slapped a Drug-a-Thug™ on each of them.

Now I needed altitude — and a quick deep-radar scan showed a main ventilation shaft running up the core of the building. As I was blasting my way there, there was more radio.

Leader: “I'm speaking to the 3WA Trouble Consultant. We have thirty hostages up here, and we're not afraid to start killing them. Listen.”

Voice: “John, if that's you out there, tell the TroCon to stop. They already shot our boss.” He went on, but I stopped listening. The voice was smug, but tinged with fear.

I switched on full tactical feed from Yuri while I powered up the ventilation shaft. She was now reaching a lit level, about 30 floors up. In the office she approached, we could see two men, one sat at a desk with his back to us, the other, across the desk, wearing a suit that said in a very expensive way “I have more money than style” facing us.

He looked tense, lit up on some euphoriant, and slimy. Clearly the owner of the second voice. His eyes bulged as Yuri rose into view, posed demurely hands behind her back, head charmingly tilted..

I was up level with her by now, fighting my way through ducts barely large enough for my figure, trying to find a way out into a sensible place to act.

“Hello, Sir” Yuri poured on her little girl act. “Here I am. Please don't do anything to hurt anyone.”

The lead perp turned. He was also a dreamboat. “Why is it,” I signalled, “that the cute ones are all villains?” From his reactions, we judged that he would not hesitate to kill — but that he would think before doing so. That half a second delay meant that he was no threat. No, that was the guy outside the office.

I could see him directly now, myself, over what had been a large function room with exquisite decor, and even a water feature. Of course by now it had suffered some fire damage — though the sprinkler system seemed to have dealt with that. Between us was a miserable huddle of damp civilians that he was keeping watch over, with his automatic weapon at the ready.

“Pete,” said the leader to the lone perp, keeping his attention, and his aim, on Yuri, “Take this thing away.” a wave of his hand indicating creepy Mr Too-much-money.

“And you, now, miss. Hands where I can see them. This pistol is powerful enough that the window will offer no more resistance than your lily white skin.”

The perp with the hostages turned, and I was about to drop him when Yuri signalled “Wait!” I still kept him covered as he went into the office, dragged Mr Too-much-money from the leather chair into which he had sunk, and started to prod him back to the others.

Aloud Yuri simpered, and continued, hands to face, “Such compliments. And we haven't even been introduced.

“I'm 3WA Trouble Consultant Lovely Angel Yuri, and you are…?”

It was beautiful to watch. You could see the synapses firing. He half mouthed our loathed nickname. The wheels turned further.

“It's a trap! There are *two* of them!”

The perp with the machine gun swung round, his aim going nowhere in particular, and at that point I let him have it with the XTC pistol. It also caught Too-much-money, but I reckon that his cleaning bill would still be the cheapest way he was going to score that evening.

Yuri meanwhile soared out of sight of the leader, inverted, ducked back down for a quick peek, and snapped a shot from her XTC at him, the last one standing.

I stepped from the corridor where I'd been taking cover.

“3WA, folks. Party's over. Please evacuate the premises in an orderly fashion, while I secure the perps.”

Most of them headed for the stairs, but one a woman in red, headed straight for me. “We've got a pregnant woman here. She won't be able to manage the stairs all the way down.”

She was right, too. Well gravid, lying on a couch. That gave me an idea for covert transport of 3WA gear, which I filed away for later. “Chin up, dear. I've just got to wrap up these perps, and then I'll call for transport.”

It doesn't take long for a couple of dozen well motivated people to make themselves scarce, and to secure a couple of thugs. In the silence that had descended, I could now hear the local police arriving. Standing by the window, I watched their approach, all blues and twos, while I went through the formalities of getting a remote lift-off filed for the Lovely Angel.

At that point a chime sounded, lift doors opened, and an inarticulate snarl broke the peace. I turned, to see the long-haired creep from the roof — looking rather the worse for wear and well out of it on some berserker reaction, natural or purchased — spray fire in my direction. Fortunately, I still had Mjolnir, but I'd put my Faber down when checking on the civilians — and this guy looked too far out of it for the XTC to work at all quickly. While I was wondering what the hell to do, and with ricochets chewing up the scenery, I heard the distinctive sound of the Faber. It makes a very particular sort of “ka-boom!”

In his berserk state, Long-hair seemed to shrug off the first shot. The rest of the clip delivered on full auto was a different story. I turned. It was the woman in red.

“That's for my husband, you bastard!” she yelled, still holding the trigger down long after the gun was empty.

I went to take the Faber off her — and put two and two together. “Your husband — buff dude, knows how to handle himself in a firefight?”

She thought for a moment “Well, yes, I suppose he is.”

“Oh, we left him downstairs somewhere. Not even slightly singed. Here, have a spare clip, while I go look for any other left-overs.”

After that, it was an anticlimax. A quick deep radar showed just the one stray perp on this floor, on past the lifts, so I advanced on him, XTC in one hand, Mjolnir in the other. I found him working some gizmo at what looked like a vault door.

He heard me approach, and without turning cheerfully announced “Three down, sir, four to go.”

“Wrong answer, wonderboy. It's only one to go.”

Then he turned and looked at me; and he was no older than me, and very probably less. Certainly he was not prepared to face the wrath of a vengeful goddess, i.e. me. Instead, he looked like he was going to cry or call for his mom. I hate it when they do that.

So I decked him cleanly, and left him for the cops.

And that's how we spent that holiday.

© Steve Gilham 2003