SUMMARY: This is how the deal gets done.
CHARACTERS: Edgar Poland, other OCs.
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: This is a very alternate universe. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: Links to all chapters of the Distress Call universe can be found here.
They meet in a dingy nightjuke on the station, off-hours when nobody's gonna know or care that they're around. It smells like a year-old trash heap in here, stale and dry. Hell, the place might be fucking abandoned for all Eggie knows; it's been ages since he bothered with the nickel decks. Not so bad with the damn jukers out of the picture, though. The dance floor is half-hidden in shadows, and the three men have their choice of empty tables.
Drex was right, Eggie thinks, leaning back in his hard resin chair. You don't want to screw around with the kind of guy who can send hired muscle out here to the edge of the Wastes. He thanks the god of unintended benefits that he's wearing his sunglasses. These crazy fucks simply do not need to see his eyes right now; they're going to play the usual twisted mind games with him and the harder Eggie is to read, the better this will go.
It helps that Eggie was in business long before these two guys were born. He knows all about twisted mind games. First thing he's noticed is that neither of these boys is the fucker with the busted nose, the one he talked to yesterday. These are different fuckers.
"Let's see what you've got," says the thug who's in charge, and Eggie names him Crazy Fuck No. 1. His I am very serious voice suggests that this meeting will take way longer than it has to. Eggie hands everything over, wishing he'd thought to stop for lunch on the way. He's already hungry, damn it.
"And this is all on the level," Crazy Fuck No. 1 says. He's holding the hard prints of the two medical licenses in his hand -- both he and CF No. 2 have been going through them for a good thirty minutes. Eggie's been watching their fingers, the little bit of stiffness there. Calculating their position in the organization by the slight exaggeration of their gestures and their words. They're posing for each other, these two.
"Of course it's on the level," Eggie says. These idiots clearly don't know his reputation. Word hasn't spread yet to the Khirjin Ring; after this, maybe it will.
"Because Mister Krater doesn't want any surprises," CF No. 1 says, ignoring Eggie's reply. He leans back in his chair. A slim ivory cig-case, yellow with age, appears as if from nowhere, and he shakes a baccy-stick from its slot. The skritch of a match, and pale smoke rises slowly into the air. "You know what Mister Krater had done to the last guy who crossed us?" he asks.
Eggie ignores the question as he digests this new piece of information. Not just a poser, but a poser with ambitions -- one of those deluded bottom feeders who thinks the nice toy he took off some other poor fuck will lend him an air of gravi-fucking-tas. Eggie waits. He knows the thug will tell him anyway, and after another long drag on the baccy-stick, the thug does.
"We took him from his place of business," he says, and his voice is flat and without feeling. "And transported him to another place -- a nice, quiet place."
"Until he started screaming," Crazy Fuck No. 2 interjects. Oh, the eager little whelp, Eggie thinks, and has to stop himself from smiling. This is the part of the story that's supposed to be so fucking scary, after all.
"I was getting to that," Crazy Fuck No. 1 says mildly. He looks at the glowing end of his baccy-stick as if seeing something interesting there.
"We told him about the sin he'd committed," says Fuckhead One, "against Mister Krater. And then we tied him down and watched him sweat for a while." He takes another, shorter drag. "And then we fed a half-dozen gutsnakes up his ass." More smoke drifts up; Eggie stifles back a cough.
"They bite," the thug says, all factual like he's narrating a fucking docuvid. "Took him a long time to die, even with all the venom in his system." He looks at his companion. "How big you think those snakes were?"
CF No. 2 shrugs. "Six, eight inches," he says. He brightens a little. "I hear the Big Capo over at True Dome Station breeds 'em bigger." He frowns. "What the hell's his name?"
"Pecorino," the first thug says.
"Yeah, that's it! Pecorino. He breeds the snakes so they're longer. I've even heard of some goin' all the way through!"
Fuckhead One snorts at that. "Don't believe every story you hear, you idiot," he says. "Anything will go all the damn way through if it crawls that far. The point remains, however."
Eggie sighs. These young dickheads always think they're gonna scare the shit outta the dumb old backwater trader. Young dickheads are dangerous, sure, but if they've ever even seen a damn gutsnake, Edgar H. Poland'll eat his hat. You've ever seen a gutsnake case, you know the little fuckers don't crawl up your ass and bite. They lay eggs. That hatch.
These punks are making shit up because they've got nothing real to tell. No matter how many pretty antiques CF One has stuffed up his sleeves, he and his pal are just a couple disposable outriders trying their damndest to suck the boss's dick. Krater himself is probably hanging back, a day or two out of orbit. If his idiots come back alive he'll be more sure of his own safety.
"You two done wasting my fucking time yet? I got a shipment to meet this afternoon."
"You think you can put a rush on these men? Sleazy old half-credit trader like you."
Oh, fuck no. This game is over. "What I think," he says, "is your Mister Krater got his ass in a big old bucket of hurt. He's comin' to Exeter, it's not for a fuckin' sightseeing tour, it's 'cause he's outta time and got no better ideas. I know he just pulled some big damn stunt that's got every planetary militia in five quadrants on alert. If he could get to a civilized hospital, he'd never come near this shithole. You tell him he wants a good doctor, here's two of 'em. He's not interested, fine. It's not that far over to New Munroe; he can take his sick ass there."
The Crazy Fucks look at one another for a second. Got you, you dumbasses, thinks Eggie.
"Of course," Eggie continues in a genial tone, "they got Import Staff at Munroe. Inspections, I.D. checks, all that inconvenient shit. But I'm sure that won't be a problem for such an upstanding gentleman as Evo Fucking Krater, now will it?"
By the time Eggie leaves, down payment in hand, there's a spring in his step and he's making straight for the best steakhouse on the station. He'll get his overdue and well-earned lunch, and maybe he'll give another call to the Velvet Dragon, this time for a ... special companion tonight.
Respect, that's all Eggie's always wanted. Just like the author of that Old Earth poem he ran across, that time when he took on a load of useless pagebooks to run for pulp. He'd found the poem by chance, and had ended up tearing out the page and squirreling it away in a desk drawer.
The whole thing might have been written about him, anyway.
What you want, baby --
I got what you need --
Do you know I got it?
All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect.