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Bitter Sweet Rewards – Esper Fade Rough

Paladin Sharpshot felt like shit, knew he looked like shit; but smelled like perfume. “At least I smell nice,” he mumbled to himself. He groaned as the digital recorder in his head tried to improve his mood. “Why God why Marmalade?” With a sigh he turned the cyber piece off. Better to suffer in silence than to Disco.
He always felt crappy after he crashed. Doc Hammer had promised he would be more alert, more focused, that Drive would keep him going as he searched for his younger brother Koji. It helped; he tracked down leads quicker without wasting time to sleep. Hammer hadn’t said anything about the consequences though.
The drugs were taking their toll. His once black hair was white now from constant use. His features looked drawn and worn. It was hard to hide the crow’s feet and premature aging. But worst were the shakes and spasms his body went through when he came down.
Paladin was beginning to hate how he couldn’t function a day without this damn cocktail, but he loved its fatigue-ending powers.
His cell flashed twice and issued a subtle harp cord. It would not do to keep that call waiting. Snatching up the phone he pressed the visual display.
“Master,” he said bowing. “You honor my home with your presence.”
“Your master is pleased to impart a mundane task to his favored student.”
“You honor me, Master.” Paladin did not look up at the aged face. To do so was disrespectful and Paladin would never disrespect this man. “What is this task, Master?”
“You are to retrieve a girl.” The voice was silent for a moment. An indication to look up at the screen, Sharpshot saw a young black haired girl of about nine. There was a soft beep signaling that the picture would be removed and for Paladin to avert his eyes. He did so. “Find her and bring her to my dojo, favored student.”
“Hai.”
The image beeped and the call ended replaced with a picture of the young girl again. He spent several moments examining her features. “Few years she might be pretty. That name though,” Her name was so plain. Susan Smith. The dull ache started to vanish as he stared at the picture. He searched for the number of his money launderer. The yellow pages for criminals, Jenson could find something for a price. “Jenson can start the search while I go make myself look fabulous.”

***

“Detective Johnson!” the lieutenant shouted. “Somebody get him in here ASAP!”
A few seconds later Detective Johnson strolled into the precinct ready to start his shift, an unlit cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth and his normal clean-shaven face was pock marked with patches of hair growth. The lanky detective looked like he’d seen better days.
As was his custom Johnson stopped by the front desk to check out the morning news. A member of the organized crime unit he had his hands more than filled with paper work, but it never hurt to look into other reports in case they might lead to a larger pattern.
“Johnson,” a rookie officer said trotting up to the detective. “Lieutenant Bogart said to find you and send you her way.”
“Thanks,” Johnson slapped the kid on the shoulder. “Now better get those copies over to your sergeant or he’ll have you on parking meter duty for another month.”
“Yeah… I know,” the younger officer sighed. “I’ve been meter monitoring for so long I think I’m going to merge with the system.”
“You get used to it,” Johnson rubbed the jack behind his ear. “You’ve only been here half a year. Give it time.”
“Sure thing, Detective.” The younger officer flashed him a quick smile and hurried off.
Johnson could remember when he was that green rookie. Had he really been on the force ten years now? His musings would have to wait. His boss wouldn’t quit sending people to look for him till he was sitting in front of her.
As he walked he took a moment to straighten up his suit and hair. As he approached Lieutenant Bogart’s office he took his unlit cigarette from his mouth and he placed it upon the ridge of his ear. He knocked and let himself in.
“Sit down,” she said indicating a worn leather chair in front of her. He did so. Unlike the other offices in the building this was tailored to the occupant. She was old fashioned, one of the few humans left without an ounce of modifications in her. So was the office, everything Pre-Technological age, from the hand crafted and well beaten wood desk to the leather chairs to the physical computer sitting there.
“You wanted to see me?” Johnson asked, leaning back in the chair.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “You were the lead detective on the Yakuza bust last year.” It was a statement of fact. Her eyes locked with his. “Is that thing lit?”
“Nope,” Johnson said picking it up. “It’s my last one; soon as I smoke this I’m going to quit.”
“You’ve had that thing on your ear for how many years now?”
“I’m going to quit.”
“And that fresh pack?” she asked.
Johnson crossed his arms and didn’t say anything.
“Anyway, looks like we missed a few Yaks in last years bust. They’ve been causing a ruckus lately.”
“What sort of ruckus?’ Johnson asked leaning forward, the cigarette forgotten.
“They murdered a politician. We’re not sure why and we weren’t paid to care. They’re not footing our bill.”
“Yak murders are clean, no witnesses.”
“Not this time. They missed one.” Bogart held up a picture of a smiling little girl and two adults. “They didn’t kill the daughter. And now she’s alone in the Under City.”
Johnson whistled. “She looks maybe nine. And she’s in the Under City?” Bogart nodded. “You want me to find and question her?”
“Yeah, and do it fast before the Yaks hired hand finds her.”
“Who did they hire?”
“If sources can be believed, this man.” Bogart handed over a manila folder.
Opening it Johnson sighed as he read the name. “Akihiko Nakamura alias Paladin Sharpshot. Guess they’re serious. He’s got a rep for taking on all contenders.”
“And so do you, Detective,” Bogart said with a dismissive gesture. “Now do your job.”

***

Susan couldn’t help being scared as she wiped away the tears. She was lost and running for her life in the ruined under city of San Diego. She’d been overlooked by her parent’s killers and had crawled out a window and ran until she’d reached a taxi station. Her credit voucher didn’t get her very far. It had gotten her to the outskirts of Under City, and the cabby booted her.
Under City was the ruin of old San Diego after the quake of 2042. The citizens rebuilt above and had forgotten it, as New San Diego City floated above the mess that was left of California. All California cities floated on high. With renewable sources of fuel they never needed to land in the squalor. Their residents lived the life of luxury; if they could afford it.
Under City was a perfect place to hide and escape out of California; it was the home of runners, gangers, thugs, smugglers and Espers. For the right price anything was for sale. For a nine-year-old girl this was not the place to be alone.
Things did not look good for Susan as a group of young ruffians on bikes flashed by, clad in matching jackets. The vehicles’ electric engines had been modified; normally they made no noise. Now they sounded like gasoline engines of olden days. The ruffians performed a turn swarming around the little girl, their voices lost in the modified roar of the bike engines.
As one, they slowed and stopped, encircling the girl. Only one, however, stepped from his bike. “Yer on Violent Sadist turf,” he laughed. “You gotta pay a toll.”
“Toll?” the young girl stammered. “But! But I haven’t any money, sir!”
“You haven’t?” He leaned closer to her removing his goggles. His cybernetic eyes flashed and whirled. “Well then! What should I do with you?”
“Please let me go. My parents were murdered–”
“Let me go! Let me go!” One of the Sadists laughed. “Com’n let’er go, Z.”
“Of course,” Z stood up and replaced his goggles. “We’ll let her go,” he paused for effect. “To Doctor Hell.”
Susan darted towards Z’s bike attempting to run past it and away from the gang. Before she could get too far she was snatched up by one of the members and thumped on the head.
“Oops,” someone laughed. “Don’t know my own strength some times.”

***

Paladin sighed at the sight before him. Jenson had found the info he needed. Her credit voucher had been used by a cabby after he’d dumped her in Under City, Sharpshot would deal with the low life cabby for stealing her money later. He had more pressing concerns than teaching a two bit cabby for stealing. The girl was no where to be seen.
Kicking the stand down on his racing bike he stood up. She couldn’t have gotten far, he thought, rubbing the back of his hand. It always itched when it was getting time for a dose. He would have to ignore it.
All through the dirt he saw sport and dirt bike tracks and a few pairs of feet. They were hard to make out and even on his best days forensics was beyond him. That’s what the cops were for. He was paid to find people. And kill if need be.
Frowning, he scanned the area for some telltale sign. He saw a tag on a wall. It looked to be recent. Chances were whichever gang put that tag up ruled this area. They might have found her. If so they would probably accept payment for the girl.

***

Detective Johnson tapped his multitool on the desk of the cabby stand. “Excuse me,” he said. When the man behind the glass looked up Johnson smiled. “Detective Johnson.” He held his badge up to the glass. “Organized Crime unit. I’ve got some questions to ask.”
“We’ve done nothin wrong, cop.”
“Detective.”
“Detective,” the man behind the glass said with a nod. “Like I’ve said we’ve done nothin’ wrong. You lookin’ to take a part of the cut?”
Johnson frowned and turned on the recording software implanted in his multitool. With a casual flick of his finger he began the police report. His first entry to the report was attempted bribery. “Let’s just stick to me asking questions,” he smiled pleasantly.
“Oh… okay. What ya want Detective?”
Johnson pulled his badge from the glass and put it in his breast pocket. “I’m looking for a cabby who picked up this girl. Reports indicate the car was 564 Diamond 6.” He flicked his finger again and a virtual display of the picture he’d been given appeared between him and the man.
“You wanna talk to Chuck,” the man said pointing off to his right. “Should be in the break room.”
“Thank you,” Johnson said tipping his hat. With the motion the picture disappeared. “And your name?”
“I plead the fifth.”
“According to corporate laws and treaties the fifth amendment does not apply when on duty.”
“Finely,” the man muttered. “Derrick Finely.”
“Thank you Derrick. If I have more questions I’ll be sure to question you again.”
“Don’ mentions it.”
Johnson whistled tunelessly as he walked onward to the break room. The camera in his shades was taking all this down for continuity and backing it up to his external hard drive in the multitool. It was always risky to stream data to a wireless device in this day an age. If a hacker felt like it, they could over ride the signal and back hack into a person; getting all sorts of data for the effort. His position as a hired enforcer of corporate regulations meant few hackers wanted to deal with him, but there were always newbies or idiots who had stuff to prove to their peers.
Johnson didn’t knock as he pushed open the break room door. Sitting with his feet up on a table was a disfigured human. His face had been through one too many sessions with a fist. Johnson flicked his eyes over to the vid display in the corner. It was playing the latest galactic federation wrestling show. The only occupant of the break room was too busy watching the fights to see Johnson.
Casually Johnson sat down next to him and kicked his feet up. “Mind if I join you?” he asked the other man. He took a fresh cigarette from his latest pack and lit it. “Want one? It’s the new blend from Turkey.”
The man turned to look at him scowling. “Who are you?”
“Detective Johnson, organized crime unit,” Johnson said holding the pack out to the man. “Chuck I presume?”
“I’ve nothin’ to say without a lawyer,” Chuck snorted turning from the detective.
“It’s not about you. It’s about a little girl. A little girl you let out in Under City.”
“I don’t know nothin’.”
“Really?” Johnson said putting his pack of cigarettes back and lighting his fresh stick. “That’s not what your buddy says. In fact I think I just heard you saying you raped that girl, Charles.”
“I ain’t a rapist.”
“Really? Johnson asked. “See that’s not what I’ll say in my story. And the boys down in the crime labs aren’t afraid of making an ugly sucker like you do time.” Chuck spun to look at the detective. His eyes narrowing in anger as he stared at the lanky man. “What’s it going to be small fry? 20 years for rape or you spill the beans on where you took that little girl? It’s your choice of course but hard time as a rapist isn’t a good way to end ones life.”
“Ain’t right how you cops bully us.”
“The system is perfect just the way it is. Maybe next time you won’t vote Sony Corp. into office.”
“But I voted for Nike!”
“I see.” On his report he wrote down Possible Terrorist Sympathizer next to Chuck’s name. He would have to add that to his database and cross-reference his political affiliations for later. It never hurt to keep an eye out for potential disaster.

***

Susan woke to a bright light and muffled voices. It was hard to remember what had just happened. The last day was foggy and her vision was blurred. There were guys all around her but only two seemed to be talking.
“Uuuuhhh.” The sound escaped her lips without her realizing it.
“Good, good,” a voice spoke up. “She is waking up. You did not do much harm to her.” Susan felt a cold hand clutch her chin. A second later her gaze was jerked about by the hand as the owner examined her. “I will give you one thousand credits for this child.”
“A thousand?” Z asked in pained tone of voice. “You insult us, Doc.”
“You wish to continue living?” the second voice asked. “You wish for cutting edge genetics?” There was a pause. “Take the credit voucher and get out.”
“You heard the doctor,” Z said. “Let’s go.”
“But boss.”
“I said we’re leavin’. You wanna argue with him, nice knowin’ ya.”
There were several booted steps and the slam of a heavy door.
“Now my darling,” Doctor Hell spoke again. “Let us see what I can learn about you.” Susan only screamed once as the needle was plunged deep into her side, the powerful anesthetic numbing her instantly. “Young, good genetics… you should be a prime subject.”

***

Paladin banged on the door to the warehouse. He took a second to make sure he was properly attired. Image was as much a part of business as the guns and money. He loved to dress in flashy designer Chinese brands. It was an affront to Yakuza everywhere, but Paladin was a freelancer with heavy Yakuza backing. He always liked the way he looked in a Kung Fu outfits, blue to match his eyes and black to give him that slimming effect.
A tiny slot in the door opened. “What?” a voice asked. All Paladin could see was a pair of eyes.
Instead of speaking Paladin slipped a credit voucher into the hole. “My card,” he said. “I believe you’ll see it says Open Sesame.”
The slot closed and he could hear the locks being undone. The door opened and he looked into the face of a very large man with a crown of horns on his brow. “Lovely,” he thought. “Mutants.”
“What do you want?” the mutant asked.
“Just want to make a business deal,” Paladin said in a calm voice. His eyes were busy looking over the insides of the warehouse. Despite the darkness inside his ultrasonic hearing and vision modifications allowed him to see the inside as bright as day. “Twenty five gangers, thirty five bikes. Where are the others?”
“Who is it?” a voice called from somewhere behind the mutant.
“Some faggy dregger with a credit voucher,” the mutant shouted back. “Wants to make a deal.”
“Faggy?” Paladin thought. “This must be the price for good fashion I suppose.”
“Send’em in!”
“You heard ‘em. Go on.”
Paladin nodded once and stepped in, his hands staying near his sides as he moved past the mutant. His eyes glanced to the boarded up windows. He did not see another exit. If things got ugly it would be a blood bath in here.
Paladin stopped before a man on an improvised throne, made of junk cobbled together into the vague shape of a chair. “Kneel,” the man commanded grinning.
“Ain’t happening.”
“No? Why not?”
“I’m here to do business,” Sharpshot said. “How stupid does that make me if I put myself in a position of weakness before we start?” He moved aside his shirt enough to reach for his pocket. “I am reaching for my credit vouchers,” he said in a pleasant voice. “Please don’t shoot me.”
Around him the room bristled with movement as gangers reached for guns, knives and any other weapon near at hand. They calmed when he pulled a platinum cred voucher from his pocket.
There was an appreciative whistle from the man on the throne. “Talk, dregger. You’ve bought my attention.”
“Great,” Paladin said. He removed his sunglasses with one hand while still keeping the credit voucher in view. “I’m seeking a little girl who came through here. Short cropped dark hair, brown eyes, and a mole on her left cheek about nine years old.”
“Never seen her,” the man said quickly, reaching for the credit voucher. “Now hand over the money.”
“You misunderstand. This voucher is only if you give me the information I seek. She was dropped into this sector by a cabby; your tag was on a nearby wall. You’re the Violent Sadists. Would you let someone come through your turf and steal a girl from you?”
The man on the throne stared at him for several seconds. The man kept his eyes on the voucher and the muscles in his jaw working as he thought. “Yeah, we had the girl.”
“And?”
“And now we’re taking yer money, dregger.” The man on the throne brought his fingers to his lips to whistle. He never finished as his head exploded from the shot.
Paladin had known flashing the credit voucher could get him into trouble. In one smooth motion he dropped the voucher. It was the least of his concern with twenty-four angry gangers around him. The first shot took everyone by surprise. “You always get one freebie. Everything else costs.”
He could hear the weapons cocking and heard the first telltale sound of a semi automatic weapon. He had to remain calm. It was one of the many reasons he’d started taking Drive. It let him fight smarter. No amount of cybernetic replacements could save him from a storm of bullets.
As he dove for cover behind the throne he felt his hand spasm in pain. The pistol fell like a heavy weight to the ground. “Not now!”
The bullets rained around him and thru the throne. He wouldn’t be safe here for long. Knowing not to trust his spasming hand he holstered his other pistol and grabbed the fallen one. He snatched it up just as a heavily modified ganger lunged around the throne blasting out with a shotgun. The shots went wide but a bit of the throne exploded next to Paladin’s head and cut across his forehead. He felt the pain until the adrenaline kicked in. “What is it Smith said? Use the pain as focus?”
“Fuck you, dregger!”
“Nah you’re not cute enough.” He caught the ganger square in the chest with his shot. The blow sent the thug sprawling to the ground. “Wasn’t clean,” Sharpshot thought. “I need to switch the targeting computer and reflexes from left to right, reboot the system. I’m getting sloppy.”
Paladin glanced over at the downed man. He was still breathing. An aimed shot to the head fixed that problem. “Rookie move. Hitting him in the sternum just wasted a bullet.”
Seizing the initiative he snatched up the ganger and hauled the body to its feet using his corpse as a shield as he made his way across the floor to a row of boxes. Those boxes wouldn’t make a great place for a last stand but it was either that or a running gun battle. After dragging that meat shield twenty yards Paladin wasn’t so sure he was up for a prolonged battle.
The gunfire splintered into the crates all around him. “I knew I should have brought my rifle.”
He risked a glance at the gangers over the lip of one of the boxes. They were moving forward using covering fire to mask their movements. “So they’re not amateurs. Great.”
He reached under his silk shirt and pulled the flash bang grenades he’d brought for an emergency. He pulled the pins and counted holding off throwing them till the last possible second. He tossed them over his shoulder and over the boxes he was behind.
“Gift for you guys. Smile bitches!”

***

Detective Johnson heard the gunfire before he located the warehouse. “Sounds like typical ganger war,” he mumbled putting out a cigarette and reaching for his last pack. All around him the citizens of this slum were heading indoors. The bullet marked buildings wouldn’t protect against some of the rounds being used but it was better than nothing he supposed.
Grabbing his side arm he slinked towards the gunfight. He could hear the report of shotguns and assault rifles, the rapid fire of submachine guns. His hearing mods were able to pick out fourteen sets of guns firing inside the warehouse.
“Sounds like a real slaughter house in there,” he thought. “Well best to let them run out of bullets before I risk my skin.”
There was a loud explosion inside the building along with several bright flashes. His mods saved him from the worst of the explosion but it was still loud and the ringing in his ears was annoying. Someone in that warehouse had serious grade hardware.
He could barely make out the quick rapid-fire shots of a pistol as it fired off over thirty rounds. No not an individual pistol but two. This meant either a serious professional or a bounty dog, maybe worse. Maybe an Esper. Neither was a prospect Johnson welcomed. There was silence from the inside signaling it was safe for him to enter. “Freeze!” Johnson shouted kicking open the door. “IES Organized Crime Unit!”
Detective Johnson wasn’t sure what he expected to see in that room but he was not prepared to see Paladin holding his head. “Throw down your weapons and put your arms on your head, Sharpshot.”
Johnson gulped as he looked into the face of Paladin Sharpshot. Even though he was covered in dust and blood from his shootout his eyes didn’t flinch. He stared Johnson down like he wasn’t worth his time.
“I really don’t have time for you Detective.” He drew his hand away from his head and brought his pistol up level with Detective Johnson’s eye. “I’d waste bullets.”
Johnson could see the gun starting to shake in Paladin’s outstretched hand but he wasn’t sure if that was an indicator of fatigue or something else. He chewed on the inside of his cheek for several moments before lowering his service pistol. “You’re not looking so hot, Paladin. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“You noticed. I’m touched,” Paladin said in a voice filled with mirth. “Now step away from the door.” He maintained a level grip on his pistol. Even through the shaking of his hands. “I will shoot you. I’ve killed IES before.”
“I know you have, Just saying you don’t look so hot. Why don’t I team up with you and we go get the girl?”
Paladin didn’t say anything as he continued to stare at the Detective. There was a chance Sharpshot’s pistol was empty he thought. Could he snap off a shot before the trained killer shot him?
“Two hired guns are better than one,” Detective Johnson continued. Paladin cocked the gun though the act caused his entire arm to tremble violently. “He’s crashing!”
“You’re coming down, Sharpshot. Soon you’ll need to get your fix. I can get you some of the best drugs that have been confiscated city wide.”
“Tempting Detective,” Paladin said. “Not that tempting though.” He dry fired the gun causing Johnson to flinch. As he was ducking out of the way to shoot back at Paladin he heard the tink of something hitting the ground beside him. His eyes locked on the grenade and he swore to himself as the flash went off right in his eyes.

***

Susan watched as the shiny metal man walked towards her with a large piece of medical equipment. She didn’t know anything about the equipment but it all looked scary caked with blood stains. Chrome body parts laid everywhere.
“What are you going to do?” she asked her voice cracking. Her hands were bound and tears streamed from her eyes.
“I’m going to sever your head and place it in this container,” the doctor said. With one of his arms he indicated the large container above her head. “Then I shall experiment on you.”
“Why?”
“Why not?”
“I don’t wanna die!”
“My young girl,” The doctor grinned leaning closer, the robotic face eerie in its intensity. “You won’t die.” He motioned to another body hanging nearby already minus a head. “This fortunate shell shall be yours.”
“No! I don’t wanna die!” She said thrashing around on the table.
“We can worry about that later,” the doctor said. He fixed the tank around her head and started the bone saw. “If you would be so kind as to explain how this feels, it’s important for my research to know the thresholds a little girl can withstand.”

***

Paladin didn’t waste time with subtly as he kicked open the door to Doctor Hell’s clinic; he didn’t have time for it. A second later to throw in another flash grenade and he charged in pistol held at the ready.
The room was empty.
Looking around he spotted another door that lead deeper into the clinic. “Smooth. He heard that flash bang.”
As he pressed his ear to the door he could hear the sound of hurried movement. “Really smooth. If I kill that kid I’d better ice myself.”
Slowly Sharpshot eased open the door to the lab. “Doctor Hell,” Paladin shouted through the tiny opening. “I want the girl; I’ll kill you if you don’t hand her over.”
“By all means, come and get her.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. He hadn’t brought any cameras or fancy tricks to see around the door. He would have to open it, dive in and pray he wasn’t shot. “Got no choice, go!”
In one move Paladin yanked open the door and rolled into the room. There was a hail of bullets over his head as an assault rifle went off. “Fuck! Who keeps an AR in their clinic?”
He glanced up from where he’d come to a stop. The doctor stood over him and Paladin could see this was going to be a messy fight. The doctor’s entire body had been cyberized. The doctor held in his hands an assault rifle. With his human brain encased in a cold metal his body was faster, stronger and tougher than a human. “Oh goody,” Paladin thought. “A Cyborg with an assault rifle.”
“Get up young man,” the doctor spoke. “I wish to see who is foolish enough to invade my private sanctum.”
“Sure thing,” Sharpshot agreed getting to his feet. His limbs felt like jelly and he was having trouble keeping his body from quaking.
“Your name?”
“Paladin Sharpshot.”
“Paladin? And what’s your occupation, Paladin?”
“Do you have a second to repent to The Lord?” Paladin asked arching an eyebrow.
“Are you serious?” the doctor laughed.
“I always serious about repenting, aren’t you?”
“I suppose you have pamphlets to hand out and everything.”
“Nope.”
“Then what pray tell do you hand out?”
“I hand out bullets, Doc.” Paladin smiled. The action felt like a million bee stings in his face.
“Well,” The doctor replied bringing his arm level with Paladin’s head. “I murder people. Do you have any last requests?”
“Just one,” Paladin grinned.
“Oh?”
“Gotta gift for you, smile Bitch.” He dropped the flash bang grenade right at his feet and lunged backwards. The explosion wouldn’t buy him much time against a full conversion cyborg like the doctor. To make matters worse his pistols were useless against the hardened skin the chassis was made of. Still he hoped he would have a few seconds to figure out a plan.
He was right. The assault rifle spit to life laying down fire all around him. Paladin stumbled and almost got shot as he ran for cover. His eyes searched the operating room frantically for something that could give him an advantage on this guy. It was a risky move, but he saw a few canisters with a flame on the side.
The firing stopped as Paladin dived for the canisters.
“I will kill you. Come away from those canisters. I would hate to blow up my laboratory.”
“Sorry, Doc, I plan on living through this.”
“You’ve picked a foolish place to decide to do so.”
Paladin didn’t respond as he looked around for a weapon to use. He spied a bone saw on a nearby table. It could work. Just run at him without being shot full of holes, saw off his arms and kill the doctor. He frowned at that plan. Maybe if he were one of those Crazies like Longshot or Hazard that would work.
Searching with his eyes he saw the power outlet. Well if one crazy plan didn’t work perhaps another would. He drew his pistol and watched the end shaking wildly back and forth. If he lived through this he’d give up Drive just for the problems it caused him on this mission alone.
There was a shot from the door way and a loud clank as the doctor fell. “Didn’t I tell you that you’d need me, Paladin,” Johnson called from the door.
Sharpshot peered around the edge of the canisters as Detective Johnson strolled through the door, electromagnetic jammer in his hands. “Standard issue for all IES, I had to reboot my senses to shake that flash bang grenade, Paladin.”
“Great.” Paladin stood on two wobbly feet. “So you think you can outshoot me? My pistols are loaded now.”
“Nope,” Johnson grinned. “I can’t outdraw you modified humans,” he admitted. “But I got something you want–”
“Oh?”
“A squad car of drugs, Where’s the girl?”
“You can’t bribe me, Detective.”
“Who said I was bribing you, Sharpshot? Payment for services rendered sounds fair, right?”
Sharpshot licked his lips as he thought about it. The ache in his body was intense and if he got the drug it would only take a split second to shoot and kill the detective. Then he could take the girl back to The Dojo and his master would never know.
“Alright,” he said. He holstered his gun and walked to the cyborg. “You give me some Drive and you’ve got a deal.” He knelt down and began disconnecting the wires to the brain.
“Sure thing, Paladin,” Johnson nodded. He watched Sharpshot with a critical eye as he killed the helpless street doc. “Better him than me.” He motioned for the other man to follow him. Johnson led Sharpshot to his car. The bright white and blue car shined as if it were new from the show room floor.
“It’s in the trunk. I confiscated some last week.”
“You IES are more crooked than the rest of the crooks.”
“Our salary sucks and they cut our pension. Gotta make ends meet somehow.” Paladin nodded and motioned for Detective Johnson to open up his trunk. Johnson grinned and reached for the biometric latch. “Sure thing.”
The detective pulled open the trunk taking a big mouthful of air as a stream of bright blue gas sprayed into both men’s faces. “Fragger!” Paladin sneezed reeling over.
Detective Johnson didn’t say anything as he watched Paladin double over coughing. He waved the gas away from his face and chuckled to himself at how easily Sharpshot had fallen for that trick.
The other was too busy trying to expel the gas from his lungs to notice the detective. A second later Sharpshot was lying on the ground unconscious. “See what happens when you let drugs rule your thinking, scum?”
Johnson stripped the unconscious criminal of his coat and weapons before hauling him into the back of his squad car. “Now to find the girl,” he muttered reaching for his pack of smokes. Finding them empty he sighed as he reached for and lit the cigarette he kept on his ear. “Ahh,” he sighed before he started to cough. “Uh oh…” he thought as the world around him started to blur. “I always hated Joan anyway,” Johnson thought.

The End