Know Thy Enemy

March 29, 2010

Calliope Cervantes watched the rain fall in long, rope-like strands outside the brightly lit diner and was glad her flight suit was waterproof. Once she got the information from Diego on where to find her quarry, she’d have to move quickly, and showing up to apprehend someone in a skycab was as tacky as doing it while dripping wet. Despite what most citizens thought, the IRS did have some standards.

She tapped the menu screen on the table and ordered another cup of coffee, which appeared in the dispenser unit a minute later. Automated places like this diner weren’t exactly inviting; the outside was slag and recycled glass, the inside was putty-colored composite walls and slag floors, but they were cheap and mostly full of robots who kept to themselves. And paid their taxes, of course, so she didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother her.

The door slid open and a tall man entered, removing his brown fedora and gently shaking the water off. His suit was tailored and his eyes were black as pits, sunshaded and already fading to hazel. Calliope sipped her hot drink while casually sliding her hand down to her tasegun. He spotted her and reached the table in a few long strides.

“Miss Cervantes?” His voice was deep, with a slight western Eurasian accent. “I’m–”

“Titus Lynch,” she interrupted. “I know who you are. You can call me Agent C1058.”

“As you like it. May I sit?”

She shook her head. “Private party. No skivers allowed.”

He smiled, his teeth white as science could make them. “How droll. Did you know that ‘to skive’ has a lesser known meaning: to cut into thin layers?”

“Fascinating.”

“I’m afraid I’ve done that very thing to your associate Diego, so he will find it something of a challenge to keep your appointment.”

Calliope hid her dismay behind a smile of her own. “That’s a shame. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have ordered a fresh cup of coffee.”

“Let me be brief, Agent,” Titus said. “Leave my men alone or I’ll have you eviscerated.”

“I bet you say that to all the ladies.”

“Only the ones who… misbehave.”

She toyed with the hilt of her tasegun. “And what’s to stop me from arresting you right now for threatening a federal agent?”

“Your word against mine, darling.” Titus slowly placed his hat back on his head. “You know robot testimony is inadmissible as evidence. And I know what happened the last time you staked a case on your word.”

Son of a bitch. “Why even bother coming here, then? You could have just as easily sent one of your goons. Or killed me and been done with it.”

Again, a lazy grin. “My father always taught me to keep my enemies close, to know the face of my enemy. And it is a lovely face. Good day, Miss Cervantes.”

With that, he ambled back out into the rain and was picked up by a black limousine. She saw his lips move as if he was talking through a com unit. Calliope stared at the cup of coffee that was rapidly cooling in her clenched hand.

“That was some crock of shit,” she said, diving under the table just as the sniper’s bullet crashed through the window.

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