Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dwarves in Space: Taliesin's Job

Here's a little preview of a job my elven assassin Taliesin's sent on. A little something to pass the time on this fine Sunday afternoon.

The sound of strings didn’t so much slither as plop to the ground and writhe on the floor in agony. But the orchestra played on, unaware of the pure torture some despot put a poor stringed instrument through. Taliesin heard someone describe a poorly played violin as an “angry cat” but he had never seen nor heard such a creature.

Elves would compare it to one of their own in a dramatic scream, shredding one’s throat from a cry. Or a banshee wail. Most of the galaxy agreed with that.

He shifted again, banging his knee into the chair before him. The man sitting beside whipped his wigged head around and waved a shushing finger for the fifth time. Taliesin raised his hands in forgiveness but internally rolled his eyes. The theater was at best a quarter full, there was no good reason for the man to sit beside him. Given the performance, there was no reason for the man to be there at all. But Taliesin suffered through three annihilated arias, a thoroughly corrupted concerto, and something he suspected was part oratorio and part EMP all for the woman sitting two rows ahead of him.

She was flanked by a troll and an ogre, the latter eying up the threadbare theater throughout the whole performance. The woman didn’t bother to reprimand him, her eyes on what was probably a cousin or nephew murdering a trumpet in the brass section. Taliesin opened up his hand, exposing the PALM readout. A holographic image of the front of the woman floated an inch above his hand as did any pertinent information. He wasn’t supposed to poke into their lives, but he grew curious as to what would draw a woman of her repute to this third rate theater.

“You’re supposed to turn your PALM off!” his seat mate hissed.

Taliesin audibly sighed, closing his hand. He didn’t need to check, he knew this was the target, but if this torture didn’t end soon he might have to break protocol and finish the job right here. Dwarven theaters were not designed with anyone but the four foot stature in mind. When his knees weren’t almost at his chest, his feet hovered near his head. Seeds only knew how he’d unwedge his ass from the narrow seats.

Something happened on stage, a few of the dwarves in diaphanous gowns pretending to be elves (as if elves wore anything so sheer) took a bow. Spotlights rose from their place too early, causing the singers to scatter away towards the side stage. Slowly, the house lights rose as well. Intermission. He wanted to spring from his seat, thanking the heavens for the reprieve but he couldn’t. Instead he opened up the playbill screen on the back of the chair in front of him, spreading his legs wide. One knee accidentally nudged into the man beside him. He expected the dwarf to shush him again, but the man was unrolling a sleeve off of what looked like a large sausage. After gnawing off an edge, he waved the end at Taliesin and asked if he’d like a sample.

Trying to keep his disgust at bay, Taliesin only waved a polite no thank you. “And I considered Orn a bad example,” he muttered under his breath.

Finally, the woman rose from her seat, the troll and ogre jumping to attention with her. The troll parted the seats straining in their brackets, giving more room for his boss before they snapped back into place around the ogre’s thighs. She glared but didn’t speak a word against her employee while others watched. Taliesin immersed himself in the playbill as the trio walked past. For a moment the dwarven woman paused beside his chair. His calves tensed in anticipation, but he calmly scrolled through a cast list that should be sacrificed to a volcano instead of let near a stage.

Shaking off a natural suspicion, the woman continued toward the exit, her bodyguards following. Nodding once towards his seat mate now halfway through the salami, Taliesin rose and followed. Despite being a dwarven theater, the incline towards the front of house was steep. The colony was originally ogre before the settlers found their debts greater than the minerals they could mine. Like most of the galaxy, the dwarves found a gem hiding amongst the slate and scooped the place up.
Taliesin lightly pushed upon the ornamental door and watched the dwarven woman stop outside the ladies room. She glanced back once at her guards, probably giving them orders to stay put, then vanished inside. Like all hired help, they counted to three and then wandered away.

Adjusting his sleeve, he stepped into the lobby. Few swarmed the faded area, most either using the intermission to escape for freedom or enjoying a cured meat in the theater proper. No one noticed the dark skinned elf slipping into a room that probably wasn’t meant for him - it was difficult to tell with elves.

Porcelain pink tiles, cracked with whites and reds like the inside of that salami, coated the bathroom. The mirrors were encircled by microbulbs, illuminating the person peering into them and blinding her to the shadows behind. She peered at herself, trying to wipe away at a smudge across her eyelid.

Deyton Balobass — there was also a string of alpha numericals after to designate her place in the dwarven clan but they mattered little here. Everyone knew Deyton the Butcher. She didn’t so much escape justice as brutalize her way through it. The last magistrate was found trussed up inside her dishwasher, the larger bits undigested down the garbage recycler. But even the most hardened criminal steps on the wrong toe, runs low on the necessary funds to keep fleeing, or grows momentarily sentimental.

Taliesin flexed his fingers, eyeing up the woman before him and calculating. Dwarven, thick skeleton structure, impossible to knock over, not much reach, but a skin almost as impenetrable as a trolls. And she was certain to be armed.

Some assassins wouldn’t risk it, they’d have laid a trap, brought in backup, or climbed into the gnome ducts and fired through the mirror. But he didn’t have the luxury of a contract to fall back upon, there wasn’t an employer concerned if he made it out of every encounter alive.

Stepping out of the shadows Taliesin watched her squinting eyes rise in surprise but she didn’t turn to face him. “Deyton?” he asked.

Her eyes didn’t drop from his, but her hand slowly placed the makeup brush upon the counter. She kept both her hands evident and spoke through the mirror, “You’re with the guild, aren’t you? I could scream and have bodyguards shatter that door to get at you. But I imagine you already knew that and have taken care of it.”

Taliesin blinked his eyes slowly not answering.

She sighed and dropped her shoulders, shaking her head so the twisted dwarven braids rattled at the gold plated tips. “I’ve evaded you elves for over ten years. Ten years! And you caught me, at the one time when I’m vulnerable. Ten years! Can’t you just let something go?!”

Deyton swung around, a blade glinting in her hand. Taliesin caught her wrist before she could fully turn. He yanked her arm back squeezing the wrist until she yelped, the knife skittering below the pink counter.

Her wild eyes glared up into his long past trying to beg for mercy, she knew her only chance was to overpower a trained assassin. He didn’t let her linger in the pain of hope.

Grabbing onto her head he said, “Ten years is nothing to an elf,” and snapped her neck. It wasn’t as loud as the vids made it out to be. Dwarven trachea were double the size of an elf’s requiring extra muscling, which muffled the crack down to a mild pop.

Deyton’s empty body crumpled, but Taliesin caught it, slowly laying her on the bathroom floor. A trickle of blood welled from her nose but no more. Most assassins did what they could to avoid bloodshed for the sake of any ghoul clean up crews. He unearthed the blade from below the sink and placed it atop her chest. It could be a family heirloom.

Opening up his PALM, he clicked open a program and passed Deyton’s own fingers across it. A small barcode printed onto her flesh, visible only in UV or to elves. It marked her for the coming corps as collateral from the guild, saving them on paperwork. Taliesin lowered her hand to the ground, then paused. Picking it up, he dropped it across her chest and slotted the knife in her palm. So many gave up when the guild appeared at their door, but she never faltered for a moment. It seemed cruel to have people believe otherwise.

Checking himself for any splatter, Taliesin opened up the door. He flashed his PALM across the sign, changing the small circular symbol to “Out Of Order.” Then he looked out the lobby and came face to face with the bodyguards. The ogre shouted, spotting her boss’ shoes laying across the bathroom floor. Taliesin followed the line of sight back as the woman started to draw a weapon, but the troll placed a hand on her arm.

“What are you doing? He just killed her!”

“I know,” the troll said, not letting up his grip, “he’s with the guild.”

“Fuuucck,” the ogre said, her hand falling slack as she stared at the dark elf with a new sense of awe, or perhaps terror. They looked one and the same often enough. “So, he’s an assassin? We still got to take him down!”

The troll sighed, shaking his weary head. The ogre wasn’t about to let this up, “What about our rating?”

“Don’t worry about that, death by assassin amounts to natural causes in this business.”

Taliesin nodded at the troll, his fingers lifting off the pistol handle from inside his coat. The troll shrugged his shoulders, “Kid’s new, still learning the ropes.”

“I understand,” Taliesin said, “Thank you for your information.”

“Yeah, no problem,” the troll said. He pulled back the ogre, allowed the assassin to step out of the bathroom.

“You called the guild on our boss?” the ogre shrieked.

“No, the guild called me. That ain’t something you send to voice hold. Come on, we can call the corps on this to get someone to clean it up.”

Despite the bodyguards promise to get the law involved Taliesin still stopped by the front desk where a bubbly goblin perched upon a stool.

“Excuse me, Miss? I’m sorry to be bother but I’m afraid I killed a dwarf in the ladies room. The body’s already been marked as ASG.”

“Oh, oh, okay, uh, we have a procedure here to…” she prodded at her console with the fervor of a concert pianist.

Taliesin leaned into her booth and waved his hand over top of hers, “Contact the corps, tell them it was official guild business. They can handle the rest.”

“Uh, all right, okay…do you need to stay here to answer questions, or…?” Her vibrant green skin flushed as she stammered.

Taliesin smirked and shook his head, “No, I do not. Good day.”

“Uh, good day to you too,” the goblin waved at his retreating form. “Hello? Yes, emergency, there’s a dead body at the theater.”

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