Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Protector Part 1


Business with bad people is a fact of life. Most people live their lives never having to deal with them. Many of those who have to like to think there’s no compromise with them. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you can’t get rid of them all. The best you can hope for is a negotiated compromise with the least worst, even as you do your damnedest to remove the ugliest.

My client knew that too. He didn’t tell me anything, of course, but he didn’t have to.

The driver dropped us outside a restaurant. Barely legible Chinese characters scrawled across the glowing neon signboard. It took me a moment to recognize the ideograms; they read ‘Shanghai Bund Eatery’. A long line of customers waited more or less patiently outside. Most were Thais and assorted Westerners; of actual Chinese there were none. Probably not authentic Chinese cuisine then. A bespectacled dwarf monitored the queue, ducking inside every now and then.

Two people flanked the door. Both were orcs. While they were dressed in the restaurant’s uniforms, they were not tending to the queue. They simply stood and watched the street. A brave soul walked up to one and asked something. The orc growled at her, and she retreated back in line. As we approached, I noticed they wore low-profile lapel mics and earpieces. Their shirts were oversized, their pants loose, and they had low-cut boots with reinforced toes. They also wore what looked like a bangle on each wrist; common orc jewelry, even for make, but in my Second Sight, what was left of it, the bangles glowed with mana. The orcs kept their hands low, near their waist, and the one on the left absently patted his hip.

The one on the right stared at my client as we approached. The client stared back. The orc snorted, moving from a stare to full-on mad-dogging.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Is There A Place for Morally Ambiguous Characters?

Last week, Rawyle Nyanzi wrote about black and white morality in fiction, and JD Cowan expanded on why readers love them .
Characters with clear moral codes make for compelling reading. Armed with an uncompromising view of right and wrong, they act decisively against evil wherever they find it. Yet, fettered by their same uncompromising principles, they must also struggle to preserve their souls in a corrupt and decadent world. When contrasted against clear-cut villains, these heroes shine all the brighter.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Have Cash, Will Conjure Part 5

“You gave Federov to the Seebs?” Jansen asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“So that’s where he went.” Jansen jotted something down. “You were carrying other weapons with you. A pistol and two knives. Why didn’t you use them?”
“Why didn’t my client kill Federov, you mean?” Greenwald asked. “Mr. Lee didn’t have to. And if he had, he wouldn’t have found the killers. Justice would not have been served.”
Jansen glowered, as though contemplating other questions. Greenwald stared back. Jansen sighed, and asked, “What happened next?”
“We developed the situation.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Have Cash, Will Conjure Part 4

“What about Vandemeer?” Jansen asked. “Did you do a séance too?”
I shrugged. “I tried. Dry hole.”
“Your file says you’re Tier One. You served in the Arcane Legion for twelve years, over half that in the Special Operations Support Detachment, with multiple combat tours. You couldn’t call him back?”
“I’m listed as Tier One because I have the paper qualifications. Gift-wise, I’m closer to Tier Three now.”
“Why’s that?”
“In layman’s terms, mana is attracted and retained by life. Living flesh, or materials that mimic it. The less meat you have, the less mana you can draw and use. It can be mitigated by training and arcanengineering, but…” I shrugged.
“Why did you have your limbs replaced?”
“How is that relevant?” Greenwald asked.
“Professional curiosity.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Have Cash, Will Conjure Part 3

Greenwald leaned forward. “My client would like to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights.”
“No, it’s okay,” I said.
“Look, we never actually committed a crime.”
Jansen sneered. “Really? Sounds to me like a conspiracy to obstruct justice.”
“Things aren’t black and white.” I straightened to my full seated height. “I knew Johnson was trouble when I walked in. I needed to get him out of the office, and that was the fastest way to do it. I did not have any intention of actually dealing with him.”
“Explain to me how that works.”

Monday, November 12, 2018

Have Cash, Will Conjure Part 2

Detective Jansen twirled his pen in surprisingly dexterous fingers. “I understand your contract granted you extraordinary powers.”
“No more than regular police,” Greenwald said, “only for matters related to this case, and only because Mr. Lee is an accredited private peace officer in the employ of Lithsman Kinetics.”
Distaste crawled across the troll’s face. “A bounty hunter, in other words. Tell me, Mr. Lee, do you consider yourself above the police?”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Have Cash, Will Conjure Part 1

My lawyer has a reputation for melodrama, and today he was in fine form.
“Detective Jansen! Why is my client in a prison jumpsuit?” Abraham Greenwald demanded.
Jansen, huge even by troll standards, towered over the diminutive gnome. “Mr. Greenwald, his clothes were soaked with blood. They’re being held for evidence.”
“Evidence.” Greenwald sniffed. “My client’s been here for, what, six hours? Without a shower?”
“We had to take biological samples from his body. Evidence, you understand.”
“You’ve taken your evidence already, yes? He reeks and you won’t let him shower? This is a violation of police ethics. I’ll file a complaint with Internal Affairs.”
“Be my guest. Please, sit.”