Monday, September 20, 2021

Solo - Motel in a Storm

Motel in a Storm - Solo #2

The flashing white tongues of lightning reflected off the chrome grill and details of an old Cadillac hearse with deep tinted windows that initially obscured the driver and passengers. The lightning faded, leaving only the sparse lighting from the motel or the distant street lights. In those brief periods of veiled rain, the hearse was near invisible. The only thing Claire saw was the edge of the chrome grill appearing out of the darkness. She had stared so long at the approaching car that her focus was taken away from the immediate threat until she heard the last shifting noise in the room. She still had the gun in her hand, the barrel of the weapon pointed down. If Parker had the drop on her, then he could have gotten a shot, possibly two before she could bring up the weapon again. She looked back and the saw pistol was in his hand, the barrel pointed down.

“I’m not going to be left as a babe in the woods if there is going to be trouble,” Parker said.

“They could just be visiting,” Claire replied, dropping her pistol into her pocket. She slowly extracted her hand in order to show that she was disarmed for the moment. Parker set the gun down within reach in order to fit his shoulder holster over his shirt. He left his coat lying crumbled on the bed as he slid the semi-auto into the holster within reach of his hand, “A hearse picks this night to visit?” Parker flicked a glance towards the dingy curtains of the window when he heard at least two or more doors slam outside. “Let me take a look.”

“Just stay there,” Claire said as she squeezed herself against the corner, hiding behind a thin strip of wall that bordered the window, her fingers reaching for a lower fold of linen to slowly part the folds of the curtain, “I can tell you what I see.”

The first Claire spotted was a thick figured man wearing a red pullover with a white horse in the center. The horse was raised, with its fore hooves kicking out into the air, like it was warding off a predator. The second man wore a button shirt made of a motley of colors, the predominant base being an off-yellow color, like a lemon gone bad. Even at a distance, Claire could make out a set of spectacles that reflected another the whites in a crackle of lightning that passed overhead. The third man was the tallest of the group, wearing dark blue with a brown rider’s hat resting on his head.

Claire described the trio to Parker and said, “I feel like these three are familiar. I wouldn’t want to meet any of them socially, and watching them walk now makes me want to grab my revolver again.

“That might be a good idea,” Parker said, “I recognize the descriptions from the wanted posters the police have been putting up.” Parker gestured with his hand towards the doorway leading out, “It sounds like the Misfit, Hiram Walker, and Booby Lee Ford…” Parker said quietly, his pale hand twitching, “All three of them are spree killers.”

Claire risked another peak around the corner into the parking lot. The three men rounded her car, leaning in to peer through the windows to find and clue about the status of the car and it’s owner. There was a new car to take, a sportier model than the hearse while being less conspicuous. The other concern that must have gone through the three men’s heads was the possibility of a surviving witness that may have seen them and was able to telephone the law. While the man in yellow and blue continued to look over the car, the thick man in red started towards the motel. Claire slipped back and pressed herself against the corner.

“Well?” Parker asked.

“They weren’t scampering for their car to get out of here if that’s what you are wondering,” Claire said.

“What were they doing then?” Parker asked.

“Two of them are looking into my car-” Claire began when a distant rattle of a door suggested that one of the rooms had been opened by some amount of force. It was a testament to how paper thin the walls were that, despite the storm, they could hear as door after door was force opened.

“I’ll make you a deal right now,” Parker siad, “We get out of this alive. I’ll give you the pictures at no charge.”

The next door was pounded on by several meaty slaps followed by the door being forced ajar. Claire said, “I’ve never fired this thing at a man before.”

“They won’t waste a second of firing at you if that’s what is holding you back,” Parker said, “Have you ever fired it before?”

“I might have squeezed the trigger once or twice,” Claire noted before holding her breath as the shadow of the figure passed by her. The heavy steps the figure took had been distant, present, but something removed from Claire’s. Now the dull plods thundered in her ears as she noted the passing silhouette that closed in on the door. Parker moved back several steps, taking cover behind the frame of the bathroom. He had drawn the weapon the same time as Claire, she felt the butt of the revolver shift in her loose grip at the first rattling blow against the door.

The second blow against the door carried through in swinging the door inward, shattering the frame that held at a tentative grasp. The wide figure of the man in red swallowed up the frame, almost as if he would have to sidestep in order to squeeze into the room. The man was thick, but not quite that comically huge, he moved a limp as he stepped into the apartment. Claire had readied her pistol as the man came in line with the frame. Parker stepped up first, firing twice into the stomach and upper torso of the body. The killer lumbered forward at a slow pace, as if he was fighting a river, the steps were laborious and the man lost his balance, half-turning so that his shoulders pressed against the battered door. His shirt was covered in blood as he faced Claire. The killer held his pistol in a sluggish grip, the barrel pointed downward. The recoil of Claire’s gun rattled her a step back as she fired. At the same time, the glass beside her shattered from a third gunshot from outside.

The two men outside had returned fire, the first crashing the window, while the second struck Parker in the shoulder. The round exited in a semi-clean line through his body, but the shock had jarred his semi-auto out of his hand. He jerked himself into the bathroom, blood pooling liberally in his shirt and dripping on the ground. Claire sprung from around the corner at the window, spotting the man in blue running towards the open doorway with her revolver out, firing in the approximate direction, but the shots remained wild. One bullet grazed the man’s side while the second struck home and tore into the stomach. The man stumbled and slipped on the wet cement. His head making contact with the sidewalk with a crunching thud. She had dipped back again, listening to two sets of noises: Parker moaning as he tried to situate his stricken body in the bathroom, and Hiram, the man in blue, groaning for a few moments before passing out from the pain.


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Solo - Motel Room in a Storm

 

A Motel Room in a Storm

Aka The Cost of Salt

<Weather Chart is Automatically set to 8 - Storm>

Filtered through the droplets of fat rain, the pale silver neon that spelled out the word motel were distorted through Claire's rearview mirror. The patter of the droplets on the hard top of her coupe was a comforting drone. She had driven for the last hour with the radio turned off. The local news predicted the rain and advertised the upcoming county fair, Claire felt confident that she wasn't missing much in listening to the drone. She had pulled into near center of the middle parking lot facing the bank of rooms that were spread over the first and second floors of the lot. Each room had an even number, the evens had the view of the lot, the highway, and the fenced in pasture where cows remained laying in the rain, heedless of the droplets running down their back. The odd side could look out over a stretch of green lawn that buffered the nearby lake. At the corner of the building on the right was a compact elevator with grey metal doors. The doors were closed, a single orange bulb that was tucked in the corner of the alcove illuminated the sliding doors. Claire had pulled in to meet a man staying on the first floor, Room #2 according to the note that had been passed to her. She had arrived with a bag of money and a revolver concealed in the pocket of a light tan rain coat she wore over her oyster grey tailor made. The lightning flashed, illuminating the parking lot.

<Q: Anything unusual besides what was described? (4+): 3, 4 - No, no modifier>

Claire fixed a matching tan hat with a black band around. Her hair was shoulder length, blonde, and somewhat frizzy although only a few strands veiled her left eye from under the hat. The droplets of rain pelted her shoulders down to her waist as she strode from the parking lot towards the awning where the drone of the rain became a constant tapping on the metal roof. Glancing over the line of rooms, she noticed that each window was on the right side of the door. Some of them were covered with wooden planks nailed on the outside, one or two had actual curtains within the windows. The door she approached had a harsh white light beaming out, she suspected it was the television. The bag with the money hung off her shoulder. It had weight, but it wasn't killing her to carry the stacks of twenties that she had gotten together. Her right hand was in her coat pocket, her fingers around the gun as she lifted her hand and rapped several times with a sharp purpose on the door.

The man who answered the door was taunt frame, wearing an eggplant colored shirt with grey trousers. His coat was stripped from his body and his pants were held up by a set of suspenders. He wore no tie, and the top buttons of his shirt was undone. He backed away from the door. He was lit from behind by the glare of the television. His eyes were pale blue as he looked her over.

<Claire attempts to enter casually and not draw attention to her concealed hand which is holding the gun. Dex test (TN ≤ 14 w/ Advantage): 15, 17 - Failure>

"Take your hand out of your pocket," The man said, backing away. Claire glanced towards bed pressed against the corner of the room. The motel had stripped the concept to the barebones of a bed that probably needed slats, a television on a rickety table, a single end table at the foot of the bed, a clock on the wall, and a second door at the far end of the room. Each compartment at least had a private water closet. The man's coat and brief case were stretched across the bed. The end table had been moved towards the headboard with a semi-automatic pistol laying on top. Claire eased her hand out of her pocket and watched the man.

<Does Claire know the man? Int Test (13): 17 ≥ 13 - Fail. Off Chance (d6: 4+) - 5, 6 - Yes, and she knows who sent the man. The Detective's name is Parker>

"How much is my husband paying you to spy on me, Parker?" Claire asked acidly.

"Enough to make the trip out here worth my time," Parker replied coolly, "Then I looked you up. I thought he was the breadwinner in the family, turns out he's the guy married the heiress and got that cushy job because he's now the bosses' son. That's why I left you the note."

"Maybe my husband already knows what I'm doing," Claire noted. Her mind flashed to three enchanting days in the west, far from the city, in the company of Therese. <Cha Test (17) - 17 ≤ 17 - Pass)

Parker knew that Claire's husband, Richard Wade, had already suspected his wife of having an affair. Wade had ordered Parker to find out if it was some member of the company that he worked for. Something that could ruin him socially if it came out. Wade had asked for pictures of his wife with her lover in order to try and minimize the damage, avoid anything coming out that could jeopardize Wade's standing in the eyes of polite society while remaining in the good graces of his father-in-law. The man Parker knew was getting greyer by the hour with worry.

"Maybe he already knows, and maybe he's accepted it, but the pictures I have and some of the recordings I've taken would suit the gossip rags back east. You still interested in being a socialite when you get home to your husband and daughter?" Parker asked.

Claire's cheeks flushed, "I've brought your money in the case, but I want to see what I'm buying first."

Parker turned and reached for the pistol on the end table. 

<Claire has a Perception test (14) = 11 ≤ 14. She spots the movement before he can reach the pistol. She has a chance to make a Dex check w/ Advantage to try and gain the draw on him. She rolls Dex (14): 3, 17 - 3 ≤ 14. Success! She draws on him while his back is turned.>

"Don't go for it," Claire said before cocking the pistol, "Just show me the evidence, no fast movements, I want to see your hands the entire time."

Parker grunted, flashing a pointed look in her direction over his shoulder, "I have to open my briefcase to show you the evidence."

"Just go about it slowly," Claire said, she brought up her left hand to support her right hand which held the cocked revolver.

Parker moved slow in working the latches. He used his thumbs to roll the brass dials on either side of the case. The numbers he rolled for either side: 6-6-6. As his thumbs rolled the last digit simultaneous, the two latches from their resting position with dry metallic clocks. He swallowed as he opened the top of the case. When he turned towards Claire, he backed away towards the center of the room. His arms still raised to shoulder level.

<Claire Wis test to remain focused (14): 13 ≤ 14 - Success>

"Take out one of the pictures and show it to me," Claire's eyes remained on Parker as she spoke. She had read enough dime store pulp novels to know the moment she turned from Parker that he would spring on her. The bag had begun to weigh heavy on her arm, she could feel the strap press her raincoat into her skin. She had to loosen her left grip on the pistol to let the bag fall to the floor at her feet. The barrel remained trained on Parker as he leaned in and grabbed a single black-and-white photograph, holding it up in what dim light that lingered in the room. Her eyes turned towards the picture when a set of headlights flashed from outside the narrow windows looking out. The flash was followed by a car pulling into the parking lot, it's arrival caused thunder to shake the earth and a bright white flash of lightning to strike out in multiple tongues towards the earth. The clouds moaned in despair at the arrival of the second car.

"Friends of yours?" Claire asked.

"I was about to ask you the same thing," Parker grimly replied.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Scavenger #1 - Glomar Response

 

Scavenger #1 - Glomar Response

"This represents the third and final confirmation ping from Wurtzinger that the markers have picked up a derelict," Captain Miller made the statement to a crew of four others, plus a maintenance droid who was aware, but at the same was multitasking in monitoring the functions of the ship and any communication traffic from Wurtzinger to the Glomar Response. Miller tapped a few keys and brought up a wireframe of the derelict in both a flat profile shot on the black monitor behind him, as well as a fully holographic hovering above the cone to the left of him. The spinning projection was a capital class ship that had been scanned at a distance from the markers. There was little detail, the orange wires that the computer had pieced together represented several scans as the ship remained outside of visual range of the marker's cameras. What the orange lines revealed was a capital class vessel with at least two forward cannons, one on the body, the other atop the bridge tower that commanded the ship. The readout included locations of both the main and auxiliary thrusts, there were three altogether. The two auxiliaries were attached to the wings of the bridge tower, and given Miller's own experience on a capitol series craft, would only allow the ship to putter along at the equivalent of a casual stroll if the ship had lost its main engines. The auxiliaries were useful for either coasting a vessel of that size into dry dock, or cutting travel time in jumpspace by scant seconds.

Miller looked over his humanoid crew. He knew that Cubbage, his maintenance droid, would have spoken up after his presentation if there were any concerns or comments from its end. Cubbage remained at its post, its humanoid shaped head rapidly cycled through various aspects of the ship that was its keeping.

"That's a capitol class ship," Oren Peterson noted. He was the Glomar's engineer and general maintenance aboard the ship. He was, genetically speaking. A disease treatment involving nanomachines had turned his skin a shade of dark blue, the color of the Terran sky at dusk. His eyes were grey, with darker points for his pupils. His hair was hair, roughly an average length with a right leaning part that was the color of sea foam. It reminded Miller of the deep oceans with white caps rolling along the surface. If said droplet could also maintained a starship engine. "Did Wurtzinger offer a list of possible ships matching this description?"

"Not yet, but they were trying to sift through any known registries. No company or guild operating in Union space would be able to launch a ship this size without a registry, but that doesn't mean they could pay to backlog the records on some archive in Sol System, or whichever spaceport this vessel launched from," Miller said, "Any devil's advocates to argue against going after this contract? A kind of salvage operation like this could have us set for a year."

"Only a modicum of restraint for concerns for our safety," Audrina Weir spoke up. Her blue skin was lighter compared to Oren's, her feathered hair was a crisper shade of silvery white compared to Oren's touches of grey. Unlike Peterson, her skin was naturally occurring due to her birth in the Andromeda system. Her eyes were burgundy color, with sharp black points that were slightly narrowed to her Captain and lover.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gain," Miller said, looking back at the wireframe again, he agreed on one point: "Those heavy guns are a concern, however. Huntley, I want a slow approach. I recognize those heavy cannons and know their effective range with a targeting computer. We'll start at maximum range to initiate a handshake program. If something does wake up, it'll be at a range that we can turn and run at a full jump to Wurtzinger."

Quinton Huntley was the last of the group. Human. He had the heaviest build being a former Galactic Union peacekeeper and its mobile infantry. As a private citizen and scavenger, Huntley was the lead on boarding actions and security. He also served as one of the helmsmen for the vessel when Miller or Cubbage was busy. He scratched some of the brown stubble along his jaw as he stared ahead, "And do we have a plan once we reach beaming ranging of the ship? It's a long way to Wurtzinger to try and tow this vessel in."

"Once we are on board and can secure the drive computer, we can set a course and let the auto-pilot bring her to Wurtzinger. We just have to leave it parked on their doorstep, they can bring in their own people to tow it to the dock. The money we make for bringing it in will be enough without dickering over computer parts or cargo. Whoever owns the ship will want that for themselves anyway," Miller said. While he had salvaged cargo in the past, it was usually a smaller load for the freighter, and the goods secured had an immediate value on the market. The process of decommissioning a capitol vessel would be a greater undertaking than what the Glomar was prepared for.

- - -

The meeting broke up with the displays remaining on the consoles and projectors for further study. Like any privateer or scavenger vessel, life aboard was fairly informal. If members wanted to study unidentified ship, they could do so from either their private datapads or at their work stations. Peterson was the first to leave, only glancing over the display once more before saying: "I'll get Magellan prepped for a run to give us drone support." Miller thanked him, noting that he liked the idea, although as the owner of the ship and the drone, Miller was worried about losing the valuable drone to any automated defenses that were active on the UO. Huntley's departed while Miller and Peterson were speaking, the marine said nothing as he made towards his work station the bridge. 

Alone with Audrina, Miller leaned against the back table with his arms across his chest, "Any other concerns, blueberry?" He asked with an easy smile.

She shook her head no, but smiled back at the mention of her nickname, "One or two, but I'd also say your going about it as best as you can, given what we know."

Miller continued to sense concerns, only natural, it would require extraordinary circumstances for a major vessel to become lost as what was detected by the sensors, "This will see us paid out for the year."

"Yeah, but whose going to enjoy the payout if we're all space dust?" Audrina asked as she crossed the room towards Miller. Her operative uniformed followed Galactic Union standards, which meant the suit hugged her figure. During casual hours, Audrina wore a simple utility shirt with matching breeches. The bottom of her shirt was tied around her upper torso, exposing her toned midriff. Miller appreciated the view, he appreciated Audrina more when she leaned down and their mouths touched together. He concentrated in kissing her upper lip, and she was reminding what was at stake if it turned out the ship was not as derelict as believed.