M A R A N A T H A
Copyright Osfer, November 2004
All rights reserved.
May only be distributed for free.
May not be altered in any way.
Contains material of an erotic and homosexual nature which may be illegal to read in your country, state, province or region.
The author takes no responsibility for transgressions on the part of the reader
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Available on paperback in 2005
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~ Enjoy. ~
Chapter IV As Told By Q. I. Malloy
Every problem has multiple solutions. The easy way, for instance. The right way, which is usually harder. Both of them are usually clear, it's easy to determine who wins how much in each scenario, and mathematics like game theory and similar crap offer ways of charting which option is most beneficial all around, making the decision really easy.
But there's another solution to every problem, I think. A new way. One that's so radical and so round-the-bend that nobody sees it coming and you can never tell beforehand if you have a candle in a snowstorm's chance of getting the result you want.
Me, I'm all about the new solutions. That's my bread and butter. When my folks divorced way back when and the custody battle waged so hard that it rattled my teeth, they finally decided to stop bickering and asked me, to my face, who I'd rather live with, mum or da.
So I chose my mate Owen. Not mate as in lovey-dovey like some folks use the word. Yanks'd say `buddy' or `pal' and the kids from the private school I attended might say `chum' nowadays, I don't know. We packed one night and hitched a ride with a trucker. Owen `paid' the dude and while they were busy in the back seat I nicked his wallet as well as, to my massive surprise, a nice fat stash of coke he had in his glove compartment. Truckers, can you believe `em? With the cash from his wallet we rented a car, but not before I poured some of the coke into a little zip-loc bag, hid it in one of the truck's seats and dusted enough of the powder around that any half-trained police dog would be barking like his dick was stepped on if the trucker tried to call over the police.
We rented a car with the money and felt like bad boys. Between Owen's ass and my quick fingers there was nothing we couldn't do. At least, that's what we thought till we got to Maranatha. It's a nice city, I must say, but to us back then it was bloody Babylon, where it rained money and snowed trouble. Three months we were there, living out of the rental car we never bothered bringing back not through cleverness on my part, but because the rental company went bankrupt saving up the money Owen earned on his knees and I earned from other people's pockets, when we realised there already was crime in Maranatha, and they didn't like us kids moving in on their turf.
We were damned fucking lucky thatt we got nabbed in the collar by McIlwain, because any of the others would have taken us to the fucking cleaners. He took us into a room and told us that everything we'd earned, everything we had was eing taken from us and that we could earn it back, and earn more on top of it, by working for him and being fair. And don't you just know it, old McIlwain was true to his word.
These odd ramblings are the thoughts going through my mind as I'm sitting in a chair in my mate sorry, pal Collin's apartment, still holding my cell-phone even though the call ended so long ago the battery's almost dead. I'm balls-naked, and I'm cold, but that's not why I'm shivering. The last call was from a number I didn't recognise, which always pisses me off, woke me from a really nice dream, which always pisses me off more but my mood was darkened even more when I recognised the voice. A sharp, snaring high-pitched cocksucking ferret's gloating fucking... Sharpish called me up to tell me Owen had come to him, offered himself instead of Alice and that, while he was of a mind to take `em both, McIlwain overruled him.
When Xerxes, the grand Persian king, led his army westward, conquering left and right, he amassed an army so great that they couldn't camp anywhere more than a single day because they'd exhaust the local food supply. To cross the Hellespont, the shortest distance between North Africa and Greece, so many ships had to be built that it was soon realised that they might as well lash them together and form a bridge, over which the army could march. During the night of the march, though, a storm swept up and dashed most of the ships, killing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and putting Xerxes himself in danger. The captain of the ship he was on knew he had to act fast so he had the bridg-ropes cut and set the ship free, but it had already been damaged and was taking water. So he ordered his crew overboard, which allowed him to keep the ship afloat long enough to reach the Greek shore. The next day, when the heads were counted, Xerxes called the captain forward and with great pomp and ceremony, he laid a medal around the captain's neck, for saving the king's life, but before the captain could say `thank you', an axe swept down to chop off his head as punishment for causing the death of his entire crew.
This is how I feel about McIlwain. His word ensured the safety of Alice and damned Owen. No-one can touch his word, not Sharpish and not his cronies, so Alice is truly, truly safe. Which is just bloody wonderful, because that's no doubt what Owen wanted. To be the fucking hero.
Bloody hell, there's tears rolling down my cheeks. I can stand the ache in my belly, but this is just... shaming. Oh, fuck it, I hate him, I hate that stupid fucking wolf, I hate Owen for being a hero.
No, wait, that's not fair. I don't blame him for wanting to do whatever it took to save Alice. I understand that. I understand that all too well, actually. You see, I hate him, because he woke up before me.
I was dreaming the dreams Owen and I once had of Maranatha, except these dreams were about another place, just someplace else, and instead of being in bed together, there was someone between us. A young lion, slim and shapely, pretty as a prayer book and sweet as an apple on Chrizzo, as the big guy said. In his sleep he'd roll over, facing first one of us and then the other and being just as happy in each place. There'd be rain outside, but, you know, when it rains outside it only ever makes me think about how, right now, I'm comfy and warm in bed.
At least, that's how it usually feels. Right now it's raining outside too, but it's no warmer in here than out. In fact, I'd rather be out there so I wouldn't notice these fucking tears.
"Malloy?" Alice's voice is so musical, and so funny, too. He never says my name right, always puts the stress on the first syllable and makes the last sound really long. "Come back to bed... It's cold," the boy purrs, rolling over onto his back. I can see him from my seat in the living-room, lit by the light of the shop-sign just outside the bedroom window, showing off the beautiful curves of that young body. Smooth chest, flat tummy, discrete sheath and balls and slender, firm thighs.
I'm in love with the boy, I think. I don't know because I've never been in love. Closest I've ever been with anybody is with Owen, and he's more like a brother. The kind of brother that lets you fuck him for a couple of quid. Alice, though... I'm hurting right now over the loss of Owen, but I can imagine how much worse it'd be if I lost Alice.
It's nuts, of course. It's one thing to be a chicken-hawk but it's a whole other bag to be in fucking love with a fourteen-year-old. Wait, no, he's fifteen now. I keep forgetting.
So I keep the whole thing to myself, and it ain't hard because I'm such a horn-dog and I fuck Alice now and then anyway, so nobody thinks it's any different from any of the other boys, dudes or men I fuck. Actually, the thought of what a stud I am, which is a really shallow, small-minded and egomaniacal thought to have, gives me a little comfort right now. Nice.
The comfort is easily molded into confidence, which I'll need when Alice sits up, worried and naked and crawls over the bed toward me, looking around. "Where's Owen?" he asks, his round ears folded. The little fella's on all fours, knees apart, he's even instinctively raised his tail that kid was made to be fucked, even Owen says so and it looks like he senses there's more going on than our favourite wolf in the whole world just going to take a midnight piss.
"Owen's gone, luv," I say to him and it's a fucking miracle my voice doesn't croak. "He went to Sharpish to get him to stop coming after you, and he did. Looks like all Sharpish wanted was to rent you as a slave to some fat Argentine for a few months, but Owen managed to convince him that he'd make a much better fucktoy than a green-behind the ears fifteen-year-old. So he took Owen instead, which means we won't be seeing him for a few months. But he'll be back," I assure him, smiling and nodding. I'm ashamed, more than of anything I've ever done, at how easily I can lie to this boy.
He looks relieved first, then horrified and then he settles for the golden middle road. "He... did that for me? But I didn't want that! If I had knowed, I would have gone to Argentine and I would be back in few months!" he pleads, as if trying to reason with me.
I feel something. I feel it a lot, and it's what makes me so good at what I do. I sense when people need something, see, and that's the vibe I'm getting from Alice, and I know what he needs. "Hush, luv," I tell him as I stand up out of the soft chair and start padding toward him. "It was Owen's call, he didn't even tell me about it. So we ought to be grateful to him and not complain or worry, because we'll see him soon. Right now he's someplace unpleasant but he doesn't care because he knows you're okay. And I know that's how he feels, because that's how I'd feel." I've walked into the bedroom, closed the door and I'm standing by the bed now, letting Alice press his cheek against my abdomen, cradling his head, tousling that silky soft pink hair of his. He nuzzles at me, flicks his tongue out to lick the rim of my sheath as if out of habit.
"I'll be grateful," he promises softly, looking up at me with those... those beautiful eyes. "Do you think he will call us? I would like to tell him how grateful I am. He was very brave, to do that for me." The lionboy smiles up at me from groin-height, hugging my waist. "You were like heroes, coming to save me. I dreamt about that," he says with a nod, making a loose bang of pink hair bounce in front of his eyes.
I smile at him and push him genlty backward. His fur feels even softer than mine, satin, and while I'm proud of being as hard-bodied as I am I must say even my narcissistic fingers would rather caress the supple, firmish curves of this here lionboy than my own rippled belly. Which isn't to say I con't often get off on touchin' meself, when I'm wanking.
He's on his back on the bed, splayed out all comfy-like. He looks up at me with that honesty and openness you never ever see outside of the bedroom, and even then it's rare. He loves me. I know that and he knows I know and it's not in that way, because, well, that'd be fairly weird. But it's enough for me. And he trusts me, too. He's lying naked on his back in a stranger's bed, accepting every word I tell him as gospel, inviting me to make myself comfortable on top of him. That look in his eyes... He doesn't know what I want, but he shows me with that smile of his that he wants whatever I want, whether it's just to cuddle or to get dressed and go out, or...
Maybe I'm projecting onto him. Maybe my spider-sense is all wobbly. Either way, though, without thinking about it or intending to I ease into him as I crawl onto the bed. I can't remember when I got hard and I don't know but I'd swear he hadn't even noticed my dick entering him, he just keeps looking up at me with... I don't know what I see in his eyes. Friendship, love, lust, gratitude, passion, worship, you tell me. But the tension I feel in his muscles, such as they are, the little watery glint to his eyes, that all dissipates as the inches slide in, he sinks deeper into the pillow and smiles a little wider.
And starts to purr.
He's so warm, is Alice. Warm to the touch, but warmer inside. Snug and tight. Sometimes he says it hurts when I fuck him, but if it really hurt him I'd know it, so I guess he just says it so I'll feel like I've got a big dick, which I already do, so he needn't make the effort. He doesn't get hard, which is another reason why people generally call him Alice instead of Ale, because sometimes the clients he services have him dress up as a girly when they rent him. He's not particularly fond of it, and neither are me and Owen, but the kid takes his work almost as seriously. I never get why he won't let himself get hard. At first it was because he wanted to be `professional', like Owen, but now he says it `simply doesn't occur' to him. During sex his mind's so focused on the cock in him that he simply doesn't think about the one in his own sheath.
In fact, when he's getting fucked he doesn't think about anything but the cock in him, which is why I think he needs it so bad. I'm half-way in him by now, on top of him. I've slipped one arm under his shoulders so I can rest my weight on that elbow and stroke his body with my free hand while we kiss, and I slowly thrust my way in deeper. He lazily wraps his slim arms around my nack, those little claws gently dragging along my hide. He melts into me, his body moulds itself to mine, accommodating, accepting, fuck is this boy beautiful...
His lips taste sweet and his tongue-piercing clacks against mine, his soft pink hair smells like ambrosia and as I fuck him in Collin's bed, hearing the mattress creak and police sirens wail outside, light from the headlights flashing into the room I realise that this is what it must feel like to make love. Except better, because then the one you're with is feeling it as well. Which may sound like I'm bitter or sad about... about this stuff, but brothers and sisters, let me tell you: if this is the best I feel in my entire life, I won't complain in the end.
I don't know how long it took, but he's finally passed out. He's still under me, both of us and the bed are wet with sweat, which I'll admit is mostly mine. It's a fucking miracle, but I only shot in him twice and each time I thought he'd close hi eyes and go o sleep, but then he'd kiss me fiercely and ask for more. And it'll be a breezy day in Satan's sauna before I deny this kid something he asks for so sweetly. I'm half-tempted to keep going, since I'm getting mighty close to spurting a third load up this boy's snug little tailhole and fall asleep still inside him, but reluctantly I slow my thrusts and roll off him.
My dick shrinks back into its holster almost instantly and I waste no time pulling my clothes on. Black khakis, black silk short-sleeved shirt. Torn at the shoulder, from where Owen grabbed it and as I tie my shoelaces, I wince at the wouns on my arm from when Alice grabbed me there and sank his claws in. Trickles of dried blood run in either directions from the little wounds and only then do I realise, this fuckable little tyke actually saved my life yesterday. I think about waking him up and I think about putting a bandage on my arm and reject both as wastes of time, so I quietly open the door, flip the lock closed so it doesn't close behind me I don't have the keys to Collin's apartment, see and walk down the hallway, down the stairs, out the front door. I pull a bottle of milk from the crate by the door and jam it on the threshold so I don't get locked out, and quickly take a look around.
There's a bicycle chained to a lamp-post and a bunch of cars parked by the roadside. I only think for a fraction of a second before I pick one, a spacious black van no, wait, it's called something else. MPC? MPV? Multiple people carrier or vehicle, don't know, don't care. I give the bike a sharp kick as I walk past, which is a shame since it's a nice hybrid bike that probably means some courier's living, but I'm thinking my problems are worse than his right now. A second later I've yanked one of the spokes from the wheel and I cross the street.
It's deserted at this time of day, with the faint promise of sunrise casting a blue glow over everything in the world, making it seem incomplete as if Bob Ross hasn't cracked the Van Dijk Brown and Titanium White to add some colour and give this one lonesome citizen on the street some Happy Little Friends. For now I'm happy enough to be on my own as I walk up to the van, spend half a second scanning the interior and the doors and two seconds later I've jimmied open the door, and toss the bent spoke on the ground.
The ignition is next, the plastic casing buckles in my grip and wires spill out. Nothing I ain't seen before. All the doors unlock, the inside light goes on and I climb In further. It's got that usual MPV interior, with a broad driver's seat and passenger seat, then two seats against each other behind the driver, and another two seats behind them on the passenger side. Perfect. I check for any belongings that might be in here, to see if I can be a thoughtful thief and leave them on the pavement for the car's owner to find, but there's nothing, not even a photograph In the glove compartment. Must be new. Gonna be a nasty surprise for the owner, but, well, what can you do?
As I head back into the house I pull my phone out of my pocket and just as I'm about to dial I realise the battery's dead. "Fuck it," I mutter and head back inside. Up the stairs, down the hall, in through the door. I go through Collin's closets, finding those fuck-ugly hoodies he likes to wear and the very latest sneakers and finally a gym bag. Cool. I gather Alice's clothes from different areas of the room, fold them all neat, and put hem in the bag along with the tightest t-shirt and gym pants of Collin's I can find, as well as a towel. After all, Alice wore those clothes for three days and as attached as he may be to them, he'll probably want to slep into some clean clothes after a shower, even if they're unfashionable.
I sling the bag over my shoulder and walk into the bedroom, gather the sheets he's lying on and bundle him up in them before I hoist him up in my arms. He doesn't so much as stir, just sleepily grabs my shoulder with one arm and, with the other arm swinging against my thigh, I walk out the door and let it close behind me. Down the hall. Down the stairs. Out the door. Into the car. And into the morning.
Into Maranatha City.
Red's finally begun creeping into the world when I pull up at my destination. I lean over my shoulder and lay a hand on the sleeping bundle of lionboy in the seats behind me, feeling him stir but continue sleeping nonetheless, and with a smile I exit the car. Ah, suburbia... land of opportunity, back in the good old days. See, most burglars like flats apartments, you folks might say because there's a lot of them and they're an easy mark, but I liked suburban homes because they're really well-protected and it's a high-risk, high-reward type of job. See, home security systems count on two types of breakers-inners: the crude, brute force kind and the kind that tries to be conniving and sneaks in and tries to disable the system. But there's always another way, and I always loved trying that. It goes ack to that new solution rant I was holding earlier, which is something you ought to keep in mind for the remainder of this story. I'll keep mentioning it so you don't forget, and it'll make sense later, I promise.
So I look at the house as I walk up to the porch. Just look at it. Dark windows, which ain't strange this time of the AM. One car on a driveway big enough for two, and it's a wimply, boxy little Volkswagen which ain't been cleaned in a while. There's a trash can at the side of the house that looks empty and the curtains ain't been drawn in the living-room, exposing all the precious electronics in there to the public.
So I grin and, confident, I ring the doorbell, nice and loud, nice and long. I see no lights going on in the house, which is a good sign, and I can faintly hear some sounds from inside, which is even better. I ring again. The hallway light coms on and a large figure looms at the door, a silhouette splintered by the frosted, rippled glass in the front door, which promptly opens.
"Hey Mark," I say to the raccoon in the doorway, wearing a pair of Pokemon boxers and a serious frown.
He looks at me in disbelief, which makes my jocular grin even wider. "Malloy? What the do you know what time Malloy, you, you, what are "
"Chill," I instruct Mark and push my way inside, looking up the stairs. "Nice house. How long `ave your parents been on holiday?" I ask as I make myself right at home, marching into the kitchen. I realise I'm starving. "Is Lucy here? Lucy!" I call loudly. "Where are you at, you sexy thang! Mark, my buddy Alice is asleep in the car, be a doll and go get him, would you?"
Mark's easy to push around and, while it certainly ain't polite, it's the quickest way to get him to do what I need him to do. He's so dumbstruck, poor dude, that he walks out the house, in his boxers, goes to the van, opens the door, carries the light bundle of ionboy into the house, closes the door and then realises what he was doing and scowls at me. "What the fuck?" he hisses and I put my finger to his lips, indicating the sleeping teen he's holding. "Jesus, Malloy, what the"
I'm halfway through making myself a gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous sandwich a sweet white pistolette with mayo and mustard and cheese and ham and lettuce and tomato when a tigress comes out of a door in the hallway, the one leading to the basement stairwell. She's dressed only in a button-up shiirt, big enough on her to preserve her modesty. "Malloy!" she says happily and bounces over to me. I catch her in one arm as she hugs me and kiss her on the cheek.
"Hey doll. You still with this loser?" I ask, jabbing my mustard-stained breadknife at the raccoon. Really, it honestly amazes me that a `coon like Mark, with glasses and a paunch and no sense of style can score a hot piece of tail like Lucy and I make no secret of that. And you might think he takes offense at it, but when I make the jibe the feller starts grinning and blushing like he got caught doing something good. She sees something in him that nobody else sees on the outside and he treats her like a bloody princess, which is really, really splendid.
She notices the bundle Mark's holding clumsily in his arms. "Hey, who'd you bring?" Lucy asks, letting me go and hopping over to her boyfriend, striped tail swaying and inspects the handnsome young lion wrapped in the blankets like Kal-El when he arrived on Earth. If you don't know who Kal-El is, well, I'd feel like too much of a geek explaining it to you. Suffice to say, it's something Mark would know. "Malloy, you didn't"
I continue making the sandwich and finish Lucy's sentence. "Seduce an innocent schoolboy, get him high, have my way with him all night, only to have him pass out on me because I doped him up too much and bring him here until I can think of a story to tell him and his parents?" She blinks at me, her mouth moving, and nods. "Don't worry. That's my little buddy Alice and he just needs a safe place to rest for a while. Looks like you got room to spare, too. Would you mind doing me a big favour and watching over him for a couple of hours? Plus, can I borrow your beau in the meantime?"
Lucy, rather strong despite her feminine elegance, takes Alice from Mark's arms and into her own. She's barely bigger than the boy she's holding, yet she carries him with the ease of a mother carrying her waen and starts up the stairs. "Sure," she decides and waves to me. "See you boys later, okay?"
Mark, during al this time, has simply been standing there, unsure. He takes a step forward and I raise my hand to silence and stop him, take a bite of my sandich, chew, swallow, enjoy, and then speak. "Mark, my lad, I'm goin' to make up for bein' so cross with you today. Tell me, have you ever robbed a bank before?"
I've got this plan, see. Despite what I told Alice, Owen's still in trouble and I'm going to get him out or fucking die trying. Which would make it a really simple sort of deal, wouldn't you say? Except I've got to ensure that nobody else dies with me. Which makes it complicated. There's some simple elements to the plan, mind: I need muscle, I need information, and I need money.
"Where are we going?" asks Mark as he climbs onto the passenger seat and slams the van's door. It took remarkably little to convince him to come with me, just a few hints, a few compliments and two shakes later he was rushing down to pull on some clothes and now we're pulling out of his nice, quiet suburban street where the first alarm clocks are going to start ringing in just a few minutes, while Alice gets to sleep in the secure, motherly, chaste intimacy of sharing a bed with Lucy.
"We're going shopping, Mark my lad. Can't rob a bank without some supplies, can we?" I ask, all chipper. The steering-wheel feels big and the van ain't got the guts of my late Corvette, but it'll do. I'm deliberately being mysterious, because I know Mark. His curiosity'll make him forget his objections, which gives me time enough to put the seduction on and get what I want. Not, you know, that kind of seduction. Temptation, more like. "You're good at maths, aren't you, Marky?" I continue when he's about to open his mouth. "Maths, computers, that sort of thing mixes. So let's say you were to steal one hundred thousand bucks for me just hypothetically and that I'd give you five thousand bucks. Don't sound like a good deal, does it?"
"It'd be a bad deal," I continue, enjoying the easy banter as much as I enjoy driving around the deserted city this time of morning. Which, in case it weren't obvious, is a lot. "With anyone but me. Because while it certainly ain't fifty-fifty, it's definitely fair. Because I'd be giving you some things that money simply can't buy, Mark. You want to know what I'd give you that'd make this deal fair?"
I look at him only once while I drive, just to see if I'm hitting the right track with him. He's got his eyes glued to my face, fidddling with his seat-belt, and nods. Perfect. "Hell, I'd give you the opportunity to rob a fucking bank, Mark. And the absolute security, the total guarantee, that you wouldn't get caught. Ever. Now, even if you never talk about it, how brilliant is it goin' to be to know what you did, when your buddies are bragging about screwing up ATM machines or changing somebody's driver's license file? I know how you guys brag. You all claim to know how you'd approach something like this, but none of you do it. None, except you."
I see the lights go on in Mark's eyes. There's trust there, too much, really, since we've done a lot of good business but not enough for him to trust me with his judicial future... Good thing for him I ain't a scammer, and after this is over I'll teach him not to be so trusting in future. For now, his trust makes things easier. "The bank we're hitting is the Northern Transnational," I say in response to his next question. "And all I need is for you to follow my plan to the letter, trust that I know what I'm doing, and, fuck it, you'd better be as good as I think you are. Hold on to something,will you?" I ask and accellerate hard.
Mark's been so focused on me, glancing between my face, my torn shirt and the wounds on my arm both of which really helped spark Mark's sense of adventure, methinks that he didn't notice where we were driving. Out of the suburbs and on to the malls, straight past the big superstore and furniture mal and on to the electronics giant, ironically titled Athlete Electronics, up the driveway to the front parking lot... He looks out just in time to be jolted by the bump as we go off the parking lot and onto the grass, skid around a tree fuck, this van's a slow bitch in the turns and I stamp on the gas pedal as the loading doors come into view.
They're the kind that roll up and down and let trucks come in, if you've never seen `em before, and really, they're pretty damn tough. I think Mark's about to remark on that, seeing those thick red doors come into view really quick-like, but just then I give the wheel a quick twist and I've gotten enough of a feel for this slug of a van to judge the angle right. The tyres screech, the van swings and with another bump it bounces off the loading lane and onto a path just barely large enough for the van to pass through, with bushes on either side. Ifollow the curve of the path and Mark grips his chair, I turn the corner, say a quick prayer to the gods of memory to make sure I judged it right and gun the engine as the car rams through the twin wooden doors of the staff entrance.
The rear-view mirrors snap off as we burst into the staff lounge, a stylish end-table smashes beneath the left front wheel and, giving the steering-wheel some rapid twists and hitting the break motherfucking hard, we come to rest in a perfect one-eighty, facing toward the shattered doors, the engine still humming. Perfect.
I leave Mark in the car to pant and reel at what just happened and hop out, following the sound of beeps out of the staff lounge and to a door. The door's locked. I open it with the best lockpick in the world (my boot) and the door swings wide open, splintered wood spraying into the office I step into. Whoever runs this place and owns this office is a stupid fool, he's left files open on his desk and the curtains are open. Ah well. I head to the beeping security panel on the wall, which shows the countdown until the alarm is tripped.
I seem to have hit a little snag, here. Last time I looked into the office there was a SecuVax 3500 model panel on here, but I'm faced with a SafeTron A-15 (honestly, who thinks of these fucking names?) now. The counter's at nine seconds, the little display glowing an ominous red, beeping faster. Mark's come out of the car, gingerly stepping toward the door. Before he can ask me what's going on I silence him with a raised hand, and think.
SafeTron A-15. How do we go about this, Malloy? With the SecuVax it was a simple job or pulling off the frontplate and putting a paperclip between the red and blue connectors in the upper left quadrant of the board, but this... Oh, wait, that's right. I remember now. Panic over. I walk away from the panel, while Mark's eyes go wide as the counter reaches six, and then five and walk back to the panel with a gold-plted letter-opener from the manager's desk. At least, I hope it's gold, otherwise we're fucked.
"It's cool," I assure a severely panicked Mark with my coolest smile and jam the letter-opener up the underside of the gap behind the panel, slashing forcefully from right to left. I feel a small jolt that makes me cry out a puppish little yelp, but luckily Mark's too spazzed out to think any less of me over that. The panel goes blank and Mark exhales in relief, which is stupid since the countdown will now continue in the security system's internal clock. Slowly, I slide the letter opener back from left to right, keeping my other hand on the panel, and grit my teeth hard together so that when that electric jolt hits me, and this time doesn't let go, I don't accidentally bite off my tongue.
It fucking, fucking, fucking hurts and for a second I can't feel anything but every nerve in my body protesting its fate until finally I muster the focus to guide my spasming muscles and I pull my arm away, the snapped-off handle of the letter-opener coming with it. I stagger back, wheezing, but I don't allow myself to rest. A splitting headache, which would go away if only I closed my eyes for a few seconds, throbs at the back of my skull as I check out the panel's screen, which shows the green all-clear light.
Malloy, you're still awesome. All it took was to cut off the panel's power and connection to the internal system so the panel's clock would reset and then re-establish the connection, in this case, with a well-conducting, cold-plated letter-opener. The systems would then try to synchronise but if I caused a long enough short-circuit, in this case, by using my lovely, sore body as a conductor between th epower outlet and the panel casing, the panel would be unable to communicate its failure to the main system and upon synchronisation would inform the system that all was clear, and the countdown was over.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I have some applause?
Actually, hold that.
I hear foot-steps outside, faintly enough that Mark doesn't hear them. "Wait here," I say to him and walk unsteadily out the door, closing it behind me. The staff lounge is a mess, what with the wooden doors being burst into the room, shredding one of the couches the store managers so thoughtfully placed there and tyre tracks leading to the still-running van. Fuck, my head hurts... I stagger toward a door in the wall next to the van, feel myself lurch sideways, toward the kitchen...
You know that game, where you run around with your finger on a pole in the ground, five times as fast as you can and then try to get to another pole a little further on? Everybody always sways and staggers because they feel the world spinning, but I always won that game. Because the trick in this game, just as it is when you're runing rooftops, is not to think about where you're running, but simply to run. So I run.
And then I'm at the door and there's loud footsteps on the other side of the door and I see it opens outward so I launch myself forward and up and dropkick the door, which bursts off its hinges and both of us crash onto a portly, uniformed security guard on the other side. He flails his Mag-Lite torch right into my hand, I accept it gratefully and as I come to rest on the door on top of the protesting guard I swing it hard enough to knock the night-stick from his partner's hand. I press on, stamping on the door to give the fat guard a knock in the gob and jump toward the partner, a panther who looks like he can handle himself. I bring up my knee and, thank fucking god, I catch him right under the jaw and send him flying backward.
I land on my rear leg and press one hand to the wall of the hallway I'm now in, pushing off to spind round and swing a kick at the downed guard, catching him across the cheekbone as he tries to get up. His hat flies into the air and crashes against the other wall, sliding down like a leaf. When I stop the spin my other hand continues its swing, landing on the polished black handle of the panterh's nightstick, which landed perfectly braced against the wall.
The god of burglary loves me, there's no other explanation.
Without looking, I grip it and from the feel of it I've got it by the long end, so when I charge up to the panther, who's crawled up and is about to launch himself at me I use my split-second head-start to swing the baton down and slam the crook of the nightstick's side-handle right onto the base of his skull with a satisfying crack... and the guard falls down.
Now I take a moment to steady myself. I fall onto my hands and knees and let the shivers pass over me, trying not to puke onto the panther, who really looks quite tasty in his blue uniform. The world slowly stops spinning inside my head, the whining I hear in my ears quietens and the throbbing ache at the back of my brain lessens somewhat. It's more bearable now.
Mark, now, ccautiously opene the office door and peers out. "Malloy?" he whispers softly, sounding as sweet and innocent as Alice in my fazed state. I wave to him to indicate I'm fine and, taking deep breaths, I crawl over to the panther to sever the cord of his walkie-talkie with my claws, then stand up and walk to the other guard to do the same. "Come on," I says, opening my eyes and showing Mark a grin that's every ounce as confident as I feel shitty, "Let's go shopping."
There were only two guards In all of Athlete Electronics, just as I suspected, and they'll be out for the count for a good wee while. I sent Mark off with a coin to get a shopping-cart and the instruction to fill it with everything he'd need to safely hack the Northern Transnational. I had deposited the guards in the small side-kitchen and pushed one of the couches in front of the door by the time he came back, his cart laden with carefully-stacked equipment, dusted with pieces of styrofoam from the packaging he ripped open, which gave the whole thing a very christmassy feel. His eyes shone like Roman candles, which fizzled out when I told him that, while we'd take all this stuff so nobody would figure out what specifically we'd come for, we'd be dumping every last piece by the time the job was done.
"This'd be worth doing the job, Malloy," he sulks as he straps on his seatbelt, checking, once again, to make sure that all the items are stacked and strapped securely on the back seats. "I'd take this gear instead of the crummy five thou." He's only been a real criminal for an hour, and he's already talking about thous and grands as if they're petty change. Mark really is the coolest geek I've ever met.
I shake my head and drive the car slowly through the smashed-in doors, which are just barely wide enough for the van to fit through, careful not to bust the tyres on any nails or shattered glass there may be. "This stuff's hot, man. If you want to get away clean you'll do as I say and part with it, and be happy with the five thousand. Believe me when I tell you, you never earn as much as you steal they say that about honest work versus crime, but it's true of just crime as well. You steal a hundred grand, you only get five... But that's five more than you'd have otherwise."
Mark sullenly accepts this. It's hard to keep up my `cool, confident' faηade when really, I want to pull over and vomit for a while. My head still hurts from the jolt and my fingers tremble, but I can't let that show. If Mark has even the slightest doubt at any point, hs confidence will waver and we'll be busted. I have to keep him believing it's an adventure, that he's along for the ride and everything's cool. It's good that he's sulking over the money, it means he's not worried.
"Go on, get in the back and start setting up your stuff. We'll be at the bank in about ten minutes."
Mark unbuckles his belt and climbs through the gap between the driver's and passenger seat, squeezing his overweight body through. Once he's beside the two seats behind the driver's side, opening the laptop and starting to wire it up to... Honestly, I don't know what all he's connecting, just driving's hard enough at the moment. But anyway, once he's started that he looks at me in the rear-view. "We're going to the bank? But why'd you need me to hack?" he asks.
He's maybe thinking I'm going to rob the bank. He's maybe thinking about a Die Hard-style break-in with terrorists and explosives experts and a hacker working as a team, to the tune of the Ode to Joy. I shake my head.
"Mate, I don't know computers and even I know what we're going to do. It's... close to six AM, banks don't open for another couple hours What happens when you try to transfer a large sum of money like a hundred thousand bucks outside of regular hours?"
I can see Mark working away in the rear-view, and it's an impressive sight. He's jostled by the car's motions but he's focused on the job, not getting frustrated when he drops smething after I hit a bump. His face is bathed in the light of two laptop screens and fuck knows how many LED's. "If you've got an business account, you get a call from the bank to your registered number to confirm the transaction, otherwise it's delayed till the bank opens."
"Right," I say, turning a corner. The business district skyline comes closer as we pass from the suburban colony into the city proper, with the Sargasso building jutting up like a dagger into the rising sun. Just to the left of that is Northern Transnational, and our target. "More specifically, an alarm goes off in the bank's security office. Since there's so much redundancy and the business district has a security force on-call locally during the night, the bank minimises its personnel to only one person in the building at night, to minimise the risk of fraud. This one person is a guard, a tech and a banker, so when your transaction is sent, an alarm goes off in his office, he places a call to the bank's central office, sends along the details and the central office calls you."
"So," says Mark, thinking aloud more than worrying, "if we transfer the money the bank'll call the account owner's office. And if they're not there, the transfer will be held for a few hours. And if they're there... we're in a lot of trouble. So how do we stop the call from being made?"
I pull up, right in front of the bank's glass walls, balls-out arrogant. The `coon is grinning wide, not even concerned about getting caught any more, just thrilled by the excitement of as daring a heist as this. "This is perfect," he says with a gleeful yelp. "There's so much wireless coverage I can flip networks twice a minute and never lose the connection!"
"Whatever you say, mate," I reply with a chuckle, taking a pen and the car manual from the glove compartment, writing two numbers one above the other, with an arrow between them. "Transfer one hundred dollars from this account to this one," I tell him and hand him the book. "No more than a hundred, you get me? And if the names that flash up surprise you, don't worry about it, just get the job done. I'm afraid my phone's dead so we can't stay in touch, but just do the job and it'll all be cool. How long do you need?"
Mark looks more confident than I've ever seen him, and I must say, it does e good to se ehim like this. A part of me feels like I'm doing him a favour, letting him participate in as fine a heist as this, giving him an experience that'll enrich his life forever and seriously impress his chick I'm pretty sure she won't flip out, once she hears the whole story around the job. Or rather, part of the whole story. "Half an hour, give or take, to transfer the funds and another half-hour to cover my tracks. Think you can give me enough time?"
I look out my window, through the glass walls of the bank's lower floor and into the brightly-lit lobby. "Half an hour's about all we got. Don't worry about covering your tracks, we'll be dumping this equipment and nobody can trace it to you." I open my door and step out, but the `coon surprises me, grabbing my arm. Unfortunately, it's the sore arm, and I wince.
"Sorry, dude," he says, quickly letting go and scratches his chin right under his left eye, at the rim of the mask-like discoloration around the eyes his species have. "But, seriously, unless I've got the extra time, they'll be able to trace it to the recipient account!"
I flash him a smile, trying not to sway too much on my feet, as I lean in the door's opening. "Don't worry about it, mate. Just get the dough sent. I'm counting on you, y'hear?" I say and close the door, and walk to the building, trying desperately to keep my pace steady.
To be continued.
Available on paperback in 2005
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