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Victus Baxter and the Butler

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1 Victus Baxter and the Butler on Sat Jul 06, 2013 12:51 pm

Cosbones

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Amateur Writer
Victus contemplated a short, wasted life as the golds and reds of the Mah Jong parlor streamed around him like a river over a waterfall. He was flanked by men twice his size in nearly every respect and their thick fingered hands crushed what he once had known as arms, shining gold rings forming bruises. Maybe they could identify his killers with that, he thought miserably. The golds and reds were replaced when he was lead through swinging doors, with stainless steel and an air thick with steam. Most of the cooks kept their heads down as they passed, just another gambler being put in his place, but the most senior bowed to the two gentlemen, asking them something in Cantonese. Gorilla A, as Victus took to calling him immediately, grunted a reply and shook his head.

At the rear of the kitchens, a single fluorescent flickered over a bulkhead door. It gave a squeal of protest as it's wheel was turned by Gorilla B, swinging inward on it's hinges. The service tunnel beyond was thin and smelt like refuse. Bags had been piled against one wall, ready to be collected and recycled, but until then the low ventilation and tight quarters had turned the area into a swamp. The glowing green strips running alongside the grill of a floor didn't help the effect either, a sickly radioactive glow.

Gorilla B stepped through the porthole in the wall and Gorilla A jabbed a thick finger into Victus' spine. Move, the finger said, I don't have all day to be killing you. The tunnel was too thin for the previous arrangement to work, the smaller man realized as he crawled through. Gorilla A followed soon after, slamming the bulkhead shut. Victus was now sandwiched between them in the tight space. They began to walk.

If Victus had been seriously thinking of escape, he would have reasoned that tunnel didn't just run along the back of the Mah Jong Parlor (where he just lost a vast fortune of his own money, as well as money that didn't belong to him) but ran the length of the Promenade. The spine of flashing lights, cheap tricks and gilded teeth waiting to take away as much coin as possible. Victus was only thinking about his small apartment above the antique bookstore; A Cat he would never feed again, a shitty kitchen he would never make a cup of coffee in, a bedroom he had shared less frequently then he cared to admit.

After ten minutes of walking in silence, the Cantonese began again. Gorilla B seemed to be having difficulty with something. Gorilla A, clearly the brains of this little outfit, sounded exasperated. He imagined the conversation they were having.

"How did Mr Sun ask for it to be done again?"

"He said we were meant to gut him like on of those old movies. Hang him up in a meat locker and then slice an artery, or something."

"Not the woodchipper? I swear I thought I heard him say woodchipper."

A hand closed on Victus neck and dragged him to a stop. He almost choked on his own tongue, having been so lost in his own revere he hadn't heard the rough English order to halt. He was pushed impolitely back against the bulkhead behind what he imagined was the Burlesque Theater on forty second, the thick meaty palm still closed on his windpipe. They had arrived. Fear trickled down his chest and rested as an ice cold star in his stomach.

It was an Airlock. The side facing the promenade was clear, probably translucent Aluminum, and printed with yellow and black warning lines. A red light pulsed above the thick metal frame and symbols had been printed along the wall beside it, warnings in English, Cantonese, Japanese and Russian. The most prominent thing was a yellow painted man choking on nothing as curled lines (wind) was sucked past him. No, not sucked. Blown. Flushed. The interior of his cell (Execution Chamber) was a tiny five feet by five feet. If the door on the other side of the cell (Execution Chamber) hadn't been completely opaque, Victus might have began pleading for his life. Being spaced was a terrible way to die. Looking at space before it happened was even worse. Gorilla B tugged out a card and pressed it to a sensor pad on the wall. The clear glass jaggedly pulled to the side and the fear grew. The inside of the room was damp from waste dumping, as well as condensation from the interior warmth meeting the exterior... nothing.

Victus mind wildly tried to fill his last moments of life with any factoid it could. Firstly, This wasn't a cheap way to kill someone. You needed a fake an ID Card, needed to make the machinery recognize it as legitimate and then had to wipe any incriminating evidence that this door had been opened at this time from the main system. Secondly, he focused on how it would be pointless to hold his breath. The change of atmospheric pressure would crush his lungs and trying to fill them would cause an internal rupture. He would drown in his own blood. No, he would have ninety seconds to live in the suddenly alien environment his body was ill equipped to survive. After fifteen of those precious ninety, he would probably black out and never wake again.

The third fact was that Gorilla B was tugging Victus' phone from his jacket pocket. He dialed a number and tossed it carelessly into the open cell. Gorilla A let go of his throat and politely pushed him forward hard enough to break his nose on the exterior door; Blood dripped down onto his upper lip but he and adrenaline ignored it, scrambling for the phone. He pressed it to his ear as the clear aluminum slid back into place.

"Mr Sun." He breathed, desperation in his voice. There was silence on the end of the line.

"Mr Baxter. You have disappointed me. I do not like to be disappointed." The sound of the Owner of the Mah Jong parlor was both a life line and a final strike. If Victus could wrangle something out of this little chat, if he could weasel his way out of being killed; He might not have been the best at the physical side of a life of crime, but when it came to the spoken word Victus felt he was richer then anyone else.

"I kno-" He could taste his own blood on his tongue.

"I welcome you into my bar, into my gambling parlors. You enjoy service found nowhere else in the Promenade, yes?"

"Yes, Mr Su-" The hope was sinking. It was drifting deeper into murky waters, as he imagined the elderly Chinese man puffing away on his cigars, behind the Dragon motiff desk of real wood in his office. There had been a bank of TV sets when Victus had first met his kindly patron. A startling memory came back to him. As he stood there, arranging a loan he was fully aware he would not pay off, Mr Sun had switched the sets off. Reflected in his gold horn rimmed glasses, however, was a little cell just like this one. Victus looked up and spotted the fleshing red light of a live feed.

"You enjoy my girls? You enjoy my drinks? I know you are very fond of my tiles."

"I'm sorry, Mr Sun, If I can jus-"

"You should be sorry, Mr Baxter, but you cannot! I thought you were an intelligent man, coming from such an intelligent influential family, but I see now I was sorely mistaken. Do you know I know that I have control of that room from here, Mr Baxter? I think you do. I think that is why you look so pallid."

There was a beep. For a terrifying second, Victus thought he wouldn't have a chance to run his bloody mouth at all. He would just be tossed out into the spacer junk, surrounding the entire station. With a sudden start he realized it was coming from his phone, which he drew away from his ear. He stared at it dumbfounded. Under the Mah Jong Tile Set avatar for Mr Sun's call and above drops of his own blood was a small official looking wooden crest. The words next to it read, "Goldstein & Sons, Esq."

"Mr Baxter, am I not holding your attention?" The impatient voice of Mr Sun took on more of an accent. Victus imagined if he kept ignoring him a string of very colorful Chinese curses would come accompany him out of the Airlock.

"It's just another call, I'll ig-"

"No, Mr Baxter, that would be highly rude. Please. Take the call. I am a gracious host, as you know. I will simply wait."

This was dangerous. Very dangerous. Was whoever calling him about to become a witness to his murder investigation? Victus paused to collect his thoughts and gently muted Mr Sun's call. He kept this side of the line open, hoping he could show how sincerely he regretted his mistake and trusted the older man. It was a slim nod of respect, but Victus knew it wouldn't work. He needed a miracle.

A smooth female voice, consoling but oddly impartial began as soon as Victus accepted the call. From the way it spoke, fluidly and with an air of slight impatience, he imagined it belonged to an Artificial Secretary. "Mr Victus Baxter, I'm calling to inform you of the sad passing of your great uncle, Mr Atavus Baxter. He was found today by his Butler. It's my understanding that reports have simply put it down to a heart attack." There was succinct pause here, where she waited for him to express his dismay. Victus however looked even more confused then ever, glancing up at the live feed piped back to Mr Sun.

"Oh." He simply said, after a three second awkwardness.

"Yes," She moved on briskly, but sounded slightly more impatient in her kindly way. She empathized, the tone of voice said, but was busy. "It is also to my understanding that the funeral will be taking place a week from now, on Mr Atavus Baxter's property. His last will and testament stipulates that unless you attend, you will not be eligible for his estate totaling some two point six billion," Victus stopped breathing. "But he has-or had-generously allotted a travel fund. If you can present yourself at Goldstein & Son's offices on deck four hundred tomorrow with suitable ID and luggage, you can be on a first class flight back to Earth by Twelve hundred hours, local. Is this suitable?"

Gorilla A had just answered his own phone. He was looking Victus in the bloody face with mild surprise, like he some kind of aquarium piece that had done a fascinating trick. Gorilla B was waiting eagerly for the junk to be spaced. "Mr Baxter, if you need a moment to decide, you are always permitted to call back." The number kept running through his head. It was huge. Too big. He pushed it aside and tried to find the face of Great Uncle Atavus. Instead a Wheelchair rolled across his brain.

It was entirely possible when he broke his nose he was also concussed, because that was a strange hallucination.

"Mr Baxter?" The voice had lost most of it's compassion. It was sharp now.

"Really sorry. I'm just stunned, Atavus was such a... such a c-close part of my family. I need a little time, to gather my thoughts." No, what he needed was to promise he would pay off Mr Sun twice as much as his debt. He could give Mr Sun a gift, maybe a new car. Something nice, something that says, "I am a man who will not forget a Mah Jong parlors when I have billions." And then he could carefully plot his life around never seeing the inside of Mr Sun's establishment again. The cool voice told him she would wait patiently.

Mr Sun's voice had been reinvigorated during Victus' not-so-private chat. In fact, as soon as he was unmuted the door of clear Aluminum slid back. "Would you care for another game of Mah Jong, Mr Baxter, before your trip? I believe a new hand is about to be dealt. We can talk about your repayment scheme as we play."

Victus thought that was just fine.

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