|Subject:||Joe Schmuck: Chapter 1 - 07/07|
|Date:||Sat, 20 May 2000 02:21:57 GMT|
It was not a good place to wake up. The bloody smears and handprints on the
tiled wall beside her were disturbing. It wasn't a wall she recognized. She
didn't know where she was or how she got there. Last memory was of a
terrifying fall. She felt numb and cold, a sure sign her pain editing implants
were running close to capacity. She still wore her kevlar stealth suit, but
her equipment and climbing harnesses were missing. She was at an awkward
angle, not sitting not lying down, at her feet were a pair of taps and above
that a shower nozzle. She was in a bathtub, in somebody's bathroom. The
ceiling was home to a small patch of mold, growing slowly in a corner. She
hated dirty bathrooms.
"Hey hold on. You're in no state to be moving," complained a voice as she
tried to sit up. A hand moved to gently impede her movement, but she'd already
given up, unable to get her limbs working the way they were supposed to.
Beside her was a face, sweaty and pale where it wasn't streaked with dirt and
bloody bruises. He had a wash cloth, white now stained pink, and he continued
to wash her face.
"Hmph," a sneer was all she could manage, "Joe Staples. Schmuck. My
Joseph paused, confused and surprised, "Y-You know me?"
"You rescue everyone don't you?" her voice was bitter, angry.
"Hey wait a minute, you saved me. I couldn't just leave you there after that
now could I?"
"You could've and should've. What inbred backwater are you from? Canada?"
"No." Joseph put the wash cloth down. "You needed help. You still need
She paused, activating circuits in her headware and the biomonitor built into
the stealth suit. A transparent HUD overlay on her vision quickly told her
that he was right. No penetration, but lots of bruising from repeated hits.
Potential bone breaks from the fall, the suit couldn't tell for sure. At the
very least she'd expect ligament damage, maybe a fractured skull. She'd been
lucky, but was still in a bad way.
"You haven't called for paramedics? Police?"
"I didn't know what franchise you subscribe to. You don't have any ID."
"OK, good. And the Police?"
"No, not yet." Joseph had a nagging feeling about the police, the treatment he
received after that assault wasn't good. They'd treated him with suspicion,
and dug for a motive for him to go after the ganger. Treated him like he was
the criminal. He didn't want to have to deal with the metro-cops again if he
could help it.
"Good, good. Things aren't too bad then. I'm going to need my equipment,
"I've got it right here, it all just kinda fell off when I was trying to get
you up the stairs." He picked up her harness and draped it over the side of
"That's great, Joe" she was surprised, somehow he must have stumbled across the
quick release triggers and applied them. It was a fluke that was never
supposed to happen. One arm limp, she started sorting through pockets and
straps, examining items to find out what was intact and what wasn't. Then she
saw it. Her harness had taken several bullets, destroying a buckle, damaging
straps. That's why she fell.
"Frag it," she cursed, discovering the state of some of her more expensive
tools. "Joe, I need a phone."
"Sure, no problem, I'll just be a second." He struggled to his feet, slow stiff
movements that got him standing and then walking out of the room. She was
shocked to see half a Laughing Jack cut into his back, an illiterate message
punctuated with a knife sticking out from his shoulder.
It took him a few moments to return with the remote telecom unit in hand.
"You look like I feel," she said, taking the telecom with her good arm. He
laughed a bit at that as he sat back down.
"You should keep the blood in the bath, this floor is covered in it."
"Uh-huh. Don't lean back against that wall."
Joseph was confused. Confusion, that was happening a lot tonight. He was
going to say something but she'd already finished dialing and was talking into
"Heya Doc, its Stalker here. How do I look?"
"As beautiful as the morning sun, my dear" yawned the person on the other end
of the phone. "It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of attending to
your needs, and if I may say so, you look very, very profitable this evening."
"I was hoping you wouldn't notice." For the first time Joseph heard a little
humor in her voice. "I'm going to need a house call."
There was a sigh from the other end of the line. "Very well, but only because
you're one of my favorites. When will you thugs and thieves learn to work at a
decent hour? Where are you?"
"Apartment 405, 1566 Carter St."
"You got that Doc?
"I certainly did. Am I to assume there's a group of you? You know how I feel
"Two. Me and him. He's OK, I'll vouch. I'm covering it all."
"See you in about an hour then."
"It's a date," she smiled as she hit the disconnect button, the smile turning
into a frown as she considered her options.
"Do you know you have a knife sticking out of your back?"
Joseph's jaw dropped, "A knife? My back?"
She nodded, "Yep, you hadn't noticed?"
"Oh shit, shit. Can you get it out?"
"Nope. You just sit there and hold tight. Try not to move much. It's jammed
in fairly solid, pulling it out might just have you bleeding out quicker." He
was taking it reasonably well all things considered. "When Doc gets here he
can sort it out for you, just don't go panicking on me in the mean time OK?"
Joseph didn't answer.
"Stalker's an odd name," said Joseph, eventually breaking the silence.
"Helena," she said quietly. "But just call me Lena. Stalker is just one
handles. Names aren't safe in my profession."
"Oh. Um, Lena?"
"What is your profession?"
She looked at him, considering his features. Soft and bruised, pale and weak,
surely he couldn't become a threat.
"Information," she began hesitantly. "I collect information for people,
from people that don't want to share their secrets. Sometimes I protect
information, trying to get it back where it belongs. Sometimes I deliver
information, messages, so to speak."
"Oh. Right. It's just I was wondering how you came to be up in that alley
with a gun?"
She coughed, "Well, let's just say my business is highly competitive."
"And you sort of knew my name?"
She flinched. "You made the news," she said in a tense voice.
"And you remembered?" It was her turn not to answer.
"Listen Joe, I'll sort this out for you. Doc will fix me up, I'll get him to
clean you up as well, and then I'll finish my work for tonight. It'll cost,
but I'll be getting a good return for tonight, that'll cover the Doc, and I'll
get you enough cred to buy off the metro-cops. I'll be gone, everything will
be back to normal."
"I won't be in trouble?"
"Nope. Neither of us will be. Not if we stick to the plan."
Both of them sat for a while, wondering if the other actually believed that
that was the way it would work.