THE ALLURE OF THE DAMSEL
An entry in the YC117 Pod and Planet Fiction Contest
Category: Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse
[MEANWHILE... at a secret enemy hideout....]
Zor strode triumphantly into the conference room, throwing both doors wide and not breaking stride as he entered. He loved making an entrance and he knew he'd be silhouetted against the bright background, ominous and intrusive. Those assembled stifled their conversations mid-syllable and turned their heads at him. They blinked briefly, and then the doors behind him slid closed and the room returned to its normal dim.
He soaked in the moment, standing motionless at the head of the table, eyes half closed and chin down. He took a deep breath through his nose.
Finally, he looked around at his assembled crew, acknowledging a few with a nod before beginning. He was in his elder statesman mode, genuine and approachable. A salesman. "Gentlemen, I have a mission for us," he said with a smile. "Good money, and acceptable risk."
"Good," said Kruul, interrupting. "Have you seen the price of PLEX? If things get much worse, I'm going to have to go run incursions." Kruul bounced back in his chair and laughed at his own joke, while a few others snorted.
"Kruul, you're so poor," said Elena Gazky, "the guys in Jita actually WILL double your isk." Elena winked at Zor while the others cackled with laughter.
"Hey, it's tough for a pirate to live off of insurance money," Kruul countered lamely.
Just like that, Zor's moment had ended. Those around the table took Kruul's bait and the room descended into banter. A half dozen side conversations erupted. Elena got up from her chair to fetch a cup of coffee from the dispenser along the wall. Schmidt wadded up a piece of paper and threw it playfully at Dread Pirate Scarlet. She deflected it, then flipped him the bird. A Seven Deathguard was pantomiming two ships dogfighting with his hands to the Seven Thug next to him.
But Zor was patience. Minutes passed, but Zor remained standing at the head of the table, rolling his eyes at the ceiling. Amatuers, I am working with friggin' amateurs, he thought. He grabbed the bridge of his nose, attempting to ward off the headache that was brewing and then slowly raised his other hand for silence.
Anire Scarlet noticed first. "Sorry Zor. What's the job?" she asked.
"Settle down, everyone," Zor said . "C'mon, put the chair down Oluf. Seriously. Sit down."
Scarlet persisted, "What's the job?"
Zor sighed. He had practiced the speech, and this was NOT how this was supposed to go. He'd need to win over the group. Anire Scarlet would be the strongest opposition and might bolt solo, hoping to draw the others away. He'd need to tackle her first. "Now Scarlet, look, before you start..." The room grew quiet.
"Don't tell me. It's a snatch and grab, then a ransom," she said. The room groaned. "I simply don't understand the allure of the damsel."
"Scarlet, it's not that simple. This intel is solid." Zor said.
"Gah, you're not denying it. Which damsel is it this time? How many times have we run this scam, and how many times has it paid out?"
Zor snorted, "Ok, fine. I'll say it. It's a snatch and grab, then a ransom. It's respectable bad guy work, and a solid gig. It works once, and we're all made."
Kruul turned to face Zor squarely, looking surly. "With respect boss ... No, Serously, no. Here's what happens. We get the girl, take her to wait for a ransom, and make her scrub some dishes at the pleasure hub. Half a minute later, there will be some chucklehead in a Caldari Navy Raven knocking on our door, and he'll blow our crap up."
Zor shrugged, deciding to let this play out, "Well, I suppose I understand how you can feel that way. But you're jumping to conclusions. Let me back up and tell you the whole plan."
"Go on then," Kruul said.
Zor chewed his lip for a minute, then said, "Ok, it'll go like this. We have a brief window where we will have access to the daughter of a senior executive within Joint Harvesting...."
Kioran Jeraulek elbowed Yarl Uzbeki and said under his breath, "JOINT Harvesting. Always cracks me up. And gives me the munchies."
"They have the best stuff," Yarl agreed.
"Gentlemen, please," Zor said. "... a daughter of a senior executive. We grab her..."
"... and take her to the Pleasure Hub." Kruul completed slapping the table in anger. "Krikey, Zor. At least try a little."
"It will work this time," Zor insisted, shrugging.
"How are you getting around the door?" Schmidt asked.
"WHAT door??" Schmidt fumed. "You know what door... we dock up at the station, you get shoved in your captain's quarters, and I in mine, Kruul's in his. To link up, we have to get past that damned door that's always locked to get out into the station hallways."
"Oh, that door," said Zor.
Schmidt responded only by batting his eyelashes.
"Don't worry about the door," said Zor. "We'll hack our way in."
The room groaned again. Oluf said, "Gawd Zor, I hate that mini-game. I always get my ass blown up."
Zor smiled, "Then don't suck."
"Frikkin' hacking. Frikkin' Incarna," muttered Schmidt.
Zor was suddenly very serious. "Schmidt. Don't utter that word around me. Ever."
"That's twice. I beg you to stop," pleaded Zor. Schmidt sat back in his chair, puzzled.
Elena explained quietly, "Dude. Everyone knows... it's like Beetlejuice. Say the I-word 3 times and 500 forum warriors show up and troll your thread. Pipe down, we don't need that kind of visibility."
"Oh, sorry. I thought people were finally over it. That was like, years ago."
"You'd think ... but no." Elana looked up "Zor, I have a dumb question. Why not get one of those Anomic Taloses to cover our six for this op? Or that anomic Guristas Worm that has been working these systems?"
"They're dead. Word is, Sisters of Eve put out a hit and that guy from Dog's Breath dropped them."
"Poor bastards." There was a quiet pause for fallen comrades.
Zor continued, "Ok, so to review. We grab the young lady, retreat to Kruul's Pleasure Hub and contact Joint Harvesting ... stop giggling Kioran ... and collect the ransom. Any questions?"
Kruul raised his hand, "Can I fly the raven this time?"
"No? Come on."
"No. Standard doctrine applies. You provide close support in your your cruiser and signal the rest of the fleet if there's trouble."
"You just like flying the raven, orbiting out there." He pantomimed, "Look at me, I'm Zor. I'm orbiting you and I'm immune to target painters."
"Careful, Mr. Kruul. Or you might find yourself waking up in a clone bay," said Zor with a grin. Kruul responded with a chuckle and a waive of his hand. He'd won Kruul back.
Scarlet jumped up, "Look guys. Respectfully, I'm out. I have to go deal with some Pithum. I've got a bounty on my head and an implant to deliver. Wish me luck."
"Fine Scarlet," Zor said unsurprised. "We'll get you in on the next one. Fly safe."
"Always do," Scarlet said as she was heading to the door.
"What about the rest of you?" Zor asked.
Kruul looked around the room, eyeing each of his compatriots. Finally, he looked at Zor and said "We're in. When do we start?"
"X up for fleet, we undock in ten minutes."