Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Northern Dawn

Dax stopped walking and leaned back against the trunk of a nearby Sycamore. The trees ended a few feet further on, and beyond them was a grassy plain. A herd of zebras were grazing on the grass and hadn't noticed his stealthy approach. In one hand he held a stiletto, its blade four times longer than its handle and darkened so as not to reflect light and give him away. In the other hand he held a bola, three heavy balls connected by strong, thin lightweight cord that he'd use to bring a zebra down before moving in for the kill. His face was smooth and pale though, definitely not the face of an outdoorsman or hunter.

There was a soft crunch in the undergrowth off to his left, but he didn't react. A man came forward, crouching slightly. He was wearing a pin-striped business suit, italian leather shoes and clutching a document wallet in one hand. He looked uncomfortable.

"We have a task for you, Mr. Dax," said the besuited man. He offered the document wallet. On the grassy plain the zebras started looking around nervously at the sound of his voice. Dax sighed and slipped the stiletto into a sheath at his hip that ran down the side of his leg. He took the document wallet and opened it. There were two pieces of paper inside. One was a glossy photograph, and the other was a brief biography.

"This is Anna-Mix," said Dax holding the photograph up in front of the besuited man. "There has been a mistake."
"There is no mistake," said the besuited man. He was sweating, and there was a slight tremor in his voice. The zebras in the distance were starting to jostle each other as they prepared to flee.
"This bio is incomplete," said Dax, returning the photograph to the folder and looking at the other page. "There's no real history here, the last-known location is given as a city, not an address -- what are you expecting me to do with this?"
"We pay more when the information is somewhat, ah, constrained."
"I'm not taking this one."
"Mr. Dax," said the besuited man, his voice gaining steel from somewhere and scaring the zebras enough at last that they bolted, a black-and-white stampede across the plain. "There is no question of you not taking this, this is your job."
"What did she do?"
"She has gone rogue, Mr. Dax. She purloined one of our operatives who was monitoring her behaviour, which we were doing because she'd not checked in in three months. You will do your job, and you will see to it that we are not compromised."
"None of that is in here," said Dax. He frowned and checked the backs of both pieces of paper. "If I'm tracking down a rogue, then I need more information, not less. This maybe a game to you and your --" he paused, and managed to somehow spit "gentlemen", just missing an italian leather shoe, "but to me this is a matter of life and death. Even possibly mine."
"You have what we think you need to know."
"I'll need a contact then. Someone who thinks I need to know more."
"You'll meet him in the usual place. We've been keeping his salt refilled."
Dax sighed again, and stared at his feet for a few seconds. "The Excess Cafe," he said quietly. "It's strange what you can't leave behind you."
The besuited man turned away, and started picking a path back through the undergrowth. Dax waited for him to get about twenty-feet away, then whirled the bola around his head a couple of times and threw it. It span through the air and coiled tightly around the legs of the besuited man, bringing him down with a sharp cry.
"There are lions out here," said Dax, walking past him. "And the strings of the bola are coated with curare, so be careful about getting it on bare skin."

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