Puddles and Whiskers, All About The Case

Previously.

“His case?”

“Yes, his brief case,” stated Beverly Amson.

Puddles shook her head. She must be hearing things or there was a miscommunication. Puddles watched Beverly take another long sip of coffee; she did not appear upset or even concerned over her husband’s death. Composed, rational, unemotional and wearing on one hand Puddles income for an entire year, Beverly’s only concern was a brief case.

“Just so we are clear, you want to know what happened to his brief case?”

“That is correct.”

Puddles was thankful Beverly could not see her tail slashing away as her irritation with Beverly rose. Setting her paws in front of her, trying to control her urge to drum her claws, Puddles looked into Bevely Amson’s eyes hoping to see any sign of humanity. Nothing.

Sighing Puddles began, “Your husband’s brief case was carried off by the man who killed him.” Puddles paused looking for some reaction. “Whiskers chased the man with the puppet until the man jumped into a waiting taxi and escaped.”

“Did the man have the case when he jumped into the taxi.”

“I…I will check with Whiskers.” Puddles sent a text to Whiskers. “Another cup of coffee while we wait?”

Beverly looked at the cup of coffee with more emotion than Puddles had seen all meeting and then looked up at her, “No thank you.”

Whiskers replied promptly. “According to Whiskers the man had the brief case when he jumped into the taxi.”

Beverly thought for a few moments, “I need you and your associates to retreive the case for me.”

“What?”

“The job I hired your firm for is not complete.”

“Your husband is dead,” Puddles snapped back, “our case was to follow him and catch him in the act with another woman.”

“No.”

“No,” Puddles hissed.

“I hired your firm to follow Mr. Amson, gathering information on where he went and who he interacted with. You inferred I wanted to know about another woman,” Beverly shot back enunciating each word. “Thus, your job is not finished. Mr. Amson interacted with the man who killed him. That man took something that belonged to Mr. Amson. You need to find that man and the brief case.” She stood up and headed for the door, stopping as she headed out, “I expect results and updates.”

Puddles dug her claws into her side of the desk, let her tail slash through the air freely, and took a moment before cursing Beverly Amson out. Whiskers would be proud she thought, this time the client was not in the office.

[We have an issue.] Puddles texted to Whiskers and Chuck.

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Puddles and Whiskers, Not NiHo’s

Previously.

With a groan, Whiskers stood up and approached Officer Chu. A brief conversation and Whiskers signaled Puddles and Chuck time to leave. Walking along the elevated walkway wageslaves avoided the three of them.

“We don’t belong here,” Chuck sighed his tail slowly waving.

“What?” Puddles snapped her tail slashed causing a passing wageslave to jump.

Pointing at another group of wageslaves walking past them, “Look they avoid us like we have something.”

“Why do you care what they do?”

Chuck thought for a moment, “I don’t.”

Puddles shook her head in disbelief. Deep in thought Whiskers missed the exchange, focusing on the details of the encounter, “He was wired,” he said out loud.

“Who was wired?” Chuck asked.

“What?” Puddles said

Snapping out of his thoughts, “The man with the puppet, he outran me like I was a kitten. He must have some augmentation.”

“It’s possible,” Puddles said thoughtfully. “What’s our next move? The client is dead.”

“That puppet was interesting,” Chuck absently said.

“That damn puppet almost killed all of us,” Puddles snapped.

Chuck glared at Puddles for a moment, “I know. That doesn’t change the fact that the puppet was interesting.”

“Whatever.”

“Give it a rest,” Whiskers ordered. “I need some food and coffee before I decide what we do next.”

Not NiHo’s

“It’s not NiHo’s that’s for sure,” Chuck commented as he looked around the noodle shop.

“No it’s not,” Puddles responded. “Look at this menu, where is the spicy ham?”

With a wave through the holo-menu, closing the menu and a sigh Whiskers sat back in the padded chair, “Definitely not NiHo’s.” Whiskers set down his cup of tea.

“Something wrong with the tea?” Puddles asked.

“It’s not coffee,” Chuck replied with a smile.

“Chuck is right,” Whiskers answered pointing at the tea, “this is not coffee. Not much is going our way this morning.”

“Whiskers, I’ll contact the client,” Chuck said.

“What will you tell her?”

Chuck paused, “That her…”

“That is where I am stuck. Her husband is dead. However, that is not our concern other than offering our condolences.” Whisker picked up the cup of tea, began to take a sip, thought better and set the cup down.

“He’s dead. Our case is dead. Isn’t it?” Chuck asked.

“Sometimes,” Puddles replied. “She may want to know. That means we need to follow up until we get her answers.”

Chuck shook his head in disbelief. “What about the man with the puppet?”

Puddles sat forward, “I’d like to find him and give him his puppet back,” she finished with a devilish smile, all fang.”

“I too would like to know more about him,” Whiskers said. “However, he is not our concern.”

“After food, I’ll contact the client and set up a meeting,” Puddles said. “By the time we meet she should have the news of her husband from the SCPD.”

A shiny Serv-O droid quietly rolled to the table, depositing bowls of noodles and spoons in front of each of them. Puddles picked up a spoon with two claw tipped digits, “Definitely not NiHos.”

Puddles and Whiskers, Not Any Puppet II

Previously.

Chuck rolled Puddles over, quickly running his paws over her body looking for wounds. She slapped his hands away, “I’m fine.”

“Oh Lovey, you served me well,” the man said tossing the remains of the robopuppet to the ground as he accelerated down the thoroughfare scattering wageslaves.

“Check Amson,” Puddles commanded as she sat up. “Damn that was close.”

Chuck looked over at Amson, “He’s definitely gone.”

“Shit. Where’s Whiskers?”

“He took off after the puppet man.”

“He’s fast,” Whiskers said breathing heavy over comms.

Whiskers ducked underneath the arms of an overburdened wageslave, keeping an eye on the puppet man. Three wageslaves tumbled to the ground in front of Whiskers. With a leap, he cleared all three landing hard, slipping, and falling on his rump.

“Damnit!”

“Where are you at?” Chuck asked.

“Near the taxi pads,” Whiskers replied resuming the chase.

Puppet man swung the case in a low arc taking the legs out from two wageslaves who were too busy with their electronic devices. Both of them tumbled into Whiskers path who used the nearest wall, to wall ran past the wageslaves. Puppet man rounded a corner to the taxi pads, Whiskers heard screams and watched as wageslaves ran away from the taxi pad in a panic. Sliding around the corner, he remembered he left his katana at the office. No need to worry, Puppet man dove into a taxi that immediately flew into traffic.

“He is gone.”

“Gone?” Puddles asked.

“Jumped into a taxi.”

“Damnit.”

“Police are here,” Puddles flatly reported.

“I will be there in a few minutes.”

Out of breath Whiskers jogged back avoiding the knots of wageslaves rubbernecking the scene. Standing over Amson’s body, the SCPD Officer spoke into his com while recording the scene on his tablet. Puddles and Chuck sat to one side waiting. Whiskers sat next to them with a thud.

“What the hell was that all about?” he asked.

“No clue,” Chuck replied. “Officer Chu doesn’t know anything either.”

“No surprise,” Puddles said. “He showed up after the fact. I got his ID so we can get any information the SCPD may find.”

“Great, does he need anything from me?” Whiskers asked between big breaths.

“Not that we know of. He asked us what happened, took our information, and that was that. We only sat here to wait for you.”

With a groan Whiskers stood up and approached Officer Chu. A brief conversation and Whiskers signaled Puddles and Chuck time to leave.

Puddles and Whiskers, Not Any Puppet

Previously.

Not Any Puppet

Leaning against the window of Wake Me Up, Puddles watched wageslaves walk past their eyes downcast. Through the glass of the walkway, she watched mid-morning traffic fly past, more wageslaves onto their jobs. She listened to Chuck place his order through their shared comsystem, chuckling to herself when the coffee dispensing wageslave announced his name as, “Chunk!”

“I thought you said no more chasing cheating spouses,” she said over comms.

“Somethings cannot be helped,” Whiskers replied.

Puddles casually looked around the elevated walkway intersection spotting Whiskers sitting on a observation bench sipping his coffee and reading his ever present tablet. Out of the corner of her vision she spotted Chuck exiting Wake Me Up and heading the opposite direction. Glancing at her skin watch, almost time.

“Anyone spot our target?”

“Not yet,” Whiskers responded quickly.

“I just got into position,” Chuck replied. “I don’t see him.”

“Keep an eye out Chunk,” Puddles teased.

“How hard is their job,” Chuck mumbled.

Chuck wearing his latest wageslave disguise, a tan overall with an accounting firm’s shoulder and breast meme-badge sat down at a table with an excellent view of foot traffic. Pulling out a tablet Chuck shopped while drinking his coffee and keeping an eye out for their target. Instead of their target, Chuck spotted a man erratically walking down the sidewalk, bumping into garbage stations, chairs, and the occasional wageslave causing a commotion as wageslaves attempted to adjust to the disruption.

“Isn’t it a bit early to be drunk?” he asked over comms.

“What?” both Puddles and Whiskers responded.

“There’s this guy…”Chuck trailed off. “What the an’jal is this guy?”

“Something wrong?” Whisker asked.

“No, this drunk is cradling a hand puppet of a bird, talking to it, and bumping into anything that gets in his path. Which seems to be everything.”

“I spotted Amson,” Whiskers cut in. “He is walking towards me wearing a blue suit carrying a black case.”

“I see him,” Puddles responded. Tossing her coffee cup into the trash she started towards Whiskers when she collided with someone. “What the…”

The man who collided with her bounced off her across the walkway scattering wageslaves. His disheveled and mismatched outfit wageslave outfit did not stand out as much as the robopuppet that his left hand was inside.

“Heading your way,” Chuck said.

“Are you okay?” the man asked.

“I’m…”

“Not you!” the man screeched. “Are you okay Lovey?” He asked the robopuppet in a cooing voice that caused Puddles stomach to heave.

Puddles decided the best course was to ignore the man and attempted to walk past to intercept Amson who was crossing the elevated walkway towards her with Whiskers following.

“What’s wrong Lovey?” he asked the robopuppet as it began to screech and caw loudly. Wageslaves avoided the scene with alarming speed. “Did this feline hurt you? What’s that?”

Puddles turned to see what the man was going on about.

“Puddles down he’s got a…”

BOOM BOOM BOOM

On the ground, bits of plastic and metal showered Puddles. Amson, their target fell over his chest and face, what remained of his face, covered in blood. Whiskers dove for cover. Chuck flew overhead, arms outstretched. The man, his left hand in the remains of a robopuppet, stepped over Puddles, grabbed the briefcase and ran past Whiskers.

Puddles and Whiskers, Reality Check

Previously.

Reality Check

“How much longer?” Whiskers asked.

“As long as it takes!” Puddles yelled.

Picking up his coffee mug, Whiskers walked to his side of the desk and sat on a corner, “That is not good for our business. You saw the vid, you heard what the doctor said to Eth’s gangers, and we are over our heads. Time to cut our losses.”

Clenching her fists, tail slashing like Whisker’s katana, eyes narrowed, Puddles rounded on Whiskers, “Cut our losses!” She hissed each word.

“Yes,” Whiskers replied coolly.

Puddles slammed her cup of coffee onto her side of the desk splashing coffee everywhere. She kicked her chair out of her way before leaning against the edge. Her anger counter to the calm demeanor of Whiskers who waited for her anger to pass.

She took two deep calming breaths, not that her body language said calming down at all, “We got played into killing some gangers for someone else and we did not get paid at all for it. Someone else sent us data leading towards discovering who did it. We are closing in on them.”

“Are we?”

“What!” Puddles shouted all pretense of calming down vanished. “Yes, we are closing in on them. With Eth’s gangers we can get behind the doctors and get some payback.”

Whiskers took a long drink of coffee, setting his cup down, “Who is they?” Holding up a paw to stall her instant response, “I want you to think about this before responding. We do not know who hired us in the first place, correct?”

Puddles nodded.

“We do not know who sent us the data, correct?”

Puddles nodded a second time.

“We do know that based on the information the gangers learned that our case will involve action against the doctors and possibly whoever is backing them?”

“Hell yeah it will.”

“Great, who are they then? Other than the doctor looking for gangers to experiment on, we know nothing. Are you prepared, seriously prepared, to take on Titan or some other corporation? I am not and I am not ready to sacrifice our agency either.”

Picking up her coffee, taking a long drink, her tail relaxed slowing down to what Whiskers thought of as her “thoughtful look.” As she set her cup down, “You may have a point.”

“I know we did not get paid and we did get played. Unfortunately…”

“Unfortunately,” Puddles interrupted, “we don’t know a damn thing for sure.” Holding up her paw to stop Whiskers response, “And the longer we continue to investigate on our own the more we risk,” she finished with a toothy smirk.

“Sadly true.”

With her foot, she pulled her chair over and sat down, “What now?”

“We move onto paying cases. We do not let this go. Instead of blindly following everything sent our way, we do what we do best; we investigate and find our own path.”

“No more chasing cheating spouse cases, please.”

“Fine with me. We need to put Chuck on the payroll; he did a lot of work for us for no pay.”

Shaking her head with amusement, “Agreed, but he doesn’t get his own desk in here.”

“You make that call and I will contact Eth to let him know his gangers are off the hook.”

Puddles and Whiskers, Initial Consult

New Puddles and Whiskers. I can also say with some certainty that I will not be showing my editing process again, unless there is a demand. So enjoy the start of some new Puddles and Whiskers. 🙂

Previously.

Initial Consult

“John called yesterday,” Whiskers said.

Puddles looked up from her work, “And?”

Taking a long sip from his coffee Whiskers made Puddles wait, “They took down Red Twist.”

“About damn time. Any word on our gangers?”

“Nothing from Eth. Have you heard anything?”

“Not a thing, but I don’t expect him to come through for us.”

Whiskers shook his head.

“Don’t hand me that. You’re thinking it too.”

“I have more faith in Eth than you do.”

“Whatever,” Puddles retorted with a snort as she returned to her work.

A few minutes later the front door swung open, Chuck sauntered through followed by two gangers. Red and black faux leather jackets, typical ganger “don’t fuck with me” attitude, the only detail separating them one had a chromed arm and the other sported a data jack.

“Look what I found outside the office,” Chuck said with a smile and wave towards the gangers.

“Eth sent you?” Puddles asked, pushing back from her side of the desk.

Data-jack nodded, “He told us you need a simple job done.”

“Sounds about right.”

“What’s the job?” Data-jack asked while chromed arm looked around the office.

“Chuck,” Whisker began pointing at Chuck, “is going to take you to a doctor’s office. You two will enter together and find out what services they offer. Then return to Chuck who will bring you back here for a debrief.”

“That’s it?” Chromed Arm asked.

“That is all we need from you, at the moment.”

“Well…” Chuck started.

“What?” Data-jack impatiently asked.

“We need to hook you up with cameras,” Chuck carefully informed them.

“Just him,” Data-jack replied. Pointing at his left eye, “I already have a camera and you can have the feed when we are done.”

“Even better,” Chuck said excitedly.

An hour and some minutes later Chuck landed in a downtown hover port and watched as the two gangers headed to the Medical Offices of Tablix and Aslan. His windshield display had two open windows, lower right corner Puddles and Whiskers stared at him from their office, and upper right live feed of the gangers moving through wageslaves like a hot knife through butter.

“I hope this works,” he said to Puddles and Whiskers.

Watching the feed Chuck got a better view of the waiting room and behind the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist waved them through the door where a nurse waited. She led them down a hallway lined with examination rooms. From the glimpses when Chromed Arm turned Chuck could tell only the most basic of medical equipment was in each room. At the second to last pair of doors, the nurse stopped and gestured for them to enter the room.

Inside the room, two chairs in front of a small, clean desk. Sitting behind the desk Doctor Aslan. Data-jack and Chromed Arm sat down. For five minutes the Doctor asked them questions, nothing out of the ordinary at least nothing that stood out to Chuck, and at the end handed them holo-cards with the office logo and a date, three days from now.

A few minutes later they returned to the car. Data-jack turned to Chuck before he could say anything, “We’re going to be needed more than just today.”

Puddles and Whiskers, WDB Red Twist Arc

This will take everyone to the end of my editing. This is a long arc, 7000+ words. Next up wrapping up this first tail. 🙂 Enjoy.

Previously.

1      Second Try

“It’s here!” Puddles shouted with excitement.

Walking into the office, Whiskers found Puddles holding a large brown box, Cheshire cat grin on her face, and a Zippy Delivery driver exiting. Before he could ask, Puddles set the box on her side of the desk and tore the box open. Reaching inside, scattering packing peanuts all over her side of the desk, nobody would notice he thought, Puddles brandished a new frying pan.

Eyebrow raised, “That was fast,” Whisker said.

“I had them shipped express.”

“Them?”

“I ordered a set of them. Figured I might need more than one.”

“You could give your Mother one of them.”

A thoughtful look flashed over Puddles face, “I could.”

“But you will not,” Whiskers mumbled returning to get his coffee.

A loud metallic crash informed Whiskers that Puddles dropped the box from her side of the desk onto the floor. Returning to the office with a cup of coffee, the mess of packing peanuts did not surprise him. Sitting on his side of the desk, he pushed packing peanuts back onto her side.

“Who do we know that could pass as a patient?” Whiskers asked.

Puddles stopped practice swinging her frying pan, “Who don’t look like us? Nobody.”

Clang!

“What the tonnan!” Chuck shouted from behind the front door that Puddles struck with an errant swing.

She put the frying pan down and held the door open, “Sorry.”

Whiskers waved a greeting and returned to the computer, clicking through their contacts. Puddles leaned over to look at the list.

“See, nobody.”

“Nobody what?” Chuck asked on his way past the desk to get coffee.

“Whiskers thinks we need someone who looks like a ganger to get past the receptionist.”

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” Chuck shouted from kitchen. “Have you tried Eth?” he asked returning with a cup of coffee.

“Eth is cymean and so not a ganger,” Puddles sarcastically retorted.

Shooting her a glare, “Not as a ganger, because he knows gangers.”

“Excellent suggestion,” Whiskers said.

2      Making Arrangements

“Why noodles?” Eth asked as he pointed at his bowl of noodles with his neon pink chopsticks.

“What’s wrong with noodles?” Chuck retorted around a mouthful of noodles.

“Don’t point with chopsticks,” Puddles said while pointing at Eth’s chopsticks with her chopsticks.

“What?”

“I said, what’s wrong with noodles,” Chuck repeated after swallowing.

“Not that,” gesturing with his chopsticks Eth said, “the chopstick thing.”

“Heard it somewhere,” Puddles answered.

“I like noodles,” Whiskers spoke up setting down a neon orange with red swirled cup.

“Every time?” Eth asked. “Every single time we meet, we meet at a NiHo’s. Why?”

Puddles slurped down a chopstick load of noodles, Chuck looked to Whiskers, and Whiskers took another sip of tea, “Cheap, healthy, and best of all who is going to come here to listen in on any conversation?”

Looking around, “Good point,” said Eth.

Returning to his bowl of noodles, Eth ate in silence for a few moments.

“Anyone want to share some dumplings?” Chuck asked.

Puddles held up her chopsticks. Using the tabletop holo-menu, Chuck ordered dumplings. Eth set down his chopsticks and put his hands together in front of his face looking thoughtful.

“What is on your mind, Eth?” asked Whiskers.

“Shouldn’t that be my question to you?” Eth responded gesturing at them with one hand.

“You look like you have something to say is all.”

“Number two dumpling platter,” the waiter announced to the table as he set a large steamer full of dumplings in front of Chuck.

“Thank you,” Chuck mumbled around a mouthful of noodles.

“I need you to do something for me,” Eth said talking over the waiter and Chuck.

Looking up from her bowl of noodles, Puddles said, “From us.”

“In exchange for what?” Whiskers asked.

“My usual fee.”

Puddles, Chuck, and Whiskers exchanged looks, “Must be important to you,” Puddles said.

“It is, but not just for me, some friends. Deal?”

“Deal,” Whisker responded.

“Great what do you need from me?”

“Two gangers.”

“Just two? Not a whole gang?”

“Just two and they need to want mechanical augmentation.”

“Why?”

“Long story, we need to get into a doctor’s office. They only take gangers who get augmentation…or at least we think. We can’t get inside.”

“I see.”

Whisker slide his tablet across the table, “Our information.”

Eth spent a few minutes reviewing the information before sitting back, hands in front of his face. “I think I can find a few gangers for you. It will take a day or two.”

Puddles said, “That’s fine. What do you need from us?”

“I need you to find Red Twist,” he said with some finality.

“Who?”

“Head of the Red Hands?”

“Still no clue,” said Puddles.

“Wait, the bike gang?” Chuck asked.

“That’s them.”

“Is he lost?” Whisker asked sarcastically. “I would think you would be able to find him,” he said to Eth.

“He’s hiding from some friends of mine…”

“And you owe them,” Puddles interrupted.

“Something like that,” he shot back.

“We just need to find him?”

“That’s all, find him, and keep an eye on him until my friend arrives.”

“Since we have a couple of days of waiting, we can get right on that,” Puddles said looking to Whiskers and Chuck.

3      One Hand At A Time

“Can you see this?” Chuck whispered into his phone.

Sitting in Whiskers’ car, vid-feed from Chuck’s camera displayed across the interior of the windshield. The feed panned to the right, a battered front door with a sign in gromathi, followed by piles of garbage and a shot down the alley.

“Clear feed,” Whiskers replied.

In the passenger seat, Puddles fiddled with her new frying pan, glancing at the feed every few seconds.

“Did you find a spot to hide?” she asked Chuck.

“I think so, moving there now.”

On the windshield, the feed bounced and moved erratically as Chuck moved. Chuck reached for another handhold in the wall of the building across the street, finding a handhold he pulled himself up onto a ledge. Nice to see the City keeping up on buildings and repairs in Lower Stroud, Chuck thought sarcastically looking around at the debris, exposed wires, pipes, and garbage on the ledge, every building he could see, and in the alley. Chuck spotted a better observation spot a few feet to his right.

The feed stabilized and centered on the alleyway and door.

“In position.”

“Now we wait,” Whiskers said.

Puddles sighed.

“What’s our next step?” Puddles asked Whiskers.

“We wait to see who goes in and out of the chop shop.”

“No,” she began with an irritated tone, “not this favor, with finding the fake Doctor Marlowe.”

“Eth should come through for us,” Chuck whispered.

Puddles shook her head, “Don’t blow your hiding spot, Chuck.”

“Chuck is correct, after Eth finds some gangers to do the work we need, we follow the trail.

“So…” Puddles paused for effect, “you don’t know any more than I do.”

“Pretty much.”

Two hours passed, “I can’t feel my feet,” Chuck whined for the fifth time in the last few minutes. “I know don’t move,” he finished testily.

“You ready ang?” a rough voice asked somewhere in the alley.

“Come on the doc is down here. He does all our hands,” another rough voice said.

“Does it…”

“Hurt?” finished the first rough voice. “What do you think?”

“If you are lucky he will soak your arm in ice first.”

“Ice!” the third voice exclaimed.

Laughter boomed down the alley. Three gromathi, spiked heads, walked into view on the feed. Two of the gromathi, as they walked into view wore Red Hands leather jackets made for gromathi, spaces over the shoulders for their spikes to show. On the back of each jacket the Red Hands logo, a bloody fist clutched and unclutched with each step they took. Both of the Red Hand gangers had the gang’s trademark mechanical augmented red right hand. The third, younger gromathi wore a red shirt and spent a lot of time looking at his right organic hand.

“Alright kid, we will wait for you in the waiting room,” the first rough voice said as they walked into the building.

“Did you see that,” Chuck whispered excitedly.

“We saw it,” Puddles responded.

“If Eth’s information is correct, an hour from now they should leave,” Chuck said, “Can one of you take my place?”

“I will be there in a few minutes,” Whiskers replied.

“Thank you.”

4      An Hour and 10 Minutes Later

“Ready?” Puddles asked over the comm-system.

“I feel better,” Chuck replied.

“Not about your bathroom break!”

“Quiet!” Whiskers commanded. “They left and are almost out of sight.”

Leaning over the edge, Whiskers watched the three gromathi gangers continue down the alley.

“Chuck bring the car around and see if you can find an upper floor exit,” Puddles ordered.

“Will do,” Chuck replied. “This place looks pretty self-contained; I don’t expect to find anything.”

“I will remain outside in case any clients arrive.”

“Sweet, let’s do this,” Puddles said with glee.

Whiskers watched Puddles stride into the office, cup of coffee in one hand, frying pan hanging from her belt, and pistol on her hip. Whiskers dropped into the alley ready if she needed assistance. The largest, ugliest, and very unconvincing receptionist sat behind a prefab desk covered in the “appropriate” amount of office supplies. Security she thought to herself, approaching the desk. The only other thing in the room than the desk, offices supplies, and “receptionist” a door she hoped lead to the doctor. Hopefully the doctor had the information they were after, she thought.

“I need to see the doc,” she said.

At least he pretended to type on the holo-keyboard. Puddles was positive she could see the gears in his head turning, very slowly. Setting her coffee on the desk, she leaned forward and coughed, twice. He turned, did she hear gears grind as his head turned she thought with a smirk, and glared at her.

In a deep voice he said, “There are no available appointments.”

“But,” coughing again, “I’m sick.”

“You can make an appointment for another day,” he replied not missing a beat.

Coughing again, Puddles turned and took a step towards the door, “I’m sure the doc can see me. It’ll be quick. We’re old…”

“DO NOT,” he emphasized each word and stood up, “take another step.”

“Fine have it your way,” Puddles replied pulling her frying pan off her belt. “I hope the doc can see you afterwards.”

5      Tracking Down Leads

pa-DANG!

The frying pan, bent in the middle flew across the room when the mook shook his mechanical-augmented arm.

“I just bought that!”

Puddles was positive she heard him form a metallic fist. Ducking under his powerful swing, Puddles rolled past the mook, popping up she fumbled with her holster. The mook pivoted much faster than she expected, wired to the gills no doubt she thought, and kicked her in the chest, knocking her against the wall. Her breath explosively left her lungs, leaving her holding out a paw, her other arm wrapped around her chest, and gasping for air.

“Wa..Wa..Wait.”

The mook did not wait; grasping her outstretched arm, with a single yank he threw her to the opposite side of the room over the desk, scattering office supplies. Rolling to a stop amongst office supplies and her cup of coffee, Puddles tried to stand, still gasping for air. With two long strides, he grabbed the desk and threw the desk at her. His aim off the desk exploded against the wall, showering her with desk parts. Puddles scrambled away from the wall, fumbling with her holster and looking for something, anything to give her an edge.

Mook grabbed her ankle, but before he could get a good grip, Puddles slipped her foot out of the boot and rolled onto her back as she drew her pistol. Her first shot blew her boot apart that he had reflexively thrown at her, her second and third shots put large holes in his thigh and gut. With a monstrous backhand, he knocked her pistol out of her paws. Puddles scooted backwards as he fell to one knee. Her paws landed on the familiar shape of her frying pan she swung with as much force as she could, cracking the mook across the face rocking his head to the side.

For a brief second she thought he was going to continue the fight; then he fell over onto his side. Puddles sat down against a wall. One breath, two, and three. Other than breath the mook had not moved. Standing, she retrieved her pistol and searched the mook. Bingo, she mentally cheered, pulling an identcase from a pocket. She waved his identcard over her watch accessing public data, nothing other than a name and top-level membership with emergency services. Before leaving the office, she punched in an emergency and dropped his identcard by his head.

“Figures,” she said to herself.

Looking at the frying pan, bent and nothing she could do about that, even better the person she wanted to see was gone. Empty office, at least this desk was intact, she thought ruefully. Puddles sat down and pulled up the holo-monitor.

“Let’s see what the good doctor was hiding.”

6      Emergency Boots

“Office is clear,” Puddles informed Whiskers and Chuck.

“A coffin rocket is roaring in your doing?” Whiskers asked.

“Yeah, can you intercept them?”

“Done.”

Closing the office door, “Chuck meet me in the doctor’s office I need your help searching his files.”

“On my way.”

Jumping down from his observation post Whiskers waited next to the door. Lights flashing, backwash from the emergency extraction bus scattering loose garbage and debris. A gold and white colored emergency extraction bus landed, before the bus settled, three technicians leapt out. The technician in the lead following the identcard signal with a wrist mounted scanner.

“Over here!” Whiskers shouted waving his paws. “Over here!” Whiskers opened the door, “He’s in there!”

“What happened?” The lead technician asked.

“I…” feigning shock “I found him when I got here for my appointment.”

“How long ago was that?” Lead asked, consulting information on a holo-wrist display.

Behind them, the other technicians started urgent care.

“Maybe five minutes ago,” Whiskers stammered, allowing his tail and ears show his “shock.”

A non-committal grunt from the lead, “Dispatch have emergency ready, include an augment team.”

The two techs rolled the secretary onto a collapsible hoverboard shouting medical jargon into their comms as they rushed out of the office and down the alleyway. Without another word, the lead tech followed. Less than two minutes later, the extraction bus roared off.

“All clear,” Whiskers reported.

“Good, get in here,” Puddles replied.

“I think I found the files we are looking for,” Chuck interrupted.

Stepping over discarded medical waste Whiskers entered the doctor’s office, “Any luck?”

“Take a look,” Chuck said triumphantly as he spun the holo-display to face Whiskers.

Puddles stepped past Whiskers. Whiskers touched her arm as she passed, “You okay?”

“Sore, missing my boot, and looking for coffee.”

“You won’t find any of them in there,” Whiskers replied. “Copy the data and we’ll get coffee.”

“New boots too.”

Chuck flipped the screen back and started the copy process.

“Looks like the surgery was completed two weeks ago,” Chuck announced. “I have an address for the doctor, a number of his supplier, and checkup appointments.”

“That makes sense, but he isn’t going to have them here,” Puddles said returning with the remains of her boot.

“File saved,” Chuck said.

“Coffee and boots,” Puddles announced heading for the door.

Merging into Lower Stroud flying traffic a few minutes later, Whiskers read the data on the windshield display, “Who wants first shift watching the doctor’s office?”

“Why bother?” Chuck asked from the driver’s seat.

“Because there is a chance he will return and we can follow him from there,” Puddles replied from the backseat. Checking over her body, she winced at a few sore spots and picked some bits of desk out of her fur.

“Oh. I’ll take first watch.”

“I will watch his house. Puddles you get some rest.”

“After boots, right?”

Whiskers sighed, Chuck laughed, “Yes, after boots on the company card.”

7      The Long Watch

[I’m bored.]

[Part of the job.]

[Three hours of nothing.]

[Nothing?]

[Watch this vid, you’ll love it.]

[I think you meant Puddles would love that vid. Nothing?]

[You didn’t like the cute finsi’s? Other than some Red Hand initiates and homeless.]

Looking down from his observation post, three stories above the alley, Chuck wished for the hundredth time, that the doctor would be strolling to his office without a care in the world. Chuck would leap down behind him and with a deft move or two subdue the doc, call Whiskers, and two hours later have the information, complete the case, be a hero, and eat some noodles. Instead, the same garbage, the same large rats, and foul odors. Bling.

Checking his phone a reply from Whiskers, [How many Red Hands?]

Mentally counting, [Five. Why?]

[I have an idea, if your stakeout does not pan out.]

[Do you want me to follow the next Red Hands?]

[I will let you know.]

Chuck rested his back against the wall, pulled his tail close to him to avoid any of the unidentified pools of liquid, and tapped his favorite word game. A few swipes later, Chuck was trying to remember how to spell door in gromathi.

Across the city, sitting in his car at the edge of the 100th floor of a parking garage with an excellent view of the doctor’s carport, Whiskers thought, planned, and flipped through the data Chuck recovered from the doctor’s office. On his windshield, three zones, in the center the master file, to the left information to research in detail, to the right junk. Another swipe to the right and another sigh, too much junk in the file; did the doctor need to keep everything?

Tapping the upper right corner with a claw, Whiskers pulled a live feed window down over the junk. He watched various vehicles fly past the doctors carport before touching the feed and using his claw to adjust the view; nothing new with the doctor’s residence. Sighing, he reset the alarm, and pushed the live feed window to the upper right corner. Taking a long drink from his coffee, Whiskers thought about the potential dangers of following Red Hands.

[The letter word using the letters A, I, L, N, S.]

Whiskers opened a new file, invoices for replacement augment hands; based on the amount and number of entries, the doctor did a lot more surgeries for the Red Hands than expected.

[Begins with A, I, or L.]

Ignoring Chuck’s texts Whiskers continued to read the invoice file; three manufacturers, seven different styles of hands, and a range of prices. The doctor had quite the business in hands. The latest invoice due in three days. Swirling his coffee cup around, Whiskers wondered if there was a way to use the information to find the doctor.

[Found it. What are you doing over there?]

[Not playing a game.]

[I’m bored and it smells.]

[I want you to follow the next Red Hands.]

[Will do.]

The live feed window flashed red twice before Whisker noticed. Pulling the window down, he reversed the feed hoping to see the doctor arrive home. A delivery truck stopped at the carport for a few seconds before entering traffic and driving off. Whiskers resumed the live feed and went back to reading.

8      Have A Seat

Peeking over the edge Chuck looked down on two Red Hands banging on the doctor’s door. The larger Red Hand cocked his augmented fist, punching a large hole in the door. Both of them laughed at the hole, Chuck shuddered. Laughing the entire time the Red Hands punched several more holes in the door before tossing the door to the side. The Red Hands walked into the office where Chuck could not hear their conversation. Based on how fast they left and ran down the alleyway his guess of their conversation revolved around a problem. Chuck sent a vid of the Red Hands to Whiskers.

[We have a problem.] He texted.

[Apparently. Follow them.]

Chuck dropped into the alley, making his way to his car. The Red Hands bikes roared down the road racing past Chuck as he reached his car. Following them was easier than he expected, they rode in a straight line to a bar. Chuck circled the block, parking on a side street, cuing the vid-feed on his windshield he called Whiskers.

“They stopped at a biker bar. I’m not dressed to go in.”

“Understand,” Whiskers replied, distracted. “Puddles should be to you in a few minutes. Together you can…”

“What?”

“Sorry I found more information that may assist us in finding the doctor.”

“As I was saying, hopefully Twist is at the bar. Puddles should be able to blend in.”

Chuck watched a large cluster of wageslaves from a nearby factory walk by.

“I have an idea. I will contact you later,” he said in a rush, disconnecting the feed and exiting his car.

The wageslaves oblivious of Chuck walking closely behind them, chatted away about work, bosses, wages, and their desperate need to get some beer and food into them before returning to work. As Chuck hoped, they walked to the bar and entered without hesitation. While the wageslaves pulled several tables together, Chuck found himself a table with a good view of the entire bar. Pulling the holo-menu up, Chuck looked busy while looking for the two Red Hands. The wageslaves creating the best distraction possible with their numbers, obtuseness, and massive order.

[Where are you?] Puddles texted.

[I have a table in the bar. Want me to order you something.]

[There in a sec. Starving.]

Not finding noodles, Chuck input an order for drinks and wings. Between the large group of wageslaves he followed in and several other groups of wageslaves, the bar was packed. A knot of Red Hands sat glowering at everyone in a darkened corner of the bar. Unfortunately, from Chuck’s position he could not tell if the two he was following were among them.

A battered serv-o droid with red hands, slammed drinks in front of Chuck, splashing him. A platter of wings nearly flew across the table as the droid seemed to try to skip the platter onto the table. Before Chuck could ask for anything the droid rolled away on one wheel, slamming drinks onto tables along the way.

“What is that things problem?” Puddles asked as she sat down.

“I’d be the same way if I worked here,” Chuck responded as he wiped beer off him and the table.

“True. Where are they?”

“I think over there,” Chuck indicated with a nod and ear point.

“Wings?”

“Its the only thing that looked safe.”

“Safe?”

“They should fry these things enough to kill anything harmful.”

“Makes sense. Let’s eat and watch. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

9      Other Lines of Inquiry

Thinking about Chuck’s word puzzle Whiskers thought about other ways to find the doctor. Swiping a claw across the windshield display, Whiskers pushed the data to a corner, and found the city information services search bar. Milliseconds after sending the request the windshield filled with new files. Looking at the wealth of data Whiskers was excited for a brief moment, then looking closer at the scale of the data search his ears folded down, a long night ahead.

“Directions,” he said to his car.

“Destination?” the car responded.

“Nearest open coffee shop. Auto drive.”

“Gallon O Cafe, three blocks away, estimated arrival, ten minutes.”

“Thank you,” he said to the car, not that he needed to, but manners mattered.

While the car lifted off and maneuvered through the parking garage, Whiskers resumed sorting the files. Personal data stayed in the center of the windshield, family information to the right, and business, school, and licensing to the left. With three “reasonable” stacks of data, Whiskers opened the personal data file.

  • Doctor Epsan Mill, recent graduate from Stroud Medical, address on file matched address Whiskers was watching, and two contact numbers.

Returning to the City Information System window, Whiskers entered the doctor’s personal and business numbers. Dialing the personal number, Whiskers did not expect an answer.

“Hello?” a male voice said questioningly.

“Hello, is this Doctor Mill?” Whiskers asked enthusiastically.

“Yes, who is this?”

“This is,” Whiskers thought fast, “CAH Augments and if you have a few moments I would like to discuss our new line of augmented hands and forearms.”

Whiskers listened for any background noises or identifying features while the Doctor responded.

“Uh…” The Doctor stalled.

“Is this a bad time?” Whiskers interjected.

“Yes, yes this is a bad time,” Doctor Mill jumped for the offered lifeline. “My, uh office, is being remodeled, can we…”

“I am in town for the next few days,” Whiskers offered another lifeline hoping Doctor Mill would take the bait, “perhaps we could schedule a face-to-face meeting over dinner?”

“That would be great,” Doctor Mill responded enthusiastically. “Can I call you…”

“Can my secretary reach you at this number?” Whiskers jumped in.

“Yes she can.”

“I will have my secretary contact you tomorrow with some times.”

“That would be great.”

“Thank you Doctor Mill, I look forward to seeing you in a few days. Have a good night.”

“Thank you.”

Elated, Whiskers disconnected the line and let out a whoop of joy. Several people walking past looked his way before entering the Gallon O Cafe shop. Swiping the files into a save bin, Whiskers sent the files as a backup to their office. Windshield clean and proud of the work, Whiskers sat back for a moment. Next step get his “secretary,” Puddles was going to get mad about that, to contact Doctor Mill. Amused at the thought of Puddles as secretary Whiskers sent her and Chuck a text.

[Found the doctor.]

[Excellent] Puddles responded.

[That’s great!] Chuck responded.

[Still watching at bar.] Puddles sent.

[End surveillance in a few minutes and meet me at Gallon O Cafe.]

10 Two Days Later

A phone call from “secretary” Puddles to arrange a meeting with Doctor Mill. Another phone call to make reservations at Middle of the World, an expensive restaurant located on the 160th floor of the Frost Spire downtown. Then two days of waiting. Puddles and Chuck continued to follow Red Hand gangers around the city, unsuccessfully. Whiskers spent the time listening to their tales, researching Doctor Mill, and concocting their plan.

Ten minutes before their meeting they pulled into valet parking. Wearing a dark business suit Whiskers exited their car swiping his issta-stick over the kiosk. Puddles wearing a matching suit and smart glasses exited from the passenger side and joined Whiskers waiting at the door. Chuck exited last, wearing a light gray suit and carrying a large case of samples.

“Ready?” Whiskers asked.

“We’ll be the best CAH augment sales people we can be,” Puddles replied sarcastically.

“Can’t we just stun him?” Chuck asked for the hundredth time.

Rolling his eyes, Whiskers turned and headed to the restaurant. The doors opened automatically as they approached. Inside, a gilded serv-O droid, greeted them, “Welcome to Middle of the World. How can I assist you?”

“We have reservations for four,” Whiskers answered, “Under CAH.”

“One second,” the droid made a pantomime of searching through a ledger even though all reservations were in the droid’s memory. “Ah,” pointing at a page, “here you are. Reservations for four. One moment,” the serv-O droid snapped its fingers summoning another serv-O droid. “If you will follow Charles, he will direct you to your table. Apparently, one of your party arrived early. Enjoy you meal.”

Charles, slightly less gilded, with a monogrammed towel over one of his thin arms, bowed, “If you will follow me. Today’s specials are…”

Chuck nudged Puddles, “We are way out of our element.”

All around them businesspeople carrying on as if this was a daily event for them. Everywhere any of them turned signs of extreme wealth, from the mem-ware clothing flashing customized corporate logos, personalized designs to the holo-displays from watches and tablets displaying just about anything that any of them could think about. Everywhere they looked a clear view of Middle Stroud unobstructed by the “Cloud” or lanes of traffic, nothing but clean buildings and advertisements.

“I think I saw the latest Kira Designs Smart Watch over there,” Chuck whispered excitedly to Puddles his tail slashing through the air with nerves and excitement.

“Try to act like you have been here,” Puddles replied as cool as she could, her tail twitching.

“…pairing that with our in house red wine,” Charles finished as they approached a table near the rear of the restaurant. “Your table. I see one of your guests, Doctor Mill, is already here. Allow me to pull out your chairs. May I get you any drinks?”

Seated at the table, his back to the restaurant, Doctor Mill sipped from a glass of red wine, while reading the menu. At their arrival, he stood up and extended his hand out between all three of them. Whiskers, grabbed his hand with a paw and shook, “Doctor Mill, a pleasure to meet you.”

11 Dinner Conversations

Puddles watched Doctor Mill try to conceal his surprise at the sight of them, three cats in suits, tails waving lazily behind them.

“Not what you were expecting?” she asked as she sat down.

Sitting down Doctor Mill, “I…I was…”

“We get that all of the time,” Chuck said as he sat down, putting the case next to his chair.

“CAH takes an unconventional approach as you can see,” Whiskers gestured to the three of them. “You were probably expecting a team of cymean technicians.”

Taking a sip from his wine, “Yes. I mean, that is who always shows up at these meetings and…”

“They prattle on for hours about the technical specs,” Chuck interrupted.

“Exactly,” Doctor Mill enthusiastically agreed.

“We won’t bore you with details you can research yourself or better yet, read the brochure,” Whiskers said with a toothy smile.

Doctor Mill laughed, and then they all shared in that laugh.

“Shall we order dinner?” Puddles asked when the laughter died down.

While waiting for their orders, “How did you find me?” Doctor Mill asked.

Puddles looked at Whiskers, “That’s easy,” Chuck replied, “you are one of the top twenty Doctors in Stroud who order augment arms and hands.”

“That makes sense.”

Whiskers tail relaxed. Puddles breathed a quiet sigh of relief into her wine as she took a sip.

“So, what do you have to offer me? Other than a fine dinner,” Doctor Mill said with a laugh.

“That’s a good one Doctor,” Whiskers replied. “I think you will like our wares. Our chief technician will give you the details,” Whiskers finished gesturing to Chuck.

Setting the case on the table, Chuck opened the case towards Doctor Mill. Resting in custom padded compartments, three augmented hands, and a selection of chips. Lights in the case illuminated all of the hands causing the chrome to shine bright, casting little rainbows across the case and table. Doctor Mill leaned forward inspecting the hands.

“These don’t look that different. Nice chrome job, but standard augments,” Doctor Mill indicated with some disappointment.

“Oh crap,” Puddles muttered into her glass.

“Excellent eye Doctor. These are indeed standard augments, manufactured by other companies,” Chuck jumped in. “Before you say anything allow me to point out the chips.”

“Chips?”

“Yes, chips. CAH does sell augments, but what CAH specializes in is modifying chips.”

Doctor Mill’s face lite up. Chuck closed the case, returning the case next to his chair as several serv-O droids appeared with their food.

“I’ll explain after the meal,” Chuck said.

An hour later, sitting back from their dinner, serv-O droids clearing away plates and filling wine glasses, Doctor Mill resumed the conversation, “Can you tell me about the modifying chips?”

Setting his glass down Chuck smoothly replied, “Easy enough, as you are aware all augments come pre-programmed.”

Doctor Mill nodded.

“How many times have patients asked for modifications such as stronger, fine motor control, or something more exotic?”

“Always.”

“And the only option you have is to use a different augment, if there is one available.”

“And there aren’t that many options.”

“CAH has quietly been testing modifying chips, to allow doctors such as yourself to have more options to meet patient requests.”

“Really?”

Whiskers made a show of looking at his watch, “I’m sorry to interrupt Doctor. Unfortunately, we have other appointments this evening. We would love to show you how our chips work, do you have a patient who might be in the market for a chip of ours?”

Doctor Mill thought for a moment, “I do have a patient. Can I send you the details?”

“That would be great. Thank you for your time Doctor Mill we look forward to hearing from you and showing you the nearly limitless opportunities of our chips.”

Riding in their car back to their office.

“I can’t believe you,” Puddles said to Chuck.

“What?” Chuck said with mock surprise.

“All of that modifying chips stuff.”

“You can thank Whiskers for that.”

Both of them looked at Whiskers in the driver’s seat.

“I found an article while researching how best to approach the doctor,” Whiskers replied, “Chuck is the best at telling stories.”

“I tell good stories,” Puddles retorted with a smile.

“Good stories if they involve pummeling someone,” Chuck said with a laugh.

“What do we do now?” Puddles asked.

“We wait,” Whiskers. “Doctor Mill will send the details and then we act. Until then everyone should get some rest.”

12 Overwatch

Ten-hours later…

“Is everyone ready?” Whiskers asked.

Puddles nodded, checking her pistol one last time. Chuck fiddled with the chip case and shook his head affirmative.

“We’re ready,” Eth said over comms.

Puddles smoothed her suit jacket out, “I hope this goes smoothly.”

“So do I,” Chuck replied.

“This does not look good,” Whiskers said pointing at a row of Red Hand bikes outside the address Doctor Mill sent them.

“Shit,” Puddles and Chuck said at the same time.

The car settled to the ground with a thump. Lower Stroud always dark, was darker here due to the number of burned out and broken lights. Parked outside of a warehouse six Red Hand bikes in a row and Doctor Mill’s luxury car. Puddles stepped out of the car scanning the darkness for trouble. Whiskers and Chuck exited the car and headed for the warehouse door. Two Red Hand gangers stepped out of the shadows blocking the door.

“You the techs the doc is expecting,” one of them mumbled.

“I certainly hope so,” Puddles replied with a smile.

“We need to search you before you can go in.”

“We have nothing to hide,” Whiskers replied.

With rough hands the two gangers quickly patted down each of them, “What’s this?” the ganger patting Puddles down said when he found her pistol.

“Personal protection is all,” she replied ignoring the looks from Whiskers and Chuck.

“You can get it when you leave.”

“I’ll take your word,” she replied with a smirk.

A ganger opened the warehouse door and stepped aside. Puddles lead the way into the warehouse looking for trouble.

“Looks like the doc set up shop here,” she said aloud. “There is enough equipment arranged around a chair for us to do our work. Doctor Mill looks scarred. Ah, I see four more Red Hands and lots of guns. That would explain the Doc.”

As soon as Chuck’s tail passed over the threshold, the door closed behind him, “Those are some nice augments each of them have.”

Doctor Mill shouted, “There you are. I was telling Twist about your chips. You did bring the chips?” he finished an octave or two higher.

“Yes Doctor Mill, we brought a small sample of chips,” Whiskers shouted back.

“Targets down,” Eth said over the comm-system.

“That is good news,” Whisker replied.

Outside…

As soon as the door closed, the gangers relaxed, one of them leaning against the wall, the other lighting up a stick. Leaning against the wall, he took a long drag on the stick, exhaling a moment later.

“How much longer?” He asked the other ganger.

A shrug was his response.

Another long drag, another exhale.

John dropped into the alley as soon as Puddles began talking to the gangers. He was in position to take both of the gangers out by the time the search was finished. Now he waited, listening to Puddles description of the inside the warehouse over comms. Satisfied with what he heard, he edged to the corner and peeked. The smoking ganger blew out another cloud of smoke as John stepped around the corner and fired four times, the first two dropped the smoker, the third and fourth shots dropped the remaining ganger.

13 The Deal

“Damnit Eth, do your share and help me get these two into the alley,” John snapped at Eth as he struggled with the ganger’s legs.

“I’m doing the best I can. I don’t want this suit ruined.”

“I’ll buy you a new one.”

“That would make four you owe me,” Eth testily replied, “I’ll go with working slower.”

“Fine, let’s get the second one before shit goes South inside.”

Inside…

Puddles cracked a smile listening to John and Eth bicker. Walking past Puddles, Chuck drug a wheeled tray next to the chair, placing his case on the tray he waited. Whiskers extended a paw to Red Twist in greeting.

“Are you are guinnea pig?” he said with a smile.

Doctor Mill let out a nervous laugh.Twist grasped Whiskers paw with his red meme-tattooed augmented fist, the meme-tattoo flaring red before flames burst from the knuckles along the back of the fist, a gentle pressure before releasing.

“That is awesome!” Chuck shouted.

“That is a very nice augment,” Whiskers said.

“Custom made,” Twist growled, “I understand you have chips that may make our jobs easier.”

“I think we do,” Whiskers eagerly replied.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Puddles said, “is there a bathroom?”

A ganger with a silver augment pointed to the back of the warehouse, “Over there.”

Stepping between the gangers, Puddles made a mental note of their visible augments, and holstered guns, “I will be back in a second.”

“As I was saying,” Whiskers resumed, “we at CAH have developed several chips for testing, which is ongoing. If you are willing, my technician,” pointing towards Chuck who smiled and opened the case, “will install a beta chip of your choice provided you are willing to meet with again in a month so we can gather the data.”

While Whiskers spoke, the scowl on Twist’s face turned into something resembling interest and ending with suspicion at least that is what Chuck thought, gromathi faces are so hard to read.

“Install them into them first,” Twist growled, the meme-tattoo briefly flaring.

“Into them,” Whiskers stuttered looking to Chuck. “We came prepared to…”

“Them or no deal,” Twist growled with finality.

“Can’t you accommodate Twist and his men?” Doctor Mill practically whined, looking ready to bolt. “I told him you would be ready to sell.”

Chuck stepped around the table one paw on the case, “Sell? That is a bit more than we discussed Doctor. However, we can install chips in your men and you, if you would like. Our accounting department might not be happy, but our tech team,” Chuck smiled big, “will be ecstatic at all of the information.”

Doctor Mill looked at Twist. Twist put his augmented hand to his chin, the mem-tattoo flames dancing as he thought. Snapping his fingers, the three gangers stepped forward.

“Them first, then me,” Twist growled, “If nothing goes wrong we can discuss another meeting.”

Whiskers stuck his paw out, “Deal.”

Stepping into the bathroom, Puddles keyed her comm, “Are you two done bickering?”

“I wasn’t…”

“John?” Puddles interrupted.

“Here. What is the situation?”

“I’m in the bathroom. Twist brought three more with him. Augmented hands and heavy pistols,” Puddles said quietly while flushing the toilet.

“You weren’t kidding about the toilet,” Eth said.

“I’m in position by their bikes,” John replied, “give the go phrase if I can take him down inside.”

“Will do.”

14 Goes Down

Strolling back to the meeting, tail swishing, humming a tune, Puddles watched as a ganger sat in the chair, put his augmented arm onto a tabletop built into the armrest. Chuck, maintaining his role as technician, made a show of pulling out several tools to open the back of the ganger’s augment. Twist stood behind and to the right of the chair watching Chuck work. Doctor Mill stood off to the side near the edge of the lighting talking in rapid-fire whispers to Whiskers.

“This will take a few minutes,” Chuck said with authority. “Open this port and connect this and…”

“How is the operation goin’?” Puddles asked as she slide next to Twist.

Twist glared at her for a moment, Puddles smiled back, “Your men are in good hands,” she said with a wink.

“Good hands,” Chuck repeated with a laugh, “that’s a good one.”

The gangers and Twist started laughing.

“Hold still for a second,” Chuck ordered the ganger as he pushed a few buttons after slotting the chip in place. “See, green lights, everything is a go. You should notice a difference in the next few hours.”

“Check him,” Twist ordered.

Another ganger pulled out a square object and waved the object over the other ganger’s augment. A series of bleeps and tones sounded before a light in the center turned green. The ganger held the screen to Twist, who nodded.

“What’s that?” Puddles asked pointing at the device.

“Nothing you need to be concerned with,” Twist replied with a growl, Puddles took a step back.

“Who’s next?” Chuck asked.

Twist pointed at a ganger who sat down in the chair. When Twist turned away, Puddles walked over to Whiskers and Doctor Mill still deep in conversation.

“I am not sure I understand,” Whiskers whispered at Doctor Mill.

Sweating with panic in his every move, “You don’t understand who they are. He will kill all of us if your chips don’t work!”

“Doctor, please calm down,” Whiskers replied putting a paw on Doctor Mill’s arm. “What exactly is the problem?”

“I owe a lot of isstas to…”

“Him,” Puddles interjected, “I would guess.”

Doctor Mill nearly collapsed, Whiskers’ held him up, “Is this why you have done so much replacement work for him?”

Doctor Mill shook his head.

Puddles leaned closed to his right ear, “Trust me Doc, this IS under control.”

He looked at her as if she was crazy.

In Puddles ear John said, “Three clear signals. Get the fourth and we are good.”

Whiskers nodded to Puddles and walked over to Chuck. Twist sat in the chair with a heavy thud, watching every move Chuck made.

“Everything coming along?” Whiskers asked Chuck.

“Of course,” he replied, “and done.”

Twist stood up, waited for the green light, flexing his augment the entire time, “Feels good.”

“Then we have a deal?” Whiskers asked.

“Yes we do.”

“Four clear signals,” John said into Puddles ear.

Whiskers handed Twist a holo-card, “In three weeks, call this number for the follow up. If you do not call, the chips will cease functioning on their own.”

Twist growled, “You will hear from me.”

15 Dinner For Five

“Nothing better than a bowl of noodles after a job,” Puddles said while running her tongue over her teeth.

“Eth, John join us,” Chuck greeted the new arrivals.

Smoothing his memware suit Eth strutted across NiHo’s to their table. John took off his wrap around smart glasses, put them into an interior pocket of his black jacket, and scanned the restaurant as he stalked towards the table. Eth sat down and immediately pulled the menu up. John sat down with a thud and a sigh.

“What’s wrong with him?” Puddles asked Eth.

“Long night,” John replied with a grunt.

“Him, he was hoping to take Red Twist down tonight,” Eth replied at the same time.

Facing the table, John pulled up the menu and placed his order before slumping back in his chair. Whiskers leaned with both elbows on the table, intent on the tablet in front of him. Eth flipped through a few holo-screens before settling on dinner.

“What’s so interesting?” John asked pointing at the tablet.

“Tracking information,” Whiskers replied without looking up.

“I wanted to ask how you fooled their signal tracker,” Eth said.

Chuck set his drink down, leaning towards Eth, “That was easy.”

“Easy?”

“Yes, easy. I told them what they wanted to hear.”

“And what was that,” John interjected, picking up his drink.

“I told them that each chip was collecting data, part of collecting data is sending out bits of data,” Chuck explained with a smile, “thus when they used their signal tracker it told them what they expected that some signal was broadcasting.”

Smiling with understanding, Eth slammed his drink down. A serv-O droid rushed over to refill his drink and top off the rest. John’s brow furrowed, he steepled his fingers in front of his mouth.

“You hope Red Twist believes that,” he said flat toned, “because if he doesn’t he will find you three.”

Whiskers looked up from the tablet, “That is assuming you do not fulfill your contract and arrest him,” Whiskers held up his right paw stalling John’s retort, “Of course if you cannot before the follow up meeting we can coordinate together to arrest him then.”

“I’ll get the job done,” John replied testitly.

“Okay Eth, we took care of our part, now you do yours,” Puddles shot at Eth.

John shot Eth a glare. Eth held up his hands in mock protest.

“Two gangers is all we need and the sooner the better,” Puddles pushed on.

“I’ll find you two,” Eth answered. “Won’t be hard at all.”

Whiskers pushed the tablet over to John who picked up the tablet studying the information intensely. Two serv-O droids rolled out to the table and served hot bowls of noodles.

“This is accurate?” John asked pointing at the tablet.

“Within a few feet,” Whiskers replied.

John sat back, eating and studying the tablet.

“When do you want the gangers?” Eth asked.

“A day or two,” Puddles replied.