|Sketch in My Notebook|
Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.
This week, we flash back to 2003...
The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 14: October 10, 2003
I write these stories for a few reasons. Yes, I like to write, but I also want to attract interest in this blog and in my writing in general. My first book, Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki, is out for the Kindle App and on Patreon, and the follow-up, Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto, came out just last month. These are D&D-style fantasy adventures; they use the same WTF-style plotting that I use in all of my writing. If you like Dr. Necropolis or any of my RPG stuff, you will probably like the Sneax stuff, too. As of thise writing, Sneax is rocking a solid 4.6 stars in Amazon's reviews section. Don't take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.
“That’s a nice suit,” Jaynie said softly. “Why don’t you ever dress like that?”
Frank looked up, followed her eyes. He saw an Asian man, maybe ten years older than he was himself. Black hair, stern eyes, decidedly athletic figure. It could only be Gao.
His suit was very nice. Cut from dark grey wool with just a hint of red and blue woven into the fabric, the coat hung immaculately over Gao’s muscular frame. The material was lightweight, but it looked soft and rich despite the harsh fluorescent lights recessed into the diner’s ceiling, giving not a hint of shine even in the glaringly ugly light. Gao had matched that fabric with a starched white shirt and—naturally—a dark red silk tie.
What other color could it be? Frank thought idly. It’s either red because it’s lucky, or it’s red because red is the color of power in men’s fashion, or else perhaps this is some kind of oblique patriotic homage to Gao’s masters back in Beijing.
It’s thrice red, Frank decided. The poor man probably needs a little boost right about now.
The entire world had just spent the past nine months watching American armor successfully invade Iraq and humble its massive army with a mere two heavy infantry divisions. This despite having scrapped fully one third of the invasion’s planned combat power due to Turkey’s last-minute refusal to allow access for a third division via the war’s northern frontier. America’s army had nevertheless gone forth quickly and confidently, seizing its objectives and pounding attempted resistance into discordant uselessness in a matter of weeks. The debut of “shock and awe” had indeed shocked and awed, though that plan’s true recipients were scattered a bit further afield, perhaps, than had been strictly anticipated by the war’s planners.
Or perhaps not, Frank thought. Perhaps this is what they wanted all along.
Whatever the intent, Colonel Gao Min Li of the People’s Liberation Army had come a long way looking for a potential Chinese response to a doctrine that his nation’s army could not yet hope to match on any terms beyond its simple advantage in overwhelming manpower. The smart folks in the PLA weren’t overly sanguine about the strength of that advantage, however. Even truly overwhelming numbers were of no use when a nation’s infantry had been pounded to uselessness, too dazed and overwhelmed by bombing to get up out of its foxholes.
Frank stood as Gao approached the table where he and Jaynie sat picking at a lunch they’d ordered by way of setting a meeting place. He held out his hand. “My friend,” he said obliquely as they shook, “thank you for coming.”
“You gave me little choice, Doctor…?”
“McGuinness,” Frank replied. He smiled and tried to project an easy confidence. “Dr. Frank McGuinness.”
Gao took his seat, face showing skepticism. “My colleagues in the American Directorate have taken to calling you Dr. Necropolis, I’m afraid, Dr. McGuinness. They told me that this was a fool’s errand, that your so-called invention will—at best—turn our nation’s soldiers into a city of the walking dead. They fear our troops will be little better than zombies under the influence of your so-called battle drug.” Gao leaned back and spread his hands invitingly. “I assume that you are prepared to prove that this is not the case.”
Frank gave Gao a serious look. “Colonel, I assure you, your people will want what I’m selling. I’m not some simple drug dealer. I am a scientist.”
“Oh?” Gao raised an eyebrow. “My sources tell me that a drug dealer is exactly what you are, doctor. They say that you sell a sex drug to club kids, and that this is what’s making your fortune. Indeed, it seems to me that you’ve brought one of your teenaged concubines to this very meeting.”
Jaynie bristled at that, and Frank looked at her fondly. She’d grown her hair out a little since they’d first met, and a steady diet of high living had put a bit of weight on her. She wasn’t—quite—the same rail-thin party girl he’d met at the a downtown rave two years ago. Still, it wasn’t like they made an obvious couple or anything. Frank was in his mid-thirties, a little paunchy, and dressed like what he was—an obvious nerd. Blue polyester shirt, ill-fitting khaki slacks, what Jaynie called “hopelessly horrible” shoes. There was nothing for it. He had a doctorate in molecular biology, a piece of a very profitable boutique practice at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and a thriving business in underground designer party drugs that he created himself for the upper class club kids of lower Manhattan. But he would never be cool. Cool was Jaynie’s thing. Green eyes, languid grace, and ready sex; it had taken a battle to get her to wear a collared shirt to this meeting, and there was no force on Earth that could make her wear a bra when she didn’t feel like it. Even now, Frank could see the barest hints of her nipples peaking through the fabric of her blouse. She liked dressing to distract but felt contempt for the easily distractable, Frank knew.
He thought she was perfect.
“My associate has her uses,” he replied eventually.
Gao gave him a lewd look. “I’m sure that she does. However, those uses seem ill-suited to a meeting of this nature.”
Jaynie smiled at him. “I’m sitting right here, big guy. I can hear every word you say.”
Despite everything, Frank found himself wondering what it would take to teach Gao some manners. It couldn’t be a fistfight, obviously. Gao looked like he could handle himself. Besides, anything too overt might spoil the deal, especially if what Gao had said about his colleagues’ opinions of Frank’s work was true. He couldn’t allow himself to come off looking like some petty underworld kingpin, not with the money the Chinese were talking about spending. Still, the product he’d brought for Chinese—AMP—wasn’t the only thing that he’d designed recently…
Better not, he decided reluctantly. Too much risk. Designer psychotropics would have to wait.
Reluctantly, Frank pulled a money clip from his pocket and slid it into Jaynie’s hands. “Why don’t you give us a minute, baby? Go buy yourself something, okay?”
She looked at him, eyes serious now. “You sure?”
Frank nodded and let himself smile. “I’m not in any danger, I promise. Come back in half an hour or so. Make sure you pay with cash.”
“Fine. Just don’t do anything stupid, Frank.”
“You know me better than that.”
“That’s why I’m worried,” she replied.
She kissed him on the cheek and then turned and started away, walking with a grace that was almost unnatural. Frank watched her, watched the way that her hips moved, and wondered idly if she was purposefully putting on a show. She wasn’t above it. She’d worn a short leather skirt and fishnets with a distinct line stitched up the back, perhaps expressly for the purpose of walking away gracefully should the need arise.
She was a planner like that. It was one of Frank’s favorite things about her.
“You seem fond of her,” Gao observed.
Frank returned Gao’s look with one of his own. He wondered again how the man would like screaming through the effects of a chemically induced nightmare, whether it would break Gao’s sanity, and if it did, what the PLA would do about it. Would they send a replacement to finish the deal?
How much was he willing to pay to find out?
“She’s not just some concubine,” he said at last. “She’s my partner. Dealing drugs in this city can be a little dangerous, believe it or not. Even sex drugs. Market competition, and…” Frank shrugged, “...you know. I can get a little cerebral if you want to know the truth. I’m not always real good about living in the moment. But my partner there, my gun girl, if you will… she’s not like that. She’s more of a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type. We complement each other.”
“I see,” Gao replied. “And was she armed today? There seemed little enough place to hide a weapon in that outfit you put her in.”
Frank leaned back, let a wry smile spread across his face. “A good magician never reveals his secrets, Colonel. Now, I believe you wanted to talk to me about acquiring the formula for one of my battle drugs. Tell me, sir, has your nation started to harness the power of its ultra-humans yet?”
“I don’t understand what you mean,” Gao said slowly.
“Of course you don’t,” Frank replied. “This is why your people sent you here with stories about my being a drug dealer. But like I said, Colonel, I’m not just some pusher on the south side of Manhattan. I’m a scientist. And what I’m trying to sell you will change the world. You just have to be willing to commit to it.”
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