The Family

Fiction detailing the ongoing events on the Homeline and numerous parallel Worldlines.

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The Family

Post by Keeper » Thu Oct 09, 2014 7:25 am

THE FAMILY

The boy was fourteen. He wore jeans and a checked shirt over a white T. His brown sneakers were of a good quality, matching his clothes.

He had had an argument with his father this morning and had stormed out of their apartment and got on the overhead that stopped just outside their building.
He had sat in the crowded carriage fuming at his father. He got at one station and straight onto another. Finally after an hour he got off the train with no idea where he was.
This part of the city was run down. Many of the shops that lined the street outside the station were boarded up, the wooden shuttering covered in graffiti. The boy didn’t care, he shoved his hands in his pockets and walked west along the litter strewn sidewalk.

It was so unfair! His parents had dragged him away to this damned place. Away from his friends because his father had business here and they thought it would be nice for his to get away for a while, see something different.

What would have been nice for him would have been seeing Rachel.
Rachel Heaseman had been his friend since elementary school. Her father was into politics, he was a governor now.
The boy had started looking at Rachel differently about a year ago and had finally plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date, a proper boyfriend-girlfriend date. It had been the last day of school. She had looked shocked and not really given him an answer, which he took as a good sign. Normally Rachel wasn’t backwards in speaking her mind.
He had called her this morning and she had said that her father wasn’t going to let her see him any more as a friend or girlfriend.
He had been gutted, and the fact that she was really angry with her father didn’t make it any better.
He told his mother over breakfast and his father had overheard and said that he shouldn’t worry because he didn’t want him seeing her either.
That’s when they had argued. His father had said it was time he grew up, he couldn’t let his older brothers do all the work, he had ha lot to learn about the world and he should remember his place and do as he was told.

Walking along the street he kicked a discarded soda can. It clattered across the uneven paving slabs, jumped as it struck a raised corner and bounced with a metallic ‘thunk’ off the door of a car.

“Hey, you little fuck!” called a red faced man with thick sideburns and moustache as he leaned out of the car window and wagged a accusing, fat finger. “You want me to come out there and paste your ass all over the sidewalk?”
The boy looked horrified. “Oh, I’m sorry sire! I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
“Well that’s not going to help fix the damage now, is it?” the red faced gut growled.
Looking harder at the car, the boy struggled to see one panel that wasn’t scratched, dented or holed with rust.
“I’m sorry,” the boy repeated, not sure what else to say.
The pudgy finger wagged at him. “Sorry, my ass! You owe me kid.”
With a creak that made the boy jump, the car door started to open and the boy took a step back.
The man was heaving himself around and the boy only now noticed how obese the man was.

Suddenly a tell thin figure appeared beside the door and slammed it shut.
This new arrival, dressed in hi-top trainers, cargo pants and a hoody leaned into the window and hissed at the fat man.
“Take a pill, slim!”
The red faced man’s eyes widened. The boy thought he looked scared.
“Get lost!” the new person said.
With that the car coughed to life, thick black smoke poured from the back and the wreck wheezed its way down the street.

Chuckling to himself the young man gave the boy a smile with a thin lipped small mouth that was framed with a neatly trimmed goatee. He was thin but that made his features mean rather than gaunt.
His eyes were sunk in dark sockets and were small and dark themselves.
Pulling his hood back he gave the boy a quick nod of his head in greeting.
“You alright kid?”
The boy looked at him.
He chuckled again. “Hey man, it’s cool! I ain’t gonna hurt you or nothin’. The name’s Proof.”
The boy returned the nodded greeting. “Tarlan.”
“Tarlan?” Proof mulled the name over.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:47 am

The boy continued to stare nervously at the young man.
“Unusual name,” Proof mused.
“So is Proof!” Tarlan responded almost automatically.
It made Proof chuckle again. “It’s just what they call me,” he shrugged.
“Why?”
“Don’t matter. So, you lost or something?”
“No!” Tarlan snapped, embarrassed that he was indeed lost, in so far as he had no idea where he was. He thought he had a good idea how to get back to the station and how hard could it be to find his way back to Westchester?
Proof raised his hands defensively. “Hey man, chill! No problem.”
He had sized up the boy as he had been walking along the street with his hands in his pockets, all clean and expensive looking. Sussed him for an up-towner in an instant. Why else would an up-town kid be wandering through Derville if he wasn’t lost?
“Listen, kid,” Proof smiled apologetically. “Tarlan,” he corrected himself, “me and some of the guys are shooting hoops down at the courts. It just around the corner. You wanna come?”
Tarlan thought about what his father would say. He’d tell him not to associate with these sorts. His mother would tell him not to go off with strangers. One part of him wanted to obey his mother’s advice, but the other part, the part that was angry at his dad said, Fuck father!.
“Shooting hoops?” Tarlan inquired.
“Shit man, you are lost!” Proof laughed giving Tarlan a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Basketball?”
“Oh, right. I’ve never played basketball before.”
“Get the hell out of here!” Proof said disbelievingly.
Tarlan shook his head.
Proof laughed again. “Don’t sweat it. The way some of the guys shoot you’d think they’d never played either! Come on.”

Proof led Tarlan to a space between two tall apartment blocks.
The buildings were made of the same brown concrete that most of Derville was constructed of. Separating the two blocks was a space about thirty meters wide of the same brown concrete. Benches were dotted around the perimeter, mostly clustered adjacent to raised beds that may once have contained flowers and plant but now were mostly bare dry earth, and litter.
At the far end of the space was a park, swings, slides, climbing frames for younger kids.
Closer, the remaining space had been divided into three basketball courts surrounded by high chain-link fences.
Tarlan counted about a dozen young men and boys about his age in the nearest court.
A wailing siren echoed off the walls and the group stopped playing. One of them catching the ball and holding it. They looked around suspiciously.
Suddenly the siren got louder and everyone watched the sky as a red and white lev shot overhead, its electric blue anti-grav coils glowing against the dark underside of the vehicle.
Upon seeing it was just an EMT ambulance the group resumed its game.
The game stopped again when Proof approached with Tarlan on tow. Several of them were scoping out the new kid.
Proof introduced him and everyone said “Hi.”
Proof told them that Tarlan was a friend from up-town and they were to play nice as he was new to the game.
It took him a while to get the hang of the rules, and the guys went easy on him, but after a while, once it looked like he was doing okay, they started getting rougher, playing their normal style of game.
Tarlan noticed a group of girls, probably aged about seventeen watching the game. Sometimes they cheered when someone scored, others they ridiculed for missing the shot.
It was obvious that one or two of the girls had boyfriends on the court.
The game was going great and the two teams, identified by the coloured bandana they were wearing were evenly matched and both aggressively passionate about beating the opposition.
Tarlan jumped in to intercept a pass shoulder barged a guy they called Rags to the ground. He got up angry and shoved Tarlan against the fence.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 14, 2014 2:31 pm

“You got a problem, little man?” Rags asked with threat dripping from every word.
Tarlan looked up, scared. Rags was a big guy, probably six feet tall and built like a line-backer.
His wide nose shone with sweat and his dark brown eyes were daring Tarlan to make a move against him.
The boy slid to the floor and remained there staring up at the big black man.
“Hit him!” a shrill voice called from the group of girls.
Rags looked their way and grinned, flashing white teeth.
“You just watch it you little punk or I’ll give Hannah what she wants to see.”
Tarlan nodded.
“Now,” Rags called to the rest of the gang. “Pass me that Damned ball.”
The game carried on and Tarlan got to his feet brushing himself down. He felt a little shaky.
Proof came up to him. “Come on man,” he said. “I reckon he’s just testin’ you. He does that to the new guys. You stand up to him man, he’ll respect that.”
“Okay,” Tarlan gave Proof what he hoped was a confident nod of thanks.
The game carried on and Tarlan felt relieved what Rags gave him a high-five when he scored his first hoop.
Tarlan was smiling happily, enjoying himself. He had forgotten all about the argument with his father.

“That was a pretty good shot, man,” Rags said. “Puts your score ahead of ours don’t it?”
“Sure does, Rags,” Tarlan smirked.
“That’s what my friends call me.”
“Sorry, what?” Tarlan asked turning to face Rags.
“I said, that’s what my friends call me, you ain’t no friend of mine, punk. I don’t even know you mother-fucker!”
Rags was squaring up to him again and Tarlan backed off.
“Don’t go callin’ me that again, you shit.”
Tarlan looked nervously at the rest of the gang. They were all watching impassively.
“Sorry. I didn’t realise.” Tarlan remembered what Proof had said.
“Perhaps you should have told me first instead of getting all upset about it.”
Rags gave him the sort of look that said he couldn’t believe what he had just heard.
“What you say to me?”
Tarlan glanced nervously around, saw them all watching him, the girls too.
“I think I’d better be heading home,” the fourteen year old said, a little quiver in his voice. He stepped around Rags, staring straight at the gate in the fence.
Rags’ meaty hand grabbed his shirt, threw him back into the fence again, then got up close, almost nose to nose.
“You don’t leave til we say so boy,” Rags hissed the last word like it was some sort of curse.
Tarlan could have hated himself for it but said, “My father will be looking for me He…”
His words were cut off as Rags punched him in the stomach.
“I don’t give a shit about your father, boy. But I do reckon I like the sneakers, and your watch.”
“Do the little bastard again!” a female voice shrilled. Tarlan guessed it must be Hannah.
The boy searched the faces of those around him. He was doubled up and looking up through tear rimmed eyes. He appeared at that moment a lot smaller than he really was.
“Proof?” the boy implored, hoping his new friend would come to his rescue.
Proof just shrugged at him.
Rags grabbed his shoulder making him stand up straight.
Tarlan felt his legs wobble.
Rags hit him again, knocking the wind out of him, but his big hand held tight to Tarlan’s shoulder stopping him falling.
Tarlan coughed and struggled to draw breath, his face going red in the effort.
Rags’ huge fist drew back for another go.
“Wait!” Proof commanded and Rags stopped.
“Back off. Leave him alone.”
Rags looked questioningly at Proof who nodded seriously.
The big guy backed off as commanded, but not before giving Tarlan a smack across the head.
It wasn’t hard but it was enough to make him stumble sideways.
Proof caught him before he fell over.
“You alright?” he asked.
Tarlan nodded gratefully, gasping in great lungfuls of air. “I gotta go home,” he wheezed.
“Go home?” Proof shrugged at him. “Why’d you come down here?”
Tarlan wasn’t about to tell these assholes about his argument with his father, not now. So he said, “I just wanted to see the city.”
Proof laughed, his thin lips stretching thinner as they were pulled tightly over his yellow teeth.
“Tourist, huh?” he mused. “Well you know there’s a tithe, don’t ya?”
Tarlan eyed the tall thin man warily. “You what?”
“A tithe. A tax. A tourism tax. Time to pay up, boy,” Proof said as his hand slid from his pocket.
Brass rings lined his knuckles, he adjusted the duster for a better fit and lashed out at Tarlan.
The metal hit Tarlan’s cheek. Inside his head the boy thought he heard something important crunch. His vision went black for an instant and when it cleared he found himself face down on the hard court. He could taste blood and gravel in his mouth.
Blinking to clear his vision he saw Proof looming over him. Putting a hand up defensively the boy cried out. “Please stop!”
Proof punched him again.
He heard it for definite this time, his jaw bone snapping.
“Stop!” the boy cried again, but the blood bubbling in his mouth strangled the sound.
Proof stooped and took the boy’s expensive watch from his limp wrist.
“I like his watch too,” Proof grinned at Rags, slipping the strap over his own wrist.
He looked up after adjusting the strap to fit and spotted a long black limousine pulling to a halt near the kerbside.
“He’s all yours, boys.”
Proof strolled over towards the car, the sounds of fists and boots striking meat and cries of pain behind him.
A girl laughed hysterically some way off.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 14, 2014 2:32 pm

The passenger window rolled silently down and an olive skinned man, short cropped black hair and mirrored glasses leaned out.
“The Cross wants a word about Tuesday’s job.”
Proof walked quickly to the back of the car, opened the door and slid into the dark interior.
The Cross and two of his henchmen were inside.
The Cross was a man in his mid-fifties, balding with silver hair and a thin pencil moustache.
“Boss,” Proof said in greeting.
The Cross looked out through the open door, across the drab concrete space to where nearly a dozen young men and what he could only call kids were kicking what looked like a young lad around the court.
Every now and then a meaty slap would drift into the quiet interior of the car.
“What’s that about?” The Cross asked calmly.
Proof shrugged nonchalantly.
“Nothing much boss, just taxing some uptown kid.”
The Cross rolled his eyes. “Didn’t I say to knock that crap on the head?”
“Lets the boys let off steam, boss.”
The cross shook his head in dismay. “Whatever, so long as it doesn’t affect business.”
“It won’t boss, don’t worry.”
Frowning at his subordinate The Cross watched as a young girl broke away from their pack and ran into the courtyard
“Stop it!” she was screaming, “Stop! You’ll kill him!”
She pushed her way through the men and stood defiantly between them and the inert body of the fourteen year old boy.
The young men cursed at her and told her to stop spoiling their fun, yet none made a move against her.
“Your sister has her head on straight. You shouldn’t kill the boy in your own back yard,” The Cross warned.
Proof nodded agreement to The Cross, leaned out of the car and whistled to get the gang’s attention. He drew his hand like a knife across his own throat signalling that the game was over.
“You’ll have to decide whether you’re going to kill him at all, you know. If his parents or whoever could cause trouble. Who is he?” The Cross said dispassionately.
“Like I said, some uptown kid.”
The Cross sighed. “His name?”
Proof shrugged like it was insignificant. “Tarlan.”
The Cross waited then found he had to probe further. “Tarlan what?”
“Dunno.”
With a sigh The Cross rubbed his eyes tiredly. “What have I said about knowing who you are dealing with. How can you expect to make ain informed decision about how to deal with someone if you have no idea who they are?”
fidgeting uncomfortable, despite the soft leather seat, Proof nodded and leaned out of the car for a second time.
“Search him and bring me what he’s got,” he called over.
“What about these?” Rags called back holding Tarlan’s sneakers aloft.
“No, not them,” Proof barked.
One of the gang, a fifteen year old boy with blond hair and a wide nose broken beyond repair from fighting in bare knuckle bouts at the local gym carried over a handful of items.
“Gimme his wallet,” Proof said taking it from the blond kid. His attention was divided between the contents of the wallet and of the kids hands.
The kid whistled in amazement.
“Not bad, Proof, oh hello The…. Mr….. Cross, erm, yeah, like there’s a thousand bucks on this credstick.”
“Nice!” Proof said, pleased with that haul. Rifling through the wallet he found a medical information card. Doctors could scan the card and get all the details of the patients medical records and even their genetic fingerprint.
“What’s this?” the kid asked, looking at a credit card sized device with a button in the middle. The button had a sliding cover on it to stop it being pressed accidentally.
Proof gave another of his characteristic shrugs. “No idea.”
The kid slid the cover aside and poised his thumb over the button.
The Cross’ attention drifted from Proof, whom he was waiting upon for an answer, to the object in the kid’s hand.
“Don’t….” he barked but it was too late.
As the kid’s thumb brushed against the silvery button the edge of the card illuminated neon red. A moment later the words ‘PANICARD™ ACTIVATED’ appeared on the previously blank surface.
“You idiot!” The Cross snarled. “Now the law and the medics have been alerted to the kid’s location.”
“You idiot!” Proof echoed.
“Who is he?” The Cros snatched the ID card from Proof’s hand.
He read the name on the card and his eyes widened and he swallowed hard.
“You fucking idiot!” he swore.
Proof shook his head at the blond kid disapprovingly.
“Not him! You!”
Proof looked offended.
“You see the name on that card?” The Cross asked.
Proof read it.
“Cobretti? Why do I know that name?”
The Cross scowled at him. “That is the youngest son of Vitto Cobretti, you fucking moron!”
Proof blanched white. “Oh shit!”
“Get out!” The Cross ordered. “Get everyone the hell out of here. There can’t be anyone here when they come.”
Proof scrambled out of the car almost knocking the blond kid over.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Thu Oct 23, 2014 10:33 am

The EMT paramedic flinched when he saw the bleeding swollen form that looked more like a giant Spanish sausage wrapped in bloody rags than an actual human being.
He looked around the area but there was no one else about. He wondered very briefly who had set off the Panicard, which was laying on the ground half covered in congealing blood.
He closed the gap to the boy and immediately checked his vital signs. Finding the pulse was difficult but it was there.
Strapping a bio-scanner to the boys arm he activated it and applied the medication it told him to.
His partner arrived and she helped get the boy onto a gurney.
Within three minutes of arriving, just ten minutes after the card had been activated, the ambulance lifted off the road and soared above the endless brown tenements.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Oct 29, 2014 1:27 pm

There were voices, that much he could tell, but he couldn’t make out who they were.
Whoever it was, was speaking softly, like someone waiting patiently and not wanting to disturb someone. But he couldn’t understand what they were saying either.
He realised his eyes were shut and tried to open them. They wouldn’t open.
Something touched his head, warm and soft. A hand stroked his across forehead and down his cheek. His senses concentrated on the contact.
“Tarlan?” a quiet, slightly worried voice whispered.
A warm glow spread across him, fighting away the rising panic. His mother’s voice.
“Mum?” his own voice was cracked and faint. The sound of it made him realise that he couldn’t hear in one ear and he wondered why that was?
“It’s okay darling, you’re safe now my sweetheart.
“Mum! I couldn’t make them stop!” the horror of the beating flooded back and tears rolled down his swollen cheeks. “I kept screaming for them to stop!”
“Who boy? Who did you try to stop? Who did this to you?”
This voice was older, harsher, full of authority. It was his father’s.
“Sorry, father,” Tarlan managed.
“Sorry? Don’t you waste time with sorry…”
“Vitto!” his mother warned her husband.
“Alright son, you rest now,” his father said, his voice softer now and his hand pressing his son’s. “You get better and we’ll talk then, okay?”
Tarlan clutched his father’s hand tight. His dad had always looked after them, protected them all. Him, his two brothers and his sister.
“Mum,” he croaked. “I can’t feel my legs.”
Martha Cobretti wept silently.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Oct 29, 2014 1:28 pm

Marlan Cobretti followed the family tradition of tall men. He was six feet and three inches tall and built like an Olympic athlete.
Unlike Pauli, the eldest brother, Marlan got his physique through hours of training in the gym and on the track. He’d had a crack at the Olympic qualifiers when he was nineteen. He’d tried out for the two hundred and four hundred meter sprints. He would have had a good chance too except for the disclosure of a juvenile record, which instantly disqualified him from the team.
He had dark eyes, like the rest of his family, dark hair, worn short and was clean shaven.
Dressed in a suit and long coat he was out of place on the street where litter lined the walls and gathered mouldering in the gutters.

Standing on the opposite side of the road to the courts he cast his eyes about the brown tenements suspiciously.
Reaching into a pocket he produced a packet of cigarettes. He fished around some more and found he had left his lighter behind.
Turning from the basketball courts he moved further along the street to a mini-market that hid behind barred windows and big concrete anti-ram raid barriers.
Pushing the door open made a quaint bell-like alarm sound further in the shop.
He strode to the counter and asked for a lighter.
The shopkeeper, behind his wire mesh, was an old guy, probably in his sixties.
The old man nodded and reached under the counter for a disposable lighter. “That it?” he asked, to which Marlan replied with a single nod.
“Sixteen yen.”
Marlan slid his credstick into the slot and paid.
“You looking for something fella?” the shopkeeper asked.
Marlan knew his crisp, clean designer suit made him stand out a mile.
“Guy who calls himself Proof?”
The shopkeeper’s raised eyebrows told him that the old man knew who he was talking about, and also that he didn’t approve.
“Don’t know where, but he works for The Cross. The Cross don’t take to folks messing with his boys, if you know what I mean.”
Marlan told him he did know, thanked him and stepped back outside, lighting the cigarette as he went.
He walked over to the courts. No one was playing.
It hadn’t rained for weeks. There was a dark stain on the court near one of the fences.
Marlan stood beside it, looking at the way the blood, he’d seen enough bloodstains to recognise them instantly, had flowed into the hollows and around some of the peaks in the concrete. It was a big stain, which meant a lot of blood. His brother’s blood.
“Hey buddy, you lost?” a voice from the other side of the fence asked.
Jaw clenched, Marlan turned on the guy. He must have been five foot six and probably no more than a hundred pounds wet through! He looked like a thug; scruffy clothing, tattoos on his face and knuckles. He had a narrow face with a long nose and beady little eyes.
“You figuring on spending some time in hospital?” Marlan threatened.
The confidence drained out of the guy and he backed away nervously.
“What’s your name?” Marlan asked. The guy gave it. Not one on his list. He knew the guy wasn’t lying too, he always knew a lie.
“You know where I can find Proof?”
The guy shrugged and shook his head.
“Come on, you can do better than that.”
Again the guy shook his head.
“I can’t, he’s one of The Cross’ men.”
Marlan frowned and gave a resigned sigh. “So I keep hearing,” he muttered. “So, where do I find the Cross fella?”
The guy backed away slowly. “Don’t know,” he said quickly and loudly and ran towards one of the apartment blocks.
Marlan returned to the shop.
“Where do I find The Cross?”
The old guy behind the counter gestured over his shoulder with his thumb.
“Place is called Ivory Tower, ironically enough. Tallest building around here. But you don’t look like the sort wanting to be messin’ with The Cross, if you don’t mind me sayin’”
Marlan grinned. “Nice of you to say so, pops, but the truth is, I’m the sort of guy he doesn’t want to have messin’ with him.”
Outside he made a call.
“Father,” he said when the call was answered. “I’ve found the place. You got my location?”
“Yes son, well done. We’ll be there shortly.”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:57 am

The penthouse of Ivory Tower was clean and tidy, very unlike most of the places they had been in this part of the city. It was decorated in a style from another era. Early 20th century, Marlan guessed.
After some confusion, which involved The Cross’ men thinking they had a choice, they were escorted upstairs and shown to a large and comfortable lounge.
The walls were panelled from floor to approximately a third of their height in a light oak. The rest of the walls were papered in a paisley pattern.
Bookshelves, cabinets and a huge VDU lined the walls thankfully, in Marlan Cobretti’s opinion, covering much of that putrid wallpaper.

Marlan wasn’t alone as he sat waiting for The Cross to appear. Standing at one of the windows and looking out across the city-scape was a man in his early sixties.
He had dark hair flecked with grey, cut neatly and swept from right to left. He wore a long coat over a dark suit which in turn sat over some serious body armour. All of it was expensive and the armour, designed for the discerning businessman was hardly noticeable under the clothing.
Vitto Cobretti’s jaw clenched and unclenched with every passing second.
The only other person was slight, quiet, beautiful, about Marlan’s age, just turned thirty, with dark chocolate brown eyes and jet black hair which was tied back from her oval face.
Her name was Petra. She hailed from Scandinavian stock and discovered her inner Viking early on in life.
She was Vitto’s personal bodyguard, an asset that was often vastly underestimated by Vitto’s opponents. It was an error they often discovered to their cost.
Petra too wore a long coat, very similar to Vitto’s, but she made no attempt to hide the body armour she wore, nor the two pistols that sat in low slung holsters at her waist.
The door opened and The Cross walked in. he was tense. Three of his goons came in behind him.
“I’m not accustomed to being summoned to my own living room,” he said brusquely.
Marlan glanced at Vitto but the old man remained at the window, hands clasped behind his back.
“Tell me where to find a guy who goes by the name of Proof,” Marlan said without any preamble, nor did he stand.
“What business do you have with him?” The Cross asked coldly.
“If you’re half the man you appear to be, Mr The Cross,” Vitto said without turning, “you’ll already know who we are and what our business is with your man.”
“It’s The Cross. No Mister,” one of the flunkies instructed menacingly from behind his boss.
Marlan glanced at the man who spoke, a big fella, all muscle. Too much muscle in fact, the sort that would make him slow purely through physical bulk.
The Cross winced ever so slightly but managed to keep his composure.
“The Cross?” Vitto mused at the name. “Proof, Rags, Swiss, Slammer? You all seem to have acquired some colourful names in this region, Mr Crosslander.”
The Cross failed to hide his surprise as Cobretti senior spoke his name aloud.
“We did our homework,” Marlan announced.
The Cross stared at them quietly, observing the three of them.
The pretty woman stood, her hands at her sides casually. She reminded The Cross of a western gunslinger poised for the draw.
“You have a nice place here, Frank,” Vitto put in quietly. “I can only imagine business is good in your little empire?”
The Cross’ eyes darted to the old Cobretti. There was no point in denying it. “It keeps the wolf from the door, as the saying goes.”
“But the wolf’s here, Mr Crosslander,” Vitto said finally turning to look upon his unwilling host.
Frank Crosslander found himself surprised by Vitto’s appearance. He had expected something less normal. He didn’t know what, just something.
There was nothing frightening about the old Cobretti’s greying hair, shadowed eyes and unshaven face.
The Cross remained silent for a while. He’d found that trick from a cop who’d tried to sweat information from him in the past. He’d leave big silences and people found they had to speak to fill them.
He found Cobretti staring at him, saying nothing too.
The Cross came to realise later that it wasn’t a terrifying visage that struck fear into people eho confronted the head of the Cobretti family. It was his commanding presence that seemed to force you to its will.
“If I give up one of my own then how do I maintain the respect of my men?”
“Not our problem,” Marlan replied.
The Cross turned curious eyes on the younger man.
“Would you care to have this lucrative market taken away?” Vitto asked wrenching The Cross’ attention back to himself.
“I beg your pardon?”
“This part of town wasn’t even on the radar until yesterday, but looking out there I can see a lot of potential business. I’m rapidly developing an interest in this place. However, my attention could be diverted, especially if I was to find another focus for my current anger, Mr Crosslander.”
“You’re threatening me in my own living room?”
“Your business, for Proof and his gang. Sounds like a fair price to me,” Marlan put in.
“No one threatens me in my own home,” The Cross said angrily. His three bodyguards puffed up their chests menacingly.
“Petra,” Marlan said calmly.
In a blur of movement Petra had drawn her pistols and fired. Two of the three men that had accompanied The Cross into the room were encased in blue electrical energy that scrambled their muscles and brought both to the floor like quivering sacks of jelly.
She covered the distance between herself and the Meat-Head in a single bound, throwing on, two, three, four and a fifth punch before the meat-head had had time to react to any of it.
The first four blows had been aimed at specific nerve clusters, one at the junction of each limb with the torso. Each limb was subsequently temporarily paralysed. The fifth blow had been a slow motion knock to his forehead, ensuring that when he went down he landed in a sitting position in one of The Cross’ comfortable armchairs.
Petra then turned on her heel and from behind him brought both pistols to rest with their barrels pressing into The Cross’ temples.
The Cross was frozen in place. He’d never seen anything like it.
“Thank you Petra, I think we’ve made our point,” Vitto said with a smile.
Petra holstered the guns and assumed her previous position leaving The Cross looking aghast at his fallen men.
“They’re alright. No permanent harm done,” Marlan said.
“Now Frank, your decision. Give me Proof, or we come in and take over the whole operation. And get proof anyway.”
Marlan noted down the address.
Vitto was looking out of the window again.
“You understand, Frank,” he said after several long silent minutes, “that you are one lucky man. Proof is your boy, which puts you in the frame for what happened to my son too. The doctors say he may never walk again, not without augmentation. And that won’t happen until he’s stopped growing. So consider yourself lucky, but you still owe me.”
Frank looked like he was about to object. About to protest that Cobretti had said he would leave them alone if he handed over Proof. Instead he said nothing.
Vito turned to face him, made eye contact and bore those commanding eyes into The Cross’.
“You have a good business here, Frank. It would sadden me to see someone else take it away from you. So here’s what we’ll do. Ten percent should be enough to ensure that the other wolves out there steer clear of your door. Wouldn’t you agree that that seems a fair sum?”
The Cross frowned and looked confused, still not quite getting that his tenuous position was being offered a strong hand of support.
“But I just gave you Proof,” he finally protested.
“And you’re still alive and still running your own business the way you see fit, Frank,” Vitto retorted harshly.
“Ten percent.”
The Cross nodded sullenly. “Ten percent,” he echoed.
“Very good, Frank. Someone will be in touch. Oh, and Frank, I’ll call in that favour one day. Don’t forget that.”
The three guests walked towards the lounge door, stepping over the prone bodyguards.
Marlan placed a hand lightly on The Cross’ shoulder as he passed. “Welcome to the Family,” he smiled.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:58 am

Marlan and Pauli Cobretti helped their younger brother from the Lev, stopping immediately when he winced in pain, checking that he was okay before they got him settled into the awaiting wheelchair.
Tarlan looked around the place.
The ground was damp from rain, it was dark and the distant street lights sparkled off the puddles.
They appeared to be in some sort of industrial area, warehouses lined either side of the wide unlit street.
The lev had been parked adjacent to a plain rectangular building without any markings identifying it. A single lamp was lit above a small doorway. Pauli led them over and knocked on the door.
It opened and a man in a dark suit and a black pullover gave them a quick once over before standing aside.
The wheelchair was self-powered and Tarlan drove it in through the doorway following his brothers.
The room itself was a typical reception area for a place like this. Chairs located on one side, surrounding a coffee table stacked untidily with old magazines for those visitors that still liked to read from paper. The opposite side was a high worktop that could only be accessed via a door behind it. Directly opposite Tarlan was another door. Again there were no signs or anything that would identify the business, which Tarlan thought was odd.
But what grabbed the boy's attention more than any of the dated decor was the carbine hanging from the shoulder of the man in the suit.
Why were these men armed?
Pauli and Marlan led him to the door and Marlan held it open for him. He followed Pauli down the passageway and they took an elevator down one level.
The doors opened into a dark open space. There was nothing in the cavernous room except several empty cages where goods could be locked away.
As Tarlan rolled forward he realised the place was lit, very poorly, by some big old lamps way up in the roof space.
“Hello Tarl,” said his father’s voice from somewhere within the gloom. Then he appeared, Petra beside him and also another man whom Tarlan had seen from time to time but couldn’t put a name to. This man was also armed.
What’s going on, Dad?” Tarlan asked nervously. “Why do they have guns?”
“Nothing for you to be afraid of, my boy.” Vitto dropped onto his haunches and lent forward, his hands resting of the arms of the wheelchair.
“My family means everything to me, Tarl, you understand that, don’t you?”
Tarlan nodded. “Of course father. You’ve always looked after us.”
Vitto smiled. “Part of that duty is making sure that anybody who threatens or hams my family pays for what they have done. That’s only right, wouldn’t you say?”
Tarlan nodded again.
His father took a breath and sighed. “People have hurt my family, Tarl. We need to do something about it. Those responsible need to pay for what they have done. What should we do son?”
“The police should arrest them and put them in prison.”
Vito nodded agreement.
“In a perfect world that would work, yes. But this isn’t a perfect world, Tarl. You see, there were no witnesses, no eveidence left behind. The authorities could waste months interviewing everyone, but in the end there would be nobody. The names you gave are street-names. Monikers they use for themselves that also give them anonymity. No one will pay for what they did if it was left to the police, Tarl. No one.”
Vitto stared hard at his son.
“That’s okay, though, isn’t it?” he asked looking away into the darkness. “You’re okay with that aren’t you?”
Tarlan looked to his brothers for guidance. Both were standing back, watching him. Neither gave any hint as to how he should respond.
Vitto asked again. “It doesn’t matter that they took a fourteen year old boy into a courtyard and beat him nearly to death for a thousand dollars and his trainers, does it?”
Tarlan shrugged. “I guess not,” he said meekly.
“You guess not?” Vitto yelled angrily moving so close to Tarlan that the boy could feel his breath on him as he spoke.
“You guess not?” Vitto said again, much calmer this time.
You remember the old code I told you about? Eye for an eye and all that?
Tarlan nodded. “The way it was in the old days?”
“yes, my boy. When it comes to protecting the family that’s the way it has to be. Someone hurts you, you hurt them back. Only you do it so that they can’t get back at you again, or at least never want to.”
Tarlan fidgeted slightly, his back was sweaty and sticking to the synthetic material of the seat.
“Remember that kid in school a few years back who kept stealing your lunch money? Your mother reported it and it stopped for a while but then he started again. You were about eight, I think.”
“Yes.”
“Remember what I told you to do about it?”
“You told me to get a hammer from the school woodwork shop and break his fingers if he did it.”
“Did he do it again?”
“Yes.”
“What did you do about it?”
“I waited until after school, tripped him up, sat on his arm and smashed his fingers with the hammer. Told him if he ever stole from me or anyone I knew again I’d break both hands and his knees.”
Vitto chuckled. “Did he ever do it again after that?”
“No.”

Vitto gave his youngest son a wry smile. “What would have happened if you’d have gone to the Principle instead of talking to me?”
“The boy would have denied it and probably got away with it.”
“And he wouldn’t have stopped doing it, to you or any of your friend,” Vitto added.
“No, he wouldn’t,” Tarlan agreed.
Vitto stood and changed the subject. “Your brothers and I are thinking of going to Kentucky for some hunting in a few weeks. You fancy coming?”
The old a hid the anguish he felt when he saw a bright flash momentarily cross his sons face.
Tarlan loved the family cabin up in the Kentucky wilderness. He loved the isolation and the freedom. The hunting was something he did more to please his father, and annoy his brothers.
Pauli and Marlan both knew their younger brother wasn’t too fussed about the hunt so it got under their skins that he was better at it than them.
The brightness that had entered the boy’s eyes was instantly replaced by a pained sadness.
The cabin was built on a hill beside a lake. It was not the kind of terrain that a bot in a wheelchair could negotiate easily. Around the cabin would be easy enough but any more than thirty yards from it and he would find himself going nowhere.
“Oh,” Vitto said flatly. “Of course. How insensitive of me. Sorry Tarl.”
“It’s alright, Dad. We’ve all got to get used to it.”
Vitto heard the pain in his son’s voice, not physical pain but hurt from the realisation that he would not be able to do so many of the things that he had enjoyed doing.
He like swimming. He and his sister rode for miles on their mountain bikes.
“it kills me that I won’t be able to ask you to come hunting ever again,” Vitto said sadly. “t kills your mother too.”
They were silent for a while.
“if it wasn’t you there Tarl. If it was your sister, or maybe a son or daughter of your own, what would you do, knowing that someone had hurt them so bad that would never walk on their own ever again?”
“I’d kill whoever did it.”
“But that isn’t right, Tarl. Taking the law into your own hands, is it?”
“If the law couldn’t help I’d have to do it.”
“Exactly!” Vitto crouched next to his son again.
“What would you do?”
“I’d…” Tarlan thought quickly. “I’d kill them. Beat the crap out of them and then kill them. I’d make sure everyone like them knew I’d done it and why as a warning not to do anything to my family again.”
Vitto nodded sagely at his sons words.
“What would you say now, if you were to come face to face with one of those men, the ones that had done this to you? Taken so much of your life from you?”
“Don’t know. I suppose I’d want to do to them what they had done to me. Call him a fucker and spit in his face.”
“Alright then,” Vitto said, which confused Tarlan.
The old man stood, straightened his coat. He nodded to Pauli who disappeared into the blackness.
An electrical buzz sounded from somewhere in the darkness of the roof above them then lights flashed on and off until the neon finally caught. The big industrial roof lights cast narrow beams down to the warehouse floor making everything outside them seem even darker.
What they illuminated beneath them made Tarlan’s breath catch and he found himself feeling giddy.
There were twelve racks each with a man or boy chained by the wrists to them. Their hands were secured above their heads by chains and cuffs that dug into angry red flesh.
Most of them had bruises on their bodies, some purple fresh wounds, others yellowing and faded, like they were old.

Tarlan felt the bile rising in his throat as he made eye contact with the man directly in front of him.
He was thin, his ribs exaggerated because of his position. He had many tattoos over his torso and thin legs. His whole body hung limply like he didn’t have the strength to hold himself up.
The man could just about hold his head up enough to watch the men and the boy in the wheelchair.
There was a strip of gaffer tape over his mouth just like there was on the other eleven.
The man’s eyes were wide with fear and they never left the boy.
Tarlan leaned suddenly to his right and threw up.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:36 am

“What the hell is this?” Tarlan asked, his voice gravelly and sore from his vomit.
“It took us a week to round them all up,” Marlan said.
Tarlan blinked at him.
“You’ve had them here….?”
“Three months, yes.”
“This is wrong Marl!”
“You what?”
“It’s wrong! Barbaric. They should have been punished, yes, but not like this.”
“Barbaric?” Vitto had anger tinging his voice now.
“You want to know what this little prick was doing when we caught up with him?” the old man said.
Tarlan shrugged.
“He and his goons were dumping the bodies of a brother and sister into a storm drain. The kids were twelve and sixteen.”
“You’re making it up.”
Marlan dropped a pad onto Tarlan’s lap. It showed Proof and Rags carrying the bodies from the back of a car throwing them over a wall where they disappeared from view.
They were a young man and his sister.
Tarlan felt the bile rise again but swallowed it down, forcing the repulsion back and letting anger take its place.
“Just a week after you Tarl. That would have been your fate too if the Panicard hadn’t been activated,” Vitto said bitterly.
“What had they done?” Tarlan’s finger stabbed at the frozen image of the boy’s body.
Vitto shrugged as he answered. “Just someone who owed them money. They went in hard and killed him by accident. The sister saw it so they killed her too. She was twelve, Tarl!”
Tarlan glared at Proof’s limp form.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:37 am

“Time for some retribution, my boy,” Vitto said. He handed Tarlan his own baseball bat, one that used to sit on a shelf in his bedroom.
“Take the fucker’s gag off! I want to hear Proof scream,” Tarlan suddenly hissed at his brother.

“Wait,” Proof gasped through chapped lips and a dry mouth.
“Fuck you!” Tarlan drove the chair forward until he was directly in front of Proof, then he swung the bat in at the man’s exposed ribs.
Proof cried out in pain. “Stop,” he pleaded.
Tarlan hit him again, swinging the bat low into his legs.
Again Proof cried out.
“Please,” a pitiful squeak emitted from the young man.
“Please what, Proof? Please stop hitting me? Okay then, I’ll stop just like you did.”
Tarlan swung the wooden club in again and again in a ferocious attack, aiming for bony parts of his body where he could cause high levels of pain without risking killing him.
Tarlan was panting by the time he stopped and Proof was hanging limper than before, just emitting tiny whimpers sporadically.

Tarlan heard chains scraping on steel to his left.
The big black form of Rags was straining against his bonds, looking terrified. Tarlan found it very strange seeing such a big fearsome man looking so scared.
“Oh, now these guys are getting it!” Marlan said bemused. “We hadn’t told them why we were holding them. You were our little surprise to them too!”

All Tarlan could see was Rags kicking time and time again.
He maneuvered the chair over to him.
Rags tried to kick out at Tarlan to keep that long wooden bat away.
Pauli emerged from the darkness, grabbed the bat from Tarlan and dodging easily passed the flailing feet, swung the club into the side of the man’s head.
It wasn’t overly hard but it was enough to stop him moving.
He threw the club back to his younger brother without a word.
Tarlan saw red and screamed as he launched an attack on the big man.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:38 am

Tarlan was sweating by the time he finished beating Rags. The man hung corpse-like by his wrists, blood flowing from eyes, ears, nose and mouth. His body was swollen, his ribs broken to splinters. His right leg bent outwards from the knee by about thirty degrees. The kneecap itself had swollen and then burst from the continued pummelling it got.

Turning his back on the man, breathing heavily but still full of raging hatred Tarlan returned to Proof.
“What sort of a stupid name is Proof anyway?”
“Short for bullet-proof apparently,” Marlan answered. “He’s been shot six times and survived.”

“Really?” Tarlan snarled, holding his hand out to his brother. “Let’s see shall we?”
Marlan placed a pistol in the boy’s hand.

Tarlan took careful aim.
He fired his first shot into Proof’s right foot.
Proof screamed and hopped about like a demented pupped on iron strings.
“That’s one, you bastard,” the boy yelled, filling his mind with the weeks of pain he’d endured, the embarrassment of having to have people help him go to the toilet and the thought of the rest of his younger life when he should be out enjoying himself and partying after his exams, but which he no longer would be doing.
This man before him had taken that away. Any hopes he had had were destroyed.
Despite their father’s wishes Rachel would have found a way to stay in touch. But any hopes he might have had for them to be anything more than just friends were now dashed. Even if she wanted to be with him there was no way he would put her through having to look after him. No way he was going to take her looking after him.

The doctors had told him to wait, eventually he would be grown enough for him to undergo augmentative surgery. They proposed rebuilding his spinal column, maybe replacing his pelvis and legs too. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that?
Cybernetics wasn’t a new technology but there seemed to be something intrinsically wrong with putting machines inside your body. There had been massive protests about it, especially after some high profile cases where the augmentations had gone wrong and caused injury to the person of other people. So Tarlan figured he was doomed to this chair for the rest of his life. His ruined, worthless, pitiful life where his mother would spend the rest of her days helping her son on and off the toilet.
The anger he felt now was so overpowering. He glared at Proof for a while, listening to his whimpers and curses.
Tarlan felt the anger like ice in his heart. There was no sympathy there for any of these people, no regrets, no worry.
He fired the pistol again. “Two!”
Proof wailed and hung loosely from his shackles, his other foot now useless.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Three, four, five,” Tarlan counted. Thigh-thigh-arm.
With a blood curdling cry of anger, frustration and more anger Tarlan emptied more rounds from the weapon, each finding a fleshy target, the last but one bullet in the clip had gone through Proof’s right eye, spraying bone and grey matter over the shelving.
“Not so fucking bullet-proof now are you, you fucking prick?” Tarlan spat at the dead body.
He shifted in his chair. “Hey, Rags!”
The black man was already watching him, terror was etched over his normally aggressive features.
“You bastards are getting the easy way out. I gotta live like this.”
Rags said nothing, he was too scared and in too much pain already.

Tarlan took aim.
Rags tensed, knowing what was coming. He snarled and stood tall on his one working leg.
Despite the bravado, urine poured from his exposed penis, running down his leg and pooling on the floor with the blood.

Tarlan fired. The shot tore the man’s throat out.
Blood splashed onto the floor as though some unseen person had thrown a bucket full of it in front of the suspended body.
Rags’ eyes bulged and a final wave of panic as he drowned on his own blood had him flailing wildly.
He was still after only a few seconds, blood loss getting him before asphyxiation did.

Tarlan dropped the empty gun on the floor and turned his chair away. He stared hard into his father’s eyes.
“I want to go home,” Tarlan said.
Vito nodded curtly without saying a word.
“What about the others?” Pauli asked.
Without looking at them, beaten already by Vito’s men, all of them knowing what fate awaited them, even the two fifteen year olds, Tarlan’s reply was ice cold.
“Kill them all.”

Outside the warehouse Tarlan took a deep breath.
The noise of the city, the smells brought home the reality of the world and the reality of what he had just done.
He threw up again, retching on an empty stomach.
Shaking and hyperventilating, his father at his side Tarlan cried.

Vitto hugged his son, pressed the boys head to his chest and let him cry out all the anguish and anger that had been trapped inside.
He didn’t say a word, not even when Tarlan wiped his eyes and nodded numbly at the awaiting lev.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:55 pm

“Mrs Cobretti?”
Marta Cobretti looked up from the pad she was reading.
The doctor smiled as he approached her across the waiting room.
She was beautiful. Her face was smooth, unlined, her eyes sultry, lips full. She looked half her age. The only thing that gave her away were the few grey hairs appearing in her otherwise jet-black hair.
It was only when he was stood right beside her that he could see the faintest hint of worry lines.
“Mrs Cobretti,” he held out his hand as he greeted her. “Doctor Stukovitz”
She stood and shook his hand.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting ma’am. Tarlan was finishing off today’s physio session.
Marta nodded understandingly and gave a sly smile. “I bet!” she quipped.
Stukovitz looked surprised for a moment before something dawned on him. “Oh yes, of course. He and nurse Tagatta have been getting on rather well!”
“Not as well as my son had hoped,” Martha grinned sheepishly, wondering why she felt the need to disclose her son’s secret crush to this relative stranger.
“Well, I suppose it would be rather unethical for one of our physiotherapists to get, erm, involved with a patient in that way.”
Martha laughed aloud. A dainty laugh like tinkling glass.
“Nonsense, doctor. Love is love. It can be very hard to come by these days so I say to hell with ethics. Anyone can see the two are made for each other. Anyway, enough of my son’s romantic desires. How has he been doing?”
“Well…” the doctor drew the word out and Martha immediately became suspicious.
“You’d better sit down, Mrs Cobretti.”
“I think I’ll stand, Doctor, “Martha said cautiously.
“Well, as you wish. Where to start? Right, well, we told you and your son about the risks of this surgery. Especially as we weren’t using nanites in this procedure. We were hoping that by rebuilding the lower spinal column we would be able to restore some of the sensation and motor control to his lower body. However there was always the risk that we might exacerbate the existing paralysis.”
Martha nodded. She remembered the conversation. She thought she had prepared herself for a bad outcome but now she could feel the blood draining from her face.
“And we wouldn’t know how the surgery had gone until the swelling had died down and the pressure had gone from the spine,” the doctor paused and smiled.
“Just tell me how he is,” Martha prompted.
“I think it would be best to show you.”
The doctor turned and walked to the door through which he had entered. He opened it, spoke to someone on the other side, then returned to Martha.
“You should sit down,” he smiled at her.
She couldn’t tell if it was a good or bad smile. Martha shook her head, too terrified now to move.
The door opened and the petite and very attractive Japanese nurse who had been looking after Talan stepped through.
The young women, Martha seemed to recall that Tarlan has said she was twenty three, was dressed in tight sportswear, as physios had done since the dawn of time it seemed.
Her heart shaped face was bright and smiling, her eyes sparkling mischievously. Her figure was perfect. Martha understood why her eighteen year old son was so smitten with her.

The nurse bowed in greeting to Martha, catching her a little off-guard. Martha bowed back awkwardly.
The nurse’s face was bright and cheery, which didn’t sit well with the dread Martha was feeling. it was as though everyone was putting on a show, brave happy smiley faces to make her feel less alone when the bad news was delivered.
It took a moment for Martha to realise that the young nurse was holding the door open.
“Oh,” Martha mumbled embarrassed and took a step towards the door but the doctor’s hand gripped her arm firmly, holding her back.
“Not just yet, Mrs Cobretti,” the doctor whispered.
She frowned at him and pulled her arm from his grasp. He was not holding on hard so she slipped free easily.
When she turned again to the door her eyes went wide, her breath caught and her knees turned to jelly.
“Oh my god!” she whispered.
“Hi mum!” Tarlanus Cobretti grinned sheepishly through his long black locks.
Martha couldn’t speak and tears had formed in her eyes. Her son was stood in the doorway, propped up on crutches which were shaking with the strain as he supported his weight on both arms.
“Don’t make me come to you mum!” Tarlan laughed.
“Oh my god!” Martha repeated as she stumbled across the lobby area. She was crying so much she could barely see.
Throwing her arms around her son she nearly knocked him over.
The nurse quickly jumped alongside him and helped support him whilst his mother smothered him in kisses.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:34 am

Tarlan stared into those brown almond shaped eyes. They sparkled when she smiled, which was what she was doing now. He kissed her soft lips hard, pressing his mouth to hers for a long moment.
Pauli Cobretti watched for a few seconds before his fingers went to his mouth and he blasted out a shrill, triumphant whistle.
All around people began clapping and cheering.
Tarlan broke the kiss and hugged the beautiful woman before him. “I love you, Akiko Tagatta,” he whispered.
“Who’s she?” Akiko laughed.
He pulled away. “Sorry! Akiko Cobretti. I love you Mrs Cobretti.”
“I love you too, Tarlanus Brutus Cobretti,” she smirked as he screwed his nose up at the mention of his middle name.
Tarlan wobbled slightly and Aki grabbed his. “You alright?”
“Just been stood still too long,” Tarlan smiled.

Angelina Cobretti, Angel to everyone that knew her, stepped up to the newlyweds, holding out the black walking stick that Tarlan had handed her when she had arrived with the bride.
“Congratulations,” she whispered as she stepped behind the two for the procession back outside.

They had been married in the ornate Japanese Imperial Gardens within the grounds of the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC.
They had been presided upon by two ministers. One had been Father Romero who had known the family all their lives representing the Catholic Faith, the other had been Ukko Rei a Shinto priest and friend of the Tagatta family.
Tarlan and Aki had wanted to honour both faiths and enter into their life together having sworn their oaths in front of every god that could possibly have an interest in their lives.
Father Romero had taken some persuasion!

Tarlan smiled at Aki and took her hand in his.
“Come on bro!” Marlan hissed quietly from behind him. “Let’s get these damned speeches over so that I can get to some serious drinking!”
“Marlan!” Angel chastised the Best Man, thumping her brother’s arm.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:35 am

The reception was being held in the grounds of Vitto Cobretti’s sizable estate on the outskirts of Arkham, Massachusetts.
It had been the family home for over a century.

A huge marquee had been set up on the back lawn and quite literally hundreds of guests had been invited.

After the speeches the party went into full swing and threatened to go on that way until the early hours of the next morning.

“Congratulations, son,” Vitto raised his glass to his youngest child when the boy entered the old man’s study, to which he had been virtually summoned.
Tarlan smiled graciously. “Thanks. Dad.” He noticed that Marlan and Pauli were there too.
“So what’s this?” the younger brother asked.
“Sit down,” his father offered.
Tarlan had a growing suspicion that he wasn’t going to like whatever this was, and he considered being obstinate and remaining standing but he had been on his feet all day and his back was in agony despite the pain killers.
He eased himself into an armchair.
Marlan poured him a drink.
“What can I do for you father?” Tarlan asked, hoping that he didn’t sound too inconvenienced. After all, his father was paying for all of this.
“How’s the business?” Vitto asked.
Tarlan bridled. He’d had many an argument with his father over his decision to go it alone. After his experiences with Proof, he had chosen there and then not to get involved with his father’s business.
“Well enough,” Tarlan answered defensively.
“Really” Pauli chimed in, obviously not believing him.
“Yes,” Tralan hissed, gripping the arms of the chair tightly.
“Pauli,” Vitto warned his eldest before setting his steely eyes on Tarlan.
“I was hoping you might have been in a position now to reconsider my offer?”
“In a position now?” Tarlan quoted suspiciously.
“Yes. You have a wife to support now. I think you should give up this folly idea and come back into the family business, my boy.”
“Family business?” Tarlan almost spat the words out. “It’s hardly a business father, is it? You’re not exactly Richard Branson.”
“Hey! Watch your mouth!” Pauli warned.
“Or what, Pauli?” You’ll break my teeth out? Bust my kneecaps? Put a cap in my ass?”
“You little ingrate fuck!” Pauli marched over to Tarlan, but Marlan pulled him away.
The middle brother said nothing, just stared passively into into his elder brother’s eyes for a moment and this seemed to calm him.
“You just watch that punk-ass mouth,” Pauli jabbed a finger Tarlan’s way threateningly. “I ain’t got no problem with hittin’ a cripple you know,” he added spitefully.
Tarlan flinched at this as though he’d been stabbed with a needle but said nothing.
“Jesus, Pauli!” Marlan gave a resigned sigh.
Vitto waited until Pauli had resumed his seat at the small table beside the well stacked bookshelves that lined one wall of the study.
“You should think about it, Tarlan. You’re a Cobretti; you belong in the firm.”
“I have my own business, father. I’m going to do things on my own, and do them legally.”
“And look where that’s getting you. You live in a two room apartment in Detroit. You barely make enough to cover your staff wages and haven’t paid yourself in almost a year.
“Bloody hell, dad! You’ve been snooping into my accounts?”
“You’re my son. I have a right to know what’s happening.”
“No, dad, you don’t. that’s my business. You have no right so keep the hell out.”
“I’m allowed to look out for my boy,” Vitto growled.
“I’m not your boy, I’m twenty five!” Tarlan threw his hands up in frustration. “I can do this on my own, dad. I want to. And if I fail, so what? I’ll pick myself up and start again.”
“Don’t expect us to bail you out,” Pauli grumbled.
Tarlan glared at his older brother. “I don’t want your damned money, Pauli. None of it. The whole point of me going on my own is so that it’s legit. No dodgy deals, ill-gotten gains, nothing handed to me off the blood and misery of other people. Just hard work to get what I want. Good, hard, honest work.”
Pauli stood again, puffing himself up. “Little bitch!” he cursed. “You think you’re so much better than the rest of us, is that it? We not worthy enough for you?”
“Get lost, Pauli. Have I ever said that? Have I? All I’ve ever said is that I got my way of doing things and you’ve got yours.”
“What’s so wrong with our way?” Pauli spat.
“That’s enough, Pauli,” Vitto said quietly.
“No, papa. I want to hear the little cripple out.”
“Pauli!” Vitto hissed.
“Come on, you prick,” Pauli waved a hand Tarlan’s way. “Tell us how wrong our way is. Come on. Let our father know what you think of all the money he spent on your wedding, on the house so you could get around in your cripple mobile better, of the money mum spent on your operation. Where’d you think she got that from?”
“I don’t expect you to get it, Pauli. I’ve got a wife and maybe kids someday. I want to build something for them that hasn’t needed me to kill someone.”
“But you have though, haven’t you? You’re living the lie, brother. Cos you were happy enough to do things our way when you beat the shit out of those guys that crippled you. When you took that gun and pumped them full of lead? Our way was good enough for you then, and everything you have done since then has been off the back of that.”
“No, Pauli! Can’t you see passed all the steroids or is it just that you’ve had too much to drink, again! Everything I have done since has been despite all that!”
“That’s enough!” Vitto barked.
Tarlan sighed and looked down at his shoes. One of his laces was undone.
“Thank you, father, for a wonderful party. I think I’ll re-join my wife,” Tarlan said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we decided to sneak off early.”
He pushed himself up from the seat, pain shooting across his lower back, his knees buckled and he fell back into his chair.
“Goddamit man! Look at him,” Pauli huffed, gesturing at Tarlan. “He can’t even get out of a chair properly. Why the hell would we want that joke with us anyway?”
“Ease up, Pauli,” Marlan pleaded.
“Why? What’s that little punk-ass going to do? He can just about walk! Man, I pity Aki. What’s the wedding night going to be like? Helping the half-cripple into his pyjamas? Does she still wipe your ass, Tarlan?”
“Fuck you, Pauli! Don’t see your wife here, brother.”
Vitto sat back, rubbed his eyes tiredly.
Pauli inclined his head, waiting for his brother to say the words that he knew were coming.
“Don’t have one do you? What’s wrong? Are you perhaps waiting for a husband instead?”
There they were!
Pauli virtually flew across the room and smashed his large meaty fist onto Tarlan’s nose.
Blood flooded down the younger brother’s face, turning his shirt red and staining his tuxedo a darker shade of black.
“You send that nice piece of Chinese ass to my room tonight, brother, I’ll show her how a real man feels and put some colour in those yellow cheeks of hers,” Pauli laughed sadistically.
“Hey Pauli,” Marlan said.
“What?” Pauli said, challenge in his voice.
“Shut the fuck up, man!”
“You what?” Pauli growled at Marlan.
“What?” Marlan challenged back, slightly amused. “You wanna have a go at me now?”
Pauli had learned the hard way that being three years his senior didn’t give him any kind of advantage what-so-ever when it came to fighting his brother.
“You were out of order with that, man,” Marlan frowned.
Pauli laughed and grabbed his crotch.
“You reckon, Marl? I’m feeling about ready to tear her apart. I’d go so hard at that slant-eyed slut I’d literally destroy her asshole!”
“PAULI!” Vitto yelled.
Pauli turned to his father who was standing, looming over his desk. “That’s my daughter-in-law you’re talking about. I ever hear words like that coming out of your mouth again, well… “ he let the word hang in the air.
Pauli didn’t need any further explanation. He knew exactly what his father would do.
“Get out, all of you,” Vitto hissed, disgusted with his eldest son and disappointed by his youngest.
Marlan helped Tarlan from the seat and handed his a handkerchief.

“Oh my gosh!” Aki said rushing to Tarlan’s side. “What happened?”
Marlan glanced at his brother, held his eyes for a brief moment.
Tarlan shrugged. “My legs gave out on me. I just proved that the bathroom sink is harder than my nose.”
“Oh, Tarl!” Aki stretched up and kissed his cheek.
“I’m ready to go home,” he said to her.

Martha and Vitto stood alongside Mr and Mrs Tagatta and waved their children off.
Marlan stood by the door of the lev and helped Aki and Tarlan into the vehicle.
“I’ll talk to Pauli about that thing, Tarl,” he said.
Tarlan gritted his teeth. “Do. And tell him there is one thing he and I agree on. I’ll do anything to protect my family, Marl, anything.”
Marlan nodded and ignored Aki’s inquisitive look. He knew she’d know that something had happened but that she was bright enough not to ask right now.
“Dad says good luck. No interference from us, he promises. Everything down to you bro!”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:04 am

“Oh, shit! Aki!” Tarlan Cobretti called out.
She rushed into the living room, dodging unpacked boxes.
“What?” she asked and then giggled as she saw Tarlan holding a three month old baby out at arm’s length.
There was a large wet stain down his shirt front and a nappy hung loosely between the little girl’s chubby knees.
The girl’s thin black hair was sticking up in tufts and she was doing that baby smile, all gums and drool.
Aki grabbed another nappy from the bag but Tarlan shook his head.
“No need,” he said. “She missed that one completely. Oh, and I’m glad you find it so funny.”
Aki took Miko from her father. “How can you not know how to put one of these on her properly?”
Tarlan looked exasperated. “She does it deliberately! When you do it she’s like a statue, but for me, like an eel!”
“Clever girl!” Aki commented with a laugh.
Tarlan shrugged and shook his head in bewilderment. “I have to change, honey.”

In a clean shirt he grabbed his coat, briefcase and walking stick.
“What time is your flight?” Aki asked.
“The shuttle takes off at nineteen-twenty Eastern. That’s what, ten-twenty Greenwich? Two hour flight to Luna Station, then the hop to Saturn. So I should be there in say, forty-eight hours. I’ll call you from the moon and again when I get to Saturn One-Orbital. The customer is in one of the ring mines, I don’t know how the comms will be from there.”
Aki smiled briefly and then pouted. “So you’ll be away for five days?”
“About that, yeah.”
She gave a theatrical sigh. “I’ll miss you. Miko will miss you too.”
She waved Miko’s fat little hand at him.
He laughed, kissed them both and headed out the door.
“See you both in five days. Love you.”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:05 am

The sun seemed to flare as it emerged into view around the edge of Mars.
Vitto Cobretti closed his eyes against the glaring bright light until the window polarized making the view bearable once more.
He liked to watch the sun come up, no matter where in the Solar System he happened to be.
At this moment standing in the cabin aboard the Neutron Star, his luxury space yacht, he felt at peace.
He wasn’t looking forward to seeing his two eldest sons this morning.
Yesterday’s meeting with the Syndicate hadn’t gone Cobretti’s way and he had lost a lucrative line in narcotics to his rivals from Red Star Brigade. It had been an avenue Cobretti had worked hard to develop and he wasn’t at all happy that the Martian crime gang had usurped him on the deal.
He knew his boys would be very vocal in their disapproval of the Syndicate’s decision.

An hour later he was back in his room, looking down on the red planet, knowing that somewhere down there that Irish bastard, Tom O’Halloran, was having a good old laugh at his expense.
RSB had managed to undermine Vitto’s efforts a number of times now and he was beginning to wonder if there was a mole in his camp.

He rocked slightly as the ship’s thrusters fired and the huge red orb that was Mars drifted out of view.
“Warning,” announced a soft electronic female voice. “Wormhole activation in thirty seconds, entering wormhole in one minute.”

The old Cobretti straightened his coat and quickly made his way to the bridge where he strapped himself into one of the seats that lined the rear bulkhead.
The Mars way station was in view ahead of the ship. It was an enormous power generator with habitation platform attached. Although it acted as a hub for most of the trans-planetary traffic, its main function was to empower and stabilise the wormhole here that would allow ships to travel from here back to Earth in just over ten minutes.

The way station, a huge mushroom shaped object had a platform on one side which housed an enormous turret like object with a barrel very much like a Telsa Coil. The turret’s spherical body was currently spinning around an axis formed by the barrel. A blue-white energy projected from the cannon into open space where a huge gate had opened.

Vitto could see beyond the hazy opening into the bright swirling interior of the wormhole.
The pilot eased the yacht forward smoothly, then it was like something had grabbed the vessel and catapulted it into a narrow tube that threatened to break the ship apart at every bend.
Vitto Cobretti didn’t much like traveling by wormhole.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:06 am

“Mother fuckers!” Pauli Cobretti swore as he hung up the phone.
“Pauli Cobretti!” Martha Cobretti chided. “How dare you use that language at the dinner table. It was bad enough that you took the call here.”
Cheeks flushing red Pauli glanced around at his parents, sister, brother-in-law and his niece and nephew.
“Sorry all,” he said meekly. Finally he glanced at his father who’s raised eyebrows told him how unimpressed he was.
“That’s not language to use anyplace,” Angel said sternly and gave her son and daughter a threatening stare. “Is it children?”
“No,” the ten and fourteen year old's replied in unison, though the teenaged Cody couldn’t help the beginnings of a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Angel shot her eldest brother a withering look.
Pauli held his hands up submissively. “Alright already, I said sorry.”

“What was that about?” Vitto asked after the meal, when the two were alone in the dining room.
“That was Austin. He’d heard from Callum. The Waynecorp mining operation is a no-go. RSB undercut us.”
“What the hell?”
“Yeah, I know papa. I thought we had that one sewn up. It’s like every avenue we go down, those bastards cut us off.”
Vitto poured himself another glass of wine from the last of the bottle.
“Find out where we are with Pluto. If RSB got to Waynecorp, they might be muscling in on our Pluto game too.”
Pauli nodded, disappeared for an hour, then re-joined the family.
“Nothing to report on Pluto,” he said quietly to his father.
“Well at least that’s something,” Vitto laughed, not finding it remotely amusing though.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:06 am

“Say that name again,” Pauli said to the face on his monitor.
He was sitting in his apartment, the lights dimmed, so low that the screen appeared to be glowing.
“I said Rapier Enterprises.,” the man, a shaven headed Frenchman with one blue eye and one green one repeated the name.
“Rapier,” Pauli mused over the name.
“Oui. I have tracked down the business to one based in New York, on Earth. Some assholes who need some things explaining to them. I haven’t been able to tie them in with anyone from the Syndicate so we can make a move without any worries.”
“They’re definitely not Syndicate, mate,” Pauli said flatly.
“You know them?”
“Yeah,” Pauli said slowly, dejectedly.
“That doesn’t sound good. Who are they, triads? Yakuza? An independent?”
Pauli laughed. “oh, independent, definitely. So damned independent they’d turn their backs on anything you tried to do to help them.”
“Whoever it is,” said the Frenchman, “we should get in there and take a share of their cut.”
“There won’t be any cut. Rapier’s legit.”
The Frenchman threw his hands in the air triumphantly. “Ha! Easy then. I got a name. McKenzie. He’s running the supply contract. We should pay him a visit.”
“No,” Pauli said resignedly. “no, McKenzie’s just one of the managers.”
“Then we’ll find who sits at the top and put the squeeze on.”
“No, that won’t work.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because the man at the top of Rapier is Tarlan. He’s my goddamned brother.”

Pauli had expected Vitto to go nuts. The loss of that deal spelt a loss of millions in potential profit.
But the old man merely laughed and said he was happy for Tarlan.
Happy? What the..?
As far as Pauli was concerned, Mr ‘I don’t want anything to do with you’ was no different to anyone else. He was in the way of business. He had to be removed.
Pauli made a couple of calls.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:07 am

Alexander Averington knocked on the frosted glass door, waited a second or two, heard the voice inside beckoning him to enter and did just that.
“Hi Alex,” Tarlan Cobretti said jovially as the senior manager walked in, but his demeanour changed when he saw Alex’s serious expression.
“Problem?”
Alex nodded looking uncomfortably around the small office.
It was bright, the walls painted a pale pastel shade of yellow. The wall opposite the door was glass, floor to ceiling. Cobretti had had the lower half of the windows frosted, just like the door. Cobretti himself was sitting at a desk that was the same as any of the other desks that could be found throughout the ninety first floor suite of offices.
There was a small conference table that butted onto the desk and some comfortable chairs for clients or customers.
A door led off the office to the right. There was a small washroom in there and Alex knew a small bed too. It was a relic of the days when Tarlan was building the company up, spending nights here so that he could be up at the crack of dawn and go to bed when exhaustion forced him to.

There was no pretentiousness to Cobretti, this office was no different to his own just a few doors down the corridor. That was why he was hating having to deliver bad news. It always seemed to hit the CEO hard.
“Yes, I think so,” Alex said in response to his boss’ question. We’ve just had McKenzie on the phone. Apparently Waynecorp haven’t received this month’s shipment. Mack’s checked and the consignment left Earth. The courier reports they made the delivery, all signed for.”
Tarlan pulled a face. “That’s odd.”
Alex nodded again. “Mack’s going to look into it.”
“Okay,” Tarlan seemed to have deflated in his seat, half the size of the jovial upbeat man sitting there a minute ago.
“Keep me posted,” he said.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:08 am

“Another one?” Tarlan couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Yes, mate, another. That’s the third shipment gone missing now,” Stewart McKenzie said as he took a sip of his coffee.
“And the police have nothing?”
Mack shook his head. “They’re stretched thin out there, but no other operator has reported unexplained losses in the area.”
“Then we’re being targeted,” Tarlan stated.
Mack frowned and looked sideways at his boss. “Targeted? Like deliberately? By whom?”
Tarlan shrugged and walked across the office to stand before the window and look out over a dark busy New York.
Mack had gone to school with Tarlan. He’d known him from kindergarten. Even so, he was slightly taken aback by how much Tarlan resembled his father at that exact moment, standing pensively before the window, watching the world with un-trusting eyes. Not that he would ever say such a thing to his friend.
“A rival business,” Tarlan said speculatively.
Mack screwed his face up and shook his head. “Really Tarl? In this day and age? Would we hijack someone’s shipments if we didn’t win a contract?”
One hand shoved into his pocket the other supporting him one his stick, Tarlan sighed. “Of course not. But I’m not talking about a legitimate rival. This has to be someone willing to do whatever it takes, including theft and intimidation. Sounds like someone’s trying to muscle in on our contract, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised if one of us didn’t get a visit late at night from someone demanding twenty percent, or even that we quit the contract all together.”
“Who are you talking about, Tarl?”
Again Tarlan shrugged. “Organised crime?”
Mack glanced up at his boss quickly then looked back to the report he had brought up on his pad.
Tarlan shook his head. “No, Mack, not them,” he said but he’d had the same thought himself.
“Leave it with me, Mack.”
Mack nodded, gathered his things and left the office.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:34 pm

“Not a chance Tarl,” Marlan said in response to his younger brother’s question. “No way I’d agree to it. Nor would dad come up with it either. He was very adamant that we keep away from your business. It’s gotta be someone else.”
“Don’t suppose you know of any way of finding out who?”
Marlan hummed thoughtfully. “No one legitimate. Not anyone in particular. You could try a private investigator. Or a better security firm.”
Tarlan didn’t respond.
“Come on, Tarl, what do you expect? You’re my brother, and I love you and all, but you’re the one wanted nothing to do with the family business. Now you want to make use of our contacts? Listen, sometimes in business, shit happens. You’re going to have to go this one alone. Unless you finally want to sign on with the Firm?”
“No thank you Marlan. I just thought you might help me out of a tight spot.”
“Sorry brother. Dad said we weren’t to stand in your way, but also said we don’t help either. Not unless you come to us like everyone else. And I’m telling you man, you don’t want that. We’d hit you for twenty-five percent of everything you have straight off. Then turn up the heat if things look worth the bother. You’d have some mid-level heavy turning up every week to collect and they’d get ugly if you couldn’t make a payment. So don’t come looking to us for help you really don’t want.”
There was silence on the phone for a while.
“How do you live with yourself doing that sort of stuff, Marl?”
“It’s just business, brother. Folks know what they are signing up to when they come to us for help.”
“Whatever, Marl. Thanks a bunch,” Tarlan huffed and hung up the call.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:34 pm

“Has he?” Pauli shrugged uninterested. “Perhaps if he hadn’t gone his own way then he wouldn’t be getting into bother. People wouldn’t be able to disrespect him like it and get away with it.”
Ignoring his eldest son’s bitter comments Vitto asked of Marla, “What did you tell him?”
“The truth,” Marlan replied.
Vitto said nothing.
“That it isn’t us but we couldn’t help him sort it. Not unless he wanted protection like any other client might.”
“What did he say to that?”
“He didn’t say much, grumbled some then hung up.”
Vitto was silent, thinking.
“Have a poke around, see if you get any news. Wouldn’t hurt to have an idea.”
Marlan smiled and his father rolled his eyes. He knew he was too soft on his youngest son.
“I’ll do it,” Pauli said as though it was some massive chore. “I know some people in that area.
Vitto nodded, not looking at his son. He squinted over the top of his glasses at the mountains on the other side of the lake, where he and the extended family, minus Tarlan, were taking a long summer vacation.
He liked the Rockies. They reminded him of the Alps and he had a lot of fond childhood memories of being in the alps.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:35 pm

They were in an enclosed room. No windows for them to look out of, and one for someone else to look in through.
The room was square, and large enough to fit a huge round table that could seat twenty.
Each seat was occupied.
Around the perimeter of the room were enough seats for a single second or assistant of each person seated around the circular table.
Only the most trusted of advisors or lieutenants would ever be invited.
The members of the Syndicate met aboard this colossal space station, that maintained an orbit mid-way between Earth and Mars, six times a year. The heads of each family or group that were members of the Syndicate were here now.

There was one family whose head chaired the Syndicate. These were voted in by their peers. When disputes arose between the Syndicate’s members the Chair acted as arbiter and magistrate.
The current Chairman was Luing Xe Cheung. He was a short man who wore spectacles and a business suit and kept his long black hair tied back from his face by leather thongs.

“Well thank you ladies and gentlemen,” Cheung said quietly. “I believe that concludes our scheduled agenda. Is there any other business?”
He asked the question of the man immediately to his left who shook his head silently.

Cheung looked to the next man.
Richard Castle nodded. “Gentlemen, ladies. I celebrate my sixtieth birthday next month. I would like to invite you and your spouses or partners to a celebration. Contact my people if you wish to know more.”
He smiled pleasantly at the torrent of well wishes that flowed his way and joked with some of the older members about their age related ailments.

After the hubbub died away Cheung looked to the next man, Tom O’Halloran who shook his head.
“You wouldn’t,” Vito Cobretti thought as he sat silently, just as he had done all through the meeting.
More members declined to add anything further.
When it got to Vitto’s turn and he straightened in his seat, leant forward resting on his elbows.
The fact that Vitto had not spoken but had shifted position made several of the members suddenly pay attention.
“I have a favour to ask, Mr Chairman,” Vitto said, grinding his teeth together in discomfort.
“A favour?” Cheung asked intrigued. “I cannot grant anything unless I know what is being asked of me, Mr Cobretti.”
“I don’t wish anything of you or the Syndicate, Mr Chairman, but of Mr O’Halloran alone.”
Vitto stared hard at Tom O’Halloran.
The Irishman looked up vaguely. “Me?”
Vitto nodded.
“What?” O’Halloran was guarded.
“There’s a business that is supplying various goods to the Waynecorp Mining. Your group is putting pressure on them, diverting the supplies. I would ask that as a favour to me you back off the business.”
O’Halloran said nothing, his eyes small, regarding Cobretti with what looked like suspicion.
After a moment he leaned back and spoke quietly with his aide for a moment then returned his attention to the table.
“I’m not aware of the situation, Vitto,” O’Hallorn used the older man’s forename familiarly.
“We’ve looked into the matter, Tom,” Vitto emphasised the name. “Your guys are muscling in on the deal.”
“Like I said, I’m not directly aware of the situation. Is it your deal?”
“No…” Vitto said but was cut off before he could say more.
“No? then I’m afraid that even if it turns out that RSB are undertaking an aggressive bid to win the Waynecorp contract, I’m not going to give it up if it turns out to be a lucrative prospect. Even as a favour to you.”
“Mr Cobretti,” Cheung said almost patronisingly, “This is sounding like it could be a private business discussion, not one for this meeting. The members do not need to be party to this.”
“I’m sorry Mr Chairman, but I disagree. If RSB doesn’t back off this deal, it could lead to a course of action that has the potential to greatly affect the balance and harmony of the Syndicate.”
“I do not see how. Is this business you speak of connected to the Syndicate directly?”
“No.”
“Then how can it affect us? If RSB make a move on them then that is their choice and not yours. Their business is theirs to run inside the rules we have all agreed to Mr Cobretti, including you.”
“It’s my son’s business, Mr Chairman.”
Cheung glanced beyond Cobretti to the man sat in the seat beyond him.
“Not me,” Pauli said with a slight chuckle. “Tarlan. He’s gone solo.”
“He’s operating against our interests?”
“No. Nothing like that. He’s decided not to follow in the family business. He’s opened a trading company. All above board and legal.”
Cheung’s eyebrows danced above his dark eyes. “Unfortunate,” he said.
Tom O’Halloran sighed loudly, theatrically.
“Alright, Vitto. I really don’t know anything about this, and believe me, I usually do know about most of what happens in my organisation. But as it’s Tarlan… I know you’ve been through a lot with him. If it turns out our guys are putting the squeeze on him I’ll consider backing off, as a favour to you.”
Consider? Vitto’s eyes narrowed hostilely, but he merely said, “Thank you.”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:59 am

The bar was dark, the lights dimmed to allow the patrons their privacy without being so dark that no one could see a thing.
Music played from speakers that were located in discreet locations throughout the bar. The volume was low enough that one could have a conversation and not shout, but loud enough that the people in the booth next to you wouldn’t hear it.

The bar itself lined one wall. It was made of some red looking wood and polished to a glass like finish.

The elder Cobretti brothers and their father occupied a booth in the corner where Vitto relaxed in the cold air from the overhead vent.
Throughout the station chiller units ran to blow cool air around. It was always a battle with the temperature levels here, but at less than half an AU from the sun the forty-two degree heat was the best the struggling air con units could maintain.

“They’re arrogant bastards!” Pauli complained.
Marlan shrugged. “Got to be expected. We’d be the same if they’d come to us like that.”
“No way. Sure we’d make a noise about it but we’d back off right there and then. No ‘maybe’ about it.”
“Would we?”
“Sure!” Pauli took a swig from his glass and set it down hard. “Fucker said he knew nothing about it. Can you believe that?”
“He might not,” Marlan argued. “Do we know everything that people do in our business?”
“It’s bullshit, is what it is, Marl,” Pauli sighed. “Bullshit,” he said again to emphasise the point.
“How do you know?”
With a shrug Pauli shook his head. “You think that we don’t know who the players are when we are lokking at new things? Bah! He knew who they were. He knew Tarlan was involved. He didn’t care, just made his play anyway. Right Papa?”
Vitto swirled his whiskey around his glass. “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” Pauli spat. “I don’t reckon there’s any maybe about it.”
Marlan glanced at his brother. Pauli had been hitting the drink more lately. He’d been getting aggressive as a result but he’d never spoken to their father disrespectfully like that before, at least not in front of anyone.
Vitto frowned before knocking the whole glass back. “More than likely, Pauli. How’s that?”
Pauli grunted, pushed his empty glass away and signalled for the bartender to bring another round.
“They’re making moves against us,” the old man stated. “Every new venture we start on they seem to be there. Every time. It’s likely they have someone on the inside.”
Pauli shook his head. “No way. I’d know. They’d know I’d kill them if I knew.”
“How much have RSB cost us over the last year?” Vitto asked his younger son.
Marlan sighed. “About fifteen million.”
“Fuck!” Pauli yelled making the heads of other patrons turn towards the three.
“Indeed,” his father agreed.
“We should take them out,” Pauli mumbled into his fresh beer.
“Yeah, good idea,” Marlan mocked. “Syndicate wouldn’t mind us doing that one bit.”
“Bah!” Pauli grunted dismissively.
“You’re both right,” Vitto said quietly after taking a sip from his new glass.
The two brothers looked to their father.
“we need to do something about RSB. We also have to do it in a way that satisfies the Syndicate. We are tied in too heavily and rely too much on the Syndicate these days. They would turn on us if they thought we were taking action against one of the other members. So you boys will do nothing, do you hear me? Nothing. I need to think about how we’re going to handle this and I don’t need either of you shooting from the hip and ballsing things up.”
He stared pointedly at each man in turn, his gaze lingering on Pauli longer than Marlan.
Both men nodded and agreed.
Vitto grabbed his glass.
“Drink up, we’ve got homes to go to.”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:00 am

Mars.
The Red Planet.
Home of the first colonists to leave Earth.
The whole planet had a population of about twenty million.
Most lived within the three enormous cities that had been built at opposite sides of the dry, dusty globe.
The cities, the largest being Noctis, had gone through almost an entire evolutionary transformation in the hundred or so years it had existed.
Settled originally by colonial engineers, builders, scientists, labourers, all those the city needed in order to get built.
The original city had been built on Earth, assembled in space, transported through the wormholes and essentially crash-landed onto the planet’s surface.
The enormous vessel contained everything that was needed to sustain the workforce – habitats, medical facilities, workshops, power plants, hydroponics.
It had been the idea, originally, to create the hub of the city from the craft and extend radially outwards, mining and processing materials needed as they went.
The original ship, which didn’t now sit in the centre of the city but somewhere near the eastern edge housed a dusty, dark and generally unvisited museum.
On the walls of the building could be seen faded sepia photographs of the original engineers and builder, posing in front of giant mining machines of iron and steam.
They looked odd in their Victorian style outfits and some looked like something out of a cowboy movie.
It hadn’t taken long however for others to move in on mankind’s greatest adventure. Others came with ships of their own, adding to the self-contained city.
It became the place to be.
Two more cities rose in Noctis’ wake.
Soon there were huge living complexes with plush apartments being added sold for phenomenal sums.
As the engineers battled the harsh environment to extend the city further, the upper echelons of society seeing the moon as yesterday’s news, moved in. They squabbled over territory, some claiming it as sovereign land of one realm or another. Others were more mercenary and sold great tracts of the planet to the highest bidder.
The city became a new London. Cosmopolitan, decadent, wealthy and overcrowded.
More and more people arrived looking for work, fortune fame or glory. The city couldn’t keep up.

The builders created enormous domes in which to build more tenement blocks. The red-brown rock was pulled from the ground and shaped into the blocks to create these sprawling districts.
The elite decided that the city was too crammed full of life’s lower classes. They built up, creating a towering city that perched on enormous pillars above the old.
Behind the workers, the financiers, the designers and the filthy rich came another group. They were there right at the beginning, running bars and gambling dens and prostitution.
The criminal gangs.
Many had come and gone. The syndicate had Mars now. RSB, The Lettermans, the Cobrettis to name a few.
Each had their own little piece of the pie. And each secretly coveted the pieces that their fellow members had.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:01 am

Frank ‘The Cross’ Crosslander didn’t like newcomers. He liked the familiar.
With familiarity came a degree of security. Both sides of a deal knew where they stood. They knew how the other side operated knew how much the other side had to gain and lose with each bargain.
But Frank knew that sometimes you had to find new business, new contacts.
Frank Crosslander especially didn’t like newcomers that couldn’t pay up. There was a crew who were supposed to be taking narcotics off-world and selling them to dealers on other planets. They had fallen short in their payment (Frank set a reasonable price, the couriers took the narcotics themselves and sold them for whatever profits they could then paid Frank, keeping the surplus) but they had offered to pay with goods acquired through another deal.
Frank Crosslander hated newcomers who couldn’t pay up on the day that Vitto Cobretti had chosen to visit.

“Just tell them to pay, Ripper. I don’t care how, I just want my money. I don’t want some shit in place of money. I want cash, you understand?”
The cross gritted his teeth and slammed the phone down.
“Problem, Frank?” Vitto asked from his customary position beside the window.
“No,” The Cross lied.
Vitto said nothing.
With a sigh The Cross walked over to stand beside his boss.
He didn’t like to think of Vitto as his boss. He never used to have a boss, he answered to himself. What irked him more was having to answer to Pauli and Marlan too. But things had changed quite a few years ago now and having the Cobretti name to trade on hadn’t done him any harm at all, he had to admit that.
“It’s a courier. They’re behind on a payment. We’ve got forty tonnes of H to shift, that’s four million dollars. These guys have turned up short and I’m short on couriers. So I need them but they can’t pay me for the last shipment. They have half the money and some boxes of crap they want to get rid of.”
“What crap?”
The Cross shrugged. “Crap. Shit I don’t want. Stuff I’d have to get rid of and I don’t want that hassle.”
A red and white EMT wagon shot across the sky with its lights flashing. It disappeared into the haze of the late afternoon sun.
“But these people believe what they have brought is enough to make up the short-fall?” Marlan asked from the sofa. He was sipping coffee and watching a movie. Petra was beside him, feet up on his antique coffee table.
At least she’d had the courtesy to remove her boots, the Cross thought bitterly. Also, he conceded, she had very nice feet. Small, well-shaped with elegantly painted toes.
How different this was to their original meeting.
“They seem to,” The Cross frowned.
“Might be worth a look?” Petra suggested.
Vitto nodded slowly.
With a movement that was as fluid as a ballet dancer Petra stood, slipped her dainty feet into her big cumbersome looking boots and yet elegantly walked out.
“So,” The Cross said with a nervous chuckle. “How are things back on Earth?”
“They are well,” Vitto said stiffly. “Better than out here. I have less trouble from my businesses on Earth. Which is why I have to spend so much time away from home, checking on things. I’m not going to be getting trouble from you Frank, am I?”
“Of course not,” Crosslander blurted out nervously.
“Relax, Frank!” Marlan laughed. “You got a solid business going on here. The accounts guys have no worries. In fact, you’re doing so well the we’re even prepared to overlook the other set of accounts you have.”
Marlan was still watching the vid screen but he felt sure he could feel the temperature drop in the room. He imagined Frank’s face had blanched white so quickly and so fully that it had sucked the heat right out of the air.
“Naughty boy, Frank,” Vitto Cobretti said quietly. “But not nearly as naughty as you could have been. I’d actually expected you to be taking more. Still, as Marlan said, we’ll overlook them, so long as you don’t take the piss!”
Frank said nothing. He was too embarrassed.
At that moment Petra returned. “It’s worth a look,” she announced.
“Show us,” Vitto said to Petra and Frank.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:08 pm

Beneath Ivory Tower there were two levels of car park. The upper did indeed have cars parked in it.
The next level down however, was a large expanse of crates and boxes. More warehouse than parking lot.

There were four men waiting for them. They looked like military types, even without the giveaway fatigues. There was something in their bearing.
When the group from upstairs arrived three of the men were sitting idly on boxes and the fourth was rummaging through an open crate.
As the group approached the three sitters climbed to their feet and stood behind the other man.
The rummager, tall, thick set, soldier, stood silently and awaited their arrival.
He smiled cockily at Petra. “Back again so soon, my lovely?”
Vitto noted the English accent.
Petra merely raised an eyebrow at him.
“What have you got?” Vito asked without any pre-amble.
The soldier type frowned at him.
“Hey fella, I let the missy here look at what I got cos she’s so pretty. I don’t feel the same about you.”
Vitto looked blankly at him. “I’m not interested in your games. What have you got?”
The man didn’t like the old guy’s tone.
“My deal’s with The Cross himself. I answer to him,” he said flatly.
Vitto nodded slowly. “Yes, and he answers to me. What have you got?”
The big man looked from the old guy to The Cross who stared impatiently back at him.
“Oh,” the man said and shrugged. “Buck. Buck Linus,” he added extending his hand.
Vitto held eye contact for a moment then shook the proffered hand but didn’t give his name.
“Well, what I have here is bio-circuitry. Interface modules for cybernetic augmentations. These are mil-spec. top of the line stuff. I can get my hands on limbs, skill chips, weaponry, the works.”
Linus waited while the old man examined the small modules. He turned them over in his hands, pulled a face that said ‘I have no idea’ and handed one to Marlan.
“Gents,” Linus said with the commanding tone of a ranking soldier. “I’m not trying to rip you off. These things sell for fifty-k a pop on the black market. We came up short on another deal and it left us hanging with regards to or deal with you. I just wondered if this little avenue in trade might interest you? This little load here would be yours, of course, in lieu of what we owe you.”
The old man said nothing. Stood beside the younger man, his son, Linus could see that as soon as they were together. The blond woman joined them and they spoke amongst themselves.

“These modules,” Marlan said, “they all have serial numbers. How are you getting them without it being noticed?”
Linus grinned. “Check the numbers on them. What do you notice?”
Marlan picked up a few and checked them.
“They all end in nine?”
“That’s right! The guy that wrote the software for the manufacturing plant gets the machine to re-apply every number ending in nine. So there are two x-x-x-nines made, but only one on the system. One goes through the books, the other never existed. Other parts are programmed to deliberately manufacture a fault, which is easily fixed. But the system throws them out. We get them on a disposal contract, correct the error and hey-presto, perfectly good cyberware!
“Don’t they audit you?”
“We have a plan for that. Guy at a recycling plant gets a list of what we have and keeps it on record. Anyone checking up will see us dispose of a shipment and see the guy’s records showing that we have been good boys. They did it once, not long after we started. Very lack-lustre. These are defective parts, they’re not overly excited by them. Lots of folks make robotic limbs and stuff already so the IPR on those things ain’t so tight. It’s the interface modules they’re concerned about. These are the beauties that make all those mechanical bits work with our bodies.”
Marlan nodded to his father.
“Very well, Mr Linus, you have piqued my interest. We’ll take the money as is. Can I presume that this shipment had an original destination and taking them from you now would restrict your cash flow?”
The man shrugged. “A little, but something we’ll deal with.”
Cobretti shook his head. “Keep the money for the last payment. Invest it in acquiring more of this stuff. Call it a finder’s fee. I have a suspiscion that the loss in revenue for us now will come good in the end. I’d like to do business with you regarding these things.” Vitto held up an interface module.
“How much competition would I have?”
Linus thought for a moment. “There’s not a lot of this stuff out there, nothing of this grade. Yeah, you’ve got your sim-sense and low tech skill chips and the old artificial limbs, but these things here are all EMP shielded, Currienium powered. Those were destined for Mars, a taster for a group there.”
“RSB?” Marlan asked instantly.
“That’s right, yeah.”
“We’ll pay you twenty five percent more than they offered you for each shipment and you don’t work for them again. Is that agreeable?”
“Exclusivity will cost you an extra fifty percent.”
Marlan glanced at his father to ensure that he was happy for him to pursue the deal. He was.
“Thirty five.”
The soldier grinned and then nodded.
“You got yourselves a deal, Messer’s Cobretti,” the soldier said, amused at the surprise that showed on Vitto’s face.
“I do my homework,” he added.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:09 pm

The light flickered under the study door. It wasn’t the warm lighting from the room’s lights but a cold whitish light that changed in shade and tone.
Martha Cobretti pushed the door open slowly but remained in the dark passageway.
She could see her husband, his silvery hair almost shining in the ever-changing brightness rom the VDU he was watching at his desk.
Sighing lightly she padded softly across the carpet to stand behind Vitto gently her hands on his shoulders.
He was tense, she could see that, feel it in his shoulders and back.
She rubbed them, thumbs pressing in, palms working muscles.
Vitto sighed heavily and relaxed.
“Can’t sleep?” she asked him.
“No,” he said tiredly, pressing the small green circle on the screen and freezing the soldier in mid-leap.
“Something you need to work on?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I tried to look at some things but ended up watching this documentary instead.”
“About soldiers?” Martha asked. Vitto wasn’t normally interested in military things.
“It’s about advanced augmentation surgery,” Vitto explained. “I was channel hopping and they were talking about nanites and things so I ended up watching.”
“Nanites are dangerous,” Martha stated. “Remember those people who died because the nanites started deconstructing their organs?”
Vitto nodded. “I do, which was why we chose not to use nanites in Tarl’s operation. But that was what, fifteen years ago? Things have come on now. The whole cybernetics industry has advanced hugely. Now they aren’t just talking about repairing or replacing what you already have but they are enhancing things. Now they can augment everything, making you stronger, faster, more resilient. They can even upload skills you didn’t have before. I mean, look at this guy. They’ve replaced his legs that were ruined in an explosion, fitted armour to his body, he’s got targeting systems, medical scanners, all sorts of upgrades. He came to them broken and is going out better than he was ever capable of being.”
“I’m not so sure about all that though, Vitto. I don’t know enough about it.”
“It doesn’t matter now dear. I wish this stuff had been around for Tarl when he needed it. Things may have been different.”
Martha studied the leaping figure on the screen.
“They might have been,” she agreed. “They might have been much worse too. You hear on the news about people, bad people, with these augmentations all the time. And mostly it’s not good news. Tarl’s done alright as he is.”
Vitto smiled at his wife and shut down the screen. “Yes, he has. Let’s go to bed,” he said with a yawn.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:10 pm

The intercom chirped insistently. A shrill electronic frantic chime, high pitched and annoying. It drew The Cross from his sleep.
With a grumble he rolled over and forced an eye open.
A blurred image revealed the late night/early morning caller to be his most trusted lieutenant; Jesus.
Even so, The Cross didn’t like being disturbed in the middle of the night.
His hand reached across to the comms unit, fingers searching for the answer button.
“What the hell is it?” he barked at the unit.
“Sorry to disturb you, Frank,” Jesus said with the tone of someone about to add a very big ‘but’ into the conversation.
“But…” The Cross interjected.
“Mr Cobretti is here to see you, right now.”
Frank Crosslander blinked at the sleep image of his number two. “Mr Cobretti?”
He sounded doubtful.
Petra’s serious face appeared over Jesus’ shoulder.
“Erm… I’ll be right down,” Frank said and hauled himself upright.
The screen had gone blank again.

You’re fucking kidding me! Frank Crosslander thought to himself.
“You do this for me, Frank, and that thing you owe me gets wiped off the slate.”
Frank frowned. “Thing?”
Vitto said nothing.
“Oh!” Frank’s raised eyebrows told the old Cobretti that he knew, he remembered.
Frank nodded absently. “And one of you will be there?”
“A Cobretti will be present, yes.”
“And you want me to arrange for….”
“Yes,” Pauli said abruptly.
Frank sat down in a cold sweat.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:01 pm

"We have to leave by seven at the latest, sweetheart, else we'll miss the shuttle," Tarlan called from the bathroom.
"I know," Aki smiled casually. "I'm packed."
She was laying on the bed, playing absently with one of Miko's dolls while Miko lay with her head resting on Aki's tummy like a pillow, watching some inane children's programme.
Tarl rubbed his back and tried to straighten. It only ended in him hissing in pain and slumping forward again.
He checked the mirror and saw that neither his wife nor his daughter were in a position to see him. Forcing himself as straight as he could manage, he walked back into the bedroom.
"Daddy?" Miko inquired slowly, raising her head and fixing him with those great dark almond shaped eyes that reminded him so much of his mother.
"Yes darling?"
"Why can't I come to Venus?"
"Because I'm working darling," he said sadly as he crouched next to her and planted a kiss on her forehead.
"But mummy's coming?"
He laughed. "Yes she is. Mummy has things to do there too. She needs to go and spend some time at a wonderful spa the have there. They have lots of things that can help mummy and your brother or sister."
Tarlan patted Aki's slightly rounded tummy.
"I want it to be a sister," Miko announced.
Aki laughed now. "Yesterday you said you wanted a brother. What changed you mind?"
“Sato was horrible to us yesterday. I don’t like boys now.”
Tarl looked to Aki and shrugged questioningly. “Sato?”
“He’s in my class at school, he has a big round face,” Miko answered for her.
“Oh,” Tarl said.
A knock at the door stopped further conversation.
It slid open to reveal a woman in her late fifties, Japanese, her hair greying and face lined, but not unpleasant.
Miko’s grandmother shuffled in, bowing slightly to Tarl who bowed back deeper than was necessary despite the pain.
He liked to show Aki’s parents the respect they deserved.
“Come, Miko,” the older woman said quietly. “It is time for your bath and time for your parents to leave.”
Miko leapt up, hugging and kissing her parents and jumped up into her grandmother’s arms.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:57 am

Tarlan eased himself into the driver’s seat and closed the door.
Aki was keying the address into the navigation system.
“This is a posh car, Tarl. Do we really need it?”
He started the power plant.
“We’re not doing so badly these days. Besides, it pays to create a good impression.”
“Okay, just seems expensive, to which I mean the hire costs.”
Tarl didn’t answer. He eased the lev off the ground, listened for instructions from the nav-system and pivoted the car round to the desired bearing.

It took forty minutes flying from their hotel to the warehouse where the meeting was taking place.
The first thing Tarl noticed that stuck him as odd was the lack of other vehicles around.
There were two parked in front of the building, but none ot the other warehouses.
The second thing he noticed was that none of these buildings had signs on them. Nothing on them that said, ‘such-and-such-a-business-lives-here’.
He’d seen buildings like this before.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” he said, keeping his eyes on the surrounding area.
“What’s wrong with you today?” Aki asked. “This is the right place, darling, I’ve checked the address several times.”
Tarlan glanced at her, smiled and brought the lev to a stop alongside the other two vehicles.
He sat for a while, looking nervously around.
“What is it, Tarl? What exactly is bothering you?”
Tarlan shrugged. “Don’t know. Something doesn’t feel right.”
Aki laughed and squeezed his hand. “This is a big deal for you, honey. Worth a lot of money if you land the contract. So you need to take a deep breath. There’s nothing wrong here and there’s nothing wrong with feeling nervous about it.”

A man, mid-thirties, tough looking, wearing a tight fitting t-shirt that accentuated his huge chest and arms thick with chorded muscles stepped from the adjacent car.
Tarlan buzzed the window down a touch.
“Mr Cobretti?” the man asked with a drawl that bellied his southern United States upbringing.
Tarlan nodded.
“We’re your security detail, sir,” the man said with a smile.
Tarlan looked at Aki questioningly. She shook her head blankly.
“I’ve not asked for security,” Tarl said cautiously.
“No, sir? Your firm have though, in light of recent events I’m informed.”
“What recent events?”
“That I’m not privy to, sir. However there has been some unrest in the local area over the last few months so I would imagine it had something to do with that. A Mr Mackenzie told us to come here and provide you with security.”
“Mac?”
“If that refers to Mr MacKenzie, then yes, sir.”
Tarlan shrugged. “What do I do?” he asked his wife.
She shrugged back. “Mac wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t think it was necessary, but I’m sure it’s just a precaution.”
“You’re right,” he agreed with her.

He climbed from the lev unsteadily, taking the stick that Aki held out for him.
“I’ll stay here, honey,” Aki smiled at him.
Tarl smiled back, closed the door and walked over to the warehouse office.

“Name’s Phil,” the big security guard said as three other men emerged from the parked cars and stepped in behind their employer.
“What’s the deal here, Mr Cobretti? Just so my men are clear on things.”
Tarlan stopped half-way to the office.
“This should be a preliminary meeting with a Currienium supplier. I have clients in the hydrogen mining business who are looking for better deals on their fuel supplies. That’s why I can’t see what you guys are needed for?”
Phil gave a nonchalant lean of his head in answer.
Tarlan proceeded to the office door and was about to knock when it was pulled open.
It was a tall man, his shoulder length hair pulled back loosely, his eyes tinged red, a bye-product of growing up on mars.
“Mr Cobretti?”
“I am, yes,” Tarlan stepped in close and held out his hand.
The man ignored it and pushed passed him.
“Follow me,” he said bluntly.
He led them across the front of the building.
Tarlan noticed that strange bluish leaves grew up from cracks in the aging concrete path.
It was here, on the ground where Tarlan found he was beginning to notice things that seemed out of place and made him consider that his earlier feeling of trepidation was justified.
The warehouses themselves looked normal enough, they were aging, but the Venusian atmosphere, despite best efforts to neutralise it, still retained some corrosive elements. The bye-products of which was an increase in lung disease and premature aging of many basic building materials.
This aging he could explain, but surely there wouldn’t be weeds growing through the pavements.
But there were other things too, like paint flaking from signs, holes in the building cladding that looked remarkably like bullet holes.
Tarlan cast a wary eye over the surroundings. He noticed Phil doing the same thing.
The unnamed man led them to a huge rectangular vehicle door that clunked and juddered as it rolled upwards.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Fri Oct 02, 2015 6:48 am

It happened fast.
The door rolled up. Their escort had entered, leaving them standing on the kerbside alone.
Inside the warehouse were huge containers. Labels from many different companies adorned the containers, each hinting at the general contents within; pharmaceuticals, machinery, food, water and military components to name a few.

None though hinted at the Curienium that Tarlan was here to discuss. As soon as the man from the office was gone the huge doors at the back of a cargo skiff dropped open with a resounding clang that echoed around the warehouse and bounced back them from several times over.

Two men were there, their faces covered by scarves.
Tarlan’s security guards reacted quickly.
Guns emerged from concealed holsters.
But they didn’t react quickly enough.
The men in the skiff were already prepared. They held automatic rifles that spat and barked like rabid dogs, bouncing rhythmically into set shoulders.

Bullets ripped into the security detail, their bodies thrown backwards like dolls kicked across the floor by a petulant child.
In the mayhem Tarlan fell backwards, landing awkwardly on his side.

Silence followed.
Tarlan looked about as he eased his head from the gravelly ground.
The four men that Mac had sent to protect him were dead, or as good as. There was so much blood. It looked as though someone had sprayed the floor with red paint.
The retorts had been so loud that they had left his ears ringing. He rolled over and looked back at the levs. The passenger side of their hired vehicle was open. Aki was standing, horrified.
She saw him moving. She mistook his waving arm as him summoning her assistance and ran towards her husband.
“No!” Tarlan bellowed. “Aki! Run! Get out of here!”
She heard him. Confused she stopped, unsure what to do, sudden fear of the unknown clouding her mind.
The men were rushing from the huge open doorway. They all had guns.
Tarlan watched them come. He could do nothing as they surrounded him.
Aki panicked, finally turning away as she had been told. But there was someone there.
A meaty fist slammed into her cheek and she crumpled.

The two were dragged back to the warehouse but were held separately.
Aki stared across the gap at her husband, terrified.
Tarlan felt shame as he knelt on the hard concrete floor. He could do nothing to help her.

They were held there for some time in silence, wind picking up and blowing the coppery scent of blood their way.
Aki was pale, silent, shaken. Tarlan could see she had the vacant look of someone in shock. Having been exposed to horrors of the worst kind she had ever experienced, he was not surprised.
His shirt was sticking to his back with sweat. His fall and kneeling on the ground for so long were agony to him, but he held himself still. They were not going to get the pleasure of him crying out with the pain of it.

A door slammed, echoing in the cavernous space. The footsteps of several people approached from behind, quick and heavy. Tarlan imagined someone annoyed, stomping quickly towards the source of that annoyance.

A man moved in front of Tarlan. He was of average build with copper coloured hair that sat in a wave across his head. He wore a business suit without a tie. The suit looked expensive, tailored. His diamond encrusted cuff-links glistened, reflecting the bright sunshine outside. He said nothing then stood in front of Aki for a while, contemplative and confused simultaneously.

He returned to Tarlan, flanked by three armed escorts.
“Cobretti,” he said flatly. It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” Tarlan confirmed.
“I wasn’t asking, Mr Cobretti. You look like the old man, so you do.”
Irish, Tarlan noticed the accent now.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:24 am

“What the hell do you want?” Tarlan asked venomously.
The Irishman smirked and shrugged. “I want your family to get the bloody message, Sonny Jim.”
“What message?”
The Irishman’s boot lashed out, connecting between Tarlan’s legs.
He doubled over in pain, curled into a ball and whimpered.
Looming over Tarlan’s form the man said, “That you lot aren’t the big boys anymore. You can’t just ride in all rough-shod over us. You know the Syndicate rules better than most. This is our patch; you aren’t welcome. And this,” he swept his arm at the crates and boxes within the warehouse.
“This certainly doesn’t sit with Syndicate rules, you plotting to steal our business away. So this is just a warning, on account of the Syndicate not allowing us to get all in your face and everything.”
“The warning, it goes along the lines of – you can’t have stuff that isn’t yours. Keep your filthy Italian mits off.”
The Irishman spat at Tarlan. He turned and looked at the oriental woman, studying her for a moment before turning to Tarlan once again.
Tarlan’s breathing was steadily coming back to normal, the ache in his groin subsiding.
“That reminds me, so it does!” the Irishman announced.
“We was told by the kind soul that let us know you were coming here today, that you’d been and taken something else that didn’t belong to you. Tut, tut! You thieving wop bastard! Mind you, she’s a looker, I’ll give you that. Can see why you’d want to keep her.”
“She’s my wife,” Tarlan hissed as he tried to stand. His back was in agony, far outweighing the pain in his balls.
The Irishman grinned as he watched Tarlan struggle.
“She’s not though, is she? I’m told she wasn’t yours to start with. She’s someone’s property, and they want her back.”
“What are you talking about?” Tarlan was on his feet now, unsteadily, flinching as lightning bolts of pain racked his spinal column.
The Irishman ignored the question and pulled at his sticky shirt. “Boy, it’s damned hot here. Reminds me of the Middle East. You ever been to the Middle East, Cobretti?”
Tarlan shook his head, glanced down at his feet, and then sideways at the man to his left, to the pistol in the man’s holster.
“Let my wife go,” Cobretti said firmly, now staring the Irishman in the eye.
“Don’t think so, Sonny Jim. She’s got a claim on her that I have to honour, you see.”
“You’ve made a mistake here,” Tarlan argued. “I’m not with the Cobretti family business. I thought this was a legitimate deal. Phone my father and he’ll clear this up.”
“Call your dad? What, are we at school or something?”
Tarlan said nothing.
“You know what they do to thieves in the Middle East, Cobretti?”
Tarlan remained silent.
The Irishman nodded to the men guarding Tarlan.
They grabbed him hold as the Irishman took a huge machete style knife from one of the other armed men.
Tarlan began to panic. He pulled at the guards grip but they were too strong.
The Irishman got closer.
Tarlan relaxed suddenly, his weight dropping him in the guard’s grasp. One let go.
Tarlan’s fingers closed around the grip of the pistol and he yanked it from the holster.
The first shot sent the guard whose pistol it was reeling. The other guard leapt away.
Tarlan turned the pistol and shot again. One of Aki’s captors fell.
The Irishman dodged away from the business end of the gun.
It followed him, fired again. Yet another thug went down.
Something hit Tarlan’s back. It felt like a bat but hurt like a sword slicing him in two.
His legs were instantly numb and couldn’t support his weight.
He toppled like an old chimney stack brought down by demolitions experts.
The Irishman skipped in close and kicked the pistol away from Tarlan’s hand. Then he stamped down with all his might on the hand, just for good measure.

Tarlan’s vision came in sporadic glimpses, blackened out by pain. Flashes, as though he was in a dark place and someone kept flicking the light on and off at random intervals.
His mind raced. He’d been here before and it hadn’t gone well for him.
The meaty sound of boots hitting flesh echoed constantly in his ears, pierced only by the impotent pleas of his wife begging them not to hurt her husband.

Blow after blow after blow.
Bones breaking.
Flesh tearing and organs rupturing.
Tarlan somehow managed to stay conscious throughout most of the ordeal, but eventually it got too much and the living world slipped away from him.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:33 am

White-washed walls, harsh overhead lights with fluorescent tubes, green linoleum floor – easily cleaned.
The room was square; it had one door with a full height window alongside it so that the doctors could look in and judge the mood of the awaiting family.
It was the type of room that Martha Cobretti had spent too much time in already. It was everything she hated about hospitals.
They had been here for five hours and still they had not seen their son. Marlan paced around the room regularly, every five minutes or so, Martha reckoned. It was driving her mad.


Marlan rose up from the burgundy coloured armchair.
Martha couldn’t see him striding like a caged bear, not now, not again.
“For pity’s sake, Marl!” Martha hissed.
Her son stopped, looking questioningly at his mother.
She looked old, world weary. Her eyes were rimmed in red, sunken in shadow in a grey mask.
He’d seen her like this before, many years ago. Same situation.

A polite knock disturbed them, interrupting Martha’s annoyance and Marlan’s discomfort.

The doctor was a petite woman, Indian or Pakistani, the Cobretti’s couldn’t tell just by looking.
“Hello,” the doctor said softly as she entered the room.
The woman’s tone hinted at hope and Martha’s breath caught.
“Your son,” the doctor said in a Venusian accent, “is in a serious condition, but no longer life threatening.”
Martha sagged, a balloon with a slow puncture.
“Thank god!” Vitto said. They were the first words he had spoken in all the time they had been here.
“Can we see him?” Martha croaked.
The doctor fixed her with an impassive stare, like she was sizing her up.
“Your son is lucky to be alive,” she said. “He has suffered some horrific injuries. He looks….”
“Like salami?” Marlan inquired.
“Erm!”
“It’s okay, doc. I think we know what to expect.”
She nodded slowly. “Very well, but only briefly. He’s not conscious yet.”

They followed the doctor through the halls to the recovery room. A nurse stood alongside his bed, taking observations, so they couldn’t see him until she moved away.
Vitto had been expecting to see his son in a bad way, that had been the plan, but the battered lump of meat before him even made him stagger.
Martha wept again.
Despite Tarlan being near to forty, she still saw her boy, fourteen years old, with his life stretching out before him. Such potential destroyed again.

The doctor stood back, allowed the family their moment.
It was ten minutes before Martha asked.
The doctor swallowed hard. She didn’t like this part. She always thought she sounded like her mechanic, listing all the faults on her car and desperately sought another way of putting things.
How is he? It was a fairly innocuous question and one which she was expecting, but still she took a moment to think how best to reply.
“Oh, you know,” she considered saying. “looking like a sausage on the barbeque, missing body parts, some vital, but he’ll get over that. Oh and don’t forget the not walking ever again. Other than that he’ll be fine!”
But the doctor knew she couldn’t say any of that. What the family were expecting now was clinical efficiency. So, she listed Tarlan’s injuries, just like her mechanic, and hated herself for it.
It was the news of the broken neck that got to Martha.
She wanted them to turn off the support machines and let her son die a dignified death but of course, they wouldn’t.
Martha cried into her husband’s chest.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:34 am

A tear formed at the corner of Tarlan Cobretti’s eye and slid down his cheek to pool in his ear.
He was staring up at the ceiling, his body wracked with pain, but that was not the cause of his tears.
“I’m sorry, Tarl,” Vitto Cobretti said squeezing his sons shoulder reassuringly.
“How did she die?”
Vitto stared at his monitor that showed his son’s vital signs. He couldn’t bring himself to look at his boy.
He knew what he’d done and why he did it, but right now he thought that if he was to look into Tarlan’s eyes then the boy would see his guilt.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t long after they found you on Venus, that she died I mean. They must have dumped the body, once they knew they had got away. Venus wasn’t kind to it, her.”
Tarlan swallowed.
“Miko?”
“At home, with your mother.”
Silence. Fifteen minutes that felt like days to the old man.

“I want you to kill them, dad.”
“Who?”
“Whoever did this.”
Vitto looked away.
“What? Who was it?”
“Jesus, Tarl. We think it as RSB,” Pauli answered.
“I want them dead.”
Vitto’s jaw clenched.
“So do we,” Pauli said. “They’ve been nothing but trouble for years now.”
“I don’t care about the business,” Tarl snarled. “I need them to pay for what they’ve done.”
“I’m sorry, Tarl,” Vitto said quietly. “We can’t do anthing.”
“Can’t?” Tarl shouted, “Or won’t?”
“Both,” Pauli answered for this father. “Both, Tarl, alright. We won’t because we only think it was them. We can’t because they are Syndicate.”
“That didn’t stop them. They killed Aki, my wife. Your daughter-in-law.” Tarlan spat the words at his father.
“Christ, Tarl,” Vitto said with a sigh. “I’d like nothing more than to go up against those Irish bastards for this. But our hands are tied. We can’t move against another member.”
“But they moved against you,” Tarl pleaded. “They thought I was there for you, and they attacked. Why won’t you do something? Why won’t you stand up for me?”
“It’s your own damned fault!” Pauli yelled.
“Mine?”
“Yes! Even if the Micks mad a move against us knowingly, it turns out thay didn’t. You aren’t us? You’ve spent years asserting you independence. I mean, hell, dad even asked the Syndicate members not to put any pressure on you even though you had declared yourself an outsider. You’ve been your own worst enemy, you idiot.”
Tarlan was quiet. Stared at the ceiling of his hospital room.
“I want vengeance.”
His voice was bitter and cold.
“I know what you are asking, boy,” Vitto said. “But it’s not just about you. We have responsibilities to a lot of folks. If we attack RSB, unprovoked, as it would appear to the Syndicate, the rest will come for us. Then we would be putting the lives of everyone in danger. Me, you brothers, your mom, Marlan’s wife and their unborn, even Miko. Are you asking us to put all those lives on the line, including your daughters, and don’t forget all those who work for us and their families too. All that for revenge?”

Gulls cried out somewhere outside the hospital window. Tarlan turned his eyes towards the sound. He could see blue sky and white cotton wool clouds; a beautiful day.
“Kill me,” he whispered.
Vitto shook his head silently.
“You’re a dick!” Pauli said as he walked out of the room.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:35 am

It was dark outside. A clear night full of stars that twinkled like only stars could.
The moon was out too, Tralan could see the tall building in the distance lit up by its muted glow.
He heard the door open but couldn’t turn his head to see who had entered.
“Evening, son,” Vitto said.
Tarlan didn’t reply.
Vitto ignored the slight and pulled a low chair up alongside the bed.
He thought how ridiculous it was that the hospital furnished these rooms with such low seating when the beds were always elevated to a height that was convenient for the doctors and nurses.
However, the seat did put his face level with his son’s.
“Have you considered my request?” Tarlan asked abruptly.
“Which one? Kill them or kill you?” Vitto’s voice conveyed no humour.
“Either.”
“Yes. I have considered both. You are my son so there’s no way I am going to kill you.”
“So you’ll kill them?”
“No,” Vitto sighed. “But you can.”
Tarlan snorted a bitter laugh.
“That’s great, dad. You get them here and I’ll talk them to death, one by one. Or maybe you’ll think they’ll die laughing when they see this useless cabbage body before them?”
Vitto said nothing, just frowned at his son.
“Tarlan Cobretti,” he admonished his youngest boy, “you’re being a child.”
Tarlan made to reply but his father cut him off.
“I am not going to wage a war on RSB and endanger the lives of hundreds. But we are going to have our vengeance, if you are prepared to do what you have to do.”
“What can I do like this?” Tarlan was incredulous.
“Nothing, not like that. But what if you weren’t like that?2
Vitto expected the silence.
“I know you didn’t want anything to do with cybernetics before, and I got your reasons for that. But they have changed. The advances in technology for the augmentations and the nanites that enhance them have come on in leaps and bounds.”
“I’ve considered your request, Tarl, and whereas I can’t see how I can legitimately confront RSB without incurring the wrath of the Syndicate, there’s no reason you can’t. you’ve declared yourself independent and everyone on the board knows that. RSB know that your independent status is the only reason we aren’t attacking them alongside the rest of the members. You could do it though.”
“How?”
A smile tugged at the corners of Vitto’s mouth.
“There are these prototype cybernetics, all full combat specifications. They can turn a soldier into a one-man army. They’re incredible, Tarl, I’ve seen them.”
“I’m not a soldier, dad.”
“No. but the mods include skill ware. They basically program the knowledge in.”
“I’m not going to be a robot,” Tarl said angrily.
Vitto shook his head. “Of course not. It’s not like that. They basically create the memories that make up the skills, just as though you had been trained.”
“Wouldn’t this be like going up against RSB by proxy?”
Vitto shrugged. “Sort of. Well, no. I’m going to give you money, a lot of money, to help with your medical care. It’s what any parent would do for their son.”
“Money?”
“Yes.”
“But money’s no good. I need to get the augmentations.”
Vitto smiled.
“You can get them?”
Vitto nodded. “I know some people. And if I was to point you in the direction of a surgeon whose team could rebuild you in whatever manner you required, the there’s no harm in it. And if you chose to have experimental military augmentations instead of the usual type, then that’s none of my business and really, who could blame you? You’ve been attacked and crippled twice in your life, you’ve the right to defend yourself, don’t you think?”
Tarlan was silent, breathing deeply, thoughtful.
“Think about it, son.”
Tarlan was already thinking. He could see Aki’s terrified face. It was his last living memory of her and he hated that it was such a terrible and final moment.
Again his remorse trned to hatred, his hatred to anger and his anger to a cold desire for revenge.

Vitto had put the chair back in the corner and was at the door by the time Tarlan spoke.
“I’ll take your money, father. And your advice.”
Vitto smiled. “Alright, son. I’ll arrange the transfer, and send you details of the clinic.”

Shutting the door with a quiet click Vitto gave his eldest son a nod.
“He’s going for it.”
“Yes!” Pauli jumped out of his seat and punched the air. “We’re in business!”

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:35 am

He stared at the bright lights, huge, intensely white. They hurt his eye but he couldn’t blink.
Tears streamed down his cheeks because of it.
Figures, like green ghosts moved about in his peripheral vision.
Hushed, calm voices whispered just within earshot. Requests for something or other, checks being made and re-made, questions asked and answered.
Then a woman leaned over him from above it seemed to him.
He face was mostly hidden behind a surgical mask. It was round, showing that the woman was a little overweight but she had pretty eyes.
They creased at the corners as thought she was smiling behind the mask.
“We’re ready to begin, Mr Cobretti,” she said softly. “We’ll see you in a couple of days.”
Nodding to someone out of sight she backed away, faded into blackness.
The lights dimmed to a strange shade of purple and then vanished completely.

And Aki Cobretti smiled at him.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:35 am

2 YEARS LATER

It was true that life liked its curve-balls. It had certainly thrown a few in the Cobretti family’s direction.
Curve-ball number one; the youngest of three brothers with a bright future ahead of him gets attacked and paralysed.
Curve-ball number two; the youngest son, after undergoing dangerous surgery and painful rehabilitation decides to buck tradition and stand alone from the family business.
Curve-ball number three; the youngest son, now married father to a beautiful daughter, successful businessman in his own right gets attacked again. His wife is murdered and he is paralysed for a second time this time from the neck down.
Curve-ball number four; the youngest son is told that after thinking all hope was gone, that they could fix him and ‘upgrade’ him. They could turn him into his own avenging angel. Which is what he becomes – fury incarnate.

Only, curve-balls three and four weren’t curve-balls at all, at least not to the whole of the Cobretti family.
To one Tarlan Cobretti they certainly were.

Children screamed and laughed and giggled as they ran around the garden outside the study window. The window was ajar and the sound of their voices echoed around the now empty room.
They were Angel’s children, Monica, Andre and Lucia, entertaining themselves as Angel helped their grandmother pack her things in the hundreds of boxes and crates the removals firm had provided.
She couldn’t have stayed here, the widow of a man who had led the family on a road from down which there would be no true return.
That was not the reason the authorities would come for her though. It was everything else her husband had done since he was a young man. They were keen to root out whatever they could of the criminal families that had long plagued their utopian ideals of society.
Her husband had sat at the helm of one such family. But he was dead now.
So they would want the man who took over from him, when they realised who that was.
Would they ruin her to get to him? Undoubtedly they would.

A faint almost inaudible hiss sounded as a black metallic hand moved the picture it held to a better angle.
It was taken many years ago. The whole family; Vitto, Martha, Pauli, Marlan, Tarlan and Angel. Not one of them had ever been confined to a wheelchair. It was a good time.
They were family. They were my family.
But not anymore, not all of them.
My mechanical hand flipped the picture into a box and I sealed the lid.
Things had changed. We’d had another curve-ball or two.

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Re: The Family

Post by Keeper » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:36 am

It was bright and sunny outside, a typical day in Rome.
Cars buzzed by or roared overhead, people laden with shopping walked serenely along the baking sidewalks.
Two men in grey uniforms strolled sedately into view and I tensed, my espresso cup paused at my lips.
The two men continued on their way, not even glancing in my direction.
Across the street an old guy was opening up his restaurant. I’d seen him before, eaten there many times over the course of my life. It had always been the same short man, though he used to have ore hair and it was less grey when I first came here.
Depending on how things went today, I might eat there again tonight.
The restaurant owner placed a board on the wall outside, showing that he had a two-for-one offer on today. That was new.
I guessed times must be hard for the old-timer, or perhaps custom had diminished since the Annex.

I envied the guy in a way. He’d been here serving wonderful home-made food forever. A constant it what seemed to be an ever changing world.
I wished my life had been like his; steady, safe, honest. But my life was never going to be like that. Destiny, through my very birth had already chosen a harsher more chaotic life for me.

As I sat gazing out at the everyday hubbub, I found myself reminiscing about days gone by. About good times; Akiko, Miko, our holidays to Italy and Mars. Even the uphill struggle that was my business was a good memory.
The trouble with good memories is – there is always some fucker waiting to pull them down. Someone waiting in the wings to ruin everything.

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