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Running Scared

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Parlour Games

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show you when you are there."
"Oh no, no," said the Fly, "to ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

Thorne had done his fair share of rep retirements for Rep-Detect during his years working for them and any number of 'special assignments' since he'd left the force. And he was still alive. Some of those assignments had earned him a reputation as a man who would get a job done with no complications. And yet ... something stank about this job.

Rule number one: Trust nobody. He'd known Alexia a long time; could almost consider her a friend. Well, as close as anyone got to being a friend in this stinking business. He'd done a variety of jobs for her and everything had always been exactly as specified. He didn't want to believe she wasn't being straight with him. And yet the hackles on the back of his neck were telling him something was different this time. Unfortunately in this business, everyone eventually tries to sell you out.

"A crema job. No questions. I think not!" he muttered to himself. The cheque was big - irresistible - but too much. Corps only paid that sort of money to freelancers when they expected to get it back somehow. The Czech beer started to taste rank in his mouth.

Staying in a public place for any length of time was not Thorne's style, so he quickly shuffled the dossiers back into the guts of the V-K case and snapped the catches shut. Grabbing the steel handle he stood slowly and headed to the exit. Just another guy going about his business, a mastery of orchestrated blandness. It did not escape his attention that one of the bartenders looked at him fractionally too long as he left.

Thorne stopped in the lobby to light another Boyard. He reflected that back when he was learning the ropes, smoking in public places was strictly forbidden in L.A. Now the air was so toxic nobody even noticed. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the bartender, now in buttoned-up black trench coat, was lurking, ready to follow him. Thorne ambled with studied ordariness past the elevators to the stairwell door that was partially obscured by a fake potted tree. The bartender dutifully followed. Bartender? Corporate agent more like. Or maybe cop. Perhaps both.

Thorne slipped through the door. As soon as he was out of sight of anyone in the lobby, he transformed from the shambling, slightly hunched anybody and bounded up the stairs with panther-like grace. He was through the door on the floor above before the Corp dick made it into the stairwell. Thorne imagined his blank look turning to panic when faced with the deserted staircase. "Bet he'll catch hell from his superiors when he tells them he lost his mark in less than 30 seconds!"

He moved swiftly now out to the spinner parking area. The thick air breathed into the edges of the building - not nearly as bad as at street level, but foul nonetheless. Dark spinner shapes etched outlines against the blackness of the night. Thorne identified the police vehicles, the Ferraris of the jet setters, and the dull black oblongs belonging to so-called 'officials'. He made his way through the shadows to a plain, dull grey spinner - one of the early police jobs that had become obsolete. He'd lied to Alexia about not owning a spinner - a habit, born out of his instinct for survival. Trust nobody.

With elegant efficiency, he was already firing the engines before the door had fully closed. Focused thrust pushed Thorne's spinner into the empty night sky. Why have him tailed at all? He didn't have time to ponder that now. Thorne turned his thoughts to the assignment he'd accepted from Omni Biogenics. Three doppelganger replicants at Tyrell. High positions and unnoticed? And what interest did Omni have in them being 'cleaned'. First priority was to get the cheque paid into a bank account, and immediately shift the money elsewhere. He could worry about the implications of his assignment later ... and how it tied in with what Sandeman had told him.



Option 1 - Alan Thorne pays it in

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Date: 2002-06-02 01:10