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Author Topic: Van Houten's venture.  (Read 1591 times)


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Van Houten's venture.
« on: 15 February 2013, 04:06:12 »
We landed in a dusty space port on the outskirts of Iblis' capital, Directus, early in the morning of the sixth of February. The first thing I noticed when we stepped off the ramp was the skyline in the distance, which was impressive enough for a backwater world like this. It was a little dilapidated, definitely not a place I'd want to settle down, but a sight better than some of the other places I've worked. The DropShip port, on the other hand, was a modern, pristine, glass structure that seemed out of place. I thought nothing of it as I walked with the other passengers through customs. I had a little trouble with one of the agents as he tried to make heads or tails of my identification. I didn't blame him, the place I came from was even more obscure than Iblis. When I was let go, I wandered to the front gate and found a guy in a pair of khakis and a loose fitting button up shirt holding a sign with my name written on it. I nodded at him and he grabbed my bag and threw it in the trunk of a dusty taxi cab.

"Welcome to Iblis, Mr. Van Houten." The cab driver said. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I wasn't really in the mood for conversation. I spent most of the ride into town people watching and took notice of a picture of the cabbie's family he had taped up on the safety glass, probably to discourage any mugger with a heart that might otherwise think to do him harm. "Do you have children, Mr. Van Houten?" he asked with a beaming smile.

"Yes, actually... Two girls."

We made some light conversation. Sam, as I came to learn, was a muslim and his girls were around the same age as mine. He used to have a son, but he passed away recently and it seemed to tear him up to talk about it, so I left him alone. I took another look at the photograph he taped up and noticed the right side was folded over, I assumed there was something there he'd rather not have to explain often. Sam pulled up to a gate patrolled by armed guards and asked me to hand over my I.D. and the letter of consent the local government had mailed over to my office when I accepted the contract so he could show the patrol officer. We were waived through and after a few minutes we pulled up to the courtyard of the Governor's Palace. Sam had me sign my name on a pay voucher. We said our good byes and I stepped out to be greeted by a mountain of a man wearing a neatly pressed suit and a pair of dark sun glasses. He spoke into his cufflink, nodded stiffly and waived me over.

"Mr. Van Houten, it is a pleasure to meet you. I'll be seeing you to the governor's office." he said coldly. I followed him through an unnecessarily lavish series of corridors where I felt assaulted by an over abundance of marble and what I guess you could call art pieces that hung from everything they could hope to stick it to. If I saw this back home, I'd be writing my senator, tearing a strip out of them for misappropriating tax dollars. Of course, I have seen this before on other contracts and to be honest, if it weren't for corrupt dictators with poor fiscal discipline, I'd never work. My escort stopped abruptly by a large set of oak doors and mumbled something into his sleeve before opening them up. I was greeted by a well polished middle aged man with salt and pepper hair and a silk tie. He took my hand firmly and shook it.

"Welcome to Iblis, Mr. Van Houten. I've heard a great many things about your work." He said with political politeness. The governor of Iblis was Yoran Feldman. He was theoretically an elected civil servant, but from what I could gather from the research I did before accepting the invitation, he used the system to legitimize a dictatorship. Criticisms from free journalists that found a way to operate under the world's restrictive reporting guidelines suggested the voting rules were slanted heavily in favor of the leading party and that the "opposition" was loaded to the gills with seat warmers that were picked by Feldman himself. Other than that, Iblis political structure wasn't exactly a topic I much cared about since, at this time anyway, I had no reason to.

I received a letter that looked official enough about three months ago addressed from this guy's office. I had recently retired a colonel in the armed forces, gaining a measure of fame before I did, during a mission I'd rather not think about. I started a small consultancy firm in Lake Patricia, mostly advising on corporate security for the various mega-corporations and the occasional NGO that called Vascilia home. It paid well enough, but when someone sends you a letter telling you he'll pay you a half a million c-bills, you don't really pass it up.

"Thank you." I said professionally.

"I suppose you would like to know why we asked you to our world?" I didn't say anything to him, simply took a seat and waited for him to go on. "Iblis is a beautiful planet with a lot to offer our neighbors. We have natural resources, Mr. Van Houten, valuable ones. We would like to exploit them and share them in the sector, with worlds like yours and others. Unfortunately, beauty can hide deep scars. Would you like a drink?" I had no reason to turn him down and he poured us each a glass of Akvavit, imported from the Lyran Alliance. I couldn't tell if he was bragging or not. It tasted like pickle brine, it was awful. "Iblis has been in a state of simmering civil unrest for decades which threatens to break into civil war. No greater is anti-government sentiment than in the mountains to the north, the Akava range."

I nodded along, wishing he'd get to the point sooner rather than later.

"Mr. Van Houten, can I call you Ronald?"


"Mr. Van Houten, I would like to hire you to go into the Akava range and negotiate with the locals. I chose you for the task because they have heard about you. They think you're a hero. I do too, to be honest. What you did during the battle of Bekanel Pass was amazing. You are truly an unmatched leader." He was stroking my ego at this point. "Iblis is a poor world. The standard of living is very bad for the majority of people." But not for an important man like you, apparently "We need to start trading, we need peace, in order to create a future for the people of Iblis and we are willing to dig deep into our coffers to hire you because you are the only man that may be able to talk sense into the residents of the Akava. The letter said we would pay you five-hundred-thousand c-bills. That was, for lack of a better word, a lie." I was getting out of my seat to leave before Feldman said something worth listening to.

"But we do have diamonds."

"Mr. Feldman, I'll do what I can to help."
« Last Edit: 19 February 2013, 03:12:09 by Auman »


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Re: Van Houten's venture.
« Reply #1 on: 15 February 2013, 14:22:33 »
well writen, and an enjoying read. why am i having flashbacks of very bad double cross moments
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Re: Van Houten's venture.
« Reply #2 on: 15 February 2013, 20:27:56 »
I got out of the meeting a little hopeful. The governor told me that I'd get paid whether or not negotiations were successful, which I assumed they wouldn't. Diamonds were still worth something around these parts and paying off my house with about a week worth of work sounded decent. They even paid for my hotel, those generous souls, which was in one of the nicer districts in Directus. Brazzaville was built up by the governor's good graces and immense personal fortune in an attempt to drum up some tourism revenues, but it turned out to be a bigger flop than Katrina Steiner's tits. Sam was still waiting for me outside, so I caught a ride with him to where I was staying. I'd have tipped him, but I didn't have any local currency. I figured I'd take his card and call him up if I ever needed to go any where on a personal errand, get him back later. After I got checked in, I threw my bags in my room and decided to head out onto the street to get a gauge of the neighborhood and pick up a paper, but all I could find were touristy ad-rags with no real local news. It was kind of scary to think about, but I decided to brush the thought aside and continue on.

Being in the desert, you couldn't really do much to escape the heat. It was summer here and when you were outside it felt like you just jumped into a car that was left out in the sun for too long, every where. My nostrils were completely dried out by the end of my stroll and I started to understand why Brazzaville wasn't doing too well. There were a few casinos, even a theme park, on the main drag. None of it was inspired, the buildings were bland and the entertainment wasn't all that entertaining. When I made it back to my hotel the counter attendant told me that someone had left me a message. She gave me a neatly folded sheet of paper that read...

"Be at the Aumanii embassy before 0800."

Auman is a nation on my world, Vascilia, of which I am a citizen. Why the hell they'd want to talk to me was anyone's business. I assumed, since I was some sort of a "war hero", that they wanted to keep tabs on me and pry into my business. I figured I had to go, otherwise they might do something neat, like revoke my passport or shoot my dog. I prepared my clothes for the morning and then turned in early. I got my wake up call from the front desk, promptly at five o'clock and rolled out of bed, went about my morning rituals, got dressed and went to the lobby. I remembered to call Sam and he drove me to where I needed to be and asked if he should wait. I told him not to bother and that it might be awhile. Still no tip, he drove gingerly down the street.

The Aumanii embassy was a colossal, grey, obelisk with slit windows, surrounded by high fences ringed with razor wire. It was comforting to see the spirit of my nation properly represented in the foreign arena. A couple of stone faced shock troopers nodded me through their check point, they must have already known who I was. At the reception desk, the secretary was even scarier and taciturn than the elite warfighters outside.

"Welcome home, Mr. Van Houten. Follow the red line on the floor." she said in a gravelly monotone. The line lead to a beat up aluminum door that looks like it might have been kicked in before. I made a point of tapping very carefully, I bet I was the only person in the periphery that would find it funny. A booming voice beckoned me in. Before I crossed the threshold I already knew who was in there.

"Well, if it isn't you." I said to the Ambassador, Snake Hortarii, not even trying to hide my displeasure at this reunion.

"Van Houten." If you crossed a cow and a pig, you'd get Snake Hortarii. The bulbous, fat nosed, ex-senator from Mt. Reunification was chomping on the end of an unlit cigar, that was just slathered with spit. "Sit down, Van Houten." Hortarii said, not even with a hint of bile.Surprising, considering that the last time we were in the same room together, I ended up getting sucker punched.

"What are you doing here? You know what, I already know the answer. You're here to talk to the Akavans." Hortarii spoke with his usual underserved tone of self importance. I sat in a folding chair that had seen a little too much wear and continued to grit my teeth. "That Feldman, he never takes my advice. Otherwise you'd not be here at all." Snake lit his cigar with a match, took a long drag and blew the smoke in my face.

"You're right, Snake."

"I'm always right." He shot back smugly. "Now, I don't exactly know how to put this. Personally, I'd rather not tell you at all, but orders is orders. I brought you here to warn you about something. These Akavans, they're good enough people, but they're on the outs. Special Unit is telling me some things. Would you like to know those things?"

Of course, you moron.

"Yes, I would like to know."  I said. "Everything involved here is complicated, mostly classified and would take more time then either you, nor I, would like spend talking to each other. So I'll get to the point, you're probably not going to leave this planet alive. Either the governor, or the Akavans, have hired a gang of mercenary thugs that arrived on-planet a few days before you. Specifically, they're here to kill you." Snake was probably telling the truth, but I hate him... So he can get stuffed.

"I have been ordered to assign you some protection. And before you try to turn it away, it comes straight from the top. For some reason, people think you're a good guy and the president feels better knowing you won't end up in some foreign ditch. I'll be giving you two of my best troopers and they will be stuck to you like glue until you're safe and sound back on home soil. No ifs, ands or buts." He took another drag of the cigar and then waved me off. When I went back through reception there were a couple of tough looking guys waiting for me, dressed as native as possible. The first guy to shake my hand had a pretty outstanding mustache. The other one was quiet as a church mouse, with grey eyes that could cut diamond.

"This is my friend, Lance Corporal Navarrone. I am Master Sergeant Pat Stogryn. But together, you can call us... Thunder and Lightning!" Busting out a flash tour of the gun show, while Navarrone buried his face in his palm in embarassment. These guys were the original odd couple.


These things are getting tweaked all the time, be warned for constant edits.
« Last Edit: 17 February 2013, 04:50:11 by Auman »

Dave Talley

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Re: Van Houten's venture.
« Reply #3 on: 15 February 2013, 21:27:43 »
but it turned out to be a bigger flop than Katrina Steiner's tits.

love that
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Re: Van Houten's venture.
« Reply #4 on: 16 February 2013, 19:09:15 »
Nice start. O0
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Re: Van Houten's venture.
« Reply #5 on: 17 February 2013, 06:27:44 »
I was staring at the ceiling of my room from my bed while "Thunder and Lighting" played a game of big two in the kitchen. I had a heaping report on my night stand that I was supposed to read through, but I couldn't even think about cracking it open. The threat of being murdered by a gang of mercenaries had me worried. No one had ever tried to kill me before, at least they weren't trying to kill me specifically. War is legalized murder, but no one on the field actually hates the person they're killing... Not really any way, despite what they have been told to believe by their superiors. It was a new experience. Someone, probably the guy that hired me, wanted me dead.

Pat threw his cards on the table for what seemed like the billionth time and raised his hands, surrendering to Navarrone. He turned in his chair to look at me and lit a cigarette. "So, uh, Colonel... We heard the story about what happened at Bekanel Pass, but, you know... What was it really like?"

I stayed quiet for awhile, I never liked telling the story, but when it looked like Stogryn was going to ask again, I supposed I had to say something.

"The story is true, one hundred percent. Have you ever seen combat before, Master Sergeant?" I kept my tone as steady and officerial as possible. "Well, neither of us have seen any real action, Colonel." Stogryn said sheepishly. Makes sense, the Army hasn't done much of anything since I was at the pass. I couldn't hold it against him. "It was dirty and I was cold all the time. The guys I served with were tough though and we all had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It must've rained for about three weeks straight and when the Turks came, they had to contend Hill 381 turning into a slip and slide. We took most of them as they tried to climb the eastern slope, but that kind of worked against us. After awhile the bodies were stacked up so thick that the next few waves of them could get traction. That's when things got bad."

Navarrone sat there and gave me a serious stare that gave me the impression he was really interested in what I had to say. Stogryn's eye brows just about hit the roof. I wasn't exaggerating either, we must've killed about ten thousand people that day.

"Ammunition was running out. Everyone around me was killed or seriously wounded. By the end of it I had an empty flare gun in one hand, a broken knife in the other and a strong inclination to get the hell out of the army as soon as possible. A lot of people like to glorify this sort of thing, but war isn't honorable, glorious or ever righteous. It's a terrible, ugly, thing that takes the best of us and turns them into meat." I realized I was starting to rant, so I closed the trap, rolled over and decided to get some sleep.

I was woken up in the morning by Navarrone throwing my bag on the foot of my bed. The sun hadn't even come up yet, but Pat explained his stoic friends eagerness, they wanted to get out of town early before too many people noticed. I stuffed the brief I got from the local government about the Akava peoples into the bottom of my bag and we quietly made our way to a glossy, black, tank of an SUV that the embassy signed out to the boys. We hit the road inauspiciously enough, even stopping at a gas station to pick up some drinks and beef jerky for the trip. We'd be on the road for about nine hours and it was explained to me that we weren't going to stop, not even to use the bathroom, if we could help it. I made sure to get a two liter of bottled water with the extra wide spout, more as a portable out-house than for any overriding love of re-mineralized drinking fluids.

After about an hour or so the desert that surrounded Directus gave way to scrubby, yellow, grassland and rolling hills. It was beautiful. I hadn't seen anything quite like this before. Vascilia had mild seasons that always saw everything get a lot of rain, it ranged from temperate to tropical, we had no deserts, no tundra, no ice any where at all... But tons of rain, too much rain some would say, but if you really grew up there, you'd have gotten used to it. You could always spot immigrants by how much they bitched about the rain.

Eventually these big, fat, fibrous shrubs started popping out of the ground and the closer we got to the Akava range, the taller and fatter they got. They're pretty hard to describe, but if I had to figure it, I'd say they looked like potatoes with whispy, purple, hair. We all laughed pretty hard when Stogryn pointed out one that was shaped like a guy with a raging hard-on. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. That is until we pulled around a curve to find a bunch of mean looking black dudes with machine guns.

We hit a spike strip they laid across the highway. We were going about a hundred and forty klicks and when the front tires exploded, Stogryn flinched and pulled to the left. That was kind of a shitty move for two reasons. The first one being that we were pretty much doing an aileron roll in a two ton armored vehicle. The second being that I took a leak a few minutes before and I forgot to put the lid back in the bottle, so I effectively pee'd on everyone and everything in the SUV. The good thing was that when the truck eventually smashed into a tree, we were more or less alive and miraculously able to move. We immediately double timed into the woods in the direction that was least likely to get us killed, but we were being chased and were moving about as fast as a bunch of people who were in a violent traffic accident should. I saw Navarrone puke without even breaking stride and Stogryn was bleeding pretty heavily from the head. I figured that was okay though, Pat never really seemed to use it that much any way. Stogryn caught his foot on a tree root and hit the ground face first at full speed. Navarrone was totally oblivious and just kept running, so I stopped and hefted my new friend up and shouldered him feebly to where ever it was we thought we could go.

I started thinking that maybe we should just go to ground and try to fight back. Pat couldn't get his rifle free from the SUV fast enough so he left it, I never thought to bring my own gun from home on this trip and Navarrone was so far up the trail by this point that I didn't want to risk yelling for him. Hopefully he'd realize we weren't with him and double back, because I couldn't carry Pat much further.

I caught sight of a small farm house that wasn't too far away, so me and Pat started to hoof it that way as fast as we could manage. I could hear the mercenaries barking at each other, one of them kept saying "Keep up with that other guy! We'll follow the others." If I had to venture a guess, I'd have figured he was probably the one in charge. As we got closer to the front door, I could feel a rush of relative safety sweep over. I knew that it wasn't a Castle Brian, but it had locks and maybe something we could use to defend ourselves. We tripped over a low containing wall, but Pat was up quickly and was starting to get his wits back. I was smart enough to grab a brick I kicked loose when I goose stepped into the wall and follow Pat in. Right at the entrance was a staircase that lead upstairs. I didn't know where Pat was, but I heard shooting, so I bravely made my way up the stairs at full speed. I heard some scrambling on the porch and when I turned around I saw this big son of a bitch poke his head through the door. I must have screamed like a little girl, because he was distracted long enough for me to throw the brick into his face with the power of a thousand Brian Wilsons. The brick bounced off his face and deflected into the door frame. This guy was almost dead and I could feel a twinge of remorse when I saw the pool of blood and teeth forming where his head hit the ground. His breathing was stridorous and if he didn't get help soon, he'd choke to death on his own body.

But I couldn't think about him right now, because his friends were probably about to run in and kill us at any second, so I swallowed my fear and wobbled my adrenalin infused self back to the front door and took that poor man's gun. That's when splinters of wood were spit into my face by gun shots that had barely missed my head. I dove under a nicely finished table, that had a smashed rotary phone and a brick laying on it, then the shooting stopped. I could hear them arguing outside.

"Stop shooting you ****** idiot! You'll hit Danny!"

I looked back over at the guy I hit with the brick, Danny I guess his name was. His breathing was really shallow, but scary rapid. The wet, wheezy, snoring sound of stridor was just awful. I decided it was probably time to talk this out.

"Hey, if you don't get your friend some help, he's going to die." I shouted to them, out from under my table.

"What the hell did you do to my brother, you sumbitch?!"

"He came at me, man, I was only defending myself!" My voice cracked at the most undignified time. "You just let me leave now and you guys can come in here and get him. I don't want to see anyone get killed for no reason here!" They were quiet for a little while. I couldn't tell if they were fixing to bust in on me and take Danny by force or if they were actually considering my offer. And where was Pat? The silence got a little too defeaning for me, so I decided to risk it and take a peak outside. I found Pat. He had an old double barreled shotgun leveled at two people he had splayed out on the ground and he was riffling through their things, tossing their side arms on the ground behind him. Navarrone was walking another three down a dirt road that had their hands up in the air. I guess Hortarii wasn't lying about them when he said they were his best.

"Hey Pat, we got one more in here who's hurt real bad!" I shouted. Pat looked up and found me hiding timidly behind the door. "So what?" He replied. The logical part of my brain agreed with him, we couldn't bother with another prisoner if we could afford it. The human being in me, however, won the argument.

After much cajoling, I managed to convince Pat to let one of the mercs help me try and save their friend. Navarrone watched the other four outside while Pat kept an eye on my helper. I got the mercenary to roll his friend onto his back as I supported his head. A blow that bad probably did a number on his neck and I didn't feel like risking putting the guy in a wheel chair. I performed a jaw thrust to open up his airway, stabilizing his cervical spine at the same time. I quickly trained the mercenary to take over for me and it became pretty obvious I had to assist his breathing. Other than blowing into the guy every few seconds and occasionally tilting him on his side to clear blood out of his throat, there wasn't much I could do. The cops showed up not too long after the whole thing went down and the paramedics came along not too long after that and took the guy I nearly killed off to the nearest hospital.

Oh, and we were all under arrest.
« Last Edit: 17 February 2013, 06:42:01 by Auman »