On Chicago, there’s a man named Tigo. Tigo and I, we’ve had occasion to meet before. In both cases, we shot each other. First time, he got me right in the chest. Had I been human, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. Second time, I got him in the leg.
Needless to say, I was a little worried where this meeting would end up.
Tigo’s ship was parked ‘round the bad part of town in Bronzeville, a small grungy city not too far from Bridgeport. His ship matched the city: small and grungy. From what my untrained eye could deduce, it’d been a military barracks transport before someone hacked off the top level, replaced it with an Ion Canon, and painted the whole thing black (though now it was more black, red, and grey with rust and peeling paint). Oh, and secured giant spikes to the four thrusters sticking out of the sides.
A real eyesore.
I’d considered my options at that point. I could’ve gone in all stealthy-like and catch Tigo with his drawers down. Or I could’ve blown something up out here and lured his boys outside, then run like blazes (trust me, nothing runs faster than a vampire sure he’s about to be shot).
Yet, none of those options felt right to me. In the end, I dragged my M52 Automatic Pulse Rifle out from its hiding place under the pilot’s console. Weighs about fifteen pounds and feels like I’m lugging a mini-canon around at my hip but damn is it a flashy piece of work. If you’ve got one of those on, most sane folk leave you be. I call her ‘Old Bess’.
I strapped Bess to my chest as I stepped out of my office. Maeve stared at me.
“Good God, Jack, what is that thing?”
“This?” I hefted it, sliding the cocking mechanism down the barrel. “It’s an Automatic Pulse Rifle.”
Her jaw dropped open. “What are you going to do?”
I pulled my tan suit jacket on over Bess’ straps and untangled my tie from the central buckle. “Get some answers.”
And with that, I strode out of my ship into the last rays of twilight and right up to Tigo’s. Getting past the pair of guards at his open docking hatch was easy. One good wave of Bess at their faces and the docking hatch was not only open but abandoned, the sound of the guards’ feet pattering on the concrete in the distance.
I entered Tigo’s less-than-humble abode and followed the hallways until I got to his command center. He’d remodeled this room too. The sprawling map table in the center had been ripped out, replaced by four poker tables on a dark red carpet. At least ten of Tigo’s boys lounged around the room, some sitting at the tables drinking and gaming, others standing on the suspended walkway that wrapped around the room.
Tigo lounged in the captain’s chair behind the poker table farthest from the door, a tumbler of whiskey in one hand, cards in the other. He’s a short, dumpy little man, prone to wearing Hawaiian tourist shirts and brown dress slacks. Broad red face, little brown eyes, and mousy hair. Like his ship, a bit of an eyesore.
“Jack! What a—oh, er, um, right.” He stared at Bess and I fancied a look of panic in his piggy eyes. He lowered his cards but kept the drink. “You mean business.”
“Damn right I do, Tigo. I’m looking for Bobby Sims.”
“Bobby? Haven’t seen him.” Tigo took a sip of whiskey, eyes averted.
“Come on, Tigo. Don’t lie to me.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of Tigo’s men—a bruno dressed in a dark green suit that matched the tables—inching closer, his hand on his Pulse sidearm.
I swung Bess around to point at his face. Bess made that slight, high-pitched whine of her power coils heating up for a fifty-round Pulse shot.
What I hoped they didn’t know was that I hadn’t had the batteries to power Bess for twenty years now. Making that noise was about all she did.
Thankfully, the man didn’t seem in the mood to tempt fate or my trigger finger and backed down, hands spread and far from his gun. I turned back to Tigo and hefted Bess. “Start talking or I start carving holes in your ship, in your men, and most of all, in you.”
Tigo held up his hands, one still occupied with holding his whiskey. “All right, all right! No need to get hasty. I’m willing to cooperate. Bobby’s over in Avondale. He’s got a ship there, the Albatross. Ask the docking committee to run a search. He’s registered. You got a death-wish, Jack. That guy’s a real piece of work.”
“You let me worry about him.”
There was a soft clicking behind me, growing louder with each passing nanosecond. I turned and found Maeve standing in the doorway of Tigo’s command center. Before I could speak, the whine of a charging Pulse weapon filled the air followed by—
And my back exploded in a fiery mushroom of agony.
Tigo shot me.
I probably screamed, I’m not sure. Instinct kicked in and I ran, praying that my undead feet would carry me faster than a second pulse shot. I grabbed hold of Maeve’s hand as I passed, towing her along behind me.
I didn’t answer.
“Jack, you’re bleeding. And kind of burnt.”
Really? Why, I would never have noticed. “Yeah,” I managed between gasps. “I know.”
Remember when I said nothing runs faster than a vampire scared of being shot? Yeah, well, I take that back. Nothing runs faster than a vampire who has been shot. We made it back to my ship in record time.
“Close it, close it! Gloria, get the engine running! Tigo’s got an Ion Canon!” I tossed Bess down on the flooring plates, the polymer casing of the rifle slamming into the metal with a resounding bang.
“Since when does Tigo have an Ion Canon?” came Gloria’s shout from the engine room below. Maeve smashed the buttons on the docking hatch control panel.
The doors slid shut behind us with a bang, cutting off the sound of Tigo’s men firing at my ship with Pulse weapons and the deep bass hum of the Ion Canon firing up. I stumbled down the hallway to the pilot’s cockpit, my wounded back screaming it didn’t want me using my legs and my legs screaming that if I didn’t sit down right now, my knees were going to give out.
I collapsed in the pilot’s chair, disengaged the landing gear, and started the takeoff sequence. The high-pitched pinging of the Pulse shots ricocheting off the hull of the ship punctuated the roar of the engine and the shriek of the thrusters firing. We shot off the ground at a good 235 MPH just as that damn Ion Canon went off, tearing a crater in the concrete where my ship had been sitting.
Only through a liberal application of sheer dumb luck and pain-induced adrenaline did I manage to avoid getting blown out of the sky or plowing my poor ship into a skyscraper or some other poor bastard waiting in a landing lane. We ducked, weaved, and twisted our way through Bronzeville. A few minutes later, we broke through the city’s outer crust, headed toward Avondale.
I leaned back in the pilot’s chair, shaking. It was a miracle we got out of there without me killing us. How I flew with my hands practically vibrating is beyond me.
Around that point, the adrenaline high started wearing off and the pain came back full force. I entered into a whole world of misery, waiting for my supernatural healing powers to kick in and patch me up.