***Written for 2014 Pod and Planet Fiction Contest
Hisoka wasn’t a professional gambler (he always kept his day job) but he had a knack for uncovering opponents’ weaknesses early then ambushing them with the knowledge late in the game. When the Capsuleer took a shine to his table he quickly discerned he merely needed to play prudently and wait her out. Eventually she’d lose patience, wager big and he’d clean her clock. That the Capsuleer remained good-natured about the beating was unsurprising (no doubt she was obscenely wealthy) but her proclivity to return regularly for additional pummelings was unexpected. Not that her skills didn’t improve over time, they did, impressively so, but the deep weakness remained and Hisoka made far more money than he lost.
When the Navy Warfare Mindlinks came on market the Capsuleers quickly discovered a most curious and unannounced feature: open access to the Mindlink augmented fleet booster’s memories. A Capsuleer workaround was soon developed but it took ongoing mental effort meaning DireNecessity, who out-and-out refused onerous labor, left the conduit open. Few pilots took her up on the backhanded invitation: exactly where one chose to poke around in another’s mind could be every bit as revealing as the secrets exhumed. WhoopsyDaisy, however, was shameless and had been sifting though DireNecessity’s life for months. While the odd voyeurism amused them both during fleet lulls, they never genuinely discussed it. Accordingly, DireNecessity was taken aback the day she found the conduit open in the other direction. WhoopsyDaisy, it appeared, had uncovered a hitherto unknown quirk of the Navy Warfare Mindlinks’ curious unannounced feature: bilateral voyeurism. As it would be rude to ignore such invitation, DireNecessity stepped through the conduit into WhoopsyDaisy’s mind.
DireNecessity: You’re pregnant!
WhoopsyDaisy: I thought it time to announce.
DireNecessity: Flitting about with a suicide ganker’s global criminal countdown on your head may not be in your unborn’s best interest Whoopsy.
WhoopsyDaisy: Wiring the tyke up to her own medical clone improves circumstances.
DireNecessity: How’d you hoodwink a bio technician into such illegal procedures?
WhoopsyDaisy: Well Sis, when your technician’s the love struck father, you can induce him to bend a few rules.
Lost in conversation, WhoopsyDaisy successfully murdered the target but dallied her escape warp and got her pod popped. The distraught look on her bio technician’s face as she stepped out of clone vat communicated their unborn child’s personality hadn’t transferred. The tyke was permanently dead.
DireNecessity couldn’t blame WhoopsyDaisy for loitering in pod. Knowing you’ll outlive your mortal children was a painful prospect she was all too familiar with so it came as no surprise to her that WhoopsyDaisy chose to test whether the tyke was Capsuleer stock right from the get go. Trial run having foundered, WhoopsyDaisy fell into an uncharacteristically deep funk.
Hisoka was pleased to see DireNecessity take a seat at his table, then ante up. Life had grown far too somber and thrashing the Capsuleer would be wonderful distraction. On this particular evening, however, DireNecessity didn’t crack. Oh he was winning, but each small gain was the product of long, arduous struggle. As the game progressed deep into the night the determined Hisoka failed to notice the club’s fatigued patrons gradual depart eventually leaving Hisoka and DireNecessity entirely alone. (Even the barkeep had wandered into the back room to verify inventory.) Choosing this moment, DireNecessity set her chits on the table, looked Hisoka in the eye and commented, “You seem a tad gloomy Hisoka. Something have you down?”
“I am winning,” he replied.
“No doubt, honeybunch,” she needled. “You are the better gambler. Perhaps something outside our game yanks your chain?”
Being the better gambler, neither Hisoka’s expression nor tone revealed the alarm he felt at the Capsuleer’s shift to overly familiar language. Unwilling to divulge, he deflected with a question, “Why do you ask?”
“Oh sweetie,” DireNecessity answered, “I’m not asking, not really. I’m torturing.”
Hisoka sat stone-faced.
DireNecessity continued, “Honestly baby cakes, I’m an immortal Capsuleer. I may not be the best gambler in system but do you really believe impatience my weakness? I’ve been feeding you money for months tickle bottom. A great deal of money. Now I come to collect that debt.”
Hisoka considered his situation. Mingling with Capsuleers had always been a high stakes proposition but he’d finessed his way through and profited mightily in the process. This situation, however, looked grim. He hadn’t swindled a dime from DireNecessity. Every game played had been standup legitimate but to outsiders it surely appeared he was cheating. If she leapt across the table and stabbed a fork in his throat, all would confirm he deserved it. Best to negotiate repayment.
“What do you require?” he asked resignedly.
“Before we discuss what I need, let’s contemplate what I know,” she replied. “I know of your day job Bio Tech Hisoka. I know of you and my little sister WhoopsyDaisy. I know about the tyke and more importantly, I know you sold her out. Most imprudent of you, no?”
“In hindsight, yes, quite imprudent,” Hisoka answered drawing deep breath. “The payoff was irresistible.”
“Then why the gloom?”
“Treachery generates burdens.”
“That very load quantifies loyalty,” replied DireNecessity. “How else would we genuinely know?”
“You’re true comfort DN.”
“Oh, but there’s more sweet pea. The tyke lived. Hisoka, your child survived. Though I’m aware of the what and how of your treachery, I know not the with whom nor the to where.”
Hisoka had not considered this possibility. It was too difficult to contemplate. Rather, he’d presumed the tyke dead and sold off the illegal clone forthwith. Pausing a moment, he chewed his lips then called DireNecessity’s wager, “Dr. Araham Keredin’s old bio lab, Royal Institute, Amarr Prime.”
“Keredin left the Royal Institute. He presently works with Cromeaux,” DireNecessity commented suspiciously.
“Correct. I was not contacted by Keredin. Nor was I contacted by the Royal Institute. Rather I was contacted directly by former employees of his decommissioned lab.”
“What pleasant surprise,” replied DireNecessity pushing her ISK across the table, “Your call wins. Congratulations Hisoka. Prudently played.”
“Always a pleasure DN.”
“Hisoka,” replied DireNecessity standing up to depart, “Have you ever considered genuinely going all in? Drop in on WhoopsyDaisy. Tell her the truth. All of it. She’ll either murder you where you stand or you’ll unearth an extraordinarily forgiving lover for the rest of your mortal life.”
“Care to advance a probable result?”
“How should I know, you think I read minds? It’s your wager.”
“This is taking too long,” the customer complained. “Take me to the blood samples. I can find the one I’m looking for in the blood samples.”
“Ma’am, they’re merely test subjects,” replied the research attendant. “Beaten, broken, defective – barely proper slaves. Unremarkable. All of them unremarkable.”
“Don’t toy with me,” responded the customer, “Remarkable dances in the eye of the beholder. No slave is proper. Now take me to the samples.”
Perhaps it was the customer’s ominous manner. Maybe it was the hint of tattoo on her cheek. Most likely it was greed. Whatever the reason, the attendant chose to comply. Once in the sample room the customer pulled lids off the delicate tubes, smelling each one carefully. Pausing at 2256-D, the customer dabbed a dot of the blood on her finger and tasted it.
“This one,” she stated, handing him the tube, “Ship this one.”
“And the test subject?” he asked.
“Yes, yes. I’ll purchase the subject too.”
“Sample shipping I can do immediately. Subject purchase will take several days to finalize.”
“Expedite the purchase. I’ll return late tomorrow.”
And the customer did return the next day. And the attendant had contacted security. So a detective was lurking near 2256-D’s dreary containment cage when the customer calmly coaxed the intricately wired, thoroughly terrified subject child out, whispered into the subject child’s ear and then, looking directly at the attendant, snapped the subject child’s neck so swiftly the head broke free of the torso. The customer then swung around, located the detective and charged but the detective had time to draw his side arm and sear a clean hole trough the customer’s abdomen.
“What did she whisper to the test subject?” asked the detective, pulling the writhing customer’s singed blouse open to inspect a full set of militant tattoos flowing around hydrostatic capsule interconnection jacks.
“Do forgive me little one,” quoted the attendant. “No child should die so many times so young but circumstances are dire and this is necessary. I promise that from this moment forward, once home in Arcadia, you’ll live a charmed life.”
“Deranged Minmatar wench – nothing further to discern here,” proclaimed the detective. “Escort our wounded Capsuleer customer off the premises then clean this mess up.”
But there was more to discern and the attendant had discerned it. So he’d contacted security only after shipping the sample, collecting his fat bribe and booking black-market off planet passage. Only once safely off planet did the blissful bearing that settled over the subject child as neck vertebra splintered begin to haunt him.
“Tell the story again Momma!” squealed the toddler bouncing in mother’s lap.
“It really was a long shot,” replied WhoopsyDaisy. “We didn’t know if Auntie DireNecessity would actually find you. We didn’t know if Papa Hisoka would receive your sample in time to set up a medical clone. We didn’t know if the bio lab where you were trapped had set up their own medical clone and we didn’t know that if they had, you’d understand which clone to jump to.”
“But she did, he did, they had and I understood!” hollered the toddler.
“Indeed,” replied WhoopsyDaisy, raising the toddler’s arms in triumph, “Hurray for CharmedLife!”
“Momma Whoopsy,” added CharmedLife, suddenly grave, “why didn’t you murder Papa Hisoka?”
“Not my decision to make sweetie,” answered WhoopsyDaisy.
“I understand,” replied CharmedLife. “I’ll decide tomorrow.”