The Raven Haired Rogue


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In the first episode, Zach, the freelance PI, is offered two jobs and readers voted that he chooses to try to find the dog from Mars for a million credits.

Episode 2

HARV looks me in the eyes. “Zach, you know I think the known worlds of Dr. Pool.”

“Yes, as far as you are concerned he is the greatest human mind on Earth,” I reply.

“Correct,” HARV says. He morphs into a series of figures many of them red. “But a quick glance of your bank account shows you could really use the credits.”

I turn my attention to Carol; after all, she is much easier on the eyes and the brain than HARV. “What do you think?”

“The hologram makes sense,” Carol says.

“Of course, I make sense,” HARV lectures. “I am literally built to make sense.”

“Plus, if it helps, I’m pretty sure this dog case is more than it seems…” Carol adds.

“Yeah, I’m leaning towards the dog case,” I say.

I know what you are probably thinking, Zach, the dog case hasn’t been offered yet. So far it’s just Carol’s vibe. But I will tell you right now that Carol’s vibes and hunches are nearly as reliable as anybody else’s facts.

“Zach, you have a call coming in from Merinda-1616,” HARV tells me. “Do you wish to accept it as a hologram or on the wall screen?”

I take my feet off of my real oak desk. I sit up and straighten my jacket. Even though my office is meant to look much like the typical gumshoe’s office from a hundred years ago, looks can be deceiving. I have all the modern necessities: wall screens equipped with full room holographic projectors and a laser defense system. (Believe me, when you’re me, a laser defense system is a necessity.) I point to my left wall. “Left wall screen, please.”

The image of a regal looking woman with long dark black hair fills my left wall. Her dark hair is made more striking by her creamy white skin. She holds her head high and steady her piercing green eyes locked on the screen, unwavering. She is probably a little older than I am but not much.

“Mr. Johnson, thank you for taking my call, I am Merinda-1616. I am part of the high council of Mars.”

A message from HARV rolls across my eyes. “People from Mars, well Martians, all use numbers for last names. They believe it gives them solidarity.”

“The pleasure is mine, Merinda. What brings you to Earth?”

“I am here trying to negotiate a trade deal between Earth and Mars colony. As I am sure you are aware we on Mars make the finest hand crafted goods in the known worlds,” she tells me, without batting an eyelash.

“Yes,” I say with a nod. I point to Carol. “My assistant Carol has one of your scarves she raves about.” I lean towards the screen and ask, “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

“I want to hire you to find my dog and dearest companion, Saturn,” she tells me. “He’s a special creature.”

I sit back in my chair and prop my hands behind my head. “Oh?”

Merinda nods. “Yes, very special. His IQ is well over 200 and he can communicate telepathically.”

“Now that is special,” I say. “When did he go missing?”

“A couple of hours ago. He said this hotel was too stuffy and he needed some fresh air. He left and that’s the last I heard from him.” She shivers a little. “I wanted to send a security person with him but he insisted he’s a big boy.” Her eyes plead to the screen. “Please Zach, you have to find him. I’ll pay a hundred thousand credits advance and another hundred thousand credits when you find him…”

Okay, not exactly the million credits Carol thought it would be, but even the best PSIs aren’t perfect. Besides, two hundred thousand credits to track down a dog isn’t a bad payday.

“Sure, I’ll do it,” I tell her.

Her eyes pop open, her lips curl into a smile. “I’m staying on the 13th floor of the Kardasian Towers. Come here and I will give you all of Saturn’s pertinent information.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I say. “When tracking down a subject it’s always helpful to see their last known surroundings. I may get a clue.” I stand up from my desk. “I should be there in twenty minutes.”

“I look forward to meeting you,” Merinda says. She nods and my wall screen goes blank.

I turn to Carol. “Ready for a little road trip?”

“Sorry, I was wrong about the amount,” she says.

I shrug. “Nobody is perfect. Not even you.”

I walk over to my actual wood coat rack and take my fedora off the top.

“Why must you insist on always wearing that hat when you start a case?” HARV asks.

“It helps set the proper tone,” I insist, walking out the door. “Being a PI is as much about attitude as anything else.”

I hear HARV sigh in my brain. “I have informed the esteemed Dr. Pool that you will search for his pen pal as soon as your schedule allows,” HARV says.

“Good, thanks, buddy.”

“To which Dr. Pool replied and I quote, okeydokey once he tracks her down I will buy him a milkshake.” HARV hesitates for a moment then adds. “So it appears we made the correct choice.”

It’s a nice sunny day on the new Frisco pier. A few tourists dot the street taking 3D photos of themselves standing by the water, like that’s some great accomplishment. Three other tourists: a man, a woman and a kid are ogling my 1973 Cherry Red Mustang. Now, these are people with taste.

“Is this really your vehicle, sir?” the kid asks. He’s a small kid with red hair and freckles.

“It is,” I say with a grin.

“And you actually have to drive it yourself?” the mom asks, her hair done up in a near perfect bun.

“I do,” I say.

“How quaint and archaic,” the dad says. I notice he has an old pipe in his front pocket, which is weird. Hardly anybody smokes these days, especially not from a 1950s style pipe.

“HARV, scan these folks,” I think. “They look too much like a 1950’s sitcom family to be real.”

HARV appears, projecting himself from my wrist communicator. “First off, the car has been modified so I can drive it if needed. Second, Zach, these people are all wearing holographic disguises.”

The kid looks at HARV and smiles. “Wow, you really are as good as people say.”

The three family members each touch a button on their belts. The holographic covers blur away. I am now standing face-to-face. Well, face-to-chest with three big apes in really expensive suits.

Oh, I’m not talking dramatically here these are three actual apes. These days if some companies have messages they want to deliver in a hard to ignore package they use actual apes. Apes are big and intimidating and they haven’t unionized like human and mutant muscle. Plus, they are easier to maintain than android muscle. And when push comes to shove, apes are scarier than androids. Still, I’m not one to scare easily.

I lock eyes with the biggest ape, figuring he or she is the leader. My thought process being that I could stare them down.

“Dude,” the ape I’m locking eyes with says. “We each outweigh you by a good 100 kilos and we’re freaking apes carrying heat.”

The two other apes open their jackets to reveal very big side arms.

“Your point being,” I snarl.

The lead ape points to his ear. “Plus we’re each wearing really expensive PSI blockers so Carol can’t warp us with her mind.”

“Your point being?” I repeat.

The lead ape up opens up his arms and lifts his hands. It’s meant to be a friendly gesture. “We just want to talk…”

Zach, I’ve tapped into the ape’s communication devices,” HARV tells me in my mind. “They seem to be in the employment of a new reality HV network called: Actual, Real Reality HV Net.”

Now would be a good time to mention that the reality networks all want to sign me. They figure the network that reels in the last freelance PI will get a major ratings boost. In a way, it’s a bit flattering, but in practice it’s far more annoying. I want these apes to back down. They say they just want to talk, but the thing is they are apes and apes respect a show of power. I do wear reinforced, HARV enhanced, under armor and keep a nifty Colt-4500 up my sleeve. I am more than capable of holding my own in a brawl, even if it’s against three apes. Still, years in the business have taught me there are times when you get more out of making the right gesture than throwing a right cross. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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3 responses

  1. Definitely get rough. Based on Zach’s past experiences, this is the only way to really let an ape know you mean business. Have HARV power up your muscles, though. They respect fists more than weapons.

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