First Kill
Saturday, February 9, 2008

A ficlet to keep you going between the end of Series 1 and the beginning of Series 2. An Operative’s first hit. Read and be chilled. Feedback would be much appreciated.


February 2525, Londinium “I’m telling you he took apart the box and then electrocuted himself.” “You should have been watching him!” “I was. I just turned my back for a second.” “He could have died, Bron.” “Excuse me – Mr and Mrs Madoc?” The couple turned from their arguing to face the doctor. “Yes?” said Frank Madoc in a surly voice. “Gerowyn will be fine. The electrocution carried only a low voltage, enough to knock him out, but not kill him.” Bron put her hand on her chest in relief. “Can we see him?” “Yes. He’s awake now. But first I have to talk to you about something else.” “What is it?” “Will you sit?” The couple obeyed, already dreading the doctor’s next words. “We did a complete check-up on him. It seems that he has a congenital kidney condition. It’s nothing to worry about. Quite a simple procedure these days, Mr and Mrs Madoc, honestly. We’ll just get a sample from you both and then one of you can donate a kidney, if you’re compatible. If not, then we test the rest of your family.” Bron Madoc went white, knowing all her nightmares had just come true. Frank pressed his wife’s hand in comfort, though there was none he could really offer her. “Our son is adopted, Doctor,” he said, not understanding why his voice came out sounding so reassured and confident. The young doctor wasn’t worried. “Okay. Well contact the adoption agency and they should be able to arrange a sample or get in touch with the birth parents. Get them to contact me here. My name is Doctor Lincoln.” “But-“ started Bron. “Thank you, doctor. We’ll do that,” interrupted Frank. “Doctor,” began Bron. “What happens if the birth parents can’t be located? Or are dead,” she added quickly. “This condition that Gerowyn has likely won’t start giving him trouble until his twenties. But if he doesn’t get a kidney transplant before then, it will shut down without warning and they’ll be nothing we can do.” “He’ll die?” asked Bron in a whisper. “No,” assured Doctor Lincoln. “But he’ll have to live his life on a dialysis machine until a matching donor kidney is found.” ~ Bron walked up to the hospital bed where her son lay asleep. Though Frank had told her to keep herself under control, she still couldn’t prevent her teas from flowing. The thought of losing him was too much to bear and Bron took his small hand in hers. Gerowyn’s eyes flickered open and his gave a tired smile, happy to see his Mam and Dad. “Mam. I’m sorry. I know you told me to stop playing.” Bron couldn’t answer, she just squeezed his hand. Frank smiled widely, just as relieved his son was okay but his stoic nature prevented him from showing it. “It’s okay, son. They’ve said we can take you home tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t go taking apart any machines.” “I won’t, Dad. ‘Less they ask me to.” Frank chuckled, and ran his fingers through Gerowyn’s hair. “You get some rest then. We’ll be back in the morning.” Bron leaned over and kissed her son’s forehead, feeling happier but not completely settled. ~ “What are we going to do? There’s no way we can trace Gerowyn’s real family,” said Bron, once their front door was closed. “We can try, love. I can ask the man who sold him to us – see what he says.” “But they told us never to contact them again.” “I don’t care. Do you know how hard it’ll be to find a donor?” “Maybe we can hire someone to find out – it’s not as if we can’t afford it,” insisted Bron looking desperately at her husband. “We have to do everything we can. I won’t lose him, Frank. He’s ours.” Frank looked pained, and hid it by holding Bron close. When he’d taken possession of Gerowyn he had been threatened never to contact them again – it had been part of the deal. But this was different, surely. They must have records and they could help his son live a full life. The next day Frank asked around at his work and found a private investigator to contact, locally as it turned out. Instead of waving, which he would have had to do at home in front of his family, he went there in person. The offices were low-key, almost slum-like, but he was on the cusp of a good area, so the man couldn’t be doing that badly. He noted the unusual name on the door and knocked, receiving an answer almost immediately. It was a one room office and the man behind the desk was old and weathered. “Are you…?” Frank asked, pointing to the name on the door. He received an affirmative nod by way of response, so he walked into the room. Frank was nervous and he sat down quickly, rubbing his hands together. The other man took off his glasses and spoke reassuringly. “I am discrete – I don’t advertise and I only work by word of mouth.” “Tha-“ Frank’s voice was a squawk and he cleared his throat. “That’s good. I’ll come to the point – if only to get it off my chest as quick as possible. My wife and I were never able to have children. You see she’s much older than me. We therefore had no hope with the adoption agencies. Word must’ve got around – it wasn’t a secret that we were desperate – and I was contacted. “Who by?” “His name was Foley. It all happened really fast from there. I paid – ten thousand in cash money. I left it in a deposit box and waited to be contacted. A week later a man approached me on the street – Foley. I walked with him to a warehouse in the Lang Su District, on Browns Street. There were four babies there and I chose Gerowyn, mainly because he was the only one not crying.” The private investigator watched as the man’s face changed with a reminiscent smile. “He was looking around, like he was curious about his surroundings. I touched his belly and I swear he smiled at me.” Frank realised that he was getting off the point and his face grew serious again. “I’ve come to you as a backup, in case I can’t track this Foley down, and I’ll keep trying – as long as it takes. My son has a medical condition that will only be cured with a kidney or DNA from a family member.” “I’m not sure I can help you, Mr?” “Madoc. Frank Madoc.” “Mr Madoc.” “I can pay.” “I’m sure you can, Mr Madoc. But there’s very little I can offer you by way of hope. You bought your son illegally. Do you have any idea how many ways the child could have been brought to you?” Madoc flushed, his own stubbornness refusing to consider every way. “They said he was two weeks old and that was in August 2513. I’ve tried contacting Foley again, but the reference seems to have been disconnected.” “I’ll see what I can do, Mr Madoc. I make no promises though – it’s likely these people left no trace, specially twelve years later. Contact me in a week and I’ll confirm whether this is a dead end or not.” Frank sighed with relief, feeling like he’d confessed to a priest rather than a private investigator. “Thank you, Mr Dudge. I’ll see you in a week.” Frank shook his hand fervently and left, feeling more hope than he had in days. ~ * ~ “I’ve got a clean-up job for you.” Abigail Penney felt the excitement tangibly leap through her body. After some intensive training and low-level assignments, she was finally given something to get her teeth into. Until that moment, she was under the impression they didn’t think her good enough. She had been desperate to do a clean-up. In fact, if she had any choice in her new job title, it wouldn’t be Operative, it would be The Cleaner. Clean-ups allowed her to step into people’s lives like a scalpel and slice away the infected parts. “Send me the details in the usual way. I’ll take care of it,” she answered, trying to keep the happiness from her tone. The man on the wave disconnected and Abigail took a cleansing shower, her second one of the day. Afterwards, as she towel-dried her hair, she considered how beneficial it was that the slave ship had been discovered, as it had allowed her to change jobs. One day she’d been doing monotonous high level spying work (administration really), with the occasional lackey job for Blue Sun, and the next she was her own boss and completely untouchable. Abigail smiled; even if she was tracked down by someone linking her to The Mothership, as an Operative she answered only to Parliament and could not be prosecuted. Abigail Penney was a woman of routine, as well as being fastidiously neat. She dressed to the point of underwear - always matching - and then waited for the familiar beeping of her portable compad. She picked it up and read the information quickly; absorbing, memorising, before deleting. Once assimilated, she went to a panel in her wall and pressed a button that made it slide away to reveal a selection of guns and weapons, all in pristine condition. Not hurrying her favourite part, she scanned the lines slowly before selecting a gun and it’s silencer. ~ * ~ A day or so later, Abigail Penney pressed the com and waited patiently. The door was opened by Mrs Bronwyn Madoc, sixty-two years old, barren as a walnut, just like the file said. Bron looked at the stranger with interest and then, seeing it was a women looking back at her nervously, her expression opened in welcome. “Hello? Can I help you?” “I hope so. I’ve just moved in down the hall and I wondered if you could –“ Bron opened the door. “Of course, dear. Come in. Are you new to the city, or new to the planet?” Abigail answered the woman’s questions with practised ease. When they were finally settled in the comfortable sitting room with coffee, she started asking some of her own. “Do you live here alone?” she asked, already knowing the response. She knew a lot about them, every detail, except where they were all located at this precise moment. “Oh no. I live here with my husband and our son,” Bron pointed proudly to a capture on the wall. “Frank’s at work and Gerowyn is on a school camping trip. He’s not back until tomorrow.” Abigail smiled kindly. “He looks like his father,” she responded with an inward smirk. The boy could indeed pass for his father’s child; dark skin, slim build. But it was the eyes – the child’s eyes were nothing like his ‘parents’, being dark and cat-like, oriental most likely, she mused. “Do you miss him?” “Oh yes, but Frank said I should get used to it. He’s growing up after all. He turns twelve this summer.” “Do you expect Frank back soon?” “In about an hour, so we’ve still plenty of time to chat. Oh, are you going?” Bron watched as the woman stood up, her expression changing to coldness. Abigail Penney pulled out her gun and shot Bron Madoc in the forehead, the silencer ensuring there was no sound except a small ‘phut’. With calm efficiency, Penney moved the body out of the main room, tidied away the evidence of herself, including washing up the second cup, and waited for Frank Madoc to get home from work. ~ * ~ Gerowyn skipped happily up the stairs, his thoughts full of all the things he’d done in the last week, including rafting down a river. He imagined his Mam’s face trying to hide the worry as he told her about his rock climbing. Walking along the hallway, he got a strange feeling in his stomach, like the time he ate raw potatoes and was sick for a day. He pressed the keypad to get into the apartment and the door clicked open. There were no lights on and he suddenly felt afraid. Mam was always home, as she rarely left the house. A pang of worry flowed through him and he turned around quickly to look behind him. A bullet imbedded itself into the door frame where his head had been moments ago. Gerowyn reacted purely by survival instinct - he ran. He literally fell down the stairs in his haste to get out of the building, managing to grab hold of the rail in time. He swung the main door open and sprinted out. He slowed at the edge of the apartment building and as he turned to see if he was followed, a hand went around his mouth pulling him into an alley. Gerowyn struggled wildly, his scream dampened to nothing. “Quiet! Quiet if you want to live!” the voice hissed. Gerowyn stilled his body and the sense of panic, replacing it with fear for his parents. “Look,” the voice said again, and the boy looked out from their hiding place towards the entrance of the apartment building. Abigail Penney, gun still in her hand, emerged cautiously but with an impatient expression on her face. She looked down one end of the street and then turned in Gerowyn’s direction to look down theirs. She was angry that she’d missed. Her aim had been correct, but the boy had moved at the crucial second. In the back of her mind she heard the trainer’s voice saying she was too impatient; she should have waited until the boy came fully into the room. She swore eloquently as she realised he was gone. He was a loose end now, and she loathed loose ends. Abigail returned to the apartment, cleaned up the mess left when she shot Frank Madoc, before locking up and leaving. Once a couple of blocks away, she anonymously called in a Fed Response Unit about shots being heard from the Red Haven apartment complex. A boy about twelve was observed running away from the scene. She hung up, still angry that he’d got away, angry at herself for failing her first clean-up mission. Gerowyn Madoc imprinted Penney’s face on his mind, never to forget the light brown curling hair, tall slim figure - any other time he would have thought her a pretty lady. Once she had gone back into the building, the man holding him spoke again. “Come on, son. I’ve gotta get you somewhere safe.” “What’s going on? Who was she?” “I don’t know who she is. But your parents are gone an’ she’ll be awful keen to make sure you’re dead too, so we best be going.” Although the boy didn’t know it, the man’s accent under stress had become a lot more Rim-like. “Why me?” Gerowyn questioned again, not moving. “I’ll tell you on the way,” the man said. “I promise. Only come with me now, we need to get away from here.” ~ * ~ Persephone, three days later “I want to see Shepherd Dudge,” the old man insisted to the Abbey gatekeeper. “Visitors are by appointment only,” Shepherd Carrenza stated. “This is a family emergency – I’m his brother.” The Shepherd’s eyes widened as he had never seen two siblings so unalike. “I suppose you better come in then.” The great door opened allowing the two people to enter. Behind the great gates were fields of men working in the fields. His brother was easy to spot, as in spite of his advancing years he was still a man who drew heads by his size. He, on the other hand, could clearly be called the runt of the litter – short, squat with a tendency to fat. The Shepherd looked up, blinked, and then his face broke into a wide grin. “Tacitus! It’s bin years. Thought you might be dead.” “You first, Hieronymus. You’re the older one,” Tacitus swiftly retorted. Gerowyn watched the two men with curiosity, particularly the Shepherd. He looked like a great warrior of the adventure data-novels he’d read, especially with a scar running down the front of his face over one eye. His appearance clashed greatly with the uniform he wore that marked him out as a Shepherd. Hieronymus Dudge, former bounty hunter, may not have seen his brother for ten years, but knew instantly that something was wrong. “I reckon there’s a reason you’re here, an’ it’s not to tell me that this boy’s your offspring,” Hieronymus smiled kindly at the boy. “Not that there’s anythin’ wrong with that. It’s just my brother here’s awful stubborn - I can’t imagine any woman puttin’ up with him for long enough to bear a child.” Tacitus rolled his eyes at Gerowyn, muttering that he may be stubborn, but his brother always had the smart mouth. The boy allowed himself a little smile, the first one since his parents had been killed. “The boy’s parents have been killed,” Tacitus stated finally, making sure they were out of earshot of anyone else. He put his hand comfortingly on Gerowyn’s shoulder as he continued. “It was a hit. Looked to be the work of an Operative, like I heard you tell. Quick, clean and efficient – ‘cept the boy was a target too.” Hieronymus’ face grew sombre, unsure what kind of trouble his brother had just sprung on him. “His father contacted me a little over a week ago. He’s adopted, illegally, as it turns out.” Tacitus felt Gerowyn stiffen. He had to tell the boy that not only were his parents dead, but also that they weren’t his real parents. “The only reason I ain’t dead is that Frank Madoc came to see me in person, he didn’t wave. Prob’ly saved my life.” “What do you want me to do?” “Take the boy. Operatives are thorough and it’s likely I could be tracked down. I need to shut up shop - take the business somewhere else.” “Are you sure that’s wise?” Tacitus sniffed in amusement. “A former bounty hunter and you’re telling me to watch my back?” Gerowyn’s attention fixed back on the Shepherd, eyes widening. “Brother first, Shepherd next, bounty hunter - well, that was a long time ago now,” replied Hieronymus, a hint of affection in his tone. “It was you who told me about the Operatives. I’ve worked hard on Londinium - I need to retrieve my savings, sell the place. Then I’ll come back for him.” The former bounty hunter, for so many years used to trusting his instincts, was anxious for his brother. “Stay tonight. You both look exhausted.” Tacitus nodded, glad of a few home comforts. He was getting far to old to be on the run. ~ * ~ When Abigail Penney got home, a few days later, she reluctantly submitted her encrypted report: 24245 - red1E, red2E, red3 OTR - tagged as suspect. TBC. It meant: Frank Madoc eliminated, Bronwyn Madoc eliminated, Gerowyn Madoc on the run, tagged as a suspect. Elimination to be confirmed. After she had sent the message, she sat back, thinking about the best way to proceed, trying to put herself in Frank Madoc’s shoes. My son needs a member of his birth family in order to live. I try and contact the man who sold me the child, in spite of the fact it was twelve years ago. No answer, or so he thought, mused Abigail. I bought the child illegally, but I’m desperate and won’t accept just sitting by. Who do I turn to? She got on the Cortex and accessed the Fed records for the ‘murder’ of the Madocs, figuring that their interviewing of those who knew the couple, might turn up another line of enquiry. She scrolled through the lists, noting that everyone, including the Feds, were unaware that the couple’s missing child was adopted. Then she found it - Madoc had been asking his work colleagues if they knew where to find a reliable private investigator, or Pi Gu, as they were referred to in the Fed-world, on account of they were usually low-life bottom feeders. Of course, when asked, Madoc had stated it was to track down a long-lost relative. Two of his work colleagues mentioned the same name; Tacitus Dudge. She accessed files and records to get the information she wanted. Tacitus Dudge, Pi Gu on Londinium for fifteen years, nothing on the Cortex about him before that. That indicated Rim to Abigail – Rim scum knew how to hide themselves like rats. But, like a rat, he might return to his known haunts. Abigail shut off the Cortex, took a long shower and unpacked, then re-packed. The Feds would be looking for Tacitus too and she needed to get there first. ~ * ~ Once Gerowyn was settled with the other children in the Orphanage, the two men got down to a serious discussion. “How did the boy get away?” “The lad ain’t stupid, just young. He turned just as she shot at him.” “She?” “Yes. It was a woman. Tall and slim. Brown curly hair to her shoulders. Immaculately presented. Favours a Parsons 12-clip with a silencer.” Hieronymus nodded, he knew guns like others knew their favourite food. “Unusual weapon. Did you see if it was a smooth finish or an angular one?” “Well it was dark - but I’m pretty sure it was smooth.” “Top of the range then. Custom-made.” Tacitus shrugged. He’d memorised the gun because he knew it was his brother’s speciality. “Tell me all, Tac. What you’ve told the boy - and not told him.” “Frank Madoc bought Gerowyn in 2513 aged two weeks - from a warehouse in the Lang Su District, on Londinium. My first check was the ownership of the warehouse, which was pretty straightforward. For the last twenty years, it’s belonged to a subsidiary company of the Blue Sun Corporation. I did a name search in the standard company directory for a man name Foley - I got a hit. Although his job title is Acquisitions, he’s not registered as coming from any particular department. Course, it could be a different Foley, it ain’t exactly an unusual name.” “Why were the Madocs looking to find their son’s parents?” “Because Gerowyn has a genetic kidney condition. If they don’t find a kidney donor for him, he spends his life hooked up to a machine.” “How long’s he got?” Tacitus shrugged. “Madoc told me the doctor said early twenties.” “It could be the Operative knows that too. They’ll have tags out on all trauma centres. He’s core-bred, the minute he’s brought in for treatment or a transplant, they’ll know.” “That was my way of thinking too.” “Does he know?” “I didn’t see any reason to sugar-coat it - he knows everything ‘ceptin’ the research I’ve done to track down his birth parents.” “Did you find out anything else?” Tacitus shook his head, disappointed in his own efforts. “No. Only Foley and Blue Sun - he could be acting alone as part of a sideline.” “Black Market babies aren’t uncommon. I heard tell about a ship full of pregnant women downed out on the Rim a few years ago - called The Mothership.” Tacitus grimaced with distaste. “You hear - where? Might be a good place to try lookin’ from the other end of things.” Hero shook his head. “Only that it wasn’t a Core planet. It was kept pretty quiet, if I remember. I’m kind of outta the way here – don’t hear things like I used to.” “An’ I suppose all your old contacts are now dead?” “Found Hell or found Heaven, most like.” The next day, Hieronymus watched his brother walk through the gate, certain that he wouldn’t see him again. He ain’t a believer, Lord, but I ask you to watch over him all the same. ~ * ~ Tacitus unlocked the door to his office. He was tired from his long trip and he still had a lot to do to shut everything down. He would miss his office and the reputation he’d built up over the last fifteen years. At least the boy was safe – “Good evening, Tacitus. I hope you had a good trip?” It was the woman who’d murdered the Madocs and she was sitting calm as you like at his ruttin’ desk. Tacitus coolly took off his hat and coat, hanging them on the stand as if it was any normal day, instead of his last night in the ‘Verse. “You musta bin real pissed when the boy got away,” he stated, when he turned back to face her. He saw the flicker of anger in her face before it was quashed. He felt surprisingly light-hearted; the knowledge that he was going to die anyway gave him humour. His brother, in his many stories, called it suicide humour – he had nothing to lose. “It was unfortunate, but soon to be remedied,” she answered evenly. “Where’s the boy?” Tacitus sat down in the chair usually reserved for clients and pressed his hands together in contemplation. “Out of harm’s way,” he said. There was silence for a moment before he spoke again. “I’m glad you’ve tracked me down – I’d hate spending the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.” “That life won’t be much longer if you don’t tell me where he is.” Tacitus laughed genuinely. “What, no sweetener? You ain’t even gonna pretend to offer to spare my life if I tell you?” “We both know it’s useless.” Abigail was getting impatient. The Feds were likely to be on their way to question Dudge and she needed the information from the old man. She took another weapon from her pocket and fired it into Dudge’s neck. He jerked in shock and then, realising he was still alive, pulled it out. It was a dart with a small vial attached to it. “What’s this, poison?” he asked, his vision starting to sway. “Sodium Pentathol - truth serum. It should take effect almost immediately. Where is the boy?” Her voice sounded more deadly but further away. Tacitus fought the urge to tell the truth, but it weighed him down like a heavy blanket. Tell the truth and he’d be warm and comforted, lie and he’ll be left out in the cold. But if he told her, she’d hunt the boy down – kill him though he was but twelve years old. Abigail watched his head loll backwards and she came around the desk to stand beside him. “Where did you take the boy?” “Heaven,” slurred Tacitus. She fought the urge to grab him by the collar and shake. “What do you mean?” she said. There was a noise on the stairs and she swore - it was the Feds. She raised the gun, shot Dudge through the forehead and then moved like lightening to leave the office from the side entrance. Before heading to the rear staircase she took a peek around the front, into the corridor that held Dudge’s main entrance, expecting to see a couple of Feds. She didn’t and cursed again roundly, as all the noise had been was the cleaner with his trolley of mops and buckets. * * * * * 24245 - red3OTR. Failure to complete. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Author’s Note: For back story on Abigail Penney, read Shan Yu! I bite my thumb at you & Reavers Return from series 1 of my stories. For back story on Hieronymous Dudge, read Alliance vs Serenity from series 1.


Saturday, February 9, 2008 9:00 AM


A very interesting tale.

Saturday, February 9, 2008 6:53 PM


Very interesting. I'd like more of this tale.

Monday, February 11, 2008 3:04 AM


Definitely need to know more!


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