Avaricious: Mission AWOL (Page 1)

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     Finally, deep into the night, Rio reached out from her covers to answer the wailing phone on the table next to her, pawing at it sleepily a few times before succeeding. 

     “… uh … Hello?” 

     “Rio.” 

     “Ooh… sounds like the big bowl of… sweetness I ordered is here. Hi honey!” Rio replied, though she yawned halfway through so most of her playfulness was lost. 

     “Sorry to call so late, Rio.” Sparky said through the phone, as she had taken off her headset. “But I thought you’d like to know that your contract with Malli has just expired, and he hasn’t renewed. Money has been deposited and you’re free to go.”

     “Baby, you didn’t ring me just to tell me that. Come on, talk dirty to me.” As she talked to Sparky on the phone, she managed to force herself off of the sofa she had made into her bed, stretching the sleep away, making her way through the inky darkness of the room to peep down through the blinds at the city, the sudden glimmer of light dancing across her eyes and causing her to squint. 

     “You know me too well. Look, we’ve had a huge contract come through, one directly from your father.” 

     “Juicy. Do tell.” 

     “Seems that we have a rogue mercenary on our hands, killed a bunch of fellow mercs for a bigger share and then ran off into the wilderness. It’s not a big price tag but your father’s insisting that we take it on. Well uh, you take it on.” 

    “I don’t blame him. At least it’ll be a challenge, today’s been a huge bust.” 

     “And not just for you. I was tracking Malli’s assault like you asked.” 

     “I’m not going to like this, am I?” she sighed back, more annoyed that Sparky didn’t reply with something after she had set him up with ‘huge bust’. 

     “Yep. They might as well have thrown spears and rocks at the Holon Clan, it might’ve worked better than those pea-shooters they insist on using. Holons were holed up in some kind of warehouse.” 

     “Aren’t they always?” 

     “This particular one used to supply the city with gambling chips, roulette wheels, and all that kind of stuff – until the Holons took it. It’s hard enough to get that sort of specialty items, now everyone has to pay through the nose to get supplies, which is probably why Malli is so pissed.” 

     “I know I’d be.” Rio replied sleepily. 

     “Anyway, one of Malli’s men blew their cover early; stepped on a mine in one of the back alleys and alerted the entire base before any of them were in position, I mean the whole thing was wired with mines and automatic turrets, but how hard is it to watch your step? Half the factory went up in the firefight, but I think that was actually the Holon Clan’s intent. Either way, they’re laying low now, and disappeared off the face of the planet, the Energy Weapons too. If you give me a day or two, I might be able to get something.” 

     “Nah, it’s too soon after an attack, they’d be totally on edge. You won’t find them in this town – it’s all too low tech and under-the-table-deals. Keep a pin in it Sparky, and we’ll revisit them in a year or two, maybe they’ve settled down by then.” Rio sighed. 

     “You certainly know a lot about this…” 

     “It’s what I’d do. So how many of Malli’s boys are left standing?” 

     “I don’t know the exact number but is safe to say that Malli lost by a lot. Seeing that warehouse go up was like watching a fireworks display, but with far more … death. You’d loved it.” 

     “Aw, that does sound like a laugh. I saw something kicking off from here, but wasn’t a good view.” She replied, though couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Come on, what a bunch of idiots! I warned them that I was in the wrong place all day – I should’ve been involved there, not babysitting.” 

     “No doubt, you’d have kicked their collective asses.” 

     “See? You get it.” She smiled down the line. 

     “Mind you, if you weren’t with him, Malli would be history right about now. I saw all the roving gangs of wannabes moving around his establishments all over town. That decoy you sent out got hit twice in an hour. Guess Malli is lucky that you’re around.” 

     “Hmm, you have been a busy bee. Well, I hope he isn’t used to me because I won’t be here much longer, babe. If Malli hasn’t renewed the contract then he’s about to discover that I don’t work for free. Book me a trip outta this dump, would you?” 

     “Already have. Where is our employer anyway? Did you take good care of him?” 

     “Oh, you bet I did. What do you think this is my first time or something?” Rio chuckled. 

     “Where is he anyway?”  

     “In bed.” 

     “In… Oh Rio…. Oh no… You didn’t…?” 

     She smirked to herself at the sound of judgment (or maybe jealously?) in his voice, and decided to play with him for a bit. “… … I … I kept myself… busy. Don’t judge me!” Rio replied, mocking an embarrassed laugh. 

     “Busy? Busy!? He’s old enough to be your grandfather!” 

     “Yeah but when I decided to lock him in this room, no one said that it would work this well. No-one could even find him, never mind try and attack – I was sooooooooooo bored! What the hell else was I supposed to do with my time?” Rio replied, pouting and making her other usual faces despite the fact the two couldn’t actually see each other. She actually wasn’t used to not seeing Sparky when they talked, but could see in her mind’s eye exactly what his face looked like, and boy was it a picture! 

     “What, didn’t you bring any board games (?)” 

     “Now you mention it, we did play a few games of Buckaroo.” Rio said gleefully. 

     “No. Shut up. I don’t want to hear any more.” 

     “Aw, whatsa matter, Sparky? You feeling a tinie-tiny bit jealous?” 

     “Oh yes, I am super jealous of your old-man sex (!)” 

     “He’s not an old man where it counts.” 

     “Okay, gross. Rio, can you cut it out for two seconds?” 

     “Stop being such a little girl about it then. People have sex. Fact o’ life.” 

     “No seriously, listen up. Malli’s boys messed up big time, and now that they’re on the back-foot, the Holon Brothers have just tripled the massive bounty on Malli’s head earlier. I mean it’s ridiculously massive. You need to get out of there before every bounty hunter, mercenary, and gunman looking for a quick payday, comes bursting in and tear that place apart trying to cash-in! ” Sparky said, trying to hide the concern in his voice and failing. 

    To put him at ease, Rio adopted a more serious tone herself. “Sounds good to me, meet you downstairs?” 

     “Absolutely, I’ll pick you up in five minutes.” 

     “Wait, before you go – what’re you wearing?” Rio said, unable to resist another playful jab. 

     “Just a tee-shirt that says ‘I hate you’. Go.” 

     “No wait, super seriously now. Just out of curiosity; what’s the number on Besheenas’ head?” 

     “Pretty big – why? Are you thinking he’d pay double to have you protect him another day?” 

     “Something like that.” She replied, looking over her shoulder at the door. 

     “Look Rio, I hate to be that guy, but there is no way you’ll be able to hold off everyone that is going to come. I mean you could beat them all, but when it comes to protection, sooner or later someone’s going to get him.” 

     “My thoughts exactly, hold on babe, I’m going to headset.” 

     Before Sparky could reply, she hung up on him, and started searching around the darkened room for her discarded headset. It took a few minutes due to how small the thing was, not to mention that Rio wasn’t exactly the tidiest person in the first place, but she eventually found it and called Sparky up. As usual, his screen appeared floating, lighting up the room in a dull green light as it did so, he smiled to see her, though quickly became embarrassed. 

     “Oh, come on..! Uh, Rio… Do you want to… put something on?” He stuttered, doing his best to avert his eyes. 

     “Whoopsie daisie (!)” Rio laughed back at him with a sultry sigh, revelling in his embarrassment as she grabbed her suit that was lying in an expensive pile nearby. “But come on are you really surprised – what exactly did you think I could even fit under the suit?” 

     “Urgh, you’re a child.” 

     “Do these look like a child to you (?) Come one, lookie!” Rio grinned broadly, delighting on how uncomfortable she was making him. After a few seconds though, she resigned and zipped up her suit. “Wow Sparky, I never had you down as shy! Heh, just so we’re clear; when those girls on your computer get nude it’s okay, but when I’m right here, boobs out, you’re suddenly all bashful?” 

     “You have no shame, you know?” Sparky struggling to regain himself. 

     “Only around you, honey. Besides, now you’ve seen ‘em, I know you’re going to want more. Just click your fingers, baby.”  She purred, unzipping her cleavage teasingly. 

     “Is there a point to this, or did you just want to flash me? I am driving you know.” Sparky frowned back. 

     “Well if I get that reaction every time, I’ll start flashing you more often! No, I do actually need a favour. First I need to make sure that that bounty posted on our VIP over there is real. Airtight.” 

     Sparky’s video feed vanished as she walked toward the chest of drawers by the bedside, reaching in one to pull out a small pistol she had stashed just in case, checking to make sure that it was properly loaded. It was nothing special, a seven chamber weapon that was best suited for extreme close protection. 

     “I told you it is. I also told you to get out of there, I recall.”  He said, though the tone was uncertain of what she was up to. 

     She walked to the doorway that separated the bedroom where her client was slumbering, peaceful with the intent that Rio would be watching over him as usual. Silently, she went over and sat on the edge of the bed. Seeing him resting so put a smile on her face – she wouldn’t exactly call Malli a friend, but he had been pretty good to her through the years, never even making a play for her like so many of his henchmen did. “I will. Just confirm for me the new bounty is for real?” 

     “Yes..? Money is up and everything.” 

     “Oh well. Sorry buddy.” Rio replied. 

     Seemingly without any remorse, Rio pointed the gun right at Malli’s head, and pulled the trigger five times. 

     BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM 

     The man didn’t even stir. 

     “Okay, did you record that?” She asked, wiping the blood off of her face onto the silk sheets. Looking at her work, Rio felt a touch guilty, but she wasn’t going to show Sparky that, and pretended that it was all about the money. 

     “… … … Uhyeah…” Sparky said, notably shocked by the transpiring events. 

     “Right, just have a quick selfie for good measure.” Rio smiled, taking the headset off and posing next to the body of her former contractor. “That wraps that up nicely. Can you send them over to the Handsome Brothers and collect the reward, my little partner in crime.” 

     “Holon…” 

     “That’s what I said.” Rio replied back with a smile, as if nothing had just happened, though Sparky was almost silent. “What’s up with you now? Oh right, him. You know, at the end of the day – he was a bad guy, we’re just earning double the contract money here. Don’t lose sleep over it, Sparky. Besides, we both know this doesn’t even make the top twenty of bad things you caught me doing!” 

     In a way, that was the reason – Malli was a hardened criminal who surely killed just as many people as she had done (maybe not quite as many, but his hands were certainly covered in other’s blood) – but really she knew that there was no way that he’d be able to stay alive for another week, and felt that maybe he would’ve taken some solace in the fact that if someone had to kill him, it was Rio and not some nobody. 

     “You… planned this all along?” Sparky accused. 

     “Who, little old me (?) How on earth would I know that the attack would fail and then the bounty be upped to a substantial amount (?) Sparky, I’m many things, but not psychic!” She forced herself to grin evilly at him. 

     “You’re insane is what you are.” 

     “If I was, it’s probably not a smart idea to point it out right to my face, don’t you agree? ” Rio laughed back. 

     “Remind me to never ever get on your bad side.” Sparky could only say. 

     Before leaving, she made sure to throw on a large overcoat to hide her battle-suit from view and so not make her stand out as much. The gunshots seemingly not had drawn any attention – then again it was only a small calibre round so the gunshots weren’t exactly ear-splitting. Besides, gun-fire in the distance was a common sound in a rough town like this and ninety-per-cent of the time it was impossible to find the source. Needless to say, Rio left the room in a hurry just in case anyone started snooping around, and made for the lifts. She could only imagine that face of the maid who would later discover the state she had left the room in, prompting a chuckle as she rode the lift down. 

     While he watched, Sparky could only think that if it was him in her shoes, he would’ve tried to get out of there a little faster, but Rio was a master of the art of deception – and so walked as if nothing was wrong, a slow, relaxed pace as she crossed the large lobby, the noise of both the nearby casino and the restaurant’s patrons drowning out much of the business of the staff. She was just another happy customer, another face in the crowd. 

     It looked like she was home free when suddenly a large group of Malli’s men (all wearing black) entered the building through the entrance, those coming back from the assault – led by Malli’s son (and second in command). 

     “Oh perfect (!) ” Sparky said in her ear. 

     “Shush, I got this. Relax.” She whispered back. 

     “Balio !” Rio said exaggeratedly as the man approached, throwing her arms up to hug him. “How’d the fight go? Did’ya win?” 

     Judging by the battered state of each of them, all of them having at least some bandages on them, as well as scuffed suits, grit and gravel aplenty covering them – it was obvious that they had soundly lost the fight just as Sparky had informed her, but Rio was just being pleasant. Or at least, she was acting pleasant. 

     “No, Miss Rio. I must report our… progress to my father. Is he still upstairs?” The son of Malli replied. 

     “Oh yeah, but he’s … sleeping.” 

     “I’ll have to wake him then, he’ll want to hear this.” 

     “Well you can try, he’s pretty dead to the world!” Rio said, unable to resist flaunting herself in front of the clueless son. She added a laugh so infectious it made the clueless Balio chuckle. “He’s in 34 – but maybe you’d best wait until he rings down. Stressful day, you know?” 

     “Hmm, you’re not wrong. I suppose I can let him rest for a bit longer.” Balio agreed, her charisma paying off. “Are you leaving so soon, Miss Rio?” 

     “I’m afraid so, sexy. Too many people want a piece of me, not enough time to make everyone happy. Besides, now you’re here I doubt anything else is going to happen.” 

     “That’s a shame Rio, but as a thank you for protecting my father, I’d like to give you this additional reward.” He replied. Turning to one of the men next to him, who stepped forward offering her a small suitcase. Upon opening it, it was revealed to be the remains of one of the Energy weapons and a few scraps of paperwork – a burnt smell coming off of them. “I figure that you can glean more from this than we, so take it with my thanks. Even in this state, it is worth a hefty sum as junk metal and parts, so whatever you wish to do with it... And I hope that this whole affair wasn’t too much of a problem for you.” 

     “Oooh! You’re too kind !” Rio said, happily taking it off his hands with sparkling eyes. 

     “Can I offer you dinner before you go?” 

     “Oh Balio, you know if I take you to dinner, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of you… except to take you upstairs for desert.” She purred playfully and snuggled close to him, prompting a grin to appear on his face. “Now, stop distracting me, you sexy man – you know I have other contracts that I have to get to. Customer satisfaction after all.” 

     He chuckled at this, a loss for words and rubbed his face to indicate this, so Rio gave her goodbyes. 

     “Well, I’ve done enough damage around here – I think I’d best be off!” 

     “See you soon, Miss Rio.” 

     “Boy I hope not!”  She replied in her usual sing song way. 

     With that, she was off – her pace still slow and steady, even waving back at those she had just royally screwed over, before reaching the busy streets outside. Despite the time, the streets were well lit up, and crowds were still large enough that she joined a group and easily disappeared from view.               


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