Bewildering Stories

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by Ramon F. Irizarri

Dutch didn't mind being called a gangster. After all, when the day was through loansharking, beating recalcitrant prostitutes for money, and being in general a sociopathic social science nightmare, it could be said - without a sliver of doubt - that he was a gangster.

He wasn't an ignorant gangster, however. He had downloaded some of the Western Classics on a bootleg run from Lunar 7 to the Pluto stations. He knew Machiavelli (his favorite), Plato, Cicero, a touch of Aristotle, and Lucretius' poem, On The Nature of Things. He was probably the most educated street criminal who ever lived.

Dutch absentmindedly fingered the scar running down his temple to the corner of his eye. His girlfriend Joyce had just left; strange girl. Very intelligent and very naive. She had wormed her way into Dutch's affections by sharing a bed. Dutch, who was perpetually wary and cynical, did not think it was a matter of opportunism. She genuinely seemed to like him. Many in the rest of the crew thought she was trouble. Joyce was a PhD. candidate in anthropology, studying the mores, taboos, and habits of the colonial underworld. Most everyone thought it was a mistake, but underboss O'Sheen liked it. He liked fame and notoriety, and this was one way to fame. He was just a few steps away from true infamy.

Dutch wondered how she could be so naive. Sometimes she asked the dumbest questions. For example, with a straight face she inquired if being a gangster increased his sense of power.

Damn right it did.

Dutch presented his thesis that gangs - La Costra Nosa, the Japanese Neo Yakuza, the Haitian Voodan Primo, and the Octopus - were like a microcosm of government. Politics, hierarchy, taxation, war... all these things existed in organized crime. A mob was like separate underworld government. Mobs flourish in times of diminished opportunity. The Italian, Jewish, and Irish mobs of the 20th century grew because immigrants lacked opportunities to get ahead. The outlet for ambition became organized crime.

Today, in 2030, on the colony worlds, there was little but taxation, death, and struggle. Indeed, the only way to get ahead was to break the rules. Criminals, in times of oppression, were heroes to the masses.

Dutch's reverie was interrupted by the sound of the door to the club opening. A minute ago, Dutch was the only person in the room, except for the bartender. The men who entered looked like criminals. More face piercings than he could count. And there was a bulge under their coats.

The hair on the nape of Dutch's neck began to tingle. This was trouble. In a fluid but discrete motion, Dutch reached for the maser holstered to his ankle. He aimed it under the table.

Time seemed to slow.

The two men entered. Both were Caucasian; one had blond hair in a tight crew cut. The other's head was shaved. They started towards the bar, only to turn abruptly and reach for the bulge's under their coat. Dutch already had the drop on them. He fired his maser. A beam of focused microwave radiation struck the blond in his lower abdomen. He went down screaming. The second man managed to get a shot off before Dutch put him down. His aim was hurried and poor; Dutch felt the heat of a microwave bolt ineffectually singe his hair.

Dutch breathed a sight of relief and tossed a tip to the bartender, got up, and walked away. This all would be hushed up; O'Sheen owned the bar.

As he strode out of the club, Dutch had a lot to think about. Who sanctioned this hit? This station was Octopus territory and few other organizations operated here. Odds were it was an inside job. But who? Was O'Sheen trying to get rid of him? Why such a sloppy hit too? Dutch was on good terms with the underboss. A member of the crew he commanded. Possibly. Ivan was getting ambitious. Outsiders? Maybe. But why?

Dutch decided his first priority would be to check the cargo. He grabbed a private trans-tube and made his way to the docks and sprinted to the cargo hold C7. He was inside in seconds. To his relief, everything was intact. The cryo tubes holding the sex slaves were still intact. Forty people, kidnapped and put to sleep only because they shared the common attribute of being physically attractive. Virtual reality wasn't good enough for some people. They wanted real flesh, not sim flesh. These people were headed to the pleasure domes on the edge of the solar system.

Dutch walked in the shroud of mist blanketing the floor. The Plexiglas pods were frosted over with condensation. With his finger, Dutch scrawled on one of the pods, "YOU HAVE NO SOUL. YOU ARE A PIECE OF MEAT. YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS."

Dutch grunted and walked out. His musings were interrupted by a tone in his ear. It was his cochlear implant. Dutch thought the command, "yes" and he saw a familiar face in his mind's eye.

The dreadlocks, the shrunken head around his neck - it was Maurice "the Machete" LeBlon. Maurice's black skin gleaned from a sheen of sweat.

"I was just exercising, my friend," Maurice said. "But I heard something that might interest you."

"Let's not play games," Dutch said. "What is it?"

"Five thousand guild royals to tell you who wants you dead."

"Five thousand? That's a steep price. How do I know you aren't screwing me with this?"

Maurice smiled, displaying a row of immaculately white teeth. "I have to be honest. I have my reputation to think of.... Besides, you can confirm it yourself."

"Ok. I'm good for it. Who wants me dead?"

"A Mars colonist by the name of Harvey Della'monico."

"I don't know the guy."

"Ah, but he knows you."

"Where from?"

"You shipped his daughter to Xanadu 9. She was raped and killed."


"So mon, I have friends on Mars. For another 25,000 guilders I can have him taken out."

Dutch barely paused. "Sure." He transferred the credits to Maurice's dummy account."

Maurice's smile broadened. "Do you want it clean or messy?"

"Clean if you please."

"I please quite gladly." Then the link went dead.

Dutch made his way to the shopping district, only a few hundred meters from his apartment. Joyce was looking at a striped poncho when she spotted Dutch. She smiled broadly when he approached.

"And how are you?" she asked.

"Fine. Your doing okay, I presume?"

"Yes. Can we go somewhere to talk?"

"There's a restaurant around here that's safe."

Joyce nodded. "O'Sheen and his boss seems to own a quarter of everything on the colony."

Dutch nodded. "That's the nature of the Octopus."

They soon neared a small cafe. On the awning was the name, "New Paris." They entered a spartan dining room with checkered tablecloths and flickering candles on each table. The odor of tobacco and hashish (both legal on the moon but not Earth or Mars) wafted towards them as they selected a table. The legal owner of the restaurant was named Dimitry. He came over and silently proffered menus.

Both Dutch and Joyce perused the menu. They both ordered the cordon bleu. It probably wasn't too bad.

Joyce tipped her head. "I wanted to tell you something..."


Joyce leaned forward and said in a whisper. "I love you."

Dutch flushed. "Really."

"Really? That's all you have to say?"

"No." Dutch's flush deepened. "I l-l-love you too."

"Thank you." Joyce reached out and squeezed Dutch's hand.

"But," she said. "You have to leave the life. You have to go straight. My PhD. thesis is almost finished..."

"Really." Dutch said flatly.

Joyce recoiled. "So, that is all you have to say. You don't-"

"No, no, no. I love you too. It's a great idea."

Joyce smiled as the food arrived. "Enjoy."

Dutch sighed. "I have to go. Something is going on."

Joyce's eyes narrowed. "Are you in trouble?"

Dutch decided not to lie. "Sort of."

"Is your life in danger."

Dutch waved his hand dismissively. "Naw. But I have to go."

"I know there's good in you. Not evil."

Dutch mustered a smile. "Thanks."

Dutch strode and walked out of the "New Paris." He checked to insure he wasn't being followed. He made his way to a small apartment he kept as a safe house on the edge of the district. Dutch forced himself to get a little sleep. He was awoken by a call on his implant three hours later. It was Maurice.

"Good news and bad news," Maurice said.

"The good news first. The hit on mister Della'monico is do-able. The bad news is his people grabbed your bitch, Joyce. If we killed Della'Monico, they might kill her."

Dutch paused. Bead of sweat formed on his forehead. "You know what," he said. "Go ahead with the hit."

There was a pause. "Okay chief. Will do. Maurice out."

As the link was severed, Dutch traced on the wall, with his finger the phrase, YOU HAVE NO SOUL. YOU ARE A PIECE OF MEAT. YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS." There was good in him? Dutch's heart was a cold as space.


Copyright © 2002 by Ramon F. Irizarri