Laying Plans

Calliope Cervantes: The Art of War begins with Know Thy Enemy, or you can see the full list of Calliope Cervantes stories.

* * * * *

People tried to kill Calliope Cervantes all the time. It came with working for the Interstellar Revenue Service; being responsible for someone’s arrest and indenture tended to encourage negative feelings, especially if that someone got shipped off-planet for a few years to help terraform some grubby moon. Every once in a while she found that a skiver who’d been through the system came out the other side with a strong desire to make sure other skivers got to have the same memorable experience.

Unfortunately, talking to the feds could turn a former skiver into a dead one, and Diego had found that out the hard way.

“Hello, Saunders?” Calliope said. “Cervantes here. Put together a missing person report for Citizen Fourth Class Diego Callejas. And get me Trigger on the com.”

She watched the diner’s robotic cleaners scoop up the glass that littered the floor around the booth where she’d been sitting. Yes, people tried to kill her all the time, but few of them felt the need to chat her up first. Titus Lynch was a real piece of work, smiling at her while pinpointing her location for his sniper outside. She could see the groove the bullet had left in the wall across from where she’d sat, and it made her skin cold.

An incoming call politely beeped in her ear, and she answered. “Lay it on me, Trigger. Orchid Pierce? Got it. Coordinates accepted.”

This was going to be fun.

* * * * *

The locals called the place Old Brooklyn for sentimental reasons, but it was officially designated Zone 112. Calliope stared up at the stony behemoth of a building that housed the aforementioned Orchid Pierce, all-around stellar citizen and known accomplice of Titus Lynch. Pierce was on the ninety-fifth floor, and while Calliope loved a good straight flight up the side of a high-rise, she also loved not getting shot by someone who might be tailing her. She ducked into the spartan lobby and sprinted for the nearest elevator, which was just closing its doors.

“Sorry,” she said to the woman inside. “You mind entering ninety-five?”

The woman tapped the number pad and Calliope leaned against the back wall. She noticed, as they jolted into motion, that there were no other floors on the list of stops, and gave her temporary companion a more careful look. Tall, lanky, Indo-Eurasian, short black hair…

“Of all the–” she said before a fist plowed into her stomach. Her flight suit was designed to redistribute impact force, but it still knocked the wind out of her. Meaning her new friend Orchid was wearing illegal Gauntlets.

Calliope dodged sideways as Orchid brought her other fist up, taking a nasty clip to the chin that would have been lights out if it had connected. Since she was already doubled over, she drove her shoulder into the taller woman’s chest, pushing her into the wall. Orchid kneed her in the diaphragm and drove a fist between her shoulder blades, knocking her to the floor.

Rolling onto her back, Calliope managed to dodge Orchid’s foot as it flew toward her head. Judging by the crunching sound the floor made, Calliope deduced that the woman’s shoes were augmented as well. Peachy.

Two could play at that game, she thought. Calliope aimed a vicious hook kick at Orchid’s leg, which buckled and sent the woman stumbling backward far enough for Calliope to bring her hoverboot forward for another kick–this time, to the knee. Orchid screamed and collapsed against the wall as Calliope scrambled to her feet, punching the downed woman twice in the face for good measure.

“Tough break,” she murmured, eying the mess her heavy boot had made of the woman’s leg.

The door to the elevator opened with a quiet ding.

“Come on, Citizen,” Calliope said. “Let’s have a quiet chat, you and I, while we wait for the medic.” She slipped restraining cuffs around Orchid’s hands and a belt around her waist, activating the antigrav so that the wounded woman floated gently in the air, occasional fat drops of blood splattering on the floor.

“Lynch is gonna kill you for this,” Orchid hissed, shivering in pain as Calliope towed her into the hallway.

“He’s going to kill me anyway,” Calliope retorted. “Or try, at least. And as soon as he finds out you’re with me, he’s definitely going to kill you.”

“What do you–”

“We’re going to bring you in for questioning, and maybe you’ll talk, and maybe you won’t, but we can’t detain you without evidence.”

“You’re damn right you–”

“So we’ll have to let you go,” Calliope continued. “But the problem is, he won’t know whether you talked. He might even genuinely expect you to keep your mouth shut.” She leaned her face close to Orchid’s, staring into the woman’s wide black eyes. “But I get the sense that he’s not a gambling man. I think you’re going to wake up one morning on the sooty side of a launch pad a few seconds from liftoff.”

Orchid all but stopped breathing. “He wouldn’t.”

“Is that so?” Calliope crossed her arms over her chest. “Tell me, Citizen Pierce: are you a gambler? How lucky are you feeling right now?”

No response. Calliope smiled. “That’s what I thought. You have until the medics get here to decide whether you’re going to cooperate and disappear, or keep your mouth shut and walk out the front door of the nearest IRS office in broad daylight.” She chuckled. “Maybe he’ll be really nice and use that sniper of his. Quick and clean.”

Now Orchid was crying, tears sliding down her thin cheeks. “Who do you think you are?” she whispered. “What do you even think you can do against him?”

“The same thing I always do,” Calliope said. “First, I lay plans. Then…” A lazy smile touched her lips. “Then, I wage war.”

* * * * *

Next: The Use of Spies

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18 Responses to “Laying Plans”

  1. Oh, I love the way you write! Can’t wait for more next week. 🙂

  2. This was an interstellar hoot. Loved this line especially: “I think you’re going to wake up one morning on the sooty side of a launch pad a few seconds from liftoff.”

    Witty repartee!

  3. GP Ching says:

    Fantastic fight scene. Exciting stuff! I like Calliope. She’s got attitude.

  4. Gracie says:

    Just awesome! I love the play on IRS. Made me laugh out loud. And the fight scene was excellent.

    I can’t wait for more, either. 🙂

  5. I’m loving this Calliope character: smart, capable and witty. And wow, the fight scene. I was right in the moment, could see every motion. Truly well done. I’m eager for more.

    Take care,

  6. Terrific world building! I feel like it’s a part of a much larger story.

  7. Definitely like this. I will be back for more, and going through all of the other bits of the story as well.

  8. John Wiswell says:

    “How lucky are you feeling right now?”

    At which point I’m giggling and mimicking Clint Eastwood: “Do you feel lucky? Do ya, punk?”

    Very nicely executed, especially in their voices.

  9. Valerie says:

    Thanks so much, everyone! Calliope started as a joke in a whole other character’s world and I’ve gotten to enjoy the way she lets me do pulpier stuff. This is my attempt to give her a more cohesive story to inhabit.

    Lily, that line has gotten a bunch of love, and I have to credit some good friends with helping me get it just right.

    John, I didn’t want to steal the line outright but I definitely wanted to echo the sentiment. Glad it worked!

  10. Amazing! Quite the thriller! I’m definitely intrigued to read more. This chick is a bad ass!

  11. Sam says:

    Fantastic opening line and some masterful descriptions of the fight. Very well done, and what great voices your characters have.

  12. 2mara says:

    Great piece! I really hope there is going to be more. I love love LOVE the name Calliope, and I absolutely love her too!

  13. Excellent story. The action was well-written, and the piece as a whole was quite entertaining. Well done!

  14. Marisa Birns says:

    This is just wonderful! All very well written and keeps one looking for more. 🙂

  15. Valerie says:

    Bad ass is the goal, so I’m glad it’s succeeding. The world needs its Bonds and Bauers and McClanes. The fiction world, at least… not sure about the real one.

  16. Totally brilliant, and so compelling – will certainly catch up on the earlier episodes while I’m waiting for the next one! 🙂

  17. Tony Noland says:

    This is outstanding work!

  18. Iapetus999 says:

    Okay, that’s a little more kicky assy.
    But I think you’re good to stick with the first piece.
    I think it has a better hook and would draw more people to this blog.
    But it’s up to you.

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