Posts Tagged ‘Calliope Cervantes’

The Pen Is Mightier

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Calliope Cervantes walked into her quarry’s store, ducking just in time to avoid a cheap lobotomy from a razor-sharp boomerang. Miles Johnson ran an upscale boutique that sold fancy old-fashioned pens and paper, which only rich people could afford. She knew that boomerang, though, and it didn’t belong to a middle-aged pen-pusher.

“Where’s my man, four-arms?” she shouted, stepping over broken displays.

“I was here first, chocolate chip!”

Blake Taurus disappeared into a back room, along with the muffled screams of, presumably, Miles Johnson. Taurus was a freelance bounty hunter, unlike Calliope, who worked for the good old IRS. And she’d be damned if that hulking biomod junkie swiped her commission. Especially in those awful fake crocodile-skin boots he always wore.

She clicked her heels, rocket boosters powering up, and launched herself through the store. The back door was, as expected, wide open, and led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. This time she had to dodge a pair of boomerangs, twice, the flashing magnetized steel zipping back to the man who had thrown them. Calliope was lucky he had his hands full, or it would have been four. With a grin, she zipped after him.

Taurus had almost made it out a side door when Calliope careened into him like a missile with breasts and kinky hair. He lost his grip on Johnson, but the poor man was thrown against a concrete wall so hard that he was in no condition to run off. Taurus, meanwhile, was only bruised. And angry.

“Back off, sheila,” he growled. “I’ll get prime credits for this fella from the Bankers, and I’m in no mood to dance with you first.”

“You always were a lousy dancer, weren’t you?” she retorted. Bankers, eh? Citizen Johnson certainly owed the wrong people money, on top of old Uncle Sam.

The big man pulled an extra pair of boomerangs off his belt, but she was too close for him to throw them, so he took a swipe at her face instead. She leaned away, then jumped back to avoid getting a close look at her own guts. He spun towards her, all four of his arms slashing and stabbing so fast, it was all she could do to stay out of their reach.

Calliope went for her tasegun, but Taurus sliced her hand open and she dropped it with a curse. He kicked it and it skittered off behind her, back toward the shop. That left her with a pair of SCIDs, which she couldn’t use in close quarters if she wanted to walk away with all her bits. And, of course, her boots.

She kicked one boomerang aside with a snap of her foot, hooking it backward to catch another of the blades and drive it into the wall. Sidestepping a downward swipe, she used a quick rocket burst to launch her knee hard at Taurus’ head. He ducked and she turned her momentum into a roll, coming down next to the still-unconscious Johnson.

“Finders, keepers,” she said, grabbing the man and hefting him over a shoulder. Firing up her boots, she shot them both backward toward the exit door.

With a roar, Taurus charged, and she had to drop her quarry to dive out of the way. Taurus crashed into the door, buying her just enough time to get Johnson with her good hand and use her rockets to slide them across the floor of the hallway, back toward the pen store. The ground was slick with her blood, and Taurus slipped and skidded as he raced after them.

Calliope dragged the lump of a man into the store and looked around. She could get out with Johnson, but she didn’t know how Taurus had gotten here, so he might be able to follow and overtake her if she ran. She had to bring him down, fast. All she had were pens, pens and more pens.

She eyed a display of platinum fountain pens, on satin pillows behind glass. The things people would pay for… Still, those points looked pretty sharp. A sign above them proudly proclaimed, “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword! Lifetime GUARANTEE!” Well, that was good enough for her. She smashed the glass with her elbow and grabbed a pair of them.

A boomerang flew past her ear, so close it nipped off a lock of hair. She somersaulted into a crouch, then jumped toward the back room where Taurus stood, two of his hands clenched into fists while the other two held boomerangs.

Before he could react, Calliope drove the pens through the tops of his fake crocodile-skin boots, so hard she felt them hit the wood floor underneath. He roared in pain, and she rolled sideways, then forward as he tried to stab down at her. As he turned, she kicked his knee out, and he collapsed to the floor with a cry.

Gasping for breath, Calliope rocketed up and over him, narrowly missing a pair of flailing arms. She stalked back to dear Miles Johnson, who was starting to come around, groaning softly to himself.

“‘Come on, my girl!” Taurus called. “We can, we can split the credits!”

“Oh yeah?” she said, slipping an antigrav belt on her quarry. “How much?”

“Four–I mean, uh, one million!”

She whistled softly to herself, pulling out her medkit to slap a patch on her hand. That was an awful high bounty for a pen seller. It wasn’t just money he owed the Bankers, then; he must have some special friends, the kind that asked really sharp, pointed questions that didn’t have any right answers. The IRS would be very interested to hear all about his pals, she was sure.

Calliope grinned at Taurus over her shoulder as the weightless Miles Johnson bobbed along behind her. “Blakey, you’re a terrible liar.” She ducked a boomerang, which lodged itself into the doorframe. “G’day, mate. Gimme a call when you get yourself a new pair of dancing shoes.”


Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

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

* * * * *

Calliope reclined in a cushy chair at a local IRS office, watching Okame’s eyes flicker under closed eyelids as the woman skimmed through the data she had downloaded from the unfortunate Lorenzo Pratt. If she hadn’t been instructed to keep quiet, Calliope probably would have tapped her foot impatiently. As it was, she tried to focus on a streamed holovid, some period piece about terraforming Mars; the only thing that made history less boring was watching people shoot each other or get naked.

“Hmm,” Okame said finally.

“What’ve you got?” Calliope asked.

“Not much, I am afraid.” She cocked her head to the side and frowned. “I broke the encryption easily enough, but the financial information is useless.”


“It is fragmented, unlabeled. Incomplete arrays of numbers that could be anything–dates, credit amounts, file numbers. Impossible to say, unless you had access to all of the discrete files.”

“Dead end, then.” And a dead man, too, unless Lorenzo had a personality backup done recently.

Okame smirked. “Perhaps not. I was also able to access some of his mail. There appears to be a transaction occurring tomorrow night.”

“What kind?”


“Ah, the best kind.”

“I am sending you the coordinates now.”

Calliope tapped her comlink and pulled up a map. “Santangeles, huh? Last time I was out there, someone threw me off the Andreas Cliffs in a pair of broken hoverboots.”

“What did you do?”

“Fell, mostly.” She grinned at the memory. “West coast, here I come.”

* * * * *

Calliope stood on a platform across from the delivery site, leaning on her portable bike. They were only ten stories up, swimming in unbreathable smog, with the buildings packed so closely together that she wondered how a transport was going to maneuver around the walkways that criss-crossed from one entrance to the next. Traffic was mostly cars and bikes, small personal transport like hers. It helped that there were so many places for her to watch from, but she knew it meant there were that many more places for others to watch her.

At a few minutes past the scheduled time, the truck dropped down into the surface smog; it had been using regular traffic lanes above, apparently. Most militias didn’t bother to patrol this low, and the private police forces were more concerned with solving crimes than preventing them. The skivers had the run of the place, and she was on her own.

She watched the truck hover, wondering why it was taking so long for the building doors to open so it could get inside. With a whir, the back door of the vehicle slid up and someone pushed a small box until it fell over the lip of the truck bed and slowly descended into the smog below.

“Son of a–” It wasn’t going into a building, it was just dropping the cargo here. There must be someone waiting on a lower level to receive it. Calliope fumbled to get a tracking drone off her belt, smacked it against her hip to activate it, and tossed it at the truck. She couldn’t be in two places at once, but if she couldn’t catch the culprit red-handed then maybe she could double back and find the delivery boy.

That done, she grabbed her bike and vaulted over the edge of the platform. The wind rushed past her ears as she used her hoverboots to stabilize her fall so she could get the bike between her legs. It started with a shrill whine, pulling her out of her swan dive in time to see someone else on a bike strap the cargo to the back and take off.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Calliope murmured, gunning the engine. The sound was apparently loud enough for the other rider to hear, because a dark helmet swung around to glance in her direction before speeding up.

The two bikes dodged walkways and careened around buildings, narrowly missing other vehicles and the occasional pedestrian. Given that he was riding with cargo, his speed told her that he was using illegal boosters. Naughty, naughty, she thought. Gradually the chase led them up toward the regular lanes of traffic, fifty levels above ground; if they made it to the skyways, hot pursuit restrictions would mean Calliope would have to let him go. Gritting her teeth, she powered up the thrusters and shot forward, flanking the other bike.

“Pull over!” she shouted, her voice amplified by her helmet. The fugitive responded by trying to sideswipe her. She grinned. “Try that again and I’m authorized to use deadly force!”

As if in response, a shot rang out behind her. So her new pal had brought a friend? The more, the merrier.

The lead bike took a sharp turn and she used her hoverboots for extra stability, edging closer even as she weaved to avoid her pursuer. She didn’t dare risk a glance back to see where he was, and while she probably could have blown him to pieces with a smart SCID, she’d already hit her excessive force quota for the year. Still, if she couldn’t dazzle him with her brilliance…

Calliope pulled a small sphere off her belt, nearly dropping it as her target’s fancy flying forced her into a sudden barrel roll. She leveled out and waited for the right opportunity–there, a set of parallel walkways coming up. She squeezed the sphere and tossed it over her shoulder, where it flashed bright white as the sun. A scream behind her confirmed that the rider was blinded, and the sickening crunch that followed suggested that he wasn’t going to trouble her further.

Unfortunately, in concentrating on ditching the shooter, she hadn’t noticed that her target was heading straight for the wall of a building.

At the last second, he pulled up, and she tried to follow suit. Again, she had to use her hoverboots to give her the extra push needed to keep from crashing. Her portable bike whined in protest; it wasn’t designed for that kind of abuse, and it made that clear by shuddering heavily and powering down.

Calliope’s boots kept her from falling, but there was no way to follow the much faster bike with them. She tried anyway, fiddling with her bike’s controls in a desperate attempt to get it working again. By the time it groaned to life and she made it to the skyways, there was no sign of her target.

Still, she told herself philosophically, at least she had a backup plan. She synced her tracking device with her helmet and watched as a map appeared, the red dot that was the delivery truck reflecting in her eyes like an inner fire.

The Use of Spies

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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

* * * * *

“Calliope Cervantes!” a deep, raspy voice shouted across the crowded IRS field office. Calliope stopped mid-stride to see the division chief barreling toward her, his exolegs clanking against the floor with every step.

“Agent Friendly,” she said when he reached her. “I’m on assignment. Just leaving, actually.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” he growled. “I hear you’re hot on the trail of Titus Lynch.”

“What of it?”

“What of it?” He raised his metal fist and shook a finger at her. “You’re a loose cannon! I want you off that case or you’ll spend the rest of your IRS career teaching citizenship classes to five-year-olds!”

Calliope stared into his gun-barrel eyes and he stared right back, unflinching. His nostrils flared and beads of sweat formed on his upper lip. Her eyes narrowed. His widened.

Both of them burst out laughing.

“Hah! Citizenship classes,” Calliope said. “Seriously, Mack, can you picture me teaching a five-year-old anything?”

“How to disassemble a plasma rifle for cleaning, maybe,” Mack replied. “God, that loose cannon joke never gets old.”

“Not like you, eh?”

“Hey, all my parts still work,” he said, flexing his arm. “Not the parts I came with, of course, but they work. So what’s the plan for Lynch?”

“I just finished interrogating one of his people. Got a name that I was about to look up: Lorenzo Pratt.”

Mack chuckled. “I know that guy. Mid-level accountant. Ladies’ man. He won’t tell you a thing.”

“Really? I can be pretty persuasive.”

“Nah, he couldn’t if he wanted to. It’s all locked up in his wetware. Passwords, firewalls, you name it.”

“That’s what my source said.” She grinned like a shark at a fish buffet. “Luckily, I know someone who can get under a guy’s skin.”

* * * * *

The party at Club 42 was in full swing, lights pulsing in time with the rhythmic bass beat that boomed through the half-naked bodies writhing in erratic harmony. Both real and holographic dancers gyrated and spun in midair in the zero-G room while less adventurous people stuck to the regular lounge. Lorenzo was sitting at one of the bars when the two women walked in, holding hands and giggling. They were both short, but where the Eurasian one was lean and long-legged and supple, the other was some brand of Carib or New African, curvy in all the right places but muscular as well. He’d been about to take a turn in one of the VR rooms but he decided to put that on hold. The women sauntered over to the dance floor and proceeded to justify his decision with a delightfully provocative performance. Eventually they wandered up to the bar and ordered drinks, the Eurasian one making eyes at him and favoring him with a saucy smile.

He motioned for the bartender. “Give the ladies another of what they’re having, on me,” he said. This first effort was met with giggles and more smiling, as was the second; the third round of drinks brought the women over, tipsy and thankful.

“You’re such a gentleman,” the darker one gushed.

“I couldn’t be otherwise with two such beautiful ladies,” he replied, grinning. “May I ask your names?”

“I am Uzume,” the Eurasian one purred, her accent like Old Japanese. “This is Oshun.”

“Lorenzo. I was actually about to head for a classier place, if you’d like to join me? My treat.”

They exchanged a glance and again giggled. “Sure,” Uzume said. “Sounds fun.”

* * * * *

“And this is the bedroom,” Lorenzo slurred. A set of dimmed lights slowly faded to life, illuminating a huge four poster bed with strategically placed ropes and other accouterments. He couldn’t believe he’d gotten both of them back here, but then again, he’d spent enough credits to get a whale drunk.

“Are you trying to seduce me,” Uzume said, her voice husky. She ran a hand down the length of her thin chest, arching her back and smiling.

Lorenzo decided this was an invitation and promptly RSVP’d. They were both mostly undressed when he realized the curvy girl was missing.

“Where’s your friend?”

“She was not feeling so good,” Uzume murmured. “She will be here in a minute.” With a flip of her straight black hair, she slid onto the bed and gave him a show that was worth the price of admission. “Perhaps we can begin without her?”

He was more than happy to comply.

* * * * *

Calliope waited in the living room for what felt like an eternity, scouting the perimeter to be sure no unexpected guests were incoming. She’d had to leave most of her equipment at home, risking only the barest civilian tech on the off chance his apartment was wired with detectors. In the other room, low moans had signaled when Okame began her work; now, there was only silence.

Okame staggered out of the room, clutching her head. “We must leave.”


“Brain-dead. Nothing we can do.”

They scurried out the door and down the hall to the elevator lobby. “What happened?” Calliope asked. “And use small words so I can understand.”

“Later, please?”

“Now.” Calliope pushed the call button.

Okame’s eyes glazed over for a moment. “I penetrated his security–a challenge, but I am the Great Persuader. I downloaded many files before I noticed the virus, wiping everything I touched, coming for me. It was also sending out a signal–I could not see to whom.”

“Distress call.”

Okame inclined her head.

“How long until we’re up to our eyeballs?”

“That depends on how far away the–”

A soft chime signaled the arrival of the elevator. The doors opened and they nearly walked into a pair of burly men in flight suits, who eyed them suspiciously. Calliope almost unconsciously stepped back into a fighting stance.

“Well, hello there,” Okame said with a low whistle. “Are you fine men in a hurry?”

The beefier of the two grinned while the other rolled his eyes and elbowed his friend. Without a word, they rushed toward Lorenzo’s pad, leaving the women to step into the car and punch the number for the transport level.

“Have you ever met a guy who didn’t fall for that act?” Calliope asked.

Okame smirked. “Only the ones who prefer the company of men.”

“Of course.” The elevator chimed as it reached their destination. “Come on, then, let’s see what you’ve got floating around in your pretty little head.”

* * * * *

Next: Maneuvering

Laying Plans

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

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

Know Thy Enemy

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Submitted to:

Bad Girl Blogfest

Calliope Cervantes: The Art of War begins here, or you can see the full list of Calliope Cervantes stories.

* * * * *

Calliope Cervantes watched the rain fall in long, rope-like strands outside the brightly lit diner and was glad her flight suit was waterproof. Once she got the information from Diego on where to find her quarry, she’d have to move quickly, and showing up to apprehend someone in a skycab was as tacky as doing it while dripping wet. Despite what most citizens thought, the IRS did have some standards.

She tapped the menu screen on the table and ordered another cup of coffee, which appeared in the dispenser unit a minute later. Automated places like this diner weren’t exactly inviting; the outside was slag and recycled glass, the inside was putty-colored composite walls and slag floors, but they were cheap and mostly full of robots who kept to themselves. And paid their taxes, of course, so she didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother her.

The door slid open and a tall man entered, removing his brown fedora and gently shaking the water off. His suit was tailored and his eyes were black as pits, sunshaded and already fading to hazel. Calliope sipped her hot drink while casually sliding her hand down to her tasegun. He spotted her and reached the table in a few long strides.

“Miss Cervantes?” His voice was deep, with a slight western Eurasian accent. “I’m–”

“Titus Lynch,” she interrupted. “I know who you are. You can call me Agent C1058.”

“As you like it. May I sit?”

She shook her head. “Private party. No skivers allowed.”

He smiled, his teeth white as science could make them. “How droll. Did you know that ‘to skive’ has a lesser known meaning: to cut into thin layers?”


“I’m afraid I’ve done that very thing to your associate Diego, so he will find it something of a challenge to keep your appointment.”

Calliope hid her dismay behind a smile of her own. “That’s a shame. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have ordered a fresh cup of coffee.”

“Let me be brief, Agent,” Titus said. “Leave my men alone or I’ll have you eviscerated.”

“I bet you say that to all the ladies.”

“Only the ones who… misbehave.”

She toyed with the hilt of her tasegun. “And what’s to stop me from arresting you right now for threatening a federal agent?”

“Your word against mine, darling.” Titus slowly placed his hat back on his head. “You know robot testimony is inadmissible as evidence. And I know what happened the last time you staked a case on your word.”

Son of a bitch. “Why even bother coming here, then? You could have just as easily sent one of your goons. Or killed me and been done with it.”

Again, a lazy grin. “My father always taught me to keep my enemies close, to know the face of my enemy. And it is a lovely face. Good day, Miss Cervantes.”

With that, he ambled back out into the rain and was picked up by a black limousine. She saw his lips move as if he was talking through a com unit. Calliope stared at the cup of coffee that was rapidly cooling in her clenched hand.

“That was some crock of shit,” she said, diving under the table just as the sniper’s bullet crashed through the window.

* * * * *

Next: Laying Plans