Coffee Break Read – Nasty

What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…

Even for someone who’d seen more bad things than most in a long career with the Coalition Security Forces, the images being projected onto the wall of the briefing room were hard to look at.
Really hard.
At first glance, he found it difficult to tell if the images showed something that had indeed once been human. Plastered up on a screen and close to twice normal size, it looked more like something drawn from the hyper-imagination of a special effects creator working on some VR linkcast nasty. In case any gory detail of the torture inflicted was missed by the viewer, the images showed it all from several angles, and zoom shots homed in on each specific injury in horrid magnification.
It was butchery.
“Just in case there is any doubt about the kind of people we are dealing with here, this is just one example of their work.” The voice of the briefing officer was unemotional. “This man was once one Foss Fingal. Almost all the injuries you can see were inflicted before death.”
The narrator paused as two male faces appeared, one on each side of the original image. One showed a man smiling and at ease with himself and the world; the other, a man who wore a taut expression, watchful, expecting some kind of attack.
Durban Chola and Jazatar Baldrik.
“These, then, are the two people responsible,” the briefing continued. “One ordered it done and the other carried it out. Let’s be very clear from the outset, these are not pleasant individuals — even by ‘City standards.” The understatement hung in the darkened room like a bad smell.
So this really was something serious.
Even before the presentation began it had been pretty obvious this was going to be big. Instead of the briefing taking place in the usual way by link conferencing, he had been ordered to report to Coalition Security Force Headquarters in Central. And he’d been given the kind of thorough security check-in normally reserved for visitors, not for the fully-cleared, ID carrying operative that he was. Then there was the fact that he had been shown into a room buried deep in the heart of the HQ complex. A briefing room with no external windows and quietly dominated by the subtle hum of full-on surveillance damping with all external link access shut-off. Just in case anyone there was inclined to make an illicit private recording of the proceedings.
Another giveaway that this was anything but a regular briefing, not that he had still been in any doubt at all by that stage, was the identity of the man who greeted him: Garn Jecks. Calculating it out, Jecks would be the boss of his section head’s boss’s boss. In fact, Jecks was the ultimate boss. He was the man in charge of the entire Coalition Security Force and hovering close to deity as far as most regular serving CSF officers were concerned.
“Dugsdall. Right. Good that you are here. Take a seat.”
There was only one empty seat in the area of the room where Jecks gestured, so he sat on it and glanced around briefly to see if he knew anyone else. The woman on the chair beside him looked the lean, mean and hungry kind – the only doubt being exactly where that hunger was focused. She was presently focused on whatever personal screens held her attention, but he had a strong feeling they were not going to be ones about her favourite esport celebrities.
Whatever it was she was looking at must have been pretty attention-grabbing though, as her top teeth were visible, pressing hard into her bottom lip as she concentrated. Then she moved her arm and he saw the slight bulk of a wrist slot analysis device, no doubt the source of her screens. It also answered all his questions: she was on a power climb – a woman literally wired to her work. Which made her exactly the kind of person he would choose to swim a shark-filled river in full spate to avoid.

From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook which is only 0.99 to buy for a limited period.

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