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The Island of Doctor Meyiou, Part I

Posted on Jan 04, 2017 @ 7:26pm by Finn Shackleton

Mission: Section 31

FINN SHACKLETON
in
"THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MEIYOU"


CHAPTER ONE

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Location: Section 31 London Headquarters
Stardate: [2.17]0104.1830
Scene: Underneath Tower Bridge


Finn Shackleton keyed the code into the control panel, and the door to Section 31's London headquarters slid open with a clean hiss. For such a grandiose name, 'headquarters' was a small basement office underneath the Tower Bridge - in previous centuries this place had been a military bunker, a tourist trap, and finally an intelligence waystation. The whole location was automated now, with a constant live subspace link between it and SFI in San Francisco.

It was late, or early - almost four in the morning - but Shackleton knew that whatever had summoned him away from his baccarat game at the Circle Club must have been important. Section 31 might have been a new, revamped organisation, but it hardly dragged people into work during the small hours without something important going on.

He fingered his shirt collar, deftly undoing his bow-tie with one hand while locking and sealing the door behind him. The whole place was still laid out like a museum - the centre of the floor was dominated by an antique wooden table, upon which was laid a paper map of old Europe dating from the 1940s, making it half a millennium old. The walls were white-painted brick, and the only exit from the room was a giant metal bulkhead door with a circular handle in its centre.

Shackleton crossed the floor to the opposite wall. One of the bricks along the lintel had a small air vent built into it. Counting down seven bricks and across seven bricks, he put his hand on a nondescript white-painted section of the wall, and pushed. The facade promptly dissolved. It was a hologram, and it read his fingerprint instantly, logging him in to the automated computer system.

The antique wooden table also dissolved - another hologram - revealing a computer terminal with a built-in screen. Shackleton crossed the floor to it just as the connection with San Francisco was secured and opened.

A woman's face appeared on the screen, and Shackleton rolled his eyes inwardly. Women were all over the new Section 31 - a woman was the quartermaster, a woman was the administrator, and yet another woman was the director. Not that he necessarily minded, though, because he liked women, and they loved him. It was just that - well, it felt a bit sexist.

This woman was ebony-skinned, thin-faced, and had an expression hard as tritanium. Her high cheekbones looked sculpted from adamantine, and there was a sneer on her stern face. {{Emerald,}} she snapped. {{What time is it there, oh-four-hundred? Don't you ever sleep?}}

Shackleton smiled playfully, turning on the charm. One day, he was going to bed Georgia Campbell - the statuesque administrator of Section 31 - and have her screaming his name while she melted into the bedspread in a pool of her own sweat. "Never on the Section's time, Georgie," he said smoothly, deliberately calling her by a name she hated. "I must say, you're looking sharp. Going on a hot date tonight, or did you pretty yourself up because you knew I'd be calling?"

Georgia's face darkened like a thundercloud. {{Oh, you're funny. Maybe that's why the boss wants to talk to you, to give you an award for being so funny. I'm putting you through, now.}}

Shackleton chuckled inwardly. Georgia wanted him bad, it was pretty obvious. Some women just needed a good fuc -

- but then the screen winked, and Georgia's features were replaced by those of Selyara, the Director of Section 31. Now, she was a real beauty - an exotic hybrid of Vulcan and Betazoid with a cracking butt. Of course, she was also his superior, so Shackleton straightened up, assuming a more professional air. Selyara probably liked that in her men, and it would make it easier to bone her if she thought he respected her position.

Selyara was on a starship, he was sure of it. The picture's background showed small guest quarters of the type you'd only find on starships, and through a window over her shoulder Shackleton could see the starfield. Wherever she was, she was in space.

Selyara didn't waste any time. As soon as the connection was made, she started talking, probably in order to distract herself from Shackleton's good looks. {{Emerald, pay attention. Our intelligence agent on Risa - his name is Bentley - is missing. He was on an investigation there, and was supposed to file daily reports with us in San Francisco. He's twenty-four hours overdue, and we fear the worst. You're going to Risa to track him down.}}

Shackleton exulted inwardly. Risa was full of hot near-Human space-honeys in beachwear, all offering free targy-style jemaheron to any man who wanted it, and Shackleton wanted it. "What was Bentley working on?"

{{About three weeks ago, the USS Harambe was visiting Risa for some shore leave. They detected a sudden burst of thaleron that dissipated almost instantly after it was formed. It was the same thaleron isotope that was used in the Aegis satellites to destroy Paris in the summer.}}

Shackleton frowned. "Risa doesn't seem like the kind of place the Neo-Essentialists would set up a weapons lab."

{{Right, but given the link, we couldn't afford to take any chances. Bentley was dispatched to investigate. His last message to us was that he was heading to the resort of Taino, located in the Sea of Partheous, in the southern hemisphere. You should start there.}}

The screen cut itself in half - one side showed Selyara's face, while the other showed a personnel record of Bentley. Shackleton glanced through it - he was a blond caucasian Human from the Alpha Centauri colony, mid-thirties, had been an intelligence officer for ten years - nothing much else of interest. Not a particularly good-looking fellow compared to him, but Shackleton didn't hold that against the man, because the poor fool couldn't help it. Besides, Bentley was probably stone dead already, having stumbled on to something that was out of his league. Shackleton wouldn't be making the same mistake.

The image winked and showed a map of Taino. It was a typical Risian beach resort, a place for tourists to go, relax, and try to not catch any STDs. The whole place seemed landscaped, with a central admin office in the lush, tropical grounds. Palm trees and wicker huts were dotted around the beach area, and the sun sparkled on the blue ocean. It looked like paradise.

Shackleton was pleased. He tipped a nod to Selyara. "I''ll get on it right away."

She nodded curtly. {{{Good. Your expense account has been activated. I'll expect a report from you in a couple of days.}}

"Yes, si - " But Selyara had cut the connnection before he could say any more. Shackleton sighed, then used the computer to book himself a first class ticket aboard the next Stellar Lines cruise starship to Risa, along with a week's worth of five-star accommodation at the Taino resort. That made him feel better.

Re-activating the holograms, he carefully resealed and locked the room behind him, heading back up to the bridge to call a cab to take him home. There was packing to be done - swimming trunk colours to be chosen, dinner jacket styles to be finalised.

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Location: Risa
Scene: Horgahn Spaceport


Two days later, after an especially relaxing trip aboard the cruise ship 'Decadence', a complimentary shuttle flight to the planet's surface, and a painless ride through customs, Finn Shackleton stepped onto Risian soil.

As soon as he left the spaceport, he emerged into bright, clean daylight. The heat was on his face, the breeze was spiced with the salt tang of the ocean, and Shackleton took a moment to inhale a deep breath, drawing Risa into his lungs. Everywhere, people were moving in and out of the spaceport, sad faces leaving paradise, new faces excitedly leering at it.

Risa was a cattle mart, and Shackleton loved it. There were native Risians in the space port, too - they were almost identical to Humans, but had vastly different internal physiology, and their culture was markedly different from Earth, especially their sexual mores, which were much more open than those of Earth. Risians practiced a mysterious mystical sexual ritual known as jemaheron, and were more than pleased to share it with offworlders, which made Risa one of the pre-eminent pleasure planets in the Federation.

Hovercars stopped, picked up or dropped off passengers, then drove on. Families embraced one another, and happy sounds filled the air.

Shackleton looked around, revelling in the sight. Somewhere, a few miles to the west, was the resort of Taino, where Bentley had gone missing and his mission waited for him. He had a quick look around, taking in the scene -

- to see a man standing there with a sign that read 'Finn Shackleton'. He was Terran, a small and wiry man with distinct Asian features. He sported a little goatee beard that made Shackleton instantly suspicious of him, and was wearing a clean grey suit with little cap on his head. He was standing next to a luxurious cream-coloured hovercar that had been heavily modified - no roof, a full suite of leather seats, an anachronistic dashboard that hearkened back several centuries to the early Earth automobiles.

Shackleton took it all in. Nobody of consequence knew he was on his way to Risa, so who was this man? Was it possible that Section 31 had sent someone to meet him, based on new information? Then again, it might be a trap, but if it was a real contact, he couldn't afford to pass up the opportunity.

Shackleton moved towards the man, smiling and nodding at him.

The Asian snapped into alertness. "Mister Shackleton? I've been sent by our mutual employer to welcome you to Risa. My name is Jones."

"Really." Shackleton made sure to keep the smile on his face, but inside, alarm bells were ringing. "That's grand. You'll take me to my hotel?"

Jones bowed at the neck, and gestured to the car. "Please."

Shackleton threw his suitcase into the back seat and followed it in. The plush seats sighed under his firm buttocks, and his eyes narrowed as he cast a look around the vehicle, doing a threat assessment. There didn't seem to be anything out of order - no grooves for the roof to snap up suddenly, no obvious panels that might be hiding a built-in phaser, no unexplainable holes in the bodywork that might shoot out anesthezine or something similar.

He watched Jones get into the vehicle. The Asian was lithe and wiry, and moved well. It was obvious to Shackleton that he was more than he seemed, but for now he was determined to play along. In a flash of inspiration, he wondered if Jones knew anything that might help his mission. "You mentioned our mutual employer?" he sad nonchalantly, as the hovercar rose ten feet off the ground and moved off down the road.

"Oh yes," nodded Jones. There was a road network of sorts on Risa, linking the spaceports and the beach resorts, and the hovercars kept to them even though they didn't make contact with the ground. People liked buzzing around the countryside in the vehicles - they could feel the warm breeze on their faces and see the sights while travelling. Much more personable than simply beaming in to wherever you were staying.

"How's old Bentley?" asked Shackleton.

That did it. Jones' eyes flickered, and through the rear-view mirror Shackleton saw him glance backward. It was a dead giveaway - dead likely being the operative word - and raised Shackleton's suspicions even further. Idly, he wondered how badly he would have to beat Mr. Jones before he started answering some questions.

"Oh, just fine," said Jones, but there was no pleasantry in his voice. "You'll be meeting him soon enough."

"I can't wait." Shackleton watched through narrowed eyes as Jones accelerated, and realised that they were travelling down a narrow road that was hugging the coast. To their left, the inland landscape was picture-perfect - as Shackleton looked on, a flock of white swan-like birds passed across the blue sky and dived downward towards some trees, a bolt of earthed lightning. To the right of the car lay the rocky coastline, rising towards the western cliffs, with Taino in the middle distance. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sunshine sparkled on the calm ocean, and pleasure boats bobbed on the water.

It was a good day, and a good place, to die.

Shackleton felt himself grow tense, knowing that some sort of confrontation was imminent. Jones was not all he seemed, and was probably an assassin - he might even know what had happened to Bentley. Whatever the case, every minute he spent in this moving vehicle was another minute closer to whatever trap had been prepared for him.

The cliffs were to the right now, falling away down a hundred feet to rocky shoreline, where the white surf gnashed against it. It was now or never.

As Shackleton moved, so did Jones.

Shackleton made to leap from the car, out to his left, but Jones jerked his right hand forward, touching an invisible control, bringing a forcefield into life. Shackleton mushed his face into the energy field as he made to jump, being forced backward into the car, but even as he did, he lashed out with his right fist, catching Jones on the back of the neck and knocking him forward.

The car, travelling at speed now, veered away to the right, and Jones quickly jerked it back over the road. Shackleton guessed that an old-style hovercar like this might not work so well over water, as its zero-G unit probably needed solid ground to generate an effective anti-gravity field. That gave Jones double trouble - as well as dealing with an angry passenger, he'd have to worry about his own life.

Shackleton pulled himself forward as the car skewed to a halt. He got his right arm around Jones' neck, and pulled hard against the Asian's throat. Jones squawked as the pressure was applied, and tried to pull Shackleton's arm off, but he couldn't move, and as Shackleton applied pressure, he started to choke.

"Alright! Alright!" he gasped. "I give up!"

Shackleton relaxed his grip, but only slightly. "You've been lying to me, Mister Jones. We don't have the same employer. Where's Bentley?"

Jones' eyes were bulging as he fought for breath. "Dead!" he coughed. "He was killed!"

"By who?" snarled Shackleton. "Why?"

"S - snooping! He was snooping!"

Shackleton knew it. Bentley was dead, and it was more than likely connected to the thaleron that was detected from orbit. If Bentley had gone to Taino to investigate, he might have found evidence that the thaleron came from there, or at least that the resort was connected to it in some way. There was only one more piece of information he needed. "Who had him killed?"

Jones' elbow flew backward, a glancing shot, but it bounced painfully against Shackleton's right eye - a lucky blow. Shackleton grunted in pain, releasing his grip, and Jones wrestled his way free of Shackleton's restraining arm, releasing the forcefield, kicking open the hovercar's door and allowing himself to drop ten feet to the ground. Shackleton followed suit, hurling himself out of the vehicle, ignoring the pain in his eye, and landed half a step behind Jones.

It was enough space for the Asian to snap a side kick into Shackleton's midriff. Shackleton doubled over in pain. "Ha!" yelled Jones, breathing heavily, trying to get his breath back. "Now I will kill you, Finn Shackleton!"

Jones whirled around, extending his right arm out, fingers ramrod-straight, and a hidden monofilament blade sprang from beneath his jacket sleeve, angling murderously forward towards Shackleton's throat. Anything it touched - skin, artery, windpipe - would be severed in two at the molecular level.

Shackleton ducked backward and away, and the blade cut the air an inch from his throat. Jones, over-extended now, shifted his weight forward, and Shackleton grabbed his upper body, swivelling around him in a smooth move, grasping the Asian's right arm and holding the blade against his throat. "Well, well," said Shackleton, "we're back where we started. Talk, or I'll open you up."

"You think you're so clever," hissed Jones. The tone of his voice, and the feral look in his eye, let Shackleton know that he was at the end of the line and probably at his most dangerous. Now, more than ever, Shackleton would have to be aware of a desperate lunge.

"You're the one at the sharp end of things," said Shackleton, forcing the monofilament blade a little closer to Jones' throat. "Who had Bentley killed?"

Jones' eyes were wild with fear, but there was something else in there too - resolution. "You'll not stop us!" he snarled. "Never!" Then, to Shackleton's shock, Jones pushed himself forward onto the blade, opening an horrific wound in his own throat. Arterial blood sprayed up into the air, and Jones sagged against the blade, opening the wound wider. His blood gushed hot and bright over Shackleton's right hand, and he let Jones go. The man fell down onto the grass and lay still, blood staining the grass, pooling around his head like a thought bubble.

Shackleton went down on one knee and wiped his bloody hand on the grass. It was a real mess. "That was rather cutting," he murmured idly to Jones' cooling corpse.

He fished around in Jones' pockets for the hovercar control pad. As he lowered the vehicle down to ground level, he wondered who Jones was working for, wondered what kind of villain would engender such loyalty or fear in his underlings that they would kill themselves rather than reveal his name. Had Bentley found out, and was that why he had been killed? What was the connection to the thaleron? And how did they know he'd be coming to Risa? Shackleton didn't know yet, couldn't know yet, and with Jones' death he was left with a hell of a lot more questions than answers.

But all of them pointed towards Taino, the resort where Bentley had reported he was heading to. Shackleton got into the hovercar and gunned the engine, rising the vehicle into the air, and moved off west.

One way or another, he would find his answers there.

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NRPG: This is chapter one of 'The Island of Doctor Meyiou', the debut Finn Shackleton story set on Risa, with tongue planted firmly in cheek ;)


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Finn Shackleton
Agent
Section 31


"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117

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