Fantasy & Sci-Fi

The Undead Kid – Part 1

By Richard Lovig a.k.a. Jack

The glare from the real estate agent was intense. In fact, between his plaid plastic blazer, the bright midday sun reflecting off of his bald spot, and the high wattage real estate agent's smile he was smiling, it was almost too much. I suspected that my partner Kistan had already been at least partly overcome. During the course of the sales talk he had edged behind me, away from the agent, and grown suspiciously quiet.

I circumspectly slipped on my sunglasses (cutting down on the glare considerably.) and attempted to focus on what the agent was saying.

"...and the best part of this little vacation paradise is that it's completely private! Why--"

"How private?" I asked, interrupting at random, trying to sound like I was on top of things.

The real estate agent gave me another of those high wattage grins (causing Kistan to growl slightly, and edge even farther into my shadow.) and said, "Completely! What you are buying here is not just a cottage! Not just a lake! Not even just a planet! What I'm selling you is an entire system! A system of your very own! Why, the nearest human settlement to Cophetti--"

"Gehusndheit," I said.

The agent smiled tolerantly. "Ah, no, Analog, may I call you Analog?"

I put my hand on my gun. "It's the Analog Kid. Get it right."

"Certainly, certainly," he said soothingly. "Anyhow, as I was saying, Cophetti..." He raised his hand at this point to forestall another gehusndheit. "That is, the planet we're on, is in the middle of a completely uninhabited system. In fact, the nearest human settlement to this little vacation wonderland here is on Vista IV, over fifteen light years away." He put his hands in the pockets of his blazer and beamed at us.

I turned to Kistan and whispered, "So, what do you think?"

"I don't know Kid," Kistan said. He sounded tense. "You deal with it. The way he keeps smiling like that, and the glare from his head..." His hand edged slowly toward his blaster.

"Easy, Kistan, easy. Try wearing your sunglasses, it helps."

"Yeah, okay." He took his sunglasses from the pocket of his jacket and slipped them on.

I turned back to the real estate agent. "Well, uh..."

"Phil," he supplied helpfully.

"Yeah, Phil. Give us a minute."

"Surely! Surely!"

I took a moment to look over what we'd be getting, minus the sales talk. It featured lush greenery, warm sunlight, and a comfortable looking cottage with a lake nearby. A suitably quiet and restful vacation spot. I decided to talk it down a little.

"What about that swamp out there?" I asked, indicating the lake. "Could be unhealthy."

"Swamp!" He exclaimed. "That's one of the finest fishing lakes I've ever seen! Just imagine spending a long, relaxing day out there fishing, then coming home afterward to sit on the front porch, caressed by cool refreshing breezes off of your own private lake. And that's just one little spot, on a whole wide planet! Why, I'm halfway tempted to buy this place myself if you gentlemen don't take it."

"Uh-huh," I said dismissively. "So, what about the fishing? There anything out there?"

"Is there anything out there, the man asks!" Phil glanced over his shoulder at the lake, and his smile momentarily dimmed a few watts. A few seconds later however, he cranked the wattage back up and turned back to us. "What kind of a fishing lake would it be if it didn't have things in it? Just look at that lake! Just imagine the things you could pull out of that water!"

"Dead things maybe," Kistan put in, overcoming his distaste enough to try and help me out.

"Dead things?" Phil's smile slipped slightly again.

"What's the matter?" I asked, "Fishing no good?"

The smile came back. "Oh no. Fishing's great. Plenty of stuff out there just waiting to haul you in."

"You mean be hauled in," I corrected.

"Of course, of course!" His voice dropped to an ingratiatingly conspiratorial whisper. "As a matter of fact, I happen to have a nice little boat aboard my shuttle that's perfect for fishing. I'd be willing to throw it in free if it'd help to close the deal."

I shrugged casually. "Maybe. How much you asking?"

"Oh, not much. Not much at all. Say, fifty-thousand credits?"

My bargaining instincts cut in. "Twenty-five," I snapped.

"Forty," Phil suggested, his eyes drifting towards the lake again.

"Thirty," I countered. Phil continued looking at the lake, ignoring me.

I thought it over. The place really was worth the money, particularly if there was anything to Phil's claim about us getting the entire system. Besides, it was hot out, and I was starting to worry about Kistan. If I let him involve himself in another incident, the girls'd be very unhappy with me. Why, after that minor altercation on Formia VI, when Kistan took exception to the ritual headdresses the locals had insisted that we wear...

I suppressed a shudder and said, "All right, forty it is. But I expect a cash discount."

"Cash?" The full glare of Phil's attention abruptly focused on me, and I took an involuntary step backward, bumping into Kistan. "Cash is good. I can give you ten percent for cash."

I frowned. Fifteen percent was standard. On the other hand, Kistan was getting edgy, so I decided to wrap this up.

"Sounds good to me. Kistan?" I asked, glancing back at him for confirmation. Kistan lowered his sunglasses slightly and nodded.

"I guess we'll take it then. Kistan, the money."

"Right," Kistan handed me an envelope, which I passed along to Phil.

Phil opened the envelope and began counting the money. "Just a formality the Company insists on," he assured us. "Of course I know that..." He paused, then counted the money again. "This is five thousand short."

"Kistan!"

Kistan shrugged slightly and handed over the rest of the cash. Phil counted it twice, then stuffed it into the pocket of his plastic blazer.

"Been a pleasure doing business with you boys. Congratulations! You now own your own planet. Here are the keys to the cottage and your Planet Registry Number." He tossed me a collection of magnetically coded plastic strips, which I caught and pocketed.

"And our boat," Kistan reminded him.

"Of course, of course. You two belong out on that lake." He smiled at us for a long moment, then said, "Now, if you gentlemen could give me a hand in unloading your boat?"

"I'll do it. I think the heat is starting to get to my partner."

"Not too badly I hope?" Phil inquired solicitously.

"Not to worry," I reassured him. "You just go and open up your ship and I'll be along in a minute."

When Phil was gone I turned to Kistan and said, "Relax will you? You're starting to make me nervous." I took him by the arm and led him toward the Demon Star, the car the two of us had arrived in.

"Sorry Kid. There's just something about that guy that bugs me."

"You liked him fine when we met him in the Alternity," I pointed out.

"It was darker then, and I'd had more to drink."

"Ah. Well, that's understandable, I guess."

When we reached the Demon, I got Kistan into the car, dialed him a drink, and, as I was leaving, said, "And for God's sake, try to relax."

By the time I reached the spot where Phil's battered shuttle sat, he had already opened up the ship's hatches and extended the loading ramp.

The shuttle was an older model, equipped with a reaction drive rather than the more efficient gravity drive the Demon used, and lacking in some of the modern amenities, such as automatic cargo handling. That being the case, it took a bit of effort to get the crate containing our boat out of the hold and down to the edge of the lake.

When we were finished, I took a moment to catch my breath, then said, "So, Phil, about this fishing. What kind of bait do you recommend?"

"Live bait," he said immediately. "Definitely live bait. They'll go for anything that's still alive." He glanced around nervously, and his gaze lingered for a long moment on the lake.

"Something troubling you Phil?" I asked casually.

"No, no. Nothing at all. Just eager to get back home, see the wife. You know." He gave me a conspiratorial wink.

"I thought you said you were single?"

"Oh? Well, I didn't say that she was my wife..."

"Uh-huh." I was beginning to smell a rat. I slowly began edging around the crate, towards Phil, while I continued talking. "You know, that's too bad. Kistan and I were kind of hoping you could could hang around here for a while. Join us for a beer, maybe even do a little fishing with us."

"Hang around? Here? Oh no, couldn't do that."

I decided that I was close enough. I lunged across the remaining distance and grabbed him.

Unfortunately, Phil was quicker than he looked. The moment I moved, Phil dodged. I managed to get his jacket, but Phil slipped loose and took off running for his shuttle. By the time I caught up, he was already inside with the hatch closed. A moment later, I heard a low rumbling noise that climbed rapidly in pitch and volume as the shuttle's engines started. I sprinted for cover.

Moments later, the shuttle's engines fired, washing the clearing with flame as the shuttle blasted skyward.

I headed back toward the Demon Star. With any luck, we could still catch Phil before he managed to clear the atmosphere and make a six-space transit.

When I reached the Demon, Kistan was sitting inside, sipping a drink and looking very relaxed. I put an end to that.

"Move over," I said, climbing in. "We're going after that shuttle."

"What? Why?" Kistan asked, sliding over to the passenger's seat.

"Phil was acting suspicious. When I tried to grab him to ask questions, he took off."

"So what are we doing then? Going after him?"

"Exactly." I addressed myself to the Demon's computer. "Demon, seal hatches, tactical on, prepare to lift."

As the hatches hissed shut, the Demon spoke. "What is this about?"

"That real estate agent guy took off. I want to follow his shuttle and stop it before it's high enough to make a six-space transit."

"No point to it, but okay. Hatches closed, tactical on, ready to lift." Around us, the viewports dimmed as the tactical displays came on, covering the external view with a complex set of computer generated lines and symbols.

I looked closely at the display then asked, "Demon, where's the shuttle?"

"You mean the shuttle that the real estate agent took off in?"

"Yes, that shuttle," I said patiently. "I want you to follow its course." The Demon has one of the best combat computers around, but sometimes it can be a little temperamental. Patience is essential.

"Are you certain about that?" the Demon asked. "That course--"

"Hey! You want to be replaced with one of those Cybertronics Shoot & Kill systems? Just follow that goddamn shuttle's course!" Sometimes patience is hard to manage.

"Okay, course locked and executing."

Glowing lines began dropping past us in the tactical display, indicating the high velocity climb the Demon was executing as we followed the shuttle's course.

When we were several miles up, the lines twisted, looped a few times, then began rushing past in the opposite direction as the ground came up at high speed.

"What are you doing!?!" I yelled.

"Following the shuttle, as per instructions. Impact in forty seconds. Thirty-nine, thirty-eight..."

"But this is a crash course!"

"Exactly," the Demon said. "The shuttle crashed shortly after its pilot ejected. Impact in thirty-two, thirty-one..."

"What! Then cancel this course and follow him!"

"Not until you apologize. Twenty-seven, twenty-six, twenty-five..."