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The Thief - a Cobra story

February 13, 2018 08:24PM
in which the Cobra is called on to exact revenge for the stealing of someone else's intellectual property. The complications are in how they want him to do it.



The Thief

On the face of it, it was a standard sanction.
I had a name – Dr. Tobias Tring – and a tridgraph. The tridgraph showed a rather unctuous looking man oozing enough self-satisfaction to bottle and market it as lubricant. He had rather heavy lips and hooded eyes, and seemed to smirk even in repose. Sometimes you get jobs which you feel uneasy about, but then sometimes you get jobs where one look at your, er, client, as you might say, tells you that death will improve them.
It was when I read the instructions that I began to swear.
I ran through several languages as well, to do so.
Tring had, according to the notes appended, stolen a formula from a Dr. Barnard. Dr. Barnard worked for Grunstern AG, who were picking up my tab, and Tring worked for Viebontemps et cie. Next week, doubtless the theft would be the other way round, or both would work together to steal from Mathesson’s Biotech or Dai Haru Kabushiki-Gaisha. It’s all the same to me. They are all monumental corporations and each one is as dirty as the next.
So far, so good.
Except my instructions were not just for a kill.
I had to kill him using a slightly altered version of the formula, which was included with the notes, to convince Viebontemps that the formula was no good.
Apparently the changes to it would degrade so nobody would know the difference. Right, well, that was their problem, and if they got it wrong it would mean Viebontemps knew where to point the finger. The real finger, that is, not at me but at the paymaster. Not my problem.
Getting the formula into Tring’s body would be the trick. Well, not so much getting it there, as getting it there convincingly. Because it would be easy to introduce it with a light, hollow bullet, or even the tried and tested umbrella with a sharp point.Easy, but not convincing.
Have you ever known a research scientist who has tested a formula on himself? They don’t do it, they are too monumentally vain to risk their own lives before something is tried and tested.
Even if he felt any need to take a drug which would produce muscle mass over a couple of hours.
The things they think of. My muscle mass comes from hours in the gym; and it means I can have more augmentations to it. This was at best a false muscle mass, and I doubted it gave much in the way of actual strength, and was certainly not trained to muscle memory in order to use it most efficiently. It was purely for posing.
But then, nobody ever got poor overestimating the combined vanity and laziness of certain sectors of the public. And because the false muscle mass ate itself as you might say, it could be sold over and over again for the daily dose to the vanity addicts.

“When are you going to do it?” the voice was shrill and impatient.
It had been a week since I got the notice to sanction. I suppressed the sarcastic comment which leaped to my lips. There’s no point poking the goose which lays the golden eggs; it might go off lay.
“Well, now, Mr. Smith,” - they like to go under such a distinguished soubriquet as Smith, it’s almost synonymous with clients these days - “If you had wanted him dead, I would have killed him some days ago.”
“But I do want him dead.” The voice on my voice-only phone was petulant.
“No, that wasn’t in the instructions,” I said.
“Yes it was! Dead and killed with the sample you were given!”
“Exactly,” I said. “It’s the ‘and killed with the sample I was given’ which is costing the time, and believe me, I’m not happy because I negotiated pay for a simple sanction, nobody said I’d need to be studying the mark’s habits for several weeks and find a way to make the introduction of a particular substance look like an accident.”
There was a long silence.
“Well, surely it can’t take that much longer?”
“Were you born stupid, or did you have to work at it?” exasperation led me to snap my thoughts.
“How dare you?”
I decided to bluff it out.
“I dare because I’m the best and probably the only Operative you could find capable of carrying out your asinine instructions without doing something crass like loading up a hollow bullet with the stuff and shooting him with it. I take it you did want it done in a subtle enough way that Viebontemps et cie think the formula he stole was a duff recipe?”
There was a long pause.
“Yes, yes that was the idea. I ... what do you plan to do?”
“Chummer, I don’t ask you how you make chemicals to make idiots look hotter, do me the professional courtesy of not asking how I do my job,” I said.
Some of these executives were born stupid, and generally they work hard to acquire more stupidity, and I get their stupidity thrust upon me. That’s Shakespeare, that is.
“Well, I might be able to make some suggestions,” said Smith.
“Oh?” I said.
“Well, he might test it on himself,” said Smith.
“Oh, does Dr. Barnard have a habit of testing untried compounds on himself?” I asked.
“No, of course she doesn’t! It would be stupid!” said Smith.
Well, that was information; Dr. Barnard was a female.
“And you have what evidence to suggest that Dr. Tring is more stupid than Dr. Barnard?” I asked. “And if he is not, do you not think his boss would notice it was out of character?”
It was another of those long, pregnant silences.
This is the way with clients. They have an ideal scenario in their heads, and they expect an Operative to carry out the scenario to their own little fantasy. Unfortunately, their fantasies rarely comply with reality. One of my jobs is teaching adult toddlers the facts of life.
“I suppose that would be a problem,” conceded Smith.
“Yes,” I said. “Which is why I am working on making the introduction of the compound to Dr. Tring look like an accident.”
“Er, right. Carry on then.”
I could do without these little interruptions.

As it happened it was easier than I had anticipated.
Naturally, I had managed to get a bug onto Dr. Tring, and I caught his conversation with his lab tech.
“They will not laugh at me any more; I’m going to use the Vandammeron compound tonight, and you will see, I’m going to pull!” he declared.
His assistant shrugged.
“Just remember, it wears off after eight hours. Make sure you don’t turn into a pumpkin, Cinderella.”
“I will be remembered forever, and my own additions of adding hair growth will be famous!”
After that, it was a question of sorting out a slap hypo, and watching Tring until he ended up in a nightclub, make some quick preparations, and then come and sit beside him.
The muscles on his largely bare chest looked silly next to his scrawny neck, and the hairs were a signpost to his pot belly. However, revolting as the result might be, I had a part to play.
“Hello, handsome,” I said.
“I ... I ... get out, I ...” he stuttered. I found it uninformative.
“What’s wrong, sweetness?” I said. “You don’t come into a bar during LGBT hour half unclad if you don’t want to be picked up.”
Yes, of course I was lying; the LGBT community is far better organised than that. However, in putting my arm around him, I was able to slap him with the slap hypo before he pushed me away. I pouted.
“Flirt!” I said, and flounced off.
I think he was more disconcerted by my feather boa than he was by the heavy makeup and diamante ear rings.
He was too unobservant to fall for anything less over the top.
I rang Smith.
“Whaddya know, he really was stupid enough to try it on himself – with his own modifications,” I said.
“I hope that won’t interfere,” said Smith, fearfully.
“Well if nothing else, I should imagine he’ll die of cardiac shock following diabetic hypo and spleen failure resulting from the double dose,” I said. “What, did you think me utterly ignorant about physiology?”
Apparently, from the silence, yes.
“Good, well done,” said Smith.

It was all over the news; research science racing to beat Grunstern AG to a muscle-developing compound risked trying the compound on himself in order to go clubbing.
Apparently the two versions had fought with each other, and several people had to be given first aid in their rush to escape the nightclub when Tring began to turn into what appeared to be a werewolf. The hair growth was excessive, and his muscles kept swelling until they burst.
Well they do say that dishonesty never pays.
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Thief - a Cobra story

Sarah WaldockFebruary 13, 2018 08:24PM

Re: The Thief - a Cobra story

KarenteaFebruary 14, 2018 01:40AM



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