Bloodsticks - Chapter 2
“Mills said that you’re behind schedule on the magic and gate lore assignment, so this is the only job he has for the next few months."
This is the second award-winning work of Höbin Luckyfeller, and the second book in his Field Guide series. The script is hot and fresh and we also have a new cover for the book!
When Höbin is contracted to research the popular game of chance, he quickly learns the truth surrounding its history is anything but. Circumstances unfold faster than he can anticipate, pulling Höbin from his assignment and thrusting him into the shadows of intrigue, magic…and murder.
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Chapter 2 - The Job
Maybe I should have started at the beginning of this story. It’s important to explain how I ended up in this most precarious situation, so let me take you back ten days earlier. The day I was on a secretive visit to my homeland…
Ever since my country unofficially banned me, I’ve had to rely on my personal relationships and smuggled technology to scratch out a living.
That…and a dash of good ‘old fashioned, literal ‘magic’.
The port keys which I use for travel to and from the Black Market are powerful, but limited. Unlike the Prime Gates, they can only transport four humanoid-sized lifeforms (unless you have an upgraded key—which is as rare as an honest man these days). That might seem like a lot, but the downside is two-fold; there’s only two charges in a key…and you return to the exact spot you originally port from. You have to be careful…and remember the last place you used it from. It took me quite a few months to get across the great waters and sneak onto our little island. Then I had to find the right hiding place…to use as my port base for Clockworks City.
Now, as I was saying—the port keys are nice, but they’re not the answer to hasty problems most times. An ill-planned trip, or using this limited transport magic to avoid, say, a fall from a tall building…will eventually return you to your fate. That’s why I picked a garbage maintenance building just outside the chief city. They’re spacious, old, on the edge of the docks, secure…and rarely, if ever, used. Not much of a chance for things to go wrong.
The other advantage with this location is its close to the Fishes Archive Foundation. I can get through the all but abandoned loading docks, sneak through the storage halls and corridors with minimal exposure to security cameras or the local authorities.
The government may have banned me from speaking out against their unlawful moves…but it’ll be a while before the FAF will let their top producer go. I’m too big of a meal ticket and they know it.
So they simply pay me under the table, then recode my works for publication. It’s harder for them to pay me in coin instead of credits, but we make it work.
Besides, now that I don’t have to worry about fees, tags, licensing and passports to appease President Shrub, I can go anywhere in the world.
That means better results for the FAF and bigger checks for me. Where my colleagues earn standard wages after all their deductions, I can make a small fortune doing the same work.
The electrical hum catches my attention and I turn to see a familiar smile.
Damen Umbril is my contact.
He’s a good kid. Clever, loyal, hates the status quo, and he can hide many things in his uni-chair.
No one expects a cripple to be a covert operative for the big corporations.
He’s the perfect employee to deliver my assignments.
“This can’t be right, Damen,” I say in disbelief. “There’s no way I can take this job and corporate knows it.” I shove the tablet back into his hands. “I won’t do it. Give me something else.”
Damen smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “Mills said that you’re behind schedule on the magic and gate lore assignment, so this is the only job he has for the next few months. With the awards ceremony coming up, they’re shutting down the field division. They’re going to finish all current projects in-house. I know it's hard, sir, but they want real documentation on this one...and you live in the community where Bloodsticks was created," he says, trying to hand the tablet back, but I fold my arms.
“Hard?” I cough. “I’m a gambling addict, Damen! Almost lost my wife over that game and now you want me to jump in with both feet?” I frown, my nostrils flaring. “Besides, we have not proved that the game actually originated in the Black Market. It’s just speculation.”
“And your wife isn’t a problem anymore now is she,” he says.
I glare at him so fast, Damen flinches.
“I’m sorry Mr. Luckyfeller. That was unkind of me, and I apologize…but see what I mean? Already you’re challenging popular belief.” He shakes his head. “Of course Mills doesn’t want you playing again.” Then he smiles, trying to reassure me, but it doesn’t work. He looks more like someone who has gas, trying to keep it in. “They just want you to do the research. You’ll know what to look for, what questions to ask and what to avoid. You know the blah-blah-blah Mill’s would say about now, so come on. Whadya say?” He rattles the tablet at me, adding his stupid, drooping, puppy-eyed look to the mix.
I hate it when he does that. Makes me feel guilty.
“What’s the pay?” I ask bluntly.
Damen never grins unless it’s good news. I don’t believe I’ve seen his mouth stretch so wide.
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