"Cokey, do you have any idea what you just did?" He asked with excitement. "I have been trying for years to figure out how to get that guy to leave my office. You've been here less than an hour and you just sent him packing."
"He was an asshole," offered Cokey.
"Chet DeMark is the world's most grossly distended fucking asshole, and you've just undone nine years of him unraveling my self esteem. Whatever I was going to pay you, I'll double it. Assuming Samantha okays it."
"She runs this place when Chet isn't knee deep in her. Come on, rev up that charm, because she's almost as bad as he was."
As Dale and Cokey exited his office Dale had to use all of his willpower not to pick the tall black girl up and spin excitedly with her in his arms.
Meh'hl Torvasees Re'eshun was scarcely more than three feet tall, with the cherub-like body of a fat dwarf or some sort of exceptionally large baby. His arms were short, and there were four of them, but from each small hand emerged eight extremely long and multi-articulated fingers. He had dark green hair, pulled back from his large forehead into a short ponytail and glistening with natural oils secreted from multiple unsavory glands. He stood on two stubby and fat legs swathed in the strips of flexible alien-hide leather that covered nearly all of his body.
Despite appearances Meh'hl was capable of moving extremely fast thanks to an organ three inches below his brain that hugged the hollow of his sinuses. This organ, unique to the Sekkar, allowed him to manipulate local gravitational fields as easily as a human would take a breath of air. He did this constantly, so that his deceptively dense and muscled body weighed only a few ounces even in the relatively powerful gravity of earth. Meh'hl only used this innate ability to its fullest when out of sight of other species or in such imminent danger that he knew he would be killing any who might witness his sudden almost weightless bursts of speed.
Meh'hl's face was almost human, with eyes just a little bit too large and bright and a nose just a little bit too upturned and narrowed at the tip. His mouth was wide and concealed twin rows of implanted Imperatrixian mono-blades that allowed him to bite through all but the toughest armors. Meh'hl was not arrogant, but he felt it fair to consider himself one of the ten best bounty hunters currently operating within the Imperatrixian Trade Federation. The concealed throwing blades, the monomolecular edged teeth, and even the toxin dart gun implanted in his left tear duct were just backup weapons. Meh'hl favored the traditional Sekkar Nova Rifle. His was an Ursus Corporation Nova-17, with a range amplifier attached to its meter long barrel and a huge and custom made multi-optic scope clamped to the top rail. With this weapon he could vaporize the head of a fully armored code enforcement assault trooper from three kilometers, although he had only had occasion to do so twice.
The Nova-17 was slung across Meh'hl's back in a marauder-skin gun boot as he crawled effortlessly across the dusty rocks scattered on the hills north of Soda Lake. He had just spent most of the night and early morning watching the Imperatrixian's highly overrated mimetic hunter being destroyed by some sort of terrestrial military unit. It had brought him more than a little satisfaction to watch what he determined to be human females wielding primitive projectile weapons and surprisingly skilled hand-to-hand combat techniques. If savages like that could wholly obliterate one of Imperatrix's most advanced combat robots then he didn't have much competition to fear in his line of work. The Imperatrixians had been trying to phase out using bounty hunters like Meh'hl for trade enforcement violations, but as long as they stuck to using their ham-fisted assault troops and ineffective robots he would be making good money for decades to come.
When he reached the flat basin at the bottom of the hill Meh'hl sprung nimbly to his feet, a slight corona of dust swirling around him and tracing the perimeter of his gravity manipulation. With a kick of one foot he propelled himself a few inches above ground level for an impossible distance, landing almost within his stubby arm's reach of the invisible bulk of his ship. A strange fast-trot took him up a ramp that only he could see and into the cramped interior of his craft's cargo bay. He had carefully documented the human females with a composite mapper and he now fed the data from the camera into what he referred to as his "disguise factory". The machine whirred to life and the half-broken view screen displayed several dozen females as they were pulled from still shots, their dimensions precisely extrapolated from visual scale clues. When the machine had finished rendering all 38 women that it could fully capture it began the laborious process of compositing them into a new and unique contour map.
Meh'hl sighed and began meticulously dusting off every inch of his woven leather bodysuit. With a free hand he reached into a pouch at his hip and pulled out a piece of Ogrellian salt candy. It was withered, red, and dusted with a thick coating of disgusting white Ogrellian sea salt. Some preserved fruit from the Ogrellian system, a revolting snack, but the best available to Meh'hl when he had a chance to provision before the trip to earth. He popped the candy into his mouth and his expression soured. Of course, the Ogrellian salt candy was a multi-sensory reminder of why he had agreed to take the job hunting down the fugitive in the first place.
The Imperatrixians tried to hide it, but everyone in the know was well aware that the recently discovered planet earth was the finest source in the Trade Federation for confections. Meh'hl wasn't sure how the humans did it, but they had managed to produce a dazzling array of positively delicious candies. What little the Imperatrixians allowed to slip out for public sale were quickly bought up by middle men and offered at staggeringly high prices. Meh'hl had tried a handful of "Skittles" and had nearly passed out from delight. He had sampled many delicacies - both legal and illegal - and not even the most potent nerve trance pills from Colombiax could compare to these "Skittles". A quarter ounce of them was worth more on the black market than Meh'hl was being paid to apprehend or kill Linus Guthry. That made the fugitive a low priority indeed.
‘Toad coin?’ wondered the traveler as he examined the pebble. It did not look all that different from any other pebble, and certainly nothing like a coin. ‘What manner of coin has no head or tail, and bears no seal or flag? Who backs this toad coin, the toad bank? The toad treasury!?’ The traveler laughed, but the toads croaked sternly back at him.
Spending $10-15 a day on perishable organic dog food is not a sign of a decadent culture in terminal decline, it's actually real good and worth it.
No lifeguard on duty. Maze run at your own risk.
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