An antique import business makes a boring thing to watch. This is one of those areas where I’m not a good judge of all the loot. And antiques are oftentimes loot. You think the British bought all those Egyptian artifacts from the mummies themselves? Oh, where’d you get all those fancy Chinese vases, British people? Maybe deal a bit of opium, walk out of the country with their shit?
I doubt these guys are bringing in that caliber of product. Probably something a bit more accessible to people who aren’t insanely wealthy. I bet they have plenty of fakes in there, too. That’s not even my assumption about this guy being dirty.
I staked this little antique business out, making sure the guy would be around. I didn’t sit entirely idle. I sat in the back of my panel van, putting together bugs to sneak into the place. It wasn’t that tough to get them in. I hid one in a slice of pizza and let a rat drag it in. Another was carried in on the back of a cockroach. Hell, I painted “Free Candy” on the side of the van and passed out a few as lollipops and candy bars. I had a few issues when some kids stopped by. The greedy little bastards were so eager, they wanted to climb into the darn thing. I had to flag down a passing cop and insist he get the children away from my windowless van full of candy. They were ruining my cover.
I was there pretending to be an unsuccessful child predator. I can’t have kids crawling all over my van. The criminals would get suspicious if I didn’t grab one and drive off, so I have to keep them away. It’s that, or train them as my underage death squad. I’m not doing that.
So I snuck in my bugs, devices meant to record audio and video. Some included the ability to map out the area using sonar. I got a good idea of what the place was like, all from the safety and comfort of my van.
It took a few days of surveillance before someone packing a box stopped to greet Mr. Urum during his unexpected arrival. I maneuvered a rat with its little thinking cap around so the bug could get a good view of him. Nice suit, green vest, gold eye. That’s my guy.
With the revelation that my info was good and my target was on-site, that van started a-knockin’. It was just me getting my armor on. That was another good reason to keep kids out of the van. The last thing a guy with a free candy van wants is for kids to run around yapping about what they saw inside there.
I crashed the van into the front of the building by way of introduction. The impact threw me out of the tinted windshield, where a stack of small Egyptian statues broke my fall.
“Ushabti!” someone called.
I stood up and responded with, “Hey, that’s OUR word. It’s racist when you say it, you fuckin’ shabti!” I threw one of the little things at the person, a man in a tweed suit standing in a doorway to the back. He didn’t so much dodge as get pushed out of the way. Gold eye took his place in the doorway. Just a white guy with short black hair, a suit, and a gilded right eye.
“Who dares to attack this place?” he yelled, full of arrogance and indignation. I like pissing off arrogant, indignant people.
“It is I, the Spanish Inquisitor! I had an appointment. Weren’t you expecting me?” I reached over and finished cracking a glass case on the wall. I tugged a sword out and charged for my target.
“Enough!” he shouted. He held his arms out to the side, levitating in the midst of a golden glow. When it faded, the blade embedded in the golden man’s hand. Dude was pretty fast. He pulled the blade away from his face and smiled a shiny grin. The man’s body was gold, but now his right eye glowed white.
He grabbed my helmet in one hand, my neck in the other, and pulled. It hurt a bit, but nothing came apart or even began tearing. He tried yanking my neck around at various angles, but I went with it so nothing would break before kicking off grabbing his arms. I twisted them around to loosen his grip and slip free. “Looks like we’re both a little tougher than we anticipated.”
“I don’t know who you are,” he responded. His chest deformed out into a fist that punched me back through the windshield of my van. “But I am Aurum, and you will fail.”
“I’m here to see about meeting your boss,” I told him as I opened the door and stepped out again. I spotted a nearby matryoshka doll, a nesting doll, and pulled the top off of it to throw at Aurum.
“Stop that!” he yelled, catching it and the next twenty-four pieces I threw at him, setting them all down on top of each other. I pushed a button on my belt to adjust the holodiscs and a hologram of myself rushed forward to stand right in front of him. A white blast from his eye shot through it and melted a hole into my van behind me. I’d ducked to sort-of crawl below any potential punches, so it missed me. Instead, I came up with a beautiful uppercut that knocked him up and into the door frame he stood under. Hurt like hell, and he didn’t even move too far.
“You ever think about losing weight?” I asked.
He tried to wrap up my head and arm with his legs, but I pushed them away and rolled under him so I could come up behind. He spun, preventing my hand from penetrating his golden sphincter. Gold being a soft metal, though, it didn’t work out too well for where my fist did impact. He’s going to want to smelt those back into orbs before he turns back to human.
He fell suddenly, bringing his hands down in chops on my neck. Another shot forward to jab into my throat. I fell back, pretending to choke despite my armor preventing my airway from closing. As far as Aurum knew, I was just a choking guy pulling out a rubber chicken. If he knew what the chicken was, he didn’t give any indication, not even when I tore its head off and dropped it.
He stepped forward as I sat back against a wall. He raised his open hand toward me. “An idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he said as his hand began to glow white. Shakespeare. Well, two can play at that.
The chicken had by now taken a few steps toward the front of the store. Unwatched by Aurum, it hadn’t been stopped. Now it halted on its own and exploded. Aurum may be heavy, but I still had to duck to avoid getting his goldenrod jammed into my face when he was knocked toward me. Good thing I had him to catch so much of the force for me.
I stood up behind him and cranked up the charge to my gauntlets. “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not expess’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man.” I meant to take advantage of his disadvantage with a good, strong body blow. He flew straight up instead, and through the ceiling. I tore into the wall and had to dig myself out of it a bit, only to look up and find him unleashing a blast straight down. I threw myself back to avoid it, then had to continue as he razed the building with me inside of it.
Things flew at me. The ceiling fell on me. He even managed to zap my van into exploding. It got pretty confusing at that point. I wound up buried under a lot of stuff and in a poor position to extricate myself while everything was going on.
Impatient as I was, I gave it five minutes after the end of all the blasting and shaking to try and worm my way out. Lucky for me, the gauntlets can clear some nice holes. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t use one of my arms that well. Come to find out later, I dislocated ol’ Lefty. On the plus side, it wouldn’t affect my masturbation.
So I managed to punch, leverage, and crawl out, which took a few more minutes. When I got free, I didn’t see Aurum anywhere. He had wrecked the entire place, and sirens were descending on the area. They didn’t bother me so much, but I needed to get Aurum at some point. That wasn’t so easy with the building reduced to a flaming pile of antiquities. I didn’t see any of the employees around and I could only carry a single computer tower I dug out of what I think was a rear office. I had to flee the scene after that, as the wheels rolling up were military as well as peace officer.
Maybe sometime when I have two arms.
I retired to my apartment to go through the arduous task of seeing to my own health and well-being, including getting that arm situated. Then it was time to see to my armor. It held together well, but it’s still annoying to repair and maintain it manually. It doesn’t get any more fun when one of your arms isn’t having the best day.
As for the computer I dragged with me, I spent a short amount of time breaking into it an discovered… a completely mundane work computer. No programs for stock and ordering. No networking or email accounts to check in on. Only a little bit of porn. They mostly used it for accounting, which in my eyes makes the relative lack of porn even stranger.
That was frustrating as hell until I remembered the bugs. The rats fled with the ship, sure, but you think sneaking bugs into candy involved fiddling with the sticks? Fiddlesticks! Once I was good to walk, I set to work having my mashed-together monstrosity of a computer tap into the same signal as the one on the laptop in my van. After what I did to get free, I doubted it made it. The explosions added to my skepticism.
And that’s where I finally had a bit of luck in this unfortunate encounter. I don’t have to take Aurum down to Chinatown; he and his friends are already there. I mean, it’s just a guess given the conversation, but I think it’s a good one based on the question, “Why are we laying low in Chinatown, Mr. Aurum, sir?”
Now to come up with an incredibly-unlikely counter to Aurum. Chocolate probably won’t do the trick. No, for this, I’ve already got something in mind. It involves alchemy, and not the sort that involves putting lead into gold.