|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2008-03-18 01:10:00
|Current music:||"Flesh and Blood" - The Waifs|
Steele Part 4 of ?
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII (approx 10 years pre-game)
Title: Steele (part 4 of ?)
Warnings: Skullduggery, gangsters and all the other things you'd expect in Don Corneo's hideaway.
Summary: Corneo's little pad in downside Sector Six is the image of a Wutain pagoda. A very distorted image, with badly skewed colours.
I'm about halfway back on the train when my PHS rings. It's the client, and she's given me the go-ahead on retrieving that box, even at danger money rates. Which would be fine, except she wants me to start straight away, and there's no way known I'm going to try and jump out of the train as it spirals its way up to the top of the Plate. Never mind the risk involved in falling, there are some rather nasty little creatures who have taken up refuge in the tunnel, and even on danger money, I'm not being paid enough to handle them. If I'm really hard up for cash, I'll go monster hunting to pay the rent and cover bills, but unless I absolutely have to, I prefer to let the beasties fend for themselves.
Eventually I get her calmed down enough to actually listen to me, and I explain about the whole “I'm on the train” thing, promise not to charge her for the time it takes me to actually get turned around and back on track, and everything's settled. Now all I have to do is drop this lot of goods off at the office, get all the necessary gear, reload the gun, and head right on back down to Wall Market.
Corneo's official residence is somewhere above plate (I've never been able to get a bead on it for various reasons, not the least of which is a complete lack of interest on my part) but he maintains a “love nest” down at the far end of Wall Market. It's also his office, for the most part. I figure starting there is probably my best bet in tracking him down, even if I do wind up spending an hour or so trying to get information out of his goons first.
Corneo's little pad in downside Sector Six is the image of a Wutain pagoda. A very distorted image, with badly skewed colours. I saw the pagodas of Wutai when I did some scouting around the place for the Shinras back in my Turk inductee days, and they tended to be much more restrained, colourwise. If the pagodas in Wutai had been as garish as Corneo's mockup, the war the Shinra family has just started against the Kisaragi clan might be justifiable, if only as a defence of good taste. As it is, the Shinras are selling the damn thing as being about mako energy, and gaining access to Wutai's reserves, and offering a ten percent discount on their energy bills to the families of troopers. They're saying it should all be over by Yule, which I don't believe for a second. I've seen the Wutain, and I have a fair idea how they'll fight to preserve their territory. Let's just say “tooth and nail” might be putting things mildly.
The drone on the door recognises me, which isn't surprising. I've been here a few times, usually to reclaim appropriated property. My usual trick is just to wave money in Corneo's face, and most of the time it works. The few times it doesn't, I've had to resort to force, or to having the item nicked back again, which is where the danger money comes in.
“Whaddaya want?” he drawls at me.
I just look at him. A fairly standard type for the job of Corneo's doorman, he's barely bright enough to tie his shoes. In fact, glancing down at his feet reveals he's wearing slip-ons. “I want to see your boss.”
Ooh, now this is getting into advanced territory for the doorman. “That's his business and mine. I don't think it's yours.”
The doorman glares at me. He's got the face for it, I'll admit – low forehead, strong brow ridges – but I've been glared at by the head of the Turks, and compared against Veld for scary, this guy doesn't even rate. “Wait here,” he tells me, and goes inside.
I know he's going to be talking to Dio, the bruiser who's currently acting as Corneo's majordomo. Dio and I get along just fine – he has enough mind behind his muscle to be able to make decisions about what his boss does and doesn't need to know, and enough muscle to be able to make certain one of the things he doesn't need to tell his boss about is rebellions among the ranks.
I'm not surprised the goon comes back out a few minutes later and gestures for me to enter the place. I make my way inside, hiding a few winces at the colour scheme (enhanced night vision is fine, but it does mean I'm exposed to the full glory of Corneo's decorating) and spot Dio waiting in front of the main staircase.
“Business again, Steele?” he says to me, completely unfazed by my being there.
“Yup,” I say. “Someone wants me to retrieve something. Best lead I have points to your boss as the new owner.”
“What's the item?” Dio asks. We've done this before – I find it easier to deal with Dio than I do with Corneo. Corneo is too easily distracted at times (such as whenever there's something female within range).
“Wooden box, Wutain characters on the lid. My lead puts it as being offered to your boss sometime yesterday at the latest.”
Dio thinks about things. “Do you have any further details, such as what was in the box?”
“Client hasn't been willing to tell me,” I say. “I'm assured the only value is sentimental.”
I catch the look Dio's shooting at me – the one where he's trying to figure out whether he can get any money from me for the information. I just look right back at him. If I can, I'll try to avoid bribing people in Corneo's operations for information, since I know the money just goes up to the boss. If I want to give Corneo money, I'll offer it to him direct. Dio eventually comes to the same conclusion, because he says “I think I know the box you're talking about.”
“How much?” I ask, coming straight to the point.
“Ah, there's your problem,” Dio says. “Boss doesn't want to lose this one.” He grins at me. “I can understand why your client wouldn't want to say what was in it – it isn't everyone who owns a set of Wutain pornographic scrolls.”
My face remains motionless, although inside my head I'm running through the full list of swearwords I know in Wutain, Midgarian, and the rather colourful dialect they use down in Gongaga. Corneo is obsessed with sex, and with all things sexual. It's the only obsession he has more powerful than his fascination with all things Wutain. Wutain pornography is probably his personal Promised Land, and there is no way I'm going to be able to get that box back short of damn well getting it nicked to order. Given there's no thief in the slums daft enough to take the job, getting something nicked to order from Corneo's place means I'm going to be going in there myself. And now I've just alerted the guards.
Some days it doesn't pay anywhere near enough to get out of bed.
“Sounds like I get to have a word or three with the client,” I say. “I'll have to explain to them about the complications, you understand.”
“Do it now,” Dio says. He's not stupid, as I mentioned earlier. I just wish sometimes he was – preferably when it worked out for me.
“Can't,” I say. “Client confidentiality. I know you have at least one tap into the phone systems in this place, and I'm not going to be giving out any details of who my client is to anyone.”
“We'll turn the tap off,” Dio says.
“Shyeah, right,” I answer. “Dio, can we at least be honest enough with each other to admit we each know the other isn't completely thick? I know you won't turn the phone tap off, and you know I won't damn well reveal my client to you or to Corneo. It's part of what they pay me for.”
Dio just smiles. “Fair enough,” he says. “Do try to convince your client it's a lost cause. The Don really likes those scrolls, and he isn't willing to give them up.”
“Would he be willing to give up the box without the scrolls as a compromise?” It's a vain hope, but maybe I can get my client to accept her half loaf of sentimental value.
“I can ask,” Dio tells me, “but I doubt it. After all, that would mean he'd have to admit he knew it wasn't legit, and you know how the Don gets about those sorts of things.”
I knew. It was a little peculiarity of Corneo's personality – he liked to pretend all his Wutaian artifacts and items were legitimately obtained from Wutai, rather than stolen goods fenced to him by whichever pawnbrokers or sneak-thieves had decided to go after an easy mark. It was the one reason I could buy things back from him – all I had to do was prove it was stolen, and offer about another ten percent on the original cost of the item. He wouldn't try and steal things back from my clients, although I'm sure a lot of them wound up with one or two of Corneo's representatives on their doorstops at a later date (provided the thief could remember where they stole an item from). It also meant if I stole this box and the scrolls back from him, he wouldn't come after me – or at least, not immediately. Provided I got out of his compound before any guards caught me, I'd be able to return the box to the client.
“I'll speak with the client,” I said once more, then turned to leave.
“Steele,” Dio said, before I reached the door, “be careful.” I look at him over my shoulder. It's the first time I've ever heard him say anything of the type. I raise my eyebrows in an unspoken question. “I'm going to be leaving Midgar soon,” he tells me. “There are some opportunities down to the south of Corel. I don't know who's in as my replacement. Take care of yourself, all right?”
I nod. An explanation and a warning. Not bad work for the day.
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