Free Agent

Three

Gwen de Veir HATED the Moratorium, the complex in a dimension next door to the Nightside that dealt with the dead. The pocket dimension was kept seperate for good reasons, with the staff charged as much with making sure things stayed dead as taking care of the remains. From cryogenics to necromancy they dealt with it all, and had some dangerous staff to handle emergencies.

Dead Boy was a young man who was murdered on a street corner for the money in his pockets. On the other side he made a deal with... something, and came back to avenge himself on the killers. Now he does good wherever he can, in hopes of balancing the books when whatever he made his deal with comes to collect.

Plus it was COLD. Gwen had picked out a midlength skirt and blouse combo, and now she deeply regretted it. At her side was a satchel where she carried various items she might need, and she had a pistol slung around her hip. It was a old, single shot model but was quite durable, and it could fire off custom shells.

The thin young man guzzled from a bottle of something that made Gwen's eyes water, then tossed down a handful of pills. "Want some?" Dead Boy offered with a slight smile.

"No thanks," Roxanne Lake shook her head, the handsome redheaded woman standing with Gwen as they waited for the shipment to arrive.

Gwen looked at the lovely redhead and smiled even as she felt her heart jump a bit in her chest. She had hired Roxanne to protect herself from some nuts chasing her because she was the reincarnation of Guenevere. Which was true, but they didn't have to try to kill her for it. Anyway Roxanne saved her life several times, and they ended up going into business together.

"Nice trench coat, by the way," Dead Boy noted, dressed in his own off-purple trench coat.

Roxanne shifted a bit in the used, tan trench coat that Gwen had bought her, and once again Gwen wondered if buying it for her was a good idea. But all the dangerous men in the Nightside, like Razor Eddie, Taylor and others wore the coats, and she thought it might build up Roxanne's reputation too. Especially since she was developing a bit of a name now too.

"Any idea when the shipment will get here?" Gwen asked, frowning as they waited by the gates. The two of them had been hired as insurance if anything went wrong, but the employer had been kind of evasive about what was coming. It made her nervous, but damn the money was good.

"Kid Cthulhu will be here soon," Dead Boy said dryly.

Gwen blinked at him weakly as she echoed, "Kid Cthulhu?"

"You didn't know before taking the job?" Dead Boy sounded amused.

"I KNEW the money was too good," Gwen muttered, shaking her head.

Roxanne unsheathed her sword from where she had it over her shoulder, clearly wanting t ready to go. "I thought John Taylor put him down?" she asked Dead Boy.

"He did," Dead Boy agreed, "cut him off from the thing that was empowering an shaping him, then killed him. But it looks like whatever changed him wants back in."

It was with that unnerving pronouncement that the herse arrived via dimensional shunt. Well, herse crossed with a freight truck to haul the large mass of organic crap. It was painted black, of course, and looked suspiciously armored.

Representatives of the Moratorium hurried out with equipment to haul the body out of the truck, and Gwen had to fight down the urge to retch at the smell. Kid Cthulhu was a bloated, grey mass of flesh, and somehow looked subtly wrong to her vision. The flesh moved and rippled slightly and while she hoped it was just escaping gasses, she felt certain ti was something else.

Suddenly the flesh on the Kid's belly tore, and a green tentacle lashed out, grabbing a worker and wrapping around him like a snake. "No!" he screamed, then began to smoke as whatever was on the tentacle burned him.

"Damn it," Gwen drew her bulky pistol and fired into the now writhing mass of flesh, even as Roxanne and Dead Boy leaped into action.

Sword drawn Roxanne chopped at the grabbing tentacle even as the man screamed in pain. "Let GO!" she roared.

The Dead Boy just leaped onto the Cthulhu thing and started punching away, his pale fists flying. Surprisingly that seemed to hurt it, and the tentacles just writhed around him, seemingly unsure what to do about him.

'Makes sense,' Gwen thought as she fired away into the thing's body, 'he's already dead. What else can the thing do to him?'

Roxanne chopped through the tentacle and the man dropped to the ground... in wo pieces. The 'ooze' on the gripper had apparently melted away his midsection. With a roar of pure rage she began to chop at the thing, even as Dead Boy ripped and tore.

Gwen pulled the pin on a special grenade as she called, "Roxanne, get clear!"

"What about me, damn it?" Dead Boy complained.

Ignoring that Gwen released the grip and tossed, the grenade arching up over the thing's body. It exploded and showed the corpse with holy water, mized liberally with a corrosive that a holy warrior that Gwen had met had recommended. The flesh of the Kid began to burn and smoke, though it was hard to tell if it was the holy water or acid doing it. Better yet, the tentacles slowed their thrashing.

A final, brutal thrashing made the mass f decaying flesh go still, and the workers retrned to haul it inside. Roxanne cleaned her sword as she grumbled, "They'd better have a good way to keep that from happening again."

"Supposedly," Dead Boy shrugged. He smiled wryly as he added, "More work for me if they screw up, of course."

Gwen glared at him, "And that poor worker who died?"

Dead Boy looked at her mildly, "He knew the job was dangerous when he took it." He casually fished a chocolate bar out of his pocket and wolfed it down, following it with a long drink out of a metal hip flask.

It took a few moments for the rep from the Moratorium to arrive and pay her and Roxanne off, as well as thanking them. "We saw you trying to save James," he noted quietly, the business suited man passing over the envelopes of cash, "we appreciate it, even if it didn't turn out well."

"Just doing what I could," Roxanne shrugged, actually blushing a bit.

Gwen his a smile as she noted how cute Roxanne could be. She tried to project the image of the world weary mercenary who just did what she did for cash, but she went out of her way to help clients. Hell, she ad even saved strangers during that Springheel Jack craziness. She was a softly, Gwen had decided, but tried to hide it.

"You need a ride back to town?" Dead Boy offered, nodding towards the futuristic car that had adopted him, more or less.

She wasn't sure if he was trying to make up for being a ass earlier or not, but Gwen accepted the offer. The three got in, and she and Roxanne got in the back while Dead Boy drove. "Thanks," Roxanne said discretely kicking some junk aside in the back seat.

"I needed to go to town for something anyway," Dead Boy shrugged as he fiddled with the car's incredibly complicated radio.

They relaxed in the back seat as the car cruised along silently. "I'm sorry I didn't check into this mess more," Gwen noted quietly.

"It's fine," Roxanne smiled as she put her hand over Gwen's, "you haven't steered me wrong yet."

"Thanks," Gwen sighed, letting her head rest on Roxanne's shoulder. They listened to the radio squeak as they passed through the dimensional rift between the graveyard and Nightside. "Wait, what was that?" she asked as she caught something on the radio.

"Just a second," Dead Boy said as he dialed back.

The harried announcer came on a second later. "I repeat, it has been confirmed that John Taylor has killed Walker. We're waiting for a announcement from the new Authorities."

"What the hell?" Roxanne blurted.

"Crap," Dead Boy breathed out, "Damn it, I missed that fight!"

Both women gave him a look, then listened to the reports drift in as they drove. Apparently something had triggered a final confrontation between the two men, but what no one knew. All everyone was sure of was Walker was dead, and Taylor had done it. There were rumors that he might even become the new Walker, but no one was sure of that.

"Where do you want me to drop you off?" Dead Boy asked.

Gwen exchanged a look with Roxanne. They'd normally go to Strangefellows to celebrate a successful case, but with this news rattling around... "Can you drop us off here?" she said, giving Dead Boy the address of the house they shared.

As Dead Boy pulled up, the doors of the future car automatically popped open. "It's been good working with you," Dead Boy noted, "call me if you need a hand someday."

"Thanks," Roxanne nodded and he drove off.

"I can't decide if he's a ass or just clueless," Gwen noted as they went inside the apartment building and took the elevator to her floor. Not long after she hired Roxanne Gwen had found out the other woman was living out f her office. She had pretty much argued Roxanne into moving into her apartmen, which worked out well for them both.

"Clueless," Roxanne offered as they reached the apartment door, "imagine being stuck as a teenager for years? It'd do strange things to you."

"True," Gwen agreed as they unlocked, then shut down the protective charms on their home until they got inside. They rose the defences again and relaxed a bit, unbuckling gun and sword, then relaxing in front of the telly.

"Let's see if we can find anything else on Taylor and Walker," Roxanne noted, frowning.

Sadly the news didn't have much more than what had already been reported. There had apparently been a period where Taylor and Walker were cooperating, they seemed to break apart, then had a confrontation that ended in Walker's death. Interestingly the fight happened at the hole into hell that was the Griffon's mansion, and everyone agreed that was symbolic, but symbolic of what no one was too sure.

"Do you think this will be good or bad for the Nightside?" Gwen asked as she let herself lean against Roxanne. It felt nice, relying on someone else to be strong for once. And it was even better knowing that Roxanne needed her, too.

"I dunno," Roxanne admitted as she unconsciously put her arm around Gwen's shoulders. "I mean, Walker was always a outsider, you know? At least Taylor is one of us."

"Hmm," Gswen sighed contentedly as she rested against Roxanne.

"But Taylor has cut and run on the Nightside before," Roxanne mused, "what if he does it again? We could be in deep."

"We'd figure out something," Gwen offered with a smile.

"I hope so," Roxanne sighed.

To be continued...

Notes: Considering that Kid Cthulhu was on his way to being a Lovecraftinan critter, it occurred to me his corpse might be a bit hard to deal with. So, this bit. The second half is inspired by the general lack of reaction to Taylor offing Walker in the books. It seemed to me it should freak at least some of the people out.