The Dark Lead.

DreamWorld VI. A Call in the Night

The ringing began in his dreams, scratched the membrane of his consciousness, and fluttered his eyes opened from sleep. Cameron Trek
woke to the sounds of a distant comm-call coming from his study in the next room over. Victoria's peaceful breathing next to him was a sign
that she wasn't disturbed by the sound. The last thing he wanted was to wake her. Sleep was a commodity she hadn't allow herself in the past
few days. As the assistant to the newly elected AiD Chief her duties kept her on watch constantly. After all, this was war.

*Well, not quite,* thought Trek. *That depends on the call.*

Silently, he slipped out of bed and put on his robe. He gave Vicki one last look, and resisted the urge to return to her side. His lover looked
achingly beautiful in the porthole's starlight, especially in her Mardukian silk negligee. Cameron tied his belt, headed out the bedroom, and slide
the door shut behind him.

The call rang again.

Stumbling through the dark, he made his way to his hardwood desk and activated his Scramble-unit. The call was picked up, and now any
message received or sent would be highly encrypted. The lawyer hoped his eyes weren't too bloodshot for the retina check.


The message was flashed on the unit's wide screen only to be replaced by the image of a short, dark haired man with a wide face and a
contagious smile. He was waving his hand back and forth in front of his nose. Trek crossed his arms.

"You wavin' off a stinky, or just saying 'Hi'?" asked the lawyer.

The man's eyes squinted into a more playful laugh.

"A little from column A, and a little from Column B," he said.

Trek sighed.

"All right Waf'fic, what've ya got?" but the man shock his head.

"No...waddda you got?"

The lawyer's face tightened. "That's still your asking price?"

"Uh-huh," he said rubbing his hands together in a lusty fashion.

"A two months, all expense paid trip to the Everlasting Eves
Pleasure Palace," recited the lawyer.

"Say it again, bro-ther!" sang the short man.

Trek rubbed his chin and said, more to himself,

"Ishtar, Fin will have my head for this. I'm dealing pornography
to save an empire."

He looked back at Waf'fic. "You know you're nuts? You'll be without armed protection."

"No, I'm creation's gift to group sex. Now show me the tickets!"

Trek removed the Tic-chip from his top desk drawer and inserted it into the Comm-unit.

"All right, it's"

Waf'fic looked down at another screen. His eyes went wide.

"Hot damn! That's the stuff."

"Tell me, is life in the Program really that bad?" asked Cameron.

The 'Program' was the Archaen Witness Protection Program. Waf'fic Unabrona was once a big time con-man, perhaps one of the greatest,
whose grift talents bordered on the genius. The list of empires he was wanted in was nearly half a mile long, and it was once rumored that he
swindled the entire coffers of a Lesser Empire into his own bank account. The man was a legend in his field.

Point in fact, his last sting involved an interstellar Mail-Order-Bride business to several empires. To the con-artist surprise it actually developed
into a legitimate, and profitable business, regardless of the fact that many of his clients were illegal arms dealers in backwater Q-dexs. A fact Waf'fic
choose to ignore until he discovered that most of his girls were being sold as slaves to the K'tan Empire.

Showing a rare conscience, and a real set of morals, Waf'fic blew the whistle on the dealers, and turned evidence against them. It wasn't long
before he had a price on his head, and a list of assassins to follow. That's when he turned to Trek, and the lawyer in turn placed him in the 'Program'.
In return, Waf'fic was an indispensable wealth of information on the Galactic black-market, and the illegal operations of numerous empires.

"I tell ya Cam, If I hear one more person say 'It's been real nice
Talkin' wich ya' or... 'You want some marmalade with dem biscuits?'
I'll shoot myself."

Trek actually didn't know where Waf'fic was, that was the Program's doing. But through the AiD Pact's resource he was able to
get his request through, and in turn have Waf'fic contact him.

"You're breakin' my heart," said the lawyer.

"You know how long it's been since I had sex with three or more
women? Two years...TWO YEARS!... I'm dying out here!"

"Sure you are," said Trek. Waf'fic frowned. "Yeah, what do
you know law-boy. You re-marry yet?"

Trek's face scrawled. "All right, I held up my end of the bargain, now it's your turn."

Waf'fic nodded, his face drawing serious.

"This is some pretty serious stuff you're asking for, Trek," said the grifter.

Cameron knew that was true. In the AiD Pact's decision to strike at the NGN forces, reliable intelligence was need to find their
'Center of Gravity', the source of their greatest strength. Trek saw that as their weapons supply, and decided upon himself to hunt
down any leads revealing that source.

"Have you seen the 'Net lately?" asked the Archaen.

"Like I've got time. What, with my day planned with basket weaving,
and nature hikes..."

"Cut the bullshit Waf'fic, and spill!" fired the lawyer. But Trek could see the con-man was reluctant to talk, even on a secure line.
Whatever information he had, it was hot.

"All want to look into the Korinthe Research Firm.
They're the manufactures of the Striker Weapons series."

Trek nodded. "Yeah, I know them. They're a leading weapons manu-
facturer and big supplier for New Asgard, CDW, CIIS, Fab'Rini
Federation and the RDD. They're a close competitor with Arrowsmith
Systems Interstellar on Archada."

"What you might not know is that the investors in many of those
empires recently just maxed out on their investments. Their
credits been stretched too far, and any request for additional
goods was answered with a polite rejection letter."

Trek rubbed his chin with a finger and thumb. "Sounds like KRF's in need of some serious new blood money."

Waf'fic smiled "And they're rumored to have started selling arms to the UAC, who in turn have sold those weapons to a
certain Ghoiite fraction."

"Which one?" asked the lawyer with curious tone.

"That I don't know. Hey I'm not tele-pathetic ya know."

"That's telepathic."

Trek smiled. In all the years he had know Waf'fic he still couldn't figured out the man's accent, or where he was originally from.

"Whatever. The point I'm tryin' to make here is that the KRF have
extensive internal records on all their client dealings. Both
on... and off the shelf customers."

"A paper trail. Still, that probably won't tell me much about the Ghoiites."

"Cam...Cam, would I ever leave you high and dry?"

"In a heart beat," quickly answered the lawyer.

"Yeah...I guess that's probably true. But this time I came through," said Waf'fic.

"I'm listening."

"I've arranged a meeting with you and a disgruntled worker from
KRF. Names Kern. Two 0'clock on the Blast Pan of Mokk City,
T- Prime. Docking bay 21."

Trek looked at his clock. "You gotta be kidding!, that's an hour from now!"

The con-man glanced off screen as well.

"Hey yeah, wadda you know. Ya better get going." said Waf'fic with mock surprise. "Meanwhile, I gotta go pack my toothbrush."

"Thanks for nothin'," said the lawyer with sour grapes. "I hope you get the clap!"

"Yeah, me too. Love and kisses." The con-man clicked off and the comm-screen faded to black. Trek sat in the dark thinking.

*Leave it to Waf'fic to play it close to the vest. An hour
doesn't give me much time. If I tell Vicki, or Fin they'll want
to assemble a strike team, stake the place out, play it safe. By
that time Kern could be gone...*

He glance back at the clock.

*...On the other hand, if I go alone it's a sure bet I'll get myself killed.*

It was a dark lead, one where he didn't know what to expect. Trek did know that in the past few weeks Taarkhul Prime had been crawling with spies. NGN, and warring Ghoiite factions alike. As an Archaen planet side, he'd stick out like a sore thumb. The lawyer pulled out a bottle of Noe brandywine from his bottom drawer, and poured himself a shot.

*Decisions...decisions...* he thought holding up the glass.

His left, clone grafted arm arched. That was never a good premonition.