Four Pirates, A Little Lady and Love
by TechnomadRoanapur, Thailand
It was a quiet, routine day at Bougainvillea Trading. Balalaika, the head of the firm, was engrossed in some niggling paperwork, the bane of her life since she had graduated from her military academy in Russia, before Afghanistan, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, before her life had taken so many unexpected turns. It was nothing she wasn't used to, but it was tedious. She welcomed the interruption when her faithful right-hand man, Sergeant Boris, stuck his head in.
"Comrade Captain? There is a delivery here for you. From the Black Lagoon."
Now, this was completely unexpected, but not unprecedented. Sometimes her contacts out of town sent her things, and the Lagoon was, as always, for hire to anybody who had the money. "Who is with it?" she asked, putting down her pen and shutting down her computer.
"Dutch, and Rock."
"I shall see what it is. Keep Dutch and Rock close by. If this is some sort of a trap, their reactions will tell me in advance." Balalaika rose and walked out of her office, graceful as a hunting cat.
Rock and Dutch were standing beside a big box in the main office, both of them looking like cats that had eaten canaries. "Well? What is this that you have brought me?" Balalaika was intrigued. Her relations with the Lagoon crew had always been good, but this was the first time they'd ever approached her. Always, in the past, she had approached them.
"We brought you a present. Sort of a way of saying 'thank you' for all the times you've hired us." Dutch rumbled. He stepped forward, holding out a cheap little trophy with the words "World's Best Client" on it.
Balalaika was utterly nonplussed. "Well, thank you, I guess. And what is this?" She pointed to the box. If it had been possible, Dutch and Rock would have looked even more triumphant.
"Open it and see!" Mystified, Balalaika took out her knife and opened the box. When she saw what was inside, she stepped back, gasping in sheer shock. Wrapped in enough duct tape to keep them immobilized, Hansel and Gretel were staring out at her, their eyes glazed as though from drugs.
"Bozhe moi! But they're dead! I saw him die! How…what…" Balalaika was not often caught wrong-footed, and decided quickly that she did not like the sensation. She whirled on Dutch, her eyes narrowing menacingly. "Tell me how this is possible!"
"It appears that our two friends, here, are cyborgs. They were created by the Romanian government, as a counter to a program the Italians apparently had. After the Ceausescu regime fell, they escaped and went to work as freelance assassins."
Rock took up the tale for his boss. "The stuff you found over at Rowan's place probably was about another pair of twins that looked like them. You do remember that the quality on those films was pretty grainy, don't you?"
"Ye-e-s-s-s…" Balalaika was now looking very thoughtful. "And being cyborgs would explain a lot about them, wouldn't it now? How in the world did you capture them?"
Rock grinned like a devil. "They'd been hired by some people from Cuba as security for a project they're running over on the Kampuchean side of the border. You know that things are wild and wooly there, and the Cubans wanted to do their project far from the prying eyes of the United States."
"I can see their point," Balalaika conceded. For her, as for all of her men, the US had always been the Main Enemy…the enemy they trained to fight, but hoped never to have to actually fight. "So how did you get involved?"
"They'd stolen some technology, and an important technician, from our old friends the Lovelaces, so the young Lovelace heir came back to town and hired us. We got them up into Kampuchea, and we and they cooperated to extract their man. There was a firefight, and we managed to capture these two. They were not easy to take."
Balalaika had not been born yesterday, and she gave Rock and Dutch a gimlet stare. "How interesting. And just how did you capture them?" She didn't have to say "the truth, this time," but she didn't need to. Both Rock and Dutch knew her well enough to know the signs.
"They got on board the Lagoon; we hadn't been expecting them any more than you did, just now. Who expects people that you're sure are dead to pop up, alive? Before we could do anything, they got the drop on us, and when the raiding party came back, they were in the bag, too." Dutch explained, looking slightly sheepish. Balalaika quirked a grin. She had clearly not expected such an admission from Dutch, of all people.
"Once we were all there, they said they wanted us to take them out of there. They said they had an offer from some other people, and they wanted to hire the Lagoon." Rock took up the tale. "They said that they would give us something we really wanted for our services. 'Our miserable lives,' to quote them directly."
"How did you turn the tables?" asked Balalaika. She was interested. It was very seldom, if ever, that anybody successfully got the better of Dutch and the Black Lagoon crew, and while she was on excellent terms with them, she figured that knowing how it could be done would be useful information if they ever came to a serious parting of the ways. Or she could use the same trick on someone else sometime.
"Garcia and Rachel…Revy's little sister, you remember her…" Dutch explained, and Balalaika nodded. Like everybody else in Roanapur, she had found it quite amusing to see Revy Two-Hands, one of the least child-friendly people in town, having to adapt to being a big sister. "They thought it would be nice to have something to eat, and went down the galley to rustle something up. One of them found a bottle of roofies, and they laced the food with that, which knocked everybody out but good."
"Ruphynol. A powerful knockout drug. We had it for that time when we were carrying some people who didn't want to come along." Balalaika raised an eyebrow. "Revy, Benny and the maids are all of them up at our office, off in dreamland."
"So you brought them to me. I do thank you. I have plans for these two." Balalaika smiled. Her smile would have looked about right coming out of a dark forest. Or on a hungry tiger.
"Ma'am…before you do anything rash, I'd suggest you call Moscow. These two are cyborgs, remember? Your government will probably want to take them into its custody." Rock was diffident, but determined. "I don't know if the Soviet, or now, the Russian government has any such program, but if they don't, they'll want to, I think."
Balalaika nodded. "You're exactly right, Rock. And I won't ask how you happen to know so much about the secret world." Ignoring the twins' glares, which should have left her lying on the floor with a smoking hole in her chest, Balalaika pulled out a cell phone and punched in a long number. When she got an answer, she began a rapid-fire speech in Russian.
Whatever answer she got, it impressed her. She snapped to attention, holding the phone right up to her ear. When she put the phone down, she looked very pale.
"Let us say that I was put straight through to a very important individual. And, yes, the authorities in Moscow are very, very interested in examining these two. There is a very large reward for them or people like them. You and I shall split it evenly." She named an amount that had Rock gasping, and even the normally unflappable Dutch was visibly impressed. "I'm so glad that you're happy. You may leave now. I shall take charge of these two."
When everybody was awake back at the Lagoon Company offices, the news brought on a celebration. "Of course, we'll split our half of the take with you," Dutch told Garcia, ignoring Revy's unhappy scowl. "You were in on the capture, and we couldn't have done it without you."
"Gracias!" Garcia Lovelace grabbed Dutch's hand and shook it. "You're a true gentleman, Dutch!"
"Just keeping up good business practice. You're more than welcome here any time you bring in that much profit." Rock was over in a corner, adding up how much they'd made, and his eyes went very wide.
"By the way," drawled Benny, "I seem to remember a bet between our Revy, here, and Roberta. Who won?"
Rachel's eyes went wide, and the room went very quiet. "We don't know," Roberta finally admitted. "We got out of there before we could do post-mortems. How can we know?"
"Good question, that."
"I wonder who it was that Balalaika was talking to?" ruminated Dutch. "Whoever it was, it had to be someone really important. She doesn't react that way to just any jumped-up Jack-in-office."
"I could hear and understand just enough to figure it out," Rock explained. "I'll give you a clue. It was the Man on the Cracker."
"The Man on the Cracker?"
Rock began whistling a popular tune, and Dutch gasped. "That's 'Puttin' on the Ritz!' You mean she was talking to…him?" Rock nodded. "I always thought there was more to her than met the eye, but this is something new!"
The others in the room were very quiet. Rachel finally broke the silence. "I'll have to remember to be extra nice and extra careful around her from now on," she said, apparently to herself. "She's got connections!"
"Well, it does make sense," Fabiola remarked. "How better for Russia to keep an eye on this part of the world, and have a bunch of their special-forces types right close by if they need them, than to make them look like Mafiya? And if they bring in valuta, that's extra money. I've never known anybody who would turn up their nose at money."
"Speaking of money," Roberta said, "I believe we owe you Lagoon people for your hard work. Will this do?" She hauled out a wad of bills and passed them to Dutch, who counted them rapidly. Dutch broke out in a big smile.
"On these terms, you're always welcome to hire us! And I think we should celebrate. Who's for the Yellowflag?" This brought general approval, and all of them trooped off to the Yellowflag. Rock did make sure that most of the money was safely deposited before they hit the bar, though.
A few days later, Sister Eda came by. "Hi, Revy! I got hold of the after-action reports the Cubans sent back to their homeland!"
"Let me see!" Revy grabbed for the papers that her friend held out to her. "Hmm, let me see…there were two people winged with a .380. That's Rachel. She's the only person I know who carries one who was along. Five were killed with 9mm Parabellum. That's me. And…how many died of wounds from a .45 ACP?" She set the papers down, looking distinctly sick.
"Hey, what's the problem? Dead is dead, isn't it?" Eda pushed her pink sunglasses back on her forehead. She gave Revy a worried look. For all that they snapped and quarrelled, they were each other's closest friend, and if there was something wrong, Eda wanted to know.
"Glasses Bitch and I had a bet on. Whoever killed fewer enemies had to serve the winner dinner. Dressed in a maid costume!" Revy looked as though she had just swallowed poison. Eda visibly wanted to whoop with laughter, but everybody in the room knew that laughing at Revy at this point would likely be fatal. Even Rock and Rachel kept their silence, for all that they were suppressing grins.
And, that evening, Roberta Cisneros, maid to the Lovelace family of Venezuela, sat down to a luxurious meal in a private room at Roanapur's most upscale establishment. Waiting on her hand-and-foot in a "French maid" costume, Revy Two-Hands poured her drinks, carved her meat for her, and cleared away plates between courses. Her expression was thunderously mutinous, but she carried off the role as well as though she'd always served the wealthy. Roberta, for her part, was scrupulously polite, preceding each request with a "Please," and ending with a "thank you."
Rachel and Garcia both watched, wide-eyed, from their own table. Until they decided that the novelty had worn off, and went back to staring at each other. Roberta and Revy both glanced over, giving their young charges warning looks to not let things go beyond a little footsie under the table.
At the "men's table," Rock, Benny, and Dutch all shook their heads. They would treasure this moment forever, and remember it the next time Revy got stroppy.