Tangled up in Bleu

By: Jason Cline

As the shrimp boat pulled into harbor on Delacroix Island, James LeBleu was certain he had never been so tired in his entire life. Bleu had just finished his seven straight on the boat, working sixteen hour days and he was looking forward to his three off in the city. As Bleu lined up with the other laborers for pay out a battered old bus pulled into the yard and offloaded their replacements.

Rested and ready to make some money the crew, mostly orks and trolls but with a fair number of humans as well, hightailed it to the boat which was heading back out immediately. The demand for Gulf seafood was greater than ever in the sixth world and only a handful of companies would brave the weather, paranormal threats and the smugglers in the Gulf to provide it.

Bleu collected his earning for the last week, counted it and stuffed it in his pocket. He boarded the bus and found a seat in the back where he would be able to sleep through the ride into New Orleans.

Two hours later the bus let Bleu and his fellow laborers off at the Union Passenger Terminal in the New Orleans Central Business District. From there the laborers all headed their own way and it was anyone's guess how many of them would load back up in three days. After his nap in the bus Bleu felt refreshed and since the night was young he decided to blow of some steam in the Quarter.

Bleu had been born and raised in New Orleans but he never got tired of the excitement of the French Quarter. As soon as you crossed the neutral ground the air became electric and day or night, summer or winter, there was always a crowd of tourist having a big time in the Vieux Carre. Bleu walked the few blocks to Lee Circle to catch the streetcar down to Canal.

Bleu paid his fair and pushed his way into the crowded streetcar. There were times when being an ork was a disadvantage to Bleu, but this wasn't one of them. As Bleu pushed through the mostly human crowd no one put up much resistance. Bleu sat down on one of the benches next to an elderly woman who gave him a heartfelt smile.

Must be a local.

The green streetcar rattled down the track and people boarded and left as Bleu relished in just being still for a time. Life on a shrimp boat was one endless day of hauling nets, dumping nets and prepping nets to be cast again. The nuyen was good, especially since the boats were perpetually understaffed and laborers could take as many seven day hitches as they wanted provided they spent three days on land between them. But Bleu was getting tired of living from hitch to hitch, he had moved back home to try to make a life for himself.

Bleu's musings came to an end as the streetcar made the turn onto Canal. When the car stopped next Bleu stood and smiled at his seatmate and said; "Madame, bonne nuit."

The old woman smiled and responded, "Merci et bonne chance."

Bleu pushed his way through the crowd and out on to the street. Bleu crossed the neutral ground and up one street to the infamous Bourbon Street.

Bourbon was the street of sin, a solid line of adult entertainment offering every drink special imaginable as well as beetles and other drugs in the dark corners of the streets various bars. Jammed in amongst the dance clubs and brothels masquerading as strip clubs were some of the finest restaurants in the city as well as courtyards surrounded by wrought iron fences that hosted private parties. Many clubs were two story offering their guests balconies where they can look out over the debauchery like a king surveying his subjects.

Most of the locals Bleu knew hated going to the Quarter and Bourbon especially, but Bleu loved it. It was one solid party stretching for dozens of blocks and Bleu could just loose himself in the pandemonium for hours.

There was one downside, Bleu thought as he spied an NOPS officer who had taken an interest in him. The French Quarter was for tourist, and tourist didn't like 'scary monsters' like Bleu who stood a hair under two meters with a massive build and two canines jutting up from his lower jaw. To make matters worse half of his right arm had been replaced with a military issue cyber-forearm; olive green and dangerous looking against his chocolate brown skin, not the sleek chrome of the other revelers. It marked him as a potential threat. Bleu decided to lose himself in the crowd before Officer Bonhomme started hassling him.

Four hours later Bleu ducked into a strip club to escape the crowd. Bleu was more than a little bit tipsy so when he dropped down on a barstool he ordered a beer instead of something stronger. As Bleu turned to take in the entertainment one of the dancers came up to him, "How 'bout a dance darlin'."

Bleu turned to look at the woman and was shocked to realize that he knew her. "Wait…Chicken Cordon Bleu?" the woman said.

Bleu smiled astonished, "Six pack a' Dixie…where ya' at girl?"

The woman threw her arms around Bleu and said, "God I haven't seen ya'll in years?"

Bleu nodded, "How's your Grammy? She know you're strippin?"

The woman stood up straight and said, "Not that it's any business of yours Jimmy LeBleu but yes she does."

Bleu held up his hands in surrender, "Hey I'm not judgin'…" He shook his head with a smile, "God it's good to see you Dixie."

Just then the announcer came on, "Gentlemen let's give it up for Karma." There was a spattering of applause and the announcer continued, "Thank you Karma…next up Dixie on the main stage."

Dixie looked at Bleu and said, "Drek, I'm up. Look I got two dances left then I'm off shift, just hang out an' we can catch up after I'm done."

Bleu smiled and nodded and Dixie rushed off. Bleu turned in his char to watch as Dixie took the stage.

She was beautiful!

One hundred and sixty centimeters of sex appeal; with light brown skin, full sensual lips, large brown eyes framed by dark eyelashes that made them appear even bigger and shockingly red hair.

The crowd loved her; even before she had removed her first strip of clothing the notes were hitting the stage urging her on. Bleu was no stranger to skin joints, two tours in the CAS Marines had shown him the inside of strip clubs on three continents, but he had to admit that Dixie was working the crowd like a pro. Her routine was more burlesque than the raunchy shows that Bleu was used to but the crowd ate it up. By the end of her song Dixie had made quite an impression and a handy little stack of bills as well.

. * * * * * * * * * * * * .

An hour later Dixie had finished her shift and paid her 'performance fee' to the owner of the club; she met Bleu at the bar where he was settling up his tab. Bleu still had a slight buzz but he was steady as they walked further down Bourbon and left the quarter entirely. As the two entered the Marigny the entire atmosphere changed.

The Marigny had enjoyed a sort of cultural rebirth after the turn of the century and by the teens the neighborhood was the place to be for local artists and jazz musicians, the popularity had grown steadily since then and now the Marigny was a very affluent neighborhood bordered by the Tourist playground of the French Quarter to the west, the dark slums of Treme and the Ninth Ward to the north and east and the river to the south.

Bleu shot a look at Dixie who just shrugged, "What can I say…strippin pays well." Bleu just smiled and followed along.

Dixie led Bleu to a shotgun duplex on Dauphine Street with a wooden porch in the front and a small yard enclosed in an honest to god white picket fence. Bleu tried to keep from snickering as Dixie led him up to the left hand door and unlocked it. Dixie flipped on the lights to the living room and said, "Have a seat for a sec, I gotta go check on Grammy an' tell her I'm home." With that she disappeared out the door and Bleu took a look around the small but nicely appointed living room.

Bleu was inspecting an oil painting on the wall when Dixie came back in and said, "She's asleep. You want another beer?" Bleu nodded and soon they were splitting a six pack of beer and catching up.

"Your fraggin with me…you were a lumberjack?" Dixie asked laughing.

Bleu was laughing himself and he had to wave his hands for a few moments before he composed himself, "No, not really I was just working at a lumberyard up north. I was actually a cook. I guess someone saw that I came from New Orleans and figured I could cook." He took a sip of his beer.

"So can you?" Dixie asked, eyes lit with laughter.

"Oh good god no!" Bleu said, "I can barely boil water."

The two burst into laughter again. "So what did you do?" Dixie asked.

Bleu shrugged, "I just dumped Tony's on everything and called it Cajun, those Yankees didn't know any better." Dixie laughed again and Bleu took a pull on his beer.

"Didn't last though. 'Bout two months ago the company lost the contract an' I was given my pink slip. So with nothin' better to do I headed home."

Bleu drained his beer and Dixie handed him another one then asked, "So where you stayin?"

Bleu popped the top off his beer with his cybered thumb and said, "Mostly I stay out on the boat. When I'm in town I usually crash on some couch or the other, still got a lot of family in the area."

Dixie smiled and said, "Well its awful late…you're welcome to stay here tonight."

Bleu raised his beer in salute, "Thanks."

Then he spun his beer around indicating the house, "So what is it that you do…really. I mean I saw your act and your great, but ant no stripper affordin' this place."

Dixie smiled coyly, "Oh I get by. I do…odd jobs here an there if you get my meaning." Bleu quirked an eyebrow and Dixie hit him on the shoulder. "Not that drekhead! I mean I'm in the game. I do a little Matrix work now and again."

Bleu blinked a few times in surprise, "Really."

Dixie nodded, "That's why I asked you over. I got a job comin up an I could use a little muscle. You interested?"

Bleu sat his beer down, "I don't know. I never done that kinda thing before. What do you need me to do?"

Dixie waved her hand airily, "Oh you know. Stand around and look big and tough to discourage anyone from disturbing me while I do my thing. And if things go pear shaped I'll need someone to blast our way out."

Bleu looked unsure so Dixie offered, "The job pays one thousand yen for one nights' work."

Bleu tried to collect his thoughts but he had drank quite a bit of beer by that point and all he could think of was how nice Dixie's place was. She lived in a comfortable house in a rich neighborhood while he spent his days soaked to the bone struggling to keep his balance while he hauled pound after pound of shrimp into the boat getting coated by whatever slime the Gulf decided to send up with each batch. Sure shadowrunners were supposed to be criminals but they stole from Megacorporations who made money in the billions. It was hard to see that as a horrible thing when he was being offered more in one night than he would make in a week of hauling shrimp.

"Sure…what the hell I'm in."

Dixie smiled and raised her beer in a toast and said, "Partners."

Bleu clink his bottle to hers and echoed, "Partners."

"Good," Dixie said. "Now are we gonna talk all night or are you gonna take me to the bedroom?"

. * * * * * * * * * * * * .

As late afternoon light streamed through the windows Bleu laid in Dixie's bed relishing in the feel of soft sheets against his skin. Even growing up Bleu had never known what it was like to sleep in a real bed.

Bleu's mother had given birth to four children when she was sixteen, three boys and one girl. Bleu's family had all lived together in one big house shared with two Aunts and his grandmother. Ten children and four adults had made a home in a two bedroom house in a near derelict section of New Orleans east that had never recovered from Hurricane Katrina at the beginning of the century. Bleu's mother and father had done their best to take care of their children but times were hard and jobs were scarce for orks in the city.

Bleu had left home when he was sixteen, joining the CAS Marine Corps at an early age due to his metatype. In the Marines he had been trained for combat quickly and deployed to Amazonia to help the insurgents battling Azlan. Bleu had seen action in Amazonia, Germany and even Australia in the service of the CAS but when it was time for him to re-up he had been booted due to age. Orks aged quickly and even though Bleu was only in his early twenties most orks his age had begun to lose their combat efficiency, or so the physician had told him.

Bleu had not yet shown any signs of aging and it was possible that he was one of the lucky few that aged normally but the CAS Marines weren't willing to take the risk. Bleu was given an honorable discharge and if he managed to make it to fifty-five he would be eligible for a miniscule pension.

Everything about orks was accelerated in the military except for pension eligibility.

As he languished in bed Bleu could feel Dixie stirring next to him. The woman woke and began idly tracing her finger over the edge of the dermal plating on his chest. The Marines didn't sink big money into a front line leatherneck but every combat soldier had some level of dermal armor implanted.

Dixie's finger traced down his arm to where flesh and bone met chrome and steel and she traced the remains of a tattoo on his forearm. "What was that?" she asked.

"After Basic me'n some of the guys went out an got cut together." Bleu replied.

Dixie pulled his arm close to inspect what was left of the tattoo.

Bleu said, "It used to be the symbol of my platoon. Set me back an entire paycheck but at the time it was worth it."

Dixie let his arm drop back to the bed and looked at Bleu for a moment. Then she smiled and slid out of bed. "I'm gonna take a shower. How 'bout you whip up some breakfast logger-man." She called as she disappeared into the bathroom.

Bleu chuckled and dropped back down onto the bed to enjoy the stillness for a few more minutes.

Two hours later both Dixie and Bleu were showered and dressed and Dixie was explaining the job to Bleu. "It's a simple smash and grab. We meet the crew at the docks tonight where Smuggler A is bringing in some contraband. We boost the load and get it to Smuggler B before the buyers can get there. Then we fade into the night and Smuggler A is left to deal with his unhappy clients."

Bleu nodded, "Seems easy enough."

"My job is to find the goods, which I have already done, and disable the security if we run across any. There is another team being brought in to move the load so that isn't our worry. Your job is to make sure nothing goes wrong and back me up if it does. I've never worked with the transport team before so I want someone I know I can trust if the drek hits the fan."

Bleu smiled, "Call me Mr. Trustworthy."

"We meet the transport team in an abandoned warehouse on Montegut Street at 22:00 so I need to start prepping my gear, and you need to see The Barber."

Bleu frowned and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't need a haircut?"

"No you don't," Dixie agreed. "But you need to see The Barber anyway."

Handing him a business card she had stuck to her fridge Dixie said, "Go to this address and tell them Dixie sent you. Ask for The Barber, they'll be expecting you."

Bleu frowned not liking all the cloak-and-dagger antics but Dixie just laughed, "Trust me. You just have to get used to this sort of thing if you want to be in the game darlin."

Out on the street Bleu flagged down a cab and had it take him to the address on the card. It turned out to be an old barber shop in Uptown. As Bleu pushed his way through the glass door he was greeted by a dark haired man in an expensive suit.

"Can I help you sir?" the man asked with just a hint of an Italian accent.

"Yeah, I'm here to see The Barber. Dixie sent me." Bleu replied.

The man gave Bleu an appraising look and took him over to one of the swivel chairs, "Have a seat and he will be right with you." Feeling slightly ridiculous Bleu lowered himself into the chair which was obviously meant for someone smaller than him.

Five minutes passed and a powerfully built man with grey hair and a worn face came up behind Bleu and threw a barber's cape over him.

"Good afternoon James, so nice to see you. I'm the Barber. Dixie tells me you will be helping out with our little job tonight."

Bleu didn't know how to respond so he just nodded. The man started trimming Bleu's hair and chatting idly as Bleu grew more and more uncomfortable.

"So, I understand you served in the Marines. Seventh Rifle Platoon, Beta Squad if I remember correctly; two tours but you never made it past Private First Class, of course there is still something of a bias against those of your metatype in the Marines but I suspect it had more to do with your test scores wouldn't you agree?"

The man paused as though he expected Bleu to answer so the ork said, "Maybe."

The Barber patted Bleu on the shoulder, "Not a very distinguished career; but still, better than running with the Krewe de Rouge."

Bleu's eyes widened slightly and he started to say something but the Barber just waved him off, "Ancient history James, no need to defend yourself. Quite a few young men fall in with the Krewes, especially those of limited means. Besides it takes someone of…varied experience, to make it in this business."

The Barber continued to trim Bleu's hair in silence for a few moments then, "I have a few pieces that I think will suit you. Nothing as heavy as you used in the service of course but I think you will find them up to the challenge. I wasn't sure of your price range so I put together a wide spectrum. Shall we take a look?"

As the Barber continued to trim his hair the man who met him at the door handed Bleu a small stack of holopics to look through. Bleu sorted through the half dozen pictures and finally came upon one he had used before, a Walther Secura.

"How much is this one?" Bleu asked as he placed the picture on top and handed the stack back to the doorman.

The doorman looked at the photo and said, "Five hundred."

Bleu's eyes widened and he blurted out, "That's half the money I'm going to make."

The doorman shrugged, "Consider it an investment."

Bleu and the doorman stared at each other in silence for a minute then the Barber spoke. "Come now Patricio surely we can offer the young man a better deal. Call it a first time buyer discount."

Patricio frowned at the Barber and offered through a clenched jaw, "How about three-fifty?"

Bleu thought about arguing but he caught the Barber's eye in the mirror and the man gave him a slight shake of the head, "Ok I'll take it."

Patricio grunted and disappeared into the back. The Barber finished his trimming and stood back with a smile. "There you are James, high and tight just like old times."

Bleu looked in the mirror, just like the Barber said Bleu's hair was cut to Marine Corps regulation length. Bleu stood as the Barber brushed hair off his collar and offered his hand with a smile.

As Bleu took it the Barber said, "Well that's our business concluded. I hope tonight goes smoothly and that you will visit us again sometime if you are ever in need."

The Barber disappeared into the back and Bleu stood around awkwardly for a few seconds before Patricio returned with a gun case. The man sat the case on the counter and opened it showing Bleu the contents.

Inside the case was a new looking Walther Secura with two full magazines. "Smart wired and fully loaded at no extra charge." Patricio said. Bleu counted out three hundred and fifty nuyen, half of what he had made the week before on the fishing boat and handed it to Patricio.

"Pleasure doing business with you." Patricio said as Bleu picked up the case and headed for the door.

. * * * * * * * * * * * * .

As Dixie parked her Honda Spirit at the outskirts of the Marigny Bleu checked his phone, 21:30 the two still had plenty of time to make the meet. As Bleu stepped out of the car he marveled once again at Dixie's transformation. Dixie's long red hair had been twisted up and secured with a clip, she was wearing a black synth-leather jacket that showed obvious armor plating matching leather pants and combat boots. Dixie had her commlink strapped to her left forearm in some sort of sling and what Bleu could only imagine were AR gloves tucked into one of the pockets on her jacket.

Compared to her Bleu felt very underdressed, wearing the same jeans and tee shirt that he had spent the night in. Chambering a round in his new Secura and stuffing the pistol in his waistband Bleu asked, "How far to the meeting?"

"About six blocks." Dixie answered, all trace of her accent gone. "We are meeting in an abandoned warehouse that the krewe uses as a headquarters."

Bleu frowned, "Which krewe?"

Dixie shrugged, "Krewe de Revenant. They mostly work high end stuff, art theft and the like, but they signed up to provide transportation on this one. Their leader, an elf calling himself Corneille, and a few of his boys are gonna meet us here and we will travel together to the target."

Bleu nodded and the two set out into the night.

As they crossed into the Ninth Ward the neighborhood around them transformed immediately. The Ninth Ward had never been a very upscale neighborhood to begin with but over the last seventy years it had become a Barrens. Derelict houses only a few decades old lined the streets and the few inhabited dwellings scattered amongst them boasted barred windows and reinforced doors. Gang sign marked almost every building and to Bleu's trained eye it appeared that a few gangs were contesting the territory. Figures lurked in the shadows but the combination of Bleu's size and Dixie's gear told any predators to look elsewhere.

When they reached the old warehouse Bleu nodded in appreciation. The building was surrounded by a chain-link fence roughly three meters high topped with razor-wire and only accessible through an electronic gate with a keypad lock. The building itself was two story with a brick exterior that had been well maintained over the years. A large roll up door on the left hand side must have been used to bring in freight while a smaller steel door to the right allowed for personnel. Both doors were closed but Bleu could see lights in the window by the steel door. Dixie keyed a six digit code into the keypad and the gate opened allowing them into the yard.

When the two were half way across the yard the steel door opened and a teenager in black leathers stepped out with a sub-machinegun in his hands. Bleu tensed slightly but the kid wasn't pointing the gun at them and Dixie was still moving purposefully towards the door so Bleu released the butt of his pistol and tried to appear casual as he crossed the open area between the gate and the building. As Dixie climbed the three steps to the porch, Bleu hung back on the ground keeping an open line of fire on the teen in case the ganger turned out to be less than friendly.

"I'm here to see Cornielle." Dixie said.

The teen looked at Dixie and then at Bleu. The ganger's face was entirely coated with white makeup and black lines had been drawn from his forehead to his cheek crossing over his eyes, he had on black lipstick and additional face paint had been used around his lips to extend his mouth out in an almost clown-like smile.

The boy wasn't smiling when he said, "Cornielle told me to expect you…" he nodded towards Dixie. "But not you." the ganger said as he stared at Bleu.

Dixie's voice was hard as she responded, "He's with me."

The teen paused to consider his options but eventually he nodded. Dixie turned and walked through the door without giving the ganger another glance. As Bleu jerked to motion behind her he couldn't help but try to position himself so that he could keep the teen in sight as long as possible; Dixie might have been comfortable that her rep would keep things friendly but Bleu didn't like the idea of a guy with a gun standing behind him.

The door opened into a small waiting area complete with dusty furniture and out of date magazines. The ganger shut the door and paused long enough to engage a rather sophisticated looking alarm before taking the lead.

The teen led them through a door and into the warehouse itself. Directly in front of them was a stairwell leading up to a second floor, but the ganger turned and led them to the left and out into the warehouse itself. The warehouse was open to the roof with exposed scaffolding; parked directly in front of the roll up doors was a grey step-van with a Stamen Services logo on the side. Four motorcycles were parked around the van with gangers standing nearby either fidgeting with their bikes or checking their weapons.

Bleu's guide turned to them and said, "Cornielle will be with you soon."

Dixie nodded and the ganger returned to his friends in the middle of the room. Bleu looked at Dixie but she just shrugged and began making adjustments to her com.

A few minutes later a door closed and Bleu heard the sound of footsteps on the stair. Turning Bleu watched as a tall figure descended the simple wooden staircase. The elf had the same face paint and leathers as the rest of the gangers, but that was where the similarities ended.

The elf had a medium build and moved with a sort of liquid grace that Bleu associated with people highly trained in hand to hand combat. A heavy revolver was strapped to his thigh and the hilt of a katana peaked over the elf's right shoulder. Where the other gangers seemed to posture and threaten the elf did not, he seemed to radiate a sense of self-assurance perhaps even arrogance.

"Who's that?" the elf asked, he had a rich voice with a heavy French accent.

"He's with me. His name is Bleu and he will be watching my back on this run." Dixie explained almost casually.

"You don't trust me?" the elf asked as his eyes narrowed.

"I don't know you." Dixie replied.

Throughout the conversation the elf hadn't once looked at Bleu; as though the ork were beneath his notice. Mentally Bleu kicked his appraisal of the elf's attitude a few points closer to arrogance.

"I don't like it…" The elf said, finally turning to look Bleu over as though he were a bug about to be crushed under the elf's boot. "He does not fit."

Dixie shrugged again, "I don't really care if you like it. Bleu goes or you can find yourself another Hacker."

The elf turned back to Dixie and changed tactics, "This makes the cut smaller. Split three ways instead of two."

Dixie smiled, "I am paying Bleu out of my take. You won't lose any yen on this."

The elf frowned but nodded and looked at Bleu again, "I am Cornielle. I lead the Krewe, remember that. You will drive the van. Uniforms are inside." With that Cornielle turned his back on Bleu and walked away.

"Nice guy." Bleu said watching Cornielle leave.

"He's probably just intimidated by you." Dixie said with a smile.

Bleu didn't find that very likely but he smiled anyway.

. * * * * * * * * * * * * .

Forty-five minutes later found Bleu and Dixie wearing the uniforms of Stamen Services employees and seated in the cab of the grey step-van headed to one of the numerous warehouses that dotted the shoreline of the Industrial Canal.

As Bleu made the turn onto Poland Avenue Dixie went over the plan one more time, "The container we are looking for is being held at a waterside warehouse a few kilometers north of us. Physical security is minimal but we will have to enter a code to get through the gate. The code won't be a problem and once I am inside I can find the cameras and loop the feed so to allow the Revenants access. Once your inside spread out. We are looking for a container marked B-2759. Any questions so far?"

Cornielle's voice came over the com, "You said physical security was minimal, what exactly do you mean?"

Dixie thought for a moment, "Five guards on shift. Two at the loading dock, two walking the perimeter and one in the gate house. The gate guard has been paid to take his break as soon as he scans our identification so we'll have exactly 23 minutes to find the container and get out. I'll link up with your PANs and highlight the patrols so you can avoid them and provide a countdown. When we find the container we are looking for a large box located inside, I'll beam a picture to your PAN as soon as we find the container. The box will be heavy. Once we load it into the van we high-tail it back to your doss."

Everyone signaled their understanding and Dixie began linking the various Personal Area Networks of the Revenants to her own. The Stamen Services shipyard sign appeared in front of them and Bleu muttered, "Show time."

Stamen Services was one of the smaller shipping companies in New Orleans offering legitimate shipping for various clients across the CAS. Bleu was surprised that any smuggler would store their goods at the shipyard but he had to admit that he really didn't know much about smuggling so maybe it made sense after all. Stamen moved a lot of medical and pharmaceutical freight so perhaps what they were hired to retrieve was biological in nature.

Bleu pushed all concerns over the contents of the shipping container from his mind as he pulled up to the gatehouse and handed over his forged id to the security guard in the booth. The guard looked at Bleu and nodded as the gate opened in front of them. As Bleu drove through the gate the guard returned to the gatehouse and hung a small sign that read 'On Break' on the window then started walking towards the docks.

Bleu pulled the van in among the steel shipping containers and killed the engine. Dixie had pulled on her AR gloves and she was lost in her own Augmented Reality as she attempted to spoof the cameras and open the gates for the Revenants. Soon Bleu heard the soft whine of electric engines as the Revenants entered the yard and began searching for the container.

Minutes ticked by and Bleu was starting to get worried when a voice on Dixie's com called, "Found it."

Bleu started the engine and drove as Dixie directed him through the maze of containers to where he found Cornielle and his gangers gathered around a wooden crate. Two of the gangers had produced pry bars and were working to open the box while Cornielle and the ganger that had stopped Bleu at the door stood guard. In less than a minute the crate was open and the two gangers were man-handling a large container that matched the picture Dixie had beamed to their PAN.

Bleu hopped out of the cab and hurried around to open the rear doors of the van. Once the load was secure Bleu cranked the van again and headed toward the main gate while the gangers sealed up the crate behind them. With a satisfied smile Bleu maneuvered the van back onto Poland Avenue with the Revenants not far behind him.

. * * * * * * * * * * * * .

Two hours later Bleu and Dixie returned to where they had left her car on the edge of the Marginey. The ride back to the ganger doss had been uneventful and Dixie had set out immediately after they got back, declining an invitation from Cornielle to join him upstairs for a drink. It was after mid-night and the streets of the Marginey were abandoned though several houses still had lights in the windows even at this late hour.

Dixie punched in a code that unlocked both doors and Bleu dropped restlessly into the passenger's seat. Until that moment Bleu had not realized how exhilarating the night had been for him. Even though Dixie and Cornielle had labeled the run a cake walk, Bleu could still remember the thrill of being somewhere he wasn't supposed to be taking something that wasn't his.

This wasn't the first time Bleu had committed a crime, far from it, but all the petty shoplifting and thefts of his youth paled in comparison to that nights' job. Maybe it was working with a team. Maybe it was stealing from a nameless, faceless smuggler who had no doubt acquired whatever was in that case by illegal means himself. But something about the run had made Bleu feel more alive than he had in years.

Dixie caught sight of Bleu's grin in the mirror and said, "Fun huh?"

Bleu nodded, "Is it always like that?"

Dixie chuckled, "Yeah. Not always that easy mind you, but you always feel that rush. So whadda ya say, give up your life on the boat and come work in the shadows with me?"

Bleu was about to answer when a dark sedan with no headlights accelerated through the stop sign and smashed into the passenger side of Dixie's car.