“Watch it!” a voice yells as he runs into someone who is stepping into the hallway from a private room. Opor-A-Tiv83 ignores her and continues forward. He doesn’t have time to slow down. He is set to meet his contact shortly so he can offload the secrets he has uncovered. Even with the Bleeder’s Guild taking their sizable cut of the payment, he knows that this information will set him up nicely. It had better, because he is going to need to disappear for a while.
Under normal conditions, Opor-A-Tiv83 would have delivered the data to the Guild broker himself, but he slipped up and was discovered as he escaped from the T.U.5.C.C. facility. He had used his Illusonn Tech to impersonate a mid-level employee at the complex. According to the personnel records, that employee should have not have been at facility that day, but schedules must have changed and he reported for work duty. The ID-scanners immediately picked up on the fact that there were two of them in the complex and that something was obviously wrong. Opor-A-Tiv83 barely made it out before the place went on lockdown. He imagines that the worker whose identity he borrowed is still holed up there trying to convince security that he is who he says he is.
Opor-A-Tiv83 sees that the corridor widens up ahead and a crowd of travelers are milling about. Accessing a keypad on his hand, he initiates the Illusonn Tech. His face changes into a green-skinned Vrykolexx. Considered one of the more disagreeable races in Cosmeriumm, his new appearance ensures that he will be able to pass through the crowd without anyone wishing to stop him for any of the mundane reasons that travelers try to interact with each other in places like Zaxxius.
As expected, the crowd keeps their distance from Opor-A-Tiv83 as he makes his way through one of the large central areas of the Outpost. Transportation hubs like Zaxxius are generally built with a number of large areas spread throughout the complex. Lengthy corridors connect these sections, with various smaller rooms breaking off of those corridors in the maze-like expanse of the Outpost. It is in the far away corners of these smaller rooms where deals of all sorts transpire. This is where Opor-A-Tiv83 is set to meet his contact from the Guild.
The room opens up before him and he scans for his contact, suddenly remembering that he is still using the Vrykolexx face. He taps a few buttons and his appearance shifts again, presenting a standard T.U.5.C.C. helmet to accompany the armor he is wearing. Representatives of the Trader’s Union get special privileges in the Outposts, and he hopes this this latest look will allow him to take advantage of that level of access.
He doesn’t see his contact, so he takes a seat and waits. This is the first time he has stopped to take a breath and gather his thoughts. He reaches into a compartment in his armor and confirms that the transfer-pin is still there. It is. The data on that small device represents either his salvation or his destruction, depending on who gets their hands on it first.
Opor-A-Tiv83 closes the compartment and looks around again. He is staring at the doorway waiting for his contact to arrive. That contact is now late and Opor-A-Tiv83 starts to wonder if something has gone wrong. Scenarios play out in his head and he begins to consider how much longer he can wait before he has to admit that the meeting isn’t going ahead as planned. He doesn’t know what he will do if that happens. He is not safe as long as he has this information.
The T.U.5.C.C. organization has never been the most morally upright company in the Universe, but the information he uncovered about their acquisition of the Thryxium formula was not just aggressive business practices, it was downright illegal. The data feeds would love to get ahold of this information, which involved corporate bribes to a variety of government sources, wrongful imprisonment, and outright lies being told during the manufacturing of what had become the most profitable product that the Traders Union produced.
Opor-A-Tiv83 checks his comm device to see if he has a message from the Guild about the meeting. Their last message from earlier that day confirmed the arrangement, and there have been no messages saying any change has been made.
The spy begins to look at the Illusonn IDs he has loaded into his suit. It is hundreds of identities spanning the many missions that he has been on and the seemingly countless personas he has borrowed along the way. Each face is a story, and he remembers them all.
Someone sits down in the seat across the table from him and for the briefest of moments Opor-A-Tiv83 assumes his contact has finally arrived. When he looks up he immediately realizes that the massive duoderm brute before him cannot be his liaison from the Bleeder’s Guild. His new guest places a scaly green hand upon the table, the claws holding a T.U.5.C.C. retrieval bounty, and the spy realizes that they’ve caught up to him.
“Outposts are neutral zones,” Opor-A-Tiv83 says quietly. “You can’t lift a clawed finger to hurt me here. Not even the T.U.5.C.C. has the right to extract someone from an Outpost.”
“I am not going to take you from here by force,” the duoderm hunter replies. “But you are going to be waiting a long time for your little friend to arrive.”
The duoderm shows that in addition to the T.U.5.C.C. retrieval bounty, he is also holding a seemingly non-descript key card, but one which Opor-A-Tiv83 immediately recognizes as a Bleeder’s Guider access token.
“Is he dead?” Opor-A-Tiv83 asks. The duoderm just smiles in reply.
Opor-A-Tiv83’s options are limited, but he’s been in tougher spots and he’s always found a way to squeeze his way out of them.
“What do you say we end this now since we both know you will have to exit this Outpost at some point, and once you do, I will be waiting for you," the hunter says. "It is going to happen, so why delay it any longer?”
Opor-A-Tiv83 stares at the duoderm. He just needs a little longer for the scan he is secretly running to be complete.
“I am going to take you back to the Union, and they will pay me very well for bringing you to them. They don’t care what kind of condition you are in, either. So that is up to you, but you will be coming with me one way or another.”
The Illusonn screen on his hand blinks three times, confirming that the scan is done.
“Have you ever seen what happens when the Neutrality Law of the Outposts is not observed?” Opor-A-Tiv83 asks with a smile as he taps a few buttons on his armor. “Let’s have a demonstration, shall we?”
It is a complex transformation, much more involved than the simple cranial swaps that he usually does. This time he has programmed the Illusonn Tech to perform a full body illusion, something he tends to avoid doing since it is difficult to maintain and it often draws attention when something goes wrong. Right now, however, Opor-A-Tiv83 wants to draw attention to himself. His plan depends on it.
The illusion launches and the duoderm gasps as his quarry is suddenly replaced by an exact replica of himself. He is now staring across an Outpost table at another duoderm who barely fits into the chair he is seated in.
The hunter is stunned, and in his surprise he reacts too slowly to prevent the doppelganger from grabbing the large weapon lying at his side and smashing him across the head with it.
The duoderm hunter crashes to the ground and the table he was seated at is overturned. Sirens begin to blare in the complex as screens around the room light up, each of them broadcasting the image of the green-scaled duoderm accompanied by a message that repeats over and over - “Outpost Rules 001 – any violence enacted within the confines of an Outpost shall be quelled immediately. Deescalate and detain.”
“What have you done?” the hunter growls, but the copy who attacked him is no longer standing before him. Instead he is once again looking at the spy in his T.U.5.C.C. armor, but now it has been modified to look like he is a member of the Traders Union’s Enforcement Agents, the closest thing that company has to a police force.
Outpost security bursts into the room. It is rare that there is violence inside the Outposts, but it does happen, and when incidents occur the security patrols have zero tolerance for the perpetrators.
“He is right there!” the spy shouts, pointing at the fallen duoderm. "He is the one who broke the Neutrality Law!"
The reptilian hunter starts to rise and is prepared to protest what is happening, but before he can speak in his defense he feels his body go rigid as it is hit with a bolt of electricity. His hide is nearly impenetrable, but an electric charge is the perfect way to incapacitate someone with his natural resilience to injury.
“Stop...” he is able to mutter as the room begins to go dark. The last thing he sees is the spy he was chasing slip out the room, his appearance now changed to one of the many faces he uses in his profession. The hunter can do nothing as his quary slips off and makes his way out of Outpost Zaxxius with the information he was sent to retrieve.
Published on 03.14.23