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Strangers in a Strange Land -- Gen. 2.4
Published Aug 28, 2012


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Written By

spladoum

Storyteller
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Page 1 / 39

Generation 2.4 ... a lesson learned.

Generation 2.4 ... a lesson learned. Mei went outside and began dialing a familiar number. Within seconds a gruff voice answered, "This is Chief Frank."

"Chief, it's Shin Yi. I just got a confirmation about our Agent Number Ninety-Two. He's smuggling again."

"So what do you know now?"
"In four more days, my sister is going to get a whole crate of lithographs from Denmark. Based on Ninety-Two's previous heists, the crate that my sister actually gets will not be the same crate that goes through customs. They'll be switched out before anyone can actually sign for it or verify the contents."

"So you're saying that in addition to Ninety-Two himself, he's got an insider in our customs office. Any clue who that might be?"

"I've narrowed it down to four people—two dockworkers, one manager, one higher-up—but you don't exactly go public with that kind of info, y'know."

"Yeah, never a good idea to accuse a public official, and the dockworkers will just claim to be following orders as always." The older man sighed and took a gulp of coffee. At least Mei hoped it was coffee.
"So whaddya callin' for, kiddo? You trying to go undercover there?"

"Yes sir."

"No go, Shin Yi. It's not like everyone in town doesn't already know just what you look like, you don't exactly blend in."

"But it's my case, no one else knows it half as well!"

"Doesn't matter, girl. You go in marchin' yourself there and you'll see just how quick those folks can make all of the evidence disappear. There won't even be anyone for you to arrest."

Mei grunted angrily. The chief was right, of course, but she wasn't about to let go so easily. She hadn't worked on this case for weeks and months to let some jerkface patrolman screw it all up.
"Chief, I got an idea—what if … I sent someone else in to be the undercover agent?"

"Someone else, you say?"

"Yeah, someone who knows just as much about this whole thing as I do."

***
"What?"

Judson Goddard took a step—two steps—backwards. If he hadn't hit the wall, he'd have fallen down. "You want me to what?"

"Jud, honey, I'm not asking for a lot—"

"The hell you're not, you want me to apply for a job as a dockworker? And go undercover to be a mole? I can't … Mei … even for you, I can't …"
"Jud … you won't be doing any actual work. You're there to be my eyes and ears. I'd do it myself, but my boss won't even consider it."

"Why can't you just bug the place?"

"Because it's a warehouse, the bugs would pick up the sounds of the place, not the conversations. We need a live body."

"No." Judson shook his head and turned away. Even for a cute girl, this was too much, too dangerous. "Not me. Get someone else."
"Fine," Mei snapped at his back. "I guess I'll talk to that new guy at my job … he actually looks like a dockworker, big strong muscles, lots of tats … and he's not scared to go in a big dark building all by himself. He'll be just perfect." And she walked away without a backwards glance.

Despite himself, Judson heard every word of that. And each one hit him hard.

"She's lying," he muttered to himself, but it was too late. There was a reason that he was hopelessly in love with Mei Shin Yi, and she knew how to use it against him perfectly. Despite his common sense and every instinct for self-preservation, jealousy won out. He caught up to her before she was even halfway down the hall.
"Mei! Mei … I'll do it, okay? Just … don't … " She caught him by the shoulders and looked at him gratefully.

"Don't worry about a thing, okay? Like I said, we need someone on the inside, yes, but the whole area will be surrounded. We'll be coming in as soon as you give the signal, and you can give it as soon as you feel endangered. All we want right now is one single crate. Okay? It's simple, really it is."

"Yeah," Judson said, and smiled weakly.

Mei met his gaze and held it. "Let's go back into your place and talk over the details a little more."

He already knew that she had no intention of talking, but she was willing and ready, and he didn't question her motivations.
When she offered herself, he took full advantage of her momentary generosity.

He continued to lie still, eyes half-closed, long after she got up and left.

***
Mei slipped out of the apartment house, feeling more than a little guilty, and all but ran to a bar to drink it away. She knew that this entire situation was dangerous. She knew that she was using Judson. She knew that she was dead wrong for all of it.

But she'd thought the situation over more times than she wanted to admit, and there really was no other way to catch their mysterious Agent Number Ninety-Two other than to make life hard for him. Confiscating a shipment of artwork that he was smuggling was probably the best, if not the only, way to do that.

She'd considered more than once about telling Xiu what was going on, but in her heart she already knew that there was no point. Xiu was so incredibly trusting that she would blab to the wrong person (in complete innocence, of course) and months and months of hard work would go straight down the drain in the blink of an eye.
So Mei kept her feelings to herself and ordered a second glass of something strong. She would wait to strike at Agent Number Ninety-Two until the time was just right. If she had a temper, she also had infinite patience to match.

***
"… alright, so the lithographs will be here by … 12 tomorrow. Great. And you'll have your own people setting up in the gallery. Works for me! … no, thank you, sir. Goodbye."

Xiu hung up the phone, smiling broadly. She was going to be able to do this job right! She felt proud of earning both her raise and her boss's trust.

Doing a good job had always been very important to her. Ever since she'd begun going to school, she'd had a desire to please.

Sometimes that desire got her into trouble. Like with her boss, for example.
Day by day, Anton was making it clear that he was sweet on her, and she didn't want her actual work to be overshadowed by his personal feelings. But she couldn't bring herself to turn him away, either. So she waffled about it at the dinner table night after night, her indecision driving her mother and sister up the wall.

"Why can't you marry him?" Layla asked. Mei glared at Xiu, shaking her head no.
"He's my boss, Mom … everyone will think that I only get promotions because we sleep together! It's a conflict of interest."

"So ask for a transfer."

"Mom, I was already fired from this corporate office once, remember? I can't just get another job there."

"So what? People quit jobs everyday, not like they have every position filled there …"

"Mom … are you even listening?”
Mei waited until dinner was done and Étienne was down for the night to speak her mind. She panted out in between push-ups, "I can't put a finger on it, sis, but I don't like Anton."

"I know you don't."

"I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life—"
"No, Mei, I already understand." Xiu sighed and stared at her sister's back. "The truth is, I don’t feel nearly the same about him as he does about me. And the more he pushes, the worse I feel. He's a great guy, but I don't love him. At all."

"Then why do you keep bringing it up?"

"Because … when Étienne sees him, he says 'dada.'"
"Sis," Mei said very quietly, "Please … just wait, okay? In a couple of days, you won't have to worry about any of that anymore. I promise."

"Mei, what are you up to? Every day I see you on the phone, sneaking around the side of the house. Is something happening that I should know about?"
"You'll know everything in a couple of days," Mei insisted.

"Why can you just tell me now?"

"I just can't. I would if I could, but I can't. You gotta trust me. Please."

"Is it about Anton?"

"I don't know yet. And that's why I can't tell you anything."

"But—"

"A couple of days, Xiu. That's all I need."

***
The 'couple of days' slowly passed by. Judson got his job at the warehouse and kept his eyes and ears open, but heard nothing related to the mystery shipment of lithographs from Oskar-Budro. According to the information he had received from Mei, though, the crate was scheduled to arrive Friday evening, which meant he needed to be working that night. He noted immediately that one worker seemed a bit nervous about working 'with the new guy.'

"Stay close to that guy," Mei ordered. "Tell me everything he does, when he does it."
While they waited for the courier service to bring the artwork, Judson lounged on top of a bunch of crates. His coworker was in a dark corner, muttering to himself, occasionally shooting Judson an irritable look. The tension was sickening.

"What time do you think these guys are gonna come, man?" Judson called in a futile effort to break the ice.

"It'll come when it comes," was the terse reply.

Judson hopped down and took a walk around the building's perimeter. His footsteps and his heartbeat were the only sounds.
At long last, the bay door opened. Judson heard the sound of a vehicle outside. He turned to look for his co-worker—

—and felt a sharp pain—

—and then there was darkness.

***
Mei looked at her communicator impatiently. The last message from Judson had come less than fifteen minutes ago, and there was no reason to think that anything was out-of-the-ordinary. Still, she was jittery, to the point that her partner commented on it.

"Sorry," she apologized, but she didn't stop jittering.

"Shin Yi, tell ya what. Why don't you go on over there if you're so concerned? Maybe he just went to sleep."

"If he did, I'll kill him personally," Mei grumbled. “Follow up on me in two minutes, tops!” she shouted, and sprinted down the block.
She saw the single dockworker stuffing canvases into an unmarked crate. As soon as he saw her, he slammed the lid shut, kicked the box away into the darkness and spun around to face her. There was no need to confirm anything now. Judging by the glare in his eyes, this was her target beyond a doubt.

Mei didn’t say a word as she leapt towards him, and he didn’t say a word as he caught her in the midsection with a knee and sent her to the ground. She bounced back to her feet easily, and the fight was on.
Mei was a good martial artist, but this guy outweighed her by at least 100 pounds. She landed every single kick, but it didn't seem as though they did any damage. Plus, every time he hit her back, it hurt like hell. Only her police training was keeping her on her feet anymore.

Finally she got lucky. As he ran her down, she lashed out at just the right time and the big man walked right into a kick to the side of his head. Even his massive muscles couldn’t protect him, and he fell over like a sandbag. Panting, Mei darted up to the window of the car and flashed her badge at the driver.

"Police!" she barked. "You stay right there!" The driver nodded, petrified.
The police cruiser was just pulling up to the scene. Mei ordered her partner to call for more backup before going back inside the warehouse.

Boxes lay everywhere. She didn't have the first clue which one held the all-important lithographs.

And in the distance, she saw Judson, face down on the floor. He wasn't moving, he was barely breathing. She cradled his limp body and cried silently.

***
While the police swarmed over the warehouse like ants, Mei stood outside of a hospital room with her head in her hands. Xiu lingered next to her sister without saying anything. If the expression on Mei’s face was anything to go by, she didn’t want to talk.

“Shin Yi,” an officer called as she ran their way. Both women looked up.

"Um," the officer hesitated. "… is it okay to discuss this in front of a civilian?"

"Might as well," Mei sighed, "It's gonna be on the news by sunrise. What is it?"
“We caught a guy trying to sneak into the warehouse, he led us straight to the box of lithographs.”

Now Xiu looked surprised. “Lithographs? … there were lithographs coming to the gallery tonight.”

“You would have never gotten them,” Mei said shortly. “The originals never make it to gallery owners because they’re being stolen and sold on the black market. All you ever see are cheap reproductions.“

She looked up at the officer. “You got the guy under arrest yet?”

“He’s saying that he’s an account executive for the Fillmore Group and that he was protecting company property. He wants an attorney, of course. Won’t talk.”
“An … an account executive?” Xiu stammered. “For the Fillmore Group? Trying to claim lithographs?” She stumbled backwards.

“Sis?”

“It’s …” Xiu's voice was shaking. “… it’s Anton, isn’t it …”

“I … I suspected him, yeah.” Mei looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t want to tell you—“
“Are you kidding me?" Xiu interrupted. "You thought my boss was part of a criminal outfit, and you didn’t want to tell me?”

“Xiu—“

“You … you … you let me work for a suspected criminal, and you didn’t want to tell me? So am I under suspicion too?”

“No, of course not!”

“How could I possibly know that? How can I trust anything you say now? You know full well I've been involved with this entire lithograph project since day one! And you ‘didn’t want to tell me?’"
My god, so I’ve been doing a criminal’s work for weeks? Months, even? When were you planning to tell me, sis? The day you marched into a corporate meeting and cuffed him in front of everyone? After I accepted his proposal? Were you planning to arrest him at our wedding? You didn't want to tell me?”

With a furious effort, Xiu walked out of the door. All Mei could do was watch her go.

***
For days and weeks afterwards the house was under a frosty chill. Nobody was talking to anyone else. Layla stayed in her room, scribbling out a new novel in the solitude of her lonely bedroom. Mei continued to make her daily trips to the police station, the jail, or the hospital. And Xiu continued to raise Étienne alone, a task that became harder every day that her son sadly asked, "Where Dada?"

"Dada's coming," Xiu said, but she didn't believe it herself.
She'd gone to see Anton during visiting hours more than once, and he assured her that it was all a big misunderstanding and he'd be out soon, no problem.

She smiled and nodded and hugged him through the jail bars, but in her heart she knew better. With its primary financial backer behind bars, the art gallery was closed indefinitely, with no word on when it might reopen again. And that meant that once again, Xiu was out of a job.
Mei poked her curly head in the living room. "Hey. Gotta go to the airport, taking the car."

"Fine," Xiu muttered.

"Are you still mad at me?"

"For arresting my boss and putting me out of work again, and possibly involving me in a criminal prosecution? … now why would I be mad about that?"
"How many times do I have to tell you that you were never under any suspicion? We ruled you out forever ago."

"Then why couldn't you just tell me what was going on?"

"Because when you're investigating a boss, you don't tell his flunkies, duh. Especially not flunkies like you, you don't even realize when you talk too much. If I was right about the guy, you'd have tipped him off. If I was wrong about him, you knowing what I know would have ruined your whole working relationship."

"And it's not ruined now?"
Now Mei looked at her piercingly. "So you really did love him."

"My son needs a father, Mei."

Mei's face became hard with contempt, and she stormed off without another word. Xiu wondered, too late, just why her sister was headed to the airport.
Xiu spent the afternoon outside with Étienne, playing with him and pretending to lose him as he crawled through the garden. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the red station wagon pulling into the yard again.

A man got out of the car and took his bag out of the trunk. Then Mei drove away again, leaving Xiu to stare at the stranger on the lawn.
It didn't take Xiu long at all to run right back into Rémy Dutiel's arms, laughing and crying and kissing him all at the same time.



~ to be continued
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8 Comment(s) so far


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#1martoeleAug 29, 2012

\:wub\: A fantastic chapter! A lot of intrigue and, besides that, misunderstanding between the sisters. Mei, who ruined everything for Xiu picked up the real 'dada' and threw him in her sister's arms.... \:wub\: The kind of thing I really love....\:cool\:
You know... \:confused\:, with every new chapter of your story my insecurity in my own work grows bigger.... \:rolleyes: Spladoum... Don't write so damn good.... \:mad\:

#2TheGoldenQueenAug 29, 2012

Amazing!!\:wub\:

#3fruitopiaVIPAug 30, 2012

Oh, DaDa is back.

#4spitzmagicAug 31, 2012

Yay *Remy Dutiel* yay! he's back and I bet he has a story to tell. \:D This is a fantastic chapter I sure hope Judson is going to be ok. Mei has such a thankless job but hey someone has to do it \:rolleyes: Bravo Bravo \:D I loved it from page 1. \:wub\:

#5fredbrennyAug 31, 2012

dada!!!! \:wub\: Now... this should be not the end.... I can't wait for the next drama! But at least Dada came back... for how long? \:rah\: GREAT chapter April! \:wub\: I LOVE this legacy. That was the end of Anton I hope... the creep. oh... I hope Mei is going for Jud... she deserves a soft spot too

#6fabrizioammolloSep 13, 2012

Another wonderful chapter! I loved it! \;\)

#7Milii454Sep 19, 2012

Such a great installment! Anton the evil; Xiu sure knows how to pick them :P. At least Mei was able to right any wrong doing on her part by bringing back Remy \:\). Another great chapter, cannot wait for more! \:rah\:

#8staceface2009pMay 14, 2013

Wow, April....you sure know how to me on the edge of my seat with constant gasps! LOL I love it! *continuing on*

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