Episode 9 – Looking for Mirco
In the Interim
Three and a half months pass by. The Team settles in to the rhythm of their new neighborhood. Their front as a private dojo that caters to troubled teens is accepted by everyone in the area. The police have been bought off. Prince Stefan keeps the criminal element from bothering them. The boosters whose territory lies across the street can’t be bothered with a bunch of young punks who keep to themselves. The Prince is as good as his word and provides the Team with access to whatever cyberware their young bodies can accept. The doctors will not put in anything too dangerous or obvious; more in fear of damaging Prince Zeklos’ prizes than fear of the law. By now most everyone’s memories have returned except for one key memory shared by three of the group. Natty, Nip and Stepka can’t remember how they died. Nip had continued her ‘career’ as a ‘superhero’ who traveled the Terran solar system fighting ‘evil’ where she found it. Stepka would help her when she could and Natty would also when the biogen was on leave from her new career as a pilot in the Martian Space Navy. After World War III, Nathan Forrest, now head of the C.I.A. placed Natalie Lanikova on his 20 most wanted list over the Richard Roman fiasco that brought the United States into the war. Natty returned to Mars, assumed her original last name, Masaryk, and entered the Martian Naval Academy. All the three can remember is that the three had just left the main Star Runner base on 21 Lutetia for a mining outpost in the belt in mid-2066. After that their memories end.
By the end of month 10, everyone is well established. Nail and Caterina Savu are still together and doing well. The fixer is now the band Black Danube’s manager and his is getting thoroughly connected in the neighborhood thanks to this and his other friend, Luka Popovic. Nip’s relationship with Felix Tedescu, the head tech and engineer for the band Black Danube is getting serious. Gidget is learning about her new abilities and realizes she is developing a ‘special’ relationship with machine technology. Laura killers still remain at large and Natty’s new squeeze, Nicholae Tomescu, has headed off to college in the capital city of Mikalest. Owen is developing his mental powers, but Mason has finally figured out that he is getting more bullet resistant as he is being damaged. All are studying with Khan developing their mental powers. Natty is giving stealth and weapons training to those who need it. Still all is going well for our intrepid troop.
Fourth Day, Month 10, 23rd 2083:
Gidget gets a call in the morning from an old friend, a young man named Fredek Kozel. He has a problem and has heard that she is in town and has ‘friends’ who might be able to help. Mason and Stepka remain at the dojo to guard their place. Gidget, Owen, Natty, Nip, Nail and Khan gather just after mid-day and meet Fredek at his apartment at the corner of Iaso Street and 11th Avenue. Nail has heard of Fredek. The young man is a small time black marketer, who mostly does ‘stuff’ and runs errands for the bigger fish in his neighborhood which is just south of Vlad Tepes Square. Fredek tells them, “My 10-year old brother Mirco has gone missing. Last time I saw him was in the morning 8 months. He was headed for school. Afterwards, he usually hung out with his friends. When Mirco didn’t come home that night, I asked at school the next day. They said Mirco was there as usual. So I asked his friends, but they all said they hadn’t seen him after school. I’m pretty sure at least some of them are lying, but I can’t persuade them to talk to me.”
The Team realizes Mirco’s friends’ needed to be their first stop. Fredek continues, “The weird thing is, two days later, I was mugged and knocked unconscious, but the only thing missing was my St. Christopher pendant. I don’t know if there’s any connection or not, but it sure seems weird.”
Owen asks, “Did you call the police?”
“Nope, can’t do that. I’m – um – involved in some stuff I’d rather not talk about. Don’t want to attract any attention from the cops, even for Mirco. It’d be dangerous for both of us. Besides, even if I did go to the cops, what’re the odds they’d say ‘he’s just a street kid’ – and ‘why bother’ – and ‘we’ve got more important stuff to do.’ Why would they care about finding him?”
“So . . . if you can help me, if you can find him, I’d be eternally grateful.”
Nip asks for the names of Mirco’s friends and where he might have hung out or stopped on the way home.
Fredek gives the Team five names. These are the guys Mirco hung out with: Andrei, Dracul, Eugen, Radu and Stefan. They might find them at: the food court at one mall or a game arcade at another mall both of which are near the corner of 9th Avenue and Iaso Street right down the block from where they are now. Mirco also often stopped to play stick ball in the alley behind the Founder’s Hotel on the north side of Founder’s Park or at the local junkyard. Natty asks Fredek if his brother played sports. The young man says no. Then she asks if he had a girlfriend. A little surprised by the question, he also says no. Natty smiles at him and gives him a hug. Fredek smiles back and most of the Team rolls their eyes.
The Team takes their leave of Fredek and decides to head down to the school, retrace Mirco’s route back from school, and look for the younger brother’s friends on the way. They all head down to the Mihai Eminescu Elementary School on 51st Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. The school is closed for the day and there is a single security camera they can see outside. As it is not on the NET Nip can’t access it without scaling up to the camera and patching in. They head to first mall on 9th Avenue.
The group finally arrives at the first mall. Inside the Team is challenged by a juvie gang that has staked out this place as their territory. Owen uses his Empathic Projection to ‘convince’ the gangers to back down. None of Mirco’s friends are there so the Team leaves before the situation deteriorates any further.
At the second mall the all walk in and as they reach the main concourse, three armed adult thieves rush out of the Game Arcade waving their weapons and carrying a hostage. Their hostage is Dracul, one of Mirco’s friends that they are looking for! As the bandits head for the exit where the Team is standing, the group backs to the walls near the entrance. Natty pulls out her switchblade and palms it. A mall cop is charging up the main concourse. The bandit with a submachine gun fires wildly at the cop, who returns fire hitting his target. Khan readies his hambo and the group all waits as the bandits close with them. Fortunately, the gangers are paying no mind to the kids. When the three bandits are close, Natty throws her blade at the leg of the one holding Dracul, Owen moves in and punches a second a few times till he drops. Nail hits the third for a point of damage and then Khan then knocks him out. The cop pulls out his handcuffs and starts to secure the prisoners. Natty scoops up Dracul. She and the rest of the Team scatter like cockroaches. The cop doesn’t care. Unfortunately, the one Natty hit dies of his wounds, but still the police end up considering it a ‘public service killing’.
The Team takes Dracul to Fredek’s house to have a ‘talk’ with him. While the boy is grateful for being rescued, Dracul is reluctant to talk about Mirco, but finally says, “Yeah, I knew him. So what? Who are youze guyz? Why should I tell you anything?”
Appealing to his ‘better nature’ has little effect, but a reminder of what they just did to three adult bandits breaks the boy’s bravado.
“Yeah, I was with him that day. Me ‘n him ‘n Radu ‘n Eugen. We wuz playing stickball over in the alley behind the Founder’s Hotel. So what?”
Owen reads his memory of the incident and confronts him about what happened. Dracul spills, “Yeah, Mirco wuz still there when I left. Hadda get home. Help out my Mom wit my little brother.”
“Why didn’t he tell me?” Fredek asks.
“That Eugen, he’s mean. Tole me I wuz gonna ‘git it’ if I opened my mouth. Not that I’m scared of him or nuthin. Just – Eugen’s a pain in the ass. Din’t want to hafta deal wit him.”
Owen reads that Dracul IS scared of Eugen, but doesn’t want to admit it.
Finally Dracul asks, “Is that all? I gotta go.”
“One last question”, Natty tells him. “Where can we find this Eugen?”
Dracul finally fesses up that Eugen and the other boys will be at the junkyard nearby tomorrow morning. After being warned not to alert his friends they let Dracul go. The Team decides to go home and come back tomorrow morning. As they leave the apartment, Natty lingers seductively (as well as a 13 year old can manage) and tells them, “Ah, I’m going to stay a little while and get a little more background info here,” and turning to Fredek with a smile, “If that’s OK with you?”
The young man breaks into a big smile and says, “Sure.”
The Team lets out a collected sigh and heads back to the dojo.
Civil Holiday, Month 10, 24th 2083:
The Team (Owen, Khan, Nail and Nip) heads back to Fredek’s house in the morning. When they get there, Natty is in the shower and Fredek is looking very pleased with himself. Nip has brought a small aerial remote as the junkyard is a large place at the edge of the city’s boarder fence with many places to hide. She remains at Fredek’s apartment with him and the rest head out with the remote to the junkyard. They launch it just before they enter to scout ahead of them. Not far into the mass of junk, Nip sees four kids about the right age playing amongst the scrap. Unfortunately, there is a group of six older boys moving north towards them. These older kids look like they have violence on their mind. Fredek identifies the four unsuspecting kids as Mirco’s friends. Nip realizes the six juvie gangers moving in on them will probably get there before the team so she warns her group. They all break into a run. Natty is naturally faster and pulls out in front. Khan swings out to the side to make sure no one gets away. Nip brings her flying remote down and buzzes the attacking juvie gangers. It doesn’t slow them down, but it does alert Eugen and his friends to the new danger.
Natty leaps over a car and charges two of the juvie gangers. They think the slight girl is an easy mark, but she drops both of them unconscious. The biggest and fastest of the punks slams Eugen in the torso and knocks him down. Nail reaches Eugen, grapples the bigger boy attacking him and rams him into a car. Andrei, Radu and Stefan turn to run, but they are cut off by Khan who makes a spectacular leap onto the car in front of the fleeing kids and orders them to stop, which they do. Owen, the slowest of the team arrives and the attacking juvies halt.
The older juvie gangers are a Ukrainian group and consider this part of the junkyard as their turf. They are not about to share it with Eugen and his Romanian punks. The big leader of the Ukrainians picks himself up and is in no mood to discuss the situation. Owen picks him up one handed, but the kid just kicks him in the leg. Owen tosses him like a rag doll. That convinces the older kids to back off. Along with Natty’s assurance that no one will encroach on their territory after this, the Ukrainians back off and leave.
Natty steps up to Eugen to talk, but he finally gets a good look at her, smiles and says, “You’re a girl! Wat’da’ you do?” and makes an obscene gesture.
Natty slaps him to which he replies, “Fuck off, bitch!”
The biogen punches Eugen’s lights out (doesn’t kill him) and down he goes. Khan tends to him as Owen talks to the other three boys. He asks Stefan if he knows anything about Micro’s disappearance.
“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. What’s in it for me?” Stefan replies. Owen pulls out a few bills and Stefan continues. “Yeah, I heard something. Word on the street sez something bad happened to him. If ya wants, I could ask around, find out more. But it’ll cost ya more than that.”
Owen smiles at him, looks down at the unconscious Eugen, then looks at the still furious Natty and tells him, “Perhaps you want to talk to her
“All right, all right. Ya don’t hafta get so nasty about it. Radu knows something about what happened, but he din’t say what. I din’t press him. But he was hanging with Mirco that day, so I hear.”
Radu looks more than a little nervous as Owen approaches him. The boy moves away from the now walking up Eugen and talks quietly so the older boy won’t hear him and says, “When Dracul went home, that pretty much ended the stickball game. Mirco and Eugen and me, we went over to scrap yard; started playing Truth or Dare. Eugen said Mirco was a wuss. He’d never have the courage to go into that Haunted Apartment. Mirco said Eugen was a jerkoff he’d never gone inside himself. So Eugen got mad. Dared him to go into Haunted Apartment and bring something back out of it – and said ‘you can forget about hanging with us’ if you don’t go in. Personally, I don’t think Mirco cared about hanging with Eugen, but him and Dracul was best buds. So he went. I never seen him again. I think . . . something must’ve happened to him there. Maybe . . . the ghost got him.”
Owen is scanning his thoughts and Radu truly believes what he is saying. Andrei is just very afraid and Owen’s read confirms that he wasn’t there. He does suspect that Eugen does know something. By now Eugen is awake and the Team makes it quite clear that they aren’t going to take any more crap from him. Natty is still glaring at him. It is clear she wants to smack him around some more and Eugen can see that. He says, “Geeze Mageeze. Ya got me. It was nothing really; just a little game of Truth or Dare. Me ‘n Radu ‘n Mirco was over here in the Scrap Yard, and I figured it would be funny to see him coming out of that Haunted place like he’d seen a ghost. So I dared him to go in and take something. Bring it back. Just a prank; a harmless prank; nobody living there – not for years. He went in. Never came out. <shrugs> Heck if I know what happened. But he was alive last I seen him.”
“Why didn’t you follow Mirco or tell anybody about this,” Khan asks.
“Are you kidding? Why would I want to do that?” the punk replies.
The Team gets the address of this “Haunted Apartment”. It is the tallest apartment building on the eastern edge of Founders Park on Donici Place. They let the kids go and head back to the dojo. Nip is tasked to research this building and its history. Tomorrow they will get together and formulate a plan about what to do next. Apparently they will have to go to this “Haunted Apartment”.
Next: Episode 10 – The Haunted Apartment