Lab Rat part 34

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

“Asher, relax. If I were gonna shuffle your mortal coil, it would have happened at your studio,” he tells me. This time, he really does have a good point. I pick up the burger with both hands and tear off a mouthful. It’s delicious. As I chew, he keeps talking. “I’m working on making this a legitimate business, right? Thing is, there are obstacles.” He takes another bite of his fry and talks while he chews. “Obstacle number one is the law, of course. Not much I can do about that, except skirt it and divert it.” Even in my mental state, I know what that means: he’s bribing someone. More likely, multiple someones. I keep chewing. “Obstacle number two is the good Samaritans. Guys like you who think you’re doing the right thing by sticking up for the little guy.” I nod.

He picks up his burger and takes a bite. He sets it down again. Must be hard to deliver a speech while you’re eating. I’m glad he hasn’t asked me to talk. Taryn wants me to stay healthy, and I’m going to need fuel if I have to use the injector to get out of this alive. It’s starting to seem possible that I’ll be able to talk my way free though. Keegan finishes chewing. “Where was I? Ah, Obstacle number three. The third problem, and the one that need the most help with, is the criminal element.” I really want to tell him that there’s no honor among thieves, but I also really don’t want to be dragged out back and shot. I take another enormous bite of my burger.

“There are gangs, extortionists, robbers, and vandals, and I am pledging to stop them all by accepting money from these businesses that I watch over. I’m constantly working to find new ways to control these menaces, but so far without success. Alas, the price of power.” I keep chewing. Finally, the point. He wants me to be one of his leg-breakers. I keep chewing. My dad taught me a lot of things, and one of them is that if you want someone to keep talking, you keep quiet. “I’d like you to audition for the part of one of my enforcers, Asher.” I choke on my food. Through coughing fits, I squeeze out words.

“Audition?” More coughing.

“Well, let’s face facts: you aren’t a very imposing figure. In this business, you have to be bigger and tougher than everyone else. If you aren’t bigger, you have to be that much tougher.” He takes a bite of his burger, and I drink some of my soda to stem the coughing fits. That’s what I wasn’t seeing. Ray-Bans and his partner told a wild story and Keegan wants to see the human pinball for himself. Except, I didn’t load that cartridge into the injector. I suddenly doubt my ability to talk my way out of this. I can’t tell him about my powers. I can’t duplicate the performance his stooges told him about. I can’t turn down the audition because he can’t have a Good Samaritan fouling his plans.

“I get it.” My mind races, and I come up with inspiration. “I don’t think I can give you my best game tonight, Keegan.”

“Oh?”

“I got to drinking after work, and I’m still not exactly in fighting shape.” Is he really going to buy this?

“You really think I’m going to buy that?” He rubs his temples. His skin pushes into rolls on his smooth scalp before he releases his head. “Tell you what I’ll do. We can sit here and eat and enjoy the view for a while. It’s true that I’m offering you a shot at a pretty lucrative position on my team, and I wouldn’t want you to blow it just because you were trashed when I asked.” He stares into my eyes, like he’s trying to read my mind. “It’s also true that you fucked with my operation, and I will not be fucked with twice.” His voice has gone low and flat. “There’s no wiggle room here.” His expression brightens again. “I’d really rather have you around, so I’m rooting for you, kid. For real.” He smiles.

 

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