It’s a day or so before the special commlink chimes in Razorback’s hotel room.

Razorback is immediately awake, if he was truly asleep to begin with. He does take a second to answer the call as if not certain he truly wants to. “Good morning,” he rumbles into it after tapping the answer button.

“Is now a good time?” the voice of Robert Colclough inquires.

“Now is a fine time, Mr. Colclough,” the Demarian replies, “How can I help you?”

“The individual I mentioned to you the other day is a Timonae arms dealer named Vinti Xayr,” the Consortium intelligence director replies. “He’s in the room we assigned to him. Rooms on either side contain surveillance equipment and agents. I’m actually in 324.” A pause, then: “He’s expecting a Demarian contact to arrive and discuss the sale of highly illegal plasma weapons to an Underclasser insurgency group. I’d like you to use the opportunity to learn more about the man and what other interests he might have. Ideally, we need to draw out any connections to Agent Wilkes and others who wanted to kill the president.”

“How far are you willing for this questioning to go?” Razorback asks, “I am not good with subtle in these situations. A hardened criminal will likely realize I am not what I seem rather quickly.”

Colclough answers: “Play it by ear. The man’s not a spy. He’s not about subtlety, either. However, you may need to apply some art if you’re going to get him to confess links to Wilkes and the assassination plot. At present, he just thinks he’s here to sell guns to angry peasants.”

“Very well,” the Cliffwalker says with a faint growl, “Just understand that it could get messy. My methods of extracting information, while typically effective, rarely rely on subterfuge.”

The intelligence chief replies: “Let’s just be clear that if you kill him too quickly, there’s no justice for Bluefang Rockstepper.”

“Killing quickly rarely brings justice, Mr. Colclough,” Razorback says with just a hint of a predatory grin, “Have no fear on that count.”

“All right, then,” Colclough says. “Good luck.”

The Cliffwalker clicks off the comm and steps out into the hall, looking around for cameras as he strides towards the stairwell.

The obvious cameras are tucked in corners where walls meet. But careful study will reveal not so obvious cameras monitoring from floor level, poking out of the carpet, and at eye level – fiber optic cameras embedded in paintings of Demarian opera scenes.

Razorback nods faintly to himself as he walks to a vending machine, buys a drink, and heads back into his room to consider his options. He walks out onto the balcony, sipping at the drink while looking around the side of the building for evidence of cameras above street-level.

No obvious wall-mounted cameras, although numerous drones – probably equipped with cameras and sensors – sweep around the hotel.

The Demarian curses his luck at happening upon such a heavily guarded hotel, but studies the drones, looking for patrol patterns, hoping to find a gap between the passes.

Every five minutes and twenty-six seconds, there’s no obvious drone coverage at this altitude for roughly 36 seconds. However, other drones are seen above and below at all times.

Razorback sighs as he discovers that there is no way to climb up the side of the building without detection. Plausible deniability seems to be why he has been asked to complete this task. He heads inside to the room and pulls a cloak from his bag. The garment takes on the colors around it, even as Razorback draws the garment about him. He watches out the window, waiting for the next drone to pass before slipping out and beginning his climb down the hotel wall. When he arrives at the next tier, he clings to the bottom of the nearest balcony and waits for the next drone to pass. It takes him a little time to make the climb, and if someone knew what to look for, they might spot him while reviewing the footage, but they’d have to be keen-eyed and lucky to boot.

When he arrives at the correct balcony, he stands outside the door and taps on the glass, his hood open enough for his muzzle to peek out.

Inside room 326, arms dealer Vinti Xayr hears the tapping on the balcony door. He’s sitting on the toilet, reading a message on his PDA. His brow furrows. Probably not housekeeping. Possibly his contact. No surprise the fellow wouldn’t use the corridor. Still. He stands, tugs his trousers back up, then pulls the vibroblade from inside his right boot. He looks out the open bathroom door toward the mirror on the opposing wall, which offers a glimpse of the stranger on the balcony through a gauzy veil of curtain.

Razorback dips head towards the blade-wielder, showing empty paws through the front of his cloak.

The Timonae keeps the blade’s hilt gripped in one hand as he uses the other to open the balcony door. “You’re early,” he complains.

“I am fast,” Razorback replies, striding through the door, though his ears track the faint buzzing of the vibroblade whenever it is behind him. “The question I have is whether or not you can deliver as promptly,” he adds, moving to the center of the room before he turns to face the Timonae.

Xayr shrugs. “Depends on what you’re ordering. Most inventory is easily accessible. Some items are hard to get. What’s your pleasure?”

“Plasma weapons, military grade,” Razorback says, his ears leaning back, “But I thought you knew that. Perhaps the communications were unclear?”

“The catalog is varied,” Xayr goes on. “Pistols. Rifles. Grenades. Even an experimental rocket launcher or two.”

“Really,” Razorback says, his ears quirking forward with interest, “And your supplier is trustworthy? The product is quality?”

The Timonae chuckles. “Well, they came from Vanguard armories. I hope so!”

“Interesting…” the Cliffwalker says, considering this, “So… if I were say… interested in infiltrating a local Vanguard installation, could your Vanguard contact assist with that?”

That gets an arched eyebrow from Xayr. “They deal with me. I’m not interested in eliminating myself as the middle man, as it were.”

“I don’t imagine you would,” the Cliffwalker replies with a deep chuckle, “Have no fear, I have no desire to cut you out of your fair share.”

“Good,” Xayr replies with a dark smile. He holds up his PDA, taps in a sequence on the HUD to bring up an image of his stockpile spreadsheet. “Here’s the available inventory. The first shipment can be here in three days. I’ll have to work with a few friends to get past local customs inspectors.”

“Cash on delivery?” Razorback asks, raising an eyeridge, “or did you expect to get paid up front?”

The arms dealer switches off the display on the PDA. “Half today,” he replies. “Two hundred and fifty thousand. The rest on delivery.”

“That is a large sum with little assurance of delivery,” the Cliffwalker rumbles quietly, “I need the name of your supplier. I’ll check out your story, then you’ll get your money.”

Xayr shakes his head. “No. You take the deal or you don’t. Your Underclassers are the ones trying to stir up trouble on Demaria. It’s not on *me*  to prove my bonafides. Give me the cash and you’ll get the guns. Otherwise, they’ll go to one of my other customers. Up to you.” He tucks the PDA into a sheath on his hip and then bends over to slide the vibroblade back into his boot.

As the Timonae leans forward, Razorback springs into action, claws outstretched for grip, fanged jaws agape for the singular purpose of enveloping the gun runner’s face, cutting off the air supply and eliminating the ability to scream.

This, Xayr thinks to himself through the horror, is the worst first date ever. He can’t scream, and he can’t move his face much – lest the fangs rip his flesh. But he does try driving his knee into the Demarian’s crotch.

Thank Demar for unexposed genitalia. Razorback’s light armor catches the worst of it, though a grunt does escape his nostrils. A clawed foot rakes the offending leg in response. His jaws maintain their hold.

The claws tear through Xayr’s trousers, ripping bloody furrows but missing vital arteries. The Timonae screams up Razorback’s gullet.

The Cliffwalker maintains his hold, waiting patiently, adjusting to Xayr’s movements until unconsciousness takes the Timonae.

Soon enough, Xayr passes out.

Razorback lets go, spitting out some blood as he crinkles his muzzle in disgust. He drags the “middle man” to a chair, checks him for weapons, binds and gags him. Once his captive awakens, the Demarian smiles toothily at him. “Well, welcome back, Mr. Xayr,” he growls.

“Mmmff!” is all the arms dealer can manage, eyes bulging.

“Now,” the Cliffwalker says, “I propose a new line of negotiation, beginning with this deal: You keep quiet, and I do not start tearing.” A single clawed digit taps on the chair arm.

Xayr seems content to remain silent for now.

“Very well,” the Demarian says, removing the gag. “So, shall we start with your contact in the Vanguard?” He smiles, baring his teeth. “You may answer,” he says, “Quietly.”

“Levante,” the arms dealer spits out, not at all interested in disembowelment. “Rodrigo Levante. Based on Citadel.”

“And you came into contact with him, how?” Razorback asks, his ears flattening.

The Timonae frowns. “His brother owes Lord Fagin. A lot. Rodrigo’s working off the debt to keep the kid alive.”

“Fagin,” the Cliffwalker growls, shaking his head, “So you are not even the middle-man, but the middle-man’s stooge. Who is your handler?”

Xayr shakes his head. “I gave you Levante. That’s all you get.”

“You see, Mr. Xayr,” Razorback says quietly, pulling up a chair to face the gun-runner, “I believe that is where you are wrong. You are giving me far less than I you. For example. How much would you value each of your fingers?” A paw snaps out and grabs a bound hand.

“Replaceable,” the Timonae notes, although his voice quavers.

“Excellent,” Razorback says, licking his fangs as he takes the gag and ties the wrist off. Not quite a full tourniquet, but enough to keep the man from bleeding out.

Seeing that the Demarian’s not at all kidding, Xayr whimpers and says one word: “Shark.”

“Who is Shark?” the Cliffwalker asks, almost absently as his claw stabs into the base of Xayr’s index finger, while the other paw stands poised to cover the man’s mouth in case of a scream. In that eventuality, he waits until Xayr gets it out of his system, looking on expectantly.

And the man screams into Razorback’s hand for a while before he finally says: “Woman. Blonde. Mean. Tomin…Kora.”

Razorback withdraws the claw into his digit and takes the comm from within his cloak as he takes a few steps away. “Is there anything else you would like?” he asks the device.

“No,” replies Colclough via the link. “That seems like enough for now. Good work.” A pause, then: “Please thank Mister Xayr for his cooperation.”

The Cliffwalker nods quickly before turning back to the captive. “So,” he says, “I know that you feared to give me this information for fear of painful execution.” He begins to unbind the Timonae, gathering up the materials used thus far.

Xayr grips his bleeding finger in a closed hand. He trembles as he nods, but says nothing else.

“Do you have family?” Razorback asks, guiding Xayr toward the balcony door, and pulling his cloak about him a bit more, “Loved ones they might also attempt to punish for this?”

He waits until the nearest drone passes before stepping outside with the gun-runner in tow.

“Yes,” Xayr manages. As he’s guided toward the balcony, panic rises in him once more. “And friends who will find YOU. And KILL YOU!” He struggles to break loose, trying to turn and shove past Razorback to flee through the hotel room.

Almost saddened now, the Cliffwalker’s claws slip out to help maintain their grip. “You are dead either way,” he growls, “Do something worthy of honor for once  in your life and give me the names of those you would desire to protect.”

“Don’t worry about them,” the Timonae snarls, wincing as his flesh is penetrated by those claws. He’s tugged back toward the balcony. “You won’t be able to help anyone when you’re dead.”

“Very well,” Razorback growls, straining with effort as he attempts to introduce the would-be gangster to the art of defenestration before immediately turning to begin his climb back up.

The drones – all owned by the Consortium Intelligence Service – monitor the plummet of the arms dealer from his room to the street below. His body slams into the hood of a hovercab just as it’s pulling in to a stop. The corpse bounces, leaving a bloody smear, and rolls off onto the pavement.

“Sad about his suicide,” Colclough says via the commlink. “We’ll make sure someone finds a note.”

“I would request that if you can find his family, they at least be warned,” Razorback replies as he re-enters his room, “They need not suffer for his sins.”

“He lied,” the intelligence director replies. “He’s got no family. I think he was hoping you’d spare his life if he had relatives. In any event, we have the name of this woman on Tomin Kora – or, at least, a nickname. And the identity of a traitor within the Vanguard. I’d say that’s valuable intelligence.”

“Indeed,” Razorback says with some relief as he sheds his cloak and heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

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By Brody

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