Before we get going proper with new stuff I'd like to point out I've gone through the Google Doc of the whole thing and did some cleanup, formatting fixes, changed around the in-doc notation to be a little less cumbersome (debatable on if I did any good there,) added links here and there to things I'd rather not spend a paragraph or nine expanding on that I feel people might want to know a little more about (like TSR, or Zork, or Crack Screens,) and some minor grammar tweaks. Nothing huge, but it makes that a bit different than reading off the blog.
Because it was requested: Links to all the blog posts for this story.
Intro and Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 8.2
Part 9 Part 10 Part 10.2 Part 11 Part 12 and Coda
Since the final doc will have changes here and about I'm including a Google Doc link too. Yes I'm going to go through the links and add a table of contents to each in case people want to go through.
Only a couple hours before practice and I'm not sure how to handle Steve. Bundle of nerves don't want to hurt the guy but if last time is anything to go off of he's going to be a handful. Venom's offered to help since he's doing the wrestling thing too. Blackbird said she'd be with me when I make my play.
Going off Venom's notes. Everything went too fast for me.
Max had just showered and changed out of his practice clothes when Steve rounded the corner. The plan had been to confront him as a group and see what was going on, but while we watched Steve he was watching us.
Steve had gone for Max's legs, get him on the ground, off his feet and keep the fight on his terms. That looked like the plan and would have worked fine except Max's leg reaches further than Steve's arms and taking a size ten to the face kills momentum almost as bad as taking a fastball with no cup would.
After a moment or three Max poked Steve with his foot before picking him up and carrying him outside. I'm going to go with the idea Max knew he wasn't hurt when he did this, or at least got real lucky since by the time I got there Steve was babbling some kind of nonsense about Russia and Black suits and Max ruining his life.
Then Blackbird showed up. She gave Max this... Look that made him find somewhere else to be before turning to Steve. She sounded sad really. "Steve, I don't know who you've gotten mixed up with but we can help if they're why you've gone crazy."
"No," Steve sounded defeated, resigned, and probably more than a bit hurting from the boot to the head, "Not these guys. He's not KGB but he's next best thing, and he's got money to buy people everywhere."
Blackbird looked confused, off balance. 'You're telling me this guy is Russian right?" Nod. "He's not KGB, but he's got eyes and ears on you.' Another nod. Her voice grew frustrated then, "You realize this doesn't make sense. I don't claim to know how much it costs to buy that sort of thing but it's more than I'll ever see. And this guy has been using all that to get a few one off computers?"
After a bit to think, and a fresh soda can pressed against his face, Steve started spelling things out we'd been wondering for close to a month now. "I got asked to help. Was told it was for a curiosity collector and he'd pay for whatever I could find. Didn't say why just that it was important to him. Something about a museum he wanted to open in Europe."
He fidgeted, tried to pull away once but Blackbird put a hand on his shoulder. "It all started going wrong last summer. I knew Copper had that Nintendo but it's Copper so I lied, said he had nothing worth getting. I get a couple heavy dudes in my house going through my things. Trash the whole place. My stuff, Mom's stuff. They don't lay a hand on me. No-neck in charge was very polite. Said he didn't like messing our things up since it looked like we already had to patch and scrounge and whatever. Says if I stiff his boss again he'll start in on me. Says if I do anything again after that he'd go after mom."
"Don't worry." Blackbird just held him there. Honest to God I think Steve was crying. Don't know how long she held him like that but it felt like awhile and it was getting strange feeling since we were still right outside of Gym.
By then Max was somewhere behind me and wrote something on a page I'd just flipped. 'Find Them. Hurt Them.' I looked up and saw his face. I was expecting beet red, or big angry eyes but his face was calm. Wouldn't think by looking he was mad, but I've known him long enough to know.
Talked to Malone. Probably stupid to flat out ask if he's been bought, but I was mad. Wanted answers. Was lucky I could hold myself together well enough to not start breaking anything. If he's not lying Malone's been approached, but hasn't given anything up. Almost wish these suits... whoever they are would make a pass at me. Only reason I don't is I don't know what they'd do to Dad, or the house, or Grandad.
Went out on a dumpster run with Blackbird. Sure not the most romantic of dates but between getting some interesting office memos and getting a looksee at a magazine reviewing the new GS I'd consider it a good run.
Got home and Everything was spotless. Worries me because Dad didn't do this. I didn't. Whoever got in was here and gone, put everything away but put things away in the wrong places. It's almost like a prank Aku wanted to try. Go in behind somebody and rearrange everything. Only this time it's not funny. Scares me that they could just get in like that.
First pass on personal inventory came up clear. Everything in the tradeables pile was more or less the same at a glance, but really it was the docs and work disks I was worried about. Those seem in order. Handwriting on 'em looks like mine, but I'm going to have to go through disk by disk.
Inventory's done. Nothing's missing except for a couple cracked games from the trade pile. Work disks all accounted for, though they could have just made copies of a few things since I sort by date. Blackbird says everything at her house is fine. She's calling copper while I call Alyssa.
Dad's told me to take him to see Malone. At this point I"m not arguing with him. Just hope he has an idea or three other than just call cops start wishing for the best. Only idea I have that's any sort of productive involves getting a ride to that office and busting heads, except this isn't an arnie movie and these guys probably have guns.