“Junk is the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.”
William S. Burroughs
Dancers in the dark
Borges keeps her promise and drags Jana and Peter to one of her favourite filthy dens in the Crepuscule District to celebrate the rookies’ baptism by fire. The Küchenschabe is – as usually – jammed with a crowd of lower corporate workers and criminals drinking and getting high. Near the party there’s a small group of teenagers, looking less destitute than the regular customers. But what really stands out is that suddenly a girl collapses over the table. She’s drooling and seems to be having a seizure and her friends are frantic. O’Malley notices it and immediately yells “Is there a doctor in here?” but nobody seems to care. Borges explains to him that this is usual at the Küchenschabe and, besides, they aren’t working tonight. Suddenly the girl stops convulsing and her friends get even more hysterical. Jana decides to check the girl, who appears to have died. The ZoneSec psi immediately calls for an ambulance. O’Malley, has managed to get himself some electric equipment and approaches the young girl with a bare wire, to shock her heart back to life. Both Borges and Gibson ask him what the hell is he doing. O’Malley’s response is: “This usually works in vids!”. Alas, it didn’t this time. Borges checks the body for any signs of life. “She is dead for sure now!”, staring disapprovingly at O’Malley.
Meanwhile Jana approached the hysterical friends, and reassures them that an ambulance has already been called. When the screaming stops, she manages to ask some questions. The dead girl’s name was Chu Mei Feng and it seems she took some drugs. Jana looks over the dead girl’s pockets and finds a small vial with traces of a black liquid. “Was this it?”. The friends acknowledge it and show their own untouched vials. While O’Malley collects the vials for analysis they discover that one of the girls took half the dosage, but still feels fine. Regarding where they got the drugs, they claim the dead girl was the one that bought it, but they know the narcotic’s name: Dark Dancer, a new hot drug. While they wait for the ambulance, Marilyn, the one that took half a dose, says she’s starting to feel something, while giving O’Malley bedroom eyes and rubbing herself on him. Apart from that, she is fine and O’Malley just became very interested in the drug. Checking the web they discover some one else had an overdose tonight at the Blue Parrot. Borges reminds them again that this is their night off, but the rookies are in full operating mode. They inform the ZoneSec paramedics, once they finally arrive, about the occurrence. As soon as the stiff is gone, the team returns to heavy drinking.
Before going to sleep, Crowe is informed by Natasha that another death by Dark Dancer happened tonight at a dingy bar in the Crepuscule district. Agent Gibson and her teammates were at the place – actually they still are -, claims the personal assistant. Crowe is happy about the team’s dedication and immediately asks her to call agent Borges. Still drinking at the bar when she gets a call from her boss, Borges rolls her eyes and gestures to the other two: “You see, now I have the boss wanting to talk to me, while we are supposed to be off duty!”. She answers the phone with a deep sigh, and briefly explains to Aziz that it was by chance they called the OD in, they are off duty. Aziz tells her they are assigned the case and should start working on it the next morning. Meanwhile he also gets the information that the first dead kid, Kenji O’Hara, had eye implants, so images of the dealer may have been captured. Aziz orders Nastasja to take care of it. The personal assistant swiftly reviews the last 24h of the youngster’s life and finds the moment of the transaction. They now know the dealer’s face.
In the morning, slightly hungover, Borges get the case files and a new information: there were two other victims last night, at the Neon Dragon. One of them survived and is currently in the hospital. Back at the lab, O’Malley is analysing the drug samples. It’s an unknown formula, but obviously derived from LSD. O’Malley concludes that taken in the correct dose it should be as harmless as any other drug. In the spirit of science, he decides to take a quarter of the full dosage himself. When Jana and Eva reach him, the Dancer has just kicked in. Patrick sees the door opening and two shapeless shadows approaching and exclaims: “Ah! pink tigers!”, and starts petting them. He is actually petting Borges, who he’s exasperated when discovers the idiot took the drug. O’Malley gets excited with the fact the pink tigers can speak and starts a lively conversation about his experience and conclusions: the drug is made of rainbows and cotton candy! His trip ends with a sip of Nutkicker, provided by Jana and, suddenly, the pink tigers metamorphose into Gibson and Borges. As usual, the older agent is mad: the correct procedure for testing drugs in ZoneSec is using prisoners as guinea pigs… Now that O’Malley is back to “normal”, Eva updates the team on the new developments. Meanwhile, they are also informed by Clayton Reed that Doctor Leary – from Leary Pharma – would like to speak to them.
Their first step is going to the hospital to interrogate the surviving victim, Malcolm Green. With her best bedside manners, Jana interviews the boy, who identifies the dealer from the photo as Skinny Pete. O’Malley gets his address from the ZoneSec database but, before going into the Underworld, they decide to stop at Leary Pharma. Stan Leary receives them in his office and explains them the formula for the drug (now known as Dark Dancer) was stolen from the lab two months before. The thieves left no traces. The drug is a failed Leary Pharma project: when it works, it has very impressive enjoyable results, but the risks associated with the wrong dosage are too high to market it as a recreational drug. Dr Leary doesn’t want this story being traced back to Leary Pharma; that’s why he asked for ZoneSec to insure that all copies and traces of the formula are destroyed, as well as the people involved in it.
While on the way to the Underworld, Borges reminds the recruits that their mission is to retrieve information from Skinny Pete and not necessarily to kill him. Gibson and O’Malley both try to use their special skill sets to see inside the dealers apartment. Jana gets the feeling the suspect is on the second floor. O’Malley hacks Pete’s phone camera and shows the team the image of a skinny naked guy sleeping on soiled sheets. Borges forces the cheap lock easily. Inside they find Skinny Pete asleep, just like O´Malley had shown them. A big knock-off pistol is resting on the bedside table. The team moves slowly around the room, but Pete seems to be deeply asleep. In a fit of inspiration Eva decides to pick the guys big pistol and press it to his exposed butt hole. That gets some movement out of him. Suddenly he is awaken and scared, especially when they identify themselves as ZoneSec. They ask for his stash and he franticly tells them where it is, but no Dark Dancer there, apparently it sold out… Pete tells them the new drugs were delivered by a small group called the Drugstore Cowboys, but he’s hesitant about giving them away. Jana and Eva play their good cop bad cop routine, and finally get the info out of him. The Cowboys operate out of a warehouse in the Underworld running a small business. They produce, consume and sell the drug. Believing the small time drug dealer knows nothing about the Leary Pharma Connection, they let him be.
The warehouse is not far from Pete’s apartment. The agents survey the place, it has only two small windows and two doors. Gibson tries to sense how many people are inside. Though she cant get a clear picture, Jana knows that there’s a small group inside. They decide to trust lady luck and storm the place, sneaking through the back door. The door opens into a dark corridor full of junk and little visibility. Turning on the lenses sonar function, O’Malley detects a cluster of six people in the main room. Borges silently approaches the area where the group is and throws a concussion grenade. Unfortunately it does little more then attract the group’s attention. They come in the agents’ direction, dragging one unconscious body. O’Malley points the sub-machine gun and screams at them to surrender. Two of them do it immediately, the others just stop. The group looks frightened and confused, they don’t look like serious criminals, just pathetic junkies. The team starts to handcuff them, while asking about the Dark Dancer, and who is in charge. Apparently the leader, Rick Vargas, and Bob Smith, the chemist, are away. The agents decide to give a small dose to each junkie, and lock them aside in a closet, while they wait for the bosses to appear. They are lucky: O’Malley hacks the phones and sees they are probably coming back to the warehouse already.
The team hides in wait, but they don’t have to stay long. Minutes later, four people enter by the back door, two males and two females. They women look like cheap hookers, and are probably customers. Once the group is flanked, the agents jump out of hiding. Patrick screams, with his usual enthusiasm: “ZoneSec, put your hands up!”. One of the guys automatically pulls one of the women by the neck, trying to use her as a hostage. Coldly, Borges shots the woman in the head. Her shot isn’t accurate, but it’s enough to scare the guy, who accidentally shoots the gun he had pointed at the hostage’s back. The other woman starts screaming in panic, and both men surrender. Gibson takes charge of interrogating the dealers who, in shock from previous events, confess to everything. They went to Leary Pharma looking for formulas they could use and got lucky. Backup is called to remove the Drugstore Cowboys and the home-made laboratory is burned to the ground. Another victory for the team!
Once again Aziz Crowe and Clayton Reed are impressed about their efficiency. Borges has a side talk with Gibson: she is worried the psi agent is too soft for the job, and explains the younger woman that most ZoneSec agents are not very good people when they are recruited, and bad things for the greater good are expected from them. Jana answer is that some of them are good people, just look at O’Malley! Meanwhile, O’Malley is already thinking how he can safely add the Dark Dancer to his Nutkicker formula…