Jazz, Monster Collector in:
season one, episode sixteen
Tricorner Publishing’s Shakespir Edition
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to
persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
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I sat struggling to keep myself awake as the gentle, rhythmic swaying of the hover train kept luring me toward sleep. The inane rhetoric of the pleasure-core music piped through the cars wasn’t helping me keep my chin off my chest. It’d been a while since I used public transportation. I would have given in except I was afraid of missing our stop. Besides, I’d just spent the past five days doing little else other than sleeping.
Pleasure-core was about the only music played anywhere on Mirth. Most of it was produced by the Wizards Council sanctioned composers and anything played though the pubic media corridors had to first be approved by the council. The sound was something like elevator music meets new age meets bubblegum pop, only blander and with even less intriguing lyrics. It was, all of it, designed for the single purpose of putting the listener into a state of witless contentment and there was a dab of magic embedded in the tunes to help nudge the listener toward said desired result. Me, I was immune to it. Not because of any special ability or protection, I’d just seen way too much bad in my life to feel content.
I was, however, completely under its powerful conjuring of boringness.
DJ, my trusty sidekick, was sitting beside me. She had her one hundred percent wooly beast scarf drawn up over her mouth and nose, partly to conceal her features as we were both wanted criminals, and partly to block the stench from the wrinkled old skell demon sitting beside her who seemed unabashed at sharing his terrible gastric emissions with everyone on the train. Normally I’d have chucked his withered and rancid ass straight into the gutter, but, like I said, we were wanted. We needed to keep a very low profile, at last for now.
DJ sat silently staring into space. She’d barely spoken to me since my attack on the wood elves who’d been holding her captive. I knew she felt I’d gone too far by wiping out their entire nation, but I did what I felt was right, no matter how messy right became. That was, after all, what I did. I was Jazz, ruthless and cunning destroyer of monsters and all things Mirthen. I did the things no one else could do, were willing to do, and that needed doing.
Doubt, uncertainty, regret, these were not normal emotions for me. Neither was being introspective, but ever since my bad judgment call on Mickey the Sasquatch, I’d spent a lot of time searching my feeling of regretful uncertainty about my doubtfulness.
Things were easier when I thought I was dying. All that unrestrained revenge and reckless bravado had me feeling very powerful. Now, with about a hundred warrants out for my arrest forcing me to sneak around in disguise on public transportation, I felt about as powerless as I’d felt during my time as a slave in the mallow pits. And yeah, I’d taken out a lot of bad monsters and one very bad person, but at what cost? I’d spent most of this second life of mine focused on bringing down the forces behind the inter-dimensional takeover of my planet. Now, seeing the mindless smiles on the brain-wiped citizens of Nitsburg, I kind of envied them. Maybe this fight was over for me. Hell, I’d given it a really good run, and had some kicks along the way. But I was tired, spent, drained, and, as loathe as I was to think it, feeling defeated. Defeated enough to seek the council of the one being I most detested, least trusted, and most feared on the conjoined planets, my ‘father.’
The hover train slowed. The change of cadence pulled me out of my thoughtful trance. I was surprised to see that, except for two female cud demons in maid attire, we were the last passengers on the once crowded car.
“This is us,” I said and stood. DJ adjusted the scarf that covered her lower face. She took her rucksack from the floor, slipped her arms through the shoulder straps, and followed me down the aisle. When the transplaced door dissolved from existence we stepped out onto the wide pedestrian walkway. My long, layered skirt trailed along the magically created surface. My soft soled leather boots felt great after having worn my heavy battle boots for so long. I slid the sunglasses over my eyes, the only part of my face the head shawl left exposed. When I was sixteen, a family of gypsies adopted me so that the blessings granted their family centuries earlier would apply to me. They performed this act of kindness to protect me from the demigod lord of a horrid nether dimension, a lord my father had bartered a deal for my soul with. Funny thing was I ended up developing a deep bond with the gypsies, far deeper than the bond I felt for my own blood family. Not surprising considering the bizarre and heart wrenching circumstances of my real family—dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe how poorly we executed anything close to a sound family life.
That’s how I met my Uncle Izzo, not to be confused with Uncle of Uncle’s Garage. Uncle Izzo was the patriarch of my Gypsy family, and the man who I think of when I think the word, Dad. He’s the man who gave me my street cycle, my shotgun, my leather flight cap, and his life in order to protect me. I’d worked hard to make his sacrifice worth something, and now I wasn’t so sure he’d done the right thing.
So when I wasn’t dressed in my plated and padded leather battle gear, I dressed like a gypsy, the clothes of my people. Interestingly Gypsies were one of the only Earth cultures to survive the ID war—Gypsies were used to invasions and wandering and keeping out of sight. We were still reviled and ridiculed but we’re used to that too.
Most of the walkways in Nitsburg moved, goodness forbid the lazy, idol, and entitled masses actually having to walk on their own. But we were in a small neighborhood called Gladstone. It was simple and plain and had few of the magical amendments and accommodations that the rest of the city sported. It had been designed to emulate the streets and buildings of the old city, back when it was called Pittsburg and wasn’t populated with the monsters of a foreign dimension. The people here dressed and lived sort of like the time period before the Earth had been invaded, but, as Mirth’s humans didn’t even remember the pre-Mirthen world; it was a mash up of periods and places—like a renaissance fair with knights, kings, and astronauts. It was pretend but it was nice. For a time it had been a popular neighborhood. Each subsequent generation though had less and less interest in pretending, and, over time, Gladstone became more and more of a ghost town making it the perfect neighborhood to permanently retire my father in.
My stomach felt like it was sinking. I’d eaten plenty over the five days I spent recouping in the hidden chambers beneath Uncle’s garage, chambers left over from the long abandoned resistance movement. But it wasn’t all the food weighing my belly down; it was a moist, palpable, sickening dread. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and for good reason. Up until six days ago no one, not even DJ, knew that this being existed. Now I was taking her to him. I must have gone mad. But there was some sense in it, for one, if the enforcer corps managed to capture me, I’d very likely be dealt a life sentence in the mallow pits. Someone would have to look after him, make sure that no one ever found him, or discovered what he knew, or, even more horrible to contemplate, killed him. And there was no one better suited to that task, no one I trusted more than DJ. I just wasn’t so sure that she trusted me anymore.
I did a double take when a timber troll passed us on the walkway. I stared as he walked by, obviously pretending to ignore my brash gaze, and I wondered what the heck a monster was doing in Gladstone. Then I spotted DJ staring at me. I turned and continued on my way, pretending to ignore her critical glare.
Few were the people that still dwelled in this living remnant to the Earth of old, my home. But we did pass some people, a few even still dressed like they were living in America in the early part of the twenty-first century. There were no stores in Gladstone, all the shopping was done in the market district, but the houses here, mostly brick-faced townhouses, stone row homes, and the occasional wooden cape cod, looked like many of the neighborhoods I’d visited before the invasion. But even this was a lie; there were no bricks, no stones, and no wood in Gladstone. All of these buildings had been magically created by mallow powered devices. It was all of it, in fact all of Mirth, a lie. So instead of comfort or nostalgia, Gladstone only remind me, despite how hard I’d fought and how deeply I’d suffered, of how little I’d achieved.
Uh-oh, there’s that introspect again. I wondered if the Not-Now-Stone, my magical healing rock that had very nearly killed me, could cure me of that as well. I sighed. I’d never find out because I’d sworn to myself that I’d never use the stone again…unless of course in the utmost dire want of need.
A billboard attached to the side of a stone building brought me to a stop. It wouldn’t seem like anything unusual in Gladstone, perhaps a little niche. It was an advertisement for Anchor-Hawking Glass. Two green, cut glass drinking glasses had been superimposed over an anchor image. Our Glass is Superior in Every Way, the copy read. A tagline beneath read, The Anchor Man Stands behind this Motto. Anchor-Hawking had gone belly-up long before the invasion; the ad was more of the old Earth atmosphere. But it was also a warning, if you knew how to read it. I knew how to read it because I was the one who’d put it there.
I must have stared longer than I’d realized because DJ spoke to me at last. “Jazz, are you okay?”
I turned and dropped the shawl over my shoulders, then removed my dark glasses. “Yeah, I’m okay. How are you?”
DJ’s eyes darted side to side like she expected something terrible was about descend upon us.
I tried my best to show her a reassuring smile, but smiling wasn’t one of my strong suits. “We’re safe here, you can relax.”
Her eyes narrowed and I felt her distrust more strongly. “But the enforcer corps?”
“Are not coming,” I said, shook my head and tried to improve the quality of my smile. “No one’s looking for us in Gladstone, why would they? You give the corps more credit than they deserve. Besides, Detective Samules is working to keep them off our tails. We’re safe for now.”
“Then why are you so scared?” DJ asked as she undid the clasp from her shawl exposing a subtle but obviously condescending smile.
That hurt. DJ had never looked at me like that before. I’d hurt her, hurt her bad, and I was going to have to accept that this was the way things were now. Deep down I braced myself for the day she tells me she’s leaving to pursue a better life. I couldn’t blame her for that, but I couldn’t say that it wouldn’t sting.
I glanced back up at the billboard. “It’s not the enforcer corps I’m afraid of.”
The enforcer coups were the closest thing the Wizards Council, the governing body of Mirth, had to a police force… and an army…and an emergency responder team. But in reality hey weren’t much more useful than the Bedrock Fire Department. Bedrock was a fictional prehistoric town, home of the Flintstones, a cartoon family on the long forgotten television broadcasts. The whole of Bedrock, the houses, the furniture, the cars, were made of stone. A town made of stone can’t burn, so the fire department was really just an excuse for the men to get away from their wives and drink beer and eat brontosaurus burgers.
Admittedly the Enforcer Corps did slightly more than that, although not much more. They were a volunteer organization, completely vid trained, and more of a club than a threat. The fact was that on a utopian world, even a utopia that was a magically constructed lie, there was little need for policing. The people here were idle, lazy, and fat, but they were also content, at least they believed they were. They had everything they wanted and could be anything they wanted to be, but almost all of them sought leisure and splendid idleness. Even the monsters here behaved themselves; most of them did most of the time anyway. The council was good at keeping the ‘undesirables’ of the deferred species, the politically correct term for monsters, out of their utopian human cities. The few allowed in that did step out of line were dealt with quickly and harshly. Any of those that were too much for the enforcer corps to handle, which were most of them, were passed on to me, Mirth’s only deferred species bond collector. I’d stopped a lot of bad guys over the course of my career, but I wasn’t well liked, feared by many, hated by even more. But I wasn’t on Mirth to make friends, I was there to do what I’d been doing since I was sixteen, kill monsters. I was a violent person on a world that worked hard to pretend that bad things didn’t happen and I was an un-ignorable beacon that bad things were happening all the time. I paid a price for being who I was.
“Jazz,” DJ said in a soft tone.
I pulled my gaze off the billboard and onto her, and, by the widening of her eyes and the rise of her eyebrows, she must have seen dread in it. I heaved out a sigh. “No more putting it off I suppose.”
“Suppose not,” she said, sounding more curious than scared. She had changed, but was still a little too naive.
“Come on then,” I said and, without bothering to look either way, led her across the street. There was hardly ever any traffic here.
On the corner stood the three-story faux stone house; it had gargoyle faces staring out from the faux granite soffits, faux wrought iron railings on every window, and a small balcony off the alley side with faux carved spindled railings. It all gave the structure a very Parisian appearance. In fact, standing on its walkway, it would be easy to imagine Paris was exactly where I was if it wasn’t for the pair of miniature griffins tending a nest on the afore mentioned balcony. Besides, Paris, as well as France and every other old Earth country, no longer existed.
I pulled open a tall, wooden door and held it as DJ entered, and then I followed. My stomach lurched as I crossed the threshold and I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised to look back and see that my stomach had dropped out through the bottoms of my feet. It hadn’t, but a sickening dread racked my guts with ache.
DJ tried to pull the locked inner door open, rattling its faux leaded glass. Still gripping the handle, she looked back at me. Yellow light streamed though the textured glass and tinted one side of her face, shadow shaded the other side. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked, apparently reading the trepidation my heart had sent to my face without my approval.
“No,” I said, pulling the cord around my neck out from my blouse. “But I’m going anyway.” Hanging from the cord were two items. One was a brass broach in the shape of an anchor. The other was an old fashioned skeleton key. I slid the key in the lock and, with more effort than I expected, turned it drawing the rusted bolt from the door frame. I opened the door, and, with a tip of my head, gestured for DJ to enter.
She paused on the threshold for a cautious look around, and then went in the rest of the way. I followed, stopping to relock the door with the key before tucking it away again.
We were in a small entrance foyer. The ceiling was high above us, fifteen feet at least, and covered with faux tin ceiling tiles. One wall was covered in little brass (I’m dispensing with all the fauxing, you get the picture) doors. Each door had a number plate and a little glass insert so one could peek in and see if any mail had been delivered. None had in over a hundred years.
A wide set of granite stairs rose up to the floor above, and a narrow hallway along the stairs led to the rooms beyond the foyer. I headed up the stairs.
We came to a landing that turned us one hundred and eighty degrees, and then went up a shorter section of steps that landed us on the second floor.
“Wow,” DJ said taking in the old Earth decor, things like flowered wallpaper and doors made to look like wood. The curiosity in her eyes and the wonder in her voice reassured me that my trusty sidekick, the DJ I knew and loved, was still with me.
To our immediate left was another set of stairs, this one leading straight to the third floor as the ceiling here was much lower. A hall led away from the steps. There were four doors, two to either side, and one door straight at the end of the hall. Each door had a button that rang a mechanical bell, and a number plate above. The place projected a dark, dreary, and dismal aura. This floor carried a particular musk that, as only smells can, brought to me clear memories of a past I wished to forget.
Something big, and angry sounding, snorted. The sound echoed through the empty hall. DJ stiffened and squeezed my arm. Her eyes nervously searched the shadows and I felt her muscles tense with an alert preparedness.
“It’s alright,” I said. “I’ll just—”
The door at the end of the hall slammed open and a dark figure ducked his head and turned sideways so he could squeeze his huge body through the opening. He squared off and snorted again. He was every bit of seven feet tall with rippling muscles that flexed as he tightened his great fists. His massive pecks gathered into an angry scowl on his bare chest. He looked human, huge and muscular, except that his skin was as black as ink and he had the head of a huge bull with a gold ring through his nostrils and horns that were so wide they dragged the walls as he charged, snorting and spitting.
DJ must have been practicing, or I was getting slow, because before I could move she shoved me away. “Jazz, get down!”
I was caught completely unprepared and stumbled sideways. I tried to get my feet back under me, but only managed to get them across one another and I tumbled to the floor.
I watched her strike a stance and draw her kinetic force compressor.
“DJ, no!” I shouted. Too late; she pulled the trigger.
The tiny (pathetic I’d say) gun hummed as it gathered in latent energy then, with a screeching of release, fired a compressed ball of force.
It hit the minotaur square in his well defined abdomen. The beast roared and lashed his head back, cutting two great gashes in my walls, and slid back a couple of meters. When he looked down his eyes were burning red. He snorted twice more and scraped at the wooden floor with a foot, then backed to the end of the hall. I heard DJ’s gun gathering another charge.
This was out of hand.
“Enough!” I shouted and sprang to my feet. The rush of adrenalin had cleared my fog of memories.
The minotaur dropped his head and charged and DJ raised her gun.
In one quick, well-practiced motion, I straightened DJ’s arm, took the gun and, using her arm like a lever, pivoted her out of the way. Just as the minotaur met me, I dropped to the floor between his feet. I heard a tremendous crash, a clattering of debris, and then muffled snorting. I rolled over onto my butt. The big oaf was below me on the landing with his great, but empty head sticking through the wall. He yanked back three times before he pulled his head free, his horns adding yet more damage to the wall, and spun around. He snorted again, his breath so hot it fogged in the air around him.
DJ leapt between us and raised her small fists. “Jazz, run!”
I looked around DJ and met the minotaur’s eyes. “You’re fixing that, you know?”
The minotaur’s scowl softened then he looked over his shoulder at the huge hole, then he hung his massive head.
DJ spun around and stared at me in disbelief.
I held up a hand. “Help me up.”
“Okay, but you’ve got to explain,” she said and pulled me to my feet.
Normally I’d say, No I don’t, but I kept my mouth shut. I straightened the pleats of my mussed skirt then looked at the minotaur who was picking bits of broken wallboard off the floor. “Where’s the caretaker?”
The door to my immediate right crept open and a wizened old corpse slinked out. “I’ll need your tickets, please,” he said in a voice no louder than a whisper and dry as desert sand. He was wearing a curt black jacket and slacks, white shirt with perfect seams and a black vest with a small keystone pin. His shoes were polished to a mirror finish. His skin bore the texture of a body sometime dead—dried out and wrinkled with eyeless sockets—but one that had not begun to decay; more mummy than zombie though I still wasn’t sure which he was.
“What tickets?” DJ said looking ever more confused.
“It’s me, stinky,” I said.
“Oh,” the caretaker said in something of a croak. Dreadfully hard to tell, but it sounded like he was mocking me.
DJ glared at me with both a question and an accusation in her eyes.
I held up a hand. “I’ll explain everything,” I lied, “just let’s get all the introductions out of the way first.”
DJ looked at the old corpse in the butler’s attire. “Is this your father?”
“No,” I said, “the worse, I’m afraid, is yet to come.”
“So let’s get it over with,” DJ said.
“The proprietor,” the Caretaker said in a wheezing voice. He sounded like an out of tune accordion with a hole in its bellows and a sticking check valve. Seeming to run out of air, he stopped to draw in a slow, burdensome breath before continuing, “Is in his rooms.” A puff of dust accompanied the words leaving his black lips.
I looked at DJ, “No more putting it off, huh?”
DJ slowly shook her head. “Nope.”
“Okay then,” I said and turned to walk away but, with a creaking of dried joints, a preserved hand gripped my shoulder.
“The proprietor does not wish to be disturbed,” the Caretaker said, though he nearly ran out of breath toward the end reducing his quiet voice to barely audible.
I took his middle finger and drew it up intending to use it to pry his hand away. Instead the dammed thing broke off. Change of tactics. I spun my extended arm around like a windmill blade and pivoted, using my arm like a lever to break his grip. I nailed him with an open palm in the chest hard enough to land him on his butt. He looked up at me with those creepy eyeless sockets…man, I never did get used to that. His face didn’t move, making his reaction impossible to read. “There are many things the proprietor desires, and he’s not getting any of them.” I dropped the finger on his lap. “Sew that back on.” I walked away but stopped on the first step and looked back. The Caretaker was still on the floor staring straight ahead. “You remember who your captain is now.”
He eased his head around, his neck cracking and popping, looked over and gave me one slow nod.
I continued up.
“How does he see?” DJ asked on the stairs behind me.
I felt my shoulders rise up to my ears. “Beats the heck out of me.”
At the top of the steps we saw a repeat of the second floor, a hall with a pair of doors to either side and one door dead ahead. This hall was darker than the one below as the mallow lights were out and the only window was behind us. I felt DJ draw closer to me. Partly because she couldn’t see as well in the dark as my damaged (some might say enhanced) eyes could, but partly too because I sensed that she sensed that she was about to experience something truly evil. And she was right.
“Jazz?” she asked and I felt her stop behind me in the hall.
“Yeah?” I turned around. She was looking back at the stairs but nothing was there.
“Those…those…I mean, they work for you?”
I smiled uncomfortably as I wrestled my mind for the words. “More like they’re indentured to me. And I’m well aware that they’re deferred species.”
“I was going to say monsters.”
“Good,” I said and nodded. “Come on.”
At the end of the hall we faced a nine panel door that was made of actual real dead tree wood, stained a darker shade than the four faux wooden doors we passed along the hall. The door could have been in a museum, except there were no museums dedicated to Earth as its memory had been wiped from most everyone at the beginning of the occupation. It was old and in pristine condition except that someone, namely me, had very crudely carved, Here Be a Monster, Keep Out, in its surface.
I searched above the trim with my fingers until I found the key hidden there. The doors of Mirth were embedded with magically induced sentience and responded to their users. No one here knew how to use a key, let alone to look for one in our old hiding places. Under welcome mats and flowerpots would work just as well, except there were none of those either.
When I unlocked the door the sound of the latch pulling free of its hasp echoed eerily in the empty hall and I was again reminded of my first encounter with this man. My time spent with him involved lots of long passageways and creepy doors. I set my hand on the doorknob but couldn’t seem to will it to turn.
I didn’t realize my hand was shaking until DJ set her hers on mine. When our eyes met I felt like our usual roles had switched, I was full of uncertainty and she a reckless kind of confidence. She smiled the kind of reassuring smile where the lips lengthen but that leave the teeth covered, and then she turned my hand.
I pushed the door open and glanced in. Two small tables were set to either side of the door. Atop each a brass oil lamp glowed with the light of a flickering flame. I picked one of the lamps up by its handle and raised the wick. The flame fluttered and danced then steadied as it grew brighter. I raised the lamp higher, allowing more of the light to spill inside.
The room had a high ceiling with the tin tiles like the foyer, and was paneled with dark wood. Three tall windows, two on the long wall and one on the end, were shuttered and had their shades drawn, keeping the room in dreary darkness except for slivers of light that crept through the seams of the shutters and the flickering light from the oil lamps.
DJ picked up the other lamp and raised it to her relatively lower eye height. The room was large, the size of a generous studio apartment, but one that lacked any kind of kitchen or closet or bathroom, and sat virtually empty. The only furniture was an old leather wingback chair that faced the single shuttered window. To either side of the chair stood two refrigerator-sized cabinets painted black. From one of the cabinets came a regular sucking of moist air that, after a brief pause, was followed by a squeaky release of air. This pattern repeated over and over and was interspersed with a steady tick that was too loud and too slow to be a clock. Aside from must and stale air, there was the smell of pine based cleaner, wax, something medicinal, like witch hazel, and the distinct stench of moth balls and I hated the smell of moth balls.
“You are here,” a computer generated voice said causing DJ to gasp and stiffen; her eyes fixed on the back of the chair. “I said you would come.” The synthetic voice was situated somewhere between the old, first generation digital answering machines and Stephen Hawking.
“Oh yes, you knew I would eventually come to my own house, you are so clever,” I said hoping I’d managed to conceal the trepidation that threatened to overwhelm me and send me scurrying back down the steps and out of the building.
I looked at DJ, then back at the still open door, and DJ gave me a little push toward the chair. I took in one more deep breath, readying myself for the coming parley. I felt weak for feeling so anxious, I wasn’t sixteen anymore, and I shouldn’t let that creepo get to me. But he still did and I suspected always would. Strong childhood impressions tend to stick with you, even after you’ve outgrown them.
“Go on,” DJ said flicking her fingers at me as if she were shooing a rabbit from her garden.
I swallowed, tried to will my nerves to steady, failed, and then walked around the cabinet and stood before the chair. “Hello, father.”
“Stop calling me that. I am not your father,” the computerized voice said.
“Oh my gods,” DJ said in a voice so tiny and thin that I barely heard the tremor there.
I glanced over to see how she was managing. She was managing about as well as I thought she would. Her narrow eyes were open so wide I could see the outline of her eyeballs and were fixed firmly, immovably, on the chair’s occupant. Her little mouth hung open and her bottom lip trembled like she’d been dropped into a tub of ice water.
I sighed and looked back at the disaster in the chair. What was left of him, at least I think he’d been a he last but I couldn’t quite recall, was shriveled, wrinkled, wretched—the color and texture of red clay left out too long in the sun. His oblong head seemed too large for his withered body and was completely hairless. His right eye was all white and dead. His left eye was missing. Red, green, and blue wires came out of the socket and ran to a camera mounted to the top of the chair. As we stared the camera swiveled back and forth with a hum of servo motors and the lens spun in and out with a whir as it sought focus. A small black and white screen on a shelf showed a fishbowl-view image of DJ and me. His left arm and both legs were gone. All that remained of his right arm was a stump that flapped up and down as if he were trying to take flight. Several thin tubes ran from an ivory case and entered through his abdomen. A thick, white tube went into his mouth and kept it permanently opened. A ribbon cable entered his skull though an incision that weeped a yellow ooze that ran down the side of his hideous head. Several open sores were on his chest and had been dabbed with a clear ointment.
One of the black cabinets held a vertical bellows that rose with the suck of air and fell with the squeak and release. Several pieces of machinery on shelves had blinking lights, glowing dials, inviting knobs and switches, and screens displaying oscilloscope style wave forms.
The other cabinet held two tall, porcelain encased electrodes. A large spark shot between the electrodes with a loud, regular snap. A machine there displayed a heartbeat, temperature, and other vital signs.
It was a horrible sight, and I knew it.
I reached over, set my fingertips under DJ’s chin, and closed her mouth.
With some effort she pulled her eyes off of the husk in the chair, looked up at me with tear filled eyes and spoke in an exacerbated tone. “Why? How…how could you?”
I hung my oil lamp on a hook beside the window then looked at my invalid cyborg in the flickering light. “I’m keeping him alive, that’s all.”
“But,” DJ said and turned to look out the window as if the shutters weren’t closed. “He’s your father.”
“Don’t call me that,” the computer generated voice said. I was thankful it was unable to express any sort of inflection.
DJ stood there staring at nothing for a long time. She reminded me of a naughty child who’d been forced to stare at a wall. When she turned around her eyes were dry, relaxed, and her face was placid. She reached her lamp closer to his shriveled-apple face. “What do I call you then?”
The speaker crackled then broadcasted, “People call—”
“Don’t!” I covered the speaker in the right cabinet with my hand. “Not a word,” I snapped, pointing a finger at the camera lens. A wire ran from the speaker to a small amplifier, and the ribbon cable ran from the amplifier into his skull. I looked at DJ over my shoulder. “You don’t have to call him anything. You’re here to observe only.”
“Why?” DJ asked.
Fairly certain that he’d heed my instructions, I removed my hand from the speaker and took a moment to map out my words. “Because if anything ever happens to me, I’ll need someone to look after him.” I took DJ’s shoulders and gave them a good squeeze. I stared into her eyes with all the sincerity I could muster. “And you’re the only one I’ve ever trusted enough to bring here, so I need you to be strong and to trust me, just this one more time.”
“Why are you keeping him alive, like that?” She pointed at the rudimentarily human thing strapped into the leather chair.
“You may tell her nothing,” his computerized voice said.
“I may tell her anything I like,” I said pouring anger into the words. “And you may sit there impotent and insignificant for the rest of eternity.”
There was a moment of absolute silence except for the pumping of the breathing bellows, the snap of the heart pacer, and white noise from the speaker. Then he said, “I will not remain alive forever. Despite your efforts eventually I will die.” The computer struggled to phonetically form the word, ‘eventually,’ but what the heck; the technology was over a century old.
“We’ll see about that,” I said with a level of bravado that only the truly uncertain can muster.
“Hear this,” the computer generated voice said, “when I die, I will not forget your treatment of me.”
I brought my face very close to the camera lens. With a whir it spun closed, trying to get my too-close face into focus. “And you hear this, daddy, you come to me looking for trouble and I’ll show you real mistreatment.”
“Jazz,” DJ said and tugged at my blouse sleeve. “Don’t…don’t make this worse, it’s bad enough. Just do whatever you came to do and let’s get away from here.”
I stepped back, looked at the floor, rubbed the back of my neck, and heaved out a sigh. Man, he could really push my buttons—could knock me off balance and out of control. I never understood why I let him get to me.
The camera aimed right at my face and the lens spun. “How old are you?”
I felt impatience tighten the skin around my eyes. “What?”
“How old are you?”
I rolled my eyes and huffed. He was at something but there was only one slim chance of knowing what. “Nineteen.”
“No, you are not,” he said. “But you look the same.”
Gods, he was aggravating. “Umm, I think I know how old I am, unlike you.”
“Perhaps you don’t,” he said, then asked, “Why are you still here?”
“That did it,” I said, my impatience transforming into furry. “You’re getting shocked.” I reached toward a component housed in the left cabinet.
“Jazz, come on,” DJ said. “What’s the harm?” She tipped her head toward the decrepit body in the chair.
I puffed out some of my anger. “You have no idea,” I said then turned back to face the camera. “I’m here, to my shame, because I needed to see you.”
“No,” he said. “Why are you here, on Mirth? You should have returned by now, like an elastic cord stretched too tight for too long, it should have snapped. You’ve done something to set anchor.”
“What the devil are you talking about?” I shouted the question and could feel the heat in my face. “I didn’t do anything.”
“What the nether realms, Jazz?” DJ shouted, but not like an, ‘I’m really so angry at you here comes a punch in the nose,’ yell, more like a condescending, ‘I can’t believe you pooped on the rug you stupid dog,’ kind of yell.
“Look, DJ, you’re disturbed, and I get that, and you’re mad at me, I get that too, but you don’t know him,” I said and pointed. “He’s only capable of lies and manipulation. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I know that he’s trying to lead me somewhere and I won’t let him manipulate me, never again. I’m here now, and that’s all that maters.”
DJ held up her open hands. “Okay, whatever. You know best.”
DJ’s words reeled my head back. She was being sarcastic. Could she feel like I’d been manipulating her? Worse yet, had I been? A great big hole opened up in my belly.
“Where do you think you are?” his computerized voice asked.
“Right now, I feel like I’m in hell,” I said.
“I don’t think you realize where you are,” he said.
DJ stared at the small speaker like it was his face. “What does he mean?”
“Nothing,” I said. “He’s just playing with out heads. He likes to act like he knows everything.”
“You have questions,” he said in the stoic voice.
“What makes you say that?” I asked, feeling more than a little caught. Despite his wretched state, he still had the power to make me feel like his inferior.
“Because you always have questions—pointless questions are your staple. Also, the magistrate has issued multiple warrants for your containment. You’ve eliminated most of your more powerful enemies, which means you believe that you’ve uncovered the source of Mirth’s power. But now you are here. That means you don’t know how to overcome the power you’ve discovered.”
My heartbeat quickened, my temperature rose and disbelief reshaped my features. “How do you know about the warrants and the attacks?”
“How do I always know?” he said.
“DCK,” I grumbled.
“Jazz!” DJ snapped. “Look, I get that he messed you up, messed you up really bad,” her eyes locked again on the shriveled form in the chair. “Really, really messed you up, but that gives you no right to talk to him with that kind of language.”
“No,” I said in my very most gentle tone of voice, partly because I was still shaken by how much he knew. “It’s an anagram. It stands for, Deep Conscious Knowing. Somehow he can tap into the field of consciousness. Although I cannot believe that it still works despite all the magnetic shielding and RF interference generators I’d installed.”
“It’s still not nice,” DJ said in a mumble.
“Knowing is harder to block than that, but it was actually the Caretaker who told me. He heard it announced on the neurala-pod broadcasts. Ha ha.” The laugh lacked any inflection at all and came out creepy instead of taunting. “Ask your questions.”
Okay, for the first time in a while a true, actual, non-pretended smile spread over my face. Okay, technically it was a smirk, still in the smile family though. “Well mister smartie no-pants, I’ve got some deep conscious knowing for you. I don’t have even the slightest clue as to who, whom, or what the power behind the ID war is. So ha scrudding ha to you, dumb ass.”
“Jazz,” DJ spat through her teeth.
There came another long silence from the speaker.
DJ stole the moment to begin with the multitude of questions that must have been threatening to burst the dam of her patience. “Why keep him like this? I don’t understand. Why can’t you let him die?”
The camera remained still, the speaker quiet.
“He,” I said pointing at the chair, “isn’t even a he, or a she, or at least I have no idea at all which, if either, of the two he might be.” Realizing my voice had gotten louder and in a higher register than I liked and that DJ deserved, I took in a deep breath and, as I slowly blew it out, I focused on calming myself down. “Because he’s a death thief.”
“So he’s—” DJ stated to say something, but rethought it. “What’s a death thief?”
“He can, although I don’t know that he does it willingly, or consciously, at the moment of his death, move into the next nearest body just as its being vacated by its soul. If he ever dies his being will occupy a stolen body and live on and we won’t know where he is or what he looks like. And if you think we’ve faced some big bad evil before, DJ, you have no idea just how bad bad can be. Whatever happens to me, you must keep him alive. You have to promise me, more than anything I’ve asked of you in the past, or may ask of you in the future, promise me this.”
DJ just stared at me. I don’t know if she was too busy thinking, or to stunned, or too disgusted to answer. But I was overcome by an intense need to have her answer. I took her shoulders and gave them an even stronger squeeze. “Please, DJ, please say that you’ll do this, that you’ll keep him alive, no matter what.”
All the anger and disappointment and doubt seemed to spill out of her. DJ looked up and showed me a crooked smile and I again saw the trusting, devoted, naive little girl who became my sidekick. “Sure, Jazz, no problem.”
“Good,” I said and felt a wave of relief crash over me. Then I turned back to my tenant. “And you, mister know-it-all, are going to answer my questions succinctly and sincerely and respectfully or I’ll send a charge though that withered old heart of yours that will wake up parts of you, you thought dead; got it?”
There was no reaction at all from any of the machines attached to him until the voice generator said, “Ask your blasted questions.”
“There’s something else you don’t know, and that’s that I’ve probably got one more big attack left available to me before the enforcer corps bust me or somebody finally kills me. So where do I go? Where do I make the loudest bang? Where is the foundation weakest? How to I shake the ‘invisible force’ out of their hiding space?” I saw DJ smile at my use of her cornialy coined, comic book worthy colloquialism, invisible force.
“Don’t. Do nothing. Your rash impatience always created more trouble,” he said.
“All right, that did it,” I said and set my fingers to a large, ivory colored knob.
DJ grabbed my arm and shot me the stink-eye.
Oww. I didn’t know she could stink-eye so hard.
“I thought I told you succinctly?” I said.
“You are trying so hard to fight, that you’ve failed to realize that the beings behind the inter-dimensional occupation want you as badly as you want them. You’re untamed brashness has given them the cover they needed to bring you in. No one will question you disappearing now. In fact most will welcome it. So stop fighting.”
Okay, as insanely, stupidly, inanely moronic as his plan was, it actually made a kind of sense. One that would probably get me killed, but his plans usually left me injured, in agony, and hanging on the brink of death.
“Just do what you do best,” he said.
“Kill monsters,” I said automatically.
“No,” he said, “push people’s buttons.”
I growled and balled up my fists.
“What is he suggesting exactly?” DJ asked.
“Hold on,” I said as I needed to keep him answering while he was still able and willing. “These beings attacking the monsters, in the silver armor, that seem to come from nowhere and vanish right after, what are they?”
“I only heard of these now.” He was quiet a moment, thinking, or plotting, or both. “Some of the resistance soldiers did use silver armor,” he said in the monotone voice.
I felt my head shaking. “The resistance ended eighty years ago, besides, they fought against the occupation.”
“The resistance never ended; hate is hard to kill,” he said and I noted that the heart rate on the screen had slowed, “but is easy to redirect.”
I had the sinking feeling that he was telling me more than one thing. But words were his great power. He’d lead me down a rabbit hole if I let him. “Someone, I guess the guys in the armor, are using technology to control monsters, to make them hit their own. Why?”
“You tell me,” he said and I nearly punched him. His crusty skin would probably split like a ripe tomato if I did.
“Why, sir?” DJ asked, more to give me time to calm down I suspected. “Why hit deferred species with deferred species?”
There was no response. The crack-hole was still waiting for me to answer. I was loath to give him an once of satisfaction, but I’d already put DJ through too much.
Just then the door creaked open and the Caretaker crept in. “The Proprietor is tired now and requires rest. You will have to go. You may set a return appointment for when he’s rested, perhaps sometime next year,” he said in the dry, weak voice.
I huffed out through my nose. “To lure me into attacking the deferred species in such a grand manor that it would be well documented and would make me the enemy of humans and monsters alike.”
“Why?” he asked and I would have sworn I heard his heart monitor skip a beat.
“Visiting hours are over,” the Caretaker said then drew in the long, arduous breath. “If you do not leave I will be forced to call security.”
“Jazz?” DJ asked and I heard the concern in her voice.
This time I forced some growl into my voice. “Because the whoever in charge wants me and wanted to make sure that there would be no one left to come looking for me.” I looked at DJ and said, “Wants me alone, without friends or allies.”
“Correct. Your time with me has benefited you,” he said and I definitely heard the monitor display a short succession of skipped beats. “Too little too late, I suspect.”
“You leave me no—” the Caretaker said, then drew in a short, rattling breath, “No choice,” the words came out hurried and raw. He turned and walked out.
“Jazz,” DJ said with a concerned gilt decorating her tone.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Security works for me, the Caretaker has a limited intelligence. He pretty much operates within a small structure of procedures.
“So,” DJ said, looking with concern wrinkles forming on her brow at the thing in the chair. “Are we done here then?”
“Hold on,” I said and massaged my head with my fingers, trying to persuade loose the myriad of questions I’d had just moments ago, but now seemed to have disappeared.
The heart monitor skipped two beats and his shriveled body jerked back.
The brain massaging worked. “Are sasquatchs real? I mean, were they actually an earth species?”
For a long moment I didn’t think he would answer then he said, “The Men of the Forest are native to Earth.”
That hurt. I knew already really, but now, hearing him confirm it, only made the guilt about how badly I’d treated Mickey the big foot sting even worse.
“Oh yeah,” DJ said. She set down her lamp, removed her rucksack, and pulled out a big pickle jar; the jar was filled with a cloudy liquid called, Soulution. It’s the goop I use to clean my magical healing stone. She held it up to the camera. “Jazz wants to know what this is?”
The camera lens spun in and out, and the black and white image on the screen went from fuzzy to even more fuzzy then back again. “I do not know. But I feel the agony of a thousand souls inside.” There was another period of focusing the camera, then, with another skip of heartbeat, it went still. DJ looked at me and lowered the jar. Then he asked, “What is the purpose of this?”
“It doesn’t matter,’ I said, took the jar and returned it to the rucksack. I’d heard enough.
“Now are we done here?” DJ asked as I held the rucksack up so she could get her arms though the straps.
“Just one more,” I told her and turned back to the body in the chair. “A few months ago I dispatched a red dragon, a really big one. How did it get across the ID bridge without alerting the enforcer corps?”
“The red—” he stopped speaking as the monitor displayed two skipped heartbeats and his body jerked. Then he continued, “Wasn’t arriving, she was leaving.”
“Leaving,” I said sliding my head back in disbelief. “There are no dragons left on this side of Mirth.”
“There are more dragons here now—” his heart skipped another beat, “then there have ever been.”
“No way!” I snapped with an unexpected anger. “Not possible.”
DJ tugged at the sleeve of my shirt.
“Yeah, okay. We’re done now,” I said and turned to walk away.
“Magic finds magic,” he said, “and technology finds tech—” Just then the heart rate went from a beep to a long, steady tone and the display screen flat-lined.
“Jazz!” DJ shouted and pointed.
“I see it,” I said. I reached up and pushed a button, blackened from much use, and the regular snaps between the Tesla coils changed to a bright, buzzing, steady arc of electricity. The body in the chair rattled and shook. Then, as I drew my finger away and stepped back, the arc again became a regular snap, the heart rate beeped at steady intervals, and the line on the screen displayed little pup tents. His body slumped forward and hung limp against the straps.
DJ shook her head, but her voice had regained some confidence. “You have a strange family.”
“You have no idea,” I said.
The Caretaker reentered the room. He shuffled over to his charge with a hypodermic needle in his three-fingered hand. “The Proprietor requires rest now. You will have to schedule an appointment for when he’s rested; perhaps next year.”
I gave the crusty corpse’s shoulder a few pats. “Sure thing stinky.” Then I tipped my chin toward the thing in the chair. “See you around, father. Don’t go dying on me,” I said then led DJ out of the room, down the steps, and back out to Gladstone.
We walked in silence for several blocks then DJ asked, “Is that really your father?”
“Yes, no…maybe.” I watched my moccasins padding along the walkway. “He isn’t, not really, but it’s still hard for me to imagine, despite all else I’ve lost, that he isn’t and that my father’s actually dead.”
“Just so you know,” DJ said shooting me a wry grin, “none of that makes any sense at all. So how about some of the succinctness?”
Yeah, she deserved it, but that wasn’t the time. I was still too rattled from my little visit. “I will, I will tell you everything, but it’s a very long story.”
Just then we turned the corner and watched the end of the hover train speeding away from the station.
“Well it looks like we have plenty of time,” DJ said.
I heard something fizzle and the hair on my arms stood up on end. My eyes locked on the shadowed alley. “I don’t think so.”
There came another fizzle, this one grew into a loud sizzle and a burst of wind set DJ’s long hair and both of our skirts fluttering. Thunder clapped above and an intense flash of light had us shielding our eyes with our hands as the wind became a roar.
“What’s happening?” DJ shouted over the din.
“A portal’s opening, come on!” I shouted, grabbed DJ’s hand, and ran.
The wind ended as suddenly as it had begun. Behind us I heard heavy metal somethings banging against street surface at a fast pace. Whatever it was it was gaining on us at an unnerving rate. As one DJ and I came to a stop, spun around, and gasped.
Marching toward us were four large, human shaped figures clad in fully articulated silver armor. The identical suits were close to seven feet tall. They had long snouts that ended in an arch-topped grate and two huge, dark, oval shaped eyes. The silver gleamed bright under Mirth’s conjoined suns. Each warrior carried a large weapon. They looked roughly like assault rifles except they were square edged, ridiculously bulky, and appeared to have four large bore barrels. As one they shouldered their weapons and drew aim on us.
“Tell me you ignored Uncle’s warning and came here heavily armed,” DJ said.
I shook my head but kept my eyes fixed on the approaching soldiers. “Nope; didn’t want to risk the hover train peace detectors.”
“Now?” DJ shouted in a panicked screech. “You picked now to listen to Uncle?”
“I still have my kinetic force compressor.”
I sighed; DJ always overestimated the power of that popgun. “Please be serious.”
DJ looked the bulking armor up and down and wisely kept her weapon hidden. “I thought you said they wouldn’t find us in Gladstone.”
“That timber troll we passed earlier, he gave us an awfully long look. If we survive this I’m going to ask him why he ratted us out.”
“You’ll ask him?”
“Sure. I’ll ask by shooting him repeatedly with my revolver,” I said sounding more like myself than I had in several weeks.
Four red dots of light appeared dead center on my chest. I gulped.
“You are the person of warrant known publicly as, Jazz,” the leading armor suit said in a loud, amplified voice that carried a metallic ring. “Lay face down, arms overhead on the walkway, you are under confinement.”
“Jazz?” DJ said in a nervous tone set somewhere between a question and an exclamation.
“Right,” I said, squeezing her hand. The armored beings stopped in a line just five meters from where we stood.
“On the ground or we open fire,” the leader said.
I got myself on my knees and pulled DJ down beside me.
“What do we do?” she asked.
“I surrender and you go on, live your life, make it a good one, for me.”
DJ’s shook her head. “No,” she said. “No, you can’t, there’s another way, you always have another way.”
“Not this time, kiddo.” I shrugged. “I’ve got nothing.”
The leader took a step forward. His boots of segmented silver plates cracked the walkway beneath them. “On the ground, last warning,” the amplified voice said and I caught a hiss from the speaker that must lurk behind that ominous grill.
I suddenly became aware of another set of heavy footsteps, these coming up from behind. Me, DJ, and all four of the armor clads looked up. The minotaur was walking by us with a full sheet of wallboard sheeting slung over his shoulder as if it were made of Styrofoam.
“Hey,” DJ whispered in my left ear. “That’s your monster, make him help us.”
“It doesn’t work like that, he has a limited intelligence,” I whispered even softer. “He’s bound by his purpose.”
“Quiet!” the leader said and jabbed me with the barrel of his big gun. It really hurt.
“Move on, deferred species, this does not concern you,” another armored soldier said to the minotaur, who subsequently kept walking as if nothing were happening.
Then I had a thought. “Hey, dumdum!” I yelled. At the sound of my voice the minotaur stopped and turned his head, one of his horns tearing a gash in the fresh piece of wallboard.
“Quiet!” the leader shouted and hit me so hard that I slammed back against the walkway. I only just managed to keep my head from banging down.
“These guys don’t have tickets!” I yelled.
I heard the minotaur snort through his nostrils.
“I warned you,” the leader said. Faster that I could react, he grabbed me by the front of my blouse and lofted me into the air. “You are under confinement,” he said into my face. Two images of my own frightened face reflected back at me from the dark lenses that covered his eyes.
The minotaur snorted again and I heard the wall board drop to the ground.
“I told you to move along,” the armored soldier said with certain authority. “We do not require tickets.”
Uh-oh, shouldn’t have said that, shiny.
My feet were dangling above the walkway. I glanced over the leader’s shoulder. The minotaur reared his head back and set loose a bellow that rattled the fillings in my teeth—and I had the only teeth on all of Mirth that had fillings. Then he dropped his head and charged.
“Look out!” one of the soldiers shouted. I heard what sounded like a high speed collision of three tractor trailers simultaneously slamming into a brick wall. Metal flew in various directions. A gun went off with a roar like thunder, but ended abruptly as I saw an armored being fly across the street and slam through a stone wall.
I was dropped like a hot potato as the leader spun around and shouldered his weapon. Before he could pull the trigger the minotaur bellowed and rammed the leader in the chest.
“Down!” I shouted but DJ was way ahead of me. We dropped face first and covered out heads with our hands.
The leader screeched like Wilhelm filling his pipe.
I leapt up, grabbed DJ’s hand and dragged her to the wall.
The leader screamed and rose into the air. He was stabbed though and stuck to the minotaur’s horns. The leader’s armored arms flailed and he screamed again. The minotaur pushed the leader up and off his horns like he was lifting a barbell; veins bulged on his massive muscles as he drew the leader back and tossed him like a doll across the street. He clattered away, rolling over with a sound like his armor had been made of tin cans.
“Come on,” DJ said and pulled me along the wall.
I dug my heels in, “No, don’t!” I shouted, but too late. With a great bellow and a rake of his head the minotaur charged us.
I dug frantically through the pockets of my skirt. My heart raced and a flood of adrenalin had my finger shaking. I could hear his huge feet nearly upon us when my fingers found two stiff pieces of paper. I held them up. “Look, see!”
The minotaur came to an abrupt halt less than a meter away.
“Look here,” I said holding up our cancelled hover train tickets. The minotaur snorted and snatched the tickets from my shaking hand. He gave me a look full of suspicion then held up the tickets for a closer examination. I bit my lower lip and tightened my fists. This had only the slightest chance of working. DJ’s head was spinning back and forth as she looked from me and up to the big figure investigating the little papers.
With a disappointed snort he handed me back the tickets.
I heaved out a huge, relived sigh. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath until just then. Then someone moaned and I heard a clatter of metal. I saw one of the armor clads dragging itself away down the street. The armor was leaking some kind of oily fluid and the body inside was leaking green blood from a missing arm.
“Hey,” I said, pointing at the fleeing figure. “That guy doesn’t have a ticket.”
The minotaur reared his head back, bellowed, and charged. “Oh no!” the armor clad said in a non-amplified, hissing voice, and limped away faster. The minotaur hit him in what sounded like a car crash and sent him flying through the air.
“Come on,” DJ said, pleading to me with her eyes.
“Hold on,” I said. I ran into the street and kicked over a dented breastplate. I picked three green discs off the ground, shoved them in my pocket, and then looked up. DJ was already a half a block away. She waved me on with both hands. “Come on, Jazz, let’s get out of here.”
As she spoke I felt all my body hair stand on end and felt an electric tingle though the souls of my feet. Before my eyes every piece of armor, large and small, was sucked into little, individual portals. I had to move my foot to keep from loosing a toe inside a portal that opened to retrieve what looked like a finger casing. I snagged one of the business cards that Parry, my secretary, was always nagging me to carry and dropped it on a shin-plate right before it was sucked away. Snorting and roaring, the minotaur amused himself by continually ramming the armor suit further up the road, then it too vanished.
I tuned and ran after DJ, happy to put Gladstone behind me.
..to be continued.
Despite her best efforts, Jazz is still very much alive. But she’s facing multiple warrants, she’s homeless, she’s eliminated most of her enemies and the latter is making her really depressed. With nowhere else to turn, Jazz and her loyal followers hide themselves away in Uncle’s underground submarine. Just when she thinks she might die of boredom, Ship arrives home, but he’s missing something, namely that demon soul Jazz always found so annoying. So why is she missing it? What happened to Ship? Who happened to Ship? Before Jazz can answer these questions, she going to have to answer the door and it’s not the welcoming committee come knocking.
Jazz, Monster Collector: Episode 17, Broken
Watch for it Jazz-Fan
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Jazz adventure.
If you’d like to learn more about the monster collector, or me and my other works, please visit:
Jazz: Monster Collector, the serialized adventures of Mirth’s only deferred species bond collector. Stories just the right size for your commute, lunch break, or anytime you want a fast, exciting read. Want more? Follow episode by episode as Jazz seeks to uncover the secret force behind the inter-dimensional takeover of the planet she loved, a little place once called Earth. Episode 16- Man Behind the Curtin: With but a single day to live, Jazz ripped into a rampage of revenge, taking out her enemies with the brash impulses of a Monster Collector with nothing to lose, and the one thing she was certain could not happen did, she lived. Now she’s wanted by the enforcer corps, her office was blown up, and Ship has wandered off to gods know where, so what’s a disjointed, homeless, purposeless Jazz to do? She goes to see the one being she hates and fears most off all, her father. This can’t turn out good. Jazz, Monster Collector, Season One: Earth’s Lament: Jazz is a deferred species bond collector, which is a polite way of saying, Monster Hunter. She hunts them and whenever she can she destroys them. Her hatred for the bvorcs, goblins, trolls, and fairies that live side by side with humans on the magically conjoined planets called Mirth runs deep. But only Jazz knows why, how deep, and what she’s willing to do to express it. But Jazz’s greatest enemy is the invisible power behind the hostile takeover that destroyed the Earth that she remembers. And that’s one enemy Jazz probably won’t live to face. A fast paced futuristic serial with a touch of noir and a lot of trouble.