“EVERYONE GET BACK! TORO IS UP!”
The children on the make-shift baseball diamond chittered excitedly as most of them retreated to the outfields. The diamond, which was little more than dirt and tires that were too heavy for the pencil-thin kids to move around, was protected on three sides by a creative combination of fence and chicken-wire. The fourth side bordered one of the heavily graffitied concrete walls of the “Sanchez Institute For Under-purposed Adolescents”. Toro smiled as he took a few intimidating practice swings, the wind shrieked as the bat moved unseen through the air.
A kid on the mound piped up, “That’s cheatin’ yo! You know the rules!” He was one of the older boys and the most prevalent of the graffitiers that tagged the neighborhood. The boy had been cautious with his interests of defacing property, mostly out of fear that Toro would catch him and he would be forced to spar with the swordsman, again. In spite of the boys best efforts and Toros inability to perceive the obvious, the secret got out. Expecting a lengthy lecture would be him getting off lucky, the boy was shocked to see Toro giddily delighted by the late-night pastime. He had claimed jovially that only vandals that made the world dirty deserved to be chased, but the world certainly needed a fresh coat of paint. Toro grinned as he dropped the bat onto his tail which wrapped instinctively around the chrome handle. Toro turned away from the pitcher and pulled a small mirror out of his pouch. Out of the corner of his eye, a car pulled up lazily on the other side of the fence, the loud music muffled by the cars soundproofing ended abruptly as the engine died. Two heavily tattooed orks in armored jackets stepped out of the car, their eyes presumably scanned the empty street behind their black shades before taking positions on either side of a rear passenger door. A small gray cloud escaped into the atmosphere as the car door creaked open on rusty hinges. A looming, horned figure stepped out with a great sigh from the cars axles. The door thudded shut.
Toros attention snapped back as he looked dumbly at the catcher holding a slipshod baseball victoriously. Cheeky miscreant, thought Toro. The men on the sidewalk had noticed the game and watched with half-interest. In the mirror, Toro saw the next ball come in quick, a flash of dull white against the dusk. The boys in the outfield crouched in anticipation, serious looks frozen on their faces as they stared intently toward home plate. All except one, the new kid had been placed with the orphanage a week before. He sat alone in a dark corner of the field, tossing pebbles at an irritated toad, his mitt lay helpless in his lap. A pitched sound like an ax digging into a trunk rang out. The next moment was filled with excited and panicked shouts of kids as they tried to guess the balls trajectory, Toro rounded second base. A second later Toro stood at home plate, just as the ball landed in the new kids lap.
The boys eyes grew as he curiously plucked the ball out of his open mitt. He stared at the other children and was suddenly aware of their stares. The sweat immediately started to trickle down his back and coat his hands. He nearly passed out with shock when the children erupted in applause and laughter. The cheeky catcher was lifted up, Toro grimaced.
The catcher started the chant, “Toro got crushed!”
The united responded, “IN!!!”
“Toro got beat!”
“Toro got ground!”
“Toro got served!”
Thankfully the choreographed dance, complete with hand gestures, was something Toro didn’t have to see very often as it momentarily made him want to become less charitable.
The pitcher paused in his celebratory chest bumping ritual to yell out, “You know the rules dog-man! You gotta go get the stuff now Toro! And remember, no weird flavors like last time! Vanilla or chocolate!”
Toro waved the boys off in mock shame and retreated into the orphanage, the sounds of victory still ringing in his ears.
Toro exited through the orphanages front entrance, the setting sun caused his shadow to distort off into the distance. The wind shifted and he had to hold his coat closed. The pristine orphanage sign overhead buzzed, the only thing not to be used as a canvas. The three men next to their car glanced over at Toro, who nodded and walked across the street.
As the three men entered the secluded alley way, Toro stood from his leaning position against the wall to face the dealers. Toro was the first to break the silence, “What do you got?”
The orks relaxed visibly and looked at the troll who took a long draw from a cigar the size of a toaster. The troll took the cigar out his mouth with one enormous fist while he adjusted his neat suit with the other, “I have all the standard street fare, pyschadelics, boosters, drops. We even have some BTL’s”. His eyes casually passed over the man in front if him, if it even was a man, you could never tell with filthy new breeds, “I guarantee a level of purity and can get you anything more specific if you pay half up front, are you looking to up your game a little?” A deep rumbling in the trolls chest vibrated the walls of the alley, “or are you looking for something to help get other things done with those brats?”
Toro raised an eyebrow at the trolls questioning, “Sorry?”
“It doesn’t matter to me, I deal a few qiángjiānfàn downtown already so I could get you a good set-up. You look like a man who has something in mind though.”
“Do you do deals that involve children?”
“You mean sell to or use? They usually can’t buy enough to make a difference and repeat business can be complicated because they don’t know their limits yet. Still, its always good to get a taste in the blood early. If you send some worthwhile business my way I could give you a discount or, even better, I heard about an operation that was doing quite well in New Shanghai…you let us use, I don’t know, five kids for distribution and you could stay in nova until long after your body is rotting in the ground.”
A flick of movement behind Toro caught the orks attention.
“You work for that lord that holes up in DysFunk right?”
Bitterness seeped through the words as the trolls eyes narrowed at Toro, “No, that relic is about to be over, he’s barely even a player anymore.”
Another flick, off to the side this time. Whatever it was vanished too quickly for the orks to make out.
A rye smile curved Toros lips, “So you need new friends, whats your gang tatt going to be?.”
The trolls brow furrowed further, “Don’t get us confused with your white-collar neighbors here. We are an invading force and you are just a lucky native who GETS to trade with us. If you don’t uphold your side of an arrangement there will be no “understanding” or “grace period”. Large fingers made quotations that gouged the air violently. “My boys will hurt you, I will get what I’m owed and business will continue.”
Two flicks made the orks heads twitch side to side as the elusive perpetrator remained hidden. Without knowing why, they uneasily turned the safeties on their concealed pistols off.
“Did your old boss ever tell you exactly why there was so little dealing in this area, and why there were to be no crimes committed on this exact block?”
A large hand removed the cigar as the troll opened his mouth, before dim realization of not knowing an answer surfaced. The phenomenon brought along disarming feelings of curiosity and rage. The combination paralyzed the troll and allowed Toro to continue.
“I didn’t think he would, after all, it is easier to sniff out the unfaithful when they don’t know which trail holds the traps.” A baseball glove appeared over Toros head, shaking like a silent leather rattle. The orks drew their pistols.
…Dual stairs to roof…
The force of the bats lifted the orks off their feet as they were instantly rendered unconscious. The troll wheeled a shotgun from some place in the folds of his coat and pointed the barrels at Toros torso. Anger and confusion lined his voice as he shouted, “EVERYONE WHO WORKS FOR THAT BAG-SHITTING, LIMP-DICKED ELF WILL BE AS DEAD AS YOU SOON!” The troll barely heard Toro mutter about having a previous arrangement with a certain bag-shitting elf, before half a dozen shells were unleashed into the back wall of the alley.
…Ant mandibles bite crumb…
Toro dropped the ruined bats with resounding clangs and rummaged through the pockets of the sleeping thugs. He’d clean up the mess later, but he had to run to the store to pick up the children’s reward for winning in baseball, they’d wonder where he went if he wasted anymore time. Hopefully they’d be nicer to the new kid since he had been the one to “earn” them the win after all. Toro stashed looted credsticks in his pocket as he walked. It took him ten minutes to figure out how to switch the language selection on the trolls com-link and another fifteen to send a message before he crushed the link under his boot and walked through the doors of the glaringly bright convenience store.
Across town, a com-link buzzed and an elf tapped a bent finger on the arm of a wheelchair as he pondered the caller ID. A grunt shouldn’t be able to send him a message. He grimaced as he read what loosely translated from sperethiel as:
TIME FOR TO BE HAVING A HOUSE CLEANING-JJ