In retrospect, I should have known better than to let Piccolo decide where we went during shore leave. Wait- scratch that! I should have known better than to go out on shore leave with Piccolo full stop. But we all do stupid things from time to time, right? And I figured, what's the worst that could happen?
So, the evening starts fine, no problems. We grab a seafood dinner at one of those little dive shacks on the beach, advertising fresh catch of the day right off the boat. Delicious. Afterwards, we're walking along, trying to decide what to do with the hours we have left, when Tony says he has these passes to a club that he got from a friend of a friend of a guy who owes him a favor. I don't know what the favor was, but now I'm guessing it wasn't as amazingly helpful as Tony claims. Ortiz, O'Neill, and Henderson beg off, the cowards, mumbling about souvenirs and sunset photography and laundry and all. Again, I KNOW I know better, but at this point I'm giving it even odds that we even get through the bouncer's rope on these so-called passes, so I figure I'll see how it goes and maybe get some good mocking material when we get turned down flat.
The club is a joint off the main strip that's clearly seen better days, but it doesn't feel like we’ll get knifed in the parking lot, so score one for Tony. On the other hand, the place is called "Canoodle," lit up in big letters across the front, which does not scream sophistication to me. We get up to the front of the line, and while Tony's passes actually seem to be legit, holographic codes and everything, the bouncer is not buying that I'm twenty-five with an exceptionally youthful appearance. (I had to try.) I'm on the verge of packing it in and heading off to find a vintage video game store I read about on the ‘net when I hear a familiar voice telling the bouncer he'll bring these "special guests" in through the side entrance.
Of all the people I expected to see on this shore leave, Ben Krieg was pretty near the bottom of the list. Last I knew, he was still managing a Big Papa's Chicken franchise in Pearl Harbor. But according to him, he parlayed that job into a gig sourcing ingredients for a high-end sushi bar, then through like six other quasi-legal but potentially very lucrative opportunities to the here and now. He says his official title is personnel management, but really he's in charge of solving problems and keeping the peace for the wait-, bar-, and betting table staff of a network of clubs and casinos in this area. And while Ben claims he had no idea the seaQuest was even in town, he has a problem that he thinks I might be just the person to solve.
I should have turned and run then, not stopping till I was back in my own bunk, but you know how persuasive Ben can be. Fifteen minutes later and we're sitting in a back room in Canoodle (ugh, not getting any better the more times I repeat that,) listening to a half-dozen employees talking about this sleazy guy who's managed to get enough dirt on them or their families to start a blackmail empire. At first it was small sums, so they all paid him off to keep their secrets and possibly their jobs. But now he's ramped it up to some serious cash, and folks are starting to get desperate. I don't know what they think I can do about this, until a cocktail waitress says he got loud once after too many drinks and started bragging about the "little black book" file he keeps on his triple-encrypted personal network. And that's where Krieg hopes I come in.
Only trouble is that with a sealed private network, I can't hack the file without access to the server, which we're guessing is somewhere in his house. I'm thinking it's a dead end, until Tony pipes up from the back. See, Ben told us Mr. Sleaze has a poker habit, and he LOVES to brag about his collection of classic twentieth-century cars. And I know what we're talking about is fifteen different kinds of felony, but these are really good people he's hustling, and... I admit, the challenge excites me. So Ben arranges to get Mr. Sleaze and Tony onto a table together when the guy walks in a few minutes later, and keeps the strong drinks coming. Tony, for all his bluster, knows exactly what he's doing to string this guy along, losing a few strategic hands and playing up the Piccolo Charm. Once the hook is set, the cards start running the other way, and soon Mr. Sleaze has nothing to ante up with but the promise of a cherry red Mustang convertible.
Now, Tony could have won the car, I have no doubt, but that might have pushed the man over edge, and we needed access to the house, not a sweet ride. So Tony loses that hand creditably, and then gets all mournful about how beautiful that car must be. A few conversational shoves and we're both invited back to house to view Mr. Sleaze's prize collection. Tony's told the guy I'm his cousin, in from the sticks to take in the big city. He's eating it up with a spoon. We even get Ben invited along, since he's been keeping the high-roller plied with drinks all night. Bingo, we're in the door of the gated community AND in the house. I locate the server and hack the network while Ben and Tony keep the guy talking, and within a half-hour I've set up a virus that will eat away all of his encrypted files as well as leaking some very nasty accounting dodges I discover while running my sweeps. That should take care of the blackmail and Mr. Sleaze in one fell swoop. All we need to do is get out and get back on board the seaQuest before any of this breaks.
Easier said than done. The guy wouldn't let us beg off; he kept pressing us to take one of "his babies" for a spin. Then he flipped into angry mode, like a switch, yelling that we thought we were too good for him and that he'd show us a thing or two. At this point, we've all been sober for several hours, and we can't figure out how to slip away, so we decide it will be easier just to go along. It would have been fine if he hadn't driven his Corvette into the neighbor's lawn sculpture.
As requested, Captain, that is the absolutely true and honest recording of how I, Lucas Wolenczak, and Seaman Tony Piccolo got arrested for drag racing during our authorized shore leave. I promise it will never happen again. Thank you for bailing out Krieg as well.
Off the record, I was totally going to win. Don't believe a word Tony says.