Mean Streets
by Terrance Dicks
Cover Blurb
Mean Streets

'It's got to be stopped; it's an abomination, a crime against humanity.'

The Project: a criminal scheme so grand in scale that it casts a shadow across a hundred worlds. So secret that none but an elusive inner circle know its nature or its purpose. It could involve drugs, computer crime or a brilliant new con. Everyone has a theory; no one really knows.

On a trip to the sprawling den of iniquity that is Megacity, an ex-Adjudicator called Roz Forrester heard of this elaborate scheme. Her interest piqued, she asked her squire to return one day with her. After all, a crime against humanity is everyone's business.

Chris Cwej is not a man to forget such a promise. His old partner may be dead, but the Project case will be one for her memory -- a way to say goodbye. All he needs is a new confederate: someone ready to risk all for old time's sake. Fortunately, it's the end of term and Professor Bernice Summerfield is looking for excitement. So, a new crime-fighting duo is forged in the bars of Dellah -- one prepared to take on a faceless foe and expose the ultimate crime.

  • Another book in the new series of The New Adventures featuring Bernice Summerfield.
  • Released: December 1997

  • ISBN: 0 426 20519 7


Some time ago Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester visited the mining planet Megarra on the trail of a serial killer. While searching for leads in the corrupt metropolis of Megacity, Roz stumbled across rumours of something called "the Project" -- something so terrible that her few informers were killed within hours of just mentioning it to her. Forced to depart on the trail of the Ripper, she vowed to return one day, but circumstances intervened, and she died without ever following up on her promise. Now, years later, Chris has decided to take up the investigation in her memory.

Before heading for Megacity he visits his friend Benny to ask for help, but she's reluctant to get involved in such a dangerous operation. But their conversation has been monitored by Jarl Kendrick, the security chief of St Oscar's Advanced Research Department; some time ago a madman burst out of the ARD and assaulted two students, and shortly afterwards Kendrick had the entire campus installed with listening devices as a precaution. Concerned by what he's overheard, he decides to forestall problems by disposing of Benny and Chris. Chris, however, fights off the Dethak assassin sent after him, and a bomb intended for Benny kills one of her students instead. The Director of the ARD, Santos Silvera, is forced to step in, and to prevent Benny from investigating further he has her hauled up before the Faculty Ethics Committee on trumped-up charges. Furious and frightened, she agrees to leave St Oscar's for a vacation -- but in fact intends to accompany Chris to Megacity to help him investigate, convinced that there is a connection.

Although Megacity is a haven for organised crime, random acts of violence are generally frowned upon as bad for tourism. Nevertheless, the levels of violence in the city have been rising for some time, for no apparent reason. An ordinary robbery at a bank ends in a violent shoot-out which leaves ten innocent bystanders dead, and the robber then kills the man who sent him out on the mission and heads for the spaceport, trying to book passage off the planet. Chris and Benny arrive just as the man goes berzerk and tries to kill the departure clerk; Chris intervenes, and the killer is gunned down by the police but keeps moving for several seconds after being shot. Benny and Chris give their names to the police and are promptly arrested on charges of embezzlement and murder, based on "evidence" forwarded from Dellah. Chief Harkon, however, comes to believe that they are innocent, and agrees to let them investigate the "Project" -- which may have some connection to the recent wave of violence. With his help, they convince the criminal classes of Megacity that they represent the Combine, a notorious criminal syndicate, hoping that they will learn more as insiders.

Chris' old acquaintance, the augmented Ogron Garshak, is still in Megacity, working as a private detective. He is hired by the crime lord Nastur, who has been paying his rival Lucifer in order to drive drug shipments through an area of the city controlled by Lucifer; one of his drivers recently went berzerk, refused to pay the toll, killed Lucifer's and his own men and went missing with Nastur's latest shipment. Garshak successfully negotiates a new truce between Nastur and Lucifer and eventually tracks down the missing truck and its dazed driver, Razek. When Garshak returns them to Nastur, Razek once again goes berzerk and tries to kill Nastur. Garshak saves his life and Razek is killed, but Nastur tries to double-cross Garshak anyway; Garshak, however, had been expecting something of the kind, and gets away with his payment.

At a local criminal hangout, Sara's Cellar, Benny and Chris nearly get into a fatal confrontation with Lucifer when they sit at his reserved table and neither party is willing to lose face by backing down. Lucifer suggests pretending that he invited them to his table for a drink, thus ensuring that nobody is seen to lose face, and is impressed with the way Benny kept her cool throughout the confrontation. Benny and Chris find no further leads, but while leaving they see a pack of Wolverines attacking Lucifer and save his life. Lucifer, grateful for their help, agrees to help them find out what the mysterious Project is, as does Sara. He also hires Garshak to find out who is trying to kill him, and Garshak, who has also been attacked by Wolverines recently, suspects that Nastur may be responsible.

Garshak, Chris and Benny share stories and conclude that Nastur is trying to hide something about the drug shipment which Razek tried to make off with. The recent wave of violence seems to suggest that Nastur has found a new source of the drug skoob, which has been known to drive its users into fits of paranoid, berzerker rage. Benny and Chris visit Nastur, trying to learn more by claiming that the Combine is interested in his operation, but he sees through them and tries to have them killed. While they are distracting him, however, Garshak steals the truck containing the questionable shipment and flees with it, rescuing Benny and Chris on the way out. Confirming that the shipment contains skoob, they alert Chief Harkon and set a trap for Nastur. Garshak contacts Nastur and offers to sell the truck back to him, and while doing so tricks Nastur into admitting that the contents of the truck belong to him, a confession which Harkon captures on tape. Nastur is arrested, but Benny and Chris suspect that there is still more to discover. They are soon proven correct; this shipment was the first of its kind, and has no connection to the violent crime wave.

While pondering his next move, Chris is contacted by Sara, who has learned that one of her employees has a connection to the Project. Sam, a former miner, once moonlighted as an enforcer for freelance security corporation Custodiex, and he remembers being assigned to rough up anybody who talked about the Project. Sam is killed shortly after talking to Chris, but Chris soon deduces that the killer was someone whom Sam knew and narrows down the suspects to the bartender at Sara's Cellar. The bartender confesses but claims he was hired for the murder by Custodiex, and Chris goes to Custodiex and blackmails the managing director into giving him the name of his client -- the mining company DevCorps. Garshak's contacts amongst the Wolverines also give him the name of DevCorps, and when Benny researches the crimes she finds that many of the killers have been miners who were recently fired in a round of layoffs at DevCorps.

Benny, Chris and Harkon take their discoveries to Mayor Ramarr, who is at first reluctant to tarnish the city's relationship with DevCorps. He agrees eventually to let Benny and Chris go in undercover as representatives of the Interplanetary Business Inspectorate; however, he is in fact on DevCorps' board of directors himself, and he alerts the CEO, Joseph Devlin, to expect them. After determining that they know nothing about the Project, Devlin orders his sadistic security chief, Simeon Kragg, to kill them; however, Garshak -- ignored by the security guards, who think he's just another dumb Ogron chauffeur -- breaks into the computer room and forces a terrified technician to upload all of the information on the Project into Harkon's remote terminal. He then rescues Benny and Chris, and they return to the city, access Harkon's terminal and learn the truth.

Benny and Chris break into the next meeting of DevCorps' board, and reveal to the shocked directors that Devlin and his father before him attempted to improve the company's standing by using genetic engineering to make their miners stronger and better. Unfortunately, the Project has failed, and an atavistic mutation has resulted in a breed of psychotic killers capable of passing on their madness to their offspring. St Oscar's ARD was hired to find a solution, but has so far been unsuccessful. When Kragg, himself the child of a Project volunteer, realizes that the secret is out, he snaps and kills Devlin before anyone can stop him. The board of directors has no choice but to begin hunting down the affected miners and treating them, although the financial outlay will bankrupt the company.

With justice served in Megacity, Benny returns to St Oscar's to bring down the Advanced Research Department for her dead student's sake. She intends to reveal all to the Faculty Ethics Committee, and refuses to bow down even when Silvera has the charges against her dropped and the listening devices removed from the University. She finally agrees to abandon her pursuit of the Department, however, when Kendrick is killed in a mysterious "accident".

Source: Cameron Dixon

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