Being cautious had not worked for me so far. So I decided to be more straight forward. Instead of wasting my time by walking overly complex routes on my way to Keller's Inn a cheap hotel where you paid by the hour and no one asked any questions I just chose the fastest way to get there. Right from Razors Edge into the Drain. The name said it all. A sinkhole accumulating water and all the garbage and scum it washed in. It was a place where the people that had no where left to go went. But also where people who did not want to be found laid low. And it was a place where all kinds of unsavory and illicit activities took place under the cover of dirt and meticulously averted gazes.
The street changed from the ever present concrete into swimming planks tied to floating platforms mimicking streets and crossroads. Every step I took seemed to startle the synthetic floor which heaved and undulated in protest.
I took me maybe twenty minutes to reach Keller's Inn which was located inside one of Europas trademark skyscrapers which reached kilometers unto its black heaven. Above the one kilometer mark started a different world. One that was characterized by full environmental control, Earth-like lighting, organic plants and other things that down here were no more than legends. The upper class took their position very literally. Down here the building was mostly a bare concrete and steel hulk into which the enterprising people of the Drain had built a 'hotel'. It looked like a bored deity had taken a shanty town made out of planks and left-overs and stuffed it into the half finnished shell of a modern building. Then seeing that it was no good our hypothetical creator had kicked it a couple of times and left in a huff.
I stepped inside to find Louis on duty. A charming young man who had taken drug addiction to a level of artistry I could not fail but admire.
'Hey Louis, you repugnant freak. How is it going?' Louis a skeleton wearing fashionably baggy skin freaked out hearing my voice. His arms and legs and arms and legs, he moved the so fast and jerkily that I always had a hard time knowing how many limbs he really had, exploded into sudden motion.
'Oh!' the interpretative dance zeroed in on me. 'Hamilton you nauseating puke stain! Long time no see.' his mouth caterpillared into a smile grin laugh.
'I need a room. And some meds.'
'Sure thing Hamilton. 4-15 is free and totally clean man.'
'Really? What happened'
'Fire grenade. That'll be a credit ever 4 hours. If you stay 24 you pay 20 and get discount for the meds.' for a moment he stood there vibrating and shivering, his form of standing still. 'So what will it be?'
'Here take ten.'
Louis went through another wave of modern free dance.
'Two whole days? Really?'
'If you insist Louis I can take my money and go somewhere else?'
''s OK. Just strange. You hitting hard times again?'
'Not more than usual Louis. Keys.'
He flayed his appendages around and somehow my ten credit note vanished from the counter and the key to my room came flying towards my face. I tried to catch the keys which holding a carrying case in each hand ended with the keys hitting my face and then hitting myself again for good measure with the gravity reduced cases. Louis laughed. His laugh was deep and warm.
'Hamilton you spastic!'
'You're one to talk Louis.' I picked up the keys and discretely shoved my bruised dignity away with my foot.
'Yeah. I know what I'm talking about. You could teach me some new moves man.' he burst again into laughter. Ignoring him I went to the stairs towards my room for the night. Before I went up I paused and turned to the still giggling Louis.
'If someone asks for anyone that even looks remotely like me, you've never seen me.'
'What do I look like a help-desk?'
The room was in an interesting state to say the least. The walls, the floor the ceiling, the ridiculous bits of furniture that dreamed of becoming a bed, a locker and a chair when they grew up, they all were blackened by fire. Someone had splashed several surfaces with cleaning alcohol and scrubbed symbolically at it with a mop or maybe had just rubbed a poodle over it and then for reasons best known to themselves, left. It was clean though in a free of parasites and bacteria way. I sat down on the bed which thanks to its robust synthetic nature was sooty but otherwise unimpressed by last nights entertainment. I took the my new rail revolver out of its case and fiddled around with its controls. I added to its mass so that it felt weighty but not heavy in my hands. Then I adjusted the settings so that it would release all its mass when swung like a club. I totally did not fall over repeatedly while doing that. Finally I loaded it with its metal clip and wished I had a holster. Instead I attached it to the inner pocket of my coat and hoped that it would be at least reasonably discreet. I stuffed the extra metal clips into different pockets and closed the case. Which as nice as it was did not really serve any real purpose. The onyl thing it would do was attract undue attention simply by looking expensive. I would sell it on the black market later.
And now to this evenings main attraction. My personal treasure. I opened a cleverly hidden compartment on the side of the case revealing a small metal dial plate. I dialed in a twelve digit code which resulted in a small cylinder gliding out of itd hidingplace. I put my finger on its end feeling a sharp prick as it drew blood. I waited sucking on my finger listening to the quiet clicking and whirring noises made by an internal mechanism which right now was trying to find out if I was really its rightfull owner or whether it should explode and kill everyone in a 20 meter radius. The contraption made and almost disappointed sighing noise and the case opened.
Inside embedded in a sea of velvet cushions lay a large, heavy metal cylinder made almost entirely out of clockwork mechanisms. This was my greatest treasure. A 'gift' I got from a rather intellectually challenged smuggler who decided to enter the ransom game. Things got complicated. Everybody died. And I got the spoils of war.
Priceless yet almost impossible to sell this was a long term project which I had wanted to convert into cash. But now I had an use for it. It was a plug-in. The casing identified it as an 'OlympOS S.VII Genesis Aude R.V'. A functional upgrade for one of the mechanical intelligences that resided inside the terraforming towers skewerin Europa. Usually these machine minds where just automatons driven by machine instincts which they used to keep the moons and planetoids they had been stabbed into hospitable. With the right modifications though they could be taught to speak. And my plug-in did just that. If I got inside the tower of one of the lesser silent terraformers I would be able to talk to it and all of the sudden I would have a mechanical brain filling a several hundred kilometer long tower on my side which using all the information I had could help me find out who the fuck was trying to kill me. Easy.
Now I only had to find a suitable tower. Find someone who could get me inside of one. Figure out how to actually use the plug-in. Convince the machine mind to help me out. Feed it the data. Hopefully find out what was happening and then er... stop it from happening.
How hard could that possibly be?