Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Project Rain 4

Chapter 4

I was lying on my bed thinking about where to go next and who to talk to. I did know a couple of guys that were heavily into the terraformers. Most of them though where more of the rotund newsletter typing guys. But I did dimly remember one of my contacts mention a woman who was obsessed with the machines themselves. An architect by day and an anarchist machine worshipper at night. Now all I had to do was remember her name.
My door coughed and spit out a cloud of greasy grime as someone knocked on it from the other side. That would be Louis with my 'medication'. I'd not been doing many drugs lately but that was mostly because the dealers of Old Town liked to take the arm that was holding the money with them and the ones in Meat Street cut their shit with whatever they could find under their sink.
Another knock. More insistent now. My poor door buckled slightly under the enthusiasm on the other side.
'Jesus, Louis. I'm coming. Not need to kick the door in.'
During the third knock the door decided that it had had enough of the constant mistreatment it had to endure in this establishment and quit. With a disgusted glint on its doorknob it left its frame and sailed through the air in an elegant arc. The foot entering my private space did not belong to Louis, neither did the leg that followed it. Instead it was part of a bursting-through-a-door-with-a-gun man. The shock flooded me full of those hormones that made time go slow and encouraged a fast biography to pass before ones eyes. 'That is not fair, I have a plan!' I thought as I rolled down the bed and the man-through-door-with-a-gun aimed for where I had been lying.
The first bullet smashed into the bed causing an explosion of fibers and ceramic splinters. I crashed into the floor. My arm flung out to grab my new revolver. I missed it by hairs breadth instead knocking over the chair it rested on. The shooting man side stepped elegantly into the room checking it for more people. That gave me enough time to sprawl myself all over the floor. My gun wavered for a moment in the air as the gravity dampers evaluated the situation. Gravity gave them a dirty look which led the gun to decided to go full mass and fall to the ground with a loud smacking noise. Cracks like lightning blossomed out from the point of impact and the gun tipped over...
...away from me. Fuck!
Gun man, happy with the fact that I was alone took aim again while an associate of him peered into the room. A loud 'Hey!' from the corridor distracted them both.
The killer in the room just smirked and turned back to me. From the corridor I heard the shot from a gun. An inhuman hissing noise and then the thud of something heavy and damp hitting the floor.
'I can pay you!' I appealed to the man in front of me.
He hardly registered what I said. 'No thanks.'
I grabbed for my bag of money that I had put under my bed. Grabbed hold of a bunch of Credit notes and waved them in front of me.
'I can pay you quite a lot actually.' I repeated now talking to the shockingly huge muzzle of the gun he was holding. Somehow his face did not really hold my interest any more.
The killer simply snorted. 'How about this pal. I kill you. Take your lot of money. And. The bounty on your head?'
The corners of my mouth that had been valiantly putting up a panicked smile gave up. They would not survive me by long anyway so why keep up appearances.
I felt an air current passing my face. The wall behind me exploded. The debris hit the back of my head slashing open my scalp. In front of me Louis had appeared in front of the gunman pushing his weapon away with his left hand. While the hitman's face was still trying to act surprised Louis' other hand had brought up an evil looking stiletto and pushed it into the mans neck. He punched right through the voice box. The only noise the man made was a strange hissing noise. Louis pulled out the knife allowing the blood from the two severed carotid arteries to spray out of the tiny hole on the side of my would be murderers neck and welling out of his mouth. Louis turned around and was suddenly at my side. I hardly saw him move.
'Fuck, man. Are you OK?' his voice was steady and his body while tense was perfectly steady.
'I think my head is bleeding.' I replied before passing out.

When I regained my senses I was lying again on my bed. The door to my room was closed and two dead goons where arranged in front of my bed looking like an inappropriate gift from a very large or very enthusiastic cat. Louis was sitting in front of me still immobile. His right cheek twitching slightly every so often.
'You conscious again, man?'
'What the fuck was that?'
'The smart money says: two killers. I just saved your idiot arse and you owe me.'
'I know.' I hesitated whatever words of gratitude came to my mind sounded a bit insignificant right now. 'I owe you my life. Thanks.' Yep. That sounded pretty stupid.
'You also owe me money Hamilton. Lots and lots of money.' he twitched hard.
'Come again?'
'You trawled those two idiots into the Inn, man. And as much as I loath your stupid face I could not let them kill you. So I acted.'
My eyes were all large and round and innocent, giving Louis a hint that I did not have the slightest idea what he was getting at. He sighed. Shuddered violently and pulled out a pen syringe. A sleek thin cylinder, darker than black, hard to focus with the eyes. Optically slippery exuding aura of effortless menace.
'Military grade combat drug, man.'
I nodded one of those cautious nods that indicted my willingness to understand but my failure at doing so.
'Shit man. Did they hit your head?'
'Actually, they kinda d...'
Louis waved me off with an impatient gesture of his hand so fast that it cut the air with an audible snap.
'I'm a veteran Hamilton. I am... I was a tezhong budui.' and not bitter at all, oh no.
'Chinese special forces?'
'Yes and I was one of the idiots who volunteered for augmentation. They took my cells did some kind of shit to them and then reimplanted them. The Empire made me a super soldier.' Louis paused for a second and shivered again. His legs and his left arm started to twitch erratically.
'Turns out that after the Venus campaign went to shit and the war stopped they decided that the health benefits they had promised us were too expensive.'
'You need the drugs to function normally.'
'Yes man. And military grade drugs are very illegal and expensive. Hard to get you know. Also these little stunts', his arm vanished from view as he gesticulated towards the two dead men decorating my room, 'they make me really hungry.'
'OK I owe you a stash of classified Chinese combat drugs and dinner. I guess I can do that. How much do these things cost.'
'They tend to start at 5000 Credits, man.'
I let that number hang in the air for a moment. It did not go away. I reached for my money bag. The manoeuvre instantly sent a military parade of pain through my head. I fell out of the bed. Well at least now I only had to extend my arm to get the money. Still lying face down on the burnt floor I counted out 20,000 Credits and held them up.
'Here you go Louis. Buy yourself some of those sticks you like so much and get yourself a decent meal. And do get me an extra bag of drugs for the change, yes? Now with added pain killers? Oh and while you are at it I'd love a bottle of good rhye.'
Louis took the money. Counted it.
'Fuck man. You have this kind of money and wash up in the Drain. How much trouble are you in?'
'No thanks man.' A bag filled with pills coming in all colours and shapes landed near my head.
'Here take these. I'll get you some other meds and your booze. Don't run away just yet.'
'Yeah I'll try to stay put.'
Louis left with my consciousness trailing lazily after him.

When I woke up this time no one was trying to kill me. The most exciting thing was the little lake of drool that had appeared under my half open mouth. It had happily mixed with the grime on the floor turning it into a slimy ink. Maybe I should write my will? I decided against it. There were drugs to be taken. I extended an arm poking around in my new medicine bag. Nothing useful for now but I could improvise. The hallucinogens where right out. As long as my head was in its rebellious phase following its career as a church bell I would not take any boosters. I kept sorting. There were a few Nietzsches among them. To dangerous. Feeling like an invincible ├╝bermensch would just get me killed. Later when I was in some secure hiding hole they would help me think things through. Ah finally. Uppers. I took two red ones and an orange one. I swallowed them dry. Like a man. Then I took a friendly looking green downer to smoothen the ride a bit.
Five minutes later the drugs were telling my body and mind that all was well and I got up again.
My head still hurt but now that was constructive pain. That moved me forward.
I checked my belongings. My gun still lay on the ground with not a worry in the world. The plug-in lay in its velvet crib. I closed the carrying case and armed it again. Talking about armed. I took my revolver and decided to get better acquainted to my new bodyguard. First of all it would never by further away from me than my arm could reach. Furthermore I would try to see how effective a weapon it was. I took it and aimed at the wall. As soon as I touched its trigger five laser dots appeared on it, four green ones forming a diamond shape and a blue one in the middle. Wow the gun came with its own light show. I waved the weapon around a bit. The outer dots were steady while the blue dot moved around within the square they described. I thought that I should check the manual one of these days. I squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. Obviously the gun was still secured. My thumb went exploring giving the big metal button at the back of the weapon a gentle squeeze. The gravity dampeners turned off and the weapon turned into several metric tons of metal.
Of course it fell on my foot.
I was already taking a deep breath in preparation of a suitably high pitched yet manly shriek of pain. But I just felt a gentle thud.
The dampers had turned on again. I sighed. Took the weapon and its handbook and skimmed it. OK.
Now I got it. One switch to arm it and one dial to set how many shots it fired at once. And another one for shot patterns or some shit. Those green laser thingies showed in which area the shots would land and they would would turn red when the weapon was armed. The laser show could be turned off for added discretion when murdering people. And revolver came with a built in flash-light. Neat.
I adjusted the thing for some wide spread shot, aimed it at the wall and just as Louis came back into my room, pulled the trigger. An angry hiss followed by an almost simultaneous explosion resulted in a new window.
Louis whose body was now visibly again sighed.
'What the fuck man?'
'Yeah sorry Louis. Put it on my tab.'
''s OK man. Just don't do that ever again, or I'll kick your ass.' This morning I would have laughed at the idea of Louis trying to kick me. Now the laugh was to afraid of him to come out.
'I brought you your whiskey and some additional meds. I got you some decent Mind-Flash, even if there is hardly anything to flash in that head of yours. Got you some Cobra for your reflexes and Juggernaut for them mighty thews of yours. The Cobra and the Juggernaut are street quality only and while I trust the dealer who sold it to me it will still be cut with some kind of shit or other. So try not to be a dumb-ass when taking them.' he watched me intently his body in the opening motions of his usual dance. 'And I know it is a great temptation for you man, but don't take them all three together just to see what it is like to be a normal human being. Kay?'
'Sure Louis.'
'No man. I mean it. No mixing this shit. Right?'
'For Fucks sake Louis. Yes. I won't take them all at once. Chill.'

Monday, 22 November 2010

Project Rain 3

Chapter 3

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?'
'Thanks Louis.'

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?