Chapter 4 continued
Louis turned around busying himself with searching the bodies of the two would be murderers.
'No ID man. Just some money and some weapons.'
After he was finished he lugged them away.
'What are you going to do with them?'
'They hardly carry any dough. But the bodies are good and still fresh. I'm gonna cut my losses man.' He looked at the hole in the wall. I was slowly growing fond of it was quite artful. He then moved his gaze to look at me for a moment and with distaste accumulating in his face back towards the corpses.
'I think you are taking the word cannibalize a bit literally Louis.'
'Fuck you Hamilton.'
After Louis had gone I counted my money. I almost shoot another hole in the wall when the numbers came together. In a couple of hours I had spent more money than I had in the past twelve months. If I kept burning through my resources like this I could throw myself into a storm drain and look forward to a new career as recycled protein meat in one of Convenient Lee's shelves. For a short moment the picture of the old man sorting his food packets into the shelves flashed before my mind's eye. After shivvering a bit I decided to do something constructive, I ordered my things distributing my money in pockets, linings, socks and shoes. Followed by sorting my drugs stufifng them into my pockets. My high-tech gun case went into the bag that once held my riches. I took a deep swig from my whiskey bottle. Perfect.
With bag and plug-in in one and my new best liquid friend in the other hand I left Keller's Inn. I now looked like a rundown loser again. Apart from the black monolith with a carrying handle that I dragged with me.
Perfect time to enhance my thinking process. I took a couple of Mind-Flashes tiny flat black pills with day-glo yellow cartoon lightnings on each side and washed them down with a swig of rhye.
I had to find that woman. She would lead me into a terraformer. In being the important part. Walking up to them was easy. Entering one was a different story. But so far she might as well have been the Virgin Mary having encountered her only in rumors. I thought about praying but decided that that would only end in a 'Serves you right.'
I had to know someone who knew more about that woman. Where did I hear from her first? Who could know and would also talk to me?
Bryce Franklin. A semi-regular at the Nightingale who came there too blow off steam when his body's demands started to distract him from his purer more cerebral pursuits. He knew stuff. No idea what he knew as most of the stuff he talked about when he was drunk bored me to tears. It was always about terraformers, their programing what made them tick. He talked so much about it with such an enthusiasm that I concluded that he must know something. Next stop Old Town. The only thing I had left to do now was to get rid of the giant who was shadowing me.
I turned around and looked him in the solar plexus. He was a big guy. I looked up. Good. That that made it easier to turn my nose up at him.
'Look friend. It is called shadowing because you stealthily follow your target like a shadow. Not because you walk so close behind them that you actually cast a shadow on them.'
The giant blinked a couple of times and then rumbled 'How about I show you my definition of pulping?'
'Look. How about this instead.' I pulled out my revolver and took a step back not quite sure how far those trees he used for arms would reach. 'I will give you my definition of a really good deal.'
The monstrous man took a step back. Good. He believed that I would kill him in cold blood. That made us one. I blindly fished out a Credit note from my inner pocket. A 100 Credit note, damn. The giant man looked at it with wide eyes licking his lips with sudden hunger.
'My deal is, I give you this shiny 100 Credit note then I proceed not shooting you and we both walk our merry ways. How does that sound?'
The giant in front of me just nodded and made a step towards me.
'No. Stop right there. Here. I put the bill down. Right here. Now I step back. See. And now you can get it. Grand! No go and live happily ever after.'
I watched him walk away then turned around and mapped the best course into Old Town. A rout that would get me there as quickly as possible but without exposing me to too many curious eyes.
This day had made itself at home in my life and showed no intention of leaving.
I left the drain returning to the dirty fringes of Old Town, entering the red light district through the aptly named Cheap Ass Alley. I averted my eyes so much I might as well have taken them out of their sockets and put them in my pocket to protect them from the sights. But that would have meant risking running blindly into the alleys more spectacular specimens on offer. The thought made me shudder. I walked faster with my next goal in sight. Only a few hundred meters more until I reached the Square of Desires. A large square covered by a 24/7 market that was constantly in motion. Where ever one stall closed and vanished another one took his place. The narrow paths between the stalls were patrolled by street vendors with an unrivalled capitalist hunger attacking any individual that showed the faintest sign of interest in their merchandise. I had passed through here enough times to know how to get rid of most of them with a gesture or a hard stare.
I regretted now that I had distributed my money and drugs so evenly as every collision with anyone, any slight touch, sent my hands frantically all over my body to make sure that I had not encountered one of the squares many pickpockets. AS I walked over the Square of Desires I my hands flying around killing a swarm of invisible ants a path started to open in front of me as most people did not want to get near me. Sometimes looking like an insane hobo has its perks. The faster I got out of here the better. I made a short break to take another swig of whiskey to keep me warm and then hurried on into Leftover street. An almost cheerful street compared to the rest of the quarter which was lined by little food stalls and small restaurants offering meals for reasonable prices and catering to a wide range of culinary tastes. As long as these tastes where happy with synthetic and recycled protein or if more quality conscious real organic rats. There were also a large number of pawn shops here all easily identifiable by their large shining neon signs and their heavily fortified doors and windows. The more upper class establishments going so as to cover the entire building in armour plates.
I entered one of the more high class pawn shops and came out a new man. I was prudent for a change I got rid of everything that did not directly help me reach my goal, the gun case being among them and used my newly earned cash to get me a change of clothes. Everyone who was looking for me was looking for me dressed in my usual cheap black suit and crumpled trench-coat that was more trench than coat. I bought myself a nice used suit. Dark blue with a metallic sheen and golden stripes down the side of the legs and on the cuffs draped over my shoulders I wore a long midnight blue coat with similar golden highlights. I looked like an overexcited ship steward with a terminal taste disorder. Perfect. I hefted the plug-in case over my shoulder and continued my trek towards the centre of Old Town.
Nothing could stop me now.
Something was not right.
I slowed my pace and started to think it over. The Mind-Flash was still working. I double checked by solving some maths in my head while going over some Beethoven. Yep. Easy Peasy. No problems. Then it didn't hit me at all. I was utterly confident and no one was going to stop me. I was sure of it. I was also sure that my Mind-Flash had been laced with another drug. Some Suit or Übermensch. It made me feel invincible. That would get me into trouble. But then I'd just go with the flow and things would turn out fine so far my plan was unfolding perfectly. I popped another downer into my mouth just to mellow things out a bit and washed it down with some whiskey.
Soon I hat left the cheap neon and filthy puddles of Leftover street and crossedover the Fringe where the houses turned more and more respectable. You could see a cop gradient walking towards the old centre changing slowly from no police to dour looking tufts of policemen growing in every nook and cranny.
I stepped into a clean puddle disturbing the reflections of expensive plasma lights. In this part of the quarter the names of the streets were less colourful but still descriptive. I was now on Southern Arcades which was one of the four main streets of Old Town. It was named after the ubiquitous column and arches style of the original setelment's nucleus which still carried its colonial early 21st century heritage with unbroken pride. I walked passed chipped façades that clung heroically to their upper class roots much like an impoverished noble clung to his title. I did not need to walk to far towards the centre of Old Town to find Bryce's house. He did earn a decent amount of money allowing him a decent standard of living. But he certanly was not wealthy. No normal middle-class guy would be caught dead in the Nightingale. Except maybe for a serious slumming fetish. Or in the case of Bryce because an expensive hooby. As far as I knew his real fetish were machines.
His apartment was located in the second floor of a three story fake-brick building that was so out of place between the monolithic stone pillars holding the high rise above it aloft that it looked a bit sheepish.
I had not yet even reached the door to Bryce's flat when his voice jumped out of a hidden speaker in order to come and meet me.
'Kane? What the fuck are you doing here?' it sounded like an accusation.
'Hello Bryce. I need some information.'
'Good for you. What makes you think that I am going to give it to you?'
'Well I am looking for someone who is seriously into terraformers and as you are considered to be something of an expert when it comes to them, I thought you would be the right person to ask.' my compliments were cheap but they did their work, just like cheap booze. I took another sip from my bottle to bridge the silence in which Bryce's brain got taken over by his ego.
'Good point actually. But before I give you any information wanderer you must do me a favour.'
'You shall go forth and get me eight treasures?' Up to this point I had always regarded Bryce Franklin as a slightly awkward geek who was a bit to obsessed with his hobby to have much time for such silly things like socializing. Obviously he was also rather insane.
'If you say so. And what would these eight treasures be?' crazy or not if he could tell me the name of the woman I was looking for I'd be happy.
'You have to walk out turn to the right walk three blocks and there to the left enter the golden palace. Once you are there all things will be clear. Now go. Time waits for no one.'
A turn to the right, three blocks and then a turn to the left later all became clear. The Golden Palace was a Chinese restaurant. Very funny. At least he was not as insane as I had thought.
10 dollars and 20 Minutes later I was standing in Bryce's living room. I square room with an attached kitchen. The kitchen had been ignored so long that it had committed suicide in the distant past leaving only a fridge to stand in grim vigil over it. The dead kitchen as well as the whole of the square living room was covered in paper. Articles, magazines, stacks of fan-paper full of tiny print. It was everywhere. The room was not a fire hazard it was a fire certainty.
It was dominated by a large faux-wooden desk on which stood three large mechanical telefax machines that where almost constantly punching tiny letters onto endless streams of paper which were laboriously regurgiated by them. They surrounded a large glowing terminal that connected Bryce directly to Poseidon the local terraformer giving him access to its endless calculating engines. Bryce sat behind all this eating his eight treasures reading the output of his telefax machines. Every so often he cursed loudly informing the world in general about the shocking stupidity of the authors of what ever it was that he was reading. I watched his little show while I was eating my own food. My fried noodles slowly disappeared and so did my patience. I dropped the carton to the floor. I cleared my throat.
'Bryce. I can see that you are busy. I only need an information, a name. After you give it to me I will be gone and you can go on with what ever it is you are doing.'
'Good why are people always so impatient? Just wait a minute OK? See this? he held up one paper stream in one of his hand.
'OK there is this guy who is talking utter bollocks about the calibration of nano-scale clockworks used in cognitive mechanisms.'
'So?' I could hardly contain how much this topic fascinated me.
'Well he is wrong. And I will not have any of this nonsense on the tele-feeds.' Bryce furiously hammered away on his terminal for a while. Cursing under his breath and shaking his head in indignation. His glanced over another fax feed and started cursing again.
I had had enough of this.
I stepped forward and grabbing hold Bryce's left shoulder pushed him away from his papers. I held a fresh crispy 50 Credits note between the fingers of my other hand.
'Look! 50 Credits! They can be yours now! If you tell me what I need to know.' or I rip your head off and sell your body to organ farmers in the Drain. The money did hold his attention. He licked his lips, glancing only for the shortest moment at my face concentrating on the money.
'So you want a name. 'kay. Whose?'
'There is a female expert on terraformers. One who tends to actually go to them to examine them close up and personal.'
'Do I look like a give a fuck?'
'You could be a cop...'
'If I was a cop you would now be sitting in a cell and I would beat the answers I wanted out of you only remembering after an hour that I had not asked a question yet. Instead I bring you food and give you money.'
'So? I thought you were some kind of expert? And this woman seems to be rather well known among the terraformer fans.'
'I am an expert!'
I rolled my eyes.
'Perfect. Name. Now!'
'There are quite a few people who are crazy enough to risk a look at the terraformers and the only woman in this part of Europa that I know off who has a reputation for pulling shit like that is Katja Petrova. She works as an architect not 50 kilometres from here in the Russian sector. You can take the sub-stream towards Hermes. Get out at Kiev station. It is not far from there.' he ripped a small piece of paper out of document that was not entirely covered in print and scribbled an address on it.
'Here. It won't be to hard to find her she works and lives in the same building. Be careful though, breaking and entering into a terraformer is a capital offence.'
'No shit?' I shook my head and left Bryce in his paper nest.
Things were improving. This Pertrova woman was close enough to get to her in a couple of hours. All I had to do was to take a sub-stream ferry. The next station wasn't even far a way. I just had to walk back to the Southern Arcades and two blocks towards the centre. I was slowly sifting through all the information I had gathered in the past month or so trying to find some pattern. Maybe now under the influence of Mind-Flash I might remeber some detail that in the right hands could change the fortunes of a crime syndicate or destroy a highly placed government official. Nope. Still nothing. Ah well. I would get there eventually. I had almost reached the sub-stream station when I noticed that a large carriage had slowed down on the street and was now matching my walking speed. Looking up I saw that it was an enormous two story wagon that looked like a red and gold mobile pagoda. A door opened on its side revealing two men. One middle aged man in a red and golden suit in a style that was all the rage in the Chinese up-town sectors. I wondered if his wardrobe and garage were colour matched. Behind him stood a large man in a less ostentatious suit that was several shades of green. His intense look was already slapping me all over the place and screamed bodyguard.
'Mr. Kane. What a fortuitous event. I have been looking for you.' said red and gold man.
'Grand. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance and I'd love to stay for a chat but I have a ferry to catch.' the entrance to the underground was less the 20 meters away. If I could get there I could leg it and disappear in the labyrinth of tunnels of the large sub-stream station.
'Don't you worry we were heading into the same direction as you. It would be a pleasure to give you a lift in our unworthy wagon.' 10 meters.
'No, really, I am fine.' 8 metres.
'Oh but I insist.' as he said that he pulled a mean looking gun out of his large sleeves and pointed it towards me. The bodyguard tensed slightly getting ready to invite me in universal body language. 5 meters. The bullet was probably one of those that followed you around. And that bodyguard was probably in bodyguard good shape, while I was in burnt-out loser good shape.
I stopped in front of the steps drawing a deep breath. I exhaled slowly as I made my decision.
'How could I say no to such a gracious offer.'
I entered the wagon through the open door.
I would never pass through this door again.