Saturday, 11 December 2010

Project Rain 8

Chapter 7 continued

I woke up to the worst hangover of my life. That was probably a lie as I was prone to some highly experimental freestyle partying when I was still young and successful, but right now I was pretty impressed by the constant super nova inside my head. I tried to sit up. A task which almost turned me into a puke fountain. But the cramps that ripped my insides apart informed me that I had already  done my share of reverse feasting while I was still mostly unconscious. That left me only with dribbling bit of bile out of the corner of my mouth and hyperventilating to pass my time. I passed out again and found myself lying on the floor my face pressing into the rough carpet the next time I came to again. My left arm still resting on the sofa from which I must have fallen. Somewhere far away in the corner of the room lay a blanket in a disgusted pile. It had probably tried to get as far from me as possible. The air in the room was stale and had the acid smell of old sweat. Lovely.
    The door opened sending in a wave of fresh air that mixed with that in the room somehow managing to smell even more offensive. Framed by the open door with dramatic back illumination stood a pair of dour looking boots. Staying close to the heels was the mean looking rifle barrel that had greeted me when I had arrived here. The boots move a couple of steps forward with the barrel jumping up and with to much enthusiasm for my flattened self took the lead. It had almost arrived in my face opening its large dark maw as if to sniff at me. I could smell a faint odour of CL20 the solid fuel that propelled its bullets. The boots restrained the over eager rifle.
'You are alive.' said the boots. Strange they had a woman’s voice. Still dangerous but more conspicuously hidden knife edges and less the ceramic capped shin breakers that I saw.
'Old habits die hard.'
'What do you want from me?'
'A coffee would be grand.'
'Do I look like a waitress to you?'
'No. You look like a pair of angry boots to me. But you asked and I thought it might be worth the risk. I had a rather rough night and went through some rather surprising lengths to find you.' I drooled a bit. 'I have different hangovers fighting a war of succession over my almost dead body. A coffee would be very nice.' Silence. 'I'd be your best friend forever?' I croaked.
    I heard a contemptuous snort. Then the boots turned around and walked right out of the room. The evil rifle following it but not with out glancing in my direction every so often. The door slammed shut instantly sending whole factory loads of rusty nails and screws into my head. A whimper crawled out of my throat into safety. I started to empathise with Europa herself who had been viciously skewered by thousands of terraformers to make her more habitable to man kind. I was still wondering if that meant that I was now a hospitable place for lice to live on when the door opened again and the boots came back in. This time without the rifle. Instead they brought with them the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. My stomach was preparing to give me another mime show depicting the angry washing machine but my hippocampus campus told it to shut up and with its best 'Let this be a lesson to you' expression released a tiny bit of joy into my bloodstream.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Project Rain 7

Chapter 7

Also someone has filled my lungs with broken glass and now an angry giant is squeezing them with all his force. I open my eyes. I try screaming but now sound comes out of my mouth. Just bubbles.
I'm under water. Above me I see my voice floating towards the surface.
Panic pays me a visit but I tell it to fuck off. I focus and start ascending towards the surface. The desire to breath start to become overwhelming. I grit my teeth. Trying to exhale what little air I have left trying to trick my lungs into patience. The more I exhale now the more I can inhale once my head is out of the water again. It almost works but not quite. I start sucking in water through my teeth while panic kicks in the door demanding to be heard. My strokes turn into wild flaying as I start to breath in water. Not yet. Just one more second. A few centimetres. Liquid reaches my windpipe. I try to cough violently. Not easy with empty lungs. As I start to breathing a large mouthful of water I finally break the surface. Air. Sweet delicious air. And water droplets. I breath and cough and flail. It is all very undignified but also very alive. I start to calm down getting my movements under control and my coughs turn into gasps and then into normal breathing.
    I'm alive.

Above me looms the open sky dominating by the impossibly large Jupiter staring at me with its one furious eye. Behind me the bridge extends seemingly into infinity vanishing in to the distant mist. High above the Triad wagon burns in silence. Down here I can only here the gentle patter of the rain on the water dyed in a warm flickering orange. I feel like shit. I grab into one of my pockets and extract a small plastic bag containing a choice collection of pills. As I open it most of the contents fall into the water. I don't care. The only important thing is that I get a couple of uppers. I know that its stupid to take even more drugs but with out them to keep me going the light less depths below me well get to have me to dinner after all. I'm not done yet. It only takes a minute before I feel wide awake and energized. I also hear my organs starting to write lengthy invoices. I will have to worry about them later. Now I have to get to the Russian sector. I start swimming with al the elegance of an otter, inside a sack of potatoes. I was never a great swimmer and time had not done my technique any favours. But it slowly got me where I had to go.
After an hour or so with only my guns awkward bobbing to keep me company I reach what goes for the waters edge here. A small platform built wearing the latest in algae fashion built around one of the Cyclopean pillars that holds the city securely in place. I spend some time slipping and falling on the slimy ground until I reach the ladder built into the side of the column. I grab hold of a metal rung and pull me up. Standing on the ladder I listen to my body. I tells me to go on. All is well.
    The crash following this will be horrible. I have to hurry. I work my way up. It takes forever. And ends a man-hole cover. It's locked. This can't be happening. Now even the City is trying to kill me too? I force my self to stay calm climb a few more rungs and press my back against the cover. Nothing happens. I only feel the large steel ridges pressing harder into my back. This doesn't work. I reposition myself and look down. Cold terror grabs hold of my heart and begins to eat a few chunks. Bellow me is only endless darkeners shimmering very faintly as the water below reflects the light of Jupiter. I look up again. There close to my face I only see the light coming through the holes in the metal plate above me. This can't be. These ladders are mostly here for idiots like me who may fall off the city into the water below and survive. It should, no it must open from below. I pull out my gun and turn on its electric torch.
A spring bolt. That does make sense. I slide it back and lo and behold the stupid man-hole cover opens. The lock is there to prevent idiots, drunk or otherwise mentally impaired just to open these things and plummet into their deaths. I crawl out of the floor feeling a wave of relieve now that I finally have solid ground under my feet again. I look around and find my self in a dark side alley but apart from me and my scary gun there is no one.
    I move towards the brighter lit end of the alley finding myself on one of the main streets leading directly to the local terraformer. I am actually genuinely lucky for a change as I find my self not three blocks from Kiev station. While I would have preferred the ferry instead of being Shanghaied by the Chinese followed by a refreshing swim in the planet light I was actually faster this way. I walked down the main street concentrating on my goal hardly noticing the local architecture. While the United Empires of Europe had been busy building enormous sky scrapers as if they could not wait to get off their freshly colonized moon again the Russians had first settled on the ground and then carefully built their high rise cathedrals around the existing colonial houses.
This looked actually like a real city. While the ground level was as dilapidated as the rest of Europa it had maintained its dignity. Much like an old lady who may be all frail and wrinkly now but would at the slightest provocation uses her bag filled with broken bricks and powered by indignation to beat some manners into you.
    After a bit of searching made more interesting by street signs written in Cyrillic I finally found the house of Katja Petrova. A nice cosy place. With two floors the first slightly elevated with a large faux wooden door holding court in the middle of the façade with eight stone steps as its throne surrounded by a halo of large windows, the ones in the first floor dark mirrors while the ones in the second floor were spilling warm light all over the street.
    I walked up the steps feeling a light quivering in my legs. The uppers were finally wearing off. I rang the bell. Nothing. I rang it again more insistently this time. Still nothing. I knocked on the door. First with my fist then for a more dramatic effect by kicking the door and ringing the bell again for good measure. This was answered by a female voice cursing loudly inside the house followed by heavy steps on stairs.
    The door swung open but there was no one standing behind it. There was a large rifle barrel resting on a counter that was behind the door at the side of stairs leading up, and behind that really very large barrel where a pair of furious eyes.
    'Who the fuck are you and what do you want?' demanded angry little eyes.
'Katja Petrova?' I asked.
'My name is Hamilton Kane and I am pleased to meet you.' now that etiquette had been satisfied I fell unconscious. Like a wet sack of potatoes. Without the otter.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Project Rain 6

Chapter 6

I was lead upstairs into a narrow but comfortable room housing a very nice very mahogany table which sat smugly between two leather chairs. There was also a small bar housing a collection of rare liquid treasures that almost made me squeak in excitement. Instead I just stared at them. My host noticed my discrete glances and actually asked me if I wanted a drink.
Of course I wanted a drink.
'Only if you take one too, Mr...' I raised my eyebrows and left a name shaped hole open in our conversation.
'Sun.' I hoped that that was his name and that he was not trying to tell me that he would divulge his name soon.
'A pleasure Mr. Sun.'
He turned around busying himself with glasses and bottles.
'Ice?' he asked.
'No. No ice.'
I waited for Sun to sit down and take his first sip before I allowed my self to drink. Paranoid? Maybe, but in the last few hours three different parties had tried to kill me for reasons that escaped me even more than fame and glory. I took my sip. It was heaven. Complex and peaty with a spectacular finish that went on for ever. Bliss.
'... would you not agree?'
It seemed that Mr. Sun had been speaking for a while.
'Yes...?' it was worth a try.
'But why are so many killers after you?'
'I have no idea Mr. Sun. I play the piano in a really low class brothel. One with whores. Not hostesses, not escorts and not companions. The only place that is cheaper than the one I work at is the street corner. And while I might not be the greatest of all pianists I am really not bad enough for people to want to kill me.'
'So it seems. But things are often not as they seem, are they Mr. Kane.'
I was talking to a fortune cookie.
'By which you imply...?'
'Since the word spread that you are wanted dead by someone in a position most lofty I took an interest in you. It is most peculiar. First of all no one actually knows who is paying so much money for your life. The people I got to' he paused here for a moment looking up at the ceiling 'ask about it could just tell me about middle men and tempting offers on the clandestine message boards where wet-work is distributed among the day-labourers of the underworld.'
'And it's not even my birthday.'
Sun gave me one annoyed look but decided not to have my legs broken.
'Digging deeper into your personal life I did find that you have been boosting your rather tragic wage with trading information to various low level peons.'
'See? Low level. Nothing serious.'
'And yet a very influential player wants you dead. This leaves me with only one possible conclusion. You hold in your hands information so vital that it might topple one of the greater powers of Europa. And if this is the case I want that information.'
'It's not the case. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that the person who wants to kill me is not with the Triads.'
'Why is that.'
'I'm sitting here. Drinking expensive Scotch and you haven't killed me.'
'Most astute. Yet this is hardly new to me. Look, Mr Kane, I am a reasonable man. All I want is the information that you are so zealously guarding.'
I saw where this was going and it was not a nice place. If at all possible it was a place that was even worse than the early grave that had been my destination so far.
'I am trying to give you a chance here. You can talk now. Or we will make you talk.'
I stood up walked over to the bar and poured me another drink. I fully intended to take advantage of the bar. My next drink would probably be a cocktail made from two parts blood and one part teeth. Thankfully the Übermensch was still whispering sweet nothings to my ego so that I kept my cool and my hand steady. Sun was a high level criminal wrapped in layers and layers of civilisation and style all in the hope to hide his rotten murderous core. But the monster he had turned into was looking at me from the depths of his eyes.
'You understand Mr. Sun that the information I am privy to is of a very delicate nature.' I'd play along.

I walked over to the window opposite to the table. A wonder of ceramics looking like lacquered wood and paper panes. I slid it open. No one protested. A bad sign. It meant that they did not really care if I saw were we were going.
'Every organisation needs its peons the henchmen the bouncers and leg-breakers. It is the foundation of every kind of organisation.' I turned around. Sun was looking at me the beast inside was now looking at me with deep fascination. Not quite sure if it was seeing a fellow predator or an exotic dinner.
'These people are the basis. The roots. Without them the entire structure would not hold. Do you know what I am Mr. Sun?'
Large eyes. No comprehension.
'What my job is?'
'I heard that you are a pianist.'
That one never stoped to sting. My temper flared as it always did when people called me a fucking pianist, third rate brothel pianist at that. Usually this made me bitter but thanks to my new pill shaped friends I felt indignation.
'I am a conductor.' My nose was so far up now that outside I would have drowned in the rain.
'10 years ago on Earth I went from one success to the next with the Royal Symphonic Orchestra of Addis Abeba. And one thing I understand above all other things is polyphony. When you take each instrument isolate it, listening just to its part of a symphony you hear nothing. Just some random noises. If I may give you a piece of advice later when you torture me just get one tuba player and let him play his part of a concert in isolation. I guarantee that after 15 minutes everyone in the room will admit everything.'
Dramatic pause. Sun regarded me with great interest now. Even the man in green was taking notice of me. Usually bodyguards only see empty rooms or people that need to be severely beaten.
'The magic happens when all instruments play together in perfect harmony. Harmony. A word from music theory. When you understand how all the bits and pieces fit together only then you unlock the magnificence of music! And do you know how I do that? The piecing together? Seeing if it all works?'
Sun shook his head very slightly.
'In my head!' eyes wide, index fingers pointing at my brow.
He recoiled a tiny bit. That filled me with immense pleasure somehow. It also meant that for now I had a rapt audience. Enough time to make an escape plan. I started to pace up and down the room gesticulating with my glass working on my escape without rousing suspicion.
'That. That is my secret. When I was in that shit Brothel listening to low-life lackeys talking about their work when drunk on sex, drugs and alcohol I pieced together the symphony of power in this city. True I did not had all the parts. But puting it together piece by piece I started to see a theme emerging.' The theme being that I was fucked. The green guard was blocking the stairs. The other doors just lead into dead ends and the window was suicide.
'If you listen very closely you see the underlying currents. After that you only need to fill in the gaps.' I looked out of the window again in what I hoped would look like another dramatic pause. I drained half of my glass. I felt how my ego enhancing drugs where starting to quiver. We were driving down a lone bridge one of the few parts of the city where the space between two terraformers had not yet been covered by buildings. To my left I could see Old Town vanishing into the fog while to my right the lights of the Russian sector where looming ever nearer. Funny. They really were going in my direction.
'So.' Sun started to talk again. 'You managed to piece together some vital information just by what the henchmen were saying?' his voice was laden with doubt but it was carried by hope. The hope that wants to believe in that perfect scheme, in the pheromone perfume that will make you irresistible that still believes that Santa Clause might be real.
I snorted.
'Of course it is not that easy.' I decided to pepper my story with a bit of the truth. Meanwhile a plan was born. A horrible, a stupid plan. As Sherlock Holmes once said if you eliminate all impossibilities from a situation what remains no matter how stupid, is your plan. Or something like that.
'No I alone could not piece it together. It was just to vague and there were to many variables. I needed to get rid of the chaff. So I rented a terminal with high priority access to the analytical engines of the terraformer Poseidon and let it do the heavy lifting.'
I let Sun soak in the implications. Leaning out of the window I could see that we were getting closer to the edge of the Russian sector, the first buildings standing guard at the end of the bridge casting their neon light into the water below us.  When I turned around no one was looking at me, instead all eyes where on my black carrying case.
'Inside that case is a storage cylinder which contains my information. I was still testing my predictions but it seems that what I had on my hands had enough of an impact to make someone very nervous. I had planned to analyse my data to see who it was.' Not the triads obviously. 'But then things got ugly.'
'Show it to me.' Sun was dribbling greed all over the floor.
'Of course Mr. Sun. I assume that you have access to high yield analytical engines?'
'It can be arranged' he said without his eyes still trying to stare open the case.
'Well.' I stepped forward. 'Let me show you my secret then.'
I opened the hidden compartment on the side of the case, dialed my code in and let the security system taste my blood. I stepped back from the clicking case while Sun moved closer.
I rested my hands on the window sill leaning out taking one deep breath. The clicking and clacking grew more agitated and angry behind me. That was my cue I jumped up, my feet touching the edge of the window and I leapt.

The edge of the bridge was a farther away that I had thought. The idea of crashing face first into the bridge opened the floodgates of mortal terror. My drugs stood valiantly against the tide but were washed away in a split second. Time slowed down as my brain stopped thinking about anything else concentrating instead on my brilliant plan that would either see me with a head like a post party piñata or plummeting into the depths of what was considered a favourite activity spot by the local suicides. I flailed around with my arms and legs trying to clear myself from the bridge. My life tried to pass before my eyes I tried to ignore it. I needed to see what was in front of me not my bleeding fingers when I was 4 years old. Bleeding from practising the violin all day long. And I certainly did not need to see the face of my father silently watching me, closing his eyes and shaking his head a tiny bit before turning around leaving a trail of disappointment behind him. I shook myself out of it. The edge of the bridge was now directly in front of me. I pulled my head up. Exhaled. Tucked my stomach in. Pulled my legs back. Everything to miss the bridge. I felt it scraping at my fluttering clothes.
And I was past it.
I laughed as I fell past it. I decided that if my memories would march me into the underworld I might as well remember the good times.
Haydn Symphony No. 94 in G major. The second movement. Conducting it before a full house of mostly bored politicians and dignitaries. I loved this concert. Most of these people could not tell the difference between classical music and what they had been hearing on the elevator. The opening very silent, like my fall and then a sudden fortissimo hit. The wagon above me exploded. The shock wave burst out of it like a furious bouncer. When it noticed me it garbed me and ran me with all its fury into the water below.

No more memories.

Just darkness.