Monday, 13 December 2010

Project Rain 11

Chapter 8 continued

'The gravity dampers on my gun are detachable. It should be pretty easy to strop them to the plug-in. Then we just have to haul it to the car.' I suppressed the urge to add a 'Right?' at the end of that sentence. I felt that manly confidence was the best way to go.
'And where will the dampers get their power from?' Petrova made a point of examining the metal cylinder with great care.
'Power?' I had to control y voice to keep it from breaking.
'Yes. Power. Did you really think you get to break a fundamental law of nature for free?'
'I actually had never thought about that.'
'You do give a lot of things no thought, don't you?'
'That is a bit unfair. I am under a lot of stress here. It seems that everyone but the Triads are trying to kill me. Which isn't really helping my thought process. And really as long as it works' I gestured towards my gun that she was still hanging from her belt 'I really don't care how it works.' She rolled her eyes and started pacing up and down the pawn shops little vault. Two and a half steps up, two and a half steps down. Cursing under her breath pausing every once in a while to look at the plug-in and shake her head at me.
'How about this' I said 'I get us a couple of crowbars. We can use them as levers to get the plug in out. Then we just roll the thing to the car. Case closed.'
'Yes why don't we just drop a priceless cylinder stuffed full of fragile gears to the ground and roll it around in the dirt a bit.' her reserves of scorn seemed limitless.
    'Fine. I'm not a tech guy. But you are hardly helping, are you? I can be sarcastic all on my own I really don't need your help for that. I need your help with this.' I pointed at the plug in.
She cursed.
'You wait here I will go and look if I can't find something useful.' she turned around and stalked out of the vault.
'Wait!' I called after her. 'My gun.'
Another judgement by glances only this time she gave me a court nod and handed me my pistol. I pushed the deposit box shut. Which gave me an idea. I ran after Petrova to share my latest brilliant idea.

She was upstairs browsing through all the junk that was ready to find a new owner looking for something she might use. She was in a state of constant head-shaking. When it came to look utterly disappointed with nice dash general disgust she could have given my father a run for his money.
'I think I might have thought of something.' I said.
    'I admire your courage. What's it this time? Tiny helicopters?'
'No. I just noticed that the secure box which is holding the plug in is really easy to open and close.' One eye brow moved up and one corner of her mouth went down. 'No hear me out. When I dumped the plug-in into the deposit box it did not budge a bit. So I would guess that it has got its own gravity dampers.'
'Sounds plausible.' her eye brow and her mouth corner moved closer together again.
    'OK. Those things are built to take a lot of punishment from outside. But not from the inside. I mean' I dropped my voice a few notches, the owner of the pawn shop was browsing some magazine but I really did not want to risk him overhear my fabulous plan 'who ever opens a safe deposit box and then tries to steal it?'
'I see where this is going but there is still the problems with the...' now her face was almost neutral. Just her crossed arms needed some more convincing.
    'The energy I know. What ever reduces those drawers light is probably hooked to an external power-supply. But we could get a battery or something and hook it up to it. Right?' as manly as the class nerd eager to please the teacher.
    'Hmmm... Yes that might work. OK. You know this place better than I. I need a charged high power battery. Do you know where we can get one?'
    'Certainly. The Square of Desires is not 100 meters from here and on its market we should be able to get one of those without a problem.'
A tiny smile appeared on her face. 'Right let's go then.'

It did not take long to find a stall on the market selling all kinds of car related junk. Petrova had come up with a good enough cover story about a ridiculously overpowered quadrophonic sound system for her car which needed some serious juice. The vendor was all to happy to oblige her and was scuttling all over his stall like an over exited capitalist hamster unloading some of his choice morsels in front of her. She produced some kind of measuring device from her tool-belt. It looked like a cyborg popsicle with rainbow coloured wires for hair. She attached some of the wires to the first battery on offer. A solid silver ring the size of a small fist. She watched the data parade over the little devices screen while it made a rather sad noise that went from low to lower. Pertrova looked at the vendor, she sighed deeply and her eyes went to do their grisly work. They took the man's head and started to make a brain omelette.
    'I could have better performance using a potato and a lemon. This does not make me want to buy your shit it makes me want to set you on fire.' The man looked slightly nervous and started to tell her how that was actually a very cost efficient device, but Petrova just silenced him with a glance. Now she tried a smile. It was mostly a baring of teeth.
    'I am a reasonable person. So I will give you one more chance before I go somewhere else. Try and give me a really good battery. So far I am not very impressed with your performance.' her voice had gone from icy to malicious innuendo, 'So just try to think of what impression you are giving when presenting me with this tiny, useless, shrivelled piece of shit.' she opened her hand letting the battery fall down with an audible crash onto the stall, her eyes fixed into those of the vendor. The man had gone through some rather impressive colour changes in the last few seconds. A chameleon witnessing this would have probably turned green in envy and felt inadequate about that too.
    In the end he produced some below the counter batteries which elicited some slightly bored coos from the little device. Good enough.
We were walking back to the pawn shop when a large man stopped us. He was wearing a wide brimmed hat against the rain and a long coat to conceal his arsenal of weapons. Either that or he disliked leaving his house without his golf clubs.
'Piss off missy.' he was also very charming.
'And a good evening to you to.' I said while keeping an eye on Petrova who I was sure was already planning a murder.
'Shut up Kane. You're coming with me now. Nice and quiet and we will see that your girlfriend here goes home in one piece.'
'See I told you I was famous.' I told Petrova using this to have a proper look at her and see if there was someone behind us that might be a colleague of the large man. Petrova to my surprise looked terrified. But at least the streeth behind us seemed to be clear. There where only the usual patrons of Leftover street who now minded their own business with utmost concentration.
'Now missy do piss off before daddy gets angry!'
'Oh... OK... Just please don't hurt me... Sir.'
I started to believe that I had slipped into a parallel dimension. The new Petrova retreated hastily backwards almost falling down in the process.
'Now to you Kane. Are you going to come with me or do I have to beat you up a bit first?'
I answered that by pulling out my gun.
'How about you turn around and piss off mate?' I said.
I just got an ugly smile full of ugly teeth as an answer.
'Don't think I will shoot you.' as I said that I pushed the button that let the laser aim points light up for dramatic effect.
The large man was still not impressed. He pointed with one thumb over his shoulder saying: 'And you should not think that 'I have come alone to get you.' Taking a step back to avoid a surprise attack I looked up to where he was pointing. Far above the ground sticking to the wall like a strange bug was another person. Clad in black wielding a rather evil looking rifle. The sniper also turned on his laser sight for dramatic effect. That worked pretty well I had to admit. Then he exploded. Also very surprising but not as intimidating. The large man hearing the explosion turn around with one of his hands moving inside of his coat.
    That was all the invitation I needed. I covered the distance between us with all the sweaty nervous excitement that comes with an old fashioned rush of adrenalin. I raised my arm holding my gun high into the air ready to strike. The large man turned around to me again his eyes still wide in surprise. When he saw me coming he pulled his arm up with shocking speed intercepting the gun on its way towards his face. When the the practically weightless barrel was slowed down by the block it released its entire mass again. The gun broke through the bones pulverizing them and there was still enough momentum left to smash right into the large man's face sending him into the ground in an awkward pirouette leaving a spiral trail of blood spit and broken tears.

The passerbys had all frozen for a shocked second when they suddenly remembered that they had some pressing business to attend to far away. Petrova walked back to me her rifle leaning over her shoulder.
'Well done Kane. If a bit excessive.'
'Excessive? You just made that sniper explode!'
She shrugged. 'Explosive rounds tend to do that. He still alive?' she prodded the prone figure with the tip of her boot. There were some gurgling noises coming from the heap that had once been the large man. 'Brilliant. We'll take him with us.'
I had to agree with her 'Some answers would be nice for a change.' I could not shake the feeling that things were going more and more out of control with every passing moment.
'Can you drive?' she asked?
'OK you get the car then. You pack this idiot into the boot.' another prod with the boot. 'While I try to modify drawer in the pawn shop.'

I got the car. Shoved the still unconscious puddle of a man into the boot. Tied his hand and feet with the the car's jumper cable to avoid some unpleasant jack-in-the-box action later. That done I drove back to the pawnshop. Inside Petrova was working on the safe deposit box.
'Will it work?' I asked.
'I think it will. The dampers are integrated into the drawer itself and the connection to the mains is actually pretty straight forward. And the best part is that the boxes are actually made to be easily removed. Looks like we can leave the cover plate intact. No one will even notice that we took it.'
'Brilliant. I brought a tarpaulin to cover our new toy.' bought for one measly credit from this very pawn-shop.
'Good thinking Kane.'
    Five minutes later we were hauling out the plug-in with its new handy drawer. The gravity damping was not as good as with the carrying case, but at least we were able to get it out. I checked out my 'parcel' paying for the day it had been in the vault and because I felt guilty about demolishing the shop I had left 250 Credits behind the cover plate of my former safe deposit box.
Then we were of on the streets again with a failed murdered in the boot, a miracle of modern technology on the back seat and a goal before our eyes. Now we could finally go and teach a terraformer how to speak.

Project Rain 10

Chapter 8

Her shower was a shower-head with attachment for a large white metal bathtub with cast iron lions feet. Perfect. I was in no shape to stand for longer periods of time so I was happy to simply sit in the tub having hot water rain down on me slowly washing away the stench. I had a bush on a long handle one you'd use to scrub hard to reach parts on your back. I used it simply to reach parts. Moving the brush symbolically, leaving soapy trails on my skin. I watched how the soap tracks dissolve. Life was good. For a while.
    I could not stay here forever as nice as it was I, no, we had to keep going.
When I got out of the bathroom Katja Petrova was already waiting for me. She was the picture of a modern adventurer. With a long leather jacket, a tool belt full of gleaming steel and her pet rifle slung over her shoulder.    
    'So where is that plug-in of yours?'
'I left it in a safe deposit box in a pawn shop near Old Town back in the European sector. And where is my gun?'
She moved her jacket back over her tool belt revealing my gun hanging between a hammer and something that looked like the love child between a lighter and an anteater.
'I kinda need that gun.'
'And I kinda need to trust you first.'
'Fair enough. I guess.'
She turned around walking to the stairs.
'Follow me, we'll take my car.'
'Good I haven't bought mine yet.'

Soon after we were thundering back towards Old Town in her monstrous car. Most cars here were electric cars they were almost silent very powerful and there was a public power socket at every street corner. Electricity being one of the many products that the terraformers produced in almost limitless amounts. But Miss Petrova drove an enormous four seater with a combustion engine that burned alcohol.
'Isn't it expensive to run a car like this?'
'A combustion car? Not really. More expensive than free but I mostly drive for the pleasure. Public transport is everywhere and it is boring. So when I do get out for my free time I like to be either on my own or with the people I wish to travel with. Also just listen to it!' As she said that she floored the accelerator changing the low murmur of the cars engine into a high pitched turbine noise. It also left my inner organs in the boot. I had to fight the urge to undrink my coffee.
'Very impressive but could you go a bit easier. I am still not feeling that well.'
'You are doing pretty well for the state you were in yesterday. That's quite impressive.'
'Enhanced liver.'
'You were a soldier.' it sounded genuinely surprised which I found genuinely offensive.
'No, I was rich.'
'Really? So how comes that you did end up working on a train?'
'You said you were a conductor.'
She and my dignity were in a street brawl and right now she was bashing its face repeatedly into a brick wall.
'I was a conductor of an orchestra.'
'For one of the big ones?'
'The Addis Abeba Royal Orchestra.'
This did elicited a whistle. A hand was offered to my dignity.
'So how did you fuck that up ended drunk and wet at my doorstep?' and a straight to the chin.
'Long story.'
'Can wait. Open the glove box and hand me the bottle with the skull on it.'
'What's that?' it was filled with a clear liquid and sealed with a cork.'
'Fuel for the car. Another plus. I can make it myself. Bit of a hobby. And I'll need it. This is my favourite part.'
    She uncorked the bottle with her teeth as we turned a corner. Before us stretched the bridge back to Old Town. She spit the cork into my general direction and took a large swig from the bottle and made a satisfied roaring noise.
'Hold on to your internal organs Kane.'
She floored the accelerator again and then it seemed she pushed it right through the floor as the car just kept accelerating. As I started vanishing into my seat my life had a quick glance out of my eyes to see if it was time to wander up and down before my eyes again but just shrugged and went back inside. The lights of the bridge rushed by so fast that they turned into lines. We past the spot where the triad wagon must have exploded but there was only a bit where there were no lights. A short flash of darkness but nothing else.

Not long after we were standing in front of an open safe deposit box looking at the plug-in.
'What the fuck is that supposed to mean Kane?' Petrova gestured towards the glinting cylinder.
'That's the speech thing I told you about. Why? Is something wrong with it?'
'As far as I can tell it's fine. But where the fuck is its carrying case?'
'Oh that. Well I took it with me and then detonated it.'
'You did what?' her eye brows narrowed and went up a bit creating a small vertical wrinkle on her brow that looked like it could crush stones.
'I made it explode. To get rid of some Triads. I'm pretty sure that they were going to kill me.'
'And how do you suppose are we going to get that thing out to the car let alone to any terraformer.'
'I thought about carrying it.'
'Really. Have you tried lifting it?'
'Go on try it.'
I tried. It did not move. At all. It sat snugly in its safe deposit box, tipping it into it had been easy enough. But now it was the very idea of unmovable. Theologians would have used it on their god asking Him Her or It to move it to prove their divine power.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Project Rain 9

Chapter 7 continued

Not long afterwards I was slumped on a chair almost lying on the table before me, huddled over a steaming mug of coffee inhaling the steam rising from it. I made happy noises.
'So.' the woman that lived in the pair of boots said after watching for a while. 'To what do I owe the honour of being assaulted by drunk maniac in the middle of the night.'
    I was about to answer but she was just getting started.
'A drunk on drugs and wet like something that the cat dragged out of a storm drain. And.' Dramatic pause. Suggesting a humiliating punchline. 'Someone who seems to be training for the projectile vomiting championship.' OK that's a bit awkward. 'All over my entrance stairway corridor and in the end bathroom.' Shame strode boldly into the room and pinched me in the cheek, telling me how much I had grown. I let my glances wander slowly towards where the woman sat, but then they reached her slightly trembling fist got scared and hid behind the coffee mug again.
    'Look. I'm very sorry about that. I... I will clean up the mess. I promise. But it...' She just laughed without humour.
'You were knocked out for almost 12 hours. I had to do it myself and I was tempted using you as a rag.'
Silence settled over us.
I knew that it was my turn to say something but what did you say in such a situation? I tried to sip the coffee. It was still hot and very strong. It tasted almost real. My body reluctantly accepted it. I tried again to look at my host. There were the piercing eyes from the entrance. Almost black in a pale face. The mouth a smirk.
I gritted my teeth against the drills working their way into my skull when ever I spoke.
'Let me try again. Hello. My name is Hamilton Kane. I am a conductor. I came here because you can help me with something that I have to do.'
'And what would that be?'
'I have to enter a terraformer.'
She snorted.
'Why should I help you with that. I'm an architect.'
'You need to work on your cover Mrs. Petrova.' I heroically lifted my head to meet her hard gaze straight on. It was like meeting a train straight on.
'I beg your pardon...' her voice carried enough ice to turn a desert into a clever metaphor.
"If you want people to think that you are innocent then you should say 'How could I help you' and not 'Why should I...'" suddenly her pet the rifle was on the table its muzzle hungry for my life.
'You test my patience Kane. Talk. Talk in a way that makes me want to kill you less.' her look were what a hit-man's look wanted to be when it grew up.
'You were recommended to me by Bryce Franklin. He told me that you were the person I had to talk to about terraformers.'
'Franklin is an idiot.'
'Yes his knowledge seems rather limited.' I had read in a women's magazine at my hair-dresser once that people liked it a lot when you simply rephrased what they had just said.
'Absolutely. He is always talking about stats, theories, stupid numbers. God that man is irritating.' Wow. Thank you Solar Lady!
'Wisearse but without any grounding in reality.'
'Absolutely. He always quotes his stupid manuals. And quote official top secret documentation unquote. As if that would make his regurgitated book knowledge more true. It's simply not true. Terraformers are immensely complex machines. Probably the most complicated machines humanity has ever build. Once you set such a system in motion things change. You have to adapt to the reality of the machines. If you just follow the fucking handbook you will end up with a disaster on your hands. I mean just look what happened with Harumadis in the European sector in Old Town. A bunch of suits with handbooks and regulations and quote maximum yield for minimum expense unquote strategies walk right in and try to dictate their ideas upon reality. In the end the fucking terraformer broke in fucking half. A machine designed to last tens of thousands of years destroyed in two and a half years!'  She slammed her fist on the table sending the coffee mug and her rifle jumping in surprise and me in excruciating pain. I had created a monster. Thank you Solar Lady...

'I agree. He is not good enough. I need someone who knows how things really work. Which is why I am here. I need the advice f someone who actually knows how these things work.' that would had sounded better with me wincing.
'They work on their own. That's what they were made for. You stick them in the ground and they do the rest.'
'I know. But you can change them can't you?'
'I certainly can't.' she could not have distanced her self more from my implications if she had taken the next space train back to Earth.
'I mean hypothetically. There are functions that can be added. With plug-ins.'
'Actually it is more complicated than that. The terraformers are thousands of miles of analytical engines so their potential is almost limitless. The plug-in just tells them how to unlock a certain ability. You could theoretically teach them from scratch but...'
'Yes. Thank you. Fascinating.' And there was that icy stare again. She was like a cryogenic light house.

'I have a plug in.' there I said it.
She had her best Sunday poker face on but her eyes the little traitors were all round and full of stars.
'One that can teach a terraformer to speak.'
'How did you get such a thing?'
'Heirloom.' if my my deformed contact Kennedy could be a human this could be a truth.
'You inherited a Class A restricted piece of machine.' how dare that woman say that Kennedy was not a human!
'It's a long story and really not the important bit here. The important part is that I have this plug-in which I'd love to use.'
'What for?'
'I need help.'
'You seem to need a lot of that.'
'Yes. I do. People are trying to kill me.'
'Imagine that.'
'There is a price on my head. Hit men are after me. They all think I have some kind of vital information. But I have no idea what it is. I can't work it out myself. But with a terraformer to sift through what I know, to go through all permutations of possibilities... that way I might find something. My time is running out. Getting here was very hard.Everywhere I go there is someone already waiting ready to kill or torture me. I'd like to at least know why.'
I sat back. I was sick and tired but I was finished with snivelling.

'What you are planning is ridiculous. It is close to suicide.'
'I'm living on borrowed time anyway. I'd rather go down in flames than let myself being led to slaughter.'
She smiled.
'I like that.'
'Yes. Despite the way you look and act and smell there seems to be a man hidden somewhere inside you. Now drink your coffee while I prepare myself. Oh and feel free to take a shower.'
She got up and left me with my coffee. She paused when she was passing the door.
'And when I say feel free I mean do it or I'll kill you with a shovel.'