Saturday, 12 February 2011

Project Rain 17

Chapter 12 continued

It worked. The five robbers not expecting this strange turn of events where at a loss. I had to take advantage as long as their little brains were still working out what was happening.

"I gave you a chance." I said and then remembering the lessons learned from light night TV and whiskey session added "Motherfucker."

    I caught them off guard. Changed my stance and showed them who was actually in control of the situation.
    The four goons looked close to starting displacement activities. I was sure that one of them would scratch himself behind the ear any second now. When I focused on Funny Man again he did not seemed as horrified as he should. His eyes had narrowed. He was carefully evaluating me. His stance relaxed a bit and he put his big knife between my gun and himself, the laser points glinting on its polished blade. 
"You aren't gonna shoot." he said with care placing every word carefully one after another watching my reaction. He was certainly more cunning than I had given him credit for.

"Really?" I had not even finished saying the word when I knew that I was losing control of the situation fast. The goons were relaxing and now grabbing into their jackets. Even if they weren't packing heat they would become extremely dangerous if they all came at me at once. If that wasn't enough Petrova was very slowly approaching the group from behind with crystalline eyes and murder in her heart. I was getting anxious. I started a cold sweat to cool my nerves. IT just make me feel itchy all over.

"What makes you think I will not shoot an ingrate scumbag like you?" I asked scratching myself behind the ear.

'I've seen killers. And hard nutters. And you aren’t one. Haven't got the eyes."

He was right of course. I was a grand collection of bad habits but murder wasn't among them. This could not work. But it had too. At this point violence would happen. But I could still decide in which direction it would go. I could do this. I had to move things into the right direction.
    Rhythm. Rhythm was important. Time to re-establish a beat.
"Fuck you." a stab with my voice accompanied by one with the gun. Funny man paused. "And fuck", I waved the gun "your shit", in time "head" with my words "cronies!" I channelled my frustration, my anger into my adrenalin filled veins.

"Do you want to know why my eyes were calm?" a slow wave with the gun, painting all of them with the lasers. Holding their attention. They had stopped moving and where no concentrating on what I was saying. Good.

"Because you usually don't really think about it when you crush a cockroach." my Checkhov was now aimed directly at Funny Man again.

"Look into my eyes again you stupid little fuck and tell me how your chances are now?" I screamed at him little drops of spittle flying out of my mouth.

    He started to turn his head towards his companions.

"Look at me when I am talking to you!" I screamed. And he did.

"And now," I demanded through gritted teeth "answer my question!"

Funny Man looked at me visibly shaken but not yet broken. Petrova had reached the bandit closest to her but she held beck. She had her hands up ready to grab the man in front of her in a blink of an eye but she was looking at me waiting for my signal. Funny Man locked his jaw and pushed his chin out.

"You know what? You're full of shit!" he said. He saw my hesitation and pushed on trying to get control of the situation.
    "Your fucking hand is shaking. What kind of killer are you? Eh?" he stab the air in front of me with his knife. "Eh? I'm gonna cut you man. I was goin' to be nice to you", he said taking a step forward. "'cause you had so many Creds and that nice box."
    Petrova bared her teeth ready to let go
    The Funny Man continued "But now I'm gonna..." his sentence was cut short by the sound of shattering steel and a loud screams. I had fired a shot at his knife. The blade had exploded into a hundred glittering shards. Many of them embedding themselves in Funny Man's out stretched arm and face. He was suddenly covered in blood that was running down his body in thick red rivulets. I became slowly aware that one of the screams was mine. I forced myself to stay in control nudging my cry from hysteria into defiance. I vaulted over the box and punched the bleeding man before me with the gun. As I his his stomach I released some of the guns mass. The blow drove the air out of his lungs. He collapsed on the floor silently flopping in a pool of his own blood.
    I felt like vomiting. But that had to wait.

    "Is there anyone else that is going to question me?" I screamed the question. To my surprise there was only one man left standing to answer the question. Petrova had not waited for me to dispatch all of the idiots on my own. While I had disabled the leader she had somehow beaten three of his companions.

    "You there!" I demanded. "Give me all your money!" both him and Petrova looked at me with wide eyes. Petrova mouthed a 'What?' in my direction. Yeah I had no idea where that had come from either. I decided to make the best of it.

    "It's a bit shit getting beaten up, being threatened with weapons and then robbed isn't it? See this as a lesson. Now you give me all your money and weapons while we are at it and you and your friends get to live." I at least hoped they would, Funny Man was in a very bad shape and the other three weren't moving. The last crony complied. Moving quickly but not so fast as to provoke more violence he dropped the baton he was holding and gave us his money. He then proceeded to loot his friends and give us their credits, brass knuckles knifes and a black-jack.

    As we moved away the big light box between us I kept looking back. One after another the knocked out bandits regained consciousness. The four stood around their fallen. Like stooped shades standing vigil over a fallen hero. The hero was mostly furious and not really dead. The next time I turned around he was standing, bent in uncomfortable ways, but not broken. With the most light sources behind him he looked a bit like a demon, his spiky hair the horns, sweating tiny rubies.
I flipped him the bird. He shuddered, turned around and hobbled away refusing the help of his friends using what little he had left of his dignity to cover his shame.

    Petrova spoke for the first time after the gang had vanished behind one of the stone structures.

"Are you OK."

"Yeah. I am fine. Feel a bit shaky. But that's mostly the nerves."

"If you are feelingly dizzy we can take a break."
"No. Really I'm fine. Thanks."

We kept on walking for a while before she spoke again.

"Thank you."

"What for?" I asked.

"Without your meddling I would have killed them.", she sounded relieved.

"Never mind it seem... wait. What? Meddling? I took control of the situation. And it all went well."

"I respect your point of view." I could hear her smile as she said that.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well the way you stood behind the box and slammed you money on top of it I was already thinking that you were trying to pay them to take it away from you." she said eyes straight ahead.

"Sure. That was my fault. Next time I shall vault over the box and cover it with my coat in one bold movement. And then I will distract them with magic tricks."

"It's OK. You did well." she then added after a dramatic pause "For a civilian."

I laughed and shook my head. "Is that your sense of humour or are you just a sore loser?"

She just smiled. We had now almost reached the stairs leading us down to the water. "You know," she said "that you are bleeding?"

    I looked down and saw that the front of my suit was soaked in blood. I had thought that it was the blood of the Funny Man. But now I realized that the blood had soaked through my clothes. I also felt quite woozy all of a sudden. Handle of the box slipped from my hand. The big crate fell slowly to the ground with a soft thud. I sank to my knees turning a bit so that I could use the create to rest my back on it.

    The gun that I had still be holding in my other hand slipped of my fingers. I could Petrova moving rapidly to my side. She cast a look around to make sure that we were alone before she had a closer look at me.

"How are you feeling? Do you feel dizzy? Are you cold?" the urgency in her voice didn't really match her usual composure.

I smiled reassuringly.

"Don't worry. I just have to rest for a little while."

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Project Rain 16

Chapter 12

Petrova was still giggling after we had left the strange underground market.

"Is it far?" I asked getting tired of her amusement.

"Not really we just have to go a bit further down to the harbour."

"How comes that they did not build their village down there in the first place?"

"Because the water levels change quite dramatically depending on how much it rains. The terraformers try to keep the climate on the surface more or less constant and as the drains here are not supposed to be inhabited they tend to flood them whenever they need a water reservoir. So people mostly stay up-stairs where they won't get surprised by sudden floods."

"Doesn't this make the harbour down there somekind of death trap?"

"Nah. Glubina harbour floats on the water. It was built to withstand the floods as well as a place to set anchor."

I tried to imagine what that place looked like. I envisioned a lump of concrete spheres glued together, bobbing in the water with ships wedged into it at improbable angles. This thought entertained me while we moved closer to the great artificial river that flowed under all of the City yet well above Europa's surface. This part of the City which was in theory also a part of the human inhabitation zone, knew that it wasn't supposed to ever see any humans apart from depressive engineers demoted so far down the career ladder that they would never see the sky again. The tunnerls did not even try to look safe or even remotely sensible. What started as a smooth featureless corridor lighted by an endless line of those neon tubes, suddenly changed without into metal walkways wobbly stretching into impenetrable darkness. A darkness that was accentuated by tiny lamps barely managing to cough up enough photons to thinly cover the path they were supposed to guard. Then out of nowhere tubes and pipes and ducts of all kinds converged over the path providing anyone walking past them how it must feel to walk through the inside of a schizophrenic rope.
    We had been walking through this graveyard of horror film sets for a while always moving a bit lower when we reached what seemed to be a large open platform on which stood several large stone structures. I could not quite decide if these were failed Up-Town art works that had failed to impress and where now doomed to be hidden here in the storm drains or if they fulfilled some vital life sustaining role. Below us I could just make out the glinting of watter and hear it bubble maliciously.
"Almost there." Petrova said. She pointed forward past one of the monuments. "The stairs to Glubin are behind that thing over there."

"It's pretty deserted here for a harbour."

"We aren't there yet. And most people that come here go directly to Glubin, they don't tend to stop and take in the sites. Don't worry you will see your share of scum soon enough."

And indeed we had not gone ten paces when a group of five men emerged from the shadows of the stone thing in front of us.

"I guess these man are not going to try to sell us souvenirs, are they?" I asked

"I don't think so. Just stay back and let me handle the situation." she made a 'stay here' gesture with her hand. I stopped standing behind or transport box determined to watch the show unfold. Petrova had advanced a few paces and stopped. She stood in front of the five alleged criminals feet apart and hands on her hips. For a short moment I thought that she might start a dance off. That hypothesis was quickly shattered when the 'leader' of the gang started negotiations by pulling out a knife that was mostly sharp edge with pointy saw bits on top. The man holding it was sporting a matching pointy hairdo but he did not seem to be able to hold up with his knife when it came to sharpness.

"Gives us your money." he came straight to the point.

"Or what?" as did Petrova who obviously had simply skipped the phase of diplomacy.

"Or we will hurt you and your wife over there." I decided to call him the Funny Man.

"Deal. You get our money, then you piss-off and we can go our way." Petrova was not quite hitting the victim notes correctly and Funny Man was not sure of how to react. He glanced nervously back to his four henchmen who looked as lost as he did. One of them mumbled in a threatening way. This seem to reassure their leader.

"That depends on how much C's you're carrying. Show us!" Petrova grabbed into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a bunch of Credit notes and some coins.

"Take it. It's all yours. Grisha! Give them your money, these guys are dangerous." I asked my self what a 'grisha'was and played along. I chose the pocket where I carried the least amount of money and made a nice nervous show of getting it out and ontop of the box.

"Here take the money but please... don't hurt us." I was not a good actor. I had lived long enough in the part of Old Town were the more discerning rats refused to enter to recognize Funny Man and the gang as the spineless bullies. The kind of scum that formed the very bottom of the criminal compost heap. But in our situation their characteristic mixture of cowardice and stupidity made them rather dangerous. While everything was still under control there was the risk of Funny Man or one of his cronies doing something stupid. Something that would lead to serious violence.
    But so far things were going all right. Funny Man was quite happy with what he got from Petrova and was now approaching me and the box. He was even more delighted when he noticed that I had provided a bit over 100 Credits out of my small change to the loot. He waved his friends over leaving them with their back to Petrova. They all were quite pleased with themselves and it looked like they would get to walk away happily ever after leaving Petrova and me only slightly annoyed.
    I knew that this would never happen the moment I saw what passed for a brilliant idea in Funny Man's world dawning in his blunt face.
"So..." he set up the stage to amaze the world with his wit "What's in the box?"

"Nothing." answered Petrova "Just books."

Funny Man made a face, half confusion half disgust. "Books? Why the fuck would anyone lug around so many books?"

"It's our trade. We buy and sell books." said Petrova.

I could see how Funny Man was trying very hard to be clever. He was putting together the amount of cash he just got and a treasure trove full of books, which while obviously something that only some egghead tosser would give a fuck about, were obviously worth a lot.

"I think we'll take the books too." this situation was not going to end well. The near miss had just upgraded to a car crash. A car crash eagerly looking for matches to add some fire and possible explosions to the show.

"Come on. You already have our money. That's what we made in the last two months. And the books are heavy," Petrova said, " you have to know who to sell them to and shit. If it was that easy to get rich with books everyone would do it." Petrova's logic seemed to work. The more Funny Man thought about it the less he liked the idea of having to drag around books.

"OK" and I could almost smell the odour of an igniting match when he started to smile, "we will just take the box then. It has some fancy gravity dampeners." he vaguely threatened me with the knife. "Open the box!"

I took a step back holding my hands up trying to think of a way, any way, to get out of this situation with out turning nasty. "Sure. What ever you say." I said.

I looked at Petrova. I saw her turning slowly to ice. The humour was leaving her eyes and her relaxed posture was slowly changing into something tightly wound. Her humanity was being expertly folded together and put away in some safe dark corner of her soul. There wasn't much time left until she had reverted into Petrova the soldier. When that happened five men would die.

I had to do something. I had had enough spontaneous murder for the time being. So I did the only thing that seemed like a sensible idea.

I pulled out out my gun, the targeting lasers blooming on Funny Man's torso.