Jill and Jack
Posted 04 January 2012 - 10:08 PM
I was approaching the checkpoint out of Sentry controlled territory rather slowly, driving cautiously without trying to look like I had any reason to be cautious. The Day-Shift was out in full force today and they’d stop you for the most inconsequential of reasons; driving a Mercedes into the Bottoms was often reason enough, so I expect to be pulled over regardless of how I was driving. Still, best to keep up appearances and do what I had to do; though that doesn’t mean everyone was going to like it.
:I don’t like this.
“So you’ve mentioned. Repeatedly. We’ll be fine, we always are. ”
:My concern isn’t in our safety. It’s merely that man. He ‘unsettles’ me.
Her voice is demure, mechanical, with hints of posh English. I suppose Pax Draconian figured that in a line of work where most firefights begin by being outmanned, overwhelmed, and out of other options, the voice you want to hear giving tactical advice aught to have a flavor of soothing authority to it. But we weren’t in a firefight now, and I’m afraid I have to ignore her. A standing guard at the checkpoint waves me down. I stay calm and pull over; my name’s already on record, and there’s a pair of unregistered machine pistols in the trunk that can be tied to at least two uncleared homicides in the city. The car crawls to a halt as the Day-Shift guard approaches the window.
:You know, if we weren’t taking this job we wouldn’t have to go into the Bottoms in the first place.
“If we weren’t taking this job, we wouldn’t be able eat. At least I wouldn’t. The Sentries make it harder and harder to find paying gigs each year. Time come, there won’t be room enough for the little guy to make his place in this world.”
The guard knocks on the window. I roll it down and smile. We go through the routine. Name: Jack Harper. He enters the names into a PDA. Anyone else in the vehicle: no. This is technically true; Jill’s personhood is a matter of philosophical and scientific debate, which I cannot be held to be true or false. Any contraband materials: No. That one was just a lie.
The PDA sets off an alarming beep that calls the guard to look back down at it. No need to worry, we knew this was going to happen. Just keep smiling as if you don’t know anything is wrong.
“Is anything the matter?”
The guard puts both hands onto the inside of the door and leans in through the window.
“Sir, have you ever been bound by law?”
“That was a misunderstanding.”
“It says here it was a weapons violation.”
“A misunderstood weapons violation.”
He was about to ask me to step out of the vehicle, at which point I would have one of two choices. I could end up paying him a few hundred creds for a non-existent speeding violation or, pull the pistol from my ankle and hope to get off enough shots to make it through the checkpoint. Shooting this kid would put me on the Sentries’ K.O.S. black list, and a priority Night-Shift target. No amount of Jill’s hacking could save me then. Lets just hope he’s up for the bribe.
“Sir, could you please step out of the—”
The PDA rings again and he’s quicker to pick it up. Apparently it works as a phone as well; Sentries get all the coolest toys. He talked calmly for about three seconds then placed the device back onto his belt. He waved me on and the car rolled through the checkpoint without issue. The security gate was raised and I put the checkpoint in my rearview mirror.
:That seemed unprecedented. What do you think happened?
“Can’t say... Is there any particular reason we’re pretending you weren’t eavesdropping on that call?”
:Sometimes I like to hear your opinion on things before I ruin the surprise. It seems you had someone looking out for you. A commander Roughcoat claimed you had a special clearance into Lowtown.
“I don’t know any Commander Roughcoat.”
:Which means our ‘friend’ is going out of his way to get you into Lowtown. He’s using you, you know.
“And I’m using him. He needs crime and violence, I need money; simple business transaction as always. No need to be afraid he might pull something.”
:Thomas Jackson doesn’t scare me. He repulses me.
It was Feeding Time at Jackson’s latest castle. His army of strung-out fiends chanted from the balconies of a massive labyrinth pit that had been gutted from what was once Liberty High. Many in the addict army had probably gone here before the turf war shut it and the rest of Lowtown into a lawless quarantine.
At first the arrangement was simple, the Confederacy of Reivers acknowledges the Sentry Guardian Council’s authoritative control of the city, and in return, Confederacy business would be tolerated regardless of its legality. It was a new truce, untested, but one that would hold together if you used enough glue and didn’t shake it too hard. Tony De Luca and Thomas Jackson grabbed on with both hands and tried to rip it apart. If one of them couldn’t have Lowtown, neither would.
Even before the Sentry takeover, De Luca and Jackson were hardly friends. The Confederacy was more diverse in those days, lots of little criminal fiefdoms spread across the city like pox marks. De Luca was the old pro; he and his Bottom Boys were the big brother you respected and feared at the same time. They had a connection to everything in Lowtown, every business, every shady deal, every body in a gutter. Not everyone agreed with this, Jackson was just the only one ballsy enough to say it out loud, even if there was nothing he could do about it.
When the Sentries took over the city, the traditional balance of criminal power began to tip away from the old guard. New drugs slowly began to pop up in the ghetto. At first only a few isolated OD’d junkies with an unknown venom running in their veins. Then others emerged later, with a somewhat revised formula. Then even more, again with the chemicals tweaked from the last incarnation. The drug was being tested, and the addicts of the Bottoms were the test rats. The Sentries didn’t care, why would they? But De Luca did. It didn’t take long to find the source either. Jackson was a chemist by trade, and a specialist in personalized narcotics. If you had the money he could make you anything you wanted; if you didn’t have the money, there were other tastes of his you could feed.
By that time he had perfected his compounds, and built a power base of needy customers who would do anything for the next hit. When the war started, Lowtown was locked down and everyone got dragged in, even little guy mercs with AI’s in their brain who would rather sit on the fence and wait for a winner.
Looking at Jackson now, standing proudly like Caesar before his Legion, it should have been clear that the war would linger like an open wound on the city, festering with no end in sight. Beyond his normal appearance, you could feel the evil in his smile, but damn it if he didn’t have the charisma.
“So tell me friends, my soldiers, my brothers in arms, tonight I only have one important question to ask of you. Do you know what time it is?”
The mob was foaming at the mouth, and howled back to their master.
Ever the showman, our dear friend is. Jackson gestured towards two thick dangling chains behind him. I could barely make out the veiled outline of two human shaped objects attached to the ends of the chains. They were wrapped in thick red curtains to preserve the mystery. Jackson grabbed the curtain of the first dangling present.
“Listen up boys and girls, tonight’s Feeding Time is brought to you by the letter S. So instead of the traditional diet of thief, traitor, and vagrant, tonight’s meal will be… spy.”
“So without further ado, introducing the first course, a De Luca infiltrator, Ms.—Cutey—Honey!”
He rips the curtain down to reveal the battered woman hanging by her wrists from the chain. The roar of the mob trampled any pleas for mercy or last curses shouted by the victim. The first chain slowly lowers into the pit in the center of the room. It unlocks and Cutey Honey hits the ground. From the balcony, the mob jeers down at her, waiting for the show to begin. A mohawked soldier standing next to me looks to me with bloodshot eyes and offers two to one odds that she doesn’t last over sixty seconds.
:We didn’t come here to gamble.
“A few creds here or there wouldn’t,”
:I’ve locked your account Jack.
I shouldn’t have taken the bet anyway. The loud gate to the labyrinth clangs open and a blackened blur charges into the maze. Cutey runs but the snarling beast gains on her trail fast. This was the its domain. Its fur stood out black as night, its fangs gleaming like a full moon. Jackson’s feral hound-human hybrid had found its next meal. After all the screaming, gnashing and bleeding was done, the fiends checked the glowing clock on the wall; 46.5 seconds.
From Jackson’s private room we could still hear the cries of his legion outside as the second course began.
“How’d you like the show?” He asked.
One of Jackson’s pigtailed private service girls entered the veiled room. She carries him a Manhattan than leaves without a word. I watch her leave, I doubt she was sixteen
:My tactical suggestion still remains that we cut our losses, and kill this son of a bitch.
“Ummm hmmm. The show was good Jackson. Very dramatic, very you.”
“Glad you noticed Jacky-boy; but my little pet is for more than just theatrics. De Luca’s been sending spies into my side of the tracks for weeks now. The bodies are just piling up, and my ‘Fluffy Puppy’ seems very well equipped to clean up the mess. But still, I can’t turn my head without seeing a pair of prying eyes. So I figure, if you can’t earn loyalty with love, earn it with fear, and if that doesn’t work, earn it with cash.”
I leaned back, acted more relaxed than I really was.
“I’m not any more trustworthy than your friends out there. More capable, sure, but my allegiance is to me. You hire me for one job, De Luca for another, I do what I get hired to do at the time. No love, no fear.”
Jackson sipped the Manhattan and his smile glimmered with giddy laugher.
“Jacky-boy, you ever think what might happen to you and the other mercs, when I win this thing? I’m not known for hospitality, and if you join the winning side now, it will, well, it’ll be a lot smoother for you.”
“And as soon as there’s a winning side I’ll be sure to do that. But for the here and now…”
Jackson keeps smiling. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing. He stands and walks to his desk. A heavily marked up map of the city lies across it, little opposing chess figures marking the division between Lowtown’s two chief factions.
“I need you to catch someone for me. A young lady friend of mine.”
He seems to sense the immediate disgust turning in my gut,
“Don’t worry,” he said, “She’s not my taste, quite the other thing. But all things have their usefulness, even when they get old. Unfortunately our benevolent cocksucker Guardians don’t share my vision; they want her dead.”
“I don’t take escort missions, and I don’t tangle with the Night-Shift.”
“Well that’s good, because you won’t have to worry about either. The Sentries don’t know her location yet, and to be honest this is really more of a kidnapping than an escort mission.”
Jill doesn’t say anything, but manages a wretching moan that conveys her exact sentiments on the subject. I can’t say I disagree, but my options are limited.
The do-gooder was a doctor, or healer, or some other terminology I couldn’t be bothered with. She ran a small underground clinic for anyone in need of medical assistance. The guardians shut down St. Crispins, and Khazan General could barely handle all those unfortunate souls who met the wrong end of a Day-Shift guard’s night-stick or a Lowtown fiend’s bullet. Apparently our mystery Doc had been running in some organization, The Children of… Something. All Jackson knew was that they had managed to end up on the wrong side of the Sentries. Now she was in hiding, in the dead zone of Moebius in all places. That explained why Jackson needed someone else to do his searching for him
“I’d go myself, but you know how it is,” he said, “the fumes in that place…”
He gleamed and flashed that evil smile.
Posted 04 January 2012 - 10:12 PM
Posted 05 January 2012 - 08:01 PM
In other words, I liked it. I assumed this was an alternate world of some sort where Khazan has become somewhat of a police state. It seemed to give off a vibe like an orwellian dystopia in the near future. I actually had an RP with a similar concept in mind that I never had the courage(Or time) to implement. I would say continue it as long as it doesn't interfere with any other writings you might have waiting for you. .
Posted 06 January 2012 - 07:27 AM
Yeah it is a police state under a group called the Sentries, basically the sentinels should they go evil. Basically it reverses everything. There was that one line about Commander Roughcoat, so it has all the same people but evil. Day-Shift is now Night-shift, Jill is now Jack, The Angels are now the Syndicate, but called the Confederation, and Sayang is well, you'll see...
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