The Wake Up Call (Parts 1.01 and 1.02)
Written by TAD
Set in the near future where bio-technology is as common as drug use and terrorist bombings this follows the ugly adventures of a small time criminal who wants to score a major hit so that he can settle all his debts and move out of the squalid habitation block where he currently lives. He has lots of plans for his future, unfortunately in order to arrive at his 'neo-Eden' he must undertake some seriously dangerous tasks and most of which will threaten his longevity and ruin his plans.
For Authors Only
(everyone else please jump directly to Chapter 1: Terminal)
This is a fairly short story which will be published in the next 3 or 4 issues of Hugi. There is no clear story outline or pre-planned ending, so I will be making it all up as I go along. This is not the usual method of writing, but what the hell. If anyone else out there is interested in writing the next few chapters by themselves then please email me or Adok, and perhaps we can get a very interesting story going here with lots of different authors contributing to creating a new way to write stories. I don't want to discuss "How to write stories" or "the merits of clear story outlines" etc. I want this to develop as each chapter is written by a number of different authors so no-one really knows what comes next. This should (I hope) produce some interesting results with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
I have tried to introduce some loose ends into the following chapters and have not put too much detail in the characters because I want the reader of the story to discover these facts along the way as other authors contribute to it. The general atmosphere is also quite open, a murky future where drugs, bio-tech technology and terrorists litter the sometimes gleaming city hives, corruption is in the most unlikely places and everyone is out to be rich one way or another. The genre is probably close to a crime thriller with sci-fi elements and a little humour thrown in. Each chapter can be a mini-plot in itself, or a continuation of the previous chapters. So if you feel that your writing style is similar to my own, or that you can write a chapter or two, then please contact either myself or Adok. Hopefully it will be as fun to write as it should be to read.
Chapter 1: Terminal.
Hetch felt the sweat pour down his face and onto his neck. This was the first time he had been a courier. Whatever was in the metal case was bound to be dangerous and highly illegal, but he didn't care. He blanked all the out the lies which Mewco had told him in his damp, murky office. All he cared about was the delivery time and all Hetch cared about was the credit transaction, once this was verified he bolted for the door, eager to dump the cargo at the drop-off point before Mewco could Welsh on the deal. His fellow shuttle passengers looked and whispered amongst themselves. He ignored their overheard comments about his pale face and blood-shot eyes. The delivery was his number one priority, followed by the till statement of his account and then finally to catch some zees. The in-flight entertainment was the normal dull stuff, full of over-pumped muscles and under-brain bimbos, and that was just the news reports.
The ape across the shuttle was giving him the once over, but Hetch hadn't noticed at first. His clothes were drab and far too clean, the sort of kind which the transient-agents wear in a sore thumb way to 'blend' with their environments but never do. He could be a trooper, an opposing courier, an assassin or even maybe a swipe-freak. Hetch hadn't seen one of these freaks in person, only on news reps or the wanted poster boards. Perhaps if he had managed to snatch some sleep during the past week then he would have remembered where he had seen that ugly mug before, maybe even check out the amount of reward on offer, but time was money and the timer was running on the case. In less than 15 hours it would trigger, making the cargo worthless. This would be the worst business of Hetch's life since he ripped off the Dregs in the city then tried to sell them their own hardware for a cool 100% profit. But no, the ape across the shuttle must wait until he could find some more familiar surroundings with less witnesses.
The tedious journey would stretch on for five more hours with little to break the brain-cell killing minutes apart from a family of punk-ass kids who either pressed everything in sight, attempted to take it apart or threaten the elderly folk by exposing themselves. Apart from kicking the case on their mini-rampages up and down the shuttle Hetch found them as boring as the in-flight flick. So he pulled up his collar and closed his eyes hoping that the rest of the flight would pass more quickly and far quieter than the previous five hours. The bright wall lamps cut through his darkened eye-lids giving everything a fuzzy, pink appearance in the shuttle. The endless chattering and low hum around him was interrupted by one of the little punks getting zapped by a personal shock torch and falling onto the ground. It is the kind of weapon which an elderly person would carry for just this type of encounter. The remaining members of the wanna-be gang roared with laughter and watched their fellow gang member squealing on the room in agony. "Ah," thought Hetch, "There is some justice in this sick world."
"Excuse me, Sir?" came a polite woman's voice, "Sir?". Hetch opened his eyes as quickly as the bags under them would allow and he looked at the attractive woman in a uniform standing over him. "Yeah, what'd want?" "I think you have missed your arrival port sir." "What? Oh fuck!" he muttered to himself. "The shuttle has reached the final terminal. You must get off now." "Okay, okay" said Hetch standing up far too quickly and his head swam round in circles like a goldfish in a toilet pan. "Do you need any help? Are you on medication or have a special need which makes it difficult for you to walk?" "Hey? Are you yanking my chain?" "No Sir, it's just that I noticed your prosthesis is missing" Hetch looked down at his arm, the suitcase was gone, so too was his arm and the solid chain which attached them both together. This was really bad news. "Do you require assistance exiting the shuttle?" "Err, no thanks." The stewardess smiled, turned and began to check the seats on her way out. Hetch looked around, apart from him no-one else was left. The silence that he wanted a few hours earlier was now upon him and all he could hear was Mewco's complaints about "How the fuck did you lose both the case AND your arm. You're one dumb shit kido." Or at least this is how Hetch imagined the vid-call would go when he communicated the facts to his new boss. He wondered who that ape in the corner was. Was it him who took the case, or those little punks for a dare?
Hetch walked the shuttle and knelt down in the corner. Under the seat was nothing but trash. The normal boxes, wrappers, bubble-sticks, coins and tickets which covered almost every inch of the floor. No case, no arm. He did the only thing which he could think of. He grabbed a bunch of tickets and vid-card flyers for 'suppliers of horizontal pleasures' and stuffed them into his trench-coat pockets. The stewardess came back into the shuttle and looked for Hetch. "Can I help you?" "Nah, just peeping for my arm. Wait, do you have a lost property dept. here?" "There's one near the boarding gates in the main complex. I'm going there myself. I'll be happy to show you the way." She smiled, but this wasn't the normal issue smile that stewardesses pull, it seemed sincere and friendly. "This is the only nice thing that's happened today" thought Hetch.
Chapter 2: Lost and Found.
They walked along the boarding platform and into a transparent lift filled with fake plants, stale perfume and a synthetic welcome message. "Greeting. I am here to make your short transition from shuttle to the main complex as comfortable as possible. For your entertainment I will display a variety of holographic slides and play soothing musical tracks. If you have a preference as to the ..." "Mute," yelled Hetch at the lift. The stewardess looked at him, then at his trench-coat. It was dirty and torn. She could only imagine how many different stains it had, or why he had chrome knee pads and bio-hazard boots on. This outfit was definitely not a fashion statement. "Don't ya just hate that damn voice?" "You get used to it after a year or two," she replied.
Ping, Ping. "A prosthetic device has been handled into the lost article department. If you are the owner of this item, then please report to our inquiry desk. Thank you," stated the intercom system. "I guess that explains where my arm is." "Is, is it valuable?" asked the stewardess awkwardly. "'Bout two or 3 thousand. It's a custom made piece." "Don't they make organic ones these days?" "They do, but I need a mechanical one for my work."
From the corner of his eye Hetch noticed the large projection screen embedded in the lift door. It showed a news story about the Rhyson shuttle port where he should have got off. Scenes of armed troopers and riots filled the frame. Although the sound was switched off he could work out the general atmosphere and events preceding them. The port was filled with dust and rumble. Some massive explosion had occurred. It could be a terrorist attack or a gangland hit by one of the more vicious tribes like the Righteous or the Dregs. These brutal gangs not only slay their enemies but they often strap on timed explosive packs to the corpses to send a clear message to other gangs.
Ping, "You have now arrived at the main complex. Have a productive day."
Hetch rose to his feet and followed the stewardess to the inquiry desk. She leaned across the desk to speak into the protective screen microphone, the type which prevents bullets from killing its occupants but also prevents sound from getting through too. Hetch noticed her ident badge squashed against the bubble glass as she asked about the lost property. Its bar-code trapped her figure behind it. The person inside the inquiry dome had a problem working the intercom system this wasn't surprising as they are the number one target for punks to take apart for fun. The stewardess' figure was nice and shapely with long dark hair cascading down her back, its ends split out into finger like strands. They looked like a natural bar-code and this got Hetch's mind racing so he reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a thin chrome scanner in the shaped of a pen and ran it across her id-badge. With a red beam of light and a few bleeps it was captured and stored, locked away in its nano-memory.
"They seem to be having a few technical problems with the intercom." "No worry," smiled Hetch, "I can find my own way to the lost property." With this Hetch walked from the desk and towards the row of turbo-pavements which filled most shuttle ports on most levels even where the passengers only had a few yards to walk. He stepped onto the pavement and watched as the others travelling in the opposite direction stared at his arm and outfit. It was probably the first time most of them had seen a non-designer garment and they had definitely never seen a missing limb before.
As he approached the end of the pavement a group of security-recs turned and pointed their high quality lenses towards him. Their controlling logic circuits no doubt identified him as an undesirable element in the shuttle complex. This wasn't the day for low key disguises and he blended into the background like a nuclear mushroom cloud. The heavy clanking sound of his boots on the shiny floor surfaces drew even more attention to himself. The exit was approaching quickly and the army of guards made Hetch nervous, very nervous. What if it was his case which caused the explosion at Rhyson. It would mean another long week in a detention block and perhaps even a stretch in the social correction mines digging vast amounts of minerals for 15 hours a day. Hetch really needed a holiday but this wasn't his ideal destination, he had more female flesh and less mining in mind. The sort of slacking resort where everyone is chilled out, zonked on frontal-lob drugs, and other illegal activities like gambling vast amount of other people's credits or watching pit fights.
Hetch paused at the gates and stared at the guards their side arms hung from their belts, the new burst cannons with magma shells, very cool and very deadly. Most of the new troopers were now carrying these weapons made by the Tritech research labs. Whose profits had soared over the previous few years due to the vast increase in terrorist bombings and attacks on military installations. Some innocent passengers were talking to the guards and pointing towards Hetch, this made him nervous, more nervous then when he had checked through the boarding gates onto the shuttle. He didn't feel like answering questions today, or any day. The stimulant drugs would still be floating in his veins somewhere and his blood shot eyes were still hazy with their affects. This was a minor crime but Hetch was carrying some more 'questionable' items and their missing serial numbers wouldn't help his case. Being a smart courier wasn't Hetch's number one priority, getting paid and laid was, in any order. He had seen enough crime blitz situations in murky drinking places to know when to head for the bathroom to either bail out through the window and drainage duct or to loss his cargo down the toilet pan. He watched one of the guard's reflection in a tall chrome column which supported the major information board while he pretended to search for departure and arrival times. The armoured figure grew larger and its distorted outline swirled around the shiny silver surface of the column. Hetch began to walk away, slowly at first but then increasing in speed.
He was soon back at the moving pavement and side stepped some of the tourists which filled the conveyor tracks. The noise of a hundred conversations filled his ears and a thousand bright shirts hurt his eyes, their taste in clothes were as bad as their conversations. In the distance he heard the guards call out to someone and push a few people out of their way. The toilet door was now in view, sanctuary. Those designer signs and trendy graphics raced up and down the surrounding door frame filled with attempts to sell its users some more 'Dribble juice - the choice of the smart, young youth.' or 'Chomp burgers - so good even your vomit will taste meaty'. It's funny that these advertisers were showing you images of their gut-wrenching food stuffs at exactly the moment that you wanted to expel some bodily waste products. In many cases the same food had caused you to feel sick in the first place. Of course there were the usual weird freaks, punks and zonk-drop outs surrounding the toilets, not to mention pushers and slave-traders ready to snatch an unsuspecting tourist in order to sell later on. A group of religious types swarmed around Hetch as he approached the door, the smell was pure evil. Their transcendental drugs mixed with the foul sewage aroma from the toilets and chemical air filtration systems were overloaded by the smells which they were meant to extract. One of the leaders from the religious clan stood in front of Hetch and exclaimed the virtues of his cult.
"Brother, your search is over. Join with us and find spiritual freedom and wealth beyond your own imagination, come, join us." Hetch sighed loudly, he was in no mood and had little time for this. "Just, fuck off. Okay?" "Brother, your mouth is filled with wretched vile spirits. You are in need of a cleansing." And with this three grabbed him and forced him onto the ground, pushing his face against the cold, tiled floor with a heavy saddled foot pressed firmly on the back of his neck. "Now, let us expunge you of all worldly trapping so that you may become free to discover enlightenment through pain." Hetch struggled but his one arm was violently slammed down by another boot to his ribs and a stamp to his fingers. "Fucking freaks" he cursed unable to move by their combined weight. One of the cult member stabbed a probe into his neck, "Shut up, or get a dose of battery acid you pagan scum." They scanned the ident-chip implanted at the top of Hetch's spine and downloaded the vital data stream into a home made interrogator device which was covered in spirals and mystic rune like symbols. It could only be the Loco-clan, this was not their real name but a media invented phrase used to describe their 'exorcism techniques' for opposing gangs, of course the victims never lived more than a few hours, just enough time to collect their credit details and cleanse their accounts of unholy items, like money, property and insurance payments.
The door broke open and there stood four guards with their side arms sweeping the room checking for targets. The pack of illegal dwellers in the toilet scattered like cockroaches, diving under doors or frantically hitting the flush triggers on the toilet cubicles. A rapid burst of weapons were exchanged above Hetch's flattened body and the clan fell heavily onto the grimy tiled floor, their blood oozed out and flooded the cracks between each tile. The sudden sound of thundering weapons now died down and their echoes soon faded into the background noise of the shuttle port. Hetch pulled the probe from his neck carefully trying to avoid pushing its siphon down. It came out easily enough and a small drop of blood ran down his neck. Before he could do anything else he had dragged to his feet by two of the guards. He was taken out through the door where another ten or so guards surrounded him. The crowds were beginning to grow near the entrance and needed to be shoved back and ordered to keep moving.
"We have some metal that belongs to you," said the deep voice of the commander. "Come with us."
Hetch was marched along the corridors and down to a small back office. A swipe of a security card and the large door glided open. Inside was a couple of suited employees standing behind a high counter with a gleaming screen around it. On the walls were rows and rows of shelves filled with boxes and various items. Inside the room was a number of people who all looked nervous or sombre. The guards pushed Hetch into the room and then closed the door behind him. At least he didn't have them breathing down his neck or pulling at the seams of his trench-coat anymore, but this place was strange, it had no posters, no labels or entertainment systems. The people behind the counter looked like zombies, forced to stand where they were for an eternity. The atmosphere was uncomfortable, it was cold and mortuary quiet. There was a smell of dry stale dust in the air.
It could only be... the lost property department. Although this was a well known about place Hetch had never visited one before. There were some rumours that they were the places where people and items went missing rather than being the place where lost items were recovered. Hetch was just happy that the guards who had rescued him from the cult hadn't stuck around to ask him some questions, but no doubt the person behind the desk would require some identification and probably ask some awkward questions while they ran a background check on him. And who knows, maybe the guards were waiting outside the door ready to arrest him and what metal item was the commander talking about? Could it be his arm, or the case? If it was the case then it couldn't have caused the explosion at Rhyson.
Hetch saw the vid-phone in the corner and began to walk towards it. He couldn't decide whether to call Mewco or not, after all the vid could be bugged like they often are inside shuttle ports to help convict smugglers and fences. No, he couldn't take the chance of using a weak channel and anyway Mewco was most likely to be out of his head on a cocktail of drugs or engineering his next scam to make money. The large woman behind the screen called out to him, "The vid-link is out of order. We have called the repairers but those worthless morons gave some excuse about an explosion earlier today." With this line of thought she continued complaining to herself and anyone else who was unfortunate enough to be within earshot. Hetch moved as far away from the counter as possible, away from the tracking cameras which hovered just above the desk. He looked out through the long window and transparent floor, below him were vast trains of transporter pods and luggage loader working around the rows of shuttles. Then he noticed some large military transporter in the far corner surrounded by troops and pretty hefty looking hardware. The darkness masked their true numbers with grav-loaders shuffling backwards and forwards unloading giant cannisters, adding them to the already considerable piles near the shuttles. Hetch could only imagine at this hardware's cost. Even when sold on the underground network for a fraction of their true price it would be enough to set Hetch up for the rest of his life; and if caught that's exactly what he would lose.
Something vast was about to go off and Hetch needed to find an escape route and fast.
To be continued...