The Wake Up Call (part 1.12)
Chapter 1.12: A kick start
The echoes rang out, then died like a fireworks display. The cold charm of the morgue once again reclaimed its heavy silence. Those distant audio shots were cast into the world by an automatic lock snapping a bio-seal lab door tightly shut. The hissing sounds from a collection of coolant units and air filters then began their chorus of song. Shiny surfaces spread out in every direction and walls of container pods seemed the only means of navigating a path through this maze like building. Bright yellow hazard signs gave a much needed variety to the bland, dull rooms which all shared a sparse, monochrome decor.
In a small side room was a row of metal autopsy tables, each had a large collection bin underneath which is used to catch the waste materials from the medical examinations like blood, urine and the undigested food contents from a body. Trays of dissection tools were neatly stored in transparent units along each wall. Above them large, curved glass windows rose up to the very high ceiling. Numerous rows of seats could be easily seen through the glass which forms the centre circle of an operation viewing gallery. This room was designed for medical students, to allow them a clear view of an autopsy below, something like a Roman arena where the poor, unfortunate chosen are torn apart for the delights of the audience.
But this room, and it seemed every other one connected to it, was bathed in darkness and stifled by silence. The only light sources appeared to be flickering LEDs from racks of gleaming medical hardware and a forgotten neon desk lamp on the corner desk. A pile of notes together with a half empty coffee cup were the only signs that the desk had been recently used, very recently in fact; the aroma of hot coffee was the only visible movement in the room. But this too, like the previous horizontal visitors to pass through this place, would soon be gone, dispelled and absorbed by the air filtration system.
On the central autopsy table was a large white cloth. Underneath it was a body and a fresh one at that. It still had its boots on where normally bare feet and a toe-tag label would be found.
There was a beep, like that of an electronic swipe-card reader, and the far service door opened. An average height figure approached through the rounded door frame, being careful not to trip over the mop and bucket which the person pushed in front of them like a mis-behaved dog eager to chase own tail or anything else which moved. The figure was wearing a corporate uniform designed to protect the wearer from dust and dirt but offered little in the way of comfort. Muffled sound and holo-light escaped around the sides of the figure's virtual entertainment visor. He was clearly in a world of his own, consumed by the audio-visual treats contained in these mass produced goggles. The 'Virt-man' was one of the most popular forms of mobile entertainment. It offered cheap, reliable holographic playback of near perfect reality experiences and was seen by some to be a stealth form of mind control through which the makers could insert their own subliminal messages into the virtual movies.
The cleaner proceeded to wipe the floor with his mop, occasionally ducking it into the dirty water of his bucket. It was ironic that with all this expensive, state of the art equipment around him he should be forced to use such a primitive cleaning method. This was partly due to the fact that his Virt-man would screw up if any high powered cleaning tool with a motor was used near it. Sure, an automated droid would have only taken half the time, but without any entertainment it would have felt like time was running ten times more slowly. He continued to clean around the central table and then accidentally the mop handle caught the white sheet, sending it sliding off the body and onto the floor.
Damn! Suppose I'd better pick it up.
As he walked around the table to the sheet a loud bleep sound from his watch rang out.
Whoa, double-damn! Time for a little snack break.
The cleaner removed his Virt-man visor and searched in his pocket for his favourite 'Splurt' snack bar. An incredibly high sugar snack which gives the consumer a sudden, brief rush of alcoholic pleasure.
Hey man, what's your story?
he said, jokingly to the body.
Looks like someone else has had a really bad day.
He bit off part of the Splurt snack bar and chewed it like a rubber cow eating a plate full of golf-balls. His wobbly jaw only stopped its random orbits once he saw the small exit hole on the chest of the body and the surrounding acid burn.
Now, what HAS happened to you, mister? Sure looks like a funny gun shot hole. Damn, I bet that smarted a little, huh?
The cleaner took out a small, electronic medical book from the desk and returned back to the body. Leaning the book on the body's feet so he could see the screen more easily, he pulled a robot-like arm from underneath the table and positioned it over the chest area. The magnifying zoom plate hovered above the exit hole triggering the large display screen on the overhead control panel to flicker into life. This incredibly powerful microscope equipment gave the usual high resolution magnification along with x-ray, heat and radiation scanning of a subject. This hardware was definitely out of bounds for a mere cleaner. If his employers knew about his little hobby of amateur autopsies then he would be sure of a heavy fine and a prison sentence, but the long, boring duties of cleaning room after room, day after day made the possibility of actually being caught a small one. Besides it looked like this cleaner already had seen the insides of a prison cell before, probably cleaned them out too, maybe with the same old mop and bucket.
Okay, now where's those damn instructions on how to use this gadget?
he muttered to himself and looked at the electronic book.
Hmmm, could try a dissection today, remove some vital organs or something.
he looked at the floor which he had previously cleaned using the mop and bucket.
Nah, screw that! Don't want to have to clean up again. Hey, let's try electric convulsive therapy. Should help to pass the time.
He selected the proper option from the control panel and punched 100 volts into the body.
Yeah, way cool! Let's try 200 volts.
Unknown to the cleaner the eyes of the body began to move from side to side, the corpse wasn't a corpse any longer. It was more like a sleeping dog being woken up by the sound of a distance postman opening a front gate. The blood shot eyes blinked and swirled around like a bath-tub plug being pulled out and were almost as watery.
Damn, still recharging. Come on you retarded thing.
The fingers on the body began to move, followed by its mouth.
Fuck! You're still alive!
Come on man, you're not making a shit load of sense! Tra.. what?
exclaimed Hetch, the effort of speaking was almost too much for him.
Tranquilliser? Right, you've been hit by a tranq-dart, right?
Hetch slowly and painfully nodded his head.
Man, I knew this shit wasn't a gun hole. What can I do?
Hetch gripped the cleaner's uniform and tried to look him straight in the eye which wasn't easy in his hazy state of confusion and drug induced relaxation.
Stim, get a stim and inject it! A stim!
Stimulant? Right, wait there.
Hetch sunk back into the recess of the autopsy table, happy to realise that the cleaner now understood. He waited and waited for the sound of a stimulant piston against his neck. Every second seemed like an hour and every movement like an ordeal. Finally the cleaner delivered the goods. A few moments later and Hetch's limbs began to feel lighter, more like flesh and bone and less like lead weights.
Right, no problem man. Now why the fuck aren't you dead?
Hetch turned to get up, too fast, his supporting arm gave way and slid off the autopsy table. Luckily the cleaner stopped his body from crashing onto the hard floor below.
Hey, just take it steady man. It's not every day you rise from the dead!
Now take some deep breaths, that should help speed up the effects of the stimulants.
Hetch clawed a deep, lung full of filtered air and screamed out from the re-awakened acid burn pain on his side.
Argh, shit! Get me pain killers. Lots of them!
He gulped down pill after pill. At this point in time he didn't care about overdosing, only the pain from his side was his primary motivation. Reading the small print on the pill bottle wasn't in his top-10 list of priorities. He needed help and time and then, damn, that case, where the hell was it? He fell onto his feet leaving two big boot prints on the cleaner's nice wet floor. Searching through the various cupboards and storage boxes he eventually discovered the booty he so much desired, or at least part of the grand booty, dermatological film. This smart material had been developed by a small company to treat burns and was originally intended for military use, but the amazing healing effects and mild pain relief which it administered to a patient's skin was too much of a gold mine and so it was sold to civilians and hospitals for vast sums of money. Sure, it was expensive but as one corporate director said, "People in pain will pay anything".
Did you see who brought me in? Did you see an attractive woman with long, dark hair? or what about a metal case?
Hey, steady on and back up! I'm just a badly paid cleaner, man. I've just saved your life and now, now you're hitting me with all these questions, Damn. Chill out for a moment.
Hetch reached into one of Mewco's deep coat pockets and pulled out a selection of credit cards. A glance was all he needed to realise that the cleaner already had his eye on the gold one.
Here, take it. It's a cloned corporate card so there are plenty of credits on it and virtually untraceable, the owner won't even notice if you bought a gold plated mop and bucket.
The cleaner accepted the gift and whose mind was already spending most of its illegal credits, a mop and bucket were the items furthest from his greedy eyes at that moment in time. Hetch gave himself a wry smile. He knew that the credit card would only offer a few 100 credits before the imbedded data chip dissolved, but of course Hetch had plans to be elsewhere when the cleaner found this out. This was a classic Mewco trick, like getting people to bid for the contents of a mystery locker in one of his illegal auctions. Once the buyer had paid Mewco then opened the locker he would always find it empty, or filled with pure junk. Of course Mewco would say, "Damn, looks like someone has broke in and stolen the goodies".
Kudos man. This little baby is my ticket outta this ass hole job. Okay, right, you're inside the Aurora Complex.
Hetch was visibly upset by those two words, he dropped onto the floor resting his back against the large, cold autopsy container bin. His hand fell into his hands and a loud sigh of dismay greeted the cleaner's ears.
You do know who lives in the Complex, right?
I wish I didn't.
The McKaff brothers.
Yeah, those three charming individuals. Are they here in the complex, or out collecting their protection money and terrorising people?
I think they're in the meeting room on the top floor.
That's still too close for my liking. Better find a way to find my case and get the hell outta before those freaks know I'm here.
The Aurora Complex is a vast, custom built housing complex occupied and paid for by the McKaff brothers with their illegal profits from every kind of extortion, robbery, scam, hi-jacking, counterfeiting and murderous take-over known to man. Mewco in comparison was small fry, a tiny tadpole in a vast pond of corrupt sharks. These three gangsters were into everyone's pocket, even Mewco to some small degree. Where Mewco occupied the dark, shadowy world of alleyways the McKaffs lived out in the open. They are hardened gangsters with real power, both political leaders and police were in their tight, controlling grip. They had many enemies but almost none had the clout to topple them from their bloody throne.
Mewco had been a long time nemesis to the McKaffs, especially to Keel, the eldest of the three brothers, because Mewco controlled the trade in illegal military hardware with the help of Splice and occasionally Trimble, not to mention his vast underground network of ex-mercenary associates. The McKaffs had the numbers, the money and the balls to crush Mewco or anyone like him, but they lacked the discipline of a military background. To many they were thugs, vicious gangsters using pain to control their employees, of course no-one would ever say this to their faces. But Mewco used greed, and a few powerful narcotics, to keep his 'customers' happy. If the truth was told then Mewco had a more devious, sharp and experienced mind than all three McKaff brothers put together. Mewco armed most of the gangs and cults with weapons and the McKaffs used these groups to do all the grunt work like controlling the ghettos or recruiting unwilling employees to smuggle various items.
The rich, opulent and elaborate surroundings of the Aurora Complex was a bold, gross statement about the McKaff's mentality. They had power and money and wanted people to see this at every opportunity. The large complex was more like a self-contained city than a housing complex. It had its own weapons stores, shooting range, leisure suites, labs, nuclear bunkers, hospitals and of course morgue. These weren't only a status-symbol, but rather a necessary series of buildings used by them or their employees. All rely on regular surgery to upgrade their bio-tech implants, replace out-of-date or broken body parts or change to this season's style. Their bodies have been drilled and filled with countless drugs or replacement man-made materials all designed to give them more speed, more strength or more aggression than anyone else. In this constant upgrade race to stay ahead of their fierce competitors they often used Swipe-Freaks to acquire body parts from unsuspecting victims. One moment you're walking down a dark alley then bang, you wake up with a missing body part, a kidney, an eye or sometimes an arm or leg. During the creation of this immense building many rival gangs killed the construction workers using drive-by shootings, snipers or sabotage. In fact some of the lower levels are scarred by thousands of bullet holes and all of which has been filled with gold. This shows the sheer nerve and contempt of the McKaff brothers for their enemies. They are boastful of these failed assassination attempts on their lives. It gives them a reason for acts of extreme brutality against their enemies.
Out of the three brothers Keel is the eldest and the leader of the other two, Dakk and Wheeze, who are both heavy users of the deadly Neural-Stim drug and fixated with all military objects. In fact Dakk and Wheeze spend most of their time running the Tek Emporium bio-tech shops or collecting protection money from the inhabitants of the Milton Citadel and the ghetto-blocks on the opposite side of the city. All are heavy users of bio-enhancements. Implants and transplants often form the basis of their illegal transactions with one of their many crime-lord underlings. Out of the three Wheeze is the most screwed up individual, his internal organs have been wrecked by toxins and almost fatal beatings over the years. Dakk is very much a quiet character, the assassin-like person who hardly ever talks. He is perhaps the one whose personality is the most like Mewco and has plans to take over from his older brother Keel in the near future.
So what do you want me to do? I guess I figure in your escape plan, huh?
the cleaner asked, obviously knowing that he had to do far more to help Hetch in order to keep his newly given gold credit card.
Funny you should say that. Now, show me where the weapons are kept. Then let's pay a little visit to the top floor. I want to ask the McKaffs a few questions, like where the fuck my case is!
This seemed as suicidal to the cleaner as it did to Hetch the moment after he had said it, but time was his enemy. No amount of planning would make up for lost time, the sands were running through the hourglass like the sweat off a Money-shot audience member during the final erotic stage act on a Friday night. The sweat was pouring off Hetch's forehead and palms of his hand for a different reason, fear. Fear of revisiting that cold, metal autopsy table, except the next time it wouldn't be due to a tranquilliser dart. If he failed then Dakk or Wheeze would take great pleasure in hacking off parts of his anatomy while he was still alive. His mind wondered for a moment, the stewardess, what had become of her? She might at this very moment be handing over the case to her contact on the shuttle. She might have even got one of her acquaintances to dump his body here for a few extra credits from the McKaffs.
He needed some luck and some answers like how long did he have left to deliver the case? and what had happened to it? and most important of all, would he live long enough to see the outside of the Aurora Complex again?
To be continued...