Sunday, July 29, 2007
The heat of the yellow star baked the ancient, decrepit and pot-hole filled streets of the San Daneldez Valley on the fifth moon of the gas giant Dobus Eltka. The moon was Pailamour, and being a world with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere suitable for human habitation, was one of the first celestial bodies colonized. As Pailamour was settled early in the expansion, it carried many of the marks of being touched by human colonists early on, those being a high number of squat, low, poorly built twenty-first century Terran project-styled low-rent housing. Sprawls of mismatched, box-like, walled-in suburbia's protected by robotic foxdogs with matching low bungalow accentuations were scattered between dense commercial districts filled with graffiti and gangland turf wars. There weren't too many high-rises on Pailamour. After the initial investment of a mass-driver and the generators for the wormhole generator to link it with two other planets, Pailamour was left alone. It developed, as any world in the Terran United Confederacy of Worlds would. It prospered, developed some specialty items that could only be produced on location, and managed to have some semblance of an economy amid the sweatshops and gangland murders. Pailamour's chief export was small bits of technology; chips and chipsets and controlling units and various other technical doodads. The only reason this somewhat backwater place held that kind of reputation for a high level of technological know-how was thanks to the very same gang wars that took place: there was such a need for the ability to overcome each other that it produced an environment where computer hacking and computational skills took a kind of precedence. It also led to the construction of various exoskeleton armor suits being designed and built. This third-rate moon that spent all its days sweating under an unforgiving sun in the shadow of an orange blossom of a gas giant produced two things: gaudy trinkets for sightseers and tourists and high-end computers and weapons-grade software and armor systems, which was a contracted commodity that Earth, or rather Terra, bought en masse. - - - There was a whisper of a breeze through the open window causing the curtains to flutter and lisp listlessly for a moment. The buzz and quiet whirr of the bulky air conditioner filled the lower portion of the window, and filled the room with a chill. Beyond the window, the sun began its slow ascent into the horizon above the peaks of the cities towers and skyscrapers and square monolith-like apartment blocks. Its light cast strange angles through the open portal, a trapezoidal shape on the floor outlining within the dust mottled edges two figures. One lying on the floor in the middle of a circular rainbow carpet stained various colors with age and one standing over the fallen. The carpet, despite its age stains, carried a new load in the style of a ruddy red-brown ensemble of blemishes ground into its woven surface. That same substance now glistened abstractly on the fallen man's face and nose and side where his entrails were the leading edge of a new plaything for the housecat to play and gnaw on, which it was now sniffing at profusely. Bright streaks of congealed blood splattered the wallpapered walls, marring the lamp on the bedside table next to the Queen sized and opulent bed that was a monstrosity somehow wedged into the tiny room. Throw pillows adorned it, strewn about the room as if in a struggle. The man, the murderer, looked up into a free-standing mirror next to an ornate, three-drawer dresser, seeing the dark streaks on himself too. It was on his hands, up his arms, mashing into his black pullover with white skull emblem on the back. He peered into his own slate-grey eyes, the cold orbs staring back remorseless at the half tattooed face. His blue jeans carried red palm prints and grasp marks in their faded and aged surface. His brown hair was tussled and filled with new dark highlights, and he didn't dye his hair. "Waking up, I see. Good morning to you, my dear." And as he says the words, sirens split a shrill note in the distance, drawing closer. - - - Drenard Alekseyev Romyal was a creature lost. With little in the way of memory left to him, and no knowledge of a past or future or present that truly belong to him, he turned to crime. He was half-way decent, a petty thief, a murderer without conscience and a small-time hacker with above mediocre skills, but his lack of a past even to himself made him believe that what he was doing in this lowly predicament was a fall from grace. Always keeping his slate-grey eyes on the lookout for an in-route to something better, he performed his tasks in life with a kind of dazed and glossed over listlessness reminiscent of the comatose. He had no girlfriend or friends or family, only a collection of contacts that provided him with jobs to get him by, and even those contacts didn't like dealing with him, calling this tall, lanky fellow a bestial animal. But it was on a Thursday morning, at about seven, while Drenard sat in a diner whittling away an unappealing mass of eggs, bacon, and hash browns and a glass of orange juice that looked like cream corn, that he was approached by a contact. "Hey, man, got a job fur ya -- in'erested?" He shrugged, shoveling the sloppy mass of food into his mouth with a fork. "Just gotta knock off some low-time broad." He mumbled around the mass. "S'what I gotta do? Just kill 'er?" "Yeah, jus', like, make her dead. Tha's all we need." Choking down the orange juice, he asks, "What'd she do?" "Don't matter, make tha broad dead, 'kay? Pay's up front." "Fine, I'll do it." A picture of the broad was handed over. She was a tall, slim Asian number with long hair done up and clad in a business suit. She was looking to a side, walking down some marble-looking stairs with iron handrails. Pedestrians marked the street around her. She was smiling, white teeth glowing from beneath happy brown eyes. Drenard shrugged, flipped the picture over and starred at the back of it. There was an address. He nodded, pocketed the picture, shoveled away the last contents of his breakfast, dumped a wad of bills on the table and left, leaving the contact there. - - - Drenard scratched at the tattoos on his face, little golden and silver lines that crisscrossed on one half, starring at the body of the dead man. The broad, Janice Wong, was dead in the living room. He could hear the sirens clanging away and getting closer. He'd been ratted out, or felt that someone had. He was the fall guy. He glanced about the bedroom then dashed into the living room beyond. Hard wood floors streaked and stained with Janice's blood and her body crumpled in a mess beneath a broken lamp, her head caved in from the now destroyed lighting piece. The couch was flipped, several pictures smashed and broken. He began scrambling, looking through the room for something. Finding nothing and cursing, he turned to the fire escape and jumped through the window, knocking over another quietly whining air conditioner. It clanged and crashed loudly, waking several people at this early hour on a Friday. A woman began shouting, a cat mewled and Drenard slipped down the iron entanglement clinging to the side of the building swearing the whole way. This sucked. - - - He woke at five thirty in the morning, his eyes snapping wide as the small rays of light began to filter in through the blinds of his window. He blinked sitting up, scratching at the sleepsand scuttled in and around his eyes as he groped on the floor for his track suit with the other hand. Pulling it on with robotic efficiency and motions, he reached for his runners and double-knotted them about his feet. Rising, he rushed out the back door on his morning run. Forty minutes and nine kilometers later he returned in a sweat, his face stinging in the salty sensation as the liquid oozed down his spine like trickling fingers. He showered, shaved and dressed in the span of fifteen minutes, the motions again robotic, muscle-memory guiding him. He didn't even stop to think about what he was doing even as he went to the fridge, an old thing that looked like it was from the 1940's. A breakfast of cereal, scrambled eggs, orange juice and anti-depressants followed as he wallowed about in masticated, self-pity. The kitchen was small. An L-shape counter set with sink, stove, fridge and minimal counter-top space. A small circular table with three chairs was set in the tiny nook, looking dejected, like it was stuffed there and forgotten. Piled high with random books of military history and newspapers, it looked ready to collapse under the weight it bore. Dumping his dishes in the sink, he clawed at his face and nose with a hand, scratching away an itch he didn't feel. He opened the back door again, cracking it wide to the sunlight that pressed in heavy and confounding to blind him as he moved to the lean-to on the side of his ramshackle house with a beater of a Buick sheltered beneath its weathered surface. Sliding into the drivers' seat and igniting the ignition, he drove away. His name was Drenard Alekseyev-Romyal. He wasn't sure where he was or why he was here, and yet memories bobbed about in the ocean of thought that thundered through his cold mind. - - - Drenard hit the pavement running like a frightened animal. The clanging rattle of the escape ladder continued to ring away its cacophony amid the shouts of the awakening people who were fraught with anger at being so disturbed from slumber. Not that it mattered. He rolled first, his legs buckling before the garbage piles enveloped him for a moment before he burst forth stumbling and fumbling and scraping the ground with hands trying to stabilize his frantic momentum-filled frame as he fought for a forward direction against the sideways lolling his body attempted. He escaped the alley in mere moments before dashing along its wide and empty boulevard. The few pedestrians gave him distasteful glances as he rushed, the deep shadows of the buildings cloaking him for ounces of time as he passed store fronts and graphics and holo-images that danced and whirled and spun through the air. He didn't know how long he ran for, or how far. He found himself shuddering and breathing heavily miles away in a trash-riddled alleyway outside a Chinese restaurant feeling cold and distant. What was it that he'd just done? He seemed to ask himself that distantly, but he knew. Some part of him felt satisfaction at the act. Another part, maybe a part of him that could still be called human after a fashion, was profoundly disgusted. Either way, the woman was dead, Drenard was several grand richer, and he had at least gotten away with the act -- for now.