Wired Neon Cities - Session 16
20th March 2021
It's a Saturday night and I'm logged on to Meet on my PC.
It's time for the 1st session in season 2 of Matakishi's Wired Neon Cities campaign.
Location: Neon City.
It had been quiet since Ghost Radical's takedown and we were making the most of the downtime, burning through days in a haze of intoxicants and euphoriants Neon City style. It never lasted though and The City of Electric Dreams had a way of crashing you back down to earth, pulling those electric dreams further away and trapping you in the this life.
News had reached us from the GLOWNET feeds that Yaroh Uron, a perennially down-on-his luck wage-monkey who we'd made an acquaintance of after he'd got caught in the crossfire between Protobase Global and us had been arrested by rentacop. He'd been marched to the Ninety Ninth Street precinct and charged with murder?
We had no choice but to check it out, he would need the help.
It was a hot afternoon tram ride to the Neon Mile, unrelenting sunlight glared through the dirt-smeared tram windows and shielding my eyes, I wondered what could have happened to Yaroh Uron.
Even at this time of day, Ninety Ninth was busy, raucous crowds of fun-seekers roamed the street. navigating gambling dens that blared out electronic jingles, bar and restaurant touts hawking for customers, street performers and street workers plying their trade.
Unsurprisingly, the rentacop precinct was a lifeless grey steel-reinforced bunker at one end of the Neon Mile, utterly in contrast to the garish, loud vibrancy that defined Ninety Ninth.
Initially rentacop refused us access to Yaroh; no visitors allowed they had resolutely stated. Made me think about Yaroh's wife, had they also denied her access? What was their game plan? What trouble was Yaroh Uron in?
Bill was having none of it, without dropping a beat he got in rentacop's face and told him that we were Yaroh's legal team, he threatened have their plastic faux police badges for desk ornaments if they got in our way. I had no idea if that was truthful or not but it did the trick, despite the fact everyone else mostly looked akin to miscreant street brawlers; we got in to see Yaroh.
Rentacop took us to a interview room deep in their bunker, a single door led inside the square windowless space furnished with plastic chairs, a table and little else. The floor was coated with dulled and stained beige coloured linoleum, walls had once been painted blue-grey.
Then they led Yaroh Uron in, he was dressed in prison-orange and there was a faraway resignation on his thin long face with its shock of blonde hair. He dejectedly slumped down in a chair on the far side of the table and eyed us through his polymer Khcapi goggle-specs, for a moment there was silence and humming from bleak strip lights grew to fill the air.
The room looked clean, hopefully nobody was monitoring us: There was little doubt he was innocent but we got Yaroh Uron to tell us his accounting.
Yesterday at around five in the afternoon, a woman had approached him on Ninety Ninth Street and without provocation scratched his face before fleeing. Yaroh described her as tall with a strawberry tattoo on her hand.
Then today, he was arrested by rentacop, bought here and charged with the murder of Dr Hsu Rou-Taib.
Had he upset anyone recently? No. Any enemies? No.
It wasn't much to go on.
Once our meeting was over, Bill spoke with the rentacop heading up the case and got some info out of him.
The victim: Dr Hsu Rou-Taib, a proponent of controversial life-extending theories and specialist in longevity treatments. She had been bankrolled by Protobase Global, The name seemed familiar, something to check out.
Dr Hsu had been brutally murdered on Ninety Ninth close to Eat With Joy, footage had been provided that showed her exiting Eat With Joy, heading off then rounding a corner into an alley, then slipping out of camera shot.
An unidentified witness had called it in on the Ninety Ninth Street scratch-card snitch-line. Four hours later the body had been found in that alley. Bill got rentacop to ping him a recording of the call.
On a hunch we got Yaroh to listen to the recording. He recognised it, knew who it belonged to! Benedict Twistom; his old manager.
It was a name known to us, he was husband of Annabel Twistom, participant in this year's Rokkaku Dai Heights Bake-off competition and was Vice Chairman of the Ethics Committee at Protobase Global.
I ran a couple of quick searches and some business insider info-publication on the GLOWNET news-vine had an article announcing that he had recently been promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the Protobase Global; Neon City branch.
The article came with one of those corporate headshot photos against a neutral blue-grey background with perfectly combed hair, flawless surgically sculpted skin and teeth, vapid expression and shit-eating grin. Beneath, the quote was 'I'm looking forward to overseeing Protobase Global's expansion into Neon City.'.
Somehow Benedict Twistom was involved in all this? Yaroh had worked for Protobase Global, how was it connected?
An initial forensics report of Hsu Rou-Taib's remains had found foreign DNA on her body which matched Yaroh, there was little else in the way of evidence.
Bill then got rentacop to let Yaroh out on bail, for now he was free, although when he checked his media-slab, he'd been pinged by his employers, former employers to be exact, he'd been let go from the job Alison had gotten him. Yaroh's streak of bad luck kept stretching on.
Yaroh went on his way after we assured him we'd look into it.
First thing I did was run Dr Hsu Rou-Taib through the memory-logs on my Nonohiki and that got me two hits.
The name got a mentioned as a project manager in files we'd copied from the hidden Protobase Global lab here on Ninety Ninth, where smooth talking conmen had been pulling old folk into some sort fake karaoke bar, taking them prisoner and extracting bio-data from them, looking for some sort of secret in the swirling spirals of bio-information.
My files also had the name listed as a project manager for the Chinese medicine shop in Highway Zero which had been a front for another secret Protobase Global clinic involved in using Galapagos tortoises to extend lifespans.
We'd interfered with both clandestine undertakings, which had also somehow both involved Dr Hsu. Too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, especially regarding Protobase Global, especially in Neon City.
Our main lead was the woman with the strawberry tattoo; out on the Ninety Ninth Street it was hot, body heat of a thousand crammed passer bys only intensified the cruel afternoon heat. we approached street performers, touts, bar staff, stall owners and hawkers, asking questions.
Seems there was a working girl on Ninety Ninth with a liking of fruit themed tattoos, went by the name Juicy J and turned tricks locally, Bill did some more questioning, learnt that she operated out of a nearby hotel.
The walkways of Ninety Ninth were wider than Chuo Street and the buildings not so cramped and encroaching, so the hotel was easy to find since there were less of them. We camped out on a suitable corner and watched people come and go. Except for the neon hotel sign it was a bland, featureless, grime smeared concrete building that went up for several storeys and was nestled at the end of a strip of neon-lit bars and noisy pachinko joints.
We saw a tall slender woman, mid-twenties with heavy make up and dyed blonde hair in a skirt that went very high, a top that went very low and clicking heels striding towards the hotel, with my Chaonon telescopics I could distinctively see several fruit-themed tattoos on her arms and neck; looking at her hand; a strawberry. We'd found Juicy J.
Surreptitiously we followed as she went through the smoky glass door in the concrete façade and led us upstairs and along a dusty, unmaintained hall to her hotel room, she had not been accompanied. A quick thermal sweep from Trigger found no other heat signatures in the room.
After knocking on the door, she opened it a crack with a suspicious, half-curious expression. Bill asked her if she would be willing answer some questions, she wasn't interested.
We invited ourselves in, along with the door, her objections were quickly pushed aside. Stepping back, she looked nervously from one to another of us.
Bill explained that nothing bad was going to happen, we just needed some answers.
Still nervous a little, she silently nodded her compliance.
Juicy J admitted that she had scratched Yaroh Uron's face yesterday, an anonymous man had paid her to do it over a call, he'd also paid for a sky-taxi to pick her up and drop her back off.
We pressed her about the DNA, she knew nothing, no one had collected the DNA from her nails. Wherever Yaroh's DNA had been taken, it was wasn't from Juicy J.
After some general questioning we learnt her real name was Jinny Stoyer. She told us that her boyfriend was OK Daddy and that she was saving up to leave Neon City and go to the Moon to be with him.
OK Daddy was another name we knew; once he'd been a pimp running working girls out of Ninety Ninth and reputation of being heavy-handed with them. Now he was on a ten year term being all he could be with the Planetary Global Defence Force after some encouragement to join up from us.
I guess he was stationed on the moon; that's where Juicy J wanted to go.
Maybe there was a way we could help each other. We told Juicy J that we could help her get to the moon, if she could help us with the Yaroh Uron case, it would mean testifying.
Juicy J's guard dropped and she warmed to the deal when she heard it and quickly agreed to help us.
Before we left, we played Juicy J the recording of Benedict Twistom's voice on the snitch-line.
The voice was identical to the man that had hired her, she was sure of it.
Benedict Twistom had slipped up, he had arranged the murder of Dr Hsu and framed Yaroh for it. Now we just had to prove it.
It wasn't too hard to acquire the residential address of the next lead; victim Dr Hsu Rou-Taib. She had lived aloft the grey forest that constituted the cluster of concrete high- rises that was The Skyscraper District which typically homed corporate execs.
Koko got us into the anonymous apartment without trouble. Despite entering quietly, our footsteps distinctly reverbed on the laminated plastic replica hardwood floor in the entry hall, echoing into nothingness, the sound of an empty home. Searching confirmed it; the apartment had been vacated and cleaned, all personal possessions stripped away, only the generic fixtures and fittings remained, plain faux wood tables and chairs, a desk, a bed, fibrewood shelves and so on.
A Karseakk desk-slab had been left behind. I networked it with my Nonohiki and jacked in, found nothing, accounts unlogged, emails and data erased, now a clean system. I ran an algorithm to recover fragmented data but there were none. The slab had been cleaned by a pro.
The apartment had been a bust.
As we left, we got pinged by the coroner's office, an autopsy report had been delivered to our media-slabs. We scanned the results, it changed everything.
Dr Hsu Rou-Taib's time of death was three hours after she had been seen in Eat With Joy, it directly contradicted the snitch-line call which had called in the murder almost immediately after she'd gone down the alley. She was still alive when the call was made.
Furthermore the autopsy showed that Dr Hsu had died from toxic poisoning, injected with a lethal cocktail of chemicals, also directly contradicting the report that she had been brutally murdered.
Matters had taken a turn for the complicated, Yaroh needed proper representation now and we searched for something we knew nothing about; a lawyer. Found a guy on the GLOWNET called Finn Kinton who took on the case
By the time we found someone for Yaroh, it was the end of the day. Nothing to do now but wait for the preliminary hearing.
Boiling clouds, pregnant and black were accumulating above, lined in gold from a yellow-red giant sun as it sank behind the silhouetted western skyline by the time I had returned to my one-bed in Hikage Street.
It was pretty crowded now, with Lucy and Ashaglaya waiting for me but it didn't matter, I didn't care, I lugged my boots off and threw my trench coat into a corner, grabbed a tall cooled can of Huntudi and kicked back.
It didn't last for long.
Halfway through the can and the exterior wall imploded! For an infinitesimal moment I watched as cracks in the cheap paint sprang into existence on the wall, running along the lines of the brickwork just before the concussion wave hit, filling the room with flying bricks, masonry and dust. Hurled to the floor, my eyes stung , ears rang and throat choked.
A dozen ghostlike silhouettes materialised, corporate soldiers garbed in fully enclosed matt black Haanut armour, wrapped in the enveloping cloud which had billowed inward and backlit by a search-beam that flooded the room with diffused light. They silently glided at us through the settling haze.
Two of them stared through tinted, mirrored visors and wordlessly levelled 7.62 Kirzaks assault rifles at me while a third tied my wrists behind my back with a zip tie lock. Helplessly I watched with blurred vision as they secured Lucy and Ashaglaya, the girls appeared to be unconscious as they were carried off, others seemed to be hastily rummaging through my one-bed?
Lines had dropped from a flier outside and they retreated, pulled into the darkening sky above. All of it had taken less than thirty seconds.
I was freed by the others once I'd managed to use voice-command on my media-slab to contact them.
The corporate enforcers has been hunting for something but I had nothing of importance or value here. We surveyed my apartment, everything had been knocked to the ground or tipped over and was now coated in a layer of dust.
We continued searching and found something out of place; slipped underneath the spare folding bed was a silver Mahakam Ambassador suitcase. I didn't own a Mahakam suitcase! Looking at each other, we all knew someone who did though.
It had been the possession of Yennav Rybasei, contents a mystery, we'd seen the Russian mobster execute two men over it.
Vaudeville street walker and assassin Thaddeus Rackham had killed a roomful of gangsters for it. Why and how was it here? What was it? If we knew the contents, maybe it would answer questions.
Koko was unwilling to look inside the argent polycarbonate suitcase though, it had been forbidden by Yennav on pain of death that we'd personally witnessed. The rest of us were too curious to care. The suitcase was opened. It wasn't what we expected inside.
Our attention was immediately drawn to the glass case in the centre, inside that glass case we could see that floating in a liquid was a brain! A human brain.
The glass case was surrounded by wiring, circuitry, some Sainohon processors, a small readout and a miniscule power cell, it was also networked to a small speaker and microphone as well as a tiny Senonable camera, servo motors hummed quietly as the camera panned to face us.
"Hello?" said a digitised voice from the speaker!
The brain introduced itself as The Accountant. It had no memory or knowledge of its past or origins. The Accountant only knew that Yennav Rybasei used it as a kind of biological data-vault, a library or repository of Russian mob information. The Accountant had contained sensitive records on mob finances and holdings, laundering operations and more, sensitive enough for Yennav to kill to protect.
The situation had changed now explained The Accountant, Yennav had shut down all his assets in Neon City and gone into hiding. The Accountant hypothesised that Yennav would regroup, consolidate his powerbase and finances, then resume activities within six to eighteen months.
The Accountant also told us how it had met Thaddeus Rackham who had promised to get him a body. The Accountant was still waiting.
Finally The Accountant told us that he had been having extensive conversations with Ashaglaya Lova. She had told it that Yennav had entrusted the suitcase to her, instructing her not to open it, driven by curiosity Ashaglaya had of course ignored those instructions.
She must have brought the suitcase here. That's what the corporate goons had come here looking for, they didn't find it, so they took her. We knew that Protobase Global wanted the suitcase, must've been their goons.
We couldn't let this stand. Protobase Global had moved against us, now we had to move against them, time to play some hardball.
Like all the top execs that lived in Neon City, the Twistoms resided behind the opulent Fortified Residential Zone's thick heavily protected toughened polymer walls and well out of reach but we had another angle to work. Annabel Twistom had twice been a competitor in the Rokkaku Dai Heights Bake-off, rules of the contest stipulated that only Rokkaku Dai Heights residents were eligible to enter, she had to live somewhere in The Heights.
If we found her, it meant we could take Annabel Twistom.
Finding her address in the GLOWNET was straightforward, unsurprisingly she lived in the penthouse at one of the districts many alabaster high-rises.
Early the next morning, we took the flier to our destination and cased out the penthouse. Trigger's thermals showed two heat signatures on the top floor, one male profile and the other female, they were almost always at opposite ends of the penthouse. Using the flier's external camera's we continued scoping it out.
The male individual seemed to be lingering by the balcony, he had the glass door open and was outside, leaning on the rail and distracted from boredom by the hustle from the district below his vantage point. He wore a black Evoda two-piece suit with white shirt and black tie. The suit looked a little tight on him, he was stocky, possibly the result of strength or bulk enhancement. He also wore some Ozykus data-shades, no doubt feeding him situational data: A bodyguard, had to be.
The female was at the other end of the penthouse; Annabel relaxing in a lounge by the looks of her heat signature.
We couldn't linger above the high-rise too long without the risk of drawing attention, our plan was a simple one and relied on speed.
After Koko repositioned the flier directly above the penthouse, Trigger was carefully lowered on a line until he was adjacent to one of the windows. Fortuitously he had become quite adept at quickly getting through windows and was no obstacle.
Voices could be heard by Trigger as he entered, staged and unnatural they must have come out of a sound system and grew louder as he cautiously stalked through the well furnished apartment with its thick shagpile cream coloured carpeting, exquisite expensive looking gold trimmed fixtures and lavish Alasjaqi furniture. No slumming it here, the Twistoms had spent a small fortune on making Annabel feel comfortable.
Trigger reached the lounge without stirring anybody, Annabel was relaxing on the sofa, dressed in a cotton pink Fassus tracksuit and cradling a glass of wine, entirely distracted by some overdramatised realty vid playing out on the large Senonable wall-slab. One hit with a stun-baton and she went out soundlessly. Trigger hefted the unconscious woman into a fireman's lift and quietly returned to the window, got out and we were away.
The bodyguard had noticed nothing, we'd just black-bagged the wife of major corporate C.E.O. and now we had some leverage to trade for Lucy and Ashaglaya.
We ran some scans on Annabel, there were no trackers on her person and we took away her media-slab.
Koko took the flier up, weaving through the busy sky-lanes, as we headed to our RV we hit Annabel Twistom with a mild stimulant that immediately roused her. She looked around the flier's cool blue interior, taking stock of her situation then set her jaw and instantly began complaining!
She demanded that we set her free, we refused.
She demanded that she be allowed to speak with her husband. we refused.
She demanded her media-slab back, we refused.
She demanded that we allow her to get some appropriate clothes to wear, we refused.
She demanded that we increase the heating in the flier, we refused.
She demanded that we give her a more comfortable seat, "take your pick," we said.
All of us were contemplating giving her a second jolt with a stun-baton but we convened with the RV in a parking lot before it came to that. We took our prisoner over, she didn't seem any less unhappy at being pushed into the RV.
Inside, it was quiet, Ram Rat was gone, the RV was empty, it'd been running on autopilot.
A cold half eaten meal had been left on one of the little foldout plastic tables that dotted the RV. Ram Rat needed to maintain his biological components, what had made him leave in a hurry? Pinging him got us no response.
Ram Rat would have to wait, we contacted Protobase Global and got through to Benedict Twistom, Bill ran the negotiation for us.
After Bill explained that we had his wife and wanted to swap her for the girls, Benedict Twistom also demanded the suitcase. We had been correct, it confirmed that Protobase Global was behind the attack on my apartment. Bill convinced him that we didn't have the suitcase, it be a trade; Annabel for Lucy and Ashaglaya.
There was a pause, silence from Benedict, we knew what he was thinking: Was it worth it, did he want her back? She probably complained to him as much as she did to us, more even! On the other hand, losing his wife to some low-life operators such as us would make him look weak in the eyes of his enemies and competitors, make him a target, blood in the water.
The pause ended, silence was broken and he agreed to the terms.
A exchange was arranged near the Benten Tower on Ninety Ninth at lunchtime, it wasn't exactly neutral ground but it would have to do.
With Annabel back in the flier and complaining, we rode over to Ninety Ninth, the midday sun blazing down on the Neon City sprawl as it rolled by beneath us, the flier's adaptive screens and climate control divorcing us from the glare and the heat.
The Benten Tower was a monolithic concrete and glass temple to Protobase Global's power and influence, soaring above the teeming crowds and colourful attractions of the Neon Mile like an unavoidable looming threat.
As Koko bought us in to touchdown at an open space next to the tower we swept the area with the flier's external cameras, no threats were detected. Benedict was waiting accompanied by a Protobase Global security team in their matt black Haanut armour along with Lucy and Ashaglaya. Disembarking with Annabel, we slowly headed towards them under the pitiless sunlight.
Twenty metres from Benedict and we stopped, despite their tinted mirrored visors we could make out his security team sizing us up, gauging how much of a threat we were, could they take us? We were ready if they tried.
There were no pleasantries before the exchange took place. We sent Annabel over and they sent Lucy and Ashaglaya, the girls sluggishly shuffled their way to us, no doubt the result of being sedated. Maybe Protobase Global were on to something, we could have done with shutting Annabel up!
Once we safely had Lucy and Ashaglaya with us, we warily retreated to the flier, eyes shifting, watching for their move, it was the riskiest moment but nothing happened, no trouble. Koko took us up and away.
Ashaglaya was delighted to be reunited with The Accountant, they got on like a house on fire and she kept the brain entertained with her inane conversations. Protobase Global would still be searching for the suitcase though and that put both of them at risk.
Our solution was to take the pair of them to The Skyscraper District and put them into Ghost Radical's now vacated, sparsely decorated but spacious off-the-grid two-bed apartment. Protobase Global would have trouble finding them there.
Before we left, we spoke with The Accountant, and said we'd check in with Thaddeus Rackham and get an update.
Thaddeus Rackham could usually be found working the Sky Dinosaurian Square, it was getting dark as we arrived, temperature had dropped a couple of points and street lights were buzzing into life. Crowds never let up in the square, drawn by the amusements and distractions, jingle-blaring garishly lit attractions, concessions and rides that seemed even brighter and more enticing against the incursion of night.
We headed for The Circus and found Thaddeus, typically resplendent in his vaudeville outfit and pale make-up, working at his stall. The sign read 'Sweets, services, gambling and assassinations available'.
Thaddeus was happy to talk to us about The Accountant, he turned his stall over to his equally vaudevillian assistant and walked with us.
He admitted that he had encountered some obstacles in acquiring a body for The Accountant. Initially he planned to get one from the hospital crematorium next to the Soy Green food manufacturing plant but they were always too far gone to be useful.
His plan now was to use a contact, Astiek Steva at the Ohkubo Hospital to get a fresher cadaver but this might take some time.
The conversation was interrupted when Trigger's media-slab pinged, retrieving it from his pocket, he looked at the message, one word: Help.
It had come from Ram Rat?
I networked with Trigger's slab and jacked into the GLOWNET. As it unpacked before me, I watched as the digital landscape's attributes were constantly rewritten by the endless flows of commuting data and migrating information. Eventually it settled into a cohesive vista, Ram Rat's brief message was a drop of water in a rushing white-water but at least I had the message's identifiers so I could track records of its server reroutes. The initial transmission had been automatically resent several times from experiencing significant packet-loss, a weak connection caused by heavy interference or shielding.
A cluster of resends led me to Robot Factory in The Bay.
We had gotten what we could from Thaddeus, we told him we'd speak with him again, said our goodbyes and headed for Robot Factory.
There was a clandestine route we knew of that would lead into the heavily protected Robot Factory. Rain was falling in its nightly deluge on Hikage Street and the crowds thinned the further south we went on Hikage into the drab commercial district.
Beyond business parks and warehouses, this part of the district was dominated by the massive grey pipes that rose through the asphalt and wound around each other like a tangle of massive ferro-concrete snakes before plunging back down. In one of the pipes' sloped supporting blocks was a security door we had found that led to an unnamed and unused underground metro-station.
Something had changed though, the door had been wielded shut, the security system removed, rendering the security cards useless. Even so, the door was open, something had torn the wielding off, something strong.
Past the door, stairs led downwards into darkness. More changes, last time the station's inadequate dim strip lights inexplicably functioned, now the station was unlit.
Under our flashlights it was uniformly grey with unpainted concrete surfaces everywhere, it lacked any ticket booths or any other amenities. When the financial backing for the metro-line expansion had collapsed this station must have been half finished and hooked to the power-grid, it had since become a ghost, a forgotten terminus with a single line that only led where nobody wanted to go, nobody but us.
The workman's carriage that we rode to Robot Factory was gone and the live monorail, now dead, it's incessant electric hum replaced by subterranean silence. Since our last incursion through here someone had been here, making changes to prevent its use again.
Without the carriage it would be long trek through the inky black tunnel to Robot Factory. Luckily, there was an alternative, the tunnel was big enough to fit our flier!
We began searching, there had to be some sort of service access point here that allowed large objects such as the carriage to be brought in. Then we found it.
A large vertical ventilation shaft exited to the surface amongst the glut of tunnels above, clearly designed to double as an access point. We then found the controls to open the venting at the top of the shaft. Fortunately it's power supply was unconnected to the station's and ran directly off the city grid, soon we could get underway.
Crashing rain thundered down and echoed the length of the exposed shaft as it fell, quickly forming gleaming puddles on the station floor that that reflected our flashlights. Koko bought the flier down, battering the rest of us with engine wash that whipped raindrops against the grey walls. Reclosing the vent, we set off for Robot Factory.
With spotlights fully focused forward, Koko engaged whisper mode and took the flier into the tunnel. A slow, strange, silent journey into darkness began. Beyond the flier, only the tunnel ahead in existed in its lights, oblivion consumed all else.
Soon the tunnel walls began to gleam in the lights, we were now under The Bay and soon after that we arrived in the other unfinished metro-link station, from there on we would have to go on by foot. The door out of this station had also been wielded shut and also ferociously torn open.
Past this station was a security post and some prison cells, we approached it cautiously but it was empty, unmanned, unused. From here a security door would lead into the actual production facility, it too had been brutally torn open. We continued along the grey featureless corridor
The previous iinfiltration into Robot Factory had taken us into an isolated research and development wing which was being used to secretly produce Protobase Global's killer cyborgs. Following this trail of destruction instead led us on to the main industrial manufacturing floor.
It was enormous with a high ceilinged roof that disappeared into the gloom, there were numerous busy and constantly rolling conveyor lines here, the noise was immense, a blend of whining servo motors, grinding tools and rumbling conveyor belts completely enveloping us. An army of fast moving Nasuran Kaarlalth robot arms were busily constructing and assembling a wide variety of components into robots. The place was devoid of people and dimly lit, these robots had little need of vision or in fact visual receptors.
The unending blur of mechanically precise robotic activity made it hard to spot anything, it was clear that this room wasn't designed for humans. Eventually we noticed something out of place, remains of a Protobase Global cyborg slumped on the ground on the far side of the manufacturing floor next to some machinery. Crossing over was too hazardous and out of the question, instead we had to skirt the walls until we reached the remains in a roundabout manner and saw that the cyborg body was missing all of its bio-components?
That wasn't all, some sort of nearly metre long strange robotic woodlouse was unnervingly feeling over the robotic remains, pumping it's angular metallic legs up and down as it moved and waving several silvery probing antennae? Had it been responsible for removal of the bio-components? Why was there a killer cyborg here anyway?
We looked for anything different or out of place. Most of the plant utilised prefabricated supplies that were being put together but this corner of the room was different, it housed a cutting edge Mannikten nano-replicator, we could see it was steadily constructing some sort of bipedal or humanoid body.
Koko gave a yell, the robotic woodlouse had shifted and jabbed at her foot, she had kicked it away reflexively and flipped it on to its domed segmented back, appendages pointed upwards and waggled uselessly in the air for a few seconds before a recovery protocol kicked in.
Moments after this a new distinct buzzing sound joined the noise, a trio of Aliraiyo Patrolmen gun drones came flying into sight, they weaved through the busy room and headed our way. Somewhere, an alarm must've started ringing.
Trigger grasped his gunblade and readied himself for trouble Roderick switched to combat mode, I turned to the remains and checked them out, these components seemed familiar?
The three drones opened fire on us, Trigger and Roderirck intercepted and quickly destroyed them. Abruptly the silvery woodlouse robot scuttled over to where the drone had crashed to the floor and began repairing one. Worse still, we saw another trio of gun drones on approach.
I quickly sifted amongst the components, it was the tiny Mesbuh hard drive I recognised. It was Ram Rat's hard drive! I had transferred his persona from my data-slab into it, these disarrayed robotic parts were what remained of Ram Rat!
The hard drive was a bespoke design which had been meant to work in conjunction with a human brain's bio-chemical signals, integrating everything to create a single cohesive and stable neural net. Without the bio-component, the hard drive couldn't maintain the incredibly intricate data-pattern that was Ram Rat's consciousness for long. There was no other choice, I networked the hard drive with my Nonohiki and began transferring Ram Rat back into my data-slab
The transfer rate was agonisingly slow though, in a combat situation and without an external power source for the hard drive it would take forever to get him back on my data-slab.
Meanwhile the others were battling a growing swarm gun drones, considering we were in the middle of a robotic manufacturing plant, it was always going to be a losing proposition, we had to retreat.
Under fire we ran for it, persistent gun drones harried us as we dodged the robot limbs working away and left the flurry and rumbling factory behind and headed for the security post, it was a precarious dash as I was left holding my data-slab and Ram Rats hard drive as we fled.
At the security post we closed the damaged security door as best we could, it was a bottle neck and might delay the drones for a while. It seemed however, that they had been instructed not to leave the vicinity of the factory though, as none pursued us this far out.
Back at the flier, I connected Ram Rat's hard drive to a power outlet in the cabin as Koko took the flier out of Robot Factory and back to Hikage Street.
The transfer was then sooon completed and I jacked into the Nonohiki, Ram Rat was waiting for me there with the swirling multi-layered data-image of his consciousness.
He explained that back at the RV, his internal systems were beginning to break down and without addressing it, his neural net would soon collapse. The problem Ram Rat told me was that the bio-components of the body had begun rapidly degrading, it was unlikely that these killer cyborgs had been created for any long-term usage.
Ram Rat said he couldn't think of any other solution other than to try and acquire another robotic body from Robot Factory. He hacked their systems and initiated a unique prototype black-book project, then he created a tailored body for his needs and instructed a nano-replicator to construct it and headed over to transfer into it but the Robot Factory security drones caught up with him and attacked, it was at this point that his remaining bio-components began to degrade and he became non-functional, no longer a threat the factory systems considered him junk had been in the process of stripping Ram Rat's old body down for recycling when we arrived on the scene.
When we were out and flying over the surface of Hikage Street in the rainy night, we headed for The Skyscraper District. I transferred Ram Rat into another mostly unused data-slab and networked him with The Accountant, the two of them could entertain each other until we figured out how to get them bodies.
I was back at my one-bed, the municipal housing authorities had already been busy, sending a robotic repair crew to fix my apartment's wall. It resulted in a large translucent and urine-coloured polymer tarp being stapled over the hole! The tarp flapped loudly in the wind and the constant rain nosily splattered against it.
Then late that night we were all pinged, I looked at my media-slabs screen; Hika Taki was calling, told us he wanted us as door-muscle again, at another one of his secret fashion shows tomorrow.
Hika Taki explained that his new line was called Colours of Chrome, Own the Chrome.
We couldn't wait!
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Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.