Into the Cage, Chummer
After “The Curious Case of Inspector Gadget, I”
Everett Docks, Seattle Metroplex, UCAS
0535, December 31st, 2049
A young girl waits impatiently until her silicon and tetanus shell is once again void of any guests before checking and triple checking digital eyes, unblinking, ever-recording, they felt more real to her than the aqueous orbs she’d been born with. Satisfied, she jacks in. Perhaps she’d find what she was looking for in the massive data dump she’d copied over from the now useless disc. It was a stretch, considering the nebulous lead she’d followed that brought her, searching and hopeful, to the ancient husk of some forgotten pre-crash company. The data was unorganized – a mess – it’d need to be converted to contemporary standards before it was even usable, but she’d make it work.
Frigid acid rain fell in metallic pitter-patters upon the corroded roof of the derelict which housed a body drowning in tears and a mind diving in data.
Basil’s Faulty Bar, Tacoma, Seattle Metroplex, UCAS
0343, December 31st, 2049
She couldn’t help but yawn – tired and contented – as she stepped cross the threshold of the familiar bar. The usual ignored her and the unusuals knew better than the stare directly at the redheaded woman in tattered and blood crusted clothing, whose heavy, bulging canvas dufflebag all but announced the small arsenal that disrupted it’s outline with barrel shaped protrusions. Gun-metal clinks echoed her footsteps across the hard-wood floors of the anachronistic pub. She winked at the gruff barman in a tattered white wife-beater, ill-dressed for the Ruston neighborhood, but part of the charm of the place. He replied with a warm smile and a curt nod, “Inspector.”
Upstairs, he asked questions as he laid out first aid supplies on an old wooden desk. She provided answers as she undid her lace-up boots, paying special attention to the modified heel of the right. She had been at it for years, and would still tell him that the best feeling in the world was peeling off one’s socks after a long job. He’d come to expect no real answers from his companion until he’d heard her say so and came to associate the tradition with the relief that she’d returned mostly-intact yet again.
“Made quite a mess tonight.”
“Was it worth it?”
“Good. I suppose that means you’re off?”
“Well, then. I suppose I ought to go pack you something for the road. It’s a long trip by ground.”
“I should be getting back downstairs then. Your connection’s clean. No change in plans?”
“Well – you know where to find me if the water’s not warm enough.”
He couldn’t help but wonder why she’d gone through so much trouble, as he walked back downstairs, fingers kept busy twirling a clear plastic shell. His first customer when he’d returned to the tap smiled at the quaint coaster – a reminder of an earlier era. He knew it’d end up in the trash can eventually, like all the other curiosities he put under his guest’s drinks. It’d end up in a landfill somewhere. Crushed into plastic sand under the heels of some junkie in the Rat’s Nest maybe. He rubbed his left bicep nostalgically. It’d be years now and he still sometimes felt shocked at the cold that met his fingers.
Seattle’s Metahumanity United Theater, Downtown, Seattle Metroplex, UCAS
0401, December 31st, 2049
“Brakowski, baby! What’re you callin’ ol’ Scruff about on such short notice? You know I’ve got my permits in order. Everyone’s getting tested, baby. The actors these days police themselves – you’re obsolete!”
“Can it, Everhard. And get that monstrosity out of the camera, I’m tryin’ to drink a Coke. We both know you know I haven’t been with that department since I got made detective. And I’m a Lieutenant now.” The old troll sounded particularly impatient tonight. Didn’t like getting woken up early by the force calling him into work. Or too much potassium – Scruff wasn’t sure, both answers were likely suspects.
“Gotcha, gotcha. You know how it goes -” he adjusts his position and telecom so the LT could see him tap his upper head, “boner’s memory. What can I do for you? Send a girl your way to finally wet that third horn of yours? Put an end to that ice age of a wife you pretend to share a bed with?”
“You know I know you know why I’m calling you. The tip – where’d you get intel like that?”
“Ahhh, this is a thank you call.” He winks to the camera, “It’s like I always tell you, baby, pillowtalk’s a wonderful thing. Now – if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a very special lady on her way to spend the night, and you’re harshing my mellow.”
He reaches over and terminates the call. He never liked flat tops. Especially not the kind that sat on particularly belligerent trolls with fascist impulses. Still, he couldn’t help but smile, whatever went down tonight – he’d had his owed favors renewed down at Lone Star – and in his line of work, that’s always cause for celebration.