I never should've opened the door in the first place. It spells nothing but trouble every single time that metal panel whines open and reveal another desperate person filled with doubt and hopes that I'm the one that can solve their little problems. Of course, I am the one to turn to when you need something done properly, one of the few left anyways in this shithole of a place they call a city.
The City of Health, where people in this town are afflicted by a disease known as poverty with the symptoms of crime and violence running rampant throughout every vein of this organism. There's no point in hiding the truth at hand no matter how meticulously they try, we are a dying breed. It is only a matter of time before the vultures and the crows descend upon us and only the bones of what used to be called a city remains, a reminder of the questionable practices that we all turned a blind eye to.
People suggested to form brotherhoods to protect the population against the deconstruction of their society, to protect them from all the tyranny spreading from the heart of the city, but even they soon became too terrorized by very the aspect of the sickness, and so were seduced by greed as the only medication that can cure its ailments. People began noticing the effects of it's addictive behavior. Shops demolished by the riotings from time to time over rights and handouts, crimes and wrong doers set free with the promise of wealth and favors, and of course the free range of criminal options available to someone. Whatever faith the people had in the righteous system before had now been tainted and replaced by unruling gangs for their lies of securities and their proclamation of brotherhood and sisterhood, of family and honor , but if you ask me, they were one of the first who fell victim to the drug's medical addiction. Afterall, there are skeletons in every big organization's closets.
I was one of the lucky few who was able to rid myself of this sickness by selling away my services to those in need, merceneries or investigators or any of the above you call it. Crime has become a very realistic aspect in the lives of these idiots who decide to settle here, in hopes of being chosen to move up in the world, quite literally. They are hand picked by the corrupt overseers depending on how much of their loyalty they are willing to sell away
, not for currency or favors, but to High Scape, the main facility built to reconstruct people's consciousness into the vessels of artificial bodies or even artificial constructs complete with any desirable attributes you are willing to pay for, although those offering the highest amount do not necessarily become the favorites in our society nor are they given the best treatments. Then again, I'll have to admit though, I do not know enough of this world's politics to understand how the selected influence their peers, nor do I understand the inherent favoring of those who gets to rise above the others. As far as I can tell through my years of experience in this life, you are only seen if they so choose to see you.
In a meaningless and profitable life to those who do not shy away from the dirty deeds of the underworld, it is bound to cultivate desperation into the hearts of good men and the mothers of future generations. It is in desperation that you get to see the upstanding nature of man unravel back into it's raw primitive form. Good men turned killers, the higher ups and their leaders consumed by their lust for power, the innocence of society evolving into an unimaginable beast, and the bad just keeps getting worse.
But none of this affects us much. Watchers I like to call us, investigators providing the services of essentially being an informant to anyone willing to pay. People in this town do what they have to to stay alive. Killing, stealing, extortion, prostitution, anything goes in this place so far as you can hide it. I hang around by collecting any dirty secrets I can get my hands on and on just about every subject profitable enough to be left alone to my own life. People in my profession are not likely the target of illegal activity because of the wealth of knowledge we can hand out, for the right price of course. We all appreciate the mutual understanding of course, because afterall, you keep everyone happy, there will be less competition around.
This however does not mean I am reliant on this agreement to keep me safe from harms way. If anyone tries to get in my way or get at me, I have my trusty friends that can make good work of them. Even with this unwritten agreement, I still have to take precaution as I've had many... rude visitors attempting to threaten me for free disclosure of information. I am not a weakling for them to bully around, and have already proven myself to the local clans to not be an easy target. Unfortunately you can't teach stupid the language of reputation however, and there will always be fools who'll try and attempt the impossible.()
I am by no means the best fighter in the profession, I am just another asshole who don't go down as easily as others think.
Downside of my profession? I have been told by many of my customers about the flipside of relying on people in my profession for their sources. Whoever makes an appointment with a Watcher becomes marked on the radar of all parties, snooping around and asking the guy who knows everything some questions will make everyone pretty nervous. I may not have a target painted on my back for spreading the information certain groups of interest may find undesirable, but those who do collect them had better be cautious from then on out, or accidents may happen.
It was a rather surprising evening then when I opened the door to see this petite 5'4 red head with all the best... attributes facing me at the opposite end of this doorway, unphased by the growing threat that loomed just meters aways, or perhaps unknowingly to her. She stared at me with this look of unbelief as if she'd expected to find adamantium in a sea of silver metal, only to find copper or stone, worthless and disposable. I shared a look of confusion with her, unsure of the purpose of this unusual encounter. Perhaps this was a misunderstanding and the girl had unknowingly knocked on a stranger's door, mistaking my room for one of the neighboring rooms, but in all my time stationed here in this more peaceful juristiction of the city, she beheld a new face that I did not recognized.
Before my curiosity got the best of me, I attempted to question who she was and if she had intended to obtain an audience with me. Before I can utter a sound though, her lips parted to ask me a question,
"Mr. Art Dayne?" raising her tone, presuming me to be who she is looking for but also unsure. She seemed lost to say the least and it was obvious that she was not from this part of town, that she had journeyed to my home in Quake searching for the Watcher who was located here, but did not know who she was looking for.
"Yes, and you are?" I answered hesitantly. She seemed nervous enough of my short answer as I didn't want to reveal any more information to her, but in my defense, I did not know what her entire intentions were either so it was best to play it safe until revealed. "My name is Elle Velle Layne, Daughter of Ven Kro Layne. There is a matter most pressing that I must discuss with you in person and in secrecy. May I come inside to discuss details?"
This is an odd encounter to have. Usually I would get an alert if I am contacted by my spy drone or through my Linkstrip, the building's internal infrastructural AI, if they wish to demand my time and never at my home at such strange hours, but I suppose there's nothing strange about the hour in such a neighborhood where night life is active. This strange woman had come to meet me at such an odd timing and had expected me to comply as if it were normal routine. The real problem however, was how did she get past my spy drone undetected?
I suspect she carries one of those cloaking device that conceals her from any newer developed tech, but it's just a guess. Maybe this woman had other intentions in mind, possibly malicious or otherwise, and I did not want her in my personal space uninvited. "I'm sorry Ms. Layne, but you caught me at a bad time, perhaps you co-"
"Please, this is a most urgent matter for both of us," cutting me off before I could finish. "If this is a matter of money for you, I can assure you it will be worth your while. How much will it take for you to hear me out?"
I break out a small sigh, realizing that this woman was not intending to take no for an answer no matter the cost. I decided to test her out and see exactly just how full her piggy bank can be, "Meeting with me in such a short notice will require quadruple the payment I'm afraid. I am a busy man you see, and time is important in my line of work."
I had hope to disuade her with this excruciating amount and meet with her again at my next convenience a couple of nights away, but I was surprised when I saw the woman pull down her left-shoulder top and reach into her right bra and pull out a Blue Strip, scanning it across my control panel located next to the door on her left and recieving a message in my personal Inbox confirming the payment of nearly four times the normal price. "Will this suffice? Will this be enough for you to invite me in?"
I gave her a light smile, slightly annoyed at having to entertain an unexpected guest at this hour, but I can't complain I guess, This woman paid more than what I demanded so I'm still turning in a profit no matter which way I look at it. "You must be in some deep shit." I moved myself aside and invited her in with a hand wave gesture into my home, locking the door behind her and activating silent mode to scramble any devices that may be secretly listening in. Two blue strip on the door audibly pulses twice and a feminen robotic voice confirms: "Silent mode activated. Scramble in effect."
She turned around the moment the door locked, looking almost doubtful and now with a fearful expression on her face. Maybe she had made a grave mistake and had stumbled onto something that'll be the death of her or be stuck in a fate worse than death.
"Buyer's protection," I assured her. "Can't risk my client's confidential privacy out in the gutters now can we?" She seem to shed the scary thoughts from her mind and breathe a short sigh of relief, but I could still read the tension in the air with her, weary about whether or not I am who I say I am or simply a cunning predator hoping to rope in their next prey.
My home is no different than your average apartment that you can purchase for 3000 Credits, not the worst place to afford in the sector, but it was pretty damn near to one. The walls in the room are not colored by the filthy discoloration that covers the interior halls leading up to my door thanks to my deployed cleaning mech. I had recieved it as a small token of gratitude from a friend in the Strike clan after saving him from some unfortunate beating he was going to recieve. I had kept that little friend healthy for as long as I could but sadly, due to it's declining nature from months of usage, I suspect it will only continue to function for another two month before it becomes another relic in my pile of junk. But what can I expect from a 200 Rec Coin machine though, it does the job fairly well for it's inexpensive cost, not unlike those 25,000 RC maintenence drones.
The lighting from the window at the opposite end of the door tints the living quarters a calm blue that fades towards the outer reaches of the room which contrasts very well with my wide leaf Kælsta plant next to the entrance that colors it's section a warm green, creating what seems like a light blue barrier around the big leaf plant .A light glow of pink shines through from the window from the kitchen that connects to the living room only seperated by a ceramic corner counter top with sign posts nearby outside my apartment indicating an establishment that serve drinks and other variety of convenient items.
A deep monotone robotic voice is heard from one of the side rooms from the hall, "Halt! By command of the owner of this property, you are trespassing into his home, please vacate the premises or you will be shot." A small flying drone with two handles at each corners above it's circular body equipped with spinning blades that keeps it afloat, glowing a threatening red enters from the hallway on the right and opens a hatch from it's bottom compartment where a pistol is attached to it.
"Blue, it's fine, this is my guest for the evening. Elle, this is B103. B103, this is Elle." Almost immediately, B103 responds back with, "I must detest sir, I have been programmed to detain or eliminate any possible dangerous threats within your vicinity. She is Elle Velle Layne, daughter of Ven Kro Layne, the man known to be responsible for highly dangerous illegal experiments, and Kay Line Vann, The CEO of Astro Inc., who funds the research into Ghosting. I sense a threat nearby and your safety is in danger. Termination of the target is highly advised."
B103 points three laser onto Elle's forhead right in the area between her eyes, one of the lasers shooting from it's single eye in the middle of it's body, and two others from each of the handles right below the blades.
I had to stop it before it escalates any further and lead to any unecessary bloodshed, "I will be the judge of who you do and don't kill Blue, now deactivate. Our guest and I have important business to discuss."
"As you command sir. " B103 chimes twice in quick succession and return to the normal dark blue hue indicating that it is no longer detecting any hostile targets closeby and it's weapons are currently offline.
Ms. Layne seems to be interested in the fact that my little bot knew who she even was and her parents background even before they were introduced, which was concerning to her considering this is our first meeting ever. "How did your little drone know who I was already? Were you spying on me before this? Did you already know about me coming here?"
I quickly reminded her of why she chose to come to me for whatever help she needed, which from my perspective could be enough motivation to trust me on this assignment. "It's within my best interest to keep information like this on my personal self, it's what keeps a roof over my head afterall. Information pays, and this may very well one day decide whether I live or die. People come seeking knowledge about what they don't know but want to find out, which is my assumption of why you're here today. You want to know information about someone or something. As for me spying on you, no. Not personally at least, or in your private life anyways, just your basic background info and your employment records."
She quickly responded back "If you already knew who I were, why didn't you recognize me when you first answered the door? Surely you've already seen who I am if you keep records of us since your drone already knows of me."
"Unfortunately, your case proved to be more complicated than I imagined it would be. If you are who you claim you are, your parents as far as I learned wanted to conceal your identity from the public so that not even a photo of you exists anywhere, for you to have as normal a life as possible. Trust me, I tried looking, but you can't find something that hasn't been created yet."
"So when you paid my demands at the door using your Blue Strip, my little drone must have accessed your information then and knew who you were instantly. Afterall, that is one of it's main function as a bouncer of sorts. I'd be careful about using your own personal strip randomly if I were you. You never know who may be lurking around these parts" I extended my hand into my living quarters "Please, have a seat Ms. Layne."
I invited her in to relax on the crimson red sofa, which seem a slight shade darker from the time of night and the blue tint, leaning near the right wall that was facing the left side of the room, where a 32" screen was mounted onto the upper wall. I went into the kitchen to grab a bottle of alcohol and 2 glasses for this sort of situations like I always do.
Ms. Layne was still getting herself situated in my home when I placed a half empty bottle and the two glass cups on the small rectangular coffee table in front of her before grabbing a chair from the dining room and setting it down across from her and sat down with a slump. She takes a look at the bottle of alcohol on the table and then back at me, perhaps questioning to herself whether I had some ulterior motives in mind or not. But it seems that she more interested in the label of the bottle instead of her fears, as if to question my own taste of drinks or alcohol, "ONO?"
I put both of my hands up as if gesturing to say 'it is what it is' and explained "What can I say? Almost like a Negroni but sour with a side of richness from a fruity marinade, just how I like it. My own recipe for destruction. Would you care for a taste." She again stares at the bottle and seems to wonder to herself a bit more before shrugging off my comment with just a reply, "No thanks. None for me."
"If you insist." I pour half a glass of ONO into one of the glasses and finish it in a single mouthful, feeling the burn sensation intesifying down into my throat as it settles into my stomach. Setting the glass back down on the table next to the unused glass, I cleared my throat of any lingering mucous and asked, "Now, Ms. Layne, You mentioned something urgent that may have an impact on the both of us?"
She takes out a common 0.5x0.75x3 inch red strip of thicker metal this time and hands it over to me. "I'm told you can access an encrypted file within this drive. It seems none of my men can access any of it and whenever they get close to cracking the code, a new unique encryption replaces the old one, rendering any progress ineffective." I take the drive from her and inspect the small hunk of metal for any small details that may be found on it's exterior.
"My sources have also not succeeded in unlocking that contraption either, they ran into the same problem as our team did and there was nothing more to be done. I was hoping with your expertise, you would look into it and possibly crack open the drive for us." It was not surprising to hear that she would seek me out to investigate the mystery surrounding this drive, what was surprising was why she chose to come to me instead of a professional locksmith or hacker who has the right tools for these kind of situation.
As far as I can see though, there was nothing unusual from this strange device, no unusual markings, no brand labeling or even manefacturer present. "What do you know of this device? Who found this, who made it, where did you find it, how did you find it, anything of note that can be traced to what this is?" I held it up to her to see and gauge what kind of a reaction she would have to this thing.
She seems to be slightly concerned by what this drive can potentially contain, perhaps some confidential secrets that may be enbarressing as she hesitated to spill out information,
"This drive was found by one of our workers while on duty inside of a warehouses owned by Mrs. Vann's company. The worker in question was writing a report concerning the progress of one of the many active projects Mrs. Vann's company does annually and was reporting it to one of her superiors. As she entered the office, she found her boss unconscious on the ground seemingly knocked out unexpectedly by blunt trauma from behind, but was otherwise left alone.
From our evidence we reviewed however there was no sign of forced entry or anything of the sort, so we figured it must have been one of the employees that had a quarrel with him in the past. Not that this matters much though since camera's were placed all around every blind spot possible, barring a few exceptions. The worker in question was in a different part of the warehouse as this occured, so she is ruled out as not a suspect."
The mention of a surveillance camera should've made this easy to resolve since cameras don't tend to lie unlike people. I wonder to myself why she came all this way to find me when there is already evidence to conclude the case. "Cameras? So we do know who the suspect is then. Surely those expensive cameras your company owns come equipped with infiltration view that can identify the perpetrator."
"They do Mr. Dane, but I wouldn't be here if it were this simple now would I?" Ms. Layne took out a small gray circular device with a blinking red light at the center of it and held it out to me in the palm of her hand. The device then whirls open, enlarging up in a clockwise motion until it's diameter had nearly doubled in size but thinner than it's original shape, looking more like a saucer than it's original oval circular shape, revealing the inner components that were previously hidden underneath the small plates.
The device flickers momentarily and then powers on, syncing together with her eyes that now began to glow a very white blue. The device whirls for only a moment and begin displaying a hologramic feed of the camera view, projected just above the fascinating device. She seems to be controlling it somehow with the movements of her hands and eyes and begins playing a video from a file named 'Office Camera 03'.
A balding man seemingly in his thirties is sitting down at a desk alone talking on the phone and is visibly frustrated with the other person on the phone about a previous deal that wasn't concluded properly. He calls the other person on the phone a disgrace and proceeds to go through his computer, maybe trying to find answers.
Ms. Layne proceeds to foward the video by adjusting her other hand up and waving it in an arc to her left and stopping the video at a certain section.
The man is visibly angry still in the middle of the call when the door blurs open and a visible blur, almost as if they were censored on purpose, steps through and closes the door behind it. Strangely enough however, the man did not notice the intruder or even look at their direction as they made their way towards him as if the intruder was not there to begin with.
Ms. Layne then comments "and this is one of the reasons why you're needed".
The video feed begins to glitch and nearly cut out a few times. During the more comprehensive moments of the clip, the man appears to now notice the intruder and was seemingly conversing with them, although the audio was nothing more than static rendering.
After what seemed like minutes, the video returns to normal and shows the unconscious man on the floor and the cabinets visibly searched with files spread over every inch of the floor and the door left opened. Ms Layne fowards the video for nearly 2 hours after the incident with nothing occuring until the worker comes in and finds the man unconscious.
Ms. Layne then closes her eyes and the device powers down, whirling for a moment before returning back to it's original compressed structure. She opens her eyes and they are now back to the way they were before, black but with a hint of red possibly from contacts.
I paused for a moment waiting for her to get her bearings back and understanding the mission, I asked, "That man is the person you want me to find, correct?"
"And also why she stole the documents she took." she continued. "Which is?" I questioned. Ms. Layne begins to have a look of disappontment as she answered, "I don't know. I can't say for sure what it is."
I put on a puzzled look about her answer. It's odd that a company wouldn't know what files they have and which ones are missing. I have a feeling that there is something they are deliberately hiding from me. "Your company don't know what files they have and don't have? Which ones are accounted for or not? Seems odd for a company to ignore important information that can ruin their reputation wouldn't you think? It's a little irresponsible if I may say so."
"Not my charge unfortunately. Mrs. Vann will do what she does I'm afraid, and there's no changing that as long as she is head of her company."
I can tell that even though Ms. Layne may not be directly lying to me, she is withholding information that can be crucial to solving this mystery.
"Look, Ms. Layne, I understand your concern in getting to the bottom of this riddle seeing as how lives are on the line here, but if i'm the one to do it, I need to have all the clues, otherwise it may lead to more complications than we may want."
She looks at me with a serious face and speaks in a stern tone, "All the information I have given you right now are all the information that I can share, save for one. We need to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible if we want to find out who is responsible and why."
"We?" I questioned, still confused as to my involvement in this matter all together.
"I'm sorry Ms. Layne but I don't quite understand. You said this is a matter that involves both of us, but I fail understand how this case is connected to me, specifically what links this to me that lead you to come all the way down to my home and tell me such things personally?"
She hesitates for a moment and sighs again with disappointment, wondering how she wanted to present the information to convince me to take the case. "Maybe I am making a mistake here. That drive you're holding there Mr. Dane..." She eyes towards the flashdrive that I still held in my hand and urging me to take another peek at the strange USB. "Look familiar?"
No... I don't want to think it was true, but it can't be her, can it?
Merci pour la lecture!
Nous pouvons garder Inkspired gratuitement en affichant des annonces à nos visiteurs. S’il vous plaît, soutenez-nous en ajoutant ou en désactivant AdBlocker.
Après l’avoir fait, veuillez recharger le site Web pour continuer à utiliser Inkspired normalement.