I don’t monitor mine in the same way as you. That the Guests are not watched or listened to is an advantage of my district. They have privacy, and even if they do not know they are being monitored in your district, they are dimly aware of it. It is the way you react to things that should not be known.
Is the intelligence in your district?
I do not know. ___
There were three dead in an alley ‘side of Red’s club and Runner’s bakery. That’s what the note said. That’s what was there. Thankfully I learned to read. I didn’t have a client, not the official sort anyway. If I did, we hadn’t worked out terms yet. Still, whoever it was knew how to grab my attention. Knew how to load me into a gun and pull the trigger.
It wasn’t the dead that interested me. Or, not that they were dead, I guess. Who they were was relevant. It was the gram they were supposed to have been fighting over. Apparently some mystery grammer cooked up a special artificial intelligence somewhere on the other side of Taaron. It ended up here, like most things.
They were here once, AIndividuals. Most say it’s because of them that Prosity fell. Not sure that’s true. Not sure ‘bout much of that time though. Whatever chaos that consumed that place was thorough. Whatever order that restored it, built up New Prosity in Prosity’s dead carcass, is an unknown quantity. Lius, Guest 1, said that the city spoke with him when he arrived first.
Nothing was here when he brought the first group but the Citizens. The city was empty. Lifeless. Whoever–whatever built it had left it fully functioning, populated with unmoving statues brought to life only by service, in the center of a mass of ruins. It was like a man sitting in the center of a room full of corpses, vacant eyed and unresponsive, hardly breathing. That’s how I imagined it anyway, before people showed up. You can still see those corpses if you make the trip out far enough. Rubble giants with black bodies, broken and burnt.
A couple of Citizens were already in the alley by the time I showed. That’s fine. Can’t say they’re all too good at picking up on the finer details of mystery solving, even if they’re decent at recording the clues. It’s the human aspect, I think. Robots don’t have the capacity to think like us. Really, they don’t have the capacity to think. Not without artificial intelligence, which was hidden or history until this rumor about the gram filtered through.
“Unidentified Guest, please state your name and Guest ID.”
“You know, funny thing. There’s a glitch on my read, right? Just comes up with dumb question marks. Can’t say I know how that got there. Sure makes getting around harder than it should be.”
“Hey, aren’t you a Citizen of 3? And you, you’re a 5. You’re not supposed to be here, this is 2. What’s going on in your head? Why aren’t you where you’re supposed to be?”
“We have been granted special access. Identify yourself.”
“Special access? That’s not a thing, not for scene bots like yourself. You have no jurisdiction here. Let me past, I wanna check whatever you’ve left of the scene.”
“You are not authorized.”
“How do you know, you don’t even know who I am. 2 here’s the only one that could say that, anyway, and he’s being mighty quiet. You’ve all got what you came for, even if you’re not supposed to be here. Shove off and don’t bother pinging a Citizen with arrest permissions. They’ve got better things to do than pick on some unknown strolling through this alleyway. I happen to be quite fond of Runner’s sweet bread. That’s very likely the reason I’m here.”
I walked past. That conversation gave me enough time to download the scene with my less than legal cerebral nodes. You’d be surprised with how much these scene bots tamper with evidence. Sometimes it’s more revealing to see what they remove and alter than what was there in the first place. Points you in a direction anyway.
I decided to wipe the scene from the bases of 3 and 5. There weren’t supposed to be there anyway. I don’t normally burn up the information I down, but if they’ve got a byte of something I feel might help them in a way I’m not comfortable with, I’m not above lighting a match.
It’s not that we’re competing with one another, but they’ve got the interest of the city in mind. The interest of their district, more specifically. Sometimes that doesn’t coincide with the truth or the questions. Sometimes that gets in my way.
There were three dead. The Citizens had moved them, laid them out in the center of the alley to be picked up by a cleaner Citizen. Three men. Their computers had been harvested by the scene bots, downloaded, and scrubbed clean. I had the info, but I’d have to look at it later. I took a few shots of my own, not that I needed to.
There was a broad shouldered man, with hair like a black carpet all up his arms. The hair on his head was slicked, and his mustache gleamed. There were six holes in him. Four in the chest, one in the right forearm, and one in his left thigh.
There was a lanky man with red hair pulled into a ponytail and tied with a blue bow. His entire neck was a dark purple, as if someone had taken a pipe and repeatedly hit him in the neck from every angle without breaking skin. The fingers of his right hand were bent back and obviously broken.
There was another man, open blue eyes looking into the sky. His mouth had waterfalled blood recently, but it had dried, clinging to very short stubble. He wasn’t as large as the first, but he was very fit. There was a single hole in him, much larger. Not bullets like the first. A blade must have run through him, reddened cloth clung to his stomach.
The Citizens had left. I took a couple steps ‘round the bodies. There wasn’t a gun. There were no shells, but few guns used shells nowadays. There wasn’t a blade, and definitely not one large enough to have holed the third. No pipe either, but I didn’t expect to find one. Who did these guys work for?
I was queuing up the scene bot’s data when I heard a heavy metal step echo down the alley. I told them not to ping for arrest assistance. I did more than tell them not to, I climbed inside their heads and disabled that capacity completely. The Citizen that stepped into that alleyway was definitely not here for cleanup though. I turned around and ran.
It was the middle of the day, folks were mullin’ about as usual. That was good. Another large Citizen was working its way down the street slowly, impeded by Guests.
“Halt,” he boomed in voice D, the mechanical male voice attributed to most of the large class models. The scene bots had been speaking in variations of K, the eyes and ears unit voice. K may grate slightly in impossible robot arrogance, but hearing D is never a good sign.
I took off, each foot tapping the ground two times as often as the other. I knew if it came to it, I could use my Rae rod, but I hoped it didn’t come to it. Citizen destruction isn’t an easy thing to run unpunished for. I’m unknowable to Citizens, but people still have eyes. They can match me to the action, and they would. Bringin’ down a bot of his size would impress them, but they wouldn’t forget, and when other Citizens come a knocking they’ll sell me out faster than a Fennic film at the Fayre on a Friday.
Navigating the people was easy. Navigating the Citizens was a chore. Whenever they’ve got a chase out all the bots get granted temporary aid permissions, where they do their best to capture or slow down. Turning down a bot with my nodes isn’t easy, but it’s a lot harder when they’ve got temporary aid permissions. All other commands are overwritten and they process one thing. Capture.
There was a train stopped alongside me. As I ran by doors were shut by service Citizens, who seemed to glare at me. I had seen the temporary aid permissions thing happen a bunch of times before, but I could never get over the sick satisfaction that emanated from the Citizens not usually granted such rights for aggression.
Not that I was hoping to use the train in the first place, I turned away from it, cutting down a wide path filled with tables and seats. There were plenty of Guests to slow down my pursuers. A man drinking coffee with crumbs on the table and in his lap, looked up from his wrist display and watched me hoof by. A young couple, happily holding hands across the table, broke eye contact from each other to watch me pass. An older, less happy couple, remained slumped in their chairs staring at the younger with disgust.
This might have been a road at one point. There were cars in Prosity, before it consumed itself. They’re something that New Prosity wasn’t built for. Like pen and paper, they existed, but seeing them was an event, and hardly anyone knew how to use them. I had ridden in a car on a couple of occasions. Helps to know someone with a step or two of distance from the trains. I pinged Wilco but got no response.
The Citizen turned the corner and started thundering toward me. The unoccupied tables and chairs were sucked into the ground, providing a clear path for the large mass of metal. Effects like that were much easier to mess with. I stopped running, turned around, and pulled up the operations board for the path’s furniture. It’s not something everyone can do, not everyone has their brain hooked up directly to their computer like I do. Not everyone has their computer directly linked up to New Prosity’s nervous system like I do either.
I popped a chair up just as the Citizen took a particularly long stride. It sent him crashing to the ground, which didn’t do him much damage, but slowed him considerably. I was about to turn around when my arms were grabbed and folded behind me by a waiting Citizen stationed at the restaurant the tables and chairs belonged to.
Thankfully, that’s where I keep my Rae rod, and double thankfully service bots like this one weren’t built for this kind of work. A tiny zap would do.
I slipped my right hand around it’s handle and flicked it away from it’s magnet holster. I heard it sing to life behind me. I don’t carry a gun. Guns don’t work well on Citizens and they work too well on people. Rae rods are metal rods, about a foot long with a half a foot handle. There are many variations, but they all crack electricity. I squeezed a small dose that I knew I’d feel into the waiter.
It must have burnt out a circuit ‘cause its arms dropped long enough for me to move into an alley. Large had gotten up by now. Tripping him didn’t seem to buy me much time at all. I shook off the bit of shock I got and looked up. There was a ladder to the roof of the building to my left, but as I grabbed for it, it pulled itself into the wall. I could see a thin Citizen, draped in a robe, standing behind Large, who was ceaseless in his massive pursuit.
Another large class citizen, probably not the initial one, made his way into the alley from the other end. Up was the only option I could come up with, so I pointed my rod to the sky and fired. The tip of the rod shot up and clung to the corner of the four story building. I pulled a little, and it reeled me in. I had to kick off the building three times on my way up, so as to not be dragged against the side.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the roof for long. Rabbit’s Feet have been invented since, but at the time I had to rely on my own strength to leap from rooftop to rooftop. I had to cast out my rod a couple of times, but it makes a very distinct noise. I tried to keep that to a minimum as I leap-snuck away.
I came to a building along the tracks and heard a train slipping its way by. Riding atop a train in New Prosity isn’t something I’d recommend anyone do if they don’t have to. I had to though, and had to before, and would have to again, many times. I hurled myself off the building, landed, and shot my rod for stability. I rode the train from District 2 clear to 6, where I rolled off and got a couple of funny looks from embarking and disembarking passengers. The Citizens at the station in 6 were none the wiser.