“That's another fine mess ...”
(Switch it on!)
I looked to the east over the smoke clouds billowing from the charred guts of once-mighty skyscrapers & habitation blocs. Various scattered blackened vehicles were strewn hither & yon, looking like beetles in the aftermath of a forest fire. Their drivers were long gone, if they knew what was good for them, sheltering from the feral storm that had driven through The Somnambulopolis. The sun rose stealthily, creeping wide-eyed & open-mouthed, itself shocked at the ferocity of the moon's vigil.
I knew how he felt.
After a night like the previous I was surprised that the sun even rose at all. I was expecting the sky to become blood. A mirror to the streets.
This city has taken its fair share of disorder throughout the millennium, from illegal dog shitting to open air street orgies & granny massacres. The winds of crime have certainly battered on dear Old Lurk's gates. Hell, every night somebody's head is on a damn spike but this … this was one of the serious times. Those gates have been blown off their hinges with chewing gum & trampled under canvas shoes.
& it had been a long time coming too. Anybody who didn't live in Paradise Villas, Uphampton or any of those High-Riser locales, where the streets never shone with dogshit, could have told you that. We had left a good two or three generations of kids to rot with nothing but Channel Lurk-1 & its putrid ilk to guide the juvvie low-lifers. Its puerile alternative reality of shit covered in gold plated bracelets & medallions, while simpering & bloody hearts told parents without a rag to rub together how to bring up their street rats who were already snorting the kitchen cleaning products.
During his second year Old Lurk's Mayor stood up on his podium & told people that if they wanted something, they should “just take it!”. He got a standing ovation from the financiers & Old Lurk banking cartels for that. It was their game.
Just take it.
That's exactly what the little juvvie low-life bastards were doing, & by Elvis, did they take to lootery & mischief with such aplomb! Now the game was being played by those that had no stake in it. The rules of the game had changed.
There will be repercussions from this.
Mark my words.
People are screaming for protection from the authorities. The fools're practically begging for a police state while the state is broken in so many ways & next year's an election year.
As I sniffed the sulphuric morning air, I smelt WAR.
“We're a happy family”
I turned into Crowley Place & made my way to number 23. I stood in front of the black solid oak door & picked up the heavy brass knocker in the shape of a satyr's head & felt it read my DNA. I knocked three times, the door clicked open & in I skipped. If it had not registered me, the security system would have kicked in & I would have been toast on a granite doorstep.
Shutting the door behind me I turned to my right to see the statue of a naked Harpo Marx, except for his crumpled top hat, face contorted in laughter, standing on a blue lotus & clutching his bicycle horn. I placed the forefinger of my right hand to my lips in the Sign Of Silence for Harpocrates, the god of silence & patron of secret agents. Honk Honk.
I turned back around to find that my krokodil was already there waiting & climbed on top of the scaly dry beast's back & sat cross legged as he took me where I needed to go. He wasn't a talker, thank Elvis.
The corridor always seems to go on forever, even on a krokodil. Its deep plush claret wallpaper swirled in optica-tropic patterns & the vents droned subliminal visionary statements (Not yet! Not Yet!)& the gold candle holders snaked & entwined all in a hypnotic effort to psychically decontaminate the operative's mind after the pressure of being in the city on a job or whichever plane us agents had been sent to. I suspected it also gave one the urge to tell the unmitigated truth, thereby self-condemning those who leant towards a bit of the old treachery.
Never trust an agent.
Can't blame'em really.
As I sat on the back of my reptilian ride, I began to reflect on the night before. (Is he breathing?) So much had happened all around me that I had trouble placing it. My memories felt confused. A riot is a surreal & intoxicating spectacle & the last few days had been the big daddy of all of them. I had been sent to oversee the mayhem outside to see if any of the usual suspects had been seen to have some ambitions for the riotous upheaval & thereby influencing the chaos in some, as yet, unknown direction. Through the bleary violence I'd drawn a zilch on that. Nothing doing. Not directly anyhow. I'd seen children cutting the heads off other children with axes for a stolen Usee player & vehicles filled with petrol driven into toyshops & communities armed with nothing more than cutlery standing arm in arm to defend their families. But not even a second hand fart from the real madmen. The influence that the Lux & Tenebris had on those making the policies that had sparked the societal explosion was another matter for another question at another time. I looked forward to that day with glee.
My giant leathery walking shoe finally arrived at the white door for Room Zero. HQ. The womb of H.A.D.E.S, where all the waters break into multiversial chaos. H.A.D.E.S. That's the Hermetic Agency of Dimensional Espionage & Surveillance. I prefer to just call it the “office”. I'm cheap like that.
I disembarked from the wheezing dinosaur taxi feeling refreshed but with an itch over my right temporal lobe shaking it away & knocked briskly & entered.
I was faced with the cover of a celebrity magazine. The headline shouted “Prince Caught With His Trouser's Down Shocker!”.
“Hello, Ms. Rouge!”, I spoke up chirpily.
The magazine was replaced by a warm face under lines of powdered crow's feet.
“Vincent! Why look at you! I see you're woking out a lot again, boyo. All those ripplin' muscles, isn't it.”
“Just for you, Rouge”
Rouge maniacally twirled at locks of her dyed black hair with the white roots so hard I thought she would pull them out & giggled girlishly as her wide rugby player's shoulders contorted garishly. A splatter of spittle wetted her dramatically red lips & a glint of naughtiness shined in her over made up glassy blue eyes.
Ms. Llewellyn Rouge was a tarty old Gallish tranny with a heart of sticky treacle & a karate chop that would down an elephant. She'd been here since before monkey's had lost their tails, wore dresses far too short for her age & couldn't care less & knew everything about everything that needed knowing.
“Now, now, Vincent, I've only eyes for my Cedric as well you know, bachgen drwg!”
“Her Cedric” was a reed thin & balding accountant for a megamarket chain with a penchant for muesli & Rouge was besotted. Well, most of the time. You can always look at the menu as long as you go home to feed.
“Could you let him know I'm here?”, I asked.
“Him” was the boss, the guv'nor, the head honcho, the voice of H.A.D.E.S. Dashwood. The man who gives the orders that I jump to.
“He already knows, my dahlin'”, she winked.
A red light buzzed on her desk.
“In you go, then”, twittered the mad over-hormoned gender bender.
“Testing … one, two …”
“Pull up a chair, there's a good chap”
I did as the voice ordered.
Dashwood's office was a small affair. Dark oak panels, a matching table & a Marokkan rug on the floor. (Almost! Almost!) On the table was an old grey tannoy speaker on a stand & a tiny camera in the right hand corner of the ceiling. & that was Dashwood. Or the only Dashwood I'd ever known. He's one secretive bugger.
“Now, tell me all you can”, came the verbal order.
“Excuse me, Sir?”, said I. His statement had knocked me for six. He had asked for the one thing he knew I could not do. Never. & that itch in my temporal lobe became stronger & stronger. I needed to think. That itch. Protocol was, he was supposed to ask me specific questions on the matter in hand & I answer them. Anything else could be a serious security breach. The Q & A protocol was there for a reason. It guaranteed both parties security through limited knowledge.
“Come on now, Blake. Be a good sportsman, eh! Spill the beans”
(That's torn it, you fool!)
“Tell us what you fucking well know, Blake, you damned gorilla!”
(We're losing him!)
Ooohhhh … You fucking amateurs, I thought to myself, here I come. Ready or not.
The room crackled on & off like bad Channel Lurk reception & noise whooshed down on me as somewhere close an explosion shattered glass amid screams, jeering howls & the desperately melancholy sound of a police siren afar. It was still night. My visuals started to stabilise & as the blur began to have edges I saw that in front of me was a screen. On the screen was a paused image. It was an image of Dashwood's office & a hand. My hand. They had doped & Actif-Imaged me, guided & recorded my unconscious to glean info & to sell to whoever would be interested in the inner-workings of the most secretive organisation in the multiverse. Both the Lux & Tenebris would be drooling at a chance to get this data. Actif-Imaging. Psych-Tech developed by the Jungian Mods & sold to whoever pays the most net-credits.
I tried to move but I was strapped down fast to a chair. I felt the wires in my head. There were shadows moving around me. I made two of them.
“He's awake! He's awake! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”, screeched one of the shadows. The voice was all of a panic.
“Opportunist mother-fuckers!”, I growled as mad at myself for being caught by these tech-rats as at them for catching me.
Must have known who I was.
Must have been lucky with the chaos.
I began to tug at the straps. Stretching them. Bouncing up & down. If I could just get to … Whoop! Something hard hit me across the side of my head & my body went limp. It was a pretty weak shot to be honest but I played along. These tech-rats spend too long in front of their screens & not on the streets. My hand inched towards my leg. Another blow hit my skull & slipped crashing into my shoulder. Covering the action in the recoil, I raised my leg just enough to let my fingers softly grasp the hilt of my dagger. A dagger. The weapon of a dirty assassin. My blade. It was in my hand & I had sliced through the two straps as the third blow came. I felt movement in the air & brought my head down & elbow up. That did it. As I tore the wires from my head with my other hand, I heard the rat's forearm crack as it slammed into mine & I grabbed it by the wrist, standing up & slashing at the big juicy veins like I was chopping tomatoes for a ragù alla bolognese. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the other tech-shit scramble for his equipment & dropped the first one in a puddle of his own blood, whimpering in the shock that he was dying.
The tech-shit had frozen & was looking at me as I twirled the blade in my hands. I knew he was going to say something. To try & negotiate his way outta this.
Kids. They never learn.