the steampunk detective-part5

The twin moons scenery goes one hundred percent with me. So I go for a walk to relax and do a little thinking about the case.

The whole affair is a mess, and I don’t mean perhaps. First I’m hired to retrieve a stolen jewel by a client who thought the job would be dead easy, no kiddin’.
So I go along doing my job and I  find the guy who stole the jewel minus his head in a dump and I’m not so pleased with life anymore.
If you guys have read my first post you know the dame who hired me is a rare piece. Dear Mrs Ghr’ss is a mutant who can be pretty nasty with very little effort on her part. And she will unquestionably be sore to learn that her jewel is still AWOL.
But I reckon I cannot just slip a notice under her door saying “sorry Mrs Ghr’ss, some  unfortunate hitch has occurred and your little friend could not return your valuable piece of jewelry”. Nothing doing, I had to brace myself for some cosy interview with the Ghr’ss woman on the next day and better try to explain things before she blows my brains using her telepathic skills.
The problem is nobody alive can tell me where her damned jewel is. Clinical research has established that when a thief has been decapitated, he is not likely to provide any information you urgently need and I had no other clue.
No clue ? Well, except maybe that android hand I had found near the corpse.
I reckon a first party had come to interview the poor guy. I remembered the victim had been badly boiled. So I guess whoever had served as interface between him and the hot tap water system must have been the proprietor of that hand. Suspect number one.
And then suspect number two,the big robot, must have barged in and spoiled the cosy exchange. In fact this one pretty much spoiled everything.
The lost hand indicated that suspect number one, probably some sadistic android, lost the fight and scrammed. The crude decapitation must have then been performed by the big robot which did not seem blessed with any sense of subtlety.
A lotta guesswork, you’re tellin’ me. Anyway the jewel must be plenty important to at least two parties, the one who sent the mysterious android to ask questions and the one who had rented the big robot. The former wanted the poor guy to speak, the latter wanted him to be silent from here to eternity.
Definitely not an issue on which they could have reached a mutually acceptable compromise. Quite a dangerous age to live in, if you ask me !
No wonder these human districts have a poor reputation. What with the cheap rents and low labor costs, all sorts of creatures, mechanical or biological, begin to settle little by little. You guys can guess why I prefer renting rooms in the mutant districts even if we humans are discriminated. Better being looked down on by mutants from time to time than being looked up by jeepers creepers all the time.

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The steampunk detective-part4

You folks may already have guessed from my last post that the life meter bar of Mister MC Final had fallen to zero. And it looks like you’re damn right.

The poor guy was lying on the floor. His head seemed to be badly burned or boiled. He had then been decapitated, if that’s the correct word to describe that state of affairs.
There was also blood overall but that is a side issue which should not distract us. The point of interest was a hell of a robot which I thought filled too much of the picture. Right now it was busy scanning or x-raying the corpse, for whatever purpose. The upper storey of that robot was an eyesore, no kiddin’. It housed various kinds of lethal instruments, including some nasty injectors. When it was done with photographing, it proceeded to turn everything upside down in a big way, no doubt searching for the stolen jewel. Otherwise that dump was not worth the wait. Anyway after a few minutes the robot could apparently detect no sign of the jewel and decided to scram.
The procedure by which that hulk of metal took its leave confirmed my first impression it was never intended to be converted as a teddy bear. It demolished the back wall enthusiastically and disappeared in the direction of a former canal which was now used as a chemical disposal site not far from here.
A few passers-by were looking dubitatively at the rampage left by the robot, probably thinking what kind of a hole-in-the-wall type of establishment is this ? In no time the place began to bustle with people coming in through the freshly opened hole.
I reckon that big robot had not been here to do some fitness training. If in spite of all its efforts the jewel could not be found, no need to bother searching for it myself. That kind of machinary has a lotta radars and sensors while I was just  a guy who had always been doing poorly in class.
I decided it was time for me to scram myself since a looting party here was getting a bit loud. Metal parts were being stripped from  some steam machines.
As I was about to leave, something with a metallic sheen lying on the floor caught my eyes. I picked it up automatically. It was an android part, a finger claw or something, but nothing to do with the hulk I had seen in action. I pocketed it in my trenchcoat, said “excuse me “ as some looter inadvertently bumped against me and stepped through the hole myself into the street.
A few minutes later I was walking through the check point into the mutant district, mighty glad to call it a day.

The steampunk detective-part3

As a hangout for addicts, the Tanaka Bar had it all. It featured rusty technodream machines, the sort that were designed to replace chemical drugs after abducted humans were deported on this planet.

These machines made people crazy so rapidly that if the humans had still had some kind of administration they would have had immediately congressional hearings or a green paper or something on them. Over the time, the old dream softwares had become completely mixed up so they were giving you dreams designed for other alien species. Imagine yourself dipping in the nightmare of some gelatinous, cannibalistic squid-spider !
Right now there was a power outage and a group of junkies was slowly emerging in some state of abstraction.The first guy left from the door started screaming some garbage at me before I even had time to ask for directions.
-“Man, you aint nothin’ but a hound dog. Did you left the cake out in the rain ?.”
I really wasn’t any more educated because of it so I moved to the next character, but I did not make great improvements there either.
Right then some palooka came from the adjacent room. Probably his job description indicated he was some sort of waiter-cum-bouncer-cum-stains-on-the-floor-removal expert. Right now he was operating a pail and a broom and did not seem to be pleased about life generally. I reckon he had been stuck since the last few years at an intermediate step between quitting the stuff and securing a second decent chance in life.
He deigned to look down on me so I smiled up at him and cracked a joke or two to relax the atmosphere. But probably this guy does not want to be seen smiling in public for fear that people would think he does not brush his tooth.
Anyway after I slipped a couple of bucks to him he started telling me a guy fitting the description of MC Final had rented a room at the back of the joint. No need to say it was the kind of room where no furniture were needed and which could be rented for the short term.
So I left the bar and eased along a dark passage to some junky backyard smelling like the ratcatcher had been on leave since last christmast. I saw a grungy wall with a dark door and a dimly lit window towards which I leisurely proceeded. I climbed on a trash can and peeped through a dirty, cracked window into a shabby room. And what I saw in there completely reversed the conception you folks may have had that my job concerning the MC Final guy was to be some piece of cake.

The steampunk detective-part2

The double suspension train was always crowded like a stale can of sardines, even at night. A luck the downtown district was just three stations away.

By mutant standards, the skyclub was just an average place to go but the segregated humans did not feel particularly at home, at least on my side of the counter. Right now, dull electronica was being played in the background. For one reason or the other MC Final was big with the labor-trafficking club owner and was often seen around the place, if what the Ghr’ss woman told me was right. If I had to believe that sister, the job I was to perform was to be a piece of cake. But after boring myself to death at the counter for a certain period of time, it looked to me like the joint did not feature any MC Final right now.
I put my problem up to the bartender-robot.
-“So you must be this guy Marvin”, it says after a while. “MC said the lady insect was going to send some jerky private cop to meet him”.
– “News move around pretty fast here”.
– “Not as fast as you were swigging down all them bourbons since you entered the scenery, Mister”.
-“ I did not know your kind of machinery was equipped to count, pal”.
– “MC Final has left instructions for you, that is if you’re still able to memorize some simple message”.
-“ Is your humour always so phoney or is it malfunctioning only with humans”?
-“ Humor and human is all the same to me, Mister:both make me laugh”.
I shrugged my shoulders. It often goes like that even in joints without “no human allowed” policy.
-“ It’s neat to consider someone spent the time to conceive a crazy, useless talking bar counter like you”, I said and hoped the robot would give me a break.
A group of mutants sitting in our immediate surroundings was shied away by our cosy exchange so we remained alone in the counter zone.The bartender-robot became immediately chummier and said :
– “Take it easy man, I had to pretend : normal persons may find it suspicious if I was chewing the rag with plain ordinary humans”.
-“ No offence taken. Now what about MC Final”?
– “Don’t expect him here ; MC is always moving over the speed limit everytime that insect lady may show up. My boss here owes him a favour and is OK we filter traffic to his hideout. You’ll find MC at the Tanaka bar”
– “That’s fine. Now tell me, after I move to this Tanaka Bar, do I find this is some kind of paper chase game or will the hare still be in that joint by the time I arrive”?
The inamovible parts of the robot’s face almost gave the impression he was smiling
-“ It’s more a den than a joint, Mister. And it’s right in the middle of the human slums ; so MC Final ain’t afraid of no funny business from them mutant insects in there”.
A careful observer would have notice me wince slightly. Though a human myself I must admit the human zone is not a place for you if you are a quiet, peaceful person looking for a super relaxing, lifestyle experience. The normal rules for killing apply by night, but even by day you don’t want to take someone special on your first date there.
And if it’s possible to have a bad reputation even in a slum it’s definitely the case with that Tanaka Bar.
-“ So you want to watch your step when you get there”, concluded the robot. “And I don’t say that because we are afraid you might slip on the carpet floor”.
After ordering a last one for the road, I went on my way. That skyclub joint is just not for me. The atmosphere is not hip and the mix of people there is not big on diversity.
With no good feeling in my stomach I set out for the slums and the Tanaka Bar. I definitely had a hunch the next few hours would not be uneventful.
I drew a long sigh. As Irving Berlin would have said round the time my ancestors were abducted from Earth : let’s go slumming.

The steampunk detective-part1

Private eye Marvin goes to meet his new client, a mutant femme fatale who is being blackmailed. The interview does not exactly match his idea of fun.

I had the unhealthy sensation that some invisible, psychic tentacles were prodding into my brain, while she was staring at me. She seemed to be both satisfied and uninterested by whatever she read in my mind and slightly relaxed the tension.
She had poured me a stiff drink, which she put indolently on a table in front of me. She crossed her legs and started giving me the low-down on the story so far. A fellow she met, some smooth character calling himself MC Final, had pulled a quick one on her.
The lady was a subtle telepath, spicing her story with images she was playfully displaying inside my head.
-“I am not exactly sure why I had become so crazy about the guy”, she said. “Maybe I was just plain bored and he was just a little better than the cheap little thrills I was used to”.
– “It comes as a shock to me but you’re not exactly pure as new-driven snow, Mrs Ghr’ss”. I wisecracked, just to show her I was not to be subdued so easily.
– “What is snow ”?
– “A funny substance on Earth, the planet from where my grand grand parents were deported to this world, Mrs Ghr’ss”.
– “Very fascinating. Now, a friend had told me of a new place in the Dumps, you know the kind. Not exactly a cultural landmark or anything, but the male characters are never in short supply”.
-“ I heard of the joint, perfectly adequate, if not exactly inspiring”.
– “No need to interrupt all the time; should anything brilliant ever spark in your head, I can read it myself”.
She lighted a cigarette, drew on it and looked as if nothing interesting had been inhaled.
– “It was open late and I went with a fairly open mind, always ready to broaden my horizons. This guy stood out from the others. He did not speak much, which is usually good. He looked sad, the kind of person you can make happy very easily if you see what I mean”, she added sarcastically.
I did not say anything, my throat was dry.
-“Everything was reasonably satisfying, on both sides. Much later in the night he told me he was big in the DJ scene or whatever humans call that. Was at a lot of parties, interesting places, hybrid people. In the following weeks I made him take me to all these venues ; very nice, over the top things, not for the squeamish. One of them was called “new extremity” I think”.
The ironical mental depictions she kept distillating in my mind showed these events to be a complicated mixture of insect rituals and human rave parties. Not particularly comfortable for the humans. Not a damn bit at all. I was getting a bit queezy.
– “He was sick scared and wanted to quit all the time. Not a chance, it’s so easy for me to twist them around my little finger-claw even if their mind screams “hell no”. And I had rarely experienced a human with such an aura, even while in agony”.
In a minute she would tell me she grew fond of the guy- whatever her race means by“being fond”. Against my will, I was visualizing the drab underworld she had been systematically touring with that MC Final guy. I tried to get hold of myself.
– “Then I made the fatal slipup ; I wanted to throw such a party myself, to organize things my own way. I can control others, but apparently I can’t control myself.So he rented a discreet place for me,  somewhere between the prolo steamstation and the modern spaceport, looking out on a interplan shaft. I invited a lady friend- married to some top-notch politician- she is always so good company”.
The sultry images were now being colored by something different, a feeling too alien for me to read. But she abruptly closed herself up and the nauseating invisible tentacles ceased to prod into my head. From now on, her account was strictly limited to words.
– “Something very insulting happened, Mister Marvin. Her Head jewel has been stolen from my friend”.
Just for you to know, this complicated, priceless item usually covers the forehead of this species so fond of piercing and indicates social status.
– “So this MC final character left no forwarding address”, I said. “And you want me to find him and the jewel before your husband finds out you’ve been careless” ?
-I must admit this would not exactly tend to sweeten his tempers. Moreover I would be personally dishonoured”.
She explained the facts in tight dangerous tones. I was relieved she had relaxed her mental grip on me and the mental images had faded away.
– “You don’t need to find the guy”, she added contemptuously.”MC Final has already organized a rendez-vous tonight in one of his haunts. Only he does not want to see me, nor anyone from my race, let alone if they happen to have big mandibles. What he wants to see showing up at the rendez-vous is some harmless, second rate character like you, a go-between bringing him the dough so he returns the jewel”.
It is a luck this lady insect did not say I was a retard or something, nor that I was some lousy detective who couldn’t stalk a blind person, because this would have really impaired my self-confidence .
– “You sure know how to make a guy feel worthwile, Mrs Ghr’ss”.
– “Surely you don’t want me to baby you, Mr Marvin”.
She did not bother to ask if I accepted the job, nor did she try to use her mental powers to convince me. After all I was just a lousy detective, a few bucks would suffice.The interview was almost over. I got the details I needed to perform the job, was handed over a big enveloppe with the dough for MC Final, a thinner enveloppe with my fee. I don’t remember how the interview ended and I found myself walking in the rainy streets a few minutes later.

At the suspension railway station, I bought myself a ticket to ride to downtown nightlife. I was to go to a joint called the skyclub to meet this MC Final guy or somebody would direct me to him.
If I had only known what bloody horror the whole thing would turn out to be, I would have bought myself a ticket to the other side of this planet.

The steampunk detective

Here is a short outline of my steampunk noir concept for some following posts. A predatory alien race, the tsh’ankh, have gathered on an artificial planet samples of various races from the galaxy, including Earth. Millions of abducted humans live in a sprawl called the Ghetto.

They are forbidden to operate any machinary developped beyond the stage of steam technology. Only a small elite of collaborationists are allowed more sophisticated machines- vintage cars or aeroplanes. This upper class consists mainly of crossbred from humans and aliens, living in the wealthy districts of the sprawl.

The narrator is a human private eye retained by a mutant femme fatale who is being blackmailed. The story will take us through this strange noir art deco town brimming with hybrid characters.