Thursday, March 19, 2015

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Upgrades

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Upgrades

Kangiol was not a planet that Tso liked very much. It wasn’t like his home at all, and you couldn’t ignore the press of the UV lights, the overpowering heat and crush of too-many people, or the ever-present smell of Neo Taco-Bell.  The grunge of gangs and criminals were everywhere, more than a few people, at least when they caught sight of him, eyed his technological finery and gear with ill intention. But a quick flash of the pair of Autopistols on his chest holsters deterred most problems.

And whatever wasn’t deterred by a pair of pistols on a teched out spy-bandit was probably a little intimidated by him being shadowed by the leather-cloaked, shotgun wielding crazy bitch. Or hopefully really intimidated.  It paid to keep her in good spirits. Literally.


Tso and Six slipped into a Kangiol cantina, bustling with activity getting ready for the evening rush. Spicy smells wafted past as Tso eyed the crowd. His contact wasn’t that hard to pick out, the red-eye ocular was easy to spot.

“Pip.” Tso noncommittally greeted as he sat at the table.  Six took up a position just behind him, her fingers twitching on her weapons.

“Flatline.” Intoned the slicer. “Been a while.” They had an easy camaraderie, as though chess players at a dangerous game sitting down to play for the first time.

“I’m looking for a…service to be performed.”

“What kind of service?”

“Half sawbones, half technician.”

“Ah.”  Pip took a long pull of a bottle filled with a dark amber liquid.  “That service isn’t cheap. What do you propose to trade in value?”

“Silver’s not good enough here anymore?”  Pip shook his head.

“Silver’s alright, but doesn’t have enough…immediacy.”

“Right.” Tso pulled the side of his longcoat open ever so slightly, revealing a cardboard-parchment wrapped bundle.  It was a fix of Wisp.

“Perfect.  Wait here for a moment.”  Pip rose, Six flexed her finger automatically. Flatline didn’t move.

Pip slipped off into the back.

Six leaned down to look at Flatline, clearly still looking more than a little uncomfortable with the environment. “Kid, how do you get a drink in here?”

“I’ll take care of it.” Flatline flicked up the controls on the table, a holo-menu opened up and his fingers danced across the listings.  Six had probably never had a drink in a high-tech bar like this since the one at the Parissine, and that one had been more on the house.  A bottle of mixed amber-rum hit the table within a minute, dropped off from a harried bartender who didn’t even bother to make sure it was the correct table. Six took it and drank without sitting down.

The minutes stretched long, as both of them continued to study the people in the cantina. Pip returned almost soundlessly, flanked by a huge bouncer who was visibly uncomfortable with Six’s stance.

“Alright. Doc’ll see you now. Leave the Merc, Flatline.”

Flatline didn’t rise immediately. “Nope. She stays with me.”

“We don’t allow guns in to see Doc.” This time the Bouncer spoke.

“You will for the amount of money I’m paying.” Flatline looked over at Six. She whirled her shotgun for emphasis.

Pip and the Bouncer looked at one another, clearly uneasy. 

“I’m paying…a LOT of money.”

The Bouncer shrugged at that, turned and led them down to the basement. Past racks of gear and the underbelly of the Cantina, a set of disguised switches pulled back a concrete wall revealing stairs that went down even further. Six rolled her eyes at Flatline. He shrugged.

In the depths was a well lit, UV clinical laboratory.  In total contrast to the grimy streets of Kangiol, it could’ve been transplanted entirely from Kai-Van.  In the corner, was an elderly man, staring at consoles of computer workstations spiraling by, and the fabrication of equipment behind two inches of glass.

The Bouncer cleared his throat, and stepped back against the door.

Doc looked up. Six flinched, but Flatline didn’t move a muscle.

Doc’s face was a wreck of digital circuitry and wiring. Both his eyes had been replaced, metal stitching around his scalp line spoke to cranial work and his entire lower jaw and teeth had been replaced by gleaming, surgical steel.  Wires dangled down the front of his chest and embedded themselves in machinery in his chest cavity.  Both the thumbs and index fingers on both of his hands had been replaced by robotic joints as well.

“Flatline!” His voice was synthesized, like the classic Stephen Hawking voxboxes of old. “So good to see you, in the flesh, so to speak.” The lips curled in a weird, steel-puppet facsimile of a smile. His tongue was gone too.

“Doc, you’re hard to find. I’m looking for some work to be done.”

“Oh, what are you interested in?” Doc gestured widely, and a table near the entry way rose out of the floor, smoothly, silently. It was a glass case laden with electronics and parts, like some strange Jewelry store.

Flatline’s hands entered his pockets and he approached the case, like he was buying a ring.  “Two things.” He tapped the glass over a small, coin-like plasti-steel piece.

“A Sony Dec-lari Comm? Good taste my boy!”

“And this.” Flatline pulled a static-sleeve from somewhere within his coat. Putting the tiny, gum-stick like piece of black gunmetal on the glass.

Doc’s fingers swooped over it. The robot-metal of his forefingers minutely delicate as they held the tiny wafer chit.  His voice fairly warbled in admiration, “WHAT is THIS? A Wafer Jack? I’ve never seen this one before, is it….Did you MAKE this, Flatline?”

The rogue shrugged. “Made a couple modifications on a Rosenthal CR-32”

Doc carefully set the chit into a surgical tray, the precision of a master-surgeon clearly displayed. “It would be a wonder to work with this piece, I’ve only ever done a Rosenthal install once before!”

“So Doc, how much for these two?”

Doc named a price. It was high, but not insane. Flatline maintained his poker face with ease. Instead of responding, he turned to Six. She hadn’t moved from near the entry way door, all the technology was more than a little intimidating, and the old man and the kid presiding over a case of inexplicable circuitry certainly didn’t seem interesting.

“You want one of these?” Flatline pointed to a cluster of woven micro-filament plastic wires.

“What is it?” She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Muscle underweave, protective. Good for endurance.”

Six didn’t seem any more trustful, but after a moment she nodded.

Doc clapped his hands together. “Delightful!”

The package from inside Flatline’s coat appeared, and he set it on the glass case, suddenly a real tradesman. “Inside there, is just over a half Key of Wisp.” It was almost imperceptible, but Doc’s eyes widened around their slit-red oculars.  “That should be more than ample, for immediate service Doc?”

“Of course, of course!”  Doc’s fingers rubbed against each other, but the strange-sound of grating metal was not reassuring.  “Oh and before I forget, I also have this for you!” He produced a box from beneath the case, a little over four metres of synthetic smart-weave.  “I think this should tip the scales evenly then?”

Flatline nodded, the deal was struck.

“Sit there in that chair then, I’ll work on you first.” Flatline shucked off his coat and shirt, tossing them on a free table before sitting in a clinical chair with an open cushioned headrest.  Six took up the seat to watch, or clean her weapon, or whatever. Doc approached with a tray filled with tools and the electronics.

“Sweet dreams, digital prince” intoned Doc, before he slid the silver syringe into his neck.

Flatline meant to say something, but instead the room slid sideways and the lights went dim.

And in the quiet he dreamed of electric sheep.