Joined: 12 Jun 2007
Chapter 6: Mercer Complex [solved]
Culturecorp Building in Red District
Chapter 6: Mercer Complex
There are different types of nightmares. There’s the kind where you are lost, searching frantically for something or someplace. In some you can’t move: paralyzed by fear you struggle against everything to be free. After awhile you get to know the nightmares like old friends that wait for you to visit. You remember them. Name them. Even rank them.
But the worst nightmares are the ones where you have to catch something just a few steps ahead of you that you can’t quite reach. That’s the deep anger of a case that never was. A client that goes sour, and a payoff that turns out to be hush money in somebody’s sick frame job or if you’re lucky: practical joke.
I hear the low rolling thunder as I step soaking wet from the garden complex across the street towards the Mercer Towers. The storm has briefly lessened in that way it always seems to when you are about to go inside, and instead a sort of light rain is coming down. The crimson clouds of sunrise are just thin enough over the opulent cityscape around the Mercer complex to cast an eerie first light upon everything. I can’t really tell if the red glow is from the natural light or the unnatural red brick and red glass walls that grow from the ground like crimson crystals on some alien world.
The Mercer Complex is in the dead center of the Red District, a section of the city rich with lush parks and red rose gardens. The trim of every building here is red; many are made of red brick in that popular early 20th century design. Signs of wealth and glamour abound, and advertising in the red district is exactly what would be expected: Entertainment from "Culturecorp", Medical care from "Medicorp", and Commercial products from "Comcorp". I can’t help but notice that the ads are more technological, against one wall projected holograms entice, on a storefront the products are displayed and shifting, everything is more entertaining, lighthearted, vivid, and alive. For a brief moment I forget myself in it. The entire district is active, moving and even the relatively quiet streets of a rainy morning are not completely deserted.
Then a public service announcement starring none other than Mrs. Mercer herself appears on the wall before me, and I remember why I’m here. Sometimes anger can be a great muse when fire burns inside you and the fuel is knowing you have been taken for a fool. I set my jaw and stomp through a puddle, not caring about the muddy splash I make.
The Mercer Complex. Small half-cylinder external glass elevators crawl up the sides of the dozen or so enormous Mercer towers. The central tower is decidedly taller than the others, though all of them together dwarf the other buildings in the skyline. The glass skyscrapers are tinted with a reflective metallic crimson hue which reflects that same damn golden red sunrise through the rain.
The street falls away quickly as the external glass elevator shoots up the side of the tallest Mercer Tower with me in it. Steady rain streaks the glass as the half cylinder shoots skyward. I stand with my arms crossed and fists clenched watching the floors count off. When anger is your motivator, it's then that you become more than your own self, sharp stinging words that aren't yours boil up... ready to cut and pierce into whoever or whatever might stand in your way.
The glass elevator doors slide open and I step out, glancing both ways and taking in the penthouse's sickeningly lavish opulence. The default color of it is of course blood red. I tear the room apart with my eyes while standing in the elevator doorway. Everything is either gloss red or stark white inside of the huge vaulted penthouse atop the tallest building in the city. Floor to ceiling glass walls on three sides of the central room, where the elevator is, directly opposite, and to the right of me. There are a few doorways in the solid wall, leading to the rest of the penthouse.
The large, long central room is made for entertaining, from the expensive Old World modern art hanging on the one solid central wall, the red velvet pool table, enormous widescreen vid monitor and ultra-modern entertainment center, to the plush red leather sectional furniture suit and matching red leather bar. The thick carpet is gleaming white shag.
The news is on. There’s a female voice coming from the widescreen. ”Yellow District's stubborn CEO Phillip Moore announced this morning that he was denying the merger offer of White District’s Defensecorp. Despite Senator Moore's status as the 3rd most economically influential man in the world, it is widely thought that his denial of the merger will be political and economic suicide for the city's golden boy senator.”
The huge vid monitor displays the Culturecorp news netcast. A brief glance is enough to see the classy, well dressed, busty female Culturecorp newscaster giving a story behind a cherry red desk. She wears a professional looking yet alluring red suit. Inset into the picture is a stock photo of Senator Phillip Moore. He is a grumpy looking balding man wearing a canary yellow tuxedo and holding a golden-topped cane. A classic bad photo. The kind the media keeps around to trash rival politicians when they see fit.
I listen to the sultry female newscaster continue to read her story as I finish my scan of the room. Something just isn’t right, but I can’t place it. My intuition has gone sour. “Senate Majority Leader, President and Defense Cartel Mogul, Senator Tang Fujimoto of the White district along with the “United Defense Board council” has made repeated attempts to secure the vote from Yellow district’s Pancorporate International, under whose corporate umbrella also fall “Pancorp Research and Media”, “Educorp Unified schools”, and “Pancorp Technologies”. Senator Fujimoto has continued his corporate lobbying without any indications of successfully swaying Senator Moore in any way. This is perhaps most surprising, considering Senator Fujimoto’s recent success in pushing through the much needed ‘Ironclad Import and Export Tax Bill’ last month to the deadlocked Corporate National Senate.”
Then I see it. There, past the steady rain running down the big glass wall on my right, a huge motorized sliding glass door stands open to the rooftop pool. Movement. I can make out various human figures through the window outside. I should step backwards into the elevator and leave. Quickly. I should but I don’t.
Instead I step out from the elevator and move toward the large glass door leading to the veranda. I don’t really notice the female newscaster as her cued up propaganda blends into the background noise of the splattering water outside. “Senator Fujimoto is most noted for his unparalleled corporate hold over the Western Region’s military-industrial complex thanks to the corporation’s ongoing involvement with the design and development of the Global Defense Network and his ongoing proposal for a worldwide corporate alliance of military trust firms such as his own Defensecorp. For Senator Moore however, his refusal to accept the merger has raised questions of patriotism... ”
I step past the threshold of the great glass door, looking out into the wet porch with a frown. The sun is now up but it is darker thanks to the newest storm clouds directly overhead. Outside of the penthouse is a great red porch with a stark-white in-ground pool and a low diving board. The bar extends outside through a second closed sliding door. Ultra-modern red Pool furniture and covered tables sit around a low square dancing stage. A long flower bed of red rose bushes lines one end of the porch then merges into an organically shaped rose garden in the corner.
The figures are police and medical personnel. They wear clear ponchos to shield from accidentally becoming wet. Some are the Red District’s Sci-corp Security officers in official forensics team police uniforms with red trim. Others wear the Medicorp logo, and a medical caduceus on their backs. They are milling about the pool judiciously, and oblivious to my presence in the doorway. For the moment anyway.
I recognize the man in charge. He wears a white shirt and a black tie but no poncho. His suit pants are held up with suspenders on which his official Red District badge is pinned. I guess I would say he’s a clean-shaven and fit, brown-haired, ruggedly handsome man in his thirties with hazel eyes and a take-charge no nonsense expression. At the moment he’s wearing latex gloves and is wearing his nine millimeter at his side. He barks orders at the others and points at the pool.
In for way more than a penny or a pound already, I take one step past the open patio door stopping in the threshold just short of the rain. Floating in grotesque red-colored water face down in the pool is the unmistakable form of a woman. I don’t need to see her face. It is the red-haired bikini-clad body of Tara Mercer.
A long stick with a wire ring breaks the surface of the water. I watch as the Security men begin to pull the body to the side of the pool with the long body removing device. The same trick used on a million frogs and snakes in every pool there ever was. That’s when Detective Kropp looks up from the task and spots me. His double take gives me just enough time to wave and smile.
“How the Hell did you get up here!” He bellows.
“I was wondering that myself.” I say. “But the easy answer would be the Elevator.”
Tara’s subcue still chip rests lightly on my fingers, hidden from view just behind my slightly cupped left hand. I clench to hide it, and then casually slip the hand back into my deep coat pocket.
“Don’t get smart with me!” Barks Kropp. “You’re that washout they call Sawyer right?” I acknowledge both truths with a shrug and a single nod. “I thought so. You are so out of your grey-zone beat right now that I could snap you back and make your nose bleed! And that’s not including how you could possibly even know about this! I highly recommend you start talking.”
“Let’s just pretend for a minute that we are human beings shall we?” I say. “I’ll bet you a cup of coffee that body is one subcue short of legal.”
Kropp Smiles. “All right I’ll bite, how’d you know that?”
“I’m psychic.” I say. “Didn’t you know? Speaking of which, how did you know you had a floater here if her chip didn’t tell you?”
Not one to loose his composure, the Red District Detective Kropp snatches my collar with his gloved hands yanking me outside into the rain then slams me against the tinted glass wall separating the patio from the interior. From the outside the glass is the same shimmering metallic Crimson as the rest of the tower complex. My rattling teeth are no longer smiling.
“Listen you arrogant bastard! I don’t have time for your garbage, we got a blip on the grid saying that her vitals were fluctuating right before she fell off the network, now if you know anything about it-”
“Detective Kropp?” It’s one of the Red Security Officer peons. A fresh kid of eighteen or nineteen by my guess standing behind him clutching a data pad.
“What!?” Kropp spits out, releasing his grip on my shirt and turning to the nervous lackey.
“Uh… W-we just got a hot reading for the victim’s-”
“Yes sir, the uh… corpse’s chip.” The officer says.
“Where?” Growls Kropp. The other man is clearly dreading the answer. For that matter so am I, though I have to admit his discomfort and my burning curiosity over exactly what Kropp’s face will be do slightly outweigh it. I’d put five credits on quiet disbelief, and ten on raw anger.
“Uh, well…” he starts out, “You aren’t going to believe this, but sh-she just came up the elevator and is, um… s-standing right in front of you?”
Kropp smiles widely and turns back to me with the pleasure of a cat to his latest mouse. My third guess.
“Looks like you’re in some trouble… detective!” Kropp says, his voice a sarcastic singsong lilt that instantly becomes deadly serious. “Where is it?”
I extract the chip from my pocket and hold it out in the palm of my hand. “All you had to do was ask.” I say.
It’s just professional courtesy after all.
* * *
The steady raindrops dance on the sidewalk as I emerge horizontally from the ornate double doors of the tallest Mercer Tower. The two Red Security officers which have assisted in my short flight stand and watch me, frowning, with arms crossed, as I extract myself from the gutter, flop my hat onto my head, then walk sloppily down the busy street away from the penthouse topped skyscraper. The city’s newest and best neo-retro style cars zip by as morning rush hour begins and the city’s Smart Highway AI kicks the local speed limit up.
Yea, there are different types of nightmares. There’s the kind where you are lost, searching frantically for something or someplace. In some you can’t move: paralyzed by fear you struggle against everything to be free.
I notice a large shadow in the trees of a nearby park across the street and cock my head for a better look. The kid hiding there wears a black leather jacket and has long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. He has on small round sunglasses and wears torn blue jeans and black combat boots. Suddenly he realizes I have spotted him, turns in obvious fear and darts off through the park.
But the worst nightmares are the ones where you have to catch something just a few steps ahead of you that you can’t quite reach.
I knit my eyebrows together and frown. Then without a second’s pause for thought, grab my hat back off of my head and explode across the street. Dodging cars and splashing after him into the park, nearly getting hit by a classy Fleetline remake. The chauffeur lays on the horn at me as I streak by it. There’s a glancing wet slap of my coat off of the bumper as a pass.
Damn. I hate this dream.
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