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Chapter One

And we are underway - Chapter One of Downtown, Olympus Town has 4,023 words.

Odyssa City

It was raining in Odyssa City. That was nothing unusual, of course. There's rarely a time when it isn't raining in Odyssa City – not after the last terraformer packed up before it finished the northern hemisphere. The Graeks came to the Fields with a promise in their hearts and a belief that they could make a ball of rock into a paradise for their people. They were only half wrong. They turned most of the southern hemisphere into a great agricultural continent – covered with fertile soil good for growing most things the AU might want. That's the one thing people are proud to say about the Fields – there's no such thing as unemployment when you can head down to the Continent and get a job working their fields. Grain, olives, grapes – you name it, they can farm it. It's a hard life though – not one that most people will go to willingly.

But I'm already digressing. Sorry.

It was raining in Odyssa. The night was drenched in water, turning the tarmac black streets into rivers of reflected light. The orange street lamps hissed with each drop as the chemicals they ran on interacted with the water. The street was splashed in colours - pink, blue, yellow, green – as signs flashed their advertisements to anyone that could be bothered to look up.

I pulled my collar higher and tugged my hat down the shade my eyes against the rain. I had no work to be doing and on workless nights there was only one place for me: Charlie's. Charlie and me go way back, further than either of us care to remember, and her bar is the only place I can be bothered to drink in. It's not actually called 'Charlie's' of course – nothing so mundane – but anyone who knows the landlady knows that's what to call it. Most other people call it the Bridges – still not its name – after the busted street sign that flashes intermittently at the corner of the building. Charlie's place is on Bridge Street, it runs from the top of Odyssa and over the canal into Olympus Town, though you won't find many that'll venture south at this time of night. Olympus Town is dangerous for regs like me and you.

My name is Marc Spartan, though everyone I know never bothers with my first name, and I work out a minor living on finding things. Things and people. I'm also pretty good at catching people doing things they shouldn't be doing. Yes – that does make me a detective of sorts but I'd thank you not to mention it too often. What I said before – about Charlie's being the only place I bother to drink? - that's not quite the truth. Sad truth is that most of Odyssa's fine drinking establishments don't take kindly to snoops – they seem to think I'm always looking for something. Which isn't strictly true – I'm only really looking for something about fifty percent of the time. Charlie's is the only place that'll have me, the only place anywhere near my offices at any rate, and that's only because we fought together in the War.

No, not that War – I'm not old enough to have fought in the Grain Wars, but thanks for assuming that I'm over a hundred years old, that's really the kind of thing I appreciate – the more recent one. The one the Core people were kind enough to not mention on the NewsNet. You see – after the Grain Wars were settled two major institutions set up on the Rim worlds: the Allied Union, ostensibly the good guys, and the Federal Confederacy, supposedly the bad guys. The AU and the FC pretended to get along for about ten years before they started laying into each other – and by that time they'd both built enough battleships to turn most of the Rim worlds to space dust. It was a dirty war and hard one – laying waste to a lot of the population – and I suppose it's still not really over. I hear from a Scholar friend over at the University of Athena that the Old Earthers had something called a Cold War in their past – where both sides of the war had ensured mutual destruction by having the same dangerous weapons and as such couldn't do anything against each other. That's about where we find ourselves on the Rim at the moment. The AU and the FC have fallen into an uneasy truce – though it's pretty obvious that they're both biding time until they can develop something that'll give them an edge.

Elysion is an AU planet, one of the reasons why most AU worlds don't go hungry, and don't we just thank anyone who's listening for that? They took over the Pel'nesse and turned the multiple cities and states into one big overgrown city. Everything runs into everything else – but that doesn't stop the boundaries from being obvious. Odyssa is off to the east and southwards – far enough away from Athens Central for the AU government to let us see to ourselves most of the time. Anything south of the canal is Olympus Town and we have industrial Minos on the west, military Sparta to the north and commercial Krete to the west.

Odyssa is best know for being a corrupt hive of scum and villainy. We house all the grifters, petty thieves, disgruntled workers, hired killers and purveyors of vice that the south east Pel'nesse could ever need. Little Corinth is home to every kind of Hierodule you can imagine and just by the canal you can hire a Tholophonos for any occasion. Odyssa makes vice as easy as rolling out of bed. So, you would imagine, a perfect home for a private detective. You'd be right. Easy vice makes my job easier than pie.

Charlie's place is mostly clean, just haunted by a few grifters and a tholo or two, and popular amongst the Kretan businessmen that don't want to go home to their dour wives. The 'dules would love to get in there and ask the Kretan's to avail themselves of temptation – but Charlie's got even less time for the 'dules than she does for snoops. Snoops that aren't me, that is. We got each other our of enough scrapes to respect each other too much for that. So Charlie lets me drink, at the special Friends price, and I don't say anything to the Polis about any business that goes down in her bar. It's a mutually beneficial relationship and just occasionally I manage to pick up information without anyone noticing.

I paused in the doorway to shake the worst of the rain from my coat before stepping through the filter. The blast of hot air did for the rest of the water and I walked into the bar dryer than when I'd left my office. Charlie did well enough to have some decent tech, the filter being just one of the gadgets littered about the bar.

I put my coat and hat onto the rack by the door and didn't bother to watch as it disappeared in a dull flash of light – after some of the things I saw in the War an automatic cloak room isn't that exciting. I took the ticket that poked out of the machine and tucked it into my shirt pocket for safe keeping.

As I crossed to the bar I registered the familiar tones of Old Earth's Frank Sinatra filtering through the speakers and as I came into view of the stage I noticed the HoloFrank was in full swing. Most bars do with cheap and nasty music system or at best a android of a popular singer that they picked up second-hand in Minos – but Charlie demanded the best for her customers. I'm pretty sure she had some acquire the HoloUnit in a not entirely legal fashion – but I didn't care as long as the music was good. And it was. The unit had a full catalogue of music and performers from Old Earth through to the latest Core favourites. Some disaffected AU tech was clearly updating the unit on the sly but no-one was complaining.

“Look what the rain washed in,” Charlie's gruff voice rose above the words of The Girl From Impanema, “The little Snoop that Could”

“And it's a pleasure to see you too, Charlotte,” I retorted, knowing the use of her full name would irritate her. Charlie frowned for a moment then leant across the bar to clap me on the shoulder with a smile.

“Why, you're a sight for sore eyes, Spartan,” she said when she leant back, “It's been nigh on a month since you graced us with your presence”

“It's been a busy month, you know how it goes,” I said, watching her fetch a glass tumbler of whiskey, “Adultery, greed, murder and incest. And that was just one case”

Charlie laughed, settling the glass on the bar, and I allowed myself a moment to appreciate what could have been. There was never a hint of chemistry between us, of course, but even I can appreciate Charlie's charms. Golden skin and dark hair, deep eyes and striking features. The only reason she's not fighting advances off with a stick is her height – she towers unsettlingly over men of average height and I don't know many guys that take kindly to that. Not that it'd do them any good if they did try one on – Charlie's a bent as they come and likes people to know it.

“Am I going to have to worry about bothering anyone tonight?” I asked, craning my neck to look into the dimmer parts of the bar.

“Nothing but regs in here tonight, philo,” Charlie said, folding her arms on the bar and leaning against it, “So nothing for you to worry those snooper ears about”

“I thought Wednesdays saw White and co in here,” I said, lowering my voice.

“Out on business,” Charlie said, raising a finger to the side of her nose, “And I'll say nothing more about it”

“Forget I even asked,” I said, grimacing, “I'm already trying to”

“So, if you've been so busy you can't pop in to see an old friend,” Charlie said as I took a drink from the tumbler, “What brings you in tonight?”

“It's all finally gone quiet,” I said, settling myself onto a stool, “Wrapped up an art theft this morning and turned around to discover I had nothing left to do. Figured that this would be a good way to start spending the months earnings”

“I don't know, Spartan,” Charlie shook her head, smiling, “Maybe you want to save some of that nomis to fix that sign of yours. It's being broken for two years now”

Truth, sadly. In fact the sign 'Marc Spartan. Investigator' had broke the day after I had it installed. It hung below the window of my fourth floor offices proclaiming me a 'Spartan Vest' and the eye design I'd had made to go atop it flickered at it's own rate – often looking like it was winking. There have been some misunderstandings and, in one lucky case, an opportunity to wrap up a job when a wannabe punter had turned out to be the husband of a woman who had hired me to find out if he was spending all his money on the 'dules. Like I said – easy vice, easy job.

I'd got so used to the thing that the idea of fixing it didn't even cross my mind any more. Charlie was right though – this months efforts had been enough to pay for the sign several times over. I made a mental note of that, hoped that it'd still be there when I woke up with a hangover, and slid my glass to Charlie for a refill.

“You gonna make an effort to remember what I said?” Charlie asked, holding the refilled glass just out of my reach.

“I'll do my best,” I said, holding my hand to my heart. Charlie smiled and shook her head.

“It's all I can ask I guess,” she said, handing the glass over, “And your best has been known to be pretty good in the past”

I nodded a silent thank you and slid off the stool. I crossed the dingy bar and took a seat at one of the tables in front of the stage. Frank had started a rousing rendition of New York, New York – whatever that was about – and a group of Kretans were singing along. Regular patrons of Charlie's alcoholic beverages.

Frank was interrupted by the door slamming open loudly and the fizzing of the filter in overdrive was enough to cut out his power unit. The Kretans groaned their disapproval and the Minan I suspected of being the disaffected tech caring for the unit moved over to fiddle with the machine.

“Bar wench! Bring me ale!” a familiar voice bellowed and I winced. I turned in my seat in time to see White and his philos stamping through the door. Keaton White was an eccentric but dangerously good tholo of which I had made an acquaintance when he was responsible for the death of one of my clients. He'd agreed not to kill me when I agreed not to tell the Polis about him. Don't give me that look – you'd have done the same thing in my position and you know it. White is not a man to cross.

Topping six foot five and broad as a pillar, White is instantly recognisable where ever he goes. Blond hair so pale as to almost be as white as his name and unnerving blue eyes the have an uncanny ability to stick you to one place. Women love him (and hate themselves for it later) and men want to be him (they disgust themselves for doing so). Me? I just try my best to keep my business and his separate. It'll seem odd to you but, well, in a way I consider him something a friend. A friend that would kill me if paid the right amount, but a friend nevertheless.

Charlie admonished him and only handed over the big mugs of ale when he apologised and muttered a number of flatteries. The only reason Charlie can get away with treating White like any other patron is because he knows that she could kill him before he had a chance to defend himself. I should know – I've seen her in action and her reputation is mostly down to my drunken ramblings.

I shrunk down into my chair in the hope that White wouldn't notice me, hoping to avoid what would be a long and noisy drinking session if he spotted me but it was too late. White dropped into the chair opposite me, wide grin splitting his face, and slammed his mug on the table with intent.

“Little snooper,” he said with a trace of the accent I'd never been able to place, “Am I to have the pleasure of company this evening?”

White raised an eyebrow and smiled the smile of a man that knows when another person can't possibly say no to him. I raised my whiskey and downed it in one shot, letting the burn settle my nerves.

“How can I say no to you, philo?” I asked in return and White's grin, if possible, became bigger.

“Then you will join the table and I will ply you with ale until you're loose enough,” White stood, laughing, and pulled me up with one large hand. I winced and tried not to think about the innuendo evident in his tone. I think White's been trying to turn me into one of his fawning boys since we met, though Gods know why – I'm not half as attractive as the ugliest of them – and it's getting harder to avoid his advances.

One of the real reasons that I'd been out of Charlie's for a month. Sometimes I worry that White's going to get tired of playing with me and pounce at last. It's not a happy thought. He's not queer, you understand, not that I'd give damn if he was. There's no law saying you can't kill a man just because you prefer cock to pudenda – but I know there's certain Core types that still have a problem with it. No – White's not queer, he'll just have sex with anything that moves. If it's human – I don't think even White would stoop to bestiality.

White pushed me down into a seat in between two of his prettier companions and had another mug of ale ordered to be placed in front of me. I looked down at it and sighed, I hate ale – but when White buys you a drink, you drink it. I raised the mug and took a mouthful of the drink to the sound of White's companions cheering.

The tech got Frank working again, now crooning the redundant Fly Me To The Moon and I resolved myself to drinking long enough to get White, figuratively speaking, off my back.

*****

The clock tower opposite Charlie's is about fifty feet high and ten feet wide. It makes for a handy landmark if you find yourself lost in Odyssa – marking the top of Thermopylae street where it gates into the Spartan boundary. The display is holographic – showing core time as well as Pel'nesse and Messinian time.

I stamped my feet as I looked up at the clock, trying to create some feeling in them. Two in the morning was a new record for escaping White's attentions but still later than I would have liked. I managed to placate the big man with a series of outlandish anecdotes of my time in the militia – each more ridiculous than it's predecessor. White and I both knew that they were about as true as the long standing rumours of bull-headed men haunting the streets of Minos, but that didn't take the fun out of it for him. And I have to admit that it's no so arduous for me either.

It had stopped raining, right on schedule, and the only sounds were the patter of water dripping from the buildings and the occasional transport burning into the darkness. There were loud fizzes off and on as water dripped through chemlamps or holodisplays.

The rain washed streets reflected red and orange light into the night, turning the usual drab, grey Odyssa buildings into beacons of colour. I love walking through Odyssa at night, and my job calls for a lot of that, pretending that she's more than what she seems.

As I listened to the low humming of the filter behind me I searched my pockets for the bacc I knew had to be in there somewhere. I'm not a big smoker, taking up a pipe only now and then, but something about being in White's presence for too long makes me crave the smoky release. I found the bacc and my pipe in the inside pocket of my coat and took a moment longer to combine the two than it would if I was sober. I'd manage to avoid complete drunkenness through a combination of Charlie watering my ale and nursing my drink when the others were quaffing. There was still enough alcohol in my system to make simple tasks difficult.

Lighting the pipe at last I drew a long breath of wood-flavoured smoke and held it for as long as I could. I breathed twin smoke tails from my nose as I exhaled and sighed in contentment. The muscles that had tightened with too long exposure to White and his philos began to relax at last.

I started walking down Thermopylae to my offices, letting my feet find the path they knew too well and focusing instead on the flavoursome smoke. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I'd paid more attention to my surroundings that night. If maybe I might have avoided the whole mess if I'd been more alert. Aristo at the University tells me there's no point wondering about the past – that we shouldn't even bother with the future and focus on the now. Aristo's always fancied himself something of a philosopher, which is a bit lofty for a simple historian.

I passed the mouth of an alley and froze in my tracks. The reason I stopped was a simple one: the muzzle of the energy pistol pressed into the small of my back. Suddenly I was very sober.

“Perhaps you would like to walk into the alley, Mr Spartan,” it was a woman's voice, deep and melodious.

“Anything you like, philo,” I said, ding as she asked, holding my hands out to either side in the universally accepted gesture for 'I'm unarmed'.

“Thank you,” the muzzle stayed pressed into my back and I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder. Something told me that she wouldn't appreciate that.

“Please continue to face forwards, Mr Spartan,” the woman said, as if reading my mind, “This won't take long”

“Figures,” I said to myself, “Getting robbed when I was finally going to fix that damn sign”

“Oh, this isn't a robbery, Mr Spartan,” the woman laughed, it didn't reassure me, “Quite the opposite. My employers would like to engage your services”

“I do have offices for that,” I said, though instinct told me not to, “And there's about six different electronic means to contact me”

“As I am sure you understand by your current situation,” the pistol pressed harder into my back, “This is not a meeting that could be held in your offices”

“Off the records then,” I stated, mouth souring. I'm getting to old for clandestine meetings.

“Just so,” the woman said and the painful pressure was gone from my back, though the threat of it's presence remained, “Will you take the case?”

“You haven't even told me what it is yet”

“I'm not able to do so until you take the case”

“Secrecy and discretion are my business, gyne, what harm can telling me do?”

Silence followed the question, broken only by the fizzing chemlamp at the mouth of the alley. It stretched between us and gave me more answers than i ever wanted.

“I don't want to know the answer to that, do I?” I asked when the silence became too much.

“No,” the shortest answer is sometimes the most chilling, “Will you take the case?”

“How much?” I asked. Yes – money does come first in a detective's heart. There are times when you don't know where the next meal is coming from so I'm sorry if you think it's unfair of me not to take on cases where, for example, people can't pay me to find their missing child. This is my life.

“Ten now and fifty on completion”

“Drach? Hardly worth my time and the effort of keeping it quiet,” I said and the woman huffed out a breath – the first human thing she'd done.

“Thousand, Mr Spartan,” she said slowly, “Ten thousand drach”

“Oh,” I said, breath catching in my chest, “That's a lot of signs”

“Yes”

“I'll take the case”

“I thought you might,” she replied and there was a trace of humour in her voice, “At the back of the alley you will find a case, inside it is all the information you need”

“What sort of case is this?”

“One where you find someone, Mr Spartan,” the woman said shortly, “I will contact you every two days until you find who we are looking for”

“I'm going need at a thousand a day for expenses,” I said, hoping I wasn't pushing things too far.

“Already provided for, Mr Spartan. Everything is in the case”

“What if I need to contact you?” I asked. There was no reply. I turned cautiously and found the mouth of the alley empty. Gone as quickly as she had come.

I walked to the end of the alley and found a case sitting on top of a bin. On top of the case was a small card. I picked it up to read it and found only one word.

'Viola'

This shadowy contact was good.

(Any spelling errors noticed will be appreciated)

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lustforlike
Nov. 3rd, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
Typo: “Anything you like, philo,” I said, ding as she asked...

Not much of a typo, but it took me way longer than it should have to figure out the word it was supposed to be!

To the story itself: it's a great start. I was dubious at first, but by the end of the chapter I was sold on the future-meets-ancient-Greece-in-noir setting, so keep it coming!
jbaddley
Nov. 5th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your typo!

Dubious frightens me, in a way. But I'm glad that you enjoyed it by the end.
katie__pillar
Nov. 5th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
I was also slightly dubious at the start but I think it works and I'm looking forward to more. And the narrator's got the obligatory noir New York accent in my head, lol.
jbaddley
Nov. 5th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC)
New York, eh? I'm glad he has an accent in your head - I still can't figure out what he sounds like to me...

There shall hopefully be more soon.
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olympustown
Downtown Olympus Town (A NaNoWriMo novel)
NaNoWriMo Central

About the Author

JB Addley hopes that one day this novel will be published. For now self-publishing will suffice.

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