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Chapter Two

Chapter Two of Downtown, Olympus Town has 3,801 words.

The Facts


I didn't check the contents of the case straight away, instead tucking it under my arm and continuing to my offices. My offices are in 300 Thermopylae, where the street corners with Thessaly. It's quite a low building, only six stories high, and my offices take up most of the fourth floor. There's a small import company below me and the top two floors are deserted. Buying and renting in 300 is cheap despite Thermopylae's reputation as the only clean street in Odyssa. It's because of the sign. The '300' stands on building's roof, each number about twenty feet high, and blazes blood red into the night. The light isn't the problem though – the problem is the sound. The sign buzzes loudly, almost constantly, enough to be heard through several layers of brick and plasteel. It's enough to drive anyone mad.

How do I bear it? I don't, to be perfectly honest, and most of the time my work takes me away from my offices and I have to worry about it. But when I've got no night business I've no choice but to put up with it. Luckily it's a little muted on the fourth floor so it's not as ear-bleedingly awful as it could be. Besides – I slept through a lot worse during the war.

My offices, you see, are also my home – a snoop not really earning the kind of money to afford both. So off the main office is a door marked 'Private' that leads to my rooms. It's nothing fancy – just a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen but, considering I don't really entertain that much, I don't mind the size.

I set the case on the kitchen table and waved hand at the NetHolo on the wall. It's not a high tech model and the 300 interferes with reception so I don't have many options when it comes to what I watch. Lately it's been stuck on the local NewsNet, which makes for dour viewing. I let it run away to itself as I made a cup of tea.

“-And in other news: the Odyssa Vigilante has struck again – this time foiling a killing when he or she interrupted the work of a wanted tholo. The Polis still have no clues as to where the Vigilante is coming from or where it is going but eye-witnesses swear, as in the other incidents, that the Vigilante always disappears in the direction of Olympus Town. NewsNet SE poses the question: is the Vigilante an aug from Olympus Town and if so; why are they suddenly so interested in the welfare of the Odyssa regs?”

You have to admire the Vigilante's efforts, wasted as they are, a clean Odyssa is a prospect most people aren't even capable of imagining. Whoever it is showed up about a month ago and has been playing havoc with the Underside ever since. I heard from White that the tholos had already raised the bounty on the Vigilante to a hundred thousand drach. So far only one had taken a shot at it – and washed up on the side of the canal a day later. Now the Vigilante even has the tholos worried and that's one Hades of an accomplishment.

I sat at the table as the NewsNet began it's Core new hour, as if any Rim world gives a damn about the Core, and opened the case. There was an infodisc, a sleeve of hard copy, a box of one day credits dated through the month, an energy pistol and a slim communit. That solved the mystery of how the shadowy Viola intended to keep track of me. The energy pistol was a worrying sight – I rarely, if ever, need to use one and the impression that I might need one on this case made me wonder if the money wasn't enough.

The pistol wasn't familiar, sleeker and somehow deadlier looking than the ones I was used to seeing around Odyssa. It bore no crafter's mark and it struck me that I might have bitten of more than I could chew. You only get markless guns on government jobs. And government jobs never end well.

I picked up the disc and the sleeve and went back through to my personal office. The computer, as always, took a while to start and I passed the time leafing through the hard copy. I added a new computer to the list of things I would be able to buy with sixty thousand drach.

The hard copy started with a picture of a girl. She was named as Victoria Spicer and looked to be no more than eighteen. She was pretty; long dark hair and dark almond eyes, fine featured and pink cheeked. Something struck me as familiar, something about her expression, the way she was looking at the camera. I continued on, shaking the feeling, finding pages and pages of mostly indecipherable data with large black stripes covering anything confidential. I gathered that the girl was involved with a government program, something to do with gifted children, and had run away for no discernible reason.

She was listed as dangerous, unstable – that she should be approached with caution. There was an eerie sensation creeping up my spine, the sensation that usually comes before bad news.

The computer startled me by beeping loudly to announce it was finally ready. I shook off the sensation and turned to the computer, slotting the disc into the viewer. The computer whirred away to itself beginning the complicated series of calculations as to whether or not it would play the disc for me. Contrary contraption.

I found my attention wandering. Shadows striped the room, painting it in black and orange and red. It's not a big office, room for a desk and a few chairs without making the door difficult to open. The outer office, or waiting room I suppose, though it's not often that I have enough clients to necessitate its use, is much, much larger and yet houses only a few uncomfortable couches and a dying plant.

There's only one picture in my office, on a barren wall, of my squad from the War. It was taken before we shipped out, off to fight on some disputed planet, and we look so carefree. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I am the same man from the picture, just fifteen years on. He smiles at the camera and when I can face turning on the holo he laughs and waves and plays with his squadmates. Charlie stands beside him, a head taller, proud and dignified bearing lasting only so long as she can bear his niggling behaviour, whereupon she wraps him in a headlock. The five other people in the picture are dead, each lost in the War, killed by FC troops who thought they were fighting for the right side. I knew now that there is no right side – the FC and the AU are just as bad as each other.

Dark-skinned Oliver lasted the longest of the five, a better solider than any of us, dying the day before the truce was called. His partner, Jon, died two years before that, a pulse mine turning him into mist on Condor. The twins, Mara and Kara, were shot down trying to evac the rest of the squad from the winless situation at Genua Gorge. The first to die was the girl I'd grown up with, that been like a sister to me. We'd been on recon, one year into our tour, scouting FC defences on Havan when an inaccurate sniper had missed a kill shot and hit her in the gut instead. I got her into a cave above the tree line and did my best to keep her going, but it was a day before the evac team could get us out and Jon was the squad medic, not me. Her name was Hera and she was the bravest person I've ever known. She told me that she loved me just before she died and I couldn't even bring myself to speak the white lie and pretend that I had feelings for her, could ever have feelings for her. It was the worse moment of my life.

The picture is in my office because I can't bear to junk it but I can't stand looking at it. It reminds me of too many bad memories and bad decisions. Considering I spend as little time in my office as I possibly can it's probably the best place for it. Clients seem to find it reassuring even as it makes me sick when they asked after it.

I was staring at the old me – the one with no lines and innocent eyes when the computer decided that, actually, it was capable of playing the disc. It whirred once more and threw up a series of images. Four video files on the disc and nothing more. I opened the first one and watched it through. Then once more before watching the others in quick succession. The feeling that had crept into my spine migrated to my stomach and into my lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

The videos capture four violent scenes in a city I recognised as my own. They were linked by the same figure, dressed all in black, her long, dark hair floating through the air behind her as she moved. In the first she stopped a robbery, in the second she stopped a simple bar fight that had got out of hand, the third was the foiling of an ill-fated attempt at rape and the fourth, with the poorest picture quality, showed her taking out an armed tholo. Each incident ended in a death.

“Hades,” I swore, “What kind of gifted program is this?”

The NewsNet had failed to mention that the Vigilante was killing people, probably at the behest of the Polis – to avoid causing panic.

And finding the Vigilante was my case.

“I should've asked for more nomis,” I said, closing my eyes and pressing my thumb and forefinger to the bridge of my nose.

*****

I started the next day late, after sleeping White's hangover off, and delayed digging through the case files as long as I could. The sick feeling was firmly entrenched in my stomach and I knew that it had nothing to do with drinking to much ale.

I rifled through the papers eventually, picking up what little information there was to be found. I had decided, sometime before I fell asleep, that I would start by heading down to last night's crime scene. With luck the Polis techs would be finished I'd be able to, well, snoop around to my hearts content.

Of course, if the rumours were true, if the Vigi- if the girl was retreating into Olympus Town it was going to take more skills than I possessed to get her out. And I doubted that she'd want to come quietly. I would need to call in favours, of that, at least, I was certain. Big favours.

I didn't bother eating anything before leaving the offices, my stomach still complaining about the previous night's abuse. I took the Crossrail halfway across the town to Athos, the colloquially known God district, and made my way down Makedonia to the crime scene. I'd spoken briefly to a Hermes Diaktoros reporter, the underground paper press that didn't stick to the AU party line, who'd let me in on what they'd picked up from the Polis. The official NewsNet line hadn't mentioned the tholo's target but Auto had thieved the information from the Polis database. The target, safe and sound thanks to the girl's efforts, was one Georges of Athene Polias – the cult of Athena as protector of cities – and high-ranked. Sadly Auto couldn't find any reason for the contract being called out of Georges but promised to get in touch when he did.

The domos of a high-ranker in any cult is always grander than it has any right to be. Georges' was no exception. It was white and gold and tall and tapering. It looked out of place, out of time, completely ridiculous amongst the surrounding grey complexes Odyssa was known for. As I approached it I was disappointed to see the Polis still hovering about outside, fewer than there would be if the techs were still in the building but more than I would have liked.

I walked casually up to the barrier, hands thrust into my pockets, acting for all the world as if I had no idea why the Polis would be there. Two officers were standing behind the barrier, having an animated conversation, one uniformed and one in street clothes. I knew the one in street clothes had to be a detective, one of the officially sanctioned ones that gets to wear a pretty badge, and figured he would be the best one to approach. I waited just out earshot, staring up at the house with a blank look of confusion carefully calculated to ensure the detective knew I meant no harm. Though, in a way, I did. The conversation ended with the uniformed officer returning to the front door of the house to stand watch.

I wandered aimlessly closer to the barrier, watching from the corner of my eye as the detective sighed and rubbed a hand tiredly over the back of his neck.

“Can I help you at all, kyrie?” the detective said and I had the creeping suspicion that my act wasn't fooling him.

“Just wondering what this was all about, officer,” I said in my best impersonation of a curious bystander. Closer to I could see that the detective was young, much too young to be handling a case like this, at least not by himself.

“I think you might already know that,” the young man said, turning his head to one side to took at the house for a moment, “It was all over the NewsNet last night after all”

Something in the tone of the detective's voice suggested that this was not a good state of affairs. I wondered if maybe the NewsNet was breaking the Vigilante stories without the Polis' permission. I looked at him closely whilst he was turned away; green eyes, black hair, pale skin – he wasn't a local boy, not with that aquiline nose. Good looking though – precisely the type White would give his right arm for a night with. He looked back at me and flushed a little when he caught me staring. I raised my eyebrows and tried to smile expansively.

“I may have heard something to the effect,” I said, overplaying just enough for the detective to catch on. It was a mistake.

“Shall we cut the hyesse? What's a snoop doing poking his nose in around here?” the detective's words were harsher and probably an over-reaction to his reaction to my staring. It's a gift, I guess.

“A snoop cant be a concerned citizen?” I asked, leaning against the barrier.

“Not in my experience,” the detective said and I barely choked back a laugh. He must have caught the change in my expression, though, as he flushed again. I could see that his innocence would make him popular in any club. I would have liked to take pity on him but the young always need to learn. I decided to try a different tactic.

“First case?” I asked casually, taking my pipe from my pocket and loading it with fresh bacc.

“It's that obvious,” the young detective didn't bother framing it as a question. His shoulders slumped and he rubbed the heel of his hand over his eyes wearily.

“You're over-reacting to my presence,” I stated, waving a hand through the air, “The older detectives tend to take it in their stride”

I kept my tone casual, inoffensive, warm. I've discovered that the right tone of voice can get you places a charged pistol never will.

“I never even wanted to be a detective,” the detective said conversationally, joining me by the barrier, “But I was useless on the streets”

“Hell of a case to start you on,” I nodded at the house as I cupped my hands to light my pipe.

“You're telling me,” the detective sighed, watching the pipe longingly, “It's a mess Eris would be proud of in there”

“I can imagine,” I said, drawing thoughtfully on the pipe, “Seems like this Vigilante is escalating”

“Don't call it that,” the detective snapped, “This 'vigilante' hyesse is going to make things worse”

“You don't have to tell me that,” I said, shaking my head, “I've seen it happen before”

“The NewsNet reports are driving my boss mad,” the detective confided, leaning closer, “She thinks someone's leaking the story”

“I wouldn't be surprised, adelph,” I said, “There's not a soul in Odyssa that isn't out to make a quick drach”

“Look, I don't suppose I could -” the detective gestured at the pipe. I smiled inwardly, got him.

“Sure,” I said, curving one corner of my mouth up, “If you give me your name”

The young detective flushed pink for the third time since we'd met and I knew I'd read him right. I know that you're thinking that I was taking advantage of him – and you'd be right; I was. I find myself in the unique position of being able to charm people without worrying about the consequences for myself; as there are none. If it makes my job just that much easier then of course I'm going to use it. In most situations I can only count on myself, my own abilities, to get me through.

“John Nomos,” he said as I offered the pipe. He took a long draught and let it out with a sigh, “Thank you”

His smile was earnest and for a moment I felt a pang of regret for the way I was using him, the way I intended to use him. Yes, for all my pontificating I do occasionally feel bad about some of the things I do.

“Marc Spartan,” I said, allowing our fingers to touch briefly as I took the pipe back.

“Why're you really interested in this?” Nomos asked, initiating the traditional give and take snoops and Polis have always engaged in on the side of their dislike for one another.

“Something they said on the report,” I shrugged my shoulders, “About the Vig – the suspect and Olympus Town”

Nomos' face twisted in irritation and I noted that I was right in assuming the Polis didn't want that particular story out in the public.

“It's a headache,” he said, “Whoever's leaking the Olympus angle has caused a backlog of worried regs as long as Thessaly. People think it means the augs are going to start their war again”

“I doubt it,” I said, huffing out a breath, “I'd believe it was the government trying to set up the augs before I'd believe they would even bother with another war”

The theory had just come to me but it struck me as a real possibility – though it wouldn't explain why they'd hire me to get her back. Nomos nodded.

“So the Olympus thing isn't true?” I asked and Nomos sighed.

“The problem is that it is,” he said, “It's the biggest headache of all – we think the suspect really is crossing the canal. There's no way a reg could pull off what it has”

Yeah, I thought, I've seen the footage.

“Food for thought,” I said, extinguishing my pipe and tucking it back into my pocket, “Listen, Nomos – you ever fell the need for some consultation, look me up. It'll be my pleasure”

“I – well, yeah, that'd be – I mean,” Nomos dropped his head for a moment, his skin turning scarlet, “I'd like that. You've obviously been doing this longer than me”

“Come on,” I said, “I'm not that old”

“I'm sorry,” he said quickly, “I didn't mean to – it's hard to tell with the-”

“I know,” I cut him off before he could finish, trying vainly to stop myself from shutting down and losing Nomos, “You don't have to apologise”

We stared at each other for a moment, Nomos looking younger with the worry etched over his features, me fighting hard to control my composure - ten years and I'm still not used to it. It's a joke.

“Well,” I said when I had myself under control, “I'm sure we both have better things to be dong”

“Yeah,” Nomos said, still looking worried, it was making me sick, “I should get back in there”

“Remember what I said,” I called to him as he started up the steps to the domos, he turned, “Look me up if you need me”

Nomos' smile was brighter than a solar flare and for a moment I would have sworn the street was that much lighter for it. Another man might have fallen on the spot – I just filed the image away.

I made it part way back to the Crossrail before letting out a huge breath and kicking a bin over. The thing that made it so difficult for Nomos to place my age was the one part of myself I could never accept. The scar that runs in a jagged line from the corner of my left eye to the tip of my chin, catching the left corner of my mouth on the way. It was the reason Oliver was dead and the reason why the me in that photo would never be me again.

The shrapnel bomb had been jury-rigged by some desperate FC soldiers – it could have been set off just as easily by them as it was by us. Myself and Oliver were on point when it exploded and Oliver threw himself in front of me, using his body as a shield. Most of the shrapnel embedded itself in Oliver's body but one larger piece sheared into my face. Hurt like Hades, but not as much as Oliver's death. The scar was a constant reminder off what we did during the war, and what we lost.

I leaned against a wall and caught my breath, enjoying the feel of rough brick on the back of my head, trying to focus on where to go next. What to do next. Nomos had confirmed that the girl was fleeing in the direction of Olympus Town, but there was no way I could get in there, at least not at the moment. Something was still bugging me though. I've seen the outcomes of AU programs for the gifted before – but never anything like the skills of that girl. She'd obviously been auged – but that made no sense, the AU were formally against augmentation, had been ever since their agents started going rogue during the War.


Feedback appreciated.

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lustforlike
Nov. 8th, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)
Great chapter! I liked the 300 at Thermopylae, that was a nice touch.

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olympustown
Downtown Olympus Town (A NaNoWriMo novel)
NaNoWriMo Central

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

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