Wednesday, 12 October 2011

40) Dick Sigg

    I knew she was trouble the second I saw her shadow cross my frosted screen door. Her profile said fresh water, but the way she swam in the air said only salt water tears. Now, I’m not like some of the working stiffs in this part of town, all attached to antique body forms. Hell, I’d have imported more Viridian or Martian into myself if the grafts weren’t so expensive and I wasn’t so broke.
    She knocked with her tail and I said “Come in, it’s open.”
    She pushed open the door with her tail and did a gracefully twirl to close is back. She was a juvenile yellow Fin Tuna, about six feet long, sleek and graceful, a hint of fake caustics shimmered across her body and hypnotizing scales.
    She was more modified than I had thought and twice as beautiful. She had gone for a full somatic reconstruction. Even her eyes were fishy, inhuman.
    She swam/flew over to me and coughed up a soggy and well mangled copy of my business card on to my desk.
    Her voice was full human though, female and soft and breathy and almost familiar. Her mouth parts didn’t move with the words, they slowly worked the water that was not there. “Mr. Sigg does this card look familiar to you?”
    I tried to read her fishy face, but failed. “It’s got my name on it, doesn’t it?”
    With a quick flip of her tail she zoomed across my desk, dislodged me from my comfy chair, and spilled me on the floor like cheap bourbon. She pushed her full body weight down on my chest. I was more aroused than I thought I should be.
    She said, “Detective Sigg. This is an important matter. I suggest you cooperate. The rest of my employers information gatherers might not be so gentle.”
    I was definitely aroused. “Sure, sure, no problem.” In the last seventy five years working here I had several very different reputations and I hate to be called out on my debts. This had to be Red Leaf. And my piece was far away in my desk drawer. “Just get off me and I’ll see what I can do. Okay?”
    She slid off me and I worked my way back into the chair. I looked closely at the business card. It was fairly dumb paper, two frames of animation, basically like a neon sign. I had them done at the mall. I still had a couple hundred of the damn things. Full color is cheaper these days. As the owner of the paper I could track it, if I still had the attachment. I powered up my terminal.
    “So, lady, who do you work for?”
    She said simply, “Cheldonia.”
    I coughed. Cheldonia was New Earth’s third largest kleptocracy, just below Disneytron and UCSTech.
    “Well, what do you want with a dumb gumshoe like me? I’m sure you have lots more qualified professionals at your disposal. Hell, I’m sure you have a police force or two, right?”
    She just floated there and stared at me with those fishy eyes.
    “Fine,” I said and got to work.
    I flipped on my terminal. I could hear its old hard drives whirring away under the desk. My terminal chimed. I tested the soggy card with a couple of test bends. And I dove into my peripherals drawer, pulling out thin black snakes of cables and rattling plastic housings. I tried to remember which one was the card’s scanner and prayed I didn’t need an adaptor. Eventually I was able to peel out the correct adaptor. I plugged it into my terminal and tried to dry the card with the end of my tie.
    “You do know that if the card is too damaged that I won’t be able to get much off of it.”
    “Just do what you can, Mr. Sigg.”
    I thought for a moment about some pithy replies, but ‘Cheldonia’ kept me quiet. No way I wanted to piss off this lady. If I could just get her out of my office that would be payment enough. My middle name is trouble, not ‘suicidal idiot’. Data started scrolling and I let out breath I didn’t know I was holding.
    “Ok, we’re good. This is the fifty seventh business card I ever gave out, if I handed them out in order, and I think I did. So that’s back in ‘21. The New New York Policeman’s Ball if I remember correctly. I gave out plenty that night, so that doesn’t help too much. Let’s see, what else. Hmm…” My heart stopped at the info. “Looks like this card has been off planet and for a long time too. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. The scanner says this card is fifteen hundred years old! Is this some kind of sick joke?” Pre-singularity artifacts were rare enough that for someone to forge this kind of practical joke for my expense was about as probably as it having traveled though a worm hole and gone back in time, which was near zero.
    The fish lady sighed and said, “I was afraid of that.”
    “What do you mean?”
    She opened her mouth and a swarm of tiny spindly drone flew out. I covered my face with my arms and pushed back from my desk. It was an empty gesture. Several of them stung my arms and I was out cold.

    I woke with a severe headache. Before I could groan or open my eyes someone with kind hands put a glass of cold water into my hand and a smooth pill in between my lips. I took them and swallowed. It was certainly the placebo effect, but I brightened right up.
    I was on a wooly bed, warm and soft and safe. Something under me rumbled quietly. I opened my eyes all the way as the headache faded away. I was in some kind of small tubular room with clouds out the window. A plane? I was trapped in a plane with a beautiful blond. She half smiled
    I said, “Where the blasted hell am I? Who are you? Where are my pants?!”

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