Or Caliver Tirran & the Farron Tunnel mystery
When Caulder Morgraive first announced plans to build a great tunnel under the River Farron, the City of Tarnhaven rejoiced. Truly it was to be a symbol of modernity, a lasting monument to the growing industrial revolution and the city’s place directly at the centre of it. Morgraive was heralded as a hero and elevated to the loftiest heights of the Worshipful Guild of Mechanical Engineers, constantly lauded in front of his peers from across the continent as a living avatar of this new world of steel and steam. But as the years dragged inexorably on, the people’s enthusiasm waned. Delays and disasters piled up rapidly, barely a day went past without some kind of bad news hitting the national press, and slowly what was once an object of national pride was transformed into a national embarrassment. Now, five years after the fact, the tunnel stands as a muddy scar on the face of the city, an ever present dark memorial to overconfidence and the fickle nature of fame. Few give it the time of day, often only mentioning it in jest or derision. But for the city’s dark underbelly, it became the perfect cover, creating a new generation of inventive and unusual crime. For Sergeant Caliver Tirran and Constable Arbus Scovie of the Tarnhaven Constabulary, however, the tunnel currently represented an unwelcome extra workload. As Spring overtook the city there had been a spate of break-ins at properties along the decaying curtain wall that had once protected the city centre on the southern riverbank, and this morning it was the turn of an old public house on Kanver Street in Farrongate Ward. As the first officers unfortunate enough to pass by, the pair of them were getting an earful from the landlady.
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The fluorescent lights in the cell ceiling hummed into life and once again the routine began. As he heaved himself up from the hard slab that pretended to be a bed, he stared at the seamless white walls. ”Today”, he thought to himself, ”maybe today will be different.” He let out a sigh and tried to shake himself into some semblance of being awake. Soon enough, like every other day since he’d been imprisoned here, they’d force a tray of barely edible food through the slot next to the door and give him almost enough time to eat it before the guards would turn up to drag him away. Every day was the same, and everything was deliberately disorientating, the smallest event choreographed to place him on the back foot. The sad thing was, it had been working. Wherever this was, how long he had been here, even why he was being held had long ago faded away and become meaningless. All he had left was the blind hatred for his captors, and even that was beginning to wear thin. He was tired, tired of the routine, tired of what life had become, everything.
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The Clerk edged his way through the double doors into the workshop. He would be the first to admit he had little knowledge of such things, but the heat and noise certainly met the stoat’s limited expectations of such a place. At first it seemed unoccupied, but hairy legs either side of a bushy foxtail poked out from underneath a large frame filled with brass gears and cogs. The Clerk politely cleared his throat.
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1 – (N. Physics, Astronomy, Stellar Cartography & Navigation.) A shift toward longer wavelengths of the spectral lines emitted by a stellar object caused by the object moving away from the viewer’s position.
-Schumacher’s Dictionary of Modern Terran English & Related Anglophone Dialects, 3540 Edition, Schumacher Foundation Press, New Dawn, Verne (Nova System), Terran Federacy
Good Evening, it’s Thirteen PM on the fifth of January 3546, here are this evening’s international headlines from FBN News: Alban.
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And so there we have it, after long last the second Century23 story is out there in the big, wide internets. To say it took longer than I had originally intended is an understatement. Two years and about a month is how long it’s been since the first scraps of notes hit the page, possibly longer still since the initial inception of the piece. Not that I’ve been idle in the mean time, since I’ve gotten a job and started blogging in the intervening time, among other things, but still. However, now it’s finally out there and making me paranoid as all hell in the wild, it’s now high time for me to share my thoughts about the whole thing, I reckon, and elaborate on where else this setting can go.
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The world slowly came seeping back as he regained consciousness, confusion fighting with pain as both made their way around his head. Keeping his eyes closed, he tried to figure out what had happened and where he was now from sound alone. The rain still hammered at the unseen ceiling above, so clearly he hadn’t been out that long, and the noise was hardly helping with the throbbing pain in his temples. Behind the driving rain, there was the faint noise of footsteps, someone pacing around the room. It didn’t take a great leap of deduction to figure out the guy who’d jumped him was still present, and after a second he realised he was bound by the wrists to the chair he’d been deposited upon. He tried to move his arms without making it obvious he was awake, though the restraints meant anything beyond a twitch was unlikely to happen. This movement also revealed the lack of weight in his jacket, the bastard had taken his pistols too. This information slowly processed in his mind, trying to form a cohesive plan of what to do next, making him miss the fact the footsteps had stopped several seconds ago.
“Y’know, it’s kinda obvious your awake,” the voice was only a short distance from him, thick with an accent he couldn’t quite identify “y’might as well open your eyes.” A few seconds passed as he tried to keep up the facade of unconsciousness before he did as instructed. The world came into sharp, painful focus and standing directly in front of him, silhouetted by a pair of work lights, was the blonde gunman.
“Shit… figures…” he groaned after a while.
“I have to say, I’m mighty disappointed,” the blonde man started pacing again as he talked in almost half interested tone, revealing a table behind him that had the Englishman’s two pistols sat on, “Ever since I came here I’d heard so many stories about the greatness of a single hired gun, of Weißmann’s bulldog, a man at the top of his game…”
“…always pleased to meet a fan,” came a sarcastic interruption through gritted teeth, earning a vicious side glance from the other man,
“…so naturally I jumped at the chance to face you when it came up. But what can I say? Y’fucked the job up. Twice, even; got yourself captured damn easily, lost your target and even got your partner killed. Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Ah… he bled out?”
“I imagine he would’ve done eventually. Can’t imagine the extra couple of holes I put in him helped none though.” A sly grin led into a long, laboured pause.
“So that’s how it’s going to be, then?” The Englishman eventually replied, predicting where the order of events was heading.
“Well, I was kinda hoping for a worthy opponent, y’know? Someone I could truly test my skills against, and all that. But this,” he waved dismissively at the Englishman, “there aint no skill involved when y’opponent is tied to a chair.”
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The occupants of the slabster remained silent for a while as they weaved through the back streets of the sector at breakneck speed. Eventually it became clear that they weren’t being followed, and the Englishman slowed to much safer speed and turned to the back seats.
“You alright back there?” he had to raise his voice slightly to talk over the rain drumming on the roof, “there’s a medikit back there, think its even military grade.”
“Got it, much obliged,” came the Sniper’s reply through gritted teeth, “so long as the pain meds are good I should be fine, not too much actual damage beyond the blood. Good job that asshole only got that shoulder, really” He pulled a pack of disposable hypo jets containing some bleeding-edge morphine derivative from the medikit and pressed it against his neck, the drug being forced into his bloodstream with an audible hiss.
“Hows that?” the Englishman replied after a couple of seconds considering the statement as he turned onto a main road.
“That shoulder’s all carbon fibre and augmetic polymer muscles, miracle of 23rd century tech or some shit. Only bit that’s still natural is the blood, and even that’s part-controlled by bionics,” He pulled himself up to see out the window, “Used to be in the army, my last tour was with the Peacekeepers down in what used to be Southern Chile after the ceasefire,” he paused and let out a deep sigh as the painkillers kicked in, “That’s the shit. Uh, anyway, the local insurgents were alright but they’d brought in some heavy support from some merc outfit that didn’t mind sniping at blue helmets when they got bored. Was the sniper for a patrol securing a village when some Russian asshole got the drop on us, I swear he used an anti-tank gun on me or something, nearly ripped my arm clear off.”
“…christ,” the Englishman winced at the thought.
“Yeah. Got airlifted back to a MASH in Puerto Montt and had the world’s cheapest bionics stuffed in me at the tax payers expense. Ruined my military career so I got invalided back to old ‘Lantia, and here we are. Never thought I’d be grateful ‘till now.” He settled back to lying on the blood stained upholstery and thought for a second. “Y’know it strikes me that the Overlander guys got our plates as we left.”
“More than likely. Don’t worry, I borrowed this from a friend who’s prepared for this kind of stuff” the Englishman pulled the car into an alley and stabbed at a button that had been hastily patched in to the dashboard with little care for neatness. In a split second electronic smart pigment in the cars paint job pulsed and transitioned between black and metallic blue, with the license plates shifting to match. As the process finished, he reversed out of the alley and back onto the street, as the Sniper managed a pained laugh from the back seats.
“Huh, and I thought this was some dime-a-dozen YoHo piece of shit. Pays to have paranoid friends, huh?”
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The world stood still for a few seconds in total confusion.
The Sniper still had his finger on the trigger. That shot hadn’t been his. By the time this thought had fully processed, a second shot rang out and the bullet buried itself in his right shoulder, throwing him back into the room. Almost instantly a third shot shattered the window, the bullet ending its flight in the ceiling. A tense few seconds of calm passed as plaster dust rained down upon the hotel room, then the Englishman let into action. In an instant he was back at the window side, pulling the sniper out of the field of view. Taking his life in his hands, he risked a glance out the window, into the street. Behind the Omnihaul stood a man, not the skinny, fake-tanned datashark they were both expecting, but a tall, blonde man in a long brown leather jacket, staring directly at the balcony. More significantly, he had in his right hand the distinctive bulk of a Garreffa heavy revolver. The newcomer caught sight of further movement in the hotel room and methodically took another shot with the Italian pistol, the bullet ricocheting off of the window frame back into the night’s sky. As soon as the Sniper was clear of the window the Englishman unholstered his twin pistols and fired blindly into the street, desperately trying to keep the flimsy outer wall of the hotel between him and any return fire.
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“Sorry you got mixed up in all this, Limey” Paul Quine piped up, with a tangible insincerity in his voice, fidgeting with his ill-fitting fake designer suit, “You and the Sniper. Didn’t mean to get anyone killed. You guys could have just let me go and we’d be done with it”
“You think this’ll just end here, Quine?” From his chair the Englishman glared daggers up at the smug, fake-tanned visage of the datashark, trying to free his hands from the rope binding him to the chair again, “I won’t be the last to come after you, you can count on that, you turncoat little shit. Don’t think you can ever rest easy, Weißmann’s gonna want your head on his desk one way or another”
“Yeah, well, if you’re the best of the best looks like I’ve got a fighting chance, don’t you think?” Quine grinned an overconfident grin, pacing impatiently between his Texan bodyguard and the Englishman, “Killed with one of your own guns, pretty powerful message if you ask me.”
“This is all very fascinating to watch, gentlemen, but I’ve got a contract to fulfil,” The Texan raised one of the Englishmans pistols and flipped the safety off, “Say goodbye to our friend mister Quine”
“See ya next lifetime, Limey!” The datashark gave a sarcasting wave at the hitman tied to the chair, chuckling at his apparent good fortune. As the Texan walked across the room towards him, the Englishman closed his eyes, ready to accept his fate. He heard the pistol’s hammer click back…
…A single shot rang out.
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Recently, dear Hypothetical Audience, I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little burned out on the blogging front. Between some goings on in real life with family, a secret project I can’t talk about until it’s done and other elements of a really hectic schedule this time of year, it’s been increasingly difficult to find the time and inclination to get into writing about something non-fictional on a regular basis of late. To this end, I think I’m going to have a holiday. The Adventures in Reality have always been an experiment into me being able to keep to a regular schedule for written pieces, and across the last 9 months I’ve done pretty well keeping to what I set down initially (beyond a couple of brief little failures). But unfortunately I must let real life take get the better of things and bow out for a bit.
Regular posts are going to stop until the end of June right now, so I can concentrate on other things. This doesn’t mean the Adventures will end, as I’ve got a couple of bits of fiction I’m waiting on proof readers for, and anything else I feel like writing, fact or fiction, will be put here first (I still have notes for a few blog posts knocking around so I’ll work through them). Come end of June hopefully I’ll be in a better position to go back to a regular update schedule again, we’ll just have to wait and see.
If any of you comprise a regular Hypothetical Audience, thanks for your views so far, and hopefully at some point in the future we’ll get this wreck back on track.
Until then, folks