Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Chiswick - Robot PI
The hydrocar stopped and the dull gunmetal character stuck out a limb and placed the foot on the ground. Chiswick Roget scanned the area, but his contact had not arrived yet. His artificial intelligence was at least as sharp as a human's if not more so. It occurred to him that his contact might be a robot also. The heat sensors built in to him by his architect, Sophia Corsetier meant that he was able to be of more use in some respects than a human investigator too. However, she had perhaps not foreseen that in referencing the 'private investigator' Chiswick would reinvent himself from an ordinary robot to the 1940s style PI. He had wanted to change his name to Marlowe, but Sophia had pointed out that it would be plagiarism.
Still, getting out of the hydrocar, Chiswick tugged very gently at the brim of his grey fedora and squared his jaw a little more. He was enjoying himself as much as a robot could be said to be enjoying himself. He strode surprisingly gently towards the river. Further along he could see bridge 9 or as the Francophiliac Romantics called it, Pont Neuf. A low concrete and metal stairway led down to a track that lingered alongside the river. A grey, earth stream next to its watery wider neighbour.
Chiswick did not like the metal plates on the stairway, they would make his metal feet clang. He did not wear shoes. They wore out too quickly and he did not need them. Sophia had used Nanoca 12 a highly endurable Martian alloy for his feet and no amount of footslogging wore that metal out. He crouched slightly and then stopped. If he leapt, he would be seen more easily. He sighed almost human fashion and slowly took the stairs on tiptoe. His sleek gunmetal coloured body was covered by a trenchcoat and the fedora on his head, though actually he did not need those either. They were, he had told Sophia, for style. She had tried not to laugh at the thought of a robot with style, but grudgingly admitted that they did suit him in an odd sort of way.
His toes clicked faintly on the stairs but the clicking seemed overly loud to him. Then he paused. Somebody was coming along the track. He moved quickly down the stairs and shoved his hands in his pocket. The brim of the fedora was low over his forehead and his scanners detected alcohol on the person's breath. Then a man came into view in the regulation black collarless suit and a scarf that was almost violently livid in its redness. Unlike Chiswick he did not have a hat and his face was broad and had clearly met the tough end of a knuckle sandwich.
"Transom?" Chiswick asked smoothly.
"Maybe," the man answered guardedly.
"I'm looking for information. You have any or not?" Chiswick asked him.
"What's it worth?" the man asked with a sneer.
"It's worth not ending up dead like the others," Chiswick answered pointedly.
Actually he hadn't killed anyone and there were no others as far as he knew, but he was betting the man wouldn't know that. The man laughed and pointed at him.
"What? You're going to kill me?" he asked.
"I don't have to actually kill you. I could just maim you badly enough that you'd die eventually," Chiswick told him, adding,
"Unless you have some information that's useful of course."
"Sure, I got some information," the man told him and reached inside his suit jacket.
Too late, Chiswick's sensors reacted and the blast of the shotgun caught him in the chest tearing through the front of the trenchcoat and shoving him backwards into the water. He was surprised at how deep the water was for a second. Then he turned and swam for the bank. The man was running up the stairs. Chiswick telescoped his right arm and caught the upright of the handrail. His left arm suddenly telescoped out also and grabbed the man's ankle pulling it sharply back. The man fell forward and swore viciously. He tried to turn and use the shotgun again, but now Chiswick pulled himself from the wet mud of the bank and climbed up still pulling the man towards the water. When the man was halfway into the water and half on the stairs, Chiswick released him and clambered over the rail to stand on the steps.
Water trickled off of him. His fedora lay on the bank where it had fallen. His trenchcoat was tattered and almost angrily he tore it from him until he stood over the man and kicked the shotgun aside.
"Dammit! A robot!" the man gasped, struggling to get back onto the walkway.
"Dammit a robot who wants information and is not happy having been in the water - to be precise," Chiswick told him dryly.
"Look, you don't want to know, 'k? Lenny the Knife is not a guy you want to play with. Corsetier is just a robot maker, forget about her. There are nicer dames in the city who Lenny doesn't care about," Transom answered.
"Sophia Corsetier is my friend and maker. Whoever kidnaps Sophia picks a fight with me and I don't care for that," Chiswick told him bluntly.
"You have information beyond who has her?" he added.
Transom refused to say anything further, busy struggling up onto the stairs. Chiswick planted his feet firmly and took Transom by the back of his jacket lifting him up high over the water over the rail. He threw the man lightly in the air and caught him by the ankle. Transom yelled and moaned.
"Ain't tellin' ya nothing metal head," Transom snarled.
There was more squeak than snarl in it however and Chiswick was beginning to consider his options. He shook Transom and the man's wallet keys and other detritus fell into the waters.
"Who? Where? Now," the robot said firmly.
Transom struggled for a moment then his body went limp.
"If I tell you I'll have to leave town for good and all my stuff just got wet thanks to you," he said peevishly.
Chiswick gazed into the water and his free arm telescoped slowly between the bars of the handrail and into the water. He retrieved the various bits of detritus and placed them at his feet on the steps. His head turned back to Transom.
The man sighed and told him.
"The Delete Gang. They're Lenny the Knife's gang down on Wire Street. Ok, ok, 2123. Now can I get out of town before you go rattling Lenny's cage?"
Chiswick nodded and let go of the man who, he noticed, made a remarkable noise before the splash.
What's next? ... You'll see...