Personal log of Kowalski, Roger
The cold February smog was creeping down the side alleys of Touristville aka Redmond, Redmond district. A rotten couple of bad maintained streets filled with glamorous and cheap AR bric-a-brac about sex, drugs and entertainment.
My white teethed agent-bot at Get-A-Job got me a time and a place. “Do you like elves?”, the girl asked me at the corner, said I: “I like elves but not kids.” It’s eleven in the morning and the chick was looking as someone on the bad side of a drug crash. She could have been my daughter. But the streets were lost on this time of day.
Chinese noodle soup on the corner, in a pulley cart with a cheap roller to pull and a sheet of plastic foil above against the rain. Was early nearly thirty minutes, so I stopped to warm me up. Didn’t speak a word of english.
I got nothing but my boots, my lined coat, my Manhunter. Only thing that is decent on me at the moment. Good that I resisted to pawn her. Charleen tossed me a checkstick, fifty bucks deep. “Good luck.” She’s on shift, hope I make it today. For her and for me.
Sidestreet, backalley, overflowing dumbsters. People diving in it, searching food, things, fighting with the rats about it. I was thinking about me in a cheap flick. But don’t know if I’m the protagonist or the redshirt. Stairs of gratings up two stories, outside. Backside entry to something like what once had been a rotten corporate office building or warehouse. But it would not go through as one today I think.
Fireproof metal entry door, cubicle office doors with frosted glass. Schemes behind it, low noises. Blank Everbrights on top of the corridor, dim lights. A backstreet lawyer, an insurance agent, bathroom. 203, that’s the room.
I knocked a woman called me in, standing at the window. Outside the neon light of a tattoo parlor, a brothel, flickering lights from outside even during daylight. Small alleys left in the shadow even in the middle of the day, of a February day.
“Mister Kowalski?” White duster, blond hair, elven ears I can see. “That’s the one.” She turned. A table with one of those old fashioned stationary telecom machines, that had a printer included and fuck that nobody uses these days anymore, keyboard, screen. A few office pieces, shelves, basket, shit like that. A chair.
“Take a seat.” She smiles tenthousand Nuyen smile. Guess she’s Chinese, talking English with no accent I can identify. I smiled, sat down. Furniture not good, but looking new or good second hand. Friendly colored stuff that will get yellow after a couple of my coffin nails. “Mind if I smoke?” “Electric?” “No the real stuff.” “I would prefer if you spare me the stink”, she said. Not good. Wonder if she knows that I have a flask of whiskey in my wallet-pocket. Hope not.
“So you have been Lieutenant at Hard Corps.” “That’s what I said to my agent.” She looked at me, turning and putting her white duster away. Charleen would beat me to death if she’d seen me with her. Fuck her on the desk. Hope she doesn’t read minds, cause she was frowning.
“You have never worked as a Private Investigator, Mister Kowalski.” “No. But I have…” Holding up her hand. “We know what you have done. Ever heard of us?” Shaking my head. “Tyrell and Partners? Private Investigation?” Checked it on the net of cause. No idea who they are, but they have no office in Seattle, that’s for sure. “Do you think you can do this kind of job?” “Of cause Mam, I started my career at Knight Errant facility at…”
She interrupted me. “Yes, yes. We know these details. We’re Tyrell”, she said, “and we know you are in debt. You wouldn’t mind working for checksticks?” “It’s the only way working left, Mam.” “Please don’t Mam me, Wu is my name. Personal agent Wu.” Wu is the most common lastname in China or was it Wong? “Okay, Miss Wu.” “It’s a franchise. You start working for 200 Nuyen a day plus expenses, we take 25% of your income for this”, and she means the nine square-meters of shoe-box office space shit-hole. “And the accounting, management and providing of resources. You would like to work for us? You would get this office space, lines, some tools. We provide learning material, you are supposed to pass PI test in two weeks, learn the legal stuff, work hard. If you acquire jobs for your own it’s good, but our jobs have priority. If the 25% we get don’t pay up at least for the expenses you are out. Do you have a licence for your weapon?”
A second passes, “of cause, Mmiss Wu.” “Ever used it?” “I train on a regular…” “…to shoot someone?” “Mostly Tasers. Once.” “Killed someone?” “Think he survived. Shot his leg.” “Keep it this way. The legal trouble isn’t worth it. My advice. We don’t hire cowboys. Questions?”
“How does this work?” “You’ll get a company commlink”, and she placed it on the table. “Contact person is Miss Simpson. She can get you information that you can’t provide yourself. If you are in trouble, ask her. She pushes jobs on your phone. You can reject but you are supposed to do your share, it’s not all flower picking as a gumshoe, Mister Kowalski.” “It’s better than feeding from dumbsters.” “True. And better than working as a bouncer until someone sticks something sharp into your body. It’s not a bad job, but it’s not paradise. It’s sometimes dangerous and you mostly work alone. The company can provide some backup, but you have to pay for company services, at reasonable prices of cause.” “Of cause.” Her eyes were on me for a while.
“Well”, and she sounded a bit British with that, “tools. Directional Microphone, Binocular with Lowlight, Imagelink, Cam, RFID tags and a Sensor Tag, also known as bug, you’ll find it on the list under electronics miscellenious because it’s of disputable legality. This is no spy flick thing you have to obey the legal restraints. Pocket Knife, some bits and bobs that are useful for your everyday life. Electronics: Commlink Novatex Airware, Iriz Orb, set of useful programs, office, couple of language translators, you know all that stuff, encrypted core, enhanced firewall to security level. Mercury Comet Sedan, leased. Sign here for your job. Here for the receipt of the gear.”
I stared at the new commlink. “No fingerprint reader?” “We don’t provide those, because of the loss of fingers”, she simply replied. “Secure it with a long password.” I signed. A little bit too fast.
She checked it. "Okay. Welcome to the company. You start now. Your door plate you can get down at the tattoo parlor. Ah, alcohol, drugs and bar bills don’t count as expenses. She dropped me a ringed stick on the table. “Five hundred for the time you are learning and the fee for the test. You signed for it. Don’t waste our effort, Mister Kowalski.”
“Of cause not, Miss Wu.” She stood up and nodded, checking her watch. “Good luck.” A smile to melt polar caps.
When she was out I first checked what I had signed. Coffee machine? “Where’s the fucking coffee machine?”, I asked! But she was long gone.