First Chapter: https://steemit.com/steemit/@tsudohnimh/red-doll-old-school-cyberpunk
Previous Chapter: https://steemit.com/steemit/@tsudohnimh/red-doll-asi
Please leave a comment below if you like it, and please do read the rest of the story, there's some critical parts to the story emerging soon and it's good to know exactly what's gone down before we get to that. Expect that piece either in around 10 hours or at this time tomorrow.
“so much death in the world today/ seems like the flesh ain't here to stay/ I can't live any other way/ Gimmie chrome! Gimmie chrome! Gimmie chrome!”
-Chalkskin, Gimmie Chrome, MR Records, 1995
The radio was blasting Chalkskin at eleven, drowning out most conversation; Zlata found herself lowing the output on her pick ups, trying to tune out the obnoxious rock music.
As usual, it was dark, and somewhat smokey; a few rebuilds and baselines sat to one side, smoking cigs, pipes and the odd direct lung hookup. In another corner, a few played darts. And in the back, hidden in shadows, couples whispered sweet nothings in each others ears; the only conversation heard being sultry giggles.
Yep, another normal night at the Brass Pig; Zlata knew it well. Once upon a time, when she tried dating, many of her dates had brought her here, most likely thinking they were original for bringing a rebuild to a bar that prided itself on catering to rebuilds.
“You know, I’ve never been to this place before,” Hogue said, brining over a tray of drinks. He'd brought two I.V. Packs of some Westralian brew, and a regular schooner for their non rebuild friend.
When Hogue had asked, McNally was busy, Thomas baulked at the idea of the place, and Wyatt, while eager to come, had basically been dragged off by Eun. Which left one person.
“Cheers,” said Flynn, talking the schooner. He gulped down a mouthful. “Phew, that's nice. One of those indie brews their all raving about?”
In her mind, Zlata looked annoyed; The doll, fortunately, could not express her disappointment. Despite only having know him for roughly two days, and despite her wish to get along with everyone, Zlata couldn't help but find herself growing to dislike the man that was supposed to be her partner on this case.
The man, unable to pick up her displeasure, smiled at her; or maybe he could, and thats why he did it? Zlata always felt able to read people, but Flynn had proven to be at times difficult, almost conflicting in what emotions or body language he showed.
It was probably what annoyed her the most. That, and how he looked at her sometimes, how he spoke, like he knew something she didn't.
He raised his glass in a mock cheer, winked, and took another swig.
“yeah, although I’m interested how their new I.V. Range is going to go,” Hogue answered, oblivious to her thoughts. He hooked the bag to a port on his left arm. “Taste doesn’t really work when its pumped into your bloodstream.”
Flynn lent on the table, resting his chin in his hand. “look at you,” he said in that smug tone. “Showing solidarity with your rebuild sister, eh?” he laughed and took another sip. “I'm telling you though, you'll want to try this one the old fashioned way; your missing out otherwise.”
“Funny, I’d say the same thing to you,” Zlata said, hooking her own I.V. Instantly, she felt a warm sensation flow out from her arm. “I've tasted beers and felt IV's and I have to say, IV's better; the feelings more than just a taste on your tongue.”
As if on cue, the warmth changed. A wave of cold, like a chill, gave her goosebumps on non existent skin. The chill was edged with something bitter, something that rubbed at her nerve endings. And of course, their was the slightly bubbly feeling from the alcohol;although nice, she knew in a second the doll could filter the stimulants from her blood, instant sober.
“Bah!” Flynn said dismissively, “Your just saying that because you don't remember what its like to taste!”
“Now, Errol,” Hogue said in a tone that reminded Zlata of a parent talking to a toddler, “don't knock it if you aren’t willing to try it!”
Flynn responded with a deadpan look and a flipping of the finger.
Zlata leaned in on the table. "Ok, there are a few things that have been confusing and intriguing me about the DAC,” she said, “and damn it I’m going to get some answers!” She banged her hand on the table and pointed at Flynn. “Why do you keep calling him Errol!”
Flynn rolled his eyes and facepalmed. Hogue broke out in laughter.
“Oh god,” Flynn said through his hand, “Can't you people just drop it?”
Hogue managed to restrain his laughter. “Have you ever heard of an actor called Errol Flynn?”
In her mind Zlata shook her head. “No, never.”
Flynn groaned. Hogue continued. “He was an old actor, back in the thirties I think, before world war 2. Really popular; he played pirates and Robin Hood at least once. A real swashbuckler.”
Zlata looked at Flynn, who appeared to be trying to hide in his beer, then back to Hogue. “I'm not seeing it.”
That made Hogue break into even louder laughter. A few other patrons cast their gaze toward them.
“Oh trust me, there's more. Circa September, 1994; A young Detective Sergeant Vince Flynn arrives at the DAC. Now at the time we had another member, a lovely girl named Constable Hall. Now, Flynn here regarded himself something of a ladies man, and so set his sights on the poor girl.”
Flynn seemed to sink towards the floor.
“Now he cooed and coddled, begged and baited,” Hogue waxed on, “But nothing could sway dear Hall's heart. And the harder he tried, the more it pissed her off.”
Flynn stood bolt upright suddenly. “I want to state for the record now that nothing I did was ever classified as harassment, nor was I ever booked on any wrong doing.”
Hogue ignored him. “Then one day, Flynn here was putting the moves on her again, when she just cracked. And right there, in front of half the office, she shouted “Errol Flynn might be dead, but id still sleep with him over you!”
In her mind, Zlata gave Flynn a wry smile. “well quite the shoot down.”
Flynn waved his arms in front of him. “I never, never, asked her for sex,” he said, his face going red. “I was just trying to be friendly, you know; I just wanted to have a drink with a co-worker, like we're doing now!”
Hogue nodded. “Sure, sure.”
Flynn rolled his eyes and sighed, slamming down what was left of his drink. “I need another beer,” he said, and sulked off to the bar.
“So when did you join the ANP?”
Zlata and Hogue had transferred to a booth, Flynn still sulking by the bar.
“90,” Hogue answered. “ year after I came over the wall. Joined up with the DAC end of 91.”
“Oh. So you weren’t there when they found...Wyatt and Eun?”
Hogue smiled. “Ah, I see someone’s told you the origin story of our youngest and oldest member? Yeah, that was before my time; Wyatt and Eun joined around the same time as me.”
In her mind, Zlata shook her head. “Isn't it weird that they were allowed to join up at all?”
“I'm guessing McNally told you his theory?”
“Yeah,” Zlata replied. “kinda hard to believe though . I mean, growing him in a tank, and he just, what, came out complete? I've never heard of something like that!”
“That's not even the weirdest thing the DAC. has ever dealt with,” Hogue said. “The truth of the matter is, that most of the stuff we deal with is so far out there most people don't even believe us.”
“i can understand that,” Zlata said. “I mean, everything we ever heard about the DAC, well...”
“Yeah I know,” Hogue said, with a slightly bitter tone. “the freak show right?”
They lapsed into silence; In her mind, Zlata looked a little embarrassed. It was clear Hogue did not enjoy the “freak show” moniker that the rest of the ANP gave the DAC, and she did not mean to bring it up.
She decided to change the subject. “So, how did you end up in the DAC?”
Hogue pulled the empty IV from his arm. “I asked for a transfer,” He answered her. “First year in the ANP, I worked vice. Saw a few things nobody could explain, hell, things nobody even wanted to talk about them. But I was always curious. One day, I got fed up with how blinkered everyone was, and put my hand up for a transfer. They took me in straight away. Never looked back.”
He waved at Flynn, finally getting his attention, then pointed to the empty IV; Flynn nodded and gave him a thumbs up.
“What about you?” Hogue continued. “Why join the police force? Why come ove to the Australians, for that matter?”
Zlata flicked her own IV. “Tell me first; why did you defect?”
“They called my one a migration....”
In her mind, Zlata rolled her eyes. “Same thing.”
“Ok, well, I just felt that, well...” Hogue seemed to search for words. “In my mind, America was gone; it wasn’t coming back. Not the same anyway. I just felt, I wanted a new start, and that going over to the Australians, I would be able to do more to help than just rotting in the camps.”
In her mind Zlata nodded. “Would it surprise you that my reasons are basically the same?”
Hogue thought for a moment. “no, not really.”
In her mind, Zlata smiled. “ Make no mistake, I loved my motherland; Alot of people think we were all just brainwashed but hell, we thought the same about you. Their was a lot of beauty there that no one ever saw, and now no one ever will.
“I fought for my motherland, even when most of it went up in flames, I fought to protect what was left, gave my body for it;” in her mind, a tear ran down her cheek; “In the end, when the war was over, there was nothing left. I think at the beginning of the end, I still had hope for my country; but deep down I knew the truth.
“When I came here, I had hope; my home land my be gone, but the world was still here. Maybe, just maybe, we could make a new home here.” Zlata pulled her empty IV from its port. “But I guess I was naïve. I had hoped to find peace here, but they just wanted me to be a soldier; to keep fighting their stupid war. I didn't want that, didn't want that for my people. So I did the only thing I felt was reasonable; I went over to the Australians. I felt, like you, that I was more likely to do good for my countrymen working with our hosts, rather than against them.”
“A noble idea.”
Zlata looked up; Flynn stood over the table, two beers and an IV bag in his hands. “Sorry,” he said to Hogue, placing one of the beers in front of him. “But you need to taste this properly; none of this “whole body” bull.” He gave Zlata a mock look of disgust and plopped the IV bag down in front of her. “Got you something I thought you might enjoy,” he said with a smile. “Vodka infused, with “a feeling of lime”, whatever the hell that means!”
He slid in next to Zlata. “So, trading war stories?”
“No,” Hogue said, annoyance creeping into his voice. “we were talking about how we joined the ANP.”
“Ah,” Flynn said. “The tale of how we all came to be here.” He sipped his beer. “Drinking away our sorrows while there’s a madman out there ripping peoples arms off.”
Hogue shook his head. “hey, no case talk! This is supposed to be an unwind session!”
Flynn raised his hands in mock surrender. “Apologies! The conversation will remain work free from now on.” He settled back into his chair, sipping his beer, then turned to Zlata. “Sooo, out of curiosity, why did you join the ANP? I can understand you defect- no, migrating, over to our side, but why join the cops? I would have thought some sort of humanitarian job would better help your countrymen” He smiled. “Maybe even a career in politics?”
In her mind, Zlata smirked; a career in politics? In what universe?
But it was a good question, and Zlata sensed none of the usual veiled innuendo that cam with Flynn's questioning. Instead, she sensed nothing more than simple curiosity.
“To be honest with you,” she began, “I always wanted to be a police officer, ever since I was little;” out of the corner of her eye, she saw Flynn rest his shoulder on the table, cupping his chin and listening. Hogue also leaned in; “Their used to be a militia man that lived in my block. Every day, I’d see him leave for work; He always looked so proud, is his neat uniform and hat. He would always smile and say “utrom nemnogo tovarishch” when he saw me. People always said hello to him, and it seemed like everyone liked him.”
She felt the effect of the IV; I guess it sort of is a feeling of lime. “His job seemed so exciting; protecting the people, fighting off imperialist infiltrators, all that stuff we were taught in school. My parents were both technicians at the power plant; they both seemed so boring.”
In her mind, Zlata's face fell, sorrow welling just below the skin; the doll remained solid. Mother and Father, she thought to herself. I never told you how much I respected you, how much a really loved you.
“when I grew older, I tried to join the militia,” she soldiered on. “But I was knocked back.”
Flynn raised his eyebrows. “You got knocked back from joining the Russian police?” he sipped his beer. “Their loss.” Hogue nodded in agreement.
In her mind, Zlata looked surprised; she hadn’t expected Flynn to say something like that. She might have grown suspicious of him, but the alcohol was starting to take a effect ; she felt no need to be so jaded.
“ When I migrated, I decided to try again, this time with the ANP. To be honest, I was a little surprised they took me. Of course, they put me straight into the RSS, so maybe it wasn’t surprising they took in a bright red soviet soldier cyborg.”
“I actually remember when you joined up,” Hogue said. “It was all the rage round the office; a soviet rebuild working for us! Lot of people didn't believe it.” He sipped his beer. “I actually got to see you in action when you were RSS.”
“Yeah; It was the...Frankston riots, back in '92. We were working the processing centre for the detainees the RSS was bringing in; when the ALA broke through The Pines we ended up with a front row seat when you went in.” He looked over at Flynn. “it was actually pretty impressive; she hardly had to touch anyone. They'd take one look and just sorta.... give up!”
Flynn looked at Zlata out of the corner of his eyes and smiled. “Sounds like you have a fan, Red.”
Zlata looked at him. “Red?”
Flynn nodded. “Yeah. I decided you needed a simple nickname. Red seemed good; it was that or Zee.”
In her mind, Zlata rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Errol.”
Flynn scrunched his face up in disgust. “Oh god, don't you start with that!”
The music had changed again; Gone was the heavy base and drums of the Chalkskins album, replaced instead with a sort of guitar heavy electronica and a woman singing incomprehensible lyrics in Japanese. They'd finished round two; Hogue had gone to the bar to fetch round three.
Zlata listened to the music. “What is this?”
Flynn listened for a moment. “Aika Mori, the latest musical sensation to come of the land of the rising sun.” he taped the table to the beat. “Her latest album is apparently aimed at foreign audiences, the latest step in Japan's quest to conquer the world.” He snorted derisively.
In her mind, Zlata shook her head. “If this songs anything to go by, that plans not going to go well.” she looked at Flynn. “You don't really strike me as the kind of guy who would be so knowledgeable about Japanese wave artists.”
Flynn threw up his nose in mock insult. “well, perhaps some us like to be worldly and learn about other cultures, as well as stay in the loop on current events. For instance, did you know Miss Mori has been nominated to be the next Cultural and Trade Attachée at the Japanese consulate here in Melbourne?”
In her mind, Zlata did a double take; the doll was not so prone to showing confusion. “That's a pretty prominent role to give a singer! Especial with how many investments the Japanese have in the Melbourne area! What are they thinking?”
Flynn shrugged. “No one really knows when it comes to them anymore. Sure, they were a little kooky before the war, but now.....” he shrugged again.
Hogue walked back over. “what are we talking about now?” he asked.
“Geopolitics and music,” Zlata said. “I'm more of an AC/DC fan anyway.”
“Ah,” Flynn said with a smile. “A woman after my own heart.”
In her mind, despite herself, Zlata flushed slightly.
From the corner of her eye, Zlata saw Hogue's face change briefly; she sensed a feeling of annoyance and...jealousy? But like a flash, it was gone. “Beer, beer, IV,” he said with an apparently sincere smile. “Now this will have to be the last round. Its still a school night remember!”
“Yes mum,” Flynn said with a grin.
“What about my round?” Zlata asked. “Here, let me pay...”
“Don't worry about it,” Hogue interrupted, waving her off. “You can get the first round next time.”
Next time. Zlata felt their was some importanceattached to those words.
“Don't worry,” Flynn said. “If theirs one thing Hogue doesn’t forget, its who owes money!”
“Speaking of which,” Hogue said, “You still owe me twenty bucks!”
Flynn almost coughed up his beer. “From when?”
“Remember that day up in Mildura?”
“Hey! What kind of ruse cruise are you trying to pull here! I paid that fair and square!”
Zlata leaned back as the mock-almost-serious argument continued between the two. In her mind, she smiled. It had been a long time since she'd relaxed like this. She looked at Hogue and Flynn; and a long time since she'd felt so welcome.
The air registered as a chilly 12 degrees when they stepped from the bar; The dome authority must have been cutting back on the heaters to re-leave pressure off the air exchangers.
Had she a normal body, Zlata imagined this would be the point where she snuggled into a nice coat; instead she was content to wait while Hogue struggled into his.
“Whew,” He said. “Those beers are hitting me a bit now!”
Flynn had elected to stay indoors; nature was apparently calling him.
“Make sure to escort our fair lady home,” he said to Hogue. “Theirs a monster roaming the streets you know!” He gave him a wink.
Hogue rubbed his hands. “Even with all my mods I still get cold,” he said. “Still, beats Baltimore in the winter.” he gestured up the road. “Shall we?”
The streets were still quite busy, the usual evening traffic ebbing and flowing about them. Thousands of people, just going about their lives, indifferent, or trying to be, of the dangers. that lay beyond the dome.
Or now lurked within, she thought. A shiver ran down what was left of her spine.
The walked in silence for a while, the sounds of the night life swirling around them.
“Thank you,” Zlata said., “for inviting me out.”
Hogue waved his hand. “Think nothing of it,” he said. “We needed a short respite after all thats happened.” he looked over at her. “Hell of a first day.”
Zlata nodded. “The last firefight I’d been in was when we arrested White. And even then we only fired a few shots.” she looked at him. “Someone...”
Hogue held up a finger. “Up up up, what did I say inside.” he smiled. “No shop talk. Just enjoy the peace for now. We can talk conspiracy tomorrow.”
Zlata sensed he wanted to say something more, but he held back. She also sensed something she ahd picked up on him before: Guilt.
They walked in silence again, Zlata's mind ticking over. Several times when talking to him, she had sensed a feeling of guilt in his words. It was like he desperately wanted to get something off his chest, but just couldn't; she wondered what to say.
“Jack,” she said. “Could I ask a, sensitive, question?”
Hogue looked over at her. “Shoot.”
“Did you....”; no, wrong way to ask, wrong question; “Who did you lose in the war?”
The mood shifted, and suddenly Zlata felt she should have said nothing at all. But then, Hogue took a deep breath, and answered her.
“I had a wife,” he said, pulling his wallet from his pocket, “and son.” he pulled out a photo and passed it to her. “Susan and Michael.”
Zlata looked down at the picture. A happy family smiled up at her.
“ Both my parents were already passed,” he continued. “Had a brother in the Navy; served on the Kitty Hawk. He went down with the ship.”
Zlata held the photo carefully, like it was a fragile thing. “Both my parents were still in Pripryat,” she said. “I had an older brother; he was technician at some factory in the Urals. I don't know what happened to him.” She passed the photo back to Hogue.
“Did you look for him?” He asked.
She nodded. “Yes.” in her mind, tears welled at the corner of her eyes. “But I’ve never found any trace.” She looked at Hogue. “I'm sorry.”
“For what?” He asked.
“For your family.”
Hogue stopped, and looked at her. “Zlata” he said, “You have nothing to apologise to me for. You weren’t the one who killed them; those men were buried alive in their bunkers by the hand of the war they started. You and I, we can't hold ourselves to blame.”
Zlata nodded. “We were just soldiers.”
Hogue nodded. “We were just soldiers.”
And how many monsters, Zlata thought, have justified their actions, with “we were just soldiers?” Zlata didn't want to think about that. Regardless of who was responsible, who pushed the button, she still played her part in the destruction. She was guilty of that much.
And looking at Hogue, trying to keep up a strong facade, Zlata knew he felt the same.
The washroom was, mercifully, empty. Flynn took a spot at the urinal, and waited. And waited , And waited.
He heard the door open and shut, another man stepping up next to him. Flynn eyed the knew arrival; he looked relatively natural, right up until just above his lips. From that point on, his head was a shiny, polished dome, with only a single long slit Flynn figured was the guys “eyes”
Chrome dome cleared his throat. “Good game the tigers...”
“Oh get on with it,” Flynn said angrily. “You bloody intel types are all the same, stupid cloak and dagger bullshit. I thought spies were supposed to blend in; with that mirror ball for a face, you stand out pretty well!”
Chrome grunted in annoyance. “Well, then, what have you got to report?”
Flynn frowned. “Mikhaylov and McNally have figured the case files have been tampered with. Alot of details we've been finding at our scenes are missing. They think someone’s trying to manipulate us.”
Chrome nodded. “Any clues to who?
“Not a single fucking one.”
Chrome nodded again. Without a word, he turned and left.
Flynn watched him go; he felt the small recorder in his pocket.
Only enough to incriminate myself, he thought. It had been folly tho think Smithton, even as dumb as he was, would meet him again. Still, at least I know one fucker who's on his payroll.
Flynn looked down at the recorder. If I want to nail this guy, I’m going to have to be creative.