Sammi Blue and the Express Airship to Nowheres
They sent me to Shatter City to drop a fading pop star named Ginger Blue. A white girl with a thin voice, gym sculpted bod, and shinny full copper hair. Her sales were down, her fan base fading, and her Q factor slipping big time. She had her five years, it was time for her to go. I am sure she knows that, she signed up for it after all. They all sign up for it. The Man needed one last hit from her, He needs just enough of a bump for the greatest hits package to sell through. And dead girls sell.
I got off the rail at Outer Ring Station and wandered in with the early shifters, pavement pounders, truant teens, loose loafers, and the random dezins of Shatter City. The station was messy but maintained; the recycle bins half full, the tile floors swept and little in the way of Kippel swirling in the slight wind before settling on the ground. The royal blue circle, with the words Outer Station were faded and the walls stained with chemical wash remains. Faint stains were all that remained of the layers of graffiti removed over and over, their messages now obscured.
To blend in on a job, I dress in basic work clothes, nothing fancy, just bland and neat, neat, neat. I carry a black nylon shoulder tool bag packed tights with all my tricks. A couple of basic A.C. repair items and general tools poking out for the eye balls to see, I keep a single roll of black electrical tape hanging off a loop in the back. In side are my gloves, glasses and the Pill Popper.
I transfer more trains and worked my way to the Ring 1 station monorail loading platform, and waited for the station to station express. Around me the sounds of feet and voices carried, ringing off of the steel walls, returning as distorted echoes. The noise, the hollow cries of the city dwellers melding into a roar. On the platform a poster for newish pop sensation Emerald had already started to peel and tatter. She's what a year and a half in, maybe more? I wondered if I'll be seeing soon, or just a little down the line? One thing’s for sure, sooner or later someone will get that call. Just another cog that’ll need replacing.
The Station to Station Express Monorail carried me over the Ring 3 and Ring 2 Zones, and through the heart of the Aramaghetto. It’s like a theme park ride over the end of urbanian. Below me I could see the cracked streets and dissolving stone buildings, the new world of Gangs and Pimps, Hustlers and Weirdoes, but mostly the dispossessed and the thrill seeking outsiders. I don't need to look, I have done my time there. I did my years my hard scrabble race, and I fought to climb over the walls, reaching not Ring 1 but out. Over that outer wall and beyond, from the ashes, to begin a new.
I looked out at the sky, watching for the shafts of light that periodically make their way though the steel grey cloud cover. I have always found solace in that steel grey sky, and even if it is dull and cold, it goes on forever like a blanket. I couldn't help but glance down at the Aramaghetto below; I had to make sure it is still there. I picked out Freestreet, and The Stiffs Inc office, with it's black stone slab obelisk entrance. I watched as bars and liquor stores pass by and then as we screeched over the scorched asphalt of the Transmainacon square, blackened by a fire of unknown origin. I looked away back to the afternoon sky and the memories of the Arameghtto days started fade away.
Ring 1 Station, huge royal blue circle on the platform wall. Circle One, official name, is neatly stenciled inside. The station is clean and neat, gleaming tiles and empty rubbish bins. It is a testament to housekeeping. The only scar is a faded chemical wash on the cement walls can't hide the latest graffiti. "What we do is Secret?" in a sloppy spay paint font can still be seen. It’s a scar on the white polished walls. I didn't know that tage, it was new. I knew it from somewhere but could not place it. The tage hadn't made it to Terminal City, where I had been working. Tages are viral, germs, they spread, it ended up on the coast soon enough.
I made my way to the Four Winds Bar ordered a shot of Sammi Blue with a G.A back. I could see the Sammi Sliver label behind the bar, up on the shelf. Someday I will try it. The licorice liquor numbed my mouth and warmed my core. It lulled me slightly, and I savored it’s mystical taste. I let it sit on my tongue and for a moment I can slip away somewhere with dark storm filled sky's and crackling energy. I chased the Somnambulistic numbness with the G.A. Shatter City serves a stronger G.A. than you find other places, a local brew going back a century and a half. Ginger Ale tends to be too sweet, syrupy, weak and pale everywhere else. The local stuff, they call it Ver-Norse, is a darker amber and fuller flavored carbonated confection. It stings and chokes you if you are not ready. It's effervescent and full of life, you can hear it jump and sizzle when it's poured. It will wake you up. It is real stuff, no chemicals no cancer.
I walked the two blocks to her place, Klean Khannel housing. It’s on the way up, on the way down, on the fade, on the way to the barging bin housing. The location let’s you know you are on the precipice. The building is set right on the edge of Ring 1, it faces the fading wall to Ring 2, as if saying; you can always go back over. The wall is plastered with the fading one sheets of fading cogs, it’s a slap to remind them how many things of apple juice they failed to sell.
The building was a modest cement slab on the outside. No attention is to be attracted to the aging and anonymous residence, nor the young up and coming kids warehoused inside against future earnings, of course. They have a lobby guard, retired Kopier, he takes his rounds on the hour, he knows the deal. I slipped into the hallway and headed for the back. The numbing aftertaste of The Sammi still on my tongue, the sweetness of the Ver-Norse filling the rest of my mouth and the back of my throat.
The place they gave her had to have obviously been conceived as a fuck pad. In the back of the building, with a blind entrance, ground floor, hidden, discrete. Perfect for slipping in and out undetected, It will also do for a murder pad. Gloves on, I pulled the Pill Popper from my bag and make sure it's set. Newish tech then, early model when it still started with the Stim blast overloading the taste buds and filling the target with the sweet or sour psychedelic anesthetic. A spoonful of sugar, they said. Next came the poison pills, the early rough blood burners. They broke the flesh, burrowed under the skin and burned the O-Two right out of the blood and body. There was several moments of fizz until they gave out, you could hear the little pop and it was all over. They could'ave take out a gorilla, if there were any left.
She opened the door, her not so coppery hair piled on top of her head. A Tee-shirt flowed over her curves, Kick out the Jams sweet Rebus! It screamed in electric blue neon on slate grey jersey. It was an old dance number she'd hit with. Light fluffy gray sweatpants hovered just above her hips and hung to her knees. Leningrad Cowgirls in black letters flowing down her right leg. A few pounds had filled her out over her final year or so, and she didn't look like the skinny new girl from her last video. Her eyes were glassy and dulled but she still knew how to twist.
"Nein disbatcher says zere iss problem mit deine A.C." I held up the tool bag, she looked and noded.
"Mr.?" She stepped back into the apartment.
"Tuttle" I stepped in, pushing the door closed behind me.
"A.C. is fine.." she walked over to her fading purple couch and picked up a smoked triangle glass. I could see the last inch of inky onyx liquor and smell it's odor, Sammi.
"For the next door unit" I started, she shook her head side to side.
"I know why you are here, my records didn't make it, time to go back to the factory" She drained the glass; I could see the empty bottle on the counter Sammi Gold, expensive good stuff, the best they say.
She set the glass down and let loose her hair. It fell and framed her face for just a moment. I saw her old product in that instant. She gave me the look, that posed you need to think this is sexy look. A smirk crossed her face. She pushed the hair back over her ears and peeled off her tee shirt. Standing topless in front of me; I looked, I saw only the tired eyes, the little tummy starting to sag. She crossed her hands over her breasts and turned away offering her back.
"Five years, I got my five years...." she said to the wall and looked to me over the shoulder. She pulled the hair to one side, exposing her bare back.
"Sweat or Sour?" I'd already selected Sweet, no one chooses sour.
"Sweet," I nod and raise the Pill Popper
"Zammi Vilenskkii, that was my old name, a good Neo-Fin name, they said I had a Vagina made of glass," her nose wrinkled, a little light came into her eyes. My hand started to shake for just a second.
"It's all over now Ginger Blue," it's the scripted line the bean counters gave me. I wasn't going to say it, didn't think it was dignified or professional, but it's all that comes out of my mouth.
"what did you think a bunch of mums and da's started naming their girls Ginger 20 odd years ago? what's the flavor kennet?" she turned her head away, back to business, only she can't turn all the way she has to look at me, look into my eyes, the eyes of a stranger.
"Butterscotch!" I said keeping the eye contact.
"Sure?" I press the beam projector pre-trigger and watched as the little crackle of light tracked along her exposed spine.
"It's raining in the in-soul-lation," She moaned, a look of pure pleasure took a hold of her.
"feel like I could sleep forever here, I'll live forever now" she started dreamily, pauses "ten thousand roads all lead to..."
Pft Pft Pft the pills are away, tracking across her shoulder line, 3 little holes appeared and welled up with blood. She gave a jerk and a little yelp and pitched forward onto the couch. I watched as smoke rose from the holes and then the stench of burning blood hit me. I opened the door, the hallway was empty, I closed the door and I am away.
"Shadowdrive," I whispered the last word for her.
I hit the Garlic and Shots on the corner and have another Sammi. This time I had to go with the Silver Blue and a G.A. It is just one step up the ladder, middle shelf. I took my glass to the phone terminal called in on the drop line.
"Twelve Seven Seven, express to the big H" I said and listened for the clicking tone on the other end of the line and then hang up.
I had time to finish my drink, to take the time with the mid grade Sammi, I had to down the G.A. to keep schedule and I end up leaving the Ver-Norse half drunk. It was a brisk 3 blocks to the Underground station, 20 minutes to the central ring terminal and at 7 o'clock I'm on the express Air Ship to Nowheres.
Eric Peterson 2009, 2010