Viktor dreamed about sunless skies and rotten towers looming over the endless silhouette of a small town. He often dreamed about this, feeling his feet walking over the puzzle pieces made from cobblestone streets. His eyes met the dark windows, the shadows behind them, sitting in buildings, houses, which were more or less empty. But not always. Often he heard a creaking sound from the voids behind the lidless glass, the movement of tiny feet slurping over rotten woods. But on the other hand, it didn’t rain, so he was sure, that the sound itself came from the outside world, Berlin, 2043, some day in September or October. He didn’t dare to open his eye, even in a moment of being almost awake. He knew, what he would see: A room, 5×5 meters in its dimensions with a ceiling of 4 meters above his head. It was an old building, he was living in, old and cheap and the rain didn’t always come through the windows, because it was important to him, that at least here, in his own little world, the air was dry. Not really dry. It was impossible to get dryness into buildings. The constant rain manifested in constant fog and the fog was always sneaking into the rooms. It was work to keep the books and the electronics dry. There were machines in the self-service laundry which created enough heat to dry his clothes and even in the clubs, he visited to meet customers, the most people went into the dry ones, the hot ones. As if they needed the opposite of weather.
Climate change had done that and there were still people out there, which denied human interactions with the constant rain. They told everyone, that some god or some magic being created this micro-climate. Well, other cities and countries had different problems. And Berlin itself was not that bad. Most of the time.
Someone ringed the bell. It was unusual, because it was sunday. Sunday was still religious day and most people wanted to meet their god in his own private building.
It ringed again.
„Sure, sure“, Viktor said and opened his eye. He turned left, took the adapter from the night stand, cursed, when he could’t find the port at the first moment, then his 2nd eye reacted to the adapter and became active. White noise surrounded the dimly lit objects of the main room, which would disappear in a few minutes.
It ringed a third time.
„Damn, I hope, the bathroom didn’t get the flood again“, he cursed. „One moment“, he yelled at the person on the other side of the door. „One fucking moment!“
He slipped in a pair of trousers, threw a shirt over his chest, limbed forward to the door. Opened it.
A man stood there. Not just a man, but a suit. The suit had a basic face, probably a corporate job, one of a hundred same-looking people who wore suits and didn’t smile. Maybe ex-military. Or not.
„You are Viktor Schmidt.“
„I was until a few moments ago. Who asks?“
„Its the name written on your doorbell.“
„Oh really“, Viktor said. „And who asks?“
„I am Peter and my job is to bring you to your new client.“
„New client, hmm. I don’t care.“
The suit smiled. The smile became a grin. Probably the person behind the mask of flesh didn’t know how to smile.
„The client told me, that this would be your answer. So he said, I should tell you, that there was a lot of money in it, at least 20.000 Euros – and if you didn’t come with me, I could take you out and drag you to the car. And he said, that your implants would be not working, because of the device, I would have in my hands, a NDC.“
Viktor nodded. NDC. Well, why not. Why not take the money and run.
„I accept the offer. Let me take my clothes and I will meet you at the car.“
„The client told me that and I have to admit, that I am disappointed to hear those words.“
„What does it mean?“, Viktor asked when he was back in the room, staring down at his clothes, which were piled in a way, that even a chaos-mathematician would start to scream.
„It means, that you are predicteable.“
Viktor smiled. He also smiled when he took up his shirt and his trousers, got dressed, went down for his keys. He stopped smiling the moment, he got a grip on his favorite cup, only half full with cheap new Whiskey from his usual supermarket. The cup exploded in the face of the suit. Well, he wasn’t expecting that, right?
The suit tumbled backwards, fumbled his fingers in his flesh mask to get the burning alcohol from his eyes. His hand trembled, the metallic glow of an pistol – not a pistol, a NDC – became appearend and Viktor cursed, feeling already the burn in his head, the burn of thousands neurons screaming. But it never happened.
Viktor had already opened the window, looked down to the muddy street, the neon lights creating hallucinogenic vibrations in his artificial eye. He had only 3 levels, maybe 15 meters to the street and then he could disappear for a while.
He was contemplating the need for more money, when the screaming in the background was suddenly silenced by a blow, a meaty punch and a voice.
„Viktor, what the fuck?“
Viktor smiled, shook his head, turned around.
„Martin. What are you doing here?“
The man stepped forward. He still looked the same, as if 15 years hadn’t happen. His face still showed the scars of the last fight, an assault on a network of subway-stations in the late 2020s. He hadn’t loose an eye or so, but his right hand looked like silver and his suit looked more expensive than any car, Viktor had used for a long time. The man stood there, almost 2 meters, still a warrior with the mind of a preacher and the soul of a poet.
„I am here to bring you good news. You are needed for a job. A good job. A mad job. You know, the stuff you love.“
„And you sent a suit.“
Martin laughed. His voice felt like memories gone bad, too much work and responsibility. „Just a test, my friend.“
„Sure … friend.“ The word felt wrong. Their last contact had been ten years ago. After the bar-fight, which had cost Viktor his eye.
„Come on, have have things to do.“
After Viktor got dressed, he met Martin and the suit on the street, next to a car, which looked way too new to exist. It almost gleamed, made the street brighter. The interior also smelled like new cars and a future, but Viktor wasn’t sure, it was more than just show only.
„So, who is my savior in these trying times?“
Martin snorted slightly, opened the minibar and took a bottle out. „Any wish?“, he asked.
The bar consisted of the basic stuff, but the better versions, but he didn’t find anything he liked. „Nah, thank you“, he said, while he pressed his back into the fine leather, which didn’t even crunch. „So?“
„Well, you will find out soon enough, but I can tell you, its Marvin Lasseter.“
Viktor whistled. „The one Lasseter?“
„Not the One, but yes, the guy who still tries to save the city.“
„And makes a ton of money.“
„This is also true. And a little of that money trickles down and lands in my pockets, and soon in yours too.“
Lasseter. The Reclusive, as they called him. No one had seen him in more than 10 years. How old was he now? And why? Maybe he did the genetic stuff, used nanobots to repair his cells – or, as other people teached in the streets, he would use stem cells from kids he had bought or stolen, bought by his suits, stolen by his mercs.
„So, you are one of his mercs. How come?“
Martin took a sip, stared through the window, as if he had to find out, where they were.
„After the brawl and our ‚misunderstanding‘ I decided to leave the force. I wasn’t sure, if I could live with colleagues who hated me, because they always liked you more. Not that I was jealous or so. So I went to my home and decided to drink myself to death. After a week of constant binging, I received a call. It was Lasseters secretary, a Georg Hinric. You will meet him, don’t play games with him. He said, that Lasseter wanted help in a specific way and I could get a few happy moments and money from that work. So I did. And I got a few happy moments and money. A year later, I got an invitation by Lasseter himself and I went there and since then I am working directly for him.“
„Half merc, half suit. I am not proud of it, but I am okay with the outcome. I can teach suits a few life-lessons here and there, especially when it comes to talking to humans, real humans.“
Half an hour later, the car stopped in front of a large building. Viktor remembered it, because it was an older one, built in 2015 or so as a new and cool parking spot in the middle of Charlottenburg, but since the catastrophies, the fabrics of those buildings were rotting away faster than the muddy papers which covered the streets around Zoologischer Garten.
They entered the building, after Martin had spoken to some unknown person behind the thick wall of glass. The glass opened a door. The lights in front of the building went off, as if they had only existed to show them the way.
Viktor could almost hear the clicks of the dozen cameras which were pointed at every aspect of his body. He wanted to say: „May I have a copy?“, but he bit his lip. Cameras were almost everywhere in this town and in the world. Therefore a world had to exist outside of the flickering animations of tablets and television, but he did not care for that stuff anymore. As a youth he had spent days in front of some computer, but now, he was old and the young people – if they existed – already had their real eyes burnt out for the VR-God. Yes, he understood them. The world was fucked.
They stopped in front of a desk, where a guy sat, mostly metal, a clanky shotgun in his hand, the other pressing buttons.
„Everything okay, Ralf?“
„Yes, Mr. Johnson. Just being prepared for some punks, which try to find a new place to destroy.“
Martin nodded and smiled. „Good. This is Viktor. Give him an ID-Card, please, Level Grey 4.“
The machine raised a brow. „Grey 4. Impressive.“
„We go to the boss.“
„I thought so.“ The machine called Ralf holstered the gun and started to type a few words in an old illuminated keyboard. A few moments later, some machine wired and presented a white card with a few code-pieces which created the imagination of a triangle.
Viktor took it, checked it. „I like the style“, he said.
„Only the best for the semi-best. And now, come. Mr. Lasseter is old.“ Martin turned left and walked in the direction of a door, which illuminated only a second before he arrived.
Viktor followed him.
The door opened, gave room to a small elevator, but it looked nice. Wood – probably forbidden -, nice metallic inlays made of the same triangles Viktors card had on it.
Martin pressed a hidden button and the elevator started to move, but not in the direction Viktor had expected.
„Down?“, he asked.
„Upstairs is for he people, my boss works with. They believe, he sits in the penthouse, but thats too dangerous. Imagine some reporters or a terrorist attacks. Mr. Lasseter is well known but not well beloved.“
„I know. That stuff in Norway, a few years back. Bad publicity.“
„Necessary, I say.“
„Were you there?“
„I can’t answer that question.“
Viktor smiled. Martin was a killer, efficient with sudden bursts of brutality, when he was overwhelmed. Martin knew that and it was part of his reputation and work ethic.
The elevator still moved down. It took almost 5 minutes for them to reach their final location.
They stepped into a large space, illuminated by hundreds of lights. Cameras filmed every moment. A group of 5 persons appeared, they were suits, but not the kind of working clientel, more like beggars from other companies. Their eyes looked down in sadness and rage. They also wore their ID-cards, but with names on it, which looked like russian or english names – and no color-coding.
When Viktor offered his knowledge to Viktor, his old friend smiled. „Your senses still work outstanding. They are from some companies, my boss will buy and … well, he is not impressed by their promises.“
„Promises are cheap, Martin“, grinded a electronical sounding voice trought the giant room. „Most people promise me their life, but still live.“
„Mr. Lasseter“, Viktor said.
„Come here, friend of Martin. I have to see you in reality.“
The man behind the voice sat behind a wall of glass, which was thick enough to bend reality. Yet, Viktor could see the entity, the man, the Lasseter – at least kind of. He was not sure, if he recognized the man. Well, he had seen pictures of the „Great Lasseter“ in tv, back in the days, the man with the chin of steel and the grey eyes of eternity and always wearing grey suits. But this man looked different. He looked small and fragile, but his head was too big for a human. Or not.
„Don’t be disturbed. It is me. Marvin Lasseter.“
The entity grinned.
„Mr. Lasseter“, said Viktor.
„You look at me and ask yourself, if I am real or a hologram or a bad clone of some sort, right?“
„Or an alien, Mr. Lasseter.“
Lasseters voice crackeled. „I like him, Viktor. He is not scared of me. Not yet.“ He laughed again. His voice seemed otherworldly, mechanized.
„The reason, why you can’t believe, that I am human, is my sickness. I don’t give you specific informations, but my flesh and skin has a certain condition which chains me to certain environments, which are as dry as the driest desert. And we know, there are deserts in this world, but even those are not dry enough for me.“
„So how do you drink and eat?“
„Magic. The magic of medicine and technology. But everything comes with a price. And I am paying it. Well, now … are you still disturbed?“
„Very. So, about that job of yours. What do you need?“
„I need hope. And I have hope. And I know, you are the person, who will save me. At least, you help, saving me.“
„Viktor, would you please?“
„Sure, Mr. Lasseter.“
Viktor turned around, pressed a few buttons on a console in one of the columns, which supported the high ceiling. Something flickered, a picture came to life, projected to one of the bright walls.
„You know about our station on the moon?“
„One of many.“
„Well, we were the first. It was a nice biosphere, experimental, scientific stuff. It cost me a middle sized country, yet, it helped establishing a kind of haven for the newcomers, a „Plymouth Rock“ for symbol-obsessed people. No earth – no laws – or at least different laws. But back in the days, it was lawless country and it was good. The experiments we ran there helped a ton of people – including you, Viktor, to survive the hardship of the world, now, that the climate is gone to hell. Gene-therapies were created. And … someone special was born there.“
The picture flickered. A face appeared. It was the face of a girl.
„May I introduce you do Maria, my daughter.“
„Daughter. I thought you never married?“
Lasseter laughed again. „She is special. And she will arrive here in 6 hours time. She never was on earth. You will bring her to me, alive and well.“
„Can’t you turn your army into a welcome reception?“
„Yes. It would bring not only attention to her but also to myself. See, she does not exist. Not on earth. And as I said, she is special. Bring her to me, keep her alive and well and I promise you much money.“ The lights went out. „Viktor will brief you. I go to sleep, I am tired. Even the wicked can sleep nowadays, even the wicked.“