INSILICO is many things to many people. A place of business. An object of conquest. A radiant nirvana in the sky, drifting amidst clouds of enlightenment. A dark hell of shadows and suffering. Above all it is a home. A place where millions are born, die, and fill all the moments between those two events. A great ark buoyed upon the floodwaters of desolation below. Clusters of apartment spires rising a kilometer or more above traffic clogged arteries. The blue-lit penthouse balconies of Tokuma Towers overlooking low cost module apartments, slung on the sides of skyscrapers like an afterthought. Anonymous, cheap coffin motels rented by the hour. Destination hotels like the Shugate, host to travelers, executives on business, bustling with transient visitors. Secure corporate enclaves isolated from the squalor of reality. Shanties of rain soaked plastiscized boxes lining trash strewn allies.
With Gemini out of the picture, I would require backing elsewhere; the cost of setting up my own facility would be prohibitive. None the less a base of operation is required. My needs are simple and concise, in line with my pursuits. I have no requirement of luxury, nor tasteful opulence to display social status. Spartan and functional as the rugged prosthetics that are my means of interacting with the world. The real estate and rentals listings stretch on endlessly, as long as the city towers are tall, a maze of adverts and AI knowbots tasked with hawking their agency's wares. Too many options, too many choices to investigate.
I found myself wandering without aim, drifting between towers on glass lined skywalks, barely listening to the pater of drones touting the virtues of empty apartments. Plying their portfolios of rentals like mechanized ladies of the night, looking to fill slots in exchange for commission forwarded to their property management pimps. After awhile I simply brought up an auditory filter that drowned their excited chatter to a background hum, barely above the level of perception.
The sight struck unexpectedly. Descending a translucent elevator from dizzying heights, the petulant chatter of another hovering tourbot droning in my ears. Across the gulf of a man-made chasm a building stood out, another gleaming spire topped with the scalloped tile roof of a pagoda. Much like the bonsai tree that drew my thoughts on the first night here, it stood at once out of place with its surroundings and yet intimately at home in them, something from centuries past alive and breathing in the future. I dropped the auditory filter, bringing the AI's polite pleas to look at another apartment back into focus. Interrogating the overly helpful bot was most fruitful. A tour was arranged and the AI handed me off to another of its brethren from a different agency before departing back to patrol its assigned territory.
Inside the roof top structure I was met with the sight of lofty ceilings and tattered battle flags. Tatami mat floors stained dark with organic and synthetic blood. Above it all sat the faux-gold plated majesty of Quan-yin, the bodhisattva of Mercy. On her many arms was born the weight of dharma and ages of veneration. According to the AI for many years the place had been the site of the K9 Fight Club, a licensed venue for cybernetic warriors to ply their trade. Most interesting.
At a word the agency drone ceased its prattle, allowing me to appreciate the most valuable virture of the vaulted chamber. Silence. The traffic of elevated overpasses was drowned by distance far below. The hum of machinery and ventilation systems naught but a murmor. In the medative quiet of the temple-like atmosphere I imagined I could still hear the shouts of pain and victory echoing off cable-strewn support beams. If it were not for the glow of messenger and delivery drones speeding past banks of pained windows I could have stepped a thousand years into the past. Yes. This will do. Though I have neither the skill nor inclination to operate a combat venue, as a temple and place of retreat, it shall serve admirably.
My hasty departure from Kojima had left me with little in the way of possessions, not that I had need for many of the useless trappings of status. What I missed most were my lab and tools, the canvas and brushes with which I ply my talents creating artworks of living tissue and transdermal implants. Even with what skill I possess all but the simplest of repairs were beyond my grasp without them. Though my mind rarely sleeps my body has need of regular maintenance, calibration and updates. Diagnostic programs had been nagging at my mind for days, warning of impending requirements that would have been taken care of without a thought previously.
It was a simple matter to have what little luggage had accompanied me released from storage at the Shugate Hotel and sent over by courier drone, naught but a few cases and storage containers, spartan appointments at best. I made an offering of a burning joss stick to the goddess of the temple, perfuming air that had long stood still with exotic spice. Announcing my presence to the spirits of this place. How many combats had this benevolent idol overseen, augmented fighters tangling like pitbulls within the barred cage. How many of them had truely known Her mercy, and how many had been spent and dragged out to the side of the street, a wreakage more fit for the scrapyard than a hospital.
To make peace with the past of this place I researched what I could find of it on the net. Previous owners, proclamations of tournaments. It had seen much use in its day. Profiles of fighters now long retired or moved on, the glowing digital faces of senseis, dojo masters, and fight promoters staring back from the screen, questioning my presence here. Even notices of a wedding performed on its premises. Once upon a time a great statue of Buddha sat in lotus on its external balcony; of it there was no sign. Perhaps damaged or destroyed in a spate of city-wide firebombings reported in the INN archives. Eyes blurred from need of a level IIA cleaning, I retired from the terminal screen to the outside balcony and stood where the Buddha's shadow had once been cast, looking out over the city and feeling its cold wind stirr my hair, free from the confinement of a hardsuit helmet. I could not help but stare across the valley of ferrocrete and structural steel at the towering edifice of Gemini Cybernetics and wonder how long it would be before AEON's mark would brand the white curves of the sinuous tower.
I felt a stirring for something I had not longed for in a long while. Contact. Perhaps it was the silence and solitude of this sky high temple roosting above the city that brought it into contrast. Perhaps a day spent in the company of AI real estate agents had whetted my desires for real conversation. The summoned skycab offered a long selection of clubs and nightlife from its automated menu, from which I selected a place called the reakt0r. The rust red glow of it was visible from far away, every inch the smouldering atomic pile of a burning core as the cab circled in for a landing. Inside the pulse of electronic music oozed from every pore while augmented dancers displayed their wares on neon poles, trolling the crowds of suited salarymen and synthleather clad patrons. Bodies clogged the undulating hologram dance floor, packed tight enough to require pattern recognition software to tell their tangled limbs apart.
My attention was drawn to an alert, the search program highlighting a suspicious outline beneath one man's arm, the bartender from the looks of him. A weapon of some sort, most likely a compact automatic buzzgun judging from the size. Had he been in position behind the bar I might never have noticed it, but it was worth knowing the staff here were not to be trifled with. Letting well enough alone I turned to mingling with the crowd of alcohol plied patrons at once soothing that all too human need for interaction, yet reminding me all the more of how much I had left behind, how changed my Path had made me, an alien even amongst those to whom cybernetics and biotech were an every day miracle.
I could not help but noticed the bodysuit clad woman from AICHI, last seen when we exchanged glances from opposite sides of a ballistic barrier at their corporate headquarters. It was perhaps then no coincidence that my hired bushi was in attendence as well, seeking me out in the crowd, the both of us standing out from the rest. I for my own reasons, he for the armor and weaponry carried under license, displayed like a badge of authority. It was well that the CEO of his company was here; it would make for a fitting test, which I presented after introductions. A dry run to test his aptitude; Find the weapon, bushi. Spot the same armed man I had already detected. A bodyguard must be aware of his surroundings, anticipate any threat to their principal. If I had spotted the armament, then so too must he, and faster. To fail at so simple a task in front of his boss would not bode well, but I had no need for incompetence shielding me.
His skills were par with my expectations, approaching the armed bartender within seconds, confronting him on the issue of the weapon. His swift actions earned an approving smile of the AICHI officer, while I made reparations to the unfortunate man that had been put on the spot without his knowing. He passed the test but only time will tell how well this samurai can serve my goals. On the skycab ride back I requested his background, to see how he would phrase the dry details already offered up by the contract dossier. I was satisfied by his experience and the scars to prove it. Though his talk of some group known as the Harvestors bears more investigation.
║║▌█ OOC Notes ▌█║║
(I had quite a fun time spending a few hours pouring over old blog posts concerning the K9. Looking at the earliest picture posts of it being built by Skills. Recounting the events and tournaments that happened there, tracing the path of the many hands it has passed through. Looking at imagery and content created well before my time. It has given the place a feeling of a living history to me, one I shall strive to honor and add to.)