The Arch

Today’s post is an excerpt from my writing notebook – a glimpse into a city where aliens are commonplace.

Working at тупики wasn’t bad, just providing enough credit flow to make the bills go away. At least until the next cycle. I usually sat out front, watching the people along the street. After a while I could pick up things that I’d see over the disconnected strobe-like intervals of staring into the middle distance.

There was the UniBot, that had the cracked rear rim where some ped kicked the hell out of it. It didn’t seem to mind, slowly rotating its greasy wheels until it found a stray connector to fix or a sign that had been torn off by one of the kids up the street. When the weather closed in and the wind started to pick up, I’d switch to the inside.

Not all the way, but in the small foyer between the main door and what I had come to know as “The Arch”.

My boss might have been a split-brained schizo hive-mind exile, but he wasn’t stupid. Plenty of trouble was waiting to cross the threshold between the street and the tattered carpet inside, and he didn’t want anyone starting fires or shooting up the place.

That’s where “The Arch” came into play.

It was huge, at least three of me stacked on top of each other could pass beneath. That was handy since some of the customers we had could reach up and nearly touch the cavernous ceilings inside. It was wide enough to drive a city transport through, so there was never any chokepoint that would cause some of our more skittish patrons any personal space issues.

Hewn from a dense material that seemed to be a fusion of gritty clay and volcanic glass, the surface was pitted and textured as if it had been left out in the centuries worst hurricane, while a volcano erupted nearby belching silica shards that sand-blasted the surface with miniature pits, each dimple dimly reflecting a point of light if you tried to shine a beam on it.

It wasn’t the size that impressed me, it was the dense AI that it held in its opaque innards. I had never seen architecture like that before. The one and only time I gazed upon its guts was when my boss had to reset something via a small access port that only he seemed to know how to open. Inside the glow of billions of optic cross-connects lit half the room before he made a gesture and the mesmerizing lightshow subsided. The Arch could think. And The Arch knew if trouble was coming.

Had one guy, (wrong term? But I couldn’t tell its sex), he waved past me with a few tendrils attached to a knobby arm, and before I could say anything, he was crossing The Arch threshold, nearly into the club.

Two large doors that I had never seen before, one on each side, slid down. I then heard a muffled scream that ended with a odd flash of light, like something from an after-image when you stare at something too bright. It was almost negative in its intensity, but you wanted to screw your eyes shut all the same.

A few seconds later the doors chuffed open and there was nothing but a small bit of swirling ash, quietly being absorbed by the floor of The Arch.

Found out later from the boss he was an assassin that was sent to “retire” a customer in the place. How The Arch knew, I’ll never guess. We allow weapons only if they’re stowed and locked into standby, so it wasn’t what he was carrying that was the tip-off. All I knew was, you don’t sit in The Arch, if you wanted to see another orbit around the sun.

I know, you’re wondering “Why have a guy at the door at all if The Arch is so formidable?”

Good question, let me explain.

My boss prides himself on providing personal service. Sure, there are those mega-clubs where everyone just gets scanned, maybe tagged with a temporary chip to allow access to different parts of the club, like the Rabuho, but that stuff is for tourists interested in the latest shiny thing, not clients of “taste and distinction” as he would put it.

So that leaves me. I’m personable, but able to fade into the background when needed if we have an important guest. You never want to overshadow or out-compete with a guests “spotlight”, the perpetual cloud of recording devices streaming video to all corners of the planet and beyond.

So I help out here and there, and the boss likes me, at least to talk to now and then. I think he misses the hive-mind, so another being that he can relate to relieves that somewhat.

Its a good job, and he pays me under the table, so I don’t have to register a capital account and get scrutinized by the local tax authority, which I’m loathe to do. I have a few past debts that would come creeping up if they discovered I had a way to feed myself.

Another story, but suffice to say that once you are “under the weather”, with technology in this day and age those debts take a life unto themselves, stalking every step you make until you finally relent and settle with the collectors.

I have my reasons, but I’m never going to settle.

Its a matter of principle.