aSG: Chalandra Harkness: The Bloodchip Matrix #4
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious.com
Mon Apr 12 04:23:05 PDT 2010
THE BLOODCHIP MATRIX
(a tale from altiverse 998SUPERGUY)
"Red Sky Blue"
Gary W. Olson
"Tell me, Ms. Harkness," Vedrik Temekhan said, his low, graveled
voice swimming to Chalandra's ears through the thick, wet air. "What
do you think of my roses?"
Chalandra gazed around the room, taking in the sight of the
delicately shaped roses, each one electric blue in coloration. They
surrounded her, growing in long rows that stretched from one end of
the immense, windowed chamber to the other. Grow lamps suspended
above the roses caught the blue, casting the chamber in an ozone haze.
"Very impressive," she said, finally. "I don't believe I've ever
seen roses with quite this...energetic shade of blue."
"It has taken me well over a century to develop," Temekhan said,
looking over the ocean of blue. "Study, experimentation, genetic
modification, and patience." He blinked, and turned to Chalandra, a
warm smile on his face. "I apologize. This is no time for me to
indulge in speaking on my hobby. I imagine you must have many
questions for me."
"A few," Chalandra said, starting to pace down the rows. "For
instance, how was the Bloodchip stolen from you in the first place?"
"It occurred one month ago," Temekhan told her. "The Bloodchip
was here, in our Tokyo branch headquarters, where the final program
was being laid into the chip. Typically, work on the Bloodchip itself
I kept aboard the Red Fortress, which McFae tells me you saw during
your trip here. However, a number of critical files had to be inlaid
here, as the programmer who developed them refused to travel to the
Chalandra felt a small chill, like fingers dancing up her spine.
"Reluctantly, I acceded to his wishes," Temekhan went on. "He is
one of very precious few I consider to be my equal in the field, and
the loss of his work would have represented an incalculable setback.
I authorized the work.
"I was not present when the raid took place, so I must rely on
the testimony of my assistant, to give you the details." Temekhan
signaled to Percy McFae, who stepped from the background, where he had
been silently observing.
"The raid was swift and sudden," McFae said. "Twelve kyuuketsuki
ninja hit us hard, in the central laboratory on the seventieth floor.
They beheaded and staked our guards with liquid ease, and forced me to
the ground. Our programmer was part of it - they struck the instant
he was done implanting his files. The raid was led by Fekesh."
"Did you see him?" Chalandra asked.
"I did not," McFae said, his usual bland facial expression
twitching slightly. "I was held face down against the tile. But I
heard the programmer and Fekesh arguing, and I heard the programmer
address him as Fekesh."
"Could you catch what the argument was about?"
"He apparently was concerned over what Fekesh intended to do with
the chip," McFae answered. "Fekesh seemed to want to sell it to the
Shodani Group within the next forty-eight hours. But the programmer
apparently convinced him to hold off. I am unsure of his motivations,
or as to whether he had his own ideas regarding the Bloodchip. When
the hands of the assassins left my back, they were gone."
"Why didn't they kill you?" Chalandra asked. "Then there would
have been no witnesses."
"That's not Fekesh's way," Temekhan said. "He wanted his deed to
be known to the power elite in Tokyo - the Shodani Group and the
Yakuza. The former, I imagine, were pleased, though concerned at his
reluctance to part with the chip immediately. The latter were
furious. Fekesh and his Dying Sun group have been a large, painful
thorn in their side for quite some time; they have gained considerable
credibility in the wake of this incident, at the expense of the
He saw Chalandra's raised eyebrow.
"The Yakuza were secretly aiding my efforts to expand into
Tokyo," Temekhan said. "They had grown...dissatisfied...with Shodani,
and sought to strike a new balance, one more in their favor, by
enlarging the presence of their chief rival, Red Sky. Fekesh, on the
other hand, sought to keep ties to Shodani, and broke from the ranks
of the Yakuza, to form the Dying Sun. They are comparatively small,
but Fekesh leads them brilliantly."
Chalandra absorbed the information, as the sweet scent of the
roses touched her nose for what seemed to be the first time, as sharp
as their hue.
"Why don't you believe that Fekesh has already turned the
Bloodchip over?" she asked, her gaze matching Temekhan's.
"We have agents within the ranks of the Shodani," Temekhan said.
"As I am certain they do within Red Sky. If Shodani received the
Bloodchip, the results would be immediately apparent. No, Fekesh
seems to be biding his time, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom.
"That is why you are here. For all the power Red Sky has here,
we are outsiders. There are doors that are closed to even our most
cunning agents, that no amount of money or violence can open."
"And you think I can open these doors," Chalandra said, striding
back slowly towards him.
"I am counting on it," Temekhan said, his gaze locking with hers.
She matched it, unflinching. She saw a flash in his eyes, the same
flash he had shown earlier, the look of the predator regarding an
The moment passed.
"I must regret that I do not have more time to share with you
this night," Temekhan told her. "In an hour, the sun will rise, and I
have much to take care of before then. There is much more you must
know, however. Please, accept my hospitality."
"Thank you," Chalandra said, "but I have already made
arrangements for the day."
"As you wish," Temekhan replied, smiling graciously. "Mr. McFae
will escort you to your destination, and will return to bring you back
when evening falls again.
He bowed, and took Chalandra's hand. She felt the heat of his
lips upon her skin, like a flash through her nervous system. He rose,
and escorted Chalandra to the lift-tube from which she had entered.
McFae followed, entering the tube with Chalandra, while Temekhan
halted before the open doors of the lift.
"One more question," Chalandra said. "What was the name of the
"Symonachadra Mataphouri," Temekhan replied.
"Thank you," Chalandra answered. The lift doors closed with a
When the limo stopped, a block away from her destination, the far
east was already aglow with the red radiance of the morning. McFae
got out, walked around the rear of the car, and opened Chalandra's
door. She stepped out, taking in the city.
Even here, far from the looming towers of the Shodani Group, the
city seemed immense. Glass walls vaulted towards the sky, catching
the neon reflection of the signs at every level. The pedestrian
traffic lulled, as the night predators had retired to their lairs, and
the daytime predators were just getting out. A curious stillness
shimmered in the air, a hesitation before the accelerating slam of
life would erupt.
McFae regarded what Chalandra had indicated as her destination -
a blood bank, jammed between a cybertech shop and a massage parlor -
with just the barest traces of contempt. "I will return in the
evening, as soon as it is dark. We will return to Mr. Temekhan then."
Chalandra watched him as he walked around to the other side,
opened his door, and got in. The limousine pulled from the curb, and
Chalandra watched it go. The heat of the sun grew, and she hurried
down the broken pavement to the open door of the blood bank.
The receptionist looked up, and recognized the pallor of her
skin. She gestured to a side door. Chalandra nodded, opened the
door, and stepped through. She descended two flights of narrow
stairs, finally emerging into a dimly lit room.
There must have been at least a hundred caskets in the large,
sparsely decorated room, she estimated. Her fellow children of the
night, most dressed in beaten, worn clothing, glided silently between
them, occasionally selecting one and getting in. Mortals also walked
among the caskets, guiding some of the more indecisive of the undead
to make a selection before the sun rose.
Places like this were the only places Chalandra ever saw caskets,
anymore. Any night dweller who could afford shelter had a bed, at
least. Some, like Chalandra, preferred airtight chambers, for
aesthetic reasons. But for a vampire without means, a casket in a
shelter were the best that could be hoped for. Caskets were cheap,
and afforded a modicum of privacy. The mortal who was approaching her
seemed surprised that she was there. It was the clothing Chalandra
wore, of course.
"Follow me, please," the mortal said, indicating she should
follow, with some haste. Chalandra followed her, as she was guided to
a casket at the far end of the room. She opened the lid. "New here?"
"It's been a while," Chalandra replied. The mortal, who stood
just a hair taller than Chalandra, with short brown hair and a thin
mouth, nodded. Chalandra got into the casket. "I'll need a boost,"
she said, quietly.
"Where?" the mortal replied, her voice a whisper.
"Center south," Chalandra said. As the mortal shut the lid,
Chalandra slipped two thousand-yen bills into her hand. There was the
sound of light tapping on her casket, then silence again.
She had the dream again. The electric blue rose was there again,
as well, soaking in the red rain pouring from the stars. The
machinery had hummed, and someone she feared had arrived.
"Who is that someone?" she murmured to herself, as she opened the
lid to her casket. Sitting up, she took stock of her surroundings.
The casket was on a ledge, and there was intense steam all
around. It didn't matter, however. She was exactly where she wanted
to be. Stepping out, she looked up, and saw the familiar rungs that
led up, towards a dimly glowing light. The closest rung was fifteen
feet above her. The ledge had collapsed, after a century of neglect,
as automated systems eliminated the need for regular maintenance over
the sewer system.
She leapt, and snagged the second rung easily, scrambling in
seconds onto the rungs. The casket, left behind, rested in its ledge.
It would likely be gone as soon as she ascended, Chalandra knew.
There were many vampires who needed to be "boosted" to another part of
the city at any given time, for any variety of reasons. Often, it was
for the same reason Chalandra had.
"I'm sorry, Mr. McFae," she said, as she climbed, smooth and
silent, up the rusted metal rungs. "But the questions I have cannot
be answered by your Mr. Temekhan."
Chalandra reached the top, and emerged into an empty, littered
room. There was a door at the far end. She opened it, and slipped
into the alley, blending with the shadows.
The Shodani Towers soared above it all. Dark and majestic, they
loomed above everything, blending into the red haze of the night sky.
Other buildings leapt up, some nearly two-thirds as tall, gleaming
towers of concrete, glass, and marble. They formed the backdrop, the
body of the city, through which the lifeblood raced.
The crush of the people was overwhelming. Men and women of every
conceivable culture and age were visible, each with their own balance,
their own destinations. There was power in them, a communal energy
that they needed like oxygen to survive. They gathered in dark pools
that broke apart with the wind. Some entered seedy cafes, others
emerged. Technokids sat, huddled near the heat vent from a food
vendor, their minds occupied with neurostim games. The scents of
rice, of raw fish, of drink, of sex, of life and death touched her,
mingling into a complex code that carried vital information to the
She stepped out of the alley, onto the street, and immediately
felt the eyes upon her.
(to be continued...)
Copyright (c) 1993-2010 by Gary W. Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
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