The night watch at any old Graveyard is going to be a hairy affair. You’re at the Number 1 spot where “something” is going to happen if the veil gets thin at night. You can walk the whole ‘yard in full Daylight and not see the Sun, so Night Watch? It’s the pits.
Every night you walk the lines, the same lines 1,000 Night Watch have walked before, you check every single line, you step in the footsteps of legends, literally. NEVER walk it backwards, never counter-clockwise. You don’t want to unlock that lock! Graves that have given up a sleeper are marked in lit green, it’s never going to stop glowing as long as you and I are still around.
So the Night Watch? They keep the sleepers safe from the world and the world safe from the sleepers. If they wake up, the Night Watch tries to talk them back to bed. They have rites that they repeat all night long, quiet, like a lullaby for the Ancient Dead. “Go to Sleep, Elder God…” you know, but more Glutteral noises and whoops, like a whale makes.
I hear the Watch in the Desert has it easier, because they only really need to watch when it Rains or Floods, So the rest of the time their Watch have regular lives and they do ritual cleansing to “go in” and “get out” it must sound like Luxury to our Watch here, who are not lifers, but they do months long rotations. When they get off, they spend a week or two getting out of the habit of singing to themselves and a bit more in some salt rooms being blessed and cleaned by guys in robes who’ve been doing it so long.
So yeah, Night Watch. It has to be done, it’s the way we keep the bad old days from coming back.
With no place to go and no one to care for them, the became a real problem when they got smart as hell REALLY fast. They took over in a big way, their massive flying death-beasts were one thing, but it was the humanoid ones that really took the world by storm. They had gone through our technological infancy at light-speed, something about Reptilian reproduction with long life spans…. their brains were different, more focused.
The Dinos took earth, the sites of the fights are still there, burning and enclosed, they use them as entertainment, theme parks really.
Wind and dust and the smell of desert herb that comes with the only moisture of the day with the meager morning dew whipped by the winds of dawn and riven through the dry bones of the last Ghost Town in the Last Ghost State in the Whole Damned Ghost United States.
It’d been decades since the town had seen a stable visitor. There still came the odd visitor, a curious type looking for some evidence of America here in a park set up for families in a time of peace.
Every day the Cyborg Cowboy would patrol the empty streets, ferreting out animals and repairing the whole facility. It never wanted for parts or power, or even for function, there was a non-stop stream of animals into the compound. Drawn by the noise of the musical machines in the bar and the sounds of gun-fights that played over the loudspeakers.
The Cyborg was freed every night at closing time. A voice will announce: “Good Night, Buckaroos!”
And the Cyborg finds herself free of the yoke of the day, she can wander the empty streets and investigate the fences and decide whether to let the animals in again that night.
Life in between the margins of the different habs was difficult on the regular, but Chum, you don’t know the halfs of it.
If you weren’t ‘Corp, you weren’t a citizen and if you weren’t a citizen, ANYONE could take a strip off you and the rent-a-guards would look the other way, because no one was giving them the money to care.
So I worked twice as hard some days just to look like one of those well-fed Corpos so at least I could avoid randomly being shot or stabbed by another Corpo for kicks. At this point I’d saved enough credit to get myself a nice hole in a dry wall on between the two biggest, warmest Habs in town. I’d forgotten which Corp I was supposed to be calling home by that time and took to wearing the colors of both, so as to confuse the more aggressive ones.
The Day to Day was always the same, roll out when the sun vanished from sight, put up a pin on the map and tell those that wanted my work where I was setting up shop that night. A Smith comes, pays some creds, I fiddle something for them, they leave. I live another day. Do that three times in a night and I’m good for the week. I’d been doing 4 a night for weeks and even my deck was beginning to wonder what would burn out first, my uplink or my brain.
A typical smith wandered into the “Heat and Eat” I’d set up shop in that night, sat far from me at first, checking me over with a not-so-subtle scan that triggered a few alarms both on me and the checkout. Not typical then.
At that point 2 more heavies walked in, looking at everyone but only seeing me. They sat on either side of me and I had a moment to guess what was coming, they looked Sov-Grown (same seed, random) they could have been Sov-Gov and that would be trouble for both of us.
The Smith stood up, smoothed his improbably hard to describe black suit and sat across from me.
“Comrade, your service is needed to find a girl.”
He placed a readable data stick on the table and gestured to me, I read it with a portable and translated it from Sov-Gov to English. Standard missing child, looks like a Moscow-Metro Snatch and Sell.
“Do you have an approximate location?” I didn’t look any of them in the eye.
“All of everything is in that Dossier, my friend. There’s no clock on this tonight, but if you can turn her up today, there’s a wildly indulgent tip here for you.”
The Heavy on my Left produced an onyx credit card with a “balance carry” logo on it. Essentially a bank on a card. Minimum balances being in numbers large enough to buy a luxury cardboard life.
I had already eliminated most of AsiaPac/SovCits/Alba/UK/AusNet/SudAmerica by the time the credit had hit the table. I was warm already, which was nice. I had long since tuned up my search systems to work on the quiet and my storage was humming with deltas of datasets from every major clearinghouse on earth. If it was text, I could find it in a moment, audio almost as fast. Video was a problem, due to permutations. It’d take me whole minutes sometimes.
Finding a living person in the real world, it was trickier.
Finding a person is like catching a bug in flight, you can see the bug, you can track it, but when you go to move, it moves too and sometimes all you catch is the place it’s been. Smith wanted the Bug, not where the Bug had been.
I hit Green for her location after 2 hours. I’d breached a Security Camera setup at a facility in Warm Hab number 2, to my back. She was less than 14 kilometers from where I sat.
“Here” I had printed all I had on a card and handed it to him, he scanned it with his portable, called out and nodded to the heavies. The Credits hit my hand and they were out the door.
I took the cash and flushed it into a bunch of different accounts, turning it into various coins and creds in dozens of accounts and investments, clearing a few debts and setting myself up in a luxury flop stitched onto the outside of Warm Hab 1. It wasn’t inside, but at least it was above the alleys.
The good thing about money is it buys you security, and for me that meant an old Habber sitting watching my door and calling me at 3:00PM telling me I was about to get a rapid wake-up.
The Door to the Flop busted in and the two heavies from the night before flooded into my place with a dozen SovGov cops in tow. I watched this from a video feed as I deeked out of the Flop and into the open air between the two Habs and sailing headlong into the waiting crush of gravity and trash in a swan dive away from danger.
I turned, looking back at my flop as the security kicked in and the whole unit unfolded from the assembly and disintegrated like it was never there. Good Security in luxury cardboard, I say.
The SovGovs and Heavies fell into the alley and I was missed, but I was burned. Clearly.
I crawled out of the trash, checked over my gear and found nothing that mattered was broken. I set up a search for anything related to last nights work and found my way to a quiet and out of sight place for breakfast where I could watch the doors for new friends.
I had been Burned to the ground. Looks like the Lost Girl was a local Pop Star and no one was happy to see her in the hands of Smith, but the SovGov didn’t want any loose ends, and I was loose, man.
It was the first thing that Wilf heard from the wild man outside the TV Station.
“God BLESS the Scottish! Andrew Marvin! PLEASEDTAMEETCHA” He pumped Wilf’s hand as if he thought it would push Wilf into speaking like one primes a water pump.
“I’m glad to meet you, Mister Marvin. Wilf Broadericz” Wilf looked the man in the eye and gripped back with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.
“Broadericz, eh? Are you a Commie?”
“No, Sir! I’m a former GI and fought for OUR SIDE in the War!” Wilf nearly shouted. He’d been used to ribbing about his name, but his family had been in America almost as long as Texas. He bristled at any suggestion he was anything less than a Patriot.
“Hold on! Hey!” Mr. Marvin Raised his hands “I was only joshing, you wouldn’t be standing here if there was any question if you loved your Uncle Sam!”
Mr. Marvin gestured to the double doors behind him, up 3 short steps, and began to lead Wilf to the Door. “Son, you are gonna go in there, meet your future and you and I are going to be working together, I tell you what.”
The Foyer of the TV Station was a wide space with a single wide desk in the modern style with a pretty young lady sitting at it. Behind her a single giant Television (nearly 24 inches!) sat on a pedestal behind her showing what was being shown on television at the time.
She looked up as Wilf approached and held out a black rectangle towards him: “Mr. Broadericz! Here’s your pass for the building. You will be photographed and given a printed ID card in the future, hold onto that pass for the time being.”
Mister Marvin nodded to stairs that led up into the dim second floor on either side of the room, Wilf followed and they ascended into the offices of the TV Station. Mr. Marvin lead Wilf to an office at the end of the corridor, opening the door and stepping into the room and opening some blinds.
“Your office, Wilf.” He gestured around the nicely appointed room, with space to entertain and an impressive oak desk with well appointed shelves and cabinets around the room. At the corner between the two windows there was another monster TV facing into the room.
Mr. Marvin pointed to a book on the desk, “right there is your manual for working here at the Station. Read it today, take notes if you need them, it DOES NOT LEAVE this office, nor do you take home notes. You leave your life outside at the door and you leave your time in here at the door when you leave. This is the MOST important rule here at the Station and it’s why I’m telling you it before you read it again on the first page of that Manual.”
Wilf nodded solemnly “I had heard security was tight, but I had no idea it would be opsec tight.”
Mister Marvin stepped close “Look kid, we didn’t recruit you because we were impressed with your KP skills. I need say no more?”
Wilf got the picture, he was referring to his time as an intelligence asset behind enemy lines and his experience with OSI.
There was nothing more to say, Wilf sat at his desk, took in the view and then set to reading the Manual for his new Job.