by: CJ Fogarty
My investigation of Cortanza began shortly after departing old Jim Redfield’s. The plane took a mere hour from Kentucky to New York despite covering several thousand kilometers. Nonetheless, I was given a modest lodgings on the city’s third level: the business and industrial district.
Leading to present, I find myself walking the narrow sidewalk, looking up at the massive structures up top. Walking around a city like New York, I a given a better idea as to how this multi-level thing really works. New York appears to be more practically designed than London, for while the latter often sporting levels with unclear boundaries, New York’s levels were supported by nine massive pillars bordering the city, several kilometers of skyline in separation. While one could say that this arrangement would be a rather unwelcome block to the sunlight, in fact, the opposite is true. The first level, still easily the most desirable, actually gets the most sunlight due to new solar technology. The lights themselves work to harness sunlight and project it throughout a particular area. The fourth level, being the poorest, still had to rely on traditional electricity for most of its power. What, you don’t read travel brochures?
Perhaps not. Regardless, my mission focus was to analyze the nature of Mr. Cortanza. His allegiances. His motives. His routines. The goal is to find any evidence of this man’s ties to The Forgotten, past or present. Arriving in New York, however, I quickly realized that this would be difficult considering…I didn’t know anything about them myself. For me, that means gathering as much intelligence as I can, which means conversing with the one known, somewhat ironically, as the Sage.
“Mr. Lawson”, I begin, walking the largely abandoned sidewalk towards the hulking complex of Cortanza Industries. Surrounding it are several other structures, all with neon logos reading either Federated Appliances in orange and gold or Ford in its classic logo, unchanged for one hundred years. In the center was a gigantic clock tower, a sort of digital Big Ben, with the giant letters reading August 30, 9:06 AM, in neon green.
“Mr. Saint?”, I hear from the watch, “I can’t quite see you, sir.”
“I’m still trying to find out how this thing works. Sorry.”
The sidewalk is unnaturally narrow because, I’m guessing, vehicles take priority. The buildings on this level of the city are almost exclusively iron, very black and industrial, compared to the glistening white and silver stone of London.
“Try unlocking your screen. The switch on the top of the watch shouldn’t be orange”, Sage suggests.
I flip the screen, and a hologram projects immediately projects, and the image of a long-haired, disheveled boy of smaller build with fair skin and enthusiastic, hazel eyes.
“It’s good to finally meet you in person sir”, he replies politely.
Looking at his overall appearance, everything about him is undeniably shabby, from the unkempt hair, unshaven face, to the noticeable trash living his room. Nonetheless, his cordiality spoke for much.
“Sage, Miri has me on to investigate this Ezio Cortanza about his ties to The Forgotten. I’d like to know more about them.”
“Shh”, he suddenly exclaims, finger to mouth, “you really shouldn’t mention them out loud. Mentioning them is worse than mentioning the Holocaust, and you don’t know who could be listening.”
I turned around, looking behind me at an abandoned street. In fact, if it weren’t for the few flying machines zooming overhead, I would say that I was entirely alone. And, aside from the mechanical pump of machines in the distance, this level was truly devoid of sound as well. It was a tad bit, unsettling. Despite the overbearing silence, I suppose the Sage has a point.
“Very well”, I admit, “what can you tell me about them.”
“Well, here’s the thing”, Sage begins, “a lot of things don’t make sense about them. Like, they were supposed to have a lot of money, but, not from illegal sources. Apparently, the group had over seven hundred billion in donations, which, since they can’t be taxed nor tracked on the black market, where all that money came from is largely unknown. Additionally, they were supposed to be in the possession of A LOT of weapons, yet, again, we don’t know where they came from. What we do know is how Cortanza is connected to them. Several shipments of metal from Cortanza Industries were robbed during the year 2058 until 2060, yet, despite losing nearly a fourth of his inventory, assured his buyers that he would pay them double for lost time. This he did, and the media never covered the story again, instead preferring to bash the old man’s wife or his conduct in public.”
“What does that mean?”, I asked, wanting to know more.
“Well”, Sage replies, smirking, “Ezio Cortanza was known as a guy who didn’t take shit from anybody. He was stubborn and ruthless when it came to getting something done on time. And like a regular Ayn Rand, the guy frequently voiced his opposition to social healthcare and government intervention in business and the strength of American capitalism. Naturally, of course, the media loved to scorch him any chance they could.”
“Makes sense”, I remark.
“Maybe so, or maybe not. Those who worked with Cortanza couldn’t stand him, but, those who worked for him had different thoughts. His workers would frequently insist that, while an overprotective micromanager, Cortanza was the hardest working person in the factory, one who recognized the honest workers from the suck-ups.”
“And just how do you know this?”
“Workers’ testimonies”, Sage replies with sincerity, “a poll taken of his employees in 2050 showed an 70% approval rating of upper management. There’s no complex level of middle management to get lost in. It was really all him and his handpicked staff. At the same time though, of the roughly 4,500 weekly applicants at his New York Plant alone, maybe 100 are actually hired.”
“He only desires the best then”, I infer, concluding what I deem to be obvious about his character. He’s a perfectionist I take it.
“You could say that, if you wanted to be blunt”, Sage cautions, “there’s surely a million and one news stories about Cortanza turning away disabled people, quoting, ‘I won’t give them a job they cannot perform.’ ”
“Now that’s putting it bluntly”, I retort, liking this man less already.
“I guess so. But his workers really seemed to like him. For every demonizing story about his intolerance and greed, there’s a million rags to riches stories, most of whom are immigrants like he was.”
“You seem to be defending him, Sage.”
At this, the boy smiles and shrugs, matter-of-factly.
“Well, to me, Ezio Cortanza was kind of a badass. He didn’t take shit from anybody, and wasn’t afraid to call out politicians and celebrities for being fake. And if he was ever politically incorrect, it was because he meant to be.”
“What does that mean?”, I ask.
“Well, here. This’ll sum it up for you”.
I look and a screen pops up, showing news footage of the industrialist himself, standing on behind a podium in front of a crowd, flashing camera, and some flying camera drones flying about. The text read:
Cortanza Responds to The Forgotten Crisis
The films rolls.
“The events which took place in the past few months are a horrible transgression unparalleled in human history. These bombings are something from which the world, I think, will never recover. Truly, I believe this.”
Cortanza’s voice was a loud, forceful New Yorker accent, but the English was measured and articulate. Yet, of course, he sounded all around defeatist in tone, instead of trying to liven people’s hearts. His nature, I suppose, dictates everything he does.
“Now, some of you”, he begins, then, raising his hands, “okay. Many of you, have implicated the products of my mills in this crisis. I will not deny, that, this is true, but, for those of you conspiracy theorists, know that I have lost several of my own mills in the upstate New York, as well as my entire Hong Kong branch. This has cost a significant portion of my company’s assets, badly damaged production capability for the next few years, and taken hundreds of my workers, all of whom, as I always say, are proven to be the best. But, many of you…”
At this point, he points his index finger up and draws it across the entire crowd, who remain spellbound, waiting, perhaps, for him to say something stupid or radical.
“Many of you have pointed your fingers at me, claiming that I have actively worked with these terrorists and willingly handed over Cortanza Androids to them. Well, in response, I give you this finger!”
And with that, Cortanza’s middle finger went up, visible for a second before it was promptly blurred out. Everyone immediately descended into shock, and the quiet crowd became a protesting rabble of yells, screams, and flashing cameras.
“You, more than anyone else”, Cortanza resounds, returning his hand to the podium “make me sick!”
And with that, he walks off the stage, and the video ends.
“Well, he certainly ‘don’t take shit from nobody’ “, I surmise, jokingly, “Is there any substantial connection to be made between Cortanza’s androids and The Forgotten?”
“No”, Sage replies, “not yet anyway.”
“I see”, I reply. I suppose that’s where I come in, I think to myself.
“Aw crap”, Sage suddenly exclaims, “you’ll wanna watch out!”
“For what?”, I ask, but no sooner do I look up that I find my answer.
A group of four men, and one freakishly taller than the rest, all in green uniforms sporting rolled-up sleeves and kepis are walkings towards me. Their demeanors all reflect a type of sneering bullishness, looking like a lot of immature wanes pullin pranks, save for the tall man, whose face is expressionless. The man in front stops a close distance in front of me, folds his big arms, then sneers,
“You lost, buddy?”
“I’m not sure”, I reply innocently, “am I not supposed to be here?”
“Well, that depends”, he replies cockily, “you part of the union? They’re the only ones who’re on break right now. Everyone else is subject to rigorous interrogation.”
“Oh is that right?”, I reply, defiantly.
“This guy ain’t with us, man”, another, uglier man replies, “last I checked we don’t have any limeys signed up.”
“Limey, eh?”, I reply, keeping my cool, “well so much for American acceptance. What kind of way is that to treat a foreigner?”
“Oh, we treat foreigners good, alright, so long as they play along”, the first man answers, suggestively.
“And just what are you saying?”
“How much cred you got?”, he demands.
I myself had been given seven hundred US credits by the Order, but I wasn’t about to let this blundering fuck squeeze it out of me. His power, or sense of it, lies in his false sense of superiority due to having me outnumbered and four inches shorter than him. While they are all hopeless outmatched, save maybe for the stoic big one, it does me no good to arouse violence at this point. As if reading my mind, my holowatch vibrates. An icon is flashing of a document, the caption reading ‘click me’. Opening it, I serendipitously find what appears to be a false ID. A smile crosses my lips. Good lad.
Double clicking, the ID pops up on the holoscreen for all to see.
“I’m not really in the mood for games, chaps”, I begin smoothly, “so, you’ll see here that everything is in order.”
The bully takes a long time to scrutinize the image. Inconspicuously reading it myself, I find that the facade includes senior stockholder identification at some United Mechanical Plants, including membership in the National Technicians’ Union.”
“Oh”, the man says, showing neither any sign of embarrassment or apology, “the board meeting’s in ten minutes, so you’d better get to the plant, then.”
“Thank you”, I retort, taking false offense, “maybe I won’t report this little incident to the Union Board.”
I can hear their little, gossiping voices behind me as I keep walking. Obviously they’re still suspicious, but wouldn’t dare question my credentials without proof. I then find Sage attempting to contact me again.
“Phew”, he exasperates as he comes back up, “that was too close, Mr. Saint.”
“Indeed Sage. That was good thinking back there.”
“Well”, Sage replies, eyes downcast, “I was supposed to send you that before you came in here.”
“Well Miri bloody could’ve told me that!”, I respond, frustrated somewhat, “And you ought to have bloody known better!”
I pause a little.
“But, that’s alright”, I reassure him, “there was no harm done, nor would there be. But, what is with all this security on the third level?”
“You see, the business districts of cities don’t just let anybody walk the streets, for purposes of security. Usually, it’s only workers who live up and around those levels anyway. Nonetheless, the government assigns civil servants to enforce those laws.”
“More like a bunch of bullying pissants”, I retort.
“Yeah, it kinda sucks”, Sage laments, “those fuckers think they can do whatever they want so long as they’ve got union backing.”
“Smashing”, I reply, lamenting as well, “and are all unions like that, nowadays?”
“Only the big ones. Guys from the Shipyards Union, they’re alright. And the International Workers’ Union gives away more money than they spend. But, those guys in National Technicians’ Union, think they might as well rule the world, considering they’ve got influences from silicon miners in Africa to assembling factories in Mexico to the hi-tech industry itself.”
“What a sordid states of affairs”, I surmise, to a nod from Sage.
“Anyway, though. I was going to ask about Cortanza himself. What are his daily habits? When does he eat? Where does he eat? Does he take walks or leisurely drives?”
At this, Sage sighs sadly.
“Mr. Saint”, he begins, “that’s kinda the problem. In recent years, he’s consistently refused interviews, as well as contacts from the Order, has taken his meals inside his factory, barely leaves to go home. The only person who sees the old man frequently is his only son, Pietro, and from what we know, that’s only to ask for more money or to cosign on a loan.”
“And just why would the son of a man who watches his money need a cosigner?”
“Well, Pietro Cortanza frequently claims that he is on a mission to use his father’s money to give back to the community. But, if you watch enough Celebrity Insider, that means squandering it on boats, houses, and expensive prostitutes. The truth is this: Cortanza’s son is an irresponsible, insecure prick, the man’s wife died during complications with surgery in 2058, he’s been humiliated and hounded for his unconfirmed involvement in The Forgotten Incident, and rarely leaves his mills at all.”
I take a moment to let all that sink in. To analyze. Then,
“And you’re telling me he doesn’t go out at all? A man that caged is liable to lose his head.”
“Well, some say he has, already”, Sage concurs, “however, we have noticed on some nights, not all, that he will take walks around the streets very early in the morning. We’re talking 3AM here. But, these occurrences are unpredictable.”
I think about this for a moment. It’s unconventional and, frankly, a dangerous habit, but it may also be the best way to contact this man and find out the truth.
“Sounds perfectly well and good to me”, I affirm, “I’ll return to my apartment, and be out again at midnight. If he doesn’t come out tonight, he’ll have to come out sometime. Unless he really is loony. I’ll be in touch, Sage.”
“Good luck, Mr. Saint”, and the boy signs off.
Thus I depart from the third level, heading back to the first level to my apartment. I proceed down the road and am ushered into the giant glass elevator, by a policeman this time, joined by no more than twenty people, when this elevator could fit a hundred. I guess tea time isn’t as important over here.
My rented apartment resides in a new building which, unlike the third level, is a unique yet commonly seen combination of copper with bright bronze highlights. The first level naturally gets all of the best treatment, nothing but the best of architecture made out of Cortasteel yet designed so beautifully. Looking at these gargantuan facades, it hits me that the man who made this all possible is now suddenly a humiliated sham. A man who only needed to stroll around the city to view his astounding achievements. His metal restructured the entirety of city planning and made possible the creation of a new race of mechanical beings. A man like that could rightly stroll up Wall Street, stand himself on a podium and proclaim himself Ozymandias. Yet somehow, that man shriveled up, hid away from the world he helped to build and became a recluse. He is one doomed to rust before his achievements, until they, like Shelley’s king, are consumed by the environment into which he staked his claim.
Forgive me. I usually don’t get this impassioned, but this world is truly breathtaking and frightening.
Exiting the giant, glass elevator, which takes a good half hour, I feel that I am best suited to walk rather than wasting credits on a cabby. By the time I relocate the complex, after getting my hopes up for maybe four other identical buildings, the sun has set. I surmise it’s getting close to September now, so, the days are shorter. I open the door into a gold-colored lobby which gives the allure of high class, even though the rooms are less than twenty credits a night. I honestly can’t tell if that’s more or less than money fifty years ago, and I’ve been told that with the collapse of the dollar and constant inflation and deflation, nobody can really calculate that anymore.
Nodding toward the lobby boy, I enter the spacious elevator as I speed up to the seventeenth floor. I turn left and once then twice, my eyes locked on room 1725, my room. I scan my holowatch in front of the glass, and the light shines green as I go to enter. Only, I pause, for just then, a situation to my right affixes my attention. A young woman, blond, slightly tan and well dressed in slender black, sits on the floor. Her eyes are downcast, her lips to accommodate heavy breathing, and her head turned away from the man in front of her. Her stares down at her, moving unsurely yet with sharp, menacing gestures. Sporting a fine tan, spiked black hair, pouched lips ,sunglasses, and an expensive blue button-down complete with pit stains, he speaks to her in a firm, commanding tone, his male voice booming a little with the beginning of each sentence. I am physically repulsed by this man’s movements and appearance, disliking him almost immediately.
From three doors down, I can’t tell what he’s growling, but then suddenly, her eyes turn up to me, and I catch a glimpse of helplessness in those fixating, brown eyes. The man’s gaze follows hers, and I enter my room before any contact can be established. The situation vexes me, but I move it to the back of me head for now. There’s bigger things to worry about.
It takes three days of supreme boredom before I, finally, receive word on something. Whilst enjoying a drink, my second one I promise you, at a workers’ bar on the third level, I receive a message from Sage stating that Cortanza has finally stepped out of his office, and is going for a late night stroll. The clock tower reads 10:58 PM. Sage taps into a live feed from the drone I had sent out, courtesy of Jim Redfield, that is locked onto Cortanza himself. He wears a thick, black jacket with the collar popped, only, to protect his neck from the cold, not to hide his face.
Now I’m left with the quandary of attempting to gain access to the rooftops on buildings that are quite high. Added to it, this grapnel on my arm hasn’t even been tested properly. Well, I suppose there’s no time now.
In the cover of an alley, I point my arm at a giant, black iron factory, and the grapple hits right on above the Unionized Rubber sign. Unprepared for the tremendous force of such a little device, I immediately regret not testing it earlier. I must say, however, that Jim’s out done himself.
Still a few buildings away, I aim the grapple at a billboard across the street, launch and jump, but instead of swinging into the side of the building, I am launched to the top of the billboard itself. Eventually, I’m able to balance myself on top and begin scanning the streets below. Turning back to the live feed, I see Cortanza round a corner where I can just barely make out myself on top of the WildStyle body spray sign with the sweaty, muscled gentleman flexing for several swooning starlets. Some things never change.
I myself can now make out Cortanza, a slow but purposeful man in his mid sixties with graying hair, more grey than any picture depicts and dark eyes. By habit, I drop down to the other side of the billboard and get into a hiding position. Hold on, I could simply become invisible with the push of a button. Oh well, like I said, by habit.
Luckily, the buildings around here appear to be a connected complex of low, brick buildings, leading out of Cortanza Industries. Thus, I am able to jump to each building until Cortanza proceeds out of the magnificent, wrought gate of his mills, during which time, I make extensive use of the grapnel to launch onto the facades of buildings, peering down at my quarry from the catwalks. My overall goal is to wait until he is back on his property, for risk of him running to the authorities. The drone, meanwhile, hovers behind, itself cloaked and unseen. Eventually, Cortanza turns onto a street shared by one other man. Ragged, shabby, and wrapped up in a thick, green blanket with frizzled, grey hair and freckles dotting his face unusually for a black man.
“Hey boss man”, the tramp beckons, which is picked up by the drone, “hey boss man. Spare some change?”!
! If anyone was NOT going to stop for the charity of the homeless, it would be Cortanza from what I’ve heard. But hold your hats, cause that’s not what happens.
“First off”, Cortanza begins, going close to the tramp, hands in pockets, “You don’t work for me, so I am not your boss. I’m an American citizen, just like you. Only, unlike you, I’ve staked a higher claim in this country. Secondly, I do not believe in charity, only investment.”
Cortanza’s voice seems much softer, almost weaker, than it did in the movie. Then, to my surprise, the magnate moves forward deliberately and lowers himself on one knee.
“How old are you?”, he asks.
“What duzzat matter?”, the tramp answers, confused.
“How old are you?”, Cortanza repeats.
“I’m 42”, he answers.
“You seem to look a lot older than that.”
Shaking his head, “the streets age you, man.”
“Yes, I understand”, Cortanza sighs, “I’m guessing you want to rob me right now so badly because you want to eat. Most of the time you can forget, but all you need is to see some slob enjoying a meal and you suddenly realize what you’re missing, and want it more than anything. Am I right?”
The tramp looks down, considering.
Cortanza continues,”But, at the same time, you fear the punishment that they’ll inflict upon you, that they’ll take anything that you had and double your pain. So, you choose your options and opt to ask me for charity. Am I right?”
Glancing upward, the old vagabond nods in agreement.
“When was your last job?”
“Three weeks ago?”
“They laid off about a sixth of their workforce. One week later, all of the tramps were cleared out of the third level and pushed to shelters on the fourth level. How did you manage to escape that fate?”
“I-I ran”, he admits, “when the Greencaps showed up, I ran. I told ‘em they was gonna come for us, but they didn’t listen. Said the union would find us new jobs. I didn’t believe that, and I still don’t.”
“What is your name”
“Well, Mr. Brown. You are correct. You are the only one who can find yourself a new job. Nobody else can get anything for you and, unless you earn trust and respect, nobody else will try to help you….But, of course, everyone must start somewhere.”
Now here comes the biggest surprise of all, as I witness Mr. Cortanza reach into his wallet and pull out two, golden strips, each fifteen credits. Brown goes to reach them, but reconsiders.
“What do you want?”, he asks.
“Smart man”, Cortanza replies admiringly, “I want you to get yourself a meal tomorrow morning and then leave a minimum of ten credits for a haircut. Go to Amir’s Hair & Razor and tell them Ezio sent you. Now, this is an investment, not charity. If you do not spend this money properly, I will know. If you squander it on drugs, I will know. If you do not show up with enough money to Amir’s, I will know. If you do not arrive fully ready to work a long day at my mills from 10AM tomorrow to 8PM, I will know. If I find that you are not capable of the job to which you are assigned, I will have you relocated to one that pays far less. If you do not make the effort to do your job, I will personally fire you on the spot. And if you do not earn my respect, you will never get anywhere. Do we understand each other?”
The wretched man considers for a moment.
“Think about it”, Cortanza says, whether to implore or warn, I cannot tell.
“Good man”, Cortanza replies, smiling, actually smiling through that somber, grey mustache. He hands the vagabond thirty credits, and goes so far as to pat the man on the arm. In turn, the tramp’s eyes go wide in astonishment, the perfect clarity of the drone capturing the unusual yet touching moment.
As if the occurrence were entirely normal, Cortanza withdraws from the vagabond, continuing down the street. There, however, a surly lot are there to greet him.
“You lost, buddy?”
The group consisted of the same three, sneering men in green, with the giant still among them, augmented by two, spry-looking younger men.
“Are you going to tell me that the street is off limits too, Stanowitz?”, Cortanza grumbles.
I didn’t expect there to be this kind of trouble, but I nonetheless sense its imminency.
“Oh, I’m very sorry, Master Cortanza, sir?”, Stanowitz replies, the same brash sarcasm as he farcically bows. I meanwhile, step quietly down the catwalk that overlook the group, making my way down to the dark alley below.
“But, we didn’t mean to disturb your peaceful walk, sir”, Stanowitz the shithole continues, to the jeering of his gang, “but, we weren’t talking to you. We meant him. He’s gotta go.”
Stanowitz points to the vaganbond, Mr. Brown, whose eyes to and fro, deciding, it would seem, between fight and flight.
“You shall not harm that man”, Cortanza defends, evenly, “he is now in the employ of Cortanza Industries, and thus, cannot lawfully be relocated. He has committed no crime for which you can detain him.”
“Oh, I see”, Stanowitz mocks, “so he’s your property then? Last I checked, that’s called slavery.”
“If you think demanding a hard day’s work”, Cortanza rebuffs, “instead of reliance on the system for survival is slavery, than I’d rather he be in my servitude than in your farcical welfare state.”
Stanowitz tightens up noticeably, getting annoyed. This man preaches like a regular Ayn Rand alright. Can’t say I appreciate that. In fact, I’d consider walking away, if these buggers weren’t twice as filthy as him.
“Well, the thing is sir”, Stanowitz eggs on, “There would need to be paperwork associated with such a claim and, since none of that is present, this man isn’t hired by you yet, is he?”
Stanowitz goes close to Cortanza’s face, which remains firm, standing a few inches above the cocky young fucker.
“You will not harm that man”, he reaffirms.
“Oh, okay then”, Stanowitz falsely relents, “but, uh, we might just have to pinch you on obstruction of justice.”
“Come to think of it, man”, the second man from before jeers, “I think we’re looking at a little resisting arrest here too.”
“Oh yeah. And, while he was at it”, a third thug adds, removing a plastic bag with white powder, “a bit of this dropped out of his jacket.”
“Tsk, tsk, Mr. Cortanza”, Stanowitz continues, “you’ve been perceived as a danger to the performance of business and interstate economics. And, by the Commerce Clause and the authority granted in me by the Union Security & Privacy Act of 2059, I place you under arrest as a civil service authority for the city of New York. Anything to say, old man?”
But Cortanza simply, silently stands.
“I’m gonna enjoy this, then”, Stanowitz replies, removing an electric nightstick that flashes in the air.
Well, I certainly am having no more of this, and with a leap and roll out from the alleyway, I block his burly arm, his face reflecting a mere moment of hateful surprise as my fist!uppercuts him squarely underneath the chin. Down one.
The other five quickly remove their electric clubs, and make toward me in disorganized fervor. Perfect. The two from before reach me first, and with one side swipe of the leg, the man on the right falls, with just his hands to support him off the ground. Meanwhile, his man on the left attempts to strike me, only to have this blocked, his arm sprained, and his nightstick stolen from him, used to jab the back of his grounded comrade. Down two.
Retreating back a little, I throw away the nightstick, adopt a fighter’s stance, right arm out and left arm held up, legs apart. The three hesitate for a moment, thus I take my chance. I land one shot to the bigger man’s center chest, forcing him back and off balance. Rotating my arms with lightening speed brings both my arms forward, and positioned to clap the young man’s ears quite hard. Doubled over in a ringing pain, I force my arms straight down and, with a bend of my left leg, bring my right knee up to bop the boy’s skull. Down three.
Having regained his balance, the other man is able to send his fist directly at my neck, nearly reaching its mark too. With one arm holding the man’s fist, I just notice the other man attempt to stab my side with his nightstick in enough time to trip him up with my other leg. I quickly step out of the way, and simply aim the stick at his comrade’s chest, sending a debilitating shockwave through him. This is followed by a knockout to the back of the head. Down four.
This other boy is an easy job, and with one movement, I grab his weapon, twist it and myself around, and jab him in the back. I release him in front of me and, wait for his head to be in a good spot for me to issue a roundhouse kick, sending him flying across the road about three meters. Down five-Bullocks!
I remember the sixth man now, which doesn’t help considering his punch landed right on my left shoulder, sending me backward a ways. That punch possessed enormous, almost inhuman strength. It sends a ripple through my body five seconds in, and I suddenly feel a tad bit winded. I, at least, have the sense to pick up a nightstick lying nearby.!
! “He’s an android”, I suddenly hear an unnaturally cool Cortanza say, “he has weak spots behind the knees and a successful blow to the back of his neck should deactivate him.”
“Should! What do you mean-“
But, I’m cut off as the robot comes at me, forcing me onto his shoulder towards, I’m guessing, something hard. Thinking fast, I lift myself up over his shoulder and, bringing my hand to his neck, swing around to his back. Meanwhile, the machine man crashes into a light pole, denting the thing heavily. Remembering the advice, I vault off of his back, remove my pistol, and aim two shots at the back of his knees. One of his legs goes down, but the other missed. Nonetheless, I leap forward, secure his downed leg, and use both my hands to land a shocking blow to the back of his neck with the nightstick. At that moment, his entire body seems to shimmer with square patches of blue light. Once they fade, the bronze metal hulk reveals its true self, and lies passed out on the ground. Down six.
Well, that was one hell of a fight. It may have knocked the wind out of me, and I was almost killed by that damned automaton. Still, the rush and excitement of battle and the satisfaction of remembering all my old methods, is a welcome feeling. Gratitude from Mr. Cortanza, on the other hand, isn’t as forthcoming.
“I see they’ve corrupted the poor thing’s hard drive”, Cortanza analyzes the unmoving, metal corpse, “let me see if I can’t reboot you?”
He kneels down next to it, holds down a button, and then, suddenly, it comes to life again, sparking a great, white light in the center of its chest peering through its shirt, all of its clothes remaining on. There also two, blue lit eyes, the exact dimensions of a human eye, minus the complexity of the iris. It lifts its bulky frame, the muscles of which appear to be a brown, dense, but non-metallic material. In all honestly, it reflects the basic outlook of a human being, but remains as docile and stoic as before.
“Often times, people can corrupt these services models”, Cortanza explains, feeling the robot’s face like a doctor feels a child for mumps, “since it uses a learning engine, the android will become bound to a certain person or group of people while corrupted, and will attack when those people are threatened. This reboot, however, will now force it to accept the will of the first person who commands it.”
Facing up to the robot, totally erect with his arms behind him, “Android, clean this mess up.”
Another flash of several blue lights engulfs its body, and it readopts its synthetic appearance, which is apparently holographic. The robot then goes about the duty of disposing the unconscious bodies somewhere else.
Cortanza then turns to me, “You’re a Guardian I take it?”
I’m taken aback by his sudden knowledge, but, he explains,
“Your people have tried to contact me in the past. Also, I don’t know many with your skills that would waste their time protecting me. But, as I told your people before The Forgotten Crisis and afterward: I did not hand over my products to Winthrop, and if you want the truth of it, you certainly shall not have it from me.”
His commanding tone seems to make my whole body hurt. I did not simply come close to being maimed in order to impress this man. I need him in order to find out the truth of his involvement in The Forgotten, and I will find it out. Because otherwise, I don’t know why I stuck my fucking neck out in the first place.
“I saved your life”, I remind him, between panting.
We lock eyes for a moment, then,
“You shouldn’t have.”
He then turns his back to me, and makes down the road again, me still too winded to try and stop him. I half-expect him to turn around and say something clever or wise to convince me to quit.
But, he does turn around, only, he doesn’t say what I think he should.
“I do owe you something, however, as my death at this moment would be detrimental to my company, its ability to produce and its workforce. You’ll be scheduled in for an appointment tomorrow at 2PM. Not earlier, not later. Your name, please?”
I take a moment to wholly catch my breath.
Then, standing erect, “Richard Saint”.
He mulls this for a moment.
Then, “Alright, Dick. I will see you tomorrow.”
And with that, he walks off into the night. I look around and find that the tramp, Mr. Brown, has fled the scene, probably long ago. Catching my breath, I look around to find the machine man take the other, unconscious body into an alleyway. I notice that the body is Stanowitz, and on the back of his neck, I can barely make out small tattoo: a black hammer with a sickle crossing it. A bully indeed. A right, fucking bully.
While appearing docile enough, I can still feel the impact of the robot’s blow, and I’m filled with the urge to strike him back and finish the job. I restrain this desire, of course. My emotions must not keep any place in my fights. I straighten my coat, my cap, and my constitution in order to walk back to my apartment appearing unharmed. Proceeding to great elevator, I read giant clock tower, the green numbers reading August 30, 12:04 AM. That took little over an hour. My eyes fixate on the giant window of an office building I happen to be passing. Just then, however, I see a brick on the low wall behind me simply fall. I neither hear nor see the culprit, but an examination of the wall tells me that it had to have been moved, albeit accidentally, by someone. Yet, how could someone be so fast yet unseen like that? I stop for a moment, but then I realize. A great smile crosses my lips at the realization.
Of course, I say to myself, I should have known. Clever girl. Clever, clever girl.
I head back to my apartment then in order to report what had transpired to Sage. As I climb into bed, knowing full well how buggered I’ll be in the morning, I more greatly l!oathe this man now. I…hate…being called…Dick.