APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 10 November, 2000


Welcome to Gommorrah

Jason English

"Costa Moreia Security Eighty-two Twenty-three going off duty," Midori Natara said to the screen of a lifeterm.

The screen showed the face of a shift dispatcher, who replied, "Acknowledged, Eighty-two Twenty-three. Enjoy the daylight."

"Thanks, I will." She cut the connection, and walked over to a nearby coffee vending machine. The machine detected her datarig's signal, and automatically charged her bank account for her order. Midori couldn't help but smile as the coffee poured into a cup. Daylight had just broken over Gomorrah and the Cat's Eye Trench, and the haze that had enveloped Gomorrah Hub all morning long was finally melting away. She could almost feel the infinite city come to a stop.

Midori stepped out onto a sundeck and reveled in the warmth of the sunlight from Loki. She felt a light breeze blow across the deck, and in an instant she was lost in her favorite daydream, pretending that she was standing on a beach with nothing but clear blue water stretching to the horizon. She idly wondered whether she would prefer to see Earth's Pacific Ocean or Terra Nova's Lake Esperance, then decided that she didn't care. All she wanted was to feel the ocean spray in her face and hear the crash of waves upon the shore just once in her life.

For a moment, she even thought she heard a seagull ...

... until she realized it was the chirping of her datarig.

She swore under her breath as she was torn from her reverie, and walked off the sundeck. As she approached the lifeterm by the vending machine, it detected her datarig and automatically transferred a video call. The shift dispatcher's face reappeared in the screen, and Midori hissed, "Eighty-two Twenty-three, and this had better be good."

She could see the dispatcher raise an eyebrow as he replied, "I'll ignore that, Eighty-two Twenty-three. Respond immediately to a service disturbance call at Gomorrah Gamma Six Five, Block FJ, Section Three One Seven."

Midori knew that address sounded familiar. When she remembered what was there, she rolled her eyes. "Oh, no, not Hellhound's again," she sighed.

The dispatcher looked sympathetic as he replied, "Afraid so, Eighty-two Twenty-three. It's not so bad, though - at least you'll be outside."

Midori cursed her rotten luck as she rode a public lift down to the site of the disturbance call. Hellhound's was the last place she ever wanted to go, especially in daylight. The bar was merely unpleasant most of the time, made even more so by a rough, tight-knit clientele that was openly hostile to strangers. In daylight, though, Hellhound's was an obnoxious eyesore that no amount of paint or disinfectant could rectify. The only thing that kept Hellhound's going was the loyalty of its patrons and the fact that the bar included one of the few private balconies in Gomorrah Hub's Gamma Level.

As the lift doors opened, Midori was engulfed in the foulest smelling air she had ever smelt. A dumpster had been overturned nearby, and the stench from its rotting contents nearly overwhelmed her. She composed herself as best she could, but she couldn't stop her eyes from watering as she walked up the street and upwind of the dumpster.

As she rounded a corner, Midori was met with an equally unpleasant scene. Some of the patrons of Hellhound's were in front of the bar harassing a small group of strangers. The strangers were wearing mining clothes, and one of them, a young man, was trying to ignore the jeers from the bar patrons as he was studying an information terminal display. The others were standing nearby in a way that suggested they weren't looking for trouble, but they could handle a fight if one started. Midori immediately guessed that these were Liberati who were unlucky enough to get lost in a place where they were not welcome.

In a commanding voice, she called out, "What's going on here?!?"

Seeing Midori's Corp-Serf uniform, the bar patrons stopped harassing the strangers and slinked back inside the club. A moment later, a tall, muscular man burst out of Hellhound's, who Midori recognized as the bar's owner. She walked over to him and said, "Hi, Harry. What's the problem today?"

The owner pointed to the strangers and yelled, "I don't want them here!"

"Of course not, Harry," Midori mocked, "you don't want anybody here whom you haven't known for the last ten years. How are you going to get new customers with that attitude?"

"Don't worry about my business," growled Harry, "just get this Liberati trash out of here!"

"Don't piss me off, Harry," Midori snapped. "I'm supposed to be off duty right now and enjoying the daylight, not listening to you have one of your torquing temper tantrums! Now, are any of your utilities not working?!?"

The owner was taken aback by her outburst, and muttered, "Uh, well, no ...."

"Then I'm leaving, and I promise you you'll be billed for wasting my damn time. And if I or anyone else from CM is called down here for anything other than a genuine problem, I will personally see that your service contract is reviewed very, very carefully. You understand that?" The owner was stunned into silence as Midori pointed at the door to Hellhound's. "Now go back inside and see to your customers." When he seemed to hesitate, she barked, "Move it!"

With a scowl, the owner turned and went inside the bar. Midori shook her head in frustration and walked over to the strangers. "Okay," she said, "we need to get you out of here. Where do you need to go?"

The young man looked up from the terminal and said in a strange accent, "Um, Forbes Towers."

Something seemed strange about the young man, but Midori just shrugged it off. She had not met many Liberati, and never quite new how to act around them. "Oh, that's easy. Make a left, then a right, and you'll be on Stanwix Boulevard. Turn right, go about a kilometer to Block FL, and take the public lifts to Gamma Seven Five. There ought to be signs from there."

"Thank you," said the young man. Motioning to his companions, he smiled, "We're, uh, from out of town."

Smiling back at him, Midori replied, "Yeah, I figured as much. The information terminals should help you get acquainted with the city."

His companions turned to leave, but the young man and Midori just stood for a moment, smiling at each other. Finally, one of his companions cleared her throat loudly, which got the young man's attention. "Yes, well, uh, thanks again," he said sheepishly.

As the young man turned to join his companions, Midori called out, "Oh, welcome to Gommorrah, Mister, um ...."

He stopped, turned to face her and said, "Sanlander."

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 10 November, 2000