this is something i've been playing with tonight. not sure where it's going (or if). any thoughts or suggestions welcome.
I got tired of banging on the door and kicked it in, the CT in my left hand, barrel toward the rotten ceiling. Found the guy, presumably the landlord, cowering in a bedroom in back. I told him not to move and checked out the rest of the place quickly. Nothing meaner than a couple of roaches jumped out at me, so I returned to the bedroom, where he was just starting to work a little whining into his cowering schtick. I pointed the CT at him and he shut up.
Never shot a live guy with the CT, though one of these days I'm sure some idiot will make a move and I'll get a chance to try it. When Candid and Teller originally discovered the concept around the turn of the century, during their otherwise famously useless paranormal research, I doubt they even imagined that fifty years later it'd end up in the barrel of a gun, much less be applied occasionally to living people. Word on the street is that it's a spectacularly painful way to die, and though no one I know has ever actually tried it, we all do our best to perpetuate the idea. Clearly this guy had been on the street and heard the word about 'plaintalkers', as they call them; once he noticed the overlarge barrel in his face, his eyes widened and moved to my chest looking for the badge. I humored him and pulled out my ID fold and watched the projected kanji scroll across his pale face. After a minute he swallowed and nodded and I put it away. "What do you want? I don't know nothin," he managed.
What do I want? Shit, what does anyone want? I'd settle for a quiet little place in the country, and for my girl to quit yanking my chain and settle down with me, and a kid or two. Maybe a dog, nice Lab or something. Fishing on the weekends. Oh yeah, and maybe for dead people to stay dead and quit messing with the living. And what the hell, world peace and no-hangover whiskey and real meat on the table once in a while, while I was at it. There's a lot I want.
I didn't tell any of this to John Q though. Instead I pulled out another holo, this one of a young guy, hard case-type, ritual scars down his cheeks like all the cool kids are doing these days, the whole nine yards. "This guy. Lived upstairs. You recognize him?"
"Yeah," he said, warily. "Why, he done somethin wrong?"
"Guess so. His guts are spread all over the staircase."
Some people think the best part of being a cop is the witty repartee. Myself I think it's the people you meet.
"Look, man, I don't know nothin about this guy. I ain't even seen him in weeks."
"What about his friends? Who'd he run with? Even seen anyone else around?"
I had a suspicion already. On the way over I'd seen the gang sign - apparently the Grueses had recently joined the neighborhood. And just a couple of days ago another kid was telling me about their initiation, and it sounded like something that could have resulted in that bloody mess in the hallway.
"No, man, I never seen anyone else around. I mind my own business."
If somebody made a new kind of bomb out of old newspapers, broken glass and doll parts, and the decision was made to test it with an airburst over the west side of Chicago, the courtyard of the Glengary Heights would probably look just about exactly as it did right now, I put the CT away as I headed for the car. On the way there I thought I saw something move in a garden-level window, and I stopped. Bad move. From behind someone hit me like a freight train and stayed on my back as I went down. I hit the ground rolling, reaching for the CT, on one knee and almost had it out before a voice from behind stopped me.
"Three of us, one of you. Leave it in your pocket."
My head cleared and I could see someone in front of me, exchanging glances with at least one someone behind me. I looked closer and saw newspapers and doll parts through the guy's leg. Fucking deaders.
"I'd beat it before my partner shows," I said. "He's in a real bad mood."
Actually he probably was. Carlos had been laid off eight months ago along with half of the CPD, the latest round of budget cuts had been brutal. Just recently the number of private cops in Chicago had finally met and exceeded the number of "real" cops; our numbers were dropping and theirs were on the rise. Most big companies and apartment buidings had contracts with them these days, so more and more cops like us were getting put out to pasture. The CPD's lack of manpower apparently wasn't any secret, either - someone behind me laughed and kicked me in the back of the head.
"You funny, ese. You ain't got no partner. We been watching you since you got here. Why you lookin for trouble?"
I shrugged. "Not looking for trouble. Just a guy."
The deader in front of me sniggered. "Jimmy's dead, man, didn't you see the body?" More hollow laughter from behind me.
This was getting old fast. I pulled the gun and dove to the side , aiming behind me. One of them got on top of me but I shoved the CT in about where his lungs would have been and pulled the trigger.
One good way to break up a fight with a gang of deaders is just to unplug one of them. Usually if you can get one or two of them, the rest scatter, even when you're outnumbered. Carlos had a theory; he thought deaders had some kind of God complex, like maybe they figured since they were already dead, nothing could hurt them anymore. Most of them do seem a little crazy - violent death messes with your head, I guess. So even though word was out about cops like me armed with plaintalkers, lots of them didn't quite believe they could die again until someone got their ticket punched.
You could tell this guy didn't believe it - he was smiling before I pulled the trigger. There was a strangely quiet pop and a flash of ultraviolet that hurt my eyes, and the deader... melted, I guess you could say. Technically what happens, according to the manual, is that "the discorporate entity is forcibly ejected from the ectoplasm that sustains its physical form," but basically what that means, and what it looks like, is he melted. With a shriek he was gone, a sticky puddle on the sidewalk and across the leg of my best pants. I turned, looking for the others, but they were gone.
I looked back down at the mess on the sidewalk, wondering if he'd been Jimmy. No way to positively ID one of these guys, not that we'd found yet, anyway. Maybe eventually someone in the lab would work out some way to trace off ecto samples, but for the time being, this would go down on the report as 'unknown assailant, deceased'. Oh well. At least the paperwork was simpler than shooting a live guy.
I got up, wiping my hands on my already ruined pants, and headed for the car.