15 - SYSTEM MIGRATION
"New Hong Kong.
Where all your dreams can come true."
– New Hong Kong tourist propaganda
Incoming Video Message
Title: TOP SECRET – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
From: Captain Tanaka, HKPD 5th Precinct
To: Richard Pearson, Lawrence Harris
"Detectives." The Japanese captain stood firm in the perfectly clean office – obvious sign of a VR sim –, with his hands behind his back. "Before you arrive to New Hong Kong I consider it of importance to give you an update on the country's current political situation.
I'm attaching to this video a hypertext summary of the recent political and economical events, so that you are able to identify current issues happening in the counrty. Due to the nature of this case it's possible that you may have to interact with some influential factions in this country, not counting the neo Victorians. I hope you won't, but in case you do, don't hesitate in contacting me, and please download a lawyer AI to assist you in the process.
Now, a quick summary of the most influential people in New Hong Kong."
A holographic window appeared next to the captain, displaying the pictures and text with the most relevant facts of the people in question.
[pic] Steve Meyer
Position: Prometheus Enterprises, CEO
"The first and most important person to take notice of is Steve Meyer, current CEO of Prometheus industries. You know the company and you know what they make, but you probably don't know that Prometheus is the main financer of Cyberpol Hong Kong. Whenever Prometheus asks the Cyberpol not to investigate something, they won't. Speaking of…"
[pic] Colonel Leopold
Position: Current head of Cyberpol Hong Kong
"Colonel Leopold, aka, the Lion, for obvious reasons." (Colonel Leopold had a lion head) "Current head of Cyberpol Hong Kong, AND top man of Cyberpol worldwide. You probably recognize him from his early days of live wrestling. He's behind a desk 25/7 nowadays, but don't expect to win against him in a one-on-one fight."
[pic] Inoue Minori
Position: Lieutenant Colonel, Cyberpol Hong Kong and Cyberpol New Angeles
"Inoue Minori. Lieutenant of Cyberpol HK and Cyberpol NA, she specializes in tough cases. Normally you wouldn't worry about her, but whenever she appears it usually means there's something more at stake than a simple bot gone awry. All of the lieutenant's cases are political, hidden behind several layers of intrigue, many of them assassination plots – some even orchestrated by the Yakuza themselves, I should know. So if she steps in, you step out. Consider that an order."
[no pic available] "The Princess"
Position: Neo Feudal Lord of Little Japan, Hong Kong
"The princess, aka Hime-sama. She owns all of Little Japan. Her name has been withheld for security reasons. She is cooperative with Law Enforcement and she is quick to report any illicit activity in her domains. Everyone in Little Japan obeys her like a queen. I'm not very fond of monarchies, but Little Japan has the lowest crime rate in all Hong Kong ever since she bought all the land in there. What can I say? What works, works. If you want to contact her, I suggest to talk to lt. Inoue first. They have an amicable relationship."
[pic] Graciela Vita
Position: Mayor of the Li sector
"Graciela Vita. Ex-wife of Steve Meyer, Mayor of the Li citadels, and technically, of the entire Li Sector... in theory. In practice, however, delegates hold all the power. Speaking of delegates..."
[pic] Enrique Moreira de Gortari
Position: Delegate, Outer Li sector
"Enrique Moreira de Gortari. An increasingly influential politician, supported by a great deal of corporations and Mexican citizen groups. Don't be deceived by his looks, he is a very cunning man, and has alliances in the underworld, which should be obvious by looking at the number of casinos he owns. If he wins the presidency in the upcoming elections... well, for everyone's sake, let's hope he doesn't."
[pic] Kwanza Jakande
Position: Political activist, current leader of SOLARIS
"Kwanza Jakande. Political activist of anarcho-communist alignment. He has earned enemies from all the country due to his political views, his defense of human rights, and his public condemnations of violent gangs. Nevertheless, his influence is the highest in the poorest sectors of the city. I know for a fact that there have been multiple assassination attempts against him, but he has an entire fleet of avatars at his disposal. Nobody knows his real location. He is way smarter than he looks. We have been trying to contact him regarding this case – we hope one of his men might have seen something – , but he doesn't trust the police.
[pic] Diana González de la Vega
Position: Prometheus Enterprises, major stockholder. Founder and current head of CIPESA, NGO
"Diana González de la Vega. She's not only important in our country politics due to her position in Prometheus, but also because she's the head of CIPESA, the android rights organization who has a demonstration scheduled this week. Also stay aware, her communications have a huge amount of darknet data, and we suspect part of that data is communication with criminal groups. We can't prove anything, so whatever you do, stay away from her."
[no pic available] Wolfworth family
Position: Influential sector of society
"There's also the entire Wolfworth family, I have uploaded their public profiles in a spearate file. Please study them carefully before you arrive to Hong Kong, because an envoy from the Wolfworth family will be contacting you as soon as you get off the plane.
Finally, after you arrive to your hotel and get yourselves clean, please get the finest clothes you can buy, take a cab and come to the 5th precinct as soon as you can. There are some other details I'd like to discuss personally before you start working on the case.
Captain Tanaka, out."
New Hong Kong airspace
"Your attention, please!" said the synthetic female voice coming from the plane. "In a few minutes we will be arriving at the New Hong Kong airport. Now we'll be playing a Vacation travel guide showing the beautiful attractions the country can offer. You can also tune your neural implants to the airline's VR broadcast for the immersive experience."
Pearson tuned in and began experiencing snippets of being attended by beautiful android attendands and being taken to a hotel, winning a bet in a casino, playing golf, deep diving and seeing the fish and corals in the Hong Kong bay, and being driven in a limo through the Love Boulevard, seeing beautiful women standing in seductive poses near hotels and sex clubs. Neon signs of all colors, glittering below the moving lights of flying cars. Buying at a local market in one of the citadels, filled with people of exotic races; placing bets at the famous Wolfworth Hippodrome and seeing the authentic biological horses race against each other.
The video ended with a panoramic view of daylight Hong Kong, with flying cars hovering around the gigantic glass citadels. The viewpoint lowered its head to pray at a traditional Chinese Buddha in some kind of shrine.
The immersive video ended with the words: "Welcome to New Hong Kong. Where all your dreams can come true."
The stimvid ended and the AI plane voice announced. "Your attention, please, we are ready for landing. Please straighten your seats and fasten your seatbelts. We will reach ground level in a few minutes."
"Yo, Pearson, check this out! Check this out!"
"Look! Below! A sea dragon swimming along the coast!"
"It's small, but you can see the tail moving! See? There?"
Pearson saw the zigzagging S shape and felt a shiver.
"Aw c'mon, Pearson," said Harris, "don't tell me you're afraid of them. They're mostly harmless!"
"Yeah, when they're not hungry and are far away from you. Didn't you ever watch Jaws?"
"Oh c'mon, Pearson, you know that movie was just bullshit. Oh, check this out. Did you know that movie was originally about sharks?"
"No, really. It was a Terran movie. The dummasses believed everything they saw on the movie and ended up hunting all sharks in the sea 'til they went extinct. So then they had to make shark bots to take care of the sea lions eating all the fish."
"You're shitting me."
"Well, that was before the jellyfish took over the entire ocean. You know, the climate crisis and all that."
"Harris," Pearson gave him a soft pat on the shoulder, "do you know if they have trivia contests in Hong Kong? Because you could make us millionaires."
As soon as the detectives left the plane, they both sniffed the tropical air.
"You smell that, Pearson?"
"The smell of change. Like all my worries are suddenly fading away."
The detectives passed through the security checkpoints, removed their guns and gave them to the security officer in charge of the checkpoint.
"Detectives Pearson and Harris, NAPD. I mean... former NAPD. We're at the request of Lord... what was his name?"
"We received the letter from the HKPD, I just need to verify your IDs. Temporary Ident number please?"
"1251", said Pearson.
"6040" added Harris.
"Identification confirmed," replied the security officer. Welcome to New Hong Kong, enjoy your stay."
Pearson and Harris were given their guns. Pearson put his thumb on the gun's skin sensor, and a small green indicator showed the number of rounds in the magazine.
[ 10 ]
He holstered his gun and adjusted his suit.
"You know what's the best part, Harris?"
"That I won't have to deal with you know who."
"You mean the lieutenant?"
"How many years since I felt really free? Without having to watch my back..."
"Pearson." It was the lieutenant's voice, speaking right behind him.
Pearson clenched his fists almost immediately. "Oh for fuck's sake, Inoue. Can't I have a day alone without you interf-"
When he turned around, he was surprised at her lack of armor. She was in civilian clothing, a formal suit, and a really tight shirt that made him wish even for a moment that they hadn't broken up years ago.
"Nice to see you too, Pearson. But trust me, if I wanted to spy on you I wouldn't blow it by appearing right in front of you."
"Why the hell are you here?"
"Official business. Remember the guy you caught in the morning?"
"The one whose arrest you made me wipe, and got me in trouble with the chief? That one?"
"Sorry about that, but it was necessary. And thanks to that, I could trace his contacts in here."
Inoue> Veronica Juarez, aka Vibora, leader of a lizard gang. She might be involved in transoceanic smuggling of restricted goods.
> What kind of goods?
Inoue> That's what I'm trying to find out. I'm also here for other matters, but they don't concern you.
"Okay, got it. But why would you, of all people, take a plane and wear civilian clothing? Aren't you afraid of getting sniped or something?"
"I'm using an avatar, remember?"
Pearson shook his head. "I don't buy it."
"You want me to take off my shirt and prove it to you?"
Pearson grinned. "Indulge me."
"Follow my signal."
Pearson stopped smiling and raised his eyebrows. He just wanted to tease her, but was she really going to do it?
The lieutenant walked to the ladies room and sent a transmission to Pearson. When she came back, she stared at him. "Well? Satisfied?"
Pearson sighed and smiled at her. "I'd be lying if I said yes, but that's not what you're asking, is it?"
"Sorry for not being your personal sex toy."
"You're cruel, Inoue."
Harris cleared his throat loudly. "If you guys want I can go a hotel myself so you two can... yaknow, straighten things out..."
"No, it's fine," replied both at the same time.
"So, what about you?" she asked, crossing her arms. "What are you doing here?"
"Same thing as you," he replied, straightening his suit. "Official. Business." Before the lieutenant could reply, Pearson took out his badge from his pocket and showed it to her like a child would show off his new birthday present to the other kids. "Can you read this? It says Detective. I'm a detective now, Inoue! And I did it without your help."
The lieutenant's face changed from serious to worried. "You had to download quite a few concepts for that. Are you sure you're okay?"
Pearson tried his best not to appear annoyed as he put down his badge. "Please don't start..."
"I won't. Just... stay away from the slums. If you get lost in there you won't come back in one piece."
"Hey – I used to live here, remember? I know which places to avoid."
"This isn't the Hong Kong of six years ago, Pearson. Many things have changed, especially on the ground." She approached his ear and sent a VR request to him.
Pearson accepted. He was in his formal attire, and Inoue was wearing a yukata. She hugged him tightly, her soft breasts pressing against his chest, and closed her eyes. She whispered to his ear.
"Ki o tsukete." Her voice was trembling.
The transmission stopped, and the lieutenant walked past Pearson and towards the waiting areas.
"Damn it." Pearson walked to one of the benches. Inoue rarely presented herself without her stoic shell; but when she did, she meant it. And she made sure to look like the time when they were still together.
The tone of her voice told him two things: First, she was genuinely, seriously, worried about him. This mission might end up being much more dangerous than he had thought. And second... her feelings for him, they still were...
Pearson sat down, took an e-cig from his pocket and held it between his fingers. He took a long puff and sighed.
"Harris, do me a favor."
"She probably already knows, but... never tell her I had a heart attack, okay? I don't want her to worry even more about me."
"She just said something to you, didn't she?"
"You're damn right she did."
"She's right, Harris. This place is dangerous. Don't trust anyone." Pearson touched the handle of his gun and received the gun's status via dermal connection, without looking. Ten rounds, again. Why did he do that? He had already checked the gun a few moments earlier.
"Detective Pearson!" shouted a nearby male voice with a heavy British accent.
Pearson stood up. "Yes?"
A short man with an elegant suit and a perfectly combed long mustache approached. "Allow me to introduce myself." After making a barely noticeable reverence, he spoke again:
"Walter Huntington. Professional accountant, doctorate in Economics, and Lord Wakefield's personal secretary."
"Yeah, Lord Wakefield gave me your name. And your identity certificate… if you don't mind?"
"Oh, silly me. I hadn't had to identify myself in a long time, but you're right. Any swindler with a bit of research could impersonate me! Can you imagine if that happened?"
Pearson smirked. "That's why I asked. Who do you think I am, Nick Conklin?"
Harris snapped his fingers. "Black Rain, Ridley Scott, 1989 CE."
Pearson snapped back. "Exactly. Well?"
"Oh, yes, yes. Please, accept this token of identity. Number two five five three."
Pearson spoke to Harris. "He's good."
"Yup. Checked, too."
"And you must be..."
"Officeherm... detective Harris." Harris extended his hand towards Lord Huntington, who stared at his hand for a second. "Oh, forgive me, I happen to be germophobic. Please," he said nervously, as he put on his gloves, " my apologies."
"Thought you were using an avatar."
"Oh, that's right! I tend to forget at times. My apologies. Again."
"So, where's the limo?"
"Uh, you mean limousine? I'm afraid that would make us even more conspicuous as we are already." He spoke in lower tone. "This is the Ground, gentlemen, you really don't know who you can trust. For your stay I carefully chose a select hotel with reliable personnel. Great security, and no open spots for snipers. Please follow me, we'll take a cab."
He still did not shake hands with Harris.
>> Pearson, this guy a racist?
> Of course he is, he's a fucking wolf. Don't get fooled by his human avatar.
>> Anyway, I don't like him. Betcha million bucks he's swindling the hotel money or something.
> Relax, it can't be that bad.
The three men arrived to the cab station where a long line of tourists wearing pompous clothes waited to take their cabs before taking off to the skies.
Pearson gave a sip to his coke bottle. "Good thing it's cloudy, it's hot already as it is."
"Detective Pearson, I suggest we take the other line."
"Our cab is not a sky cab. The hotel is relatively nearby."
>> Told ya he was swindling the budget.
They left the line and arrived to the ground cabs line, which was conspicuously empty.
"Well, at least there's an android driving."
They got in the cab which began taking a route between unknown streets and alleys. Pearson noticed a few lizardpeople walking with gold chains around their necks, some with bright colorful tattoos burned on their scales.
"Wait – are those lizard gangstas?"
"Pay no attention to them, detective. They mind their own business, and so should we."
Both Pearson and Harris noticed one of the lizardmen making a sign to a prostitute who rolled her eyes before giving him a purple-colored pouch. Pearson and Harris looked at each other in disbelief.
"It won't take much long, detective. We're almost there."
A few blocks later, they arrived to a small hotel hidden between two huge apartment blocks.
"And, we're here. The personnel has already been instructed. Now, if you excuse me..."
Lord Huntington got back in the cab and left Pearson and Harris alone in front of the one-star hotel.
"Please tell me they got air conditioning, Harris."
"With this weather? They got to."
Pearson looked around. "Hey... where's the traffic lights?"
Harris looked at a dual-sided sign that was posted above them, announcing dentistry and similar services. He extended his hand to move the sign and saw a flat traffic light sandwitched between the boards. "Dude, seriously?"
"Oh fuck me. Come on, Harris, give me a hand, I have to tear down this sign."
Harris prepared his leg.
"There, okay... almost got it... aaalmost got it..."
The sign – along with the traffic light altogether – didn't resist Pearson's weight and broke, making him fall.
"Ah, shit! FUCKING SHIT!"
"PEARSON WATCH OUT!" Harris pulled Pearson to the sidewalk before a minibus going way over the speed limit almost rolled over them. The bus horn started playing La Cucaracha. A latino driver made an obscene sign at Pearson and reminded him of his mother, to say the least.
"Okay, fuck this!" shouted Pearson, kicking what was left of the traffic light. "How the hell are we supposed to cross the street every fucking time we want to move from and to the hotel!"
"So what do you suggest, Pearson?"
"I'm going to my old apartment. It's in Mexicantown. It's only got one bed, but there's a cheap hotel nearby. What do you say?
"Wait, aren't we supposed to be together? Like you know, partners?"
"It's across the street, Harris, don't worry. Any problem and I'll call you."
"Okay, tell you what - I pay half the hotel."
"Okay deal." They hammered fists. "But are you sure your place is clean? I mean, it's been how many years?"
"Six, but don't worry, I got an Octovac there."
"An octovac? Word?"
"Octovac 7000. Completely automated. 384 gigabytes of neuromorphic memory tuned specifically for housecleaning, with capacity to handle over 18 million edge cases; battery lasts ten years and knows to recharge itself and even call for maintenance in case of an emergency. And I didn't get the plugins, but in theory it's capable of doing the dishes. You'll see, when I get home, it will be as if I had never left. Was my last purchase before I left for the States."
A few minutes later
Pearson opened the door to his one-bedroom aparment and immediately began to cough. "What the…"
The Octovac was lying on a dust-covered floor, its hose tentacles lifeless. Pearson gave it a soft kick. It beeped and Pearson received a text broadcast.
[676-07-12 14:55:36.002] [ERROR] POWER CELL MALFUNCTION. PLUGGING TO EXTERNAL POWER.
[676-07-12 14:63:42.823] [ERROR] POWER SURGE DETECTED. DISCONNECTING EXTERNAL POWER.
[676-07-12 14:63:44.100] [WARNING] POWER CELL FAILURE IMMINENT.
[676-07-12 14:64:02.085] [WARNING] CORROSIVE GAS DETECTED. PLEASE EVACUATE AREA.
[676-07-12 14:64:14.229] [FATAL] MAIN CIRCUITS MALFUNCTION.
[676-07-12 14:64:14.820] [FATAL] MEMORY HASH CHECK FAILURE. REBOOTING IN SAFE MODE...
[000-00-00 00:00:00.000] [F!T!L] Uó!BLE T# C#óT!CT M!IóTEó!óCE PERS#óóEL. M!óU!L M!IóTEó!óCE REQUIRED.
"Oh for fuck's sake..."
Two hours later, Pearson had managed to get rid of most of the dust in his apartment. The garbage can outside was filled with bags full of dusty paper towels, an insecticide-reeking bag of cobwebs, and the remains of a broken Octovac 7000.