The Skin of the Earth – The Everseer

Chapter 6

The door opened to a grated catwalk, revealing another section of the Junction just as large as the makeshift skate park but a storey or so sunken. The catwalk ran down the middle of the room, ending — much like the rails Daniel had seen when they first arrived — abruptly, with scaffolding holding the pathway-to-nothing in place. To the detectives’ left, a spindly staircase was bolted to the wall. Sundown held the railing as she made her way down.

The staircase disappeared into grey mud. The walls of this section seemed raw, as though their flesh had been torn off; in truth, this room felt more like a sub-basement that had never been meant to see the light of day. The air was moist and damp with tendrils of black moss reaching out across sections of the coarse bricks. The corners were bathed in shadow, in stark contrast to the pool of sunlight that streamed into the middle of the room from a gaping wound in the roof overhead. This is where they found the Everseer.

Lanky, with a mop of fluorescent blue and green hair — as foretold by Diggs — and dressed all in black, the kid stood in the centre of the sunlight making strange gestures in the air with his hands. His eyes were open, but even as he turned towards the approaching detectives he didn’t seem to notice them. 

“Is he conjuring?” Daniel wondered aloud as he came to a stop beside Sundown just at the perimeter of the shadows.

Sundown was smiling in amusement, if not admiration. “No, he’s . . . cyberstetic. His senses are plugged into the data streams. Stay here.” She approached almost reverently as the young man turned this way and that, waving away at information no one else could see.

As Sundown neared, he spun around to greet her. “Detective . . .” his mismatched eyes — one green, one pink — shifted to a spot just beside Sundown’s head, reading, “ . . . Sundown, Level 7.” He tilted his head suddenly. “I like the way your profile smells,” he said. “Rosehip and hibiscus.”

“How would you know what those smell like?” Sundown’s smile was the softest Daniel had seen of her.

The kid’s eyes scanned back and forth as he spoke, “Royal Botanical Society. They archived everything …” one hand was working at an invisible keypad, “right down to the molecule.” His attention drifted for a second, then came back, fully focused on Sundown. “They still exist you know, in the protected lands.” 

“I think I get why they call you the Everseer,” Sundown remarked.

“Yeah,” he laughed a little, looking away. Something in the dataspace caught his attention and his head turned quickly to one side. He took a step over, as if approaching a terminal, his fingers fluttering over consoles and commands that were not there. 

“Farin,” Sundown said, attempting to get his attention again as she took another step closer. “I need your help.”

“Coppas, coppas, coppas,” he sang, swiping and flicking at the air.

“Farin,” Sundown said a little louder. “I was told that you could help me. That you work for Jerrica.”

With his profile to her, the Everseer started typing away again, occasionally looking up to a screen only he could see. “I don’t work for anyone.”

“Then what can you tell me about what happened on the metro this morning?”

Farin’s fingers stopped moving. Daniel could see the flex of a muscle in his neck. Sundown used this as her opening, moving even closer.

“Six bodies piled up on the tracks, Farin. Crispy. I need to know why — I need to know that this isn’t the beginning of something bigger.”

The kid was shaking his head. “Delete. Delete. Delete.”

“No such command,” Sundown replied. “Come on, Everseer. Help me out.”

Farin turned to her, eyes wide. “Jerrica’s got sharp eyes, you know, sharper ears … sharper other things.” His attention drifted off again, focusing on a point beyond Sundown, expression growing paler. “You know.”

“I thought you didn’t work for Jerrica,” Daniel said absently. Sundown looked at him, cursing him with her eyes.

“You’re such a four-oh-four,” Farin scoffed, green and pink eyes fixed on Daniel for just a moment. He turned back to his typing. “And your data smells like shit.”

Sundown smirked at that. She eyed Daniel again and her message was clear, keep your mouth shut.

The kid continued to type at his phantom keyboard, looking up, swiping away at the air. “I shouldn’t even be talking to coppas,” he grumbled after a moment, looking at something in the dataspace. “But the Junction’s made of iron. Protects me from bad mojo, you know.”

For a few breaths, the only sound between the three of them came from the skateboards rolling around on the cement in the next section over. Sundown walked over to Farin and set her evidence bag down at his feet. The Everseer jumped back, suddenly aware and surprised by her proximity.

Sundown nodded to the bag. “Can you atleast get a message to him?”

“I can get a message to anyone,” Farin said, prodding the bag with the toe of his studded boot.

“Open it,” Sundown instructed.

Hesitantly, the kid ducked down, peeling back the bag in a flash. He smiled widely as the silver and blue of the cans caught the sunlight. “Fer mich?”

“Dich,” Sundown confirmed. “A whole case, minus one can.”

“Genny,” he exclaimed, grabbing a can of the one-zero-one and holding it in both his hands.

“You’ll do it then?” Sundown asked. “I need a meet set up, t minus one.”

“Yeah, t minus one,” Farin said, gazing at the silver can in his hands.

Apparently satisfied with that, she turned to leave. The Everseer stood.

“Wait.” He set his drink down and rifled through the pockets of his pants and vest. After a few false starts, he held his hand out, an offering to Sundown. “Take this. It will keep you safe.”

Sundown plucked the item from the kid’s hand. In the glare of the sunlight, Daniel couldn’t make out what it was, however. He decided to stay put, waiting for his partner to return to him.

Sundown grinned smugly as she walked back to the shadows where David stood. Her fingers played at the chain of her badge, affixing Farin’s trinket. When she was done, a tiny femur, with markings and copper wiring wrapped around one end, hung beside the golden city crest. 

Daniel tried not to let his lip curl. “Is that a mouse bone?”

“Rat, I think.” She marched back through the grey mud and up the shaky staircase.

Daniel followed after her. “Just so I am on the same page as you, partner. We’ve just given illicit materials to two underage persons and now you’re going to have a sit-down with this Jerrica?”

“Yep. It’s called police work.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, feeling momentarily free to display his frustration as Sundown’s back was to him. “And you’re not … ethically troubled with either of these things?”

Sundown shrugged as they re-entered the skate park. “One-zero-one’s plant juice and I’m not going to waste my time jamming up every lowlife of Jerrica’s I can find just to get the heads up on a gang war. I need to be in front of it.”

We need to be in front of it,” Daniel reminded her.

She looked over at him but didn’t say anything.

“And what did he mean by four-oh-four?”

Sundown let out a short laugh as she began to cross the skate circuit.

Daniel opened his mouth, ready to politely demand an answer, but before he could, the ground under his feet rose up and then slammed back down again. A skateboarder careened into him and he landed hard on the concrete, with the youth on top. A few paces away, Sundown stood with her hands out and knees bent as the entire building began to rattle.

Is this an earth-quake? Daniel wondered, as the improvised bleachers around the outside of the room began to shake and fall apart.

“Get up!” Sundown shouted. She didn’t bother looking back and began sprinting towards the lobby of the Junction.

Daniel helped the boy on top of him get up, then pulled himself to his feet, trying to find a rhythm to the shuddering ground. A piercing screech, like metal rending, tore through the air and his eardrums. He covered his ears as he made his way to his partner, falling once and having to dodge a collapsing ramp as he fought against the quaking building.

Sundown was braced against the threshold of the doorway to the lobby, looking out. Daniel put his hand out onto the wall as he made it over to her. Another screech shot through the air, only this time it was clear to him that the sound was coming from the entranceway of the Junction.

“What is it?” he yelled over the roar of the building.

Sundown unholstered her gun. “Not good.”

 

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