Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wayward Traveler - Prologue Part 1

I’ve been working a lot on my next supplement, Minor Races, but I’ve also had the idea of a fiction story bubbling in my head.  I wanted to finish my comic script first, Crimson Kiss, but this new story wouldn’t leave me alone.  So, below is the first part of the Prologue of what might grow into something novel-length (or not).  Part 2 of the Prologue is coming a little later.  In the meantime, I'd welcome any feedback you'd like to share.  :-)

Prologue - Part 1

Detective Crawley heard the faint warble of his datapad coming from deep within his coat pocket.  He stood beside a street vendor’s cart, buying a sandwich.  The vendor, a Tor from the Labyrinth Cities of the planet Rochan, shoved beef between two slices of bread.  The fact that the Tor were partially bovine, with the body of a man and the head of a bull (including horns and a brass ring through their noses), made the choice of beef a little unsettling to the detective.

Crawley reached into his pocket and pulled out the datapad.  The image of his lieutenant, a middle-aged woman with grey hair, winked open on the screen.

“Crawley!” the woman said.  “There’s a possible homicide at the Greenwood Towers on the West End.  I’m assigning the case to you.”

“West End?” the detective queried.  “That’s not my usual beat, Lieutenant.”

“Just do what you’re told, Crawley.” 

The display went blank, revealing Crawley’s reflection and the questioning look on his face.   He rolled his eyes and popped the pad back into this coat.  The vendor was handing him the sandwich.

“Are you going to pay this time?” the Tor asked in a deep, unsympathetic voice.

Detective Crawley grabbed the sandwich and looked at it skeptically.

“Not until you start paying your protection money,” he said.

“Why are Humans such assholes,” the vendor grunted.

“Beats me, cud-muncher.”

The detective turned on his heel and headed back to where his gravcar was parked further down the street.  “This was a nice part of town,” he thought, “before all the Xenos moved in.”  He took a bite out of his lunch, made a sour face, and threw it to the curb where a small service robot was sweeping garbage into an internal dustpan.  The bot, like a crab with mechanical appendages, considered the sandwich, decided it was waste, and tucked it inside.

Detective Crawley was a man in his late forties, wearing clothing of someone who hadn’t quite made his mark in the world.  His coat was a synthetic blend made by cheap labor somewhere off planet.  His shirt, tie, and pants had stains of varying sizes and textures; his shoes showed signs of over use.

The gravcar hovered silently next to the sidewalk.  The vehicle was oblong with a large windscreen covering most of the top section and an airfoil rising from the back.  The plastisteel body had a grey finish and the word Police etched across the front, just above the headlights.  Detective Crawley touched the side of the car.  The vehicle’s AI registered the man’s fingerprint and opened the top, allowing the detective to climb inside.  Crawley swiped away the fast food boxes from the seat and pressed himself comfortably into the leather upholstery.  He programmed his destination into the navigation computer and felt the gravcar lift off the ground.  The car pushed upward 500 meters until it reached the skyway, a line of vehicles in single-file, moving at an AI-controlled speed.  Crawley’s gravcar quickly matched velocity, merging in with the others.

The city of Regalis sprawled out below the traffic like a relaxing giant.  Regalis wasn’t the largest or even the most beautiful metropolis on the planet Aldorus, but it served as the seat of government and the home of the Emperor, which made it the center of the Imperium for most citizens.  Crawley’s beat was a section of the city called Ashtown where the poor lived in tightly packed slums and crime was a constant reminder that the Underclass was the lowest rung of society.  To the North of Ashtown, the skyscrapers of Middleton rose up like fingers of glass and plastisteel, paying tribute to the bourgeois that called that part of the city home.
The detective watched with detached interest as the gravcar flowed with the other vehicles down the skyway.  Traffic was dense heading toward Middleton, but the parade of cars was noticeably thinner where Crawley was going.  Leaving Ashetown behind, he headed west toward the Regalis River (nicknamed the Reggie).  Past the ribbon of water, the gleaming West End seemed to beckon, though the detective knew the aristocrats living there would be less than welcoming.

The Greenwood Towers were three columns of apartments, thirty stories high, with a main strut, containing the elevators, running up the center.  Walkways connected the hub with each level, providing a view of the surrounding grounds.  Detective Crawley landed his gravcar on a designated pad at the base of the structure.  Once the detective was safely off the pad, the slab of ground lowered the car into the unseen garage below where the parking AI would file the vehicle away like a book in a library.

Crawely walked up the main driveway, past a line of sycamore trees flanking a turquoise reflecting pool.  He became acutely aware that people were staring at him.  Residents, and even the staff, were dressed in clothes of fine fabrics and tasteful jewelry.  This contrasted badly with the detective’s own attire.  He cringed, but kept walking.  The logo for the towers, a golden trident, hung above the main entrance.  Crawley walked through the sliding glass doors only to find the reproachful look of the concierge.  The gatekeeper was a Dahl, an elf-like and somewhat effeminate race known for their intellect and general snobbery.  His pointed ears twitched ever so slightly as the interloper approached the front desk.

“Can I help you?” the concierge asked doubtfully.

“I’m Detective Crawley of the Regalis PD.”  He showed his badge.  “I’m told you have a possible homicide on the premises.”

“Well, don’t announce it to the whole world,” the Dahl said.  “We pride ourselves on being discreet.”

“Yeah, well I’ve got a job to do so if you don’t mind…”

“Indeed.  Please follow me.”