WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?


CHAPTER 10

THE MARKETPLACE, after hours. A bad part of town. The street-corner booth stinks of urine, vomit, every kind of excreted substance, even with the door jammed open. The mouth of the Data Dandy coughs and spits as I slip my card on its stuck-out tongue, but the credit pops up smiling. Miguel has kept his promise.

--Hi there, Mister Webb. This service is brought to you courtesy of the Most Distinguished Company of Unlicensed Recreational Drug Purveyors.

I feed it the blood sample taken from the leopard, ask it to isolate any foreign bodies. The dandy goes all coy on me. I try a little decoder juice, get myself in just one level deeper. A Zeno Corp security wall, a message telling me all about the strict intellectual property rights of the Morpheus formula.

--Hmm, nasty.

I ask it if there's a way through.

--You wish.

Over the way, a pack of bone-thin teenage phantazeens are watching me. The refugees are getting everywhere these days. Turning away from their stares, I hit the search button. The machine frowns at me. I have to keep feeding it more and more credit, until finally, the screen comes to life.

CORE CITY EXPOSURE: 50 mm Nikon jewel-precision image of Lujo Townhall, surrounded by a majestic ruin of stone walls, towers and churches… the lens creating a halo effect… targeting… a young, pimply Elvis, sitting on the Townhall steps, picking at his acoustic guitar…

GATEHOUSE GRAB: Slow CCTV scans of the crooked little streets which connect the old Townhall to its suburban docking stations… images sampled at five-second intervals… targeting… another Elvis, this time Las Vegas period… dabbing at his sweaty face with a scarf as he wanders amongst the tourists…

PARKLAND PROBE: Starting from within the suburbs, the speedcams transmit a succession of images which persist into the outlying strips of parkland… columns of neatly attired people carrying placards… demanding the city be kept clean of refugees… Zeenies go home! Zeenies go home!… targeting… Hawaiian Elvis, his mouth full of slogans…

HIGHWAY ZOOM: An ecstatic compressed camera ride down one of the busy two-tiered highways which arc over the desert surrounding the parkland… calibration of the tangled graffiti on bridges and flyovers… passing by, a crude effigy of the Princess… targeting… a cloud of flies… Dead Elvis, lying in a ditch by the roadside…

SHANTYTOWN CRAWL: Wheelchair dollies through the tents and shacks which grip the support structures of the highway… infra-red vision… bodycon clubs, sex shows, gay bars… targeting… Rock 'n' Roll Elvis, hiding in an alleyway…

MARKETPLACE SHOT: Extreme CCTV close-up of the singer's clean-cut face, contorted… digital dropout… flashes of static…

--Happy now, Mister Webb?

The screen freezes on this last, iconic image. I take out the single strand of green silk, place it on the dandy's tongue. Again, I get the Zeno wall.

--Really now, you are keen.

And when I run the search this time, just one shot comes back at me.

BORDELLO SCAN: Revolving mirrorballcam sweeping the tables at the edge of a dance floor… buckets of ice and champagne, coats and jackets draped over chairs, the orchestra on the bandstand… and then people in a circle, standing around some terrible event… sickness, flickering lights, the barrel of a gun… targeting…

--Zeno motherfuckers!

What is it?

--Veiling device activated.

Shit. I work the zoom control, hard.

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WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?