Apex Universe

Chronicles - Chapter 5


by Fernando Kornijezuk

The light of the setting sun touched his oak table, and Endrin began the daily ritual. He opened his drawer and checked the meticulously arranged items: the keys of his Mercedes SLK 9000, a block of paper as white as the clouds, a perfectly pointed pencil, and, finally, the item he was looking for, the automatic blinds remote. He pointed the remote at the large window that took up the entire eastern wall of his office on the 60th floor and pressed a button. Slowly, the brightness control canvas began its descent of four meters, rocked by a soft motorized sound.

The process lasted no more than 30 seconds, but Endrin felt a strange pleasure in observing the blinds stripping the city. Impassive, the sharp blue eyes first pierced a few kilometers of the Conglomerate. Immaculate streets and bright buildings were lit with the power of the steam power plant that HallstatReborn kept in the center of the city. Walking among the buildings, people moved chaotically. In a way, the lack of pattern in the hurried walk of the passersby nauseated Endrin. ‘Ants,’ he used to think, letting himself be carried away by the most outlandish ideas on how to make people walk at the same speed and in the same direction.

There, lost in thought, Endrin seldom saw something that surprised him. From time to time he saw some of the Corporation’s patrols. To his relief, the soldiers moved more orderly than did the rest of the population, but nothing compared to the gracefulness of the Drones, which blindly followed their programming. Seeking to complete their tasks, they crossed the city in a dance so sumptuous, only something nonhuman could perform it. Still, even they began to annoy his deep, indigo blue eyes. Boredom was the disease of the newly rich. However, now and then something extraordinary took Endrin out of his apathy, and today was one of those days.

The businessman first sighted the two long metal legs through the buildings. Almost involuntarily, he pressed the button that controlled the blinds, interrupting their movement. Endrin arose from his chair and headed for the window. Like a child in a zoo, he pressed his thin face against the cold glass. From his vantage point, he could admire the full 30 meters of beauty of his invention. The huge metal cube bore a gigantic spotlight right in the middle of its structure, which gave it a mythic air. The black steam-driven powerhouse made of steel was the Cyclops of the new era. Its perfectly mounted weapons left no doubt as to its destructive power. Even Endrin found it hard to believe that this monster was only a copy of the army he himself had helped build for the Corporations. Those extraordinary machines were his legacy in the new world. They were monsters he'd lovingly named Vigilantes.

The businessman delighted in watching the machine move towards the wall. The wall. Yes, it was always the last place on which he settled his eyes before the daily ritual ended. A gigantic construction surrounding the entire Conglomerate, establishing not only the city limits, but also the division between who was important and who was not. In a time of scarce resources, Endrin knew the Corporations could not tolerate unnecessary expenditures on people who had no role in the machine. Loose pulleys, as they liked to put it, had to be eliminated. The button was pressed again and the blinds resumed their descent.

The sensors in his office regulated the light inside to provide the right amount of brightness, one that made the businessman more comfortable while carrying out his daily tasks. Orders from his customers, other Corporations scattered around the world, demanded that the production of new Vigilantes follow the schedule, avoiding delays. It was his job to take care that HallstatReborn remained a benchmark for the production and delivery of military items to what remained of Planet Earth. And though the marginalized mattered little to Endrin, their existence was very good for business. Corporations had to protect their assets, their energy sources, their resources, and their way of life. Fear was the best selling point.

Some more recent news had caught his eye. Before, the rebellions that arose beyond the walls were merely the uncontrolled spasms of a crowd displeased with the harsh reality of its complete and utter uselessness. Good for business. However, lately something had changed. The latest reports from the UNITY spies and information gathered from the Patrol guards showed a small set of actions with the clear purpose of stealing resources by using an effective guerrilla strategy and running away with smuggled items on fast trucks. Better yet for business. Still, it had to be coolly analyzed.

The businessman was already turning on his heels to return to his desk when, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure sitting cross-legged in the comfortable leather armchair in the living room on the other side of his office. The hoarse, gravelly voice immediately reached his ears. His fists clenched. Special Agent Simon Juarez.

- I like your office, Mr. Nightgate…

Nimble as a laboring turtle, Juarez lifted all his excess weight and headed towards a glass tray where Endrin kept drinks for special guests, which was clearly not the case with Juarez.

- ...I like it because if the drink spills on the floor...

He poured himself a twenty-four-year-old whiskey, probably half his age, took a big sip, and slowly poured the rest on the floor, looking straight into the businessman's eyes.

"...I can still lick this wonderful whiskey off the floor without worrying about any dirt. Because you like things clean, do you not, Mr. Nightgate? No dirt...

Endrin hadn’t moved. His neck and head swiveled enough for him to watch this little performance act out of the corner of his eye. His mind worked a thousand miles an hour. How could this damn law enforcement agent always get through his staff and enter his office unannounced? The first thing to do was to send yet another assistant to the other side of the wall, and probably some security guards. No, not some. All of them.

- ... no... dirt. To tell you the truth, you like things so organized, so neat, so clean, I honestly don’t know how you fuck... Oh! Sorry! Do you fuck?

Juarez was not there to chat and Endrin was not willing to listen. The words of agent Simon Juarez were no more than noise, like the sound of a television in a room with no one to watch it. Endrin knew exactly why he was there. That was what made him briefly tolerate the presence of that scum.

"...On second thought, I don’t give a damn what you do with your dick. What I really want to know, Mr. Nightgate… no. It's not what I want to know. You don’t care what I want to know. What my bosses want to know is why a person as clean as you, who must like taking a hot bath in the winter and using the air conditioning in the summer, tolerate… yes, TOLERATE… the fact that HallstatReborn has its precious resources STOLEN and that dirt is scattered throughout the city, the streets, the people, and, above all, scattered over your name?

The last word was joined by a pointed finger in the businessman's direction, though the entire sentence was uttered as if the fat man were a preacher at a Church. Endrin had never cared for the Church. No one paid attention to the priests' sermons. He did not believe in prayers.

- …Truckers? It would be a great joke if it weren’t true.

It was true that in recent months the attacks on the Conglomerate’s warehouses had intensified. What at first glance seemed to be a stroke of luck for some thieves turned out to be part of a much more elaborate plan. The attacks were rarely random, and, besides being fast, the thieves had surgical precision. Endrin knew to appreciate this. Finally, an opponent worthy of his time had arisen from beyond the wall. Finally, something had come up to take him out of his boredom.

As the agent exuded his concern about the resources, the real question suddenly crossed Endrin's mind. How did those trucks move if there was no energy beyond the walls? That was the right question. As special agent Simon Juarez finished his monologue, Endrin focused on the virtual chessboard that suddenly popped into his mind.

- …I like quiet people like you, Mr. Nightgate. It’s less trouble for me. I'll be home in time to see UrbanBrawl on television. But the next time I come back, we might have to test my theory on the floor of your office. And it won’t be whiskey I'll spill next time.

The agent walked out the front door of the businessman’s office, but nothing else mattered to Endrin. He understood what he had to do. The white pawns had made the first move. Now it was the black pieces’ turn.

© 2018 by Old Pirate Studio