I require multiple events of extreme esotericism to crop up before I will allow myself the pleasure of labeling a given day as being 'Weird'.
Getting shot at does a great deal to make a day feel normal; having a day with absolutely no weapons discharge at all leans more towards weirdness. The weather must be either far more exotic and varied than usual, or must hold to a single, overbearing consistency throughout the day. I must entertain a new client who must be quite strange individually and make an absolutely outrageous request of me, something truly beyond the norm, sacrilegious, wildly taboo. There must either be multiple instances of truly hair-raising chaos throughout the day, or none at all...peacefulness being a state of living that I am simply not used to. Lastly, or at least last of my few official measurements of oddity, there must be a discovery of something well and truly new, a surprise that changes the rules of my world.
Days have come with a number of these strange events, but it's a rare day that plays host to them all and then some. Yet, oddly enough, today was shaping up to be one of those much-anticipated unsettling occasions.
The day began with odd weather; my home in the city of Gearont is placed precariously close to the drop off of the canyon over and through which the super-city stretches. Home and workshop are set into the canyon wall, obscured from and excluded by the city's growing sprawl, with one corner facing straight out into open air and the miles-long drop into Vortices glowering mantle. Consequently, this puts me out of the awareness and reach of most people, and positions me to witness the truly terrifying variety of weather which cavorts across the city. A dawn chorus of magnetic winds carrying micro tornados of metal filings and flakes led morning rains of cryogenic slurry, acidic paste, and (weirdly) highly concentrated water, followed within an hour by radiant blue chemical snow. My building's shielding was respectably tested.
It was nearing noon (with temperatures spontaneously rising and falling up to fifty degrees, depending on cloud cover), and my proximity sensors had detected no violence since before sun-up. No shots fired, no tremors of hand to hand combat, no gangs or law enforcement working out differences...things were calm, without the dangerous, familiar stillness of impending disaster. Just as Gearont's inhabitants had maintained an unusual calm, there had been no random acts of strangeness to interrupt this peaceful day; no winged predators or raiders howling out of the sky, no sunspots whipping across the planet to shake Gearont's shields, not even an earthquake. Quite odd.
Unusually diverse weather, and a general absence of violence and chaos...that is quite the foundation for a weird day, but not quite weird enough to qualify on its own.
As midday approached, my proximity sensors spoke up and whispered of a potential intruder making his way down the winding path to my shop. A determined hopeful with only cursory arms about his person, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept the shop's defenses passive as he approached...though I had the foresight to warm up my personal defenses by the time he knocked on the door. A mental command opened the door for him, revealing him to be a Torjian youth of no more than 16 years; a scan of his Scarab unit told me that he was actually 17, employed as a chemist's apprentice, of minimal but stable financial status, and without any recorded criminal offenses (that being quite odd for any Gearont youth). His name was Anrogth, no listed surname.
Odd or not, I welcomed him in my fashion. "Greetings, sir. If you're here for my head, I advise that you leave; otherwise, please come in and help yourself to a chair."
"Umm...t-thanks," he muttered. He fidgeted in my doorway, wringing his hands, eyes swiveling over the offered chair before flickering around the rest of my shop. Curious, naturally; an Augmenter's workshop is equal parts wonderland and horror show, and mine is a particularly diverse blend of oddities. Mechanical body parts hang from the ceiling and are stacked on shelves, everything from arms to eyes to ovaries; blueprints and sketches plaster the walls alongside cutouts from technical manuals and professional reviews; chemical microbreweries bubble and hiss while homemade glassware and piping run concoctions through filters and diffusers. Electricity snaps from generators and conductors, tools of all kinds are stashed and sorted everywhere, and holographic models of living beings float and rotate in various states of virtual dissection.
And that's just the first floor.
"So," I said as the youth sat down, resting myself against a counter. "What brings you to my secluded abode? You aren't here to kill me, so I assume that there is some work you fancy having done?"
"No! Well, yeah, but...not work on me...it's kinda complicated..." His voice trailed off and his head dropped a bit, staring at his hands as he clenched and unclenched his fists. This was most unusual; Torjians, by and large, are a remarkably calm race, prone to carefully worded speech and thoughtful awareness. Their mental stability has given rise to the somewhat crass phrase, 'Bad enough to stress a Torjian'. Clearly, this young man had found something capable of doing so. Interest sufficiently piqued, I pursued.
"I have all the time in the world, young man...you, meanwhile, will likely die of old age if you do not elaborate within the next century. By that time, I suspect that whatever has flummoxed you will be irrelevant...so unless you have a planet-shattering love for wasting time, might I suggest that you speak up?"
"I need your help," Anrogth blurted out, standing up straight and starting to pace around furtively enough to make me consider the application of a light sedative. "Nobody I know is willing to go against him, and I don't understand the rules of engagement, and he's just so goddamn smug, and I love her so much and..." I let this rambling jumble of nonsensicalness go on until he ran out of breath; from what I could decipher, he needed my assistance in an affair of the heart. A rival had laid claim to a female he fancied and planned to publicly humiliate her simply to spite my young client; Gearont's nobility are not all bad, but they certainly have their precious gems of vileness and stupidity.
"If I understand you," I said once he'd started panting, "You wish to take this woman back for yourself?"
"Against the wishes of a young noble, of higher standing, greater means, and vaster wealth?"
"And the female in question approves of this? She would prefer to be by your side, in marriage?"
"And you wish to rejoin her openly? Through successful contest with the young noble?"
"How else could I get her back?"
"Assassination, kidnapping, brainwashing, revolution, or cloning, to name a few options." One of the subtle joys of my work is watching people's eyes grow wider the longer I continue to speak.
"Uh...no, I think I'd rather just take her back this way."
"Very well. Come see me tomorrow at dawn. Bring five ounces of ferro-carbon or pure silicone and a neural-drive interface with which you are comfortable; if it is not already personalized to your brainwaves and DNA, I will tune it once you arrive. Do not speak of this meeting with anyone or I will personally ensure that your paramour is brainwashed to worship your rival as a god. And be careful out there," I said with a pleasant smile. "The weather's been rather spirited."
Anrogth left on rubber legs; I monitored him via the sensors outside my shop to ensure that he did not fall to his death along the catwalks. Once he was clear and gone from the shop, I let myself out, locked up, hung a sign on the door apologizing for my absence, and began the long journey from my hovel to one of Gearont's spiritual districts. The city has grown and expanded viciously over the years, a slave to any progress that can be made, and as such, new developments generally find themselves being moved and clustered together in like-minded districts as the city grows past them. There are always outliers, of course, institutions which steadfastly refuse to join their peers in their self-made districts; likewise, there are organizations whose nature prevents them from working in close proximity to each other (Augmenters fall into the latter group). Religions seem to grow off of the differences between each other, and so typically crop up in each other jurisdictions.
I know of seventeen designated spiritual districts in Gearont, and there are innumerable temples and cloisters and cultish conclaves scattered like sand across the city's sprawl. My destination played host to several dozen small but deeply zealous sects; Vortices' wonders and unique oddities are the source of much debate between scientists and priests, and equally wild theories from both parties have inspired millions of esoteric religions and schools. Small, exuberant sects are everywhere, each with their own steadfast belief in the sanctity of some oddity or other; should ones interests align with theirs, they can be useful temporary allies. The particular sect I sought represented a particularly old and strange belief system, but one that would make for a most entertaining job.
After 13 hours travel, mostly on Gearont's rail cars, part of it on the wing, I arrived at the doorstep of a small, plain monastery bearing a simple sigil upon its door. An armor-plated heart pierced by an arrow, the heart and arrow each bound by a golden ring linked together with iron chain links; the symbol of the Sisterhood of the Guarded Romance. Behind this door, a small order of nuns practice a religion devoted to the sanctity and protection of wholesome love, especially among youths, and particularly of legally binding love. The 'protection' part of this faith comes in the form of nigh-peerless combat skills honed day and night by the sisters within.
I knocked and, after first making my proper respects, requested that the sisters look into the matter laid before me. As should be expected, I did not need to twist their arms to make them agree to align with this endeavor, particularly after I donated a handful of vouchers discounting combative augmentations. I left them to prepare and select their emissaries; the day was still young and I had much to prepare.
Anrogth returned the next day half an hour before sunrise, all nerves. He had a hundred questions, all of which, coincidentally, had exactly the same answer.
"Wait and see, young Torjian," I answered for the 101st time, putting the finishing touches on the mask I had fashioned from the silicone he'd brought. The Sisterhood's chosen representatives had arrived even earlier than Anrogth had; one short and sinuous with duel serpentine trunks, the other tall, broad, and quad-armed, both carrying their weapons of choice, both warming up the combat augmentations which turned them from skilled fighters into pugnacious dervishes. Anrogth had been suitably surprised to see them and far more surprised at their excellent manners, and was very curious why I refused to show him what required a very, very large sheet to conceal in my workshop's lower levels. I made it clear that he could not know for the sake of success while hustling him and the nuns out the door just as the sun peeked over the horizon.
A taxi drove we four towards the Noble District, the nuns cloaked to conceal their arms and armor, I in my mask, and Anrogth in a fog of doubt and worry. I used the time to explain what he needed to know, downloading relevant data to his Scarab unit and elaborating only with what information was necessary. The nature of my plan relied upon a healthy amount of ignorance on the young man's part, and while this would likely bring some measure of scrutiny upon me, I trusted in the rules of the contest and my natural discretion to keep me out of trouble.
It took three hours to get to the Noble District, arriving at the doorstep of my client's rival. Whatever their good deeds or will, never let it be said that the noble families of Gearont are subtle. Millions of pounds of precious metals and valued materials went into the building of their opulent towers and dens, the entire district visible from orbit like a small country made up of glittering gems; not far from the truth.
I cannot judge them. Every class and caste and brotherhood has its status symbols here, and Augmenters are no exception; the work I have rendered upon my own body is no less a testament of my skills and values than the platinum webs spun between the nobles' diamond trees.
Another day, I would take the time to appreciate the structure and design of this exclusive zone; today, I have far more interesting matters to attend to.
Anrogth made us known to the tower's inhabitants and announced his intent, throwing down the very specifically worded challenge that I had prepared for. The rules and edicts governing the nobles forced his rival to descend to face him, and either accept the offered challenge or forfeit the woman, as well as 75% of his wealth. As should be expected, he accepted and promptly ordered us to the district's arena, where he set a time for high noon; long enough to prepare for the archaic duel Anrogth had instigated.
"Can you please tell me now? Just what the hell is going on?!?" the youth hissed at me as our taxi ferried us off towards the arena.
"It is a very simple matter," I explained. "For centuries, the noble houses have looked for civil means of resolving their conflicts...they fight over bloodlines, land rights, anything involving money or treasure, and their own strange set of manners and protocols. Duels between offended parties were seen as too low-brow and classless, so they resorted to other, more refined forms of settlement. Fighting via proxy was always a popular choice...it is, in fact, where the current Masters first began. However, simply pitting two warriors against each other was considered almost as tasteless as just fighting amongst themselves, so more supposedly-noble conditions had to be instated. Hence the novelty of Nun Fighting."
The boy blinked. The nuns glanced at me with looks suggesting that they were unaware of this information; I carefully suggested that they inquire about the matter after the battle. They politely suggested that I be silent until they had moved to the arena floor.
Once we arrived, the sisters parted from us to make their final preparations, while Anrogth and I moved to one of the insultingly-titled Owner's boxes hanging over the arena. It was critical that the boy lead and I follow, as I had taken the roll of his second. I had stressed to him the importance of his acting abilities; the nobles judged appearances the way that I judged mechanics, and would descend like nuclear tornados if they thought that I was actually pulling the boy's strings. To his credit, Anrogth held himself well, leading us into the box and sitting in the Contender's throne with only a faint shake in his hands and knees.
"Breathe," I murmured from my seat beside him, staring intently out from behind my mask. "Your enemy will not triumph; he has no experience in this area of contest and will only be able to pick representatives based on their appearance."
"How do you know?" the boy asked worriedly. "He might be prepared for this!"
"There has not been a combat nun in this arena for more than one hundred years," I said with a quiet chuckle. "Before your rival was even born. I doubt that he had even heard of this challenge before we brought it to him."
"I'd never heard of it! How the hell did you know about it?"
"Because madness trumps sanity," I said with a cryptic wink. "Now hush. I'm about to be proven right."
Indeed I was. Beneath us, the floor of the arena folded away like a massive arrangement of metal origami, allowing a 20' by 20' cage to slowly lift up, anti-gravity repulsers at its corners holding it steady above the open floor. Our two nuns were already inside, as were their competitors, and as I'd suspected, Anrogth's rival had been foolish in his choice. The nuns he had chosen came from an order dedicated to the purity and cleansing fury of violence; they fought simply to fight, with no deeper motivation or cause. Our nuns fought to protect Anrogth's interests, with more at stake if they lost and more to gain if they won. Consequently, they had greater motivation, and in a fight of almost equal skill, that motivation would decide the victor.
At the stroke of high noon, the battle horns blared and the cage came to life, pitching and yawing and spinning as the women within unleashed the fury of their faith. Blades hissed and snapped through the air like adrenaline-fueled cobras, fists and elbows traded crunching impacts with knees and feet, and passing injuries were opened by the dozen. I had upgraded myself sufficiently to follow what happened, glowing digital eyes watching each move in superhuman detail; I felt remorse for the boy beside me, as he could only perceive the shaking, bloody blurs of the four holy cats scratching each other to pieces. I'd rarely ever seen such a concentration of skill, ability, and unwavering purpose.
Such fury cannot last. Within thirty seconds the fight was over, longer than I'd thought it would take. As I had predicted, the sisters of the Guarded Romance stood triumphant over the bloody, groaning bodies of their opponents, the sisters of violence too incapacitated to do much more than cough for breath and hold in their various organs. In the box opposite ours I saw my client's rival and his second both incandescent with rage, and a young woman who, judging by the joy on her face and the way that Anrogth stared, represented the endgame of this little dispute, and my client's soon-to-be fiancé. The boy was about to stand up and do something understandably foolish when I grabbed his arm and forced him to sit.
"We're not quite finished," I explained, nodding over to the opposite box where our competitors were speaking. "They have lost, and now have a chance to save face."
"Counter-challenge," I said easily. "Your rival now can offer any form of contest he likes and you are required to accept, on pain of death." I feared that the color draining from his face would form a puddle around his feet. "Don't worry. I've prepared."
"How?!? I know what he's going to choose and there's no way I can win!"
"Most astute of you," I said with a smile behind my mask. "You can't."
It was at this point that the boy's rival spoke up, calling to him across the box's intercom to issue his challenge. With my support, Anrogth replied that he would go to the arena's hanger to prepare at once. The challenge was a classic: man to man in mounted combat, each fighter taking to the ring upon a trustworthy steed to settle their honor with blood. Anrogth, having no experience riding anything larger than a hoverboard or fighting anything larger than a mine-rat, was expected to die in a microsecond.
I had other plans.
I understand that power comes in many forms, and that possessing true power comes from controlling multiple variations of it. I have physical power in spades, technical power even more so, but where real power begins to show itself is in the control of knowledge. Information is the immaterial, ethereal form of power, and I possess great quantities of it. Knowledge of a young, crude noble's particular taste for mounted duels, for instance, and of old forms of contest and psychotic nuns.
Knowledge like how to teleport one of my more dangerous creations from workshop to arena hanger when the right moment comes for it. Knowledge like how to make an engine of destruction which also allows for specific discretion.
The two youths entered the arena on foot, while I and my opposite second escorted their mounts to them so that it could be seen that they were entering them and interfacing with their equipment, their DNA and brainwaves recorded to ensure that it was only they who were fighting.
My client's opponent drove a well-armed jetbike, an impressive, flashy piece of machinery dressed in the expected baubles and glitter of aristocracy. I had prepared something a touch more taciturn: my Death Sphere. I am certain that you can imagine the immediate and untenable panic which spread through our opponents at the sight. A 12' wide sphere of dull armored metal capable of extending a plethora of deadly armaments from any point on its surface does tend to liven up a party, or quiet down a warzone. It was too late for the noble to back down; I suppose that he believed his skill would save him as he mounted up. To his credit, the jetbike made for a thrilling sight as it zipped around the sphere, gilded weapons trying and failing to penetrate its hull and get at my client, who sat safely in its middle, unseen to all outside it. From the stands, I had an excellent view of the sphere warming up, test-extending weapons, rolling smoothly around as its pilot got the hang of controlling it before turning its fury upon the young noble and his screaming peacock.
His corpse made an absolutely flawless arc as it sailed from the exploding wreckage. At least nine points, perhaps even nine and a half...minus at least one point for a very splashy landing.
There is little more to tell after that. My client was united with his love, the nuns were patched up and flush with victory, and the thoroughly-entertained taxi driver was good enough to drop the kids off on his way to bring the nuns home. The sisters were quite impressed with my charity and talent; I had hotwired Anrogth's neural-drive interface during the ride to the Noble District so that it would record anything the Sphere did as his own actions. Safely in the stands above, it had been a simple affair for me to control it via the hotwire link. The youth's brainwaves had given off appropriate levels of stress, fear, and excitement as I drove him around and smeared his rival for him, lending authenticity to the fight's record, and in return, I had asked only to keep the mask I'd made; a silicone memento of a job well done.
The sisters were generous enough to invite me inside their abby for what they claimed was a traditional celebration of passionate romance; I politely declined. Curious as I am to know what a nun wears beneath her habit (or power armor, as the case may be), I had been away from the shop all day, and was sure that I'd missed some new business in the process.
I am, you see, an Augmenter. If I do not live for my work, then I certainly would not be living at all.