It poured. Lightning flashed opening the darkness that hid the huge sky scrapers and the spaces between them. Metallic bats rose into the air, startled by the sudden light, their chatter breaking the night’s silence. They settled as rapidly as they had risen. The magnetic ripples from the Android Control Center forcing them back into the Old Nairobi City.
The new Nairobi Metropolitan City shone like polished gold; it looked like day on the streets below, lights were usually brighter than the sun rays at that level. Operations were as normal as normal could be. The offices remained open under the 24 hour working regulations. Thousands working the grave yard shift bent over holographic inter-linked computers, clicking and browsing. The stock exchange centers remained open, flights and trains ran as scheduled and the only banned activity at night was drinking after midnight. Billboards shone, advertising the latest droids, the latest drink and praising the new leaders that saved the world from extinction and financial ruin.
The wetness kept the pedestrians off the streets but the hovering bus scooters flew over the streets at designated times, picking and dropping people as per schedule. Malls were filled up by day workers that wanted to take something home. Most malls offered special discounts to attract buyers at night.
The old Nairobi was depilated and deserted except for the street gangs and mutated street folk that lived there. Occasionally a neglected robot or droid roamed the streets but not for long. The gangs would descend on them like vultures on a carcass and tear it apart for the spares they could sell. There were records of mutants that ate other droids and humanoids. Some said the records were fabricated, others swore by them and no one knew for sure what the truth was.
The Old City was wet, the air foggy and dirty with the old toxics unpurified, there were no artificial air purifiers there, and most that dwelt there had some form of post-bionic contamination. There were areas that were so foggy, there was zero visibility. The survivors who first ran from the human genetic modification hid there when it became mandatory. The toxics from the new city got dropped there and the environment turned them into hideous mutations; they would have been better off with the GM offered by the government. Some of the mutated creatures were so toxic; their bite would kill a fully immunized humanoid. That’s why the area was fenced off, quarantined and neglected. Rumors were there are those that thrived there, but the government dealt with rumor mongers as mercilessly as it dealt with traitors.
Siego Onaro, the most decorated detective in New Nairobi Metro City, stood on top of the New Age building, the tallest building on the east wing of the city looking towards the Old Nairobi. He was on a look out and he did not know what he was looking out for. His brief had said ‘look out for unnatural activity in the old city’. Unnatural! What was natural in that old depilated city? At first he thought the brief was a joke from one of the team mates, trying to mock him but the digital signature from the head of the city at the end of the holographic-mail confirmed it. “Demotions start like this,” he thought. A week ago, on a Friday, he was leading the A-team against corporate intercontinental espionage, high tech alien fraud and robotic identity theft. He was known as the Sly Owl, for his detection skills and his hunting ability. No criminal was beyond his radar. No crime could be done and its culprits escape under his watch.
His enemies feared him. He had no friends except those that licked his ass for opportunities and he abhorred these as he abhorred the new world. Then for no reason he was called out to come for this look out, like one of those 20th century watchmen. This was 3015. He sighed. Sly Owl was on a building looking for some mouse on the ground. He thought sarcastically. To make matters worse. He was assigned a rookie, Graptz, to accompany him. The brief said to groom him. The recruit was young enough to be his son and rumor was he was a son to a top government person. Someone so up in the ladder, no one was bold enough to leak the name. Onaro believed the rumors. He had tried checking the young man’s records but they were beyond even his clearance level. That just made him detest the young man even more. And it didn’t help that Graptz was always helpful and ambitious.
Onaro turned and looked at the rookie who smiled innocently. He didn’t smile back, there was something wrong with the whole of this thing but he couldn’t pin it. He turned his thoughts to the current issue. At this time and date, no one used modified human beings as look outs with all the new technology. There were droids that could think better than some cops. What could be going on? He sneered at the thought. Three days after this assignment came through, Clara, his wife asked for a divorce in a casually manner that startled him and to which he was yet to respond. “You have changed a lot,” she said on Togez, the social site they communicated with when she didn’t want to talk to him face to face. “You not the man I married.” He read the words and maintained his silence. It didn’t help when she changed her status from married to “soon to be divorced”. If she thought he was the only one who had changed then she was even dumber than his boss. In four years she had added on 35 more kilos on the once petite body, a drinking habit and an attitude to go with the weight. He clicked at the thought. Changed indeed! He muttered under his breath. He didn’t see any point of arguing. Clara never did anything that pleased anyone but herself. He had married her because he had reached a point in his career when he should have someone on his side. They had fought earlier on several issues including the fact that she wanted a sex droid in the house; she didn’t want them to adopt a child earlier, both to which he opposed but that fight was nothing like this.
During their earlier days, she would listen to reason, now she wasted all her time in the virtual world and they lived in two different worlds. It didn’t matter that all their friends had adopted kids. At a time like this when getting pregnant was not an option, everyone adopted but not Clara. She didn’t want the responsibility. And the fact that she blackmailed him made him bitter about her. He was yet to meet anyone as annoying as she was. Well, she and his boss.
His boss, like every idiot of this century paid homage to the Dragon Intel, the hugest Chinese company in the world. Dragon Intel was in charge of matters of the Eastern frontier, the new names for Africa and Australia, after the Chinese took over the world. Everyone had said it was for the better. Americas reign as a super power went down the drain after they could hardly pay their debts and their population hit five hundred million. With no food and no money, their economy went down. It was no secret they could not maintain their consumer habits and could not even feed their own people. They had to rely more and more on the Chinese. Soon they, against their democratic systems and beliefs joined the alliance. The British quickly followed suit and signed treaties with the Chinese and they became the Western frontier with the rest of the European nations in toe.
The world was now under three powers; The India, United China and Russia. And United China did anything and everything to keep a tight leash on its lead as a world power. Dragon Intel, the ruling corporate company that was the head of China and its frontiers did things that a century ago would have been termed as inhuman. With all the genetic modification and gene therapy that evolved in a bid to make humans and other creatures more productive, inhuman was not a term often used. It was a matter of whether it was legally right and often it was unless it didn’t suit the governments.
Onaro clicked again and turned the detecta-scope towards the old Koinange Street that had once been known as “the red light district”. It was deserted. Human prostitution had long been abandoned for the sex droids. The droids were legal and highly advertised as “safer and
without emotions thus won’t interfere with relationships.” He hated them with a passion even though some couples bought some for home use. They represented the new world when even the living beings couldn’t produce naturally. He knew his wife had one in the house but they were too far apart for him to care about it. He was still of the old school generation preferring the human body to a machine but he was among the few that felt that way. He was thinking of the sex droids when he saw it. It was definitely not a droid and its heat signature was above that of the new population. It was definitely an unregistered human being. This was strange, unheard of. Last time he had heard of one, he must have been in his teenage hood. It had been paraded on the telecasts, an old man that could barely walk and rumors were parts of it were dissected and used on the new ruler to make his life longer. He didn’t doubt that. Pure human blood was a rare commodity, a liter of it more expensive than an apartment in the high class areas. He switched on his wrist radio, wanting to call it in but changed his mind. He turned at looked at Graptz. As if he knew he was being looked at, the young man turned and looked at him.
“Let’s call it a night rookie,” Onaro told him softly.
“But sir,” the young man started.
“Call it a night and we meet at 0700hrs. Understood?”
The young man nodded. He moved slowly in the rain and hopped on his mobi-hover. He switched it on and with a salute, he flew off. Onaro watched the rookie’s lights until he could no longer see them. He then moved onto his city scooter and flew to the nearest tall building where he packed it. The rain was coming down harder on this side of the city. He used his infra red binoculars to seek it. It was still there; its heat signature leveling just above the 37 degree centigrade mark. The new population had a 20 degree centigrade body temperature to enable them survive the acid cold that came with the pollution. He wondered what that creature looked like. In his ten years in the police force he had never seen a natural human face to face that was not genetically modified. At least it was in the part of the town that was accessible. Rumors were the old town had hundreds of underground chambers where street gangs lived. But then again, there were too many rumors about the old city.
He fixed his harness on the wall, tightened his belt on the bullet proof vest and pressed the silent mode switch. He then started the decent softly, his eyes constantly checking the figure. Rumors were that the creatures, human beings, instinctively knew when they were being hunted. He doubted that. He had instincts but every instinct in him was digital, nothing natural, all artificially implanted. They served the purpose but he always knew they were not part of him.
He felt like he had a tail trailing him. His digital indicators detected nothing but something in him said otherwise. He kept looking around much to his own annoyance. The descent was tiring. He was wet and trembling. His fingers were numb, every part of his muscles ached. He realized how unfit he had become. Earlier in his teens, he had been genetically modified to enhance his speed and strength but nothing replaced exercise. He made a mental note to increase his routine at the gym. No more virtual work outs. He had seen too many of his friends lose their bodies and turn obese because of virtual workouts. He landed on the ground softly, his wrist radio vibrating, alerting him to incoming calls. He ignored them and softly but swiftly walked towards the figure, his auto weapon drawn out. The rumors about instincts could not have been true. The creature was in the same position he had seen it. It could not have had the so called human instincts.
“Put your hands where I can see them” he shouted at it from its back hoping it spoke Cantonese, the official language, at least. To his relief, bloodied hands went up. He panicked. Where had all that blood came from? He went around cautiously to where it sat and saw it from the front. He now understood why its instincts had not kicked in on its hunter. The creature was a female. It had been busy giving birth and placed on its lap was a baby. Wiped clean, alive and not crying from the cold that bit him. He stood staring. This was impossible since there were no recorded incidents of humans giving birth in nearly three decades. Mutation and technology had destroyed that possibility. The woman was heavily bleeding and had probably been running away from either human hunters or the Illegal Alien Bureau.
When he realized it was harmless, he injected it with an antibiotic from his med kit that stopped the bleeding. It was too weak to resist but he could tell it did not want to be injected. Then he gestured at it to get up. The human woman picked the baby and tried to get up unsuccessfully. It nearly fell. He grabbed it and helped it stand. He was amazed at how it or was it she looked. She was more human than him, so he thought it must be a she not an it. He auto scanned it. It was definitely human and healthier than even him. He made a mental note to start thinking of it as a she. After all, it was more human than he was. She looked frail but her skin was smooth and no part of her had any shinning bits of metal, marks of gene mutation or gene therapy. He looked at his wrist radio. A message flushed; “human being sighted at old Nairobi city; code yellow” the message was sent three seconds ago. Code yellow meant the creature had to be taken alive. Now he understood why he was put on the task. He was a trusted top detective. But why the rookie? Someone wasn’t so sure he could be trusted. No wonder the high level clearance on the rookie’s records. The young man must have been put there to spy on him. The thought scared him. He looked around again. Could the young man be behind him? Everything looked okay except for the rain.
If they needed someone who was loyal to the cause and they doubted his loyalty, they could not have assigned him this case. He understood that the government could not afford for the world to know humans could give birth artificially. If they realized that, people would boycott all gene therapy and millions of dollars made would be lost. They could even be riots, for the first time in a century and people would start voicing their discontent. The fate of the human and her child was sealed. They would have to die. The government wanted someone who would do the right thing by them, and he suited the role. The most decorated cop and to ensure that he delivered, they put the spy on him.
If he turned them in, they would probably be killed and their body parts used up to create clones or smoothen somebody’s skin and cure some diseases. Some rich politician would have a longer life with this. If they found the baby, the politician’s wife would have an even smoother skin and possible better looking body. Cells from such were injected to lengthen people’s lives and reduce old age. He would get another medal and a bigger promotion. The rookie would get a chance to join the detective’s team and his life would go back to being normal. If normal is what it was before Clara and all this. Of course the public would not know why he would get promoted but does it matter? His wrist radio buzzed again.
In less than five minutes, the place where he stood would be swarming with metro police and human hunters. He removed his auto pilot remote and ordered his city scooter down. It came down with a humming sound and without thinking; he picked the woman and the child and put them on the spare seat. “Hold it tight,” he told the woman in Cantonese and she did as asked. He flew them to his metro apartment, with his lights off. He kept looking at his rear expecting the rookie to show up with a group of police but no one seemed to trail him.
Once inside, he helped the woman bathe, wiped the infant clean and then feed them. The woman hardly spoke. Minutes later, she was asleep with the infant sucking at its breast. It looked funny, the infant at the breast, almost erotic. He turned away disgusted at himself. He looked at them and wondered what was wrong with him. He must be losing his mind. He had committed a capital offense whose sentence was being banned into the Sahara desert. He had been there once during his training and knew few ever returned from the land. His wrist radio kept buzzing and he couldn’t ignore it anymore.
He picked it up.
“Sec 4. Detective Onaro. Over!”
“Sec 4. The code yellow sent out was interfered with and suspect was taken under our radar sir.”
“How did that happen? Over”
“No idea sir. Please relay current location. Over”
“East wing. Coordinates 64-36. Over”
“Did you see any action sir? Over?”
“Keep your eyes open sir. Seek blue scooter, number not identified with two passengers. Two humans or one civilian with a human. Over”
“In Progress. Will do so sec 4. Over and out”
He switched it off. He had been lucky no one had identified his craft but his lack would not hold out for long. No one escaped the police. “Are you going to turn us in?” the woman’s voice startled him. He turned and found she stood stark naked behind him. He wasn’t sure what to say.
She looked at him in disbelief. He moved to the seat and took a coat and covered the human.
“Where are you from and how have you survived this long alone?” he asked. An hour later, he was still in shock. What she said couldn’t be true. There is no way that there were human living in the old city.
But what she said made sense. The caves could protect them from harm, from being contaminated and if they could have somehow grown food under the earth then they would be same from the pollution above it. They could have found a way to hide their existence, maybe through the fog. He looked at the woman drinking coffee and thought about his future. Clara had abandoned him and his career was no longer satisfactory. He would help them return to the old city into the caves. Humanity needed to be restored and people deserved to know the truth. His whole life was a big lie and he realized that he had to change that, at least for the infant that was sleeping peacefully in his apartment. This decision would make him a traitor. The repercussions would be disastrous. He knew that and decided that he could live with that. Maybe the government won’t even find out, he thought. He might even be able to cover it up or get away with it.
The thought made him jerk up in pain. His head hurt and a bright light blinded him. He tried to focus and then he realized he was strapped onto a bed with a virtual machine strapped onto his head. He turned to his side and he could see the video clip that was being emitted from his brains onto the screen. The rookie was staring at him behind a glass wall. What happened? He asked himself. One minute he was with the human…then it started coming to him. The rookie must have been in his apartment all along. He tried to move but he was firmly held down by the straps.
He closed his eyes and waited for the final syringe to puncture his veins. His death would be painful and slow, but not as painful as that of the human. A tear made its way down his cheeks as he waited.