Upon Dreamsea

For some it takes a life time to find Dreamsea. For others they discover it before the mono-reality seeps into their mind, For them there is a brief time that they unfurl the sails of their ship and fill them with the etherwind and set a course from the port of the mundane into the vast sea of dreams. Day dreams, Night dreams, floating and drifting dreams. But all too soon the unbelievers force them back to port and fill the mind with storms of the mono-reality. Upon the time they enter the system that is supposed to teach them those young impressionable minds are battered with that which will be stirred into a quagmire called adulthood and aspects of existence that are designed strictly to benefit a certain few who believe the corporeal reality is all that there is. It isn’t. There is so much more. This corporeal collection of energy is but a vehicle for the infinite reaches of the mind carrier delicately in the vessel we call the brain. But that vessel is limited only by the imagination. 

The Series

Presents

J. J. Brown

The City Of Madness

Eyes closed, Mind adrift,

Yards unfurled,

Sailing upon Dreamsea

JJ Brown Chapter Four

Chapter Four

I still looked mostly human but my ears grew out and a nose and mouth protruded muzzle like, my eyes turned yellow and finally I grew fur on my arms and legs and my feet had that canine paw look, only still very human. I didn’t feel comfortable and my own smell was appalling. But I was ready to go across the bridge in the prison rags Jack provided for me. I didn’t take anything else. I would find everything I needed in The Den when I met my contact, apparently another human who was disguised as a canine name Jasper. Mine was Alex. Canines only use single names. I think I even looked like an Alex with my shepherd look.

I didn’t like what I was doing. I didn’t like what I found in The Den. It was a long time before I ever returned to the Felinian Quarter, the Canine called it. Den was the Canine Quarter. It was a long time before I saw Jack or Elivia again and I was never quite sure how I felt about that until I did. Both had lied to me or had less knowledge of the Canine Quarter than they thought.

Humans and canine hybrids lived in relative harmony and after I thought about it, that made sense. After all humans and dogs get along for the most part but it was less so with cats.

I had been in the canine quarter for two days trying to find Jasper. No one paid me much attention until I was being greeted by a police officer who accosted me on the premise that he had never seen me on his beat before.

I said to him, “Something very strange has happened to me and I am arriving under false pretenses.”

The officer sniffed at me then asked, “What seems to be the problem?”

“Does the name Jasper mean anything to you?” I replied.

“No. Should it?”

I had by that time realized that my so called friends had duped me and taken me down a dark path. I asked another question, “Is the Canine Quarter planning to invade the Felinian Quarter?”

“I think you had better come with me. What is your name?”

“J.J. Brown. I think I have made a terrible mistake.”

The officer escorted me to a large building that reminded me of an old stone post office I had seen once. A sign said it was the office of the Alpha. Inside I was taken to the second floor using the stairs and he left me in a small office with five chairs in a waiting room. “Someone will attend to you in a soon.” The officer told me and before he was out the door a human came through an inner door. She took one look at me and smiled. Then she said, “My name is Anna May. The pills you have been taking will wear off quickly but it won’t start until you refrain from taking them. The reverse process takes about two days to begin. It will be uncomfortable if you are awake for the transition. I will give you sleeping powders if you like.”

“I was sent to spy on you people by the Felinian Mistress. She claims the Canine Quarter is planning an invasion.” I decided not to hide my intention since they already knew I wasn’t canine.

“Cats. They are always suspicious.” Anna said in an amused tone.

“I was also told that there were no humans here. I was here only a few minutes when I realized it was miss-information.”

"What are you supposed to do?" Anna enquired conversationally as she invited me to follow her back through the door from which she came. 

I answered truthfully, “Collect information about the invasion and send it to a Felinian named Jack Tamber.”

Anna May laughed openly.

We moved into an office room that was really quite Victorian in its décor but not without much of the strange equipment I had seen in the Felinian Quarter. I said, “I find it odd that the Canines don’t have the same technology as the Felinians.”

“Oh we have it, or we have the technical knowledge to build skyscrapers and flying car, laser guns and all that. We simply chose not to implement it. But as you see we have computers, which are actually far more advanced.”

Anna May did some paper work for a few minutes which I assumed was a file on me and it wasn’t really paper work. She was working on her computer. I looked around the office and found a map on one of the walls. It was an odd looking thing, more like looking out a window at the world. Turns out it was a holographic map of this strange world of Illusia I had died into.

I stood from my chair and went to examine it closer. Unlike Felinia the Canine maps showed a vast metropolitan sprawl with several Quarters, all of which were shared by humans and Hybridians. It also showed land beyond the city with markers indicating other towns and cities. I said to Anna, “When I first arrived the Felinians led me to believe their city was the only place in this…ah…world I have fallen into.”

Anna replied without looking up from her computer holo-screen. “The Felinians are compulsively secretive. Its in their nature and of course the human population is much the same. They do not have a companionable relationship with each other. The rule there shifts back and forth.”

I said back, “I got that. When I first arrived I assisted the Mistress in putting down a coup.”

“Cats.” Anna replied dyspeptically. I laughed because it was so human, the kind that doesn’t like cats in my living world.

“I died before I came here. Before I came to Illusia.” I said out of the blue.

Anna stopped working and looked at me. She stared at me for a long time then enquired curiously, “Where did you come from?”

“That would be a little difficult to explain.” I answered realizing the concept of alternate realities was a little distant from Anna’s perception.

“Well J.J. Brown what is not difficult to explain is you are not a resident of Den so we will have to detain you until you can explain how you died before coming here and where you came from, besides Catcity.”

“Will you still give me the sleeping powder?” I asked suspiciously.

“You will remain in my custody. I am an evaluator. You will be under my care until I can process you. You must reveal where you came from to my satisfaction.” Anna replied authoritatively.

“So I am a prisoner?!” I challenged.

“You may be exactly what you claimed. Just a common spy.” Anna answered in an accusatory tone.

I thought about bringing up the name Jasper again but decided it might not be my best option.

The transition pills wore off in two days. Anna gave me sleeping powders but I decided not to use them. Of course I would sleep sometimes but I did not want to be sedated. The process was uncomfortable like Anna said but not intolerable and it helped when I did sleep.

My cell was down a hall way with eight doors. It was furnished with a bed, a table and chair and a toilet, not unlike a lot of jail cells I had read about. Food was delivered regularly with the sleeping powder included in the menu. The fare was stew like and I ate it without asking about the contents. It tasted like beef stew though a little salty. A large jug of water was included and a pot of rich coffee. It took my system three days to clean itself of the transition drug and left me feeling normal. I examined the bullet wound closely several times. Not only was it healing well but it seemed to be vanishing. I showed it to Anna before it completely disappeared so I had at least some credibility to the story I was going to tell her. It would be the truth but I didn’t know if she would accept it as an explanation. I had the opportunity on the fifth day of my incarceration to find out.

I described my death and my time in Catcity down to the smallest detail. Anna listened without interruption. When I finally finished she said, “I believe you J.J. I believe you because you believe yourself. Many won’t when you tell your story again to the tribunal.”

I said with some resistance. “This is getting dictatorial. I haven’t done anything wrong, at least nothing to warrant being put on trial.”

“You are an admitted spy.” Anna replied sharply.

“I told you that to avoid being put through the meat grinder. Now I am telling you this. If you go through with this monkey trial I may not be as friendly as I could be.” I said angrily. “It seems everywhere I go, even where I come from the dark side of our intelligent nature is much too strong.” I offered a fair warning.

Anna went cold and ignored my response. She said simply. "Your tribunal is in two hours. I will have guards escort you to your hold cell at the hall. I hope enough of the Judges believe your story.” Then her voice warmed a couple of degrees when she said, “Like I do.”

I caught a glint in her eyes. I said with a sudden burst of understanding, “You believe me because you are like me.”

Anna called my escort in and I was dragged to the Tribunal Hall. The cell was just a square with concrete walls and bench. Definitely not built for anything resembling comfort.

Technically I came to the Den to spy for the Felinian, so being put on trial was reasonable, except for the fact that I had changed my mind. I was sitting on the bench pondering how I was going to defend myself when the door of the cell open and this fellow, mostly human but obviously part bull dog entered. His name was Rufus and he was a trial lawyer, according to himself. Behind him came my evaluator, Anna. She said, “Rufus will stand up for you at the tribunal,” then she retreated.

My lawyer said, “I have heard your story and find it preposterous, however it can work to our advantage. If I can convince the tribunal that you are mad then I may be able to keep you out of prison, though I am not certain an asylum would be any better. Mad dogs and humans can be extremely vicious.”

“But I am not mad and I am going to neither a prison nor an asylum. I will be getting out of this mad world if I have to fight all the way.” I snapped angrily.

Rufus grinned showing a pair of canine teeth that made him look cartoon dangerous. He said, “I was hoping you’d say that. I haven’t had a good battle with the tribunal for ages.”

“You sound like you are part Pitbull,” I replied with an attempt at alacrity.

“Hardly. Pit bulls are nothing but brawlers.” Rufus growled.

“I see you stereotype just like everyone else.” I challenged.

“Yes. I suppose we do.” Rufus admitted sheepishly. “But this is about getting you off on a spying charge, not stereotyping people. I came here to tell you, let me do all the talking until you are called to speak. I may be able nip this in the bud before you are put on the prisoner’s podium.”

I said back, “I’ll be gone before I have to face any tribunal, even if I have to get violent.”

“What do you mean. Oh Grrrr. You humans. Always using force to solve your problems.” Rufus shot back.

“Sometimes Mr. Lawyer, force is the only thing that gets the point across. I don’t belong here. I don’t know how I got here and I don’t think I am obliged to follow any rules but my own, and I won’t let this mad world bend my brain out of shape.”

“How can you hope to avoid the tribunal?” Rufus asked with another rush of alacrity.

“By doing something totally unexpected of course.” I answered, working my brain to come up with something that would startle the tribunal enough for me to escape.”

 

I was taken from my cell to a cubical called the Pen. It was where the next prisoner waited to face the tribunal and could witness his predecessor instilling fear into his psyche. I could hardly believe what I saw.

It was Anna, not a prisoner but my evaluator. "But why is she on trial?” I asked Rufus who was standing next to me.

“She is not. She is standing up for you. If you are found guilty though she will share your fate. Freedom or prison.

I stared at my lawyer in disbelief. This messy ball of courtroom wax was getting out of hand. I couldn’t allow Anna to go to prison. I knew in my heart that guilty would be the verdict. As I said, technically I was guilty of spying and having changed my mind wasn’t going to fix things. I said to Rufus, “You people are insane.” Then I gave him an elbow in the muzzle which knocked him back causing him to stumble into the two K9 guards watching me, sending them sprawling to the floor.

I could hardly believe my own strength. I was considerably greater than what I knew in my own world. It was super hero stuff and I immediately became determined to make use of it.

I snatched up one of the guards riot sticks aka, Billy club, though it was a little longer and heavier than the ones I had seen and been smacked with back home. I also discovered it had a button on it. When I pressed it two sparks jumped across two metal posts at the wide end. When one of the guards started to get up I prodded him with it, touching the button testingly. The shock sent him back down and he laid on the floor trembling.

Rufus had managed to gain his feet and grinned at me. “You didn’t have to strike me human but I guess you got out of it what you wanted. Now let’s see what you are going to do with it.” He growled like a playful pup.

I jumped out of the Pen and ran toward Anna. She was startled but didn’t resist. I took her by the elbow and guided her straight toward the tribunal platform. The five tribunes had entered the hall through a door behind the bench, which I planned to utilized in my escape, taking Anna with me. The Tribunes all clambered to their feet but when I turned the electric Billy club on them they dropped obediently back into their chairs. By then a dozen guards were coming at us with bared teeth and howling madly.

“You are a fool J.J. Brown.” Anna accused but she had a big smile on her face. “If we get out of this I’ll give you the biggest hug you have ever had in your life.”

“Why did you stand up for me?” I demanded as I towed her toward the escape door, but she didn’t get a chance to answer. The guards were on us and it was a battle royale that pushed us toward the door.

Anna broke loose and turned. “I’ll get the door.” She announced excitedly making herself a conspirator.

I lashed out zapping two guards with the highest intensity the Billy clubs could put out. Two more were on me and about to give me an equal shock when suddenly Anna yanked me by the shirt collar through the door way then slammed and locked it all in one motion. I panted until I caught my breath.

The guards were hammering at the door and I could hear their angry snarls. “We better keep going before they beat us to the Tribunes chamber. We can get out of the hall through the courtyard door and then over the wall to the street. After that all we can do is run until we are safely away.” Anna described our next course of action.

“Then what?” I asked, having not thought of what to do once I, we had escaped.

“I guess we leave Packtown.” Anna suggested.

“And go where?” I queried anxiously.

“The bridge to Ratropolis is only a few blocks away.” Anna answered.

“Ratropolis. You gotta be kidding. A city of Rats.” I spouted in disbelief.

“Rat human hybrids and of course humans. Humans are everywhere in Illusia.” Anna explained. “Are you really a Hybrid?” I asked as we clambered along the corridor toward the Tribunes chamber.

“I am and a perfect fifty-fifty.”

“Why are you helping me then and giving up your home?” I queried suspiciously.

Anna shrugged her shoulders and said, “Because we share something. We are both not born of Illusia.”

“Ok. Now you’ve made it weirder. Where are you from?” I asked.

“Like you I am from another dimension, a dimension of Werefolk.”

My brain took a nose dive into a place way beyond insanity. I said almost maddened, “You’re a werewolf?!”

“We will discuss that once we get to Ratropolis. We can find safe refuge there until we can figure out what to do next.” Anna advised.

Chapter Three

“I think we need a break. Sleeping. I haven’t slept for two days maybe longer. I lost track trying to keep an eye on the thief.” I suggested.

“One more thing to do before that.” Jack replied anxiously. “Our thief didn’t tell us everything but I caught it. He tried to keep it from us purposely. The victim. There was more about the victim than anyone has realized.” “You haven’t told me why the guy was killed.” I said.

“Until now I didn’t know. That’s what our thief was really hiding. I know who it is and the name I got is fake. His real name is Kells Tamber. He is the son of Elivia Tamber Mistress of Hightown.” Jack filled me in.

“Mistress?” I said.

“She runs Hightown and the Hightown Council who in turn runs the entire city. Kells was her Heir. With him dead there is no one to take the Chair, that means its up for grabs and that means there could be an attempt on the Mistress’s life.”

“Ok. Its bigger than we thought. But who’s the killer?” I demanded.

“Assistant Chief Justice MacNarin.” Jack spat out like a piece of rancid meat.

“Do you think he is part of this take over?”

Jack shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am sure he is connected and I am sure he needs to be brought up for shooting Kells Tamber in the back. Takeovers are not illegal if they are done openly. Sometimes it’s all for the best. Sometimes the new Mistress or Master brings a better rule to order. But I don’t think it’ll be that way this time, not if it starts out with a clandestine back shooting.”

“So what do we do?”

Jack look worried again. “We go get MacNarin and deliver him to the Mistress. Alive and tell her what we have discovered. It will look good on us through her eyes but who ever is fronting the take over won’t be so friendly.”

I suddenly felt like a sixteen year old kid caught between two rival gangs and both of them wanted to kick the crap out of me for being in the way. Only here it was a matter of life and death. But I pushed all that down and said, “I hated my uncle but he did put some good things into my head, even if he didn’t mean it to help me. He said when things are bad they will only get worse if you go all ostrich. That meant if you ignore the bad it’ll come back on you and you will be the loser. I think he was telling himself that because he was a loser.”

Jack, as was his habit I was learning, nodded his head. “Ok kid. Lets get it done and if it comes down hard don’t be afraid to shoot and ask questions later. Ultimately we are cops and we are the law.”

“Yah sure. If you can call gang rule the law.” I knew enough about the New York gangs to understand the nature of Illusia’s sense of justice. Winner takes the cream, what ever is left over the rats scramble for it. But I was still trying to figure out how the Hybrids fit in. I had seen them everywhere, mostly canine and feline based but they always seemed to hang out on the fringes of the social order, at least I thought so until I met the Mistress.

“Where do we find MacNarin?” I asked.

“He’s in Hightown in the House of The Chief Justice. The city owns the house. He would get the boot if another chief was appointed.” Jack answered.

“Well I guess they better get appointing because I think this fellow is going to get a big boot.”

I was ready for a fight but it never happened. We didn’t have any trouble finding MacNarin and when we did walk into his house he didn’t give us any trouble. He just put his hands up and said, “You got me, but it won’t do you any good. The people I’m backing are big, bigger than Mistress Tamber. This organization just took over the entire lower east side in one sweep. They even did it with out a war. They’re smart, powerful, and fast. Now that Tamber doesn’t have an heir they can challenge her openly.”

“Sure MacNarin. You are in the pink with them until they find out you are a back shooter.” Jack challenged.

“You idiot. They told me to get rid of Kells any way I needed to do it as long as it was done.” MacNarin. laughed.

“What’s in it for you?” I asked.

“Superior Court Chief Justice. Top of the heap and that means I get to make and change laws.”

“Sure.” Jack said then drew his gun like and old west gunslinger and put a laser pellet through the man’s heart. “Let’s see what happens now.” He said as we turned and left the house.

Jack kept the single action colt forty five. “I’ll retire after I sell this, but first you and I are going to warn the Mistress.”

“You like her.” I said.

“Yup and for good reason.” Jack replied. He wouldn't fill me in and I did not get it until later when it filled itself in.

We went to the palace and we admitted without question. Jack introduced me to Mistress Tamber said, “I believe I owe you everything Jack. I just wish it could have been done without Kells getting killed. I really leaned on him as a safe guard against a takeover.”

“Why do I get the feeling that this was all some kind of covert operation.” I cut in.

“It was all about finding out who was setting Elivia up for the takeover. Kells was letting it out that he was going to challenge his mother hoping that someone would come to back him. Turns out they didn’t want that but it made it easy for them to get rid of him. MacNarin was a lieutenant for the rebel leader.” Jack explained.

“Now what?” I asked.

“Now we know who is leading the takeover. Its Maston Webb who just took over the lower east side. It’s been big news for a month.” Jack Explained. “He’ll be dead in an hour.” He added then said, “Come on kid. We got a job to do.”

“We are going to kill Webb.” I said as we left the palace.”

“I am. You can help me or back down. The choice is yours. I realize you…”

“I’m in Jack. I like your sister. But why don’t you look like her.”

“I will tomorrow. I’ve been taking dna shots for three months to make myself look human.” Jack answered.

“And jack isn’t your real name I suppose.”

“Jack is, but my last name is Tamber.” Jack was good to his word. Maston Webb was dead in an hour, his gang was taken over by a consort of the Mistress and the Mistress was already looking for a mate to create a new heir. Jack said, “Things will settle down for a while now. Most of the people Like Elivia, but you never know when some hot shot’ ll try and take over.”

“Are you really a detective?” I challenged. “Nope. I am the head of the Police force. You are my Chief detective from now on kid if you want the job.”

I took the job. The next day I met Jack for lunch. He had turned into a rather large half human half feline Hybrid but the one thing he couldn’t change was his funny little catish grin and the habit of shrugging his shoulders.

I was sixteen and chief of detectives in a city ruled by gang law. A city that couldn’t possibly even exist, but it did. I am a hundred and twenty years old but I never grew old, if you know what I mean. I have always been sixteen and always will be, as long as I live.”

***

I interrupted J.J. again. “But according to your story and the legend you are dead.”

J.J. touched my shoulder. Then he shook my hand. “Does that feel like the touch of a dead man?”

I didn’t answer but I thought, “Yah. It’s cold, dead cold.” What I said out loud was, “So what happened next.”

J.J. lit two more smokes and I poured two more drinks. He said, “Lots. You better start a new recording gadget.”

I did then J.J. said, “I’ve been back here a couple times since I died in that alleyway. I guess I started the legend of the Phantom of The Alley. Last time I visited I heard you were investigating the legend so I thought I’d come and help you out. No one will believe you of course but it should make good reading for those who like this kind of stuff.”

“Let’s hear more J.J. Brown. How did things go as Chief Detective?”

***

J.J. smiled and said, “I tried to leave Illusia once, but when I got to the edge of the city all I found was a big black hole, more or less, a solid hole. You could put your hand through it but you couldn’t walk through it. You could walk into it but you would come right back to where you were. The problem was I was the only one that could see it. Every one else seemed to see a rural land. I could see the ocean but mostly it was masked in fog. Everyone saw the fog. Sometimes it would come in and fill the city. You couldn’t see a foot in front of your face.

After the takeover was smashed I was moved up to Hightown into an apartment of my own. I had a big fancy office to work from and thirty under detectives to manage. It got old and boring real fast and after a couple of months I told Jack I needed something more. I was too young to be stuck in an office. Jack didn’t say much until a month later when he came to my office and said, “I got a job for us kid. It could get us killed and it could change Illusia if we fail. What do you say?”

I said, “I’m in.”

Jack said, “We start in a month. In the meantime start taking these every day. You won’t want to be looking human for where we’re going.”

“What will it turn me into.” I asked.

“A canine Hybrid, but you can’t stop taking the pills. You need one every day to keep your disguise up.”

“What the hell are you getting me into Jack?”

“Something I am sure you won’t find old and boring.”

“Another takeover.”

“Nah. We are going to stop and invasion from the other side and by the way, Elivia wants to see you.”

I went to see Elivia. The next morning I met Jack for breakfast. He didn’t ask what Elivia wanted and I am glad he didn’t. Or maybe he didn’t because he already knew. In fact I figured he did when he said, My sister's looks make a pretty human don’t you think.”

I couldn’t argue with him. I said back, “She told me not to take too many risks on the other side. What are we getting into?”

I had taken my first pill. I was feeling a little queasy and my voice was changing. It was getting deeper.

“You are going over to the Den, across the river.” Jack said.

“You said you, not we.” I noted.

“That’s because I won’t, I can’t go. I can take pills to make me look human but I can take any to make me look canine. It just doesn’t work. If I went in my natural feline form I’d be dead before I stepped off the bridge.”

“Why is there a bridge if you don’t get along with The Den.”

“That’s a long story and there is no time to tell it. As soon as you are completely changed you’ll be going across. You’ll tell the bridge guards you escaped from prison. If you get past them then all you have to do is watch and listen. We believe the Master Of Den is planning an invasion. He has let it be known for years that he wants access to the seaport and would someday have it.”

“How can I stop a war?” “You can’t. All you can do is get information and send it back to us.”

“Jack I have to tell you. I think this is taking things a little far. I know cats and dogs don’t get along but war.”

Jack grinned and shrugged his shoulders. “You can’t fight nature kid.”

Something occurred to me just then. I knew now why my night with Elivia was so important to her. If things worked the way she wanted I’d have a blood connection to the Felinians. I said to Jack. “You have tricked me.” I saw a look in his eyes that frightened me. It was the same look he got when he gunned down the Chief Justice. I smiled but there was not cheer in it. Now I was aware of the game. The game that fit perfectly into gang rule. 

TBC soon

Chapter Two

Police headquarters looked like something right out of a Sherlock Holmes, Scotland Yard office. It was actually called The Yard. It was located on the ground floor of a fifty story sky scraper. It projected out from the outer wall into a yard surrounded by concrete and razor-electric fencing. It was accessed by a security door just inside the building main entrance.

Upon entering The Yard I was instructed by Jack to register my palm print and my iris print. He entered my name, age and an application to become a City Operations Protector, a Cop. There was a minor complication because the computer could not find any record of me. A voice that sounded like it was mechanical asked for verification. Jack explained the situation which immediately resolved the problem. Apparently his word was the word. Five minutes later I was registered as a new resident of Illusia City and A Detective Assistant.

“Normally you would have been required to do a seven week stint as a patrol cop but there is no time for that. I need an assistant now so I can continue my investigation. Like I said, its messy. We’ll have lunch and I’ll fill you in.”

“Lunch?! It’s the middle of the night.” I said.

“It’s the night shift kid. Lunch is taken in the middle of it. But I doubt we’ll be back in our beds for the day shift. We have some day work to do.”

I speak of future technologies with knowledge because I lived with them though in those first days things like food processing machines called Omni D printers and arial commuter vehicles, laser guns and so on were all very science fiction come to life. I had to wonder if people like Jules Verne had not visited Illusia and were merely relating real time, real life experiences had in this strange world.

I had good’ ole steak and potatoes, the middle of the shift meal being the primary meal. Coffee is coffee where ever you go and in Illusia at sixteen you were considered a full adult. I had a beer to wash it all down while Jack briefed me on the case.

I was a little set aback that I completely understood the workings and procedures. It was as if sometime between getting gun down in the alleyway and having the mid-day meal with Detective Jack Trajik I had been endowed with and understanding of Illusia laws and police work. I suppose some of it was completely logical, at least the investigative part about it, but the lawful execution of the case was pretty weird. If the killer was proved guilty during the course of the investigation he or she or the hybrid was either sent to jail or executed, depending on the crime and the severity and we, the detective and the assistant were the executioners or escorts to the prison. It was a Cop’s call, taking the burden off the court system which was crammed to the gills with more important civil cases.

“Its like this kid. The murder occurred a week ago. The killer shot the victim in the back. That is the lowest of lows. The victim didn’t stand a chance even if he did deserve it, which he did. He was an unlicensed assassin and was in the habit of sneaking up on his mark, from behind and shooting or garroting him…or her. But the fact is the assassin still has rights. He was killed, shot from behind so even if I think the killer did the city a favour he’s still a murderer.

The key here is, I know only that the killer isn’t just some street creep. The killer used a single action, silver plated colt 45 and left it behind. One of those things cost what I make in a year, and the bullets, silver bullets are expensive as well. And that makes it messy because when I find the killer it is likely I will have to execute him. The problem there is, a lot of the Uppers are consider themselves immune from justifiable execution and others agree. That puts us Cops in a bad situation.”

“Do you know the identity of the killer?” I queried.

“I do not, and I am not even sure he is an Upper. Its just the weapon used giving that impression as well as the fact that no Uppers have reported a stolen gun of that nature.”

“What happens if you just let it go?:” I queried.

Jack grinned. “Then I get brought up for derelict of duty, get fined a years pay and get busted to patrol cop.”

“What if the killer is taken out by an assassin, a registered assassin, lets say by a kin of the victim. You find out who the killer is and hand the identity over to the kin.” I suggested.

Jack’s eyes opened wide and he nearly laughed out loud. “Kid. You got brains, but if I did that I’d be giving up the reward. I depend on rewards for my retirement fund.”

“Yah. OK. But whats better Boss. Losing it all or losing a reward. Let the assassin take all the risk.” I advised then asked cautiously. “Is an assistant detective allowed to moonlight, like, as an assassin?”

Jack shrugged his shoulders but didn’t answer the question directly. He said, “Most assassins are incognito. They register with a purchased number. But it costs a lot. Most people can’t afford it.”

I took the roll of bills out of my pocket and displayed them secretly to him. “That much.” I said.

“That might do it if they are all big bills.”

“They are the same all the way through.”

“Don’t tell me if you do it kid.” Jack warned. “I am not going to but I was looking for something that you might have over looked. Maybe assassins don’t have names but they have numbers and even numbers have to have some way they can be traced. If we can track the killer down then we can arrest him and have a little chat. If he is an Upper as you call that class then maybe we can figure out a way to deal with the situation…or maybe just make him disappear.”

“You’re too smart for a kid.” Jack said suspiciously.

“Maybe, but I am your assistant so that might be a good thing. You get to be a super Cop.” I said amusedly.

Like I said, I got wise quick to the world I had been spirited into and it didn’t matter anymore how it happened. I knew I was going to have to rely on my wits to survive in that strange city of twisted ideals and justice.

“I like you kid. I hope you don’t turn on me. Maybe I’ll make you a partner if you get any smarter.” He said sincerely.

“I don’t…I won’t forget who took me in when I got here Boss.” I assured.

Hightown was called Hightown for a reason. It was located at the highest point of the city, held up by skyscrapers and built onto a platform some two miles across and three long. The only way up was by elevator pods or flying car and you had to have a pass to enter through any of the entrance ports. In the centre of Hightown was a palace that looked like a pagoda with thirteen tiers with a flat roof that supported a dozen windmills. At that elevation the wind never stops blowing.

It would take several recording devices to describe the Pagoda so I shall suffice to say that it was a city above a city and only the wealth and city officials lived there. The population of Hightown was recorded at two hundred thousand, many of which were Hybrids.

***

I interrupted J.J. Brown. “You have mentioned the Hybrids several times but have said little about them. Are they regular citizens or lower class or maybe they are above humans.”

“They are like anyone else in the social sense of the city. They are middle class, rich and powerful, criminals and, well, in short, they have integrated into society quite completely. However among themselves the story is different but that is a long story, some of which will be revealed in mine.” J.J. responded with distracted reluctance. “Now I shall continue and I might say, my visit here is time sensitive and limited."

I nodded.

***

I asked Jack, “How do you go about tracking a numbered assassin?”

“I have no idea for sure but I think somewhere there must be a link between the number and the person’s identity that only the highest officials would have access to. Not even the Police Chief would have that information.”

“Who might?” I pushed.

“A top echelon judge. Some one high enough on the food chain to live in Hightown maybe.”

“An Upper, someone maybe that worked their way up the skyscrapers.” I suggested.

“Someone like that for sure.” Jack agreed.

“Then that is where we start. Find a judge who fits that description and do whatever the protocol is to make him help us.” I suggested.

“There is no protocol for that lid. We are breaking new legal or illegal ground here.” Jack replied.

“OK. Lets go have a chat with the big boss. That computer thing that seems to know everything.” I directed amusedly.

“Let’s go to my office. I have it secured. Not even the chief can listen in on me.” Jack directed then we paid our bill and returned to headquarters.

I continued to be amazed at how easily I was fitting into my new existence but I was a little suspicious as well. Sometimes if things look too good, well, that’s just what they are, too good to be true. Fortunately I was wrong. I was just fitting in fast and easy.

Something gnawed at my mind all the way back to headquarters but it wasn’t until Jack showed me the gun that I understood what was bothering me. When it hit I asked, “Boss. Do weapons have to be registered.?”

“That’s the law, but not everyone obeys the law and some people are above petty laws, like gun registry. I checked that out. The owner said it had been stolen.” Jack answered.

“That means the thief might not be an Upper.” I challenged.

Jack Nodded. “It also might be that the owner lied.

"Did you check that out?”

“I did not. Challenging an Upper could land you in a civil suit and calling and Upper a liar is high crime if they beat you.”

“I am beginning to understand how the class system works here and the laws that govern. It’s almost totalitarian.”

Jack grinned, like a fox.

“Let’s track down the particulars of the gun. We need a thief. The best.” I announced.

“What do you have in mind?” Jack queried suspiciously.

“To make sure the stolen gun was actually stolen. The thief needs to get all the records concerning the gun including the theft and the investigation into the theft.” I declared.

“I doubt there was an investigation.” Jack replied.

“In that case you may have just made our task easier. Why wouldn’t someone want such a valuable item returned some other way than being connected with a back shooting murder?”

Jack smiled and said, “Seems like I lucked out when I found you.”

“We both did Boss. Without you I’d be wandering around the city probably getting myself into deep trouble. Not knowing the laws of this weird place. I might have landed in your custody for a crime I had no idea was even a crime, like challenging an Upper.”

It took nearly a week, working the case between other cases that needed dealing with to get our first clue. A thief actually did it for us. The fact is a thief knows how a thief operates and a thief would never steal a gun like that then use it for a murder weapon. An assassin wouldn’t get his hands on that kind of gun and use it for a weapon. He’d sell it and retire.

The thief said, “I can guarantee you this weapon was never stolen or even handled by anyone but the owner and you Detective Trajik. I found your print on the barrel.”

“In that case the owner of the gun is the killer.” I suggested.

“That would be my guess.” The thief answered.

After the thief left Jack got a worried look on his face. I knew why. If he wanted to follow through with the case he would have to challenge the Upper who owned the gun or turn the information over to a kin of the victim.

Continued next week: 

Chapter One

J. J. Brown

The City Of Madness

Eyes closed, Mind adrift, Yards unfurled, Sailing upon Dreamsea

Foreword

Interview With A Phantom

My office door opened. It opens on to an alleyway that has a legend attached to it. The last thing I ever expected was to have that legend walk through my door and say, “Thomas Reeth. My name is J.J. Brown.” I said back, “Really.” With out much sincerity…sarcastically in fact. I continued. “J.J. Brown’s body was found at the end of this very blind alley on the twenty third of June nineteen sixteen, which means you’re a ghost and I don’t believe in ghosts, so who are you really.”

The interloper said back, “I am glad you don’t believe in ghosts because I am not. The exact terminology would be Phantom, which would explain why I exist in a solid state.” I said back, “You exist in a solid state because you are pulling a gag. Who sent you? Everyone knows that I have spent my career trying to track down the circumstance of your vanishing act, I mean J.J’s.” “I know and if you get past your prejudice I will enlighten you Cousin Reeth.” he said back quietly. “How do you know J.J. is my cousin? I have never told anyone that, because I am not. Not really. He is my cousin several times removed.” “I know. My mother is your great aunt.” I thought about that for a long time then said, “I have also been investigating the disappearance of your parents, with no success unfortunately,” beginning to think that strange things happen in the world that our mundane brains cannot fathom. “I have answers for you. Not all the answers but enough to put some content in your investigation. In the end you may even begin to believe I am who I claim.” “Why now?” I interrogated. The Phantom shrugged its shoulders and removed its soggy brown Panama hat revealing the youthful face of J.J. Brown, exactly the same face that hung on my office wall in a gold frame, except the Phantom J.J. was in living colour. The Phantom reached out and offered a handshake. I accepted. The hand was solid but not as warm as you might expect on the summer solstice. I said, “Sit.” Pointing at a straight back wooden chair in front of my desk. The Phantom complied and laid his Panama on the desk. Then he reached into the pocket of his gray, worn trench coat, and pulled out a pack of smokes and a lighter. "Those things' ll kill you." I said. J.J. said back, "I'm already dead," with a grin. He took out two, lit them both and offered me one. I shrugged my shoulders and took it. I took a drag then extricated a bottle of bourbon and two glasses from the bottom left hand drawer of the desk. I poured two and gave the Phantom one. He accepted saying, “Mother was left handed though in those days it was not a good thing. She trained herself to work with her right hand rather than be thought of as a devil’s spawn.” I laughed. I put a flash drive voice recorder on the desk and said. “OK cuz. Tell me your story. Make me a believer.

Chapter 1

I am old, very old, a hundred and twenty years of age yet not a day over 16, which was my age when I ran away from home and got caught up in a bad situation. I didn’t see seventeen. I was gunned down before that birthday because, well, this is what happened, start to finish.

It was a sad thing that the shadows and dark elements of the city seemed less dangerous than what home crushed my spirit with. So I thought.

It was the summer solstice of nineteen sixteen, my birthday. I suppose at sixteen in those decades leading up to and including world war one leaving home was not considered running away, especially if you ran directly to the recruiting office to join up with the army. But In my case that didn’t happen. The recruiting sergeant took one look at me and said, “Commendable kid, but you are too young,” seeing through my lie about how old I was. “Go home kid. Come back when you really are eighteen. We’ll gladly take you in.”

That’s how I ended up on the streets not even remotely considering returning to the treacheries waiting for me under the rule of a man who had to be the nastiest uncle ever. I never learned the fate of my parents. They simply went away when I was nine and never returned, leaving me with my mother’s brother whose story is in itself a tragic thing which falls back into my life some years later.

My very first night out on the street I got hungry and tried to steal some food and got caught for my efforts. I found myself running madly with the gang I had tried to rob hard on my heels but losing the race rapidly. Just as I was turning a corner I heard a crack and felt something hit me in the back.

I ran down and alley way, a blind alley with a wall too high to jump and too smooth climb. I could hear the gang still coming after me.

There have been tales about dying people seeing a light which beckons them to walk into it. I experienced that but at the same time I had shadowy things with long hooked fingers grabbing at me. Not even my uncle had ever scared me that bad.

I tried to run into the light but a shadow had its fingers wrapped around my right ankle. The best I could do was hold myself from being dragged into the darkness. I remembering wondering how long it would be before I was too tired to fight.

Then I saw the members of the gang creeping toward me. I saw one of them with a gun and realized what the crack sound was and that it was a bullet that had hit me in the back.

I was just about to give up when I heard a whispering. It came from the wall that made up the back of the blind alley. I couldn’t really hear what it was saying but I sensed it was beckoning me.

The gang was nearly upon me. They did not seem to see or hear what I did. With my last spark of strength I pulled myself out of the grip of the shadow’s fingers and flung myself toward the whispering voice.

Nothing.

I got to my feet appalled to find myself completely naked and there at my feet was my body, my dead self, but not in the flesh. It was my skeletal remains which I recognized only by a necklace still attached to my neck. My mother’s locket she gave me the night she and father vanished. I had never opened it to see what was inside. I still haven’t and probably never will. For some reason I had it in my mind that if I never looked inside maybe they would come back.

I reached down and picked the locket off my corpse and put around my neck, having no pocket to put it in.

I started toward the street at end of the alley. It was still an alley but different, with concrete walls instead of slimy red brick. Near the adit I saw someone curled up on a pile of cardboard, covered in newspapers. I reached down to touch it. It was dead, just starting to go stiff. As rude and cruel as it may sound I took its clothes, which were not the rags of a derelict but not new either.

I could smell alcohol.

I got dressed and exploring the pockets of the trench coat and pants found a roll of money, not like what we had here but stuff that was like film. I also found a gun but no ID. Just the money and the gun.

I stepped out of the alley. It was night. I expected to find New York. It was a city, but far greater than new York, with strange looking cars and cars that were flying dozens of feet above the street.

I went back into the alleyway and picked up the newspaper the dead man had covered himself in. I found the cover page. The banner read, The Illusia Chronicle. The headline read, Murder Macabre In Hightown. At the time it didn’t strike me that the murder had anything to do with me. I was a sixteen year old kid shoved rather harshly into what I could only think of being as madness. It wasn’t long though that I found myself wrapped up in the intricacies of the city and the Hightown murder. But before all that happened I set out to try and figure what the hell happened. I use the term hell in relative conjunction with the situation. It felt like what I thought might be a kind of hell though there was no fore and brimstone and in fact there wasn’t even the smell of exhaust fumes from the new automobiles or the stench of horse manure from the carriages.

At first I kept the gun hidden then I spotted a fellow walking around with a low slung side holster into which was shoved what looked like automatic pistols. I had seen pictures in catalogues of them. The guy looked like he should have been riding the range in the old west. There were a lot of strange things that my mind could not understand but I wasn’t frightened, I was intrigued.

As I stepped away from the alleyway it occurred to me, in a rather sickly rush that my first act in this strange world had been to rob a dead guy. At the same time something about me made me realize that where or what this Illusia place was survival felt like a main concern.

I did something that could have been stupid but turned out to be ok, though I wouldn’t say good. The best way to explain it is, it didn’t get me killed. I walked up to the man with the low slung holster and said, “Excuse me sir, but I seem to have lost my way. Could you help me?”

The guy looked me over, head to foot then said, “Sure. Where are you going?”

I said back, “That’s the problem. I don’t know where I am going. I don’t even know where I came from that would make any sense. All I can say that does make sense is I was shot and when I woke up I was here. I stepped out of that alleyway,” I pointed, “About five minutes ago. My name is J.J. Brown.

The guy studied me for a minute then said, “That sounds too weird to be a fabrication. Maybe you fell when you got shot and knocked your head. Where did you get shot?”

“In the back.” I answered.

The guy said back, “Well. Shooting a guy face to face in a fair fight ain’t an indictable offense, just a slap on the wrist, but shooting a guy in the back will get you hung. Let me see where you were shot.”

I showed him.

He said, “You got plugged with a thirty eight. Let’s look at the front.” I lifted my stolen shirt and this time I could see the wound. It was fairly large.

The guy said, “How the hell are you still walking around? You should be a corpse, and why ain’t there a hole in the shirt and coat?”

“I took these clothes from a dead man in the alley way.” I explained cautiously.

The guy grinned and asked, “What did you do with yer old clothes?”

I answered, “That’s another mystery. When I woke up I was naked.” Then I showed him the gun and roll of cash.

“Ok kid. If you didn’t mug the guy and make him a corpse then you lucked out an scored big. Show me the body.”

I showed the guy the body. He examined it then said, “Looks like he died from the booze. I’ll call it in. He’ll be charged with manslaughter and dumped in a mass grave. We don’t like folks who kill themselves around here.”

“Alcohol poisoning is considered suicide?!” I said.

“No. Suicide is different.” The guy answered. Then he asked, “How old are you kid?”

“Sixteen.” I answered.

“You got a job…well maybe you don’t know if you do since you don’t even know where you came from. But you know you’re name so that’s good. Still, you’ll need a job and maybe I can get you one.” The guy offered. “My name’s Jack Trajik. I’m a cop, a street cop up in Hightown, and I need an assistant. I was just down this way looking for a mugger. The corpse in there might be him. You can keep the cash but I suggest we ditch the gun. I’ll get you a real gun, like mine.”

He drew the weapon. It wasn’t a gun like I would have recognized. It was shaped a lot like an automatic. It even had a magazine in the butt, but the magazine was a laser charger.

“Ten shot charge mag. It’ll bring down anything that walks, even a hybrid.” He described.

“What’s a hybrid?” I asked.

“You did get a whack on the head. Hybrids are half human and half animal.” Jack Trajik answered.

“Wow.” Was all I could get out. Then I managed to say, “I’ll take your offer. Being a cop sounds better than being a mugger.”

“Come with me then. I’ll clear it with the brass then take you for a training session.” Jack instructed.

“Sounds pretty quick.” I replied.

“I’ll give you the best training. On the job.”

I felt like I had stepped into the old west in a future world with all the same old issues that hold humanity hostage.

I suppose I’ll have to become a quick draw.” I said in an amused tone.

“Nah. We cops don’t do that, well usually. That stuff is done by the lawyer and the courts. The judges decide what course of justice suits a situation. Sometimes when someone kills another someone the reason is hard to determine and so is deciding who is actually the guilty party. After that it gets complicated and cops don’t need to figure it out.”

I listened in awe and wondered what role cops played but I decided the best way to find out was to learn from Jack, Homicide Detective.

I asked at last, “Are you investigating the murder up in Hightown?” “Yup. I got stuck with that ball of wax. Its going to get mean and messy. It already cost me my assistant.” Jack replied.

“It got him killed.” I replied anxiously.

Jack grinned, “Nah, he went yellowbelly on me and quit. But I’ll warn you it could get us both killed if we don’t pay real close attention. I’ll get you a real gun and a real shield. You can keep the clothes. They suit you.”

I laughed. Maybe a little louder and nervously than I had intended.

Next week: Chapter 2