The Janitor of Buddha
The rain falls. Cold, wet, and stinking of industry. I pull my coat tighter, trying to shut out the wet. I smell the coat, I smell myself, my hair, my skin. It's all new to me, and yet, with each new sensation, I realize that it really isn't new. I've just forgotten all of these things.
Who am I, I think to myself, huddling under an awning in an alley way. A neon sign above the locked door tells me that I've stopped at the rear of a dive.
Who am I?
A spark of memory, a flash that echoes with the hum of the neon sign above me.
I'm Quinn. My name's Quinn.
Quinn DiArdo of the Mouja.
But I'm not dead ...
They didn't kill me.
The bastards tried, but they couldn't do it. I wouldn't let them!
I know my name!
I'm back in the Living. I'm not vanished!
I laugh out loud and stare upwards into the storm, throwing my arms out to the side. The rain comes down harder. I blink. It stings my eyes. I stumble down the alley, using a dumpster to support myself. The metal is cool to the touch.
I know my name!
I know who I am...
I am NOT mouja.
A lot of memories and not a few regrets.
SuRuy Biological killed Quinn DiArdo, in a way. I was different now. A different name, a different face, but the same body. The same memories. My hair color was different, I'd changed my habits, and my tastes.
It's what I had to do to live.
Some cross over neural work, low key job. I walked with a different step, wrote left handed now, and had a surgical eye job to change retina patterns. My fingerprints were re-etched by a microartist that owed me a big favor. I had chemically fast grown a natural beard and mustache, longer hair braided into a tail, darker skin tone, every mole and birthmark on my body was either removed or replaced with new ones; all good quality work, all done on the run with favors and extended markers and the last of my hard untraceable currency. I had subcutaneous translators and nanobinders which would take my DNA and scramble it so that no typing machine could posi-ident me through blood analysis or other means. I lost two inches of height by sawing off the bones in my legs. Artistic level work, the bones were electrostatically fused and bonded with a calcium based epoxy. The whole process took about a day. I pulled in everything that everybody owed me which meant that I would have to start from scratch if I got out of this one alive.
To every form of detection I was a completely different person.
I thought for sure that SuyRu Bio would be hard pressed to find me, even if they cared to. Over the past few days they had trouble enough fending off the other corporations. In the end, SuyRu was absorbed by Lohm Hissad, the very target that SuyRu had tried to acquire.
It took SuyRu Biological's ronins just seven months to track me, despite every precaution that I had taken. I spent those seven months altering my self, my image, my ways, and trying to jump shores to Neomerica without making a ripple in their placid security pools.
They found me anyway, don't know how, didn't really matter then. A few of SuyRu Biological's remaining Samurai had decided to make an example of me before seeking employment elsewhere. I was going to look really good on their resumes. Bagging me would show that they stuck with their company until the very end, no matter what. I admired that, loyalty to the point of fanaticism. It was just what employers were looking for these days, people who would finish a job no matter what the conditions or the current situation.
I should be honored, I know. It wasn't personnel, it was all professional. I had flat-lined their contracts but they still owed it to their ex-employer to track me down and tie up loose ends. I would have done the same. A token gesture, really, since I had already flat-lined SuyRu Biological's artifint over forty-three hundred hours before.
I might as well have been dead.
Memories of Dai Nguen Plaza, a bazaar, people moving everywhere in life's hectic imitation of tides. There had been five of them and one of me. Five figures moving closer to me with every step, converging in from different angles, coordinated, making no effort to disguise their movement. People moving out of the way, ducking into stores and shop fronts. Crowds were no place for ronin and Samurai to meet.
Yeah, three pretty boys and two pretty girls. Chemical reinforcement with sensory and reflex boosters miked way up. And enough hardware to get the job done.
I moved, ducking and weaving through the crowds, using as many other people as I could for cover.
Shots. Some type of self loading repeater, small caliber high velocity high capacity. The screams in the crowd, a massive surge in the living tide, a pressure front that spread outward like a shockwave from the victims. Chaos being led by panic.
Some felt confusion, some felt pain, some would never feel anything again.
The living sea of flesh parted for a second, presenting a pair of silhouettes as the smoothbore Mitsubishi appeared in my hand. Caseless. Compact. Deadly and accurate. I squeezed the trigger. Twice.
I managed to get two of them.
Messed another one up real bad.
The last two managed to draw a bead on me, coordination, fluid reflex.
High velocity people wreckers.
They say you never hear the rounds that hit you.
I know that I didn't.
Something like a supersonic elephant slammed into the left side of my back. It was carrying a lot of pain with it. A lot. What was left of my shoulder sprayed out in front of me in slow motion. The passage of the round picked me off of my feet and sent me spinning around.
I didn't hear the second round either, but I saw it.
Spinning in the air, people screaming and running, my own heart pounding in my ears, I'm falling, momentum, I'm going down facing back the way that I was running.
I saw the flash from the Samurai's piece.
Someone in front of me exploded outwards, what went through them had a path through me as well.
More pain. Instantly.
Then I heard the crack of the round's passage.
I found that I couldn't breathe. I'd lost my wind. My body was on endorphin overload. Falling would be so easy. The pain was so heavy, I just wanted to lie down, to stop for a second or two, to close my eyes ...
My legs didn't work but I keep moving backward, falling over into a sea of flesh that rapidly spread out from me.
Like Moses at the Red Sea.
I see blood sprayed out on the ground below me, behind me, and to each side.
My arms flail uselessly. There is nothing to grab. I fall.
The ground is rushing up to me. I hear the ocean in my ears, everything else is so distant.
I see the blood again.
I know it is.
I'm sprawled on the ground, a broken marionette, a discarded piece of trash in the gutter. The pain beats at me mercilessly, wave after wave, iambic beat after beat. It's a hammer that's forcing me under, deeper and deeper.
Two shadows appear over me, one on each side. I hear talk, but I don't understand it. The ground is so cold. I close my eyes. The pain is flashing through me like some robotic drum beat, measured out in a psychotic set of rim taps. My eyelids drop, falter, close.
Blood fills my mouth, it's more than I want to swallow...
Everything goes black.
I don't remember much after that, just bits and flashes, images that flash back.
It seems that I was to be made an example of and that meant that I had to be taken alive, well, almost alive. The last two Samurai dragged me to a stitch artist that did them extra special favors on the side. They managed to keep me alive during the drive until they unloaded me, in the urban sprawl, deep beneath the street in the cold, damp basement of a half lit Kirimawasu. Certain interests who had carried a lot of stock in SuyRu Bio wanted to make a very poignant example of me. If you crossed a zaibatsu, you got erased.
That was to be my fate, the part that was worse than death. The part where they didn't just get mad enough at you to kill you or let you bleed to death in a gutter or alley way somewhere, or stuff you in a dumpster. No, there were worse things than dying just as there were worse ways to die.
One of them was jintai hakuseijutsu. The very dark and illegal practice of taxidermy performed on a human subject. A living human subject. It was an art among some of the deeper elements of the underground.
Seems that the Kirimawasu wasn't a licensed or practicing doctor, but rather a out of work veterinarian with a strong pharmaceutical craving and a taxidermy practice on the side which he maintained for a hobby to pass the time between his fixes. Either way, I guess you got your pet back. His hobby tended toward the macabre. He liked to experiment. Some of his best preserving work had been done on animals while they were still alive.
His ultimate work was supposed to have been me. He had been waiting for a human subject, but none had presented themselves for his passion. He had to wait until the Samurai had contacted him. The Samurai and the Kirimawasu argued for a long time. I couldn't follow everything, too much pain, it made drum beats in my ear, and my heart added its own noise, scrambling my thoughts, and producing a thick orange and red fog that I had to swim through, lanced with white flashes of lightning and the occasional thunder of something being slapped around. I did catch several words that kept being spoken over and over again. Sou, which meant suffering and kutsuu, which translated as pain and agony. There was another word used as well; shouhin.
I was going to be a trophy in someone's corporate office. Inert gas filled case. Static charge on the glass to repel dust and fingerprint grease.
The Kirimawasu had different ideas, though...
I remember the heated argument between them. They were pushing for speed, he was countering with quality. They finally managed to compromise somewhere in between. Lucky me. The Kirimawasu could have my organs, and anything else that wasn't required for the procedure. They wanted a rebuilt skin, intact, and the original skeleton to support it for display. To my credit, they wanted a life-like pose, not some scared or begging for mercy stance with terror in my eyes. The eyes had to be the right color, but they could be plastic or glass. Didn't matter, what ever looked natural and didn't glaze with age. They reminded him that they had taken extreme care not to damage the skin too much, and what was left internally would bring a tidy profit to him on the body bank market.
The Kirimawasu told the Samurai that the kind of work they wanted done would take some time. A week, maybe longer, but he assured them that quality would not be sacrificed. He told the Samurai that he wanted to try out some new techniques that he had read about, preferably while I was still conscious. He could make them a stimcopy of the experience if they wanted...
The first Samurai didn't want a copy. The other Samurai already had a recrystal formatted and presented it to the Kirimawasu for his use ...
The Samurai had left, promising to return in a week for their trophy. There were muted threats echoed, and a promise of updates from the Kirimawasu on his status. A deposit of some sort was left on hand, and subtle threats were implied more strongly this time with regard to a deadline. The Kirimawasu was only too glad to see them leave. He knew that I was worth more alive than dead. If a corporation big enough to have controlled SuyRu Bio wanted me trophied, then he reasoned that I or those who were backing me would be willing to pay even more to keep me from ending up that way.
He figured that nobody would go up against a Zaibatsu alone.
He figured wrong, but it was too my advantage not to let him know that.
The artificial skin that the Samurai had slapped on me had stopped the bleeding, but there was still a lot of tissue and material damage. Their patches did nothing for the severed nerve endings which were quick firing pain signals to my brain, telling me what I already knew. I had just enough life left in me for him to decide to take a chance. A few 'dorphs and I started to come around. The wrecked nerves became quiet under the blanket of pain killers. My blood caked eyes drifted in their sockets, slowly...
A basement with barking and crying animals in magnetic locked cages, of bright lights, dark shadows, the smells of detergents, antiseptics, pharmaceuticals and animal excrement.
Hellish images of preserved animals and disembodied animal heads frozen in fear, in pain, with glazed eyes, stared down at me from all corners. Works rendered in someone else's vision of art, hung on mounts on the wall, covered in the dust of something that has been forgotten for a long time.
My consciousness spread slowly as the 'dorphs expended themselves in my system. The cold feel of the stamped stainless surgical table beneath me, not quite large enough for a man. A third of my head and from my shins down hung over the edge. Blood running down my body, dripping from the bandages and patches taped to me. Blood collecting in the run-off troughs in the side of the table, the sound of blood hitting the floor, the sound of blood running down a drain in the middle of the room.
Everything went dark.
The Kirimawasu had put a spinal block on me, effectively dampening all nervous signals to my brain, paralyzing me as well. I watched as he slowly worked on me. I saw my blood being removed, filtered, and reinstalled. The Kirimawasu was busy with micro-forceps, removing bone fragments and splinters from my chest and shoulders. The blood filter gurgled in the corner, taking over most of the work of my heart and kidneys, all with machine like precision and reliability. He cursed, sighed, and looked up at me. I stared back at him.
"Awake? Eh? Can't have that!" he said as he casually reached over my head.
His leather apron was cold against my cheek, and covered with my blood. I heard a switch snap shut, and a electric motor start up. Five seconds later the darkness engulfed me again, slowly, swimming up like some great leviathan, then it pounced, and I fell silently into it. Fell forever.
I slowly swam out of the inky jet blackness. Higher and higher, ascending through layers and levels of consciousness. There was barking and hissing far away. The sounds of animals whining. Then smells. Then the sounds of metal instruments and surgical electronics. Then there was light, bright light, and I opened my eyes.
The spinal block was gone and my nerve endings were once again protesting, threatening to put me down again, but I fought them. When I gained enough consciousness that I could whisper, he started to make his pitch. Wild ramblings and banter, followed by laughter and chuckling. He talked to himself a lot, as well as to the animals, both the live ones and the ones that were beyond the point of being scared anymore. The Kirimawasu would go silent, lean in front of me so that I could see him, and then suddenly laugh, running his fingers over my body, nodding and starting to talk to himself again.
I looked around, rolling my eyes to take in what I could. He watched as I stared at the stuffed animals and a smile appeared on his face. Something that resembled what was left of a dog lay on a table two meters away. The carcass was split open along its belly with its dried intestines coiled in a pile. Knives, brushes, cutters, shapers, and various bottles of chemicals were arranged around the dead animal like some form of grotesque still life.
The eyes of the animal were dull and open wide, dried. A livid colored tongue lay hanging out of a pair of jaws that were long since locked open in rigor. Part of the dark fur had been shaved bare near the mid-section and a line of stitches appeared in stark contrast to the naked pale skin. Something wasn't right about the way that the dog lay, and then I noticed that the animal had been put together from two different breeds, the front of the dog proportionally wrong with whatever had been the breed used for the rear quarter. There was even a small patch of spray painted fur where the Kirimawasu had tried to match the colors for an overall coat...
The Kirimawasu gripped my jaw with his hand and turned me to face him. He turned my head from side to side, putting his other hand on his chin and contemplating his handiwork. He let go of my jaw and my head fell to the side, with my full view centered on the mismatched horror on the table beside me. I heard the Kirimawasu laugh, I heard the sound of instruments being laid on the table beside me, the electric motor behind me start up, and then everything went black again.
I remember surgical strobes, bright lights, the stitchman's voice sounded far away, disembodied. I listened as he presented the whole scenario the way that he was sure that it had happened. My involvement and just what I had done to get a boryokudan of Samurai so interested in me. I agreed with him as best as I was able to when he pointed out how stupid I had been for taking on SuyRu Biological, and he mentioned over and over again how my employers would be glad to see me alive again. He figured that I was an investment, both for my imaginary employers and for him. Obviously, someone of my talents was a worth a lot more to the parent corporation than as a paperweight in some rival corporate boardroom. He felt that my body parts alone could fetch more on the black market than my skin, but sometimes, the sum of the parts didn't amount to the whole of the product.
My employers would see me again for a price, that is, and he named the price.
I felt flattered, even in the condition that I was in. I hadn't ever thought of myself as being worth that much, but I assured him as best as I could in the condition that I was in that the price for his services was not unreasonable.
"Why ... you?" I asked hoarsely.
"Me?" the Kirimawasu said.
He extended his arms in a blatant imitation of Christ on the cross and drooped his head, pouting his lips.
"I'm the Shitei!" He said, bringing his arms together in mock prayer.
He leaned down to me, face to face.
"The 'janitor'?" I asked, forming the words.
My lips didn't seem to be my own. Must belong to someone else...
The Kirimawasu thought about this for a moment, nodding and rubbing his chin, the slapping his hands together.
"I had preferred the meaning to be 'messenger', but 'janitor'... Hmmm. Let's see."
He walked around the table several times, starting, then stopping in thought. Finally he stopped at the foot of the table, and gripped both edges.
"The Janitor of Buddha!" he shouted at the top of his lungs and laughed.
I winced as spittle covered my face. The Kirimawasu slowly turned and looked to each side, then cautiously behind him. He looked back at me and nodded his head, agreeing with himself on some unknown subject. His spoke again, but this time his voice was a whisper.
"Why, you ask? I'll tell you why! You see, Buddha doesn't like any shit in his garden! That's my job, he gave it to me. He told me to keep the shit out of his garden! And you know what?"
I slowly shook my head and he ran a finger slowly over my left eyebrow.
"I'm the best there is. Buddha only has one janitor. Everyone knows that. The Samurai know that. The zaibatsus know that, and now you know that. Bet you wish you didn't know that, but we can't change that, can we?"
And he laughed. For ten minutes straight while I sank into darkness again.
The Kirimawasu and I worked out a deal while he kept me up with locals and some harder stuff.
I didn't trust him, so I opted for locals instead of a general. I was used to pain. I took a lot of it as he put me back together, piece by piece. A man can only take so much of something negative before he turns it around and makes something positive out of it. That's how I deal with pain. After a while, I can ignore pain, compartmentalize, draw in upon myself, and shut the pain out. It becomes like a neighbor, something you just live with.
Pain becomes your friend.
I remember seeing the Kirimawasu working over me, sewing me up with a hand spinner, the whine of the little electric motor as monofilament surgical cord was automatically stitched in and out of my stomach. Feeling him having to work with limited locals and medical equipment designed to be used on an animal instead of a man. A few other items he had rented locally, a diagnostic monitor, a heart motor, lung pump, a automatic IV/pneumatic hypo equipped 'ceutical dispenser, and a portable medical artifint which kept me alive no matter what he did to me. He was banking heavy into his payoff, but he obviously had a line of credit somewhere.
I remember layers of artificially grown animal skin being taken, dripping and still warm, from a little Sanui Replicator that sat burbling in the corner. The tissue being derm stapled onto mine, grafted with nanosurgery and microsutures. The nanos were designed to work with animal patterns, on me, they had to make adjustments, and to do the best that they could. There's a big difference between the thigh bone of a German Shepherd and that of a human being.
The locals wore off after a few hours, and he didn't offer anymore. Not that it mattered.
I remember the sound of dated instruments being dropped into trays full of bloody antiseptic. Some of them had rust on them before they became caked in blood.
I remember the mumbling of the Kirimawasu, a unfamiliar tune being badly rendered in a hoarse hum. The long tail of ash from a narcoticigarette falling from the tip and landing somewhere on my chest.
He did a pretty average job on me. Not another pretty face, lots of scars, and a surgical brace, that's what I got. What I had left was two days. Two days before the Samurai returned for me. Even with some of the 'ceuticals that the Kirimawasu had managed to dope into me, it was going to be close.
I didn't fade in and out so much now. I could count the number of times on one hand. I grew stronger, not much, but enough so that I thought I could do something about my situation.
Another half day and I made my move.
He figured that in my current state, I wasn't a threat. I waited until he shot up one of his fixes, taken from somewhere upstairs, above. I had heard him moving around above the basement. While he was gone, I had looked for something that I could use. He had put all the medical instruments into locked drawers, there were no chemicals around within easy reach, and nothing that I could use for a club. The scalpels were likewise secured. Nothing really sharp, or blunt. Maybe I could rip off a leg from one of his projects and beat him to death with it...
I looked the room over twice before I literally bumped into the Samandi unit.
Dirty, caked with dried blood and dust, the Samandi was an eviscerating body cavity vacuum used in the performance of taxidermy operations. A two meter vacuum hose connected the cutting bur/vacuum nozzle to the main pump motor and tank case. I had two meters to work with, but then I've had less before, and I made sure as best as I could without activating the unit that it had power. I heard the Kirimawasu moving around, heading toward the stairs and I slowly crawled back on the table, naked, closing my eyes.
I watched him with my ears. The sound of his movements were sluggish, exaggerated.
He walked up to the table, checking my bandages and patches, mumbling about how he was going to be rich, rich enough to buy off the two Samurai and still live comfortably. I waited until he turned his back to me to hit a dog that had stuck its nose too far out of its cage. He started to curse the animal, slapping the cage and yelling, but his back was still turned.
It was the last mistake he ever made.
I was off the table, moving on the balls of my feet, sprinting up behind him. The room spun crazily around me, vertigo threatening to overcome me, I kept my vision focused on the Kirimawasu. My right hand flashed out and with the luck of God, grabbed the old Samandi that was lying on a counter near the cages. The look on his face was lost to me as I threw an arm around his neck and shoulders and with the other hand shoved the cutting burr equipped nozzle into the small of his back. The Samandi was crude, but it was the only thing that I could get my hands on. My finger flipped the activation switch on the nozzle, a simple trigger grip.
There was a second of nothing in which I knew that the Samandi was broken and I was truly going to be one of the Mouja.
Then came two of the sweetest sounds that I have ever heard in my life.
The first was the sound of the Samandi unit coming to life in my hand. The second was his surprised scream. I heard the activator switch flip and I think the Kirimawasu did also. He screamed and chortled as the Samandi growled to life in my hand, vibrating and bucking as the burrs spun into a rotating blur of alloyed teeth. I pushed the nozzle forward as I pulled him back toward me, driving my knee up into his buttocks and pinning him against the wall.
There was some resistance as the burr chewed through his shirt and then on through muscle and skin. I felt a warm sticky wet splash against my chest and legs as he jerked and tried to pull away. I held tight as he flailed about, screaming and kicking, even twisting and falling to the ground but I was on top of him as he fell, planting my knee into the small of his back and my free hand against his neck, pinning him to the floor. The Samandi bored deeper into him, chewing and swallowing, his ground-up insides being carried down the coiled vacuum tube to the machine's holding tank. The churning sound of material being evacuated down the vacuum hose, the hose bucking as material not ground up enough tried to pass down it in large quantities, and the sweet, oh so sweet high pitched whine of the cutting burr/vacuum nozzle.
It was music to my ears.
I closed my eyes as I pushed the unit harder. The hose started to buck even more and the sound of the burr head became muted somewhat as it found denser material to remove. The Kirimawasu was laying on the floor, his struggling had turned into random spasms, and his screaming had become a choked gurgle that slowly trailed off into silence. My arm was halfway inside him, still holding the nozzle, my other had was pressing his neck flat against the floor.
I don't know how long I was on top of him .... my eyes closed, the Samandi singing music to my soul.
I just know that after a while, the machine shutdown, signaling that the tank was full and needed emptying. The burr heads growled to a stop inside the Kirimawasu. I pulled my arm out of the entrance cavity and dropped the Samandi on the floor. My legs didn't want to work. I fell, got up, made my way to the sink, and managed to catch myself as I fell forward.
I cleaned up as best as I could. I limped up the stairs and managed to find some clothes in the danchi above the basement. They fit, a little loose, but they fit. They didn't belong to the Kirimawasu, not his size. I guessed that they might have belonged to a previous patient or another failed project.
A day and a half left and I was in no condition to face two healthy Samurai or their hardware. I didn't need to, really. You have to learn to outthink the other person, to know what they will do given a certain set of circumstances.
That's the only way you stay alive in my profession.
If the Samurai came back, and the Kirimawasu didn't answer, then they would get suspicious and take the place apart, either assuming that the Kirimawasu had run with their trophy, or I had gotten the better of the Kirimawasu. That would mean that the Samurai would be cautious, that they wouldn't be taking the obvious path, or make the obvious moves. That was how I set up a few surprises for them.
Something to remember me by in the two seconds that they would have. There were a lot of chemicals and materials in the basement. The right ingredients in the right portions and I had what I needed to deal with the Samurai. I made one last check of my work then cut the power to the danchi at the main coupling, plunging the basement and the upper level into darkness. Wouldn't bother the Samurai, but it would give them the impression that I wanted them to have. I knew how they thought, how they would react to a given set of situations, and that was where the Samurai were already as good as dead.
I took what little 'dorphs the Kirimawasu had and left and the down payment that the Samurai had left. I was impressed, it was a good sum. That and the net from the 'dorphs on the black market would do a lot to pay for some of the items and services that I needed. Seventeen and a half hours after I had left, the authorities found the danchi and its basement clinic. They also found what was left of the three bodies.
That was a few years ago.
I've still got the scars from the stitchman's average work and a lot of regrets, but neither are worth anything.
I know who I am.
I'm Quinn Diardo.