Author's Note/ Disclaimer: I started this one a long time ago, and-- like the terrible person I am-- didn't do a damn thing with it for about seven and a half months. It takes place shortly after the second act of the film, and was supposed to be a dark mystery sort of thing. That went out the window when I found out I can't write drama to save my arse, so I turned it into a sort of buddy-detective thing. Anyway, be warned that there is some language, innuendo, and mild violence in the chapters ahead, but I'm pretty sure I could squeak it by with a PG-13. And none of the actual A.I. stuff is mine. It goes to Dreamworks and Warner Bros., copyright 2001. But all of the original characters and text go my way, copyright 2002, Warson Heyn. Don't take it without asking. But feel free to ask. And do review me. Even if it is Flame, I dig feedback.

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"Yesterday, upon the stair,

I saw a man who wasn't there.

He wasn't there again today.

I wish that man would go away."

~Anonymous

"S H A D O W T O W N"

By Warson Heyn

Part I: "Another"

Prologue


Those were the years after the ice caps had melted because of the greenhouse gasses, and the oceans had risen to drown so many cities along the shorelines of the world. Amsterdam, Venice, New York, forever lost... but not Seattle.

Yes, Seattle-- the birthplace of Starbucks, grunge rock, and a fad that came and went in the 2030's that involved dropping an occupied car from a rather high crane into a large air-filled cushion-- survived the rise of the oceans due to two feats of engineering brilliance that saved millions of people the trouble of having to move to the suburbs. The first plan seemed simple enough. There was a problem, and there would be a solution.

Problem: The water was coming into the Puget Sound and flooding the city. Solution: Stop the water from coming into the Sound. An intricate system of massive dams and canals that made the digging the Panama Canal seem like making a moat around a sand castle was hastily arranged and completed in less than ten years. It worked for a few decades, and the water in the Sound barely raised a foot... for a while, anyway.

Problem: The first plan was hastily arranged and completed in less than ten years, and was apt to give way at the slightest provocation. Solution: Don't move the water, but instead move the city. And where else would you move it except up? Two vast square platforms-- each eighty-five meters above sea level and five miles across --were constructed above the city, so that whenever the day came that the shoddy dams burst and the Puget Sound turned into the Puget Gulf, the city would survive. These incredible structures were built above (or around, depending on height)the existing buildings, but left room for urban expansion.

This was fine with most people, as the upper floors of most of the taller buildings stood above the 85-meter mark, and with little effort could the thirtieth story be converted into a lobby. The open space left on the platforms was snatched up quickly from the state and resold at an incredible cost. Nobody minded paying it to build huge skyscrapers. Besides, the ego of it all was just overwhelming.

Seattle became the world's city, like Manhattan before it. The city exploded with life. The peoples off all the drowned cities elsewhere came and lived there to witness something that their own homes had failed to do- defy all logic and stop the seas. Not thirty years after the completion of the towers a third platform was commissioned to bridge the gap between the two. Needless to say, this only spurred the budget, and increased real estate costs on the existing platforms. God Bless Capitalism.

No-one even stopped to think of the downside of it all-- of all the wasted steel and iron, and of the once beautiful city that now lay lightless and lifeless below the monstrous thing. Of course no-one thought of these things. Why focus on reality when you are building one very pretty little Coffee Table (which, ironically, is what the city came to be nicknamed)? Besides, one day the old dams will burst, and you won't even be able to see that any more. Until then, the city sits high and dry, looking, from a distance, like a Metropolis on stilts.

So now, sitting beneath the world largest metaphor of mankind's hubris, there is a wasteland. While overhead thirty million people go on with their crowded and superficially happy lives, there is a whole world beneath the Table that most people don't even know about... strike that: they know about it, but choose to ignore it. It is a dark world of crime and violence that's in nobody's jurisdiction anymore. Shadowtown only sees daylight at dawn, then spends twenty-three hours lit only by the fires that sporadically burn in the abandoned shipyards. Nobody comes down here unless they have a reason, and they'd better have a damned good reason. That or a a very, very bad reason.

It's usually a very, very bad reason.

* * *

Day One: 1611hrs

In the aging office lit by two flickering fluorescents, the man who was known simply as "Leo" to all who knew him sat behind his desk. In one hand he held a burning cigarette, and the other propped up his chin as his elbow rested on the desk. His shoulder-length red hair fell over his face as he read over a stack of papers sitting on his desk. He was thirty years old and of medium build, and he had a temper that, when unleashed, was not unlike that of a six-foot tall hornet.

Fortunately, he had ways of curbing his anger (chain-smoking) and hadn't exploded into a real fit of violence for years. Still, there was the occasional tantrum, and the erratic, almost manic mood changes that earned him a certain refute amongst his hunters as being a little bit insane. This wasn't entirely true. Leo just liked to keep his boys on their toes. Or so he told himself.

Leo was one of the few people who called Shadowtown home. He spent most of his days and nights in a once-abandoned office building on Pike Street. It was one of the few "live" places in the all-but-empty city. The building was six stories high with a large moon-shaped light and the words "What About Us" painted on one side. The Flesh Fair Offices. The building was old even for Shadowtown standards. It dated back to 1930's, and had been renovated several times since. Leo's office was on the top story, facing Pike Street. He was the director of the Old Seattle Rogue Mecha Recovery Team. The ROMREC, as it was abbreviated, was simply a euphenism for Flesh Fair mecha hunters. The hounds.

It wasn't a job Leo necessarily liked. He used to be a fairly straightforward businessman before joining the Fair five years ago. But, because Shadowtown was an unpoliced district where the sun seldom shone, and was almost devoid of humans, it was all but crawling with runaway and lost Mechas. That was why the Flesh Fair set up shop here. It was very discreet, and it was a lucrative business. People like Leo like lucrative businesses.

It had been a relatively normal Saturday afternoon in Leo's Shadowtown offices. He was sitting behind his desk flipping through the pages of the Regional Demographics Report and idly humming the last few chords of "Let It Be." After a few moments, he threw the folder over his shoulder and into the trashcan behind him. Why do they even bother sending me stuff like this? Leo thought, as he flipped a switch on his desk. A giant digital wall-screen turned on on the wall opposite Leo's desk. He put it on ESPN. The Yankees were losing.

Damn, he muttered, that's fifty bucks down the drain.

Just then, the door flew open. It was Kyla, his personal assistant. Leo quickly clicked off the screen, and pretended to look busy. "Freeman just passed by," she said. "He told me to tell you he got a call from Jacobs on Team Six."

Russell Freeman was the Assistant Director at the ROMREC. He was twenty-eight years old, not particularly tall, black, and very articulate for his age. He functioned as a liaison between the hunters and Leo, and even though Russ was technically his subordinate, he and Leo generally worked as equals.

"What did he say?" Leo asked.

"I told you what he said," replied Kyla.

"No, what did Jacobs say."

"Oh… Nothing."

"… he said nothing."

"Yeah. He said absolutely nothing."

"I see…" Leo said.

"Well, Russ figures either he accidentally called us up, and left the phone on, or… something else." Her eyes shifted slightly away from Leo when he said 'something else.'

"Well, which do you think it is?" Leo asked. The hunters never called the office while they were out on their rounds unless either by accident or if something went very, very wrong.

"Dunno," he said. "That's what he's going to find out. He'll call you when he gets to them."

"No," Leo said, standing up. "I'm going with him."

"No," Kyla said, "He'll call you when he gets to them. You stay here and… do whatever the hell you do in here all day, because I know it isn't working… Speaking of which, are you done with the Demographics Report yet?"

"Yes," Leo lied.

"You're lying," she said.

"I know."

She must have noticed the discomfort her news had brought to his face because she suddenly changed tone. "Leo, it's nothing, okay? It's probably just a false alarm. Whatever was happening out there has stopped by now."

"Yeah, you're probably right," he said.

"Oh, and watch the end of the Mariner's game for him. He says he'll be waiting for the cash when he gets back." She turned to walk out the door. "The Yankees aren't going to win," she said over her shoulder as she closed the door.

"The Yankees always win, Kyla!" Leo shouted.

"Not against the Mariners!" yelled Kyla from outside.

* * *

Ten minutes later, the phone rang on Leo's desk. "ROMREC, Leo," he mumbled into the receiver.

"Leo, it's Russ," the voice crackled in.

"I owe you fifty dollars."

"What?"

"Mariners won."

"Not now, Leo, we've got a situation."

Leo's stomach churned suddenly at the words. "…Did it happen again?" Leo asked, sounding slightly nervous.

"Yeah," Russell said, "It's pretty bad. There are three of them out here, all knocked out, and the rest of them are nowhere to be seen. I haven't been able to make radio contact with anybody."

"Where are you?" asked Leo as he rose from his chair.

"I'm in the fairgrounds, over by the old monorail station."

"I'll be there in ten minutes." Leo hung up the phone and threw on his knee-length tan-leather jacket. It was his trademark, or at least it would be if people knew who he was. On his way out the door he grabbed two pistols and a pack of cigarettes. He was afraid he might be needing all three.

It was the third time in the past two weeks that something had taken one of his teams down.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the old World's Fair Grounds in southern Shadowtown near the base of the Space Needle, Russ Freeman stood bewildered, confused and scared. In one hand he held the cell-phone he had used to call Leo, and in the other, a twelve-gauge shotgun. Around him were the bodies of three unconscious Flesh Fair foot-hunters. And on the ground at his feet was a crudely spray-painted Teddy Bear.

It was the same design found somewhere near all of the downed teams.