Shanghai

“You know, I have the distinct impression that I’ve been shanghaied.” Ameer Anwar commented, looking rather uncomfortable in the formal suit he’d been forced into. The UNPF officer was standing on the deck of the MV Arcadia, a floating cruise ship current docked off the shore of Hong Kong. The movers and shakers in the art world were wandering about, looking at the exhibits in the presence of luxurious food, free-flowing alcohol and a mix of fine and often frankly confusing art pieces.

Ameer himself was stood by the railings, his left arm through the sleeve of his jacket while the right was tucked against his side out of view, the right sleeve hanging free. To his right, a slender woman in a very elegant dress of silk, mesh and gold trim had rested herself against the railing. Her blond hair was carefully held in place with all the tricks of the hairdressing trade, and her olive skin had taken on an almost golden look in the lights.

“Why, Officer Anwar, whatever makes you say that?” She grinned, before offering him one of the glasses of champagne she had brought over.

“Detective van Bergen was very insistent on handing this one over to me. To be honest, I think she knew how dull it would be and wished to punish me. You get a woman’s coffee order wrong once, shame on me. You get her order wrong twice? You get to spend quarter of an hour listening to some man try to fabricate the reason behind just why he feels it fitting to charge more than some people make in a year for a spray-painted dead fish in a bottle.” He said, nodding over to the offending artist, before giving a slight shake of his left hand. “No thanks.”

“Not a champagne drinker?” The woman asked curiously. “I’ll admit it is a bit overrated.”

“I wouldn’t know, I don’t drink alcohol.” Ameer replied. “I’ll get a fruit juice or something later.”

“Ah, the strict Muslim?” She asked, setting the spare glass to one side as she looked at him. She was definitely inquisitive, Ameer thought.

“I wouldn’t say that, but… you grow up that way, some of these things just stick. Never had a wish to try alcohol, never been that curious to know what a pig tastes like… but on the flip side, I’m not one for Salat or Hajj either.”

“Refreshing.” Came the reply. “Not many are that honest about their beliefs.”

“Some would say honest, some would say lacking discretion. But, what of you, Miss Caylao?” Ameer replied, flagging down a waitress carrying a tray of assorted glasses to snag an orange juice.

“Could you call me Elettra, Officer Anwar?” Elettra requested with a smile.

“Only if you call me Ameer, Elettra.” He smiled.

“Ameer it is. Walk with me? I’d like to check on my exhibition here.” She asked.

“Of course. I am here to guard you after all. At the request of some seriously high rank. It gives this whole thing an air of… mystery.” Ameer smiled as they started moving. He kept alert, noticing the reactions his charge was getting. She seemed quite popular with some artists, blowing kisses and waving to her as they made their way past stands and exhibits. There were a few, generally the older ones, that seemed not too fond of the Italian-Filipino artist he had been commissioned to guard, at the insistence of Astrid.

“You asked about my religion, and that ties into my art quite a lot. I’m a LaVeyan Transhumanist, and I do a lot of art with cyberprosthetics and detailing the human-machine interface.” She explained quietly as they went, kitten heels clicking lightly on the wooden floor. “It’s a system where-”

“You embrace cybernetic enhancements, chosen by yourself, even tailored to purpose, to help you focus inwards in the attempt to become your own god. Lex Talionis, individualism, a propensity towards self transformation.” Ameer interrupted, getting a nod from Elettra before continuing. “And cybernetic art tends to come from people with a background in engineering, or at least an affinity, to get the details right. Which is likely why the UNPF have me here guarding  you. I’d say you’re under commission from them for some systems. Or at least a design.”

“I’ve got to say you surprise me, Ameer.” She said warmly as they arrived at her exhibit, looking over the pieces fondly. “Any other insights you care to give?”

Ameer studied the mix of model pieces and drawings on display for a moment, before nodding. “Just one. I definitely know I’ve been shanghaied now.” He said, his eyes focusing on the centerpiece of the Elettra Caylao exhibit.

“Oh? Do feel free to enlighten me.”

“That there?” Ameer stated, pointing with his left hand to the plastigel female form surrounded by a partially dismantled exoframe with stands of technology growing like roots into its body. “That is one of Detective van Bergen’s exoframes.”

“Oh, Astrid said you were good.” Elettra grinned brightly, looking admiringly over her guard. “But she never said how good.”

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