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Just Business - Another Day in Sindome

A short story by Something Wicked

Sunset Park was probably the most peaceful place (well, to the public, at least) in Withmore. I mean, everyone knew the yakuza used the lake there to dispose of....unwieldy human waste, but despite that classic Withmore touch, nothing compared to the fresh green grass underfoot, with the tall trees stretching up above and the artificial breeze drifting over the crystal-clear water of the large pool. I especially loved to kick off my shoes and climb up into the trees, perching on precarious branches way up off the ground. When I climbed, I got a feeling of clarity unlike any other, brought on by the threat of certain death, that feeling where I was forced to focus in order to survive. It was one of those feelings I missed from the Mix, but that was all behind me now. I'd taken the leap, and there wasn't any going back now.

It was one of those days when I was up high, looking out at the sunset (still beautiful despite being completely illusory) when my boss strode into the park. Not bothering with the treeline, the corpie's crisp green eyes scanned the ground, catching the shine from my footwear in the grass. The boss walked over under my tree and said, loud enough that I could hear, "You've got to stop doing this, love. You'll get your clothes dirty, and you won't have time to change before Dansan Hirochi arrives." I rolled my eyes and swung down off the branch, coming down with a perfect roll, and sprung to my feet. I smiled at the boss and leaned in for a kiss, locking my loathing away deep in my heart. "You're no fun." I swayed a bit, a practiced maneuver that subtly showed off my body and hypnotized anyone who swung that way. Like the ancient Jedi mind trick (I had a thing for old sci-fi movies), it didn't work on strong minded folk, but this one definitely did not qualify.

After several seconds of staring, the loathsome corporate spawn passed me a couple 'softs and mumbled, "You'll need those..." I shot my secret nemesis a sly smile and slipped the first chip in behind my ear. I managed to keep my cool as the data slammed into my brain, like a swift punch in the face for the mind. It was one of those things I'd never get used to, thousands of laws and legal intricacies flashing through my consciousness all at once, a barrage of knowledge suddenly appearing in my brain and rooting down to stay (until I removed the skillsoft. Then I'd just feel empty.) I kept all of this inside, however, and gave the boss a crisp nod before loading the second one in, mind slammed with Japanese colloquials and local sayings. I jammed the last skillsoft into its slot, and was instantly stunned by images of rapid fire bullets slicing through the air to blow through the weak flesh of humankind. I stared in shock at the person before me as an MK-22 blew itself up and put itself back together in my mind's eye. The boss gave me a very serious look. "You'll understand why in a second." The despicable human being pushed a case file into my quivering hands. "I have a cab waiting, we'll walk and talk." As my superior turned, I looked down at the case file, then took a deep breath, followed, and began to read.

>>>>>>>>>>*********<<<<<<<<<<

"I have the upmost respect for you, Hirochi-sama, but there is nothing I can do here. Our hands are tied, I apologize greatly." I resisted the urge to scratch at my concealed Kevlar and kept steady eye contact with the Jap, who stared right back at me. Our eyes talked to each other, silently, the same conversation two inmates can have from across the room. The foreigner knew I hated this job, hated everything about it.

Knew I wished I could be up in a tree, or blending invisibly into the Mix. I was made an offer, and I accepted, just like that. My loyalties changed. I knew the plan.

"I understand. I hope we can have better dealings in the future." We both stood as one, bowed to each other, and turned to our companions. One glance at my old boss and I could tell the cunning predator knew something was up....but they didn't know fast enough.

>>>>>>>>>>*********<<<<<<<<<<

I thanked the Japanese medic as professional hands extracted the bullet in my shoulder, a feeling I had almost missed. My new boss stood straight, watching the proceedings with hands clasped behind back. "I trust you have a plan for this...obstacle's clone." I nodded, slipping my Grid softs into their slots. "All I need is a deck." The figure bowed in approval and turned, stepping over the bullet-riddled corpse of my former employer with the jaded professionalism of someone who has done this many times before. "We will contact you with our next assignment." And the mysterious Japanese agent turned away, attendants dragging the corpse into a bag and carrying it out.

I grinned to myself despite the pain and flicked some brain off my clothes. I changed shamelessly, then, right out in the open. I didn't care. And, clean and flawless, I walked out of the blood-splattered room with a smile on my face. I had waited far too long for this.

>>>>>>>>>>*********<<<<<<<<<<

I pressed SEND on my LiteTerm and smirked as private messages spread across the virtual Grid. A perfect series of forgeries and deceptions had just been scattered across the network, just traceable enough for the corp to discover it. And once they did, my ex-boss would rue the day that cloning was invented.

I looked out at the lake, and my smile widened.

It was a good time for a swim.

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