|-||JMo||14s||I said I know. Everybody funny. Now you funny too.|
|-||Diani||35s||Why do you write like you're running out of time?|
|c||Mephisto||12m||Malt doch nicht immer den Teufel an die Wand.|
|j||Johnny||1d||New Code Written Nightly. Not a GM.|
|a||Cerberus||10h||Head Builder & GM when I need to|
|And 28 more hiding and/or disguised|
A short story by Karma Portrait
Wednesday March 11th 2099 5:29am
My eyelids fluttered as I drifted into consciousness.
The impermeable blur of my vision mirrored the haze of my mind.
A putrid mixture of bio conductive fluids emptied to the floor and through metal grates as the Genetek Cloning vat door receded. The piercing synthetic light of the room sawed through my mental stupor with the subtlety of a bat to the head. I sat upright in the vat, naked, born anew.
An attendant in a biohazard suit lazily walked over, reciting their script in monotoned disinterest, "Welcome to Genetek Revival. You have five minutes to vacate the pod. Jumpsuits are against the wall."
The plush BlissChambers were reserved for rich topsider corpie fucks. I did not qualify.
I rubbed my forehead, giving the attendant none of my attention as I sought silence amongst the incoming flood of SIC thoughts. It was a cacophonic cesspool of ads and the ideations of some portion of Withmore's sixty million citizens. This goddamn dome and every baka believing the shit inside their head is somehow important and necessary for everyone else to know.
As I continued to massage my head I wondered aloud, "Genetek.. fuckme.. When was las' time I updated my clone..? Musta been overa week ago."
Tuesday March 10th 2099 4:48pm
Outside it was colder than a corpse's tit. And raining. Whoever controlled the weather at Skywatch was either sadistic or just unhinged. If I had to lay money on it though, probably both.
Floating adblimps fertilized the citizenry below with their looped pitches for everything from prosthetic dicks to Ebola Cola soda. The rigid face of a Street Judge indiscriminately admonished those below with a stern paternalistic reminder, "Obey the Law, citizens. Report all crimes to the Hall of Justice."
The Jake telling me to be an obedient peon. My personal fucking favorite.
I was not an 'original' citizen of Withmore. I was not born here. As a teenager I arrived to the Dome a baby fresh immie from Poland. Miraculously I had survived in Red sector, in the dysfunctional slums of the Mix. It was forty million people crammed into a space fit for less than a quarter of that.
If nothing else it taught me that thinking with your head was better than with your heart. The latter led to being used by those using the former.
The rain continued unabated and my translucent raincoat kept me protected. No risk of rainrash topside but walking around wet was a giveaway I did not belong. Topsiders got the clean wet stuff, mixers below were ungraciously delivered a vicious acidic concoction.
I mingled with the shirts on Soma Street like I was one of them. My clothes were not the latest in topside couture but I could at least blend in on Gold, passing as some retail level schlump. On Green it would be a different story, and fuck trying Blue, but on Gold I could walk without being questioned.
Up here the streets were well maintained by WCS, well policed by the Judges. On the surface, everything in its place.
I swear they cloned every one of these fucks from the same strain of corpie.
Then I saw her.
Another anonymous topsider chica trudging to another day of work where she either obediently obeyed or schemed to move herself up a pay grade. I began to trail her down Soma, watching her jostle through the crowded street, lost reading something on her enote. Well maintained dreadlocks were tied behind her head atop perfectly pressed business attire. Mirror finish designer glasses completed the look.
Another shirt carrying the paydata I wanted. An easy mark if there ever was one.
I trailed behind her for another minute, stalking with dwindling patience before making my move. A couple long strides to close the small distance between us and I was subsumed in her wake of an audaciously fruity perfume.
An intentionally longer step and I shoulder checked her in the back. She stumbled and her enote clattered to the wet street, coming to rest amongst dress shoes and puddles.
I gasped with practiced exaggeration, laying a hand lightly onto her back momentarily, "Oh no.. I am so sorry.." She emanated incredulous annoyance that was palpable and delicious.
Rain metronomically tapped near my ear as I couched over to retrieve the enote. Still sheltered from her view my hands deftly swapped the memory modules within her enote. As I stood up and turned around her face was contorted in displeasure.
Without hesitation she seized the enote, her nails freshly manicured blue, and snapped, "Be more careful."
Acting my part I nodded quietly, a portrait of demure submissiveness. Without allowing another moment for more verbal abuse I turned around and briskly made my way north. The false memory module I had swapped into the handheld device would make it look like it was malfunctioning. I left her behind to poke at the same button repeatedly while the enote spit back seemingly random errors.
To her, I was gone. Disappeared in the swarm of phos illuminated umbrellas and the fog of topside existence.
Tuesday March 10th 2099 6:10pm
I kicked my feet up onto the seat next to me with a satisfied sigh, my head limp against the window as the E6 maglev rose from the Soma station platform and headed to New Light. From there, just one more stop to the mix. I would change in my crate sized apartment and then the night could really roll. The train was light with passengers and I couldn't give a shit about getting a fine for dirtying the seat with my shoes. Things were looking good.
No one on the lev blinked an eye as I popped the safety cover off the LNA3z syringe and steadily eased it into a vein at the crook of my elbow. As I inched the plunger down against the neon purple liquid I allowed myself a self satisfied smile. The candy was a splurge, but after a hard days work a girl deserved a reward.
I shut my eyes and visualized the opioid dispersing through my bloodstream.
Best thing the corporate council ever did was to legalize drugs. Probably the only good thing they ever did.
As I lethargically unlocked my eyes the world was crawling along slower than the express tubes at rush hour. The blur of Gold sector was painted in long streaks of pulsating color that was enhanced by a smooth euphoria within me. The LNA had embraced me with its full effects.
I wondered what it would be like to get high in an aerocab? Fucking aces I bet, but no way I could splash the flash for that shit. Only way to truly feel human in Withmore was to disassociate from your Self. No one grew old in Withmore, they just died a little more every day.
After a gloriously long lev ride I languidly exited the E6 at South Fallout Station. Trails of color saturated my blissful vision. Even while high as a global orbiter the street markets around the station were a familiar seething morass of humanity. Vendors in their stalls hawked everything from fried baby rats on skewers to cyberware of questionable origins.
The tenaciously persistent rain did nothing to cleanse the streets of refuse and pervasive human tragedy.
It only added a twisted accent to the misery.
Tuesday March 10th 2099 7:56 pm
Knocking on Tandra's apartment door I immediately noticed the fresh locking mechanism. In the Mix it was the new shit that stood out, not the other way around.
The door opened a fraction of a foot and I forced my way in. As the door locked behind me I slumped down onto the floor with a stupid grin, producing the mem module for Tanda 'The Withmore Whizard' to see. The high from my catch and the candy was still with me.
"Wha' happ'n to ya door?", I asked.
"Good to see you too Hayley.. Some cocksucker high on Vee decided to smash the lock with a cricket bat. They were yelling about how minature Zlatas were chasing them with dildos and why was the cave locked." As a former corpie Tanda's english was still polished.
"Lookee lookee lookee here. Pluck this inta ya's fancy gizmos and gimme good news. I wanna fucking make chyen angels in the middle of Sinn and Knife!"
Tandra grinned silently down at me as she snatched the module from my loose grasp, striding confidently over to her rig. She took a seat amongst a synthetic jungle dense with hanging wires, projects started and all inevitably only partially finished. The clutter was illuminated dimly by a scattered mix of monitors cobbled together with digital magic far beyond me. There was no overhead light.
Fucking deckers. Adult children with their toys.
Beeps and whirrs came from Tandra's rig as she tapped a finger thoughtfully on her chin, "Huh.. this may let you make those chyen angels after all Hayley."
I grinned widely and kicked my head back, watching a show of colors fold together, fade and rise again.
Suddenly a shrill noise from one of Tandra's machines brought me back closer to grim reality than I wanted to be. I asked with naked annoyance, "Tha fucks tha' fer?"
Whatever it was it had the entirety of Tandra's attention and her fingers danced around the different devices and displays, conducting the rig like a giant musical instrument. The tumult had stopped as Tandra had sprung to action and she kept at it for several minutes, muttering to herself the entire time. I watched Tandra work but stayed quiet. Best not to interrupt a cowgirl while she is working.
"This is some hot shit paydata you scored Hayley... I was able to kill their backtrace and routed them to the node near ... " Her voice was dense with tension and jargon, spewing words I did not know fuckall about nor cared to know.
I cut her off mercilessly for starting to kill my high, "Yea yea .. sure.. When we is getting paid, chummer?"
Tandra gave me a brief glare, taking a moment away from her rig to reply dryly, "I need at least twenty four hours with this paydata. It's ... complicated. I will SIC you later about it."
I waved a dismissive hand at Tandra as I pushed back into the wall to help me up, "Fine. I be down ah Red's if yas need me, scan? I gotta solid high going. Tits and booze can only help, right?"
It was not actually a question and Tandra knew me well enough to not answer as if it were. She leaned back into a chair that looked like it would collapse from a gentle breeze.
"Be seeing you later Hayley. Ace dip. Chyen angels tomorrow."
Wenesday March 11th 2099 3:04am
My head lay sideways on the cold chrome of the bar at Red's Finest, a shitty strip club in the Ashlin Mall. But it was my shitty strip club, my spot.
My high had begun to tail off around ten when I had arrived so I had spent the last of the LNA3z to keep my night vibrant. From my seat at the bar I was engrossed in the pulsating lights from another show, glimpses of nipples and muff occasionally breaking through the wall of colors and pleasant emotions. Tomorrow Tandra would have the flash after selling the paydata, I could be high whenever I wanted for like.. a long time, and I wouldn't have to stick my neck out on Gold.
As I turned away from the stage to order another Depth Charge an instant of clarity and sobriety befell me. There was a new patron a few seats away. They were turned away from me but their DuWear hoodie was off the shelf fresh and their synthhide pants the same.
Tandra had her fancy rig alarm claxons and I had mine.
I reached out to Tandra privately over SIC, praying she had sicnal amongst the regular and random brownouts of service in the mix. It was fucking ten chy a message, but this was worth it.
TruColor <= Ey Tandra, you make contact wit any buyers for my score? Some topsider tourist down 'ere at Red's an' I don' like the scan. [Sent to user: Whizrd ]
Whizrd => Just a couple inquiries, nothing solid.
TruColor <= Aight.. Imma skip then. I catch ya tomorrow chummer. [Sent to user: Whizrd ]
I gave another glance back to the tourist at the bar as I slid out my stool and froze midway through the motion. They were holding a fresh beer now. Freshly blue nails. Adrenaline rushed through limbs faster than any candy ever would.
I regained some composure and yearned for complete sobriety, navigating my way through the club to the exit as discretely as possible while still being fast about it. I did not turn around.
Wednesday March 11th 2099 3:27am
Being handcuffed I lashed out fruitlessly with my mouth, "Fuck you ya' slimy fucking sewer urchin."
My former mark and now captor smirked with mirth, her cohorts' chuckles filling the alley.
The cold metal of the bar against my face was now replaced with the cold metal of a gun against my forehead. With crossed eyes looking upward I recognized it as an impeccably clean H&K P7 Compact. As if you needed a special heater to empty a skull.
"ViriiSoma does not appreciate its data being stolen." She spoke down to me like she was a vet putting down an animal out of kindness. It was a sickening union of condescension and pity. Her left eye glowed with a bright red light and she was close enough that I could read the Saedor Krupp branding.
Getting zeroed by some topsider bitch. How embarrassing. She continued on, very obviously enjoying herself and her victory lap.
"You really should choose your friends better. Very sloppy for such a risky lifestyle you keep, baka." She tapped the barrel of the gun on my forehead for emphasis with each syllable of the final insult.
My anger flared and I clenched my jaw, hoping to grind Tandra's entire existence from my mind. The last minutes of this mind at least.
She glanced around the alley absently, saying with the same disdain, "Let's get out of here before we catch a new strain of Ebola from these ... 'people'. This place is making me sick already."
An impossible distance away, outside the alley, I saw an AeroCab setting down on Ashlin. The gun barrel ground into my temple. I resigned myself to what was coming: a nap and then I would wake up at Genetek.
Too bad I wouldn't remember any of this shit.