http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/digital-drugs/ June Just Got Real.
10 hours previously.
The door had long ago pushed into it’s recess and I had taken a seat in Crows office.
Antique writing desk mahogany with a leather lined top, cost more than I could make in a thousand jobs.
The room was dark, I couldn’t see the walls, deep thick carpet under the soles of my boots.
I never did see his face, only an empty leather chair opposite the desk.
It was empty, all I heard was the same disembodied glitchy computer voice from the lobby, layer upon layer of samples, hundreds of voices from a thousand vids.
Disorientated and my head swimming with images it spoke.
“Do you know your history? What brought you here?”
’look okay my mate Aleph sent me here because she said you could help me shift some goods I have lying around, they are burning a whole in my pocket.’
’no..no not that at all. i’ve..been here..seen a thousand of your kind come and go through this office, soo many..all wanting the same answers.’
My back felt encased in concrete, my fingers had turned to ice.
’look..you creepy fuck okay I just want to shift these goods.’
’no you dont you want answers, I don’t have them. but ill take your goods anyway. Aleph..she is ..has..her uses, knows the ways and areas I can’t access passes..me people like you..I yes…’
Well this was getting repetitive.
‘are you a Construct? like an AI? I don’t see nobody to talk to around here.’
’those are small terms. They may do for now. I have your interlink code and sent you all payment in advance. server details will be forwarded to your IGE account forthwith.’
’..how..I didn’t even…’
’does not matter.’
’the hell it doesn’t’
‘you will leave here now, my advice to you is this. follow the man you admire so much if you must, he’ll lead you up up the gravitic incline, you need to find out what happened there all those years ago, do your research, dub will help. oh and two letters you must say ‘”T-A” ’
The room went bright, colourless white space except for the leather chair and writing desk. the behind me was open, the lobby beckon behind me. I ran.
The house smells of fresh flowers, light fills a room with a view of the sea.
From the next room a woman asks me if I want a cup of coffee. I say yes without thinking and keep staring at my screen. Her hand on my shoulder, I turn and look up.
But she’s gone and none of this is real anymore.
I built this place deep in the net, hidden on a VM on a tiny server hosted nowhere special. A recreation of the house we lived in. I wander onto the balcony while holding her hand. “june..what’s up are you okay?” “…no I’m tired Manya..’” Why the fuck did I even build this stupid thing.
I hit my failsafe and the jack slides out.
My head falls backwards and I’m still staring at the stucco on the ceiling of a shitbox in chiba city.
I sleep. fevered dreams , shapes and a highway of endless blue, an old friend who would know what to do, a beach in South Africa.
Chiba Hilton, Herring Arcade.
Malcolm smiles, his hand shakes mine.
I want answers, the beer is cold and welcome.
“how are you June, did you sleep well since the other night?”
”…look lets skip the formal bulshit shall we, just tell me what software you want and tell me where she is.”
"”well..okay..fine..if this is how it has to be then okay, I understand in your position I’d be impatient to, but try not to be so rude and remember who your friends are in this.”
‘”you come out of nowhere, we hadn’t spoken in 5 years and we’re FREINDS?”
”Alright June, calm down. I’ll tell you what I want. Administration access as well as keycards and building access to the Mitsubishi-Sendai database”
”…thats a BIG ask, and one that raises even larger questions.”
”can you do it.”
”possible, difficult but possible, it would require a serious hack and some serious digging in the right places…and money…”
”funds aren’t an issue, neither is time”
”okay, fine what the hell if you tell me how to find her, I’ll do it and when this is all over, I want you gone all of you and I’m too tired for this game anymore”
”done and done, I’ll tell you where she is. Wether you like it of course is an entirely different prospect.”
I swallowed the last of my beer and surveyed Malcolm’s craggy face and deep blue eyes.
”so, on last question. What’s T-A?”
His eyes went wide, anger crossed his face.
I didn’t feel the stun gun till it was too late to matter.
Ten minutes ago I thought I knew what was up, I thought had it all figured out.
So I listened to her, after all she set me up in this town surely she would help me find a way out.
All it takes is ten minutes in a room with a stranger who knows the truth.
By the time the lift opened onto the bottom floor my pistol was safely tucked away where it lived and everything I knew had been challenged. She’s not worth this I thought. Nothing is.
It was too good to be true, Malcolm turning up out of blue, Aleph just having a place for me to shift the last of the goods. Fucking oracles I hate them.
I heard a rumour, back when I first got here about how there were people or something who had been around since the old days of the net, before the domes, before megacorps bought up the governments, hell even before there was a sprawl, back when The Inferno was still called London. We’re talking hundreds of years. These people living down through the ages just recording everything, Of course one of them would be up in a corp tower all nice and safe.
Nearly an hour later with my mouth still tasting the salty remnants of last night’s sushi , the door of the ‘Pussy Wagon’ jingling behind me I found my feet on the concrete floor of my apartment. The box, home. Whatever. Morag downstairs said Malcolm had visited while I was out,I didn’t give a shit though.
There was only one thing I needed right now.
The jack slid home and my world turned to quicksilver.
It’s only here I can breathe anymore, I needed to stretch my wings and fly.His name was crow after all, hell he even took some pseduodrugs I uploaded to him for a markup and gave me extra on top of that. Said I was being used, He said he knew Aleph has sent me and that she had wanted somebody close to him for years. Crow knew where she was,said Mitsubishi-sendai was deep involved. Said I’d have to go up the well, something about reclaiming some old tech left up there long ago before they stopped the launches. Told me I needed to learn about dub. Cryptic fuck, I don’t know half of what that shit meant.
Crow told me I needed to say something to Malcolm, wouldn’t say what it meant.
Only two letters.
I filled her in, what I could anyway.
Aleph was a smart cookie but like everyone she had her own problems, the fact that Malcolm and her used to play ‘Where’s the sausage’ was the least of them.
So How’d some two bit street rat hacker-cum-pusher know a hot shot hooker and club owner?
I’m a Dealer. All dealers need clients. That’s where Aleph came in.
Fresh out of ireland trying to get away from the devastation there, new to the scene. down on her luck but with the smarts to make it. Same deal as most anyone who comes to Chiba really.
It went that over a few months she managed to hustle enough cash to start ‘Burn Ward’ out of a corner office in an abandoned red-light metro station.
5 years later it was the best ‘alt scene’ brothel in the whole of Japan. Or at least thats the story. There’s more to it, but really it comes down to Aleph knowing a whole lot about business and me knowing a whole lot about software. We met through Mal, and after that things were smooth for a long time.
We’d shifted enough psedo-drugs and ICE together over the years that I’d come to owe her a lot of favours. This whole deal with Malcolm, I was freaking about having to collect on them. If things went south, I needed to shift all my goods double-quick and Aleph was the only person who could help me.
It was nearly daylight I could feel the dawn coming, sneaking up on me like a predator.
A nameless late night cafe, red LED’s behind the bar lighting dark warm booths, the coffee in my hand gone cold.
Here in the dark Aleph looked more like I remembered, her hair tied back, dark leathers, silver buttons.
I wonder if she likes her job. I wonder if it’s my business to even ask.
We’ve only ever been business partners. Though I guess part of me wished for more, but Malcolm…
‘June, I know why you came to see me.’
A statement not a question. Cordial.
‘I need to move some stuff, I’ve been holding back a lot of goods lately. And i’m thinking I might just need some extra cash soon.’
‘fine, I’ll make calls we can talk more next week.’
‘no, I need this soon. tonight. tomorrow at the latest.’
‘you’re asking a too much June, we’ve all got contracts to fill, obligations.’
too much, too stress, stop blank, Overwhelm.
Eyes turning hard, mind on one track. Instinct.
‘I Don’t give a living fuck what your obligations are, I need this tonight!’
She recoiled hard. This wasn’t me and she knew it.
The truth is that sometimes it actually is. She just never had seen it.
‘oh hell June you don’t need to get like that. We haven’t worked together sine Mal left.’
‘..yeah I know, well can you just gimme a chance here’
‘no can do June, I’m contracting out with a new pusher now.’
‘fuck you, I’m done.’
All the time I tried being friends with Aleph, we never did hit it off. Business to some people really is just business.
‘wait, June listen. I’ll give you somebody to call his name is Crow, he aint Gaijin and he’s got hustle. Big time stuff, I don’t know what, he’s corp. always got goons.’
‘why the hell would I deal with some fuck I don’t even know, plus he’s corp those guys don’t fuck around.’
‘June mate, listen he’s got contacts can move stuff fast, he’s a client well was once or twice.’
‘fine..well okay sure. where do I find this guy?’
Downtown. I fucking hate downtown. Corp land. Concrete and marble, steel ‘art’ and worker drones.
Acrologies rising high over the rest of us. Beyond red-light, beyond the chiba dockland, beyond home.
Company hyms, uniforms. Work a schedule, make a bundle. But you never leave. Yakuza too. At least they got good digs.
Dangerous, you don’t come here without a permit, and certainly not without protection.
Like I told June.
These guys don’t fuck around.
The barrier gate swings wide, the other side white light and steel.
Gateguard with a fancy plastic carbine waves me through, my permit already flashed, scanned and logged.
Towers rise to further than I can bend back.
Small utility eco-plugin-microbullshit cars.
Peds in uniforms.
So clean. This aint my world. I can’t smell the biz and the hustle.
Crow was 40 storeys up some corp tower, freelancer agent to the corp based there.
Clean glass door, subdued lighting.
Dark carpet flowed over a wood panelled room.
The room was empty except for a black metal bench.
A door on the far side of the room beckoned.
I had the overwhelming feeling I was being watched, my hands twitched against my thighs, my fingers clenching.
Somewhere out of the darkness a voice came. A computer voice reproduced from sound bites.
‘Please place any weapons on the bench. Have your indent card ready for inspection.’
I didn’t like this, In the inner pocket of my jacket I kept a small ceramic flechette pistol.
I removed it and placed it down on the bench.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
The door was made of a dark wood, steel studs embedded around.
Small sensor in the middle.
Walking to the door I noticed the cameras.
Lining the room every few metres. And I bet they were rigged for sound and movement.
Whoever this guy was, he certainly wanted nothing to do with visitors.
I slid my ID out of my pants and held it up to the door.
June Chapter Two:
The beer was as cold as my demeanour.
Seeing him after all these years left me with a chill.
This was too much.
‘June, I’ve come a goddamn long way, so I’m going to be straight with you.’
I wanted to quip ‘yeah, like that’ll ever happen’ but I stayed silent.
He looked haggard, I hadn’t seen him like this since the night I got those scars.
Staring at me across the top of his pint, eyes blood shot ‘I think I know where Manya went.’
Emotion, raw, hard, jagged. ‘Where!, tell me’ I barked without thinking.
The buzzing background hum of the bar stopped for a minute, and then continued.
Malcolm brought his eyes up to meet mine, with a sigh he responded ‘it’s not that easy June’.
‘with you it never is.’ I grumbled.
‘well that may be true, but like I said I only think I know where she went.’
He suddenly turned serious, the lines at the corner of his eyes instantly visible.
‘June, I need you for a job. I know you can get things, that ‘software’ that you sell.’
‘fuck you, I knew there was a catch. This is just like last time, you show up out of the blue promise me the world in exchange for services rendered. well not this time, Last time I did something for you as a friend I got spiked and my jack sent 2000 volts into my shoulder.’
All of sudden my face slammed into the table and I felt his arm press into my neck.
That boyish cambridge accent was now that of a man with lost hope ‘Listen to me June. you will do this for me.’
‘fuck you, fine okay jesus just get the hell off me fuck!’
I felt the pressure release, I pressed at my cheek. yep thats gonna bruise.
Lifting my head off the table, I looked at Malcolm.
Serene as ever, like he was about to go grab a cup of tea.
‘what is it you want?’
‘well okay it’s more than drugs, you know I can’t jack anymore since the change, plus you’ve always been one of the best.’
‘malcolm, I deal in illegal software and pseudodrugs. I’m not a console jockey.’
‘yeah well you’re the closest thing I’ve got to one, and at the end of the day despite the way I treat you, I trust you.’
‘okay fine, so where does Manya come into all this.’ my voice was rough, but Malcolm was right.
He did trust me, and I suppose I trusted him.
He may be a bastard, but at one time he was the closest thing I had to a friend and a mentor.
I owed him. And I hate owing anyone.
‘She’s defected to Mitsubishi-Sendai.’ He said with a note of finality.
And theres the drop. It had to come sooner or later.
‘okay Malcolm, fine I’m in.’
‘Good, but I’m not comfortable talking about it here anymore. Plus I think some of the patrons are beginning to question your allegiances.’
‘what?’ I spun my head around, and there was Julz glaring at me, her ocular implants flaring blue.
‘oho yeah okay umm, fine. Let’s blow this place. But if we’re going to do this, We’ll need to come back later. We’re gonna need help.’
Malcolm smiled and for the first time since he arrived I saw him relax, a weight had obviously been lifted.
We stepped out of the bar, the first thing I felt was my exhilaration at finally having a change to prove myself.
The second thing I felt was the humidity, mumbling under my breath I swore.
I look over at malcolm, ‘mind if we grab a bite, i’m hungry as hell. plus there is a great sushi place down the street.’
‘hey I haven’t been here in 5 years, everything changed in this part of town. well cept Julie’s.’
‘Oh man I found it hilarious that you and Julez were fighting!’
‘yeah I know, I just didn’t have the heart to tell her about the whole change business.’
as we walked through the crowds and sweating heat, we chatted back and forth.
Friendly insults , barbs the whole deal. Was like old times.
Cept..she was a he now, not that it mattered I suppose.
At the end of the day Malcolm was Malcolm, and he’s always gonna be the guy who was there for me when nobody else was.
Who raised me up and taught me how to be a jockey.
Like I said earlier, I owed him.
As we left the bar the crowds were increasing the neon coming out to play.
Together we wandered further through Ninsei keeping clear of the people.
‘Come On, I know this place up ahead where we can get a bite to eat after all that booze’
Malcolm smiled and said nothing.
Bastard is always thinking. Lost in his head.
I lead malcolm up to the sushi stand a few blocks from red light.
I try to stay clear of the district, but hey and knowing the way things were going I knew I wasn’t gonna see Chiba in awhile.
At least this part of it anyway.
Just before I sat down Malcolm touched my shoulder.
I span around and stepped back, ‘get the fu.. sorry, just you know the way I am, after what happened.’
He breathed deep, ‘sorry..I totally forgot, I apologise.’
‘yeah, It’s okay’. I sighed. That feeling that I can never quite shake.
Men don’t touch me they just don’t, and thats the way I like it.
‘Listen, I’ve decided I’m not going to accompany you tonight.
I need to head back to my hotel to plan a few things, plus I’m just not the age for this crap anymore.
‘Fine, whatever you stuffy old bastard.’
Malcolm disappeared into the darkness to find a cab and once more it was me against the lights.
The fluorescent blue of the the sushi stand called to me in the darkness.
I don’t know how long I sat there watching the old sushi man ply his trade with a skill befitting a tailor.
His hands were ancient. Had this guy been around since before the domes…
Pushing the last of my nigri into my mouth I stood.
Missing her felt like another dinner alone.
I gotta find her.
I gotta follow Malcolm.
While later I found myself in red light, which seems like it goes up forever.
Red is backed with tourist dollars, the thrill seekers all wanting their piece of the action.
Girls, boys and everything in between line the balconies above advertising pretty much pleasure you could desire.
And even a few nobody would. If you had the cash, you could find some fun here.
Red light and I go way back.
When I first came to Chiba, It’s where I started hustling whatever I could get my hands on.
Sold cheap getter-uppers to tourists boys, claimed they could go all night on that shit.
Made enough new yen to get out of the coffin hotel and into a real joint.
But I wasn’t here to hustle, not tonight anyway.
The stress of seeing Malcolm, of being told that he knew where Manya was.
It had crept up on me, then promptly punched me in the face.
Tonights forecast calls for happiness and excitement with a sense of overhanging dread.
Time to go to ‘Burn Ward’
Time to see Aleph.
Walking under the balconies through the haze of smoke and the bright lights.
I pushed my way through the crowds and made my way up the street.
I keep to myself around here, you don’t want to be noticed.
Biz was everywhere.
Voices out of door ways, ‘hey lady, anything you want 1500!’
After putting up with a few blocks of constant buzz and the sound of laughing, I turned into the alley.
Time to go up. Walking past decaying trash my feet crackling on the gravel, I ventured into the dark silence of the back alley.
There at the end of the alley a single light, the old bulb kind.
It hung there in the dark projecting pale light across a steel double door.
On the door a single button. Lit up red.
Just begging you to press it.
Oh man I forgot how much this place loves the drama of it all.
I pressed the button, the pushed sideways into their recessions.
Most people who come here for the first time are freaked up by the lift.
It’s old. Like that sushi man. I pushed the metal screen door sideways and stepped in.
The lift rose, creaking and shuddering. ‘fuck guys, again with the drama…’
Eventually the lift got to its destination after about 15 minutes of slow creaking dramatics.
It’s all a show, most people if they weren’t freaked out enough to have bailed and taken the lift back down should know what they are in for.
‘Burn Ward’ wasn’t your ordinary club.
Pushing the screen door aside again, another pair of steel doors slammed open in front of me.
Slick black tiles,empty steel reception desk,
Waiting chairs in shining stainless steel.
Everything immaculate, like dirt was something that didn’t exist.
A couple of fat business men sat around waiting for appointments.
They were sweating hard, and desperately avoiding eye contact.
First timers by the looks of them.
I slinked on over to the empty desk.
‘yo denise’, I cried. Then pinged on the old school bell buzzer they had and leant back on the desk and waited.
Took about two minutes for the woman to slide round the corner the giant black partition behind the desk.
And fitting the place, she was in full bondage gear.
Tight black corset, shoes, metal buckles, the whole works.
Polished to, classy.
‘how may I help you?’
‘well for a start you could spank the hell out of me I really have been very naughty.’ I replied sarcastically as I
Turned on rough heels of my combat boots.
‘oh, its you.’ came the dour reply. ‘suppose you want Aleph, she’s with a client in the back.’
‘Denise, why are you NEVER happy to see me. no wait don’t answer.’ I said as I pushed past her and into the back.
The corridor behind reception is a long row of steel doored cells.
Everything in that same black and silver thing they have going on.
Striding up the corridor I could hear the muffled screams and moans coming from the doors.
Chiba really does have it all.
I went to the last door at the end and pressed another tiny inset red button.
The door slid open.
I closed my eyes and braced for the slap in the face.
‘stop being a baby June, i’m not going to slap you’
Opening my eyes I saw Aleph dressed as a milk maid.
‘so, thats what hookers are wearing this season huh?’ I smirked.
‘im not a hooker june I’m a mistress. There is a big difference.’
‘whatever, anyway can I come in for a second, we need to talk. It’s big.’
Stealing a glance past her I saw a comatose woman starkers, attached to what looked like some sort of milking machine.
‘…actually you know what why don’t you come out here. I don’t think I even WANT to know’
Aleph laughed and rolled her eyes. Bright green, with freckles.
You’d think she was so innocent. I knew better.
‘Wot you want June, you’re in my club, on my time. It better be good.’
‘..since when did you have an english accent.’
‘..oh shit sorry, yeah for the client.’ she continued in her boston-sprawl native.
‘I’ve got news Aleph, Kristen’s back. Oh but his name is Malcolm now.’
‘…that rat bastard.’
Chapter One: Thursday.
Silicon dreams and memories etched in celluloid.
Longing for the the easier more reckless days when she was there.
Holding hands outside a bar in New Rigia.
Wich now I think about it nobody ever told me if there was an Old Rigia.
I guess there had to of been once, but I digress the holding hands with her was the important bit.
Seeing a multi-coloured flag blowing in the breeze at a bar on a beach, well back when we had beaches..back before all this crap.
So now all I got left is a jack in my head, constant headaches, terminal debt and not a damn thing to show for any of it.
Now she’s gone and all there is is neon in the night and diodes waking me the next day.
Nobody and i mean that, no-one wants to be down on their luck in post apocalypse Chiba.
Everything is grunge in this fucking gajin part of town, burnt out buildings which are towered over by the glowing green neon arcologies where those lucky few live. And above it all 3k’s up is the lattice work grid that is the dome which protects the degenerate wreckage of mankind from what became of the world.
We can’t breath out there, the eggheads say it’s something to do with a massive decline in the ozone layer and how the earths mag field just isn’t what it used to be, so those cosmic rays, sunstorms and shit just bombard the surface.
Means nobody lives out there unless they are either totally insane or just damn hardy.
Some animals managed to adapt, others just rolled over and gave up. All those herds of cows and sheep we saw as kids.
Gods if I knew they would be pretty much gone I wouldn’t have complained so much at the petting zoo.
So humanity shelters in the Domes, like the ones they wanted to build on Mars but you know huger.
Millions of humans in few dozen of what were supposed to be the most luxurious living innovations ever seen.
Over the course of 20 years they just turned into overcrowded technolust ridden hives.
The rich at the top poor at the fucking bottom. Who the hell saw that coming.
Oh wait. Everybody.
So thats where I am.
I used to live in one of those coffin motels, you know? eight by ten, maybe a metre across.
Filled with damned souls trying to get by.
Then I got that job and met her.
Made some cash, had some good times filled with love and laughter
Then one day my girl, she’s just gone in the night.
Now I live in a second story box above a sex-shop in a shitty part of town where nobody wants to ever be.
I’d call it sparse, those guys on the tv would call it ‘cosy’ .
Bullshit if you ask me, this place is a concrete box 10 metres across.
The bed hasn’t seen any legitimate ‘sleep’ in months.
Boxes of foam-board and old fibre litter around a desk. Wires dangle precariously from the ceiling.
On the desk is my console. White, silver keys red lights.
It’s jack trails limp off the side of the desk a metallic silver snake with a deadly hypodermic end.
Thats the bit that goes in my head.
The only other thing in here is me.
Name’s June. gangly tall maybe 5’10 and some people used to think I was pretty, particularly her.
A long time ago I did too at least for awhile.
Eyes filled with circuit lines the colour of old copper from before everything went fibre.
Pale skin, Ratty black hair cropped to my neck ‘cept for the shaved off bit above my left ear.
Thats where that hypodermic snake goes, where it darts and wriggles into my cerebellum and puts me to the only place where I mean anything. Hell its the only place where I even feel anything anymore.
I remember when the feeling came thick and fast…i don’t know when years maybe.
Before the net. Before i got into this business.
Every deal went so fast and smooth back then, I played the game tight some said too tight but I didn’t care.
Information Transfer Agent, thats what people like me are called.
Really we’re just drug dealers, same old addictions whole new flavour.
For centuries people have been chasing that high, used to be people did coke, smack, ice and before that?
hell they probably smoked or inhaled just about every substance around just to find it.
The rush, people want it.
In the end they will pay just about anything to get it.
With the world the way it is these days people they have needs and I have the answer to those.
For example, some down on her luck hacker slaving away behind her console.
Shes not flying those nodes quick enough, cant process and send commands to her neural input drones, so she keeps getting jigged on the fuckwalls (thats a firewall for those in the biz) which in turn fry her connection and she gets piked out and loses valuable data .
After this she’s falling behind on rents, on debts on all her goddamn payments to the oracles all that shit.
This is where I come in I give her a little something to speed up her processing and we’re not talking jack up her seratonin and flood her with endorphins.
But thats like only half the battle, what this stuff does it also juices her neural probes and her consoles response time.
She ends up being able to bypass those f-walls grab the data, pay me off, pay her debts off, and hell maybe even have some left over.
So it’s worth it. At least for some of them it is. Others…do this stuff for other reasons, some not so savvy gotcha?
Alright so in these days of jacking and console freaks we learnt that communication can go both ways, so drugs right? part software part hardware. All total mindfuck. The withdrawals from these things, they suck and some of them are worse than any lifetimes worth of heroin.
And they never come cheap.
6am a Thursday.
The smell of coffee, streams of dirty light flowing through barred windows.
Outside I hear the sound of the hustle and the bustle, crowds of the wretched just doing their thing
Time to get to work.
Tilting my head sideways I notice my auto-boiler coffee pot steaming in the corner of the room that passes for my kitchen.
I lift myself up off my stained floor-matress, the sheets fall off my body and collapse on my feet.
Turning to walk to my drawers I catch my naked body reflected off the mirror on the far wall.
Scars across my left shoulder, white skin blotchy with bruises and malnutrition I can see the veins dark blue against my arms and thighs.
‘Gods June..Chiba hasn’t been kind to you recently’.
I pull on a black tank top, some old blue jeans and battered work boots, while I cross to the kitchen to get my coffee.
It’s hot dark and stale it ain’t much of breakfast but it’s better than standing in line at the processing centre with all those other freaks.
My coffee finished I sit myself behind my console and wait for it to warm up, the concrete under the desk is covered in scuff marks from my boots. One by one I begin to count them while I wait. One, two, three, four, twelve and suddenly I jolt back as I hear a clattering from behind the desk, it’s my phone.
I must have left it on goddamn vibrate.
Swiping it from the floor, I see that it’s Malcolm.
Christ, I do not even need this right now.
‘What the fuck Mal, do you even know what time it is!’ I bark into the phone.
‘Hello June, nice to hear from you too thought you’d appreciate an old friend about now.’
‘We aren’t friends, you old english bastard.’
‘Now now June, don’t get your nickers in a twist I would never call unless it’s important, you know that.’
‘I’m sorry..you’ve just ..kinda caught me at a bad time..I’m dealing with a lot of stuff right now..’
‘…I know where she is June.’
It was like a punch in the face.
‘June…are you there?’
‘..i’m here Mal, sorry just. okay whats going on. from the top’
‘Not over this line I want you to meet me’
‘You mean jacking in right? you want to meet me online?’
‘..no June..I’m here, In Chiba.’
‘what do you mean you’re in Chiba, how the hell did you get here.’
‘That isn’t really very important.’
‘…the fuck it isn’t.’
‘you know my past June I have the resources. anyway listen, I want you to meet at Herring Arcade in downtown. Promise me you will be there.’
‘Fuck that Mal, I don’t care if you know where she is, I’m not going to downtown particularly not the ‘Cade, we’ll meet at Julie’s on 24th and 3rd.’
‘..June, thats a dyke joint, I can’t go in there you know that.’
‘Don’t worry I know the staff, plus you used to have a cunt before that fancy surgery.’
I can hear him adjusting his glasses and grinding his teeth even with the line static.
‘..okay..well.umm…you know what..Fine whatever. I’ll meet you at Julie’s, say? in time for the lunch rush.’
‘perfect, we’ll meet then’
The line clicked dead and I hit the off switch.
Had you really come all the way from the Inferno like you said…
If you had then things must be serious..I hadn’t dealt with serious in awhile, selling drugs to console jockeys was one thing but what he could want from me was entirely another.
I was getting serious tingles up my spine now, trepidation and a whole bunch of baggage along with it.
There was only one way I was going to be able to deal with this in the short term.
The hypodermic eyed me menacingly and as it did I felt that wave of excitement, like when she used to run her fingers down my back.
‘Fuck it, i’m outta here.’
I picked up the jack and slammed it into my head.
And everything went sideways.
It’s like being born I guess, white light, and static screaming in your ears.
After that the whole thing melts away and then all there is is the grid aligned perfectly with the yellow and blue data nodes floating in perpetual green space.
Somebody a long time ago said the net is a consensual hallucination, it’s changed now though since the shit went down and everyone moved into the domes. A lot of people just live here now on the net full time. Some never leave. To some anywhere is better than the reality of it all.
Local clusters of data nodes swam in my vision as ‘I’ dived along a path of shining yellow light towards the big blue sphere off in the distance that was the Interferon Global Exchange. Maybe I could get some answers there.
The IGE is a data clearing house, Data trading. Nothing illegal mind you, no software, just info packets, you needed a corporate license to buy from them. Luckily I picked one up in some deal I ran a few months back.
Since then, finding information I needed has become a whole lot easier.
The IGE representation unfolded around me as I approached.
It was like being in a giant library except the shelves just went off into the distance forever as far as the eye could see and then farther.
The nice thing about the net is you can visualise anything in anyway you want. Provided you got decent hardware to run the damn thing.
A small window popped into existence in my field of view it wanted a keyword query, reference ID or other data search parameters.
Instantly it knew what I wanted. thats the beauty of jacking. You and the net are together, linked so it knows what you need.
I was guided through the never ending library stacks until I was before a large book which popped open and scrolled its contents in front of me Until highlighted in front of me it showed me what I wanted to know.
Flight Number: 5418263LTA London -Tokyo
This was followed by a series of receipts for a tube-rail train going Tokyo – Chiba City.
All charged to a Mr Malcolm Foster.
Mr..hah how had he managed to change that over on his records…
So..he really had come all this way….
I closed the query and copied the data to my console.
Then I jacked out. Which always hurts.
I cradled my head in my hands and moaned quietly.
Docs told me the headaches were because I keep irritating my neural pathways with the constant jacking and jacking out.
They told me I should stop using the net as much if I want the pain to go away.
Maybe they are right, maybe I should.
But it’s all I got and it’s the only thing I ever was good at that didn’t involve being naked.
‘Oh man, whats the time’ I pulled my phone out of my pocket and thumbed the on switch. 10:30am
I always forget how time passes so quick when you’re jacked.
Picking myself up out of my chair I moved myself onto the mattress on the floor.
I’m hungry, tired and my head is aching.
‘oh June, you’ve gotta find a better way to do this’ I thought to myself.
I closed my eyes and sleep came with an unexpected suddenness.
1pm the same Thursday.
I grab my leather jacket off the back of the door and hit the stairs with a thud.
I take them two at a time and enter into the store downstairs
‘Hi June’ she says dourly, smoke wafting from her ever-present cigarette.
Shifting my face in her direction, eyes catch and I nod ‘Morag’.
Ooooh Morag, the till bitch at ‘The Pleasure Wagon’ She says hi and I nod.
It’s almost a routine, she’s like my orange juice.
Except not sweet, and hardly wanted.
Morag has this look about her, like a goth kid who got caught up in the wrong crowd, all ripped pink stocking and battered corset.
She sits there behind her till working for Ivan the bastard who owns this place.
But this time..I stop something about whats going on makes me change my routine.
I shout over to her, ‘Hey Morag do me a favour, if anyone swings by looking for me, you’ll let me know right?’
‘yeah sure, whatever get outta here.’
‘kay, well later.’
The door clatters behind me.
The first thing that hits me is the smell, and the damp. Down here at the bottom of the dome, It’s filthy.
I push past two guys crowded around a burning drum ‘change darlin got any change darlin’
‘feck off, i’m not that stupid’ and I dash past the glowing pink light of the sex shop and out onto the drag.
People everywhere, crowding the sidewalks.
When the docks dried up and the domes were erected this is where all the refuse of society ended up.
I came here because somebody told me it used to be flown’ with biz, and chatter that anyone could make it.
Pfft that musta been a long time ago, because it certainly aint that way now.
Cab comes whizzing by, electric transmission squealing. My hand goes up.
The cab stops short and I dash to the window.
An indian man with deep set eyes and a sad empty look stares back at me.
‘can you take me the corner of 24th and 3rd’
‘pretty thing like you? wanting that area..’
‘listen man, just drive me there’
The rear door pops open and I slide myself in.
I really do mean slide, the entire interior of the cab is covered in translucent plastic.
Drunks must be that bad I guess.
The cab pushes out into the crowded street, driving clear of the throng.
Leaning over I take a crumpled stash of new yen out of my pocket and pass it through the steel cage around the driver.
‘keep it man, you look like you need it more than me’
‘..thank you miss’
And I’m gone, outta the cab and onto the street.
The light down here is all filtered and reflected off so many of the buildings above, so it’s nearly constant twilight
I feel rain on my arm, I try not to realise that it’s from god knows how many air-con units above me.
Then in front of me is the door, between a quiet ramen joint and brother is lodged a door.
The faded writing on it just barely reads ‘Julie’s’.
Nobody comes here, not without being in the know.
I push the steel door wide and step into the warm air and soft smokey bar.
Like some old pub crawled out of backstreet liverpool and ended up at the bottom of a dome in Japan.
Julie’s was that kinda place, dyke joint going way back.
Taking a look around the room, I see a bunch of the usual stereotypes butches (both old school and andro), a femme crying at a table over a glass of wine. It’s then I hear it.
‘Man Listen, you can’t BE IN HERE, it’s women only pal and you’ve gotta fuck off’
‘please, my friend June TOLD me about this place’
‘pfft June could be anybody so get outta here!’
it’s Julez the bar tender, with her scarred arms and masses of pseudo-muscle.
She’s leaning across the bar and screaming at this walking mass of tweed pants and jacket.
Hah, Malcolm when will you learn.
I walk slowly up to the bar next to them and cough.
They both stop short.
Julez looks over at me and winks.
‘relax Julez, he’s with me.’
‘..not WITH YOU I hope.’
‘huh,what. oh fuck no. look just give us two largers and a booth at the back, I’ll explain it all later’
‘Fine well I’ll let it slide because it’s you, but if he makes trouble he’s outta here pronto’
I put my hand on a shocked Malcolm’s shoulder and pull him over to a booth.