Friday, November 2, 2012

Sixed - Chapter 2 - NaNoWriMo

Sixed - Chapter 2 - NaNoWriMo

Lines blurred into reality for Xander. This was always the most disorienting moment, the hardest of all things. He waited, knees that felt like jelly bent, the inevitable slam of sensation caused a rush of nausea. It almost made him throw up, this one was particularly bad. It was the sensation of both pushing and pulling, and the abrupt stop that came with both.

The sun was flitting through the edges of his blinds, just past noon then. He had no recollection of time, glanced in the corner of his optics and was frustrated they hadn’t kicked back in yet. His fingers, the tips uncovered by his silken gloves left the deck and feeling was slow to return. He resisted the urge to massage them, flexing stiff nerves that coiled and uncoiled.

His legs were jelly and he rose, a gnaw of hunger became persistent, an acrid smell of sweat that he didn’t like to think about, and a second wave of nausea.

The optics flared, blue, and an indicator blinked in the bottom right of his vision. 14:29. He scratched his stomach absently, and peeled off the silk gloves, gingerly laying them over the deck.

Xander moved like a ghost, soundless to the kitchen. The fridge door was icy steel and cold, but the inside contained a welcome sight. She had prepared him a sandwich, carefully placed on a metal sheet plate, wrapped in cellophane with a tiny toothpick to keep it propped up. He pulled it out, scuffed around, there was no more beer, no soda either, he pulled a carton of orange juice and almost took a quick pull before he thought better of it.

Samantha would kill me.

A chipped tin mug full of juice and he tore into the cellophane.

Roast beef. Delicious.

Lettuce and a tomato on it too, just enough mayo, mustard. She was always meticulous.

He walked into the living room, set it down and took a half, chewing.

He couldn’t remember the digital he’d slid through. It was all just spinning numbers for a while.

Xander was a digital courier. He ran data, information, bits and bytes in the exos between here and there. Where a computed path would never be trusted, couldn’t be...a human had to have it. Humans could improvise, were less likely to fall for predictable traps, moved in ways that couldn’t be accounted for. Important data was of course entrusted to hardlines, secure contact points that would have to be physically cut to splice. But even then, runners would be dispatched with ciphers, keys to unlock data.

Xander was a digital runner, one of the best. At 24 he was also one of the oldest. The game was a long and winding trail for him now. He was an old man in a game that claimed the lives of many. But the money was too good, too easy, and too fast for him to ever get fully out. Samantha made three hundred quid a day. He could make that in ten minutes of time, if the job was fast and loose. It wasn’t steady work, for sure, but on a good day he turned over a thousand quid without worry.

She worried about him, but so did everyone. His parents though he was a computer engineer, that he spent too much time in the grid. That was just the way it was though. If you were good, the money was yours for the taking.

He never looked at the data he carried. That was a point of professional pride. He never scalped either, he wasn’t a merc, wouldn’t sell the data to the highest bidder. Take it, run it, no fuss no muss. His uncle taught him that.

His uncle had been a gangster though, but the lesson was the same.

Don’t fuck with the people who have more, and you can get by just fine.

It wasn’t a hard lesson at all.

He had a posh liverpool skyline, he worked when he wanted for the contracts he thought made sense, ate out, bought what he wanted for himself and Sam, hell even owned a little archaic petrol burning dualie cycle. Couldn’t argue with that most days.

Nope. Couldn’t argue with that. It wasn’t much but it was good.

He finished up the sandwich, carefully collecting the crumbs and placing the dishes in the sink. Synthetic cleanser ran from the taps, while he scrubbed the dishes and left them to dry. For a moment, the jelly feeling returned to his knees, the world swayed, tilting sideways on a lazy axis.

He gripped the counter, it would pass, it always did.

In the corner of his vision, in the swirl of cleanser, “Run, Rabbit.”

He blinked.

It was gone.

Xander stared hard, vomited roast beef and orange juice straight into the sink, and passed out on the warm tile of his own kitchen.