Metathesis - June 1996
Data-Cage - armand
(page 6/9)


The alley was deserted, and the rain steadily poured down onto McGomery. What the hell was he doing here? Who in their right mind would agree to this place, this dingy alley, as a good inconspicuous meeting place, especially outside curfew? He must've been nuts to agree, but he wanted it so much. What would be the price? Would it cost him his life ? He didn't care, he didn't have much of a life now - it consisted of eating, searching and sleeping. Sleeping was his only refuge from this.

There were quick footsteps behind him and he turned sharply, his hand on the butt of his blaster. Damnit, he was too jumpy. A small grubby street urchin glared at him. It was impossible to tell how old the kid was, or even its sex - its hair was so matted with the filth of the street. With a vacant grin, the urchin scampered off into some festering hell-hole. McGomery would have given everything he owned to go to that place, anything not to do this. Damn it, where is he?

He took a snort from the metallic cylinder containing the designer drug Burocein, which he always kept to hand. His headache receded into the deeper depths of his mind as his vision clarified and his reactions got more acute.

Once he found what he was looking for, he wouldn't need to bother with any of this. He would be finished, free and rich beyond possible belief. He could finally ditch the consciousness which had been sharing his mind for the last ten years, the thing which had latched onto his mind in his first trip into c-space. He would get out of this asshole of a city and move to somewhere nice, somewhere where you wouldn't get shot at for walking down the street, somewhere that heavily-armed cops wouldn't feel uneasy. A sheet of lightning flashed over head. Foul water cascaded into his eyes. What the fuck was in this rain? It wouldn't do him any good to be out here too long - he would have to go into decontam for a week. He remembered when he lived with his parents, back in the old country, his grand-daddy once told him about times when you could drink the rain-water. Looking at this rain, he somehow couldn't believe it.

He looked at his watch but the battery had completely failed now, not surprising considering the shit it had been exposed to. He looked up at the airships with their spotlights scanning the city, looking for people like him, ducking behind a garbage bin as the spotlight strayed perilously close to his location. He would be for it if the cops suspected he was here. There would be no way he could explain this away, nor escape the deep probes that the cops had just invested so heavily in. Well, he wouldn't have to worry about it - the spotlight missed him, this time at least.

Where the fuck was he? He said he'd be here.

There was slight movement ahead. The wall seemed to ripple like a wave, with the light reflecting off a silver mass. With a flash of light, a man appeared in the spot where the wall was rippling, grinning maniacally at McGomery.

"What do you think? I been following you for the best part of 2K. Neat device, eh? Found it in some 'salvage' I came across."

McGomery blinked in disbelief. The guy was nuts. He must've resorted to stealing from governmental sources, or one of the major industrial corps. McGomery had seen some camo suits in his time, but none this effective. It must be military, either governmental or private enterprise - hardware as advanced as this was years away from the black market, never mind general retail.

"Why the hell didn't you say anything? I'm soaked to the bloody bone with this shit and you play your childish games! You just better have what I'm paying you for."

The guy grinned at him and produced a small black disk from a hidden pocket in his tatty clothing. McGomery noticed the grey tint of plasti-armour beneath the guy's rags.

"It'll work?" McGomery asked.

"Sure thing, boss - hook it into the matrix near the data cage you wanna crack and it'll cut through that cage like an acetylene torch through ice."

"You better not be taking me for a ride. If I spend all this money and it turns out to be a joke program, you'll hafta get yourself another face, 'cause I will come looking for you."

"Don't worry man, it'll cut the ice - I got my reputation to worry about, you know."

McGomery handed over the credit chip and took the disk from the man's grubby hands. The man deposited the chip in some inner fold of his garb and with a blink he turned the camo suit on, disappearing in a shimmer of light.

McGomery stood there looking at the disk, then he deposited it inside his jacket with a flourish and turned towards the mouth of the alley.