by Ray Daley
The Agent was almost asleep, trying find a comfortable position in the tiny room of a nameless capsule hotel just outside of New Fuji when his optic received a data-surge. It was a job. Although it was almost 3 A.M, he’d never turned down an offer of work before now, regardless of what it might entail or who it was for.
The info scrolled across his optic:
Corner of Numan & Dolby.
Ask For Slim.
The optic was still a relatively new technology, it was something he had acquired whilst working Black Bag Ops for Uncle Sam. What they originally used it for, he didn’t ask. The price was low enough and had also included implantation, as well as the aftercare. And was much easier than carrying any hand-held smart device. People got frisked on most jobs, smart-devices were removed, held onto or frequently destroyed. The implant was undetectable, so far.
Impossible to confiscate, or so he thought.
Sliding feet first out of the capsule, he pulled on his shoes and hustled his way down through the busy streets of New Fuji. Even at 3 A.M the city was still very active, people buying, selling, being bought or sold too. Pretty much anything went on the streets of the Lotus City.
Reaching the main drag of Numan, The Agent looked around, taking in the sights but also scanning for recognisable landmarks or way-points with his optic.
Three blocks down,
The in-built GPS software was extremely useful, it made getting lost in strange new places a thing of the distant past. Two blocks further on, he was way-laid by a group of Western tourists clearly lost, antique paper maps in hand, hopeful to seek assistance from a non-foreign face.
“Hey, Mister, which way to the subway?” asked an extremely tall man with a goatee beard who might have blocked out the sun if it’d been daytime.
The Agent was about to tell them all to fuck off, but then thought better of it. “Ten new creds.”
The tall man wearing a knock-off cobalt blue silk-look shirt beamed him the creds from his smart-device. The Agent pointed in the direction he’d just come from. “Back that way, walk straight for five blocks. If you hit Happy Wang’s Dragon Sushi, you went too far.”
The tall heavy-set man released his grasp on The Agents ageing Tommi Chu jacket, rubbed his goatee beard and finally herded his group off down the street. The Agent ran the last block, eager to make the job on time or early.
Like many of the other booze dives on the lower end of the strip, mostly favoured by vets and cybees. As The Agent pushed his way through the archaic holography that imitated a saloon door he could make out from the optic that the place was almost at capacity.
Safe limit:- 90 patrons.
Consider informing Fire Marshall.
‘Nah, screw that. I’m on the job,’ The Agent thought to himself.
The joint was mostly full of Italian-suited Mach Men interspersed with a flash of ageing urban camo worn by the odd vet here and there, all also easily identified by their tattoos. The Agent made his way to the bar.
The barkeep was a cyborg, mostly duralumin torso; clearly a vet of the three week war in 2015. “What’ll it be?” he asked.
“I’m looking for Slim?” The Agent said.
The barkeep waved his metal hand across a gesture station, the RFID reader on the main door scanned everyone coming in and out of the bar so he knew who was there and how many people were inside at any time. Whatever search string he used came up snake-eyes. “No Slim in here, sorry, bud. Maybe next door though? Wanna drink? Special on Osh-Cosh? Reduced rate for vets.”
The Agent hadn’t mentioned that he was a vet too, the barkeep had damn good eyes. He’d clearly clocked the artificial hand, even if it was an extremely good prosthetic. “Sure, gimme five fingers.”
“Enough to make a full set again, am I right?” joked the barkeep.
The Agent let it slide, vets had cart blanche to rag on each other like that. It was an earned comradeship, mostly earned the hard way. “Lost it on Oak Island, how ’bout you?” he asked.
“Lapland, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland. Pretty much every land. I lost it almost freaking everywhere man. As you can see.” The barkeep gestured his arm across the artificial torso, sliding The Agent his drink with the other hand.
“How much?” The Agent asked, reaching up to pay.
“First one is always free to vets, man,” the barkeep said, waving his hand away from the beam-point.
The Osh-Cosh went down smooth and fast but quickly started to cloud his already tired mind, so The Agent headed next door as rapidly as he could, pushing his way through the smoke-shrouded Mach Men to get out of Zero Bar.
The drag consisted of bar on bar action for the best part of twelve blocks before the alcohol gave way to cafés, fast food joints and noodle booths. Next door was The Bradbury, a low-end dive where old SF shows aired on a classic analogue TV in black and white only, the highest disregard for technology possible. This place was the dullest end of a no longer bleeding edge of tech.
Inside The Bradbury, the staff were all fully human, no cybees, no andys, no mechs. “What’ll it be man?”
“Looking for Slim, someone said he might be in here?” The Agent asked them.
The server grabbed onto a pull-out data-paper and scanned the information briefly. “Nope, no Slim in here. Maybe try The Wheaton? I hear he goes in there all the time.”
No free drink was forthcoming in The Bradbury so The Agent pushed on once more, making his way over to The Wheaton.
Inside, the décor looked like the bridge of that old spaceship from the 20th, this place was named The Wheaton in a post-modern attempt to be ironic which almost succeeded. The Agent immediately felt comfortable in an odd sort of way. He expected a female African American barkeep but no such luck. It was a mech. “What do ya want, pal?”
“I’m looking for Slim?” By now The Agent felt drained, on the edge of collapse. This job was getting to the point of abandonment. The price had been good at the time, but was the burn-out really worth it at this time of night that was now practically day?
The mech scanned him, a crude model with no RFID reader, only capable of facial recognition. “Okay,” said the mech.
The Agent pondered this response. ‘Okay? He was here?’. “He’s in here then?”
“Yes, sir,” replied the mech.
“Okay, I’ll bite then. Where?” The Agent asked. Seemingly activated by the oral input, his optic flashed a nerve-searing white, almost blinding him for a second. Once his sight returned, a message appeared, and blinked off.
Trigger phrase acknowledged.
Ready to acquire target.
The mech slid itself slowly to one side, revealing the mirrored bar back behind it. It raised an arm and pointed.
The Agent didn’t understand. “Say what?”
The mech pointed again, directly at his reflection. His greying skin, haggard and weather-worn. His hair, tousled and thinning. The Agent barely recognised the male face before him as his own. A shadow of his former self. He’d seen war, lived through peace, chased bounties across the world. And now time had caught up with him. Fate too.
The optic scanned, reading his reflected image from the mirror.
ID 100% confirmed.
The eye is ours.
Bad double cross.
Say goodnight, Gracie.
Ray Daley was born in Coventry & still lives there. He served 6
yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in
High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he
was 10. His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers
fanfic novel he’s been writing since 1986. Tweet him @RayDaleyWriter
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