Nacho Hitman

by DW Milton


“It’s a simple smash and grab,” Neon promised over the cam, “A billion times a breeze.” He sighed, “Nacho, we need the credits.”

“What if your breeze hits CAT 5?”

“Bail,” Neon quipped.

“Mark?” Nacho replied, unconvinced.

“Some corporate cookhead. Dr. Zeke Whatever.”

“Advance?”

“The usual; its toast.”

“Neon,” a groan.

“What? We needed the prep, besides, this is big enough NOT to fuck up.”

Nacho growled at the cam, “When?”

The cam fuzzed out Neon’s reply; no matter, Nacho knew the prep half-life was 15 hours.

The cam returned midsentence. “…meet at Jeridondo’s. This guy likes shitty beer.”

Nacho was beat. Even though he was the best biohacker in the business, these runs wore at his substance. The search was cake. Once in, the grab, no sweat. Getting out was the rub. The human HIP was deep in the brain; a real pain in the ass. Plus this cat drank, always a downer. It messed with the RE-TRIVE. Never good. But that’s why they paid him the big bucks.

After taking a boost, Nacho laid waste to the rest of the day. He always did better after sleeping. It was going to be a long night.

Neon, never late, arrived with the jam ready to go. Neon knew Nacho preferred the zap while sleeping; it was kinda painful to be shrunk down to nano size, so being comatose helped. Neon would never admit his relief when he learned Nacho had better synapses for the link. He was cool with wingman—still meant you got paid.

Delivery was key. On the streets, before their recruitment, Nacho sucked at the lifts; one out of five and they starved. Neon was five out of five, which give them a chance for a cot with heat. Neon punched buttons and set the prep. The shrink ray was the most-high tech, expensive gear they could get this side of the city. Underground and uneven, it worked; yet Nacho still took a chance every time he went in. Neon appreciated that. It was his brother’s ass, so Neon took care.

While Nacho slept, the prep solidified around him. In fifteen, the drip would be ready. Neon’s feelers confirmed the mark was at the bar. It was noon and this guy was already sauced. Nacho was right. Alcohol wreacked havoc on the RE-TRIVEs, but 200,000 credits was 200,000 credits for a single word.

How would they know the word?

Simple.

It was always encoded backwards.

Twenty minutes later, Nacho shrunk down to the size of a neuron, floating in the pod, in the prep, waiting delivery. Neon never made com until after delivery. No need to wake up the innernaut until touchdown.

Prick in hand, Neon hurried down the wet, freezing street. Intel showed the mark still on the barstool. He would have to get up to pee sometime and Neon didn’t want to miss it.

The bar was empty and the barkeep a jerk. Neon sat three stools down. Zeke Whatever would not shut up about Megacorporations and start-ups and unicorns. When he finally headed for the can, Neon jammed.  The barkeep would be watching so Neon took his time. The best drops happened on the fly with movement, like a mosquito bite after the fact. Zeke Whatever would never know what hit him.

The prick was a miniature drone parked on the magnetized steel ring encircling Neon’s left index finger. The ocular lens he inserted before heading out gave precise nav, but Neon was gifted. Lift off. Hover. Then take off. The craft glided silently through the air. Neon counted to ten. At eight, Zeke, rounded the corner from the back. Neon expertly slid the drone onto the mark’s neck, just below the hairline.  The lens signaled green. Nacho was in.

The posterior superficial circulation provided the best access. Skin was thicker, but once trucking, vessels from the Circle of Wills allowed direct avenues via the PCA to the HIP.

“Contact made,” Nacho confirmed. Neon paid for his untouched beer and left. The feelers would keep watch now. Neither Zeke nor the barkeep noticed. “What was this joker talking about? Hell, all I see are unicorns.”

“Don’t ask. He thinks he’s the next big gig.”

“Apparently, someone else thinks so too,” Nacho replied. “At least his arteries are clean.” 

Neon grunted. Alcohol hindered atherosclerosis but it rotted synapse transmissions from the inside out, especially in the HIP, which slowed the RE-TRIVE. Nacho only had 15 hours, now 12 by the clock, with the prep and transit.

“Delivery smooth. ETA HIP – 35 minutes. Chat then. I’m out.”

Nacho went dark. The com interfered with the tracking and like on an interstate if the turn off got missed, there was no U-TURN. One had to go to the next exit and backtrack. The human HIP, shaped like a sea horse, curved around the temporal lobes, a vertical cloverleaf with an overpass. Not far from his exit, Nacho engaged the autopilot. He liked silent running as he slipstreamed the pod up the PCA to the PHA. The coated pod hid in plain sight, evading the host immune system by jacking a red. Unknowing RBCs swooped by. Occasional PMNs followed. An EO here and there.

All cells ignored him.   

Trucking in the dark, Nacho timed his arrival based on average mark BMI. When the clock ticked 35, he tripped the lights and made for the dorsal dock.

BAM! The pod slammed into something and stopped dead.

“What the fuck!” Nacho exclaimed.

Illumination from the LEDs bounced off a pulsating bag of worms—biohacker talk for a traffic jam. New vessels had sprouted off the mainline and the pod had slammed into the wall with the turbulence.

“Shit,” Nacho disengaged the autopilot, echoed the pulse, changed the resonance and tipped out of the eddies. Maneuvering manually, he skirted into the slipstream again and followed it to the DHA. At the exit, he slammed the pod in gear and waited for the slipstream to carry him over and into the organ.

Flipping mental switches, he released the pre-programed nanodye that keyed in on certain memory engrams. If the engrams contained the chemical version, a.k.a. NTs, of the lock, the fluoro in the nanodye would light up like Old Vegas. Nacho switched visual to optogene and scanned for the clusters. In the case of Zeke Whatever, the engrams were benign, boring even. Images, words, visions, formulas, numbers, faces-mostly women, hustled by Nacho while he screened. The guy’s whole life flashed before Nacho’s eyes. Unlike some of his other hits, Zeke Whatever blew.

Bullseye! Ten clicks away. The glow was hot. At least a gig. Nacho edged through the gaudy web of neurons and myelin. Occasional loose NTs cracked and clouded the screen, but that glow was a volcano he could not miss. He bellied up to the cluster, elongated the proboscis, and homed in on the hottest neurons in the engram. The heat map never lied. Badda bing! Information overload. The tsunami flowed in a biblical flood.

This was where Nacho earned his cheddar. To call it a virtual vault would be half-true, Nacho was physically plugged into the mark’s memories; he could fuck around in there all he liked, but the find was the needle in the haystack. The RE-TRIVEs were the thing to catch the conscience of a king. Inserted in his own HIP, at much pain and expense, RE-TRIVEs filtered data in real time, nanosecond time.

But this guy was drunk.

Nacho sighed. It was going to take a bit longer that he liked. Who the hell wanted to sit in some asshole’s midbrain longer than he had to while sifting through shit for the single gold nugget?

He did. For 200,000 credits, he did.

Nacho closed his real eyes, which sometimes helped the RE-TRIVEs work faster, by removing extra stim.

And there it was: SEGAHPORCAM.

Whatever. It was ALLERBMU, for an NSA NARC drop a few months ago.

Nacho took the moment to text the word to Neon. Too submerged for com, texting worked surprising well for deep in someone’s brain.

Onward and outward.

Word sent. Lights down. RE-TRIVEs off. Proboscis retracted. Nacho swept the scene for interference and got none. He guided the pod up and back into the slipstream. If he could catch the MHA, then hit the watershed and track to the inferior horn of the left ventricle, he could swing his usual way out.

About twenty clicks out into the MHA, the slipstream slowed. He caught it in time so no crash. It was another jam of new vessels, this time fully blocking the passage.

“Shit!” Nacho swore for a third time today. “This dude’s got something rotten growing in his head,” he said to himself. Checking his options: Turn back, catch the PMCA and then cut around to the inferior horn of the right ventricle or laser through.

With as much hooch as this guy consumed, Nacho didn’t need a bleeder on his hands. A mind hack was one thing; murder was another. Nacho turned back. The low pressure made it easy enough, the problem was stasis. The pod depended on external propulsion, which normally the local arterial pulse provided. Here in the jam, he was going to have to skip.

Platelets aggregated at the edge of the vessels and PMNs marginated, the normal body’s response to blood stasis. Nacho could skip the pod off the hematologic cells like stepping stones to gain momentum until he hit the mainstream. Nacho kept skipping and skipping until he realized the pocket was bigger than he thought. The stasis moved like a vortex, sucking in but not spitting out. Maybe if he skipped big enough into the center, he could catch it, and like an eye, the calm would be enough to just fall out.

He checked the clock. 120 minutes. Similar to lightspeed, time behaved differently in the mark. Faster, rougher. Time didn’t spend, it consumed. RBCs lived approximately 120 days, Platelets seven in circulation; but it was all equal to 5 lifetimes spent in a warzone. Biohackers saw the fight firsthand and sometimes were collateral damage.

 Nacho slammed back into gear and caught the eye just right.

“Damn, I am the MAN!” he said to no one in particular.

Back in the mainstream, he zipped for the inferior horn.

“Son of a puta!” he exclaimed as he reared the pod back, veering and skidding. Sitting in front of him on the infrared was the biggest mofoing tumor he had ever seen. Innernauts were always privy to many intimates of strangers, but the pulsing, throbbing, boulder of death cutting off his escape route was the scariest thing Nacho had ever seen.

This guy’s days were numbered, and he probably didn’t even know it. That was why the payoff was so rich. If this dude bit it before anyone knew the word, it would only matter but to the buyer. Not to Nacho. Not to Neon. Not to Zeke the Dead Duck or whatever his name was.

Nacho realized that Neon must be freaked; Nacho was usually out by now. Well, on to option 2. Nacho fired up the laser to slice through the pulsating mass. Who knew, maybe if he burned through enough of it, the dude might have a chance.

Who was he kidding, this guy was a goner, and Nacho did not want to be here when it happened.

Soft and half-dead from outgrowing its own blood supply, the tumor cut like butter. Nacho squeezed his way through and into the inferior horn. Thinner than blood, the CSF tracked easily to the sphenoid bone where Nacho cut a minuscule hole, just enough for the pod to slip through into the nasal cavity.

Now all Nacho had to do was wait for the dude to sneeze.


The author has a day job but would rather be writing fiction. 

See more at dwmilton.com.


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