Read part 2 here!
Hanging outside a window, some 40 stories high, I see the city for the first time in weeks. Not, like, literally, although I did have the blinds drawn. No, I’m looking at a city, naked and exposed. A neon sprawl, covered in an oppressive haze (read that on a tourist BBS one time). Skyscrapers of corporations stand out like machine parts: each a cog in something we don’t understand. Sunlight hits their sickeningly spotless chrome exteriors, even in the dead of night. Corporations control the weather, after all.
Any sunlight dies before it gets to bounce off to the rest of town, let some light in that isn’t from a neon sign. The corps have unlimited renewable energy that way; monopoly on solar panels. They need to power The Shell, after all. Rest of the town, though? Not so much! Electro’s rationed for cityplayers and it is expensive. Ten days of earnest pay is worth an hour of computer a day, one laundry tour, and maybe a light or two (or two Trish Rigs virtual displays) for a week. Nooo thank you, I’ll take my sweet chances with running from debt collectors.
My urban soliloquy is rudely interrupted by the rooftop gestalt plummeting down. They pass me, too fast for me to really catch any details other than the shocked realisation on their face. I hear a scream, followed by a small ker-ploff into a garbage dumpster, concluded by a series of words I’d rather not process. I feel a heavy tug on my leg. My face slams against the window as I’m pulled into the apartment with Data. “Jesusch Hacking Chrfist, thanksh for catchig me but show soum restrainpt, woldya?” I’m clutching my nose in pain, blood running like an Android W.K. album cover. “You signed up for this job, datadropper. Get used to it.” A lightly-modulated femme voice tells me off and I’m sort of into it.
I slowly get up. “D’you hab like a servette or somthing? I bink my noes is brokem.” Before I get a good look, they suddenly storm off into the bathroom. “Uh, you okay?” “You stay there,” a mechanical snarl commands me and I obey. “You’re BLEEDING. I can’t stand that, that red stuff.” I take a look around the apartment – no tissue around, save for the bits from my nose. Black sofa, black table, black paint. A ceiling fan missing half a blade whirs softly. The only remarkable, colourful thing in here is a terrarium under ugly, fluorescent lighting. The fan and lights hum softly together; a sad, generator-powered post-ambient seems like a fitting soundtrack for this place. I wipe my nose on the black curtains, blow a bit. Hurts like hell.
“Okay, I’m coming out. You better not be phlebotomising all over my apartment anymore.” “What?” “Bleeding.” “Oh. No, I’m not.” I make sure I stand in front of the bloodstain.
My saviour reemerges from the bathroom. The only applicable word I can think of is “surprising”. Plain tanktop and pants, dyed a faded purple and green. Their shoulder-length black hair, as they’re tying it into a knot, is almost invisible against the paintjob of the walls. But what strikes me and my fancy are their hardware: a chrome throat-plate, similar to the debt collector’s, used for voice modulation; a disproportionately-sized robotic arm where most folk would have dangling an organic limb; and a triangular glass visor covering most of their head, both sides ending in a sharp angle just above the mouth. It’s got one of those fancy, built-in emotion displayers, a great invention for the disabled and socially awkward. Right now it’s showing an unimpressed ’:-|’ face.
“You mentioned ‘datadroppers’ earlier, mixter–” “Mister,” he cuts me off and I dare not speak again. “It’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” They turn to me and gesture at my dog. “This the data?” I nod diffidently, “this is Data, yes.” Data modulates a bark. “Sooo, my name’s–” “I know who you are. You’re Caesar, expert datadropper. 32 independent jumps, 13 corporate. An impressive record.” The visor flicks to a ’:-)’. I’m pretty confident that I’m not, but that emotion displayer is making it real hard to disagree.
“I, yeah. Sure.” I nervously scratch the back of my neck, pulling at the spot my dataport once was. He crouches down and lets Data sniff his alloyed hand. “I think it’s genius, using a pup as a datastorage. I’m still going to need to check his hard drive, though, if that’s OK with you.” I slowly nod and tell Data it’s okay, my face clammy with sweat. What do I have on there again? Educational/inspiration kung-fu videos, some Third Life ’emergency’ contacts, blurry .bmp files of Trish Rigs from her live concert at the Technope Drome last Tuesday… Aw jammit, this is bad.
As the cyborg moves to plug in his USB jack – he has to flip it around twice – the door busts open. A familiar cocking sound fills the apartment. I look up, hesitantly, realise this just got a lot worse, and whisper. “Ask me about cock…”