Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’

“Alright, alright!”  Skitters stalked to the right of the cyborg, simultaneously clearing the shot and moving for an easy sucker-punch.  “Like it’s SO HARD for Ash to keep a target glued down…”  Skitters kept circling.  The cyborg reached up and back, mechanical claws clicking as they grasped at the air.  As the would-be assassin closed in on the back of the crouched cyborg, it’s right shoulder joint swiveled far beyond human range, and the metal claw latched onto Skitters’ knife hand.  Skitters swore as the claw crushed his right vambrace and his forearm with it.

Ghost watched as the cyborg made a show of grabbing for Skitters but being unable to reach…  And suddenly having his nutjob teammate by the arm.  “Fuck,” he breathed.  He took aim at the carbon fiber faceplate of the borg and squeezed the trigger.  As he did, the left hand unholstered one of it’s massive railguns and THREW it at him.  Ghost could walk through walls and let bullets pass harmlessly through him, but he couldn’t phase out and shoot at the same time.  He took a hundred-plus mile per hour fast ball of a railgun to the chest.  He was lifted off his feet and sent smashing through the last wall he had ghosted through.  This time, there was a clear sign of his passing.

Skitters dropped his knife as he was hauled over the cyborg’s head.  He drew his plasma ejector with his left hand, but the borg slammed him into the ground.  Skitters didn’t feel pain the same way most people did; the same brain implants that gave him telepathy and mild mental problems blocked out the worst of it.  He knew that his right arm was broken and several ribs had cracked, but he took aim at his “prey” anyway.  He fired.  The cyborg’s head was bathed in fire.  It reared up to its full height, tearing up a chunk of earth as its third arm wrenched free of its entrapment.  The cyborg threw Skitters skyward.

With Skitters out of the way, Ash started mumbling non-words and gesturing toward the stuck cyborg.  Light gathered in his palms and he thrust them toward the cyborg.  The light turned to flames. The flames leapt forth, leaving a scorched trail on the earth.  The cyborg held the mass of dirt attached to his third claw like a shield, doing his best to take cover.  The dirt was quickly burned away.  The cyborg twisted, covering like a boxer, trying to keep any one part of himself from melting.  Ash kept the heat up for as long as he could, but fire hot enough to destroy military equipment was draining.  Skitters finally landed somewhere to his left, and the distraction caused the fire to dissipate.

“Is your buddy okay?”  The cyborg stood, wreathed in heat-shimmer but otherwise seemingly intact.  He leaned, trying to lift a foot.  Ash risked a glance at Skitters’ crumpled body.  The candy red chest plate of Skitters’ armor rose and fell.

“Uh, yeah,” Ash said.  “I think he’ll be okay.”

“You guys never answered my question.”

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Ghost slipped out of the side of a building and into view of the now walking borg.  It was an eight-foot-tall biped, with one left and two right arms.  The head was human shaped, but smooth in the front, with cameras set behind an armored visor.  Every limb ended in a claw.  The whole of the cyborg was painted in low gloss black and grey digital camo.  It would have been an intimidating look, but all of the major flat surfaces had brilliant and highly reflective product logos.  Ghost unslung a sleek black laser rifle and drifted as silently as his namesake.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood… He was on a camera, somewhere.  The borg hadn’t turned.

The boom of railgun fire shattered the silence.  Ghost was unharmed, but the building behind him was now pocked with hyper fast slugs.  The borg’s second right arm was tucked in front of it, and the barrel of one Triax railgun was aimed at Ghost.  He felt Skitters thinking at him.  Yeah, I know, he thought back.  Ghost focused on the gun as the borg turned and fired again, this time with both guns.  The right stayed silent, but the left spewed more slugs.  They passed harmlessly through Ghost.  Ghost focused next on the other gun, disabling it.

Skitters and Ash rounded the corner and saw the apparent standoff.  The borg kept one gun leveled on Ghost and the other switched to train on Skitters.  Even with the mechanical paralysis, Ash found himself happy once again that his nutjob coworker insisted on bright red gear.  He channeled power, and muttered non-words.  He gestured toward the cyborg.  “He’s glued.  Should be easy pickings, now.”  Skitters drew a knife and closed on his prey.  The borg holstered his guns.
“This beatdown is gonna be sponsored by Psi-Cola,” The cyborg said.  Skitters stopped.  He stood up straight.  The borg shrugged two shoulders.  “They make me say that.”

“Whatever, tin man.  Hold still, and I’ll try to leave your life support intact.”  Skitters squeezed the handle of his knife, and the blade whined to life.  The borg tried to step forward.  His feet stayed rooted firmly to the ground.  He windmilled his arms, dropping to a semi-crouch with his lower right arm to stabilize.  Skitters laughed.  The borg’s head tilted up.

“Okay, that’s a good trick.”

“Yeah.”  Skitters giggled.  He moved in for the kill.  The borg took up an improbably low fighting stance for someone so large.

“Get on with it, nutcase!” Ash yelled.  “He won’t be stuck forever!”

“Why are you even doing this?” Ghost asked.  “We literally ALL have guns!  And Ash can shoot fire from his hands!”

“Your friends have a point, man.  I wouldn’t get close to a guy like me if I were a guy like you,” the cyborg said.  Skitters stood straight up, vibro-knife still singing in his right hand.

“What?”

“I mean, I’m literally a killing machine.  You sure you want to get close?”  The cyborg flexed his oversized claws for emphasis.

“Skitters, get out of the fucking way!”  Ghost yelled.  He kept his rifle shouldered, but Skitters was still in the way of a clean kill shot.

“You’re not LITERALLY a killing machine.”  Skitters squinted at the cyborg.  “You aren’t killing right now.  And you’re not even fully a machine!”

“Riddle is gonna be here any fucking second and she’s gonna macross massacre this place!” It was Ash’s turn to yell.

“How are we gonna sell the parts if she blows ‘em all up?”  Skitters turned away from the cyborg.

“I meant to ask: is this a fight to the death kind of thing?” The cyborg relaxed his stance ever so slightly.

“Well, are you gonna give us the body without a fight?”  Skitters turned back to the cyborg.

“I can’t!” the cyborg exclaimed.  “I need it to live!”

“Then I guess you gotta die.  Sorry, man.”

“Well, do I have to kill you to save my life?  Can I just let you retreat?”

“SKITTERS!” Ghost and Ash were yelling in unison now.

“Alright, alright!”  Skitters stalked to the right of the cyborg, simultaneously clearing the shot and moving for an easy suckerpunch.

He approached the bar, walking carefully. He remembered picking up his paperwork a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t want to have to replace any furniture here. The lizard behind the bar kept one chameleon eye trained on him the whole time. Eddie picked a crated-turned-barstool that looked like it would hold him and sat down at the bar. He didn’t intend to drink. He didn’t even know if he could get drunk anymore. He did know that the bar staff didn’t talk to you if you weren’t drinking. He popped a belt compartment open and withdrew a credit card. He put it on the counter, and the balance projected beside it. Neat, but dangerous. Eddie would have to keep a separate card with a smaller balance if he was going to hang out in places like this.
“Thirsssty?” The lizard queried.
“Shitty tequila, please,” Eddie said. His voice seemed overly loud. He realized no one else was talking. Strange. He suddenly wished he’d launched his camera drone. The lizard produced a glass bottle and an empty can. Smart. Eddie probably would have crushed a glass. He gave his full attention to his audio suite. No sounds of people standing up. Just breathing, drinking, and the thunderous amplified pour of the liquid into the can. “Thanks.”
“Welcome,” the lizard croaked. Eddie watched as he tapped out the order on the counter and the balance of his card dropped by the price of the drink.
“I’m new in town.”
“We know.”
“We?”
“Everyone can tell.”
“I guess it’s not like I can blend into the crowd.”
“Ha!” The lizard laughed. It was a stuttering croak.
“How’s the job market?”
“Dependsss on what you can do, tin man.”
“Fair. Let’s say I have a strong back and I’m motivated.” Eddie tapped his card and transferred a fistful of credits to the bartender. The lizard gave another croak, this time of appreciation.
“I bet you are. That isss sssome niccce hardware.” The lizard’s drawn out S sounds made his tongue flicker in and out. Part lizard and part snake? Strange, but not impossible. “You check the bulletin board?”
“Is it physical or ‘net?”
“Sssome of both.” Eddie checked his communications. There was indeed an electronic bulletin board. He thought up a short resume and posted it. He’d peruse the listings later.
“Thanks, buddy.” Eddie stood. Having everyone staring at his back made him uncomfortable, even with the turret. He couldn’t be sure that the lizard would take his side. One of the lizard’s eyes flicked toward his drink. “Yours if you want it,” Eddie said. He turned and headed toward the door. He wasn’t nervous, exactly. Wellington wasn’t a particularly rough town, but anywhere could be dangerous if one wasn’t careful.
Eddie had made a mistake. He knew it. All his money was on that card. He didn’t know for certain that anyone else had seen the balance. To make matters worse, he’d just gotten touched up. His body looked like it was fresh off the showroom floor. He’d known guys who bought ‘refurbished’ parts from less than reputable chop shops. Cyberware didn’t fall off the back of a truck. Borgs didn’t just decide to get rid of parts. Eddie stepped out into the daylight. His bottom left hand unclasped his new UAV. The amber light winked, and the charcoal digital camouflage disc shot into the air. The new perspective was dizzying for a full second. Eddie kept walking.
His extra perspective told him that he was still alone. Maybe he was wrong. Or maybe he underestimated the appearance of a combat borg as a deterrent. He headed back the way he came, to keep himself in familiar territory until he was sure he was in the clear. Stupid, Eddie. Or… brilliant. He slowed to a walk again. Movement. The UAV told him that he had some of the barflies coming out. One mounting a hoverbike. Three others on foot. No sign of heavy weapons. Hoverbike vector away. Walkers moving to intercept.
Eddie knew that if they thought they could take him then he couldn’t see all their armaments. That meant at least one of them had real firepower. Magic, psychic, or tech. Didn’t matter which. Not really. He’d be handling it the same way, regardless. He headed toward the edge of town. He needed to keep this away from innocent bystanders. This was going to be loud and messy. On the upside, it would probably be pretty exciting to watch.

“Look, I’m trying to play along.” Eddie paced back and forth in the plush office.  The air was clouded with cigar smoke.  He barely noticed.  His respiratory system filtered out all manner of poisons, toxins, and particulates.

“Ya did good for a first outing, I’ll give ya that,” Lynch said.  He took another long drag on his stogie.  The cherry glowed red, giving Lynch a devilish red glow.  Did it count as foreshadowing if Eddie already knew he was in treacherous waters?

“Gimmie a drone, Lynch.”  Eddie stopped in front of the desk and leaned over.  He went to place two of his hands on the desk, then thought better of it.  The tabletop in the so-called green room already had his claw marks.  It wouldn’t do to trash Lynch’s desk while he was asking a favor.  “Think of it as protecting your investment.  I need to be able to watch my six.”

“What about all those friends you made?”  Lynch had apparently already watched at least some of the footage he’d brought in.  “You hooked up with some heavy hitters.  Made for a good watch.”

“Yeah, it was fun.”  Eddie would have frowned under his faceplate.  “These guys weren’t really team players though.”  He thought about how he’d had to drag them along.  The extra firepower was great, but counting on them to watch him sleep?

“Listen, Killstreak, the network has been doing this for a while.  You want support, you earn it.  The suits, and therefore yours truly, tend to back proven earners.”   Lynch blew another cloud of smoke.

“Oh for…”  Eddie stopped himself.  Then it hit him.  “It’ll be better ad exposure.”  Lynch raised an eyebrow.  Bullseye.  Eddie pressed forward.  “Yeah, I mean, I have all these logos from my sponsors, but how often do I look at them?  We want people to think that they’re getting their money’s worth!”

“Hmm.”  Lynch leaned forward.  This time Eddie did smile behind his faceplate.  “That is an interesting point.”  He squinted at Eddie.  “And we do have a little more space to work with these days.”  Lynch gestured to Eddie’s mismatched third arm.  “Alright, buddy.  I’ll see what I can do.”  Lynch leaned back again.  Eddie stood to his full height.

“You won’t regret this, Lynch.”

“You’re absolutely right, I won’t.”  He took a drag of his cigar.  “This goes tits up, it’s yer ass.”  Smoke leaked from his mouth.  “Yeah, I’m out a little scratch, but the Network, they’ll repo you.”  He finished blowing the smoke.  “That is, they’ll take back that fine ass body of yours.”  Lynch tapped the ash off his cigar into an overly ornate glass ashtray.  He placed the slimy end back in the corner of his mouth and pulled a keyboard from under his desk.  “Gimmie a minute to get the order together.”  His hands crawled over the keyboard like hungry tarantulas.  A holoscreen flickered to life, taking over Lynch’s desk top.  Eddie shifted, leg actuators humming.  Lynch didn’t look up.  “Tell you what, get down to the spraybooth and have that arm colormatched.  You can pick up your new toy from the Armory and get back out in the field.”

“Thanks, man.  You’re a good friend,” Eddie said.

“It’s a sound business decision.  Got nothin’ to do with friends.  Get going.”

New Hire

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Fiction, Gaming
Tags: , , , ,

“I don’t want the stupid nickname.”

“It’s not a nickname, Eddie. It’s your stage name.”

“Whatever. I’m not calling myself Killstreak.”

“Oh yeah you are, buddy. These guys spent a shitload of credits putting you back together. You like having arms and legs?” Eddie nodded. “The, ahem, terms and conditions state that you owe five years of quality action programming.” Lynch took a drag of his cigarette. “And our viewers expect to have colorful characters and dramatic stories.” As he spoke, the smoke leaked out of his mouth and nose. Eddie got the impression that disagreeing with an actual dragon might be safer.

“Can’t I pick my own character though? How am I supposed to get along with anyone when I introduce myself as a murderer?”

“Tell you what. You go down to marketing and run your idea by them.” Eddie groaned a sound not unlike an ancient dial-up net connection. “Hey. Lose the attitude. I pulled your corpse out of the fire at some considerable personal risk. The Network isn’t the only one you owe, buddy.”

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks a million, Lynch.” Eddie had a hard time mustering any sincerity. Lynch wasn’t wrong though. Eddie did literally owe his life to him and the Network. Which network, Eddie didn’t know yet, but it hardly mattered.

“Listen, Eddie, it ain’t all bad news. You’re still you, ya dig? Think of it as your new callsign. Marketing will get you a packet of one-liners and endorsements to memorize. It’ll all be second nature in no time. You go out and find something to kill every week. It’ll be just like your old soldiering days.”

“Yeah, because those were the Good Old Days, ” Eddie scoffed.

“You were good at it. Real good. And we had fun too, but sometimes violence IS the answer, man.” Lynch pulled his feet off his desk and leaned forward. He clasped his hands in front of him. Eddie thought the cherry from that stupid cigar might fall on to his knuckles, but no such luck. “Listen, Killstreak,” Eddie sighed at the name. It sounded like an airbrake releasing pressure. “Get down to Marketing. Get your packet. Pitch your idea. If they like it, I’ll be the first guy to call you Iron Lion.” Eddie stood up. Lynch continued. “Either way suits me fine. It’s a big world and we got a lot of people paying a lot of money to see it through your eyes.”

“All right, Lynch.” Eddie turned his massive steel frame toward the door. He looked back. “I do mean it, man. Thanks for savin’ me.”

“Off with ya. Do me proud.” Lynch shooed him away with a hand. Eddie disappeared into the hall.

* * *

Eddie disconnected the external oxygen supply. The paint booth still reeked of acetone, but he was done getting sprayed and baked. On his right pectoral plate, he had a glossy black three digit operator number. On his left, an energy drink logo. His arms and legs were covered in brand names. They would fade or get scraped off quickly, so he was expected to come in quarterly to get a new paint job. Eddie reconsidered his stance on how annoying shaving used to be. The bits of him not covered in advertisements were done up in a black and gray digital camoflage pattern.

He stepped out of the paintbooth and scraped his presskit off of a nearby table. His mechanical hands dug furrows into the tabletop. “Some adjustment will be necessary,” he scoffed. He connected to the datapad with his palm-jack. Text overlayed his vision. He couldn’t actually see it, but it floated at the front of his conciousness as surely as if he were reading it from a page. New hire SOPs. Training schedules. A list of his ‘preferred brands’: Wilk’s Laser Technologies, Republic Rifles, Pangolin Shielding Inc., Nuka-Cola. Eddie shook his head. He opened his training schedule. The faster he finished his ‘period of adjustment’, the faster he could be back in the world.