Posts Tagged ‘Sponsors’

Skitters’ head movements could be confused for fear.  Many of his victims had made that mistake in the past.  They were a common symptom of the implants in his brain that gave him powers that dirt scratchers didn’t have.  Our target is headed west, he thought at the others.  They didn’t need radios, if they stuck close. Skitters was easy to spot.  The silver knobs sticking out of his messily shaved scalp spun and gave a faint whine.  His candy apple red armor glinted in the sunlight.  Ghost and Ashes followed and Skitters knew they understood.  A shiny borg like that, asking dumb questions?  Easy money, no matter how you slice it.  Riddle wouldn’t be able to hear him think from here, but Riddle’s skycycle had a sensor suite.  She could find their walking payday and close the pincers.

He dragged his fingers across the road.  He got flashes of armored footfalls headed out of town.  Perfect.  No witnesses.  Ash was pretty good at convincing people that they were the good guys, but it was always easier not to have to.  The trio pursued the borg at a quick jog.  Ghost broke off from the other two and vanished through a wall.  Skitters and Ash zigzagged through the streets, slowly closing in.  Ghost would get there first via his more direct route.  Better than perfect. 

Ghost could disable dumb machines with a thought.  Smart machines like robots and big machines like vehicles might resist.  Bio-integrated machinery like cyborgs were immune to the effect.  Those Triax-make railguns were not.  Better that the target didn’t get a shot off with those.  He could feel people and cameras staring at him as he dashed through the walls of houses and storefronts.  He wore matte grey body armor with no insignia or branding, both because it was thematically appropriate and to give people as few descriptors of him as possible.  He’d unpack any of a number of brightly colored jackets later, just to confuse the issue further. 

Riddle screamed around the outskirts of Wellington, circumnavigating the town in a matter of minutes.  Her team would be catching up to the borg shortly, and she wanted to make it in before the kill-shot.  Occasionally, those fuckers would try to cut her out.  It was easier to argue that she was there as insurance when she made it in before they finished the job.  They sure didn’t mind loading the spoils onto HER skycycle, and they never minded when they couldn’t finish the job and she had to chase someone down. 

Ash trailed Skitters by only a dozen feet or so.  His reinforced trench coat fluttered behind him, and his heavy boots kicked up dust.  Few could concentrate on the arcane arts at a dead run.  Ash was no exception.  He muttered some non-words and made a silly gesture and a blue glow outlined his cowboy affect clothing.  He picked up speed again, easily pacing Skitters.  Almost on ‘im, Ghost thought at them.

Advertisements

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.

Eddie flexed his third arm.  He was contractually obligated to go in and get the thing painted to match the rest of his body.  The Network would get pissy if the wrong logos or color schemes were present for too long.  Whatever.  He’d earned his “upgrade.”  To the victors went the spoils.  It was aggravating to have to drag the rest of the group along, but he’d needed the fire support on this one.  Besides, one did not simply miss an opportunity to have a Glitter Boy provide covering fire.  That said, he’d probably fly solo for a while, or be a little choosier about his next crew.

He ran north, back toward the town slash military base that he’d woken up in.  He didn’t really want to see Lynch again.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to.  He did need more camera equipment if he was going to go solo for any amount of time, and he also needed to dump this week’s video feed.  “Killstreak” had to be a viable character or they’d repo his body. 

He shuddered at the thought – he might not be the first person to live in his cybernetic frame.  Ghoulish.  Worse than wearing used underwear.  Eddie focused his attention on his sensory inputs.  Forest streaked by him.  As he ran, his targeting software would read the landscape and fill in details on everything he looked at.  No matter how boring those details were, he couldn’t help but know them.  Maybe he could learn to tune that out again.  Normal humans could see things without immediately being force-fed every fact about whatever their gaze drifted across. 

Being a full conversion cyborg wasn’t all bad news.  Once he had decided where to go, a waypoint marker had appeared in his vision.  Pilots had to set markers.  Nomads had to consult maps.  Even mages had to cast a spell or some crap.  And the running.  Eddie could just run.  Everywhere.  He’d need to stop to sleep, but his legs would never tire.  Not having to do cardio ever again – Eddie could adjust to that. 

He became aware of an incoming call.  Another new weirdness.  Not hearing, just knowing that there was a transmission waiting for his attention.  He triggered his radio.  There wasn’t a person on the other end.  It was a coded request for identification.  Eddie broadcast his credentials.  He couldn’t be impersonated by any normal means – his identity was hardwired into his electronics suite.  He couldn’t vocalize that information.  He couldn’t even access it beyond opting to broadcast it as encrypted data.  The Network owned that too. 

The ID request told him that he was passing into the secured area where he had woken up.  Wellington, he became informed.  Just south of Erie.  East of Chi-Town.  The forest gave way to grass, and buildings rose from the horizon.  He was very close, now.  No one with any sense built anything over four stories without also having what could be described as breathtaking anti-air capabilities.  Most of any given structure was underground here. 

Eddie slowed his stride to match traffic as he traded grass and shrubs for roads.  His footfalls grew much louder, but he wasn’t worried about stealth here.  The mid-day sun glinted off of his high-gloss decals.  Further proof that being a walking billboard conflicted, ever so slightly, with being a military-grade combat ‘borg.  For every time he thought about how he was glad to be alive, there was one where he wished Lynch had just left him to die.  He zigged and zagged through the streets until he got to his waypoint.  Another two-story square planted in the earth, its blank concrete faces marred by roll-up loading bay doors and automated turrets. 

Eddie picked a door and approached.  He transmitted his identity, and the door quickly and surprisingly silently rolled open.  Immediately inside was a rack that loosely resembled a forklift, a workstation, and a large bench.  Eddie’s legs worked fine, so he took a seat on the bench.  It groaned as it took on his weight, but it held. The door rolled closed behind him.  He had no doubt that someone knew he was here, so he took the opportunity to nap.  If a tech didn’t wake him up, he’d find one when he was ready.

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.