|Subject:||Joe Schmuck: Chapter 1 - 02/07|
|Date:||Sun, 14 May 2000 01:07:29 GMT|
Her muscles were tense, bones suddenly tired and grating. She sweated, hot
inside a black thermal bodysuit, designed to suppress the body's heat emissions
- the heat meant she was running out of coolant, and all the consequences that
would bring. Equipment strapped firmly onto thighs, hips and torso became
constrictive, with edges cutting into her side every time she moved. It took
every ounce of willpower and self-control to keep moving along the wire,
focused on the task she was being paid for. It was a thread of self-discipline
that threatened to snap every time she heard another scream, or muffled cry
She'd looked the first time she heard the surprise in a young woman's voice.
She'd seen the girl dragged into the alley, kicking and screaming, by a large
figure. The girl looked barely 18, probably one of the many corporate teens,
judging by her designer grunge-wear. It was becoming a real problem these
kids, creeping out at night to experience the wildness and danger of downtown -
attributes they were denied in their safe little corporate enclaves. They had
names for these kids, with the most polite being Barbie and Ken.
She didn't see the face of Barbie's attacker, a trick of the neon glow obscured
that, but she could sense his expression of cruel enjoyment as Barbie struggled
ineffectually. His clothes bore the genuine dirt and grunge of living in the
downtown sprawl, one of the many parasites living of each other's misery. He
dragged her violently down the alley with a fistful of hair and the glint of a
blade. He moved with an efficient pace, the economy of his actions suggesting
that he had confidence and experience at this sort of thing. Hanging from a
wire four stories up she could almost see an aura of trouble surrounding this
She wasn't the only one. Below, a pair of homeless castaways quickly collected
their assorted valuables and scrambled away from what was clearly somebody
else's problem. They knew the rules, they understood the way of the world.
And so did she. Getting involved would compromise her contract. Failing would
be bad enough, but here she risked being caught in the act - with extreme
consequences. The logical and rational thing to do was to finish her job by
getting out and away undetected. Somehow her eyes remained frozen, fixated on
the violence below, her blood screaming for action.
The man threw Barbie down on to a pile of old rotten garbage, ripping clothing
and striking her face with an open hand and a hateful laugh. She could see
clearer now, the back of his head, and the patch on his jacket. The Laughing
Jack logo on the patch of the man's jacket meant he was part of a local gang,
imaginatively calling themselves the Jackers. Its leering face taunted her, as
the Jacker undid his belt, and forced Barbie, pushing her face down into the
She couldn't look any more, so she focused on the building ahead of her as she
inched along the line. She tried to filter out the screams and cries, for her
own sanity, but the algorithms of her audio augmentations just weren't up to
the job. She made it to the end of the wire, let a little slack into her
safety line and hauled herself up over the lip of the roof. She was careful
not to look down over the edge as she detached her harness from the main line.
Retrieving an item from her belt she reached out and applied the catalyst
stick to the stealth line - which would be gone within half an hour as the
chemical processes started their work. Hesitating she listened to the violence
below, conscience and sub-conscience fighting the final battle.
Don't leave her here. I can't take her with me. Help. It's not my fault.
Get involved. I can't risk it. Save her. I can't save the world. You can
save her. Walk away.
Just walk away.
And she did.