Pay-data (On The Run part 4)

Baptiste, Redmond Barrens, Seattle

Empty pizza boxes, dirty cups filled with a zip of old, gooey soy-caf, long overdue laundry and a smell not easily put into a category, fill the room. The cleaning drone has been inactive and out of power for over a month now. Maybe longer.

But at least it’s quiet.

The certified credstick in my palm reads 5000¥. Picked it up this morning from a locker at the train station. Another 10,000¥ were wired in small amounts to a handful of shadow accounts, all authorized to cash out to me. The process of laundering money; within the next four weeks, I will be 500k nuyen richer. Half-a-fraggin-million. Enough to shut me up. Enough for me not to worry. Yet, something about this run irks me in places that shouldn’t ever irk me. It was too easy to get in, too easy to get the data that is worth five-hundred-thousand nuyen. I know it didn’t look like that, but even getting out was too easy, considering the gun shots on ‘Raku property and everything. I don’t even recall an alarm, come to think of it.

This place is a mess. I need to think straight, and for that I cut the video feed of my cybereyes. The darkness is soothing.

Now that’s way better, way cleaner already. 

My personal code prevents me from looking at the data. My motto’s always been, get the package, drop the package, cash the check and never, ever ask questions. 

“George,” I command my agent to appear. In front of me, in the darkness of my cybereyes, my virtual butler manifests, walking towards me with his silver tray.

“Sir Baptiste. How may I be of assistance?”

“George, access to file <project_ex>,” I say, and the bot loads a folder onto his silver tray.

“Naturally, Sir Baptiste. Do you want me to delete the copy, as per protocol, Sir?” The old man asks me just the way I programmed him.

“No, I want you do run your decryption protocol and assist me.”

“As you wish, Sir,” he says, and the package appears on the tray as he slips on black leather gloves over his old, digital hands.

Okay, I know, I shouldn’t do this. I should leave it alone. Forget about, enjoy the money and move on.

I cut off the wireless signal on my ‘link and slip into my private VR. George carries the package into my library and preps the table for the hack. I crack my virtual bones and together we get to work decrypting the file. This will take a few hours and whoever secured the data in the first place didn’t want anyone to just hack it on the fly.

First I start an analyzer, a magnifying glass to check for hidden bombs and worms, while my decryption tool probes the target already.

Through my reality filter the file looks like an old safe. After the bomb-check, it is now covered in wires, which will electrify the safe if anyone tries to break it open. Disarming the bomb, however, doesn’t take much effort on my part and I can get cracking on the code to open the safe.

* * *

A few hours later, I hear footsteps, heavy and they are not part of my library. My cyberears pick up noise right from outside my safe house’s door. I activate my cybereyes again, trying to ignore the sudden burst of visual information into my brain and instantly grab the pistol from my coffee table. The pistol-shaped imprint on the dust covered table has something fascinating about it.

I open a virtual window with the statistics of my decryption progress in my view. God, I hate having to leave this kind of job to a program, but it appears I have other issues right now.

I attune my audio to filter out all background noises and select the happenings on the other side of my door.

“That’s the place, right?” A male voice says. “Okay, I count to three and we go in. Remember, Johnson wants him alive, so watch out what you’re shooting at.”

Amateurs.

I put the gun back on the table and use the smart camera to lock onto the door. Now I’m hiding in the bathroom and debate whether I should be cleaning this place, or burn it to the ground.

“One.” The silicon beat around the sink is pealing off and a thin layer of mould already settled in. I set the gun to single fire and make sure the tiny gas vents are working, that will allow me to rig and move the gun within a very limited range. Perfect.

“Two.” A weird stench comes from my shower drain.  According to the audio filter, I count two people outside. I take a deep breath of stale, gross air.

“Three.” The grout between the tiles is stained rust-brown with mould, and something sticky collected between my knee and the floor.

Time for action.

The door flies out of its hinges and into the room. Through the camera I see two guys with machine guns. The first one is already locked onto. Before he even knows what’s happening, the smart gun fires a bullet straight into his head. While the microprocessor of my Savelette Guardian calculates the next shot into non-vital areas of the second guy, he opens fire. A burst of bullets tears apart my place, the sofa, the windows, the chairs. Old, mud-like soy-caf splatters all over the apartment. What a mess. Then my gun adjusted itself and shoots him into his thigh. Not even a second later, another shot hits him in the shoulder, forcing him to drop his weapon. God, I love technology.

I come out of the bathroom, the decryption is almost done. With the Guardian now in my hand, I pull the guy into the room and push the barrel into his mouth.

“Listen, Punk! I’ll give you three seconds to tell me who hired you and what he’s paying. Got that?”

His eyes agree nervously and I take the gun out of his mouth.

“One.” He gasps for air.

“Two.” Then he soils himself. Amateur.

“Three.” He talks. They always talk.

A hard hit on his head and he is out.

One quarter of a million nuyen bounty on my head. NeoNET after me. And now, after I leave the place, after looking at the decrypted file, none of that seems to matter anymore.

Baptiste, you’ve really done it this time.

The file’s containing a fracture of a source code of something, that shouldn’t exist. Not anymore.

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