Hollow

Author : Sam Larson

You couldn’t even call it rain, this weather. Just an insistent, pissing drizzle that creeps its way into your collar and your shoes so that, suddenly, you’re soaking wet. That jingle from the infonets keeps running through my head, “You’ll never get wet when you’ve got Ne’er Wet Nanotech!”, but the itching damp across my shoulders tells me otherwise. Seen from the roof of the mag-rail station the lights of New City are misty in the distance. Below me is a minefield of torn up mag tracks, rusting train cars, and weeds too stubborn to give up in the face of acres of concrete. There’s a lesson there, but I’m twenty years too late to learn it and I’d likely not care even then. The weather blasts between the surrounding buildings, battering me on all sides with wind and rain.

My drones are hovering around the body. It’s been here for a while and the rain has scrubbed most of the blood off the pavement. The HUD in my glasses shows the data feed from the drones and it all looks sadly typical. After all, he’s dead. Some feral kid from the lowest levels of one of the nearby tenements, and messed up bad. Hollowed out like a gourd with his insides replaced by as much contraband as they could stuff inside his torso and a nano device that took over where his organs left off. It worked, after a fashion, but it better be a short delivery run and most of the time the people paying for the goods simply decided to end a runner after the job instead of keeping their insides on ice. This was the fifth dead courier in the last two weeks, and why I was standing out here on the ass end of a forgotten tram line, thinking about the weeds and how dry it is inside the patrol hover right about now.

I tap the button embedded in my wrist and my drones rise from the body and swoop back to their nests on top of my hover, roosting there like silent metal birds. It’s only a couple of seconds before I get the call from the Agency mainframe. A blinking cursor appears in the bottom right corner of my HUD.

INSP. VOO_

INSP. VOO_

INSP. VOO_

I cough and activate the sub-vocal transmitter embedded in my larynx. There’s a brief pop as the receiver in my inner ear turns on.

“I’m ready, Trill.” The familiar bell-toned synth voice of the Agency AI echoes through the center of my head. I begin the walk back towards my hover, only half listening to Trill chatter away in my inner ear, and the vehicle wakes up as I get close, turning on its lights and rising a few inches off the ground. The door swings open and I can almost feel the blessedly warm, dry air inside. I don’t care what the Agency docs say. Eighty years on the job and all the gene therapy and age reversal treatment they can give me and I still feel a tired ache in my bones. I might look like a jumped up 20 year old, but some deep part of me knows I’m an old, old man.

 

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