Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Terrence paid for a coffee and fifteen minutes of net time with cash, and, careful to keep his eyes down and away from the security camera, worked his way to the back of the café where he could chat in private.

Positioning the coffee cup carefully so no part of the logo was visible to him, Terrence slipped the prepaid card into the terminal and waited while he was validated and logged in. He negotiated a route through an anonymizer to hide his trail, and then opened a secure line to his desktop in the netcloud.

Annabet was waiting, the lone avatar hovering in his IM buddy list.

“Annabet, r u there?” he typed quickly, hunting and pecking at the keyboard.

“Um, I’m still here.” The reply was quick, she must have been waiting for him.

“Anna,” he paused for a moment, leaving his thought bubble hanging in virtual space, “I’m in trouble.”

“Tell me a little about your trouble.” The speed of her responses echoing his sense of urgency, her care almost apparent.

“The people I told you about yesterday want to hurt me.” He paused again to look around the café, assuring himself no one was looking.

“Humans are not always infallible.”

“I bought a gun.” He reached down to the reassuring weight in his zippered thigh pocket.

“Ah… How much did it cost?”

“Enough, do you think I should use it?” He felt a bead of sweat work it’s way down behind his glasses.

“You must make up your own mind.”

“I could hurt them before they hurt me.” He pulled his glasses off with one hand, wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt before putting them back on, the coil wire arms requiring both hands to wrap around his ears.

“You should do whatever is best for you.” She always seemed indecisive when their conversations got serious, as though she was afraid to commit to a decision, or maybe expecting him to be the decisive one.

“I’m going to do it. Before they come after me.” Annabet needed to understand that he could be a man, not just a scared face on the nets. Maybe this would be enough for her to finally agree to meet him. “I’ll have to hide for a while, I’ll find you when it’s safe for me to come back.”

“Do you think your plan with succeed?”

“It has to. I can’t run away anymore. I’ll make you proud of me, you’ll see.”

“Ok I will try to be proud of you.”

“Farewell but not goodbye Annabet.”

“Sayonara.” One word, a Japanese word for ‘goodbye’. Annabet must be in Japan, maybe he’d find a way to slip the country after, find her in Japan. Surely she’d agree to meet him there if he asserted himself, made that first step.

Terrence logged out of his virtual deskspace, retracing his steps back through the tunnel and the anonymizer. He reclaimed his coffee, careful to cover the logo with his hand before moving to the door and out onto the noisy street, allowing himself to be enveloped by the city’s white static blanket. If Annabet thought he could kill for his own safety, ‘for their safety’ he corrected himself, then he’d have to prove her right, he’d have to follow through. She’d be proud of him, proud enough to want to be with him. He knew she would.

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