Author : Beth Mathison
She knew it was a bad idea when the man dropped dead in front of her.
She had seen death before, when she had lived on the streets. But that had been long ago, almost a different life. The suddenness of this manâ€™s death had caught her off guard.
â€œCari, we go now,â€ Chin told her, tugging on her leather jacket. â€œWe leave this place.â€
Chinâ€™s cool reaction told her that he had most likely seen death before, too.
She carried the data within her right wrist, a tiny bump of skin the only indication that she was a courier. It wasnâ€™t the worst job in the world, she knew. Lugging data in the surgically designed port on the underside of her right arm. It paid the bills. She could work when she wanted.
This job was unexpected, with her friend Chin suggesting they make a run together with a courier named Duncan. Chin introduced them as they ported at the origin site, their three arms stretched across the companyâ€™s mainframe. The tech was using some kind of new transfer cable and software, and it burned her skin as the data flowed into her. Cari thought that Duncan was handsome in a rugged, country way, his blue eyes intense. As they waited for the data to fill their respective ports, Duncanâ€™s gaze settled on the logo stitched across her shirt for just a moment too long. He looked back up, and she had held his gaze.
Now he was dead, his eyes fixed towards the dirty metro terminalâ€™s ceiling. A thin trickle of blood streamed out of his nose.
Chin was pulling her along now, Duncanâ€™s body lost in the crowd. The station was packed, as usual, and Cari found herself shoved into a car, Chin barely making it as the doors swished closed. They hung onto a thick metal pole, swaying as the bullet train strained forward.
The three of them had been headed north to the cityâ€™s edge to deliver the data. Chin had changed directions, pulling them into a car heading downtown.
Chin was pale under his dark skin, and she reached out and gently lifted his left hand. Turning it over, she saw that his port site was red. She wondered if Duncanâ€™s had looked the same before he fell.
She knew where they were going, down to see Izzy, the black marketâ€™s master data miner. She and Chin had about sixty minutes before the chip in the data alerted the authorities that they were rogue. Izzy would know how to reverse the software and remove the data.
â€œCari,â€ Chin whispered, leaning into her. â€œYou must hurry if I fall.â€ His eyes were closed.
The car slipped under the river, and the world outside turned a frantic shade of blue and black. She closed her own eyes and thought of herself as a piece of data, flowing along some long, complicated logic stream.
Her wrist burned now, her head filling with a bright light and buzzing sound that made her nauseous.
She wondered about the data in her wrist, what new technology had gone viral and decided to terminate its hosts. She had just wanted an easy job, to carry data from overly cautious clients eagerly protecting their data. She felt Chinâ€™s arm relax in her hand, falling away from her.
Opening her eyes, she watched as the train exploded out from under the river into the bright sunlight. The city gleaming above them like some precious jewel as they headed for the station.
The radiance filled her then, the data working throughout her fragile body. And she let herself go, allowing the light to take her.