Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Our server’s arm whined with steam driven pistons as she set our drinks down. This was body modification on a new level. She must’ve been on eleven different kinds of immunosuppressants. She probably had a biotechnician on call to handle emergencies when her body started to reject the parts she’d shoved in. Her skin looked inflamed around the insertions. The itching alone must have driven her crazy.

I was trying to figure how much mods like that cost and how she could afford them on a waitress’s wage when Trucker sat down across from me.

Trucker was a strong man with a lisp. The hissing of his sibilants had made him a big target and a vicious fighter. He had eyes like blue marbles punched into a face made from dough. This was not a man you wanted to have angry at you.

So naturally I wanted to piss him off. The drugs hummed in my veins, giving me confidence.

I casually reached into the pocket of my short coat and thumbed back the safety on the pocket Mauser. It was coded to follow my line of sight. I kept staring at Trucker’s left eye.

This was the industrial district. The stink of diesel wafted through the bar here along with the smell of burning pork, cigarettes, rubber, and wet brick.

“Hello” said Trucker. His voice was surprisingly high for such a big man. “My money.” He said, avoiding sibilants that would highlight his lisp.

“Yeah.” I said. “Funny story, actually. True story. It’s not here.”

Trucker squinted at me with his glittering piglet eyes, confused at my suicidal attitude. He was smart enough to realize that I wouldn’t be this arrogant unless I had some insurance so he waited.

“Where ith it?” he asked, accidentally exposing his lisp. He immediately pursed his lips together and reddened. His eyes glittered spider-like in his embarrassment. I knew I didn’t have long before his anger overrode his caution.

“Seriously, sir, it’s being sent somewhere secret so that I can be assured of safe passage outside the city soon.” I drawled, loading as many s-words into my speech as possible. I giggled through a light drug sweat, my heart thudding out confidence.

Trucker became a statue across from me. He was as still as a lion watching an antelope get closer. I’d crossed a line. I’d signed my own death warrant. Good. I had his attention.

“And where might that be?” asked Trucker, back in control and disturbingly calm.

“I sent it to your sister. She’ll receive it by Sunday morning. That’s six hours from now. I’m going to leave now, Trucker. If your sister doesn’t have it by Sunday, come and get me. If you take your hands off the table in the next two minutes, I’ll blow your head off.” I said calmly and stood up.

“I have a lot of people, kid. Everywhere. You’re a dead man whether I get the money or not. Have a good night.” Trucker said to me. It even sounded cordial.

I backed out of the diner feeling stupid. He watched me the whole way. I was counting on Trucker to be less patient. Maybe I played this wrong. I could feel the drugs wearing off and panic starting to seep in. All I knew was that I needed to run as far as possible in the next six hours.

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