Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

I found Gaze at the Drake right where I expected him to be; in the furthest corner from the entrance in a booth which no doubt had the cleanest sight-lines in the club. Between the wire-head and I lounged a crowd of slack-jawed men and barely dressed entertainers; dockers and soldiers at the end of their ropes in sharp contrast to the paid and pampered flesh workers at the start of their shift.

Gaze had already sized me up before I sat down, and kept his eyes on the door as he spoke.

“You’re lucky you’re on time, but your interfaces are leaking like shit.” He strummed his fingers noiselessly on the tabletop. “We’ve only got a few minutes to get you out of here before your tail figures out where you’ve gone, I suggest you start by shutting all of your shit down.”

Gaze and I had saved each other’s lives many times, I trusted him. I dialed all my electrics to zero and suddenly felt more naked and exposed than any of the club’s dancing girls, denied the steady hum of incoming data from the room and the world around me.

“I’m assuming you want your kit patched up and upgraded? Is that what this is about?” Gaze locked onto me briefly, his eyes blinking furiously as he maintained multiple simultaneous interfaces, mine no doubt the lowest resolution. “I’ve been following your trail all around the city, you’re too easy a man to find.”

His hands stopped strumming suddenly, and I could see him visibly tense up.

“Whatever happens, you stay dark until I patch this shitshow you’re wired with. You light up and I’m gone in a heartbeat, nothing personal, just survival.” He almost smiled. “And I make the calls, you follow the orders this time, clear?”

I nodded.

“Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Mayhem on the center stage,” the voice boomed through the smoky room as an ultra low frequency bass-line started worming its way into my head. “Mayhem, for your enjoyment.”

As the announcer’s voice trailed off, and the heavy industrial dance track gained volume, all of the girls in the club collected their things and moved en masse to the back, some amidst protests from patrons who felt they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth yet.

Gaze focused on the door across the room, and I turned to see what had caught his attention as two figures in urban assault garb walked into the club.

“The Drake has been actively running blocker for you since you got here.” I turned, and he caught my raised eyebrow with a smile, “I upgraded its wetware when I started coming here. I like the girls, some of them are raising families, it’s the least I could do to keep them from attracting the wrong kind of attention.”

The men at the door started moving slowly into the room, the patrons already on edge with the heavy beat from the speakers and the notable absence of the main attraction. Smoke machines pumped thick white clouds along the main stage, the heavy vapour rolling off the edges and pooling on the floor. Black lights threw white t-shirts, teeth and sneakers into stark relief in the building darkness.

“There’s a fire exit beside this booth, and we’ll be going through the door and down the stairs when it starts.” Gaze’s eyelids were a constant flicker, giving him an eerie strobe light visage in the low light.

“When what starts?” I didn’t have to wait for an answer.

Gaze spread the virus like fire, every interface in the room was an open door to him, and the smouldering coals of frustration were ripe for the sudden injection of adrenaline and cortisol the codebyte demanded, followed by a series of images designed to provoke a negative response to figures of authority.

When one of the intruders bumped a sailor in the middle of the room, the match was struck.

As the space erupted with yells, swinging fists and flying chairs, Gaze simply got up and moved to the exit. I followed without a sound.

Making our way down the back stairs, I couldn’t help but ask. “What do you call that?”

Gaze didn’t break stride, and said simply “Sometimes your flavour of brute force and ignorance is called for, I just delegate.” A few steps later he looked back and smiled. “I call it Mayhem, I thought you would have figured that out.”

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