Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Aimee propped herself up against a transformer just outside the halo of the lone streetlight. A kilometer up the road in each direction, red and blue lights pulsed, parked cruisers discouraging vehicle traffic into this part of the city until sunrise.
It was nighttime in the Battle Zone, infantry only.
Dark fingers of ancient architecture reached skyward around her; some rooms to own, some to rent, by the week or by the hour, the Zone catered to all comers.
Aimee had work to do, and lighting a paper cigarette and letting the chemicals rush from her lungs to her brain, she started hunting.
As her system software awoke from idle, the darkened city street was sketched over in data; travel vectors of incoming foot traffic, personal ad bubbles stating willingness or intent. The gaudy flashing billboard signage of the street businesses were dialed down automatically, Aimee knew where everything was and, un-muted, the distraction annoyed her.
“Hey there,” a voice startled her, “what’s your hourly? I dig your kinky shit!”
She looked at The Voice, and checked to make sure there was nobody behind her. She wasn’t here for that kind of work, and she sure as hell wasn’t advertising.
“I’m not paying extra for coy, so don’t pull any crap.”
The sign over The Voice’s head showed a perfect credit score and no complaints, but no other details. The Voice was steady, male and sounded like he was used to getting what he wanted. Aimee resisted the urge to crush his larynx.
She risked a quick third person view from the camera above the bodega across the street.
Sure enough, there was a sex-for-hire bubble floating just behind her head advertising S&M and a variety of related services in bright pink neon.
“Just give me a second,” she waved at The Voice absently, zeroing in on the bubble’s geospatial coordinates and isolating its address. Short ping, low latency, nearby and on broadband. Probably someone who was watching her. The system software kicked into high gear, her heat sinks rippled into a standing wave up her spine beneath her shirt, warm air escaping at the collar.
Within seconds she matched the bodega’s point of view with a broadcast coming from higher up in the same building, locked the unfortunate asshat’s machine address and unleashed holy hellfire down the wire. There was a sudden flash of light from a third story window, a yelp and then the window went dark. Moments later the building shutdown completely, lights flipping off floor by floor until the bodega’s bright neon flickered and went out at the street.
She’d torched the perp’s equipment, but the building residents would ferret him out as the cause of the highrise crashing and likely throw him off the balcony.
Don’t fuck with broadband in the Zone.
“Bitch, are you for sale or what?”
Shadowy high-maintenance shit-for-brains. Right. The opportunity at hand.
“That’s what the sign says, doesn’t it sugar pie?” Saccharin sweet, and wholly disingenuous.
“Well, your sign’s gone now, so what’s your game?”
“I’m occupied now, aren’t I?” Aimee stepped forward, taking The Voice by the arm and steering him around the outside of the streetlight’s glare, staying in the shadow of his bulk.
As they walked up the street, Aimee’s system software crawled her mark, cracking open locks and splicing in code. In a few hours he’d wake up in a stairwell or an alley, unsure of whether he’d had a good time or not, but she’d have another roving access point, another pair of eyes and, if she ever needed it, a perfect credit score with no complaints.
Far ahead the blue and red lights strobed against the night sky.
Another night in the Zone.
Infantry only, and you’d best not come unarmed.