Part eight in the Rainbow series:
The well populated areas of the undercity were hardly any safer than the abandoned ones, but Sonorous was happy for any edge she could get for this meeting. She wore her new gun openly on her hip, more as a deterrent than as an actual weapon, she’d never even held a real one before she bought this one the other day.
She’d dressed for comfort and confidence, which she was in desperate need of. The meeting with Alcatraz had her even more nervous than any other real side meet up might have, he’d been a contact for ten years, but until their conversation last fortnight marked their first personal exchange. It felt surreal that the face and the name could be the same person, she’d come to accept him as the plain black text she saw every week or so.
She’d never been to this part of the undercity before. Following hacker tradition, the host chose where, the guest chose when. The logic being the guest would have the time to scope out the location before hand, while the host could set the mood for the meeting. The meeting location Alcatraz had chosen was a restaurant within the eastern ocean near The Heikegani corp city. It had taken her a full days journey to get here, the meeting was set for four days from now. Plenty of time to get the feel of the scene here.
The floating district of the undercity is built atop a vast Flotilla so massive that the ocean’s breath is unnoticeable to any ordinary human. Overwhelming varieties of colour, scent and sounds, define the marketplace. Countless stores, manned by vendors crying their wares with enthusiasm unrivalled by anything back home.
Fresh from the subway, the barrage of vibrancy hits Sonorous hard. Her reserves of energy already drained by the long journey, she can feel her mind clouding under the weight of however many days sleep she’d already missed. Tilting her head back, she carefully drips a single drop of the black liquid, Punk Onyx, into her eye. Blinking quickly, the drug is rapidly absorbed by her system, banishing all weariness at once and leaving her feeling refreshed and aware, if slightly tweaky.
Slapping her cheeks lightly, Sonorous bounces on the balls of her feet, rolling her neck and shoulders, enjoying the warm electricity sparking softly in her veins.
“Hey lady,” the voice came from a local looking boy, his sharp features and black hair identify him with the people here, while at a second glance his dress stands out as more the style back where she came from, “Been waiting for lady like you.”
Ordinarily Sonorous would have ignored him as a hustler, or thief, part of her still wants to, but the kid seems different to the petty types she’s used to among the filth. For starters, he’s Augged, subtly enough she almost missed it, but as he blinked the pupil of his right eye flickered unnaturally.
Piquing her curiosity, she quickly casts a quick glace around to be sure they’re not being watched. Of course, the area is packed with thousands of merchants and shoppers, anyone could be watching and there’s no chance she’d ever know.
She stares at the kid, he grins, knowing he’s hooked her. Without giving her anything to find answers in he lazily leans against a pile of crates, meeting her gaze mischievously.
“Lady like me?” she asks, squeezing every drop of bored contempt out of her words and posture as she can manage, he wants something from her, no reason to give him the satisfaction of her curiosity.
Pushing himself off his perch, the boy saunters over to her. He’s short, but has a strangely soft femininity to his features, while the utter confidence of his body as it moves states its strength quietly, but absolutely. She feels a rush of excitement as he approaches, she could see herself with him under different circumstances.
“Lady with skills,” he answers, a twitch at the corner of his mouth leaving more unsaid. He must be referring to her NetWalking, her conscious is drawn to the surgery scars hidden by her hair, on the back of her neck, could he have seen? Or was he truly waiting for her like he’d said, “Can I buy you a drink?”
A drink would be nice, but the thought of going somewhere with an unknown Aug who seemed to have known she was coming, that was reckless.
In the back of her mind, a thought insisted on being heard. Alcatraz had chosen this district for a reason, if he’d just wanted a place she was unfamiliar with there were plenty places much closer. She was also confident that this isn’t where Alcatraz was based, he’d never have revealed something about himself so readily as that.
Whether this kid is connected to Alcatraz or not, he’s unarmed and the area is crowded. If he’s crazy enough to start something under these circumstances, he’s crazy enough to do it whether she accepts his offer or not.
“Sure, but I’m picking the bar and collecting the drinks,” she answers, trying to seem like she’s in control. Bowing his head in agreement, he effortlessly keeps pace alongside her as she rejoins the bustling crowd.
Settling on a loud, packed bar, she leads the pair in and find a couple seats in the middle of the room. The dull roar of music and patrons, combined with the poor lighting and smoke make it the perfect place to go if you don’t want to be overheard or spotted.
Taking the kid’s credit, Sonorous brings back drinks from the bar. Sitting across from the kid, to her he seems to be politely waiting for her show to be over. He couldn’t be more than eighteen, twenty at absolute most, yet somehow he makes her feel very young and out of her depth.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you want my name, or would you rather my handle?”
She smirks at his condescending request, whichever she picked, she should be willing to give her own, that’s the subtext to his question, “Your handle will do.”
“In that case, call me Virgil.”
“That’s right, like the poet,” he grins, “Not what you expected?”
“Not quite, I thought you’d be a ‘Ninja’ or ‘Katana’.”
He laughs, sipping from his drink before answering, “Because of my race or my age?”
“Your age,” she answers, blushing at the faux pas, so many hackers style themselves that way she’d mostly forgotten they came from old Japan. “I’m Sonorousmind, but Sonorous works just fine.”
“Surprising, I’d expected something like Valkyrie or Angel.”
“Because of my skin tone, or my gender?” she teases back, thankful for his dispersing her misstep.
“Your lack of imagination,” he winks, and she decides to take the lump and carry on.
“What did you want from me, Virgil?”
At her question his mood shifts, from playful to business. Putting his drink aside he pulls his phone from his pocket, and swiping through like he’s searching for something.
“Actually, Sonorous, it’s not just about what I want from you, it’s what we each want from each other,” finding what it was he was looking for, he looks up at her, “May I?”
She nods, and he flicks his thumb across the screen towards her. A file transfer request appears in her HUD, scanning it thoroughly before accepting it, she opens the file. Her jaw drops at it’s contents.
What appears in her vision beside Virgil is an image of the drone she and her friends had found in the dump in Dvorovoi the day before the attack. She looks, speechlessly at Virgil.