Cyberpunk: high tech and low life collide when the dreaded Corporate Investigation team comes after streetwise Zara Mason. Can Zara stay one step ahead or is she doomed to serve the rest of her days as a drone, owned by the Vine Corporation? Relationships, work, education, even the revolution itself will be analysed and dismissed as Zara struggles for survival and individuality, exploring her sexuality and inner self as much as the outside world as she tries to hang onto reality, survive and beat the system.
Or has the system already beaten her?
“Shit!” I hissed as I leapt from the bed. I was going to be late to meet Tony. Late to get the pittance for the work I’d done for him. I moved forward and then yelped. I’d forgotten to unplug myself from the neural uplink. The jack in my skull yanked sideways as the lead reached its full extent. I pulled the jack out and the streaming images in my mind disappeared. Now, they were only in the apartment, floating in 3D and on the screen at the side of the room. Not in my head.
I tenderly rubbed the port just above my neck but then forgot about it. I was flat broke, and I needed Tony’s money. I was behind on the rent, again. As usual, Wrecker was no use. He doesn’t work, except for the odd day in the junkyard, hence the nickname. He claims to have a bad back, though this doesn’t stop him riding his motorbike around or having sex with me when he wants. Or using his dumb bells to maintain his physique.
I dressed, covering my many tattoos and piercings. I put on a tight bra to strap my chest in, then covered myself with dark, anonymous biker clothing. Black eyeliner, pale face, piercings on my eyebrow, lip and cheek. Dyed black hair. My anonymity was my safety. Grabbing the bag of memory chips I had wiped for Tony, I walked through to the front door. Wrecker came out of the bathroom, rubbing his cock on my towel as he did so.
“Use your own damn towel,” I snarled.
“It’s wet,” he whined.
“Then put mine in the wash now you’ve used it,” I snapped.
“God, yeah, yeah,” he muttered, heading for the kitchen.
“Why not start the laundry while you’re in there, and do the washing up?” I shouted as I left. His reply was lost as I slammed the door shut. I felt it, then, just a little. Dissatisfaction with my life and boyfriend, a sense that things shouldn’t have to be that way. The feeling, and the unformed thoughts, puzzled me as I rode down the lift to the ground floor. I ignored them. I had work to do.
I looked around as I left the block of flats, making sure the way was clear of dealers, rapists and skinners. In the distance, shining in the night sky against the dirty drizzle and ash that falls all the time, I could see the gleaming steel and glass towers of New London.
Everyone wants to live in a steel city. Things are better there. The streets are safe and clean, the air is clean, the water is clean and the food is actually from named animals and has to pass safety certificates before it can be eaten. No chance of me ever getting in. You need to be an aristocrat or have an annual income of millions.
Occasionally on the news, you see how someone from the street gets into a steel city, having invented a new bit of tech or become famous on TV or found some other way of making the millions needed.
I never wondered why the news broadcast that sort of thing when most of us have no chance of succeeding. Now, I know it’s to keep us compliant, to dangle a bogus dream that anyone can achieve wealth and live in steel. Back then, I was still in ignorance. Back then, I still thought that one day the street would rise and revolution would occur and all would be fair and equal.
So… It was a normal night, after a normal day. A day and night like all the others. That’s how all this started. As a routine night. I got to the meeting place, a dingy roadside cafe, basically a soiled caravan containing cookers, fridge and Big Vern. Big Vern’s approach to providing meals is to give everything a blast on the metal-topped cooker table for two minutes. Bacon, sausage, liver, kidney, be it dog, cat or rat, is all the same to him. Two minutes on the cooker, shove the food on the plate, push the coins into his filthy pouch, push the plate over and never make eye contact.
The last is easy, of course, and a law of the street. Who makes eye contact now? You could end up looking at anyone. Undercover cops. Undercover corporate agents. You could even make eye contact with the skinners. Then, you’re really screwed.
That’s why everyone is invisible. No one dare stand out, down here in the old part of the city, away from the wealthy towers of the elite. You have to fit in or you’ll be robbed, assaulted, molested, raped, killed. I’m told these are crimes in the wealthy areas. My dad once told me they used to be considered crimes everywhere, before the earthquake, but I didn’t believe him. Not then.