Episode 01000001 [A] – Blue-Eyed Twins
CHAPTER 1 – PART 1
copyright 2021. Natsuya Uesugi
Echelons – Shizuoko Ghetto | The Maze
Alleyway Near Runners Data Drop Retention Wall
Breathing hard, Rom slapped the wall racing through puddles, the neon sign overhead reflecting off the pavement as radioactive dust twinkled in the air. Raindrops clicking against the metal overhang, Rom was a Runner, a data messenger who smuggled data and psi inducer drugs for the Packrat cyberterrorist hackers. Pulling the hood of his black sweatshirt up over his head as he flicked the collar of his dirty tan trench coat, he punched in the scrambler on his handheld then squared his shoulders, slipping through the tight corridor at the back of the alley off Haven 15 in the Echelons slums. He had just narrowly escaped the biker on the black Shie Falcon motorcycle that had been chasing him for the last ten minutes. The fit tight, he snuck through, breathing a sigh of relief.
Glancing back as the motorcycle ran up on the corridor, tires screeching, the biker flicked his helmet visor up revealing bright pale blue eyes shining in the dark as he pointed a damper gun able to neutralize psychic power. The tell-tale eyes of a SenseNet Off World clone staring back at him, hatred drilled through him making his teeth itch. His psychic sense warned him of the threat, the biker playing for keeps. Path blocked, unable to follow, hostility festering, the clone’s look of death stabbed him in the heart, laser targeting system attempting to lock on to his psi signal.
It was a red Shie Falcon Rom was to meet up with, not the black motorcycle chasing him now. This was definitely an enemy trying to intercept the data he’d been hired to carry. The biker cursed under his breath, Rom’s scrambler confused the damper gun unable to lock on, inoperable. SenseNet damper guns could only fire if locked, a stoip gap to protect Zone Police officers, the only people licensed to carry the weapon. Disgusted, unable to fire, the biker cached the damper ib the holster at his thigh, slapping his visor down then spun the bike on the back tire swerving away fast, abandoning pursuit.
Squeezing through the crack between buildings, Rom emerged onto a paved alley in the Shizuoko Ghetto. The sign for The Maze hanging in the high in the street, he tried to get his bearings. The chaotic jumble of criss-crossed alleys, cluttered side streets, dead-ends littered this sector, the buildings damaged by bullet holes from constant gang skirmishes, blanketed by the black blast radius, the aftermath of the devastation from the nuclear explosion.
The virtual labyrinth obliterated by the Dionysis Effect nuclear bomb dropped by the autocratic Atlantea Federation had crippled the area downing buildings, blowing out windows leaving a residual haze of radiation in the air. The mashup of damaged structures were remnants of the lethal blast that destroyed the area, even now buildings unstable crashing down in the distance. The Maze purposefully designed to disorient, Rom used his psi to scan the area. He felt eyes on him as homeless teens, Blanks just trying to survive, those who would kill everyone who wandered too close watched him as he felt their presence, making his skin crawl.
A sickly orange streetlight flickered overhead greeting him as he got his bearings and set into a run taking the corner. His foot landing in a deep puddle splashed waste water against his black camouflaged pants. His steel-toed combat boots and navy pea coat soiled with a layer of grey radioactive dust, he quickened the pace knowing the deadline was approaching. Stim implants above his right eye snaking over his forehead, in his data messenger uniform. His gear was a dead giveaway of his faction, typical for a Packrat Runner. He could hear shouts of anti-government slogans on the next street over, the illegal protests a constant reminder every night of government oppression. The anit-government civil war was founded by charismatic leader, Faid Callen who started the hacker civil war against the government. The Packrat factions were dedicated to the cause to free the Echelons of Elite government abuse, systemic oppression, blatant discrimination against psychics. The protests were the life blood that fueled the Code War, Faid’s Hacker Revolution.
Taking a side street, he finally arrived at the drop wall. Shining his handheld on the concrete blocks he ran his index finger between the crimson bricks, fingernail slipping into a cubby hole. He caught the slick cold metal tip of something foreign hiding within. Pinching at it, he pulled the long gun-metal pin drive free and scanned it with his handheld telling him tis was his target when the encryption key confirmed his pre-set Runner code. Results coming back the drive was full, every single byte of storage had been used, which was not typical of a data run, carrying two terabytes of data. His screen flashing a data seepage warning, his curiosity peeked as he noticed the caked blood on the casing.
He’d been told the data he would be carrying was priceless, could take down the Elite government. But data seepage meant whomever risked transferring the data to the drive left nothing to chance, somone willing to die for this code. The fact the delivery location had changed after the mission started, he knew meant the person scheduled to hand him the drive had probably been killed for the data, another reason to stay alert, keep his wits about him.
The handheld beeped alerting him of a second problem noting he’d need a data encrypt key to read the info. When he tied to sample the code all he got was a jumbled hash of nonsense to readable code. Pulling a neuro-stim cigarette out of his pocket, he bit the end as it released a puff of smoke laced with medical-grade neurocyne, a psi inducer drug that would control his aegis the manifestationn of psychic power that had started to glow over his hands, paining him. The government having wiped his memory then threw hi out on the street, his psi was unstable, painful when he lost control. He’d been out of the Packrat Sprawl for more hours than was warranted unable to get the maintenance he needed to keep his psi in check. Hopnig the neuro-stim could buy him a few more hours before his joints would freeze up, the pain flatalining him into a crying baby losing control. As he took a deep drag, the drug heighten his psychic senses. Breathing in the purple smoke the effects were immediate as his sight enhanced, hearing grew more acute, sense of smell and perception increased.
The ambient sounds of the aleyway dialed in first. His senses picking up the faint low hum of a kedek engine moving towards him as a light shimmered against the dark puddle uner his feet. Glancing in front of him down the alley, the single round headlight from a motorcycle rounded the corner baring down fast straight at him.
Gritting his teeth as he braced himself, the headlight shut off as a red Shie Falcon motorcycle screeched to a dead stop in front of him. A lanky driver in black leather jacket cut the engine as a teenage kid rode the back. The kid’s shining blue eyes were eerie, unsettling in wearing an off-world navy jumper and red combat boots laced up high on his calves, his short bright blue hair shining. Releasing his arms, the blue-haired kid leaned back revealing a purple glowing gun-metal blaster hanging from a lanyard around his neck. The weapon pricy only available in the colonies, their gear identified these two from the colonies, definitely off-world.
The biker flipped up the visor on his helmet with a sarcastic smirk, his eyes the same unnatural pale blue as the previous wh had been hunting him. Touching a thumb to his mouth, the biker breathed deep sniffing loud making a point as he inhaled the second hand smoke from Rom’s neuro-stim cigarette, tasting the air as the drug wafted about them.
The teen closed his eyes for a second as he lifted his chin seemnig to revel in the scent of pure neurocyne.
“Neurocyne’s nice in the dark. Can’t get it pure off-world like in the Echelons Black Market. Makes me jealous. I’m Sati. The kid’s Blue. You Rom?”
Blinking as he stalled, Rom took a long drag inhaling deep then dropped the cigarette crushing it under his boot.
“So, the Psi Faction sends clones. But not just any close. Psychic clones for that matter? Those blue eyes gave you away. Why you? Where’s my contact? You’re just kids.”
Blue slapped the back seat glaring. “Who the kell are you, just kids? You’re no older than us? You got some problem with clones? Wanna die? We’re Resistance, just like you. My fight’s as good as yours. Frag-shite Blank.”
Sati stomped his foot, raising a fist. “Calm, Blue. This one’s Off Colony from the Mainland. Wouldn’t understand. Runner, your contact’s dead. Atlantea Federation doesn’t like leaks. You talk to us now.”
Rom betrayed no emotion, determinig he had no choise giving his passphrase.
“Disposable humans born in blood, sacrificial pawns to SenseNet corruption?”
Sati glared, brows furrowed, giving the pre-planned response.
“We are clones bleeding binary code for the hacker revolution.”
Nodding as the meet was meet confirmed, he lowered his guard.
“Yeah, I’m Rom. Runner hired for this mission.”
Sati unzipped his motorcycle jacket chucking a data card.
Rom fumbled, the card bouncing between his hands as he struggled to gain control, the chip embedded int the card shining in the overhead as he read the etched text on the front.
“Vena Satellite Family Program? Data messengers are never told what data they’re carrying. Why here? Why now?”
Sati pulled a yellow note card out of his jacket chucking it at Rom’s feet.
“Code you’ll need for access. Get going.”
Eyes narrowing, Sati crinkled his nose sniffiing the air. “Zone Police coming. They stink of rancid meat. Everything stinks On World.”
Slapping his visor down, Sati started the motorcycle revving the engine as Blue instinctual jumped off the back. Racing off fast down the alley, Sati spun the motorcycle around, tires screeching as he quick-turned racing back another motorcycle entered the alley, the black bike from earlier having found him again.
The black bike raced forward, Blue firing the blaster, bullets buzzing past Rom’s ear as Sati zoomed past Rom intercepting Blue who jumped on the back of the motorcycle and the two boys sped away ito the night.
The intruder black motorcycle whizzed down the alley at him, the driver taking a shot at Rom as he passed hitting him in the thigh. The sheer force of the blast as it hit him sent him slamming back against the barbed wire fence. The black motorcycle didn’t stop to finish him off instead raced after Sati and Blue disappearing around the corner leaving Rom reeling from the gunshot.
Cringing, he slapped his thigh fingers came back bloody. A shiver raced down his spine as he picked up the yellow notecard with a six-digit sequence handwritten on the front caching it in his chest pocket. He stumbled forward hand tracking against the wall leaving bloody fingerprints trying to keep from falling, the weight on his leg as he stepped excuriating. He lumbered, limping as he made his way down the alley hoping the black motorcycle wouldn’t return to finish the job.
Limping away fast, Zone Police sirens closing in, a hidden pair of blue eyes peeked out from behind a trash bin watched Rom limp away. The yellow street light over Rom’s head flickered twice ten the bulb exploded. A set of hidden eyes glowing as Rom limped away in the pitch black, the eyes vanishing, the hidden observer remain silent, unseen, got what they came for.
Rom hunkered down behind a dumpster as two Zone Police motorcycle cops stopped at the end of the alleyway shining their headlights. He heard their voices hoping they wouldn’t come down the alley, exposing him realizing he would be unable to escape inn his condition.
“Anything down there?”
A stray feline darted out from under the dumpsater dashing across the street slitering into a storm drain as it disappeared.
“Just some cat. Its nothing. Lets go.…”
The two Zone Police rode off abandoning the alley. Relieved, safe for the moment, Rom limped down the street, not willing to bail on his run. He had to deliver the data.
TO BE CONTINUED