grydscaen: sentinels web series – Chapter 1 Part 6


Episode 01000111 [G] – Stealth or Die

Echelons – Red Light District
The Haven 15 Red Light District was humming, busy with visitors from other parts of town and the local  denizens who inhabited the seedy spaces within back alleys, the pimps and prostitutes out in force enticing those that were looking to get off or just forget about the dull monotony of there day for a little excitement.
Arriving at the Office of Affairs clinic, Nier wearing a black fedora with a white satin band climbed the stairs to the second floor eager to get the business over with, suspecting he had caught a sexually transmitted disease from one of his Johns earlier in the day. Arriving for his checkup, he had to wait for his appointment, the nurse finally calling his name right as he was about to bail. She asked him some questions about his symptoms and determined he had definitely caught something when she scanned him with the medical  app, prescribing him a local tonic after giving confirming all his Host vaccinations were up to date.
Scolding him for not confirming his shots by last week’s due date which was required by the Elite government, she checked his Host card, determining he was in  compliance then stated his shots should clear up his current symptoms naturally in a few hours, and he should use the topical medicine if the itching continued to bother him and continue to cause him any discomfort.
After the appointment, he hiked down to Red Lamp Boulevard past The Hole X-rated magazine shop named after the many bright red paper lanterns hanging outside the Gay Host Clubs that lined both sides of the two blocks on the way to the intersection of Astor and Drake Street.
Walking the strip, he was subject of stares and cat calls, as both Johns and other Hosts working the street took notice of him in his short black tunic and hot pants, so short they barely covered his arse. Hamming it up for the crowd liking the extra attention, he took the corner on his way to Hack, the Tech and Ware Nightclub that was open 24 hours and a place known its senso-music spun by well-known DJs and the hackers that Hack would pay to infiltrate corporate and government systems displaying code from their infiltrations on the display  board for the nightly entertainment.
The door bouncer engaged. “Hey, Nier. Stay out of trouble.”
Smiling, Nier tipped his hat. “You know it.” Then slipped inside, the bouncer not even carding him aware Nier was underage, only seventeen, the sign on the door specifically staging, after curfew club access was eighteen and up unless supervised by an adult or legl guardian.
Taking the stairs past the make-shift tech shop  on the ground floor and and the pawn shop, he made his way to the bulletin board which was covered with colourful cards with details about available hacking jobs. Most of the jobs were too hot to post of a job board on the gridscan, the jobs on the hacker board usually paid a high price because of they were considered illegal or dangerous, highly likely if the hacker got caught they would be sent to the kedek mines for hard labor or at least arrested and detained for a few hours for a minor offense.
Scanning the board, he found a gig that sounded interesting,  pulling the card from board and turning it over reading the instructions on the back with the contact information.
Following the instructions, he logged his Omnibus Darklight game avatar into the Hack Nightclub network and sent a message to Acolyte, the hacker named on the back of the card who he was supposed to meet.
A few minutes later, Acolyte engaged. “You Nier?”
“Yeah, this your job?”
Acolyte, skeptical, seeing Nier was a kid, raised an eyebrow inquiring trying to determine what was off about him. “What you done lately? Anything the gridscan might sniff at?”
“Know Vena?”
Acolyte doing a search on Vena searched Nier on the gridscan. Finding his vital data including age, blood type, and Echelons ID from his host license plus a few minor misdemeanors about curfew violations. Going deeper he infiltrated the Elite Zone Police database which showed a hit on Nier’s Darklight avatar having accessed Vena satellite logs which got him interested.
“Seems  you been in Vena? Also aren’t you a bit young to be a host. Can’t get a Host card until you’re eighteen. Seems you a year short.”
Nier licked his lips. “You turning me in?”
Acolyte noted fear in Nier’s eyes. “Take the job, I won’t.”
“Sure. I can get you Vena?” Nier bluffed reading Acolyte’s mind.
“Vena no joke. Someone requested to blast her out the sky. Might know who dunnit.”
“How would a host know that?”
“My intel ain’t  free.” Nier doubled down.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“You don’t.”
“Come with me. Anyone else find out what I think, you are dead.”
“What do you mean?”
Acolyte dragged Nier to the rows of private red doors lining the back of the wide open dance floor shoving him in a room and locking the door behind them then called Faid Callen, leader of the cyberterrorist Packrat hackers. A moment later Faid knocked on the door entering the room.
Acolyte whispered to Faid quietly so Nier couldn’t hear then engaged leaning against the desk, the psi block and white noise filter active in the room so they were shielded.
Faid inquired. “You, my friend, have a target on your back. The Elite government will kill you for what you did to Vena, no doubt.”
Nier didn’t seem to care. “Why?”
“Vena houses the Pacific Territories Family Program. It contains all the genetics data of every citizen,  non-citizen and visitor that enters the Empire. No one outside the military knew that satellite existed. Taking out that satellite, escalates the war between the Altantea Federation and the Pacific Territories. That hack means the data on the Pacific Territories’ royal bloodline is compromised.
Nier answered Faid his lips quivering, “It was a job. Velvet Hour never knows the target. We just perform the task to expose government corruption, abuses of power.”
Hand on his chin, Faid glanced at Acolyte who shook his head. “Path of destruction.”
Faid turned. “Stay here with Acolyte. Let me work Hack see what hackers are saying,  if the Elite are onto it.”
“But what do you care of the Empire?”
“I care about hacker’s lives. The Elite government think for a second hackers did this, they’d slaughter all of us a until every single hacker and psychic in the Echelons is dead. This hack puts a target on our back. Every Zone Police will be out for blood.”
Faid planted his right hand on the wall mirror which lit up a projection screen appearing as he spoke.
“Get me Rom?”
A moment later a projection of the Level 9 hacker, Rom, appeared on the mirror. “What you need?”
“Get me everything on Vena. Call me back.”
“City mainframe?”
“Yes. Everything…”
“On it.” Rom’s image cut out as Faid turned to Acolyte walking to the door. “Acolyte take this.” Faid chucked him a hyper inject syringe. “He tries to bolt, sedate him. The Elite government will blame the Packrats before they even consider the Altantea Federation did this.”
Nier tried to counter. “But I…”
“Shut up. You wanted to join the Packrats? You may be of the Ishida clan. But I know a bit more than you do of your bloodline,  my friend. You better hope I ain’t still pissed when I get back.” Faid’s handheld beeped as he looked at the screen reading the warning then ripped open the door then turned back. “Watch him. He’s got a Clannet hit on him.”
“What?” Nier’s eyes burst wide.
 “Lock and key.” Acolyte grabbed NIer’s shoulders and shoved him down in the chair at the desk.
Faid handed Acolyte his ang Packrat knife. “He tries to bolt, stab him.”
Acolyte nodded shooting Nier a look. “Understood.”
Faid stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him as Acolyte leveled the knife to Nier’s neck, remaining perfectly still.