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Running Scared

This Page written by: Man Machine

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Not Yet Little People

- Herb, we've got a 7R BEATNIK from Dispatch. Signal 7 is Dead Person, right? But whatta hell is BEATNIK? Bio-Hazard Unit?

- No, rookie-boy: Bio-Hazard Unit is SHAMROCK; BEATNIK is Rep-Detect Unit. And signal 7 is Dead Person alright, but 7R is Dead Replicant. Jesus, are you never gonna learn?

- Okay, I get it.

- No, I don't think you do.

In the distance, somewhere over the remote 23rd and 24th sectors, lightning made the ever-present cloudscape glow stroboscopically in the night. No sound of thunder could be heard: it drowned in a vast and deep ocean of street sounds.

Black uniforms on the scene, neon signs reflecting in transparent visors. Gates watched the depressive show with the headgear dangling in his hand. He had seen it many times before, all too many times: the aftermaths of violent death in the gutter. A police spinner hovered five meters above the street, looking like a large insect against the seemingly overhanging buildings, exercising standard crowd control. A metallic playback track echoed monotonously from the spinner's loudspeakers:

"Move on ... Move on ... Move on ... "

Quite a few hurried passers-by had suddenly become curious spectators, eager to see the traumatised body laying next to Kuppa Joe's. The little kiosk looked warm and inviting in the night, surrounded by dark shadows and cold neon; the interior lights fell on the dead Jane Lee, still bleeding on the asphalt, forever gazing into eternity. The peepers didn't back off until a couple of black-and-chromes approached them with drawn electro-batons:

"Okay, take a hike or take a hit."

Gates could have killed for another cup of Maxwell's savoury Syn-Joe, but the magician was gone. He had left for the hospital in a hurry, his mouth bleeding copiously. Maxwell had forgot to close the metal shutter, but it obviously didn't matter since the place was swarming with cops now. Gates gave up the idea of trying to find a good cup of coffee elsewhere in The Pits: the sector lacked taste in more than one respect.

Chard, the trigger happy blade runner, was still on the scene though, standing next to a police spinner bathing in the red light from a hologram advert for "The Temple of Sin". He was talking to a stocky, moustached man in fedora and trench-coat, evidently a superior. The little man was laughing and puffing on a cigar, but Chard looked slightly uncomfortable, rubbing his eyebrow. Gates didn't join them. Blade runners didn't blend with regular cops. They kept to themselves, not exactly charming fellows. Bunch of weird fuckers, Gates thought to himself.

He was about to leave. A witness hearing at a replicant retirement scene was usually a casual affair and this was no exception: a few standard questions from a Homicide detective and he was clear. Gates reached for the radio on his coat collar and then he sighed: it was gone. He must have lost it when the crazy replicant had jumped him.

Gates recognised the Forensics guy, an old Pit acquaintance: Weyland, a tired veteran, always smelling vaguely of whiskey and never leaving home with a decent shave. He was kneeling by the body with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, not exactly following regulations strictly. Haven't the I.A. boys taken you yet?

"Hey, Weyland!"

Weyland looked up and nodded in recognition. He got to his feet and drew the hand through his greasy hair.

"Frankie? I thought you were through?"

"Almost. Today's my last day."

"Congratulations. Drink one for me, pal: two more years to go in this hellhole." Weyland looked around the street, taking a deep drag from his cigarette. "Where's the fucking transport? Gotta get the skin job off the street. On my way home when I got the damn call."

Gates looked at the dead replicant by his feet: a pale showroom dummy frozen in a harrowing pose of pain and anguish. It was winter in Jane Lee's world.

"Whatta mess, huh?"

"No, not really; pretty clean." Weyland nodded in the direction of Chard and killed the cigarette under his heel. "This one's a fucking pro. But it doesn't matter: I'm just here for the record anyway. Rep-Detect have never screwed up so far."

I'm not so sure about that any longer.

"You haven't seen a radio?"

"Regulation-issue? Ah, so that one's yours?" Weyland poked around in his large trench-coat pockets. "Here you go, pal." He threw the radio carelessly to Gates. "An' your keys."

Gates caught a ring with a few plastic card keys. They weren't his; they had to be the replicant's, Jane Lee's. If she was a replicant and if her name was Jane Lee, that is.

Puzzled, he thought about what she had said to him, bleeding and dying, pale like a ghost and soon to become one:

Tell them who is the Sim and who isn't. Eh? I am the vector, but who is more alive? The dead man knows.

Gates examined the keys in the warm light from Kuppa Joe's: one of them was definitely an apartmeant key, skid row quality. The old cop instinct kicked in: If she lived nearby ... I bet "Weasel" Jones can identify the building. He still owes me a favour, the old scoundrel. Well, it's payday today...

"What's amatter?" Weyland asked. "Missin' a key?"

"Huh? No, they're all here."

Weyland frowned slightly.

"Anything wrong, pal?"

"No, everything's fine." Gates attached the radio to the clip on his coat collar. He hesitated a moment, looking at the keys. Tomorrow I'm little people. Then he dropped the keys in one of his breast pockets and zipped it. Finally, he put on his protective visor and black uniform cap. "Gotta go back to work. See you around, Weyland."

Gates turned and headed down the neon-lit street, followed by Weyland's unfathomable eyes. Soon he had disappeared in the motley street crowd of pimps, hookers, fornicators, pushers, junkies, sailors, hustlers, con-men and other typical Pit dwellers. Fine, scattered drops of a drizzle began to fall. Weyland looked up at the sky: it was dark, acid rain on its way.

"Figures," he said and lit a new cigarette.



Option 1 - "Weasel" Jones .

Option 2 - Blade Runner interference.

Option 3 - Something else.

Pages in white continue the story. Pages in yellow are yet to be written. Note that the unwritten options are just suggestions for how the story might continue - you can add something completely different if you like.

Each page in the story ends in a five letter code. If you want to return to this page in the future, make a note of the page code and you will then be able to change your URL to take you straight back to that page.

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Date: 2002-08-02 22:45