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Running Scared

This Page written by: Man Machine

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Yamajiro Rendezvous

The "Sushi Tower" reached 300 hundred meters into the toxic sky of Los Angeles; the City of Demons, once better known as the City of Angels. The tower basically had two functions: to serve as a police air-traffic control and as a spinner pit stop with a gas station and a fast food sushi restaurant.

The sushi restaurant, "Yamajiro", was a conventional joint: wall panels in cherry-wood imitation, streamers with Japanese calligraphy, rice-paper lanterns, flickering neon signs and dead vidscreens. A lonely television set in a corner of the ceiling showed news footage from some distant war zone with the sound turned off. The only unconventional feature was the wall with panorama windows, over-looking the Fifth sector, better known as the "Burning Fields".

Gentle Oriental music filled the air and mixed with the murmur of the motley clientele: cops, corporates and occasional jet setters who had spinners parked outside on the landing platform; truck drivers, cabbies, delivery runners and others who had escaped the street level chaos through the elevator."

Alan Thorne - at least, that was what he called himself - looked out through the panorama windows, while smoking a Boyard slowly and thoroughly. The sun, which could barely be seen through the pollution, was disappearing behind the Tyrell Pyramid in the far distance. Around the "Sushi tower", a forest of gigantic smoke stacks spewed out poison and fire towards the darkening sky. Another gloomy twilight in Dystopia.

Thorne looked completely normal: a colourless crew cut and a bad shave, a brown leather jacket with several pockets and ditto trousers. Most people would probably guess he was some kind of blue-collar worker, maybe an industrial techie. More observant people would bet on a more shady occupation, though: the vigilant eyes were constantly scanning the restaurant and the leather coat was bulging slightly below his left armpit.

Thorne killed his cigarette and took a zip from his half-empty beer; a cheap Czech brand, but still better than the domestic dishwaters. He watched a police spinner passing by the tower a bit too close; the rotating beacons painted his face red and blue for a second. Then he jumped in his seat and reached for his gun as someone suddenly grabbed a chair across the table.

The stranger didn't look quite human, wearing a flyer cap, goggles, a respirator and a bulky windcheater. A slender hand lifted the goggles and exposed the sharp, blue eyes of a woman in her thirties. It was the contact from Omni Biogenics, one of Thorne's most frequent employers.

"Don't ever do that again!" Thorne said in a harsh voice.

"Or you might kill me with a swift karate blow?" she replied behind her respirator. Her British upper-class accent rendered the words a certain condescension.

"No. I might spill my beer." He gave her a hostile gaze. "Okay, keep it brief; I don't like this place. Hell of a strange choice for a rendezvous; I don't got any fucking spinner."

"No pleasantries and no ado, then." She lowered her voice slightly. "Well, it's simple really: we need the best rep tracker in town."

"Give it to Rep-Detect. I'm done with that."

"Ah, that's unfortunately not an option."

The Omni Biogenics woman handed him a piece of paper: a cheque. Thorne looked at the amount: a round sum, several zeroes. He wrinkled his forehead and kept silent for a moment. Then he folded the cheque and put it in the inside pocket of his coat.

"Okay. No sane person can refuse that kind of money." He swallowed some beer and licked his lips. "This is a bad motherfucker, ain't it?"

"Not necessarily. Three sixes: doppelganger models with optimum self-sufficiency, but no combat training. The templants are Tyrell employees; you must make a positive ID before you retire them."

"Hey, hit the brakes! Doppelgangers?! Is there some kind of corporate war going on? Or are you helping Tyrell with some internal purge? I've told you: I'm not a politician; I'm a business man."

"Just retire the damn reps, will you. Leave the strategy to us; we leave the tactics to you."

"May I ask why they are to be retired?"

"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." She chuckled behind the respirator, but something in her voice told him she wasn't really joking.

Thorne suddenly looked very tired.

"Let me guess: a fucking crema case."

"A fucking crema case," she confirmed.

"This is gonna be fun," he said, but he didn't sound amused; not the slightest. A crematorium case: termination and disintegration. No questions, no documentation. A vaporisation project.

Thorne sighed.

"I'll need a V-K machine."

She put a black metal briefcase she had brought with her on the table. Her hand rested on top of it; smooth skin with a perfect tan, long nails the colour of red wine.

"It's the real cop thing, no corporate gizmo. Don't get caught in a checkpoint with it."

"I know the score."

"Well, you better. Make sure you bring down the prey before the blades pick up the scent. Bryant's got a new wolf pack, you know. No good trackers yet, but trigger happy as hell."

She took her hand off the briefcase.

"There's a dossier with all available data in the briefcase, but I'm afraid it's not much. We don't know their whereabouts; they might have left L.A."

"Or worse: they might still be here."

"Right. I'll see you here in exactly a week or not at all."

And then the Omni Biogenics contact disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared. Thorne sighed and emptied his beer.

He opened the briefcase just the slightest and hauled out the dossier. A glimpse of stainless steel and red diodes - for a fraction of a second he thought there was some nightmare animal alive inside the briefcase.

Three designations:

LEE (Michael)
JOSEPH (Byron)

Three retirements.



Option 1 - Omni reflection

Option 2 - The Esper mainframe break-in

Option 3 - Thorne gets on with business

Option 4 - The Rep-Detect contact

Option 5 - 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: 2002-05-29 16:00