Two Jar Slave
"It's eight ninety-three, Dick. Coma or no Coma, it's time to get your bare ass up off the floor."
Dick Himself groped under the bedsheet for his NutGun, then relaxed. The enhanced voice was unmistakably Missy Yssim, but Himself's first question wasn't how she'd managed to shinobi through his sensenet--not to mention the freight elevator that served as his front door--without triggering his autowake. No, Himself's mind was scrambling out of a nasty schizo dream, the kind he only caught after flooding Coma2, so his first question came blurting out of the dreamscape like gas after Uncle Bingwen's greasy schezwan:
"What new maggot is this that has come into my head to-day?" he moaned. Missy bluescreened, staring at him peculiarly beneath her violet bangs.
"Now just what did you say?"
Dick Himself pressed the heels of his palms against his faceplants and thought: clean slate, clean slate. After a long breath, he blinked the sequence to flood his brainspace with Uptick and threw back the bedsheet. "Don't log it, Missy. Just dreamspeak. Still a bit mashed from the bump with our friend Lester, yesterday."
"Yesterday?" Missy's mirror-black eyes showed a hint of concern, the kind of look that made Himself regret ever installing the NutGun. "You're flooding so much I'm worried you'll drown. It's Ninesday. You've been splashed out for almost 300 hours."
Three days? That wasn't to spec--not at all. Was she leading him? Missy Yssim was a nano piece of freemeat female, every aug labouring to enhance her natural sex appeal, and her deceptiveness. (Buzzkill had once explained that her old quaints gave her the name Missy after she'd disappeared into the Accent Emporium one morning and come out sprawling over her vowels like a proper southern belle. Somehow, with the purple bob, jet-black eyes, and leather kimono, she made it work.) Missy was known to lead a corper scumbag for a few creds or a laugh, but a rapid series of blinks displayed the current time on Himself's eyeshade and confirmed what she'd said: three goddamn days. The X-Tips must have rattled him worse than he'd thought. Or maybe he really was starting to drown?
"Don't log it," Himself said again. Then he remembered his second question. "How'd you get past my sensenet, anyway?"
Missy laughed. "You're the deadest freemeat I know--on skates. But your code is unclinical, full of personality. Anyone who knows your sense of humour could have cracked that net."
"Hmm," Dick grunted. "So you've been holed up here, scoping my bare ass for 300 hours?"
Missy clucked her tongue and tossed something to Himself--the scorched datavault he'd ripped out of Lester Crewcut's skull three days ago; a strand of blue hair still clung to it. "I've been jacked into that. Thanks, by the way."
"Anything interesting?" Dick asked as he stretched in front of the sloping floor-to-ceiling windows. A corper family lived in the apartment facing his, normal peepmeat, life contracts, with two licensed kids and minimal hances that followed the strict regulations enforced by Horizon Standard's army of railpigs. He hated the family on principle, and sometimes wondered if they felt the same way about the mashed-up gearhead they glimpsed moving in the dark like a feral cat.
"I got my client list back, if that's what you mean. But there's more, Dick. Crewcut was rolling heavy."
"Doesn't shock me," Himself yawned, shuffling toward the only real piece of furniture in the apartment, a one-tonne chrome espresso machine. Uptick did the job, but it lacked aroma. "What'd he have? Head full of protocode? Rival quarterlies?"
"'Antonio d'Orso, a learned and worthy prelate, being Bishop of Florence, there came thither a Catalan gentleman, called Messer Dego della Ratta, marshal for King Robert'," drawled Missy as Himself passed her a cup. "Or how about this: 'Next is that bright radiance, rich in hope and healing for the sons of men, which is called Jove's star; then one fiery red and dreaded by the world, which you call Mars'."
"That supposed to register?"
"It's all like that, and there's a massive amount of it. Megs and megs of old-fashioned corpspeak. Now, you know that I grease to old-fashioned, but something about this stuff spooks me. It's hiding something, but I don't know what. Dick," she said, touching his arm, "I want to take it to The Point."
Dick Himself stiffened. "Thought you could crack any crypt."
"This isn't an old quaint's sensenet. The surface language is weird, organic, almost--thoughtful. I know it doesn't make sense. But I wager The Point can register it."
Missy squinted her black eyes. "That thing you said before you Upticked, the thing about the maggot?"
"Dreamspeak. You said yourself I was flooded." Himself had instinctively moved away, began pulling on his overclothes. "Not that I give a shit, but--why?"
"I read the same thing in Crewcut's vault a couple hours ago."
"What?" Dick Himself swiped the datavault into his wall terminal and, with Missy's guidance, scanned its surface.
"This again was reported to the Abbot, who fell a-pondering in himself and saying, 'Alack, what new maggot is this that is come into my head to-day? What avarice! What despite! And for whom?'"
It wasn't possible, but it was true: somehow in his Coma2 schizo sleep Dick had been dreaming about Crewcut's datavault. Suddenly Dick felt like he was back on the highway doing 108, only this time he was headed straight down. Clean slate, he told himself. Clean slate.
"Something's going on, Dick. I think we have to log it."
Himself stood by the elevator for a long nanosecond. Missy was right. But to send her to jack in with The Point again after all these years? It didn't level with him.
"Grab my cases. We'll go see The Point together. But getting there won't be easy."
"Smartslugs, Spicers, or...?"
"All of it. Lester Crewcut's not the only one who can roll heavy." With a metallic clank, Dick Himself called the elevator.