Two Jar Slave
Did someone say...
Dick Himself's sensenet fired three alarm pulses into his guts as the troupe of Horizon Standard railpigs stepped into the loop car and took position in the aisle between passengers. In the seat beside him, Missy Yssim yanked her fur cap down over her eyes while Himself leaned back and pretended to get absorbed in the ceiling screen's headlines--a family of Horizon shareholders were murdered while detouring through the deadlanes, a TalCorp scandal pushed fusion miniaturization back by five years--all the while keeping watch with his fingercams on the three towering officers. So long as the pigs didn't get too close, they'd be fine. Probably. Dick's seat hummed as the loopcar accelerated to an easy 200kph within the pressurized tubes that bound Upper CityCore into a gordion knot. Inside, the car was cramped and dirty.
"'fore we left, I snagged some code off greynet," drawled Missy. "Human-text analysis programs from a freemeat called Gripez, boy with an interest in ancient non-reg books."
"I don't work with slime, Dick--least, not his kinda slime. Anyway, I've got an alg he calls Back-10 grinding the surface of Lester's crypt as we speak."
"What's the point?" grunted Himself, keeping his face turned away from the railpigs. He had been trying not to think about the fact that a bunch of crypted word salad, which apparently originated from "ancient non-reg books," had somehow hacked its way into his brainspace--or vice versa. He'd never jacked Lester's vault, and even if he had, that wasn't to spec.
Missy shrugged. "No reason in particular. Just wonderin' if there's more to the crypt's outer shell than--"
Dick Himself wasn't listening. The railpig on the right, whose cheap custom ek-suit made her look like the dumpster outside of a hancer clinic, wouldn't stop drumming her fingers against the hilt of her crowd-katana. Bored. Himself couldn't see her face through the black glass of the ek-suit helmet, but he guessed where this was headed.
"So far," continued Missy, "the alg says our crypt's surface is a daringly polyvocal inversion of the period-typical diatribe against knowledge derived from non-authoritarian loci." Her mirror-black eyes shone with amusement. "Other words, a buncha point-oh bullcrap."
"They're starting pat-downs," muttered Himself.
Already, the three railpigs had worked their way through a group of passengers a few aisles ahead. Despite the two-meter-plus height of the Horizon Standard officers, and their weapped-out robotic exoskeletons that screamed "get fucked" in a way that transcended human language, their enhanced voices carried the chipper, smooth tones that corpers everywhere agreed was very calming, very calming indeed.
"Hey, being carded is a total drag" intoned Dumpster with a committee-precision level of friendliness. "At Horizon Standard, we respect your frustration--and your time. Did you know you can enroll your by-the-minute legal status online, using our automated tracking service?"
"Dick, if they card us they'll clock Lester's datavault for sure," whispered Missy. "Plus, about 40% of our bodies are against Horizon regs."
"Yeah, but maybe they'll really grease to the other sixty."
The dumpster was now only two rows ahead, patting down a dark-skinned woman in a bubblegum suit who reminded Himself of Aria. As a reg, Dick tried never to think about his life before getting switched on, his years working QA for Tsudo Pharmaceutical, and especially not his ex-wife and little Shayne who, as far as Dick knew, were still eking hollow somewhere in the wet guts of CityCore. Clean slate, he reminded himself.
"Damn!" whispered Missy.
The bubblegum woman shrieked as she was dragged to her feet by a pair of gloved hands and bulging forearms that made Himself mentally tally the cost of ten years on Horizon-reg anabolics.
Missy squeezed Himself's knee as the bubblegum peepmeat was thrown against the loop car's door. "Hey, we all make mistakes," said the dumpster in an increasingly upbeat tone, "Failing to provide ID to a safety officer puts everyone at risk. Ensuring a risk-minimal public environment is a core value of the Horizon Standard brand." The car's passengers watched slackly as the other two railpigs rolled bubblegum's purse, pocketing anything valuable. Dick knew "tips" were the only way railpigs broke even, but that didn't stop his fists from clenching up.
"I know." Himself cursed under his breath. "Don't log it. Pigs are pigs."
"Pigs are pigs," Missy sighed.
They watched as bubblegum was reduced to silent sobs, tears wetting the grimy door pressed against her face.
And then, a moment later, the pigs left bubblegum in a heap--and it was their turn. "ID cards for our friend Mr. Scanner, please and thanks," said the dumpster.
We just wanted to cross town, thought Dick. Cross town, see The Point, maybe share a bento box and a few laughs about whatever Crewcut's got ripping into my brainspace. Simple. User-friendly. No big deal.
Missy Yssim flashed the pig an old friend's smile as she swiped a forgery under her extended palmlight. The mechanism chirped greedily.
"You're up, handsome."
But pigs are pigs, thought Himself. When you can't fight the system, better get in front of it. Dick blinked the sequence to flood RSun, and immediately felt his heart pounding, face burning, as his blood was filled with a billion silicon capsules, each containing the microscopic equivalent of a claymore mine filled with buckshot and razorblades.
"No can do, babe," said Himself.