Tuesday, May 24

Fragment 4

Sorry for not updating in a while. Been a bit busy at work. Anyway, onto the next chapter.
Even in fifty feet up, there are alleyways. There are places where the walkways are shrouded in shadow, where the skypol never patrol. These are the places where people go when they need something to escape from life. Nanodrugs that could induce whatever hallucination you wanted. Chemicals that could send you up, down, and sideways.

This was where I found Canto.

"Hey, Stray," he said. He placed a patch on one arm and sighed. "What's the...that thing, you know. Has letters in it?"

"Word," I said. "What's the word?"

"Yeah." Canto was in a perpetual world of his own. Life was what happened to other people - Canto lived in the delicate balance of brain chemicals, creating moods that varied from ecstasy to existential dread. "What's the word, Stray?"

"I got a job in Ophan," I told him. "Big one. Problem is, it's a chemical computer."

Canto opened his bloodshot eyes. "Chemcom? Well, fuck me gently."

"Some other time, Canto," I said. "You got a solution?"

Canto smiled. "I got plenty of solutions, in a variety of pretty colors. But for a chemcom...well, you're going to need something else." He cracked his knuckles separately and then said, "Follow me back to my lair."

I wasn't surprised he called it his lair. It was basically a room with a bed in one corner and what looked like a "My First Chemistry" set in the middle.

Still: Canto was the best. If anyone knew how to hack a chemical computer, it would be him.

He stumbled around the room for a few minutes, looking through various boxes and moving books and vid-chips out of the way. "Where are you, where are you," he repeated. "Ah, here." He triumphantly held up a syringe. There was nothing in it.

"I think if you inject that you'll die," I said.

"Not gonna inject it," Canto said. "Hate injects. Only patches for me." Canto periodically switched the way he took his drugs - sometimes it was pills, sometimes dust, sometimes patches. Whenever he offered me any, I would always politely say no. "This is just the carrying system."

He walked to the chemistry set in the center of the room and fiddled around with things. He hmmmed and hawwwed a lot, until I finally couldn't stand it any longer. "So?" I asked. "Chemical computer, remember?"

"Oh, yeah," Canto said as his eyes lit up again. "Sorry, was thinking about something else there for a second. It'll take about a day."

"For what?" I asked.

"The kernel," he said. "Gotta make a special kernel. You inject it into the chemcom, it reads the gooware and transmits it to a secondary source. Gotta make it special though. Gonna cost you."

"How much?"

"Twenty percent," he said. I had no room to haggle - I needed the kernel in order to do the job. If there was someone else I could go to, I could bargain him down, but Canto was probably the only one insane enough to think of a way to hack a chemical computer. So I said yes.

"Thanks, Stray," he said. "You're a pal."

"Remember," I said. "Eight am tomorrow. I'll pick it up and then, when the job's finished, you get your twenty percent."

"I trust you, Stray," Canto said. "The kernel'll be ready."

"Good," I said and then left. When I looked back, Canto was already fiddling with his chemistry set, doing things I didn't even want to imagine.

Twenty-four hours and I would have my way in. I could almost taste the money from this job. If I played my hand right, I could bargain the score up higher - whatever was in "the Archives," as Father Caul put it, was worth enough to steal, so my employer could afford to pay me a bit more.

As I thought about that, my feet led me back to Ophan. I had twenty-four hours to kill and I was back in the hellhole at the center of the Sprawl. Oh, well, more surveillance couldn't hurt.

[This passage seems to have been added later]

If only. If only I had seen it. If only I had seen it before. Before they died - they all died, Caulis, Canto, even Guillemet. Even me.

If only I had seen if before I died.

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