“Do you dream?”
It’s an odd question. Of course I dream, she thought, looking at the slabs. There’s a space between them, I know it… Now what should I do to get in-?
“Do you dream?”
“And if I didn’t?” she finally responds, sick of the question. Three clicks left, two slides up and a probe straight in. Lock shouldn’t be this complicated though…
“You could qualify. Why not join the Hasdribal Legion? Do you dream?”
Snitch looked over that the small hovering device, opaque holographic eyes gleefully staring back at her. She rolled her own, returning attention back to the series of panels she was manipulating.
“You’ll be changing your tune in just a second there, Chirpy…” Snitch said, finally unlatching the cover.
Exposed to the world was an intricate lace of wires and circuits, all of which had been hidden away for one explicit purpose; protection.
Snitch retrieved a small flip knife from her belt, flicking her wrist to extend the blade. Flipped so the hilt was outstretched, she carefully pressed the butt against a particular segment of wires. The circular joint that fused the blade to the grip flashed twice before a spark shot off from the circuit board. Snitch watched the small plume of smoke waft into the late evening sunshine with a satisfied smirk.
“Now, let’s see if Daz’s trick works…” she muttered, folding the knife back up, taking care not to touch the still smoking edge. She blew out the small embers and shelved the trick blade back into her jacket. It fell among a pile of bits and ends collected in her pockets, hard rubber clattering against metal and plastic.
Chirpy gave a squeak, its eyes blinking out once before returning to normal.
“We are sorry, the station you are trying to access is currently offline. Would you like me to switch to a different station?”
“Yes, yes I would Chirpy,” Snitch smiled back.
She stood and gazed out over the city behind her. The view from the tower was spectacular. Elysian buildings caught in gold refraction, monoliths rivaling mountains as modern successors. The girl grinned, pulling at the grappling cord at her hip.
Backed by the soft techno station that Chirpy had landed on, Snitch jumped off the ledge into the bowels of the city, cord pulling taut as she descended, laughing all the way down.
The thrill of the fall never ceased to enthrall Snitch. Having grown up one of the many orphans pocketing Kailnash, free running was almost as natural as breathing. The extra verticality that her grappling hook afforded her only made it that much more exciting, a never ending adrenaline rush burning away under her skin.
Just as the wind howling into her ears began to overwhelm her senses, her grappling cord ran out, slowing the coil on her belt to a safe speed and catching her mid-fall. Snitch bounced in the air, the suspension pulling her into a gentle pended swing. Caught in the indigo shade of one of the city’s man-made canyons she twisted, using her body as the weight of a pendulum to swing herself to the tower’s nearest ledge. After a moment of work she flipped effortlessly onto an artistic outcropping, feet locking still on the narrow foot-long edge.
She chanced another glance out to the spires, soaking in the view. As much as she loved her hovel below the divide, sights like the sun setting over Freehaven’s upper skyline were absolutely captivating; like a living Van Gogh. Or, at least, she’d been told they looked like one. She’d never met the guy, so she couldn’t say. Still, it was gorgeous, and she was going to enjoy it every second she could.
This job had been rather pleasant. Aside from Chirpy picking up every broadcast they’d have to short (which had gotten repetitive fast), any excuse to go above the divide to the upper city was a blessing, and Snitch would never pass on that kind of opportunity.
“I’ll live up here someday…” Snitch whispered, ghostly smile on her lips.
“Should I add that to your planner? If yes, please choose a date!”
Snitch looked over at Chirpy and rolled her eyes. She pushed the little holographic bot away with a chuckle.
“You’re useless, Chirpy.”
The small device flew forward, projected eyes narrowing in concern and panic.
“Are you displeased with some form of my programming or function? If so, would you like to send feedback to-to-to-to…” the robot stuttered, face glitching with each utterance of ‘to’.
Damnit… I should probably get Daz to fix that when I get back, Snitch sighed. Hacked tech; always giving me headaches.
She slapped her little companion, putting focus on the crystalline ball at its core, “You’re fine how you are, Chirps. Ignore that, okay? Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
The stuttering stopped and the device bounded forward in some form of mock salute, “Of course, Snitch! I am your always vigilant friend!”
Snitch tussled the hologram, the texture of warm fuzz flowing under her fingers.
“You’re lucky you’re so damn cute. Now c’mon, we’ve got one more wire to short and it’s on the way home.”
Her hook magnetically locked into place at the outcropping’s edge, leaving her time to swing her arms and smile again before jumping. This time she couldn’t laugh; she’d be at street level in seconds and attracting attention wasn’t what she wanted. A stray giggle slipped out, however, rushed away in the winds carving through her Persian rose hair. The fall took only a scant handful of seconds; to her it felt like a pleasant eternity.
Feet touching the ground, she hit the coiler at her hip, the tether whipping down at ludicrous speeds to meet its holster.
Snitch checked her watch, the forearm-long band displaying 6:42 in big, bold print. She narrowed her eyes and swiped the time away, replacing it with a detail of her mission. The deadline was 7:30.
“Sheeze, that late already?” Snitch muttered, grimacing. “How much time did I waste watching the sunset?”
She pulled up the coordinates of her last target and swapped them over to Chirpy, who dutifully hopped in front of her, eyes charging blue. “Destination information received! Please follow closely, Snitch!”
Pumping her legs Snitch took off down the street, her floating companion hovering two or so feet ahead at all times. There was the occasional turn, a casual twist and an eventual flight of stairs leading below the divide where the old towers still stood, like fingers reaching for an iron ceiling. Orange twilight streams still filtered through the mesh of concrete and steel, but very little managed to penetrate too far into the cavernous depths.
The trip through the underside lasted only about ten minutes, ducking and weaving around the city blocks like water around pebbles. She took pride in how fast she could move, that inescapable feel of wind in her hair; she thanked Obcas every day for the very opportunity that she had such a beautiful and simple gift for running.
Speaking of which, there’s a shrine around here somewhere… Snitch thought. She was beginning to recognize the area; it was close to a rail station, one of many that served as a hub for courier services throughout the city. She smiled, taking a familiar detour, turning left at a parked car. Huh, a Bridgewirth T-4, that’s a rare model…
“Snitch, Snitch! You’ve gone off track. Should I reroute you?” Chirpy asked, hovering up beside the runner.
“Yeah,” she huffed, “restart the mapping when we hit Tundra Avenue.”
“Roger that!” the robot cheered.
Strutting beside brick walls, Snitch dove right around the next corner in the alley.
Ah, there it is.
In the middle of the lane, tucked off to the right, was a statue. Molded out of several plates of bronze, the piece was of a masculine body with a feminine, Asian faced god, haloed by a solid ring. One hand was curled in a meditative pose, the other curled around a knife. Sections were missing, a detriment of scarce material on the author’s behalf, though the absence was worked artfully into the piece, with digital scarring that peaked into the hollow shell.
Obcas, deity of chance and opportunity, purveyor of the world, distilling the lessons of patience in pursuit of a goal and the wisdom of when to pursue one across the world. Or, at least Kailnash which, if you asked Snitch, was the whole world.
She dug into her pocket and pulled out a small token, rolling it between her fingers. Currency was largely digital, so tossing coins into fountains and shrines had largely fallen out of favor in the traditional sense. But, with the rise of Kailnash’s very own home-brew religion, a demand for some form of equivalent began to grow. Soon one smart-talking businessman had shown up, offering chips that filled the role for a minimal credit cost. The niche market exploded over night with vendors offering their own wares, some even dedicating chips to different meanings for different deities among the spectrum.
That first salesman had passed away years before Snitch’s time, his name becoming a stamp in Obcas’ legacy as some type of prophet. The chips from the company he’d started became even more profitable after that, ‘more worthy’ they advertised, ‘the official donation’.
Snitch chuckled at that lunacy. Everyone knew that gods were impartial to the donation; it was the thought that counted, or else how could the poor be heard?
There was a small cluster of children gathered around the statue, heads all bowed in respect and prayer. Orphans, by the looks of them.
She kept her steady pace, blowing by the shrine and flicking her token in with practiced ease. Her hand, still outstretched, floated over one of the kids heads, a darker haired boy with a shaggy mop of black hair. Her fingers launched down and ruffled the curls. The kid grunted in irritation, but Snitch just laughed as she flew by.
“Keep prayin’ and workin’ kids, you’ll get there!” Snitch shouted, throwing the collective a cocky grin. The orphans yelled after her, some for breaking their little moment of peace, others laughing with her and cheering her on. She kept her smile and finally hit the street.
“Continuing on route to coordinates!” Chirpy hummed, pulling off to the right.
Only a minute or so passed before the inevitable started to happen.
“Be the first in any field. Vanguard; the forefront of humanity! Now hiring in your career paths!”
Curse the day assistBot sold out to other companies.
The assistBot brand had allegedly been one of the first companies to produce Holographic Robotic Assistants and had been popular enough that assistBots became short hand for the little floating light bulbs. However, about six years back, they began selling out wireless codes to other companies, letting advertisements stream in and irritate anyone who’d been dumb enough to walk within range of certain type of beacon (usually planted somewhere on the premises of the advertised company).
Safe to say, it backfired. Horribly. Sales fell, competitors grew by the day, and the company crashed a year later, leaving hundreds of thousands of obsolete models to rot. Chirpy had been one, and though it’d been gutted and retrofitted to prevent hacking and prevent scanning, that subroutine had been hardwired into the design and the programming, making it almost impossible to remove.
At least I know I’m in the right place, Snitch sighed. She was lucky she’d be doing a public service along with her mission; her goal to short out certain circuits tied directly to the beacons, killing whatever her employer wanted her to kill and eliminating the irritation of listening to Chirpy read the party line for whatever company she was currently screwing over.
“The destination is 2.5 meters on your right!” Chirpy stopped at the mouth to an alleyway.
Snitch looked down the path and then up to its bordering building, snarl marring her features. Vanguard was one of the tentpoles of the city, both literally and figuratively. It’d been instrumental in forming the metropolis in the early years and its main base of operations had been the first of the many support struts that upheld the monumental divide that allowed the city a second floor. Initially a simple arms manufacture, it’d blossomed into a full-fledged PMC with dozens of other companies across the spectrum floating under its wings.
We have to mess with these bastards? Really?
She sucked in a defeated breath and moved swiftly into the alley. The panel she needed to pop wasn’t made obvious, but it wasn’t hard to find, either. The model was different, though, older considering the Vanguard building wasn’t as new as the Hasdribal Legion building which required a shifting lock sequence to displace; her knife would be the only thing she needed to pry it open.
Flipping it out, she got to work, jamming the slender blade between the plate and the frame. A little finagling and she felt it budge. She slid the blade down further, repeating the process along the line, flipping at the corner until it’d been popped out of place. Her fingers pawed at the edge, fingerless gloves coarse against the webbing at the base of her digits. One last firm yank and the panel flew open, displaying its guts to the world.
Along with a beeping red pressure sensor that seemed to have been installed in the last four years.
“Oh,” Snitch said dumbly, eyes glazing over as reality started to wrack her brain.
Of course they’d update their old security… These guys get more paranoid by the day…
In the distance she could already hear steady footsteps rushing from the front of the building, arms clanking against armor against clothes against skin against boots against asphalt.
Hesitating haze lifted, Snitch slammed the butt of the knife down on the necessary circuit pathways, flinching as the sparks nipped at her palm. She was about to jet away only to notice a discarded slip of white among the wireworks. Interest piqued, but necessity to run building, she swiped it and threw it into her jacket before choosing a direction and sprinting.
As she approached the end of the alley two armed guards came careening around the corner hefting an impressive arsenal; two rifles, a side arm and a belt of grenades and gadgets each. It was cute the way the two matched, like models for the same company at a fashion expo. Only one point varied and that would be the guard with the skeletal cybernetic arm that had been interwoven with metallic plating.
Snitch threw them a cheeky smile as they rushed forward, one lifting a sleek rifle while the other drew his sidearm. The man with the rifle pulled the trigger, a small flashing light blinking from down the length of the barrel. Almost immediately she felt the air around her heat up to a boil. Before the heat could overcome her senses she slapped the bracelet on her right arm. The band vibrated and heated, burned, and the suffocating atmosphere was dispersed.
Without missing a beat she hopped atop a dumpster, skittered her feet across the wall, and leapt over the guards’ heads, landing gracefully behind them. Their movements seemed sluggish compared to hers; it was like watching the world in slow motion.
She let out a giggle and tossed the sparkling wrist band to their feet.
“Microwave Guns: Non-Leathals of the past? Check page five to find out!” she chuckled. It was a taunt she was used to doing, calling back to her days as a newsy for Lamient Electronics.
And with that under her belt, she booked it down the street, weaving in between parked cars to throw them off getting a bead on her a second time; that disperser band had been her only one.
It was a gift, too… she grumbled, dodging into active traffic. A semi with a hexagonal trailer drifted past, giving her a scant moment to leap on and contort herself around the railing edging the container. Hope this guy doesn’t mind giving me a lift… Lifting couriers was nothing new to many drivers in the city, and it was common enough that on longer treks through the metropolis one could assume to hold an extra passenger at least once. There was a generally accepted code though, and usually a simple gesture out the cab window could tell the hitchhiker to butt off.
She was grateful, then, when the driver threw her a thumbs-up through the cab’s mirrors.
Snitch let out a sigh of relieve and relaxed into the bars she gripped too. She was home free.
Make it to the subway and I’ll be right on schedule. Daz should be happy about that…
The truck rounded a bend taking them to the edge of the island, along the beaches. They weren’t busy; tourist season had already passed and the Business Isle wasn’t known for its swimming hotspots either. That was more in the realms of New Venice, the suburban island to the south, which generally handled the less industrially-inclined denizens.
Still, these were her beaches; the places she’d come as a little kid to play with her friends when they could wriggle their way out of the orphanage. As she dropped off at the subway station (giving a thankful wave to the driver), she let her eyes linger on the quickly vanishing horizon, the thin purple and pink line sinking into the inky midnight blue. As the sun finally dipped under that gorgeous boundary, Snitch smiled.
Daz had said that the quiet moments after a mission were the best. Who am I to disagree?
“Daz! I’m back~!” Snitch sung, sliding the door closed behind her.
“Ye know ‘ow annoyin’ yer voice is? Don’ sing like tha’h, make me ear bleed,” came the grumbled response. Snitch removed her shoes and put on a pair of slippers seated by the door. It was a regular practice in the city, a carry-over from a rather large migration of Asian immigrants during the city’s foundation, usually to keep floors clean. Here, it was more out of necessity; the carpets may have been clean, but Daz was notorious for leaving stray electronics around the house. Several guest and business partners had fallen victim to jagged motherboards while only wearing socks, so one day the man had finally decided to invest in a bulk purchase of slippers he’d leave by the door.
Snitch had her own pair though. She was special.
“You know you love me,” she laughed, rounding the corner and setting her bag on the couch. The apartment seemed small, deceptively so. It wasn’t the cleanest, yes, but it was a cozy place for three people to live, and it offered a pretty nice view of the lower half thanks to its location in one of the tallest towers below the divide.
“’Love’ is a strong word, wrong one at that,” he growled from his seat in the kitchen. Daz was a heavyset man with the graying mutton chops to match his sweaty demeanor. Hazel eyes glanced up to amethyst, the barest ghost of a smile on the man’s lips.
“I don’t care who-loves-who, so long as the job got done,” popped a third voice. This stranger was a lanky man, wearing lose fitted clothing that hung off his body in all the wrong ways. His head was crowned by blue hair that leaked passed his glowing cobalt eyes.
“Don’ worry Mist’r Five, Snitch is the best they come; job’s done, job’s done,” Daz said confidently, lowering his eyes to the device he was fiddling with. He paused, looking up to Snitch with scrutinizing curiosity, daring her to make him look like a liar, “Job’s done?”
Snitch rolled her eyes.
“With bonus,” she boasted from her pearly whites. She pulled the sleek card from her pocket and tossed it to the table. “Vanguard maintenance must have left it when they were putting the new trip sensor in a few years back. Probably overwrote the code, but I know some hackertypes; they’d probably love to get a peak at some of the coding Vanguard uses for its randomized security.”
Daz looked suitably impressed, lips pursed in an amused pout. The other man, Mister Five, reached out to the card. He hesitated.
“May I?” he asked, looking between them. Snitch shrugged and Daz nodded.
He plucked it off the table and flipped it in his fingers, giving the ID a once over. Very briefly his eyes flashed. He smiled grimly before resting the card down onto the table.
“It’s still viable, believe it or not,” he muttered, “though you’d have to be some type of crazy idiot to try and infiltrate Vanguard. I… Those are people no one should have to deal with.”
Daz reached across the table and pocketed the card, returning to his tinkering just as quickly, “lot’s’a crazy idiots out ther’ lookin’ to make ah name. Me an’ Snitch’ll be ‘ere to make a quick buck. So goes nature.”
It always amazed her how quickly Daz looked to turn any given situation into a profitable business venture. Sure, a similar thought had crossed her mind when she’d taken the card, but it had only occurred to her fifteen minutes into her trip home.
“Well, I’m glad I could open a door for you, but I need to get out of the city, pronto, and the window you’ve given me won’t be open forever…” Mister Five said, standing. He turned to Snitch, brow raised, “You said that there was a trip sensor? Did it activate?”
Snitch looked to her feet, pawing at one slipper with the other, “Uh… yeah…”
“Ah, well, shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Even with their response times it’ll probably take a day or so for them to repair the important parts. Thanks for all your help,” he smiled, ruffling her hair. He paused, confusion overtaking his face, “Your hair is dyed? Not a dyechild, but just dyed?”
“It’s normally brown,” she replied, pouting, “but I always thought that it was boring. It’s too expensive to get the gene-modding stuff, though, so I have to use traditional dye.”
“Hhhm,” Five hummed. “Well, ya did a good job; had me fooled.” He fished around in his pockets, pulling out a stack of American dollar bills. A very thick stack. “How much is gene modding again? Like, four hundred, five hundred for hair?”
“’Elieve me, ‘er cut would be enough to cover it,” Daz said, glancing into the conversation. “She’s savin’ fer somethin’ else, though. Won’ tell me w’at, but I stopped askin’ years’ago.”
Five turned back to Snitch, raising an eyebrow, “Is he right?”
Snitch looked off to the side, heat licking over her cheeks, nodding.
“Well, in that case…” he trailed off. Before she knew it a wad of four, one-hundred dollar bills was stuffed into her hand. “Consider it a bonus for a job well done,” Five grinned. He turned to the door and began waltzing towards it, slipping his slippers off as he went. Daz stood and followed him, leaving the stunned Snitch in their wake.
“Daisuke, I wanna thank you for all your help.”
“Don’t worry, Mister Five. A job well done ‘s reward enou’fh.”
“Yaeger, call me Yaeger…”
The conversation drifted into background noise as Snitch broke into a sprint towards her room, completely leaping over the couch to make the trip all the quicker. Once inside she slammed the door shut and dashed to the jar nestled under her bed, pulling it out and almost ripping the top off completely. Inside was a collection of bills, coins and receipts that marked her ever growing stash of funds. Her grin nearly split her face as she dropped the four folds into the pile, one at a time, savoring the sweet nirvana of receiving a gift.
One day… she almost cried, closing the jar and hugging it close to herself. One day it’ll all feel right…
“Awful rude to le’h o’r guest leave ‘out sayin’ goodbye,” Daz chuckled from the doorway.
Snitch gave him a sideways glance, letting him see the small sparks of hope nestling in the corners of her eye, the small, content uptweak in her smile.
“How much are you away?” he asked earnestly.
“With this paycheck, three thousand credits… I’m almost there…” Snitch grinned, giving him a teary smile.
“Well then I’m ‘appy fer ya,” he said, bobbing his head. Daz started off back towards the kitchen, “I’ll be gettin’ supper goin’. Mercury shoul’ be gettin’ back by eight-thirty, so be good’n’ungry by then…”
Snitch nodded absently, looking out the window into the night, the city lights bright like stars stretching out forever. Chirpy hovered over to her side, reflected eyes drowning out the window’s view. She looked over at her little companion, plopping a free hand on its holographic head and giving it a rub. It wasn’t an animal, it didn’t feel the same way animals did; she knew that. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t dream that it could, that one day it might magically become her pet, a living breathing being.
Just like me… she mused.
But for her it wasn’t a dream; it was a reality to work towards. There wouldn’t be any need for magic; just some needles, some scalpels and a batch of chemicals.
“Three thousand…” she whispered, resting her head to the window.
“Three thousand what, Snitch?” Chirpy asked.
Snitch paused, a soft smile blessing her roguish jaw.
“Three thousand credits until Snitch becomes real, Chirp,” Snitch responded.
“Query: are you not Snitch? You’re facial recognition identifies you as Snitch.”
She clenched her hand and narrowed her eyes, her smile becoming a more determined line.
“Real for me, Chirpy… the day Snitch becomes real for me…” she whispered.
I do dream, she thought, but I won’t have to for much longer.