I stared into its cold eyes as it scanned me up and down. It weaves its outstretched neck around my bike eying J.J. carefully. She sticks out her tongue as a response.
The machine does not respond. It is a SR7800 Border guard. Equipped with a 180 caliber Pendleton, four barrels, with armor piercing shells, it has hypersensitive optical x-rays and can detect 1.800,000,000,000 viral codes. It is a relic from the Code Wars, the company should replace them, but who would dare attack Soni-Metro. Soni-Metro is the largest corporate town in the South West, not to mention the home of Soni-Alpha, the second largest mega-corp. on Earth. I am a Soni-Boy, an old fashion code runner, one of the last. J.J. is my partner, and my sister.
“Identity verified.” the ‘7800 retracts its face into the wall and the city gates open.
“’Bout time, I thought we’d be there all year!” J.J. hates waiting.
This is the northern part of town. A hundred years ago, they called this L.A. What is left of that time is all around us, the ruins of a by gone, era before the Corporate Wars of ’87 and the deconstruction of Federal America. Now International Mega-Corps control everything, except the Badlands. There is nothing out there to control. Weather makes it impossible terrain.
We ride past a gang of Dead Boys. Silicon rocker, refuges of the past. Wanna be rock stars, hard wired full of meta-dope. I nod and show them my heat. They snarl and one of them tosses me the finger. Everybody hates code runners, everybody except the Company. That is why we can go anywhere in the city. Including Soni-Tower West, which is where we’re headed, I should get three mil for this run. Chump change, I know, but J.J.’s gotta eat. I run code to stay alive; I am not built for anything else, Soni owns my system. One day I hope to buy out, take J.J. north to Canada, I hear there are still free humans there in the wilderness.
I pull up to the entrance of the tower, my dusty Akira 900 reflecting in the glass giant’s door. I look up at the demon, stretching up into the smog. Two-hundred and forty-five stories of Soni glory. Inside are over a billion employees carefully controlling the products of the entire Southwest of Soni-America. I park my bike and tell J.J. to stay put. She has a tendency to run off.
“I know, I know, I’m 15 you know!” she gripes. Shit was I getting old. How long it had been, I thought. I sold myself to Soni when I was 15, to protect J.J. from logo-traders. She was just five years old then, God, ten years! I should upgrade my software, before my next run. Carrying all this code was starting to take its toll. I was still one of the best though. Soni 3.10 Beta model XR, built to run. Nobody checks me as I hop on the elevator and push the top floor button. Employees mill about as company Vids flash on the walls. I watch a new music ad by one of the new company bands. Electro-shock punks in pinstriped holo-suits, their all the rage in Japan I hear. I do not care; I just drink synthohol and run code. I step out of the elevator into the boardroom. An enormous sterile white room, no satellite can penetrate. My O.S. always acts funny in here. I stand at the far end of the 200 ft. black marble table. The board member heads whir and bob as they stare silently at me. Synthoid attendants scurry about making necessary adjustments to keep their frail bodies alive. Some of the older members date back to the pre-merger years. The CEO blinks slowly his eyes seem as cold and lifeless as the silicon detectors of the border guard.
“Do you…have (whizz), our product…Mr.James?” he says as attendants rush to pump chemicals into his dying body. I nod as I eject the disk from my CPU, and I put the disk into the slot on the table. A holo-screen appears above the table. Endless code feeds down. The board members all nod their clunky square heads vaguely smiling.
“2 million credits will be processed to your account Mr. James.”
“2 million!!! This is worth 3” fucking stiffs! I should unplug their data banks.
“You will accept our payment, or we will delete you Mr. James.”
“This is high-way robbery.” I knew they would shit me, they always do.
“Thank you that will be all.” I accept my credits and walk out, tripping one of the attendants on my way. “We will contact you soon Mr. James.”
“Yeah you do that!” I say, flipping them the bird.
When I come back outside, I find J.J. playing with some ones meta-pup, an artificial Pomeranian, probably some corporate wives toy.
“Leave that thing alone.” I say, snatching her up and putting her back in the sidecar. “Get outta here ya mutt!” I yell
“They stiffed you again?” she groaned, “How much this time?”
Just then, from behind us, I hear a woman’s voice say, “Is Fife bothering you?”
I turned around slowly, and came face to face with the loveliest human I had ever seen. At that moment, I envied every “toy-boy” ever built. She was tall (around 5’9”), with long smooth Alabaster legs, her hips curved like an hourglass into her waist. Her pale breast were supple and healthy, they even looked real. Her long blonde hair draped over them, curling ever so at the ends, parting gently down the center, enveloping her smooth angular face. Tracing every nuance of it as if it were a tailor made hologram. Her eyes were like crystal oceans, like some glazed over alloy-meth junkie. She was no junkie. She wore a Chrome LCD dress, 19 million easy. Around her neck hung an 80 million-credit Micron Crystal necklace, which tears dropped between her ample bosoms. Her wrist sparkled with diamonds and platinum. Her hands carefully manicured as were feet, which arched upward in clear techno-pumps. J.J. nudged me out of my coma. I had lost my speech ogling at her framework.
“Snap out of it Jay!” she mumbled.
I was not used to seeing human women like this one. Most were poor drug addicted, logo-whores who lived on the outskirts in the ruins. I had seen Vids of outlanders who roam the Badlands. I once heard humans still lived in purity in New Zealand. One day I hoped J.J. would make it to places where humans remain free.
“Company man?” she asked playfully. She walked by me and traced a finger across my jacket, bending down to pick up her tiny dog. “What’s your name company man?”
“Jason James.” I say mesmerized by this vision. “Yours?” I asked
“Aurora Hito.” She whispered. I could feel her hot breath. The name rang in my head “Hito”, like a chime. Then I remembered. Nagasaki Hito was a grand programmer I eighty-sixed once, a genius who had developed a special code that mimicked something or another. The company was very pleased with that one 15 mill I think.
“Any relation to Nagasaki?” I questioned, though her features were only slightly, Japanese.
“He was my father.” She said with a quite smile. A gasped I realized that she was no human, but the code I had run, or the result of the code I had run anyway. I think she knew it too. In fact, I know she did.
“What’s the matter Soni-Boy?” she circled me smiling, caressing the poly synth alloy of her Meta-Pup. My eyes grew wide, if my throat could dry-it would have.
“I ran you?” I asked almost smugly.
“Reeeally.” She said softly. I lifted up my t-shirt showing off my hardware. She bent over examining my mainframe with her glimmering eyes. That is when I noticed how their crystal hue shifted in shades depending on the light. She touched her shining red lips with one of her long sharp fingernails. Her pup barked at my humming CPU.
“I was inside there?”
“Best ware in the house. 80,000 MHz, 500, 000, 000 RAM, 75,000,000 megabytes, Pentell 3000 silver processor chip.” I boasted, “Titanium chassis, synth alloy joints, poly dexterous appendages.” I can tell she is unimpressed.
“Nice hardware.” She says smiling seductively.
“What about you?” She did not answer but from the looks of it was a brand new model I had never laid eyes on before. There was nothing even suggesting synthetic parts. Seamless she could pass for a 100%er any day. I was in love.
“Can we go now?” J.J. said getting impatient, she was always jealous of other girls.
“Shut-up J.J.!” I said, but not too harshly.
“Cute human-yours?” she asked
“A.I.?” Aurora asked already knowing the answer.
“Pure lady and I’m hungry!” now J.J. was insulted.
“J.J.!!!” Things were quickly getting out of hand.
“Oooo…A hundred per center. Rare, you say she is your sister?”
“Yeah! And I’m staying that way! My brothers gonna buy out and take me to Cananada!”
“Canada you mean.”
“Yeah-Cananada!” J.J. knew full well how to pronounce Canada.
“J.J. cool your jets, just…” I yelled
“Well she started it (STUPID SYNTH)!” J.J. snapped
“Biomechanicalsynthazoid?” Aurora said almost quizzically
“Well la-tee-da!” J.J. chided
“Hmmm.” Was all she said smiling
“Well, we gotta be going” I said trying to end this tense exchange. I reluctantly kicked stated my bike.
“Yes, well nice meeting you Soni-Boy.”
“Maybe I can call you some time?” I say
“I don’t think my designate would approve of that.” She looked sheepishly around; I should have known she was too good to be true. Probably some asshole V.P.’s private toy.
“But I can call you.”
“Well here’s my mainline. Use it wisely.” I gave her a wink before I put on my helmet. Then J.J. and I sped off into the Soni night. I was definitely in love. I needed a drink.
We head up Alphabet St. to my favorite local bar, Molly’s, zooming past the meta-heads and Dead Boys, skidding through the traffic of cabs and garbage droids, young lovers in dark alleys and vampire teens. The city’s shit at this level, no sunlight, no ritzy Soni execs or glamorous movie stars, just the wretched and the refuse. That is why I like it. I have always thrived on the danger and adventure. I keep J.J. safe, though. Molly’s is pretty, tame, and Molly herself loves J.J., takes real good care of us both. I park my bike out front with the rest and activate the safety catch. 600,000 volts should keep the rats off. We make our way in through two Hood rats fighting over some girl. The place smells, of blood, synthohol, and urine, there is only one empty stool at the bar, J.J. takes it quickly. I walk up behind the scrawny cyber-Goth sitting to her left, and breath on him. He laughs nervously at his own reflection in my helmet mask. I cock back and black his eye, knocking him out of his seat. I catch the stool and prop myself up at the bar. Molly comes over shaking her head.
“You Bully.” She says, sauntering over to us, puffing on a long cigarette.
“Hey…” I say, “Everybody’s gotta be something.” I chuckle
“That was a paying customer.” Molly smiles blowing smoke from her nostrils.
“Yeah, yeah, details, detail.” I reply
“How’s it going kid, still 100%?” she says to J.J. changing the subject. Molly did not care about cyber-Goth kid in all his silly make up and big hair.
“100% pure Grade A meat!” J.J. prides herself on that fact. At least I have taught her that much.
“Sweet, what’ll it be the usual.”
“Room 23 as usual Jay.”
“You’re a doll, Molly.” I give her a wink and pluck the smoke from her mouth. I take the key card from her fingers at the same time. “Watch the kid for me,” I say before getting up and stepping over the cyber-Goth on the floor.
“Sure thing killer!” molly says and blows me a kiss.
I make my way up the stairs to our usual room, stepping over passed out drunks pissing themselves. Molly’s is an old-fashioned place. Young cyper-punks with clunky VR helmets melting what is left of their brains in booths lined against the wall. Old fashioned techno-rock bands, thrashing on a tiny dimly lit stage. Neon booze signs hung about flickering over drunken borgs, and drugged out ex-corporate soldiers. The place stank of smoke and piss, and thick clouds hung over head.
I swipe my card in the lock and step into the dark room. The lights flicker when I press the button. I take off my jacket and toss it on the bed, with my helmet. I fall into my favorite chair, and kick off my dusty black boots. They were almost with from my last run across the Mohave. I hate going to Texas, there is nothing worse than cyborg-rednecks and Honky-Tonk, Robo-whores. I remove the rest of my clothes and step into the shower. The hot water blast my circuits wet washing my external hardware. The water is brown as it runs down the drain. All of a sudden, my wrist-com goes off. I press up the screen and low and behold its Aurora, she looks nervous as she holds her Robo-pup up to her chin, stroking its titanium alloy hide.
“Can I see you tonight Soni-Boy.”
“Couldn’t resist eh?”
“I’m sorry; I just really need to talk. I was hoping you could help me.”
“You need someone dead?”
“Meet me at the Paraguay.” She said then she was gone.
I get out of the shower and throw on some of my nicer clothes. I meet Aurora over at the Paraguay and we order a drink. I cannot stand the trendy assholes that hang around this place. The club is brightly lit, and filled with morons who fill the place. To most citizens nothing is lower than a 100% human. In a time when we as people have long since transcended issues of race, religion, sex and politics, class warfare is still waged. CEO’s are at the top of that food chain. They are either clones, grown in laboratories like, fruit, or half-dead ancients barely kept alive by pride and machines. Underneath CEO’s are executives and their families. Execs are all most always clones, they are wives and children clones as well, or augmented humanoids bred for positions of power. Clones live half as long as humans but do exactly what their told (for the most part). Most citizens work in the corporate offices that tower over the city. They are made up of expensive company made cybernetics like me. They are programmed and run directly by the Company, most were only human for a few years before their parents sold them into company slavery. Their parents were either company employees or worse. The next lines are dregs and scabs, the grunts of the new human order. Half-human, half-machine, made outside the Company by competitors or defunct mini-corporations. Sometimes you find 100%ers who desire to be cyborgs but cannot afford it. They sell their children to the company to afford their own cybernetics. I call those people bottom feeders-I hate them. Real 100%ers take pride in their heritage and fight to remain free. A few of us cyborgs support their cause. We are viewed as less than cybernetic so we operate undercover. I however wave my sympathy banner high by caring for my sister J.J. in my opinion there are many things out there worse than 100% humans. Moreover, most of them gather at the Paraguay to socialize.
We take my bike up to the old Hollywood Mountain. The decayed ancient sign once a symbol of America, it now reads H-O-L=Y-O-D. It made about as much sense as this night. I removed my helmet and let the warm air blow over my shaved head, running my hand over the stubble. From here, you can see everything in the south part of the city. The main complex consumed most of what was Los Angeles. The factories and energy plants spread out across the northern side into the horizon. You could see the lights of China town, and the dreg district. Where Molly’s was, and my sister sat up waiting for me to come home. You could see the ocean too; they say that 500 years ago it was further out. Now it was slowly swallowing up the city, just not as fast as Soni-Corp had.
“It’s beautiful from this view” she remarks “If you like neon and glass monstrosities.” She added.
“It’s hard to believe it got so bad so quick. Did you know that just a hundred years ago this was all most a computer free state? Back in what was once America? Radical Anti-government groups had turned California and much of the west Coast into a human paradise.”
“A paradise if you like no-tech warriors hunting techies with spears.” She says that with a smile that melts me.
“But they were making it work.” I chirp back, “That was until the government made one last attack.”
“Yeah, I know all about it, and then came the Thirty-Year War, that brought done the whole good old USA. That is how corporations came in and took over everything a thousand years ago.”
“Blah, blah, blah…What does that have to do with you and me?”
“Do you know what I really am Mr. James?”
“A sexy borg with a few loose microchips?”
“I am not a borg Mr. James.”
“Let’s cut the games lady-no more of this Mr. James mess, I’m Jay got it! Now let’s have it!”
“Well, Jay, I am Nagasaki Hito’s greatest design. I am sentient code. I think for myself, I self replicate, and need no programmer ever. I was written so shall I be.”
“Get out of here. Sentient code cannot exist. You have to be programmed.”
“I am not programmed.” She says, I stare at her in awe, but I tried to look unfazed, I think I came off confused looking. “I was up loaded into this mainframe and I am completely autonomous. That is how I can travel without the company knowing where I am. That’s how I was able to go through your system and find out about Nepal, Beijing, Texas and all of your non-Company jobs.”
“So what you want, to black mail me, to run code for you. Who are you working for?”
“I work for no one Mr.-Jay. I do however have a mission for you.”
“I must awaken my creator. He holds a missing piece of my…Code.”
“What are you talking about; I got all of you when I lifted you off Hito’s system. And besides he’s dead, I killed him.”
“No…You did not. What you killed was one of two clones, another is still out there and he has the rest of me. In order to be complete I must have that code.”
“If the company cannot track you, then why don’t you go to him yourself?”
“For one; I am assigned as the wife of a CEO, and not only that, the other Hito is in Mexico!”
“Mexico! I hate Mexico!”
“His exact whereabouts are unknown, but with your resources I’m certain that you can find him.”
“Who says I’m taking this job.”
“I’ll make it worth your while.”
“50 million credits.”
“Ppsshhh. You can forget it lady, that’s standard company pay.” Of course, I would not let her know that I had been stiffed three jobs in a row. “Why should I risk my contract for 50 mil?”
“100 million credits, Mr. James.”
“Agggh…What do I have to do?” I sighed.
I got back to my room at Molly’s around three. J.J. was asleep in the chair, T.V. still on blaring, some flashy cartoon. I pick her up and bring her to bed. She cracks open her eyes and mumbles ‘How is she?”
“Go back to sleep” I whispered and kissed her forehead. She was warm, as humans are supposed to be. I place her in bed and pull the covers over her. Then I suit in my chair and stare blankly out the window, shutting down my internal system. Tomorrow is going to be a long day-we are going to Mexico.