Page banner, taken from the cover of my novel.

Pandora Downloaded


[ back ]


The following chapter may be disturbing for some people, due to:

* Suicide mention (brief)

Viewer discretion is advised.

Li sector Metro station
Around five years ago

Bethany - inside "Abbie", as she called her avatar - walked to the hangtrain station. At first she was disgusted by the smells of sweat, bad breath, filthy water and copper, but eventually she got used to it. Little by little she became more familiar with other parts of the city, and with familiarity came the sense of freedom. First it was the hangtrain, then the street markets, then the random streets and alleys, and finally, the rooftops.

Beth simply loved the rooftops. Reaching them was an obstacle, but with the help of a few downloads she got the hang of it pretty soon. In a matter of months she could do most of the acrobatics that professionals did in their shows. And then she got better with practice. The rooftops were now her place. A place where she could really be free. Free from obligations, free from societal restrictions, free from... from everything, really.

Occasionally she would just drop off at any particular station and climb the emergency stairs of a random building to stare at the landscape. Other days, she would want to vent off and run. Just... run.

Today was one of those days. After yet another disappointment from her father, Beth decided she would skip school and just roam free in the city. Despite all the problems that her father's toxic job had caused her, at least the pay was good enough for her to give her some degree of physical freedom - a freedom that she really needed today.

The melodic chime sound coming from the wagon's speakers woke her up from her angst. Today she wanted to run, and the rooftops of the slums and public buildings were her favorite playground.

She set the stopwatch on her wrist, and decided to do one of her favorite routes - across the park, up the pipings of the water treatment plant, on top of a Hermes avatar factory (as long as you didn't cross the yellow fences the guards wouldn't pay attention to you), and a bakery. Then it was some abandoned factories whose dismantled fences and air conditioning boxes made for a fun landscape to play with.

Ready... three... two... one... run.

Two hundred meters of sliding down the handrails, parkouring past the security turnstiles - the exit ones didn't have restrictions so it was perfectly legal to pass them.


She sighed and paused her stopwatch.

"You again?" asked a Black woman in uniform. "How many times have I told you not to run past this thing? Anybody could mistake you for a thief!"

A single scan from the metal detector device proved she hadn't stolen anything from anyone.

"Fine, you're free to go."

"What? No pat-down?" Beth pouted.

"I'm wearing a camera, you nympho. Besides, you know I don't like girls," replied the guard.

"Gay pills are cheap, you know."

"First, that's sexual harassment and you know it, lady. Second, if you want a skinrub so much go hire a hooker on Venus or something."

"Pfft. Like I could afford Venus."

"Then why don't you work for them? You got the body." Before Beth could answer, the guard went on. "Now get out, you're wasting my time."

Beth shrugged and turned around. Boy, how much she wanted to fuck that lady. Was it the rude woman attitude? Was it her tidy uniform? Or was it the bazongas that were screaming for a way out of that constrictive shirt?

Beth decided not to attrack anyone else's attention. She walked out to the park, started her stopwatch and began to run.

200 meters across the park, to the water plant. Up 15 meters the emergency stairs, a jump across an alley, and up the piping. She wondered if she could reach the bakery in less than 4 minutes.

And suddenly, she decided she didn't want to stop at the bakery. She would go past the industrial area and start running as far as she could, caution be damned. She would just run, slide and jump, as far as her body let her. Just... run.

Nearly half an hour had passed and she was still running. She felt exhausted, her legs hurt, but she was having the time of her life.

That's when she noticed a gang of kids her age free-running across the rooftops. She decided to grab her plastic can and drink the energy juice she had reserved for emergencies.

She ran again - more cautiously this time - until she was two blocks away from the gang.

She wondered how they'd react. She decided to be cautious and just sit nearby to watch them run and play. They were practicing precision jumping. They weren't pros, but they certainly knew what they were doing.

A lookup from her location, their skin tone, and she reached the logical conclusion.

"They don't have implants, she thought. They couldn't buy concepts and insta-learn like her, so they had to practice day and night to become good at anything.

Must be hard to be an immigrant's child. She began to admire them for their effort.

She began to wonder what they'd think of her if they saw her. Would they trust her? Would they welcome her?

Just the thought of getting rejected by them hurt. Perhaps it's best if I leave them alone...

But they looked happy. They talked and laughed with each other. They told jokes. Inside jokes, maybe, but still. She wanted to be part of the group. She began fantasizing about scenarios where she actually saved the day and they welcomed her.

Pfft. As if.

She turned around and realized that she didn't want to go back home. This was her place. This was where she really belonged.

"Hey!" Someone yelled at her from behind. "What are you doing in my property?"

"Sorry, I just -"

"Get the fuck outta here!"

"I'm sorry, I was just -"

The man grabbed what looked like a shotgun - holy shit, it was a real shotgun! What the hell was he doing with one? Those were illegal!

"Alright, alright, I'm leaving!"

Fucking asshole, she thought as she jumped to the next building. She didn't want to bother the group of friends, so she decided to run right. A couple of buildings later and she realized she had reached a dead end. It was just her and the void below.

She kept staring at the asphalt 15 meters below, as she had so many times. Bad thoughts came to her mind. It wasn't that she didn't want to go fuck it all - it was that jumping wouldn't help her in any way. She'd only lose her new body, and with it, the little freedom she had gained.



A female voice called her from behind. "I know what you're thinking, but please don't."

"No, I was just..."

"Do you want to talk?"

Beth chuckled. "No, I'm fine. It's not like jumping would accomplish anything, really."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm not an idiot, you know. I know the risk of getting crippled for life. And I'm getting psych treatment, anyways."

The short hispanic girl sighed before extending her hand. "Good to know. Dolores, but everyone calls me Lola."

"Hi, Lola. Nice to meet you."

"And your name is?"

"Uh... I... I don't know."

The girl snorted. "You don't know your name?"

"No, I mean - I'm not comfortable giving it away. You know, opsec."


"Operation security. Never give your name to strangers, don't get caught by street cams, privacy, you know."

"Oh. I get it. So how should I call you?"

"Just pick a nickname. Anything would do."

"How about daredevil?"

"Fuck off."

"Devil then?"

"Devil." She laughed, remembering her exploits at school. "Yeah. Devil. I like it."

"Nice to meet you, Devil."

"Nice to meet you too. Oh, just to get this out of the way, can I tell you something?"


"I think you're hot." Beth bit her left lip.

"Oh! Um... no bueno. Thanks, but I don't swing that way."

Beth shrugged. "Well, I had to try."

"Sorry, Devil. Better luck next time. Wanna come with us? I'll introduce you to the gang."

"Uh... gang? Sure! Sure!"

"Come on, let's go. Follow my lead."

A smile began to draw across her face. "You got it."

Citadel Six
Present day

The Madame was driving the car on the right seat; she was wearing a business attire: Brown pants and coat over a white shirt unbuttoned just enough to let the cleavage show - and she had a lot to show. Bethany was on the left seat, staring at the second control wheel in front of her. Not even cabs had dual wheels. Wondering whether this was a budget issue or a design decision, she started to consider downloading a piloting concept for whenever she had to drive one.

"So, how are you feeling?" The Madame's voice woke Beth up from her thoughts.

"Much better, thank you."

"Glad to know. Now let me take a look at your eyes, just to be sure."


The Madame pressed the autopilot button, took a flashlight from the glove compartment and aimed right at Beth's eye. Beth's pupils contracted immediately.

"Finally. The drugs are losing their effect."

"They are?"

"Thank heavens for that. You know what it is to babysit a rebel teen who can't keep her hands still, and on top of that, is higher than the space ring?"

Beth looked down in shame.

"Let this be a lesson for you, young lady. Never go out on your own when you're under the influence of drugs. Especially when there's a fucking warning in the god damn package!"

"I'm sorry, but it was an emergency, and there was a lot going on inside my head..."

"I know. But do you realize the things those guards could've done to you had you made a single mistake? It's a miracle you got to my mansion in once piece, even with an android taking care of you."


"You know why they call these citadels 'birdcages'?"


"Because they're actually cages. Security forces are too strict to let people escape."

"What? I hadn't heard anything of this."

"Landlords control most security checkpoints. If you owe them but a fraction of a month's rent, you can't leave."

"Jesus Christ."

"And don't get me started on bogus charges for visitors. It's a legal minefield. So do me a favor and never come here again without a guardian, okay? And bring guns."

Bethany swallowed. "Why.... why didn't Vixen warn me about this!"

"What are you talking about? She did."

"No, she didn't!"

"Didn't she send you a text file called 'WARNING - READ FIRST' when you two said goodbye?"


Beth looked at her files, and there it was. She opened it and the instructions were clear. Bring an armed bodyguard if possible, don't bring any kinds of drugs, and a set of basic instructions regarding security guards.

"Oh, you got to be fucking kidding me!!! Arghh!!!!" Bethany grabbed her hair in frustration.

"But all's well that ends well, right? Don't fret about it, hon."

Beth sighed. "Talos is going to kill me."

The Madame chuckled. "Girl, you're cuter than a teddy bear."

The Madame caressed Beth's scalp, making her heart melt once again for a few seconds. Beth reclined her head on the Madame's shoulder. "Not only I'm a mental health freak, I'm an idiot, too."

"Girl, I deal with rogue androids for a living. if I told you the things I've seen... trust me, you're one of the most normal people out there. With a fucked up past, sure, but you're in no way a freak."

"Thank you."

"But yes, you were reckless. Just be more careful the next time, okay? I'd hate myself if anything happened to you coming here."

Beth said nothing.

"Oh, if you ever find yourself in some emergency, just call me, okay? I'll come to help you right away."

"Thanks. Why are you being so nice to me?"

"Any friend of Vixen is a friend of mine. And let's just say that you remind me of myself when I was younger."

"Vixen said the same thing. How old is she, exactly?"

"A dozen years, a hundred years, it all depends."

"I don't understand."

"You'll learn, eventually."

The Madame's caresses felt so good that Beth couldn't avoid closing her eyes for a few minutes. She was about to fall asleep when she felt a few pats.

"Okay. Enough. We're reaching the security checkpoint."

Beth straightened herself in her seat.

"Are you sure there won't be any problems with the guards?"

"I've a hunter license, hon. They won't dare stop us if they know what's good for them."


"Just don't ask me to recover your underwear, okay?"

With a small pout, Beth grunted and looked away.

The Madame opened the door and walked out.

"Don't worry, Beth, I know how to handle them."

"Are you sure?"

"Just... trust me." The madame turned to the security guards and raised her voice. "Hey! Asshole!"

The two guards approached. "Excuse me?"

"Shh!" whispered the other. "That's the hunter lady! She's a VIP!"


"Just be quiet and do whatever she asks."

The Madame stepped forward and straightened herself - her stature and musculature were imposing, even for a human with no visible augmentations. She crossed her arms. "Bring your captain to me, RIGHT NOW."

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Okay," said an older fat man, "what the fuck is going on here? Oh - Miss Dee. Is something wrong?"

"Yes, there is something wrong, Indeed. Bethany? Get out for a second. Captain, do you have the slightest idea of who this girl is?"

"One of your stripper contacts, right?"

"Wrong! Standing before you is Lady Bethany Michaels-Emerson, granddaughter of Lord David Emerson-Wolfworth. You do know who that is, right?"

"She's a Victorian???"

"That's right. And I have to add that she's my protegee. If a single hair... a single hair is plucked from her without her explicit consent while she is in here, be sure that an army of wolves and their lawyers will come here and demand the hundred and fifty levels of this entire citadel be turned upside down to find whoever is responsible. And personally, I would be very... VERY mad. Is that clear?"

"B-but I thought she was a just a dancer from Venus?"

"Well, that happens to be her hobby; she's in her wilds as you can see. I'm sure you're intelligent enough to realize why she's having to work incognito."

"Uh - yes, of course! It... couldn't be any other way, ma'am."

"And since she's been sexually harassed by undesirables, she personally came to me so I can get her an android bodyguard. I sold her the fittest fighter in my entire fleet, which I intend to deliver personally in less than twenty five hours. Now, is there any legitimate reason for you to block our free passage from this place?"

"N-n-nothing, Ma'am! Please! Feel free to leave," replied the captain, waving his arm to the airlock.

"Bethany, send them your ID so they can give you a VIP pass."


"I'm going to need your number, miss... I mean, young lady."

"Two nine five three," replied Bethany.

"Alright," replied the captain, "give me one minute."

A high-pitched mechanical sound came from the cabin. A couple of minutes later the captain returned with a plastinated QR pass and gave it to the Madame, who gave it to Bethany.

"Your VIP pass is registered. The QR code is the address, but you can just transmit it to be granted entry."

"Got it. Thank you, sir."

"At your service."

"The next time she comes here" said the Madame in a gentler voice, "I hope she gets treated like a queen."

"Yes, ma'am." The captain bowed before Bethany. "All our resources will be at your service."

The Madame smiled and caressed the captain on the chin. "Good boy. Treat her well and you might get an extra reward from me, okay?" She undid the last button from her coat, making the captain's eyes pop out.

"You will be nice to her, won't you, honey bunny?" She grabbed the captain's hand and let her fondle one of her tits.

The captain, whose greasy cheek turned red like a drunk Santa, smiled as if he had just won the lottery. "Yes, ma'am!" he replied, saluting her. She saluted back with a perfect discipline.

"Are we free to leave now?"

"Yes, ma'am! You're free to go!"

"Good boys." She winked at them and got in the car.

They got out of the airlock and Beth could hear the sound of the car's turbines start. She looked back and could see the glass megastructure become smaller until it was just a glass tower covering a small portion of the sky.

Beth kept holding the plastinated ID with her hands. "A VIP pass? Is this for real???"

"It is. Now you'll have the guards eating from your hand."

"Wow. Just... wow."

"But remember, hon, the power of seduction is much more effective when you have leverage over the men you're seducing. Otherwise you're just a hooker paying back favors in kind. Let me give you a literary example. Are you familiar with the New Testament?"

"Pfft. I wish I wasn't."

"Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Do you know what happened to her?"

"Jesus saved her from a bunch of fanatics, right?"

"Right. And what was her sin?"

"Adultery, I think?"

"Now think of Herodias' daughter; the girl who strip danced before king Herod. What did she get?"

"Uh, I forgot."

"The head of John the Baptist on a silver platter."

"Oh, right."

"So what's the difference between the two women?"


"Political leverage, girl. With it, you get your enemies on a silver platter. Without it, you get stones thrown at you. Never forget that. The best favors you can give are the ones that give you leverage. Like the VIP pass you have in your hands right now."

"But if you already got leverage, why seduce men at all?"

"Because you want to convert authority into loyalty. You think I got this far in life simply by waving around my hunter license?"

"You didn't?"

"Of course not, honey. I've had to do favors, have sex with men, women, even give up one of my girls for free. So remember, if you're giving up something valuable like your virginity, make sure it counts and gets you in a higher place than you originally were."

"I see. Wait, does that mean I'll actually have to have sex with men? Eew!"

"It's not about sex, honey; it's about giving people what they crave. It could be sex, it could be other favors, or it could simply be the attention they don't get at home."

Oblivous to the insinuation, Beth nodded.

"Wait," said Beth, "what was that about a Lord Wolfworth? Did you just make that up?"

"Oh, dear Lord..." The Madame slapped her forehead. "Girl, don't tell me you didn't know."


The Madame sighed. "Okay. Cat's out of the bag. That was not a lie, Bethany. I looked up your birth certificate."

"My birth..."

"Your father never told you about it?"

"She just said my second surname was Emerson."

"Not Emerson, honey. Emerson-Wolfworth. Your mother is a wolf."

"What...? Okay, that's a load of bullshit." Beth replied shaking her head.

"It's okay, it will take some time to digest."

"No, I mean, my bloodline is literally bullshit. Look, I don't even care if my mother's the fucking queen of the galaxy. That bitch abandoned me from the womb and I want nothing to do with her."


"Like, seriously, she got a daughter and she didn't even send letters? She's a wolf and she couldn't get an incognito to visit me even ONCE? In more than twenty fucking years??? Fuck. Her. Fuck... her. And please don't bring this up EVER again."

"Okay, I won't. Sorry I had to bring it up."

"Fuck..." Bethany wiped her eyes. "Everything was going so fine..."

The Madame hugged Bethany. "I'm sorry, hon. I'm sorry."

Bethany managed to contain her sobs. "Thanks... I'm better now."

"Glad to hear."

"And thanks for the VIP pass."

"You're welcome, hon."

Bethany sighed. "So... when is the um... package... arriving?"

"Tomorrow, probably. I still need to take care of a few things to make this legit."

"Are you sure a thousand's enough for the downpayment? I mean, will that be enough not to look suspicious?"

"Girl, I've made sales with 200 credits downpayment, trust me on that."

"Two hundred? Isn't that a bit too low?"

"The monthly payments were adjusted for that."

"Still sounds cheap to me."

"Remember these are ten-year contracts, and I screen my clients very carefully."

Bethany began rocking herself on the seat. The Madame looked at the rear-view mirror and paid attention to the mood tattoo below Beth's left eye (it looked like an inverted fuel gauge). It was one notch from on the "E" letter. That meant she was either depressed, or sad and stressed at the same time.

"Anything else I can help you with?"

Beth sighed. "I know I'm asking for too much, but I need to talk to the gang. I need to make sure they're safe."

"Ah, yes, about that. We're gonna need to set up a stealth connection from your apartment."

"Wait, what? Isn't that illegal?"

"Relax, we're going to make it look like the antennas got hacked."

"And how are you going to do that?"

The Madame smirked. "By having the antennas get hacked. In a few minutes you'll see your thousand credits being put to good use."

"And how are we - "

A car horn interrupted Beth; a sky car began approaching them. Before Beth could react the other car rammed the Madame's, making it jolt mid-air.

"Holy shit! What is that car doing!"

The other car's door opened and there was a punk wearing a hockey mask and a metal bat.

The Madame grinned. "Hold on, Beth, things are going to get a bit rough, but we'll be fine."

"Are you sure about that?" A loud metallic sound came from the car's roof. "Eeek!!!"

"Get down. Tighten your seatbelt."

"Okay!" Bethany extended the seat and pressed the "tighten" button on her seatbelt. She was now fastened like a sick person on an ambulance stretcher. The car went up and spun on its horizontal axis. "I see the car's ID," said the Madame. "Hold tight."

"Even more?"

The Madame pressed a button between the two seats and Bethany's seat straightened. She was still tightly fastened, but at least she could now see where they were going.

"Speeding up..."

"Hey, those people are coming after us!"

"Of course they are, that's what I paid them for."

"You WHAT???"

"It's all part of the plan, trust me. Just tell me where your home is, we'll hover for a few seconds, then circle until those guys are gone."

"Okay... um... just go around the citadels and there's a bank building, you can't miss it. Go 23 blocks East, then 8 North."

"That's precise, girl!" The Madame gave Beth another caress behind her neck.

"Thanks." Beth felt fuzzy knowing someone finally complimented her acquired practical knowledge.

After following Beth's indications the Madame hovered around her apartment, then sped up.

Beth looked back and saw the punks shoot random antennas with what looked like a sniper rifle.

"Hey! They shot our antenna!"

"Yes, they did."

"And they're shooting other antennas!"

"Yes, they are."

A few seconds later Beth could hear a really loud police siren approaching. What looked like a tiny dot in the sky quickly became a winged sky car with the biggest turbines she'd seen; each turbine was larger than the car's fuselage. The siren was so loud that it made Bethany cover her ears. The punks sped up and flew North, being quickly chased by the police car.

"The police really needs to lower their volume. Like, seriously, what the fuck are they thinking?"

"Let's land somewhere nearby, the fun's about to begin."

Less than a minute passed before Beth saw a fleet of repair cars approaching from above. One by one, the cars deployed a few androids who began installing replacement modules.

"Wow. They're fast."

"They have to be; people using avatars need a stable connection to prevent casualties."


"Imagine a mother using an avatar to help her kid cross the street. Can you imagine what would happen if her avatar suddenly went offline?"

"Oh, fuck me."

"Well, parental models have emergency systems, but still."

"Yeah, I get it."

A few minutes later the androids repaired all the destroyed wireless access points.

"So..." asked Beth, "how am I supposed to use a stealth connection with those new modules?"

"Let's say I have other types of connections, hon. Human connections."

"What do you mean?"

"Just trust me," said the Madame, as she grinned.

"Actually, I was thinking, if this could help the gang, I'd very much appreciate at least a hint? I mean, a stealth connection? This would be huge!"

"Don't push it, hon. This is a very important secret, and I'm not sure I can trust you with it yet."

"You don't trust me? I revealed all my secrets to you! Things I've never shared with anyone!"

"Listen, dear. As a person you've earned my trust, but I've yet to evaluate your capacity as a secure wallet. Many lives depend on this secret, and right now your avatar is being hunted by the police. The least you know the better, okay?"

Beth sighed. "Okay. I understand."

"It's ready. Let me take you to your home. I'm sending you the proxy address and auth. Remember, don't use them until tomorrow or you'll blow your cover."

"Okay. Oh... and thank you for everything."

"You're welcome, hon. Feel free to visit me any other day when things have calmed down, okay? I promise you that we'll both enjoy it."

Beth could only press her lips and blushed.

"Are you... proposing what I'm thinking?"

"Yes, I am. Hours and hours of uninterrupted sex. And I have lots of latex outfits and leather accessories. I promise you, girl," she added, with an overtly-sexual tone, "I'll tie you up, tease you, and make you squirm until you beg me to let you come."

Beth blushed and swallowed.

"Okaaaaay.... I'll... think about it."

"Anyway," continued the Madame, "please allow me to escort you to your house."

"No, it's fine, it's fine."

"I insist."

"No, really, I can take it from here! I really don't..."

The Madame fixed her purple eyes at Bethany and increased her volume. "I... insist."

Beth sighed. A short drive later they were in front of the gate.

"It's here?"

"It's here."

"Let me take you out."

The yellow Lamborghini opened its doors and both women came out. Bethany rang the bell.

"Who is it?" asked the home AI.

"It's me, Bethany."

"Iris identification, please."

"Pfft. Stupid security measures. There, now let me in, dumbass."

The door buzzed before opening. Beth turned and gave the Madame one final hug. She closed her eyes and gave her a long kiss on the lips. Her wings fluttered slowly and her tail swerved left and right. "Thank you for everything, Ma'am."

"You're welcome, hon."

After turning around, Beth got startled when she felt a spank on the right buttock. She quickly turned back to see the Madame with her cleavage open, winking at her before getting inside the car.

Beth smiled, biting her lower lip as the red spread all over her cheeks. After fanning herself she entered the building and saw the Lambo deploy its side turbines and take off.

As soon as she got home her stomach growled. "Fuck, I'm starving. Home, order some pizza, will you?"

"Right away, miss."

Around half an hour later the apartment door opened.

"I'm home!"

"Welcome, miss Jane," replied Home. "Bethany has arrived."

"Oh! Just about time."

Beth came out of her bedroom wearing some boxers and a T-shirt. "Hi, da."

"Beth, come here, will ya?"

"Is something wrong?"

"Take a seat."

Bethany sat down and the first thing she saw was her father's hand slapping a paper on the table. When Jane removed her hand, Bethany realized what this was about.

"Bethany Michaels, we need to talk."

"Oh shit."

Elk Park

"Are you sure there's no other cameras around?"

"No, sir," replied the android. "All cameras have been stolen from the park and there's no records of them being replaced by the municipality."

Williams hammered a nearby tree. "FUCK!!!" He grabbed his hair. "What am I going to do, what am I going to do!"

He kept circling around. "There has to be something, there has to be SOMETHING!"

"Maybe those guys were from Solaris?"

"No. Solaris doesn't do sabotage. This isn't like them."

"But I thought they kept wrecking the avatar factories."

"Mark. How long have you been working for the feds?"

"Like 5 years, why?"

Williams sighed. "Listen. Never believe what you watch on TV, okay? The Hermes thing was an inside job."

"But why?"

"To inflate the prices, why else? If it had been done by Solaris we'd have found out years ago. Where did those punks come from, anyway? Could you get a glimpse of any of them?"

"Yeah, but I couldn't get any clear pictures."

"Daniels, let me browse your visuals, maybe I can spot something."

Williams began to search in the video. It was all chaos. People approaching, wearing hoodies, the smoke bombs...



"This is an old neighborhood."

"Yeah, and?"

"There are almost no blacks in here. Look around. What do you see?"


"What color?"

"Whites, Asians, some latinos..."

"And no blacks. So tell me, Mark, what are a bunch of black people doing here in the first place?"

Daniels thought about it, then he spotted the picture of delegate Moreira in one of the banners that the androids were adjusting.

"They were targeting the campaign."

"They must have arrived by metro. Mark, you saw their clothes."


"It was early, there were no other people around."

"Uh huh?"

Williams' worry gave way to a grin. "We can trace them. which stops they made, from which stations they came... and with any luck, an android saw their faces."

"Sounds like a plan. Should I tell Moreira?"

"What? NO! We don't want that asshole watching our every move; it's just you and me. Get in the car."

Metro Station

"Agent Williams, NBI", said Williams, flashing his badge. "We need to take a look at your video records."

"Yes, sir," replied the guard.

"That's one of them."

More footage fast forwarding.

"Another one."

"There's the other two."

"And they don't uncover their faces a single second."

"You gotta admit, Bob, they're good."

"Connect to the other stations."

About an hour more passed.

"I found them, but I can't find the girl."

"Can't we just follow those?"

"I need to find where that girl got in! She can't just have appeared from nowhere!"

Mark sighed. "I'm gonna order a pizza."

"Without pineapple, remember."

More time passed.

"I found her!" shouted Williams.

"About fucking time. Can we go now?"

"Wait. Let me monitor when she got in and where."

"Let me watch, please. Put her in the monitors."

"Uh huh. Here she is... she got in from MexicanTown. Let me check the other cameras."

"And she arrived from... an alley?"

"Let's go to that street."

Unnamed street.

The alley led to a block of motels and pharmacies. No cameras in sight.

"Well?" asked Mark.

"Let's ask in the hotels."

"Oh, Jesus, Bob... this is too much."

"It won't take long."

One by one, the agents asked every single hotel about their surveillance footage from that day and the night before. One by one, they asked about a teenage girl with red hair and cat eyes. One by one, they discarded the hotels.

"It's a dead end."

"How the hell does a teenager know how to switch her clothes three times and board the metro from the least surveilled street? It doesn't fucking make sense!"

"Not unless she's the leader. What if it is a new org? Like these 'Nobody' people."


"Think about it, Bob. What kind of organization has a white person in charge and a bunch of black goons? The white one has to be the most educated. She could have been trained via implants. Maybe she's a fixer, a hunter or whatever, and she taught those people whatever they know. Who knows, maybe Jakande hired her?"

"Don't start again with that bullshit."

"Okay, okay. What I'm trying to say is... if she's the leader, it makes sense she wouldn't let the rookies do... whatever she wanted to do in the park. She wanted to protect her team, so if she fell, the others wouldn't."

"Hmmm..." Williams kept rubbing his chin. "Makes sense."

"So... if she appreciates them so much... she'll surely come negotiate if we get them, right? So let's go after them. If they're not as well trained as she is, then they probably made some mistakes. Maybe one of them walked to the station right from his home."

"You may be right. Tomorrow we'll keep searching."

That evening Williams kept monitoring the internet for corrupt cop videos, fearing he might suddenly appear in one. After some hours of silence he began contemplating the possibility that they would use that video to blackmail him. How much would they ask? Half a million? One million? Ten million? Or perhaps he would have to exchange some favors?

He thought of taking some feel-good pills, but as he kept staring at them, he got another idea.

There were some people in the black market with specialized brain equipment that allowed one to recall past memories with perfect clarity. Maybe there was something in his memories that could help him identify the girl, or the android.

He washed his face and started making some calls.

[ back ]