7 - ORPHAN SECTORS
Devil couldn't believe this was happening. It was so fast, and she was still furious at the bastard, but now they were running away from him? Why couldn't he just die!
"How's your sight going?"
"I don't know, I see stars everywhere!"
"Plug this to your jack!"
Devil grabbed the cable and plugged it inside her ear as fast as she could. She also got access to a private chat.
>> Tell me if you see anything strange!
> Careful, he’s got a foam gun!
Devil sent the message half a second late; by the time she sent the message, the rider had already avoided two shots of foam from the fed, who then had to avoid the same foam he had shot. He kept shooting several charges at them, but the rider was too fast; it’s almost as if she could exactly predict where he was going to shoot, and right before he pulled the trigger, she moved. Suddenly the woman turned around, sped up on one wheel and drove towards the cop. Beth yelled a monosyllable; the fed turned around so fast that his bike lost grip; the woman turned around again and sped up.
By instinct, Devil opened her eyes again. The good news was that she could see again. The bad news is that she crossed gazes with the cop. He stared at her yellow eyes and Devil just stared at him, unable to do anything about it.
This was bad, very bad. Any cop (especially feds) could stare at your eyes, get a high resolution picture of your eyeballs and sent it to the government to ID you by your biometrics. Naturally, eye mods also had serial numbers. Sooner or later they would trace them to your seller and game over. This was the main reason why Devil had tried to avoid eye contact, but now she blew it.
> He looked at me! He stared at me right in the eyes!
>> Why didn't you avoid eye contact? You had the cam!
> I'M SORRY, OKAY??? It's not like I had rehearsed this!
>> I'm going to wipe his cache. Hold as tight as you can and close your eyes. Tell me when you're ready!
> Okay, ready!
Suddenly, Devil received an unknown transmission. She shrieked in pain as an acute noise screamed inside her head, and then everything went black. She found herself in a void, like a dream...
"No, shit, no..."
She was now floating in a blue space; synthetic angelic chords began singing in the background.
"No, no no no no no no no, not now, shit, NOT NOW!!!"
In front of her she could see a floating screen titled "diagnostics", with log messages scrolling too fast for her to see.
"No, please, no, no no no no... let me back, LET ME BACK!"
Just when panic began to invade her thoughts, two holograms appeared in front of her. On the left, a grayscale version of herself wearing punk shirt and jeans. The grayscale hologram was getting quickly filled with color bottom-up, as if it was some kind of water tank. On top of her head, the label "ABBIE". On the right, under the label "WAKE UP", a 100%-female version of herself, but with short black hair, pointy ears, short bat wings and a demon tail. Behind the two bodies there were dozens, maybe even hundreds of miniature doors leading to different sectors of the Grid, all arranged in translucent envelopes.
She made a quick step to the left. "COME ON, COME ON, HURRY UP..."
The color finished filling up "Abbie". When the indicator changed to 100% a solid text appeared on top of it:
"Come on, hurry up!!!" Devil shouted; she couldn't believe how slow the bootup process was.
Ding! Abbie’s figure began glowing with a white aura, indicating she was available for connection. Devil quickly touched "Abbie" and clenched her fist. Just as she did that she began seeing, hearing, and feeling again. She was still holding the rider tightly, and they still hadn’t been captured.
Oh fuck, I thought I’d been done for...
"THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO ME!!!"
"I forced a hard reboot of your implants, it was the only way."
"DON’T DO THAT WITHOUT WARNING ME, DAMMIT! DON’T YOU KNOW — " she shut up. Did the woman know? Did she finally figure it out?
When Devil tried to move her hands she realized that she had lost control of them;
they were clasped to each other, tightly holding the rider.
"Who the fuck are you? How did you know?"
>> That was obvious the moment you connected to the cam. Here's some advice. Next time you connect somewhere via cable, use that custom jack of yours instead of your ear. And use a stealth firewall at all times, that way they won't be able to scan you.
> I don't believe this.
>> Your latest vid must be in the trash. Save it and encrypt it. Now.
>> You need insurance. Hurry up!
> Okay, okay!
Devil closed her eyes, woke up in VR, undeleted her video, encrypted and saved it.
>> Send it to me, the more people have it, the better.
> SHIT, HE GOT BACK ON!
>> HOLD TIGHT!
Devil felt in control of her limbs again, and she pressed herself even further against the rider. She felt the sudden movements of the bike as the cop kept shooting at them; The woman avoided them like a pro.
Vixen> You take the wheel, Beth, I got a surprise for the cop.
Her name. She said her name. Fuck, how did she know her name???
> Wait! How did you know my name? And what are you doing?
Vixen> I'll explain later, now take the wheel!
Devil got the reply instantly; she wondered if she had prepared the answer or if it was just a wild guess. Before she could think anymore the woman performed a somersault, leaving the throttles unmanned for a fraction of a second. Instinctively Devil got hold of them.
Again she received the reply in a fraction of a second.
Vixen> Stop complaining and just drive! He’s finished reloading already!
Devil saw her mysterious partner, now on the back seat, throw a bottle of oil at the cop’s bike. The cop’s bike lost control; he slid and rolled on the pavement as she and her partner took a curve, but he quickly got back up and restarted the engine so fast the bike ran on the back wheel for a second. They had gained a block of distance, but he was catching up.
Vixen> Oh no, he's going for his foam gun! I think he still has one charge left!
> Shit! DO SOMETHING!
Vixen> Take a full turn around the block, I'll knock him down and you pick me up.
Before Devil could do anything the woman removed her helmet, put it on her and strapped it to her head. She couldn't avoid looking back, and when she did something amazing happened: Everything was turned to grayscale; additionally, the helmet was highlighting the silhouettes of both her partner and the cop, showing their official ID photographs on the side.
SUBJECT #1 PROFILED. SEARCHING... MATCH FOUND.
NAME: Williams, Robert.
OCCUPATION: NBI Officer.
SUBJECT #2 PROFILED. SEARCHING...
ERROR: ACCESS DENIED - ULTRAVIOLET CLEARANCE REQUIRED. DO NOT ENGAGE.
Ultraviolet clearance? Are you fucking kidding me??? Who's this woman, Aeon Flux?
She got to the intersection and turned around. When she finished circling the block she had trouble understanding what the helmet showed her: Vixen's catsuit was on the floor, covered with glowing pink goo. Vixen was completely naked - not even wearing underwear - and just threw a spinning kick on the cop's face. He blocked, but the hit was so strong that he was launched into a car. The impact knocked him unconscious.
Beth stopped the bike. She saw Vixen check the cop's pulse before putting him in recovery position, extending a cable from a gadget around her neck to the cop's ear. Five seconds, she unplugged the cable and jumped back on the bike.
> What the fuck just happened there!? Why are you naked? What did you just do to him?
Vixen> He got me, it was no use keeping the suit. I also wiped his cache and downloaded some data that he had; could be useful.
Again, instant response. There was nothing normal about this woman. Her reflexes, her telepathic response times, and that ultraviolet thing?
Who is she?
Before Devil could ask herself more questions, she felt Vixen's breasts pressing against her. In a moment she got rock hard.
Not now, dammit! Stupid wiener! Why are you doing this to me?!
> Wait! I get the suit, why aren't you wearing underwear?
Vixen> I was going commando.
> Commando? Are you fucking kidding me? Who are you, a dominatrix or something?
Vixen> Actually I'm a switch; I do both dom and sub. Anyway, I'm gonna need your darknet address. You have one, don't you?
> Uh, yeah, let me send it to you. [link]
After Devil sent her contact address, she received a GPS map with some obviously anti-establishment indications. "Cops here", "traffic cams", "safe route", "watch out for drones", etc.
> Is this map real? How often do you update it?
>> That's private, and no, you can't share it. Sorry.
> But I can keep it, right?
>> Yes, you can keep it, but encrypt it first. I don't want it leaked to the cops.
> Makes sense.
She went through the routes marked as safe, taking a few more turns until she arrived to their destination.
Finally, they stopped at an alley.
Devil saw the naked hand of her companion go for the bike and grab the key; the bike was turned off. She stopped feeling
the weight behind her as Vixen got off the bike. Beth was about to remove her helmet, but Vixen held her hand.
"Don't. I have no problem with being identified out here, but you need to conceal your identity."
"Oh, right. By the way, how do I turn on the colors on this thing?"
"You can't, and don't even try if you don't want to go blind."
"It's a safety feature."
"Oh, great." After turning around, Beth's hands began shaking. "Oh, god, oh god... they're gonna come after us... He's going to be looking for me... i'm in deep shit, I'm in deep shit!"
"Beth, you're shaking."
"DON'T SAY MY NAME IN PUBLIC!"
"Don't worry, I spoke low enough, and there aren't any cameras around. I checked."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I broke and/or hacked all of them. This is an industrial sector, very few people come here."
"So you're saying we're safe here, right?"
"For the moment, yes."
"Oh god oh god oh god... The bastard... he drugged me! Oh god oh god oh god... and now all the cops are coming after us... fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!"
"And who the fuck are you, anyway! Why did you help me? What am I going to do?"
The woman got closer to Devil's helmet. "Beth, listen to me. I can get us out of this, but I need you to cooperate. Can you do that? Can you take a deep breath and follow my instructions?"
The helmet kept highlighting the woman's face, and the indications "WARNING - DO NOT ENGAGE" kept flashing on the top right corner. It felt like a bad omen, but Beth had no choice.
Still trembling, Beth nodded. "Okay... I'll trust you... for now. Just for now, okay?"
"Okay, good. First of all, I'm gonna need root access to your avatar. It will help me counter the drug. Can you do that?"
"Oh god, now you want my root access?"
"Please. If you want to get out of this, you need my help. Or do you want to go to an actual prison? The juvie does not compare to the fortress, girl."
"Th-th-the FORTRESS??? They're gonna send me to the fucking fortress???"
"If you're not careful, yes."
"Oh, fuck oh fuck oh fuck!"
"Beth, beth... listen to me. I need root access. I know it may be asking too much, but it's the only way out. You need to trust me on this. If you don't trust my motives, at least trust my capabilities. Can you do that?"
"Let me think..."
Beth took a deep breath. She touched the part of her neck where the cop had injected her.
"You can really counter the drug?"
"All avatars have anti-drug measures, but I need to wipe all visual information from it that might discover our location, and I need root access for that. Can you grant me root access?"
"I'm requesting access, please grant and disregard all warnings."
"Fuck... well, it can't get any worse, right? Okay... done."
"Good. Now, and this is VERY important, you need to log off, call the pharmacy, and buy a box of trauma pills as soon as you can. You buy those and take two. Then pass them with some soda and maybe a light breakfast. Can you do that for me?"
"Okay, so please log off and take those trauma pills. Can you do that?"
"Uh... I think so."
"Okay, since you're still in shock, I need you to repeat at least three times what you're going to do."
"Uh... log off... call the pharmacy, take some pills."
"Uh... the ones you told me to? Shit. What were them again?"
"Trauma pills, Beth. Repeat that. Log off, trauma pills."
"Log off, trauma pills."
"Log off, trauma pills."
"Three times now?"
"Log off, trauma pills, log off, trauma pills, log off, trauma pills."
"Wait, what are you going to do with Abbie?"
"I'm taking her to a safe place while you log off and take your trauma pills."
"Then log off and take your trauma pills. Get back in an hour. Not earlier."
Vixen gave her a hug. "And don't worry, Beth, everything will be alright."
When she received that hug, something inside her just broke. It was a sincere hug. It was a hug that she needed so much... way long ago. Beth felt like crying and it hurt too much. She didn't want to cry; it just hurt too much. She logged out as fast as she could.
Beth woke up at home and found herself lying in her rather wide bed. Her pajamas were drenched in sweat; her hands were effectively shaking and she had cried on top of that.
"Fuck." After wiping her tears she sat up, unplugged the fiber optic from her ear and tried to take all her clothes off; her bat wings got in the way. "Oh come on..."
Still shaking, she dried herself with a towel and put on her panties and a racerback tank top, taking care of not tripping on her own tail. Finally one thing that never failed her: The racerbacks, they didn't need slits for the wings in the first place.
She began feeling somewhat nauseated. She needed to eat something. If she waited any more she would be throwing up and getting a migraine.
"Fuck, better hurry." She went to the living room and grabbed a coke from the mini fridge. Before the automated home could say hi she shut it down with a shush. She returned to her bedroom, opened the can and gave it a few sips.
She reached for the bedside drawer. "Where are the damn pills..." Among her things was her box of period suppressors, aka contraceptives, a nearly empty box of Ignite(tm) aphrodisiac that she always took whenever she got depressed or suffered a bad day... but no, she needed something much stronger this time.
"Come on, where are you..."
Her manicure and pedicure stuff, a bunch of presentation cards from sex club managers...
"Fucking pills! Ah. Here they are."
Hidden between a few printed bills and tech specs for avatar add-ons was a half-used box of happy pills, and behind it the special box of trauma pills that she never used but was always there, just in case.
"Oh thank god. Thank fucking god!"
The box had three aluminum packages, each package with two pills.
Beth tore open one of the packages and passed two pills with a few gulps of coke. She looked at the instructions manual that came with the pills and scanned the QR code for the virtual psychological assistance software, which was right next to the usage warning.
Beth was going to read all these warnings but was so fightened right now that the only thing she thought of was in activating the damn software and save herself from a permanent trauma.
A popup appeared in her vision.
NOTICE: THIS SOFTWARE HAS ALREADY BEEN INSTALLED.
The software was a hand-eye coordination exercise, which scientists said was perfect for preventing traumatic events from crippling your mind. And there was a cheap psychologist sensei ready to aid you through the experience. Beth followed the program religiously and when she finished listening to the shrink she began with the audiovisual coordination exercises. After a while she came to the realization that she had just gotten high and had spent half an hour playing a fucking Tetris clone.
"The fuck am I doing...?"
Still dizzy, she opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling for a few minutes; she turned right to look at the e-poster hanging on her wall, whose neon lettering said "Venus". The (currently still) poster was showing an incredibly hot blonde doing pole-dancing. On the bottom right there were the phone number and directions.
She extended her hand to the poster and changed it to show a specific girl; a rather busty Japanese girl with an hourglass figure and an angel face. She stared at it for a few minutes, her mind getting lost in her own thoughts.
She closed her eyes and began caressing her breast, as she always did whenever she thought of the girl in the poster. Like any normal young girl, Beth had an abundant sexual life and liked to masturbate often - especially when she was trying to drown her angst in sex, which sadly happened much more often than she wanted.
But Beth had the advantage of having a 100% sexually compatible avatar: Beth was a lesbian and Abbie was a dickgirl by design. Tech was made to be used and Beth used it thoroughly.
And God, she needed a distraction right now.
** ERROR: WIRELESS CONNECTION FAILED. **
"What the fuck...?"
Beth looked at her left and Abbie wasn't there. Where the hell did she leave her? Was it at Tam's apartment? Her memory was fuzzy as fuck... where was this? Was she on her way in the bus? No, she had been taking care of her because they had an important gig today morning.
"Oh shit, Abbie! Oh god, oh god, oh god..."
She searched the carpet with her hand until she found the optic cable; she wiped it with a wet tissue and plugged it in her ear.
Beth plugged in and found herself sitting on a cheap plastic chair in a shower. Her hair was still full of shampoo and her body was covered in foam.
Uhm... okay. Situation. I'm getting a shower, I'm sitting...
She looked down.
Okay, dick untouched, pussy untouched, everything's fine. Hey, this soap smells nice... where are we?
"Ah, you're here!"
Beth turned around but instantly had her eyes covered.
"Hey, no looking! I'm naked too, and I don't recall giving you permission to see me."
"That - that's not fair! You showered my entire body!"
"That's what you get for not showering in half a week. Just because it's an avatar doesn't mean you can neglect it, okay?"
"I had a busy week! Just - just let me rinse myself, okay?"
"Okay. Then turn around, close your eyes and rinse, and promise not to look back."
She grabbed the shower head and began to rinse. God, that felt great. After she finished, she put the shower back.
She heard a sigh. "Okay, I have to be honest with you, Beth."
"Before we go on, tell me, did you take your trauma pills?"
"And did you run the psychologist program?"
"Yeah, I played tetris for a while."
"Ah. Good. Okay... listen... there's a specific reason why I set the helmet to grayscale. I... didn't want you to get even more scared than you already were. I... just don't want you to panic, okay?"
"Uh, you're already getting me scared, Vixen. What's going on?"
"Just... promise me you won't scream. Can I trust you?"
"Uh, yes, okay, you can trust me."
"Okay, good. Now... slowly, open your eyes and turn around..."
"I don't get why I should get scared... oh my god."
In front of her, also sitting on a small bench, was Vixen, her rescuer. She was covering her breasts, and her beautiful face looked worried. But the obvious detail was the color of her skin.
"Why is your skin blue?"
"I..." Vixen bit her lip and shrugged. "I'm an android. Surprise."
"Oh, fuck me."