Dust: Chapter 03 Part 1

Chapter 3: Downtime

I cannot believe even you could be hungry enough to eat that rubbish.

I ignored Tachi and scoffed another mouthful of mushroom burger. Sadly the lemon tarts hadn’t provided enough actual nutrition so I needed something of substance just to stay awake (though the sugar rush had definitely got me this far).

Our escape from Kawada required us pretend to steal a car we’d planted earlier and drive right out the front door. Noodles fed the security goons false information and we were away Scott free.
Once
we’d crossed the bridge back to Tokyo Noodles packed up his gear, returned our room keys and got on the next train out to meet us at the rendezvous.

Tachi and I had just enough of a head start over Noodles to grab some takeaway before meeting up.

I am so glad I have a prosthetic body.” Tachi said. “If only so I don’t feel compelled to eat that pseudo-food with you.”

[You can talk.] I replied over the cype. [I’ve tried that ‘specially formulated for cyborgs’ shit. If that’s what I’d be eating after ‘upgrading’ you can keep it.]

Noodles pulled up in a rental car around then. I grabbed the paper bag of vegan junk food and strode over with Tachi, we left the keys in thestolencar.

Noodles took one look at me in the rear view mirror and blanched.Holy shit! What happened to you?

One of the cyberninjas punched me in the face.” I said.Looks like I’ll be spending my downtime in recovery.

How about you Tachi?

Tachi shrugged. “I’ll be right as rain once I’m back in my real body.”

Normally I’d be worried about how our injuries could be used to identify us. These days CCTV systems contain the kind of scary pattern recognition software that can tell identical twins apart and track them from one end of the country to another. Japan had gone in for CCTV in a big way. Not quite as much as China of course, especially as the rumours of rebellion were starting to ferment around that time, but they were easily on par with the United Kingdom.

But we’d planned for this as well. Tachi had swapped out his custom body for an off-the-shelf, so he was one bio-pod swap away from being a whole new man.

I had an appointment booked with a plastic surgeon in Chiba tomorrow. So for me I just got one more facial rearrangement than I intended.

Finally our rendezvous point was a stretch of disused waterfront near the Yokohama side of Tokyo Bay, well out of sight of any CCTV. They’d see our stolen car go in, but not come out.

We pulled up to our safehouse, a disused shop front in Yokohama’s industrial district. We’d leased this place back when our mysterious employers first hired us to spy on Silicon Dreams. Back then they just wanted to know how far along the research was. That was months before we even learned the A.I. existed, the idea of actually stealing it wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye when we first moved in.

We drove in through the roller door and parked inside the shop. Eliminating the chance of the number plate being recognised sitting out on the street. A little paranoid at this point, seeing as how that car had no visible connection to the crime, but a chance not taken can never bite you in the arse.

We got out of the car and dumped our gear on the ‘planning table’, a big wooden board on stacked milk crates.

Tachi limped over to his original cyberbody. Which was as different from the body he’d used on the gig as a Datsun 180B is to a Ferrari 3NZ0. It was custom-made by Haruma Biomedical of Singapore with a face made from a hand-sculpted mould. Tachi lay down on our workbench next to the sealed container housing his original body.

I put on my best ‘Gold Coat Mechanic’ voice as I looked Tachi over. “Bullet holes, damaged shoulder, walks with a limp.” I whistled. “Hate to break this to you cobber but I don’t think you’re getting your deposit back.”

[I assure you, I would be happy to continue this conversation in a face that doesn’t feel like a cheap Kabuki mask.] Tachi cyped back at me.

Alright, alright.I said, getting out the powered screwdriver.What did your last slave die of?

[Syphilis.]

Can’t say I was expecting that.

Swapping Tachi’s biopod from one body to another was as easy as installing a car stereo. I’m glad Tachi’s prosthetic body chose that moment and not at some more critical point to throw a full system crash.

[Your body’s rejected you.] I told Tachi with a smile. [You’ll have to sit tight for a moment while I format and reinstall your OS. You want me to email you a magazine? Maybe put the kettle on so it’ll be ready when you’re done?]

[Oh do piss off.] Tachi sneered.

And yet, it’s okay for Tachi to pick on me when my body is being inconvenient.

One reboot later and Tachi was blinking his eyes open again.

That certainly took long enough.Tachi said as he sat up.

If you’re fishing for sympathy.I said, pointing at my smashed face.You need bigger worms.

“Stop the pillow-talk you two.” Noodles said and a chat request appeared in my vision. “It’s time to call Jay.”

I accepted and a vidwindow of Jay’s avatar appeared in front of me. Jay was using a basic avatar, one that resembled him physically. So it was a thin, handsome black man with soft features and a smooth bald head.

[Hello Dust, Tachi. Congratulations on another job well done.] Jay always sounded like he was putting an arm around you and toasting the birth of your first child.

[You’re welcome mate.] I tried to sound casual, but smiled a little despite myself.
[And Noodles…] Jay’s vidwindow slid across the room to Noodles’ side. [How’s my favourite code monkey?]
[Just keeping it real.] Noodles high-fived the screen, his palm passing through it right at the end.
Jay’s avatar returned the five. [Right on brother.]

Jay manoeuvred the screen so it could face all of us. He wasn’t actually seeing through the screen. It only existed as an augmented reality image in our Neupros, he was actually hitching in Tachi’s system, experiencing the world through Tachi’s cyber eyes and ears, but unable to interfere.

This was why we’d set up a set of full-length mirrors in front of that wall, so Jay, looking through Tachi’s vision with the AR filter off, could look back at us.

[Now.] Jay began. [Tell me how the job went.]

I held up the bag. “We recovered the package.”

Noodles shrugged. “But we got made.”

[What went wrong?]

Noodles fielded this one. “We didn’t anticipate them hooking the A.I. up to the security system. It ran circles around me.”

Our plans held though.” Tachi added. “We had to fight our way out, but we succeeded.”
“I’m glad
you said that.” Noodles grinned. “It sounds callous when it comes from me.”
[Did they see any of your faces?]

“They would have seen mine on their CCTV.] Noodles said [But they’ve got no indication I was involved. Dust is checking into the plastic surgeon’s tomorrow and Tachi was only wearing that face for one day.”

[Then we proceed as normal. The three of you need to go into hiding and wait for the fallout to blow over before I can take the package from you.]

Noodles and I nodded.

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