“Have I come at a bad time?”
As always, Jay’s voice was as smooth as honeyed bourbon. He sat himself down at the free chair at our table and jacked into Kitty’s deck.
It was early in the day, between the mid-morning and lunchtime crowds and yet Jay had appeared as if he’d just stepped in from off screen. I made a mental note to set up a hidden camera next time we arranged a meet. There was clearly a thing or two to learn from our Jay.
Jay already had his coffee from a place just down the road in his hand.
[Jay old friend.] Tachi brightened and offered his hand.
Jay and Tachi shook. [Good to see you again Tachi.] He smiled before offering me his fist for a bump. [Dust? What happened to your arm man?]
I gave him the fist that wasn’t in a brace and we bumped. [I had a boo-boo, it’s getting better though. The other guy lost his foot.]
[Impressive.] Jay said. [As is your new friend here. Miss?] Jay reached for Kitty’s hand.
[You can call me Kitty.]
[Ah.] Jay said, he took Kitty’s hand and held it knuckle-side up like he was going to kiss it, but patted it with his thumb instead. [The boys call me Jay. It’s lovely to meet you.]
With a blink I could see Kitty bite back a sarcastic retort. She smiled back and thanked him.
[Now gentle-folk.] Jay said, putting his hands together. [I don’t wish to waste your time so I’ll move as quickly as I can. First: Well done on the Kawada job, my employers had their reservations that you could get it done. It made me a very happy man when they we conceded that I was not over-selling your abilities.]
I could practically smell the ‘but’ hanging over the conversation.
[However.] Jay continued. [The job is, sadly, not over.]
[Yeah it is.] I said. [We got it out, we brought it here. I can practically kick it to you under the table right now.]
[And yet.] Jay said apologetically. [I am unable to accept it at this time.]
Kitty tilted her head to one side. [Why not?]
Jay inspected the state of his fingernails. [My employers, along with anyone else suspected of being my employers are being watched by the wounded party, much in the same way a school teacher watches a child holding a rock. They cannot afford to be seen dealing with you.]
Tachi nodded gravely. [So we must go back into hiding?]
Jay thought about this. [For at least another month. Then they will be happy to complete the contract with you.]
[Can you work on that with them?] I asked. [See if you can persuade them to come get it any sooner?]
[I can try.] Jay admitted. [It can be a delicate thing to ask for. It’s hard to make it look like I’m not chasing them for my payment.]
Jay considered this for a moment. [You know… if offloading the thing as soon as possible is really such a priority for you. I can take minding fees out of your payment and leave it with some people I know.]
Kitty and Tachi shared an uncomfortable look and I agreed. I did not get my arm snapped in two just so RCF could mop the floor with Jay’s minders and recover Atom.
I shook my head at Tachi. Kitty released the breath she’d been holding.
Tachi reached for Jay’s hand again. [We will wait until we hear from you.]
[I promise you.] Jay said. [I’ll do my best to persuade them. Set up an anonymous email account and send me the details. I will get back to you before the end of the week.]
Jay and Tachi shook again. Then he shook mine and Kitty’s hands and left. I watched him walk away but he didn’t do anything clever or cool, he just upped and left.
Kitty rubbed her hands together thoughtfully. [So if that’s their answer, what’s the plan from here?]
[We sit around with our thumb up our arse while we wait for Sinotech to relocate their testicles.]
[Crude.] Tachi said. [But apt. The hard part, of course, will be finding sanctuary from the long arms of the Roxorgh group and Chrome Fist.]
Kitty clasped her hands in front of her. [Or alternatively.] She said. [We could strike at them first].
I cocked my head to one side, like if I looked at her from a different angle I might see what she was saying in a way that didn’t sound suicidally stupid. [And how directly the hell would we go about that?]
I was more than a little surprised when PR appeared in front of me in a vidwindow. [By ripping the brain right out of their matrix support.]
I snapped my angry eyes on Kitty. [Please tell me you haven’t been broadcasting our entire conversation to your friends.]
Kitty put up her hands. [I haven’t. I just brought him in because he has a proposal for you.]
My eyes narrowed at him. [Shoot.]
[Aiight.] PR said. [My proposal will net you three distinct advantages. Firstly, and leastly, if you even attempt what I’m suggesting, I will offer you protection from your many enemies. My people are out in Flint, which given the current socio-economic climate is difficult to get to without an army. Additionally, I have an army, albeit a small one. Once your psycho cyber-chick and her henchborgs have fought their way across half the Divided States of America, she’ll still have my Deadmen to contended with, as well as your formidable selves, fresh, rested and healed up by then.]
[Wait-wait-wait backup a sec.] I held my hand up at the vidwindow. [YOU have an army?]
PR’s avatar grinned and crossed his arms at me. [I do. You’re looking at the head of the Jamestown movement.]
My eyes all but popped out of my skull. [You’re THE Patriot Rap? I thought you were just some poser.]
[Naw, I’m the real thing baby. The Separatist himself.]
Tachi put his chin in his hand. [And you commit petty computer crimes and do leg work on the side?]
PR waved off the suggestion. [Not me my friend, I have people to do that for me. I’ve been in thick with J. Random Hacker since high school so I keep in touch, when I heard Noodles was onto something big it got my interest so I gave him a hand.]
[Kind of like what you’re doing now?]
[Exactly. You see the second advantage of my offer is the direct result of your efforts, that being the aforementioned lobotomy you’ll be performing on their hacking talent.] PR paused for dramatic effect. [Finally, if all goes well, you’ll have Noodles back safe and sound.]
[Win.. win.. and win.] I said. [Gee, looks like it’s our lucky day. Where’s the reality PR? Where’s the part of this plan I won’t like?]
[That’d be the part where you have to risk your neck for someone else.] PR smirked. [Oh and the bit about pulling a job while you’re already on another job.]
I went to retort to that when Tachi cut me off. [And what is it that you, Patriot Rap, hope to gain from all this altruism?]
PR grinned at us. [You’ll be satisfying my scientific curiosity. But there is another catch I was about to mention. Kitty and I have been chatting with Atom, we’ve learned a lot about what the little guy can do.]
Kitty snapped her fingers suddenly. [Actually PR, it might be better to show them this part.]
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