Noodles threw the crossbow at Kitty and she deflected it as easily as the bolts, reducing the weight of your virtual items has its disadvantages too. Kitty’s hand-to-hand was slightly hamstrung by the trailing chain around Ice Phoenix’s neck, but the great bird soon made a garbled moan and crashed down to the ground. One of her wings growing to the size of a skyscraper as she began spinning uncontrollably.
Noodles jumped back from Kitty, who finally ran out of chain and had to recall the end she had wrapped around Ice Phoenix’s neck. Noodles took the opportunity to pull out his last-ditch defence.
Noodles raised both hands to the sky and screamed “I have the Power”. A flash of lightning later and the Stoundheart sword materialised in his hands.
It did not help him. Kitty’s staff torpedoed out and smacked him right in the face. As Noodles stumbled back Kitty fell upon him. He managed to block her downwards hammer strike but as Noodles retaliated with a slash at her neck Kitty dropped low and knocked his legs out from under him.
A shot from Kitty’s staff sent the Stoundheart sword clattering away from Noodles’ grasp, a second shot to the face was enough to force his surrender.
“Wait!” Noodles cried, one hand out in protest.
Kitty aimed the staff for the final strike, but held the command.
“Please.” He sobbed. “Please don’t, they’ll kill me.”
[Do it.] I said. [Do it before he has the chance to try anything else.]
[What? He’s your friend.]
[RCF won’t kill him.]
[Really? So they just inserted a hot-wire into Noodles’ brain for shits and giggles did they?]
[They’re not Bond villains, they’re not going to waste a valuable asset that can tell them how their enemies’ think. If they kill him it’ll make our lives easier and their job harder. They won’t do it.]
Noodles stared up at her, because he had only ever programmed his avatar to cry in jest he looked more like he was holding in a sneeze. “Kitty?”
“I’m thinking Noodles.” Kitty said. “How certain are you that your captors will kill you?”
“They… they’ve told me they will. I’m just a brain in a biopod, they could kill me any time they want or just unplug me and wait for my brain to die on its own.”
Kitty sighed. [How long would a brain in a biopod survive autonomously?]
[You’d have to ask Tachi that one.]
She looked at Noodles. “Dust doesn’t think they’ll kill you. I’ve got you in one ear, telling me one thing and him in the other, telling me the opposite. I need to know how which of you is telling me the truth….” There was a pause before Kitty followed up with. “Hmmm.”
Noodles’ next breath caught in his throat. “Yes?”
“They sent you in to track us down didn’t they?”
Noodles nodded. “Yes.”
“Then if you tell them where we’re going, they’ll keep you alive.”
“If I take you out now, but you tell your captors we’re going to Seattle, they’ll consider your task a success and keep you around. If you can stay just one step behind us they’ll have to leave you alive.”
[Sending hit teams of cybernetic assassins after us the entire time.]
Noodles was nodding like the village idiot to all this.
“Alright, we can do this. I just need to know where you are Noodles. When we’ve got the chance we’ll come rescue you.”
[Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me]. I logged out.
I phased out of the matrix and returned to the real world. Tachi looked up from his tall glass of iced tea and smiled. “Everything went okay then?”
I scowled. “Almost.”
I reached across to Kitty’s deck and hit the power button.
Kitty jolted violently as she was abruptly dumped from that world to this one. Her eyes flew open like they’d been forced and she almost choked on the air.
“Fuck spider!” Kitty screamed so loudly it drew harsh looks from the gaggle of old ladies sitting around us.
“What the hell was that?” I demanded
“Ah-yah Puki Mak.” yelled Kitty.
“I’m not the one who wanted to give Noodles a blow-by-blow of our escape plans on the off-chance we might be able to get our shit together and mount a suicide mission to save him.”
“No.” Kitty said. “You’re the one who left Noodles alone to undo all of our work in the CCTV system.”
“What? What does that matter anymore? The way you were talking we’re on the same side again.”
Kitty face-palmed. “Dust, if you were able to hitch onto my run in the matrix because you wanted to keep tabs on me what the hell stops Righteous Chrome Fist from doing the same? The moment you dumped me from the matrix you can bet your last nuyen they ordered him to mess with the CCTV footage again. They might not be on speaking terms with the cops but it’s still to their advantage to work together.”
I suddenly felt sick in my stomach. Tachi raised his eyebrows and cast his gaze my way.
I hated to admit it, but when she put it that way it seemed so obvious.
“What’s that?” Kitty cupped a hand around her ear. “No smart-ass retort? Must be my lucky day.”
Tachi flicked a warning finger Kitty’s way. “Alright you’ve had your fun, now let’s fix the problem before we fix the blame any further.”
Tachi took a moment to think. “It’ll take some time for the authorities to uncover our likenesses. In the meantime we catch a taxi from here, take it to a rental company and hire a car to get us out of the city. We escape to a rural community and arrange overland transport from there.”
Tachi looked back at me, I was grateful he’d decided to do the talking because all I could think of right now were flashy ways to commit suicide.
“It’s significantly less than ideal but drastically superior to being held in lock-up while Righteous Chrome Fist plot our demise. Wouldn’t you agree Kitty?”
Kitty looked away and snorted. “I guess.”
“Then let us waste no more time.”