Micro Manage Part IV

Most parts of New Cluster were more awake after dark and the lower regions south of the hub were no exception. Dregs wondered, too afraid of the vulnerability sleep brings to stop moving. Criminals of every sort prowled. Working women were passed by gangs of Bangers and thugs less organized.
A hundred scents mixed in their nostrils, the majority foul. New Cluster had long since let its streetlights go to rot and darkness reigned supreme. In this city, the people thought they had the choice of embracing the darkness or running scared. Talon had made a third choice.
He was the gray.

Talon

Talon

Moving through the masses like a ghost, he thought back to his plan. Sure it was not the most original of ideas, since Talon had learned more from movies than his limited education, but he was still hoping it would work. He remembered what Micro had said to Talon, when he had shaved off most of Micro’s hair. Talon had just left him a mohawk, like his own, for fun.
While Talon had glued the hair to his head, Micro had asked him, “so what do you think dressing up like me is going to do? Do you think you are going to fight your way through all of them?”
“Heh, I’m much more of a scamperer. Besides, what do you have to lose?”
“Plenty, if that program doesn’t reach the X.”

Micro

Micro

A group of hunting Rips snapped him back to the present. Without thinking, Talon ducked behind a group of homeless kids. After giving them all his change so they would not narc him out, he continued on his way. As he drew closer to the meeting spot, the Rip patrols grew thicker. They were always in groups of five. Perhaps that is as high as they could count, he thought with an internal smirk.
What did the X think about all this, he wondered, as he hopped over a low fence? The other gang must see all of these Rips around. He was half surprised that they were not attacking each other or keeping an eye out for Micro. “Maybe they don’t want your little toys as much as you thought,” he whispered to himself, while checking on the disc lying in his pocket for the seventh time.
He was trying to stay casual and keep loose, but a tightness ruled him. His hands clenched and unclenched. He was constantly wiping them clean of the sweat that was gathering there. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his stray thoughts and remain focused. One mistake, one piece of bad luck, and he could easily go down tonight. The Rips had no love for him and after the attack he made on them last night Ax might have removed his protection completely. If they got their hands on him, it would be all over… save for the pain.

Rippers

Rippers

A slow stream, more sludge than water, reflected the night before him. If he could cross it and make it down the alley, he would be nearly in front of The Joint and would only need to travel about thirty feet of the more major street, before he reached the relative safety of the bar. Something held him back. If he was looking for a sneak, this is where Talon would place his men.
Picking up a rock, he tossed it upstream. It made a sick plop. The noise brought two men out of hiding. They were here. He removed his bat from where it had been hiding under Micro’s jacket. Part of the plan was for Talon to show himself as Micro, so the real Micro would be able to sneak into the bar. He only hoped that he could do it without getting himself killed.
His free hand fumbled with the Personal that Micro had loaned him. Talon had a feeling his new friend was not going to be getting it back. He tossed it into a pile of leaves that had collected near the low bridge. With a remote, he started it. Their words sung out loudly dispelling the creeping silence.
“Hey Talon, are we almost there yet”

“Shut up. Do you want to get us caught? Keep up the blubbering and the Rips will find you for sure.”
“I got news for you little piggies, it’s too late.” Strang’s words burned into the air and, moving like jagged shadows, the Rips emerged form their dingy hiding places. Talon recognized a few of them. It was the same pack that had tangled with them the night before. “This big bad is going to blow your life down!”
Even as they rushed the recorder, Talon was moving towards the slimy stream. He was still twenty feet shy, when her heard the sound of metal breaking plastic. “Its some kind of- Wait, there he is!”
Talon did not even bother to look. Instead, he broke into a full sprint and attempted jumping the stream. He landed eight inches short and was rewarded with toxic green sludge filling his boots and staining his one pair of pants. After almost losing his footing, he continued mad dash for The Joint. He spied a few members of X pacing the street and he hoped that meant the place was safe.
The bouncers, both big fellows, named Booth and Primus, eyed him and were frowning as he ran past The Joint and straight up to a brace of X. These Bangers if anything were more bizarre than the Rips. Where the Rips were fierce and brutal, the X were just plain eerie. They dyed their faces and arms the color of crushed blueberries. There heads were kept shaved and without adornment other than the black X they had affixed between their eyes. For some it was a tattoo, while others favored branding or scaring.
“Hi guys.” He looked over his shoulder in time to see the Rips behind him hesitate, but then signal some of their fellows. If another five joined in the chase that meant two things. A, these X would not have much chance no matter how tough they were. B, he had a better excuse to continue with the original plan.
Before they had a chance to see through his disguise, Talon yelled, “There are too many of them!” He had found it all too easy to become nearly as hysterical as the role called for and bolted, not only the X, but also from the bouncers between him and the Rips.
Almost at once shouts, yells, and screams of pain followed in his wake. Before he had rounded the next corner, the sounds of other X taking up the fight had reached his ears. Strang was calling Micro’s name, but he just kept going. Where homebound Micro would have had little chance, a lifetime of hiding served Talon well. Strang and Tern had managed to pull away and gave him a good chase.

Glooms
Each time they got close, Talon would dash into a crowd. During one of these ditches, he pulled the tangled mass of Micro’s hair off his head. It hurt like hell, but after he lost the jacket, he looked like a whole knew man. Eventually, he was able to grab a bus on the Y line and get out of there unnoticed.
Sitting down on the grimy seats, he let out a long sigh. Micro might not be able to go shopping for a long while, but as long as the Rips never discovered his location he would be all right.

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Burning head

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Micro Mange Part III

According to Micro, no one knew where he lived. This led Talon to surmise that the Rips must have been watching the drop off spot where Micro was to met the X. The plan had been for a few members of the X to be in a certain bar, known as The Joint, each night at 2am. This was to continue until Micro finally showed up. Talon had stayed at the house and after their long night and his new friend’s slow speed; the sun was nearly down before any real planning could be done. This had not mattered much; Talon’s plan was simple.

Micro III

“Why can’t I just go there and do the drop off?” Talon asked.

“How could I be sure I got my money? I put a lot of time into this.”

“How were you going to get the money? Somehow I can’t see you strolling down the street with an armful of Universals.”

“Oh no, I never touch money. They were going to enter it into an account.”

“Why can’t I watch them do that?”

Talon At Night

Talon

“I…I’m not sure I can trust anyone that much.”

Talon stared at the man. “I suppose you have no real reason to trust me, other than the motivation on my side to keep you alive, so I might be able to get more work like this from you. But I would have hoped that I’ve proven something by saving you and not taking off during the night with a few valuables under each arm.”

Micro was silent for a moment. “Talon, I respect you for what you have done and I’m sure you could take on four of me and live, but well… you are not some hired thug or something.”

“What are you saying?”

Micro IIIII

“Talon look at yourself? You are just a young PR and almost as skinny as I am. I like having your help, but you’re not much of a bodyguard.”

“We’ll see about that. If you have to come along, then that will be part of the plan. Being a bodyguard is more than fighting. Some bruiser might just try to fight his way through and get you killed. I don’t intend to fight our way through anyone. In fact, I may not need to be near you at all to keep you safe. So just wait until we are done before you judge how good a bodyguard I am.”

“Sounds fair. Now what sort of plan did you have?”

 

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Micro IIII

Micro Manage Part II

Micro did not keep beer around, but Talon stopped and got a few on Tern’s dime. The first thing that surprised Talon was that Micro had his own house. Sure, it was no mansion and was certainly run down, but Talon had never met anyone who owned their own home before—not one with a roof and four walls anyway.

Micro led him through the high chain link fence that surrounded the debris filled yard. “Not much for yardwork are you?” Talon said, as he kicked a wet box out of his way.

Talon

Talon

“I’m more of an indoor person,” Micro said and, as if to prove his point, he rushed to the front door with keys already in hand. “You might as well come on in. Ah, forgive the mess. I haven’t had visitors for a while.”

Piles of magazines tilted on every flat surface. Talon picked one up while Micro locked the door. It was super-tech babble that might as well have been in another language as far as Talon was concerned. The place had a faint odor of unwashed dishes and unemptied trash. Looking the place over, Talon figured he had seen PR squats that were better maintained than this place. Still, with Tern’s wallet, he was already up for the night and if he could get a free meal out of this, so much the better. Although, with the smells wafting in from the kitchen unit, he was not feeling particularly hopeful.
Micro hurried to lift about a dozen magazines off a chair. He stacked them onto another pile, causing them all to fall to the floor. Cursing, he gave up and brought Talon’s beer into the kitchen.

“You have anything to eat?” Talon called after him as he picked up the top magazine. Netrunning was the title. Most of the other magazines seemed to be along the same lines. “So what do you do for a living?”

Micro

Micro

“I ah, I run my own business.”

“You must be pretty successful.”

“I do ok.”

Micro brought him an opened ale. “I have a few things in my wave. They will be ready soon.”

Talon nodded and then took a long pull. “Well, it must be nice having your cube.”

“It gets a little lonely. I…I don’t like to go out.”

“Why were you out today?”

Streets f New Cluster

Streets f New Cluster

It was an innocent enough question, but it made Micro go pale and he hurried back into the kitchen. He did not rush to return. Before long, Talon grew bored. He tried the magazines again, but there was not much to sink his teeth into. A stray piece of porn had found its way into the stack and he looked over the pictures idly, while he waited. His beer was nearly empty, before Micro finally returned.

“Ah… so Talon, I…I’m not trying to be rude, but it seems like you might be somebody interested in making a few Universals.”

Raising his eyes slowly, he said, “That depends on what you have in mind.”

“Oh, oh, nothing like that. Nothing like that. It’s just, well perhaps I wasn’t completely honest about why the Rips were dashing me before.”

“Oh here we go.” Talon’s statement shut Micro down and it was only with more prompting that he was able to continue.

“ I…well, I have been working on a small project for the X. They are another gang of Bangers.”

“I know who they are.” A pause stretched. “What would freaks like that need from you?”

“I’m not sure why I should be telling you.”

“I suppose that if the Rips had gut you, you would not be telling me anything. And I have a feeling that you were not working on some accounting program.”

Micro showed signs of nervousness. He began to pace and could not take his eyes off the floor. “True, I’m not sure…never mind. The X were working on some sort of raid. I think they were after some chemicals or something. I don’t know. I don’t really want to know. I was to deliver the program to them as soon as I was done. I guess the Rips must have found out about it. Maybe they don’t want the X getting any stronger.”

“Like this triple X porn you got over here?”

Micro blanched and lost his ability to form words, so Talon went on. “You still have not told me what they wanted you to do.”

Finding a spine at last, Micro demanded, “I’m still not sure why I should tell you.”

“Unless you want to invite the X over here, you are going to be needing some help.”

“Why, what do you want for helping me?”

“How about half of the profits.”

“Are you mad?”

A

“Not as mad as those Rips are.”

“I’ll think about…you know the X haven’t even paid me.”

“That is not surprising.”

“So you would help me get there AND get my money?”

“And maybe even get home safely.”

“Yes get home. I don’t like being on the streets. I wish I could just send it through the innervid, but it could be traced. I have to hand it to them.”

“So are we partners?”

Looking at him at last. “Yes, I accept your offer.” There was another long pause. “The program is designed to shut off the security systems at Imotech chem. I finished it. Now all we have to do is get it to them and make sure they pay us.”

Talon Smiled. “Cool, how much are we going to make?”

“Enough to keep you in subs until the world runs out of ale, buds,” He smiled.

 

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Creepy Corridor

Micro Manage Part I

It was a cold dry day in New Cluster. The evening sun painted the smog a dirty crimson. Talon walked alone, or as alone as anyone could be in a city of twenty million.

 

144

Hardened boots drove a rhythm into the pavement as he dodged trash, dregs, and things more dangerous. Becoming too lost in one’s thoughts was a luxury ill afforded amongst the streets of New Cluster. Like the animals that used to live in the Earth’s savannahs, whether one was predator or prey, they had to remain constantly vigilant. Sometimes Talon wondered where he fit in that spectrum and he needed figure it out.

Talon had an extra reason to be careful. One of the biggest gangs of Bangers in south New Cluster had him at the top of their Shit List. Sure, he had straightened things with their leader, Ax, but that did not keep the droogs that had ended up on the wrong side of Talon’s baseball bat from wanting to flatten him.

 

Talon

Talon

Darkness had already claimed the crumbling streets, when he heard a frantic shout. It came from within a decaying brick shelter that had long since lost its war against the elements. It loomed dark and roofless; the tumbling walls cast long shadows that concealed whoever might lie within.

The shouting continued, clearer this time. “No, please let me keep it. What represents only a few Universals for you,” there was a pained grunt, “represents long months of work for me.”

Another figure moved in the gloom. “That won’t matter when I splatter your blood over these walls?”

 

1444

The figure moved again and he saw the tattooed skull and blood red mohawk. It was a Rip and one he recognized as Strang. Without considering the consequences, Talon lifted up a brick, waited until he could see the man’s skull again, and then whipped the brick against it as hard as he could.

Strang collapsed with a yell, but more shouting quickly followed, and two more Rips raced out of the abandoned building. Another brick filled his hand and Talon was pleased to see it fly true taking a second Rip in the nose. The Banger stumbled and fell. For the moment, he just lay there groaning.

A bright light flashed, its narrow beam lighting up the ruins. It lasted just long enough for Talon to see that this last Rip had drawn a long dagger. Its rusty blade was the size of a man’s forearm. Talon was forced to backpedal as the Banger approached. Soon, he was past his supply of loose bricks

As his eyes combed the ground for more weapons, he said, great, I’m in the only place in New Cluster without mounds of trash covering everything.”

 

1443

“Talon, I should have known. When will you stop poking that stupid PR head of yours where it doesn’t belong?” He suddenly laughed, edging closer. “I guess I know the answer to that question. As of tonight, cause you ain’t gonna be seein’ mornin’.”

“Now listen. Your Tern right. We could-”

“Save it, gutter boy. I’m going to open you like a can of soup.”

Another bright flash occurred. Tern went limp and toppled to the ground with a loud thud. His body began to bounce and quiver in a discomforting manner.

Talon watched it for a moment until a new form emerged. On the surface, this new figure appeared far less intimidating than the last. He was short and thin, even frail. Narrow shoulders huddled over some small device that emitted a slight glow. The dim light bathed the man’s face in an eerie electric radiance.

“Who are you?” the young man asked, stepping closer, Talon saw that he was dressed in a simple outfit, more utilitarian than fashionable. His brown vent was creased and stained along its left side. A clean-shaven boyish face met a tangle of dirty blonde hair.

 

Micro

Micro

Extending his hand, he said, “The name is Talon. If you were the one that just took out the riff, then I guess we’re even.” Only then, when the new man refused to shake his hand, did Talon see that the small device pointed towards him.

Seconds stretched. “And you are?”

“Oh sorry, I’m…. I’m Micro.”

“Micro, huh? Were the Rips after you for any reason? I’ve had run ins with them before?”

“What? No, no, I uh… they were trying to mug me I guess.”

Squatting down next to Tern, Talon began to go through his pockets as he continued. “Yeah, I suppose it’s been known to happen. These guys aren’t choir boys”

“What are you doing?”

“What, this? Times are tough, man. A guy’s gotta eat. I’m not like these Rips who just take, but if a guy comes at me with a knife, he deserves to have his load lightened at the very least.”

Micro looked behind him as the first Rip began to groan. “The stunning won’t last much longer.”

“Then I suppose we should be on our way. Thanks for the fun and I’ll think of you when I’m eating.”

“You look hungry.”

Talon stood up, but looked away from Micro for a moment. “I have a job, I’m not some dreg, but it’s a few days before payday and well…”

“So you were just walking by?”

“Yeah?”

“Why did you help me?”

Tucking Tern’s Universals into his jacket, he answered, “not sure really. I just hate Rips and Strang in particular. Besides, I guess I would hope somebody would help me if I was in trouble.”

 

Micro hesitated. Strang groaned again. “Come to my home with me. I could fix you some dinner at my place. It’s the least I can do.”

“Is there beer?”

 

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Cyber-sick

Cyber-sick

The Climax of Cluster F

One trip to the bank-in-the-box later, Talon found himself a hundred universals richer, which almost made up for the ten-mile chase and the slash across his ribs. Marty and Talon parted ways and he had a feeling the extra money Marty would be making could be the only thing saving their friendship.

 

Dark Hair
There were only a few more hours of daylight left and he had to work that morning, but there was still something he had to do.

 
Belter was where he thought he would be and he had a fistful of cash. It would have been tempting to trash the junky and keep the money, but the Rips knew where both he and Marty lived and would be coming back for them.

 
That didn’t keep him from pocketing an extra three-hundred however. How could the Rips really know how much Belter had spent.
Belter wined and protested the whole way to the Rip headquarters, but he had taken enough Cain to kill three normal people, so there wasn’t much that he could do.

 
Ax and most of his Bangers had returned to their dilapidated quarters, which was little more than a windowless building covered with graffiti.

Carnival of Blood
Walking into the dark building, like he owned the place, Talon pushed Belter so hard that he was dashed to the trash littered floor.
The Rips surrounded them at once. Weapons were drawn and Talon was beginning to wonder if he was going to make it through this. “You led us on quite a chase, punk,” Ax said, while glaring down at him. He held his namesake in his right hand and from the looks of its stained blade it had seen quite some use.

 
“If I had known that Belter had planted the tracker in my jacket, I might have let you catch me.”

 
“The tracker,” his voice slowed. “What about my syn?”

 
“I never saw any of that. Belter got away with both that and the money I guess.”

 

Cluster F'ed Talon

Cluster F’ed Talon

“He’s lying,” Belter managed to get out, before Ax kicked him across the jaw.

 
“We’ll deal with your sorry ass later and believe me we are going to take our time.”

 
Stepping forward, Talon handed Ax what was left of his cash. “I could have kept this, but I figured if you got it back it would be good enough to keep you out of my path.”

 
Ax took the money, while never taking his eyes of Talon.

 
“Come on, what about the Cain,” the guy Talon had given the black eye to was complaining. “One of these dregs must have it.”

 

That little Roach, Belter

That little Roach, Belter

“I don’t know what the story is,” Talon said holding up his hands. “All I know is that I don’t have it and I didn’t find it on Belter. Perhaps you can ferret the hiding place out of him?’

 
“Oh, I think we can manage that,” Ax said, grinning enough to show his filed down canines. Beneath them Belter whimpered.

 
“So we are square then?”

Eating Your Buddies

Eating Your Buddies

“It took a lot of balls coming here,” Ax said, and then just stared at him. The lights of the candles made his eyes glow red. The pause wore on, making Talon nervous, until Ax finally said, “yeah we’re square for now, but if I hear about you moving any syn, I’ll make you wish you could trade places with this little shit.” A kick to Belter’s ribs brought out another cry.

 
Favoring them with a wane smile, Talon turned and exited the building. He still didn’t feel safe until he was halfway home. The sun came up before he got there. It was only three more hours until he had to start on the dishes. It was going to be a long rough day, but he had somehow made more money than he usually did in a week. He patted the money where it sat in his jacket and he hummed one of his favorite tunes as he turned down his street.

Ripper

Ripper

 

Cluster F Part V

Having Marty along side him as he continued his mad race across the outskirts of the New Cluster was more hindrance than help. Besides Marty’s constant complaining, he was slower and more awkward than Talon and had already almost gotten them caught twice.
“Talon, if we get through this without being killed,” he panted, “I’m going to kill you.”

Hand of Blood
No matter what they did, the Rips found them and were always on their tail. “Don’t you have an Enforcer plan?” Talon struggled to say as they raced under a vehicle overpass.

 
“Yeah, for two-hundred a month.” Talon knew what that meant. Marty could file a report with a one cop, but that was about it. Such a plan would barely be enough to let them into a cop shop. They were going to have to think of something else.

 

Punker Chick
Looking behind him, Talon saw the bobbing mohawks of the Rips come into view, silhouetted against the endless lights of the city. “We better get moving,” he said, then hugged his jacket closer to him. That was when he felt something in his pocket. Pulling it out, he found that it was a small package wrapped in plastic. It gave a bit under his fingers… like… it… was… filled… with… powder.

 
“Oh damn,” he swore to himself.

 
“Come on Talon they are coming,” Marty said, but Talon barely heard him. He was staring at the small blinking red light trapped in the center of the package. “Talon what is it?” Marty persisted.

 

That little Roach, Belter

That little Roach, Belter

“That little roach,” his said, anger flooding his words. “Come on!”

 
The Rips were almost upon them when Talon took them up the other side of the bridge. They hurried up the sandy incline and hadn’t reached the top, before they heard curses following them from below. Ignoring them, Talon raced to the side of the road.

 

Rooftop
“Keep an eye out for me,” Talon said. “Let me know if they get too close.”

 
“They’re already too close.”

 
Despite his friend’s warning, Talon waited. He knew what he was looking for. Marty squealed in panic, but Talon wouldn’t be moved from his spot on the side of the road. He could hear the Bangers, they were nearly to the pair. He was just thinking he might have to take up the run again, when he saw what he was looking for.

 
A large truck barreled towards them, drawing a flatbed behind it. Without hesitation, Talon tore the blinking light out of the package and then tossed it onto the junk filled bed of the truck. Like a demon’s missing eye, the red device flew through the air, hit the back of the cab, and then landed in the bed of the truck.

 
As soon as that was done, Talon grabbed Marty’s arm and they hid behind a pile of trash. The Rips came up only seconds later and the pair tried to hold their breath as a stream of curses flew from their lips that would have made an inmate on death row blush.

 
“They must have jumped onto a vehicle,” Ax spat.

 
“What are we going to do?”

Mace

Mace

“Don’t worry, he can’t hide,” Ax said, but was already moving away from them. A minute later they were gone from sight.
Looking down, Marty pointed at the packet. “What’s that?”

 
“Oh, I almost forgot. This was what they were looking for. My guess is that it is Cain.”

 
“What are you going to do with it? That must be worth a thousand universals easy.”

 
“My inclination is to toss it into a sewer.”

 
Marty was hesitant. “I might know someone who would pay good money for it.”

 
“I don’t want to deal with it.”

 
“You wouldn’t have to.”

 
“Okay, give me a hundred universals bucks and it is yours.”

 

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leatherface

Cluster F Part IV

It wasn’t that easy.

Cluster F'ed Talon

Cluster F’ed Talon

No matter what he did he couldn’t seem to ditch these freaks. He hid in drainpipes and raced through yards. Once when he tried a dumpster. They almost had him surrounded, when he wisely chose to flee before he became trapped.

 

Rippers

Rippers

He had been moving more or less at random, just trying to stay alive. After over an hour of this, he found himself near Marty’s house. Marty was the coolest of the cooks he worked with. He hated to endanger him, but if he could just make sure he lost these street scum before he got to Marty’s place, then Talon could probably just lay low there for the rest of the night. Hell, if he kept his cool, Marty wouldn’t even have to know.

bloodmouth_460x356
Putting the last of his energy into a frantic sprint, he raced into the complex that housed his friend.
When his banging was finally answered, he rushed into Marty’s room. “Geez Talon, nice to see you too,” the cook said. Marty was about seven years older than Talon’s twenty-five. Ruffled strings of dyed black hair, set off the ghostly pallor of his white face. Marty was a bit of a Goth, but Talon tried not to hold it against him. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

The Baron
Forcing a smile, Talon said, “hey there Marty. I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I would drop by and say hello.”

 

Carnival of Blood
“More likely, you ran out of beer. It’s still four days till we get paid. You need to learn how to budget. Take me for instance, I-“
A loud bang rattled Marty’s front door. It was a mighty attack, like someone was trying to kick the door in with one blow.
“What the hell was that?” It only took Marty a few extra seconds to catch on. “Oh crap, you’re in trouble, aren’t you?”

 

Face Biter
“Let us in you wormy little bastard.” The angry shout was only slightly muffled by the door.

Dark Hair
“Is there another way out?” Talon asked.
“Damn Talon. What have you gotten me into? I’m going to kick your ass-“
Another loud bang sounded on the door. “Marty?”
“Arrr,” he growled. “This way, but if those losers trash my cube, I’m taking it out on you.”

 

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