Work Never Ends (Very Short Story)

The music of the club thumps through my ears; heavy, bass-ridden beats pound against my chest like an external heartbeat. Rhythmic. Powerful. I’m dancing amidst a mess of bodies, enslaved by the beat of the music. The air is stale, the smell of synthetic tobacco mingling with sweat, perfume and, if one had a sharp enough sense of smell, a mild mix of chemicals and pheromones. 2084 in the London night life and not much had changed; the reasons, the approaches, these were all the same, but the only thing that had changed were the methods.

The atmosphere is intoxicating. Literally intoxicating. The owners of the club had spared no expense in appealing to every sense. Chemicals course through my body, emphasising every sense, whilst my brain is re-wired to feel nothing but enjoyment. Nothing but pleasure. Even with my implants filtering out the chemicals it’s noticeable. I can feel myself letting go. I can feel the current lifting me, taking me on a sensual journey; I can feel it fuelling the ignorance.

I need to get this done, I think to myself. I am here to work. If I was not on a job I would not even be here. The excess is truly disgusting. I scan through the club, one of the few people wearing such mirror-shades indoors, in the dark, strobe laced night club. My target is employee number seven-three-oh-five-four-two of MatsuTech. An accountant, I believe. My employers were very specific in their instruction.

I lock onto his bio-signature. An eighty seven percent match, which increases to ninety eight once I filter out the chemicals in his system. It’s him.

I move in closer, navigating my way through the mass of intoxicated shells. The chemicals will work wonderfully if I can get this done without succumbing myself.

My heart rate has quickened. The ball has started rolling.

I move behind him, one hand wrapping under his arm and onto his chest with a gentle caress. I can feel his heart rate now. He’s completely gone. Perfect. I move to the music with him whilst I pull out my cyberdeck. A compact TyrCorp, model number three-seven-four-two, that attaches nicely to my forearm. Not the most powerful of decks, but the one of the most concealable. With a slight flick of the wrist I lock the deck onto my forearm and move my free hand up. The jack is in my hand. I can see the data port on the back of his neck.

Natural. All natural, I muse as I plug the data jack into the port on the back of his neck and deliberately move my hand down his back and onto his side as we continue swaying to the music together. I take a brief look around. Security has no idea.

I flick a switch and I’m in. The club melts around me, the people disappear and are replaced with the grey expanse of the systems in my target’s head. My avatar in this world is much the same as my outer shell. I have no qualms about my appearance.

The implant is a standard MatsuTech employee level storage device. Inferior to my own, but it follows the same basic architecture so I effortlessly glide to the data storage nodes, my avatar floating through cyberspace like a fish through water. The node itself is encrypted, but the protection is our own software. Software that I was trained to use; trained to crack.

It’s a simple task, overloading such a device. There are specific ports, specific data points to flood to cause the encryption to crash. A minute flaw in the system and a closely guarded secret. No doubt there are street hackers who also know this, but our employees tend not to store anything valuable in their implant, so the risk is minimal. Also, this is what happens when they do store important data. Data they should not store in personal storage implants.

So I’m in without breaking a virtual sweat. At this point it’s routine for me; firstly I need to ensure that there have been no attempts to access the files prior to my intrusion. I can quickly discern that he has accessed the files himself, but only for personal viewing. There are no traces of file transfers. In fact, he has not performed any transfers of any kind since he lifted this data. Smart, but obviously he’s not smart enough. Next I take the files and put them onto my own implant, a short transfer normally but such a file is protected. Whilst I am confident in my abilities to simply overpower any security systems that may respond, I am a professional agent, not some hot-headed street hacker. I stream the transfer between my own implant and his, exchanging data packets almost instantaneously, replacing the stolen MatsuTech files with non-essential reports and excessive paperwork, all laced with a dormant virus. Either his contacts that he was likely planning to sell this information to will detect the virus and off him, or they won’t and there’s wonderful potential for sabotage at the corporate or street level, either would serve our interests.

The transfer finishes and a security switch trips. I did everything perfectly, to the letter, handling a device that I know like the back of my hand; this should not have happened. I do not know why or what has tripped, but something has; things are changing subtly. Regardless, my work is done, there is no point in dwelling on it. I jack out.

No more than two seconds have passed in realspace by the time I am returned to my body. I quickly unplug from the back of his neck and slide my deck from my arm and into my pocket, a fluid motion as to not attract attention of surrounding clubbers or security staff.

Folly, really, considering the man turns to face me, a look of horror in his eyes visible even through his chemical-laced haze. Of course he recognises who I am, or rather what I am, and of course he recognises what I have done. He opens his mouth and starts screaming and pointing, fearfully pushing his way through the crowd. I am not about to start a fight in the middle of a nightclub in Neo-London. Not even a MatsuTech security agent can get away with that. Nightclubs are hives of street soldiers, hackers, roboticists and other lowlife scum. I am the outsider here. I am the one in danger.

I barge through the crowd towards the fire escape as I notice security starting to mobilise. By the time I reach the door there are no doubts and an automatic firearm opens up, spraying the side of the door with bullets. I shove down the bar to open it and ram it open, rounding the corner onto the fire escape as another burst escapes the door. Whilst the lowlife types inside would not openly start shooting, the security staff had no such qualms; especially knowing that I’m a corp.

I leap over the railing, dropping two stories onto the back of a truck with a heavy thud, cybernetics in my legs absorbing a lot of the impact. Regardless, I roll as I land and drop off the side of the truck. Another burst of gunfire is heard overhead, raking up my back and sending me stumbling forwards. At this range however, 9mm will not get through my under-armour, let alone both my coat, which is constructed to be resistant to pistol calibres up to fifteen metres away, and my under-armour which, when combined with the coat, can stop smaller rifle calibres at thirty metres. I run the numbers in my head and there’s no way they’re getting through.

Nevertheless, I do not stop. Whilst I may be fine if they hit my body or maybe my legs, my head remains totally exposed. I run towards the road behind the club, either they will have to exit through the fire escape as I did, or exit through the main entrance and make their way around. This should at least buy me enough time to do what I need to.

As I reach the road I slow into a calm, yet brisk walk. I make my way around the corner and onto the adjacent street, walking straight up to a taxi rank. I walk up to the front taxi, the driver casually chatting to another, though as he recognises that I require his services he makes his way over to the car and motions me towards the passenger side before getting in the driver’s side himself. I tell him my destination, which he makes a snide comment to on the basis that it is an expensive area, and sink into the chair. When we arrive I simply place my hand over the small payment terminal on the dashboard and transfer the fare through my identity implant in my hand. I make no comment about the loose change that I noticed hidden beneath the driver’s seat and get out with a smile and a thank you. If this man sympathised with lowlifers, he would likely not take too kindly to ferrying a corporate agent to her doorstep. Well, near enough; I directed him a few blocks away just in case and walked the rest of the way. Neo-London was cold at this time of the year and I place my hands in my pockets as I walk, my breath coalescing into small clouds as I walk down the quiet, residential streets.

I reach my front door and walk in to the dull, muffled sound of music and television mixing into one unpleasant sound. I remove my boots by the front door and hang my coat on the hat stand, grimacing as I notice the holes and impacts across the back, and walk into the living room where John, my husband, sits with his computer on his lap and the television on, Sky News providing ambient noise as he fervently types at his keyboard.

“Evening,” I greet hopefully.

“Evening,” he replies with a bored, slightly apathetic tone. I guess that is better than what I was expecting, considering we were meant to be meeting another couple for dinner tonight and I had to cancel literally four hours before we were meant to be there. “I put the children to bed, but Izzy is being Izzy.”

“I’ll go talk to her,” I reply in English this time, back-pedalling slowly out of the room and making my way up the stairs, following the sounds of electronic music. I knock.

“Yeah?” Isabelle answers through the door.

“Can I come in?”

She opens the door and wheels her chair back to her desk. I walk in and sit on the end of the bed.

“So, you’re still up and it’s a school night,” I muse, looking at the back of her head.

“You were out clubbing and it’s a work night.”

I sometimes hate the fact that anyone could see from a mile away that Isabelle is my daughter. Her investigatory skills are impressive. I chuckle. “Point taken, but I was out clubbing for work reasons.”

“And I’m still awake for work reasons,” she gestures at the screen of her computer. Financial data, trends, theories. “I’ll be up and ready for school in six hours, don’t worry.”

“I’m your mother, worrying about you is my job.” I usher her over and she wheels her chair towards where I sit. She has my face and hair, but her father’s eyes for sure, little emeralds amidst her fair skin tone. I shift over and pat the bed next to me. She rolls her eyes and moves from her chair to the position next to me and I wrap her in a tight hug. “Listen, I know yo-…”

I get mid sentence when all the lights go out. Her computer goes dead. I reach for my gun, still holstered under my arm. Work never ends. I have yet to explain this to the children.

This is the story that I submitted to the BBC, but alas it was not chosen. Onto the next submission, I guess!

One thought on “Work Never Ends (Very Short Story)

  1. Very nice! It feels a bit like a first chapter of a lovely book, but I think the untold is also a part of the appeal of this the story.

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