Slipped again. Climbing around the underside of a giant ore dish is dangerous and aggravating. But not as irritating as-
“Secure the mag-grapple. Make sure it clicks before you reach for a handhold. That’s a power coupling, kick out to avoid it.”
“Mom! Chill out! You’re driving me nuts.”
There, I said it. I froze. Stupid mistake.
“Maggie, Honey, don’t talk out loud. You’ll set off every VBM detector on their grid.”
The air was thin, mostly sulfur gas, but sound vibrations traveled in any atmosphere. And there were detectors all along the dish.
“Seriously, Mom, shut the fuck up!”
This time I didn’t say it out loud. I said it in my head, right to her face. I regretted it immediately. The look on her face said it all.
“Sorry,” I muttered from the soft couch cushion while reaching to hug her.
“That was uncalled for. I just have a lot going on right now. Can we dial back the Mom dynamic and just focus on keeping me from getting caught?”
“Or killed,” Mom said. Well, her construct said.
She’s relaxing, sitting next to me on her lounge, watching my progress live fed to a virtual Holo-projector in her Tuscan villa. In my head.
Confused? Don’t be. My mother’s a construct. Used to be human. A legendary street ninja and razor girl. Aunt Mol. Molly. The best at what she did.
Turns out I’m her clone.
Her entire personality, memories and digital soul downloaded into me. Well, to be more precise, the hardware that resides in me automatically downloaded her engrams when she died. It’s the only way we were going to be together.
“You’re sure your console cowboy left his shit in here? He wasn’t screwing with you.”
I stare at her intently, while reaching for my next grapple in real world.
“Bobby knew how to hide shit,” she said, looking distant. “It’s out here. He was a friend; he wouldn’t have lied.”
Friend. Mom didn’t have many of those when she was alive. That’s why I’m hanging 1500 meters from the underside of this salad bowl looking D7 Mining Facility above Helena City on Io, Saturn’s moon.
Lots of enemies. One in particular, brings me to the now.
Mr. Finn. Or what comprises the entity known as Finn. Once human, now AI and loose on the net. Enemy number on.
Mom sensed my mood change, goes to chewing her lip. Her in the 3D virtual world that runs 24/7 in my wetware. Like a split personality, if the personality had serious helicopter parent tendencies and guilt over not “being there” while I was growing up.
I live out here, meat world. Real world. And in there. The sim world. Molly world. Both at the same time.
I look over at her, sipping from her wine glass, as the light from the mid-afternoon sun reflecting off nearby Lake Cuomo fills the room.
Secure harness to second line, swing, grab and lock. Make sure the opti-interface cable, that I connected to the topside terminal, is out of the way. Where the hell is my file on the cutter settings?
“Mother you know running the sim, in this much detail, isn’t helping my ICE breaker program run any faster. I’m crashing a firewall that’s monitored and reinforced by a chained down security AI and you’re wearing satin PJ’s with all of the windows open. Can’t you live in low rez for a half-hour while I crack this bitch?”
“I could. But I won’t. Maggie, dear, this job is a cakewalk. Nothing compared to what we do next. Learn to deal with adversity, distractions and think on your feet. I don’t want you ending up like I did.”
“You ended up a pile of irradiated and barbecued flesh,” I reminded her. Actually, a reminder to me. I’d ended up blind and covered in synth skin in a mini-nuke blast meant for her.
But I’m not an invalid. Not by a damn sight. I got skills. And a visor.
The panel I’d been working on with my cutter gave way and fell. I waited for her comment.
“Shoulda’ had a line on that.”
My visor HUD targeted the panel and ran a calc.
“Yeah, well, it’s going to take 43 secs to reach the ground. If it doesn’t land on someone outright, we’ll have another 10 or so before people start calling ops and looking up.”
“That’s forever to get in,” she observed. She runs on a different clock than I do.
Tack ThermoDet tubing to inner wall in an approximate Maggie shape. Snap in timer module, push- back and swing out under dish. Blow ThermoDet. Trapeze-kick swing back in, aim at opening and twist so ThermoDet molten edges don’t burn my synth skin as I go inside.
I hit an invisible wall and almost stop.
“You forgot the atmospheric pressure inside, Dear.”
Know it all. Bitch. Help more, criticize less.
Is what I thought, but did not say. Out loud or in my head.
Pointing my left arm toward the opening, I fire off a fletchette spiked spiral net with a capture line. A human shape moves into the path. It takes the hit and flies backward, dragging me inside through the opening.
Alarms and emergency lights are blaring and glaring. There’s a loud slurp, then silence. The life seal has done its job and covered the breach behind me. Three very pissed off brutes stare down at me, faces red and neck veins bulging.
Shrugging off the harness, I step into the middle of the room, as near to equidistant from all of them as I can be. Behind me, the opti-cable still connects through the lifeseal.
“Maggie, honey, get ready.”
The lights go out. Throughout the entire facility. Every last one.
I like the dark. I pull the cable from my head-socket, stepping forward. Three bruisers are about to find out that a blind street ninja, in a dark room, is a deadly thing.
“Steppin’ Out” by Tom Tinney ©2016 all rights to Tom Tinney