The Bar

I drag my ass into the bar. A flickering sign of half-dead neon tubes christens the place. Once upon a time it was an Irish Joint called The Looking Glass. An unfortunate series of electronic failures had since rendered it "LOOK... ..ASS." Who knows what kind of culture the place's supposed to have now--mostly it's a hangout for braindead junkie's who've burned out all their cash and body mass on the Scape.

Half of them have the plague, and cling in isolated clumps to the edge of the bar, coughing up a haze of blood and infectious microscopic robots. Used to be, anyone with the nano-virus was barred at the door, but that was before eighty percent of the city's population got infected. Damn lucky thing I got this implant when I did--it's supposed to make me immune.

I drag back a chair and it scrapes across the floor. I fling down my weight, still out of breath. I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm feeling it.

"Hey!" I wave down the bartend. She's a butch old thing; looks like the two smallest fingers of her left hand got gnawed off at the base, but she's got an assault taser attached to it's underside to compensate, wired into her nervous system for brain-activation. It's a metal tube about three feet long, punctured by high-voltage plastic tubing--the kind of old military technology that filtered down to the streets two decades ago. Hell, maybe three.

With a few pints in me the soreness starts to seep out. The old bitch starts to give me this warning glare when I order the next round. Hell with her; I need this.

The TV's on to some news channel, old orange-tinted 2-d screen reminding me how much of a slum I'm in. It takes me a few seconds to register what's going on, but when it comes to me it's like a kick in the nuts.

"Hey--hey!!--turn that up!"

With a snarl in my direction she hits a button on her taser-arm and the TV becomes audible. The background's a parking lot, littered with rubble and fire, all too familiar.

Reporter: "--unexplained bombing of Prostheticore leaves a half-mile radius of the city in ruins. Amongst the known casualties is one Mandy Collins, a 24-year-old Interweb awareness teacher. YakTech, the small Tech store across the street from Prostheticore was miraculously unharmed by the bomb."

Jay Paris, YakTech Manager: "You ask me, I say, halleluiah! Now that those bastards are gone, we can get back to doing some real business."

Reporter: "In other news, the new TRUScape interface is about to be unveiled, a thing MetaScape buffs are calling it The Awakening. Nano-plague infection rates are still dropping as TRUchip sales increase, CyberCorp spokesman Bill Anders says that the Corporation hopes to have the plague fully cured by the end of the month by installing plague inhibitors in all their new-model VR chips..."

I just stare. Someone had her killed and then covered it up. Blew up a damn city district to cover it up. That girl--she was innocent. She didn't do anything to deserve what she got, and those bastards...

Lost in angry thoughts, I don't even hear the guy, first time he says it.

"What the hell do you want?" I glare up. Big guy, and he's got visible metal in his head--not tech-implants, far as I can tell, more like cheap skull restructuring.

"I sed, Da, yer in me damn seat. Me and me boys, this's our rig." He shoves my chair against the wall.

I rise up almost without thinking, face gone blood red, hands in white fists. The old barkeep starts yelling in a gravely voice, and the big drunk Irish bastard thrusts himself right in front of me.

"Yeh lookin teh get yer arse whipped, da?" He raises a balled fist. If this is allowed to continue, it's gonna get ugly.

He shoves me back against the wall. "Fookin' pansy."

      "Hey, Sorry," I say, "I'll get out of your way."

      "Fook this," I say, and break his nose with my head.

      Precautions be damned. I draw my gun and shoot him in the face.

I couldn't take it anymore. I called it off.