On the Trail

I wheel into the parking lot of a computer tech store across the street from Prostheticore. No reason to be too conspicuous. Smog chokes the city like a drenched curtain; clouds of death-gray carcinogenic dust particles that rip at your eyes like claws when the wind comes in. Trash litters the lot; trampled circuit boards, synthetic plastics dissolving into carbon, and God-knows-what still steaming in a pile a few parking spaces down. I can almost understand why anyone who can afford it stays indoors, and thatís not even considering the plague. A few bums off in the distance look infected, coughing their lungs up as they huddle together on the corner.

A worn terminal booth stands next to the road between the storeís lot and Prostheticoreís, looking beaten and worn as though it knows that itís time of use is nearing an end. With the release of the new TRUScape chips, constant wireless satellite access to the Interweb renders groundline communications obsolete. Thereís a holographic image being projected onto the gray and clouded glass of its walls.

It doesnít take much looking around to figure out that Drakeís long gone. Theoretically, the chip in my head protects me from the plague, so I check out the bums, but even after I pay them they tell me jack. Oh well. You learn to work everyone you can in this business. The store's a hole--Protheticore's driving them straight into the crapper economically, and their 2-month-old terminal upgrades are going to be dirt with the TRUChip on market. The fat guy behind the counter says he saw someone fitting Drake's profile, but he's long gone.

Across the street, Prostheticore glares red-neon, spectral smokestacks fueling the cancerous smog above its chromed facade. Well, can't hurt to look into it personally. On the other hand, Mandy should know what's going on.

      The call to Mandy could wait until I'd checked out Prostheticore. I head over.

      She deserves to know. I jack in through my implant and ring her up.

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