Prologue - Occam

Prologue - Occam

The rain is sliding off the roofs above me like sheets.  I suppose that it comes as no surprise to me that this back alley on the lower east side is not blessed with well maintained guttering. The light from the part broken neon sign above the dive bar’s door is cold and blue, reflecting in the puddles like spears of ice that come and go as the sign flickers in the kind of time signature that only exists in contemporary classical music.


“Wolfden” flashes across the lintel of the door, though of course it only spells out “Wo den” in the piercing blue as part of the tube is broken in some way.  The “lf” that should be lit up remains dark, inert, as if someone wanted it to be that way.

I am dry enough, perched on a rusting fire escape twenty metres from the door, wrapped in an aquaphobic tech-cloak, invisible to anyone not sporting occular upgrades, and even then they would need the good, milspec, gear to see me. I am waiting to see if my source was right, to see if the gathering of underworld bosses that is supposed to be happening here, tonight, is indeed going down, or whether my source is laughing all the way to the Caymans with my client’s money.

Nothing has tripped my sentry bugs, I have seen no one for over an hour. I flip my monocle down over my left eye and scan the data feeds that my social harvester prepares for me, tracking the movements and sightings of the thirty or so people that qualify as persons of interest in my current sphere of activity. For the first time in weeks, not one of them is showing up, all the buckets are empty, where normally they would be overflowing with conflicting sighting reports and gossip.

My client, the Deputy Mayor of Manhattan South was very clear about the fact that while I was being paid with City funds, there was to be no official acknowledgement of my activities, no help from the MSPD, no flags on my file with the NYBI or indeed the NIA. If I was caught doing anything remotely illegal I was on my own, a data scavenger or surveillance freelancer in the wrong place at the wrong time with my hand in whatever cookie jar that I would have no business even looking at. I had no problem with that, at the time. Honestly I prefer to be able to maintain my street position as being non-establishment, but suddenly I am starting to wish that someone had my back.

How was it that no one had seen the top five or six movers in the Tong, the Hakushin, the Mafia, the Russians, the Numbers or the Angels? Did all of the players in Manhattan South all decide to stay home on the evening when I was told they would all be at the same Angels dive bar on the North side of East 4th, between B and C?

I shift the view to my curated current affairs, a filtered news view that specialises in organised crime, as well as associated activities and social scenes in Manhattan South. There is nothing. Now I know for sure that something is up. There should be data, links, articles, status updates, micro-blogs. Someone is messing with my data estate, and that is either a coincidence, or people that should not know where I am and what I am doing know all to well on both counts.

I flick up the monocle and engage my scanner lens on my right eye. I scanned the alley when I arrived and set the sentries, but now I am starting to think that I missed something.

There, behind the windows on the third floor across from my vantage point, a sniper and a spotter. The gunny looks as though he’s wet-wired on the weapon, so he’s either great and I have no chance of making it to the door, or he needs the link to be any good and it’s still six and pick. The spotter is jacked-in on a deck, so I expect that she’s the one who is fucking with my feedware.

None of my marks can come to this meeting strapped, if this meeting is even real. They may all be doing business with one another somewhere, somehow, but they don’t all know everyone and so the trust is only good if all come in peace. The plan was to watch them all in, count to a hundred and then take the door and wipe them out. Problem now is that even if they show I am toast, I cannot move without these two seeing me, much less take the door, and even if somehow I did get in, I have to assume that someone knows I am coming.

The whole thing reeks of danger, and luckily I listen to my instincts, and so I am bugging out. I need to get up to the roof, in one hit. Any sudden movement I make will leave an outline. The tech-cloak is good, but it is raining hard. If that spotter has done her job even half right then her occulars will be sitting on a passive model of the alley that is going to light up like the Fourth if an invisible form suddenly leaves an unexpected edge in the rainfall.

I only have one option, and I don’t like it, but it really is my best shot at getting away clean before the trap is set and all I can do is spring it. I key the code on my left gauntlet and the hypo fires my backup dose of Ambrosia right into my brain, along the delivery canal. The whole world falls into slo mo.

I flex my legs, pushing off with all my might and the accellerants already coursing through my system mean that I am now hurtling upwards towards the roof on the opposite side of the alley. As I approach the third floor window I unleash a shower of glitter knives at the window that the sniper and spotter are behind — it won’t hurt them, but it should confuse the crap out of her model of the alley and his targeting occulars. Now I am on the roof and I am running, accelerating, I need to get up enough speed to get to the north side of East 6th before the drugs wear off.

I hate the way this feels. I know, deep down, that as I jump from the first roof to the roof on the south side of East 5th just over a second has passed, but to me it feels as though getting here has taken a whole minute. No matter how hard I try, all I can see in my mind’s eye is the face of the spotter as she realised that she’d missed me, and that I was gone.

As I land on the second roof and start to run for the far edge to jump across East 5th I send the image of her face from my ephemeral memory to deep storage, and then I start running my mind over the problem of who had sold me out and how I had not seen this coming.

Now I am in the air again, and then down and now I am jumping over East 6th and then time snaps back in and I am on my knees, vomiting on a rooftop, in the rain.

Less than 5 seconds have passed. I have a five minute head start on them, unless the sniper and spotter have their own combat drugs ready to go.

I reach into my big left pocket and pull out the salt bar and I force myself to eat it. Each mouthful is initially horrid, making me feel dry and nauseous all over again and then, as quickly as that came it is gone and I feel better. I tear off the tech-cloak and let the rain drench me.

I quickly unpack the drone, load up the cloak, my guns and the monocle and launch — now I am carrying nothing that is out of place in a citizen. I reverse my jacket, on the new outside there are holo-displays, cycling through artwork I have borrowed from the net. From my other big pocket I pull out a ball cap and snap it into place. Now I am ready to hit the street.

Ninety seconds after I took the Ambrosia and lept for that roof I am sliding into a seat on the crosstown bus, earbuds in, vid shades down, just another tech-head riding the bus.

No one is tailing me, I am sure of that. All I have to go on is a face, sent to deep storage so that I can’t forget, so that I can share her likeness with others.

Now I have to find out who knows, and I have to decide whether or not I stay and finish the job.

Photo by Steven Roe on Unsplash