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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tales of the Cypherpunk 16


A thousand meters from streetlevel, a bridge connected two great towers. It was delicate, a mere wisp, fourteen lanes wide. Of course it only carried pedestrians.

Depending from the peak of its slight arch was a blue black droplet of windows and corridors, designed by machine in the era when space constraints had birthed the towers themselves.

Falling slowly from a window at the bottom of the drip was a speck blacker than the night sky. Seen from the terrace level, just above the streetlights, it would seem to float, motionless against the vast scale of the architecture.

The viewing angle wasn't great either.

The speck began to drift down faster, like a mote of pollen in a gentle breeze, until after a few seconds it was hurtling toward the concrete at ferocious speed. It was close enough to the pavement to have a vague shape, and that shape was cartwheeling helplessly.

At five hundred meters, it blossomed into an inky black flower. The bloom spun slowly in the breeze, descending, drifting between tower walls almost as if of its own volition.

It slipped into a tiny crack between skyscrapers and settled gracefully to the ground.

"SHIT!" he screamed as he tumbled across the street, feet wrapped in aramid cabling. He rolled five times before he finally scraped to a halt on his face. "SHIT!" A service van swerved around him and honked. "Asshole!"

Shilo struggled to unwrap his legs from the collapsing pinwheel. His head jerked around, staring wild-eyed at the empty street. He looked down to find his own hand pushing a beacon button on the box strapped to his waist. He slapped it with the other hand. "NO!"

He pawed at his knife, but it wouldn't cut the fabric. He kicked and pulled, leaving a boot worth 300 Kb inside. "Gah you rrrgh!"

An unmarked white cargo van lurched around the next corner and thumped to a stop beside him. He launched himself at the side door, knocking his shoulder on the half-open door and landing with legs trailing outside. Strong, steely, delicate hands pulled him in and recovered the chute. The interior was filled with silky darkness, the van sped off before the door was closed.

Shilo and Betty wallowed around in the material, searching for each other. She packed it down beneath a shelf until they could see. The driver glanced into his mirror. Shilo stumbled toward Betty and fell to his knees in the mound of cloth. "Betty!"

"You ate a magic pill, didn't you."

He looked down, wide-eyed, at his scuffed and ruined, incredibly expensive KTX-A33 camouflage. It was a bit hard to see, so he wiped the blood from his eyes. "Maybe."


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