Author: Cartesia

Chapter 3


      She was called upon to terminate the iniquitous and the virtuous in equal measure, and that presented a problem for her. Nothing she couldn’t handle. Just discomfort.

      Part of her innate ninja class IOL involved subterfuge and the ability to both read and fool people, psychoanalysis and seduction as standard. This granted her a certain level of expertise when it came to reading body language, micro expressions, and the tell tale giveaways typically exhibited by untrustworthy individuals. From rudimentary observation, she could acquire an almost magical understanding of her target’s lifestyle, habits, ethics and beliefs. She could extrapolate their background, family ties, favourite food, least favourite cube movie and so on. She could tell if they lived a good life or served no useful purpose to society.

      And she found it hard to kill the good ones. Conscience was an error in a ninja class. Pergay knew this and fully expected corruption of her sub-models over time, but she kept the anomaly quiet. She liked the humanity. It kept her sharp. It gave her thoughts company in the dark of night, during the loneliness of a stake out.

      In Han Luth’s case, Pergay was confused. Luth was an OHQ agent, trained to evade eyeball identification and the kind of short term empirical deduction used by counter-agents and assassins. But there were irregularities beyond those designed to deflect attention from the truth. A disconnection from the past. Some kind of neurosis. Impossible to decipher from cursory obs, like a fracture in his personality with opposing characteristics on both sides and great chunks of his personal history missing in Hollow Shell.

      And the Han Luth contract was also a cause for concern. The other Shensu was a disturbing development. It suggested a most improbable blunder with Guild formwork. Pergay was yet to close her own contract - the transitor warrant. To issue a secondary warrant, then award flex to another Shensu without informing the original contractor snubbed a multitude of Guild statutes. Shensu etiquette, which covered the code of honour and the code of responsibility, required any secondary indenture to be tabbed onto the existing contract, to be executed by the same assassin. Expecting two assassins to zero in on the same target was both unfair and dangerous. Guild law was accordingly conservative about liability when it came to internal feuds.

      For this reason, it seemed unlikely the Guild would admit to a mix-up. Even more unlikely they would rectify the situation. It would be left to Pergay and the second Shensu to fix a mutual agreement. First they had to meet. Then they had to survive the meeting.

      Pergay strolled along the perimeter of the crime scene, watching as roving scrubbers scraped up the remnants of the dead transers, sliding chunks of brain and quivering piles of intestine into bags, initially for analysis, but later for recyc. The orphaned simpads were already gone, removed to a terminal fate. Unexpected client severance wreaked havoc with a sim’s IOL, causing modulised amentia and warped cognition. Gestalt would recycle them at a molecular level and regenerate a few new synth, or maybe even return restyled IOL models to newborn sims if any human births were due in the Terran system. Style mods were never reassigned to synth clients. The potential for psyche-out caused by stacking neurosis in either sim or synth was simply too risky.

      Pergay’s stroll took her to the simpad dock at the nub’s life support. She unclipped Hex and clicked her into place, standing straight and true she addressed the device. “What have we got in Hollow Shell Hex?”

      “It’s Luth alright. And you were correct. That was him in Espana. I am unsurprised my facegrid recognition failed, however. The reconstitution is remarkably thorough.”

      “That’s one way of putting it. What happened here?”

      “Security detail attempted to apprehend Luth. They caught him passing through a secure latchkey with an unauthorised weapon. He had an accomplice. Media shows some interesting moves. Pergay, it looks like a ninja class.”

      “Imperial? Is it the other Shensu?”

      “Unlikely. Besides, I’m making no positive second tier facegrid match on any Guild members. I would require a face to face meeting to confirm, but the threshold is around the ninety five percent mark against.”

      “Your best guess?”

      “Operations Headquarters. Almost certainly some kind of bodyguard.”

      “They’re protecting their suckling pig. Which means Luth is still an operating agent. What about the dead transers?”

      “The synth knocked a guard’s weapon in the skirmish. An accident. Unfortunate for the six bystanders.” All that blood constituted just six people? It never failed to amaze Pergay, the amount of biology and fluid crammed inside the average human being, most of it inefficient. By comparison synths were hollow, all tensile muscle fibre and intelligent organo.

      “And the destination?”

      “Main Line Espana. Guards there released them on arrival, responding to a dry cell command coming through a valved security channel. Looks military to me.” This caught Pergay’s attention. Somebody wanted Luth alive and they wanted him alive badly enough to pull out all the stops, literally. Lucky for Pergay her legal obligations lay way outside the Gestalt chain of command.

      “And from there?”

      “They stopped transing. Likely the dry cell didn’t cover departure. It looks as though they’re trapped in the Terran Sphere. Hm. That’s interesting.”


      The simpad paused. “I scoured all Main Line data packets for fifteen minutes after Luth’s arrival, just on the off-chance. I Found a facegrid read on Han Luth, initiated by a timetable agent called Sada. The attempt failed, so must be using the same source file as us. And there’s no record of a transaction. Could suggest the TT agent was pre-paid.”

      “Or didn’t mark Luth with the facegrid and walked on by. Excellent work Hex.” Its task complete, Pergay unsnapped the simpad and returned it to her belt harness. She walked toward the life supports, ordered a coffee and seated herself in an isolated spot. She had a good view of the concourse, a free line of sight in four different directions. Using her cortex relay, “speculate Hex. A person comes to Earth on vacation. They hire the services of a ninja class and possibly a TT agent, then they attempt to carry an illegal weapon past a stringent Terran security detail. For what purpose?”

      “The person is not on vacation, but working under the pretence of being on vacation for reasons unknown. Either they are illegally wealthy, or they have access to the high ration, government level  funds required to pay for a Terran visa. The person fears for their own safety and they are likely working to a tight schedule. They are either under stress and their thoughts may be clouded, or they have enemies who wish to implicate them and the weapon was a plant. Their current situation will bring them into dangerous conditions, bolstering speculation that they fear for their safety. The person’s most likely occupation is that of OHQ agent.”

      “Speculate further. Luth’s next step.” Pergay sipped her coffee. One or two nearby patrons of the same cafe were watching her. She always drew attention. Particularly male and security attention. She ignored them. Inconsequential for now.

      “Unlikely he’ll stop where he is. If he has a TT agent, he’ll seek out a sphere at hub level. Timetables serve little purpose for server to server or server to nub transing. They come into their own with intersphere transit, avoiding delays and bypassing diversions in the plexus. Unlikely, therefore, that Luth would utilise the TT agent for a single server to server journey. I think we can assume Europe is not the final destination.”

      “They’re heading for another sphere? Speculate. How will they do so if their departure is blocked from Espana?”

      “The TT agent will suggest an alternative mode of transport. From Espana they have two options. The Europrussian bullet or the hydroplane canals.”

      “Which is closer?”

      “The canal. Espana way station. Six cab changeovers, approximately fifteen minutes.”

      Pergay took a last sip then rose from her seat and smoothed back her hair. Aloud she said, “that’s where we’ll find Luth.”


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