Some people get confused if they take the wrong
turn or walk a block too far. Not you. Whether
driving or on foot, your memory of places and
understanding of the urban landscape are as
automatic as breathing.
The city is as familiar as your own body. You
know the rhythms of traffic and neighborhoods.
You can plan routes throughout your day that
effortlessly shake tails and get you to your
destination with time to spare. Being late is not
a problem you suffer from. You’re never late,
because you’d never fail your Cell.
Who pulled you from a fiery wreck just in time?
Who did you leave behind because they couldn’t keep up?
Who did you hide from a Corporate threat?
“You’re like a shark. If you stop moving, you’ll die.” -L0renz
I can’t really explain why I’ve always been on the go; it’s not as though I grew up with some deep-seated childhood trauma. In fact, my parents were dreadfully respectable, comfortingly bland history teachers, who did all the sorts of things you’d expect, like reading me bedtime stories. My favorite was the Animorphs series—the way those kids could transform into animals, combining cool human intellect with raw animal speed! I didn’t tell anyone, but I trained myself to run a little faster, jump a little higher. At night, I would run barefoot through the city streets, willing my eyes to see past the darkness like an owl. With enough practice, I imagined that some day, I would fly.
Then the War came. I won’t bore you with a sob story, but I just remember a bright flash overhead, followed by the loudest silence I’d ever heard. I was 12 and suddenly fierce. I did what came naturally: I started running. There were lots of kids my age on the street, and we naturally grouped up. That’s when I met L0renz. He had salvaged an old box truck from an abandoned warehouse, and was looking for a spotter and driver. L0renz was the patient, methodical type, and moved about as fast as a horse-fly on a cow’s ass. But he’d grown up working at his uncle’s body shop, and could make an engine purr just by looking at it. He and his crew (they call themselves the DeL0reanz) transport anything that needs to get from A to B, no questions asked. Sometimes it’s official business, like moving meatbags for Nikumono. Sometimes it’s more interesting, like moving food around the city. Only the filthy rich can afford that luxury though.
I mostly do my own thing, and unlike most runners, I’ve built a rep for being absolutely reliable. No one knows this town like I do: every alley, every back door, every rooftop hatch. And between you and me, though it may not look like it, I make a pretty decent living. Now and then though, I pick up gigs from L0renz, particularly if he needs someone to take charge for a major job. I like to keep things lively, and I find that working with L0renz often leads me to interesting people and places.
Like Doc CºƤ3rn1cus and her clinic. You need a fix, you get it there, quick and simple. I told her once, “I have a chop-shop for auto bodies; you have a chop-shop for human bodies.” She seemed a little ruffled at the comparison, so I quickly emphasized that I wasn’t putting her on the same level as a street gang thug. I know she’s a trained doctor, and she’s helped me out in so many ways, even though I can’t connect to Cyberzone. See, she gives me a steady supply of maanyi, which is even better. Just a tiny pinch, and I’m clear-headed and focused for days. I don’t even know why you’d want to plug into Cyberzone if you could experience reality the way I do. I’m awake in a way that most people never will be.
That’s why, when the Big Job went south, I was utterly positive it wasn’t my fault. The assignment didn’t seem too out of the ordinary; we were just transporting some extra meat for Nikumono. There were some higher level bureaucrats in the reefer and I had to go through some extra background checks beforehand, but otherwise it was pretty humdrum. We loaded up the van with the meatbags and some cases of fruit. Then the explosion went off. One minute we were cruising along just fine, the next minute I’d lost control of the vehicle and the manual override was corrupted as well. There was a crash, and I was pinned against a steel retainer wall beam, badly burned. Hirohito pulled me out of the wreckage just in time, as everything was engulfed in flames. Rumor was that there was an assassination attempt on one of the bodies. Worried that Nikumono might pin the attempt on me, I stopped working for them and quietly went underground to avoid questioning. I always liked wearing low hats anyways.
It wasn’t just the last job gone awry; I’d been feeling a bit…uneasy about my relationship with Nikumono for a while. I knew that the organization was seeking to infiltrate the Tonarigumi, efficiently and ruthlessly. Operation Panopticon was ostensibly a surveillance program to better monitor Nikumono’s custodial charges, but really, it was designed to identify and root out Tonarigumi agents. CºƤ3rn1cus’ clinic had developed a reputation for being a Tonarigumi hangout, and their go-to shop for cybernetic enhancements. Since I had built up a friendship with CºƤ3rn1cus, naturally it fell on me to figure out how to dig up more intelligence on her Tonarigumi patients. There was also a pointed visit from Nikumono agent Captain Sato, in which she threatened to cut my Achilles tendons and reduce me to crawling on my knees for the rest of my life. I’m not going to lie—at that point the decision was easy. One evening, after collecting my drugs, I invited CºƤ3rn1cus to have a drink, garnished with a squeeze of memory-blocking sedatives. In short order, I wiretapped her consultation rooms, and replaced the receivers on her stock of cybernetic vision and hearing implants with enhanced wires, ones that would automatically relay data to Nikumono servers. It worked. Nikumono now has unwitting eyes and ears all over Neo-Tokyo, and more “agents” are added every day…