Subject to change at any time, naturally.
The buzzing of his Syzygy biochip woke Danny up.
All night, it had coughed and stuttered, pulling him from dreams that saw Johnny San Vito dying in a variety of different ways: plunging from the room of a tall building, bleeding out in a back alley on the outskirts of Umbra, or more likely, overdosing on synth in the ratty leather couch he used when he jacked in. By morning, the chip had settled into a low buzz, a vague complaint about the state of its internal memory.
The girl nodded enthusiastically. “It was her idea. She said Mr. Gordon is the best shot in three counties.”
“Is that so?”
Gordon shrugged. He had no choice but to play humble when people talked about his skill with a gun. Had he been blessed with some innate ability or if he’d practiced for years to become proficient, he might have genuinely accepted the praise. But no, his abilities had come through code, from a shortcut he’d just warned Jessie about. He had thought the subroutines and hidden methods might fade with time, like the muscle memory in his fingers that no longer remembered how to play the opening riff to Paradise City, but they persevered through the years, through the willful neglect.
The club was at ninety percent capacity according to the last update from Cleo. Tanzy enjoyed sitting in most nights, happy to get away from her real work, happy to remember what it was like in the days before discovering the infinite world that lived inside her computer. Those were simpler times, full of misspelled poems and Newports pilfered from her mom’s purse. Everything had seemed so simple then. She knew who she was and who her friends were.
Then the Net came, and everything changed.
Static tore through the enameled sky of the construct.
A sweating Corona slipped from Kaili Zabora’s hand, spilling cold beer onto her bare legs before falling neck-down into the white sand. She grabbed her ears and pressed, but the monstrous noise seemed to be coming from within, as if a garbled scream had erupted from her own mind. She watched the distant waves of the ocean temple as they went in and out of focus. Kaili sank into her chair, retreating from the tremendous weight of the dead, white noise.
The world around her pixelated, obscuring her view of the man walking the shoreline—Rick Diaz, collecting seashells, his bare chest baking in the sun.
“You gonna make me?”
Her eyes sparkled, popping gold and white around the irises. “I could, if I wanted to. It’s important you know that. Things have changed since your day, G. And if you really have been hiding out here since V-night, you need to know the world is now far more dangerous than when you left it. You look at me and see nothing but a small frame and perfect tits, and there’s no doubt in your aging mind that you could overpower me if it came to that. I don’t blame you; that’s small thinking, and guys are like that. But really, you have no idea what you’re looking at when you look at me.”
Cyn slid the palette onto the vanity and took off her jacket. Underneath, she wore a thin, black t-shirt with a faded print of Black Star Circle’s logo on the breast. She pulled up the sleeves and rotated her arms so Gordon could get a better look at the skeletal tattoo running their lengths.
“You have a will, Danny?” Johnny had asked at the time, his voice muffled by the gauze around his missing tooth. “We could have died, and all our shit woulda been orphaned.”
And while that was fine for Danny—his secrets and money were bound for the ether—Johnny had evidently been serious about passing on his legacy. He’d designed, primed, and now, triggered a fully functional Dead Man’s Loop.
But why had he triggered it?