Whistles and catcalls followed Laure as she hurried through the Carnival, back towards the station. This shit was getting ridiculous, she reflected. The sooner she was in a new body, the better.

Rounding a corner, a working girl with cerise hair stepped out of the crowd towards her “Hoy sweetie. Do you want a date?” she was in a cheap, synthetic sleeve that she was probably paying her pimp back for buying her. Any life was better than none “I’m way better than virtual. Or do you like guys? - I can be that too”

Laure shook her head “Nah, not today. I’m after weapons and drugs. Who’s nearest for those?” she pinged the girl a few clicks from her account for her trouble.

“No problem” she had a pretty smile “You need Govinda, up there” she raised an arm and pointed at a neon lit multimart, sprawled between two gantries “He sells drugs and sidearms. Nothing too heavy though. That okay?”

“Good enough for me.” Laure nodded “Thanks”

Deactivating the gripads on her boots, she pushed herself off, out of the crowd and up towards the store.

“Just ask for Malee if you ever need anything else” the girl called after her, before turning away to offer herself to other passers-by.

Sailing through a flickering cloud of ARverts, Laure caught hold of a grab rail and swung herself into the store. The girl had been right; Govinda sold weapons and drugs, and a whole lot more besides. The shelves crowding the walls and ceiling were filled with everything from alcohol and food, to medicines, ammunition and even several fenced-looking terminals.

“Greetings valued customer” a man, who Laure presumed was Govinda, called from behind the counter, his eyes focussed on whatever virtual environment he was involved in “Were you after anything in particular?”

“Any chance of an MX 21?”

Govinda blinked and smiled apologetically as his attention returned to the room “That’s a little specialist, I’m afraid. I can do you a Zephyr-7?”

“They’re okay” Laure shrugged “I’d prefer flechette compatible”

“Give me - say - an hour or so and I might be able to get hold of a twenty-one. That okay?”

“Nah. I’ll take the Seven and three spare clips”

“An excellent choice. I’m sure you’ll give it a good home”

Laure swept her eyes over the crowded shelves behind Govinda “I’ll take a pair of shock gloves as well; ten doses each of Pep and Cream, and a large bottle of that Borka”

After paying for the goods, Laure exited the shop with the bottle in hand and the Zephyr pistol tucked securely in the waistband of her cargo pants; it’s cold mass pressing reassuringly against her skin. She hoped she didn’t have to use it.

Ash? Laure pinged her PaWare Update Cortez for me. Keep it general, but let him know I’m onto a solid lead

[Will do. Any other requests?]

Yeah: Put us dark after you’ve made the call - I don’t want the wanker tracking us

[No probs. Looks like there’s nothing pinging the Grid in your clothes, so you shouldn’t need any interference running]

Ash returned a moment later, just as Laure was nearing the station. [Cortez isn’t answering. I’ve left a message for him]

What? Has he gone off-Grid too?

[No I was able to connect, but there was no response. Do you want me to place a trace on him?]

Yeah. Do that, then put us dark.


Perturbed, Laure made her way into the station. Given that Cortez had seemed keen to get his briefcase back, it seemed strange that he hadn’t picked up. Strange and more than a little worrying.

As thing stood, Cortez was currently the only one who knew where the backups of the other members of the Plastic Star’s crew were; so as much as Laure disliked being screwed into working for him, it wouldn’t do to have him disappear until she had extracted the information she needed to rescue her crew.


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