News of the dirtside happenings in Oracle was playing on the public monitors during the short ride on the axis train, down to District 22. The EnCorp disaster was bad enough, but the terror attacks on the monorail and the maternity ward sounded horrific.

Officially, the EnCorp power outage was still being described as an accident, but Laure figured you’d have to be an idiot not to see the disaster for what it really was.

Worryingly, Ash had mentioned several suspicious industrial accidents on other habitats when she had woken in her new sleeve, that could easily be attributed as New Way attacks; so it seemed more than likely that the Spacer community wasn’t excluded from whatever was going on.

As the train glided out of Station 21, Laure briefly considered going back online to check these other incidents out, but decided against it, preferring privacy over immediate access to the information. Instead she asked Ash to retrieve content when she was back online. It was better that way.

On the monitors, the chat host, Ken Ham, launched into a featurette about the terrorist leader, Logos, entitled ‘The man behind the mask’. Laure was familiar with the old ExoTech armour the guy wore and had even donned pirated versions of it herself, during some of the corporate assaults she’d run back in her forties. Where Logos had got his from was anyone's guess; although if you knew the right people in the Hive, or places like the Carnival, you could probably score a suit if you had the clicks to spare, so she assumed OSEC was currently going nuts trying to track down anyone rumoured to have had a suit going for sale recently.

Laure would have liked to have watched more of the show, to see what other information the media had come up with, but the train was slowing as it approached her stop. Normally she’d have taken the stream with her, but being offline precluded that. Not having everything a mere thought away was beginning to get irksome.

Exiting the train, Laure made her way out of the station and headed up into the heart of District 22. It wasn’t the classiest neighbourhood, criss-crossed with graffiti scribbled, dilapidated-looking towers that housed the local residents.

One of the Icons of Sin hovered a few blocks away in the sultry twilight gloom, it’s radial spires illuminating the towers around it as it slowly rotated.

Skyways branched off from the main station approach at crazy angles, arcing away into the semi-darkness towards the towers and pedways above. Fronds of bioengineered vegetation hung from them; passive life support waving gently in the sticky breeze.

Looking above her, Laure scanned the sky and soon found what she was looking for: A crowd of teens, hanging around in a rec between the towers. Picking he way across the skyways, she made her way towards where they were busy shouting insults at each, swinging around a large climbing frame using their prehensile Spacer feet.

As she approached, someone let out a long low whistle and the kids scrambled around the scaffold to observe her.

“Hoy Dirtwalker” several of the bigger teens, led by a loose limbed kid with a mass of curly hair, detached themselves from the climbing frame to land in front of her “Whatcha doing here? This is our turf”

Laure grinned at him trying to exaggerate his Spacer accent “Looking for someone” she held up the Borka vodka she’d bought earlier “I’ve got this and some real nice gear for some info”

Curly raised his chin “Who do you want?”

Laure gave the bottle a deft flick of her fingers and left it spinning on its axis in mid-air “It’s just to talk” she said “I’m looking for Oubliette”

At this, the kids shifted uncomfortably. They knew something alright.

“We ain’t heard that tag before”

“This ain’t nothing but biz,” Laure soothed, smiling disarmingly “and it’s going to make your friend real rich”

“Don’t tell her nothin’!” one of the other kids shouted from the back.

Curly shot a black look over his shoulder at the young girl who was responsible and shook his head.

“I’ve got enough Pep and Cream for a great afternoon for you guys” Laure continued “What do you say?”

“Nah.” Curly shook his head “Not happening”

Laure scowled in irritation “This ain’t messing” she pressed, dropping into rapid Gutterspeak in an effort to push her Spacer credentials “I’m the nice one here. I’m trying to look out for your friend and make sure they don’t get iced. This is some bad corpse shit, but I’ve got the clicks to smooth things out and make all the problems go away. Now are you going to tell me where Oubliette is, or not?”

Curly threw back his head and laughed, leading a copy-cat chorus of laughter and jeers from rest of his crew.

“Tell you what” he said, still grinning as he glanced at the others, making sure he was playing to his audience “If you’re so hot for Oubliette, why don’t you give me and my boys a blow job first and I’ll tell you where to find them?”

This was met with wide hilarity.

“You know,” Laure said once things had quietened down a bit “that’s one of the interesting things about this sleeve: I’ve got an X-Spot at the back of the throat and no gag reflex”

“Seriously?” Curly’s eyes widened, suddenly unsure of himself once he realised he might be dealing with someone who had been resleeved, and could be bristling with augmentations.

“In your fucking dreams rat boy” Laure shot back, caused more laughter and diffusing some of the tension.

“Ha - She had you going there, mate” one of Curly’s lieutenants chuckled next to him.

By Laure’s estimation, the group was just beginning to come around. She was about renew the offer of the booze and drugs, and maybe throw in a few hundred clicks for more, when there was another long low whistle from whoever was on lookout.

“Oho - Another Dirtwalker” the lieutenant called towards the dark haired woman walking towards them “Maybe you wanna go twos-up with us baby?”

Without even breaking her stride and before anyone could react, the woman pulled out a gun and shot him in the face.

Globules of blood and brain erupted from the back of his skull as the kids screamed and panic ensued. Another couple of leg shots to Curly and one of the other kids standing near him, had them incapacitated, crying out in fear and pain as the others scattered, leaving Laure wheeling to face the newcomer.

“Well done Baljit” the woman grated as she walked up to her “I’m impressed you got here ahead of me, but no matter. I have been authorised to assume command. Your boyfriend has been reassigned. You will be too.

“Now” she turned her attention to Curly and his friend, pointing her gun at them “Where can I find Oubliette?”

“She... She’s in Block D” Curly gasped through his tears, clutching his bleeding leg “Please don’t kill us”

The woman shrugged and shot Curly’s friend before training the weapon back on him “Surplus to requirements” she said “Now. Which floor?”

Laure had had enough of this - These were just kids for fucks sake!

Stretching and tensing the fingers of both her hands to activate the Shock Gloves, she raised her right arm behind the unsuspecting woman and slammed the palm of her hand onto the back of her head.

For a cheap pair of gloves, the effect was pretty impressive. The woman spasmed and arched backwards, firing a shot harmlessly into the air as the current hammered through her skull. As she went over, Laure detonated the other glove against the woman’s face, laying her out cold in a sizzle of electricity.

The stench of burned hair and skin filled the air.

“Amateur” Laure said. Twisting the gun out of the woman’s limp fingers, she dispassionately cocked the gun and put a bullet in her head “Didn’t even bother to ident me”

Turning to Curly, she tossed him the gun, which he fumbled to catch with blood slicked fingers “Here. Sorry about your mates. Sell this and get that leg seen to.

“Now. Where can I find Oubliette?”

“Don’t kill her” Curly said, miserably “She’s nice”

“Didn’t I tell you that I was the nice one?”

Curly wouldn’t meet her gaze “Block D 743” he murmured “She lives with her parents”


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