A PI sets out to find work but gets drawn into something much bigger.
| James walked into the Jack-O-Lantern and cased the joint quickly. He removed his fedora and moved quickly passed the bar to a quiet booth by the window. James sat silently, facing the door. Never sit with your back to the door Jim, he reminded himself. He looked around and saw the server turn and smile. Your on the clock Jim, so just one, he reminded himself.
"The usual?" asked the server, placing a napkin in front of Jim.
"No," replied James, "just a whiskey, neat." James pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his jacket and started to fish one out.
"Sorry sir, no smoking," said the server timidly.
"Oh right, new city ordinance," replied James disappointed. The server smiled and walked quickly to the bar. James heard him tell the bartender his order. The bartender looked over the server's shoulder and nodded. James watched him pour the drink from the corner of his eye. The server returned, placing the drink in front of James with a new napkin. James saw the was a note scribbled on it.
"Mitch says if you really want a cigarette you can go out on the patio," said the server. "If you get lonely there's a black cat that hangs out back there," added the server with a small grin. The server quickly turned and began attending another customer.
James took a leisurely sip of his drink and casually read the note.
Client out in back. No spooks.
James crumpled the note and put it in his pocket. No spook was always good and he really didn't want law enforcement eavesdropping. He looked around the Jack-O-Lantern one more time and then stood. He swallowed his drink feeling the alcohol burn on its way down. He looked at the bar tender who motioned to the back of the Jack-O-Lantern with his head. James nodded his thanks and went out the door.
It was still crisp outside. The faint moonlight struggled against the artificial lights of the mega-city. The patio was empty except for a woman seated at the far table. She had long black hair and caramel colored skin. She was defiantly breath taking and clearly affluent.
He sat at her patio table across from her. He could see her crisp brown eyes evaluating him.
His hand went to his pocket and he fished out his cigarettes.
"Please don't. I'm allergic," she said.
"Ok", he said with another disappointed sigh, "how can I help you?"
A hint of a smile played across her face like she knew something he didn't.
"Captain James Stone," she said, "former Imperial Psy-Ops, kinetic core. What was your specialty, oh yes, Techno-kinesis, a psychic hacker. Served 10 years with distinction. Silver cross, medal of valor, excelled in combat and kinetic training... hated your commanding officer..."
James cut her off.
"Look lady, I can see you can use the Network but I didn't come for a history lesson, especially my history."
"Fair enough," she said.
It hung between them. James stood up. The gig was a bust. Even spooks would have been better then this.
"Sit down Captain, I was setting the tone," she said forcefully.
"The tone for what? Halloween? Because your monologue was just creepy," he said as he sat back down.
"What do you know about the Overmind?" she asked.
"You mean the AI supercomputer that regulates almost every aspect of human life so we don't become extinct? Never heard of it," he said sarcastically.
"Cute," she said with another faint smile.
"What about it?"
"It's dying," she said with a straight face.
"Right," he said slowly, "sure it is. Have a good night and stay on your meds."
Before he could stand she slid a data crystal across the table.
"Check and see," she purred.
He looked at her, then at the crystal. He could tell it was authentic. He carefully placed his hand on it. A plethora of data unfolded and coalesced in his mind. He could see the almost infinite code-strings of the Overmind. Then he understood what she meant. Entire sections of data were being systematically purged. The algorithm was complex and learning, deleting random sets of code-strings. Even worse, he could tell the Overmind knew what was happening but couldn't stop it.
"Jesus" he said rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Who?" she asked, then said "oh the old christian God, right."
"This is bad. You want me to find the killer?" he asked.
"Oh no, we want you to cover our tracks," she said with a twinkle in her eye.
"The Overmind's time has come to an end. The Emperor has decided to move on," she said reassuringly.
"I..." he fumbled for his words from the shock. The Emperor was done with the Overmind? He couldn't believe it, but he could tell the data crystal was real.
"I need an answer," she pressed.
"This is..." he sat back in his chair "What if I say no."
"I'll erase your memory," she said flatly.
Then it clicked in Jame's mind.
"Your a psycho-kinetic. That's why you didn't want me to smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant. It would interfere with your Psyonic regulators."
"That's also how I know your history. Your mind told me. It practically broadcast is like a radio," she said.
"Psyco-kinetics are illegal," he said hastefully, stalling for time.
"Your stalling," she said, "plus, legal and illegal are relative terms when you work for the people that make the rules. So whats it going to be?" she added.
"What's in it for me?" he asked.
"What do you want? Wait, I already know what you want," she said with a mischievous smile.
"That's creepy, stay out of my head," he remarked sternly.
"Then what's your answer," she insisted.
"Can I think about it?" he asked
"For something this big, of course not. I need an answer, now" she said with a tone of finality.
James sat bewildered. For the first time in his life he didn't know what to say.