Monday, September 06, 2010

Boston Blitz-Manhattan Applesauce preview

Some days you just know not to get out of bed. A woman screaming outside your front door is one of those days. I kicked some pants on and stumbled to the door. I went through the rolodex of ex-lovers in my head trying to find the one whose heart I broke this time, and I came up with the same thing I had for dinner last night. Nothing. So I opened the door.

"What do you want? It's 3AM and I'm nursing a hangover that you wouldn't believe." Like the rest of this city, I muttered to myself.

"It's my friend, Eugene! He challenged the Strip to a mind battle this week!"

I've had my run-ins with the Strip before. A terminator of the chessboard. A steel mind with steel eyes and a steel nerve that will melt your brain. Greater players than Eugene have been turned into applesauce by the Strip. Eugene was in grave danger. Unless....

"He has the White icons, right?" Only a fool would challenge the Strip to the cyberspace mental squares otherwise.

"No, Eugene has Black!" she wailed.

"We've got to get down there!" I grabbed my gun, my whiskey, and the girl. We raced to the 101 train as fast as my tired legs and her stiletto heels could go. We didn't get very far.

"Where you all goin', catdog?" curdled a voice behind me. I knew that voice. Marc Esserman had been hustling me since we were wearing short pants down at the Big H. He could *feel* my money burning a hole in my pocket. In his mind, it was already his.

"I'll give you 1 second at 1 second increment and knight odds to...." I cut him off with a swig of whiskey and told him about Eugene. But in a crazy city like this, you can barely finish a sentence without a fight breaking out. As we talked, Eli Vovsha crawled out of the shadows and into our lives.

"Mr. Esserman." Vovsha hissed. "Would you give me such odds?"

"Bring it, catdog. But no odds." Immediately, Marc and Eli locked in mortal combat, dueling with fists and kicks and minds and checks. I reached for my gun to help my old friend, but the woman touched my arm. "There's no time!" The last I saw, Esserman was holding his own, but they disappeared into a crazy tactical alleyway moments before we ducked into the train station.

Hopping on the train, we relaxed for a little while. "Why don't you tell me how this happened. How did Eugene get mixed up in all this?" I nursed my hangover by filling my empty belly with whiskey while the mystery woman caught me up on the tale.

"It actually started when WGM Anya Corke ...."

Apparantly Anya got locked into a cybernet mental battle with a bad piece of work from Manhattan, Andrei Zaremba. Andrei had kicked Esserman to the curb last year, and Anya said she would take Andrei to the cleaners for good.

But Andrei pulled in some favors from the Cybernetic Overlord Shahade and ambushed Anya before she was fully prepared. Eugene stepped into the cybernet to help out his teammate, when the Strip showed up. Eugene had no choice but issue the challenge to Stripunsky to prevent Anya from facing two opponents at once.

The whiskey, the only food keeping me alive, was starting to sour. "So this means that the Blitz..."
"Are in grave danger, yes."
As the train barreled underneath the fetid streets of that decaying city, I wondered if the Blitz were finished.
Before I could complete that thought, my retina-phone started silently ringing in my peripheral vision. I scanned my eye to the lower left corner and mentally answered. Vadim Martirosov's face and voice filled my mental space:
"Jason, I was speedcar-ing it over to Eugene and Anya, when I got sideswiped by some thug I'd never heard of before." Vadim's image momentarily vanished as his attacker's photo scanned into my mental space.
"Hold on, Vadim, I'll pull up his vitals." Mentally, I turned away from the retina phone and starting tweaking on the cybernet. Datastreams filled my mind as I danced through the old USCL.comfiles. Although useless against mental bombs, my hand still clenched more tightly on my gun when I entered THAT irreputable space.
"Vadim-- you are up against Shaun Smith. Age-20. Score 0.5 of 4. Affilation, uh-oh, he's one of Strips guys. Mental rating- 2000. Vadim, he'll counter with...."
Just then static filled my brain. Disoriented, I thought ruefully that it was the whiskey, but it was just a lost connection. "Even in the future, nothing works," I spat.

The train thundered on. My new lady friend was distraught. I took another draught. My gun grip was tighter still.

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