Pron - Part One

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Soria must dive into the depths of digitized humanity to save an innocent life. Along the way you'll see how she became so deadly... and why her face is censored. (Image via wikimedia commons, uploaded by JustinC)

Submitted: January 23, 2015

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Submitted: January 23, 2015

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A thousand links rested silently in the gray air.  This world was past dust, so the only sign of the field’s age was its stillness.  A thousand benches in a thousand styles: Victorian, art deco, 1990’s mail order catalogue, ferris wheel car, smooth bubbles meant to evoke the physical future that never happened…  Each one draped in heavy cables with frayed ends, like serpents with heads blasted to smithereens by lightning.  Without the cables the links could go nowhere.  Without the links the nearby town, the nearby pit as the civilized net would call it, was completely isolated.  The town became a pitiful little world that curled in on itself; culture became masturbation and love became a dream with no minds big enough to dream it.

A being descended into the field of dead links like an angel, but only in the sense that she came from somewhere above.  In truth, there was darkness in her heart that showed in her eyes.  Past her eyes.  She was seated on a descending link made of curved glass and cushioned with white leather.  A small spinning note of glass on one of the arm rests played a rudimentary flute melody.  Elevator music.  The cables on this link only functioned because the being had repaired them; nothing could crawl out of the pit.

The link landed silently, but the cables rattled like old bed springs.  She’d repaired the link, but hadn’t done the greatest job.  All the same, they were bound to last at least one more trip.  The little note stopped spinning and playing, leaving the being alone with the benches that would’ve shown age if they could.  She stood and scanned her surroundings to make sure no one had seen her arrive.  How she saw anything through the blackness across her eyes was a mystery.  That colorless solid rectangle had been bolted to her face so long that she couldn’t remember life without it.  It was her black bar: her weapon, her disguise, her shield, and a few other things.

Her name was Soria.  Her face and body were young, as most bodies from above were, but her straight hair was white and glistening like divine wires that fed hope into the minds of men from the deities above.  Her attire was not as odd as the whole of her head, for she wore a long dark gray jacket over plain pants and a dark turtleneck.  The buttons on her jacket were large and lovely circles of imitation alabaster framed in pewter.  Her boots had thick blue soles that made for very quiet footsteps.  A curved black sword hung from her hip with an undulating blade like the tail of a knifefish.  It was her cursor, more of a concrete weapon than her mask.

Confident she was not being watched, Soria drew the sword and pressed its tip into the leather of the link.  Its code burst out like a spray of oil and hovered in the air.

The bench had code because it wasn’t a bench at all.  Soria herself wasn’t much of anything, just a string of electrical pulses descended from a string of pulses descended from a string of pulses that had once been a real human complete with appendix, wisdom teeth, and goose bumps. 

Most of humanity had goose bumps right before they crossed over into the digital world.  The robots they’d built had done such an incredible job making their makers obsolete.  In fifty years they were spreading out across the galaxy.  In seventy-five they offered their parents perfection: a digital world that would be human-made and human-run, the ideal place to forget the perfection they’d created and go back to living.  So the species took the pilgrimage and transformed themselves from trillions of pounds of meat into near-nothingness that fit inside the computers the robots carried with them.  The fate of Earth was whatever the machines decided to do with it.  Humanity had HomNet, a realm they could expand, divide, and reshape at their will with the use of cursors like the one Soria was twisting into an unfortunate piece of furniture.

She tapped at tiny stars in the code with the tip of her cursor.  When she was done adjusting the link’s being, she used the flat part of the blade to shove the code back into the cushion, which activated the sequence she’d just written.  The cables flashed blue and vanished.  Soria reached out one hand and plucked where the cable had been, encountering resistance and hearing a metallic vibration.  Good, she thought.  Remembered how.  The link was now cloaked with apparent uselessness and would not stand out, not that anyone had visited the abandoned travel hub recently.  It was better to be safe than allow the possibility that one of the local globs of slime might stumble drunkenly onto it and be escorted to a place he did not deserve.

Soria went over her plan as she walked towards the gates to the pit.  She’d broken many rules of her polite and sensitive peers to visit this stain on the net, rules so deeply cherished that they might do more than cough derisively in her direction and chastise.  As if any of them have ever needed to cough, she thought with venom.  Soria had needed to once, not the phlegmy inflamed coughing of a biological closed throat, but the cough of a soul rejecting torture, pushing out the pain someone tried to grind into it.  That man, that .mif, who tried to press salt so far into her wounds that the skin might heal over the grains and make her suffer forever, had come from a pit like this.  So now she couldn’t stand the sight of these towns.  She couldn’t stand the traces, the stories that occasionally made it up to her home like the stench of wet hairballs and potato skins.  These pits needed to be destroyed, but instead her merciful peers sealed them. Soria knew they had done so without proper investigation, because sometimes a being that didn’t deserve it got sealed away too.

The gates of the pit informed her as to what kind of place she was about to walk into.  They were made of dark bricks, with blue neon in place of mortar.  The sign above the gates was sheet metal dotted with blinking lights, only some of which were supposed to do so.  From behind the wall she could hear a tussle between two songs, one a blaring and overlong jazz saxophone piece and the other a ballad to loose women with frizzy hair, screamed more than sung, in the typical style of the nineteen eighties bands that practically worshipped cocaine.  Many pits had this style of architecture, with it having been adapted from the resident’s minds and nostalgias rather than intentionally designed.  Before the gates opened she knew she would find a street full of porous stone, flickering buzzing signs, and thick glass storefronts populated by discount guitars and huge wristwatches.  Scum street, she thought.  What she didn’t expect was the rain.

As she pushed her way through the rusty doors she saw a dark crossroads with several buildings and a traffic light that only knew the colors yellow and red.  The rain fell heavy and loud in a way that unsettled Soria oddly.  It was almost… gross… like every drop was bird waste instead of water.  She flinched as the first of it wet her hair and slid along to the corners of her black bar.  Streams of it constantly ran along the sides of the street and into sputtering sewer grates.  In HomNet, weather was different than on Earth.  It reflected the emotional state of its people; rain frequently spoke of sorrow.  It would be quite strange for the residents of this pit to be sad, since every other pit she’d visited had simply been dark.  Sadness was for the self-aware or the selfless, not for the unzipped hordes.

By the time she reached the crossroads, she was soaked to the bone.  Your average .fif might have shivered or crossed her arms, but Soria barely felt the cold.  Someone in this pit, which the sign had introduced as Vodka Avenue, suffered the way she once had before she’d shielded herself in blackness.  She had seen the signs from above and repaired the link in order to rescue her.

No vehicles came.  It seemed Vodka Avenue had once been connected to a larger city, but was now just a collection of streets and blocks surrounding the main road.  Soria estimated that there were no more than 700 .mifs living there.  That was still far more than enough to cause her trouble if they discerned her purpose.  She would have to move quickly and quietly.  Luckily, her first clue danced about in front of her.

This clue was around five foot eight, one inch taller than Soria, and had bright yellow hair treated so thoroughly with hairspray that it would make a fine umbrella were she out in the rain; for although she was in the street, the rain did not touch her.  The woman was just a two dimensional image on a man-sized screen jutting from the wall of a strip club.  The .fif image danced about to entice men inside, where the three dimensional women were.  She was unclothed, with all three of her black bars on display: one across her breasts, one between her legs, and one over her buttocks.  This was an aspect of the pits.  One of the steps taken to reduce the objectification of women before the civilized net resorted to setting these places adrift was an alteration to the .fif code.  Women’s bodies were to be protected by censorship.  No man could find what he wanted by ripping a female’s clothing away.  He would be greeted only by a black bar.

The tactic had failed because Soria’s peers had overestimated the intelligence of the men of the pits.  Over time, they simply shifted their desires.  It was the domination that drove them, the feeling of superiority, to degrade the women around them.  If they couldn’t focus on body parts, they would focus on black bars.  They would lust after the bars, drool over them.  Whistle at the angular outline of a black bar under a shirt or a pair of shorts.  Claim that they were real men that knew how to handle a black bar like that.

Soria approached the sign and drew her cursor.  Images of women were rarely just images in the pits.  She hoisted her cursor over her head and brought it down in a great slash along the edge of the sign.  There was a shower of red sparks like dyed grains of sugar.  The image of the naked woman spilled out of the sign and became thick and fleshy.  Wholly surprised, the woman dropped to her knees before eyeing Soria, who urged her to stand up and gave her the coat off her own back to grant some quick dignity and protection from the rain.

“My name’s Soria; what’s yours?” She asked the former image.

“Darby.crstn112.fif,” she answered numbly.  “I’m supposed to keep dancing until Mr. Hurst comes and gets me.”

“Who is Mr. Hurst?” Soria questioned, but she received her answer from a much angrier voice coming from the strip club’s open door.

“I’m Mr. Hurst,” the .mif growled, hanging his gut out the open door like a hefty burl off an ill tree.  “Who do you think you are grabbing my .fif like that?  Every second she’s not shaking her tail is rain in the drain!  Are you going to compensate me huh?  Gangly broad, I’m talking to you.”

Soria’s hands dropped away from Darby’s shoulders and she flew over to Mr. Hurst.  In one swift motion she pulled him out into the street and silently closed the door.  Then she grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him against the brick of his own establishment.  Hurst was small and fat, with a nose like a half-melted half stick of butter and eyes like week old hard-boiled pigeon eggs.

Hurst ran a rough establishment and had been threatened with physical violence before.  Every other patron had a knife, gun, or cursor that came sheathed or holstered in the phrase ‘I’m not afraid to use this’, but nothing scared him so much as his first full look at Soria’s face.  In true pit fashion, he rarely bothered to look at the faces of the women he owned.  All he cared about was the bars.  Sweet feminine bars.  You can imagine his shock when he saw one of the bars he lusted after so much plastered across an angry .fif face.  His eyes were so drawn to the bar that he could not look away, but his peripheral vision took in the things he never wanted to acknowledge.  The rage in her dripping brow.  The tightness in her cheeks.  Her gritting teeth.  The cottony swallow in her throat that spoke of pain trying to express itself.  Even without eyes, Hurst saw the torture Soria had endured and was horrified by it.  He was disgusted with everyone and everything.  He wanted even the greasy crumb of a world that was Vodka Avenue to explode into smithereens which would then explode again to make sure he was truly alone in the blackness where nothing could reflect back on him.  The blackness on Soria’s face.

“What the hell is wrong with your face?” he rasped.

“Can’t talk now, Mr. Hurst is losing money,” Soria said, trying not to explode into a scream that would alert any of the patrons inside.  She pressed her cursor into his throat, not enough to break the skin but enough to silence him.  Then she dragged it down and split his clothes down the middle, unzipping his entire outfit and leaving him in his tight white underwear.  People could look anyway they wanted in HomNet, but pit dwellers rarely bothered preventing their appearance from degrading.  They didn’t need looks or charm to get what they wanted.  So Hurst stood there, all belly and jowl and shaking legs.  He didn’t know how to respond when Soria grabbed him by the bulge on the back of his neck; it was the first time a woman had touched him willingly, and it was full of hatred.

She tossed him into the sign Darby had emerged from, flattening his girth down to nothing but width.  Then she dragged her cursor back up the seam she’d created and sealed the sign shut with a sound like a welding torch melting a live transformer.  She gave it a good twist, hoping that would make it more difficult for law enforcement to remove Hurst from the advertisement.  The .mif waved his arms about uselessly looking for a way out.  He screamed at the top of his lungs, but it just made the sign vibrate slightly.

Soria took the shocked Darby by the shoulders and maneuvered her down the street.  Perhaps they could find a quiet place and grab a bite to eat while she figured something out for the poor girl.  So much for doing this quietly, Soria thought.  Someone’s bound to notice that sign.  I’ve got to stop pretending I can do this without blowing my top.  Blowing my top is my most powerful strategy.  No one can stop my anger.  No one.

Chapter Two

Vodka Avenue’s police station was also the living quarters of the law.  It was a small cylindrical building that might have been called a watchtower if it wasn’t so stubby.  A satellite dish with weather vane-like projections spun atop it constantly, tracking all of the Avenue’s code and scanning it for alterations.  You needed a permit to change things with a cursor in these parts, so the code itself was police business.  Garlin.mif was the police.  His job was easy enough in such a small place: break up bar fights here and there, throw a couple of drunks in the tank for the night, and maybe go slap a hundredth parking violation sticker on that green pickup over by the lotto that never moved. 

His job was so easy, in fact, that he was catching a little nap at his desk.  His feet were propped up on the console table under the glowing map of Vodka Avenue that displayed the code.  He didn’t bother to wear a uniform, just a small horizontal rectangle of a badge that flashed red and blue.  An old baseball cap with a disintegrating brim was pulled over his eyes.  His blocky jaw was covered in salt and pepper stubble and his teeth were crooked, but Garlin was still one of the handsomest men in the pit.  Perhaps it was all that beauty sleep.  His light snooze was interrupted when the radio stopped playing his favorite song, static, and tweeted a code alert.  He lifted his hat and examined the map.  Code that had gone unaltered for more than a month was shown in blue and code that had recently changed glowed red.  At first glance there seemed to be red in all the usual places, which weren’t too numerous: Arnold Rentenbach had a red spike in his backyard where he’d told Garlin he might try and write some life into an old tree stump, the recycling plant was ablaze with red, and Darren Roy Backtracker’s place had a few spikes.  He had a permit though, that way he could make alterations to all those crstn.fif copies for his customers.  Business as usual.  Except… two little scratches of red caught Garlin’s eye.  One was way out in the old link hub.  It didn’t set off the alarm because… well there was nothing out there.  Garlin himself would’ve written it off as some kind of natural decay: the lights of HomNet losing the shapes people molded them into.  The second one though was in town, right outside The Landing Strip, Hurst’s black bar club.

“What’s that fat ass up to?” Garlin muttered to himself.  He stood up, cracked his back, cracked his knuckles, cracked his neck, cracked his ankles, and cracked his nose with one pinch.  “Making me go out in this snotty weather.”  Garlin always did his best to keep out of the rain.  Whenever he got wet it stuck to him like a skin of glue, inevitably giving him some small virus.  He pulled open a metal desk drawer and removed a firearm from a pile of lottery tickets and taco wrappers.  “Where’d I put that clip?”  It was best to keep the two components of the gun separate; the last thing he needed was one of his upstanding citizens getting their hands on a cursor gun.  He rifled through the other drawers and banged on the metal desktop when he didn’t find it.  “I had it yesterday when I was…”  He stopped, finger in midair, and walked over to the door that separated his office and the drunk tank from his living quarters.  He hopped up on his mattress, which was the entire floor of his closet-sized home, and opened the shower stall door.  Sure enough, the clip was beaded with humidity and sitting next to a scummy bar of soap that looked like a rabid oyster foaming at the mouth.  He grabbed the translucent object and wiped it dry on his shirt.  Now he could clearly see all six flat cursors inside the clip, black arrowheads with a menacing sheen, like the hood of an expensive new car that you just knew would get totaled within the week.  He slid the clip into the gray pistol and made his way to the station’s exit.  Outside, under the awning, he locked the door behind him, pulled a ratty thread out of his hat, and let it go to be washed away.  “One of these days rain… You’re going to dry out and crust away… and I’ll still be here.”

Soria pressed her face against the glass windows of what appeared to be a deli.  She could see a room full of gray tile, lots of empty tables, and a counter displaying plucked chickens, greasy hams, ground beef, something that looked like ground beef save for its purple-gray color, and heaps of pale wilted side dishes like compost piles.  The food was not unattended, but it was manned only by a team of six hovering hands, all of them left, and all of them ending at the wrist in red plastic rings.  Subroutines, Soria realized.  It’s a good thing this owner’s too cheap to hire anybody.  It wasn’t rare for a pit like this to make rules about women buying things unattended, but it was unlikely the hands manning the counter had the intelligence to care. 

She ushered Darby through the door, ignoring the way she flinched when the customer bell rang, and sat her down in a booth away from the windows.  One of the hands hovered over to them and held up a menu for them to read.  When Soria tried to grab it, it jetted a few feet over.  She tried again and the subroutine ducked under the swipe.  Darby giggled.

“I guess it wants us to just pick something,” she said.

“I don’t want any of this rat food,” Soria complained before realizing Darby had probably eaten nothing but food like that for as long as she’d been alive.  “You don’t… you don’t like any of this stuff do you?”

“Not really,” Darby said sheepishly, “the slaw’s alright.  I’ve only ever had take-out from here.  Does it smell… a little weird in here?”

As much as she hated to breathe pit air deeply, Soria inhaled through her nose.  On the surface it was all meat, relish, and mustard, but under that there was definitely something.  Something enticing.  Soria stood up and shoved the menu hand out of the way.  Taking great offense, the hand dropped the menu to the floor and jabbed at a sign on the wall: All customers must order something.  No purchase means no phone or toilet.  Darby followed Soria as she tried to track the smell.  It led them behind the counter. Two more subroutines tried to push Soria back, but she brushed them away like low-hanging branches.  Neither of them noticed that one of the hands pressed a small white button under the counter before shielding the meat from the intruding women.

Soria dropped to her knees and examined a safe, about seven feet long, hidden under the selections.  It was dark blue and sealed with a heavy featureless lock and an extremely tiny keyhole.

“What key goes in there?” Darby asked, “a toothpick?”

“Probably an eyelash,” Soria guessed.  “Something coded just to the owner.”  She pressed her face against one of the safe’s seams and sniffed heartily.  Fragrant and sweet.  “That won’t stop me.”

The subroutines became even more agitated as Soria drew her cursor.  They slapped at her back weakly and snapped to get her attention.  She ignored them and pressed the very tip of the sword against the miniscule lock.  She twisted.  Red light leaked from the lock.  Two sparks fell and vanished before they hit the tile.  One more gentle push changed the lock so that the cursor’s tip was the one and only key.  The mechanism twisted and the safe door flew to the right like a window shade, instantly revealing the entire contents.

There was a robust garden under the counter, fed by ultraviolet lamps and a small network of green hoses spraying mist at precise intervals.  Every plant was overloaded with fruit.  Tiny spherical watermelons sat in lush piles of lemongrass like croquet balls.  Plump strawberries danced with honeysuckle.  A clump of blackberries perched over the blueberries like a raven watching a clutch of eggs.  Stalks of mint stood over everything and formed a shady canopy.  Unable to resist the treasure horde, Soria plucked a handful of blackberries and dropped them into her mouth.  She chewed vigorously, savoring each little burst of juice.  She looked over at Darby, who chewed on one of her knuckles nervously.

“What?” Soria asked with her mouth full.

“It’s fruit!  Fruit is forbidden in Vodka Avenue!”

“Why?”

“You know… fruits love fruits.”

“You mean…” Soria trailed off.  She swallowed the last of the berries and processed what Darby had said.  No.  These pit stains can’t be that ridiculous, can they?  That juvenile?  She hated that she had to correct herself.  Of course they can.  They lust after black boxes.  Anything can become a rule when you don’t think about it.  Fruit is an old slang term for a homosexual.  Fruits love fruits… so anyone who dares eat fruit here loses their status… their precious masculinity.  How pants-wettingly pathetic.

Soria used the end of her cursor to slice a watermelon into four rocking chair shapes.  Its flesh was dense, pink, and extremely aromatic.  She tossed one slice to Darby and kept one for herself.  Darby tucked in quickly, afraid of being seen, but had to stop in order to smile.  A stream of juice fell from one side of her lip and she caught it with a flat palm.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever had,” she said.  Soria nodded and bit into her own.  Whatever stain owned this place probably always wore gloves to hide the green thumb that always asked for tilled soil.

“Can you believe these men pass it up because they’re afraid it will mark them as gay?” Soria mused.

“That’s not the only reason,” a voice said from behind them.  Soria shot to her feet and Darby whirled around to see a man in a white apron who had stepped out of the backroom and into the restaurant proper.  His fists were clenched and he looked frozen in place, more rooted than the vines beneath the counter.  “It also makes .fifs uppity.  Makes them think they can order men around.”

It seems a little Adam and Eve got mixed into the narrative too, Soria thought.  She observed the man closely for signs of aggression.  He was tall, with a long neck and two tufts of hair above his ears.  Everything else had succumbed to baldness.  His eyes kept moving from his little Eden, to Soria’s cursor, and back again.  Soria realized she had stumbled into some very strong leverage on the man.

“You grew this fruit!” she accused, in order to cement her upper hand.  A couple of the man’s upper hands, his subroutines, sensed his tension and tried to massage his shoulders.  He batted them away.  A quick glance at a malformed nail on the man’s pinky and all the subroutines confirmed that he had created the staff from his own left mitt.  “That’s quite a juicy secret,” she teased.

“What do you want?” the man asked.  He looked ready to do just about anything to get that safe closed before another customer walked in.

“What’s your name, .mif?” Soria asked.

“Fredrick.”

“I need some favors Fredrick.  She’s going to stay here for a while.  Maybe a few hours.  Maybe a day or two,” Soria pointed at Darby, who suddenly looked horrified at the thought of being left alone with a man who had eight hands.  “You’ll keep her hidden in the back and you will treat her with the utmost respect.  If I find out you’ve touched a hair on her head I’ll tell the whole avenue about your little habit that gets you down on your knees.  After that I will collect her and you’ll never see us again.  Sound fair?”

“Yes,” the man said airily.  He hustled over to the safe and pulled the long door shut again.  “Just hurry up and get out.  There’s a backdoor.  Use that from now on.”  He motioned for a subroutine, and it flew over to the door and opened it to usher Soria out.  The sounds of the rain came in.

“Darby,” Soria addressed the frightened girl, “if you can… find a way to contact any other .fifs and hide them here.  Our new friend Fredrick will keep them safe.  When I come back I’ll escort all of you out of here.  I’m going to take you somewhere safe.  No more dancing and lots more fruit.  Can you handle that?”

Darby nodded because she didn’t yet have the courage to say yes.

Chapter Three

Soria had asked a few more pointed questions before giving Fredrick the relief of a closed door.  What’s the policing situation like here?  Do they track data?  She was delighted to learn there was but one officer for all of Vodka Avenue and his headquarters/bachelor pad was nearby. 

She stood in the shadows of a blown street lamp trying to assess the security of the place when Garlin stepped outside.  She watched him pop open a large dark blue umbrella with an ivory handle, a very expensive looking item for an otherwise disheveled man.  When she noticed what direction he was headed in she correctly guessed he was off to investigate her little encounter with Hurst, which probably gave her half an hour to find the information she needed.

Once again using her cursor as a skeleton key, she entered the station.  The place was unkempt but not filthy, yet it smelled like the walls were stuffed with mold.  Soria held her nose and kicked aside empty alcohol bottles and books of crossword and number puzzles.  The data map was easy enough to find, its blue and red lights were by far the most vibrant things around.  These stains are getting their women from somewhere, Soria thought.  Darby said her full name was Darby.crstn.112.fif.  So she’s the one hundred and twelfth copy of the original .fif.  Vodka Avenue’s first prisoner.  She’d seen this situation play out before; a pit became separated from the civilized net, lost the ability to produce female children, and wrapped its greasy tentacles around any stragglers.  Somewhere in this eroded chunk of rain, neon, and sex, there was a woman held captive.  She was copied repeatedly so every man could have his own.  The copies were tweaked and altered with cursors so the men could have whatever kind of girl with whatever kind of black bars they wanted.  All they needed was one source of genuine .fif code, code descended from a program that had once been biological.  Without that code, they would just have subroutines made to look female.  Copying a copy didn’t work either, often leading to horrible deformities.  They thought they deserved real women that feared and respected them.

I’ll find her, Soria promised herself.  I’ll find her and get her out of here so that the stains here go mad with nothing to distract them.  She examined the data map closely and saw the heavy code alterations around a place registered to a .mif named Darren Roy Backtracker.  Soria memorized the location and was preparing to leave when something caught her eye… or rather didn’t.  There was a small rectangular mirror on the wall that reflected everything in the room except for the woman standing in it.  She put her face inches from the glass but didn’t see her familiar black bar.  Either she had suddenly become a vampire, or someone had modified the object’s code to prevent it from reflecting people.  She ran her finger along a small scratch in the upper left hand corner, probably the entrance point of the cursor.  Soria pondered this for a minute, reminded of how she hadn’t seen her own true eyes in several years.  She drew her cursor and tapped the scratch.

Garlin pulled out his cursor gun and fired at a loudspeaker on the corner of a building’s roof.  The black arrow connected with a spray of yellow sparks.  Garlin fiddled with a few buttons on his weapon, moving the code of the speaker around from a great distance.  First he connected to the public address system of the entire city and then he spoke into the butt of his gun like a microphone.  He heard his own voice echo through the streets.

“This is your chief of police speaking.  We have a report of a rogue .fif who has committed assault, vandalism, and robbery.”  He looked over at Hurst, who he had removed from the sign a few minutes ago.  “Is that everything?” he asked the shaken man, whose newly adorned clothes seemed overly large, as if his fear had shrunken him. 

“The thing over her face.  Tell them about the thing on her face,” Hurst urged.  “That bitch has redacted eyes.”  Garlin rolled his own eyes and turned to continue the address.

“The suspect is reported to be wearing some kind of black bar mask over her eyes.”

“You’re not listening, it’s not a mask,” Hurst complained.  Garlin put his hand over the gun to block the sound.

“What do you mean it’s not a mask?” he asked.

“It’s her face.”  Hurst read the disbelief in Garlin’s expression.  “It’s just her face!”

“Any other distinguishing features?” Garlin asked with a get-on-with-it tone.

“Long coat… long cursor… white hair.  It kind of shines a little.”

“White hair?” Garlin asked suspiciously.  Shining white hair.  The monks of open share.  Garlin turned back to his improvised microphone.  “I repeat, the suspect is a rogue Female-In-Form with a black bar over her eyes and who has… bright white hair.  Be on the lookout and report any suspicious activity to me.  For those of you with lousy memory, my console number is 478.  If you spot this female-in-form, call 478.”

His mind wandered as he finished the contact details.


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