Annoyingly, I wrote the story below before seeing Memory 1.2, which actually explains the Simon Romee back story differently. However, both have a similar them. Hopefully, despite the lore being incorrect, you’ll still enjoy this.
Simon Romee leaned back in the autocab’s worn faux-leather seat, a bead of perspiration trickling down from his temple.
“Merde, merde, merde,” he whispered as his hand nervously touched the hard bulge under his wrapped jacket.
^^^^^ I’m sorry, I don’t understand the command, please repeat ^^^^^
The autocab’s voice came from speakers all around him.
“It’s nothing. Ecole Andre Malraux please.”
Forcing himself to stop touching the pistol under his jacket, he slipped on a B-LINK. It wasn’t a company-issued model, he’d spent weeks chipping it. Removing the Prisma Dimension chip had taken an entire sweat-soaked day. Adding the dark-scape chip had been easier, but not much.
Prisma Scape had really cracked down on B-LINK mods after the first big cheating scandal hit their share price.
Not that they gave a damn about the kids who blinded themselves when their B-LINKs overheated. But cheating? Players dropping out of Crown Rush, lost revenue as they didn’t buy the latest skin or battle pass? That hurt. They soon clamped down after that.
The chip alone had cost him five thousand euros. With the additional software and extra memory he was down a cool twelve thousand.
Wincing at the memory, he checked the cab’s progress. A map opened showing him that they were little more than one hundred metres away.
The two minutes or so that passed until they reached the destination took an age to pass. Compulsively checking the timer on his B-LINK he watched as the thirty minutes he had set ticked down.
Ten minutes left. He inwardly groaned. Thirty should have been fine. If only Riz hadn’t tried showing him every picture he had of his new-born daughter.
Cab door opening as it glid to a stop, Simon thumbed the payment unit even as he stepped out.
Three minutes remained. Door closing, he waited until the last second before tossing his Prisma-issued B-LINK into the cab. It would buy him a few extra minutes.
Head down, he hunched his shoulders and walked with a limp, dragging his leg as he approached the school. Entering it, he walked down the long main corridor. At this time of day all of the children were in classes. Any teachers not in a class would be well and truly ensconced in their break room.
Just pray I don’t bump into a caretaker, he thought, stomach lurching as he continued to limp his way along the echoing corridor. His goal was the double set of doors at the end.
Closing the distance, he undid his wrap jacket, reversed it, then put it back on before slipping through the door. Previously jet black it was now a red and white dazzle pattern. Slipping through the doors, he left the school, limp gone.
It wasn’t much of a disguise, but he now walked with a swagger. A flick of his head and his hair was parted in a different direction. A swipe of his hand and the skin-coloured makeup was gone, revealing a black tattoo across his eyes.
He didn’t hold out much hope that it would fool the many cameras and drones which kept up a constant vigil but might confuse the casual onlooker.
Cutting onto the Rue du General Audran, he kept close in to the pollution stained walls which wept blackened water. Apparently, before his time, Paris was a beautiful city. Looking around, he found it hard to believe.
A drone zipped above, and he hunched his shoulders instinctively, eye flicking to check his counter.
Still a couple of minutes, he thought. Sweating, even though it wasn’t particularly hot, he kept walking towards the Seine. Once a source of national pride, it was now a flowing cess pit and a prime example of all of the mistakes successive governments made before he was born.
Another drone, this one higher and flying slower headed in his direction, red and blue lights flashing on and off lazily. If there was an alert the lights would be strobing, and a teeth-jarring discordant cacophony blaring from its speakers.
That, and the nine millimetre pistol would be painting my chest with red dot lasers and ceramic rounds, Simon thought as he tried to look less suspicious. Whilst autonomous, the drones sent a constant feedback to pilots controlling anywhere up to thirty of the damned things. With any luck, the controller would be too busy looking actual trouble.
It stopped, hovering roughly one hundred metres away and fifty metres up. Just bobbing as the six fans kept it airborne. With a three-sixty-degree camera, he had no idea if it was looking at him or not.
So close, so close, Simon’s brain chanted as he finally spotted his destination. Desperately, he fought the urge to break into a sprint for the rusting hulk floating on the river. Less than one hundred metres. Just over thirty paces.
Forcing himself to stop hunching and to look as though he belonged there, Simon kept walking at a steady pace. Just in time he stopped himself from touching his D-tap pistol. Drones had sensors which, if a citizen displayed suspicious behaviour, would easily detect any weapons they had about themselves.
“And I’m not a good enough shot to bring it down before it brings me, down,” he muttered to himself, ignoring the stare a passer-by gave him.
With one last bob, the drone raced off, lights strobing as it hunted down some unfortunate person.
Reaching the river side, he took a long, slow turn, making sure that no-one was looking too carefully at him. Then, with one smooth movement he stepped backward off the bank and straight down into the ship.
Dropping through a hatch which closed as soon as he was through, Simon slammed into a soft pad. Failing to absorb much of the blow, the mat still stopped him from breaking his legs as his breath was driven out of him.
“Bravo mon brave,” a husky voice said from the darkness of the hold. “Did you get it?”
A young person, Algerian, in their twenties stepped into the dim light framing Simon, pistol held low by their thigh.
Forcing himself to his feet, but still unable to straighten, Simon held out a hand for patience as he tried to draw breath. Eventually, the fire inside his chest disappeared and his vision returned to normal as stars stopped dancing before them.
“Oh, I got it. Gaming records of three players alleged to have gone missing,” he smiled as he stood up.
“Bon, I’ll let Patrice know and we’ll get underway,” they replied, smiling. “Your suite is one deck up. Fully secure. Suggest you get there now so we can make sure you don’t have any tags on you.”
Simon’s smile disappeared at that thought. He’d been as careful as he could, but there was still the possibility that Prisma had found a way to track him.
“Well, I suppose you’re not paranoid if you know they’re out to get you,” he quipped. It was a timeworn joke, and the Algerian laughed politely.
“Vite, mon cher, clock’s ticking.”