APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 6 July, 2000


Smart Dresser

Tom McGrenery

Davide - got that short scirage story you asked for. It's attached below. Not sure why the Kenema lot were so keen on keeping it away from the stores. Still, I picked this copy up off a friend in Skavara (ironic, I know). Anyway, this one's a re-translation from the French, so it might not be exactly as intended.



----- Attached File -----

by Wilhelm Argent

The piece of cloth shimmered, iridescent under the desk light. The shift in colours was similar to that of oil in water. Pieter prodded at it with the end of his tweezers. The sloped ends scraped slightly against the fabric. Rougher than it looked. Pieter pulled the magnifier over the top, and tapped a button on its side a few times to increase the magnification. It was on the blink again, taking several seconds to improve the resolution.

Pieter took a sharp intake of breath.

A sharp banging noise behind him reminded Pieter that he had company. Swivelling his chair around, he saw his friend Oleg, who appeared to be attacking the drinks machine. In his dishevelled suit, tie hanging at half-mast and with a stained mug in his hand, Oleg cut a figure not entirely unlike a cawfee-addicted executive on lunch break.

Oleg ran his fingers through his cropped blonde hair, a gesture he often made when embarrassed.

"Ah, sorry," said Oleg, sheepishly, "It's um, it's not working."

Pieter leant over and pressed the 'reset' button. Oleg coughed uncomfortably, and put his mug under the machine's spout. The drinks machine was pretty much the only luxury in Pieter's lock-up. Aside from that, the cooking unit, and the compression mattress in the corner, the whole room was piled high with equipment, manuals and assorted junk. The drinks machine, Oleg noted as he picked up his cawfee, was kept level by having one edge wedged on a copy of La Tulipe noire.

"Did they tell you what this was?" asked Pieter, "When they gave it to you?"

"No, what's up with it? Can I sell it?" said Oleg, answering a question with a question as usual.

Pieter beckoned Oleg over to the desk and manoeuvred the magnifier so that Oleg could see the texture of the cloth.

"Notice," he said, "How the surface of the cloth appears to be made up of tiny nodes, each welded to the other."

"Yeah," muttered Oleg, "What does it do?"

"Well, I don't know how to work it yet, but basically what we're looking at is quantum well optoelectronics. They use quantum-sized holes in chips to produce photons. And that creates a laser on an angstrom scale, which could obviously -"

"Pieter? Pieter. I have no idea what you're talking about."

Oleg was already atop the Shaian-Arako building when the tilt-rotor came in to land. By now rain was streaming down, blurring the running lights of the plane and those of the city below. His crawler was parked on the wall of the tower, just below the parapet. It never pays to let anyone know how you're getting around. Oleg didn't know this contact. She was highly recommended, true, but that was no guarantee of anything. Oleg reached into his jacket pocket and took out the juicer he kept there for just such an occasion. Holding it up to the misted light filtering through the rain from the landing pad lights. The oval cartridge was clipped firmly in to the octagonal frame. Oleg shook it a little and the translucent liquid swirled and settled into a murky red hue. Rolling back his sleeve and pinning it with his elbow, Oleg plugged the unit into to radial plug on his right forearm. It was a new juicer, and the spikes didn't fit all that snugly into the plug. Oleg switched it on and the scratching sensation was lost in a tumbling sensation. The world reeled about Oleg and he doubled up, clutching at his knees. He heard the tiltrotor's tyres connect with the roof, and ducked behind a ventilator to keep out of sight. Oleg gradually regained his balance. When he opened his eyes, everything seemed... sharper.

Oleg stepped out from the shadows. Agnetha was standing just ahead of the tiltrotor's nose.

"Have you got the money?" said Oleg.

Agnetha frowned. Damn, thought Oleg, the juicer. He was speaking too quickly. He tried again, at a measured pace. Agnetha threw a string of dinars in front of her, which landed between the two of them.

Suddenly, a faint noise of decompression came from off to Oleg's left. Without the juicer's heightened senses, he would not have heard it, but of more concern was that Agnetha collapsed, her face lying in a few millimetres of groundwater. Someone with a pneumatic pistol was nearby and gunhappy. Pretty quick even without his enhanced senses, Oleg cut and ran. Puddles spattered around his feet as he ran for the wall. He vaulted the edge and dropped into the walker's cockpit. As he did so, the whistling noise of darts whistled over his head. Fumbling, Oleg untangled the control trodes and slipped them on to his temples. The juicer was causing a throbbing in the blood vessels at his temples. A sure sign of a headache tomorrow, if he survived that long. The cockpit hatch irised shut and Oleg set his crawler running down the side of the tower. Half-way down, the six legs tucked up underneath the ceramic carapace. Oleg turned the GE unit on and let the crawler drift to the ground. All this work, and he didn't even have the cloth on him anyway.

Oleg moved the crawler into traffic and moved along in an orderly fashion. Surrounded by the walkers and transports of the corporate chart-flippers. At street level Oleg was faceless. It was hard to believe how easily he could step outside the real world. It was hard to believe anyone wanted the damn cloth in the first place, even enough to buy it, let alone to kill. Pieter had told him that it was really just a very thin video screen. Most likely used for camouflage. No one realised how easy it was to be faceless anyway.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 6 July, 2000