Escapism

Do they know where I live?

Bach closed the door to his apartment in a hurry, looking around with his gun drawn. His apartment was small and bland; dark grey curtains covering his window, a small brown bed lying on a few large plastic boxes, and a small kitchen area, equally bland, but spotlessly clean. He overlaid a program onto what he saw in his apartment that displayed possible security risks. Besides the boxes supporting his bed was a number indicating their volume; enough to house plastic explosives that would kill him unconditionally. Over his bed, his eyes detailed a thousand ways that blades could be hidden in the mattress, waiting to impale him. The kitchen was an epileptic inducing stream of images flashing across his vision detailing his death from more sources than he wanted to count. One thing was certain; his place was no long safe.

Outside, Bach walked with a swiftness uncharacteristic to him. He liked to glide through crowds; it caused less attention that way. But today, Bach moved like he was being followed. Each person looked the same to him. Vital organs plotted, speed monitored and matched, search for conspicuous bulges, threat-level assessed; move to the next target. Bach let his cybernetic-integrated programs take over for his walk, and everything he saw was a series of numbers. People were threats and most threats were low. Those that were high were avoided with a precision only made possible by computational analysis; he avoided them by the same measurement every time, an ideal distance for remaining inconspicuous but still too far away to grab. When he arrived at the G5 Motel his vision returned to normal, the colors and vibrancy of the world almost too much for him. Good thing G5 is grungy and cheap. He asked for a room that hadn’t been used in a while.

Bach threw himself on his bed, dust browning the air and enveloping him like a blanket. All around, the motel looked unclean, unfit, and darkly foreboding. Yet everything was new, untouched, and there was even a layer of dust to prove it. Bach knew this room was safe, at least for the time being. He didn’t relax or sleep, but his eyes closed off the world. Inside his brain, his comlink activated, and he hopped into the Matrix.

Bach opened his eyes to see a completely white room with green words in front of him. “Receiving connection” the words said, flashing in 1.5 second intervals. He looked down at himself. His clothes in the Matrix were similar to real life; dark colors, long shades of black and grey that masked his body. He might stand out in a white room, but in a crowd he vanished away like a ghost. Bach smiled in approval as the words changed to “Connection received” and then a burst of activity happened all around him.

Bach’s favorite zones to hang out in were popular ones. All around him fifty thousand users or more stood by, chatting with friends, trying on new clothes, waiting for entry points into more exclusive social chats, and anything else you could imagine. The theme of this white room was hot topics. Back walked past a British couple waiting to join a VIP chat room for a club and tapped into their feed. The room became a rave, music throbbing in the background as neon lights flashed all around, Floor-scum by Night signs on stage—a new popular band. Purple lights flashed by Bach’s eyes and he decided he never wanted to go to a club.

Bach began an in depth search for Freegrass, the Johnson, Renraku, all news feeds about the earthquake, and bios on each of the Shadowrunners he had worked with. Something felt wrong, precise, suspicious; he felt everything had been planned. Bach allowed his Matrix persona to have puppet strings that stretched up to the whirling lights, flashing an array of colors that changed faster than he could blink. It made the couples clothes glitter like sunlight filtered by snow.

Bach walked past several other groups, tapping into each feed to confuse anyone trying to sniff him out. His environment changed to a livestream of a firework show in China, golden displays of dragons bursting across the night sky, with augments of VR tech making the dragons come alive and breathe fire down on the crowd, shouts of joy coming from all around. He moved on and switched to a group of women shopping at Le Mystique, the new and expansive clothing store in Seattle. For as far as he could see, there were lanes of clothes and mirrors, the women picking an outfit and it would appear on them immediately, their reflection bouncing off each other to get every angle. Dresses with intricate engravings, multi-color patterns, new styles and materials; Bach couldn’t keep count of everything all at once. He decided to get lost in the shopping store while his search programs ran.

Bach wouldn’t sleep tonight. He needed information about everyone around him, as they all looked like spies. He looked at a mirror and saw himself—dark and serious, bags around his eyes and stubble on his face. He didn’t care to alter his appearance. Graphs appeared overlaid on his vision, then responses from his searches, pictures of Toro and Mort, clips from newsfeeds. He sat down and let the information assemble. He had to be more informed.

They already know more than I do. But they won’t find me. They won’t.

Escapism

Penumbra huntedbuddha