Tuesday, 23 August 2016
1. Central Station
Standing outside the staircase leading down to central station, I glanced at my watch for the second time. 11.46pm. A slew of rain drops quickly smothered the dim blue screen. I shoved my hands back into my pockets, squeezing the heat packs that I had judiciously prepared before I left my apartment. He's late.
Staring at the people walking by central station, it was interesting to see that some were clearly heading home, and for others, the night was just getting started. The latter demographic was young, noisy and probably comprising more than a few underage kids. They were all dressed in fashionable electroluminescent jackets and shoes that glowed iridescently like the lights that festooned Underground City - a neon maze of the hippest bars and karaoke outlets. Most were also chatting into their head-mounted trid-devices, which I assumed would be them hitting up a friend about which dodgy underground pub they should rendezvous. Yeah, this was Saturday night out on the town.
The more I waited among the party crowd and let myself become drenched in the city's pollutant rain, the more I became desperate for a cigarette. My brain had been itching for a hit all morning, but now it was clawing desperately at the fringes of my self-control, exacerbated by the anxiety of having to meet him in person for the first time. And well, by being outdoors, which itself is a lifetime feat.
Milo152 was his username on the Flux. A username like that was simple, non-revealing and devoid of character. Usually, you get cliched names like Omniscent_Shadow, Llama-hunter or even worse, an alliteration like Huge Hurricane Hancock, which tends to reflect much of the pubescent personality that dominates the threads. Milo152, was by that comparison, a perfectly mature adult. Boring, even. Throughout our encounters on the Flux, he never interrogated me about my age or gender, or prodded me about becoming his ally on High Fortress. He didn't even ask to fuck after I intentionally let slip I was, in fact, a female. Yeah, our relationship was pure business. He provided the drugs I needed to fuel my night-habits, and in exchange, I mined him whatever data he wanted. A simple and reliable quid pro quo.
Of course, these transactions weren't exactly lawful, which is why we've always kept our communications limited to the Flux, where it would be near impossible for any cops or narcs to trace our trails. This was because no trails existed on the Flux. All posts, photos, trideos and chats are wiped every 4 hours. Users don't need to make accounts either. It's all a completely liberal space, for some astoundingly illicit activities. And no-one can shut the Flux down. No one probably knows how to, except for the person who made it.
I whirled around. "Milo152?"
He nodded. The guy was tall, skinny, Asian, and grinning broadly from ear to ear. I didn't return the smile. In fact, I was quite taken aback by his amicable disposition. After all, we were both still strangers to each other, with no other ties than those that were strictly criminal.
"Sorry for making you wait. I'll tell you the good news later. For now, let's head over to somewhere where we can talk," he said, ignoring my momentary expression of 'what in the world am I dealing with here'. "I know a place in Underground City. It's a rare pocket of tranquility, if you don't mind the sort of people that come and go," he winked.
He started walking off in the direction of central station, down the winding staircase. I followed without another word, wondering why I agreed to a 'date' with my drug dealer in the first place.