A war between humans and synthetics...
In a futuristic Tampa Bay, skiptracer Dhata Mays and his sidekick, Lur Diaz, are on a job investigating a cheating lowlife. But after a deadly explosion and the woman who hired them disappears, nobody is safe. Suddenly, everyone is under suspicion, and the police are no longer there “to serve and to protect.”
Now, it’s up to Dhata to take matters into his own hands and uncover a deep-rooted plot to escalate the tension between the humans and synths. He must stop the battle before it’s too late. But is the truth too big for a small-time skiptracer to handle alone?
Security at the shuttle port looked as if the city was preparing for war. Armed Johns, human and jacked up on muscle enhancers, paced the halls with electro-tubes, looking for anyone suspicious. Dhata was glad that he’d left his pistol at home, or he would’ve been in for a world of hurt.
He noticed that most of the people seemed scared. It was much quieter than he had ever seen a shuttle port, and everyone was watching for suspicious activity. He felt relieved when he boarded his shuttle, but even better when he was in Tokyo, Japan. There he was able to relax, since nothing had changed since the last time he was there.
The place was still a neon paradise, and the translucent blue highway that led out from the shuttle port still impressed him with its beauty. Cars were everywhere, sleek and fast, most painted in bright, primary colors. Even the darker models had neon highlights, yellow auras around their tires, or windows glowing green or red. Tokyo was built for partying and innovation— this was immediately obvious. The way he felt as he stood there taking in the sights reminded him of how excited Lur had been when she’d called him from Atlanta.
After a few minutes of awestruck observation, he noticed Hiroshi waiting by his cobalt Mazda. He was sporting a new silver streak in his hair, and his wardrobe was spectacular. The synth cypher was looking a lot richer just by the way he dressed, and he noticed that the Mazda had an anti-gravity booster, an expensive enhancement for the older vehicle.
He waved Dhata over, and he got inside the car where they exchanged greetings and spoke about Lur. This wasn’t odd since Hiroshi adored his Cuban girlfriend, and looked at her as a mentee to the exotic cypher arts.
“I take you to a place where they make the best ramen, Dhata,” he said with a glint in his metallic, insectoid eyes.
The Mazda zipped through downtown past a variety of buildings, and then somehow they were passing through the road down towards a junkyard. Dhata noticed that the bright lights and neon brilliance of Tokyo was merely the outer shell of a complex onion of civilization. Hiroshi drove them through a tunnel that took them below the streets into what appeared to be a wet, smelly underworld. They parked by a lake that reeked of sewage and walked for a few minutes until they got to a gate. Hiroshi stepped forward and pulled up an augmented keyboard where he typed in a code to gain entry. The doors slid open and what appeared beyond was another world in Dhata’s eyes.
Here people dressed differently, and they used old technology and makeshift inventions to get by. He pulled his duster close and thrust his hands in his pockets as if this would keep the shadows at bay. Rats scurried past them, and the lights in the buildings were failing, but the people down here were actually friendly, and it seemed to be a melting pot of humans and synths.
He looked up to see the underside of the bright blue, glass highway where they had been driving earlier. From where he stood it looked like the blue sky peering down through a mass of dark clouds and wires. He was in awe. How was it that they had managed to stack so many layers on one city?
“This place is out of this world,” Dhata said.
“Down here, we call it the ‘sub city’,” Hiroshi said. “The sophisticated do not come here, but older synths … we remember this place. This was where we lived originally.”
He motioned to a stool in front of a food vendor, and Dhata took it gratefully. They had been walking for some time and he was eager to rest his legs since he still felt some pain from his earlier injuries. Hiroshi ordered something for them in Japanese and then settled in beside him, slapping him on the back in a friendly gesture.
“So, Dhata, why the visit? Lurita would not give me details, so I know that it means you’re here for work.”
“Talked to her, eh? Well, she knows the rules about business and calls, so you assumed right, my friend. We have a rack that I lifted, but it’s encrypted. It has a synth-specific interface that we can’t crack. Hiro, this is a dangerous job. The government may be involved. If you don’t feel safe—”
“A rack you say? However did you come by it?” Hiroshi said, ignoring Dhata’s warning.
“This synth who blew up our shuttle port, he had it in his office at home. It’s encrypted in a way that we can’t crack it.”
“Was he a cypher?” Hiroshi said, and Dhata shook his head at him slowly.
“Then it must be a basic encryption, written for synths. Complex to a human, but easy for us. Why did he choose to blow himself up?”
“That’s the million UCC question, my friend, and what I’m trying to find out. This man was a soldier, he fought in wars, then all of a sudden, boom,” Dhata said.
“Do you have it here?”
“It’s what I have in that suitcase. Think you can crack it and tell me what’s in it?”
“Yes, but I cannot come with you to Tampa just now. Many things pending here in Tokyo.”
Their food came out, and Hiroshi then waited to see how he would like it. Dhata did him the honor. It tasted like thick, liquid dynamite, and he slurped it down with much delight. Hiroshi began to laugh, and the other patrons joined in, all of them curious about Dhata’s experience with the food.
“Christ, Hiro, if this isn’t nirvana, I don’t know what is,” he said.
“I’m a synth, and I’m hooked on it. Think about that, my friend. This place is the best-kept secret of Tokyo. I always come here to talk business.”
“No need to come to Tampa, though Lurita will be disappointed. Do what you can and relay back your findings. I’m especially curious about his fellowship, the people who he answered to. The man was a soldier, so he was used to taking orders, which leads me to believe that someone ordered him to destroy the shuttle port. Add on top of that his wife being clueless—shit, Hiro, I didn’t even tell you that part.”
“What part?” he said, slurping up some noodles as if his life depended on it.
“This man’s wife is a synth transitioning into a cyborg. Sort of like the cypher, Gemini.”
“Really? That is fascinating, but not so good for you, Dhata.”
“Why?” Dhata said, and motioned to the man behind the counter to make him another bowl of the heavenly ramen.
“That sort of development is expensive, many millions of dollars, and it is likely that this woman is not as clueless as you think. Governments make creatures like that to serve as spies, and wealthy men and women use them to replace their loved ones. Are you able to contact her?”
“No, the FBI took her away.”
“That is too bad. I would have loved to sync with her, learn a thing or two. You know when I brought Gemini back, he died as soon as I tried to sync,” Hiroshi said. “I couldn’t retrieve his memories, or find out anything, so I called up a friend to dispose of the body. Meeting a true cyborg is once in a lifetime, Dhata, but here you are telling me that you’ve found a second one.”
They ate some more and then walked it off, slipping through the dark alleyways of the sub city until they emerged by the sewer where Hiroshi had parked.
“Hiro, what if this is something big? Like another country trying to strike back at America?” Dhata said.
“Then we will be heroes once we bring them to justice,” Hiroshi said, his face a sincere mask.
“Which means we’ll be martyrs,” Dhata said.
This made Hiroshi stop and look up into the sky at the bright blue underside of Tokyo’s lower highway. “It will be an honorable way to die,” he said after a time, and the two men got into the car.