Southern Cadence’s automated factories pounded out machinated rhythms, silencing Michael Lane’s rapid footfalls over rain slicked asphalt. He nearly collapsed against the thick steel doors of the D1 powerstation; one of many buildings housing massive generators that gave life to the factories. Lane caught his breath and steadied himself. He pushed soaked strands of grey hair from his face, tucking it behind his ears, and studied the path ahead. The dim glow of amber guide lights did little to assist him in the torrential downpour. He couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front him, and it didn’t help that most of the buildings appeared identical.
“This is a goddamn joke.”
He checked his watch. THURS:11:28. He’d have to book it if he wanted to make it in time. Lane’s contact was explicit in their directions. They would rendezvous at the F1 Powerstation at 11:30 PM. No earlier, no later. He’d have a five minute window to deliver the data storage device with the requested information. Any later and it would be useless. It didn’t make much sense to Lane but he didn’t question his contact. They knew far more about any of this deal than he did, despite his stature as a Cadence Technologies shareholder. What he did question was the nature of his contact. Just about everything they did, everything about them spooked him — and Michael Lane was not easily spooked.
Lane was getting old, but was still built like a soldier. In his time as the head of Cadence Tech’s Defense Corp. R&D team, he gained notoriety for being both a “hard ass” and a “son of a bitch.” It didn’t surprise anyone when he resigned from his position to announce he was becoming a major shareholder in the corporation. He had been with Cadence for years, served the company well, and despite his reputation, knew what he was doing. Betraying the board of executives never crossed his mind as a shareholder, but here he was with a storage device full of delicate information.
Lane took off down the path toward F1. No sign of the rain letting up and two minutes to go. 11:29. Mere seconds after he began sprinting forward Lane slammed headfirst into an invisible wall of metal. He scrambled to gather himself from the crash, dizzied from the blow. Bending light flickered around the form in front of him. Active camouflage. Lane was more than familiar with the cloaking technology his department had spent years perfecting. Lane rose to his feet.
“Get. The fu-…” Lane paused as his eyes met a pair of glowing blue lights affixed to what appeared to be a head of solid steel.
“…ck you, Skinner. How long have you been trailing me?”
His eyes narrowed, a look as cold as the artificial lights staring back at him. The metal figure was equal in height to Lane, but at first glance he appeared in far better condition. Well muscled in a sleek, form-fitting reflective suit. At first glance, no one would be able to tell that underneath the suit Skinner’s body was primarily augmentations and cybernetic prosthetics. In fact, the only bit of flesh showing on his body was his mouth, which somehow made him seem all the less human — lips and a set of teeth trying to escape their steel prison.
“That doesn’t matter, Mister Lane.”
The old man laughed, easing the concentrated expression on his face. His phone alarm buzzed. 11:30. He pulled the data storage device from the pocket of his tan long coat and tossed it to the one he addressed as “Skinner”. A one inch by one inch memory unit. A bombshell of data torn from the heart of Cadence. It was useless to Lane now.
Skinner caught it, robotic blue eyes staring down at Lane.
“Who is your contact, Lane?”
He smoothed out his coat out of habit, not making much of a difference in the downpour.
“You know, Skinner… I was going to ask you how long they’ve known. Couldn’t have been long though, judging by your questions. Your last minute appearance at my little shindig here. The Board must be pretty busy if I got this far, huh?.”
He folded his arms across his chest, regarding Skinner with the hardened stare perfected by years of working with Cadence Tech.
“I know why you’re here. The board doesn’t send their watch dog to deliver a slap on the wrist.” Lane closed his eyes, giving way to a grin that would have shaken anyone else.
“You can kill me. Maybe I had it coming. Lord knows I did my share of fucked up things for those assholes. Thought I’d set shit right. Karma, you know?”
Silence. Lane laughed.
“Of course you wouldn’t.”
He opened his eyes. Skinner was a statue.
“There will be repercussions though, Skinner. This isn’t some new tech they’re playing arou-”
“Your contact, Lane.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
Michael Lane made no attempt to stop Skinner. There were no screams. He left as quietly as he came and at 11:40 the industrial park was as desolate as any other night in Southern Cadence, save for the rain and the endless drone of the factories.#cyberpunk #writing #short story #flash fiction #prose #mine #sci fi #science fiction