by Miq Millman

"....beep beep beep beep beep beep"

The siren grew steadily louder and faster, but that was evident from the rictus grin and saliva spilling down the chin of the zoner in the chair. Hands clenched the padded arms with enough force to tear the imitation leather as convulsions set in from the feedback loop on the security breach announcement.

"Oh my god, oh my god, ohmygodohmygodohmygod. Christ Souchi what the hell did you do?!?" Screamed the companion in the next chair over. Souchi didn't answer--well at least nothing intelligible. Souchi was busy smoking from her ears and data jack. An audible crack punctuated the end of the day's events for Souchi as three molars cracked and spewed their white chunks of enamel out her lips stretched thin in pain to join the drool on her chin.

Souchi collapsed simultaneously with the fading of the siren. Yoshida, her companion frantically clawed at the connections at wrist, neck and jaw pulling them free with much less grace and care than the manufacturer's recommendations. Yoshida leaped from his rental couch and began to assess the damage on his girlfriend, waving his hands wildly for attention from the proprietor.

Across the room, behind the counter a portly fellow with pince nez glasses and a poor dye job on his balding pate picked up a phone casually. The persperation beading up on his forehead and upper lip gave evidence of the depth of his worries at that moment. Nervous eyes watched the scene of the two zoners across his cyber cafe; zoners who had made arrangements with him just moments before to utilize some of the "less publically available" features of his network and equipment. Money exchanged, information exchanged, and blame was absolved. At least usually. He had not planned for having a human charburger occupy one of his couches however. He replaced the phone without making a call. Best to triage the situation before calling in his favor.

Hands grab a towel and wipe themselves then wipe at the moisture on his forehead and jowells. He moves with all the care and capability a 150 kg 1.6m man can accomplish.

Yoshida has rescued Souchi from her zone couch and is cradling her limp body in his arms, pathetic attempts at rescusitation are not working. Sanchez, the portly owner of the place runs all the worst scenarios through his mind as he fears brain death.

"Is-- is she breathing?" Sanchez asks tenatively.

Yoshida looks up with frightened wild eyes, "I DON'T KNOW!" he screams.

Fortuantly, its 4 am and the place is deserted except for an elder fellow in the midsts of a cyber sex session, and he is paying attention to little else right now.

Sanchez is not relieved by the answer, sweat returns anew to its common abode atop his head and lip, "Look, you were warned: no guarantees, no warrantees, and no returns for credit. I'm not responsible, I'm not involved." His stammer grows in pitch, ending with a girlish squeek.

"YOUR CRAP KILLED HER!" Yoshida is still screaming. He is also still wearing earphones and likely has his mpz set at skull crushing volume.

Sanchez smacks him across the head with a pudgy hand, knocking the earphones loose to blast their tinny sounds in protest. Yoshida nearly drops Souchi. "Shut yer yapping you fool! We can take care of this. Its not a lost cause, the net dropped the conn before the traceback was completed. That attack was a blind reaction, set up on the outside of their wall. She didn't even get in." Sanchez is suddenly emboldened by his own act of violence, but his voice is still high pitched in nervousness.

Yoshida nods mutely, holding his girlfriend closer, then slumps into the couch she was using. "then fix it," he asks in a tiny voice.

Sanchez wipes his mouth with the back of a hand. It feels like all the moisture in his mouth as mysteriously been transferred to the outside. His suddenly dry tongue works at forming the response he dreads.

"This is going to cost you, cost you big. Damn, this is going to cost me big. You better start figuring out a way to repay this, cuz I'm gonna have to call in my only favor with him."

Yoshida's eyes grow large with the understanding of Sanchez' words. He nods bleakly. "I got connections too, you can have em." He gulps and swallows nothing. "If it will help."

Sanchez shrugs, mentally defeated. He picks up the phone again and makes the connection he was hoping he'd be able to use for personal gain rather than a messy clean up.

The tri-note fanfare signals connection made, perhaps the only pleasant surprise of the evening. A clipped voice answers "what?"

Sanchez manages to stammer, "Mr Jonez? This is Sanchez, I have a problem--"

The calm voice interrupts, "I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Shut down everything." The last is understood rather than implied as a command and not a request.

The connection goes dead.

Sanchez stares deep into Yoshida's troubled eyes, "He's coming. In fifteen. Help me get ready."

Yoshida only nods numbly.

From the other side of the room the cyber sex fiend moans in ecstasy.

~At least that will be easy to clean up,~ Sanchez thinks.

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