Nutrunner: The Parody
Fiction by Pierre Savoie
In a grimy alley in another part of Nut City, a sector often called the Striploin, the giant cockroaches were tussling with the rats under some old wind-blown newspapers. One shape under the papers scuttled after another squeaking shape, past a scraggly-bearded man in a trench-coat, squatting on his haunches leaning against the brick wall, and keeping warm with a bottle of distilled damnation. He was waiting: trying to catch rays from the morning sun, and breathing in the damp and unhealthy morning chog. He didn't like the look of those roaches, who seemed to be winning their turf-war with the rats, but he had to wait for the client.
"Psst! Is that you, Mentis?"
Mentis reached for the Magrum .666 in his trench-coat, but it was only Nutty, as planned.
"Noncompos Mentis, Fixer-at-Large, at your service!" he said with an oily grin, and put away his bottle of gun-cleaner.
Nutty emerged from behind the dumpster further down the alleyway, a wiry Oriental also in a trench-coat. "So, how we gonna to do this?"
"I'm not holding it," Mentis said hastily, since he found that this line always took away the risk of over-eager buyers creasing the material of his tailored suit. "But I AM holding a cell-phone. You pay me the euro, I make a call and say 'yes', and you can pick it up from my associate."
Nutty hesitated, but was won over by the thought of Mentis' street rep. A fixer who welched on deals went out of business really fast, what with the advertising power of local 'Netspace. No fixer wanted his handle flashing in virtual neon lights from a huge ferris wheel in front of the Thunderdome BBS and linked to a runner's message telling all. As the old movie line went, "Blow the deal, face the Wheel." Netrunner chuckled to himself and thought that the future isn't what it used to be. In any case, the treatment clients usually got from a Fixer was either "can do," "no can do," or "technical difficulties" accompanied by a lot of excuses about cops or customs officials. No ripoffs.
"Okay, so what's the plan?"
"Simple: you pay 500 euro, I make the call, and you walk two blocks east to yonder restaurant, The Kitchen Synch. You will see my associate in a grey trench with plaid lining, smoking a pipe and scanning the Daily Blare. He will hand you the chip with Chiba's newest viral. Easy as pi."
Nutty nodded, produced a money-clip full of Thatchers and Mitterands, and quickly counted out the small bills and gave them to Mentis. Mentis dialled a number on his Mellowtech CellOut and spoke a simple "yes" as he had said.
Further down the block, catching a bad whiff of choke-fog as he crossed a street, Nutty came to The Kitchen Synch Automat, a diner wedged between a porn theater and some boarded-up building. Inside, the floor had some linoleum tiles missing, and some of the tacky neon tubes on the walls and ceiling, which looked like misfiring computer microcircuits, were broken. A Soundgarden oldie was playing softly. Seated at the far end of the counter was the drop, a middle-aged man wearing a fedora, his pipe unlit and a second, steaming cup of caf coming out of the service slot in front of him. Brushing away his first, empty cup into the Return with some crumbs, he nodded to Nutty as Nutty sat on the next stool.
"How's it running, Nutty?"
"Can't complain, Shimmer. You got the chip?"
"Oh, sure. Here it is," Shimmer said, and in his casual manner, plunked the microchip down on the counter. Nutty swept it up, and felt the last uneasiness of the deal pass.
Shimmer took the pipe out of his mouth and sipped his clear cup of coffee-free caffeine and continued, "Don't eat the doughnuts here, by the way. Soydough," he grimaced. "It looks like you'll need that new chip if you're running Sosumi--"
"Frack! Who told you THAT??"
"Oh, just word gets around the 'Net. Some weeflerunners saw you and noticed you couldn't be bothered with Sosumi's Infomercial Ordering Gate. What ELSE would you be doing there late at night?"
Nutty relaxed somewhat, but didn't like having been seen. He wouldn't put it past Mentis and Shimmer to start a betting pool on "Nutty vs. Sosumi," offering even odds on run failure, 30 to 1 on a captive brainwipe, and 60 to 1 on a tag'n'bag, with screaming corporate security squad-cars full of metalloid stormtrooper types raiding Nutty's flat. The fixers would clean up from knowing what they just sold Nutty, what the weefles didn't know about. Nutty didn't feel like risking his neck twice in a row just so some weefle sap could win the Daily Double.
"I'd rather you two didn't advertise about the running or the chip. Disinform, even. Bond?" Nutty fished out, folded and refolded a fifty from his money-clip and palmed it.
Shimmer had a slightly pained look. "You know we only sell hardware, not gossipware. Bond," said Shimmer, and slapped his palm against Nutty's. Nutty looked at his hand. The bill was no longer there. "Good luck, anyway," quipped Shimmer, "There are wild rumors all over the place: Sosumi's hired Turbeau "The Sticker" Velcroix, Sosumi's hired Dr. Dan Druff, Sosumi's rezzed the PAL 9001 Experimental AI...it's all noise but no signal. All they know for sure is that Sosumi's TIGHT, choombah. They got SOME kind of newblood holding the fort..."