Part 0.3: "Prologue: A Class Act"

30 Aug 1993 04:00:51 GMT

Article: 1717 of alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Newsgroups: alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Path:!uunet!!oakhill!NewsWatcher!user From: (Jason Magnus) Subject: Silk and Steel 0.3 Message-ID: <rzex60-290893225524@> Followup-To: alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Sender: Nntp-Posting-Host: Organization: The Polyhedron Group Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1993 04:00:51 GMT Lines: 464   Silk and Steel, Part 0.3: "Prologue: A Class Act" Copyright August 1993 by Jay B. Brandt, all rights reserved First Posting   -------------------------------------------------------------- Kimberly returned to the Sony-VidTech arcology and resumed her duties. She received several more visits from corporate security, as they continued to look for clues regarding the whereabouts of Moritani Misako. After a while they seemed satisfied that she could provide no information for them and they stopped coming to see her. In spite of their visits, she soon began to wonder if any of the bizarre things that had occurred at the martial arts competition were for real.   A month later, Kimberly noticed a familiar name in an article in the business section on the newsfeed. The top brass at Noritaki Cyberworks were announcing the appointment of Moritani Misako as their new VP in charge of interface research. The article didn't mention her former work at Sony-VidTech, but did speak of her pioneering work in cyberware interfaces. They also announced the fact that she had already been issued a new patent, even though she had only been on the job for one week. She looked happy and in good health at the press conference. It appeared that Argus had been good to his word, but Kimberly wondered when or if she would hear from Argus again.   Time passed, and Kimberly got caught up again in her work. Her team was designing a set of AI's for agent software that would be used in editing simstim recordings. Her assignment was perfecting a recognition module for providing cosmetic enhancements to the participant's images. Like most of her team, she was working 60 and 70 hour weeks at a minimum. Still, she found it preferable to spending time at home, where her parents were continually pressuring her to fit even better into the mold of corporate expectations.   By late August, Kimberly had given up hope of Argus returning to rescue her. She had completed work on training the editing AI, and had been assigned to a local field production test team as a junior editor. Most of the time they did their work within the Arcology domes, but on occasion they did get to do a location shoot at nearby outdoor locations. Time passed, and her skills steadily improved.   On September 23rd Kimberly took a full day off work, the first break she'd had since the martial arts competition. It was her 21st birthday, and that morning she spent the first half of the day in her lawyer's offices, filling out the seemingly endless paperwork and procedural nuances required for her to take sole responsibility for her trust fund. It seemed like at least half of the process was convincing her lawyers that she really did -not- want to continue to leave the management of her funds to their experienced brokers. There were over thirty procedures to go through, from a retinal scan to assure her identity, to release forms for what seemed like each and every one of their employees certifying that they were no longer financially responsible for the account. For each procedure they had a different electronic form. Each one required Kimberly to enter her full employee ID number and provide assorted verifying information. To add to the delays, they actually made her go through the anachronistic ritual of signing celutext hardcopy versions of each of the forms with a -pen-. Her hands were beginning to cramp with the unfamiliar exercise.   At last the head of the law firm, Sawada Ippei, bowed to her and offered a new, gold-capped credstick. "Shishi-Sama, you are now a very well-to-do young lady. I urge you to be most careful in the management of your funds. If you should ever require financial advice, we will be only too happy to serve you again."   Kimberly slotted the credstick in her Cyberdeck, and was quite pleased with the almost 750,000 nuYen figure displayed. "Your firm has indeed done well in managing my fund Sawada-Sama. The balance is 50,000 nuYen higher than I had anticipated. However, I wish to see how well I can do managing my investments on my own for a while. I shall be careful, I assure you." After a few more formalities she took her leave of them and set off into the maze of the Arcology.   The Sony-VidTech Arcology was one of the largest in Chiba, and was built on an incredible scale. Each of the three huge domes was two kilometers in diameter and a kilometer high, connected in a triangle by straight structures a kilometer long, half a kilometer wide at the base, and half a kilometer high. The straight sections housed most of the heavy industrial or hazardous operations. Within the triangular core of the complex, a VTOL airport and a ground transport center provided a hub of import, export and travel activity.   In a sense, an Arcology was the ultimate evolution of the company town. The huge structures provided everything their citizens required. Housing, industry, agriculture, recreation, merchants, all were enclosed within these human ant-hills. Everything was owned by a single corporation, which was also the sole legal employer, aside from subcontracted merchants and service organizations which the corp hired as well. Self-sufficient city-states, each operated virtually autonomously from any civil governmental authority. The Arcologies traded with each other and with the rest of the world. But virtually all income earned by their employees was spent again in company-owned businesses.   It was estimated that 375,000 men, women and children lived within the SVT Arcology. Many of its citizens would be born, educated, develop careers and families, and die in the Arcology, without ever once having stepped outside its boundaries. They had little reason to leave. The climate in the many levels under the domes was always comfortable. Unless the recirculation system failed, the air was always pure and clear. That certainly couldn't be said for most traditional urban areas. Personal security was relatively well assured. A citizen of the Arcology never truly wanted for anything, except personal freedom. Each week their debit account was credited by the corp with an amount that allowed them to purchase food, clothing and personal items, in keeping with their rank and position. Whatever went unspent at the end of each week was transferred to their savings account, for luxury purchases or to pay off their contracts a bit earlier. These funds could be accessed from any financial terminal with their credsticks and access code.   As a degreed apprentice in a skilled technical field, Kimberly could normally afford to eat in any of the cafeterias, and could eat at one of the fancier nightclubs on her level maybe once a week. But now she could afford many luxuries that had been beyond her means scant days before. She decided to treat herself to lunch at the Skydome restaurant in dome two, where she had heard the senior managers from her section usually took VIP clients. She had never eaten there before, as it's A-1 rating assured that it was far more expensive than the credit limit on her old corp debit card would allow. Well, that had changed now, and she felt like celebrating.   She rode the pedway to the central core. There she boarded an express elevator, which took her from the 5th level service mall to the rooftop park on the 43rd level. She could just make out the play area that she and Valarie used to favor, out near the dome wall, almost half a kilometer away. Here in the center of the park, a sturdy shaft 40 meters in diameter reached upwards to the very top of the dome, 150 meters above her head. At the top was a two-level observation deck, with one layer overlooking the park, and a second layer actually above the skin of the dome, looking out over the arcology. Capping it all off was the magnificent Skydome restaurant itself. She'd heard it slowly rotated, so that during the course of a meal the patrons could see an ever-changing panorama spread out before them.   She had to pay 50 nuYen just to take the elevator up to the observation level. That alone was more than she was used to spending on a meal. She bought her ticket and boarded the elevator. On the first observation level, she looked around a bit before going up. People were crowded near the rim, enjoying the view. In addition to the elevator core, the hub of the observation deck housed a variety of vendors selling film, souvenirs, snacks and personal services, all of which were over-priced.   A group of schoolchildren giddy with excitement were being herded back into the elevator banks, returning to class after a field trip. Where they had apparently been standing, there was a space at the windows. Kimberly went over there and looked out. The park stretched out below her, the children and adults playing below looking like ants. An elderly man in a wheelchair took a place next to her. "Why the sad face child?" he asked in Japanese.   "They live in an ant-hill, and don't even know it." she said sadly. She shook her head and walked around the ring. On the far side, a private elevator was marked with the logo of the Skydome restaurant. A sign next to it indicated the rating, and a menu with no prices on it was posted nearby. She boarded the elevator and rode the rest of the way up. When the elevator opened, she patted the new credstick tucked securely in a hidden pocket in her sash, walked in, and took a seat in the waiting area.   The elegantly dressed young man at the entrance refused to even recognize that she was there. Kimberly waited patiently. He ignored her. Kimberly's patience evaporated when several well-dressed managers entered and were immediately seated by him. Finally she confronted the young man. "Hey! I was here first! Just -what- does it take to get seated for lunch!"   The host looked at her as if a cockroach had just walked across his podium. He spoke with a sneer in his voice. "There is no need to raise your voice young lady. You are not -going- to eat here. This is -not- a worker's cafeteria, and this establishment is clearly well beyond your means. I highly recommend the Mall food court on level eight. You should find it more to your liking."   "WHAT!" shouted Kimberly. She could barely believe her ears. "Why you simpering little bastard! I can too afford a meal here. What in hell gives you the right to talk to me like that!" Inside the restaurant, several patrons were looking at the scene of the commotion. Kimberly shoved her credstick at the annoying man. "Dammit, slot -this- and tell me I can't afford a meal here!"   The young man waived off the offered credstick negligently, and pressed a red button on his podium. "A crude forgery, no doubt. I really can't be bothered. I'm afraid you are disturbing the paying customers, and will have to leave. Even if you -can- afford to eat here, which I severely doubt, you are improperly dressed. We do not cater to the lower classes here, and no one who dresses like one of them will be seated here, no matter how much money you have."   Kimberly stood there with her mouth open, completely at a loss for words. She looked at herself in a mirrored wall panel. Her hair was clean and tied back in a pony tail. Her jumpsuit was this year's issue, standard uniform for her division, and was clean and neatly pressed. Even her supervisor's boss usually wore no better to work each day. Then she looked past the snobbish young man at the patrons seated within. All of them -were- dressed far better than she was. The men mostly wore finely tailored suits or traditional silk kimonos, and the women either equally well tailored suits or elegant designer outfits. She suddenly felt like a commoner looking into the imperial court.   A large-muscled man with one cybernetic eye stepped up next to the host, blocking her view. "Michael, remove her." said the host to the bouncer. Michael grinned and took a step towards Kimberly. She took one look at him and ran into the elevator on her own. No one followed her.   When Kimberly got back to the observation deck, she stared out the window again, trying to determine what to do next. An elderly male voice spoke to her quietly in Japanese. "They weren't very polite, were they?"   "Huh?" she said, looking around. The old man in the wheelchair was next to her. "Your pardon, honorable grandfather. Did you speak to me?"   "Yes, Kimiko-chan, I did." he said. "I said, they weren't very polite, were they?"   "But, how did you know what happened? Hey! How did you even know my name? Who are you? Should I know you?"   The man in the chair chuckled, but said nothing. He looked once again out the window.   Kimberly's head-phone indicated an incoming call with a pulsating warmth behind her left ear. She sighed and answered it. She touched the spot in her mind that activated the communications link. With the link active and her concentrating on an intent to transmit, her brain's signals to her vocal cords would be intercepted, transmitting a synthesized version of her own voice programmed into the head-phone's voice chip, rather than resulting in audible speech. <<Moshi moshi. Kimiko.>> she transmitted.   A slightly familiar male voice, strong and youthful, replied quietly in English. She heard the voice via the head-phone's transducer in her left inner ear, audible only to herself. <<I know a great deal about you, Kimberly Lyons. I have many eyes, and I've been observing your actions closely. You know me as Argus. This is not the best place to talk. Come, accompany a frail old man for a stroll in the park below. We can talk freely there.>> <click> The call ended, terminated at the other end.   Before Kimberly could react, the old man looked at her, winked a decidedly non-Asian eye, and then wheeled away and entered an elevator. She stood there a minute, then followed on the next available elevator. She found him several minutes later in the park, apparently napping next to an artificial stream. She walked over to him and spoke quietly in Japanese. "Grandfather? That was you? I didn't recognize you. It's been so long. Would you like to come with me through the park?"   Her head-phone pulsed again. <<Moshi moshi. Kimiko.>>   <<Very good, you're catching on. We can talk openly when we get over by the Kirin fountain. Offer to take me there.>> <click>   "Um, Grandfather? Please don't be angry with me because I didn't recognize you. I know a lovely fountain near here, with a very pretty statue of a Kirin. Would you come with me?"   "Yes Kimiko-chan, I will follow. Show me your pretty fountain." replied Argus.   They arrived at the fountain a few minutes later. It was a quiet place, with a bubbling fountain and several benches surrounded by an arbor. Kimberly sat on a bench and looked at the old man carefully. She could see now that he was wearing makeup to change his apparent age, but would not have noticed if she wasn't looking for it.   He smiled and spoke in a normal voice, in English. "Very good. I couldn't risk talking to you for very long by phone or in a public area like that observation lounge. Too much chance of someone listening in. But I've planted a few anti-eavesdropping devices here, which should help. Several of my remotes are hidden in the brush here, and will warn me if anyone comes too close. Now then, as to your questions. First, Yes, I've been following you, either in person or with remotes. I knew that today was your birthday, and that you would be likely to get access to your trust fund today. That makes this a good day for you to start making some changes in your lifestyle, without raising too many suspicions. When you headed for the park, I disguised myself and waited to see what you would do. When you took the elevator to the observation deck, I followed."   "And what about the restaurant? How'd you know what happened in there. Was that your influence too?" asked Kimberly.   Argus laughed. "Welcome to the class struggle Kimberly. It was this society that kept you out of there, not me. As to how I knew, I could have guessed the results from where I saw you go, and the look on your face when you came back so quickly. But when you stood near me at the window, I planted a small transmitter in the fold on the back of your sash, so I could listen in." Argus held out his hand. "It would be wise to give it back to me, as it's sure to set off alarms if you tried to take it into your office."   Kimberly felt around in the small of her back, and located a small black disc, no larger than her fingernail. "This? I didn't even feel it." She handed it back to him.   Argus looked at her seriously. "Would you like to have the last laugh on them? You can get in there and be waited on hand and foot. No extra charge from me. Just consider it part of your preparation for entering the real world. That cretin upstairs sized you up and dismissed you the instant you walked into his domain. You had already lost before you spoke a word. Understand this - people believe what they see, and what their biases and prejudices make them expect to see. If you are going to survive outside the arcology, you need to learn how to blend in at -any- level of society, from the slums to the corp boardrooms. To get past class barriers, you gotta have a class act. Look and act the part, and people will believe what you want them to believe. You did OK in your theatrical classes in college. Now it's time to make the world your stage. So let's start your act from the top."   He handed her three business cards. "The first one of these cards is a woman in the mall on deck 20 who specializes in 'beauty makeovers'. Go there and ask her for a 'boardroom special'. Tell her you have a hot date with a fast-rising exec. She'll do your makeup and hair in the latest fashion for a top exec. Pay close attention to the tricks she uses. They may be useful later on. Pay her whatever she asks. The second card is a fashion designer on level 29. Buy yourself a designer outfit. Price no object. Tell him it's for a dinner at the Skydome, and he'll know what to show you."   Kimberly looked at the cards and shook her head. "That makes sense. But what about this third card? A tech shop? I'm not interested in any new cyberware. No way."   "No, but you are interested in putting an end to a series of obscene calls you received today on your head-phone. You already got two of them, from me, and there will be a dozen more before five PM. The rest will really be obscene. Sorry about that, but it's necessary. The chummer who will be placing the calls is harmless. He gets his kicks by roving around making calls with a jazzed up pocket phone spliced to a frequency scanner, and he just got your number. Report the fourth call to corp security, and complain again after the seventh. The corp will record the next few that come in. That specialist on the card can reprogram your head-phone for a new number, and ostensibly that's what you will ask him to do. You will then report the new number he gives you to your office. However, he's also been paid to render one other service. He will activate a second, scrambled line to you, which I will have the number for. My return number will be hardcoded as a speed-dial for you as well. It's a completely non-invasive procedure, programmed through your Cyberlink. Call me when it's done, and I'll instruct you in what to do next. Go on Cinderella, get on you way, or you'll be late for the ball!"   Kimberly got up and walked out of the arbor, saying "And what about you? Will I see you again soon?" When he didn't reply, she turned to look for him. He was gone. She walked back towards the bank of elevators to begin her makeover. She didn't even look twice at the pony-tailed young ice-cream vendor on his tri-wheeled cart who rode past her a few minutes later. Argus just smiled to himself and rode on to the service elevators.   Kimberly got the first four obscene calls while the beautician was doing the makeover, and vocally complained to her when each one happened. The corp security office called back to state that they were unable to trace the calls, because the caller always hung up just as their equipment began to get a lock on him. They recommended she change her number, and she agreed that it might be a wise course.   Three calls later, she really -was- getting sick of the calls. The pervert Argus had turned loose on her apparently had a split personality, with a different kink for each one and a different personality for each call. The last one was into a snuff-porn fantasy. Kimberly all but ran to the tech shop, and begged for an appointment when she got there. The session only took half an hour, and the obscene calls ceased. The tech gave her a small card with her official new number, and assured her that -all- the work was done. While his gear was still jacked in, he demonstrated the response she would get for each line. A regular call would pulse evenly and slowly, as before, where the new line would be fast, close-spaced bursts of three pulses. It was quite easy to tell the difference between incoming signals. He didn't tell her the new number for the second line, and she didn't ask., but he did train her how to activate the new speed dial feature. She paid him, thanked him with obviously genuine relief, and left.   That afternoon at the dress designer's shop, Kimberly looked at herself in the mirror, and didn't recognize the woman she saw looking back at her. "Wow." was all she could say. Her long brown hair was now permed into a mass of tight ringlets, drawn up through a diffraction grating covered cone on top of her head, and fanned out behind her in a wild cascade, Her hair was interwoven with hair-fine strands of fiber-optics. A flick of a hidden switch on the cone activated a shimmering pattern of subtle lights in her hair, which changed color randomly. Her makeup was sultry and exotic, with colors picked to emphasize her Western ancestry, while making her look dusky and mysterious. Her golden gown was skintight from her hips to her wrists, decorated with silver embroidery mimicking the shapes and forms of cyberware implants or robotic replacements, and highlighted with thousands of shimmering, color-changing points of light from fiber-optic threads woven into the fabric. The dress was belted at the hips, and had a transparent gossamer silk floor-length skirt, that showed off every inch of her legs. High heels, dusky stockings with fine traceries of light woven in, and a gold French-cut bikini brief that was not -quite- opaque heightened the effect. She was very glad that she was not a modest person when it came to wearing revealing clothing.   "My dear, you are absolutely ravishing!" gushed the male designer. "I mean, you are just -too- cute for words. Why I would even make a date with you myself, and I simply don't -do- women you know. You are just absolutely delicious. That young man of yours is one lucky fellow. Why, I've simply outdone myself! Really, I have. You -must- come back and tell me how it went dearie. And if they ask about the gown, you just send them right here. Why, if they mention your dress, I'll give you, oh, let's say five percent off on your next gown for every referral I get on it this month. Oh you simply -must- come back. You are just too much fun to dress up."   Kimberly smiled and handed him her credstick. She almost lost her smile completely when he slotted a charge for 10,000 nuYen as the bill for the dress. She kept telling herself "It's all right. I can afford it now. Really I can." The designer assisted her in placing the dress in a carrying box, after she changed back to street clothes.   In the mall outside the dress designer's shop, Kimberly sat on a bench and touched the speed-dial for Argus in her mind. A Japanese woman's voice answered. <<Moshi moshi. Hardess Exports. How may I direct your call?>>   Kimberly wondered if something had gone wrong. <<Er, so sorry. I was trying to reach Argus-San. I must have the wrong number.>>   <<We have a Mr. Argus as one of our export agents. I'll connect you. One moment please.>>   <<Argus>> spoke a mans voice in English. <<What can I do for you>>   Kimberly was confused. She spoke rapidly, hardly stopping to breathe. <<Oh! I think I have the wrong person. I'm terribly sorry. My name is Kimiko. And a man I met said to call him, and this was the number he gave me, but he didn't say it was a business. I mean, I thought it was a private line. Oh, I'm sorry for wasting your time Argus-Sama.>>   The man on the other end chuckled. <<You have the right number Miss Lyons. Just a simple security screen, in case the tech who did the work on your phone was less than discreet. This will be a direct line once we are certain it is secure. You have been to the places I sent you to, I take it?>>   Kimberly took a deep breath and replied somewhat shakily. <<Well, yes. But do you know how much that dress cost? That was three month's salary for me! And that lady who did the makeover? She charged 500 nuYen for that!>>   <<I'm sure the results were satisfactory. All three had impeccable references, and should have done excellent work. Is there a problem?>>   <<No, The dress is gorgeous, and I look like a fashion model. It's just costing me a lot more than I thought, that's all. What do I do next?>>   <<You go have dinner, of course. Make a reservation for 2100 hours, for two, in your name. Then go to your bank and obtain ten blank unpersonalized credsticks, and one certified for 2000 nuYen. Slot the uncertified ones in your 'deck and transfer 50 nuYen to each of them. You'll need them for tips, and the larger one is to pay for your meal. Leave your gold credstick in a safe-deposit box. Most people with money are -not- in the habit of carrying it all with them at once. Call a limo service to take you to the restaurant. They will take you to the -main- entrance for the restaurant, on level 40. There's an express elevator from there directly to the restaurant. When you get there, give one 50-nuYen credstick to the limo driver, and tell him to keep the change. Give another to the host when he asks for the name on the reservation, and ask for a window seat. Wait 30 minutes for your non-existent date to arrive, then order the most expensive meal you like, and a full bottle of wine or sake. If any of the men, or women for that matter, should approach you socially, be friendly and get their numbers, but don't give your own name or number. Hmmmm. Tell them your name is Catherine, if they insist on a name.>>   <<But what about you? Will you be there?>>   <<I'll be watching, but you probably won't see me. Enjoy your meal. We'll talk later.>>   -------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------- Text, all characters (especially Argus and Shadowcat), and the Virtually There chain of simstim/VR clubs, all Copyright August 1993 by Jay B. Brandt, all rights reserved. Please use them only with my permission.   Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are requested. Please send them to me via e-mail at <> --------------------------------------------------------------   Jason Magnus

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