Street Tough

Carly Quester creeps through the crowd, winding her way around a hydroponic vegetable vendor whose brackish tomato tanks twitch with mottled olive crawdaddies. Her stomach rumbles at the sight of fresh food, but shellfish grilled in butter will have to wait for another day. A frumpy bank teller lingers in the gridlock, humming softly, waiting for the light at California Street to change.

Yeah, that’s right. Don’t freakin’ move.

Green light, and traffic plunges forward half a block. Red light, and traffic halts. Steaming with frustration. Spewing noxious fumes.

With a cautious hop, the bank teller ventures off the curb, navigating the squat stack of its main housing between a pickup truck packed with surly locomotors and a bus of screaming schoolchildren. The bank teller pauses in the crosswalk, twiddling its secondary cables.

Carly pounces, seizing the bank teller’s monitor. She jams a credit disk into the teller’s download drive, punching her code on its astonished keypad, together with a bootleg file extension overriding Data Control’s order freezing her assets.

The bank teller struggles and beeps, staggering and swinging about.

Carly slaps the monitor’s faceplace, holds snub-nosed pliers to its main cable. “Spit it out, bot,” she mutters to its audio. “It’s my damn account. Eight grand or you’re chop-shop parts.”

The bank teller sputters but commences downloading credits onto Carly’s disk. One thousand, two thousand, three. Four thousand softbucks.

A synthy voice suddenly murmurs through the bank teller’s audio. “Hello, Quester space C colon fifty-three dash five point twenty-four paren AAA close paren. How are you today? We’ve got to talk.”

Carly slaps the monitor again. Flat of the hand, no fingerprints. Talk, right. The synthy voice, the voice of a sengine, is reciting her former telespace access code. Talk? Don’t even breathe.

The bank teller’s alarm system clicks on, wailing through the downtown din. The red Cancel-Trans light blinks furiously. Carly joggles the main cable with the pliers till the cable is nearly free of the port.

Five thousand, six thousand softbucks.

“Carly Quester!” rattles Pr. Spinner’s rusty synthy voice. The perimeter prober stands next to a Recycling Bin on the opposite side of California Street. Her owlish faceplace puckers, her graspers clack, her spinnerets click. The prober’s foot rollers scoot back and forth with anxiety. “By bot, it’s the heat!”

“She means scram, flesh-and-blood,” squeaks Saint Download standing beside Spinner, waving its multitude of armlets. Its gender-neutral faceplace clicks through a dozen ambiguity sequences. Saint Download is the ugliest little bot Carly has ever seen. The bot doesn’t think much of her, either.

Six and a quarter, six and a half. The bank teller stalls at six thousand five hundred softbucks. “Damn!” Carly pounds Eject but the disk won’t come free.

A team of copbots careen down Sansome Street, weaving in and out of the gridlock. Sirens shriek.

Lisa Mason is the author of eight novels, including Summer of Love, A Time Travel (Bantam), a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (Bantam) a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (Bast Books), and two dozen stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Mason’s Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Studios. Her first novel, Arachne, debuted on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller List.
Visit her at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, worldwide links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on her Facebook Author Page, on her Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only for five more days until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Download yours today only at