The can fell into the receptacle with a heavy clunk, and as he pulled it out, its reflective surface shone with the light of the vending machine’s constantly swirling advertisements. Four hundred milliliters, one hundred Calories, eighty milligrams of caffeine, seventy milligrams of sugar, he thought, then cursed to himself. He only knew that because of the Deepsearch datachip, which told him a lot of things he didn’t particularly care about, like a second brain producing intrusive thoughts of perfectly memorized useless facts. He should’ve left the thing at his desk, but it was a pain to get back into the proper headspace if he took it out, and it wasn’t like it was classified or–
His train of thought was derailed as he turned to see a short, dark-haired woman standing extremely close to him. He glanced from side to side. He had at least a foot on her, but somehow he still felt trapped. It was something in her eyes. “Uh, can I help you?” he asked.
“Probably.” The woman tapped a spot behind her ear, where chipsockets usually were installed. “That datachip. Give it to me.”
“Uh, I really can’t, I–”
The woman grabbed him under the arms, lifted him up, and shoved him back against the vending machine. It did not seem to particularly strain her. Seriously augmented, he thought. Oh shit.
“I don’t have time to debate it with you,” she said. “You’re going to give me the chip, and you’re gonna say you never saw me. You just lost it.”
He was breathing too fast. His hands were shaking. The only thing he could control was whether he held onto his soda can, and so he gripped it with all his might. “Listen, I can’t just lose it, my supervisor would–”
She sighed and transferred her grip to his throat. His eyes widened with a sudden certainty — that the last few moments had been a series of minor fuckups on his part that were about to culminate in a very sudden escalation. He opened his mouth wide, trying to find the breath to apologize, to make it right–
And she squeezed. Hard. Continue reading »