First bit of fiction posted to this blog and I hope you’ll like it. Coming from a challenge made by Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds, here is a little story set in the world of the novel I’m currently writing.
With slow, measured strides of his long legs, Rook walked along the middle of the narrow, dimly lit room with darkened shelves lining the walls to either side of him. His footsteps echoed throughout the place in a way that they had no right to do in such an enclosed space, each step he took clapping loud like thunder as the heels of his boots landed on the black marbled surface of the floor beneath him.
Stopping at a shelf that was identical to all the others, he reached up with a fine-boned finger, whose nail was painted with a luminescent blue polish, and lightly touched the front edge of the shelf. A soft golden light came up seemingly out of nowhere, illuminating the item displayed there: a square piece of plastic and cardboard exactly the same shape and size as an eight inch floppy disk. The worn and peeling label in the top right corner had a handwritten note scrawled across it: ‘Winter Storm’ with a series of numbers printed more neatly underneath it.
For a moment, Rook just stood there and admired the relic – the first to have been interred in his ossuary, many decades ago – and then he snatched it from its place, swiped his finger across the edge of the shelf to turn off the light before he turned on a heel and strode back down the long narrow room to the door at the other end, carrying the prize with him. One that he’d never thought he would have to part with.
Reaching a pair of delicate finger up to the base of his skull, Rook pulled the jack from its socket and shivered as he felt the last bit of cyberspace leave his consciousness, returning him fully to the real world, where he sat in his office at the nightclub. Raising his eyes to meet those of the woman sitting across from him, the shaman made no move to reach for the data cache that now held the remains of the A.I. called Winter Storm, the very first A.I. he had killed and then stored away in the ossuary hidden away in one of his private servers, a place only he knew existed. Or so he’d thought.
“I admit, I’m curious what it is you want with a dead A.I.,” he noted, lifting a narrow eyebrow high up toward his hairline, only just managing to keep his anger under control. Less than an hour ago, this woman – this tiny speck of a woman with distinct Chinese features – had walked into his club, cool as you please, had crossed in a straight line toward the door to his office and when first one bouncer and then another had tried to stop her, she had floored them both in seconds with no trouble at all, using only her hands.
When she had come face to face with Rook – after he had exited the office to prevent any more of his bouncers of staff from ending up on the floor – her demand had been simple: give her the backup of the A.I. Winter Storm and she would keep the true identity of the world’s most infamous cybershaman to herself. That she knew even that much; his possession of what remained of Winter Storm and that he was a cybershaman was enough to make him take this woman seriously.
“What I do with it is none of your business, Shaman,” she replied, sitting primly in her chair, waiting patiently for him to hand over the data cache. She smiled, then gave a demure and tiny nod with a lowering of her gaze. “But you know as well as I do that even a dead A.I. is a highly valuable and sought after commodity.” She paused, raising her gaze and stared at him with cold dark eyes. “Why else would you collect them as you do?”
For just a moment, he considered killing her. That if he did maybe he could prevent whatever it was she had planned with the A.I. he was turning over to her. But Rook was no altruist. He had his own life to protect, his business and his true identity, and though she had made no mention of it, the shaman was quite clear on the fact that if she didn’t walk out of here alive, all that would be lost to him. Killing her would certainly be satisfying, yes, but it wasn’t worth it.
“I don’t collect them,” he said and reached over to tap a blue painted nail on the data cache’s standard looking housing once, twice, then snatched it from the terminal and tossed it across the table at the woman, who caught it out of the air without so much as a flinch. “I kill them and then I lock them away to keep us all safe.” He stood, watching as she mirrored him and though she was more than a head and a half shorter than him, Rook had no doubt that she could hold her own against him in a hand-to-hand fight. “I hope you know what you’re doing, lady. Even dead, these things can do a lot of damage.”
He saw in her eyes that she knew exactly what he was talking about. And that she didn’t much care. She was here only to collect the A.I. What was to be done with it, she might not even know herself, despite having giving the impression that she had a personal stake in further use of Winter Storm. Pocketing the data cache, she gave a short bow to him, that wicked little smile playing across her lips as she straightened up again. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Shaman,” she said and Rook thought her heard a tiny bit of admiration in her voice for the first time. Without another word, she turned and left the office with one of the most precious artifacts of his ossuary in her pocket, the door closing behind her with a soft click.