Novae stands in the heat, jacket opened and sweat staining her shirt.
“Fuck whoever invented heat,” She muttered to herself, staring at the wreckage. “Fuck them right to Jersey.”
Taking a deep breath of the metallic decayed air, she crouched down and got back to work. She had found a HonYota bike at the salvage yard and was stripping it down for parts for her ‘cycle. The corpos, congos and their minions had increased the prices of fucking everything, so pretty much anything not technical was hand made these days from spare parts lying around. Novae just so happened to be adept at mechanics thanks to her dad and the neighborhood she grew up in. While her dad taught her the technician aspect if building cycles, the hood taught her how to obtain one. Turning the wrench and using all 135 pounds, she got the radiator off and the intake manifolds, tossing them into the pile she had started. Using the sleeve of her jacket, she wiped the sweat off and took her jacket off and tossed it over the parts.
“Alright, now for a new seat and brakes and then I can get out of this forsaken heat.”
Looking around, she didn’t see anything remotely interesting so she started walking. Taking a glance at piles and kicking over crap, Novae walked around the junkyard, seeing other people out doing the same as her or scavenging for recyclable materials to get paid. It wasn’t a lot but these people didn’t have much to begin with. As she turned a corner around a towering pile of bent and broken parts, she saw something glint on the sun. Jogging over, she spotted the brakes she needed.
Just as she reached the part, a vibration in the ground caused her to pause. Looking up, she saw the top of the scrap pile start to sway.
Reacting quickly, Novae grabbed the brakes, turned on her heel, and took off at a dead sprint. The force that all of that metal hit the ground with caused a micro earthquake, not to mention a domino effect. Running with everything she had, she chanced a look back. The piles were tumbling over left and right. And headed in her direction. Skidding to a stop at her pile of junk, she grabbed everything and started running again, bundling it all and slinging it across her back.
"Damn girl!" Switch exclaimed when Novae came to a stop near her, catching her breath. "You were running like a roach in daylight!"
Bent over gasping through her mouth, Novae just closed her eyes and calmed herself.
"You would be too if the scrap stack acted like it had a grudge against you. Fucking lucky I made it out with my haul too."
"Yeah, I'm sure there were some who weren't so lucky Novae," Switch lamented, taking a drag off of her tobacco. "Poor souls weren't as fast as you."
"Or as lucky."
Novae stood there breathing, eyes scanning the now obliterated junkyard. If you listened closely, you could hear the dying wails of those that were caught, even as the metal was still settling. It would take weeks to clean this mess up and by then, the bodies would have joined the earth, oil, and grime now covering them. Fucking corpos and congos. The residents of the area had been clamoring for them to expand and take down some of the scrap stacks, but they didn’t listen. This is the result of that.
Novae clenched her fists tight until her knuckles hurt. Death was always knocking on the poor’s door. The rich and powerful kept it revolving. Grabbing her stuff, she walked away, heading back to the spot and get to work on upgrading her ‘cycle. Once finished she’d test it and go for a nice long ride, somewhere northwest, just to clear her head.
The walk back left her shoulder tight and a sour taste in her mouth. Those screams could have been hers. She could be one of the dead, crushed by metal and her only crime would have been trying to make a living. To survive. Novae remembered back to her days scrounging underfoot of the metropols, pocket snatching and begging for change or food. She had gotten into a lot of trouble in those days. She still got into trouble every now and then however. But these days it was more because she was fighting back against the system, not because she was trying to feed herself.
Thinking back on those days, Novae remembered when she first got the place she lived in now. She had found it abandoned and the metropols and congos came to claim it. It was out in the middle of nowhere, the outskirts of the city. Why they wanted she didn’t know. But what she did know, was that after she spent all her time and money getting it to be liveable, she would be damned if they took it. She got into fights with the goons they sent to scare her away, earning her the nickname “Junkyard Dog.”
Jacker was waiting for her when she turned the corner. She bumped into him and instinctively drew a fist.
“Whoa there, Nove,” Jack said, holding a hand up and using the other to remove tobacco from his lips.
“What do you want Jacker?” Novae asked, relaxing. “You just walking into anyone you want?”
“Technically, I’ve been posted here since noon. Your deep-in-thought ass bumped into me.”
“Well, fucking move next time.”
Jacker and Novae stood there looking at each other before bursting into laughter. “I heard what happened, the scrap stacks,” Jacker said, turning serious. “Fucking sickening. Glad you made it out of that though.”
Jacker talked about nothing while Novae half listened, going over things in her mind. She would get back at them somehow. After they tried to muscle her, they went for others, wanting to get the little land that was left to the people. She met Jacker during one of their raids and they hit it off instantly.
“Hey, remember when we got cornered by some metropols a few years back?” Jack asked, blowing smoke in the air. His eyes glinted for a second and the implant on the side of his head flickered.
“Fucking kidding me? I was literally just thinking that,” Nove said, glancing sideways at him. “That thing can’t read minds can it?”
Jacker laughed. “Nah, not yet. But maybe one day?”
“I swear if you read mine, it’ll be the best and last thing you do.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Jacker replied. “But no, I was just thinking. Maybe it’s time we remind them who they’re trying to walk over? How many lives were lost? How many continue to be taken from us? I might have been born a MP, but I’m sick of this shit.”
Novae thought on that. She had forgotten that Jacker had run away when he was young. “Yeah, time for the old JD to bite back.”
They bumped fists and Novae headed home. Jacker had installed a neurolink into his brain that allows information to be uploaded and displayed to his retinas. Anything from passwords, schematics, or visual information was instantly downloaded into his brain at his command. It was tied to his personal network and as long as he had his device with him, he could get anything he wanted. He had a couple close calls with congos and corpos, but he had kill switches programmed in so he could cut any feed that wasn’t authorized. He had helped Novae find the backdoor in the first place. Most of the time, he only used it for contacting people and
As she walked, Novae replayed the scene in her mind. Growing up in the slums and fighting for a piece of mind, she’d gotten a rep for being tough and smart. But people also knew she cared deeply about where she came from. Somehow, someway, she’d make those responsible pay dearly for the way they treated everyone below them on the ladder. Novae had hacked into a company not too long ago and was slowly and methodically siphoning off data into a remote and very secure server. Once she had the time and peace of mind to sort through it with Neko, she’d make her move.
The bike was where she left it, covered by a dusty and hole filled tarp. People knew not to invade her space or try to steal from her. She’d gotten into plenty of fights with people who thought because she was a girl, they could bully her. A few broken bones later and she had a little respect. Tossing her haul on the ground next to the bike, Novae took off her jacket and walked to the fridge. Running on a solar cell and an old but still working Tesla battery, she opened it and grabbed a beer. Homemade. Deep long drinks got her chilled again and she went to work on the ‘cycle. As she was finishing up, Neko walked by and sat in front of her.
“Wassup Neko,” Novae said, dropping the wrench and checking to make sure everything was fitted properly. “Here to admire my craftsmanship?”
“I heard about the scrap stack. How ya holding up?” The digital cat asked, head cocked slightly.
“I’m fine. Got everything I needed just before the collapse.”
The digital signal that was Neko flickered and she glitched for a split moment. “We need to get more power.”
“In every definition possible for that word.”
“I assume we’re going to be going ahead with that plan?”
“Did Jacker beam you before I got here?”
Neko didn’t respond, instead getting up and stretching. “Before we do anything, we need power.”
Novae waved her hand and the holographic cat slinked away, dust particles floating through the body. Novae stood and stretched, bending backwards until she heard a satisfying dull “pop.” Sitting on the ‘cycle, she turned the key and cranked it. When nothing happened, she tried again. Still nothing. Getting off, she went over the engine and noticed a disconnected wire. Fixing that and doing one quick glance, she nodded to herself and tried again. On the first try, she got her reward. The ‘cycle revved to life and Novae smiled. She continued revving it, hearing the engine roar to life.
“Alright, now that I got that shit outta the way, time to celebrate.”
Back inside her place, Novae grabbed another beer and walked to her room. Cracking the beer open and taking a drink, she slid out of her clothes and kicked them to the corner with the growing pile. Walking naked with drink in hand to the bathroom, she turned to her hub and started the radio. As she walked into the shower, the lights and water turned on automatically and she waited a few seconds as the temperature adjusted. Novae set the can on the small shelf she installed and put one hand under the falling water.
“Perfect,” she said, stepping fully into the water. She let the water run over her body and looked down, watching the filth of the day circle the drain before disappearing into the black void. She stood like that for a few minutes, the water massaging her soreness and rinsing the days events off of her.
Reaching for her beer, she thought about the plan Neko, Jacker, and she had been discussing. Neko was an AI tailor made for infiltrating secure systems and leaving not a trace. Jacker had his information network spread all over the ‘Net. Novae wasn’t sure how he found the backdoor, but when he told her and she used Neko to look into it, she was impressed. They had been friends for as long as she could remember and he always knew what to say and what to do before she could do anything. It wasn’t his implant. He could just read her.
Stepping out of the shower, Novae gestured in the air and brought up a projected display. She changed the music to synthpop and looked at her schedule. She was bad at putting things on the calendar, but she remembered one event; Shiro’s birthday party tomorrow. Novae had wanted to get her a holographic animal like she had, but the price at the stores were insane. So she settled on a leather jacket she had found and customized.
“Neko, has Jack sent word yet about meeting?” Novae asked, drying her hair and walking around her room. She grabbed a shirt and sniffed it, deciding it was clean enough.
“Not yet. But I have been monitoring the situation on the server and we’re still green.”
Jumping up and down to fit into her ripped and patched jeans, Novae grunted and sat on the bed. The beer was empty and it was the last of her stash. She’d have to go buy more from the vendor at the market soon.
TO BE CONTINUED