Runner

V.O (NOVAE)

 

The coming storm wasn’t something to be prepared for. It was something to be weathered. To be survived. Sunset was going to rise. Fire and ash would be the birthplace.

 

INT. BAR - BOOTH - DAY

 

Novae (late 20s early 30s, dressed in beaten leather jacket and ripped blue jeans) sits in a booth, swishing around an amber liquid in a stained glass mug. Her thoughts obviously not on drinking. The door opens and a brief ray of sunlight brightens the room. She doesn’t look up.

 

NOVAE (still looking down)

Hey man. What’s up?

 

PERSON

I can’t call it. Why are you here so early drinking? Got stood up or something?

 

NOVAE

Just sit down ass. We, and more importantly I, don’t have time to waste. Let’s get started.

 

PERSON (30s, dressed in a long black techwear jacket, black pants, and off color shirt) sits down and reaches into their coat. Novae’s eyes flicker up and watch him carefully. The person across from her swipes his hands across the dusty table, cleaning it before placing his object on top of it.

 

PERSON

So this is it. I put in some additional SEC-CON stuff. Also blanked the handshakes. When you’re ready, you do your thing and it’s yours.

 

NOVAE

How much trouble was it?

 

PERSON

Not much. In that part of the city, I’m a different person. Almost invisible.


 

Novae reached across the table and picked up the cube. It was solid black with thin lines etched into it. Seemed like a solid piece of stone in her hands. Cool to the touch. Flipping it around, she finds a small button and examines it.

 

PERSON

Don’t press that until you get back to your place. That activates it and you don’t want anything to interfere with you setting up the handshake. It’s on this slip of paper.

 

NOVAE

Got it. Here’s your creds.

 

Novae slides a piece of paper with a QR code on it and the guy scans it with his palm. A ring with a reader on it most likely. He gets an audible ding and stands up.

 

PERSON

Don’t be a stranger Nove. Hit me up later for some drinks. You know where I’ll be.

 

Novae (looking up)

Later Jacker. Thanks for this.

 

INT - NOVAE’S APARTMENT - MID-AFTERNOON

Novae places the cube on the coffee table and walks into the kitchen. The apartment is small but feels large to her, since she lives modest and doesn’t like clutter. Looking into the refrigerator, she grabs a can and walks back to where the cube is still sitting quietly. Sitting down, she opens the can and takes a drink.

 

NOVAE

Okay, let’s see what this is all about. He said a button...here it is.

 

CU of etched lines glowing slightly and animation of the cube unfolding. A light shines towards the ceiling.

 

CUBE

Hello. I am your new AI. Please say your name and confirm handshake protocol.

 

NOVAE

Novae Saitoishi

 

CUBE

Understood. Confirmed. Please confirm handshake protocol.

 

NOVAE

Shit, what did Jacker say it was again?

 

Novae reaches into her pants pocket and grabs a slip of paper and recites the alphanumeric sequence written on it. As she recites it, we see the glow of the cube blink.

 

CUBE

Handshake confirmed. Would you like a projection or only voice?

 

NOVAE

What do you mean? Like a hologram?

 

CUBE

Correct. This model can use ambient light to construct a hologram no matter where it is and it can be personalized to suit your tastes.

 

As the cube explains this, it demonstrates its capabilities, transforming in front of Novae. 

 

NOVAE

Shit, this is  stellar. Stop. Go back. Yes,that one. Can you alter your appearance for that? No...No...No...Eh...No...Okay. Just pick something.

 

The cube settles on a hairless Egyptian cat.

 

NOVAE

Disturbing, but I like it. The obvious choice in name would be something Egyptian but that’s borderline racist. So...Neko? Generic but unique enough. What do you think?

 

CUBE (NEKO)

Neko is my name. Thank you. Anything I can do for you currently, Novae?

 

NOVAE

Let’s see....Can you locate Jacker?

 

NEKO

Jacker is currently...I do not know. His chip is not responding to pings.

 

NOVAE

Figured as much. He wouldn’t give me that kind of access so easily. Well, do something useful but stay out of my personal information. AND NOTHING ILLEGAL UNLESS I SAY! I have to go see about some work.

 

Novae takes one last look at the holographic cat sitting in the middle of her table and walks out of the door.

 

EXT - SUNSET CITY - DAY

 

Novae is walking down the street, greeting neighbors as she goes. In the distance, the gleaming towers of Sunset. Surrounding Novae are mid rise buildings, some falling apart. A police siren in the background. This was Novae’s city and she would fight for them, as she always had. But first, she needed to get some work in.

 

INT - WAREHOUSE - DAY

 

Dust in the air gives it a hazy look. Few people are milling about, talking and laughing. The broken windows and rust make the place look older than it is.

 

NOVAE

(gives a head nod to the few people standing around)

Hey Ms. Switch. What’s the scrum on the streets?

 

SWITCH

Nove. Here for the usual gossip or you got something bigger rolling around in that head of yours?

 

NOVAE

Just the usual. Looking for work. Got any good jobs coming in?

 

SWITCH (eyeing Novae sideways)

Yeah right girl. Anyway, sure. I got some stuff that just came in. Some pick up and drop off stuff. Nothing glam dear.

 

NOVAE

That’s fine. As long as it pays. Got a new AI and I need to get some other parts for my cycle. Gonna hit the Stacks later today if I don’t make enough on these runs.

SWITCH

Busy girl aren’t you? What kind of AI? There was a rumor of a theft a week or so ago uptown Sunset. Doubt you had anything to do with that though.

 

NOVAE

Nah. It was a gift. Doesn’t seem to be anything MP made. But who knows. I’m rusty on that stuff these days. You know how it is.

 

SWITCH

Sure sure. These days we’re all a little busy fighting for the right to notice a 4x4x4 metallic cube AI system. By the way, how’s that friend Jacker? He still gaming some poor slumps down by the plants?

 

NOVAE

(caught off guard by the description of the AI Jacker had given her but recovers instantly)

You called it. Jacker does what Jacker wants. He’s only useful when I need something or he’s in trouble and needs me to bail him out.

 

Novae stands there, waiting for an answer from Switch. A car door slams behind her somewhere and Switch is back to looking at her screens, obviously waiting for Novae to continue.

 

NOVAE (looks around)

By the way I was wondering…

 

SWITCH

Spit it out. There’s a lot on my plate and I’m hungry.

 

NOVAE

(shifts from left foot to right)

How old are you? You look like you could be my sister or something.

 

SWITCH

Old enough to say thank you for the compliment. Here are the deets. Later, onee-chan.

 

Switch flicks her wrist. The data is sent to Novae and goes back to work, yelling at someone off screen. 

 

Novae looks at the data sent to her and realizes she has thirty minutes to accept the first one and another thirty to complete it. Easy. She walks out of the warehouse.

 

EXT - DOWNTOWN SUNRISE - DAY

 

Novae is on her bike, dodging traffic as she makes it to her last stop of the day. She pulls over to the curb and checks her wrist computer. She grimaces at the name “SUNRISE ENERGY CORP”.

 

INSERT NOVAE - “RUNNER” DRAFT HERE

 

NOVAE

Ugh, if I didn’t need the yendo, I would not be doing this.

 

Pushing a few buttons, the computer displayed a mini map projection of her routes and she takes off. Car ZOOMS past Novae causing her to run back into the curb.

 

NOVAE

FUCKER! Next time don’t miss!

 

Novae checks the damage. Gets back on the bike, looks around her and takes off to her delivery point.

 

SHOTS OF THE CITY AS NOVAE RIDES IN WIDE PANORAMIC SHOTS

 

Making her way to the second delivery, she gets a ping on her comm and talks with Jacker while she rides, him telling her about the hack he just did and her telling him of her near death experience.

 

JACKER

(O.S.)

You gotta be careful Nove. People these days just don’t care. I mean, they didn’t really care before either, but these days... You could have been standing there with lights and a horn, and I bet you that fuckhead would have still come close to hitting you.

 

NOVAE

 

Yeah, tell me about it. Fuck was lucky I didn’t get his numbers. I would love to roll his ass for that.

 

Novae arrives at her destination. Big opulent building. Showcases every material used in construction. Novae takes a deep breath, hops off her bike, and walks towards the doors.

 

INT - SUNRISE ENERGY CORP - DAY

 

Novae rang the ID scanner and presented her badge. Having been verified, she walked through the parting doors and to the front counter, keeping her expression as neutral as possible. Security cameras and guards were everywhere and she’d be damned to be harassed or gunned down in this place for giving the slightest hint at being a malcontent.

 

NOVAE

Yeah, package for...Mr. Ephrum.

 

RECEPTIONIST

(a middle aged woman with extensive cybernetic and cosmetic modifications to her face and hands)

 

Took you long enough. Should have been delivered over an hour and a half ago!

 

Novae closes her eyes. A cool expression crosses her face.

 

NOVAE

Yeah, well, traffic. It’s here now. Sign please?

 

NOVAE

I didn’t know that level of enhancements were allowed yet. Only neurals.

 

RECEPTIONIST

Not for people like you, no. But we are a cut above you all, aren’t we?

 

NOVAE

Sheesh. Bitch much?

 

RECEPTIONIST

I’ll be sending a report to your employer about your attitude. Matter of fact...done.

 

NOVAE

Ah gee, well, I’m the employer. So, your report has been noticed and filed. Expect a response in 3-5 business days. Have a fucking wonderful day, cunt.

 

__________


 

INT - UNDERGROUND - LIT

 

Switch stands near a wall covered in monitors. She’s watching data streams from various points across Sunset, some with video, some just text.

 

SWITCH

How does it look?

 

PERSON 1

It looks optimal. No reports of abnormalities just yet.

 

SWITCH

Are we still tracking on time?

 

PERSON 2

Yes Ma’am. We expect to converge with our people in place.

 

SWITCH

Good. Keep me updated. Has anyone heard or seen anything from Shiro?

 

PERSON 1

“Ghost” is still silent. Monitoring.

 

SWITCH

(silently)

Shiro. Where are you?

 

Switch turns from the bank of monitors and heads back towards her desk. She sits down and thumbs through her contacts on the monitor embedded on her desktop.

 

SWITCH

(talking out loud to herself)

Novae is free. And Jacker would be a decent replacement for Shiro if he doesn’t show. But those two aren’t ready for this yet. I wonder…

 

Switch stood up and walked out of the room, leaving the people to work and wonder what was going on. Switch pulled out her comm and stuck it in her ear, thumbing it on.

 

SWITCH

Call Novae and Jacker. Conference.

 

SWITCH

(pacing back and forth)

Novae. Jacker. Got a job for you. Might be dangerous. You in?

 

JACKER

(yawning)

What do you need from us?

 

SWITCH

(slightly annoyed)

I need a fucking answer. Are you in?

 

JACKER

Well, I don’t know what we’re doing. So I can’t answer. Nove?

 

NOVAE

Yeah. With Jacker on this. What’s the job Switch?

 

SWITCH

We got a massive drop from an MP and CONGO. Need some boots on the ground and a tech to hack. We have some people already, but I figured I’d extend it to you two. Get your feet wet, so to say.

 

JACKER

I’m the tech on this and Novae the muscle?

 

SWITCH

That’s right. Are you in?

 

NOVAE

(making noise)

Yeah sure. Send me the deets. Jacker, I’ll meet you at our usual spot.

 

JACKER

You heard the boss. I’m in.

 

Switch didn’t wait and ended the call. She let out a breath and composed herself. Walking back into the room, brightly lit with the blue glow of screens, she took stock.

 

SWITCH

(to herself)

Okay. We can do this.

 

Switch walks back to her desk and sits down. She folds her hands and thinks, her eyes closed.

 

__________

 

INT - NOVAE’S APARTMENT - NIGHT

 

Novae is sitting on the floor, a beer in hand. Her cycle remains in pieces but looking better than before. The walls are covered in frayed posters of fictional bands and exotic places. Music is playing in the background

 

NOVAE

(singing with the song)

AND WHEN THE WORLD BURNS

IT’S OUR TURN!

LIGHT THE FIRE

LIGHT THE FIRE!

 

Neko, the AI, was sitting across from Novae, watching her. The eyes were blinking rapidly, storing information and learning. A breeze blows the curtains and Novae looks up, stopping mid song.

 

NOVAE

I think this will do for tonight. Neko, any messages for me?

 

NEKO

None.

 

NOVAE

Dammit Jacker.

Chicago, Illinois

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