The Deal

As Sync descended into the vibrant chaos of Dante’s Inferno, he felt the club’s pulsating energy seep into his senses. Each level he traversed was a deeper dive into sensory overload, the meticulously crafted circles of hell unfolding around him like a twisted odyssey. He cared little for the club’s theme, but the cacophony of light and sound was an effective distraction to veil the sensitive nature of his business.

In the misty haze of Limbo, Sync’s gaze swept over the aimlessly wandering figures, their hollow-eyed stares locked onto screens and simsense rigs. His jaws clenched; thoughts of his sister’s fate due to her BTL (better-than-life) addiction surfacing. He grunted, dispelling the intrusive thoughts to focus on why he was here.

Descending to Lust, Sync’s nostrils flared at the heavy scent of synthetic pheromones. The air vibrated with raw desire, holographic obscene cherubs fluttering overhead, their synthetic giggles grating against his ears. He brushed past the dancers, their movements a mere imitation of passion, their hunger for connection as artificial as the environment they reveled in.

Gluttony was a grotesque display of indulgence. Sync’s eyes narrowed at the excess, his disdain for the wasteful opulence clear in the tight line of his mouth. Tables laden with feasts and synthahol, a level of excess that would make corp execs proud. Yet, the patrons ate and drank with a fervor that spoke of deeper hungers.

In Greed, Sync’s steps became measured, his eyes alert. Here, amidst the ostentatious display of wealth, deals were struck and fortunes lost in the blink of an eye. Subconsciously, his hand brushed against the data chip in his pocket—a reminder of the price of greed.

Finally, in the heart of Greed, he found Rook. The fixer, a shadow amidst the gaudy extravagance, was a stark contrast to the flamboyance around him. Sync’s approach was cautious, yet confident. As Sync took his seat, he appraised Rook with a practiced eye.

Mid-fifties, dressed simply but with a purpose, Rook’s presence was understated yet deliberate. The datajack at his temple was noticeable, a common enough augmentation, yet Sync knew Rook was far from a decker. His distrust for wireless connections suggested the jack’s true purpose: a hardwired link to the smart weapon system of the concealed pistol under his armored jacket. Rook’s piercing blue eyes could be cybernetic enhancements or a rare natural hue; hard to tell. A slight glint, however, hinted at contact lenses.

He was a man of minimal movements, a silent expression to his preference for caution and control. Sync trusted Rook as much as one could in their line of work, aware that their past dealings had been straightforward. However, he also knew that in the shadows of their profession, allegiances were only as strong as the current deal, and Rook’s loyalty was no exception.

“The data you requested,” Sync said, his voice low and steady as he slid the chip across the table. He watched Rook’s eyes, sharp and calculating, flicker behind the AR lenses, scanning the information. Sync’s own mind raced with possibilities, anticipation coiling within him.

“It’s more than tech,” he continued, leaning in. “It’s a fusion of magic and circuitry. Uncharted territory.” His voice carried a hint of excitement, a rare glimpse into the thrill he found in the unknown.

Rook’s almost imperceptible nod was all the confirmation Sync needed. The stakes were higher than ever. “The price reflects the risk,” Sync added, his tone unyielding.

Rook, his expression a carefully maintained mask of calm, regarded the data chip now integrated into his cyberdeck with a mixture of intrigue and wariness.

“There’s a catch to this data, isn’t there?” Rook’s voice was low, almost lost in the ambient hum of the club.

Sync leaned back, his eyes not leaving Rook. “It’s Renraku’s, pulled from a second-hand cyberdeck. A deck that shouldn’t have had anything this valuable.”

Rook’s hand paused over the cyberdeck. “You’re telling me this fell into your lap by chance?” Skepticism edged his words. Renraku, one of the megacorporations that effectively ruled the world, didn’t just lose valuable data. If it was out, it was because someone wanted it out.

“It seems so,” Sync replied, though his tone suggested he wasn’t entirely convinced himself. “But this isn’t just about a lucky find. This is about what it represents.” He paused, a frown creasing his forehead. “A blend of tech and magic, Rook. It’s groundbreaking. I’ve never seen anything like it, and as far as I know, it shouldn’t even be possible. Dangerous, too”

Rook’s gaze hardened. “Dangerous for whom? Us or them?” His fingers tapped a staccato rhythm on the table. “Data like this doesn’t just get lost. And Renraku isn’t known for its forgiving nature.”

Sync’s lips twisted into a half-smile, more emotions than he’s shown Rook in ages. “Since when has danger stopped us?” But his casual demeanor belied the tension in his shoulders. He knew the stakes were high. “We could sell it, make a fortune. Or…”

“Or?” Rook prompted; his interest piqued despite his reservations.

“Or we find out what it’s truly worth. Not in nuyen, but in knowledge.” Sync’s gaze drifted, lost in thought. “This could change the game, Rook. And we could be the ones holding the cards.”

Sync paused for a moment, Rook noting his hesitation. He frowned, the expression enough to convince Sync to spill the beans.

‘When I cracked open that deck, it wasn’t just data I found,’ Sync began, his voice steady despite the gravity of his admission. ‘There was a tracker—Renraku’s. It pinged home the moment I accessed the drive.’

Rook’s eyes narrowed, understanding the implication. ‘And?’

‘I took care of it,’ Sync assured, a hint of defiance in his tone. ‘Destroyed the tracker, wiped my place clean. They might have known where to look, but they found nothing. No trace leading back to me.’

Rook’s gaze held Sync’s for a moment longer, assessing. ‘You’re sure?’

‘Absolutely. I left nothing behind that could be used to identify me. They’re chasing ghosts.’ Sync’s confidence was palpable, yet it was clear he understood the stakes.

Rook leaned forward, his expression hard. “You’re playing with fire, Sync. Renraku’s not just another corp. They’re a dragon, and we’re in their lair.” He paused, weighing his next words. “I need to know where this data came from. The original source. Without that, we’re walking blind into a minefield.”

Sync nodded slowly, the wheels in his mind turning. “I’ll dig deeper. But I need your network. Your contacts.”

Rook regarded him for a long moment, the unspoken risks hanging heavy between them. Finally, he nodded. “I’ll get you whatever you need. You get me the source. But be careful, Sync. We’re in deep waters now.”

As Sync stood to leave, the weight of their conversation lingered. The allure of the unknown tugged at him; a siren call he couldn’t ignore. He stepped out on the street, his mind already racing with the possibilities and dangers that lay ahead. It dawned on him that he had no home to go back to. His old place was barely a home as it was, but it was safe, and it was comfortable. Until it wasn’t. He needed a new place to stay, and that meant it was time to call in some favors.


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