“I’m scared, Sukari. Everything is going black. There are power outages everywhere.”

She could see it from where she was, in the blue glow of her screens. The visualizations had been showing dark spots in the grid for hours. She’d started trying to reach Milo the minute it started. Since then, even backup systems had begun to fail across the city. Softcore was in free-fall. Their audio call was a fragile strand of spiderweb woven through collapsing skyscraper. It couldn’t last.

“Can you find a way to get here? Or maybe to Huxico?”

“I can’t get out of the building. I can’t get anywhere.”

She visualized city maps and they appeared in a corner of her consciousness. She started downloading. She ran a search on Zon distribution hubs and called up a Straw schedule.

“Stay put. I’m coming to get you.”

He sounded nervous. “You mean physically?”

“Yes. Physically.”

“Sukari, I don’t know if that’s a good…”

The line went dead. 

She didn’t move from where she was standing. The room was dark and the only light came from her monitors and the circuitry web on the side of her head. Right now, her skull-rig was flickering the room like a strobe as it data dove. 

Predictive models came first. She needed to know how much time she had to work with. Scanning the number crunchers she saw that averages gave the city nine hours before total de-boot. There were a few outlier estimates for six hours, but that was the most extreme. She booked a single Straw for half an hour from now. With transit time, she could be in Softcore in just over two hours. 

She maintained the memory allocation she’d been using to bolster the connection with Milo and shifted the destination. Reaching him had been difficult. Linking to a Zon store was easier. The things were like fortresses with more than triple redundancy. It was likely they’d be the last places in the city to shut down connectivity. She was going to get Milo, but she had to do some shopping and planning first. There were things she’d need and supplies to get if it was as bad as people were saying. Equipment that was too big to take with her, so she’d arrange to have it waiting. With luck, her orders would go though before the hub fried.

The two dump-batts were easy to get but the Aspecht she wanted was well out of her price range. She sighed. She didn’t like it, but she could extend her credit and amortize it against a processing percentage. It meant she wouldn’t be able rely as much on her implants, but she didn’t see any other way. If she was going to get Milo, she needed an Aspecht, and that meant renting out head-space. She grit her teeth and opened up the indenture markets to look for the best share-processing program. Hopefully she could find a long term one that didn’t drain on her resources too heavily.

“Holy crap.”

The markets were trashed. Well, not entirely. There were still slave rates and spam rates. But nothing viable. It was a bust. What was going on? 

A quick search revealed that between the crash last month in Izuacal, and the ‘re-integration’ of Polluska, the market had been flooded. Now, in response to the trouble in Softcore, every reputable indenture processor on the net had closed up shop until they could see where the chips fell. It wasn’t an income option.

But she needed that Aspecht. Had to have it. There was only one other way. She called up her personal inventory, tagged her large furniture and significant hardware, and marked it for sale. She assigned the house drones to packing up her personals for shipping into storage. Her flat value looked good. She set it well above the suggested listing and put it on the market. With all the recent refugees, and as a result of today’s panic, she got an incredible response. The bidding war lasted a whole forty-six seconds and net her almost three times her asking price. She was homeless, but she had enough money now. Even a little left over. She ordered the Aspecht for pick up. Considering the circumstances, she paid the extravagant fees for a confirmation attendant.

The drones whirred around her place, lifting and placing things into boxes as they packed. They rode around on little propellers and didn’t seem to care about the lack of light. They scanned things with flat red lasers and the air they blew smelled like plastic. Service bots would come for the big stuff when they were done. Once empty, the place would be automatically cleaned and painted. The new tenant could move in tomorrow. 

She frustrated the drones by undoing some of their work and snagging the things she needed for her trip. A small pack, a few days clothes, and not much else. She didn’t plan on staying in Softcore any longer than it took to get Milo out.

Sukari gave her studio one quick walk though before she left. She would have preferred a bit more time to say goodbye to the place. She liked it. But she had to go now. The city was collapsing and melancholy wasn’t going to save Milo. She had a Straw to catch.


A city in collapse and an exodus from the chaos. But Sukari is going the opposite direction. There’s something important she needs to get from Softcore. Read the rest, more than 20 pages, when you sign up at any level of patronage.