Chapter 1

I knew it would be neither cheap nor comfortable, but the price was steeper than I had anticipated. Still, even this heavily inflated price was well within my means. So the not cheap part was acceptable. The not comfortable part I was still debating with myself.

The man on the other side of the table was unsavory if anybody ever deserved this label. His overall had seen better days and no washing machine for a few months. He had apparently a distant relationship with a shower. Every 2 or 3 month or so a visit, at least if the odor was a clue, and his long scraggly beard displayed the remains of the meals from the last week. But he was also the first one to be able to bring me to the other side of the continent. And considering that the ground here was becoming increasingly hot for me, that was the most important consideration.

I tried to suppress a sigh, and lifted my credled to him. He only shook his head.

“Cash only. I don’t want to leave any tracks.”

Figures, a little bit of paranoia without enough knowledge to do any good. But I had to take what I could get.

“You know that credit bills are easier to track than electronic money? At least if one of the sides knows what they are doing.”

With that I opened the flap on my messenger bag and reached inside.

“If you want anonymity you either need deep creds, bullion or trade. I can offer you gold or norwest creds. What do you want?”

He seemed a bit surprised but then came to a decision. I bet he would fudge the conversion.

“Gold. Let’s see, 30k. That would be eight ounces.”

Yep, nailed it. “30k are roughly 5.4 ounces.” With that I got the small bag out, opened it and counted 10 coins into my other hand.

“These are Gold Eagles. Each weights .5454 ounces. Pure gold value is a tad above 30k. Any numismatist will give you 60 to 100k for them.”

I could see greed moving into his eyes, as he looked at the bag in my hand.

“I would have to find somebody. That is more work. Give me five more.”

Oh humanity. How low have you fallen.

“Every pawnshop on this continent will give you at least 40k for them. And at the rate credits are deteriorating, in a month you get 50k. Or I can give you the 30k in cash. When we reach New York they will have lost 3% of their value. So 10 Eagles. Or 300 grand? You decide.”

“Damn it! All right.” With that he grabbed the gold coins out of my hand. “But don’t expect any service.”

He stood up from the table and moved on to go, only to stop and turn back to me.

“17:30, bay 9. Be there or stay here. I won’t wait.” Then he moved out of the bar.

I emptied my soft drink, dropped a fifty on the table and left the bar.

On the way out several eyes followed me, but it was just the typical horny male, and the occasional horny female. I could detect no deeper interest.

Outside I took a deep breath. The air in the bar was breathable, but that was the best that could said about it.

I activated my link and ordered the delivery of my equipment to the airport, and moved to my hideout. Two Hours and I would be out of this trap that until four days ago was my home.

On the way I listened to the news.

The riots in the last few days were still the top topic. So far the spin doctors of the North Western Commonwealth had not managed to turn it around into something harmless. More than 3,000 dead, four times that wounded a whole battalion of peace keepers in heavy gear and a few thousand street cops deployed. Several blocks were still burning. And officially nobody knew what actually happened.

Nobody except a selected few knew. It happened that the peace keepers roused the Deathlords when they searched the sprawls and the underground for a handful of persons of interests, finding all of them except one in the first few hours.

What the Deathlords wanted to achieve with attacking the peace keepers, nobody will ever know. The few that survived will probably never talk about it. But it spiraled out of control quickly, as more and more gangs used the situation to get even with whoever they had a feud with.

Mostly that was the peace keepers and rival gangs, but an unfortunate number of innocent bystanders were caught in the chaos.

And all that because the peace keepers were desperate to find one Vivian Juliette DuClare.

Lucky for me, I had an officially known “secret” bolt hole in the sprawls, between the territories of the Deathlords and the Unholy Knights. Not that I was there more often than needed to convince everybody that I would be there if something happened.

But I was still in the top 100 of the most wanted at this moment.

With these options it was not a hard decision to move to the East Coast. Sure the north eastern states that still called them self the United States of America were pretty much in the crapper, and the standard of living here in the North Western Commonwealth was considerably higher. But on the other hand the Pures were the minority there, and not the government. A big advantage all in all.

And my equipment would make up the technological downsides. It was, after all the best the Commies had to offer. Not that they knew they sponsored me in that regard.

In my hideout I packed the rest of my clothes, some food and a few soft drinks into my back pack. Then I grabbed my board in its travel case, my back pack and my messenger pack, looked around a last time in my lab, and then left for the last time.

A few minutes later the incendiary device ignited and the super hot fire reduced every trace of my being there to ash.

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