2d 15

You show me someone who says they’re from High Acre and I’ll show you a liar. Nobody comes from here.

Everyone’s just passing through, just putting some stuff together, just getting a bit of credit before they’re on their way to whatever big dream they’ve got in mind. At least, that’s what they tell themselves. Then they’ve been here ten, fifteen years, and when someone asks, they say “I’m just getting some things together, just working on getting some credit, then I’ll be gone”.

Even those that are born here, grow up here. Ask them and they’ll say, “I’m just here until I’m old enough to get out. Just until I’ve got the credit. Then I’ll be gone”. Then they’re pushing forty, with two of their own growing up, and they say “Just until I’ve got the credit. Then I’ll be gone, me and mine.”

Like I told you. Nobody comes from here.

This place gets a hold of you. It’s awful, it’s wretched, it’s cloying and deadly and diseased and dangerous and real. It’s addictive. The glow of the lights calls you in, the press of the crowd drives you crazy, the music is loud and the night long. It’s like adrenaline. Soon you start to forget what the horizon looks like, what light there is beside the glow of pixels, lasers and neon. What else there is but plastic and steel, what peace and quiet are like. That somewhere in the world there’s more to life than the credits in your pocket, the amps in your blood and a sky of brushed steel.

That’s what makes them, you know. That’s how they get into it. Spend a few nights frying your brain on whatever some street-corner dealer will sell you, hooked up to the ‘ net, and it starts to look like a nice life. There are people who you can get to know, who’ll teach you the tricks. Splice a line of code, stay one step ahead. Soon enough, you’re a Cowboy like any other, one more feed-jockey patching in to get your fix on the other side. Probably be a short life, when it comes to it. There’s money in it, if you’re up to the challenge, but pushing data ain’t an easy ride. What you’re after isn’t the sort of stuff they leave unattended, and they’re good, too. Before you know it, you’re running hot property that some Corp doesn’t want you to have, and then – if you’re lucky – you’re just straight running. Running for your life.

There are places you can hide, West of High Town. Places even a HAMA squad won’t go, and They’ll make you vanish. For a price. The Tongs, that is. It ain’t cheap, and you’d better damn well hope the other guy isn’t offering more money, but if you know the right people, cross the right palms with a bit of silver, there isn’t any trouble that can’t be made to go away. Even if that trouble walks, talks and breathes. Best not be pissing them off, come to think of it. Gets a hold of you, though, the thought of it. That someday, you could just walk away from everything, head West a few blocks, talk to a guy and bam – new looks, new name, new world. Just a face in the crowd like any other.

Some people say They’ve got some deal with one of the Corporates, say they can even give you new memories, a new life, let you forget the trouble that brought you to them in the first place. After you’ve paid them, of course. I heard this one guy, he was talking about how they could fix you up, about he was going to have them give him memories of a happy life, take all the shit away. I ain’t sold on that. Sure life’s shit, but… they start screwing around up there, take your memories, and what’s the difference with that an’ being dead? No, I ain’t sold on that. More n’ more, though, seems I’m getting behind the times.

No, I wouldn’t go paying to have some big-shot Corporate doc messing with my head. I’ll tell you this, you give a Corp an inch, and it’ll take a yard, a hundred, the whole damn lot. They’re not human. No souls, any more, see – they’ve gone and sold them to the company. Creepy bunch. Oh, they ain’t all bad, sure. I once had a few drinks with this guy, an accountant with one of the big ones… With Raiment, I think. “Just doing it for the credits”, he said. "Just for my kids, until they are old enough. Then I’m out of here, going to sign up with one of the ‘ States out West, have an easy retirement". Don’t know what became of him. Probably the same old story. Ask him again, and he’ll say “just a couple more years, until I’ve paid off the debts, got a few more creds. Then I’m off out West”.

Nobody comes from here.

Brushed Steel