Can you imagine I was too busy to set up my Saturday Fiction post until now? I grabbed a little cyberpunk, the most ‘loving’ scene I could find in a story of espionage and gunplay. Ashleigh and Benito, and first and second in a series of trained super-spies, make good use of a night on the town.
Excerpt: Corpfall Chapter 5
Ashleigh could feel Benito’s arm wrap around her as they walked the street. She smiled, and put her head against his shoulder.
“We should be able to see everything while entering,” Benito said with a boisterous voice that made it sound like he was talking about a tour of Mexcity, “Sure there will be a crowd, but don’t hold that against it.”
Ashleigh frowned, “Not like we have a choice, dear. I’m not sneaking through the back door, no matter the crowd.”
“Did they train you two to act using ancient vidstreams?” Fuller asked in her ear, “This is torture.”
Ashleigh shook her head, mostly because she didn’t feel like holding two conversations at once. It was annoying enough dealing with one Fuller, but Benito had his own Fuller-esque moments. She felt like she was babysitting.
Benito stopped them, rubbing his arm across her side. She had to resist squirming under his arm. If there was one memory she didn’t feel like reliving, it was Benito.
“Look there,” He said, and they both stood straight to look at a car service across the street. Taxis and limos were stopping there.
“What building is that?” Ashleigh asked as she looked it up and down. They were getting close to the front of Jansen’s personal party shack, and a building like this was useful.
“Couldn’t say,” Benito shrugged, “Look how busy they are though.”
“Exactly what it looks like,” Fuller said in her ear, “It is a car port. Seems they have a reputation for keeping vehicles safe while guests go to local services. There is even a lightplane landing 5 stories up.”
Ashleigh looked up, and her eyes saw the hole on the side of the 20 story car port. Why not just land the lightplanes on top, she didn’t know. Of course, if you had lightplanes on top of the building, you couldn’t control who comes in and out.
“At least if we need to leave,” Ashleigh said to Benito with a smile, “We won’t have to worry about our transportation.”
Benito smiled down at her. He loved to show off that smile, every time she met him.
“It should be fine,” Benito said, “I’ve heard Mr. Jansen runs the best parties in town.”
She looked at the tall wall on their side of the street. It was decorated with symbols, like logos for companies that never existed. A massive letter T, a winged lizard that stood on a tall rock, a stylized roaring tiger. Beyond that wall, she knew that Jansen had his mansion, and furthermore it was insanely secure.
Ashleigh wasn’t even sure if the falsified credentials of the NAB would get them through the door. Even then, they would be under constant surveillance, and likely they were even while taking a walk outside of the building. Not just passive cameras, but true scrutiny by a security team.
Benito took her hand, and started to make them walk.
“Stay there a little longer,” Fuller asked, “I’m going to run another probe of his defenses.”
Ashleigh pulled back on his arm, “Can’t we just stay here?” She said with a giggle, “I just love it here, among the art.”
Ben stopped, lifted an eyebrow, and Ashleigh nodded. He walked back, and put his arms on her hips.
“You know,” He said, “When I was in ChiLo, I stopped by and saw my family.”
Ashleigh tensed up, “Really?”
He nodded, “Yeah, they were pretty sad you didn’t come with to visit. I told them you were busy, but I don’t know if they believe it.”
She put her head into his chest, and wrapped her arms around him. His chin was just able to rest on top of her head.
“I hope they aren’t disappointed,” She whispered, “But work does get in the way. They should call.”
Benito laughed, and she felt the rumble of his laugh against her body, “I guess they don’t want to admit they are busy as well.”
They separated, and Benito looked down into her eyes, “This trip isn’t about them though. Don’t let this spoil things, we will go to that party, and it will be glorious.”
He moved down toward her, and Ashleigh knew what came next. She pursed her lips slightly, and they connected, him hugging her close enough that she could feel his breathing.
“I was going to say I’m done,” Fuller said, “But I guess you two can take your time, or whatever.”
She rolled her eyes behind her eyelids.
“I mean it,” He continued, “I’m fine on this side. I can go silent if you two need some alone time.”
Ashleigh broke the kiss, and held a hand against Benito’s face.
“Any more of that,” She said, “And you’ll make strangers jealous.”
Benito chuckled, and grabbed her hand, bringing it down in front of her. “I’m not here for anyone but you, Sarah.”
She smiled, “Let’s go eat.”
They walked down the street, hand in hand. They made their way to a restaurant, just one block away. It didn’t look like anything special, but they were sure the food would be authentic just based on the decor.
“I think our server was a clone,” Benito said as he shuffled in his seat.
“What, and the Mexcity NAB HQ just can’t pick up on illegal clone production?” Ashleigh said with a roll of her eyes.
Benito smiled, “I’ve heard they’ve been having problems,” He said with a wag of his eyebrows, “You know, some accusations here, some arrests there. Can’t make it easier for them to uphold the law.”
Ashleigh looked around the restaurant, it was filled with other folks from Mexcity high life. There were plenty of them, but if she compared it to her trip to the SeaVan dorm, it was a stark difference. She could move and breath up here for one. The food smelled edible, and the people up here had color to their skin.
“So, what is your friend’s progress?” Ben asked.
While they weren’t dropping cover, they both knew that dinner conversations were odd on their own. Their initial intel said that Jansen’s security extended to several regions of Mexcity, but was tightest right on top of his holdings. Whether they were still inside the bubble of tight security, they were going to determine.
“My friend thinks he should leave us so we can have some alone time,” Ashleigh said as she pulled a small rewritable chit out of her bag, a little paper sized screen she could write on.
“I hope I’m not getting in the way of anything,” Benito said as he flagged over a waiter.
Ashleigh took out a special pen, and scribbled onto the chit, the letters writing across with a slight delay. ‘Fuller, is there anything further we need to investigate?’
As a tall and plain looking man came to serve them, she folded the paper in half.
“We will both have the special,” Benito said, “Also, a bottle of wine, whatever you recommend.”
The waiter bowed, likely thankful for the fast and simple order, and left them.
“My friend is aware of how our relationship works,” Ashleigh said, “Don’t complicate things.”
Benito made a hurt face, “I would never, It’s just, I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
Ashleigh was looking down at the sheet, but her eyes popped up to look at Benito. What was he getting at? They had been around each other for less than a day, and already old rivalries were surfacing. If they had just asked her before the mission, told her she was going to work with one of the others, she could have told them. Were they so blind that they didn’t know the connection between her and Benito? Maybe she was being punished.
She could feel that Fuller was back, like a warning light was on in the base of her spine. Still, she had to say it.
“Diego,” She said, “You know how I feel about you. On the other hand, my friend has been with me, right inside my head, through experiences you and I never shared. You wouldn’t understand.”
Benito’s eyes focused for a moment, and every muscle in her body, in that instant, told her to prepare for a fight. Was that instinct?
“We aren’t at Fort 22 anymore,” She said, “Things changed.”
Fort 22, aka Home.
Benito looked out over the restaurant, “I see, so that’s how you feel.”
“To answer your question,” Fuller said, “I need eyes on a building to the West, toward Jansen.”
She cleared the chit, and wrote, “OK”.
Their food couldn’t arrive soon enough. They ate in relative silence, with Benito occasionally looking at her, and her trying to pick over her food.
“Does Fort 22 still exist?” Fuller asked, “There are censored references to it, but nothing current.”
Ashleigh’s heart leaped, but she smiled, whispered, “Code name.”
Benito looked at her, and he smiled as well.
“That’s where we grew up,” Ashleigh continued, though she didn’t know why she was still talking. If she was going to tell Fuller about home, why not over a year ago when they first met?
“Also,” Ashleigh said, “It sucked.”
Benito swallowed a bite of fish, washed it down, “Most of it did,” He said.
“It had its moments,” Ashleigh said as she looked at Benito.
“What did they do to you?” Fuller asked.
“Train us,” Ashleigh replied.
“That’s classified,” She said before taking a bite of her fish.
“Did they torture you? Scoop out your brains? Make you play ‘buzzkiss’ with the boys from across the lane,” He asked, “What did they do to you guys Ashleigh?”
She laughed, it started as a sort of chuckle, but it quickly grew out of control, until a few eyes in the restaurant were pointed her way.
“Maybe all of the above,” She said while looking at Benito, “We can talk about it more later.”
They finished their dinner, paid, and their waiter seemed more than pleased to help them leave.
“Where to, darling?” Benito asked with a hand out.
She grabbed his hand, and squeezed tight. “We have a building to check out,” She replied.
They made their way to the building that Fuller indicated. It was short, compared to just about anything else in that area of Mexcity. It was only 5 stories tall, and only had a select few windows, which looked a milky white from outside.
“What a strange building,” Benito Sandoval said, “Doesn’t seem to fit the local decor.”
“I agree,” She said.
Ashleigh squeezed his hand, “I’m sorry about my outburst earlier,” She said, “I guess work really has been hard on me.”
“Like I thought,” Fuller said in her ear, “This place is a black zone on the South datalink. I have no access to its cameras, security protocols, nothing. As far as the Net is concerned, this building doesn’t exist. It could be empty, or it could be housing a supercomputer.”
“I understand,” Sandoval said, putting a hand on top of her head, and holding her close with the other, “It is a stressful environment, and it follows you everywhere.”
“I bet,” Fuller said, “If I was past Jansen’s defenses, on his personal lines, this building lights up. They went old school with this one. Okay, that’s all I needed.”
Ashleigh took a deep breath, “In that case, can we get a few hours alone?”
Sandoval squeezed her, “Of course we can.”
Fuller paused, but she knew he was still there. “Of course you can,” He said, “Just knock on my door when you two want to get back to planning.”
“Thank you,” Ashleigh whispered.