Virgle bounced his leg nervously as he waited for the bus. The morning air had a damp chill to it, and he was ready to get home for some sleep. Working the night shift put him at the wrong end of the morning rush, but the pay differential helped ease the transition to a nocturnal life. He pulled the wool coat tighter. Mornings like this made him wish he had taken the time to mend the missing buttons, but the second hand coat was one of the better purchases he had made since he moved to the New England Sprawl.
The NES was made up of what had once been the Canadian provinces Novia Scotia, Quebec, and New Brunswick along with the former American states of Maine, and the northern parts of New Hampshire and Vermont. It wasn’t as crowded as the other mega cities, but that was because it was winter for most of the year with a brief period of spring that led into a wet fall. Summer was a myth in these parts, but this is where he decided to hang his hat. It was a fair trade, snow and freezing temperatures for natural stretches of forest and breathing room.
Virgle sat up as the he recognized the familiar whine of the electric engine of the bus. He leaned over to look down the street, but didn’t see the doubledecker anywhere among the traffic. It took him a moment to realize that the sound was actually his phone.
He dug the slim piece of plastic out of the inner pocket of his jacket and looked at the display. His head involuntarily tilted to the side as he read the caller ID. It displayed one simple word: Morrison. He only knew one person by that name, and they didn’t have this number.
The phone buzzed a few more times before it switched to the message box. Virgle continued to stare at the small display until the notification popped up. He looked up at his surroundings, but nothing seemed out of place. This was a small corporate outlet on the edge of town. For the time of day all the foot traffic was on the opposite side of the road, even the bus had to do a small turnaround to get to his stop. No one spared a glance up the lone security guard slumped on the bus bench. They were all too dialed in to their AR displays, personal networks, and GPS overlays to really see anything about the world. He didn’t blame them, the varying shades of gray didn’t hold much appeal when a simple neural implant could connect them to a pulsing landscape of color and information.
Virgle had a few implants that weren’t anything fancy. Not because he was against them, but because they were against his budget. Being a low level security guard on a corporate site that was on the fringes of the mother company didn’t exactly make his bank account a healthy one. That was another plus of the NES; most everything was a subsidiary of a Corp rather than real deal. There were a few universal big dogs that were inescapable, Walmazon and Micron Mobile being the big two.
He blinked his left eye, which synced the phone to his AR display, and checked the message. A floating box popped up in the space in front of him. It displayed the time, date, and the caller, but the contact information was blank. That took some doing. After a moment the text was replaced with a picture. Morrison was a bit more haggard than the last time he had seen her. Her usual neon blue hair was tucked under a threadbare bandana, and she had a new scar running the length of the left side of her jaw.
“Virgle, you’re not an easy man to find.” The artificial light flickered behind her eyes as she spoke. “I knew your given name and it still took some digging.” She looked off to the side. “I get it, you wanted out. Hell, we talked about leaving so much I wasn’t too shocked when you ghosted.” Her gaze shifted back to the screen. “If you’ve got this then I’m either dead, or in enough trouble to think I need help. I don’t expect you to save me, Virge, I need you to grab my blackbox.” She smiled, it was a sculpted smile that spoke of porcelain veneers rather than genetics. It had never fit her. “Do me a solid, kid. We’ll call it even for that night in May.”
He shook his head and smiled.
The familiar squared off body of the bus came to a stop nearby. Virgle watched as the door folded open. The driver looked out at him when he didn’t move to stand up.
“You coming, buddy?” The driver leaned over with his hand on the lever.
Virgle let out a long sigh. “Yeah, I guess I am.”