Read Division Zero Online

Authors: Matthew S. Cox

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Supernatural, #Psychics, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Cyberpunk, #Dystopian

Division Zero

BOOK: Division Zero
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

  1. Start Reading
  2. About the Author
  3. Copyright & Publisher
  4. More Books from Curiosity Quills Press
  5. Full Table of Contents

To Chris:
No rock rolls down a hill without a push. Thank you for the nudge.

To Anita:
Many thanks for introducing me to Curiosity Quills. This book would not exist without you.

drift in the wind, a catchy advert jingle wafted down from above, ensnaring Kirsten’s thoughts as it had been designed to do. The melodic din drew her eyes up to a sky the color of soot, hidden somewhere beyond the frenetic clutter of hundreds of moving objects. Glittering ad-bots saturated the grey fifty feet above her, flitting just below faster moving lanes of hovercar traffic. Smaller bots zoomed along, careening around lumbering giants struggling even to move forward. The boxy droids lit the smog with a patina of bright holograms that soaked the street below with unabashed commercialism. Any of the products they hawked could be hers with two taps of a thumb on the screen of her NetMini, arriving within minutes via flying delivery bot. Sadly, none of them sold love, sincerity, or a do-over for her twenty-two years on the Earth.

Running away from home had been the scariest decision of Kirsten’s life as well as the easiest. It had taken her only ten years, not to mention the urging of a ghost, to make up her mind; and ten minutes to vanish into the endless glittering night of West City. She could not forget what her mother had done; those memories would haunt her forever, as they had that morning.

The form-fitting uniform did little to protect her from the cold car hood as she waited, on the verge of tears. Nicole would return soon, and she did not want to answer the barrage of questions that would follow being caught crying. She shifted to allow feeling to return to her butt, one side at a time, and stared at the window of the shop her friend had entered. The redhead chatted with the clerk, an infectious smile across her face. Kirsten’s head sagged forward as she picked at the retaining strap securing her sidearm. In less than an hour, she might need to use it on a living man. The same dread came back each time she tried to put the dream out of her mind, leaving her doubting she would even want the food Nicole bought.

Why do people always look at the sky for answers? There’s nothing up there but smog and useless crap no one needs to buy.

She shrank away from gleaming steel edifices towering around her. Today, just like the people, the city felt like it wanted nothing to do with her. She looked down to Earth, to the unending flow of humanity that squeezed past where the wide patrol craft intruded upon the sidewalk. Glowing cybertattoos, luminous hair, blinking electronic devices, and the occasional loud conversation leapt out from the sea of people and caught her attention for a second or two at a time. She watched them go by, all walks of life, from wealthy businessmen to body-modifying cyber freaks, every one of them oblivious to her presence or mood. She folded her arms and wondered how they would react if they knew they passed three feet away from a psionic.

She imagined them screaming and running, eyes filled with terror.

A crowd two steps away, yet as alone as if she floated on the other end of the universe.

I’m being silly, this is just newbie work. I’ve been doing this for six years―why am I letting it get to me today?

Sure, Division 0 stuck a laser pistol on her hip and sent her out here to be shot at; but they cared more than her own family had. They also did not want to burn her at the stake for her gifts.

A cheery singsong voice patted her on the cheek as her friend returned. “Hey, I hope you like jalapeños in your egg. It’s all they had left.”

The uninvited happiness drew her attention to Nicole weaving through the river of people with her arms held high. Two plastic cartons teetered atop two cups of coffee―an effort to shield them from the jostles of passing humanity. Glossy black tactical armor gleamed in the ambient light as she moved. Kirsten felt silly for not having requested the same for this run; her I-Ops uniform, made of thin cloth, seemed a stupid choice for front line work. Just as Nicole reached the curb, a teen a little younger than them shot through the crowd on powered wheels sprouting from cybernetic legs the color of unpainted steel. He parted the river of bodies, Nicole included, away to both sides as he rumbled past. Kirsten leapt in an attempt to save at least one of the cartons as they went flying, but stopped when they both stalled in midair like paused video.

Nicole narrowed her eyes at the boy, and he swerved with a startled yelp to the left, as if shoved by unseen hands. He bowled, screaming and flailing, into a pile of trash with a loud
. The clatter of some unseen metal object rolling away tarnished the subsequent silence. Kirsten knew what her friend had done, and smiled despite her anxiety. Coffee and food floated over to her before Nicole released her telekinetic grasp on it.

She scowled. “Damn idiots. Can’t we give him a citation for that? I swear, someone gets a Mishiro booster and they think they can fly.”

Kirsten’s smile gave way to a guilty glance down the street at the moaning pile of limbs. She set her food on the roof of the car. “That was mean, and I’m not sure. I’m gonna check him out to make sure you didn’t hurt him.”

Nicole rolled her eyes and hopped into the driver’s seat, getting started on her food. A few minutes later, Kirsten returned, looking relieved.

“Well at least you don’t still look like your cat died.” Nicole offered a sympathetic glance while she slurped her coffee. “Careful, the eggs are spicy.”

Kirsten managed a shrug as she got in and opened her coffee. “I’m just nervous about this warrant run.” The gull-wing door on her side sank closed with a soft pneumatic hiss.

Nicole paused, mouth open an inch from her food. Eyes shot to the right. “You’re not a precog, are you?”

“No. I deal with ghosts.” The harsh synthetic coffee choked the last traces of sleep from her taste buds.

Nicole’s contagious cheer returned. “And beat the snot out of them! Is it true that all the power went out in a three block area when you took out that Wharf Killer one?”

“Actually, he sucked the power out of the area before I obliterated him; he was winding up for something big.” The memory came with a shiver.

Nicole gasped like a wide-eyed kid. “Ooo, I wish I could see it.”

“No, really you don’t.” Kirsten tried to force the images out of her thoughts. “Not all ghosts are pretty. I’m just glad I never met him when he was alive.”

“It’s cool you can whip ghosts like that―hey, isn’t that pretty rare for an astral?”

Kirsten hesitated. She hated talking about her other gift. Most people, even other psionics, feared anyone with it. “I… um… I can do the mind blast thing too.” She looked down, picking at her uniform. “It somehow works together.”

Much to her relief, Nicole’s jovial smile did not weaken. “Neat.”

Nicole’s fingers danced over the controls, bringing the car to life and flooding the cabin with dim azure light cast by holographic displays as they winked on one after the next. With a tap of the control stick, they rolled away from the sidewalk and got underway. At first, Nicole tried to drive on the ground so they could eat, but after rounding the corner into standstill traffic, she decided to switch to hover mode.

“What’s the point of having a police car if we don’t fly?”

More than a mouthful of coffee scorched its way down Kirsten’s jalapeño-tenderized throat as the car lurched upward. Once the tears and coughing stopped and she could breathe again, Kirsten glared. She knew how Nicole liked to fly and stopped trying to enjoy her food, inhaling the rest before she wore it. The patrol craft picked up speed and altitude, drifting through the layer of advert droids as it plowed a twisting whorl through the smog. Nicole banked corners hard, making the windows on the sixtieth story of several buildings shudder. Kirsten looked behind them, grumbling.

“If this thing didn’t have police lights on it, we’d have a Division 1 patrol car behind us already. Do you
to drive like you’re fifteen?” Kirsten rubbed her neck and coughed. “This isn’t cyberspace, you could kill someone.”

Her friend flashed a wicked little grin. “It got your mind off of whatever really killed your cat, didn’t it? Ooo, mind blast, really?” Nicole flashed a mock-accusing squint, then giggled. “That’s cool. No wonder Morelli avoids you.” Then came the sincere pout. “You could have told me, it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s cool.”

“Sorry, it’s just, you know how people get about mind blasters. I’m nowhere
strong enough to erase an entire brain permanently.” Kirsten examined her nails. “I never had a cat. Look, it’s not a big deal. Just a bad dream is all. Really, I’m fine.”

Nicole had known her for a few years and accepted she did not like to talk about
dream. “Suit yourself. Say, how’d your date go?”

Kirsten’s head slumped forward. “Horrible, he―”

“Oh, I’m thinking of going blonde like you, does it help with―”

Kirsten blinked at the scatterbrain next to her. “…ran screaming out the door…”

BOOK: Division Zero
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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