Friday May 14th 2088

Genjis Noodle Shop

New Detroit

9:21 PM

I felt my stomach rumbling violently, impatient for a bite to eat. Paying attention to the run down streets of New Detroit was not easy on an empty stomach. The messy mop of hair on my head hid my cyber eyes pretty well, but sometimes my hair gets in the way of the datajack in my left temple. My all black casual attire usually went mostly unnoticed. To the naked eye, I was just an ordinary looking guy of Japanese descent wearing a jacket, tanktop, pants and boots that all matched in color. My right arm was replaced by a prosthetic, but the glove I wore over my right hand did a half decent job of concealing it. But right then, my main concern was getting myself a bite to eat. My cyber eyes scanned the area where I was. Hovercars were driving by, with drivers scurrying about their day without knowledge of the underworld I knew best.

There were three worlds as far as I was concerned. The first world, the one that everyone physically lived in, was affectionately known as Meatspace. Meatspace is where the body resided. Where we ate, went to the bathroom, and slept. But most people wanted to escape the neon lights that light up the gutters of this city, but many simply try to cope with the problems of the real world by any means necessary. The second world was the Underworld. Where shady deals happen. It was the underbelly of every major city where mercenaries worked, upgraded their cyberware and operated outside of Remus Securitys laws. Remus owned our city and many others, but the Underworld thrived under their noses. If you wanted something that was too expensive for Average Joe, you could get it for the right price on the black markets. But my favorite world to inhabit is Cyberspace. All it took was one cable plugged between my datajack and any terminal in the city to truly be home. The people in meatspace called people like me deckers. Sure, there were a few other names they called us, but the word decker was one that resonated with us. In cyberspace, anyone could take any form they wanted. Most people used cyberspace as a means of escape, but deckers like me used our cyberdeck implants to affect the data of the physical worlds. Whether or not you were on a deckers good side meant the difference between being left alone and having your data messed with. People like me were capable of that sort of thing. Most deckers relied on the Libra C4N-200 implants for its stock emergency exit program, but I preferred the Kazama DS-550 for its storage space. Besides, the C4N-200s emergency exit program was junk compared to some of the better ones on sale, because it left behind a digital ghost.

I was glad to be sitting on a stool at Genjis Noodle Shop. Sure, it was just a cart. But this cart was my favorite place to get the best ramen in this city. The softness of the homemade noodles after Old Man Genji cooked them. The broth he cooked himself right on the spot. The vegetables and beef soaking and cooking in the broth. Every time I stopped by this noodle cart, I wondered why the old man never tried to open a full restaurant. Things were no different today. The old man looked like he was hitting 70, but age never stopped him from carrying his cart to the same spot every day and hauling it away every night. I could hear my stomach growling even louder as the smell of the delicious broth wafted through the streets.

”Yata-chan, ” Old Man Genji asked. ”How is the job search going? ”

”Could be better, Genji-san. ” I replied.

I tried to take my attention away from my hunger by observing the people walking by. The noodle stand was parked outside an apartment complex in the wrong part of town. The building was in terrible condition and still made of bricks and cement. Just like every other building in this area. The only thing worth seeing was how old buildings still stood the ravages of time. The reddish brown bricks somehow managed to stay together rather than get demolished by the local mega corp. But it would only be a matter of some millionaire making the call to demolish the building. This neighborhood wasn known to guarantee the safety of anyone loaded with credits. If some rich sap were stupid enough to set foot in this area, hed be stripped of his credits. The desperate thugs might even take the mans clothes. Maybe an up and coming gangster might take his life afterwards. I also tried my best not to pay attention to the BTL addicts walking into a den across the street, looking to get their fix. BTL was short for Better than life, and these one time use devices fit right into the data jack of the cyberbrain. From what Ive heard in the sprawl, these BTLs gave false hope that can have an addict clinging to them. A dream world where an addict can live out their greatest fantasies. False illusions were the dealers stock and trade. I was never one to take any. I preferred a hopeless reality to a fake and happy fiction.

”One Genjis Special Ramen ready. ” Genji said with a smile on his face.

”Arigato, Genji-san, ” I replied. ”Itadakimasu! ”

Genji placed a bowl of my favorite ramen right by me. As the smell entered my nostrils, I wanted to devour the entire bowl as fast as I could. My left hand was placed on the bowl and my right hand carried the chopsticks, removing some of the noodles from the bowl and into my mouth. The taste of the noodles and broth were even better than usual. I wanted to ask what he added to the recipe, but all I could bring myself to do was keep eating. The broth didn taste like the usual. As a matter of fact, it tasted even better than the last time I had the dish. Something I could never expect.

”Did you use pork broth for this ramen, Genji? ” I asked.

”No. ” He replied. ”That was made with beef broth. ”

Suddenly, I heard loud footsteps coming from behind. There was no mistaking them, as there was only one man who made such a powerful noise with every step. It had to be Ray Hatchet, the leader of my team. I looked back to greet the 65 ” behemoth of a cyborg with a wave. He was wearing full body armor as usual. It wasn standard issue for any corporation, though it was the best a civilian could buy. His red eyes told me that he needed to speak with me about something important.

”Yata, ” Ray said in a deep commanding voice. ”We need to meet up with Mr. Johnson. Now. ”

”Can it wait? ” I asked with my mouth full. ”Its not like Im having my favorite food or anything. ”

”Hurry up and finish, then. ” He replied.

Ray was a real stickler for professionalism. His desire for routine was a stark contrast to my own as long as we get paid attitude. I continued to eat while he waited impatiently. Genji could tell I enjoyed his cooking, even though I was in a rush to finish it. Had Ray not showed up, I wouldve bought seconds. Maybe even a third helping. As soon as I finished the meal, I reached into my pocket and took out my credit chip. Ray gave me a look. His trademark Ill take care of it look.

”This ones on me, Yata. ” Ray said as he paid Genji. ”Alright then, lets go. ”

”Looks like you got a job, Yata-chan. ” Genji commented.

”Time for us to roll. ” I said to Genji. ”Thanks for the ramen. Ill be back for more soon. ”

”Come back anytime ”

Ray and I got up and walked towards our hideout. The streets of New Detroit weren exactly safe for private conversations like the one I was expecting to have with Ray. As we walked past a cyber clinic, I could tell that he was thinking of his days as a security officer. I didn know much about his past, but I did know he converted into a full cyborg so he could be better at his job. Soon enough, we passed an electric car recharging station. I remembered how Ray told me that cars used to run on gasoline, which I thought was stupid. Soon enough, we arrived at the hideout. The outside looked like a brick wall, but the four of us had access to a secret door. Myself, Ray, Quince, and Dragon. Quince was highly proficient with firearms, though she always doubted herself. Sometimes I wondered why she didn become a model instead of a mercenary, but watching her hit targets with her dead accuracy reminded me that a modeling career wouldve been a waste of her talents. Then there was Dragon. He was a man of few words, and he preferred to let his martial arts do the talking.

I opened the secret door to our hideout. Unfortunately, neither Quince nor Dragon were here yet. The inside looked like a mess. A sweet mess that was ours. All of us usually planned, loaded out, and slept here. In the corner, I saw our trademark hummer. I didn know much about cars and Ray was the only one allowed to drive it. He loved that hummer so much, he even named it Delores.

”Wheres Quince and Dragon? ” I asked.

e on their way, ” Ray replied. ”Quince is out buying more ammo and Dragons already on his way. ”

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