Kyle Willey

Babylon’s Echo, Part 2

Smith takes in every detail. His own room should be the same as every other in the motel.

It’s clean, sterile, a nice break from the usual arcoplex outskirts dive. No windows, a door made of steel. There’s a pattern engraved into it meant to evoke some idea of solidity, and he doesn’t worry about the door.

But the walls are thin. He’s used to hearing through walls. Mil-spec neurachem amplifies the noise beneath the silence and brings the hidden to light. But he can hear people breathing in their sleep in the next room. That means it’s drywall and minimum-spec load-bearing frames. Probably not even decent insulation.

Smith trusts the room enough to leave his gun behind in it. No reason to get people jumpier than they have to be, and he doesn’t want a bullet going anywhere it shouldn’t. Especially not when the client’s the feds. They don’t care when their own people do it, but it’s a great excuse to stiff on contracts.

That’s one reason he hates working with them.

He leaves the others for later.

Smith straps down the plate carrier on his chest. Each pouch has a magazine dutifully placed for easy access. His armored coat is draped over a chair. He shrugs it on and heads to the mirror.

The bulk will make a hell of a first impression, he tells himself. Like something out of a bad action movie. If he weren’t trying to talk to wire-heads, he wouldn’t be caught dead in both the vest and the coat at the same time.

After the bike, he’ll get a liquid-reactive vest. More subtle than the plate carrier, but just as strong.

He kicks off his boots, revealing the tungsten carbide underneath.

Then he heads out into the cold night. The clouds overhead are thick. A projector somewhere sends a ray skyward, breaking up the darkness. Smith checks the data.

Radiation’s at safe levels. Not that it matters much, since he’s just going to be out for a couple minutes.

“Which room again?”

He doesn’t expect anyone to hear him. Pulling the documents back up on his ocular display doesn’t require a voice command, but it makes him feel better about it.

It’s not far. His feet clatter rhythmically against the concrete, and he wonders if getting rid of the boots was the right move. With the armor, he’s heavier than usual, and a man with as much metal in him as Smith has is heavy to begin with.

But nobody peeks out of their rooms to see what’s going on.

When he arrives at the door, he gets the feeling that the wire-heads are probably asleep.

He raises his fist and knocks three times.

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