Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ann Onymous, pt. 1, 422 words

Don't stop. Don't think. Just run. You know this part of the city like the back of your hand, you know it better than anyone, just run.

Ann ran. Loose stones and stray bits of broken glass and plastic ground underfoot. Only a thin polymer mesh kept the debris from cutting her soles open, one that conformed to her feet like a second skin. Not that it wasn't uncomfortable to run over broken glass or old nails anyway, but the tactile sense and balance she'd never get out of boots or even just shoes more than made up for it.

Like right now...

She raced across rooftops, old buildings jammed together like sardines. Ahead, a street divided this building from the next. She didn't even think about it, placing her feet through instinct and feel, and pushed off. The old concrete scraped against her soles.

And she landed, foot touching down on the arching neck of a streetlamp. It shook and jerked under her weight, and she kicked off again from the head of the lamp. Cars whizzed by beneath, oblivious to Ann scrambling and leaping like some crazed monkey over their heads.

The streetlamp on the other side of the road shook harder but held, taking Ann's weight when she snagged the neck. She crabbed sideways, hand-over-hand, until she could haul herself up along the pole and, after a moment spent regaining her breath and balance, leaped again. An ancient fire escape creaked and groaned as she snagged an iron railing, then scrambled up the steps to the rooftop.

Anywhere else in the city, she would have had to worry about thermal imaging and closed-circuit cameras watching her every move. A broad scarf and goggles baffled facial recognition software, and a pattern-shifting knee-length camo coat messed with programs designed to pick out the human form and the contrast of moving objects against a static background. A translucent green plastic hood had been drawn tight over her head, keeping her hair down and blanking any color. One could barely even make out her skin tone.

Anywhere else in the city, the outfit would have immediately picked her out from the crowd, an extreme of Privacy Vogue that few cared to match. Everyone would have noticed, even as it anonymized her.

In this part of the city, it was noticeable because it was unnecessary. Sensor drones skimmed by overhead, but they were few and far between, and their optics sucked. Ann knew, from knocking one out of the sky and cracking it open.

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