Prologue: Starry Night
It's nights like this, when the clouds pull back and reveal the stars twinkling overhead, that remind me of the past.
Science tells us that the lights we see looking down on us from that ebony blanket are merely after-images... or pre-images... I forget which. In any case, the light we see was created by those stars thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years ago...
They are the epitome of persistent memories, allowing us see them even after they have expended their fuel and burnt themselves out... And what are we when compared to them?
We are but insignificant pinpricks in the grand scheme of things... lasting our paltry number of years before expiring, dwindling to dust beneath the ground, leaving next to no trace of who we once were...
Then why does her memory haunt me so?
-Sly's Journal, April 4th, 2039
"Alright guys, listen up. This is important," said the man standing by the situation board as I entered the briefing room.
My mind went back to the time before such rooms were required, when all the Runners needed was a dispatcher and some headset radios. That was a simpler time, when Runners ran solo and made connections instead of having to run in packs. But when one fights wolves, one has to think like wolves, and we were fighting the Big Bad Wolf of The City's police force, backed as it was by the government's deep pockets. Such things became necessary for the Runners to survive.
Runners... Runners are basically aggrandized couriers with a penchant for the color red. Except we do the jobs that no sane courier would do. We traverse the rooftops, leaping from building to building to get information and messages from senders to recipients without the cops poking their noses into the stuff we carry. And the administration of The City doesn't like that. Not one bit. They don't like what isn't under their control.
And the Runners? We are the definition of the phrase "Wild Card."
I was so focused in my thoughts that I almost missed the most important part of the briefing. My attention returned to Dex, the guy running the show here in the Southern Quadrant.
"We received this transmission from the Eastern Hub about half an hour ago. I sent out the call for you all to be here as soon as I did." he said, keying a button on his terminal. An old man's voice issued forth from the speaker, a voice I recognized as belonging to Walter, or Walt as he'd like us to call him.
"They've taken the upper floors - - - 'bout to break - - - Lex and Dan are -"
There came the sound of gunshots and an explosion shattered the already sketchy clarity of the recording. Walt's voice was lost to static, a sound that was, thankfully, cut short by Dex's index finger upon the terminal once more.
"After that, all transmissions in and out of the Eastern Hub were silenced. We can only assume that we've lost the Eastern Sector's main control center." he said grimly, running his fingers through his long, greasy black hair.
"But how'd they find it?" Hops, the athletic African-American Runner asked from where he leaned against the wall, "The Eastern Hub was the best defended. And the best hidden. It had to be, what with it being in the middle of Bulldog Central."
Bulldog. That was the name we'd come up with for the smaller divisions of the police department. The private security that always seemed to be hired out to take out us Runners.
"I know, but somehow they got in, took out the security and killed all of 'em." Dex said, shaking his head, "I sure hope we don't have another Jacknife on our hands."
Jacknife. That bastard.
Jacknife had been one of the best Runners in town. Back when there were only a couple dispatchers and a handful of runners for each of them. Then he retired... Then he went rogue. He began training the cops to think like us, to move like us. To kill us. It'd been Faith who had taken him out of the equation, and along the way, took out the servers for the entire city, launching our business to an unprecedented level by knocking out electronic communications.
"And it gets worse."
Worse? Worse? What could be worse than losing an entire sector's worth of contacts and communications? Losing dozens of friends and associates in one fell swoop?
"They captured Kreeg."
Oh God no.
A/N: I'm trying a brand new approach to this story. Something special. Something I've never tried before... Hopefully some of you will figure out what I've got going here.