Mail Chimp

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Urgent

Brianna checked the time on her wrist implant, still ashamed at her lack of proper display lenses. Forty-six minutes. She could do it in forty-three.

She stepped in front of the Irix reader, and after the briefest of pauses, heard the chime signaling acceptance. The hot iron door rose into the three second arc couriers were give to pass into the outside world.

As always, the heat and light were both pummeling and exhilarating. The antechamber was kept brightly lit in consideration of this, and the walls themselves radiated plenty of heat. But nothing that could prepare you for this.

Most had never experienced it, and never would. She liked being elite, even as she labored for a greater elite. In a way, she even pitied them. They would never know what it was like to face your own mortality, to survive by your own wits and abilities. To live.

Before the door had reached its pinnacle, she was off like a shot. Hot sand battered her face and cheap polarized eye protectors. The short notice, big ticket runs were always the roughest, with good reason. The flares were always so close by then that the weather was already being affected.

And this was going to be be a big storm, she could tell. But not by the service she was subbed to. Brianna could only afford the basic level, which only told couriers the arrival time (plus/minus one minute).

But after four years of running, she knew far more about the storms than any Information Officer. 7.4, maybe 7.6.

Everything on the surface was about to get fried.

At the first gulch, she instead hooked right and ran alongside it. As far as she knew, it was a route only she knew about. While the common path was clearly marked by the footsteps of countless couriers, to her knowledge, she was the only person who ever deviated.

When she had a trip with a comfortable cushion, she had struck out this way on a whim. At worst, she thought she would turn around and take the financial penalty for an undelivered message. What had actually happened was that she had found a way to shave five minutes off of her run.

The regular footpath down into the gulch was treacherous. Taking it at anything beyond walking speed would have been fool-hardy. The route back up the other side was at least as daunting, requiring two hands in several places. It added ten minutes to a forty minute run.

Brianna spotted the landmark she used, a rock outcropping that looked vaguely like a finger pointing the way. At the end of the gully, she dropped down on her ass and let he feet slip out in front of her.

The first time she had done it by accident. In an attempt to walk down the steep incline, she had slipped backwards and hit her head. She came to at the bottom of the ravine with her scalp bleeding, and her skin starting to sear from the coming solar storm.

But now she was prepared. She had even worn padding, making the slide down fun. She hit the ground running at the bottom, and came right back up the other side. She shook her wrist as she ran, and got a fix on her remaining time.

She was about one minute ahead of schedule. The pain in her chest was sharp, her exposed skin red. It occurred to her, casually, that a twisted ankle, a broken bone at this point would be fatal.

Meh.

Brianna entered the zone, and within twenty minutes, the neighboring sister city began to grow on the horizon. Showboating, though she was her only audience, when she reached the long shadows of the edifice, she began to walk.

At the entrance, the door opened automatically. They were designed to keep people in, not out, of course. There was no one out there. It was only when she got inside that she checked the time again, and saw that she only had thirty seconds before it would have been sealed against the radiation influx.

The boarded the elevator that would take her to the level and sector her message was intended for. Her presence was announced, and the chamber door slide open silently.

Her eyes grew wide at the opulence. In stark contrast to the featureless concrete walls, the interior of the elite's living quarters always amazed her. This one was all gold and green tapestries, billowing window treatments (the windows were artificial), and lush, inviting rugs. Unlike the plebes, the elite used real candles instead of the synthetic electric ones.

She handed over the envelope (couriers weren't allowed to speak to clients), and felt the buzz that indicated she had been paid.

The woman opened it, smiled, and wrote a brief reply. She remoistened the point of the envelope and gave it back. Then she turned and walked back into her home without acknowledgement.

Back at the foyer, the display indicated that he current storm would pass in another hour and ten minutes. Time to take a nap.

Brianna contemplated the envelope in her hands. What could be so important as to justify the exorbitant expense? Not to mention risking someone's life.

She turned it over and noticed that it wasn't sealed...

Although the room was empty, and there were no cameras save for the eye scanner, she looked around nervously. She had to look.

She pulled the card out, and on it was a printed message of a single word.

"Lol".

Written below it was the woman's reply.

"Lol".