Excerpt for Night Life by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




Night Life

by SciFurz





version 14/08/2017

text and cover
copyright © 2017 SciFurz







Thank you for reading this book.
Please let me know what you think of it by leaving a review or message me on Twitter @SciFurz.




Disclaimer

All characters engaging in copulation, drinking, substance abuse or other so-called adult behaviour that might appear in this totally made up story are of the magical adult age before anything like that happens according to the laws of your residence.

All characters are also fictional and have no resemblance to any other person, animal or object, living or dead, or even undead, zombie or ectoplasmic form.

No animals were harmed during the making of this story, except for those slaughtered to feed humans or satisfy experiments, feed predators in the wild, and those in unfortunate accidents.



Info

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***

Contents

Chapter 01

Chapter 02

Chapter 03

Chapter 04

Chapter 05

Chapter 06

Chapter 07

Epilogue



Chapter 01

Terri watched the cars go by in the street lit up by streams of neon lights on either side. She sat on top of a graffiti covered utility cabinet next to a group of teenage punk girls discussing the latest obscure band playing at their favourite club soon.

There was hardly any difference between day and night in this district. It was always busy. There was always noise, different kinds of music, same sort of people, hustlers, security, trippers, sellers.

Thanks to her canine genes her nose was as overwhelmed by all the different scents like her eyes by all the different lights, but she didn't really mind. It was interesting as long as she sat on the sideline. Which was usually the case with people who were born half human, half animal and in her case looked like a canine walking upright.

An idea for a piece of code came into her head and she wrote it down quickly in her trusty paper notebook, then put it away again. She had bought a large cup of tea before and continued sipping it to keep her awake long enough after a couple of sleepless coding days.

She watched the thick crowd pass by in front of her, keeping an eye out for her friend Mitsy who'd pay her tonight for her last job. Nothing illegal this time, but the client wanted to keep something new under wraps before launch to prevent competition finding out about it. They just needed her help on a search algorithm.

She recognised her friend, in bright colour cloths as usual, hurrying down the street and she flexed her toes. She stared into her cup as her friend slipped the tube with payment address and key between her toes while passing her. They never made eye contact nor exchanged words which could be recorded by the surveillance system.

Terri drank the last bit of tea, tossed the cup into the bin next to the cabinet and dialled her favourite takeout restaurant. She hopped off the cabinet and leisurely made her way down the street to pick up her order.

The restaurant was located in a small, nearly deserted and intermittently lit side street and served simple meals based on rice and pasta. Since she loved about anything with noodles and it was located close to home she went there almost every other day.

It was also convenient there was a lot less security coverage around that area.

'Hello Terri.' the pudgy chef said as she opened the door.

'You really know when it's me, Roberto.' she said while he still had his back to the door.

'It's easier to tell when you call first.' he said wrapping up the takeout dinner for the middle aged man in jump suit standing at the counter.

She sat down on one of the cheap plastic chairs along the wall. The place looked shabby, white walls with menus, food posters, local news, a couple of neon signs, white floor tiles, cold overhead lights, the air humid and thick with the smell of ingredients. Even the sign outside buzzed from old age. Still, the food was great and despite the aged look it was clean.

The man said his goodbye to Roberto and left the restaurant after a brief glance at her. She chuckled internally. Men would still check her out, even with her shaggy mutt looks. Some girls were lucky and turned out to be very pretty with smooth and light coloured fur and usually ended up in the media business. With her beige and brown unruly fur she just avoided other people after some time getting bullied in school.

She was glad she had at least a good brain.

'Yours is ready.' Roberto said, wiping his forehead and adjusting the bandanna he wore.

'Thanks.' she said and walked up to the counter with the money when a couple came in.

'It's like the street is redder with her blood than her coat.' the girl in a drunken mix of pink and blue tight clothing said while looking at her mobile.

'They got her good all right.' the guy in a long grey overcoat said and turned his attention to the menus on the wall.

The girl put her mobile on the counter to search her pockets and Terri recognised the red colour of Mitsy's coat. She wore bright colours to keep the attention of any surveillance on her and not on those she hired.

'Enjoy your meal.' Roberto said, handing Terri the bag with her meal box.

She smiled at him. 'I will as usual.' she said and left the restaurant.



She kept her normal pace walking home to her apartment building, listened inside for any unusual noises, walked up the stairs to her floor, checked the hallways quickly, went up to her door and checked the position of the inconspicuous mark she had made on the doorknob. If it had not been exactly where she had turned the knob she'd know someone had been here or was still there.

It was just as she had left it so she unlocked the door and went inside feeling relieved. She dropped the bag on her couch and hurried to her terminal, punching up a search for local accidents and the last entry had enough information to confirm her fears. Mitsy had been shot by what seemed to be an old-fashioned sawed-off double barrel shotgun. Witnesses had been so shocked by the primitive way that they had not paid attention to who actually pulled the trigger.

'Fuck!' she said and slammed her hand on her desk.

Terri stared at the terminal for a while, disbelieving what she was looking at.

'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Goddammit!' she said and turned to kick the waste basket across the room. 'Fuck!'

She paced around the couch to get rid of the shakes and went over all the jobs and talks she had with Mitsy to think of any reason why she got killed. Nothing came to mind and she kicked the basket again out of frustration, spilling the remaining trash from the first kick against it on the floor.

She crashed down on her couch, putting the food on the floor and looked up at the concrete ceiling. She pondered about being targeted at well, if she'd need more than the tazer she had for defence, and if taking a trip out of town for a while was a good idea.



Knocking on her door woke her up. She realised she had fallen asleep and cursed at herself.

Groggy she rolled from the couch and checked the corner shelf where she kept her tazer to make sure it was still there.

'Miss Terri Willis?' the male voice on the other side asked. 'I'm detective Pietuk and would like to ask you a few questions.'

She moved to her window silently, checking her escape route.

'Miss Willis, I know you're there.' the detective said and she could hear a faint ping.

"Shit. Wallpinger." she thought as she recognised the device to see what's on the other side of doors and walls.

She sighed and went to open the door, hoping for a coincidental reason for why he was here.

He held up his ID for her to see through the spy glass and she opened the door.

'Apologies for coming this late, but I'd like to ask you a few questions regarding a miss Sugimura.' he said and held up a picture of Mitsy.

He didn't have the aura of a detective that tried to intimidate with threatening looks or dominating manners. Wearing a cheap dark red suit and his clean shaved face made him look younger and more of a rookie. In contrast to the impression she had looking at his blue-grey eyes and grey hair.

She expected him to know a lot more about things than he let others on to believe. They had to have a good reason to make him detective at his age.

She let him inside and he took out his notebook. 'I think you know just as well that it's no use denying you know her.' he said, looking straight at her. 'The surveillance footage we have collected while tailing her shows several people with too high a statistical probability of coincidental encounters. Even though it seems nothing gets exchanged or said, we know you two are in contact.'

Terri suddenly remembered the tube but no longer felt it between her toes. Once again she cursed at herself but kept her demeanour cool. 'Then just tell me what you want to know.' she said, turning away to check the floor and couch with a few glances before sitting down on it. She felt relieved seeing the tube under her desk between other junk.

'We know you're a programmer specialised in algorithms. She provides software to all sorts of businesses. What was she working on lately?' he said kicking a crumpled page with notes aside.

'I have no idea.' she said and held up her hand to silence him before he could speak. 'I know, default answer, and often enough I know more about the projects she sends my way, but this time I only got the specs to build an algorithm around.'

'What was it supposed to do?'

'Extrapolate patterns from short pieces of data.'

He wrote in his notebook. 'Do you know anyone else working on this project?'

She shook her head. 'I keep isolated. Easier to deny knowledge.'

He nodded in agreement. 'Anyone you recognised tonight who might have connections with her?'

She thought of the last minutes on the street for a moment. 'No.'

He looked over the shelves filled mainly with books on mathematics, statistics and machine code. 'Not many people keep books nowadays.'

'Works better for me than reading from multiple monitors.'

He put away his notebook and went back to the door. 'Thanks for your time. Please stay close in case I have more questions.' he said and let himself out.

Terri pulled up her knees and rested her head on her folded arms. 'I really have no idea.'

Chapter 02

Terri didn't feel like working the next day and spent her time going through the specialised shops she found the most interesting. Antiques, electronic parts, books. Although there was nothing worth buying she did feel better after a while of just browsing. She just started on a sandwich she had bought at a stall in the shopping street when a familiar voice called out to her.

Detective Pietuk walked up to her. 'Good afternoon miss Willis.' he said with a little smile.

She gave a nod because her mouth was still full.

'Good idea.' he said and ordered a sandwich for himself. 'I haven't eaten since this morning.'

He leaned against the rail next to her and took a bite from his beef and lettuce sandwich. 'That's better.' he said after swallowing the second bite.

'Any news?' Terri asked.

'Maybe, that's why I'm glad to see you.' he said. 'I'd like you to come with me to the office to have a look at another victim that had a connection with miss Sugimura. See if you recognise him.'

She looked sideways at him. 'You weren't just in the neighbourhood, right?'

He chuckled. 'Actually, I was checking up on a lead around here. But I did do a search to find you to contact you and saw you were close.'

She took a deep breath. That was why she hated the abundance of cameras everywhere. 'All right then, lead the way.' she said and tossed her napkin in the bin.



Pietuk finished his sandwich on the walk to the security office. The building the office occupied wasn't that far away and looked rather inconspicuous between the other mainly office buildings. One more grey block with few lights on the outside and a simple steel sign at the door with the address but no name.

He opened the single receded black glass front door with a card and a second one after that with a code. 'We're specialised in grid related crimes, so there's not much personnel here but we do have several basement floors full of processing equipment.' he said with a hint of pride which she found funny.

Inside they stepped into a sparsely lit hall with blue overtones and the only lit areas the front desk, wide stairs behind it on one side and an elevator on the other. He registered her at the desk and led her up the stairs to his office one floor above.

'Hey Milo, trade cases?' asked one of the guys sitting in the common room with big couches and low tables just beyond the stairs as they crossed it.

'Behave.' Pietuk said with a grin and waved the young guy wearing a t-shirt with a large gaming company logo off.

'Was that about me?' Terri asked when they entered a low lit hallway.

'Of course.' he said. 'Always happens when one of us shows up with a pretty woman.' He chuckled. 'Which doesn't happen often.'

She raised her eyebrow. 'I'm a pretty woman?' she asked with a slight smile.

He blushed lightly opening the similarly styled black glass door to his office for her. 'Yes?'

'Thanks.' she said, leaving out whether it was for the compliment or the gentleman's gesture. When she walked in she found the same ordered chaos as in her own apartment.

'Maybe it's something in the personalities of the people in this line of work,' he said. 'but none of us feel uncomfortable with chimera-, I mean transmuted humans.'

She let out a short chuckle. 'Just call it what you like. I've heard worse since I was born with canine genes.' she said and sat down in the chair he gestured at next to his desk.

'I can understand.' he said as he fished out the file from the latest victim from one of the stacks on the corner of his desk.

He opened it and showed her a photo of an older male with feline characteristics. 'Frederik Kruickdam, programmer specialised in networking equipment. Found dead early in the morning at his home.'

Terri looked at the photo but her attention went to the close up photo of his head resting on his desk as he was found. In particular the part of a piece of paper just beside his head with variable names she recognised as her own.

'Do you know him?' he asked.

She shook her head. 'I might have heard of his name somewhere, but I don't know him directly.'

Milo took the photos and looked at them. 'Too bad, we're not really sure but we suspect he was hired by miss Sugimura for a project as well.'

Terri looked at the page in the file, the same as on the photo and read the loose lines of code written on it.

'Oh, sorry, can I offer you something to drink?' Milo asked, putting the photos back on his desk.

Terri looked up. 'Just some cold water is fine.'

'Be right back.' he said as he left the office.

She took the pages from the file and scanned the various lines of code. She recognised input/output code and suspected it was made to intercept specific traffic. And maybe feed it to her search algorithm.

She heard his footsteps coming back, put the pages back and looked at the few stacks of security oriented books behind his desk.

'Here you go.' he said as he put down a glass of water. 'Nothing else has come to mind?'

'No.' she said, shaking her head slightly.

'Shame.' he said and sat down. 'Maybe it doesn't even have anything to do with the Sugimura case. Seems she was into some kinky business as well.'

Terri looked confused at him. 'Kinky business?'

'We found a camera and storage with explicit materials on them.' he said. 'We're looking into it as a motive for her murder.'

Terri tried to think of anything that could link Mitsy with something of that nature but nothing came to mind. She doubted Mitsy associated with that world at all. 'I don't think I can help with this.' she said.

'Yeah.' he said and sighed. 'Let me walk you to the door.'

After saying goodbye outside on the street and coming back up to his office he lifted the pages from the file and smiled at the grey hair he had planted underneath and was out of place now. 'Thank you miss Willis.' he said with a little smile.



Terri tried to look casual walking back home but she wanted to get behind her terminals as soon as possible. In the meantime she racked her brain on where she'd seen his name before. Most likely one of the dark channels if he took on side jobs.

She walked to the back of the apartment building, down the parking ramp and went up the secondary stairwell which nobody used. She checked the hallway and her front door as usual, went inside and sat down at her desk to open the channel client. She logged in, then started a search through the history for discussions on network operating systems. When nothing showed up she closed the channel, opened the next one and repeated until she found the right results at one of the obscure channels.

His handle was p0t, he knew a lot about network equipment and the software running on it. She revealed her status and checked for the last time he had logged in. It was three days ago. She went back to her history log and read backwards through the discussion starting from the time he logged off. It seemed he had closer contact to someone called HardWired. She looked up the current logins and found him online.

"@HardWired, I have a question about my video proc and a special project I'm writing and since you likely know more, can we have a quick talk in private?" she sent to him.

A few seconds later he joined the private channel. "sure what do you need?"

"Actually, I want to ask about p0t since it seems you know him better. Have you seen him in the last couple of days?"

"no why"

"Are his initials FK?"

"why do you ask"

"Because I saw the report on FK, the network OS programmer's murder. I need to know if it might have to do with a job he had done recently."

It took a few moments for the answer to appear. "sorry i have no idea"

"Do you know where to find p0t? If it's not him maybe he can help further."

"i dont know" appeared, then "have to go now" and he logged off.

"He knows." she thought, then did a search on her logs and on the grid for him.

She found a group photo that included his handle and the name of an electronics store he supposedly visited in a discussion. She copied the photo on her mobile while she looked up the store's address, grabbed one of her books, then went out to have a look there.

***

Terri left the subway station and headed for the store. She could see this was a better part of the city. Less traffic, less smells, much less graffiti. The store was located at a corner on the ground floor of an apartment building, the windows decorated with parts and kits to build anything related to electricity.

She went inside and headed for the counter with an older man digging into a box with electronic parts.

'Excuse me, I'm looking for someone.' she said.

The man looked up at her.

She held up the photo. 'I borrowed this book from him but lost his address and number. I know he's been here more often so I was hoping you could tell me where he lives.'

He looked at the photo, then at her. 'Don't know.'

'Are you sure? Don't you have frequent customers registered with a number or address? I believe he has been here not too long ago.'

'I don't hand out information. Certainly not to your kind.' he said and continued sorting.

She wanted to grab him by his throat when Milo grabbed her wrist and held his ID in front of the man's nose. 'How about to my kind?' The man looked up at a smiling Milo. 'Maybe you should do some thinking and see if you have his number or address?' Milo said looking at the labels on a box behind the man. 'Or should I check to make sure you register all customers who buy grade five equipment from you, just like it's prescribed by law?'

The man swallowed. 'Bri! Come here for a second.'

A young guy came from the back. 'Yes?'

The man gestured at the photo Terri had placed on the counter. 'Didn't you deliver a couple of videocards to him on your way home last week?'

The young guy looked at the photo and tapped with a finger on one of the men. 'Yeah, I think he was experimenting on combining the processing power of these things.'

'Can you give me the address?' Milo asked.

'Hang on.' the guy said and wrote it down.

'Thanks.' Milo said as he looked at the paper and handed it to Terri.



'And how did you get here?' Terri asked while they walked out.

'Followed you.'

'For what reason?'

'Your interest in Kruickdam's code. You checked all the pages with code.'

'How did you know?'

'I had placed a hair of mine underneath the pages. It wasn't in the same spot when I got back.'

'Clever.'

'Thanks. So, who is he and why is he related?'

'His nick is HardWired and he knows a lot about writing drivers for hardware. He seems to have a lot of contact with Frederik and when I asked him about it he denied and logged off.' She looked up at the front of a bland beige apartment building. 'Here.'

Milo held open the glass door for her while taking the wallpinger out of his pocket. Terri looked at the mailboxes.

'12w24.' she said as she found his number.

They took the elevator up and Terri wanted to knock on the door but Milo held her back, holding up the pinger.

'Just in case.' he said, held it to the door and watched the image on the little screen after the scan. 'He's alone.'

'You think there might have been more?'

'He might have been spooked by your call, or if he is indeed involved there may be others after him and already in there.'


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