by Matthew McLean
Lawrence Dragowski was a man who did not fit in. After spending half a lifetime pushing others to conform, he had arrived at a time and place where he did not.
Bochum (is/was) a city of models and movies, Germany’s sophisticated answer to Hollywood. Beauty as common as it is cheap.
Sitting in a lounge chair in one of the Langendreer sector’s opulent night clubs, the lifetime of injuries and hardships on his face made him stand out as if one of the multi-color spotlights from the stage were pointed right at him. He scratched at his right eye, still uncomfortable with the new cybernetic model that had been implanted. Even the best surgeon had been unable to remove the scar that the outdated model had left around the orbital bump.
Dragon kept his German idiom chipset intentionally intermediate, tipping off anyone who had not noticed from his dress that he was American. The small cigars he smoked resembled something out of an old cowboy kino.
By not fitting in, Dragon had found, he was finally able to have all of the things in his life that he thought were meant for others. Money, women, a small measure of power, and (most importantly) freedom all came to him. At the same time, he became invisible, at a glance, just another tourist. But many people in Bochum needed something different and a good look told them that Dragon was it.
He gave a broken grin to a gaggle of young women that were eyeing him. He considered buying a round when he felt his sat-scrambler go off. He touched the device to the subdermal datajack in his wrist. A message scrolled across the backside of his eyelids:
CONDITION FIVE BY FIVE. HEADACHE GONE. AWAITING CONTACT.
Dragon’s smile widened a notch. Butcher had made it after all.
The message was encrypted, of course, but he could still pull down some source information. He closed his eyes, letting the information cascade down the back of his lids.
Korea. Damn – he was still too hot after the Fujitsu job to go anywhere near the Pacific Rim. Even going into Kharagpur for a quick ‘nap had gotten a slamhound put on his trail.
Dragon thought for a moment. One of the women waved shyly at him and he rewarded her bravery with another grin. Looking at her, he thought, “Of course.” He touched the scrambler to his wrist again, transmitting his message.
MOSCOW. ALON BAR. ASK FOR ALEK. SHE’S WITH THE RUSSIANS TOO.