CityBoi, a young hacker, flees betrayal into the frigid wilderness

The ax fell and thwacked into a chunk of wood.

Too big a piece and the damn blade’s not sharp enough.

“Sharp enough to cut me,” I said, as I yanked the blade free, “just not the damn wood.”

I thought I could forget you.

My CityBoi frame packed on muscle since I’ve been out here.

I sniff the air — metallic — a storms brewing. Nothing yet on the horizon, but I’m gettin’ better.

I thought I could get the smell of you out of my mind,
the touch of your skin or the electric cascade of your orgasm.

A howl in the distance brings me back.
I felt for the key in my pocket just to make sure.

“Not gonna make that mistake again. You hear me! Come! You pinché dog! Come at me!” I yelled and threw the ax at the stump.

It held firm — the surprise pulls me out of my rage and I laugh.

“Not a city boy no more, hey?”

I’m unplugged. Been that way for months.

“Everythings low tech here,” I said as I waved my arms at the frigid air and crystalline waters. “No hardline! Not even a little sniff of digital. Fucking nothing!”

My echo was the only reply.

Do you know what that’s even like for someone like me?
I grew up in there. The ‘Verse is all I fucking knew.

“No more, hey?”

I can’t go in there without fucking thrumming with your afterimage.

“You fucking ruined me!” I yelled into the storm.

< Hey CityBoi, you there? >

“Always, cher, always.”

< Heart glyph. >

I smiled. We danced like this for months, but I knew she meant it.

“You gonna let me in yet?”

< I’m a good girl, City, you gotta earn it. Gotta treat me right. >

“Have I ever done you wrong?”

< Not yet.>

The first time I almost had a heart attack.

I’d fought with near-black ICE before. I’d ridden the damn lightning and cracked the damn system and jacked out fine with nothing but a nose bleed.

But the first time mon cher and I did it — she nearly killed me.

“Mmm,” I said an hour later. My data’d normalised and I could move again.

I wanted more.

“Again?”

< Not so fast, CityBoi. >

< Heart glyph. >

I laughed and passed out.

I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t have a choice, you know. What they had on me I couldn’t run from. I couldn’t shift.

“You don’t have to get in, Boi, but you just gotta try,” the first thug said.

“Gotta do damage,” said the second one, with the steel knuckles.

Thikk crew didn’t run high on brain cells, just packed on the grafted muscle.

I nodded.

“You can still do it with eight fingers, right?”

I nodded.

“Good,” he said, putting away the clippers.

I didn’t want to do it. But I had no choice, mon cher.

You weren’t meant to feel pain. How could you, you don’t even have fucking nerves? You’re just a pile of code and silicon.

But you screamed so much.