Winning story for the @Wattpunk Aesthetic Art Writing Contest
Metis Kazitake pulled back the sleeve covering her green tattoo in the shape of an owl's face and carefully pressed the clear vinyl across it. The way the vinyl adhered to her skin felt like a series of tiny pricks, a warning that removing it would hurt. A moment later, she watched as the nanites trapped in the vinyl arranged themselves into a trio of triangles the same shade as her owl.
And then she steeled herself. In the chaos of fleeing the netrunners' bar ahead of the MicroTech raid, she couldn't have been expected to notice her Dragon talisman sliding off. If she had, she wouldn't now be trying to slip into MicroTech's R&D in the hopes of recovering it. The last thing she needed was the MegaCorps she was researching discovering she was in that bar that night.
Finding the R&D lab in the MicroTech complex was easier than she expected. The nanites' constant shifting from green to red and back, swirling through a variety of shapes, almost acted as a compass of sorts. Green areas were good candidates. Red weren't worth her time. But the glow was bright enough that she briefly considered pulling her sleeve back down, but she didn't know how that would affect the camouflage patch's functionality.
The MicroTech R&D labs were a labyrinth.. She wandered through room after room, at one point triggering a purple spider from the camouflage patch. She shuddered and moved across the room as quickly as she could, only to have a small panic attack as a green owl face similar to her own appeared on the patch before the nanites reconfigured into a red swan.
In one room, she discovered two tanks of nanites. As all MegaCorps maintained their own nanite colonies to maintain and repair their people's tattoos, it wasn't all that surprising. Everyone found it easier to just update their tattoo at work rather than find a central building in town. But one of the tanks was smaller, the nanites different in shape and color from the standard nanites.
Why is MicroTech developing a separate colony?
Grasping at answers to her question, she searched the tables for something to hold a sample of nanites, finally finding a petri dish. Her hands shaking, she scooped up a few and trapped them in the dish. The swan on her wrist flickered for a moment, and then her wrist lost all glow. The camou patch had failed. The tattoo she'd had since primary school appeared to be dead. She cursed, quickly smashing the lid onto the dish before shoving it into her pocket.
Exiting the far end of the nanites' lab, she found herself in a long room that held tables and chairs, a hub and conference space for the researchers. On a desk at the other end of the room was a pile of what looked like personal belongings.
She patted her pocket to make sure the petri dish was secure and reached to pull down her sleeve, only to find a faint red flower blended with the green of her owl now on her wrist. She looked back toward the lab. Oh, dear goddess. Those nanites are being bred to neutralize the tattoos.
As she crossed the room, she checked her wrist every few steps, relaxing as the red intensified, completely concealing the green of her own tattoo.
The desk was indeed piled with random wallets, jackets, and other personal items, most likely seized in the raid. But Metis didn't care about those. Her talisman sat off to the side, alone. If there was anything that could identify a person almost as quickly as their tattoo, it was a monastery token. And Metis, as a nervous habit, had worn grooves into hers. MicroTech had been well on their way to confirming she had been in the bar that night.
With a sigh of relief tinged with anger at herself, Metis snatched up the talisman and walked out as calmly as she could. The camouflage patch continued to shift back and forth between green and red shapes as she made her way out of the compound.
Once free and back on the waterfront, Metis ripped off the camouflage patch, gritting her teeth as an image of a black skull took several fine hairs with it, and flung it into the bay. It was a horrible waste of money, but she couldn't take the risk of being found with it in her possession. Her green owl face glowed dimly through her skin. Metis smiled at it, and pulled down her sleeve.
Then she fished the petri dish out of her pocket and inspected it. InfoSyndicate is going to love this.
About the author: kirylin
Rebecca Thomas is a narrator, voice actor, and writer living in San Antonio, Texas who refuels by drinking tea, doing yoga, or listening to alternative and indie rock from her childhood. She's loved cyberpunk since the moment William Gibson's Pattern Recognition sucked her into a world of locative art. But what she loves most is the nearly magical technology and how the performing arts thrive in these gritty settings.
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