The hopper had been skimming for just five minutes, that was all that separated them and whomever it was turning up at his POD, it had been close. Abby was staring out of the hopper window and it took him some time to get her attention. “Can you log into the C-NET while we skim and get some one-time voice tokens? We can rig an E-PAD to use them via a C-NET addresses. There is a site called burners on there that will help us bounce the calls, it’s not perfect but hopefully it will do for now. I need to make some calls and we cannot use our pads or implants. Oh, and tell me if your GPS node pings like someone is trying to locate you.” He turned briefly to check that Chameleon’s light was still blinking.
“There you go, ten one-hit codes. I have some disposable E-phones in the back of the hopper for emergencies we can use if needed, dad always makes me keep them” She sounded calmer than he felt.
“Look, Abby I am taking a risk with Chameleon but he’s off NET. This is a big ask, but I already asked it of Max with Roddy. Can I ask you to lock out Dusty? If you connect to your AI they are just going to triangulate us immediately.” He knew he was asking a lot and she took a while to answer.
“Look, I hate the fuckin NEST as much as you, but Dusty is to me like Chameleon is to you. But I get it. I will keep communications down until we know more.”
“Thanks Abby.” He leaned over and put his hand over hers.
“Chameleon, what’s Dupie’s number? Can you send it to Abby’s e-pad?”
Dupie’s number popped into the dialer on the screen, and she pressed “Dial.”
“Yo! This is Dupie.” He sounded like he was chewing something.
“Hey, man, what the hell’s going on? Max turned up here earlier all spooked out, handed me this pad, and disappeared.”
“Yeah, I’ll explain later,” Jay said, “but I have a real big favor to ask.” Before Dupie could complain he added, “I’ll pay.”
Dupie went silent. Then there was a crunch that Jay could only assume was a potato chip.
Jay took that as permission to go ahead. “I need to explain it face to face, but for now I need that code you once tried to sell me that knocks out your GPS node on command. Three of them.” He glanced at Abby.
“Three?” she asked.
“One for the Hopper, they are probably already tracking us.”
“Easy,” Dupie said, “I’ll mail it to you now. Oh, no, I forgot, you’re mysterious off-line man. I’ll shoot it to your e-pad. Your lizard AI can upload it from there into the GPS in your head and the hoppers controlling sub processors.” Dupie snickered. It was well known on campus that Jay wasn’t wired up, and that he took pains to be as unwired as possible. At their age, everyone already had their NJIs or were looking forward to their surgery.
“I’ll send you two texts from one-time numbers. One will be the password for the pad Max brought you, the other will be the address of where you need to come tonight. Dupie, the contents of the pad will explain everything. I need your opinion on it when you come over later. And be ready, I have a shopping list.”
“Right, see you later, it will probably be around 3am.” Dupie sounded both eager and annoyed. Jay suspected Dupie could get his hands on all sorts of dodgy e-credit but clean credit from Jay was something he knew Dupie needed although it would blow through all his savings, something else Jay couldn’t think about too much.
“Oh, and Dupie, don’t look at the pad on anything that has NET access, you’ll understand why.”
“Dude, I’m not new.” And with that Dupie hung up.
Jay sent the texts. “Abby, are you following all this?”
“Yep,” she said, looking out the window again. “Do what you have to, Jay like I said I am on board.”
“Chameleon,” Jay said, “jam the GPS signals, please.”
“Ooh,” Abby said, putting a hand to her temple as if her head hurt. “My implants registered the code. It worked.”
“Good,” Jay said. “Are you all right?”
She shrugged. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to fall apart. Tell me what happened, now that we have a minute?” She asked, so he took a deep breath and summarized the best he could, the events of the evening since he left her. “Mother of mercy.” She said when he had finished.
Kate’s place was on floor eight of ten in the apartment block near the west end of campus, made of brick and managed to look shabby and new at the same time. The hopper landed on the roof. “Kate said I could use her parking spot,” Abby said.
Jay tried not to worry about Abby’s hopper being visible by satellite picture and hoped the GPS block had registered in time. “That’s sweet of her.”
“Come on,” Abby said. “Let’s get you inside.” She helped carry his things in.
The studio apartment smelled pleasantly feminine. The lights automatically came on low, revealing a bed, dresser, and couch, with a small kitchen against the far wall. It was the kind of place any parent could feel secure about their child living in. There was no sign of the cat, but Abby had said he would hide. Behind them the door locks engaged with an audible metallic sound. He dragged Chameleon across the carpet to the first electrical socket he spotted. Then he stood up and looked at Abby, who waited in the middle of the room.
“Are we safe?” Abby asked. She slid up into his arms and covered his mouth with hers.
He felt her cold fingers fumbling with his buttons. The idea of answering her question became impossible as he smelled the floral, familiar scent of perfume and skin. He had a flicker of a thought about Dupie arriving but he was always late. They stumbled toward the bed, a four-legged creature dropping clothes with every step.
After they’d finished, Jay felt himself nodding off, and he lay back in bed, where he crashed into a sleep almost immediately. Jay stopped the usual black magnet of emotional relief that normally sucked him into a dreamless slumber after he had been with Abby, right now he needed to dream.