Payment Deferred (2020)
Sir, you can't go up there. Step aside.
The guy's stack is swimming in blood.
What the fuck?
Hold... hold on. Hold it! This is an active crime scene.
Detective Lorcan, Colonel Carrera, Protector of Special Forces.
We intercepted your initial report.
My unit will take over this investigation.
On what grounds?
I mean, this is a civilian murder case.
You're the Wedge.
If it were up to me, I'd stay out of your way, but I've got orders. So, um, why not show me the tank, and we can get this over with.
But no weapons.
You heard the man.
Looks like your suspect had a hard time re-sleeving.
You download the transfer data?
We're not amateurs, Colonel.
Based on our estimated timeline, whoever cast in showed up just before the killing started.
Any weapons recovered on site?
Nothing that wasn't registered to Axley or his security.
What about your team?
They know what happened to Axley's backups?
I don't keep secrets from my team.
So... who do you think cast into the sleeve, Detective?
You were first on the scene. I'm sure you have some insight.
Well, judging from the organic damage, I'm thinking military.
Some PTSD headcase fragged from the war.
Or one too many skulljumps.
You've a low opinion of those who serve.
It's just a theory.
Rich guys like Axley like to hire vets as bodyguards.
I take it you've never been in the military?
What? And risk my stack?
So Danica Harlan can make an extra two percent pushing alloy past Kemp's blockades?
The, uh, sleeve our perp cast into, now that thing is a freak show.
Well... whoever designed it was into some fucked up gene splicing.
They cut in canine DNA.
The killer's part dog.
You sure it wasn't wolf?
Wolf? Dog? What's the difference?
Start messing with your genome like that, next thing you know, you got a snout and four legs.
Guess Axley should've used a shorter leash.
You know what, Detective?
I've seen enough.
what are you thinking?
Here is my considered opinion.
If you kick a dog, it'll crawl back, lick your foot, begging for forgiveness.
Kick a wolf...
and he'll rip your face off.
Are we having a fete?
More of a wake, but still a toast.
Here's to 30 years...
and I don't know how many credits.
Fifty-one million three hundred thirty-two thousand.
After all that, I get five words:
"I'm not here for you."
Well, technically speaking, Miss Falconer was not there for you.
She was there to kill Mr. Axley.
And I'm just a naked stranger who got in the way?
Could explain the extreme violence.
Yeah, but it doesn't explain why she was there to begin with, or how Axley knew she was coming.
May I suggest temperance?
Your sorrows may be infinite, but the supply of whiskey is not.
And just as well.
This sleeve seems to have some metabolic filter.
Run a scan and see what other modifications Axley made.
I'm sick of surprises.
A full analysis will take quite some time.
What, pray tell, is your plan?
Drink fast enough to try and override the tolerance settings.
I meant your plan to locate Miss Falconer.
She doesn't wanna be found.
At least not by me.
As dispiriting as this may be, perhaps you should consider the alternative.
That the woman you crossed is not, in fact, her.
That someone else is riding her sleeve. Yeah, but... on Harlan's World, it's illegal to replicate her sleeve.
Mm-hmm. Why risk it?
A murderer terrorizing Axley.
Hmm? Becoming a ghost of retribution.
I wasn't acclimated.
She could have killed me just like everyone else, but she didn't.
It doesn't make sense unless...
...she knew me.
The only way to know for sure is to find Miss Falconer.
Or the dastardly sleeve-jacker who's inhabiting her form.
Axley knew something.
Hack the police files. See if he's reappeared.
According to the report, Mr. Axley suffered organic damage and is recuperating on Latimer in a new clone.
Well, that leaves me nowhere.
Hmm, if only you knew someone who worked for Mr. Axley.
Someone who could provide insight into his affairs.
What do you mean, the bounty hunter? The one who shot me in the back?
In her defense, she is hardly the first.
Yeah, but I don't even know her name. I can't just go around asking.
Pull up all open bounties on planet.
Everyone who has a price on their head.
Last time we were here was less than 100.
Most of these are civilians, refugees, some soldiers who've gone missing.
Lost souls, if you will.
Narrow it down.
Violent offenders only.
Isolate the subjects with the highest reward.
Axley's assets have been frozen, so my guess is our little bounty hunter is gonna try and make up those credits.
There seems to be some disruptions in my neural net.
It's more than that.
Your processor is corrupted.
It has been since Leung attacked in Bay City.
It's getting worse.
You need to reboot.
It's not that simple.
I'd have to completely shut down. There's no telling how long I'd be out.
A day, a week, a month?
You cannot be without backup in this crucial time!
It's not about me!
It's about her.
You're afraid your gonna forget Lizzie.
It is quite possible that in rebuilding my operating system, my... recollections of Miss Elizabeth...
would be wiped clean.
All my recollections of you and our wild-goose chase across the stars.
All the sum total of all my experiences.
Surely you can understand my reluctance.
I can't rely on you if you keep glitching.
You have to let go.
Like you've let go of Miss Falconer?
You're putting us both at risk.
I reboot, there won't be a me to risk losing.
So... if you will allow me to perform a manual override...
I believe this is what you're looking for.
Highest bounties on planet are these five unsavory characters.
Upload them to my ONI.
And when you've finished the scan of my sleeve, let me know what you find.
This isn't over.
Oh, I assure you.
Measures will be taken.
In the meantime...
I'm going bounty-hunting.
The first alloy shipments went out on schedule.
No disturbance from Kemp or his rebels.
And the Protectorate?
Already demanding we double our protection as expected.
We'll cross that bridge when we have to.
As far as the mines are concerned...
This is a surprise.
I thought you'd be gone by now.
I told you the ceasefire wouldn't hold, Governor.
Looks like I was right.
I have no idea what the hell you're talking about.
Horace Axley does.
Unfortunately, he's not here to elaborate.
That's because he's dead.
An intruder cast into his home last night and killed him.
That is alarming. Then again, it's no secret that Axley has his fair share of enemies.
We'll ask him which one it was when he spins back up.
He's not spinning back up.
His stack was wiped completely along with all of his remote backups.
Axley was real-deathed. That's not possible.
The Quellists are a terrorist death cult.
They've wanted to curtail the human life span since the days of Falconer.
Whatever weapon was used to kill Axley, I'm sure their fingerprints are all over it.
We cannot let this get out.
If people think we're vulnerable... Don't worry.
I locked it all the way down.
Scrubbed their reports, took care of the witnesses.
Your reputations are safe.
But they are not my concern.
What is your concern?
You have no proof the Quellists are involved.
You were sent here to manage the war effort.
And as much as you'd like to find a reason to stay, a Meth's murder is my jurisdiction.
You're wrong, Governor.
The killer's DHF was downloaded into a Wedge sleeve, a model designed exclusively for me and my team.
The stolen Protectorate asset of that magnitude makes it my jurisdiction.
I am here until it's recovered.
Well, that shouldn't take long.
We all know how the Protectorate loves to tag their toys.
We can track the sleeve's biometrics.
By all means, track away.
But I have no doubt you'll find whoever did this was acting alone.
The people of Harlan's World are committed to peace.
It's foolish to think you can make peace with terrorists.
You should have crushed the Quellists instead of cowing to them.
Your father understood that.
I am not my father.
And we're all worse off for that.
Find the Meth killer, Colonel. And then get the fuck off my planet.
It's the Protectorate's planet, Governor.
They all are.
Got a question.
Come on, G. You wanna know who I buy from.
I buy from everyone.
You are moving a lot of gear.
Hey, watch it. I don't want those coils of yours setting off my machinery.
You seen Raab lately?
Why do you ask?
'Cause he usually comes in after a hack-and-grab.
Emphasis on the hack.
No, no, I haven't seen him, no.
I've been looking for you.
You shoot me twice in two days, I will hold a grudge.
You catch on fast.
Who are you waiting for? Raab?
What the hell do you know about it?
I got something for ya.
Do me a favor, stay the hell out of my way.
That still have scalp on it?
Been a while.
You broke the code, Raab.
So you got a partner now?
You're supposed to salvage war wreckage, not other Decoms in the field.
The Guild is offering lots of zeros to haul your ass in.
Got a preference?
Sleeve or stack?
I suggest sleeve.
How much to walk away now?
That... is not yours.
But then again, maybe I'll take your coils.
Make you mine.
I'm not joking.
I'm not her partner.
Relax. I'm just gonna take a little off the top.
Wait, I choose sleeve.
No. Deal's off the table. No, wait, wait, wait.
You show up just to fuck with my income stream or what?
Who's gonna pay for all this?
Take their gear. Keep the change.
What the hell was that?
Raab's stack was my bounty. Yeah, speaking of bounties, here are the five highest-valued bounties on the board.
Bullshit, you went through all five just to find me?
Process of elimination.
So what's it gonna be?
Are we gonna talk?
Or am I dropping a fistful of scumbags down the drain?
Shit. Not here.
This is dangerous territory, Danica.
News of Axley's murder will find its way out.
And I don't have to tell you... You're right, Dugan.
There's nothing to be gained about disseminating this information.
Or by undermining me.
I'm trying to help you.
Your father relied on me to tell him the truth.
If Carrera's determined to stay on this planet, he's just gonna find another excuse.
Then we wait... till he runs out of excuses.
You're being reckless!
A weapon that can erase remote backups.
Do you understand what could happen if the Protectorate adds that to their arsenal?
Your generation doesn't remember what it was like before stacks.
Don't. The decisions we had to make.
Do not lecture me on consequences.
This isn't about proving yourself, Danica.
Your father knew how to keep the Protectorate in check.
If you would just consider contacting him.
You wanna contact Konrad?
Go ahead, ONI him.
You've already tried.
We all have.
Since he took his Renouncer vows, no one can reach him.
I still can't understand it.
He gave up everything so suddenly.
As his oldest friend, I can imagine your disappointment in his decision.
But I'm his only child.
You can't imagine mine.
Carrera is on our planet.
The situation is volatile.
If something were to happen after he secures the weapon...
who's to say who it belongs to?
What you're talking about, it would shift the balance of power throughout the settled worlds.
My father's not the only Harlan capable of making history.
Give me time.
Look, Axley and I weren't exactly friends.
I did a few jobs for him. That's all.
He kept his hands to himself.
Paid his bills on time.
Well, until now.
You aren't worried that I killed him?
Didn't add up.
Axley told me he wanted you for protection.
Any idea from who? No.
But he must have done something to piss someone off.
So what did he say when he hired you?
That he wanted the Last Envoy.
No accounting for taste, I guess.
And you didn't ask any questions?
Why would I? The man was offering to double my rate.
What's it to you anyway?
When I found you, you were singing torch songs on Maghda Prime.
Why not just cash in that fancy sleeve of yours and cast off?
No one stays on Harlan's without a reason.
I said no interruptions.
Too bad. Crowd out there's thirsty.
And they're actually paying.
Oh, shit. There's trouble in paradise.
Is that the famous Envoy intuition I've heard so much about?
'Cause you're way off.
Look... when I showed up at Axley's, he was on his ONI with his business partners.
I overheard them talking about extortion.
Said some blackmailer was gonna catch hell for wearing an illegal sleeve.
Who did they say was blackmailing him? They didn't.
But once he hung up, he called me in, told me I had to track you down immediately.
So Axley's partners, who are they?
Anton Durov and Haruki Okada.
Where can I find 'em? I'm sure we can figure it out.
There is no we. Not yet.
Listen, I have never seen anyone roll five heavy hitters in one day.
We partner up... we could set a new record.
Split the payouts 50-50.
I work alone.
No resources and no contacts.
Thanks for the drink.
Uh, bio-tracker, hmm.
You cannot hide your secrets from me.
Hmm, back from the hunt.
Was your search fruitful?
I found the bounty hunter, if that's what you're asking.
Judging by your demeanor, you uncovered more than you bargained for?
I think you were right about the sleeve-jacker.
This is a new external data retrieval system I installed to remedy my... short-term memory loss. Hmm. You're kidding, right?
If you actually look, you'll see I performed a detailed scan of your sleeve as requested.
And it appears there is, uh...
There is transgenic splicing. Hmm?
And hyper mobility, hmm?
Subconscious survival skills... I'll read the footnotes later.
Run a search on Axley's associates Anton Durov and Haruki Okada.
I need everything.
Most importantly, where can I find them?
But it's unlikely a pair of Meths would post their calendar on the Array.
Well, hack their personal security systems.
They know why Axley thought Quell was on planet.
Did you just say, uh...
Did you just say Miss Falconer is here?
On this planet?
Are you serious?
Uh... perhaps if you would explain...
I don't have time to explain!
Now you were supposed to reboot.
I cannot recall agreeing to that. You don't recall anything!
That's what I've been saying.
Now, screw your half-assed sticky notes!
And screw whatever you're trying to hold onto in that nanodust brain of yours.
Now either you reboot or find someone else to follow like a lost dog.
Now do you think you can remember that?
Those words will be hard to forget.
you're gonna get me killed.
May I ask where are you going?
You don't look good Takeshi- san.
It's been a long day.
I found the Meths you're looking for.
They're at the Soul Market.
The war's left us with too many stacks and not enough sleeves.
They have to go somewhere.
The man who owns it, Semetaire, has made good business out of ransoming stacks back to families.
He also extracts digitized memories and repurposes them for... entertainment.
Anton Durov and Haruki Okada frequent his club.
You can't walk in off the street. You have to be on the list.
So get me the hell on it.
Don't give me commands, Takeshi.
You haven't found her.
I thought I had... for a minute.
It's a sleeve-jacker.
That's no excuse to take your misfortune out on a friend.
It seems to be what I'm best at.
Oyabun, someone's walking around in her skin.
So you want to punish them?
I'd rather put a million bullets in that sleeve than let an impostor defile it.
And when that stack hits VR, it's gonna be a million more deaths, far worse than that.
You don't know, do you?
There are rumors... whispers that it was more than Axley's sleeve that was destroyed.
That all of his DHF backups were erased as well.
These Meths may have answers you seek.
But follow them and the killer might turn on you.
I hope they do.
Save me some time.
This is it.
You're on the list.
As you set down this path, consider is your anger truly with this impostor, or is it with yourself?
There's more than enough to go around.
So why choose?
Nothing is sacred.
Every gift we've been given...
every resource discovered...
each new and shining thing that catches our eye...
We tell ourselves this is progress.
Selling each other the fruits of our destruction.
Sparing no thought to what we lose...
or leave behind, churning in our wake.
I am a simple ferryman, plucking souls from my ocean wide.
Soldier, miner, sex worker, laborer.
Ah, no one swims for long.
Not with you stripping 'em of their memories they don't.
Their lives are worthless.
Their experiences are not.
So what if someone comes around looking for 'em?
Nobody's claiming them.
But they can still bring pleasure to some.
So... what pleasure do you seek?
I'll have what they're having.
I can accommodate you.
Provided you are on the list.
Ah, follow me.
You really think Quellists murdered that Meth?
If it keeps us on planet, I do.
Ever hear of Constantinople?
The Earth city?
It stood unconquered for over 1,000 years.
The walls were impenetrable.
Until one day, a small gate was left unlocked during a siege.
There was no sabotage, no traitor.
A simple mistake and the enemy poured through.
All because the man with the key fell down on the job.
Governor Harlan is the man with the key.
The man with the key is her father.
He kept the Protectorate at bay for centuries.
Until one day, he abandoned his post and left his daughter in charge.
She's the gate.
We've got a hit on the sleeve.
The way you screamed.
I forgot what real fear felt like.
No rush quite like it, right?
This is a private party, stranger.
Oh, I'm sorry.
Seemed like your friend could use a chaser.
I'd share, but...
Just a fellow mudraker looking to feel alive.
On to a more divine plane then.
Someone's been busy.
These are the top five gets on the planet.
How did you swing that?
Let's just say I was highly motivated this evening.
Are you cashing out?
I don't know. Any hits on my guy?
All the missing people out there, it's hard to stand out.
You know the drill, Trepp.
More credits, more hits.
Up it. Up the reward. How much?
All of it.
Are you sure?
Some things are more important than money.
Friend, I don't give a fuck who you are.
This is the best shit I've had in a century.
Hey, about earlier... Ah, don't worry about it.
Everyone seems on edge since Axley went and got himself killed yesterday.
You know Horace?
We met briefly.
He's a wet blanket.
Afraid of his own goddamn shadow.
It seems like he had reason to be.
Oh, you don't get it. He was losing it.
Talking about the damn bogeyman.
Quellcrist Falconer. She's back.
Here to kill us all.
What about Quellcrist Falconer?
He obviously rode some doctored patch, but you're not gonna convince Horace of that.
Well, here's hoping he stays on Latimer until he gets it out of his system.
Oh, you got it wrong.
My man Axley is not on Latimer.
He's not anywhere.
What are you talking about?
Well, whatever bogeyman he saw, it got him.
I hear he's dead.
And for all you guys know, you could be next.
You still got the patch?
Listen, I can protect you, but I need to see what Axley saw.
Give us a minute.
Is this your private reserve?
Semetaire lets us keep the good stuff.
Even when it's contraband.
Everything turned to ruin.
Hey! Put the knife down.
...turned to ruin.
I said put the knife down!
It's not her.
That's what we've been trying to tell ya.
What the fuck?
Who are you?
That sleeve is not yours.
Can you hear them?
Do you hear the screams?
You're not leaving here in that sleeve!
Who are you?
You need to leave. Now.
I'll find you.
You're under arrest.
You don't wanna hear my side?
Move and he's dead.
What's the matter? Pull the trigger, skulljump.
What the fuck?
You can't do it. No matter how much you want to.
That sleeve your wearing is Wedge tech.
Let me put it in terms you'll understand.
If we're talking wolves...
I'm the alpha.
You are nothing but my bitch.