“Don’t call him a loser we need this guy!”
Mantis hit mute on the side of her battered taped together headset with wires hanging down her face like robo-sideburns and fixed me with one of her withering glares “Fuck you Anon, I didn’t even want to fucking do this!”
“Who are you looking at?” came Neil’s raspy voice from the screen. The air filtration unit in his Apartment must be malfunctioning, the guy’s voice sounds like a rat is playing his vocal cords like a banjo. He’ll probably have Company Lung in a few more months. I wonder if the Algorithm will deduce that Neil the level red debugger is the worth spending precious company resources on for a cure on or if he’s fungible.
Mantis kicked up her death-glare at me three notches “Look what you did asshole!” She released the mute button and turned back to her screen “No one, don’t worry about it. Neil we only have a few minutes here are you in or are you out?”
Mantis is a good codename for her, she’s all sharp angles and hard surfaces. She even looks like one of those mean wasteland fuckers a little bit. More once she starts talking. If a capture team got one of those rad zone mantids and stuck it in a zoo stream with a little wig of filthy blonde hair with a streak of purple in it you might think it was her in there. Who started the trend of all female splicers putting one streak of purple in their hair?
Anon isn’t my official codename, that’s just what they call me because someone started the rumor that I’m so old that I was part of an ancient “hacker collective” (whatever that is) called Anonymous. I didn’t care at first but I’ve come to loathe that name, but I won’t give them the satisfaction of showing it to them. The whole codename thing is stupid anyway, it doesn’t matter if we don’t know each other’s Corp names, if any one of us gets caught we know enough about the others that we’re all fucked anyway. So much of what we do seems is childish posturing.
King Tiger said that Mantis should make the approach because Neil’s psych profile indicated that he would react better to a woman than a man. The guy spends forty-five minutes every day staring at a bunch of female clones jumping up and down, I didn’t need a psych profile to tell you he’d prefer to talk to a woman. Still, it was all I could do not to laugh out loud when he gave Mantis the job. She has the feminine wiles of a sewer worm.
All she knows how to do is butt heads. She should be stoking this loser’s ego, playing up to how smart and capable he is, talking up how only he’s can help her the poor helpless woman, letting him strut and feel good, not playing hardass with him. I could do a better job seducing this guy than she can, that’s the whole idea behind a screenskin, you can have anyone hiding behind it.
Neil was saying that he wanted to see who he was really talking with. I give Mantis credit for being prepared, she dropped the custom Ela skin with its carefully crafted glitches and pirate link look. Behind that skin she had a flawless Natasha 2.7 skin and voicesim. It’s an old trick but it always works like it’s the first time. It’s hard to go fail by making people think they’re getting over on you. Everyone wants to feel smart, everyone wants to be the hero of their story.
I’ll give King Tiger and his precious psycho profiles credit for that one. There’s no way I would have known that Neil was into Eastern European women based on his network traffic alone. Does he even know what Eastern Europe is? It’s a good thing he didn’t stumble on one of the Raina clone farms, his head would have exploded. My attention had wandered and next thing I knew Mantis was shutting off the link.
“How’d you leave it with that loser?”
Mantis have me yet another dirty look as she pulled off her headset, almost getting it tangled in her stupid hair “I thought we weren’t supposed to call him a loser.”
“Don’t call him a loser to his face is what I said, we can call him a loser all we want amongst friends. And we’re such good friends aren’t we Mantis? So where are we at with this loser?”
She gestured, annoyed and mantis-like “You were standing right there watching me like a fucking pervo.”
“I was linking in to observe another project” I lied.
“He has to ‘think about it’ the spineless ball-less fuck. Another sixteen fucking hours. Assuming they don’t make him work a triple.” She shook her head “How do these people fucking live like this?”
“What choice do they have?”
She stood up and started packing up the equipment “The same one we had.”
I raised an imaginary glass to her “Vive la Résistance.”