If you haven’t seen Delilah yet, start at the beginning.
The first task was to find Sampson. The man was an enigma. A ghost. A shadow. No one even knew if he was a man; he could have been male or female, young or old, God/gods-fearing or atheist. Delilah had been hired to find Sampson, destroy his tech, and bring him in. If she couldn’t, leaving his body cooling in a dumpster would be a good second option. His code was the real prize: Sampson had released a virus into the link network, turning ordinary people into husks, their bodies crippled, minds shattered. The syndicates didn’t agree on much, but they agreed that Sampson needed to go down. Reed Interactive was just the latest one willing to put good cash on the table to see it done.
Their angle was curious though; Reed’s tower was still burning, smoke rising towards the sky, rain trying to hammer it back to earth. It had been roasting for weeks after something went wrong for them. You didn’t kill a syndicate by burning down a building, but losing their leadership coupled with the rumors of the syndicate using rain to distribute a psychotropic that sent people crazy … well. That kind of thing cratered your stock price; dead stock meant a dead syndicate. Maybe they think Sampson’s behind the rain. Or maybe they are, and they want a stooge. Either were plausible reasons: first rule of damage control was to divert fire and brimstone onto a more pliable target.
Delilah didn’t care. She was being paid to bring down the man who’d crippled her brother. Jobs didn’t get more perfect than this.
She made it about ten meters away from Tarmac Bourbon when an auto car — a Mercedes — pulled up alongside her. It was whisper-quiet, the electric engine likely to be good Apsel Federate technology. She was still a little wired from the interview in the bar, briefcase slapping at her hip as she walked. It left her distracted. Sloppy, Delilah. Distracted is another word for sloppy, and sloppy gets you dead. Still, it was just an auto car. It was jet black, water droplets like a thousand beetles on the paint, tinted windows masking the interior. It kept pace with her as she walked, slowing as she slowed, stopping when she stopped. She faced the car, a hand dropping to her sidearm. The car making it through Reed’s cordon was weird: their security should have been airtight.
Nothing happened. The car sat there. She stood next to it, hand on her weapon. Fuck it. She cleared her throat. “I don’t know how you want this to work. Do you talk first, or do you want me to say something?”
The back door of the car yawned open with a soft clunk, a deep and heartwarming noise that only came from expensive German engineering. Inside were leather seats — her optics said it was real leather, indicative of eye-watering cost — and empty except for a screen and a caddy holding a crystal decanter with a single glass. The screen flickered to life, Sampson’s signature face filling it. She’d know the mark of the devil anywhere. He didn’t have a single face, rather a myriad of shifting faces that twisted and melded into each other. Any of them could have been Sampson, just as none of them could be. Delilah’s money was on them being CCTV captures of ordinary people doing ordinary things, scraped and pasted together, a synthetic representation of just how insidious his presence was in all their lives. His voice, cultured, smooth, almost certainly faked, came through the car’s sound system. “Delilah Griffiths. I hear you’re looking for me.”
Well that was easier than expected. Delilah took her hand away from her sidearm and patted the briefcase. “You heard right. I might just make enough from this job to put pieces of my brother’s brain back together. The brain you scrambled. So yeah, asshole, I’m looking for you.”
The face on the screen shifted, blurred, shifted, and settled on a white man with freckles. “You’ve found me. Reed’s security is … porous at best after the recent problems. Their house is not in order.”
“Their money’s good,” said Delilah. “All I care about.”
“What if I told you I could bring you right to me? Give you a free shot.”
“I’d say it sounds like a trap.”
The face shifted once again, showing a woman in her 30s. “Even if it’s a trap, surely the risk is worth it. You’ll never find me otherwise.”
“Oh, I’ll find you.” Delilah looked up and down the street. Still no one. “It’s what I do.”
“Do you want to know what I do?”
“Sure, why not?”
“I tear down syndicates. They are parasites. They eat our souls.”
Delilah snorted. “Even at the cost of innocent lives?”
“Even then.” The faces shifted again, flicking through five or more before settling on a man with more than a little native American ancestry. “But you know the truth, Delilah.”
“Everything can be bought?”
“There are no innocents. Get in the car.”
Delilah checked the street again. Not a soul. Even the fucking rat from earlier had gone to a drier place. What the hell. Sampson was right: even if it was a trap, the risk was worth it. Delilah would have no trouble getting out of a simple car. If it crashed, her enhanced body would survive. Getting in the car meant she would learn something about him, and any scrap of information put her closer to her target. The door closed behind her with a soft hush of engineered perfection, the screen going dark once she was settled. The vehicle pulled out, driving past empty storefronts before hitting the part of Seattle that had people. It felt sudden, a hundred people on the streets around her, flashes of color and noise and movement. She snared the crystal decanter to cover up her surprise, pouring herself something that smelled like very good whiskey. While Sampson was no longer on the screen, she had no illusions she wasn’t being watched. Delilah slugged back her drink — yes, superb — and poured another. The empty streets of Reed’s interview perimeter had convinced her she was the last living person on a quiet Earth.
Get it together. If Sampson was behind the psychotropics in the rain, he could have drugged her, poisoning the air or the whiskey or both. Her systems said nothing like that was happening, just a case of nerves, which made it stranger still. Delilah didn’t get nerves. She got results. To break her own tension more than anything else, she spoke to the empty car. “Where are we going?”
The screen flickered back on, faces shifting once, twice, a third time before settling on a young Asian girl. “Didn’t you know? It’s my birthday. We’re going to a party.”
The Mercedes drove her outside of Seattle, the rain a constant susurration against its skin. It was peaceful, a balm after the bar’s interview. No matter how many times you got in a fight, there was always the crash afterwards. The feeling of nerves still on fire, of chalk or mustard or chocolate or a hundred other flavors dragged across your tongue after overtime’s release. The sheer delight of being alive. The happiness in the gut because you didn’t kill someone, at least not this time. They said it got easier every time you put another human six feet under. They lied about that, like so many other things.
The crystal decanter was quarter empty by the time they left the bustle of Seattle, drifting through the urban clutter of the Bellevue slums. The car coasted through a burnt-out husk of a town someone had once named, maybe ironically, or more likely with the cavalier laziness that came with a career in public service, North Bend. Delilah’s overlay told her it had been deserted since an industrial accident and recommended she not leave the car without environmental protection. A hazmat suit wasn’t required, not with the gifts Metatech had given her, so she dismissed the warning.
She’d emptied the decanter by the time they hit mountains, bionics filtering the alcohol out of her blood slow enough to leave her with a gentle feeling of sadness. Delilah’s link was still on and strong; she knew where she was, she just didn’t know where she was going. And after a decanter of excellent whiskey, she wasn’t sure why. The screen lit again, the shifting faces of Sampson before her. “Almost there, Delilah.”
“You know my name,” said Delilah. “Seems impolite that I don’t know yours.”
“You know it,” said Sampson. “You just don’t believe it.”
“Yeah, because only an idiot uses their real name when swinging against the syndicates. You don’t strike me as an idiot.” A baby’s face looked out at her from the screen for a moment, then it went dark. She thought maybe she’d offended Sampson, but that was just the liquor dulling her senses. The car was slowing, ivory gates looming out of the gloom. She pressed her face against the window, trying to see where they were going. A driveway led up a hill, bright lights hazing the cloudy night sky behind it. The car hushed on, cresting the hill, and revealing … a party. Bright arc lamps, lights like pillars holding up the heavens. A band, playing real instruments in the rain. Behind all that, a big white house, a mansion that maybe five people on the planet could afford. Twenty, perhaps thirty people moving around with food and liquor. All of that was standard fare for a rich kid’s party, nothing Delilah hadn’t seen before. No, what was unusual was who they were serving.
My God, it’s a bunch of fucking cripples.