1.1.3

For the first time in ages, Xun found himself walking through unfamiliar space, a location he imagined would have looked like Hong Kong two or three decades in the past. The darkness around him was illuminated with the glow of countless neon lights, blinking, shifting, morphing into messages in a variety of languages and codes.

A bright rectangular path appeared on the street beneath him, beckoning to follow it, which he did without hesitation.

Small crowds flanked him on both sides off the street, one group dancing to an erratic mix of electropunk and dubstep.

“Mute audio,” Xun instructed his Parallel client.

“You do not have sufficient privileges to perform this action,” the automated voice stated.

He was annoyed by the inconvenience, but mildly entertained by the challenge.

“Run Dglossa program. Mute audio.”

There was a 4 or 5 second delay and the music went silent.

He rounded a corner where the street ended at a large highrise building; at its edges, tall rails of light pulsated upwards toward the sky.

The path on the ground zigzagged around several structures, and finally ended at an unassuming door several meters inside an alleyway. Xun opened the door and let himself in without knocking.

He hadn’t taken more than two or three steps into the dim interior when suddenly a cage of translucent cubes materialized around him. He pocketed his hands and his eyes moved slightly up and to the right.

“…four, three, two, one…” he mouthed.

“Dglossa Subroutine 1… blocked,” his client’s voice stated.

“Dglossa Subroutine 2… success.”

The cubes around him fell away and then vanished.

“Very good,” said a man with a thick Scottish accent from a table against the back wall. He was engrossed in some sort of card game.

“If that’s your security system,” stated Xun, “it’s not very robust.”

The man at the table laughed. “Nah, it’s just a bit of entertainment for our guests. Ain’t that right Vi?”

“Nothing more than a welcome mat,” a woman across from him said, tossing a card down onto the table.

“I’m here to talk to Stex.”

“Didja make an appointment?” the man asked with a touch of mockery.

“Stop wasting my time.”

The man snapped his fingers, and the cards in his hand vanished. “This one’s got a stick up his ass.” He gestured toward an interior doorway. “Through there. Best not waste his time, Stex is a very, very busy man.”