If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf. Nikita Khrushchev
It wasn’t surprising to her that when she woke up and felt her arm ache with the familiar sharp pain of her implant coming online. She kept her eyes close before letting out a deep breath and began to straighten her arm. A grunt escaped her mouth as the right arm began to obey her will as the sounds of scrapping and the feeling of a thousand needles piercing her arm signalled that there was no going back to sleep. Carefully, she sat up, placing both feet on the cold rough floor under her feet. Her eyes were barely open enough to see the hands grasping the edge of her bed,noting the smudges of dirt all along her pale fingers. A tilt of her head had her looking at the right arm and studying the black wires that peaked out her skin near several large patches of scar tissue.
Every morning, Ylva wondered if her implant would ever do what it was promised to do. The corporation had promised after her accident they would make it better. It was their fault the woman in the suit told her as she laid in agony in the hospital bed. Ylva was promised that what they gave her, it would fix everything, no settlement money required. How naive she was back then. She pushed those thoughts aside and shuffled across the concrete floor of the abandoned building. It took her a few moments to make her way to the jerry-rigged shower that she set up. Ylva was glad that her contacts had been able to hook her up with the necessary parts to get it to work.
Stepping under the cold blast, she clenched her teeth tightly to keep them from chattering. Her body shivered in protest while her mind started to finally shake off the last vestiges of sleep. It took her a few moments to get her right arm to obey her will and grabbed the items she needed to clean herself. Soon Ylva was clean and wrapped in a threadbare towel, grumbling as she cursed her less than sober self for throwing her clothes somewhere that wasn’t close to her shower. Finally, she found her clothes. It took her longer than she would like to get dressed as the implant in her arm caused it to freeze for several moments. Ylva looked over the outfit in the broken piece of glass she’d hung up as a mirror.
The dark overcoat she wore was covered in hastily sewn patches of various dark clothes that covered a black long sleeve shirt that hid not only her scars and implant but the tattoos on her left arm as well. Her cargo pants were black and bulged with the various bits of equipment she used. Ylva adjusted her multi-colored hair, quickly weaving the strands of green, blue, gold, and purple into several braids. Throwing up her hood, she grabbed a pair of dark sunglasses, grateful that the display worked again and covered the dark circles under her green eyes. She tapped a button bringing up the information for the convention today at Alpha Convention Center. Ylva knew that it’d be a good day for her there. People had their life work on display in order to sell to the corporations which would cause the corporations for a day to send many of their higher ups to mingle with the common unwashed masses.
Ylva knew that while the VIPs would have bodyguards a majority of the corporations’ goons would be without any sort security that they hid behind. That would make her job much easier. With a final check of the various tech in her pockets, Ylva headed down out of the abandoned warehouse. Outside, she could hear the gentle sounds of the ocean and peered into distance. She could see the outlines of several dozen ships, clustered together in a makeshift city. Ylva rarely went into Raft City but the few times she did, the woman found it welcoming and no one tended to look at her with pity for her malfunctioning implant. Making sure that her hood was up to cover most of her face, she began to walk towards Raft City. Her boots made little noise as she passed by sleeping forms, covered with whatever items and tattered fabric they could get their hands on. The woman knew that the homeless of the rebuilt Los Angeles gathered here, safe from the innovative ways the corps used to keep them from most places in the rebuilt city.
As she walked past, she fiddled with a device in her pocket, transferring money from the pockets that she’d picked over the last week. It took her about ten minutes to get to the edge of Raft City but by then, the money she’d collected the last week was gone. Ylva felt a little better as she strolled to the taxi area and found a hoverbike. Its driver was off to the side, holding a cup of steaming coffee and some sort of sandwich. Waving her hand to get the driver’s attention she spoke.
“Hey, ya workin?” The driver rolled their eyes at the question.
“Wouldn’t be standin’ out here at the butt fuck of dawn if I wasn’t.” Ylva snorted before nodding.
“Need a lift to the Alpha Convention Center.” The driver snorted and rolled their eyes.
“Fine. Cost ya double with all the traffic and shit.” Ylva nodded before transferring the money over to them.
“Alright, let’s go.” The driver announced after receiving the transfer and mounted the bike. Carefully, Ylva sat behind them and wrapped her arms around the driver’s waist as the bike took off. Her eyes roamed over the city as she watched it speed past, trying to ignore just how beautiful the city looked in the rising sunlight. From this view, it almost looked like everything the corp had promised her when she received the job out of college. A place where she could help the city and stand by her work with pride. Ylva wanted to kick herself for the naivety that she had back then and wished she could’ve gone back in time to prevent herself from accepting the offer. As she was thinking about the choices she made Ylva didn’t realize that the bike had touched down at the convention center.
“Hey! This ain’t a date! Get off my bike!” The driver’s yell startled her back into reality. Her cheeks were crimson as she quickly dismounted and watched as the driver quickly took off. Ylva stuck her hands in her pockets looking around for some sort of food vendor. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that there were two small groups gathering and glaring at each other. She also noticed that near them was a vendor setting up for the busy day ahead. Striding through the two groups the grifter could pick up bits and pieces of conversations.
“-thought Cass was-”
“-No! It should say-”
“- can you believe these-”
“-heard that the corps-” Ylva tuned them out unable to find herself caring. In the past, she’d been one of these people, protesting the rights that the corporations had over this city. She quickly learned that in this town that no matter how much you shouted nothing would change. The corporations held sway over the town through money and with that, they could do whatever they wanted to the city. The only way to get back at them was to take what they stole and shove it back into the people’s hands. From there, it was on the city and its citizens to figure out what to do with the cluster fuck Ylva mused to herself.
As she came up to the cart, she waved with her left hand causing the owner to smile at her.
“Hola! Cómo estás?” The older Hispanic gentleman asked as he smiled at her, still setting up some items on the cart.
“Bueno. Un café y un sándwich de desayuno por favor, gracias.” She stumbled over the words a little, grateful for the translation that had popped up on her glass’ display.
“7.50 por favor.” He stated as he moved to pour the coffee in throw away cup reminiscent of the styrofoam used several decades earlier. Ylva touched her wristband again, sending the money plus a generous tip to the cart’s cashier system. She took the cup with a smile along with the sandwich before nodding.
“Gracias. Tenga un buen día” She called as she walked away, holding the sandwich in one hand and coffee in the other. Ylva scouted the area before finding a bench to sit on and scouted the area, slowly sipping the bitter coffee. In between bites of her sandwich, she was pretty sure that she’d marked where the bots were stationed, most of the cameras, and which entrances were popular. She took her time to finish her coffee and sandwich, finishing right as the convention seemed to hit its stride. The grifter twitched at the sheer amount of people that she saw flooding the buildings before giving a small smile. It was time for her to go to work.
Walking past the two groups again, she noticed that they were getting bigger as more protesters and counter protesters had shown. Hopefully, she’d be long gone before this turned into something ugly. She could hear some yelling and passed a sign that read “Your corporations are bullshit”. Ylva chuckled to herself and wanted to buy the owner of the sign a beer. Carefully, she tapped her wrist and pulled up her invite for the convention, making it past the first security area. Thankfully, her tech was shielded well enough to make it past the next area of security. Now that she was inside, she was ready to go to work. She prowled the convention hall with her eyes always watching for a new target. The grifter would stand near her targets, pretending to browse the various booths while pressing a button on a device in her right hip pocket.
Ylva would wait until she felt it vibrate, knowing that was the signal for its job being completed and whatever money they had placed into her own account. Later tonight, she’d be spreading what she got around to those around Raft City and a few other developments throughout Los Angeles that needed the injection of cash. As she continued to look for a new target, she heard exclamations of I’m sorry and barely dodge out of the way of a small hover-chair holding a person with multicolored hair and a woman moving with them. Shrugging, she continued to hunt on the convention floor, knowing that there were plenty of marks that she could take down.
Halfway through her hunting, she stiffened as she saw Kylan Kraus walking towards two people, one some sort of corporate lackey and the other was a woman dressed like most of the people she saw in her day to day life. She twitched, fiddling with an old golden coin from the early 21st century in her pocket, struggling against the urge to attempt to steal from the man who could be considered the face of Corporate LA. Ylva knew that would get her in jail or worse at the sight of the legion of bodyguards with him and forced herself to turn away. Hunt smart, get away quick, that was the way she managed to get out and why she hadn’t been caught.
A memory bubbled up to the surface as she searched for her next target to the time when she forgot that. It was a month ago and she tried to break into one of the corporations, having been hired to steal some sort of secrets. Her contact had fed her the wrong codes and she nearly had been captured if she hadn’t found a room with a young woman inside of it. A woman who was pale and connected to numerous wires, almost like a living computer, yet said nothing when she burst in. The two of them locked eyes before she jumped out the window, not a word said between them. Ylva was lucky she managed to grab a nearby ledge after jumping out or else she would’ve been a sidewalk pancake.
It bugged her the more she thought about it. Who was that woman and why had she been in that room? Ylva shook her head before continuing to look around the floor for her next mark. She briefly paused to consider an African American woman in a red jacket and red skirt but realized she was looking for someone who actually worked for the corporations. Ylva grunted and continued to weave through the crowded convention floor, stealing money and identification information for another hour. Feeling that her luck was began to run out, she went back outside and took a breath of fresh air, grateful to not feel bodies pressing against her. Looking around, she found another food cart, ordering herself some sort of noodle dish and sat on the same bench she’d ate her breakfast on.
She could see out of the corner of her eye that the protests were getting more heated. The crowds had swelled and were shouting their lungs out at each other, reminding her of a video she’d seen of medieval warfare where the two armies shouted at each other before they charged to hack each other to pieces. Ylva idly scratched at a patch of scar tissue on her right shoulder, feeling the tension from the crowds and quickly finished her lunch, wanting to leave before anything happened. She turned to head back into the convention center, hoping to score a few more marks before leaving.
It was another quick and easy pass through security as she began to hunt on the convention floor once more. About halfway through her third mark, she stiffened at the sound of a robotic voice. “There is an emergency. Please follow your assigned robot to your designated exit.” Ylva cursed silently as she looked up at the robot standing in front of her, its features unemotive and cold causing her to feel a twitch of nervousness, wondering if she’d been caught. With a silent nod, she began to move with several other people who were all talking to each other, trying to figure out what the emergency was. Her hand moved from fiddling with the coin in her pocket to the small pocket knife that she always carried on her. The answer to the question came as a horde of people pushed through the entrance, screaming and holding bottles along with other crude weapons.
“Shit!” She screamed and watched as people began to panic as security bots came out, moving to fire into the charging crowd. Ylva cursed and began to run, moving to dodge in between booths and other forms of cover as the sounds of human screams and gunfire drowned out any other thoughts than to survive. Pulling out her pocket knife, she flicked out the blade and closed her eyes, mumbling a small prayer as she hid behind a booth as a bot fired at her. Her eyes noticed a fire escape about 90 feet away from her current position. Biting her lip, she pushed herself up and dashed across the room, weaving in order to avoid the bolts shooting at her.
60 feet, she heard the heat of a bolt as it whizzed past her ear and singed her hair a bit along with putting a hole in her hood.
40 feet and she had to duck under a bottle being thrown at her before punching someone in the face, feeling her hand scream in pain from the way the woman’s nose broke against her fingers.
20 feet, she felt herself trip over a body and nearly stabbed herself in her side, only twisting out of the way at the last second as she fell to the floor. Ylva scrambled back to her feet and ran trying to make sure that she made it before she was injured or even died here.
5 feet and a bolt of energy clipped her in the side causing her to stumble and nearly fall into the door. She clutched her side and snarled, throwing her weight against the door. Ylva nearly fell out into the alley, breathing heavily and looking around wildly, not seeing anyone. Carefully, she pulled her hand away from her side, wincing as it came away red with blood. She twisted to get a brief look at her side. It was easy to see that there were several blisters around the wound from the heat of the bolt before noticing the gash surrounded by the blisters. The grifter bit her lip as she poked it lightly and grunted in pain. It hurt but it didn’t feel too deep.
Her body leaned against the alley wall and took a moment to breathe, planning on bandaging and cleaning the wound when she got back to her base of operations. Ylva closed her eyes as she struggled to get her breathing under control and tensed as she heard voices. As she turned her head to look to see where,they were coming from, a bright light blinded her before pain worse than her accident overwhelmed her. Ylva wasn’t sure if she screamed or how long it lasted but by the time she came to, her head was screaming in pain. She also noticed that she was on the ground.
Carefully, the grifter picked herself up and looked down at the end of the alley with a frown. There was an overturned dumpster and it looked like something had happened. Shaking her head, she knew that she needed to leave. Heading around towards the entrance, Ylva cursed at the sight of fighting and fires. The screams of people were overwhelming and she clutched her ears trying to block it all out. Stumbling along, she saw a hoverbike near where she was dropped off in the morning. She knew that she had to make it to that bike. Ylva tried to run, nearly tripping over herself as the screams threatened to overwhelm her.
The grifter reached the bike and her hand reached out for it only to feel a vice grip around her ankle. Screaming she reacted by drawing her foot back and kicking whatever held her. She looked down to see a young man open his mouth, trying to speak only for her boot to hit him in the face. Yet, the man clung to her despite the kick.
“Get off!” She screamed in panic as he opened his mouth for a sickening gurgle to come out.
“Please! I don’t want to die!” Ylva heard him say despite all that was coming from his mouth was a series of gurgling noises. She tugged hard, managing to get her foot free and scrambled onto the bike. It only took her a few tries to get it to start. The grifter punched it, pushing the bike into the sky as smoke began to rise and follow her as she escaped from the scene of terror and violence.