The party device
by Magda Knight
[ fiction - may 03 ]
Fledgling Fielder Red turned. Released his baby's grip on the pillow, groaned. He'd set the phone on vibrate. He'd wanted to wake up with a song, a love-call. But - he checked the time - his early-evening emissions were sounds that only a frog would respond to.
The phone sent its pert, tactile message through the carpet and up the soles of his feet, setting off a liquid tingling in higher regions. He headed for the bathroom. The carpet buzzed with increasing urgency. Jumping as though it were saturated with a city of fleas. He could have cut the phone off with a terse 'not available' mudra, which would have been picked up by the open circuit tv. Instead, he finished his ablutions and signed for 'use'.
Sacchrin Promol's sharply sculpted face appeared onscreen. Fielder's boss at Mass Consciousness Fun industries. His friend. His brutally with-it, temporally-tight wake-up call.
"I missed you at the office," said Sacchrin. "The computers miss you. The little darlings - they were getting so very excited at the thought of you finishing off your new musical star..."
"Budgie Bardo," said Fielder Red. "Yeah, I remember saying I wanted her in-line by Brahmday, latest. But I think I'll be letting you all down, tonight, if you don't mind. My edge is blunt."
"Fielder, quite frankly, whatever," said Sacchrin. "Your bullshit offends me. No excuses will do. The world os crying out for yo1r talents, and you sit there hiding in your apartmentooo1o supping on yesterday's coffee and oooooo1o1o1o."
Ho ha, thought Fielder. My ana-digital interface is fuxed up again. How timely. Out of politeness, Fielder held back a frustrated, primate scream. He didn't black the screen, nor did he hurl himself in any direction so long as it be away from Sacchrin Promol. And yet - it would have been a good time for an honest display of temper. Because he had no real desire for companionship tonight. At least, not for anything so mundane as a real, flesh and blood friend he already knew. Quietly, he fixed the interface.
"o1o1out tonight. Go on - take time out, if you need it, and join us later. We'll take in a few vrugs, swing from the chandeliers. These, my friend, are the voyages of the starship vertebrae, and there's a space saved for you."
"Why not?" asked Sacchrin, scratching his parts. Show-off. Wearing his natal suit, again. A fashionista's nod to ye olde pastoral revolutions, the ones that had pissed the clothing emporiums off like an alpha hound with a urine infection. No way for the clothesmeisters to profit from nudity - although, like the most effective virii, many of them were already relocating profit agendas into skin dye and internal tattoos.
"I've just bought a manatee," Fielder Red told the face filling his living room. "That's a sea cow. I'm going to find out what it likes to eat, and then I'm going to feed it."
"I've seen one of those things. They've got faces like punched-in bulldogs. Nothing you should be snuggling up to on a Brahmday night."
"Yeah, well," said Fielder. "The strain of success is getting to me. I'll speak to you soon, okay?"
"Call me if you change your mind. And don't be too much of a stranger, Fielder - I'm not a man to mess with. This boss-dog be biting on your tail..."
The screen died. Fielder went back to the main node of his pad, a chi-chi conapt nestling in the jewelled gardens of Tulse Hill. He exhaled loudly and let it lengthen, turn into a sigh. It didn't feel good, not being in a state to enjoy a friend's company - but if you couldn't handle your own, you were fuxed.
Fielder padded across the carpet and picked up a box from his bedside table. He opened it. An ampule lay there. He took it, cradled it in his hands. It looked like it was winking at him. Taunting him. Now this... This was what he was planning to do this evening. This little 'pule was hot.
You could see its name written on the side. 'iD-Hello' had been roughly etched into the gelatin shell. The thing didn't look mass-produced. A scratch-mix labrat had pressed it into his hands at some international awards gig. He hadn't been interested. Not then. The guy probably wanted something, money, or kudos. But then the guy had hesitantly explained that the chemical wasn't made by some young DNArtist jacked up on his own ego (and Fielder knew the term could apply equally well to himself) but by an octogenarian scientist who still made drugs in the old, alchemical ways. The labrat had used terms like distillation, coagulation, purification - and Fielder's eyes had lit up. Someone who really loved what they did. So, yes, he had accepted the pill, and of course he had namechecked the labrat in a promo release because, sure, this isn't a something for nothing world.
Nursing the ampule in one hand, Fielder checked over the box's handwritten instructions. The effect of the drug was to overlay a filter onto what the brain perceived for a peak period of two to three hours. Okay. The user would go about their business in this reality, but would perceive it to be overlaid with the sensory input of another.
The note explained that there was, as yet, no confirmed means of engineering a predetermined reality filter. Apparently, the filter was dredged up from the user's own subsconscious. How you see is what you get.
And so on. Further down the page, a title jumped out at Fielder: 'How To Take iD-Hello'. The list was a short one, and read:
1) Take up a stationary position
2) Remain in one place for the trip's duration
Fielder Red knew he wasn't a brave man. Courageous, yes, would take a chance on this one. But not brave. Not without fear.
With instructions so short, there was little fear of forgetting them. Fielder lay down on his bed and instructed the doors and windows of his pad to refuse him exit for the next six hours, even if he gave them the appropriate codes. Then he took the 'pule.
'iD-Hello', what does that mean? He wondered. Like identification, or like the id, like subconscious? Or was that unconscious? And what was the difference? Yeah, that's right. The unconscious is what you get when your conscious mind's asleep, so it doesn't happen all the time. The subconscious is always ticking away. So it doesn't matter if your conscious mind is set at the on or off switch, the subconscious is always below. Or, hell, was that the other way around? Sub. Under. Submarine - shit, why didn't they just call them 'underwaters'? That would be so beautiful. Subway. Sub... strata? Sub... so what the fuxxing hell was subjective? Fux.
He drifted through layers of sleep, and woke up to a world slightly gloomier, less polished, yet somehow more comfortable than before. A cursory assessment of the room revealed no stunning optics. No undulating crap. He checked his emotions. An absence of great all-encompassing love, unfortunately - but nothing screwy. So, what kind of thing do you do when you're tripping?
Meditation? He assumed the posture and felt the flaps of his nostrils widen and contract in breath. And thence, godhood. Nope, too easy. Meditation was better to do straight. Tripping was analogous to crawling from the cave you'd been meditating in for the last fifty years, saying time to live a little'. In this case, meditation was redux.
Listen to music then. Fielder Red went to his record collection. His...
A record collection.
He sank down on his knees. So, in real life, this was what it looked like. He pulled out one of the cardboard squares at random, marvelling at its velvety surface, the papery fibers rubbing gently against his fingers. It was a sleeve, this thing, a kind of flap. Inside was another sleeve, made of crispy white paper with a sheen to it. Inside that, a record.
A record. God, man, that's archaic! He loved it. But now he needed a record player. And there it was. And yet it hadn't been there when he'd first gazed across the room. Reality only changed when he focused on it? Record player, check: a squat, misshapen beast of dubious design with some shitty, boxy speakers attached with wires as frail and stringy as rats' tails. He checked the back of the system. All the wires were mussed up and knotted, as he'd somehow expected them to be. This was a trip, for fux' sake. What happened to the aesthetic beauty of the psychedelic?
Time to consider the facts. All his music was stored in house and clothing files, no extra hardware involved. He definitely didn't have any records. But all his senses told him that part of his house looked like a functioning record player - which, apparently, he knew how to use - at least he felt he did - and that another part of his house looked like a collection of vinyl ranging from independent stuff from the late nineteen-eighties to a fairly comprehensive selection of dance music in all genres up until - late nineties, no later. He made himself a spliff and checked. Apparently, no material dated later than the late nineties. He put something on and listened to it. It sounded great. Not like the usual stuff he worked with, at all, at all. Sort of more rough and vinylesque.
A flick of a switch, and ancient modern music filled the interior. Bleak sonar heaven. With grinding panic, Fielder realised he'd just lit up a spliff during engagement with an as-yet untested drug (at least on him). Lordy, he scolded himself. Never mix your drugs, you great fool! He regained his composure on recalling the absence of any real cannabis in the flat. This was one big, fat dooby of an illusion.
"Aam I gettin' hai-igh on illusory drugs?" he crooned in time to the music. Ah, Fielder. You beautiful frog, you. These merry thoughts surged to a peak of confirmatory hilarity, and then another moment of panic when he paused to consider - if the cannabis wasn't there, then what part of the house he was actually smoking? Fux it, he decided. It must be the sofa. And if so then it's surely the house's problem, not mine.
Fielder began to feel thirsty. He got up and made a great cup of tea with a retro kettle. He successfully plugged it into a wall, added water and leaves, and did some kind of a brewing thing with a teapot. It had a cosy on it. This, he thought, is staggeringly easy.
Then the phone rang. The dialtone came from a small black technoid oblong, clearly designed to be handheld. The dialtone had the unmistakeable sound of potential communication. A phone. Shit, he thought. Do I pick it up or not? If I do, I'll be sure to slip up in some way. But then... it's so easy, he thought. The trip is doing a good job of covering for me. So far. Hell, the records would be wall-games that I've plugged in and only think I'm listening to. The tea - just something in the kitchen, some drink that didn't exist in the past, maybe. Spliff? There're other drugs in the flat, sure. I've probably taken some Keecho and my senses are redefining the experience to match the contemporary drugs of the past. No problem.
He picked up the phone.
"Phone for you, Mr Red. As your operator, I will translate your call to match your current settings. Would you like to take the call?"
"Shit, who is this?" yelped Fielder.
"You have twenty seconds before the translation window closes. As the operator for your experience, I can translate what your genuine caller says so that it matches your current reality set without interference. Mr Red, would you care to take the call?"
"Sure," said Fielder. "Okay. Whatever."
"Three seconds. Putting you through."
"Hey, Fielder," crowed the unmistakeable voice of Sacchrin Promol. "How's it hanging, boy? We're at Mass in South London and it's shaping up to be a great night. You can't miss this. Have you fed your fookin' python yet?
"Have I what?"
"Your most recent phone entry has been withheld," interrupted the operator's voice. "Twenty seconds until the translation window closes. Bending Time For Your Pleasure. Your caller's reference to 'manatee' has been translated to your current reality set. Your caller's reference to 'fuxxing' has been translated..."
"Yeah, thanks," said Fielder. "I think I get it. Hey operator, just let me talk to my friend."
"Promol, listen up. I've taken a new drug and it seems to have thrown me into a different time zone which has been laid on top of real life. I'd better go to wherever you are so you can keep an eye on me, but I've locked myself in my house and the locks won't open for another six hours. Can you come and help me?"
"Your last entry has been withheld," said the operator.
"Fielder?" said Promol, his voice distant, hissy and worried. "Man, are you there?"
"Promol, listen, I've taken this drug and..."
"Your last entry has been withheld." The operator.
"Fux you!" screamed Fielder. "Why?"
"Mention of iD-Hello is prohibited. It is not auspicious. You are welcome to continue, but all future mentions of iD-Hello will be translated or withheld."
"Sacchrin - can you hear me?"
"Yes, you're coming through. But your picture was up onscreen and you seemed to go still for a moment. Are you okay?"
Fielder made himself think. "Listen - I would love to come clubbing with you. Really. You've no idea... Can you give me directions to Mass?" He listened, and jotted them down.
"Okay. Now listen. I could be late. I've kind of - I've somehow locked myself in, in the flat, and I may need to get an, um, locksmith to sort it out. But wait for me, okay? I mean, really - wait for me. Don't head off somewhere else."
"No problem, Fielder. We're not heading anywhere until first light - catch you later!"
"Catch you later," said Fielder, as what sounded like a receiver at the other end was replaced on the handset. He imagined Sacchrin Promol's screen going dead. The club directions he had noted down seemed nonsensical to him. Perhaps they would make sense in the changed environment waiting for him outside. But he couldn't help wondering what it was that Sacchrin Promol had really said, and what it was that he had really written down.
On an afterthought, he picked the phone up again. "Hello?" he said into the mouthpiece.
"Hello, Mr Red," said the operator. "Do you need translation?"
"Yeah. Or an explanation."
"Mr Red, I simply translate from one reality set to another. The past is another country. Consider me your phrasebook."
"And you are what, exactly?"
"A bio-engineered program, sir. Encoded into the gross matter of the iD-Hello you ingested earlier. My presence is a standard measure designed to reduce interference. Don't feel unduly alarmed, sir. I shall be fully absorbed into your bloodstream, without trace, in six hours."
"That id-Hello alchemist bullshitter," said Fielder. "He was a fuxxing mad scientist. You get that term? I'm tainted, for another man's sick ambitions."
"My vocubulary is extensive, sir, but I don't do context. Not unless it's in my capacity as translator. I can only apologise at my lack of assistance."
"Never mind. I may get back to you on that one," said Fielder, and hung up.
He considered his options. The idea of going out to dance tempted him. Physically he felt fine, good, okay. Ready from tip to toe. The only thing that had freaked him out was that fuxxing operator, and on reflection he could see the benefits of having a genetic program coursing round your bloodstream translating communication between you and the outside world. In the short term, at least. And the short term suited Fielder just fine.
He armed himself with had once been essential good time party gear (last seen on chair, left, three strides from bed). It had transformed into a pocketed puffy black jacket and a shapeless grey woolly hat. Things being as they were, he decided against aftershave.
Fielder went into his bedroom. The sea cow had indeed become a python in a large container. Presumably a more feasible exotic household pet in the nineties. It looked mournful. "Poor old thing," said Fielder, softly tapping the glass. "You must be hungry." He went and got some cheese from the fridge, and dropped it in with the snake. The python clearly wasn't interested. The sea cow would be fed, hours later. The python would have to go hungry. Time to go.
"Door, open." The door did not answer.
The password failed. Enraged, Fielder folded his hands into the 'use' mudra, to no avail. He tried again, but the door stayed closed. Why? Whether he could see it or no, the OCTV was functioning. He not see his pad? His pad see him. Ah. Of course. He'd instructed his flat to lock up tight for the next six hours. And the flat was pretty high up. Fielder eyed the python. If it had been another thirty feet longer, he could have made use of it. Yet, think of the poor manatee afterwards. Another route, Fielder - another plan must surely come to mind.
Shouldering on his jacket, he dialled the operator.
"I can't get out of my house," he said. "Please, put me through to Emergency Services. They'll contact my building and override the code."
"Sir?" There was a long pause. The operator expressed a silence that, even for a program, could only be described as thoughtful.
"Sir... it would not be auspicious."
"You're meant to help me, operator!" Fielder cursed greatly down the phone.
'Well, Mr Red, I'm sorry. I innately know myself to be a program coded to carry out all communication-based services. But I somehow... don't feel like it."
"Gah!" said Fielder, feeling most victim-like.
"I know, sir."
"You're going against your own programming."
"Yes, sir. I think it might be something to do with... pieces of eight."
"Operator, do not fux me about. You get this door open. I strongly recommend that you bend time for my fuxxing pleasure, right now."
There was a long pause.
"Sorry, sir. It must be something to do with a mistranslation."
"That's not much good to me," said Fielder. "You're the only person I can talk to right now, and you're currently the most frightening thing I can imagine. Just open the door."
"Sorry, sir. It really pieces of can't be done."
There was another blank pause.
"Mr Red? Are you still there?"
"Yes. But - and I cannot stress this strongly enough - if you could just see your way to giving me some assistance, I wouldn't be. And by the way, your syntax is screwed. You know that?"
"Sir. I'm aware of that. Aware. My translation facilities are experiencing entropic disturbance. Do you wish to terminate the call?" asked the operator with something like hope in its voice.
"Sure. Fux you, you piece of feek. I hope you go viral."
Fielder slammed the phone down. Fear laced him with an icy sheen. A drug with a glitch - unless, of course, he had been imagining the operator. But he knew he hadn't. Sometimes, you just had to go for the obvious. In that case - how had the fux-up been introduced to the drug? The operator program had itself seemed disconcerted by the anomalies in its code. In fury, he gave the door to the pad the spin-sign.
There was a click.
The door slid open with a comfortable and familiar hiss. The sweet, sweet sound of freedom.
Fielder looked down at his hand. He was brandishing the finger next to his index with stiff aggression: a defiant column giving out, he found himself thinking, some seriously massive disrespect to the door.
The spin-sign. A new mudra? An angry one. He cherished his discovery. This was a mudra he had discovered whilst tripping. This mudra was a codecracker. A feeling of ancient, animal pride coursed through Fielder's gut. He grinned.
Without a backward glance, he stepped out into the corridor. Time to go.
London was filled with a biting cold. Houses huddled together on streets of crude oil come to rest, small lumbering pots of unusual geometries. Traditional fairy lights spiderdanced from post to post, filling the air with yellow-tinged shadows. Air filled with the smells of fatty chicken and tiny particles of dust.
Fielder shrugged into the collar of his jacket. He was on a road called Acre Lane. He looked at Promol's directions. He had no idea how long this lane was - an acre? He'd always assumed lanes to be short things, tucked away into rural miniconurbs, never having walked down one himself. But even an Australian desert is walkable, give or take a few generations. Ah well, call him a dreamer. He followed the directions traced on his crumpled sheet of paper.
Eventually he came to the spires of a church piercing a mess of criss-cross roads. Looking up, the spire was cool and floodlit in an oppressive sky. Looking down, a sharp-lit basement's door was thronged by indeterminate crowds huddled and fraying at the edges, jiggling in chain reaction with the insistent beat of modern drums.
A security guard frisked him up and down, feeling under the confines of his hat and shoes and along his groin. Fielder made no move, eyes drawn to the cutlass dangling from the guard's belt. There was a sheath of static electricity along the blade that Fielder could not so much see as feel in his eyeballs. Hmm. Security tight, eh?
Fielder felt a pang of fear grip him somewhere beneath his ribcage. The tea cosy had felt right, an acceptable part of the trip. The blade felt, somehow, wrong. As wrong as the operator's attitude problem and decaying syntax. Like something in the given reality was slipping.
"You're clean," said the security guard, and pushed him into the club. He was then asked for an entrance fee. He thought desperately.
"My... mates are in there."
"Yeah," explained the coiffed girl behind the glass, "but you can't go in."
"I'm an entertainment guru," said Fielder. "I'm in the process of making fuckin' Budgie Bardo."
The girl looked disdainfully at him, then on to the next face in the queue. Man-mountains built like frigates with cutlasses unsheathed at hip-height started bunching up near the door. The red cells in Fielder's spinal column blanched. Cutlasses. Frigates. It wasn't just the proximity of weapons that gave him this fear crap. Somehow, somewhere, things were badly on the slide.
Fielder's phone rang.
"Operator here. Bending time for your pleasure."
"Good timing," said Fielder. "Great to hear your voice again. You feeling better?"
"This virus has moved from cold to flu - thank you for asking, sir. Since you are clearly on the ship - adjusting well to the exterior environment - I feel well-disposed towards assisting you once more. On the matter of money - tell them you are a journalist for DJ magazine."
Fielder said to the doorwoman, "I'm a journalist. For DJ magazine."
"Fielder - Fielder Red."
"Sorry, Red - you're not on the list."
"Pass the phone to the receptionista," said the operator.
Fielder passed the phone over. The woman put it to her ear, well displayed amongst a wet-styled avalanche of sleek concentric circles in the modern style, and listened. She handed the phone back to Fielder. "It's okay - you can go in."
"What happened there?" whispered Fielder into the phone.
"Hi Fumi, this is Matt Johnson," said an unfamiliar voice. "This guy's okay, I know him from school or something. He's here on a blag but he's alright, just let him through. Imitating well-known local figures in the dance community for your pleasure," said the operator. "Can you keep the phone on? I seem to have an insistent urge to hear the darkly melodic sounds of drum and bass."
"Me too," said Fielder. My feet are tingling."
"One word, sir - your phone. Do not brandish it constantly. Pirates will try to nick it."
"With cutlasses?" said Fielder. "Do you think? Ooh!" he yelped. "Feel that bass!"
He bounced forward until he was standing on a crossroads at a bar, buffeted by sound on both sides as two soundsystems fought it out between open doors.
The music sounded alien to his ears, so he went by colour alone - the red corridor seemed attractive - and found himself in the large, dank, heaving bowels of a room whose walls glistened with sweat and determination.
Sound too loud to be contained in mere beats dragged across his ears like wetted gravel, pummelling the atoms in his ankles. The crowd was a zen exercise, a varied mass that only made sense when individuals were picked out and studied awhile. A burly guy with scars clung to a balcony rail, waving a handkerchief in misty-eyed appreciation of the dark sound. Women danced like foxes. One swaggered up to him.
"I like you," she said in his ear, voiced modulated to cut through the crap. "Who the hell and damndest nation are you?"
Fielder studied the woman beside him. She looked like she had some Irish in her, and perhaps some Spanish too, with a wild mass of mature red hair, eyes like hazel, lips like nectarines and a voice like ripped oak. She wore a red and white striped gipsy top, pvc skirt weighed down by a chain and heavy boots that would have looked right on a swabbing deck let alone that club's saturated floor. She wore rings on her fingers, and probably bells on her toes. Fielder would have liked to find out. He couldn't tell if it was the drugs invading his system, or if women really did dress in that way - or if it was just her. It made a welcome and exotic change from bare skin.
"Good name," said the woman. "Sally King. Tell me, would you call yourself a free man?"
"Yes," said Fielder below the noise of the crowd.
"Then you must come with me."
She took his hand and led him through the crowds to where a motley crew was standing charge over the bar. There was a great flashing of teeth through beards tinged with grime, and the men and women there had the look of animals, from lions and cheetahs through to bears and rats.
"We are the crew of the good ship Sagrado de Mare, sailing through seas of crack gangs and prohibition since the dawn of time. Wherever there is an oasis over which the Crown and Government have no hold, there are we. Sir, we are bound for Brighton and Hove. Will you join us?"
A rogueish man like a snake in frayed jeans and a jet-black hooded top handed him a pint of beer. "Drink up," he said.
Fielder shrugged, and drank. Somewhere near the bottom of the glass he saw something winking at him. It was a pound coin. He fished it out, and looked questioningly at the guy who'd given him the glass.
"I was in the marines once," said the man. "They told me how Government agents used to go hunting for new recruits for the navy. They'd offer to get a man a drink, then put a King's shilling in the glass. Because if you accepted the King's shilling, that meant you were bound to service, and it would be treason if you tried to leave. I was a pillock once and joined the navy of my own free will, but sometimes - that was what it felt like.
So that pound there makes a sort of gesture. To show you've got free will. If you want to go with us after the club, you get a choice. You can keep the quid and go your own way. Or you put the money towards buying an eighth of hash off me - because my wares are excellent - and then you've still got a choice. You still just go your own way, because you always can. But if you don't - well, you've part of the crew."
"I took a drug tonight," said Fielder.
"And?" said the man. "Any good?"
"Did you hear what I just said?" asked Fielder. He looked at his phone.
The man shrugged. "Yeah. Bit loud here. But yeah."
"Well, " said Fielder, "I'm waiting for it to wear off. I can't say what's happened tonight until it wears off. You know how things seem great, and then you say them - and they come out wrong."
"Fair enough, brother. It can wait."
"Look," said Fielder. "Step at a time, mate. But I'd like to have a look at your hash."
As the man fiddled with a drawstring, it dawned on Fielder that he was becoming increasingly immersed in the cultural filter. This was his society's past. He'd never lived here. He didn't know how much was the drug, or himself, or how things really were for the other people in the club, people who - presumably - had not travelled in time, whether mentally or physically. But the immersion seemed to be sticking.
In fact, he was getting more and more comfortable with the pirate theme, even though he could sense it didn't tally with the early 90s scenario he assumed he was meant to be experiencing. Earlier would have been a great time to meet old friends and establish base ground. Now, it would be inappropriate. Meeting Sacchrin Promol, even when experienced through the filter, wouldn't be his idea of a good time. With these people, he didn't have to explain himself. With Promol, he'd have to do a substantial amount of apology, soul-searching and extrapolation. Another thought came to him. 'Fuxxing' sounded stupid.
Sally's friend handed him a baggy by way of giving him a hug. Fielder felt its pocket-warm edges, lifted it briefly to his nose and smelt its rich, heathery aroma. "Pieces of eight", he thought. And turned off his mobile phone.
* * *
The music came to a stop. Its absence was rich and melodic in its undertones. Fielder tried not to survey Sally's convincing frame as she gamely staggered down the church steps to a chill Brixton morning. He smiled, knowing she couldn't see him. He checked his mobile phone. He had two messages waiting.
"Hang on," said Fielder as Sally called for a taxi, smuggled whisky in hand. "Just got to do something." He went into a small green in front of the church and checked his messages. The first was from Promol. He deleted it without listening. The second was from the operator. The message was hissed and garbled, with a sense of urgency behind the speeding conversation of the previously level-toned voice.
Fielder pieced the words together - something about the drug having been spliced in some way. Modified. Cut with a similar version of the drug, but one with a gentically encoded theme, unlike the strain he'd intended to have, which dredged a theme from the user's subconscious. The drug was spiked with a pirate-reality inducer, apparently. Fielder broke into a brief smile as the sky lightened. He'd been wondering about that. Pirates. It wasn't him, nor was it a nineties thing. It was the drug. The filter. Well. That was good to know. The phone rang. He decided the call could wait, and turned it off.
A young boy approached Fielder from the side, all shaky and feral. "Do you know the way to Stockwell Station?"
Fielder hesitated, unsure whether to reveal his lack of knowledge, or even to speak to the lad. As he wavered, the boy darted forward. Ripped the phone out of his hand. Sped off.
"Matey-lad, you can have it," said Fielder.
Sally King ran up to him as the boy disappeared down a street. "That cabin rat just took your phone," she said with a flash to the eye. "Shall we give him chase, you and I?"
"Nah, it's okay," said Fielder. "Unimportant things, phones."
They found a cab that was a people-carrier, or maybe it just belonged to an early bird with an eye for some quick monies, an