In the distant, apartment-building-dominated suburb, people were loafing around by their computer screens, waiting for a sign. A sign from the government. The next mission. Something worthwhile doing. Anything at all. In the meantime, their muscles atrophied slowly due to lack of use, the fat accumulated gradually in their sore bottoms, the facial hair kept on growing. As the pandemic was raging, the government’s attention had shifted elsewhere and its sponsored missions had been like gold for some time already. Many people felt like they had been betrayed.
Fronk didn’t mind the ongoing economic crisis that much. He had found his own mission. Sitting in front of the computer, he emptied a can of energy drink which was his preferred way of starting the day. The dollars that the government offered to the gamers shouldn’t be taken as an act of charity anyway. That had been crystal clear to Fronk from day one. The money always included a silent request for loyalty in return. Paying the gamers was undoubtedly one of the government’s most cost-effective investments in homeland security. This way they had probably encouraged tens of thousands of potential hackers and cyber criminals to go straight so far. Sometimes the information bought by the government would turn out to be quite useful too. Fronk peeked out of the window behind his desk and saw that it was snowing lightly in the yard.
Night fell rapidly on the City. C. J. had parked his RX coupe behind a pizza parlor. He had company. The head of the prostitute moved rhytmically up and down on his crotch as the Spanish Radio played in the background. C. J. grabbed the prostitute’s hair and offered help to maintain the tempo. Soon he roughened up his act while leaning his head back against the seat. After he had come, the prostitute stepped out of the car, spat the jizz in the street, and then buzzed off. Not too long ago, C. J. used to blow the prostitute’s brains out after a session but now he just let the person walk away merrily. Who knows, maybe he had gotten a bit more mentally mature after all.
The clock was ticking. C. J.’s phone vibrated and a message appeared in the screen.
“You on the way?” Native asked.
C. J. started the car and hit the gas.
“5 min,” he typed the answer and raced down Beach Boulevard.
The night shift was long and tiring once again. C. J. drove around the quarters of Laguna Beach, chain-smoking notoriously. After the art museum, he turned in the direction of the beach. East Grove Street. There was no way that he could recall if he had inspected the street already. Suddenly he found himself wishing that he had kept a journal of some sort during his shifts. C. J. pulled over and continued to patrol on foot. The street stretched far into the distance, running parallel to the beach. Having walked a quarter of a mile, he spotted a white cat that was gently licking its paws in the middle of the silent street.
As he approached, the cat lifted its head and winked at him. Then, it began to leisurely swagger down the street.
“Will you lead me to the Rat, fella?” C. J. mumbled to himself and started following the cat.
They strolled for about ten minutes, one after the other, until reaching the end of the street. There the white cat disappeared quickly in the thick bushes and left C. J. standing alone in front of a three-storey, chocolate brown house. He eyed the building attentively but couldn’t really notice anything out of ordinary in it. Also the neighboring houses looked quite typical on the surface. The neighborhood was undeniably wealthy but that was, of course, true of whole of Laguna Beach. C. J. couldn’t but admit that he had got it wrong this time. Only after having turned already back, he abruptly caught sight of something interesting.
Opposite the brown house, there was a lone car with a shiny, metal letter Q attached to its rear bumper.