Arc City Stories is a collection of cyberpunk stories by both prominent and upcoming authors within the genre including Patrick Tillett, and Todd Cinani. Each story shares a common environment which maintains the atmosphere and mood. Todd contributes his story, Scarlet, in two parts.
Scarlet is a courier making deliveries, which is described in a way remnant of Snow Crash,
She weaved on the bike, zipping and darting on the plane of the horizon...flying over and under sky bridges.
Her occupation is risky, but she’s driven by the need to survive and her addiction to purchasing new augmentations, even though these have the side effect of reducing her empathy, making relationships difficult,
Shallow, true, but what else was there to hope for but a better, more powerful existence?
The story takes place in a multi-tiered dystopian city where farmed goods are a luxury. The lower 75 levels are full of scoundrels, and if you survive them, the fungi and mold will overtake you instead,
“So Scarlet, is it?” the detective asked suspiciously. “No last name?”
“Not that I remember. I was raised in the lower levels. We don’t much need last names down there because so few survive to twenty.”
When a high-risk, high-reward job goes bad, she teams up with an ally, Chris, whose mind exists in cyberspace, and whose body is “nothing more than a poor battery that fuels a much greater self.” There’s never any doubt that you’re reading cyberpunk, from Scarlet’s dog, who is loyal due to being coded to her, to the combat drug Event Horizon,
Part nano-bot, part stimulant, part who knew what else, it overclocked a user’s node and body, bringing with it euphoria and sensations of invincibility. Problem was eventually it made users cyber-psychos… sped-up like a film fast-forwarded, a bit jerky as if their muscles could not keep up with the signals they were receiving.
Scarlet reads well and is entirely thrilling, with an interesting plot twist at the end. It’s a tale of desperation, and how far we’re willing to go to obtain a semblance of immortality, one of the promises that modernity may eventually make good on. Pick up the collection on Amazon.