All Stories, Science Fiction

Threelancers by John McLaughlin

I wake up sprawled across the crash couch.

The taste of AmphaTab’s sticky on my tongue and last night’s detritus strewn along the cushion–liquor stains, hashish crystals, something that smells like lavender.

And a splitting headache. That damned noise again.

The horn is blaring fast, its shrieks sweeping the forty-seventh floor like Army drones in flight.
“Today is blue-chip pharma.” A static-choked voice grants us a short reprieve from the siren. “Our big three: ZSK, JPP, BEM. Go, go, go!”

This is a fire sale.

“You heard ‘em, boys,” the floor boss cries, rousing the other Threelancers from the couch. “Back to your goddamn boxes!”

I stagger over to the one marked E. Froege, crack it open and hop in the recliner. Haptic cables are sleeving into my body before the lid even engages its airtight seal.

JPP is my first target. “Zayd,” I speak aloud to my operator, “gimme revenue, by workforce, by market cap: three by three matrix against eight-week, one week, and forty-eight hour time frames.”

The requested data hurtles into my viewstream and I can apprehend everything: nine dimensions of shape, time, texture running rampant around the perimeter of my consciousness. It’s impossible to describe to a baseline Joe–like expounding on the colour green for the congenitally blind. The numbers become sensate; raw topology of the data creeps and cuts its way up my spine until oh god, it’s

“Froege, quit fucking around and make your sales!” Zayd can be such a killjoy.

I carve my JPP assets along an optimal path, packing and prepping them for the thousands of microtransactions that will unload our stock. Once the ideal buyers are calculated, I shunt them into a two hundred by one hundred array; my AI personae will handle the calls.

Georgia accent, smooth as molasses: “Mr. Weston, how’re we doin’ today? Now I’ve got an opportunity–”

Crystal-pure Tokyo dialect: “Yamada-san, kyomigarimasu ka–”

The jittery AmphaHead who’s banking for his next fix: “Jay, you’re not gonna believe–”

The ticker in my HUD’s lower corner climbs through the thousands, slowly at first and then gaining speed. I can feel the weight of the cryptobucks building in my stack–chasing the forty percent bonus and I’m taking no prisoners. Do you know why DataSens Investment staffs its own full-time Lancer team? Unbound from their three-dimensional limits, our sensoria can reach new heights of awareness. It’s how we achieve the imp–

Shit. My glove grips empty air next to the recliner. I’m out of Ampha. “Zayd, coming out for a hit. Get it ready.”

I fly from the box, pinballing my way through the off-duty Lancers milling about the dingy crash room. A hand quickly retracts in my wake. “Watch it, Froege,” Cyrius whines, gingerly stroking his knuckles. “You’re gonna jam my gloves.”

“Then I’m doing us all a favor!” I outsell that prick every week and he’s a bit sour on the subject.

Zayd pitches me a fresh tab from his window slot and I’m halfway back to the box. The blue capsule is silky smooth on my palm, I toss it back in one gulp. My cortex is already punching into a higher gear.

Back in the recliner, my viewstream returns just as I left it. The JPP stock is almost unloaded; only two hundred units shy of the bonus and I’m already dreaming of my next trip to Hedonica.

A lightning bolt of blue neon leaps across my peripherals. That ain’t right. I ignore it and continue my calls–and then another flashes past. A sound is slowly building, like an army on the march; a dull thump, thump pressing on my eardrums.
“What’s happenin’ man?” Zayd can’t mask the strain in his voice. “Your vitals are way off.”

There had to be…something in the tab. Fucking Cyrius. My vision is fragmenting, compressing, simplifying. Every Lancer is trained to fear the symptoms: it’s a full-blown cerebellar strike.

No, no, no.

I watch as my body rejects the implants, one by one. A fiber-op line retreats from my forearm, drops to the floor like a dessicated worm; my cervical jack spits out another. Red warning flags are screaming in my vision now.

“Stay put, Emile. Grabbing a medic.”

Please be a bad dream; but I know it isn’t. Is there a fate more horrible?

The box whips open to reveal blinding daylight and I shield my eyes. The crowd’s hushed mumbles crawl prickly across my skin.

“Froege! Christ, you gave us a scare man.”

I lower trembling fists into my lap.

The medic looms tall above me, purple hair refracting the morning’s warm light. His chromophore jumpsuit is looping the DataSens logo: a tesseract, its myriad cube faces rotating through four dimensions of hyperspace.

But I only see three.


John McLaughlin

Banner Image:


1 thought on “Threelancers by John McLaughlin”

  1. Hi John,
    I am always interested when a new writer comes to us with a very specific genre.
    Our fellow editor Nik has spoken on him not having a genre and he always wonders if he should stick to one.
    I don’t think anyone should really worry about this, if they prefer to write one type of story that is fine, if they go from one to another that is also fine. Mainstream novel writing seems to want to put a writer into a genre but that is the beauty of short stories, I don’t think our discipline is so regimented.
    No matter what the subject, I am very curious to see what else you have for us as your talent is there for all to see.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.