“When’s the meeting?” 

“Tomorrow,” answered the caller.

Berry sat cross-legged on the couch and considered her reply.

She wasn’t used to this kind of directness. The woman wasn’t asking, she was demanding. It was confrontational, like a veiled threat.

She reached for her pack of Jujyfruits. This was her quick fix.

She allowed the colours to speak to her, inviting her to choose an Asparagus Bundle; corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, natural and artificial flavours, white mineral oil, carnauba wax, caramel colouring, artificial colouring, red forty, yellow six, blue one.

They lasted longer, according to Travis Bickle, and he was a man used to sleep deprivation.

Sugar always made everything right.

Jujyfruits were her saviour.

“What exactly do you want her to do?” she asked the conversational vacuum.

“Miss Butler-san will be developing a new gaming infrastructure, and be the first in the world to play.”

She rolled the gumdrop around her mouth. She didn’t care about the money. The woman had just said all she needed to hear. 

“How did you find her?” she asked, googling The Foundation of New World Technologies and new gaming platforms in two separate windows.

“We have it on good authority that she is the one.”

Berry laughed.

“Is something funny?”

“She’s… the One. You know? I like my dystopian movie references.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

Berry was convinced that this was all a setup.

Someone had gotten hold of her direct number and published it on the thief forums. Whoever it was had done their research on what pushed her buttons.

“Surely there are other, more suitable candidates?” she asked, secretly chuffed that she was the one.

“Everything will be made clear on agreement of the project terms and conditions.”

The search brought up a corporate page for The Foundation:

‘Architects of a New World Generation. Dedicated to bringing emerging technologies into hyper-reality.’

New gaming platforms brought up adverts for Augmediated Reality and domestic VR consoles.

Nothing new, nothing next generation.

The phone line crackled.

There was a pause.

The caller was checking something. 

“If we are in agreement then confirmation will be sent to your inbox.”

“You’ve got my email?”

“The funds are insufficient?”

“No, no, it’s not about the money.”

“Double payment has been authorised. Are we in agreement, Miss Butler-san?”

Berry was hesitant.

She didn’t understand why there was such a rush but the sense of urgency made the project seem all the more intriguing.

“You knew it was me?”

The phone line hissed static to no reply.

“I don’t even know your name?”

The caller was silent.

“Hello? Ok. Yes. Of course, we’re in agreement.”

At that precise moment an email arrived from The Foundation of New World Technologies.

“My name is Chieko. Your escort will arrive at six am. We look forward to receiving you in Toyko, Miss Butler. Domo arigato gozaimasu.”

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