Next to the hulking men Null felt very small and fragile. His shoulders slouched and slanted from his nick, while these men were thick set, their shoulders coming up nearly to their ears.
“We have not informed him of your arrival.” said one them. Null couldn’t tell which.
“Then I don’t suppose you’re going to take us to him?” asked Yu-Das.
Even with night vision Null couldn’t make out the features of the two men. He supposed they had a cloak on. Watchmen would be little use if anyone with night vision could see them as plain as day. One of the men let out a grunt.
“We know who you are. But who is your friend?”
“He’s clean. Not a corp spy or anything,” said Yu.
“Simic trusts you,” said the bodyguard, “But it’s my job not to.”
Null thought this was strangely apologetic, and strangely diplomatic. He didn’t understand the respect in the man’s voice. The way both of them stood rigid in the entrance to the court yard.
In the dark a baby began to cry. Null looked back and up. Peer in the direction of the sound.
“Your boy’s a John. You know Simic don’t work with Johns.”
“No, he’s not a—well, maybe he is. But he’s got something Simic will want to see. Trust me.”
This talk didn’t make sense to Null. A John could be found in the slums bagging NEDs and poking girls, but he’d never done that. Well, NEDs occasionally when he’d been feeling low, but that had been years ago. After Bee had died.
“My name’s Null. I’m not a John,” he said, rather more bravely than he felt.
He felt Yu-Das’s eyes swivel and fix on him. The man she’d been talking to chuckled.
“Well, you ain’t a threat, that’s for sure. But why should Simic agree to see the two of you? I know Das here—she’s in and out as much as anybody, but a new boy on the block. Now Simic is a busy man—he doesn’t like wasting time. ‘Specially when he’d rather be in bed.”
The low voice was almost soothing in the darkness. It was calm and menacing, and in Null’s mind he felt the man was right. Null knew he was over his head. Maybe he should go home. Forget this crazy idea. Enjoy what little pleasures he could find in life. Leave the underground to the big boys and kingpins.
Null blinked. Those thoughts—they were wrong. They didn’t come from his resolve or his fears. He’d given up on fear long ago. He accessed his chip and found the MindShield app. Enabled it. At once the doubts, the confusions, the small fragile person he felt himself to be, vanished. The man who had done the talking take a step back.
“Huh. MindShield. Where’d a pretty boy like you get the money for something like that?” he asked.
Before Null could say anything, Yu-Das cut in. “That’s what we need to see Simic about.”
“Trust me,” said Null, filled with resolve once again. “He wants to know what I have to say.”