New Los Angeles, 2027
NeuroLink NewsEntertainment Studio
LEEZA CONREID, HOSTESS OF “Celebrity Smackback,” plops her well-honed tush onto a stool at the production console, hooking her stilettos over the rung. Violet fingernails flick open a popper beneath her nostrils as she inhales with a hiss, and focus sharpens into max clarity. She snakes out two leads and snaps them into her lower-back spinal insert. Slips on the goggles.
“Showtime.” Reaching into deceptively empty space, her long pale fingers spider the air to cue the file:
***NLNE REQUESTED FIELD ASSIGNMENT: 5 March 2027
LEADLINE: Where is Ariadne? Who is Ariadne?
SUBJECT: “Saint Ariadne,” rumored healer of New Plague leprosy victims.
MEDIA SATURATION: 53% and growing.
Gaea Speaks cult leaders: “Mother Earth is fighting back against the pollution of the patriarchal corporate technocracy. Only Ariadne can save us now.”***
Behind the goggles, Leeza smirks. “You said it, bitches. And I’m the one gonna nail her.” Another finger-twitch through the file, images cascading across her retinas.
***ASSIGNMENT DANGER RATING:
High. No data on risk factors for illegal penetration of Med League border. No weapons or training provided.***
She licks her lips and shimmies on the stool, running a fingertip over her thigh. Leeza Conreid doesn’t need a gun.
INITIAL FIELD CONTACT:
None established. Field agent Conreid advised to search Athens’ Piraeus Harbor taverns for one Peter Mitchell, AWOL NorthAm Navy. Current occupation: smuggler.***
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