There’s something playing on the box television. It’s a child sitting alone. His back is to a brick wall and he’s holding a flashlight in his right hand, a pistol in his left. His breathing is erratic. He hears something move.
   Reverse shot. Over his shoulder we see a dark alleyway, the end of which is an empty street. The flashlight shines over exposed wires and fogged up windows on either side of the boy. He searches for the source of the noise. Nothing.
   Close up on his face. The boy tries to remain silent. He swallows. “P-please,” he whispers, “I just want to live-”
   A sickly and thrumming voice responds from the dark, as if over a loudspeaker. “Prey is et.”
   A shambling beast lurches from around the corner. The boy screams and begins to fire his pistol into it’s thick wiring. The flashlight falls. Cut to a view from an adjacent building, through a cracked and dirty window. Illumination is momentary like lightning in the suburbs, only coming from the kid’s gunshots. The thing brandishes its wet teeth. The camera cuts out but the boy’s cry remains for a moment.
   A cereal box fades in from the darkness. “Freakabites.” The narration says. The box is matte black with stark white lettering. “Devour” is their new tagline. Amstrad likes it.
   Amstrad is a twenty three year old man watching from his couch. His video will start again in four minutes- itself an ad for a new sort of micro-apartment that’s a repurposed coffin. See, Amstrad has no money left. Rent is due in three days. If he misses rent even once, the IRS’ll lock him up- the logic being that poor people are society’s constant loiterers. To sort them out, they’re sent to company prisons for ‘labor assistance’. He thought that maybe the micro-coffin (MoCo) would be cheaper, but it’s the same price. And in any case, not free.
   Desperate times call for bold actions, Amstrad thinks. He turns off the television and puts his pistol in his boot. From his one comfortable standing space in the closet apartment, he looks at the mirror nailed to the wall. He runs a hand through his hair and makes finger guns at himself. He steps out of the apartment and kicks down the door opposite his own.
   There are dozens of other rooms in their hallway that should be able to hear the break in, but Amstrad has learned through personal loss that no one gives a shit. And anyways, he’s heard that this particular neighbor’s been out of town. She was into weird crypto programming stuff- a hobby typically reserved for the wealthy- so he was always confused as to why she’d live in such a dump. On the door, there’s an angry looking poster that says ‘The House Always Wins’. Weird. He hopes that she’s got her week’s rent sorted out inside.
   As the door settles into place against the near wall, Amstrad stares for a moment. She’s laying on her bed caked in blood.
   “Oh fuck- I- uh-” Amstrad stammers as he looks around for some way to help. She’s got a stab wound in her stomach like some big sword tore through her. Everything in the room is flipped over and emptied onto the small bit of carpet, including a shattered monitor. The computer itself is missing. The window is wide open, two stories above a busy street. He sees that blood is still oozing from her stomach. Her eyes meet his. Her lips move slightly.
   Amstrad kneels at the side of the bed and puts his ear up to her.
   Her whispering is choked. “The bank-drive is in the tire of a monster truck, kid. He only knows which junkyard it’s in. Don’t let the bastards take it.”
   “Bank-drive?” Amstrad leans in closer and holds the woman by her shoulders. Her eyes are fading. “Which junkyard?”
   “The… the one…”
   He looks around again for a way to help. He sees none. He turns back to her. “I can’t stop them if I don’t know which yard, lady- please.”
   Her lips move but there's no sound. She goes limp.
   “Fuck me.” Amstrad stands up, arms akimbo. Within some turned over laundry, he sees a glint. He cocks his head and kicks the clothing out of the way. A camera. The red light is on. He picks it up and throws it out the window. Amstrad figures that whoever did this has now seen his face.
   He grabs his winter coat and ditches the apartment. Snow appears from nothing- the light-polluted winter air is a flat grayness lauding over the fluorescent glow of distant skyscrapers.
   An excerpt from a local directory he found in a gift shop: ‘there are over seven hundred landfills within city limits, each with their own color and character’. He rips out the page that shows them on an indistinct map. He puts the book back on the shelf.
   He checks on three that night. One is behind a fast food joint that took over an apartment complex. He figures there wouldn’t be a monster truck tire there anyways. The second is in a steel fence cage below a skyscraper hospital. It’s mostly filled with the styrofoam coolers that doctors- and other people- use for organs when they’re not in bodies. The third is more average. The block that it takes up is about four stories below street level. Everything just stops around it, save for some fire-escape type stairs. Due to some old restrictions, certain places weren’t to be built over as the city expanded. They’re left as crags in the ground.
   It’s hard to tell through the haze of snow, but it doesn’t look like there’s a big enough tire. He climbs down and finds a normal broken down car. He gets inside and wedges himself in between the front and back seats.
   He falls asleep.

   “Wake up.” Says a man in the front seat.
   Amstrad opens his eyes and yawns.
   “Sit like normal.” Continues the man.
   Amstrad pulls himself up and sits in the middle of the back. The man has an uzi pointed at him, and a sword in the other hand. Amstrad relates his late neighbor’s wound to the sword. He’s wearing a black suit under a businesslike trenchcoat and sitting on the dashboard.
   “You know why I’m here.” Says the man.
   “Do I?”
   “Smartass, huh? Tell me where the bank-drive is.”
   “Or what?”
   The man’s finger tightens subtly on the trigger.
   Amstrad seems completely unphased.
   "You ain’t afraid of gettin’ shot.” He lowers the gun. “I like that in a man. I’ll be straight with you kid: you know where the drive is. I know where the yard is. This drive is a crypto cache- it’s designed from the ground up so people like you don’t get to have it. The house is gonna win anyways. Just point me in the right direction.”
   “She didn’t want you to have it.”
   The man laughs. “She’s just mad I killed her is all. She was a known terrorist hacker, and for me, it’s a job. We get this drive and everything gets smoothed out nice and easy. No one else gets hurt. My name is Jason, by the way. You can either point me to it and let it go, or lead me there and let it go later.”
   “I can’t trust you.”
   Jason’s smile fades. “And why should you? I’ll say anything. Now let’s go, partner.”
   He stares at Amstrad expectantly.
   Amstrad knows he needs to find the drive as fast as possible. It’s a gamble. He nods. “Let’s go.”
   Amstrad and Jason hop a turnstile to take the subway to Brooklyn, where all out battle has been ongoing between Jawbreakers sponsored by the Spacemaker corporation and illegally poor citizens numbering in the thousands. Two hundred six dead so far. As the two of them crest the subway exit, Amstrad notes a two hundred seventh.
   "Is this strictly necessary to cross?" Amstrad asks over the general commotion.
   Jason nods. "In a manner of speaking."
   Behind a crowd of civilians packed together in the snow, they see the spout of a flamethrower. A passerby notices Jason's suit and spits on him without stopping. Jason flicks it off.
   "We're gonna have better odds through the tunnels." he says.
   "You will."
   "One and the same, kid."
   Jason leads them through winding alleyways, kicking at loose bricks and sewage drains as he goes. At a dead end, he kicks a hollow brick.
   They peel away the secret door behind it, and climb into the tunnels.
   "I heard this is mob territory." says Amstrad with a hint of worry.
   "I heard you were a little weasel boy. Who cares? Give us some light." says Jason.
   "I don't have a light."
   "The kid doesn't even have a fuckin' light." Jason pulls something from his pocket and throws it at Amstrad. Despite the total darkness, he catches it. A lighter.
   The tiny flame shows the path forward. It's a grime ridden dripping wet tube."You psychic?" Jason asks.
   Amstrad is in front of him, and looks back for a moment. "What if I am?"
   "Catching that lighter was a neat trick. Makes sense not to be so scared of bullets if you’re psychic. But a little bug like you… the gift is rare."
   "Well, you need bugs like me."
   "Like I need a blister from walking. Not necessity, but inevitable consequence."
   Amstrad trudges forward and thinks for a while. "Why not torture it out of me? You killed her, didn't you?"
   "This ain't torture? Here kid- turn left."
   They come upon a metal door with an eye slit. Jason knocks on it hard. The slit opens to a shotgun barrel.
   "I said never come-" the barrel rescinds and a pair of eyes replaces it. She looks at them. "Jason?"
   The slit closes and several locks are overturned on the other side. She opens the door wearing the shotgun on her back, and Jason moseys inside. Amstrad follows. These tunnels have ad posters and lamps, but it’s still mostly dark. The woman seems almost alone if not for the sounds of sprinting feet through the muck that echoes from further inside.
   “What brings you back, old dog?” She asks.
   “This and that.” Jason replies flatly.
   The woman doesn’t say anything for a moment too long. That wasn’t the answer she was looking for. She shoots a glance back to Amstrad. “Who’s the new kid?”
   “A friend. Amstrad, this is Arith.” Jason says.
   “Nice to meet you.” Amstrad says.
   They cross into a long straight tunnel filled with shimmering green light. Three people sprint through an intersecting path far ahead of them, as if something’s chasing them. They only catch a brief glimpse. Ammunition is left around the floor. There’s an aura of breathing. Amstrad can’t find where all the others are.
   Arith cracks her knuckles. “Where you headed, J-dog?”
   “I can find it myself, I just need passage.”
   “Right.” Arith draws in a breath and laughs to herself. “Jason, you know that’s gonna cost some Bolt, right? It ain’t free just ‘cuz we were pals.”
   “Of course.”
   “And you didn’t come here to pay your debt, did you?”
   “If I have passage I’ll be able to get the Bolt, it’s just tied up right now-”
   Arith stops and turns around. “We let you go twice before. There are no third strikes. What’d you come here for?”
   “To get through. One way or another.”

   They face each other.
   Amstrad watches the shadows.
   Her finger flinches.

   Jason’s pulled the uzi from his coat and fired before Arith can swing the shotgun to her hands. The bullets cleave through her neck and head, and she splatters against the wall. Jason looks at Amstrad. They run.
   Shouts begin clamoring around the tunnels. The sound of guns loading. Quick and weighty footfalls in the shallow water behind them, then in front, then all around. Jason makes a quick turn as some men see them down the hall and shoot. The sparks and fire reflect dozens of times in the rippling pools. Amstrad catches someone aiming from the dark and shoots first. He kills them. Jason barrels around a wide corner and sprays bullets into it. Three men die, the rest hide. They retreat down another tunnel.
   “Do you know where we’re going?” Amstrad shouts over the commotion.
   Jason says nothing. He puts his back to a corner and slowly glances around it. A shot almost hits his head, but ricochets off the wall. “Through there. They’ve got a sniper. We need to find another way.”
   The footsteps behind them grow closer. Amstrad feels them surrounding the area. “There’s no way we’ll have time.”
   “Do you have a better plan?” Jason asks.
   Amstrad clenches his jaw. “Yeah.”
   “Shut up, I’m concentrating.”
   Jason seems surprised for the first time. He listens.
   Amstrad walks out into the hallway and turns to face the sniper. He sees the man behind a metal desk at the end of the tunnel defending a ladder leading upwards. A bullet shrieks past Amstrad’s head. A narrow miss.
   As if in deep thought, Amstrad raises his pistol.
   The sniper fires again. Amstrad winces as the bullet flies past his ear. He hears it clang off of a wall far behind him.
   He closes one eye, aiming for the sniper.
   It fires again. Less than an inch from his neck, but a miss.
   Amstrad shoots him in the eye. He unclenches his jaw and nearly collapses in sweat and exertion. Jason catches him and charges forward to the end of the hallway.
   “You’re psychic.” Jason spits.
   They get behind the metal desk. There’s a man with a shotgun waiting under the sniper’s body. Before Jason can draw the uzi, the man fires at his stomach. Amstrad’s hand comes between the pellets and Jason. They stop in the air like beads at the end of an abacus. Jason shoots the man dead.
   They climb the ladder swiftly, but Amstrad is exhausted and gasping for more air. His mind is beating against his skull like it wants to escape. As bullets clang off of the wall around his feet, Jason lifts Amstrad up the rest of the way. They come up through a sewer grate. Jason shuts it. They work together to roll a nearby dumpster over it and then run out to the street. Adrenaline is still pumping. The street is empty.
   Far away, the haze of fire and shouts of protest still linger. Here, the lights are out. The cars are gone. The street is dead and snow falls only to melt on the salted asphalt. Distant buildings blend into gray night clouds.
   Amstrad sits on the curb to catch his breath.
   “That’s some trick.” Jason says.
   He nods, looking down at his sweat falling to the snowy slush. He sees that Jason is offering him something. A cigarette.
   “Those things kill you.” Amstrad says.
   “That’s the idea.” Jason lights his own and shakes the other at Amstrad.
   He takes it backwards in his teeth. He turns his chin upwards for Jason to light it. He does.“You carry two lighters?” Amstrad asks.
   “Gotta even it out for the scatterbrains like you who don’t carry none. Give me it back.”
   Amstrad gives him it back. He lays down with his back on the sidewalk and feels the snow begin to cool his overheated body. Jason looks at him like he wants to say something about manners, but decides against it. He watches Amstrad catch snow on his tongue.
   “What’s Bolt?” Amstrad asks. “You and Arith talked about it like it’s money.”
   Jason chuckles and looks ahead down the road. “You saved my life, so I’ll tell you something you might not want to hear. But it’s the truth. You don’t know shit about crypto, do you?”
   Amstrad shakes his head.
   “Bolt is a kind of digital currency. Because it ain’t physical, the way we know for sure when it’s traded is that every interaction is added to the end of a catalog called the Blockchain. There are hundreds of people storing and updating this thing on thousands of computers- so it takes a while to trade Bolt anywhere- and they all say the history of objective spending. What’s taken place. Since we can’t just count physical money, it’s gotta be like that. You follow me?”
   Amstrad hesitantly nods. “How does that matter to me?”
   “Well, a couple days ago, your neighbor hacked a DAO- like a computerized hedge fund that does what it’s investors vote for it to do- which had a third of all Bolt in it. Hundreds of billions of Double Dollars in the stuff. Property of about seven hundred investors. She took all of it, and put it in her own wallet. We thought it’d be on her computer- it wasn’t, so we couldn’t retrieve the Bolt. She only had the link to her wallet on that bank-drive.”
   “So the drive is worth billions?” Amstrad sits up.
   “Well…” Jason takes a long drag of his cigarette. “To us, yes. But not to you.”
   Amstrad looks confused.
   “You know what- forget I said anything.” Jason looks off down the street again and sighs. “We best get moving.”
   “We’re here, numbskull.”
   Amstrad scrambles to his feet and looks where Jason is looking. Sure enough, after a few blocks, the street seems to end. It’s shrouded in the cold fog.
   Jason puts his uzi to Amstrad’s head and takes the cigarette from his mouth. “Alright, kid. Get moving.”

   The junkyard is five stories beneath street level. It has evergreen trees growing from the deep filth. It spans three city blocks ahead of them, and at the far end, Amstrad sees a monster truck’s tire atop a throne of discarded CDs. He stares for a second. They walk down the thin metal stairway and set foot on the compacted garbage.
   Hills of trash flank them as their feet crush new cans with each step. Heaps of car parts are piled to their left.
   Amstrad stops walking. The gun presses against the back of his head. His labored breathing makes drifting clouds in the cold. “We can still work together Jason. Find a way out of this. I don’t hate you yet.”
   Jason puts the sword in his off hand gently against Amstrad’s neck. A bead of sweat drips onto the reflective metal. “You won’t be able to bend another bullet. You’re dead tired. You oughta know when to quit.”
   “You wouldn’t cut my throat.”
   “Why not?”
   “It’d stain your suit.”
   Jason smiles for a moment, then goes cold. “Tell me where the drive is.”
   “Bite me.”
   Amstrad ducks in a flash and pulls his gun. The sword swipes overhead, shaving the ends of his hair. He runs to the left heap as Jason fires the uzi. It chews clean through old computers and explodes rancid trash bags, but Amstrad leaps behind an old car. The steel door blocks the shots. Jason lurches over to get a good sight line, but Amstrad fires back. He almost hits Jason in the chest. Jason retreats behind a washing machine at the base of the opposite hill.
   They both settle for a moment, backs to their cover. The floating particles of waste mix with the falling snow. Amstrad runs further into the junkyard, ducking behind more scrap car parts. Jason fires at the glimpses he catches and hears them scrape off the metal.
   “Don’t die for this, kid! You can’t win!” Jason shouts.
   “Yes I can!” Amstrad shouts back. It’s further away than Jason had assumed. He moves in towards the sound.
   There’s a shuffling and a clanging from Amstrad’s direction. Jason swoops towards it, always careful to stay in cover.
   There’s no sound for a while. Jason waits for a move. He peeks around a carved up tree trunk, seeing the long main pathway through the junkyard. Still nothing.
   Then, a lone figure.
   Amstrad walks into the middle of the path. He’s wearing a blue car tarp like a huge poncho. His pistol is at his side. He shows off a piece of crumpled up paper, and tucks it somewhere under the tarp.
   “The drive’s location is in my pocket, old man. Let’s settle this.”
   The still wind picks up a breeze.
   Jason steps out from behind the tree. He stands opposite Amstrad. He sighs and shakes his head. “Kid, it’s like this: the rules don’t apply to my bosses. They’re friends with the guys who made Bolt, so if they don’t get this money back, they just roll back the Blockchain.”
   Amstrad stares for a second. His eye twitches. “What?”
   “They rewind the digital clock. Start the records again from before they lost the money. Don’t get me wrong- some people will still keep track of the version where they lost it- there’ll be a schism in the coin. But that’s not where the real money’s gonna be.”
   “So… So what?”
   “If I get the money, it goes back to my bosses. If you get the money, my bosses rewind the Blockchain and make a new version of events where they never lost it. Yours becomes basically worthless.”
   Amstrad thinks for a while. “They can’t do that.”
   “Reality is what the computer spits out. You did good for what you had, but it’s over. House always wins.”
   Amstrad shakes his head. “I can’t trust you.”
   Jason’s fingers lock around his uzi. “You know you ain’t faster than me. Don’t try it.”
   “I think you underestimate me.”

   The sky is matte dark.
   Leaves sway in the cool whistle.
   A drop of sweat falls.

   Amstrad tries to aim, but Jason’s uzi rips up the earth beneath his feet, then raises in a path of destruction carving across his stomach and up over his shoulder. The tarp is shredded. Amstrad falls backwards, motionless.
   Jason looks angry. He walks up to the corpse to collect the paper.
   Amstrad shoots him in the head.
   The hunter’s jaw goes slack as gore pours from the wound, some falling onto Amstrad. Jason crumples. Amstrad throws the tarp off over his head, revealing a sheet of car metal hanging from his neck. The bullets are lodged deep inside, but none got through. He shoves it off as well.
   He stands above the corpse for a second, thinking about how to salvage rent from the shit show.
   He gets the drive.
   On the subway ride home, he sees a young man in a blazer and headphones. He’s wearing a Freakabites shirt and looks enthused by the idea of riding the subway at night. Socially uninclined, particularly susceptible to advertising, projecting vapid wealth. Amstrad thinks he’s found his man. Still exhausted and with some of Jason’s blood on his face, he shows the young man the bank drive.
   “300 double dollars for some Bolt? Serious stuff. Great for someone looking to buy in. No bullshit.”
   The young man lifts off the headphones. “Serious?”
   “I’m at the end of my investment career, looking to cash out.”
   The young man seems to be thinking about it.
   “If not, no problem.” Amstrad pockets it and turns around. He waits there for a second to be told to stop.
   “Hold up,”
   The young man hands him the 300. Amstrad hands him the bank drive.
   “Take good care of it.” Amstrad says. “I had to kill a guy for that thing.”
   The young man seems unsure if that’s a joke. Amstrad gets off at the next stop.