The Filth of Living By John Barleycorn T he battle-wagon was somewhere in the dark, slag-filled corridors of Jersey Hills hunting for cybbies, drinking moonshine with grencrum chasers, when Maxi started to get quiet. They'd been having fun up until now, making noise and blowing the roofs off the abandoned gas stations with the pulse gun mounted topside. They weren't really expecting to find cybbies. But it was a good way to get your rocks off. It was a good way to get out of the Castle. But after Turner shot a HEAT round into the ruins of a strip mall, watching the shell of a tobacco shop go up alongside the shell of a Pilates studio, he looked at Maxi and she wasn't smiling. That's when Turner knew something was up. Maxi always smiled to see fire in the warrens of Jersey Hills. "What's up?" said Turner. Maxi didn't say anything, but dropped the ash of her hand-rolled cigarrette into her box of swag: baseball cards, Pokemon figurines, broken plastic robots and My Little Ponies with hair frightfully unkempt. Somehow the ash filtered through this sour mash of nostalgia and settled in the bottom of the box. Turner wondered why she did this. She never took any of the items out, not even to clean them off. Yet she never went anywhere without it. Even though it made a terrible ashtray. She looked at Gore, the driver, a cheerful guy in a stained blue Mets Cap. "Silence the fuel," she said, "Go to hybrid power." "You got it," said Gore. Suddenly the noise cut out and the battle wagon cut quiet as a whisper through the warren of blind alleys and wide thoroughfares that made up Jersey Hills. Brick walls and stucco walls and walls of pressed garbage emerged and died in conformance to no known pattern but Gore kept up with it. Gore knew these warrens. He came from them; a real barrow-boy. After a while Turner lost track of what direction they were going in, or how close they were to the glow of the Hive. It all seemed the same: dead empty, a shadow of a world lost forever. A drunk's vision of a city, a toilet and walls to lean against. He could make no sense of it. But hat wasn't his job. Meanwhile Maxi plugged her soft blue eyes into the oscilloscope. She read the bouncing line like a signal that told her when cybbies were coming. Maxi was one of the best readers in the Resistance. It was why she was still alive and uncybbed and nearly thirty. Or past thirty. Turner didn't know Maxi that well, or women, but he knew enough not to ask. She looked good naked, anyway. "There it is," said Maxi, "stop here."