It’s one thing to learn a language through study and experience, quite another to instantly gain understanding and fluency through a computer implant. Growing up in Munich, she could immediately identify someone who was raised in Frankfurt, Berlin, or on the Black Sea, through the subtle differences in word choice, inflection, and grammar. Similarly she could pick out if someone learned “academic” German later on, because their speech wouldn’t carry any of the idiosyncrasies local to a particular region.

Though she had lived under the radar in Seoul for over a year, she still hadn’t been able to pick up the local flavor – her linguisoft chip the only way she could make the complex negotiations that kept her safe from the prying, hunting eyes that drove her across the world to begin with. If only I had time to learn, she told herself. Everywhere she went she was treated with suspicion and disdain, her crisp diction and perfect academic Korean instantly marking her as someone who didn’t belong – either a poseur or corporate drone who couldn’t be bothered to learn the local tongue organically.

She had to be especially careful when she overheard tourists or wage slaves speaking in German or English – languages she knew naturally, without silicon and optical pathways feeding information into her brain. Though she had changed her appearance, drastically, the people hunting her knew her origin and could use that against her; someone trying to hide under an alias would likely respond, if even for a moment, when addressed by their real name. So too it would be a giveaway if she seemed to understand her mother or adoptive tongues. Any slip could let them know they were on the right track.

Far away from neo-downtown’s glitzy lights and omnipresent street action, she found herself among the dregs, the dark and dirty alleys that would be dangerous to underestimate. Even in Berlin working freelance jobs, she had it better than in the acid-rain gutters of Korea, where she was an outsider on every level, both tangible and otherwise.

Her commlink notified her of an alert – someone was attempting to trace a credstick she fenced two weeks prior, spoils of a lackluster run that had at least kept warm noodles in her belly. Swearing to herself, she started looking up available contingency plans, including those that would take her out-of-country.

Even if she couldn’t go home, at least she could always speak the language.

Header image taken by Noealz, a very talented Korea-based photographer who specializes in capturing neon street life.