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Second Hand (53k0n6 h4n6)

Bogdan Gheorghiu

Publicat Duminică, 27 August 2006, ora 10:44

      I'm lying in bed, dreaming of stars beyond the city dome and of shapes too old to follow.

      The cold black eyes, her misterious smile, that look she had, capable of lifting me sky-high, then smashing my soul to the empty ground. Anna, the sweetest of dark angels, the winter inside my thoughts. She was my evening dream, under the red lights of the city sky. She was my awful headache in the morning after, a burden so hard to bear. Always somewhere in between, my nights whith her had a will of their own. Anna used to be my night, even when she wasn't there.

      Now she is nothing to me. A new life lies ahead, and with it comes new opportunity. My death was a reason of sarcastic joy to those who hated me. I've been there, at my own funeral, among all of them. I could sense their unrevealed smile. I bet they couldn't sense mine.

      It all took two weeks. The guys at TransOrganic are proffesionals. They can re-edit every aspect of your former self, leaving nothing behind. And they realy know how to keep a secret.

      The best part is that no one has managed to trace the money I made out of the big hit on that Sunday night, in my small room.

      I remember it. I still have a perfect image of the terminal's screen, lines of code flowing upwards in the small window while the bank server was going down.

      I used to be a small-time hacker, one of those guys who make money of of bank jobs and transfer interceptions. There were a few real pros in the biz, and some of them had been friends to me until I started hacking on my own. They had an honor of theirs, like some strange post-modern bushido. I remember how sometimes Phill used to say that I will get kicked out if I go on this way, stealing money for my personal use. He said that I am an ordinary thief, and that I should pay more respect to the memory of my grandfather, who was a Node worshipper back in the years of Non-Tech.

      They were all a bunch of poor losers. Brilliant, but still poor.

      I was the one to catch the big fish. I spent half the money on a complete personality transfer through TransOrganic, the best brain mappers on the market, buying a new life for myself, and at the same time getting rid of any bank security system trails. They never asked me where I had the money from. And I didn’t care who was the ex-owner of the body.

      And if you asked me about my death, I'd tell you it was a sudden heart attack, caused by too much injectable Escape.

      Anna cried at my funeral.


      Now it's already been two months since my comeback, and she is lost deep into my memory. I haven't seen her for a long time since I permanently left the neighbourhood, so her face remains just one out of many others.

      I'd rather remember my first days as Rob Wiggins, the freelancer. The beginnig of a new end.

      Recent memories of Kimberly, the girl who wiped Anna out of me, flow by in front of my eyes, interrupted.

      Scared eyes. Glowing knife. The last empty glass of DoIt.


      It all started with Rick, the new bartender.

      I used to spend many days and evenings at The Sweaty Glass. I was there when they brought him in. We became friends on his first day at the bar. For me, it was one of those days when I don't give a fuck about anything. Not even about myself. So I drank a bit too many glasses of DoIt, and I guess I became quite talkative. I can hardly recall anything he told me. But there's one thing I won't forget, no matter how drunk I was back then. It was that evening, when Kimberly stepped inside The Glass.

      The rest of it doesn’t matter.

      The next few days were usual to me. Until one afternoon. One Wednesday afternoon, when I decided to get back into the biz, with a bit of help from Jan, a big time hacker. Now I was no longer interested in profit.

      I remeber how, before signing the contract proposed by TransOrganic, I made a pact with myself. I was somehow bound to go through every important place of my past life, and re-edit every main aspect of it in another way.

      So I hacked into the WBS network once again. This time, from a public terminal. And with Jan's help.

      I was a kid when I did it three years ago. I only knew about half of what I know at this moment. And all I wanted was money. I think I never would've had the guts to go deep enough for more. Not by myself. And for that, I owe Jan big.

      It was late at night. Me and Jan were wandering around Elisson Park like ghosts. The park looked more like a graveyard. There was almost no grass at all, and the long-dead trees were guarding pieces of stone which used to be statues once. No-one would walk through Elisson Park, especially not at that hour. That was Jan's reason to go searching for a working public terminal out there.

      It was already three o'clock when we jacked in.

      The LCD on his modified Epho mobile NetDev began to flash, revealing all the code behind a Neo-Tepo network login. Reminding me of the last lines of code I had seen long ago. Of the remote green flashes from the bank server, dying.

      One new first night for a small Cy mole like me. But with more of the thrill. That's what Jan taught me. How to catch the thrill.

      WBS went down once more, with one slight difference: no money coming out of its accounts.

      We were already long gone by the time Elisson Park was full of cops. The next WBS morning programme had been replaced by Jan with a distorted, voice-recorded version of his 'h4><0r m4n1ph357'.

      I like to remember that. And Kimberly, the next day, at The Sweaty Glass.

      She was there, drinking at the bar, when Rick told me about her. Kimberly looked like one of those easily disposable girls. Always available, Kim was, beyond all, a short-timer. As a former Cy expert, I could notice the subdermal muscle boosters implanted into her legs and hips. Probably an ex-professional. I didn’t mind, and later I found out that she herself had no idea, because she had suffered from total amnesia when she was about seventeen. Since then, she had started building a new life. Much like me, only without any idea about her former self.

      In the red and green fog of boiling liquid Escape floating in the air at The Glass, Kim looked like an ordinary girl. But Rick was really a good friend of mine, and I could only trust him. He told me that Kim was new and already a hotshot, his hands instinctively passing me one more DoIt. On the house.

      Whenever I start trying to clean out my mind and to forget my most recent memories of her, I go back to that night, and the way home, through the rain, with Kim by my side. Most words were nothing but games, and their vague flavour is too painful now, so they became pointless to me.

      We had many nights like that. While Anna used to be an artist of souls, always able to hide behind herself, Kimberly, always open, was perfectly the opposite. Straight and quite childish. I can’t say I was surprised when, on that first night, she said: 'So? Aren't we supposed to fuck, Rob?'. We did it, and not only once, so I think Kimberly was exactly the therapy I needed. An easy girl for my new easy life.

      Anna was the only thing in my past life which I never replayed. Not in a changed way. Not at all.

      I don’t know why, but Rob Wiggins loved being what Paul, my former self, wasn’t. In every detail. As Rob Wiggins, I pretended to be one of the many interesting losers. And I was slowly becoming what I pretended to be.

      I’m trying not to bring any more of Kim back into my mind. Not now. Maybe because the unconditioned happiness and its simplicity are nowadays too distand, and my thoughts begin to ache.

      I think of other things, of many other things, each lost between the others.

      Some guys high on Escape, stolen car, blue curves shining at the heart of an ordinary night. We made a deal. They brought the car, I brought the money. Not my car. Not my money, at least not all of them.

      I had an unsingned and unsignable contract with some big material recovery mob boss. Nothing too complicated. And a new opportunity to re-live. Paul did something like this once.

      When I was Paul, and I did it, I think I was looking for free reputation. Which I never got. It was the first time I’d heard about the recovery mob. Who they are and what they do were the things I wanted to know. And later, having found out all this stuff, they seemed to be an easy source of small-time profit.

      There were days in my past life when I went by foot through the junk outskirts of the city, and in most of these days I saw a bunch of punks dragging piles of scrap metal through the far gate marked 'Unrecyclable'. These were Deep Pete's scavengers, always on duty.

      I ended up attempting to work for Deep Pete and his men.

      My contact back then was a big, quite stupid guy. The best kind of guy one can use to accomplish orders. He was waiting for me, on that usual day, in a small, dirty, metal covered place among the wrecks and all the shit out there. I think it was an old HV hangar, now used by the smugglers.

      Deep Pete was there, too.

      I went inside, brought by two of those young punks. Nobody was saying anything. My experience in the field of long waiting was, and still is too little. So I asked:

      'Now what?'

      They looked at me. An I looked at them. One after another. The two punks were stepping backwards, out of the place. The other two men's eyes were empty. I guess Deep Pete had no intention of showing his thoughts, while the other one had nothing to show. But I had no idea of who was who.

      I remember my second attempt to ask something, cut short by one of them. 'You look like a rookie. And I don't like rookies. I work with pros.'

      I was probably a bit confused, although I don't seem to have it perfectly in mind. Anyway, in that moment I knew which one of them was Deep Pete. A few words later, he intoduced me the other guy. For me, time has forgotten his name. And his face.

      We discussed the deal, back then. I was to ship an old terminal to a certain destination, no questions asked. The terminal's front panel read 'House Ne Maetuo', so I guess it came from the old House Age. The boss said I'd get half the cash.

      But I was a rookie. So I got nothing. When I went back, and the deal had been made, the big dumb guy was there alone, waiting to tell me that money is out of question. In the half-darkness I couldn't notice his eyes or any of his face. But his huge, muscle-boosted arms, showing subdermal blades made me shut up and go back to the big city.

      That was Paul. An ordinary sucker, who loved money above all. It made him a bit less ordinary. It killed him. And only Rob knows that he didn't die.

      Now I once again return to the night spent between the tall buildings, preparing my second chance. Ever since my first day as Wiggins, my decision was to get myself a true reputation. A good one.

      And this was an important step. Now my contact was a girl, a short, red-haired girl. Although her body appeared to be natural, she was stepping like an implant sample host. She had probably been one, and her natural limbs were not the ones she had been born with.

      Deep Pete did show up, and I already knew what he was expecting. He didn't know that I knew. The place was a parking lot, where a long-dead car was resting, its windows broken and its controls blown out. The deal was simple, and my share of the cash was smaller, but it was for real.

      The rest is nothing but details. Paul used to love details. I'm not Paul.

      Details helped Paul become Rob. And the lack of attention to them made Rob become what Paul would never have wanted. On second thought, that leads my mind to Kim, so I'll stop here. It's better to forget.

      To forget the meeting where I met Anna. Where Paul met Anna. One of those obscure, semi-ritual pro-Neu meetings. They were anti-Cy, actually, but their organisers prefered to remain unobserved by the Cy company authorities.

      Those people were freaks. The sort of freaks who admit it. They promoted some strange psi shit. For the future, they used to say. Paul got in there with a clear image of them, and went out with a blurry one. The one Anna gave him. She had blurred his thoughts, my thoughts, probably forever.

      Jan, the crazy guy, has been my initiator. He drove me, without his knowledge, through every remarkable passage of my former memories. Till my last. And his last, too.

      There were many such occasions, many nights which died under the flashing vertigo of lights, in the smell of combined male and female sweat at every neu music club Paul had been through. Everything redone, only without Anna. And the mornings always extinguishing the fire, erasing the recent past in front of my eyes with Anna's smile pictured on Kim's unsuspecting face.

      Unsuspecting she really was.

      Always, even during that hour we spent inside Rick's apartment. That fucking hour.

      Shouldn't think of it. Not now, not as long as my memories flow on between my mind and my eyes.

      Another day. Just as new as those before it, and just as old as the present one. Some would call it an end, or a beginnig. To me it was both.

      I was wondering down the rabid streets, among all those people lost in their usual daily nonsense. I had left Kim at the Glass, after we both came back from one of those pro-Neu meetings. Those guys said that ReCy is wrong, and that the rebirth after the years of NonTech should be a ReNeu. I went there as a spectator, like someone looking through the walls of unbreakable glass at a loonie museum. Kim was more than that. I think she liked what she saw behind the glass. Even more, I think she wanted to get there. Forever.

      I'm unable to restore any exact image of what happened that day, except for the takedown. If only I had the means of CyNeu, the lost ordinary abilities of memory browsing. They are legendary now, and nothing more. Maybe the loonies are right, after all. But now it's too late to fix what began that day.

      I had talked to Jan. We were to meet at an abandoned substitute shop, where the terminals were still working. Me, Jan, and three other guys. Five terminals, five guys. For a hack on the local governor's home system.

      Paul would've refused. But Rob and Jan were already old friends by that time. They had done many hacks together. No money.

      So I got there, through the soul-hungry city. Jan was waiting for me, with two other guys.

      'Where's the third?'

      'The third is... well, a surprise. Come.'

      I went with them down the short hallway between the two rooms of the shop. The terminals were in the back room. I remember it was completely empty. Nothing but the terminals. No shelves, no chairs, no even lights. It looked like their had never been any lights in that room other than than what came from the screens on the terminals.

      Daylight was passing in with no trouble at all, through what seemed to be a missing window.

      The third hacker was waiting inside.


      'Well, here I am, Rob. What do you think of me.'

      'When did you get into the biz, Kim? You never told me that you're hacking.'

      'Look, we're not here for chit-chat, ok?'

      Those were Jan's words. More came after them. Nothing worth keeping in mind. We connected, and we started looking for any possible way of getting inside the governor's home network. I guess we did it, but I'm not sure.

      The door opened, and cops went in. Stuff went on too fast for me. I was no more than a spectator, just like at the pro-Neu meetings. I think Jan attacked the blue suits or something.

      I won't forget the moment they took me out, dragging me along with the others over Jan's almost dead body. They killed him. They fucking killed him.

      The next days were full of nothing but trouble. We were all interrogated separately. They concluded that we were not actually hacking, so they let us go. Because we had the luck not to go deep enough into the net.

      Or because law had already taken its toll.

      I didn't know the other two guys, and Kimberly's memories were probably too close to answer any of my questions.

      So I went over to the Sweaty Glass, to tell Rick what happened.

      He already knew.

      We drank more than two bottles of DoIt, and when the night came, we went to his place. At the bar and on the way home he had told me of some conspiracy shit, something about the NeuroLords still acting, disguised as pro-Neu organisations.

      He said Kim was one of them. He was drunk enough that night to admit the posibility of Kim betraying me. I wasn't.

      I think I asked him to stop talking about it once he gets home. He did.

      His apartment was too clean for a guy like Rick. And that was because he spent more time at the bar than he did at home. There was an old terminal in his room, one of those things you can only buy from the recovery mob. We tried to watch an old movie, and to relax.

      His fridge was nearly empty. Only two bottles of DoIt and some sandwiches. He ate them. I only drank some of the DoIt; I couldn't eat.

      He heard the apartment door, and I heard Kim's voice.

      'Rick? Are you there?'

      I recall him lifting a finger over his lips, telling me to shut up.

      'Rick? Something happened, I've got to tell you. Don't play deaf, Rick! I can hear the movie! Rick?'

      She went inside the room.

      'Don't make a fucking move, bitch. Don't you fucking dare!'

      He stood up, with an inhuman look on his face. I shouted.

      'Rick, calm down, man! You're too drunk! Sit down! You don't know what you're doing!'

      'Shut up, Rob. You're too fucking blind. This bitch has betrayed you.'

      I tried to grab him and make him sit down.

      'Sit down, Rick, sit the fuck down!'

      A metalic glow out of his pocket. A small knife.

      'Don't tell me to...'

      Kim yelled, trying to run, while Rick pushed me away with one hand and almost leaped towards her, drunk as he was.

      'Rick, you're gonna kill her! You're too fucking drunk, man!'

      'She killed Jan.' he said, while his knife was spilling Kim's blood. It was too late for me. In the next moment, Kim was dead, down on the floor, and Rick was crying next to her.

      'She killed Jan. The bitch killed Jan.' He kept repeating.

      I remember seeing the knife glow next to his own throat. The guy crumbled to the floor, in agony. Over Kim.

      My trembling hand trying to stop him, able only to take the knife from him when it was already too late.

      Rob, lying in a pool of his own blood, with Rick's knife in his hand.


      That's my most recent memory. One could call the emergency body provided to Rob by TransOrganic good luck. I call it bad luck. For now I am a loser, broke and full of Escape, lying in a bed which is not mine. This room I'm in must have belonged to some rich people. I don't care what happened to them. It's my place until the cops will come in to take me away. I shall find a new one then.

      My name is now Patrick, and I'm more than a freelancer. Or less. I'm a nobody.

      They've hired some new guy to replace Rick. And there are still days when I waste my time down at The Sweaty Glass, hoping that he turns out to know another Kimberly.


© Copyright Bogdan Gheorghiu
Sursa :   Imagikon
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