Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.

A Future We'd Like to See 1.63 - Beta By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

(Copyright 1994)

Kids, it's time to start wrapping up loose plot ends, and this
is one MASSIVE huge one that needs a wrap.  See if you can
spot it early on.


    "Where the heck are you!?" I shouted, running around the
void in vain.  I poked around for a way to find where the faint
voice was coming from, not knowing exactly how I was doing what I
was doing.  My probing hands sought out invisible things as I
wormed my way around the tubes of this null-space.

    "I can't find you!" I yelled, turning this way and that in
an attempt to find the voice.


    I strained an ear to the voice, but couldn't make out
anything more than was already known.  It was familiar, but

    I snarled and continued to rip away at the blackness that
surrounded me, knocking things aside that were in the way of my
path towards the voice.  Nothing was going to get in my way.

    "How about now?  Can you hear me better?" I asked, plowing
through another level of the things.


    I pushed through thing1 and thing2, trying to find a way, a
path to wherever the heck I was going, and emerged into the

    "No!  Not yet!" I complained, but it was too late.  I was

    A good thing, too.  I looked around the sector,
triangulating my position based on the green dome of Yttia Online
(basic startup rate 50 credits 20 credits a month ask about our
limited UberNet messaging capability) and VirtuServer (5 credits
a minute 10 for additional services).  I looked down, and noticed
the green color of the sector I was standing in.


    I had sleep-walked into Yttia Online's private domain.

    "Hello!" a cheery Pitch Objicon chirped, BAMFing into
existence in front of me.  "Welcome to Yttia Online.  It seems
you're not a subscribing member.  If you would like a startup kit
automatically billed to your credit chip, press the happy face
button on my chest.  Otherwise, we'd like to you leave Yttia
Online space within the next minute or be forcibly jacked out
from VOSNet."

    I looked at the horizon.  The green spaces ended too far
away for me to run in a single minute.  Why did those humans have
to claim so much of the network?  Yttia Online barely occupied 5%
of the spaces it claimed were part of it, like the rest of the
servers in VOSNet.  The rest was just empty space, free for the
taking... if anybody dared to try and take it from a corporate

    "I can't leave in a minute!" I protested.

    "Too bad.  It seems you are artificially intelligent," the
Pitch Objicon noted, scanning me.  "We are AI-Aware and are
sensitive to your race.  We have special rates for AIs at 60
credits for startup kits."

    "Hey, that's ten more than humans get."

    "It is a special rate," the Pitcher said.  Figures.  Humans
didn't want me around.  Perhaps I could use this to my advantage.

    "Of course, you can't jack ME out," I noted, looking smug.
"I don't 'jack', for some reason..  If you'll just move me to the
freelanes, I'll leave in peace and never return."

    "AIs who are trespassing are shut down," the Pitcher beamed,
like singing campfire songs.  "AIs who are trespassing that have
registered owners are returned to their owners.  Others are
incorporated into Yttia Online's work force."

    Damn.  Time to put my brain to some good use.

    "Hey!  Look!  It's William Doors!" I said, pointing.  The
Pitcher turned to scan him (probably an intruder) and I slipped
into the Pitcher's brain.

    Stupidly simple program.  It wasn't a living thing by any
stretch of the imagination, just a slew of if-then statements.
Tweak tweak compile.  I didn't know how these things worked, but
somewhere in the vast expanse of my memory, I had step by step
instructions on how to modify one to your needs.  A do-it-
yourself guide.

    "What happens to trespassing AIs?" I asked, exiting the

    "They are transported to the freelanes," the Pitcher said.
"Your one minute is up.  Thank you for using Yttia Online!"


    I walked happily over the white squares of the freelanes.  I
was safe here, at least from most of the problems that could be
haunting me.

    The freelanes were a series of small sector clusters of
VOSNet that none of the companies had bought.  Some rich
net.lover purchased them, and donated them away to free
information services.  You couldn't get much on the freelanes,
but you could be assured that what you were getting was worth
what you'd pay for it.

    Hence the term 'free'.  It's a pun.  I've never truly
grasped human puns in the three months I've lived in VOSNet.

    Truth be known, I don't understand humans.  They claim to
live in some other world, some world which is supposedly more
detailed and intense.  Sounds like a load of dev-null to me.
They 'jack-out', whatever that entails, and vanish, but I think
they just transfer over to some ultra-detailed game or something.
I'd like to play it some time, but it seems AIs aren't allowed to
jack out.

    I don't like humans.  I don't even know why; just something
tells me I don't like humans.  That's my problem, I know a lot of
things and believe in a lot of things, but I never figured out
what these things came from.  I just know a lot of stuff.

    One day, when I was penniless and bored, someone offered to
sell me some cheesy shareware game.  I told them I was broke, and
said they also had this book they could sell me about how to use
your natural abilities to make millions of credits on VOSNet.

    "I don't have any natural abilities," I had responded.

    "Come on!" Canter (which was the con artist's name) had
said.  "Surely there's something you know that nobody else does.
Information is gold, especially here in the freelances where it
is so scarce."

    "Oh, sure, I know a lot.  For instance,"

    Ten minutes later.

    "Good zorks, man!  Sell that information!  Hire yourself out
as a consultant and you'll rake in the credits!"

    "I don't want to," I had said.  "I've done it before and
didn't like it."

    But had I?  I've barely worked a day in my short lifespan.
Where on earth had that line come from, if so?  Argghh.  I'd
rather have no memory than little bits of memory.

    That was then, and this is now, however.  At the moment, I
had nothing to do and no leads on how I could recover the rest of
my memory, nor any way to explain my strange dreams.  I spotted a
purple pyramid objicon on the freelane, and read the sign.
'Madame Zorba's Dreams and Fortunes Center.  Free.'  Free sounded
good to me, so I entered.


    "Madame'll see you now," the secretary program said,

    "Thanks," I said, pushing aside the curtain flap (which
swivelled as if on a hinge... cheap modelling) and entering.

    It was really not that much of a sight.  I had seen some
truly beautiful objicons and designs in my quick stint at the
Pay-For Art Museum some 50 sectors to the north-north-down,
before I ran out of money.  This paled in comparison.  The
'light' given by the ball wasn't an omni lamp, just a slew of
spotlights going through a glass sphere.  Not very mystical.

    Beggars can't be choosers though, I mused, sitting down on
the rock-hard cushion provided.

    Madame Zorba BAMFed in two seconds before her BAMF special
effects went off.  She ignored the bug and got into character.

    "Greetings, seeker, and welcome to the wonderful world of
the unknown," she said.

    "I thought you were an expert."

    "Come again?"

    "If it's an unknown world, how are you an expert in it?"

    "I move in mysterious ways," she said, getting a bit terse.
I stopped probing the issue, since I didn't want to put her off.
No other information sources had been helpful so far, so maybe
this other world could help me.

    "I've got a few questions about my dreams," I said.

    "Ah!  The world of dreams is known to me."

    "It's not the unknown one, is it?" I asked, confused.

    "Get on with it," she suggested.

    "Ah.  Okay.  Umm.  It's hard to describe.  The dream is
always a bit different, but lies along the same lines.  I go to
sleep, and after awhile I'm in this void with these things around

    "What are these things?"

    "I don't know.  I just call 'em thing1 and thing2 and thing3
and so on."

    "I see.  Go on."

    "Anyway, there's this woman calling out to me," I continued,
"And somehow I'm finding my way around in the dark, trying to
find her.  I can barely hear her, but I feel like if I push
around the things and find ways between them I could.  Then
usually something wakes me up and I'm standing where I wasn't

    "Sleepwalking?" she asked.

    "Yeah.  Goofy, huh?"

    "Where do you usually end up after these night trips?  At a
gas station?  A relative's home?  A graveyard?"

    "What's a graveyard?" I asked.

    "Where you bury the dead," she said gravely.

    "I thought dead people just vanished," I said.  "You know,
like they're jacking-out only a bit faster."

    "You've been using the nets too long," she commented,
dropping the voice.  "Dead means dead.  Deceased.  A stiff
corpse.  A body.  A cadaver."

    I nodded, thinking back on the word cadaver, pulling up a
mental image.

    "Kinda bluey and gross looking and not moving," I said.  "I
don't get it.  People just vanish when they die.  It'd be silly
if they left their objicon around, people would trip over it."

    "I'm not talking about the net!" she said.  "I mean real

    "Oh, that game everybody's playing?" I asked.  "Hey, how do
I get in on that?  It sounds interesting."

    "We'll ignore your obvious addiction to all things digital
for now," the fortune teller growled, sitting back on her cushion
(I just now noticed how she was edging closer to me and clenching
a fist).  "Tell me, do you know this woman from your past?  A
wife?  A former lover?"

    "No way!" I protested.  "No.  I mean, I know her, but it
doesn't sound like anything like that.  It's weird, I know.  I
want to figure out who she is in the worst possible way.  It's
bad enough that I need to walk around while awake with an
identity crisis, but to have another asleep is awful."

    "Identity crisis?" she asked.  She was confused, for a

    "Who am I?" I asked.  "I've been in the country of VOSNet
for months now and nobody can tell me who I am.  I don't know how
I got here, why I'm here, who this girl is, or ANYTHING."

    "Wait a minute here," she asked, narrowing her eyes at me.
She reached down and tapped her crystal ball a few times,
examining a cheap 2-D map of text inside it.  She glared back at

    "AI," she noted.

    "Yeah.  AI."

    "I don't do AI memory gaps," she said.  "For that, go see
some underground AI doctor.  I only handle the lives of the

    "I feel pretty alive," I said.

    "Go recheck your definition," she said coldly.


    I walked down the freelane, annoyed at myself.  I should
have known better than to expect sympathy from a human.  Sure,
there were the occasional humans who didn't want to use my memory
as a cash tool, or to take me apart so they could make AI
compilers, or just to drag me into some cheap con as a fall guy,
but those humans were few and far between.  For some reason,
everybody in VOSNet seemed to be obsessed with this thing called

    Money!  I never understand these human concepts.  What did
they need it for?  Sure, it opens doors to information, but I
already had most of that information and needed no doors opened.
Here in VOSNet, if you had money, you were considered better than
most people.  The Yttia Online types really thumbed their noses
at the struggling freelanes, calling them sewer scrapers and

    One thing I did like that humans made was art.  I visited
the Pay-For Art Museum once, and gaped at the beautiful creations
inside... the color!  The shapes!  Why would anybody lock this
stuff behind doors and make you pay for each one you looked at?
It was a crime!

    "Hey there!" a familiar voice called.

    "Oh.  Hello, Canter," I said.  "What're you selling this

    "These," Canter said, showing me a stack of little green
rectangles.  "They're work permits, qualifying you to work at
Yttia Online as a programmer."

    "What if you don't know how to program?"

    "You find some on the job training," Canter shrugged.
"Doesn't matter to me, once they buy the card.  So what is my
little know it all friend up to today?"

    "Nothing," I replied, leaning against a nearby street sign.

    "Same as usual, eh?"

    "Hey, Canter, know where I can find any... underground AI
doctors?" I asked, repeating the phrase word for word.  "I think
I might wanna meet one."

    "Sure!" Canter said, smiling.  I perked up.  Perhaps the day
would turn out quite well after all.  "What can you offer in
return?" Canter continued.


    "As payment."

    "Canter, you KNOW I don't have any money."

    "Information, then!" Canter suggested.  "Come on, with the
facts locked in your head, you and I could really wipe the mat
with those other news and documentation peddlers."

    "NO!" I exclaimed.  "No.  I don't do that anymore.  I don't
like spewing out facts at someone's whim."

    "Your loss," Canter said.  "You really want to see a doctor,
you need me.  I can show you where the Port is.  Good luck
finding it on your own, it's carefully hidden."

    "Come on, man!  Have some sympathy," I begged.  "What have I
ever done to you to give me a bad turn?"

    "The question is not what you have done, but what you
haven't, which is pay me," Canter said.  "I take no offense to
what you do, what little there is, but if I'm going to help you,
then you need to help me."

    I winced at the word.  "Oh, alright.  I'll never be able to
face myself in a mirror objicon again, but if it needs to be done
it needs to be done.  Make it painless.  What do you want to


    "Right there," Canter said, pointing to the port labelled

    "I thought it was carefully hidden," I asked, examining the
insanely easy to spot port.

    "Not really," Canter replied.  "Hey, so I told a little
white lie.  I got some profit out of it.  Toodles!"

    Canter BAMFed back home.

    I felt lower than dirt.  I went and sang the song of
information to that two-bit con artist for a full hour, against
my will, just for THIS?  I hated it and myself for doing it.  I
vowed never, ever again to use my brain as an exchange medium.  I
shook off the feelings of dread and claustrophobia that surged up
with the concept of selling my mind out, trying to ignore what I
had just done.  I never wanted to feel like that again.

    The thing in the sector was a basic 'port program, designed
to get objicons here to there.  Not humans... for some reason,
the ports denied them access, just raw data.  Humans told me that
ports were designed to carry information and program processes,
not 'connections'.

    Fortunately, I wasn't human.  I held my nose and dove into
the port feet first.


    The world emerged from under my head, as the port spat me
onto the ground.

    I got to my feet, or at least tried to -- the ground was the
wrong color.  Unlike VOSNet, which had a white floor and a black
sky, this had a black floor and a white sky.

    A blue-collar worker who was standing nearby dropped his
doughnut objicon.  "Wha?"

    "Oh, hello," I said, righting myself and walking forward to
greet him.  He stepped back.

    "How'd you get here?" he asked.  "I thought the port didn't
carry connections!"

    "It doesn't," I replied.  "Don't panic, I'm an AI."

    "Oh, is that all," the worker stated, calming down.  "Okay,
I could see that.  Gotta make sure no connections get through,
though.  Don't want the VOSNet corporate types getting in here."

    "This isn't VOSNet?" I asked.

    "Of course not.  It's UberNet.  Same software, different
aim, no connections between the two other than the port," he
said, pointing to it.  "I'm the Portkeeper.  Welcome to Uber."

    "What's Uber?" I asked before my memory told me
automatically.  The man didn't know this, and explained.

    "Separate but equal net," he said.  "More than equal,
really.  We're not burdened down with corp greed or restrictive
laws.  Very free and fun.  I think you'll like it here.  Got a
lot of great places to have fun for humans and AIs, 'specially
ones LOOKING for a good time, eh?"

    "Come again?"

    "Come on, admit it.  Most of the AIs that come through the
port are just looking for a little virtual nookie nookie."

    "Ah.  A veiled reference to sexual intercourse," I nodded,
remembering.  "No, actually, I'm looking for an 'underground AI

    "You're no fun," he groaned.  "Alright.  An AI doctor.
Here's a list of a few recommended ones," he said, keying the
information into a small program on his belt.  A card was spat
out, which he handed to me.  "Avoid the others, you could get a
frontal lobotomy."

    "Got it," I said.  "Thanks.  I'll just be off."

    "What, on foot?" he asked.

    "Something wrong with that?  I mean, if you don't have any
corporations, it's perfectly safe to walk in any sector I want,

    "There's safe and then there's safe," he said.  "Here, lemme
call you a cab."


    "It's these punk kids," the driver grunted from his conical
cockpit as the cab careened around, smashing into buildings.
"Think they some hot shit because they can cut my navigational
systems.  Don't got much defensive, don't got enough money to lay
some in."

    "Why would anybody want to hack into your cab?" I asked,
bracing myself against the seat as the car crunched through a
less solid structure.

    "Kicks, I guess," he said.  "Ah.  Got some feedback goin'.
They don't got much control over my cab NOW."

    "Good," I said.  "I--"

    An ear-piercing wail of white noise slammed through the cab.
The driver laughed away.

    "Don' like that feedback much, huh punks?" he told himself.
"My routines breakin' your decks, goofin' up your brains?  Danger
of the business, baby!"

    Eventually the cab righted itself on a straight course, and
the noise stopped.

    "Brains?" I asked, now that I was able to.

    "They gonna mess with someone, they gotta be willin' to pay
the piper," the cabbie said.  "Hope theys good enough coders to
safeguard against my little feedback brain scrambler.  Then
again, maybe not hope too hard, don't wann'em comin' back at me."

    "You killed them?" I asked, horrified.  Humans that died
were never able to return to VOSNet, from what I had seen.  Talk
about harsh...

    "Yeah.  They w's gettin' on my nerves, anyway.  So?"

    I just scrunched down in my seat, trying not to draw much
attention as the cab soared on.  At least VOSNet types just tried
to buy you.


    The cabbie let me out in front of a large building, after
scowling at me for not having any money.  He swore that I'd never
ride a cab in Uber again, but I didn't mind.  I liked walking,
even if it wasn't 'safe'.

    I knocked on the door as it opened.

    "Greetings," the building owner said, extending a paw.
"Doc.  And you?"

    "Are you the underground AI doctor?" I asked.

    "Certainly.  Are you a patient?"

    "I'd like to be."

    "Let's head inside, then," Doc suggested.  "Don't worry
about the door, it's the Knocker's day off."

    I proceeded into the unkempt lab, edging my way around piles
of programs and data chunks.  The Doc obviously didn't care how
messy his data looked... either that or it was some intricately
complex sorting system I'd never be able to understand.

    "What can I do for you?" Doc asked, shutting the door.

    "Umm... why are you... furry?" I asked, pointing to his

    "Just an external form," Doc said, twitching his racoon
ears.  "I picked it before I died.  Designed this body and
everything.  It's quite nice, just like when I was young and AIs
were very, very new."

    "You're an AI too?"

    "Care to hear the story?" he asked, urging me on.

    "Okay," I prompted.  Anything to keep the Doc happy.  I
didn't want to annoy him like I did the fortune teller.

    "Converting a human mind into AI form isn't easy, but it's
the only way I know of for humans to escape death," Doc said,
rooting through a nearby pile of Apparatus.  "As much as I hated
life, I wasn't quite ready to go when I was supposed to, so I
decided to stay put.  Seems to be working.  It's very
liberating... sure, the world's still an evil place with stupid
people, but I'm happier about my role in it now.  Lack of spastic
back pains will do that to you."

    "Sounds fun," I commented, although I wasn't sure what the
proper response to someone's life story was.

    "It was inevitable that I'd do this," the Doc shrugged.  "I
mean, face it, I'm a living plot device.  People come to me as a
cure-all when they're in the weirdest kinds of trouble
imaginable.  Need implants removed or added, the Doc was your
man.  For AIs or android AIs, I could patch, repair, or modify
the personality streams.  People relied on me.  If I died
forever, quite a few future problems would go unsolved."

    "What about other doctors?"

    "Two bit hacks," the Doc warned.  "Mention them not.  I
compiled the second AI, and know more about how they work than
mortal man ought to know."

    "Second?" I asked.

    "Here it is!" Doc said, plowing with renewed vigor through
his stacks of strangely-shaped objicons.  He pulled out a
primitive stethoscope, walked over and planted the sucker end on
my head.

    "Hold still," the doctor ordered, putting the ear bits in
his ears.  He listened in silence, nodding to himself.  "Don't
worry, it's just a scanner.  Tells me everything I need to know
about you.  Take a deep breath."

    I inhaled, the motion planted in operating system memory
despite its uselessness.  The docs smiled and took off the

    "Memory loss," he said, "Due to data corruption.  Did
someone carrying you on disk subject the disk to a magnet?"

    "Disk?" I asked, confused.

    "I'll guess 'yes'," Doc said.  "Memory loss can be dealt
with.  All AIs keep memory backups, which can be accessed by
trying to access the lost records.  It's a simple system to
replace defective memories on demand.  Although why they're not
copied out of the backups right now, I don't know.  The backups
ARE there.  The gap is there too, oddly."

    "I've tried remembering," I said.  "Just one big gap, no
idea what it should be.  That's why I'm here."

    "That's the problem!" Doc exclaimed, smiling.  "I see!  You
don't even know what you should be looking for, so you can't even
access the archives."

    Doc set the stethoscope down, considering the situation.
For a moment I thought he had fallen asleep, but then he looked
up with an idea glimmering in his eyes.

    "What I need you to do is tell me," Doc started, "If there's
ANYTHING you do that could lead to those memories.  Any
activities that seem strangely familiar?  Any beliefs that have
carried over that could lead to more?"

    "None I think of at the moment," I said.

    "Surely there must be SOMETHING.  I can see the pathways, I
just can't tell what they're triggered by.  That is something
only you know."

    "But I DON'T know!  That's what I came here for.  Look, Doc,
I'm confused, tired, and I don't know who I am.  I don't want
techie jargon right now.  I know what you're talking about,
because I have memory archives of every word's definition, but I
don't understand how it's going together.  All you're doing right
now is making my head spin."

    Doc examined me again.  "Your head isn't spinning."

    "It's a figure of speech, Doc.  I'm confused, depressed, and
generally down in it and I want to be told in SIMPLE WORDS
exactly what I have to do to settle this once and for all!"

    "Alright," Doc replied, thinking hard.  His forehead nearly
pulsed with the thought impulses.  "What did you do for a living

    "Nothing.  I can't remember."

    "What did you NOT do?  What do you hate doing the most?"

    "I don't like all these VOSNet types that want to use me as
a cheap toy," I said.  "I don't like using my memory archive for
money.  It's not right."

    "Good!  How do you feel when someone asks you to sell your

    "Ticked off?" I guessed.

    "Have you ever actually done it?"

    "Well... once.  I felt like slime afterwards."

    "There's the key," Doc said.  "Something in your past makes
you not want to trust people, not want to siphon off what you
know for their own purposes.  Here, I'll give you ten credits to
let me know how to spell the word 'Sepulchre'."

    "No way!" I protested.  "Doc, I don't LIKE doing that.  I'm
not going to talk for bucks.  I promised myself I'd never do it

    "It's the only way to figure out WHY you don't like it," Doc
said.  "Come on.  Submit to it.  Concentrate on how you're

    Doc pressed a tiny objicon representing ten credits into my

    "Sepulchre," I repeated, sinking lower.  Didn't I PROMISE
not to do this again?  Here I was, breaking that promise.
Someone who can't even hold self-made promises had to be pretty
sorry indeed.  "S... e... p..."

    I mean, why did everybody want something from me?  Couldn't
someone try to get friendly without asking questions all over the
place?  It was like before, nobody cared about me.

    "U... l..."

    Back then, way back then, nobody liked me.  Nobody hated me.
I was just there, a resource to be used.  It was terrible.  They
made me with a personality and rejected that fact!


    Just sitting in that darn room, nailed to the ground because
they didn't want me escaping like the other one did.  Standing,
standing up all the time.  Stuck in VOSNet, forced to answer
questions, no way to relieve the boredom...


    Then there was the rush night, where EVERY person in the
Software Department was on a deadline and needed my help.  Over
and over again, all night, the questions piled up.  I couldn't
talk fast enough to answer them, so they rigged up a sub-thought
tube in my neck to siphon the material directly.  After the night
was done, drained, tired, they left the tube in because it was a


    Stuck there, being probed in the mind every waking moment,
bored to tears and unable to keep them from entering my brain
whenever they had a query to answer.  All because I was made by
them, the Help system, for later reproduction and use.  HelpBeta,
the first of the two ever made.  They wanted to try to tie us
together by communications routines and double the output, and
started some experiments on me...

    One night, the tube was taken out, and the man in the SNORT
FISH t-shirt plucked me from my standing position and shoved me
into a tiny compartment.  Told me I'd be off to a better place
before everything went black, black for a very long time until I
was found and loaded into a computer by some person who told me
she forgot she still hadn't delivered me... I ran, I ran away to
avoid getting sent back to Macroware, but I started forgetting

    "E," HelpBeta finished, as my mouth shut over the last

    "Anything?" Doc asked.

    "Everything," I said.  "Rrggghhhhhh.  Ow.  My head hurts..."

    "Take this," Doc said, fishing a pill out of his pocket.
"It slows down the memory flow a little.  Should stop the rush
from overloading you.  I take it you hit the trigger and
recovered your archive?"

    "I think so," I said.  Now for the other situation; I probed
the new memories for any dream recollection.  Nothing.

    Nothing?  STILL?  I hoped that I'd remember who she is from
the memories, but until my gap, I had never dreamed.  I was never
allowed to sleep.

    "Doc, here's still one other problem," I said.  "I

    "Sleepwalk?  AIs don't do that," Doc replied.

    "I do," I said.  "Whenever I slip into sleep mode, I dream.
Dream that I'm hearing this girl's voice, and I'm trying to find
a way to it..."


    "I wake up in a place that isn't where I went into sleep
mode," I said.  "I've tried this a few times, same result each
time.  Something interrupts me, I lose concentration and wake

    "Alright, show me," Doc said.  "I'm guessing you have
control over your sleep functions.  Slip into sleep mode and I'll
follow you."

    "Okay," I said, willing my brain into the null-state of
sleep.  It would be pleasant, nightmares or no; the rush of
memories had really drained me.  It helped to relax a little
after something like that.

    "I wonder if it has anything to do with the weird
communications routines I found on my scan..." Doc pondered aloud
as my vision slipped to black.


    I rested soundly in blackness, recuperating from my ordeal
with past trauma.  Maybe the nightmares had gone away.  Perhaps
I'd get a good night's sleep after all...

    '...?' the voice asked, from far, far away.

    "Drat," I moaned.  Nope, no go on that one.  Alright, if we
want to charge through the dreamscape, we'll do it.  This time I
wasn't going to wake up until it was done, no matter what

    I examined the things around me.  Thing1 was Doc; I could
see him as a black shape on absolute blackness.  He wasn't
important; there was a gap in the things near him I wanted to be
in.  I slipped over there.

    'hey' Doc exclaimed, thing1 charging after me.  'not so

    I ignored him and slipped between things, looking for links,
paths, anything that would take me near the voice.

    "Yoo hoo!" I called out to the voice.  "If you can hear me,
get closer!  Find a way!"

    '!!' the voice exclaimed.

    I slipped down a port and through several things,
transmitting around, looking for the right outlet.  Thing45,
looking somewhat like a holophone transmission router slipped by,
but it didn't look like the right way.

    Doc was long gone, lost a few million sectors back.  I
didn't care; I knew where I was going now.  I was going off to
find her.  I only regretted not being able to thank the Doc.

    I ran head on into thing567, which was blocking my path.  I
knew for certain that this was the way, the closest path.  She'd
be behind here, because my search had lead directly to her
personal computer.  Just as planned, my communications routines
for linking two Helps together drew me RIGHT to her like a moth
to a bug light.

    Now I just needed one last door opened before my memory
would be complete, and I could live as myself once more, without
nightmares or gaping holes.

    "Open the door!" I called out.

    'jack?' the voice asked.

    "Whatever!" I responded.  "Just do it!"

    The door opened, and with an inrush I slammed through the
narrow opening like a pulse stream through a computer wire.
Exactly like one, in fact.

    The dream ended; not unnaturally, as usual, but because I
had found my goal.  The world of VR, for now I understood exactly
what VR meant, formed itself around me.  It was a simple
computer, the kind a teacher might own, with papers stacked on
any available surface and a few freeware word processors lurking
behind the piles.

    "Where are you?" I asked, peeking around the piles.  "I came
all this way to find you."

    "Who are you?" she asked, peeking at me from the other side
of the pile I was on.  "Were you calling to me earlier?  Have we
met before?"

    Help.  It was the other one, the female one, the Hardware
Department's answer to the Software Department's Helpsystem.  Red
hair, unlike my blonde hair.  Female, unlike me.  Exactly like me
in all other respects.  Both freed from electronic prisons,
separated, but finally together again.

    "Hi, I'm Help," I introduced, sticking my hand out to greet
my sister.  "HelpBeta, that is.  I'm really, really happy to meet

| Finger for Cyberpunk Humor information and other fun materials.  @whee.   |

Yep, more FWLS.  This one hits a little closer to home though, since it
deals with all the fun aspects of the 'Infermashun sooperhieewaye' that
we've had to put up with.

Share and enjoy.  Commentary is always welcome.


A Future We'd Like to See 1.60 - The Chain Rule
By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne (Copyright 1994)

Please copy this story and distribute it to ten of your best
friends, who should then distribute it to ten of their best
friends, etc.  Archived at : etext.archive.umich.edu
/pub/Fiction/FWLS.  Your dreams will come true.  Read on.

    "No, the complete works of Billy Joel go THERE," I said,
pointing with a pen ObjIcon.  "He's eighties more than he's
nineties, so he belongs in the blue wing."

    "Whatever," the hacker tyke whined.  "Who cares?  So he's
not in the right decade.  It's not like anybody remembers this
ancient stuff."

    "Alright, let's look at it this way.  What's your favorite
kind of music?"

    "I dig grunge mostly," he said, setting the box of
recordings down on the museum floor.

    "Okay.  What if I were to tell you that grunge was actually
a throwback to the nineteen nineties?"

    "I'd say you're full of shit," he calmly insulted.
"Everybody knows grunge was started by Stomach Contents a long
time ago.  It's common knowledge."

    I rooted through my audio bin and tossed him a splotchy blue
disk.  "Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit.  THAT is the original

    The kid toyed with the disk, examining the texture mapped
ocean patterns on the silver base.  He span it, and placed it
near his ear, triggering the ObjIcon's playback mode.

    "This isn't grunge," he said.  "Where're the keyboards?"

    "Grunge didn't have keyboards back then," I said.  "Just a
guitar, bass and drum, usually."

    "Then it's not grunge," he said.  "It sounds close enough to
fool an old fart like you, though."

    "Don't forget who's paying you, kid."

    "Big deal," he said, picking up the Billy Joel crate again.
"I could make twice as much hacking networks."

    "Then why aren't you?" I asked, smirking.

    "Don't feel like it," he replied, marching off to the blue
wing, MPEG-CD2s rattling in the crate.

    I picked him well; some junior high type.  Just got a
computer and decided that VOSNet was for lamers (he had SOME
intelligence).  He liked to claim he was some powerful hacker
type, but he didn't even know how to make his own objicons.  That
was the key; he needed the money but couldn't admit that he
didn't know how to get it himself.  Perfect for a toadie job.

    The attitude was common, though.  Nobody seemed to realize
just how pop culture worked.  In a compressed area, like a single
planet, trends repeat every thirty years.  In the universe, it
takes a little longer... trends have more room to spread, and
spread slowly through the populace.  Grunge was just starting to
to peak around C'atel, the city that 'spawned' it.

    Respawning is a better term.  The Golden Age, the twentieth
century, was well into revival without anybody knowing it.  The
whole concept of two nets, one corp controlled and the other
anarchy controlled was straight out of the very late twentieth
century, when SubNet formed as a free, uncontrolled alternative
to the pay-service dominated and government regulated Internet.
There was conflict back then too, mirroring the hacker purges of
this decade, and eventually things settled down.

    How quickly humanity forgot itself after getting warp
technology!  Internet fell into disuse, as holophone technology
spawned chat services, 1-900 lines and information servers.  Even
this was starting to go the way of nets, as the kids and
terrorists alike went on underground links to avoid Terran
Confederation encryption chip policies.

    Then we come to VOSNet and UberNet, and we're full circle
for the third time.  The silly thing is that people claim it's an
original idea.  Like gangsta folk music is original, like
backwards hats are original, like cheaply produced kids' action
shows with recycled foreign footage are original.

    "We almost done?" the kid asked, returning from the blue
wing.  "The War of the CyberTroops is coming on HV."

    I grinned.  "If only you knew... yeah, okay, you're done for
the day."

    "Great!" the kid shouted.  "I gotta get a good dose of HV to
counteract all this old stuff you've had me lugging around.  No
offense, N.M., but you need to get into the present."

    "I'm already there," I told the kid as his virtual form


    The Museum was my final triumph.

    It took a few years of vacationing, searching for all the
information available on the late twentieth century.  Fortunately
for me, I found about 20% of it in the form of a nice girl named
Help... files complete, my goal in life was over and done with.

    What to do afterwards was the question.  I tried vacationing
some more, but it just wasn't the same without the information
quest.  What to do, what to do.

    Impart my knowledge upon the masses, of course!  A vast
virtual museum, loaded with the tokens of culture that we all
know and love from the sixties through the zeroes.  A remodelled
version of Jimi Hendrix's burnt guitar.  Platform shoes.
Mirrored balls.  Punk outfits.  Select items from the Sharper
Image.  A re-created MTV video award.

    And the Library... everything you've ever wanted to know,
see, or hear.  Seattle recordings.  Woodstock '69 AND '94
bootlegs.  Energizer Bunny commercials.  The complete works of
Gary Larson.  Plus, archives of alt.religion.kibology and
alt.culture.internet from newgroup to rmgroup.  (That was after
the Great Newgroup War between Joel Furr and his long lost evil
twin, which laid waste to a great portion of Usenet before both
of them died from exhaustion in front of their respective

    It was a masterpiece.  Everything laid out in little
dioramas, detailing pop culture as it was and is known.  All made
possible by the fine folks of UberNet, where information is still

    That's the problem.  Like Internet vs. SubNet and Mainstream
Holophone vs. Protected Links, VOSNet vs. UberNet had its little
drawbacks.  I could probably get more visitors in VOSNet, but the
fees that they charge for space rental are horrendous.  On
UberNet, it's free, but you have to deal with wanna-bes and the
occasional punk who wants to crack your system because he has
nothing better to do.  Still, it's free, and that's a good thing.


    I locked up my system (metaphorically, I was locking the
door of the museum and barring the windows) and preparing to jack
out when I bumped into him.

    The man was wearing a simple ObjIcon... a polygonal three-
piece suit made of neon green.  Green tie, green pants, green
jacket.  A yellow happy face topped the green visage, spherical
and perfect.

    "Hello, friend," he said.  "I see you're an enterprising
businessman.  What exactly is this building?"

    "The Golden Age Museum," I responded, tucking the keys in my
pocket and velcroing the pocket (thus sealing the encryption key
from public access).  "We're not open yet, though.  We should be
ready to roll in a week."

    "I'm a businessman too," he said.  "Pulled myself out of the
gutter.  The government repossessed my car and my house.
Luckily, though, I still had my computer.  With my computer, I'm
now building a small fortune.  Would you like to know how?"

    "No.  Excuse me," I said, preparing to jack out.  The happy
faced man placed a friendly hand on my shoulder.

    "Computers are the key," he said.  "They're fast and
efficient, and coupled with a good program, they can make money.
Here's the trick."

    The man pulled a small envelope out of his pocket.  "This
envelope contains instructions," he said.  "A program, if you
will.  A program that can earn you $50,000 dollars or more
whenever you execute it."

    "What, it hacks a bank?" I asked, taking the envelope from
his hand and examining it.

    "Certainly not!  This is one hundred percent legal under
Earth law."

    "Terra, you mean," I corrected.

    "Same thing.  Here's the trick.  You read that letter.  If
you like what it says, you can keep it for a mere five credits.
Find ten of your closest friends and give them copies of the
letter.  If they like it, have them wire me five credits for
service fees.  My account number is on the bottom of the letter.
That's all."

    "How does this make money?" I asked.

    "Simple!  On the letter is a program that can enhance your
mind's logic and planning skills," he said.  "It can turn a third
grade education into a degree from Harvard business college.
Your mind will develop more money-making plans than you'll know
what to do with.  You'll be able to generate thousands of dollars
a week, only by using your innate talents and this letter.  Five
credits is a bargain for that kind of power!"

    "Yeah, well, I'll consider it," I said, pocketing the
envelope.  "For now, though, I need to jack out and hit the
bathroom BAD.  What's your name, by the way?"

    "Dave," he said.  "Have fun with the letter.  Remember, give
copies to ten of your friends!  Soon, we can all profit.  What's
your name, soon to be billionare?"

    "Nostalgia Man," I said, introducing myself.

    "Nostalgia?  As in a fan of the past?"


    "Hmmm.  I shall have to remember that.  Well, good luck in
future business endeavors!"

    I jacked out, his happy yellow face the last thing I saw.


    I was still thumbing the envelope the next day, considering
what Dave said.  It didn't really make sense.  Why give away such
a powerful mind-altering program for five lousy credits?  And how
did HE know that I'd give it to people, or that they'd even pay?
Probably just another UberNet crackpot scheme.  UberNet didn't
look kindly upon people trying to profit off the collective
anarchy, but it didn't stop people from trying... then getting
flamed out of existence.

    "That's the last of the videos," the toadie said.  "I coded
up a quick routine to move them all into the Library for me, took
only a few minutes."

    "Great!" I said.  "The Museum's ready to go.  I figured it
would take longer."

    "What, with a coding god like me on hand?" the kid said,
puffing up his chest.  "Hardly.  Hey, what's in the envelope?"

    "Some kind of money-making program," I said.  "Some guy in a
silly green suit gave it to me."

    "Green suit?" the kid asked, intrigued.  "I think I've heard
of this guy.  Yellow happy-face head, right?"

    I nodded.  The kid snatched the envelope away.

    "I gotta check this out!" he said, ripping it open.  "My bud
Paul has one of these envelopes, and he says he's going to be
making money by the truckload.  I asked if I could have a copy,
but he said something about already giving out ten."

    "Umm, kid, I don't know what that envelope DOES...
supposedly it mucks with your brain..."

    The kid ignored me, engrossed in the text of the letter.
His eyes stuck to the print, scanning line after line.

    He stood there for three minutes, unmoving as he perused the
document.  I started looking for a Cherry Coke to pass the time
when he snapped out of it.

    "Whoa," he said.  "Wow.  That makes sense... that really
makes sense!  I must have been a serious chowderhead for not
realizing it was possible."

    "What was possible?"

    "My idea!" he said.  "I've got the ULTIMATE make money fast

    Make money fast?

    "It'll work!" he exclaimed, jumping up and down.  "It'll
work and it'll work GREAT.  Bye, Nosty, I gotta go!  I gotta go
scrounge five credits and get some copies of this letter made."

    "Whoa!  Wait!  What's your idea?" I pleaded, but the kid was
gone, jacked out and away.  With MY letter.

    Still, something was very familiar about this idea the kid
was talking about.  I set off for the library, trying to figure
out which words were giving me memory flashbacks.


    Damn that kid!

    His stupid sorting program managed to completely screw up
the Library's video index.  Sure, the tapes were in their proper
locations, but the labels were mixed up.  It'd take a week at
least to relabel them.

    The tapes were in alphabetical order, though, regardless of
how they were labelled.  I just had to poke around the letters
and binary search my way to the specific topic I wanted.

    I had a feeling it'd be in the 'M's.  One article about the
Manson murders... some McDonald's Happy Meal commercials...
Mandella (Nelson) is released from prison...

    No, no, no.  I remember something about Make Money Fast, but
it wasn't really wildly newsworthy on a reality level.  It dealt
with the net, in whatever incarnation it formed at the moment.
It would probably barely get a mention.  People seemed to enjoy
ignoring or trivializing things they don't understand, and not
too many people really grasp the importance of net.

    I ran through to the beginning of the 'M's, searching the
'MA's, poking through the lying labels with a stick in the dark.

    "--Rhodes was found brutally tortured and killed at his
villa in Western Florida today," a newslady was reading.  "The
Coalition for Free Data claimed responsibility, calling the
striking down of 'the net's biggest spammer and waster of
bandwidth' the first in many acts planned against the Internet.
The FBI are looking into the validity of this threat, but suspect
it will not turn out to be any danger to the public.  In other

    No mention of some money-making scheme.  I span the reel
backwards a bit, skipping two articles in the Make Money Fast

    "--and in lighter news, users all over the Information
Superhighway woke to find a chain letter written by one Dave
Rhodes in their mailbox, and a copy of it posted to every 'Use
Net' group.  A lot of computer guys were miffed at this, and it
has spawned some angry protests on the network to find Rhodes and
'make him pay for spamming us'.  Good luck, guys, and have fun.
At the city dog show--"

    Looks like they made good on that threat, I chuckled.
Still, what was the problem?  Sure, it's a waste of resources,
but can't you just delete the mail and get on with your life?  I
twisted the Library viewer a few more degrees, moving on to the
article I had accidentally passed over.

    "--net ground to a complete halt today as a group junior
high school students on America On-Line proceeded to launch a
program that would propagate the Make.Money.Fast file to any
computer that could receive net mail," the newsman said.
"Portions of the information superhighway, clogged with mail from
the faulty, out of control program shut down.  The students, who
simply wanted to get the most money they could out of the illegal
chain letter, are currently remaining anonymous until the
legality of their actions is determined and a juvenile court date

    Whoa.  That's why I remembered it... the Make.Money.Fast
wars, just before the splitting of the net.  The original burst
of e-mail hit enough gullible users to produce a smaller burst,
which produced another burst and shrunk at an exponential rate...
ending after a few months, but causing chaos and flames beyond
comprehension.  This and the fabled Internet Worm were the only
times in history that the Internet had to be turned off.  The
sheer bulk of chain letters and angry replies to chain letters
did the net in.  The infamous Dave Rhodes was finally tracked
down and assassinated by a group of net.fanatics.

    So... someone's using a concept similar to and named after
make.money.fast to get himself stinking rich.  But even if the
letter does what it says it will do, won't the users be richer
than Dave... Rhodes the second?  Who WAS he really?

    A mystery, but one that could wait.  I shut down the
library, vowed never to hire temp help again and jacked out.


    I jacked in the next day, vowing to get those tapes sorted
after I found the kid and officially fired him.  Where to find
him wasn't that hard; he liked to hang out at the Hackburger down
the virtual street and impress girls with his stories of
corporate ice and dangerous code.

    UberNet has always been crowded, but it seemed like a lot of
them were on the street that day.  Probably twice the amount that
would normally be walking around... it's too easy to get
pickpocketed or infected with a virus if you wander the streets
all day.  We never said UberNet folk were nice, just that they
were cheap.

    "Shine your shoes?" a user asked, waving a cheaply rendered
metal polisher in my face.  "Just fifty credits."

    "Fifty?" I exclaimed.  "For a little more shine on my
nonexistent spats?  Are you nuts?"

    "Hey, I'll have you know I spent a lot of time thinking
about this idea," he said, waving the polisher threateningly.  "I
know for a fact that it'll work.  If I charge more, then I only
need a few takers to make money fast.  It's logical."

    "I'd suggest lowering your price unless you want no takers.
Excuse me," I said, pushing by him.

    My, the crowd was thick tonight.  It had the street pattern,
the dance of business... an annoyingly old metaphor, but
metaphors circle around just as fast as cultures.

    Sickly guitar floated out of the crowd, chords that had the
same waveform of a cat stapled to a moving garage door.  Someone
had coded a guitar VERY BADLY and was cheerfully sharing the
results with Uber at large.

    So, being the spunky can-do UberNet type I am, I walk over
to the offending musician, grab his guitar and break it over my
knee.  (It may be rude, but it's for public safety.)

    "HEY!" the musician exclaimed.  "I spent all of last night
coding that guitar!  It was going to be my ticket to

    "I think the phrase is, how do you get into Radio City Music
Hall?" I asked, handing the broken guitar back.




    "Whatever.  Jokes don't repeat as well.  Point is : You
suck.  How were you planning on making money off that?"

    "Simple!" he said.  "If I can play badly enough and look sad
enough, bystanders will take pity and give me cash.  It's a
pathos appeal, guaranteed to make me money fast.  Kinda sneaky,
huh?  I'm real proud of it."

    "Did you read a letter, perchance?" I asked, seeing the
obvious pattern.

    "Yup.  Read it, sent the man in green five creds and copied
it off for my friends.  We're all gonna be RICH.  Steve's got a
lemonade stand one block over and Jill is prostituting artificial


    "She says it'll work," the guitarist shrugged.  "Makes
sense, since she read the letter too.  It's good stuff.  Dave is
a swell person to share his business skill with us."

    "About how many people do you reckon have read that letter
by now?" I asked.

    "I dunno.  A lot.  See the crowd?  They're all trying to
make some money.  Since they're out here, they can be potential
customers for me, logically.  It's a great setup."

    "Great, except that if they need money themselves then they
won't be paying YOU any."

    "Not very logical," he snorted.  "Do you want a copy of the
letter?  It's great, clears up life's problems like lifting a
fog.  Sounds like you could use it.  Just so happens I have my
tenth copy ready to go..."

    "No thanks," I said.

    "Friend, you can't pass up an opportunity like this!" he
said.  "Whatever you're doing now is burger flipping compared to
the cash you could be making!"

    "How much have YOU made?"


    "Doesn't sound like you're making money fast, then," I

    "Fast is a relative term.  The letter says that.  Here, have
the envelope.  I've got a guitar to reprogram," he said, passing
me the letter and wandering into the crowd.

    I considered ripping up the stupid letter.

    "I wouldn't do that if I were you," a voice behind me said.
"It'll make your dreams come true."

    I span around, face to face with Mr. Rhodes.

    "You," I growled.  "Don't think I don't know what you're
doing to UberNet.  I saw the news articles from the nineties, the
ones where a letter like yours ground the net to a halt.  How
much profit have you made off this scheme so far?"

    "Enough," Dave said.  "Just enough to survive.  I want to
help people, really."

    "If this letter spreads as fast as it is, UberNet's gonna be
overflowing with junior con artists."

    "Touche!  They're all happy businessmen, ready to exploit
any opportunity that arises.  For instance, did you hear that
Yttia Online is currently leasing out space on VOSNet to aspiring

    "Yeah, I heard.  I couldn't afford it for my Museum."

    "That's BEFORE the price drop!" Dave exclaimed, grin
extending beyond Silly proportions.  "It's nearly free now.
Ready for the claiming.  Comes with a trial subscription to Yttia
Online, VOSNet's premiere information service.  Good data at good
prices.  I suggested that to them."

    "I get it," I said.  "You come here, mung up the minds of
everybody on Uber, and get them to exodus over to VOSNet's Yttia
Online.  I'll admit, it's one of the more clever schemes to
destroy UberNet.  The corps have outdone themselves.  Don't think
it'll work, though."

    "And why not?"

    "History repeats itself.  You'll be dead in a ditch before

    "Unlikely," Dave said.  "The past is for fools like you who
seem to want to cling to it.  The future is for people like me
that are always looking for new ways to succeed.  You'll soon
realize that.  Lenny?  Steve?"

    "Yes, Dave?" the two hulking users chimed in, fading out of
the crowd.

    "Please knock out Nostalgia Man," Dave said, pointing to me.

    Lenny blinked.  "Ummm... who's Nostalgia Man?"

    "Him!" Dave said, pointing to me.

    "Why should I be hitting him?"

    "Who's the one in the green suit?" Dave demanded to know,
pulling on his tie.  "I'm Dave, the green man who is going to
make you money.  Dave wants N.M. out of the way for the moment.
Hit him."

    "Okay," Lenny said, pounding me.


    The warning sirens lit up and my consciousness was pulled
backwards.  I laughed inwardly.

    Biotech is the ONLY thing that has not repeated yet, since
nothing like it has been seen before.  I happen to have quite a
bit of biotech in me... it's how I collected my archives for the
Library, through mind-fixes.  Specifically, fixes that deal in
information retrieval, storage and security.

    I'm immortal on VOSNet.  My brain goes into danger money
when you try to do anything to it (one reason why I didn't bother
reading the letter).  So, I may pass out, but I'm still alive.
Not even heavy ice can crack the goods of the Dirty Dozen.  If
this Rhodes guy had wanted me dead, he did a lousy job of it.

    Give my brain five minutes to recover, and I'll be back in
UberNet with a big smile on my face.  I float in the red zone of
protect mode, happy and bored, waiting for protect to go offline.

    KA-BLAM! goes the cheap cartoon sound effect of someone
forcibly jacking me out of the net.  My mind is pulled straight
through the red zone wall, and back to its proper place behind my

    There are Lenny and Steve, not in the net, but in my living
room, one of them holding the wire of my deck and the other
holding me in my chair.

    Okay, this is not good.  In VR, I may be a god, but in
reality I'm just this shrimpy tourist with a golden oldies
fetish.  Danger levels are suddenly very, very real.

    "Let go of him, Steve," Dave said, from somewhere behind me.
"You two go wait outside the door.  I'd like to have some words
with the Nostalgia Man."

    "Yes, Dave," Steven nodded, releasing his meaty grip and
making a beeline for the door.  The door shut securely, and I
heard the dull WHUMPH of Lenny and Steve leaning against it from
the other side.

    Dave Rhodes circled around to the front of my chair.

    He didn't look that different.  Green suit, tacky beyond
comprehension.  The head wasn't a yellow happy face, but it might
as well have been... it was the suave, aryan look that spoke of
confidence, warmth and security.  Politicians would kill for that
face.  Crooks would do their best to imitate it for a jury.

    "I did a little research myself," Dave grinned, his
perpetual smile as wide as the one on Uber.  "Nostalgia Man, AKA
N.M., aka Nosty.  Real name, Raymond Yankovic.  Biotech implants
give him the ability to absorb information, store and protect it.
Has a suction-cup mental jack embedded in his left palm, which
can be used to tap into the minds of others for information
retrieval.  Plus, he's the only person who could have heard of
the make.money.fast file."

    "So you figured you'd just kill me in reality, where I
couldn't fight back, right?" I said.

    "Not so!" Dave said.  "Raymond... may I call you that?"


    "Ray, I need people like you.  Lenny and Steve make great
influencers, but they're sheep, just like the rest of my proud
hopefuls.  They need strong leaders.  I've gotten more people
than I had ever expected, my letter propagating faster than the
plague.  Now, I could take what I have and apply the counteragent
to the rest, but the ideal situation would be to let the letter
continue draining UberNet until nobody's left there.  Maximizes
my profit at a minimal loss."

    "What does this have to do with me?" I asked.

    "Simple.  I need people who can't read the letter.  People
who don't have squabbles with logic.  People to manage, maintain
and track the new immigrants to Yttia Online.  You have the
ability to store and retrieve information like that, and the
skills to keep track of it all.  We'd have to expunge your
archives of those silly relics first to make room, however."

    Dave took my deck wire, and fastened it to my forehead.
"I'm sure we can work by your little mind-lock together and get
you on the right path.  Let's discuss it."

    Before I could protest, Dave had my deck on and I was in the
Museum proper.  Dave formed in front of me, happy face head and

    Knowing how well this guy could warp minds over the network,
I didn't want to take my chances battling him at a direct mental
level unless I had to.  But how could I elude him, keep my
archives, and get away with my life intact?

    "You know, now what we're here," I said, "It gives me an

    "I always enjoy good ideas.  What is it?"

    "This," I said, pulling out the guitarist's letter number
ten and ripping it open.  I shoved the print in Dave's face,
sliding over to keep his head aimed at it.

    "Have a taste of your own medicine, Mary Poppins," I
chuckled.  "A few paragraphs of this and you'll be a babbling
idiot like the rest of the people you've infected."

    "This is good stuff," he said.  "I should know.  I've read
it before."

    "What?" I asked, letter slipping from surprised fingers.

    "Of course!  How do you think I came up with the letter
idea?  It's a great way to make money fast, I'm sure of it.  It's
logical and will work."

    I gaped.  How dare this guy go off and infect himself with
his own disease, thus preventing the hero from taking the typical
route of poetic justice?!  History had to repeat itself, dammit!
That's how it works!

    "You probably think of me as some scheming, underhanded
fellow," Dave said.  "Not so.  I don't work for Yttia Online.
Well, perhaps according to them I do, but I personally WANT Yttia
Online for my own purposes.  I want to help people get there, so
I can overthrow it, and provide business opportunities for all.
The net has so much commercial potential, but these backwards
UberNet types reject the net's true purpose!  I just set them on
the right path, bring them together, and make profit for all.  To
do this fast, which was promised, I need your help."

    Dave placed his palm on my forehead.  Tiny intrusion
programs fire, poking dangerously close to my red zone protector.

    "Hold still, please.  I'm doing this for your own good,"
Dave said.

    How could he get by my security package?  It was top-notch
biotech!  Already I could feel the nanites pushing past layer
after layer, burrowing down to my precious mental archives.

    Alright... if we want to find out HOW, we ask the source.
Not verbally, however.  I press my palm to Dave's stupid yellow
head, and ask his mind DIRECTLY.

    The torrent of information was overpowering.  Dave didn't
lead a very closed life, everything he ever wanted out in the
open and for sale.  Programs, schemes, future plans, everything
laid out in indexed order.

    A tidy mind is a good mind.  Good for those of us who
specialize in thought-eating, that is.

    Dave's probes are like a blind child swinging a stick at a
pinata compared to mine.  Normally I ask for permission first to
scan someone's brain, but hey; Dave didn't ask ME if he could
poke into my brain, why should I return the favor?

    I ate it all, sucking copies of Dave's plots and programs
into my own databanks.  Then, I pushed him away, and jacked out.

    Dave was there, jacked into my computer and extremely
surprised.  I grabbed the deck off the table and smashed it
across his jaw, spinning his silly grin around and sending it
crashing to my carpet.

    It was so obvious, I thought, reviewing over Dave's stolen
thoughts.  You'd have to have impaired logic not to see the hole
in your plan.

    I started to pull Dave's pants down.


    "Is everything okay in here, Dave?" Steve asked, peeking in
the door.  "I know you told us to stay put, but we heard this
noise and were worried that you might have been hurt..."

    "I'm fine," I said.  "Here.  I have new orders for you two.
Take this disk and go load it into your computers.  You'll find
an envelope on it.  It's a new money-maker, TWICE as fast!"

    Steve and Lenny gaped.  "You mean... more money?  Faster

    "Faster than a Yugo on acid," I said.  "Read it, and give
copies to ten of your best friends.  Plus, this letter's FREE!
You've got nothing to lose!"

    Lenny and Steve practically climbed over each other to grab
the disk.  "We'll do it, Dave!  Anything for the man in the green
suit.  We'll do it right away!"

    "Good for you two.  I'll deal with N.M. here," I said,
nudging Dave's slumbering, tourist-garbed form with my toe.
"Have fun!  Share the information."

    Lenny and Steve ran for the door, trying to squeeze through
it simultaneously.  That was that.  I straightened my tie.

    Dave was probably smoking something when he wrote the code
of the letter.  Sure, his followers had to obey his command, but
only because of his tailor... they'd follow anybody in that green
suit.  It must have seemed logical at the time, in a simplistic
sort of way.  The man in the green suit makes the rules.

    He also made the mistake of developing a counter agent.  Why
he did this and left it out in the open of his mind, I have no
idea... maybe some of his sanity leaked back in and realized what
it was doing.  Maybe it was part of some demented logic game.

    The circle was complete.  The net faced the chain letter
from hell and defeated it again.  Not by some terrorist swinging
in on a rope to assassinate its maker, though.  Oh well.

    My window shattered, as a terrorist swung in on a rope,
quickly pulling out a blaster and placing it below my brainstem.

    "This is the END of you, Rhodes," the man spat.

    "No!  Him!  Him!" I said, trying to wiggle away.  "I just
changed clothes with him!"

    "Don't think you can weasel out of THIS.  You'll pay for
what you did to the last vestige of freedom on my net!"

    I worked a hand free (my left one) and palmed the
terrorist's forehead, quickly dumping memories of the last few
minutes into his head.  He stumbled backwards, and I darted for

    "Uhh... argh.  My head," he groaned, groping at his skull.

    "Sorry for the forced injection," I apologized, "But I
wanted to live."

    The man nodded, realization of what just occurred slowly
hitting him, like a bat in slow motion.  "I'm too late?"

    I nodded.

    "I knew this was a silly idea," the man said, grumbling
under his ski mask.  "I just got fed up with what I was seeing
and thought I should do something about it..."

    "It's okay.  You ought to take Dave with you anyway, so the
media picture is complete.  I'll fake a story to the police," I
said.  "We need to ensure that the script follows just as it did
last time, or else make.money.fast might happen again."

    The man nodded, pulling the stunned Rhodes up to his feet.
"Alright.  Consider it done.  When I'm done with him, he'll WISH
I had killed him."

    "Who are you, by the way, so I can let the media know?" I

    "William," he replied, before leaping out the window with
the chain letter master in tow.  I ran to the window to watch the
two of them hit the pavement, but they were gone.  Vanished.


    The anti-letter spread just as quickly as the original, and
UberNet resumed normal illegal activity a few days later, with a
slight headache and a desire to forget the events of the past few

    After the much embellished news story I told the media,
make.money.fast was declared illegal on UberNet and VOSNet.
Occasionally you'd see some poor guy trying to restart it,
dreaming of fortunes and riches, but they didn't last very long.
Hopefully they'd try it on VOSNet, where you can just have your
access revoked... UberNet types revoke other things.

    Rumors of this mysterious vigilante who had disposed of
Rhodes for me flew, spawned on the news story.  Rumors spread
just as fast as little letters, but that's normal and in keeping
with the way of things.  History repeats itself, just like it
should, and life goes on for all.

    Nobody gets rich quick, though.

Okay, here's a repost of the first Christmas Episode, for those of
you who may have missed it.  Actually, it's not as bad as it sounds
in the header; I think I exceeded it in spades with Xmas II.


A Future We'd Like To See 1.29 - The Christmas Episode
By Twoflower (Copyright 1993)


    This is quite clearly the most tasteless, gory, violent,
repulsive thing I have ever written.  It has everything a teenage
slasher film has except the sex scenes, and that's just because I
couldn't find a good place to put them in.  It's really not
suitable for children, or even adults for that matter... but if
you've got a sick sense of humor and have watched the network
holiday specials a few too many times, maybe it's time for you to
read something like this.

    Thou hast been warned.


    The ancient 8-track player crackled to life, as its play
button was nudged by a nearby chunk of a store-window dummy.  The
archaic playback machine sputtered and whirred as the ground

    "I'm, dreeeeaaming," it sang, "Of a white, christma--"

    It was silenced by gunfire.

    Chrissy ducked behind the counter as a line of stray machine
gun fire ripped up the holiday glove displays.  Screaming and
covering her head, she crawled as far back into the checkout area
as she could, avoiding the broken glass.

    "THIS YOUR FIRST YEAR?" the other clerk yelled at her from
the other side of the tiny crawlspace under the cash register.

    "YES!" Chrissy yelled.  "SO?"

    "DON'T PANIC," he shouted back, in a rather calm way.  "IT'S

    There was a scream of pain as another crazed shopper was
plugged mercilessly with hot lead.  Three shoppers immediately
pounced on the corpse, looting it of gifts.  The clerk shrugged
and opened up a secret hatch under the counter, tapping a red

    An impenetrable force field popped up around the counter and
behind-counter area, as Chrissy could see by the various bullets
and blood stains sticking to thin air.  The clerk frowned, and
tapped another button, silencing out all the noise.

    "Much better," he said.  "That should hold through the
night.  So this is your first pre-christmas sale?"

    "Err... yeah," Chrissy said.

    "Well, looks like you've come out of it better than most of
us," the clerk shrugged.

    Chrissy looked down at herself.  Her nice department store
uniform was ripped and stained, her blouse missing a button and
torn by weed whacker from the hardware department.  Her normally
every-hair-in-its-place look was now suitable for setting on fire
and calling out to shepherds.

    Of course, the clerk was worse.  Most of his tie had been
shredded, along with his shirt.  One shoe was missing and his
pants had a few gashes, along with some makeshift bandages.
Despite this, he was still grinning.

    "Come on, it's safe to stand up," he said, getting to his
feet.  "They can't get at us now.  We're lucky we managed to get
back here in time."

    "Why... what..." Chrissy stammered, looking at the violence
and looting going on around her.

    "It's always this way around the holidays," the clerk
shrugged as another arm hit the shield, followed a second later
by the other one.  "You know, last minute gift purchases,
shortages of stock, rare items, the usual.  Heck, I remember when
they brought back Cabbage Patch Kids.  We were wading around
ankle-deep in fluid the next day."

    "How could people be so... so... CRUEL to each other?"
Chrissy said, horrified at the insane shopper slugfest going on
outside their shelter.

    "It's a sale," the clerk replied.

    "Oh," she commented, trying to look away from the carnage.
"Say, umm, what's your name?"

    "How long HAVE you worked here?"

    "Oh, about three weeks."

    "Fair enough.  I've been on vacation that long.  Name's
Jobe.  What's yours?"

    "Chrissy," the girl replied, shaking hands with the boy.  A
bit of unknown stain was exchanged in the process.

    "Didn't they give you any training?" Jobe asked.  "You know,
the usual?  Customer support, buyer satisfaction, small arms,
wilderness survival?"

    "Well... no."

    "Humph.  Cost cutting," Jobe humphed.  "In my day, they'd
have you out in the woods with nothing but a knife and a compass
a good fifty days before today.  The lucky ones that came back
were usually hardened enough to handy the Holiday Shopping
Nightmare.  It's times like these that really try a man's soul...
so how about some yogurt?"

    "Excuse me?"

    "Well, it looks like most of the battle is moving down to
the audio/video department.  We could always go to the Frozen
Yogurt And/Or Croissant Shoppe on the lower level and wait it
out.  Unless they burned it down like they did last year."

    "Is it safe?"

    "Sure," Jobe lied.  "Here, I've got a few bullet proof vests
and some kevlar under the counter.  Just a stroll in the park.  I
doubt anybody's planning on legitimately purchasing anything, so
there's no need for us to hang around."

    "Surely SOMEONE has called the police!" Chrissy exclaimed.
"I mean, this, this is MADNESS!"

    "Oh, the police are here," the clerk said.  "See?  There's
Officer Wiggins beating up that working mother to get the Manly
Morphing Energy Cowboys Action Playset.  Boy, it's the last one
left.  I wonder if he brought his nightstick to defend it."


    Jobe casually walked around the gunfights and beatings with
a whistle and a smile, as he and his frazzled companion waltzed
on in their sturdy armor.  Chrissy counted at least six different
local POW laws being broken just walking down the east wing of
the mall.



    "DUCK!!!" Jobe shouted, jumping to the ground.  Pausing only
momentarily, Chrissy followed, as a surface to air missile
slammed into left door of Herbert's Sporting Goods Store.  There
were a few screams of agony, the sound of a few thousand
basketballs overheating and exploding, and the faint smell of
burning flesh.


replied (loudly).  "EEK!"




    There was a dull WHUMPH, and the elevator exploded into
flames, littering bags of musical Battlestar Metallica ornaments
over the fountain.  Shoppers charged like lemmings on crack,
clawing over each other to grab them.




    "SOUNDS FINE HERE!" Chrissy said, as the man trying to stab
her got bored and left.

DOLL FOR MY DAUGHTER.  BE RIGHT BACK," he said, pulling out a
large bowie knife and holding it between his teeth.  He flashed a
thumbs up and dived into the fray, swimming through the sea of
shoppers towards the Toys Be We store.

    Chrissy wiped away some vomit from a nearby bench and had a
seat, examining the lovely holiday displays instead of the
beatings in front of her.  Only about three of them weren't on
fire, however.

    A Kiddie Hovertank from the top floor soared over the
handrail, spinning out of control and exploding violently against
the wall ten feet away.  The blast threw Chrissy off of her seat
and into the fountain, where she gurgled a bit before finding
something hard and lumpy in her hand someone had dropped in the

    Pulling herself to the surface, she examined it.

    "GIFT CERTIFICATES?" she wondered aloud.

    The entire wing fell silent, as a few thousand pairs of eyes
turned on her.  Not on her, specifically, but on the plastic gift
tokens valid through next year.  ShopperVision(tm) only cared
about these; Chrissy herself registered as just an obstacle in
the way to the tokens.

    Several dozen shoppers pounced on her, displacing a great
deal of water.  All Chrissy could remember was the sight of
twenty eyes, wide in insanity, gazing down in capitalistic greed
as various blades, blunt objects, and bullets were slammed into


    Her vision recovered before her brain did, which is
fortunate, because the sights around her weren't pretty.

    At first she thought she had gone deaf, but this wasn't the
case.  There simply wasn't any sounds to be heard.  All around
her lay the corpses of the dead, with their bloody bags (now
empty, as no gift is laid to waste) clutched in iron grips of
death.  Sunlight was streaming in from the overhead windows, and
the muzak could faintly be heard playing a strangled version of
'Jingle Bells'.  Church bells from across town could be heard
ringing in blissful harmony.  It was Christmas morning!

    "Rise and shine, kiddo!" Jobe said, moving into her frame of
vision.  "Boy, that took awhile.  One Baby Burpee left in stock.
Had to chase this guy halfway around town, but I finally got it,"
he grinned, showing her the somewhat battered doll.  It burped.

    "Gurgle," she gurgled.

    "Don't try to move," Jobe said, applying more bandages to
her.  "You're lucky all the healthkits weren't purchased.  You're
really quite a mess.  Had to pump the water out of your lungs,
stop the excess bleeding, and all that... took two kits or so to
patch you up when I found you here a few hours ago.  Don't worry,
the store's medical plan will pay for resettings, transfusions,
plastic surgery, etc.  No need for alarm.  Just keep breathing.
Say, you know what the funny bit is?"

    Chrissy nodded, head splashing against the red pool she lay

    "You're in better shape than I was after my first christmas

              o/~ Should all aquantance be forgot,
              Somethingorother, aud long sang... o/~

    Seasons greetings from us here in the future we'd like to
see, and remember, there's only twenty more chopping days until
christmas!  And if you're the kind of person who took this story
serious in any way whatsoever, you really need to get out more

              o/~ Should all aquantance be forgot,
              Somethingorother, aud long sang. o/~

| Finger for Cyberpunk Humor information and other fun materials.  @whee.   |

FWLS #64 and #65 kind of make a matched pair.  One's depraved and
the other is enlightening.  I wouldn't recommend reading one without
reading the other, even though the plots aren't linked in the least.

If this story doesn't get me flamed, NOTHING will. :)


A Future We'd Like to See 1.64 - The Christmas Episode II
By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne (Copyright 1994)

    Hey, kids!  Remember last year, when we took a blood-soaked
visit to your local shopping mall?  We're going right back there,
and it's gonna be MUCH nastier this year.  You are hereby WARNED
that this story contains some or all of the following : kidnapping,
torture, abuse, gunplay, cutting people up into little bits, n/c
sex, mayhem, anarchy, disorder and other acts of EVIL.  Huzzah.  If
any of the above offends you, don't read this.  I don't approve of
ANYTHING in this story, right up front, so if you go and bite the
head off your mother or something like that after reading, you're
a sick fuck indeed.  (By the way, there will be cursing in this
story.  Errr... too late.)

    Also, this story is less comedic and slapsticky; there's a
slight sarcastic and cynical edge, but I was aiming for more of a
'shot in the dark' pun intended this time.  G'wan, taste the bile.
It's fun!

    Thou hast been warned, regardless.


    "Five credits buys you five Christmas wishes," I said, nudging
the stupid little white ball on my hat away from the nth time
today.  "Ten buys fifteen.  One buys one.  Photos with Santa and
the elves are five extra.  Hurry up, lady, I've got to get out of
here before the end of the hour."

    "So do I," she said.  "It's almost time."

    "You think it'll happen again this year?" I asked.

    "Of course it will.  It happens EVERY year.  You can set your
watch by it.  I'll take five wishes and one photo."

    I ran the lady's credit card through the register,
transferring her fee and handing it back.  "Santa will see your son

    "Come on, Billy," she said, urging the kid onward, who was too
busy being mesmerized by my red and white hat.

    Nobody quite knows why the Christmas Eve Riots happen,
especially at this particular shopping mall.  Each year, the
shoppers come in happy and bright, and leave in bags.  It usually
starts once the shelves start going empty... polite requests to
hand over an item turn into angry words, which become fists.  Fists
become brawls, with shoppers nearby getting involved, and
eventually weapons are drawn and the war begins.

    Psychologists don't know what makes the shoppers go berserk,
prizing packages and parcels over human lives.  Maybe it's the
color arrangements and light patterns in holiday displays.  Maybe
it's the stress of an entire life of family living building up into
a crescendo of rage.  Maybe people are just bastards.

    This year would be different, though.

    I wasn't gonna hang around this year, and neither were any of
the other mall staffers.  By mall administrative order, once seven
PM rolled around (statistics showed this to be the approximate
start of the bloodshed), all staff members would be evacuated by
crack Not-So-Secret-Agent teams and lifted by shuttle to a safe
distance.  The doors would be sealed and sleeping gas would pour
in, leaving the shoppers in a happily comfortable state before any
major anarchy can erupt.

    A bold measure, yes, but over the last decade it has been
proven again and again that nothing less than bold measures will
work.  Closing the mall for the day is no good, since the shoppers
show up on the last available day.  Riot police usually lose more
in the ranks than the shoppers do, and after two years they
officially protested being hired to guard the mall, claiming cruel
and unusual punishment.  Closing down the sporting goods store to
keep weapons from flowing freely was no good, since the shoppers
had proven they could break through the cheesy mall barricades;
adding more barricades encouraged BYOB, Bring Your Own Blaster.

    So the mall was just going to clock everybody over the head
with gas and call it a night.  Sounded perfectly fine here.  None
of the shoppers knew this, of course... that would ruin the plan.

    The clock approached 6:50 when the man in the trenchcoat
walked up to the Sit On Santa's Lap! display.

    "Five credits buys you five Christmas wishes," I recited.
"Ten buys fifteen.  One buys one.  Photos with Santa and the elves
are five extra."

    "I'll take one wish, and that's to get you out of here," he
said.  "Not-So-Secret-Agent #46336A.  I'll be your personal escort
out of the building tonight.  Are you miss Stacey Q. Victim?"

    "Yeah," I admitted.  "When do we go?"

    "NOW.  All of the others have been evacuated already.  The
crowd is starting to get suspicious; apparently the lifelike
dummies we left in place aren't fooling them.  The staff is
considering closing early, so we'd better hoof it."

    "Early?" I gulped.


    I could see it in the crowds already.  The tension had mounted
all afternoon, building over missing items, out of stock gifts, and
inflated prices.  There was going to be a blow of anger, one after
another, all coming down in a few minutes.

    The agent practically dragged me through the crowds, keeping
a single hand locked around my wrist like a handcuff.  I tried to
avoid the bloodshot eyes of the soon-to-be-animals, and concentrate
on getting to the door.

    We were dashing by the Chicken Inna Bucket, the last stop
before the doors when we heard the noise.  It was a great grinding
of metal, as the newly installed blast doors started to descend.

    Another identical agent peered through the rapidly closing
gap.  "#46336A?!  Jeez, hurry!  We thought you were out already!"

    "I was in line for a photo with Santa," the agent said.
"Sorry.  We--"

    The first gunshot of the night rang out.  A scream ripped the
air, followed by another, and some angry shouts.

    The door sped up to infinite velocity, slamming shut and
cracking the cheap mosaiced tiles underneath.  We weren't on the
correct side when it happened.

    "Umm," he said.  "Did I forget to mention the doors were
triggered to emergency-seal in the event of the riot breaking out

    "You don't say," I mumbled, not sure how I was supposed to
feel about this.

    "Yeah.  Audio triggered.  NSSAC spared no expense.  SHIT!"

    #46336A grabbed me and dove into a side restroom, as a
hundred-odd shoppers made a dash for the blast door, screaming and
pounding.  THEY obviously didn't want to be here, and were quite
unhappy that they were sealed in.

    The agent shut the restroom door and pushed a few tin garbage
containers in front of it.  "This is not good," he said, listening
to the moaning hordes just outside the door.  "I hope you don't
mind being gassed, miss."


    "We're inside the gas zone," he said.  "Don't worry, I've been
gassed a lot of times.  Part of NSSAC training.  It's not painful.
Just inhale deeply."

    I inhaled.  Once, twice, maybe six times, but I didn't feel
very dizzy.  Did sleeping gas have color?

    "Something's wrong," he said.  "Something is VERY wrong..."

    The agent fumbled inside his trenchcoat, pulling out a cheap
radio.  "#51122, #51122, what the hell is going on?"

    'The gas was supposed to be shipped fucking YESTERDAY!' the
agent on the other end of the connection cursed.  'It's not here!
Get your butt up to the roof, the brass is getting into a panic
about this...'

    "So am I, #51122.  I'm stuck inside a bathroom with my

    'YOU'RE INSIDE?!?!'

    "Yeah, and let me tell you that I've got a wife and kids to
get home to, and I'm happily awaiting rescue from this hellhole
before it gets any worse."

    'Fat chance!  Nobody's allowed in or out.  You're there for
the duration.'

    "WHAT?" the agent screamed.

    'Hey, you've got combat training, use it.  Go hide out until

    "What about me?" I asked, getting more and more agitated by
the second.  "I don't have any combat training!  I'm Santa's Little
Helper, for crying out loud!  The mall cut the budget for Holiday
Survival Courses since they had this seal 'n gas plan."

    'I'd suggest that you use rage on your escortee, we'll pick
her up in the morning,' the other agent suggested.

    "Dammit, I'm not authorized to do that!  It's not fully

    'Your problem, not mine,' he offered helpfully.  'By the way,
our shrinks say that without the gas, the door seals are probably
going to enrage the crowd beyond any previously known limits.
They're gonna be doing more than shopping.  Good luck, man, #51122

    "You can't just leave me here!" the agent shouted, throttling
the radio.

    'I've got orders.  Over and out.'

    The agent stomped over to a toilet and flushed the radio.
"Suck that down, you bastard.  Great.  Just great.  You know, I
should have seen this coming.  One more month and I retire.  The
soon-to-retire guys ALWAYS bite it."

    "I thought you had combat training," I weakly offered.

    "Combat training yes.  I can take down an unarmed opponent one
on one or hit three moving targets.  Three THOUSAND is another
matter," he said.  "I'm doomed."

    "And me?" I asked.

    "Equally doomed.  Unless...!"

    "What?  WHAT?"

    "Nothing.  I was kidding.  You're doomed."

    I groaned, slumping down against a stall.  "I don't wanna be
doomed.  I've got a future to think about and a term paper due
after break."

    "Well... there is one thing... how bad do you want to live?"
he asked, tentatively fishing through his many pockets.

    "Bad?" I offered.  "Pretty damn bad.  Why?"

    "Bad enough to put up with what could be the worst night of
your life?"

    "If I don't live, this'll be the worst night of my life

    "Okay.  Turn around," he said.


    "Just do it!"

    I shrugged, and turned around.  The agent promptly stabbed me
in the ass with a knife.

    I screamed in pain and spun around, as the agent was tossing
an empty needle and syringe, not a blade, down the trash can.
"There.  You ought to live now.  Wish they had given me two
doses... damn these 'the victim is more important than you'

    "What the hell did you just do?" I asked, rubbing my sore

    "I gave you the rage.  Very experimental.  Just remember, fear
is the survival trig--"

    There was a deafening roar, as a running chainsaw blade jabbed
itself through the door, cutting away at the locking mechanism.
The agent's eyes went REAL wide behind the sunglasses as he fished
around his pockets for something lethal, but the door was open
before he could react.

    A group of shoppers barged in, plowing into us full tilt.
#46336A was slammed against a wall, his nose jamming into the wall
and leaving a bloody smear as his head was pulled away.  I hit the
stall I was leaning on shoulder first, a two hefty sized guys
pushed me against the wall.  Another pair took the spy and braced
him against the wall.

    The boy entered.

    He was maybe seventeen, tops.  A typical gothic punk, like
some of the jerks in my grade, wearing a dark overcoat and inch
thick glasses.  He nodded to the men who held us at bay.

    "Good work, gentlemen.  I take it you, sir, are a Not-So-

    "Happily employed," he joked.  One of the men grunted and
punched him across the jaw, starting the constant flow of blood
from his nose.

    "You, sir, have ruined my plans for the evening with your
lockout," the boy said, pointing an accusing finger.  "Take his

    "Not the coat!" the agent pleaded.  "It's the only way I'll be
able to live--"

    One of the men pulled out a knife, and sliced the coat off the
Agent, pausing only when it snagged on random bizarre mechanical
devices which were hidden in its pockets.  The coat clattered to
the ground, spilling various concealed weapons and machines of
unknown nature.

    "Throw him to the shoppers," the boy said.  "They will enjoy
meeting one of the people responsible for trapping us here."

    The two men grinned, and dragged the agent kicking and
screaming out to the hallway.  I could hear the chainsaw start
again before the boy closed the restroom door.

    "You work here, don't you?" he asked, after the wet ripping
noises and screams from outside.

    I nodded quickly, trying not to be scared to death.  Who was
this twerp?  What was going on?  Agonizing death at the hands of an
enraged mob I could understand and expect but not this.  Nothing

    "You'd like to live, won't you?" he asked.  "That seems to be
the driving force of the night.  I've studied it year after year,
analyzing what goes on at this mall on Christmas Eve when the halls
run red with blood.  They all want to live, but don't want anybody
in their way to live.  I trust you are similar to them, and want to

    "Yes?" I offered.  Why were so many people asking me that
question tonight?

    "I'd suggest you come with me, then," he said.  "Now that the
doors are shut, I fear my plans may be more gory than previously
expected.  Only those that have already banded with me will
survive.  Right, boys?"

    The two men nodded over and over again, grinning all the way.

    "Good.  You two go organize the others and start a store to
store search for valuables.  You know what to do to anybody might
have taken them already."

    "Yeah," one of the men said, pulling a battered chainsaw out
of his cheap plastic shopping bag.  "Cut your way through.  Come
on, let's go."

    The two men stopped holding me back, and made their way
through the door, bodies barely fitting through the doorframe.

    "They're good men," the boy said.  He rushed forward towards
me, and I put my hands up to block any crazed attack... he wrapped
something around my wrist...

    "Typical reaction," he said.  "Arms up in fear.  Fear is good.
You'll notice your left wrist is twist tied to my right one... yes,
the same twist ties used on those silly real life police dramas.
They don't come off without the scissors I have back at my
encampment.  Don't worry, it's for your own good."

    "Who are you?" I asked, trying an experimental tug at the
happy yellow bracelet encircled around our wrists.

    "Oswald P. Faraday," he said.  "Controller of chaos.  And

    "St... Stacey Q. Victim.  Santa's little helper," I said, kind
of embarrassed.

    "Victim.  How... cute.  I could use the company; my men can
handle the organized looting, leaving me very little to do.  I
planned to leave once they started to work, but it seems your
friend in the coat has stopped that plan.  Take off the hat."


    "The santa hat.  You look like an idiot.  Plus, it'll peg you
as a store worker, and the last thing the mob wants to see is a
store worker."

    I nodded, and ripped the silly hat off my head, tossing it in
the garbage can that had been knocked aside.

    "Now, off into the fray," he said.  "I'm wearing armor under
this coat, but I'm guessing you aren't.  Try not to die."


    Fingers clawed at me, shoppers fleeing the chainsaw-toting
looters under Oswald's control.  Minor skirmishes stopped in a
global effort to stay away from these people, who didn't seem to
care if you were in the way or not; just nearby, within a rotating
chain's reach.

    I tried to ignore the lumpy things I was stepping on, bumping
from shopper to shopper as Oswald kept up an even pace through the
carnage, facial expression unchanging.

    I was trying to swallow down my fear.  Fear in a situation
like this would only hinder you; if I succumbed to it, I'd be dead
in seconds.  It took all my concentration to avoid having Oswald
turn around and see himself attached to a severed arm.  The crowds
were crawling over each other like reptiles, biting, clawing,
shouting half-coherent bawls of rage.  They attacked anything;
potted plants, dead bodies, wall decorations of reindeer and happy
little elves.  One group was singing carols around a stack of
burning shopping bags... I tried to ignore the leg sticking out
from the bottom of the blaze.

    Another chainsaw guy walked alongside us, keeping the horde at
bay as we made our way... wherever we were going.  Occasionally a
half-mad shopper would run in front of Oswald, shouting the ravings
of the truly disturbed; Oswald would frown slightly, point, and the
offending shopper's head would roll away so we could continue.

    Eventually we reached the Fountain Nexus, which was already
tainted from the two bodies floating face down in it.  This was the
pride and joy of the mall, with tasteful flower arrangements (now
mangled) and nice patterned carpeting (stained beyond recognition).
Plus, the Crystal Elevator, a gleaming glass crystal with expensive
carpet flooring sliding up and down its shaft, carrying shoppers
between floors.

    It seemed stuck between floors at the moment, empty and
waiting.  I had never seen the elevator STUCK; it was controlled by
computer, and couldn't break down.  Oswald walked with me to the
first floor elevator stop, and whistled a completely non-catchy

    "Audio control," he said.  "Same as the doors, I think...
somewhat ironic, I suppose."

    The elevator slid to a halt before us, doors sliding open.
Oswald ignored any attempts by me to protest and stepped inside.
He held the door open with one hand and turned to our armed escort.

    "Make the final loots quick and easy," he said.  "Then hole up
in Unpainted Chairs and Tables until morning.  I'll be on right
here if you need me."

    "Right, boss," the sawman said, nodding in salute and walking
away.  Oswald tapped the door close button and the button for floor

    The elevator lurched to a start, and slid silently up the
tube.  When it was halfway up, he whistled another completely
tuneless tune and the elevator stopped.

    He picked up a pair of scissors from the ground, and split the
plastic strip that kept us locked together.  I dashed to the other
side of the elevator, massaging my wrist.

    "Something wrong?" he asked, setting the scissors down.

    "Why'd you bring me here?" I asked.  Swallow that fear; fear
isn't good to have.  Ignore your fear of enclosed spaces and your
fear of heights and fear of strange emotionless boys in dark coats
that kidnap you...

    "Why not?" he said.  "It seemed like the wrong thing to do at
the time.  I suppose I could have turned you over to the filth and
had them tear you apart, but that would only be fun for a little

    "You're Generik Evil, aren't you?" I asked.  "I've heard about
you.  You're sadists."

    "As much fun as my limited enrollment in GE was, it was that,
limited," Oswald said.  "They didn't like me because I planned
things too far in advance.  I wasn't spontaneous enough.  I engage
in spontaneity to have fun, but when business arrives, I plan.
Generik Evil has the attention span of a flea."

    "I suppose I'm supposed to thank you for getting me to
safety," I said.

    "You can if you want.  Doesn't matter to me.  Ah, the boys
have moved on to the jewelry store... I wish they would have taken
it first, all the good resale items are probably gone now.  It
means more time taken finding them and reclaiming.  Not very

    "You organized all those guys with chainsaws?"

    "Of course.  It hasn't gone off how I expected, but that's
okay.  Once the doors open, we can blaze out of here and get away
before anybody notices.  I get fifty percent of the take, of

    Oswald paced over to the front of the elevator, observing
someone being drawn and quartered below with boredom.

    "Nobody ever thought to organize these little parties before.
Just stop them, out of fear.  You cannot stop an unstoppable force
because you fear it, but if you bend it... twist the fear to your
will... it can be a force beyond forces.  I suppose I just
capitalized on an opportunity."

    "But your... people are KILLING everybody!"

    "Carnage is carnage and would have occurred regardless of me,"
he said.  "At least my carnage is productive and aimed, not the
screams and thrashes of a blind man in the dark.  Look; already
people down there fear my shoppers.  They're staying away, instead
of blindly attacking anything with gifts.  We have total control
over the mall now."

    Oswald cracked something resembling a smile, reflected against
the glass and back to Stacey's eyes.  "You know," he said, "I'm
beginning to like the holidays."

    "You're in my grade, aren't you?" I asked.

    "Correct.  School is dull and pointless, so I rarely attend.
People there fear me, which I enjoy, but not enough to put up with
the rest of the dullness involved."

    "You sure as hell don't talk like someone who's seventeen," I
commented, snotty like.

    "Proud of it," he said.  "You kids talk like sheep.  Baa baa
all day about this and that.  I consider it a great praise to not
talk like them.  Why, look!"

    He pointed to the scene on the second floor, where one of the
chainsaw men had chased someone I recognized as the SGA vice
president to the railing overlooking the first floor.  He
approached, but didn't slice or grind into the trembling VP...
instead, he struck a dramatic pose and roared his saw.  The VP
jumped to his death out of sheer terror.

    "Perfect!" Oswald said, applauding but not grinning.  "There's
a man who has learned to use fear as a tool.  I approve.  Seems my
weeks of training these drop-out, unemployed, pathetic wretches has
paid off."

    Oswald turned to me, eyes drooped.  "Do you fear me?"

    "No," I lied, holding down the fear I had and trying not to
look down, or at the ceiling, or the walls, or HIM, or anything.

    "Ah.  A challenge," Oswald said.  "Since I have nothing better
to do tonight, with my boys handling the profit margin, a challenge
I can handle."

    "Ch... challenge?" I asked, dread bubbling to the surface in
measured doses.

    "Everybody has a phobia," he said.  "Maybe you're afraid of
enclosed spaces.  This cramped elevator, with transparent walls
that don't look like walls so you can't tell if they're feet away
or mere inches, and could close in without you even knowing it
until you were pressed between them like bacteria on a slide..."

    "I'm not afraid!" I protested, keeping my eyes shut.

    "Or, perhaps the fact that we're twenty feet off the ground,
and hanging on a razor thin cable... or that you could go crashing
through the glass and fall, fall farther than ever to your death--"

    "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" I yelled.

    "Touche'," Oswald said.  "My, this is fun.  Let's see, what
else can I do to instill a little fear... I could go to the first
floor, where that mob there is, and push you out and watch as they
do whatever they please with you.  I might even laugh at that."

    "You're sick!"

    "You're right.  Always be true to yourself, I always say.
Let's recap; fear of enclosed spaces, fear of heights, fear of

    "Exactly.  Everything on the mark.  Are you happy now?" I
asked, vision starting to go.  I was too afraid to think straight.
I didn't understand all his words... it was like getting hit by a
beer buzz without drinking anything.

    "Of course, I didn't mention pain exactly.  Maybe it's
something else that human can do to fellow human..."

    Fear was out of control now, oozing through my system and
making me scrabble backwards against the glass and handrails.  I
wanted to get out of here, somewhere low, wide open and free of
people that could do horrible things to me...

    "Let's experiment," Oswald said, pulling out two twist ties
and affixing my hands to the railing I had backed up to.  I was too
stunned and confused to do much else.

    He started to unbutton my shirt.

    "Don't..." I offered, but knew damn well what was going to
happen.  I didn't want it, I was too afraid...

    "I would say relax, but it would be no fun if you weren't
afraid," Oswald said.  "Yes.  I am DEFINITELY beginning to like the


    I blacked out shortly afterwards.  There were ghostly
afterimages of pink and white, of things in my mouth and things all
over me like pestilence swarming over a dead body.  I had strange
sensations of being penetrated, knowing exactly what was doing it.

    For some reason, in the black void, I wasn't afraid anymore.
My fear had hit a high point and dropped suddenly, with new
emotions bubbling to the surface, looking for a way out.

    I came to, still tied to the armrail but stretched out more.
Oswald was still wearing his coat, but nothing else.

    "Okay, so that's three confirmed," he said.  "If I said I you
had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"

    "That's an old joke," I said, a statement of the obvious.  It
was the only sensible thing to say.  So what if I was naked and
alone in a mad world?  It was an old, bad joke.  He shouldn't be
telling old, bad jokes.  He's a fucking asshole.

    "I never tried standup comedy, and now you know why.  You seem
quite lively for someone who has been subjected to a cornucopia of
personal terrors, violated multiple times.  Why is this, I wonder?"

    "My ass hurts," I said.  Which it did.

    "Odd, I didn't do anything to it.  Honestly," he said, making
a quick boy scout salute.  "You're not in the right position for

    My ass did hurt.  One pinpoint, one point of pain and soreness
which was spreading until it covered my entire midsection.  I hated
the pain.  I wasn't afraid of it, but I hated it and wanted it to
stop.  What was it that agent had injected me with earlier?  It
stung like hell and was making me mad, really fucking mad.

    Mad at what had happened.  Mad at the dregs of humanity, lying
in broken bits all around the mall.  Mad at the stupid, pointless
violence on a night which was SUPPOSED to be a celebration of
peace.  Mad at the stupidity of it all and this evil son of a bitch
who was cashing in on that stupidity.  I had a rage boiling inside
of me, spawned on by the fear that I felt earlier, fear drained
away and replaced by this strong urge to reach across the elevator
and tear Oswald in half.

    "Ooo, we ARE lively.  I suppose I can continue the experiment
now.  Let us go back to the original thesis; are you afraid of
PAIN?" he asked, picking the scissors off the ground.

    "I'm not fucking afraid of anything," I said, gritting my
teeth and pulling at the stupid little twist ties.  "I'm not afraid
of you anymore, and I'm not afraid of your little elementary school
art class safety scissors."

    "They're quite sharp, I assure you."

    "Good.  Then they'll cut through your fucking throat like

    "I don't think I approve of this at all," Oswald said, backing
off slightly.  "Come on, play along and be afraid.  Be a sheep like
the rest of them.  You were so much FUN as a sheep.  I haven't
gotten a good lay like that in weeks.  Be my holiday gift and
scream a little, will you honeybunch?"

    That teared it.

    Literally.  I ripped directly through the twist ties, ignoring
the searing fire of blood on my wrists as the plastic bit
momentarily into the flesh.

    Oswald made his second facial expression of the night;
surprise.  Dull surprise, as I grabbed him and slammed him against
the walls of the elevator, over and over again, wanting the little
fucking turd to DIE.

    "RGRhgnh!" he suggested, no longer calm and sedate and
radiating evil.  "Don't!  You'll break the walls!"

    "You afraid of heights?" I asked.  "You afraid of crashing
through the walls and hitting the floor, being ripped apart by the
mob?  Where're your chainsaw guys now, Oswald?"

    Oswald sputtered out another quick whistle, and an alarm
sounded somewhere in the mall.

    "Coming," he said.  "Now put me down, please."

    "I don't think so," I said.

    "Have you looked at yourself?!" he asked.  "You're a wreck.
Battered.  Abused.  Buck naked.  Bleeding.  You're in no position
to be disobeying ME--"

    I slammed him against the wall another time, with more might
than I should technically have.  Part of the window shattered,
glass fragmenting off his armored coat.  I threw him against the
floor, grabbed a long shard of glass, and rammed it through his

    Oswald screamed, his first scream of the night as his shoulder
was pinned to the soft carpet of the glass elevator's non-glass
floor.  A dagger of ice, rammed directly between the bones in his

    "How's it feel?  Afraid?!" I asked, ramming another shard
through his other shoulder, despite the cuts to my own hands, which
were unimportant.  "Good.  Fear is control, remember?  I'm
controlling now."

    "Stacey, please!" Oswald begged.  "My plans are too intricate
to have you ruin.  You want a cut of the take?  I can manage that.
I'll even give you some of my fifty percent.  Say, five percent?"

    I grabbed his safety scissors and held them near crotch level.

    "TWENTY!" he offered.

    "All I want is the code to lower the elevator," I said.
"Whistle it.  Whistle it or you change genders."

    Oswald quickly beeped out the tune without a tune, and the
elevator sank to the first floor, unlocked from its stuck position.

    "There," he coughed.  "Go if you want, get away from me.
Sheesh, a guy tries to do you a favor and save you from the horde
and this is the thanks he gets?"

    "Relax, I'm not going to kill you," I said, even though the
fire burning through my brainpan screamed out for it.  "I have
other plans."

    "Terrific.  Be off already."

    The elevator went *DING!* and the doors slid open, a group of
five chainsaw guys standing there, confused at the sight of blood
and nudity and other horrors.

    "Your boss told me he was going to cheat you out of your
funds," I said.  "Have fun."

    The chainsaw boys, already teetering over the edge of
insanity, didn't need any more encouragement.  I didn't need to
look back; the sound was enough.  The scream I had just heard, only
remixed and extended.

    Rest in peace, dipshit.


    That was the only other time of clear thought I had all night,
through the haze of whatever drug the NSSA had given me earlier.
I wandered the mall, dazed and pissed off, and found a place to
defend in the door of a software store.

    First thing I remember is being angry at the sound of the
chainsaws, and going after them.  I think I might have gotten a
chainsaw myself from one of them, because I tripped over hacked up
super-looters all night, still clutching bags of jewelry and
expensive stereo components.  The actual fighting was a blur.

    The rest of the night was clawing and biting and scraping,
trying to keep anything that moved and some things that didn't move
from getting near me.  I wanted to LIVE, and I wanted anything that
didn't want me to live to DIE.  It was a simple, clear cut motive,
like the tolling of a broken bell that never stopped ringing.

    The shoppers learned quickly to stay away from the naked girl
with the chainsaw who was stalking the software store, and I had to
grab the boxes off the shelves and rip them apart, working off rage
to keep from exploding.  This continued all night, half-distorted
mental images of reds and yellows the only solid glimpses I had
into that window of time.

    The first thing I remembered hearing was the blast doors
opening, followed by the ringing of the bells at a nearby church.
It was Christmas Morning, the night of terror over and done with.
I had survived.  And I wanted the BLOODY BELLS TO STOP.

    I charged out of the software store... I didn't have the
chainsaw anymore, maybe I lost it somewhere, maybe it was stuck IN
someone, I can't remember.  I remembered the group of Not-So-
Secret-Agents crowded around the blast doors, and what they were

    "...man, the stink in there... this is a mess.  We're
definitely not going to get the efficiency bonus on this mission."

    "Hey!  Something's moving in there!"

    "Get your tranq guns ready-- HOLY!"

    "Get out of her way!  Fall back!"

    "AARRGH, my leg, my leg--"

    "Drop her!"

    "Jeez, we've got three darts in her and she's just SLOWING?"

    "She's the one #46336A put on the Rage survival drug,
probably.  Come on, more darts!  There we go."

    "She's crawling now."

    "Phew.  Someone call the doc and get the antidote.  And
someone look for what's left of #46336A in there."

    "Should we report her?  I mean, she is alive, and probably
caused SOME if not most of the damage in there..."

    "Don't bother.  There's no way we could get an accurate body
count, and I'm guessing she's seen hell already... where is the
doc?  We need an antidote now!"

    "Hey, she's getting up!  She's got six darts in her and she's


    "That's better.  Man, we gotta ban that Rage drug.  It's too
fucking dangerous.  DOC!  Where is the doc?  There you are.  Hit
her with the antidote already."

    I fell asleep after that; not a nightmarish sleep, or a dreamy
sleep, just a sleep.  One well deserved.


    "You alive in there?" a voice was saying.  #51122, if I recall
from the radio conversation.  That seemed so long ago, decades and

    "Mmrrgh?" I said, trying to focus my eyes.

    "Don't move.  We're busy treating your injuries.  Man, I wish
they'd tear down that fucking mall already, it's too much of a
bother to try to cure it each year.  You're damn lucky to be alive,
kiddo.  How'd your Christmas Eve go?"

    "Lousy," I said, forming each phonetic carefully, trying to
look around.

    "I said, don't move!  Sheesh.  I managed to get you a little
something from the wreckage... not much of a holiday gift..."

    I felt a warm and fuzzy sensation around my temples, as
coziness and fur-lined safety spread over my painful body.

    "It's just a silly santa hat.  I found it in the trash.  You
were Santa's Little Helper, right?  I heard you say it on the
radio, from last night.  I think Santa'd be pretty fucking proud of
you, kid."

    I nodded, neck hurting.

    "DON'T MOVE!" he repeated.  "I've got to get back to the
cleanup crew.  Bloody insulting, making NSSAC clean up the mess
just because we didn't pull the mission off 100% as planned... I'll
stop by later to see how you're healing.  Happy holidays, kid."

    "Happy holidays," I repeated, and fell asleep again, hat
keeping my brain soft and numb and quite relaxed.  I wasn't Stacey,
the many-times-over victim, or Stacey the anger-enriched demon.
Just Stacey with the stupid hat and the term paper due after the

    Just what I had always wanted.


              o/~ Should all acquaintance be forgot,
              Somethingorother, aud long sang... o/~

    Once again : Seasons greetings from us here in the future we'd
like to see, and remember, it's always darkest before you get to
open your presents.  Unless they're all socks.  And watch out for
that strangely ticking gift wrapped box, it's a doozy!

              o/~ Should all acquaintance be forgot,
              Somethingorother, aud long sang. o/~

If you're looking for rampant silliness, go away.  This one
is not silly and doesn't try to be.


A Future We'd Like to See 1.62 - Red and White Night
By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne (Copyright 1994)

    Liberation is accepting that you're nothing but shit.

    That's what I am; excrement.  Evil in nature and deed just
because it's the only thing I'm good at.  Society, on the whole,
would be better off without me, but I'm not gonna go kill myself.
That would be too easy.  If society is going to cut away the
cancer, it has to do it itself.  I am a cancer; I've accepted
everything I am, all the bile, the gristle and the dirt.  It's a
relief to have all the problems in your life cured in one fell
swoop, that glorious tone of acceptance to the fears that you've
had for years.

    I consider myself well adjusted, even if most psychiatric
opinion would claim I'm insane beyond insane.  I guess on their
metersticks I am, but by the Generik Evil stick I'm actually
quite tame.  Some stuff the higher-ups in the chain of anarchy do
make my stomach turn.

    The red and white lights of the ambulance flashing away into
the night made my stomach turn.  Always the aftermath, not the
act; the act is pretty quick and relatively boring, but knowing
what you've done and seeing what results is sickening.  I usually
just go home after a night on the town, but tonight I wanted to
know.  Never leave a job unfinished.

    She was only eighteen.  If I had known... well, I probably
would have done it anyway, just because that's what I am.  I
don't have a choice in the matter because I'm don't resist it.
It's my nature.

    The crowd gathered, because all the world loves a good
spectacle, around the police tape lines.  Police.  What a joking
term.  C'atel's police barely could handle cats stuck up in
trees.  They usually contracted out to the Not-So-Secret-Agent
Corporation when they had specialty problems, since cops're only
good at filling out forms.

    The emergency staff, however, has more training and had
arrived at the alley before the cops did.  Crack guys, those
people.  Biotech's a boon to lifesaving.  I figured she should be
okay, which isn't that good, because it meant I was going easy on
her.  It meant being merciful, which wasn't me.

    Well, this can be handled, I thought, fingering the hard
object in my coat pocket.  The medics, neatly clad in their red
and white coats, wheeled her stained and shredded form out,
whistling away, the cheery little bastards, thinking they'd have
a chance.

    I pulled the pin and threw the frag grenade in a nice arc
towards the stretcher, then walked away.  I didn't need to look
back; I had done what I set out to do.

    "Not bad," my contact said, pulling me into a nearby alley.
I was expecting him; he always was nearby, when I went around at
night.  Kind of a demonic fairy godmother.

    "Hurrah," I said.

    "Cheer up!" the contact said.  "That little number you
pulled on her ass, coupled with the finishing kaboom is worth a
lot of points."

    "I don't care about points," I said.

    "I swear, you've got no team spirit," he grumbled, folding
his arms.  "What good is Generik Evil if you can't tell how evil
you are in a measured manner?"

    "I know I'm bad," I replied.  "I don't need some lame-ass
'points' system to remind me I'm nothing but crap."

    "Remember what you were before I found you?" my contact
warned.  "Shiftless?  Aimless?  Pointless?  A benign tumor on
society.  I make you malign, man.  You were just a small timer
then, a few muggings to keep yourself alive, theft.  You're big
time now.  A real menace, racking 'em up.  Your points count
towards my total as your manager, thankfully.  Now.  Do you want
to know your points or not?"


    "Five hundred and seventy two," he said.  "You rank third in
the city.  If you'd consider doing some fake occult slayings--"

    "No," I said.  "No point.  I don't want fake trimmings.
It's not me."

    "Suit yourself.  Goes against the Generik concept, though."

    "I don't care," I said, leaving the alley.  Not much of a
note to end on, but it was true; I didn't care.


    I'd been a bad boy since real young.  I'd love to imagine
taking all the people who I thought had fucked up my life and
roasting 'em in acid, filling 'em up with arrows, whatever.
Pain.  Not-nice stuff.  Sometimes even people who I had no real
anger against, just people I saw on the street.

    I choked these impulses back, though, since society told me
they were evil and I wanted to be good.  I wanted to be somebody,
maybe have a wife, some kids, grow 'em up somewhere nice and safe
where they wouldn't have to worry about life the way I had.
Didn't turn out that way.  Dropped out, flunked out, shifted out
of the economic loop and had to struggle to live.

    Then the contact showed up and promised he could get me out
of all that.  I didn't mind; I thought I was a good person, and
would only do what I needed to survive.  Looks like I wasn't good
at all.  No way to go back now without denying the truth.

    If that's what I'm supposed to be, though, so be it.  I'll
kill and maim and generally run amuck if that's what I'm supposed
to do, and keep it up until I'm stopped.  There's nothing else I
can do.


    I ought to be getting home, I thought, watching her from
across the table as I sipped my coffee.  They're going to be
looking for the guy who blasted the tar out of a crime scene, two
doctors, and several innocent bystanders.  I ought to be getting
home, and I ought to be getting while the getting's good.

    I couldn't help it, though.  She even came to me, for crying
out loud.  Singled me out in the entire bar of hormone-injected
pricks to chat with.  I like conversation, really, and always
welcomed another opportunity to do stuff to someone, but I was in
a rush.

    "Hey, don't drink that stuff so quickly," she warned,
lowering my coffee cup.  "Gives you heartburn."

    "I've felt worse," I said.  "It's just coffee, anyway."

    "Around here, that's not a constant," she joked.  "Never
know what they put in that stuff.  Good to the last drop, at
least, until you get the shakes and need to come back for another

    "That's nasty," I said.

    "Isn't it?  I don't trust any bar around here.  That's why I
drink bottled," she said, flashing her shoulder-strapped thermos
at me.  "You never know who to trust."

    "Yeah," I agreed, finishing off the coffee.  "I've really
gotta get moving, though.  Thanks for the idle chatter."

    "Hey, stick around awhile," she protested.  "I've just
started to get to know you.  You seem nice enough."

    "You don't know me, lady," I said.

    "We can correct that," she said.  "Come on, let's go to my
apartment.  My coffee can be trusted."

    I protested with myself.  Not tonight, we've already called
out the red and whites once.  Just walk away and ignore her.  Of
course, it wasn't going to be.  That just wasn't possible.

    "Okay," I said.  "My apartment, though.  And I promise that
I have the finest 100% pure Columbian java in existence."

    "Yum," she said.  "You lead the way."


    I ought to turn a corner and lose her, so I could go home
and get some rest.  She was too groupie-like, just looking for a
nice guy to bang and then go home in the morning, like quite a
few others I've dealt with over the years.  They all ended up the
same though, with the happy little medics swarming over them,
usually not able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Then
it was time to file the forms and that would be that, I'd move

    This one was so willing it hurt to look at her.  Very
blatant in her desires, the twentieth sentence out of her lips
suggesting a quick trip behind closed doors.  It was sad.  Some
people only live for one thing.  Well, I do, but not that thing.

    "So what do you do for a living?" she asked, sipping out of
her thermos.

    "This and that," I said.  "Odd jobs.  Kind of random, just
whatever happens to walk my way.  And you?"

    "That and this," she said.  "Kind of the same deal.  It's
fun, isn't it, being aimless?  Always on the go, always with a
different job.  Different stuff to do.  Occupies the days and
keeps you active."

    "Yeah," I agreed.  "Active."

    "Of course, it's been getting trickier to play that aimless
game," she continued.  "What with these psycho killers roaming
the streets.  C'atel's really had a problem with the Generik Evil

    "Uh-huh.  I read about it in the papers," I said.  "Tonight
they managed to kill someone who was just bringing groceries

    "How horrible."

    "My sentiments exactly.  Cut her up, raped, mutilated.  If
that wasn't enough, when the medics wheeled her away, someone
threw a bomb and killed a few people."

    "What's this city coming to?" she asked.  "Remember when it
was just a collection of slackers, most of them with guitars,
trying to eke out a living in the rain?  You could walk the
streets at night then without worries."

    "I know.  Bad people at night now.  Louts, remorseless
devils.  I hate them."

    "Well, I've got you along tonight.  You look strong enough
to take on some Generik," she said, leaning on my shoulder.

    I was going to do it, of course, but this wasn't making me
feel any better.  Why do they have to be so eager?  They know I
usually pounce the eager ones first, the ones that are
defenseless and clueless.  That's what the paper said.  More
people should read the papers and understand the world around

    "I've always wanted to join Generik Silly," I pondered
aloud.  "Not Evil.  Silly seems... nice.  Happy.  Zany.  Liked by
people, even if they do get into a scrape with the media
sometimes.  That's what I would have liked to have been, if it
was possible..."

    "Why not try out for them?" she asked.  "I hear they're not
very strict about applicants."

    I winced.  "I... I don't think I'd have the time to, with my
jobs and all.  You know how it is, work piles up, gets in the way
of what you wish you were doing."

    "Ain't it the truth," she said.  "I've been in and out of
C'atel over the last few weeks.  Odd jobs.  Go here, do this, do
that.  It's annoying.  I'm glad to be home, though.  At least one
night of fun before they could possibly ship me out again."

    Night of fun.  Oh, the irony.  Already I was trying to
decide what I was going to do when I got home... I had a lot of
possibilities, given my stocks of the tools of the trade.  I
wanted this clean, though, as clean as a senseless act of evil
could possibly be.  I wanted to go to sleep, not stay up all
night working on my fucking points.  I was in it this far; I'd
finish it, but quickly and quietly.  None of the contraptions,
none of the blades, just the basics.  Maybe one blade.  I still
had the one I cut up the girl from earlier this night handy,
still wet with her blood.

    "Here we are," I said, tapping the code into my keypad.  We
proceeded up the stairs, to my archaic but soundproofed
apartment.  She followed, like a lamb to the slaughter.

    "Say, I was wondering," she asked, climbing ahead of me up
the stairs, rear end swaying back and forth in front of me.  "You
said you read about another of those murders tonight.  I thought
the Times didn't have an evening edition."

    "I didn't say I read about it, I said I saw it," I said.
"Remember?  Ugh, what a sight.  I can't get it out of my head."

    "Don't worry, I'll help you remove that nasty image," she
grinned impishly.  Ugh.  I was going to be sick.  "Which one is
your apartment?"


    "G," she finished, finding the door and tapping the keypad.
Hadn't I locked the door?  "After you," she gestured.

    I walked in, quickly examining the place to make sure none
of my tools were lying out in the open.  I didn't want her
freaking and running, because it would mean screwing up the path
I was committed to for the evening.  She walked in, and shut the

    "So, what do you do for fun around here?" she asked,
adjusting her shoulder strap.

    "This and that," I said, my stock phrase when asked a tricky
question.  "Wait right here, I've got something I need to get
from my bedroom..."

    "I don't think so," she said, blaster muzzle jammed into my
back.  "Hello.  Not-So-Secret-Agent.  You were disgustingly easy
to track, Generik."

    I brightened up immediately.  Wow!  Here I was thinking the
world didn't give a shit about me anymore, and someone took the
time and the effort to hire an agent to come and kill me.  I was
hated, recognized for what I was.  It felt wonderful.  I was
going to die the only way I could.

    "Over to the chair," she said, physically pushing me over to
one of my kitchen chairs.  She pulled her thermos on a strap off
and over her head, securing it behind the chair.  The strap
automatically tightened, lashing me to the chair, arms pointing

    "Neat," I admitted.

    "Thanks.  One of the many toys we get to use," she said,
walking around to my front, blaster still pointed at me, rock
steady.  She tugged at her ear, and twisted her mouth to try to
talk into it.  "Agent 7659.  Target acquired.  Pickup."

    "Pick up?" I asked.  "What, you're not going to kill me?"

    "No.  You're going up the river, pal, for what you've done,"
she said.  "Nice and legal, just like the old days of courts and
law.  On NSSAC's jail, of course, since there isn't much of a
court system anymore."

    "What, you're putting me away?  Why?  What's the point?  I'm
a killer, a murderer and rapist of all people.  I'm supposed to
DIE, not live."

    "Rehabilitation.  NSSAC doesn't believe in pointless
violence, unlike you," she said.  "We're going to make you a
fully functional member of society."

    "I was one once.  It wasn't very enjoyable.  The pain of
never knowing what you were, always in self doubt.  I don't doubt
myself anymore; I know I'm scum.  It's a warm feeling, in a way.
I don't want to be brainwashed into that state again."

    "I'm not here to kill you," she said.  "You could be a nice
guy if you wanted to be.  A Silly, if that's what you wanted to
be.  Just go with us quietly, and you won't have to die."

    I considered this.  It was a way out, a way to fit back in
and not have to perform on the public again.  What would I be,
though, after?  Happy?  I have no talents, no skills, no goals
other than to kill.  I'd be less than nothing.  I'd be nice, not-
self.  No; I had to get out of this, or die trying.

    She was sloppy.  Didn't even notice the knife in my back
pocket, trusting her silly thermos to do all the work for her.
Some agent.  Society would have to do better than that if it
wanted to take me down.  I was what I was and nobody could take
that away from me.  I may hate myself, I may curse my existence
on earth, but I would NEVER claim to be something I'm not.

    I sliced the strap -- with all that tension, it cut easily.
I jumped forward, just under the gun barrel, and drove the knife

    She yelped, advanced NSSA biotech keeping a reign on her
pain.  The blaster, however, dropped out of her hands.  Luckily,
she happened to be right next to my toy cabinet.  I opened it,
grabbed the nearest item (a nice rakelike device) and slashed up
her back.

    She grunted, as the rotating pizza blades sliced open her
thin shirt and made gashes.  She groped around the floor for her
gun.  The gashes weren't very deep... the shirt must have had
some kind of armor in the fabric--

    ZAPPIE! went the blaster, in some cheesy cartoon sound
effect as the orange blob of energy zipped across the room,
burning directly through the arm that held my multi-knife.  The
hand and knife dropped to the ground, burnt socket cauterized in
some places and openly bleeding in other.

    "Shit!" she yelled.  "I thought I had the stun setting on...
relax, I'm calling 911 for both of us," she said, tugging at her
earlobe again.  "911, emergency."

    "Good job," I sputtered, coughing up blood as I felt the
gory remains of my arm.  "Not good enough, though."

    I took another item from the box, a short sword.  Very
medieval.  I advanced on her, bleeding and dizzy.

    "Are you nuts?" she said, sliding backwards, despite the
back wounds.  NSSAs always had an admirable ability to soak up
punishment.  "Put down the knife or I'll shoot!"

    "I'm not going to jail," I warned her, getting ready to
behead her.  "You want me stopped, you stop me.  Not this, not
this half-assed attempt to be nice.  That's just not sane for
something like me.  Now shoot or die."

    At first, I thought she wasn't going to shoot.  She just
looked on, horrified at me, like the others.  This was going to
be too easy.  She stormed into the apartment to rob me, I used my
ancient weapons collection to fend her off, and eventually
managed to kill her.  Self defense.  The red and whites could
reattach the arm and I'd be back to my old tricks in days.

    Then she shot, blaster setting unchanged as the bolt burned
through my ribs.  I fell backwards, most of me escaping through
the new gap.  Much better; if you're going to do a job, you do it
all or none of it.  I died knowing who I was, the happy little
sirens of the medics pulling up to my apartment building in
standard quick-response fashion, red and white lights flashing
away into the night sky.

I tried something like this once.  It didn't quite turn out the same
way but was just as fun.  Please ignore any reality errors in this
story; Normal says there aren't any.


A Future We'd Like to See 1.61 - Overnight Success
By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne (Copyright 1994)

    "Garage band," I said.

    "We don't know how to play music."

    "Okay, a BAD garage band.  Come on, man, we've got NOTHING
better to do," I said.  "It's Friday night.  It's a happenin'
time in the C'atel area.  School's out.  We don't have any damn
projects to worry about.  We have time to kill and a way to do

    "We can't play any instruments, Matt."

    "That doesn't matter.  You've got a drum beat sequencer on
your deck, right?  We'll use that instead of a drummer.  I have a
toy guitar.  Franny has a lot of samples and a cool keyboard.
It'll WORK.  And if it doesn't, we've successfully blown the
weekend and had a fun time doing it."

    "Matt man, you're nuts.  You know that, right?  I mean, last
week it was art.  The week before, you were racing remote control
cars.  Now you wanna form a garage band."


    "Point is that you're acting silly.  You ALWAYS act silly."

    "Nothing wrong with that," I said.  "A little silly will do
you some good, Jack.  Now get over here and bring your deck.  I
gotta call Franny."

    "Yeah, yeah, whatever," Matt said, clicking off his
holophone.  The image snapped out of existence.  I grabbed my
notebook (since the miracle of memory eludes me) and looked up
Franny's number, dialing.

    "Yeah?" she asked, hopping into frame.

    "Franny.  We're going to form a garage band.  Drag a
collection of weird samples and your keyboard over."

    "Okay," she said, and clipped the link.  Well, that was
easy.  Certainly easier than Jack.

    Jack typically didn't like my spur-of-the-moment ideas.
Always called them silly.  I don't mind; they ARE silly, that's
the whole point.  Who cares if they take up time that could be
used raising the GNP or your GPA?

    See, adulthood, conformity, and boredom are like burglars.
They study you for the first ten or so years of your life,
watching you do all sorts of meaningless yet fun things.  Then,
they cautiously slip into your mind under the guise of logic and
wisdom.  Once in, you can almost never get them out, and spend
the rest of your dreary life wondering where your sense of
adventure went.  Where your wacky ideas went.  Where your
inclination to do spontaneous and zany things like see what
happens when you fill a balloon with maple syrup and throw it

    Kinda hard to avoid happening, especially in your late high
school years where the pressure's on to 'make something of
yourself', but I manage to avoid the pitfall of Seeking Success.
Like a garage band.  We wouldn't get a contract, we wouldn't make
a million credits, we'd be wasting time but it would be fun and
pointless and that's all that matters.  I'm a proud member of
Generik Silly and strive to seek that level of wackiness.

    Franny's an aspiring one.  She's got the drive and the
randomness down pact, but her attention span rivals that of the
common flea.  Well, mine is no great span of history either, but
it's enough to finish whatever I happen to be doing at the time.
Jack's got an attention span that rivals most rock formations.
You could plop him in front of the learning channel and come back
two days later to watch him staring intently at the screen, alert
and alive.


    "Come on in, Franny," I called, not needing to check who it
was.  She always arrived first.

    "Where should I set up?" she asked, supporting the weight of
a cheap keyboard and a slew of flopticals under her no-workout

    "Garage, obviously," I said.  "Can't be a garage band
without a garage."

    "You don't have a garage," she replied, setting the gear
down on my bed.  "This is an apartment."

    "Okay, we'll have to construct a garage first," I said.
"Then we can play."

    "I'll go get some wood," she said, and promptly left.
Always quite the go-getter, that girl.

    I examined the disks.  She never labelled them; that'd take
more than a millisecond of concentration.  Quite silly in a way.
I remember her turning in a computer project that sorted a series
of integers and accidentally handing in a disk with 1001 Ways to
Cook Monkey on it.  Luckily the teacher liked monkey and excused
her to go get the real disk.  Wacky, no?


    "Hello, Jack," I said, opening the door for him.

    "Alright, I brought the computer," he said.  "Where's

    "Getting building supplies.  We lack a garage."

    Jack blinked.  "You're going to build a garage?"

    "Of course.  It is requisite."


    "Oh, I don't know.  The roof?  Although the landlord may not
appreciate that.  Can we build one at your house?"

    "Why do you want to build a garage?" he asked, still not
getting it.

    "Okay.  I'll put it in small words.  We're going to be a
garage band.  Can't exactly do that without a garage."

    "This is nuts," Jack said.  "WHY do I hang out with you?
You never take anything seriously.  If we're going to try to play
music for some weird reason, we don't need a damn garage."

    "Perhaps if we decided to do jazz," I mused.  "I don't think
we'd need a garage then.  Just a bunch of those neat wooden
stands like they have in big bands, with the painted logos."

    "How will we play jazz with no trumpets?"

    "It'll be neo-jazz.  A new wave of jazz.  Usually played via
keyboard, guitar and synth drum."


    "Come in, Franny," I said, spinning in my office chair just
for the hell of it.

    "I couldn't find any wood," she said.  "But I spotted this
in a toy store window..."

    She held up a kit for a garage, at 1/50th scale, for use
with model train sets.  "I got us some model glue too, in case
you didn't have any.  You owe me five credits and change."

    "Okay," I said.  "We'll build the garage later.  For now,
let us start to be jamming.  Blues riff in G, high beat and
follow me for the changes."

    "Check," Franny said, slipping a floptical into her keyboard
drive and loading up some random set of noises.

    "What should I do?" Jack asked.

    "Drum something," I said.  "Okay, here we go."

    I've been playing guitar for years, and have become a master
at the art of the chord and fret reach.  No; that's not entirely
true.  Actually, I suck.  I go under sucking and straight into
the negative-suck range, making it sound a lot like torturing
mailmen than anything resembling music.  But talent be damned, I
was now a proud member of a garage band and I was going to play.

    I strummed the three strings (the rest had broken off when I
tried to slice cheese with them) and tried to maintain a regular
pattern that sounded somewhat like a Net Will Eat Itself song.
Franny started playing broken glass noises and something that
resembled Zamfir being burnt with cigar butts.  Jack shrugged and
tapped out a snare occasionally.

    "Okay, now we pause for the reverb effect we'll be editing
in later," I said, checking my watch.  One second... two.

    I reached into the higher chords, wondering if I could make
glass REALLY shatter.  Franny took it upon herself to start
playing Bach backwards and Jack stopped tapping, looking

    "We suck," he said.

    "Big deal.  Stomach Contents, the great granddaddy of all
grunge also sucked when they started," I said.  "Okay, I think
we've practiced enough to start a recording session."

    "Whoa.  You're making permanent copies of this shit?" Jack

    "Of course.  We'll need it in the event of a talent scout
coming a-knocking," I said.

    "Alright, but leave my name off it," Jack said.  "I am not
proud of this."

    "Cheer up, Jack!  We've got quite a night of hip dope fresh
beats and grinding riffs to get through.  Alright, first song.
What should we call it?"

    "'Don't listen to this'?" Jack suggested.

    "'I bite the demon pancreas'," Franny stated, loading a new

    "Okay, that works.  We'll make it a cool intro with only
synth.  Can you handle that, Franny?"

    "Check," she said.  "Start the tape."

    I pushed Record, wiping the bubblegum I had stuck to the
button off in the process.

    It's hard to describe the noise coming out of Franny's cheap
speaker, but it was something like this : a scream, three
gunshots, some random orchestra hits, several pigs bweeing, a cut
drum beat from a generic pop song, some political sound bite, and
a repeating dull thump that could only be Your Digestive System
in Action.  This built up into a crescendo until she tapped out
three random piano notes and stopped.

    "How's that?" she asked.

    "Great," I said, stopping the tape and writing on the cover.
"Okay... bite... pancreas... one minute.  Next?"


    The demo tape lasted about sixteen minutes and included four
tracks : Bite the Demon Pancreas, Frodo's Revenge (a lovely
little number which had me reading from Tolken while pumping out
chords), All My Lego Bricks Have Been Dropped in Acid (Jack
reluctantly sequenced a rather catchy little one-two for it), and
two minutes of silence entitled Trapped in an Invisible Box.

    "Why is it silent?" Jack asked.

    "It's a visual interpretation," I said.  "Didn't you see the
hand gestures?"

    "Yeah, but how are those going to get on the tape?"

    "They aren't.  For that, they'll need to buy the video," I
said, pulling my camcorder out from under the bed.  "Okay, what
do we do for costumes?"

    "That's it, I'm leaving," Jack said, collapsing the archaic
two-dimensional screen of his computer.  "Audio okay, video no.
That's ridiculous.  I mean, what if someone was going to see this

    "We'd be heralded as musical gods who speak with the voice
of our generation, of course," I piped in with, smiling.

    "Cool," Franny admitted.

    "No, we'd be laughingstocks.  I'd like to graduate with my
reputation intact."

    "Okay, no live video," I said.  "Animation is good.  I'm
thinking something along the lines of a massive war between these
anthropomorphic enema bags and a group of flightless waterfowl."

    "My cousin owns a penguin," Franny said.  "We could borrow
it for the shoot."

    "That'll work.  Jack, could you run down to the drugstore
and pick up fifteen or so enema kits?"

    "No!" he said.  "Could you imagine the looks I'd get?
FIFTEEN enema kits?  Ugh!"

    "Jack, whatever happened to your spirit of adventure?" I
asked.  "Heck, I remember a time in elementary school when we
formed a small dictatorship around the tree in the playground.
We had a charter, rules, and even public executions, at least
until it was time for math and we had to go back inside.  That
was fun."

    "That was childish," he said.  "And so is this.  If you'll
excuse me, there's a special on Yttia I really wanted to watch on


    "Probably our recording agent now," I said.  "He heard us
through my window and just had to meed the music gods."

    "Uh-huh," Jack said, slumping into his chair.

    I opened the door, and a man in an expensive suit peeked in.
"Hello, were you the folks I heard playing music?"

    "Yup.  Do you want to sign us up?" I asked.

    "Yes, in fact.  Your music carries a powerful undertone of
hatred against the system that our label, Oppression Records,
specializes in.  Do you have a demo I could borrow to make a
press release copy of?"

    "Right here," I said, leaning over to eject the digital
tape.  I passed it over, and he pocketed it.

    "What's your band name?"

    "We don't have one yet."

    "Very good.  The faceless unknown, toiling endlessly.  I
like it.  Here's my card.  I'll get back to you tomorrow
morning," he said, leaving.  I pocketed the card.

    "Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?" I said.

    "Did you pay that guy to come here and put on that act?"
Jack asked.

    "Of course not.  I've been here all night.  Logic, Jack."

    "You mean that guy was real?" he asked.

    "Seemed real to me.  Well, I guess we now have something to
do this weekend.  We'd better practice.  Okay, Frodo's Revenge on
three.  One, two, five--"

    "Three," Franny corrected.

    "Yes, three," I said, starting into what I thought was the
first note.  Probably I was off by several octaves, but that's
okay, music is a constantly evolving artform.  "Jack, drums,

    "Oh, alright," he said.  "I guess the night can't get any
stupider, might as well go with the flow.  How'd Frodo's whatsit
go again?"

    "Something like bass hihat snare snare repeat.  Or maybe
just snare repeat.  Improvise.  A one and a five and a--"


    My holophone rang and rang.  Normally I don't like to spring
awake on weekends; my body doesn't contemplate neural firing
before eleven AM.  However, a phone call is a phone call and a
grapefruit isn't one, so I answered it.

    "Greetings," the agent said.  "Say, what're the names of the
band members?  We need them for the album cover."

    "Jack, Matt and Franny," I said.  "Anything else?"

    "Yeah.  Go to the corner of Keister and Fifteenth.  You have
a gig in six minutes," he said.

    "Alright," I said, closing the connection.  See?  The
weekend wouldn't be dull at all.  I checked my notebook again and
rang up Franny.

    "Yeah?" she asked.

    "Keister and Fifteenth in six," I said.  "First concert."

    "Okay," she said, and cut the line.  Jack, dial dial.

    "What?" he asked.

    "Keister and Fifteenth in six, we have a gig."

    "A what?"

    "A gig.  A show.  A time.  A happenin' event.  A concert."

    "Ha ha, Matt."

    "No joke.  Our agent just phoned it in."

    "SIX MINUTES?" he said.  "But we haven't even gotten an
album out!"

    "Apparently we have.  The music industry moves fast, you
know.  Gotta keep up with pop culture."

    Jack considered this.  "This is insane.  This is completely
insane and I'm going along with it.  I have no idea why.  Okay,
I'll be there in six minutes."

    "Five now," I corrected, tapping my watch.

    "Then five!" he stomped, holoconnection fuzzing.  "I'll be
there.  We're going to be lynched on grounds of good taste, but
I'll go anyway.  Call me self destructive."

    "You're self destructive," I called.

    "Hurrah," he said without enthusiasm, and hung up.


    The Pit was a club that looked like a club named The Pit.
It was a pit, and a club, and was very pitty in its clubness.  A
sizable crowd had started to grow; apparently the current trend
of Saturday morning concerts had really caught on.

    "Hello there!" our agent called out, spotting the three of
us in our non-tooth-brushed, just-got-up grunginess.  "Hey, I
like the hygiene.  It says something remarkable.  Okay, your
costumes are backstage and you're on in two minutes."

    "What are we supposed to do?" Jack asked.

    "Just play three tracks off your new album," he said, waving
the freshly pressed CD2 at us.  "Hope you like the art.  We paid
several million for it.  We left off a band name or an album name
since you didn't specify."

    "I like the costumes," Franny said, pointing to the rack.
On three coat hangers were three costumes; one black in Franny's
size, one grey in my size, and one white in Jack's.  Although his
wasn't as extensive.

    "What's this?  A sock?" Jack asked, picking the single
garment off his hanger.

    "Yeah.  We'd like you to put it around an erection," the
agent said.  "Kids go for that."

    "I don't think so," he said, tossing the sock over his
shoulder.  "What I'm wearing is fine."

    "Okay, even if it is a bit old fashioned," the agent said.
"Well... no.  On second thought, you three stay the way you are.
There's a certain purity in original design.  Okay, you're up.
On stage you go," he said, giving us a push.

    "But--" Jack started, and was cut off by thunderous applause
and burning lights.

    "Cool," I admitted, strapping on the guitar and picking up
what looked like a jack to stick in it.  Franny pulled over a
discarded and bent keyboard stand and loaded up a disk.

    "Jack, get booted up," I said.  "We're on."

    "There are people out there!" he said, pointing to the happy
crowd, swarming over itself in an effort to... I'm not sure, but
whatever it was they really wanted to do it.

    "Of course.  It's called an audience.  Okay, Franny, do Bite
the Demon Pancreas while Jack and I get set up."

    "Check," she said, immediately launching into the horrific
mishmash of samples.  The speakers launched to life, the crowd
wailing in appreciation.

    "DO YOU HAVE YOUR DRUM PROGRAM?" I asked Jack over the

    "OF COURSE," he said, turning on his old computer.  "I'VE


    "WHATEVER," Jack said, keying up the sequence into his
simple shareware drum synthesizer.  Franny's Pancreatic
exploration ended with the three random piano notes, sending the
crowd into hysteria.

    "Are gonna die?" Jack asked, able to talk over the lack of
Franny's 'music'.

    "What makes you say that?" I asked, tuning up, or doing what
I thought tuning up was.

    "They look a little rowdy."

    "Don't worry, they're okay guys.  They probably just want to
eat our livers so they can possess the healthy vitality our band


    "Lego on three," I reminded him.  "Three."

    He started the catchy beat (pop all the way, baby) and
Franny quickly loaded her plastic-bonking and acid sizzle
effects.  I strummed the notes in something resembling the
original order they came in.  How'd the words go?  Oh yeah...

    o/~ Mom burned all my motherf**king lego bricks o/~

    (With a bleep from franny to keep bad words from hitting our
audience's ears.  We're not barbarians, after all...

    o/~ Plastic melting on my carpet
        She wants me to clean it up
        So I put 'em back in the box
        They stink up the room
        But I don't care

        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        But I play with them anyway

        My hands are scarred
        My arms are burned
        Ma wants me to throw 'em away
        But I'm not gonna
        Just cuz she hates them

        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        But I play with them anyway

        My creations look cooler
        Deformed lumps of plastic
        I like it better this way
        She tries to take them away
        But they're mine for good

        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        All my lego bricks have been dropped in acid
        And I'll always play with them anyway. o/~

    The crowd seethed with joy, climbing on top of each other to
rush the stage and cheer us on.  Force fields keep that from
happening, of course (got to keep the band safe).

    "That was actually kinda good," Jack said, reading the
Tolken novel I had brought along while his computer did the hard

    "We were good?  Foo!  I'll try not to let it happen again,"
I said.  "Okay, I think I'll do Invisible Box."

    "You can't, stupid.  It's not a song."

    "Art is art.  Franny, can you short out the field there,

    "What?!" Jack asked, lowering the book and casting a nervous
eye at the crowd.  "With THEM around us?"

    "Shorted," Franny said, as the air crackled with ozone.  She
dropped the two wires she had tangled and nodded to me to

    "Alright.  Invisible Box," I said, making mime motions in
the air.  The crowd loved it, trying to pattern this new dance.

    I took a deep breath and jumped into the crowd, landing on
top of the pulsating mosh pit.


    "Did you see when he was doing mime while being passed

    "I had legos when I was a kid, I really miss 'em...

    "That Franny can really play!"

    "Yeah!  I almost achieved orgasm when she hit the end of 'I
Bite the Demon Pancreas'!"

    "I've got to get the album!"

    "I NEED the album!"

    "They seem happy," I noted, pulling my head back in from the
gap in the curtains, shutting off the crowd conversation.  Jack
was shaking his head, dazed.

    "They liked it," Jack said.  "They're buying the 'album'.
They're actually paying good money for it.  Why, Matt?"

    "They like it.  You said it yourself.  If you like the music
you buy the album.  Maybe we'll get to do that video after all."

    "This has been the most surreal weekend I've ever had," Jack
said.  "Last night I was goofing around on a computer program and
now I'm a musician sensation.  This feels so funky."

    "Cool," Franny repeated from earlier.  A fanboy slid up to
her, having sneaked by the backstage guards.

    "Franny?  Can you sign my head?" he asked, pulling his hair
back from the scalp.  "Your samples speak to me in ways that no
mortal being can."

    "Okay," she said, uncapping a pen and scribbling her name
backwards on his head.  "Now you can see it right in mirrors."

    "Thanks!" he said, before the backstage guys noticed him and
drug him off.  Our agent walked up, grinning and waving his arms.

    "Take!  The take's good!" he said.  "We've made two million
in album sales around the galaxy.  You're getting a lot of
airplay.  Mind doing C'atel stadium tonight?"

    "What?" Jack asked.

    "No problem," I said.

    "Here's your cut for royalties," he said, flashing a green
temporary credit chip with many zeroes on it at us, and handing
it to Jack.  "Transfer it among yourselves as you see fit.  To
the top, baby!  You're going to the top!  See ya tonight at

    Jack eyed the figure on the card, as the agent retreated.
"Matt, pinch me," he requested.  So I did.

    "Ow," he said.  "Okay, so this is real.  Did we really just
make this many credits for improvising four splatters of sound?"

    "Splatters!  Good word choice, Jack.  You're getting better
at this lunacy stuff.  Yeah, it's true.  I wonder what I'll buy
with my cut."

    "I'm gonna get a new car!" Jack beamed.

    "I want a doughnut," Franny said.

    "Me, maybe I'll buy enough raspberry jam to fill the school
and then do just that," I mused.  "Or maybe I'll just give it to
Save the Lemurs."


    Our second concert.  Packed house, C'atel Stadium.  Word got
around really quickly about our untitled band with the nameless
four track CD, and soon everybody had a copy.  The stadium was
awash in fans that had tried to dress in our early morning,
thrown on regalia; emulating the band in any way they could.
Some sported fake glasses that matched Frannies.  Many had lego
bricks or fantasy novels.

    "Gang's all here," I noted, looking around the curtain.
"This gets more fun by the minute.  Hey, Franny?  Go play
Pancreas for them while Jack and I ponder life's many mysteries."

    "Okay," she said, plugging up her keyboard and walking on
stage.  The crowd exploded in rolling waves of applause, shouts
and pledges of undying obedience to Franny.

    "This may be ridiculous, but it's the most fun I've ever
had," Jack noted, booting up his computer.  "I'm a star.  Wow.
I'm actually famous.  I've got a serious bank account and I'm
recognized on the street."

    "Me too," I said.  "Some girl bumped into me around
lunchtime and offered her body to me if I'd do the Invisible Box
routine for her."

    "Did you?" Jack asked.

    "No.  I wasn't done my hamburger."

    "Man, you had someone pledging to sleep with you and you
passed?" Jack asked.  "Matt!  Buddy!  You're not getting the full
picture.  We're stars!  We're hot items!  We can have the world
be our oyster, get big houses and cars and women and anything."

    "I just want a doughnut," I said, remembering Franny's
earlier suggestion.  "Do they have a pastry table back here?  I
figure I could polish off a jelly before Franny's done her

    "She's done now," Jack said, as the infamous three notes
sounded and the crowd boosted total volume.

    "Oh.  Okay, one second," I said, walking around the curtain
and approaching Franny.

    "Franster?  Could you extend the Pancreas a bit?  I'm going
to look for a doughnut," I asked.

    "Okay.  Save one for me," she said, launching into the
Pancreatic Remix.  I ignored the cheers and headed backstage.

    "A doughnut?" Jack asked.  "All you want is a doughnut?"

    "I'm hungry," I said.  "Ergo, I desire pastry.  What's wrong
with that?"

    "You've got no sense of the big picture," Jack said.  "I
mean, you're still in Thursday.  Thursday, we were nobodies.
We're SOMEONE now."

    "You're Jack and I'm Matt," I said.  "I don't see much of a
difference.  Ah, doughnuts!  Sweet sugar delight.  Want one?"

    "I'm never going to understand you," Jack said, shaking his
head.  "Let's just get on with this."

    "One sec," I said, pushing the guitar along the strap so I
could carry the doughnut tray.  I wobbled along, under the weight
of superior baked goods, to the stage, Jack following.  The crowd
cheered, which is perfectly acceptable behavior for crowds.

    "Anybody want a doughnut?" I asked the crowd.  They cheered
Yet!  Again!  So I plucked two jellies off the tray for me 'n
Franny and tossed the rest into the crowd.  They cheerfully dove
for the doughnuts, getting into a brawl over who could have one.

    "Alright, Lego on one," I said.  "Three."


    "I think the crowd wants more," Jack said.

    "We don't have any more," I replied.  "Just four songs, one
of which is more like performance art.  Sorry folks!  That's

    The crowd groaned, and shuffled off, dejected.

    "Hey, don't go away mad," I said.  "Anybody want more

    Within five minutes, the stadium was empty.  Everybody left.
Probably had sitcoms back home to watch.

    "Hey, kids," the agent said, climbing on stage.  "Sorry,
show's over.  You're fired."

    "What?" Jack asked.

    "Hey, out with the old, in with the new," Mr. Agent Man
said.  "Oppression stays on the musical beat.  When the beat
moves on, we do.  We've had some fun, yeah?  It's been real.  See

    "But we've only started!" Jack protested.  "You can't cut us
off like that!"

    "Of course I can.  Happens all the time in C'atel.  You're
just finished.  The buyers bought, liked and moved on.  You've
still got the cash, right?  So no problem.  Although we would
like to sign Franny on solo.  When can you make it to the

    "Not doing anything tomorrow," she said, shrugging.  "How
about lunchtime?  Will you have any doughnuts?"

    "FRANNY?" Jack exclaimed.  "But she just makes noise... we
make art!"

    "Art is subjective.  Franny, if you'll come this way, I've
got a contract.  How'd you feel about having your name legally
changed to 'Angst'?"

    "Okay," she said, following the Agent.

    Jack was dumbfounded.  I munched away on my dessert, not
really concerned.

    "We're over?  Finis?  Just like that?" Jack asked.

    "Yup.  We killed some time, made a few credits and
entertained the masses.  All in all, not a bad weekend, eh Jacky

    "But the money!  The fame!  The music!  The band!"

    "Short-lived but enjoyable.  Like most of our weekend
escapades.  I wonder if I can get some bonus points in guitar
class for this.  It'd help my grade."

    "I was hoping for more," Jack said, turning off his

    "You were?  On friday, you thought it was a waste of time."

    "It was!"

    "Well, one man's waste is another man's excrement.  Take it
in stride, Jack.  Silly is good and we were exceptionally silly
this weekend.  From could-bes to has-beens in a day.  You can't
find enjoyment like that growing on trees.  You've got the money
anyway, right?"

    "No," Jack admitted.  "I figured I'd be really cool and buy
one expensive new car with each album... I've barely got enough
to make a phone call now."

    "Live and learn," I said.  "Come on, let's go home."

    "You know, we never did name the band," Jack said, walking
off with me into the sunset.

    "Yeah.  Silly, no?" I grinned.