Many elements of this story were created from the notes found in my article Write This! Cyberpunk Challenge. Find out more about the Challenge by reading through my previous posts. Also, the CC Story Archive has been updated. You can download the free PDF on my author site at Raymond Towers Dot Com / Freebies. Note: The CC Story Archive is now rated at HIGH controversy.
“That was…” Fingers said. “That was special. I got one I call Spank The Monkey. You want to hear it?”
“You spank the monkey, before the monkey spanks you. That’s it. You say it over and over twenty times until it really sinks in. It’s like a mantra.”
Varriano checked his phone. “I’ve been here almost two hours. Do you have something for me or not?”
Fingers scooted his chair closer, so close Varriano could smell his body odor despite the constant vapor mist that smelled like cleaning solvents. “I got something so hot I can’t tell you anything about it. No questions asked. Top level confidentiality. You hear me?”
“I hear you.”
“What I got might be worth some money. It could be a little money or a lot. Once you have the money, you call me and we’ll figure out a way to divvy up. That means between now and when you have the money, you and I have no contact with each other. If you don’t get money, we all lose and that’s it.”
“All right. What do you have?”
“It’s a little box, the size of a ring box.” Fingers said. “I can pass it to you under the table. You put it away and don’t open it until you’re back home. This is important. Nobody can see that you have it, and nobody can know I gave it to you. Do you understand?”
“I got it.”
“Good. Now reach under the table like we’re going to hold hands and take this shit with you. No contact, you hear me, unless I’m getting paid.”
The moment after Fingers handed Varriano the box, he stood up and walked out.
Varriano frowned. He’d have to stay there another ten, twenty minutes so it wouldn’t be so obvious that they’d just made a clandestine exchange.
On stage, the two holo-girls now had anime faces and giant balloon tits that hung down to their waist. It was one of the most repulsive things Varriano had ever seen.
A microverse in the palm of my hand. A human life encased in a thumb drive. What did you see when you had eyes? What did you hear when you had ears? What did you speak when you had… Mouths that speak, yet what do we hear? How well do we listen to those we love? Identity, did you truly have one? Did you want one when you breathed? The blessing of paid-for immortality, Or the condemnation of eternal life? Whoever you are, you’ve been reduced, Input and output on a loop to forever, Restful or restless in digital eternity. Dead and not dead, but not alive either.
“That’s all I got.” Varriano lightly bounced the golden thumb drive on his palm. “If you want better, you’re gonna have to hire yourself a real poet.”
Since he was heading out, he set the drive on his pull-out dresser. Varriano’s first idea was to toss it into his undershirt drawer, but then he changed his mind and went to unlock his small wall safe in the closet. All he had in there was old paperwork from when he had a house and court orders from his divorce. No cred cards, no stock hard-copies and no jewelry.
Before he left his apartment, Varriano always tidied up after himself. That was in case he got killed in the line of duty. He didn’t want any investigator coming in after his death and seeing his crap all over the place, thinking he was a slob. Varriano maneuvered his bed and dresser into their wall niches, made sure everything was shut off, and took his dark blue overcoat in case he ended up staying out later than he thought he would.
He had his independent investigator badge on him, his handgun that fired rubber bullets, two six-round clips and of course his trusty pepper spray. Oh, don’t forget the glove, dummy. Varriano had to go back into the dresser for a flesh-colored latex glove. It was for his right hand that was partially made of steel and colored cobalt blue. He’d lost his real hand when he’d gotten jumped by some really big guys a couple of years ago, back when he was testifying against Stem City P.D. Maybe it was cops that jumped him, or maybe it was hired shit-bags, but whoever it was thought they could shut him up by parking a car on his hand and crushing all the delicate bones within it. The tactic had not worked. Six cops had gone to jail because of him, and since cops didn’t last very long in jail, half of them were already pushing up daisies.
The judge had warned the cops that if anything happened to Varriano, they would be held liable for it. The judge was true to her word, as she ordered restitution for his shattered hand even thought no suspects were ever arrested, payment to the tune of fifty thousand creds for a flexible polymer replacement, part steel, part carbon, part who the hell knew, in a designer color. Varriano’s right hand could pack a pretty good punch when he had the need to punch someone. It wasn’t so good for masturbation, though, not when an inadvertent love squeeze could leave him aching for a week. Good thing he was ambidextrous.
Varriano reached the bus stop five minutes ahead of time. He sat next to a pair of high school kids who watched him cover up his blue hand with the glove.
“You a cop?” One of the teens asked.
“Used to be.” Varriano shrugged.
“You look like a cop.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Bad. We don’t have bus money. We were going to sneak on, but we’re not taking any chances if you’re going to rat us out.”
“Has anybody done anything nice for you today?” Varriano wondered.
Varriano looked at his buddy. “How ‘bout you?”
“I’ll get day passes for both of you.” He decided. “You can ride for free until midnight. I would like for you to give the passes to someone else when you don’t need them, but knowing young people like I do, you’ll probably sell them. I don’t care about that. I’m not your mother.”
The teens didn’t believe him until the bus actually showed up and he paid for the passes. They were still suspicious, even after they had the passes in their hands. The teens went to sit in the back while Varriano sat up front.
Varriano had a forty minute ride before he had to switch over to another bus where he’d sit for another twenty minutes. The bus was fully automated. It drove itself and collected payment from cred cards. Once Varriano told its ‘puter his destination, it would remind him when it was time to get off. Normally, he’d find someone to chat with to pass the time, but on this occasion he had a lot to think about.
The thumb drive with its golden sheen had been a curious anomaly to him. That rat bastard Fingers hadn’t told him word one about it, past that it was probably worth a lot of money. Just by looking at it, Varriano could tell it cost a pretty cred, with its sleek design and golden accents. He had to use a jeweler’s scope on it to see the fine writing on the edge, and after looking up the company name he figured out it was a memorial drive.
A fucking memorial drive; just thinking about that made him shake his head. Most people when they died, they were gone and forgotten except for their closest friends and relatives. When the rich died, they could go on living for a hefty price. Well, it wasn’t really living, but it was the closet thing to it. Every video recording that existed of that person, every post on social media, every TV show or radio station they logged on to listen to, every bill, every major purchase, all of that personal information was put together into a massive file and run through a series of algorithms they called the Creation Formulas. The result was a living hologram of the recently deceased that looked and spoke like the actual person had.
Imagine that. If a man liked sports cars and expensive cigars, so would his hologram. If a woman loved walks on the beach and eating caviar, so would her hologram. Favorite foods, brands, colors, you name it and the hologram knew it. The dead person was brought back to life in a way that friends and relatives could speak to him or her in a virtual world. The hologram could almost think for itself. It could remember details, wish happy birthdays, give advice and everything, as long as the cost to maintain it was kept current. Somebody, or at least the living memory of somebody, was on that thumb drive. Varriano’s next challenge was for him to find a virtual way to go in there and speak to whoever was in the drive Fingers gave him.
(To be continued.)