Cyberpunk Challenge – Detective Rickard Varriano 6

The saga continues. Download the latest update to the CC Story Archive from the Freebies page on Raymond Towers Dot Com.

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Before Varriano could reply, the emptiness among the trees began to shimmer. Out of nowhere a small house appeared. It was a cottage really, built Mission-style with a small sea of red, slate tiles on top, crisp white stucco walls and brown accents on the windows and doors. The entrance to the house was on the right, with three steps made of adorned red tile and a short wrought iron rail leading up to a covered entry and polished Maple door. It was a small house, but it was nice. Varriano would not have minded living in it.

A young man in a colorful tee shirt and jeans pulled away white curtains and looked out the main window, as if he’d been informed somehow that visitors had arrived. He wasn’t older than twenty-five, with peach fuzz all over his cheeks and chin, too lazy to shave it off like most young people his age. When the man saw the two visitors standing outside, he left the window and emerged from the door. He had brown leather sandals on, Varriano noticed.

“Who are you?” The young man asked.

“I’m Detective Rickard Varriano.” The detective answered. “This here is… a technician. I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.”

“Questions?” The young man blurted out a nervous chuckle. “I’ve got questions myself! Am I being deleted? Is that what this is about?”

“You are not being deleted.” Varriano replied. “”The drive you’re in came into my possession through sources that wish to remain anonymous. I am here to find out who you are so I can return you to your proper… uh, caretaker sounds like the right word.”

“Did my mother send you?”

“Your mother did not send us.” Varriano answered patiently. “We are here independently trying to find out how your Q-drive ended up in my hands.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. How can my drive just get pulled off a server like that? We have guaranteed security!”

“I understand your frustration.” Varriano nodded. “I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know who is responsible for this mishap. I am trying to find out. I could use your help.”

“I’m an abortion.” The young man revealed.

“Excuse me?”

“My mother aborted me before I was born. She wanted a designer baby. She paid a lot of money for gene selection and traits. I was supposed to be handsome and intelligent. I really don’t understand why she aborted me after all that, but she did. I’m just telling you because you’re not going to find me in any real-world history. I never existed.”

“How did your mother program your personality?” The game store manager asked.

“I was multi-sourced.” The young man shrugged. “One third of my traits came from my mother and another third from my biological father. I don’t know where the other third came from. Maybe algorithms. I’m just saying that I never existed anywhere except here. I have this support group that I meet with once a week, where I talk to other people who are like me.

“There’s this girl who got run over by a car. A drunk driver killed her. Her name is Kathy Yu. Her parents created a ghost of her at the age she was when she died. She can’t ever age past nine years old unless somebody changes her algorithm. My mother did the same thing to me. I’m going to be twenty-two years old forever, unless somebody does something about it, but nobody really cares about me. And poor Kathy Yu, she’s going to be nine for all of eternity. That’s jacked up, right?

“If you ask me, that’s the worst thing about being a virtual person. There are other people around here that have age progression. They get to go out on dates with others and have sex, and they can even get married if they want to. Kathy and I aren’t allowed to do any of that. I know this is going to sound awful, but if I get the chance I’m going to marry Kathy because she always cries when she thinks about how she died. You’re going to say it’s about sex, but it’s not. It’s about two people being so alone in here and our parents don’t care to have us living even ghost lives because they expect us to be something we never were in real life. How would you feel if you were stuck at twenty-two or at nine years old for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know how I would feel about that.” Varriano admitted. “Listen, I can’t do much about your situation. All I can do is try to get you into the hands of people who can take care of you. Do you even want to go back?”

“I don’t know.” The young man replied. “You know how people say they wish they were never born. I’ve been there so many times I stopped counting. That’s why I need to go to my support group. Can you take me there?”

“You have to go back to your.. to your world.” The manager said. “You can’t leave little Kathy alone like that. Who is going to be her friend if you’re gone?”

The young man looked at the two of them. “You’re right. Kathy needs me. She said she would marry me if her parents let her. We’ve been friends for five years now. It’s almost like an anniversary, isn’t it?”

“Rickard, I have to step out for a minute.” The manager said.

She disappeared before the detective could even ask why. Varriano scratched at the back of his ear, wishing he had his notepad with him. “Will you answer my questions?”

“Yes.”

“What is your name or your mother’s name?”

“My mother is Amelie Helsing. I was going to be named Char, but she’s been calling me Desmond recently.” He chuckled. “Did she just make that up or what? To tell you the truth, I don’t like either name!”

Varriano tried to grin back. “What environment were you in before you were, uh, is it removed from the server?”

“We were dismounted.” Desmond said. “Our environment was actually two places. One was a care facility where we had our support meetings. The other was an underwater city they’d let us go to every other week. Kathy and I have been to that place at least a hundred times! Is it possible that my mother died and nobody is paying for my account?”

“That sounds unlikely, given the circumstances for how I obtained your Q-drive. I believe someone took the drive out without permission.”

“There was an announcement.” Desmond recalled. “Someone said they were about to do a maintenance run on the servers. I thought, no, that doesn’t sound right because that sort of thing happens on a schedule, and we just had maintenance done a few days before. Kathy was scared that they might be doing a purge on old accounts. That’s how they get rid of us. They tell us that some of us are going to be moved to another server, and then we get deleted and we’re never heard of again. Kathy was so scared she wanted to come with me, into my house here,” He motioned behind him. “But I said no because we might both be in trouble. Imagine if they looked in her drive and she wasn’t there, and they found her at my place? You know what I heard? I heard that one guy found out he was going to be deleted, and he figured out a way to escape his Q-drive. He went into the server and hid there for a month before they found him! That’s insane, isn’t it?”

“An unusual announcement saying the server would be down for maintenance.” Varriano repeated, mostly so he wouldn’t forget later. “A suspicious announcement. Do you happen to know the name of the company that owns the server?”

“Of course.” Desmond nodded. “It’s emblazoned all over the place. You can’t miss it!”

“Did you, uh, want to tell me what that name is?”

Desmond crossed his arms. “First you have to do something for me. Tit for tat. You scratch my back and I scratch yours, literally.”

“I am limited as to what I can and cannot do.” Varriano said. He wished the manager hadn’t run out of him, since he had no idea what his limitations were.”

“I just want one thing.” Desmond said. “I want to know what sex is like.”

“Hold on there, bud. You do understand that I’m a man?”

“I don’t care. If we were on official servers, I would be prevented from engaging in sex by the watchdog algorithms. They would stop me as soon as me and any other person start taking our clothes off in private. We would be sent into our Q-drives immediately, with an investigation pending. Wherever we are now, I know for a fact that it’s not an official server. That’s my stipulation. You give me sex and I give you the company name. You do it or no deal!”

Feeling very uncomfortable, Varriano began scratching at the back of his ear again.

#####

Two hours later, or at least the detective figured it was two hours later, an announcement was heard saying he had to board the golf cart. He crossed over the warm sand in his bare feet to get to it. The driverless cart started moving all on its own, like it was on regular pavement and not sluggish sand. Not even ten meters had gone by when the landscape changed to pitch black. The same generic voice announced that the next station was coming up. The scenery went from black to purple and lavender, and just like that Varriano was back in the virtual room.

“You don’t have to say anything.” The manager told him. She’d just taken her helmet off and went to loosen up his. “I could tell that man was a creep the moment I saw him.”

“You were right about him not having any food.” The detective said. “His cupboards were empty. His fridge was empty. The poor guy is going hungry in there!”

“It’s part of the quantum environment, for realism. If that man had milk in his fridge, it would have an expiration date on it. Please, don’t say anything else. I’ll finish disconnecting you and you can be on your way.”

“Sure.” Varriano told her. It was the last thing he said to her.

The moment he was out of the virtual chair and on his feet, the manager ushered him out of the room, and shortly after, out of the game store.

(To be continued.)

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