Cyberpunk Challenge: Menoko Boi 1

This story features Detective Varriano, and is a continuation of the previous Detective Varriano posts. If you’d like to start at the beginning, use the search to find the first post titled Detective Rickard Varriano, Protagonist and work your way up from there.

I will be updating the CC Story Archive when I’m finished posting this story here on this website, since I am doing minor editing and still changing things here and there. You can read the entire first story arc with Detective Varriano by downloading the CC Story Archive on the Freebies page at Raymond Towers Dot Com. You can also search for the Story Archive on this site, but that may not be the most updated version available.

This story was written with ideas found in my article Write This! Cyberpunk Challenge, which you can also search for on this blog, or get through the Freebies page. It has a MEDIUM to HIGH level of controversial material in it, the same as the original Detective Varriano posts, so it may not sit well with the kiddies.

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Menoko Boi

(A Detective Varriano Story)

Detective Rickard Varriano lived in a cube-shaped apartment. It was the modular sort that, except for it’s soft brown paint being a little weathered, looked a lot like a new cube just off the assembly line. The small apartment complex he resided in was made up of eight cubes total. The first floor consisted of two apartments with two cubes each, and so did the unit across the way from him. Varriano, on the other hand, lived in a single ten by ten cube on the second floor, with the cube next to his rented out on a daily or weekly basis by the landlord, mostly to the AIR BNB bed ‘n breakfast people. He would walk up a set of black metal stairs with gray poly-crete steps to reach narrow landing and door. Also, he shared a toilet and humidifier-shower with the short-term rental.

Varriano was okay with his living situation. Ten feet by two feet made up his closet and storage space. It was amazing what kind of dividers and shelving a person could buy at My-Kea. The eighty remaining square feet might not seem like a lot, but he’d gotten used to it. His desk-table, two chairs and single bed could all fold into the walls and his stereo system was built into the walls and ceiling. If he felt like redecorating, all he really had to move around was his old laptop, his four-foot fridge and the fairly new microwave that sat on top of it. All of his food was either fresh fruits he kept cool in the fridge, or packaged soups he warmed up with treated water, meaning he didn’t have to prepare much of anything in a kitchen. The detective only needed to keep a couple of bowls, a few utensils and a couple of cups handy, using only half of them unless it was the rare occasion when he had company over.

Varriano was unofficially blacklisted, meaning that not many employers were willing to take a chance on hiring him. He qualified for Universal Basic Income, so his twelve hundred credits a month took care of the rent, his utility rates were reduced by half, and he even had a couple hundred credits as a food allowance. Varriano could have chosen to loaf around all day like some people on U.B.I. did, but he did look for the odd job when he had no cases pending. When he had gigs, his case worker would input his earnings into a complex algorithm that Varriano could not for the life of him figure out, and his next month’s allowances would be reduced, with part of his earnings going toward child support for two kids that his ex-wife had taken out of state. That last part could be depressing, since the ex-bitch never let him talk to his kids, she never sent him pictures of them or told him how they were doing.

But his life wasn’t all bad. Varriano had tricked out his apartment here and there to make it more appealing to him. He could have windows open on three sides if he wanted to, he had gone and customized the floor lighting to match his music, and he had installed holographic wallpaper everywhere it would stick to, even on the ceiling. As it was now, Varriano could change the interior of his apartment into any of a hundred colors, and he did so a couple of times a month, except for the carpet that was always dark blue. It would cost him a pretty cred, but Varriano was saving up for an upgrade module that could make the wallpaper show scenes instead of colors. Then he’d be able to imagine himself anywhere, even in space if he purchased the right scene for that.

He did this all for himself, because after his terrible divorce, he’d decided to live alone for a spell, and that short time had turned into a long time. Now, he didn’t have to clean house on any schedule except for his own, he didn’t have to trim bushes or mow a lawn, and he didn’t have to listen to any nagging about what he was watching on TV or listening to on the radio. He didn’t even have to maintain a car anymore, because the judge had awarded both of his cars over to his ex. If wasn’t that he refused to find a girlfriend, more that he was willing to wait for the right woman to show up, even if it took years, and hopefully he could avoid a repeat of the ten-year disaster other people called a marriage.

Well, there was one recent change to his routine. He had a job to go to at Stem Corp. It wasn’t a full-time gig but four hours a day at a hundred creds an hour, four days a week, coming up to a cool sixteen hundred per week. His boss was Drake Engstrom, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer, who could be a bit of a drag, but then again most corporate jerks were, and if Varriano ever got fed up he could just quit. It wasn’t like he was dating Engstrom or anything.

The detective showed up for work at between nine and noon, depending on if he had any leads to check out first, or depending on his mood. He’d catch the bus, and if he felt like expressing a little poetry to other riders, he felt no qualms over standing up, holding on to the safety rail, and clearing out his throat.

I knew a man once who lived in a bubble.

He couldn’t leave his bubble because he wasn’t allowed.

All he wanted was a back rub.

Would you, with your kind heart, give him a back rub?

If I were to say, not a back rub, but a blow job?

Would you, with your kind heart, give him a back rub?

That was his poem from the previous day. Of the half a dozen fellow riders, not a one of them understood what he meant, not until he explained that the man was a digital memory, and that his mother had restricted him so severely he could not ever have digital sex. The detective repeated the poem, and this time people reacted to it. Most were angry at the mother for being so controlling, while others could empathize with her decision, understanding how the woman held on to an ideal that had never, would never materialize. Even the critical voices faltered, however, when Varriano revealed that the digital man had been aborted as a fetus.

My boss tells me,

Finish the job or else.

Or else what, I say?

Or else you are fired.

Do I lose myself,

When I become like those that rule me?

Do I find myself,

When I stand up and refuse to bend?

Do I flow with the wind,

Or stand like a tree against it?

That was today’s poem. The conversation was so engaging that Varriano missed his stop. He got off on the next one, but that was okay because the day was nice. He didn’t mind the walk.

Varriano usually spent his four hours going through paperwork and watching archived video. Stem Corp had set up a security task force of trusted men and women, and so far they had recovered a couple hundred Q-drives. Engstrom was ready to slap those people with heavy fines and jail time, except Varriano had recommended he not do that.

“Why not?” Engstrom inquired. “They were caught with the drives in their possession. In the eyes of the law, that makes them guilty.”

“True.” Varriano had concurred with that statement. “And some of these people are China sympathizers, but they are low level. Other people, they had nothing to do with EFH, but all of a sudden they had all these drives dropped onto their laps, and they panicked and tried to get rid of them and that’s when they got caught. You ever heard of a kid’s game called Hot Potato?”

“Yeah. Go on.”

“The Q-drives were the Hot Potato.” Varriano compared. “These people were set up by the masterminds of the caper. The ghosts, the memory people, none of them are especially valuable. I think the most valuable ghosts are going to be shipped out of the country, or at least the state, if they haven’t been already.”

“The Q-drives have to be kept in computers that operate in cold storage.” Engstrom replied. “We’re monitoring every possible escape route from air shipping to boat shipping. The worst thing is that these low level patsies had no idea how the drives ended up in their hands.”

“So all we do is wait until the mid to high level thieves slip up.” Varriano said. “And they will, once they start getting desperate. This is a waiting game that your people can handle. You don’t need me for this. I feel bad for getting paid when all I’m doing is covering the same ground your people already stepped over.”

“You found the China connection that they didn’t.” Engstrom reminded him. “That means you’re staying on my payroll until this whole mess gets cleared up. You know what? We’ve got some other case files that are piling up because so much our manpower is being directed toward this one big problem. Why don’t you go through those? See if you can find a China connection there.”

Varriano didn’t know if Engstrom was yanking his chain or what, but he took the advice and he went to one of the lead investigators. The woman looked relieved to give him several flash drives and a bunch of paperwork. It was a heavy workload.

“All this is recent?” He asked.

“From the last six months. Anything you can clear up today will lighten our load when this high priority case is over. You do that, and I’ll take you on a date to the wrestling matches.”

“How’d you know I liked wrestling? How’d you know if I’m even dating?”

“We do our homework.” The woman winked and strode away.

If she was so good at doing homework, Varriano questioned, then why in the heck had Engstrom hired him? It took him a good five minutes to realize that somebody actually wanted to date him.

To be continued.

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