I didn’t think I set off any alarms, but fifteen Hi-Guard in military armor were blinking on my wrist scope and zeroing in on my location. They were trying to cut me off from every exit point in the high security Prion Opsis Global Corporation building, and doing a fine job of it.
I backtracked to the central office I just left pulling the building schematics on my watch. Nope.
Everything was covered. Maybe I could talk to them, tell them I was just looking for the john. Maybe they were as dumb as rocks and would let me leave. Worth a shot, right?
FYI, I’m an R&D specialist; Retrieval and Delivery, for a price. A big one. I straightened myself and met the two grey clad guards in the hallway. “Hi-ya, fellas. Glad you showed up. I was just looking for the…”
“Kill him.” Bullets flew and I slammed the door on them. Tough crowd. Maybe they didn’t like my all black outfit? Nah, I looked cool. Fine. If they didn’t want to play nice with me then I’ll take my ball and go home. See how they liked it.
My ball just happened to be a large four inch, ten million pebibyte finger drive I just stole and stuffed into my hip pocket. It held the entire control source code to the most sophisticated software on the planet; the Prion Operating System. It ran every electronic, subatomic, and AI device in existence. Whoever had that code could tap into any and every conversation these devices were near. If you could break the code.
I was pretty sure my anonymous benefactor could access it, or knew someone who could. But that’s neither here nor there. Fifteen fully armed Hi-Guard were here, and there, and everywhere. I was completely cut off from efficient egress. For those of you in Rio Linda, that meant I couldn’t escape easily.
I poked my head out an opposite door leading to what looked like a clear shot to an access panel leading straight down to the basement levels. A tight squeeze, but doable. Robotic guard dogs roamed these halls. Drats, and double drats. I forgot about the roaming Otto-bots.
They were equipped with anti-tracking, bullet proof everything and nothing but death on their tiny electronic minds. A hundred rounds of armor piercing bullets rained around my head as I jerked back. Can’t go down, so, up?
I jumped on a big conference desk. A thick, highly polished number made from the last of the big Sequoias. I pulled down a ceiling panel. A whole lotta solid steel said ‘boo’ right in my face. Can’t go up from here, so that only leaves out.
What I wouldn’t give for a light saber right now. But those don’t really exist… yet. Anyway, as the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, go out in a blaze of glory!
I turned and ran to the large windows on the 287th floor I was trapped on. I flicked my illegal machine gun to automatic and peppered the blast-resistant glass windows as I ran, hoping they would lose enough integrity to shatter before I got to them. Small cracks began to appear after a full clip. I slapped in another and kept firing.
The office door behind me blasted open but I kept running and shooting. I knew who was knocking and I didn’t feel like playing fetch, with my own head. The mag was empty and there was no time to put in another. I hoped it was enough. I tossed the gun aside and threw myself into the glass hoping I wouldn’t just bounce back in. To my great relief, the glass shattered as I hit it. To my dismay, I was falling 287 floors and speeding to my death.
If you were worried about me, don’t be. Light sabers may not yet exist, but I didn’t wear my black leather duster just for the cool fashion looks. This baby was chock full of sweet tricks. It was blast proof, fireproof, water proof, shock proof, and bullet proof. But, best of all, it had tons of pockets.
I twisted and fell with my back to the ground looking up. The shattered glass trailed down with me and spread outward in the wind. I laughed as three of the Otto-dogs jumped right after me, another one looked over the edge at his falling killer-coworkers.
“Bye bye, bowsers.” Stray bullets whizzed by my head as they still tried to murder me. Time to go.
I found the two drawstrings and pulled them tight keeping my legs pulled in. I twisted to face into the fall. Exposed pockets filled with air and tore off the mini parachute liner of my duster and it spread out to catch me. The jolt caused me to pull to one side as more bullets bounced off my parachute; also bullet proof.
My wrist scope pulled up my location. I pushed another button and two tiny turbo jets popped from my belt to each side. I punched in a location and they automatically propelled me there.
After half a night in flight I landed in an untracked area in the mountains. I have a small underground mansion there that I call home. I tucked the chute back into place, worked the blood back into my arms and legs, and hiked the twenty miles to the entrance. I’m not telling you where it is.
I stood on the stone platform, reached overhead and stuck my finger into the print reader I had installed behind a small ledge. I don’t know jack about how it all works. I just read the instructions and use it as indicated. The platform rotated me into an alcove on the other side. A full body scan, electronic bug zapper and deodorizer hit me at the same time as it stopped. The all clear pinged and another door opened.
“Honey, I’m home.” I knew I wouldn’t get an answer, but it’s always fun to pretend. I hung my duster in the closet and kicked off my boots. Man, I was tired. “Lights.” The soft glow from the hidden lights brought my living room into view. Every piece of my ancient 2040’s furniture was visible. It might be time to redecorate. Everything was right where I left it, except one. The desk drawer of my personal work space was open a fraction of an inch. I drew my pistol.
I’d already cleared the open concept living room/kitchen. Nobody there. I slinked down the hallway to the stairs. I listened at the top landing for a few seconds. Hearing nothing unusual, I crept down each step until I reached the basement landing. There was a light on behind the door.
I put my ear to the door and heard voices and odd music. Unfortunately I recognized it. It was a recording of a classic cartoon show that was full of manic mayhem and horrible violence. I don’t know how people watched it back in the day. I think it was called, ‘Ren and Stimpy’? Stupid name.
I holstered my pistol and kicked open the door.
I got a lackluster, ‘Hey’ for my troubles. My son was hunched in front of a 30 inch screen watching cartoons. You’d think I’d yell at him for watching TV so late at night but, he made the damn thing in his workshop. I could see it now, ‘You’re grounded, mister’. He’d just build another one from toilet paper and a straw.
He built everything I was wearing, too. Every diode, wire, and computer chip, all by hand. He even wove the fabrics for our clothes. It was the only way to guarantee the Corporation couldn’t track us.
I couldn’t fathom why he watched this one. It wasn’t funny to me. Come to think of it, I never saw him laugh at it either. I padded over to him and plonked myself on the couch.
His eyes didn’t leave the screen. “Ha ha. My name’s not Hua’tsup, or Hua’tchadoin, or even Hua’tsappening. It’s just Hua. Please,” he said, finally looking at me.
“Sorry.” He turned back to the screen. There was a lull in the action and a beautiful pastoral scene played in the cartoon. Hua sighed and shook his head. He pulled a pen, my pen, from under his leg and wrote a note on his palm.
“Another one,” he said.
“Another one, what?”
“I’ve been reading classic cartoons from 100 years ago.”
“Reading them? Don’t kids just watch them?”
“Esprain prease,” I said, in my worst oriental accent. Hau looked at me like I was an idiot. He did that a lot.
“I can see the subliminally flashed words in the cartoons. They used to be product commercials and sexual suggestions, but the more recent ones are from Prion Corporation.”
“Seriously? You can see that?”
“Can’t you?” I hated to admit that he was smarter than I was, but this kid was incredibly intelligent for an eleven year old. A super genius compared to other kids his age. Or any age.
“Not without my other glasses.” He didn’t laugh.
“The messages say to accept the rule of Prion Corporation and become rich,” Hua finished. “Mostly.” He handed back my pen. “You weren’t around so I borrowed it from your desk. Thanks.”
“Sure. No problem.” I clipped the pen to my shirt.
“And your face is still on.” He got up and turned off the screen.
“Oops, thank you.” I prodded a few buttons on my watch and felt my face relax. I pulled the thin-wired mask off my head. It electrically stimulated my facial muscles to hide me from any facial recognition cameras while I was out. “Hey, does this thing ever need to be washed or anything?” I held up the spidery web.
Hua gave it a critical lookover. “Looks good for another use.” He left for the kitchen and I followed. I still hadn’t given him his birthday gift.
“Got you something.” He looked at me with a bland face. I pulled out the flat finger drive and placed it on the counter. He looked at it.
“It’s your birthday present, you dweeb.”
“But my birthday isn’t for another month.” He lifted the drive.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t want to wait.” I smiled.
Hua gasped. “Is this what I think it is?” His eyes grew bright with excitement.
“Remember last summer when you said you wished you could take a peek at the source code? Well, I finally got it for you. The complete code. Happy birthday, son.”
He gripped the black drive in his hands, bouncing on his toes. “Do you know what this means?” Hua walked in circles around the kitchen island. “We can turn off everything! All the trackers, all the listening devices! We can actually leave the mountain and see the world!” He drifted off imagining the far off places he always wanted to visit. He ran back and hugged me.
“Thanks, Mom.” It was a quiet, heartfelt thanks. I hugged him back as hard as he was hugging me. We stayed like that for almost two, long, wonderful minutes. I wiped the tears from my eyes as we separated. I knew I would do anything for him. What mother wouldn’t?
I tousled his thick, jet black hair. It was so different from my thin, dirty blonde locks. I wondered if he looked like his parents, whoever they were. I’d stolen him from a eugenics lab as a baby for another customer who died before delivery. I’d never married, and I always wanted a child. This one just happened to be Taiwanese, and needed a mother. I kept him. Besides, where would I take him without revealing myself?
Maybe he was made in a test tube, I didn’t care. I needed him. If we’re going to break out of the chains of Prion’s Big Brother aspirations, the entire world needed him.