He pulled out some old photos of himself as a young man, straddling a beastly looking motorcycle with panel gaps large enough to sail a blimp through. “It wasn’t the fastest, but it would break a ton. You know what I say. If it’ll break a ton, it’s tons of fun. That was after I put lithiums in there. Before, I was running lead acid. What a nightmare. The power density and weight meant it would just barely do sixty. Never got any speeding tickets because you couln’t fuckin’ speed on the damn thing.”
Man alive, lead based batteries. Lead! Stone knives and bear skins. “It gets worse. I had agm batts, at least. That’s absorbant glass mat. The older ones were flooded. You couldn’t tip ’em without spilling the electrolyte and you had to pour some distilled water in there now and again to replace what’s lost to evaporation. That’s just how it was!”
I told him I wasn’t racing anymore. He looked crestfallen. “Get you them new batteries. The whatsis ones, fiber carbon. With the five minute charging.” Dual carbon, I told him. “Whatever! Just put the new shit in there already! I want more bikecam footage from your races. That’s good watchin’. Makes me proud to see my boy runnin’ hard out there, smokin’ those knuckle dragging punks.”
He so rarely says it that, while it warms my heart, it’s also worrying. Made me wonder how long he has left. Shit was rocky between us when I was little. In fairness I was a difficult kid. Had all his worst qualities and few of his good ones. Grown men also don’t generally get on well with know it all teenage upstarts. There’s precedent for that in the animal kingdom. Potential challengers for alpha male.
“Just don’t shoot down anymore drones, alright? And cut down on your smoking.” He scoffed. “You breathe in worse shit, just living in the city. Oughta come out here and set up a trailer next to mine. Country livin’ will fix you up.” I took it as a veiled plea to spend more time with me. “I want that too. There are just certain things I need to get done before then.”
When I got home, Aubrey was in her room. With some new guy by the sound of it. I’ve been through enough girls after her that it doesn’t viscerally bother me anymore. It’s more like the feeling you get when your sister brings home strange men. Unbelievably, when he emerged from her room shirtless and sweaty, it was the motorcyclist from the other night.
I maintained direct eye contact just to make shit as awkward for him as possible. “Uh. Hi.” I just continued to stare, unblinking. “I’m gonna…get dressed and leave.” Shortly after he did so, Aubrey stumbled into the livingroom. Drunk, topless, and hair looking like she’d been outside in a hurricane. “Don’t you start”, she mumbled.
Who, me? I couldn’t resist reminding her of those websites, though. “Like you’re not into weird shit. You always find something wrong with ’em. Too tall. Too short. Too fat, too thin, not enough metal, too much metal. The real beef you have with ’em is that they aren’t you.” It stung, but I had nothing to say as she had me dead to rights on this one.
We slacked for a while, taking in some TV. A commercial came on following that cartoon about the sloth who steals a military exoskeleton and uses it to liberate banana republics. “This Valentine’s day”, it began. “Don’t waste her time with chocolates, that’s not the way to a girl’s heart. Instead…..D-D-D-DEVASTATE her cunt with MAXIMUM thundeeerrrrrr!! With the new Dildominator Supreme, from Ryco.”
It cut to a slow pan over what looked to be a prosthetic forearm terminating in a mechanism similar to a compact jackhammer, but with a massive sparkly phallus on the end. “Now includes optional compressed air cannon with aerodynamic dildo ammunition and laser sight, for long range tactical romance.”
I glanced over at Aubrey with a maniacal grin. “No. That’s horrifying” she said. “Horrifyingly enticing?” Her expression suggested otherwise. “Still, that’s something I can do that he can’t. You can change me into whatever you like.” She groaned. “Don’t start. I’m not looking for a project. Trying to change men is a fool’s errand. I want somebody that already fits me.”
“So why are you with a full bio? Meatloaf is really what you want?” Having finally had enough, she got up, went to her room and began getting dressed. “What I want isn’t your business anymore” echoed from her room. “Your business is figuring out how you’re gonna pay your half of the rent this month.”
I’d certainly made enough from last night’s haul, but was loathe to blow it all so soon. It’s a treadmill. I have to run as fast as I can in order to stay still. The more I augment myself, the faster I get, but the treadmill seems to speed up accordingly. Like the point is to trap us on it. Every way out anybody found before you has since been turned into another treadmill. It’s maddening. The only escape is to find your own way out. Something nobody’s tried before.
An idea began to percolate in my mind. Stupid on the face of it, but because of barriers to success that my brain relentlessly devised ways around. “What about? I’ll just have to…But supposing they anticipated…? I’ll instead approach from…” This continued until I arrived at a fully formed, seemingly workable plan to do the impossible. I began to laugh.
It’s a very distinct laugh. Demented, near musical. Somewhere between Scooby Doo and Beavis. Tough describing it to Aubrey as both of those are before her time. She knows what the laugh means, though. “What are you up to”, she inquires, now wearing a faux neoprene bodysuit with useless straps everywhere and a hole to show off her abs.
“What ever do you mean?” She told me to cut the shit. “When you laugh like that, some brain damaged baboozery is about to go down. It’s never anything good and usually winds up with me on the back of your bike, dodging bullets. Leave me out of it.” I assured her there was no place for her in the plan.
“Oh Hubbard. The plan? There’s a plan now? What difference does it ever make? It always turns out the same with you. Fires, screaming, shootouts. Try not planning this time. Better yet, do whatever the opposite of your plan is. That’s the best advice I can give you.” I didn’t recall asking for advice, and told her so.
“So what’s it gonna be this time? More Batman shit? Ziplines, gimmicks from your gadget belt, the usual?” I resented the way she put it but didn’t give her the satisfaction of reacting. “I’m gonna steal a data center.” She blinked. “What. Like, a whole building? If you pull that off, it would actually impress me.”
“Not a regular one. The submersible type. They’re much smaller. Still weigh a ton, but that’s solvable. Just attach a float bag, fill it with air from scuba cylinders until it rises to the surface, then tow it the fuck out of there. I know a guy who works out of an abandoned marina who can take it off my hands afterward.”
She smiled. For a moment I thought she found the idea brilliant. Then she started laughing. “No, listen!” I urged. “They would never expect anybody to try this.” She struggled to speak over her belly laughs. “That’s because it’s weapons grade retarded.” Efforts to clarify my scheme fell on deaf ears. Pearls before swine.
All their encryption keys are serverside. Not usually done that way to my knowledge but when your data center is on the seafloor, there’s a sense that it’s safe to put all your eggs in one basket. The depth is well beyond the range of recreational scuba, salt water and implants don’t mix, and seawater does a good job of hiding whatever autonomous defenses they’ve set up down there.
It’s the last part which troubled me. Might be a bluff. Might be nothing down there at all. Then again, might be proximity mines. Or auto turrets shooting supercavitating rounds, or small torpedos. Or those harpoons with the compressed CO2 tips that kill by releasing all of it inside you following penetration, inflicting devastating internal damage. Even I can’t survive that.
There’s no way to disable it before I arrive, either. Seawater is opaque to radio. The satellite dish is the only connection, and they’d be expecting that. First order of business should be to destroy that so it can’t call for help, send back footage of me, etc. Then there’s the problem of my prosthetics. They’re all “water resistant”. I can shower in them. But submerging them in salt water would be unwise.
It pained me to drop so much on new gear. It assumed I’d succeed, and fucked me if I didn’t. But if it works out, I’ll have enough for rent. For dual carbon batteries. For Dad’s mansion. Or even a little trailer next to his that I can live in, if that’s really what he prefers.
I shopped around for the implants I needed, splitting the total expense between D-coins and fedcoin. Reasoning that a large enough purchase with untraceable currency would be reason enough to investigate me. But that buying so much aquatic gear at once in a traceable currency would make it trivially easy to figure out who’d pulled off such a heist.
Click Here for Part 7!