by myron x
a short story about the wheeling and dealings of the techology underground...
|My connect at Citadel systems was this tall, thin jap named Chen. He told us to meet him at the news bar in the Village. He was a tech assistant in the video game R & D department. He’d been there since his teenage years and was considered to be the Mozart of software programming. But over the last year the shine on his star has begun to fade and he was demoted to a lowly ops assistant despite the company posting a modest 30 million dollar profit for two quarters in a row. After he was dissed for a promotion for the third time, I heard about him unloading prototypes at cost.
I hooked him up with this big-titted com specialist from NASA named Doris and he’s treated me like his best friend ever since. He usually hits me off with stuff just to see how it works. (Then I sell copies to a few knock off companies I know. Pirate video games are still big on the black market.)
I told Gypsy, my intrepid tour guide, “Now when we get in here, don’t say anything to him, only me. He’s crazy paranoid because the Citadel has people watching him. When I talked to him on the phone, he sounded like he was wigged out on Ping and up all night flying in from Paris.”
“Usually no, but in his condition now, I say all bets are off. The only thing know I he isn’t armed.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Gypsy said as we entered the News Bar. We sat at a table near the window facing the street so Chen would see us. “You buy one of those bottled juices over there and drink it down fast, then give it to me. If he tries anything, I’ll bust his ass with that bottle, but good.”
“Just be cool man-“ I said, stopping when I saw Chen at the window peering in. He was carrying a thick Halliburton briefcase. I motioned to Gypsy to go get a juice from the bar as entered and sat down.
“What the fuck took you so long, man? I’ve been waiting almost an hour. I had to go get coffee-“
“Get coffee?” I said, “Chen, this is a coffee bar-“
“Coffee sucks in here. I had to Dean and Deluca down the street”.
“Just relax, Chen,” I said. He was shakier than I thought. Chen was build like an Olympic swimmer, and his clothes always hung off of him. He was in a wrinkled black Italian suit, a white button down with a stain on the front, Frankenstein shoes, bug-eye wraparound shades and a red fez.
“This won’t take long, I’ll get you back to the airport myself.” I flipped open my phone and dialed Jojo the Limo Driver. “What do you have for me?”
Finally he seemed to relax and began to laugh. “I made this especially for you.” He put his case on the table and opened it. Gypsy came over with a nearly empty Snapple bottle. Chen tensed back up.
“Who the fuck is he?”
“He’s my ride,” I said, looking in the case, “This looks like a video camera.”
“It is, except is uses a hard disk recording mechanism and the lens is especially designed for shooting bright targets in low light. It’s my movie bootlegger special.”
“So I can take this to a movie theatre and shoot a better copy of the movie?”
“Better than in the ones you’ve been sending. But listen, you need a Teledyne Video Imager to filter the picture before you put it on videotape or DVD…without it, you have copies that look like copies.
“And you did this for me? That’s touching. This thing is impressive. You still have any contacts in Southeast Asia? I can get Tom Cruise’s new movie next week, and I want to turn it over fast.”
Chen started staring intently at his hands and rocking in his seat.
“I’ll have to call you about that…look, I’ll give you the camera for some good acid trips. And a few valium; I need some sleep.”
Me and Gypsy looked disgustedly at each other.
“Goddammit Chen, why didn’t you say that on the phone. I asked you if you were cool and you said yes!”
“Look Myron X, I’m sorry, you know I’m not usually like this, but the pressure is killing me! The only time we are not watched is when we’re at work, So the only place any of us feels safe is at work. All the techs in my sector are either on powerful psychoactive drugs or fucking each other in lice-ridden opium dens in Shanghai harbor. The perversion of people under stress is astounding. You know I haven’t slept in four days?”
I looked at Gypsy. He whispered to me he had maybe a half dozen Adovans and eight pellets of Ya Ba, a wicked, savage recreational drug from Thailand. If I gave Chen any of that, he’d be a serial killer by tomorrow afternoon.
The acid would have to wait. My phone rang. I handed it to Gypsy.
“If that’s Jojo, tell him I have any emergency rush to Kennedy for double the fee…ask him if he’s get any trips.”
“Take care of that camera. I may be traded soon.”
“Traded? Like a baseball player?”
“Kind of.” A rival company will post a job opening at my level, maybe for a little more money, a little more prestige. Who ever the job listing is posted for always finds that person somehow. Them my company will do the same thing. I’ll apply over there and get hired and the same will happen at my company.”
“What if you say on.”
“Then the job goes to someone else and you get phased.”
“Yeah, phased out of your section, then you’re department, then out of the building.”
“Jesus, that’s harsh. You should defect. Can you do that?”
“Do you know what kind of voodoo I’d have to pull off to get that kind of action? Only the superstars even get that option. Everybody else is straight hustling. I’m telling you man, the more money this tech shit makes, the more these assholes want to play hardball.”
Chen lit his third Pall Mall and stared past my shoulder at the street. I felt bad; all he probably needed was a couple hours in the Geisha House Massage Parlor, and I’d love to take care of him, but there was no time. Gypsy tapped his watch to remind me we still had a meeting with Dr. Hanif “Horseshoe” Muradi, noted electronic systems theorist and compulsive gambler. We sat quietly until JoJo the Limo Driver screeched to a halt outside in his fire engine red Cadillac stretch.
We went outside.
JoJo got out of the car. Sorry I’m late man, I had to run to the Bronx. Where we going?”
“To the airport. Kennedy. This is my man Chen. He’s very cool people, so don’t fuck with him, and don’t give him the run around. Unload him at Kennedy at the British Airways terminal. Can I give you the fee later?”
“Yeah, no big deal. But cash though…You got an Valiums?” I’m still speeding from two days ago.”
Jesus, doesn’t anybody just go to bed anymore?
“All I got left are some Adovans…” I looked in my kit bag. I found a 35mm film canister half full of tiny yellow pills. I took out ten, took another two and swallowed them, then pulled Chen around to the other side of the car. I handed him the vial.
“Don’t give JoJo any until you are out of the car at the airport. That flaky fuck will take them while he’s driving and you’ll end up in Boston.”
I put Chen in the car and looked at Gypsy. He lit a Camel and spat at a dog pissing in the gutter. The limo pulled off down Sixth Avenue. We grabbed the camera and split.