Steve is fighting against an omnipresent government. Sarah is his computer sidekick.
|This is a work-in-progress and will be updated as I see fit and have time to do so. This is pretty much a free write. Not much editing has been done at this point, so it may have a lot of errors and such. Please Read and Review with this in mind.
I wrote this based on a short story written by CimmerianOxide called "Cyber Mind" on FictionPress. (http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2707760/1/Cyber_Mind) I borrowed the idea from him and improved upon it into a (potentially) longer novel. All credit is due to him for developing the story. This is the first chapter and more will come as I have time to write them, but certainly with no set time frame. I may also edit this chapter for content at will.
This story may contain material not suitable for all ages. Parents are strongly encouraged to preview this before allowing their children to read it. Likewise, if you are offended by foul language, sexual contact, or violent content, or anything not mentioned here, you are warned now that this may contain any or all of the previous mentioned. If you encounter this in later chapters, don't make a big deal of it to me because you have been warned.
Thanks for looking, and please enjoy
It was only a little further now. A few more blocks and he would be safe. The Extractors were only steps behind him, yet they seemed further away in his adrenaline-filled mind. Forcing the last leg of this race, he dove swiftly into the alley, pulling the gate shut and locking it behind him. Slipping into the shadows, he watched the Extractors run by.
Panting heavily, a rush of cool relief fell over his sweat-covered dermis. He lifted his hand to wipe his face, a task that was made more difficult due to his pure exhaustion. He sat slumped in his darkened corner trying to catch his breath.
'You're safe now, Charlie,' came the voice of Sarah in his head. Steve rolled his eyes; she was always calling him 'Charlie'. It must have been a side effect.
“Thanks, Sarah,” Steve whispered to her. She was ever the watcher, making sure he didn't get into trouble. She had a tough job.
After what seemed like an eternity of sitting in the shadows, neither him nor his trusting Sarah saying anything, Steve mustered the courage to peek around the corner leaving the alley. Glancing left and right, then back to the left, he silently opened the gate and stepped into the brightly lit street.
This particular street was not as busy as the rest in the city. In fact, it was the least traveled street in the city, which made it particularly hard to hide from anyone. Steve wasn't sure how he managed to go unseen; it was either luck, or fate. He wasn't sure if he liked either of those options.
'Are you going home now, Charlie?' asked Sarah.
“Damn it, Sarah,” Steve said a little too loud. “My name is Steve. Alright? Steve!”
There was a moment of silence, and then: Sorry, Charlie.'
Steve bit his tongue. No sense arguing with her. She had been through enough. They had both been through enough.
Walking cautiously, Steve took a side alley back onto a busy street in the middle of downtown. Here, he could blend in to the rest of the crowd. It wasn't a hard job for him, regardless, but he was much too tired to work tonight. Pushing his way through the throngs of people, he found his way back to his apartment.
The outside of his apartment was very bland. It was hardly noticeable in the midst of all the other buildings around it. Most people would pass by it thinking that it was either abandoned or a hangout for drug addicts and hookers. What they didn't know was that their instincts were absolutely correct. Nearly everyday, Steve would have to navigate his way around passed out bodies in his front hall way. The smell would be overpowering, smelling like crack and sweat, and a combination of various bodily fluids, so he would cover his nose with his shirtsleeve as he ran up the stairs and into his apartment.
It wasn't much better inside. The paint was chipping off the walls, the floorboards creaked, and rats would bustle back into their holes as Steve's shadow passed by them, but at least he was home. There were worse places he could end up, and it was his goal to stay far away from them; at least for now. His moment would come soon enough.
Tonight was no different than the rest. Upon reaching the threshold, Steve's nostrils were filled with the familiar stink of the vagrants nested there. Walking closer, the smell got stronger. Steve despised it. The whole city was beginning to smell like this.
A bony arm reached up and grabbed Steve's jacket. “Do you want some blow? I'll give you a good deal,” came the androgynous voice of the unknown camper. Steve tried to pull himself away, but the grip tightened. “It's the best you'll find anywhere.”
“No, thanks,” Steve said, trying harder to break free of the grasp.
The hand pulled at Steve's jacket until he lost his balance. He fell face first onto the floor. A second hand grabbed him by the back of the head, pulling his face to their own. “I give you this and you'll be back for more.”
Pushing himself quickly up, Steve broke free of the grasp and raced up the stairs. He could hear the drifter calling up at him, but he ignored it, slamming his door behind him.
Inside his apartment, he felt more at ease. The outside noise was more subdued, and the lights were less harsh, but he still wasn't in the clear. These days, no one was in the clear anymore. There was always the risk of some agency busting down the door and carting an innocent person always on falsified charges. The days of obtaining a warrant were well over.
Steve locked his door. He felt the cool metal latch click closed and knew that he had relative privacy. Taking off his jacket, the quiet fans blew cold air in his direction, making the hair on his arms stand on end. He tossed the jacket on the back of the couch and made his way to the kitchen. He hadn't realized how hungry he was. It had been nearly eight hours since he last ate, and now his stomach was reprimanding him for it. The only thing Steve had in his kitchen was eggs and milk – the same thing he had been eating for over a week. Anything else was considered a privilege and was beyond what Steve could afford.
Muscling a metal pan out of the sink, Steve cracked open an egg and poured in a dab of milk. The leftovers from his last meal sizzled and burned under the newly prepared dinner and quickly shriveled into a black ball of egg.
“You hungry, Sarah?” Steve asked courteously.
'That is a stupid question, Charlie,' Sarah scolded him.
“Just thought I'd ask,” Steve explained. “I need something to keep me sane.”
He ate in silence. All he could think about was how the world had become. What happened to the days when he could live without the fear of being taken away in the night? Where had the days gone when children played in the parks? He missed the days of having his wife by his side. He had nothing. He was alone.
Finishing his meal, Steve rose from the table, leaving the dishes on the table. He hadn't felt like doing chores lately. He probably wouldn't be around long enough for it to matter. His days were numbered, but how many he had left was a mystery to him. His life was full of uncertainties.
Steve made his way to the couch and fell onto it, exhausted. He stared uncontrollably at the spinning fan over his head. Its dual blades moved in and out of focus as Steve's eyes followed its revolutions.
The room fell dark. Steve's eyes tried to adjust to the lack of light, but he was unable to focus. He felt dizzy. Everything was spinning in random orbits. He heard her scream. The lights came back on. Steve strained to see through the blurry shapes spinning around him, but he was unable. As he regained control over his brain, he looked down to see that he was bleeding. Blood was everywhere: on the walls, on the floor, on his stomach. Excruciating pain. Someone was standing over him, holding something that looked like – Oh, Christ! No!
More pain. More pain than he could bear. He opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The shadow standing over him ripped into his abdomen with that hell-like object, causing his eyes to water. He felt a slight rip and dared himself to open his eyes. Looking down, he saw the shadow holding something that looked inhuman in front of his face. Its black eyes stared lidless at him through the low light. Steve felt chills run down his back. He opened his mouth again and a shrill scream seeped through his lips.
Steve sat up with a start, sweat dripping from his brow. In shock and torment, he ripped Sarah's aural interface from his ear and threw it onto the floor, shattering it into a thousand pieces. He sat on the edge of the couch, holding his head in his hands, rocking back-and-forth trying to shake the nightmare from his mind.
After several long minutes, he stood up and went back into the kitchen to pour himself a drink of water. His nerves were in tatters, just like Sarah, who lay in pieces on the floor. He glanced at her broken processor and scolded himself for destroying her, the only friend he had in this world that had gone to hell. He stood to his feet and scooped up the broken Sarah. He cradled her in his hand and stared in disbelief at her. Tears came to his eyes.
“Sarah!,” he sobbed. “Sarah, my love, what have I done to you?”
Looking around, he found a match box. He opened it with his free hand and slid her remains into the box. He picked it up lovingly, closed the lid, and placed it atop the freezer. He vowed that he would fix her, but for now, he needed to sleep. Still haunted by the memories of his dream, he forced himself to lay back down on the couch. He positioned himself so as to see the matchbox that contained Sarah. Thinking of her, he closed his eyes and drifted into unconsciousness.
The sun beamed through the windows and found Steve's eyes. He fought to keep the light from entering, but ultimately was no match for the sun's rays. Blinking in the light, he sat up and stretched. He glanced at the clock across the room: 7:32. Not nearly a full night's sleep. Regardless, he was up for the day. He stood up and went to Sarah's box. Her remains felt light in his hand, yet she weighed heavily upon his mind. His one true friend was paralyzed inside her shell, unable to communicate with him or anyone else. His knowledge of such processors was limited, but maybe he could fix her enough so she could help him complete her. He couldn't trust anyone else. This was his only hope.
Quietly, he prepared his work area. He gathered all the tools he required, placed Sarah ceremoniously in front of him and began work on her. Piece-by-piece, he soldered, screwed, and wired her chips and components together, as if working on a delicate jigsaw puzzle. Lunchtime came and went but Steve remained steadfast in his work. She was coming along nicely, he thought. Only a few more adjustments and she would spring to life.
The chair had left dents in Steve's ass by the time he connected the final wires to their nodes, but he didn't care. Closing the case around Sarah's processors, he set down his tools and threw himself back in his seat. This was the moment of truth. Gently, Steve picked Sarah up and reattached her to his ear. He reached up with his finger and flipped the switch on the side of her case. A tiny whine sounded from her processor powering up. Steve waited. Seconds passed, but nothing happened.
Steve's face fell. All this hard work, and for nothing. Then, as if awoken, Sarah spoke sheepishly. 'Charlie?'
Steve's heart skipped a beat. “Yes, Sweetie. I'm here.”
'What happened?' Sarah asked. 'I don't remember....'
“It's okay, Sarah,” Steve reassured her. “It won't happen again. I promise.”
Steve's rapid heartbeat charged Sarah's power cell, and he could immediately feel her start to enter him. She became one with his mind and body, interfacing herself perfectly into his anatomy. Steve felt whole again.
The apartment's envirometer registered the external temperature as 25 degrees, a day that certainly would not require a jacket. Steve opened his door to the familiar raunch that stained the hallway. Making his way down the stairs, he saw the same androgynous figure that grabbed at him as he went home. Steve hurried past.
“Got any rock?” the figure asked after him. “Jodi said she'll screw you for some rock.”
“Fuck off!” Steve yelled over his shoulder not stopping. Damned crackheads!
The sun was high in the sky and shone strongly down on Steve's face. He felt good this morning despite his close encounter the night before. Sarah was firmly implanted in his brain tissue where she belonged and as far as he could tell, there were no Extractors near him. Sarah would keep him apprised, as always, but for the moment he was in the clear.
He made his way through the bustle of the crowds in the street to go to his favorite place in the city. The city park was comprised of a wide open grass field with football goal posts sandwiching it from either side. In the center lie a dissolute metal playground varnished with rust and worn down by the sun. No children played here, at least not for the last fifteen years. This brought a sense of sadness to Steve. He always wanted a child, someone to play with, take care of, and watch grow up, but he couldn't. Even if it were allowed, whom would he have a baby with? Sarah? Computers could interface with the human brain, but they were unsuitable for conceiving a baby. That was perhaps the one thing computers couldn't do. No, Steve would remain childless. He wasn't happy about it, but it was all he knew. He and Sarah shared memories together and despite being physically lonely, at least he had someone in his life. He loved her, and always would. He hoped she loved him, too.
Steve sat in the park watching people walk their dogs, toss Frisbees, and have picnics. Sarah watched through his eyes, scanning the landscape and processing the sights. Being in this park with her was the most intimate thing he could ever experience. They shared many countless hours together just sitting and watching, not saying anything to each other. He loved that she could watch the world through him and feel the sensations through his nerve impulses. It was an electrifying feeling. Her electromagnetic waves flowed freely through his veins causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand up as rigid as tiny trees. Even though he felt her inside of him, he still missed the physical contact between two humans. He longed to brush her skin with his hand, or comb the hair out of her eyes as he moved in for a kiss. He had never been so close to anyone in his entire life, yet he felt something was missing. He wanted so much more. He wanted to hold her in his arms by the warmth of a fireplace.
The sun set slowly in the sky to the west, casting red light over the vista. A cool breeze blew through the trees. Suddenly, Sarah's impulses sped up, bringing Steve to full alert.
“What is it, Sarah?” he asked.
'I'm not sure,' she replied, searching the park's security camera for an answer to her inquiry. 'I feel like we're being watched, but I don't see anything in the databases.'
“You think there are Extractors nearby?” asked Steve, tension building in his muscles.
'I can't be sure,' Sarah returned. 'I'm still looking.'
Steve felt it, too. He felt like he was vulnerable. He shouldn't be here. Standing to his feet, Steve left the park.
Sarah couldn't see it, but in the shadows near the trees, an Extractor stood watching Steve's every move, hand on the pistol in his hip holster.