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by E
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Detective · #2108905
2042: the neurological revolution begins. Psyborg - hacker. Singer - detective. Game on.
Imagination. Fantasy. Visions. Ideas. Perception. The mind's eye... I remember when they were all theoretical. Nothing more than intangible concepts that existed on the incorporeal spectrum of reality. Very few things exist on that spectrum any more. Science has gone beyond the practical, the logical, the rational... the factual... and made a monster of itself. Science. The thin veil between fantasy and reality – between fact and fiction – has all but disappeared. Science. “Science.” Science... I gave up on it a long time ago. I used to believe it was the only thing in this god forsaken world that made sense. The only thing that remained constant... But even it betrayed me and my values. My understanding of why it's all gone to hell has only expanded exponentially ever since it all started.
         The Reality Race or Race For Reality. Whatever the hell they want to call it. The Polio Race was one thing. That seemed to happen in an age that was far more primitive than now. Something major that needed to be dealt with and the first one to fix the problem would win a shiny gold medal in the annals of history. Or something like that. The Arms Race... That one was... fun. As far as the history books explain it, that is. And once again, the kids on the playground with the biggest toys would win the respect and admiration of the rest of the school yard. Too bad it had to be a draw. Like I said... those were different times. Much more primitive. Simpler. And yet its ironic... the less advanced times of the Polio Race and the Arms Race were the times when science had not yet completely devolved into magic.
         Didn't society used to teach children that magic wasn't real? Adults used to stamp out any notions of fantasy and make-believe from children's minds so that they could grow up knowing and understanding reality. The real world. Instead of clinging to dreams and stories. Didn't society used to frown upon people who believed in a bearded fat happy guy with an obsession with the colour red who flew around the world one night a year to give presents to kids? Didn't people used to tell their kids a story about some princess with a melanin deficiency problem who lived with 7 vertically challenged men and ate an apple that was rancid and past its use by date which gave her such bad food poisoning she went into a coma until some prince who saw her for 5 minutes one time a million years before that comes along and magically kisses her awake? Yeah, that's right. Magic. The 5 letter buzz word that's become synonymous with what society calls “science” today.
         Didn't we as a people, as society, used to have distinctions between where facts end and fiction begins? And yet science, which used to be another word for fact(s), has mated with the devil and created a monstrosity of a child known as magic, which used to be another word for fiction. Science and magic are now one and the same. Reality has become fantasy and fact fiction. There used to be a nice distinct line where one ended and the other began, but scientists decided to royally fuck that one up as well. Now it's all one big giant mess and if people thought things didn't make sense before and there was no possibility of a god in a world rampant with scientific proof and dominated by scientific thought... think again. When facts decide to side with fiction and science becomes the equivalent of magic in an age beyond the inherent fact that magic is not real and cannot possibly do anything... humanity is doomed to its own self destruction when it no longer knows how to distinguish reality from a dream. Open your eyes and stop deluding yourselves. This is 2042. This is the age of impossibilities when science and fiction together run amok controlling the world. And you're right at the centre of this disease. Welcome to the “real” world... bitch.


         “This was the statement given by the infamous hacker known as Psyborg. As you know Psyborg is a hacker that has been running amok on the web from since it was known as the 'net.' So she's been doing her job, as she likes to call it, for a very long time. Cyber-terrorism, corporate espionage, grand larceny, identity theft, identity fraud, to list just a few of her colourful activities that she's been busy undertaking for the past 23 years were all part of her manifesto and mission statement. It seems every criminal nut has some kind of higher calling they believe they've been summoned to act on. Psyborg is no different.
         “Her mission that she chose to accept was the eradication of the technological advancements that literally fill every corner of every aspect of the known world. All of digital technology, cyberspace, and any kind of perception altering devices and substances must be removed from society, and the world must be reverted back to an age before the interconnectivity and easy access, distribution, and control of information that we know and take for granted today was ever made available to us. Simply put she wishes to send us back to the dark ages when we were all beating each other in caves with a stick. Ladies and gentlemen your orders are simple,” that's just what Kylie Argus would say about any case that had already consumed the better part of 20 years. She always manages to keep her cool no matter how bad things get. Whenever the shit hits the fan she never flinches. She's like a wall. An immovable object. And this case is proving to be an unstoppable force.
         Cyber-terrorism. Corporate espionage. Grand larceny. Psyborg's been busy. But looking over the tape of her statement... I've never really understood it. She's barely older than a kid. We can't find any records of her true identity. Nothing. She's managed to keep her digital presence completely invisible, like a ghost. We've found absolutely no traces of her presence except for her calling card – a standard Telelink that can be bought at virtually any store. Everyone has one in their possession, minimum. Why wouldn't they? Everything's digitised these days. It's easier and more efficient that way. A perfect choice of calling card. Generic. No way of determining the buyer when it could literally have been any one. The manufacturer's number is always removed. A professional job. Absolutely no traces left behind. It's her style. No traces... Just a careless digital fingerprint that she left behind on the hack that got her caught. But why? It was a mistake unworthy of a master hacker that had evaded capture for the better part of 23 years.
         And again, like I said, she's barely older than a kid as far as I can see. So how could she possibly be doing this for 23 years? At a guess I'd have to say she's no older than 30, but even then I'd say that was at a push. So if she was maximum 30 years old and she had been the hacker Psyborg for roughly 23 years then she would have had to be around 7 years old at the oldest when she started. And that's at a push. So... the question on my mind is... is this really Psyborg? Was Psyborg around as a child causing all kinds of crimes way beyond her capabilities? Was that how she got away with it? Is she really older than she looks? But then there's that digital fingerprint. How did she come to get clumsy to the point of leaving us virtually a sign saying 'I am Psyborg, please arrest me?' … I need a coffee.
         “Singer!” Oh great. She must've noticed I stopped paying attention when what she had to say became irrelevant to me.
         “Yes, sir.”
         “I gave you an order. What was it?” Surely I could bluff my way out of this.
         “Analyse Psyborg's statement for any potential leads?” Pause. Never a good sign. Especially when it's Argus and she pulls that face. That slightly 'irritated by humanity's incompetence' but also curious and 'slightly amused by your impending peril' face.
         “Enlighten me. Are there any leads to be found in her statement, Singer?” Her narcissistic superiority and sadistic pleasure are only slightly evident in her voice whenever we share these few chin wags.
         “Well I was actually watching it back just to have a proper gauge at Psyborg's identity. Ascertaining age and details like that.”
         “Yes, I'm well acquainted with her anonymity and mystique. It's very much the reason why she is referred to by her criminal alias. So explain to me what any of that has to do with her statement?” And now she's back to plain old 'irritated by humanity's incompetence' with me playing the role of humanity.
         “I'm reviewing her statement-”
         “Yes, we've already established that.”
         “And I thought that it might shed some light as to the true identity of Psyborg if we were able to determine any known links to the things she actually spoke of and made reference to in her statement.” Another pause. Again, not a good sign.
         “Singer, do you know why I entertain your theories and your methods?” Rhetorical question. I'm in a grey area that could go either way. Which will it be for me today?
         “I entertain your questionable theories and your methods that go against my orders because they bring me results. Or at least they did, once upon a time. Ever since Harding your work has really taken a hit. You used to be one of the best. You worked on so many cases that crossed departments because of your special insights. You alone are the reason this department even exists. But your work has been very hit and miss lately. More misses than hits, unfortunately. So if you want this special relationship we've managed to strenuously create and maintain to continue then you will show me results before you go on another one of your usual rampages. Or I'll force you to take a leave of absence and you will not be allowed back at work until you've gotten your shit together, until you've seen a shrink like I told you to once before. Is that understood?”
         “Like crystal.” Being a smart arse is never a safe move around Argus, but my job was already on the line no matter what. It was worth it just to get a little of my own back. A stuck-up bitch with a superiority complex. I guess the position rather suits her. Well now that that's done with, coffee.
         “Redding! Let's do it.”
         “Do what?”
         “Coffee, what do you think?”
         “I don't know. Maybe you wanted me to pucker up.”
         “Dumb arse. You pull that kind of shit again I'll tell Watson you're doing a 4-way with her room-mates.”
         “Yeah, well fuck you, too.”
         “I love you, too. Now hurry up.”
         “You wouldn't tell her, though, right?”
         “What do I look like, a dick head? Cause not.” Redding's alright. He's just got a bit of a wandering dick is all. Too much love to share, as he likes to put it. But I'm not one to snitch. He needs to sort his own life out. It's got nothing to do with me. I just happen to be privy to too much information. But Watson... She deserves a good guy. Redding's a good guy, he's just... He's an arse hole, but he's a good arse hole. I wish he'd make up his mind and decide; is he playing the field or is he only out for Watson? … Whatever. What does it matter, anyway. It's not important when there's a cyber-terrorist named Psyborg to worry about.
         Coffee. Tastes like shit ever since the real thing became a rarity. But it does the job. Upwards of 250 bucks for a real cup of coffee, not including all the luxuries and extras that you can get with them. What rich pricks do with their ill-gotten gains is their business. Just don't go boasting in front of my face or I may not play so nice. Coffee. A quick caffeine fix that'll keep you going for a few hours even if it is made mostly out of waste products of the real thing. Coffee is coffee. It's practically water of 2042. I'd be surprised if the rich end of town didn't have it on tap.
         “What's Argus got you on for the Psyborg case?”
         “Why? What's she got you on?”
         “Checking out the address where we picked her up. Thinks there might be something we overlooked on the first sweep.”
         “Fair point, I suppose.” I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered that move.
         “You were on the team that brought her in, weren't you?”
         “Yeah?” What's he playing at?
         “You said there was something not quite right about it all when we brought her in.”
         “And?” Is he probing me for information? If so, why? I don't see what he could possibly have to gain by asking me about my theories.
         “You never really explained what it was that had you on edge.”
         “It was nothing, alright?”
         “Argus seems to think there is something wrong.”
         “What makes you say that?”
         “Why else would she have me looking at 12 Hyde Avenue, where we caught her? Unless there was something she thought was out of place for Psyborg.” Son of a bitch. He's right. That place was searched and cleared. But if we apparently got everything that was of interest to the case then why the hell would she be sending Redding back to sweep the place after the official reports have all been written and the evidence catalogued? She knows something. Or at least suspects something.
         “Why are you telling me all this?”
         “You know why.”
         “You want me to do the sweep.”
         “You and I both know that if anyone in the department is going to find anything of interest it's you. Argus only told me to do it 'cause she knows you're too close to this case.”
         “I call bull shit on that. Argus got me left on desk duties, sifting through ungoldy amounts of digital archives to locate any more digital traces of her work just to fuck with me.”
         “Fine... Wallow in self pity and cry me a river. Or get off your arse and sweep the address. I'm certain you'll find something that no one else would.”
         “You want to bet?” May as well make things interesting, right?
         “Alright. What's your bet?”
         “I win, you have to end your 4-way with Watson's room-mates. You win... I'll go see the shrink Argus won't get off my back about. Deal?”
         “Alright. Deal.”
         “Better pray to god I find something or else you're down some major booty calls.”
         “No shit, Sherlock.” And so it begins. Why do I do these things to myself. Oh yeah... that's why.

* * * * *


Home. A dank apartment on the 3rd floor of an 8 floor building. A lift that breaks down every few days. An abusive husband the floor above whose ritual consists of a violent argument with his wife followed by even more violent fucking afterwards. A junky the floor below whose parties every weekend get more and more outrageous. Strangers hooking up in the hallways. A fire escape where a homeless guy lives 'cause he's too broke to afford the apartment he was thrown out of 3 months ago. What's not to love? Audible voices above my head. It's only 8pm. They're early tonight. Give it another hour or 2 and then they should be on to round 2 which should finish about 4 or 5 hours after that if they keep to their usual routine, that is.
         Work. All day every day. It's what I do. But not today. Not tonight. Why? … Bloody Argus. Why the hell did she have to go and drop Harding's name? Why did she have to drop him in all this? Stupid question. I know full well why. A partner is a partner until they go and get themselves killed on the job. At least... that's what he used to say. Stubborn bastard. Had to go and play the hero. Never could resist saving the day. Never thought he'd go and get himself killed, though, did he? Didn't think about the risks involved with any time he went too far. It's one thing to help people, it's another thing entirely to insist on being a martyr. Stupid idiotic fool. Got me monologuing about stupid memories. Way to go Argus.
         Cigarette. Smoke everywhere. Should probably fix that smoke detector in case I go burning down the place like those arse holes on 6th did 3 years ago. No time. Too many orders to disobey and leads to pursue that are being ignored. Should probably look into eating food at some point in time. Maybe I can have lunch on Thursday, 4 days from today. Nah. I'll need food well before then. I'll chow down some peanuts in the meantime. Might actually eat a proper meal in a day or 2. Maybe an hour or 2 if I remember. The shrink would probably have a field day with my diet alone. Whatever, not important. I've got work to do.
         'Imagination. Fantasy. Visions. Ideas. Perception. The mind's eye... I remember when they were all theoretical...' How? Is she referring to all technological advancements revolving around neurological enhancement? Or does she have something specific in mind? If she's referring to all of them then she would have to be impossibly older than she looks. The first breakthroughs in neuro-tech were recorded in 1991. Over 50 years ago. There's no way this kid is older than 30 and even that's at a push. Late teens to mid 20s, at a guess. No way she'd have been alive to know when neuro-tech was still theoretical. Even before then the first studies that showed promise were in 1977. Around 65 years ago. Impossible that she would even know about the time period when those were changing from theoretical science to practical science. So she has to be referring to something specific. But what?
         'The Reality Race or Race For Reality. Whatever the hell they want to call it...' Reality Race? Reality Race? Reality Race. I don't know of anything that was referred to as the 'Reality Race...' Unless... Mental note: contact Carlisle at RealTech. If she's referring to what I think she's referring to then this might not even have anything to do with cyber-terrorism after all. But I need to make enquiries before I know anything for certain. Ok. What's next?
         'Reality has become fantasy and fact fiction. There used to be a nice distinct line where one ended and the other began, but scientists decided to royally fuck that one up as well.' Perhaps she has a point. But that's not why I'm listening to her rambling on and on about magic and science. 'Magic is not real and cannot possibly do anything... humanity is doomed to its own self destruction when it no longer knows how to distinguish reality from a dream.' Again, contact Carlisle. If anyone can give me answers, it'll be him. It's too much of a coincidence that she would refer to something she calls the Reality Race and then mention distinguishing reality from a dream. Like I said before, Carlisle will probably know. 'Welcome to the “real” world... bitch.' Argus might be a bitch but she was only doing her job.
         Real. “Real.” Real... The Reality Race, distinguishing reality from a dream, the “real” world... She certainly has an obsession with what's real and what isn't. Definitely a question for Carlisle. But that still doesn't answer the question: is this really Psyborg? Or is it someone else taking the fall for Psyborg so they can keep doing their work? Is this a partner? An apprentice? A friend? A protege? … Too many questions. Too many variables that need sifting through. But those can wait until my brain has actually turned back on.
         Bed. A lumpy mattress with a broken spring on the right side. Trust that the lesser of two lumpy sides would have a broken spring to dig into my spine. Lumps it is, as per usual. Sweet smoke and whiskey (or was it scotch?) filled dreams. I can already see them. Harding. Argus. Watson and Redding. Redding and his 4-way. What are their names, again? Rebekah... or was it Rachel? Phoebe. Charlotte... or maybe Sharon? Amy. Rebekah, Phoebe, Sharon, and Amy. Redding's 4 booty calls when Watson just isn't enough. I still don't really understand it. Her hair... long flowing brown locks. Most people lose their natural hair colour for whatever outlandish shades of blue and green and purple seem to speak to them. Not her, though. She's a natural beauty. Her lips... full and luscious... The perfect kiss... Her eyes... deep as the sea. Able to see straight through a man... and yet... she's with Redding who's with her 4 room-mates.
         The face of an angel. An angel here in hell. Smart. Clever. Witty. Kind. Caring... but also serious. Stern. Determined. Decisive. The image of real beauty. A genuine human being. A genuine woman... But all that's in the past. I had my chance with her and I blew it. It's Redding's turn. There's no way she doesn't know about his carnal appetite. But why does she stay with him? He's a good guy. I guess she's hoping he'll grow out of it one day. Maybe his goodness outweighs his faults in her eyes. Maybe she really loves him. I guess that's where I failed. I couldn't get past Emma. She just... stayed trapped in my head for so long that I never even seemed to notice what I had with Watson. Damn. I am a grade A fool. Drifting off into another imminent replay of Harding turned into a gelatinous artwork on display for all the world to see. Argus furious about him playing the hero and dying for it, but also oddly caring in her own steely way. Redding and Watson in the evidence locker... Redding and Rebekah, and Phoebe, and Sharon, and Amy in Watson's apartment... I dropped over once or twice. I didn't mean to snoop. I'm just too damn observant for my own good sometimes.

* * * * *


Morning. Too damn early for any normal self respecting human being. Only junkies and sex addicts up and about doing exactly what's in their life description. Voices overhead... And springs... How long have they been going at it? Probably too long, knowing them. No sounds below. Must still be asleep. Or else... yep, there it is. Right on cue. Sick in the bathroom as per usual. So what's next? Breakfast? Just chuck on some stale toast. Maybe the rest of the whiskey. Time? Just after 6:30am. Perfect. If I head in to work I can play it by ear. See how Argus is today and go from there. Phone. Who could that be? Redding? What does he want?
         “Hey.”
         “Singer. Have you left your apartment yet?”
         “No, not yet. Why?”
         “I was wondering when you think you'll... you know...?”
         “Does Argus expect you to do it at a particular time?”
         “She wants me to do the sweep some time today. I'll cover for you if you go straight from your apartment.”
         “Why don't I just get to work and then go do the sweep?”
         “I told Argus you were thinking of making an appointment for the shrink.”
         “You little shit. What, do you think you've won the bet already without me going and doing the sweep? You're that confident I'll find something?”
         “It doesn't matter what I think.”
         “Yeah? And who is the shrink? Why would it take me so long to make this appointment?”
         “'Cause you're going to go drinking afterwards. Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me that isn't exactly what you would do.”
         “Alright Redding. Get off my back and I'll do your bloody sweep. Happy?”
         “Not particularly.”
         “Then fuck off.”
         “Love you, too.” Great. When I see him... No. I'm not that low. Alright. First Carlisle. Then the sweep. That should be enough time if I hurry. Skip the butter. Dry toast it is. A couple of strangers making out in the hallway. They've probably been at it since about 10 last night. At least they're up against a wall instead of standing in the middle of the walkway. Nothing worse than arse holes blocking a thoroughfare. Lift out of order. No surprises there. It's Monday. The weekend parties are usually the main cause for why the lift gets busted as often as it does. Junkies and drunks... never a good combination in any situation, let alone with the maintenance of a lift.
         Not too many people about. Just those whose jobs are to serve the general public. Cab drivers and train conductors for the most part. Chemists and General Practice Doctors. Public servants and retailers. And so on. All of them either on their way to their workplaces or setting up shop ready to go for the business of the day. So... Carlisle. I haven't seen him in a long time. Last I heard he'd been promoted to the head of his department. Overseeing everything. Authorising and denying work on different projects. High tech. Top secret. For all I know he's really creating weapons of mass destruction and selling them to the government. Not likely, but still. It's always a possibility. He may have been working on products for mass production once upon a time, but now that he's running the show... Who knows what orders he may be carrying out.
         “I'm here to see Carlisle Kurota.”
         “And your name is?”
         “Adam Singer.”
         “Do you have an appointment to see Mr. Kurota?”
         “He knows me. He'll make an appointment for me.”
         “One moment, please.” They always make you wait unless you're the president of the country or the company... or possibly another company. But as soon as you're nobody important they'll make you dangle for as long as they can before either kicking you out or sending you in. Carlisle knows that if I flash my badge in a place like this it won't get me in quicker than if I just come as a civilian. A harmless friend of one of the heads of departments at RealTech. It's easier to get information if you just tell your name with no strings attached. No extra titles or flashy words. Carlisle will do all the work and get me past security just fine. Then I can talk to him without any chance of being disturbed.
         “You may go in now, Mr. Singer. Mr. Kurota is expecting you in his office, 37th floor.”
         “Thank you.” And just like that I'm in. Simple enough, really. If you play your cards right, that is. And it's straight up to the 37th floor. State of the art security system watching my every move. No real need for guards. Even a slight irregularity of breath or pulse would be registered and the company's personal SWAT team would take you out under suspicion of criminal intent. You could be completely unescorted and the computer would know immediately that you can't be trusted. Luckily I'm one of the good guys. Carlisle knows me. Even if I were here to get trade secrets because a case warranted it Carlisle would still be able to get me off the hook before I was ever even on it.
         “Adam. So good to see you again. How long has it been? 9, 10 months? Too long at any rate.”
         “Still the same old lab coat, I see. The promotion calls for dirty work, huh?”
         “Not exactly. But you know how it is. Once a scientist, always a scientist. And a true scientist wears a lab coat.”
         “What does Meryn have to say to that?”
         “She knew how I was when she married me. Promotion or no promotion I'd never give up the lab coat.”
         “Do you ever use it at home? With Meryn, I mean.”
         “Oh, get off!” Always a laugh talking about Carlisle and his marriage. A lovelier woman you'd never meet. Though sometimes I wonder if Carlisle isn't secretly married to the job first and foremost the way he carries on in that lab coat of his. Even using it to spice up his sex life with the Mrs. from time to time.
         “So how's the promotion? Is it everything they promised it to be?”
         “No. I'm not in the lab as much as I'd like, but I'm my own boss, more or less, now. So I can come and go in and out of the lab as I please. So long as I can be a part of the experimentation and assist in the lab work from time to time, I'm happy. But... That's not why you came here. Is it? You didn't come to discuss my promotion. So why are you here? What can I help you with?”
         “Do you know of anything that's called the Reality Race?” Pause. A definite yes, then. No matter what he says.
         “What can you tell me about the drug known as Luci?”
         “It's a hallucinogen that allows people to project their subconscious out of their mind's and into corporeal space. It's highly experimental and incredibly dangerous. People have suffered various effects from use of the substance ranging from neurological breakdown of their brain tissue to psychoses and psychological trauma. It's on high demand on the black market but worth a small fortune even to sell a single teaspoon of the stuff. So not may people can afford to splurge on something so exotic. But it's highly addictive. One use of the stuff and, provided you haven't lost functionality of your brain, you'll be going back for more and more until you're either a vegetable or insane.”
         “And what do you know of its origins?” I have nothing but a bad feeling about this.
         “The Chinese government was no longer able to provide housing for most of its population. They knew that they couldn't afford to relocate the citizens that were living without homes due to immigration laws, but they were out of land that could be used for housing. Mass murders were instigated but the Chinese government had to eliminate the mass murderers they commissioned before other countries became aware of what was happening. So they arrested and executed the men they hired to handle population control. Then they developed the drug, Luci, to spread amongst the overpopulated areas and cause them to die from overdose and the side effects it produced.”
         “And then it was exported overseas on the black market.”
         “Drug lords, crime syndicates, the Mafia... All of them started distributing it worldwide. Making neat profits out of it all.”
         “That's the official story.”
         “Carlisle. What really happened? What are you not telling me?” Pause. A long pause. Too long. Something's very wrong.
         “Luci was not a Chinese government creation... It was a RealTech creation. We were working on the drug when the Chinese government had resorted to the slaughtering of civilians in order to implement population control. We offered the authorised use of Luci on the heavily populated areas of China as a controlled testing ground of the drug.”
         “Jesus Christ.”
         “And we documented its effects. After we catalogued the findings from the field tests the Chinese government stole the drug and began to distribute it worldwide as a black market export. The exportation of Luci replenished their government's funds, but the country was black listed for its supposed illegal development of a drug that was then distributed to civilians as a means to implement population control. China has since been-”
         “Paying for crimes that your company is equally guilty of committing.”
         “This was before my time. I had no involvement in it all.”
         “No, but you knew! You knew the truth and yet you sat back and let the shit hit the fan over and over again!”
         “I am working to fix the Luci epidemic! I am ashamed to know that the company I work for, that I have dedicated so much of my life to, is responsible for unleashing Luci onto the world and for letting China take the blame for it. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I was around to at least try to stop Luci from ever being developed!” Pause. A very long pause. It was no walk in the park, talking about Luci. No picnic. Luci was pure evil. Destroying people's minds and killing their brains all at the same time. Luci was nothing less than a disease plaguing the world... A disease... And we're right at the centre of it...
         “I know you would never work on something so monstrous. But I need to know... What is the Reality Race?”
         “When Pineal Theory was first discovered the government decided to try and harness it for practical uses. They wanted to see if it was possible to make telepathy and telekinesis a reality by tinkering with the pineal gland and developing its capabilities. And so several companies around the world worked on harnessing the Pineal Theory for practical use.”
         “But why?”
         “I think they believed that logically it would be the next step in human existence. In human society. Everything exists in cyberspace now. It wouldn't be that big of a leap to then make neurology a part of that space, too.”
         “Unless they wanted to create a weapon.”
         “Do you mean-?
         “I have to go.”
         “Adam, wait!” Not now, Carlisle. I have a bet to lose. Once I make up my mind it's decided. He knows that full well. My back is turned and I'm walking away. Unless there was something imperative that would change everything we had just discussed there's nothing he could say that'll make me stop and wait.
         Psyborg. Was she referring to Pineal Theory all along? Was that her real agenda? And if so, what was her connection to Luci? Does she even have a connection at all? Maybe I'm overthinking things. Over-analysing things that don't exist. Making links where there aren't any. Argus said my work was slipping. My unorthodox theories and the lines of enquiry that I follow aren't paying off like they used to... Maybe she's right... Or... maybe I'm the only one that's really got a handle on this case, after all. I'll make the sweep and then I'll know if Luci has any bearing on this case at all.
         11am. I need to make this sweep as quick as I can. In and out, but do it thoroughly. There's more at stake than just a dumb arse bet like I originally thought. Abandoned apartment block. A decent choice of hide-out. People use places like these all the time for whatever purposes. Especially if they don't want people to know that that's what they get up to. Drug deals. Orgies. Hell, even target practice. Psyborg sets up base here. Finds an out of the way room to unpack all her gear. Sets up surveillance cameras and an alarm system so she can see if any unwanted guests come knocking at her door. Nice job, I'll give her that. Very professionally done. A real expert... So why, if she went to all that trouble, did she carelessly leave behind that digital fingerprint? Why in god's name would she make such a stupid mistake if she really was as expert as her hit list and base set up suggests?
         Everyone makes mistakes. Pfft. Bull shit. Not Psyborg. She's too... perfect. A perfect criminal. No way would she ever clumsily leave a digital fingerprint for any idiot with a rudimentary understanding of cyberspace to find. I guess we were the idiot. We caught her, after all. An empty apartment... now. A trip wire set up as a precaution across the main entrances. Clearly she travelled more discretely whenever she had to get out of the house, so to speak. A back door? A fire escape. Too obvious. Something else, then...
         Cameras... Cameras? She had eyes and ears everywhere in this place... But there's no certainty that the cameras weren't linked up to another centre. Whoever inventoried the evidence from this place didn't follow protocol. Cameras were rigged up. Removing them jeopardises the integrity of the crime scene. Anything that is made to be a fixture of the space remains where found, to be analysed in the space after all other evidence is removed and catalogued. A team of experts comes in to investigate any suspicious fixtures. Removal of said fixtures has lead to too many fatal accidents on the job. Precautions have been put in place to counter that. But all cameras were removed from this crime scene. And yet... one remains in this corner. Why? If they really were linked to another source other than the base set up here then somebody clearly wanted to make sure this place remained undisturbed.
         Too many details not adding up. Think. Think... Wait... These floor boards... they're loose... A hollow space under the floor. How did they miss that in the first sweep? Something's hidden under here, I'm sure of it. … A Luci administer and enough Luci to render a whole city brain dead (which wouldn't be much of a change from the norm, but still). And somehow nobody found it. What the hell is going on? None of this makes sense. I have to talk to Argus. Now!
         “The number you are calling is out of service or disconnected. Please try again.”
         “Shit!” Why the hell isn't she picking up? Redding! Come on, come on! Pick up!
         “Singer. What's up? Did you do th-”
         “I don't have time to explain. Get me Argus.”
         “She just went down to archives.”
         “Shit!”
         “What is it? What do you need?”
         “Psyborg. It was all a set up. She isn't Psyborg!”
         “What are you sayi-”
         “She was a decoy. The base was set up but Psyborg wasn't the one manning it. They were somewhere else watching the apartment building all along!”
         “Singer, you're not making any-”
         “Psyborg is one of us! Psyborg is in the BPS!”
         “Jesus Christ.”
         “Get Argus! Get her now! I'm on my way!” Why didn't I think of it sooner? Dammit! I'm a bloody fool! Of course it had to be an inside job. How else could they have handled the sweep like that? How else could they have left an untraceable calling card? How else could they have left no digital traces of their presence!? God-dammit! They've been hiding in the BPS all along! Controlling the investigation and manipulating it in their favour. Argus! Why did you want another sweep of the address where we caught her? Did you know it was an inside job? Why did you let Redding handle the sweep? Or did you know he'd give it to me and I'd find what you were looking for? … Shit!
         “Singer. Where are you?”
         “Argus! Psyborg is a decoy. She's not the real hacker!”
         “I'm listening.”
         “I took over the sweep of 12 Hyde. Whoever handled the original sweep didn't follow protocol. They removed surveillance cameras that were set up around Psyborg's base, but left one to keep an eye on the place.”
         “Are you certain?”
         “The original sweep failed to locate a Luci administer with enough Luci to take out an entire city hidden under the floor boards!”
         “What makes you think Luci has any connection to the Psyborg case?”
         “Psyborg's statement.”
         “I gave you strict instructions not to pursue-”
         “The Reality Race!”
         “What is that?”
         “RealTech developed Luci and tested it in China as a means for population control.”
         “How do you know this?”
         “A RealTech employee told me everything.”
         “And is he on the level?”
         “One of my most trusted sources.”
         “Dear god.”
         “There's no time to waste! We need to lock down the BPS!”
         “How can we be sure that Psyborg really is here?”
         “Find those cameras.”

* * * * *


Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I didn't have all the pieces. Maybe if I'd followed orders things wouldn't have ended this way. Maybe they'd still be alive. Was I wrong to pursue the case so vehemently? Was I wrong to search for answers even when I didn't know the questions? Or did I ask the wrong questions? Or not enough? Or perhaps too many?
         “A suspected terrorist explosion killing hundreds of BPS officers. Detective Adam Singer, pictured here, was hospitalised as the only known survivor of the explosion. Federal investigators-” a news report on constant repeat. What else could I expect? The Bureau of Public Security had been completely decimated. It was my word against the evidence. An unstable employee with a history of violence and substance abuse. An employee threatened with losing his job if he didn't see a shrink. The only one that wasn't inside the building at the time of the explosion. A perfect patsy. Completely immobilised. Unable to prove anything. All the evidence that I could hope to use in my defence went up in smoke. Carlisle. He can't help me without revealing that RealTech was responsible for Luci all along. And once again, the shit has hit the fan.
         “Adam? Did you hear my question?” A criminal shrink. They've already made up their minds about my guilt.
         “No.”
         “I asked you what happened on the day of the explosion.”
         “Why do you care? You don't. You're only here to assess my guilt, but the fact that they sent you tells me they've already reached a verdict.”
         “And how does that make you feel?”
         “Like shit, lady. I was blown half way to hell and legally speaking I've already been sent up shit creek. So if you want to be of any help, go away and tell the people that sent you to go fuck themselves.” And just when I thought things couldn't get any worse Psyborg goes right ahead and removes all traces of their existence. As far as the public's concerned there never was any super hacker called Psyborg. A figment of a mentally unstable BPS officer's imagination. Searching for something to occupy their time. To sink their claws into. To distract them from their shitty life and give them a reason to live. Someone to blame for all the shit they've had to endure over the past 32 years. Something... fun. Something different. Exciting. A taste just wasn't enough. Doing some role-play never really hurt anyone, right? After all, couples use it all the time to spice up their life in the bedroom. Actors are paid to do just that, for god's sake! So why not me? Why not create a little puzzle to solve. Something unique. Something challenging. It's just make-believe, after all.
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