The apartment door swung open on old hinges that caused Julian's slight push to send it flying open. Julian
and Sasha emerged from the corridor into the darkened apartment.
"Hi, Honey, I'm home." His sardonic voice echoed through the apartment,
meeting little resistance and no reply. "Now where the hell has
she run off to? Probably out shopping again," he seemed to be
muttering to himself rather than explaining to Sasha. "She doesn't
seem to grasp that the whole countries in a big D."
The answering machine showed 15 messages. Busy day. Julian tapped
the play button:
"Julian? Where's my Nirv, man? I mean, I been wait'n three days
and can't wait no longer man. Call me."
- BEEP -
"Hey man, this Carl... What up? I'll be at the Obelisk tonight...
hope to see you out there."
- BEEP -
"Julian," there was a long pause. The voice was high and obviously
female, but Julian could not quite place it.
"This is Wendy. I may not be back for awhile? maybe never? I gotta'
think.. straighten some things out. I'll call later and let you
know... let you know what I've come up with." There was another
pause as if she was waiting for something that never happened,
and then the "click" of the line disengaging.
The rest of the messages played out, mostly clients, but Julian
just stared out the window at the sunsetting behind the Boston
skyline framed in a large 20th century style window.
After the last message he got up, walked down the hall and into
his room. There was a conspicuous absence in the room, as if part
of it had been ripped out, and what was left was a ragged edge
around the vacuum.
Sasha had only watched him during this, silently. Finally, he
broke the silence, awkwardly, but with great relief.
"Sorry, man." The words seemed to stand there filling the empty
space. Sasha shifted his weight around and spoke again, "Come
on, man. Let's go out anyway. Staying round here won't solve anything."
"Hey, man, no sweat." Julian's voice was even and cool. "I'm glad
to see her go. She was gettin' to be a real drag, you know. She
was always spendin' my money. Fuck 'er, let's go out."
Harvard Square had not changed much in the twenty years that Julian had frequented it. Most of the stores had changed, and
a lot of the store fronts were empty, of course. But the feel
was still there, the energy.
The Depression had been kinder to Massachusetts than it had been
to the rest of the US, or, for that matter, the rest of the world.
There were reports of entire towns that had been closed down in
Japan and the European community, but it was difficult to tell
what the truth was any more from the news broadcasts. Massachusetts
had a strong technology base, centered around MIT, but there was
still too much room and not enough business.
Julian and Sasha climbed the stairs of the subway station, two
at a time, coming out into cool damp air. The low clouds, lit
by thousands of street lamps, were glowing a dull orange. Occasionally
a patch of black would break through like an oil patch in dirty
snow, but Boston had not seen a starry night in decades.
There seemed to be some excitement in the crowd, which was far
larger than Julian had ever seen in the square. It was difficult
walking, and the two of them had to push their way through several
crowded sidewalks before they finally reached The 3rd Man. The
sign glowed neon red against the black building, flashing on and
off, splashing the waiting crowd with crimson. Sasha walked straight
to the entrance and through the door. Julian followed but did
not, at first, understand what was going on, expecting to wait
in line like everyone else.
They walked through an inky hallway, illuminated only by black
lights that burst Julian's hair into a cold yellow flame. It made
him think he was floating in a void, the walls felt impossibly
distant yet simultaneously claustrophobic, and he could only clutch
Sasha's arm, following behind him to keep from feeling lost.
"You got some clout, man?" Julian tried to say to Sasha, but the
rising den of music eliminated any shot at comprehension.
"What?" Sasha shouted back.
They emerged through a heavy curtain into the club.
It was an immense warehouse, decorated in the typical Gunga fashion,
which derived from rave, which derived from disco. Huge hooped
and spiraling neon lights, more black lights, and strong strobe
lights. The place was crammed with people, all wearing as little
as possible, as tightly as possible. Colours swirled on the walls
and bright lights played against pale arms, legs, breasts, and
Amidst this throng there were a couple of groups that did not
fit into the general mood. Some were Corps who were obviously
slumming it with their wives/girlfriends/mistresses. They tried
to wear the appropriate clothes, but they never did seem to get
the hang of it. They had the wrong haircuts, too many labels on
their clothes hinting at their true wealth. But mostly their body
language screamed "CORPORATE GEEK!".
There were also a few people wearing starched white shirts and
Khaki pants. These were also Corps, but ones who did not bother
to disguise their true nature. Groups like this usually came out
because they were bored with the more restrained clubs that their
social-types frequented. The trend always seemed to progress the
same. First the "weirdlies", as the corps called them, would get
a place going; then the pseudo-weirdlies would appear, like some
sort of advanced scouting party; and then the corps would show
up, overwhelming the place and forcing the poorer weirdlies to
find somewhere else to go. Julian had seen the cycle a dozen times
over, but wherever the new clubs were, he always had business.
Corps never bought drugs, not since monthly random testing had
been introduced, but the weirdlies ate his product up.
Finally, there were the nu-punk throwbacks. They had actually
started as a political movement in London during the referendum
tax riots of 2012, but had been diluted by media manipulation,
which some speculated had been egged on by the US government into
just another fashionable anti-establishment fad which then quickly
faded behind jarring music videos and leaders cum pop-stars.
Now the nu-punks were just shadows against the walls of the clubs.
They were in almost every club that Julian had ever been to but
they never spoke to any of the other crowds, and only rarely did
he speak to them. Their basic dress was the classic black leather
jackets, black jeans, Doc Martin boots, and T-shirts. They came
to the clubs and talked to one another, milled about, sometimes
danced, but mostly kept to themselves. They never bought or sold
drugs of any kind, at least not that he had heard of. They were
outcasts by choice.
Julian and Sasha sat down at a small circular table in an area
where the volume was low enough that they could carry on a conversation
without screaming at each other. A waitress came over and they
ordered drinks. The conversation meandered around the day's events,
which Julian cared very little for, until their drinks came.
"There was a another riot in D.C. today," Sasha said, lifting
his gin and tonic to his mouth."34 protestors killed, 102 wounded
by fed pigs as they were fleeing. Of course the official report
was that they were armed gang members who were attacking the police."
"So how do you know different?" Julian asked indifferently.
"They don't control all forms of communication, you know. With
the right counter surveillance programs, you can talk to anybody
who's jacked in," Sasha tapped his ear with the implant.
"I've been on the Web Since I was a rug rat. I could bypass that
damn government Key Encryption shit before I could even read.
Knowledge is power."
"Hmmm... well that's as may be, but you won't catch me stirring
up trouble like that. I jus' wanna stay free." Julian tipped back
the drink he was holding.
"Yeah, but while those Nazis we call a government are in power,
no one is free. They've already gotten rid of the bill of rights
and replaced it with their so called ?Rights of all Men'. Even
the name is sexist."
"Well look, that really don't bother me much. I live my life and
don't fuck with anybody else's."
"Any speech against the government, the 'government' being the
current administration, is treason and you can be shot on site.
They've been in power for over 15 years now and suspended every
election saying that the economy couldn't handle it! Who knows
what's next?" Sasha's voice seemed to peek in excitement as he
moved his arms to emphasize his words, his fingers pointing into
the air. Julian gave no reaction. He just looked around at the
audience and sipped his drink calmly. Sasha always went on like
Seeing that his excitement produced little reaction from Julian
had a calming effect on Sasha. "But you don't care, just don't
give a damn."
"You are correct, sir."
Two large gentlemen in heavy black leather overcoats approached
the table. Both wore matching wide brimmed brown felt hats. Underneath
one of the hats the red hot ember of a cigarette glowed. The other
put a hand on Julian's shoulder and spoke.
"You Julian Yerdrick Aaron?" His voice, though condescending,
had a note of true concern about it. Julian sighed and glanced
up at the policeman, seeing his own face staring back in the cop's
sunglasses. Actually they were not sunglasses. Quite the opposite.
They intensified light so that the cops could see in the dark.
"Thas' me, what can I do for ya, sir?" Julian tried to sound as
helpful and nonchalant as possible, but nagging at the back of
his head was the fact that he had already had his one trial this
"We got some questions we need to ask you," he flashed a badge
out of his pocket and then immediately put it back "Would you
mind coming with us?" His voice was kind and patient, a father
telling his child to slow down.
Julian got up, unsteadily, looking from one cop to the other.
Neither one made any facial movement. They stood bolt straight
watching his every move, waiting for him to make a break for it.
Julian began to speak, but the second cop interrupted, "Please,
sir, this won't take long if you cooperate," and Julian went along
silently. During the entire transaction the police seemed completely
unaware of Sasha's presence.
They took Julian outside, threw him in the back of an unmarked
sedan, and sped away through the wet Boston night.
The holding cell was a spare nine foot cube. Julian sat in one corner, across from the door. The light source
was hidden, but flooded the room with a bright, bluish light.
He had been there a couple of hours without any charges being
pressed, and he still had no idea why he was there. The two cops
who had picked him up had brought him to the main station downtown,
the fifty story Federal Courthouse, back where he had been that
afternoon, and thrown him into the cell. No search, no scans;
just locked him up in solitary.
About midnight, the door opened and the two arresting officers
re-entered the cell. They had removed their overcoats, and were
wearing dark mauve outline styled suits with ornate gold patterning
in the thick cuffs. The sunglasses had also been removed. As they
entered, a table and three chairs began to rise from what had
once been just floor. One of the cops sat down in the chair across
from Julian. The other moved around behind him.
"Well, well, well?" The first officer opened a file he had had
tucked under his arm, and inspected its contents. "Back again
already, Julian? It hasn't even been a whole day yet, and already
you're back. Julian, what are we ever going to do with you? We
can't have you runnin' around polluttin' our fine streets with
Julian almost jumped out of his seat. "What the hell are you talking
about? I paid my dues this month. No one was supposed to touch
me for another month."
"Ah, but that was when we just thought you were a dealer." The
officer scrolled through a few more pages in the folder. "You
never told us you manufactured," he looked up straight at Julian,
"we can't be havin' any of that. That is a definite no-no."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Julian screamed, his face
turning red. "I just sell. I don't make it."
The officer looked at him in a friendly manner. "Well, that's
a bit hard for me to swallow. Ya see, we got a tip from one of
our informants that you had a whole lab set up in Brookline. Sure
enough, we go by, and there it is."
Julian felt a cold bead of sweat drop between his left eye and
nose. There was only one sentence on the books for manufacturing:
the death penalty.
"No way, man, not me." Julian crossed his arms and sat back, focusing
hard on the table.
Several seconds passed before Julian muttered, "I just sell."
For the first time the other cop, leaning against a corner behind
Julian, spoke up. "Now, Julian, we both know what the penalty
is for manufacturing, but don't think we're unreasonable." The
cop's voice was reassuring; Julian looked up suspiciously.
"We know you are not the one actually running the lab," the first
cop glanced at his partner, smiling, and turned back to Julian.
"We just want to know who does."
"Tell us who does and we'll let you walk," the good cop said hopefully.
"Look, we don't give a flying fuck about you. We checked your
records. You've been a good boy. Payed your bills. But we will
nail this manufacturer. You can either go down with them or send
them down while you sit high and dry."
"I don't know." Julian's tone was somber, bitter.
"Well, I guess that means..."
The room went completely black, and Julian felt a burning sensation
on his thigh, like being hit with a dart. At first he wasn't sure
if he had passed out, was hallucinating, or whether he was just
going insane. For a split second there was no sound, but then
the two cops began to speak at once .
"What the hell is this shit?" Julian heard them in the absolute
dark. He crept up and tried to feel for the door.
"You sit back down, Julian, while I sort this out." He felt warm
breath on his ear and then a hand clamped down on his shoulder
and pushed him back down into the chair.
After a few moments of silence, Julian heard the door opening,
but no light entered the room. The corridor was as black as the
room. "Ed, you stay here with the prisoner." Julian felt another
hand come down on his shoulder.
In the distance, sounds, first of people running and shouting,
then of gunfire, could be heard ringing down the hallways. The
sounds were hollow without the white noise of a million buzzing
wires to soften them.
Julian felt the hand release his shoulder. "Move out of this room,
Julian, and you're dead."
Julian sat and listened to the echoing sounds as they got closer,
and then stopped abruptly. He peered outside and saw light flickering
off the walls far down the corridor. A few shadows moved between
him and the light source.
Suddenly, the intense white light of a flash grenade filled the
black hallway for a few seconds, blinding Julian. He fell back
through the door and lay on the ground as his eyes exploded with
all of the painful colours of the rainbow, until he finally passed
" Good work, Julian," a voice came to him, through the bleary clouds of his eyes. Julian felt cold, like
he had been drenched in ice water, but he was dry. He lifted his
head from the pile of debris he had been resting on. A face, almost
invisible behind the bright light attached to its forehead, bobbed
and swayed just above him like some demented pixie. He tried to
move but his body ached, so he closed his eyes again.
"Come on, Julian." He felt a hand lightly slapping him on the
side of his face. "This is no time to be sleeping." He smelled
something pungent under his nose. "Can't have a hero of the revolution
dying on us."
Julian opened his eyes again. This time the light was dimmer and
he could see Sasha's shadowed eyes peering back at him. He tried
to speak but could not.
"That's a good boy. Come on. We've gotta move." Sasha helped him
up, and Julian brushed the dust from his clothes.
"What the fuck was al l that? Where the hell did you come from?"
"I'll tell you when we get where we're going." Sasha grabbed Julian's
arm and led him towards a stairwell, and up a staircase. The only
light came from the miner's helmet on top of Sasha's head. It
flashed around, and Julian saw dead bodies lying around everywhere.
Cops mostly, but a few nu-punks were mixed in. Julian realized
that Sasha was wearing a cop uniform.
They made their way up several flights of stairs, down a corridor,
and finally into a large, cube shaped room. Sasha took the keyboard
for his cybernode out of one the large pockets on his arm, unfolded
it, plugged directly into an outlet in the wall and then turned
his unit on. The ruby earring began to strobe faster and faster
until it only flickered imperceptibly.
Sasha zoned out for several minutes, during which time Julian
had a chance to look round the room. The walls were smooth and
glossy white panels with outlets at regular intervals about four
feet from the floor which appeared identical to the walls. The
overall effect was highly disorientating, and in his current state
of mind Julian could not be sure whether he was sitting on the
floor or on one of the walls.
Sasha returned to normal.
"Well, we did it," Sasha said slumping to the ground.
"Did what? What the hell is going on?"
"When I told you about the revolution, I wasn't dreaming. We've
been planning this operation for years. This is where it's run
from, Julian. Welcome to the Central US Police Department Intranet
Exchange. They keep all of their servers in this one area. We've
wanted to infect this place for years but never could get in.
The government might not be able to spy like they used to, but
they can still protect their secrets. Anyway, this is where the
revolution begins, my friend, right here. All over the country
cops are getting conflicting orders about the riots that have
started up in every city in the US and our Canadian Provinces.
They are being told not to take any action, and by the time they
act on their own, it'll be too late. The President and Congress
will be no more. The Constitution dissolved, and a revolutionary
Government will be taking control."
Julian sat down next to him.
"We couldn't have done it without you though, Julian."
"Couldn't have done what?" he asked, taking it all in.
"Gotten in here. This place is tight, that's why we had to use
a non-revolutionary. If any of us had been arrested and brought
here, we would have been strip searched and scanned, and anything
we brought with us would have been found. We even thought about
implants, but they scan for any thing out of the ordinary. But
with a common drug dealer... hell, I bet they thought you were
so harmless that they didn't even pat you down."
"So I planted the EMP on you..." Sasha noticed Julian's confused
look. "It sends out a strong electromagnetic pulse that fries
electronics, but wont hurt the people around it... except, being
so close, you might have felt a bit of a tingle."
Sasha reached over into one of his baggy pockets and pulled out
a small black square of blackened carbon.
"It's amazing. Twenty years ago an EMP like this would have taken
a nuke to create." Sasha tossed the square across the room, its
hollow clattering the only sound to be heard.
"The building itself is protected from such an attack, so we couldn't
explode it outside, but only this room is internally protected.
When it went off at midnight it pulled the switch on the whole
building but left this room intact. Not only does it shut off
the electricity, it renders all electronics unusable. I waltzed
in here, picked you up, plugged in here, and uploaded the virus,
which brings down their firewall, and wham... we own their system.
Julian stared ahead into the circle of light cast by Sasha's helmet
onto the floor. "How did you know I'd be arrested tonight?"
"Oh, we got Wendy to report you, and then planted that lab so
they would have to pick you up and bring you in here. See, it
wasn't one of their labs and they hate that," he paused and went
on, "As I said, we've been planning this for years. We had your
psych profile nailed to the wall."
"The funny thing i... it went off according to plan. No unforeseen
snags. We caught them completely off guard. We thought out every
"Thought of everything huh?" Julian said in a detached and distant
voice. "I don't think so."
Julian bit down hard on his lip and lashed out with his right
hand, landing a blow across Sasha's chin that sent him and his
From his crouched position Sasha brought the toe of what felt
like a steel- lined boot into Julian's stomach. Julian felt the
breath rush from his lungs as he tripped back through the door
they had come in.
He turned and ran into the darkness, blind, stumbling against
walls; he spun through another doorway and fell down a flight
of stairs. He heard someone running behind him and kept moving
down, jumping stairs, falling, pushing against walls; he went
down nine floors before there was no where else to go but through
a door and out into a large open room, tripping and landing face
It looked like the lobby, and Julian could see the outside world
through its huge windows. A dozen sunglassed faces looked down
at him, cop faces. Julian felt very cold. He scrambled back to
the door he had just come through only to find Sasha standing
in the way. A loud belch out of the gun Sasha was holding sent
him back on the ground.
"Got him! Five more upstairs," Sasha's voice rang and echoed in
his ears along with the thunder of boots as the cops ran past
him and up the stairs. Julian went to clutch his stomach, but
he couldn't seem to find it.
He felt warm, humid breath next to his icy cold ear.
"No my friend, we thought of everything."