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 faces.
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 this.
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 month.
"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 your filth."
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 .
"Awww... Christ!"
"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 out.



" 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. Neat, huh?"
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 contingency."
"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 body back.
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 down.
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."

Jason Conrad Cranford Teague

        is a writer and web designer. His analysis of cyberpunk as literature was featured in Circuit Traces 2.5.