CyberPunk 2006

by Lord RC

David Lee Anderson

   I hate this job. Ever since Microsoft went global with their Millennium Network in ’05 I’ve been sitting on my ass 6 hours a day waiting on the nunks to beep into my brain. I mean I could be hanging out at the drugbar sipping blips and playing fastpool. Instead of stuck here on this recliner with sensors monitoring my ass’s very presence. You get the blip. So thanks Microsoft for nothing. Monopolistic bastards… Fucking Government…

Jeez… here’s one now. Can’t even play with my goddamn pud. Ok smile for the nunk. "Hello, welcome to Node 77, Chicago Sector Help Desk. Where do you want to go today?"

The nunk, a beefy, nondescript teenager, didn’t want to go anywhere but back to bed. But it was School Time. His obligatory daily period – just like mine – of ass monitored occupation on the MNet. But he was lucky, he was in School and not working for a living. He didn’t have to answer stupid questions from stupid nunks like himself. "Well, uh, I gotta get some data to this server in South Bend but I keep getting this connection error. It’s a test."

"A test?," I said. Figures. With a few taps I was into his machine and poring over his transmission log. I ran the routine, getting the error: Server Not Found. I ran it again on his local server, this time it was good. I sighed, I have to solve these student’s problems all the time. It’s my job. I’m a Teacher. In this case I knew what the problem was. The server he was addressing was down. I ran its name through my Dead List . It was a part of a cluster in Node 79 and sure enough it was down. But… not in my jurisdiction. "Gonna have to transfer you to Node 79 Help Desk. It’s their server and it’s down."

"Wait a sec –" the nunk said, but I didn’t want to hear his whine and clicked the button.

Like I said, this job sucks. Don’t know how the hell I ended up with it. I wanted to be a Swibble Processor not a Teacher. But, like the guy said, we’re all Teachers nowadays and you, pointing at me, ain't good for nothing else. Right, I thought at the time, I’ll kick your ass as a Swibble Processor. Fucking bureaucrat. And I would too. I’m gubbled whenever a nunk comes in with questions about swibble processing – my specialty. But they don’t come that often: lots of out-of-work Swibble Processors these days… So I spend most of my time helping students or anyone else who found their way to me find their way around the MNet.

Yeah, I know, What the fuck do network traffic cop and Teacher and swibble processing have in common? They all pay lousy money. Swibble Processing is a moribund industry these days, although Teaching is on the up and up. The Parent’s Strike of 2003 made sure of that. Tired of seeing their kids killed in all those gigantic Schools they all said ‘Fuck it’ or ‘Jesus Says No’ or whatever and kept their kids at home. Don’t blame em. The alternative was dogs and metal detectors and guards and guns and on and on. Like prison. Training grounds for prison. Nowhere else to put the poor kids. Nothing for em to do. Might as well throw em in prison a bit early… I was a kid myself at the time. Well, I still am a kid; I only postgraduated last year. This is my first job.

And it sucks.

My brain beeped. Another nunk with another stupid question. I couldn’t be bothered to smile … until I copped a look at the nunk. Gollyluya! It was Pat Conroy, the modal star and teenage model! Blipping into my brain! But it wasn’t Pat Conroy. It was almost Pat Conroy. I’d always had this thing about Pat Conroy. I perked up. "Hello, you’re friendly Sector 77 Help Desk here. How may I serve you?" pretty smooth, I thought.

She looked gloomy. "My Swibble doesn’t work anymore. I can’t do my homework. My ass will be fried tomorrow if I can’t get it done. Can you help me?" She blinked those baby blues and her breath fogged up the camera.

Aha! Swibbles, my specialty! This must be my lucky day. I decided to play with her for a bit, "Well, usually, you’d have to go to Wash DC Help for that… but Swibble Processing happens to be my specialty. I can help you, my name’s Greil …" I let the name hover and smiled real big.

She smiled uncertainly, "I’m Ella."

I already knew that, of course, having blipped up her data already: Ella Kinman in Des Moines. A couple States away from me in reality but my neighbor now on the MNet. "What’s the problem?"

"It just stopped working. It seems to be okay but it doesn’t do anything." She shrugged helplessly.

"Looky," I said, "Swibbles have been dropping off the MNet very quickly these last few months. Microsoft no longer supports them. You’ve gotta upgrade. Just a second and I’ll get you the best price." I clicked to eEverything on the MNet. $17,788 was the cheapest Swibble upgrade in eEverything’s search. "Hmmm. Its almost 18 big ones for the upgrade." I looked at her blankly, gravely.

"I can’t afford that!" She wailed. "I’m a student. My parents are Teachers. I’ll fry tomorrow and I hate that!" She started to sniffle.

I felt sorry for her. Besides it was no fun to get fried by your recliner. After 4 hours of cooking on the seat-turned-hotpad your ass develops permanent red blotches. "Well," I said, "We can’t have that happen to your doubtless beautiful ass" -- I thought I was being real gallant -- "There’s a couple of ways around this. Some illegal but we needn’t get into them. What’s your assignment? Maybe I can help with that."

She looked at me, her last hope in the world. "I’ve got to deploy this testnet by Monday morning. It’s a pharmaceutics merger in Austria and I can’t get it up."

"Ahem, Let me see what you’ve got."

She opened her files to me and showed me her project. The problem was obvious and the only one it could be, her Swibble Server was kaput. An idle process, unreactivateable.

But I could reactivate it.

I clicked up her Management Console and hooked into the Eclectica Library on the Mnet, copied a few files. "You see," I said, "it doesn’t take much to reactivate a dead Swibble Server. You can find everything in the Library, if you know where to look. I fiddled with her system and reactivated the Swibble Server. "I’ll run your project now, " I said. "It should work."

She was looking downwards at her screen, watching what I was doing. Images blinked and a table of data streamed onto the screen. She looked at me and smiled. "Oooh! I could kiss you!" She smooched at the camera.

"You know," I said, "That's a good idea! What are you doing Saturday? I’ll be in Des Moines this weekend. Maybe we could get together?"

She flinched back. "How do you know where I live? Are you some fucking perv? Get lost creep!"

"Wait!" I said, "I can fix your grades…" But she was gone.

I looked at my screen. Ella Kinman in Des Moines. I had her address. I could take a few days off and get to Des Moines by Saturday… But what would I do when I got there? Bang on her door? Yeah, and get hauled off to the Iowa Bubble Farm for several years…

Fuck it. I clicked back to Babes-R-Us and resumed playing with my pud. Waiting on the next nunk and a night at the drugbar.


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