Every time we hit a speedbump
my head whacks the ceiling. Dasa’s hunched forward in the driver’s
seat. Sweat shines on his bunched muscles, on his cropped fuzz of
hair. Still got my dataglasses on so there’s all these site listings
scrolling before my eyes. Feel nauseous from lack of HappyO.
Nova Probe Five trance apocalypse metal thunders in my ears. I’m
trying very hard not to think about Amanda.
"Yes? Arnold? Is Arnold there?" Marvin’s stentorian voice carries over the grinding beat. His avatar’s sitting there in the top left corner of the ‘glasses display next to the rest of us, this pooncy little miniature, even more of a queen than the original. I glance over at him, making the site listings scroll horizontally. He’s sitting there with his mobile pressed hard to his ear like its stuck with KrazyGlue or something. "Yes. I’d like to speak-"
A drone van zooms up out of the night at an intersection. Dasa swerves just at the last moment; bottles of Boost rolling all over the floor. More scrolling, fast, now I’m dizzy now as well as sick. "Fuck!" Dasa breathes. We’re gonna crash one day, I just know it. Just hope my body doesn’t look too mashed when they broadcast it live as it’s being cut outa the wreckage. Nice vidding for the goulish. Fuck I cant handle that TrueRealityLive. Could never sus why Amanda always had to have it on.
"I want to know if Arnold’s there. Pardon me, Dasa, could you turn that down please?"
Feel like I’m choking you know. The air in this bimbobox always smells of b.o. and fart and dirty laundry, mainly cos Dasa cuts the air conditioning to get more juice to the motors. My knees are cramped against the back of his seat.
"Yes, Arnold, I’d like to…excuse me, DASA, WILL YOU PLEASE TURN THAT FUCKING MUSIC DOWN?" Nova Probe Five powers down a few dozen decibels. We hit another speedhump. My head bumps against the roof again. "I’m sorry, what was that? He’s not? Well do you know when he’ll be in? No. Cool, thank you."
Cool. God. Marvin’s the only nigel under thirty I’ve ever known who still says "cool" as a colloquialism.
"No luck?" Amber the blonde gasmgurrl with the incredible legs is squeezed in on the other side of Marvin.
"They’re just cunts," Marvin tells her. He looks at me, fat lips and small moist eyes smiling. "If you’ll pardon the language."
Dasa mutters "yeah, cunts," Behind the `glasses bright text and icons street lights and ghostly trees and houses rush past. Some of the listings look vaguely interesting. I just cant be fucked keying into them. Dasa makes a hard right. I’m thrown against Marvin’s soft and eager bod. "Wooooh!" Marvin grins.
"Spyder, leave Marvin alone!" Renee the little dark-haired gasmgurrl laughs the front seat. Amber grins at us. Her av lights up ting! text appears in the display chat window ***Syder - leave Marvin alone!
"No, please molest at your leisure," Marvin suggests.
"In your dreams Marvin," I mutter. My t-shirt’s soaked with sweat; it’s all sticky and clammy against my back. Fuck I need a hit. I need my medicine or I’m gonna go fucking nuts in here. An image of Amanda floats unbidden before my eyes and my heart wrenches with the memories. Me and Amanda on the beach. Sunset. Why is it that even when someone treats you like shit, just dumps you like that, u still can’t stop loving them? That all you want to do is be with them. Why is the human heart so stupid? I lean as far as I can against the window, rejoicing in its hard surface. The listings scrolling before my eyes are a mindless blur, a never-ending river of data.
"I’ll try JoyousBoi," Marvin suggests. "JoyousBoi’s always got gear."
"Yeah, sick Marvin," I mutter. A little icon for this JoyousBoi pops up next to Marvin’s. Anything to take away the pain…
JoyousBoi. God what a nick. What’d I do to deserve this? Ting! JoyousBoi’s icon lights up. Marvin booms out "Hello? Can I speak to JoyousBoi please? Marvin. Yes, this is Marvin, he knows me-"
Another furtive glance at Amber. Why does she have to sit next to Marvin? How come gays get all the girls? Dasa swings another hard right. Why are we going round in circles? The great unsolved mysteries of life.
"Dasa, why are we going round in circles?" Renee asks. Her av lights up Ting! text scrolls ***why are we going round in circles?
Dasa grunts. "Cos." We hit another fucking speedhump.
"WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHY WE’RE GOING ROUND IN CIRCLES?" Renee cries. She’s got short spikey black hair and a sexy face ruined only by a nose like the beak of a predatory bird. Why do gasmgurrls always have to be so spunky looking? There’s another mystery for you. "HUH??!!! DASA???" My dick’s going hard again; that’s how long I’ve been off the ‘dorth.
Proteus’s av appears in the dg display. Proteus is a bot. I think. Or an AI. A hackakid by the nick of nIgHtStAlKeR once traded him (it? him? her?) for a kilo of HappyO and 200 grams of DMT. God knows what he did with all that skag. Put it in his olds’ coffee perhaps. In those days the Doc was still around and drugs came easy. Tonight Proteus looks like a man, except that his body’s all shiny like liquid. Sometimes he looks like a woman. Sometimes an animal. Sometimes an alien. His voice is asexual over the ‘box’s speaker system. Text scrolls on the ‘glasses chat window. "The reason we’re going round in circles is because Dasa is feeling emotionally stressed because he’s not scoring any syndorphin2-6-C and so feels compelled-"
"-yes I’d like to speak to JoyousBoi please. This is Marvin. Marvin! You can check my ident-"
Ronni’s Goodtime HomePage flashes in big letters, pushing the other listings aside. Vid of a sexy girl masturbating. My cock goes even harder. Lust and nausea fight for control.
"-driving round in circles in a manner conducive to endangering life." Proteus concludes.
"Thank you for that, Proteus," Renee says. "Now tell me something I don’t know." She looks round at me. "AIs!"
"Well, you had to ask," I manage to say. My stomach doesn’t feel too good, even though I haven’t eaten all day. ‘Turkey’s a killer.
Dasa pulls another sharp right. Marvin’s kinda like a pillow my bod falls against. Apart from the robot drones, the streets are deserted at this hour. "By the way Dasa," Proteus observers "you just clocked up another speeding violation. Ticket number 253b610037t." Ting! A copy of the ticket protocol summary scrolls down the chat window.
"Fuck," Dasa says. He pulls the wheel sharply to the right. Whoomp! Another speed hump, my head against the ceiling.
"I’m accessing the PoliceStar databanks now. Accessing speeding violation ticket. Ticket number 253b610037t deleted." Ting! ***Deleted…
"Thanks broh." Dasa’s shoulders hunch even more. We’re airborn again, whack! my head against the roof. Fuck I hate speedhumps.
"Marvin! Yes. I’m a friend of JoyousBoi. Yes, I’ll hold." Marvin presses his chin over the mouthpeace. Smiles to me "they’re all just cunts. If you’ll pardon the expletive."
Whump! Ouch another speedhump. "Dasa!"
Dasa actually glances round at me. Apart from the shaved head he looks a lot like the young Sly Stallone in the vids my olds used to always watch. "Yeah Spyd?"
"D’ya think you could find another street to go round in?"
Whump! I grit my teeth. "Speedhumps."
"Sorry broh. Sick. Let’s ex this scene." We swerve round a roundabout. Tires screech, street lights and houses and scolling displays blur. Round and round the roundabout. I’m gonna spew, I know I am. My stomach spasms, but nothing comes up.
"Cochleal fluid disorientation," Proteus observes "nausea, extended exposure can lead to long-term physiological effects."
"Thank you Proteus," I hiss between gritted teeth.
Dasa chuckles, straightens the wheel. We shoot ahead like a rocket, the motor a high pitched whine.
Marvin’s voice: "what do you mean he doesn’t know me?" I make the mistake of looking at him.
He gives me a look like aren’t these dealers such a pain. "I called barely a month ago. Yes. Okay, I’ll hold." Impatient sigh.
Dasa pulls a hard left and Marvin scrunches against me. Someone’s just let off another fart. I want to unwind the window but the mechanism’s stuck again, happens all the time with these old ‘boxes. We pass a 7eleven. An animation of the 7eleven logo fills my dg’s. A little dittty starts playing in my earphones, a movie now of happy ppl buying stuff, superimposed over more homepage listings. Thought I selected filter all ads under options.
Renee yells "hey, pull over Dasa!"
"Whah?" he goes.
"Got the munchies!"
Dasa swings a hard-U. Tires squeal. Centrifugal forces drive me into Marvin’s welcoming flab. The 7eleven tune and movie come up again. It’s really giving me the shits. Happy happy happyyyyy.!!!! Proteus is saying "-another one. Illegal U-turn. Ticket number 083c5036048t" Ticket protocol text scrolls before my eyes.
"Fuck," Dasa mumbles. He hits the anchors hard! I’m slammed against the front seat.
"Dasa fucking shit!" Renee yells.
"Sorry," he mutters. I pull my dg’s and earphone off, can’t handle all the ad jingo shit. We’re double-parked in front of the 7eleven. My stomach’s a sick tight knot.
"Deleting now," Proteus says.
"Thanx man," Dasa replies to him (it?).
I get out. Cool night air on my sweaty brow.
The urge to vomit passes. It feels good. to stretch my legs.
Renee leads the way inside, jacket, oversized T-shirt, stockinged feet but no shoes. No panties either I bet. What is it about gasmgurrls? I put the dg’s in my shirt pocket. Cameras in armored casings track us. Everything’s clean, the shelves neat and stocked. Some juves on SmartSkaytZ glide between the aisles, around and around. They stop to check out Amber and Renee. Don’t blame them. Gotta get some syndorph or I’ll start wanking again. At least when your smashed you don’t hafta worry about sex. The shop nigel checks us out mega paro from behind his security glass. I give him the thumbs up, say "yo, peace brother!" Dunno why I bother though.
"What’s that," Marvin’s booming. "Yes of course we’ve got eurobucks, what do you think we are?" He looks up at me.
"Gimme that." I take the mobile. "Yeah, yo!"
"Yo", comes the voice at the other end. He’s disabled the video 3D display so there’s just the Telstra logo in the little screen.
"We got euro man. Good enuff for you?"
"Yah. Euro or Nuyen or Yuan."
"Yeah we got euro, sick?" Fucking moron. We never had these hastles with the Doc.
"Spyder!" Renee yells.
"Yo." I hand the mobile back to Marvin and amble over. She and Amber have picked out chips and tofu-bars and fruit juice and chokkie mango supremes. My stomach spasms, a tight knot of bile and hunger.
"Pay the nigel."
"Pause on that." I go over to the isles and pick a muslei bar and a health bar, and get a Nature’s Bounty orange and mango drink. Gotta get some nutrients into me or I’ll faint. Back to the counter. Marvin’s got two chocolate splices, a bag of donuts and a large bag of hot chips. Dasa’s standing near the door, barrel chest, baggy shorts, muscles bulging under his singlet. He keeps glancing out the armored glass at his little red bimbobox. As if anyone‘d bother cracking it. "Want anything Das?"
"Sick broh, got some Boost inna car."
"Copy." I swipe my card thru the little slot. The machine beeps, a green light blinks. My dwindling savings. We walk out.
Fuck, this is claustrophobic.
Just sitting here. "You sure you got the right street Marvin?"
"Of course I’m sure!" Like, how dare you presume?
"Kay, chill" I mutter.
"Reneeeee!" Amber squeals from the front seat. They swapped possies when we got back in the car after the 7eleven.
"Sorry," Renee goes.
"Restrain yaself girl," Amber giggles. "ooooooohhhh!!!"
"Hey like what?" Dasa turns round, grinning like the smilie man on the Toots4Life ad.
"None of your concern Das-boy," Renee says coldly.
Dasa looks disappointed.
Fuck these gasmgurrls. How’d Das ever get mixed up with ‘em? At least with Amanda I knew where I stood. Well, did….
A robot delivery van goes past. SPEEDEE KOURIERS it says on the side.
The munchies and fruit juice are churning around in my stomach. Hope I don’t chuck. On top of everything I’m feeling sorta feverish. Tell you, HappyO ‘turkey sux big time. Syndorphin. It’s a cunt of a drug. As old Stan would say.
"Spyder?" Renee says.
"Yeah sister," I make myself say. Last thing I feel like now is a long rave.
"How much longer we gonna be sitting here?"
"Ask Marvin, it’s his bros."
"Yeah well at least I can rely on my friends." Marvin retorts.
Oh yeah. When they’re not being cunts parden the expletive. Fuck I wish Doc Tom hadn’t been busted. We never had hastles with the Doc. God those were the days.
Dasa breaks open a bottle of Boost. Gulps it noisily.
"Ahh," he goes at last. He hands me the dregs.
I shake my head. He hands it to Marvin.
"Thank you." Marvin gulps it down. Never known anyone who could tuck away so much food.
"Hey maestro," Renee says.
Dasa reaches for another bottle. "What ya wanna hear sister?"
"Got any classical?"
"Beethoven?" Marvin goes.
"No," she looks at him like he’s mental. "Doors. Marley. Stones. Dead."
Dasa shakes his head. "I don’t go in for that old stuff."
"Well see if you can find some pirate audies to download then."
"I got Sonic Youth," Dasa suggests. "That’s pretty old."
"How about the Brindivan Boyz?" Proteus asks over the speakers. Every so often he (she? it?) puts in a reccie for some music.
"Not into that yoga stuff," Dasa mutters. His olds are krishnas, so he’s always like wanting to get all the sex, drugs and death thrash apocalypse metal he can.
"I was referring to the band," the AI replies in its emotionless voice.
"Oh." He scrounges around for another can. "Nah. Hate ‘em."
"Yeah" Renee says "I’m not much into that technoambient grunge fusion shit myself neither."
"Some of their stuff’s okay," Amber says.
Man when’s the skag arriving? I can’t take much more of this. Fuck Marvin and his jack-off contacts. "Renee, you seen my dg’s?"
"They’re in your pocket Spyd." She leans across Marvin, face mildly anxious. "Man you look sick."
"Good," I tell her. "I feel it." I think I’m shivering.
Renee pulls back, glares at Marvin. "Marv? Where’s your dumbass friends coming with the stash?"
"Never at this rate," Amber pouts.
I sorta half groan, half snicker. What a fuckup.
Marvin crosses his arms, nudges away so I no longer feel his thighs against mine.
Heavy silence all round.
I put my dg’s on. Proteus has changed himself into a sexy gurrl now. Dunno why he/she/it does that. For that matter, dunno what I’m doing here at all. Waiting in a cramped stinking car for drugs that’ll never show. Just wish this’d all end.
Renee’s voice: "hey, company."
A mean looking merc - either black or dark blue, hard to see with the poor street lighting - has pulled up nearby. License plates and model and big logo of Mercedes Benz Corp comes up over it in the ‘glasses. Operatic music comes on, Paganini I think, and a little window in the corner of the display, smiling couple in a merc driving thru countryside, rolling hills and green fields. Even when you specify no ads they still find a way around…. Fuck. We should have a Merc. Probably would have with all the dosh I’ve sunk in junk.
"I’ll go," Marvin says.
"Fine by me." I open the door, get out. He follows. I hand him the two hun Euro. Get back in. Now I’m sitting next to Renee. Oh yeah, big deal. Hell’d freeze over before I got nookie off her. Man I miss Amanda. "Proteus."
"Yes Spyder?" Ting! ***Yes Spyder?
"Gimme a trace on the merc’s plates please."
***Accessing Motor Vehicle Registration Database. accessing PoliceStar Database….Text scrolls before my eyes. I’m expecting something sus, but nah, either these nigels are clean or they simply haven’t been caught yet. More prob the latter.
Renee says "whaddaya think Spyd? It’ll be good shit?" Her av echos her words.
Amber turns round, elbow against the headrest. Marvin’s leaning over by the front passenger window of the merc.
I shrug. "Surprised if its anywhere like the Doc’s gear."
Renee looks at Amber. "Just typical hey Amb? Bet we’ve been driving around all night for nothing."
"Nah," Dasa goes. "Marvin’s contacts’re sick." Short laugh. "Only reason I hang round wiffa jerk."
"That’s what I like about you Das," Renee laughs. "You’ve got such a noble attitude."
The merc’s still sitting there, Marvin chatting away happily. Fuck, wazzat dork doing? Like, how long does it take to score a fucking deal already? Ah, he’s coming back now.
"Here he comes," Renee breathes.
The merc pulls off. Even from here I can see Marvin’s smug expression. The tension drains out of me. He’s scored. Everything’s sick.
"Hey man" Dasa goes "got the gear?"
Marvin opens the back door. I nudge over next to Renee. "All ready and ready to go." Marvin climbs in.
Renee’s going "gimme gimme gimme"
"How many parcels you got?" I ask.
"Ten, twenty euro each."
We usedta get packets off the doc for five. Like a dream. I never realised I had it so good. The Doc, Amanda...My contract with supermall com a-u.
Dasa switches on the ‘box’s inside light. I blink, look over at him. He’s folded the front seat down and crawled over next to Marvin. Marvin’s unwrapping a package of alco foil. We all crowd around. Ten small little foil packages. Little eggs. My salvation.
Dasa looks at me. "You wanna cook?"
I nod. Dasa’s good like that. How he asks. But then again everyone says I got a talent for cooking.
"I can cook," Marvin objects.
"No way man," Dasa laughs. I take the foil off Marvin; careful…so careful, don’t wanna drop anything, rest it on my lap. Feeling better already. Reach into my pocket, pull out a SciLabsUniversal pocket spectrometer, a pneumatic hypo, a tablespoon, lighter and a tiny bottle of distilled water, spread them out, all the tools. I come prepared. You gotta, you can’t afford to rely on anyone else. The others are all leaning forward, expectant, hot breathing. I want so much to just slam that baby home. But we gotta do it properly. That’s why everyone trusts me. Cos I do this shit properly. You gotta. Too much risks otherwise. First test to make sure there’s no strychnine or whatever mixed in. Open a foil package, insert a tiny speck of white powder into the SciLabs spectro. Surprised how steady my hands suddenly are. Click the spectro on. The diagnostics window opens in my dg display. SciLabs SmartSpectrometer ® version 1.04. For use with SciLabs series SX-200, 300, and 400 mass spectrometers only. "Analyse." Lights and graphs come on in the diagnostics window. A single green light flicks on the spectro itself. Ting! ***Analysis Complete. "Display." Readouts scroll down. I don’t understand a tenth of it, its all advanced chemistry. But the spectro’s expert system can tell if there’s anything toxic. Ting! No impurities found. Check another sample? "Yes."
"Sick gimme gimme gimme" Renee laughs. Ting! ***gimme gimme gimme
"Not yet," I breath. I can feel sweat rolling down my sides, under my t-shirt. Hate that. We’re gonna do this right. Test another sample.
Ting! All clear.
"See I told you it was good gear," Marvin booms.
Ting! Renee’s av goes, text scrolling ***gimme gimme gimme
Ting! ***gimme gimme gimme
Ting! ***gimme gimme gimme
What did I do to deserve this lot?
Bit of distilled water in
the spoon, then add the contents of one of the little packages, white powder.
Heat it carefully, syndorph is delicate, its not like your crap opiates.
Sweat’s running into my eyes. Pull off the ‘glasses and earphone.
Four pairs of eyes on me. And fuck knows how many in any of these
houses. Good news copy. RealCam newsbyte: junkies in the hood.
Stupid. But you get beyond caring. The water clouds to just
the right consistency.
"Can I have that one Spyd?" Renee asks, voice suddenly ultra gentle and friendly. Oh yeah.
"Sure," I tell her. "After me and Dasa."
Renee crosses her arms and leans back against the other door.
Stick the tip of the hypo in the bowl. It sucks the water up; it’s nice and thirsty. Hold my arm out, fist clenched. I’m pretty lucky cos my boys are close to the surface, easy to find a good spot. Flick the trigger. Sharp prick of pain, little hole drilled in the surface of my arm. The hypo beeps, jackpot, caught the vein. Three. Two. One.
rolled into one
a hundred christian heavens
there’s a funny little voice somewhere
what’s it saying?
silly little voice
come on man
look I’ll do it
no spyd cooks it best he’s the man
Dasa’s big dumb face near to mine
i feel such an indescribable feeling of love for this dude. i feel so much love, it’s like my heart’s bursting.
So much love…
tears trickling down my cheeks.
"Come on broh quit fucking around already!"
With an effort i look down at the gear laid out on my lap.
i’m the whizz, i’m the one who cooks the gear.
i look around at the faces of my friends. i love them all; they’re each so special, so infinitely precious
"Good shit Spyd?" Renee asks.
Somehow i find my voice. "Oh yeah." My heart’s just overflowing with love. So much love…..
"Well, cook me up some then."
"Hey I thought I was next?" Dasa snaps. Even when he’s being selfish i love the dude.
My hand picks up the bottle of water, of that most precious sacred water, tips just the right amount into the little bow, unwraps the foil package….
i watch with awe. My body seems to work with a will of it’s own. Life is such a miracle. i’m just so glad to be alive. What a buzz. What an incredible buzz.
Amber makes a tourniquet out of a hankie and a piece of stick or something to bring up Renee’s veins. i just feel so overjoyed watching. What beautiful girls these two are.
The hypo rams its goodies home.
Renee gasps. Her face lights up like the sun. She looks at me with such love in her eyes. Tears run down her cheeks. I blink. My cheeks are wet too. There’s an indescribable bond between us. We understand each other perfectly.
this story is mirrored
at Project Jericho and here at the Duke of Hell's Cyberpunk
story copyright © M.Alan Kazlev,
"Syndorphin" graphics copyright © Bernd Helfert 2000
all rights reserved
story copyright © M.Alan Kazlev,
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