[So.] Atom began immediately. [How did you and Tachi meet?]
[What did Tachi just say to me?]
[Not to tell me all of your secrets. Implying that it was okay to tell me some of your secrets?]
[I don’t understand. Is the answer yes or no?]
[I mean ‘Yeah – I acknowledge your logic and that you are technically correct’ but ‘No – not gonna happen’.]
Atom made an unintelligible grumbling sound at me.
[How about we change the subject?] I tried.
[Okay… What are Tachi’s views on cybernetics?] Atom asked. [He says you refuse new augmentations because it makes you stand out as an individual.]
[He would.] I would have groaned if I wasn’t a disembodied voice. [See, in Japan raising such an opinion makes you an individual. Because the population is so big and so densely packed together even a fringe product has access to a wide audience and if the product is any good it will quickly gain a foothold in the market. Suddenly you’re seeing this new, alien product everywhere and it becomes commonplace. Here in Australia, the population of the Tokyo bay area alone is spread across the whole continent. When a new technology is introduced there are still those who take it up immediately, but your average Joe will encounter this product a lot less frequently in their day-to-day life. It takes a lot longer to overcome any stigma the newness of the product may evoke.]
[So you don’t trust cybernetics?]
[I don’t trust their users. I beat Crocman because he underestimated me. If he hadn’t been augmented, even after taking out those two cops he’d have been a lot more cautious when fighting me and would have taken the threat I posed seriously. I may have died.]
[So this works out in your favour? It causes your enemies to make mistakes.]
[Mistakes they wouldn’t make if they weren’t already convinced of their own superiority. Crocman is in a hell of a situation right now because of that arrogance. He not only failed his mission to recover you, he failed to sacrifice himself in the hope of achieving it.]
[I don’t understand.]
[When Tachi comes back with my tablet I’ll download some ebooks of Hagakure and Go Rin No Sho for you. Righteous Chrome Fist are big on that fatalistic samurai bullshit. They believe that if you commit to a task you need to see it through even if it means your death. That Crocman didn’t die when he failed means he didn’t try hard enough. As his master Kiru no Yubi trained him, so his failure must lie with her. If Kiru avenges her pupil she will have atoned for her part, but Crocman will remain disgraced.]
[Alright, but why are you so scared of her?]
[Because Kiru no Yubi is death incarnate.] I said flatly. [When it comes to the monfilament whip she is the clone love-baby of Beethoven and Mozart. The only circumstances under which I’d fight her were if she were standing around aimlessly on a flat, featureless plain and I was two kay away with a Barret sniper rifle.]
[Are the others like her? The other people coming after us?]
[No, which is the one bit of good news in all of this. Kiru is special, hell Tachi was special. When Tachi and I first met most of the rest of them were lower than Crocman’s level, no idea what they’re like now.]
[How is Tachi special?]
[He’s a free-thinker. The others, even Kiru, are just attack dogs. The master tells them to do something, they do it. That’s why Tachi became an independent, one day Daddy gave him an order and he refused. We’ve been partners ever since.]
[What was the order?]
[Tachi doesn’t like to talk about it…] Then the penny finally dropped. […and I’m not supposed to be telling you any of this.]
[I-I’m sorry, I was just curious. I get shut away for so long and then suddenly I have people to talk to again. I just get excited.]
I would have sighed. I glanced back at the operating theatre in time to see the doc straighten up, giving me my first good look at the patient. They were right, ignorance is bliss.
I turned back to Atom. [I know you’re sorry mate. So how about I make you a promise. When I’m able-bodied again I’ll put what I need together to set you up as a hitcher. You’ll be able to see and hear through my eyes and ears, but you’ll only be able to talk to me.]
[Really?] Atom exclaimed. I could just imagine him clutching his hands together as his eyes glazed over in happy tears.
[Until the moment you say or do something that annoys or hinders me in anyway. Then it’s back in the box for you. Got it?]
[Oh yes, yes, yes yes.] Atom said, and I could just as clearly imagine him nodding. [I promise Dust, I’ll be on my best behaviour all the time.]
I already knew I was going to regret this.
Everyone thinks they got the name for the matrix from a movie. Everyone’s wrong but it doesn’t stop them saying it. The pop culture nerds I hang out with insist that the name comes from an old book, and no, it’s not the book of the movie.
At any rate I’m sure the concept’s been modified a little since then.
The matrix is a computer-generated virtual reality that perfectly mimics the physical world (when it wants to anyway, some people prefer that retro ‘Tron city’ look). I shudder to think of the astronomical number of ones and zeros it takes to construct even a simple virtual domain. The thought of billions upon billions of switches turning on and off in deliberate sequence at a rate of trillions of toggles a second is a little more than my poor army-trained brain can handle.
The first thing I did after unpacking the tablet was completely ignore the avatar setup and log in to my cloud. Normally I would allow my Neupro to resync with my music collection while I was at it, but today I wanted to get moving and that thing is huge.
I swapped out the tablet’s bland selection of default avatars for the one from my cloud, a photorealistic recreation of the classic Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat, complete with black plastic sunglasses, bullet-ridden trench coat and toothpick.
I couldn’t help but saunter into the virtual domain. When you look like the coolest man who ever graced the earth it’s hard to remain understated. I used to do the same thing in my Humphrey Bogart avatar, before Tachi introduced me to Hong Kong cinema.
Kitty had agreed to meet me in one of J. Random Hacker’s hangouts: an online bar called ‘the Gentleman Loser’. I’m told it’s another reference to old sci-fi.