He looked at me like no man had looked at
me before. His eyes bored straight into me but his eyes could not be
stared into. The eyes were always part of his massive frame and could not
be ever separated from the menace of that bulk. I instinctively wanted to
be away from this man. At that moment I knew that there were different
types of men, hunters and the hunted. He looked at me intently but slowly
as if he were afraid that he would scare me away. He was pure muscle but
it was easy to imagine him as being made of metal. He wore a flak jacket
with a T-shirt underneath that read "Bang. You’re Dead." Even while he was
staring at me he was slowly cleaning his dis-assembled pistol, his huge
hands moved up and down the pistol with a flowing grace. His gaze then
moved away from me out across the ocean and he seemed lost in
His name I had learnt was "Tony, no mate,
just Tony." and he was a professional "Yomper, that’s what I do, Yomp and
get paid bugger all." I had also learnt from Tony during our trip together
that most of what Jeremy said was "Bollocks" and that Jeremy himself was a
"Twat". Tony never gave his opinion of me. Either he was too polite or he
somehow didn’t think Americans counted in the grand scheme of things.
Either way I was just happy that he wasn’t killing me.
The "Les Enfant" was a cheap family
cruiser that had seen better times and better passengers, Tony, Jeremy,
Alien, The captain and myself. The five of us had been together since we
had left the south of France 2 days ago. The French captain who was
introduced by Jeremy as a "Splendid chap" but was referred to as a "Froggy
cunt" by Tony ,was called Michele which was apparently "A fucking girls
name" according to Tony.
It had been a tiring few days of
traveling. The CR’s had got me a false passport and arranged all of the
Jeremy, the Alien and myself had made a
wacky threesome as we flew over the Atlantic for my first time outside the
states. Something about flying in a jet makes me think about unusual
stuff. Death, the future, you know the religious & philosophy
bullshit. Maybe its the fact that you cannot do anything interesting on a
plane, makes sense to me that all those bored ass monks with no women
around start thinking about the infinite I mean , shit, what else you
gonna do? Well I guess I could of indulged in monks favorite pastime but
the idea of whacking off in the stinky bathroom didn’t appeal so I stuck
with their second, Philosophy. Alien decided he would break the monotony
by trying to hack into the electronics system on the plane. An hour away
from our landing in Marseilles, France the intercom system broke into
"Greetings people of Earth, we come in
peace." Came a strange distorted voice from the plane speaker.
I thought Jeremy was gonna have a shit
fit. His face turned bright red and he leaned over to Alien and turned OFF
his laptop. He then gave Alien a very meaningful stare as the stewardesses
ran up and down the cabin looking very scared and trying to pretend they
hadn’t heard the voice when asked by other passengers. Me and Alien were
pissing ourselves laughing, particularly when we saw the captain come out
of his little cabin and make a quick trip to the bathroom a few moments
later. Jeremy actually confiscated the laptop from Alien when he saw him
working on another program. Its just as well considering that Aliens new
program was called "wingroll.exe".
Upon arriving in Marseilles we met up
with Tony and immediately got on our little boat with our French captain
bound for England. After a day on the boat I was by now feeling a little
ill. Alien was feeling a big ill and Jeremy seemed to take a delight in
torturing him , talking about greasy English breakfasts with lengthy
descriptions. In between torturing Alien, Jeremy insisted in going over
the plan repeatedly.
We were to arrive on the coast of a place
called Cornwall where -according to Jeremy "They are a nation of smugglers
old bean, always have been and always will be. They wont pay us a blind
bit of notice." This didn’t really comfort me but when Tony piped up "No
fucking English navy no more mate, Its all been pissed away. Sold the
fucking lot to the aussies and argies." I felt better. Whatever Tonies
deficiencies in tact I at least felt he was honest. After arriving in
Cornwall we were to make our way to a safe house in a city called
Birmingham. I assumed it was named after the American city in Alabama but
when I voiced this thought Jeremy and Tony went into an angry tirade about
how this was the original Birmingham etc. They both seemed very sensitive
about their countries importance in the world which I didn’t really
understand. Then again I guess if you belong to a crappy little declining
country then you are gonna get a bit touchy when people tell you so,
Michelle agreed with me and I decided it was wise not to tell him I
thought France belonged in an even worse category. A pissy declining
country that didn’t speak English.
Once in Birmingham we were to break into
some public transport station that controlled Birmingham’s traffic lights.
Once in here we were to place a series of bugs in the control room and I
was to put into the system a program that would allow us remote access
using a small micro transmitter that Jeremy would install. Alien was then
to cover my tracks by updating every hard drive record to indicate that my
program was part of the operating system. None of these things could be
done remotely as the system was entirely stand alone. The question that
arose was WHY? Jeremy said that he didn’t know and that he was not
briefed. Tony succinctly summed up the feeling of the group when he said
"Why the fuck fly us halfway around the world to mess with some fucking
"We will find out when we get back. It
would be foolish to tell us why before we went." Jeremy answered the
unspoken subject was now high in my mind. What happens if we get caught? I
had broken the law many times before but that was different, to do
something remotely from your computer is a very different feeling from
physically being there. Fear clung to me for the rest of the
After we went over the plan for the
umpteenth time I wandered over to Michelle. He was looking out to sea from
the helm chatting with Tony. Apparently Tony had forgotten his rabid
xenophobia and they were talking the international man code, women, drugs
, the usual. So yeah, I done all the fucking shit they were talking about.
The fast king of coke the ultimate lay of H, the dull of beer, the berserk
of liquor, the still of weed, the prince of tobacco, the truth of acid,
the tight of women I done it all, and you know, none of it got through
man. None of it. That’s the saddest shit of all. I had everything but I
got nothing. You are always gonna be alone, that’s the way it is. But this
pair of losers were still telling each other that it meant something, that
there was somekind of drug or experience out there that would actually
make them feel good or more importantly would convince other people that
they were feeling good. Tony rounded off the conversation with an
obligatory obscene story. This one concerned his friend who while under
the influence of some speed/coke mix decided to fuck his ex-wife’s poodle
as a kind of revenge for leaving him. After a few strokes inside the
poodle the poor bitch died from internal bleeding and shock, unfortunately
upon dying the muscles of the poodle contracted and the dude was unable to
pull out his dick. The pressure caused him extreme pain and he realized he
had two options, to call an ambulance or to get a kitchen knife and cut
the dead poodle open to withdraw his shaft. This dilemma was resolved when
he passed out with pain on the couch with a dead poodle on his dick.
Apparently Tony found him the day after and did the removal honors, by now
the dog had loosened up. My reaction was instant and unfortunately I spoke
it out loud.
Tony caught me in his hunters stare. I
felt shit scared I gotta tell ya. Then his face snapped into an unpleasant
grin and he said.
"Yeah your right, It was no friend. That
was me." Michelle roared with laughter and kept muttering something about
"le malade anglais." Tony was OK I decided. Fucked up in the head, but
We made landfall in Cornwall at 10PM in
the evening, Jeremy was very specific about the time and I didn’t bother
inquiring why. Michelle lowered a dingy and we motored ashore. Alien was
near screaming in fear by the time we made it to the stony beach. We all
jumped out of the dingy and Michelle went back to the boat. He would pick
us up in a weeks time, meantime he had some business in Calais. We watched
his small craft get bounced up and down over the waves back to "les
"What now?" I asked Jeremy.
"Pub." He said and started marching off
towards the distant lights of a village. Tony followed him, heavy bags
over his shoulder.
"Poor bloody infantry" He murmured as his
trudged across the beach.
Alien and me picked up our stuff and
The "Kings Sailor" was a nice old pub.
Jeremy quickly got us a room there and we went downstairs into the dining
room to get some food and a drink. Jeremy made sure I had a "Cornish
pastie" it was like a ham and cheese croissant but stuffed with vegetable
and bits of meat which was actually rather good. After the meal Jeremy
ordered us beers and a joint each. Alien could hardly believe his
"Weed is legal?" He asked incredulously.
"Sure, all drugs are legal here." Jeremy took a long drag of the excellent
"So what like there are ‘kind bud’
Alien said smiling.
Jeremy pointed over to the corner. Sure
enough there was a vending machine that sold cannabis smokes and acid
"People here get to vote for whatever
they want. The people who make laws can always get drugs, they just are
afraid of what the masses would do if they got them. When the masses make
the laws the masses get drugs, simple as that." Jeremy blurted looked
regretfully as his almost dead joint. "You gotta be fucking kidding me,
doesn’t somebody break into the machines?"
"Why bother? Tab of acid costs as much as
a pack of tobacco here." Jeremy seemed amused by Aliens
"What about crime?" I asked.
"Oh there is plenty of crime," Jeremy
looked grim "Nothing to do with drugs though." He nodded towards the TV as
the news came on.
We all got up and moved into the main
room of the pub where a half dozen locals were intently gathered around
the screen listening to the news.
The newsreader was an old man, very
distinguished looking who spoke in a slow deliberate voice. I thought I
recognized him from somewhere but could not place where.
"This is the news from the BBC in London.
The economy still remains at a steady 2.5% growth rate according to
statistics from 4 independent universities. The stock exchange finished
down although trading in high tech stocks remained high. Here are the days
trading results in full."
The pub muttered in general approval and
a few pub goers got out little electronic organizers and started jotting
down notes. The news sure was different over here.
"When we get back after the break we will
discuss the trade resolution up for vote at the end of the month with
arguments from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Shadow chancellor.
Also we shall include a private bill proposed by one of speaker Hudson’s
constituents concerning welfare."
I was bored already, this was news to
these people? Why were regular guys in a pub concerned with high finance
and trade? Shouldn’t they we watching sports? My question was answered by
the advertisements in the break.
An attractive young lady appeared on the
screen with a large bus in the background.
"500 brand new Mercedes Benz buses will
be a gift to the people of England from the Daimler Benz company if trade
resolution 6259 is passed this month. That’s a new bus for the following
areas." A map came up showing which towns and areas would be receiving the
buses. "Remember resolution 6259 is good for trade and good for
The advert ended and another began. A
huge stack of money was shown in the floor. The camera panned around it
very slowly. "Remember voters. The Jasper company is going to give 10
million pounds away to a random voter who voted AGAINST trade resolution
6259. The lucky drawing will be held on the first of next month. All you
need to enter is to vote AGAINST 6259. Bad for the country and bad for
The adverts continued but I leant over to
Jeremy, "This is blatant bribery, it has nothing to do with the issues or
"Bribes are what happen to other people
Cutter, besides laws are not made they are bought. Here everyone has to
get paid not just the politicians." Jeremy looked rather proud of his
"I don’t get you man I mean if you are so
into this shit why are you here with us?" My question seemed
"Shut the fuck up." Jeremy stared at me
with hate in his eyes and I dropped the subject rather afraid of the level
of emotion that I had seen within. Whatever shit Jeremy was into I did not
want any part of it, which in retrospect was a shame considering I very
obviously already was.
We retired to our rooms with the promise
to meet in the dining room at 10’o clock the following morning. After
traveling for so long on a boat and the stress of the previous few days I
crashed into sleep at a very high speed. I was awoken by a loud knocking
on the door. The halflight of dawn was creeping in through cracks in the
drapes. "Maid service." Came the woman’s voice from the other side of the
"No hmmmph thanks." I mumbled in half
The knocking came again.
"I have to clean the room sir." Came the
irritating high pitched voice again.
"Come back later." I shouted.
Blissfully the voice didn’t return and I
drifted back to sleep.
No more than 5 minutes later the voice
came back again.
"Maid service sir."
"FUCK OFF!" I shouted and threw a shoe at
The phone rang.
"What?" I demanded.
"Hello sir this is reception we need to
clean the room sir." Came a mans voice over the phone. "Later." I hung up
"Sir I am afraid its policy. We need to
clean the room. Is it OK if we come in now?" The mans voice was firm and
I gave up. "Fine." I got out of bed and
got dressed. I strode into the corridor and saw a 50 year old woman with a
maids trolley looking at me with a little look of triumph. I wandered
downstairs to see Jeremy, and Tony already there.
"Forgot about this Cutter. I have been in
America too long. Got used to good service." Jeremy looked red eyed
through lack of sleep.
"Poofs, I used to get up at 4.00AM every
day in the army." Proffered Tony stoutly defending his country. But you
could see he was as pissed off as everyone else at being woken up so
"Where’s Alien." I asked.
Nobody knew. So we finished our
disgusting breakfast and decided to go for a stroll along the "promenade"
as Jeremy put it.
The promenade it turned out was a miracle
of design. It was a walk by the side of the sea. It is impossible to
demean the grandeur of the mighty ocean - or so I thought. The designer of
this walk had managed to make every step the walker took expose him the
winds and ocean spray full in the face while the promenade winded through
rusting iron lamp posts which obscured any possible beautiful sights. The
path only allowed the walker close to the ocean at those carefully
selected points where large ugly pipes gorged untreated sewage into the
"Christ this place is ugly." I pointed
out while wiping my nose which had started to run.
"You haven’t seen Birmingham yet." Jeremy
noted while burying his head deeper into his jacket by shrinking his
Only Tony seemed to enjoy it by calling
it "bracing" and stating that it "cleared him out". Our walk of damp
torture ended 2 hours later when we made it back to the "Kings Sailor."
There we met a beaming Alien looking fully rested who was enjoying his
"Yo. What up?" Alien inquired
"How come you didn’t get woken by the
maid?" I asked. "Oh I did. I let her come in and make the bed. Then I just
got back in it and went back to sleep." Alien had the advantage over us
that being a kid he was used to working with utterly ridiculous rules and
still coming out ahead.
"Bastard." I dropped my cigarette in his
cornflakes. By noon we had made our way down to the train station and were
on a train that (after several changes) would take us to Birmingham New
It seems strange I know but I had never
ridden on a train before and I found it a fantastic experience. Its like
an airplane with a view. Even better the steady ‘churchung, churchung" is
like a lullaby that gradually eases you into rest.
Jeremy was right about Birmingham , its
sucked. It is in an area called "the black country" not because it has a
large amount of black people (although it does) but because during the
industrial revolution the smoke and pollution from the factories turned
the countryside black with soot. The people here spoke with a completely
different accent than the people in Cornwall even though the train ride
was only 2 hours or so. Jeremy and Tony spoke with different accents
again. I asked Jeremy why. "Well an Englishman can usually tell where
someone else is from to a 50 mile radius by accent alone. Certainly he
could get the nearest major city you were from. The closer you get to your
home town the more precise the accuracy." "What so like you can tell
whether or not someone is from a town nearby just by the way they talk?" I
assumed this was bullshit.
"Yeah, for instance there are two towns
near here called Dudley and Walsall that are very close to each other but
each has its own very distinct accent. I think you get more accents the
longer certain families have lived in an area. So with a very old country
where people don’t move much you get loads of accents, also the class
system in England perpetuated accents as a symbol of status. You used to
be able to tell how wealthy someone was by their accent because the inbred
nobility all had a tribal accent. Daft really huh?" Jeremy acted as if he
had never even thought about this before. I was still amazed.
From the train station we went to another
small pub/inn and got a some rooms. Jeremy forbade us from staying hotels
because they kept computer records. In a pub its all cash and no questions
That night we went over the plan one
final time. Tony and Jeremy went off to scout out the location of the
raid, so Alien and I sat in my room bullshiting about computers. First we
talked the language of the wizards. Programmers are wizards, a good coder
can do magic because he has secret knowledge that others don’t. Programs
are like spells of old, get just one tiny thing wrong and he spell can
backfire. When programmers meet they often use the secret language of high
technology to get the measure of their new acquaintance. This can be
amusing to watch as each person skips from subject to subject never
revealing his ignorance or expertise on each matter. The game can be won
easily by catching the other person in an error - for example.
"I remember my old greycard 1000 with 300
meg of RAM, used to be hooked up to a Z5 connection." "Are you sure? The
greycard 1000 was only expandable to 256 meg."
Programmers dream of such moments when
their knowledge is demonstrated so clearly. These clear sided victories
are rare however, particularly when each coder is competent. Alien was a
very good coder, so the conversation soon drew stalemate and we resorted
to the other traditional programmer topic of conversation - remembering
hardware. I have a soft spot for old computers, they have been around me
since I was a child and memories of computers are often fonder than
memories of my family. In the winters of my childhood I remember warming
my feet on the powerpack of my computer. The time I used a computer that
needed a tape drive to load the data in, this was bad enough for speed but
then the PLAY button broke and I had to hold down the PLAY button with my
finger for 20 minutes while the thing loaded! The feel of my first
joystick for playing games - the way my palm rubbed on its base where I
held it forming a grayish layer of my dead skin. The touch of each
keyboard I can remember as well as the feel of the plastic case. Computers
stick in my mind because I spent so much time staring at them or touching
them, but they mean much more to me. Computers are sacred objects, they
entertain me and give me my livelihood, they give me a purpose. When I am
away from computers for a length of time I feel like a part of me has been
After Jeremy and Tony’s return they
reported that all was well and that it was time to go to work. I ran a
final check on my laptop to make sure I had backups of all the tools I
needed then threw it into my supermarket plastic bag, "would a kid with a
plastic bag strike you as having a hundred thousand dollar computer on
him?" I heard Jeremy’s voice in my head as he had instructed me to throw
away my knapsack in favor of plastic the night before. Everyone else
readied their equipment around me. My eyes fell on Tony who shoved his
auto pistol into his jacket pocket.
We parked the car a few blocks away then
strolled through the damp night air. The building was a relatively well
maintained building that looked like it was built in the mid eighties (in
other words it was ugly). It didn’t even have a security guard and entry
was simple. We hopped over a back fence then Jeremy opened a door near
some trash cans. He opened it using lockpicks a skill I had never seen
before and I wondered at his dexterity. Once inside we quickly made our
way following our map towards the control room. Jeremy always in the lead
with Tony behind, our ears always straining to hear any human sounds. The
map we had of the building was fairly accurate but some new doors had been
added showing that the CR’S had presumably pulled the map from some
architectural archives which were a little out of date. The control room
was thankfully in exactly the place we thought it would be. The door was
unlocked although it was marked PRIVATE which amused me. Jeremy gently
swung open the door to reveal a bank of computers and terminals. Jeremy
looked around the room and when he was convinced there were no cameras or
alarms he nodded and strode inside followed by Alien.
First I scanned the terminals for the one
I would put the remote software onto. I couldn’t believe my luck right
there on the left of the table was a Mashumi 500. Reliable computers, the
Mashumi 500 was about a year old. As it was not brand new it would almost
certainly not be the main console and would not still be "tweaked" to make
it work. Finally it wasn’t so old that there was a chance it could get
replaced any time soon. It was a nice forgotten console sat in the corner
rarely used, but I had to make sure. I swung underneath the table and
looked at the back of the console, the main input jack was being used as a
connector to another computer and there was no secondary, it would have to
come out. But the information I needed was right there. The cable was
screwed in. The only time a good tech will screw in a cable is for
transport or when its time to hand it over to a moron who knows nothing
about computers. The cable had been screwed in a long time. Perfect. I
unscrewed the cable and plugged my laptop into the terminal. Jeremy then
moved in behind the box as I worked and started to remove the cover, he
would then insert the remote control card into the box.
I searched for a directory to place the
remote software into and quickly found it. The DATABASE BACKUP directory
is an old favorite hiding place of mine. Who would ever accidentally scan
through a database backup directory? I scanned through the file names to
discern a pattern. There were a hundred files all with dates and arcane
file extensions so I picked one of those and renamed one letter in the
extension. Then I proceeded to upload my remote software over that file
not wishing to create any new files at all where I could help it. As soon
as the upload was done I quickly linked the executable and ran the remote
software. "Running" I whispered and Alien slid from behind the box over to
his laptop he had setup in the opposite corner. He busily went to work
establishing a link to test the remote control worked. this gave me a few
minutes while he tested to do nothing so I stared at the terminal screen
with the file directory listing on it. Each database backup had a date
attached to it so you could tell when the database was backed up. Looking
at the dates I could see that this thing was backed up once a week,
2nd of February, 8th February, 15th
February. My eyes drifted down the list but then at the end I noticed
something unusual. The database had been backed up three times today. I
double checked, this had never happened on any other date except today.
Once this morning at 8:40AM, once at 3:29PM and once at 10:32PM. An hour
ago. We had been tumbled.
"We have been busted." I said without
taking my eyes off the screen.
"What?" Jeremy hissed.
"Come and look for your fucking self." I
turned to see him already on the way.
I showed him the files. "Coincidence?
Somebody backing up by accident?" I was trying to convince myself. "No ,
we are fucked." I could see his anger even in the glow of our tiny
flashlights. "O.K. take out the hardrives from your computers and purge
em. Leave no trace of ANY CR’s stuff. They are probably gonna bust us on
the way out, I know they way they work." "They?" I asked.
"ISP, Information Security Police." He
looked at me intently, "Foxstabs boys."
Tony had heard our discussion and was now
slowly walking around the room staring intently at every detail. He
stopped by a half empty coffee mug and picked it up. After inspecting the
bottom of the mug he very deliberately poured the cold coffee out onto the
floor. Under the coffee was a small electronic object that I didn’t need
to be told what it was. "Oh fuck. They are listening to us." Alien croaked
just as we heard a crash from down the corridor and the sounds of men
"SHIT!" Tony screamed as he drew his gun
from his pocket and ran to the door. He snapped around the corner , fired
3 quick shots down the corridor then ducked back inside. The shots where
loud and the sound rang around the room. Outside down the corridor I could
hear more men’s boots moving around. "Oh FUCK, Oh fuck." Alien was
whimpering in the corner.
Jeremy just stared at Tony.
Tony turned around to the three of us and
sneered "fucking cowards." He bellowed out a war cry as he swung around
the corner of the door, gun in hand ready to charge down the corridor.
Then his head exploded. One bullet was fired, just one and it blew his
head off. His body collapsed outside the door and a steam arose from the
mess that was his head. Two men clad entirely in black the rushed into the
room and pointed submachine guns at us.
"No, please." I was surprised to hear my
own voice. 4 more quickly followed in and the three of us were grabbed
roughly and handcuffed, face down on the floor.
We heard many men moving around behind
barking orders and checking our equipment. Above the noise a clear voice
could be heard. "Three survived? Good. Lets turn them around and see what
we have shall we?." Strong hands turned me around and I could see standing
before me an old man in a green long coat. His face was scruffy unshaven
and his yellowed teeth showed through as he took a drag of a filterless
cigarette. His gray eyes were staring at Jeremy.
"Hello Red Duck." The old man addressed
Jeremy and my eyes widened with shock. I had been busted with one of the
original English revolutionaries. That was why Jeremy was so proud of this
country. "Foxstab." Jeremy said his voice uneven.
Foxstab looked at his cigarette then at
"Its our habits that kill us in the end