CUTTER by Rod Humble: Chapter Five - Confession


Chapter Five

I spent the remainder of the night alone in a cell. Foxstabs men had quickly dragged us from the control room and hauled us off into unmarked blue vans. Jeremy, Alien and myself were split up immediately; I was swiftly driven to what must have been a prison and led through some corridors to my cell.

The hours I spent there considering my fate were not happy ones. I knew that the death sentence was common in this new English State and it certainly applied to spies in their country. However the idea of being executed for espionage against traffic lights did not amuse me. My thoughts were mainly about what I had achieved with my life, which I quickly realized was - not much. After a while achievements really didn’t matter either, I just wanted to live, any way I could. A life being the poorest man in the world now seemed very appealing to me, all I wished for was my life to continue. This seemed like a logical goal to me so I set about thinking how I could do it.

Obviously escape was absurd, people don’t break out of maximum security prisons, at least people like me don’t. I resolved that I would sell out my friends and any secrets I could to survive. This would not affect the CR’s as they would have changed every password I knew the instant they didn’t hear from us. As for Alien and Jeremy, too bad for them. As this thought went through my head Tony’s last words accused me "Cowards!". In my case it appeared he was absolutely correct and despite my logic I was still ashamed. But not enough to die for it. Amazingly after a few hours of my mind thrashing around trying to adjust to the knowledge that I was craven I managed to fall asleep.

I awoke to the sound of the door being opened and two men in grey prison uniforms marching into my cell. They handcuffed me and led me down some corridors to a room with several chairs and a table. I was sat down and had a moment to scan the room. I was rather relieved not to see torture equipment or smeared blood in the corner from the last victim, such had been my worst nightmares. The only other thing in the room was the camera on the wall just above the mirror. My guards said nothing but just stood and waited.

The door finally opened and with a slow deliberate step in walked Foxstab wearing the same clothes he had been the day before. His age is what amazed me, no one in this game was old. If you are old you are fucked and old begins at thirty. This guy must have been at least fifty, how the hell could he be a good coder? It made no sense. He started to speak, his voice very slow and considered.

"Peoples security station 304," He glanced at his watch and dictated the time and date presumably for the cameras benefit.

"Interrogation of suspected terrorist, Prisoner 703, Interrogating officer Carter. Session one." As he ended the preamble he sat down and stared at me.

"Why does evil exist Cutter?" The question stunned me, I was totally unprepared.

"What?" I mouthed not understanding.

"Why is there evil and pain in the world?" He repeated the question very slowly as if to a child. As he did so he lit up a cigarette his eyes never leaving my face. Was he looking for surprise that he knew my name? Or something else. I could not tell.

"Dunno." Was my feeble response, I could not think straight with this bizarre question.

"Did you know that some people are born without the ability to feel pain? You might think this would be an advantage but it is a cruel gift. They are always damaging themselves because they feel no pain. Even when sleeping they can break their own fingers simply by rolling over in the night putting the full weight of their body on top of them. Can you imagine what such a life must be like Cutter, to never experience the pain of real life to never know the damage they are causing to themselves and others? They are simply distant observers of the world unable to understand the harm they do - because they feel nothing, they only see it and to see something is not the same as feeling it. Can you imagine what sort of life that must be Cutter? Can you?" He bored the question right at me. Now I thought I understood what he was driving at.

"Yes I think I can." I answered. He understood exactly what it was like to life most of your life through computers. I wondered where he was leading.

"Good, I hope so America, I hope so." He beckoned over to one of the guards. "You see Cutter in my experience people like you need to be reminded they are alive every now and again." The guard walked behind me and grabbed my arms while holding me down in the chair. Carter moved over towards me, his cigarette in hand. He moved his face uncomfortably close to mine now as he spoke. "After all if you don’t know you are alive how can you be scared of death?"

With that he brought his hand back across my face in a single vicious slap.


The line had been crossed. That conceit we all have that we are immortal was driven out of Cutter by that single blow. He realized he was not the center of the universe, he understood that events could go on without him. At that moment Cutter knew for sure that he could truly die.


Another slap. I was back. The pain had brought me back to my own selfish view of the world. Everything I had done in the past stormed into my mind. I had killed people, real people, now I understood the enormity of what I had done. I stared up at Foxstab and started to cry. I didn’t cry for my crimes or my victims, I was crying for myself and for my death. He lowered his hand and stared at me in what I could only assume was pity. I licked my top lip and tasted a raw mixture of blood and tears. Foxstab nodded to the guard who released me from his grip.

"There now, feel better?" Strangely the release of crying did give me a feeling of euphoria. I tried to talk but my breaths were too short and so I just nodded.

"Good, good. Now my little America, I mean American, "He smiled to himself, "how does it feel to be awake again?"

I stared at him numbly, I was still shaking too much to speak. Fortunately he was in a mood to chat and he continued to speak at me.

"I must confess young Cutter I have a fondness for your country, in fact I love it deeply. I spent many years there before the English revolution. Unfortunately some of my activities led me into trouble with the authorities and I am now unable to return." He sighed regretfully. "I envy you Cutter you are able to live in San Francisco or Miami, I never can again. Sometimes I think I would sooner live in America than the rest of the world put together, but then again that’s what America is isn’t it?" He smiled at me and I felt that I was going to live after all. He would not be talking to me unless he was going to spare me. Unless he was playing with me like a mouse. I tried to remember all those phych op manuals I had browsed through after stealing them from military databases. I seemed to remember that it was important to establish a rapport with your captor. This makes them less likely to kill you. I choked out a sentence.

"I like England too." This was a blatant lie but I wanted to return the compliment.

"Oh really?" He seemed puzzled. "I have no idea why. All the decent Englishmen left for America a few hundred years ago. America is where the true English now live. Those brave souls who would not bow before even their own king. But even those foundling fathers didn’t believe in democracy, they did not trust the people in fact they set up the Electoral College and forbade referendum to keep the people from power. Never the less they are my heroes for throwing off the chains of bondage. Ah how I admire them and how much I long to repay the gift of democracy they gave to the world. With your help young Cutter I will. We will give Democracy back to America. Once again your country will know what it is like to FEEL. To have your vote mean something. To be able to change your country. Have you ever had that feeling Cutter? No, you have always voted for politicians and expected them all to be as bad the others. When did you last expect your vote to actually change anything?"

"Never." I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had never even bothered voting in my life. I mean, who cares?

"Exactly. A representative democracy is exactly that, just a representation of a democracy not a real one. America is going to get REAL democracy Cutter. The old country is going to give back the gift of liberty, with interest." He had grown more and more excited as he spoke until finally he started wheezing and quickly took another long drag of the cigarette.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked a little too quickly. I wanted to make a deal and hear him say that I would not die so very badly.

"Oh my little Cutter." Foxtab chuckled. "That will come later but for now you are going to tell us everything about your spying friends and yourself. Then you are going to tell me all about the CR’S finally when you are empty of all your knowledge I will fill you up with all sorts of good stuff. Now lets begin." He looked over his shoulder to one of the guards. "Mr.Briggs would you please ask the doctor to come in?"

The guard quickly returned with a man in a tweed jacket. He opened up a small black case and withdrew a needle. As he approached me Foxtab intoned. "Subject is now being given 20mml of Tethohiline." The stuff spewed into my body and I suddenly felt calm and at peace. With the universe this lovely why not tell the nice man in front of me everything he asked? After all nothing really mattered in the end.

The next few weeks were utter bliss for me. I was constantly doped up on whatever mind-altering drugs they fed me. Either way I am sure I told them everything they wanted. It was only later that I understood exactly how much I had told them. Also during these weeks I was exposed to constant political indoctrination. For several hours a day Foxstab himself lectured me on politics and how the system of direct democracy where the power of decision making lay directly with the people was the logical extension of democracy. I can recall many of Foxtabs words verbatim even now, such is the power of the brainwashing drugs he gave me.

"It is technology that liberates mankind Cutter. Could the declaration of independence been made without the printing press to spread the words? Think how much corruption had declined since the advent of television forced politicians into the public spotlight? Does it not make sense then that the computer should be used to liberate mankind of the burdens of representatives voting for them? We now have the ability to vote for ourselves for the first time in history. Joined together by telecommunications we can all vote yes or no to a law not just a few hundred men in a senate or parliament."

I too remember my arguments back. About how a big corporation could own the television stations and so get the people to vote a certain way. Foxstabs response had surprised me.

"What makes you think I believe in capitalism Cutter? I believe in democracy. Capitalism is the furnace that powers a democracy but it is a greedy flame that will consume the democracy that gives it life. No capitalism must be kept under the control of the people not the other way around. That is what is wrong with America, people mistake prosperity for liberty, they are very different things. Any man who has money as his god commits blasphemy against the human spirit."

There was one incident that I remember caused Foxstab great pain when I confronted him with it. He had just finished yet another lecture about the benefits of direct rule when a question occurred to me.

"So how is it you are able to make arrests and executions without the approval or vote of the people?" He did not answer for a long time, but then spoke. His voice was halting and uncertain.

"We were given this authority by peoples security vote 4654. This included the provision that we would be able to undertake covert action against outside enemies and terrorist threats. This also contained provisions that all such actions would be made public 20 years after the event." He paused and looked very afraid. "One day, I too will be judged by the people."

After this time was over it was fair to say I whole-heartedly believed in the direct democracy revolution. It is possible I would have believed in it without the drugs but now I will never know. I can now longer feel the difference between a drug forced thought and a voluntary one. Maybe there is no difference and everything I now think was programmed during that time, maybe the drugs have no effect now and all my thoughts are my own. I will never know how much a free will I truly have, but I feel I am free and that is enough.

So it was that after the interrogation and indoctrination period my lectures with Cutter began to become conversations between agent and handler. My motivation of course was still to insure that I could get out of this situation alive, Foxstab however seemed to be in need of a friend, this was something I intended to use to my advantage. I asked him how Alien and Jeremy were doing.

"The terrorist you know as Alien has been thoroughly interrogated and you will meet him again soon. The counter revolutionary known as "Red Duck" is to be judged by the people directly in public trail." Foxstab looked worried about this.

"Jeremy is important isn’t he?" I asked. I knew he was one of the original revolutionaries but I never understood why he was now a fugitive.

"He was." Foxstab began. "Red Duck was a friend of mine once. He was there at the revolution. So very young he was one of the architects of the current voting system software. Unfortunately he developed certain unpleasant -ideas- and fled into exile. Now he has returned he must be judged for his crimes."

"What crimes?" I was curious.

"Why treason of course. He is a monarchist. He desired to restore a benevolent monarchy. That is also the reason he hired the CR’s and brought you here." I shook my head not understanding.

"Several years after the revolution the country was paralyzed with strife. Thousands of laws were getting made then unmade and the chaos devastated the economy. Many of us realized that this was the inevitable result of centuries without the people being truly represented. We believed that it would stabilize itself after a few more years after the people began to get used to thinking more long term. Red Duck and others disagreed and claimed that you could not rule a country by a committee of several million. They put forward a proposal that would get things done while still giving power to the people. They proposed a ‘benevolent dictatorship.’ This meant that someone was elected as king and he had absolute power to make any decisions he wished. However once a month the people would all vote on whether or not to keep him. However to keep the king from lining his pockets there was one provision made. If you were un-elected you were executed in the manner of the next kings choosing."

"What?" I exclaimed, "that’s ridiculous who would want to become king if you were going to get killed after it?"

"No one, at least no one sane." Foxstab agreed. "So they drew the kings and queens by random lot. So anyone could be made king or queen. Each new one living in a state of complete terror desperately wanting to keep the people happy. However then Sebastian Morely was made king and he hit upon a formula for staying alive he spent billions of pounds entertaining the people. So followed a time of depravity and public spectacle that England has never seen before or since. He turned public executions of criminals into primetime viewing. Government sponsored orgies were common. Public approval rating for King Sebastian remained very high and whenever they started to slip he would think of an even more depraved spectacle. He had turned our ideas of democracy into a joke. Those were dark times Cutter I felt the revolution had been for nothing."

"So what happened?" I thought this King Sebastian sounded like a very interesting fellow indeed.

"He declared war on France. No need to look shocked Cutter declaring war is the traditional method of diverting domestic discontent for any ruler. You see that is what Red Duck and his allies had forgotten, absolute rulers have a taste for war, common people do not. After he declared war he tried to mobilize the media to begin the indoctrination of the public, they immediately agreed and set about demonizing France. This was a miscalculation as they still did not understand that old-fashioned media was now obsolete and their only real function was entertainment. The general mass of people who of course were hooked up to the net completely saw through this facade and with the help of like minded French citizens countered every lie put forward by King Sebastian and his tame media. So the counter-revolution began and after Sebastian was assassinated Red Duck and other monarchists were forced into hiding or were killed. After that the original Direct Democracy was restored giving the system you see today." Foxstab always had a distant look in his eyes when ever he spoke of past revolutionary glories I figured it was the mark of a man who knew his best times were all behind him.

"So how was Sebastian assassinated and why did Jeremy come back here after all this time?" I was curious to find out what or mission to England had been all about.

"You were here to put in a remote control device in a system of traffic lights in Birmingham. These traffic lights would then be triggered to go haywire later this month when the Lord High Protector and the entire cabinet would be travelling through the city center on their way to the party conference. When the traffic was at gridlock 28 canisters of nerve gas would be detonated throughout the town center causing mass deaths in the trapped commuters and hopefully killing as many top ranking party officials as possible. This was to be the beginning of a series of terrorist attacks by the monarchists designed to destabilize the country bringing back calls for the monarchy." His body language turned very cold as he spoke of the event he could see being played out in his mind. Although I really couldn’t care less about these casualties I felt that a sign of contrition would put me in good favor.

"Sorry, I didn’t know. " I stuttered out in my best, ‘sorry teacher I am ill today and cant come to school’ voice.

"You didn’t know." He said rather kindly. For a moment he was a forgiving grandfather figure.

"So how did Sebastian die?" I repeated my question.

"Oh, he had his head severed off when he was driving in an open top car during a parade. A monofilament wire was stretched at exactly the right height on the parade route and raised just as he drove by." Foxstab the grandfather related to me in a tired tone of someone who is weary of all the violence in the world.

"Seems like a lot of trouble why didn’t they just blow his head off with a gun?" I enquired.

"Because I wanted the bastard to get killed in the traditional manner for all kings and bloody aristocrats. Decapitate the cunt." Foxstab let a broad smile of satisfaction fall over his face and he leant back beaming with pleasure at the memory. My vision of the kindly grandfather disappeared for good.

Our chats went on with the brainwashing drugs constantly being fed into my system. One morning I was led into the interrogation room to find someone else there instead of Foxstab. This person was very different indeed. He was a short young kid dressed in baggy jeans and a wildly multicolored assortment of luminous beads and patches, he had a white T-shirt on that read "Dougal and the magic roundabout." He beamed at me and strolled over in a half walk/dance.

"Yo my brother, peace out man. Wassup?" He grabbed my hand then tried to perform some kind of bizarre handshake/punch that I awkwardly reciprocated. "Cutter my brother, I be Ska I hear we are gonna be hanging together yo? Cool. Peace." As he spoke he moved back and forth moving his arms at awkward angles and making various ‘groovy’ signs.

As I was at a complete loss at what to say to this freak so I was relieved when Foxstab entered the room behind me.

"Cutter this is Ska. You will be working with him on your mission." Foxstab led us to the table and set some folders down in front of us.

"Mission?" I asked. I sensed I had a ticket out of here.

"Yes Cutter I am giving you the chance to live that I know you want so very badly. After you complete this you can go back to your little life. You will do this Cutter or I will have you killed," He smiled unpleasantly for a moment then added, "horribly."

"What will I have to do?" I wanted to change the subject from killing me horribly as quickly as possible.

I was to fly with Ska to LA, there we were to hack into the Meadows radio telescope facility and upload some data into their data banks. The radio telescope was an array which Foxstab explained was a series of telescopes lined up that together formed one huge radio telescope of far greater power than a single one. The security on the telescope was not expected to be particularly tight but it was essential that our placing of the data remained undetected and for this we would have to do a little human engineering.

Human engineering is a potent tool for any hacker and for some it is the only one they ever use. The idea is simple, why bother running a password cracker on a system when you can do some research on the user who set it and deduce it? I had used the technique myself to great effect once when I was completely unable to get into a corporation’s file site that contained some programs I wanted and obviously I wasn’t going to pay for them. I phoned up the company and asked to speak to the system supervisor saying I wished to report a bug on the site, I called repeatedly until I got his voice mail where he obligingly gave his full name. With his full name I could easily find out everything about him and sure enough on the sixth attempt I tried using his wife’s first name as a password, I went straight in. Of course human engineering also applies to sorting through garbage or even conning your way into a building to look for tell tale post-it notes with passwords on them. Either way I am not an expert on social engineering but Ska was and that’s why Foxstab was sending him.

The job was made even tougher by stringent timing that we had to operate under. The data we were feeding into the telescope was going to be false astronomical data and as such had to appear to be coming from space. To achieve this illusion each telescope in the array had to be fed the data individually with an exact time delay. This was to fake the rotation of the earth as a telescope at one end of the array had to receive the data before one at the other end just as it would for any other object in space.

Placing the data with the time delay was fairly simple but to do it with no chance of detection I would need a password to get in, worse case I could hack my way through the security but not without the chance of leaving a footprint. Getting the password was going to be Ska’s problem. Looking at Ska in his ridiculous outfit and his bizarre way of talking I didn’t have much faith in him. However I saw no reason why I needed to go with Ska to LA as I could do the job remotely from anywhere. However I decided not to bring this up as getting back to the USA was just fine by me.

We spent some time going through the intelligence data on the facility and the architecture of the system. I was struck at how inferior Foxstabs reports were to the CR’s if they had put me up to this job I would have the passwords and the color of the SYSOPS underwear given to me.

After going through the intelligence I asked on of the questions that had been bothering me.

"Why me?" I knew I was taking a big risk asking this but I needed to know.

"I have some very good reasons." Foxstab said in his slow cold voice then went back to studying the schematics of the telescopes in silence.

I shut up and went back to going through the info. Fuck him I didn’t give a shit either way , just so long as I was going to get out of here. However his response stopped me from asking the some other questions I really wanted to have answers to. What was the false data I was uploading to these telescopes? Why did you write the Truth program Foxstab? Finally why the hell were you so stupid as to sign it? I kept my curiosity to myself after all he was ignorant about me knowledge of Truth and to tell him I knew he wrote it might set my death sentence. Silently I vowed I would get answers to all these questions, this man lived in a world of secrecy and the one way I would beat him was by taking away all of his secrets. This guy had made a fool of me twice now. More than that he had completely humiliated me and fucked with my head. I was going to get all of Foxstabs secrets not just to get even but to prove that this old man was not going to get the better of me.

The journey back to America was thankfully less eventful than the one from it. We got on a jet that flew Toby and myself straight to LA. Foxstab had returned to me my laptop and I spent much of the flight analyzing the data that I was to place in the telescopes. My knowledge of math is Ok but my knowledge of physics and astronomy is about as deep as a chat show hosts personality so after an hour I gave up even trying, it was beyond me.

Ska had been making friends with everyone around us on the plane and I had to admit he was rather cool guy. I was a little worried that he actually liked other people and that it wasn’t an act. I needed someone who was cold and calculating not a genuinely warm person. By the end of the flight he had been leading our section of the plane in a sing along of a feeble impression of Frank Sinatra’s "New York." After we touched down and made our way to our connecting flight to California several passengers made a point of wishing Ska a good trip and shaking his hand. As we boarded our next plane I asked why he had bothered being friendly with those people who he would never see again. He was totally taken back by the question then shook his head and muttered. "I feel sorry for you Cutter I really do." I didn’t mention it again but I got the idea that he was somehow in on some big secret that I wasn’t.

We arrived in LA at night. If you have never flown into LA at night I highly advise that you try it. Spread out for as far as you can see in all directions are symmetrically laid out streetlights. The scale of the city then hits you. During the day it’s easy to imagine that just beyond that building there are trees and wildlife but at night this illusion is dispelled. LA is a city that should not exist, it has no business being there. There isn’t enough water but so determined is mankind to live where he bloody well wants he has simply shipped the water in. So much for the power of nature.

California is really two states in one. The two halves are neatly characterized by their two great cities. San Francisco in the north and Los Angeles in the South.

San Francisco is culturally literate, intelligent and liberal. San Francisco thinks Los Angeles is shallow, wasteful and reactionary. Los Angeles is shallow, wasteful and reactionary. Los Angeles doesn’t think about San Francisco, ever. LA is my kind of town.

LA ,the original "gimme" city has no such thing as civic pride or any of that pretentious crap. It’s a greedy town that is open about it. I love LA’s brash honesty as much as I despise the pseudointellectual Euro/oriental San Francisco. Hey if you wanted culture then why the hell are you living in America? Fuck off back to the old country and quit boring us with your "cultural values." Still at least the San Francisco tossers get to suffer the endless vagrants who come to prey on their social programs. The homeless in LA get shot, robbed, raped then arrested. Needless to say there are less beggars in LA, it’s hard to beg from a car going 80 miles an hour and accelerating. Nobody walks (pedestrian = criminal) in LA so there is not town center as such. I regard this as a good thing as there is no glue that bonds the residents as in other cities. This means that nobody talks to their neighbors which means there is no community which in turn means that politicians can quietly sit in office taking bribes and don’t feel the need to do anything. This is just fine with everyone because the last thing you need is some politician meddling in everyone’s business trying to "help". Corrupt politicians are the best all round, they shut up and do nothing which is the most efficient government I can think of.

Ska and I quickly got ourselves a room and rented a car. After the flight I was tried but Ska left and went out, he returned later that night laden with flyers for various nightclubs and parties. The next day we set to scouting out the Meadows observatory. As luck would have it the Meadows observatory was a popular tourist attraction and we fitted right in with the picnickers on a small hill overlooking the array. Ska got out his binoculars and started studying the site. Although we had no intention of breaking in, it was useful to update the map we had with small details to make sure we had all the current data. Ska put down his binoculars in a start and ordered me into the car.

"What the fuck?" I asked as I scrambled into the passenger seat just in time as Ska sped off down the road.

"I just saw our way in." He shouted above the roar of the open window that he insisted on keeping open. I suspected he did this deliberately to keep conversation down.

We approached a T-junction and I saw a light blue convertible coming from the observatory road at high speed. Ska hit the accelerator and sped up. We were on collision course with the car coming the other way!

"What the fuck! WHAT THE FUCK!" I repeated. Hey it wasn’t original but near death experiences tend to have a negative effect on my speech making skills.

We sped directly towards the convertible and at the last moment Ska wrench the wheel and we crashed off the road into a ditch. The convertible screeched to a halt leaving enormous tire marks for 20 meters on the road.

Ska leapt out of the car and ran over the stopped convertible and started an animated conversation with the girl who had been driving it.

After a few short minutes of exchange between Ska and the girl the sports car sped off and Ska came back to the car with a small piece of paper in his hand.

"Yo Cutter," He grinned at me like a nutcase, "I got a date."

On the paper was written "Penelope 435 8765".

"You know there are easier ways to meet girls than crashing your car into them." I observed.

"Yeah but you gotta admit it’s a helluva chat up line." Ska roared with laughter as we got back on the road.

On the way back to the hotel Ska filled me in on the girl. Apparently she was an administrative assistant at the observatory and Ska felt he she would be a good starting point to get info.

"So where you gonna take her?" I foolishly asked.

"All four of us are going to Moontribe baby." Ska did one of his odd hand dances.

"Four of us?" I did not like the sound of this.

"Ya bro, she has a friend," He paused long enough for it to sink in, "I got you a date baby!" He gave me a big hug.

Moontribe was a huge rave they held out in the desert every full moon. It was about four hours drive from the city and was a private party spread by word of mouth amongst the rave community. To keep the cops and the drunks away they posted the directions to the rave only on the evening of the rave itself. It was put up on a web site for 2 hours then taken down. They changed location every month, You REALLY had to want to go to this party.

We picked up the girls at about 8 PM then stopped to get water and supplies. Apparently we would be camped out all night so we wrapped up warm.

Penelope friend was called Catherine and she was Ok I guess. She was petite with small firm breasts and wore her hair in two pigtails. The problem was of course that I never really mastered the art of talking to women. They never seemed to be into the same sort of stuff I was, this night it was made even more difficult as I had to make up a story about what I did. I told her I was a database programmer for a bank and these seemed boring enough for her to quit asking me. She was a student studying the Mandarin language. I thought this was pretty admirable particularly when she started talking Chinese to me. Although it all sounded like babble I was convinced she was a pretty good student.

After 3 hours we got off the tarmac road and headed out along a dust trail into the desert. I could see nothing for miles and had the creepy sensation that maybe Ska had come out here to kill me. I mean nobody would ever know. It was a scary thought. For the next hour we followed the directions until we came over a rise and a beautiful sight met us.

There must have been a thousand cars sat there in a huge semi circle as the basin of a small ridge. A few had their lights on as they made their way to a parking spot but the rest kept their lights off and they were illuminated by the bright full moon.

Ska drive down towards the area and a guy by the side of the road waved a torch at us and we drove over.

"Hey guys, try and park over by the side of the mountain there and avoid driving over the bushes, we don’t want to hurt the fauna. We take donations to help organize this if you want to do the money thing." The guy wore a parka and a few glowing beads around his neck.

"Peace bro," Ska handed him a twenty.

"Thanks man, and I am selling ecstasy for a twenty spot if you are interested." The guy reached into his pocket for a bag.

"What kind is it dude?" Ska enquired.

"Nighteyes. Capped it at two." The dude held up a capsule for Ska to look at.

"That’s dope, I’ll take six if ya have it." Ska handed over some bills and the dude gave him some pills.

"Have a good night guys." The dude waved us on and we drove to our parking spot.

Ska immediately got out and stretched. Penelope joined him and they chatted away from the car. I lit a cigarette and offered one to Catherine. She didn’t smoke and I guess that’s why she had such good teeth.

"Yo Cutter, here’s your dope bro." Ska handed me a capsule and gave one to Catherine. I popped it into my mouth, crunched it up with my teeth then let it dissolve under my tongue. You can always tell good ecstasy. If it tastes like shit, its good, this stuff tasted fucking awful. Ska handed me a bottle of water and I swilled my mouth out with it, partially getting rid of the taste. I handed it to Catherine who then surprisingly handed me a pipe full of weed. I smiled at her and took a hit of the bowl. I was now starting to mellow out.

The sound system had not yet been set up so we went walk about meeting people. Ska simply walked up to people and said "Yo man wassup." Within a few minutes we would be part of that group sitting around and chatting about nothing in particular while smoking a bowl together. I started to like people and found it easier to chat with them than normal. The X was kicking in.


The sound system was working. A steady rhythm started to pound out into the desert night and all around people started running towards the speakers dressed in bizarre costumes but always with bright lights or colors attached to them. As I watched the dancers with a nice warm feeling inside me a girl wandered by and whispered "Doses." I turned and walked after her.

"What you got?" I was curious.

"Liquid." She turned and beamed at me.

"Liquid? You shitting me?" Liquid acid is the best and I had not indulged in the longest time.

She dug into her bag and brought it out. I waved over Ska and the girls then bought us all a hit. We all took ours on the tongue except for Ska who dropped his liquid in the eye. He caught my horrified look and smiled.

"Helps the visuals my brother. Helps the visuals." He kept up the smile and turned away towards the dance.

I followed him and let the rhythm slowly take me. After a few steps it was impossible for me not to walk to the rhythm by the time I reached the speakers I was skipping the music.

We danced. This was electronic music designed to take drugs to and it worked. We danced the dance of fools until sweat covered my body. The more I sweated the better I felt as the ecstasy made every sensation a pleasure. I had been dancing for a while when Ska grabbed my arm.

"Come on bro lets get some water." I agreed and we stomped back to the car with the girls in tow. We all guzzled huge amounts of water then Ska lit up a bowl and we sat around smoking up. I looked around and saw that many of the ravers had climbed up the side of the mountain and were dancing in the moonlight waving glow sticks in intricate patterns as they did so. Campfires had sprung up all around the area and ghostly dancing shadows leap around them. I gazed up at the sky and saw the stars glimmer then slowly start to dance. Orion started first, his belt swaying to and fro to the rhythm then his feet and hands. The dancing spread until the whole sky was ablaze with dancers, I grinned wildly enjoying the acid trip. I turned and looked at the moon and saw that the moon had rings just like Saturn made out of clouds. At that moment it seemed to me that the whole universe was a single dancing creature with myself as part of it. I can honestly saw I have never been so content in my life.

"Look the mountain is the tail of a dragon." Penelope was looking towards the edge of the mountain. I looked then saw what she was talking about. It was indeed a dragons tail. I followed its back until finally a campfire marked its glowing mouth.

"Yeah." I heard myself mutter and someone passed me the bowl for another hit. While I had been tripping we had been joined by six other people who were as fucked up as we were and we sat around smoking and tripping of each other’s trips.

That’s what a rave it like, Its nothing like going out and getting drunk. A real rave is just dancin, dosin and chillin.

Everyone was still jabbering about senseless shit, music, movies, games the usual. Ecstasy is like that it make you chatty when you ain’t dancing. Ska took this moment to wander off with Penelope and didn’t return for half an hour. When he did he smiled at me broadly, it meant he had either gotten laid or got some info. As getting an erection stoned is tricky I assumed he had got info. Sometime later he sidled over to me and gave me a hug.

"We have smoked dope together now dawg. That makes us tight." He let me out of the hug and faced me.

"Thanks Ska, thanks for bringing me dude." I felt a genuine affection for this fun guy.

"No sweat dope, now lets get back." Ska walked towards the speaker’s hand dancing and skipping to the music.

We dosed and danced again till at dawn we all climbed up the side of the mountain and danced as the sun fell on our faces warming our chapped skins. We were lizards again turning towards the sun.

The rave ended at 9AM and we packed up our shit and drove away still blazing awake from the drugs. As I looked back I saw the site was amazingly litter free. A few ravers were wandering around picking up what little there was. These really were good people, it was a shame I would never be one of them, not like Ska. Ska was driving fine. He had waited till he had heard the nox tanks popping before he left but now he had taken a couple of balloons to add a little edge to the coming down. Now he was noxed up he felt good to drive.

The drive back was one big chill session as we all just tripped on what a beautiful morning it was. Finally we dropped the girls off and I even got a nice hug from Catherine. It was a shame this hadn’t been a real date, the girl was kinda cool. Ska kissed Penelope goodbye and we drove off.

"Got you your login password my brother." Ska said slyly as we both nodded our heads to the music in the car.

"How the fuck did you do that?" I was giggling again.

"People love to chat while they are dosing, add to that a little basic hypno-suggestion and you would be surprised." He grinned at me. Ska really was the best human engineer I had ever seen. He made it all seem so easy.

"I’ll go in tomorrow. Doses mix with everything except work." We laughed all the way back to the hotel.

I woke up twelve hours later feeling fine. There is no hangover with good drugs but I did have a sore throat from too much bud, smoking is bad for you. I was in the mood for work , Ska gave me the account info and I logged in straight from the net with no spoofing.

The whole point of the exercise was to get in and out without detection so I used a regular dial up and went in through their public access point. The log on info Ska had somehow got out of Penelope was perfect. I could use her low-level account to get into their system then pick my way through security once inside. Actually the security was laughable, the guys who ran this observatory obviously felt they had nothing to protect. Uploading the data that Foxtab had given me was a breeze. Then I had to make sure that the computer thought each telescope had received the data at a different time, I had refused Ska suggestion of simply changing the file times and insisted on making sure the data actually came from each telescope at the correct time. I planted a small timed program on each radio telescopes computer to send out the data on the required day, the program would then delete itself.

After several hours work I had completed the hack. Our job was complete, in a few days time exactly as Foxstab had requested the programs would run and the false data would be planted. Ska patted me on the back and suggested we go out for a coffee. On the way Ska turned into a gas station in a very crowded and built up part of the city. As we pulled in he asked.

"So I expect you are curious what happens next to you?" I turned the engine off and looked at me with an odd stare.

"No I , errm, will Foxstab be in touch?" Ska hadn’t moved his gaze away from me.

"Yes Foxstab will want to see you after this." He lowered hiss gaze and shook my hand, very slowly and deliberately. "Well I am off to get some gas, don’t go anywhere. You look fidgety." Ska let go of my hand and walked towards the gas min-mart.

I understood what he was saying. How stupid of me, Foxstab would want me dead after this, why risk a witness to the English government’s involvement with espionage on US soil? Ska was warning me and giving me a chance to get out. He was right, we had smoked pot together, that made us tight.

I my bag and got out of the passenger side then ran down a side street leaving Ska buying some soda with his back to me. I was gone.

I was laying low in a motel in Costa Mesa when the story hit the wire. The TV was constantly full of it and the papers all contained huge sections devoted to it. It was the greatest discovery of human existence.

We were not alone.

All over the world radio telescopes had received an unmistakable signal from Proxima D. this star was partially obscured by a nebula which was thought to be the reason that no other signal had been detected. However as part of a routine sweep the International SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) search had scanned this star and sure enough all of them received a very loud very artificial signal when they scanned it. The results had been duplicated world wide except at one high security site in Russia where for some reason they had computer problems that night and all data they received had got corrupted.

The signal was a series of regular beeps that had not repeated and scientists were busy trying to decode the signal all over the world. Perhaps it was an alien TV broadcast or radio show? No one knew and it was agreed it would probably take years to figure out what the signal was. The impact on world society was amazing, even though there was no proven threat all governments started to work closer as the realization sunk in that it was humanity against the universe rather than man against man. Vigorous space programs were being planned and SETI funding sky rocketed as countries now wondered how many other stars with intelligent life were out there.

In a session of the UN the English ambassador asked how we would look if an Alien life form found our signals. He suggested that until the world had a direct democracy ruled by the people earth would appear backward and possibly dangerous to alien observers. In America the voices clamoring for just such a system of government were getting louder.

It was a great joke.

I knew for sure now that Foxstab would have killed me if I had gone back with Ska. I held a secret such as the world had never known before, one that could destroy Foxstab and all his lame ass political fantasies. But I knew I could tell no one, I would have to sit this one out and forever stay alert to Foxstab catching up with me. I was going to go underground and I couldn’t even trust the CR’s, who knows how much Foxstab had infiltrated them. Foxstabs reach was indeed long, I marveled at the scale of this global hacking operation he had pulled off. Somehow I guessed the Russian operation must have gone wrong but had been covered up well.

But now I had my future to consider -

It was just me again, alone, as I always am. Enjoying the humor of Foxstabs great hoax and not being able to tell anyone, what would be the point - who would believe me?


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