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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"What?" I exclaimed, "that’s ridiculous
who would want to become king if you were going to get killed after
"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
"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
"Sorry, I didn’t know. " I stuttered out
in my best, ‘sorry teacher I am ill today and cant come to school’
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"What will I have to do?" I wanted to
change the subject from killing me horribly as quickly as
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
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
"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
"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
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
"So where you gonna take her?" I
"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
"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
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
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
"Peace bro," Ska handed him a
"Thanks man, and I am selling ecstasy for
a twenty spot if you are interested." The guy reached into his pocket for
"What kind is it dude?" Ska
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"How the fuck did you do that?" I was
"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
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
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
"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
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?