And when I was younger that was my nightly routine. Waking up in my recliner, drool pooling on my chest. A warm feeling over my whole body.
But I was older and learned that when it came to data, less was more, but some was always necessary.
Instead of plugging in, my nightly routine started with a sandwich of bologna on white bread with a thin spread of mayonnaise. Served on a paper plate and eaten in my recliner. A little TV and a moment to check messages using the keyboard I kept on the side table.
After that is when I plugged in, but only for ten minutes. Just enough time to get warm and feel the flush of digital come over me. At least I intended it to only last ten minutes. There were nights, most nights honestly, I’d let it go on too long. Regularly I woke up with the feed still in my arm and a pool of drool on my chest. But I can do that. I’m careful. My feed is virtually an antique.
If you wanted to get technical it was a hot jack, but nothing like what the kids used. My feed came in low and slow, not like what you’d find at the back of a data café. Using one of those was like sticking a fire hose into your port. My feed was a drinking straw by comparison. It’s mostly harmless.
I plugged in and let the TV run. Soon everything started to blur and the words coming from the presenter’s mouth started to run together. My head tipped back and my mouth fell open. I felt all of this happening and something like a calm came over me. I was on the wire.
I introduced Berger to Carroll on a Thursday. We were at Carroll’s house in the Bayside Estates overlooking the water. Property on the water was expensive. It came with gates and guards and during the uprising it was a sanctuary.
Cars never passed through the neighborhoods that Berger and I called home. Not anymore. You would see an occasional truck, usually some RomaCorp vehicle delivering something or other to one of their big, shiny shops, the ones that were driving all the other stores out of business. But anyone who’d had a car before the government fell has long since sold it. They either needed the money or got tired of not being able to find fuel. And if they didn’t sell it outright they stripped it themselves for parts. But in Bayside Estates there was a vehicle in every driveway, sometimes two.
Carroll’s place was on a hill, overlooking the private marina where Bayside residents kept their playthings. We were on a porch that came off the living room. A pair of reclined lawn chairs sat next to a table covered by an umbrella. A wrought iron railing circled the patio, and Berger seemed distracted by the boats racing the sun back into the marina. Several sails were fully extended and puffed out by the wind. Carroll had the help bring three tall glasses of iced tea. She sat them in front of us and Carroll slid a list of names and addresses across the table to me. I did a quick count and saw five items on the sheet.
“We start tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Those first two names go then. The other three go on Saturday. Early morning so don’t go staying out all night. I need you fresh. Him too.” Carroll pointed at Berger and Berger turns and looks at us.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “I’ll be fresh.”
As we walked back to Raul’s to get ready for that night’s action we stayed on the streets that were well lit. The sun was setting and casting long shadows down the asphalt. The buildings were getting taller as we headed into downtown and I explained what it was that Carroll did.
“It’s called data running,” I said, waiting at a corner for a man pulling a small cart on the back of his bicycle to pass, the orange flag attached to the seat popping in the breeze. A horn blew down the block and a moment later a large box truck with a RomaCorp “R” painted on the side rumbled through the intersection.
We waited for the truck to pass before we crossed and I continued explaining. Berger nodded like he knew what I was talking about but I know he didn’t, he couldn’t.
I lifted my left sleeve to expose the port in my arm, just below my elbow.
“You’re on the wire?” Berger asked.
I nodded and told him that I could be. “I’ve got the equipment, but I don’t use it. Not often anyway.”
That, obviously, was a lie.