Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sample Sunday: Chasing Filthy Lucre

I haven't participated in a Sample Sunday in a long time. Here's a little something from Chasing Filthy Lucre. Hope you like it. If you do, leave a comment. If you really like it then buy a copy. It's in all the usual spots. For direct links click the "Where to read me" tab at the top of the page.

 There was an older gentleman who spent his nights sitting in the lobby watching the people pass on the street and reading a book. He couldn't sleep and he'd rather be downstairs than up in his apartment. At least he told me that’s why I always saw him when I came in at night. A nice guy. Never said more than a few words to me.

“Good evening, Mr. Rexall,” he said when I’d come in late.

“Please,” I’d say, “call me Weber.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Rexall.”

That was it, our entire exchange. It always made me smile. He was there when I got home that night carrying my haul from Raul’s.

I climbed the stairs to my apartment. I sat the bags down in front of my door and fished in my pocket for my keys. Inside, I sat the bag from Raul's on the kitchen counter. If this were a few years earlier, I would have plugged in as soon as I was inside my apartment. The port in my arm would have itched, would have begged me to put it to use.

There was a wire straight from the wall, added as a convenience years before I moved in. Easy data access for anyone with a terminal. I’d had it converted to my own personal hot jack. Plug in. Heat up. Pass out.

Plugged into the feed, I could forget about life for a few minutes. The experience started as a tingle near the port where the wire connected to my arm. It started like something crawling under your skin but quickly turned to a burn that rushed across the entire body. For a few minutes it was uncomfortable. You wanted to pull off your skin. But, if you could wait -- if you could push through the hurt -- your body would settle into the rush of data that was assaulting every last nerve. You would calm. You couldn’t hear anything. You couldn’t think anything. You just were. For your time on the wire you didn’t have to deal with life in the present or remember life in the past. All of those things you’d seen or done were gone. They weren’t affecting you anymore. That was the appeal. That’s why so many soldiers were the first to abuse the technology.

When someone said they were "on the wire," the wire referred to was the one that ran from your port to your brain, not the one from the source to your port, although that’s what most people thought. It was an understandable confusion.

It was a technology developed by a team of Dutch doctors and scientists. Exactly how it worked I couldn’t tell you, but it’s made up of three parts.

There’s the port. It’s typically inserted into the arm, but really it could go anywhere. The older a person was the more discrete the location of their port. The younger, the more visible. Many kids were opting for a port in the neck. The thinking was that the shorter the distance from the port to the brain, the more intense the sensation. How much more intense the experience needed to be, I wasn’t sure.

The second element was the wire itself. It’s a fine piece of microfilament that ran from the port to the brain and the third element, the net.

A net, also made of microfilament, was woven into the different parts of the brain. The digital came into the port, ran along the wire, and then spread across the net and into the user's head.

The original applications were military. Soldiers were given their mission details with the port. They’d plug in at night and wake the next morning with their orders and all pertinent background information.

The original ports came with a governor that controlled the flow of data to the brain. Hackers cracked those soon after ports were approved for commercial use.

Mine was a military unit, first generation. I had it cracked in a small computer shop two blocks from base as soon as I was discharged. Done by a hack in a back room. Me laying on a table and him plugging a beaten up laptop into my port.

He punched some keys and I laid there and felt the flush of digital for the first time. It started with a tingle that ran up my arm and into my shoulder. It crossed over to my neck and then into my head. It became an intense heat that left me dizzy and light headed.

From my head, it ran down my chest, past my waist, and into my toes. For the first time I felt my head tip back and my mouth drop open. I could no longer think. Nothing was in my head. All the things I’d seen and done had been replaced by the heat of the data.

After thirty minutes and twenty bucks I was on the wire.

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