Ai Yai Yai, 12obot

Berry Street | Jan 9 | 2:16pm

HANS:
This delivery took 52 minutes. It should have taken 28.

The texts with time limits won’t leave me alone. The Blackberry Harry gave me lets them track me during deliveries, and nothing I do is fast enough for “Hans.”

winston:
had 2 park

Leaving the phone in the car, I sneak off sometimes for a few minutes to a library or a copy shop and online message with Acid Burn, trying to get information about her secret network or set up a date that ends better than the first one, but she won’t give me any specifics.

A few times, she gave me weird little codes to leave on scraps of paper during deliveries to specific people, but she still keeps me in the dark, just like the Dude. I have more reason to trust her than to trust him, but I want to fuck, not get fucked.

Sometimes I offer the nerds a way out like I tried with Neary, but none of them will go. I don’t understand it.

HANS:
No more funny stuff.

I laughed. Before he gave me the phone, Harry told me they “took Hans away” in some kind of reassignment and that I wasn’t the first driver called Winston. Whoever’s sending messages as “Hans” these days isn’t my friend, and pissing them off makes it a little easier to get through the day.

The really sad part is, at least when it was Harry bossing me around, I knew who I was dealing with. I didn’t realize I would miss that.

HANS:
I’m serious.

I walked up to Lanning’s place carrying his burrito and saw the new camera installed above his front door. I flipped it off and fished the keycard out of my pocket.

I went in and shouted loud enough that any listening devices would hear me. “Come and get it!” It didn’t matter what I said. Lanning would still be dead to the world, multitasking with headphones on between his work computer and the computer next to it running video games.

When I got to his office, I walked in slow, keeping my head aimed at the giant hanging fern blocking sunlight from the window, using my eyes to trace the wires along the floor until I found the power strip.

I put the burrito down next to Lanning. He ignored me, and I wondered if that’s what my mom went through when I played video games as a kid. I used her words on him. “Don’t play too long, mijo. Your food will get cold.” Lanning didn’t look up. My mom put up with so much. I shouted again. “Okay, I’m going now!”

On the way to the door, I stepped on the the glowing red switch of the power strip, and the hum of all the little cooling fans in all the devices in the room powered down. I realized for the first time how loud they all must have been by how creepy the room felt without them all of a sudden.

I turned around. The screens were black, and Lanning was frozen in place, clicking his dead mouse over and over. That was creepier.

“Breathe.” I went over to him. “You’re okay. I just pulled the plug.”

He looked in my direction, moved the mouse and tried to click on me.

“That’s not gonna work.” I reached for his headphones, but he pulled back like a wounded dog. “Lanning, are there any other cameras or microphones in this room?”

He stared. More eerie quiet. I looked around but didn’t see any obvious recording devices. The Dude didn’t need to hide them from him.

I leaned in. “Hey, some of us are building an underground network. Don’t you wanna get out of that chair, get some fresh air and sunshine?”

He pointed behind me. I turned around. A little clip mic was on a table in the far corner with its cord going down between the table and the wall. I knelt down to see a square device back there with lights blinking on it. If the Dude heard what I said through that, it could fuck up the whole idea of the secret network.

“It’s new.” Lanning’s voice was raspy. It’s hard talking to people again after a long time out of practice. “A redundancy.” He shook his head. “They warned me about you.”

“They put that here to catch me?” It felt kind of good to be notorious like that. I crawled under the table and unplugged the box of blinking lights.

“You want to take me away?”

“You want to go?” I lifted my head, and it hit the bottom of the table.

“I can’t.” Lanning held his armrests and rocked back and forth. “I need the money.” I knew exactly what he was talking about.

“There’s gotta be plenty of other jobs for a… whatever you do here.” I pointed at the blank computer monitors.

“It’s a new kind of thinking.”

I nodded. “Right, right. Probably nobody’s asked you this stuff in a while.”

“No, what we’re making.” He stood up and walked around the room, moving his hands through the air in quick rhythms, the way I used to when thinking about a drumming riff. “They’re bayesian semantic networks, but they keep making stage four errors. They need me.” I didn’t understand any of that.

Lanning knelt down and turned the power strip back on.

“What the hell?” I went over to turn it off again, but he held out a hand to stop me.

“I can finish this. I just need one more level of translation. If I get this right, I can do anything.” He went back to where the computer was starting itself up. “You should go.”

I had to get out before the camera came back on and caught me standing there like an idiot.

“DM me.” He almost whispered.

“What?”

He smiled. “We do get kind of lonely in here.” There was nobody else in the room.

I raised my eyebrows. That wasn’t a no. I had my first potential recruit.

He pointed to the computer. “It’s starting.”

I nodded and disappeared out the door.