Roger was right when he said all the other drivers were gone. Now even he’s gone, and it’s just me.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We tried to be shake things up once, but everything is a cover of a remix of something, and not just in music. I’m driving around, getting texts from Hans, just like the old days, but I drive a van now, like the even older days on tour. The difference is, I’m not bringing food to the programmers. I shuttle them between home and work.
Even the Dude’s house is getting reused. Construction guys fixed the fire damage. Delivery guys put in new desks and computers, and each of those rooms off the hallways are now a separate tiny office. Whatever was in there before got gutted and thrown away, but the show poster with Effective Disorder on the bill still hangs in the entryway. Same shit. Different Hans.
Harry’s consolidating power, redefining the role of Hans. On the big screen in the throne room, there’s a new program called Mike that shows him everything the system sees. Harry walks through the mansion and shouts at people when the screen says they’re not working, keeping discipline the old fashioned way. It doesn’t make any more sense to me than how things were set up under the Dude, but it’s easier for Harry to understand.
As far as I can tell from standing near Harry’s throne and watching the screen with him, the system really doesn’t keep the Sarah surveillance log anymore, but if I stand there too long, Harry sends me to go yell at people. I try to be nice about it, the way I know the programs never were.
He took over the master bedroom, which even the Dude didn’t use. He seems to think we’re better than the rest of them, and we don’t need to bother with any real work. That’s nice for me, but I don’t like the programmers suffering for it.
Most of the day, I wander around the house. I see the cameras everywhere, but I know who’s behind them now. There are robots in the house, but they really do nothing but keep the place clean, spending the rest of their time in little docks recharging their batteries, ready to perform their same boring action the same boring way every time, everything that punk stood against. I sit around and drum on random surfaces, but it doesn’t help. I can’t do anything about the system with Mike watching the house and Harry watching Mike. I just need to get my strength back, if I ever had any. My memory still has holes.
Food is delivered every day at the same times. The programmers come out of their little rooms, blinking in the open space, grab some of the pizza or sandwiches or whatever’s there and head back to work. They spend about as much time at their new desks as they did at the old ones. Harry says they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they had any “free” time.
At the end of their long days, I take them home to the places I once brought them food. Early every morning, I drive around again and pick them all back up. They come out to the curb as I pull up, but I don’t know if that’s because Mike is using the lo-jack in the van to tell them I’m coming or if their schedules are such a part of them, it’s automatic.
The nerds don’t seem nervous anymore. They seem beaten. So few of them even look out the window. They sit in the van staring forward, not able to take in any unfamiliar data, not talking to each other. They’re not used to being so close together, in the van or in their new offices. That’s not new either. Bosses have been putting people in cubicles for years.
Maybe they’re quiet because of the camera mounted just above my rear-view mirror, watching them. The strange thing about that is, I don’t think that camera is at an angle to see me. Harry acts like he trusts me, but maybe he still knows he can’t trust me with them.
When the programmers are all together, it turns out there aren’t that many of them, just the 27 that I bring in each day. I delivered to most of them when I used to do that, when the organization seemed bigger than I could imagine. Now I see the edges and I don’t have to imagine. Harry could have fired people while I was gone, but nobody whose face I can still picture is missing, except the Dude. Harry won’t say what happened to him. “The Dude is gone.” That’s it. Also, there was Dumont, but that’s another story.
Oh, and I have a new hiding place for my notebook, but there’s no fucking way I’m writing down where it is.
The mansion | Aug 20 | Morning
It was a Saturday morning after I dropped off the last of the programmers when I found a little hand written note under one of the seats.
The Dude Lives!
The note surprised me. Someone was making contact the most low tech way possible. I didn’t know who left it, and I had to wait for the end of the day to leave one in the same spot for them to find.
How do you know?
I checked under that seat each time before going back to the mansion to pick up more. I found the note gone after the second load. Of the nine passengers in the van that run, I know who sat in that spot: Acid Burn, my old fuck buddy. The next morning, she left an answer.
Release times of nightly builds
That kind of technical talk didn’t mean anything to me, so she probably didn’t know it was me who answered her note. I intercepted a message. That meant there was a new network.
That night, before the run where I would drive her home, I left a note in that spot I figured she would know was from me.
Been fucked lately?
I tried to watch her through the rear view mirror on that run, but I didn’t see her reach under the seat. It got picked up though, with an answer in the same spot after her next ride.
Ever since the system changed
I thought at first she was having sex with someone else. I got jealous. Then I realized maybe she wasn’t being literal.
I left another note. This would be, what, three days into the conversation? It was the most exhausting way to stay in contact, but maybe it’s how everything happened before there was an internet. It reminds me of the stories I heard from the punks about the time before Myspace and message boards, spreading the word about shows and events with fliers on utility poles.
Looks like you need a new courier
Another day, another note.
Fuckbud, I tried to reach you. Why don’t you ever check missed connections?
That would be tough to do from the hospital. At least she knew who I was. I kept going.
Who were these notes for? Is there a new underground?
If it’s Harry reading this, there’s not.