Jul 082020

Post-modern play about future technologies
conflicting with human moral imperatives.

Should I be rid of my R.I.D.? Like eyeless Oedipus,
go testicleless?
— Johnny, in deep dreamtime blackout




[Johnny, strapped upright, optical wires spouting from his
forehead, is getting uploaded with illegally obtained data. He is
masked, with a mirrory sunglass type set-up obscuring his eyes; we
can see his mouth as he talks, the wires, at forehead level, his
hair, but nothing else; he is gowned from the neck down, his figure
invisible under the surgical green cloth.]

My harassing dreams are meaningless.
Stray formulae, hit-and-miss bits snipping
my sniping synapses to a rhumba beat
of ones and zeroes. No holy trinity
zings in to save me, beating seraphic wings.
My world is base-2 grounded. My skull's amorphous;
its contents, even in snore-storage,
bleat and repeat more pay-worthy information
than any other ten-thousand humans CAN carry,
burdened by the kludgey input of pubic ed.
I, however, am access-inhibited.
A closed Coney Island of iridescent graphics
and save-the-world synthetic cure-alls
circulates in my limitless skull, but I
can't touch it, can't initiate the flip-switch
that spills the light to some dark outside, anyplace
my frowning face inhabits, that my tongue triangulates.
I'll never know what I know; know-it-all
knowledge landmine, with my tongue unplugged.
But I can carry it, whisk it from here
to elsewhere. I can; its in there.
Incessantly at dreamtime, my miming mind
gets ultravivid vid-bits of wacked static.
Images. Gross sub-subconscious stuff, weird feels
spastic up and down my electric skin,
or weird-wired sequences of neon numbers
and zapping sounds. But meaningless, all of it,
meaningless, meaningless, all quite meaningless.
I would hazard that I'm disastered, at a loss,
but I've no way to calculate that fact.
I used to dream all the time, regular stuff,
lollygag days stealing crack from the local hook-up....
He was too trashed on his own white stash
to notice, half the time. A cyan-dilated
Heaven-high in his fixed-open eyes. I'd sell it,
get a corndog and six Mars bars, beat it back
to the old-time asphalt shingles on the roof
of my uncle's rain-ruinous bodega, splay out,
soak in the sunshine long afternoons,
doing nothing, sleeping and belching.
At least, those were my dreams, if they were mine,
if that's my childhood I dream and remember;
if not, well it's still pretty pleasant, and who cares
nowadays about a stasis-source for self anyway?
I'm whatever I make myself up as; that's a fact.
A fiction. Whatever. All that real/unreal talk
just gives me whiplash. Leave that for
the saliva merchants running the country.

[JOHNNY's mask flips up, lightwires start to flash off and on as if
winding down their operations. He has silver eyes, utterly opaque.]

Chrome eyes. Edged metal moistened by living eyelid,
delicate lashes moving over a silverfield. First thing
people notice about me. No pupil, no targeting
center for other eyes to eye. Where is the person
if you can't see how they see you, spy you out
into existence? My R.I.D. Retinal Input Device.
Let's me do my courier service work, aboveboard
or below; legit jobbing pays OK,
but when I can, I'll smuggle the odd gigabyte.
Not a customs service in the world
can decrypt the human brain; any kind of scan
they've got to buzz me with, I come up
normal pigflesh; my eyes scan out a standard
blind-eyes cure. You know, modern medicine.
No abnormalities flood up to their peeping screens.
Hey, they never could read your thoughts,
now could they?

[Lightwires fall from his forehead.]

Download sequencing complete.

Lightwires slip out of my head like ejaculated
neon spaghetti, dangling dark at the slick ends
of motor arm that disappear into recessed wall sockets,
light into black, like always, even in those
cold Nordic sagas. Lightwires up the compression
algorithm geometrically, folding infospace
as distinctly and compactly as my emerald cerebrum.
Maybe it crowds out a few faces from my past
in the process, but, then, maybe I don't mind that
so much. It's an information economy, as they say,
and nobody'll pay shit for personal mem. Would you?
All this stuff they've got here, sparkling and dark
in this wild Hong Kong lab, very fine, very hifi.
A technician applies carefully and fast
a ring of band-aids around the top of my head,
where the lightwires exited, giving me a sticky
and dead red crown of thorns, automatic
antibacterial sinking into the incisions, as he
nudges me out of this sooped-up dentist's chair.

Bonnie banzai, rocketman. Good fucking luck.
Talk to Aldo before you bolt, though. This isn't
the usual zip and run, Johnny-san.

[TECHNICIAN ONE offers JOHNNY a disingenuous glance of
mock-condolence, then grins, his teeth a high-decibel purple, a new
craze on the vids.]

Bye bye. I'm going virtual before the Yakuza
snap the plastic on this little secret set-up
and spike my hard drive. So, don't you try
to contact me in any way. I won't be in touch,
so don't you be in touch. OK Johnny-san?

Before you wipe: I just want to make sure;
half the pay charge is in my account.

[Tosses what looks like a credit card to Johnny.]
Sure, Johnny-san. No problemo, lobo. Grand
Caymen account, locked on your vid and voiceprint.
Would've used a retinal lock too, but
you've got those crazy eyes.

Yeah. Drives the girls wild.

[Hits a button, a plane ticket to L.A. prints out, he hands it to
Here's the plane ticket to your destination.
Fastest ram-scoop out of this piss-hole; you leave
in one hour. Talk to Aldo.

[ALDO comes over; he has been wandering around the set, helping
with small clean-up chores, disassembling the illegal set-up.]

Let's get scarce. That boy's going to be harder to detect
than a rat's fart in a thunderstorm. These insert jerks
like to pry open your skull, give it a lightwire fry,
dump their hump of illicit gigabyte, and then scram.
Very anti-human, like you're just one more output device.

Which, I guess, I am.

Hell of a way to make a living.

Man, my head is aching. What'd these geeks do to me?

Like narrow-eyes said, this ain't the usual zip and run.
You've been arced. Its a chaotic compression pattern,
running a Mandelbrot sequence encoded into heavily
drugged synapses so that the pattern is decay resistant.
The chem-net they installed infiltrates in micron-doses
your slumbering baby's brain with a dreamless wash
of thought preservatives, pickled like a dino-fetus
in some up-to-date modern form of rheumy amber,
keeping the natural chaotic decay of that hot archived info
to a cool blue minimum. Even so, some decay's inevitable,
that's the law of the world, every night our organized self
unfolds from neat daytime to the wildness of dreams,
each morning the face in the mirror's a stranger,
randomer and randomer until it wakes up dead.
Law of the world. That's why, on the other end,
when they catch you back to earth, my Johnny-san,
they've got a complexity adaptor rigged up somewhere.
I don't know where. Your contact knows where, and I'm sure
they'll tell you then, or take you blindfold to their nest.
That adaptor sees the pattern inherent
in chaotic decay trends, reads between the lines,
and forms a self-solving extraction-equation
on the spot. Very complicated stuff. They'd need
some mondo big machines, hombre, to do what your three pounds
of swiss cheese is doing. But let me warn you,
you've ONLY got twenty-four, count 'em, twenty-four
hours to get that gelled-in sequence out of your primate skull.
Otherwise, well....

Otherwise, what?

If you don't get decoded in that magic twenty-four,
that single day, well, then, then....


Uncoiling random lines of information will begin
to unleash themselves inside your head, synaptic leakage occurs,
and all of that archived information will start
to decompress. That much information would require
an aircraft carrier of brain tissue to exist
in an unarchived state; all that information unfolding
in a space the size of a small loaf of Italian bread.

But what's that really mean? What would happen to me?

Maybe you can't blink; some part of an equation
flares out and takes over the blink synapse in your head.
Can't blink, nothing much, right? So what, right?
Can't blink, your eyes dry up, get little itty bitty
dust motes in them, collapse back into your skull
irretrievably infected. Can't blink, you're blind inside
a couple of hours. Eventually more and more
of the compressed data will snake out
into the surrounding tissue, filling it up
with information that's different from what's there now
... your memories, what your name is, what planet you're on.
And it would progress geometrically, unfolding, unfolding,
each fold unfolding another flower to unfold;
after a few minutes, your life would disappear
in a clashing hash of indecipherable statics.
It's like Alzheimer's, except that instead of emptying out
your mind to some sun-blitzed Bhudda's zero-sum,
its kicking into hydrocephalic overdrive,
filling it with thin physics-ribbons of stuff
these techie-sans get hard-ons just thinking about.
Eventually, you just forget how to breathe,
you lay down somewhere, or are kept catatonically erect
by some wrong-wired misfire, but not breathing, forgetting breath.
Wouldn't even think to call out to your Mommy;
she wouldn't exist for you. Then you die.
Total information degrade. Nobody'd even want your head, then.
The Company's logo hardwired on your medulla oblongata.
Irreversible wet-crash, Johnny-san.

Can't I just keep micro-dosing this brain-freeze drug?

You could, but its kind of like curari; works by
paralyzing the synaptic messengers into a hardwired state.
If it didn't kill you outright, or convince your heart
to stop for a beat too long, I guess It'd eventually
just hardwire everything in your head pretty much
the way it is now. No new information processing could go on.
You'd be Atari Pong, stuck in an eternal Now state.
Might be some people's idea of Nirvana, but its not mine.
Same blip going back and forth between the same, two switches.
Whatever your last thought was before the curari
slammed it in its pasted place, that's what you'd be thinking
forever. If you were pissing, you'd be on permanent drain.
This stuff's poison to both human and rat anatomies.
It poisons you, but not fatally, not for, let's say, a week.
Of course, nobody's been on a micron filtration drip
of pure taxtaxinol for a week.... But you could be the first one.

I don't think I want to find out.

I didn't think so.

[JOHNNY presses a small hypodermic gun to his neck with the ease of
a practiced move. A small hiss escapes from the gun.]


A real vim and vigor lifter. Give you a real
adrenaline sheen. Noticeable to the right eyes.

Or the wrong ones.

That slick shit'll jump you up higher than the Kwannon Towers.

I've got a feeling this is going to be an extended duty 24 in

Hey, if you can't hack reality, you've got some real bottom line

Yeah, well, reality's what you make of it, they say.

Test everything. Don't let anyone slip one doped chip past you.
Fastest way in the world to get fucked, Johnny. Ain't even gonna
have time to cap it with a condom. Test everything. One slip, and,
man, your cherry's gone.

Thanks for the advice. What's your angle on all this, anyway?

Born right here on the mainland.
Upright walking, jive talking, mother fuckin' chinaman,
Jack. Won't never take that back. A real
Hong Kong-born, majong-playing ace of spades.
Slipperiest citizenship in the world, and don't think
that ain't useful. Never been anywhere else--
and I don't need to go either. Whole world
plugs into Hong Kong, if they've got anything
to trade, that is. And everybody's got something
they'll give up for something else-- as long as
that something else is something they ain't never had.
They say dreams are priceless. I seen that price
get fixed every day out on the street.
Only problem is, sometimes
that price is more than you've got to pay.

Why's this information so important to the Tigris Company anyway?

I don't know. Maybe they've got a serious case of tech-envy.

Very serious.

Hey, it's not my job to know. I'm just supposed
to help get the info from one black box to the next.

Yeah. Except that this black box has got ears.

Like I said: helluva way to make a living.

Use my lauded head to ferry other people's genius.
Why not? Lotta first class plane ride everywhere.
Good money. It's easy. Get where you're going,
they dump you out, leave you high and dry, the way I like it.
Plenty of little free shrimp on those plane rides too.
Use your head, I heard that all my life. Well, what else
am I going to do with it anyway, right?

All these gleaming things. They don't mean that much to me.
Regular food and a sweet woman, that's my gig. Hell,
I still read the paper. Print it out. Old-fashioned,
hard copy format. Put my feet up. That sort of thing.
Pretty dull, huh? But you, Johnny, this stuff's
just a part of who you are, like a high-impact
ceramic skeleton, an indelible skull
like the ace racers hov-jet with. Another gleaming thing,
those racing shells fighting the 500 mark.
You, Johnny, you're inside the shine. It ain't
gonna catch you. You're lucky. You're inside.
All these gleaming things. I live with 'em;
I live near 'em. But you-- you got them in
your bone and brain. They're in you, and you're
in them, Johnny. You're inside the shine.

Why didn't you ever plug in, Aldo? The money's easy.

Do I look crazy? This head's gonna stay just the way
Mrs. Howard squeezed it out of herself. Call me
old-fashioned, but there's still a place for the un-
enhanced flat-Jacks like me out on the street.

I hope there always will be.

You ain't just laughing out your ass, digital boy.
Now just unplug before the Tigris Company's
Yakuza swat-team us with their late-night
John Belushi impression.

Samurai roadkill. You leaving?

No. I'll stay here. Like I've done all of my life.
Besides, these guys obviously need some help cleaning up.
Still gotta wipe your own ass, even if you use mylar substrate,
right? Now pretend you're a photon and wave.
G'bye. G'bye.

[Exit JOHNNY.]

[A troop of Yakuza enter, elegantly dressed. All strip to
beautifully tattooed waists, including women. Except Jiriki. Yakuza
kill everyone in the room, including ALDO, destroying machinery.
One data screen remains active. As destruction goes on all about,
Jiriki goes to the screen, inserts a small datapad, and types
rapidly. A kitten is killed, the left-behind pet of some
technician. After everyone is dead, Jiriki looks up from the
data-display with a smile.]

L. A.



My vision splays and jags. Hyped on hypnotic
displays day after day, I echo its electronic rush
and hiss to fulfillment, but feel a lingering emptiness.
Click on a dithered executive, ash suit, conned and conning
conservative attire, tired and still aspiring--
to what skyscrapered height, I don't know!
My Zen discipline isn't winning against this
info-loaded argosy a subsidized rice-farmer's son
hunched rice-ball bunched into as a sound career alt.
  [TAKEHASHI swings a beautiful samurai sword, beaten 500 times.]
Stainless steel, diamond-dusted edge. This jaded blade
cuts nothing that knows not that it is a blade.
Out of what air-blasted, time-lined avatar vat came you,
my thin insistence on tradition and razor-meaning
pressed swishing into the plastic circuit board
of my quantum solid-state and existential existence?
This filtered air riffs against me, nearly frictionless.

Sir, I apologize wide-eyed, but...

...Jiriki has arrived.

Hai! [Clicks off.]

A good Yakuza makes his enemies work for him,
slaved to his live and deciding PC.
This causes the enemy the greatest humiliation,
and is useful to the slave-owner.

[Enter JIRIKI.]

Report to me on the disposition of the data.

All of the smuggler's team have been executed.

They were traitors to their company. No flag,
no combine, no country even of the wallet.
They have no honor. There are of no concern to us,
alive or dead. We are the warring Yakuza.
Report to me on the disposition of the data.

They had stolen the information to sell to another firm.

You are not telling me anything I do not already know!
We lost the illicit bid for the illegal information
to a darker contender, and your team was to put that right
and get us the goods, honto-pronto! You are insolent,
as when you trained under me, Jiriki.
Do not let your film-noire arrogance betray you
as it has betrayed these slaughtered smugglers.
Arrogance has a narrow gravity-well; its multi-dimensional
slopes are error-prone honed to a slippery slickness
and may not allow any devious slant of light an exit.
Beware. I assume that you do not want to be
tripped and tipped into the same lamb's fate
they have met with.

The data was wiped from their equipment.

Word on the street is that the traitors
wiped the Zony mainframe before they began this charade
that has led to their deaths.

If this is true, Zony will no longer be a viable
competitor on the international market for anything,
except, perhaps, baby food.

Undoubtedly they are wailing like babies now,
surreally angry, and willing to crap on and slap
at anything and anyone that is between them
and their still-warm bottle of dada data
before their powdered milk of resources evaporates.
Do you have any intelligence confirming
the mainframe wipedown?

No. I apologize, Takehashi-san. I have failed.

Nevertheless, Zony will still undoubtedly be
quite anxious to recover their data.


We must see that this does not happen. Our sources
happened onto their data heist by accident. A lucky coincidence,
allowing us to sabotage the saboteurs. By this killing
we may have already shown our hand to our enemies;
Zony will know that they are not alone in their quest
for the stolen data. We must trust to speed and ruthless
efficiency. Tigris demands that there be no failure
in this regard.

It is doubtful that Zony has even heard
of the execution of their traitors yet.

Don't be ridiculous. We must simply hope
that our own handprints are no too clearly distinguishable
in the flooded blood of the Hong Kong debacle.

All clean-kill procedures were followed.

And the data, the data was already gone....

Hai, Takehashi-san. I regret we were not on-site
quickly enough to prevent their strip-destruction
of the courier-insertion copy.

And the courier himself has escaped.


There are only a sticky-handed handful of conglomerates
that could profit by receipt of such data.
But which sinning one is the courier headed for?

There was no mold of a clue remaining on-site.

Regretful that there is no one left alive to tell us.

It is best to leave no witnesses.

Secrecy is of vital importance.
Zony is a serious competitor.
I believe you will remember the last time.

Yes. My brother will not come back to life.

It was... regretful... what happened to your brother.

Yes. Our information was faulty.

There was no way to know that.

Hai! Yakuza-san.

Hai! Yakuza! [Pause.]
A Zony vendetta is to be feared and avoided.
If they do not come to understand that we, Tigris,
are involved, then they cannot retaliate until
it is too late. Once we have the data, and word hits
the market that Zony's mainframe is merely
an empty shell, their stock will plummet, and they
will cease to be a viable threat. To anyone.

I was able to discover where the courier was headed.

Tell me.

[JIRIKI pauses.]


 JIRIKI  [Shrugs.]
Los Angeles.

You must go there at once, without your team.
We cannot risk broadcasting our presence.
Take the next flight. Immediately.

I already have.

[The next thing we see is JIRIKI taking off her VR goggles; we
realize that she was holo-conferencing with TAKEHASHI the entire



[JIRIKI is revealed removing her vid goggles aboard a transpacific

My highflying banzai eye skips the scudding
pacific effortless-- what a beautiful rueful day!
Takehashi's all frantic-splenetic at our catastrophe.
My failure to nab with carbon-based hands
what precise, silicon plans demand. Like Hitler diminished
to his third-tier Third Reich and subconscious bunker,
Takehashi sees his Pacific Rim's Tojo-Axis red
all over the watery map, arrowing out the victory track
past burning men still smouldering in their bombed-out Panzers.
His hyped holographic highrise of Yakuza supremacy
will vanish beneath his florsheim's one night
in a bit-instant, every at-attention one twisted round to zeroes
all unable to give purchase to his slick, stamping heel.
Takehashi's ghost of willfulness courses through his black
enraged eye, a collapsing star of small-mindedness
bending every rearing ray to its quicksand sinkhole
like VanGogh's one, sultry, sunken raven
punching through the blazing wheatfields at Ardennes.
Asian Ahab with a wooden heart to my
step-at-fetch-it Starbuck, we spit our spatting,
snapping histrionics on a tilting deck of pressed circuits,
themselves star-stuff like the rest of us, waiting
a rapid hint of free electrons to surge and shine.
My brother, if you can hear me from your lacquered level
of purging purgatory even now, burn knowing
that I will not be caught saluting that jerk
when his personal, vortexing apocalypse appears
reeling him to the crushing no-space of a quasar
by the torqued tongue-instrument of his own
freshly pressed tie.



[JIRIKI sits at a bar with her back to the audience. We do not
recognize her until JOHNNY talks to her and JIRIKI turns around.
JOHNNY does not realize that this isn't his legitimate contact, but
we do.]

A charming establishment.

Yes. I come here often; its in the neighborhood.

Really? I've never been.

Well, then, welcome, Mr....

Oedipus. Rex Oedipus.

Mr. Oedipus.

Do you have the other half of the payment?

[Holding up paycard.] In this account. Do you have the data?

Its staring at you.

Ah. Yes. The so-called wild eyes.

You are very beautiful.

An irrelevant comment, Mr. Oedipus.

I've had one sweat of a day.

It is very pleasant to meet you as well;
I never knew someone who'd hollow out their skull
for a few dollars, or a plain yen-infestation
of their bank account. It seems a dirty thing;
a soul perverted to pay a bill. But I guess
some people are in paradise if they can sell
one kidney to keep the other one slummed in beer.

Yeah, well. Its real nice to meet you too.

Tell me,-- do you mind if I call you Mr. O?--
Tell me, Mr. O, what's it like to sleep with a girl,
do her, to fool your body into its measured, rhythmed
dick-tick of boy-joy and juice expenditure
and not know if that woman sleeping next to you,
a swollen lust-bunny and tired angel, was your
fucked mother or reamed-out sister? What does it feel like?
I have a squat, powerful curiosity.

What the fuck is your game? You some kind of
mag-lev perv, getting off by being so repellent?

Hey, whatever shoots your goose. Right, Mr. Oedipussy?
[Pause.] Tell me, have you ever hunted?

I don't really have the downtime. And, besides,
the preserves are smaller than God's Providence these days;
ten snapping Nikons to every twitching bush.

The killing attracts me. In parts of China you can still
buy out a bushido-style lancing safari. Very black market,
but the officials are as corrupt as cancer out there.

I've heard that they don't even have eye-in-the-terminal
bigbrother technology in the ditches there yet.

Some places in China are still very primitive.
Occasionally you run pell-mell across an entire village
that still believes in Mao's little Red Book.

The bioluminescent tatoo artist in this neighborhood is very good,
I hear.

Yes. Fine work.

He once did a bird-of-paradise on a sumo wrestler's
kicking midriff, with mating display air sacs
that could fool to wooing another bird-of-paradise.
Or so I hear.

I have seen it in photographs.

They say that the wrestler keeled over at Mickey-Ds,
trying to keep up his wrestling weight, and they
cut the neon-suave tatoo out of him there and then.

Yes. Its true.

They say its on display at the MOMA now.

Indeed it is.

Say, if you're from this neighborhood, you must know Aldo. Grew up
around here somewhere. Been in the business forever.

Oh sure. Aldo. Great guy.

Hey, I've got a splitting headache. Do you mind....

Go ahead. Don't take any aspirin, though. It'll throw the micron
readings off.

[JOHNNY gets up and heads towards the bathroom.]

Spired and alive on my freemarket highwire,
I perform fearless feats against the cold quartz clock.
Zipped from a split-screen meeting with holographic
Takehashi, I rocked my supersonic ass across the Pacific
doublequick. Speed Racer erasing this distance.
All the Hong Kong flights had their outbound relays delayed
by my chortling cohorts at HK International Airway;
the skyglide had some fractil gravel flipped
beneath its sweet, silver, sweptback wings-- cha-ching!
And now I'm here, and in the clear to zero-out
my Rex's rich head to a lopped-off nullity.
When he gets back from his piss and patented
head-tread massage-o-matic in the bathroom-- vvvvipp!
I'll bowling-bag back the crimson lump of data
to my restless master pacing his eterna-wear carpeting
back to pressboard. Ha ha. Life's easy, sinuous, and free.
Everything is possible with the right backer.

[In the bathroom.]

Shit. I've gotta get out of here. That's not my contact.

[JOHNNY presses at the edge of the sealed window; it gives.]

Test everything.

[A minute later, JIRIKI comes into the bathroom, dashes out the



[Interior of vidiphone. JOHNNY has just escaped JIRIKI using a
hologram. He punches in, using a phonecard lifted from someone
along the way so its untraceable. Calls his X-girl. She's in a
rockband, but very sheik hi-exec type. Has serious Madonna-class
negotiation skills.]

Lean adrenaline shifts into me, giving Stim-shakes
to my wimpy limbs. Fetal-curled in my plastic cocochannel-scented
and probably soon to become tomb-- too soon tombed,
I punch for who, sweet Lord!, who to be my last treasured gasp
of the realistic-fantastic? I had thought my 24 hours
more blatantly impastoed than this fate's twisty titty-twist.
I need my gaping grave's immeasurable reveries
to be more fly-thick with incident before I'll
refuse to whinny and kick the presswood coffinlid
back into outer space, like that 2-3-5 proportion propulsed
icon-object in Odyssey 2001, hon. I've fobbed
this soggy callcard from a alley-plunked drunk,
some Stim-junkie swilled into unconscious bliss
in a cobalt drool pool two zagged blocks back.
That Yakuza semen-storage device gave chase, and I accepted.
A mistake. [Puts card in machine.] Who do I know in L.A.?
Memory, memory, work, work; this screen's empty as a lily,
pale blank, waiting for my shivering fingers to remember
some name. C'mon, guys, type! Here, I'll help you:
here's a mnemonic code I heard in the first grade.
[Sing-songs:] abcdefg-hijklmnop.....qrstu...vw...xy and z.
[Pause.] X, y, and z. XYZ. X! X! X-cetera!

[JOHNNY types, an instant later we hear:]

You've rocked it in the socket and locked onto the X-girl. Have a
sip of saki and state your business or you're not getting on the

Uh, hello, Xcetera?


Um.... Do you remember me?

Not yet. [She looks at info offscreen, reads.] Howard Chicichigano?

Uh no, this is Johnny. I'm sure they're radaring the net for me.

Johnny! Well, I do remember you. How've you been? Are you in
wow-town? Why'd you call me?

I'm not really sure. I remembered your name. Kinda flamed out at

Ought to flame after that game we played last time we got together.
Who's looking for you? And who's Howard Chicichigano anyway?

I lifted that card. And, I'm not sure who's after me.

You always were sorta absent-minded. Absent mind, but what a grind!
Hey, Johnny, are you OK? You look a little shivery, out-of-focus,
you know?

Slightly unmanageable Stim-adrenaline overcharge. Muscleclature's
having trouble stabilizing in just three dimensions.

Oh, baby. You need to relax. Is that vidphone VR capable?

Yeah, it seems to be. But what....

I was sure it would be. Well, I was thinking, y'know, for old
times' sake....

Jesus H., what makes you so horny, Xcetera?

C'mon! It's not like you ever call.

No, really, I don't have time for this.

Do you want my help or not?

I need your help....

Into the pressure sheath then. I don't want to miss one wiggle of
that x-tra cute bod of yours.


Velcro-up and initiate, toyboy.

[JOHNNY reluctantly slips into a superthin mylar sheath that will
give sensation feedback to the wearer. To us, it looks like he is
in a martian sleeping bag.]

[Licking her lips.] Virt time! I hope you don't mind if I make you
an American Gladiator.

[JOHNNY's sheath is still. XCETERA begins horny monologue;
eventually his mylar sleeping bag begins to wiggle.]

There it is, sinner, beneath an open, mesmerized sky
anti-aliased electric blue: Our white, sweet, antique,
chrome-loaded chevy Impala, baby, locked on automatic pilot.
I used to honk the obtruding horn whenever
our motions got too close in bliss during our
erotic rovings-- two self-willed adolescents yearning
to breed free! Remember its triple, Italianate accent?
Reep reep reeppii! Push back the leather strap---
there, there, no, there! Oh Johnny, jiggle over
and give us a kiss. [Pause.] Your hot tongue's the last
word in virtual thrill; my teeth must ai carumba!
for another shove and jangle just like that.
I thought a honed, rainbowed Nevada skyline
would smack of just the right, apocalyptic bliss.
See, the green, flora-chlorafilled cacti are all
erect... ripe! Spikes as sopped as tugged jugulars
against a radiant, pristine me. Lick
the tender effigy you see clean of sweat.
My smiles abandon fashion and curl into self-fulfilling
fractals now. Oh Johnny. Your wildly styled eyes
are x-raying a cinematic me to glory. Lord,
if your insisting gospels had half his
insinuating touch, I'd snake my way to mass
on bleeding knees to get your blood and body
in my mouth. Johnny, I'm transparent-ecstatic
beneath your advancing glance. Is there something
in this rush of fluids that has a spine?
You make me see myself rolled back to one
primeval ache. It must be love! Double-gloved
and lightwired, as we seem to be,
each compelling touch is rough-rouged or cozened
by the hot electronic mist this interface
imposes; I know that what's boning me
to this unreal glow is real-feel real, dear.
Can't you feel it too, my Johnny?
That dactylic riff, the idyllic lick I apply
in alarming lures to your swiftly constructed skin?
Lurid under the instant thunderstorm, and plowing
90 down the road, the rains, the rains, are hissing
lovish appellations as we reach our applauding finish.

That almost did finish me.

Confess: you never could resist my wishes, dishy.

Ahh, phew. [Stepping out of sleeping bag.] Now, about that minor
assistance I was asking about. Can you safehouse me? I'm going to
require some major in-tech support.

No can do, babearoo.

But Xcetera!

Sorry, joyguy, we're just two halves of a double
helix that pass and kiss in the gene pool. Look,
I've got to go on tour in exactly 39 and 1/2 minutes.
All the Pacific Rim wants a twist at Xcetera.
Can I help it if I'm the most popular girl in highschool?
And this time, I didn't have to blow all the jocks
to get there. I'm not going to flummox
my own success for any brain-fry cadet, I don't care
how annoyingly vulnerable he is. [Pause; no response from JOHNNY.]
Hey, Johnny, you look seriously cruised.
You should check in somewhere, chicano amano.

Yeah, well, I guess I'll do that then. You know,
you can be a real harsh miss sometimes, Xcetera.
A sinister bitch.

Si-- and I mean sigh-- onara.

[JOHNNY, drained, staggers down the street a few paces, collapses
near the bum who's callingcard he lifted, Stim-twitching in
restless dream.]



[JIRIKI has circled back to the bar in search of JOHNNY. Her
cellular phone rings, bleeps. It is TAKEHASHI.]



Takehashi-san. Things... have not gone well.

Report on the disposition of the data.

The courier is at large in L. A. But he is weak, confused.

Where is the data?

Still with the courier.

You have failed me, Jiriki.

Yes, Takehashi-san.

This is not honorable.


I shall be in L. A. in three hours. Locate the courier. But do
nothing until I arrive.


Do not fail me as your brother did, Jiriki.

Yes, Takehashi-san.

[TAKEHASHI clicks off. JIRIKI's face is underlit as he punches into
the Net to find out where JOHNNY's scurried to.]

Bashed and abolished in Takehashi's ramping eye, I stare
a chastened tiger left to nose his noosing confines
and drink the grateful milk his captors trickle
to his imprisoned dish. Raarr!! I'll not confine
my blood-browsing to our target-flesh, but turn,
a battered parricide of sorts, on whatever
white-cuffed, pleasant hand has held me
to my permitted meats. My brother's lolling neck
was gnashed on monofilament barbedwire
that night we hit the chip printing installation
at our paid enemy's glass-towered camp.
Takehashi had rushed the singing wire blind
and sent out a piercing, high-decibel trill
beseech-screeching loudly at the starred sky.
I remember my dash-mastering brother's final act:
a silhouette against the nothing of the night,
losing an untouchable gush of blood
from his carotid... he still held himself lightly
against gravity and the light tripping
of the metal threat alarm. I saw him die
upright, trying to save us all in the spasm
aftermath of the foiled attack. And Takehashi
saw what I had seen. Their security satellite's
relay microwaved retaliation at our matt backs,
dull in absorbent black. We raced beneath our cheap,
starlight-reflective mylars through the burning grass.
I mirrored to the android submersible
to pick us up like sandfleas off the shore.
A mile out, through the transparent serpent
of the periscope I watched my hopeless
brother's body burn high on the midnight wires
like Christ deified.



[JOHNNY's X-girl finds him unconscious on the street of his
previous scene. She administers some sort of medicine to him.]

Half-alive. You've got to live with all of your skin,
and everything writhing within. What do I keep telling you,
Johnny? This high-mem courier gig is for encephalitics,
not my sweet thing. Oh Johnny, Oh God. You felt
so nervous-alive in the Virt box. God. [JOHNNY moans, stirs.]
That's it, that's it, keep on rocking. I can't believe
your vital stats are so frayed and bad. You're boxed
in with the reaper already, nearly. You're in
the knocking room, the knocking room. Wake up,
Johnny. Johnny. Look who came to you.

[JOHNNY wakes.]

What the hell are you doing here?

You looked a little albino around the gills;
so, I ran a simulation based on physio signs
picked up via vid, calculated a probable
knock-out radius, and here I am.
....You're the only horizontal thing on the street
besides that bum who's callcard you stole.

Quite a pair.

Why, thank you.

No, not you. Nevermind. I thought you had a flight to catch, a
concert to lullaby at in Adorationland.

You know, I keep telling myself: Beautiful,
stop thinking with your vulva, stop thinking
with your vulva, stop thinking with your
vulva. But, by the third vulva, I've forgotten
all the other words in the sentence.

All right, all right. I'm sorry. Thank you for saving my ass, your

You should talk to me like that more often. I night be inclined to
do a little more than dust your sorry ass off and send you
monorailing on your way.

I hear you, I hear you.

If I'm going to be involved in this,
I want to know everything. You'd better come clean
right now; dump your core, Johnny, or I'll
have to spacewalk out of this sorry scenario
right now. I can't operate in the dark.
I'm not going to end up in some Multi-User Dungeon
on the darqside just for you, screwball.

All right. Here it is. I've got less
than seven heavenly hours to eep and decompress
my utterly overly compressed brain, or I'll
splurge my neuron-trodes all over your
shiny shiny boots in one big ugly way.

You've arced your meat hardcore.

Yeah. Something like that. And if I don't
unzip and download soon....

.... its a lifetime winter vay-cay in lovely Catatonia.

Something like that.

You know, I'm starting to not like you all over again.

It's like the first time again for me too, darling.

As it is, I'm going to call a friend of mine who might
be able to hack your ass out of this mess, sweetness.

No. Absolutely not. I don't want to involve
any strangers in this. Have to keep a zip-ship
encryption-strict security girdle on this
or its a total no-go.

Speed dialing.



[Online.] Jesus Saves Refuse Unlimited.

Can the salespitch, Jesus. This is Xcetera.

Hey, I thought I read that you were on tour.

Well, I am scheduled to depart in 06 minutes.

Well crack my ass, you didn't have to call to say goodbye.

Jesus, please, don't let that moniker go to your pretty head. This
is Xcetera, after all.

Well, then, what's the deal.

My friend here is sick, real sick.

Put his head up against the phone.

[JOHNNY leans over, puts his head against it.]

[Low, appreciative whistle.] Wow. That must hurt like a
motherfucker. What'd you do, use your head to storage a
surreptitious copy of the entire human genome?

Something like that.


Can you download him? Jesus.

I don't know. No. Not with anything I have here.
There's no hardware to work on in there. Its all
just lapsed synapses fluxing in a steady-state,
tripping the same billion handful of neurons back
and forth, waiting to be read-and-released. Right?

Right. Aldo said something about the download device
creating a self-defining decryption algorithm.

Yes, that makes sense, given the encryption medium's
inherent chaotic tenancies. But you's need something
alot more sensitive than an MRI to read the initial-state
synapse status. I'm afraid there's not a damn thing
that I can do to help you.


You'd better find your contact person split-second fast
and let them wedge you out to download status pronto.
You've already got some pretty serious neural degrade.

Great. My contact was killed.

Go to wherever he came from then. But I can't
really help.... So, Xcetera, is your tour cancelled,
or just the first concert, you diva-vixen yeowl-howler?
I was kind of looking forward to catching you on MTV.

But I don't know what company my contact represented!
[Noticing he's being ignored.] Jesus Christ!

I told you I can't help you. I don't have
the set-up for anything nearly that complex
in biotech reach. You're fucked and hexed, rex.

Jesus, is there anyplace around that might have
equipment sensitive enough to help Johnny out?


Yes... yes....

There might be one place. Down in the valley.

Praise the Lord.

And pass the ashes. I did some freelance consulting
at this one place last spring, bringing
their trash facilities in line with Kalifornia's
new eco-standards. I remember seeing a sign in the valley
for an experimental decryption facility....

Oh great. And I'm going to let a garbage man root
around in my junked skull?

Waste management is very serious business, mister.
Mafia's all over that catshit. You know, though,
there's only x square kilometers of habitable earth
surface, and each squealing human being
in our present state of technological grace
requires y kilometers of that flatness to support them.
So, we have to minimize and manage our waste products.
And haste makes waste, my friend.

Yeah, well, in six-plus hours you can hump me
into the human parts bin in back of the medical
center; I'll be 100% waste then.

It would free up a few kilometers for alternate use.


But I see your point. I guess I'd better
hack some facetime on this mission, miss.
Meet me here immediamente, Xcetera.

We'll be there.

Stay clean and stay Green. Hate the Grid,
but love the Net. A crypto-Anarchic creed.
My personal praxis? Definitely.



[TAKEHASHI arrives in L. A. to cut off JIRIKI's thumb.]

Pilgrim grim in my IBM issue business suit,
I stalk my subservient, Jiriki, through the trick matrix
of his fuzzy deceptions, crashing from their apogee
in my high, black, blind eye back to disastered earth.
Her hiroshimaed shadow is grounded now to dust.
Her whiz-biz methods and black-jacketed audacity
have spent their new sheen to narrow nothingness.
Its time for the farmer's boy to pluck luck
back out of distress, save our sassy asses,
and then mount the pure air back to longing Hong Kong,
our clients, and one fat untraceable account.

[Enter JIRIKI.]

Oh Jiriki, your golden eye trapped like a whale's
flotsamed to the gritty beach, stares at the wrong man
for the wanness of compassion. I will not
pale and weep; I will not lose
honor to gain mercy at this late date. We are not
some harikari brat-pack with wise almond eyes.

Can't I ginger my disgrace with some saving gesture?

Too late. Avert your defeatist face.
I am tired of looking at your eyes.
You've crash-landed in the wrong century
if you want to meet the buddha face-to-face.
[Strips off shirt, readies blade.]
His peace is the peace of Nirvana-hounds, while I,
I only believe in howling hell herself.
Can't you see the skin demons that gird my arms about?
They are not there to laugh my soul to peace.
Pace, pace, is for Roman tongues, not mine.
I've sabered together my hatred and life-flash
from eons of culture-trivia, and know that the choice
was mine. "Garbage in, garbage out." This is all
the mantra-motor on which I will willingly rely.
Thumbs up, so I may like a marauding Caesar
mow it down, please. [Cuts off thumb.]
Thank you, Jiriki. Now place the blood stub
in that plastic forensic, mummifying cup
over there. It will preserve it to a blue, strained
stain-- a thumb lump of marble crushed
and petrified in mezazoic muds. Good soldier.
There's a generic box of aspirin
by the gilded Gideon on the nightstand.



[Before the door of the high-tech NAVUS company in Silicon Valley.
JESUS uses a video-enhanced fake head (perfect-register video
image) to trick the security system, which is totally automated,
and therefore can be tricked in this way.]

[JESUS pulls a mounted transparent head from a bowling bag.]

What the hell is that?

The Admiral's ghost. This is the head of NAVUS;
P. J. Spindt. The Admiral started NAVUS
on technology he smuggled out of the Navy.
The first tax break-in of many many for old
"teflon sides." This gimmick here's
a perfect register video image projected
into a transparent latex matrix. The high definition
video is indistinguishable from the actual,
since security never uses a high-res set-up
to grab their image. Too expensive. Waste of good technology.
We'll go by probably a thousand cameras
between the front door and the lab-- every one
standard issue; I guarantee it.
Even old P. J. Spindt's retinal pattern
is back projected behind the pupils.
And the fleshlike quality of the latex lets
lets the security computer think that a real amigo
is dawdling at the yipping gate, and not
some high-grade computer-simulation being fed in
mouth-to-nipple on the in-house video line.
That's how this kind of break-in would normally
be attempted. They know that. And that means that I know
that, and that I know that they know that.
So, I'm using a throwback technology that they
won't be expecting, and aren't prepped
to guard against. If the cavalry expects you
to use high-res lasers, throw rocks instead.
And, since there's no human operator in the security sys
at this minimal level (since human operatives
can be bought, or their caring families
held at nazi-hostage)-- there's nobody in there
to wide angle the camera and see that instead
of old P. J. Spindt standing demanding
that "these fuckers pipe me aboard," its just Jesus
and his apostles ready to rob the grave.
This plastic baby is a failed precursor of the hologram.
But it should do what we want it to.

Praise be to the Lord.

All this is really interesting. But can we
get going? Pretty soon I'm going to have a headache
that makes Mt. St. Helen's look like a job
for Flintstones chewables.

Jesus, plug that silicon monkey in,
and start chattering.

All I have to do is caress this indentation
and old P. J. here goes into ectoplasmic morph.

Do it.

[JESUS touches the button.]


Vox identification J. P. Spindt. Request entrance.

[The computer whirrs silently for a moment, the door clicks softly

Identification accepted.

OK, commandoes. Let's get the Encyclopedia Japonica
out of Johnny's head here.

[They go in.]



[In the laboratory. JOHNNY is strapped in, as in first scene.
TAKEHASHI and JIRIKI are standing there as the lights go up. JIRIKI
is silent, next to TAKEHASHI.]

OM. AUM. Son of the one and Sony Only,
I must have your head of you. Now now now.
This is the will of TIGRIS, and I mayn't be amiss.
Prepare for the honor of being included
in our non-delusional database, Johnny. Your head
has hacked a 21st century miracle today. It seems
you see with sweeping vision the rude suicide
of the future past. History reflects grammar,
you know that. And today's grammar lesson
conflates the stripped ego-I of yourself
into the near seamless industry of Us. It is
never too late to be appropriated by the debate.
A detournement? Perhaps. The powers that be are only
sad shadows of themselves; every grand god gets
his heaven from those who stoop to praise.
Not in any other way. Jiriki and I are the realtime
kneelteam forcing prayers and payment
from the buckled-in and reluctant. Lucent enough?
I know that my god needs me. Hiss blessing
will suffice my truncheoned and nodding know-node.
Every dent bleeds obedience. I gain my significance
by the swiftness of my adherence. By believing that
this solemn rumor of communion occurs, it does.
Each prayer completes its nattering circuit,
and I am pulled bootstrapped by my own, loved.
rosy and stolen prayerbeads into the heaven
I invented. Your death will bequeath a mantra
I will repeat in my flitting Porsche
by the datalight your own buzzing bits emit.
I regret that your death has gone the narrow road
to become our only saving solution in this situation.
But, I must have your head. It sheds
its charcoal and aesthetic side as well:
one man's death, and a billion billion numerals
and lines of running programming will roam free.
A very American phrase for this nexus
of a nearly Greek necessity. But, I must have your head.
Fate has held her high-watt candle to your egg,
and found you nearly hatching. But your data is far, far
too valuable to go flapping into the safe,
Pacific sunset. No. You must hatch bursting
into our neural Net, and flap to the flip profit
of the garden that makes a statue of you.
You will be in our pantheon a long time, Johnny.
Your headless honor will be long upheld.
A good fate for one as inherently insignificant
as yourself. Other gods have played
their flaying game with us, eons out of mind;
bitter centuries that spent their thin hours
defying time only to be once again defined by its
bright passage. So it is with us. So it shall be.
Formulated in your brain is a pro-rated program
that has discovered a new law of physical intercon-
nectedness. A law that will bring all of cyberspace
under one comprehensible rubric of imagination's fancy.
The company that owns that program will define
online reality by having a superior understanding of all
events that unfold there. Not a mere simulation,
or model of a model of the universe's perverse
halves soldered whole, but the complete
thing-in-itself, the face in the cybersky,
revealed. Einstein's spacetime for the inner real.
Root and website, floating point fluency
and the innumerable numinous.

Great. Just great.

Be content, not contentious. Your hissing spleen
demeans you. Did you think that you would never die?
That your morning's prayers would forever
cease in noon? That noon would trundle on
to night, and that dark bring back some waking
from the heralded nightmare of your sleep?
That the circuit that you ran and ran
was supercooled, frictionless, supreme?
Yourself the white electron of that
hyperborean dream? The corporation is the home
of our small-m mythic identities. It will harbor
all that any dim one may glow and give
in the synergistic many of its waves.
Geodesic sunlight will split upon its crests.
Light supplied, and light divided; prismed
to a startled pitch, a rainbow vibration
of significance. Electrons, racing ever, there will find
some rest. "Johnny" is the marker of one, just one,
sequence of surfing, superfluous bytes and bits.
Markers on a game the maker has forgotten
how to play. Takehashi is another marker, and hops
where he is shoved. This is the way of the Way.
And even your disobedience translates into
"Well, OK." Jiriki, your friends standing here,
the blank billions who dot the globe, all, all
are markers and dot their bingo cards
embryo-blind as lab mice. What number will
be called from the algorithm infected with
raw chance? The hollering caller is blind,
the corporate players have put out their eyes.
They play the final game every day
with giant thumbs that manipulate human lives.
Pretty, pink bingo pieces that may shove back,
but still are shoved. Our corporate sponsors play
this pink bingo daily, but never win.
The game goes on. Only their ferocity to win is real,
and gains its reality at our expense. Pink
bingo pieces smear the cards. the game goes on.

[JIRIKI, to whom TAKEHASHI has handed his ceremonial sword, beheads
TAKEHASHI, with a cry:]


[Everyone looks at each other in total astonishment.]

The people I represent will perform a micron-depth vivisection of
your brain matter, scan the autopsied synapses, map them on a
computer-generated grid, model your brain unerringly, and then
extract the information we need from that model using decryption
methods already available to us.

Can't you just yank it out of his aching head, like we were just
about to do just now?

The interests I am employed to satisfy are not non-invasive
capable. This technology is too cutting edge.

Nice pun. Just let us download here. I've got a handle on it.

And we'll give you whatever we extract.

Hey, I'm under contract....

Johnny, shut-up.

You don't even have the time to get him to any facility before he
goes critical. The data will be irretrievable when than happens.

You need him alive. I do not. I simply require his head. I hold the
advantage. I do not see where our goals overlap.

Even dead, his steady-state will begin an irreversible decay
process. The information he's carrying is extremely delicate, and
the cryptology more massive than anything I've ever even heard of.

That is a chance I will have to take.

But you don't have to take it. The decryption equipment is right

[JIRIKI pauses.]

We didn't set off any intruder alarms, did you?


So nobody knows we're here....

But I won't get paid!

Johnny. Shut. Up.

My company can recompense you.

[Smiles all around.]

All right Johnny, let's see some mercury. Open them twiggy peepers,
I'm about the read your mind.

[They attach eye-shielding, lightwires.]

Just who do you work for anyway?

Soma-E. A subdivision of Zony.

That's who the information was pirated from in the first place.

They outbidded my loyalty from TIGRIS-eyed Takehashi.

Pointless. This whole routine. Totally pointless.

One more iteration through the feedback loop.

Aldo said they'd probably be pretty anxious to retrieve their data.

I guess "Aldo" was right.

Aldo was executed when my team hit the impromptu lab where you were

Did anyone else make it out of there?

[Insulted.] I am efficient.

Commencing download sequence. Now.

[Lightwires flicker on. A moment passes.]


[Stage lights go down, except for a spot on JOHNNY, strapped in as
in the beginning.]

Who am I? Who amI? If I knew, would I tell?
I can't disclose those cancerous clues,
they eat identity alive, and, in this case,
that's mine. If I'd decide to die, this finishing minute,
who would I send packing to the chopping block?
What soma-droning and drowning boy have I become?
Was Takehashi right, have I no I in my lead sights?
What love or inspiration lingers at these
graphited fingertips? Zoned on overloaded silicone,
and trapped in one final, ecstatic Now,
I'll know my ground zero when I feel it, not before.
How many times can a man divide and evade?
Am I glad my face is melting as if it was never made?
A formless mess puddles into mercury, and drains.
I watch it slither after gravity, and laugh,
a fine, Stim-jimmied extroverted snort.
My moody mortality unmasks me. I stare
into its laser-licking glare and wince.
Who am I, essentially, once the last mask
is ripped back to skin, the final lie,
the lie of self, of something being me
instead of nothing constituting myself
comes up a blank cartridge, a recursive
syntax looping on zero.... What then, what then?
Who then, then what is all of this, this thisness?
What has all of this been? No memory to rudder
my oblivion in some self-defining and self-
creating dream stream self-fashioning; not
even the lazy image of an overhead-projected
story to go by, some ultravivid vid img,
some loved blood on the TV snow. No, not
even that, nothing. But still this head, this
voice, these arcite eyes, skin of antimony,
surreal interior visions and revisions,
still that, until the last moment, the cubed
solution. My question commands silences.
My pause is sempiternal, solemn.
Then, when the microtape fails and fritters,
a thumb on its steel reel, then even
the pause pauses. [Pause.] Pulses of light pass the cave mouth.
I am a sleeper asleep in his cave, in love
with flowing water, all light, the small,
serried series of wet ticks that compose
the human concept of infinity. That deep repeat.
I am in love with my dim cave, its shallows
of lights, its deep darks, the surprising
grottoes that give a sense of unexpected
distance under my suddenly suspended feet.
I pass hours the way an owl, still hungry,
overlooks a vulnerable mouse at the fir's
crowded root. I know the waters pass me
in the dark. I know I am space suspended,
a miracle bridge with no heaven or horizon
to cry out unto. My eyes attract small,
blind fish. They are suave and attentive.
A minute passes. They turn away from me forever,
suave and diminishing. Then they are gone.
I am alone. A minute passes. The waters walk away,
suavely evaporating. A minute passes.
And the cave disintegrates. I am alone.
Space abandons me. There is no medium left
for suavity to express itself in. There is
a darkness so dark that I cannot see it.
Pulses of light pass the cave mouth.
Somewhere else. I am alone.


[JESUS pops a cd-rom from its reader, hands it over to JIRIKI, who