Chapter 21:


Grime in the Gears: Create, Read, Update, Delete

It was the big day, or whatever you called what felt like days in the Bin. Rasa had everything planned out to the, well, minute. Frank was psyched, but tried not to let it get to him. 

Though more recent parts of his memory were fuzzy and scattered, like trying to watch a scrambled video feed, the older parts he found he was able to access with very little trouble. He dug through his memory and got everything ready.

He just hoped that Cammy would forgive him for what he was about to do.

Frank helped some poor caller get his smart racquet configured so he could improve his tennis game. He only got dinged for talking too fast twice.

When the shift was over, he gave a glance to Rasa before walking out. He milled around the commons until she too left the call center. She gave him a glance before walking off down one of the hallways.

After a Bin-minute or so, he followed after her. When he got to her, she was ducked into an alcove. He scooted in next to her. She motioned for him to be silent while she counted down something in her head.

With an extended finger, one of the doors slid open. Two of the strange LifeBack employees stepped out. They didn't talk to one another, but walked in lock step down the hallway. When they passed Frank and Rasa's alcove, the two hiding there pressed as far back as they could waiting for them to pass.

After they passed, Rasa grabbed Frank's arm. With a squeeze, she pulled him toward the door.  It had the word COMMS written on the outside. They sneaked inside. Once the door closed, Rasa locked it.

"It's 1024-bit, so it won't hold them long," she said after a sigh of relief. "You're sure you have a place to dump us?"

Frank nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I have an old friend from back when I was a member of the Grail of the CAFEBABE."

Rasa's eyes widened. "You were in the Grail?" she asked.

Frank grinned. "You've heard of us? Yeah," he said as he started typing away at one of the consoles. "Back before I knew better, my friends and I got into the hacking scene. All but one of us is still active, the rest of us turning our skills into more socially acceptable vocations." Lines of text rushed past the monitor. "She promised that she'd leave a backdoor for any of us if we needed it. I hope she hasn't forgotten." The screen glowed green. "Bingo," he said. He typed some more. "I'm establishing a tunnel. You get ready for the transfer."

Rasa looked over Frank's shoulder. Her hand was on his back. "I want you to go first, Frank," she said.

He looked back at her. "Okay," he said. He stepped over to the comm platform and stood there. "When you're ready, hit the button."

She nodded. She looked at the screen, the button, at Frank. With a breath, she pressed the button. Frank's body began to dissolve, like he was made of spaghetti and slowly starting to unravel. The strand that Frank was becoming went into the air, into some unseen hole in reality, and faded into total transparency. As he was slurped away to his next destination, he looked over to her and gave her a thumbs up.

Shortly after that, he was gone. Rasa looked at the comm platform where he once stood. She stepped on it, ready to follow after.

Nothing happened. She looked over at the console. The button! She hopped of the platform and went over to the keyboard. She hit the button. The platform started to glow, so she scurried back over to it. However, before she could stand on the gateway to her freedom, the door to the comms room burst open. Several guards rushed into the room. 41EF followed after them.

It looked from Rasa to the platform and then back at the screen before shaking its head. "Come with us," it said.

Dejected, Rasa didn't even make for the platform. She had a feeling that this would ding her credits pretty hard.


Frank opened his eyes once again, but this time, he had no eyes. He had no body. He just was.

All was nothing, and nothing was all, except for the island in the middle of the nothing that was Frank. He focused, and before him appeared a window. By a sheer force of will, he made words appear in the window. These were commands, once long forgotten from his past, past life, but now, with his digitized self, he was able to quickly recall them as if he had just learned them.

He searched the devices attached to his current residence. He found a camera. He mounted this, running the stream toward his visual cortex. A room appeared before him. This room was familiar, yet at the same time, a bit unfamiliar. He had spent many sleepless nights here with the other Grails. The furniture and aging posters on the wall gave it that familiar feel. However, the new devices and larger library of books and slight redecorations made it distinctly foreign.

He saw someone sleeping in the corner under a poster for the vagrant noise band Nosferateaux. He tried to say something, but stopped when he realized he had only mounted the camera. He scanned the list of hardware and found some speakers and a microphone and, why the heck not, the monitor. He mounted all of these, connecting them to his appropriate inputs and outputs.

Then he spoke. "Cammy!" he said.

The figure sleeping in the corner stirred, then sat up. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes before grabbing the half-empty can next to her makeshift bed and drinking the remainder of its contents. "Frank?" she said. "Is that you?"

She wore her normal uniform: black and pink, giving off that "I don't care what you think of me I'm a street punk" vibe. Her hair matched her clothes.

"Where are you?" she said, looking around the room.

"Right here," said Frank. "In the computer."

She looked over at the monitor and saw Frank's face staring back at her.

"Dinzai, Frank! You've pulled a Headroom!" She stepped up to the monitor and looked all around it. "How did you get stuck in there?"

"We need your help," he said.

"We?" she said.

Frank took a look behind him. Rasa wasn't there. He couldn't detect her anywhere in the virtual space he inhabited.

"Uh, I need your help," he said. "It's a long story."

Cammy looked at the clock. "I don't have anywhere to be for a few hours, so tell me everything."

Frank took a breath. "My memory's still a little fuzzy, but I guess it all started on the day that I died..."

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