Memories flitted before Akio’s vision like so many tropical birds. Before he realised it he had seen so much. For a moment Akio was seeing through his own eyes as his childlike self attempted to survive on the streets of New Brasilia. Moments later he was seeing himself being chased down by UEF street security and being hauled off to juvenile reeducation. Akio almost cried as he set eyes on his childhood sweetheart Julie. Her face exactly as he remembered. It was the first time he had seen her in nearly 20 years and despite knowing exactly what was going to happen he was happy.
In the filth ridden steel chamber the man continued to ask Akio questions. Each of them appeared almost irrelevant: what were your parents like growing up? Who was your first girlfriend? Did you have any pets. Each of these questions recited over and over until the lifeless shell of Akio, still tied to his rusty chair would reply: strict, Julia Green, a German Shepherd. After only five minutes of questions a voice sounded from a comms unit located next to the man’s other tools.
“Geutez! Geutez pick up you son of a”
“Angel here” came the reply from the man “what’s up? Can’t you see I'm busy here?” The man; Angel looked in the direction of a wall mounted digi-cam and made a rude gesture with his fingers.
“I can see what you’re doing you rat-fuck!” The voice sounded increasingly angry “asking about dogs and cats! Get the info and let’s get the fuck outta here!”
“In time” replied Angel “we gotta work the wetware. We go in too hard and it’s going to resist to strong. Either it locks us out for good or it burns his brain out! Then he’s no good to noone!”
Back inside the memory time was passing quickly. Years had gone by and Akio was growing up. Both him and Julie had been discharged from reeducation at the same time and regardless of their teenage years were trying to make a future. They thought they had the world at their finger tips, all they had to do was reach out and grab it. Neither had jobs of course, but Akio’s parents had taken them both into their home and allowed them to stay until future plans were made. If they wanted to remain in New Brasilia they would need to get jobs or return to education, but that was something neither had any desire in following.
It had been Julie who first suggested the Patch-Job, it sounded simple, go to a surgeon, get some human-hydan hybrid tech inserted into your brain and then bam! You are ‘patched’ and companies would pay a lot of credits for someone patched. The only issue was getting the initial surgery, there was no way they could afford it themselves and Akio’s parents had outright refused when they had initially suggested it, and so together the young lover’s left Akio’s family home, but not before arranging for a large transfer from Akio’s father’s account directly into his own.
Akio saw what had happened as a loan, in a matter of days he would be patched with his first bit of wetware and be earning the big-creds! In no time at all he’d be able to pay back his father, with interest! At least that was the plan anyway.
Angel leaned in towards Akio and whispered into his ear
“What happened to the girl, Jinn?”
Memories flashed in Akio’s mind once more. His operation had been a success and he had recovered in record time! Julie had even arranged for patch too, at a reduced rate of course. It finally looked like things were going to go their way. That was until it reached the time to broker work. Akio was angry at himself, how could he have not anticipated this? Sure companies loved employees with wetware, but only those with experience! And here he was, someone not even an adult yet with no experience, no qualifications and no hope of getting any of the ‘big buck’ jobs he had dreamed of.
Again it was Julie who came through with the solution, and as the memory birds flittered through his brain they began to settle on that night.
It was dark, wet and Julie had been out all night. When she finally returned to their cheap rented suit she was accompanied by someone else. A Hydan covered in layered armour who carried an ornate spear like weapon in one arm. No soon had the Hydan arrived did Akio know that something bad was going to happen. He couldn't explain it, but like cows sitting down before rain Akio had a sense of foreboding.
“This is… Kre-otka?” Julie said, introducing the Hydan to Akio “he’s got a job for us!” Julie looked extremely happy with herself as she said this.
The Hydan went on to explain the job, a simple data theft, just using Akio’s wetware to ‘borrow’ some information, getting it back to his own clients and then after a short break, returning it to the original owners. If they did a good job they would be paid handsomely. Akio, still unable to shed the dread of what was to come reluctantly agreed.
That night was the first time Akio used his wetware and for the first time in his life he had ‘jacked in’ to what was colloquially known as the ‘Mantiverse, the virtual space that connected all data on Honos. Back then if he had tried to he would have been unable to explain what he was experiencing. It would be impossible to truly understand what it means to join the ‘Mantiverse unless you've been there, and many have tried, but somehow Akio managed to navigate the twists and turns of the virtual world, to leave his own body behind and share in the digital consciousness of the Technomancers.
To Julie and the Hydan it was as if no time had passed when things started to go wrong. It was almost instantaneous when Akio fell to the floor, his entire body twitching and spasming violently.
“You must help him!” Shouted Julie at the Hydan who remained silent only watching as Akio continued his seizure while still plugged into the digital world.
“Fuck you!” Julie shouted as she reached for another set of cables and plugged them directly into her own patch.
Akio observed all of this from his seizing state. All this and more. In the Mantiverse he had been travelling for what felt like hours but had managed to locate the data vault he was told of.
The vault appeared as if a massive skyscraper that dwarfed the digital cityscape and had with relative ease travelled through the abandoned building to reach its pinnacle and bring back the data required. It was to Akio’s dismay however that the data was not unguarded as he had thought. Safe guards and biofeedback wracked through his neurons and tore into his psyche until he could take no more. In that moment it stopped and he was awake back in his apartment. Laying at his feet the body of Julie motionless but with her own wires and cables plugged into his. The Hydan was sat on one of Akio’s chairs a small rectangular data stick flicking from finger to finger.
“You have my data” the Hydan said solemnly “and you will have your payment within the hour” standing slowly the alien left the apartment quickly leaving Akio in his apartment.
It made no sense to him. What had happened? When suddenly fro the deepest recesses of his brain something came through. It was as if his wetware was speaking to him with words only he could understand. It was these words that he recognised without realising, accompanied by a voice that seemed both alien and familiar at the same time. The words were streams of digital information, in that moment Akio saw everything that had unfolded before him, how the data heist had failed, the security counter measures were frying his brain be only by transferring the effects to her own wetware was she able to save him.
Akio sat on the floor and looked at the scene before him. Julie lay dead on the floor, but that didn't concern him, all he could think of was the rush he had felt when he had entered the Mantiverse. He wanted that feeling again, no he needed that feeling again and he was ready to do whatever he needed to get it.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley