He pushed himself away from the desk, the chair rolling back jerkily across the carpeted floor. The force of his push sent the middle monitor toppling. His hands were at his head grappling with the pain he couldn’t reach and the chair slid from beneath him. He wasn’t aware how soft the carpet was or how the sound outside his apartment which had crescendoed like his music. In the streets there were a series of bangs, accompanied by bright white flashes. The sound of the crowed turned to screams of pain, like the pain that coursed through his body but mostly screamed inside his head.
The windows above his bed lit up, their translucent white blocking the scene at large, but not the sound or the white floodlights that illuminated the slum.
“YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE CONGREGATION ACT OF 2112, RETURN TO YOUR HOMES OR YOU WILL BE PROSECUTED.”
The pain moved from his head down to his eyes, still closed, ached, the burned down his spine. A hot liquid that spread to his fingers and toes. The pain built again at his extremities. He opened his eyes, he could hear the yelling in the streets, the bangs and the flashes. He was faintly aware of a sulfurous smell in the room. But his fingers, his toes throbbed as if swollen with blood. He rolled onto his back staring at his hand. There was no outward sign of damage there, but it felt as though his fingers might bust, like the overripe figs merchants sold at market in the summer. He groaned and flexed his fingers, his hands. Something shattered behind him and suddenly the acrid smell of sulfur was all about him. Light streamed into his small studio apartment and the screams of the poor registered over the pain–the pain that seemed to be seeping from under his fingernails, toenails.
He rolled to his knees, then up climbed to his feet. A large stone had been thrown through the window. Shattered glass littered his bed, the floor near it. He breathed deeply, breathed smoothly. He went to the broken window and looked out. Flood lights still illuminated the narrow street, the buildings that rose high into the sky. Even the neon red, blue, orange lights of the storefronts and advertisements were dimmed by the flood lights of the Authority. The control trucks blocked off one end of the street and he could see Enforcers with their bulbous black helmets and hit sticks and dash shields herding the crowd into an incarcerator. He saw the logo sun logo of NewHorizon. Some of the crowd was still trying to resist. Some threw their bodies against the Enforces, but were pushed back easily by the dash shields the armored men carried. For a moment it looked as though one of the mob members had broke through, but then the hit sticks flashed bright in the already bright light. From his position he couldn’t hear the scream, but he knew what a hit stick felt like, he’d screamed every time he’d felt it, and he imagined the scream, even from his vantage point.
The only light in the room came from the three monitors on the desk. A constant clicking came from the keyboard, the fingers that flew across it. A whirring of a fan. The computer had been near overheating for hours. The room, besides the desk was clean. There was no trash on the floor, no dirty clothes. The bed was made and the blinds were drawn. Outside the one window directly above the bed the sounds of traffic, large crowds talking, could just be made out. The man in the chair, in the dark room, in front of the monitors couldn’t hear it though. He didn’t want to. He spent every night falling asleep to that endless bustle. The crying of children. The shouts of party goers and drugs deals. The sirens of Enforcers in the distance. Every so often they even came down this low, to the docks and the pier. For a little while he would look through the blinds at the flashing lights reflecting off the buildings bordering his and wonder who would be taken away. Who had been stupid enough to use their MOD illegally.
Large headphones covered his ears and wrapped over his head. The music was so loud he could feel the vibration in his bones. His glasses reflected the image from the monitors. His eyes jumped from one screen to the next in frantic fashion, his fingers dances across the keyboard like a spider in its own web. The desk was cluttered like the rest of the apartment wasn’t. Half full bags of chips gone stale days ago, green cans of flat soda, a dirty plate, fork resting on top were jumbled about his work space.
His own MOD, a small black hand console, was on a pad which was connected with a wire to the computer. It had been a job just getting the ancient console based computer to recognize the MOD in the first place. The computer was probably fifty or sixty years old–maybe older–and he’d spent a fortune on it. An antique, collectors item. He’d heard wealthy people collected these old machines and played the old games on them. Nostalgia, in his opinion, was a complete bitch. If not for it he wouldn’t have had to spend three years worth of savings on the damn machine. Then another years to finally make the thing operational. He was probably the only person in the docks to own something of such priceless piece of history. He was also the only person to understand its potential. He hoped.
His hands, so fleet about the keys at his fingertips slowed. He looked at the lines of code in front of him. A line of ones and zeros. On the monitor to his right a revolving image of his MOD rotated. It’s insides displayed in a cross section. Certain bits of hardware were highlighted. The LD. The CT. And the Receiver. The left monitor was open to a webpage. This was ancient browsing, and it had been a trick to get the sites he wanted to compatible with the clunker he was using.
The music in his headphones stopped. A small jingle was coming in. His MOD buzzed on the port it was set. A name appeared in the right corner of his classes. Lisa Turnk. He shut off the call with a thought and the music, blasted into his ears, into his body. He was so close.