Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 6 of 7

Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
Part #6 - Alek's original encounter with Stacy


The middle scene in Chapter One of Cyberdrome involves Alek sitting in a coffee shop and having a brief encounter with a woman named Stacy, who was pretending to be a waitress to get close to Alek. The original version of this scene was quite long and involved Stacy playing a much more challenging roll.

Deleted Scene

When his vision cleared, Alek saw a blonde woman standing right in front of his table. Although she was beautiful, she looked like she tried to hide that fact by wearing the funky purple glasses and putting her hair up in a ponytail. Then he saw that she was wearing a metallic blue miniskirt and a thin, almost transparent tank top with nothing on underneath, and realized that she was hiding nothing.

"Can I help you?" he asked, somewhat befuddled.

"I'm sorry," she said, looking suddenly embarrassed. "It's just crowded in here and I thought maybe I could sit at your table, but I..." She started to turn away.

"No, don't go," he said, reaching out to her. She was wearing some sort of vanilla perfume and it seemed to overpower his senses. He stumbled for words, but couldn't get his mouth to say them. Instead, he pointed at the empty chair next to his table.

With a look of relief, she put her coffee cup on his table and quickly slid into the chair. "Thank you so much," she said, then leaned towards him and lowered her voice. "You can't imagine the number of creeps who have been hitting on me this morning."

He glanced briefly at her see-thru top and shook his head. "I can't imagine why," he said.

She smiled and reached out her hand. "I'm Stacy, by the way."

Her eyes were light green and they seemed to skip back and forth behind her glasses, almost as if she was having difficulty looking directly at him. "I'm Alek," he managed to say as he shook her hand.

"I know," she said with a nervous smile.

He was startled, but then guessed that she was probably just making nervous conversation. "What are you, a mind-reader?"

"Actually, I'm studying parapsychology, so you're close," she said, her eyes still bouncing strangely. "However, to be honest, the waitress told me your name."

He wasn't sure how to respond to that. He was not the kind of guy that beautiful women hit on--at least not in the last couple of years--so he didn't have any snappy comebacks. Hoping to fill up the awkward silence that was already several seconds too long, he concentrated on what she was studying. "Parapsychology, huh?" he managed to get out.

She seemed to relax. "Actually, I'm hoping to become a licensed clairvoyant when I graduate."

"A clairvoyant? You mean like those people who talk to the dead?"

"Those are mediums," she corrected him; "I am talking about palm reading, tarot cards--things like that."

"Do you actually believe in all that metaphysical stuff?" he asked without thinking, and then immediately regretted it.

"You were going to say, 'crap,' and I understand, since most people have that reaction. However, a lot of what it takes to be a clairvoyant is actually just being good at asking the right questions and reading people's facial movements and body language in response to those questions. Do you want me to show you?"

"I guess," he said, relieved that she didn't take offence to his stupid comment. "So, what do I have to do?"

"Nothing," she said as she pulled a small yellow box from her waistband and placed it on the table between them.

"Are you any good?" he asked.

"Well, like I said, I'm still a student, but I think I'm pretty good."

"No, I mean good at games," he said, glancing down at the yellow box.

"I don't play games," she said, looking confused.

Suddenly, it dawned on him what the box really was. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were blind."

"Don't apologize," she said. "I've been this way since birth." She managed a half-smile. "Like they say, you can't miss what you've never had."

"So, that's some sort of scanner," he said, wondering how else he could screw up the conversation. He looked down at the box. "Looks like a nice system. Is it Korean?"

She reached out and pulled the box closer to her side of the table. "I don't know," she said. "The salesman said it was state-of-the-art."

He glanced again at her clothing and realized that she probably had no idea how revealing her shirt was. Some lecherous hump at a clothing store had most likely told her it was the latest fashion, and she believed him.

"All right," she said with a quick smile. "Let's start the reading." She reached out with both hands and gently caressed the contours of his face. "Based on a combination of what my scanner sees and physical contact, I would say you are about thirty. The combination of your blue eyes and dark brown hair with a slight widow's peak tells me that your family originated in Northern Europe, but your somewhat wide nose and full lips tell me that you have some Northern African, or perhaps Middle Eastern blood."

"That's pretty good," he said. "I didn't realize that you could get color scans from that thing."

Without responding, she slid her hands down his neck to his shoulders, then down his arms to his forearms. Her hands were soft, and her gentle touch sent a shiver down his back. "Highly developed upper body," she said with a slight grin, "but no calluses. I would say you make a living using your brain, but work out to impress the girls."

He felt his face turning red and a part of him wanted to run away. "I do work out a lot," he said, "but not to impress anyone."

"Don't worry. I believe you," she said with a slight grin as she turned his left hand, palm-side up. She began sliding her fingertips gently back and forth over his palm. "I see that you had a serious relationship a while back. It was someone you almost married, perhaps." She pointed a part of his hand where a thin line that split off from one of the others. "It looks like you were the one who broke it off."

"Her name was Maya," he said without hesitation. "We dated back in college, but I haven't seen her in almost three years."

She tapped another part of his palm repeatedly. "Well, this is bad," she said. He looked to where she pointed. The thin line signifying Maya rejoined the main fold a short distance away. "It's bad news for me anyway. It looks like this Maya-person will be coming back into your life very soon, and I don't see her leaving."

She suddenly dropped his hand and looked down at his table. "So, is that octopus-thing on your table part of a game?"

His mind skipped a gear as he tried to adjust to the sudden change of topics. He looked at his hand again. Should he tell her that he had lost all contact with Maya, and that she was definitely not coming back into his life?


"Sorry." He looked down at the small, robotic creature with multi-jointed legs attempting to drill its way into the white plastic surface of his table and wondered for a moment how she was able to see his creation. Could she be a fellow Plumber? Then he realized that he had simply forgotten to encrypt the visual telemetry. He was broadcasting the holographic image to anyone with a desire to eavesdrop. Stacy's little yellow box must have picked up the signal. "It's called a Cyberphage," he finally said. "It is modeled after a Bacteriophage virus, which some people call nature's first true nanobot."

"Why does it look like a mechanical octopus?" she asked. She was leaning so close to him that her vanilla perfume was almost too much. He wondered briefly if she was lacking a sense of smell as well.

"That's just how I chose to render it," he said, leaning back slightly to get a little more breathing room. "All modern programs have rendering parameters built into them, just in case someone wants to look at them in virtual space." He smiled. "I make all of my programs look like robots. I think it makes them more intimidating."

"If I remember my high school biology correctly, bacteriophages inject DNA into other cells. So, what does your program do?"

"Something similar," he replied. "I use it to transport potentially dangerous programs past system security. Right now, it's drilling through the main firewall of the World Data Bank."

She grabbed his arm, a look of shock on her beautiful face. "Oh my God, you're a hacker?"

Definitely not a fellow programmer, he realized. No one on the inside used the old "hacker" and "cracker" labels anymore. Now that computers had taken over writing all commercial software, having the skill to create programs from scratch was quickly becoming a lost art, even in the underground world he used to frequent.

"Actually, I'm a Plumber," he corrected her. "I get paid to locate and fix problems in big corporate databases--problems that the A.I. systems either can't fix or maybe even created."

"Plumber," she repeated. "Where does that term come from?"

"If you ever spent a hundred straight hours trying to debug a multi-terabyte database, you would see the analogy to being a Plumber trying to find a leaky pipe inside a mountain-sized hotel.

She looked back down at the table. "So what do you need that Cyber-thingy for?"

"Sometimes, the only way to find the problem is by going in from the outside."

A thin smile crossed her mouth. "You mean by breaking in."

"Right," he said, unable to cover his own smile. "My Cyberphage is one of several remote ways that I do that."

"Remote," she repeated, then cocked her head to one side. "You mean you don't go in yourself? I thought all you software jockeys-"

"No," he said with more force than he meant to. He searched for the right words. "I had an accident during neural interface a few years ago," he finally managed to get out. "Now I have these blackouts. Total loss of sensory input."

After a few moments of awkward silence, she patted him on the shoulder. "So, now they won't let you play with the cool toys, right?" When he nodded his head, she added, "Well, I've had to live with people underestimating what I can do, all of my life. It's their loss, right?"

He felt his shoulders relax. "You're probably right," he said.

She glanced back down at his table. "Hey, your program just disappeared. Did you just change the frequency?"

He looked at the table. A yellow message was flashing in the space above the Cyberphage. "Proximity Alert. Unidentified program in local memory."

"No. My wrist computer just began encrypting the transmission. It's telling me that something is wrong."

She picked up her yellow box from the table. "I'm sorry. Maybe it's my scanner. I dropped it on the sidewalk a couple of days ago. Maybe it's transmitting some sort of interference."

"I don't think that's the problem," he said as he quickly drew a series of command shapes on his watch's touch plate, requesting a local memory scan. The Cyberphage begin to spin in a circle. Half way around, the yellow-alert message turned red. He grabbed his backpack from the floor and pulled out a thin wire headset.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

He adjusted the headset's transducers to press on his temples. "I'm sorry, Stacy. I don't usually do this in public, but something is happening to my program. I need to jump inside to see what's going on."

She slid her hand under the table and grabbed his thigh. "What's the frequency? I want to watch."

He tried to concentrate on what he was doing, but her hand on his leg made that difficult. "Your display glasses won't work with this technology. It's neural-based."

"Wait a minute. I thought you just said that you don't interface any more."

"I don't," he replied as he entered coordinates on his wrist computer. "This is a level-2 neural override headset. It transmits audio and visual signals only."

"You mean like an old-fashioned virtual reality set?"

"Right," he said as he glanced at her. "It overrides my senses--it doesn't replace them. There's a big difference. Anyway, I still won't be able to see or hear you while I'm logged in, so please just wait here. This should only take a minute."

He griped the table with one hand, and with the other, pressed the headset's connect button...