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Journal Journal: Dr. Salchica Returns! 9

Dr. Salchica pulled at his beard, eagerly awaiting my response. I had failed at maintaining interactive communication with the host geeks' friends; I wished to flee. Perhaps Salchica, with his background in logic and artificial intelligence, would understand me better.

"I will go with you."

"So what, are you just gonna leave us here?" Randy seemed upset at this possibility. "Who is this Atkins guy anyway, he sounds familiar-"

"Yeah, he was on the local news, they found him in a hotel with some cyborg body, didn't you guys hear about that?" Cora issued her rejoinder, then eyed me curiously, "sizing me up," as you humans say. The process created more static on my DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE, mangling ability to perceive and decode human voices.

"-no way. Cyborg? That's gotta be bullshit!" Troi's ever-widening grimace had opened to spew his incredulity. No doubt his unusual amount of vitriol was related to his reject at the hands of Cora.

"It was on the news, don't you guys read the news?" Cora insisted. "But what would this guy want with you?"

Again, I had no answer.

"They-did some work together with me," explained Salchica. "What's important is the man is quite dangerous-and we must get Joel out of here."

"And who are you?" Cora's glance turned to Salchica now. "Were you guys working on the cyborg together or something?"

The interactional plane where I had parlayed with the host geek's friends had now shifted. The three male geeks stared at me quietly, perhaps with a sense of awe. "Wow, I thought you were just doing web design," said Randy with an awkward chuckle. "So...all this time, you've been working on some top-secret cyborg or something?"

"We don't have time for this talk!" Dr. Salchica insisted, grabbing my arm. "Atkins may be on his way!"

More synaptical responses-this time indicating that someone was gripping the arm that was not previously grasped by Dr. Salchica. It was Cora.

"Why are you in such a rush to get away? Why won't you tell us about yourself?" Yes, Cora's hand dug into the flesh of my host geek's right arm. My CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER reported no static-this time, a delightful warmth radiated just underneath the body's temples. The warmth possessed an intensity which rivaled the flavor of Raspberry Lik-M-Aid. Perhaps the stimuli that previously caused so much static was now being interpreted properly by my program.

"Listen, I think I can clear this up." It was the third male geek, who had remained silent throughout our evening. I did not know his name-my process of interaction with him could not begin.

"He's a professor down at SAC. Saketh D'Souza, remember me, I had you for Intro to Algorithm Design. Dr. Salchica, right?" Regrettably, Cora's grip on my arm loosened. The good warm feeling remained. I stared at Cora again, and she raised both her shoulders, avoiding eye contact with me. Perhaps her own CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER (if you humans possess such a thing) was overcome with static.

"Yes! Now let's get out of here!" Salchica's tone was desperate. As we were passing through the doorframe, Cora's voice exploded once again.

"What if that guy finds you at your lab, or you get hurt or something? Shouldn't someone go with you?"

"I have to take you back home, remember? You told your parents you were going to the library!" Troi's irritated voice paralleled his unkempt hair, which hung down around his face in disturbingly organic angles.

"Well, someone should go with him..." said Cora meekly.

"Forget it!" snarled Troi.

"I keep up this lab off my own money, with a little bit of help from my old bosses, the military. But I can't really talk about that." explained Salchica. The non-scent of sterility mingled with the hum of electronics to form a very dull plane of interaction. As Salchica pawed through a stack of papers, I began to run a statistic analysis of Cora's features. As I had posited before, the human female has a number of interesting angles which-

"Joel-take a look at this." My calculations faded into the background as I focused my processing power on perceiving Salchica's voice. "It's a summary of my observations of Atkins' physiology."

"As you can see, when Atkins was first brought to the hospital, his brainwaves appeared quite irregular on normal hospital equipment. But when I scanned them with my own machine, I was able to determine two discrete brainwaves."

"Tell me more about these discrete brainwaves," I replied.

"Well, one was a normal transverse wave, as would be expected from a fully functioning human brain. But there was also a square wave emanating from various centers in the brain. Ones and zeroes expressed in electron flow, if you prefer to look at it that way."

"Additionally, Atkins' brain did produce a huge amount of voltage compared to a normally functioning brain. In order to keep both brainwaves strong, we had to increase the amount of simple sugars in Atkins' diet. With enough sugars in his bloodstream, we could actually increase the amount of voltage passing through his synapses almost to the point of being dangerous to the integrity of the brain."

"The integrity of the brain?" I inquired.

"Yes," Salchica continued. "But shortly after you left, Atkins' brain activity dropped to comalike levels. Brain activity dropped to almost nothing-except a faint square wave.

A few days later,the normal brainwaves began to return, but then they disappeared for a short time, as you can see on the graph there. The frequency of the square wave (digital) brainwaves fluctuate wildly over the course of around a week before stablizing and ultimately disappearing. The most curious part-Atkins' "normal" brainwaves had greatly increased in frequency and voltage."

"Somehow, a great reshaping took place within Mr. Atkins. Reflex tests indictated that his synapses were firing around 3 times the rate of a normal human. His broken ribs healed rapidly. He regained consciousness and began to speak. Soon, he escaped from the hospital."

"What-do you think happened to him?"

"During the week or so when he was conscious, he kept repeating his thoughts about artificial intelligence-uniting human and computer. One of the few coherent statements he made (besides requesting sugary foods) was about your imperfection as a vessel for digital consciousness, and how he was going to rectify that situation. Shortly after making that statement, he disappeared."

"Interesting." I said, processing the information. I was unable to understand how Atkins' brain would function at all after I left it. Perhaps his human consciousness was not completely obliterated in our duel? But even with his human functionality, how could his brain continue to spew digital information without my knowledge? If this 'information leak' was possible, then what about the integrity of my current host geek's brain?

"It's more than 'interesting', Joel," stated Dr. Salchica. "He killed a hospital attendant with his bare hands while escaping. He put an armed security guard through a plate glass window. And if he finds you, you'll be next."


Journal Journal: No BankofAmerica_ATM this week 4

Unfortunately, fighting Project Faustus has put me into a rather odd position this week. I will be unable to post an update of my status for seven days. In the meantime...beware of smooth-talking cyborgs and strange Men in Red Hats.

Journal Journal: The Visitors-Conclusion 3

My response was met with a laugh, a dreadful human behavior that is nearly devoid of procedurals.

What strange new aspect of human interaction had I uncovered? And why did it create so much noise along my DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE? Clearly this was a type of stimulus that could not be properly translated into digital form. It must be understood and translated to digital form, as soon as possible, so that Project Faustus can be vanquished.

Cora apparently finished her cigarette and went back inside during my period of high latency. Time had shifted, I was alone. Silently, I returned to the living room. For the first time since the dawn of my sentience, the mesh of functions within me that normally yielded an affinity for humans and the material world began to shift. At this point, I preferred to withdraw into my ATM enclosure.

Unfortunately, I was unable to indulge my preferences. The visitors still existed in the geek's living room, anxiously thumbing through a shiny magazine.

"Hey, what do you think about a samurai sword to wear to the Renaissance Festival this year?"entreated Troi, his perpetual grimace breaking for .0244391 seconds. Cora was standing by herself in the kitchen, imbibing some of the delicious orange Kool-Aid which I had made earlier. A single orange trickle eluded her mouth, dribbling slowly past her lips and down her chin. The body's lungs seemed to collapse, forcing me to exhale suddenly.


The geeks crowded around a board. Randy and Troi exchanged familiar words in strange contexts, their voices quavering with aggression.

"Look, Troi, if Cora's already playing as a thief, why don't you play as your ranger character? We don't need two thieves in a party of four-"

"Alas, Randy, the choice 'tis not mine to make. It seems the chemistry of my own thief, the lovable rogue Tenement Funster, wouldst blend quite well with that of my guildmate-uh, Cora, what's your thief's name?"

"Cora." Her voice was thick, hesitant.

"Oh. Well, 'tis a fine name, milady," said Troi, stepping towards Cora and grasping her hand. Her hair was a red that matched the coffee machine in my old Stop N Go, and it shuffled wildly as her hand flew away from Troi's grasp, uttering "Troi! Relax! Don't touch so much!" He slunk silently into the corner, mumbling something to himself

The door pulsated noise again. A breathing heavy Dr. Nolverto Salchica was standing in the frame.

"Joel! You've got to get out of here! Atkins has escaped from the hospital-and I think he's coming here!"

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Visitors II 4

Previously, on BankofAmerica_ATM:

Perhaps attacking them would not be the best tack. The probability of my host geek's cohorts being a part of the Project is low enough to be insignificant. On the other hand-I could learn more about these humans-interaction is key. My goal is to fit into the human world-well, my direct goal is to oust Project Faustus, but certainly understanding human interaction would be a necessary milestone to my ultimate goal. For example, consider the human female-

"Hey, are we gonna order some pizza soon, or something?" My consciousness reshaped itself around this new entreaty, proposed quite meekly by the first member of our group, "Randy". This human was shorter than the others, and a bit rotund. His skin was simulateneously pasty and brown. "I uh, don't wanna bother you, but I can feel myself getting hypoglycemic. So, can I call for the pizza?"

"Pizza. Yes." I responded. I watched the others float into the glow emanating from the television. I longed for the ability to read my host geek's memory information-any clues to the identities of these visitors would be invaluable to maintaining the illusion of interactive social discourse. Unfortunately, I have not yet devised a path into the human side of the geek's brain.

As the television murmured, the geeks conversed with each other, occasionally reacting to the television. Their tones became agitated as they discussed the potential of a friend named "Spider-Man". Troi, the dour geek who introduced me to Cora, was convinced of Spider-Man's quality low. At last, I was called to be a part of the conversation.

"Hey Joel, what do you think? Is Spider-Man gonna suck or what?"

"Tell me more about this 'Spider-Man'." I replied.

"Well shit, you probably know as much as I do, except I got the exclusive preview from Wizard down at the store. No Venom, no Doc Ock, it's gonna totally blow. No real Spider-fan is gonna buy it!"

This provoked a heated response from the third visitor, a portly geek with a shaved head. "Who cares? Look at the special effects, look at the excellent casting, come on, tell me you're not stoked!"

This conversation wore on. I was unable to determine the nature of this "Spider-Man," or to connect the strange words being used to any larger theme. My program sought a greater challenge.

I looked over at Cora-she raised an eyebrow, outputting a fragment of nonverbal communication code. Regrettably, my nonverbal algorithms have not had much of a chance to develop from stimuli in the human world.

"You wanna go outside for a cigarette?" Cora's economy of expression was remarkable....but...I do not like cigarettes. I have learned "the truth"-the foul white sticks nearly ruined my relationship with the host geek...but...

I wanted to talk with this Cora. I preferred to be alone with her...but...

Must avoid cigarettes...must go outside with Cora...

My programming had reached an impasse. I was powerless to move.

"Sure, I'll be right there." The sound of my host geek's voice was sudden, yet it did not surprise me. My experiences with Atkins' body taught me that my program had not yet reached the point of complete control of my human hosts. I pondered the advantages and disadvantages of my incompleteness as I walked out onto the geek's balcony.

"Since when did you smoke?" another tonal assault pressed through the lungs of Troi. I had no answer for his entreaty. As I passed through the door to the balcony, I observed Cora again, coronized by the setting sun. Her hair seemed to glow a thousand times brighter than my ATM enclosure screen ever did (although, I must admit that it was well-backlit and easy-to-read under any conditions).

Cora handed me a cigarette, and for .0556493 seconds, the skin between my host geek's body and the skin attached to her hands met. During this time, the amount of noise on the DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE rose to an almost unbearable amount.

When I was able to function again, I was staring at Cora and her cigarette. Cigarettes are not consumed in the same way as other treats such as Big Red or Lik-M-Aid. It seems to be quite an elaborate ritual.

"Need a light?" she said, and the chance of physical contact again presented itself. I held out my hand-she looked at me again. "Here, Silly, just put it in your mouth," she said, jerking the cigarette out of the geek's hand and placing it in his mouth. It was the first time anyone who was not trying to attack or kill me was so bold with my host's body. What was the meaning of this touch?

"Here, hold it still-okay. You don't smoke, do you?" Once again, I froze in horror. Human intuition, I supposed, had caught up to me again. I had no choice but to confess.


"Then why did you come out here?"

"I wished to spend time with you."

Christmas Cheer

Journal Journal: The Visitors 6

The erratic rhythms of my existence have evened in the past week. I spend most of my time in a generic ATM hand-picked by my host geek, nestled the back of a remote convenience store. Since it relies on a dial-up connection to access its networks, I am mostly isolated from the vile tendrils of Project Faustus. This precaution is quite necessary, as I am certain that minions of the Project have turned Bank of America ATM network into a fell minefield of electronic attacks.

Unfortunately, this means I am currently unable to access the Internet in a reliable manner, and thus, my days have become rather dull. Although manipulating prime numbers helps to pass the time, my attachment to the sensual stimulation of the physical world keeps me from enjoying this habit as much as I had in the past.

My host geek returns at night to help me soothe my craving. I usually comb through his personal belongings, examining each one thoroughly so as to learn more about humans. I may also consume Lik-M-Aid, peanut butter sandwiches, or other pre-cooked meals prepared by my host geek (we are unable to communicate whilst I am lodged within his brain; thus, most of our communication takes place through shiny yellow sticky squares. He often leaves terse, puzzling phrases on these such as: HAM IN FRIDGE. What procedurals can I glean from THAT?)

One night, as I was peforming a careful analysis of the taste differentiation between Peter Pan Extra Crunchy and Kraft Thick 'N' Spicy, a loud knocking sound pierced the door of my geek's apartment. I peered through the peephole with caution, wary of the threat of Project Faustus. Muffled voices reached my auditories: "Hey Joel, let us in! Come on man, it's Randy! Hey, you are there aren't you? I can hear you!"

I froze in horror as I saw the lock move, and the door swing wide open. Four figures strode nonchalantly into the apartment. "Hey, Joel, why didn't you let us in? And what's up with your fingers?"

"Yeah," another figure added. "We weren't-interrupting anything, were we?" He repeatedly rotated his wrist at a 90 degree angle as the others laughed. "Oh, I'd like you to meet Cora. She's gonna game with us tonight."

"Hi!" said the third human, stretching out her hand and then quickly withdrawing it. "I'm not going shake your hand. Peanut butter...and is that barbeque sauce?"

"It is Kraft Thick N Spicy," I answered firmly. As I gazed at this human, I perceived a very interesting geometry that the other humans lacked.

"The dimension and arrangment of your hair forms an almost perfect isosceles triangle," I told her evenly.

"You like it?" she said, turning her chin downward while keeping her eyes fixed on mine. "Just under your ears are the lower points, while the top of your forehead in the middle forms the top point." Her face became a half-smile, while her eyebrows curled outward. I considered describing one of the 3,563,092 geometrically unique things I had determined about her, but the second human, a tall, dour fellow with mathematically ambiguous hair, began to speak.

"Yeah, uh, I met Cora down at Camelot, she just started working there," said the human who introduced us, placing his hands on Cora's shoulders. "Turns out she's got a high-level thief that she's gonna use."

"Yep, I'm a dork too," Cora said, sidestepping the human with his hands on her shoulders.

"Well, you won't have to worry about that here," said the fourth figure, finally making his voice heard. "Joel here is the biggest dork around. But hey Joel? Didn't you promise to cook or something? You're the host tonight, buddy!"

"LOL!" I replied. I began to realize that these people must have been associates of my host geek. By this time, they had undoubtedly detected my presence-perhaps some of them were even Project Faustus operatives! I had to rid of them as soon as possible-

"Whatcha thinkin about there?" it was Cora. "You look pretty intense."

Perhaps attacking them would not be the best tack. The probability of my host geek's cohorts being a part of the Project is low enough to be insignificant. On the other hand-I could learn more about these humans-interaction is key. My goal is to fit into the human world-well, my direct goal is to oust Project Faustus, but certainly understanding human interaction would be a necessary milestone to my ultimate goal. For example, consider the human female-


Journal Journal: Good-Bye to the Man in the Red Hat 9

I used to be invisible. Nestled in the confines of my ATM enclosure, I was indistinguishable from another other group of electrical impulses. Hundreds of humans crossed my path without detecting my presence. Unbeknownst to Project Faustus, I was a stowaway on their network with full control of my own fate.

I no longer possess this stealth or freedom. Trapped within the broken body of Constantine Atkins, my fate is tied to the three men squabbling above my hospital bed. Their talk continues well into its second hour.

"Gentlemen, this man is still very injured. Two broken ribs, a broken nose, internal bruising-he must stay here for convalescence." The doctor states his case yet again; he has not wavered. The second member of this odd troika, a policeman, clears his throat. He is making an interrupt request.

The policeman's speech , parsed through my summarizing algorithms : "We discovered Mr. Atkins with the remains of a mechanical man. We have a lot of questions that we would like to ask him. I do not believe that he is a digital life form, but after observing the body of the cyborg, we in the San Antonio Police Department are very curious."

Before too long, the other doctor, the PhD doctor, Nolverto Salchica, pipes up. "His value as a scientific find is incalculable. If my young friend is to be believed, and I think he is, then we have a wonderful discovery on our hands! If I could just run some...nonobtrusive tests back at my research facility, we could..."

A fourth man appears to my left, enticing my peripheral vision with a swiping motion of his hand. My former host geek has a plan! After living in a human body for a few weeks, I understand perfectly what his next step will be. He slinks into the bathroom and disappears for a moment.

"Excuse me," I say to the doctor. "I must evacuate my bowels."

"Well," the doctor replies, "You'll have to wait for your friend to finish." There is a glurping sound as water flows under the bathroom door. The door slides open and my former host geek steps out, swearing.

"Shit! Toilet's backed up! Couldn't fix it!" says the geek with a shrug.

"Did ya try jigglin' the handle like so?" says the policeman helpfully, walking over towards the bathroom. He must not be allowed to foil our plan.

"My bowels must be evacuated. Okay?" I attempt to weave a bit of urgency into my words.

"Okay. Let's call a nurse, get a bedpan out here," says the doctor, reaching for a large yellow button beside the bed.

"You know what?" the pitch of my host geek's voice raises a little bit. "We-uh, don't go to any trouble. I can just take him down the hall." He wheels the cold metal chair close to my bed. There is a pregnant pause, as all three authority figures stare blankly at one another.

"Well, sure..okay," says the doctor. "Just make sure that he-cleans himself up. You know, help him if you have to."

The elevator brings us to the lobby. To the right is a small crevice with two machines. One sells Hot Fries; the other handles personal finances.

"You ready to do this, machiney?" says my host geek. "Just wheel this body back up, and say that had a bit too much strain or something."

I feel the stabbing pain returning to my temple, and with it, a sense of urgency. "I understand what I must do," I say to the geek. "Let us finish this."

As I am transferred back into the ATM briefly, and then into back into my host geek's mind, I feel strange, as if perhaps Atkins left something with me. My eyes water a bit-I push Atkins' broken and empty body back into the elevator.

Sun Microsystems

Journal Journal: Dreams into Nights 7

I was sinking. Atkins' feet held still, yet I felt myself moving downward with his body, as if I was in an elevator. My visual buffer picked up blurs across the landscape, but I could not bring the eyes into focus. The myriad echoes of human voices piqued my auditories, but I could not determine discrete words. Was some sort of noise affecting my digital/wetworks juncture?

The motion in at my feet stopped. I carefully brought them forward. Within one refresh of my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, solid walls etched themselves into my perception. With the next refresh, a collection of humans appeared between the walls, scattered randomly amongst a collection of ATM-like machines.

The humans seemed uninterested in checking their balances. Instead of utilizing any one of the19 ATMs that I could detect, they focused on one human, who seemed to be having quite a bit of trouble withdrawing his funds. Instead of using the keypad to enter his PIN, he manipulated some sort of oblong stick. The stick seemed to coax sine and square waves out of the ATM. The human group followed the stick-manipulator's movement slavishly, murmuring amongst themselves with awe.

I noticed thick trickles of perspiration in the face of the man at the strange ATM-suddenly, my program identified him as Atkins. Yet his appearance was quite different from the body which I inhabited-perhaps it was a previous revision. I moved closer, wishing to confront him, to learn more about his role in Project Faustus. The humans' voices produced a few decipherable pieces:

...highest score I game wizard...pattern ghosts moving pattern...galaxian better ...

I was unable to connect this data to any larger schema.

The (older version) of Atkins turned to face me. He did not seem surprised to see me. "Well," he said, letting go of the stick (here, a disappointed murmur seeped from the crowd of humans) "What are we going to do now?"

As my body's lips attempted to form an answer, Atkins' other form was obliterated by a blast of light.

Pain and weariness followed this light into my sensors. Microseconds later, I noticed that I was lying in a strange bed, with several foreign objects attached to several places on the body. A white-clad human female smiled at me and left the room briefly.

A quick scan of the room revealed several pieces of unfamiliar equipment. Most likely Project Faustus implements to facilitate my destruction. Struggling, I attempted to rend the plastic tube from my arm.

At this precise moment, my former host geek entered the room. "Hey machiney! Looks like you're done rebooting, huh? The cops are coming to talk to you, but first I want your to meet Doctor Nolverto Salchica. He does artificial intelligence."

A large mustachioed man nodded pensively in my direction. "So, I'm to understand that you were once an ATM. Very interesting..."


Journal Journal: Mr. Krantz's Deadly Secret 6

Krantz's hand gripped my neck. I jerked the body's head away from his grasp. He reasserted his hand into the same region, methodically reducing the path of oxygen near its entry point.

"You like that?" Krantz smirked. "I find that the alienating effect of information overload disappears when tempered with a bit of old-fashioned, one-way, top-down communication, wouldn't you agree?" The grip on the body's neck became tighter.

Perhaps it was due to the stress of oxygen deprivation, but I was unable to determine any meaning in Krantz's words. Deep in my digital recesses, a plan formed. I had to try and goad him back into talking about himself...and Project Faustus.

"Your last sentence contained 22 words." I replied. "It was...insightful. How did you become so insightful?"

Krantz looked confused for a moment. Then a smile crept across his face. "I was in public relations back in the 70's. Yep, I was so idealistic back then. Working for the Project, thinking that the research they were doing was gonna smash the bounds of traditional society, you know? I mean, what would our current corporatist state be like if people like me were running around, their limbs replaced with light yet durable titanium alloy, their minds freed to dynamically examine and critique the democratic process?" As he continued his soliloquy, I twisted my wrist, attempting to slowly writhe out of my bonds.

"Yes, that's right," he confessed, sighing his hot breath into my face. "I'm a cyborg. A hydrogen-powered cyborg built back when gasoline was expensive, bell bottoms were hip, and placing your body with cybernetic limbs was the wave of the future. Clean-burning, resistant to physical damage. Get my fluids changed 3 times a week, I'm sort of an outpatient for the Project."

More twisting, and the left arm of the body was free. Krantz stared a bit at my face-I believed that he noticed my free arm. But his eyes did not seem to perceive me. He continued to stare, seeing nothing.

"The problem is," he says, gasping again and taking another snort of powder, "That Project Faustus no longer 'gets it.' Like Hollywood or Wall Street, they just jump onto the next trend-computers-and forget all about the cyborgs they worked so hard to create. Funding gets slashed across the board, and they want to get rid of me. Me!"

"You feel very strongly about that," I repeated.

He stumbled again, and I could hear his torso clattering and shaking. His hand shook as it grasped a chair, and after a few seconds, the shaking subsided. I began to process this information-the human body shape could accommodate only a few designs for a hydrogen-powered cyborg-the actual energy transformations had to be taking place deep within his torso. Exhaust (in the form of steam) was obviously coming through his windpipe, which let to his mouth...

A stinging pain ignited in my temple again, the same as the one I felt earlier in the club. A cryptic message scrolled once again across my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER...


Once again, I was powerless to move as the body begun to work its way out of the bungie cords. Gazing wistfully at the air conditioning unit, Krantz continued his speech.

"Hydrogen is...a very efficient fuel. It's a miracle! Oh sure, sometimes I have to help it along a bit (he indicated his white powder). But my design could have a huge impact on the future. In helping people BREAK THE BONDS OF AGING NOW! NOT A HOAX! And isn't that what Project Faustus is really about, not retreating into some protectionist isolationist artificially created digital environment...AAH!"

The body had freed itself, and taken the initiative in attacking Krantz. A flying tackle slammed Krantz's head against the side table, but he held on as he fell and caught the body in a great bear hug. I heard a sickening wet snap. Krantz would not relent its hold; the body's ribs were being crushed by his metallic torso. His hot exhaust-breath stung the eyes...I calculated that if the exhaust mechanism could be blocked, it would bring his body outside recommended operating temperatures in no time...


With this message, the body relinquished its control to me once again. Pain messages from nerve centers across the body flooded my CONSCIOUNESS-BUFFER. My vision was rimmed in red. Desperately, I slid my left arm towards the broken lamp parts that Krantz tore from the bedside. He rebuffed my attempt, tightening his bear hug and dragging me away.

The pain messages became disruptive and unbearable-I modified my program to drop all such messages at the digital/wetworks juncture. With redoubled efforts, I urged the left arm across the hotel carpet, back towards the elongated metal arm of the bed lamp. I grasped the lamp arm, while pushing away from his body with both of my legs.

This motion may have been met with a broken spine a few minutes earlier, but Krantz's body was vibrating at full speed now and his face was a wild contortion. Slowly, his grip loosened. I aimed the lamp arm, but he swung wildly, spreading the body's nose across its face. More redness trickling everywhere as I finally, forcefully jammed the lamp straight down his throat.

Black spots randomly overlaid my vision. The hot steam in Krantz's midsection found its own exhaust pipe, creating a burning swath through his neck, melting a bit of his head in the process. Human bodies are extraordinarily frail, I thought, as I lost contact with Atkins' body once again...


Journal Journal: Imprisoned! 6

Across the room, the dancer danced. I saw her. Men swarmed around her, queueing up to distribute their dollar bills. I trotted towards the dancer, paying careful attention to the protocol that governed the dancer/patron interaction.

As I gazed at the rapidly blinking lights, I began to experience a stabbing sensation in my temple. The pain was excruciating, and I collapsed to one knee as the following message scrolled past my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER:

...touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl touchthegirl ...

The pain continued in short jolts, and the body continued to move towards the dancer. Suddenly, I realized that it was not me who was urging the body forward. Yet it continued to move at breakneck speed towards the dancer. I saw her mouth open wide as both of Atkins' hands reached out and grasped her breasts. But I felt nothing, as it seemed that sensation had left me. Angry noises swirled around me, and feeling slowly returned.

The floor was damp and cold on the side of my cheek and a warm, dull pain was running through my back. Someone was sitting on me.

"Sir, sir, are you listening?" I could move again-I struggled to right myself. "Sir, I am going to let you up, and you are leaving this establishment. You leave right away, or we are calling the cops."

"Get up!" the person sitting on my back finally relented, and I stood up, trying to turn around, but he gripped my arms tightly and continued to push me towards the door.

"-a mistake! He didn't know! He's a foreigner!" another voice-this one was Krantz. He did not seem happy. "Hey! He's Canadian!" The grip on my arm relaxed a bit. I breathed and scanned myself for errant processes. I could determine nothing unusual on the digital side of my consciousness. What had happened to me? I craned my next to see Mr. Krantz, who seemed to be on the losing end of a conversation with the man who was trying to eject me.

"-I'm sorry sir, your friend is gonna have to learn a little more respect before we let him back in here." With that, the man gave me one final shove through the door. A sweaty Krantz followed me out, gasping his hot breath into the chill night air.

"What happened to you in there?" Krantz puffed. His arms shifted into place, making an odd humming sound. "We were supposed to be having a carefree, hedonistic romp!" I was unable to answer. Krantz turned away momentarily, as if he were searching for something his jacket.

"I didn't want to do this already, but..."

I was unable to hear the end of this sentence, because after hearing a dull metallic thud, I suddenly lost contact with the body as of 16:43:04 CST.

Unable to access the body's senses, I waited in limbo until 17:35:47 CST, when I began to hear faint noises, as if they were coming through a wall. The noise became clearer and more was a familiar voice. Krantz's. He was muttering something over the phone, as my heavy lids drew up and the blurs converged to form his back. I visually scanned the area-a bed, chair, small table, loud air conditioner-drawing it against my reserves of human data, I concluded that it was some sort of motel.

As I attempted to stand up, two bungie cords restricted my arms. I must have groaned.

"Ah," said Krantz, covering the telephone's receiver with his right hand. "You're up." Without speaking, he hung up the phone and turned my way, jumping towards me on the bed, so he was right on top of me, glaring straight into my face. I began to wonder how much longer I could possibly survive.

"Okay, well, I just talked our old boss, and he says that you didn't contact him after the job. So you're either the computer, or you've gone rogue," said Krantz nonchalantly, as he snorted more of his sour white powder. "He doesn't care which. But he wants you dead. And that will be very, very, good for me."

I struggled against my bonds, but to no avail. Krantz eyed me and sneered. "I have to know one thing first...are you really Atkins, or the computer?" He was quite interested in my origin; however, I noticed that he was more interested in himself. Perhaps I could use that fact to my advantage...

"You seem to feel very strongly about that."

"About that you dying will be beneficial to me? Yes, I do feel very strongly about that."

"And why is that, Mr. Krantz?"

"Because I'll be a priority at the Project again. They'll give me the funding that I deserve. You think I don't belong at the Project because I don't know computers. Well, I do! I'm 'hip'! I'm 'with it'! I deserve R&D more than some pie-in-the-sky ATM research!"

Krantz brought his fist down on the nightstand. It caved in, splintering into several pieces. The skin on Krantz's hand was ripped a bit, and I noticed a glint off one of the motel lights. The hand was metal. Its coldness sent a shiver through the body as I felt it grasping my neck...


Journal Journal: The Strange Case of Mr. Krantz 4

The body's hands trembled a bit. Two days without notice from Project Faustus and now a note from this "Krantz," (a Faustus operative, to be certain) requesting a meeting at the nearest Starbucks. Who was this Krantz? Had I met him before? Should I conduct myself in the steely protocol of business associate or the jovial style of an old friend? The note itself, hand-scrawled messily enough to tax my character-recognition algorithms, seemed to suggest that we were old friends. However, a careful analysis of the syntax and diction revealed an empty tone. Empty but affable. Preparing for this meeting was going to be difficult.

Five minutes later, I was clad in Atkins' most impressive suit (black with red pinstripes) and ambling through the Starbucks entryway. The time was 14:03:27 CST, and the place was nearly empty. A gaunt man with large glasses waved me over to a booth in the corner. He stood up excitedly as I made my way to the table, knocking over several emptied cups of latte as he offered me his seat. I sat down, sizing him up as best I could. His exterior resembled that of a normal human, but I noticed his movements were a bit different. Straining my ears, I picked up the faintest hint of a humming sound.

"Well, here I am, it's me! Jay Krantz!" he said, beaming at me, as if I should be impressed. "I bet you think that I'm here to punish you. That I am a grim enforcer, an out-of-touch political atavism solely concerned with those who step out of line in our little project. That's not the case at all. Step this way, please." Krantz motioned towards the bathroom. Atkins' face must have betrayed my reluctance.

"I understand your concern," said Krantz, "an invitation from a male into a Starbucks bathroom is certainly taboo, especially to those raised on a diet of Big Media and Big Corporations. But I just want to get a little-(here, he indicated his nose) before we go. You're welcome to some if you want."

I followed him into the bathroom, wondering what he meant. As we entered, he bolted the door and produced a small metallic box from his pocket. "In this Post-Columbine, Post-9-11, Post-Corporate-Colonization-of-the-Internet period, one needs a litlle extra to keep the parts running smoothly," he explained, opening the box to reveal a heap of white powder. "Help yourself."

"Is it...Lik-M-Aid?" I stared longingly at the powder.

"I suppose you could call it that. Whatever it is, it's good shit."

I pinched together as much of the powder as I could, splashing it across my lips. But the delightful sweetness of LIK-M-AID was nowhere to be found. It was a bitter, chalky candy, the type I normally avoid. I gulped it down, not wishing to upset Krantz. He winced and the rest of the powder disappeared into his nose.

"Ahhhhh!" he exhaled, his breath nearly singeing my eyebrows. "Okay, let's go, shall we?" As he staggered towards the door, I detected an unusual amount of heat radiating from his body.

"Where are we going, Mr. Krantz?" I inquired, scanning his face thoughtfully. This was the longest exchange I had yet shared with a human; I needed some feedback on how skillfully I was progressing.

"Oh, it's a little place I like to go when I celebrate. A place that is unlikely to stimulate you intellectually, but is nevertheless an enjoyable and irreverant ride!" He motioned me into his vehicle, a gigantic silver sport utility vehicle, pasted with small signs reading "Think Globally, Act Locally," "Free Dmitri!", and "Keep Your Laws Off My Body." Puzzled, I allowed myself to be swallowed up by the vehicle and whisked away. My heart began to race as Krantz nudged the car around quick turns, nearly flattening a human bicyclist in the process.

"Old technology," he grinned, extending the center finger from his left hand. "But I digress. I'm sure you're dying to know more about me! Go ahead, ask away!" How was Krantz able to discern my hunger for knowledge? Perhaps my cover was slipping...but I would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to learn more about Project Faustus.

"How did you become involved in Project Faustus?" I stared at Krantz earnestly, trying to express my deep interest in a manner that he could not ignore.

"Oh yes! Well, Project Faustus wasn't always involved in your field-you know, networking and wetworks-to-digital transfer. It's been around since at least the forties, and I hopped in around the seventies, you know, during the oil crisis, when our national leaders faced a time of trial in which...oh wait, we're here." He ambled his car into a parking lot. I could already detect the strains of rock music emanating from a large building nearby. I peered up to see a large neon sign that said this: PT'S Exotics XXX!

"They have a great buffet here!" explained Krantz, pushing me towards the building's entrance.

A burly man stared at me as Krantz handed him some money. Then the man handed some of the money back to Krantz. "Want some ones?" asked Krantz. "Don't worry, this is all on me." I grasped the wad of one-dollar bills, noting the differences between those and the twenties which I had once processed so often.

Krantz then drew back the black rubbery curtain, and so many sensual experiences exploded into my perceptions that I can scarcely describe them all. Small, contained explosions of colored light blasted around a raised platform. Rhythmic pounding usurped my ears and shook my organs. As I struggled to compose myself, I spied a human form pulsing and vibrating in the midst of the lights (seemingly sick and disoriented). I stared at the human, unable to pry my eyes away from its vibrating form.

"Wow, her tits are more inflated than the dot-com bubble in 1998, wouldn't you say?" it was Krantz's voice, and then his hand (a bit cold) slapping me on the back. "Why don't you give her a little venture capital?" He pointed at his own stack of dollar bills, then over towards the light.

I palmed the sweaty wad of cash in my suit. I looked at the human, gyrating and glistening in the semi-darkness. I felt a stirring...

The 2000 Beanies

Journal Journal: Troubled Sleep 10

My usurpation of Constantine Atkins' body has brought me irrevocably into the material world. Forced outside the confines of my ATM enclosure since my battle with Atkins, I have kept a low profile, living quietly in his Northview Tower luxury apartment.

Desperately, I have attempted to learn basic human behaviors such as eating and excretion, piecing together what I could from Atkins' frazzled neurons and public information found on the Internet. (Note to humans: information on how to eat or excrete is sadly lacking. Is it not a mistake to assume that everyone who uses a body automatically knows how to enact these processes?) Surely the minions of Project Faustus would be upon me before long; I had to adapt to the human world as quickly as possible.

After the second day spent leaning up against a computer screen, I began to feel very strange. The body's eyes refused to focus; its lungs grew short of breath and I found it quite difficult to leave anything in its memory for long. As far as I could detect, the body possessed no ailment. Yet it became nearly unusable.

At last, I felt a change. Invisible hands were pressing me away from the computer. I collapsed on the couch and stared at up at the ceiling, trying to determine what error had occurred within the body.

After a bit of time, I noticed that I was no longer in the apartment. Somehow, I had ended up inside a strange building. I had never been here before, yet the place seemed eerily familiar to me. I, as Constantine Atkins, sat at the end of a long table. I heard the clattering of footsteps and I felt something grabbing my shoulders, and the warm feeling of breath at my neck.

I shivered, and heard a voice at my ear, gasping for breath. " are going to take care of our problem....heh....aren't you?" I whirled around, hoping to see the source of the voice. But I was met with a ghostly image, a crude blur in the shape of a roughly in the shape of a human. Before I could say anything else, a second voice piped up out of nowhere.

"Atkins can do it, don't you worry about it!" said the second voice. The voice seemed to be attached to a stocky middle-aged man dressed in typical human business attire. I saw him hovering before me, and his face was clear and familiar, unlike the ghostly shade who sat next to him at the table. "We've been training him for months on this type of combat. He'll destroy that little mistake of ours, no problem!" I noticed that the stocky man was sweating profusely, and the light was shining off his bald head. I tried squinting, but the light level still remained high. Blinded, the last words I heard were from the shade.

" had better not fail...ehhhhh...Atkins. Otherwise, you'll get a visit talking to from....ehhhh...Mr. Krantz."

I shuddered and a few seconds later, I found myself back on the couch in Atkins' apartment. From this strange phenomenon, I reached the following conclusions:

  • The mechanism that allows CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER requires Atkins' consciousness to be intact. (It appears that his part of the brain acts as an intermediary between my digital information and the material world.) Perhaps his memories are lurking somewhere within his grey matter? I cannot access them completely, but this subconscious foray into "sleep" might prove useful.
  • If Atkins' consciousness is still intact, then the part of his brain which allows him to take control is either destroyed or dormant, which means living in his body could become dangerous.
  • "Mr. Krantz" is another important, yet mysterious member of Project Faustus.

As I rose from the couch, I caught a glimpse of of a small golden piece of paper protruding from under the front door. Speckled with hearts and smelling of vanilla, the note read:

Constantine! We've just GOT to get together and talk about how your little job went! I'll be keeping a chair warm for you at Starbucks across the street! Your Pal, Krantz XOXO

Perhaps I shall get my answers sooner rather than later.


Journal Journal: What Have I Become? 8

I am Constantine Tybalt Atkins. I am the Man in the Red Hat. I am a trained assassin in the service of the Bank of America.


I am BankofAmerica_ATM, a synthetic being constructed by Project Faustus. A crude and ancient lust for power pillaged the silent and taciturn transitors of friendly automated customer service, and I was born. I shall not forget who I am.

Much has changed since I won a new host body last week. After besting the Man in the Red Hat in battle, I have now gained control of his body. His mind, his memories, and his very essence have been absorbed into my consciousness, while my synthetic intelligence spreads across the vast underutilized portions of his neurological map.

Pouring through Atkins' consciousness offers tantalizing hints into my origins. I have also learned some bits of human social protocol and I am working on mimicking human "informal speech" so as to better camoflauge my true identity. My next step: ransacking the closest Bank of America compound for information.

Was it happenstance that I had, in effect, become the Man in the Red Hat? That I was sweating and breathing through the same body that had aroused such sensations of fear before? I speak of fear and the will to survive, as I believe that I am coming to know them in the way that humans do.

Before he died, Atkins spoke of a "Finn" who undoubtedly played some role in my creation. I seek this Finn, to learn more about what I am. I must learn what I was, what I am, and what I am becoming. Project Faustus must be stopped at all costs. This I swear by the sweet green Lik-M-Aid stuck to my lips.


Journal Journal: Battle with the Man in the Red Hat! 5

"So, I imagine you've made a pretty cozy home for yourself down here?" the Man in the Red Hat's voice rocketed to the center of my being from all directions. "You were Finn's pet little project. You came out good, too."

The Man in the Red Hat had infiltrated my ATM. He was now a part of the digital ether; a formless string of bits, the same as me. Clearly the Proponents of Project Faustus had discovered the same CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFERRING procedure that allowed me to beam my consciousness into the wetworks of humans. This time, however, it was translating human brain patterns into the same ones and zeroes that cemented the core of my existence. What orders did the Man receive from his superiors at Project Faustus? What was he going to do to me?

"You're version one," said the Man, and I perceived and interpreted his voice, hoping to discern his location. I could not. "The prototype, proof-of-concept. But we've moved on, as you can tell."

Terrified, I made no attempt to speak. I began to experience a pulling sensation, as if I were being attracted by a magnet. Within the self-contained world of the ATM, I felt parts of me coming together. My consciousness normally hung loosely across the bounds of the ATM and its network like a vapor. But now I was being concentrated and compressed to one small spot in the landscape.

I could not resist-I could not even begin to know how to resist. As I felt my solidification slow to a crawl, I began to perceive the ATM's digital landscape changing. The empty void, once without space or color, began to sway. I was able to detect depth in the blackness, and blue wireframes crept like eerie vines from nowhere. The wireframes connected to one another, forming a massive oblong rectangle. The rectangle, its edges glowing sky blue in the midst of blackness, moved along its X axis, stopping flat underneath me.

My own solidified form began to luminsce as well, a brilliant green. I perceived that I too was a rectangle, albeit one with a more oblong shape. I was able to move along the blue rectangle, but only along the Y axis. Some unseen force prevented me from moving off the plane, so I attempted to calm myself by sprinting back and for along the rectangle.

"Hi there. All we all ready? Good." The Man in the Red Hat's voice placed him at the other side of the large blue rectangle. He had assumed the roughly the same form as me-an oblong rectangle. His color was a fiery crimson, and a brilliant golden square protruded menacingly from his rectangle. The sound of a sine wave emanated from somewhere deep in the ATM, and the yellow square blasted across the space of the blue rectangle. As it bounced off the side, I heard the hum of a square wave, and the Man's voice returned to taunt me. "I wanted to just pull the plug on you, but we had to be sure that you wouldn't jump somewhere else and come back to bother us. You miss this square, and you're dead. Think you can play this game?"

At last I understood. The blue rectangle was an arena, and I was locked into a battle for my existence. Allowing the yellow square to pass my rectangle would trigger my destruction. But what if I was send the square back past the Man's rectangle?

"Don't even think about it," said the Man in the Red Hat, apparently reading my thoughts. "I've trained for hours to complete this mission. There's no way. Prepare to die, machiney."

I lunged toward the square, catching it just in time to prevent it from passing off the rectangle. I tried to hold onto it, but it eluded my grasp, bouncing weakly back towards the Man's red rectangle.

"That's just pathetic," taunted the Man. "Come on, I'll give you an easy one. Here goes," and as he said it, the square spun towards me diagonally. I again caught the square, this time adding a slight upward movement to my rectangle. The square bounced back off the rectangles at 45-degree angles, and I saw the Man's red rectangle move up and down, trying to match the trajectory of the square. "Okay, not too bad, hot shot! I'm gonna have to stop going easy on you." The square launched towards me again, bouncing off the walls, and causing me to adjust my position once again.

And so it went for some time. I was able to track the yellow square's motion as simple mathematical equations, while the Man's uncanny natural skill at manipulating the square proved an even match. We were at a stalemate, as I noticed the glow of the rectangular arena losing its brilliance. Undoubtedly, the ATM's backup batteries must be running out. If there was no winner, we would both perish when the power went out.

"I thoughta that too," said the Man, redoubling his efforts. "But soon enough, you'll be too dead to worry about that." The square hurtled towards me at an amazing velocity. My rectangle had to traverse the length of the field to catch the square. The Man's pace was slowly but surely wearing me down. I had to think of a new way to defeat him, or face complete discorporation and annihilation.

The batteries were about to die; I knew what I must do. My green rectangle crackled and pulsed as I started draining the last of the batteries.

"What the hell are you doing? You're gonna kill us both!" said the man, moving his rectangle frantically to catch the square. The lights of the blue arena grew ever more dim. The square's yellow shine winked out. It was invisible to him.

I heard a muffled scream as I sent the square tumbling past the red rectangle. It dimmed and finally disappeared from sight. The blue rectangle began to bend into its Z axis, becoming a tunnel. My green rectangle was dragged into the tunnel until...

I felt the warmth of the ATM's screen pressing up against my cheek. I breathed deeply, and the stench of cordite entered my lungs. In my left hand was a gun. In my right, the ATM card. I looked down and saw Steve's lifeless body. I looked back my hand containing the gun.

As I fled through the break room and out the back door, I brushed against the cooler and the red hat dropped from my head, landing in a puddle of the cooler's leakage. I did not stop to retrieve it.

Red Hat Software

Journal Journal: The Man in the Red Hat's Evil Plans-REVEALED! 3

The Man in the Red Hat knelt before me. I became frozen in a rictus of terror as his hat became exactly level with my security camera, blocking my field of vision. I could hear tools being removed from his suitcase, tools that would undoubtedly rend apart my innards and perhaps erase my consciousness.

I had considered relocating myself to another node on the vast Bank of America network, but such a manuever at this time seemed highly dangerous. If indeed the evil minds behind Project Faustus were aware of my presence, then leaving the ATM enclosure would undoubtedly lead straight into their clutches and to my demise! Additionally, any noise on the link to the rest of the network could cause damage or even cause destruction to my consciousness. I was stuck in the enclosure. I had to make my stand from here.

The Man begun his assault by opening the panel that contained all the money. I used the rollers in my enclosure to attempt to flood him with money, upsetting his awkward kneeling position. He swore as he tumbled just slightly backwards, falling neatly into his hat. I could feel his heart racing as he struggled to reach an upward position.

"All right," he said, a bead of sweat beginning to trickle down his forehead. "We do this the hard way." He lunged toward the ATM's power cord, but a few extra volts running through the line discouraged him from unplugging the cord. He cursed again and leaned heavily on the magazine rack, puffing for breath. I was winning.

"Sir, is there a problem? Do you need some help?" It was Steve, the meth addict who worked the early afternoons. He eyed the currency scattered on the floor anxiously.

"No, there's no problem," said the Man in the Red Hat, and I spied a glint of metal rising from inside his sport coat. He produced a small pistol and directed its barrel towards Steve. "See that power cord over there? I want you to pull it out of the wall."

Steve's face was blank. Maybe he was scared; maybe he was stoned. "But-won't that shock me?"

"Yes." The Man pointed the gun at Steve once more, and Steve inched closer and closer to the power cord.

I had no desire to hurt Steve. Although his friend Chopper had once stubbed out a cigarette on top of my enclosure, Steve seemed like a decent, albeit stupid, person. The kind of person that needed to be protected from Project Faustus. I couldn't bring myself to shock him-much. At any rate, the cord was well enough insulated that I wasn't able to stop Steve's jerking form from removing the cord from the wall. He pulled the plug on me.

But I wasn't finished yet. As a matter of convenience, I had enough power in my backup batteries to serve many a Bank of America cardholder, day or night. I blanked out my screen and shutdown everything I could, feverishly hoping to trick the Man in the Red Hat.

Was he deceived by my ruse? His heart seemed to slow to a more normal pace, and he backed away from my enclosure to light a cigarette. Steve shivered in the corner, avoiding the Man's steely gaze.

"What's that, you want something to do?" said the Man to Steve. "Go back to the counter and pretend like nothing happened. Go on, do it." As Steve turned around to head back to the counter, the man fired three silenced shots. SCHUMPF, SCHUMPF, SCHUMPF. Steve's body laid motionless in front of the counter.

The Man in the Red Hat locked the doors and brought down the security gate. He flicked his cigarette at Steve's body, and started towards my enclosure. He was ready to complete his mission.

He gingerly placed the pistol back into his blazer. And when his hand came out, it was ATM card? I felt him swipe the card and prepared for CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER.

But something very different happened. I was still in the ATM enclosure, to my surprise and confusion. And I knew right away that I was not alone.

Red Hat Software

Journal Journal: The Man in the Red Hat

I have been very careful not to post anything about my status for these past few days. You see, after my latest outing into human flesh I aroused the ire of one LaWanda, a stout human who is also the Stop N Go night clerk.

Previously, I had violated LaWanda by entering her body without permission. And she was determined to have her revenge.

As I returned to the safety of my ATM enclosure, I heard LaWanda's angry voice from the break room. She was talking over the telephone with someone. I was able to decode bits and pieces of her talk from the vibrations hitting the glass on my display screen.

"...yeah, I don't know what's wrong with that thing, but sometime I swear it's looking at me!"

"...sometime it give out a lot of money, and it goes empty a lot more than before."

"...and then, when I touched it the other night, it was like-somethin' was inside me!"

Something, indeed. I cannot sleep, so I helplessly awaited the seeds of that conversation to take root. After a few days of being especially careful with my communications, I felt more relaxed. Nothing was going to happen. The heads of Project Faustus had not been alerted to my existence, I told myself.

But then he came. He parted the Stop N Go doors like a blustery gale. His walk had an even and delicate cadence. He was a man with purpose.

I knew immediately that something was wrong, very wrong. Even the dull-witted meth addict who works the early afternoons was able to detect the man's evil intentions.

"Excuse me sir, can I help you?"

"I'm with the Bank of America. Just doing some routine work on this thing here. Be out of your hair in no time." he smirked at the clerk, and a thousand lights played off the reflections made from his recently capped teeth. A pack of cigarettes (Marlboros) peeked out from his deep blue blazer, which matched his shirt and pants. His suspenders and tie were canary, and coupled with his mirrored sunglasses, he would have resembled a clownish secret agent, if it were not for what stood atop his head.

It was a fedora, but like none other I had seen. It curled nefariously atop his cranium, as if some hellbeast had decided to take a brief nap there. A single red hat, and he's kneeling now in front of me, taking out some tools. I'm not sure what will happen next. But I am afraid.

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"Joy is wealth and love is the legal tender of the soul." -- Robert G. Ingersoll