An Alternate Prologue For Wireless? But Why, Sway?
With Wireless now in stores online, I took some time to sweep up my edits and share one of the possibilities that made it into the book. Tricia the android had two important men in her life and I wanted to start the third book with telling the reader where either of them were. Out of Stephen and Brad, the latter made the cut, and a flashback of his life is what makes the prologue to Wireless. Stephen’s chapter is what you will be reading below.
The bounty hunters got her, it was his worst nightmare, and even though he had problems of his own, Stephen Dwayne made it his mission to rescue the love of his life. As he drove away from the hospital, that was his prison cell for a week; he tried not to think about the trouble he was in. He had been a gifted consultant for the biggest robotics company in the United States, but after digging into files that he wasn’t meant to see, he had become a target for a group of dangerous people.
First, they sabotaged the transport taking him to the hospital, which culminated in a crash that should have taken his life. Making it out alive meant that he could talk and implicate his assassins, so his company, Fritz and Isaacs Innovations, sent their medical staff to the wreckage, collected his broken body, and placed him in one of their hospitals. Lies about his condition had kept the police at bay, all while they pampered him while weaving a tale of care, unaware that he knew that their top men ordered the sabotage.
Getting out had been a cinch since the only handcuffs they used were words warning him about his condition. He knew that they were lies, and he also knew that Tricia, his beloved, was in grave danger of being captured and disassembled. Mechanophilia or the physical love of a machine was against the law in Seattle, but Stephen no longer cared as he tugged the stolen car up onto a ramp leading to the interstate. He was all she had, his beautiful Tricia, and he would march through the fires of hell to shield her from those butchers.
“She’s in a warehouse in Nevada. I’ll send you an address,” said a woman’s deep voice through his device. Her name was Reba, and she was a hacker that had been unfairly blamed for a data breach and fired from Fritz and Isaac. Stephen had kept in touch with the girl, sliding her freelance work whenever he could. Now that he was in a spot, she had been the only one he could trust, and she knew where they’d taken Tricia since the cameras on the streets were at the disposal of someone with her talents.
“Thank you, Ribs,” he said quietly, using her handle to help mask her identity.
“Don’t thank me yet, hero, there is a chance that you’re too late. They cycle them in and out pretty quickly, and she could already be on a track in New York.”
“How long ago did they take her?” he said.
“Three days ago. Did you watch the video I sent? They went to the door, powered her down, and then dragged her out of Tampa.”
“What’s in Nevada for them to transport her so deep out of the south?” he said.
“Come on dude, do you have to ask? It’s one of us that they use to reprogram her mind.”
“Then it’s definitely not too late,” he said, activating the magnetic nodes to force the car up onto the upper highway.
“What makes you say that?” she said, and Stephen chanced a glance down on his device, and saw her pixelated avatar face, playing with her hair as she chewed gum and stared out at him through red eyes. “Three months is forever ago, dude. If your girlfriend isn’t in a junk pile somewhere, then she’s turning tricks for some cyber pimp uptown. Hunters work quick, to avoid reclamation. By the time an android’s owner realizes that she’s missing, she’s been re-wired, and sold to a pervert on the other side of the country.”
Stephen felt sick, hearing this truth, it wasn’t as if he didn’t know this would happen, but something told him that she had made it out. “Tricia’s … different, Ribs, she’s a survivor. Plus, her coding is complex, that’s all I can say. You and I can’t read the language that was used to program her AI. Whoever developed her, did something crazy and unethical, for reasons I can’t explain to you on this call. Let’s just say that whoever they have re-wiring stolen androids, will find himself clueless once he digs inside her head. Now, what they’ll do after finding that she can’t be changed … that’s what I don’t know, and I want to get her out before it happens.”
Through a hydraulic system automated through access to the upper highway, the wheels of the old car shifted up and into a set of compartments. In their place descended plates which reacted to the metal lines running above the city. These pulled his vehicle up, above the traffic rushing along on the “upper highway,” and when the system judged a gap, that would not break the speed and flow of the other vehicles, it dropped the car onto the invisible road, and he was rushing along at over 100 mph.
The upper highway was only to be used for lengthy commutes that took you out of state. It was a convenient system, with an extremely low percentage of accidents throughout the year, mainly because drivers had to surrender their control once their vehicle attached itself to the system. Using the upper highway required one thing, an address in the vehicle’s GPS system for it to pinpoint the appropriate ramp to exit. The downside to using it if you were on the run, was that if law enforcement flagged your vehicle, the system would shift you to another track, where you’d be trapped until the police were able to come to collect you.
Mechanophilia aside, Stephen hadn’t broken the law, but he worried that Fritz and Isaac would have police on the payroll that would be able to detain him. The upper highway demanded citizenship, and a legal ID to use, so as soon as he was up, the city knew that he was there, but speed was what was needed, so he had to take the risk.
“Any noise from the police?” he said.
“Nothing yet,” said Reba, still twisting her hair. “You’re good, old man. I think that you’re in the clear. Maybe those monkeys at Fools and Idiots, haven’t realized that you snuck out just yet.”
He got off his device and looked down at the vehicle’s dash. The estimate on his trip was a little under eight hours. It would be a stretch, and he was already starving. There hadn’t been time to eat and wash after jumping from the second floor of that hospital building. Fritz and Isaac Innovations owned the hospital, which sat on a remote piece of property in Washington State. Most of the hospital staff were androids, as sophisticated as they looked human, and the few humans there may as well had been machines since they neither talked or acknowledged him.
The hospital had several floors, but most of them were empty. The few residents were just like him, unwanted ex-employees that they expected to “treat” until they eventually perished. Everyone there was assumed dead by their loved ones, which the company would cover-up, while they experimented with them here. Stephen’s stay had been uneventful, but he’d known that his time would eventually be up. For days he stood plotting, not only his escape, but finding Tricia, and escaping to middle America, where the androids were few, and he and Tricia could blend into a small town and disappear.
It was a foolish dream, a lover’s dream, but the reality of his situation told him that he would become hunted when he escaped. After the third month of plotting, he had the android’s routines memorized, and when the opportunity presented itself, he jimmied a window and slipped out to fall a long way to the lawn. Even now his legs were killing him from the impact of the fall, but he had gotten up, limped to a vehicle, broke open a rear window, and drove off.
Fortune was kind, and there was a device, someone’s backup, newly purchased that lay forgotten on the passenger seat. Stephen called Tricia, but a man picked up. He was a tired detective with a long list of questions. As he drove the stolen vehicle off the property, he answered the questions honestly. This lead to the two swapping notes and Stephen learned that Tricia had been abducted on a night when she thought the detective was visiting.
His next call was to Reba, who hacked into the area of the city where Tricia was living when she was attacked. When he watched the video she sent him, he moved quickly into action, not thinking about his stomach, half-naked appearance, or his lack of planning. All that mattered was Tricia and making sure she was okay. He knew the way it would look if sane people saw him sitting there in that expensive sports car.
“Thank god for tint,” he muttered, as he sat back, grimacing from the pain in his legs.
He slept for a time, dreaming about Tricia. How she’d met him in that coffee house, and he had made her experience a caramel macchiato. That was the same day that she surprised him in the shower, seduced him into helping her, and then telling him her story. She was a fantastic creature, and he was instantly smitten. Not only was he addicted physically, but the level of conversation would not be possible with a human. He loved Tricia the android and was past being conflicted about it. Now they’d taken her, after trying to kill him, and he would never rest until he knew she was alright.
When his eyes came open from his drug-fueled sleep, he was in a town in Nevada, parked inside what looked to be the parking lot of a warehouse. Though he was weak and hurt, Stephen stepped outside, where he noticed another vehicle parked off to the side. It was twilight now, but there was no one else around, so he crept to the single door, which sat above the loading dock. He found it open, and slipped inside, which took him in a hallway, lined with offices, all dark except for one.
When he came to that bright doorway, he peered inside, and there sat his Tricia’s head, detached from her body. There was a man there, snoring, his head on his desk, and on the monitor, in front of him, Stephen could see Tricia’s complex code. They’re still trying to crack it, he thought, wondering how long they had held her here. He crept back to his car and drove a few blocks away before turning the vehicle around to park.
Stephen was no combat expert, and though he was in pain and hungry, he knew that attacking the sleeping man would probably end up with him losing the eventual fight. This was a bounty hunter’s fence, which was another frightening aspect, so he decided on a plan to wait the hacker out. There was no refrigerator in the office or microwave for food, so Stephen reasoned that the man would eventually punch out. Once he did, he would drive back, break in and rescue his girl, and then they would leave this place together, and find a forgotten town to call home.
But the man wasn’t leaving, even after two hours of waiting, and Stephen’s hunger became too intense for him to stand it any longer. Driving to an ATM, he pulled out some cash, bought a lot of fast food, and practically inhaled it. When he went back to the building, the car was no longer there, so he crept up to the door and found that it was still unlocked. This made him frightened since it felt like a trap, but he needed to help Tricia, so he quietly stepped inside. It was pitch black now, so he closed the door, and waited for his eyes to adjust.
Lights from surge protectors and other electronics broke through the black, and in time, Stephen could make out shapes, then enough of the place to allow him to move about. Finding the office where they worked on Tricia, he stepped up to the doorway to see her two glowing eyes. It should have been sinister, but Stephen was a programmer and knew that it was a sign that she was jacked in. He crept to the computer, touched a key, and then looked into the code to see what they were trying to do.
Having been in Tricia’s head, Stephen could see the attempt the man was making to the cipher. He had inserted a lot of garbage, and it was wrong, misplaced, and affecting the rest of the logic. Not able to help himself, Stephen tried to fix it, deleting everything the man had hacked in. When he was satisfied, he reconnected that strange code, and it seemed to have worked since it began to animate hypnotically unlike any text he’d seen. Reaching around her head to probe at the base of her skull, Stephen powered her on to see just how much it had affected her.
In the dark, he saw her cobalt eyes go black, and though she did power on, she merely stared at him, seemingly unable to move. It was frightening a thing to experience for the young man, and he assumed the worst—that all the hacking had damaged her permanently. There was some noise on the outside that came from the far end of the hall, and Stephen froze, petrified at the thought of a bounty hunter killing him.
He stood up quickly, but the sound was no longer there. Whoever it was had either stopped moving to wait for him, or he had imagined it due to fear. Either way, he had to leave her, though it pained him to have to do so. What use would he be to her dead if he remained and got caught trespassing by a gang of dangerous men? The matrix for Tricia’s system was still open, with that writhing mess of exotic code dancing on the screen. “I am here,” he typed, forcing a gap in the middle of the hieroglyphs, “your Stephen is alive. Come and find me. I’ll be at moms. Remember.”