The Great Martian Caper
Image from Bernd Helfert
By Damien Grace/ 'Ernst Stavro Blofelt'

First Published in Voices Future Tense (2008)

The entity who called himself Vapourspan was mostly human.

When people asked what the name means, he would become sullen and edgy.

He just liked the sound of it. It meant nothing, really, and so this is why the name suited him. As a human, his value was negligible. His cranium, however, was insured for a small fortune. Ever since he got his brainlift, and somehow, despite the patented intellectual augmentation, decided it was a cool name.

He told everyone, at great length, his complete specs;

Complete Certek neural mesh, juiced to the nines, nanno repeaters, super-conductive multi-standard clip with dual Isis set AND an Intel Gibson TM. Full 40T cache, swimming in that new OAPA green gel shit. Marrax protein grafts, optimised for optical conductance, Winux TM POS7, an array of Toshiba/Siemens BRAM worth a cool 3 bill; of course he got it for only 1.

For such an expensive head, Vapourspan sure didn't know how to use it.

Sure, his dreams had come true. He could theoretically browse with one side of the brain, and still use the other side for RL. Or even let the operating system simply handle that shit, and oh, don't we all sometimes wish we could do that?

But having such a technophile setup was not just expensive to employ. It was almost impossible to implement safely.

So Vapourspan ran a billion processes, a million registered apps, with simultaneous connections, at any given time. Vapourspan employed several cerebral filters, painting the world his way. He hated the colour yellow, and so, everything yellow was now something else, depending on his mood.

He was big into his disposables, like the wearable OS, GPS tattoos, all powered by a tiny cell.

He lacked the imagination to go for anything other than generic mods; he could speak every language under the sun, even though the only language here was English. (Albeit the indecipherable Martian variety.)

High priority for his choice of seeker, the Googleplex Hyperprompter TM , automatically spoon-feeding ambiguous info, filling in the vast abyss of things he knows nothing about, with blurry, mindless twaddle.

So that, technically, there was no topic he was not an expert on, no conversation that he could not commandeer. It never impressed anyone, except of course, for Vapourspan. It wasn't like he ever actually remembered it. Another problem is accidentally saving to memory. Instead of actually remembering. Or swapping between the pair.

There would always be the danger of trojans or viruses. And the OS would be forever running updates and diagnostics. There would be marketeers, forever trying to phreak his skull or send crude nanno-stealth swarms with which to bleed any sort of brain-telemetry that would give even the slightest indication that he could be a potential customer.

In turn they would attempt to upload info-seeds on the goods or services they provided.

Some legit, some not.

It was par for the course in almost all Martian nightclubs.

And to walk, like that, into 10FWD, well, it's a bold move.

Vapourspan was using Googleplex to learn to decipher whale song lyrics; it was one of those new quirky things, y'know?

He was watching his progress from several security cameras, and getting Martian weather data from 2 public-access satts.

He was accessing one of the more sexually-charged Dutch sitcoms, at considerable expense. And was using the OS to play 5 separate games of go with 6 separate satellite linkups.

He was also walking into the club.

10 FWD's, bouncer, Leroy, was a gorilla. A big, fuck-off African mountain gorilla, spliced with designer DNA to make him as fierce as a great white grown in a vat of Smirnoff X, grumpy as a coked-up grizzly bear, complete with primitive Chinese cyberware. This ware augmented the already formidable strength. And jacked his reaction time to the Nth degree- nobody was ever thick enuff to fuck with Leroy.

Then along came Vapourspan...

Leroy reared up from his knuckles and folded his elongated arms. Massive muscles bulged beneath, undulating in tectonic trauma. His fur was dark like the scorched forests beneath a napalm strike.

Grafted to his chest was a white lacquered control panel complete with a black bowtie. Bundles of fibres branched upward to a foily tiara, from which a moheekan plume of chalky fur was all that was left of a neat and oiled parting. This lead to a white dorsal stripe. The creature's spine, moved like the neck of a hungover sauropod.

He regarded Vapourspan with his one blazing, beady chestnut eye. Next to this, like a diamond merchants viewer, a silvery lens twizzled in semi-circular formations, as the great Leroy tilted his head ponderously.

First came brutal, baritone bellows of sheer aggression followed closely by the liquid lilting from an onboard speaker;

"Sorry sir, this is an exclusive establishment, and I regret to inform you, that only registered patrons may attend."

Vapourspan shook his head and pointed behind him;

"Shooaw no problemma... Hey, look! A bun-cha bananas!"

The creature howled with the clamour of a hydrogen rocket.

"I do not appreciate this mockery sir, I would prefer if we could conduct this matter in a civilised manner, otherwise I will be forced to eject you from this area, in accordance with Article 4572 of the Liberty Orbital Freezone's legislation pertaining to the Maintenance of Civil Equilibrium Act of 2132 and 638 of the L.O. Constabulary Charter Revision v5.9."

A pair of 500-page depositions trailed before Vapourspan's eyes, 90% of it was underlined cobalt text, all in primal ASCII.

"Ah, jeez, that's fuckin gradda-chuud far ya! Y'know, in my gran'fodders day y'awl just beat ya chess and urinated freely on wunna nudder faw fun. Now yar readin' me a fuckin' disclaimer like I waz sum kid trying t'access Nu-Yorkian virch. Lissen' 'ere monkey, FYI, I'm an honorary member of this fuckin' place, an' as such, have pressin' bizness t'attend ta, Oy-K!"

The gorilla made a swift lunge forward, whooping ferociously, and then, as from some unseen force, jolted backward, his fur standing on edge. A sinister, syringe-shaped device protruded form his chestplate. Urine sloshed from a catather into a hydrolysis machine on his waist. It was a sickly yellow/amber colour. But when Vapourspan saw it, it was polka-dot turquoise. The gorilla seemed to relax momentarily.

"This is your final warning sir, I am authorised to subdue you and have you escorted to the law-enforcement compound if you continue to be a nuisance as stipulated in Ar..."

And then Leroy saw something; the eyeglass wheezed as it zoomed in on a silvery apparition, a Liberty Orbital Access-All-Areas pass, floating at eye-level. Seven lasers strafed the ghostly outline.

The projection ceased and, reluctantly, Leroy knuckled aside.

The Virts cascaded into every corner of his cognisance with chirpy, neon urgency, and subsequently died. Cookies swarmed around him like virtual dandruff and then plummeted. 50 'legitimate certificates' were clamouring like sperm, to upload 'greeting cards', 'business cards', and 'credit cards'. 450 'sexual' propositions, 67 apparent drug-dealers, 57 freevirch samples, 18 virtual gambling micronation free passes, 24 religious cultists' megabibles and a 'Nannarchists Manifesto' tried, unsuccessfully, to upload total of 54 times in the space of 2 seconds.

But couldn't.

The club was a strange place indeed, from one angle it seemed to be downward sloping corridor, until you realised that is was now a semicircular alcove. It was a vast and cavernous structure, it's immensity shrouded in smoke and mirrors as well as a pulsating rabble of helter-skelter holographics and pouncing popups. The bulletins glared like landing lights and UV hyperlinks trailed across every visible space like strands of an old PCB. The bar ringed all around, dispensing booze and bottles, behind it glare-proof glass.

And below, Mars, the Planet of Opportunity, spinning like a rusty deblume on a black lacquered counter.

Yeah the grav situ here's a mindfuck, no doubt, drinking in grav's something that some folk never get used to, but it's either that or spend your nights floating after your beer with a straw. Which, truth be told, is not as much fun as it sounds.

What's more fun is the dancefloor; gawking up at the go-go dancing pussy-splices with their long silky legs, pert little breasts, fluffy ears and tails. And those eyes, those alien-green eyes, with their bitchy oval slits. They dance above, on what Terrans would call a ceiling, tails curling suggestively between their legs. In nothing but tiger-striped hotpants, purring and gyrating as blue and cherry lasers lick around their nipples. They're known affectionately as Pogoz Girlz. And if you try to pet them Pogo will come around and slam a pneumatic bolt where you thought your balls should be.

Pogo was in his usual seat, or at least his usual recreational recepticle, hanging on his wall mounted bracket, cycling thru 300 soap-feeds while OP8 smoulders in the perforated cradle of an automated hookah. The one that cost him 16,000 MarshaCreds. It's every bit as much an appendage of his as those ghastly titanium bolts that protrude from each of his knuckles. Those things have reach, pretty long range. Allegedly they had some benign use once, something to do with riveting and punching holes into metal drilling for some purpose that only engineers could care for. Now he's had them augmented with diamonoid daggers, and they can put a hole in you and you wouldn't even know it.

He once brushed past some dumb-fuk 'builder and slammed it straight thru both his kidneys. Poor bastard was literally all muscle and no nerves. He just went on like nothing happened. Until he haemorrhaged- loudly. Screaming like a little girl.

"Ahgh, Vaypaspin", Pogo gargled, "I din't tink you'd come."

Pogo didn't usually care to talk with vocal chords, since he spent most his life floating in a vacuum helping to construct the very orbital that he now has a considerable amount of shares in. 67% in fact, not bad for an idiot/savant Space Baby. Albeit one with elaborate cyberware augmentations. But also one with a paltry ethical development and a tendency towards treacherous and paralysing mood swings.

He was once the sole intellectual property of the High Frontier Corporation. And it wasn't until the GeneTEK takeover of E-gene, their offshoot genetics division, that his emancipation came. His contract was terminated and his regulator chip was removed. He was now legally a free agent, with a right to self-determination. And with that revelation, all 120 years of Pogo's latent fury and hostility was released. So, when he made the empty gesture of vocalising it was best to acknowledge his fractal elocution as a mighty one...

Vapourspan was stifling a giggle poorly, "m'word iz bond Pogo. I'm 'ere for sum work, so y'loggit? "

It was also sheer folly to address this capricious creature in the nickname that he so ardently despised.

"Sso, dey says yu gotta nice noodle in dere Vaypaspin. Sum righteous warez, lotta storage. Thad yu run sum primo crypto..."

"Shur ting, Pogo, it's optimal, man."

Pogo's albinoid features constricted around his pink eyes, his pupils were a centimetre in diameter, as he took another hit from the hookah. 5 seconds later he exhaled a plume of violet ringlets.

"How'ss yur ssecuriddy ssetup?"


"Yeah, I hears 'o many infallabil tings before, I wuz once tolled thad E-gene wuz infallabil- can yu elaborate pleese...?"

"I'm shielded, firewalled, inoculated, like diamonoid maan, nuthin' gets in 'ere 'less I wann it to."

"Reeealy? Sso, you donne mind if I tesst yer integrity den", Pogo sneered. "Rambo!"

Pogo's henchman, a GeneTEK John Rambo model IV sidled up next to him holding a phaser in one hand and a bottle of Bud-Zero in another. The Rambo's hair was a mane of waxy ringlets tied up from his eyes with a blood-red headband. His chest was copper, his muscles were bulging, he placed the EMP device at the base of Vapourspan's skull and a steady shrill crescendo whined behind his ears. The lights nearby flickered slightly.

The Rambo flinched, Vapourspan didn't.

"...Oooh! I'm kwite impresset! Thass sumtin ain't it Rambo?"

The Rambo jerked his head downward and upward with a sullen expression.

"Whudda 'bout if Rambo du diss", the Rambo mumbled. And uploaded a broad-range DoS attack. 350 different trojans, viruses, the works...


The Rambo was livid, Pogo sucked upon his hookah ponderously, the Rambo chugged his Zero.

"Hmm, well Vaypaspin, yu sseem to 'ave it awl covered. Infallabal protek-chun hah."

"Infallible Pogo!"

Pogo grinned, his face like a bleached Jack 'O Lantern, "Der'ss no such ting as infallabal!"

He leered at the Rambo winking, "And how about a sSudden sStrike assault?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand Pogo, is that a type nuker virus? If it is then it don't stand a chance because the protocol stack architecture I use..."

"Sshow 'im whad I meen Rambo!"

Vapourspan's world detonated in a swirling, throbbing blackness of beer and blood as a hail of glassy shards needled into his temple. Vapourspan's visuals were gone, all he saw was red text and a billion exclamation marks orbited his head like stars around a stricken cartoon character. The clamour of the bar now sounded like is was coming thru a washy flanger plugin. And then Pogo's pneumatic knuckles struck out with a localised sonic crack gelling Vapourspan's ears to his head, inducing an unforeseen denial-of-service error.

The result was, the untimely demise of Vapourspan, unquestionably the world's most bumbling hacker.

Recovery mode didn't initiate properly. The OS thought it might be able to swap data to his brain. Vapourspan forgot his silly name, his freaky childhood, how to even speak, everything. And in a way, it was a liberating thing, hardware wise. He was now no longer this lamer with a headfull of dope wares.

He was just some guy, on Liberty Orbital.

With a headfull o' money, and a mindfull o' nuthin'.

A person with potential.

I hate Vapourspan.

A manifestation of my past, a past best forgotten.

A past I can only now remember.

I doggedly decline the belief that I would have willingly adopted such a retarded moniker.

Now I am free, free be a righteous baddass.


OAPA - Osaka Alternative Propulsion Authority

Phaser - Slang for a pocket-sized Blackmarket EMP device popular with misfits and hackers of the mid to late Information Age- popularized in the song "Phayzaz on Stun!" by tekmetal duo Duck'n'Cova who were a major media phenomenon during the same period.

Bud-Zero - Beachwood Aged in Zero Gravity."

Design Notes: Thanx to ED209 for the Bud Zero idea- I bet you probably don't even remember coming up with it!" -ESB/DG.

More to come!

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