Read 90_Minutes_to_Live Online

Authors: JournalStone

90_Minutes_to_Live (9 page)

"That's a political statement," Shon replied quickly, as if the comparison wasn't valid.

"Just what are your politics?" asked Ben, slowing to take a sharp turn.

"We're SADIR, Grampa Ben."

"Sadder than who?"

," Amber replied. "S-A-D-I-R; students against digital image recognition."

"What the hell is that?"

"The Face Recognition System," Shon said. When Ben gave no sign he understood, Shon continued. "They've got SecureCams everywhere–haven't you seen them?"

"I…don't remember. I don't think so. I don't get to the city much. The only camera I've seen is the one the doctor stuck up my ass."

"But you've seen casts, haven't you Grampa?"

"I don't watch the news anymore. It’s a bunch of illiterate, pre-programmed smiley faces spouting politically correct platitudes. Can’t stand to listen to it."

"They scan you wherever you go," Shon said, the emotion evident in his voice. "The cameras upload your image, the system contrasts and compares, selects and categorizes. Once you're identified, your movements are codified, your tendencies profiled."

"Big Brother's watching huh?"

"Privacy deleted," added Amber.

"We're not citizens anymore," said Shon, "we're potential security risks."

"Well, if there's one thing I've learned," said Ben, "it's that complaining about it won't change anything."

"We're going to do more than complain.” Shon started to say more, but a look from Amber shut him up. Something passed between them, so Ben didn't pursue it. Instead, he focused on the road ahead. The steady hum of the engine was the only sound they heard for the next few miles.

Soon Ben found he was having trouble seeing. He thought his vision was blurring again. He eased off the accelerator and noticed the windshield was beginning to fog up. He flipped on the defroster.

"You know Grampa,” Amber said, breaking the silence, “I think it's swank you want to be buried in your Mustang."


*   *   *


"You kids get yourselves something to eat if you want."

He walked to the bathroom to relieve the bloated walnut that was his bladder. As he did, he heard the muffled sounds of an argument. Futilely he shook his head, trying to kick his implants into a higher gear. Damned super hearing never worked when he needed it.

When he came out Amber didn't seem too happy.

"Mr. Glucorde," Shon said, "a friend from the city wants to pow'down and face with us. Is that jell?"

Ben looked at Amber but she'd turned away. "Sure, you kids have a party if you want–God knows it's been years since I've been to one of those."

"No parties Grampa Ben, just one friend. That reminds me though; I need to face with Grandfather. He's in a swoon for me to come to Grandmother's birthday party."

"Yeah, the old sourpuss told me the same thing."

"He thinks ‘cause my father's dead he can edit me and that I'll just input it. He's certain he files what's jell for me."

"You're not the Lone Ranger girl. He treats me the same. As if I wasn't already a man of the world when he was just an itch in his daddy's pants. Well, enough rambling. There's the phone over there."

"The phone?"

 "Yeah, the telephone. The
—the Com display. I'm going to lie down and rest for a while."

He turned for the bedroom but his left leg didn
t turn with him. He almost collapsed.

“Grampa Ben! Are you okay?”

m fine, I
m fine. Sometimes I just move too quick. The old muscles get cranky and freeze up on me. I forget I
m not a young buck of fifty anymore. I
ll be okay.”

He closed the door behind himself and maneuvered onto the bed. Before he could lower it, his ears popped and he heard voices from the next room like they were right next to him.

“. . . doing fine, Grandfather. He's jell. He even took us for a ride in his old car."

"What do you mean 'us'?"

"A friend's with me."

"Who's this friend?"

"Does it matter, Grandfather?"

"Well you two better not be bothering your Grampa Ben. He shouldn't be out driving that old piece of junk."

"The drive was his idea. And you should know—he wants to be buried in his car when he dies."

"Buried in it? That's crazy."

"I don't think it's so crazy. It's what he wants."

"Do you know what it could cost to buy a plot that large? I don't even know if such a thing would be legal. And even if it was, what would people say? The truth is I should put him in a full-care facility where-"

Then, as suddenly as his implants had picked up the voices, they were gone, leaving the anger to sour in him like moldy scraps in a drainpipe.

He’s the one who’s crazy if he thinks he’s putting me in some kind of home.

He didn't care if snot-nosed Billy
in his seventies. He was going to take him over his artificial knee the next time he saw him and paddle his ass raw.


*   *   *


When he woke from his nap he was hungry, so he ambled into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Not your ordinary everyday sandwich. He was going to pile on as much crap as he could find that was suitable for sandwiching. It was going to be festival of pre-processed meats, pseudo cheeses and vinegar-soaked garnishes, the likes of which would give his doctor a stroke.

As he worked on his grand design he heard voices from the living room. Amber and Shon and another voice he didn't recognize. He continued to put together his meal but the eavesdropping slowed him.

“. . . downloaded into the system in under an hour." That was Shon. "Even with backups where the worm can't mode, it'll take days for a system rinse."

"I still say we blow the whole Security Center into microts," said the new voice.

"That's more wank than swank," his great-great-granddaughter replied. "This is supposed to be a non-violent, symbolic protest. If we start blasting everything, no one will input our message."

"I file. I'm just swooning for an upmode."

"This won't delete it," said Shon. "It'll take multi-tasking to input any real change. For that to click, we have to avoid confinement. That's what's faulty with this plan. Your employ codes can get us in but even if we get out before auto-security locks down the building, alert mode will have the gops tracking the power signatures of every aerocar in range."

"We can walk it," the other voice replied. "I know a hackshack a few miles from the Security Center where we could pausemode, till the gops sign off."

"Miles?" Shon didn't sound hopeful. "The gops are going to wall it off quicktime. We wouldn't make it."

So his great-great-granddaughter was up to her pretty neck in some revolutionary scheme was she? He didn't know much about this
face recognition
system but he didn't like the idea of the government spying on its own people. Hell, he'd been incensed when they forced national ID cards on everyone. He'd railed against that, for all the good it had done.

Now little Amber was trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Well good for her. What was a monkey wrench anyway? He tried but couldn't remember. It didn't matter. What mattered was what Amber was doing.

He had an idea. He would help them with their little plot. He found the notion invigorating. It had been a long time since he'd done anything really foolish–had any real fun. He was long overdue.

Ben walked into the living room carrying his three-inch thick sandwich on a plate. "I've got the answer to your problem," he said, sitting gingerly in his favorite seat. Amber, Shon and another young fellow, coiffured with the same
political statement
as Shon, stared at him with various degrees of surprise.

"I hope we didn't wake you Grampa Ben."

"Nope. I was in the kitchen making myself this Dagwood and I overheard you."

"What did you hear?" Shon asked, apprehension tainting his voice.

"You're planning on breaking in somewhere, planting some kind of computer virus and then breaking out. I assume it has something to do with this SADIR thing of yours and those cameras you told me about. Am I right?"

"That deletes it!" The newcomer shot out of his chair.

"I think it's great what you're doing. At least what you're trying to do. It won't do any good in the long run you know. Despite their unflagging acclaim for freedom, most people don’t have the gumption to stand up for it–to accept the risks, to do what it takes to be free.” Ben took a bite of his sandwich. “But that doesn't mean I won't help you,” he added with his mouth full.

"How can
help?" Shon asked.

Amber stood. "Grampa Ben is
getting involved!"

"Ease-on a microt Am. Input what he has to say first."

Amber glared at Shon but Ben continued.

"As I understand it, the glitch in your plan is the escape. Well I've got three hundred horsepower of getaway car and no power signature that the…
, as you call them, can trace."

"He's right," Shon said. "We could use the museum piece and there'd be no way for them to track us."

"I don't file,” the other fellow said.

"Mr. Glucorde here has this old gasoline-burning automobile that's still operational."

, boy, you make it sound like a toaster. It's a 1965 Mustang with a high performance V8 engine. And if we're going to be co-conspirators, don't call me Mr. Glucorde. I'm Ben or Benny."

"Grampa Ben, you're not going to do this," Amber said firmly. She turned to Shon. "We'll find another way."

"I program this cell and I say we let him help." Shon tried to sound authoritative but Ben noticed how quickly he mellowed when he made eye contact with Amber. "There's no other way Am."

"He shouldn't be involved."

"Dammit girl, I sit in this house every day, doing nothing of any substance, stagnating in a swamp of decrepitude and boredom. I'm a hundred and nineteen years old and my dance card is blank. You think I want to live another ninety years? I'd rather have ninety minutes to live and do something purposeful with them. I don
t just want to do this, I
to do this."

"It's a swank idea Am," Shon said. "And with…
help, it should be jell for me to file how to operate the ob."

"Whoa there! I didn't say anything about that. Nobody drives that car but me. This isn't amateur hour boy. You're going to need a good wheelman. Hell, you don't think I'm letting you kids have all the fun while I stay home do you?"

"Grampa Ben, you–"

"Amber, you hush now. You're not talking me out of this, so save your breath. Now what's the plan? I want to see if this little cabal knows what it's doing."


*   *   *


It had been a gray day, given life only by intermittent drizzle. Periodically moonlight stole through the clouds and everything glistened. When it did, one slender beam of soft white light managed to find its way through the city spires and onto the car’s hood. Ben noticed how the water still beaded up in little Acapulco Blue droplets.

He'd been waiting for more than twenty minutes. His hip ached and a new, sharper pain ran down his left leg. He needed to get up and move around but he was afraid to. They'd said it would be less than half an hour when they left him there, wearing their rubber masks. He'd thought it was a nice touch, wearing facsimiles of the Homeland Security director’s face. However, the longer he waited, the more he began to doubt the whole scheme. What if something happened to Amber? He'd never hear the end of it from his snot-nosed grandson. But hell, she would have gone and done it anyway—or something equally as rash. He convinced himself, at least this way he was here to help.

He looked out the side window and, as he did, caught a glimpse of something that rankled his nerves. Was that a chip in the paint—right next to the mirror? In the dim light he couldn’t tell for sure but it looked like a scratch. How the hell did that get there? He was about to open the door to take a better look, when out of the raw silence an alarm shrieked. His heart battered his chest. He reached for the ignition key but didn't turn it. He thought he saw something. Was that them? His eyes blurred. For a moment, he couldn't see a thing. The alarm continued to blare. He started to sweat. His vision cleared but he still couldn't see them. Where were they? Were they caught? Were they-?

A shadow opened and closed and three figures hurried towards him. They pulled off their masks as they threw open the passenger door and climbed in.

"Let's mode!" cried Shon.

"Go Grampa Ben, go!" encouraged Amber.

He started the engine, racing the motor in his anxiety and pulled it into drive. Again he hit the pedal too hard and the rear wheels spun and screeched against the wet pavement, until they grabbed hold and took off.

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