It’s that time of the week again. I know I said at the start of these that there was no guarantee anything would follow from the previous piece, but I seem to be trying to prove myself wrong. This picks up directly from where the last episode left off. It’s still entirely a rough draft. Have fun!
I feel like someone just hit me with a macrowelder. “What?!” I twist and worm around in her grip, and she loosens up enough that I can look up into her face. Her tightly knotted hair is pulled back away from her face, sticking up behind her. I knew that she broke the law sometimes, just like all the other spacers that my parents knew and talked to. It was kind of just part of being a spacer, I thought. When you don’t have what you need, you figure out how to get by. If that means scrounging up some scrap that someone else has abandoned but might still technically own, or downloading and hacking some softs that you need, you do it. But I didn’t know that she’d had a record for so long. Do I even know my own mother?
“I had hoped that you would be able to live without that same burden. It’s… it’s hard Barry. You have to be so careful.”
She doesn’t even let me finish. She pushes me away just far enough to look into my eyes without us having to crane our necks around. “I’ll show you. I’ll do your first few fake identities for you, but you’ll have to learn how to do it for yourself. And you’re going to have to learn how to deal with people, Barry. Deal with them to get what you need, without making them suspicious.”
Oh holes. “But, I—“
“No, just listen. You need to be careful now, okay? Here, with us, you can be Barium. Out there though, you’ll need a new name. Something else, something clean enough. But not too clean so as to be suspicious, eventually. It’s complicated. Okay?”
I had thought that I understood what was going on. Now I’m so confused.
“So I’m sorry Barry, I’m so sorry for yelling at you. I just, I was very anxious, and upset that you might have to deal with all the same problems that I have to deal with.”
I let it flow over me and don’t think too hard about it. Mom’s apologizing to me, and telling me that life is going to be hard (like I haven’t watched her and Dad work their butts off to make things work around here as it is), and telling me that she’ll help. I guess it doesn’t actually feel that different from before… but that’s good. Because I liked it before, and if things could just go back to that, I’d be fine.
I don’t think that’s going to happen though.
I must be kind of lost, because Mom’s already been asking me the same question a few times by the time I realize it. “What were you angry about? Why did you hit your hand? Is it okay?”
I rub it, feeling the bones underneath the skin. It hurts a bit. “Yeah, nothing too bad. It just aches now. Bruise, I think.”
Mom takes my hurt hand and prods at it before triggering something with her glasses and taking a closer look. She nods, looking back up at me. “So why?”
I shrug. “It’s nothing. I mean, just a program that isn’t compiling.”
Her eyes brighten up. “What kind of program? Something for Teach? Something for yourself?”
I put my glasses back on, queue up the terminal, and wave the file over to her. “I wanted to make a new game for myself. Something like the sims you made and hacked for me, but different. But it isn’t working.”
Rummaging through the guts of a mysteriously dysfunctional program with Mom is soothing. I forgot how good it felt to float with her, going back and forth commenting over different sections of code as we try to test and isolate where things have gone wrong. It’s relaxing, really.
Or it is until she starts asking too many questions.
“I didn’t know that you wanted a free fall racing and chasing game. I would have been happy to make this for you.” Mom looks up at me through the hanging code in her glasses.
I shrug. “I just got the idea recently.” This is definitely not the time to talk about Daemon, or illegal AI, or dangerous research projects and sabotage and assassination. The less Mom knows the better. Right?
Mom nods, looking back into the code. She quickly looks back up, some quick connection lighting up behind her eyes. Oh, no. Did she already figure it out? “Not that I don’t want to work on this together with you Barium! I’m glad that we’re working on this together. I think I like it more than just making it for you,” she smiles, “even if it is fun to surprise you with something nice every once in a while.”
No, still safe. Thank goodness. I smile back, trying to hide the way that she just made my heart race without even trying to.
“Besides,” she looks back into the code again, voice going diffuse and distracted, “it’s good practice for you to hammer out your own programs like this. Nothing like making your own things to get a better appreciation for how they work.”
“Right.” I keep my eyes on her, wondering whether she’s going to pop out of her work at me again. Nothing happens for a few moments, so I go back to testing code.
We’re floating there, trading notes and comments back and forth, working through the codebase while we try to find what’s gone wrong, when Mom makes a startled noise. I look up in alarm again. I know that she can’t have found anything about Daemon in here, she can’t know what inspired me to do this just by looking at the code. I know it, somewhere up in my brain. But my heart is hammering with the fear of discovery and I have no idea what to do about the little voice shouting She knows she knows she knows somewhere behind my eyes.
She’s still looking down at the code, and I take a few breaths to force myself to calm down before I ask a question. In, out, in, out… “What is it Mom?”