I don’t remember being a citizen, but when I was growing up, it was all my father ever talked about. ‘Back in the valley,’ he would say, and point to the acrylic mural that took up most of the wall by the front door. It looked nothing like a valley. It was a jumble of angles and curves, oddly pixellated like most of my mother’s art. I don’t remember much of my mother either, but there are bits and pieces of her all over the apartment, plotted out in meticulous detail on nearly every flat surface.
Of course, my father wanted me to go into something with computers. He still does. “Dennou,” he says, when I meet him for coffee, “when are you going to give up that mess and buy yourself a datafeed?”
“I have a datafeed, dad.”
Actually, I have six. Only one has been turned on, and I use it as a lamp in the hallway. Across from me, my father began listing the merits of computer operation, chuckling and gesturing like he was describing a woman he wanted to set me up with. I smiled and nodded a few times, but we both knew nothing would come of it.
It’s not that I don’t know how to use a computer. I grew up around them, after all. I used to type eighty words per minute, but I haven’t tried in months. My father has never been away from a datafeed for longer than a day, except for the horrible, horrible night he spent in an airport after his wallet was stolen. I still hear that story, sometimes. You’d think he was kidnapped by terrorists.
Normal parents encourage their kids to get married, settle down, spit out a couple kids; my dad just wants me to hack. I haven’t decided if I’m lucky. We meet at the teahouse every Tuesday, and he rants about my career choice for a bit before giving me the manila envelope of stolen blueprints and security codes. Then I pay, or he pays, and we part.
Today, I pick up the tab. Money’s been good this week. He asks me if I need any cash, as usual, and I tell him no, as usual. I don’t know where he gets his money, since he seems oddly isolated from the crime circles of the island. I had to describe the runner code using networking references, and I still don’t think he gets why, because I’ve agreed to work with my partner, I couldn’t stop working even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. I suppose, in the valley, they didn’t have honor among thieves.
“So you’ll think about it?”
“I’ll think about it,” I lie.
“You’re getting old to be playing Robin Hood,” he warns, his tone shifting to the serious. This is a deviation from the script, and I adjust my posture to hide the usual slump.
“I’ve got it under control.”
“Ah, you can’t control age, Dennou.” He’s called me that since I was six, when, on a sadistic whim, he convinced me that I was a robot.
Outside of the teahouse, I pull a cigarette from my pack and shield my lighter from the fierce January wind. “I downloaded the patch for that,” I joke, and he fakes a grimace.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything?”
“I don’t need your money, Dad.” I open my bookbag against the wall and slide the envelope between two notebooks of securifeed schematics while I held the cigarette in my teeth. “Do you want money for the files?”
“From my own son? Never. I give you those to keep you alive.” He grins, but he knows it’s true.
“Same time next week,” I say as I sling the bag over my shoulder.
“Take care of yourself, Dennou,” he warns. I make a face before turning my attention to the sidewalk.