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Remote Eyes
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-797-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 261 Pages
Published: January 2011



From inside the flap

Imagine a simpler level of computer usage. Beyond a crystal-clear monitor and the convenience of a pocket-sized device. Imagine a computer interface that is seemingly always with you, always in front of you. Because the computer interface is in your eyes.

This is the world of Remote Eyes.

In the second half of the 21st century, society undergoes a dramatic change. Users crave illegal modifications to their Remote Eyes devices, and many remote into other people’s devices, vicariously observing others’ lives instead of focusing on their own.

Thelo Dixon has lost his job and the girl he loves while obsessively remoting into others. And things get worse. In a coincidence that his hacker-friends claim defies all probability, he views in real time his brother’s murder through the killer’s eyes. Unable to identify the perpetrator, Thelo soon discovers, looking through the killer’s eyes, all too familiar sights and locations. The killer is now closing in on him.

Remote Eyes (Excerpt)


1.1.01

Thelo watched the pavement rushing upward, the details of the street below becoming clearer as the ground drew closer. Air roared in his ears, and another man’s anguished scream rose above the noise. Thelo’s heartbeat pounded in his head from the adrenaline, and he took only shallow breaths, screaming in ecstasy. This was the thrill he had wanted.

Fifteen feet or less from impact, the view disappeared. Thelo cursed his luck. The person falling had closed his eyes at the last instant. The man’s death severed the Remote Eyes connection. Thelo saw the words End Lock-In float before him for a moment. The transmission to his aural receivers ceased too. The serenity that followed on his optic nerves and in his eardrums was its own rush, washing over him and spinning his head, like sitting on a dock and watching the waves move past, creating the sensation of movement to the stationary observer. His breathing felt out of sync with the rest of his body.

Since the nameless man’s RE codes became available only minutes ago on Ebon, the remoting black market, Thelo didn’t think many people had the opportunity to lock into the jumper’s Remote Eyes devices and watch his plunge. No mention had been made this would be a suicide. He wouldn’t have watched if he had known that. He thought the man at least would’ve had a parachute or a bungee cord. He didn’t want to think about the emptiness that drew him over the ledge of the high-rise. Thelo had plenty of emptiness in his own life he wanted to ignore. Rather than engage in a mental commiseration, he decided to honor the man by being grateful for the brief exhilaration he had provided.

Thelo sat forward in his cushy, beat-up recliner and removed his opaque sunglasses. He wiped the sweat from his brow with his left hand while his right hand held the Remote Eyes control pad, a blue and green plastic device the size of a credit card. His right thumb entered the "off" command sequence. The thrill of the plummet faded. He wanted to savor the satisfaction of a great remote before looking for more excitement. He stretched his back, which had become tight after sitting motionless for so long. No point letting body ache distract him from his surreal sensory adventures. His gaze wandered across his apartment, and the site reminded him why he wanted to get back to remoting.

The glow of the streetlamps in the parking lot came in through curtainless windows, illuminating the accumulated dust on the panes. The smell of dirty dishes and a full trash bin in a shadowy corner touched his nose. A pile of bills he didn’t have the money for this week sat on his small kitchen table to his right, caught in the light from his bathroom. Next to the mail stood a week’s history of meals in a stack of empty food boxes and two classic Stephen Hawking physics books he had found on his last trip to the used book store two months ago. A job application for the Vrax Corporation, waiting for him to complete, lay underneath the books. A mattress, with a thin blanket crumpled across it, rested on the floor close to the wall to his left. A stack of three corrugated boxes holding his clothes and a few other possessions rose near the door.

Thelo turned on the floor lamp next to him and checked the time on his watch-12:38 a.m. Monday was officially over. He didn’t have to go to bed quite yet. Twenty-seven still wasn’t too old to get by at work on five hours’ sleep.

He made sure his sunglasses’ lenses were set to 100 percent opacity before putting them back on. He didn’t like the idea of someone randomly viewing through his Remote Eyes-an unavoidable side effect of the remoting process. While he searched for broadcasts to bring in, he sent out his own visual and audio signal. The boredom of silent blackness dissuaded most chance remoters.

Thelo keyed in the command to generate more random codes. Who would he be next? The possibilities were almost as enticing as the actual remoting.

For the next two hours, Thelo tapped buttons and remoted around, never finding anything like a man jumping off the roof of a high-rise. He remoted through a mishmash of live images-fights between burly men in leather jackets at a bar, dancers gyrating to kaleidoscopic lights and thumping music, a couple of security guards mindlessly staring at monitors. Thelo became a truck driver on a dark, deserted highway for a few minutes, watching an empty road race by. He knew when he had entered a caster’s view beyond the eastern time zone-more people were awake around the caster.

He remoted into a sad-looking young man sitting on his bed, staring at his dresser mirror. On the mirror, he had written his phone number with its four-digit area code. He undoubtedly wanted anyone who found him by chance through remoting to call him and give him their RE code.

Other than friends exchanging codes with each other in person, remoters had no easy way to learn the code of who remoted into them. Various "willing to chat" boards existed, operating much like Ebon, displaying codes of people interested in conversing with others through their REs. Numerous editions of The RE Times existed everywhere in the country. It was a low-budget newspaper carrying many RE codes and the interests of those advertising themselves. Thelo had never wanted to take that risk, giving his code out to complete strangers-or even his phone number-although by chance he had hooked up through remoting with a woman named Sandy a year ago because of a chat listing at Ebon. One remoter broadcasting to thousands or more could talk back and forth with only one of those remoting at a time. Remote Eyes always broadcasted when turned on, but they didn’t have to be tuned into any one particular code of another remoter.

Thelo had enough friends, so he moved on to the next random code. He missed a woman getting laid by seconds, except it would’ve been through her eyes, which was never as much fun as seeing a female undress and offer herself to others through their eyes. After he remoted to three successive junkies and their unsteady, disoriented perspectives, he gave up.

He checked which of his friends were remoting to see if any of them had any good leads. After his optic implants projected the words No Friends Online against his retinas, he ran a diagnostic to make sure the pair of Remote Eyes devices was functioning properly. The digitized feeds read At Optimum. The same message flashed for the similar devices in his ear canals. His enthusiasm to continue waned as he realized his friends really were offline. "Forty million other remoters in America, and everyone’s asleep." Now was a good time to go to bed.

In the morning, Thelo’s wake-up alarm from his e-phone had cycled through five snooze rings before he reached for the stop button. His body, aching for more sleep, slowly responded to his wish to get up. He had made it through work Friday and yesterday, so today could be another sick day. If he worked two or three days this week, his check should be big enough to cover groceries and part of the rent on Saturday.

After he staggered into the bathroom and peed, he sat on the edge of the bed, scratched his chest through his dirty T-shirt and phoned the distribution center. The first person who answered sounded as tired as he was. Thelo asked for his department, and within a minute his boss was on the line.

"Let me guess, Thelo. You’re calling in sick again, aren’t you? Dammit, this place is falling behind schedule. We’ve got crates stacked up around the loading docks from last Thursday. Their contents need to get shelved yesterday. How the hell am I supposed to run things when half my workers are missing on any given day?"

"I’m really sorry, Mr. Wheaton," Thelo whined weakly. "This stomach virus is a killer."

"So is being out of a job. Goddammit, I’d like to find the idiots who thought those miserable devices were a great way to educate the genetically inferior, and give ’em a piece of my mind and a swift kick in the ass. Make sure you’re over your ’bug’ tomorrow. Or you can try remoting into your replacement here." The line went dead.

Thelo wanted to be angry at Wheaton for hanging up on him, yet he felt guilty over calling in sick when he wasn’t. Remoting would calm him. He decided a shower was more important first. Maybe he couldn’t keep his apartment clean, but it didn’t take much effort to bathe. After that, he grabbed his last pairs of clean underwear and socks, and looked for something to eat. Finding only corn flakes and three deli slices of turkey, he poured a bowl of stale cereal and plopped into his tattered recliner, sinking into its soft cushions.

The light of the rising sun streamed into the room. Thelo went back to remoting, eating while he watched what other people’s eyes saw.

He quickly cycled through live images broadcast by remoters willing to make available what they saw. Thelo stopped for only a second or two. He liked playing this game, remoting through casters as fast as his fingers could tap on the control pad.

Thelo had no idea what he was in the mood for. Crime? Adventure? Mystery? Young? Old? It didn’t matter, since he remoted randomly. Chances were rare of finding something specific this way.

Instead he stopped at Ebon to see what the Remote Eyes black market offered at this hour. It was accessible by the easy code 010101010101. No one knew exactly what that code sent remoters to, but it had to be something mechanical in nature. Its view never changed or flinched even the slightest. That view was of a chalkboard with anywhere from two to eight RE codes scrawled on it. Entering one of those codes led the visitor to the Remote Eyes of one of the people on duty casting the second part of Ebon.

Through their eyes, codes of select individuals or occupations were sold or displayed for free to anyone who remoted in. A handful of casters ran Ebon by taking turns sitting around all day and night, staring at computer monitors and chalkboards on which they kept displayed a constantly updated list of codes being offered, like the suicide’s last night. Athletes were the most popular, and so were some criminals. See-me sex was big too. Some individuals tried to sell their codes on the black market, but unless they offered something illegal or spectacularly deadly for viewing, few would pay. The chances of being ripped off were high, yet temptation could get the better of Thelo. Nothing for free looked good right now, and the thought of his rent and the groceries he needed to buy killed his interest in paying for anything at Ebon.

He didn’t see any of his friends online yet. That was too bad, because Ace always seemed to have good leads on free remoting codes. My man Ace. No one knew more about remoting than Ace, one of the top hack-lifes in the city. Every few months, he seemed to come up with a new trick to tweak the tiny devices.

Thelo remoted into someone staring at two young girls sitting cross-legged, dressed in tight sweaters and cutoff jeans. This looked promising. When the caster spoke however, his mood deflated. The caster was another girl. "Snar, you saw him doing what?"

"Snar, snar," replied one of the other two girls. "Vrilly weird. No lie. All fate."

"Snar this," Thelo muttered, activating his control pad to seek another random set of codes.

He couldn’t stomach teens chatting mindlessly in the latest slang, although he saw more of Ace’s terms, like fate, popping up in other remoters’ words. Ace had begun using it years ago, f ate, for "fucking anomalous technological error." The term "pissing" was becoming popular too, from piss, to "pass incidental shiny surface," where a caster would intentionally or unintentionally look at a reflection of himself. A lot of casters didn’t want to reveal their identity that way. Even Ace’s slang term vamping was catching on to describe any caster who intentionally avoided or destroyed mirrors and other reflective surfaces like vampires in videos.