Sunday, November 23, 2008

Leif's Cyberpunk Novel - Part 2 of 4

Chapter One....

Thane awoke early. He hadn’t slept much that night but he thought it best that he leave before the others awoke. Thad was still sleeping. Thane had felt his eyes on him as they went to bed. Everyone so concerned for him. Perhaps that was their way of avoiding their own feelings.

Is it easier to feel for someone else than it is to grieve yourself? How long had it been now since Xane died? A day? A week? It had all been blurred. Like a bad dream. Nothing seemed real without him. The world just wasn’t right. There were supposed to be two of them. Two of him. The world just didn’t make sense with only one. Thane tried to imagine how normal people thought. The way that they talked to themselves in their heads. The way they looked at ideas from different sides. He couldn’t. At least he had never had to. Xane had always been there. He and Xane had had those conversations with each other. No thought was complete until they thought it together.

Thane went to the sink. A cold splash to wake him up. It was still dark after all. He looked up and saw the face that would haunt him. His face. Xane’s face. He wondered now. While the doctors mostly studied them, they also taught us a little of what they had already learned. Taught us psychology, about the effects of losing a twin on the survivor. Thane guessed they would be right. That he would go mad.

He didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew that there was little reason for him to stay. The Gemini Project existed to study twins. What use would he be to them now? What reason would they have to continue his training?

Now today was the day of the funeral. He couldn’t stand any more sympathy. It made him sick the way everyone tried to comfort him. He knew they meant well. Some he thought might even love him, the other twins. They had lived together for years now. They had become friends. Icarus, Thadeus, or Rus and Thad, had been their roommates. They split the pairs for some reason he couldn’t remember. Kari and Kali, the spicy Latin duo that were the trouble magnets of the bunch. Mira and Mia, the silver-tongued Japanese vixens that all the teachers loved. And Julie and Josie, the sweet and spunky but very temperamental redheads that he and his brother had been in love with for so long. And finally, Thane and Xane.

Why is it that parents give twins similar, even rhyming, names? Thane wondered. He thought it strange that all of them had been named like that but it seemed to fit somehow. An odd coincidence.

What a group they had made. But everything had changed. It could never be the same now. There had been ten, now only nine. Five matched pairs. But he was not a pair anymore. Four and a half.

And that is what he felt like, half.

He quietly packed his backpack. He had few possessions. Most of their things belonged to Gemini. He grabbed his music, his laptop, some clothes, a few pictures. As he left his room he turned. By the dim light he saw the names on the door across the hall. “Icarus / Xanatos.” Rus and Xane’s room. For a moment he almost went in. Was there anything in there that he might want? No. Nothing in there was of any use, and whatever he took would only remind him of pain. There was only one place left here that had any item of value. The armory.

The armory itself had no locks. The weapons were kept in individual lockers. Thane had free access to his weapons since he was over twenty-one, as did all the other twins that were of age. All the other weapons had to be released by the armorer. Thane went to his locker, put his thumb up to the lock and opened it. Inside lay his pistols. A match-grade Hammerli .22LR, and a stainless steel Heckler & Koch .45cal U.S.P. He put the Hammerli in his pack and tucked the H&K in his belt.

Then he drew the real treasure they had given him. A katana. A true Katana. Not an ancient sword, nor one of those cheap replicas that you see in catalogs. It, and it’s sister piece, were made specifically for him and his brother by a Japanese master swordsmith. What was his name? He couldn’t remember. But they were identical. Identical swords, identical pistols, identical twins.

He heard the door open. Footsteps. He sheathed the blade. It was Rick, the armorer. Was it six o’clock already?

“Thane! You okay?”

“I am fine, Rick. I couldn’t sleep. Think I need to blow off some steam. I was thinking of running the gauntlet.”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll set up the program for you.”

“Thanks, Rick. Oh, and could you open Xane’s locker for me? I want to use his pistol.”

“Uh, sure Thane I don’t see why not. Gimme a second.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

Rick went into the control room and a few moments later Xane’s locker opened.

Rick’s voice came over the intercom. “I am powering up the gauntlet now, Thane. What level would you like me to set?”

“Gimme a steady progression from seven to ten. Full velocity projectiles.”

“Ouch, you sure?”

“I am sure. Gimme a few minutes to warm up before I get out there.”

“No problem. The system is cold. I won’t have all the drones on line for about 20 minutes.”

“I’ll take my time, then.”

Thane took his brother’s weapons, packed them away and left. But Thane did not go to the gauntlet. Most days he would enjoy blasting holes in drones with high caliber pistols while dodging paint balls. Today he had other plans. He went to the garage. He walked past all the vehicles. The cars, the bikes, both street and racing models. Here at the Gemini project they were schooled in many disciplines: art, music, science, sports, driving, racing, piloting, fencing, shooting, martial arts, language, literature, mechanics. Anything that might have some practical use so that they could study the affects of genetics versus training.

Thane often wondered where they got their funding. There was a hell of a lot of money floating around. Was it government, military, corporate? Did it matter? All that had mattered when they came to Thane’s parents a decade ago was the schooling. “Give us your kids and we will give them the best schooling and training in every area that you could ever hope for.” Or something like that.

It wasn’t a bad deal. The education was top notch. And what scholarship school would send you to racing school? Or teach you to shoot? They still got to see their parents plenty. Those that had parents. A few of them were orphans. A couple more were orphaned along the way. Thane and Xane were among them.

Thane wondered. His name, was it a curse? For him and his brother to be given the name for death. Thanatos Greye Sinclair. And his brother Xanatos Greye Sinclair. First his parents killed. Then his twin brother dies without explanation.

He wondered. Would he be next? Or maybe his big brother Gabriel? No. That was nonsense. Thane didn’t buy into that. He didn’t believe it. In fact he didn’t believe in much of anything anymore.

Thane walked the rows of cars and bikes. He came to the stall with his and Xane’s bikes. Twin V-twins. A pair of 2000 Ducati 996's, one red, one yellow. He and Xane used to trade. Neither really owned either bike and they enjoyed the confusion it caused when people tried to guess which of them was on each bike. Which one should he take? Which one should he leave behind? Neither.

He went into the shop where they learned mechanics. There in the corner where they had spent countless hours was their project. A Harley-Davidson clone built from scratch, straight from the pages of the S&S catalog. It was low in the tail, had long wide forks, drag bars, tons of deep chrome, and was bathed in a gorgeous dark chameleon blue that changed color with the lighting and looked like you could reach right into it.

They hadn’t even finished it yet. Thane had just airbrushed the tank with the twin skulls that had become their mark. The grim reapers that had been their namesakes. Xane had put the last of the clear coat on it the day of the seizure. The paint was still wet when he died. They had never even started it.

Thane threw his leg over and caught the kick pedal. He paused and realized that his brother would never know if it ran. Would never know what sound that ram air butterfly carburetor, and straight pipes would make when they came alive for the first time. He kicked the pedal. Nothing. Again, a pop. Again. A sputter. A twist of the choke and a little gas and he had it. It roared to life with a visceral vibration. Thane was both excited and sad. This was now his alone. There would never be a fight over who would ride it.

But now twenty minutes had passed. The gauntlet was online by now. He was expected at the range, and the noise of the unmuffled bike would attract attention. It was time to go. He threw on his backpack and cinched the straps tight. Took a firm grip on the bars, squeezed the clutch, dropped it into first, and twisted the throttle wide open. When the deafening roar of the big twin peaked he let the clutch lever snap forward. The back tire spun instantly, squealing loudly and leaving a thick black line. Thane fishtailed around the corner out of the shop.

He was about to shift to second when he saw a slender figure silhouetted in a window. It was Julie. Or Josie. He couldn’t tell from this distance. It didn’t matter. He loved them both. But this was the front of the building, which meant it had to be Josie’s room. Julie’s roomed faced the courtyard.

He let the bike glide to a halt in front of the gates. He lifted his sunglasses to look at her as the sun broke over the trees. The sun hit Josie’s face and for an instant lit up her eyes. Then she squinted and held up her hand to shield them. Thane stared at her for a long moment. There were so many thoughts he would like to tell her, but he hadn’t the words nor the strength right now. Even from this distance he could feel the warmth of her gaze. Her eyes seemed to plead with him not to leave but understood at the same time. With her other hand she made a sort of impotent gesture, putting her hand to the glass as if either to plead him to stay or to wave him goodbye.

Thane reached out his hand to her. He mouthed the words goodbye. He saw a tear roll down Josie’s face and he could see her lips move. He wasn’t sure but he thought she said, “I love you.” He tried to pretend she had only said goodbye. He had to leave and it only made it harder to think that there was such a powerful reason to stay. He had avoided them both the past few days. He didn’t know how to act around them now. And he didn’t think they knew what to do either.

He and Xane had dated them both. And both pairs had swapped for fun to she if they could tell the difference. Most times they couldn’t. At least not until afterwards when they slipped up. He really couldn’t have chosen between them. Neither could Xane. They had even talked once about whether they could date both together without jealousy. Now more than ever Thane didn’t know what to do. Among the most painful feelings was the thought that now Xane could not get in the way if he were to pursue them both. He hated himself for thinking that. Hated himself for having the Harley to himself. Hated himself for thinking that he could have them both for himself.

Thane tilted his head and they had a short moment of understanding. Then he pushed his shades back down over his eyes, squeezed the clutch, and gave her one last glance. He put his foot on the shifter and felt the tranny drop heavily into gear. He decided that was the last step. He would not look back. He let the bike idle for short but endless moment while he gathered his strength. Then he snapped the throttle and eased out the clutch. As he sped away his vision blurred and he could feel the salt of his tears drying in the wind as they trailed back to his ears.

"Just the cold morning wind," he told himself. "I need to get better sunglasses."

Thane came to an intersection. North or South? He would head south he thought. To Miami perhaps. But first he needed money and he was hungry. So he drove north into town. The banks would not be open for a while yet so he pulled into Denny’s. He sat down ordered a colorfully named platter of saturated fat, and tried to think what to do. He didn’t know what he would do but he had plenty of marketable skills and even at 21 his education was equivalent to a master's degree. He would simply ride until he felt like stopping and see where the road took him.

On second thought, Miami might not be such a good idea. He wanted to disappear for a while and the city might be good for that. But he thought it better to avoid the cities for a while. He also thought about his name. He wasn’t a criminal. They had no right to follow him. But he knew that someone would come looking for him. Either the staff or one of the twins. Investigation was also among the skills they had learned.

He would not go so far as to create a new identity. That would likely cause more problems than it would solve. But he would not make it easy on them. He needed time alone, and if he was to make contact with them ever again he would be the one to initiate it. So, he thought, he would not use his first name. He wasn’t comfortable with it anymore, neither for its mythological significance nor for its similarity to his lost brother's.

As he thought about it he glanced down at the table. He saw his reflection in the lenses of his sunglasses. His face was distorted in the lenses. He hadn’t shaved this morning and his beard had formed a dark shadow. He was only twenty-one but he had been going gray since he was seventeen. It showed the most in his beard.

That was it. Simple, legal, and easy to remember. He would just use his middle name. Greye. It seemed appropriate. Both he and Xane had had the same middle name. Now that there was one the one of him it seemed to make sense. He decided that would be his name from now on. Greye Sinclair. He felt a little better now. He hated to be just one but if that was his fate he needed to have a singular identity. Greye Sinclair would be it. Satisfied, he finished his breakfast, left a fair tip and was on his way.

The Bank was open now. He parked the bike in front, walked in. He went to the teller and pulled out Xane’s drivers license. With proper ID and the right face he had no difficulty accessing Xane’s bank accounts. What startled him were the amounts. Xane had over $5000 in his checking account alone and his various other assets totaled nearly $100,000. Where the hell did Xane get that kind of money? And why hadn’t he known about it? What had Xane been into? There was no way he could have gotten ahold of that kind of money living the life they did. It just didn’t make sense.

Greye considered the worst. Had Xane acquired it through criminal means? Even if that were true, when would he have had the time? It was a mystery but one that would have to wait. Greye transferred the funds into new accounts at a new bank. He cleaned out the checking account and pocketed the cash. Then he went to his bank and transferred his assets to the new account. His pockets and his belly were full. There was nothing left to do.

He took two coins from his pocket. A dime and a quarter. He dropped the dime on the sidewalk stood behind it and flipped the quarter. He was facing east. The quarter came to rest left of the dime so he decided he would go north. Daytona, maybe. Bike week was coming. Xane had hoped that they would have the bike ready in time. Seemed like a good place to start.

He picked up the coins and climbed aboard his bike. His bike! It would be a while before he got used to that thought. He kicked the starter and headed for the highway.

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