The "Helmet Hack" Scene (Chapter 6)
As I've noted elsewhere, Drunkard's Walk II began its life as a continuation of the BGC world developed in Twister's Twisted Path and Ed Becerra's Legion's Quest series. Between 1996 and 1998, before I abandoned the hope of working in that shared universe, I actually wrote a considerable amount of text featuring their characters. Fortunately, I've been able to recycle a lot of that material with a minimal amount of work.
The scene where Nene displays the results of her intrusion into Doug's helmet, and where the Sabers form their first theories about his origin, is one such scene. By a happy circumstance, I still have a copy of the earliest version of this scene, in which Lisa Vanette's role in the later version is spread between the Sabers themselves and Twister's Darlene Stefansen. The most signficantly different section -- one which addresses a point brought up in the concordance -- follows. Enjoy!
Priss rolled her eyes. "If you spent less time with your head in a computer monitor, Little Miss Cyberpunk, you'd know what about it. The Beatles broke up in 1971, right after the Revolver Tour. They didn't get back together again until just before Paul McCartney's death in 1983." She stabbed her finger at the screen again. "And they never recorded any song by that title, least of all in 1974!"
"Are you sure, Priss?" Linna swiveled to face her.
Priss rolled her eyes again, this time more elaborately, and grimaced. "Of course I'm sure."
Sylia stood back and watched the interplay between the three with her face carefully composed in a neutral mask.
"How do you know?" Nene asked.
Priss pulled out one of the rolling chairs and straddled it backwards. She took a deep breath. "What do you do if you want to be a concert pianist?"
"You practice a lot?" Nene ventured.
"You study, too." As she spoke, Linna straightened up and favored Priss with an odd, contemplative look.
Priss nodded. "Right, Linna. You study. You learn what's been done before, who wrote it, who performed it, and how they played it. When you know how others do what they do, you can go ahead and do it your own special way."
Nene's nose crinkled up again. "I don't get it." Linna chuckled and bopped her gently on the head. "What?" she cried.
"You're being dense, Nene," the dancer chastised.
"Look, Nene, did you think I just got up on a stage one day and decided to sing retrothrash, right out of the blue?" Priss rested her chin on the top of the chair back.
Nene furrowed her brow. "Well, didn't you?"
"Nope." Priss straightened up. "Didn't you ever wonder how I was able to teach Twister how to sing?" A light of comprehension began to dawn in Nene's eyes, as Linna grinned and nodded. "I studied and trained, just like Linna did to be a dancer. Not as formally as her, more like the way you learned to be a hacker, but I studied. And I learned. Along the way I learned how to learn, and how to teach. And I learned about who and what came before the music I wanted to sing. Retrothrash is just the latest in the long evolution of rock'n'roll music, Nene, and I took in all of it. The only way to know how to take music where I want it to go is to know where it's been."
There was an unexpected burst of applause, and when the three looked up, they saw Darlene leaning on the doorframe, clapping. "Very nice speech, Priss. I think that's the most I've ever heard you say at once -- in public, at least." Priss growled half-heartedly and Darlene giggled. Then she stepped into the room and took a seat. "So, what was all that about? It didn't sound like it had anything to do with the usual after-mission debriefing."
"Actually, it was, in a way," Linna replied. "Priss was just explaining how she was so certain that the Beatles broke up in 1971."
Darlene squirmed her way into a more comfortable position in her chair. "So how's that related to a mission?" She suddenly frowned. "Wait, don't you mean 1972?"
"No," Priss said wearily, "1971. Don't tell me you doubt me, too."
"No, no, not at all," Darlene backpedaled hastily. "I just had to shift gears for a moment. In the universe where I was born, the Beatles broke up in 1972."
"'In the universe where you...'" Nene repeated, her eyes widening. She spun around in her chair, back to the computer console. Her hands flew over the keyboard in a ratatattat of furious typing.
Darlene blinked several times, then looked over at Sylia. "Ooookay. What am I missing?"
"During today's mission, Nene extracted a technical readout from a computer we think belongs to the new vigilante." Sylia's calm tone was a stark contrast to Nene's sudden burst of energy. "Its storage holds a large number of songs and related information, for some reason. One of them apparently is a Beatles song recorded in 1974."
"A what?" Darlene sat straight up in her chair.
"No!" shouted Nene. "The vigilante is an extradimensional visitor, just like you. Look!" She waved at the monitor in front of her. "I just did a comp/diff redline between the list of songs in the vigilante's computer and the Net Music Project's database. After I dumped anything that was in the Project's db but not in the list, this is what's left. Check this out!"
The other four crowded around the console.
"Are you sure about this, Nene?"
"The Project's db is about as complete as you can get; they use it to check copyrights and licensing. Yeah, I'm sure."
The room was filled with a cacophony of voices as the five women crowded around the console.
"Who's Pat Benatar? I like the sound of 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot'."
"I never heard of 'Maxwell and his Demons'."
"What the hell's a 'Deathtongue'?"
"Oh, cool, he's got some T. Rex!"
"What's T. Rex, Darlene?"
"Weird, it looks like he's got 'Hotel California' by the Eagles, but he doesn't have 'Under An Alhambra Moon'."
"I'm not sure I want to know what kind of music a 'Weird Al' Yankovic would do..."
For fifteen minutes, they poured over the list of anomalies. Darlene tried to identify the songs familiar to her, but in the end there were still unknowns left on the display. However, there were a number of surprises among the remainder.
"Damn that little bastard!" Priss swore. "He's been bootlegging!" No less than a dozen of the songs Nene had extracted were actually the works of local bands -- including Priss and the Replicants -- that had not yet made it into the international database. They'd been carefully tagged with dates that, as far as Priss could recollect, coincided with club gigs for the various bands within the last few months.
Linna grinned. "Well, we know what he does with his nights, now."
Nene giggled. Priss continued to fume, much to the others' amusement.
Finally, they exhausted the list. Sighing as she stood up straight, Sylia nodded at the hacker. "Nene, you've made your case. It seems very likely that the vigilante's a visitor like Darlene and Edward." She paused for a moment. "If the computer is his. We still don't know that for sure."
Darlene's face grew dark as she stepped back from the console. "Now the question is, why is he here? And what does he want?"
"And where did he get that cool flying carpet?"