Welcome to the 10th round of “15 Minutes”! Today, as we're reaching quite a round number, we have a very special guest that took quite a while to locate and get in touch with. I had to pull a string or two to finally secure a sliver of their time, so I can’t promise today’s interview will be as long as the previous ones. I am quite sure it will be at least as interesting, though. Welcome to “15 Minutes… with Az McCaffrey”!
I’m writing to you from a large (and rather cold at this time of the night) warehouse tagged with Zona Sul logos. I assume we are not here legally, but no alarms have been raised just yet.
Vesper: Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Az! It wasn’t easy to find you, so I am really happy to have this chance to ask you a few questions. Forgive me for starting with a “big one”, but all our readers have probably been waiting for an answer to this for quite a while: Any relation to the runner known as “Mac”? She has quite the reputation in the runner community--
Az: Can we get to another question?
His voice is young and androgynous, the accent a blend of northeastern American with a slight tinge of ChiLo sprinkled in.
Vesper: Even just a quick answer?
Az: Fine, the quick answer is yes. She’s my mother, at least by definition. Not that she ever pried herself away from her programs long enough to be much of one. That “magnum opus” of hers was her baby. Next question.
Vesper: Sorry if that was too personal, but at least it should silence any more rumors. You’re starting to make a name for yourself both within and outside of runner communities for your technical work, maybe we could talk some about that?
His eyes light up and I feel this is a better path to connecting a bit more, making a mental note not to mention family later on.
Az: That’s more like it! I’ve loved mods since I was a kid. If I could improve on what I’ve got, why wouldn’t I? We started on this baby a couple years ago when we were starting our little business.
Az raises his cybernetic left arm in a flexing motion, materializing translucent blue holoscreens into orbit around the limb as the metal shines in the sparse rays of light that peek in through the old windows. A discerning eye could notice some subtle scarring around the base of the prosthesis, likely from the inexperienced work when the operation was done. My own arm starts to itch for some reason.
Vesper: That’s really impressive. I understand this also functions as a rig in the same manner as other runners’ consoles would?
Az: Yup! Interfaces directly with the Net when I tell it to, but it’s locked down enough to stop any sysops trying to trace me, no problem.
Vesper: Very impressive. How long have you been working on it?
Az: Oh, years. This is version… uh… thirty-something, I think? But it can hot-swap parts on the fly! Like, if I’m running a little short on memory during a run…
The boy rummages around in his pockets for a moment before retrieving an old red and black memchip. It looks like it’s seen better days, but at least appears to be intact. He slams it against the arm with gusto, and the faint sound of servos announces that the arm seems to have received the hardware properly.
Az: Just run shallow for a sec and slam in some more! And it’s got some hidden guns right in here for if--
Vesper: Hah, easy there, Az. That’s incredible, though. I don’t think we’ve seen such an advanced use of hardware since Hayley started placing spy cameras around corp campuses. Speaking of which, I hope you have some installed around this place. I guess the security around here doesn’t really know they have night visitors… So tell us, Az, the age old question for runners: why do you run?
Az: Lotta people do it for the cash, and I guess I sorta do. Pocket change towards top surgery is always nice.
Most of my income comes from some, uh, questionably legal cybernetics. But what better way to get ideas and learn new techniques than to check out the competition’s blueprints? Once HB starts workin’ on somethin’ new, I can snipe their tech before it ever hits shelves. I check out NBN’s tracing subroutines every so often to make sure my tech is as safe from any unwanted attention as possible. Jinteki’s biologists unknowingly taught me how to cleanly and safely apply the permanent prosthetics. Weyland has tons of contacts for dirt cheap materials. There’s some great information everywhere that’s made me the successful businessman that I am today.
His manner becomes increasingly self-confident and I can see the exploits he mentions must be bringing up some interesting memories. Great, will have to get round to asking about those a bit later.
Vesper: Businessman… aren’t you a minor?
Az: Statement stands, darlin’.
Vesper: Well, speaking of. You’re young and fashionable - where do you find yourself hanging out in New Angeles during your downtime?
Az: I don’t hang out much with anyone just for fun, because I am usually too busy improving my gear and working on new pieces, y’know? Sometimes, I wonder if I am missing out on being as innocent and naive as kids my age, but then I get drawn into the tinkering and re-making of things and all the hesitation disappears. Obviously, when I am done DIYing and start doing business on the Net, I’m too excited and too busy to think about anything else. A constant adrenaline spike, usually with good payoff at the end of a gig. Does that make me a workaholic?
Vesper: Haha, not at all. Sticking to one’s passion helps time fly by, for sure. I don’t think you’re missing out on much, seeing what info-kibble NBN is serving nowadays. Now, if you don’t mind me asking about something that seems to have a huge impact on everyone in New Angeles - how has the attack on the Beanstalk affected your life in general?
Az: In meatspace, it really hasn’t done much. I don’t go out of orbit very often, so the shutdown for repairs didn’t affect me. You’ve got your older folks that are spooked out of their minds and convinced there’s gonna be more attacks, but I’m not terribly worried.
Despite his nonchalant facade, it’s obvious he’s tensed up a little bit. At his age, he probably hasn’t seen something this severe in his lifetime. I won’t call him out on it.
From a runner’s perspective, though, it’s been great. All the corps are scrambling and unorganized, especially Weyland. They haven’t had this much of a scare since the 23 Seconds, so their priorities are all over the place. It’s definitely a good time to be a runner.
I bite down the inner voice pushing me to ask whether he’s been in contact with his mother since then. There are still more questions to ask and I don’t want to anger someone who could probably wipe all my bank accounts and family photos in a matter of seconds.
Vesper: Sounds like it, we’ve heard similar sentiments from other runners. Speaking of other runners, a good number of them have political motivations for their lifestyles. Anti- or pro- android, the Mars civil war and political turmoil there. Do you have any views on these controversial topics?
Az: Androids are fine with me. Tons of my tech is based off of bioroids, so it’d be really hypocritical for me to be against ‘em. Their designers make my living. Clones are people, too. I actually met one of those Nisei line clones recently, just in passing though. Colorful Asian girl? She seemed really nice. As far as Mars goes, I’m not really involved. All my life has been on Earth and I don’t really foresee that changing anytime soon.
Vesper: I get you, good old 1g is where it’s at. I tried LEO once and it was really hard for me to focus. Anyway, back to you - have you ever travelled far away from New Angeles and the continent, but on Earth? One of our avid fans was wondering what it would take to make someone visit a place back in Europe called Taunton. I have never heard of it before, but apparently it has a lot of interesting opportunities for discerning entrepreneurs of the data-dealing type, like yourself.
Az: I actually came here from ChiLo back in North America. Not really done much traveling otherwise. Like I said, most of my spare cash is going towards top surgery, and New Angeles was already a pretty big geographical jump for me. Maybe I’ll check it out in the future.
Vesper: So, if I wanted to start a career in the Net as a runner, what would you recommend I do? I don’t think I’m passionate enough about technology to get my own functioning arm removed for a self-made replacement. Any tips for a potential newcomer? Where should I hang out? Who should I talk to?
Az: Brain-nets are the go-to for people who like to stay more bio-natural. I can’t stand the feeling - they make your head feel all warm and fuzzy - but they do the job. You can actually buy some consumer-grade brain-nets used for games or shit like that and just bypass all of their security measures. Take the rig it comes with and fill it up with way more mem. Akamatsu’s are out of production now, but if you can find ‘em, they’re cheap and effective. Otherwise, hit up your seedy bars or techie joints. I know a lot of runners got their start making connections at Wyldside. I can’t really give more of a first-hand account - I mostly learned from reverse engineering some of mom’s old stuff.
Vesper: I see. Being the serious businessman you are, do you have any time to play any games or keep up with any sensies? I hear there’s a new version of DreamWake™ coming out soon on GameNET™ and they’re planning a big event for it - is that something on your radar?
Az: Nah, not my thing. I’ve peeked around some of the files for it and even though the execs say that jacking in while you’re asleep has no side effects, I’ve seen enough in their R&D servs to have my doubts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not taking my chances, and...
Az pauses mid-sentence, his eyes glazing over for a split second as his mind is probably rushing around the software and hardware tripwires he must have placed all over the warehouse area to make sure whatever it was he was pulling off as we were talking could go through safely.
Az: Well, that will have to be it. I’m sorry, darlin’. Don’t get caught on your way out. There may be some heavy corporate guns coming this way in a minute or two. Be seein’ ya!
He vanishes as if he was never there. In fact, I realize with a cold trickle of sweat going down my back, he never was here. The holographic projection he used for our chat had an uncanny resolution and the voice sounded as if coming from within it. Was it some crazy new tech he nabbed from NBN’s R&D Department? I have no idea and no time to ponder. Either I make myself scarce or my employer will have to lawyer up to get me out of this one, for sure. [TRANSMISSION ENDS HERE].