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Maniac lives on Vasilievsky [Island] {a district of St.Petersburg }. Panting, I climbed to the fifth floor: at the time this house was built, elevators were yet a novelty, and rang at the door. One, two, three pause.. one, two. Even if Maniac is in the Deep, the computer connected to all apartment wiring will submit to the code ring at the door and eject Maniac from virtuality.

The steps sounded in the depth of the apartment, I closed the peephole with a finger quickly.

Who? asked Maniac gloomily.

Racket requested?

Pause. Obviously Maniac is just from the deep and has a little mood for humor.


Shit, it's me, me! I removed the finger.

Maniac rattled with locks opening the door.. I entered. He was dressed in virtual suit right on the naked body, with a shotgun in his hand. The gun was huge, with it the slim and narrow shouldered hacker looked like a kid playing war game.

Wow, I just said.

Yeah I was fumbling in one guy's comp hardly managed to get my ass outta there. Maniac was brief, he locked the door, glanced at the canister and asked sympathetically, Dire straits again?

No, not really.

I have a couple of bottles of 'Baltic'

I's 'Guinness' here, I declared proudly. Maniac looked at the canister thoughtfully and hurled:

You pervert

I followed him to the small neat kitchen and asked cautiously:

Where's yours?

With her folks.

Quarreled again?

Why quarreled? said Maniac indignantly, Does the wife's not being at home immediately mean that we quarreled? She have just decided to visit Mommy well okay, we have quarreled a little..

Why so?

Ah I've passed the red light

I nodded: it's very difficult to live in the deep and be married. What the hell betrayal is in visiting the virtual brothel? It's all unreal there!

But Maniac's spouse got hurt anyway

We sat by the table, Maniac searched the fridge, got the pack of franks, a piece of cheese, then brought two huge clay glasses from his room. I filled them with beer solemnly.

Gee, it's really 'Guinness' admitted Maniac drawing the letter 'M' on the thick foam.

For the Love, Shurka.

Um-gm Maniac said gloomily and drained his glass, Yeah. Love. Shit, the devil tempted me! I had to flee a couple of lamers was on my tail So I decided to visit 'Strawberry Fields'

What the hell for?

Don't you really know what security systems those brothels have? Maniac was surprised, This is where senators, Duma deputies, businessmen other money sacks always are. Security will cut you off from your pursuers at once!

I shook my head, didn't know that. It's a shame to confess but I never visited those 'establishments' before.

So well I decided to wait for half an hour, went Maniac on with his story, But you wouldn't just hang there alone like stupid, right? So I called for one girl we were just sitting, drinking beer 'Guinness'! confessed Maniac in a sudden frank manner, Well, and somehow it happened and in the very interesting moment THWAP! a hit on my mug! The girl kisses me but I feel freaking pain and then unprogrammed exit from the deep Gal'ka ripped the helmet out of the port..

He poured himself more beer. I nodded sympathetically: unprogrammed exit is a very unpleasant thing.

For not-diver, that is.

It'll be fine, I said, Not for the first time, not for the last one either

She said, it WAS the last time, informed Maniac gloomily. I haven't visited these brothels for a year! My suit is even without sex stimulator!

Well, mine's with it, I said, I just never visit these.

Too bad for you. Have your fun while young.

In fact, Maniac is two years younger than me but he's a cool hacker while I'm just an ordinary 'newbie', and also he's married, and for the second time.

Okay, relax. You'll make peace tomorrow.

We will, agreed Maniac, So at least today I'll have to have the most fun possible

We exchanged understanding smiles and sipped more beer.

Buy the woman's suit for Gal'ka, I suggested, Drag her into the Abyss and no problem! { same in Russian original }

Yeah, thanks a lot growled Maniac with evident caution in his voice, Have you ever seen the women who have tried the virtual sex? Their psyche is different. No normal male will ever satisfy them!

I nodded, even if I couldn't really imagine women went crazy about virtual sex. I could imagine the men though, many got crazy over that, that's why I didn't hurry to try it. Experiments with adventure thirsty girls is one thing, but the professionals from virtual brothels is a very different case.

For the health, I offered.

We drank and filled the glasses for the third time. The canister was halved and we felt much better.

For the hub 5-0-83,207 said Maniac, For old good 'Fido'

We drank in silence and without touching glasses, like we would for the dead.

Everything changes, Shurka, I said quietly. It was a 'network of friends', the chat about just anything, envy at the Internet, profanity towards Microsoft. But now there's neither Internet nor Fidonet, only virtuality, and Windoze is the best program for it.

They're hack-workers, proclaimed Maniac stubbornly, You what, still use Windows-Home?


Maybe you're right, sighed Maniac drearily, A pleasant voice, advices about amount of 'brains' and hardware quality Pah!. No need to think at all, just drag the arrow along the screen and gaze at the piccies.

And what about you? Still fooling with 'poluos' '? { OS/2: 'half-os' }

Why 'fooling'?!, said Maniac with indignation, It's the best OS if not to count UNIX! I've installed the new version 2 days ago, it rocks!

I hear this every time I visit you, I said, "Have installed new version fucked up my brains for three days until managed to tune it up" While I have Windows-Home for two years already.

Everybody gets what suits them best admitted Maniac, and asked suddenly, Hey Lenia, how did you manage to burglarize Al-Kabar using Windoze by the way?

I looked aside.

There were rumors on the Net that two divers have swindled Al-Kabar,

said Maniac insinuatingly.

I made the last attempt to deviate:

Why two? One diver and one. assistant.

Maniac laughed softly:

Don't consider me a lamer Lenia, otherwise you'll receive such a nice 'hello' in the mail that you'll have to reinstall whole freakin' HD from scratch Divers never pick an ordinary guys to assist them.

I kept silence looking at Maniac.

I see, he said. Well, for the luck. For the rich fools and smart hackers.

We touched the glasses.

What was there Len'ka?

Runny nose reliever.

Really? Cool

We chewed a couple franks each and I was drearily thinking that my anonymity was broken after all. Yesterday there were three attempts to catch me.

Today I was just 'calculated'.

Lenia, I don't know a single diver personally, said Maniac, And I ain't gonna hunt for them. I don't have any complexes especially towards my friends.

Thanks, I said.

But you know Just one question.

Sure, any hacker always has just one question. They think that it's possible to ask something after which all divers' mysteries become clear.


-What does the diver do when he decides to exit virtuality, just thinks like 'I want to return to reality' or what?

I heard that one diver I looked aside, Mutters the stupid rhyme.

Which one?

Abyss-abyss, I'm not yours.

And that's it?

Sometimes he adds: "Abyss, let me go."

And that's it? asked Maniac dolefully.


My, how simple

Maniac searched in his pockets, took out the pack of 'Lucky Strike', lit the cigarette, then said with a slight resentment:

It was so much simpler before. There are hackers, honest 'newbies' and lamers. The first ones can do everything, the second ones are learning. The third ones are stupid, it's not a sin to scoff at them. Just look at yourself: as you were a 'newbie' always, you're still the one.

I agreed.

But then the deep emerged it seemed that all our dreams come true.

Maniac laughed bitterly But in reality-hell no! I, the cool hacker, he declared with a challenge, am just one of the millions in the Abyss well, just a little smarter possibly, I have some experience after all. But sometimes such shit happens anyway

He kept silence for some time, twiddling the frank in his hands, then informed:

I ate a mouse a couple of days ago.


A computer mouse.. Well, not the mouse itself, it's too hard just bit off the wire.

Why? I asked numbly.

It was an accident I was in the deep.. We were sitting in "Rainbow" with some guys, drinking beer with smoked fish Well, I ran out of fish and took some from Max's plate..

But Max doesn't drink beer!

He drank 'Fiesta'. { orange soda }

'Fiesta'?! With smoked fish?

Well, just for a company.. Maniac sighed, And well, possibly it was too far to get to his plate, so looks like I jerked a bit in reality. When I exited gee, the mouse's wire is bitten off! And, like some wire is missing

Does your stomach ache?

No, nothing so far

We filled our glasses.

Or this, Maniac went on, Do you know "Labyrinth of Death"?

Yes, I sobered up in an instant.

I decided to have some fun not long ago, and entered the 17th level directly. They added so many stuff there recently! It's a nightmare of a game well, in brief, I was stuck.

What do you mean?

I couldn't pass to the next level, but without passing it the exit menu doesn't pop up.


And I was sitting there for thirty-six hours, said Maniac with rage, The whole company of us idiots gathered there. We were shot dead at least ten times each, then we just blocked ourselves out in some basement, sang the songs, firing back at the monsters until our timers went up.

You have thirty-six hours limit of continuous being in the deep?

Twenty-four now.

What about Gal'ka?

Ah, she was at mother-in-law's place Len'ka, what time limit do you have?

I removed the limit, I confessed.

I see diver Shurka laughed forcefully. Shit, I never completely believed in you, even if suspected.

Whom, me?

Sure. Why the hell would the 'newbie' need battle viruses and antidotes?

I feel a little sad. Something have changed in our relations, and too sharply. Maybe it'll pass in some time

Shurka, I can't do anything except to exit virtuality, any program for me is just a heap of senseless symbols and a launching file.

Maniac nodded.

I understand. But just tell me, would you like to change places with me? What is more interesting: to create the deep or to rule it?

I'm silent.

Pour me some beer, sighed Maniac.

| Labyrinth of reflections | c