11 November 2011


By Curtis C. Chen

Fast Eddie went out and got the hands as soon as he knew he was dying.

"Do my ears deceive me?" Sweet Sal said when Eddie told him what he wanted. "Or do you merely become aged?" He pronounced the last word as two syllables, like Shakespeare or something.

"Just gimme the damn hands, Sal," Eddie said.

Sal shrugged, went into the back of his ostensibly legitimate pawn shop, and returned a moment later with a plain white box labeled MEDICAL USE ONLY. Eddie hadn't expected it to be so light when he picked it up. It couldn't have weighed much more than one of the zip guns he always kept tucked into his left ankle holster.

"This is everything?" Eddie asked.

Sal nodded. "Straight from the factory, unlocked, unformatted except for the firmware." He narrowed his eyes at Eddie. "Do you plan to configure this device yourself? Are you now a coder?"

"You let me worry about that. How much?"

Sal waved a hand. "I will not take your money, Eddie."

Eddie felt his eyes watering. "Thanks, Sal."

Programming the hands took a little longer. Eddie didn't have a lot of friends who knew about the soft stuff, and all the referrals he got at first were small-time scam artists running online versions of old confidence games. Finally, the Generous Greek hooked Eddie up with One-Name Westly, who looked like a linebacker but spoke in a high-pitched staccato.

"Totally doable," Westly said after Eddie explained what he wanted. "Most of that's available off the shelf, I just need to integrate all the pieces, and then it's up to you to train it."

"Good," Eddie said. "How much?"

Westly looked embarrassed. "Off the shelf doesn't exactly mean legal. I'll have to crack the FDA licenses—"

"How much?"

Westly quoted an exorbitant fee, and was surprised when Eddie only haggled him down by twenty percent. They worked out payment terms, and two weeks later, Eddie started training the hands.

He hadn't intended to take any more jobs, but it was the only way to properly train the rig. According to Westly, biofeedback was most reliable under real-world conditions—no amount of practice could substitute for actual stress responses.

Eddie almost got nabbed on the last job, cracking the vault on a deep-sea drilling platform to get at the specialized geothermal sensing equipment inside. Security capped two of the crew's lookouts, and Eddie and the helo pilot barely got away with the merchandise and their lives.

Fast Eddie died three days after turning over that loot and collecting his payment. Federal authorities found the cash still under his bed, and seized it along with all other assets they could trace back to Edward Tanabont, Senior.

By that time, the cybernetic servo rig that Eddie had trained was already on its way across the country. Its titanium-alloy mesh and imbedded nanoprocessors had learned everything they could from Eddie's brain waves, muscle movements, and specific nerve impulses, and they were ready to teach his son everything Fast Eddie had known about safecracking.


Image: Bank Vault 1 by mbrand, February, 2009