Egress written by Azam Idris

The deafening sound of an emergency alarm goes off in a stark white facility followed
by “Error, corrupt program” emanating from the speaker system.
A middle aged woman clad in white skin tight attire with the numbers Unit 83113
tattooed on her wrist stands poised, breathing calmly. She seems unperturbed by a man
in a special forces attire who is sprawled in a bloody mess at her feet.
Two of the last men alive, nervously take aim at the woman but even before they can
peer down the reticule of their weapons, she moves at lightning speed, inhumanly fast
and strikes effortlessly. She round house kicks both of the men in the face, killing both of
them before they even hit the ground.

In a small apartment invaded by a myriad of cables resembling an overgrowth of weeds,
a man is surrounded by several monitors. Information fills the screen with constant
updates as if they had a life of their own. The sound of whirring fans and notifications
rhythmically drown out the sound of rain splattering on the window of the apartment.
The only light source in this nest of technology emanates from the screens, dimly
lighting the silhouette of the middle aged man. He wears a headset that nearly covers
half of his face with just a trickle of light spilling out from under the visor. The man's
expression is one of content and blissful happiness.
The lights dim abruptly and the smile quickly fades from the man's face. He
immediately removes his head set.
The screen blinks “Stims AST credits: $12.00”. Irritated, the man pushes his keyboard
away forcefully and attempts to stand up but his legs fail to respond and they buckle
under his weight. Frustrated, he slumps back into the seat, scans the room and reaches
for a small box with the label “Twitch” printed on the packaging. Impatiently, he opens
the box to find one last patch. In his haste he clumsily drops the last patch and waits
impatiently for it to stop rolling across the floor.


The man leans his head back, slowly running his hands down his face, stretching his
features with this movement. He attempts to take a deep breath in the hope of calming
himself. “Well, looks like it's time to do the mud skip” he mutters sarcastically and then
proceeds to slide himself out of his wheelchair. Dragging himself to the tab over the
spaghetti-like wires, he grabs the tab and slaps it onto his lower back. A small LED lights
up and blinks slowly. The man manages to sit upright leaning into his elbows for
support. He stares at his feet as if willing them to move. Suddenly, his feet respond to his
silent thoughts and begin to move of their own accord. The man nods approvingly and
then stands up effortlessly.
Oblivious to the sound of distant sirens in the background, he rearranges his clothes but
is interrupted by the sound of a notification coming from his terminal.
“Cirrus, want more Stims?”
He scoffs and deletes the message immediately. “That's convenient spam”
* beep *
“Want MORE Stims?”
Two more messages appear. Both from the account R4z0r. “...persistent fu-” the man
mutters but before he can finish his sentence, all the screens go blank and a cursor blinks
at him invitingly.
“Cirrus. I can get you what you need. The 404, meet me tonight”
Two digits to his name and no Stims left. After the last bad run in Eden work has dried
up over the last few months. He was compelled to source for income one way or another
and Cirrus knew more about living inside a computer than living in his own body. At
least inside the computer, he knew he had his legs as well as his wits.
“ lose. Nothing to lose except my legs”
Determinedly Cirrus pulls the keyboard towards him, jams the headset back on, leans
forward and logs onto Eden. “Connection successful! Welcome back to Eden, netizen.
Please remember that your actions are being monitored.” the dialogue reads. “Yeah


yeah...” Cirrus mutters as he interacts with the virtual terminal. He's back in.

The 404
Cirrus walks towards a car in an empty car port. He pulls a set of keys from his pocket
and pushes a button hanging off the keyring. The wire frame of a sleek black sports car
appears. Cirrus gets in, starts the car and revs the motor. The engine roars to life
magnificently and he disappears into the night.
Street lights and neon signs bounce off the hood as Cirrus deftly manoeuvres the sports
car into The 404 valet parking. The novelty of 'acquiring' luxuries in Eden using his
hacking skills just never got old.
The 404, some owner's witty attempt to give a nod to the early era of the web. Many
people would've preferred to have forgotten that age of fragile technology but some
things don't easily get buried in the annals of history. For those unfamiliar with that part
of town it's almost as if the owner intended to keep it hidden. It just so happens that The
404 is a haven for Stim addicts, lost souls and all the wrong or right deals going down,
depending on which side you're on.
Smoke generators fill the air with thick artificial mist, obscuring the view of some of the
neon pink lights scattered throughout the night club.
Clothed in assorted synthetic fibres, people gather in pockets around the bar. Both
genders size each other up and down looking for the perfect 'match' for the evening as if
it were mating season at the zoo.
Cirrus feels out of place. He looks around, scanning the bar for the contact that had
somehow tracked him down from Eden. What sort of screen name is R4z0r? For all
Cirrus knew it could be someone from the Designer's Security Department trying their
best to sound the part. If they were good enough to find him, then what could they
possibly need from his expertise at hacking?
A smartly dressed man with manicured looks and a five o'clock shadow walks over to
Cirrus with a grin on his face. It was the type of grin that gave Cirrus the impression that
the man probably swallowed gold dust just so he could say his shit was made of gold!


For whatever reason this man didn't look like a R4z0r to Cirrus.
“Cirrus...we finally meet. Come. Let's talk away from this crowd” the man whispers in
Cirrus's ear as he leans in to shake Cirrus's hand.
“And you are?”
“Razor, or R4z0r as you know it. We've got lots to talk about. I have something you need
and you have something I need” Razor replies whilst pointing slowly at Cirrus and then
pointing to his own head.
Cirrus looks around, uncertain if this is some sort of a bust. If it were, they would've
done so when they broke into his computer earlier and just hauled him out of his home.
“Step this way Cirrus” Razor says whilst leading Cirrus to a booth away from the bar
and the main source of atrocious music. Razor sits down and notices that Cirrus is
scanning the area for any suspicious signs. He interrupts Cirrus' train of thought with
“Please Cirrus, take a seat”
“Look, I don't know who you are but let's talk business so I can get started ASAP”
Cirrus says impatiently.
“That's exactly what we're going to talk about. Like you my time's short” Razor
“Go on.”
“Tell me Cirrus. Would you like to be able to afford to walk with the help of Stims every
day and not have to worry about the bills? What happens if I told you that I can offer
you enough credits to do just that and never have to do this dirty work again?” Razor
says as he reclines back in the seat.
Cirrus's eyes widen as he scans Razor's face for answers – the possibility of leaving this
life behind and starting fresh, financial security … suddenly his mind is overwhelmed
with thoughts. Composing himself Cirrus manages to form a sentence “So what does
this involve?”
Before Razor can respond a waitress comes up to the table and asks “Gentlemen, can I
interest you in any refreshments?”. Cirrus's gaze meets with a stunning pair of green
eyes and a sleek body. It had to be artificially engineered by the Designer. Clever way to
keep netizens coming back. The mind knows it's not real but what's actually real if you


can see it, touch it and smell it?
Razor grins, looks in Cirrus's direction and says “Sure, I'll be having a cider please and
my friend here will have...” “Vodka, on the rocks” Cirrus completes the sentence. The
waitress nods, smiles in Cirrus's direction and walks off.
“Programs...” the phrase goes through his mind. Eden is a virtual metropolis modelled
on the real world which was home to various programs that took the form of your
everyday human being. Eden meant escapism for some and a whole new world of
business opportunities for the tech savvy. It was mankind's solution to combining virtual
reality, e-commerce, MMORPGs and video conferencing into one platform. Just like the
real world there were rules and laws to abide by all of which were co-governed by the
government programmers in the real world and a central controlling A.I. known as the
Cirrus's eyes follow the waitress. She weaves her way through the sea of people when
she's abruptly stopped by two officers in uniform. One of the officers pulls out a
hologram depicting the projected image of a slowly rotating female. Cirrus has no love
for the police and having had his share of run-ins with the law in the past, he wants
nothing to do with whatever it is they're after.
A commotion stirs the crowd. There's more cops piling in from several directions with
the same holographic image of the girl. The cops rarely lifted a finger and the few times
that they did, it would be to line their own pockets or for an incident going down that
someone needed to cover up. Cirrus didn't like it and by the looks of it Razor was
looking rather uneasy himself.
“Let's discuss this elsewhere shall we?”. Razor glances at his watch and for a brief
moment his image flickers. Not wanting to have to deal with the cops, Cirrus nods in
“This way”.
The cops are doing their rounds and fast approaching the area that Cirrus and Razor are
currently seated. Standing up slowly, the two men calmly make their way towards the
emergency exit.
Just as two cops get closer, a drunk man decides to make his presence known. Beating
his chest forcefully he shouts “You pigs, you're nothing but scum!”. He spits in one of


the cop's face and as expected, punches are thrown and the man is quickly pinned
Cirrus and Razor don't linger and slip out the emergency exit.

The sound of sirens fill the air over the distant booming bass from The 404. On the
darkest side of the street red and blue lights from an unmanned cop vehicle pierce the
darkness. No sign of any cops in sight. The sound of boots approach.
“Cloakers...let's move...” Razor says calmly. Before the duo can respond, Razor is
stopped dead in his tracks as his eyes follow the movement of two shapes that are
causing a visual distortion in the atmosphere. “Weren't we go-” Razor raises his hand in
a gesture to silence Cirrus. Acknowledging Razor's command, Cirrus straightens himself
up and eyeballs the two shapes. Despite the distortion, he vaguely recognises the shapes
as male figures. The sound of the boots sync perfectly with the figures' quick approach
towards Cirrus and Razor.
“Great...these friends of yours?” Cirrus says sarcastically. The two ethereal figures reveal
themselves, pulling the cloaking hoods off their head. Wearing a smirk the first officer
says “Going home before the party has started?”. The other, with dark circles around his
eyes from a long night shift chimes in with “and let me guess...he's your Cinderella?
Cirrus has been around long enough to know the mind games that cops like to play.
“Don't fall for the bait just do as they say and they'll go away” he reminds himself. These
guys were at the bottom of the department, doing the rounds to make ends meet and
scraping by whatever they could for their family. Recalling an infamous hacker's quote
“The problem is not the system but the people within the system” - this was one reason
why very few netizens were allowed to work as cops in Eden, the other being
corruption. As far the government of the real world was concerned, programs were
cheaper to run and not tempted by the lure of money. This didn't mean they weren't
prone to trojan hack attacks.
“We're just on our way out sir. Business” Razor says in an attempt to diffuse the


“Alright then all we need is to see some ID. Routine check up you know?”
“Come gentlemen, is this really necessary?” Razor responds whilst looking at Cirrus
slightly uncomfortable. His image flickers again and once more goes unnoticed.
“Just hold still.” The first officer responds whilst pulling out a hand-held scanning
device. A strong light emanates from the screen, under lighting his face as he scans
“Software developer? Aren't you meant to be off Eden right now and playing games or
be in bed? Huehuehue”.
If only they knew the truth. Cirrus never logged into Eden with the same ID twice. Being
able to digitally forge an identity has been what kept the cops off his case all these times
he'd logged into Eden when on 'business' trips. “Mom said I could go out tonight”
Cirrus responded sarcastically. The cop didn't like the back chat. They never do!
“You're up next” the cop says gruffly whilst eye balling Razor.
Razor steps up slowly to the cop, holding his hands out to the side. They could get
complete records of netizens as well as programs, and details about their owners and
programmers. It was the Designer and the government's means of keeping tabs on Eden.
“Error, bad read. Damn things been having the shits the whole night”. Frustrated with
the scanner, the cop shakes it one more time.
“Come on Will, get it together” says the other cop to stir him.
“Yeah yeah, just rebooting this piece of junk. Now if you'd just stand still one more time
Mr. Business”.
“Don't get smart wi...” Razor's image flickers again, this time for much longer.

“Wait a second...what was that all about?” The cop calmly tries to clip the scanner to his
belt and before he can reach for his gun, he is struck in the face by Razor's fist, the blow
delivered at an impressive speed. Razor's image flickers rapidly between his appearance
and an image of a woman in lightweight combat attire. His partner attempts to back


away to call for support but Razor lunges forward and trips him. He grabs the cop's
head and deftly snaps his neck.
Razor stands up, pulls a small device out of his pocket. A small red LED flashes
furiously on the device. He pushes the button and the flickering immediately stops.
Razor's image stabilises on a red-haired woman in light combat attire.
“Scramble suit's out of batteries”. Her voice has changed to a fitting feminine tone to
match the image. She looks up at Cirrus with a coy smile and teases her wavy red hair
as if nothing had happened. Damn, she's a stunner.
The situation didn't look good, being on the wrong side of the law was one thing but
killing a netizen equates to murder in the real world. No witnesses meant no leads or at
least less. That man or woman, whatever it was, probably wouldn't hesitate to dispatch
him right there should he make the wrong decision.
“You got to be kidding me right?” Cirrus looks wide-eyed at Razor.
“I'll level with you once we're out of sight”.
“You just killed two cops”
“...and you're just the type of guy to take his chances! am I right?” Razor takes two steps
towards Cirrus and puts a finger to his lip.
“Hey, I’m down with that” Cirrus says promptly.
She smiles and runs her hands through his hair. “Thought you'd see it my way.” They
make haste and flee the scene of the crime just before backup arrives. When word gets
out on the streets of Eden that a human cop is killed, it only attracts more heat from law

A police car swerves around the corner heading in the opposite direction. Trying not to
draw attention to themselves, the two walk briskly towards a busy night market. The
smell of Asian cuisine wafts through the air, colourful lights and umbrellas contrast with
the high rise buildings in the background. The market buzzes with activity, hawkers
yelling to get attention of passer bys, people jostling shoulder to shoulder. Another pair
of cops are making their way through the crowd towards Cirrus and Razor. Cirrus pulls


Razor over to a store and points at one of the cheap hand bags for sale. “What about that
one honey?” She catches on immediately and pretends to contemplate the bag. The cops
pass by but pay no attention to the 'couple'. They weave their way through the sea of
bodies and alleyways eventually arriving at a high rise building.
The sign reads “Mi casa es su casa” They really know how to pick names out in Eden.
“Back with company Ms Jones?” the clerk smiled. Razor looks at Cirrus assertively and
responds “Yes” without breaking eye contact. Uncertain of the whole fiasco up until this
point, the last thing Cirrus needs to be concerned about is whether Razor is a he or a she.
He has no qualms with what everyone else liked to do behind closed doors but the
Bangkok surprise is not part of this evening's program.
“Enjoy your evening” says the clerk. “Oh we will” Razor replies as she holds onto
Cirrus's arm and walks him towards the lifts. Cirrus smiles weakly.

The room faintly smells of smoke and is decorated with cheap and tacky wallpaper.
Heavy curtains cover the windows. The distant sound of sirens pierce the gloom.
In the corner stands an old dressing table with a cracked mirror. “You really went all out
with the place didn't you” Cirrus remarks with a smirk on his face.
“Beggars can't be choosers” Razor responds nonchalantly as she sits on the bed and
removes her boots.
Cirrus walks over to the curtains, parts them and peers out the window. Despite the
shabby hotel room, the view is great, hard to believe it's all digital. Neon lights light up
the skyscrapers whilst cars hurriedly weave through the streets. A dense smog hangs in
the air and covers the horizon. Eden never sleeps. Someone is always awake at one side
of the world or the other.
“So...what's your story, Razor?”
“Anagrams, I like it”
“Considering how close this hotel is to the scene, we probably won't have much time
before the cops decide to ask questions around here. I was part of an advanced research
program specialising in upgrading security programs. We were meant to supersede the


current security programs that work in Eden, such as the cops. The intention was to
create an artificial intelligence that was more self aware and had lifelike reasoning
capabilities to assess situations. They would be tireless unlike their human counterpart
but would be assigned a human partner at all times to ensure they don't rogue.
Unfortunately the program went better than expected and the research was shut down
prematurely when our line of programs started to display too much emotional
awareness. They said it would interfere with the tasks at hand when conducting security
routines, such as arresting individuals. I saw my friends decommissioned.” A slight
quiver in Zorra's voice accompanied her lengthy explanation.
“So you ran away?” Cirrus asked.
“Fought, my way”
“Your partner?” said Cirrus.
“He tried to decommission me, I had no choice but to defend my life”
“Friends? Life? You're a program”
“... a program that you're upsetting now” The look on Zorra's face was one of pain.
He knew behind all this was cleverly written code, nothing but bits yet the guilt he felt
was real. She was vulnerable and now he would have to apologise for being insensitive.
“Ok that was unfair. Damn. Look it's just a bit difficult to take the feelings of a program
seriously right about now” Cirrus says with a guilty look on his face.
“Because we're not alive. So how do you define it?”
“Memories, breathing and emotions? Heck, I don't know for sure. Do I look like Alan
Turing?” Cirrus replies sarcastically.
“I have memories. I am breathing here and as you can see I’m unhappy right now”
“They're false memories” Cirrus promptly responds.
“And yet, I'm about to tell you that I wish to be free of this world and lead a fulfilled life”
“How exactly do you propose this to happen?”
“I help you get credits for the both of us. You buy me a replicant body outside of Eden
and you upload me to it”


“Deal. Where are we getting these credits from?”
“Eden's bank, this is where your hacking comes in. I'll need you to break in so alarms
don't trip. I'll do the footwork, you can be the eyes”
“Good, I can do that. I'll use my warez”
“Warez? As in programs?”
“Yeah, I can control Eden without physically being present”
“Safe bet. I'll meet you there tomorrow evening”
“Right. I'll log out now. Before I go, sorry.”
“Apology accepted. Not everyday you come across a program that thinks it's alive huh?”
“Yeah, I better go. Hang on to this envelope”
“What is it?”
“There's a Trace IC chip in the envelope. Take it out and wear it before you enter the
building and don't forget to turn it on. I'm out”
His image fades from Eden. Alone again, she wonders what will life would be like 'in the
flesh'. Despite the brief encounter, Cirrus seemed like the closest she'd come to having a
living friend.
On the other side ghost impressions of the last few frames of Eden dance in Cirrus's
eyes. He rubs his eyes, looks at the time. 3:00am.

* beep *
* beep *
* beep *
“The time is 6:00pm, good evening Cirrus” a feminine computerised voice announces.
The tint of Cirrus's windows slowly fades away to reveal the setting sun. He stirs and
immediately sits upright. He hasn't been up this late in a while. Dazedly rubbing the


sleep from his eyes he pulls his wheelchair close to his bed. Using his arms he slides
himself onto the wheelchair, but as expected his legs don't have the same idea. “Geez! I
could really do with some Twitch and them Stims just about now”. Cirrus grimaces as
he leans forward to lift the dead weight of his legs and place them on the wheelchair foot
Rolling up to his computer terminal, a notification screen catches his attention. “I'll be in
at 7pm – R4z0r.“
“Pshht...wish I didn't need to sleep like them” mutters Cirrus to himself. Cracking his
knuckles and rolling his head in a circular motion he leans forward and starts clicking
away. Several interfaces launched simultaneously across the screens. The warez were
prepared. “Time to jump ba-” * beep * a notification window pops on the screen with a
reminder that a payment is overdue. “Screw it, they can wait, I’ll have the credits to
them after this”
He reaches for his headset and fiddles with it momentarily till it sits comfortably over
his head.
Rubbing his hands together excitedly, Cirrus types a command into the terminal and
executes it with the stroke of a button. He's got a visual. He finds himself walking
through the foyer of a modern looking building. The sound of Zorra's shoes click-clack
on the black marble floor. He spots an elevator in the corner of Zorra's visuals. She
heads towards it and pushes the UP button. *ding* goes the sound of the lift before
opening it's doors.
“Excuse me, but we're closed for the day. We will reopen doors 9:00 am tomorrow
morning, this lift is only available for employees after hours. Do you work here?” says a
security guard assertively while his eyes scan Zorra from head to toe. “Oh yes...wait let
me see...” she pretends to rummage through an empty bag and pulls out a clenched fist
which strikes the officer in the solar plexus. “Nope!” says Zorra as an afterthought. The
impact of the blow violently slams the guard against the wall of elevator. He's out cold.
Cirrus watches Zorra adjust her outfit. She's wearing black latex pants topped off with a
lacy decorated cheongsam top. “Nice” says Cirrus, accidentally alerting Zorra to his
presence. “Nice of you to join me, had a good sleep?” says Zorra. She doesn't need to
move her mouth to communicate with him, thanks to the Trace IC chip.
From behind his terminals Cirrus nods approvingly at the choice of Zorra's clothing. She


removes the key from the guard's belt, inserts it into the elevator box and turns the key.
The floor buttons light up. Zorra pushes number 1 and the elevator springs to life.
Cirrus switches screens to assess the floor plan. Cameras point towards the lift on level
4. He rapidly types commands. The cameras are now running looped footage of the
same frame.
Cirrus switches again. Zorra is now making her way past the terminals towards the back
room where the safe is supposed to be. Surveillance cameras decorate the walls in the
distance. “So tell me something Zorra, how did you find me?” The question he had been
itching to ask ever since they met at The 404.
“You know, I AM a security program. They programmed me with limited routines for
tracking other programs. It's not hard to trace AST (artificial simulation technology)
“In an ideal world I would have been programmed with useful skills. Must be great
knowing something without the hours of learning it.”
Cirrus again switches screens, this time disabling the cameras. The sound of a zap is
followed by an abrupt disconnection to Eden. Zorra's visual feed goes offline too. “Shit,
must've been packet flooded” Several attempts are made to get a signal from Eden but
all result in a refused connection. “Dammit, there's got to be a back door open
somewhere” Cirrus pauses momentarily then springs back into action, his hands
moving even faster than before. “Connection accepted.” He was back in. His ears are
greeted by the sickening sound of Zorra's groaning. She's doubled over and seems to be
in pain.
“What the fuck's going on?” Cirrus exclaims.
“You tell me, just been jumped by those two uglies over there, they came out of
nowhere” Zorra shifts her eyes in the direction of her assailants. They appear to be
almost ethereal and robotic at the same time. A blue light emanates from the LEDs and
from the wiring that invades their bodies. They float, legless and have a red eye on a
narrow robotic head which is shaped like a surveillance camera.
“Black Intrusion Countermeasures, try to lay low for a few more seconds” Cirrus says
with concern in his voice.
“This isn't good is it?” Zorra questions as she tries to seek refuge behind a pillar.


Her vision shifts to her torso. She lifts up her top to check the gash on the side of her
stomach from which blood slowly trickles. Cirrus gets the picture. He has to act fast. “It
can get much worse...bear with me” Cirrus flips back to the other screen once more.
The sound of something being charged up emanates from behind the pillar. Already
struck once, Zorra knows what's coming. The volume and pitch of the charge sounds
like it's ready to wreak havoc. Zorra tenses and leaps from behind the pillar just in time
before it's struck by a charge from one of the Black ICs. What they lack in movement
they seem to make up for in fire power. Zorra tries to find shelter as debris comes
crashing down on her. Zorra groans “Whatever you're doing Cirrus, hurry up!”
Cirrus doesn't like what he's seeing on his screen. Zorra is badly in need of his help but
the intricacy of the Black IC's security is going to require time which they don't have to
spare right now. Several routines are launched to attempt a brute force attack to shut
down Black IC programs. Cirrus hopes that he can increase his chances by attempting
multiple attacks in quick succession. He needs luck, he finds comfort in knowing that
the only sure thing about luck is that it's bound to change, hopefully for better and
hopefully right about now.
Concerned he flips back. Zorra is leaning against the undamaged pillar trying to ward
off the continual onslaught of the two Black IC programs. “I might have an idea” says
Cirrus hesitantly. “Go on.” Zorra's replies impatiently. “Can you let me in, I think I'll
have a better chance assisting you than shutting them down.” “What do you need me to
do?” Zorra asks. “I need you to open your ports” Cirrus replies. “Done!” says Zorra.
Cirrus flips back again. The connection's made with Zorra. He starts adjusting her code.
So far so good. Cirrus punches the air in a small victory celebration. He flips back to
check on Zorra.
Zorra's breathing is calm. She stands behind the pillar. Her wound throbs but she feels
invigorated. “Lets do this” She moves swiftly and circles off with the two Black IC
programs. Approaching the closest program, Zorra attacks, grabbing its head and
twisting hard until it is decapitated. The IC unit attempts to charge its arm cannon just
as Zorra pries its head off its shoulders. The Black IC program crashes to the ground, its
arm cannon continuing to charge. Zorra knows what to do. Grabbing the arm, she aims
it in the direction of the other Black IC program. Before it can charge up, Zorra's deadly
aim finds its target.


“Clear!” Zorra says as she drops the arm cannon and stands upright. “I'll clean up here
if you get through that vault. Send me the bank details and I'll deposit only what's
necessary for the replicant body”
“Right” Cirrus says.
“Contact you tomorrow. Thanks” Zorra replies.

“That will be 10,000 credits. Will you be paying by credit card or bank transfer?” The
salesman says.
“Bank transfer” Cirrus answers.
“You're a man of taste, expensive taste. She's the best on the market. I'd buy one if I
didn't have a wife!” the salesman responds with a sleazy grin on his face.
“I've already agreed to the sale. You don't need to convince me any further” Cirrus says
confidently while handing the salesman his bank card.
“Alright, alright just making conversation. Please enter your pin and the replicant will be
delivered later this afternoon, ready to program” replies the salesman. He hands the
bank card back to Cirrus along with a receipt.
The dawn of the transhumanist movement brought upon many positive improvements
to mankind but not without it's ethical concerns. The introduction of replicants into
society were met with heavy resistance by hard working labourers. It left many bitter,
angry and unemployed. Reminiscent of the tradesman initiative, the government
introduced a working incentive to train replicant technicians. The government had a wry
way of first breaking your leg and then offering you one to stand on. Everyone knows
they had a hand in pushing replicants forward. Those that lived the high life had the
luxury of replicant servants. There was no end to mankind's sloth.

Cirrus gazes through the window of the train as it gathers speed. A news headline on
the ticker above his head catches his attention. A poker-faced newsreader is outlining the
details of a robbery at the bank of Eden by a red haired assailant. Cirrus checks the time
and continues to gaze out the window.


He arrives back at his apartment around midday. Travelling on public transport with a
wheelchair has become a test of patience. Cirrus has to put up with congestion,
stuffiness and vandalism despite the heavy replicant security. He'd seen toilet walls that
looked cleaner. There wasn't much room for the less fortunate or disabled in a fast
moving world where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Despite technological
advancements, running a vehicle had become expensive due to fuel rapidly decreasing
in supply. An alternative had yet to be found.
“Can't wait to get out of this thing” Cirrus says glancing down at his legs. Zorra had sent
him just enough credits for the replicant. Sending too much at once would raise
suspicion. He still needed to pay off a debt as soon as he could and get some Stims so he
could walk. Side effects of Stims had left Cirrus addicted to the euphoric feeling it
artificially created. At times he wasn't sure if it was just the Twitch he'd taken. Either it
was a placebo effect from being able to walk or the mind altering effect on his body from
Stims. Whatever it was, he always felt good after having it and he needed them soon.
He prepares himself a meagre lunch and catches up on some much needed sleep before
the replicant delivery is due to arrive.
* knock * * knock * Cirrus is awakened by the knocking at his door. Pulling himself into
his chair he yells “Hang on. I'm on my way!” He wheels to the door and opens it.
“Replicant order for Cirrus” says the delivery man. A wrapped replicant is beside him
on a trolley. “Yep, could you please prop it next to the computer over there” Cirrus says
pointing at his computer. “That's some serious setup you got there man. Are you a
gamer?” says the delivery man. “Yeah...sorta” The delivery man unloads the replicant
and props it beside the computer carefully. “Just sign here and you're all good to go.”
Cirrus signs the document hurriedly, eager to get rid of the delivery man.
The next few hours are spent corresponding with Zorra, downloading her program and
preparing the replicant's model for the setup stage. After numerous cases of
programming replicants for criminal activity it became illegal to upload programs to a
replicant without proper registration. Cirrus had been paid on numerous occasions to
perform illegal operations like this. Despite the nature of the work he always refused
jobs that involved programs designed for war. Cirrus wasn't sure what made him feel
compelled to help Zorra. Maybe it was just an act of desperation or maybe he felt she
was a victim of circumstance.
He ponders on the consequences of a program like Zorra programmed into a replicant.


What if she became volatile or corrupt? For a moment he pauses, contemplating the
worst case scenarios. “Get the girl out. Get the stims and just get on with it” he mutters
to himself.
As if to reinforce his thoughts, a notification from Zorra pops up. “Get me out of here
now! The cops are closing in. I'm running out of time!” she implores.
A few seconds always feels like hours when time is of the essence. The download finally
completes and Zorra is ready to be uploaded to her new body.
Cirrus plugs into Eden one last time to converse with Zorra before commencing the
installation. “Are you alright? You sure this is what you want?”
“Breathing binary is not my idea of breathing. I want to have my own memories, I want
to live” Zorra replies.
“I'll see you on the other side then. We'll sort out the rest of the cash once you're here”
says Cirrus.
Zorra responds with “Thank you Cirrus”.
Cirrus logs off Eden. This is the last time he would converse with Zorra in a virtual
reality. He feels a strange sense of excitement as he depresses the setup button, almost
like meeting someone on a date for the first time. In anticipation, Cirrus watches as it
steadily reaches 50%.
A loud knock interrupts him. Not expecting any visits or any other deliveries, Cirrus
glances at the door and quickly checks the setup screen. It was at 70%.
Cautiously, Cirrus approaches the door. Peering through the peephole, he sees two
shabbily dressed men covered in tattoos standing outside. One is bald whilst the other
has long hair. Baldie knocks again, louder this time. “Cirrus!” the baldie yells. Before he
can repeat the motion, the hippie stops. “Fuck it, he owes the boss big time”. Hippie
pulls out a gun with a silencer and fires, smashing the door knob.

Baldie kicks the door towards Cirrus. He barely misses the impact and stares the men
down. “Look guys, I have the money, I'm going to be paid in a matter of minutes”
“That's what they all say Cirrus. You had your time, so tell us whatcha good for in this
shit hole” says the hippie boldly.


“Look I'm telling you I'm good for the credits. Just come back in an ho-” before Cirrus
can complete the sentence, baldie interjects with “The boss said no negotiation, we're
taking your shit and that's only interest!”
Cirrus wheels himself between the men and his computer, attempting to cover up
Zorra's replicant. He manages to snatch a quick glance at his screen. The setup status
was at 90% and had less than a minute left before completion. He looks around
desperately, trying to buy time for the setup to be completed.
“Say that looks like a great setup you got over there. Sure could cover the interest you
owe the boss hey?” says baldie as he eyeballs the monitors and computer over Cirrus's
shoulder. Both intruders seem to be oblivious to the replicant lying beside the computer
Cirrus grips the wheels of his wheelchair and forcefully slams his head and shoulders
into baldie's stomach. Baldie crumples to the floor. Hippie quickly responds by pistol
whipping Cirrus across the head. Cirrus slumps forward a little from the blow. He
manages to recover and tries to throw a feeble punch at hippie who is much faster and
connects solidly with Cirrus's jaw. The taste of blood fills his mouth but the pain doesn't
register. He catches another glimpse of the setup. 98%.
Cirrus grins at his intruders. Baldie has recovered and looks menacing. “I'll sort you out
you cripple” He attempts to grab Cirrus out of his chair. Cirrus grabs Baldie's arms,
pulls himself towards him and spits a gob of blood mixed with saliva into his face. “Red
suits you, asshole” says Cirrus with a crooked smile before being ripped out of his chair.
Cirrus's attempts at escaping prove useless. His intruders are pros when it comes to
extortion. The men tower over Cirrus as he lies prone on the ground. Cirrus clutches the
wheels of his chair as Baldie and Hippie's vicious blows pummel him relentlessly. The
next few seconds are sheer hell for Cirrus. He reckons that if he could just hold on long
enough, it should all be over very soon. His intruders were relentless scum, the type that
would sell their mother for a dime, and it didn't matter that it was two against one. It
didn't matter that Cirrus was already down and out. They just wanted to make a point.
To feel like tough guys while beating up a man in a wheelchair. Bravo.
The vision of various diagnostic tests and startup processes appears across a heads up
display. Once the progress bars have reached 100%, the vision of a dingy room covered
in cables, a computer and monitors come into view. The sound of a fight and
intermittent groaning comes from another angle of the room. Two men are kicking a


man. The man lies prone on the floor.
She was alive. She looks at the screens dialogue and spots the setup completion screen.
She immediately figures what's just happened. Not nearly as fast as she was in Eden, she
still effortlessly despatches the two men by kicking Baldie in the side of his temple and
twists Hippie's neck with a sickening crunch. Concerned for Cirrus's life, she kneels
beside him and places a hand on his back.
Despite the agonising pain, Cirrus manages to look up at Zorra and smiles weakly “You
made it” he says. Droplets of blood spatter her chest. “Cirrus! Tell me how to fix you”
Zorra pleads. “I'm broken Zorra, you can't fix me” Cirrus utters resignedly. “But...there's
got to be a way!” Zorra pleads.
“Now you can have memories of your own. A...a man...cannot truly die if his name is...
remembered.” Cirrus replies haltingly. Zorra resignedly rests her hand on the back of
Cirrus's palm as he takes his final breath.
“No...not you too Cirrus.” Zorra says. She looks at Cirrus's face, searching for a sign of
life. “Thank you Cirrus” Zorra says as she reaches over to close his eyelids.
Why did Cirrus risk his life for her?
Why didn't he tell her about the debt?
Maybe he knew he'd trip up eventually, his life addicted to Stims. Maybe those last
moments he recognised that by giving Zorra life, his existence would be validated.

Several Months Later...
In a deserted warehouse, Zorra types away at a keyboard. A command and a bleep
confirms her input.

A monitor displays a male figure outlined by a wire frame. The words “Powering up,
please stand by” appears on the screen. Zorra's attention is glued to the screen as she
watches the lifeless figure anxiously.
His eyelids flicker. Then he opens his eyes. He sits upright and attempts to get up from
the floor. But a plug running from the back of his head hinders his attempt. Confused, he


reaches behind his head. His fingers connect with the plug. He reaches back further and
pulls it out. He stands up slowly gazing down at his legs in disbelief.
“Welcome back” Zorra says with a smile.