I was gliding home on my heavenly wheels. Wingnut had done a fabulous job. He always does. We argued as usual on how loose to make the bearings, I always think I want them tighter, he’s always right. He threw in a set of insoles too, so super comfy and smooth was the way back home. Always better than the bus.
In every city I ever visited I preferred to be out on my feet. Something about the smells and the noise and the traffic. The people, the lights and the rain. It fills me up. I feel like I can understand a place better on my own two feet.
I listened to third wave electro as I passed closing stores, night girls and commuters. The music is kinda retro, not really fashionable now I guess, but I like it. It reminds me that nothing really changes, the cities will still have closing stores, night girls and commuters.
Eventually the commerce turns to residential streets and I can get a bit of speed up without the traffic around. I can hear the wind roaring through the straps on my skid lid, louder than the music now and I am thrilled.
I clunk up the stairs to my kennel. I’d call it a flat but my cooker is next to my bed and my desk is on the other side. Nothing changes. As I raise my key to the lock, I see that the door is already open. The calm from my ride flips over in my stomach. Not another break in.
I push the door ahead of me and listen. No noises. Hopefully this means whoever came in had buggered off. I roll slowly into the narrow hall. Past the bathroom – nothing there. Into the main room and I reach around to turn on the light.
As the bulb flickers something drops from the ceiling and shouts. My skates go up and my butt hits the floor hard. I throw my hands up and flinch at whatever is coming.
Nothing makes impact. I hear a giggle and realise what’s happening.
“Fucksake, you stunted monkey. What the fuck are you doing?” I shout at the ceiling.
My brother. Aesop is six. He’s genius and he’s a terrorist. Prime target usually being me or my parents.
Peals of laughter rain down from the ceiling. Giggles that only a six year old can make. I soften. It’s pretty contagious but I need to try and show him what he is doing is not right. I refuse to look up and deal with getting my skates off so he doesn’t get so much attention.
The giggling stops and I look up into a huge set of upside down brown eyes. Just like my eyes, but more innocent and with fewer wrinkles. Aesop, known as Sprout to many of us is suckered onto my ceiling with some large vinyl looking discs he has apparently stitched to his trainers. I should be angry, but as usual with Sprout I’m more amazed. I can’t reach my ceiling when I am standing on the floor. I glance around the room. Unable to work out how he got up there.
I look up again and he reaches out his arms. I stand up and he grabs onto me flipping around like a marmoset to cling onto me as his shoe suckers release the ceiling.
“I wanted to surprise you,” he mumbles into my shoulder.
“Are you angry?”
“You’re not though. You’re not shouting and swearing any more.”
I push him away so I can look at him.
“Never do that again.”
“Okay,” he chirrups and hops down to the floor. “I’m hungry. I’ve been up there for an hour or more, why are you so late?”
“Sterling Lusthead was blocking the door on my way out of work.” I head to the cupboards to see if there are any noodles. More giggles. I turn with two packs of instant noodles to watch Sprout laughing hard and trying to get his shoe suckers off.
“What’s so funny?”
He’s gasping for the breath to tell me, “Sterling Lusthead!!” He collapses again into giggles. I start to laugh too.
“You’re right. That is a funny name.”
“Almost as funny as yours,” jibes Sprout.
“Shut up,” I reach out to grab him but he’s fast away to the sofa bed, out of reach and already rummaging in my bag for the general control.
I put the noodles on to cook and watch Sprout messing around with my general remote. He’s testing as usual. On/off this/that and then the wireless. I get to him just in time and code lock the access to the web.
He grouses as I hand it back. “You can do what you like in here evil genius, but you’re not accessing my files and accounts out there.”
He looks up at me scornfully, “I was going to make your control better.” The scorn changes to persuasion. “Just let me see it a little bit, I can make it better.”
“Uhuh,” I nod and return to the boiling pot of noodles.
I hear him turn on the view screen and flick through the options.
The thing about Sprout is that he probably really is an evil genius. He doesn’t mean to be but he’s officially restricted by the health department.
At four years old he got my dad’s general remote (GM) and hacked into the view satellite. He changed the accounts for our family, chose premium programming for all of us and reset any debts. That might be cool, but in an attack of infantile altruism, he then decided that everyone might like free viewing and reset every subscriber around the globe.
To get this far he must have decrypted their code, hopped their security walls, recognised their algorithms and changed things to what he wanted to see. Four years old.
Dad nearly went to jail because no one believed that Sprout could do this. The story went global, info gatherers followed us around for what seemed like forever and was probably a week.
We were given programs to lock our wireless that would take until the end of the world to break and still the boffins were worried he’d crack it. He still tries sometimes, the only puzzle that seems to elude him, mostly because we have to take it away and distract him before he has time to work things out.
Sprout got classified in the end. He goes to a special school and even there the other kids hate him. It’s a shame as he is still a sweet kid. Sprout has my remote in his hand and a finger up his nose. He farts proudly and looks over at me sideways, then giggles.
I close my eyes. Still just a six year old in many ways.
I serve up noodles and we sit on on the sofa bed and watch ancient math shows from some defunct university. I don’t know where he finds these things on the archive but it keeps him calm. We slurp and stare at the screen until my remote beeps. It’s late.
“Where are your parents Sprout?” I look at my watch, even though I know what time it is when my remote buzzes. Nearly time for power down but still time enough to do what I need to do before bed.
“They’re out and they’re your parents too,” Sprout takes both of our bowls and puts them into the minidish cleanser. I figure he must be growing up a little after all.
“Yeah, well, they’re late and I have to work tomorrow. If they don’t come back…”
Sprout finishes my idle threat for me, “You’re going to sell me to the night workers so that they can use my little hands to build motherboards until I am eighteen.”
I open my mouth to agree when my parents walk in.
“What is this? Piccadilly Circus?” I greet them with a stubborn glare inherited from my father.
Mom steps over and plants a kiss on my face.
“Your door was open,” notes Dad. I realise I must have left it that way after Sprout assaulted me.
“We closed it now though,” Mom smiles helpfully. She surveys the room. “You should really try and get some place a bit, you know, nicer.” She comments sitting gingerly on the arm of my sofa bed.
“Yeah well, Mom, make me a magical millionaire and I’ll get right on that. Until then, all the money pays for my mind. Unlike Sprout, I was not gifted with the evil genius gene.”
Dad looks amused. Mom purses her lips. “Don’t call him that, he’s just a bit smarter than most kids is all. You’ll be glad when he can pay for your retirement.”
“Yeah,” I comment, “Or starts his campaign of world domination and sets the air on fire.”
“Where is he?” asks Dad.
We all tense a little bit, when Sprout is not in your eye line, you should be worried. Dad takes a step back to look in the hall and grins. We lean over to see what Aesop is up to. Lying on the wood floor with his feet suckered to the wall and my remote in his hand, Sprout is fast asleep. He sleeps a lot lately. I guess with a mind that quick it’s maybe easier to power out fast.
Dad unclasps the suckers and inspects them appreciatively, another invention of a six year old engineer. Mom picks up Sprout’s sleeping liquid body and leans him against his shoulder.
“Time to go kiddo,” Dad hugs me and they head out the door.
“Just tell me when you plan this next time,” I whisper loudly at them.
Mom smiles wryly, “Always the last word,” she whispers back.
I have less than an hour to powerdown. In order to save energy for when we need it most – usually for electronics, the power shuts off in parts of the city at night. You can pay a higher rate to keep things running, but the lights go and some of the power ports in the apartment. The basics still run so I don’t mind it so much.
I unfold the sofa bed and curl up with my laptop. Hands on the keyboard in a now natural approach, I rest for a moment, thinking. Usually I’d be combing for audiobooks or a nice documentary to fall asleep to.
I open up my own search program. I paid a pretty penny for a powerful search to unearth more unusual connections. You can use the vanilla version for free of course, but working for The Intel, you’d be losing out on the details. I type, “Sterling Lusthead” into data entry box and pause. I’m not entirely sure I want to know.
The lights pop out, powerdown, then my minidish explodes with a flash. I yelp and leap off the bed away from the minidish. I can smell smoke though it doesn’t appear to be in flames. I grab a portalight and inspect the machine. Blackened on the inside and black noodle bowls to go with it.
My laptop pings.
I tell it to open the new message and read while I try to work out what happened.
A six year old voice pipes out from the speakers, “I fixed your minidish!” Heheheheheeeehehehe!”