Quentin was a ghost. His Social Security Number had been erased from the registries of every agency in the government, there were no tax records linked to his person, and his uncovered face had not been captured by a surveillance camera, connected or independent, in the past nine years. No one knew his real name. Quentin? That was just what his soldiers called him; he had constructed it to give some substance to his ghost-like nature, a calling card, a legend. Any third-rate hacker knew the power in a name, and Quentin, also known as Rexodus, 81818, Daitya—the Bengali word for Monster—and many others, knew it well.

His very existence made him the boogieman of the digital underworld. Stretching like an octopus’ tentacles around the globe were his soldiers; that was what he called his hired associates, who were usually involved in one or more schemes. He had college-graduated code monkeys splicing off profits off of international trade deals from coal companies. He had men embedded in numerous Super PACs, the FBI, the DEA, the Bloods, the inner circle of El Bampo’s cartel in Venezuela. Even the mayor of a small Missouri town was under his command. Child’s play.

His inner circle of soldiers, called Legionnaires, were salaried upwards of $100,000 a year, but of them he required more extreme loyalty. Legionnaires were each outfitted with a state-of-the-art necklace camera—its appearance was that of a large, pitch black marble, totally innocuous—that was connected to Quentin’s network; he could see what they saw at any given second. These were both the managerial arm of Quentin’s digital body, and the fist; when he was ever contracted through the dark web for an assassination, it was one of his Legionnaires that carried out the task. And for security, Legionnaires were microchipped so Quentin could know their exact location, and so he could retaliate swiftly if they misbehaved.

At his disposal was an unregulated, untraceable, unstoppable army of cyber warriors, but the effects of such unstable chaotic power on one man were great. Quentin, though the world’s delights were all accessible now that he had accrued inhuman levels of wealth, rarely left his mansion in the mountains, his fortress. The constant executive stress and intense intellectual workload of operating a hacking empire had caused him to sequester himself more and more as time passed. Only his trusted butlers and select Legionnaires were permitted entry into the mansion.

A hunter and his son, out searching for big-horn buck in the woods near Quentin’s property, saw him once, dressed all in white, walking through the forest. When he saw them, he stared silently for a moment, then walked back to his mansion. That was three years ago. Since then, Quentin had immersed himself fully in the digital and the virtual world.

***

The VR headset was strapped to his eyes. Oxygen pumped in through a tube connected to a respirator on his mouth. He floated in the pale blue fluid of the tank, motionless, except for the constant pumping of the plastic-coated artificial vagina on his penis area. The robotic masturbation motor which controlled the device’s movements had been calibrated to ensure the greatest amount of pleasure. The rate of pumping varied throughout the day and night, ranging from very slow pumps to very rapid ones which sent ripples to the surface of the tank. Each day, Quentin could be ensured he would receive six to eight powerful orgasms.

His movements were purely liquid, from his purely liquid diet of protein and carb solubles. Whenever he passed one, the vaporous liquid floated out from his anus and dissipated into the pale blue fluid surrounding his body, where it stayed until the tank’s filtration system activated, cleaning the tank of impurities. Once a day, Quentin’s frail form was lifted from the tank by his handlers and the oxygen respirator was removed from his mouth so that his meal could be poured down his throat. He often would choke at these intervals, sputtering up the rapidly-poured mixture, but the handlers never slowed the task, as Quentin would become irate if the feeding took too long. Sometimes, the mixture would even spill into the fluid of the tank.

The butlers sometimes whispered to one another as they cleaned the completely unused mansion. There were rumors that the master had forgotten how to speak; another rumor was that most of the muscle fibers in his body had deteriorated from disuse. Both of these were true. But it was no matter whether Quentin could vocalize his commands or not; he could merely issue the same commands with the twitch of his eye muscles, gestures picked up by his VR headset and translated to orders sent to his butlers, soldiers, or Legionnaires. He got what he wanted, whenever he wanted it. Quentin’s ascended state afforded him the knowledge that power was so much more than the ability to lift objects.

This was his headquarters, his home, and he had everything he needed. He hadn’t left the tank in two years, and it would have been three years if he didn’t have to have an emergency surgery because of unforeseen organ failure. Thankfully, a doctor on his payroll was able to perform the procedure and he could return to the tank after just a week of rest. There was another time, even more tragic, where the left lens of his VR headset had become unfocused, and his eyes were forced to see natural light for a day and a half while the replacement was prepared.

Barring the rarest of exceptions, Quentin was in a state of extreme physical ecstasy and visual stimulation at all times, but just as what happened when he reached a certain peak of wealth, he reached a point where he was at a loss. Malaise sunk into his fragile bones.

Like the hunter and his son, who he thought of often, he wanted a real challenge, a hunt.  Observing the low-level hit jobs as they were executed barely excited him anymore; the targets were usually snitching gang members, business rivals, or political opponents, and his Legionnaires handled these with ease. He had approached the CIA, offering his services to them multiple times, free of charge, hoping to get a taste of a true hunt. But each time they had rejected him, for the reason he could only assume was that they wouldn’t work with someone they knew nothing about, and could therefore not control. He had decided to wait; they would need his help one day, and when they asked politely, he would answer.

***

This is an excerpt from Goddel M. Robert’s new novel, Harv and the Big Collapse.

For all installments from Harv and the Big Collapse, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1