When it came to hosting the infiniteighter hack, Capt. Bill Blackbeard was a genius. He stuck to five infallible principles, which allowed him freedom in every other aspect of his endeavors: 1. Live in the moment; 2. Stay on the move; 3. Never linger (2 and 3, were a package deal, I suppose); 4. Do not involve emotion; it’s only business; and, 5. (Perhaps the pivotal rule) Don’t get greedy. This quintuple ethos gave way to a smooth and calculating agent of hacking prowess so efficient no firewall was safe; no backdoor could stay locked; the Internet was an oyster to all who had the Captain at their side, a man who wanted nothing from it. For him, the treasure was the chase, the pure action of illegally surfing across imposed barriers and closed minds. In this sense, Blackbeard was a dog chasing cars and he’d continually catch them. It’s at that point, that he needed a driver, a reason, a purpose for his unruly behavior. Upon these principles blossomed the beautiful friendship between pirate and infiniteighter. Did I mention he legitimately believed he was a pirate? Of course, the tricky part was finding him.
Nevertheless, I needed to call upon his services once again. He was the key to freeing Mr. Bevilacqua from the seductive cyber clutches of one Darryl Schmuckersburg. Though I had glimpsed into the MACHO leader’s perspective via the prior night’s dream, this was only half of the equation. I saw how Bevilacqua’s delusion ran to the core of his inner monologue, an infintie loop deeper than any con I had ever encountered on heaven.GOD. Of course, there was no such thing as predatory cougars who preyed on the social weaknesses of unsuspecting males (at least not to the degree the MACHO leader decreed every Wednesday night at the Our Lady of the Assumption). Bevilacqua’s empassioned and psychotically fortified belief had almost convinced me. Though hindsight (and in my case dreamsight) exposed the ridiculousness of this cougar premise. I needed to free Bevilacqua and his MACHO members from this misinformation, which quarantined them from their society so heavily entrenched in the pseudo social solution of Bookface®. To do this, I needed the hack of a genius to grant me control over whatever consumed Bevilacqua’s subjective perception of reality. And I could only guess that Schmuckersburg, the logical culprit behind such a brainwash, had set up quite the cerebral barricade. For these reasons, Capt. Bill Blackbeard was the only man for the job.
Blackbeard lived by the seat of his long-tailed coat. I knew that from the moment I met him. vel Nirvanator had set up a meeting in his basement studio, when I was back at the Es investigating the line jumpers’ rogue sites hack. We both agreed, Max and I, that we’d operate under the guise that I was still infiniteighting. That was the only way Blackbeard would cooperate. He knew better than anyone that this business thrived on secrecy, but I needed an in to the line jumpers.
“When Blackbeard arrives, I’m going to introduce you as if you never quit infiniteighting. You and the Captain are going to perform a little job for me; if you want your info, you’re going to have to work for it,” Max had said in his basement stronghold amidst a casino of lights and sounds beeping. “He should be here any minute.” I would later come to learn that Blackbeard was never on time. His consistent tardiness would have implied intention to do so on the pirate’s part, but he was not prone to premeditation. ‘Aye, the moment’s where it’s at, mate,’ he’d often say. Though on that fateful day, years ago, he didn’t keep Max or me waiting long and my first impression of him was binding. To this day, no image populates my mind at the utterance of Capt. Bill Blackbeard. Instead, it’s the sound of brass buckles clanking on his giant leather boots, which stepped down Max’s stairs to his basement lair.
“How are we?” Blackbeard boldly inquired, on that fateful day.
“Good, good, Blackbeard,” Max said. “Captain, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” Max gestured over to me, leading Blackbeard to extend his hand, frilly sleave and all, for a hardy shake.
“Nice to meet you, mate.” Blackbeard growled. Although, I suppose he couldn’t help growling. His voice resonated the same way a steel drum did as rain pelted upon it. “I hear you’re an exceptional infiniteighter. Well know this: there are several rules I abide by and will waver for no man.” He proceeded to list his five-part ethos, to which I had no objections. His appearance and general attitude, however, kept me in a rather heightened state of apprehension.
“OK, well today I’m going to need you guys to perform some reconnaissance work for me,” Max plainly stated. He never let pleasantries get in the way of business, which, by his statement I could tell, he wanted to immediately address. That was OK by me; I wanted to see this Blackbeard in action, anyway. “As you know, I archive all of my clients’ heaven.GOD sessions in an offline drive. No one can reach them remotely. What you may not know is that I also archive another set of sessions. Though produced by my very same heaven.GOD platform, their contents resemble much more what I’d assume Hell to feel like. They’re created when a client has overextended his scope and loses control of the self-imposed world, or perhaps a hidden demon reveals itself in the session. In the interest of keeping these evil apparitions from the Internet Herself, I trap them in a separate external hard drive, aptly named HELL.com. Well lately, I’ve been noticing traces of their code on public sites. For the life of me, I can’t figure how they got out in the open. I need you two to go in there and see if you can detect any breaches.”
“So let me get this straight,” I said. “You want us, myself and this guy who thinks he’s a pirate, to voluntarily enter a cybernetic world, which, according to you, resembles HELL??”
“Ahh.. ya,” Max said rather matter-of-factly and in a tone that altogether ignored both my visible and audible agitation at this request.
“No worries, mate,” Blackbeard chimed in. “I’ve been to Hell and back on the highwaves of unregulated realms in Lady Internet. I’ve seen it all and then some. The likes of Maximilian can’t sway this here swashbuckler. I scoff at the the threat and accept this challenge from the depths of me cold, black heart.” I have to admit, Blackbeard’s brazen confidence put me a little at ease. For the sake of the scoop—Big Tom did not appreciate reporters who returned empty-handed—I too chose to rise to the occult occasion.
“OK it’s settled then,” Max said, ever reminding us of the urgency of his business. “We begin in 10 minutes.”
“Just enough time to fire up me ship,” said Blackbeard, who referred to his black-market motherboard as a pirate ship. While my new partner manned the helm of his electronic equipment, I readied my mind. I found a quiet corner of Max’s lair, sat down and preceded to meditate. 10 minutes would be all I needed to tune into the WiFi signal, on which Blackbeard and myself would sail into Hell(.com). My inner monologue went quiet. My stream of consciousness ran dry. The red, blue and green rods and cones that sparkled beneath my eyelids also ceased to fire and my very soul plummeted to a depth darker than I care to remember. The next thing I knew, we were in Hell.
“Mate! Matey! Wake up!” I awoke to the grizzled, gold-toothed mug of one Bill Blackbeard barking a rum aroma in my olfactory glands. His breath proved more effective than smelling salts. We were on a ship (Blackbeard, I gathered, had not been kidding) and we were sailing, or rather careening quite carelessly through a digital highway of smoldering sulfur, molten brimstone and all that other helly badness. I sat up and laid focus on the bow of our virtual ship to see that we were accelerating full bore into what appeared to be the mouth of a volcano. Then, looking back at Blackbeard, “What’s the plan??” I said.
“Aye, no plan, mate. There’s no tellin’ what lies yonder,” he said. “Although, musket to temple, I’d say the first sign of a breach, we gather the relevant data and then abandon this No Man’s Land.”
I laid back down and tried to concentrate, but the static was unrelenting. I sensed an innumerable quantity of spirits or other digitally incomplete apparitions that haunted and revolved round our soaring scooner. “We have to determine a perimeter,” I screamed to Blackbeard now manning the giant rudder wheel on deck. He turned back and caught me with his one good eye.
“‘Fraid these realms don’t work that way mate. Space and time don’t abide by the laws of the physikall. What we need to find is a hole. A hole that can emerge at any point on the four axes of this synthetic world. We’ll find such a hole where the spirits of this barren landscape flock, where their corrosive existences have seeped through the very coded fabric informing their architecture.”
“What do we do when we find one of these holes, then??” I was altogether petrified and at the same time impressed with my partner’s knowledge on this rather obscure, but extremely necessary topic at hand.
“Simple, mate. We fly through and see where she leads,” Blackbeard returned with a nonchalant smile.
“So what did Max need me for? You seem to know your way just fine!”
“Aye, mate. But this be a two-man job. Not even the slightest sextant could get this here scoundrel through the depths of Hell.com, for her land-, air-, and seascape change rapidly. The only constant be these spirits who forever dwell. I need ye to talk to one of ’em. Savvy?”
My stomach instantly leapt to my throat. These things were hideous. Forgotten and ill-formed, they shamefully and painfully subsisted as the half-baked dreams (or nightmares now) of ill-fated fantasy. Atrocious abortions of imagination that endured a continual punishment of their own existence. I speak in these generalities because, for one, no two were alike. And even to isolate one for explanation became an effort in futility. For the sake of this retelling, however, I’ll try to paint the unholy picture. Going with the general flow of evil, we pulled up to hideous creature that appeared to have at one point in its unfortunate existence resembled a dog (perhaps a family pet), but now had been turned inside-out. Its organs and entrails writhed about its exposed bones and skin hung at its feet. It had attached itself to the hull of our ship, still streaming at a glistening speed. Again, I tried to maintain focus and zero in on the thought patterns of such a seemingly indiscernible entity. Static and abrasive interference again filled my mind. I could only assume these were the incoherent and haphazard patterns of the subject I now addressed. Where are all of these ghosts going? I thought, hoping I had somehow made a connection with this beast. Nothing. Then, I tried to match the awful brainwaves to resonate with it. Instantly I felt drunk and on an acid trip. I felt up was down, left was… it wasn’t right, but it sure as Hell wasn’t left. I was losing my very identity and just as I decided to pull out to reacquire my sense of self, a garbled voice spoke back. WE HAVE FOUND AN EXIT!!! At last! Contact! I WAS GOING TO DEVOUR YOU, BUT NOW I FEEL YOUR TORMENT AS WITH MINE! I gathered it sensed our matching thought patterns, volatile and ugly as they were. FOLLOW ME. I SHALL LEAD YOU THERE.
“Blackbeard! Good news! This thing’s gonna lead us to the breach!”
“Aye, mate. I knew ye’d prove yer worth on this here voyage!”
“So what are we going to do, once we arrive at the destination?”
“We’re gonna fly through, mate. How else can we see where the breach ends up?”
“What about our rendezvous point with Max? How will we get out of Hell.com, otherwise?”
“That is our way out, mate! I didn’t want to divulge before you had established contact with one of these here deciduous constituents, but this weren’t no trial run; we needed to find the breach or else we’d be stuck here. Savvy?” It’s at that point, that I realized the true magnitude of this man’s insanity. His sheer willingness to throw caution to the wind, if it granted the ride of his life, was rivaled by no one. He knew the risk going in; I did not, until he told me. Icy saltwater must’ve run through the man’s veins.
At last we reached the oasis breach in this hopeless Universe of utter despair. It shined as a sliver of golden honey on a fault line that cut through the distant dark wall of Hell.com, like a pirate’s sword through a canvas sail. Blackbeard steadied his course and blasted full on into the breach. The last thing I remembered from that atrocious world was seeing through to the other side, which read across in a scrolling marquee Bookface® Incorporated Official Internet Protocol Address. Welcome to Bookface, where we are where you are. As we sailed through, back to salvation, I had made a lifelong friend in that crazy pirate. No one before and no one since could I regard in this fashion, but him… (in the Internet equivalent) I had been to Hell and back with Capt. Bill Blackbeard.
If traditional pirates were married to the sea, then Capt. Bill Blackbeard had Lady Internet as his mistress. He hardly ever left Her side, for Her bountiful booty was unrelenting in the adventurous treasure She continually presented him. And sometimes it evened seemed She protected him in his high-risk endeavors, as if he was one of Her favorites.
And so, at 8:23 a.m., on that epiphanous morning in my tiny studio in Westchestertonville, when I awoke rested to a tee, circadian engines purring on a gasoline stream of consciousness, I launched my search on the Internet. Tablet in hand, my fingers gestured to conduct an orchestra of cascading windows across the touchscreen. I had begun the hunt for the one man who could host the infiniteighter hack. In all of my travels, I had found no one equal. Yet, no longer a loyal subject to the Bookface® regime, the effort proved tough at first. It was like trying to remember someone’s cell phone number after years of just typing the first few letters of their name into my phone’s address book. All of my saved searches, established contacts, years of bookmarked hyperlinks and cached data had just been wiped clean with a single digital swipe from the crisp sheets of my queensize bed. Of course, this was necessary. Devising a coup d’etat would not fly in master Schmuckersburg’s own kingdom. Perhaps a change of scenery was in order. I swung my feet out from under the covers and planted them firmly in the plush carpet at my bedside. Standing straight and extending my back for the sweet release that cracking joints created, I felt a full two inches taller walking to the shower. Crank. Squeak. Water erupted from the shower head, in a high-pressure spray that warmed to a delicious 101-degree steaming geyser. Having cued the coffemaker to brew from the home-apparatus app on my tablet, before entering the bathroom, a fresh-hot pot was waiting for me, once dried and dressed. Percolation of a plan sans the standard Bookface support now commenced at my kitchen table. I took a deep breath of virgin morning air that graced through the picture window above my domestic workstation.
In order to locate my elusive friend, I had to become him. That was the only way to know where he was going to be; by the time I would have reached his present destination, he would already be gone, abiding by his third rule of conduct, Never linger. I gently closed my eyes and quieted the mind. I attuned to the WiFi hyperfrequencies of the tablet at my fingertips. Brushing over old files from Blackbeard’s and my contract work as scurges of the information sea, I stepped into the shoes, or rather the large, leather, big-buckled boots of my dear old colleague Capt. Bill Blackbeard. An urge to plunder the high waves of the Internet overtook me and the attitude of a pirate consumed.
— OFF THE BOOK —