Joshua Klein
Roo'd by Joshua Klein

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by Joshua Klein
Fed was 18 when Tony got roo'd. He'd been prepping for early college
admission with late-night com-classes, goggled in and finger-cramped
over nasty circa-2009 C++ code examples while longing to toss it in for
time to scan some flashy Java virii. Tony had been gone from his life
for at least a couple years, five years his senior and a failure, as far as
their folks saw it. Bailing out of a prestigious single-course curriculum
at MIT, the rumor was that he'd crashed and burned on Pakistani kraft;
carefully engineered cold cells delivering a prolonged payload of
top-flight methamphetamines directly to the spongy flanges of his right
"Coulda been a genius" Fed's father had said when he'd said anything
about Tony, which wasn't often. He had never said much, plugged in as
he was basically 24/7 to a Grecko-Roman massively-multiplayer game
world based out of a datahaven in the Balkan Islands. Fed's Dad had
been an in-game Wizard, administering illegal betting and avatar trades
through a Russian triumvirate. About the time Tony had washed out of

MIT their Dad's game servers had been pulled by marketeers and put to
use in a retro Furry MUD. Without the reassuring virtual community of
brother-love Fed's Dad had simply faded away, dissapearing the same
way Tony eventually had.
Fed's Mom was unfortunately much more present. Plugged in all day to
secretarial comstats turning nasty boardroom sharkfights into
regurgitated memorandums suitable for shareholders, she was the bland
paste that put a shine on corporate "accountability" clauses. Every night
she got home and either popped a tricyclic and a red stripe lager,
settling in for a long night of Disney-produced medi-dramas, or mixed
vodka and an MDMA-derived german sports drink and went out with
Bark. Bark was not Fed's favorite in the long line of boyfriends his
mom had had, mostly because he insisted on trying to win points with
his Mom by palling around with Fed. All Fed wanted was to be left
alone to goggle in and wrench his brain around the tightest code he
could find, teasing it apart byte by byte until that singing satisfaction of
comprehension flooded his brain. One day Fed was going to change the
world, and he'd figured out early that you didn't get to change the world
by sitting on your ass.
But it was because of Bark that Fed started seeing Tony again. Bark'd
come over for dinner, which was really just an old-fashioned form of
foreplay, and had somewhere along the line decided that Fed should
keep his tray with theirs on the jittery fomica platform that served as a
kitchen table.
Fed had just unplugged when Bark's yelling had shook through the
plyboard walls between his room and the kitchen. Fed ignored it and
ran his finger around the mounting post on his right leg. He wiped off
the excess antimicrobial grease on his jeans and held it up under the
lamp to inspect his work, noting with a grimace the spreading crack in
the plastic housing on the shin. Grunting to himself he slid it home and
felt it catch. He leaned his head back against the water-stained
wallpaper. His head hurt.
He'd been living on Hawaiian time for weeks, running the normal
classes locally and power napping until the start of the courses on the

islands. EST plus Hawaiian - which always ran late - was burning him
bad, but he wanted the computer virus background something fierce
and Hawaii was the only place that offered it. Everywhere else was too
political. Fed sighed and finished socketing his legs on before shuffling
down the hall.
"There we go. Like a family" Bark'd said, as though it held some
meaning or weight which might translate across the tautological divide
between them. Fed stood in the doorway, the kitchen's grease-stained
wallpaper rendered in clean RGB scan lines on the inside of his goggles,
his chording keyboard clenched tightly in his right hand.
Bark slapped a meaty paw against the sole empty chair. "C'mon, it'll be
fun! Your Mom even fried 'em on the George Forman. And I have a
new mesquite margerine spray - got it promo from work today. You'll
love it." Bark worked as a distributer and "display maximization
consultant" for Easy-Pick, the line of closet-sized convenience stores
painted into corners of gas stations and confectionary shops.
Fed sat down at the table and flipped one goggle cup over his eyebrow,
his other hand keying in the combination for single-handed chording.
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