Snake Eyes

Tom Maddox

Snake Eyes
by Tom Maddox ?
This story was originally published in Omni Magazine, April, 1986; and in Mirrorshades:?Tthe Cyberpunk Anthology,1986

Dark meat in the can--brown, oily, and flecked with mucus--gave off a repellent, fishy smell, and the taste of it rose in his throat, putrid and bitter, like something from a dead man's stomach. George Jordan sat on the kitchen floor and vomited, then pushed himself away from the shining pool, which looked very much like what remained in the can.
He thought, No, this won't do: I have wires in my head, and they make me eat cat food. The snake likes cat food
He needed help but know there was little point in calling the Air Force. He'd tried them, and there was no way they were going to admit responsibility for the monster in his head. What George called the snake, the Air Force called Effective Human Interface Technology and didn't want to hear about any postdischarge problems with it. They had their own problems with congressional committees investigating "the conduct of the war in Thailand."
He lay for a while with his cheek on the cold linoleum, got up and rinsed his mouth in the sink, then stuck his head under the faucet and ran cold water over it, thinking, Call the goddamned multicomp, then call SenTrax and say, "Is it true you can do something about this incubus that wants to take possession of my soul?" And if they ask you, "What's your problem?" you say "cat food," and maybe they'll say, "Hell, it just wants to take possession of your lunch"
A chair covered in brown corduroy stood in the middle of the barren living room, a white telephone on the floor beside it, a television flat against the opposite waIl--that was the whole thing, what might have been home, if it weren't for the snake.
He picked up the phone, called up the directory on its screen, and keyed TELECOM SENTRAX.
The Orlando Holiday Inn stood next to the airport terminal, where tourists flowed in eager for the delights of Disney World. But for me, George thought, there are no cute, smiling ducks and rodents. Here as everywhere, it's Snake city
From the window of his motel room, he watched gray sheets of rain cascade across the pavement. He had been waiting two days for a launch. At Canaveral a shuttle sat on its pad, and when the weather cleared, a helicopter would pick him up and drop him there, a package for delivery to SenTrax, Inc., at Athena Station, over thirty thousand kilometers above the equator
Behind him, under the laser light of a Blaupunkt holestage, people a foot high chattered about the war in Thailand and how lucky the United States had been to escape another Vietnam.
Lucky? Maybe ... he had been wired up and ready for combat training, already accustomed to the form-fitting contours in the rear couch of the black, tiber-bodied General Dynamics A-230. The A-230 flew on the deadly edge of instability, every control surface monitored by its own bank of micro-computers, all hooked into the snakebrain flight-and-tire assistant with the twin black miloprene cables running from either side of his esophagus--getting off, oh yes, when the cables snapped home, and the airframe resonated through his nerves, his body singing with that identity, that power.
Then Congress pulled the plug on the war, the Air Force pulled the plug on George, and when his discharge came, there he was, lett with technological blue balls and this hardware in his head that had since taken on a life of its own.
Lightning walked across the purpled sky, ripping it, crazing it into a giant, upturned bowl of shattered glass. Another foot-high man on the holostage said the tropical storm would pass in the next two hours.
Hamilton Innis was tall and heavy--six four and about two hundred and fifty pounds. Wearing a powder-blue jump-suit with SENTRAX in red letters down its left breast, and soft black slippers, he floated in a brightly lit white corridor, held gingerly to a wall by one of the jumpsuit's Velcro patches. A view-screen above the airlock entry showed the shuttle fitting its nose into the docking tube. He waited for it to mate to the airlock hatches and send in the newest candidate.
This one was six months out of the service and slowly losing what the Air Force doctors had made of his mind. Former tech sergeant George Jordan--two years' community college in Oakland, California, followed by enlistment in the Air Force, aircrew training, the EHIT program. According to the profile Aleph had put together from Air Force records and the National Data Bank, a man with slightly above-average aptitudes and intelligence, a distinctly above-average taste for the bizarre--thus his volunteering for EHIT and combat. In his file pictures, he looked nondescript--five ten, a hundred and
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