Roger Nanoff, former heir to the Circle X convenience store fortune, is lying dead in a pool of blood. It is already starting to dry as I write this, and his down-filled quilted blanket is clearly ruined. It was two years old, purchased from Target.
I never really liked the man, but like the rest of the Collective, I always tried to give him yet another chance. He was 43, but he seemed like a prematurely graying version of dynamically annoying teenage self.
Reginald Nanoff, chairman of the Circle X chain of stores, started his business in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1947. He had big plans for his venture, and the son he waited decades to have. His first wife, Clara, died in childbirth in 1952. His second wife, Nanette, was unable to bear children due to the after effects of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – she had caught Gonorrhea after a fling with the Midwestern Regional Manager of Circle X in 1965. Reginald finally had success with his third wife, Missy, and Roger was born on January 30th, 1968.
Unfortunately, Roger permanently disappointed his father in the mid 1980s, soon after their family moved to Fairview, Minnesota. Roger was a stereotypical delinquent, who who rather hang around the Mississippi River at night, experimenting with drugs and girls, than help his father with the franchise. In 1985, Roger managed to steal $3000 from one of his father’s accounts, and used it to help his friend Joan Gordon (Jo) start 2nd Going records, a small punk label focused on Intruder Alert!, and other bands in the Minnesota scene.
During that time, he started a secret relationship with Sasha Williams, Jo’s younger cousin. They had a 4 year age difference, and Sasha was barely 13 when they first met, but Roger didn’t let that stop him from pursing her romantically. During the early history of 2nd Going, and the growing Collective, Roger kept on seeing Sasha, and by 1987 she became pregnant.
Sasha had long since run away from home, hadn’t attended High School at all, and was staying with Joan and Caroline, focusing her entire attention on her S.OS and Merridian Scaffolding project. She went missing for about a year – staying in Texas with friends of some 2nd Going bands – and when she came back at the end of 1988, only a core group of people ever knew that she had a girl. She ended up giving up the girl for adoption.
For the sake of her privacy, I’ll call Sasha’s daughter “Texie”.
It was around the same time that the “Big Band Breakup” happened – Joan finally found out that Roger was the father of Sasha’s girl, and so she kicked him out of Intruder Alert! The public story was that she accused him of excessive drunkenness, and even he wasn’t aware of his daughter. Some band members sided with Jo, and some with Roger, and the new bands reflected this tension. Cathy Koehler (then known as 8-Track) managed to convince Jo to start a new band, along with her best friend Caroline. “Velcro” (Aurora’s father) replaced Roger on guitar. That band was Suspender – the band that ended the world despite itself.
After Sasha returned, she started to recruit and etch various female band members, creating the Collective. She also managed to briefly hook up with Roger, again in secret – that time, it was a subliminal gambit by S.OS, who wanted access to the Circle X convenience stores. Simply put, S.OS wanted to use chain’s then massive logistics, with many thousands of stores, to grow its influence. During the brief affair, Sasha gave Roger an extensive (and uncharacteristic) peek at the then-current state of Collective technology, and then made sure he had ample opportunity to steal it.
He did, and Sasha even gave him a fairly complete etching. That was enough for S.OS to temporarily take over, and spend the next few months injecting itself into the Circle X network – Roger still had some access, since his father was trying to rebuild their relationship. That didn’t last long, once Suspender started to tour in 1989.
By the time the last Suspender concert was held on Halloween in 1994, Roger was a different kind of mess. He had stopped binge drinking, and had extensive savings from what could have been called a “disinheritance settlement”. He had a series of flings, but never could quite shake his time with Sasha. That longing, along with his general personality defects, led him to fixate on young girls in their early teens.
He started at first by cherry-picking letters that Suspender received at their PO Box – if the handwriting or overall air of semi-innocence struck his fancy, he would write back. Eventually that led to a few flings, nothing overtly sexual, but still enough to tear him up inside – decorum versus desire. This behavior was not quite his downfall, but enough to get him on the bad side of a few parents who found out about the relationships.
Trying to change, he would immediately erase any salacious images he would download via a modem – the slow internet of the late 90s was still too fast to supply his fix. He could have made it past his problem, but his etching from years back proved to be his undoing.
During the time of Suspender, Roger secretly sold some Collective tech to make money. The Meridian Scaffolding he distributed was incomplete, but enough to run rudimentary apps that could directly stimulate the various pleasure centers of the brain. Essentially, he started to deal drugs that only the etched could use, but got bored after a while – it all seemed too easy, to directly control ones thermostat rather than rely on uncertain chemicals. That didn’t stop others from building upon the code he released, and by 1994 there were just about 5 million members of this group of explorers.
Some just wanted to get high. Some wanted to touch God. Some saw their bodies as a grand experiment, and would rather modify it invisibly, than just get a simple tattoo every so often. Roger didn’t plan it, but he ended up using his etching to fan the flames of his unwanted desire. He started to have flings with the broken etches – women and girls.
Having someone else control your thermostat was right up Roger’s alley. Combine that with downloaded, virtual spaces, and you could have an intimate affair with someone halfway around the world. No need to imagine a touch or a fuck – it was even more than what reality could provide.
His fantasies still grouped around having women pretend they were essentially Sasha. When that grew tired, there had to be young girls on the other side of the connection – he wanted a truly real falsity, to reach out without every actually touching.
Like I said, I never really liked the man, but I couldn’t stand watching his slow and steady spiral into nothingness.
The last straw happened in 2010. I have to explain – I’m combining some elements of past variants, so you could fully understand how things got to this place.
Ai Watson-Carver, in a period of high drama, used the Massive Cloud Burst to wipe Circle X from the face of the earth. She replaced it with Target stores, and Fairview, Minnesota with the city of St. Cloud.
This only really affected everything after the last Suspender concert, Point One. Texie still existed, born and raised in Austin, Texas. Sasha still hated to even partially love Roger, and Roger kept trying to replace an idealized, young Sasha despite himself.
Once the Die Database project started, fragments of S.OS were experimenting with how to spread the essential technology of the Collective, without etching. That ended up being the Ghost system that Satomi Kurogane perfected, and fans of Die Database were given highly advanced ways to connect with each other.
Just like before, that technology was “stolen” – more like secretly distributed by S.OS – and it ended up in the hands of quite a few young girls. Roger couldn’t stay away, and so he used a bridge between Collective tech and that from Agartha Labs to troll for someone, anyone, to connect with.
He didn’t log on as a 42 year old man, prematurely aged and reclusive. Instead, he was a 15 year old girl, or a 17 year old boy with perfect teen idol characteristics. He was finally in his element, and also finally spiraling down the deepest drain imaginable.
In 2011, there was a “break in” at Agartha Labs, and some Ghost (avatars) were stolen – all of young and attractive women. Roger was not involved with that directly, but he was one person who attended a clandestine “Ghost Auction”, where the virtual selves of Die Database fans were sold to the highest bidder. Roger was in a particularly unhinged at that time, and he managed to use what remained of his settlement to buy the Ghost of a “19 year old girl from Austin, Texas”, for $323,765. She looked abnormally perfect to him – not because of her bleached-blonde hair or tattoo sleeve, but something in her cheeks, her eyes.
Roger wasn’t that much of a student of human nature. He definitely never heard of studies that have shown that fathers and daughters who haven’t spent any time together since birth, and suddenly meet each other in adulthood, without knowing of their relation, are often insanely attracted. This Genetic Sexual Attraction was definitely at work, since the woman Roger “bought” was his own daughter.
She didn’t know anything about it. She’s still never met him, and grew up without any knowledge of Sasha or the Collective. “Texie” used a Ghost that was aged down a few years – instead of 19, she’s now 23. She likes this, and that, and other things I’m not going tell you anything about. I’ve always been protective of her, and for good reason.
That’s not important right now. What is important, is that Roger started to have a virtual affair with his daughter’s Ghost. She was run by scripts, or controlled by virtual prostitutes he hired.
The last straw was when he bought a bottle baby on the black market, and loaded Texie into it.
My bottle baby project was built for viral dispersal of units, and one unit intentionally ran away from Tokie Murasaki, and spread through the Infinite Subway as per my instructions. Roger managed to buy one of those copies, and used the replication engine to make a new design out of aluminum and silicone.
That’s right – he made a sex doll with an aluminum bones and fake flesh, to exactly mirror Texie.
He would load her Ghost into it, and make it plead love and lust while he had his way with it.
I couldn’t stand it for one more second, so a few hours ago I told Sasha this story, and gave her the coordinates.
She didn’t hesitate to login, to pilot the doll that was wearing the skin of her daughter.
As Roger came home from the store, and motioned Texie to follow him to the bedroom, it was Sasha that lay beside him.
He touched her cheek, her breast, the same way he did when she was 13. He didn’t know it, but his dream had finally come true.
She didn’t give him the satisfaction.
Instead, she punched her soft hands through his chest, and pushed his heart into his throat.
She waited and waited. He just wasn’t dying fast enough for her tastes.
Your homework for next time: