“Some countries are too fucked up to have birth certificates so it won’t be perfect, but its close.” The young man kicked his feet and scooted his office chair to the next monitor and tapped it with his finger. “The bots are in the server’s root partitions. They’re just waiting. That’s how it works. The bot is this tiny piece of software code that just lurks where the security system can’t see it. The bot goes on lurking until I say ‘go’ and send out the signal to my bot herds. My bots - our bots - “ he glanced at Swami Sri Prabhavananda, sitting on the floor - “will start sniffing the records, filtering for females only and feed us the names.”
A young woman held up her hand to pause. She was brown skinned, with black almond eyes, long braided, shiny, almost indigo hair, a straight nose and high cheekbones, a classically beautiful Indian woman. She turned to the old man and jabbered it all back to him in Hindi. The old man nodded attentively. The woman lowered her hand.
“The way a botnet works is, I’ve cracked into the servers around the world where public files are and birth records are kept. City Halls. Hospitals. Income tax registers. That’s where the names of the baby girls get registered when they’re born.”
The young woman passed the information back to the old man who looked courteously amazed and nodded.
Alex watched his face as he listened and felt an odd admiration. Who could tell how old he really was. He sat at the feet of this adoring, gorgeous woman Alex would give his right nut for to screw silly, even once, and the old man just went on listening to her intently. Had the old goat had her? Did he ever sample the wares of his privileged status as some kind of resident saint or other at the monastery?
He said something. The woman turned back to the young man and said “Baba-ji asks, how long will it take to harvest all these names?”
The young man sitting at a monitor and a battalion of keyboards laughed. “Why’s he in a fucking panic now after three months? Come on, Dalaja, it’s just names not credit card numbers.”
“Please, Alex. This is a most serious question.”
He shrugged. “That’s more like up to you. I’m the hired help. I'm done. You’ve got top of the line bandwidth concentrators, but it’s not great bandwidth to start with, not for this part of India. You want bandwidth? Try cracking into an Indian mother fucking communications satellite and see - “
“G-SAT 8. I’m in.”
Alex was speechless. “Seriously? You?”
She scowled. “Because I’m a woman? You think I can’t? Because I’m a woman you think you’re smarter than me?”
“Whoa!” He held up his hands. “I mean, okay you’re a girl, you never told me shit how you’re doing this.”
“You’ll have your band width,” she snapped.
“Just tell him my end is pretty much ready.”
Baba-Ji looked troubled and said something. She shook her head and muttered back. The old man sighed, put his hands on his knees and stood, straightening his saffron robe. He waved his hand. She spoke back. He spoke to her sternly and waved his hand again.
“He wants to show you something,” she said, “After working hard for three months, he thinks you deserve to understand what you’re doing this for. This is his opinion.”
Dalaja followed Baba-Ji down the hall. Alex walked behind not out of humility but to keep the view of that ass swaying in her jeans. I’m so at the end of this shit, thought Alex. Three months with no women but this feminazi bitch who practically hates me. When I finish the job and make my pickup, I’m going home, I’m hitting the clubs and I’m going to do every bitch I can nail to make up for lost pussy. I’m going to wear my dick out till I can’t piss straight.
Baba-Ji brought them to the farthest corner of the sanctuary and down a humid flight of stone steps. The steps were ageless. They had been repaved many times and were still worn into a dip in the middle where generations of solitary men had gone. The oil lamps had been replaced with halogen lights, but otherwise it would have been the same as when the monastery had been founded three thousand years ago.
They continued down into a vast cavern, cool and dry. There were two monks seated at desks writing in books. In the farthest shadows the bound books became scrolls wound on wooden rods stacked in pigeon holes. It was impossible to tell in the light how far back they went. There were tens of thousands of rolled scrolls and finally books whose bindings had evolved along with the changing technology of their times. On the wall where the monks sat writing was a giant stylistic fresco of an Indian man and woman, obviously in love. Baba-ji stopped in front of the fresco and turned to Alex. The monks stopped writing and waited for him to speak.
“Shiva,” said Baba-ji, pointing at the image of the man. Then, pointing at the woman, “Parvati. Wife.”
“This is the god Shiva,” said Dalaja.
“Shiva the destroyer?”
“Shiva is a god of transformation. Vishnu sets things in motion, Shiva causes them to run their course and to be incarnated as something new. The woman is his lover and wife Parvati.”
“So in your religion gods have wives? Do they fuck?”
“Of course they do. Not like your dried up old God.”
“You have zillions of gods.”
She repeated this to Baba-ji. The old man held up a scholarly finger, spoke at length and then paused for her.
“He says there is only one God. Of course there is. But God has infinite faces and identities. Reality is nothing as it seems. All the universe, all things that exist in the universe are variations of energy. But the great masters knew that all energy has consciousness. All energy is aware. Where there is life, energy has the opportunity of experiencing itself as consciousness. Where there is the most energetic concentration of consciousness, there is a god. The god has many faces, many personalities. God is the mother with the baby sucking life from her teat. God is also the tiger that devours the baby. God is the life giving milk of the mother and the cobra venom that stops her heart. God has many forms. But there is only god.” She paused to wait for Baba-Ji to go on. He pointed to the image of Parvati and prattled on for a few moments more.
“Baba-Ji says Lord Shiva has lost his woman,” said Dalaja, turning back to Alex. “A jealous god caused the great explosion that created the universe so that he might shatter Parvati’s energy into five billions pieces, like a broken pot. Without his woman to make love, there is no natural passion or joy for Lord Shiva and no energy or will to transform. And so Shiva created Man and gave males the great task to restore his woman back to his arms. Otherwise a great dullness and loveless entropy will turn the stars cold and the universe will end in a trillion years.”
The old man made a noise and held out his hands.
“Is that what this is?” Alex nodded towards the shelves.
He spoke at length again.
“Baba-ji says that the purpose of the male’s existence is to restore Parvati to Shiva. That is all that males are necessary for. To shed seed so that women may be born. Women are what are important. When five billion females have been born and named, Parvati’s journey of anguish, of endless birth and death will finish. What you see here is a noble undertaking, the great duty of males, a task that began over 3000 years ago in this place and has continued patiently from father to son, for generations.”
“What you see here is bullshit. They didn’t even know how to imagine a number ‘five billion’ back three thousand years ago.”
“Your western mathematics system is based on numerals including the number zero invented first in India. Where was that developed? In this place. Why? To consummate this purpose. This hall where you stand is the birthplace of mathematics. Imagine such a vast project, whose end you will never see in your life time, which you will pass to your children to be carried out with infinite patience over the millennia until it is accomplished. And now the technology has been invented by the inspiration of Lord Shiva to bring it about speedily, for there is no wholeness for the god without his woman to love.”
“Five billion bitches? Really? Shit fire. It’s good to be Shiva.”
“You don’t understand the nature of existence,” said Dalaja. “How long have human beings existed? Fifty thousand years? A hundred thousand years? A million years since our ancestors climbed down from the trees? Two million years? How long, how patiently Shiva has waited for only this thing, for the day when his lover will be with him again. Has any man ever waited so long and faithfully for his woman?”
“Yeah, but - five billion bitches?”
“There is only one ‘bitch’,” said Dalaja. “Asshole. Baba-Ji doesn’t know the word asshole. Lucky for you.” She said something to Baba-ji. Baba-ji rolled his eyes and spoke at length again.
“Suppose a grove of mango trees,” said Dalaja “ - it is an illusion! You see many trees, but they are all only one tree. There is only one mango tree. There has only ever been one mango tree in all existence, but it is reincarnated endlessly and appears in many places in all moments of time so there is the false illusion that there are many trees. But there is only one eternal mango in its many incarnations. All women, all that are, all that have ever been, are incarnations of Parvati. When there are five billion women who are known, past and present, Shiva will claim his lover. Then there will be no reason for males to go on existing. With no women left in the world to give birth Shiva the merciful will allow males to peacefully die away from nature taking their mischief with them. Shiva and Parvati will make love endlessly and transform the world into a heavenly paradise with the energy of their passion. And what do you care, either way, you will have three million dollars.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” said Alex.
Baba-ji snapped something off in Hindi and the monks jumped to their feet.
“He asks if you are ready to this thing for him.”
“Shiva gets laid. I get paid. What can go wrong?”
“Waiting on you, Dalaja.”
“Be patient.” She shifted in her chair with her chin in her hands watching the code passing by the Linux command line on the screen. When it paused she put her hands to the keyboard, rattled across a few keys and waited again.
It’s so different from the movies, thought Alex. There’s no drama to this at all. It’s not like people think. Most of the time you just sit and wait for the script to run, or the bots to beep, or the email to come in. It’s not like John Travolta holding a gun to Hugh Jackman’s head and demanding he crack into Fort Knox and then two minutes later he’s in. I’d say, fuck you John, go ahead and blow my brains out cause anything worth cracking takes weeks to crack into. When somebody goes after a big target what you see is a trash can full of empty Mountain Dew bottles and chips bags. You don’t spend that much time actually doing stuff. You spend most your time thinking, visualizing systems, tapping a few keys, running a few scripts and root kits and then waiting around for something you buried to sprout.
“Okay,” said Dalaja softly.
“What was that?”
“Hops,” said Dalaja.
“You think that’s going to be enough?”
“The hops roll over at random every seven seconds. Untraceable.”
“Not bad for a girl.”
Alex scooted over to admire her work. Hiding your work is the hard part, thought Alex. It takes a certain kind of humility not to let people know who the smartest guy in the world really is. Dalaja could enter the GSAT-8 satellite pretty much at will. Getting in wasn’t even the hard part. There were pre-written scripts for that. But to cover your tracks; to do that you had to be smarter than the guys hunting you.
“The connection routes through Mumbai to Qatar,” said Dalaja, “then to Moscow, then to Hong Kong, then to the University of Beijing then to the Satellite, then loops back to a pool of preprogrammed hops. You can’t trace the source. Like chasing a rabbit around the world. You’ll trace down maybe two hops and then the route changes. They’ll think it’s the Chinese anyway.”
“Marry me,” said Alex. Dalaja threw an empty water bottle at his head. “So we’re good to go now?”
“I’m good. Are you good?”
“Good people don’t do this.” Alex scooted back to his own consoles. He typed in four passwords. Waited. Typed in the last password, his mother’s name.
For a vertiginous moment nothing happened. He worried the screen had locked and was about to push the F5 key. Then the bots began singing. “ET just phoned home.”
The names began to pour.
At first a trickle. Then a fire hose. Then a tsunami. Different languages. Different alphabetic systems. Different years of birth going back almost a hundred years. A torrent of baby girl names.
He typed in the baseline number of 950,875. Those were all the hand written girl’s names from the vaults below, auditable by Lord Asshole on demand; recorded and carried from villages and towns going back before Rome and Alexander and Buddha. Girls born into wealth and poverty, freedom and slavery. The cherished and the raped. Women of the ages, nothing left but their names and their daughter’s names. New York City, the daughters of immigrants. Baby Boom Beijing. Names. Names. More names.
The counter rolled up. Two hundred million. Eight hundred million. One billion.
“First billion in.”
Dalaja’s chair squealed as she rolled across to look.
“Two billion and counting.” Alex felt her hands press on his shoulders, her warm breath on his ear as she peered over him to look.
“Two billion,” she whispered.
“Am I good?”
“You’re very good.”
“You too,” he said.
“Eight hundred million, nine, - three billion.”
“What are you going to do when this is over?” he asked. He felt her chin digging into his shoulder as she watched the counter. Her silky hair which smelled of coconut tickled his cheek.
“I’ll be with Lord Shiva,” she said.
The minutes passed, the counter raced through its numbers.
“Four and a half,” said Alex. “Eight hundred million. Nine, nine and a half -
Dalaja jumped to her feet. “Five!” she squealed. “Five billion brides!” Alex held up his palm. She slapped it hard. “I must dash and tell Baba-ji.”
“Wait - ” Alex spun his chair around but her sandals were already slapping down the hallway’s stone floor.
He watched the numbers slow. Soon the torrent was a trickle. He glanced outside the window and saw Dalaja running fast across the grassy courtyard to the monastery’s sanctuary. Well, she’s still here, thought Alex.
Its bullshit, but when nothing happens - do I get paid? Fuck!
He rolled his chair across the floor to another console and logged into his Cayman Islands account. Holding his breath he checked the balance.
Three million. It was there. Plus fifty grand. A fifty thousand dollar tip? Jesus. Nice doing business with you Baba-Ji, you deluded old bastard. Sorry, no refunds.
He stood and went over to the window to see if the old man was coming. Dalaja’s sandals were lying abandoned in the grass.
He stood at the window and waited. He had a feeling. Dalaja hadn’t come out looking for her sandals. The feeling persisted. He leaned on the wall and took out his cell phone.
His mother’s phone buzzed in his ear. Seven times.
“Hello - “
“ - I’m not home at the moment, please leave a message.” BEEP
He ended the call, dialed again.
“Hello, I’m not at home -”
He stopped the call, dialed again.
“Hello, I’m not at home -”
He stopped the call, dialed another woman.
The phone went on ringing.
He stopped the call, dialed another woman.
The phone went on ringing.
He stopped the call, dialed another woman.
The phone went on ringing. He put down the phone.
Outside the monastery; the sound of men calling out names.