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Chapter 3:
Helping Hands

The Portholes operating system was named after the fact that its security, or rather its lack of it, made the user's computer transparent to whomever wanted to look in. The mastermind behind this tragic piece of software was William Fence, owner of Macrohard Corp. Or as those within the business lovingly referred to him, "Willy The Wizard".

This title was bestowed upon him, not for his technical savvy, but for his shrewd business acumen. Somehow Willy had managed to make something that he swiped from Orange Inc. into an incredibly lucrative computing empire. One could not even consider purchasing a device without having Willy's mangled bits of code forced upon them in some way. Legend has it that he held every single computer hardware manufacturer in existence at gunpoint, one at a time, in order to swing this monopoly.

Whatever the case may be, he was filthy rich, to the point of not knowing what to do with himself. This made him a role model to both Mars and Johnny as they were growing up, a real-life, no-holds-barred example of how to conduct business within the cut-throat tech industry.

With all of the reminiscing that he had been doing lately, Mars' hero-worship of Willy also came to the surface. Inspired, he decided to visit Macrohard's offices that afternoon. Even though he was happy with Tweeker's current circumstances, he could not shake the feeling that perhaps he should try to make some powerful allies to help him get ahead in the race. Mars knew that there was no reason for Willy to help him, but it was worth a shot. If all else failed, he could at least use this as an opportunity to sneak a peek at the latest developments going on at Macrohard.

"Do you have an appointment?," questioned the receptionist at the front desk.

"Um, don't you know who I am?," Mars questioned back.

"I don't really care who you are sir, Mr. Fence's time is valuable," she countered.

Mars shot her a dirty look and she smiled at him. Instead of arguing, he turned around, put his hands on his hips, and threw his head back in thought. He was about to walk out and look for a backdoor to sneak into the building when he turned his head and, by an amazing stroke of luck, saw Willy himself walking down a hall towards him.

"Mars Sugarhill? For what reason do I have the pleasure of your visit?", Willy asked as he shook his hand. The kindness and consideration that Willy exuded surprised him.

"Macrohard has always been an inspiration to me. I just wanted to come take a look," he answered honestly.

Willy gave him a warm smile. The receptionist, noticing a quiet moment in the conversation, started to speak.

"Excuse me, Mr. Fence, you received a call about..."

Before she could finish, Willy cut her off.

"QUIET PLEB! CAN'T YOU SEE I AM BUSY!?!", he screamed at the top of his lungs.

Mars' heart skipped a beat and he instinctually took a step back. Without pause, Willy turned towards him, and in a gentle, quiet voice asked, "So, where were we? You wanted to explore our facilities? Come on my friend."

Willy motioned his hand for Mars to follow and started to walk down another hallway. Mars was uncertain if he wanted to go, genuinely fearing for his safety. But he timidly moved forward anyway. As he was walking, he looked back at the receptionist.

Her face was contorted in a manical looking smile, eyes wide and hand up, each finger wiggling in a sarcastic sort of wave goodbye to him.

Mars turned around with a sickly feeling. He swallowed hard and started to sweat. You would have been able to see the color steadily draining from his face, but for some reason, the hallway grew darker and darker as he continued down it.

He couldn't see Willy ahead of him, just a deep blackness like looking into the mouth of a cave. However, he could hear normal "office sounds" around him, phones ringing, the clicking of keyboards as if people were typing, the sort of mechanical grinding of a printer in the middle of printing. Although these familiar features gave him a small sense of peace, before he knew it, they too became distorted and strange.

Was that a phone ringing, or the faint howling of a distant scream? Was that a keyboard, or the chittering of bats? Was that a printer, or the clanging of metal, like a blacksmith beating an anvil? Every little noise started to take on a sinister interpretation. He thought it was just his mind playing tricks on him, until he felt the heat rising despite his cold sweat. The air began to smell of sulfur.

He finally came to the end of the hallway. There stood a large wooden door with thick metal accents upon it. A small iron plaque that had "William Fence, CEO" chiseled into its surface was bolted to the middle of the door at about eye level.

His adrenaline was now reaching a fevered pitch. "M-M-Mr. Fence?," Mars stammered out.

Off to his side, he heard a scratchy whisper, "Over here Mars..."

Mars slowly and hesitantly turned to look. "Eeeeeeeeekkkkk!," he let out in a high-pitched squeal as he wet himself.

Willy was standing there in a bright pink onsie with small Portholes98 logos all over the fabric, a teddy bear in one hand while sucking the thumb of the other.

Mars was not about to stay to see what would happen next. He turned around and ran as fast as he could out of the building, everything whizzing past him in a panic-stricken frenzy. When he felt that he had made it a safe distance away, he fell to his knees and vomited onto the floor out of fear.

He had just barely escaped with his life intact.

Meanwhile, Johnny was not doing so well either. Despite what he had told Mars about there being no such thing as "bad press", he became an emotional wreck with the lashing that he was currently receiving from them. Every other minute the chime of a new Tweeker message would ring on his phone, one scornfully lambasting him for being involved with Duck in any way whatsoever, or a fresh meme lampooning the situation as a whole.

One of these memes showed his face pasted onto the head of a woman flashing the camera, but instead of a bare chest, there were two images of Duck's face. The caption read, "Show us your Ducks!"

Some people on the Internet sure had an awkward and tasteless sense of humor. Yet the greatest irony of this whole ordeal was that people were using his own platform to bully him, much like how Duck used the very same platform to bully others.

Johnny decided that he would answer each and every single one of the thousands of messages personally. Anticipating a long night ahead of him, he got the bright idea to hire a private nurse to prepare him an IV containing a syrup of concentrated Bolt cola, an awful concoction of sugar, caffine, and animal byproducts. Unsure of where to procure such a service, he called his acquaintance Oakley Dank for some assistance.

Oakley was the owner of Gauss Motors, a company that made mind-controlled rocket cars that were powered by the methane from cow pies, all in a feeble attempt to lower greenhouse gas emissions. A device above the driver's seat would measure the magnetic field of the brain in order to control the car without hands, but the techology was still in its infancy and was prone to malfunctioning. This problem could easily be solved if people didn't instist on being able to play patty-cake while driving.

Like Johnny, Oakley had his fair share of drama with the media. They had a tendency to vassilate between portraying him as a type of comic book superhero or a cartoon villian. It turns out that Oakley wasn't much of either. He simply made a fortune by working hard at programming Payfiend, an app that stole people's money whenever they did online shopping.

The doorbell rang out in an echo throughout Johnny's palatial mansion. Walking downstairs in a terry bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers, he answered the door. Oakley stood there, hunched over a small notebook, scribbling and mumbling to himself.

"...a cranical capacity of about 450 cubic centimeters...cervical vertebrae of about the thickness of..."

"Uh, Oakley?", Johnny interupted.

Oakley quickly placed the notebook in the pocket of his coat. Taking a second to collect himself, he gave a stiff smile and extended his hand in greeting. Johnny shook it and invited him inside.

Large and elegant-looking on the outside, Johnny's house was more like a college dormatory on the inside, with posters of various rock bands and broadway musicals plastering every available surface of wall. They sat together in a kind of living room, facing one another across a low coffee table.

"Can I offer you something to drink?", Johnny inquired in a hospitable manner.

"What do you have?", Oakley responded.

"Let's see, I got some Pow energy drinks, liquor, powdered milk, and some ginko biloba tea."

Oakley gave a somewhat vacant stare, as if dissatisfied with the options.

"I'm fine," he stated flatly after a few moments.

"Ok, well, I'm going to have a drink then. Please let me know if you get thirsty later."

Oakley did not say anything in reply as Johnny snapped open a can of Pow energy drink and poured it into a nearby porcelain cup and saucer set.

Johnny peered at Oakley from over the top of his fine china tea cup. Oakley continued to say nothing. He pulled out his notebook again and started to write furiously. As he did so, he kept looking at the posters. He then got up and walked around the room, inspecting each poster carefully.

"What a weird fellow," Johnny thought as he closed his eyes and sipped his energy drink.

In a barely audible whispher right next to his ear, Oakley said, "...yes, this one has a sufficiently small cortex and an abnormally large medulla..."

The hair on Johnny's neck stood up on end. His eyes suddenly shot open and he coughed as he inhaled the mouthful of energy drink that he was in the process of swallowing. He wiped the liquid that he spat up off of his chin, got out of his seat, and quickly turned around to face Oakley.

"What is your problem?!," he said with agitation.

"I was merely analyzing your brain structure," Oakley answered matter-of-factly.

"What?," Johnny asked, caught off guard.

"Your brain structure! You are the perfect canidate for the clinical trials of the next stage in our human-car interface," Oakley said excitedly. It was the first time that he had emoted since arriving and Johnny felt uneasy about it.

"Of course, you would have to sign this non-disclosure agreement and this waiver of liability contract if you wanted to participate," Oakley continued as he fished around his inner coat pocket for the papers.

Johnny grabbed an issue of Tumbling Rock magazine from his coffee table and rolled it up into a small bat. He then proceeded to whomp Oakley across the head with it as he screamed, "Get out of my house you creeper!"

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