There are a few things missing from Turtle’s room these days. No 60-inch flatscreen. No X-Box, no Playstation, not even a Sega in sight. No papers, no pipe, no bong, no vaporizer. All of that was a long time ago.
The base has supply closets bigger than the place Turtle lives in. He sleeps on the floor of his cubicle, surrounded only by his books, hand-built computers, and the mind-scrubbing anti-sound of the white noise machine. Which is not to say that Turtle has made a complete break with his past. There are mementos, if you know where to look.
Like on the extreme bottom right of one of the big bookshelves, for example. Here are Turtle’s screenplays, bound and bradded between plain black covers. Turtle had never used an agent, or a manager. Why give away 25% of his money to some guy in a fancy suit. Turtle had learned a lot getting the MBA, but that was just the beginning. Next came the philosophy degree, the semester at Trinity College, reading the classics, then across the continent, down through the Mediterranean and Greece. Taking it all in with his own eyes, Turtle could literally feel his mind broadening, as sure as he could see his skin growing darker under that ancient sun.
Then he moves on east, through India, knowing the high society of Mumbai, making effortless business deals and earning a bigger chest of rubies than even Gatsby could have dreamed of – and then, dog-earred copy of “Siddhartha” stuffed into his pack, he hitched his way north and into the intimate life of a tiny village in far northern Uttar Pradesh, celebrating the harvest with the villagers, piling sandbags against the monsoon, learning Urdu and even a local dialect called Bhojpuri. He told the villagers he was called Turtle, and they agreed it was a most auspicious name.
Later, he passed through Southeast Asia and, conscious to avoid the cliché of Thailand, settled for a while on a Malaysian island found on only the most detailed satellite maps. Finally, he came back, because there was nothing else to do, arriving in the Tom Bradley International terminal at 3am with no possessions in the world that weren’t in the battered black duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
Everyone agreed the scripts he wrote for Vince were genius. The combination of a long-ago McKee seminar and Turtle’s education, classical and worldly, was lethal. Not only were they great movies, they were great movies for Vince- Turtle plucked incidents from their Queens childhood with surgical precision, knowing the depth of feeling they would provoke, begetting performances more honest than any Vince had given before, and from there a wagon-load of Oscars for both of them.
None of the films were ever made. The industry was of course hostile to this strange interloper who used words they couldn’t understand, wouldn’t come to their parties, wouldn’t be bribed with possessions or drugs or women or anything else. They just couldn’t figure out what his motivation was, and that made them nervous. But none of that should have mattered much. Vince could have pushed any of them into production, with one word.
But he never did. He kept making the blockbusters, and then when those dried up, he made the four “Benji” movies, and then he went to television, and finally the internet. Turtle never said a word. Each man’s decisions were his to make.
Now, in his cubicle, Turtle’s fingers flew across the keyboard, effortlessly navigating a maze of hardware and software firewalls, worming his way into the most classified depths of the Murphy Group’s central data storage repository. Even Turtle himself didn’t know where the hard disks he was accessing existed, physically. But it didn’t matter.
His screen filled with line after line of code, glowing green in the dark of his underground cubicle. After he tired of Hollywood, Turtle had studied computer science and artificial intelligence, believing it to be the wave of the future for both Hollywood and the world at large. At the time, he hadn’t even realized how right he was.
Whoever wrote this had been good, but he would crack it. It was only a few hundred thousand lines- obfuscated and intentionally obscure, but so what? In his second life, there had only been one problem he’d been unable to solve. And now the answer was here, right in front of him, in plain ASCII, ready to be cracked. Sleep and food were for the weak – he would not want or need either until the job was done. He was perfectly still, except his eyes, which scanned the screen until- there! – they laser-locked onto the first weak point, the way in. Now his fingers sprang into action, flying across the keyboard with a manic speed that exceeded the machine’s ability to render the characters on the screen by a full second.
But even as his hands slaved, tunneling further and further down the rabbit hole of the mindblowingly obscure source code, Turtle’s conscious mind was free to soar – out of his cave, high above this devastated, smoke-shrouded husk of a city, to a tiny straw hut by a flood-swollen river somewhere in the far north of India, where he was at peace.