Note To Self

He left notes everywhere. There is found sound and there is lost sound. The melodious and the disharmonic. He felt so broken and had done for a long time. He would pick up the various instruments which once upon a time had made sense, but which he now talked of in terms of investment; which he now looked at wistfully. How had his life drifted so far off the course he had imagined it following?

Did it all really tie back to one bum note? Had it all gone wrong with that one time he corpsed on stage? Maybe it was so – that was where the doubt set in; that was where he began to feel that the perfect run of playing that he had had, had come to an end, and that was an immensely sad thing. What use is a broken musician to anyone? When the edge is blunted what kind of new territory can you saw into? None. All the maps were old in that moment – there was no undiscovered country for him, and he was scared that never would be again. He had seen people in this situation who had never come back from it.

Pinned under the fridge magnet was some poor excuse for mundane magic – a regular cheer up that Chip the chipper housemate tried to float his way … it didn’t work. His other housemate Billie would sing at him; would sing tunes that he had played that she had learned especially to cheer him up; it was a nice thing for her to do but it bummed him out more than anything.

What could resurrect him? What could give him the heart that would make his tin ear disappear and his innate sense of rhythm return? He didn’t think there was a thing in the world that could do it. He was surely lost in the wilderness, and the world of music was a world away from him now.

He liked kids, and he had a new nephew so he got invited to a few kids parties because his nephew loved him. The first time they asked him to play music for the kids he refused and made excuses and was confronted by enough crestfallen looks from the parents and the children that he felt like the biggest party-pooper in the world. The second time he was asked and refused his nephew cried and his sister got really angry at him. The third time was the charm – even he couldn’t mess up Chopsticks. He had an appreciative audience, and he had fun. And that was it – that was the simple magic that got him playing again. Fun. Who would have thought it? Not him. He had never associated what he did with fun, and maybe that was the hole where the magic leaked out. The music in a child’s laughter plugged that whole, and the music came back …. he heard it again. He was inspired, and he knew what he had to hold onto. He held onto it fiercely.

The Cure For What Ails You

Some people can find more ways to fuck up than you would believe. He was a hobbled nothing now – oh, hadn’t it all been so bright! He was in the league of cure for cancer – that bright and sunny and full of possibility. And now? Now he wasn’t worth shit. He deserved it. He had to deserve it, didn’t he? For it to be happening to him there had to be some effect he was pushing into the universe? He was so unsure of himself that he was even less certain about the environment around him, and how it might be impacting upon him. He sat down at the bar and ordered the house whiskey. The guy was genuine Irish, which surprised him. Wasn’t it an odd world when being served by an Irish man in a so-called Irish Bar was enough to cause some dissonance and psychic stress. The whiskey wasn’t Irish though; it wasn’t good either – the warmth almost disguised it, but not quite. Did any of the bar staff drink here? Probably not. That wasn’t a good sign.

He was looking for some kind of job; some kind of work that a low rent scumfuck like him would be able to hold down. There were certain kinds of job that he went for and they took one look at him and they didn’t even have to ask him a question – they knew that they didn’t want him; it was all conveyed in the momentary sneer that soured their whole face. When he was being entertained by employers who were a small half-step above him in the pondscum rankings they were a little less judgmental. Why? Because they knew what it was like to be coming from where he was coming – they had visited that very location themselves only recently.

Parmenter had a bad reputation as an individual, but he was supposedly a good employer – he paid what he promised and he paid it on time, and that was good in anyone’s book. Joel sat down opposite him and when Parmenter offered a smoke he took it – the brand was Zero Skull, which he liked because they were high tar.

‘So, what’s the gig?’

‘Something noble, Galahad. I know you like the Robin Hood shit, so what I have for you, come to me from a very reliable source, is that some bastard has a cure for cancer but is holding it hostage.’

‘What, and we’re gonna break in and steal it?’

‘In one, my friend.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Eight Gates Laboratory.’

Eight Gates was notorious for the way that it dealt with people who tried to break into it, and people tried to break into it on a regular frequency. Why? Because they had things like cures for cancer held there, that was why. This couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? That a man who had once stood alongside those scientists was now given an opportunity to liberate something that would help as much as the inventions which he had failed to deliver when he had worked there. How the mighty have fallen, and how those broken crippled phoenixes might rise.

They picked him for his inside knowledge, and he did not fail to deliver. He had to admit that until he saw it – until he read the specs and the lab results on the screen he had though that they were on a wild goose chase. When he read that report though he was so happy – it was real, and the best thing was was that he discovered some small part of what he had done when he had worked here had proved useful – he may not have made the intuitive leap necessary to formulate the cure but he had surely built part of the launch platform. In that moment it was fair to say that some of the fight went out of him – that he felt a satisfaction he had never known before. As the guard moved in on him, weapons hot, his knowledge that there was a cure for cancer cured something in him that had been broken long ago. He died a happy man.

School Of Hard Knox

Johnno zipped up in his school-suit – he’d just been fitted for it. Kindergarten started tomorrow. The suit utilised nanotech to strengthen the kevlar base of the skin and it should stop most rounds, and even work to slow down anything specialised. Taser, pepper spray, all packed. The school encouraged defensive measures for everyone now – it was accepted that they couldn’t hope to control the issues around guns and psychiatric patients who wanted to kill children, so rather than feel hopeless they decided to do something. His mum had spared no expense with this thing – she wanted him to be safe. He hated wearing the hood and the face-plate but so many killers were just going for the headshot rather than the body because they wanted to kill and not injure.

All teachers had to be weapons-trained now. Doors were only ident-lockable by teachers. School secretaries had executive hack orders at their disposal – there was no kind of security that they couldn’t penetrate through. School caretakers were equipped with mind-linked puppet drones to dispose of bombs. It was hard-core working for the education system these days, but it paid well … it was equivalent to signing up for the army; most schools were warzones.

Johnno spent the first two weeks of school with no idea what anyone looked like. Until they had done extensive background checks on everyone, including full medical work-ups to make sure that they weren’t bio-bonded to any kind of weaponised disease or anything like that – only then could they have a lesson where they weren’t suited up. Freedom came at a high price, but it was a price tht most parents were willing to pay.

In his first three years of school nothing happened, but the self-replicating machinery in his suit meant that it kept pace with his rapid rate of growth. The suit looked as new as it had on the first day that he had put it on. It had been through several upgrades, and the school had intensified it’s security many times in the intervening years. That third year though someone, skirting the bleeding edge of technology, disgruntled because of lack of recognition of his genius, and gifted with endless supplies of money by his guilt-purchase parents, had got through the security system, and had come gunning for Johnno and his class.

The bullets that hit Johnno were painful, and he would need medical attention afterwards, but that was acceptable given that he survived the attack.

The attacker wasn’t so lucky. Whereas Johnno’s suit was defensive, it was perfectly acceptable, and backed by law, for someone to have an offensive suit, and that is what took care of the man. He was painted red with a laser and a whole series of bullets entered that point and opened a crater up in his back.

Outrage filled the airwaves for a while, but that died down like it always did. Apathy loaded every chamber and squeezed every trigger, and apathy kept that chamber spinning like it was rigged to the wheel of samsara and wanted to keep people rotating like Sisyphus, so fast that they might achieve some kind of escape velocity just by doing the sameold shit. It was madness.

the fourth of julie

Were the fireworks misplaced?

She liked to think not. What was a more fitting reason than the fourth reboot of her life? To be unfolded from the wreckage her body had been – a bloody car-crash, at her age? It seemed ridiculous, pointless … all those things one said when they were in disbelief. And all the protocols that were supposed to be in place to make sure that an agent intervened before her body was shipped from the morgue to the graveyard had failed, what did that say about the state of the organisation?

She looked over at Walker and he was sweating bullets.

‘Yeah,’ she said ‘You know you fucked up, and how.’

‘Sorry, ma’am.’

‘Ah, save that shit for someone who cares. Answer me a question.’

‘Sure, I mean, affirmative, ma’am.’

‘Did you get a trace on Betty?’

‘Betty?’

‘The bitch who just totalled my car. OK, well, from your dumbfounded expression I am going to guess not.’

She checked the read out as it booted up in her newly recovered left eye. Time to move on and close this operation down. Walker was a liability – one quick shot to the head with a metaboliser and he was twitching on the floor like an epileptic as his body broke down into its constituent parts.

Where had she been going in her car? Ah, yes – her Independence Date – the day her body mods  were paid off and she became a free woman … who would fuck with that? Someone funded Betty because she was a cheap bitch otherwise.

Hack the bank – trace it back, and there she was … her new job: Bruce The Robot. Jealousy wasn’t good – Bruce’s freedom was a way off. She was sure that the satellite she had just tasked from a weapons array she paid for a back door into last year was going to put a crimp in his day when it dropped that superheated carbon rod through the center of his villa and reduced him and it to molten slag. Try coming back from that one bitch.

Mr Shuffle

For Bram

The cold was biting, breath in the air, making him think of the cigarettes he had given up. The romance of the thought spiced his saliva with a wonderful analogue of nicotine – fuck the vapour from the electronic dick he had to suck to get his fix … it reminded of everything else that had gone south in his life. Synthetic alcohol that gave him a half-hour kick before the government sanctioned nano-purge rendered all that wonderful buzz generating drug out of his system. How long before even the vapour was kiboshed? You had to be a fucking miracle worker to tie one in Glasgow anymore.

Man, some people were dicks; some people were dicks in private; other people were private dicks. He was the latter, wondered lately with the nicotine cravings if he was being the second to his long suffering cohabit fuck-buddy, and feared he might be becoming the first just by default.

So, what was he digging into today? What pile of shit had his assistant floated across his desk this week? He breathed into the little tube on his hand-held and the screen flashed into life.

‘Fuck the Maskbook updates, skip the Shitter-feed, and just give me the work-notes.’

A face popped up – not the fresh-faced poppet he was expecting or wanting – nope, not even close … this dude looked like he’d sell crack to kindergarteners. Who the fuck wanted this bastard found? Everyone is someone’s dad always seemed such a lame cliche but if he didn’t find something to hook his interest on then he’d be about as much use as an e-cigarette to a nicotine addict. And there he went – reach in pocket, pull out Thomas The Tank Engine’s Tiny Inadequate Penis as he had come to think of it, and puffed on it. It wasn’t working properly. Shit, maybe gum was better after all, he’d looked like a freak wearing all the patches.

He clicked the tab that came in the document about old stony face and accepted the job, got a new message that told him the money had already dropped, then got a second one that gave him a meeting place for the contact. It wasn’t far to walk – a brisk walk … how fucking jolly.

He sat down in the snug and he waited. What sat down opposite him was not what he had been expecting. His hope for some kind of cute female presence in this story, of whatever kind, seemed to be on a hiding to nothing. A bloody artificial clunked itself down – some pre-war rust-bucket that he was surprised was still working. He didn’t like it – an old man as his quarry, a meeting with an artie piece of shit; didn’t bode well; made him tink that first money drop was a fluke and the rest of the case would be as dry as a nun’s snatch.

‘So, what’s this all about?’

‘I, Mr Shuffle, am Centurion, and my owner, Mr Clavicle has gone missing, as you might say, and his daughter provided me with the funding to ensure he is found. She loves him very much.’

‘I’m sure she does. What, if I may ask, does Mr Clavicle do? If you don’t mind me saying, your appearance, and his both lead me to believe he is not necessarily kosher.’

‘Hence coming to you, Mr Shuffle, with your not so sterling reputation. That aside – his business? The finest Cuban cigars, Marlboros, and whiskey.’

‘Now, I know you have to be kidding.’

‘I haven’t used my sense of humour since before the war. Here is more pertinent data that you might need.’

He was glad to bid goodbye to the hunk of rust, and then he dug into the file. Ten seconds of synthetic alcohol buzz, a puff or two of vapour, and a vague glimmer of interest. This case should not take too long to work out. Clavicle had to be discreet – there weren’t too many places where he could talk about his wares, let alone sell them. Narrow it down further by the fact that there were not that many people with the pocket change to buy any of it. Shuffle knew a doorman at the Hilton and it would get him in long enough to speak to someone before the inertia of a shit-heel being in a rarefied atmosphere crashed into him and some unfriendly fucker showed him the door.

Gary was glad of the funds. Shuffle was glad of the Irn Bru he decided to drink instead of wasting his time for once. It cost a bit but it tasted good; gave him faith in something at least. Shawn the barman didn’t give a fuck what he said or he said it to – he was gossiping in the ten minutes before Shuffle approached him. Shuffle showed him the picture of Clavicle.

‘Oh yeah, I seen him.’

‘In here?’

‘Yeah, two nights ago with some big cheese.’

‘You have 360 cams in this place?’

‘It’s a bar, what do you think?’

So, then, the question was, how does someone pull off a deal with contraband in even this place?’

‘Can you get me a print of this guy and his guests?’

‘Sure, it’ll cost you.’

‘Doesn’t it always?’

The print was one of those pictures that is worth way more than a thousand words. Clavicle looking uncomfortable, Government Contraband Enforcer Smythe looking unctious and eager to please the third man in the picture, and who was that? Why – none other than Belsley Tincture, E-Cigarette and synth-hol magnate. He smiled. What fucking use was this data? Who was going to prosecute these bastards? It was obvious Clavicle met a sticky end.

He scanned the picture into his hand-held, dictated a long illustrative piece which he attached to it, sent one copy to Centurion and his owner’s daughter, explaining what he was doing, and one copy to Bump his editor friend. Bump would run the story as a speculation dot-the-dot provocateur piece, and it would do what it needed to do – get the right people looking in the right direction. Shuffle hoped it might sink the whole synth-hol and E-Cigarette business too.

He reached in his pocket, pulled out his least favorite thing in the world, and launched it into the cold night. Know what he was going to do? Find a pack of real cigarettes and inhale deep.

Fred Bloggs

He had warned them not to operate on him – he had told them he was a systemic necessity manifested in the shape of an individual, but that he was not as he appeared. He was an avatar of something greater designed to act as an interface to facilitate communication between those who dwelled here on this plane where information translated itself into apparently three dimensional beings. They did not believe him.

The first pocket universe they encountered within him was a revision of the current universe they occupied – but because they were at the centre of the change they just unwittingly initiated, they could not see the scale of the damage they had done. They were a fixed point in a changed reality.

They kept digging. Fred Bloggs was a miracle disguised as a cliche. To look at him you would have guessed nothing of what he was. It was his supposed harmless outer shell that had allowed his initial approach to them to seem so innocuous. When he spoke to them of concepts that occupied the outer reaches of theoretical research and gave them practical solutions by which they might confirm their theories, and then suggested that within him, if they studied him, they might find untold secrets that they could unlock and elevate their planet with, they listened but they did not hear.

What they heard was that within him was the key to saving their planet – that meant they had to find out what was in him. That to them meant cutting into him. The cautionary tale of the golden goose, raised as a point by one of the more cautious scientists in the group, was wilfully ignored.

Stood around that table, rib-cage spread, looking inside a body that turned out only to be a very surface replica of a human body – they weren’t quite sure how to proceed. The next thing that they cut into though – it did something to them this time. The first scientist that changed to resemble Fred Bloggs, held at gunpoint, was soon looking out on a room full of people that looked just like him.

Staring at each other they suddenly understood that this was an invasion. That thought faded as their memories and thoughts became those of their invader. The underside of the informational system that was the universe had woken up, as it occasionally did, and had decided it needed to rewrite the code that shaped its manifestation in the four dimensional location that local inhabitants called the physical universe. This was the flood.

Don’t Go Fly A Kite

The bastard children of carnivale ran the street in animal masks – through the cultural delineation zones, chasing their balls, their hoops, their friends. Kids orbited each other and the gravity wells of society in a different way – their maps weren’t the solid things that adults were trapped in; they ran free through the back-alleys of imagination and the landscape of dreams … and they saw no difference between what they fantasised and the waking world. Because they willed it, it was so.

Jerome stood on the cross streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ennio Morricone and flew his goldfish kite high in the air. He was being scoped by two cops, suspicion bred into them from the moment they dropped from the maturation chambers – was he flying an aerial for a pirate radio station? They’d been trying to  shutdown Bluebeard Pirate Zone for the longest time but it was like trying to nail down jello.

Out here Jerome chewed the Smoke Gum and never popped  the Skull Smokes in his mouth … anything vaguely out of sorts and you’d be on a one way trip to the kerb with a trepanned skull, night-stick wielding cop stood over you, espousing the Creed of Decency. He hadn’t thought flying a kite was dangerous, but he was being seriously eye-balled. He tap-tapped the All Porpoise in his pocket and and traced the sigil that he’d short-coded to get Heela , his ride to pick up quick-smart. The AP buzzed twice – the number of buzzes signifying how many minutes Heela was away from him. Not far, but in two minutes he could travel to a world of hurt, if Fascist Cop and his buddy decided to walk over.

These streets were usually safe, but introduce certain elements and the day would start to see-saw on a hair trigger regardless of a place’s usual disposition. Jerome was reeling in his kite, bringing it down from the beautiful blue sky that had said to him this is going to be a good day; now looking at that sky he wondered if he had just been reading misleading omens in the clouds. He hoped not.

Heela pulled up in her Green Bug Taxi.

‘Jump in, bro.’ He did. And they peeled out. He looked over his shoulder and the cops had thankfully become disinterested.

‘Thanks, Heela, you really pulled my fat out of the fire.’

‘Why you sweatin’ it?’

‘Two cops checking me out.’

‘For what?’

‘Flying a kite.’

‘Oh, shit, man – you’re out on the edge; original punk rocker status confirmed.’

He smiled: ‘Crazy fucking city.’

‘You said it, dude.’

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