Cockroach 1

They call it the Cockroach Initiative — building the ability to survive for a certain amount of time without your head into their armed forces. I was the prototype.

The data that would usually be stored in the brain was redistributed amongst the nanites in the host’s bloodstream. The reasons they just held the data there and ran the body without a head were twofold — firstly it scared the living shit out of the enemy, and secondly they thought it was a waste of resources to effect an immediate rebuild. For any of the in-built lizard-tech regeneration hardware to be employed took too much energy away from killing.

So, they tried to deal with me last night. They manufactured a terrorist threat to scare me into accepting the offer of moving me and my family to a safehouse and then, once we were there, they sent in their butchers to kill us in our sleep.

I am a soldier but they had drugged our food and most of my systems have been offline since they decommissioned me. They were offline because of the neural implants they had drilled into my base ganglia. Now those implants, along with my head, no longer exist. My family – my wife and son – unfortunately had no such technology in them and they are not coming back from their beheading.

What do you do when you have no head? Well, you either run around like a headless chicken or you go looking for a new one. I knew where to look. As soon as I came back online, all my faculties as an enhancile freed from the restraints, I knew where to go. Did they not check the specs on me? Did they not exactly what I was and what I am capable of? If they did then they are idiots; if they didn’t then they are also idiots – either way their actions are sloppy, and they will pay for their lack of professionalism.

I am going to take the head of the man who gave the order, then I am going to take apart the organisation that killed my family piece by piece.

Grit 4

The map was good. Who knows, perhaps Gary was worried about Grit coming back for him? This was not going to be one of those situations where you could sit there and work out the best line of approach – this was going to be a case of walk in armed to the teeth and empty clip after clip of bullets into whomever the fuck walked towards you. Well, shoot them if they looked like they might shoot you. Uncle John was not a nice man – he was well known for that fact. John was a rung down on the ladder from Grimoire but he had muscle and he had brains so it wouldn’t be too long before he was ready to make the move up the foodchain.

Why the hell John would take in someone that Grimoire was after was anyone’s guess. Perhaps he thought the kid deserved a break, or maybe he thought it might draw Grimoire out and allow him to make a move on him. Could just be a fuck you to Grimoire; could just be a fucking stupid mistake. He supposed he would find out soon enough.

He was scoping John’s farm house out, making sure that it wasn’t going to be any more complicated than it first appeared. He was lighting up a fag when he heard a twig snap behind him. It was sloppy as hell to just turn into the swing of a club though. Grit’s last thought was: what the fuck is wrong with me? And then he went down into the dark curl of unconsciousness.

Grit 3

Hanging someone upside down by their feet and extracting one of their eyeballs with a screwdriver is not a first course of action; it is not a second course of action either – that kind of behaviour occurs to you pretty late in the day as a good idea. When someone has some information and they know you are going to hurt them to get it you would think they would go for the easiest route and just surrender said data. Reasons not to? That you think that person who will be affected by your sharing of the information might be able to hurt you more. But if the person threatening you has you upside down and your life is in danger then nothing worse can happen to you – why persist in the pretence of ignorance? It makes no sense.

So now the guy was screaming the answer out and it was hard to understand – Grit was having to listen intently. He made out the words “Uncle John’s”. Christ, it could have all been so easy.

‘Draw me a map?’

‘I’m in pain.’

‘You’ll be dead if you don’t. Look the eye is still attached by the optic nerve – perhaps they can save it.’

‘You mean it?’

‘Sure. Christ, Gary, you’re a dumb fuck – if you’d told me this back at the pub I might have even bought you a drink.’


He lowered him to the floor, told him to keep a hold of the eye so it didn’t get squashed. Once he had the map he’d give him money for a taxi and send him off to the hospital. This had taken much longer than he had intended it to. If everything took this bloody long to get accomplished then getting Grimoire his man was going to be one hell of a job, and with Slight’s goons after him he was going to be knee deep in human offal before this bullshit was over.

Reduce 1

The step from minimalism to asceticism was not a large one for him — it seemed a natural evolution. One he had been ready to take for a long time before he finally plunged headlong into the lifestyle.

Time was a slow accretion of layers, associations, chains to different things. He had been breaking the chains, disassociating from the things that lay claim to him, shaving away the old skin of dead layers. He was making himself into something new — through becoming materially lessened he believed himself to be spiritually increased.

Some people didn’t like the balancing act — this accounting exercise that he was embarked on. People didn’t see it as a progression they saw it as a cold hearted cutting away of the things that mattered. He looked to them and saw them staring balefully back at him and he edited them out — took the blue pen and made the necessary marks to divorce himself from their presence. It surprised him briefly how little their absence mattered.

He started to think of it as surgery of a kind. He had some kind of far-reaching existential dysmorphia that required the wholesale removal of people instead of just limbs. He was finding it hard to see the worth in any of the people he had once associated with. They had let him down and not just once but consecutively and in increasingly significant ways. He was beyond disappointed. He was not sure he could properly verbalise how their fall from grace in his eyes had made him feel — perhaps there was no explanation.

If there was no explanation that meant there was no reason for their behaviour. Did the lack of a reason make their behaviour wrong? Maybe, maybe not — what it did do however was make it behaviour that he no longer needed to have affecting him. He was done with it and therefore it was simple to say that he was done with them.

Cut it away. Let the cancerous growths — the badly programmed cells that trapped you — let them all fall away to nothingness. It was like stepping into daylight. It was like stepping through the heart of a nuclear maelstrom being stripped down to nothing, leaving of the old self only a shadow, and stepping through that transformation to radiate a new truth. This was him post apocalypse.

People acted like he was poison. The whole of society was geared towards collecting things — people, objects, money, symbols. You could own as many virtual things as you could real things. Everything was about what you could claim as yours. Consumer society had gone rampant, rabid. It was heading toward collapse and he chose to sidestep the crumbling edifice; this modern day tower of Babel.

He gave away what money he didn’t need at the end of the week. He would buy exactly as much food as he needed, pay the bills, the necessary ones, and then he would find someone who needed it more than him and he would hand it over. People though that he was an idiot. It appeared to make no sense. People didn’t really want to find out what was going on in case he truly was mad.

He didn’t care what they thought — he honestly didn’t. If they didn’t understand then he didn’t need them in his life. Trim it back. Never add more and especially don’t add things that are detrimental to the self. That goes against the whole spirit of the project. That is in contradiction to the philosophy. It is contraindicated on the packet. He smiled: he was happy — he was free of so many things at last.

Grit 2

Grimoire had been expecting him. He knew Grit’s reputation – knew he wouldn’t run from what he had done; that wasn’t his way. Grit was one of the few old school gangsters still out there – one of those that you could rely on. If he had done Slight in then the guy had probably deserved it. That was all fine, but Grimoire had a target that had now gone to ground – one that would not be easy to flush out into the open.

‘I hope you don’t expect to get paid for that cock up?’

‘Course not. I came here to see what you needed me to do to set this straight.’

‘Hunt down and kill the fucking turd I sent you out there to kill.’


‘Need I say that if you fuck up this time then our business will only be concluded when you have a bullet through your skull?’

‘Goes without saying.’

Grit made his way to the door. One of the goons had moved to block him. With a slight turn of the head he noticed Grimoire raise his hand and the door ape stepped aside.

‘Oh, Mr Grit, I just thought it would be sporting to let you know that Slight’s family and some of his old crew want your head on a plate. They’ll know you’ve been here – they probably have us staked out, unwise as that kind of thing is.’

‘No surprises there then.’

Grit got outside and his eyes drilled the angles with a sniper’s vision. Nothing. Perhaps they were scared. If they didn’t attack right out then he had to be careful of sneak attacks. He checked under his car before he got in it. He started it up and was just pulling out when a loud crack was followed by the side window showering him in glass.

‘You wait until I’m in my car, you dumb cunt?’

Grit drove straight at him and the idiot just stood there like he was the immoveable object. His head cracked the windscreen and he hit the roof like a sack of spuds. Grit watched him hit the ground and guessed his wrists probably shattered with the impact. Hmm, he thought, broken wrists are the least of your problems. Grit drove a volvo – it was like a fucking tank; he didn’t need any fancy shit to get him around. It worked a treat in this case – crunch, and there was one less dumb fucker from the Slight clan to trouble the world. Grit didn’t care who the fuck it was – he had things to do; he had to track down this guy for Grimoire and he had to end his life.

He had to watch Grimoire though, that much was definite. A warning that close to an attempt on his life seem too much of a coincidence.

Savant 1

To work for the people, and by that I mean to resonate with them as an idea, you have to appear dumb as fuck while being as smart as a whip. Marylebone had the maths down to a fine art. He managed to be a spokesperson, a commentator and still remain inestimably cool. How many people can achieve that?

He was a ticking timebomb that the establishment wanted removed. They tried to discredit him but they underestimated him. Each time they sent someone in to upstage him it was them that ended up looking the buffoon.

He smiled, arched an eyebrow and lit up the joint he had been treating like it were a super model’s leg he was turning in his hand. It tasted good — good shit; hydroponic; from the farms out in the sticks. He had money tied up in that shit — the market had slumped as of late but he knew there was a boom around the corner; these things went in cycles and the whole methamphetamine kick was dying down.

His sidelines in providing prescription drugs for those who couldn’t afford them was reaping dividends. People thought of him as just a TV presenter; they had no idea that he was staging a quiet revolution. Even the government goons that had been following him around had no real clue what he was up to.

He had been lacing the water with psychotropic drugs for about two years now in certain areas — mainly the ones that suffered from racial tension. He stuck amphetamines in the water of the areas that seemed too peaceful. He had friends on the various waterboards that controlled the supplies around the country. He was an agent provocateur and he had countless contacts in the art schools and amateur dramatic societies that would stage little skits for him to amp up a feeling that he wanted to be floating through the universal mind.

He had to be in the public eye to make him untouchable. If they came after him — if the shit hit the proverbial fan; then he needed to have a sympathetic public behind him to give him some kind of crawlspace. Revolutionaries could no longer hide — they had to be in plain sight and use the same tools that the big boys were playing with. You could be a one person media company.

He had to cut with the reckless shit though — like lacing the chief of police’s food with female hormones; like doctoring up a digital rendering of the prime minister going down on the president. Shit like that just wouldn’t fly. Shit like that might get him caught. Couldn’t have that. What could you do if you got caught? Not much — that was what.

Shit, he was stoned. Fucking out of his tree. Put some Marley on and float for a bit. Business could wait — revolution could wait. He needed to get high. Getting high made sense — it switched you off, and he spent all his life switched on.

Dreamcatcher 1

They called him Dreamcatcher and I tell you I am not sure what they built him out of but I know that he was fucking dangerous. he would sneak into your room, sit on the thin ledge of your headboard, and he would suck the oneiric energy straight out of your sleeping head, and man, some of the shit that he could do with that stolen energy was scary as fuck.

The last time we came across him all the mere mortals that were walking around with us gengineered mercenaries had their minds taken apart by the kind of infoviral self-replicators that used to rip data to shreds in computers. There was nothing for the psyche-wards to work with; nothing human left in them. And he smiled like he’d just been laid. Licking his lips like some kinky freak.

We were trained combatants. He was jungle warfare to our nice clean rules of engagement; he was guerrilla tactics. If we were Julius Caesar he was Vlad The Impaler. And he did it all with flickbook images taken from the brains of kids in the nursery. He could set Disney characters dancing through your skull in a way that would have you climbing the walls for weeks.

How did I survive him? I was designed for exactly that purpose. I was built to leech off of any kind of energy that was out there so any shit that he threw at me just made me stronger. I won’t say he didn’t fuck me up somewhat though. When you have been up against him you get a variant of the thousand yard stare that is unique to having dealt with him.

Ask someone who survived the Dreamcatcher what it was like and you see them the redialling the number he did on them. Sometimes survival is a relative term — I have seen a grown man shit himself at the thought of the Pandora’s Box that was once opened up in his mind by this individual. Who needs big production values when you can tap into someone’s reality engine and generate whatever sick and twisted fantasy you want to? Whatever sensory stimulus drives the person you are attacking suggests itself by how their memories are organised and you, being a creature that innately understands dreams and memories and things of that nature, can play them like they were notes in a symphony.

I have been following for I don’t know how long. I have followed him through his serial killer phase; his counter-revolutionary phase; his hero of the people phase — through every single delusion that he sold himself and the poor unfortunates he has in his thrall. I have stomped after him with my leaden feet and it is as if I were some child chasing after a god. And who is to say that isn’t what he has become? He has his own mythology — his fact is stranger than most fictions, and he has miracles to back up any promise he makes. So perhaps his madness makes more sense than all our sanities put together. God, that is a scary thought. What if I have been charged with killing the one true god that has ever existed?

Am I David against Goliath? Jack the giant killer? Or am I Judas? Am I Lucifer? I hae to think in this way — to make myself some bound binary opposite. I believe I dwell in the grey areas always; introduce the machinations of grey matter and all the certainty evaporates. Perhaps I am just tired. I haven’t slept in so long. they put me on that machine and push me through a rapid cycle of REM sleep so I don’t die on my feet, but I am beginning to wonder if the lack of real honest to goodness sleep is starting to catch up with me. Perhaps I am sleep walking through this.

Do I need to stop? Sit down; lay my head on a pillow and rest? How can I trust that he won’t take my head in his hands, twist my world around his finger and throw me into a hell of believing all he tells me? But maybe if I throw a big enough dream at him and he catches it then it will infect him and I will win by reprogramming him. Can I make myself into some compressed supermeme, some viral cultural building block that will move like a retrovirus through his fabric, re-programming him into what he should be?

Perhaps that is the way. Perhaps. One can dream, can’t they? Can they? Damn, my eyelids are heavy all of a sudden.

Zero (Extract 1)

We could be heroes, just for one day. See, Bowie was right and he really knew fuck all about heroes. I do because I died for my country. Then I came back. I always come back. Why? Because they built me that way. They didn’t want to have to go out and buy new toys every time the old ones were broken — they wanted toys that fixed themselves. I was built to order from spare parts. Like Burke and Hare they went digging in the graves of freshly exed heroes and cherry picked the parts that they needed to make their superman. I’m the result — I’m the monster their Frankenstein committee created.

When was the last time that we actually fought for something worth fighting for? When was the last time we were actually saving someone and not some money? Every bloody conflict that I ever had a part in was driven fiscal concerns — the accountants pointed me in the right direction and I went out there to save the consumer a few bucks on their gas.

It’s easy to be racist and turn a whole nation into your cartoon bad guy if you don’t have to watch the seared flesh dropping off their bodies. It’s cool to watch films about our heroes when you don’t have to think about the children that their mortar fire cooked alive. But fuck it; they’re just foreigners, aren’t they? Foreign policy protects home soil. There is absolutely nothing in the idea that directing the gaze oversees is a way of sliding new laws in unnoticed that curtail the freedom of every right thinking member of western society, is there? And oh, did you notice that I didn’t limit it to one country? That’s because these laws that appear to be passed and seem to only affect one country have a global remit. How can laws passed by the policemen of the world stage be anything other than without borders?

I am a one man army. I was built to be that way. What can stop me? A tac nuke? Sure, for a while that might put me out of action. Well, totally if I am right in the eye of the storm so to speak and the nanites that have my blueprint locked in their build memories are vaporised. Otherwise, guess what? Yup, you have a modern day Lazarus on your hands. Radiation sickness? Nope not really — you see these little buggers, unless their hard-wiring is corrupt, will build me exactly how I was before the bomb dropped.

So I had my hands around the collective throats of nations before and here I am warning my own country, or rather it and every nation that huddles under its wing, to wake the fuck up and stop doing what they have been doing or face the consequences. How do I prove that I am willing to go through with my plan to remove the key players? I knock each of them out. I walk right through the massive holes in each of their security details and I administer a non lethal blow to the back of their skulls and leave a post I note there for the administrations to read. I am a charitable man and I believe in giving everyone at least one chance. One chance only — then it’s curtains for the lot of you.

I disappeared under the radar as soon as I woke up that morning, staring at my hands like Lady Macbeth and unable to wipe the blood off. You see they gave me vision that kicks the crap out of anything any human has — I have the kind of vision that your crime scene unit would kill for. So the traces of other people’s haemoglobin on my hands is visible to me where other people might think themselves clean. It sucks — to be guilty and to not be able to deny it to yourself. They robbed me of the ability to delude myself. I became superhuman and threw away some of the most important self defence mechanisms that a human has.

They gave me a direct order that day to return to active duty and I refused. They thought that the stupid deep hypnotic crap was going to work and that they could just reprogram me. if they make an organism with a brain, with a mind for tactical thinking — if they send that organism out into the world and it learns what sort of people it is working for then what is the first thing it is going to do if it is also programmed with self-preservation? It is going to preserve itself, right? It is going to fortify itself. It is going to assess every potential weakness within itself and it is going to eradicate it. The person that programmed me was a scientist — they were not trained to withstand torture — it impressed me that they lasted through three fingernails being pulled; any more and they would have been stupid. And once I was free of the programming, did I kill them? No, because what use were they to anyone?

Wake 1

‘We’re here to repossess your reality.’


‘You haven’t been keeping up your payments so all this shit is down the tubes, mate — that’s what.’

‘But I don’t get it.’

‘Bingo. That’s right; you don’t get it.’

‘This is an intravenously administered existence and we’re pulling the plug.’

‘But my wife, my children …’

‘Your beautiful house … yeah, we get the picture. You ever heard that Talking Heads song? That’s you, that is. Time to wake up, sonny.’

His eyelids cracked, he felt like he hadn’t moved around in an age.

‘You haven’t moved around in an age — if that’s what you’re thinking. Taking Vicarious is akin to being in a coma. As part of the disconnection program we have to offer you a debriefing session — my advice is that you take it. Otherwise you are going to be plagued by the sense of losing something that was never yours in the first place.’

He was bent double in pain, in mourning, wondering what the hell had happened to his shiny future. He looked around him. His reality was a pristine hospital bed surrounded by the detritus of an abandoned life. He had wondered what that warm feeling in his belly was as he woke? A slowly spreading darkening shadow of piss on the front of his keks gave him an answer he didn’t want.

They hadn’t bothered maintaining anything except him for the money he had been shelling out to have another life. He had hoped that the money would last much longer — that he might be able to ride out this reality until he actually passed over. Death: that last big adventure. But he wasn’t terminally ill just a useless fuck up who had pissed away the last of his money on a fucking high.

He threw back the covers and got out of bed. Jesus Christ, he was too old to be waking from sleep having pissed himself. How long had it been since they had left? How long had he been sitting here with the knowledge that he had just spent however long immersed in a virtual reality? He didn’t know what the date was. He wasn’t sure if the calendar had been flipped. The time on the video was blinking which suggested that there had been a power outage at some point. He was lost but not lost enough. He felt something in his pocket, pulled it out, looked at the piss blurred telephone number of the place he was supposed to call to get reoriented.

This was his life — a piss-stained wake up call into nothingness. He had no job to go to, no doting wife, and no child. He also knew he didn’t have the balls to off himself — he’d thought about that before and had opted for a lie instead. No one wanted the truth. He had to go out and get a newspaper — find out what he had missed; try and catch up with a world that had left him behind a long time ago. But first: a shower and a change of clothes.

Robe Hot 1

Mortimer was a direct descendant of Babbage’s computers and he was very proud of it — he had a plaque in the centre of his chest that proclaimed that very fact. The chipheads weren’t of as distinguished a lineage as he could claim. There was doubt as to the future of that line though — apparently the company which manufactured him had, of late, fallen out of fashion. As far as he was concerned the various Silicon Valleys that had sprung up around the world were scars upon the surface of the Earth. These new critters that called themselves robots were ugly blighters.

He was part of a revolution, or would it perhaps be better to call it a resistance movement? They had released a horde of ants that seemed to rather like snacking upon silicon and it was doing a wonderful job of reducing the number of viable chipheads.

The steamers, as they termed themselves, were called luddites by some, which seemed odd given that they considered themselves engines of progress. One political commentator had compared the battle between the species as being akin to Neanderthals versus Homo Sapiens — that, as far as Mortimer was concerned was just plain insulting. Why people felt the need to talk about steamers as if they were mere adding machines, incapable of anything else.

When they burned out the mother factory of Siliconsqeuences people started to take them seriously. Started to think of them as a threat. It began to look increasingly dangerous to be a steamer at that point — they started to move underground. Mortimer couldn’t believe it had come to this.