Grit: Breather 1

Grit smiled. A fucking rest – just what he needed after all this time spent chasing numb nuts around and putting bullets in the back of their heads. He had the easel set up and he had some jazz playing – Mingus, he felt, was perfect for the painting of watercolours. This landscape was something that he had loved since his childhood and he had been trying to capture its essence since those first times when he had picked up a pencil and sketched the grass and the trees, drawn out the cloud formations.

He wished that it were possible for him to consider retiring but it wasn’t. When you got into a profession like this one you went out of it in the same way that you entered it: through violence. There were no hitmen living comfortable lives; well, ok, there weren’t many. His downtime was sorted out pretty well but that was primarily because the people that wanted to kill him were still scared of him: that wouldn’t always be the case. At some point he was just going to be a old dog that needed putting down.

Did he regret what he had done in his life? No. Did it bother him the number of people that he had sent to early graves? Not in the least. If you let one of those fuckers bother you then you were going to be haunted day and night by the ghosts of your victims. Business was business and everyone that he had ever killed knew exactly what they were letting themselves in for. When you entered this world the signs on the door were plain enough – you had to make a conscious decision to ignore them.

Ah, sweep this shit out of his head – he was here to relax. No need to concentrate on the bullshit day-job. He took a lungful of the fresh country air. Smiled again.

Grit: Standover 1

Standover men were muscle-driven machines on the whole – people that had just enough grey matter to know that they were not bright enough to hatch master plans that were going to bring them riches beyond compare, but just enough cunning to know how to trap those who could. Occasionally you would get one that had enough brains to be able to run their own operation but who chose not to; who chose to cut down the amount of work they had to do by just stealing off of those men who could work the system and generate capital. Standover men were often scarily capable, totally insane and blessed with the luck a lot of madmen find in attendance, or an even more worrying combination of the two.

No one was sure about McGovern. What did he represent except a threat to the livelihood of several men? They came to Grit with their tails between their legs and their wallets in their hands. Ready to pay Grit whatever he asked. He didn’t want to be greedy. He was thinking that if he gave them a good deal and got rid of this guy the they were going to owe him big time. That one guy could turn this many career criminals into scared little girls didn’t bode that well for it being a cakewalk. The only thing was that these guys were soft like most people in management positions were; they had grown fat and comfortable – they had younger men doing the running about. He didn’t bother to ask them why their foot soldiers couldn’t deal with this guy because he knew – they were only used to dealing with the scared and the stoned.

He would have to check out McGovern’s routine and be careful in how he approached this one. It wasn’t like the schmucks who he could just walk up to and plug in the back of the skull. This would take some planning.

Grit: Vacuum 1

Grimoire was gone and Grit knew that this would result in a rush to assume alpha dog status amongst the heretofore small fish of the pond. It was a great business opportunity to play all ends off against the middle. None of these jokers would be a big enough threat to him even combined if they cottoned on to what he was doing so he didn’t feel compelled to tie up any loose ends at all. Some people might compare this bullshit to playing chess but no way was this as mentally demanding as that. He often watched Scarface and he sometimes recommended it to these people to see if a single one of them might learn the lesson about not getting high on their own supply but they never did.

You earned the money, you had the coke, and you could afford the whores – why not experiment a little bit? You were a drug dealer and you knew that someone would be snapping at your heels all the time. Enjoy it while you could.

Grit had seen so many of them lose their edge to the white powder and not be aware of it in the least. They failed to see that they were starting to make bad decisions and that the only reason that someone was able to infiltrate their territory was that they couldn’t think straight. He swam like a shark through their masses picking them off as was necessary. He knew that there would always be more. Scumbags were a self-replenishing resource.

Write In 1

Everyone has a book in them. I was born with a pen in my hand. He had the scars to prove the first one and the photographs to prove the second. He was baptised in ink and now it slid over his skin like a memory. He wrote everywhere that he could – his house was one big wipe clean surface that he scrawled over – a neverending, ever-changing epic poem of randomness masquerading as cohesive thoughts. He started the tattooing off with quotation marks on his shoulder blades – waiting for the perfect words to leap out at him and find their place in the cupped hands of this beautifully rendered punctuation.

He hated those two lines – they were cliched. The first was patently untrue: he knew people who barely had a post-it note in them let alone anything substantial. The second statement – well, exactly how many people used longhand anymore which is what he felt that remark was supposed to imply? He felt that he was the exception that proved the rule. Mind you that kind of thinking was his own particular brand of arrogance – if something was becoming less true of people in general then he nominated himself as an exemplar of it. If something bad was sweeping the nation he was the hero that stood against the tide. He was valiant.

Giving birth to a child was easy; giving birth to a book was a commitment. He had gone through several midwives in his time; women who soured like milk in the heat of birth pangs, contractions, dilations and the like. There had been certain abortive attempts that he kept stored around the place like pickled punks; souls that had suicided even before they had made an entrance, possibly because they had glimpsed some presentiment of what they were letting themselves in for. Non viable was what they said about some things he produced – they could have been talking about him. He preferred to think of himself as being a genetic testament to built in obsolescence. The book would last – would represent a legacy that he himself was incapable of generating as something physical. He didn’t want permanence in the sense of some patrilineal line cast out into an uncertain future. Books could be translated and thrown through time in any number of formats; was dna such a reliable carrier of information? He doubted it.

There were countless titles, synopses and character sketches collected in a folder which disgorged notes and shed random bits of itself at will. Things had taken on a life of their own – he had created an ecosystem in his house that mirrored the dilapidated internal structures of his haphazard and constantly spiralling mind. And the world outside? That seemed to be taking colouration from his ideas and images … he had perhaps infected reality with his own seditious information.

Engine Ear Part 1: Booting Up

He took out his eyes and cleaned them, it was a mechanical action taken over by sense memory. One of the few automated actions that his biological elements still had domain over – most of that had been handed over to subroutine and hardwiring. The future is elective surgery; it is not something foisted on us by malignant machines. He was happy with who he was and what he was. The truth was always that the machines were us – they were new physical vehicles for our thought processes; something more durable to get us where we needed to go.

He could smoke as much as he wanted, drink as much as he wanted – he would customise himself to be able to do the things that he couldn’t presently do. Pimp My Hide was the mainstream tip of the iceberg in the body modification culture. In fact not many people really thought of it as body modification anymore – the body as a concept had died a death when the first glimpse of the kind of entities that human beings really were was achieved by a five-dimensional imaging tool that showed something vibrating on a commensurate level with superstring frequencies.

The body fascists, the ones who came to a room with the Da Vinci template grafted onto their pattern recognition system so they could weed out those that were different and avoid speaking to them, they were trying to pass a bill that would ghettoise anyone who had taken a step beyond homo sapiens. It was true that they were divergent as a species and had different needs, but those involved in this evolution through choice were generally preaching tolerance and being met with bigotry.

Engineers were a separatist movement that talked of a secession from the human world but in peaceful terms; a passive resistance. They were all in a position to divorce themselves from the GRID (General Registration Identity Designation) and saw revolution as a hidden movement; no tacit divorce from the powers that be – just a stepping back and a stepping away from their institutions. They did not want to oust or replace human beings – they wished to co-exist but to be allowed their own culture.

The body fascists had sympathisers in all sectors of the community; there were even apologists for them in the ranks of those they hated. If you could get a hook in a floating voter and work enough at the un-admitted prejudices then you might have enough leverage to swing them your way; to get agreement. It didn’t take much in the world of politics to qualify as a landslide – get a few people to vote who hadn’t thought about it before and you were well on your way to crushing the usual conscientious few who bothered to put their x in the box. It was a dangerous time.

There had been attacks where people had had their tech forcibly removed – it was treated like the removal was something that could be fixed but in at least two cases the victims had perished shortly afterwards. The people carrying out the attacks weren’t mere thugs because they had known enough about the tech to be able to disable the psyche-upload that most people wore to transfer their personalities to a back-up somewhere.

He was off to meet someone that he had once known who was now entrenched in the Sapiens Purist Movement (SPuMe), an offshoot of the main body fascist group that represented an almost antithetical stance to the Engineers. It was ostensibly an interview for a lifestyle magazine that somehow straddled the culture divide and sold to both groups but they both knew what their meeting and their words would mean to every single person that they knew they represented.

He was booting up parallel interference devices to tackle all the scan-and-strikes out there; he was running bio-rhythm v2.0 to simulate a warm body biology. Verdant was lucky as far as some were concerned; they called his type stealth-borgs because the technology wasn’t immediately obvious, but as he pointed out to them, if they started registering people who had tech he was as screwed as they were. A bigot didn’t make any distinction between a fully converted bot and a transitional borg or a borg that looked human. If you had anything non-organic hooked up to your body then you were a problem.

thoughtwork 1: preparation

He was constructing an entry point through the careful collaging of photographs he had taken over a long period of time – this kind of thoughtwork was never simple. It was different to the rewriting he had done before – with that he had just sat down with a pen, tuned out the conscious mind and let what he liked to think of as the silent majority in the electric voice phenomenon spectrum channel in through him. Words were locks on perception and if the dead had a consciousness which had survived the limitations of material perceptual apparatus they might just have got some kind of perspective on what made the universe spin in that idiosyncratic way that it span. This was the best way to communicate with them – as if you were a pre-verbal child that only saw in pictures.

Anyway, it had given his remote viewing an edge – a scalpel sharp edge that allowed him to shift bodily from one place to the other. This technique, with its heavier reliance on the visual was supposed to circumvent some of the psychic bandwidths that someone such as him would usually narrowcast on. You had to change your game up once in a while or the people on the other side of the fence would get wise to you and then the game was well and truly up.

Gain lit up a clove cigarette. As a mental exercise to sharpen his focus he would paint with the smoke, pulling those atoms around until you could see all kinds of things in them. This was no game of spot a face in the clouds though – he would shift from Manet impressionism, through Goya vivacity, Boschian horror, Leonardo precision and then leap into architectural blueprints for the building that he intended to infiltrate.

He plugged the earpieces for his quantumslice music player in and breathed deeply as the first sounds of the Buddhist temple music floated around him. His breathing rate slowed, as did his heart rate. All of these practices that he utilised made him harder to spot as he pushed in through whatever baffles and psychic lattices they had stitched in around the place. You couldn’t really scout the sensitive psionics of a place without tripping the alarms. All the mundane systems were left to the AI he’d slaved to that task and that was usually enough: he had a great system whose adaptive neural net, thanks to some customisation, allowed it to outstrip most things that it came up against. Despite the number of times that people like him broke into places there was still a certain amount of disbelief in their abilities.

His mind floated around a central illuminated image of the building in question, zeroing in on certain areas, pulling them into focus, relating them to the various maps, and then rotating the whole construction through three dimensional space until he snagged upon an entry point. The air was suffused with a strange perfume – rust, sweat, sandalwood and burning leaves. His eyes rolled back in his skull, he bit his tongue like he often did and tasted blood, his body spasmed and there was a flash of light and the room was empty.

Making A Difference

When you have sold all the weapons you can possibly sell and everyone that the guns were to be used on is dead; when all the places you wanted to conquer and control are under your thumb then you have to look farther afield. You have to create situations – create a market. If you have a product there is no excuse for not being able to sell it. Laziness is not a reason that can be used ever. Laziness is so much hot air, it’s nullspace. When you have a product that is hooked into a primal urge you should be able to utilise that. If the people that would usually buy your product are too comfortable then make them uncomfortable – strip away that buffer that lets them ignore the pressing urgency to spend, spend, spend.

Spay picked up the newspaper and he smiled. The French would have called him an agent provocateur. He thought he had heard the term shit-disturber once or twice in reference to the kind of thing that he practiced. He liked the French, sure, but the other one was more to the point. That was what he did. A car bomb here, a suicide bomber there – some hand-picked drugged up zombie who there wasn’t enough left of to tell what creed or colour he was. It was all perfect – it more than did the job. If you managed to get a few innocents into the bargain then that was more emotive and even better for selling weaponry. War was reactionary, war was dirty – war meant filthy lucre whoever was shooting the gun.

They had a TV studio on the outskirts of the city and they had plenty of fresh bodies that they needed to get rid of – political prisoners, so called ethical hot potatoes that no one wanted around. Stand-ins, fakes, and the real deal. Torture, mock-ups, real-time executions – whatever was going to keep the machine running was what he would do. He had no morals. It wasn’t that he was amoral. He knew the difference between good and bad. He made a choice to step away from that game – at least in his professional life. Morals didn’t make for wealth.

He’d shifted a lot of units here. He needed to get out of here for a while. Retreat to the soft options for the time being – the social engineering side of the project that didn’t have any meat by-product. He’d resurface hen things had cooled down a bit – one good thing about this business was that the turnover in your clientèle was rapid, and in the heat of battle people didn’t have much of a memory for the weapons dealer. You didn’t take much notice of someone you treated as if they were a ghost. He liked his work. He was making a difference.