Forge Netting 36: A Remaking?

The lights went out across the entire installation. A flipped switch and everyone was unconscious – a neurological EMP. It was dark. They moved silently, though they had no reason to. He heard the footsteps – one of the benefits of the architecture in his mind was that he was never really unconscious – though he might appear to be to the unperceptive.

When he awoke he was not surprised who it was that he saw in front of him. An old friend – a memory anchored in place by all those implanted commands; by that face and its repetitive instructions.

‘Hello, Tennant.’

‘Tennant? Not Ensign?’

‘Oh, thought that was a bit bloody obvious as a secret name signpost, but whatever. Yes, Ensign, is a further lie. Your real files were never on any kind of computer that could be accessed by a network.
‘Everything about you has been undera quantum encryption key folded up through fourspace and buried in some randomly generated pocket universe.’

‘And why would all of that need to happen? Why a maze of identities built around me?’

‘Because the core truth of what you are is so dangerous that hardly anyone has the clearance to know the truth of it all.’

‘And you do?’

‘Of course I do. I initiated the project.’

‘And what do you want from me now?’

‘What I want from you now, is thatyou serve the function you were designed to function.’

‘But I don’t wish to be that thing anymore – I haven’t wished to be that thing for a while now.’

‘Oh, then why the rejuve job? The threat you have posed to these people here?’

‘That was just some of the programming kicking in, and all the fear about me came from that old data in the machine.’

‘So, you would like me to believe that you are no longer dangerous?’

‘It’s true.’

‘Then we will have to see what we can do about that.’

Torture is never something that one administers casually – but it is a tool that one must use occasionally. He applied the amplifier, a rather simple device, that made all the pain receptors in the body available for exploitation by the torturer.

‘You know, in the old days you had to work really hard to extract information or program an agent, but this simple little device, worked up by an anonymous neuroscientist on the payroll, cut out all that heavy labour.’

Screams were an interesting thing to get used to, but if anyone could truly claim that they had done this it was him. It became noise after a while – noise that meant he was chasing in the right direction after the goal he had set himself – of breaking or fixing something in the mind of his subject. He had worked with this man before … this man of many names; and he had achieved much. In those hours he had spent with Tennant he had created what amount to the best field agent in the history of the intelligence community.

What did this act constitute? A remaking? He smiled. He did not do much that was creative in his life but he wielded pain like a scalpel and created creatures.

Small cuts, large cuts, bruises, salt in the wound, words whispered in the ear, words flashed on a screen, a slow steady rhythm ticking. At the end of all this he would have the product he desired – he had no doubt of it.

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Forge Netting 35: Fluxpoint

He sat across the table from him. He smiled an empty smile. There was a gun placed on the tabletop between them. His instinct was to seize it and make sure that this dangerous individual had no access to it, but here sense over-ruled instinct and he kept his hands to himself. In all likelihood he wouldn’t have to defend himself because if Ensign had wanted him dead he would most likely already be dead.

They sat there, each waiting for the other to speak, neither expecting it to happen. A stalemate. No, they had to have a conversation. Ensign hadn’t manouevred his way through all this security just to sit in front of him with his gun on the table.

‘So, why me? What makes me so special?’

‘Hmm, well, you might say that I have been a little confused of late, and I am seeking to end that confusion.’

‘Confused, about what?’

‘Who and what I am?’

‘And you believe that I can help you somehow?’

‘Well, you sought to help me once before, back when you were searching for me.’

‘True, but things have changed.’

‘And yet we remain frozen in time, all of us in this drama.’

‘You are suggesting that something holds us all in place while the world moves around us?’

‘Why not?’

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘Well, I am still thinking of myself as Ruebeau, but everyone else seems totally willing to believe that I am Ensign.’

‘And you aren’t?’

‘Hmm, I am not entirely sure. It would be easy if I were, eh?’

A confused look passed across his face – a few tics which Colin didn’t remember from before; but then who was he looking at? Ruebeau or Ensign? Or was it possible that there was someone entirely different in that chair, someone manufacture out of all the personality templates clashing together?

‘What do you want? Do you know?’

‘To be wiped clean; to be tabula rasa. I know you have read all about me – about the programming, about the program, about all the things I am supposed to have done and all the things I am likely to do, but I have wanted to disappear for so long, and no one seems willing to grant my wish. Is it so unreasonable to want some quiet?’

‘No, that seems perfectly reasonable. You will understand that it is somewhat hard to believe given who you are; given what you are.’

‘Why would this be any easier for me?’

Forge Netting 34: Small Talk

‘So, who sent you?’

‘I don’t have names so this whole torture deal which you are hoping to use is not going to work.’

‘OK, well, let me be the judge of that.’

The Engineer had not done this for a long time – he had not needed to; had not felt the urge to. Here, in this world of isolation for himself that he had created none raised a hand against him, and he was allowed to analyse and plan and engineer things as he saw fit. To have someone infiltrate this place and come at him was a sacrilege that he could not warrant.

She showed no sign of discomfort at being stripped naked; none of the usual humiliation. She took the punch to the gut well, barely any noise escaped her. He was impressed. He clamped on the leg irons and using a strength that one might not guess at given his stature, he hoisted her up onto the meathook hanging from the chain on the ceiling.

Crocodile clips to the nipples with wires running to an old car battery was an old and trusted method but it bore no fruit.

‘I would like to give you some information. It will not help you discover the name of my handler, but it may prevent you wasting your time.’

‘But, my dear, if I am wasting my time with you that will be the end of you.’

‘I would rather be dead than have you torture me.’

‘OK, so give me this information.’

‘I am not your usual agent – none of us tasked with these sleeper missions are; we are vat-grown clones and we are programmed from birth, through our growth acceleration cycles, to respond to the voice patterns of a person that we never meet.’

The Engineer believed her. He unholstered his pistol and shot her through the head. He had to admit that he was impressed with whoever had gotten this creature not only through his front door but close enough to actually have some kind of chance of doing him some damage.

This thing that had been created to carry out this task, what did that remind him of? That kind of planning; that kind of manipulation, and at this point in time with Ensign walking around … the only person it could be was the one who had set Ensign rolling along. This meatsicle shared her handler with Ensign. Did they have any data on that? Not as far as he could recall, but then he could be mistaken.

He heard the ringing of a telephone. A telephone? He walked over to her pile of clothes and reached into her pocket. He accepted the call.

‘Well played.’

‘Thank you. Your name, please?’

‘No one gets that.’

‘Oh, a shy one.’

‘No, not shy, just necessarily cautious.’

‘Afraid then?’

‘Far from it.’

‘Come back to regain control of your asset?’

‘Ah, so you have joined some dots together?’

‘You’re happy to admit that then? Not worried it will lead back to you?’

‘I have remained invisible for longer than you have been alive and I don’t expect someone, even an intellect of your calibre, to be able to follow this particular breadcrumb trail.’

‘OK, so I don’t have time to waste with chit-chat. Why did you call me? What are you hoping to achieve with this pointless small-talk? You tried to kill me and your assassin failed. Move another pawn in, bring a bigger player to the table, or forfeit the game, but don’t expect me to sit here and waste me time talking nice.’

‘You are dead. I was just doing you the courtesy of letting you know.’

‘Oh, for fuck’s sake, this is fucking pathetic. Go away and die old man. This world doesn’t need you and your circus games.’

‘We shall see.’

Forge Netting 33: Simple Execution

‘You need to stand down – this is unacceptable; do you have the vaguest concept of who it is that you are attacking?’

‘Of course I do, all of my targets are very carefully selected.’

‘We have many resources which we could make available to you. You wouldn’t have to want for anything for the rest of your life.’
‘What makes you think my life is so uncomfortable now? Do you really think that everyone stumbles around in their sleep like the zombie nation you haave tried to create? I shall be taken care of. You are outmoded dinosaurs.’
‘But we offer a future to this world.’
‘I look at the present and have no desire to see that future come to fruition.’
‘You won’t make it out of here alive.’
‘Really, and what makes you think that?’

 

The spokesperson for LEthe swallowed hard. He had spoken with confidence, but looking at this man he felt that drain away.

This hitman stood there and he screwed on the silencer, as if loving the added drama of the action. He watched the faces, was surprised that not even one of them tried to move; tried to come for him. Why should he have been surprised that cowards like this wouldn’t even move to defend themselves – that they found it so hard to believe that someone would attack them that they had no idea of what to do.

It was no fun – it was like killing sheep, or cows; a bolt to the brain of dumb animals.

He walked out of there and not a single person thought of stopping him.

Forge Netting 32: Big Question

Trigger depressed, skull evacuated of contents. They stood around the body and they were each full of questions – he could tell because he was hyper-alert to it … why? Because he had questions himself.

He extracted the communication device from the dead man’s jacket; hit reverse dial and waited.

‘Who is this?’

‘You don’t need to know, Colin.’

‘Ah, but you know me it seems. I am intrigued. Another ghost walking through a world that wants to be done with dead men.’

‘I never died.’

‘I didn’t either, but both those things are an oversight. I’m here to finish my job – what are you here for?’

‘I’m here for the same reason I have always been here – ownership. Don’t worry, you won’t ever know who I am or what my purpose was in the things I did. You don’t and never did have clearance for that kind of thing. The only ones who ever had clearance for that were myself and one other.’

‘Ensign.’

‘I will neither confirm nor deny this.’

‘Don’t waste my time. I know what you are – I remember your face even if I don’t know your name. There is a big file on you and I read it all; you’ve been hidden for so long that the people who hid you are long dead and gone. I am sure that they never expected you to persist as long. I know you enjoy these stupid and sadistic games – this time you didn’t pick your pawn very well, did you?’

‘Or I underestimated you.’

‘Meaning you have some notion of who or what I am – suggesting to me that we have had some run-in before. It wasn’t in the file but with your kind of clearance and the amount of twisting you’ve probably done in your history, that doesn’t surprise me.’

‘A man who isn’t surprised when it comes to me is a wonderful surprise; quite novel in my experience. I wonder if the others will be quite so alert to the threat.’

‘Hmm, doesn’t take much guesswork to figure out who a controlling figure would try to take out in this game, does it?’

‘And too late for you to do anything.’

‘And who says I would want to?’

‘No one.’

‘Exactly. But the big question is what you intend to do with Ensign et al, and their counterparts.’

‘Yes, that is a big question, isn’t it. You will have to watch and learn like everyone else.’

Forge Netting 31: String Puller

An old man, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He laaughed – most of the people who were still playing all those stupid games were old men who should be long dead, but physical bodies were easily reset mechanisms these days. He walked amongst people who should recognise him if there awareness level were above that of a coma victim. He had sat down with these men at negotiating tables and made deals with them that made them billions, and had cost the world its memory.

LEthe, yes, he had worked for them. The Engineer? He’d set that little antagonistic bastard up too. Colin? Didn’t take much of a push. The project which had created Ensign? Check. The counter-project which had created Swift? Well, he had a hand that too. Shifting loyalties? No, never. No, what it constituted was crafting tools for the moment, thinking about repair systems to put in place to clean up the inevitable mess, and moving on after that.

That none of these things had ended cycle and were carrying on was a frustration, an inconvenience, but it was not an unplanned for eventuality. In the intelligence community there were operatives and there were handlers, and then there were the men behind the handlers who came up with the ideas. He was the man behind the men with the ideas.

If there was anyone alive that actually thought that politicians did anything other than make loud noises and fuck inappropriate animals, and actually had any kind of power, he hadn’t met them. Sure, some people believed in the military industrial complex and their Zionist agenda to cause dieback in the population of a mind-controlled world that they wished to reign over, but that was all the paranoid wank fantasises of some hacker nerd with a stack full of papers made up of half-truths and misinformation.

Why would anyone who want real power have anything to do with politics? Why would he have anything to do with an outmoded system such as capitalism? Why would he even be visible? This old man was a ghost in the machine – the machine a notional analogy that had more working parts than an exploded diagram could handle.

His name was buried under more than cover names than most of the services in their entirety could lay claim to. God might possibly have a few more names than this man, but that wasn’t assured.

‘Hello?’

‘Peter?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Colin needs to retire.’

‘Understood.’

He hung up. Dialled a new number. His phone replica was old school – just how he liked it.

‘Paul?’

‘Yes, sir?’

‘LEthe to oblivion.’

‘Understood.’

He repeated the action of hanging up and dialling a new number.

‘Mary?’

‘Sir?’

‘Spanner in the works.’

‘Understood.’

Standing down the assets would be easy to a degree. Those who wouldn’t comply would be retired. Then he and the rest of his crew would disappear into the shadows and continue pulling the strings once more.

Forge Netting 30: Grey

Umbral vestiges; penumbral lives. They moved around the periphery most of the time, inhabiting the blindspot of your average joe, but now they were having to move centre stage because one of their own had brought the world to its knees.

They had been following Ensign for weeks now and it seemed that he really had no kind of agenda – you could mislead and divert people for so long and then those tactics just started to look like randomity. They learned that he was being cased by his own people who noticed he was being tailed and wouldn’t move in to warn him or snatch him; but not, it was suspected, because of the presence of enemies, but because they were scared of the man.

Even when they had controlled the field he had been an unpredictable factor in any of their games. He wasn’t scoping anyone, wasn’t exploring territories for strategic purposes – it appeared that he was burned out and directionless, and in truth that made him all the more dangerous.

This fruitless cat and mouse couldn’t go on forever, Swift was going to take the bastard out if he could – they didn’t need Ensign walking around and breathing to take a genetic sample and work up some kind of cure. He wondered, given how many people seemed to be interested in this individual, why there was all this pussyfooting around. He wondered why he himself had fallen into that trap too. Hmm, well, because they had an idea what he was capable of if he put his mind to it and were scared what he might do with his mind as out of whack as it was.

At the moment Swift had seen fit not to take out the affiliates of Ensign – they seemed to be paralysed, but how long would that situation remain true? A gamble to be sure, but then all of this was a gamble. Who would have expected that all of this would still be going on, that all of these players would still be in the game?

If things had run as some wished he was sure that the game would have ended in the mess that the disease unleashed through Ruebeau caused – all of them buried. It was strange how things had a way of working themselves out – pushing against whatever edge it was that was forming in the being of Ensign was going to change the geography of the entire land … he was sure of it.

All these dinosaurs were likely to be extinct by the time this thing played itself out. Back in the day they had lived dangerous lives and there was always the promise of death – all this time later and that promise seemed ever more real; was ever more pressing. He felt the weight of an age on his shoulders; kind of hard to shrug that off, but a job had to be done.