040. Forge Netting

Berry was buried. Pinkerton was investigating. Fielding was fielding questions. Eustace was following fruitful lines of enquiry. Teschner was making a package to carry them all forward into the future with.

Colin was counting all this as a victory of the people. All his years of following Ruebeau had paid off.

What’s in a name?

James Ruebeau – deceitful regretter of good. Tennant’s final iteration, and the name that meant more to anyone than any of the other identities stacked in piles throughout his life. Ruebeau was about to be undone – was about to be cast out into oblivion.

Ledwait – a lead weight, or a led wait; he holds you down and puts you into a state of waiting. This was the man who had put those other agents to sleep, and some small part of Ruebeau in this personality had put the world into a holding pattern.

Jerome Barrow – sacred burial place; where the truth had been buried of the whole mission. Barrow was the lock-box inside Ruebeau, the interface that only Housekeeping had any contact with – an encrypted hard drive.

Terence Ensign – smooth flag. The top level badge under which all of the cover personalities and the sectioned off personas gained cohesion and were fashioned into the best agent ever in the field.

Tennant – occupies a property. Tennant was as far back or as close to a base personality as they could trace, but the suspicion was that there wasn’t anything deeper than that.

Why the LE and the the?  The Last Exit. A personality death program developed alongside such programs as The Smooth Exit.

All these things had come to light, and Ruebeau kept telling them that he wanted to know nothing  of it. He allowed them to take from him what they needed in order to effect a cure, and then he asked that they blank him out and then lose him.

The discussions went on for days, but finally they agreed to grant him his wish.

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Forge Netting 39: Spade Marks

He was a cockroach – he always had been. He could, he was sure, if put to the test, survive without his head for a few days. Dropping him in the middle of a desert … what the fuck was that supposed to do? he had survived way worse shitstorms than these pre-programmed fucktards were capable of dreaming up. It pissed him off that they were not more imaginative and it also pissed him off that they thought someone like him could be gotten rid of quite so easily.

How were they to know that he had a repeating signal antidote push built out of gene-hack flesh where the spleen used to be? Sure, he had forgotten everything for a very short period of time, but then the antidote had kicked in and the whole shebang was resurrected.

Funny, they still didn’t actually know who or what he was. This had been a fruitful exercise for him … his disease had worked. This thing that he had engineered to destroy memory had worked.

‘I didn’t trust it,’ said Berry. ‘I never trust these things. A bullet through the head is always the most effective end to a conversation.’

‘Funny, I always thought of you as the logical one – but the one incapacitated by wings as swift as meditation.’

‘Ah, well therein is the thing to catch the king, eh?’

‘I am no king, and you are saying your whole thing was a ruse to fool me? Interesting idea, but I wasn’t watching you.’

‘A giant that cannot see its own feet I see.’

‘Can you stop being cryptic and get this over with? I think I have mentioned my intolerance for long-winded bullshit before.’

‘There’s a localspace distortion field put out by the LEthe, and we found a way to hack it. We found a way to disrupt your spatiotemporal index and disconnect the causal blockchain of your central reality.’

‘OK, and you couldn’t do this remotely? You had to come here and bore me to death before you press the button?’

‘No no, I had to be in close proximity. I volunteered. My Callsign is Bury. Like Bury St Edmunds. There is something of the martyr about me.’

‘So you are going to be killed by this too?’

‘Neither of us will be killed, but we are going to be scattered out through time.’

‘All these dead-ends, it must be tiring. You can’t destroy me – there are safeguards in place to prevent that.’

‘Sure, if the back-up systems can find you.’

‘Your spatio-temporal disruptor? Go ahead, let’s see it in action.’

‘Oh, it already is in action – have you failed to notice the distortion already creeping in? Have you not noticed the reversal of the rejuve job? Haven’t you noticed your irregular heartbeat? You’ve been castrated, Mr Spay.’

-*-

The localspace crumpled, Berry felt like his ribcage had collapsed and his lungs were collapsing into suffocation. He watched the confusion wash across Spay’s face. How had they found him out? How had they outplayed him? Where had this game of chess gone south? Berry’s awareness shredded, and he tumbled out through the Dissociation Gates that dissembled all travellers; out into the reverberating echoes that the hallways of time were built from.

Spay clung to the notion of himself, latched onto some sense of himself as a cipher for something greater; his was a super-positional life; his destination was to leap into the mirror at the heart of The Metaphor House.

Shatter

You don’t really learn how to shatter someone’s skull – they tell you all about it, they give you all the information on where to hit, and how to hit, but at the end of the day it is something you find out for yourself. Some things are so close up and personal that you have to get your hands dirty. He got his hands dirty.

He stood there looking at her laid naked on the bed, her eyes REM-sleep ticking through Meme Dreams, slightly frothing at the mouth, her ident-mask on the bedside table. She was supposed to help him forget what he had done; some people liked drugs to blot it out, and some people liked women.

She didn’t come anywhere near scratching the colossal itch that was shivering through him. He dressed and he stepped outside, chameleon fractal camera projectors booting up and reparsing the environment around him so that no one could see him. Well, unless they were digging with the kind of spades that the people he knew were going to be using – still, it would slow them down at least.

Barron, his commander, circled around the block where he was stood, in out of the rain and the refraction index issues caused immeasurable stutters in the chameleon suit he wore. He smoked a cigarette while he waited for the rain to ease.

All of them were intimate with the act of fist fighting – they had names to match; they were intimate with shattering someone’s skull. Barron had sent Donkeypunch in after him because the man had had success before; for the lack of subtlety in the method of his kill-strike he was harder to see approaching than a cat in hunting mode.

That thump, that fist, that punch – that thing which you had worked so long to perfect, you always knew that some day you would end up on the end of a similarly fashioned blunt weapon.

‘Jerome,’ whispered the man, as his knuckles connected with the back of Jerome’s head.

Jerome thought of the girl again, and he wished he were sinking into the Meme Dream. But his sleep would be so much deeper than that.

Would For The Trees

He looked at the bonsai that he had been growing and pruning into shape. The picture on the wall matched it exactly. It had been a long project. Here he had crafted his first time machine – through the fractal line, down through the rings of age he would travel, deep into the heartwood.

He had heard that many trees had been falling in The Woulds. Many of his contemporaries had taken their Leave, and were in The Wind. They had dug in hard, long ago, and found the underpinning undercurrent of ideational actuation that drove the super-positional data drive that reality was constructed from, and their metaphorical machines represented complex engines running off the deepest substrate of existence.

It was a lost art – the pruning of these vehicles into something usable, and Hent had been studying for a very long time, and he was now the sole expert left. Why had it taken him so long? Why was no one else interested?

They said it began with the Turn Of The Leaf, that that presaged The Fall, and then the rot set in. People were so apathetic, and the world was literally falling down around them.

He stuck his hands into the dirt, and he grabbed the roots of that little tree, all the time holding the image of the larger tree in his mind – The Yggdrasil. It was said that one saw the Hesperidean Apples falling like golden suns before one, when one had snagged a branchline and was being pulled into the subtext. A moment – an endless moment – he was a still center beneath a tree … apples falling … cherry blossom falling … small children scrumping for gold falling.

And he was falling, out through the boundaries of the room, his body and the small tree folding out through a bright point of light, a tear in the fabric of spacetime, through the twisting throat of a tesseract stint, into the smooth tube of a wormhole, and wham, out through one of the ancient Singularity Gates, and there you are – escaped into something other, something larger.

Hent stands and he looks around him, and he sees no Woulds. He sees dun brown of all the dones, no longer dunderheads … they got here: here to the promised landing zone. Refugees from a Reality Collapse. Hent grabbed something from his pocket – he walked out past the boundaries of the settlement – a long walk (a good sign), and he did as tradition demanded: he scattered the handful of seeds he had brought with him.

Defect

He was an on-target Communist who regularly hit the Marx. Sat there, stroking his prodigious beard with his tattooed hand, he wondered about all those visits to Lenin that he had made. So long ago. Now he drank vodka in a bar in St Petersburg, Florida, and pondered how little return he had got on the investment of defection.

Vladimir was smoking cheap Russian smokes and watching the bar’s regulars mill around, turning circles through the dullness of their daily routines, until the momentum petered out and they pitched forward into their pitchers of beer.

He didn’t work now – he had invested well, and he had an amazing amount of resources. He had been a heavy in Mother Russia, and he had used his tendency towards mercy to garnish his pay quite handsomely – let someone off, take a little bit of information, and go and invest based on it. If it worked out badly and the information was bad, you could always locate creatures of habit easily, and you could break a few bones until they either paid up or remembered how to be useful some other way.

People came to ask him questions – students mostly. He was a swarthy good-looking fifty, and he bedded some of the sultry language students looking for a bit of danger. It was not how his life was supposed to turn out. He had been a straight up gangster since he got kicked out of school, and he had been building something of an empire. That period when the underworld was suddenly flooded by ex-KGB was hard though, and he had pissed a fair few of them off. He had to leave – given the death threats and the injuries he received, it did not take much to convince his liaison that he needed asylum.

It was cold outside, but it was bright, he walked down past the art museum to the park, where they sometimes showed movies, and he sat under one of the trees, looking up at the fairy lights, thinking about all he had lost; thinking about how long he had mourned those losses. It was time to go home, time to walk through the town, get on the bus, and make his way back to that little room. He never escaped his Russianness – it was the first thing anyone here noticed about him. He was proud, but it made him sad. Sat on the bus, he fell asleep, as he always did, and he dreamt of walking across the permafrost, seeing the twinkling ice crystals in the air before him – he woke up remembering how warm he always felt in Russia; he thought about how cold he felt in Florida. He laughed – life was a joke most people didn’t get. How often he was one of those.

Brown Out 002: Ecru

And then Tommy grew up.

That event, which had helped him to coast through adolescence without event, to navigate his twenties without hiccup, came back to haunt him.

Even in a world such as the one that they lived in accidents occured. One happened to his parents: they were killed in a car accident. He would deal with it.

The powers that be had begun to notice that a lot of people were becoming immune to taupe: the works didn’t work anymore. But the government had been unwise with its spending of late – throwing it at problems that couldn’t be solved by money; not that they could be told such problems existed. The result was, that when there was a shift over to ecru, a stronger treatment for society’s ills, there were not enough resources to monitor and enforce the taking of the drug. Some people fell through the cracks. Tommy fell through the cracks.

After the supply of taupe ran out Tommy became distracted. He did not go to pick up his supply of ecru. He did not care about ecru. He remembered his sister. He had not been home for a while so he had not seen her. Relatives were taking care of her.

When he walked through the door to her room she did not move. When he sat down next to her she did not react. When he kissed her cheek, something he had never done, she did not even notice. How, he wondered had he ever thought this was normal? How many people out there were starting to wake up?

His relatives, with their cold empty faces, came into the room and told him that his sister was fine, though he could see she wasn’t. They told him that it might be best to leave her be. He whispered in her ear that he was called Thomas now, and that he would be back for her.

He left the room and he left his relatives, refusing their offer of some ecru. They thought this strange, though they didn’t say anything, not wanting to draw attention to something so obviously odd.

He pulled his car over to the side of the road. Cars zoomed by with shocked faces in the windows staring at him. What could someone possibly be doing stopping by the side of the road?

Thomas was in a place he was ill-equipped to cope with. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He had to rescue his sister, but where could he take her? What could he do with her? Wasn’t she happy just sat, pumped full of ecru? Goddamnit, the world had seemed so simple, why had the works stopped working?

No one answered him. The only answer he had ever needed was taupe, but now the world was full of colours, and he was cut adrift.

Brown Out 001. Taupe

Mum took the plastic comb and straightened dad’s hair until it looked symmetrical on both sides of his head. A timid smile broke and faded like sunrise and sunset cheek by jowl as mother gave him a reproachful look. Too much emotion was not good for the digestion. They had a nice plate of beige in front of them.

The works were on the table. Tommy had been told that they were called works because they made people work. Before they ate they took the works and they helped to shoot each other full of taupe. Tommy used to smile but he was a good boy and was learning that it was not the done thing.

Jessy, his sister still had outbursts. She was resistant. Much longer and she would be taken off to the re-psych-link plant. She upset them. No one likes to be upset. Tommy had been a quiet baby. They had loved Tommy.

After they had eaten their taupe: each bit of it, they were allowed to leave the table. Jessy was playing up again and Mum was at the end of her tether.

It had been coming for a long time and Tommy wasn’t surprised when it happened. He had never seen his father move so fast. He had still – strange to find himself thinking this – expected his mother to stop his father. But no, his dad kicked Jessy hard in the stomach and, as she lay screaming on the floor, he told mum to fetch the works.

‘We’re gonna make her work if it kills her,’ he said in a scary voice Tommy had never heard before.

Tommy had never seen someone be injected with so much taupe. Surely it would kill her. But no, she just quietened down.

Tommy would always remember this day in the times to come. The day his sister was cured. She never spoke again. She was easy to live with. She always ate her beige and happily subjected herself to the taupe injections. Life was, well, life.