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.

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.

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.

Forge Netting 38: Waking

Waking moments – so often they were a surprise for him. He spent a long time not expecting to be able to assemble anything resembling reality from the pieces that would be available to him – he wished for the dissociative haze he occupied and embraced it when it fogged his mind. Oblivion seemed sweet and oblivion was sought after.

When he had started to wake into an assembled truth and the guesswork was removed he began to hate the process of regaining awareness – it was painful; it was oppressive, and it was depressing. He tried to squeeze his eyes shut and force himself back down into the amnesiac dark.

He lay there for a few minutes and he knew that he was being watched, and he sensed that they knew he had finally woken up. He remembered the pain, wondered whether the fact that he was free meant his captor was going through what he had gone through. He did not want to open his eyes; he did not want to be awake; he did not want to be here.

The leader of his back-up team came up to him and placed his hand on his shoulder – he could have laid there and pretended to still be out of it, but how long would that have worked? And how foolish would he have felt to be found out?

He sat up, looked around. They were all looking at him expectantly, and what was he supposed to do with that? There wasn’t anything to do with them. They weren’t what they once had been and they didn’t mean what they once had meant. He was not the thing he had once been so all those who were created to revolve him around like satellites of his intent, were they perforce changed as well? He didn’t think it was so cut and dried.

He felt like an alien amongst these people and that was strange in and of itself. For a second one of them was speaking to him and he didn’t even register the slightest sound. He wanted to be so far away from all this that none of it was a concern, but he couldn’t physically move away from it just yet, and the mental distance wasn’t going to do anything for him except get him killed.

Something clicked in him and he faced the person he was being talked to by.

‘So, you need to make a decision about what you would like done with him.’

‘Done with him? Nothing.’

‘Well, doing nothing is a luxury you can’t afford. He is a problem that affects your life and therefore ours, and as such he needs to be handled if for no other reason than that. We aren’t that concerned with justice – but we are concerned with survival … and even if you’re not you owe it to us to help with this.’

‘Why this charade? I know you had already decided on a course of action – and this impetus on me to make a decision is designed to do what exactly? Forge us back into some kind of fighting unit? And who are we going to fight? You know what I am; you have some idea of who I am; you know what I have done, and therefore you must have more than idea of what I want to do. In every incarnation of this self I have decided that me being blanked out is the only answer. If you want to do that to him then you are welcome to do it – I cannot wish that upon anyone else. What you seek to use as a punishment would be the opposite for me. So do it; just don’t expect me to endorse it, negate it, or have any kind of opinion on it.’

‘OK, so your position is pretty clear.’

‘It is.’

‘We will help you, and we will deal with him.’

‘Fair enough.

‘I hope so.’

‘So do I.’

Forge Netting 37: Cut Down

He did not look good hung upside down, drenched in blood, beaten to a pulp, but it didn’t strike any of them as an unusual position to find him in. The man who had been administering the treatment was definitely surprised to find them standing around him – to have them stood about the place yet not cowering or subservient to him because of a word.

They cut him down. Fielding had the bossman in her sights. Teschner was attending to Ensign or whatever the fuck his name was. Pinkerton was hacking into their security systems and trying to get as much information as he could.

‘I thought the pain he was feeling would be crippling you all.’

‘Yes, well, you never were as aware of the truth of the technology used to make us as you claim. There are nerve cell buffers which convert the energy created pain stimulation into something harmless. The system that we constitute allows no negative feedback.’

‘But it allows positive things to travel through us via morphic resonance.’

‘You’re healing him?’

‘Yes, how could you not know this was possible?’

‘I suppose I took more interest in your offensive capabilities rather than the repair functions used to keep you moving.’

‘So your school of thinking was the best form of defense is offense? Well, it works a lot of the time I suppose, when you have unlimited resources, but that isn’t the boat we are in, so we’ve needed to be able to recuperate and protect each other too. He was always a little stronger and a little more capable than any of us, and I suppose that was by design … having to lead the way by example and all that, but with a situation like this we actually get to help him. It’s a novel situation, and one I have to say I am enjoying.’

‘Good, glory in it as long as you can – it won’t last forever.’

‘Good God, you think I don’t know that? I’m not some fluffy airhead getting all touchy feely. I am a veteran soldier who is appreciating a chance to help out a fallen comrade. I can see that this might be an alien concept to you because you aren’t exactly surrounded by anyone that you consider an equal even let alone a friend.’

‘If you intend to kill me please get on with it and put me out of my misery. I am not someone who likes to malinger, even when the threat of death is upon me.’

‘We don’t intend to kill you; we intend to set you adrift.’

‘Set me adrift.’

‘Yes, plagued with the very thing you infected us with – the very thing you used Ensign to transmit into the world at large.’

‘You are very odd for soldiers. I will admit, I don’t exactly understand your thinking. I would have killed me a long time ago if I were you.’

‘But you’re not, and you’re not capable of being that. These thoughts would not occur to you. This strange mix of mercy and punishment isn’t in you, is it?’

‘So, why the delay? Inject me and have done with it.’

‘He has to be awake first. There are things he must understand; things you must understand. Things that those who watch us must understand.’

‘How very curious; how very caring of you – all this closure you are bringing to these creatures, who are little more than assets in an arena of conflict.’

Teschner stepped forward and kicked him in the teeth. Glad to knock him into unconsciousness for a moment. Glad to have a second to think and not have to do it out loud; not having to respond to someone who wasn’t really interested in hearing anything other than his own voice anyway.

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.