he was chewing the fiction, breaking it down into smaller pieces so he could swallow it. he’d choked on larger stories before and he hated it. gagging and retching as some metaphor came gushing out, hitting the floor, half-digested. at the time they’d recommended a diet of haiku – something lighter on the stomach, but he refused to compromise on what he ingested.
his skin patterned up as the data was displaced there, waiting for processing by the backbrain shunt he’d had wired in yesterday. he hadn’t tried the autopilot function yet but it was an attractive feature which allowed the mind to game while the body was directed on a command string through fourspace.
he touched her fingertips which were pointing upwards to signify readiness for outside input and he watched a cascade shiver of scattered poetry move through her hair. he hadn’t realised she’d had the medusa stranding worked in already. she’d had the stone glare added last week which allowed her to freeze information surfaces until she was ready to read them. she was still kind of hooked to sequential processing and hadn’t been won over to the idea of parallel processing; she said that having it analysed and filed independent of conscious process made her feel slightly out of body and that she didn’t find it pleasant. it’s true there were some small number of people who suffered dysmorphia because of the protocol and she hadn’t got rid of that fear yet.
he was lost in the data-shuffle of her. she smiled as if in dreamsleep. all around them worlds realigned themselves in the data repositories that were the communal group.

Cameraman 3

Click click click – outer perimeter motion detectors trigger rapidfire cameras, feeds push the images through smart refinement software and then they are shunted into image mapping programs, and from there into facial recognition. The machinery has to be there and working fast because what if he were to be asleep when someone tried to attack him, such as now?
The storm shutters had dropped as soon as the security system was awoken so no one outside would be able to see the flashing lights and the soundproofing contained the sound of the alarm.
Strunk was pissed – this shit happening a day after an availability broadcast meant that some fucker was not happy with the idea of paying for what he had. The silver lining was that it meant what he had was valuable. Still, not only was someone willing to launch an offensive against him, but they had used hired help and given out his location. Shit, he did a double-take – they had given out his location. Who the fuck had his location?
He was lucky because his data-uplink to a remote location had been completed ten minutes earlier. He pressed the blaze erase button that was rigged to all of his equipment; climbed into his portable rig and dropped out through one-time tunnel which was set to collapse as soon as he had exited it in a covered location two miles from this, his major base of operations.
He had places everywhere – someone in his line of work needed a string of safehouses because it was their business to piss people off and reap the rewards from that. He’d  have to be patient though – he wanted to make sure that he wasn’t followed because someone already knew way too much. When you are in the business of selling information you are even more guarded about your own – and you are better equipped than most to keep a tight lockdown on what gets out there.
He immediately suspected Harcut, but while Harcut wasn’t the bumbling oaf that most people pictured him as being, there was an element of luck to his current position, and the fact that he had enough muscle to back up his greed. Harcut had smarts but he couldn’t really be said to be possessed of brains and he was most definitely no kind of genius or anything.
By the end of the night he would be relocated and he would be back online. He had business to do – guaranteed money coming in. He needed to be able to pay now for the investigation he was going to have to do into who had double-crossed him.
He shot out into the warehouse, daylight exploding around him. This place had it’s own sealed system and would have told him if it wasn’t safe to use. He’d wait here a little while and then he would be on his way – never to come back to this place that had been home for so long.

Cameraman 2

Angles – it was all about angles; that was true of life as well as photography, and it was especially true when extorting cash from someone. A lot of people that came by information whose concealment was valuable to the person it concerned made the mistake of thinking that the whole tack you should take in your blackmailing of them should be based around the information – no, the most important thing for any blackmailer was to know just the right person to tell. He’d learnt that the hard way – gone in blind and fallen into reeling off a long list of people to an intended victim, none of whom struck the right spot, and consequentially he weakened his position to the point where the information became worthless.

If there was no way for you to find out who best to threaten someone with then you sold what you had to someone who had a vested interest and generally had to settle for a one-off payment. He could generally hack someone’s information with no problems at all – federal records, financial records; and it went without saying that personal data storage systems were no challenge at all.

‘So, Strunk, who do you have? Who’s been naughty?’

‘I’m sending you a full guest-list now, Milton.’

‘Thank you, darling.’

‘You know one day someone is going to twig to the fact that the biggest con artist in this whole town is the one who writes the most column inches of sleaze.’

‘Oh, Strunk, you silly man, I’m sure some of them know, but they are so goddamned scared for their reputations that they pay up and never try to hand me over. You know of course that I don’t always get paid in cash – sometimes I get them to hush up the hubbub that someone who won’t play ball is causing.’

‘Sure, makes sense, Milton. You know of course I’m recording all this.’

‘Oh, my dear, I should be most disappointed if you were so sloppy as to not be recording it – all this intrigue and these games gets me all wet.’

‘See anyone you like on the list, you terrible old queen?’

‘Oh, Senator Luft – I have a raging hard on for him, darling.’

‘I’m sure you do.’

‘Filthy boy. Anyway – give me, what? Twenty minutes? Yes, that should do it – and I’ll come back to you with names and potential prices.’

He put in a call to Officer Harcut – the local bent copper who was running more rackets than your average mafioso or triad gang boss.

‘So, Strunk, my man – I see the list. How do you feel about a bulk buy? Give me a discount if I take the whole lot?’

‘Give me a price and we’ll see – i have some other interested parties so these things rarely stay static.’

‘Oh, I get you, bro’, I surely do. Remember who I am. Still – I’ll check as a courtesy.’

Engine Ear – Part 2: Interface

The first thing he was shown as he walked in the door was a bicep sporting a red spanner in front of a broken cog – the symbol of SPuMe. The guy smiled at him bearing capped teeth and beckoned him to follow after. They weren’t overt with the scans but he knew that they were being conducted – it was the only concession to technology a lot of these guys would allow in their lives – something to capture their enemies. You had to be pure or you were out and they ran regular and intensive scans. He was lucky that all that was passing over him at the moment was a light level sensor. He hoped that all the extra tech that he was running to mask himself wasn’t going to play up while he was here right in the middle of the most dangerous place in the city for a borg.

Gallivant sat there in front of him and he barely recognised him, which he considered slightly odd as it was him that had gone in for the extensive body modification supposedly. How did he still know that it was his one-time friend despite the obvious steroid abuse that had brought him to this overinflated state of self? It was the stare – that gaze was hard to hold but you knew even as you looked away he was boring into you with those dark cocoa coloured eyes. There was something slightly unhinged behind those eyes; something obsessive; something that didn’t tick in quite the same way as everyone else.

‘One has to ask themselves why a journalist would be interested in a hot potato like us and our little disagreement with the Engineers. One has to wonder what propaganda opportunities coming to visit a bunch of rabid pro-humans might offer to a pencil pusher such as yourself. It’s been a long time, Fervent, how have you been keeping?’

‘Well … and yourself, you look …’

‘Good, yeah, I know – perfect specimen of what the human form can be given the right attitude and the right exercise regime.’

‘Yeah. So, you’re in charge here?’

‘Not exactly, but I have some pull. It isn’t exactly a hierarchical structure that we’re operating within here. This is more of a life choice than a job or a gang or an organisation, if you catch my drift? Are we on record by the way?’

‘Always. I’m a journalist.’

‘Slippery bastard.’

‘Some might think so.’

‘So, Ferv’, would you mind me asking you a question? Just one, that’s all, and then we’ll continue as planned.’

‘Of course. Go ahead.’

‘Okay, here goes. Why exactly would a borg be stupid enough to walk into the heart of our territory and expect to walk out alive again, even someone with journalistic credentials like yours? Do you think we don’t read or something?’

Cameraman 1

He flickered the red light of the retinal reader over his left eye and downloaded the photographs for the day, plugged the tiny jack in behind his ear and downloaded both the aural records and the data from his speech centres: both sides of the conversation. A few more minutes and he would go and rest in the alcove and get his mind defragged.

Tonight it was a high society do — all the moneyed in the city crammed into one room to smile fake smiles and bullshit with each other in the hopes of forging alliances that would result in more money being pulled upwards from the less affluent. He was a plant, a mole — whatever kind of notional carbuncle you might find an adequate metaphor for shit floating in fresh water that it should have been flushed from. This wasn’t the first time he had engaged in gigs like this one and he always found them satisfying. He walked amongst these idiots and they were unaware of what he was intending to do to them. Every single secret that came his way had a price tag on it and he could blackmail the owner or use it to sink them. He preferred the long con so he usually used these titbits of information to initiate a plan that might take years to come to fruition. He had never played chess but he would have been able to think a considerable number of moves ahead of any opponent he was sure.

He had some people lined up for some of the information already; the rest wouldn’t take long to sell. Yeah, there wasn’t a single secret being flung around this place that shouldn’t have been kept under lock and key. It was arrogance that did it — the sheer belief in the idea that the people they thought they were controlling were just too damned stupid to ever wake up to what was really going on. They thought of the masses as being herd-like — a degree enough above retardation that they could carry out simple manual labour but that was about it. To bring their world crashing down around their ears would be a blissful thing to do.

He had done that already in a few small significant ways. He had exposed the paedophile ring that seemed to represent the police force’s backbone and half of the low level government officials in the city. He had led the press to the racism which proliferated in the security forces charged with looking after prisoners. Photographic evidence was the key to it all. He could get in anywhere and get the pictures that were required. Why? Because he was unassuming. No one noticed someone who moved politely and quietly through society — they always said it was the quiet ones you had to watch but most people were easily distracted by fireworks. A whisper in the right ear was his philosophy and it worked.

The doors swung open on his alcove. He sat down, placed his hands on the activation pads, and waited to be cleansed. Then he could rest.