data packs it

a cup of disease; fresh brewed and steaming like dogshit on a pristine lawn. he tears the newly developed photograph in half and understands that there is a special quality to this polaroid camera that all the digitals in the world don’t possess. for a second that has since passed into oblivion he caught her image.

they had been trying to get him to drink infopack won for weeks and he had refused – he was, so he said, allergic to datawater, and could only drink brand onezero. all the nanites in his bloodstream have been infected with a reception blocker so his IQ booster wasn’t adhering to the personality software they had grafted onto his existential base meme.

he was moving through the supermarket consuming vast quantites of free samples which on a purely symbolic levels were the agreggated physical metaphors of an alien language. indoctrination into anything in this day and age was very rarely an overt act – it would usually come at him like the subtext of a dream.

the ascension gate was disguised as a newspaper stand and the binary access codes were hidden in the structural atomic coding of the peanuts of a snickers bar. he chomped on the peanut chocolate goodness and felt the buzz on his tongue as the programming spiralled through the double helix echo-chambers of his material plane body.

kennedy was old as dirt, and he had lived in places that were not like this in the least – total absence of technology; very little in the way of advancement. he had been here for about a hundred years he reckoned and he could say straight up that technology never made life easier … it just made it faster.

he had first made this group’s acquaintance when he had been hired on a simple recon job. as he was sat there, camera in hand, he was being watched. he was prancing around like he was all secretive and stuff and they were walking behind him hidden in shadows just waiting for a good time to tap him on the shoulder and wake him up.

they had paid him for the film he had already taken, told him they would take care of his employer (which he didn’t like the sound of), and gave him a retainer to do basically whatever they asked him to do. so here he was – poking his nose into other people’s business in the employ of someone who would kill him if he stepped out of line.

kennedy hadn’t lived this long without learning a few things though – sure, it looked like he was backed into a corner but he was a data-rich seam and there was very little means of looking at what he was without taking some of what he was away with you. now people have just thought about that in terms of an infection that could be purged, but kennedy had no tech on him that was purely destructive – he saw no point in having something that didn’t bring him something in return. so programs that were loyal to him were operating remotely – sure, sometimes he stumbled into situations where he was unprepared for what happened, but there were always failsafes in place to provide him with back up plans.

the datapackets from the remote systems came in haphazardly, sneaking out in whatever signals they could compress themselves without suffering too much data loss. he knew they would know he was getting communications from somewhere but the volume of traffic on his communication lines would make any filtering system apart from the one he had custom designed choke up pretty quickly and pretty severely.

the retainer and the jobs he was given were bullshit, which suggested to him that either his initial investigation was getting somewhere, or that he was the person being scoped out.

so, what did he know? ex-military industrial complex private army on a agent provocateur program to destabilise new regimes. now why would they be interested in him and stopping his work? he accessed the back ups of the data his new employers thought they had removed from his grips and, seeing that he had pretty much been sent to locations to film things which corroborated their claims that their client was straight, and he could see how that might mess with the agenda of someone who was out to cause instability.

he set up an autoburst protocol in his data buffer so that when the next datapacket came in he would respond to it with a viral that would farm all the data for him, harvest their personal data and transmit it to their enemies, and wipe their own records. he knew his remotes would have the whole system mapped by now aand this would be a rapid movement.

his left eye involuntarily winked as the datapacket arrived, and he began to register new info uploading, and his employers systems going crazy and revealing all of their locations. it would soon be over.

kennedy set his personal security system to a rotating burst of emp and snowcrash viral as he walked away from the whole thing – pushing the data from his initial investigation (the thing which had started this whole mess) out to where it needed to go. out into nothing – an evaporating absence of information. kennedy was gone.

Else City – Part 2: Grave Talk

He wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting the doctor to do in order to revive the body but the implement he produced looked simultaneously arcane and futuristic. He brandished it with a flourish and a grin that nearly skinned O’Halligan. Too bloody theatrical — that, he thought, was his problem with the whole bloody place: full of drama queens and amateur dramatics enthusiasts. He was not going to fit in here and that pained him because God knew how long he was going to have to spend here. These dimensions had weird rules about death and the existence you spent here.

‘And that is?’

‘The Lazarus Redial.’

‘Jesus, give me a fucking break.’

‘What?’ said Forbes’Let him have his fun. You try doing what he does on a daily basis and not feeling the need to spice it up by giving things crackpot names. The Doc is one of the more normal people you’re going to meet so you should savour this while you can.’

The doctor turned that manic grin on him again and spinning the the device around his fingers, paused briefy, then like lightning pushed the needle that sprang from it’s end into the flesh of the corpse.

There was a loud farting noise and a sigh.

‘What was that?’ asked O’Halligan.

‘The body on the slab just farted.’


‘Excuse me,’ said the body sitting up ‘Didn’t expect to find myself back here, what’s going on? Goddamn, it hurts.’

‘You were killed by something and we were wondering if you might be able to provide us with some information as to what exactly did it.’

‘And you are?’

‘Detective Forbes, Else City Police Department, Homicide Division. Your name please, for the record.’

‘Langston Through. I worked in real estate — I was showing a house — you’ll forgive me but I can’t recall where but it should be in my diary — anyw-a-a-y we distu-u-u-rbed a ne-e-s-t.’

The corpse’s eyes rolled back in its skull and it slumped back onto the slab.

‘Well, that was interesting,’ said O’Halligan sparking up ‘A nest? So we just call the exterminators, eh?’

‘He’s funny, eh, Forbes?’

‘Rib-crackingly hilarious, Doctor. We’ll run a check on Langston Through — shouldn’t be hard to find; real estate isn’t big business out here. If you can k-print him and snap me some aura pics that would be a big help.’

‘No problem. Good luck, O’Halligan.’


Else City – Part 1: Scar Tissue

It wasn’t exactly sleep, more like throwing a switch and laying in a darkened room. Un-life – weirder than the fucking Bardo by anybody’s standards. His scars were itchy as fuck – damn, shouldn’t they stop itching once you had expired? He was not looking forward to work; part of him couldn’t believe he had died out of a nine to five routine to be forced into one yet again. The bummer was that he had been marked up as a suicide when someone had killed him and made it look like that. Thank christ they hadn’t forced him to take a residence on the top floor with the useless cases and their lemming impulses. It was only his place on the force that had got him some lenience on that score. Well, either that or the fact that despite him being called a suicide they knew well and good that he was a murder victim.

Most of the food was shit here. Didn’t seem anyone was bothered about doing anything nice for themselves anymore. You would have thought that a continued existence would have been some kind of motivator, but then you were expecting people who were bad at life to somehow get better. He wanted some small comforts and there had to be some way of securing them – you just had to know the right people.

The phone rang. Two rings and then it cut off. His mobile phone started to cheep – literally to cheep; and it seemed that one of the rules of his time here that it was going to be impossible to change that ring tone.

‘Yeah? Who is it?’

‘O’Halligan, nice phone manner. You need to get yourself here pronto. Your partner says she has a lead on the case you’ve been assigned.’


‘Oh, indeed. I understand you haven’t been here very long but you’ll settle in nicely. You don’t have much choice. Do you?’

‘I suppose not. I’ll be there asap.’

The place seemed to have a sense of humour – the taxi service was provided by hearses. They were fairly speedy and it took no time at all to get to the station. He booked in at the front desk and got directions to the morgue where he was told his partner was waiting for him.

The body was on the slab and it looked a right mess – a mess in the way that Jack The Ripper’s handiwork looked. Well, not exactly though – there was no finesse to this at all. He had to admit that he was slightly shocked to see a dead body here. A dead body? How exactly did you describe it?

‘I know what you’re thinking, O’Halligan, and the term we use for bodies in this realm is extinguished. We think of the life-force as an energy burning to run an engine.’

‘Seems a bit weird.’

‘Always does at first. You won’t feel like a rookie for long – you learn fast here; it’s unavoidable. ‘

‘So you’re my partner, Forbes?’

‘Yeah, nice to meet you.’

‘Nice to meet you. So how exactly does forensics work here?’

‘Energy fields, kirlian photographs, karmic fingerprints – a lot of esoteric bullshit is how it seems at first but it works.’


‘So what have you discovered?’

‘That this wasn’t just something that has been going on for a short time. That this person was tortured for months. Their body, or rather their skin, is pretty much criss-crossed with scar tissue all over. I hate to think how long it took, how it felt; and I hate to think what kind of creature was capable of doing this to them.’

‘When you say creature, do you mean … creature?’

‘Maybe, you got to expect some weird shit out here. This isn’t Kansas after all, Dorothy.’

‘That’s for sure. So how long have you been here?’

‘Well, now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?’

‘Erm, yeah, that’s why I asked – so you’d tell.’

A spindly looking guy with big spectacles stepped into the room. He smelt the same way that all morticians smelt – like he had been preserved in aspic. O’Halligan always found them unnerving people to be around, and having no idea what in the hell passed for forensic science around here, especially given what Forbes had just talked of, this guy made him doubly wary.

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘Talk to the corpse.’

‘Talk to the corpse?’

‘Yes, talk to the corpse.

‘It has moved on from this realm but we can drag it back for the purpose of the investigation. Once you get to these levels death is a strange beast for sure.’

‘If it’s all a matter of perspective then how does it constitute a crime?’

‘Is that not obvious? If you force someone somewhere they don’t want to go then that is what makes it a crime. We’re here to police causality – if a cause is anything other than natural then it’s our business.’


‘Did you not get the handbook?’

‘Erm, people actually read that stuff?’

‘Yeah, it’s kind of a survival manual. Once the disbelief wears off and you actually realise where you are then having some kind of clue how to deal with the things that inhabit this place can come in handy. Not to say that they usually wait for you to become a believer before they’ll have a go at you.’

‘Forbes, is he on the level?’

‘Afraid so – you tend to find that everything here runs counter to expectations. The weirder someone is and the less likely it seems to be that they are telling the truth – it probably means they are as honest as the day is long. Days are longer here by the way.’

‘Yeah, and the nights.’

‘It doesn’t have anything to do with any sun either – that burning orb in the sky is the relic of some god that plucked out their eye because it offended them. It sleeps. It was fashionable – the moon belonged to his twin apparently.’


‘Anyway, to business …’

Else City: Building Tension Extract 0

The suicides were on the top tier so they could jump off the roof if they needed to fulfil their need to re-enact their un-life’s defining moment.

The patricides shared rooms with the tulpas of their fathers so they might kill them again if they so desired. The floor they were on was known as the Oedipus Complex.

Matricides lived in the Norman Bates Complex, where their dead mothers voices blasted out of amplified speakers. There were a perhaps unsurprisingly high number of psychopaths on this floor.

Infanticides lived on the ground floor which had cruelly been dubbed The Crib. They cried like the babies they had sent to early graves.

The whole place was staffed by John Does — the unsolved murders that littered the culture like used condoms. They always looked puzzled, more like ghosts than anyone else.

He was to be booked in under suicide but he tried to tell them he had been murdered. The staff were not too bothered about John Does and where they went which was strange considering their prevalence amongst the staff.

He just put it down to red tape and from what he had heard it bound things tighter here in Else City than it did anywhere. He had come here to work on the police force to start solving crimes that others said had no solution. This building was the start of it all: his first case.