Played Your Eyes 1: Establishing Shot

Rumours were that Banks had been out with a bad case of Plagiawrist for two months. He’d won the award for warzone reporting in a sinkhole estate in Essex but had felt burned out thereafter and had resorted to taking Remix – a neural net hack drug that allowed you to speed-edit someone else’s work and pour back out onto the page through an instantaneous thesaurus filter that made it sound like it had been written by someone else. The reason he was in charge of the team being sent in to cover the ARMY taking of the last royalist stronghold in the country was because no other fucker wanted to do it.

ARMY stood for Anti-Royal Mass Youth and they had been possibly the biggest surprise that had ever come along to kick a sitting government up the arse and shake them out of the circle-jerk revery that a third term seemed to have pushed them into.

You were born criminalised – the profiling taking a long hard look back down your ancestral line to determine by very clever maths what exactly it might be that you were worth. Generally the answer came back – not much. If it wasn’t true the computers didn’t care, and the civil servants operating the consoles didn’t give two tugs of a dead politician’s cock either.

Anti-social behaviour orders had once been issued as social control means that sought to prevent the need for police intervention – they didn’t work. The Anti-Social Person Identification Card (ASPIC for short) was a pre-emptive strike that kept you locked down as soon as your first kick from the womb was felt and recorded.

The youth had nothing to lose. They couldn’t get jobs, they weren’t allowed to travel freely, and they were constantly hassled by the police force; the only thing that gave theem any kind of protection and sense of place was the gangs that they all gravitated towards. Given the intense pressure brought to bear on them by the situation they were in it was hardly surprising, at least to the people who had been watching, when the gangs began to organise into a larger structure.

The hit and run tactics of the early months got them labelled as terrorists and the measurements used to deal with them were escalated accordingly. It didn’t matter – they were fighting for something bigger than the individual lives of their members. The future shouldn’t be locked up or witheld from someone, but that was what had happened. The royals were just a symbol of what they stood against and were by no means the main target – turn the country on its head and start at the top – that was how the thinking went.

There was no single leader of ARMY, no matter the propaganda that the government issued, and there wwas no need for one. Each leader, gathering together in a council could speak for their own men without fear of misunderstanding. It worked perfectly well – the government just didn’t understand so tried to promote the idea that it didn’t work.

Today was a big day.

Fluid 1

Kent had to stop before the dogs collapsed — dangerous as it was for him to do so; weighing it up against trying to cross the flats without a sled team though it seemed the best option. Traversing the salt flats where the lakes had once been was always difficult and required far more water than they could comfortably afford, but what was there to do? The Swamp Rats had been hitting them hard for the past two months and the supply lines were soon going to be irreparably damaged if they didn’t get help. They would have to pay whatever mercenaries they found in H2O too, but the costs would be far less than losing to their enemies.

He placed some meat in the processor and waited for it to extract the liquid he needed to keep the dogs alive. It was frustrating that they always had to balance one resource against the other but it was a way of life now. He looked up at the cloudless sky and for a moment was transported back to the Pre-Burn days. How people had once complained if the sky got grey and rain fell to spoil their day? Wouldn’t happen now.

No nuclear holocaust had delivered them into this place, just greed. Not that people were any less greedy nowadays — no one had learnt any lessons or had any great revelations: people rarely did. Anyway, the dogs had had their fill and seemed ready to go again. He couldn’t afford to waste time.

He replaced his goggles and got the dogs on the move again. This white expanse was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He was old enough to remember snow, old enough to remember when salt had been considered benign. Didn’t do to daydream too much. Hard as it was to believe there were people who lived out here — survivalists who’d adapted to the arid conditions and lived off what scant resources their aging tech could provide them with. Survivalists who would cut your throat and plug you into the Drains they had and drink your body’s water content like vampires would.

Time stretched out before him like the geographic amnesia he had been pulled across and he prayed for it to go quickly. Liftpoint was further than he remembered. Could the theories about the expansion of the salt flats be correct? If it were it didn’t bode well for any of them. What use were desalination plants if there were no water content there at all?

The dogs were starting to whimper again but they would just have to carry on. If any of them fell they were going to be used to assuage the thirst of the others; he hated doing it but that was the way it was going to have to be. Thank god they had got out of the habit of naming animals — they were just resources now. If he had to kill something that he’d named he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows were lengthening. If anything were going to happen this is the hour where he would expect it. He reached down to his side and brought up his gun and began checking it to make sure that everything was in order.

Write In 1

Everyone has a book in them. I was born with a pen in my hand. He had the scars to prove the first one and the photographs to prove the second. He was baptised in ink and now it slid over his skin like a memory. He wrote everywhere that he could – his house was one big wipe clean surface that he scrawled over – a neverending, ever-changing epic poem of randomness masquerading as cohesive thoughts. He started the tattooing off with quotation marks on his shoulder blades – waiting for the perfect words to leap out at him and find their place in the cupped hands of this beautifully rendered punctuation.

He hated those two lines – they were cliched. The first was patently untrue: he knew people who barely had a post-it note in them let alone anything substantial. The second statement – well, exactly how many people used longhand anymore which is what he felt that remark was supposed to imply? He felt that he was the exception that proved the rule. Mind you that kind of thinking was his own particular brand of arrogance – if something was becoming less true of people in general then he nominated himself as an exemplar of it. If something bad was sweeping the nation he was the hero that stood against the tide. He was valiant.

Giving birth to a child was easy; giving birth to a book was a commitment. He had gone through several midwives in his time; women who soured like milk in the heat of birth pangs, contractions, dilations and the like. There had been certain abortive attempts that he kept stored around the place like pickled punks; souls that had suicided even before they had made an entrance, possibly because they had glimpsed some presentiment of what they were letting themselves in for. Non viable was what they said about some things he produced – they could have been talking about him. He preferred to think of himself as being a genetic testament to built in obsolescence. The book would last – would represent a legacy that he himself was incapable of generating as something physical. He didn’t want permanence in the sense of some patrilineal line cast out into an uncertain future. Books could be translated and thrown through time in any number of formats; was dna such a reliable carrier of information? He doubted it.

There were countless titles, synopses and character sketches collected in a folder which disgorged notes and shed random bits of itself at will. Things had taken on a life of their own – he had created an ecosystem in his house that mirrored the dilapidated internal structures of his haphazard and constantly spiralling mind. And the world outside? That seemed to be taking colouration from his ideas and images … he had perhaps infected reality with his own seditious information.

Engine Ear Part 1: Booting Up

He took out his eyes and cleaned them, it was a mechanical action taken over by sense memory. One of the few automated actions that his biological elements still had domain over – most of that had been handed over to subroutine and hardwiring. The future is elective surgery; it is not something foisted on us by malignant machines. He was happy with who he was and what he was. The truth was always that the machines were us – they were new physical vehicles for our thought processes; something more durable to get us where we needed to go.

He could smoke as much as he wanted, drink as much as he wanted – he would customise himself to be able to do the things that he couldn’t presently do. Pimp My Hide was the mainstream tip of the iceberg in the body modification culture. In fact not many people really thought of it as body modification anymore – the body as a concept had died a death when the first glimpse of the kind of entities that human beings really were was achieved by a five-dimensional imaging tool that showed something vibrating on a commensurate level with superstring frequencies.

The body fascists, the ones who came to a room with the Da Vinci template grafted onto their pattern recognition system so they could weed out those that were different and avoid speaking to them, they were trying to pass a bill that would ghettoise anyone who had taken a step beyond homo sapiens. It was true that they were divergent as a species and had different needs, but those involved in this evolution through choice were generally preaching tolerance and being met with bigotry.

Engineers were a separatist movement that talked of a secession from the human world but in peaceful terms; a passive resistance. They were all in a position to divorce themselves from the GRID (General Registration Identity Designation) and saw revolution as a hidden movement; no tacit divorce from the powers that be – just a stepping back and a stepping away from their institutions. They did not want to oust or replace human beings – they wished to co-exist but to be allowed their own culture.

The body fascists had sympathisers in all sectors of the community; there were even apologists for them in the ranks of those they hated. If you could get a hook in a floating voter and work enough at the un-admitted prejudices then you might have enough leverage to swing them your way; to get agreement. It didn’t take much in the world of politics to qualify as a landslide – get a few people to vote who hadn’t thought about it before and you were well on your way to crushing the usual conscientious few who bothered to put their x in the box. It was a dangerous time.

There had been attacks where people had had their tech forcibly removed – it was treated like the removal was something that could be fixed but in at least two cases the victims had perished shortly afterwards. The people carrying out the attacks weren’t mere thugs because they had known enough about the tech to be able to disable the psyche-upload that most people wore to transfer their personalities to a back-up somewhere.

He was off to meet someone that he had once known who was now entrenched in the Sapiens Purist Movement (SPuMe), an offshoot of the main body fascist group that represented an almost antithetical stance to the Engineers. It was ostensibly an interview for a lifestyle magazine that somehow straddled the culture divide and sold to both groups but they both knew what their meeting and their words would mean to every single person that they knew they represented.

He was booting up parallel interference devices to tackle all the scan-and-strikes out there; he was running bio-rhythm v2.0 to simulate a warm body biology. Verdant was lucky as far as some were concerned; they called his type stealth-borgs because the technology wasn’t immediately obvious, but as he pointed out to them, if they started registering people who had tech he was as screwed as they were. A bigot didn’t make any distinction between a fully converted bot and a transitional borg or a borg that looked human. If you had anything non-organic hooked up to your body then you were a problem.

thoughtwork 1: preparation

He was constructing an entry point through the careful collaging of photographs he had taken over a long period of time – this kind of thoughtwork was never simple. It was different to the rewriting he had done before – with that he had just sat down with a pen, tuned out the conscious mind and let what he liked to think of as the silent majority in the electric voice phenomenon spectrum channel in through him. Words were locks on perception and if the dead had a consciousness which had survived the limitations of material perceptual apparatus they might just have got some kind of perspective on what made the universe spin in that idiosyncratic way that it span. This was the best way to communicate with them – as if you were a pre-verbal child that only saw in pictures.

Anyway, it had given his remote viewing an edge – a scalpel sharp edge that allowed him to shift bodily from one place to the other. This technique, with its heavier reliance on the visual was supposed to circumvent some of the psychic bandwidths that someone such as him would usually narrowcast on. You had to change your game up once in a while or the people on the other side of the fence would get wise to you and then the game was well and truly up.

Gain lit up a clove cigarette. As a mental exercise to sharpen his focus he would paint with the smoke, pulling those atoms around until you could see all kinds of things in them. This was no game of spot a face in the clouds though – he would shift from Manet impressionism, through Goya vivacity, Boschian horror, Leonardo precision and then leap into architectural blueprints for the building that he intended to infiltrate.

He plugged the earpieces for his quantumslice music player in and breathed deeply as the first sounds of the Buddhist temple music floated around him. His breathing rate slowed, as did his heart rate. All of these practices that he utilised made him harder to spot as he pushed in through whatever baffles and psychic lattices they had stitched in around the place. You couldn’t really scout the sensitive psionics of a place without tripping the alarms. All the mundane systems were left to the AI he’d slaved to that task and that was usually enough: he had a great system whose adaptive neural net, thanks to some customisation, allowed it to outstrip most things that it came up against. Despite the number of times that people like him broke into places there was still a certain amount of disbelief in their abilities.

His mind floated around a central illuminated image of the building in question, zeroing in on certain areas, pulling them into focus, relating them to the various maps, and then rotating the whole construction through three dimensional space until he snagged upon an entry point. The air was suffused with a strange perfume – rust, sweat, sandalwood and burning leaves. His eyes rolled back in his skull, he bit his tongue like he often did and tasted blood, his body spasmed and there was a flash of light and the room was empty.

Squid Pro Quo 1

It was purely an evolutionary quirk that had made the thing, which appeared to be pulling itself through a tear in the very fabric of reality, resemble a giant squid. Apparently reality was akin to a crystalline structure suspended in some liquid hyperreality that the varying membranes separating different multiverses hung in like ice in cold water. This thing was born out there in the intense pressure regions of ultimate truth and this form was the one most suited to navigation. Others might have considered it a god but he considered it a damned nuisance.

The belief gun, charged up with oneiric energy from the dreamcatcher, barely made a dent in its cohesion matrix. This one seemed a lot more robust than the last one. It was ironic that the fact he had experience with these things may actually be the determining factor in their increased strength. If belief was a key sequence that unlocked the upper dimensions, if it was indeed a beacon which drew these creatures in, then every time that he encountered one he was going to become a stronger draw for them.

He had been sleeping so he supposed that he must have been dreaming. Becoming an anchor for the bloody things was kind of antithetical to someone who spent most of his life dealing with supernatural infestations. He wasn’t sure what this bugger was called because he rarely stopped to note their names down in his little black book before he shot them point blank between the eyes.

He reached into his backpack by the bed and produced a null-bomb. The tentacle slapped wetly against the wall leaving a trail of gelatinous goop hanging. Shit – he’d only just decorated. The bomb hit the thing in the eye and blew up – the blast wave was a strange phenomenon: the null-bomb healed reality by planting disbelief in the wielder and detuning the immediate area so that any intruders lost their purchase. What could you say it was? A reality enema? The existential equivalent of an electromagnetic pulse generator?

He wondered whether or not the thing might actually taste like what it resembled – he liked calamari so if it proved to have a nice flavour then he would be well in. It did not bother him that he may be eating one of the elder gods. He picked up his cellphone and hit number 1 on the speed-dial.

‘Bailey?’

‘Yup? Wass cookun, Deek?’

‘This Cthulu-type thing that manifested in my bedroom, can I eat it?’

‘Maybeso, not sure as I’d chance it, mate, but maybeso.’

‘You have any recipes?’

‘I’ll text it over ta ya. Do us a favour though, eh? Be careful – never know what eating that shit might do ta ya.’

He picked up the huge snake-like limb and made his way to the kitchen. It was going to involve some chopping to get this down to the right size for frying. It was still wriggling slightly and he was praying to whatever agnostics prayed to that it possessed no sentience. He put the oil in the pan and got it so hot that it was spitting – so hot that it would be a fight to stand to near it. The smaller, finely chopped pieces were then flung into jaws of this frying pan contained hell.

‘Nuke the fucker!’ he cried, having at the remains of the animal he had slain and intended to eat.

It tasted, even with lemon and some garlic salt on it, what you might call rum. Not entirely good in a slightly unnerving way.

He hit 1 on the speed-dial again.

‘Erm, Bailey.’

‘Yes, Deek?’

‘I think I may have made a mistake.’