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.

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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.

Grit: Takeaway

Grit was pissed – pissed as much about the need for him to be pissed as about the thing which got him there. Fucking people – the bastards always let you down. Whenever someone else let him down he actually felt more let down by himself – annoyed that he hadn’t seen how something was going to play out; fed up that he had not judged someone’s character right.
When you’re running different scams and you bring someone in to help out in the management of one of them you should be straight up and lay it out there who it is that a person is getting into bed with. Now he finds out, when he’s neck deep in the shit, that he’s dealing with the Triad and that his ex-partner, whose body is now scattered across numerous takeaway dinners, has left him with a debt that he can’t afford to pay.
Barney was a numb nuts and had saddled him with someone who seemed to have read the handbook on stereotypical inscrutable oriental gangster. Cho was still knee high to a grass-hopper but it was rumoured he had the legendary death-touch at his command and plenty of people could testify to the one inch punch. Cho was a name that, when it was dropped, stopped someone dead in their tracks. No one knew the real meaning but in the thesaurus of hard bastards it had pretty much come to stand for insanely dangerous motherfucker.
Grit was perturbed – what was it with him lately? Cursed? That didn’t even begin to touch it – if he’d opened a pyramid and stuck his cock in the Pharoah’s  favourite he couldn’t have been more cursed.
As soon as he saw that little bastard’s tattoos he knew he’d trod in the biggest pile of shit he’d ever been near in his life. He didn’t ever do too well in circles where sense of honour was a factor – business was the be all and end all for him and he knew that didn’t cut it with some people.
What he would normally do was to just off the problem, but that wasn’t an option here. So, how to take out a problem without appearing to be the one who is taking out the problem? It was a tried and tested method – he found someone else to do the job, and who better than another Triad?
He started to seed rumours that Cho was weakening and ripe for the picking, and then he also started to push rumours that he had been bad mouthing his contemporaries: a perfect recipe for causing anger at the man.
Some might think it was cowardice to operate in this way, but Grit thought it was smart to be an invisible component in this whole machine. He saw a low fire burning in the network of Triad gangs, so he put some tit for tat killings on the fire as fuel.
Weeks of low level fighting began to build, began to take on form. Grit knew what was coming next – the slow burning fuse had to eventually reach the charges and Cho’s world went up in flames.

Grit: Complications

‘Complications.’
‘Huh?’
‘You heard me. I know you did.’
‘Everything’s a complication.’
‘Grit, why do you have to be such a wiseacre all the fuckin’ time? It get’s boring, you know?’
‘No, I don’t. Keeps me amused; and as far as I’m concerned that’s the most important thing. So what’s the news? What has you wetting your draws?’
‘We were given bad info.’
‘And, what have we done?’
‘Killed someone on the wrong day.’
‘Early or late?’
‘Early. They didn’t get to sign something they needed to.’
‘And the repurcussions are?’
‘A contract on our heads.’
‘Fuck me; I knew this was amateur night the moment I stepped through the door and saw you were on the crew.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘It means, Colin, you dumb fuck, that I wouldn’t trust you adding one and one together.’
‘Fuck you, Grit.’
‘No, fuck you, you fucking liability.’
The gun was in hand and discharged the second the sentence had ended. Shit, he thought – might have paid to find out exactly who’s been sicced on us. Still, that wouldn’t be that complicated.
He picked up the phone and called his present employer.
‘Fred?’
‘Is that you, Grit, you cunt?’
‘Yes, Fred, it’s me – what is this bullshit? We carried out the job as per instructions and now we’re dodging bullets ourselves?’
‘You did it early.’
‘I was told a time and I did what I was asked to when I was asked to do it. Colin fucked up his part of it and he’s dead.’
‘You killed him?’
‘Yes, does that concern you?’
‘Course it doesn’t – I paid to have both of you put down.’
‘OK, look, if I take out the other person responsible for the fuck up are we square?’
‘Yeah, we’re square, but that doesn’t mean the guy who’s out to kill you is gonna stop.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because I wired him the money up front and he maintains radio silence up until he has a confirmed kill.’
‘If I put a bullet between his eyes is that going to be a problem?’
‘He’s just a hired hand, so no – not really.’
‘Can you give me a name?’
‘They call him Stack.’
‘OK, well you know who the other fucker I’m after is – don’t you? Bennett – the intel man.’
‘Grit, do you have to? He’s useful a lot of the time.’
‘Sorry, Fred, he has a debt to settle. Is this something you can live with?’
‘I don’t have much choice, do I?’
‘No, you don’t. I mean, I want to be cool with you, but this has to go down a certain way.’
‘OK. I’m sure we’ll speak soon, Grit, when you’ve done what you need to.’
‘I’m sure,’ he said and hung up.
Bennett was a cinch to find – well, at certain points in the day he was a cinch to find because he was trying to make some money by selling the information he had come by. When he went to ground to dig up intel he was the hardest fucker on earth to find. Grit knew his window of opportunity and he took it.
Bennett was a brown-nose, especially when he thought you wanted to buy what he had to sell, so getting him to go outside was the easiest thing ever. When Grit pulled the gun on him he wasn’t necessarily surprised; he wasn’t pleased but he wasn’t surprised. He must have known that the info he had provided last time had somehow got fucked up – usually it didn’t come to this, but if it was going to end the promise of it ending this way had always been there.
When they found him the police pretty much instantly gave up on any chance of finding the perpetrator of the crime – grasses and intel men were never short of enemies and they had better things to do than waste their time tracking down who it was that had finally grown tired and offed the bastard.
Grit wasn’t keeping a low profile at all, and if the person hunting him had any smarts at all he might have wondered at that; might have wondered at the perverse lengths Grit seemed to be going to to draw attention to himself. Stack seemed to miss the clues though – hadn’t spotted that he was walking into a bloody great trap.
The room was dark and Stack thought he was sneaking in – that was outfoxing someone.
‘How,’ said Grit ‘Did a dumb fuck like you ever get such a good reputation?’
‘Um.’
Um was not an answer that was going to impress Grit – his gun had a much more to the point remark to make. Stack died with a look of surprise on his face – for Grit that pretty much said it all.

Grit: Stupid Shit

‘Punch the cunt in the face – don’t pussyfoot around it; get in there and do some damage.’
‘If you don’t shut the fuck up I’m coming after you when I’ve finished with this mug.’
‘Shouldn’t have told his mum to go fuck herself.’
‘How was I supposed to know that old bag was his mum?’
‘Fucked if I know. I suppose if you’d seen him without his beard you might have seen the family resemblance.’
‘That old bitch has a thicker beard than he does.’
The drunken buffoon that was trying to teach Grit a lesson got a lucky punch in – landed it square on his jaw and he nearly bit his tongue off.
Grit had been going soft on him because he was sober and he knew he could take the idiot apart if he wanted to and, after all, he was defending his poor old mum’s honour. The hit to the jaw and the blood flooding into his mouth from biting his tongue changed all that though – a quick left-right combination and aan uppercut to the jaw and the bozo was on his back sparked out in less than thirty seconds.
‘Still got it, eh, you old bastard?’
‘Yeah, so watch out, numb nuts.’
‘Who you calling numb nuts?’
‘So, Berry, why am I up here in the land o’ the jocks?’
‘Because, my old china, some stupid kilt wearing cunt is trying to muscle in on Big Terence’s business.’
‘Which is?’
‘Why do you need to know? You never used to be so curious.’
‘True enough. How much am I being offered to carry out this little task?’
‘50% above your usual asking fee.’
‘Not bad. he must really want him out of the way.’
‘You’re a bright one sometimes, Grit, anyone ever tell you that?’
‘I don’t speak to many people.’
‘Funny.’
‘Anything special want doing with this one?’
‘We don’t come to you for special, Grit; we come to you to get the job done. We don’t like loose ends and you very rarely leave them.’
‘OK, so when?’
‘Go to the desk, ask for a key to your room. Find on the bed a laser-sighted rifle, and observe your target across the street having lunch.’
‘Really? All this done this quick and simple?’
‘You’d prefer it was complicated?’
‘No, course not.’
‘Then get to it, man. Neither of us have all day to sit around here flapping our lips, do we?’
‘No.’
Grit followed the instructions he was given and found the rifle exactly where he had been told he would find it. He lifted it, sighted the guy, and bang, dropped him.
Seconds later he was back downstairs. Seconds later he was asking himself exactly who it was that he had just offed – and that face kept rolling through his head. Shit – he had better get out of here as quick as he could. He’d just put a bullet in someone who he had been sworn off of; someone connected to his own crew; a personal friend of his boss. How fucking stupid could you be?
He swung the car round in the drive of Berry’s house, got out, walked up to the door, knocked on it, and when Berry opened the door smiling like a fucking idiot, he plugged him full of holes.
‘Fucking idiot,’ he said, and he meant himself as much as Berry.

Grit: Thinking

How often have you wanted to punch someone in the mouth? A lot? How many times have you wanted to shoot someone dead? Again you say a lot. Grit had wondered about those things all the time when he was younger, had stopped wondering and started doing when he was a certain age, and had spent just as long thinking about why he’d done them. Regrets? He had a few; but not as many as some might think. When you did what he did for a living that kind of thing would have you crying into your beer every goddamned second of the day if you let it.
He had never been much of a philosopher – that kind of thing could slow you down and make you indecisive. But he wasn’t averse to thinking – that kind of attitude would get you killed. Like most things in this life you had to try and strike a balance. He knew he held a role in his own life – he did not believe in fate; did not like the idea that some abstract pair of notions were resolving themselves through him. He did not want to be an avatar of good or evil – he was a man and he expected there to be plenty of both in his make up.
Gary liked to talk, but there wasn’t much thinking behind it, so Grit occasionally had to school him in the art of keeping his mouth shut and using his head a little more. Gary had a thick head so it often took a second to beat the idea into it. Grit didn’t exactly enjoy it but he didn’t exactly lose sleep over it either.
Gary’s relationship with discretion had gotten him in trouble before and it had got him into trouble now. If he weren’t universally known for the stupidity that was his stock in trade he would surely be dead by now – his well known idiocy got him a beating instead of a bullet in the head. Those who sponsored the beatings hoped and prayed that one day he would learn – they hoped and prayed that others would learn not to talk to him about anything.
Johnny was nursing a pair of broken legs and a wired jaw for his part in fucking up a multi-million pound deal. Grit’s knuckles were skinned thanks to the lesson he had given Johnny.
Thinking – seemed like it came natural for some, but for others it might always be out of reach.