WARNING: Posts in this blog may contain profanity and adult humor.
If you do not wish to or are not permitted to view this content, it is advised you do not view this blog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chapter 5: Return, Egress

Bad news, everyone: I'm running out of buffer chapters! (dun dun duuuuuun!) To compound problems; I'm also going to see Charles Stross at a book signing at Mystery and Imagination up in Glendale CA (more info here.) You can probably sense my glee leaking through your monitor, can't you? Anyway, I've digressed long enough!

Mackai finds he's called back into action by his old company not as an employee, but as a contracted mercenary. It's up to him and the crew to smooth over one of the largest fiascoes to take place in the last decade. Farsol, the massive corporation Martani Security Incorporated and an unknown, third party are all mixed up in the massive scandal, can Mackai keep his old company afloat or are things truly headed down the drain?

EXCERPT: Network-wide distress transmission ID16: 1e03fa
TRANSLATION: All revisions by Open-Bracket-Close-Bracket Semantics Ltd. Subroutines
Sent: Farsol Relevance-Spatial Tap, Orion Arm
Received: Relay Bot @ E. Eridani
Forwarded: BUSEI WAN Distributor
Automated confirmation echo received
Annotated: Relay Bot @ E. Eridani for civilian usability.

Attention: Stellar Fallers declare an SOE. Things are now utterly FUBAR due to incursion by unaffiliated NSFP to neutralize UTPWBEWOD [Unknown Third Party With Big Explosive Weapons of Doom]

[paraphrase: Pardon us, we’ll be out trying to extract a very large splinter from our bum cheeks for the next few weeks. We apologize for any unfilled orders that result in critical malfunction of the second rate crap we sold you last year…
Oh, like I’ll actually have anyone to translate to in the next few weeks if this goes crazy. Goodbye, stinky flesh bags. May you collectively indulge your disgusting urges in whatever pointless afterlife you’ve dreamt up for yourselves.
By the way, if you’re reading this… You are currently in a militarized zone full of crazy apes and birds having a food fight. The correct safety procedures for a situation like this are as follows. If you hear gunshots, do me a favor and run STRAIGHT for the noise. Ciao.]

Sunrise Ep. 5: Return, Egress

What the fuck was going on down there?

I glanced back down at the scanners through my specs’ again. The orbital circles were mad with activity. They shined at me as if my spectacles were a window through to daylight in the darkness of the bridge. We were on action stations and ‘Sam was leaning over my shoulder.

I was looking over a quartet of satellite windows while ‘Sam explained the lot of them. They were optimization GUIs for every station on the bridge. I was fiddling with the windows, in my own world of programmer OCD, as ‘Sam went on.

“So you just activate this gesture and the pathways unlock-“ I kicked on the gesture and all the gray crap suddenly went vivid. Yay! Options enabled! I looked over my main window, a massive tree of connections and lines. I immediately spotted a few dozen bottlenecks just by glancing at it.

“Damn,” I exclaimed. “What have you been doing with this network?” I immediately unlocked the pathways, then downloaded the user guide myself and began mulling over it… there’s the reconfiguration system!

I immediately started swapping connections and proxies with speedy abandon, using my hands to drag and reconnect the lines in 3d space. “What the hell are you doing?” ‘Sam exclaimed as life support cut for a second. She leaned back and gawked at me like I was crazy, which was weird because I was – Nerd-on-an-optimization-jihad crazy, that is.

Everything clicked over nicely and I smiled smugly. Control delay was down about fifty percent from before. The engineering automations had been replaced with a nice framework family I used in my own drone programming. Finally; I’d updated fire control.

“The hell did you do?” ‘Sam asked, accusation in her voice. “Wait a second…” she was probably running a micro-sim of my new frameworks. “Da-a-a-a-mn,” she said in awe. I grinned smugly. “Okay, you DO know your stuff.”

“And you owe me a small favor, miss gambler,” I said, satisfied with my victory. She grumbled and paused, likely figuring out some response. She’d bet that I wouldn’t learn how to pull weight for another day or two. Lies!

“Yeah,” she said with too much confidence for my liking. “I’ve got just the thing, okay waiting a week or two?” I turned about in my seat, any vestiges of confidence dissipated completely. “It’ll be worth it,” she said mischeiviously. I raised my eyebrows in surprise as my spine tingled of it’s own free will, reminding me I had an artificial implant buried there, not pleasant “Agh,” she said, narrowing her slit-pupil eyes at me. “Not like that, you twat!” I wiggled my eyebrows, grinned and turned back around.

She wordlessly walked back to her seat and plopped down. Hopefully she was grinning, too, or this would be a long tour. I kicked back over to the sensors and watched the pretty lights. I was feeling pretty pensive, trying to figure out why the military frequencies had lit up… I’d call my boss, Jasper, but I wasn’t sure of his temperament at this moment. He could be plotting some hairbrain strategy against whatever was going on out there, or pulling his hair and wracking his brain in the process of coming to terms with what was going on. You didn’t bother him when he was in either mood, ever (ever.)

I’d migrated some of my personal software onto the full-enhanced-reality systems onboard. So, I wasn’t surprised when a cherry red, old-style phone labeled “Moscow” appeared out of thin air above the tactile plates. I went to pick it up, then realized I’d be borrowing ship bandwidth. “’Zin, you mind if I-“

“Go right ahead, Mackai,” the spider said jubilantly over the babbler. I supposed he knew the call was coming, as it was through his ship’s network. Good eye. I reached down and picked it up.

“Oval office,” I said as I raised it to my ear. The phone phased out and a video window appeared in it’s stead, dominating my forward vision.

I was a bit surprised to see my boss staring back at me - devious beard, chrome-dome haircut and all. “Well, Mackai,” he said with the little pleasantness he was physically able to muster (evil geniuses aren’t the pleasant type.) “How was day camp?” It was shorter than I expected. So much for ‘good bye, Earth.’

“Ah, you know; pleasant,” I said, grinning. “We made little key-chain lizards out of beads and learned how to fish.” He cackled a bit. “Then we got to play volleyball-“ he suddenly stopped laughing, making me stop smiling.

“Okay, enough riffraff,” he said tersely. “I’m not contacting you to make sure you’re snug and comfortable. We trained you to worry about it yourself.” Well, they trained me to not have to worry about it… by having us go for a swim at 3am in Anaheim Bay. That was so cold my goose-bumps turned into goose-mountains.

“I called you because, congratulations! It seems you’re part of the only special missions firm in the neighborhood!” he threw his hands up in frustration. “This crazyness has caught us off guard,” he continued more calmly. “So, we are up the creek, it has hit the fan… but I’m guessing you knew.” I nodded, it wasn’t a big stretch for me to guess it was that bad. “We trained you good, then, Mackai. Why don’t you kick me over to your captain?” I was VERY quick about that. Once a minion, always a minion.


Bass was pounding my eardrums, in spite of the membrane suppressors currently closed over my inner ear canal. I usually don’t mind techno… when I can control the volume, and there aren’t masses of strobing, scanning, Technicolor lights blasting about a room with no ceiling… not to mentioned the enhanced reality tripfest that would have dominated everything ten meters above my head ad I not turned it off.

Notice I didn’t mentiona ceiling. That’s because there was none. Now, there wasn’t a ceiling here because… well, the room was a giant bloody cylinder. I risked another glance skyward and spotted a blond girl standing haplessly on an upside down floor. The craziness of the situation almost made me puke. Nerds are to clubs as vampires are to garlic. That’s not to mention that this club was “Vertigo: an out of this world experience.” Whatever suit came up with that one… they should die for ever. They suck for even considering a club like this.

Jasper hadn’t known too much yet. Starships identifying themselves as members of Martani Security Inc. had dropped out of Rele-Space and right-the-frig into low-Farsol orbit. It was pretty impressive they could do that without us knowing.

Security shuttles had started making hot-drops onto the planet, no mechanized units, just light security. What Martani had to do with this was unknown. Though, it would be cool to see these guys in action.

That said, it wouldn’t matter if either of us shot eachother in the foot trying to get out of the way. We had no beef with M.S.I. From what they’ve broadcasted, they had no beef with us. This was an unrelated sting, apparently… But of course, coincidence was so people could make excuses to be chronically stupid.

I was supposed to be trailing a target, I had a snooper on the club network watching wireless traffic for any of his packets. I’d have maybe ten seconds of active listening once I got a bite on the line. After which club security would click in, ask the program for validation (which it had) and alert everyone in the club there was a cop here. At which point, my mission would fail.

That’s why it had an automated self-cannibalizing command to turn into random binary if anyone got wise. Traffic, bingo! Time to trip the sniffer!

“No contacts, boss, covering the south end.” A generic white guy said in my head.

“Man, I gotta’ take a leak, watch the back for me.” Convenient much? I kicked in the cannibal, just to be safe. I didn’t need the program anymore. Time to get information from the source.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. The Stellar Fallers trained all their field officers in hand-to-hand and close quarters combat routines. Trouble was it was all dumb computer-instituted conditioning. Any agent worth their salt could outthink routines like ours, but it might just get me by here. I really had no choice, the target had made a good decision moving himself and his team into this crazed light-and-sound show to drown out his signatures. Good for him, trouble for me.

I legged it along towards the small buildings in the back of the cylinder. They were curved like some Seusian, cherry-wood paneled nightmare. Atop a shorter one was a flashing blue and pink symbol of a stick-man and a stick-woman (ooh, she’s wearing a dress, definitely designed by a traditionalist, bloody vocal wankers.)

Not too far off now… ah, a bloke with a trim cut, sunglasses and a formal black suit and slacks. Can you be any more obvious? He was doing a bit of a pee dance, amusingly enough, as he jumped down the door, splashed by blue mood lighting. I casually walked in behind him.

There were a few ways I could do this… I had a taser in my pocket and knew how to use it. The Stellar Fallers had also indoctrinated my reflex memory with routines for a stickup. I just hoped this guard wasn’t very ballsey, because I didn’t know enough CQC to fight the guy if he didn’t freeze up. He was a good fifty pounds over my weight.

He promptly slipped into a urinal cell. I made for the one two apart from it, minding unspoken bathroom manners. I checked my routines, they were there. There was a prominent growl of a zipper as I prepared… okay, sidestep! In one fluid motion, I twirled around and got one arm under the gent’s shoulders. Now what? Taser! I’d delayed for a split second, and the gent’s right elbow was almost positioned to hit my head. However, I found my right hand was now brandishing a taser directly at his neck.

“Don’t move, I’m authorized to use lethal force and will not hesitate to do so.” That was my voice, but not mine, kind of flat. All us security boys had some sort of “now you’re buggered” phrase indoctrinated into our skulls. What you heard was the signature phrase of the Stellar Fallers.

He cussed toward the tile wall ahead of him, staring straight ahead. I came to my senses again and couldn’t help a quip. “Look at this optimistically, duckey. At least you don’t have to worry about peeing your pants.” He grunted in protest. I just hoped he didn’t realize I only had a stunner to his neck. Otherwise he might get the best of his cowardice knowing he’d wake up even if he screwed up. “Tell me where your charge is.”

This was definitely not a clean op’ I’d have to get this over with and leave this guy for club security to find. That would distract them well enough so I could continue. My hands would have been shaking, but my implants were suppressing the jitters and I was high on manufactured adrenaline. Being a security officer these days can make you more than just vanilla Human. Sure, I was no million dollar man, but still.

“Hovel five,” he choked out, that was way too easy. I suppressed my feelings of not-so-easy-ness.

“Good rent-a-cop. Now; tell me why he’s here.”

“Workin’ for the birds.” Odd phrase, that. At first I thought he was crazy, then I remembered that the Martani were a race of flight-impaired Avians. Birds – for the stupid doo-doo heads amongst us. Shit, was he one of MSI’s?

“Keep on talking,” I pressed the taser harder into his neck. My stomach flipped as he slackened complacently under the lock he was in.

“Heh you don’t ha-“ I stepped back and fried him with a nonlethal dose of voltage. When I came back to myself I was about a yard away from his prone form. His front was covered with what I hoped was water and, thankfully, he’d zipped his fly back up. My failsafes had triggered, he was about to tell me he knew I didn’t have a gun. He should have never tried to psych me out. The Stellar Fallers had seen that coming when they put those failsafes in there.

I picked up a hard line and flipped him over with the underside of my hand, trying not to leave fingerprints, it was mostly a half measure in this age of hyper-forensics. It might delay tracer officers a bit more. Just as I’d figured, he had a hard jack in the back of his neck. Those smalltime boys relied on routines so much that they needed the high-bandwidth and security of those kind of things so they could shove more crap into their brains.

They jacked up on routines. Not my style, but it was a benefit now. I took the hacking proxy’s line from my pocket and clicked it into the back of his neck. Okay, now how should I make him painfully obvious? Wholy crap! Trace and intercept tracker was going crazy, ten seconds to intercept? What kind of defense watcher did this guy have?

I thought quick and uploaded the song “I’m Fat” by Weird Al to the guard’s systems. I then set it to broadcast the media file unencrypted on all available networks with a twenty-second delay. I added some encryption and bounced it onto another network to hack the guy again just in case his firewall spotted it before it went off.

I jumped off the connection with about two seconds to spare. Not only would I have been on the maps of whoever I was tracking, my proxy and external devices would have likely fried to a crisp in my pocket. I stood up smartly and walked out of the bathroom at a brisk pace. The floor around me was fairly empty so I guessed no one would get to the guy before I was out of sight.

No security camera could get my face in this darkness, all they had on me was grainy night vision and IR. The smaller firms were way behind the curve in that tech. It was mostly because we’d passed notes with a few other firms from other parts of the galaxy early in the game. Ah, the advantages of being sociable.

“Your butt is wide,” the song began broadcasting over the wireless.

Hovel five was a ways down. I started making my way along the trippy terrain towards it. Meanwhile, I paged Tomas, Dwaine’s friend in intelligence, I’d been using him as a tail-along for this mission.

“Well, mine is too,” the song continued as the link went through.

“Tommy, what’s up?” I thought over the connection when it cleared.

“Better watch your mouth,” the song went on.

“Questions, stupid man?” he quipped.

“Or I’ll sit on you…” I lost all focus on the song. I knew something big was about to go down and I didn’t want to die in the process.

“Who’s stupid? Should I mention that military intelligence is academically an oxymoron?” I quipped his quip. He grunted over the line. “I have questions. You have my case number still? I need to know if this guy’s with Martani.”

I was a few dozen meters off from the hovel when I saw my target. He sure was bizarre enough of a human to warrant hanging with the alien crowd exclusively; feathery hair like pulled cotton, pointy goatee and very dramatic eyes. His name was Daisuke Imakuruz, people with names that ethnically concentrated weren’t generally from around here. The guy had a non-Farsol history, that was for sure.

“He’s not,” Tomaz said flatly. My stomach dropped, what birds was he working for, then? “Oh man, you’ve got a priority dispatch. It’s Jasper. He wants a secure channel.” I ducked down beside a wall and made as if I was scoping out the floor for ‘prey.’ The act was very tough, as the angle still made me want to puke.

“Mackai,” Jasper said rather urgently. I would have rather heard the usual heart-stoppingly cold demeanor he typically donned. “Martani just contacted me about your target. He’s a high priority boy, and he’s not working for either us or Martani. Well, not really, anyway.” Indecisiveness from the Fearless Leader? Iz no good, Natasha Fatale.

“He’s with MSI Section thirty-four, some front-man for their operations here. They were conducting an illegal probe of Farsol,” Tomas cut in over his own niche in the channel. I peered around the wall over at my target again and couldn’t believe my eyes, Melyssiah was there at the table WITH my target!

“MSI has been hunting the guy, it’s weird that he shows up now,” Tomas said leisurely. I started to sweat.

“You know what else is weird?” I stopped before I could answer my own question, because Melyssiah flipped her pointer finger right at me and nodded at my target. For a second, I panicked, then my spinal piggyback jolted me back up to speed again.

There were two guards built like giant walls making for my ‘hiding place.’ I reached to my side for my sidearm, shit! I’d left it in my light kit and left that in the ship! I hate myself so much right now! “ ’Sam!” I thought down my outbound link. She’d been very quiet for a while. No response. “’Sam!!”

“WHAT?! Friggin’ spaghetti mosnter, what’s the problem?”

“Compromised, I’ve been spotted,” I spat over the link.

She cussed into the link. “Be there soon, had some front guards to take care of, I have an idea how to get to you fast. Still in the club right.” I broke into a run

“Yes,” I barely managed to say before I smacked hard into a heavy bloke. He kicked me in the shins and I reflexively dropped. Next hit landed on the side of my face.

“Well, I’ve never used a phone booth,” the song went on carelessly, unlike me. I was crumpled on the ground, “and I’ve never seen my toes…” like the kind that had landed on my left cheek, funny…


I came to with my hands tied and crossed in front of me. It was a rather natural pose… how did these guys spend time thinking of this stuff? They definitely weren’t as smalltime as I thought. Club security would be too stupid to notice I was tied up.

“Well, I was just thinking about you recently,” I heard a voice I hadn’t wanted to hear for a very long time, if ever again.. “And, well, here you are!” I had one hell of a headache. What’s more was my glasses were at an odd angle, still on, but forced into autistic mode. I activated a command in them and the bent nosepiece righted itself. Welcome to the future, biznatch!

“What could you possibly want with me, Melyssiah? With these binds I’d think something kinky.” She scowled at me for that one. I noted, though, she stayed right where she was.

“Ah, Mackai, I’m thinking I can finally put our relationship behind us. It’s been fun, really!” Behind as in…

“What?” I exclaimed.

“Ah, yes, we’re through,” she said smugly. “Not only that, but you’ve gotten my racket a good sum of money. I’ve got some clients who are interested in… talking one on one with a Stellar Faller security officer,” she smirked like a T-rex. “That is, while they’re busy cutting apart your mind.” I felt the blood drain from my face and my stomach suppressors flared again. How many times am I going to be in a state of almost-puke in this line of work?

Not very many, anymore, I suppose. “Ah,” said another voice that reminded me of the mad-hatter, but with a distinctly engrish accent. How passé was that? He could have just learned out that accent with a simple retrofit program. “He is ah’very lesponsive.”

“What?” I said. I was saying that a lot. I mean, who expects massive conspiracy in this line of work?

“Lesponsive! You foorish cletin!” he said in a rather lispy and consonant-deprived voice.

“Why the hell do you talk like that?” I asked incredulously.

“Ah, what a gracious intloduction.” he interjected in a suddenly controlled tone. I looked up, there was that dustball gray hair and jet black goatee. Yes, that was my target. Weird guy. “Mackai Sorren, I presume.”


“Yes, Sor-“ he said

“el” I interrupted him, sounding out the letter he seemed to enjoy switching out. “And you’re Daisa- diesukeee, Ima- imaka…”

“Daisuke Imakurusu is my name,” he said, his tone smug and tinted with rather aristocratic confidence. “I rarely meet anyone who can say it properly. Although, personally, I think it’s a rather fine name in my homerand.” He paused, damn he could talk, on and on. “As a mattel of fact I now find it to be exerrent. A unique name, a unique-” hairstyle, that’s what I thought. “identity.” Damn, I was wrong.

“Now then,” Imakurusu began again at length, “I suppose we should make this deal expedient for if we ringel very rong-“ there was a keening blast that piped over the music of the club. I craned my neck to see what the blazes it was. Sure enough; there was the profile of obsidian black, curvey armor making a beeline on a rope down the cylinder. Lesson one of shady deals involving distressed protagonists; you wait too long and the cavalry will ALWAYS arrive.

I smiled victoriously, but was soon grabbed by the arm and yanked from the booth so hard I was almost thrown to the floor. My girl sure had some burley guards. Oh wait, that’s HER hand on my arm. Good thing going full cyber-body had taken her off her monthly cycle or she would have jumped on it and ran me over long ago.

“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Melyssiah yelled over the sudden racket of blasts and gunshots ‘Sam was raising. “Then we’ll just relieve his brain of its body…” oh, fuck that.

“’Sam!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. She had disconnected the line from the far end of the club and was now diving down to the floor amidst way too much gunfire. She was crazy to pull that off. “Watch out!” As she landed, half a dozen guards flew up into the air in rapid succession before she busted through the mob of ruffians like an angered Tiger.

We were getting lost in the rush of retreating clubbers and
I was beginning to doubt the ability of the cavalry to actually focus on saving my ass. “I have a number of medical plofessionals under my pay,” Imakurusu said as Melyssiah pretty much dragged me along. I mean, what better way to slow her down than be dead weight? It worked for angry kids being dragged to their rooms. “We may operale and dispose of the body quickry.”

“Oh, no,” Melyssiah said casually, “I’ll hold on to that.” Nope, not disgusting at all. Melyssiah ratcheted up a good twelve billion clicks on my deprave-o-meter right about then.

“Dear god!” I wailed, “Stop this crazy bitch!” she nearly wrenched my arm out of my socket with a defiant pull as she continued dragging me. Hmm, gotta’ get the crowd away so I’ll be seen… That’s it!

“BOMB!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. “I’ve got a big bloody bomb and I’m also homicidally psychotic! Booga booga!” The lemmings among the crowd – most of them- bolted in every direction straight away and cleared like a falling tide around a sandbar. For once I was happy that terrorists still existed… yes, I’m terrible sometimes.

‘Sam looked straight at me and power-sprinted the last few hundred meters. By the time she got to me she was booking like a rhino-powered freight train and just about as unstoppable. She grabbed my other arm and nearly wrenched both out of my sockets. Luckily, though, she took Melyssiah by surprise and I slipped easily from her grip. Well, for a cyborg at least. My arm was pretty bruised.

“Bitch! That’s my man!” She yelled, the wording rather lackadaisical.

“N’ah!” I yelled, airborn behind ‘Sam’s loping form. “You said we were over, remember?”

|Syndicate us: Add to Mixx! Simpify! stumbleupon.com

No comments: