Saturday, October 22, 2011

Human Black Box: Devil's Advocate (part 4)

On a roll today; in the last installment, the mystery deepened when the our protagonists learned of a flat that was looking for their man; the let him go, but they still have no idea what a flat, from an right-wing evangelical Christian community (rare in it of itself) would be after Dr. M&M for.

So, the two set out to try and find these answers, and more, on their way to Zygote in this installment of Human Black Box.

As always, you can find the archives here and the character page here.

Consciousness was fleeting. The comfort of sleep gave way to the cold bit of a metal table, or gurney, of some kind. She could hear noises in the back. Saws, moans, yells, screams, and other horrible noises. Soft cries for mercy lost on deaf ears.
                Her eyes refused to open. She couldn’t see. All she could do was feel, and she felt the heavy weight of anxiety and fear clench her heart. Her mind raced, unable to think properly. She tried to move but couldn’t; she tried to scream but no noise came out.
                When her eyes did open, she was looking at towering shadow figures. Her mouth didn’t open. She couldn’t totally control which way her eyes moved, and she gradually became aware of that fact. The faceless shadows towered over her, a long finger reaching down and touching the bridge of her noise. She could smell – and she could taste. But what she could smell and what she could taste she didn’t want to – it was acrid and had an iron taste to it; and there was the smell of machine oil.
                She was nearly blinded by the light when the shadow-figures tilted it down in her face. She couldn’t raise her hand to shield her eyes, and all she could do was stare directly into it, with no choice but to stare straight up. For the first time, she could hear whispering amongst the shadows, but it was just static. She tried to scream but couldn’t, and when she tried to close her eyes, realized there were camps keeping them open.
                There was a thump. For the first time, she could feel something in her lower extremities. That feeling slowly returned throughout her body, and the pain quickly followed. The light was turned away and her eyes, now seared blind, could do little.
                Invasion, violation, and an extreme sense of helplessness.
                This nightmare was getting worse by the second.
                But something about this wouldn’t let her believe it was simple nightmare. Her mind was racing, and that was when she saw something. Her eyes had gone from near blind to being able to see again, courtesy the wonders of dream logic, and when she looked down, she could see that she was leaning backwards with her legs split, and a blanket over them. She couldn’t feel her lower body anymore, and felt cold, metal rings digging into her skin. She tried to look around helplessly, as one of the shadow figures appeared.
                In the background, she could hear crying – like a child’s crying.
                A newborn infant’s crying.
                “Your back has stopped working,” she heard. “And it belongs to us now.”
                The voice was almost mechanical, but it was very deep.
                She wanted to scream “no, it’s mine”, but couldn’t.
                She wanted to grab it, but couldn’t.
                She wanted to wake up, but couldn’t.
                “Remove the collar.”
                She felt the pinch of needles in her neck, and cold fear became outright panic. She couldn’t move; she was paralyzed from the neck down, and when she looked up, she could see the first streams of blood running over her face.
                It was only a nightmare, but nightmares like that had the unfortunate tendency to see so very real.


                Zira (private chat, #Azure#): [You know? You’re not like normal muses at all. Chloe can’t chat with my muse.]
                Azure (private chat, #Zira#): [I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve always been like that.]
                Zira (private chat, #Azure#): [Antares gave Hotaru a real ego for a muse. I’m beginning to wonder if he did the same thing with you and Chloe.]
                Azure (private chat, #Zira#): [I’m not in a ghost-rider module, though. I’m actively implanted in Chloe’s mesh. I don’t think you can do that with an ego.]
                Zira (private chat, #Azure#): [It’d be worth a shot to find out.]
                Zira turned her attention to the window, as the maglev train sped along the rust-red ground of the Martian landscape. Its sky had a weird, watered red-hue to it that appeared almost pink, with just the faintest touches of blue. Mars had a solid atmosphere – if you were a ruster. Otherwise, the terraforming, however accelerated, was just beginning to leave a mark on the terrain.
                Chloe was still asleep. She’d woken up in the middle of the night screaming that “it was hers”, before she collapsed into an absolute mess. Sleep was something that Chloe didn’t seem to do very well – whenever she could catch a few moments of sleep, she jumped at the opportunity. Or, rather, fell into it. Her head was gently resting on Zira’s lap, and her eyes were shut tightly. She was up, it seemed, ever half-hour; even transhumans needed at least four hours of continuous sleep in order to be fully rested. Chloe, it seemed, could barely get an hour, if that.
                From what Zira had gotten from Chloe, it sounded like she had the sleep-paralysis nightmare again, but this one was a lot more graphic and a lot more unsettling. She knew it was fictional – humanity knew of several different types of aliens, and of those several only one – the Factors – were still around to talk to humans. And “talk” was used in a very loose sense, because the Factors didn’t actively work with transhumanity so much as study them, and they didn’t actively talk so much as they felt. It made communication, to her understanding, difficult.
                And as far as she could tell, there was no desire to impregnate transhuman women and steal their children. That was classic alien abduction scenario; caused by sleep paralysis. It didn’t take away from how real it was for Chloe, though.
                That was the big nightmare for the night. Chloe had smaller ones – nightmarish visions of being trapped on Earth and watching Ahmed get beheaded were the most common, but there was a also a strange nightmare that she had, where she was running, and she heard sirens, and smelled smoke, and then everything went black. Zira wasn’t a head doctor. She had no clue what any of it meant. She just knew, by virtue of being in the same room and sometimes the same bed as Chloe, it did a damn good job at keeping her awake.
                Azure: [So the whole colony is flats, huh?]
                Zira: [By my best guess. But that’s not where our boy Cameron is going. He was on a maglev heading north to Zygote.]
                Azure: [So he does have his own reasons for being after Dr. M&M.]
                Zira: [I’m not sure. I’ve been surfing the Darbyist boards and they’re all on fire. There’s huge belief that the second coming is at hand, and a lot of it is centered at Zygote, with a biggest hold out being … New Hope Village.]
                Zira looked at her reflection in the window, and brushed aside the brownish-red hair. The Eurasian human face was something she’d started to acknowledge as hers now – she’d never been part of the uplift community so much as she’d been part of the transhuman community. In fact, her “uplift” body was much less ape and more or less furry human. She ran her hands down her face, and smiled faintly. There was a lot to like about this body.
                Being mistaken for a famous XP porn star was not one of them, but it didn’t happen as often as she feared.
                Zira: [I’d tried to get some contacts into the Village, if we never needed to go. The only way to get there is Pan-Martian Airlines, a small airport that operates out of the Valles New Shanghai – way, way out of it – that claims to fly all over the planet. They fly cheap imitations of the concord. They’ve only got one pilot – a guy with the last name Steele.]
                Azure: [Steele?]
                Zira: [Yep. Older guy, gray hair, someone who’d willingly let themselves age. Pretty dignified for a flat, but then again, it’s easy enough to confuse dignity for arrogance in those profile pictures. Especially considering or other encounter with a flat from that colony.]
                Azure: [First name?]
                Zira: [Ray. Raymond, I think. I’ll have to go and check. I tried to find out more about the guy, but like the colony he lives in, he’s pretty reclusive. He’s got his own microblog, but gah, that thing is so ugly it should be illegal. It looks like it was programmed in HTML or something. I asked for some help on C-net to try and learn something more about the guy beyond him bragging about his ‘fully loaded 747’ on his microblog, but my c-rep wasn’t enough. I did, though, find some guy who was willing to see if he could fence me some tickets on the next flight into New Hope Village. I don’t have any plans to go there, but I put him on my short list, anyway.]
                Azure: [I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t want you there. I’m looking at their homepage right now and they value ‘tradition’ and ‘humanity’. Tradition includes traditional gender roles.]
                Zira: [Hah. I’m probably larger than half the men in that colony. On the sliding scale of male and female gender, this body breaks it. Come to think of it, I probably do, too.]
                Azure: [I’ll believe it.]
                Chloe started to toss and turn, moaning slightly. Zira gently took her shoulder and stilled her, hoping that it would be enough. That was usually the first part of Chloe waking up. She didn’t, though, the hand on the shoulder and hand through her hair was enough to keep her calm, and ease her back to sleep.
                Zira: [Crisis: averted. Maybe now she’ll get more than a half-hour of sleep. Or however long it takes us to get to Zygote.]
                Azure: [You’re a good friend, Zira.]
                Zira only smiled.


MercuryTheater_1898 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, e-Rep 45]:
            Hey, anyone got any connections? You know what I mean.

FastTrack34 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 43, e-Rep 90]:
            Depends. What are you looking for?

Gordie1001_J [C-Rep 43, @-Rep 84, g-Rep 45, e-Rep 23]:

MercuryTheater_009 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, e-Rep 45]:
            @FastTrack34 What it says. I’ve got some names, but nothing big. Maybe some help?

Planet_of_the_Apes032 [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]
            I know some people. Getting back and forth from Earth is risky business, though. Not something we usually let get discussed on the board. You know how it goes. I guess it depends – what are you looking to get done once you get down there?

MercuryTheater_1898 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 well, I’m not so much looking for a way there as I am looking for a guy who found one, and then made his way back.

Planet_of_the_Apes009 [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]:
             @MercuryTheater_1898 that’s something totally different. People? Like who?

MercuryTheater_1898 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 People and places, like the thread title says. Specifically, Zygote, and the people in it. What’s going on there?

FastTrack32 [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 43, e-Rep 90]
            @MercuryTheater_1898 Zygote? The I-Runners?

Gordie1001_J (10-30 @19:10) [C-Rep 43, @-Rep 84, g-Rep 45, e-Rep 23]:

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @19:10) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]:
            I’m pulling this convo off the main board.


Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @ 19:28) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]:
            @MercuryTheater_1898 this board is for the little leaguers, Goodall. The I-Runners are the big boys. They’re nothing you’ll find info about on a small time board like this. Not with the kind of rep these kids are pulling.

MercuryTheater_1898 (10-30 @ 19:28) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 I know. I was hoping you’d lock the thread so I could talk with you in private. I know about your connections with the Consortium, PotA. You gotta know something about them. The hypercorps don’t’ just let guys like this exist right under their nose without doing something about them. I’m interested in why nobody’s done anything about the colony yet. It’s not like Zygote is a hidden colony or anything, tucked away under the Martian regolith. They’re out there in the open. Why hasn’t the PC sent DirAct in? Bombed ‘em? Hit ‘em with malware – Hell, dropped Phobos on them? What gives?

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30@ 19:30) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]:
            @MercuryTheater_1898 well congratulations. You got it. Yeah, I got Consortium connections. A few friends in Oversight – there’s a reason I pulled this thing down, Goodall. They haunt these boards. They hear us talking about it and it’s only a matter of time before they come and pull the plug on the entire board. That’s happened twice this month. I don’t want to answer any more questions to my superiors why a board I run, vetted by the ‘corps, keeps getting shut down by Oversight because those anarchist fuckers can’t keep their mouths shut and act like stupid assholes.
            As for the colony – I don’t know the answer to that. I can only tell you what I know about it. The I-runners use it as one of their Martian hideaways. They’ve got a few of them around the sol system. The PC hasn’t moved against them or something. I’m not sure what it is, honestly. The colony’s a Buddhist colony. The I-Runners set themselves up there, and that’s a huge distribution point for all the stuff they bring back from Earth, and it goes to a couple of major crime syndicates.

MercuryTheater_1898 (10-30 @ 19:33) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 you’re not telling me something I don’t already know. What about smuggled egos from Earth. Do the I-Runners trade in those?

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @ 19:33) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]:
            @MercuryTheater_1898 that’s the soul traders, Goodall. The I-Runners, as far as I know, don’t involve themselves in that sort of thing. Now, that’s not to say they won’t run someone who works for the soul traders. They just won’t do it themselves. You can see their mission statement here.

MercuryTheater_1898 (10-30 @ 19:33) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Ape009 thanx for the link. I didn’t know they had a homepage. That’ll make things easier. Can I pull a favor from you? I need to a contact in the I-Runners. My friend and I are heading for Zygote right now, and I’ve been trying to get a contact or the means to build up a contact with ‘em. I spoke with Chengis_Khan091 over the Mesh a few days ago and he had contacts but couldn’t get me any. I didn’t have enough e-Rep to pull it. I’ve got more @-Rep, and that gets me further on this board than e-Rep does.

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @ 19:35) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]
            @MercuryTheater_1898 thus explaining why you had me nuke the thread. Got ya. Where are you and your friend at right now?

MercuryTheater_1898(10-30 @ 19:36) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]:
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 on a train, heading east. We left about two hours ago from Elysium, heading north to Zygote itself.

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @ 19:36) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]
            @MercuryTheater_1898 yeah, I’ll see what I can pull for you, but it will cost you some Rep. Getting a hold of those guys isn’t easy.

MercuryTheater_1898 (10-30 @19:37) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]
            @Planet_of_the_Apes009 I know. I went through it with Khan and it tanked my e-Rep for a while. I fully suspect this’ll do the same thing to my @-Rep. At least, until I can save some Redneck from a well or something.

Planet_of_the_Apes009 (10-30 @19:37) [C-Rep 90, @-Rep 30, e-Rep 30, g-Rep 44]
            @MercuryTheater_1898 hah, that’s funny. Good luck finding wells on Mars.

MercuryTheater_1898 (10-30 @ 19:38) [C-Rep 32, @-Rep 85, g-Rep 90]
            @Planet_of_the_Apes  I don't think I'll find Wells on Mars, no..

Zira walked back into the main part of the train, having stepped into an alcove to avoid getting noticed by any security technology while she carried on her conversation. She could see that there’d been joined by a few people at the last stop, and she could only guess how long it’d be before they reached their next stop. As she walked back over to the seat, she could see that Chloe still hadn’t woken up – she was sound asleep, her eyes tightly closed and her body curled up on her seat. Zira sat down beside her, cycling through her thoughts. One on hand, there was their target: Dr. M&M. A mathematician, a scientist, and a reclaimer. They were pretty sure that he ran jobs with I-Runners as a means to finance his mathematical experiments. On one of those runs, he brought back an ego. On another run, he brought back a slip of paper. Bringing back artifacts was what he was all about, it seemed. It seemed like an open and shut case. And then he gets assassinated in the middle of the public, they learn Oversight was involved, and that he was being chased down by a blogger from a community of Flats.
She suspected that the ego was the reason why he’d been assassinated. Or egos. He might have been running for the soul runners, and working for them on the side. But then, there’d be something on the Mesh that she could use to track him. There was nada.
As far as the Mesh was concerned, in the regions that she’d gone digging, he had no connections to the Nine Lives Syndicate.
She tilted her head back. There was a ways to go before they reached Zygote. She’d have some time to think.

1 comment:

  1. there were camps keeping them open


    it was simple nightmare

    A simple nightmare.

    tendency to see so very real


    ever half-hour


    That was classic alien abduction scenario

    A classic.

    with a biggest hold out

    The, not a.

    if we never needed to go


    considering or other encounter


    She didn’t, though, the hand on the shoulder

    Second comma should be a colon.

    (I'm assuming all typos in the message board are meant to be there.)

    that there’d been joined

    They'd, I think. Certainly not there'd.

    One on hand

    On one hand.