Saturday, February 4, 2012

Human Black Box: Follow the Money (part 1)

For this next segment of Human Black Box, we leave Chloe and Zira (and their adventures on Mars, the Christbot, Dr. M&M and the strange cult-like atmosphere of the New Hope Village colony - possibly), and catch up with an old friend - Hotaru, now going by a different name with a different identity - living on Luna. Thus far, she's enjoyed the life of a transhuman teenager denied to her because of the Fall, but we know that can't last...

At about 16% Earth’s gravity, life on the moon took some getting used to.
                Luna was transhumanity’s oldest continually inhabited body in the solar system. It was the first planetary body that humanity had ever visited in person, the first planetary body settled, colonized, and, in darker turn, the first non-Earth body in the solar system to experience the brunt of the Fall. The governing body on the moon, the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, had absorbed most of the impact.
                They hadn’t taken the shock very well.
                That still did not stop the Moon from being home to some of the oldest settlements in the solar system. Nor did it stop these settlements from being extremely beautiful, with cavernous structures filled with towering jungles and artificial rainforests that stretched for miles. The buildings were very elegant, fitting the cathedral like interior of the moon very well.
                Hotaru had adjusted to life on the Moon fairly well. She lived with Chloe, the two having grown relatively close over the last couple of months, and she was really sad to see Chloe leave for Mars. The last few months had been a rush to catch up with what a future that she hadn’t originally be part of, come out of her shell, and adapt to a future she had almost missed. She collected plenty of friends on her social network – some of them people she’d never even met – and had become a very promiscuous abuser of social networking the last few weeks and months, mostly with people her own “age”, which mentally was late teens.
                The best thing of all of it, she realized as she leaned out the balcony overlooking the expansive South Asian jungles that stretched to the edge of the cave, was that Sava was gone, and she had a legitimate muse.
                She’d even ditched the name he called her and adopted a new one, to blend in better with her new home – Anjali Green.
                Anjali stood up, stretching the wings on the back of her lunar flier morph. It had been expensive, but she’d managed to pull together enough reputation and credits, with Chloe’s help, to get a friend of hers to modify an existing morph and turn it into one. She wore a silver bodysuit, with gloves that left the all but the middle finger of each hand exposed and with wrist jewelry. The body suit had henna designs on it, and opened up to expose her lower abdomen and the inside of her thighs, as well as silver “underwear” like fabric that was covered her lower torso. She had a hood that connected directly to the body of the suit, but didn’t have it up, allowing her light purple hair to twist down around her shoulder. She had originally woken up in a morph that looked very Japanese. Now, she inhabited a morph that looked more Dravidian than anything, with pale tanned skin to contrast against the light purple lipstick.
                She had several assignments due for class, but was postponing them. The body she wore was a young adult’s body; aged to about eighteen, to adjust to her “mental age” while keeping close to her actual age. Not at all like the Japanese morph on Earth, or the morph that they gave her shortly after waking up, both of which were adults.
                She vastly preferred this morph to the one that they gave her.
                The wings stretched and flexed. They were angel wings; the feathers were light blue slowly fading into light purple by the tips. There were a few dozen other utlracolors too, but without the enhanced vision that her body came with, they’d never get seen.
                The morph also had a few other bells and whistles, not all of them immediately visible, and not all of them useful under average circumstances.
                She stretched, and decided to take the quick way to the walkway stretching over the jungle below. She jumped off the balcony and flapped her wings, sailing towards the walkway and touching down, careful to avoid others as they walked past. She startled a few tropical birds, and they took off into the air as she stood up and folded the wings behind her. A lunar flier got attention no matter where it was, and today was no different.
                She was proud of her body; and would’ve been showing off a lot more had Lunar culture not been so conservative.
                Anjali felt she looked absolutely gorgeous. A lot of the girls she knew agreed.
                Lifting back into the air again, Anjali took wing and flew well above the canopy of the jungles in the center of Erato, the largest of the lunar colonies and one of the major centers of importance for the LLA. She wasn’t the only one up this far – there were other fliers too. Early morning was the time for exercise, which was a very important part of lunar culture despite morphs not needing it anymore.
                She could remember before she died the first time; teenagers back before the fall, on Earth, couldn’t fly. She’d found a few of her old friends from Earth on the social networking sites, too, but most had found their way to Mars or the outer system.
                It felt good to stretch her wings, and it felt good to fly. She landed on a nearby balcony, belonging to her neighbor, and perched there.
                That was when her AR flashed. She had a new message. She instinctively opened it, expecting it to be from one of her friends. She was wrong.
                The message loaded, and then displayed in her AR.
                [Message] Antares: Hotaru, sweetie, how are you? Good, I hope. Or, perhaps, I should be calling you Anjali Green, because that seems to be the name you’re using these days. It’s a pretty name; to match a pretty lunar flier. And yes, about that morph; you didn’t think that it was just you and Chloe who managed to scrap together the credit to buy that, right? Flesh is at a premium, my dear. It isn’t not free, like… like… well, it’s not free, and it’s actually rather expensive. But you can thank good ol’ ANTARES for coming up with the credit to afford this wonderful little morph for you. No charge! You don’t owe me anything. That’s why I expect you to do what I’m going to ask out of the good of your heart, rather than me holding it over your head.
                So, what does Good Ol’ creepy uncle ANTARES want from you, hm? Well, I need you to find someone for me. He goes by the name Dean Kondratiev. Kondratiev is a financial manager at Sine Finances. Never heard of them? Don’t feel bad. They don’t exist anymore. Kondratiev founded the institution some 2 years after the Fall and man did that dude game the system. In fact, he gamed it so well that the other banks decided to hire him, and he closed down Sine Finances after 3 years. About 5 years ago, after working for Solaris, he vanished. People vanish all the time, likely into the outer system usually.
                Until just recently, that is. I’ve picked up wind about a group of people who are gaming the stock market – they’ve got themselves some awesome talent, because they’re making some serious money. The banks haven’t been alerted yet but I sure have. I suspect that Kondratiev might be back, but I have no evidence. That’s why I need you. Luna is the center of all the big banks. It’s the banking capital of the inner system. If he and his prodigies are anywhere, it’s here on Luna.
                I’ll send any additional information along that I find, but right now, I only have a few of his prodigies. Their names are attached.
                If you could pretty, pretty, pretty please do this little favor for me I won’t remind you that the only reason you have that wonderful body is because of me and I expect something in return. Okay? Kthnx. [/message]
                Anjali closed the message not entirely sure how to respond to it.
                [Would you like me to save the message, Anj?] her muse, Firefly, asked.
                [I… I guess?]

>>Financial Aid: Information on Financial Institutes: Topic: I need some number people
Phoenix_Sun03 [Location: Luna, City: Erato]
# Question: I’m looking for a financial guy, something about a windfall taxes on some money I guess I had that I didn’t know about. I’ve heard that Sine Finances is pretty good – anyone know anything about them?
Topic Creator

            Red_Hot32 [Location: Luna, City: Shackle]
            @ Phoenix_Sun03 I’m pretty sure that they’re not a viable institution anymore. Last time I checked, Sine Financial went under.

            Phoenix_Sun03 [Location: Luna, City: Erato]
            @ Red_Hot32 Oh man. Srsly? That wasn’t what I wanted to hear at all :-/
            Maybe you can get me some info on the guy who ran the joint so I can
            contact him?
            Topic Creator

                        Red_Hot03 [Location: Luna, City: Shackle]
@ Phoenix_Sun03 Sry. It’s not what anyone wants to hear when they want a number person that’s as good as Kondrateiv was. So tell me a little about this money; maybe I can help. Is this one of the unknown and unlisted perks of being a re-instantiated?

Space_Whales003 [Location: Earth Orbit, Station: Hotel California]
@ Phoenix_Sun03 Why in Orbit would you be interested in finding a financial guy? I still don’t know why you just don’t move off Luna and join the rest of civilization in the Outer System.  

Starry, Starry Night [Location: Luna, City: Erato]
@ Phonex_Sun03 Red_Hot is right. Sine Finances isn’t around anymore. I can give you a link here to the history of the company. They didn’t last very long; not long after they were formed, K-Wave abandoned ship and joined up with Solaris and the rest of the big boys in the PC. They survived the Fall, but they didn’t survive the PC.
            Phoenix_Sun03 [Location: Luna, City: Erato]
            @ Starry, Starry Night thnx for the linkage. His nickname is ‘K-Wave?’
            Topic Creator

Phoenix_Sun03 [Location: Luna, City: Erato]
@ Starry, Starry Night wait. I just looked at you profile. You grew up in California, too? Message me. I think we may know each other.
Topic Creator

African Dawn342 [Location: Luna, City: Shackle]
@ Phoenix_Sun03 You’re probably looking for the brain child of sine, K-Wave. K-Wave hasn’t been seen around these parts in years. If I knew how to contact him, I could hit you up with the address for a little bit of rep, but because I don’t know where K-Wave ran off to, I couldn’t tell you.

Sine Finances (redirect from “History of Sine Finances”)
Entry from the Free Solarpedia

                History: Sine Finances is a Pre-Fall finance company that was started on Luna by Dean Kondrateiv, a Russian-Englishman from London. Kondrateiv, who displayed an uncanny mastery of numbers the ability to calculate the direction that markets would take, founded the company in the years before the Fall. During the Fall, Kondrateiv’s company was temporarily put on hold, as Kondrateiv himself and his students made their escape from Earth.
                Following the fall, Kondrateiv settled in Erato, then the largest city on Luna, and opened up several branch offices in New Mumbai before the New Mumbai Incident. As an independent bank, Sine Finances was not tied to the LLA-owned banks, and was one of the vanguard banks leading the charge following the Fall, making in-roads into the outer system with the Autonomists, garnering their investments. Kondrateiv continued his uncanny ability to predict and crunch numbers. When Solaris entered the scene, Kondrateiv sold Sine to Solaris, merging the two banks, and the investments of both banks, into one large company.

This document is a stub. Please speak with an Administrator if you think you can improve it.

            In general, Erato was a beautiful city. The cathedral like caverns under the Moon’s surfaces, filled with the large jungles at the heart and the well cleaned silver and ivory covered surfaces gave the whole thing a striking beauty that was difficult to find elsewhere in the solar system.
                Like any city, though Erato had its bad neighborhoods. Far away from the soaring canopies and silver-and-ivory buildings at the center of the city were more conventional structures near the edges; the closer one got to the end of the life support range, the more hostile and rough the neighborhood seemed to become. Inside of the tunnels branching off of Erato, the walls were lined with small buildings and offices, inhabited by pods and low-end splicer morphs. Further out, one found synthmorphs. The synthmorph parts of Luna were not places that a biomorph like her wanted to be.
                That was why it surprised Anjali so much to learn that this had been the place where “K-Wave” had opened up his office.
                She pulled the hood up over her head, trying to minimize her profile and keep herself from being noticed. It was a difficult task with the wings sticking almost a full meter from her back. It was getting glares, that was for sure. She buried her face in her hood, carefully trying to keep one step ahead of the glares as she did so. Perhaps some more clothes would’ve been useful, too. This wasn’t exactly the best neighborhood to go around showing off one’s morph.
                [This was a dumb idea,] Anjali said. [Maybe I should just go back to my old Hotaru morph. That doesn’t draw as much attention.]
                [I imagine it’s too late to turn back, and having wings might be useful in getting to the upper tier, where you’ll find the office,] Firefly said.
                While she was looking for the office, Anjali was also looking for something else, too. As she walked on the other side of the street, trying to keep her head hidden, she was keeping her eyes peeled for someone she’d contacted on one of the mesh forums, who lived in this side of town and who she never thought she’d see again. Her heart fluttered; anxiety anchored it’s clamps into her stomach and back, pulling her down.
                She ducked into the shadows, looking around. Several synthmorphs were now visible, and they did not look happy to see her.
                [I don’t feel welcomed here at all,] Anjali said.
                She backed right into someone. She wheeled around, fumbling for the wasp knife that she carried with her, tucked away in a metamaterials sheath, when she realized it was a pretty gynoid synthmorph that she’d run into. The synth held out her hands, trying to calm down Anjali.
                [Don’t panic!] The synth said. [It’s me. It’s Kaede.]
                Anjali heaved a sigh. This is the person she was looking for. Once she was calmed down, she started to laugh and hugged the synth, who returned the embrace.
                When she was Hotaru, she’d gone to school with Kaede. They grew up together. It was by pure happenstance that she happened to find Kaede again, having survived the Fall and even living in the same lunar city that she lived in.
                She felt like she could cry. It had been so long.
                [Is it you?]
                [Aren’t you the one who glued herself to the chair back in elementary school?]
                She laughed again. It was.
                They’d been separated by the Fall. Anjali had died. It was pure happenstance that this had all fallen into place the way that it had.
                “I missed so much,” Anjali said.
                “Is that why you have a young morph?” Kaede replied, her mechanical voice carrying an air of warmth and care she’d not heard before.
                “I don’t remember a thing,” Anjali said, a tear forming in her eye. She dried it away. “I barely remember what it was like before I woke up on Earth….”
                Before she could finish, Kaede clamped her mechanical hand over Anjali’s mouth, her eyes wide.
                [That is not something you say here. You are from Mars, or you are from Venus, or you are from the Outer System. You grew up there. That way, while they will never trust you, they won’t try to actively kill you.]
                [Sorry,] she said. [I lost myself, I guess.]
                [You didn’t age at all since the Fall, did you?]
                [In theory, I should be 25,] Anjali said. [I have the knowledge of a 17 year old, the body of an 18 year old, and the experiences of a 50 year old.]
                [That sounds about right for your average transhuman,] Kaede said. [Coming into this part of town with a biomorph was not a smart thing.]
                [You’re telling me.]
                [Especially one as pretty and expensive as that one is. You might as well rub it in the face of these people that they can’t have a body.]
                Anjali looked at the ground, and at her feet. [Well, it’s not like it’s my fault.]
                [No, nobody ever said it was. Some people prefer synths; it’s a sense of unity. Others, however, don’t. And reminding them of your privileged ownership of a biomorph is not helping them like you anymore.]
                [Trust me. It came with a very heavy price tag and a very short leash.]
                Kaede took a step back, her morph smiling. It looked human; dodging the uncanny valley by virtue of a skin-flex like coating over the surface of the morph similar to what Chloe had placed on all her morphs because she had identity issues.
                “I missed you, little firefly.”
                “That’s the name of my muse now,” Anjali said, returning the response in near perfect Japanese. At least that hadn’t changed.
                “Your muse was named Reiko,” Kaede said. “I remember, because you named her after a pretty girl on TV.”
                “I don’t remember that.”
                “There’s probably a lot you don’t remember,” Kaede said. “We’ll have to catch up later, little firefly.”
                “We will,” Anjali said. “I don’t remember so much about who I was.”
                She looked around. “In the meantime, I need to find a way into a closed down office.”
                [Where at?] Kaede asked, as Anjali brought it up on her AR. She painted it, and then shared it with Kaede. [Ah. Okay. You want the old Sine Finances office.]
                [It’s still known by that name?]
                [Nobody moved in after K-Wave shut the office down.]
                She frowned. Space was at a premium, wasn’t it? Why would they keep an office shut down, and not let anyone else move in?
                She looked back at Kaede. [Know a way in?]
                [Of course,] Kaede said. [Follow me.]
                Kaede took Anjali by the hand and the two women went further away from it. At first, Anjali was going to question Kaede’s direction, but decided against it; she kept up with Kaede as Kaede directed her further into the maze of buildings and structures into the corridor. They cleared several doors, and just when it seemed like Anjali had lost track of where Kaede was dragging her, they approached another door that, once opened, lead into a narrow hallway.
                [This hallway,] Kaede said. [There are other halls that connect to this hallway, but this one doesn’t have any spimes and takes us out of the way of the synthmorph inhabitants. Do you know what you’re looking for?]
                [Nope,] she said, folding her wings to fit into the narrow corridor as she and Kaede crawled through the dust-covered and freezing cold tunnel. The air was also thin; this morph wasn’t designed to function for very long in these climes. [What the hell? Did he sleeve in a synth or something?] she asked, covering herself up. This was the last time she would come on this side of town wearing just a flimsy little piece of plastic-cloth that clung to her skin like Saran wrap.
                Up ahead, they approached a doorway. Anjali reached it first, shoving twice before she unjammed it, and then stepped cautiously into the actual room itself. It was dusty, cold, dark; and eerie. Definitely eerie.
                “I don’t like it in here,” she said. Breathing was becoming a bit of a challenge.
                “It’s a task, that’s for sure,” Kaede said.
                She felt the synthmorph wrap an arm around her. “You know what I forgot?” Kaede said.
                “That I’m a biomorph? And that as a synth, environment doesn’t affect you as much?”
                “Yep,” Kaede said.
                “Here’s a new plan,” Anjali said, scanning the empty room. “Let’s head back to the heart of Erato. Maybe I can think of something else – it’s pretty obvious there isn’t much here, anyway.”
                “I can’t go with you. They don’t let synths into that part of town.”
                “Bull,” Anjali said. “I can get you in. Just watch.”
                And with that, she took Kaede’s synth by the hand and eagerly led her from the room, back into the corridor. She wasn’t Chloe; she didn’t have the first idea where to start, but maybe after some tea, exercise, and a warm bath, she’d think of one.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, nine days. Didn't think I'd left it quite that long.

    fitting the cathedral like interior

    "Cathedral-like" should be hyphenated.

    with what a future that she hadn’t originally be part of

    Confusing and--considering the "adapt to a future she had almost missed"--probably unnecessary.

    It isn’t not free

    The double negative looks accidental.

    Anjali closed the message not entirely sure how to respond to it.

    Comma between "message" and "not".

    Red_Hot03 [Location: Luna, City: Shackle]
    @ Phoenix_Sun03 Sry. It’s not what anyone wants to hear when they want a number person that’s as good as Kondrateiv was. So tell me a little about this money; maybe I can help. Is this one of the unknown and unlisted perks of being a re-instantiated?

    This should be brown, not magenta.

    The cathedral like caverns under the Moon’s surfaces

    I might not have found this description repetitive if it wasn't also wrong in the same way as last time.
    Also, "surface" should be singular.

    Like any city, though Erato had its bad neighborhoods.

    Comma between "though" and "Erato".

    anxiety anchored it’s clamps


    This is the person


    It was by pure happenstance

    This fairly unusual phrase is used twice, plus or minus a "by", in the space of a few short paragraphs. It's a bit jarring.

    I don’t remember so much about who I was.

    "Don't" and "so much" don't fit together, at least not with the sad tone she seems to have. "I've forgotten so much" would be better, I think.