Tatter: Chapter Eight

Previous chapter

Three seconds after the doors of the medical bay closed a pistol slammed into the side of Lanning’s head. He dropped like a ragdoll. Ryard stood rooted to his shadow. Fear, paralytic. He gazed to the left and beheld a large man, around six foot two, broad-shouldered, muscular, sunburnt and garbed in antiquated black military fatigues. His craggy face was covered in numerous scars, the most prominent of which ran from right crown to ramus. The stranger smiled, revealing metal, and gestured with his aged pistol to the limp man at his feet.

“Sorry bout that. No time for chit-chat,” He swiveled his head to stare at Ryard, “What’s your name?”

“Ryard.”

“You in the mood for chit-chat, Ryard?”

“No.”

“Good.” He grinned. “Then you don’t have to join your friend.”

The gunman turned momentarily to survey the woman-like thing in the healing pod, coated in re-gel. Her arm near fully regrown.

The gunman tilted his head at the pod like a hawk watching a rabbit and then returned his attention to Ryard.

“We’ve got 20 minutes.”

“What happens in 20 minutes?”

“Now you just said you wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat.”

“I’m not.”

“Dandy. Open the calyx.”

“You can’t move her.”

“I can. You will.”

The steel in the man’s voice prompted Ryard to silence. His smile was gone.

“Open the calyx.”

Ryard moved to the med pod console and drained the re-gel, opened the tank and removed the oxygen mask from the sleeping woman’s face. He surveyed her judiciously bandaged body; not a single laceration sustained during the crash lingered.

“Now what?”

“Three of us are going for a ride.”

As the gunman spoke, Ryard noticed Lanning stirring upon the ground. Nearly to his feet. His hand moving to his bloodied crown, coming away slick and red. He grimaced, rose and dove at the gunman. The two men went tumbling heavily to the floor, the old pistol clattering to the far right corner as the woman’s eyes fluttered open. Her dichromatic gaze alighted on the intruder and widened.

“We must go.”

Ryard hastily draped her intact right arm over his shoulder and supported her to the door as the sound of blows and grunts emanated from the corner of the room. The moment Ryard passed the threshold he hit the emergency lockdown and turned. The medical drone lay inert in the corridor, a bullet in its back. Its power core, irreparably damaged.

“Who’s after you?” He replied, leaning her against the wall and moving to the robot.

“Many people. All of them dangerous. Few more so than that man. What are you doing?”

“Rebooting it.” He flipped up the back panel console and removed a standardized power core from his utility belt, clicked it into place, switched it on and began initiating the reactivation protocol as a thumping emanated from behind the doors of the automated clinic.

“Hurry.” The woman urged, uncharacteristically nervous, “He wouldn’t have come alone.”

“Going fast as able.”

“Go faster.”

“Not helpful.”

The machine whirred back to life. Its formerly pleasant vocal emulator crackling in distorted whirls from the damaged sustained to its speakers.

“ERROR IN STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY.”

“You were shot. Memory working?”

“NO MEMORY ERROR DETECTED, COURIER 17-890-32.”

“There has been a security breach. Accompany us to the exit.”

“AUTHORIZED PERSONAL. IRREGULAR COMMAND. SEC-CODE AUTHENTICATION REQUIRED.”

Ryard flashed his courier badge and let the operator scan it.

“Security code 5-33-8.”

“AUTHENTICATED. AWAITING INSTRUCTION, COURIER 17-890-32.”

“Accompany us to the exit. All unauthorized personnel other than patient 17-890-32-1-O are to be treated as exigencies to be neutralized.”

“UNDERSTOOD.”

The operator began moving its considerable bulk down the narrow corridor, before which lay a intersection, diverging left and right. Before the trio reached the divide, there came the sound of rampant, heavy footfalls. Two men, garbed in black military fatigues ran in from the connecting leftern passage, weapons raised, faces covered in ceramic tactical masks.

“No one move!”

“UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL DETECTED. COMMENCING EXIGENCY NEUTRALIZATION.”

“Stop right there!” One of the men shouted severely, leveling his weapon at the operator.

Ryard pulled the woman behind the machine’s back, “Show em the exit big guy.”

“UNDERSTOOD.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter Seven

Previous chapter

The high moon illuminated the ragged men who tersely walked the parameter of the newly installed cistern, checking the moss-borne satellite jammers and scrying the far ambit of the forest through the nascent darkness.

Shaded footsteps and the crack of a branch sounded in the short-distance.

A tenebrous form took shape through the veiling foliage.

A young, female runner. Her clothing grey-green, rendering her soma nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding vegetation, save for the moonbeam-catch of her flaxen hair.

The guards lifted their weapons and waited to see if the signal would be given, or if they would open fire.

The itinerant night-runner removed a whistle from her faded jacket-pocket and blew on it gently. A soft, keen note sounded. The guards lowered their weapons.

“Who is it?” One of the gunners called into the darkness.

“Angela. I’ve news for Moreno.”

“She’s in the bunker.”

The woman nodded and walked briskly past the guards to a false outcrop, found the hidden door and slipped within its darkened confines. A stair let down into a narrow pass and from there to a large cavern stacked with food and medical supplies in ratty crates and sunbleached backpacks. In the center of the room sat a withered middle aged woman with a lone streak of gray up the left side of her shoulder-length hair.

“Moreno. I need to speak with you.”

Moreno Carduus turned to the entrant, face crinkling with perplexity, “Where’s Kallen and Elleway?”

Angela shook her head somberly.

Carduus was silent a moment and then cursed softly, her hands going taunt about mud-stained knees.

“Do you have it?”

“Yes. Just one. Kallen had the other samples. I don’t know what became of them.”

Angela slung her pack from her shoulder and removed a small silver case from within. She held it gingerly, as if fearful of undue perturbation. A middle aged man held out his hand for the case. Angela passed the argent case to the man who swiftly departed and then returned her gaze to Moreno.

“How many made it back?”

“Only me.”

“Only… you?”

Angela looked at the floor.

“They came out of nowhere. We had no time to escape. The only reason I did was because of Kallen. They weren’t standard Consortium peacekeepers. They were from Kryos Industries. Armored, but quick. They had drones with them. At least a dozen.”

“The KSRU.”

The runner nodded gravely, “I would have sent a message, per protocol, but my transmitter was lost during the chase.”

Moreno was silent a moment. Her brows furrowing, eyes suspicious and narrow. The two guards who stood near the entrance watched the two women with concern.

“A spy was among us.” Moreno declared firmly. “There’s no other way to explain it.”

“A spy?”

“Awfully curious that you’re the only one that made it back. You and no one else. Unscathed. Hardly flustered. Disregarding protocol.”

“You can’t be serious. I told you I lost my transmitter. How could I have sent a message without it being intercepted? I might as well have shot myself in the head.”

Carduus gestured to the two men standing beside the woman. They each grabbed an arm. Hands on their weapons.

“What are you doing? You’ve known me for five years.”

“Five years isn’t a long time, especially when you’re young.”

“I would never betray the cause.”

“Of course you would – given the right incentive. Anyone would.”

“I wouldn’t. I swear.”

“It doesn’t matter. If there indeed was a mole, as seems almost certain, then either they’re back with Kryos or… standing right in front of me.”

Angela looked pleadingly to the guards binding her arms. “Elliot. Gerard. You know me. Please.”

“We have to be sure.” Gerard muttered, his eyes fixed on Carduus.

Moreno looked to Elliot who hesitantly nodded, saying nothing.

“Dump her body in the mire.”

As Angela was dragged screaming from the room, a old man walked up beside Moreno and nervously cleared his throat.

“What is it Baker?”

“Message just came in. Old code.”

Moreno’s face contorted with apprehension, “Vangr.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter Six

Previous chapter

There was no sound within the dim-lit azure room, save the labored breaths of the captives. A man and a women knelt upon the ground, recovering from stupor, nude and bound at the neck, hands and ankles by scandium restraints, beside a great pool that stretched nearly the entire length of the room, in which sleek forms darted and writhed, dim-lit from below such that its rays, glistening like sliver, splayed the slated walls and low ceiling above.

Before the prisoners, dozens of hovering drones, argent and barely visible, cut wide, silent arcs through the air above the reservoir. Some dipping slowly in and out of the pool.

A placeless voice echoed. Gentle, yet resolute.

“I could square the circle, were there chalk enough. Yet your nails scrape the board.”

From the waters, dark shapes stirred and made way for the slowly surfacing form of a pale man garbed in a sleek, scaled obsidian vestment. He wore tight gloves and padded shoes of similar material. His hair, short and swept back by the liquid. Unblinking electrum eyes, effulgent in the gloam. Flashing like calcite in a mineshaft.

“Aestival’s faithful. Here. Now. Disrobed. In body. As in spirit.”

The words sounded from all directions.

The bound man looked into the murky reach and spoke with trepidation and disdain.

“You’re killing this world.”

“I am reforging it. You are killing. Noble blood has been shed because of you and your compatriot’s actions, Mr. Kallen. Had you and Ms. Elleway not organized the attack on the grid, many would still be alive and we would not be having this conversation. It is useless to argue. Time is an arrow. And we are not yet the archers. The bow is missing. The quiver, empty.”

Raymon Kallen, shackled and despondent, looked to the woman, five feet to his left. Fear stark upon her face. Kallen grimaced.

Eidos moved towards the pair without looking directly at either, stepping from the pool by way of a wide stair that ended even with the landing; the drones dutifully following in his wake, like a great, metallic cloak.

“What do you want?” The woman screeched suddenly.

Kryos bent slightly to the woman and took her face gingerly in his left hand, raising her chin. He paused a moment, observing her visage and then spoke evenly.

“To see your soul. Clear as your flesh.”

“Leave her alone!” Kallen thundered. Kryos ignored the injunction and stared fixedly down at the young woman before him, who shivered fearfully under his touch.

“A fertile specimen. The seed, yet to be planted.”

Tears streamed from the corners of her large brown eyes as Kryos caressed her cheek. “Beautiful. Yet barren. Like a desert plain.”

“Take your hands off of her, you sick sonofabitch.”

Kryos gently wiped a tear from the woman’s eye and straightened, looking towards the small droplet of water upon his finger. He smudged it between thumb and index with a look of fascination.

“When you murdered your fellows, did you weep for them?”

Elleway moaned and bent over her knees, forehead to the floor.

“Leave her alone!” Kallen screamed, pulling against the metallic restraints which bound him to the floor.

Eidos straightened, gazing out across the pool, where the strange shapes coiled beneath the surface.

“Bloody lovers. Unfruitful in their union. Steadfast in stagnation. Had you children, what would they say?”

The drones pressed close to the quivering woman’s body as she raised her head and looked toward Kryos.

“Please,” the woman begged, gripping the man’s legs, “Forgive me.”

“Elle. Don’t.” Kallen warned.

“I’ll do anything. Anything.”

“Stop.”

“Anything?” Kryos mused opaquely, still looking out across the placid waters.

“Yes. Anything. Don’t hurt me. Please.”

Kryos removed a whale-bone dagger from beneath the folds of his synthetic scaled overcoat and handed it to the woman, gesturing towards Kallen.

“Fair exchange for fair value. Life spared. If taken.”

“What assurance do I have?”

“Elle!”

“The choice is yours—alone. Decide. Now.”

Kallen shook his head as the woman reluctantly took the blade.

“Elle, what are you doing?”

Kryos gestured at the restraints, causing them, as if by some gealdory, to fall from the woman’s body and clatter about the shimmering, marbled floor.

The woman rose hesitantly, for a moment, unable to look toward her comrade.

“You can’t trust him. You think he’ll let you go? Are you out of your mind?”

She walked towards Kallen as if under the auspices of a leaden cloak, tearful but resolved, as the drones followed attentively, curious of the scene’s portents.

“Elle. I love you. You’d throw it all away? You’d throw it all away?”

The woman shook her head and tightened her grip on the blade and drew back her hand to strike.

“Elle!”

The dagger fell.

Kallen gasped, closing his eyes, waiting for the pain and eternity’s embrace.

After two beats of his heart, he opened his eyes and looked down to behold the dagger’s blade.

A hologram. Flickering.

Elle moaned and stabbed him again with the false brand, shoving the fuzzing projection at his chest til the flat, ineffectual hilt met skin with a muffled thump.

Weeping, she straightened and dropped the bladeless dagger. Body quaking. Her eyes, wide, fearful and ashamed.

Eidos gestured towards the woman, holding Kallen’s terror-struck gaze as the drones began to hum with increasing volume.

“The soul. Naked as the flesh. Vainly does it abjure the hollow contrition of its crux. ”

The drones shrieked and tore the woman in half, throwing her rent and leaking corpse into the pool where it was swarmed by the dark shapes within. Monstrous eels; electric blue eyes widening with feral bloodlust. Distended jaws, rheum-smattered and unsated. Amethyst beneath the frothing waves.

Kallen watched with horror. No words availed themselves to his trembling lips.

He hung his head and wept as Eidos stalked slowly towards him. The sounds of the ichorous beasts’ feast filling the cavernous expanse.

“We fought for freedom.” Kallen cried suddenly, eyes bugging from his sockets, body convulsing with hysterical emotion.

“To hold freedom as an ultimate end is not to be free, but to be bound by desire for it. Acceptance of subjugation is necessary for liberation from abject constraint. Your misapprehension of freedom, of desire, has cost you both.”

Kryos ran his hands through Kallen’s hair tenderly.

“When the square is drawn. When the last, scraping finger is severed. We will stand athwart the carcass of the cosmos, and hang a new dawn upon an artificial sky.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter Five

Previous chapter

Ryard Vancing stood next to the small, compact fertilizer canisters within the near-empty agri-tech compound, looking up at the dim orange sky through the ceiling’s gleamless hexagonal lattices.

The local medical operator crawled up to the man with a dull clattering, its soft, flexile exoskeleton the color of shale. Voice emulator ejecting a pleasant tenor.

“Patient vitals irregular, Courier 17-890-32. I’ve placed her in the emergency medical pod.”

“You can just call me Ryard.”

“As you please, Courier 17-890-32.”

Ryard sighed and then grew somber.

“Odds of survival?”

“High. Structure unusual. The wounds should have proven fatal for a woman of her delicate composition.”

“I’m not so sure its a woman.”

The medical operator jittered and fell silent, unsure how to respond.

“You ever get lonely out here?”

“I was not purposed for companionship.”

“You have a name?”

“I was not purposed for companionship.”

Ryard nodded to himself and turned to the massive multi-legged machine, which stood looking down at him with its sensor array.

“Thanks for helping.”

“I was purposed for aid.”

“You’re supposed to say ‘you’re welcome.'”

“You’re welcome. Can I be of further assistance, Courier 17-890-32?”

“No. Go watch over her.”

“Are you sure you could not first use some hydration?”

“I’m fine. Just make sure she stays stable.”

“Very well.”

The robot turned and crawled back to the medical cloister where the strange woman-like thing lay inside a temperature controlled diagnostic pod. Ryard could faintly see her through the thick metal doors as they opened briefly to make way for the medical operator’s gel-ceramic bulk. Her breaths regular, eyes still closed. The stump where her arm had been appeared to have grown considerably since last he’d observed her. He furrowed his brows in confusion.

Was she regrowing her arm? He thought with amazement. He would not have thought such a thing possible had he not also seen her walk on fractured bones and pull her own, mangled limb off with barely a wince. He had no idea what to do with her and reached for his transmitter. Before he could call HQ there came a buzzing. The signal to alert packers and couriers a vehicle was approaching from the Cav-way and entering the agritech supply-yard.

“That’s not right. I was the only one scheduled for drop-off. Must have been a mix up.” He muttered, pocketing his handheld transmitter.

He turned and watched a sleek, blue mag-ray pull to a stop as the vertical hay-yard whirred in the background, the tightly rolled bails thumping down the automated harvesting and conveyer system and pooling in the bed of a series of transport CAVs at the base of the high, wide rectangular structure. A man emerged from the mag-ray and smiled broadly, waving. Tall and broad shouldered, powerfully built, with dark sunglasses and long hair, hastily tied-back just above his neck. The man wore a long tangerine duster rather than the form-fitting white and black suits mandated for couriers. His vehicle was company issued.

“Hows it going?”

“Could be better. I’m Ryard.” The courier extended his hand, whereupon the smiling man seized and shook it firmly, yet gently.

“Heard about the system failure. I’m Lanning. Tyser Lanning.”

“Company man?” Ryard inquired, gesturing to the mag-ray.

“That’s right. I was looking for you.”

“Oh? What for?”

Lanning removed a transmitter and held it up before Ryard’s face. On the screen was a high-resolution image of the ‘woman’ he had hit upon the road, taken sometime before the accident. Her face expressionless. Dichromatic eyes glinting like twin stars. In the lower left corner of the image was a Kryos Industries’ logo and a digital signature signed ‘Vera Straker.’ Ryard’s eyes widened slightly.

What could the R.D.I. Director want with the… what do I even call her, it – the thing? I never asked for its name…

“I’m looking for this woman.”

Ryard resisted the urge to turn towards the medical bay. As if sensing the courier’s thoughts, Lanning swerved upon his heels.

“She in the med pod?”

“What do you want with her?”

“I’d like to explain, but I can’t disclose that information. Director’s orders. Can I trust your full cooperation, Mr. Vancing?”

“Yes. Of course. Its just that she’s wounded. You can’t move her right now.”

“You must have noticed she’s not a normal person. She can be moved.”

“But-”

“Time is short, Mr. Vancing. Take me to her.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter Two

Previous chapter

Tyser Lanning watched the transporters speed down the CAV-way through a procession of camera feeds.

A pop-up on the screen.

Anomalous speeds detected.

He adjusted his headset and zoomed in to the still-frames of the speeding vehicle. A standard issue lev-han transporter. Kryos manufacture. He bent to the screen, typing notes out upon his computer, mumbling to himself as his fingertips struck the keys.

“Two occupants in vehicle exceeding speed limit on CAV-way N-05. Driver is male, middle aged. Fertilizer courier. Passenger is-” He switched to the next series of footage from the opposite side of the vehicle and paused, grinning.

He opened the secured messaging application and typed in two words.

“Found it.”

He recieved a call three seconds later. The voice of a woman vainly suppressing anticipation and panic echoed through his headset’s earmuffs.

“You’re sure its the specimen?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Secure it. Immediately. I’m sending some men now.”

“I’d say that deserves a bonus, don’t you?”

“Just do your job, Lanning.”

The line went dead. A fuzz of static hissed in his ears.

“You’re welcome.” He muttered dourly.

“Who’re you talking to, daddy?” A young girl inquired from the door to Lanning’s study.

He whirled and put on a theatrical frown, his eyes narrowing with feigned disapproval, “Reya… what are you doing up this late?”

She looked down at the ground.

“I had a bad dream.”

Lanning’s facade crumbled.

“Tell me about it.”

She climbed up on his lap and nestled her head against his chest, “There was a strange tower. White. Like ivory. Higher than I could see the top of. And all around the base of it, people, screaming. I was there with them. And they started screaming at me, so I ran. Straight to the tower. There was a door but I didn’t have a key… and they grabbed me… and… and then I woke up.”

Lanning rubbed her arms reassuringly. “Its just a dream. Those people can’t hurt you. Your mother told me you were still having trouble at school.”

“The other kids pick on me.”

“She told me that but said you wouldn’t say why.”

“Because of you. They say you’re a bad man.”

Lanning frowned and stroked his daughters hair, looking out the window to the flatlands beyond the edge of the city.

“Don’t listen to them, darling, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Once I finish this job we can get out of here. We can go to the deep colonies. No one can bother us there. Would you like that?”

The girl nodded and smiled and warped her arms around the man’s waist as he sighed and ran his fingers through her hair, as red and stark as her mother’s.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter One

(This book is available as a epub here)


The woman’s body collided with metal.

Something snapped.

Ryard Vancing hit the emergency break. The vehicle keened like a wild beast against the somber, windswept concrete of the vast thoroughfare. Ryard’s breath caught in his throat. Mind racing. He looked at the cracked windshield and then through it to the woman who lay immobile on the pavement before him.

CAV-ways were off-bounds to civilians. No one should have been there. He wondered how she had bypassed the security system. The drones should have picked her up on their scanners. He noticed the other vehicles slowing to a gelid creep. Some, already halted.

“System failure.”

The woman sat up slowly and stared around at the lev-hans and mag-rays on the adjacent roadways.

His eyes widened with astonishment. He tried the handle of the door but it wouldn’t move. Once the system had went offline it had locked. He cursed and looked back to the road.

No pain registered on the woman’s face, even as blood dripped thickly from her torn and twisted body. Her left arm angled grotesquely. Snapped at the bone, and it jutting ugly and gravel-white through her elbow. She looked at her exposed insides opaquely and rose to her feet, balance uneven on the transport guideway, and gripped the hood of his lev-han.

Their eyes met.

He froze, unable, in the momentary pendulum between fear and bewilderment, to muster control over his vocal chords. Her eyes were dichromatic. One emerald green. One pale blue, as moonlight through sea ice. Her blood, similarly colored.

“Hemocyanin? Or something very much like it…”

He retracted the main windshield, and as soon as he did, she spoke, leaning heavily against the frame for support.

“I apologize for inconveniencing you. Would it be possible for you to assist me?”

“How are you standing? Your legs must be fractured.”

“There are fractures. I can stand. Does it run?”

He looked around unapprehending until she caressed the hood of the car with her unbroken right arm. She seemed fascinated by the large, sleek vehicle.

“I should call the ambulance. I need to get you to a hospital.”

“Hospital… no. No hospital.”

He paused again, indecisive.

“Lady, what is wrong with you? You’ll bleed out. You’ll die.”

“The former, yes. The latter, no.”

He shook his head. Trying the doors once more he found them amenable to his manipulations and opened the right passenger portal.

“Get in. The system is online again. If you stay out there, you’ll be crushed.”

She nodded and dragged herself to the passenger-side door and paused at the threshold, looking intently at the fearful solitary passenger and gently set herself down into the vehicle.

“Does it hurt?”

She looked at him and nodded.

“As flaming glass. Cutting up. Inside.”

“I’ll take you to the hospital.”

“No hospital.”

“Lady, I need to get you to the hospital.”

She said nothing, staring at him without emotion, without any discernable change in expression, and then turned and began opening the door of the lev-han.

“Alright, alright! No hospital. No hospital. You can just sit there and bleed on my chair instead.”

“I’m sorry to trouble you.”

He sighed heavily.

“I nearly killed you, I’m the one that should be apologizing. Where should I take you?”

“This is an autonomous transportation vehicle.”

“Yes.”

“Then it was the vehicle that nearly killed me, not you. What was your previous destination?”

“Northern agricenter. Just beyond the city limits. I was delivering fertilizer.”

“That will suffice.”

He re-engaged the automatic system and leaned back with a heavy sigh, “I don’t know what happened. This kind of system failure has never happened before.”

As the vehicle drove deeper into the vast, sprawling city, Ryard shoved his seat back and turned to the woman.

“I’ve rudimentary medical training. I’m going to look at your wounds. Alright?”

“Alright.” she responded flatly, grabbing her broken arm, twisting it and popping it free of her socket with a wet snick. She held up the ruined left limb, her movements slow. Her expression placid.

After his shock subsided, Ryard sighed with relief and gently took the arm of the thing that looked like a woman and peered inside the joint; what had passed for blood had coagulated and now looked like blue jelly under the dim amber light of the lev-han cabinet.

“You’re not human.”

“No.”

“What are you?”

“You sound concerned.”

“Are you a machine?”

A expression of confusion colored her face, “No more or less than you.”

“I’m not a machine.”

“‘A designed structure that uses power to apply forces and control movements to achieve intended actions.’ Would that not describe both of us? We’re but made of different material.”

“No one designed me.”

“We were all designed by something.”

“We?”

She winced and shook her head, leaning towards the dash, relaxing again as azure liquid began leaking down the corner of her right eye.

Ryard grimaced and looked slowly away from the thing’s unblinking gaze.

“I bleed real blood.” He replied sharply, vainly suppressing his rising indignation.

“Yet, it will not coagulate so neatly as mine,” she responded, looking toward her arm as she removed a medical patch from a pocket of her thin black jacket and pressed it to the spot where she had removed her arm, affixing it atop the wound. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the seat as the liquid running down her face pooled upon her chest, “And so one might ask, in a non-personal evaluation, why ‘real blood’ should be prized over an optimized counterpart?”

Ryard shook his head and set the woman’s arm down inside the buffer container between the front passenger seats and stared out the window, watching the sky vanish behind the high, austere architecture of the city. After several minutes of silence he spoke up.

“Why were you walking around the CAV-way?”

He kept looking out the window, waiting for a reply. When none came he turned to look at the thing that resembled a woman.

Her eyes were closed.

She wasn’t moving.

“Hey? Hey!”

He brought up the manual control panel and overrode the sped limitations, eyes to the road ahead.

Next chapter

Venom (2018) | Review

Plot Summary

Venom opens with a spaceship owned, by the biotech firm Life Foundation, blazing up in the atmosphere and crashing to Earth. Shortly after the crash it is revealed that the vessel contained several alien lifeforms called ‘symbiotes.’ All but one of the aliens are retrieved and the events of the crash are covered up by the Life Foundation whose philosophizing CEO, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), seeks to utilize the creatures for space colonization (if they can live here, he muses, we can live there). Before he can accomplish this, however, he needs to find suitable oxygen-breathing hosts for the extraterrestrial beings, as they cannot live in Earth’s atmosphere long without one.

Enter Eddie Brock, investigative reporter and man of the people. Brock suspects that Drake is more than he appears and attempts to gather information on the tech magnate through his fiancee, Ann Weying, who works for the Life Foundation as a attorney. Through a covert search of Weying’s computer, Brock discovers a confidential brief which contains information on three individuals who had recently expired during Life Foundation clinical trials.

Brock lands an interview with Carlton Drake and is cautioned, by the news company he works for, to only ask safe questions. Brock agrees but backtracks during the interview, accusing Drake of building a empire on “dead bodies” and that the CEO recruits “the most vulnerable among us” for tests which end up killing them. Drake responds by declaring “There is a lot of fake news out there these days.” Brock then begins naming the individuals who had died in Life Foundations clinical trials (confidential information he had obtained from Ann) at which point Drake cuts the interview short. Brock tells the CEO “We’re not finished,” whereupon Drake coldly remarks, “Yes, you are, Mr. Brock.”

Drake’s words prove prophetic as Brock’s life swiftly falls to pieces in the wake of the interview. Brock’s boss fires him. Ann leaves him. He loses his apartment. He sees a acquaintance get robbed at gun-point by a thug at a convenience store and is powerless to stop it. He sees a happy couple in front of his new abode and becomes depressed. He tries to meditate and is interrupted by thrashing guitar music emanating from his neighbor’s apartment.

After his fall from grace, Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth, the Life Foundation’s top scientist (and gaudy scarf afficianado), who witnessed one of Carlton Drake’s experiments that caused the death of a homeless test subject who had volunteered without understanding the nature of the project. Brock initially wants no part of her scheme and declares he is done “saving his fellow man” but swiftly changes his mind and is smuggled into the Life Foundation by Skirth where he sneaks into Drake’s lab and discovers numerous humans in glass cages, one of whom is a acquaintance (a homeless woman who he used to purchase newspapers from). He tries to bust the woman out and succeeds, setting off the alarms. The woman leaps at him and pins him to the ground whereupon a strange substance seeps from her body into his own. The woman then falls over, dead. Brock, horrified, flees the foundation, kicking down steel doors and leaping off walls with superhuman speed and strength and manages to escape but quickly comes to realize a entity has taken up residence in his body. He begins hearing a voice in his head. This voice, he comes to learn, belongs to the symbiote Venom, who has found Brock to be a rare, suitable host. Despite the alien’s considerable powers, Brock has his own life as leverage, for if Brock dies, so does the alien.

Thus, Brock must negotiate an acceptable moral framework with the alien to keep it from killing innocent civilians out of hunger, whilst simultaneously attempting to stop Drake’s cruel, human-symbiote experimentations.


Considerations

Venom is a strange film, not because of the gooey, sentient alien lifeforms in it, but rather because of the character of Eddie Brock and the bizarre tone he and the alien ‘Venom’ set after bonding. For example, there is a scene where Venom declares to his host that he is hungry as Eddie rushes into a upscale restaurant where Ann and her new boyfriend (a doctor) are eating. Wild-eyed, anemic and sweating profusely, Brock declares that he broke into the Life Foundation and then proceeds to grab food off a nearby dish, proclaim it is “dead” with great agitation and then put it back on the dish to the perplexity of the waiter. He then rushes to another table where he spies a patron’s sandwich and growls like a lunatic before lunging at it, smacking around several diners in the process. Ann and the doctor attempt to intervene as the patrons gasp and mutter amongst themselves amidst the grotesque spectacle, but Eddie, heedless, shouts that he’s hot, removes his coat, and jumps into the lobster tank, sighs and grabs a lobster from the bottom and begins gnawing on it like a feral racoon.

The back and forth between the lead, the love interest, and her new love interest (the doctor) is also amusing and far more believable than I expected it to be. I had expected the usual trope of the couple breaking up and then meeting later after the protagonist receives more development, leading to a confrontation between the protagonist and the new love interest (who is usually an insufferable boor). However, this is a trope the film skillfully evades as when Eddie meets Ann again, the doctor tells Brock he’s a big fan of his work, Brock then thanks him. Later in the film the doctor covers for Brock after he losses his mind during the restaurant scene by claiming that Brock is his “patient” (even though he is not).

It is in these strange comedy-of-manners vignettes where the film proved most effective, which was surprising to me, since the film was marketed as a dark, gritty, brooding thriller, which it isn’t (it is light, frenetic and often quite whimsical).

The action scenes are another matter.

Some of the action scenes are interesting, particularly the very first manifestation of Venom within Brock in his apartment, the swat team face off and the bike chase scene, but generally, they’re a little difficult to follow and are lit rather dimly which is exasperated by the design of Venom itself (himself?) is completely black save for its eyes, teeth and mouth, and thus when it is placed against the backdrop of a dark city it is difficult to make out where the shadows end and the alien begins. However, this was a relatively minor issue.

My harshest points of criticism pertaining to the film, however, lies not in the action scenarios themselves, but rather, in the treatment of their effect upon those involved. At one point in the film, Brock is confronted by a squad of heavily armed men who open fire on him, Venom engulfs the mans body and together the errant reporter and the alien entity tear the goons to piece (literally), however, because they are presented as mere faceless goons and the aftermath of the fight is not displayed, there is little gravity to the situation. Near the end of the film, Venom gnaws the head off of a robber in front of a cashier. Eddies response is to shrug and walk away as she gasps in paroxysms of fear. The scene is not funny, nor is it horrifying, its is just odd and tone-deaf. The tone-deafness, it should be said, has nothing to do with the oft complain about PG-13 rating but rather a fixation on things being momentarily ‘cool’ than believable. The scene also establishes the old cashier now knows (just like the guitar rocking flatmate) that Brock is no longer a normal human and yet Brock (a intelligent, if obsessive guy) is wholly unconcerned. Why he is unconcerned is never explained. It would have been very easy to have Venom say something about disposing of the old woman so that he wouldn’t be found out and then have Brock declare that such a course of action would be, not just morally unacceptable, but practically superfluous, as no one is going to believe her anyways, just as no one believes country farmers who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

That being said, the film offered considerably more to mull over than I had presumed, due in no small part to the complexity of all of the central characters, particularly Drake, Brock, Ann and her newfound love interest and was well-paced and genuinely humorous.

Its more Sam Raimi than Joss Whedon; a energetic romantic comedy of manners disguised as a dark action film (though it does have some genuinely tense scenes as previously mentioned, accentuated through the film’s fantastic soundtrack, particularly the protagonist’s memorable, thrumming theme). I quite liked it, and in that I appear to be with the majority, as, though the film was panned by professional critics, it received overwhelmingly positive reviews from its general audience.


End Credits Scene and Sequel

The end credits scene features Eddie Brock returning to journalism and scoring a interview with a notorious serial killer named Cletus Kasady (a well known villain from the Spider Man comic series). Kasady tells Brock that when he gets out there will be carnage (a reference to the name of his symbiote in the comics).

The actor portraying Kasady, True Detective alum Woody Harrelson, has publicly confirmed he’ll be starring in the yet-unnamed sequel to Venom (likely in the capacity of central antagonist), which is slated for release sometime in 2020.

There is also another end credits scene of 0 narrative consequence, rendered in cartoonish CGI, which was nothing more than was franchise marketing. It was entirely superfluous, confusing and aesthetically jarring (since Venom is live action and the second end credits scene is not). Any cut of the film which excludes the goofy, Sony add on (and the annoying Eminem rap song played before it) would markedly elevate the aesthetic cohesion of the film.

O.R.C.A.

The creature made a squealing sound that faintly reminded Korvus of a whale. He drew back from the reinforced glass case in which it resided and shot Elana a concerned expression. She chuckled and took a step towards the squirming mass of carbon, cilia slowly working up the side of the see-through cage, grasping towards the young woman.

“The ORCA might look intimating, but its really quite harmless.”

“ORCA?”

“Short for Oblong Ranging Cilia’d Alien. I’m not the one who comes up with the designations, mind you.”

The creature gave some pulsing clicks and jiggled like a mass of sentient jell-o.

“It also sounds like an orca, don’t you think?”

“Indeed. But… what is it?”

“We aren’t entirely sure. SecDef sweepers found it in a compound formerly rented by Eidos Kryos. Likely the by-product of one of his experiments.”

“Who?”

“You haven’t heard of him?”

“I don’t really keep up with the news.”

“Clearly. That building project of yours must be keeping you busy.”

“Yes. I’ve had considerable trouble acquiring the permits.”

“For the cave-house?”

Korvus sighed and shook his head slightly, “Cave-house… that makes it sound so primitive.”

“But it is a cave house.”

“It isn’t, though you can call it what you like. But to answer your question, yes. I couldn’t get permission from the Zoning Commission to build it. Toxic tailings from the mining operations. Whole area is poisonous, and worse, sodden. Needs to be cleaned up before they’ll let anyone down there, but no one is willing to put the time and resources into doing so.”

“No one but you.”

“I only have the time. Not the resources.”

They both turned suddenly around as the massive blob of jelly gave a low moan, its cilia spinning up and down its length with great agitation.

“Say, Elana… if this ‘ORCA’ is so harmless, why is it in a cage?”

“Its metabolism is extremely high; its nearly always hungry. No, don’t worry, like I said, its harmless — to us — it only eats inorganic material. I can’t figure out why. No one can. Not even Jensen. When the extraction team first encountered it they were startled and opened fire. Was completely unaffected, the bullets penetrated its outer membrane and then just sort of settled inside it. Within two hours they were beginning to disintegrate. Within a day the bullets were pulled deeper into its body and within two, they were gone. It ate everything, plates, forks, shoes, pillows, the lab equipment. Its mass grew considerably, but there was no by-product. Anyways, Jensen said we can’t have it eating up the lab, told me that the board were going to terminate it, said it wasn’t worth the trouble…”

“Poor fella.”

“Yeah. I wish there were something I could do.”

Korvus took a step forward and pressed his hand to the glass whereupon the creature raised itself up and gave a few clicks and shimmied.

“Perhaps there is.”

§

The mine cleaners were as astounded by the creature’s presence as the board was by its lack thereof. It sat in the tailing pool, now empty, wriggling its cilia up into the air, clicking and jiggling.

Korvus was contacted shortly thereafter; the project had been given the greenlight, construction on the underground residential area could begin at once.

Writing Prompts 9/10/18 – Neurolink

Theme chosen by user recommendation.


#1

The whirring noise, the deluge of memories; she gasped and inhaled like a swimmer caught beneath the undercurrent, not of waves, but of minds.


#2

There was no longer any separation between “self” and “other.” In the Mod everything was connected.


#3

“Put the gun down, Barlow, we both know it won’t avail you. You forget, we are of the same mind, only I’m faster. I know what you’re going to do before even you. You haven’t got the stomach for it.”


We hope these helped spark some creativity; if they helped you start a story, tag us on twitter at @KaiterEnless so that we can read it and share your work.

Thanks for reading.

Writing Prompts 9/9/18 – Cybernetics

The theme by popular vote is: cybernetics (thanks to all those who voted!)


prompt #1

The cybernetic implants had given him a new shot at life after the ravages of the war.


prompt #2

For the Psionic Gamers Union it was all fun and games til someone got mindhacked.


prompt #3

He was no longer merely a man, now he was The System. The grid, incarnate.


If you use any of our prompts for a story and you’re on Twitter, tag us at @KaiterEnless and let us know!

Thanks for reading.

Kybernan (I)

The city of Trepan hung over the Tyvaultian Sea like a great metal beast, clasping the water with it’s legs of anchors and oil derricks and docking columns and construction cranes and prodding the sky with its innumerable concrete quills. Yet this great metal beast had fallen to a slumber, for its hundred-thousand spires of twelve-dozen different minerals all stabbed the sky without exhaust and the cranes lay immobile and no vehicles dipped in and out of the thermals thereabove and no lights could, in any of the million-million windows, be seen and birds whirled everywhere upon and over all of it, nesting up with driftwood from the far isles and cawing endlessly as if in triumph over the machinations of Man. Such was the site which greeted the eyes of the man with the battered overcoat who hummed along over the liquid continent on a hand-crafted boltbike, purple-tinted spectacles girding his eyes from the sun’s ceaseless blight and the wind’s tearing fingers.

The wayfarer forded the waters with a monotonous humming and made landfall at twilight and dismounted and surveyed his surroundings.

A city of opportunity, a city of vice, a city of steel, a city of dice.

Writing Prompts 9/6/18

Writing prompts – a word or sentence meant to act as the catalyst to a piece of prose or poetry – is a very useful tool for generating ideas, producing more motivation and increasing one’s writing output generally. Most writing prompts, however, are just a single word, and usually, a word that can be used extremely broadly like “love” or “fight” or “sexy.” That is, of course, fine, but it doesn’t really give a struggling writer much in the way of a template. So, on the regular, Logos will be putting out some writing prompts which will be far more detailed and specific (and thus more challenging but, we hope, fruitful) than the standard fair. If you use our prompts tag our admin on twitter at @KaiterEnless and include the writing prompt as a hashtag and we’ll repost your story and if its really good we might just promote in on our site itself before our weekly prompts themselves.

The rules (to have your story re-posted): Use the premise (you don’t have to use all of the words given precisely) as the basis for a fiction story. Can be no shorter than 100 words. There is no maximum (if longer than the 280 twitter character limit, just thread it with sequential numbers). The story must have a beginning, middle and end (it doesn’t need to be conclusive, could be a cliffhanger, but it should wrap up at least some of the building action). Best of luck.


Theme: Speculative extraterrestrial endeavors (so look up your planets)


Prompt #1

Galilean moon expedition. Permanent Evropa colony, Minos One.

3577fa61526701.5a716d0e4a3bd


Prompt #2

Advanced aerial warfare above Jupiter gas-harvesting station.

jupiter_assault_by_pangeawizard-d4sfjfw.jpg


Prompt #3

Mineral magnates of the Martian Mining Federation (MMF) convene over looming threat of rogue Cytek ore harvester.

download (5).jpg


Thanks for reading and sharing.

If you wish to support our work publishing and promoting the best in independent fiction, you can do so here.