Kryos: Chapter 8

Previous chapter

Ryard Vancing silenced his affin module upon the callithumpian sidewalk and craned his neck up at the immense facade of KSRU headquarters, which rose above the surrounding buildings of Southern Block like a prodigious, concrete anvil, condensed at the eyrie. Lanning tapped his foot with impatience. After a matter of seconds, a drone descended from a slot in the edifice’s sleek veneer and hovered before the entrants. Lanning proffered his affin module to the drone’s scanner, whereupon the aerial machine issued a series of clicks and flew away as the large, twin doors to the high compound opened with a hydraulic hiss. The duo traversed a long, narrow, glassy-floored lobby and emerged therefrom to a great vaulted hall, the entrance to which was guarded by two men with white-plated armor, undergirded by dark, coriaceous bodysuits; Kryos Industries insignias visible on their left pauldrons. Lanning greeted the guards and gestured cordially to his companion.

“This is Ryard Vancing. He’s expected.”

The guards swiftly parted, stiffened and, to Ryard’s surprise, saluted him solemnly. When the pair were beyond ear-shot of the sentinels, Ryard arched a brow and turned to his orange-clad escort.

“What was that?”

“Some people have forgotten about what you did for the city, but they haven’t. They respect you for it. Ah, there he is. Allow me to introduce you to Colonel Syzr. Though I should warn you, he’s not keen on small-talk.”

Lanning gestured to a large armatured man, who stood gazing intently at a enormous monitor which hung from the ceiling at the end of the hall, behind which a double stair with cupreous railing led to an upper landing. Syzr spoke without breaking from his enterprise; his voice radiating mechanistically through a polished vermeil helm.

“Greetings, Mr. Vancing.”

“Its an honor to meet you, Colonel.”

The Colonel turned sharply and fixed Ryard in what the guest could only assume to be his gaze, for his face was fully palled, his eyes, veiled by the lenses of his tactical mask.

“The honor is mine,” the Colonel replied demurely, extending a plated hand to his guest, who shook firmly, wincing as he did so.

“Lanning tells me Vera… er, Ms. Straker wanted a word. Is she here?”

“She will be down momentarily.”

Syzr turned to Lanning and gestured toward the door. Lanning bowed cordially, turned heel and departed. Shortly thereafter, a woman entered the hall from the rightward stair; decisive, pale and of middling height, garbed in a tight, high-collared white coat with black inner lining, visible in the vestment’s tails. Her long, raven hair, secured by a slender argent band. Her cold, primly restrained visage warmed slightly as she took the guest’s measure.

“Mr. Vancing. I see you’re still in the habit of combing with a windstorm.”

Ryard self-consciously raised a hand to his head.

“Uh, its good to see you too, Ms. Straker.”

“I’m glad you saw fit to heed my summons. I would have approached you myself, but you have doubtless seen what it is like out there.”

“Your face would be more readily recognized than Lanning’s,” he replied, matting his birdnest tresses, “A target for any radical with a grievance, real or imagined. And certainly, you could not have sent Mr. Syzr – given how omnipresent he is in the news cycle. I quite understand.”

“Its precisely that kind of keen perception we need. And I appreciate time’s scarcity. So I shall be brief. Mr. Kryos has tasked me with the reformation of the KSRU. He desires a transition from anti-terror operations to general policing – a move the Colonel has long advocated and the Constorium have long opposed. Mr. Syzr aims to integrate the KSRU into the block’s defensive infrastructure, and has the green-light from the mayor to do so. I want you to help him with the transition.”

“Help how? I don’t know much about security systems.”

“I keep Lanning on retainer for that. I want you to help us facilitate our message to the people. To gain their trust.”

“You want me to be your propaganda minister?”

“If that’s what you want to call it. The city is disintegrating before our eyes, the consequence of decades of madcap policy and a burgeoning population.”

She gestured to Syzr who switched on a series of feeds, each showing a different genre of barbarity. In the upper right hand corner of the screen was a intricate chart displaying incidence of institutionally recognized crimes. One panel displayed a newsfeed from Aecer Digest, the largest news corporation in the city, wherein aerial footage ran of three men standing before a woman in an alley, facing down a large figure, barely in frame, with the headline, “Riots continue after Kryos-connected vigilante killing.”

Syzr shook his head and crossed his arms about his vermeil-plated chest as Straker took a seat and lit up a cigarette; she offered one of the neat, psychoactive cylinders to Ryard, but he politely declined.

“Affin tampering, patch distribution, muggings, rapes, and murders are all on the rise. Revolutionary parties and gangs are emerging at breakneck speed. Worse, the Consortium refuses to do anything substantial about it. I shouldn’t have to elaborate – you saw the riots. The people are losing confidence in the system’s ability to protect them. It remains with us to restore that confidence.”

“I’ve obligations. To the station.”

“We are willing to pay you double your current weekly credit allotment.”

Ryard nodded, rubbed his chin and looked to his module. The screen of the slender device displayed two missed calls from Lind. No messages left. Lind never left messages.

“I have to go. I’ll think about it.”

“Emergency?”

“Dunno.”

“Very well. Let me know when you come to a decision.”

“I will.”

“Syzr will see you out. And Ryard.”

The man turned expectantly to the exquisite woman.

“Hm?”

“A comb, next time.”

Ryard smiled wryly and left off, following Syzr out of the central hall, to the lobby which roiled with commotion. A group of local workers were arguing with KSRU clerks at the reception desk.

“A good a time as any to introduce you to the members of the Aecer Center for Social Progress,” Syzr declared, nodding towards the men and women waiting in the lobby, “They’ve been working with us to build a relationship between the labor unions and my men. That’s their leader, there.”

Ryard followed Syzr’s gesture to a slender man with a chartreuse coat and short pale blond hair, who stood slightly apart from the men arguing with the clerks behind the counter, hands in his pockets, eyes taking in the contours of the walls and ceiling. After hearing the sound of encroaching footsteps, the man with the pale green coat slowly turned to the duo and moved toward them with easy, languid strides.

“G’day Colonel. Dreadful what they’ve been saying about you. Truly dreadful. But you’ve a new friend. One whose face I recognize. You must be Ryard Vancing.”

The man extended his right hand to the CAV-keep, his left, curiously bandaged with thin medical wraps. Ryard took the man’s hand and shook amiably.

“That’s me. And you are?”

The man with the chartreuse coat flashed a charming smile.

“Illander Rehdon.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 34

Previous chapter

The lab-lights coruscated from the dustless ceiling as Ryard Vancing held his bleeding side. Teeth clenched. Eyes narrowing upon the tawny, ferine woman who circled him, jaw set, fists clenched as Tatter watched the scene with keen concern from the diagnostic pod where she remained firmly bound.

Ryard briefly caught her gaze and forced a smile.

After a terse silence, the gray-streaked woman lunged with considerable ferocity, gouging at the man’s eyes, seeking to drive her thumbs into his sockets. He caught her about the wrists, using her momentum to thrust his knee hard into her gut. The motion tore his wound as it doubled the woman over; screams of pain caught in two throats. The woman staggered back, heaving, and pulled a silver scalpel free of Grazen’s instrument rack upon the nearby table, desperately slicing at her foe with the dreadful hissing of a serpent cornered. Ryard raised his arms, blocking the shallow cuts. Soon his arms ran red and his movements slowed. He could feel the life draining out of him and knew if he didn’t finish her swiftly, all would be lost. He dodged back behind the arc of her blade and kicked at her left knee, catching her shin, unbalancing her and dropping her face first to the ground. The woman caught herself and bounded from the floor, rushed forward with hateful gait and drove the blade of the scalpel into Ryard’s shoulder. Instead of throwing his foe free, Ryard grabbed the woman’s hands, forcing the blade yet deeper. The terrorist’s eyes bulged with confusion as she attempted to escape, finding herself bound to the bleeding CAV-keep. He thrust his crown into the middle of her face, then again and again until he felt her nose break. She slackened and fell to the floor, holding her ruined face, groaning and gurgling blood. Freeing the blade from his chest, Ryard lumbered over to the woman, falling to his knees before he reached her, the pain subsiding to numbness, the fury waning to somnolence.

“Why would you risk your life for that filthy abomination?” The woman spat with rekindled wrath, rolling to her side as she clawed toward the bloody bone fragment, which lay upon the floor between her and her foe.

Ryard said nothing and walked on hands and knees to the jagged ivory artifact and hefted it from the cold, bloodstained floor. She threw herself at him, wildly, despairingly, madly, attempting to tear out his throat with her bare hands. Ryard shoved the scalpel into her gut, yet still the insane creature did not relent. With the last failing vestiges of his strength, he drove the jagged length of bone through her left orbital socket with a wet snick. The woman howled and fell upon her back, twitching erratically, a tangle of unintelligible syllables, pouring from her frothing maw. The woman’s chaotic spasms swiftly subsided and she lay still upon the white polished floor, soaked in blood. Her chest, no longer rising and falling to vitality’s ancient hymn.

Then, only silence reigned.

Ryard observed the corpse of his foe and then rose unsteadily and freed Tatter from her shackles, collapsing thereafter against the exterior of the diagnostic pod under the encroachments of a leaden slumber.

“Help him!” Tatter exclaimed suddenly. “He’s dying.”

As his consciousness faded, he followed Tatter’s gaze and beheld the form of a woman standing in the doorway of the hidden lab. He recalled her face.

Vera Straker. Director of Kryos Corp.

She moved cautiously into the room and observed the corpse and then rushed to Ryard’s side as Tatter gathered the man in her arms, dichromatic eyes searching a blood-spattered face.

“Your plan worked, Ryard.”

“Yeah,” he whispered triumphantly.

He closed his eyes, feeling Tatter’s frigid caress give way to Straker’s commands.

Then the world fell away and all was warmth and darkness.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 30

Previous chapter

Ryard glanced to his wrist-bound affin module, the screen displayed a intricately detailed map of the city; the signal for his tracker, bequeathed to Tatter, glowed bright blue against the crisp white outline of the tertiary diagram. His brows knitted with concern as the vehicle sped across the expressway, the pedestrian lanes, shimmering busy and loud below. He synched the vehicle to his module, selected the destination, leaned back and let the automated system take over.

The drive was a short one, taking him from the northern edge of the central sector to the southeast. He parked in the Aecer Memorial Cemetery shiftyard, exited Holleran’s lev-han and moved through the gate of the necropolis with astute alacrity. The burial site stretched 624 acres, distinguished from the surrounding water treatment and storage facilities by a lack of verticality and the abundance of caretaker drones, who quietly and tirelessly scurried across the lawn, watering the grass and clearing the wind-worn graves of detritus: dead leaves, food wrappers and bird droppings.

As Ryard surveyed the scene, a man came striding from behind a large monument, fit, tall and suspicious of eye, dressed in Vekt Corp uniform. The man’s hair was short and he was missing part of his left lower ear.

“Excuse me, sir.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m gonna have to ask you to leave this area.”

Ryard stiffened and tilted his head inquisitively.

“Why? This is public property.”

The man shrugged dismissively, throwing his arms briefly wide with entreaty.

“Orders, I’m afraid. From the top. You know how it is.”

Ryard looked to his module map once more. Tatter’s tracker-sigil displayed atop his present coordinates.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.”

Ryard eyed the man opaquely, gripping the multiratchet from his utility belt surreptitiously as he noticed another figure in the distance, a woman, observing the scene with obvious interest.

“I’d like to talk to your superior about this.”

“They’re presently preoccupied.”

“Who is?”

“Sir?”

“Who is your superior? Their name? You work for Vekt Corp, right? Nothing personal, but I’m gonna file a complaint.”

The man frowned, his expression darkening.

“Sara.”

“Just Sara?”

“Sara… Atbee.”

Without another word, Ryard brought up his module and began typing in the name ‘Sara Atbee.’ After two seconds of Ryard’s manipulation’s, the Vekt-garbed man drew a stun-gun from underneath his shirt and lunged. Ryard back-stepped the assault and brought his ratchet down upon the assailant’s skull with full force, prompting a sickening thud. The sentry slackened and crumbled to the ground; as he did, the woman in the distance bolted towards Ryard. The CAV-keep snatched the stun-gun from the ground and ran behind a massive obelisk as the second sentry fired into the well-worn marble facade. A near miss. He looked to the weapon in his hands; munition consisted of four charged adhesive packets, each capable of incapacitating a grown man.

“Come out now and I won’t hurt you.”

Ryard could hear her footsteps encroaching and something else, clattering dully at his periphery. He cast his gaze swiftly over his shoulder and beheld a caretaker drone, moving toward him, likely to clean the monument behind which he hid. He grinned slyly and kicked the drone from the shadow of the obelisk, causing the machine to land upon its back, its four metal-plastic legs writhing spastically into the air as the female sentry unloaded a stun-packet into it. The moment Ryard heard the weapon discharge he ducked out of cover, took aim at the woman’s midsection and squeezed the trigger. The woman flailed wildly and collapsed upon the ground, unconscious.

Ryard exhaled, lowered his weapon and looked to the drone, which now sputtered static, its legs moving erratically, sensor stalk writhing uncontrollably. He moved past the downed machine, stripped the weapon from the immobile woman and cautiously looked about the graveyard.

No one.

Only two guards… they’re small in number. Otherwise there would be more sentries. She’s directly below me. They didn’t bury her. Obviously. A false grave? Seems improbable… There’s an underground chamber, or system of chambers… Catacombs…

He looked to the closest building. Caretaker storage.

The basement.

He rushed to the storage building and scented fresh-churned earth. He paused, turning to the source of the aroma and beheld over fifty graves, freshly dug. Burrows for those who had died during the grid attack, CAV-way passengers and reactor workers. The man read several of the shiny memorial plaques and moved to the door of the storage house. There was no handle. He plucked a caretaker drone up off the ground, removed its back-console panel and returned to the door and used the drone-bound passcode to open it, then set the drone down beside the door and passed into the storage facility. Inside the small building were several inert security drones lit by low, flickering yellow lights. Spare parts rested in bins in the next room and a stair that led down to the basement.

Ryard withdrew the woman’s stun-gun, loaded a packet from the other weapon into it and cautiously peered over the railing of the stair. The concrete well was empty and descended into utter darkness. He paused and surveyed the inert maintenance automatons, each of which bore a sleek Vilar Corp logo, his fingers gently brushing against the standardized power cores arrayed about his belt.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 29

Previous chapter

The room in which Tatter awoke was brightly lit and devoid of sound save for the gentle tapping of busy fingers on the keys of a computer pad and the gentle hum of a portable generator. The walls were barren, composed of aged, yet finely burnished metal. Numerous pieces of medical equipment lined a desk to the left and to the right, several crates of varying sizes were stacked one upon the other. Two figures were half-visible from the open-faced diagnostic pod upon which she lay, a man, at the desk, typing, and a woman, staring observantly at the occupant of the medical calyx. Tatter tried to move but found her body secured at the throat, chest, arms, legs and ankles by tight flexile straps. Significant motion was impossible.

“What do you want with me?” Tatter asked the moment her voice returned.

The woman, cruel-faced with a long, gray streak in her short-clipped hair, bent over the pod.

“I thought you gave it a sedative?”

“I did. A potent one.” The man replied with surprise. “It must be due the… peculiarity of her neuronal system. Soriya told me she was unique, but she failed to impress upon me the extent of that uniqueness. No matter. Its all the same for the procedure.”

“I trust you’re not becoming distracted.”

The man sighed with exasperation.

“I’m prepping the sample now. It will be ready for injection soon.”

“What are you doing to me?” Tatter queried emphatically.

The source of the male voice, a balding, clean shaven man wearing a light suit, stepped into view. He had a broad shrunken face and walked with a marked limp and leaned a little towards her, his mouth formed a gentle smile but his eyes were cold.

“Running some tests. You’ll be able to go home very soon.”

The man looked up toward the anxious, gray-haired woman with severity.

“Isn’t that right, Moreno?”

The woman forced a brittle smile.

“That’s right.”

Tatter stared at the woman a long moment and attempted to withdraw as the gray-streaked creature leaned down toward her.

Before the woman could respond another voice intruded upon the scene. One low, gruff, male and unfamiliar to Tatter.

“Route is secure.” the man declared matter-of-factly, strolling into the room, hands swaying loosely at his sides, hard, dark eyes roving over the medical equipment hastily arrayed about the spacious, antiseptic chamber. The newcomer was short, stocky and clean-shaven with a bandaged arm. Tatter recognized him as one of Vangr’s men.

“Good.” Grazen declared. “And the Director?”

“Holding on to her. Least until we’re clear of the city. Bartering chip, n’case we get boxed in.”

Grazen nodded approvingly and gingerly hefted a small tube of liquid from a thawing chamber and swirled it in the light. The bandaged man waited for the Grazen to respond and, finally exasperated, took a step forward and spoke emphatically.

“Grazen.”

“Hm?”

“He’s expecting you to keep your end of the bargain.”

“Of course.”

Moreno turned to the bandaged man challengingly.

“His daughter will be released. As promised. Though, we should let her rot given your utter incompe-.”

The bandaged man did not even turn toward the woman as he spoke, “Wasn’t talking to you.”

Rage starkly colored the woman’s face, her jaw clenching, brow quivering, fingers flexing. For a brief moment Tatter thought the woman would rush the man and tear at him with her bare hands.

“Tell him I will make the call shortly.” Grazen declared flatly, his attention fixed upon the large console before him.

The bandaged man nodded briskly.

“Do you not understand the gravity of what we are doing here? Moreno inquired, whirling to the bandaged man with sudden agitation, “Take a moment to consider the coming change. One you helped to foster.”

“That’s none of my concern.”

The bandaged man turned slowly and left off. Moreno watched the man depart and spoke softly.

“Ignorant, greedy fool.”

Grazen ignored the woman and deftly manipulated the pod’s control-panel and shortly a mechanical arm descended upon its occupant, producing a long syringe and sinking it deep into the prisoner’s exposed arm.

“Comfortable?”

“No.”

“That’s good. We are never more aware of what is important to us than when we are in pain.”

Tatter: Chapter 28

Previous chapter

Bioluminescent plankton basked the cloistered bar in dim azure glow from wall-bound tubes which ribboned the length of the square, low-ceilinged chamber. Blue-lit patrons sat around the semi-circular retractable table as drinks were ferried by server drones, payments automatically deducted from affin modules upon reception. Aecer Digest played across the numerous, wide wall-screens, information relayed to the onlookers by a prim woman in a suit.

Holleran Meris listened to the feed despondently, his eyes fixed upon his glass.

“Breaking news: Members of Aestival, the terror group responsible for the destruction of Starglaive One, have been detected within city limits. The Consortium, after considerable deliberation, has voted on a complete shut down until the criminals have been apprehended. If you see any suspicious activity, we encourage you to report to your local Consortium authorities as soon as possible.”

A young man with short, unkempt hair, and a complexion incongruent, sipped his half-empty glass and shook his head.

“Wish Aestival had blown up the Reiks Hall instead of the reactor, not that I mind them taking out that ugly hunk of junk.”

Men surrounding the speaker laughed derisively. Meris leaned towards the younger man with severity.

“That ‘hunk of junk’ powered the entire sector.”

“Seems we’re getting on just fine without it.” The man gestured flippantly to the chamber lights.

“Same people that built the reactor built this place.”

The man shrugged.

“You shrug.”

“Yeah.”

“The reactor isn’t running. There will be outages. Outages mean death for those on life support.”

“What’s your problem?”

“My problem? You’re sitting there celebrating terrorism and you ask me what my problem is.”

“Terrorism is a matter of perspective. If anyone’s the terrorists, its the Consortium. Detaining people without a trial. You know they locked up kids?”

“They detained the monsters that destroyed the reactor and everyone suspected of supporting them.”

“So? I say fuck um all. Consortium, and the damned reactor.”

“Many of my friends died in that explosion.” The old man stated with rising emotion, his visage pocked with wrath and despair, knuckles white about his jittering glass.

“And how many people have died because of the Consortium? Because of Kryos?”

“You tell me. How many?” The young man fell silent, brows knitting. “You’ve no idea, do you?”

“Whatever.”

“How about every mother and father, daughter and son slaughtered in the blast? You think they deserved to die? Or does it not matter to you either way?”

“Take it easy.”

“Easy…” The old man slammed his cup upon the table. “I should take it easy while a Souther celebrates the murder of my friends?”

“You got a problem with Southers?”

“No. Just Southers like you. Consortium gives you all the handouts you demand and what do you people do? Spit in their face. In our face.”

“You’re starting to piss me off.”

“You people are parasites.”

The young man rose from his seat and grabbed the old man by the collar and threw him from his seat as the other patrons watched warily, the closest jumping from their perches and backing cautiously away from the scuffle. As the young man drew his arm back to strike the old man, a hand caught his forearm.

“That’s your elder, not your sirloin.”

Meris looked up from the ground to behold a middle aged man, battered and bruised, with a sling about his right arm and messy hair that spun up from his head in short, slick whorls. The face was familiar.

“This is none of your concern, CAV-keep,” the souther snarled, observing the monochrome Vilar Corp jacket and pulling his arm free of the interloper’s grasp.

Ryard Vancing surveyed the man calmly, stolidly.

“That man is my friend. I’ve business with him.”

“You didn’t hear what he said.”

“You can return to bashing each other’s brains in after I’m done talking to him,” Ryard plucked a glass of alcohol off a oblivious, nearby server drone and handed it to the man with a smile as the payment was deducted from his module. “In the meantime, drinks are on me.”

Reluctantly, the souther took the glass and, with a final glare at the old man, turned and strode back to his seat as his companions eyed the scene furtively, muttering amongst themselves. After the attacker departed, the CAV-keep pulled his friend from the ground.

“You trying to get yourself killed, Holleran? He’d have taken your head off if I hadn’t come in when I did.”

“Probably. And… I appreciate it. Just… had a lot on my mind lately,” the old man sighed and ran a hand through his unkempt hair, matting it back from his prominent brow, “Thinking about Hal and Carol and… well, that souther son-of-a-bitch was praising them.”

“Who?”

“The terrorists.”

Ryard’s eyes narrowed and a dark expression passed across his face and was gone just as swiftly.

“What happened to you anyways?”

“I don’t have time to explain. Do you still have your priority lane pass?”

“Everything’s been hectic after the attack. Don’t know what deal the company is gonna work out with the staff, higher ups probably don’t know yet either. Whatever they’re doing or decide, I still have full CAV-way privileges – but so do you, why do you-.”

“I don’t have my lev-han.”

“Let me guess – you wanna borrow mine?”

“Yes. Its urgent.”

“What is?”

“There’s no time.”

“If whatever you’ve gotten yourself into is that bad,  you had better go to the Security Commission.”

“They’ll pull me in for questioning and…” he lowered his uneven voice to evade the prying ears of the bar patrons, “Lives are at stake.”

The old man surveyed Vancing for a long moment, his critical eyes roaming over the battered, yet wholly determined face.

“Alright. I trust you. And Vancing.”

“Yeah?”

“Would be nice if my han returned in better condition than you arrived.”

Ryard smiled.

“Will do, sir.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 27

Previous chapter

Ermin Gild stared at the numerous screens set up in his spacious office, news feeds playing on every one. His hands tightly clasped together, chin upon his knuckles. Dark bags under eyes that darted to every blur of motion.

Mounting migrant asylum demands. Rising concerns over terrorist violence and potential lockdowns. Discussions of KSRU raids. Disturbances at the northern agricenter. A missing CAV-keep.

After a few minutes of attentive screen-gazing, a woman wearing a long skirt, frilly top, and thin, pale violet scarf entered the room. She knocked gently on the doorjam and waited.

“What is it, Theresa?”

“The Board has come to a conclusion.” Gild straightened in his chair and looked towards the woman intently. “They’ve decided against Kryos’ recommendation. The Chancellor ordered a city-wide lockdown, effective immediately.”

Gild closed his eyes, sighing with mild frustration.

“Of course they did. Old fools. He played them like cards.”

“What do you mean?”

Gild rose and began pacing slowly about his office, hands in his pockets.

“As you know, trade with the Eastern Federation has proven highly profitable and has allowed our company to circumvent reliance on Kryos’ Industries for manufacturing.”

“Yes.”

“Given this, and the partisan’s recent interferences, he’s been rather hawkish on border issues. Wants it shut. Tightly.”

“I see.”

“The Board fears the public has begun to view Kryos as an autocrat, and them, ineffectual beaurocrats. They needed to muster a display of power against Kryos, or at least convince the public that they had done as much. And I, as you also know, have, for several months, been urging them to do just that. Aided by Ponos’ fanaticism and Raka’s reaction of Kryos’ rather… extreme handling of the insurgents. Kryos was aware of this, of course, which is why his vote was seemingly uncharacteristic. He was counting on being contested.”

“He voted to keep the city open to ensure it would be closed.”

Gild nodded, amused and annoyed. After several moments he withdrew his left hand from his pocket and glanced at the clock on his affin module and languidly turned to the woman with a look of concern.

“Has anyone found Professor Grazen yet?”

She shook her head. He nodded dourly.

“I’m heading out for an early lunch. I plan on drowning my troubles in copious quantities of alcohol. Care to join me?”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 25

Previous chapter

The men and women of Aestival moved as a pack, eight in number, through the labyrinthian alleyways of the city as rain pelted all from the roiling red-gray welkin. Their muscles taunt; eyes sharp; hearts pounding; weapons primed.

Upon entering the HEZ, they paused to recover and take in their surroundings, checking the meticulously detailed map displayed on their wrist-bound receivers, then surveying the sidewalkless expanse of high-stacked thoroughfares and magnetic rail lines. A screaming mineral lattice to encase the sky.

“Are you sure we can trust Vangr’s information?” Gerard inquired suddenly, pausing as they approached the Northwing Detention Facility, shoes kicking dust that lay heavy upon the ground, composed of years of accumulated rail-shavings and cargo-spills.

“All of the information he’s provided us so far has been sound. Why would he start lying now? It gains him nothing.” Carduus replied as she peeked around the corner of a large industrial warehouse, out of which moved numerous cargo drones, bearing resined crates on insectal arms.

“For profit. Credits. Status. Same as most anyone else.”

“Vangr isn’t interested in credits or status.”

“He isn’t interested in our cause either.”

“Not the time. Nor the place. You losing your nerve?”

“No.”

“Then shut your mouth.”

Gerard resentfully resigned himself to silence as the party waited for the automated cargo-carriers to pass down the street, whereupon they crept from their hiding place and swarmed across the dusty, ground-level thoroughfare, ragged cloaks flapping in the wind. Everywhere the scent of steel and chalk and drying cement.

As they reached the detention facility block they spied a cluster of aerial surveillers flitting through the misted heights. Carduus dropped to her stomach, throwing her pale gray hood up and spreading her cloak about her body.

“Get down.”

The rest of the pack quickly emulated the woman’s motions, positioning themselves flat and still upon the cool and faint-dusted concrete. There they lay until all trace of the surveillers had passed, then they rose and jogged steadily to the back entrance of the wardenless prison. At the portal into the complex’s shiftyard, Carduus halted and turned to her inferiors, feeling the harsh concrete wall before her with one hand.

“This is a grab job. In and out. No deviation. The target is our only priority.” Carduus turned to Aune, who nervously scanned the sky for the silvery sheen of more surveillance drones, “Anyone gets in our way gets taken out; anyone who falls behind gets left behind.”

All nodded save Aune.

Carduus struck the wall lightly and withdrew her weapon.

“Form up. Lets catch ourselves a monster.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 21

Previous chapter

Straker stood in the corner of the wide, empty storage room a block from Loa’s club, observing the anxious doorman and the stolid, armored officers that wreathed him.

“What do you want?” Kras inquired flippantly, his anger vainly palled by a posture of cocky diffidence.

“Vilar Corp maintains a thorough record of its personnel, past and present,” Straker replied dispassionately, “One request and a indexed affinity search revealed all of Vangr’s past associates. Given your history with Vangr in security, and position within Loa’s network – I reasoned you would be among the first to which he would turn.”

“Yeah, I knew him. So what? I haven’t spoken to him since the day before he left Vilar Corp. You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“You’re the only one barking, Mr. Kras.”

“Where’s your proof?”

“I only wish to retrieve what was stolen. If you help me, I would have no reason to bring this matter before the judiciary council. Of course if you prefer their involvement-”

She paused. An alert on her affinity module.

Kryos.

She turned on her heels, gesturing with a slight inclination of her head to Colonel Syzr who nodded curtly.

“Hey. Where are you going?” Kras demanded nervously, taking a step toward Vera. He froze as Syzr’s armored bulk intervened. Shining albescent and vermeil beneath the flickering blue lights.

“You can’t just keep me here. Its illegal.”

Syzr said nothing and pointed to a chair in the corner. Kras stood his ground for a moment, his pride crumbling to uncertainty, and dejectedly acquiesced to the silent command.

Vera answered with haste the moment she passed through the front door of the abandoned storage house.

“Sir?”

“Pertinent information has come to light, Director. Listen well. Analysis of the -60 C solution found upon the members of Aestival you detained revealed large concentrations of irregular nanoparticulates. Synthetic viral entities purposed for subversion of genomic maintenance. Exposure of human tissue to the particulates produced marked telomeric degeneration. Host death occurs rapidly, but slowly enough to ensure further transmission in densely populated areas.”

“Aestival couldn’t have produced such a bioweapon.”

“The ersatz virus was produced at the Vekt Institute of Virology.”

“Why would Ermin Gild’s company manufacture something like this? And how did Aestival find out about it?”

“You’re missing the bigger picture, Director. Remember. These samples were obtained during the grid attack. Conclusion: It was a diversion. Aestival surmised that in the event of an assault upon the grid, the Consortium would focus on clean-up, security and PR. Not on a minor Vekt Corp property. That is precisely what has transpired.”

“Someone at Vekt Corp was aiding them.”

“Probable. Further, the nanites were designed for human transmission. That my Daughter’s abduction coincides with the theft of the solution is unlikely to be a coincidence. For the particulates would have no effect upon Her, given Her genomic irregularity.”

“You think they want to use Her as a carrier?”

“Yes.”

“I won’t let that happen.”

“A sample is missing, Director. Find it.”

“As you wish. Sir.”

The line went dead. Thoughts like sharks circled her mind. Vera closed her eyes and sighed and looked up to the stars, scarcely visible against the vibrant luminosity of the city and the satellites beyond.

The partisans considered nanites a weapon of mass destruction only because they had never seen a star devour a planet, she thought pensively. All those nebulas. Stellar mausoleums. How many contained life before their effulgent sublimation?

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 19

Previous chapter

Eddy Kras set his instacake down as the backdoor alarm overtook the thrumming dance music which filled his ears. Glancing at the biosensors he spied a lone woman shrouded in a raincoat, a hood shading her face, pounding upon the entrance to the club in the backalley. He flicked on the speaker system and spoke into the panel set before his affin console.

“We’re closed.”

“I’m looking for work.”

“Were not hiring.”

“Oh? I heard Loa was always looking for new talent. Anyways. Its raining. Are you really going leave a girl out in the rain?”

“No one’s forcing you to stand there.”

“I just want an interview with the manager.” She paused a moment, measuring her words, “I can make it worth your while.”

“How’s that?”

“Use your imagination.” The woman replied cooly.

Kras arched a brow and chuckled.

“Oh yeah? Well… maybe we can work something out. I’ll be down in a moment.”

He straightened and swiftly rose from his swivel chair and walked the short distance from the security hub to the back entrance of the club. He opened the door and gasped.

Surrounding the woman was a detachment of soldiers, clad in albescent ceramics and sychitin. Before Kras could close the door one of the soldiers, distinguished from the rest by the vermeil of his mail, grabbed the door and held it ajar.

The woman lowered her hood, revealing a pallid face and long, dark hair tied elegantly back with a gel-frosted argent band.

Kras remembered the face. He backed up against the right of the doorjam, mouth agape.

“Director Straker…”

“Mr. Kras.”

The doorman grinned halfheartedly, bemused.

“I take it you’re not really gonna make this ‘worth my while.'”

Kras winced as Straker took a step forward, her gaze fixed upon the darkened recess of the club. She spoke without looking at him. As if here were not even there.

“Truth is not owed the profiteers of its malformation.”

Next chapter

Dai-bosatsu Tōge, Book II (1929)

§.00 Book II of Dai-bosatsu Tōge (Great Bodhisattva Pass) by Kaizan Nakazato (translated by C. S. Bavier), begins directly after Shimada’s decimation of the New Levies at the end of Book I, with Ryunosuke and Hama and their son, Ikutaro, who is yet still a babe (indicating that not much time has passed between the end of Book I, and the beginning of Book II). Tensions have considerably subsided between husband and wife, so much so that Ryunosuke and Hama are introduced singing to the tune of a traveling bard. Their idyll is interrupted by the appearance of a much-agitated Kamo Serizawa, Captain of the Band of New Levies (a organization which Ryunosuke joined in the first volume). Serizawa informs Ryunosuke (now going by the moniker ‘Ryutaro Yoshida’) that Toranosuke Shimada must die for making such a mockery of them, regardless of their own blunder in mistakingly targeting him for assassination. Serizawa then tells Ryunosuke that Bunnojo’s brother, Hyoma, has declared his desire for revenge. Ryunosuke is irked, if only slightly, not because someone wishes to kill him, but because Hyoma’s band makes his return to his homeland more difficult. Unsurprisingly, Hama—who overhears a portion of her husband and Serizawa’s conversation—is deeply distressed.

At the same time as this is occuring, it is revealed that the massive but kindly Yohachi and the spirited and bereaved Matsu (under the guise of ‘Midori’) are still working at the amoral pleasure house of Kamio Mansion. Matsu is so unhappy at the site of debauchery that Yohachi suggests she leave and he go with her. The two then steal away in the night and encounter none other than Yamaokaya of Hongo, Matsu’s Aunt, who is both guilt-stricken and pleased to meet a relation whom she had treated so coldly. Yamaokaya (or Aunt Taki) invites Matsu and Yohachi to her home, a tenement in Sakumacho. While there, Matsu falls gravely ill and Yamaoakaya runs out of money and so conspires to use the ailing Matsu as her cash-cow as Yohachi searches for a doctor. Matsu, being no fool, is fully aware that her aunt is trying to squeeze money out of her, yet, being also abundant in compassion, gives away all of her money. This blind trust (as all blind trust) turns out to be foolhardy as Aunt Taki gives Yohachi the slip and sells Matsu into slavery.

The thief Shichibei, is informed that Matsu gave her previous, wealthy employer the slip and, that she has turned to amorality. Shichibei, knowing that Matsu must have had her reasons, sets out to uncover the truth of the matter.

Not long after this, Hama, fed up with Ryunosuke’s lack of concern for her and the child, demands a divorce. Ryunosuke swiftly agrees and then informs Hama that he has a parting gift for her and tells her he has recieved a challenge from Hyoma Utsuki, her former brother-in-law. Hama, knowing full well that Hyoma stands no chance in a duel with Ryunosuke, and wracked by guilt in recalling the death of Bunnojo, determines to kill her husband in his sleep. However, before she can plunge her dagger into Ryunosuke’s chest, he wakes and wrests her from him; in the broil, a lamp is broken and the house catches fire. Hama, flees, but is swiftly overtaken and begs for mercy. Shortly, she changes her mind, and instead, asks Ryunosuke to kill her, and then allow Hyoma to win the duel. Without a word, Ryunosuke kills his wife as his house and Hama’s babe burns in the distance.

Ryunosuke leaves the area, as Hyoma arrives for their duel, only to find Hama dead. On his rainy travels, Ryunosuke chances upon a young woman who bares a striking resemblance to Hama, who is accosted by unscrupulous palanquin men. In an act of uncommon kindness, Ryunosuke, offers to pay the men to leave her alone; when they still attempt to extort the young woman, Ryunosuke intervenes and scares them off. This event leaves Ryunosuke haunted by thoughts of Hama and whether she caused him to err or whether the reverse was true.

§.01 As with the Book I, the strangely clipped lines which occasionally arise are the chief strike against the work, for in all other regards, it is every bit as fascinating as the preceding volume; for example, lines such as, “I borrow just two ryo out of this” (p. 156), as opposed to the more natural, “I’ll only borrow two ryo out of it/this,” or the more egregious, “Dark the night was it was now near daybreak” (p. 190). It is possible that this was how Nakazato wrote the line in the original manuscript, but seems unlikely; it strikes me as more likely that these oddly clipped lines are products of ‘best-fit’ translation. Regardless of the reason for them, they prove distracting.

§.02 The consistent theme throughout is guilt, and whether or not the feeling of it is justified. Hama, before her final confrontation with Ryunosuke, comes to believe that Bunnojo’s death was her fault, that the sin was, as Ryunosuke says, born out of her evil nature. Though he is correct, he is also to blame for the affair, for it was Ryunosuke who cajoled Hama into infidelity, as well as he that struck the killing blow upon Bunnojo (albeit, in self-defense). Hama’s foolishness is revealed in her suicidal impulses and murder attempt on her husband, as she gives no thought to the life of her child without her care. Her demise does nothing to remedy her betrayal of Bunnojo, and is driven only by the intensely selfish desire to escape from the pain of her guilt. A skillful illustration of the futility of self-destructive escapism.

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.1

One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).

Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:

  • 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
  • 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
  • 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
  • 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
  • 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
  • When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).

When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.

From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!

But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.


Sources:

Harris Poll: Americans’ Sense of Alienation Remains at Record High

Rising Morbidity & Morality in Midlife Among White, non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.

Nautilus: Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

Jisho