A broad outline for a short story (6chapters or so). Not sure if it's worth carrying on.
|Chapter 1 Trying Times|
It had been an exceptionally tedious day at work. K pulled himself out of the commute chute tired, wearing a grim residue of sweat beneath his clothes. Must be time to get a new dry clean cartridge- blasted garment technician stiffed him on the last one. The station was too busy- as always on his down shift end- people from every walk of life were thrusting their way through the crowd, making a Gordian knot of intersecting paths repeated day in, day out. It all proved, he thought, that law- ‘the number of people in a space will expand until it becomes intolerable to inhabit’. The planners seemed resigned to its truth. Rumour held that they worked to its corollary, the surest way to decrease population density is to make the habitat utterly unpleasant. People certainly didn’t want to hang around in the sterile over-bright station, heading directly towards the chutes or, as he was doing now, over to where the waiting taxi-buses would take them to their hab zones and the shoplexes. His t-b circuit was as unreliable as any though, so again he stood and fumed in silence with the hundred or so queuing there. Exchanging resentful and resigned looks with his fellow shift members he entered that state of mind where he negative internal energy held him upright, fuelling himself on low-grade anger and frustration. Why, when we can colonise whole other systems, can we not get a few hundred people home at the end of the day? He felt dwarfed by the scope of galactic society, an insignificant speck in the wheels of the world government.
Time felt like it was being stretched out- surely he’d only been standing there half an hour? Other t-b’s came and went - his did not. The waiting went on and on.
A crack appeared in his mental shell - a hot, bitter liquid running out and coating his brain with the desire to strike out on his own, free from the system, carve a path by his own power to take him home. Overcoming inertia he took that first step that makes the next so inevitable, so liberating. Without pausing to think it over he strode off, through a route he’d passed over for years, made fresh and new from the fresh perspective, landmarks suddenly new again.
His feet carried him surprisingly quickly, past the office locks, nutri-cafes and fenced off parks, turning his thoughts to the pleasure and kudos he’d receive from announcing to L, his partner, that he’d walked home from the station. He could probably turn it into an anecdote for dinner parties years from now. Imagine his guests quiet awe, their new respect for him as something of an explorer…. ‘Weren’t you afraid?’ they’d ask and he…
A fresh wave of colder sweat broke out from under the older layer- what had he been thinking? Where was he now? There was a seedy, disreputable look to the surroundings, dusk was falling and the few lights here and there only served to accent the shadowy streets. People stayed on the transports because to stray from accepted routes was to abandon the protection offered by the cam-bots that lined secure zones. No eye was ensuring his safety, no sec-check would report on his progress until he was back through to the hab-zone regions. The only human life he had seen in the last few blocks had been the sort who wouldn’t welcome this kind of attention anyway- the homeless, street kids and hookers- they would have too much to loose if they were picked up and shaken down by the forces of law and order.
Faltering, his steps petered out. The pleasant fantasy of dinner parties to come had carried him at least halfway, yet progress would be through an area that had been marked down as dangerous- he and his childhood friends had populated it with leering strangers, seditious conspirators and foul, anti-social drop-outs. The warmth of his anger had evaporated now, leaving behind a thin film of shock. A block marker on an overpass gave him something to focus on, and he performed a hasty calculation. It was better to keep going now, maintain an appearance of confidence and never, ever do this again. Mopping his forehead with his sleeve he muttered a curse against all garment technicians and started off again.
Night was falling in earnest now, lighting seemed poorly maintained and patchy, as was refuse collection and sanitation. Flicking his eyes at the shadows, K quickened his pace and rammed his hands in his pockets. If vision was hampered, the ears were being treated to a whole host of noise- shuffling, rustling came from the sides and behind him, a sinister echo to to swish of skimmers and t-b’s going by on the overpass above. Someone whistled far off, and from the other side, an answer came- could it be an ambush? He kept walking, hypersensitive to stimulus, panic rising.
“D’ye gorra spark there fella?” K damn near jumped and ran. The coarse roar came from the ground by his feet - he’d thought it was a heap of rubbish now rolling around and waving a stub of blackened tobacco at him.
“No, no, I don’t smoke” he muttered and paled, flapping a hand vaguely and carrying himself past without eye-contact, praying the thing stayed put in it’s stupor.
The dispo grumbled “Well bugger yez then” and collapsed back on himself.
K was well away by then, experiencing a thrill of something like victory- he’d answered the challenge, escaped without harm or pursuit. A great story now for sure! He couldn’t have made it up, it was too, too bizarre- someone who actually smoked! God alone knew where he’d got tobacco from… he possibility of a black market contact was laughable. That ruin of a man… Pure gold for after dinner speeches.
Back to the journey. Six more minutes, he was sure he’d be in cambot zones again. No problem, just stay alert and keep ahead of the game.
As he turned the penultimate corner a vision of anarchy opened up in front of him. In the flickering light of bonfires (open fires! How they dared?!) a group of the dispossessed were gathered in the shabby street, so many that it was not possible he could pass by with a comfortable gap. He hung back at the corner, appraising the situation. It seemed they’d jacked a stim-bot and it veered about, providing the crowd with u-coffee, sim-saké and other rationed goods, regardless of cred rating checks. They appeared to have been at it for quite some time- some were passed out at the edges of the pavement, but most were heavily drunk, reeling around in the middle of the road, coming near to falling in the fires that burned in random heaps. One small knot of figures actually had a small table and folding chairs set up in a kind of parody of a nutri-café! They were drinking from small cups, seemingly unaffected by the rest, talking with hand gestures and quiet smiles.
K pulled back, gaining his breath. Glancing back, the streets he’d just walked were closing in, there seemed to be an increase in the depth of shadow, darkening to the point of the pitchy void. A shiver thrilled up his spine. He must pass this set of probably dangerous criminals, though the flame lit street. Beyond lay his safety, his salvation. It would be best to steer clear of the drunks if he could. Unpredictable violence was more likely from them. The u-coffee drinkers seemed partially civilised, if he kept his head down and maintained his aura of purpose, perhaps they would be so engrossed in conversation he could pass this devastation, again uncompromised by the unknown.
He crouched down, rubbing his temples, breathed one deep breath. One more pause…
A steady pace, as if he saw this every day, detached. He held this poise past the first fire, alternating his gaze between the ground in front and the middle distance, isolated by his purpose.
“Your refreshment of choice, sir?” he’d crossed the stim-bots line of service, but ignored it, moving away beyond its range. The knot of fear within him was unravelling, loose ends flicking round, flaying his composure- but so nearly through this nightmare! A little further, past this swaying couple, and beyond- stay calm, stay calm, breath, walk
A heavy hand fell down on his shoulder.
“What? Not joining us for drinks? All courtesy of our good government, who has seen fit to allow us the use of their fine machine here?” The rich, dark voice, unfamiliar accent, was not one K would willingly wish to cross, despite the smile it held. Forceful and resonant, it spoke of a true self-confidence he often shammed. “Come, friend, surely you will have a cup of stimulant, to help you on your way? No matter the pressing nature of your business, there must always be time for enjoyment, a little drink, no? What do you say?”
K turned, the refusal withering in his throat as he took in the man. Half a head taller, strongly built with a thick head of hair, shaggy beard and wearing a luxurious fur trimmed longcoat. This was surely the leader of the café drinkers, a headman in this twisted community and he was looking deep into K’s eyes, straight through to his suddenly quaking soul.
“Ah, no, no. Have to, to get home. My wife…” K faltered. He was being too nervous! Mustn’t seem weak- rally. “She expects me, I must be there soon. The t-b leaves soon…”
“T-b? Hah, those things do not keep good time. There will be another! Forget it! Come now, here.” He thrust a drinking cup into K’s unresisting hands, swept aside K’s feeble bleats of protest and led him back to the centre of the festivities. K could see the group at the table had ceased their talk and were watching him intently.
“Your refreshment of choice, sir?”
“Water,” he croaked, feeling his grip slacken on the cup, and not just the cup.
“No,” countermanded the man, “that is not a good drink to have with friends. You will have sim-saké, hear me, machine?” He glowered at the stim-bot, checking it followed his words.
“But I don’t really drink and I don’t even know your name, and my wife, my wife, she,”
“Shush now. A little drink is good for you and my name is Bjorn. A good name, no? My mother, rest her soul, told me it means Bear. It suits me, don’t you think? Now, you tell me your name, and we shall be friends after all, ok?”
“My, my name? K. K Wanohfive is my name.” He took hold of his self again, downing the strong brew in a single gulp and wiping his mouth. “Thank you, Bjorn. Thank you for the drink, but I really must go.” He tried to pass the cup back, but Bjorn was laughing loudly, and wouldn’t take hold of it, great white teeth coming out from behind his lips and shouting with his great mirth.
“What? Such a drinker? Well little man, you must have one more now you have taken the edge off your thirst, eh?” He clapped K on the back, almost felling him, and ordered a large round of sim-saké from the stim-bot. Taking the cups, clutched in his huge hands back to the table, he directed an extra chair be made up and proclaiming “all shall drink with our new friend, the excellent K” and waving away the feeble protests of the smaller man.
“We are talking of the government,” spoke Bjorn, “and wondering how we could best overthrow it.” He started pointing around the table at the assembly. “Kristian here says we should enlist the aid of off-worlders. He does not say which ones, exactly, but it seems he knows some… people. Stan would like us to destroy every camera and security station in the city, a thing which will take forever, I fear, even if we could locate them all. Ferdinand claims that if we educate the people with leaflets, or take over a tri-v channel and show all how they are abused, they shall rise up and smash it themselves, without us poor few raising so much as a finger. Sam, though, holds firm his believe that there is no answer, the people relish their bondage and will fight against being freed! Lastly, my beautiful Malenka, she, ah! She would seduce the Lord High Governor, murder him and supplant him with myself! I think that is a fine plan, but I am not sure- do you think I should trust her to do this? I fear she would enjoy life too much with all to run to her beck and call. Tell me now, which do you favour?” All eyes turned to K, who had been growing more hysterical by the second; such talk! So freakish, so dangerous!
These madmen could murder him in a minute and would laugh about it later. He’d have to be damned careful. And what if, this very second, he was being watched, not only by those in front of him, but by an unseen cambot, monitoring the revelry. Perhaps one had been following him all the way from the station. The previously reassuring watching eyes seemed now to hold a hidden threat in this situation. If he went along with Bjorn, would it be held against him? Would an understanding officer of the state simply delete the file, or pass it on for further consideration? There was no way he could know if he was on record, and no way he could answer the question. Yet no way he could not.
“But why? Why overthrow the government? The system works, sure it’s bad, but we have no other alternative, surely?” He looked around, seeking support for this self-evident statement.
Tears of sorrow and anguish welled up in Bjorn’s eyes. He breathed deep, sighing. “No. No my newest friend, the government does NOT work. Look around you and tell me that it does. Look at these people here, who have fallen through the cracks in the paving stone, and so are stepped upon every day by those above. Look at the slums, the industrial ghettoes and tell me all is well in this world, or the others. You ask me what I would replace it with? Why freedom! The right for a man to keep what he has fought and worked for, that it would not be taken away by the tax enforcers or the corrupted law courts. These things, I most humbly suggest, are imperative. We must destroy in order to create again. A fresh start.” He slammed his palm down on the table, knocking drink over it’s surface and sank back again into morose contemplation. Ferdinand, a sickly looking boy dressed in some kind of tartan kaftan, set about getting a fresh drink in front of each person again. K felt his position was extremely fragile, any moment he could be set upon as a supporter of the government, and lord knew what these madmen did to conformists.
"Let me help you get them." K nearly jumped up and hurried over to the stim-bot before the youth could say anything. Without stopping he broke into a run and headed straight over the opposite pavement into an alley and what turned out to be a shadowy dead end. A shout went up behind him, lending him imagination, desperation. He searched the floor, walls for anything that could make an escape route or hiding place. Nothing. Blood was pumping, rushing in his head, he had to get out! Bjorn’s low rumble came from the alley mouth.
"It is a shame to lose a friend so quickly.” He gave a bitter “Hah!”
“We thought you might be a government spy- and now you have proved yourself. You know what we do to spies…"
They closed in on him, as darkness rose up and a roaring sound filled his ears. Hands reached out to take him at the same time as a blanket of night passed over his eyes and he passed out.
"What a pitiful man."
These were the first words spoken by the inspector since he had entered the d-post.
"What role is he up for?"
"Minor supervisory role, sir. Civil service. " Neither the d-weaver nor her assistant were happy to have the inspector there. He was notoriously hard and by the book. "Should be a pass I think sir. At least he left the queue. I’ve seen worse."
"I damn well hope you failed them then. All right, pass him. By Kreb, it nauseates me to see so much weak thought. "
"It’s a pretty tough dream to beat though. Lost and alone. I didn’t do so hot myself. Ended up going back and waiting for the t-b that never comes. "
The inspector, a tall, imperious man built of angles and hard edges completely in contrast to the small female technician, gave her a withering glance, irritated by her defensiveness. "I took that dream before I was even aware of sleep assessments. Frankly, I thought it was too damn easy." He mulled over his decision for a while.
"All right, pass him. But re-assess in six months." He turned and stalked of out the office, returning a little of its light and spartan comfort.
"What were you thinking, talking back like that to him? You’ve heard what he’s like. I’m surprised he didn’t bust you right there and then."
The d-weaver turned angrily to the sub-tech. "Oh, so what if he’s got a tough reputation? He’s only human," she snapped.
"I doubt that. I saw his results on this dream. ‘Too damn easy’ sums it up. The guy raised cain- joined the dispo’s and subverted an entire subzone on his own. Apparently his dream-self took advantage of a weakness no-one else had even thought of- guess what? That part of his results is still highly classified, five years later. Got promoted into the department so damn fast because the planners were scared he might get it into his head to try it for real."
Chapter 2 The Inspector
In which we follow the Inspector (Judeph) to his base, acquaint ourselves with his world some more and his close associates (Solice). He works as part of a unit- highly talented and trained individuals- with an agenda to oversee the operations of all industries below a certain level, rooting out corruption and inefficiency. Nearly all have no close relations and friendships outside the group are discouraged. This suits the inspector, as he is a loner, brooding and silent. Is this because he feels superior to all or does he have a shameful secret in his past?
Chapter 3 Solice
In which we follow the inspector’s sometime partner and closest associate, Solice, as she pursues a case of her own- corruption at the highest level (some work organisation, price fixing, holding back new tech, maybe illegal trade also) the inspectors may investigate- she encounters the activities of the w2- watchers of the watchers- believing herself to be under investigation she voices her fears to Judeph, ‘any strange dreams lately?’, but he offers no help. Feeling betrayed and vulnerable, Solice throws herself into her work and finds it may not be she who is under investigation. The case goes deeper.
Chapter 4 No news is…
Judeph visits an informer- cyber net phreak Diggaz to see what he knows of Solice’s case, and if she is under investigation. Diggaz works in the Uberframe, and hacks for alien subcultures occasionally. Judeph is aware, but has not probed for evidence on this. Diggaz is unable to come up with anything solid, but notes there is a shadow on the net, indicating unknown activity. Lots of detail about the seedy side of Diggaz apartment, his dress and speech. Diggaz trip into cyber space?
Chapter 5 break
Turns out Judeph is the one under investigation, the case Solice is working on turns out to be the tip of the iceberg (a mass murder, cannibalistic sub culture for the ruling class? The abuse of children and or minorities? Possibly the illegal trade is in meat, which is human or alien), it is taken away from her- both violently and officially. Judeph takes this personally, as she is badly injured (comatose? Regrowing a body? )and still blames him for not helping her in the case as far as she knew.
Chapter 6 break
Judeph takes on a personal crusade in his own time to follow the threads to the head of the organisation. In doing so he infiltrates high society, triggering a trap for himself, set in place from the time of his first dream assessment. There is a level of government which communicates all data up to the top and down to the bottom but has limited communication with the outside world. For a time therefore, if one can feed this mid-level certain facts, they will be utterly believed by them and the levels above and below, provided no-one requests a base check (to go back to the original database and compare the facts- normal checks go to the mid-level d-base which would already have been updated.) Automatic base checks occur as and when the system is free, depending upon security priority of the info and frequency of data update. Diggaz ensures the system is kept too busy to check the low priority of Judeph’s cover.
Chapter 7 break
Judeph investigates. Meets movers and shakers and pisses them off. Has some sex? Makes allies and enemies. Meets with aliens- ambassadors and trade reps. Impresses some with his forthright attitude, annoys others.
Chapter 8 break
Judeph kidnapped by the trade reps, flown off world where the ship is intercepted by ambassador/ninja aliens and he is returned in a consignment of the dead trader aliens illegal meat (after being given some pointers and equipment). Point: the aliens bestow knowledge to their eaters, traditionally prepared and consumed, certain cells pass through the intestine walls and make their way to the brain, there they communicate an instinctive tribal memory to the host. In humans, the alien cells will roam around the body seeking an alien brain, they can cause the entire host to become a brain like organ (if enough is consumed) but in small quantities will speed reactions (nerves in fingers becomes smarter) and replace cells in damaged areas- prolonging and extending life. The older the alien, the better, since more knowledge, but for the latter benefits, even children will do- and have been killed. Young aliens often travel the galaxy and would not show up as missing for many years
Chapter 9 break
Judeph finds himself in a spaceport, being transported to a storage facility. He busts out before being prepped for consumption and as a desperate fight against the meat factory workers.
Chapter 10 break
Chapter 11 break
Diggaz was being suckered though, the W2 are keeping tabs on everything and he gets fried for his trouble. They are being manipulated and held at bay by the organisation behind Solice’s case. and behind them, a shadow, waiting for the right moment to act and consolidate it’s power. One man? Or the W3? Not a benign shadow, but something which repulses Judeph and the reader, cynically continues the meat trade (or whatever) and claims all is well, roots out corrupt officials to centralise the corruption. Judeph’s final act in this chapter is to plant a mind bomb (from aliens who were hurt in the trade) in this organisation- memetics, genetics, combined to fuck over any system imaginable- the shadow responds by destroying a small portion of the world and revealing that, should it fall, all will follow- doomsday device.
Judeph at an uneasy truce with W3/shadow, continues his work with Solice, Diggaz restored (not unscathed) but with some nifty new tech scavenged from the penultimate scene with the aliens
Judeph- inspector, tough, loner, secret in past- watched his mother die, scared of commitment, can’t open up to people. Paranoid also, something of a control freak. Will open up as book progresses, express feelings of comradeship for Solice, maybe also risk self for Diggaz.
Solice- wealthy parents died and left her well provided for. Joined the inspectors after training in Euro zone in martial arts, networking and law. Returned to the city of her birth in part to feel close to her parents.
Diggaz- Cyber net phreak, pals with Judeph, doesn’t know Solice beyond her photo (which he really, like, digga diggz, hume! Does occasional work for aliens, including translation and hacking. Worked for both alien1 and alien2 as well as others.
K Wanohfive- bit player, not important. Serves to introduce the world and it’s ways. Turns out to be a Manchurian candidate/MK Ultra type. Shows up as a gimp for W2
Aliens- multiple factions, some trader types (earth only really sees trader reps as so far from their base world) other ambassadors and tourists. Some off-world humans counted as alien due to evolution and adaptive gene-splicing.
Alien1- Traders, reps. Octopus type squid things.
Alien2- Ambassador types. Bestow knowledge to their eaters, traditionally prepared and consumed, certain cells pass through the intestine walls and make their way to the brain, there they communicate an instinctive tribal memory to the host. In humans, the alien cells will roam around the body seeking an alien brain, they can cause the entire host to become a brain like organ (if enough is consumed) but in small quantities will speed reactions (nerves in fingers becomes smarter) and replace cells in damaged areas- prolonging and extending life. The older the alien, the better, since more knowledge, but for the latter benefits, even children will do- and have been killed. Young aliens often travel the galaxy and would not show up as missing for many years. Utilise organic tech, weapons include mind bombs, meme guns and nerve toxins. Ninja subclass
W2- the watcher’s watchers. A secret police, monitoring anything they damn well like. Answerable only to the planners.