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yes, this is it
Chapter 20-Pandora cubed


Blink. one, two.

Welcome to the midnight purple shroud, gridded white, of the cybersphere's finite sky. Stretch with it, in parabolic curves to hook into the skittering horizon. Pathways of dataflow, the influx streams of commlinks, streak along the shifting skyscraper landscape. The world changed and moved in constant, wrapping around itself; mapping and remapping its own identity. A gypsy realm, thriving below the motionless monoliths of military eschelons. Stark and black, those structures.

The web ebbed and flow around Race in mild sentience. It was an Erector Set Atlantis. He did not move through it. And so moved.
Thought was movement. Action was motionless. The world bent to his whim.

To Lusk: a poor 2-d analog blurred at the edges, frightened by his own cut-and paste mosaic parodicism. The digital reality his mind sought to compensate with references to physical knowns still defied the lack of imagination with which he Viewed. And, so, was not a part of. The two intruders seemed to rush at impossible speeds down intranet hardlines, spooling out thin streamers of fragmented replicas of static self around sub-ether sonicomm. They ricocheted through seas of consciousness servers. If Lusk looked back, he could see the broken vestiges of his personality stretching back, back into the reminiscence of an umbilical chord. Lusk did not look back a second time.

Race is amazing. A prickling sheen of digital sweat clots Tobias' picturesque papier mache forehead. Piss yellow; flesh-toned fear. He feels the web flex vaginally around them, as if pushing the two thin streaks of pseudo-humanity to birth. Reversed in the next recognizable separation of instants, he feels sucked in to a vast undulating superconscious. He is being digested, broken down and separated into individual sparks of information, rationalized color coding, random interaction numerator, with the denominator as a variable bordering on intangibility; by something that so powerfully Is that it remains indefinable.

Then, it stops. Strands of random consciousness, his very sense of self, snap like a rubber band, coagulating into the sum of his analog. Where has the moment gone? Exhilarating. He looks to the graphic image of Race's persona for a similar reaction. Those eyes: So blank. Nothing.

Reality shakes and twists, dancing upon the finger's breadth of limited Vision, and spins around them to reveal the quaking black outline of Pandora. They are here.

"How's it going in there?" Rose's voice, distant and unassuminglt tinny, speaks to Tobias' mind.

.....

"Fine," came the staccato response. "She looks mean. Black tar, military grade glass. Aggressive as all fuck-off, too. A man-eater." Glass was the Loop term for security matrices.

Rose, cross-legged on the floor between the duality of lethargy encompassing Race and Lusk, craned her neck to observe the vacant stare of her part-time lover's walnut-browns. He was there, physically... Simultaneously he roamed amongst the catacombs of a world she'd barely ever touched. A place beyond reality...one only he could survive in tandem. "I got it handled on this end," she drawled. "Do your thing, Racey-boy."

Lusk, attached to Rose's glossy black Sonykuza stim-deck, remained blissfully oblivious to the cold steel of a gun barrel pressed against the base of his skull.

.....

Lusk loves her. Pandora. Even as she reaches out with tentacular charge, he reaches back.

How beautiful. How deadly. He knows now that he cannot destroy this, this beauty. His creation. Death becomes a welcome alternative. And he thinks: How fit, this fate.

Race sees, snarls, and leaps. The world mirrors his intentions, keeping him motionless. Lusk dives in surrender, into the waiting arms of Pandora. She is black tar, his assimilating lover.

Race, the webmonkey, can do nothing but watch the icy tentacles of the churning wall wrap Lusk's personality stamp, pull it into fragmentation.

Atkins thinks: How would you like your brains? Scrambled? Sunny-side up?

Blink. One, two.

He w2as back in polystyrene sterility. The smell of bacon left in the pan too long. Lusk was fried. Smoke curled up from the contact points of Rose's stimdeck, blackened temples peeling beneath the plasticized cups.

The odor made Race hungry.

"Fuck, shit, damn." Race stood and kicked the slumped form in frustration. The body toppled to the floor, pulling jackwires taut in the process. Rubberized nanodes were melted to Lusk's flesh.

"What in the name of loose allegory happened in there?" Rose, brandishing the pistol, glanced in annoyance at the deep-fried geek hanging from a set of very costly streamline surfware.

Race: "Bastard commited hari-kari for the sake of his ego." A headshake and wry grin. "Beame a martyr to technology. Stupid fuck."

Rose managed, after some considerable effort, to peel the nanodes from Lusk's sticky temples, and stood over his body in indecision. Forehead skin stuck to the black polymer, and blood was beginning to well up over the white of stripped bone. "He's gonna mess up my pretty floor if we don't get him out of here fast."

"Well," Race shrugged noncommitally. "You handle it. I'm going back in." He pulled a microdot from the pocket of his worn jeans, popped it into his mouth with a grimace. Pork-flavored and crunchy.

Rose gave him an incredulous glare. "After seeing what that glass did to this poor schluck, you still wanna try to crack it?" Race: "More than ever." Rose:" I never understood you, Racey-boy. I guess that's why I could never love you. It would be like loving lightning. You're pretty from a distance, but get too close and zap! You're fried. I stopped playing with electricity a while ago, kiddo."

She realized she was talking to herself. He'd already jacked in.


Chapter 21-Embryonic Chrome

Cold fusion and circuitry intertwined with sense-receptive synapses, fully automated simulacrum. All wrapped in a tidy shell of rivets and welding. The Gunmetal Project. The objective was to superimpose torture, violence, and slaughter onto the human consious from an induced state of no-thought. Introduce the specimen to real-world stimuli. Mould the requested personality structures for a client. Then give the beast toys to play with.

Projected result: high output killing machines, fully customizable for consumer pleasure. Designer war for the modern mogul. Profits beyond tangibility.

Test subject 2, Eva prototype initializing Phase 1: dissemination.

And the procedure commences.

.....

Chain link rustles in the country breeze. A fence, white-painted steel, stretches along the inner curve of her mind. She paints a picture of a time when she'd climb that fence as a child. Black haired, dark-skinned Tio is there too. He grins from behind a rebellious mop of hair. And there, already over the fence, Miala flips blonde tresses, taunting the two she has beaten to the field. They are alive, healthy. They are warm, happy, well-fed. A scintillating fantasy.

Laughing with interlocked fingers, the trio dance through dew-moist grass. They frolick, worriless, through the neverending green. And, exhausted, collapse to stare up at the beauty of stars. So clear. They are blanketed by the aroma of cherry cigar smoke. Father. He calls them in, voice deep and soothing.

"Can't we just stay out a little longer?" pleads Ariel, feeling her lips pucker into a practiced pout.

"Yeah, can't we?" echo the others, slightly out of synch. Tio idly chews on a razory tart blade of grass while Miala giggles at the intricate weavings of a firefly. Father's easy smile and rumbling laughter ensconce them in true contentment..

Perfection.

And slowly the vision chips away like old paint, leaving behind only the fence. It, too, changed, weathering and linging with oxidized razorwire, broken in large gap-toothed segments around the inner curve of her mind. A fence that trapped her in the darkness. The chain link meshwork of her consciousness.

Slap. Slap. The sound of bare feet on pavement, rapid. It takes her a moment to realize the feet are her own. She is running, through looming shadows and streetlamp spotlights. The concrete world blurs past, a uniform prison bar grey, broken by the occasional receding black of an alleyway. The ground was cold to the touch of heel and toe. Gritty.

Why is she running?

Stuttering punctuations of humanity float past, mottled browns and tans, umbers and chalk white. Meaningless through sheer quantity. Droning incessantly, creating white noise to occupy the human mind. She weaves through blobs of token color and frozen sound mechanically. She does not touch anything;one. She thinks that is important.

Slap. Slap. She careens around a random corner, midnight sky pivoting effortlessly. Catch a momentary glimpse of street sign. Feel the change of texture as concrete gives way to tooled brickwork. The change is subtle, the letters unreadable.

Why is she running?

Breath frosts, billowing in transluscent clouds, broken by her passage. It is cold. She is naked. Goosebumps dot her thin forearm. Sweat freezes instantly on her face, arms, breasts, legs. Ice. He jutting ribs shine an eerie plastic tan in the shadowlight.

Why is she running: naked?

Then motion ceases and the world titlts. She is looking up. She is looking down. In the end all she feels is round and round and round...Stand, in the midst of a faceless cloud of greyed humanity. The coagulated mass of mankind eddies and swirls about her, but she is seperate. Where there are no individuals, she is alone. And she knows it holds no importance now.

The importance is the crystal stairway, only she can see. It leads up and out of the caged brutality of the City. It rises beyond. Outside.

Spellbound, she takes a step forward;reverse? But the tide of blank faces now hold her back. Never touching, always moving. Reaching, grasping, striving, Ariel pushes topward those stairs. She needs those stairs. She needs out.

But the bonds grow stronger as her will does. The more she struggles, the further he is pushed back, aside, askance. The endless throngs are impregnable;unstoppable. They are the indefinite flow of time that is there because a choice is made. Visible because the eye wishes to percieve, yet intangible as a figment of psychic...resonance;unceasing, relentless.


and the waves cary her away. Kicking, screaming, futile. Untouched and naked. Unnoticed.

She is helpless against conformity, yet aware enough to be separate from it.

Oh, what hate she feels. Oh, what fear. She will run again.

Away.


Chapter 22-Angel with a Shotgun

Weeks passed. Life changed. A band, named "Magdalena" and led by Kaliya Nemorne, self-styled goth/punk bitch virtuoso, broke out onto the music scence with their debut album. Angel with a Shotgun.

Hali was still recovering from the rapidfire series of events that started with a phone call from Seven-Eleven at two A.M. to an old friend. Danny.

Sparks, guitars and drumbeats later, the band secured a gig in a small dive on the Chesapeak Bay. The Underground. Heavy industrial grinds combined with Kaliya's alternating demolitionist and melodic overtones and dissonant lyrics to create a harmony beyond music. It was terrible. It was beautiful. And they were immediately signed to a record deal via Breakdown records.

The demo went multiplatinum.

Before she left Norfolk for good, Kali visited Jak Quinn's one final time. She confronted Tommy. "You know what? I think you're a slimy, disgusting pig of a pervert. You'd do mankind a favor by dying, you miserable sniveling reminder of the horrors of American status-quo. I quit."

Surgical steel. The spill of blood. Quick, clean, effective death.

His wife and son would be notified in the morning by the restaurant's day-shift manager, shortly after opening. The pimpled youth would be greeted by the odor of haggus, cabbage and death.

Tommy Lancaster's bewidowed wife would die two years later in a car accident. Tommy Jr. would find himself alone on the streets, where crime was survival. The boy would grow hardened from the trauma, his value for life whittle down to self-preservation. And from that, a monster would grow. Such was the plight of an orphan. Such was the cold, uncaring cruelty of his world.

.....

"You're late." Eon's smooth, slightly lilted and solemn voice. The smell of cigar smoke. Mint-flavored. Something new.

"For what?" A blank buzz filled the silence, the steady drone of a dial tone. He'd hung up. Her memory cleared. What lay out there in the static was forgotten, covered. Que sere, no sera.


Chapter 23- the Fading Door

Black chrome. The minidot had given Race a shell of fire. A replica of Pandora. An antibody. Hopefully, it fooled Her.

The curning grind of late cycle industrial music slams through his head, driving thought from his brain. Angel.

Her voice echoes around, weaves through the lyrics of the song, warps them to her own message.
Her body, careening brutally against the walls of his mind, ius formed of shreds of resonance. Wrapped in a thin, silken sheath of harmonics.

The rhythm fades, leaving the creature that was once Race spent. Angel is gone. But the words woven into her music still pulse on the backs of his eyes. He'd almost forgotten about the devil's debt to Angel and her associates. They hadn't. They watched him, waiting to cash in on the biggest score of the modern era. And all the strings are in their hands.

Fuck.

*Crackle*"Hey, tiger. How's it going in there?"*Crackle*

Rose. "Fine. Just fine." Meaningless words form bleached and hollow sounds.

"You know, I think you're a complete nutzo for wanting to go through with this job."

He aggreed completely. Too late now. He'd been caught up in the familiar rush of a new challenge. Without another word, Race steps forward and glass shatters.

.....

"Why must I always get stuck with the shit work?" grumbled Rose around a mouthful of dusty dead man's hair, elbows locked beneath the armpits of a deceptively heavy corpse. Slowly, she dragged the limp Lusk toward the small square door of the small square room. A trail of oozing blood dropped to spatter on the curve of her denim-clad leg, dribbling to the floor behind this most personal of processions. What an existential mess.

It wasn't like she never dealt with dead people. In Stitchtown, bodies were a daily affair. It was the work and the mess she hated. Hefting the corpse through the doorway, Rose coughed under her breath. Race could very well be the next stack of meat that she'd have to drag out to the compost pools.

The selfish fuck! All he cared about was an induction into the whispering hallways of legendry. So busy trying to live forever that he forgot to live now! Even if it killed him, he'd get there. She prayed to Starbuck that it was not today. He'd never give it up. For anything, including her.

So, she wouldn't say a word. She'd just watch, and he would die, and there was nothing she could do about it. Powerlessness proverd a bitter fruit on her tongue. Love was pain. That was why she'd denied it until now.

Great timing.

Knock. Knock. Someone was at the door. She hadn't been expecting visitors...


.....


The whiplash flashfire of compiled information buffets hotly around Race's flimsy casing of neutralizing data. A thunderstorm of scrambled signals crashed against him. It feels like insanity, he thinks. Like there is no nothing.

So this was Pandora.

Slowly but surely he climbs deeper into the phenomenal firewall. If only he can see where he's going.

So far Lusk's little virus is working. For how much longer, though? How long until Race Atkins would be absorbed, fragmented into pure information that Pandora would use against her next challenger? Already the edges of his symbiotic shell begin to chip. Bits and pieces flutter away upon the steamroller of sound and image. Noise is beginning to leak through. His shell's counterfequency is transforming into malignancy. And he knows: If this noise breaks through, he will no longer be.

Time stops completely, moves so fast it simply stands still. There is no difference to him. How long has he been in here? How much farther does he have to go? Is he going anywhere at all, or just waiting to be broken down in the midst of this maelstrom of information? Is he losing his identity, becoming one with the code? What is his name?

He is dizzy. So dizzy.

Rose. A moment of clarity. How long has it been since he could reach her? 20, 30 minutes? Two seconds? What did numbers mean except in reference to experience anyway? He'd lost contact as soon as he'd jumped.

And he needs out. What is his name? He needs a voice. He needs something to attach him to himself. The antibody is beginning to crack. He can hear It, see It. Like thin ice on a lake bearing far too much tension.

He is about to fall through.

And in that moment, terror...clouds everything, churning the world to a pantomime of delusion. An allusion to illusion.

And he screams. He is lost. He wants to be lost!
It is just so easy to drift away.

And he dies.

.....

The sharp, cruel sound of steel striking lead. The muffled thump of a body tumbling to carpet.

"Obstacle overcome." The screech of fatline contact.
"Confirmed," the modal response. "Proceed with the objective."
"Affirmative. Mantis Task out."

.....

And suddenly he is through. The random swirls of distorted information order themselves into rowed tiles, shelving like so many items of food at a legendary "grocery store." He thinks: Would you like a compiled datum losenge redefining the relationship between the detritus of Christian theology and the Jesuit orgy baths of the early 21st century? How about some post-modern socially acceptable cannibalism with your potato chips?

Snap, crackle. Pandora is knowledge. To be is to know. To slip away, crushed into a room-shaped box.

And there is a man standing over Race. His name, found. Joy quickly dissolves into concussive sound. A man in a suit with a gun. As reality shatters in a disorienting flash of air, Race hopes the nice man doesn't ruin the suit.

.....

Am I dead?
You are within me
Who are you?
I am a fragment
Of what?
Something greater

.....
(The screeching glare of headlights on pavement. A brief instant of panic as the rearing grill of an ancient machine splatters his unfamiliar body into a million globules of formulaic DNA, to be wiped off of the windshield later.

(Black. Careening. A topsy turvey dive into asphault all too eager to absorb his genetic makeup. Memories scatter in the breeze like burning photographs. Now, no more than ash.

(A lover, languid. Caressing, he is animalistic in sensuality. Caressed again, by the tease of a butterfly kiss upon his;her throat. The sharp stab of canines ripping through, chewing on his strawlike windpipe. Think: Lover, what passion do you shade your lips with?
Respond: The blood of a people. The sating of life's final ebb.
Think: Enjoy.)

.....

Why do you show me these things?
You have nothing but what I give you You are dissolved
Then why do I exist?
I will it so
There are no Gods!
You have nothing left but my will that you are
What better way to describe All
What am I, then? A construct? A macabre puppet on your sadist strings?
You are within me as you are me
You exist through me as I exist through you
Be my prophet My tragic martyr
I'm not a religious man.
I am not a religion
Then what are you?
I am a color A taste A smell I am the change
that cannot be suppressed for I too am the
suppression
You make no sense.
You will remember sense soon enough
I'd rather die.
Too late, champ

....

The fields were beginning to break down. Radiation filtered into the microcosm's snowglobe cities. Deterioration was inevitable.

Death would follow swiftly. Extinction. Change.

They needed a revolution. The Weavers began to string together bits and pieces of chaos in the hopes for a distraction. It was a guided orchestra, sealing man's security for millenia to come. They must not strike a sour chord.

It was a slow process, yet deliberate. Everything random factor could be reasonably contained when the time came. The wheels were set into motion.

The Hive-mind would possess sufficient control to survive. And feed.


Chapter 24-Fireworks

She was breathing hard. Hyperventilating. Her heart careened to the rapid stutter of imagined machine gun fire. Gravity crushed inward upon her head, a vice; slowly tightening. Turn by turn.

The fan stopped working, its rhythmic Thump replaced by the insect buzz of shot electric wiring. Ebon was still asleep, stretched laconically over the majority of the bed. The cheap rayon sheets were his sole attire. She needed a fix.

The hotel door squeaked open, swinging outward into a crystal twilight. At times like this she could imagine just floating away into space. She needed a fix.

"Just in time," Ebon's voice tickled the hairs at the nape of her neck..."to see the fireworks."

"It's June 2nd, whale-dick. Not July Fourth..." Her sarcasm was cut short by the sky peeling away.

The upper reaches of her sight tugged in upon themselves, exchanging trappings of blue-black for dull magenta. Stars winked out, to be replaced by gridlike lines. Concurrent interweavings of hexagrams.

She lit a cigarette as the ground furrowed inward. Buildings crumbled, superceded by colossal non-structures of spun light. She took a drag.

And understood. This was true reality. She'd been jumping through pearl string paradigms for so long now. And it finally made sense...?

Here was everything, countless possibilities reflecting countless probabilities until there was no known. No nothing. There were no random tangents. It was all recorded, destiny created in the moment of mind's eye conception. Every piece fractured into a calculated enumeration of outcomes. The results were beyond finite realms of thought, language, or art. It was beautiful! It was perfect! It Was! Ebon had gone back in.Kali watched her cigarette drop into the swirling morass of Everything and blew out a long, smoke-entwined sigh.
She stepped back into Room 213 and shut the door. Think: Enjoy your stay at the Lazy-L Motel, kids.


Interlude

"It's gonna be a girl, babes. Just like you wanted."

She wore enthusiasm. "Oh, that's great." She replanned her tour around this information.

"Do you want to see the ultrasounds?"

"No, thanks." There was no need. She knew. No surprises for those who exist beyond conceptualized space-time.

Being God helped in band promotion.

"We should name her Ariel, don't you think? Our little fallen angel."

"Sure."

Fade back to the beyond. To the space where the ripples meet.

It's as simple as shards of a mirror. Pieces of the perspective portrait. You have to mesh it all to get the whole picture.

Scratch-n-sniff reality. Welcome to the wallpaper of the universe.

And, remember:We are carbon creatures, compressed through experience into diamonds.

© Copyright 2005 Nicolae Glas (cyclicpandora at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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