Monthly Archives: April 2012

Growing in Writing and Blogging Part Two

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In this post, part two of ‘Growing in Writing and Blogging‘, I will discuss the varies ideas I have learned through connecting to other writers, reading books about writing, and doing many online searches. I am aware there are many people who go in to writing thinking they know what they need to know, that it will be easy to write a novel. In truth it’s a journey one must take, a discovery of self and knowledge. Becoming a writer is no easy task, and the information out there is often overwhelming and at times misleading. With such conflicting information floating around the Internet it can leave you wondering what is right and what is wrong. I don’t think its about what is wrong, or what is right, but what works for you. On the other hand there are key points that should always be followed.

Show Vs. Tell

Now this is a big one, key to writing. When you tell you are saying to the reader how to see and feel your words. When you show you lead them to the conclusion, letting them feel and see it for themselves. Simply telling a reader will tern them off, and what you have written and worked on so hard will be put down never to be finished. Colorful words go a long way, practice show vs tell by observing your surroundings and describing them.

Tell : The tree was tall and old.

Show : I stood beneath it’s branches, as they gently sway in the cool breeze. Towering above all the others it appeared to touch heaven its self. Roots reaching deep into the earth it would take many people hand in hand to reach around its base. I wondered to my self how long had it stood untouched and undamaged to grow so immense. Shame they want me to cut it down.

With the first sentence you have a stated fact about a single tree, but with the second you can imagine standing at the base of the tree looking up at its towering size, even see the light come through the branches as they sway, see the immense roots digging into the earth.

A Dictionary and Thesaurus are your best friend

There are amateur writers that tend to use the same words over and over again, I admit I found I was even doing it. The best thing to do is keep a dictionary and thesaurus on hand. In writing they have become my best friend. My vocabulary has grown, my ability to ‘show’ useing more colorful words has grown by leaps and bounds. For me I can’t keep two big books around and spend time thumbing through them with three kids running around so I found something better a web site with both : http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Keep on target

Now there are two ways to accomplish this and both should be followed.

One: Make the time two write a little every day. Try to keep to a routine. Its okay to take a day or two off, but if you write a little every day you will eventually finish your first draft. Not keeping to a scheduled can make it hard to randomly site down and write, getting distracted or even drawling a blank when you try.

Two: Its alright to get off topic with a little bit of a side story adding to the back ground of your characters or settings. Going overboard with the side story can confuse your reader and loose the main story line. Keep these short and sweet, they will add depth to your characters and novel but you don’t want to get lost in them. This is another problem that will leave your novel unfinished and siting on a shelf never to be read again, confusing the reader and loosing the real story puts readers off.

These are three of the best tips I have learned. They have helped me improve my writing more then any other tips I have found. I use my knowledge in both my blog and writing, even my readers have told me I have improved immensely sence I first started. Remember to use these tips to the fullest and you to will improve in all your writing rather you blog, write poetry, write novels, or short stories. Happy writing and remember practice makes perfect. Yes it’s an old saying and everyone has heard a thousand times, but it is true. The harder you work at it and the more you practice the better you will become. Remember writing for the first time is a journey, and every journey starts with the first step.

Artist of the ‘Week’: Dark Writing 8: David J. Rodger Part two

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Before we get to the story David was so kind as to provide me with for this post I have just a few things to say.

First and foremost I have to apologise to all my readers. The past couple weeks have been hard and made it impossible to do any of my normal activities. I was unable to paint, sketch, writer, or blog. Which is a sham when you think about the fact that I had started a dark short story just to try my hand at it and share it with all of you. It seems when the shit hits the fan it hits all at once, but so goes the life of a mother, wife, and sister. I do not complain when I need to take care of my family physically or mentally but it leaves little time for my self. So Please forgive my absence for I am back and have a great read for you all.

Second I have to say thank you David! David gave me two of his short stories to choose from to post, both fantastic stories. They where both so good I had a hard time picking which one two post, and I wish I could share both with you. I suggest to every reader if you are into si-fi and the dark subscribe to his blog or facebook page or twitter, I leave you a link to both.

http://davidjrodger.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/David-J-Rodger/10090348898

https://twitter.com/#!/davidjrodger

Now to the story

SIM

By David J. Rodger

Copyright © David J Rodger 2011
David J Rodger has asserted his right under the
Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988
to be identified as the author of this work.

Sim-Stim
– Simulated Stimulation
 Pre-recorded experience that a user plays back via
SQUID headwear or a direct neural interface.
 Also called sim, socket junk, stim, brain candy; also
{illegal} blackjack, death-rim.
 Users typically experience all five senses, enhanced via
post-production techniques; but can choose to de-select any
of the sensory inputs. It is advised to always be sitting or
lying down during sim-stim immersion.
 Addiction to Total Sensory Immersion is becoming a
growing problem amongst the user-base (Jennings, Wilson,
Cheung; Pharmacology for the Fantasy Gene)
 Sim-Stim is predominantly entertainment based (73%
sex-industry DAglow Market Trends) but there is increasing
applications for training and PR.
 Sim-Stim actors are now the highest paid artists in the
entertainment industry.
 Patent holder: RoGong Corporation; largest market
share distributer of recording/ playback tech: Nascent Virm
[update via BullHype ~ Zendori Corp has recently launched
state-of-the-art SIM-WEAVE bioware, expected to grab
largest market within next 6 months]

Ulrich Drake surfaced back to consciousness with sunlight
spattering his eyelids. Blinking in the mid-morning light he
saw the silhouettes of leaves fluttering back and forth
across the cream-coloured walls of the private room; foliage
of the trees beyond the windows of the clinic caught in a
spring breeze. Lying motionless in the firm but comfortable
bed, it took a few moments to cognise where he was and
what had happened.
“Hello Mr Drake,” a professionally brusque male voice
came from his left.
Turning his head Drake saw a young, serious faced
man, standing by the bed wearing the neatly pressed white
smock of a medic. Drake touched the inside of his cheek
with his tongue, opened his mouth and stretched the
muscles of his face. He’d been unconscious. Anaesthetic.
The medic allowed a brief smile to part his lips, then
nodded once, “You’ll be feeling confused and disorientated
for a few minutes. It will pass, along with any nausea you
might be experiencing.”
His throat hurt and he became aware of an ache
swelling up from the base of his skull, hot, sickly, pushing
out sweat across his forehead.
“We’ll continue pain management for a couple of days
whilst the implant beds in and your brain adjusts to the
new nerves. There’s been some swelling of your
corticobulbar tract so you’ll experience some discomfort and
unusual sensations around your face, head and neck.
Apart from that it’s been a complete success. Mr Warner
wants to see you if you’re ready.”
Warner. Jack Warner. CEO of Zendori Corp. Drake
frowned with the effort of his mind reaching after smoky
memories; he knew Jack but couldn’t quite visualise the
relationship. They were business partners, but there was
something else lost beyond a mental fog that seemed to
form as he tried to recall.
Strange, he mused.
“Well Ulrich, yet again you bounce back with the stamina of
a man thirty years younger,” Jack Warner enthused;
gesticulating with his hands in an easy manner, standing
over the small wrought iron table where Drake was eating
breakfast outside in the garden of the clinic.
Drake smirked; knowing that Warner, with his weedy
figure, narrow shoulders and pot-belly paunch, was secretly
jealous of his athletic build. In his mid-40s, Warner was
only five years younger than Drake yet the man had
obviously done little to look after himself.
“You should get yourself out from behind that desk of
yours and come join me for a spot of Tenko training,” Drake
responded airily; not actually serious. He sipped a tall glass
of freshly squeezed orange juice and allowed his gaze to
soak up the view of wild meadows in the foothills of vast
mountains.
Warner made a tight hum-noise through his nasal
passage then clasped his hands together.
“Somebody has to run the business side of things,
Ulrich. Not all of us can afford to get our hands…dirty.”
There was a strange note to the statement. Drake
glanced up at the CEO and found him gazing back at him
with unusual intensity, brown eyes glittering in the early
morning sunlight.
The moment stretched and became significant; Warner
was searching his face for some kind of response but it
became apparent he wasn’t getting it. Whether this was a
good thing or not, he had no comprehension. Drake felt the
hairs on the back of his neck prickle up.
Then abruptly, with a flicker of intrigue crossing his
face, Warner untangled his hands and moved the
conversation on.
The new implant was a beta-version of an upgrade to
Zendori Corp’s Sim-Weave. Like the launch-version, it
facilitated record and play-back of sim-stims; incorporated a
dispersed WAM (Wet Access Memory) for secure internal
data-storage and was connected to a broadcast chip,
allowing data to be squirted via any phone-tag to an
external storage host.
The upgrade brought a raft of new features but the
unique-selling-point was Life-Ride. Multiple users of the
sim-weave implant could, if they had the upgrade, dial-into
the experience a single other user. The concept was to
experience a live stim-stim feed rather than a pre-recorded
production.
Warner visibly fizzed with anticipation as he predicted
sky-rocketing profits and a blitzkrieg on Nascent Virm’s
market share.
The applications beyond entertainment (adrenaline
sports were a key target) and the sex-industry were
enormous; particularly in the field of intelligence gathering;
checking on the whereabouts of bonded criminals (wealthy
criminals, as they would be the only class likely to afford a
sim-weave implant), and high-spec/high-risk training such
as engineering and technical careers in orbit and deep
space.
Drake finished the orange juice and stretched his long,
thick-set limbs. He was restless. Warner picked up on it
like a coach:
“Time to bail you out of here, Ulrich. Marcus will run
you through the new features of the implant. And I’ve
arranged a little ‘something special’ for you tonight. A town
not far from here. You can drop in as you drive back to the
airport.”
Drake tilted his head and looked at him with a raised
eyebrow, a slow smile curving his lips. Something special
was code for their mutual passion for high-class prostitutes;
that much about their friendship he could recall, although
he was fuzzily aware there were still areas about their
business relationship lost beyond the mental fog: a lingering
side-effect of the surgery, no doubt.
Warner matched his smile then shifted his gaze to the
distant mountains. “She’s a real ball-breaker. There’s a
place by the airport for you to clean up when you’re
finished; I’ve written the details down for you. You’re going
to want to sleep like a baby on the flight after this.”
The address was a private house on the edge of a sparse
forest; the headlights of a nearby main road stuttered
through the intervening trees. It was a small but very
comfortable-looking structure, well-maintained, a lot of
wood and glass. The sun had only set half an hour ago but
the temperature had already dropped enough to make him
shiver; there was also the nerve-tingling anticipation of
illicit gratification ahead.
Drake had left the rental car parked further down the
narrow track and walked to the front door, as instructed.
He suspected there would be cameras watching his arrival
and progress; a woman didn’t work in this line of business
without some form of security – even if clients were only
invited through personal recommendations. There wouldn’t
be a thug in the basement sitting ready with a baseball bat
and a Rottweiler; this set-up was in an entirely upper class.
The woman met him at the front door; introduced
herself as Lorna, wrapped in an outfit of shimmering pink
silk. Slim, quite beautiful, only a touch of make-up, the
underlying hardness to her features softened by balms that
left her skin healthy and radiant; she had the figure and
movements of a ballet dancer and the easy smile of a
hostess.
Once inside, she served him a stiff alcoholic drink whilst
small talk established how much time he had to spend and
a confirmation of his particular taste in pleasure; polite
euphemisms around submission or domination.
Domination was his preferred theme.
He’d noticed that all the mirrors seemed to have been
removed, so asked about it.
“Your assistant made the request when booking me
tonight,” she responded, un-phased; probably used to
facilitating unusual requests. “Some people don’t like to be
confronted by a view of what they’re doing.”
Her comment made him pause.
“Make yourself comfortable,” she told him with a
coquettish turn of her head; “I’ll go and prepare everything
upstairs. Feel free to come and join me in about five
minutes.”
Drake smirked over the rim of his glass and felt the
blood surging around his groin. The drink stung the soft
flesh of his mouth, stimulated smoky buds of his tongue
and seared the back of his throat with twenty-year old fire.
His brain responded with a release of tension.
He watched her climbing the slatted-wooden staircase;
focussed on the tight curves of her arse pressing against the
silk. His pulse quickened, his breathing became shallow.
Then he heard a sound; like a – snick, which could have
come from across the other side of the room or right beside
him. But before he could twist round to check, a sensation
like an insect sting bit into his skull behind his left ear.
Then everything went black.
Drake found himself on the sofa, firm fabric upholstery
pressed up against his skin. There were no lights on.
Broad shafts of moonlight sloped into the room through the
many windows. Trees crowded the space outside.
What the hell happened?
He struggled to recall; grunted as he heaved himself up
with heavy limbs into a sitting position. His head felt
swollen, his thoughts sluggish.
Fragments of memory began swirl into the focus of his
mind. The sharp sting…
Reaching a hand up to the affected area of his skull he
couldn’t feel anything like a puncture mark or insect bite. A
little further up was the tiny scab forming around the scar
tissue of the recent implant.
His fingers did feel strange though; slightly sticky as if
coated in something.
Bringing his hand in front of his face a jolt of shock
ripped through him. His hand was almost entirely black,
smeared in a drying substance that was velvet smooth to
his touch.
His other hand was just the same.
Widening his area of focus, he looked down at his
clothes and saw his once white crisp business shirt was
now heavy and damp with dark fluid.
He pushed himself up onto his feet, glancing rapidly
around him. Confusion riding the beating wings of fear.
Oh my God what is this?
The sofa was stained in places where his hands and
shirt had touched.
More stains on the deep pile carpet, in the shape of shoe
prints, leading to the sofa from the staircase.
Drake staggered over to a lamp poised above a glass
coffee table and flicked the switch.
Electric light flooded this part of the room and a
guttural sound of horror burst through his lips.
In the moonlight the stains were black but now he saw
they were bright scarlet. Blood. He was covered in blood.
Where was Lorna? Where was the woman? Why was the
house so quiet? Why was everything dark?
“Lorna?” He called out her name, coughing
immediately. His mouth was bone dry.
The absence of a response sent a chill shudder down his
spine and left his scalp tingling.
His eyes raked the floor and walls but nothing seemed
out of place. Just the awful blood.
The smudged footprints held his gaze. He followed them
across the carpet to the wooden slatted stairs.
Just beneath the bottom step was a pair of partly
inverted rubber gloves, smeared in blood; as if torn off in
haste and thrown to the floor.
He tried to call out Lorna’s name again but his throat
clenched up with fear at the idea now forming in his brain.
Lurching forwards, he crossed to the staircase and
trudged rigidly up the steps.
The steps ended in a sort of play room build into the
attic space; this wasn’t the main upstairs part of the house
he’d observed from outside; another staircase must have led
there.
The darkness was elevated into an alabaster tainted
gloom, punctured by the bright moon shining down through
skylights overhead.
The air was heavy with the smell of sex, sweat and
something else.
He was straining to identify the smell when his gaze
locked onto the figure of a person, suspended in a nearly
horizontal position from chains attached to the sloping
ceiling. A sex harness. The naked figure was a black
cardboard cut-out silhouette in the moonlight. How could
such an outline belong to a human being?
Lying forwards, straps around the chest and hips, limbs
splayed outwards and held aloft by cuffs and chains. A
strap had been wrapped around the ankles and fastened to
a head-rig, so tight it had the head pulled back at an
impossible angle.
Then Drake saw why and the sight seared itself into his
brain: a savage gap in the silhouette where her throat
should have been.
Ice water was seeping into his veins. His scalp
contracted. Goosebumps rippled across his flesh.
He stared. He noted the long hair hanging down. The
outline of her breasts.
With fumbling, blood-stained hands, he patted the walls
at the top of the staircase and eventually found a light
switch. He flicked it on.
When he saw the mutilated condition of the body his
knees buckled beneath him and he dropped to the floor,
retching and hyperventilating in a twin twist of disgust and
panic.
His eyes rolled in their sockets but his gaze never
seemed to waver from the grotesque sight of the woman’s
dangling corpse. Yet even though he stared with morbid
fascination, the majority part of his mind shrank away.
Coughing, puking, gasping, he fought the fear he might
choke and wrestled to bring his breathing under control.
He was faintly aware he was wailing and making
incomprehensible sounds that might have been words.
Arterial blood sprays were arced and spattered across
the walls and ceiling, all around where she hung. Several
pools of blood covered the carpet below her. There was so
much blood on the carpet the stains were still wet with dark
rings of congealing crust around the edges.
Her throat had been completely hacked away, leaving a
thick sliver of muscle, tissue and spinal chord at the back
connecting her head to her body. Drake could almost see
into her chest cavity through the ruined mess.
The face had been savaged with some type of sharp
instrument that cut crudely, tearing the soft flesh rather
than neatly slicing it.
A sharp knife must have been used where her abdomen
had been sliced open in one deep cut. The edges of the long
wound bulged monstrously with the weight of intestines
ready to fall out of her, although some of the long loops of
vivid coloured innards had already slipped out, or been
tugged loose, to dangle in the blood below; thick bundles of
greasy tissue, a smear of vile colours, pink, yellow, purple
and scarlet.
Drake doubled-over as his guts contracted violently and
he retched with a loud wailing sound, bringing up nothing
but gastric acid and saliva.
Pushing himself backwards and then up into a halfcrawl,
half-crouch, he made it back to the stairs and
staggered down them; close to collapsing, dazed and numb
with the turbulent emotions.
Reaching the bottom he stood motionless, blindly
staring at the sofa unable to decide what to do. He absently
wiped strands of saliva and vomit from his chin with the
back of his wrist.
An icon appeared within his field of vision, ghost-like,
superimposed by the implants interlinking his visual cortex,
sensorium, synaptic bridge, WAM and neural processor. It
told him a new sim-stim recording had been processed and
was ready for viewing.
What…?
His mind trailed off into silence as it registered the
significance of the timing.
The sim-weave implant could record raw data but
playback required processing time. Processing that could
only take place via Zendori servers or the Zendori
application loaded onto a powerful workstation.
Drake reached into the pocket of his trousers and fished
out his PA. He thumbed it out of standby and saw it was
on, with an active phone tag connection. The processed
sim-stim recording had been downloaded from an external
source; but why had he not been prompted to accept it?
Unless you were out of it and accepted it without
knowing, he pondered; or you made the recording.
Sinking down into a sitting position on the step, he
manipulated the icon and launched playback; immediately
his awareness of the hear-and-now was swept aside and
replaced by total sensory immersion within another reality;
a reality recorded in this house.
Oh God, no…
A point-of-view walk from the area of the sofa to the
staircase; past where he would have been sitting now in his
own reality, transfixed like a zombie, up the stairs to the
playroom where Lorna was naked and grinning, easing
herself into the first cuffs of the sex harness.
Drake watched gloved hands come up and help her get
strapped in, hooked up, cinched and slung into position.
Were they his hands? It was difficult to tell. There were
no mirrors. No reflective surfaces to give him a glimpse of
who was making the recording. Lorna murmured sluttish
encouragements to the recorder, but the recorder did not
respond verbally.
He caught a glimpse of muscular forearms and the
sleeves of a crisp white shirt rolled up to the elbows. It
could have been him.
It could have been, but some part of his brain was
picking out flaws in the deception.
It was meant to look like him.
Then the violence began.
There was no sex with Lorna. Just an immediate and
brutal attack that brought out chilling screams of agony,
rage, and then animal terror as she thrashed about
helplessly in the harness.
Drake didn’t want to watch what happened next.
Hurriedly he manipulated the synaptic commands for
the implant and brought himself out of playback. Sweat
beaded his forehead. Wild-eyed he pushed himself off the
staircase and moved over to the sofa. Whoever had made
the recording had done so whilst he’d been blacked out.
Drugged?
But the realisation dawned on him that whoever had
done this could still be in the house with him.
Drake dashed into the kitchen and found a knife to use to
defend himself. He considered searching the house but
decided he didn’t want to instigate any encounter that
might lead to violence.
Trembling, he lifted blood-stained fingers to his ear-clip
and pressed the stud to activate a dial-command; a voiceprompt
whispered to him; he sub-vocalised a name through
his throat implant.
He rang Jack Warner.
His friend and business partner picked up the
connecting call after only a moment; greeted and asked how
Drake was getting along in his clipped but casual manner.
“I’m in deep shit, Jack,” Drake struggled to get out the
first words, a bottleneck of emotions, questions and ideas
almost rendering his mouth useless. “The woman. Oh my
God, Jack. The woman…”
The words just tumbled out after that, in between sobs
of despair and loathing.
Finally, Jack managed to break through the torrent. A
firm, authoritative voice. Jack wanted him to take it easy,
told him to get a grip and calm down. He asked questions:
who else had Ulrich called? Who else had Ulrich told about
the rendezvous with the prostitute?
“Nobody, just you Jack. Just you.” Drake could hear a
tremor in his voice that wouldn’t go away.
“Okay. Now listen, Ulrich. I arranged a place for you
near the airport. Remember that? I want you to go there
and get cleaned up. Call me once you’re there and you’re
calm. Okay? Got that?”
Drake nodded even though Jack couldn’t see him; a
heavy frown was creasing the features of his face. The tone
of Jack’s voice unsettled him, was making him wary; he
couldn’t put his finger on it, just a deep base instinct
kicking in.
“Got it Jack, I’ll call you.”
He closed the connection and his mind started to turnover,
scattering thoughts in different directions. Ideas
forming…
There was something not right.
Drake pulled out the compact PA from his pocket,
thumb-swiped the hardscreen to bring it to life, tapped a
couple of icons and bought up the address by the airport.
An apartment; more like a tiny villa. Part of a corporate
hospitality compound. Electronic security gates, a short
private drive.
“What the hell is this?” he mutter-whispered, the frown
deepening.
He tried dialling Jack Warner again.
The call went straight through to voice-mail; an
interactive, synthetic version of Jack’s personality talking,
giving options. Another one of Jack’s techno tricks; the
kind of thing run by AI-emulation software; he always liked
to tinker with things.
Drake jutted out his jaw and dialled again.
Same response.
Who the heck are you talking to Jack?
Paranoia began to expand into his anxiety riddled state.
The police?
“Fuck…”
He wasn’t certain he could trust Jack.
A vague idea began to form and then snapped into
sharp focus.
Drake knew a woman called Samia. His mind stitched
together an image of her from half-recalled scenes of parties
and hushed conversations in dark places. That weird
mental fog obscured some details, but he knew he trusted
her and that she had criminal connections. She was some
kind of conduit to illegal services.
He found her name in the phone book of his PA. Dialled
it without hesitation. She answered almost immediately.
“Ulrich Drake this is a surprise.”
“Hello Samia.” His voice had regained a semblance of
normality. “I need your help.”
Samia probed the situation with indirect questions; she
sounded cagey but he couldn’t discern if it was a result of
natural caution about un-encrypted conversations, or if
there had been some bad blood between them – some
incident obscured by the fog lingering over this area of his
memory. Either way he’d committed to this line of action.
“I need somebody to come here and clear up a mess,” he
wrapped it up for her, inwardly gritting his teeth at the way
he sounded so helpless and desperate; “Physical stuff but
with digital skills. Somebody who can clear the audit trail
of where I’ve been, of where I am. Is there somebody you
know who can do that? Do both? I don’t want more than
one person involved in this. And maybe trace the origin of a
particular data file that’s been sent to me here. I don’t
know, maybe that’s a nice to have. The important thing is
getting me out of here clean. I’m in serious bloody trouble
Samia. I really need your help.”
Help didn’t come cheap. Twenty-thousand credits was the
minimum fee requested by the asset she’d found to match
Drake’s location. The digital work was likely to cost extra,
depending on risk and complexity.
Samia confirmed the procedure: hold tight and wait,
don’t speak to anybody until the asset arrives, don’t touch
anything.
Drake sat on the bottom step and silently rode out the
hellish interval, trying to ignore the idea of the mutilated
corpse dangling in the room above him. He mulled over
what had happened and what he would do next. Why
would somebody want to make it appear he’d committed the
murder? Why send him the file and then go quiet?
Psychological torture to soften him up before the inevitable
ransom demand? Was this even blackmail? Maybe the
killer or killers had no intention of asking for money?
Maybe it was a favour they wanted from him? Or just to see
him locked away in jail for the rest of his life?
His thoughts twisted round, slid over each other and
knotted together like this for what seemed like an eternity.
Eventually he heard feet crunching on gravel and a
confident knock on the door.
The asset sent by Samia was male, stocky and heavyset,
functionally short black hair flecked with grey; a neatly
trimmed beard going a frosty white around the chin.
Dressed in a plain dark knee-length jacket he carried a
generic hiking satchel casually over one shoulder. The face
was friendly but in a superficial way; olive complexion; deep
lines around the eyes and across the brow that suggested
laugher or concentration.
There was no shaking of hands. No idle banter. The
asset noted Drake’s bloodied clothing and hands without
comment, then stepped inside and began to survey the
scene.
“Where’s the body? Upstairs?” The asset queried, his
eyes following the staircase.
Drake moved in front of him. “Yes but look, before you
go up there…”
The asset regarded him coldly, unimpressed by his
proximity; “Is there more than one?”
“No.” Drake responded almost plaintively.
“Problem?”
Drake rolled his lips together then bared his teeth in a
tense smile. “Before we deal with the physical stuff…”
He explained about the sim-stim recording that had
been deposited after he found the woman dead: the data
would have been processed externally; could the asset trace
the file to its source? More importantly for Drake, he
wanted to make sure the block of muscle had the skills
required to complete all aspects of the job; not just clear up
blood and badly sliced guts. Distantly, some part of his
mind registered a dull shock at the callous clarity of these
thoughts.
The asset shrugged indifferently. Dumped the satchel
and extracted a workstation and some dark green moulded
modules of non-descript hardware with mustard yellow
markings; military.
It took a while. There was a surreal sense of waiting in
the lounge of a chic tech-clinic, if you ignored the blood
stains. Drake retook his position on the bottom step and
quietly squirmed as the nameless asset sat in an armchair
and frowned into the electronic glow of the workstation; he
was surprised the man was using a hardscreen, would have
expected him to be plugged into some interface, meshing
with the data within a virt. But he didn’t interrupt to ask
questions. Just watched as subtle ripples in the asset’s
otherwise fixed expression of intense focus revealed
moments of discovery; it was clear a story was unfolding.
Finally the asset closed down the workstation and began
to pack all of the hardware away; the man’s features were
set with grim determination.
Drake couldn’t contain the questions any longer. “What
did you find? Where did the stim recording come from?
Have you been able to wipe away the digital prints of me
even coming here?”
The asset paused and looked at him for a long moment,
before resuming packing; he answered: “I didn’t need to.
This whole location is clean.”
“Clean? What do you mean, clean?”
“There’s another drill-head at work here. Your phonetag’s
active but leaving no trace. All the security here is
disabled. This whole place is a killing zone.”
Drake felt the features of his face fold together as he
tried to make sense of what he was hearing. The asset
continued, neutral, business-like.
“The recording in your skull came back to you from
Zendori corp. But that’s because you made it.”
A chill breeze seemed to settle on the back of Drake’s
neck. He shuddered as the sensation sank through his
flesh, freezing him to the core, making him suddenly feel
very light, intangible, as if he wasn’t really there.
“I made it…”
The asset shook his head with mild disdain. Zipped up
the satchel and placed it carefully on the floor. “Samia said
you sounded fucked up.”
“Explain,” Drake snapped, aggression edging the word.
“Right now Zendori Corp is going through panic and
lockdown. They’re shifting files. Changing passwords and
isolating whole chunks of core system. Somebody there
must have figured you’d blown a fuse.”
“The implant… it went wrong? I did this?”
The asset shook his head to indicate the negative; “I’d
say the implant worked a treat, considering what you
recorded. You really don’t know what you’ve done, do you?
What you are?”
“No… no I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please
what do you know?” Abruptly Drake felt utterly alone and
vulnerable in a big grown up world with hard-faced men he
didn’t understand.
“Fucking weird,” the asset chuckled. “Maaan, the blakk
bunkers are dripping with stuff you’ve recorded. I had no
idea Zendori was behind so many of them.” The asset
sounded strangely delighted by this knowledge.
“Them?” The question was weak, feeble-voiced.
“Sure, black-jacks, death-rims, anyone who wants to
find them can get hold of them somewhere on the Internet.
But your work…” The asset puffed out his lips and made
an explosive gesture with both hands. “You blow the game
apart. It must be the sim-weave, the way the algorithms
convert the nerve-impulses or whatever because there’s
almost a sense of the emotion you’re feeling when you’re
slicing those poor women up.”
The last sentence came like an accusation, hostility and
judgement only barely held back by the business
proposition now forming in the man’s smirk and glistening
eyes.
Drake tried to swallow but he couldn’t; his back teeth
where clenched down tight. He glared at the man in mute
rage. It was an anger fuelled by the vague, ghostly
memories now rising up and seething beyond the mental
fog.
The asset clapped his hands together, his smile
stretching across his face. “Zendori are going to have to pay
me a small personal fortune to keep me quiet.”
Then the back of the man’s head erupted in a spray of
brains, splintered skull and gore; a dark hole punctured
through his forehead. The gunshot must have come before
the wound but in Drake’s confused mind the events got
mixed up.
Startled, nearly paralysed in shock, he snapped his eyes
to the source of the sound even as the asset’s body
crumpled to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.
Jack Warner stood in the shadows of open plan kitchen
area, adjoining the hallway and lounge. The gun held
calmly in his hand wasn’t particularly large; just black and
featureless.
Not dissimilar to the expression on Warner’s face.
A moment of silence formed and Drake stared at him,
open mouthed.
“I’m sorry, Ulrich,” Warner stated in a clipped and
acutely strained tone. “I don’t think it worked entirely as
planned.”
“What didn’t work?”
Warner lowered the gun to his side. Gazed back at
Drake like a man who was trying to make out the nature of
a ship far out at sea. He sighed. “You’re our best asset.
The way you do… what you do, makes you
incredibly…valuable. But you were having issues. Guilt.
Feelings of persecution from invisible… from ghosts.
Flashbacks. You asked if I could fix it, so you wouldn’t
remember.”
Drake mouthed the words and it was if they came from
somebody else. “So I wouldn’t remember killing these
women?”
“Yes. It’s what you do. And people pay a lot of money to
watch.”
“I felt something sting me…” his words trailed off when
he saw Warner shake his head.
“It was the implant kicking in. Locking part of you out
of the experience. Shutting out your higher-self, I suppose,”
Warner explained. He glanced at the gun in his hand and
back at Drake. “We should get going. I’ll have people come
to clear up the mess.”
“Samia knows.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He did something with the gun and
then stuffed it into a pocket. “She can be silenced with
money and influence. I’ve cancelled your flight. I’d like to
bring you back into surgery, Ulrich. Make it right.”
“I’m not sure I want to,” Drake replied, anger frothing up
inside of his mouth. Whatever he was – a killer – he didn’t
like the idea of being used by this rodent-faced man.
Warner frowned, concerned, and began to walk towards
him holding his hands out in an open, placating gesture. “I
can fix it, Ulrich. I can make it work.”
Drake heard a sound; like a – snick, which could have
come from across the other side of the room or right beside
him.
Just before everything went black he smiled thinly at
the conscious thought, that when he woke up he’d find
another sim-recording waiting for him.

The End