[collapsed] The following is about five or six edits into a first chapter. It's not that great (yet). It might be completely crap for all I know. Suggestions are welcome, please be polite with any criticism. I've never done anything like this outside of a classroom environment so far so i am kinda nervous about this. I also apologize if it comes off like a bad movie script (apparently I've had that problem in the past....) Thanks for reading this. And any help you decide to give me.
the story name is "Blunt Instruments", which i chose over "Delete Key" as being too pretentious. If anybody can suggest a better one I'll take it (but I'll also be the judge). ^_^[/collapse]
[Good Morning Vietnam,] pounded into my brain at a volume only this particular ancient actor could commit. Although the volume wasn’t what woke me, it was the interruption. A subtle shift in tones turned the voice from Robin Williams to my masculine voice from youth. [It’s now seven in the morning ship time and you’re waking up to the dulcet tones of Mad World from the Donnie Darko, Movie circa the nineteen nineties!]
“Oh for the love of god Delta. Snooze,” I moaned into the white silk sheets of my gel pad of my bed as I rolled over onto my stomach and pulled the old fashion pillow over my head. The white silk pillowcase slid smoothly over my skin. “I never should have made a delta fork of a youthful version of myself for my muse… I miss my old muse. Hell if you really were a youthful version of myself you’d be far lazier.”
[I am sorry you lost your previous muse. But not that I was able to come into being in order to replace it.]
“I had a great relationship with my previous muse… I said wake me at seven and she would wake me at ten thirty and have coffee and breakfast already in the maker.”
[Odd to use coffee as the primary of the two items. Are you becoming physically addicted to caffeine, or are you psychologically addicted?]
“Argh! You don’t even have much psychology training and you’re trying to dissect me?”
[Actually I’m attempting to wake you up. It seems to have worked.]
I sighed in agreement and pushed the pillow off of my head and into the white wall at the head of the bed in my mid sized cubicle of a room. The air tasted clean and kind of like a forest in the morning.
After a moment I rolled until I fell off the side of the bed, landing solidly on my boxer covered ass in the middle of the mostly empty floor. Waking up still felt weird even after a week. Even after all the morphs I’ve inhabited I still take a few weeks to get used to a new body.
Dying and being resleeved is just a matter of course for a Firewall Sentinel. Something I should no longer have to worry about as seriously. After all enough work can get you enough reputation and enough clout to get promoted. I finally managed to get myself out of the direct line of fire. And as far as I could tell Proxies didn’t actually end up getting into a whole hell of a lot of trouble.
Sadly my last run had apparently involved the complete destruction of my psyche. Including all publicly known backups and my Muse as well. I was forced to use my most recent backup at a Firewall facility. I still lost six months and the Muse that had been with me since I was awoken from my cryogenic sleep.
Back in the early twenty first century a lot of people got their heads frozen in order that should the technology become available they could be revived. I was one of those people. It was a shot at immortality or at least a better life.
[Has your introspection competed?]
“Shut up Delta.”
[You have a meeting in forty-seven minutes. With your new Router.]
“Blerg…I wish I could get a shower.”
[That is an extremely cumbersome and inefficient method of cleansing yourself. Shall I activate your cleansing routines?]
“Fine.” I sighed and stood up. “Where did I put my cloths?”
[On the floor where you always put them?]
“Smartass.” I chuckled as I stood up and turned in the direction of the door.
My cloths were strewn about where I left them as I staggered to bed the night before. Some people felt I was strange because of my methods. Also, recently, because of the way I dress. Not a lot of people really recognize the significance or references behind my pajamas and bunny slippers, but I needed to make a complete change in order to help hide. By the time I was dressed my personal nanites had cleansed my skin and I smelled at the least passable for a decent person.
For all my issues getting used to my new body I still couldn’t deny how much I loved this one. It was a custom order I had made two years prior and only just recently was able to pay for. Luckily I had made the order through Firewall and not official channels. It cost me nearly a hundred and fifty thousand credits including bribes. If you count the four clone backups it cost me almost half a million and a few extremely big favors within the network.
[Are you really intending on going dressed like that?]
“Is there something wrong with it?”
[What part of bed cloths do you not understand?]
“So I should wear a monkey suit?” I gestured at the tee-shirt I was wearing offhandedly. “People might link me if I were to do that. You know how hard it is for me to change the way I move and act. Cloths are easier.”
[It would be more socially acceptable. Even the antiquated variant you likely have in mind. On the other hand you are correct in that it would allow for some to recognize you easier.]
“And, they promoted me to Proxy regardless of my method of dress. I see no reason to change, again.” Grunting to myself I scooped up the flannel robe and slung it on.
[How long have you been a blunt instrument, thirty years now?]
[You are more than just an adult now, you’re down right ancient by this point. Shouldn’t you… y’know grow up?] The virtual intelligence based on me was precise, down to the speech patterns I used in my youth. It was beginning to get obnoxious, yet comforting at the same time.
“If you were an organic I’d tell you to eat me.”
[That is currently impossible, regardless of my corporeal nature, being that you are a male right now. Which I profess not to understand.]
“Give me two weeks if its bothering you.”
[No. But is it bothering you? Your last five morphs have been female.]
“This conversation is over.” If you could cut tension with a knife you’d want to step well back at that moment.
[You have fifteen minutes to get to your appointment.]
I stopped by the door long enough to slide into my slippers before bolting out the door to my tiny one room studio. The door shut and locked itself as soon as I was out of range.
Habitats like this one are usually crowded as hell. Full of people and their things, the sorts of places where there are too many people for too little space, hence the reason that new ones are built every now and then. This particular one was new enough that less than a third of the space was taken up. That means lots of open spaces, even in the higher gravity sections of the station. There was also plenty of clean air to go around, the carbon-dioxide scrubbers weren’t being overworked. There was enough room and air for people to spread out a bit.
People take their traditions with them, sometimes they morph to a new shape but they always carry them. You’ll find all sorts of things cropping up, cultural things generally, wherever humanity goes. No matter how much Transhumanity changes it will always retain a core kernel of social madness.
This is perhaps why my meeting had asked to meet in a small, old time 21st century style, bar in which the lights were low and there were only one or two other patrons in the room. He had arrived before me, sitting in the rear of the room with his back to the wall. I, with great difficulty, forced myself to sit across from him with my back to the door. Even with a full array of smart dust in the room I was nervous leaving my back open. I had been a sentinel for too long for that to be comfortable.
“Ok. I have a question for you,” the man across from me began. The same man I had run across half the station to meet.
“Shoot?” I sipped at my classic soda.
“Do you always talk aloud to your Muse?”
“No. Actually my last muse never spoke. I just had what I needed at my fingertips.”
“But,” He asked sensing the hanging sentence.
I grinned at him as he swished the alcohol in his glass, scotch on the rocks if my nose was telling the truth.
“I guess I kind of have to admit I’m getting a little lonely anymore. All the social networking in the world is nothing for an old timer like me. It’s just not the same as sitting down at a bar and having a talk with somebody over drinks.”
“You’re almost two century’s old, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. Gregorian calendar would put us approaching the twenty third century right? Well that would make me around two hundred then. It’s hard to find people with my sensibilities in today’s day and age. You younglings just don’t have any sense of propriety.” He grinned back at me, showing that he understood the colorful humor imbedded in my comment. “I’d ask how you know that I speak aloud to my muse but I figure you bugged my place.”
“All these years we have been using you as a hammer and you show such wonderful insight. How could we ever have missed that?”
I ignored his sarcasm as I shifted back in my chair, indicating defensiveness. A tense moment settled around us.
“So what’s this meeting about? I thought I would be receiving my Intel through coded communications. I even got assigned a new encryption code. You assigning me a team to oversee?”
“No. I came to ask you if you wanted to take up a slot in something a little more your speed. Of course you’ll still be a full proxy.”
“Crap. So much for not being a blunt instrument anymore.” I had to restrain myself from physical displays of disappointment and anger.
“Ah, but this job comes with better pay and bigger guns?”
I leaned forward briefly before shifting back. Trying to avoid drawing attention, going against my instincts to attempt to lean forward conspiratorially. We took a moment to allow me to compose myself.
“What kind of job,” I finally asked trying to contain my curiosity.
“You have proven yourself to be skilled at the art of chaos and destruction. Subtlety isn’t your strong suit but you can be quite surgical in your violence when you need to be. You will be added to the numbers of those who Delete should you desire to be. Or we could find room for you in another branch of Firewall.”
“Wait you want me to be part of an eraser team? That’s more of a lateral move if you ask me.”
“Actually its downward if you were to be as a typical eraser, if you must use a hierarchy model that is. You, on the other hand, would be a part of a singularly dangerous group. You would be the type only utilized in extreme emergencies and during times where we do not want to authorize complete sterilization and total destruction of the location. This group is what we place between a standard erasure and a nuclear strike.”
I stared at the gentleman across the table from me for a few moments. He met my gaze unwavering. This man who had refused to give me even a handle or nickname when we met, the unknown man. The only thing I knew was that he was most assuredly a proxy who had been in the more influential elements of firewall since it was formed. He reminded me of The Smoking Man but less gaunt.
“You want me to be a part of the elites? They’re legendary among sentinels, some might even say infamous. They’re the type that you only send one of to deal with a problem and that’s usually scary as hell for a sentinel to see. I’ve only met two and…” I couldn’t help but allow hesitance and fear creep into my voice. “Both times I was retrieved from my cortical stack afterwards. I still have nightmares about the first time. And you think I qualify for this group?”
“There are currently twelve of them about the system. You would be the thirteenth.”
“I have one question. Depending on your answer I will make my decision.” As I spoke I stirred the drink I had barely sipped out of so far.
“As you love to say. Shoot.” He folded his hands patiently across his stomach. Waiting.
“Why me?” It was a simple question. The answer wouldn’t be.
“Your record stands for itself. Both times you have met this level of erasers was early in your career, shortly after you had been returned to the mortal realm. But in the last four years you have managed to amass a vast personal wealth and move money about quietly. You have arranged for yourself quite a number of alternate identities. And even after having all of that destroyed you had enough contacts within Firewall to reestablish yourself as a nanofabrication programmer and gain some capabilities back.”
“That’s because that’s what I do,” I corrected as I sat up straighter.
“For fun,” he countered abruptly. “Although you are quite good at it and your skills are actually quite impressive. I am to understand you have a number of blueprints you have as of yet to share with humanity.”
“Now the answer to my question?”
“If I really do scare even our own Sentinels then I’ll be happy to join this elite group.”
“You need proof?”
“Your last mission should be proof enough in that case. Have you been briefed on it?”
“No. I’m missing six months because of that apparently.”
“Actually you’re missing six months because of a completely different reason.
“Your last mission went off without a hitch. You were exposed by one of the people you saved when he reacted badly to running into you in public. Hence the reason you had to be reseleeveed at your own expense.”
“Am I even classified to know the details of it then,” I grumped.
“You are if you accept. I’m prepared to give you an XP of one of the sentinels from your final mission to help you decide.”
This was the clinch point. He knew it and so did I. This was where a choice would be made that I wouldn’t be able to take back. At least not without another massive edit….
Smoke filled the air. Thermals were completely obscured. Optics were only valid for about two to three meters. Weapon fire was streaking by down the hallway. Blind fire from the far end mingled with blind fire from our end.
No two ways about it. The fear mixed with adrenaline running through my system was screaming the truth. I was screwed. My team, those still alive, were firing wildly down the hall from where they had managed to find cover with no purpose more than suppressing the enemy for a little longer. Backup was on the way to save us and retrieve the item we had acquired, supposedly our team leader had called for a full area activation to get us out.
I was taking cover, poorly, in a recessed doorway. Frozen in fear, all I could do was listen to the chatter of gunfire. Suppressive fire was pinging off of the walls all around. Hollow points judging from the sound and the smear they left on the walls.
The smoke parted behind our position. Without thought, simply sheer reaction, I brought my weapon up and fired. The reactive armor-piercing round lanced through the air directly at the center of mass. Like liquid the figure shifted to the left before snapping back, dodging the bullet.
Out of the Fog strode a woman in a brown overcoat and a charcoal grey suit.
[Shut up Delta you’re ruining the mood.]
Ignoring me she tilted her head, dodging a bullet screaming out of the mist. Raising her hand she fired twice and one of the sources of suppressive fire from the far end of the hall ended with a shouted curse.
“Lucky shot you fuckers! Give up now and I’ll guarantee your lives.”
“I think I struck a nerve,” The newcomer quipped cheerfully. The grin on her lips was frightening, not rationally but a deep welling from that animal part of the brain that still exists in modern Transhumanity. That was when it occurred to me, this was the backup Firewall had sent to us. A fucking Elite. A Delete Key.
[So I already accepted….]
[Not necessarily boss.]
[Not at all. You were simply the closest Firewall backup.]
There was a great sucking feeling as I withdrew from the XP. I didn’t want to see any more. I had proof enough for my tastes right there. In clear thoughts from one of the individuals I had saved.
“Very much so. I’m just…surprised. When did I get so good?”
“I particularly like how you dodged the bullet there,” He agreed grinning at me.
“Oh? I just calculated the trajectory based on the muzzle angle and made sure not to be in the way. Just like the rounds coming through the smoke at me where I used the previous shots to triangulate the source. A little math and I knew the source. From there the elbow was easy to figure out. He had stupidly put his whole arm around the corner to fire.”
“This is why you’re an elite eraser now, a Delete Key.”