CW: gun violence, guerrilla warfare, death, execution, nudity, sexual harassment
pulling up to the housing estate high rise where I can faintly see through its opaque glass covering, I meet a welcome terminal, an old bulky appliance with a map directory grafittied over, signs of life looped around maps, damp air soaks into my jacket from the moisture emitting off a wall . whose spray-painted spaceman fades into a mix of colour resembling a human figure.
the lobby contains a couple makeshift shops occupied units with extravagant neon signs that dyed the concrete around us. entering one of them, a green light envelops me from the grey ubiquity as I feel a faint mist cooling me down.
‘like it? it’s called bright mist, it contains many healing energies’ the shopkeeper in a suit informed me though I was more annoyed he thought I was going to make a purchase.
‘err…no…what is this?’ I ask as I don’t see any products.
‘Ah, this? these are health products and ambience. you know zen and feng shui? one must cultivate an environment to achieve their dreams’
his bringing up of dreams as a simple destination really made me think less of him, hoping viper would arrive soon as the salesperson takes capsule jars of esoteric tree roots and nuts with essential energies.
‘these bring out the luminous energy of the person, it brings focus. real focus. take this.’ he says before materializing a figurine out of virtual space. ‘see this figurine? it’s made of signals but here’s another one’
he hands me another, this one the same but its surfaces planed into its shape, not vibrating from the static that comprises its limbs.
‘this one is real, there is a difference and one must really discern the difference. now is the time to seek out the real.’
‘to do what?’
‘I’m asking what all this energy is supposed to do? produce? consume? I think your ancestors are probably shaking their head at you, slimeball’
‘please, no need for vulgarity’
‘what’s vulgar is your predation.’
at this moment, viper appears from the corridor and places his hand on my shoulder in jovial cheer, wearing a balaclava and dress-shirt clasped in body armour.
‘just who I wanted to see. please forgive them, they’re uh-anti-social’
‘oh, they’ll learn their ways eventually’ the salesperson said ‘we all have our work to attend to’
viper’s room was completely empty save for some workout equipment in the middle. before thinking this was some elaborate prison with the orange walls, a compartment slides from the wall showing supplies that enshrined his devotion to preparation should a fallout occur.
‘did I tell you you look like the worst 2000’s protestor ever? seriously, it’s like the cia sent you’
‘oh? I’m glad to be sent with someone of intelligence’
‘intelligence no, more like unaware normalfags, so what did you want?’
‘so, you know of a group called revolt-era?’
I heard of them as they were a health services group that preyed on alienated individuals who weren’t as adept to using an internal-os and allowed them reprieve or gave some guidance and products to make one feel competitive. viper then eats a raw egg and raw meat from the fridge compartment before they all close to retain the supposed zen of the room.
‘so, they got these interesting diets and I feel better than I’ve ever been. now, they wanna take on the building in a full revolution. their landlords don’t take care of em, and they’re not gonna stand for it. they say the automated system isn’t assigning resources properly and no one has bothered to intervene. a human touch if you will’
‘sounds more like a customer service problem, besides, why are you so into it.’
‘hey if it works, it works’
I only sigh. this was typical viper, extracting whatever instrument he can out his ventures whether health related or not, forming some undefined persona comprised of niche diets and habits. he watches footage of 21stcentury demonstrations out of a screen from virtual space where clouds of tear gas engulf streets, crowds flickering yet maintaining their movement with pipes and even bricks, an image of collective human effort. ‘fighting and dying are one and the same. anyway, a place like this, everyone’s in their own rooms which is a spatial metaphor for their own virtual spaces, consuming their own rations of content, reacting in a kind of nimbyism. now we can get into some old fashioned collective effort, no hive mind shit. faux’s gonna be fuming when he heard I can wax poetic like a fuckin’ Greek philosopher.’’
‘so what do you want me to do?’
‘glad you asked!’ viper claps his hands to cue my role, as to him, everyone seemingly needs a role that could be assigned at an instant, making life work in the same way a factory runs with its own mechanics that turned the day’s purchases. ‘so, I have a bunch of users that are preparing to visit the main server of this building. so many people logging into it and spamming it at once is gonna crash the system which should give time for our shooters to move in before security teams deploy.’
‘wait why is there one server. shouldn’t they have dozens?’
‘this building is old so who cares. it’s our opening. do you get it?’ he asks less out of seeing if I understood and more if I realized the opportunity at present. although the plan did sound too much like one of an age old conquest with a mob trying to be some overwhelming force like the hands of a god.
‘sounds easy enough, guess we all have to be in the right place in the right time.’
‘this place is proofed up so you can enter the server space without having to worry about your body getting raided irl’
viper leaves, the door slides shut at his exit. I enter the server known as the meditation room, electric signals sparkle into the space, cooling my limbs now moving with ease. but I wasn’t placed in another virtual space as the orange walls remained as if to maintain its visual link to the real world, the same image that ripples around me. the room becomes translucent with others users sitting in cubes. sans serif text flashes in front of me.
the followers are on the same path.
recenter your mind.
reluctant, I focus until the walls are planed straight concentrating only on the shapes around me, the five square faces I’m aware of that solidify as I no longer see through them.
the luminous king is present.
at this, two fragments of light glow just before me as I make out the slight bulge of a muscle, another with waved edges, flesh that had been shorn off with a saw. I wondered if these were also seen by the other users participating in this server crash, filling the servers with self-affirming messages, bearing the flesh of an extraordinary cut into multiple pieces to the point one can’t even recognize their supposed sanctity or image.
these are the pieces of radiant flesh
these pieces will dispel the illusion of electronics
begin to revitalize your life.
a soundscape audio file swallows the silence with a collage of natural sounds, animals grazing and making mating calls, uttering guttural noises that somehow affect the user, an ogg file with how crisp it reverberates around me, even taking care to envelop the space the same way old-century sound systems do. throughout the sounds of crickets and cicadas, there is also a voice, a whisper which upon closer inspection started to discern into mantras. positive affirmations against the wild debris of noise crunching to resemble grass. these same words that fell dead upon the contours of my body, taut in the void against their pithy ascensions and I felt myself separate into a third space, one without dimensions but not a static plane but one that would slowly allow my propulsion, travelling in a void entirely without.
whiplash, the sounds of nature dissipate into distant gunfire and footsteps in the corridor outside. incarnated out of the void, it takes me a moment to feel the weight of my limbs dried of their electronics, hands press against the floor, the limits of touch, the far wall, the limit of my sight, the footsteps that left the corridors silent, the limit of my hearing and I step towards the end of the world. viper sends a live feed to my os through an encrypted channel. there may have been enough electric signals to broadcast but not enough for security forces to set elaborate choke points such as setting up closed spaces or spawning greater artillery. What he sends are from cctv feeds, an ai algorithim sorts through the footage with the most action from scenes of revolt-era fighters firing upon security force blockades while another throws a Molotov towards them cutting to another scene of a security guard pounced by an unarmed resident, giving in to the wild arcs of their limbs scrounging for that new world that was bequeathed to their body. each of these framed with basic cinematography principles cutting to a beat, viper on another camera shouting out a video d-j who remixes clips of his firing into entire brigades of soldiers with an aa-12 automatic shotgun drumming an incessant roar, the song of the apocalyptic revolt, beating out the calls of compliance, of nerves and cognitive activity into overdrive into these flashes of artillery and destruction.
with building security soon surrounded, the livestream montage from the ai and various video dj’s submitting their clips of triumph, massacring squads or shooting surrendering officers play over the wired for morale. fighters slump on walls sapped of their earlier verve while they lay their weapons while others quickly mobilize remaining forces, improvising prison brigs and medical stations in any of the vacant rooms. while a group marches almost mechanically towards their next objective, one of them stops and grabs my arm smiling.
‘hey, hail to the luminous king. they have watched over us and granted us our lives back.’
he left to return with his squad falling back in line. I wasn’t sure how to take it, his word nor his thought to stir me from my observation, perhaps to feel allied with their cause, because we were human and have similar desires. a similarity that means little as he gets farther away.
expelled gunpowder on an upper floor chokes the hall and viper only giggles at the carnage around him, all these ejected catridges and ignited gunpowder all realizing some movement, some change that had taken place where we would once again find ourselves from electric and smooth surfaces into the coarse earth. we head for the control room beyond a sliding door, long bulky consoles with terminals behind polished glass, a space of the early computers that gave a logic to the operation of industrial machine, assuming their operation could now be capable of greater distribution of resources . we move in, checking the sides before crouching below the console units confirming it to without contacts.
‘clear’ viper responds from the mezzanines. ’nobody in sight. thought there would at least be operators.’
‘maybe they transferred all that to the wired’
‘nah, this is an old building. they couldn’t move everything to the wired without proper 9G infrastructure’
looking at the terminals, all the functions were set to auto, a bunch of custom programs made to preload messages to building security, direct messages from residents to their respective departments. All these graphs and algorithms toil away in a loop to direct water and coolant to the rooms on-screen which only show my reflection erring from their graphs.
light reflects off a lens on a security camera at the rear corner, white warps on its glass curvature.
‘hey viper,’ I called staring at the camera lens. ‘why do I get the feeling someone’s watching’
viper looks around, aa-12 at bay and stands listening to the faint frequency of whirring computers but it seems to produce a void that swallows his attention.
‘nobody’s here. then again, everyone’s always being watched huh?’ viper concludes, walking to the terminals that light the rocky edges of his face in blue. I run an interface and use the infograph program that maps out all the possible terminals used in the building from maintenance servers, to the food and agriculture divisions and others. at the top was the one for building management system and I set a course for that. a prompt tells me to enter through the nearest door.
‘I’m gonna look around.’
‘you do that but whatever you do, make sure you get out through a door where no one can see you. these yokels might get scared when you do your cyber magic shit’
‘can’t you just set up a connection to your room I can use?’
‘fuck, whatever…’viper groans.
‘well don’t let me put you out.’
‘yeah…yeah, kunakida’s always telling me to be hospitable. goddamn. why can’t someone just be aloof or whatever’ and so on as viper sends me the room connection key while he walks into some dim corner of the space brimming with black boxed attractions. I was just thankful to miss him ranting about how hard it is to be moody and edgy these days, maybe saying that because no one really plays outside, nobody gets to be dirty let alone vulgar.
through the sliding door, static tickles over my clothes as I draw the vp70 and walk on concrete shrouded in darkness, an empty stage just waiting for some apparition or just someone to initiate some rote dialogue.
the echolocator scans, making a wireframe of the floor but the scan range continues into the void, my steps like droplets from a slowed rainfall. they did say that being in the wired physically is like being in the damp tropics, back when the virtual had a faint paradisiac air. beach desktop backgrounds or an empty field, all the virtual leisure just in reach from those cubicles where we could become some neoclassical ideal sculpted into marble busts.
burning through the darkness is a blue ember that pares into a human figure without any of the usual colour, meaning it’s an unfinished composite. the contours of their limbs unsettled with corrupted data and all it does is blink within the newfound virtual body encasing it.
the infograph interface identifies the individual as the building manager by the geometry of their faded side part and facial lines, the wired pulls up reports from some building staff on their own forums asking where the building manager is and others saying they get a couple calls from him whether something needed checking out.
‘no need to search me on the wired…you already know who I am’
‘well…knowing is not exactly a denouement is it?’
‘such theatrics. I have no need for such a useless endeavour’
‘no need? you’re in an empty space in the wired and you don’t seem like a meditative sort.’
eventually, the being in front of me starts shedding their corrupted polygons and rendering, their skin eases into the face of a young man who begins to curl their fingers, feeling the smoothened palm.
‘got your connection fixed?’
‘this is no ordinary connection, I have shed all attachments.’ he states, walking through the wired, raising a hand and squeezing at electric signals that are now starting to flow around him. ‘you know I was aware of the revolt. there were simply too many people in that building. they always wanted more. it was just a cesspool of desires. everyone simply had their own functions and with the corporations, they give citizens something to do but even then, living is not enough, that is all there is. so I just did the necessities. now I have no need to be there anymore’
I figure out what he did and the thought only allows me a ragged breath which I hope might be a sigh or beleaguered exhale before thrusting the vp70 at him, electric signals pinprick at the motion of my arm, pulling the trigger blasts all in the brief flash from the muzzle cutting to the building manager’s shocked expression. despite the immateriality of his body, a red spot pools on his shirt where the 9mm round embedded itself and he kneels, sweating expelling some kind of energy to a place where it cannot go.
‘fool, did you really think that transferring your consciousness in full into the wired would help absolve you of the real world? you absolutely have no idea do you?’
his expression begins to collapse into sobs, fear wracks his widened eyes trying to glimpse what overtook his body. I kick him to the ground and step on his chest, vp70 pointed at his nose, and I almost grin at such a pitiful execution.
‘now its my turn to talk. do you know what makes the wired, the wired? it’s because everything is connected. all the electrical signals are all particles that can be converted into any of the spaces, bodies and things you see now. but it is also the same out in the real world. you would not have had your position if you did not have your residents and those corporations would not exist without their market. you think just because you’ve come to the wired, you’ve escaped reality? take a look now.’ I gesture to his once solid arms now going limp. ‘where ever your body was, you’ve transferred everything into the wired which means you have no exit. no way out. you’ve only trapped yourself in another hell. that’s one to grow on. say hi to your boys for me.’
crushing the trigger, the shot of the handgun eviscerates all external noise before it echoes into the void. the building manager’s face torn, the viscera from the peeled skin fades behind polygons as the wired slowly forgets his existence.
despite this semantic rambling, I feel a little restless if not bored, thinking this ended in a too banal way, a building whose resources were being unevenly distributed due to a building manager abandoning their duty, all because the world was not simply calculated functions that move like something out of a physics equation. whatever the case, killing him was little more than something to pass the time in a grand sort of way, busting bad guys and all. I check the chamber of the vp70 with still 17 rounds in it as I release the slide, punching in the next round to fire, the inner mechanics at ready.
transferring into viper’s room, the encased rations and weapons are still in the same position as they were, the room dark but occasionally lit from the screensavers off his bed and computer unit, its shelf brimming with instant food and games that I hadn’t heard of set in ancient wars mapped to strategy grids and sometimes little videos of dots trying to consume the other, an abstract dismissal of combat if I ever saw one.
residents gather around the commons lobby where one of the fighters is giving a speech. the guerilla preps their decree and starts off proclaiming it a new day where the building can finally be in the hands of—and I stop listening once the elevator arrives, aborting all those words behind closed silver doors.
outside, executive sedans are parked around an armoured van with mesh windows where a crineberg tactical team gears in visored helmets that display aiming reticles and bullet trajectory in which each operation is an alignment of intersection between operator, weapon and target. their lips protrude from the smoothed cheeks with bored expressions as they operate security protocol around an executive talking with one of the guerillas. on my os, I check their relation and surpisingly, the executive too is a revolt-era faithful with various posts about what stocks are profitable, where to stockpile and talking about antique luxuries such as urns. by the time I reach my car , a black sedan awaits, with men in black suits and bulky headsets, one of them opens the rear door, expecting me.
‘come with us’ the man with the slight goatee says. it’s strange to see their mouths move, their bodies with steps and circulations still clinging to the real world beyond their headsets,
I set my own car to auto-pilot back to my place before I enter an ocean of static within the interior of the sedan, my limbs slowed rendering me unable to draw a weapon at speed, only able to move with stiff, dainty gestures. the men in black sit in front of me and once the door closes, the windows completely black out, cutting me off from the streets.
‘my apologies, the virtual space we have set up is to deter any harm that could come. think of it as just a formality.’
‘i-it’s fine…not my first cocktail party…’ I struggle with the signals, nearly choking me but loose enough for my throat to make the needed noises to communicate. the men in black are completely still, not even a rising or falling shoulder to indicate breath.
‘I will get to the point. we’re aware that you’ve been researching into the executive council’s recent retraction on their stance for virtual production. we’re doing the same. I think there is something we can do that would be mutually beneficial’
‘and that is…’
‘an executive from tai shu from castle forest has had strange correspondences with a name that interests us. the luminous king?.’
‘it’s alright, we know you’ve met them. no one knows where they come from. only that they appear to the dysphoric and alienated. they think of the luminous king as a personal saviour.’
‘but they would not know anything about such. the being now mobilizes them to commit acts of atrocity.’ the other man pipes up.
‘can’t you get ICA to look into it?’
‘their administration is not equipped to deal with these situations. In order to get a reaction out of the enemy, one must attack. you of all people should know that.’ he pauses. ‘regardless of that, we suspect that perhaps these companies have an executive that’s corresponding with each other, and they have significant backing. in fact, I’m sure even you’re aware that crineberg’s appearance was no coincidence. the executive has a project there to focus virtual space efforts. something that is becoming a new trend after the crash. it’s natural people want focus after a catastrophe’
‘revolt-era is just another clique of people against the production of bandwidth and virtual space. call it the remnants of a medieval period. of course, one that is just as violent but they do not understand that their time is up’
from the palm of his hands, images of burning cellular towers, some with debris already falling back to earth then a report about certain artifacts that cannot be replicated on the wired such as currency and the subsequent debate, a stock forecast for aluminum metals reaching euphoria upon the increasing demand for physical commodities.
‘you work for the legislative council?’ I ask before I realize I may have crossed a line. their mouths smiled.
‘do you think those old men with their sophistry and round tables could organize such a feat? it is their carelessness that has brought them to where they are. their lack of control over their respective industries and capitalists has become their undoing. we simply ensure order.’ unseen forces warp the frequencies looming outside as my own pulse quickens with the uneven amperes, ‘we’ve already set up a line to castle forest as a maintenance worker,’
files appear on my interface: technician’s apron, toolsets and wiretap programs concealed in diagnostics. unlike some companies, it seems castle forest still requires their technicians to be almost naked to reduce conductive shock and as a security measure in case the technician turns out to be a saboteur.
‘great, talk about state humiliation’
‘just focus on the payoff.’
the car stops and the two men seated in front of me blur, clouded surfaces pour into a fountain that sat in the center of an atrium, rock formations gather around synthetic plants, light breaks into spears from the stairways and skywalks above that weave from end to end of three hundred floors yet these fragments, illuminate the branch crest at the center of the atrium, a gold lion lavished in vines. I didn’t even think megacorps even spent much on these kinds of luxuries anymore. even so, this virtual building was in crisp detail, no doubt modelling the actual interior of the real atrium, their psycho-symmetric system wouldn’t be interfered with by an individual’s presence. nothing would perturb the passing of data, every second a trade of stock, an insider tip, a message to sell a new product line and supply to any of the virtual domains and said products transferred around the world, a wiry globe structure spinning around the post of the stairway railings.
I receive the order for the fix, a simple system check-up for a broker in Castle forest’s sustainability division which allows me to peruse their systems mostly by data-logging physical shipments. the sub menu funnels me into the broker’s office as that was the only area I was granted access, I convert older Operating systems, taking schematics of internal files and mechanisms of physical modems and as I think the numbers, the various machines and surfaces materialize. this kind of work was simple, as if told to hold a plate without dropping it. to test the connection, I load in the dimensions and within the office through the electric signals, a wave parts into the flat walls revealing objects from the wooden veneered desk to the synthetic fauna that also acts as a humidifier.
resetting into the real world office, a man opens the door, stopping short upon seeing me. an interruption with all the unexpectedness that careened systemic loops into an empty drone. hair trimmed and parted around a tightened yet pale face shining under the fluorescent lighting as if scanning the image of a well-to-do businessman within his repetitive motions, the steps he takes before he smiles and places his hand on my shoulder with a firm grip, enough to leave a slight ache.
‘corrine? when did you get back? that’s quite an outfit you’re wearing. I knew you said you were going to change divisions but I didn’t know you were meaning this.’
‘oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, doing system maintenance work is fine work. it comes back to the old trades…’
‘I suppose so…’
‘yes it does, doesn’t it? anyway, let’s set up a time to have a luncheon. they have a new bakery at the atrium. this one they have this picnic server to go to.’
‘yes, just give me a call’ he said shaking my hand before heading out. I wasn’t able to form any impressions about him although I don’t even think he knew himself, only the transaction of our words, dodging any lapses that might inhibit these exchanges of meetings or symbols that filled atriums or office spaces lavished in future meetings. this world enmeshed in logical relationships that connected everyone. a space I was never part of despite their invitation that shut itself away as the door closed and I’m left to my familiar polyhedric realm. activating the exit programs alters a wireframe prism from 5x5x8 to a 4x4x3 according to my room dimensions, slivers of my room recede with the coming sunset, my contours soft from the now distant lights that once glittered freely across the intersections now scarce with only a couple transport vehicles.
the wiretap program activates tracking calls from the castle forest office, deadlines for meetings regarding crineberg’s takeover of the suzuru building, where a broker delegates the increasing metals prices to another office. a memo comes in about a retreat to after work at the biomes, sections of undeveloped/redeveloped acres created out of sustainability projects to turn ruins into picture-esque landscapes with many companies hosting well-ness retreats to reconfigure one’s natural rhythms
a message comes in and it’s from crineberg systemcorp who have some hardware to offload at a warehouse off the docks, one of the legacy transportation facilities maintained for low bandwidth areas and shipping authentic products. pick-up already arranged at the underground parking of a crineberg facility at kreizer boulevard. I eye the contract which says that crineberg has the right to prosecute the deliverer for the mishandling of this package. this clause only gets a resigned tribute from me as I get up to dispense the contract. upon exiting, I wasn’t followed and it seemed that it might be just a short drive as I enter the super silhouette car and drive off, keeping the engine subdued out of some haphazard formality.
crineberg’s building was a tall smooth edifice like any of the surrounding buildings identified thanks to the car’s user interface. their parking garage was at the back which was distinguished by its lack of planter’s boxes or any slight decoration that was allowed. crineberg kill-teams turn to hide behind the surrounding parking pillars as if to become part of this superstructure that controlled all actions within its bounds. a couple forepeople load the package, noted only as mining goods and agricultural tech into the front cowl of the car deceptively unguarded as I imagine any deviation to cue a shutting of all exits before a show of gunfire. Upon receiving the packages and coordinates, the car pulls off to the city’s featureless blocks quivering between the passing streets where for a moment, those buildings whose smooth faces leave only a lone reflection could wipe away into opaque skies. however, one or two parked cars bud off the nearby streets, glinting across my side window like the drawing of a razor.
turning into santunum street, a lone figure stands in the middle of the road and slowly their profile reveals a frilled dress, the headlight falls on circular lenses. chihaya stands, unfazed by the incoming vehicle and I stop, seeing the glock 18 in her hand, someone’s side glance from a mirror of their car parked on the side, waiting to deploy, its front seats like human silhouettes. I wasn’t aware of how much each company interferes with each other’s shipments, let alone if this was just another of chihaya’s services but I only return the formality placing a hand on my holstered vp70.
connections didn’t work, her line encrypted so I only mouth my next words
I do not work for them, I’m working a case on a virtual currency shorting
given that lip-reading was a requirement for elite units in tai shu, a fact saturna slipped me before, chihaya’s rights her head a moment as if intercepting the meaning shaped off my lips before tilting it down, eyes level onto the blade of her pistol’s front sight, the hole of the barrel flashes orange, sparks dance around the car and I instinctively duck off as dents scratch and warp the windshield from the 9mm barrage. supporting units disembark to cover her, firing from cover positions behind an alley and their parked cars. from the interface, I set the car to autopilot and it thrusts forth reaching a speed that flies past concrete, exhaust blasting a volley of backfires as it swerves from the tai shu operators until the car is free from the hail of artillery hazing the air behind me.
soon, I arrive at the docks, grey farms line the concrete pier that breed cargo containers, their corrugated sides undulating in a metal sea, these objects that would flow into the electric signals of the wired through 3-dimensional scanning, imports across worlds. a foreman directs me into warehouse 7 where some crineberg guard teams trained their weapons at my car to make sure their shots would spear me at all angles should I attempt to resist. I keep my hands on the steering wheel.
‘open the compartment’ they order
after unlocking it I put my hands up as one of the operatives approach before placing their hands on the boxes, scanning whether the merchandise had been tampered with before he nods.
‘okay! load it in’
a solar powered forklift takes the boxes, before disappearing around the corner in the obscure operations of the port. the squad file in to salute a man who walks between them in a floral printed shirt, a grizzled face that easily jowls into a drawl with a lopsided mouth. one of those men who might be the coach of a sports team demonstrating an air of the paternal as he rests his hand on my car.
‘you must be mr. zuinan? I’m Patrick merlinghetti I’m the supervisor of your case file. welcome aboard the crineberg shipyard’ he smiled and the operatives almost on cue begin to disperse, perhaps to vantage points around me. ‘take a walk with me?’
I oblige him and step out of the car, directing its autopilot system to the nearest parking spaces within the area which would most likely be underground. watching him, the petals off the man’s shirt faded perhaps from endless days in the sun and left countours like ghosts wandering in a silken realm, creasing perhaps from his sweating body whose tan borders on sunburn.
‘zuinan? you from old china? you don’t look chinese’
‘err…I..um…my parents were mixed race’
‘ah a halfie, don’t see too many of those. now everyone’s going half, thirds. whatever. it’s hard to keep track’ he laughed thinking of a simple world. ‘I saw your case file and it said you were under fire from tai shu?’
‘yeah, that’s right…’
‘yes, they are quite the eager bunch. I’ll give them that. I just don’t know what goes on in that company. I heard they were using the likeness of a missing girl for some game, can you believe it?’
despite this seeming familiar, it only leaves a faint sensation, a hand that brushes mine in the memory of a crowded train.
‘no, not really’
Patrick then throws his arm around me, his head close where I can smell the coffee that heated his breath.
‘alright zuinan, do you know what goes on here?’
‘uhh…shipping freight?’ physical products’
‘yeah, but do you know what really happens?’ he says circling his arms around the answer that still does not occur to me.
‘well, let me tell you. with the megacorps having their own military divisions and the age of corporate militias back during the global shift. though it was more a catastrophe’ he chuckled ‘but that unregulated conflict and fighting monopoly still exists albeit in much smaller forms. so some of these products, are real, and some of them are fake. great diversionary tactic. some are so close to the real thing’
I didn’t know what he was attempting to accomplish by revealing this information. perhaps his bequeathing such intel was to establish some trust between us but what he said only brought annoyance.
‘so you’re telling me that that transportation job I just did was for nothing?’
‘now, I wouldn’t say it’s for nothing. we need as many people as we can to support this livelihood of ours. besides, we just get our pay and go. it’s what we gotta do’ he shrugs out of acceptance of this world of callous instrument, bodies that barely could right themselves from the machines and signals that throw them across real and virtual worlds that only exists for their own sake.
‘anyway, that was good work out there, we’ll contact you if another job comes up’ he extends his hand and I shake it, assuming these formal motions which fell apart once the contractor left, the pier now deserted as the concrete sparkles from the sunlight waning into the mid afternoon, despite the slight presence of electric signals that change the sight before me, rippling at the very thought, it dissipates, levelling against the stone limit of the earth.
in the docks parking garage, the concrete pier sunk to an underground of grey pillars surrounded by other vehicles wrapped in grey tarp as if the ghosts of traffic that might have filled tunnels after hours. I drive off remerging into the empty city, sunlight flickers between buildings and the leaning chrome pillars at the side windows. I open the interface window to check the wiretap to find the broker has gone out of office to a retreat and without many clues, I decided to follow with only the event being listed as ‘manor on southeast biome, welcoming archway’
I open a photography forum for the outer lands, acres of greenspace saved and replenished by sustainability projects who have frequently invited photographers and 3d modelers to capture the vistas for servers.
the forums show various landscapes from the outer regions framed beside blocks of text describing the scene in minimal language and dimensions, mountain scene 11x8.2, cottage in plain, 50x1. eventually as I scrolled through the pictures I find one of a mansion peeking from behind a plateau, rotating my palm to localize it brings up a map and its ownership under a company known as the helios group for private requisition. a fancy word for unused until further notice. possibly a remainder from the leisure age when megacorps tried building colonial mansions in the outskirts to target a historicist market.
the cityscape soon fell as I drove to the biomes where fauna submerged smooth plazas into brambles of leaves, a feudal silhouette of a distant forest frilled the horizon glowing from sunset blushes a fever of colours.
approaching the mansion’s perimeter, I wait until night as the sun becomes a faint ember. stepping out, reality cleaves itself out of the shadowy dome of the car’s interior, propped by its leaning pillars where two lines converged into the verticies of the world, a faint panorama ahead that now escapes their glass bounds as gravel crumbles under my boots into incongruous shapes amidst the total ebony atmosphere looming overhead with moonlight, my jacket braces against me, fluttering in the throes of wind that swayed the fir trees with frenetic rushes of green against the evening canvas.
I begin to approach, setting my internal temperature against the cold as my steps tread on soft ground that might seem comforting in the everchanging scene before me with knotted branches and shiftless green, a veil of snow seemingly enchants this pasture of some primordial mystery in the unbroken sky, just beyond the serrated edges of the earth, the night whose stars no longer become disparate coordinates but now melding into a soft tide lathers from the lights of unseen cities and virtual spaces against the atmosphere, what gatherings breathed this evening full of life that tethered between my steps and this vista, even above, a layer of clouds surges a familiar plane, one that I’ve seen in my dreams whose grains would break upon my limbs like static, but that desert scene was inverted from its axis, rather, I was looking at it from a realm entirely apart and yet, it didn’t dissipate upon my waking hours, nor the blue light skies within virtual spaces whose floes of information and records of the movements of physical objects fantasized this absolute apex of vectors and statistics leading to this scene that some might call the sublime.
my steps sink into snow that formed little moonlit continents over the remnants of fields, its planed surface conceals unseen leaves before i reach a small cliff before the shore ending with crystallized surface which was a lake, frozen, just at the entrance of the mansion grounds my nerves seize yet clamour to step forth, and I break into a run, the ice groans from the stride of my legs without electric signals enhancing their movement, fatigue still far as the momentum carries me across towards the knoll of grass ahead.
gunshots dispatch the indigo air with a rapid flash of light where the only sounds were the spears of ice fragments scattered in front of me, my steps no longer supported by anything as I plunge underwater, my descent slows into blue lavished by a harvest of soft globules before they clear the waves from the water’s surface that play with golden rays of moonlight dissolving into fragments, bending filaments within a bulb,, spurred from my moving limbs I swim up to the surface, rivulets run down my face as the internal os activates its emergency heating systems. the ice sheet from where I fell, a transluscent ceiling where blurred figures tread, fanning out as their steps create blurry impressions as if wraiths appearing from a screen of fog, heat signatures in black.
an operator fires down into the lake, using electric signals to form a virtual surface they staggered their positions on, enclosing me in their combat simulation where their os trace firing trajectories and effective ranges, lines enlaced with bubbles, particles of worlds born through the velocity of bullets and falling ice debris that penetrate the water’s surface where I was afloat yet not falling, my limbs slowed but not immobile as the furies above slow into gentle, even playful lavishes of effervescent balloons that I wade past, drawing the g3 from my rear harness, the internal os tries to rectify my vision making out only the g3’s iron sight, 7.62mm rounds to cross into the clear night skies.
recoil shunts into my shoulder as if planting a polymer seed of all the force that my contours, no, my body knew apart from electric abstracts, of all the lingering thoughts over the wired’s unreality realized in these sudden agitations as I weave myself around the chains of bubbles wrapping around the trails left from automatic gunfire, a fallen operator’s descent in blue, pieces of the sky and its crisp minty air reach me as I surface before diving back in. swimming around, I catch two operators nearby on their interfaces and I’m bathed in the signals radiating off them and I begin to transfer onto the wired. somehow, the operator fires close, the water plumes over my vision, before the transfer begins and I’m floating, my limbs gain a smoother degree of motion as the sinuous waves underwater smooth into tall blued surfaces that surround me in a polygonal formation, my reflection fixed to my wandering eyes, battle rifle at bay.
the mirror’s verticies slit my reflection before it finds its familiar shape upon each pane where I realize all the edges. converge into a single point above, a glass gem.
‘have you enjoyed your trip to the outside world’ a voice rebounds from each reflective pane, bezelled glass threw spokes of an unseen light across them, its presence all the more unsettling in the dimensions of the space like a melting gold halo, a heaven about to rain its fury upon the wicked.
‘who are you’
‘to be exact, we’re not exactly a group in the traditional sense’
‘we are merely supporters of a single idea’
‘we are the ones emblematic of hard work, of the perfect beings that may not be outwardly luminous…’
‘but the angular rugged frontiers of this violent abstract era.’
‘the real world has very specific tensions that drive a human being forward. things such as labour or craft’
‘it is nature, that drives us forward. it informs all processes from financial to creative…’
‘and the resulting scarcity of dreams that drives them.’
‘this is how great men are established’
‘but thanks to the wired, scarcity is now a non-factor as anyone can enable their fantasy at just the very thought, realizing their potential’
‘but many inhabitants are unaware of their body, leaving the most important vessel untreated’
‘but what if there was a way for the real world to be just as full of opportunity as the wired’
‘it all starts with the movement of health’
‘so you’re revolt-era?’
‘we are realizing the intentions of the luminous king. our chapter is known as platinum torus helio’
‘the luminous king is the body that can grant all desires with its circulating energies and can even manipulate the wired if possible’
‘but the entire world has gone too far’
‘it needs to be redirected’
‘like how the palaces have stayed as places of value, so do we, control such’
man has been lead astray’ an image of faux, the crystal structure that obscures their face unmoving.
‘toiling in their own fantasy’ an image of kunakida, her expression flat.
‘so you’re just trying to sell up the luminous king huh? sounds more like you’re some overzealous brokers’
‘brokers, and business are the life blood of society, without it, we would have perished in the primordial long ago’
‘thanks to this, there is one way to finally tame the infinite spectacle of the wired’
‘the one thing that remained is a financial system of value, prizing its increase and taking advantage of decreases’
‘now that real items have gone scarce, many of their collectors realize the absence of their detail in the world’
‘thus, we can restore the lavish nature of living, one the luminous king has bestowed with their infinite potential’
my reflection behind me becomes barren of all features. only a silhouette remains rings encircling into a target converging to my center of mass, center at 1000.
‘it’s no coincidence that a person shines from the sun hitting their sweaty brow’
‘a treasure loses its value when it is no longer rare’
‘a person who can appreciate this value will be able to find their lot and happiness.’
‘it’s only natural that the electric signals that virtual labour is just that. virtual’
‘it was inevitable’
‘it was only so long that unreality was to crumble. a person must be able to ensure their survival after the fact.’
‘our positions allow us to produce things, amenities that make modernity function’
‘go fuck yourself… I wince, all of their platitudes did nothing even if they enveloped all sound with their booming voices that were the banal ramblings of violent debauchery that wrecked upon the earth that people would call humanity. no, rather it was of the time where the wired bled with waves of green hills, family dinners and sprawling suburbs not unlike off a 20th century storybook framed in grey boxes of display monitors whose light spilled upon users during the finite hours of night, their faces gaunt in stifling rooms, bare of the cool glimmer from cities at the window as these homely scenes off their computer preyed upon them, already wanting everything to fall in to the houses of childhood homes and simple tales that purged the world of all necessary contradiction where each day succeeded the next in picturesque everyday where inhabitants rung through each rotation of the sun but never moved, toiling under the tragedy of their clocks as their motions were little more than transits that networked the world in a mesh of intersections and exchanges, forming a sphere that seemed like that plane always stretched beyond us.
I draw the vp70, grasping a black swan’s neck, my arm an ashen river twists into a destructive light, spent gunpowder sparkles over the carnage, the slide rips backward along its track spewing casings from the ejection port, the 9mm shells ring as if small bells, chimes to a deity that brought calamity unknown to the blue glass panes’ ministrations of light in mere beams and spokes as each muzzle flash gives little time for rays to form at the crevices that fracture the mirrors. Yet another silhouette appear on each sliver of glass surrounding me from each new rift on the once smooth surface. set to burst fire orange flight flickers in the hail of 9mm rounds rending the jeweled room into shimmers of glass falling around me yet the shadowy figures from the fragments melted into a total void.
‘you’re simply a vessel of destruction’
‘we have been watching you, spending yourself on deathly games’
‘we think your life should be better treasured…’
suddenly, the signals stun out of the air, falling dead across my arms as if melted ice as my weight collapses, my fingers limited by the reach of my arms as I can only stare at myself appearing out of the void mimicking my pain as if a tragic actor who keels over tightening their fingers in a wince to haggar their expressions. the point it can’t reach filled by my own pain, suspended in glass fragments like the remnants of a familiar sensation that now flattens into stone coarse against my knees.