Smoke and Mirrors

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by ze_kraken, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. Levy University

    eath. It was his expertise, be it in the dogfights of the alleys or in the name of the law. His life revolved around death. Death was what gave him an income. Death was what had let him come this far. And death would be, as it had everyone else, his end. That was not to say Benjamin Canter took a perverse joy in the absence of life, but rather viewed it as unfortunate side effect, more something that made life all that more meaningful. To him, the beauty in life was that it ended - nothing more, nothing less.

    But then there were those who enjoyed the opposite. Those who found a creativity and pleasure in the destruction of life. Those who dealt on the opposite end of death. In his brief thirty two years of life, Canter had seen a great many of murders grizzly in nature and disturbing in intent. Crime scenes that would keep a hardened veteran lose sleep for days on end. He had seen the remains of a child left in a mircowave until there was nothing but red goo. He had seen occult fantasies lived out on human canvases in the name of insanity.

    This was why the murder of Malcolm Holbach was not enough for him to lose his stomach over. That call had come late, towards the end of his graveyard shift, the result of which had been a lost bet a week earlier. It had been said time and time again in his line of work that there were two things you could not choose: your parents and your partner. Benjamin, after some pensive thought on the matter, had decided that if this were not the case then a backwit like Lenard Severt would never have a job in the field. He was squeamish, cowardly, and enjoyed his authority far too much. Whereas Benjamin felt he was corrupt for the greater good, Lenard was nothing more than a crooked two-face.

    Of course it had been Lenard who received the call, having been sent back to the auto to fetch payment for the pair's late-night coffee at Jack's Diner. For a Tuesday evening - more of a Wednesday morning - it was surprisingly crowded with the city's night life. All within an hour, a couple had taken themselves out back into the alleyway, a group of clubbers had returned for much-needed sobering, and a corporate executive had ordered two coffees (which he promptly drank himself). After ten minutes - much to Canter's agitation - Lenard returned with the news, leaving the cred-stick as payment at the edge of the retro-style booth the two had occupied.

    "What do we got?" Benjamin asked when the door of the auto shut automatically behind him as he settled himself into the practical, if not comfortable, vehicle.

    "Four-one-nine." Lenard responded in his flat voice, punching the address into the auto's GPS and letting the machine do the rest.

    As the machine rose off the ground, Canter flicked the switch that lit the sirens - better a speedy approach, even if it was at the expense of others. Better to be out of close confinement with Lenard as quickly as possible, as their auto rides were often silent and tense. To say the two did not get along was an understatement of the worst degree, but they were not the worst and, at the very least, they did their jobs well enough despite this distaste. The only time anyone had seen the two function as human beings had been their last job, which had led to one of the grittiest firefights the N.A.P.D. had ever witnessed.

    At last, ten minutes later, the auto lowered to the ground in the series of parking lots the university had to offer, leaving precious little space to exit properly. Grunting at yet another delay, Canter crawled out of the 'driver's' side and stretched as he glanced across the courtyard, hand on the flechette launcher tucked safe in its holster. Seeing no immediate threat, he relaxed his grip and turned back to Lenard.

    "Where at?" His voice was unreasonably harsh, something he berated himself for a second after it left his lips.

    "Student union building, not too far from here." Lenard replied; he'd attended this school for criminology and profiling before he'd dropped out of the program, something Benjamin assumed was the cause of his shrewd bitterness and corrupt tendencies.

    "Lead the way." Canter responded, with a bit more of his usual fake charm applied over the quip.

    Without a delay, Lenard began his way down a flight of stairs that led from the lot to the courtyard. Canter, who had never quite been around Levy as much as most of the city had, could see why it was a popular spot for non-students. Old-style architecture, trees, and lush grass all added a distance from the rest of New Angeles that he couldn't help but admire. In the center of the courtyard stood the clock tower, a relic of the early 2000's that was kept in superb condition. Even through the din of the city, the loud tick-tock of its gears could still be heard.

    Benjamin's sight was taken from the tower when he noticed the flashing red and blue lights along with the reflective glare of tape at the edge of his vision. With a rueful smile, he turned to Lenard, believing that anyone could have found the Union when it was crowding with law enforcement. Taking no further pretense of being led on, Canter hurried to the tape and flashed his identification when the bioroids demanded it at the entrance. Once inside, he paused, scanning the room for any signs of the victim. Then he saw it, and even it managed to rattle him if only momentarily.

    The man, Malcolm Holbach, was stretched in all directions with a red anarchist symbol splattered across his bare chest. Canter glanced over this symbol momentarily, realizing it had been carved into him with blood used to emphasize the lines. Purple bruising lined his wrists and ankles where the ropes dug into them and blood dripped to the ground where he had attempted to break himself free. Agitated, Benjamin called for the nearest officer.

    "Camera footage. Witnesses. Bioroids. DNA. Why the hell isn't this a dry-cut case?" He demanded as Lenard sauntered off to examine the corpse.

    "There was nothing on file, sir. This zone's a blackout." The wide-eyed officer returned, clutching at his PAD in a mixture of fear and trepidation.

    "Then I want connections. Now." Canter grunted through gritted teeth, turning back to watch Lenard begin what he was sure had already been done.

    Can't pick your parents, can't pick your partner.

    #1 ze_kraken, Nov 4, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
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  2. Wyldside

    t's a good place to lose yourself." Natalie remarked, taking a long draft of her e-cig as the congregation passed the club. "Not going to find anything quite like it back on Earth."

    "We came here to do business." Replied Frog, the old clone impatient as always; everyone else muttered their loose agreement in what Natalie declared a non-committal way.

    "We need to go over the plan again?" She asked as they approached ever closer to the front doors, the heat and smell of massed crowds wafting around them in the organized mass they called a line.

    "Bit too late for that." One of Frog's peons commented, letting out an intake of breath.

    Natalie bit back a sarcastic remark and gave herself a mental quick pat-down. Myramesh was stuck tight to her skin beneath the loose, gaudy velvet and silk she wore, her weapon sat concealed across her left thigh, and the shielding was in place. All was well. The hardest part was yet to come, but for now she could simply stand among the other patrons, staring at the bright pink and blue neon lighting of Wyldside. Pillars lined the entrance in a style dubbed 'neo-Greeco' and two burly, well-trimmed security officers stood on either side of the door, weapons in plain sight. Every so often, one would allow a group to head from the line to the doors before the routine scan was done: scanner, pat-down, and name list.

    If only it didn't take so damned long. Natalie thought bitterly, biting at her lip as the line once more advanced at its snail's pace. Out of impulse, she drew the e-cig to her lips and puffed out nothing but vapor. Damn it. Grabbing a canister from the pouch that hung at her shoulders, Natalie replaced the now-exhausted packet before taking another, longing draft. Exhaling with a shallow sigh of relief, Natalie went back to glancing around her surroundings out of boredom. The others found enough entertainment in idle chatter, but she did not require the company of these people. It only made it a distraction if and when they died, and Natalie Domoska could not afford disasters. When at last their group was admitted through the first line of defense (a roped off area), the two guards began to scan through the crowd with hand-held detectors.

    As the machine ran over her form, Natalie held her breath in two parts fear, one part agitation. As they usually did, the shielding across her weapon held and the ceramic Myramesh went undetected. Once through, Natalie was forced through the even worse ordeal of waiting for the others to make it through scot-free before they could continue with their 'business.' Frog was the second through, followed by the other lackeys posing as his security detail. Having never been inside the club herself, Natalie stared around in wonder at the flashing lights, felt the blaring thump thump thump of the base, and took in the scent of sweat, sex, and alcohol. Her earlier statement had been correct - it was a good place to lose yourself, and scant wander why.

    "You're quite sure this Teisha Iavarone is what you say she is?" Natalie questioned, needing to shout to be heard by Frog.

    Taking her arm in his own, the clone merely chuckled and replied. "Calling him she will get you a quick and easy taste of what it's like to die of atmo-poisoning; no one likes walking out into the void, but I'm sure he'll see you through to it if you fuck up. Plenty of people slip up and end up out there."

    To emphasize his point, Frog jerked a thumb outward to the airless void that was hardly a mile above and around them. "Though I'm sure you'll call him what he is, even if he has changed his sex officially."

    Natalie nodded her reply as the two walked through the crowds of escorts, criminals, executives, and other filth that tainted the dance floor. Once again she reached for her e-cig and drew out another puff before pushing the thing away back into her bag. After what seemed an eternity of wandering through and over the club's patrons, the pair finally reached what Frog said was Teisha Iavarone - a slight, blonde figure sitting in a private booth flanked by six security officers. Frog went first, bowing and to Teisha as the security team moved to shield their charge. After a brief, animated discussion, Teisha ordered the guards to stand down and beckoned for Natalie to step forward. Doing so reluctantly, Natalie mimicked the bow Frog had given as the clone spoke.

    "As promised, the Tri-Maf provides." He offered a flat, insincere smile. "If there is anything else you require, you need but-"

    "That will be all." Teisha replied, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture. "I will take her upstairs right away, madam?"

    Natalie nodded, following his head as the two headed up a set of stairs into the private smoke rooms and for-rent conference halls. Teisha's room lay at the end of the hall, giving Natalie enough time to piece together the logistics of the plan once more. After doing away with Teisha, she would have a few seconds to alert the rest of the team. From there, it was a game of clean-up and run. Click. The door opened on its own accord after a swipe of an ident card and sweetly scented, cool air met the two as the interior of the smoke room lit itself in a dull blue pallor. Natalie's target beckoned for her to enter first, which she did so after a brief moment of false hesitation. She made as quick a dash to the other side of the room as possible, giving herself a moment to turn, draw her weapon, and fire right as the door shut with the same click.

    His body hit the floor with a soft thump of flesh. Weapon still raised towards the door, Natalie pressed the alert pager that sat comfortably in her left ear, sending the signal out. A pity she had to die. None the wiser, never suspecting an ally would stab her back. While she waited for the all-clear ping to run through the linked unit that tapped into her nervous system, Natalie went to drag the body to a corner underneath a synthetic wood end table. Barely five minutes and a canister of vapor later, the all clear signal was sent and she opened the door, allowing the rest of Teisha's evidence to be chucked in with their charge. Now, it was time to run, but running, running was the easiest part...

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  3. Cerys; Net: An Intruder, #666699

    How serene the Net was when it was just a runner and a deck. Reality gave way and crumbled, reforming into her wildest dreams in the blank slate the server had become. Spires of water fifty feet high spouted and hissed into steam before reforming into a castle of polished steel. Mountains of ivory melted into pools of amber-hued water that cascaded off the end of the world. Only, she wasn't alone. The ping had come in the form of a sharp mental jolt, nearly tearing her back into reality as she sat in the corner of her apartment.

    Regardless of how often she scanned through her world, however, Cerys could not find the intrusion. Whatever it was, it was somehow avoiding all of the installed security software. An anomaly to say the least, and all it did was watch. No data was being transferred to her knowledge and no pain was entering her central nervous system. Probably just a probe sent by NBN to find a news story, but then, if a probe could find her, what's to say it couldn't find her records? Her 'meat' self could feel sweat tingling down her brow and the vague sensation of fear, dulled and echoing in the disparity between Net and Reality.

    Then the program spoke. "Hello. My name is T-3-R-r-Y, what's yours?" A cheery, electronic voice.

    The question, although innocent enough, was the final nudge that triggered the onset of complete inquietude and reticence. Cerys was young, but not inexperienced, and certainly not stupid by most standards. The same way a child is taught to avoid the man with candy in a white van, a person of Cerys' trade would be a credulous fool to fall at the analogous illusion, no matter how pleasing the perpetrator be. So, for a long moment she remained taciturn, allowing the silence to stretch out in her violated world as she struggled to find guarded words to respond with, fighting with the faint reverberation of words in the back of her thoughts.

    "Are you still there?"

    For a split second, she considered flight. Leave the situation alone, think up a solution when she was fully herself again, placid and organized. It'd do her no good if she allowed herself to act like the credulous fool. But of course, she did so anyway, blurting out the first words her spinning mind spat at her.


    Suddenly, she recognized the voices in her subconscious to be people, people around her, a person in her apartment. Her momentary relief was transparent in passage from Reality to her world, but she still felt it like a second ping through her system.

    "That's a nice name." The program responded in that seem cheery tone, and now she could feel it, the thud thud thud of massive feet upon ground.

    Only it wasn't feet upon ground, it was reality shifting. Cerys' world faded away as hills, water, everything vanished in sparks of pixel-like blotches of color. Then she was falling, and falling, and falling. The motion ceased. Cerys hung suspended above a breathtaking view of New Angeles, white framework twisting into data streams, buildings, and loose outlines of people who called the city home.

    The program was still there, though. She could feel it nudging around the server still, searching for something, searching for her. Periodically lights flashed red at key buildings before an error-registered noise would sound and the process start all over again. Looking down, Cerys realized she stood atop her own apartment building, and the light was getting closer.

    "I just want to be your friend." The program spoke again, voice now echoing throughout the entirety of the city.

    Along with the nudging of the program, Cerys too could now feel the thrum of the server as it attempted to keep pace with the reality the program had created. Heat ran over her body, causing that distant sensation of sweat and other physical discomforts to return with renewed force. The back of her throat itched with thirst and her eyes were beginning to flash as the machine's strain took its toll on her body.

    Her panic was breaking through from Reality to the Net- she knew she had to do something, anything, she couldn't let this bot get in, couldn't let it find where she was, who she was, but her mind was drawing a blank, pulling up nothing of use. Some part of her was in utter disbelief that this was happening, and that she was doing nothing to stop it. This wasn't her, not one bit. She was supposed to be able to do it all, even blocking off herself from stupid bots like this one. But she couldn't find it in herself to do it.

    The strain was too much, like the bot was trying to overload her systems on purpose. It probably is, she thought. She frantically moved to do something, to set up protections, to find a way to break connection with the bot. She could feel the sweat beading on her brow, could feel it dripping down.

    Fuck it, she thought. I can't. I can't.

    And then she broke off of the Net, and back into Reality.