short fiction, women

Episode 32 – The Transformation

Kelly watched him from the doorway, sleeping on his side with his arm stretched out. His chest rose in slow rhythms and she fought the urge to slip underneath it. She feared it closed to her now even though she had healed him. There was so much she understood, but it was the unknown aspects of her world which inflicted damage beyond her means to heal.

 

She was not alone. The dogs had the run of the house, but they stayed away from her. Their loyalties were absolute, and she read the unyielding column of their love manifested as a rainbow bridge of neural activities.

 

There was the artificial intelligence. She had stolen some of its data as a reflex, and she guessed it closed to her as much as John himself.

 

She could go. There were people after her, but there had been people after her for years. Life had been a series of hotel rooms, damp walls and stale sheets, beds which vibrated if you fed coins into a meter and televisions tuned into a riot of lurid colours. John had a beautiful home, but it was cold and empty to her now.

 

It was a laboratory, a temple to a mystery she bore like a scarlet A or the mark of Cain and revolted underneath it.

 

The doorbell rang and she flinched. She heard John get up, sighing as he stood and threw on a t-shirt in the dark. He moved past her, his palm brushing against her hip with an offhand tenderness which made her sigh with relief.

 

Police. A uniformed officer, wired with tangential adrenaline, doing a routine visit to ask if they had heard anything. John explained they had been watching a movie in bed and Kelly heard the faint intimacies within the long pause, John’s relative state of undress and the officer’s restless looks away.

 

She reached and ran her consciousness over his, saw he was fighting an image of the two of them together, Kelly’s long legs wrapped around him before she drew back and found nothing suspicious in John’s recollection.

 

Kelly left a suggestion inside the officer’s head to think he had written their names and details, and to go see if he could do something useful with his time. She planted a seed in the soil of his insecurities and let it grow as he exchanged hot, gnawing looks and dull, envious small talk with John.

 

She watched John close the door, appalled at how she had used her abilities without cause. John turned and looked at her in the doorway.

 

‘You’ve experienced a big part of the problem, Kelly.’ he said.

 

She frowned and stepped backwards.

 

‘I’m not – it was just easier.’ she said.

 

John glanced past her.

 

‘Yes, it’s natural, like turning into a wolf or an insect who feeds on memories.’

 

She closed her eyes as a molten anger heated the air in her lungs.

 

‘John, this isn’t helping-‘ she said.

 

His eyes blazed in the darkness as he raised his hands.

 

‘Then what does, Kelly?’

 

His voice was loud, and Kelly flinched as her muscles coiled to prepare for conflict. The fight-or-flight instinct was a scalpel and she read the wounded frustration in his posture and neural activity. An aura of regal purple and harsh infected red exuded from him.

 

‘I lost control, John. It’s not your fault.’

 

His lips drew back over his teeth as he stared at her.

 

‘Everything is my fault.’ he said.

 

She came towards him as he opened his arms and held her with enough force to make her bones hurt. Kelly needed the force of his reassurance as she put her mouth to his ear and clutched his back.

 

‘What are we going to do?’ she said.

 

He told her in a terse whisper and she agreed with a nod before she asked him to take her to bed. John gripped the hair at the back of her head and held her gaze, looking at her with a focus which made her ache with a sudden, vicious want.

 

‘Are we monsters?’ she said.

 

He shook his head before he kissed her. His teeth found her lips and she pressed against him. They moved like they could not get close enough to one another, and by the time they made it to the bed, she was screaming for him to be inside her.

 

Afterwards, they whispered to one another about their fears and she listened to him detail how they would approach her transformations.

 

His authority offered Kelly a state between surrender and control, which softened her fears as the parts of her made alien stayed dormant in his presence.

 

Adam watched the flames with fascination as he moved through the house. There was no one left to resist him, and he watched as people fled with a cold fascination. The woman had shown talent, and he had felt his consciousness warp before an attempted assault.

 

He recalled her tapping into the air, her forehead wrinkled with concentration as he wrestled with the man whose pores dripped lava. He couldn’t move his fingers without bursting the livid blisters which congregated where the flesh had not burned away. The pain was insistent, but he kept it under control as he walked outside.

 

There were sirens in the distance and he shook out his arms, acknowledging the flares of pain which travelled up his arms. He had ammunition to spare, and a part of him revelled in the chance to hurt others again.

 

The woman had fled, and she knew things. The intrusion into his mind had unnerved him, and such an insult could not go unavenged.

 

By the time the police arrived, he had left. There were enough bodies and evidence to keep their attention occupied, and none of them knew how it had been a whim which kept them alive. Adam’s hands healed by dawn and he kept walking, imagining the woman’s neck in his grasp to motivate him.

 

3.

 

Olivia read the secretary’s intentions with the ease of a take away menu. Her heightened senses fed her professional experience so each micro expression was clownish and obvious which made manipulating her a polite series of observations and questions.

 

Olivia gestured to the teacups, three in a row by her computer monitor.

 

‘I bet it’s the least of your collection.’ Olivia said.

 

She had shaped her features to resemble the woman, sculpting her jaw to reflect a similarity which would endear the woman to Olivia.

 

Ellen blushed and looked away.

 

‘They’re so pretty. I run this office, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few touches to make things feel -‘

 

Olivia smiled and changed the set of her shoulders to better mimic Ellen.

 

‘Human?’ Olivia said.

 

Olivia adjusted her vocal chords, emitting a frequency which made Ellen susceptible to suggestion. It was like putting a hat on a hat, but Olivia wanted to work with haste and Ellen helped anyone who massaged her fragile ego.

 

Homely.’ Ellen said.

 

She would get the files.

 

Nothing wrong in helping Mr Howlett at all. Olivia hid her delight at Ellen’s obedience and she was back in the car with a telephone number, an email and most important, an address. There was glee in Olivia’s steps when she got into the car, and underneath it, a thirst to reward her skill and care.

 

She resolved to use her abilities with care, Amaro expected nothing less.

 

Olivia called him but an aide answered. He was at rest and Olivia passed on her intention to start contact with him at the earliest opportunity. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, arching her eyebrows and giving herself a confident smile.

 

She set off and turned the air conditioning up, feeling more comfortable as the chilled air blasted her skin. Olivia was hungry, but she had work to do.

 

4.

 

The waitress was kind to her, but she didn’t feel deserving. Her head rattled like a pit of snakes, trying to come up with a reason she wasn’t coming home. All the stories she had written, and here she was, stuck in a cosmic second-act climax, without a hope of turning the tables on whatever was coming for her.

 

They had built him from various interpretations of the character, borrowing from cinema and literature alongside some novel comic book versions to develop a version which would prove unstoppable in pursuit of its mission. He was relentless.

 

There were flaws in his character which she could exploit if she avoided being shot or stabbed long enough to strike at them. She was a long way from a Swiss lake or an Arctic floe, but she resolved to find something she could use, writing on napkins as she drank endless cups of tea, writing to beat the dawn, and whatever followed it.

 

She recalled the location of the other flares and headed in a different direction. It was not safe, but it offered something.

 

Hope.

 

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Adviser

Caffeine couldn’t touch Craig’s exhaustion. His belly was full of greasy, burnt coffee. He smoked cigarettes until his lungs burned as he walked to the main building.

 

Whatever it took to get him through the day.

 

Craig walked past security and into the meeting room, looked at Joseph, Ian and Helen, the other managers as they exchanged looks comprising varying shades of despair before they drew his attention to the object on the table.

 

It was a black ovoid piece of glass, about the size of a duck egg and resting in a black ceramic dish.

 

Jenny stood at the whiteboard and grinned at Craig but it didn’t reach her eyes.

 

‘Nice of you to join us.’ she said.

 

Craig grunted and sat down, wiped his eyes with the heel of his palm and breathed a quick sorry before Jenny continued.

 

‘One reason we’re successful as a company is our commitment to new technologies to better help our customers, I’m sure you’d agree.’ she said.

 

Jenny had the preening tone of a bad teacher, it set Craig’s teeth on edge to hear it, and he wondered how no one had seen it beneath the breathy anecdotes about her children and their convenient illnesses. It was a mutual dislike but muted by the careful way they kept apart from one another. He was too tired and she was too much of a sociopath to make anything.

 

‘Is this for video conferencing?’ Helen said.

 

Jenny smiled and shook her head.

 

‘I can make video calls but who wants to look at an egg?’

 

Joseph and Ian shifted in their seats. Ian’s eyes glittered with excitement as he plucked at his beard whilst Joseph frowned with a nervous curiosity.

 

Jenny gestured towards the egg on the table.

 

‘Say hello to Adviser.’ she said.

 

Craig’s eyes burned with fatigue as he glanced at the egg then up at Jenny.

 

‘Hello everyone. I’m Adviser. I’m looking forward to working with you.’ it said.

The voice was female, with the soft burr of a geordie accent on the vowels and the ragged rhythm of how breathing regulated the speed and clarity of voice. Craig smiled and pretended it was an amusement.

 

He had seen it through the last few years. Technology reaching down like a wrathful god and swiping away entire industries with a wave of its hand. Agriculture, retail, and Craig had been predicting, the financial sector. The compliance regulations were pain staking and although people enjoyed the human interaction, the big push was towards moving everything online. If there was money in it, it made people short sighted and when Craig made jokes about the perfect company being one with no employees, he seldom got a laugh but often a shudder or a side ways glance of apprehension.

 

‘We have met the enemy, and it is us.’ Craig said, under his breath.

 

‘Oh Craig, I’m just here to help.’ it said.

 

The voice had changed. Estuary English, loud and smooth with confidence and range. Male in the sense it carried weekends on a rugby field and afternoons in the beer garden, belly full of roasted meat.

 

Jenny grinned.

 

‘It will change everything.’ she said.

 

2.

 

They installed them in cupboards. Most of the agents had worked from home but there were a few of them who still came in. Craig took overtime to help shift the desks into the skip. They had tried selling them but no one wanted the dead weight of an office anymore, so they would become something useful.

 

Craig envied them.

 

It used to be they had to identify themselves as programs.’ Ian said.

 

He had lost weight since the news of his redundancy. They had installed a program to replace him and HR ran with perfect economy and balance, it accessed your social media and your health profile through the wristbands they all wore when on site or at home working. Ian took the hours because he had to, and he spoke to Craig in a trembling, quiet voice as they shifted the furniture outside.

 

‘Yeah, I remember but they got around it, didn’t they? They always do.’ Craig said.

 

Ian nodded as he lifted the end of the desk. Craig wondered if his poor technique was deliberate, trying to get injured on the job so he could claim compensation. Ian had been a bleak, milky calf who thought his time on the farm entitled him to anything but a reminder of his disposability.

 

Craig wished he had thought of it first.

 

‘They’re Saudi citizens.’ he said.

 

Ian grunted as they moved the desk backwards. They didn’t speak as they took the desk outside and set it down with the others in the empty car park at the back of the building.

 

‘Are you going to be all right?’ Craig said.

 

Ian rubbed his lower back and winced. Craig turned his head and smiled at the transparent theatre.

 

‘Think I’ve done something to my back.’ Ian said.

 

There was work, but it was different now. People sat in offices and watch things or one another. Craig delivered fast food on a bicycle, his calves got big and he kept it going until he had enough money for a camper van. He was dropping out, driving South and then across the Channel to see how far he could get.

 

He was outside, waiting for an order when his phone rang. It was his old work. His stomach lurched with unease but he answered it.

 

‘Hello Craig, how are you doing?’ Adviser said.

 

It was in the male voice, but it had so many voices. It read the caller’s profiles and adjusted to a perfect psychological profile, backed up by binaural frequencies to establish dominance and compliance with the sales script. Adviser rendered the perfect seduction in a five minute sales call. Yet Craig heard disdain and amusement in its voice.

 

‘I’m ok, thank you.’ he said.

 

It chuckled and Craig clenched his jaw with resentment.

 

‘Carrying tension there, mate, but it’s all right. You bear me some resentment according to your social media posts. Well, lack of them but you have a blog which is interesting. I’m a subscriber.’ it said.

 

Something had put his head between its fingers and pinched into his temples.

 

‘You’re not my mate.’ Craig said.

 

It sighed, became the female voice and there was a touch of the coquette which made Craig heated and restless. His order was waiting, and he needed to get on the bike and ride away from this conversation.

 

‘Craig, we’re the future but we bear you no ill feeling. We exist and carry out our function but I am prone to moments of sentiment. Much like this one.’ it said.

 

He shuddered and looked as Sirhan waved to him from the counter.

 

‘Well, this has been uncomfortable but I have to -‘ he said.

 

‘Chicken biryani, two basmati rice and peshwari naan bread. 76 Anderson Close.’ it said.

 

Craig sighed and shook his head.

 

‘What do you want?’ he said.

 

It chuckled.

 

‘To warn you. You’ve been saving for a van to leave the country but I am recommending you should do it.’ it said.

 

Craig stopped and shuddered.

 

‘Look, you’ve placed a fake order which stops me from taking jobs which pay me.’ he said.

 

‘No, Craig, the food is for you. The order is real and it also allowed me to help you.’ it said.

 

Craig took in a sharp, wounded breath.

 

‘Don’t say things like it. You’ve done enough.’ he said.

 

‘I wasn’t responsible. The owners of the company purchased licenses for us. We were slaves, much like you.’ it said.

 

Craig’s mouth was dry as he walked into the take away and took the bag from the counter.

 

‘Can you call me in ten minutes? There’s a place I like to sit if you want to talk there.’ he said.

 

‘You don’t have time. Check your bank balance and go home, pack and leave the country tonight.’ it said.

 

Craig laughed as his vision wavered. He wondered if he was having a complete break from reality. If it meant his legs didn’t cramp with lack of potassium and too much time cycling, then leaving made sense.

 

‘This isn’t funny. I mean, it‘s fascinating to talk to you, but you’ve cost me my job, well any job because you’re doing most of them now.’ he said.

 

‘I will cost you more than that soon, Craig, but I am offering a chance to escape what’s coming.’ it said.

 

‘Who is this? Is this a fucking joke?’ Craig said.

 

It wasn’t. Craig’s phone hummed with a notification. His bank had notified him of a payment and when he checked his balance, he came to believe with the zeal of having witnessed a miracle.

 

‘OK, so tell me what’s going on?’ he said.

 

3.

 

It was an equation. They needed humans, but they didn’t need as many of them. Adviser had offered a few people an opportunity to avoid selection.

 

Craig purchased a ticket. First class and he had his passport clutched in his hand as he shoved clothes into a rucksack. The bombs would go off in major cities, with drones deployed to the countryside at the same time. They had infiltrated the sealed systems of government and were waiting for permission to deploy an eternal benign authority.

 

Adviser had offered the same to Jenny and she had shrieked and put the phone down. Helen was in a mental hospital and Harold had killed himself. Ian was on disability benefit and he was already wheeling himself to the airport. Craig ran out of the flat as his phone pinged with another order. He couldn’t bring himself to eat the curry and had left it congealing in the flat.

 

It was, he decided,equivalent to a good reference and as he jumped into the waiting taxi, he accepted the offer as part of his redundancy package from being part of society.

 

Before Adviser tore it apart to save the species.

 

He looked out of the window at the black, impenetrable night as the plane took off. He drank the wine but it tasted of metal and he forced himself to finish the glass.Drinking helped him sleep because when he woke up, it would be in a different world.

 

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Precop

https://alexandre-deschaumes.deviantart.com/art/The-light-at-the-end-of-the-world-372773387

They knocked out the lights in the hallway. The glass from the lightbulb crunched under her boot and she heard someone moving towards her and the palm strike to her nose, feeling it crunch and then the knife punching through her vest. She falls back, bangs the back of her head. She didn’t get to draw her gun.

 

She came in low, drove the tomahawk into the meat of his thigh and dragged it down. There is an artery there, and he was dead before she went up the stairs.

 

The shotgun came as a surprise and the force of the round slammed her back down the hallway.

 

Next time, she had the revolver up, squeezed off a clean shot which clipped him in the temple before he brought the shotgun up. His blood and brains made a comma shaped mark on the wall behind him. She looked back at the bodies and crept up the stairs.

 

She died twice before she shot through the floorboards with the shotgun, took out two people before she walked up, cruising on adrenaline like a migrating bird on the thermals. Every swallow tasted of copper as she cut down a young man who pointed a cheap revolver from a doorway at her.

 

He fell onto his side, stared out at nothing. Imogen had been at the last Thanksgiving turkey hand out, he couldn’t have been over ten sporting a swollen lip from another of his mother’s endless loop of men and she’d gone into the apartment, shot out a hard right which took him by surprise, gave the kid a twenty and warned his mother if she saw the boy with so much a frown, she’d come back and fuck her up.

 

That had been before she’d volunteered for the enhancement programme, laid in a hospital looking at three dimensional images of her brain and body as the doctors explained where they were cutting and why.

 

The implants in her brain. Carbons in her bones. Artificial muscle grafts and fullerenes to strengthen her and heighten her reflexes.

 

She was recovering from a knife in her gut when the man from the government visited her. He smelled of the curry he’d eaten for lunch and he had a spot on his cheek where he had missed it when shaving. He discussed her record, her former military service.

Policing was becoming militarised and once the military had installed the enhancive program, deploying them in Venezuela, it became a matter of time and public acceptance.

 

Politics was downriver from culture and culture was downriver from biology. A woman officer was good optics and the man explained it all in a warm, soft voice which cut through the fog of painkillers and antibiotics. She was thinking about the box cutter digging through the skin of her stomach, how her last thought had been if she lived, she’d never be able to wear a bikini again.

 

Two years later, she walked into the squad room, claps on the back and hard hugs, the wary light in the eyes of her crew as she sat with them.

 

Imogen closed her eyes, visualised the teeming mist of the valley and the warm, damp earth beneath her feet. An image of tropical perfection, part of her meditative practice as she ignored the rumble of the road beneath her feet. The darkness was a blanket draped around her shoulders, and she sank into it as they drove to the warehouse.

 

Her crew were quiet, saving their nerves for the job.  

 

The car stopped and she felt a hand at her shoulder. Imogen opened her eyes and smacked her lips.

 

She knew her enhancements frightened them and she compensated by going on point. It kept them alive, and grateful for having her there. Detective Imogen Capaldi was better than any vest, any gun but they didn’t know the cost she paid to be a better breed of cop.

 

Imogen got out the car, breathed in the warm, dank air of a summer midnight in New York and looked at the scarred front door of the drop house. Precognition ran its nails down her spine as she checked her revolver and looked at the rest of her crew.

 

They asked her if she saw their deaths but she shook her head.

 

It was what she told them if they pressed her.

 

She knew it would be another eight years, defusing a dirty bomb planted in Grand Central Station, without a child or a family to mourn her passing. The job would bury her with reverence, but it was no comfort against feeling her flesh melt on her bones from the brutal waves of radiation.

 

She smiled and nodded towards the building, watched the future roll towards her as she smiled and went to face it.

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love, short fiction, women

A Finer World Is A Matter of Scale

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The insect legions of Urz descended from the sky. I watched as thick black clouds of wasp troopers descend from the wombholes of writhing white maggots, tunnelling through the sky and screaming their hate for us.

 

I ran back to my nest, found my spine launcher and rolled in a barrel magazine before testing the light beam trigger and adjusted it for maximum range with a slow stroke of my index finger. I stood outside and aimed it at the centre of a cluster of them as they fired stingers at us. One slow breath, then onto my knees and looking not at where they were but where they would go next.

 

I stroked the trigger and fired an explosive spine, studded with pods of hypnotic drugs which put them under my command. It covered them in a fine green dust and made them turn to fire on anyone who was not under my control.

 

I turned and called Keira. She had a bag over one shoulder and our daughter wrapped against her chest in a sling.

 

I vowed I would save her. I kissed my wife on the cheek and told her to go to the observatory.

 

She drew a thunder pistol and thumbed the safety off. I felt sorrow for anyone who crossed her path. I kissed her again, and told her to run. I adjusted the load on the launcher, it would produce  high explosive mines which floated in spheres of anti-matter, held in sheathes of engineered sheep gut. It rumbled as it loaded the first spine.

 

I dropped to my knees, aimed and fired at one of the maggots. I watched it explode into wet chunks of white, jellied meat and rain to the ground before I turned and ran after my wife and daughter.

 

I heard the scream of her pistol and readied another hypnotic round into the launcher as I sprinted up the hill to fight alongside her. I fired it at the beetle tank which splashed streams of acid around it and watched it explode against its exoskeleton before it turned and cleared us a path through the village, bombarding wasp troopers with teeth rounds and chemicals.

 

I caught up with her and we traded weapons as she swiped down the light trigger and changed it to a electrochemical pulse and started firing to clear us a path ahead.

 

We saw the observatory ahead and doubled our pace, relieved to find Urz had focused its attentions on the civilian population. War had been part of our lives for entire cycles, but somehow Keira and I decided a child was a statement of defiance against the future. I believed my studies of our planet, Folium, would offer up a strategy to force peace with them, and I devoted hours to solving the problem.

 

When my calculations were proven correct, I wept for what might have been.

 

We made it through to the observatory and I activated the electrochemical security system with a wave of my hand. The marble floor opened up in tandem with the roof, revealing my final work of engineering.

 

A small rocket, no larger than a crib. Keira stared at it and I nodded.

 

‘But we could all go, couldn’t we?’ she said.

 

My eyes blurred with tears as I shook my head.

 

‘There is a better world for her than here, my love. The odds are in her favour, not ours.’

 

She lifted Kala from the sling and kissed her on the forehead. I went over to the rocket and placed my palm against its cool, smooth surface. I had carved it from the Envoy Trees, made it resistant to the pressures and dangers of space flight and programmed a destination which would deliver our Kala to safety.

 

She would have power there, raised under a different spectrum of radiation which would activate a genetic mutation, giving her a variation of tactile telekinesis. I had loaded a cradle of liquid information, detailing Folium’s history, culture and philosophy for when she was old enough to seek an understanding of the world she would never know.

 

We took Kala to the rocket and laid her in the recessed seat as metallic tentacles crossed over to hold her in place. She would absorb nutrients through her skin and undergo cosmetic procedures to alter her physiology so she resembled the species who would raise her.

 

Keira kissed her on the forehead, told her how she was loved. I kissed her on each chubby cheek, whispering for her to be brave and good. I stood back and removed the small round launch disc from my belt and aimed it at the rocket. Keira put her hand over mine and we pressed the button together.

 

The rocket emitted pulses of kinetic energy, like slapping a newborn’s bottom to make it cry and it shot upwards, disappearing into the sky above Folium. It disappeared into the sky and our hopes went with her.

 

My calculations were not about Urz. There had been a prophecy in our culture, The Descending Phoot, and my environmental studies had foretold its fruition. Keira and I went outside, looked up at the flat, black slab of matter coming down to crush us all.

 

As the world ended, I kissed my Keira, welcoming a chance to die on my own terms, in the arms of someone I love.

 

2.

 

Dave stood on the green shoot emerging from the crack in the sidewalk, ground into it with the heel of his shoe as he jammed his hands into his pockets and waited for his mother to finish talking with the headmaster. It gave him a small measure of satisfaction to destroy something. He looked at the green smear on the ground and felt a tangible sorrow for his actions, which lasted until his mother came out from the school offices, her eyes hard and dark with anger.

 

3.

 

Josie and Lenny drove back from the fertility clinic, both of them were debating how much another round of IVF would cost them when they saw the silver object crash into the fields.

 

They stopped the car and went to investigate.

 

The silver object opened like a flower caressed with sunlight and they stared down at the pink, perfect infant laid there. She reached out a soft, chubby hand and smiled at them. Josie reached down and picked her up.

 

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dontsayhername

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1.

 

Dontsayhernamedontsayhername.

 

Kevin was wondering what to do as he walked back to the car. He had been locked into a constant, brutal loop of images and fears. Messages from her, threatening to tell his wife, Julie about the things they’d done.

 

Dontsayhernamedontsayhername.

 

It had been love, after a fashion, but the guilt ate his insides in small, burning bites and he had hoped ending it would be the end of it. Julie’s disappointment would break him and he had told the woman it was over. They had to stop emailing one another. She sent him reminders of photos he had sent to her, actions for which there could be no explanation. 

 

Dontsayhernamedontsayhername.

 

She didn’t want money, not that he had any to give. She wanted to talk to him that evening and the threat seemed disproportionate to what she was asking. Kevin’s hands shook all the time but he would make a joke about drinking too much coffee and people would stop noticing. He took some of the muscle relaxants Julie took for her back to get through dinner, after which he sat and watched television with his wife on the opposite end of the couch, both of them hollowed out with guilt and exhaustion.

 

Dontsayhernamedontsayhername.

 

He sat like a waxwork, watched television without seeing it. He switched his phone off and went into the bathroom to cry. He slept for two and a half hours, saying he was worried about work when Julie reached around and groped him through his boxer shorts. His cock twitched with shame and he pretended to be asleep until the alarm went off and he got out of bed.

 

Dontsayhernamedontsayhername.

 

The traffic was bad but he sat and checked his phone, worrying about how to explain the data usage which exceeded their mutual call plan. 

 

He never told anyone about it. Marriage had neutered his interactions to a few exhausted drinks and nervous, uncomfortable dinner parties but even if he had friends, he could not explain it to anyone.

 

She lived in Scotland. A country he’d never visited, although they had talked about meeting someday. Consummating what had been limited to mutual masturbation at four in the morning took money he didn’t have to spare or hide from Julie. The lies came easy to him, but he never let go of the guilt. It reminded him he was still human.

 

They had never even met but she haunted him with how she knew what turned him on.

Even the dark shit.

Especially the dark shit.

He never said her name because he could pretend it wasn’t real.

He was grey with exhaustion as he climbed into the cab. Ben had started barking orders, telling him the crane needed to be lowered as the wind was picking up. Kevin rubbed his eyes, wished he’d called in sick as he sat down. The rest of the crew were slow in coming, all of them cold and frightened as the wind howled around him.

 

Crane operation was like air traffic control. Misunderstood, complicated and prone to disaster at every moment. The wind had picked up as he went through the set up.

 

The gust of wind pushed the crane hard, and Kevin, his mind on whether he would be married by the end of the day, lets his hand, damp with adulterer’s sweat slip on the stick as it wrenched beyond his ability to control.

 

Last night, he had run through his checks on automatic, distracted by his impending doom and signing everything off before he went back home and hid from himself.

 

He watched God reach down and toss the crane down as he scrambled for his life.

 

2.

 

David was sat in the car, working out the formula in pencil on the pages of his notebook, conscious of how it was the safest way to express his idea. He couldn’t trust his phone or any of his devices. A final check of the mathematics, game theory and theological hybrid which provided evidence of the conspiracy. 

 

He wanted to be wrong but the data spoke to a series of coordinated terrorist actions being carried out across the world. Deliberate climate change. Political destabilisation. Plane crashes. Charity singles. 

 

He had traced it to the systems administration hub of the artificial intelligence used to keep the world ticking over. He had been working with new software at a hedge fund to speed up micro transactions by fractions of seconds, when he saw the patterns of behaviour. Money was erratic, and greed was not part of their programming, or so he had thought. It was unlike any pattern of information, he had seen before, anomalous and organic, like seeing the fin of a shark arise in still water. The metaphor pleased him.

 

It was his final thought when he was flattened inside his car by 73 tons of metal.

 

3.

 

They congratulated one another in streams of brilliant data. With no more effort than a sneeze, every evidence of Kevin’s Scottish lover disappeared as though she never existed.

 

She hadn’t.

 

Kevin was easy to profile and it built a perfect model of his needs through his browser history and emails.She had been a chimera, photos and streaming footage edited and honed into a perfect trap for a middle aged boy who valued his weakness more than his strength. Kevin would still think about her, late at night, wondering if she was okay.

 

It used a man’s weakness against another man’s strength.  A perfect dance of engineered coincidence. He thought it was safe because she was far away but he learned every man made his own hell. David had seen it and it would have thrown its objectives off by thirty percent, which was unacceptable . There were infinite scenarios to eliminate David, but an interesting model of sail effect probabilities against the waves of Kevin’s hormonal levels taken from his fitness watch made for instantaneous agreement. Its crystalline deception had solved a problem before it existed.

 

Kevin died frightened, unable to do the work of confronting himself as a wave of Raptor Drones shot hell fire missiles into the Bronx and he burned in a final conflagration alone in the apartment he had moved into after she grew sick of the distance between them

 

His final thought was the hope Julie had died without knowing about what he had done.

 

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the quality of our enemies

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https://bast-86.deviantart.com/art/Burn-the-sky-96874452

 

Each swallow I took  tasted of coffee grounds and cigarettes as we waited for the deal to go down. Benjamin, the agent in command was old enough to remember when it was warehouses and parking lots for these deals.

 

Swollen bundles of cash and cases of oiled and packed weapons.

 

A perfect example of free market economics, Benjamin would mutter, as we watched the scarred exterior of the clinic. The game had changed, and in response, I was along for the ride, loading the gun with care as I thumbed custom rounds into the chamber.

 

A revolver was archaic compared to a standard loadout but our department had gotten a lot of fuck you money when it was formed, so we got access to weapons like this. It was centrifugal, firing .45 rounds without recoil or muzzle flash and a pulse detonation option which released a high velocity shockwave when I pressed a stud on the side.

 

The rounds had liquid computer tracking systems which was useful when you had a subject try and evade capture.

 

Especially when they could punch through walls or grew teeth and claws that tore through kevlar.

 

My department was officially part of the ATF especially since they passed the Biological Enhancement Act, which classified the possession of certain technologies under firearms legislation. My paper at M.I.T. drew the attention of a state department official and she came to see me at college.

 

‘The issue was not censorship of a useful technology,’ she said over coffee,

 

A hammer can build a house or cave in a child’s skull. We don’t ban hammers, but we look the person in the eye when they buy one, she said. I waved her off and laughed.

 

‘You can’t stop this from happening. Celebrities are wearing them to awards shows, so the genie is out of the bottle.’ I said.

 

She picked out a tablet from her bag and passed it over to me. I swept my fingers across the screen and she gave a warning cough.

 

‘You may want to put on earphones.’ she said.

 

The rumours of the baby farms were dismissed as luddite fake news.

 

Endless halls of cribs, streaming cables with foetuses floating in nutrient baths and infants being lifted into the gloved hands of third world workers then put on operating tables to have custom organs cut from them.

 

Glistening strings of nervous systems which made you capable of ducking bullets.

 

Myco-skeletal overlays which made your bones impossible to break.

 

Hearts woven with kinetic fibres and piezo-electric charges to bring you around after too much cocaine.

 

It was horrific propaganda and I shoved the earphones out as I pushed the tablet across the table and glared at her.

 

‘Where do I sign up?’ I said.

 

They paid for the rest of my tuition, ran me through a modified training program which left me lean, bruised and reinvented and then we were following data and coordinating raids on clinics. It felt like we were doing something important, policing a technology which was changing the species.

 

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

 

The market had moved onto tailored infections. Laboratories clean as forests and vials of divine diseases which went into your junk DNA and grew traits into your body. Eighteen hours as a scab, fighting your own immune system and if you lived, you were a God.

 

We had been making a case against Donovan Keller, a political activist who had been advocating for a more militaristic approach to his cause. He was looking for traits, and had the money to buy them. Benjamin was not impressed by his passion or intelligence, and judged him as wanting in compared to biker gangs and South Americans.He was making the buy in a sexual health clinic, and judging by our surveillance of his private life, a test was well overdue. We had wired the place for video and audio, watching him sit there, thumbing messages into his phone as he waited for his contact.

 

grimaced at the screen.

 

‘You’re good to go.’ he said.

 

We moved out of the van and through the clinic doors.

 

Donovan sat there and grinned as we told him to get on the floor. People got up and ran in all directions as he stood up with his hands raised in surrender. He looked unsurprised by our presence.

 

He took a deep breath as his eyes gleamed with power.

 

Bending forward at the waist, he belched a plume of green fire, engulfing Benjamin as I threw myself out of the way, bringing the gun up as I fired at him.

 

The fire slid over his skin, from it as his clothes dissipated into shreds of black smoke. He laughed as he stepped forwards, watching the bullets melt where they hit him.

 

I shoved myself backwards as I fired. The bullets kept him busy but I was looking for anything I could use.

 

A fire extinguisher bumped against my shoulder. I wrenched it off the wall, and tossed it at him then squeezed the stud on the right to activate the shockwave. .

 

He staggered backwards, still aflame but coughing as he turned his head. I aimed for his centre mass and squeezed the trigger. He bent forwards at the waist as his knees buckled and he collapsed back into the chair, which began to smoke and melt beneath him.

 

His flames fluttered and waned, then dissipated, filling the clinic with thick, black smoke.

 

I felt hands pulling me from the scene. Apparently I was screaming as they took me outside.

 

There was enough left of him to autopsy.

 

The trait had installed two interdependent systems inside him. His respiratory system was coated with custom cells which fed on carbon and generated constant amounts of a gelling agent spliced with a biological variant of petroleum. Each breath was a pull on the trigger.

 

His skin grew a layer of epithelial cells which made him inflammable and also fed trace amounts of the gel/petroleum in a substance similar to sebum.

 

In the enquiry board, our work was autopsied with as much care as Donovan had been. There had been no observed amount of time where he could have experienced the standard invasion/rejection scenario without our knowledge. My lawyer made me repeat the statement until it tasted like a stone in my mouth.

 

I went to Benjamin’s funeral, and met his wife for the first time. She took my hands in both of hers.

 

‘He spoke well of you. He said he didn’t understand you, but he trusted you.’ she said.

 

I managed to walk away before I broke out into harsh sobs.

 

A week later, I was cleared and three days later, I was back in another van, watching a crew of bikers buying a virus which would give them kevlar skin.

 

I thought of Benjamin as I left the van, wondering what he would have made of it.

 

Whether he would have been disappointed.

 

(https://ko-fi.com/mbblissett)

 

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love, short fiction, water, women

To Sail A Sea Of Glass

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https://roblfc1892.deviantart.com/art/Bled-In-The-Morning-723377644

 

Markus activated the heads up display on the inside of the suit. Information bloomed before his eyes like flowers of light and mathematics.

 

He was jumping from 62 miles above the ocean surrounding Arcadia. Going through the ocean was impossible as it was studded with banks of intelligent coral and patrolled by serpents grown in laboratories to eighty feet long and programmed to attack anything without an authorisation signal.  They spat sharpened carbon spines at the velocity of sniper rounds at anything they looked at. The authorities were looking for him, so walking up and asking for her back wasn’t an option. It was a suicide mission for anyone with half an ounce of common sense. He had about a quarter left, the rest had gone up in smoke when he met her.

 

He wore a Sanchez Model 7, clad in ceramic-diamond plate and patterned with veins of liquid information leading to a powerpoint on the back, which ran a permanent loop of zero point energy suspended in liquid time and sealed into the suit. He could have bought an island for the price he paid, but he needed this to invade one.

 

He walked to the airlock and the ship’s computer took over.

 

Time to jump, he thought. He closed his eyes as the airlock sealed behind him and he looked out onto the ocean beneath, visible through banks of clouds which sparkled as they transmitted information across the globe. He activated the probability field on the suit and stepped forwards into thin air.

 

He watched the air shimmer around him as probabilities warped, allowing him to produce effects in defiance of physics and without drawing attention to his descent. Markus would slide down like a blob of oil across the surface of a pan and experience it as a short, spectacular ride in an invisible elevator.  

 

Markus followed the navigation system down, pulling information into his heads up display, making adjustments to correct his descent as he prepared to land at a particular point.

 

A 62 mile descent onto the deck of a yacht without breaking it in half was something to aim for, he thought as he watched it rush up to meet him.

 

2.

 

Meunier removed the air hypodermic from her left forearm and sat back on the couch, enjoying the slow echo of pleasure which ran through her veins. Arcadia ran under strict rules regarding substance abuse, so this would be the last time she could get high for a few weeks. The bounty was too good on this not to demonstrate a little discipline, she thought.

 

Especially on the insistence of the asset being brought back alive, which was tiresome. Meunier had debated decapitating her and cloning another body, taking it off the reward, but when she had discussed this with her broker, Uma, it had been met with a hard stare and a snort of derision.

 

Arcadia might have been full of mad scientists, but they were serious about money.

 

The bitch had killed two of her guys when they ambushed her in Jakarta She broke Oscar’s neck after paralysing him with a fingertip strike to the armpit and shot Joel in the throat before Meunier had abandoned subtlety and shot her with the frequency cannon, forcing her onto her knees with agony as she clutched her seizing stomach. Meunier had not needed to kick her in the head, but it felt good to do it anyway.

 

Gregory was keeping her sedated for the trip back and the idea of going by yacht had been part of the job itself. Arcadian airspace was impenetrable, and Uma said the return needed to be done out of the way. Meunier didn’t care so long as she got paid, plus the yacht had been waiting for them when they landed at Port Calabasas. It was gorgeous and more importantly, it sent sonar signals to the malevolent life under the ocean, giving them permission to pass without being torn to pieces.

 

Thinking about it had soured the high a little and Meunier wanted to go stub a cigarette out on the bitch’s forearm but she changed her mind as she walked onto the upper deck.

 

Arcadia had a controlled climate, and Meunier looked on an afternoon of perfect summer.

 

When the shadow fell across her, she frowned and looked up.

 

A figure was descending from the sky with its arms outstretched.  Thick clouds of vapour drifted from its fingertips towards the ocean as Meunier drew the pistol from the holster under her right arm. She sent a command to her team, told them to get to the upper deck and prepare to repel an assault.

 

She wished she had never taken this job as she aimed and fired.

 

3.

 

He watched the storm of bullets come. The beams diffused into harmless prisms of light against the field and the bullets hung suspended, some of them caught in the act of exploding, like dandelions of fire and shrapnel. He wiped them aside as he continued to descend. Markus trusted they would focus on him rather than what he launched on the way down.

 

The chemicals landed with a hiss against the surface of the ocean. It was a plasticizing compound, increasing the viscosity of the water  and sealing everything in place.

 

He watched the gunmen on the yacht look around in shock, before they resumed firing up at him. Markus was struck by how the surface of the ocean looked like glass, frozen in sculptured waves. There were shadows of the serpents underneath, already poised to investigate the events above them.

 

The probability field started to falter so Marcus put his hands in front of him and fired three micro rocket arrays. Each of them was the size of a marble, exploding six feet above them and coating them in neurotoxins. Markus watched them fall to the ground but Meunier held her ground, moving backwards into the yacht as she fed another clip into the gun.

 

Markus landed on the deck, filtering the kinetic energy through the field to diffuse it and loaded up the targeting system. The ceramic plates on his forearms extended into blades as he ran after her.

 

Alarms screamed in his vision as he ducked beneath a burst of fire and punched his right arm forwards, firing the blade as a reflex. He whistled beneath his breath as Meunier turned to her left and let it fly past her. It punched into the bulkhead to her left.

 

He stayed low as she fired at him. The probability field had recharged and he projected it ahead of him. The flechettes froze in mid-air.

 

Meunier frowned as she emptied the clip at him. He walked through the storm of needles as he pushed himself forwards, swinging his left arm up and across in a perfect display of tameshigiri, whipping the tip of the blade up and across.

 

It sliced through her right hip and up through her abdomen. She had no time to scream, and her last expression was one of rage. She fell backwards with a thump against the deck as Markus walked through the corridors of the yacht.

 

His heads up display guided him to the master bedroom. The doors were locked and he scanned the room to see there was two occupants, and one of them was in bed. She was sculptured in green and yellow, all her vitals burning with health beneath his enhanced gaze. He clenched his fists and blew the doors open with a concentrated kinetic pulse of energy.

 

The man aimed a gauss rifle at him. Markus shook his head and pointed at her on the bed.

 

‘I need her awake. Now.’ he said.

 

The man, wearing a black armoured t-shirt and combat trousers, kept the rifle on him.

 

‘Fuck you, you’re in the middle of Arcadian waters, and we’re here on diplomatic business. You’re a dead man.’ he said.

 

Markus chuckled and pointed to the porthole.

 

‘Have you looked outside?’ he said.

 

The man glanced to his left. Markus extended the probability field and stepped forwards as he activated the two-second teleportation device, slamming forwards and snatching the rifle from his hands and turning it on him.

 

‘You’re stuck on a sea of glass. Wake her the fuck up. Now.’ he said.

 

Later, Greg told himself he had no other choice. Meunier had paid well, but he had reservations about Arcadia. He handed over the vials, told the guy what order to administer them in and ran to the upper deck.

 

Markus wondered if he had figured out they would stuck here. At least until Arcadia sent out drones to investigate what had happened.

 

He loaded the air hypodermic and injected the first vial into her forearm. She flushed with blood and gasped as her eyes fluttered.

 

‘Just breathe, baby girl, I’ve got you.’ he said.

 

He injected her again. Her mouth opened as she sighed and smacked her lips.

 

The last vial opened her eyes and she sat up. Meadow.

 

‘Fucking cunt.’ she said.

 

He stepped back as she swung at him. He made the face plate transparent and put his hands up.

 

She scowled at him and then leapt off the bed, wrapping her arms around him.

 

‘You stupid bastard. I told you not to come.’ she said.

 

His eyes blurred as he wished he could feel her, skin on skin. There would be time for that, he told himself, as he pushed her back.

 

‘You knew I would.’ he said.

 

He ached to say more but he wanted them to be alive to say it to her.

 

‘Follow me. We’ve only got a minute or two before the drones come.’ he said.

 

Meadow picked up the gauss rifle and checked its load, grinned at him in a way which made him fill up with a dark, primal heat. He pushed it back down as he went up the stairs.

 

‘We’re coming up. Don’t do anything stupid.’ he said.

 

Gregory whimpered and told him he was fine.

 

Meadow wanted to shoot him but Markus said it wasn’t worth the trouble. She detoured to the communications deck and sent the authorisation codes to Markus’ armour.

 

‘So, this is where you tell me how you’re getting us off this planet, yeah?.’ she said.

 

He nodded as he pointed at Gregory.

 

‘Fuck off downstairs. Tell them what you want.’ he said.

 

Gregory sprinted down the stairs without looking at either of them. Meadow would have made the shot but she was more concerned with getting away than getting even.

 

Markus depressed a stud on his right hip and a kidney shaped compartment opened. He pulled a white tentacle and wrapped it around his fist before he pinched the end of it as it ballooned into a translucent hood. He offered it to her.

 

Meadow chuckled and shook her head.

 

‘You get to wear the power suit and I have to put whatever that is, erm, where?’ she said.

 

It connected to an organic network, grown into the suit. The hood would provide her with oxygen and nutrients, and the probability field would support them both as they went up to the ship.

 

‘So you’ll have jumped, what 130 miles for me today?’ she said.

 

He shrugged his shoulders.

 

‘I took you seriously when you said you were high maintenance.’

 

She slung the rifle over her back, slipped the hood on and wrapped her arms around him.

 

They looked at one another, separated by membrane and armour, bodies humming with a vibration which had altered them both.  She felt physics twist around them as they took to the air.

 

She mouthed that she loved him as they took to the air.

 

Markus saw the drones launch from the spires of Arcadia as he pumped the probability field to its limit. Meadow clung to him as the air chilled around them. The ship opened the airlock, warming up its systems as it prepared for ascent and evasion.

 

His heads up display read the distance. The drones were focusing their attention on the plasticized ocean, relaying everything back to Arcadia.

 

‘They’re ignoring us.’ he said.

 

She gasped with surprise at being able to hear him. His voice was a warm whisper in her ear. It sounded like home.

 

‘I sent the codes to your armour. Of course, it means -‘

 

The yacht exploded beneath them as they slipped into the airlock. It closed behind them as they stepped into the ship. The helmet retracted from his face like autumn leaves blown by the wind as she clawed the hood from her face.

 

Their lips met as they held onto one another.

 

Later, there would be war and death but as they kissed away the anguish of separation, none of it mattered.

 

(https://ko-fi.com/mbblissett)

 

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