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Author Topic: Gorgon Shell - Uni Writing Project  (Read 41 times)
Nephtys
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Gorgon Shell - Uni Writing Project
« on: April 15, 2008, 08:00:53 PM »

I did say "first things first" five days ago. Well, I've accomplished it!

Fear me! I shall dump 6, 122 words on you. (= triple post)

This is for my Uni writing project, which is due in on Monday, and I've lost all distance to this. Like I told Silk, at this stage I probably wouldn't even notice if I'd written the same word six thousand times over.

However I will read this tomorrow and make sure all typos (if there are any) and such disappear, so don't fret too much over nitpicks. As I said, it's due in Monday, and I prefer swiftly posted broad comments over in-depth nitpicky comments at the moment.

Nitpicking will come at a later stage, when I rework this for my personal benefit. But enough of the ado, as the bard says. I give you the slightly postmodern writing experiment that is...

Gorgon Shell


Part I

“Do you believe in fate, Neo?”
“No. I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my own life.”
   The Matrix
   Wachowski Brothers


The coffee had to be freshly ground and steaming. Also, Thomson insisted that Rose brought it in just as he entered his office. Rose had such a fine arse and it was Thomson’s daily morning delight to have a little peek at his personal assistant’s skirt as she bent forward to set the cup down.

“Thank you, Rose,” he said, stroking his beard. Greying though it was, he still considered its well-groomed thickness his pride and joy. “Now remind me, what’s on my plate again for today?”

****

“Shit,” Tammy breathed. So typical of her, not to carry enough money on her for the entire hovcab ride. And yet, this was neither the time nor the place for moaning, so Tammy resumed her trot with a gasp. Where she had stopped to catch her breath, her watch had not.

She click-clacked along the crowded sidewalk, cursing her high heels. With a string of muttered apologies, Tamara side-stepped whoever got in her way, or just gave them an impatient elbow nudge whenever she couldn’t find a hole to slip through.

****

She briefly glanced at her watch again, and then gauged her surroundings. Monoliths of glass and steel increasingly populated the landscape and the people she was pushing through were suits for the most part. She had to be really close.

****

Thomson was on his second cup of coffee and immersed in the company network, double-checking the professional résumé files his head of research, Erica, had uploaded. She was making great progress on the classified new synth project, Thomson thought, so it was only fair they should hire a capable assistant for her if none of the current staff seemed up to the task.

****

Two corners later, Tammy gave a little cry of relief. She caught one or two odd looks from the corner of her eye, but right now she didn’t care. Before her rose the huge, rotating holomorph, that alternatively flashed the company’s name, ERGOSYNTH, and its logo.

She fished her purse for a handkerchief to dab the sweat off her brow, then for a small brush to straighten her ginger mane. Once, a long time ago, sheer desperation had driven her into strip-dancing to pay for her tuition fees. Now and here was the ticket out of that hell and Tammy was not going to miss it.

The glass doors automatically opened and as soon as they had swallowed her, barely audible catch phrases whispered ERGOSYNTH into her ears from just about anywhere.

****

Weird. Thomson scanned the résumé again. Above average grades, a personal recommendation note scribbled into the corner in Erica’s neat hand-writing, just above the picture of a ginger-haired woman, with a fairly pretty face. Thomson felt a tug on his memory. Tamara Simmons, the résumé said. I’ve seen her before. The CEO stared at the photo and closed his eyes, dug through his mind.

Thomson felt a tug in his trousers.

ERGOSYNTH’s receptionist seemed off. Seen from a distance, something was not quite right about her; her skin, her posture, too unflawed, wrong. Tammy stepped closer and the cold stare did nothing to lift the uncanny spell. Then the synth spoke: “Welcome to ERGOSYNTH,” it said in a carefully modulated voice, “where the intellect of today meets the synth of tomorrow.”

With a smirk Tammy contemplated how human the artificial body’s voice sounded. Unemotional and a bit tinny for sure, but still; the progress in the field was almost scary – and entirely fascinating.
“How may I be of service?”

Tammy shook off her thoughts and placed her thumb on the small ID pad on the receptionist’s desk. “I have an appointment with Mr Thomson. I am here for the job interview.”

****

Erica found it highly irregular to be called away from her work. Of course, Thomson was the CEO, but how was she to complete her work if she couldn’t work in peace? She peeled out of her lab coat, smoothed the wrinkles out of her blouse and stalked off.

As soon as Erica shut the door behind her, she felt the tension. Her superior’s impressive bulk was stood in front of the obscenely huge window that looked out on the hovcraft traffic high above the city. His hands were planted on his hips, and his left fist held a file, crumpled in the middle. Erica addressed the broad shoulders and massive neck. “Nathan? You have called for me?”

“Why, Erica? I thought I could trust you. And of all possible candidates, you don’t choose the one with the most talent, but your little dyke who clearly paid you off.”

Erica forgot to breathe. He had never called her a dyke. In fact he had never even let on he knew about Erica’s sexual preference. “I have no idea what you are talking about!” she spat.

****

The synth had pointed Tammy to the elevator and now she stood in the spacious cabin that was to bring her to the 57th floor. As the lift soared upwards, it recited more ERGOSYNTH propaganda: a brief résumé of the company. Tammy looked up at the blinking red floor indicator – 7, it read – and sighed. “Oh, shut up already.” To her surprise, the lift obeyed.

A few moments later the ride stopped and the lift welcomed her to Floor Fifty-seven. Was there a hint reproach in its voice, Tammy wondered idly (with a smile on her lips)? Tammy stepped through the opening doors and faced a woman, whose smart attire struck Tammy as unbelievably posh. She held her hand out to Tammy, who wondered what the woman would think of her own, far cheaper get-up. “You must be Tamara Simmons. I’m Rose, Mr Thomson’s personal assistant. This way please.”

****

“No idea what I’m talking about? Don’t give me that. Why do you prefer this one, huh, Erica?” He held up the file for the head of research to see.

“I – ” she shook her head; had no idea what her CEO wanted. “She seems smart as hell, and she has done individual research into synths. Independent research, Nathan! That’s why I prefer her. You haven’t read her research paper; she’s genius. She could be our breakthrough.”

“Yeah,” Thomson sneered. “Some breakthrough. You fucked her, didn’t you? You’ve been to the the Jade Pantheon. You’ve seen her dance, just as I have. Only she didn’t fuck me. She fucked you. Into giving her that job.”

Silence spread through the room, like a dark cloud and then the intercom flashed up. Erica jumped at the sound, but Thomson bared his teeth in a grin, fierce white contrasted by his beard. “Ah,” he said, “right on time.”

****

Tamara let Rose lead her along a row of cubicles which presumably housed ERGOSYNTH’s worker bees. Tammy wondered whether she’d soon be one of them, obediently concentrating on her computer. The two women finally stood in what seemed to be Rose’s office. A large desk stood to the right and Tammy noticed that it was cluttered in hand-written post-its. How nostalgic, Tammy thought. Her desk at home looked exactly the same, if not worse, even though paper notes were quite obsolete and frowned upon. Still, Tammy preferred them to electronic notes and she was happy to see she wasn’t the only one.

Rose, meanwhile slipped behind the desk, moved a few bits of paper away to uncover an intercom and activated it. “Mr Thomson?”

“Ah, right on time.” The excellent quality of the intercom made quite a good job of conveying Thomson’s deep baritone and Tammy was curious to see what the man behind this booming voice would look like. Hopefully, she thought, he’s as nice as he sounds. She was sick of the Jade Pantheon.

“Please cancel my meeting with Miss Simmons, Rose. She is not part of our policy. Just send her back to her flesh palace, to that strip bar she came from.

Tammy saw Rose’s friendly-polite personal assistant mask crumble and give way to the real Rose, who, at this moment was appalled: wide eyes staring, half-parted lips, words unable to squeeze through, and her right hand still hovering above the intercom button, forgotten in mid-air. Rose looked almost comical, Tammy thought, and she could have let slip a giggle.

Had it not been for her own shock and anger.

 
Part II

The most immediate effects of sexual assault are the physical injuries experienced by the victim. Many violent sexual assaults end in death or serious injury.
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_rape_and_aftermath


Tammy entered with a bang, ignored the resulting ironic quip (Somebody’s in a good mood today!) and slumped on the couch.

It was awkwardly silent. Later, as the Jade Pantheon would fill up with drunks, their cheering and cajoling would invade the small lounge/changing room behind the stage, but for the moment, Tammy and her co-worker Sam had the place to themselves.

And as Tammy finally decided to look up from her slouching, she noticed that Sam seemed to have been observing her, waiting for her, while she herself sat at the make-up table and puffed away on a cigarette.

“What?” Tammy said.

Sam blew a ring of smoke through her full lips that were covered in a thick layer of red lipstick. Over the top, just as the crowd liked it. “Job interview didn’t go all that well, did it?”

It was the tone that did it. Not full of glee at Tammy’s failure, but warm and caring. Tammy broke into sobs.

A rustle of movement and a moment later Tammy felt an arm covered in a waft of perfume around her shoulder. Her body stiffened for a moment – sod it! – and she gave in to the embrace. The warmth felt good.

****

Erica’s frantic thoughts were interrupted by another one of the hovcab driver’s trite attempts at conversation. She fished a bill out of her pocket and held it into the rear-view mirror’s line of sight.

“Look, you better keep your eyes on that limo and your mouth shut if you care about your tip.”

Hard money! The driver’s eyes went big and while he didn’t exactly obey her command of keeping his mouth shut (it was gaping) he did get the gist and remained silent.

Erica fell back to her brooding while she gazed at the silver lines of rain streaking down the hovcab windows. She could well be on a wild goose chase here. She had followed Thomson out of an impulse to find out what exactly he had been talking about this morning, but how was she to know whether he would indeed lead her to this place, this Jade Pantheon, or whether she would just end up seeing his limo disappear in its private parking slot above his penthouse in the exclusive South District. But no, they were not headed south, they were headed west.

West and downward, towards the lower, older districts. In fact, Erica grew increasingly fidgety until finally the limo dropped Thomson off just above street level. Erica placed her thumb on the cab’s ID pad to pay the fare, shoved the tip at the driver and followed the bulk of her trench-coated CEO down a rusty metal staircase into the gloom of labyrinthine alleys.

The Jade Pantheon. It wasn’t anything special as far as Erica could see. A run-down place with a 21st century feel to it – that old-fashioned modernity: uncomfortable-looking egg chairs around stainless steel tables, trite jazz trickling out of the speakers until it was interrupted by more raucous, rocky tunes which underlined the performances of the girls. And in a corner, gulping down beer (Oh my God, dangerous! Why not use endorphin stimulators?), sat Thomson.

Erica hovered by the door, congratulating herself for her choice of clothes: in old jeans and boots, covered in a hooded windbreaker she didn’t seem to draw much attention. In her office clothes, she would have looked right out of place in this joint.

The noise level in the bar rose to a series of expectant whistles as a neon sign over the stage announced the next dancer. The girl, clad in the sexual parody of a scientist – too short-and-tight white coat over lacy lingerie – was the prettiest Erica had seen so far, more natural than the others, who seemed just like cheap dolls under all their make-up. Her movements too, seemed natural, slightly clumsy almost, as if the girl was distracted, or self-aware. That’s her, Erica thought, Tammy Simmons. So she does work in a strip-club.

The crowd picked up on the girl’s mediocre performance before she even had a chance to take off a single piece of clothing. Cries of ‘boo’ and ironic wolf whistles attacked her until she finally broke down in mid-performance. Poor girl, Erica thought, as she watched Tammy jump off the stage and escape the bar through the emergency exit.

In the Jade Pantheon though, the show never stopped, and the crowd’s attention was already focused on the next dancer before the emergency exit’s pneumatics had even pulled the door shut. Nobody had noticed Thomson disappear either, not even Erica, until, five minutes later, she snuck another glance at his table, which, by then, accommodated nothing but a worryingly large assembly of empty pint glasses.

****

Of course she knew how stupid her behaviour was, how dangerously foolish, but this voice of reason was too thin, worn threadbare by the potent turmoil of panic, despair and hurt. Sam’s embrace had not protected her for long and Tammy had felt raw and fragile from the moment she had to step out on stage. Now, as her breath ran out and her ankles sent needles of sharp pain up her legs from running in improbably high-heeled shoes, she slowly came to again and realized just in how much danger she was.

In her get-up, in this environment, she was a pearl in an open clamshell, lying on a grubby third-class beach. Tammy turned back towards the bar as a voice out of the darkness froze her solid.

“What have we here?” A threat, more than a question, wrapped in a baritone voice, which Tammy instantly recognized.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2008, 08:09:37 PM by Nephtys » Logged


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Re: Gorgon Shell - Uni Writing Project
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2008, 08:01:17 PM »

Part III

Culture is like a smog. To live within it, you must breathe some of it in and, inevitably, be contaminated.
   Altered Carbon
   Richard Morgan


Yeah, I recognized that rack alright! Thomson slipped out of the bar after Tammy and followed her into the night. He inhaled deeply of her smell and perspired stale alcohol. “I think I’ll have me some genius tonight.”

Darkness and beer made it difficult to see and he only realized at the last moment that his game had stopped running. He stumbled into a doorway as quickly as he could and pressed his back against putrid wood. He panted heavily as he fixed the curves of the tight, short lab coat that accentuated her bottom. Luckily, Tammy seemed to be absorbed in her own thoughts have noticed him. Now she turned back, walked towards him. She wanted to get back to the Jade Pantheon no doubt. Couldn’t have that, could we.

“What have we here?” loosening his tie, Thomson stepped out of the doorway and in front of Tammy.

****

Erica raced out of the Jade Pantheon just like her thoughts raced in a directionless prayer (not too late please not too late please not), only to curse at the night-time array of pitch-black alleys which brooded, silent, over her despair.

“Fuck!” she hissed at the alleys and one of them, to her left, heard her. It answered, with a shriek: terror, distorted by concrete-funnelled distance. Intent on stopping her boss and saving the ginger girl, the thought of alerting the police never once crossed Erica’s mind as she dove into the night.

****

While disassociated scenes (red light on the intercom rose’s mask crumbling sam and her warm embrace offered short shelter harsh stage light harsh cries escape trapped!) still vortexed Tammy’s mind, she was already grabbed by the shoulders. Large, strong hands tore her coat off her, writhed over skin and cloth. Sickly warm against the night’s cool.

And then her brain was finally processing information again. Abject fear turned into survival instinct. Tammy broke free of the hands; ran. She managed four steps before the beard-veiled, beer-shrouded face caught up with her.

Her hair locked in a relentless fist she was jerked back. Swung round. Hurled. And for a moment, as a hovcraft passed overhead – its engine hushed in comparison to Tammy’s shriek – she saw Thomson for the first time in her life. A second before the back of her head cracked on the sharp edge of a trash container, she had a face to connect to the baritone voice.

****

Just a lower sector cunt! Thomson turned to leave. There wasn’t much time. Yet, he looked at the sprawled body. Stared at the exposed flesh.

Pity to let her go cold.

***

Erica hadn’t always lived in the city. As a kid she’d had the pleasure of a quiet neighbourhood and the ultimate luxury: during winter, there was snow to play in. In those happier times, she and her friends had made angels in the snow, by stretching out arms and legs and moving them to and fro.

Tammy lay in the street much like kid Erica had lain in the snow, once upon a time. Only Tammy didn’t have snowy angel wings spread beneath her arms. All Tammy had was a halo, made of blood.

And there was more blood, only far subtler, far more cruel: just a bitter trickle down between her thighs.

Erica tried to kneel next to Tammy, but her legs buckled and she slumped down gracelessly. Her fingers fumbled for a pulse and, against all hope, they found it, under a splash of semen;

Irregular and

Weak.

****

Erica couldn’t do anything for Tammy except to cover her with the shred lab coat. She was about to alert the police when a limousine hovered down into the alley, drowning it with a roar of light. Erica cowered over Tammy’s body to protect it. Thomson jumped out of the back seat before the limousine had even touched down and ran towards her. “Hey, get outta here,” he bellowed. “Forget what you think you’ve seen!”

“Nathan, you bastard! I’ve seen more than enough!”

Thomson stopped short and Erica got up, jabbed a finger at him. “What were you thinking? That you could get away with this?”

“Erica.” A minute pause. “And why the hell not?”

Erica had expected his speech to be slurred, but it was a glass shard, clear and sharp.

“She’s a nobody. I’ve got two strong synths with me. They’ll dispose of the body. They’ll dispose of two bodies if necessary.”

She ignored the threat. “This is absurd,” she yelled. “I didn’t know of this place, didn’t know she was a stripper and even if I had known, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Her research… ” Her voice trailed off. Research? This was insane.

“Research,” he spat. “If you want it, take it.” He pointed to the synths. “They’re to take her corpse to her apartment and burn it down with her. Go with them, take the research and bring the limo back to the company. Then go home.”

“And what if I tell the synths to take the corpse to the police instead?”
Thomson’s teeth flashed through his beard. “The police won’t touch this case with a crowd prod and you know it!

Erica was silent. He was right and she knew it. Police: understaffed, overworked. ERGOSYNTH: lawyers, resources, connections. They wouldn’t touch it.

He grinned and tossed her a command key for the synths who had already cooped Tammy up and were carrying her to the trunk. Erica caught and activated it. “Stop,” she shouted and the synths froze in mid-stride. Tammy hung between them, her head lolling slightly from side to side. “Put her in the back seat. Leave her some dignity.”

Thomson looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. Erica stared back at him and finally he just shrugged. “I’ll get a cab. See you in the morning.”

****

When flames flickered in the limousine’s rear-view mirror, Erica had already taken a decision. Tammy’s research would not go to waste. Neither would her life. Moments later, as she rode through the night, comfortably seated in the leather interior of the limousine, Tammy’s comatose body slid sideways and her head came to rest on Erica’s shoulder. As if she’d merely fallen asleep.

Begging to be woken again.

 
Part IV

With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
   Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
   Mary Shelley


Tammy awoke briefly, in a fiber-optic torrent of brightly lit information gushing along: from an organic source over a synthetic umbilical to something that was neither.

And as she was rammed into her new bio-synthetic shell, lodging herself in its ersatz neurons and synapses, the last thing Tammy saw before the impact drove her back into unconsciousness was a goddess of sheer light, seeing all. She was Graeae, the three spinners of destiny all rolled into one, and her fingers manipulated strands of data to weave Tammy a new life. Her powerful Graeae fingers touched Tammy and made her their sister; out of DNA and nanotechnology they created her a gorgon shell.

****

When Erica finally emerged out of ERGOSYNTH’s network, her body was drenched in sweat and her head shrieked like a thousand furies. The creation of a synth alone was work for a whole team of scientists who threaded the multitudinous strands of information into a coherent net, and tonight, she had created more. A new kind of synth, a symbiotic mixture of man and machine.

For a moment, as she had been submerged in information, she had thought she was going to lose it, but then she had remembered one of her favourite tales from Greek myth. She had remembered the all-seeing sisters, the spinners of fate, and it had kept her going.

Now, the thread was spun. The creature lived.

And with that thought, Erica fainted.

****

Tammy woke up and the world was different. Her grandmother, nostalgic to the last, had always kept a television set in her house and as a girl, Tammy would spend Saturday mornings watching re-runs of shows the rest of the world had forgotten. It had always felt peculiar to Tammy, this passivity. To watch a world as real as her own, but not interact with it. Tammy’s childish intellect had always felt excluded by this world. She had resented the glass dome that protected the beautiful little people. Until finally, in an attempt to finally meet them, she had smashed the glass, hoping for the colours to leak out, so she could redraw that mean world which kept her out after her own design.

And now, after all these years, the joke was on her. She was on the inside now, she could feel the little glass domes that sat where her eyes should be. The same film of unreality that had covered the TV-world now covered everything she looked at, even the strange fingers in front of a face that wasn’t hers either.

Tammy wanted to scream and electric circuits took it from there. Synthetic lungs pulled air, nanotechnology imitated the vibrations of a vocal chord, the twisting of a synthetic tongue, and sound was blasted through her parted silicon lips, out into a world she no longer belonged to.

Her eyes fell on the woman who – up to her scream – had been sleeping at the desk in the corner. She looked familiar, Tammy thought.

“What have you done to me?” Tammy sat up on the construction table and for the first time noticed tubes of varying sizes clinging to several of her body parts like Lovecraftian tentacles.

The scientist got up from her desk. “I – It worked!”

Tammy plucked the tubes out of body, one by one, marvelling at the precision of the fingers at her control.

“What.” Pluck.

“Have.” Pluck.

“You.” Pluck.

“Done.” The last tube fell, a dead snake dropping to the floor with a last sputter of rainbow-black blood.

“Tammy, I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop Thomson, but at least I could save you. Save your life! I’m so sorry!”

“You used my research.”

“And look at you, it’s a full success!”

“You know nothing! I was going to destroy that research, and you used it on me!”

“But – I don’t understand. Tammy, I saved you from certain death, what was I supposed to do, just let him burn you, along with your flat and your research?”

“The research.” Tammy got off the construction table and walked towards Erica, marvelling at the electric impulses that send conveyed the impression of cold tiles up from her feet in form of information rather than sensation. “The research was all you ever cared of, wasn’t it. I remember you know. We spoke, in the network. You bade me come for the job interview. And in that alley. You never tried to save me, you just tried to save my research.”

Erica backed away from Tammy as she approached until she was with her back to the office’s wall. “That’s not true! I followed Thomson to protect you, but I couldn’t. ”

“Yes, Thomson…” Tammy said and brushed her fingers along Erica’s face, marvelling at its rough texture. “But first things first.” She grabbed Erica’s hand and held it up to her own, smooth, expressionless face. “See! I am the embodiment of my research and your arrogance. I remember it all now, sister. If you fancy yourself a Greek goddess, so shall I.”

Tammy let go of Erica’s hand and instead closed her fingers around her throat, marvelling at how soft and tender the flesh was. How it easy it gave in under her fingers.

****

As her larynx crumpled up and the world dizzied around her, the only thing that stayed in focus were Tammy’s unnatural eyes, imbued with the indifferent green light of a power indicator.

“If you are the Graeae,” the monster said, “I am the Gorgon.”
« Last Edit: April 15, 2008, 08:08:17 PM by Nephtys » Logged


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Re: Gorgon Shell - Uni Writing Project
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2008, 08:08:52 PM »

Part V

Can you look into my eyes
Tell me, now do you somehow
still recognize this stare I wear
Through crystal tears
   The Eyes of the Medusa
   Symphony X


The first thing Thomson did after he had activated the electronic locks on his suite, was to strip out of his clothes and go into the bathroom for a hot shower. He looked forward to losing the grime of the streets, even if he did resent that it would wash away the smell of the girl as well.

A half hour later, Thomson emerged of the bathroom, wrapped up in a thick fluffy bathrobe, and went into the kitchen. His stomach was rumbling; sex always made him hungry. He popped his head into the fridge and came out with some ham and cheese, wondering how long he’d still be able to afford this luxury. Bovine population decreased steadily and maybe soon even he, Thomson, would be reduced to eating synthetic cheese.

He scoffed and fished some bread out of the cupboard. Toast? Why not. While he waited for the slices to jump out of the machine he glanced across the suite, to the computer in his office. Maybe he should swipe the memory of the two synths he’d sent with Erica. Just to be sure. Not that he would take any heat for the murder, but arson, in an over-crowded urban environment, that was something else, now wasn’t it.

The toast, hot brown and fragrant, jumped up. Thomson ignored it, walked to the computer and immersed himself. Diving through ERGOSYNTH and into his personal restricted files it didn’t take him long to find the remote access logs of the synths. And as the information unfolded, Thomson went as white as the toast had been moments ago.

“Bitch!” He wasn’t even aware he’d spoken the word as he re-read the information. Yes, clearly the synths’ orders had been changed. They had indeed burned down Tammy’s flat, but she hadn’t been in it. They’d unloaded her at ERGOSYNTH. If Tammy really was the genius Erica had made her out to be, Thomson could all too well imagine what this meant. He erased the data. The logs flashed once, white light splashing over Thomson’s white face, and the synths were blank. “Erica. Time to see what you’re up to.”

Thomson logged out and went to fetch some clothes.

****

Once cities reach a certain size and population, once they get exponentially bigger than they should ever have and huge companies with nearly inexhaustible resources take over most of them, the public domain – police forces especially – can no longer keep up. At that point, police offers, like Detective Theo Seuss, must feel extremely powerless and out of depth. Called upon by an uncaring superior to investigate murders that he had almost no chance of solving, Theo Seuss might have felt a little bit like a plot device. That is, if he had had the necessary studies and objective distance to know what a plot device was and to recognize himself as such.

Instead, Seuss just cursed as the call came through and altered the course of the police cruiser towards the ERGOSYNTH building. “A strangled scientist in a corporate lab,” he said to his partner. “As if they’d ever let us snoop about their labs long enough for us to get a decent lead.” Seuss’ partner shrugged.

They didn’t. The corpse didn’t reveal anything beyond the fact that an inhumane amount of force had been used to crush her throat and that the perpetrator hadn’t left any fingerprints. “A synth,” Theo Seuss stated dryly. “One in ten billion.” He turned his attention to the computer, hoping to find something worthwhile in the network when a large man, immaculate all the way up from his shiny shoes to his trimmed beard, stepped into the room.

“What do you think you are doing?” he asked.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Seuss explained redundantly. “I was looking for evidence on this computer.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” The man offered his hand – “My name is Nathan Thomson” - and Seuss took it. Surprisingly strong grip, he thought. “Of course,” Thomson elaborated, “we have our economical interests to protect, so I suggest we will look for evidence and inform you if we find anything worthwhile.”

Seuss fixed the man. “Will you at least identify the victim for us, then?” With a tired hand-wave Seuss invited Thomson to follow him.

As tired as Seuss was of his job, he still couldn’t stop his cop reflexes and closely observed Thomson as he led him to the corpse.

“Yes,” Thomson said. Just as I expected? Seuss wondered.

“What do you mean, ‘yes’?” He took out a notepad.

Thomson fiddled with his tie. “Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, this is one of our employees. A scientist named Erica McAvon.”

“Hm,” Seuss tapped his pen against his lower lip, “seeing how tight your security is, I would be well surprised if this wasn’t one of your employees.” He stopped tapping and put the pen back to his notebook. “Neither were there any signs of forced entry, I am told, so the perp may be an employee as well.”

The fiddling stopped. The room was quiet. It seems, Seuss thought, I have got something.

“Oh well.” Thomson had gotten his act back together and was the sleek entrepreneur all over again. “In this case I wish you the best of luck in your investigation. We obviously do not tolerate criminal elements in our company.”

****

Back aboard the police cruiser, Seuss asked the forbidden question: “What do you think?”

His partner just shrugged.

“I think this Thomson guy knows more than he lets on to,” Seuss said and his partner’s head jerked, staring at him big-eyed, urging him not go down that train of thought. “Jeez,” Seuss cried, “keep your eyes on the traffic, man!”

Silence ensued.

“Anyway, just drop me off in the lower district. I could use a beer.”

****

Bloody cops! Thomson heaved a deep breath as soon as they had left and snapped at the security guard who hovered around, clueless. “Get me a synth in here. Have him access McAvon’s terminal, swipe it, destroy it and replace it with a new one. Now!” The guard, obviously happy to leave, ran off. That was one problem solved. “Now…” Thomson mused, “if I were a slut, back from the dead, where would I go?”

****

The Gorgon who had once been Tammy walked and the world moved past her, never touching her, only ever touching her shell. She registered that all the people in the street avoided her and it saddened her. When she’d still been Tammy she’d blended in so nicely. All this attention rushed in on her, made her tingle in ways that no technology could reproduce. It felt as if she was back on the stage again, back in that dreadful place where all eyes were on her.

Where darkness had overwhelmed her, where Thomson had done something to her, something she could not quite remember. What she could remember though, was where this place was, and now the Gorgon walked with a purpose.

****

The Jade Pantheon came into sight and Seuss sighed. Officially of course, this could get him fired, but he didn’t know anybody on the force who didn’t drink. It was a law the city wasn’t too keen to enforce. Some horrors could only be faced drunk.

He went in, slumped down at a corner table and ordered his first beer of the night while on stage his favourite dancer, Sammy, started her first show of the night.

****

Tammy didn’t have much difficulty finding her way back to the strip bar. Her shell came with an enhanced awareness, it felt like she was a guest to somebody who had a far more detailed knowledge of the city. The Gorgon led her further and further down through the various sectors until finally she stood in a narrow alley.

A puddle, round, rusty red, spread before her and she stopped short. She went down to her knees and looked at it. Here, she thought. This is where it happened. This is where Tammy died.

“Simmons!” The voice was a blade; it aimed low and hit hard. “I knew I’d find you here.” She looked up, and saw Thomson stand on the other side of the puddle. “You bitch, why couldn’t you stay dead?” he asked.

“You are talking about Tammy,” the Gorgon said.

“I wanted to die,” Tammy said.

“You killed Tammy, alright. You and McAvon,” the Gorgon said. “She already paid. You will be next.” She fixed him and walked towards him, stepping carelessly through the puddle.

****

Thomson felt the stare of the synth’s unnatural green eyes sink into him, fill him with fear, and make his moves slow and sluggish. He had brought a gun, but it wouldn’t come out of his pocket. Somehow it was stuck.
Red footsteps approached Thomson and he backed away, tearing at his gun. Eventually it came free with the sound of ripping cloth. He fired and the sound exploded in the silence of the alley.

****

Seuss had taken it upon himself to get as drunk as humanly possible as quickly as he possibly could. So far he had been succeeding at this task, but still he wasn’t satisfied. He was about to order another beer when the sound of a gun – distant, but unmistakable to a cop –came to his ears.

“Man can’t get drunk,” he muttered and got up. His chair fell over but he was already stumbling out and walking off into the darkness, following his ears. Another gunshot led his way.

****

Tammy felt the bullets go through her gorgon shell, but there was no pain. Not in the spots where they hit her anyway.

The pain she felt was impossible, but no less real because of it.

Her pain came from a life that she no longer had. Her pain speared what should be her vagina. Her pain was hot breath in what should be her ears. Her pain was burning liquid down what should be her throat.

And then she had reached him, she knocked the useless gun out of his hand and with her gorgon fingers grabbed his throat. They began pushing. Ever so slowly.

****

Seuss squinted. The beer made his sight oddly contorted and his movements slow and sluggish. He grabbed his crowd prod and gazed about. The shots had stopped. “Face it, crime’s already over by the time you get there,” he slurred.

And then green light appeared in his periphery and startled him. His right arm jerked into action and he blindly swung the crowd prod. It impacted, sparks rained down onto the pavement and – for one horrible moment – allowed Seuss to see.

****

A synth body was no match for a combination of brute force and electric discharge.

Theo Seuss drove his weapon right through the Gorgon’s throat and her head fell. Her fingers shut in a final spasm, and Thomson’s head fell, too.

****

The police officer stood over the two bodies. Still drunk he tried to make sense of what had just happened. However, no plausible idea would come to him. He shook his head. Let somebody else make sense of this, he thought.

I quit.
Logged


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