025. Ganked

‘There is more than one version of myself at large, and I am not sure if I am the preferred one. I am not sure if I am the one that should be telling the story. I know that there is an iteration of me that sold out, and I have seen that dark destroyed future that I slid into, and there is my whole retconned story that I will never tell you, but there is this tale here.’

‘And what is this tale here, Mr Gank?’

‘Just Gank, Burlesk. Just Gank.’

‘OK, just Gank, what is the story?’

‘The story is software management to outwit idiots that steal tech and have no idea what it really is that they are stealing. Do you think there is a single technology guy who hands something over to the government without a failsafe built in so that he can fling a killswitch and end the evil enterprise?’

‘Well, of course – there are evil scientists, aren’t there?’

‘Sure. The weapon eyes are trojan horses though.’

‘That’s not you just playing a switcheroo on the heart of the story?’

‘No. I had originally designed the backdoor as a way for me to gather information from people so that I could use it for further things I have been planning to build. I knew that something like this might happen, but I hadn’t expected it to be such a large problem. Who knows when something is going to be that popular?’

‘How could all of this have escaped their notice?’

‘I built a way for me to live outside reality and you are asking me if I could manage to keep hidden data from some government hamfists? Junk code, notes, hidden extraction triggers, and magic words, right?’

‘You’re a shifty fucker, Gank.’

‘They call me King Of The Crab Palace.’

‘Crab Palace?’
`
‘My sideways shifted pocket universe home.’

‘So, you’re going to help these guys take over the world?’

‘Nope. Free the world. I’m going to blind the soldiers and give sight to their opponents.’

‘God, I’m sure you have some terrible name for this project.’

‘Ideal Eyes.’

‘You smoke way too much dope, Gank. Way too much.’

‘And you think there was ever time that it was as understandable as it is now?’

‘Ah, I’m not getting into that. So, when is this going down?’

‘When isn’t it going down, Burlesk? I told you, there is more than one of me out there. It is hard, when you go superpositional, not to contact the other yous that are out there, and it doesn’t take long to realise that the whole notion that you both occupying the same space is somehow antithetical to the logic of sealed system universe, because there are no sealed system universes. And you know what I started to think after I realised that? That the best way to become super powerful, when you exist in a state as a human uncollapsed wave is to weaponise yourself.’

‘You’re being very relaxed in telling me all this.’

‘I am privy to more than you are able to see.’

‘You already did something to your eyes, didn’t you?’

‘Ever heard of cryptochrome?’

‘Not really.’

‘I built eyes that scan see the quantum field.’

‘And you have a set of these eyes yourself?’

‘Yes. Of course I unleashed a whole group of other people who can do that as well, who you are bound to run into at some point, but that’s a whole other story. It’s hard to build something and release it into the wild and expect everything to obey the rules you had for it in your head.’

‘When did you unleash them?’

‘I am not exactly sure. Time and sequence gets a little difficult to keep track of when you bounce around like I do.’

‘I get the feeling you just do shit to handle an immediate problem and worry about the larger consequences later.’

‘You are not entirely wrong.’

‘When is this plan going into effect?’

‘Well, I told you – I am super-positional, so pinning that down is not the easiest.’

‘In this timeline at least?’

‘I tasked a quantum randomiser with that task.’

‘What is your major malfunction, Gank?’

‘I don’t like things to be predictable.’

‘Isn’t that why we are in such an insane position now?’

‘Maybe so,’ he said,laughing like something had shaken loose in his head,

In countless places an unimaginable number of eyes were being changed from weapons against the people to weapons for the people. Gank laughing across the multiverse in union – it was a very unsettling thunder.

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024. Presidential Order

Inter-agency warfare – never something you want to be faced with. To pretend that the agencies most closely tied with the presidency were the most powerful was just plain foolishness. He was totally aware that the resources on which these groups might draw were hard to quantify, and that they had been amassing their fortunes for longer than anyone in authority could estimate. These covert branches of the intelligence community had their own lines of succession, their own remit, and their own idea of what the government represented and what its function was.

He had sent in a highly trained team of agents but he knew without doubt that some of them would not survive the encounter. He wanted Roce shut down and brought in.
Grunewald hadn’t turned up anywhere causing trouble, so that was good for the moment – though it would bear further investigation. Anderson knew that a lot of people didn’t think he had the stones to handle this kind of situation, but contrariwise he thought he was just the kind of hard-line visionary to knock these bastards into shape.

The weapon eyes had become an interesting element in the daily struggle to maintain order, and a just as interesting element in the creation of unrest. He was sure that if it wasn’t them it would be something else facilitating the trouble. How many would be dead before this whole drama played itself out? It seemed to have a long fuse.

He was glad he had the d-notices in place and had warned every single poltician who may have been foolish enough to share what little fragment of data they had on this situation to keep their mouths closed. This was a national security issue and any word of it getting to the press would be considered a terrorist act; they were already assembling a legal case against this Burlesk individual.

President Anderson hated waiting for things – he was a get things done kind of guy, and all this sitting around didn’t sit well with him. He called one of his aides into the office and he had them tell someone to get the head of the agency team on the line.

Roce was gone – that was the report that came back to him. They had seized control of his base of operations and were in the process of dismantling the organisation, but this wasn’t going to be an overnight thing. Most of the data they were hoping to collect had been the victim ofa localised EMP blast, and there appeared to be no paper records. No body meant no confirmation and so, another ghost in the machine.

Still, the network that controlled weapon eyes appeared to have been wrested from the control of unpatriotic terrorists. If his spin doctors couldn’t fix this story up so that they could take some glory in this situation he was going to have to fire them.

023. They Hit Him

The new body was slightly tight, like an ill-fitting glove. It was messing a little, not only with his reaction times, but also with his perceptual apparatus. The compensators, which tried to act like mental stabilisers, made everything seem hollow and distanced, an echo entering into everything. He moved like someone injected with a soporific; he had to shake that loose if he was going to act effectively.

He had been trailing Roce for three days now, and he was approaching the perfect time to strike. That he had managed to achieve this feat in his current state was a testament to the awful condition of Roce’s security.

The first guard had been sat there with his head at that strange angle for at least half an hour when someone noticed and reported in the fatality. Single isolated shotsrang out and he began to pick the first response team apart, and he noticed that either due to arrogance or bad preparation they did not get Roce immediately under cover.

He didn’t waste any time and went immediately for a head shot. He saw the strange angular stumble that followed a de-cap shot, and the body timbered toward the ground like the second counter on a clock going into freefall. Good, once the accuracy was unnecessary he could open up with the automatic fire and just pump them all full of lead.

That was when they hit him – a tracer bullet out of nowhere; an EMP round, and then a slug and he was collapsed to his knees.

‘Stupid fucker was totally suckered by the meat puppets. Where did Roce say he wanted us to take him?’

‘101.’

‘K.’

Grunewald awoke upside down, feet tethered together, tether threaded over a meathook.

‘OK, Grunewald, so we don’t really have any questions for you. Smith here wanted to torture you for a little bit, and don’t worry we know how to fuck with even these high-tech gene-hacked bodies to the point we can push the pain barriers, and then we are going to extract you and bury you in our drive-hive.’

Grunewald laughed, what else could he do? No way out of this one.

‘What are your plans for all those weapon eyes?’

‘Same as yours, covertly run the country from the shadows, while monetising the whole situation so that I can retire a very wealthy and invisible man.’

Grunewald laughed again. Might just work.

022. A Glimpse Of Nowhen

‘This may seem a little rude, but I kind of want to ask you, where the fuck have you been while all this was going on?’

‘Doing research.’

‘On what?’

‘Intratemporal transference.’

‘Meaning?’

‘Site to site transference across temporal barriers.’

‘And does it work?’

‘Not across any significant amount of time.But it had useful applications.’

‘Such as?’

‘It allows you to modulate the spatio-temporal frequency at which any object resonates, so you can move yourself out of the continuum for limited periods of time.’

‘How long?’

‘About a day or so, maximum.’

‘And where does it take you.’

‘More a case of when.’

‘Hmm, that may come in handy at some point in the near future.’

‘What are you thinking about Johnny?’

‘Nothing in particular, Gank; nothing you need concern yourself with as yet. If you are up for helping us though, finding some way to hack into the weapon eyes regulation system that government employees are hooked into would be very useful.’

‘Of course.’

‘Burlesk?’

‘Yes?’

‘If you want to earn your keep I want to have you continue with what you have already been doing for your day job – digging up information and getting it out there to the public.’

‘Of course.’

Johnny seemed to have some kind of plan in mind. Burlesk was interested to watch Gank so easily take a shotgun ride, when he had assumed, from what he knew of the man that Gank would be eager to lead the way. It would be interesting to see how this played out – he had survived this long by following the story so he wasn’t going to stop now.

021. Data Transaction Gate

Data transaction gate one: spin-nodes coming into alignment; receptor sites primed and code sequence match-up in progress. Datastream engaged and cross-matched with quantum entanglement drives: community enlightenment burst underway.

Johnny tapped his isolate plate in the left eye orbit and dialled his vision up above straight visual to wireframe penetrate and gazed right through the thronging masses in the direction of Gank as he waltzed through the crowd like it was no big deal that he was coming back after all this time. They, because Johnny recognised Burlesk with him, and knew they were together, were making a bee-line straight for Conrad.

Conrad was gripping the table tight. His programming was fighting with his survival instinct and the urge to surge across the room and drive the bridge of Stanley’s nose up into his brain and then stamp a fucking great hole into his stupid head was almost unstoppable.

Conrad’s frequencies were jammed. Gank hit Johnny with a databurst that immediately clued him in to the identity and intention of Conrad.

Johnny seemed benign a lot of the time to those who didn’t know, but one step forward, hand around hilt, and the knife was unsheathed and flung, the tip of the blade touching the inside of the back of Conrad’s skull before he could gasp out the breath he was drawing in to take.

Stanley sat there like he didn’t have the slightest clue what in the hell was going on – he gathered fairly quickly what was going on, but the shock and disbelief at the trouble that he had yet again found himself in stunned him into inaction.

Johnny was on Conrad, extraction-nails needling into his grey matter to pull out whatever data they could before the dying of the light. Johnny knew that Conrad had a bio-linked system and that metabolic shutdown would be followed closely by liquid hard-drive degradation. All these plant-soldiers ran on domino systems that left the infiltrated hard pressed to gather any information on their attacker once the mole was captured.

Johnny stood up and stepped over the corpse of Conrad, hand extended towards Gank.

‘Nice to see you, sir.’

‘OK, no need for such formality; I’m not that fucking old.’

‘And who’s this?’

‘That,’ said Stanley ‘Is Burlesk, the journalist.’

020. Tesseraction

Gank had been a deadlink for half the crew for as long as anyone could remember. His identity was locked up using a super-positional qubit locational system that used a four dimensional metaphor tumbler system that was keyed to a musical rendition of the formula for rocket fuel; this was hidden in a dropped pixel jpeg failure image that stuttered thanks to some glitch programming and clever maths. The chances of finding this motherfucker by accident were like the chance of finding the Holy Grail full of hen’s teeth.

In any double-bluff system that wraps itself in mazes and codes and phrases and puzzles, the one weak link is always going to be a human being. Burlesk was no kind of maths whizz and no kind of codebreaker, but one thing he could read and one trail he could follow was that of an incautious human being.

What is the good of being a geeky maths genius without a fanclub? No good at all. All Burlesk needed was an inkling of the idea that Gank was hidden in plain sight but that the whole deal was complicated by some visual and informational legerdemain that rewrote the framing mechanisms through which someone was looking at him and all he had to do was ask the right obvious question: how many people were capable of working that kind of magic?

From the shortlist he started knocking down pins pretty quickly, and the one left standing was his man. Arvin Peninsular was a walking manifestation of IQ – he walked around in a cloud of self-generated data, literally. He was the pioneer who first provided mass market wide dispersal nano-net i-clouds. He was the guy who cracked the means of universally connected quantum computers that were quantum entangled with every informational system that was currently operational planet-wide. Project Universal Consciousness was his baby, and when it came to light that he had bank-rolled several of Gank’s projects, it became obvious that his programming abilities and their friendship made him the only possible candidate for pulling off the disappearing act of the decade.

Burlesk’s tech was the most expensive shit on the market, but on the playing field these guys operated on it was less than rudimentary – he was a caveman walking into a technomage’s lair, holding a flare up and trying to peer through the obfuscation of some of the most expensive and complex informational baffles that were currently extant. If they didn’t want to give up gank then there was nothing that he was going to be able to do to persuade them otherwise.

Still, perhaps the story he was bringing them might make them interested enough to listen to him. What inventor liked to learn of his whole idealistic dream being hijacked by a glorified money man? Because no matter what ideological sheen Grunewald try to paint his scheme with it was still built on a fiscal chassis that would make him very rich.

They kept him waiting for quite a while, instead of just kicking him out onto the street, so he was thinking that was a pretty good indication that they were ruminating over the whole thing, not just disregarding it out of hand.

And then he appeared with a flourish, appearing to fold in to the four dimensional from elsewhere.

Gank smiled: ‘Appreciating the tesseraction, right? Kind of surprising that a journalist made it this far, but the fact that you outran Grunewald earns you some kudos. I am kind of wondering what exactly you hope to achieve by digging an old fossil like me up? Expect me to be the deus ex machina or something? Those only exist in fiction you know.’

‘Or games, right? I know you probably have some cheat codes. The weapon eyes have to be built on a substrate of proprietary technology, and that means proprietary software as well, and that means back-doors.’

‘Sure, it does; but the thing that you have to bear in mind is how long I have been out of the picture and how far along the evolutionary curve these things are that Grunewald has put out there on the market.’

‘So you are telling me that the intelligence sector with its, what you guys consider to be hack coders, capable of just about retro-fitting the equipment they use with serviceable programming, are out ahead of you on the bleeding edge?’

Gank’s poker face leaked a smirk.

‘Why pretend you can’t do something to right this situation?’

‘Because it’s dangerous.’

‘Ah, something you aren’t interested in confronting?’

Gank smiled again.

‘You play a good game, Burlesk, and you know how to pique people’s interest.’

‘So, you’ll come with me?’

‘Sure, why not? Might be interesting after all this time.’

019. We 3 Kings

‘We 3 kings …’
‘Of Orient are …’
‘One in a taxi, one in a car.’

‘Good, Gambon, what happened?’
‘I lost him.’
‘Great, did you get rid of all the evidence’
‘Of course.’
‘Good.’ Grunewald turned to Barlow. ‘Barlow?’
Barlow stood and emptied a clip into Gambon.

‘And you, Barlow, has Conrad been told what he needs to do in regards to Stanley?’
‘I haven’t given him a go yet.’
‘Then do it.’
Grunewald waited while Barlow called Conrad.
‘Done.’
‘Good.’
‘Sir?’
‘Yes?’
‘I don’t understand why, if we are three kings, one of us had to die.’
‘Well,’ said Grunewald rising to his feet ‘You are both pawns that were turned into kings, but from the lofty throne on which I sit, you still look like pawns.’
The confused look on Barlow’s face didn’t disappear when the bullet through his forehead slammed him backwards off the mortal coil.

Grunewald walked over to each of the men and slammed a Cognitive Drill hard through their eye sockets and into their brain; he would have what he needed of these morons in a few short moments.

He knew that the illusion of his death would not last long, and he knew that his plan had failed, but he was going to cause as much damage as he could as he exited stage left.

Give him enough time and the ground could be regained. He had made some foolish moves this time around; relying too much on the actions of the uncontrollable; things he could have handled perfectly well by himself if he had been a little more exact in the exercise of the control he was capable of exerting.

But this world was one that was tenuous in its technological strength – the same thing which could reinforce the policies that ran the country could be used as backdoors through which to pull the fucking country apart. One phone call could do that – so strong, and yet, so undeniably weakened.

Grunewald punched in the numbers.