Tuesday, May 24

Fragment 4

Sorry for not updating in a while. Been a bit busy at work. Anyway, onto the next chapter.
Even in fifty feet up, there are alleyways. There are places where the walkways are shrouded in shadow, where the skypol never patrol. These are the places where people go when they need something to escape from life. Nanodrugs that could induce whatever hallucination you wanted. Chemicals that could send you up, down, and sideways.

This was where I found Canto.

"Hey, Stray," he said. He placed a patch on one arm and sighed. "What's the...that thing, you know. Has letters in it?"

"Word," I said. "What's the word?"

"Yeah." Canto was in a perpetual world of his own. Life was what happened to other people - Canto lived in the delicate balance of brain chemicals, creating moods that varied from ecstasy to existential dread. "What's the word, Stray?"

"I got a job in Ophan," I told him. "Big one. Problem is, it's a chemical computer."

Canto opened his bloodshot eyes. "Chemcom? Well, fuck me gently."

"Some other time, Canto," I said. "You got a solution?"

Canto smiled. "I got plenty of solutions, in a variety of pretty colors. But for a chemcom...well, you're going to need something else." He cracked his knuckles separately and then said, "Follow me back to my lair."

I wasn't surprised he called it his lair. It was basically a room with a bed in one corner and what looked like a "My First Chemistry" set in the middle.

Still: Canto was the best. If anyone knew how to hack a chemical computer, it would be him.

He stumbled around the room for a few minutes, looking through various boxes and moving books and vid-chips out of the way. "Where are you, where are you," he repeated. "Ah, here." He triumphantly held up a syringe. There was nothing in it.

"I think if you inject that you'll die," I said.

"Not gonna inject it," Canto said. "Hate injects. Only patches for me." Canto periodically switched the way he took his drugs - sometimes it was pills, sometimes dust, sometimes patches. Whenever he offered me any, I would always politely say no. "This is just the carrying system."

He walked to the chemistry set in the center of the room and fiddled around with things. He hmmmed and hawwwed a lot, until I finally couldn't stand it any longer. "So?" I asked. "Chemical computer, remember?"

"Oh, yeah," Canto said as his eyes lit up again. "Sorry, was thinking about something else there for a second. It'll take about a day."

"For what?" I asked.

"The kernel," he said. "Gotta make a special kernel. You inject it into the chemcom, it reads the gooware and transmits it to a secondary source. Gotta make it special though. Gonna cost you."

"How much?"

"Twenty percent," he said. I had no room to haggle - I needed the kernel in order to do the job. If there was someone else I could go to, I could bargain him down, but Canto was probably the only one insane enough to think of a way to hack a chemical computer. So I said yes.

"Thanks, Stray," he said. "You're a pal."

"Remember," I said. "Eight am tomorrow. I'll pick it up and then, when the job's finished, you get your twenty percent."

"I trust you, Stray," Canto said. "The kernel'll be ready."

"Good," I said and then left. When I looked back, Canto was already fiddling with his chemistry set, doing things I didn't even want to imagine.

Twenty-four hours and I would have my way in. I could almost taste the money from this job. If I played my hand right, I could bargain the score up higher - whatever was in "the Archives," as Father Caul put it, was worth enough to steal, so my employer could afford to pay me a bit more.

As I thought about that, my feet led me back to Ophan. I had twenty-four hours to kill and I was back in the hellhole at the center of the Sprawl. Oh, well, more surveillance couldn't hurt.

[This passage seems to have been added later]

If only. If only I had seen it. If only I had seen it before. Before they died - they all died, Caulis, Canto, even Guillemet. Even me.

If only I had seen if before I died.

Wednesday, May 11

Fragment 3

I couldn't stay awake at work today. Kept falling asleep. Anyway, you didn't come here to read about my day, you came to read the next chapter in the continuing saga of the Stray. Awesomesauce.

I'm sitting on the roof of the world. From here, I can see almost the entire sprawl. From Ophan to Chayot, from Arel to Malak, even to the center, to Shekina, the Pinnacle City itself. Before this place was the sprawl, before the architects decided to keep on building and building forever, this place was called the Angels. At certain times, when the sun is just about to set and the light is reflected off a million beams of metal, the city almost lives up to the name.

Back to the job.

"What's the Slender Man?" I asked Father Caulis.

"I'm not surprised you haven't heard of Him," the priest said, removing the mask completely from his head. He was bald, but I could see stubble growing back. "It used to be that everyone knew who He was, but that was a long time ago. Barely anyone's heard of Him these days." He seemed a little miffed about that, but then smiled at me again. His teeth were crooked, which somewhat ruined the effect, but still it was a warm smile. "Would you like to see the inside of our church?"

I was leading up to asking for a tour, but this was better. "Sure," I said. As we passed the door, I saw another sign, but this one was missing letters. It read THE HOLY CH__CH OF THE THIN MAN.

"You like that?" Father Caulis asked. "I put that up and then ask the congregation what's missing. Do you get it?" He seemed pleased with himself. "They always love a bit of a puzzle, though I was never very good at them myself."

He led me through a small hallway and then into the main room of the building, the place where the kneeling had taken place. I looked around and gasped - legitimately gasped. There were beautiful pieces of artwork arranged around the room, each one depicting a different scene. "Ah, I know you like them. I'm much, much better at painting than puzzles. They are scenes from our canon." He pointed to one. "That's the Saint of Nothing with his broken sword. And that's the many battles of the Longest Night. And over there, we have the Saint of All Runners and the Trickster Saint." There was a line of text underneath the picture: if He catches you, He will kill you. But first He must catch you. Father Caulis was still pointing at the paintings, which populated each wall. "There's Saint Ezekial the Bull, unstoppable, and there's Omeg-"

"All these people followed the Slender Man?" I asked.

Father Caulis looked at me. "Oh no," he said. "They all fought against Him in their way."

I looked around again. "Then why are they all saints?"

"Because," he said, "He was meant to be fought. Without them, He would be nothing more than a simple story. With them...well, He was epic."

"Oh," I said. I still didn't understand, but I didn't need to. The paintings were beautiful, but in all likelihood, they were made up, stories retold generation after generation, becoming so degraded that there probably wasn't even an inch of truth left in them.

Father Caulis could see that I wasn't very much interested in his stories, in the canon of the Slender Man, so he started his other pitch. "We offer services every Wednesday and Saturday," he said, "and I can assure you, any information you provide to us will be held with the strictist security. Our archives are unhackable."

"Really?" I asked. This was like saying your ship was unsinkable. "Could I see your archives?"

He smiled again. "Of course," he said. "One of our congregation is a member of a tech-herd, so he was able to get us some top of the line equipment." He led me to a door in the side of the room, which opened up into a small area adorned with cables and monitors. "Here is where our congregation can read our canon. And there-" he pointed to the center of the room "-are the archives."

My mouth watered. When he said top of the line, he wasn't kidding. This was better than top of the line, this was over the top of the line. The archives were in a solid tower made of gleaming chrome. However, I could see through the gaps inside - there weren't any motherboards or circuits. This wasn't a normal computer. I could see the soup inside. This was gooware. This was a chemical computer.

This was going to be very, very difficult.

Tuesday, May 10

Fragment 2

Another day, another soulcrushing eight hours of work. Well, at least I can provide you guys with another chapter. Enjoy!

I'm writing this on paper. Dead trees. It feels weird. No haptic feedback except the pencil in my fingers.

Yes, I'm paranoid. Every system can be hacked, no matter what security. I know this - it's my biz to know this. So if I write down my thoughts, it has to be on dead trees.

The building housing the Holy Church of the Thin Man sat like a fat, grey block in the middle of Ophan. Around it were the faded marks of graffiti, the nanotags proclaiming who wrote it long since dissolved into dust. Nobody visited this area of the sprawl anymore. Except I could see: inside the building, there were people. The building's polycarbonate windows didn't allow me to see much, but I could make out five figures. They knelt in some sort of religious ceremony.

I wasn't going to get anywhere just watching from the outside. I needed more info. I couldn't blindly walk in there to do the jump job - I had no idea of where the info was stored, what security systems they had installed.

It's at this point, other lifters might resort to trickery - disguises or holos to fool stupid people - or perhaps complicated schemes in order to get the building evacuated. An empty building would be nice, but I always found there was a much simpler way than the complicated schemes some of my peers thought up.

I strapped my harness to the line attached to the roof, then slid down to the pavement. Not a lot of people in the sprawl liked walking on pavement anymore. They used lift-lines and platforms and avoided the ground at all costs. High class was in the sky. Low class was on the ground.

The services at the Holy Church of the Thin Man was almost done, I could see. The figures inside were finished kneeling and were now shaking hands with another man, tall and thin, his arms unnaturally long. One by one, the figures shook his hand and walked out the door. I snapped shots of them as they came out (you never knew what you would need in jobs like these). Then, when it was just the tall man, I approached the building.

"'Lo," I said to him. The tall man looked up at me from where he was standing. His face was completely blank and it startled me for a second, until I realized that it was just a mask.

"Hello," he said as he lifted the faceless mask, revealing a short nose and inset eyes. "Can I help you?"

"Is...is this your church?" I asked. It was always better to ask questions - the easier the better at first - because it gave people something to answer, put them at ease.

"Well," the man said, "the Church belongs to all of us, but I am the main priest, yes. Are you interested in joining?"

"Mebbe," I said. Short slang makes people assume you are stupider than you are. Use clipped sentences, short words. "I mean, I'm not much of a religo, but..."

"I understand," he said. "We all need something to believe in in these trying times. My name's Father Caulis. What's yours?"

"Terri," I said. When using an alias, keep it short and simple, something you can remember easily. And don't try to change your personality - spying is hard enough as is without adding a whole new persona as well. "So, uh, what do you guys worship?"

"Well," Father Caulis said, "we don't really worship Him. But we do believe and our belief gives us strength."

"What do you believe in?" If only I knew then what I know now, I would never have asked this question. [This appears to have been added later.]

"We believe in black and white," Father Caulis said. "In good and evil and the thin line in between, in which He walks. The Thin Man, the Long-Limbed One, the Tallest Tree." He smiled at me. "We believe in the Slender Man, Terri, and He believes in us."

Saturday, May 7

Fragment 1

Perhaps a little back story: my grandmother, Sophia, taught Greek and Norse mythology at the local college. Why she chose to write a science fiction story, I have no idea (she never showed it to anyone, but I don't know if that's because she was ashamed of it or because she never finished it). Anyway, after her funeral, when my parents went through her big house, that's when I found the notebooks. The chapters (written like entries in a journal) are called "fragments" for some reason.

Anyway, here is Fragment 1:

They call me the Stray. That's what I am. An animal who ran away from her home. It wasn't my home though. The sprawl is my home. I can feel its fingers reaching upward sometimes. Trying to tear down the sky.
I get my jobs from Guillemet on the grid. This time, he sent me a secure flashline and when I accepted, his thin face showed up. <<Hey, Stray,>> he said. <<Got a jump-job for you. Flash in the pan.>>
"That's what you always say," I said. "Tell me it's better than last time."
<<It's better,>> Guillemet said. <<One point five petabytes.>> I whistled. That's a lot of info.
"Who's the infoman?" I asked.
<<Anon,>> Guillemet said. <<Large score, though, must be a big boy. Database can't work out text patterns, though, so nice security.>> Guillemet is an grid-based artificial intelligence. He can analyze someone's speech and text patterns to identify exactly who they are and what else they've said/written, so matter the scrambler. It's rare to find someone who can fool Guillemet.
"Okay," I said. "I'll take it. Where's the push point?"
<<Ophan,>> he said. <<Not a nice place, but high sec.>> His voice started going out and in, garbled with numerous other voices on the grid. Traffic must have been interfering. Finally, he became clear enough so I could write down the address of the jump job, then he cut out again.
As Guillemet said, Ophan is not a nice place, especially at night. It's a substructure to the sprawl, to Pinnacle City itself, but the architects abandoned it long ago. The continual building of the city stopped in Ophan. It's quiet and sterile.
At the address is a small, squat building. I can see with my grid-goggles that there's power to it - unusual, given that all the buildings around it are powerless. I set up a jump to several rooftops over to get a better view and finally see the opening. There's a door to the side of the building. And a sign:
And underneath was another, smaller sign:
Have You Been Touched By His Tendrils?
I lifted down my grid-goggles and squinted at it. I hadn't heard of this church before, but I wasn't a churchgoing person. Well, whatever the big boy wanted was in there, so I had to start going.
 [This part looks as if it was added later on.]
I could have left, though. I could have stopped what I was doing, refused the job. Something smelled like fish here, but I was lured by the large info I could obtain. I could have turned away, but I didn't.
And so the path was set out before me. The path that would lead, eventually, to the end of everything.

Friday, May 6


My name is Gibson. I'm not much of a blogger - never really had the time or inclination. Then why am I starting this blog? Well, I came across some notebooks kept by my grandmother and found that she had been writing a very interesting story before she passed. I don't know if I can get it published (I haven't even finished reading it, so I don't know yet if it has an ending), but I can certainly share it.

There are six notebooks in total, each filled with my grandmother's tiny scrawl (this is the only indicator that my grandmother wrote them - she has no attribution in the actual text). They read like a journal, but it all takes place in the future, so it's clearly science fiction.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to post online and see what the reactions/reviews were.

The story doesn't really have a name, but inside the cover of the first notebook was written "Beware of Faded Giants." So that's what I'll call it: Faded Giants.