grydscaen: sentinels web series
Chapter 1 – Part 2
This is an uncorrected chapter ARC (Advanced Reader Copy)
Unmei: The Soul Deep – Jet Jockey Underground
Men’s Bathroom – Packrats Synch Meds Clinic
Muffled voices filtered from outside the graphitti-scrawled bathroom door. A beat up gun-metal Newsfeed monitor floating near the ceiling bobbed up and down in the air hovering listlessly as it wandered around the room. It teased government sponsored propaganda showing a Newsfeed advert in the upper left corner. The main window a talk show on low hum against the bounce of bass reverb from EDM electronica filtering in from right outside.
Talk show ratings ticked in the corner as two journalists debated discussing the harsh new amendments to the Thought Crime Laws passed by Parliament in a late night marathon vote recounting how the Opposition Party manipulated ministers rigging the vote to ensure they could block the majority. Their actions would usher in radical draconian statues adding to the rampant discrimination against psychics. It gave the Zone Police leverage to brutalize, detain, harass and arrest with no limits.
With the final vote on screen the anti-codess bill passed and would force more psychics underground especially those clinging to the outlawed Prophet religion. Those who believed psychic power, codess was a gift from the goddess Llwelyn, consort of the great Lord of Wisdom Thoth.
Glancing up at the monitor as it zipped across the room hovering lower, the image of a raging bonfire burning in the street caught Nier’s attention. The Zone Police from the Thought Crimes Division tossing banned books into the flames. He watched as an officer threw a paperback copy of the The Prophet’s religious text, The Parable of Thoth into greedy flames as the bonfire crackled consuming hungrily pages of charred sacred and profane text blackening words Nier considered divine.
Mesmerized, Nier watched as an officer slapped a protestor back who tried to wrestle the tome free. The protestor knocked to the ground, blood splattered on the burning pages of the book as another officer dragged the downed man away. A woman in a white cloak with a red stripe down the front and a billowing hood, a Prophet lay priestess tended to the man’s wounds.
All this was due to Article 15 the Parliament’s anti-codess law that made using psychic power in public illegal and stated belief in or possession of books or entertainment related to fiction, fantasy, spiritual power, religion or belief in god were dangerous. These things you couldn’t see, were not based in reality or fact were seen as defiant, illegal and those who engaged in these things were destroying the Social Order.
Violators found in possession of these items or who openly believed were sentenced to hard labor in the Kedek mines and subject to personality rehabilitation. Even sanctioned inhumane torture and worse those who used psychic power to harm others would be swiftly put to death.
The Newsfeed had been covering various book burnings that had popped up for the last few hours boosting ratings. The popularity of watching black-clad Elite Military Enforcers in full riot gear face off with protesting crowds against government censorship was the it show of late. The crowds grew more rowdy in retaliation for thought crime enforcement that grew stricter by the day.
Eighteen year old Nier Ishida sighed throwing the pink lipstick in his floppy canvas handbag, his eyes wandering to the cover of his well-worn copy of The Parable of Thoth peeking out of the bag. The book was illegal, banned the same book he saw thrown on the bonfire. He had bought his copy from the Black Market, a reminder of his childhood. Just possessing the book made him a criminal. At any minute the Zone Police could arrest him, send him to the kedek mines, or worse disappear him to secret labs for personality rehabilitation and harsh psychic experiments in the name of government progress and “Social Order.”
Rickety stall door swinging open, a red-eyed skinny transgirl in a wrinkled spandex mini dress sniffed loud twitching her hips as she pulled her dress down, the quaint nipples of her budding boobs perking up adjusting her tuck flashing Nier glancing at her crotch. She ran a hand over his shoulder as she leaned down to the sink snorting the hit of crystal neurocyne, a psi inducer drug he had given her for his trouble. Throwing her head back as she pinched her nose, she hiked up the hem of her dress turning catching him checking out her arse a hint of her pink panties showing as she blew him a kiss exiting the bathroom.
High on nightshade, pupils bursting, Nier wiped the sweat off his brow, flashbacks of childhood experiments forced on him by the government of the Pacific Territories flashing before his eyes confusing his thoughts. The constant haunting was his cloud of shame. Closing his eyes trying to blot out the memories, the intrusions, unresolved childhood abandonment left a gaping wound in his soul. Glancing in the mirror, he pulled off the bright pink wig packing it in for the day.
His job as a Host over for the night as he counted the wad of credit bills Johns paid him for the day’s dates. Pleased at the day’s haul, he was just grateful walking the Red Light District overnight had not gotten him killed.
Chucking the wig in his bag revealing a head of spiky bright blue hair, Nier wiggled his hips hiking up the hem of his black skater jumper the tech fabric glowing in the ratty sputtering lights. The dress barely long enough to hide a hint of red embroidery, he pulled it down hiding the bulge peeking out under his pink lace underwear.
His killer femme aesthetic kept the Johns coming passing androgynous keeping his gender just ambiguous enough to make him a catch to the gay crowd, straights as well as the fetish chasers who wanted something exotic.
Smooth porcelain skin, lips painted black glitter, his large hazel eyes captivated Johns wanting a piece. Willing to pay top dollar for his services, Nier’s reputation as an emo twink glitter boy kept him in work constantly. His pastel stim implants snaking over his eyebrows as well as the fillers in his cheeks. The allure, his painted tattooed eyeliner and rouged high cheek bones, that girly girl it factor, made him a work of art. He fetched bank nightly, Johns wanting a romp between the sheets, legs up on eager shoulders between thrusts.
Cheeks flushed, body hot, his stim implants threw errors flashing before his eyes as he gritted his teeth fighting back the sting. Recalibrating, ears ringing, he gripped the dirty sink staring in the fingerprint-smeared mirror covered in Velvet Hour stickers and Packrat Underground holo-patches.
Colourful patches with the Packrat logos and advertisements for hacktivist meet-ups littered between phone numbers of escorts and transgender prostitutes advertising for dates and blow jobs. He caught his own number amoungst the fray in The Soul Deep bathroom that still proved the best ways to hook a John.
Bloodshot eyes, the pain popping off like lightning ripping through temples, he blinked, head buzzing, jumbled thoughts confused. The the error messages from his stim implants disorienting, the constant bombardment of messages from the tech making it hard to organize his thoughts. He took an extra hit of neurocyne but it didn’t help though it calmed his nerves as he waited for his cyberwire to re-configure. The cybernetic implants at the base of his brain stem, his cyberwire linked to his psychic power ached, stomach tied up in knots trying to keep from hurling, vision blurry as the room spun.
The cyberwire maintenance at the Packrats Synch Meds Clinic was why he came to The Soul Deep trying to right the shoddy deck-mod from the street vendor he got earlier in the day in the Red Light District trying to save some coin. Knowing he made the wrong decision, the trip to Synch Meds to fix the damage just ended up costing more money than he had, having spent all the cash he made earlier from his tricks just to right his stupid as he slapped the mirror.
“Next time, arsehole, think…”
Working nights afforded him cash to crash at Love Hotels vowing to never again sleep on the streets. He’d stim for hours staying awake chasing Johns like a fiend picking up anyone who seemed the least bit interested, willing to pay. All he could think about now was fixing his ware, knowing Synth Meds fix him up right, no questions, no bullshit.
Skull throbbing bold red text flashed before his eyes. Tapping his cheek, the skid-grid enhancements as error text swirled. His pupils twitching as he pushed on the button above his eyebrow trying to reset the optical sensor.
Cells adjusting to the new grids, he noticed the red text turn white spinning and jerking before his irises. Vision blurry as the configuration reset, the status bar counted down from thirty reassuring timer relaying how long the nanomachines permeating his blood would need to synch with his psi signature. The auto-synch linked to the jack hardware at the temple as his cells adjusted to his newly calibrated synth-tech.
Shoulders shaking, he tried to push away the pain, hands trembling his eyes hurting as the configuration downloaded.
The sickly blue light bulb sprayed a dim azure glow from the ceiling swaying on a frayed wire, the large fan blades churning as they scraped confusing his concentration, hurting his ears, his recalibrating optical sensors squirming making it worse.
Vertigo irritating, he hid his face as flashbacks overwhelmed gritting his teeth, his mind wandering to his older brother Sakama who abandoned him after his parents were killed by the government. Left on the streets, his only way to survive as a homeless teen was to become a Host, give blow jobs, hustle, trick, dumpster dive if he wanted to eat.
The streets taught him to be a chameleon become whatever the Johns wanted. He had to abandon himself, leave his moral compass behind. The remaining shattered fragments of a teenage soul devoured, now he was cunning, unreadable, un-clockable, a high-priced sex object sleeping with old worn out men to survive.
The glitch in his cyberwire was from being thrown down stairs when one of his clients attacked. He took risks every night venturing out dressed.
He slapped the jack at his temple trying to force the config, white text appearing before his eyes intruding obnoxious.
“Piece of crap…..”
Fishing in his bag, he unfolded the tiny screwdriver jamming the sharp flat end into his jack intake trying to trick the reset. Cursing under his breath, distracted, his thoughts wandered to Sakama again his brother the Psi Faction clandestine operative, his brother the unfortunate pawn controlled by the Elite government.
Sneering, his mind wandered to Sakama nagging constantly warning him that manually resetting his jack was dangerous, could cause issues with the tech, induce a deadly cascade that could kill him, overload his synapses. His cybernetic tech synch frying his brain. He knew the danger. Didn’t care. The street was going to kill him anyway, let it come faster.
Teeth clenched, buzzing in his ears intense cyberwire reacting as he jerked the screwdriver back and forth in the intake trying to get that organic sweet spot.
Black splotches flashing in front of his eyes errors distorted, finally he hit the bank, his vision flashing white as code streamed his jack forcing a hard reset. Nerves calming as the edge eased off, the pain vanished getting control of his cyberwire once again.
Smile snaking across his face pulling on a pink and red striped beanie with white pompom at the crown, he stepped back from the mirror. Glancing over at the toilet senses kicking in, he crinkled his nose flies swarming about the bowl, large rat brushing against his shoe as it scurried past disappearing through a hole in the floorboards.
Eyes tearing up from the stink, he wrinkled his nose as the pain fell away and kicked a stray neurocyne vial. He opened his pill case sitting on the sink popping two sim chips, the tech drug giving him a sensual high making his cheeks flush, easing the residual anxiety. Flashbacks haunting as post traumatic stress kicked in from his childhood, brushing his temple, he blinked willing the flashback away.
Stashing his pill case, his handheld chimed as he exited the bathroom, sauntering into the Level 2 Sub Basement of The Soul Deep. His eyes scanning the parking garage senses heightened, he felt something strange, his psychic power triggered picking up residual danger nearby.
As he crossed the floor, he spotted the drug dealer Wraith with his white spiky hair on top and black at the back. As a personality, Wraith was loud, easy to spot, someone everyone in the Echelons knew as he was definitely Black Market famous. Wraith was notorious a dealer who acted as the backbone of drug culture in the Echelons driving the Waste and drug-addicted Ware gaming community.
Drug culture with jet jockeys hacking into the gridscan, The Soul Deep was run by dreadlocked dark-skinned straight edge tech rasta hacker informant, Jazz who provided intel to both sides of the Hacker Revolution.
Wandering towards Wraith, Nier was stopped by a burly rainbow dreadlocked bouncer, gatekeeping Wraith as he slapped Nier’s chest.
“Need Wraith? Got to get through me….”
Touching the dark-skinned bouncer’s cheek, Nier stroked the stim implants under the bouncer’s right eye working him up as he sensed the man’s weaknesses.
“Can take the edge off, Honey. I’m open. You know it.”
Sexing him up, Nier played getting the bouncer’s attention snaking his hand around the man’s chest to his crotch pinching his fingers, feeling him up, a subtle hint triggering a reaction. Influencing with psychic persuasion, Nier touched the bouncer’s heart with him mind manipulating him, influencing him knowing he was going to get exactly what he wanted.
Pitching his voice, Nier touched the bouncer’s cheek leaning in.
“Yeah, Honey, I know you want this… Can I see Wraith now, please? You know I’m good for it? The real real.”
Nier lingered close smirking as he was able to gain control, influence the bouncer’s mind. A light touch as the control clicked, the bouncer suddenly waving him forward.
“Sure, kid. Wraith’s free. Go on. He’s waiting.”
His influence successful, Nier slipped past skipping over to Wraith who was engaged spotting Faid Callen the hacker and high-priced host wearing the signature black slick tech-fabric tight-fitting Packrat Runners outfit with the cut outs, buckles and combat boots. The clothes cyber gridscan hacker vigilante, sleek and deadly, the distinct tell he was a member of the Packrats Runners faction.
Pulling a wad of credit bills out of his purse, needing to unload the worthless paper money from his Johns, the cash kept sex under the table.
The Echelons economy even with the Elite government subsidies to keep a full economic crash at bay, the stock market was still on the brink of collapse. He’d pay Wraith in coin just to get rid of stray paper.
Smiling, Faid flashed a concerned scowl crossing his lips then once more gone as he noticed Nier’s slightly swollen eyelid gently brushing his protégé’s bangs off his face.
“Best have Synth Meds look at that implant. You’re eyelid’s puffy, got a ware allergy? Not a good look. Puffy eyes don’t get dates. A host got to look the part, kid, better you know.”
Faid pulled a makeup compact out of his pocket handing it to Nier who opened it checking his eyes after noticing the compact brand as he patted his face with the puff applying the light concealer to hide the shine under his eye.
The brand rare in the Echelons, too expensive for a Blank, Nier realized the makeup could only be from the City suddenly guessing Faid had a John that had most likely bought him the compact as a vanity thank you gift for a night of hot sex. Faid was in City-perfect metropolitan utopia, luxury satin sheets his teen arse’d never be able to afford or experience.
Nier batted his eyelashes for effect digging in at Faid smiling reacting to his game of obsessing over Faid who was more than famous in the hacker community, someone as a host to look up to.
Faid patted Nier’s shoulder reassuring him, relaying he was not playing which caused Nier to ease up, 100% clocked, being put back in his place as inferior, arrogant to think Faid wouldn’t catch on.
Faid smiled checking Nier. “Keep your wits about you, Kid. Echelons be dangerous. Suns gone down. You know how it plays, the Zone Police like hauling in hosts checking host licenses. Watch your six tonight. Got a bad feeling. Zone Police extra jumpy.”
Nier leaned in. “Thanks for the warn. But I got Velvet Hour on my side. They take care of me. All for the Hacker Revolution.”
Faid walked off disengaging as Nier left Wraith without getting his fix, the want forgotten walking towards The Meds Clinic. His cyberwire jack config finally complete, everything back to normal, his vision no longer plagued by errors was a relief. But his puffy face as Faid called out, would hurt him getting dates tonight, all too true. He’d have to fix that, take Faid’s advice, fix his shit if he wanted a clean bed to sleep in, and a meal or breakfast after a night of hot sweaty high-priced rent boy sex.
Rom stumbled down the ramp into The Soul Deep parking garage trying to escape the Zone Police officers who were chasing him. Limping past Wraith the drug dealer, he disappeared into the bowels of the Sub Basement slipping behind one of the many concrete stabilizer pillars. The gun shot wound to the thigh throbbing, blood dripping down his leg, the nalcon nanomachine burn from the blaster wound was searing his flesh off, the nanomachines eating through his flesh and his clothes.
Panting, he backed into the dark catching the Zone Police officer following him who drew his blaster after tailing him into the garage. The area was littered with Ware Heads, hackers and Black Market goons making illegal deals with Wraith for psi inducer drugs as Jazz monitored the Jet Jockey Underground.
Zone Police officer moving in, Rom took off running down the ramp disappearing into the crowd, the Zone Police officer catching him bolt giving chase.
Dashing in and out of the chaotic crowd, Rom ran tripping as he fell into Nier arms. Grabbing onto his shoulders, Rom fell to his knees taking Nier with him.
“Are you Nier… Ishida?”
Nier looked deep into Rom eyes caught up in hundreds of flashing images transferring from Rom’s cyberwire to Nier’s. The pictures rapid-flashed in his mind of events, people, places, of Rom escaping the biker with the blaster who had been after him, of Rom’s encounter with the biker Sati and gun-toting teenager Blue with the bright blue hair and unnatural pale azure eyes. The electronic data transfer triggered hard, enhanced on purpose bypassing security as Nier realized, the connection was controlled by both of them being psychic, Nier’s power enhancing the flow.
Rom started slipping in and out of consciousness, the images flickering as they started to fade out.
“Hey, stay with me…” Nier tried to encourage the stranger in his arms as the crowded chaos of The Soul Deep, all the bodies hid them from the Zone Police officer.
Rom waved the pin drive in Nier’s face.
“Take this pin drive. Get out of here. Protect the data. The bloodline… You…. Find the Packrats. Go! Don’t let the Zone Police catch you. Go now…”
Nier shook his head trying to decline. “Don’t. Not involved…”
The pain of his wounds overtaking him as he started to succumb, as he faded in and out. Rom’s eyelids fluttered as he begged grabbing Nier’s wrist, putting the pin drive in his palm with the crumpled yellow card.
Rom’s eyes closed as he passed out, Nier lowering his head to the concrete backing into the shadows as he watched the Zone Police officer descend on them, the crowd parting exposing the unconscious stranger.
The Zone Police officer kicking the stranger in the side, rifled through his pockets not finding anything calling it in
“Data Messenger’s dead. No ID. No data on him. Must have dumped it.”
Nier watched as the officer scanned the garage.
Catching his opening, he took off running up the ramp exiting the parking garage to the street ensuring his escape weaving past another Zone Police officer and disappearing into the crowded sidewalk. He started on his way to the Velvet Hour hacktivist safe house slipping the pin drive into the port on his handheld bringing up a pop-up window entering the code on from the yellow notecard. The data on the drive downloaded decrypting as Top Secret data scrolled across his screen revealing sensitive Elite government files eyes wide open unable to stop himself from vocalizing the shock.
“This is Top Secret, from the Elite Military …. A warrant for Faid Callen’s murder? To silence him…. No way. And Information about Sentinels. What is Septentrium?”
As he got out onto the street weaving in and out of the hustle and bustle, he passed a vid panel on a convenience store front. Elite government propaganda spewed by the Newsfeed that never went off the air filtering out into the street behind a red-cloaked priest with his hood up, arms sprinkled in thick black tattooes in celestial script up and down his forearms. The priest’s face was tattooed with dark kohl outlines lining his eyes, cheeks adorned with sacred wardings as he clasped his hands in blessing to any who held up their handhelds towards him as he recited mantras to the small crowd gathering.
The Newsfeed monitor flashed then cut out interrupted by white noise as nonsense images took over a hacker zipping the Newsfeed signal taking over the feed. The screen faded to black then flashed the Packrat hacker logo as the face of Faid Callen appeared on screen staring straight at him the visuals glossed over with Elite government subliminal messaging. Engrossed unable to turn away he listened to Faid’s voice ring out into the street accusing the Elite government of lies and overreach.
“I am Faid Called. We are Packrats. Hackers. Voice of the Resistance. We are the Code. We are the Gridscan. This is Who We are. Hackers Unite! Hack Till Youre Dead.”
The air raid siren blared into the street, the government reacting immediately to Faid’s hostile take over of the Newsfeed as they tried to silence the rebellion, keep the Echelons, the Blanks who would never be citizens in the dark.
The screen flashed offline as the government wrestled the signal back from the Packrats resuming their oppressive propaganda as a newscaster and the scheduled program returned to the screen.
Snapping out of it, Nier glanced behind him, catching a Zone Police officer glaring at him. Shrugging his shoulders, he took off making his way to the Velvet Hour safe house knowing the data he carried could change the course of the civil war.
Getting lost in the crowded street, he disappeared down an alley slipping into an abandoned building. He climbed the stairs putting his eye up to the door triggering his cyberwire which flashed code across his irises.
The bio-scanner shining on his cornea reading his passcode allowing him entry into the Velvet Hour cyberterrorist secret headquarters.
Flat on his back on the garage floor Sub Basement Level 2 in the Soul Deep, Rom stirred blinking as he slowly woke up still on the floor where he had fallen.
His cyberwire skinjob implant having healed him from the damage from the nalcon wound, he had used his psychic power to control and suppress, lower his breathing so it would seem like he was dead. He dug a finger into the bullet wound extracting the the bullet the nanomachines in his blood neutralized.
Rising to his feet, happy his little trick had worked evading the Zone Police, he walked up the ramp to street level exiting the garage regaining his strength. All he neded ow was to ensure the pin drive got to the target.
He rolled up his sleeve exposing the cybernetic circuitry tattoo on his forearm, data flashing before his eyes confirming that he had delivered the data, to Nier, as had been requested. He just needed to confirm Velvet Hour would get the intel to the factions, so they could change the course of the Hacker Revolution.
If possible the intel would reduce the Elite government’s strangle hold over the Echelons.
Brushing off his thighs, he touched the tip of his index finger to his forehead as he teleported out.