100%

2 July 2017 22:51
skonen_blades: (Default)
It was a 100% party and I was the guest of honour.

My day had come. Twenty-seven tours of duty in the war zones of the Kuiper belt. I was a veteran of over 700 combat missions. My chronological age was 76 but with time dilation and rejuve treatments and body part replacements, my true age could be anywhere from 18 to 312.

I was one of the near-immortal soldiers in the endless war. So many years of fighting and nothing budged on the borders. If anything, we were merely a testing ground for combat medicine and weaponry.

But today was my 100% party. I was officially dead.

Over all the battles, I’d been wounded and patched up hundreds of times. Head shots, shrapnel in m organs, limbs detached, junk shredded, one time I had my face torn clean off.

Today was the day that I no longer had any original parts left on my person. I had crossed that border from human to total amalgam. I was a patchwork zombie. A soulless. I had transitioned into a new level of soldier.

There were a lot of us. I’d heard that some soldiers went a little crazy after their transitions. Like being fully replaced was too much for their minds philosophically. Am I still me? What is me? That sort of thing.

It’s hard for us to find a way to effectively commit suicide but when there’s a will, there’s a way.

I looked down at my forearms. One was a little longer than the other. Both were covered in the zigzag patches of grafts that made us look like we were stitched together out of rags. Unintentionally excellent camouflage beneath the leaf shadows in the jungle.

My eyes were different colours. My teeth were all vat grown. My insides had mostly been 3d printed. I was brand new as of waking up from the last operation.

I was eager to get back to it.



tags
skonen_blades: (dark)
Sixteen points off of westward for an undergraduate is the same as a hedgehog wanting to upscale his wardrobe. A flamingo can’t be held responsible for bad hands at poker. If you judge a peacock by its ability to explain particle fusion, you will disappoint the road map and learn to speak in crutches. Every soldier dreams of nutcrackers.

Far away and hoped for are not the same fish buckets. Chest plates are only as good as the trucks they’re driving. A soft steamer is worth six reverse cowgirls. The scorpion’s claw can’t handle a pen. Your name in lights is the left corner of your enemy in gravy. No skirts are allowed on topless airplanes.

If your robe is black and long then you may be mistaken for a priest wagon. Winter tires are only affordable if you have the parakeet stomach to swing them. You might not enjoy the ride but a rescue mission can understand the ugliest reasons. Gravity, history, and ignominy. They’ll read the papers and write the history for you.

The shallow end has the best oysters. Every beach is the prow of a ship. Without violins, we have no reason for war. Your spokes help you roll but they are easily broken. You are a cross between a glove and a cardboard box. Keys are needed for explosions. I have pencil shavings that understand heads peeking around corners better than your average dog show.

If you want recipes, seduce a shoe store. Your shopping list can be as long as you want. Just don’t airplane it into a blue sky you can’t come back from. The bedsprings of your lips leave me wanting to test the tensile strength of honesty. You bend me like sound waves through a speaker. I’m a frat party balancing on a stool in a closet and you’re the avalanche pinned behind the starting gun. If this is a staring contest, I’m all out of eyes.




tags
skonen_blades: (dark)
“During the mission, your memories are yours. After the mission, they belong to the military.”

The sergeant had droned on at the beginning of this op. It was a standard briefing. I remember seven similar briefings followed by months of blank space in my head. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a soldier.

We were on a stealth run in Tehran. The radioactive crucible that used to be Qom was a warning shot but they hadn’t listened. Or rather, they hadn’t aimed their warheads away from the east coast of the states.

Our non-reflective gear made us into shadows on the night floor, oil on the city streets while the scared civilians stayed locked inside their houses, praying. We made our way to what our intel told us was the squawk box. It was our job to disable any tripwires and alarms so that beta team could slit the throats of the button-pushers in the underground lobby quietly.

It was real wet work. Proper analogue. None of this remote-control warfare. I was happy to be a part of it.

Because of the memory wipes, none of us knew if we’d worked with anyone on the team before. I knew some of the other players from enjoying each other’s company here and there on R&R and from declassified training but for all I knew, we’d either never been on a mission together before or we’d saved each other’s lives a bunch of times in past missions. It took a special kind of mind to roll with that.

The speakers above us blared the prayer. That meant it was 4:28 in the morning. There was rustling from all of the shuttered apartments around us as people woke, knelt and prayed. I felt powerful, knowing that I was an instrument of what they were afraid of.

We edged up near the fence of our target building. It was a broadcast station set up to look like a corner store. Using the prayer as cover, the six of us slid bonelessly up the wall and through the windows. A ganked keycard allowed us to bypass the keypad into the stairwell and ghost down the stairs to the sub basement.

The sweating, nervous men were looking at the radar screens for any form of airspace incursion. The feeling of tension in the room made me smile.

I looked left and right at our team and nodded. Five minutes later, we were the only living things in the room and no alarm had been raised.

The army had been kind to me. It had augmented my entire body and gave me special abilities. I’d seen parts of the world I’d always wanted to see. And the memory wipes meant I never had any lasting psychological damage from the horrors I inflicted on people or war crimes I witnessed. It was a pretty sweet deal. Plus no interrogation could work on what I couldn’t remember.

We put the looper into the computer system and the encrypted signal seamlessly slotted in, continuing to let our target that everything was okay on this end. All intel correct. All systems green.

I pushed the squirt on my arm to tell beta team that we were a go. Then everything went black.



I wake up in the barracks. It’s a beautiful day outside. I check the calendar. I’m missing six days. I hope the operation went well. The news is saying that the nuclear standoff is over. I hope I had something to do with it.




tags
skonen_blades: (Default)
He cracked as he moved, sounding like a fireplace. Popping softly, brittle matches stuffed into every joint. Each step brought him closer to me. I was handcuffed to the radiator. I didn’t know where I was or how such a frail old man had the strength to capture me like this. The room was old and looked abandoned. Piles of newspapers gathered in the corners, rustling with mice. One of my eyes was swollen shut and the other one was blurry. I looked up at the old man as he came closer. He held a tray of tea which he placed just out of my reach and sat down with painful, slow effort.

“Hello Jeremy” he sighed. “Do I look familiar?”

I’d been testing the strength of the handcuffs. Either my enhanced strength wasn’t working or the radiator’s mooring was reinforced. I looked at him with my good eye and snarled, trying to give him the sense of a dangerous animal.

He laughed. “Oh, very good, Jeremy. Very good.”

I was worried that he kept calling me Jeremy. That wasn’t my name. Mentally I reached for my name and found nothing.

A shot of panic rustled through me when I realized that most of my memory was a void.

“Yes, yes, by now you’re realizing that you’re not altogether altogether, are you? You’re here but you’re not really here, eh?” He laughed softly. “Yes, well, that sort of combat will do it to you. Tea?”

I lashed out with my foot at the old man’s tea set but came up short. Something gave way in my shoulder and I shrieked with pain like an animal. I immediately felt embarrassed at crying out.

“Jeremy, Jeremy, listen. Look. You almost spilled the tea there. It’s going to take weeks for your memory to come back. All you need to know right now is that I’m your friend. We’ve trained you and sent you out into combat and now you’re back. No one will find you here.”

I glared at him. I was more scared than before but I found the sound of his voice comforting. My instincts were all I had right now. I didn’t trust him but I did think that he was an ally. I’d never been in a situation like this before.

He stood to leave with the sound of toothpicks being broken, muffled popcorn, and twisting celery.

“I was like you, Jeremy. And you’ll get through this.” He nudged the tea closer. “You better drink this before it gets cold.”

He walked towards the door. Just before he left, he turned back to me.

“We won, you know. We won because of you. No one’ll ever know but I wanted to tell you that.”

He shuffled off down the hall until I couldn’t see him anymore.

I stared at the tea, debating whether to drink any.




tags
skonen_blades: (gahyuk)
It’s the glowing catfish moustache that gives the only light down here, the fish’s lower lip tracing powdered silt on the ocean floor.

The dead eyes of dead faces stare eternally, skull-holes hollowed out by crab-things long ago. Each dog tag wrapped around bird skull furred with mold. Fistfuls of lariats and identification cards stick up out of the ground like exposed wiring and Barbie-doll gravestones. Magnetic strips discolor with algae. Barnacles clog the gun barrels. Long strands of seaweed reach up through ribcages with too many ribs.

Fore-armed is forsworn, said the recruitment packages. Join Earth’s Army to Help Bring Civilization to the Stars. First pick of the spoils. Beings signed up. Jelimorphs, hellicorns, annamen, retreads, and silicates. Even now and then an esper became corporeal, risking truedeath to join the fight and get a slice.

And now, down here under intense pressure in the blackness of an ammonia sea miles deep, bottom feeders nudge their bones. The soldiers are strewn across hectares of dull, smooth reef down here amongst the glowing fish that target carrion. Soldiers with many limbs and some with only a few. Soldiers with hard bones and soldiers with exoskeletons. Soldiers with tentacles and soldiers with articulated mandibles. Poverty-stricken, uneducated, and greedy. Their death is not a tragedy.

An entire shipload arced into orbit here with an exterial winch brushing too close to a moon that wasn’t on the charts. The explosion was instant and inside the shields. The ship opened wide and spilled nearly a million sleeping soldiers through the soupy atmosphere into the cold ammonia sea.

They never woke up.

Here they lie while battles rage and lovers love light years away on other planets. The ebb and flow of conflict and union continues to play its song across the stars.

While these dead soldiers are watched by a glowing constellation of fish.




tag
skonen_blades: (dark)
Every veteran, to me, is a mad hatter.

I see their crazy eyes and their attempts at tea parties in a civilization they broke themselves protecting but no longer understand. Their humour can be brutal and it does not make sense to me. They’ve been driven insane by the weight of nightmares. They don’t get better.

If the world goes to hell around them, they will not change their behavior. It will be like the chaos in the real world will finally be mirroring the chaos they keep inside. They over-react. They protect with extreme prejudice. They cry when they see something beautiful because they have the worst experiences possible to use for comparison.

Standing right beside me, they live in an entirely different world.

They have been warped and dented by the forces of the battlefield. Sculpted by the tools of war. They know how transient the good times are and how valuable friends are. They have insulated themselves to the possibility that anyone close to them could explode into fragments at any moment even though the time for that insulation is long past.

They drink. They sleep. Or they never sleep. Or prefer stronger methods that drinking. Or they find God.

Our society says ‘you can’t just go around killing people’ while a voice deep inside of us, a worrying voice, a dark voice from way before law says ‘sure you can’. The veterans among us speak that language fluently and hear it even when they don’t want to. They hear the drums of war even during peace time.

They are maniacal and chuckle at jokes that only they can hear, that we wouldn’t want to. However, it's not them that are out of place. It is me. If I was on the field of battle with them, their behavior would make much more sense to me while I would merely scream and cry. I’d put my fellow soldiers in danger. I’d fail and then I’d die. Or if I didn’t, I’d become a veteran.

Every veteran, to me, is a mad hatter.



tags
skonen_blades: (cocky)
You are what you give.

America is owned by the dead, by the people who gave their lives for her.
A tiny handful of us, the living, merely steer her destiny. We stand at the wheel of the ship in our senates and parliaments and white houses. The ghosts of soldiers stand behind the politicians.

Most of the soldiers are unhappy. They glow with the fierce knowledge that, centuries after their sacrifice, not much has changed except technology. There are ranks of these military apparitions with different uniforms from different eras all thinking the same thing.

They gave their lives for this.

They are almost visible in the shadows of the fourth of July. You can see their profiles outlined for moments under the light of fireworks. They concentrate around the monuments erected for them. They smoke ghostly cigarettes, finger scabbards, check their now-useless weapons, and wait for change.

They’ve hung around to see what will happen, wanting to believe that their sacrifice was not in vain. They disappear completely when they surrender to hoplessness. The fact that there are still so many around is a blessing. There is hope.

There is hope.

You are what you give.



tags
skonen_blades: (gasface)
I had a notion of war orphans being owned by the state and experimented on to become super heroes but that maybe a few of them became WAY more powerful than the scientists had predicted. So now they're in dark prisons with crazy security FAR under the Earth waiting to escape. But it occured to me as a poem. See what you think.

-

Mom played the harp, Dad played the gun.
He was a soldier, I was their son.
Mom left for Heaven. Dad left for hell.
He fought in the war, and he fought well.

Now I’m an orphan, one amongst few
Kept from the world, stuck here with you
The orphans of war, kept by the state
Kept from the papers, behind a gate.

They work on us here. They give us names.
My name is Cobalt. Your name is Flames.
We, too, are soldiers, I read your mind
I’m in the next room, hoping to find

A way out of here. A door. A hole.
A crack they forgot. I am a mole.
You burn the planet. I’ll kill the brain.
Together we’ll be. We’ll rule the rain.

Monarchs of new Earth. One king and queen.
Eaters of planets. Reigning obscene.
For now, though we wait. Here in the dark.
I am the petrol. You are the spark.



tags
skonen_blades: (dark)
Hair was the secret.

Our bodies replicate and build the dead cells into keratin that squeeze slowly out of us like time-lapse toothpaste to form hair and fingernails. They have markers that tell them when to grow and when to stop.

Markers that we’ve found. Markers that we can manipulate. We’re hoping that later on, we can manipulate living flesh. Right now, though, we’re giving the gift of regeneration to the world.

A ‘toupee’ of scalp tissue is grafted onto an amputee’s arm. The hair is ordered to grow in the shape of a human arm. It takes five weeks for the arm to grow.

It’s grey like the horn of a rhino and stiff to the touch, like a fingernail in the shape of an arm.

With our command over neurotransmitters and nerve arrays, we can install a robotic armature inside the arm that will respond to the patient’s mental commands. It takes a lot of practice but it works. The flesh is technically dead so it doesn’t reject the implants.

Also, we can split the nerve cells from a few points around the patient’s body and bury them around the new limb. That way, while they won’t have the complexity of feeling that you and I take for granted, they can at least feel rudimentary pain and pleasure.

The new limbs can be painted to match the skin tone of the patient. Nail polish, we call it amongst ourselves.

The army is talking to us about giving soldiers back their arms and legs to send them back into battle. We can picture them, grey skinned and patchwork, going back into the hell they’d been taken from. They’ll be augmented in ways we never thought of.

It’s going to be great. We’re going to be rich.



tags
skonen_blades: (dark)
Mordeck and Cheddar Plain were field-stripping their weapons on top of Concourse B. The hit was still two hours away. No one came by here. They talked and smoked openly. Eyes in the sky were a thing of the past.

They perched there, monkeys on an I-beam, ten stories up from the concrete graveyard.

The leaning broken teeth of the buildings around the two of them creaked in the wind. The rubbish of destroyed skyscrapers snuggled up to the corners of architecture too stupid to fall down. Cities like zombies. They didn’t know they were dead. Sunlight picked out the holes of shattered windows like hundreds of surprised but empty eye sockets. They leaned against each other like headless drunks.

The shattered glass was in the process of becoming sand. The concrete was becoming dust. The gyprock was becoming mud from the rain. The paper from office after office had taken flight That Day and settled whimsically around the town. Most of it was used for nests. Every intersection was a wind-shaped bowl extending down from building’s eroding corners. Dunes formed in places. It didn’t take a predicator to see that the city was being scoured from the Earth and it was being done quicker than one would expect.

Soon, within centuries, the red bones of rusted rebar would be all that was left poking up occasionally like treasure through the sand.

The buildings were crying dust and the wind sounded like their keening. No wonder the postborns saw the cities as haunted.

Preday survivors like Cheddar Plain and Mordeck knew better. They could go into the cities with no fear. Their mythologies were buffered by childhood memories.

The priests came into view, dressed in red cloaks. They were carrying the incense of their profession. Scavengers and Repopulists. Enemies of the pair squatting up in the shadows.

Mordeck and Cheddar Plain still had working implants from before when they were soldiers. Batteries were easy to find. Mordeck switched on his eye. Cheddar Plain carefully studded his firing arm to ‘on’. A supersonic flashbulb whine of readiness cycled up, muffled by the towel he’d wrapped around it.

Their job was to kill folks trying to come back and live in the city. The two of them patrolled the city. They were snipers that had to work as a pair. Most of the Polis Fors had implants that enabled them to work alone and they liked it that way. It was a grim business suited for sociopaths, nomads, and loners. Mordeck and Cheddar Plain were something of an oddity in that regard.

The Christ-Chins down there in red had dreams of a new future. They wanted to go back, not forward.

Vets like Cheddar Plain and Mordeck understood. Postborns were outnumbering the Preday survivors every day, though, and it was possibly a losing battle.

With a shrug, Mordeck hooked his visual cortex up to Cheddar Plain’s arm and looked down at the priests in red shuffling their way through the debris. The priests lit up in heat-vision, dark-vision, and sonics. The reds became greens, the grey dust became blue, and through the directionals, Mordeck could hear them as if he was walking with them.

Vitals were targeted.

Cheddar Plain drew in breath and bit his lip in anticipation. Mordeck nodded once, quickly. That was the trigger.

Cheddar Plain’s arm-tip flowered open. Six hunterstrikes winked forward in a puff of smoke and a slight recoil.

The priests exploded in an orange ball of plasmic flame seventeen blocks away. Today’s quota had been reached.

Cheddar Plain and Mordeck smiled in the shadows and waited for news of another gridpoint sighting.




tags
skonen_blades: (borg)
I created warriors.

I don’t mean that I trained them.

We had the bridge between the meat and the metal sussed out perfectly. Generals and violent criminals, psychos and teachers. High-functioning savants and self-medicating geniuses. We researched them all.

We grew the brains. We fed them the dreams. We had them controlled and merciless.

We also gave every tiny piece of the whole its own brain in case it got separated. These glittering jewels, designed for their separate purposes, would snap like wet lego onto appendages and become weapons, scanners, or communication equipment as they reordered themselves.

In the end, my warriors looked like marbles, tic tacs, glow sticks and light tubes all bundled together and studded with armoured vacuum tubes.

We gave them a rudimentary human shape at first that they could deviate from if they wished. They could even dissipate. Thousands of components would drop to the floor and use their little means of propulsion to crawl under doors and between cracks.

It was magnificent. Like watching stained glass shatter and reassemble itself.

Like a group of insects taking on the form of a soldier. Highest achievement, really.

A little too late, though.

This lab is armoured and very far underground. The strikes didn’t penetrate down here. That was six years ago.

These warriors are trained to never harm me. They’re also trained to keep me fed and taken care of in just this instance. They leave for days at a time on a constant rotation, finding dogs or deer or meat that I don't recognize from outside the danger zone. They must look like army ants coming back to that navel of a manhole on the top level.

They’ve done a great job. I'm in great shape and show no signs of radiation poisoning. I talk to them but they never talk back. I get the feeling that they might hear me but they don’t respond. They’re taught only to respond to orders, asking only for clarification.

We didn’t install a way for them to just talk. I see now that we should have. Soldiers need banter. My hair and beard are long. I have long since stopped wearing clothes.

Sometimes I scream and try to hurt them. They always gently keep me from doing it.

Sometimes I scream and try to hurt myself. They always gently keep me from doing it.

The strikes knocked out the above-ground cameras and the doors are on autolock until the half-lives dissipate enough for brief trips.

It could be a while. If I had an Eve, I could have a doomed little family down here.

Just me, though, and the odds are actually quite high against that happening. I scream into the microphone a lot but I have no idea if it’s broadcasting topside.

The silent, green, nubbled warriors watch me. I send them through training exercises that are more and more complicated that I can follow.

Nothing breaks them. They're perfect.



tags
skonen_blades: (heymac)
Trapped under a rock. That’s what it comes down to.

It’s a slightly higher-gravity planet. The sky is bright green and the ground around me is white gravel. I feel like all of those musicians from back in the nineteen-sixties would really enjoy it here with these strange colours.

I don’t think that they’d be too crazy about the war, though. The creatures that live here have said that their planet is not for sale. Not a great move on their part. Earth is hungry, as we’re taught in school, Earth needs food.

So I’m a soldier in an exoskeleton and there is a giant rock on my legs. The gravity here is a little higher than Earth Normal but it’s not that big of a deal. The rock on my legs is massive. It has to weigh the same amount as a galactic thruster. Tons of compressed sedimentary patience stares back at me when I look down at where my legs disappear below the knee.

The battle had caused a small avalanche. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. My fellow warriors who weren’t dead had retreated. My beacon and radio were damaged. They were probably still getting life signs back at the base but this battle had been lost. I was still in a hot zone.

I stare up a the emerald sky and it occurs to me that this kind of situation has been faced by many creatures over the billions of millennia. Trapped under a rock. From tiny spiders to buffalo, cavemen to dolphins, it’s happened at some point to every living thing.

They’ve breathed their last, hopefully half-amused at their predicament. I wonder if they thought the same thing.

I can see that my oxygen meter has six hours of air left. I haven’t seen any of the aliens poking around for survivors. Looks like I have some free time on my hands.

I’ll get to see the suns go down. Night time here is beautiful.




tags
skonen_blades: (notdrunk)
His soul is a bootprint.

He feels the tug of war like it’s mating season. Gunfire is applause. To him, jeans and a t-shirt are camouflage. Bullets undo the stitches on the scarecrow people that don’t frighten him as they come apart. The crows come. Bullets that whiz close to him are laughed at. The ones that nick his flesh are admonished like they’re naughty pets that he can’t help but love despite their precocious ways. His cologne is gun oil.

It isn’t sport or glory. It isn’t a bad childhood. It isn’t the dehumanizing process of the training barracks. It isn’t the need to belong. It isn’t the lost soul diving into the order of the command process because water makes more sense to a fish than suffocating air.

Eyes are dinner plates and he’s angry. Children’s heads line up like pool balls and it’s his turn to break. Towns become Ikea furniture disassembled by gods of fire.

The time machine in his fist shudders villages back to the stone age and makes grown-ups into babies before shoving them back to that place were they existed before they were born.

Time is a clock attached to a bomb. Mine. Keys belong in grenades. He triggers memories, knife and easy. He has a barrel of fun. He has a full clip of retorts. Bullet-point proposals echo forth. His responses are automatic. He sees the future through a sight. Darkness falls before his night vision. He’s a gas.

His 20 is the LZ. He looks at his 12 and stays aware of his 6, throwing flame in a game of catch. It’s a barbeque and the main course is Enemy.

There’s a foot locker of never-opened medals at the bottom edge of the bed hasn’t slept in for years. It’s full. The brass doesn’t even bother sending out the hardcopies anymore.

He’s a rumour the size of Belgrade making homes in towns that become famous shortly before they become craters.

There is no fear in his laugh. Perhaps the scariest thing about him is his rationality.

C’est le Vietnam. C’est l’armour. Que cera serrated.
Soldier of Scorchin’. Mercy Nary. Assassinner.

He has a deck of cards rolled up under one tight shoulder sleeve and a pack of cigarettes under the other. Both have skulls and crossbones on them. He has time for neither.

This is not a book. He is real.




tags
skonen_blades: (gasface)
With lost marbles over mixed drinks, I stare at the face reflected in the oak bar beside my highball. It looks more real to me, somehow, than I feel.

Everyone on either side of me is sitting at the finish line, racing to the bottom of a glass and tying for last place. Our bellies press up against the metal bar. We’ll never be done or have enough.

The bartender comes over to me. I can see him reflected beside my face. His huge moustache is waxed to slippery perfection. He looks down at me with crossed arms and a scowl. I know what that means. Time to pay up and leave.

I look up at him. I smile to let him know that I’m alright but unfortunately, the mirror behind the bar is a lot clearer than the reflection from the bar counter and I can see that I’m a clown with wide rubbery lips smiling an idiot’s smile. The five-o’clock shadow on my face has turned into a two-in-the-morning carpet.

I’m having trouble balancing on the wide stool that I’m on. He doesn’t even need to say it. The bartender’s right. I’m done for the night.

I reach back to get my wallet. It takes five tries. He’s patient.

I pull out my credit card and lay it on the bar. The bartender picks it up and carries it over the credit card machine. I’m left alone with the last half inch of my martini trying to keep the bottom of the olive damp.

I fish the olive out of the glass but there’s a bit of a miscalculation to that motion and the glass skips away and falls over, spilling the last little bit of gin onto the bar. The glass doesn’t break.

“Oh Jesus, Danny!” I hear from the end of the bar. I recognize the voice. I look up from licking the gin off of the bar to see what the problem is.

It’s the bartender again. He’s looking straight at me. I wonder why he’s doing that until I remember than my name is Danny and he’s probably found a problem with my credit card.

He comes back and puts the card down with the receipt. It’s gone through just fine. Of course it had. This is the magic card given to me by the government after the war. It never ran out. I was determined to drink the treasury dry.

I bring my other arm, the heavy one, up with a clank onto the bar. Its jagged shapes are cornered with rubber to prevent it from scratching furniture or people. Its barrel has been filled and plugged, never to fire again.

It’s too wired into my head to be removed, they said, and this credit card is their apology.

At first I bought a huge house but it was too many rooms and no friends. I threw the keys to some homeless people with a map. When they all left, I sat down where they’d been begging. That was six weeks ago.

“You can’t lick the bar, Danny. You know that.” The bartender says and shakes his head.

”But….I shpilled.” I explain, amazed at the thickness and unpredictable willfulness of my own tongue.

“Come on, Danny. You can’t stay here. Go on. Get out. See you tomorrow morning.” Said Danny, not unkindly.

He took my money. It was a business, after all. He poured me drinks. That was the service this place offered. His hands were tired. He was killing me just as if he was stabbing me with a knife but he was doing it really slowly. I was no different from a half doze other slobs that came here.

I stand up, aim for the door and walk outside. It takes five tries. He’s patient.

I fall over into the garbage in the alley behind the bar.

Home Sweet Home. I’m enjoying the freedom I fought to preserve.

I’ve drunk enough that the faces of the screaming children in a country far away from this one won’t wake me up. That’s the theory, anyway.

I close my eyes.





tags
skonen_blades: (hmm)
Bad guys need henchpeople. We provide that service.

Here at Hench, Inc., we have a cloning facility that will provide all of your henchperson needs. We have over sixteen models to choose from!

By combining hair colour, body configuration, skin type, sex and intelligence level, the choices are virtually infinite!

We can breed them docile or fierce. We can breed them intelligent or simple. We even have a special on second-in-command models for the next six months! You can pick up Number 2tms at a price you can afford.

Theme packages are available year-round. Do you want sexy leopard-print female-gymnast weapons experts to fulfill your every whim? No problem. Do you want muscle-bound giant wrestlers to tear your opponents limb from limb? We can do that. Do you want faceless lycra-clad obedient eunuchs to rush out and pile onto the ‘good’ guys? Sure thing.

We’re here for you.

Pay for the best. Ignore the rest. Forget hiring mercenaries. They can be bought out by opposing forces. Forget contractors. They overcharge. You don’t need the headaches of ‘real’ people on your side when you’re up against a deadline and a tight budget.

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skonen_blades: (appreciate)
This shift in the way things were named by the management was what really pissed Frank off.

Frank’s full name was Franchild Shinemount Iffens. He was a decorated field general. He’d earned his medals and his scars on the battlefields of Jerrytown, Hansfield, MoorShire and Cockswain’s Jut years ago before Victory Day had been declared.

Not like the virtual medals being handed out in today’s unified world. Now, the strictly hypothetical battles were fought on computer and the winners were sent their medals in the mail with online ceremonies being held in situ-cam so that no one need leave their houses.

Oh, we the conquerors. It made Frank sick. To the victor went the spoils. That was true. The subjugated foes were dead or slaves. Those that wanted to join were accepted after a drawn-out acceptance process.

The world was united. The hunger for battle that still existed was fed only by the computer sims.

Peace reigned and it made Frank want to puke.

He was down in a mech-making facility overseeing the refit process. The huge bipedal machines were being retooled now for construction instead of war. The missle-bays and armament housings were unbolted and stacked in corners. They were stripped of their military green or beige and repainted a bright yellow with black stripes.

Frank’s huge moustache twitched.

The thing that bothered him the most was the renaming.

Right now, he was looking at a Pomma Politica ‘Fisherman’ Class Whorebringer being bleached and setup for repaint. She had giant, round shoulder casings and a flared waist-chassis for a wider turning radius. Must have been forty years old if she was a day. The marks of the last firefight she was in were still evident. She stood there, naked without her offensive weaponry and defensive shielding.

She was ready.

He felt like he was watching a friend die.

The yellow paint sprayers started up with a hiss and twenty minutes later, the glorious war machine was standing, looking bright and new with her identity erased. Soon, she’d be outfitted with grapples, welders, up-to-date construction programming and safety harnesses.

The identification tags came down and with a burst of black molecular bonding paint through the stencils, the Pamma Politica ‘Fisherman’ Class Whorebringer became a brand new DB-765.

DB-765.

Frank’s eyes glittered. He’d been overseeing this for months. Once or twice, he’d even recognized machines that he’d used or fought against. Gorgeous graffiti, paintings, sunsets, winking women, kill notches, all of them stripped, bleached and repainted.

And given a number.

There were collectors of these things. Collectors that were rich beyond the grasp of a field general like Frank. Frank wished, sometimes, that he could buy one or two and have them set up in his back yard like those collectors did.

Pipe dream. Never happen.

Instead Frank idly wondered. He daydreamed of being called into a room after his job here was done. He dreamed of being stripped, painted and tattooed.

He dreamed of his passport and ID tags being changed from Franchild Shinemount Iffens to DB765.




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skonen_blades: (hluuurg)
“There was a time,” he thought as his hands worked the wound wider, “that this would have grossed me right out.”

When he’d joined the resistance, he’d been a young boy who fainted at the sight of blood. Now look at him. Up to his elbows in patient number nineteen and it wasn’t even noon.

A heavy leather apron took the splashes of the blood as the screaming young man’s artery hosed the doctor down. It was all field medicine which meant that the books became guidelines and time was a monster. It was an Easter egg hunt for shrapnel, hopefully before the patient died.

The rain had soaked through the sandbags, making the floor of the place into a mudbath. The blood joined in and swirled in coagulating paisleys over the course of the day.

The doctor had removed his own moustache after the first time it had been soaked. The stink of blood hovered underneath his nose until he had had to shave the hair off. He’d come a long way from the eager young boy who’d signed up to fight so long ago.

The patient gurgled as his airways started filling up with blood. The doctor dug deeper. His hand fluttered like a salmon in between the back of the lung and snuggled up to the liver. There. A piece like a pencil tip grazed his fingertips. Slowly, he pinched it so that it would not slip deeper into the patient’s body.

He dragged it out and put in into the dirty dish with the others.

Quickly he closed the rib-spreaders and started barking commands to the nurses to get the boy sewn up. At least he’d lost consciousness and wasn’t thrashing around like most of them usually did.

He reached for the cigarettes in his jacket pocket by the door when two stretcher-men came crashing through the door carrying another young boy crying out for his mother.

Back to work.


tags
skonen_blades: (cocky)
I can’t believe that it used to take years and years of real-time school to become a doctor. I slip the spike with the red cross on the dust-cover into the jack at the base of my skull. Just like that, I’m a surgeon, which is good news for my friend currently trying to breathe around the hot shrapnel sticking through his lung.

We’re beneath the firing level in a crater in a no-person’s-land between the forces. I find it ironic that huddling there in the mud with bone-shattering explosions happening around us, I could probably speak to a soldier from World War I and we’d know exactly what each other went through.

Maybe I’ll get my chance sooner than I think.

My friend’s wild eyes are looking at with a silent scream as I get to work.

Every soldier on the force has seven spikes. Medic, Sniper, Engineer, Strategy Officer, Languages, Scout, and Beserker. We keep them in an arm band. They’re used when they’re called for.

This way each man can play whatever role necessary in the changing tides of infantry ground battle. It hasn’t alleviated the chaos.

The people up top keep trying to take the disorder out of war and failing.

I remember that somewhere up the line two days ago, a battalion of troops all jammed their Berserker chips in at the same time to try to freak out the enemy with a suicide run at their guns in the hopes that a few of them would get through. They didn’t even make it out of the trench. They tore each other apart.

I’m still working around the cooling metal sticking through my friend’s chest when I realize that he doesn’t need my help anymore. I stop working. I sit back. I slip the Medic wafer out of my head and put it back in my arm band. Dirt and body parts fly through the air above me amidst the deafening explosions.

I wish they had a spike that erased memories.




tags
skonen_blades: (gasface)
”Say what you want”, said Shane to the house A.I., “ever since the war, this part of the world has spectacular sunsets.” He was on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.

“Incoming. Three sigs.” stated the house A.I.

The airhounds had caught up to Shane just as he was starting to relax.

The house defenses sent up lift-tickets to confuse the semi-sentient missiles. One of the airhounds cranked left with an angry twist of its rudder and stabbed into his neighbour’s house, crunching centuries-old stucco. Napalm gushed forth in an almost sexual explosion from its black nozzle before blooming flesh-rending fire across the inside of the building. Luckily his neighbours were on vacation.

“I’m going to miss this location”, Shane thought to himself as he dropped his drink and jumped over the railing. There were other safe houses around the world being dummied up but this one had been Shane’s favourite.

Had been. Already he was thinking of it in the past tense. The training goes deep.

Running as fast as his muscled form would allow, he dashed down the courtyard towards the water. His terrycloth robe hung open and flapped behind him like a flag of surrender. He was getting close to the pier when he felt the force of the blast.

Shane was built for strength, not agility. It was a contest between the armoured plating on his back and the shrapnel of his exploding mansion before he leapt off the edge of his property.

His robe blackened and shriveled in the flame before he thudded into the waves.

Looking up, his government-supplied eyes saw nothing but flames. The ambient temperature of the water went up a few degrees.

Shane’s hair had been burnt off and the salt water was doing nothing to make his back wounds feel better. He was bleeding a lot. He could take a lot of bullets but a shark could probably still take his leg off.

He had a few tanks of air stashed around with beacons on them. With a few head nods, he called them up. The closest was fifteen feet away. He started swimming.

Jackie had gone out to get groceries and wasn’t due back for an hour. Shane hoped that she would believe him killed in the blast.

Incoming had said three airhounds. It was possible that a third was still above the fire scanning for him.

Shane had to swim as far as his augmented legs could carry him before surfacing.

Grabbing one tank and heading for another, he devised a route up the coast in his head that would get him closest to a populated beach where he could steal a few tourist identity cards and bail up to Europe.

”What the hell,” though Shane, “it’s been a while since I’ve seen Denmark.”



tags
skonen_blades: (cocky)
He never got along with adults after the war. Only the children. I remember him needing to angle himself just a little bit to fit his wide shoulders through our front door. He was all grunts and one-word answers.

Married once but after the war, she eventually left him. She said that the humming his augmented body made at night made her feel like she was sleeping next to a refrigerator. Then she’d pause, glance at him and add, “In more ways that one.”

He was my older brother and he’d show up here every Sunday for dinner like clockwork. No pun intended.

Both his eyes were perfect circles, white plastic insets that could see in the dark and look through walls. They looked like child-safety outlet covers jammed into his eye sockets. Light blue tracery that glowed faintly in the dark zigged and zagged back to his grey-haired temples and down each side of his neck.

We always gave him the cheap glasses and cutlery because of the lack of delicate motor control in his massive skin-sheathed hand-machines. When he walked, one foot clanked.

We’d serve him a turkey dinner or roast beef which he ate obligingly to fuel the biological components of himself but it was always disconcerting to see him finish his meal with a big glass of oil.

After dinner, he’d mess up my child’s hair and do magic tricks. The decommissioned weaponry that the government took back left large hollow compartments in his back and one quarter of his chest. With clumsy sleight-of-hand, he could make objects ‘appear’ out of those compartments that he’d hidden before arriving.

He could make miniature lightning bolts between his fingertips that would dim the lights and make his own hair stand on end like Einstein.

I’d always think of how many of the enemy must have died screaming and blackened under those sparking mitts after giving up their country’s secrets.

I thought that the indirect and subtle world of adults was confusing to the cyborg soldier mind of my brother. His eyes were good lie detectors and often enough he’d see adult’s vital signs be totally at odds with what they were saying.

Children were pure, straightforward and had no idea that he was frightening.

We probably would have tried to find a polite way of stopping him from coming over if these nights weren’t the highlight of our son’s week. I can picture the two of them now, laughing on the living room carpet while one of my brother’s hands runs around by itself. My boy’s laugh sounds like a normal child’s laughter.

My brother’s laugh sounds like crushed tin cans being rubbed together at the bottom of a well.


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