Short Story: Modern Day Trojan Horse

England had become a police state. It was all over the news; coppers in riot gear, clouds of tear gas, the city on fire. London burned. It wasn’t the first time. No-one was fool enough to believe it would be the last either. Nothing could stop burning, not then. Hell, maybe not ever.

It had started in Paris, with something called the Paris Incident. Basically, every cybernetic and bionically augmented person in Paris had finally had enough. They rallied to march on the city of light, waving banners to protest the corporate occupation there. Every major corp had some outlet in Paris then, still do now– almost makes everything that came after seem pointless.

The numbers were never officially recognized, but everyone saw it; thousands and thousands of people clustered butt-to-gut together, stomping their way through the city. They chanted, thrust signs upward; some with obvious bionics, others with theirs carefully concealed by proto-plastics that resembled skin. Still more were bone and flesh, normal humans fed up with the mistreatment of their friends, family, lovers. If they’d know then what was about to happen, maybe they would have run. Hell, maybe they wouldn’t have. Maybe it would have made them all the more determined to stand their ground, and they would have made a difference.

What sparked their tempers was a string of bad decisions that even today no-one understands. I know I don’t. Though the Augs had rallied behind a single image, an icon, for what became known as the Paris Incident, each of them had their own reasons to be there. Renee Lemaire was just the tip of the iceberg, a rally cry for a people already subjugated, oppressed. She’d supposedly been murdered after it had been discovered that her neural augs had been activated without her knowledge. Simply put, she was brain-hacked by some entity to do their dirty, wet-work. The casual observer of her eventually-public revelation would have blamed the French Government, but everyone else knew the Corps ran the government.

Even before she was killed in a car-bomb, supposedly another “tragic loss” for Locust Group Inc, her employers, the augs had long been mistreated. Corporate Security had taken over the streets of Paris in the years preceding the event, were particularly prejudiced against augs. Corp-sec had developed a strict beat-first, question-later policy. Just about every Aug in Paris had felt some measure of that prejudice.

So what the French had was a largely lawless flame burning in the hands of the Corps, and a powder keg of resentment in the form of mistreated, augmented humans. There was no way that shite wouldn’t catch, explode, and blow a few thousand people the hell. Christ, these people were the very reason half those corps had as much power as they did. Almost every Corp had some stake in physical or cyber augments. Half were even software providers for Neural and prosthetic augs from the other half. Still their own people were prejudiced against them. It was almost dizzying the level of hypocrisy: the augs kept the Corps in business, and the Corps paid corp-sec the augs’ money to beat ’em senseless.

I guess we should have expected the fucking horror show that came. Everyone had Lemaire as their symbol, but in their own ways, they each had their “Lemaire moments”– those times where because of what they were, or were associated with, they’d been looked down upon. Usually that downward look came from the end of a corp-sec barrel or fist. For those lucky few that escaped unscathed, the look came from at least atop a high-horse, however rare that was.

After the initial march began, it was clear that corp-sec wasn’t going to be able to contain thousands of people to the streets. Damn near all out chaos broke out then. No-one was sure what happened first– if someone threw a punch, a rock, a bullet and then corp-sec responded, or vice-versea– but it wasn’t long before they tear-gas was nearly choking people to death, and others were dead or bleeding from random shots fired into the crowds.

Paris became an all out blood-bath. Augs and norms alike were attacking corp-sec, corp-sec was attacking everyone not in their color uniform, and anyone not being attacked was fleeing before they were. I happen to know for a fact Aries Security Corp even took out a couple of Warhound Protection squads in the insanity. Whether this was an accident or just an opportunity to dent a rival corp’s bottom-line, no-one but the corps could say. Let’s face it though, if corps could talk, they still wouldn’t give a shit about telling the truth.

What I can say is that the blood bath didn’t end for almost two straight weeks. There was nearly a full-on civil war that raged after those first shots were fired. It was a while of people attacking corp-sec on hit-and-runs before they rallied to fight back… fight back, right. What the corps did would be classified as a war-crime if there were any governments left to charge them.

Basically, the corps banded together for once. A terrifying thought for a group hell-bent on cutting each other’s throats at every opportunity they got. Clearly it was in everyone’s best interests to nip the bud before it bloomed though. I think even the augs would have quit while they were ahead if they knew what was to come.

The mega-conglomerate dropped a few special deliveries on the 14th night after the marches turned into a massacre. Both Aries and Warhound birds– supersonic jets composed of all menacing points and screaming turbines– flew in squadrons over twelve different districts of Paris. Each one was residential, outside the territory of the corp’s own housing buildings. The packages they delivered lit the night sky with fountains of blood and fire.

Everyone in the world saw that. The corps wanted us to. It was a message; those of us that wanted could rationalize the move however we chose, but the corps were in power. To go against them in such a way as the augs had was to risk their wrath. And if the news-vids were anything to go by, that wrath was smite and hell-fire.

Of course everything was “authorized,” and “sanctioned” by the various governments, but those of us that knew the truth about the governments didn’t even bother to listen. The battle was polarizing. To a point where countless cities rose up in attempts to kick the corps out or offer safe-haven to the augs, or even declare their allegiance. Berlin was one of the safe-havens– notice past tense, was. To see it now, you’d almost think the blitzkrieg had turned on itself. I guess, in a way, it did.

London though, we’ve been of the first group. The uprising started roughly around the time the corps declared war on the people that didn’t serve them. Really, those people are slaves. They don’t have the same chains around their necks, or whips at their back, but crushing corporate debt and fear of stepping out of line work all the same.

I wish I could say I have hope, but I don’t. We’re really just trying to survive. We’re like Paris in a way; outlets of all the major corps nearby, and half our historic sky-line bombed to rubble. See, the thing is though, we’re English, so we don’t quite do things the same. We prefer to infiltrate the corps, poison them from the inside, then get out before the whole damned entity dry-heaves and withers.

I can’t help but straighten my tie in the mirror with a smug grin. I’m the Bond of the twenty-second century, and my evil villain’s my employer. I live large– as large as I can– off the corp while I sequester a little away for myself, or to the side for my comrades in the ghetto. I can’t help but feel a little sympathy for them, stuck in the damp and dank, wet cold while I’m riding penthouse suites to the bank. But I never forget my job here.

My counter-surveillance software makes sure too, that the corps don’t know I’m wired to the teeth with augs, neural and otherwise. One day, it will all be worth it. Until then, I just bide my time, feed a little information to the others like me. Or else, I fuck with the Corps a little more to keep them on their toes, keep them from watching when we extract someone important, or steal something to help us bring them down.

I’m like a modern day Judas and Trojan Horse all in one, and sooner or later, I’m gonna’ open up, bring this place to its fuckin’ knees. Lemaire might be dead, but the rally cry lives on. Whatever its purpose, I’m with the others; Viva Le Revolution!

Short Story: Masquerade

His head was clear through the digital sights of her scope as she stalked him from the shadows of a fifth floor balcony outside an empty apartment. The building straight ahead was the usual conglomerate of department stores for the first three levels, the fourth jam-packed full of offices. The fifth story contained the high-class and fine cuisine the wealthy elite were so accustomed to. She knew he would find him here sooner or later, in this seat; it was his favorite place and seat, and this was his favorite time of day.

Overhead, lighting cracked in clouds that unleashed the torrential downpour between the two buildings. Somewhere below, cars splayed streaks of light across wet asphalt while people scurried like ants through the rain. She cared nothing for them or their existence. Her mind and gaze were fixed, her posture rigid. Her rifle’s bi-pod sat studiously atop the cement edge of the balcony wall, it and her beneath a specially-made poncho that masked her heat signature from any surrounding surveillance. In moments, she would make the hit, he would be dead.

The why didn’t matter to her. It was her job to kill, not to care. She did, however, know the man’s steel-gray hair and chiseled features from newscasts. He was Leo “The Lion” Wilco, CEO of the fortune five-hundred company Wilco Industries. The company was deeply embedded into every major manufacturing industry through either its own holdings or those of its subsidiaries. With proper motivation, Wilco was perfectly positioned to make a swift move, gain market share and monopolize all of those industries. Evidently someone believed it was about to.

Another crack of lightning. With it she racked the bolt on her rifle, placed her finger beside the trigger. All she needed was another strike. The thunder that followed would hide any remnant of sound that her rifle’s flash-sound suppressor left for prying ears. Through the scope she watched the minor shift of the wind indicator along its edge, inched the rifle back into alignment. The cross-hairs flashed red, a kill-shot centered on the left-side The Lion’s head.

He sat with his hands on the edge of the table, fingers-interlocked to await the arrival of his meal. His back was rigid, un-moving, but his jaw and face made the subtle hints of a low conversation. His mistress of the month curled a hand around her wine glass and sipped with a forward lean. She was clearly a trophy, arm-candy; all legs and tits that crossed and bulged beneath her crimson dress. She gleamed with millions of dollars worth of diamonds that decorated her ears, neck, and fingers.

The woman’s obvious vanity made the assassin sick, for a moment she thought of turning her rifle on the trophy. But it wasn’t her job. Eliminating gold-diggers and trophies was a job for street-thugs and heart-disease. That, and it never paid nearly well enough. No, her job was simple, fruitful; one breath, one round, one life. A hundred G’s was all it took to end the insanity Wilco was positioned to bring.

Unbeknownst to his assassin, The Lion’s head was sought for what was known but that he believed to be unknown. Wilco’s closest friend and associate, Robert Kiely, with him since the start of Wilco Industries and largely responsible for its success, had recently discovered that business had a way of separating those believed closest to one’s self. This information came in the form of a mysterious package Kiely had found on his doorstep in the middle of the night.

The forty-eight year old millionaire of modest home, was drawn from his bed in the wee hours of the morning by a ringing doorbell. Like any cautious homeowner, he answered the door with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands, ready to bring hell to any would-be intruder. Instead, he found a small, brown-box with his name on it and nothing more. Kiely laid his shotgun on the island counter in his kitchen, tore open the box to find a lone SSD flash-drive. It took mere moments for Kiely to boot his laptop and sift through the contents.

Both video and text files alluded to a massive, off-the-books deal that would end with Wilco holding a monopoly over three separate industries; construction equipment manufacturing and sale, Northwestern US Logging, and West-coast Realty development. In essence, Wilco was ready to purchase, develop, and monopolize the entire West-coast of America. The how and why bothered Kiely much less than the final two snippets of information he found; information, that in time, would lead him to hire Wilco’s assassin.

The first snippet was a money trail to various contract lawyers. There was little to go on, but it was clear Wilco intended to cut Kiely out of the deal, and likely, out of Wilco Industries entirely. The next was a simple text file that offered a solution without explanation. The small notepad file enlarged onto his screen, readout; “We have a mutual problem. Bring $100,000 US to the address below. Tomorrow. Midnight.”

The address was somewhere in NorCal; a nondescript storage facility made of small, garage-like units. The moon overhead made a shadow of Kiely as he followed instructions that led him to the last unit in the back, right corner of the storage compound. It was open, dark, but from the way the shadows seemed to breathe outside the unit, clearly occupied by a man.

He lit a cigarette, his face showing only enough to hint at angry, European features despite his obvious, American accent, “Toss the money inside, and leave. The problem will be handled.”

And so here she knelt, in freezing rain, ready to correct the problem. It was her job. She was an assassin for the highest bidder. She did her job well, had eliminated more targets than most in her line of work. Partly, it was her handler that allowed her to get her work, and partly it was the fact that no-one suspected a small, ex-gymnast girl with a dyke spike and no tits could ever be a threat.

She smiled at the thought. Lightning cracked. Her finger laid over the trigger. Her breath stopped. The world around her was silent. For a moment, the thunder seemed not to come. She knew it would, even through a calm dispassion.

Then, the low rumble. The trigger was squeezed. A crack and the thunder apexed. The rifle recoiled with a thump and near-invisible flash from its barrel. It was hidden from view before Wilco’s brain finished splattering out the far-side of his head. The trophy’s screams signaled the successful hit as the rifle broke down into its few pieces, was deposited into the small backpack she kept it in. She slipped back inside the empty apartment in time for a group to gather around Wilco’s corpse.

Someone examined the tempered glass to locate the single, small hole while she made her way down in the elevator. It stopped at a random floor, her masquerade solid as a man entered and paid her no mind. Somewhere in her pack, the rifle was still warm with fresh powder, but no-one could ever know.

When the elevator opened in the lobby, police cruisers screamed past. She and the man from the elevator exited the building together.

He stopped to watch the cruisers fly past and around the corner, pulled on a set of gloves, and mused aloud, “Must’ve been an accident.”

She didn’t smirk, or smile, or anything else that would indicate inside knowledge. Instead, she was indifferent, stone-faced, “Guess so.”

She and the acquaintance parted ways. Off on their separate paths to their seemingly ordinary lives. Her job was done and it was time to collect payment. Lighting cracked overhead to blind anyone watching, but by the time their vision would have returned, she had disappeared into the rain-storm, and back into obscurity.