Bonus Short Story: No Questions Asked

A news-vid blared on the television. It was an old, tube type. Manta wasn’t even sure how it got signals in the digital age. She didn’t need to be. It was like her; it did its job, no questions asked, and that was that. It was currently saying something about Aries Security Corporation’s CEO being missing. Manta turned over on the tattered old couch, groaned with a hangover, and tried to sit up.

Beer and whiskey bottles cascaded off of her and clattered onto the floor. Manta’s head was saved from the brain-melting noise by a series of fast food wrappers dampening the ruckus. It wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the damned, vat-grown liver she’d been given after an accident. She’d been on retainer then with a corp, off-the-books of course, and when she wound up in hospital, the corp footed the bill. Auto accidents were a rarity these days. Few cars filled the roads, even fewer manually piloted.

So she’d been drunk, big deal. Locust Group still had had no right to go rooting around in her organs. Though if they hadn’t, she’d be dead of cirrhosis, or something-else alcohol related. That would’ve been fine by her. Billions of dead creatures over the years and not a single one had ever complained. Meanwhile, ten dentists couldn’t agree on what kind of toothpaste to use– although you could be certain it would be made by the corp that owned them, and the most expensive of the choices at that.

She sat upright, then fell forward in a hunch. Her head rang. Goddamn vat-grown organs. They could be engineered and catalyzed to literally grow overnight. In the morning, they’d be more robust than any natural-one that’s ever existed. Still, she wouldn’t wish it on her worst enemies.

She couldn’t get drunk, or rather could, but only with great difficulty. She could still smoke cigarettes, grass, and take pills– as long as their ingredients weren’t metabolized in the liver– and she’d get high, no problem.

But Drunk?

If she wanted to get drunk she had to spend damn near all her creds on beer and whiskey. Nightly. Forget trying to go out, that was a one-way ticket to the poor-house. The only thing that had somehow remained the same, or rather grew proportionally, was the morning-after hangover. It was like having an 18-wheeler roll half its wheels over your head, turn around, then do it again with the other half.

“Bastards,” she muttered habitually.

The corps had no right to go rooting around in her organs– or they shouldn’t have had one anyway. L-G, ASC, and the other head-honchos, managed to get all the rights of various state citizenships with none of the responsibilities. Manta had heard years ago of a “new world order;” this was it. Corps. Slang for corporations. In other words, big, hydra-like entities with more money and brown-nosing than a stripper’s asshole at a fetish-party.

Manta begrudgingly cursed life and her still-functioning organs, drug herself to her feet. Wading through the liquor bottles that covered the flat’s floor, she swayed, eyes half-closed, to the kitchenette. She went about the excruciatingly noisy process of making coffee– real coffee, one of the few luxuries of being used by one corp against another. It was always in her contract, at least since L-G’s “mandatory” organ replacement.

She leaned back against a counter, closed her eyes to open a comm-channel with her in-built augments. Another gift of the corps, this one a necessity even to her. Internal comms were encrypted to user specs, could be changed with one good session at a PC. Plus, when she wanted it, she got a HUD with everything imaginable. If something she could imagine wasn’t there, she’d just spend another session at a PC creating and uploading it.

A tone like a phone’s sounded. Then, a man’s voice, “Yeah?”

“Where d’you want the package?” Manta yawned.

“I’ll transfer a set of coordinates. Be there at Noon.”

The comm went dead and Manta knew he was gone. She flashed her HUD on to check the time. “10:28” was sequestered in a lower corner with a few, monitored vitals. It wouldn’t be long now. A small mail icon flashed in the HUD’s upper-left corner. She opened it mentally, linked its info to her GPS software. A mini-map appeared below the mail-icon. Waves of light rolled across it over a line that appeared, directing her through the city from her present location.

She sighed, downed a cup of coffee, then weaved through the bottle-filled floor for a door off the kitchen. She opened it to a small, cramped pantry. Instead of shelves of non-perishables and snack boxes, a man was curled up. He leaned to one side, hands bound, eyes covered by a swatch of cloth, and mouth duct-taped.

Manta nudged him with a foot, “Hey.” He jerked awake, yelling into the tape in a muffled attempt at intimidation. Manta shook her head, jabbed him with a booted toe, “Look, I don’t care what you’re saying. I’ve gotta’ job to do. You’re wanted across town, and I’m to deliver you there.”

The man cursed loud enough, that even muffled, Manta understood him. She jabbed him with a toe again, “Shut up and stand up. I’m too hung-over to pick you up.” The man slowly clawed his way up the wall. “Don’t worry, I can still kill you pretty easily. Benefits of augs and all that.”

He sneered a little beneath the duct-tape. She pulled him forward, got behind him to direct him. A few minutes later they were sitting side-by-side in a black, Hyper-Dyne sedan. The alley was empty, but its windows were tinted black to hide them from passersby anyhow. Manta keyed up her location, started the engine manually. They rolled out onto a main street. She wished for a working radio, but the corp-sedans never had them; it was extraneous, not cost-effective.

Instead she reached sideways, tore the duct-tape off the guy’s mouth. He instantly shouted, “You’ll never get away with this!”

She winced, blinked hard, head throbbing from the volume, “Christ man! I get it. You wanna’ be freed. I can’t do it. Sorry. We’ve gotta’ make our creds. All of us. Me included.”

“You’re going to kill me,” he growled angrily.

“No,” she countered reassuringly. “They might, but I won’t. Not part of the job description. There’s only one person I want dead most days– two when I’m really feeling my self-loathing.”

“You’re a nutjob.”

“And you’re an asshole, elitist, corp-CEO. D’you know what I could get for the bounty on you?” She asked pointedly. “I can guarantee you it’s a fuckuvalot more than what I’m getting for this job. But see, I’m not nuts, and wouldn’t do this without another corp covering me.”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?” He asked crassly, though Manta detected morbid curiosity.

“You know as well as I do what’d happen to someone that just flies off the handle and starts taking out high-ranking corp execs.”

“No. I don’t. Enlighten me,” he said with an acidic tone.

She rolled her eyes, “The same thing the corps do to any threat they can’t buy off. Even if I managed to duck on corp-sec, I might as well be dead. None of my contacts would ever wanna’ work with me again. They’d be too afraid to be put in coffins themselves.”

She paused as she made a wide turn into an empty parking lot. The car rolled to a stop.

“So like I said, I won’t kill you. It’s them you gotta’ worry about.”

There was a momentary silence as he contemplated her sincerity. He was suddenly curious, casual, “Who are they?”

She cracked her window, lit a cigarette, shoved one in his mouth and lit it too. She exhaled a large plume, “I don’t know. Might be L-G. Maybe Arc Systems or Guardian L-L-C. Hell, it might even be someone in Aries gunning for your spot. I don’t know. I don’t care. I just do the job, get paid, and drink. No questions asked.”

A black van appeared beside them. It rolled to a stop and its back doors opened. A few, large men appeared. One moved for Manta’s window.

She snuffed out his cigarette. “Ride’s here.” The door opened and he was pulled out. “G’luck.”

She rolled down her window enough to be receive a usb-stick. It would be filled with a bit currency routing number to receive payment from. She’d slot it once she got home, get the other-half of her paycheck. The van’s doors slammed shut and the man at the window disappeared. The van rolled away.

Manta stayed long enough to finish her cigarette. For a moment she wondered what would happen to the guy. It wasn’t long before she remembered it didn’t matter. She didn’t ask questions, ever. She just did the job, got paid, and got drunk. It was the same indifference the corps used, and she didn’t mind emulating it, especially against them. Seeing as the first two acts of her mantra were complete, it was time for the third.

She started the engine, headed for the liquor store.

Short Story: All in a Day’s Work

It was dark, dank. The whole place had a smell of mold and mildew. It was just like the places she’d hung around in her youth; abandoned basements with random, leaky pipes. The only difference was that she was above ground. A few hundred feet above it, actually. She wasn’t even sure what the hell could leak from this old junker. All she knew was that it was, and it felt more homely for it.

Izzy Merritt was twenty. She had all the markings of someone her age who’d lived with the streets and shadows as their home. Her brown dreadlocks, streaked with rainbow highlights, bore bone clasps and pipes interwoven with neutral colors. They accented the other, random objects like dyed feathers and random hemp twine. Enough piercings covered her face and ears for them to glint silver in passing, but not enough that any competed for view-time.

Her body bore the eccentricities of youth and street living too; rail-thin, almost emaciated. A sinuous strength said it spent as much time running from corps and cops as swaying to hypnotic trance beats. It had even infected her walk with a saunter that seemed crafted to tease and tantalize. Most would have called her a free spirit, though some derisively. Izzy, on the other hand, knew that was bullshit.

There was no such thing as freedom anymore. Not really. Either you fought the system, or it swallowed you whole. If there was anything Izzy was, it was a fighter. Maybe not physically, though she could hold her own, survive, but mentally. Brain-over-brawn attacks were just as effective, more so even, provided you knew what you were doing. At that, Izzy sure as hell knew what she was doing.

She presently stood in the bridge of a mostly hollowed-out freighter. Its gnarled corpse of steel and rust had come to rest in an ancient Tokyo harbor. CRTs for radar and informatics displays were still present in the place, despite being out of use for decades. Back in the day, they’d kept the ship on course or from running into others. Now they sat beneath layers of dust, puddles, and trash, as unused as any of the old gear like them. It was obvious the ship hadn’t run in decades.

Izzy figured as much. It was barely standing. It only remained above water because, aside from being taller than the harbor’s modest depth, it had come to a rest at a slight angle. Curiously enough, though it had been scrapped from roughly the mid-point to the stern, it remained sound enough to host a little street kid and her tech without much grief. She sensed she’d found something, if not permanent, temporary enough to call home.

The Bridge’s slight angle meant any thing cylindrical would roll away. She circumvented the issue by laying out her sleeping bag against the rear of a console. Ahead was another, but with enough space between them that she could lay out her bag and gear without issue.

She sat down, tattered backpack before her. She had a place to live now. Tokyo had been unforgiving lately, but it seemed karma was coming ’round to make her even again. Or at least, it would until she finished what she was about to do.

She dug through her pack for a laptop, set it on her lap. The odd protuberance of the battery in the rear bulged out awkwardly. The solar cell collector she’d installed was one of her own design, the battery it serviced even more-so. She’d created both to get around never having power outlets to jack into. The design and juice was more than ample, especially for what she was about to do.

She pulled up a list of net connections nearby, ran a brute-force software crack she’d designed. Thanks to the years of rising security, a WEP-key wasn’t difficult to crack anymore. Not for someone with a program like this. A command prompt opened, spooled out thousands of lines of code with each blink.

She pulled out a bag of Tokyo Cheeba to roll a joint and pass the time. Grass was easy to find now that most of the world had legalized it. Japan was still a ways behind in that regard, but it didn’t stop smugglers, traders, or everyday tourists from bringing the stuff in by the truck-full. It also made it easy for a street-kid to do five minutes of work, make it look like thirty, and walk away with a few ounces as payment for a job well done.

She sparked up the joint as the program cracked the WEP-key. The computer icon winked in the upper corner of her OS with a notification, “net connection complete on secure uplink: The Varden.”

It was one of the nearby freighters. She couldn’t say which, but calling a net connection something like that was what people hosting public access points did. “The this” or “the that,” or corp-name “guest network–” Things that only made them easier targets.

“Whatever,” she muttered for no reason in particular.

Her thoughts had been hectic lately, especially given her last “home” had been raided. She wasn’t the only one squatting there. In fact, she was one of a few dozen. Some asshole though, had got it in his head to mess with the Yakuza. Instead of just killing the guy outright, they’d sent in their corporate-security. Everyone scattered, scrambled for freedom– or rather, just fled. Some were gunned down. Others were arrested, printed, charged, and wouldn’t see daylight outside a corp-prison’s grounds for another twenty years, if ever.

She pulled up a pair of web browsers side-by side, fished a sheet of old-fashioned paper out of her pack. A list of numbers and words were scrawled on it, neatly spaced. With a series of quick clicks, she brought up logins for administrators of each of the sites. The banks would never know what happened. Her IP was masked, her MAC non-existent, and everything else identifying her a forged or stolen credential.

She flitted over to one window, keyed in an account number, then transferred a few thousand bitcoins into an account she’d memorized. She closed the window, repeated the process with the next, then closed it too. She slotted a chip into a reader on one side of the laptop, then keyed in a few commands on a prompt.

A few lines of code made a rubric with account numbers to one side, “transfer” in the middle, and a bit-currency amount to the right. The account balance below them read, “10,000;” somewhere around $500,000, if the US economy had ever survived.

She took a deep hit off her joint, shut the laptop, and kicked back. The banks could never trace the encryption on her bit-currency account– or any bit-currency account for that matter. That was the point. The black market functioned solely on that encryption, and there were a hell of a lot more people who wanted it that way than didn’t. Didn’t matter if they were on the corp’s side or not, bit-currency was here to stay, and so was the encryption.

She relaxed with a long exhale, felt the stoned haze descend. She gazed up at the dusty, dripping room, “It’ll work. With some new décor, anyhow.”

She laughed to herself. She could afford to buy a ship brand new now. But she wasn’t stupid. She wouldn’t blow all the creds at once.

She took another deep hit, exhaled slow, “All in a day’s work.”


So here it is, a year since I began regularly posting to the Logbook. Essentially, a year since its birth. A lot’s been said, or rather typed, and I couldn’t be more pleased by the result. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who’s read my work. It always makes my day when I receive comments, likes, and follows, or see the stats page with its ever-growing numbers. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life but writing, and I sincerely hope the past year is just the start of things.

With all of that in mind, let’s get down to brass tacks: I’ve posted tons of work, and will continue to, but there’s something else lingering on the horizon– or rather, a few things. First and foremost is my book, The Omega Device.

For those unaware, I’ve written a book (several actually) that is about to be self-published. Why? Simply, I don’t care to wait for agents and publishers anymore. I’ve put over five years of blood, sweat, and yes even tears, into this book. It’s the culmination of a lot of things in my life. From the time of its first draft to now its final, I’ve struggled to find purchase as both a writer and a person. Now however, I feel I can take a leap of faith and maybe not splat on the ground quite so terribly as I might have before.

And that is largely due to all of you, readers.

The next thing, is the Logbook Archives. If you’re a regular to the site, or simply have explored beyond the main page, you may have seen the Logbook Archives page which lists all of my posted works. Its usually updated every few weeks. You may also have seen the previous posts where I’ve talked about collecting them into an ebook. Well I just want to assure everyone, that will soon be happening. It will be released shortly after The Omega Device, and will be found wherever it can be hosted.

Lastly, there is one other thing. I’ve always tried to refrain from talking too much about money. I don’t care for the subject, and it turns a lot of people off (myself included.) That said, it’s always going to be something I have to address as a starving artist-type. So to make it easier for all involved, in addition to my book release, I will also be starting a Patreon page for those who want to donate to keep me writing. (If you don’t want to donate, please disregard this and buy the book instead.)

Before I go, I also want to say; (though I don’t want to get too mushy, or personal, because as I’ve said, I prefer my writing to speak for itself.) It is extremely heartwarming and humbling to have put part of myself “out there” and not have it bludgeoned into oblivion. Most of my life I’ve struggled with extreme anxiety. For a writer, that’s a dangerous condition. Against my better self-preservation instincts, I began to post what I’d been working on for years. The confidence you, readers, have helped to impart has allowed me to continue on to new works that have surpassed even my wildest expectations.

As much as I do it for myself, I also write for all of you. I have a strangely, innate ability to distance myself from my work enough to read it as a reader might. I’ve found myself both laughing at and along with myself, being thrilled, suspended over precipices, and strung along excited with the rest of you. I continue to do what I do so that we can share in that together, even if part of me also does it to remain sane.

So before I belabor things too much (too late!) I want to say thank you, and I hope the next year’s even more fruitful than the last. Thank you for an amazing first year!


P.S: Just so you all know I’m not just talk, I present the cover to The Omega Device, coming soon to a digital bookstore near you! (I’m still in the process of purchasing the font rights, so don’t sue me.)

Coming Soon!

Short Story: Eternal Optimists

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Paris Incident by now. Who hasn’t? It was the sole trigger to the single greatest atrocity in modern history– and I speak as a German whom hasn’t forgotten her history. The Corps may have purged the bombings from the light ‘net and the media archives, but where I’m from, we still live with it. Everyday.

I wake up to a half-leveled horizon outside my window. There’s always frost there when the sun comes up. It doesn’t help that we have no heat in the building. Unless you count barrels of fire as heating. I don’t. After I eat whatever I’ve scrounged up or gathered from the air-drops by neighboring rebels or surviving humanitarian organizations, I head downstairs to the book store I live above.

Funny how some things never quite go out of style. For decades there were people who said that print media was dead. E-readers and web-books were supposed to make the written word obsolete. I can only laugh at the thought– one of few that elicits such emotion nowadays. Those people never realized you couldn’t use e-readers without electricity, or god forbid, the internet.

I miss the light ‘net. All we get around here’s the dark-net, and that’s used for encrypted communications between rebel cells. We simply can’t risk linking the light-net to any of the people here. The few that even have access are lucky. Most of them rigged scavenged-solar cells to old, power-hungry laptops provided by various cells around the continent. Most are grateful, but it makes me feel like we’re a charity case.

Imagine that, all of Berlin, once a powerful seat of progress in a technologically-minded country like Germany, groveling for scraps and hand-outs. There are probably only a few thousand of us left now. The corp-bombings saw to that. When Lemaire fell, and Paris burst into flames, London and Berlin were next in line. There were other places too, but most were small– too small to notice when they were wiped out completely.

But as a haven of technology and free-thought, instilled since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we had the greatest concentration of Augs– that is to say Cybernetic or bionically augmented humans. Whoever wasn’t directly an Aug, was an “Aug-sympathizer.” Everyone knew that, including the corps. So when the proverbial sheisse hit the fan, everyone was splattered with it. When I say that, what I mean is; after two weeks of battling on the streets in major cities around the globe, the offended players banded together to bomb the rest of us back to the stone age. Literally.

Berlin got the worst of it. If there’s any solace to be take from our fate, it’s that we managed to wound the corps’ bottom lines enough to push them out of Germany altogether. We’d taken over most of their buildings, destroyed the rest, cut down those whom sided against us in the fighting. Most were slayed by the waves of bodies that filed through the burning streets.

We Germans have a way of being ruthless to a point of barbarism at times– not from a lack of humanity, quite the opposite in fact. We care so deeply and passionately about things that our natural ambitiousness makes us too strong-headed and hardhearted at the worst of times. Maybe if we weren’t so consumed by our ambitions then, we’d have stopped to look around at what was happening, or sensed what was about to.

Maybe if we weren’t so enamored with listening to our hearts we’d have heard the Raptor-cries. Maybe even, if we hadn’t been so loving of our augged brothers and sisters– whether literal or figurative– we’d have been righteously hardhearted enough to save ourselves.

But we weren’t. We were eternally the optimists. The same people whom, even generations later, were socially guilt-ridden for Hitler’s actions and determined to make up for it. Each of us felt the shame of World War II, promised not to repeat the mistakes that led to it. Somehow, we still let the corps take charge, and until they began their Nazi-esque campaign of extermination against the Augs, we supported them.

That was the issue though. It always has been for us. We let the evil into our hearts with open arms, ever-believing in the good of Humanity. Instead, we’re soon shown to have been manipulated, our love used against us and those that would otherwise truly deserve it.

The first bombs that fell over Europe targeted three, initial cities; Paris, where it all began; London, where the revolution looked to spread most violently, and Berlin, where the Augs that wouldn’t or couldn’t fight were likely to find sanctuary.

Raptors screamed over Europe with their hard-angled noses spitting chain-gun fire and their rounded bellies splitting to unleash hell. In minutes, any hope for a life in Berlin– for Aug or otherwise– was exterminated, burned to dust in the fires of evil. Before the sun rose the next morning, tens of thousands were dead or dying. Those not killed or critically wounded– and even then some– were distraught, chaotically confused. They tried to save what few they could. Everywhere you went it was like standing in a crowded metro whose noise and movements made you want to cower and weep. Many did. A few couldn’t take it, led themselves out.

I was eighteen when the bombs fell, just into university. I was just old enough to drink, and just young enough to feel the last of my innocence dissected from my heart. It was like I’d been given bypass surgery without anesthetic. The sharpness of grief in my chest was omnipresent in those days, punctuated by the stabbing sounds of rubble as we combed for survivors and dead alike. Most found were the latter.

I remember the worst of it, not because of the grisly scene, but because it was the first time I felt hatred. Hatred is something humans speak of out of anger most times. It is often despair masked by the ego to keep one’s image intact. This was different. This was real, pure hatred; a feeling that filled my mouth with a wetness as though I were goring the throat of a foe with my teeth. From there, it infected my being with a sharpened determination, a strength I have not lost since. It has kept my muscles taught when they should have faltered in fear, steadied my hands when they would have trembled with terror.

I saw a young girl curled in her bed. We’d dug a path to her grave from beneath the collapsed upper-floor of her apartment building. Everything around us was charred black. We were forced to don respirators from the dust and stink of days old, immolated flesh. Then I saw her; curled in her bed as if sleeping peacefully, but where her skin should be was the marred, blackened flesh of a war-crime. She was like one of those Pompeiian victims, forever frozen in her death-pose.

I am a healer, a medic, a surgeon and I feel no shame in admitting I have a strong stomach. I have seen things that could bring the strongest men and women to tears and pained retching. Most of the time, I’m forced to power through them for the sake of the victims– my patients– and I do so. This was so awful I stumbled away in tears and vomited all the grief that I’d held back since the attacks.

Every morning I wake up she occupies my thoughts. Even as I go down through the bookstore, and out into street I think of how she was stolen from this world. She could have been my daughter had I not been more careful. At that, she could have been me if the bombs had been dropped only a few years further beyond than that.

So I walk along the street, largely clear of its debris, and watch the city around me with her in mind. It still has the look of the blitzkrieg turning in on itself. Full, corporate towers are replaced by mounds of rubble, steel and concrete land-fills. Nature has done its best to reclaim the rest while we keep it enough at bay to carry on in our missions.

To that end, my part is simple; keep people alive. I do it for her. Most that come to my clinic down the street are badly injured, either from work-accidents, refugee status, or as acting rebels for the cause. Germany is not without its remaining corporate outposts, but even they steer clear of Berlin. I guess it’s to pick their battles. They already took our government away, any representation or sympathy therein gone with it. Maybe they let us live just to remind the world that, while there may be a place for Augs to hide, it is still due to their good graces.

All the same, every morning I rise for her. The hatred of her image never falters or fails to arouse my determination. So I leave, patch up those whom may one day lead us from darkness and into light. While Lemaire’s death may have caused everything, an unwitting catalyst to a global revolution, it was us that let it happen– the survivors. Whether from our own convictions, or a greater cause, we can not allow ourselves to fall again. At least for us Germans, we’re eternally optimists, believing in a better world with heads even stronger than our unshakable hearts, and finally working toward it.