All Her Precious Things

Following a long break from posting and, to some extent, writing in general, I happened across a writing prompt posted on the io9 website.  A series of excellent prompts based on pieces of concept art, the project is helmed by Lauren Davis.  This particular prompt found its way to me via Pinterest (a wonderful time sink).  The original article is here:

http://io9.com/5983057/concept-art-writing-prompt-a-mechanical-monster-passes-an-outdoor-cafe

and the illustration:

Tatsuyuki Tanaka 'Canabis Works'

The art is the work of Tatsuyuki Tanaka and is taken from his book ‘Cannabis Works’.  Something about the illustration caught my imagination (his work is incredible) and dovetailed nicely with both an odd news story I had read and my growing desire to write again.  The following short story/flash fiction is the result.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

‘All Her Precious Things’

She doesn’t see them coming to end her life.  She is Chu-Hua, Princess of the Chrysanthemum Mechanique, most skilled Nanoweaver of the realm.  It never occurs to her that anyone would dare try.  Mired in complacency, her mind fails to process the tell-tales.

Their first move is to hack the guardian software in her mecha.  She is only aware of the intrusion once the first symptom manifests. The Amphibimech: lumbering menace, lethal construct, infected with a pacifist virus, its defensive protocols deconstructed, leaving it to recite obscure Buddhist sutras through crude vocal synthesis.

“Para, Para, Paragate,”

The mantra is voiced in counterpoint to the syncopated clunks and whirs of the Amphibimech’s decelerating motion and provides the soundtrack to her downfall.

Now everything is spiralling away from her, free-fall down some dark gravity well of despair. Accretion of effort, stolen away. Digital banditry.

She experiences a surrealistic shift into comic book panels of disbelief as the assault dismantles her life.  Anger flares from her narcotic fugue, white hot behind tired eyes as the first depleted uranium shell thunks into the Amphibimech’s piecemeal armour. Implosion, explosion, she can’t be sure. The result is the same: high end Russian plating, systematically atomised.

Glancing down at Hippocampus, expecting to find him executing a flurry of defensive countermeasures.  Finding instead an impassive stance, her diminutive bodyguard wearing a glazed expression she has not seen before.

She is exposed.

Fight or flight dilemma takes hold and for a moment her body is non-responsive.  Too slow.  Death unfolding from shadows across the plaza.  There.  Two ronin.  One is sleek, inky doom.  Hacker’s console in hand.  The other, elevated, she sees now, appearing as a shade from a Pharaoh’s tomb.  Ugly protrusion of his rifle’s suppressor beneath the polarised eye of his scope.

Too late, she realises what is happening to her.  Feels the drain as midnight fingers play across the face of the console.  All her precious things, now subjected to asset decay.  She knows the sniper’s shot will not be far behind now.  Knows with certainty the exact moment he will choose to end her.  No choice now.

Logout.

Mei collapsed back into the mess of her bed, breathing heavy, blinking away tears in the ghost light from her monitor.

Who had paid them?  That was a professional hit.  Everything that matters is gone.

She heard the faint melody of her mother’s phone, signifying new mail, right there, in her room somehow.  Mei rubbed exhaustion from her eyes and slowly focussed on her mother, sat imperiously in Mei’s favourite armchair.  One look at her mother’s smug expression and she knew.

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

The smile, formed by ageing lips, tightened into something entirely insincere.  “You’ve finished playing?  I’m surprised.  What’s wrong?”  Her mother’s tone of mock innocence was underscored with bitterness, maybe even loathing.

Mei shivered involuntarily.  Bitch.

“You know damn well what’s wrong,” Mei said.  “You had someone ruin my account.”

Her mother shrugged and lit a black LuShan.  “Maybe, maybe not.”

“I was the best on the server!  Maybe even the entire game!”

“Now you can be best at life.  Tomorrow we start a new game.  Go to see the Match Maker.  Then the labour placement officer.  Like I say, new game.”

Mei’s shivers had escalated, building into a full blown adrenal storm, pushing her muscles into spasms of indignation.

“Get.  Out!”   Her scream likely resonated through the entire complex.  She didn’t care.

Later that night, Mei returned to her PC, her eyes bright with new purpose.  Her mother had ruined her life.  Now it was time to return the favour.

New Game.

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Tracing Contessa

This week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt proved to be another which gave me several ideas and, with the exception of  a riff on the old Crossroads myth, all fell neatly into the Future-Noir setting I love to inhabit.  So initially, it was which to choose.  The thing is, the ideas were there but the words were not.  Brain fade.  Ultimately, a new idea came to me and it brought some words along for the ride.  Today’s post is the result.  Here’s the photo prompt:

This week Madison has posted a guest photo, courtesy of Mary Shipman.  The post, along with Madison’s own story and links to all the other authors, is here:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/old-wallpaper/

Take a look and get involved, if you are so inclined.

On the subject of photos, I would like to briefly introduce and recommend my lovely wife’s new (and thoroughly excellent) photo blog.  She has a wonderful eye and an artistic flair I’m sure many will appreciate.  Please take a look and let her know what you think 🙂

http://helenfloodphotography.wordpress.com/

And now, weighing in at a hefty 165 words, may I present to you…

 

Tracing Contessa

Sleep fell from her, dissipating along with vague echoes of dreaming. The Umbilicorder ceased its phallic probing of her cortex and retracted into the bulbous base unit. Dirty washes of light played across the dilapidated room as the biomechanoid console considered the products of her REM sleep.

Beneath her, plastic sheets covered a debauched mattress, thick with the history of Contessa Macabre’s most infamous flesh parlour. Domino lit a cigarette and hunted kanji in the smoke, waiting.

The door became a thousand tiny splinters under the force of their arrival; three looming giants with parchment skin where eyes should have been. Their tombstone voices were unified, a crushing cacophony.

“You have dreamed too close to the truth. We take you now.”

Domino blinked, her irises swirling to crimson.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Once the Correctors lay ruined and twitching, Domino introduced the Umbilicorder to what was left of the leader. The readout made her smile. Now she knew where the Contessa lived.

Reversal

Sometimes, you have to walk in the bad guy’s shoes to get the story written.  This is a case in point.  The photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers from Madison Woods gave me a few good ideas and, happily, one of them stuck around.  Originally I had conceived the story from the POV of the protagonists.   It just wouldn’t work.  I had the scene all laid out but couldn’t find the right approach, the right words.

Then I got the idea to ditch two characters, switch to the POV of the villain and try it that way.  This week’s story is the product of that process.  Here’s the photo prompt:

Madison’s take on this, along with links to all the other writers’ stories can be found at:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/barbed-wire-and-bulls/

I hope you enjoy what follows.  I certainly had fun writing it (in the end), in no small part due to it anonymously featuring one of my long running characters.  She gets everywhere these days 😉  Thanks for reading and please feel free to write a comment.  They are always greatly appreciated.

Reversal

Veinripper’s breath is a hot and rancid thing as jaundiced eyes track the darting form of the Japanese girl stealing into his lair. She is pretty and softly curved, just like his other victims. The tight thing she wears sets his hair bristling. It shifts and blends, steals the light.

She is not like the others.

He dislocates his jaw, facilitating the guttural roar which sets his guardians on the trail of this interloper. Malignant coils of barbed wire, semi-sentient and wholly evil slither and skitter with impossible speed toward the girl. Unperturbed, she closes on him. Panic and fear escalate within as Veinripper realises she is too fast.

“Come, little one! Let me show you what Veinripper does to women.”

A faint, deadly smile parts her lips. “Your name gives me an idea.”

She settles on her haunches as his first scream bubbles up from ruined lungs. “Did you know your thorny little pets can be reprogrammed?”

Lowtown Hanami / Haikyo

Well this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt from Madison Woods inspired several ideas in me, two of which just wouldn’t go away.  This is the first one I ended up writing and it is a little longer than has been the norm, clocking in at 177 words.  I like the tone and imagery of this story, and to change it for the sake of a word count just didn’t feel right.  The second piece, ‘Haikyo’, is much shorter and darker.

Here’s the photo in question, as kindly provided by Madison Woods:

Madison’s story, along with links to all the other Friday Fictioneers stories, can be found at:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/dynamite/drip-100-words/

I hope you enjoy both stories this week.  Here is the first (please scroll down the post to read the second story, ‘Haikyo’):

‘Lowtown Hanami’

Troll sighed as he watched droplets of water fall from biomesh suspended above his microcosmic garden. Oblivious of Troll’s mood, a pixie sat within, reading a nanobook, gossamer wings fluttering contentedly in the lambent glow of a tinfoil lantern. Living in Lowtown wasn’t the problem; transhuman outcasts had formed a warm community, right beneath the feet of those who exiled them. It was the shortages that irritated. Even water was currency now.

“Still cultivating tiny Zen havens?”

Domino, the geisha assassin had ghosted her way into his home again. She always moved freely in the Tiered City. Most were too scared to suggest she act otherwise.

“A gift,” she said simply and placed something in his gnarled palm. Troll knew instantly what it was and placed it under the drips.

“You stole sakura so we can have hanami festival?”

Domino shrugged shyly. “It belongs here.”

The nanoformed cherry tree which time-lapsed into being was exquisite, its blossoms a perfect neon ephemera, radiant in the twilight. Troll smiled.

“I’ll go get the beer.”

And  here is the second story:

‘Haikyo’

They flitted through the ghost city, Crow guiding Sparrow on his first haikyo adventure. He marvelled at what The Vanishing had left behind: tower husks reverberating with echoes of life, artefacts of the mundane, rendered strange by their permanence.

Sparrow felt his gaze compelled to the ceiling, musty loam trembling with moisture and energy. He asked Crow about it.

“Alternate energy experiment. Top government secret. Why this place empty.”

“It’s… dripping,” Sparrow said, feeling the onset of dread.

“Yes.”

“What’s it made from? Looks weird.”

“It is -” Her blade slid neatly between vertebrae, severing life. “People like you.”

Meet Me There

Having had an easy time writing for last week’s Friday Fictioneers, the cosmic balance saw me struggling to write this time out.  I’ll point the finger in equal measure at both fatigue and an over-abundance of ideas.  The photo prompt this week was exciting for me insofar as I saw an opportunity to make a link, however tenuous it might be, to a story featuring some of my cyberpunk/future-noir characters and their attendant settings and atmosphere.  I love this stuff, so it’s super difficult for me not to write in great depth about neon reflecting in rainslick streets populated by throngs of people right off the set of Blade Runner.  Writing a piece of approximately 100 words was challenging to say the least.

Anyway, here is this week’s photo prompt, kindly provided by Madison Woods:

Madison’s story, along with links to all the other Friday Fictioneers stories, can be found at:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/expectations/

I hope you enjoy the story.  As always, any feedback, comments and thoughts are always appreciated 🙂

‘Meet Me There’

The Enclave hacker was a confusion of biotech and cybernetics, humanity forsaken in the pursuit of bleeding edge performance in the net.  Her one remaining eye regarded Masden expectantly through a neon lit haze of stratified opium smoke.  He slid the required data chip across the table.

“Take me to her.”

Cherry’s virtual space resembled a private park, secreted at the fringe of Neo-Tokyo.  The diminutive foxgirl wrapped him in an enthusiastic embrace, her vulpine ears and tail twitching with delight. Masden felt his heart swell.

“I got away, Masden. You saved me. I’m beyond the reach of the Scarlet Union now. Remember this place: the bench, the tunnel. Meet me there.”

The Lasting Kind

This week I make a happy return to Madison Woods’s ‘Friday Fictioneers’.  Having been short on time and mental energy recently, it feels good to be back.  I wrote this one pretty much entirely in my head while washing up.  That’s usually a good indicator for a story I can enjoy and be happy with.  Here’s the photo prompt which set it off:

Madison’s site hosts the original image along with her story.  Other authors’ stories will be linked in the comments section there.  Here’s the link to follow:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/contemplation-a-poem/

I hope you enjoy the story and, as ever, I’m always keen to hear what readers make of all this, so please feel free to leave a comment.  Thanks for taking the time to stop by 🙂

‘The Lasting Kind’

In the final days of the Hierophant, my people disappeared from this world. I alone remain; how and why, I do not know.  Such knowledge is kept by a corpulent ruler of men.  His perfidy invigorates me.  Guides me.

Dawn approaches and my every step through this forest is shadowed by a preternatural silence.  The denizens of the wood know who walks among them.  Just as my footfalls scorch the very earth, nascent light steals my eyes and sears my skin.  I sink into the frigid depths of the river and wait.  Tonight I will become blackest vengeance, stalking the corridors of his palace.  His shrieking doomsong will be my people’s lament.

Facsimile Forest

A busy Friday to bookend a busy week.  I’d still like to try my best to keep up with Madison Woods’s Friday Fictioneers and so I’ve written another piece of flash inspired by her photo prompt:

Madison’s site hosts the original image along with her story.  Other authors’ stories will be linked in the comments section there.  Here’s the link to follow:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/you-wanna-piece-a-me-100-words/

I intially hit a proverbial brick wall with this one but eventually something sparked/short circuited the synapses and several ideas collided at once.  ‘Facsimile Forest’ ended up being the winner.  I hope you enjoy it.  Thank you for stopping by 🙂

‘Facsimile Forest’

The vanishing haunts me still. I remember being swallowed by a prowling, inky void and a crushing loss of sensory input. Then came the chamber, inconceivable in immensity and design. My new home.

They have subjected me to a labyrinthian maelstrom of alien environments, gravity and perceived time shifting with no discernable purpose. And each time I near the fringes of sanity, they use their nanotechnology to conjure a companion for me. These fabricants now serve only to deepen my dementia and despair.

Today I find myself waking in a facsimile forest to the speculative nuzzlings of a pensive, wet nosed dog. Something is different here. Behind the eyes. I begin to weep. This dog is real.