the end of book one

So, Ortoematic Book One comes to an end with the 52nd episode. I have a whole raft of other things planned for Otto and some of the people you have met. So first off there will be an editing period for the book and then it will be available as a full colour hard copy. Then I will begin work on volume 2. This month is nanowrimo and I am working on a totally different novel project so that is going to occupy me for a second, but don’t worry, Otto will be back!

52. apps


most of the time he was not on jobs he was surfing the dataverse trying to find applications to enhance his body in the functions he needed it to perform. there was little sentimentality on display when assessing where best a piece of equipment might be placed. the body was just a tool like anythng else that he used – he knew some transhumanists who were overly precious about the meat they carried around with them – some of them even went so far as to cryogenically preserve the organs they had removed, just in case something didn’t work out. of course others did it because of concerns that fashion might change and organic might come in again next season. these guys were laughable in his community – there was nothing spiritual in their approach and a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the universe and reality as far as he was concerned. each step he made forward along his path, adapting his body, gave him greater proof that what made him human wasn’t this vessel he was in.

he did however have some thoughts and perhaps reservations about going fully artificial – a plastic brain, a metal body; everything replaced with some kind of facsimile. how would that feel? what would he call himself? what would he be? sure, there were terms that people used but he had never quite felt comfortable with any of those words: they didn’t quite capture the nature of what he believed himself to be. but most of these thoughts were other people’s considerations, and were kind of disposable – not to be used as tool for thinking with.

he remembered the first full-body that he met and it fired his imagination; he sensed that the guy was out there somewhere on the edge of human experience, and he immediately knew that he wanted to travel in that direction. he wanted to increase the toolset that he had and he saw this as being the way to do that.

travel innerspace to arrive in outerspace – that was how they used to sell the evolution. a lot of these guys were post-singularity body-modifiers, or rather they were post-singularity thinking. the evangelical push had trailed off and now it was sold as merely a life betterment. either way it made sense to him – he, like a lot of people, was looking to escape the physical limitations of his body, and he saw this as the way.

he had a lead running from his deck into the back of his neck. he would scan over the description of the app, look whether it need a physical anchor to run in the body, whether you could download the nanoconstruct blueprint, and then he would download it. it was great testing them out, and he knew enough to iron out the bugs and customise it to his own needs.

he was making and re-making himself on a weekly basis, and it felt good. one day he might reach a perfect mechanism – his own personal singularity, but if he never did and he had to keep evolving he wouldn’t mind that so much.

51. carnival

 

it was a safe haven for those who were not easily categorised and didn’t like the intrusive nature of inquiry that had become the way of police lately; had become the way of the intelligence community; had become the way of your average citizen.

they were playing up the cliches so that they could hide the truth – the pickled punks, the fortune teller, the strong man, acrobats, freakshows

that they let otto in their midst was kind of a surprise, but it spoke of his kinship with them and their kind.despite his trade he still needed downtime and a place that he could go and socialise and not have to worry that he was being hacked or having to capture the data of others.

the local bar, the deadzone, was one of his favourite places to hang out. it was information secure and certain rules came in attendance with that – people weren’t allowed to store data or traffick data within its walls. no work or commerce was tolerated.

he looked around him – it was interesting. people relaxing who were usually ducking and diving; making deals left right and centre. he downed another drink, smiled, and relaxed.

‘hey otto, how’s it going?’

‘good, marlon. how is life in the carnival?’

‘good as ever, my friend. i know we can’t talk business here, but how is all that shit going?’

‘same old same old’

‘yeah. anyway, what are you drinking?’

‘flamehead.’

‘cider, right?’

‘yeah, man – new batch of all natural hydroponically grown apples out of the east.’

‘and how do they get them out here?’

‘blip-shipped.’

‘and that doesn’t affect them at all?’

‘no, i understand they stabilised the field they use to move the ship and its contents through space.’

‘man, i’ll have to look into that’

‘by the way, how is carly?’

‘her acrobatic act is going well – she has had some good write ups lately. if you mean the dating game, she’s hooked up with snapper, the turtle guy … sorry, dude.’

‘ah, well, what can you do?’

‘yeah, man; there’s plenty of beautiful women out there’

‘you mean here – i don’t see so many in the day to day.’

‘hmm, carnival women are like … like …’

‘hothouse orchids’

‘damned right.’

marlon was a great guy – good to hang out with; nice easy company who he could have a conversation with and not get into an argument with. the world outside was hectic – abuzz with noise and movement. a seeming technology free zone preserved by technology – that was an irony he could appreciate … it had a lot of value.

50. migrant workers

haagier was guaranteed food as one of the faarji elders and an outputter – the fact that the aliens put out enough energy to power the national grid had made their acceptance by the people of earth a lot smoother than some of the other settlers from elsewhere.

otto found them fascinating and haagier had been hanging out with him for a while now. gathering information on the faarji was something he was doing for pleasure but it was quite possible that sometime in the future that it might be useful.

at the moment the aliens hadn’t progressed beyond cheap labour, but the resentment was low because they did things that very few humans would be able to manage, even with cybernetic enhancement.

as people that were valuable resources moved up the social ladder, as they were bound to do, the tolerance, as it had before, would start to slip, and ignorance would rise up again fired by the obvious differences.

otto was trying to play himself off as a cultural student conducting a study, but not enough of that was true for tit to convince those he was around. they were far from stupid, but they tolerated him because he did no harm to anyone.

‘you are interesting, otto.’

‘yeah, haagier, why is that?’

‘you are different on the surface than you are beneath.’

‘meaning?’

‘meaning both in the sense that you are physically artificial on the outside but you seem genuine on the inside, and you also seem kind of brash sometimes but i sense you are very thoughtful.’

‘you are not used to this?’

‘no, must humans seem to be an instant transfer from brain to mouth – no real substance; you and some others i have met think. so you must think about what you are doing. if you have answers to certain questions – should you answer them?’

subtle – he understood. he left, but he kept in touch.

49. genesplice fashion sense

this would have been an interesting scene to have viewed through the distorting filter of any kind of drug – it was weird enough looking at it totally straight. he thought about dr moreau when he was out here and he knew it was probably not a comparison lost on the scenesters – they were eclectic of taste to say the least.

the grafts he was wearing were on time soluble plates that adhered to the skin and appeared perfectly natural – it wasn’t that odd for people new to genesplicing to try out new looks for leaping in with both feet. he still felt uncomfortable though – usually he had some kind of angle on what it was that his clients intended to use the information he was gathering for – this time he was totally clueless; not a single solitary notion as to what it could be that they wanted from this group.

he had refused to hand out info before because he had decided that it was going to be used for bad things but here he couldn’t get a good read on his employers and that in truth made him even more nervous.

‘i like the look – otto, isn’t it?’

‘yeah.’

‘so, what got you interested?’

‘i’m looking for new experiences’. he smiled: a cliche and an invitation all in one – would this guy be hooked? he believed he would – the guy was trying to come of disconnected and intellectual but he was radiating simplicity and hunger. what the hell was it going to be? some kind of sex trade? some drug trafficking? it sure as hell wasn’t going to be anything to mentally taxing, of that he was sure.

how wrong could he have been? the front man for a chauvinistic genesplice uprising that wanted to get rid of people who were claiming genetic purity. he had to try really hard not to laugh – who the hell really went around doing that? who in the gene-straight community as they called them was looking to do anything to the gene-splicers? none of them as far as he could discern. where the hell did this paranoia spring from?

they had munitions and they had managed to get hold of building plans that should have been out of rage of anyone but the best of the intelligence community; he didn’t like it. he knew he had to get this information back to someone who could do something about this as quickly as possible – sure he was worried about innocent bystanders being hurt, but fuck it, if it stopped the kind of damage that these insane fuckers were talking about then it had to be done. the rest of the night was awkward as hell, and he was thankful that he had found what he was looking for and that he could drop this charade and get out of this fucked up place.

he dropped the information at the pre-arranged drop-box and waited to make sure that it was picked up. he knew that what he was telling his employers would be a spark that would set a huge fire burning.

the following day as he was watching the reporters relaying images of youths laid out like exotic creatures from a fantasist’s dreams he was wondering how he would ever be able to wash the blood off of his own hands. no more jobs like this – he wanted small time crooks and that was all he wanted; no more of this life changing stuff that left people dead … it was just too much.

48. add ons

the softwhere of now, and the hardwhere of then – sometimes he wondered why the whole fucking world seemed to have turned to quicksand. perhaps it was all him and he had become more open to things and that had meant the solidity had ebbed away from his daily dealings; that was an idea that he didn’t like particularly.

the woman sat across from him was not someone he particularly wanted to talk to, but it was something that was becoming increasingly necessary. she sat there with a smug look on her face that basically said there is nothing i do not own and am not in control of.

‘our business is at an end,’ he told her.

‘no, my friend, it most certainly is not.’

‘your retainer is not quite enough to offset the enormous pain in the arse which my acquaintance with you represents.’

‘my acquaintance with you represents your only option. my superiors had suggested killing you a long time ago but i engineered the delay by suggesting that you might have some possible future use for us and our clients.’

‘sorry, i am not interested.’

‘i am afraid that you do not have the luxury of being interested or disinterested – you are not the one in the driving seat here, and you do not set the agenda.’

‘you don’t understand. i have all of you at a disadvantage here – let me demonstrate; the finger i just tugged on released an interference program into your mainframe … or rather i should say i have activated the programs which i have been seeding in you from the start.
‘your footmen are crippled, and your whole system is infiltrated. i know that you see me as some kind of threat and i see you have tamed some of the softer headed individuals out there, but i am not of their kind.’

‘i know things you don’t.’

‘like what, ichtaca darnell? what is it that you know?’

‘you know my name.’

‘and that of your boss.’

‘do you know what a can of worms you have opened?’

‘no – do you?’

he smiled as she disappeared looking distinctly less smug than she had before this little meeting of theirs. he knew he had invited something into his life that was going to cause him a lot of trouble – he would happily take advantage of the breather.

47. Night Vision Goggles

they were creepy motherfuckers – nocturnals dredging through the sewage of culture that washed up on the acrid shores of night. they did a lot of commerce with rats and other edge dwellers, and had no real qualms about dealing with anyone from any strata of life. why should they? they saw the city stripped naked as they moved amongst the shadows, everyone sleeping or having let their guard drop under the cover of night.

otto thought that the one which had been following him was in competition with him but it sought to operate as a standover man and exploit him through means of blackmail. it had taken a while for him to pick up on the masked signals the creature was putting out.

the NVGs, or night vision goggles as they came to be known, were plugged into all the goings on and he hated to think of the vast alternative informational archive they must be accumulating. they probably had stuff that would be the envy of the entire intelligence community.

he took to affixing a network of lights into his outfits that would replicate periodic flashes of sodium flare in an attempt to blind his pursuers. they didn’t seem that bothered by it – in fact they acted as if they enjoyed the challenge. he needed to shake them though, because how the hell was he supposed to do his work if he had a billion networked tails; he did not want to be at the head of a flotilla.

after a while he was starting to get a little desperate, and he couldn’t come up with a single thing that seemed to loosen their grip on him. he decided that if they wouldn’t leave him alone he was just going to have to confront them.

he, unbeknownst them, started to back track them from the signals they were bouncing off of him to work out his location, and he started to lead one of them in such a way that he was going to get trapped in a cul-de-sac, and wouldn’t be able to do anything other than answer his questions.

they sure were cocky bastards, and that as much as anything pissed him off severely. the guy was so fucking close he could feel his breath on his neck, so when he swerved, got behind the guy, and cornered him his tail was really surprised. he grabbed hold of him by the front of his jumpsuit and shook him violently.

‘what the fuck is your deal? why the hell are you and your friends following me all over the place and fucking up my business.’

otto could tell this guy was not going to put up much of a fight – he looked genuinely worried.

‘you know that retainer they’re paying you?’

‘yes?’

‘well, the fact that you’re still out on the street and not sat at home vegetating means that they consider it a failure. so they hired us to come in and fuck with you.’

‘why would you do that? what about the code of honour amongst those in the trade?’

‘the money’s just too fucking attractive – and it keeps so many of us in business; the loyalty we have to an idea that protects someone who isn’t one of us stretches only so far.’

‘motherfucker. so, you’re not going to stop, are you?’

‘why would we?’

otto kicked him very hard in his nutsack and left. he was off to see someone about backing the fuck off.


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counting toes

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