Authors note: All posted excerpts are rough, uncorrected text only.
From Chapter One: Shattered
11th September 2044: 11:01:07 UMT Bristol, England
The hand. Examine it balled into a fist. What is it? A threat gesture. A crude attempt to intimidate. Do what I want or you will feel pain. Obey me and you will not suffer damage. Sure, something that will hurt if the knuckles make contact with your body’s tenderer parts at speed. Otherwise merely a waving echo of frustration and pointless anger.
Yet what an elegant entity is the fist. A miracle of evolution, biology, chemistry, electricity, and quantum interconnectivity. A point source in space time. Let us dissect it.
First we see the skin, wrinkling and stretching as the fingers bunch, pocked with pores and fine hair. Marked in places with the ridged whiteness of scar tissue. Each one a timeline, a string of events. Joints lined with the stretch marks of movement, pulled taut and smooth over bone and sinew as fingertips pull in towards the palm, and the flouro-glo painted thumbnail tucks under.
The skin, a complexity of epidermis and sub dermal layers. Punctuated by follicles and tiny sweat glands. A self healing biological machine in its own right sheathing muscle, cartilege and bone. An amazingly complex covering for a blunt instrument. Yet this is only the beginning of our journey. Down through the dermal layers, riddled with tiny capillaries to the sinew and muscles beneath in a slipping dance of constant motion, strung with nerves constantly firing, twitching, contracting, always living, never still. Blood vessels bringing glucose, nutrients and oxygen to fuel and heat this restless entity, and bone; crystalline calcium lined and glued with differing types of sinew and cartilage. Beautifully sculpted miniature versions of the bodies larger bones which are hollow and filled with stringy blood cell replenishing marrow.
The elegance of slick ended articulation that is a joint, swivelling and rotating as desired. Pulled and pushed by collections of sinews. Like the control surfaces of modern aircraft run by cunning software; constantly correcting, seeking stability. The sinews tugged by muscle contractions, overlying fibres contracting to pull here, then there to make movement happen. Adductor’s and synergists pulling here and there to stabilise the structure. Now the whole, the distal phalanges, metacarpals bound by sinew and cartilage into an intricate, twenty seven boned, four fingered mobile structure with opposable thumb sat atop two smooth cartilage bone ends of the Ulna and Radius. Capable of elegant dexterity, sensitivity and incredible delicacy. Here as its most brutal iteration.
Chemicals control nerve firings, a drop of acetylcholine here, too little, too much lets the electricity of life fire a nerve, twitches a muscle, tightens a finger. Never still, restlessly alive, always seeking perfection.
Down through chemistry to the electricity, the lightening net that drives the body, bouncing electrons from atomic orbits into other atoms. Like solar systems gleefully swapping planets, causing current to flow down electrochemical paths. Flowing down a river of acetycholine, amino acids, peptides and monamines. Flickering like an internal aurora of charge and discharge down special branching cell structures.
From the electrical down to the atomic, and thence to Quantum, the great river of everything, all is connected. We are here, but here is also there, and there, and there. Particles react, all is interconnection. At the Quantum level all is position, vector and speed. Matter is energy, energy matters. Without energy there is no matter, so nothing will matter, we must move or die. Stillness holds its own motion, rolling with a planet, ingesting, excreting, buzzing in place, a vibration in space time that is a human fist.
The eye sees the fist, the ears hear the anger, but all is position, inertia, energy. Poised for a sub second in an infinity of possibilities.
“E’s fackin harrassin me! Wacher gonna do abaht it copper!” The owner of the fist, a badly tattooed woman wearing far too little tight clothing on a body long abused by many better days and nights screams in his face, her ePhone aggressively waved far too close for him to focus. The stink of a recently smoked joint clinging like gel to tacky bright coloured clothing. It was pointless to try and read the offending obscene phone message. He was just a convenient authority figure to scream her rag bag of frustrations at.
Constable Paul Gregory Calvin knew all about Sandy and her ex. Flung together on a stoned out night of primitive passion in their early teens, Sandy and her ex boyfriend were a long standing, even longer lying on her back, widespread stiletto shod feet in the air, joke in the local nick. It was welfare day. Ex had got his money, gone out and got maudlin plastered on cheap bootleg booze and now desperately, obsessively thought he could slide back between her frenetic, cellulite cratered thighs by sending crude messages of smack headed lust. Today, Sandy obviously needed a few more tokes to calm her down. All he had to do was wait. The conclusion was inevitable.
“Fackin useless fackin coppers!” Sandy railed. Paul focussed on the twin rumpled furrows between her eyebrows, idly thinking that if she’d taken care of herself instead of shooting up every stimulant known to chemistry, she’d still be a halfway attractive woman. Now barely thirty, too much eye shadow and cheap runny mascara making her look like a human Panda impersonator she was a raddled ruin. Dry, alcohol and drug wrinkled skin marring once pleasing features. An over tight ponytail of dry, dark brown lustreless hair, excess flesh bulging out at hips and breast line, well, you’d have to be half cut to even look at her. Which is where we came in, thought Paul. Any second now.
With a frustrated incoherent bellow, the fist drops and she turns away to stomp off along the worn concrete path, bisecting a patch of brown lifeless mud, too well trafficked by many feet to remain turf. Flabby arse wobbling half comically in poorly chosen light grey spandex leggings. “Sandy?” A sardonic female voice speaks in his ear. His immediate boss, the more experienced Cassie Tzerzinski watches from the patrol car. Always double crewed in this neck of the woods.
No one went single crewed into the Sink, a low income housing association owned estate of welfare cases and quiet desperation. Today was easy, only Sandy was out of her noisome pit at present. There were others, too many of them, and Paul always did the quantum Zen thing. Letting their hopeless anger wash over him. Not accepting their pointless judgementalism. Water off a ducks back.
He’d no doubt have Sandy fawning all over him when kicking out time came at the local smokey-drinky in the early hours. Fucked out of her head on poorly distilled booze and whatever drugs she could pick up cheap or for a blow job from one of the local gang bangers. Of course as Police Officers they were supposed to close the highly illegal private smoke, drink and drug parties down, but two coppers against half a dozen psycho head cases off their faces on Meth and worse? That was a joke, right?
Paul had a modest ambition; to be alive and fit enough to collect his service pension. Such as it was. You didn’t get there by kicking over wasps nests. If it all got heavy and they had to go tactical, riot guns, the works, the real bad boys would be over the back fence, or through the gaps between attics like startled spiders. Of course they’d turn up eventually. Caught because they got stupid trying not to pay off a debt to the wrong guy. Straying onto anothers ‘turf’ or breaking the self imposed code of Omerta that underpinned gang culture. Face down on a piece of garbage strewn wasteland with half their face missing, burns all over, bollocks in their mouth, and a hole in their head you could drive a squad car through, or one of the other gruesome means of disposal favoured by any particular gang. What went around, came around. You got cynical fast in this game, or you got out fast.
End of Excerpt.
From part Sixteen: WTF?
“You wanted the murderers?” Veeta was in a borrowed office at Paddington Green Police station talking to someone on a secure video link. “There they are. All three of them. DC Calvin found them. He also found this.” She was showing whoever it was on the other end of the line the strange little bead from the Tremawgan crime scene. “Forensic found mucous secretions and blood cells matching Mira Egglestones DNA profile. A re-scan of Mira’s sinuses showed up the previously observed injury site with corresponding nanotech fragments embedded. If we re-examine the corpse heads and our current suspects sinuses we will most likely find similar items and injuries. This is highly likely, as she too has had post incident nosebleeds.” She paused for breath before delivering the bombshell. “Not only were our victims complicit in their own killings, I strongly suspect they were willing participants. Hence the complete lack of self defence indicators.”
Paul was leaning on the other side of the ECM shielded frosted glass partition, eyes closed, cooling disposable cup of tea in his hand, listening to her surface thoughts as Veeta spoke direct to the Home Secretary and several of his aides. Shit, fan, contact! He thought as she reacted to the by now thoroughly frightened politicians. Despite all their careful layers of security, armour plated limousines, secure areas and vid surveillance they were as vulnerable to bloody murder as anyone else. More so. Because of the decisions they made every single day, they could be struck down by their closest friends, even in the heart of their digitally encrypted, twenty four hour guarded fortress enclaves.
He grunted to himself in a quietly self satisfied way. It was nice to know the higher ups were as vulnerable as the rest of humanity. Levels the playing field a little. The only problem was that frightened politicians tended to panic, and when that happened, everyone got hurt. Innocent and guilty alike.
Veeta signed off her call, and sat at the desk, hands steepled over her nose and mouth, mind blank, a knot of real fear tying up her belly. Paul moved away from the electronically shielded opaque glass wall, waiting for her to come out. He didn’t need to eavesdrop further.
It was a full ten minutes before the locked door clicked open and a very shaken Veeta opened the door and stepped out into the corridor. “Thank you for your assistance Constable.” She said formally. “This is out of my hands now, but I can tell you informally that the Home Secretary is seriously considering a commendation for you.” She paused and less formally stuck out her right hand. “Thanks Paul. We’ll take it from here. From what your boss tells me, you’ve had a rough forty eight hours.” Paul solemnly shook hands and nodded acknowledgement. She turned away and left walking rapidly through another set of double doors, but not before he’d seen the thought; the politicians don’t like people who really can read minds wandering around loose. Watch your back.
He appreciated the thought warning and use of his first name as the compliment it was. “Any time.” He said to the still swinging double doors. But not being used and sent home like some cheap disposable asset. Commendation or not.
Not that the word ‘home’ had any meaning right now. The word from her solicitors was that Addie had basically changed the locks on him, and there was no way she was going to allow him access to even see Emma and David. Not without a court case, and maybe not even then. The thought, this is the price of being too sodding good at your job drifted through his mind. All work and no play makes Paul a divorced boy. Bunking at Ben’s place had a limited life span, and Charlie Evans probably had his feet well under Megans table by now. Although what Charlie’s regular girlfriend might have to say about that is anybodys guess. Maybe she already knew, and Charlie Evans was on his way out anyway. Maybe Charlie wasn’t even there.
Loneliness rose like smoke around him, and he made his way out of Paddington Green into the early evening London rain, travel warrant on his ePhone, and on the damp ten minute walk to the railway terminus, wondered where the hell he was going to sleep tonight. On the train journey back, he called Ben Wallace, who greeted him warmly, and said, no, he wasn’t willing to put Paul up for another night or he’d have half the waifs and strays off the night shift bunking at his place. On the other hand, he’d made a couple of calls and pulled in some old favours from a Hotel Manager who was ex-job. So yes, Paul had a place to rest his weary head for a few days while he found a better place to live than his Boss’s couch.
Around ten forty that evening, a squad car picked him up from Bristol Temple Meads station to Holland House, where a tough looking man with a diffident manner, but the thousand mile stare that marked him out as an ex-policeman, waved the receptionist aside and assigned Paul one of the better rooms. “Gossip is you’re a rising star.” He gave Paul a tightly controlled but genuine smile as he handed over the room key. “Don’t worry about the bill, your lads have gone out on a limb for me on a few occasions, so I’m returning the favour, and we’ve plenty of rooms free this week. Breakfast is six thirty until ten, and the message from Ben Wallace is for you to take tomorrow off. There’s a free spa voucher in there, and we have our own in house masseuse.”
“You’ll earn it.” Again, that tight little knowing smile. “Adult channels are unlocked on your wallscreen. Have a nice night.”
His few clothes and belongings had somehow found their way from Megans place to his assigned suite, and sat on the bed freshly washed and neatly folded. Not bothering with his customary sleep shorts and tee shirt, Paul stripped naked and slid between the sheets. He’d meant to watch a little vid, but the remote was too far away, and the final exertion of brushing his teeth had proven more than enough. He lay back, and after a while began to snore softly.
As he slept, the dream of the dead place came to claim his mind again. As before, this was the world of an eternal dry Winter. Blank eyed suburban houses with crumbling brickwork gazed blankly onto weed cracked streets, where an avenue of bare, skinny trunked trees bore the occasional dry, fragile leaf. Drifts of dry brown skeletons of leaves skittering around his feet in tiny circular breezes. As before, in the middle distance, people shapes flickered in and out of existence. There was no sign of Cassie or his Father, which for some reason he found uncomfortable. “Paul.” A familiar voice, a woman, spoke his name. He didn’t quite recognise it. “Go and see Megan. She has something to tell you. Ask her about the Home Office and Avalo.”
“What? Who are you?” He demanded. Then the voice was gone, and he awoke covered in sweat, the moisture chilling his skin. The bedclothes were on the floor, and he’d forgotten to switch the light off. He stank. Stumbling to the bathroom, he stepped into the auto shower, and let its short bursts of alternately warm soapy and clean warm water strip his sweat off.
Stepping out of the shower, a clean towel wrapped around his waist, he returned to bed and flicked through the entertainment channels, but found nothing to arouse his interest. Even the endless fleshy motion of the adult channels left him bored and listless. He noted the time, 3am, then flipped the lights off and stared at a twenty four hour documentary channel, currently screening a programme about water riots in major cities across the globe. For want of anything else to watch, and with the wallscreen still half illuminating the hotel room, he drifted off to sleep once more.
The sound of footsteps and luggage wheels on the thick pile carpet outside his door brought him awake. The screen display read 06:24am. He grunted and yawned. Not the best nights sleep he’d ever had, but certainly a lot better than the past three weeks. If it wasn’t being kicked out of your own house after one too many overnighters, it was sleeping in odd positions under scratchy blankets and strange women who kept on twitching and crying out in the night. Oh and vengeful villains coming calling in the early hours with a bunch of their noisy friends. Another week of this and he might get back to somewhere near normal.
End of Excerpt