The Inquisition Judge glared at me.
A prickle of fear spiked down my back.
My lawyer looked at me through the toughened smart-glass shields that separated us. Her forehead was shining with perspiration.
The Judge’s expression said that the battery acid of my trial was eating up her insides and she was glad it was over.
I stared at her robes as she carried on talking, taking in all the details to distract myself. The sun and moon planetary emblem of Harmony gleamed softly with their perfectly balanced light. The stars in orbit around them had that cupcake-frosting feel the state animations had adopted lately.
‘Nico Perseid, you have been found guilty of the murder of Dashein VanSant in the first degree. The sentence for this crime is death. You will be taken directly from this courtroom to the autoclave at Khor’s Gyrus and there be terminated without delay. Born of the Sun, so we return to fire and light. Az, Lord of Light, and Muz, Contrite Reflection, guide your path to the next life.’
The prickle of fear became a trickle of sweat. I closed my throat to an iron door against the sudden urge to vomit and glanced at my lawyer. She’d promised that the contraband wetware I’d had fitted was too golden to fry, hot or not. It didn’t matter what happened in the court, I just had to act my part so things looked like they were going down the normal route to certain doom and then…
Actually there was no detail about the ‘and then’.
What if there was no ‘and then’?
The compulsion to vomit reversed polarity. I had to concentrate on the other end for a second as the observed silence following my sentence expired and the Judge added her signature to my execution orders. You live your life in the Clouds, nothing real, but they do death old-school, on vellum, with black blood running out of a dead bird’s feather. I don’t know who the fuck that’s meant to impress. An Alchemist could tell you, if they were high up enough in the echelon; I guess they’d say that every choice and action has power and that even on those without psi or magical abilities such things have their voodoo power to alter reality through suggestion alone. I’m a skeptic so I’d have to conclude that its purpose is to legitimise state murder with a ceremony of apparent worldly significance or – it’s a ton of bullshit that gets everyone’s juices going so they can better enjoy it.
I tried to slow down time by staring harder at those frosted fucking stars but the Judge kept on signing sheets.
‘All rise.’ The court burst into small movement.
Spots danced in front of my vision. I took a breath. Breathing. That seemed like a good thing. Breathe in, no fear. Breathe out…
I wished I’d killed VanSant. Both he and I would have deserved it.
I looked at my lawyer as she stood up. She felt in her pocket and drew out a smoothly squared handkerchief which she folded and refolded with meticulous accuracy before patting her brow. She met my gaze but I couldn’t read anything into her expression other than a professional glaze of sorrow which anyone could’ve practiced for a moment like this as they watched their career tank.
My guts which had been liquid a second ago turned to cold iron.
Abandoned. Figured. Well, good. Anger beats terror on the negative vibe scale. It’s a whole vibrational upgrade for me. At this rate I’ll be Enlightened before I get vaporized.
I felt one guard nudge me, ‘Time to go.’
I stood up with a heavy forward lean because of the weighted shackle that bound my hands in front of me. The second guard came close behind me as I started walking. I could feel his gun trained on me as sure as if a finger pressed between the ribs behind my heart.
Shit, what if there was no wetware?
It’s not like I’d have known the difference. It was hijacked assault droid command systems or something. Never could follow technical stuff but anyone knows that if you see an enforcement droid in Harmony it’s always the last thing you see.
But what if there was no fucking wetware? What if it was the drugs that had me get up from my bed and shoot him with his own gun, just because he was there and all the hate I’d bottled up over the years had turned into a djinn that took over when the rest of me couldn’t stop it? There were people in Harmony who claimed major psionic ability, the stars of Tecmaten’s developmental program. Inquisitors, Confessors, people who could do the cleaning by thinking about it. And other ones that could heal with a thought. But if they existed and had any power worth pissing on I can’t believe any of it was aimed at mediocre shit like VanSant. They had other brains to fry.
Or there was wetware. But suppose it wasn’t drones. Suppose it was Frackware – real-time psych vivisection. Sometimes for science. Mostly for profits. VanSant had talked about it once. He’d toyed with the idea of getting some fitted so people could jack in and fight ‘with’ me, as me, whenever I went into the ring, or when I was training, or whenever, we’d adjust the tariff to suit the activity, yeah? It’d be a gold mine and sell offworld too, in the recordings market.
VanSant’s death was something I’d lovingly promised myself for my retirement party but now I’d even been cheated out of that. Maybe now it was time to be on death row with me. Wouldn’t that have a fancy price tag with me giving my own commentary and all? – Well, fuckers, looks like it isn’t gonna be a long wait.
I walked with my head down and watched the robes of the guard in front. The heavily stitched fabric panels fell in straight, swinging blades as we walked. Their hypnotic sway was impressive. I’d always admired ceremonial tailoring. It had a certain badass defiance to it that spat on pragmatism. That amount of cloth around your legs even in split panels is crap for fighting in.
Then again, if you have plasma guns it really doesn’t matter. You could wear a mermaid suit and still get the job done. No more triumph of the fittest or the most cunning. A gun, a bomb and any oxygen-waster could play dress-up Emperor, just like Tecmaten behind his army of Inquisitors. Really the detailing on the sigils of the planetary emblems was incredible. Virtue women made it all by hand, praying over every stitch.
Ain’t no fucking prayers going to save you, bud, I thought. They turned off that frequency and now all that whining goes to Tecmaten’s junk mail to give him something to laugh at.
We walked down the exit ramp. It had worn carpet panels, rucked at the corners. I had to tread carefully so I didn’t trip over them. I heard the guard behind me grunt as he stumbled on one and his gun jabbed me hard in the back just to the left of my spine. I recovered without breaking stride. He swore under his breath.
Noticing this amount of shit filling up my head was in itself a sign of my lack of faith – you know you’re losing when your mind falls apart on you and starts wishing you were a piece of cheap underlay so at least you weren’t going to die, even when you thought you wouldn’t care about dying now – but fuck faith and it’s bastardised abortion The Alchemy because it had fucked my life.
If it wasn’t for The Alchemy I wouldn’t be here. Hard to say who I hated most; Tecmaten’s priesthood for screwing up my genes and giving me a comedic cocktail of errors, or me for failing to beat the odds. All those years silently playing for time, thinking I’d best the bastards and fate somehow if I waited long enough for an opportunity, but instead here I am alone on the short march.
We walked under a skylight. The sun’s sudden brilliance turned everything to gold.
The sun is male, everything it does is overpowered and incinerative, flashy as a conman’s smile. It’s balanced by the moon and her never-ending rainy panoply of depressed girls drowning the evenings in beery tears. According to the Alchemy we’re all made from a pair of these divine fools. It’s the eternal round of fire and ice, light and dark, all that binary balancing shit that seems so attractive with its promises that somewhere some fucker’s going to pay for whatever crap you’re in today. You know. Not now, or in a way that would satisfy you, but Cosmically, and probably after you’re dead.
|What I Write
This is the beginning of my last novel, The Switch, which I was working on last time around.
I write Science Fiction, and Fantasy. I tend to be big ideas oriented, particularly when it comes to the human aspect, so things can get quite philosophical as I try to take in the big picture. I do all I can to keep my characters fully human and their situations within a ‘realistic’ span of possibilities, given what’s going on.
I’ve written 13 novels to date, dealing with AI, evolution, transhumanism, genetic engineering and robots that are in disguise.
I’m now writing a FANTASY NOVEL, everybody! Did you hear that? For Solaris, this is the second in a commissioned series which will kick off with a book by the Clarke Award Winning Adrian Tchaikovsky no less. So, no pressure. His book was great fun and I’m following on the story as we explore what happens After The War. My central character is Miss Havisham meets Sarah Kerrigan – and when they met, it was murder! Probably of the innocents…you’ll have to wait and see!
I hope to write the majority of the draft of this book during the Write-a-Thon, always assuming I haven’t made my classic mistake of forgetting I owe someone a short story halfway through….please sponsor me and help another student go to Clarion.
Living Next Door to the God of Love
Quantum Gravity: 1-5
Short Story Collection: Heliotrope