You can pick up INFECTED right here! And, of course, you really should.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
To celebrate my appearance & reading today on WebbWeaver books(go listen!), I'm publishing the first chapter of INFECTED for free.
Enjoy the insanity.
Chapter 1: TechnoPulp; Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo
He had skullfucked a whore to death.
Bronx Councilman Jonathon Schneer had at some point between 1 and 1:30 a.m. decided that sleep was for jerks and that ramming his wingding through the eyehole of a hooker in some kind of Catallus-styled insanity would be an excellent use of his time.
There was a flurry of activity in the newsroom when our police scanner picked up the robotic radio chatter of political perversion from NYPD rapid response drones at the scene.
This was a five-alarm fire. Almost as good as the mayor getting shot.
Scramble. Get the fighters on deck.
We needed a witness. A source. Something. Anything. One of the reporters tracked down Schneer's driver. Whitlock, A. All thanks to a phone book. You'd be surprised how handy one can be — even now.
Mr. Whitlock, we'd like to ask you a few questions.
The editor on duty got one of the young pups in the newsroom to cold-call the driver's house. Meaning, we had a name and contact information, but whoever answered wouldn't be expecting the call or the questions. Typically, it resulted in attitude or anger. As such, it wasn't much of a shock that the driver's wife was pissed at us. But she was more pissed at her husband for "runnin round" the city at the beck and call of a "honky politician."
She gave us his mobile number.
The driver's full name was Albert J. Whitlock. From file photos of Schneer's cadre and a cursory glance at the city's holographic database, we saw that he was a stocky, but not fat, five-foot-eight black man. He had been at the pedals for seventeen years. Largely as a wheelman for local pols. He had been Schneer's driver for six years.
This was all good to fluff the story. Good for adding little details and tidbits that give the piece weight or background. But we were hungry. We needed meat. We were (tabloid) journalists after all.
Whitlock answered his cell with a grunt when we called him. He had just finished giving his statement to police. He was tired. Shaken. And while he never should have told us anything at all (he did, he said, because he loved our front page headlines, and he "never much cared for" Schneer), here's what I scribbled down on my Asimov datapad:
No drugs were involved.
Schneer was a supposed devout Catholic. He went through the motions.
Schneer was "totally dedicated" to his family — but...
Schneer had two brands of sexual deviance. A pleasure droid (who knows what he might have picked up from that thing) and this hooker, a Jocelyn Mathers, alias Jackie Em (ditto the STDs).
Why would he kill a prostitute he enjoyed regularly? Did she give him a disease? Was he a good Catholic boy driven mad by politics? Psycho in disguise? A lunatic making the laws? There were a lot of angles to consider for a journalist-cum-tabloid hack such as myself.
When Whitlock checked on him, he said, Schneer seemed to be talking to another entity.
Whitlock thought Schneer was babbling at the hooker, but that wasn't it.
For reasons that should be clear.
Schneer then started screaming at the sky about monsters. How he really wasn't "a bad person." The guy saying all this while blood and brains and cum sploshed off his hard-as-a-handle dick.
NYPD drones contradicted the driver's story.
They reported no such dialog, no such raving. The NYPD said — and this could be creepier depending on the reader's disposition — that Schneer was doing nothing more than moaning, groaning and apologizing.
It didn't matter.
It was all fluff.
You think I have the time to give a shit what's true anymore?
Unreliable witnesses were a true bastard to deal with, but that was all right. The whole lot of it could be used. Schneer's supposed demonic dialog and the NYPD claim that he was just shy of catatonic.
All we had to do was attribute certain claims to certain witnesses. We didn't have to take responsibility for what they saw.
Or rather, what they said they saw.
Exaggerations and the hyperbolic were our bread and butter.
But I needed a goddamn headline.
Our archaic print edition would hit stands in the morning.
The internet would not wait.
For the past whoknowshowmanyyears, physical newspapers haven't earned media outlets a dime. And the few stalwarts that did still print a "real" paper did so mostly out of stubbornness. All focus was put on digital editions.
Get us online! Gets us on your phone! Gets us on your datapad! Even our holograms are cute. Finger fuck em if you want to, just wave that digit around right, and make sure you subscribe, because I need to pay the rent.
We were the frontlines. We moved fast. We broke stories. And thanks to the ever steamrolling cultural zeitgeist, we could get away with a hell of a lot. Every media outlet became a tabloid. Every media outlet was in a race to last place.
Take your morality, your beliefs, and chuck them right the fuck out the window. Sentimentality didn't interest me and it never really interested anyone else, either.
You're the ones buying this bullshit. I just supply it.
People wanted sex and violence. Weirdness and perversity. I delivered.
If it bleeds, it leads.
This story had all the craziness a reporter could ask for, but it needed a headline. Something snappy. Something that would stick in people's heads. A five or six word "sell" of sex, prostitution, politics, violence, bloodshed.
Schneer's supposed beliefs gave me the freedom to make religious connections. As an addendum to that, he always ran as an Independent, but his voting record indicated a leaning toward Neo-conservatism. I didn't even know if I was writing the story or just the headline (breaking news is a chaotic event), but background helped the thinking process.
I wanted a full, blown-out page. A tabloid spread. Or whatever fit within the computer/datapad screen's frame. A shot from the street with the levels adjusted in Photoshop Gazillion Point Oh to increase the contrast between light and dark.
There was some red near the mouth of the alley; drippy splatters where the blood and brains and goo had slipped from the head of Schneer's penetrating prick.
We could increase the hues. Bring out the red end of the spectrum. But it had to stay dark. We needed to make it look like a hellish gullet. Not just a throat. People needed to think of tartarean jaws when they saw it — a malicious monstrous maw.
Headline. Headline. Headline.
I grabbed the NYPD feed and flicked my finger up to turn on the Asimov's hologram interface. I watched the scene live as drones shot it from on-site. I waited for inspiration to strike.
COPS CUFF CRANIUM CRUNCHING POL
I was a fucking genius, except it had to be stacked and centered so it didn't look like shit.
I walked out of the elevator bank in my building and passed through the security doors. Big ones made from Plexiglas composite. Slid sideways from the center. Looked like they might have come from the set of Star Trek.
The night lights of the lobby played over my face like static on a dead screen.
I scowled, datapad pumping an old 'Best Of' Death Metal mix up through my headphones and into my grey matter.
I hate this place. I hate me. I hate what I do.
I hate what we've become.
Where are my flying cars? Why don't we have teleporters? Why is it so hard for the world to find drinking water? Why were we all so quiet while stem cell research was murdered by religion? Why can't we afford anything? Why haven't we cured X, Y, Z?
Oh ho, good sir! There is no money in cures. There is only money in treatment.
We had nothing of the shining future that fantasists masturbated to. We had instead a few of the nightmares from Philip K. Dick's pink-light paranoid brain. We didn't have matter transporters or benevolent pastel societies. We had mountains of garbage and digital diseases because people couldn't resist having sex with new and interesting things — which happened to include the first line of consumer androids.
NYC broke ground when it came to robosex scandals.
To the shock of absofuckinglutely nobody, it involved a politician.
The datapad in my jacket churned over to the next audio track.
I waved goodnight to the security guard. His face was bathed in electric blue. He stared into the screen of his gadget and paid me no mind. I watched his hands move. He flicked a finger along his pad's screen. Left. Right. Then he flicked upward and his machine's hologram system began displaying the media he'd selected. A replay of two teenage girls making out. Disgusting waste of tech, truth told.
All the same, I loved that app.
Outside, it was another chilly December night. Building-sized neon and mutlti-story screens hawked wares from Coke and Apple and Facebook. They'd buy your DNA. For top dollar.
The wind picked up. It smelled like a superstorm was brewing — something that would shit a dozen centimeters or more of polluted grey snow onto the streets and destroy the day of anyone dumb enough to drive in town.
But fuck you. Why are you driving anyway, ya idiot?
I couldn't remember the last time I had seen white snow. Real, pure snow. Hell, the Earth hadn't seen a natural environmental cycle in a decade. Half a meter of snow would fall in a night. The next day would bring black carbon-heavy rain. Thick fog would follow. The temperature would do whatever it felt like doing from moment to moment. Things would melt, things would freeze, and civilization tossed and turned in the bed it made.
The Future sucked as much as Now ever did.
I wanted to teleport to a bar. I wanted Jack Daniels and I wanted to forget. I wanted to think clearly, but I couldn't stop wondering what new headline would come with tomorrow's craziness. I wanted to relax, but my conscience would not let me be.
And my conscience came in conflict with my landlord.
An advertising drone buzzed me. The metal merchant swooped down. Its disc-shaped fuselage contorted. Little platinum arms popped out holding a half-meter wide screen. Two of its four boosters swiveled to balance and slow the thing. Tiny impulse magnetoplasma rockets fired. Expensive, impressive technology.
But to hell with whatever whirred under that frame.
NASA had sold its magnetoplasma tech about twenty years ago when it was desperate for funding. It went bankrupt anyway, and sold theoretical blueprints at a consumer-industry auction. Our best and brightest, gone to pot, because knowledge was no longer viable.
We had plasma-powered sales bots, yep, but no flying cars to escape from them with.
The drone steadied, flashed, and took a bioreading to ascertain my age and health.
Targeted advertising at its finest.
The thing squawked.
"HEY DUDE, YOU LOOK TIRED. NEED A JUMP?"
All ad drones had AI. Some were smarter than others. This thing might so well be called A Scanner Dumbly.
"I don't want any of your consumer-grade garbage, pusher droid," I said as I lit a Nat Sherman cigarette. The irony was not lost on me.
"MAN, YOU DON'T EVEN NEED A PRESCRIPTION FOR THIS!"
I noticed a Wal-Mart logo on its side as its screen flashed and some shitty electronica burst out of speakers that I couldn't see. A pill slowly took shape on the screen. There was a happy face on it.
Not so lucky.
The word REVITALOXIN faded up.
I put my cigarette out on its very expensive screen, leaving a melty, dark ring.
"DAMAGE!" the machine squealed. "I DETECT DAMAGE. THIS ADVERTISING DRONE IS PROPERTY OF WAL-MART STORES, INC, STOCK SYMBOL WMT. ANY INTENTIONAL HARM CAUSED TO THIS MECHANICAL DEVICE WILL BE CONSIDERED IN VIOLATION OF—"I headed to the bar, leaving the flying toaster to sputter and spark at someone else.
You can pick up INFECTED right here! And, of course, you really should.