Century23: …But It Pours (Part 4)

The world slowly came seeping back as he regained consciousness, confusion fighting with pain as both made their way around his head. Keeping his eyes closed, he tried to figure out what had happened and where he was now from sound alone. The rain still hammered at the unseen ceiling above, so clearly he hadn’t been out that long, and the noise was hardly helping with the throbbing pain in his temples. Behind the driving rain, there was the faint noise of footsteps, someone pacing around the room. It didn’t take a great leap of deduction to figure out the guy who’d jumped him was still present, and after a second he realised he was bound by the wrists to the chair he’d been deposited upon. He tried to move his arms without making it obvious he was awake, though the restraints meant anything beyond a twitch was unlikely to happen. This movement also revealed the lack of weight in his jacket, the bastard had taken his pistols too. This information slowly processed in his mind, trying to form a cohesive plan of what to do next, making him miss the fact the footsteps had stopped several seconds ago.
“Y’know, it’s kinda obvious your awake,” the voice was only a short distance from him, thick with an accent he couldn’t quite identify “y’might as well open your eyes.” A few seconds passed as he tried to keep up the facade of unconsciousness before he did as instructed. The world came into sharp, painful focus and standing directly in front of him, silhouetted by a pair of work lights, was the blonde gunman.
“Shit… figures…” he groaned after a while.
“I have to say, I’m mighty disappointed,” the blonde man started pacing again as he talked in almost half interested tone, revealing a table behind him that had the Englishman’s two pistols sat on, “Ever since I came here I’d heard so many stories about the greatness of a single hired gun, of Weißmann’s bulldog, a man at the top of his game…”
“…always pleased to meet a fan,” came a sarcastic interruption through gritted teeth, earning a vicious side glance from the other man,
“…so naturally I jumped at the chance to face you when it came up. But what can I say? Y’fucked the job up. Twice, even; got yourself captured damn easily, lost your target and even got your partner killed. Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Ah… he bled out?”
“I imagine he would’ve done eventually. Can’t imagine the extra couple of holes I put in him helped none though.” A sly grin led into a long, laboured pause.
“So that’s how it’s going to be, then?” The Englishman eventually replied, predicting where the order of events was heading.
“Well, I was kinda hoping for a worthy opponent, y’know? Someone I could truly test my skills against, and all that. But this,” he waved dismissively at the Englishman, “there aint no skill involved when y’opponent is tied to a chair.”

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Century23: …But It Pours (Part 3)

The occupants of the slabster remained silent for a while as they weaved through the back streets of the sector at breakneck speed. Eventually it became clear that they weren’t being followed, and the Englishman slowed to much safer speed and turned to the back seats.
“You alright back there?” he had to raise his voice slightly to talk over the rain drumming on the roof, “there’s a medikit back there, think its even military grade.”
“Got it, much obliged,” came the Sniper’s reply through gritted teeth, “so long as the pain meds are good I should be fine, not too much actual damage beyond the blood. Good job that asshole only got that shoulder, really” He pulled a pack of disposable hypo jets containing some bleeding-edge morphine derivative from the medikit and pressed it against his neck, the drug being forced into his bloodstream with an audible hiss.
“Hows that?” the Englishman replied after a couple of seconds considering the statement as he turned onto a main road.
“That shoulder’s all carbon fibre and augmetic polymer muscles, miracle of 23rd century tech or some shit. Only bit that’s still natural is the blood, and even that’s part-controlled by bionics,” He pulled himself up to see out the window, “Used to be in the army, my last tour was with the Peacekeepers down in what used to be Southern Chile after the ceasefire,” he paused and let out a deep sigh as the painkillers kicked in, “That’s the shit. Uh, anyway, the local insurgents were alright but they’d brought in some heavy support from some merc outfit that didn’t mind sniping at blue helmets when they got bored. Was the sniper for a patrol securing a village when some Russian asshole got the drop on us, I swear he used an anti-tank gun on me or something, nearly ripped my arm clear off.”
“…christ,” the Englishman winced at the thought.
“Yeah. Got airlifted back to a MASH in Puerto Montt and had the world’s cheapest bionics stuffed in me at the tax payers expense. Ruined my military career so I got invalided back to old ‘Lantia, and here we are. Never thought I’d be grateful ‘till now.” He settled back to lying on the blood stained upholstery and thought for a second. “Y’know it strikes me that the Overlander guys got our plates as we left.”
“More than likely. Don’t worry, I borrowed this from a friend who’s prepared for this kind of stuff” the Englishman pulled the car into an alley and stabbed at a button that had been hastily patched in to the dashboard with little care for neatness. In a split second electronic smart pigment in the cars paint job pulsed and transitioned between black and metallic blue, with the license plates shifting to match. As the process finished, he reversed out of the alley and back onto the street, as the Sniper managed a pained laugh from the back seats.
“Huh, and I thought this was some dime-a-dozen YoHo piece of shit. Pays to have paranoid friends, huh?”

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Century23: …But It Pours (Part 2)

The world stood still for a few seconds in total confusion.

The Sniper still had his finger on the trigger. That shot hadn’t been his. By the time this thought had fully processed, a second shot rang out and the bullet buried itself in his right shoulder, throwing him back into the room. Almost instantly a third shot shattered the window, the bullet ending its flight in the ceiling. A tense few seconds of calm passed as plaster dust rained down upon the hotel room, then the Englishman let into action. In an instant he was back at the window side, pulling the sniper out of the field of view. Taking his life in his hands, he risked a glance out the window, into the street. Behind the Omnihaul stood a man, not the skinny, fake-tanned datashark they were both expecting, but a tall, blonde man in a long brown leather jacket, staring directly at the balcony. More significantly, he had in his right hand the distinctive bulk of a Garreffa heavy revolver. The newcomer caught sight of further movement in the hotel room and methodically took another shot with the Italian pistol, the bullet ricocheting off of the window frame back into the night’s sky. As soon as the Sniper was clear of the window the Englishman unholstered his twin pistols and fired blindly into the street, desperately trying to keep the flimsy outer wall of the hotel between him and any return fire.

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Century23: …But It Pours (Part 1)

“Sorry you got mixed up in all this, Limey” Paul Quine piped up, with a tangible insincerity in his voice, fidgeting with his ill-fitting fake designer suit, “You and the Sniper. Didn’t mean to get anyone killed. You guys could have just let me go and we’d be done with it”
“You think this’ll just end here, Quine?” From his chair the Englishman glared daggers up at the smug, fake-tanned visage of the datashark, trying to free his hands from the rope binding him to the chair again, “I won’t be the last to come after you, you can count on that, you turncoat little shit. Don’t think you can ever rest easy, Weißmann’s gonna want your head on his desk one way or another”
“Yeah, well, if you’re the best of the best looks like I’ve got a fighting chance, don’t you think?” Quine grinned an overconfident grin, pacing impatiently between his Texan bodyguard and the Englishman, “Killed with one of your own guns, pretty powerful message if you ask me.”

“This is all very fascinating to watch, gentlemen, but I’ve got a contract to fulfil,” The Texan raised one of the Englishmans pistols and flipped the safety off, “Say goodbye to our friend mister Quine”
“See ya next lifetime, Limey!” The datashark gave a sarcasting wave at the hitman tied to the chair, chuckling at his apparent good fortune. As the Texan walked across the room towards him, the Englishman closed his eyes, ready to accept his fate. He heard the pistol’s hammer click back…

…A single shot rang out.

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On Creative Block

This may not be immediately apparent, dear hypothetical audience, but beyond blogger and graphic designer I have aspirations of being a writer. I know I’ve written about narrative subjects before, but my actual fiction output has been, to be frank, a little lacklustre of late for various reasons. So in an effort to try and dislodge the creative malaise that’s afflicted me I’ve decided to write about it, and it’s creative block ilk, and how I occasionally manage to shake the damn things. Look, I never said I’d win any points for originality did I?

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Century23 Snapshot: Manhattan Sector

Occupying a tiny chunk of its coastline, Atlantia’s Manhattan Sector is perhaps a textbook example of what is meant by “faded glory.” Way back, before the mega-cities and rise of the mega-corps, when the United States was more than a historical memory, this tiny island was one of, if not the, richest conurbations on the planet. The organisations based within its confines dominated the world, financially and politically. But its influence weakened as time progressed, the end of the Cold War opened up new markets that grew quickly to challenge its dominance, and the growing political turmoil across the globe splintered its influence. As the twenty-first century dragged on and urbanisation began to swallow up the American coastlines, there were those in power who still recognised some fleeting notion of status. The first statutes creating modern day Atlantia bestowed Manhattan sector-status alongside it’s much larger neighbours, assuming that the sheen of financial strength would never fade.

Even as this recognition was granted, the groups that had prospered from the good fortune were beginning to spread out and exploit the new city space, leaving streets upon streets of once-luxury office blocks abandoned. Then, as the century drew to a close, came the biggest blow to the sector: The Second Civil War. As a global superpower tore itself apart under the strain of three competing and fiercely independent mega-cities, any international entities with no vested interest fled to safer regions, taking with them Manhattan Sector’s political reach. Even though no fighting ever reached the sector’s shores, it left deep scars across it. After the fires of war died down, Manhattan failed to prosper under the newly independent Atlantia. With no real industry to speak of and very little large-scale commercial development left, the area began a steep decline it has never recovered from. Even it’s once-mighty landmarks either faded or were repurposed, with the Chrysler building being moved up-coast to Boston Sector in the 2150’s, and the Empire State building left as a slowly rotting shell. By the time the twenty-third century started, only a single corporate patron remained on the island in the shape of Santiago Sub-Orbital, but even that didn’t last. The great recession of the 2220s was not kind to the group, leading to bankruptcy and eventual merger with former rival, Lansing Global. This put the final nail in Manhattan’s corporate coffin, as the group eventually departed the area under the guise of “restructuring” and “consolidation,” leaving a broken sector in its wake.

Modern Manhattan bears little resemblance to the former jewel of the East Coast. The once famous skyline has since vanished in between the run-down hab-blocks that were built in previous centuries with no care given to their surroundings, and what little of Central Park that remains is barely more than disorganised scrubland. Some pre-Atlantian architecture still exists, often hidden under facades of modern street furniture and in rapidly progressing states of decay and disrepair. Much of the island still adheres to the grid layout set down centuries ago, however modern developments often take up more than a traditional block size, leading to streets coming to an abrupt halt at the side of buildings, or once straight throughways taking winding paths that were at one time entirely different roads altogether. As a consequence of its dwindling importance over the years, combined with its small and relatively isolated location, the sector’s infrastructure is severely lacking by most other’s standards. The only ways onto the island is via a set of mostly pre-millennial bridges and tunnels–not intended to handle mega-city levels of traffic–or the lone Speedrail station, no Intersector Highway link has ever been built, leading to the sector often gets overlooked by both organisations and individuals alike.

The inhabitants of Manhattan Sector can be roughly divided into three categories: the law-abiding, the criminal and the homeless. Those who live within the city’s law tend to be members of the lower-income bracket, mostly commuting from Manhattan to work in either the vast dockyards of West Long Island Sector or the few non-automated industrial complexes in New Jersey Sector. While technology has certainly improved their lives over previous centuries, the average twenty-third century Manhattanite is still at a distinct economic disadvantage compared to most city dwellers in the developed west.

Those that choose to flout society’s rules within the sector are a far more varied group. As with the vast majority of poorer sectors in Atlantia, street gangs flourish despite the ACPD’s best efforts to crack down on their activities. Organised crime has also crept into the sector thanks to the proximity to a major port and the relative isolation of the area. Both the Weismann Syndicate and Ueno Yakuza Clan claim parts of the island as territory and run several operations through it: varying between drugs and gun running to the more mundane protection and gambling rackets. Alongside the modern groups that have flooded the area, the local mafia, the Manhattan Families, still exists. Once major players in Atlantian (and North American) crime, their fortunes waned along with that of the sector, but they have still managed to cling on to existence by keeping to activities that don’t encroach on those of the other organisations. The current Don has dreams of reclaiming some of the Families’ former grandeur, however, although doing so may bring down ruin upon his struggling empire.

One far more worrying group to have set up in Manhattan recently is the North-Am Unionists. This group claims to be a political organisation seeking the reunification of the three mega-cities that once made up the United States and the territory between them, though after a recent bombing of a G11 trade summit in EuroState was blamed on them the group has been classed as terrorists by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Their leaders went into hiding shortly after an ACPD crackdown in 2242 led to their Savannah Sector headquarters being seized-however several high ranking members have been spotted openly in public in Manhattan Sector. There are growing worries amongst the sector’s population-on both sides of the law-that there will be a confrontation between the Unionists and the government that might spill over into something far larger than the island has seen for over a century. What is certain is that Manhattan Sector’s status as an overlooked and unimportant area may not last for much longer.

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Redshift: An Introduction to the 36th Century

Good afternoon, to start things off today I’m going to recount a tale, one that I hope some of you are at least partially familiar with. Nevertheless it is a vital scene-setter for what we will be covering in the coming weeks.

If you look at the dead centre of explored space you will find a small, yellow Category G star, and orbiting it at a distance of roughly 1 Astronomical Unit is a small blue marble. To modern observers this world may not seem like much, but that blue marble is the most significant world in all of humanity’s reach. It is the Home-world, it is Terra. Up until relatively recently it considered itself the centre of the known universe, both literally and metaphorically, and indeed for the majority of history it was the only thing in the known universe. For our first few hundred millennia humanity toiled in obscurity amongst the dirt of that world, fighting our own petty differences, though we were almost constantly looking to the stars.

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On Writing Fiction, and Upcoming Content

When I wrote the first entry here the other week I mentioned in passing that I’d be uploading ” the fiction I write for my own entertainment” and thought I’d elaborate on that point a bit, talk about my writings and what I was talking about and give some info on current and future projects. This is also a way of both coming up with something to post this week, and a simultaneous update for my “scores” of Weasyl and DevArt followers, so two birds with one bloggy stone as it were.

Anyway, to abuse an oft-paraphrased and misquoted movie line “All my life, all I ever wanted to be a writer.” Ok, maybe not all I ever wanted to be, my career path shows as much, but you get the gist. From an early age I was coming up with random weird stuff, which friends and relatives can attest to (possibly to my eternal embarrassment). As time progressed the random weird stuff became less random, and more crafted, turning into stuff that, while rough, actually resembled stories and similar.  At school I loved creative writing, so managed to get duped into doing the LangLit flavour of English A-Levels on promise of doing more (which turned out to be something of an exaggeration at my school, both courses did the exact same amount). Despite heading into a career of Graphic Design, I kept at the writing mostly out of fun, and fell in love with the art of world crafting. Often coming up with how a setting worked was as, if not more, fun than writing within it. It was around about that time I decided, in spite of my erratic levels of self-confidence, to start uploading whatever I was writing to the internet. The reception was… almost nonexistent but I kept at it, which brings us nicely up to today.

Moving in to the here and now, currently I upload my work at the art sites Weasyl and DeviantArt (links under the blog title), and am planning to upload anything new simultaneously at both and here if possible, although certain things may be limited to one or the other due to the different way sites handle formatting. While I’m not particularly tied down to any particular style or genre, though because I’m a massive geek I do write a fair bit of science-fictiony stuff, simply because it interests me how much can be done with it. There’s also usually a cynical edge to a fair bit of what I write, which is mainly a reflection of my world view.

Which brings us neatly on to what I’m currently working on, which will probably be what you fine people will be seeing soonest (unless I write something in it’s entirety on a whim). As of now I have two major projects in the works, both extending onwards from pieces I have already written:

First off is “…But It Pours,” the follow up to an earlier piece of mine  “Ricochet”, part of  setting I’m calling “Century23.” Essentially it’s a cyberpunk piece, currently in short form, following the exploits of a nameless hitman in a 23rd Century urban dystopia. The setting started off as an affectionate parody of things like Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, but has evolved into a slightly more serious world, but I’ve still used some opportunities in the background notes to parody the world as it is today. Currently “…But It Pours” is working out to be a longer piece than Ricochet, but still within the realms of a short story. Unless I really go overboard it should be split into 3 parts when finally posted, although currently I’m not giving any time frame for it due to other concerns. Depending on how I feel after it’s out in the world, there may be more Century23  stories coming in the future.

Secondly is an ongoing project called “Redshift: The History of the 36th Century,” which started with this piece (which I may repost here at some point for continuity’s sake). This one is a bit more unusual, as it’s going to be a series of pieces written in false-document form chronicling a future history heavily inspired by things like Battletech, Firefly and the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. This means, unlike the previous, it’s unlikely to be prose based or indeed tied down to a single style and format, since I want to be able to experiment while writing entirely from an in-universe point of view. Also, unlike the previous cyberpunk world, this one will be more harder sci-fi than the “rule of cool” employed in Century23. I’m currently trying to keep the “One or Two big lies” method, meaning beyond a couple of unavoidable breaks from reality, the whole thing will be grounded in plausibility (if not possibility). Since I’ve got over a millennia of time to play with, I imagine this will go on for a while, and depending on how long and how well received it is I may spin it off into its own blog to avoid filling here up.

And there you have it, that’s where I’ve come from and where I plan to go with my little writing hobby. Honestly, I don’t write for anyones pleasure beyond my own, but hopefully someone will get something out of it. And as always, any opinions and criticism are always welcome (although please, constructive criticism), so if you have something to say on anything I type, factual or fictional, please speak up, I do like to hear what others think of my work!

–Ndro
–A Man Of Words!