Fast Forward

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Post Fast Forward

#1  Nik 07 Dec 2007 22:35

>> Fast Forward >>

Pain exploded behind my eyes, bright as a blow on the head. I screamed. I must have swerved. Walls  ! Walls  ! Somehow I straightened my wheels. A lay-by  ! I braked hard, hit the hazards switch. I stopped skew, near the call point. The engine stalled. I did not care. I hurt too much. I held my head in my hands. I sobbed. Slowly, so slowly, the pain eased.
Slowly, too, I came to realise that a part of me was gone. I lacked. A stroke, then. A tiny, tiny stroke. I was so lucky. I could be dead. All that aspirin for my arthritis could just have saved my life. But I had to get help fast.

Traffic was thin, whirring through the dark in ones and twos. A small van signalled, slowed, pulled in front and stopped. Two men got out, came back with a work torch. The first tapped on my side window, ''Hey, Mister  ! Something wrong?''

I fumbled, found the switch to lower the glass, ''Ambulance  ! Call an ambulance  !''
''What? Mike  ! This guy's ill  ! Here, mate  ! Let's get you out  ! You need some air  !''
He reached in, lifted the door latch. He opened the door. He unclipped my seat belt, ''Come on  ! You need fresh air  !''

He lifted me from the seat. He half-carried me around the front, into the light, then further, into shade. He lowered me gently, began to search my pockets. He called back, ''Check out the car, Mike  !''

His slap re-lit pain. My anger knotted. My hands closed on his arms. Blue flames filled my grip. He screamed, broke free, staggered. My right foot hooked an ankle. He landed half-twisting. He stood, pounced. I faked a low leg sweep, kicked high over his clumsy block. His dive took my heel in his face. His head snapped back. He fell away.

I backed to the slip-cast concrete wall. I struggled to my feet. 'Mike' charged around. He saw. He drew a knife. He lunged. I caught his wrist right. The knife point scraped on the wall. He pulled, thrust. I sent him left. He was too strong. His third try would cut me.

My anger knotted again. Blue flames filled my grip. He spasmed, screamed. He dropped the knife. My left hand reached. I sank stiff fingers in his throat. I felt the cartilage crush down. He fell gurgling.

I clung to the concrete wall. I gasped for air. I hurt. I ached. I'd spots before my eyes. My head hurt terribly. I'd killed two modern highway-men...

My glasses ! I'd lost my pebble-thick glasses, but saw perfectly ! I'd had no time to notice before. Now, I just stared. My 'car' was a snug arvie campette. I'd never seen the like, but it was surely mine ! Their dirty van was battered, old, but new to me. Our number plates were wrong, but right. They had the proposed 'Euro' format. Their van had obviously worn it for years...

I staggered to my vehicle. The side glass reflected well. I got another shock. I was bald, but for a short, silver clasped white queue at my nape. I wore a close, black ruffled shirt, with a soft, high collar like a polo-neck. A cropped black jacket topped black ski pants. My feet had black, calf-high elastic boots with cuban heels. I felt utterly at ease in this fashion, but it really wasn't me.

I checked my pockets: My busy lab crafted bio-sensors for research and industry. We stuck enzymes to porous glass, live cells to PC-chips. Where were my battered cell-phone, my dog-eared, over-scrawled note-pad, my clutch of biros, screw-drivers, connectors, fuses, I/O-chips and well-chewed pencil stubs? I had one small hanky, one lip-salve, no loose change.

The left, inside pocket held a slim wallet. Again, no real money. I found just a few Plastics. The scuffed driver's licence had my photograph and signature. They were not recent, but visibly me and mine. The VISA had a number I could recite. It was mine, too. The next cards were strangers. One looked medical, two financial. Another had the look of a smart-card access key. The last read RAC.
I closed my eyes in relief. I staggered to the orange cased call point in its wall recess. I opened the case. The handset was gone. I groaned.

''Hello? Hello?''
I looked again. I saw the mike and speaker were built in. Between, a tiny lens and view screen peered at me. I blinked. I held the card up to the fuzzy face.

''Good evening, Henry Fredrick McBride ! What service do you require?''
''How the-- Uh, Help !  Police ! Ambulance ! Rescue ! I'm not well ! I've been attacked !''
''One moment, please !''
My head buzzed. The fuzzy face shifted oddly, the voice softened, ''Please hold on ! Road Ranger 902 will be there in five ! Please stay in view !''

The face was replaced by unreeling digits. A distant siren began with half a minute to go. A vast orange truck howled to a halt on zero. Its floodlights bathed the scene. Two small roof turrets scanned smoothly. Three armoured figures leaped from a sliding side door, stood guard with machine guns. Two medics followed. They piled me into the truck, onto a couch. Diagnostics  whined and bleeped.

The senior medic sucked her lip. She turned to me.
''You are lucky to be alive, Mr McBride. You took a lot of damage, but your cut-outs failed safe.''
''Don't talk. Don't worry. We'll sort you out. Those two DOAs attack you?''
''Just after I stopped. Why? What's-''
She gripped my hand, ''Thank you very much. Now, you must rest-''

I woke in a hospital bed. My headache was down to a nagging throb. I focused bleary eyes. A huge wall-screen showed a dozen channels in matrix. Mercifully, the sound was off. I looked around. A visitor sat at my left.

''Hello, Mr McBride !'' She said gently, ''I am Neta. I am your Liaison.''
I blinked. Skinny, crop-blonde Neta wore a hooded, black chiffon jump-suit over a faintly-speckled, business-grey latex body and matching high boots. Every rib showed. The speckles pulsed with her breathing, shifted hue as she turned and smiled.

''Uh. Hello.'' I fought the urge to stare. After all, I'd been dressed wild.
''May I call you Henry? Good !'' She smiled, took my left hand gently, ''Henry, you are a hero  ! You are the first solo victim to escape an Auger Gang ! And you beat them ! We have three bids for the film rights-''

I found the kidney bowl by instinct, retched deep. Nurses came at a run. They cleaned me up. They sat me back. Neta beamed, opened that mouth again.
''Wait !'' It held her, ''I- I'm a bit confused. What's an Auger?''
''Oh, Henry !'' She cooed, ''You have forgotten so much ! Don't worry-''
''Please tell me what's going on. Start simple. Remember my head still hurts.''
''Oh.'' Neta hesitated, tried again, ''Henry, do you remember Bio-chips?''
''You- We have Bio-chips in our heads. They augment. An Auger damages them. A pulse of high intensity radiation-''
''EMP.'' I smiled thinly, ''Gotcha. Memory modules? Comms? It was all theory...''
We looked at each other for a while.

''Ah. What did I lose?''
''Eighteen years.''
''What?'' It set off alarms plus that headache. I waved the nurses away, sapped the pain with bio-feedback. Finally, I could talk again.

''So. Here we are in 2010.''
''2020, Henry.''
''And they said time-travel was impossible...'' I sniffed, ''Ah, excuse me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought memory's almost hologrammic. Certainly it should be spread, distributed. It can't just... Zap? Surely?''

''You are correct, Henry.'' Neta smiled, ''Your insights pioneered the Mind's Eye, the I-Pad and many more. However, long-term users retain only the strongest associations in base memory. The bulk accumulates in Bio-chip storage.''

''As I had them early, so I lost most?''
''You are correct. However, it is a temporary problem. When your augments are replaced, you can re-load from back-up: I note your file was updated week by week. Most users go six months or more.''
''Replaced ! When?''
''In two or three weeks. You have much scar tissue from your accident and many upgrades.''
''What accident?''
''Air crash. Your wife of six months was killed. You were badly injured. You said your stay in hospital gave you time to think.''

I looked at my bare ring finger, then at my hands. The knuckles and wrists were finely webbed with tiny, silver scars.

''Hmm.'' I allowed, ''You seem to have my life history on tap. So, I have two or three weeks before I get it all back. Uh, Inventory, please. Tell me: What have I still got? What did I do to those, er, Augers?''
''I- I do not understand.''
''My hands. Blue flames.''

''Oh !'' Neta froze long enough for me to doubt her humanity, ''Ah ! You have an 'Electric Blue'. That was installed when your knuckles were replaced due to arthritis. But it could not have...''
''What's an 'Electric Blue' ?''
Neta smiled, this time almost ferally, ''May I touch your arm?''
I nodded. Her manicured fingers wafted sensuously, silkily from elbow to wrist.
''Now you try.'' Neta held out her arm.
I ran fingers over the chiffon.
''Try again, but softer... Think of a loved one? Of stroking your cat?''
Suddenly, my fingers seemed to buzz. Neta writhed with pleasure, ''Ooooh !''

I snatched my hand back. Neta steadied, smiled. I took a moment to calm myself. Clearly, I'd acquired a social interest or two in later life...
''So I gave them my rage. Hmm. What else is there?''
''Your knees, hips and shoulders were also replaced. Ah. They have a greater range of movement than normal. Gymnast joints.''
''Are my tendons limber to match?'' My suspicions were growing.

Neta stood, folded to a complex, unlikely and potentially erotic Yoga tuck. She rolled through another, stood fluidly, ''You can do that, and more.''
''How-'' The 'and more' registered, ''You've got my memories !''
''Why, Henry-''
''Explains the Liaison tag.'' I sighed, ''I suppose you dump mine after I reload?''
''We transfer, Henry. You live these days with me. I remember for you. Later, you will remember as you, because I have used your referents.''

''What are you?''
''Henry, I am Neta. I am your Liaison. This is my job.''
''Bodyguard, too?'' I was thinking furiously. What if a Medieval was set loose in my time? The complications were horrendous. Her words fell like a stick of bombs.
''Certainly, Henry. Without augments, you are a cripple. Fortunately, your augments were very sophisticated. The cut-outs failed safe. Damage was limited to core store. Input / Output channels are intact. There was minimal neural damage.''

I thought of the video-phone's subliminal buzz. Perhaps the operator was trying to contact me? She must have got a bare 'carrier' back. My 'phone' was ringing, but no-one was home. Yet, there I was. Conclusion, I was an Auger victim...

I looked at Neta. I shuddered inside. No way did I want to spend the next three weeks with her- With me - With it. No way did I want this time filtered through that predatory smile and that hungry gleam in her eyes...

''Hmm. I'd rather not wait three weeks. If my I/O's intact, I should be able to access an external core pack. Slower, perhaps, but reliable.''
''No, Henry.'' Neta touched the tiny sparkles at her brows, mastoids, nape, ''Our Fibre Optics handle VR, Comms. They lack the bandwidth for real-time core access.''
''Too much data. Hmm. What happened to fractal compression?''

''Yes... That is used for core dumps.'' Neta sniffed, grinned like a barracuda, ''But the I/O control programs run in the core: No core, no I/O programs, no I/O, no go.''
I seethed. She was wrong. She had to be wrong. I knew it in my bones ! But, where could I put such a program? How could I get it in? How could I start it? How could I break the vicious circle? Well, first, I had to build something from nothing-

''Why not Bootstrap it into the I/O buffers? As we'd boot PCs before firm BIOS?''
''Oh, Henry ! Don't be silly ! That's primitive  !''
''You mean we can't Bootstrap? We can't patch the I/O's Exception Handler?''
''That is correct-''
''No, it's not !''
''No, it's not !'' Neta echoed, astonished at the shared insight and its creative cascade, ''Eee ! Modular core ! Extension core ! Virtual core !
Eee ! Edutainment ! Skill packs ! Experience packs ! Game packs ! Adventure packs !
Eee ! Shared packs ! Psychoses, Life Jumpers, Core-Jackers, Feelies !''
We stared at each other. Neta blinked once, slowly. A slim nurse brought some artists' pencils and a sketch pad in answer to the silent call.
''Thank you.'' Neta smiled, ''Mr McBride has had an idea !''

I sighed. I lived the First Data Revolution: Viruses, Hackers, Video-Pirates, PC-Porn and Windows(tm). Had I really Bio-Chipped the Second? Now I'd 'Bootstrapped' the Third, I had to run with it: Psychoses, Life Jumpers, Core-Jackers and whatever..... Feelies ?? Hmm.
''D'you know, Neta.'' I mused, ''After I developed all those gadgets, I must have been too busy working and, er, playing to actually find time to think !''
''Yes, Henry.''
''Fred to my friends.''

>> Fast Forward >>      (c) Nik

uk.png Nik Gender: Male
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Post Re: Fast Forward

#2  Chromium 22 Jul 2016 18:15

Another fine introductory chapter, can't wait for the rest.

I've found that to do well with any figure you really need to have a passion for that figure,

...and I hope you develop that passion for yours.
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